Daily Devotions from the Classics

A Monthly Reading of Insights from Renowned Christians

August

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Day 1

A Morning Prayer

O King eternal, immortal, and invisible, we would adore you and take shame to ourselves. Though allowed to approach your divine majesty, we would never forget the humiliation and contrition which become such creatures as we are. Yes, we have merited your displeasure, and your righteousness would be completely justified in our destruction. This day we ask that you would fill our minds with the sublime and elevating themes of revelation, and that worldly things might find no room there. As you take pleasure in the prosperity of your servants, may we always take pleasure in the advancement of your glory. We ask this through the mediation of the Lord Jesus, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


The Moral Government of God
by
Josiah Hopkins

"Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, 'You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'" (Exodus 20:18,19)

What is meant by the moral government of God? It is God's treating men as moral beings by giving them laws and making them the subjects of rewards and punishments. The fundamental principles of his government are revealed in those precepts that are usually called the moral law. The more we examine these principles, the more we discover that they are the foundation of a wise and holy administration. Whenever they are perfectly obeyed, they secure the most peaceful and happy state of society that we can conceive. There is no system of government formed by men that can be adapted to every case. But the principles of God's law, as exemplified by the Savior, are contained in two short and easy statements; and though short and easy to remember, they contain an infallible standard by which we can appraise every moral action that ever existed. They are, "You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind," and "your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

These two statements exhibit the substance of the decalogue, more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. If we look at this law as it was originally written upon the tablets of stone, we shall perceive in it a scale of moral obligation upon which the rights of all moral beings are placed according to their importance.

From the relations we sustain to God as Creator and Preserver and from the perfections of his character, it is uniformly acknowledged by all who believe in the existence of God that we are under greater obligation to him than to any other being in the universe. To promote happiness is the supreme objective of all things; and because God is infinite in all his perfections, his happiness is more important than that of all other men. In perfect accordance with this, the first commandment requires that our supreme affection should be placed on him: "You shall have no other gods before Me."

The objective in the second, third, and fourth commandments is doubtless to prevent the violation of the first. To present the great God Yahweh before our minds by any man-made representation or image is forbidden in this second commandment, because it naturally tends to produce limited and imperfect views of his character: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them."

The habit of trifling with the name of God, or indulging in a familiar and unnecessary use of it, removes from the mind all that fear and reverence which we should always cherish towards him: "You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."

The fourth commandment gives us an opportunity to dismiss earthly and distracting cares, which too often make us slaves to the present world. It assists us in renewing our minds with the sense of duty to God, to our fellowmen, and of the destinies that await us beyond the grave: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

The other six of these commands refer to the duties we owe each other. As there is no obligation existing among men so great as that which children are under to their parents, the fifth commandment represents a clear and summary view of it: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which Yahweh your God is giving you."

Should we continue down along this scale and inquire what is the most sacred and important duty we owe to our neighbor, the answer would be "life." Accordingly, we read: "You shall not murder." As far as it is obeyed, life is rendered secure.

In the next two commands, the purity, domestic peace, and property of mankind are rendered equally safe: "You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal."

And the last two commands seem intended to give some effectual directions by which these last four commandments may be kept unsullied: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," and, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."

Thus it is evident from this brief examination of the law, that if it were the objective of the great Yahweh to form a standard of moral conduct to secure a state of society that is absolutely perfect, this law is just as it should be. If this moral law were universally and perfectly obeyed, every moral being in all their operations would move together as harmoniously as the solar system.

The Christian's Instructer, Containing a Summary Explanation and Defence of the Doctrines and Duties of the Christian Religion

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by "Various Authors"

Take time to read "Envy, One of the Baest Passions of the Human Heart," by Eli Meeker. For other essays of theological interest, see our "Systematic Theology/Doctrines" page, and a "Practical Excursus on the Potter and the Clay" by James Morison. You might also enjoy Ken's article entitled, "Who Is the King of Glory?"

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Day 2

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, you have brought us safely to the beginning of another day. May we walk through it in the light of your countenance, striving to please and serve you in every act we do, every word we say, and every thought we indulge. May we struggle against every known error, every captivating sin, and seek the Holy Spirit's aid to strengthen us, lest temptation come and we fall. We know trials will come, but they are meant to produce valuable fruit in us. They are essential for learning patience and mortifying the flesh with its innumerable lusts. And if you have been pleased to keep us from the more vexing trials of life and have granted peace and quiet as our portion, let us recognize your mercy and be truly grateful. We ask all in the name of our great Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Amen.


God's Visitations to His People
by
Richard W. Church

"Because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Luke 19:44

Jerusalem, the chosen city of God, knew not the time of her visitation. The Hope of Israel for whom they had been waiting for hundreds of years, the long-promised Saviour, had actually come and they would not receive him. Here the moment had come for the fulfilment of God's promise. Here before their very eyes was set forth favor, mercy and grace far beyond all that their fathers had ever dreamed of. If in former generations they had misunderstood God's dealings, here was a day of redemption and glory, which, if they accepted it, would make up for all that had gone wrong before.

But Jerusalem would not recognize her hour of mercy and acceptance. There was nothing left but to meet the disasters and punishments from which her Saviour had come to deliver her; the disasters and punishments which come on those too proud and careless to take notice when God means to save them. Her enemies were to come and destroy her and her children within her, and were to leave not one stone upon another, "because thou knew not the time of thy visitation."

Not to know the time of our visitation means not to know when God is giving us opportunities of good, not to feel alive to the blessings which His providence is putting within our reach, not to recognize when the door is opened to peace and mercy. The time of visitation means opportunities of escaping from sin, for turning in earnest to God, for making fresh steps onward in goodness and holiness.

There is one sort of visitation from God which many of us are going through now. Our lives are undisturbed, quiet, safe. We do what we have to do. We work, if we must work. We have our time to ourselves if we are not bound to work. We look out on the course of other men's lives, on the ups and downs, on the wars and commotions of other lands. But we look on at a distance. None of these things come near to touch us. Peace and quiet is our portion, the regular unbroken order of our lives.

But it is not likely that we shall always escape pain or vexation or sickness so entirely as we are doing now. And this time of freedom from the burdens of sorrow and pain is a time of visitation. It is a time when God is visiting us; visiting us as truly as He visited Jerusalem when He sent His Son to tell of the kingdom of heaven, visiting us by many a blessing as truly as He visits other men by His chastisements and judgments. In this time of peace and regular work, of quiet days and nights of sweet sleep, He is preparing us. He is giving us full and ample time to prepare ourselves for harsher and heavier ways of His providence that may come. He is seeing what is in our hearts, whether we are thankful, whether so much mercy and favor will draw our hearts to Him and strengthen our purposes and efforts after goodness, whether we can be made better by giving us the desires of our hearts and keeping us safe from the evil we are afraid of.

Fenced in from trouble and with mind and body at ease, it is all too easy to forget the great seriousness of life--how we shall one day have to give an account of what we have had and enjoyed. And if we do refuse to consider eternity, we are missing our day of visitation.

Now, this time of peace--and more or less leisure--is the time to prepare ourselves to meet trouble when it comes; to arm our souls with that faith and trust in God that will alone sustain us when the weather changes and the storm and winter come upon us. It is not when we are sick that we can expect to learn how to bear sickness. It is not when death darkens our doors that we can hope to be taught at once to hold fast our confidence in Christ and sorrow not as those who have no hope. It is those who have learned beforehand to trust in God who have an anchor when the crucial moment comes.

The soldier who is to fight well must learn his exercise in time of peace. Now is your time of peace, your time of learning. Oh, see that you use it. See that when the time of real trial comes it does not find you unprepared and only beginning to think of putting on your armor. You are now enjoying goodness and mercy that has been appointed for your lot in life. With so much grace offered you, the promises and redemption of the Lord of Life continually before you, the choice blessings of the kingdom of heaven made your heritage (without the sacrifices and the tribulations that were endured by so many others), see that you do not miss recognizing "the time of your visitation" as it passes over you.

Village Sermons,

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Maclaren's sermon, "Putting on the Armor," will be very helpful, as will "What Time Is It?" by J. C. Ryle.

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Day 3

A Morning Prayer

O eternal God, you have revealed yourself to man in hourly mercies, in preservation from danger and from death. Day after day you speak in tenderness and love, inviting all to come to you for rest and comfort. Open the hearts of those who are yet unsaved that they may flee to you for refuge. May they hear the gentle invitation and come while time and opportunity are still theirs. Dangers surround them on every side, they seem to walk on the edge of a precipice, yet your mercy spares them. The storm passes by, and they are unhurt. The tempest rages, and they escape its fury. Pestilence is at hand but does not come nigh their dwelling. Death takes the young and the old, but they are spared to do their appointed work in the arrangements of your providence. Save them, we plead, that at the day of judgment they may be secure in the righteousness of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Sinner's Refuge
by
Charles Spurgeon

"Then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you,
that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there."
Numbers 35:11

Two things are mentioned in Scripture which I do not believe God ever approved, but finding they were deep-seated he did not forbid them to the Jews. One was polygamy. Marrying many wives had become so established, that though God abhorred it, yet he allowed and permitted it. He knew that the Jews would inevitably break a commandment that said they could have but one wife. It was even so with this matter of blood vengeance. Instead of refusing to the Jews what they regarded as a privilege, God passed a commandment which made it almost impossible for an innocent man to be killed. He appointed six cities, so that when one man accidentally killed another he might flee at once to one of them. And though he must live there all his life, yet the avenger of blood could never touch him.

You must allow me to picture a scene. You see that man in the field? He has been at work and now has taken an ox-goad in his hand to use in some part of his farming. He strikes a companion by accident, and he falls down dead! See the poor man with horror on his face! He is innocent, but what misery he feels when he sees the corpse lying at his feet. A pang shoots through his heart such as you and I have never felt. Words are incapable of expressing the anguish of his spirit. He lifts him up and ascertains that he is really dead.

Now see him next. He flies out of the field and runs along the road with all his might. He has many miles to go, long hours of hard running to the nearest city of refuge. As he passes the gate he sees the man's brother! He has just come into the field and seen his brother lying dead. Oh, can you conceive how the man's heart palpitates with fear? He has a little head start, but sees the other rushing out of the field with the ox-goad in his hand and running after him. The way lies through the village where the man's father lives, yet how he rushes past. He does not even stop to bid goodbye to his wife nor kiss his children. On and on he flees for his very life.

The dead man's brother calls his father and friends. Together they all rush after him. The man is still sprinting ahead, for there is no rest for him. There is a horse in the village. They take it and pursue after him. Can you not hear his cry, "O, that I had wings that I might fly!" See how he spurns the earth beneath his feet! He stops not even so much as to wet his mouth. The sun is scorching him, but it is still on, on, on! He casts aside one garment after another. Still he rushes on, the pursuers behind him. He knows they are eager for his blood, and if they do overtake him, it will be a word, a blow, and he will be dead!

Now a city is rising into sight. He can see the towers of the city of refuge. His weary feet almost refuse to move, the veins are standing out on his brow like whipcords, the blood spurts from his nostrils. Faster he would go if he were master of more strength. The pursuers have almost reached him. But look! He has just gotten to the outskirts of the city, and there is the line of demarcation. He leaps over it and falls senseless to the ground. But there is joy in his heart. The pursuers arrive, the knives and stones are in their hands, but they dare not touch him. He is safe, he is secure. His running has been just fast enough. He has just managed to leap into the kingdom of life and avoid death.

Sinner, that picture is a picture of you in all except the man's innocence, for you are a guilty man. Oh, if only you knew that the avenger of blood is after you! Oh, that God would give you grace that you could have a sense of your danger tonight. Then you would not stop a solitary instant without fleeing to Christ. You would say, "Take me away where mercy is to be found," and you would neither sleep nor slumber until you had found in Christ a refuge for your soul. Let me pick out one of you to be a case for all the rest. There is a young man here who is guilty. He knows himself to be a great transgressor. Young man, the avenger of blood is after you. Oh, he is a horrid thing, God's fiery law. It speaks words of death. If this avenger gets hold of you, it will not be merely temporal death but eternal death. If the law gets its hand on you, you are damned. Can you describe the billows of eternal wrath, the lake of fire, the bottomless pit? No, you cannot know how dreadful those things are. Surely, if you could, you would be up on your feet and running for life, eternal life. What stolid stupidity, sottish ignorance, and worse than brutal ignorance that makes men sit down in their sins and rest content!

I may have one here who is just awakened to see his sin as if it were a murdered corpse beneath his feet. God has shown you your guilt, and he sent me tonight to tell you that there is a refuge for you. Though you are guilty, he is good. Though you have revolted and rebelled, he will have mercy on those that repent and trust in the merits of his Son. And now he has bid me say to you, "Fly, fly, fly!" In God's name I say to you, fly to Christ. He has bid me warn you tonight against delay. He has bid me remind you that death surprises men when least they expect it. He has bid me warn you that the avenger will not spare, neither will his eye pity. His sword was forged for vengeance, and vengeance it will have. And he has bid me exhort you by the terrors of the law, by the day of judgment, by the wrath to come, by the uncertainty of life and the nearness of death, this night to fly to Christ.

Remember, none but Jesus can save you. But if God shall enable you to see your danger and fly to Christ, he will have mercy upon you forever, and the avenger of blood will never find you out, no, not even when the red lightnings shall be flashing from the hand of God in the day of Judgment. That city of refuge shall shelter you, and in the heart of Jesus, triumphant, blessed, secure, you shall sing the righteousness and the blood of Christ who sheltered sinners from the wrath to come.

Spurgeon's Sermons, Vol. 3

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read William nevins sermon on Micah 7:18, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardons iniquity?" And will all sins be forgiven? See Chadwick's article, "Eternal Sin."

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Day 4

A Morning Prayer

O gracious God, your mercy and love have combined to call sinners to repentance, but Satan and fleshly lusts have held them back. You have spoken in your word that all may come and partake of your salvation without money or price. But men have not heard it with joy and gladness, have not rejoiced in it as does the thirsty soul who hears the welcome cry of "Water!" as he journeys through the desert. Let not their eyes close in sleep before they turn to you in penitence and prayer, lest the Holy Spirit should strive no longer with them, lest they be cut off in their sin by their obstinate refusal to receive that mercy which is so freely offered. We plead on their behalf in the name of the only mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Amen.


The Gospel Feast
by
William Peddie

"The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' But they made light of it and went their ways . . . Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests" (Matthew 22:2-5, 8-10).

The great King has resolved to give a splendid banquet for every sinner of Adam's family who will come. Now a splendid banquet may have been proposed together with its appointed time, and yet the necessary foods may not have been procured. But this is not the case with the gospel feast. All the arrangements for our salvation were wisely made and timely executed. When the time of the commencement of the gospel feast approached, God sent no other than his own beloved Son into the world to purchase those spiritual good things with which he intended to bless the children of men. He sent Jesus, because there was no one else with the required ability and skill, not even an angel.

Our salvation and everything necessary for our enjoyment of it is fully ready. Nothing remains to be done for entitling the perishing soul to come by faith and partake of Christ and true happiness. The Son of God was sent from heaven to prepare the feast, and he applied himself so diligently and successfully to the work that he did not stop till it was completed. Before he gave up the ghost, he cried, "It is finished." Was this not an intimation that the feast was now fully prepared, the law magnified, justice satisfied, atonement made, God reconciled, Satan conquered, and eternal life purchased? The Son of God could not have risen from the dead, ascended to heaven, and appeared in the presence of God if he had left any part of his work undone. He entered into heaven, we are told, "by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us."

Sinner, the Master is calling for you. He has already waited long, "not willing that you should perish" ( 2 Pet. 3:9). He has waited patiently, forbearing to hold you to your first refusal. He has called often and earnestly. Has he not called you by the voice of conscience, by the voice of providence, and by the voice of his gospel? And shall it be said that he called and you would not answer, that he stretched out his hands and you would take no notice? Must his servants go back with the mournful tidings that they did as he commanded and you would not come?

Know that the Master of the feast will not always wait. His dinner is provided and must be enjoyed; and if you will not come, others shall. It may be that you will not hear his inviting voice again. And afterward, when hope is past, the door shut and the table withdrawn, how greatly you will mourn over your folly in despising the offered salvation. Provoke him not by continued refusal, for great as his grace now is, so afterward will be his wrath against all who slight his Son and salvation.

Come, for the feast, rich as it is, is free. Besides, what could any man do to deserve it? Do not dare insult the majesty of Heaven by offering anything of your own for salvation. Dare not, lest he should say, "Your money perish with you" (Acts 8:20). You must partake freely or not at all. But on the other hand, do not be discouraged. Do not hold back because you are conscious of great guilt and vileness. Though you are unworthy, he calls you to a free banquet. This is his language: "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa. 55:1). In this he honors his own liberality: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).

Come, for all are welcome. The salvation of the gospel is called the common salvation because it is needed by all, and access to enjoy it is open alike to all. The invitation to eternal life is addressed to everyone who has ears to hear. If, therefore, anyone does not come, it was because he would not come. Consider the command given to the servants: "Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding." No preference is given to the great over the common people, to the rich over the poor, to the learned over the ignorant. All are invited.

Come, for your need is great. Some of you have gone farther astray than others; but there is not one among you who can decline the invitation on the ground that he does not need the salvation of Christ. What! are you not all sinners? Have you not often confessed yourselves to be so? Be assured that you will not always enjoy as much ease in sin as you now enjoy. Disease will overtake you, death is not far off, and eternity is approaching. But now the God of mercy pities your deplorable case. He bids us, as ministers of his word, to press the invitation upon you. Do not delude yourself that salvation can come through any other means, for there is no safety for a sinner but in Christ.

Come, for though many have entered before you, there is yet room. Many in former ages have come, many now who are younger in years than you have come, and many there are who have come since you were first invited. But the house is not yet filled. The King is generous, the provision abundant, and there is a place for you! Surely you have read, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Won't you come today?

Discourses by the Late Rev. James Peddie

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Ken has a good tract, "Am I Going to Heaven?" Also read his paper, "The Law of Moses in the Old and New Testaments." And for more on salvation, read "The Most Important Question Ever Asked," by Pastor Donald Elifson.

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Day 5

A Morning Prayer

Your eye, O Lord, is in every place beholding the evil and the good. Your ear hears even the word whispered in secret. There is nothing hid from you. O seal this solemn truth upon our minds, lest we forget that every action has its record in the book of your remembrance and every thought is there recorded. Make the knowledge of this truth a shield for us, that when temptation arises we may stand firm against its assaults. Then we will praise your holy name with grateful hearts for your mercy toward us. We ask in the name of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Omnipresence of God
by
Charles Simeon

"The eyes of Yahweh are in every place,
beholding the evil and the good."
Psalm 25:11

The omnipresence of the Deity is plain and obvious to all who have learned to acknowledge the unity of God. The heathens indeed, who worshiped a multitude of gods, assigned to each his proper limits, conceiving that they who could exert their power in the hills were destitute of power in the neighboring valleys. But this absurd idea arose from their polytheism and vanishes the very instant we confess the true God. The Scriptures place this matter beyond a doubt. Every page of the inspired volume either expressly asserts the omnipresence of God or takes it for granted as an unquestionable truth. Solomon not only affirms it but declares that God is actively employed throughout the whole universe in inspecting the ways of men.

If we look in the Old Testament, we shall find that the testimony of the prophets corresponds with these words of David: "Yahweh searches all hearts and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts." Sometimes they assert this matter as a thing they know and are assured of: "I know that no thought can be withheld from thee." Sometimes they make it a subject of appeal to the whole universe, defying anyone to contradict or even doubt it: "Does he not see my ways, and count all my steps?" Sometimes they labor to convey this truth under the most impressive images: "His eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men."

In the New Testament the same truth is taught in terms equally clear. Not to mention mere assertions or acknowledgments that "God knows all things," the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews represents the perfect insight of the Deity into the hearts of men under the image of the sacrifices, which, when flayed and cut down the backbone were open to the minutest inspection of the priests: "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."

But let us now turn our attention to God's own declarations. In reference to places and persons he says, "Am I a God near at hand, says Yahweh, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? says Yahweh. Do not I fill heaven and earth? says Yahweh." In reference to things supposed beyond his reach, he says, "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them." And when an atheistic world entertains doubts respecting this and says, "Thick clouds are a covering to him," "he cannot see, he will not regard us," God rises with utter indignation to vindicate his injured honor: "Understand ye brutish among the people; and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He who planted the ear, shall he not hear? He who formed the eye, shall he not see?"

God's omnipresence concerns us all. Both the evil and the good are objects of his unwearied attention. Let then "the evil" consider this momentous truth. God views them all, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. If they come up to worship in his sanctuary, he sees their impious mockery while "they draw nigh to him with their lips but are far from him in their hearts." He follows them to their families and observes all their tempers, dispositions, and conduct. He enters with them into their businesses where he inspects their weights and measures, examines their commodities, hears their bargains, and notes their deviations from truth and honesty. He retires with them at night and takes note of their every thought, for "the darkness and light are both alike to him." If they were to go up to heaven or down to hell, they could not for one moment escape his all-seeing eye.

But for what end does he thus "behold" them? Is he a mere curious or unconcerned spectator? No. "He ponders all their goings" in order to restrain that excess of wickedness which would militate against his sovereign appointments; to confound their daring attempts against his church and people; to overrule the voluntary exercise of their own inveterate corruptions for the accomplishment of his own purposes; and, finally, to justify himself in the eternal judgments that he will hereafter inflict upon them. Oh, that the wicked would consider these things and lay them to heart while yet they might obtain mercy!

And why is there all this solicitude about such unworthy creatures? "Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth." God has deigned to inform us that he "beholds the good" in order to protect them in danger; to comfort them in trouble; to supply their needs; to overrule for good their multiplied afflictions. And, lastly, he notices them that he might observe the workings of his grace in them, so that he may proclaim before the assembled universe the secret exercises of piety in their hearts and give a lively demonstration to all that, in exalting them to a participation of his glory, he acts agreeably to the immutable dictates of justice and equity.

Let the righteous, then, "set the Lord always before them." Let them "walk circumspectly," that they may not grieve him; actively, that they may please him well in all things; and boldly, whatever difficulties they may have to contend with, enduring as seeing him who is invisible.

The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A.

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read "The Omnipresence of God" by James Yonge as well as "Governing our Thoughts" by D. L. Carroll, based on 2 Corinthians 10:5.

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Day 6

A Morning Prayer

O blessed Lord and Savior, Son of the living God, you indeed are God, and as God you were manifested in the flesh. We know that on the confession of this truth depends life eternal, and that its belief can exist only as the gift of the Holy Spirit. Enable us to say with holy confidence and unwavering faith, "You, O Lord, are our God forever and ever, holy and reverend is your name." For that great multitude who cannot confess this truth, set before them in its awful reality that great day which is coming, when every knee shall bow and every tongue be constrained to confess you as Lord and God. Grant them this day convicting grace and saving faith, that they be among those who obeyed your bidding, rejoicing with the glorious company of the redeemed for all eternity. Amen.


Salvation
by
James Morison

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8

Calvin supposed that it is not faith but salvation that is said in Ephesians 2:8 to be the gift of God. We presume, however, that it is to faith that the Apostle parenthetically refers. And we conceive that he is drawing attention to the fact that we are indebted to the grace or lovingkindness of God not only for the Saviour and for the salvation which he procured, but likewise for the link of connection that unites us to the Saviour and thus makes us partakers of the great salvation.

Not that the Apostle means to constrain us into the conviction that we are utterly passive in the matter of faith. It would be no glory to God if we were merely acted on and did not act. Our responsibility would be gone. We would be things, not persons. It is necessary that we be more than mere recipients and cisterns. We are well-springs of living activity. And assuredly we act, and act voluntarily, when we believe in Jesus, who is revealed in the glorious Gospel of God's grace as the only Savior.

There is, indeed, something involuntary in faith. We cannot absolutely determine what we shall believe and what we shall not believe. Evidence is sometimes overwhelming, and we must believe, however strongly we might desire to come to a different conclusion. But in multitudes of cases we are required to go in quest of evidence, or if it is brought to us and spread out before us, we are required to direct our minds to its consideration. We are required to sift and measure it, and to weigh detail after detail. If there be apparently conflicting evidence, we are required to consider it too. Hence the need for voluntary activity. And hence it is that men are accountable for their belief or for their unbelief in reference to the Gospel of salvation.

Faith in the Gospel is the gift of God, in a sense consistent with our voluntary activity and accountability. The facilities for faith are from God. All the grand inducements are from Him. The chief motives are from Him. It is He who gives the light. It is He who draws the heart, though he will not drag it. "No man can come to me," says Jesus, "except the Father who has sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day." But he immediately adds, in a way that is finely explanatory of what he means by drawing, "as it is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard and has learned of the Father comes unto me" (John 6:44,45).

It is thus in the way of teaching that the Father draws. He reveals realities by his Holy Spirit and presses them home upon human attention by the same divine Spirit, so that whenever anyone believes he is ready to lift up his heart adoringly and gratefully to his Heavenly Father and say, It is through thy grace that I see, and understand, and believe! It is through thy grace that I am what I am! Unto thee be all the glory.

Saving Faith

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Check out our "Calvinism" page for many good articles. There you will find "The Best Personal Testimony to Calvinism is Given by an Arminian!" written by Ken. See also "Concerning Works and Rewards" by John Calvin.

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Day 7

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, open our mouths that we may speak your praise. Strengthen us by your grace that we may show it forth in our lives and conversation. Enable us to read it in the obedience of all created things, for all obey you, except for man. The winged fowls sport through the air to do the part your providence has assigned them, the minutest insect obeys the instinctive biddings of your will, and the changing seasons and falling rain are your glad messengers to mankind. Let us behold these signs of your gracious bounty to undeserving sinners and give thanks. And may we be on our watch to behold the sign of our Lord's coming, lest he come suddenly and find us sleeping. Hear us now for Jesus' sake. Amen.


The Budding Fig Tree
by
Francis Bourdillon

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." (Matthew 24:32-35)

Our Lord was seated on the Mount of Olives when he spoke the long and solemn prophecy of which this parable forms part. On the opposite side of the narrow valley that lay between him and Jerusalem rose the temple in full view; and in the valley itself and on the slope of the mount there were fig trees as well as olive trees. It was now springtime, and the fig tree was beginning to shoot. Its branches were soft and tender from the rising of the sap, and already leaves began to appear. It was plain that summer was near.

Our Lord drew the attention of his disciples to this. The fig trees were close at hand and might well serve to teach them a lesson. He bade them notice the budding branches--the sign of the coming summer--and then added, "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door."

"These things" meant the signs of which he had just been speaking, especially the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem; and the event that was to follow so closely was the destruction of that city and the dispersion of the Jewish people. For though our Lord, in speaking of this, did also carry the thoughts of the disciples on to his second coming and the end of the world, yet he is not alluding to that here, for he expressly says, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." Some of those who heard him would be still alive at the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place between thirty and forty years afterward.

All took place according to our Lord's words. The signs of which he spoke did appear. The Roman army came against Jerusalem, and in no long time afterward the city was taken and destroyed. The disciples of Christ, or at least the greater part of them, acted on the warning he had given and left the city in time to escape its destruction. Kingdoms were shaken, cities were destroyed, great commotions took place in the world, yet nothing could change what he had said. All that he foretold came true.

And so will all else that he has foretold. Every prophecy that has been fulfilled is a pledge and assurance that all other prophecies shall be fulfilled in their time, and the disciples of Christ accordingly are to give heed to his word, to what is happening around them, and to note the signs of the times.

We ought especially to do this with regard to the second coming of our Lord. In this prophecy the two great events of which he speaks--the destruction of Jerusalem and his own coming--are so linked together that there is some difficulty in knowing when he is speaking of the one, and when of the other, and when perhaps of both. The disciples themselves no doubt felt this difficulty, and little did they think that eighteen hundred years at least would pass between the happening of the two things thus foretold together. But this very difficulty is not without its use. The very mingling of the two events in the same prophecy must have led the disciples to look upon both as equally certain. And still more should it lead us, now that one of them has taken place, to feel sure that the other also will take place in its time.

The two events are spoken of in the same prophecy, yet in one important respect there is a difference to be observed. With regard to the destruction of Jerusalem, our Lord said that the generation of men living when he spoke should not all die before it took place. But with regard to his own second coming and the end of the world, he said, "But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven but my Father only." Thus, at the 36th verse he seems to make a change. He had been speaking of what should take place within the lifetime of some then living; now he speaks of that which should take place quite as certainly, but only the Father knew when.

We are to note the signs of the times, for the coming of Christ will as surely follow them as summer follows the budding of the fig tree--not so quickly, but as surely. There have been serious Christians in all ages who have thought that they saw in current events signs of his approach. There are many who think so now. These thoughts and expectations are not to be lightly regarded, still less to be turned into ridicule. Even if we do not share them, we should nevertheless be led by them to deeper thought and more watchful preparation.

But putting aside the question of time, we should give earnest heed to all the signs which tell us he will surely come, such as ancient prophecy, his own words, the state of the world, and the state of the Jewish nation. We should note these things and ponder them in our minds. While we must beware of indulging baseless fancies and twisting Scripture to suit them, let us look to it also that we fall not under our Lord's reproof of the Pharisees and Sadducees, "You can discern the face of the sky, but can you not discern the signs of the times?"

Eighteen hundred years have passed since our Lord spoke of his coming, but his words hold good: "Of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven." We are still in the same position as the disciples--servants waiting for our Lord but not knowing when he will come. But this we are clearly told, that "the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night," and that to at least some he will come unexpectedly. Let us see that our loins are girded about and our lights burning. Let each servant be about his work. And, oh, let each one of us make sure he is a servant of Christ indeed! Let none put off seeking the Savior. Let none say in his heart, "My Lord delays his coming." Let none disregard the warning voice and the signs of the times, lest Christ come suddenly and find them sleeping.

The Parables of Our Lord Explained and Applied

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read W. M. Christie's short entry called "The Barren Fig Tree," and Ken's excellent paper, "The Centrality of Israel." You will also find D. D. Buck's essay, "This Generation," most interesting.

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Day 8

A Morning Prayer

We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have brought us in safety to the beginning of another day. We pray for an earnest endeavor to promote your glory and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might be restrained from a too anxious desire to prosper in worldly matters. And if our day be darkened by disappointment, let your countenance cheer us. Give us a grateful recollection of all your mercies toward us so that we may be animated to greater zeal in your service. We ask in the name of our Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Amen.


The Eagle and its Brood
by
Alexander Maclaren

"As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings, [so] Yahweh alone did lead him, and [there was] no strange god with him." (Deuteronomy 32:11,12).

The description of the eagle's action here includes only the first two clauses, and the person spoken of in the others is God Himself. In other words, it should read, "As an eagle stirs up his nest, flutters over his young, He spreads abroad His wings, takes them, bears them on His pinions." This is far grander, as well as more compact, than the somewhat dragging comparison that is spread over the whole verse and tardily explained by a following clause introduced by an unwarranted "so."

Of course, we all know that the original reference is to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their training in the desert. In the solemn address by Yahweh at the giving of the law (Ex. 19:4), the same metaphor is employed; and, no doubt, that passage was the source of the extended imagery here. But the text carries large truths for us all, setting forth the true meaning and importance of life.

Now it may come as something of a shock if I say that the bird selected for the comparison is not really the eagle but the carnivorous vulture. Our modern repugnance to the vulture as feeding on dead animals was probably not felt by the singer of this song. What he brings into view are the characteristics common to the eagle and the vulture, namely, superb strength in beak and claw, keenness of vision almost incredible, magnificent sweep of pinion, and power of rapid unwearied flight. And these characteristics are analogous to the Divine nature. God is strong to destroy as well as to save. His all-seeing eye notes every foul thing, and he often swiftly pounces upon it to rend it to pieces, though the sky seemed empty a moment before.

But the action described in our text is not destructive but gentle. The monarch of the sky busies itself with tender care for its brood. The strong beak and claw, the gaze that sees so far, the mighty spread of wings that can lift it so high--all these go along with the instinct of paternity. The fledglings in the nest look up at the fierce beak and bright eyes and know no terror. And this impression of power and gentleness is greatly deepened if we notice that it is the male bird that is spoken of in the text: "As the eagle stirs up his nest and flutters over his young."

Here we have an illuminating thought on the meaning of life. What is it all for? It is to teach us to fly, to exercise our half-fledged wings in short flights so as to prepare us for longer ones. Every event that befalls us has a meaning beyond itself, and every task of ours either fits or hinders us for greater work. Life as a whole is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," unless it is an apprenticeship training. We are here on earth to form character. to get experience, to learn the use of our tools.

If we could only carry this clear conviction with us every day into the little things of life, how different would monotonous trifles become! They may be small and unimportant, but the way we do them is not. There are no great principles for great duties and little ones for little. The same fidelity must be used in the least trifle to get us safely through the crises and great events of life; and life is made up of trifles. Although character may be manifested in the great events, it is formed in the small ones.

Now, the young birds were no doubt much warmer and comfortable in the nest than when turned out of it. The Israelites were by no means enamored with the prospect of leaving all they had gotten in Goshen to tramp with their cattle through the wilderness. They followed after Moses with considerable reluctance. Thus we have here God lovingly compelling us to effort. To "stir up the nest" means to make a man uncomfortable where he is, sometimes by the pricking of his conscience, sometimes by change of circumstance, and often by sorrow. The straw is pulled out of the nest, making it uncomfortable to lie in, or a bit of sharp stick makes the fledgling glad to come forth into the air.

We all shrink from change. What should we do if we had none? We should stiffen into habits that would dwarf and weaken us. We all recoil from storms. What should we do if we had not them? In the natural realm, sea and air would stagnate, would become heavy, putrid, pestilential, if it was not for the wild west wind and hurtling storms. So rather than whimper, let us recognize them for what they really are--the loving summons to effort.

But the training of the father eagle is not confined to stirring up the nest. What is to become of the young ones when they get out and have never been accustomed to bearing themselves up in the sky above them? He "flutters over his young." It is a very beautiful word that is used here. It is the same word used in Genesis, where we read about the Spirit of God "brooding on the face of the waters." It suggests how near, how all-protecting with expanded wings the Divine Father comes to the child whose restfulness He has disturbed.

And there is also sustaining power: "He bears them on His wings." After he has stirred up our nest and we have obeyed his loving summons to effort, God will bear us up when our own weak wings fail. Laying ourselves on God's wings, not in idleness but having first tried our poor little flight, he will see that no harm comes to us.

During life this training will go on; and after life, what then? Then, in the deepest sense the old word will be true: "You know how I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to Myself." The great promise shall be fulfilled when the half-fledged young brood are matured and full grown. "They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31).

Triumphant Certainties and Other Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

An interesting companion piece for today is "The Necessity and Advantage of Early Afflictions," by Henry Scougal. You might also like "Joseph in Egypt," by John Kitto.

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Day 9

A Morning Prayer

Most merciful God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and has promised forgiveness to all those who confess and forsake their sins, we come before you in a humble sense of our own unworthiness, acknowledging our manifold transgressions of your righteous laws. Look upon us in mercy and forgive all our transgressions. Make us deeply sensible of the great evil of them. And keep us ever watchful in prayer, for our great enemy, Satan, is seeking always to destroy us. We ask in the name of our great high priest and intercessor, Jesus the Messiah. Amen.


Temptation and Consolation
by
Francis Trench

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. . . . Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him." (Matthew 4:1-2, 11)

As Jesus was, so also are we in this world; and this is true in the matter of temptation. Many differences there certainly are between our temptations and His. He was sinless; we are sinful. He never fell under any of them; we have all fallen under them. He drank deep of that cup of bitterness which temptation brings; we only taste a few drops. Nevertheless, all the true children of God are tempted by the enemy of souls. It is common to us all. Satan is too active, too malicious, too desirous of destroying every saint of God to leave any one without attack or without snares laid for him. Every true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ knows that he has to expect, encounter, and defeat the cunning and violence of his great spiritual adversary.

There are times when a true servant of God feels peculiarly anxious and depressed, overwhelmed and tossed about in the long campaign of his Christian warfare; when a living power seems especially strong against him, keeping or driving out all good and holy thoughts and suggesting all imaginations of a contrary kind. At such times the living powers of darkness are working with all their energy, disturbing the soul's peace and checking him in the happy discharge of his daily duties. But far more common (and in the sight of God far more deplorable) is the state of those who neither know anything nor think anything of their spiritual foe--those who never encounter him at all! As Jesus expresses it, in them Satan has "his goods in peace." Therefore, the Stronger One, Jesus, must personally visit us by His Spirit, must summon and wake us up from our peace with the enemy. He must prepare us for striving with foes much worse than those of flesh and blood. He must give us the will, desire, and ability to battle and resist before we can truly know Satan's temptation and what it is for Satan to leave.

The subject is mysterious, but it is one of reality, truth, and fact. Many have experienced it. They know something of such darker and more arduous passages in their spiritual course. In seasons of special weakness, weariness, distress, and even on the deathbed, Satan knows how to pursue the advantage. As he beset Jesus when hungry in the wilderness, so too he chooses his time to attack the children of God. But it is all in vain. He can only attack, he cannot conquer. He must leave them at the appointed time. Jesus is stronger than Satan and will appear at just the right time, for God knows how to deliver his own. And He will deliver, and not one will lose the reward for his full and final victory over the great adversary.

And let us not doubt that when Satan leaves, then angels come and minister to us. We read in the pages of God's Word that the ministry of angels is constantly employed for us. We cannot see them physically, but we see and prize them through faith. We read of their ministry to saints of old, and so we have every reason to believe their good offices are exercised for us now. We are as weak and helpless as the saints of old, and so we need no less the mighty powers from above to strengthen us. If evil angels and evil spirits now abound in the precincts of our earthly dwelling, why should we doubt of our being surrounded with the good spirits too? When God opened Elisha's servant's eyes, then, and not till then, did he see the air around Elisha full of guardian spirits.

Now, who so fitting as good angels to minister to those whom evil angels assail? How much they will delight in the undertaking! How joyfully will they perform it! How zealously will they fulfill their missions and embassies of love! Be assured my brethren, if Satan and his evil spirits will affect our body, mind and feelings by means of affliction, then too will the good and unfallen spirits act on our behalf. If we are partakers of Christ's sufferings, then are we partakers too of His consolations. Precious indeed should it be to us that angels are sent from God, and especially at those solemn and mysterious times when temptation is greatest.

May the Holy Spirit mightily increase our faith in these glad tidings. May Jesus Himself be to us like the ladder which Jacob saw, "set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it!"

Sermons on the Person, Words, and Works of our Lord Jesus Christ

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by "Various Authors"

Read "The Philosophy of Temptation" by Howard Crosby. For another sermon by Trench, read "The Loss of Unbelief."

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Day 10

A Morning Prayer

We come before you, O Lord God, in the name of our blessed Redeemer and Intercessor. Give us cheerful, quiet spirits set on you and rejoicing in your favor. Give us grateful hearts that recognize your boundless mercies dispensed day by day. Give us desires that rise above the vanities and follies of life and dispositions attuned to your law and given to prayer and praise. Open our eyes to see our utter insufficiency to do anything of ourselves, and the shortness of time in which to work out our salvation. And keep us by your providence, so that we may have exceeding joy even in this world, and in the world to come everlasting happiness. Amen


Call to Personal Gratitude
by
John Stevenson

"Bless Yahweh, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."
Psalm 103:1, 2

What a proof is here of the sincerity of the Psalmist's heart and of the reality and the fervor of his gratitude! The state of his soul formed the grand object of concern to David. He watched over its feelings. He diligently examined into its position as before God. He was jealous over himself with a godly jealousy, and he suffered not his spirit to continue in a listless and lukewarm condition. On the contrary, he pressed it forward to attain higher and still higher degrees of love, thankfulness, and joy. He called in every faculty, he summoned every emotion of his soul, and he suffered not a word, nor a thought, nor a feeling to remain unemployed in praising his Redeemer.

Who is there among us that would refuse to follow this example of the Psalmist? Who does not feel his constant need to imitate it? Our hearts within us are dull and selfish by nature. They must be continually roused to activity and zeal in the Lord's service, and to be effectually stirred up to grateful celebrations of the Divine goodness.

Alas, how prone are we to forget the mercies of our God! Day unto day utters speech of the liberality of the Lord. Night unto night shows forth knowledge of His long-suffering. Year after year proclaims the vastness, freeness, and the excellency of His love toward us. Oh, that day unto day might also utter speech of our devotedness, that night unto night might show forth our gratitude, and that year after year might proclaim the sincerity, the intensity, and the continual increase of our love to our Redeemer! Surely the burden of every renewed heart is this: that our praises are so cold and lifeless, and our gratitude so grievously inadequate!

Ingratitude is no light sin. Its guilt must necessarily be increased when we consider the greatness of the Giver, the unworthiness of the receiver, and the number of God's benefits and the excellency of them. Ingratitude shown by one man to another is odious. How sinful in the extreme is it when shown by a man to God! To accept a benefit and return no acknowledgment is altogether without the shadow of an excuse. In the sight of God and men, the ingrate is most justly despicable.

Some sins have a pleasing but deceptive appearance in the eyes of the world, and men are oft beguiled to call them virtues. But ingratitude has not a single redeeming quality--no specious appearance, no fair color, no bright side whatsoever. It is "only evil, and that continually." Historians have not recorded any single instance of it with approbation. Moralists have made no exceptional case in its favor as to include it among the virtues. Poets have not been heard to sing its praises in any nation or language under heaven. Philosophers may have pandered to almost every vice, but none have pandered to ingratitude. Merchants have made gains of innumerable sins, but no man has turned ingratitude to profit. It is a vice so base that even the vilest of men turn with indignation when referred to as an ingrate.

Ingratitude is robbery, for it deprives the benefactor of the acknowledgment that is his due. Ingratitude is rebellion, for the King of Heaven has commanded us in everything to give thanks. Ingratitude is cruel, for how many hearts has it not broken? Ingratitude is a monster that receives universal contempt, standing unrivaled in its own peculiar baseness, alike unexcused and inexcusable. How revolting, therefore, how "exceeding sinful" is ingratitude towards God.

But oh, how good, how pleasant, how comely is gratitude! How just it is, how reasonable! Next in blessedness to giving gifts is the consciousness of giving thanks. Gratitude is a noble return. It is the highest which man can render either to his God or to his fellows. It is the response of the heart, that very response which God requires and in which His soul delights.

Why has the Lord made this world of ours so fair, adorned the earth with flowers and crowned the year with goodness? To draw forth our gratitude! Why did he preserve our infancy, guard our youth, and sustain our manhood? To draw forth our gratitude! Any why, in addition to all these temporal mercies, has the Lord loaded us with spiritual benefits so great, so suitable, and so precious, that neither heart can conceive nor tongue can express them? Why, we ask, has the Lord poured forth upon us all the blessings of redemption? Amid all other gracious reasons, surely this is not the least--that He might draw forth from us a full and everlasting gratitude.

Oh gratitude, gratitude! What amount of thankfulness can ever equal infinite obligations? "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can show forth all His praise?" (Ps. 106:2). Surely "it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High. To show forth Thy loving kindness in the morning and Thy faithfulness every night" (Ps. 92:1,2).

Gratitude adorns the believing soul. "Praise is comely for the upright." A thankful heart must needs be a happy heart. Let us, then, cultivate gratitude. It is one of the fairest and most useful flowers in the garden of the soul. It should be the first to blossom and the last to fade in every believer's breast. Its presence is always pleasant and its odor sweeter than the richest perfumes. Gratitude gladdens the heart in which it dwells and imparts its gladness to the hearts of others. It dispels melancholy, dissipates care, begets cheerfulness, and throws a charm over all the little incidents of life.

A grateful man is sure to be a contented man. No fretful thought, no murmuring disposition can remain long in the heart of a grateful Christian. Whatever his lot in life may be, he will neither envy the position of others nor repine against his own. He will look around him with a contented mind, because he looks upward with a thankful heart.

Gratitude: An Exposition of The Hundred and Third Psalm

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here are three good sermons: "He Doeth All Things Well," by Theodor Zahn; "Giving Thanks in Hard Times," by Pastor Bruce Nolen; and "The Secret of Tranquility," by Alexander Maclaren.

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Day 11

A Morning Prayer

O mighty God, arise and help us, for we come through the merits of our great Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the spirit of man is prone to sanctimonious puffery. Humility is that virtue which continually eludes our grasp. Oh, pardon our perverseness and inconsistency, our rebellion and sin, our weakness and folly. Enable us to see the utter sinfulness of sin and stand our watch so as not to dally with it. Let today witness better things of us, we plead, and grant that it will be spent in that lowliness of mind which esteems others better than ourselves. Amen.


Charity, Prayer, and Fasting
by
John Munro Gibson

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men. . . . But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. . . . But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. . . . Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. . . . But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:1-18)

The general objective our Lord has in view leads him to treat the subject of charity, not in relation to those who receive it, but in relation to those who give it. There may be much good done through the gifts of men who have no higher goal in view than the sounding of their own trumpet; but so far as they themselves are concerned, their giving has no value in the sight of God. Everything depends on the motive, and hence the injunction of secrecy.

There may indeed be circumstances that suggest or even require a certain measure of publicity for the sake of the object or cause to which the gifts are devoted; but so far as the giver is concerned, the more absolute the secrecy the better. For though it is possible to give in the most open and public way without at all indulging the petty motive of ostentation, yet so weak is human nature that our Lord puts his caution in the very strongest terms, counseling us not only to avoid courting the attention of others but to refrain from even thinking of what we have done. That seems to be the point of the striking and memorable words, "Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

Now, trumpet-blowing may be a great success. But what the Master thinks of that success is seen in the caustic irony of the words, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (vs. 2). There it is. You can see just how paltry and pitiful it is, for there is nothing a man is more ashamed of than to be caught in even the slightest attempt to parade himself. But if the praise of men is never thought of, it cannot be said "they have their reward." Their reward is to come; and though it does not yet appear, it will certainly be worthy of our Father who sees in secret.

Under the head of "Prayer," two cautions are given. The first may be dismissed in a few words, not only because it exactly corresponds with the preceding case--that of blowing one's trumpet---but because among us there is scarcely any temptation to it. The danger is now all the other way, that is, not to parade one's devotion for show but to conceal it for shame! Still, there are some directions in which even yet the caution against ostentation in prayer is needed; for instance, by those who in public or social prayer assume affected tones, or try in any way to give an impression of earnestness beyond what they truly feel. Of the sanctimonious tone, we may say that it too has its reward--in the almost universal contempt it provokes.

The other caution is directed not against pretense but against superstition. It will be seen, however, that the two belong to the same category and therefore are most appropriately dealt with together. What is the sin of the formalist? It is that his heart is not in his worship. What is the folly of the man who indulges in vain repetitions? It is the same; his heart is not in his words. Repetition itself, however, is not discouraged, for our Lord again and again encouraged even importunate prayer. In the Garden he offered the same petition three times in close succession. So it is not simply repetition that is rebuked but "vain" repetition--empty of heart, of desire, of hope. It is not much prayer that is rebuked but "much speaking," the folly of supposing that the mere "saying" of prayers is of any use apart from the emotions of the heart in which true prayer essentially consists.

To guide us in a matter so important, our Lord not only cautions against what prayer ought not to be, but shows us what it ought to be. Thus he hands us this pearl of great price, this purest crystal of devotion--that which we call "the Lord's Prayer." Here is instruction as to the substance of prayer. We are taught to rise high above all selfish considerations in our desires, seeking the things of God first. When we come to our own wants, we are to ask nothing more than our Father in heaven judges to be sufficient for the day, while all the stress of earnestness is laid on deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. Then as to the spirit of prayer, note the filial reference implied in the invocation, the fraternal spirit called for by the very first word--Father. Then note the spirit of forgiveness we are taught to cherish by the very terms in which we ask it for ourselves--"as we forgive those who trespass against us."

As regards fasting, the principle to be followed is found later (9:14), but here it is taken for granted that there will be such times. Let it be done in secret, before no other eye than his who sees in secret. This principle plainly condemns that kind of fasting that is done only before men, as when in the name of religion people will abstain from certain kinds of food and recreation on particular days or at appointed times, without any corresponding humbling of the heart. The fasting must be before God, or it is a piece of acting, "as the hypocrites," who play a part before men and take off the mask and resume their normal life when they go home. But we are not to be as the hypocrites. If our inward feeling naturally leads to fasting or any other temporary self-denial, let it by all means be followed out, but so as to attract as little attention as possible and leave no traces for others to see.

All depends on truth in the inward parts, on the secret life of the soul with God. How impressively is this stated throughout the whole passage!

The Gospel of St. Matthew

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Don't miss Henry Melvill's "The Humiliation of the Man Christ Jesus." Ralph Wardlaw has an interesting entry entitled "Benevolence."

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Day 12

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, how shall we approach you and what shall we bring you? We will plead your dear Son's name and sacrifice, and your own mercy and love so wondrously displayed in it. Give us such a trust in your divine providence that, whether sorrow or misfortune or joy surround us, we shall confess with our lips and show forth in our lives that we are your disciples. Grant that we may stand firm on the rock of our salvation in both times of pleasure and times of trial, for your word assures us that you will never forsake us. But there are many who call themselves your disciples but who are mere professors only, having been deceived through the cunning craft of the evil one. They are walking blindfolded in their own self-righteousness to their ruin and sure destruction. Draw them, we pray, by your Holy Spirit, and lead them to repentance for Jesus' sake, that they may be clothed in his righteousness and so have peace and eternal joy hereafter. Amen.


Faith Essential to Prayer
by
Jared Waterbury

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:5-8)

You may ask, how does one know when he has shown this faith when praying? I answer, it is not necessary that you know it, but it is necessary and even indispensable that you have it.

When we come to the throne of grace, we come not to dictate but to supplicate. God has given us a warrant to pray for all spiritual and many temporal favors. In praying for the spiritual, we may and must be importunate and persevering until death. In respect to the temporal, we must be submissive, always adding, "if it will be for your glory and the interests of my soul."

When you pray, therefore, for spiritual blessings, you can be sure that you are praying according to the will of God; and if it be sincere and presented with an exclusive reference to the mediation of Christ, it will and must be answered. But remember this: it is our part to believe and it is God's part to plan and execute. Although an answer may not be given in the manner or the time expected, still we may plead the promise that He is faithful to hear and answer prayer.

Now there is a notion afloat that mistakenly takes presumption for faith. Some have declared that in praying for a blessing we only need to believe that it will be granted and success is certain, that if we are praying for a particular individual all we have to do is be certain in our own minds that the person will be converted and it will be so. But I look at the spirit such people evince, and there I find little of the meekness and humility of the Gospel. When David prayed for the life of his infant child, though he prayed with deep humility and earnestness, his child was not spared. When Paul besought the Lord three times for the removal of a grievous affliction, the prayer was heard and answered, but not physically as he expected. Now the prayer of faith is never lost but invariably answered; but to assert that it will be answered in the particular way we have expected is both anti-scriptural and presumptuous.

Concerning temporal blessings, your prayers will often be protracted and particular. You will pray for blessings on your own family, your neighborhood, on the world. You will bring every anxious care before the throne of grace. For every known duty you will seek grace to perform it. Each day the Christian has new sins to confess, new duties to perform, new trials and temptations to encounter, and all require earnest prayer. Now I do not say that the very things you ask will be received in the precise way and time you expect. Not at all. We are short-sighted men. We often think we know what is best for us and would gladly take into our own hands the management of our spiritual and temporal affairs. This is foolish thinking. But still I say your prayer will be answered, for it is safe in the hands of God who does know best. Happy is the one who can say, "O Lord, sanctify me even if it be by fire. Sanctify me, even if it be through the deep waters of affliction."

Prayer is a mighty weapon in the hands of the weakest. It is the key to heaven. By it Elijah shut up the skies, and no dew nor rain descended on the guilty land. By prayer Jacob placed a ladder between heaven and earth, and formed a communication for angels. By prayer Daniel shut the mouths of ferocious lions. By faith Sampson shook the pillars of Philistia's temple. And by faith Peter was delivered from prison. My dear reader, use this mighty weapon and never lay it aside.

Advice to a Young Christian on the Importance of Aiming at an Elevated Standard of Piety

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read "Faith Tested and Crowned" by Maclaren. And check out our Prayer page for a great many interesting articles.

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Day 13

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come now imploring you to hear us as we remember the sacrificial death of your only Son, Jesus Christ, the son of David. Give us that strength to follow him in all things, even unto death. May we be prepared to give up our health, strength, and worldly substance as proofs of our patience, obedience, and love, if it be your good pleasure. Let us think no sacrifice too great, no labor too arduous in bringing Jew and Gentile to the saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah. And in all our troubles and in every sorrow, teach us to draw nigh to you. Let us walk by faith, trusting in your divine providence, and casting all our cares upon you in the full assurance that you care for us. We ask in the blessed name of Jesus, our great intercessor. Amen.


Preparing for Emergencies
by
J. H. Jowett

"Before governors and kings shall ye be brought for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." Matthew 10:18-20 (R.V.).

"Ye shall be brought before governors and kings." This was said to fishermen who had lived a quiet, unobtrusive life on and by the Galilean lake. It does not require much imagination to enter into the panic occasioned by the Master's words. It is no easy experience for obscure people to appear in the presence of the great and mighty. They do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and the things they meant to say or do are forgotten. Both in the presence of the high-ranking and when they leave it, they feel abashed and ashamed. It was by no means an easy prospect which the Master held out before them: "Ye shall be brought before governors and kings."

Here, then, the disciples are contemplating a remote emergency. The emergency will come; it is inevitable. The line of their life, at present commonplace and even, will rise into a great crisis. As sure as the morrow comes the emergency will come with it! What shall they do? The question suggests our present meditation. How shall we prepare for emergencies?

Our life now may be a level, regular road. But tomorrow the character of the road will be changed, and we shall be confronted by some great and unusual task. What shall we do? It may not be ours to stand as culprits before powers of an imperial or ecclesiastical kind. But there are other kings beside those who sit on thrones. Tomorrow I may not stand before a king who wears a crown, but I may come into the presence of sickness. I may approach the sudden shadow of calamity. I may come within the chill and loneliness of bereavement or meet King Death himself. What shall we do? How shall we prepare for them?

When the disciples heard the words, many of them began to prepare the words which they would address to the king. "No," said the Master, "do not prepare a speech, be not anxious what you shall say. Don't prepare a speech, prepare yourselves!" That is the way to meet all emergencies, with the invincibility of a prepared life.

Be not anxious. Most of us are familiar with calm people to whom we instinctively turn in times of stress and danger. Among the poor and the working classes, where neighborliness is more alive than among the well-to-do, it is beautiful how some one neighbor is renowned for this quality of calmness. What do we mean by this calmness? We mean the person is self-possessed, has everything in hand, has his faculties about him like well-ordered troops, and he says to one "Go," and he goes, and to another "Come," and he comes, and to all his servants "Do this," and they do it. If we are to meet the crises of life, this calmness of spirit must be cultivated. It is infinitely better than a prepared speech or a ready-made plan, for these may fail us when the crises arrive. The stillness is our friend in the dark and stormy day.

But if we are to obtain the strength of stillness we must practice the art of living in the present. "Be not anxious for tomorrow." "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." We must not needlessly go out to anticipate the crisis. We must not meet our trouble half-way. Half-met troubles always appear monstrous. Anticipation makes trifles loom gigantic. I saw a painting some time ago which represented a rising storm. Seen at some little distance it appeared as though dark, black, and threatening. Battalions of clouds were speedily covering the entire sky and blotting out all the patches of light and hope. But when I went a little nearer, I found that the artist had subtly fashioned his clouds out of angel faces, and all these black battalions wore the winsome aspect of genial friends. I have had that experience more than once away from the realm of picture and fiction, in the hard ways of practical life. The clouds I feared and worried about, and concerning which I wasted so much precious strength, lost their frown and revealed themselves as my friends. Other clouds never arrived. Let us live in the immediate moment. The best preparation for the morrow is quiet attention today. "I ask Thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing Thee."

If I am to be a capable expert living in the present, I must engage in the practice of trusting God in every passing moment of my life. What is my task today? Let me trust in God. Let me turn this present moment into happy confidence and hold communion with my God. Let my trust be deliberate until by conscious, volitional trust I come to have instinctive confidence in my God. Let me fill the present with faith, and "the changes that will surely come I shall not fear to see."

And why shall I not fear them? "Be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaks in you." Lay hold of the last two words of this great promise, "in you." That is the secret of everything. Every act of trust increases your capacity to trust God. Every time you trust Him you have more room for Him. He dwells within you in ever-richer fullness. That is a glorious assurance, and one that is filled with infinite comfort. Let me repeat it again. Little acts of trust make greater room for God. Along a level road one can get ready for the hill. In the green pastures and by the still waters one can prepare for the valley of the shadow. In small things one can prepare for emergencies. For when I reach the hill, the shadow, the emergency, I shall be God-possessed. He will dwell in me. And where He dwells He controls. He will energize and vitalize my entire life.

Here, then, is the little sequence I have been endeavoring to unfold. Put your trust in the Lord, and you will live well in the immediate present. Live well in the immediate present, and you will have the spirit of calmness which is the secret of strength. The emergency will not frighten you. You will approach it with that quietness essential for triumph.

The Silver Lining

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read J. C. Ryle's sermon, "The Ten Virgins." And a good companion piece is George Smith's most excellent sermon, "Our Lord's Example in Prayer," wherein he explains that prayer is not just the preparation for the battlefield but the battlefield itself!

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Day 14

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, another day is taken from the sum appointed to man. Though death seems far off, yet it is day-by-day nearer because of its certainty. It may happen at any moment, and shall a man be so foolish as to wait for a better time to set his house of flesh in order? Grant him wisdom, and purify him from such vain and deceitful notions. Show him that it is the present, and the present only, that is the promised time to seek salvation. Now is the time when he has his health and is in full possession of his faculties, and, most importantly, has your word at hand. When this hour is past, will he have another to call his own, another in which he will resolve to turn to you in sincerity of heart? To postpone a matter of such vital importance is the height of folly. Open his eyes and remove every delusion that rivets his affection on this uncertain and fleeting life instead of eternity. Enable him to see that today is the day of salvation, and draw him for Jesus' sake, we pray. Amen.


The Rich Man and Lazarus
by
Matthew Henry

"So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom.
The rich man also died and was buried."
Luke 16:22

Death is the common lot of rich and poor, godly and ungodly. There they meet together. One dies in his full strength and another in the bitterness of his soul, but they shall lie down alike in the dust. Saints die that they may bring their sorrow to an end and may enter upon their joys. Sinners die that they may go to give their account. It concerns both rich and poor to prepare for death, for it awaits them both.

The beggar died first. God often takes godly people out of the world while he leaves the wicked to flourish still. It was an advantage to the beggar that such a speedy end was put to his miseries; and since he could find no other shelter or resting place, he was hid in the grave where the weary are at rest.

The rich man died and was buried. Nothing is said of the interment of the poor man. They dug a hole anywhere and tumbled his body in without any solemnity. He was buried with the burial of an ass. It is something to be grateful for if they who let the dogs lick his sores did not let them gnaw his bones. But the rich man had a pompous funeral. He lay in state, had a train of mourners to attend him to his grave, and a stately monument set up over it. In his funeral oration, his way of living and the good table he set was likely commended by those who had feasted at it. It is recorded in Job of the wicked man, that he is brought to the grave with no small ado, laid in the tomb, and the clods of the valley, were it possible, are made sweet to him.

The beggar died and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. How much did this honor exceed the honor done to the rich man! Observe that his soul existed in a state of separation from the body. It did not die or fall asleep with the body. His candle was not put out with him, but lived, acted, and knew what it did and what was done to it. His soul was removed to another world, to the world of spirits. It returned to God who gave it, to its native country. This is implied in its being carried by angels. They are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, not only while they live but when they die, and have a charge to bear them up in their hands. One angel, one would think, would be sufficient; but here are more, as many as were sent for Elijah.

"Then the rich man cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me . . . for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received good things.'" This word, remember, is a cutting word. The memories of damned souls will be their tormentors, and conscience will then be awakened and stirred up to do its office, which here they would not allow it to do. Today sinners are called upon to remember. But they do not, will not, and find ways to avoid it. What a dreadful peal will ring in their ears: "Son, remember the many warnings that were given you not to come to this place of torment, but which you would not regard. Remember the fair offers made to you of eternal life and glory which you would not accept."

The rich man is now reminded that in his own lifetime he received his good things. Abraham does not tell him that he had abused them, but that he had received them. "Remember what a bountiful benefactor God has been to you, how ready he was to do you good. You cannot therefore say that he owes you anything, no, not a drop of water. What he gave you, you received, and that was all. You never gave a thankful acknowledgment of them, much less did you ever make any grateful return for them or improvement of them. You received them and used them as if they had been your own. They were your reward, your consolation, the penny you had agreed on. You lived for the good things of your lifetime and had no thought of better things in another life, and therefore you have no reason to expect them now. The day of your good things is past and gone, and now is the day of your evil things, of recompense for all your evil deeds."

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

"The Faith of Joseph on his Deathbed" by Henry Melvill is good reading. A good companion piece is Bridges' short exposition of Proverbs 11:24-25, "The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself." You will also find "Conditional Immortality" by Cornelius Stam most helpful.

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Day 15

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, the days of man are few upon the earth, and he has much to do. His years are quickly passed, and yet his work is great. Why then does man waste his time as if time had no end? Why does he trifle away hours and days as if he could replace them? He is thoughtless and will not be wise, even when each setting sun tells of the close of another day and calls him to repentance. The setting sun warns him that the sun of his life must have a setting too. Seal the truth upon him that his eternal state may begin at any moment, and his use of the time given him will have a bearing for eternity. And for us your disciples, teach us that a diligent use of time is required to run the Christian race successfully. Enable us to work for you with more zeal and secure for ourselves the crown of glory, that purchased prize of a Savior's blood. O grant these things for Jesus' sake. Amen.


The Christian Race
by
Samuel Porter Williams

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)

The Christian life is a life of exertion, of holy diligence. Yet because the gospel abounds with expressions of the freeness of salvation, the presumptuous mind infers that all human efforts to obtain it are fruitless. And because this practical error agrees with the natural aversion of man to religion, and is congenial to his slothful habits, this delusive and fatal notion has many advocates. But whoever has carefully followed the examples of those great men of the Church through their pilgrimage, examined their principles, inspected their conduct, and observed their spirit, has not been thus deceived. God is not mocked. Human effort, mighty and persevering, he commands; and whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

Woe, therefore, to him who is at ease. All Christian example, as well as precept, assures us that to work out our salvation is no less necessary than to agonize to enter the way of life. In the doctrine of Christ we are taught that though grace is sovereign and free, it is not inoperative; that though eternal life is the gift of God, it is a life of service for God, a life of vigilance and a labor of love. God works in us to do as well as to will, and imparts grace and strength to his people. This is not to render their efforts needless, but to make them sure and availing; not to furnish an excuse for standing all the day idle in his vineyard, but to render their work efficacious toward deliverance from moral pollution.

The competitor in the race prepared himself physically, recognizing that the crown would be given only to the one who merited it. And in the Christian realm, the verdict is that no man can make his calling and election sure who does not give diligence to this end. Free, therefore, as salvation is, it will not come to the one who does not seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Indeed, do you not know that in a race men run, and that a man cannot run without toil, nor advance without continued effort, nor reach the goal without perseverance--and all this needed until the end of the course? Every page of the gospel enforces some duty on man; and can either God or my neighbor do the work assigned me to do? Can any duty be performed without an effort of the mind and heart?

The Christian life is a spiritual journey, a passing from one stage of the pilgrimage to another; a progression in knowledge, hope, and holiness; a pressing toward the mark and reaching forth to some point to which we have not attained. And is all this to be gained without any exertion? The cross we are required to bear is not a material burden, nor our daily self-denial a literal yoke. Neither is our life a mere footrace. For as surely as the athlete failed of the garland crown when negligent in preparation, so certainly the sinner, if idle, will fail of salvation. Whatever his hands find to do must be done with all his might. And if the kingdom of heaven is to be taken only by force, he must be unrelenting in the conflict. The lagging traveler and the slumbering virgin are in danger. Without holy activity, no one lives the life of a Christian.

Sermons on Various Subjects, Chiefly Practical

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here are two good sermons for consideration: "The Ten Virgins," by J. C. Ryle, and "The Barren Fig Tree," by Neil McKinnon.

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Day 16

A Morning Prayer

O gracious Savior, you manifested your power while on earth by acts of love, compassion, and mercy to both Jews and Gentiles. When the multitude came to hear you speak, you fed them not only with the bread of life but with bread for their physical sustenance as well. Rather than send them away hungry, you exercised your highest power on their behalf. Do so this day for your chosen people, Israel. They have heard the warnings of your holy prophets of old, but they are not satisfied with your provision in Jesus Christ. Unless you speak the word, they must go away empty, eternal punishment being their portion. Give them a hearty desire and craving for that bread which only you can give, that bread of eternal life which you have promised to all who call upon you in faith. Amen.


The Vision of Dry Bones
by
Robert Murray M'Cheyne

"The hand of Yahweh came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of Yahweh, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? So I answered, O Lord GOD, You know. . . . Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live . . . Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel." (Ezekiel 37:1-5, 11)

In early life the Prophet Ezekiel had been witness to sieges and battlefields and had himself experienced many of the horrors and calamities of war. This seems to have tinged his natural character in such a way that his prophecies are full of terrific images and visions of dreadful things. Our text is the description of a vision perhaps unequaled in any other part of the Bible.

Ezekiel describes himself as if he were set down in the midst of some spacious battlefield where tens of thousands had been slain and none left behind to bury them. The eagles had gathered over the carcasses, and the wolves of the mountains had eaten the flesh of these mighty men and drunk the blood of princes. The rains of heaven had bleached them, and the winds that sighed over the open valley had made them bare. Many a summer sun had whitened and dried the bones. As the prophet went round to view the dismal scene, two thoughts arose in his mind: "Behold, they are very many; and, lo, they are very dry." If the place had not been an open valley, it might have seemed like some vast repository for dead bodies, as if the wanton hand of violence had rifled the vast cemeteries of Egypt and cast forth the mummied bones of other ages to bleach and whiten in the light of heaven. How expressive are the brief words of the seer: "Behold, they are very many; and, lo, they are very dry!"

No doubt there was an awful silence spread over this desolate scene of death. But the voice of his heavenly guide breaks in upon his ear, "Son of man, can these bones live?" How strange a question was this to ask concerning dry, whitened bones! When Jesus said of the damsel, "She is not dead, but sleeps," they laughed him to scorn. But here were not bodies newly dead, but bones--bare, whitened bones. They were not even skeletons, for bones were separated from their adjoining bones, and yet God asks, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel answers, "O Lord GOD, you know." They cannot live of themselves, for they are dead and dry. But if you will put your living Spirit into them, they shall live. So, then, you only know.

Receiving this answer of faith from the prophet, God bids him to prophesy to these bones, and say unto them: "O dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. I will put sinews on you, and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am Yahweh."

Had the prophet walked by sight and not by faith, he would have staggered at this promise through unbelief. Had he been a worshiper of reason, he would have argued, "These bones have no ears to hear, why should I preach to them, Hear the word of Yahweh?" But no. He believed God rather than himself. He had been taught "the exceeding greatness of his mighty power," and therefore he obeyed. "So I prophesied as I was commanded."

If the scene which Ezekiel first beheld was dismal and desolate, the scene which now opened on his eyes was more dismal and revolting still: "And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them." If it was a hideous sight before to see the valley full of bones all cleansed by the rains and winds and whitened in the summer suns, how much more hideous now to see these slain ones with bone joined to bone, sinews and skin upon them, but no breath in them! Here was a battlefield indeed with its thousands of unburied dead--masses of unbreathing flesh, cold and immovable, ready only to putrify, every hand stiff and motionless, every bosom without a heave, every eye glazed and lifeless, every tongue cold and silent as the grave.

But the voice of God again breaks the silence: "Prophesy to the wind (or Spirit), prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." Before, Ezekiel had bent over the dead, dry bones and preached unto them--a vast but lifeless congregation. Now he lifts his head and raises his eyes, for his word is to the living Spirit of God. Unbelief might have whispered to him, "To whom are you going to prophesy now?" Reason might have argued, "What sense is there in speaking to the invisible wind, to one whom you see not; for it is written, The world cannot receive the Spirit of God, because it sees him not." But he staggered not at the word through unbelief. "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army."

The first application made of this vision is to the restoration of the Jews. (1) It teaches that at present they are like dry bones in the open valley, scattered over all lands, very many, and very dry, without any life to God. (2) It teaches that the preaching of Jesus, though foolishness to the world, is to be the means of their awakening, and that prayer to the all-quickening Spirit is to be the means of their new life. (3) It teaches that when these means are used, God's ancient people shall yet stand up and be an exceeding great army, shall be as they used to be when they marched through the wilderness, when God went before them in the pillar of cloud; that they shall then be led back to their own land, and planted in their own land, and not plucked up any more.

Sermons of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read "Israel's Restoration" by John Walvoord, and Appendix 2 of Ken's book Upon This Rock, "The Olive Tree in Romans 11 and The Commonwealth of Israel in Ephesians 2." You will also find very many fine articles on our Historic Premillennialism page.

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Day 17

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, we come before you in the name of our blessed Redeemer and great Intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ. This day we ask that you would give us cheerful, quiet spirits fixed on you, hearts that rise above the vanities and follies of life, affections resting on better things than those of sense and time, dispositions accordant with the example of our Savior, and voices attuned to your law and given to prayer and praise. Deliver us from the temptations which most easily beset us, show us ourselves as we are, and make us to see what we ought to be. Then shall we indeed have exceeding joy in this world, and in the world to come everlasting happiness through him who purchased it for us with his own blood, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Stonewall Jackson, a Man of Prayer
by
Rev. J. William Jones

"Pray without ceasing."
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Rev. Dr. Wm. Brown, former editor of the Central Presbyterian, relates a characteristic anecdote of this "man of prayer." During a visit to the army around Centreville in 1861, a friend remarked to Dr. Brown, in speaking of General Jackson in the strain in which many of his old acquaintances were accustomed to disparage him, "The truth is, sir, that 'old Jack' is crazy. I can account for his conduct in no other way. Why, I frequently meet him out in the woods walking back and forth muttering to himself incoherent sentences and gesticulating wildly, and at such times he seems utterly oblivious of my presence and of everything else." Dr. Brown happened the next night to share Jackson's blanket, and in a long and tender conversation on his favorite theme--the means of promoting personal holiness in camp--the great soldier said to him: "I find that it greatly helps me in fixing my mind and quickening my devotions to give articulate utterance to my prayers, and hence I am in the habit of going off into the woods, where I can be alone and speak audibly to myself the prayers I would pour out to my God. I was at first annoyed that I was compelled to keep my eyes open to avoid running against the trees and stumps. But upon investigating the matter I do not find that the Scriptures require us to close our eyes in prayer, and the exercise has proven to me very delightful and profitable." And thus Dr. Brown got the explanation of the conduct which his friend had cited to prove that "old Jack is crazy."

A friend was once conversing with him about the difficulty of obeying the Scripture injunction, "pray without ceasing," and Jackson insisted that we could so accustom ourselves to it that it could be easily obeyed. "When we take our meals, there is the grace. When I take a drink of water I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter in the box at the post-office, I send a petition along with it for God's blessing upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop to pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my classroom and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so of every other familiar act of the day."

"But," said his friend, "do you not often forget these seasons, coming so frequently?"

"No!" said he. "I have made the practice habitual to me; and I can no more forget it than forget to drink when I am thirsty. The habit has become as delightful as regular."

Upon one occasion I called at Jackson's headquarters and found him just going in to a prayer meeting which he was accustomed to hold. I gladly accepted his invitation to attend and shall never forget the power, comprehensiveness, and tender pathos of the prayer he made during that delightful prayer-meeting. Only a few days before the battle of Chancellorsville, I had the privilege (in company with several brother-chaplains) of dining with him at his mess, and of lingering for an hour of most delightful converse in his tent. Military matters were scarcely alluded to, and then he would quickly change the topic. But we fully discussed questions pertaining to the promotion of religion in the camps--how to secure more chaplains and to induce pastors to come as missionaries to the soldiers, and kindred topics. And then we got on the subject of personal piety, the obstacles to growth in grace in the army, the best means of promoting it, etc., and as as the great soldier talked earnestly and eloquently from a full heart, I had to lay aside my office as teacher in Israel and be content to "sit at the feet" of this able theologian, this humble, earnest Christian, and learn of him lessons in the Divine life. More than almost any man I ever met, he accepted fully the precious promises of God's word, walked by a living faith in Jesus, and was guided by the star of hope as he trod firmly the path of duty. How far the glorious revivals with which we were favored were in answer to the prayers, and in blessing on the efforts of "Stonewall" Jackson, and to what extent his influence was blessed to individuals, eternity alone can reveal.

I have it from a well authenticated source that the conversion of Leiutenant-General Ewell, Jackson's able lieutenant, was on this wise: At a council of war one night, Jackson had listened very attentively to the views of his subordinates, and asked [if he might wait] until the next morning to present his own. As they came away, A. P. Hill laughingly said to Ewell, "Well! I suppose Jackson wants time to pray over it." Having occasion to return to his quarters again a short time after, Ewell found Jackson on his knees and heard his ejaculatory prayers for God's guidance in the perplexing [military] movements then before him. The sturdy veteran Ewell was so deeply impressed by this incident and by Jackson's general religious character, that he said: "If that is religion, I must have it." And in making a profession of faith not long afterwards, he attributed his conviction to the influence of Jackson's piety.

Excerpt from Christ in the Camp

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See John Lillie's lecture, "Pray Without Ceasing." You might also like to read "On the Nature of Vital Piety," by Archibald Alexander.

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Day 18

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, we come before your throne of grace pleading the merits of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Arise in your might, we pray, and show forth your power to the people of this nation. Let your warnings break the sad slumber of negligence and indifference in which sinful man rests. Let your Holy Spirit show him his sin, his grievous offense against you in rejecting the righteousness of Christ for his salvation. You have bid him to come to you for salvation, and have promised that all who do will be joyfully accepted. But your call, like the voice of Noah, that preacher of righteousness, has been not only disregarded but utterly held in contempt by a froward and rebellious people. Rouse them, O mighty God, before their hearts become so hardened that your Spirit no longer strives with them. Awaken them before that great day of tribulation comes unexpectedly upon them. Open their eyes to see that, unless they repent, they must stand condemned at the final judgment. Amen.


Wisdom for Man
by
Jonathan Edwards

"Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth."
Proverbs 27:1

The design of the wise man in this book of Proverbs is to give us the precepts of true wisdom, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves wisely in the course of our lives. Wisdom very much consists in making a wise improvement of time and of the opportunities we enjoy. He advises us here to a wise improvement of the present time.

The precept given is not to boast of tomorrow. That is, not to speak or act as though it were our own. It is absurd for men to boast of that which is not theirs. The wise man would not have us behave ourselves as though any time were ours but the present.

The reason given for this precept is, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. We have no hold of future time; we know not whether we shall see the morrow; or if we do know that we shall see it, we know not what we shall see when it arrives. We ought to carry ourselves as though we knew we should not live another day and, therefore, improve the current one as if it were the last. We should be as careful to avoid all sin as if we knew that this night our souls should be required of us.

Yet in many other respects, we are not to behave ourselves as though we concluded that we should not live another day. For instance, in such a case it would not be the duty of any person to make provision for his temporal subsistence. It would never be man’s duty to plow or sow the field, or to lay up for winter. But these things are man’s duty: “Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”

On the other hand, if we were certain that we should not live another day, some things would be our duty today which now are not so. For instance, it would be proper for us to spend our time in giving our dying counsels, in setting our houses in order, in doing those things which immediately concern our departure. Therefore, the words that forbid us to boast of tomorrow cannot be extended to signify that we ought in all respects live as if we knew we should not see another day. Yet they undoubtedly mean that we ought not to behave ourselves as though we depended on another day.

Those who act as if they had another day set their hearts on the enjoyments of this life. I do not mean that we cannot have some affection for the enjoyments of this world; otherwise they would cease to be enjoyments. If we might have no degree of rejoicing in them, we would not be thankful for them. Persons may in a degree take delight in earthly friends and other earthly enjoyments. It is agreeable to the wise man’s advice that we should do so: “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun." But when we set our hearts on these things, place our happiness in them, turn and fix our inclinations so much upon them that we cannot enjoy ourselves without them, we show that we have our dependence on another day.

I shall ask you now to examine yourselves and see whether you do not boast of tomorrow. Do you not set your hearts much more on this world than you would if you had no dependence on another day? Is not the language of the rich man in the gospel the secret language of your hearts? “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years.” If you did not depend on having considerably more time in this world, would you spend so much time asking, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Would you not rather ask, "How shall we make our calling and election sure?" Would so much of your time be spent in laying up treasure on earth and so little in laying up treasure in heaven, were it not that you put death at a distance?

God has concealed from us the day of our death partly for this end, that we might be excited to be always ready, and might live as those that are always waiting for the coming of their Lord. Now therefore let me, in Christ’s name, renew the call and counsel of Jesus Christ to you: Watch as those that know not what hour their Lord will come. Let me call upon you who are this day in an unsaved condition. Do not depend upon another day, that you will not be in hell before tomorrow morning. You have no reason for any such dependence.

Works of Jonathan Edwards

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See J. C. Ryle's sermon, "What Time Is It?" You will also find "The Christian Waiting for His Deliverer," by Charles Bradley, interesting. And check out Ken's article, "The Christian Answer to Death and the Eternal Destiny of the Redeemed."

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Day 19

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, whose ears are always open to the petitions of your humble servants, unto you do we lift up our souls. Let a sense of your presence abide with us this day. May we set you always before us, remembering that it is you, O God, who prospers us in all our work. Let all be done to the best of our ability and with the goal of bringing glory to you. And as we fulfill our earthly duties let us not neglect the heavenly, but to always seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We pray in the name of Jesus our Savior. To him be glory, and majesty, dominion and power, forever and ever. Amen.


Successful Living
by
Joseph King

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men" (Proverbs 22:29). "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life" (John 6:27). "Storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:19).

Founded on these three passages, there are three thoughts to which I solicit your attention. The first of these is important, the second more important, and the third most important of all. If you do these three things, your days will be spent happily, your life will be successful. It will not end in disastrous failure as do the lives of so many. You will have your fruit unto holiness, and the end will be everlasting life. (1) Improve your temporal condition. (2) Cultivate your mind. (3) Save your soul. These three, in my judgment, embrace a great deal and cover the whole ground of man's duty in this life. We begin with the lowest, which is by no means unimportant.

(1) Improve your temporal condition. Better your worldly circumstance; become independent; get a home and own it if possible; lay up something in reserve so you don't live hand-to-mouth; save money; and lift yourself above poverty and indigence. You have heard people say, "The world owes me a living, and I mean to have it." This is a lie. The world owes no man a living. It is only lazy, indolent, worthless men that talk that way. On the contrary, it is every man's duty to do two things: earn a livelihood, and to honestly produce by his labor what he consumes. He who consumes but earns nothing is a parasite on the community and ought to be shaken off and compelled to work, if he is able, or starve. Such is the divine law, and a beneficent wise law it is. "If any one will not work, neither let him eat. Now such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness working they eat their own bread"--bread which they have earned by the sweat of their brows, by personal labor of some sort.

A man should also add something, even though it be a little, to the stock of the world's wealth. He should leave the world richer and better in every way for having lived in it. He should leave behind him an example of frugality, economy, thrift, and wise upright administration of the affairs of this life, as well as an example of high moral conduct and Christian integrity.

(2) Cultivate your mind. Read, study, think, and add a little every day to your stock of useful information. "Wise men lay up knowledge." In doing so, man shows true wisdom; for knowledge is a permanent possession. It becomes a part of our mental constitution, durable and lasting as the mind itself. Riches often take wings and fly away, reverses of fortune may reduce a man to poverty, but no change in external conditions can rob him of his intellectual possessions.

Alfred the Great, king of England, recommended this division of time for each twenty-four hours: Eight hours for work and business, eight for recreation and mental cultivation, and eight for sleep. Better advice, I think, could not be given, especially to the young. Therefore, I say to them, form the habit in early life of reading good books. Acquire knowledge, make yourself intelligent, resolve to improve your mind and to treasure up knowledge. This will be to you a permanent possession and a source of infinite satisfaction and comfort to you in later years. Let every young person begin to form a library. Save a little out of your earnings to buy books. Read them, take care of them, keep them, have a library of your own. Read history, for it will enlarge your mind and acquaint you with what has been done in the world. Read biographies of great and good men. This will show you how they rose to eminence, by what motives they were actuated, what difficulties they overcame, and what good they accomplished.

(3) Save your soul. Be a whole-hearted, earnest follower of Christ. Take the Bible as your directory and guide in morals, Jesus as your pattern and example. Believing in your own immortality, live for the world to come and build up a character for eternity. Be reconciled to God through Christ. Worship, adore, serve, obey and love the great Creator and Redeemer. Accept Christ's sacrifice as the great atonement for your sin, his death as the great propitiation for your transgression, his word as your rule of duty. Receive him into your heart as its sovereign and your hope of glory. This is most important of all; this is first, highest, and chief of all. He who fails here succeeds nowhere. His life is a failure, and better would it have been had he never been born.

A poor man may be a Christian and get to heaven. An ignorant man may be a Christian and get to heaven, and he will have eternity before him in which to learn. But he who is not a Christian has no hope of heaven. "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" You must be a child of God, a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus, or all is vain. "Work not for the food that perishes, but for that which endures unto everlasting life." What other interest can be compared with that of the soul and its salvation? If a man having property in youth squanders it, spends it in riotous living, in prodigality and excesses, and in manhood and old age finds himself poor, is he not greatly to blame? If in youth one neglects his opportunities for getting an education and laying the foundation for the acquisition of knowledge in later years, and in old age finds himself ignorant and unhappy, is it not his own fault?

Prepare for eternity. In autumn the squirrel provides for winter. It carries nuts and acorns into holes of hollow trees that it may subsist on them during the cold winter months. The beaver constructs with remarkable ingenuity its lodges or habitations, thus providing for its future comfort. And shall not man, who is to live forever, on whose moral nature eternity is stamped, make preparation for his future well-being? Be wise. Submit your heart to God. I call you to come to Christ, the one Saviour of sinners. "Whosoever is willing, let him take of the water of life freely."

Sermons

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

For Ryle's exposition of John 6:27, click here. Take time to read "The Barren Fig Tree," by Neil McKinnon, as well as Alexander Maclaren's sermon, "The King's Potters." And for a good exposition of Hebrews chapter six, you will find J. B. Rowell's essay very helpful.

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Day 20

A Morning Prayer

Eternal God, in the name of our Redeemer we plead for cheerful and ready obedience to do your will. Make us search our own hearts to see if any wicked imagination is lurking there, if we are harboring malice, revenge, or ill will. We are prone to self-deceit, fancying we are walking in the right way when in fact we are far from it. Take away every prejudice, all pride, and whatever else may hinder us from godly piety. Show us the vanity of worldly distinctions in which man clothes himself; for however we disguise ourselves before men, in your sight every thought is exposed, every desire known. Clothe us in the garment of righteousness, and thereby we will show we are sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. Amen.


The Prayer for Self-Knowledge
by
Charles Bradley

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23,24).

None but a man of heartfelt piety could have written this prayer; and among ourselves, the man who can feelingly offer it up to heaven is not far from the kingdom of God. He is at least in earnest in his religious profession, and has evidently learned what thousands who deem themselves Christians never have learned--the exceeding deceitfulness of the human heart.

The first inference to be drawn is that true religion has its seat in the heart. It is an inward thing, a principle dwelling in the mind and ruling over the whole inner man. We are all willing to acknowledge this, but there are few who heartily believe it. When off our guard, many of us openly declare that it matters not what a man thinks and feels as long as his life is right. But it is not so with a man whose religion is real. The gospel does not merely touch him but pervades him. It not only enlightens his understanding but shines into his heart. It not only delights his imagination but captivates his affections.

We observe, second, that the truly religious man is anxious to know the real state of his own heart. But the heart is a book few of us like to study, for it requires close and serious thought. In addition, the heart is a book which teaches many humbling and mortifying lessons, and we love the falsehood that exalts better than we love the truth that lays us low.

A third observation is that the sincere Christian is not conscious of having within his heart any one cherished sin. David's words imply that if there had been any wicked way in him, any evil disposition habitually indulged, he could not be walking in the way everlasting. It is one thing to have iniquity entering the breast and another thing to harbor it there. It is one thing to have sin dwelling in the members and another to have it reigning in the heart. Every Christian feels this warfare within. And are we, then, overcoming inward sin? If not, then our profession of religion is, at the best, very suspicious. It may satisfy the world; it may satisfy ourselves. But there is reason to fear that it will not satisfy God.

Although the text intimates that the Christian is not aware of having any sin prevailing with him, it implies, fourth, that he often suspects himself of some undetected iniquity. David rejoiced in the testimony of his conscience, but he would not place undue confidence in it. He was conscious of the integrity of his heart, but he was conscious also of its exceeding deceitfulness. Now the generality of mankind have none of this self-distrust. They are well satisfied with themselves and imagine that the Almighty is well satisfied with them also. If they think at all of the state of their heart, they think of it with little concern and examine it with little interest.

The real disciples of Christ, however, are men of another spirit. They are slow to think the least evil of others but ever ready to think much evil of themselves. They see that the best of their actions, the brightest of their graces, the most holy of their dispositions, the most fervent of their prayers, and the most ardent of their praises are blended with so much that is evil, that they despair of separating the one from the other and are often ready to faint with anxiety and fear.

Amid his perplexities, the sincere Christian, fifth, has a firm and lively belief that God knows his heart. Here again is a truth which none of us profess to doubt, but which many of us altogether disbelieve. Appeal to your consciences, brethren. If you really believed that there is a God to whom all hearts are open and from whom no secrets are hid, and if you were heartily persuaded that he is every moment watching your thoughts, remembering them, and about to bring you into judgment for them all, could you then have ventured to cherish in your mind many of the thoughts that you have quietly and fearlessly cherished there during the week that is passed? Could you have indulged such thoughts this very day and perhaps during the last few minutes within these walls? No, for the very idea of being seen by God has made you serious now; and in like manner it would have long ago worked a great and abiding change within you if you had actually believed it.

The real servant of God does believe it and acts on his belief. Like David, he knows that the Lord searches the hearts, understands the thoughts, and is acquainted with the ways of the children of men. He must, then, in the sixth place, apply to God for self-knowledge and instruction. The wisest and most experienced of us know but little of ourselves, but he who sits upon his heavenly throne knows us well. He can show us wherein we are right in our judgment of ourselves and wherein we are wrong, what there is in us to be brought low and what to be raised up, what we must endeavor to get rid of and what to obtain.

Thus, lastly, he who seeks instruction of God must be willing to submit himself to God's guidance. We often pray for instruction without being mindful of the need of this submission. The Savior employs various methods of showing his children their hearts. We expect it to be done simply by reading his word. But while we are reading, he sends us trouble, and makes that trouble the means of bringing to light our sinfulness and weakness. Affliction, brethren, frequent and severe affliction is the school into which prayer often brings a man, and in which he first learns to know himself and to know his God. It is in the furnace that the gold is proved and distinguished from the secret dross.

Now what is the one great lesson which these things are calculated to leave impressed on our minds? It is this: the necessity and importance of self-examination. God is the Judge of all, and he will be my Judge. He will try me not by my own standards nor by the opinions of the world, but by the law and the testimony of his own word. Let me therefore search my heart and try my thoughts by the same rule now by which I shall be searched and tried hereafter.

Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of High Wycombe

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will find the following two sermons very helpful: "Self-Ignorance" by John Caird, and "Governing Our Thoughts" by D. L. Carroll.

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Day 21

A Morning Prayer

O God most high, look favorably upon us as we come before your throne of grace through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We confess that without your aid we can do nothing. Our strength is only weakness and our energies but a breath. And yet we live as if we needed nothing! We act as if we were all powerful and had only to put forth our arm and overcome! Have we utterly failed this past week to recognize that it was you who graciously sustained us, that it was your mercy that was our safeguard, and that it was your love which was our defense? Let your Spirit awaken our consciences to see if it be so. Then, O Lord, grant that we may recall our transgressions, not as if we had only to add them up and our work is done, but that we may seek your pardon and amend our ways with the sincere desire to know ourselves better. And for those who are yet unsaved, send them convicting grace. Let the pangs of an awakened conscience lead them to the cross, where Jesus died to atone for sin. Amen.


Conscience
by
Alexander Hamilton Vinton

"If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5)

God has placed in every man's heart a great prophetic witness to tell him of his sins, to pronounce upon his character, and foretell the great judgment. Conscience is God's viceroy over the realm of human spirit. Man may dethrone it by excessive guilt, and violate and dishonor it in ten thousand ways. But conscience was born to a throne in the human bosom, and a throne it will have, if not in this life then in the next; in this life for man's salvation or, if not, then in the next for his deathless torment. When conscience speaks, its voice is always kingly. Even though you chain it, you tremble at the majesty of its expostulation. It is God's eye. It sees your life and reads your heart. It is God's voice counseling your understanding. It is God's power chastising your guilt with stings. Every sin you commit, whether open or secret, yes, every thought of sin, calls forth its indignant reprimand.

You would be happy if you could not remember that you were guilty. But remembering this, oh, what a mockery of happiness is a life like yours! Rich you may be in this life, but poverty-stricken for eternity; honored in men's estimation, but miserably vile in His, who is no respecter of persons; wise in human lore, ruinously blind in Divine things; honest in your dealings with men, but defrauding the God who made you; free from all worldly stain, but guilty of the blood of your own soul.

And now, let me ask the searching question of the text: "How will you contend with horses?" "What will you do in the swelling of Jordan?" For there is coming a time when these pungent pains of your soul will seem like the brushing of an insect's wing compared with the searchings of heart that you must then endure. The time is coming when your soul shall be laid bare to the eye of the whole world. Its character will be read aloud by Him who gave your conscience a part of His own power. He will expose your open and your secret sins, with all their aggravation, and bring your whole life to the dreadful ordeal of the Judgment. What will you say when He shall punish you? In that ceasing of forbearance and the swelling forth of justice and judgment, what will you do? When the time for prayer is ended and the Holy Spirit of conversion has returned to God's bosom never to visit you again, and when the wrath of the Lamb has taken the judgment seat, how can your hearts be strong then? How can you contend with your God?

My beloved friends, heed the admonishing pains of conscience now! You are wearied with them, I know, because you cannot deny their justice. As you love your own souls, and as you would fear to carry an unforgiven heart to your death-bed and to the judgment, I beseech you to heal your present woe by providing for the more terrible future. Assuage your conscience by saving your soul. To the cross, my dear friend, to the cross of your injured Saviour and the blood that your sins drew forth from his wounds, shall be your peace in the swelling of Jordan.

Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

"Consider Before You Fight" is an enlightening sermon by Spurgeon. Edward Wilson also has a great sermon on 1 Kings 18:21, "How long will you halt between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." Don't miss Ken's tract, "Am I Going to Heaven?"

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Day 22

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, accept our poor and imperfect service, our faint and feeble offering of prayer and thanksgiving. Lord Jesus, look upon us in mercy and plead your merits on our behalf. We cast our cares upon you, knowing that you care for us. Clothe us with your righteousness that we may be approved guests at the great supper of the Lamb in your kingdom. And Holy Spirit, who is the giver of life, we ask that you would influence and direct us, guiding this day and always. Sanctify us body, soul, and spirit, and keep our feet that they stray not from the narrow path. Make our professions sincere, our practice consistent, and our whole life proof that we are Christ's disciples. We give all praise and thanksgiving to you most adorable trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God forever and ever. Amen.


The Letter and the Spirit
by
J. Gresham Machen

"The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
2 Corinthians 3:6

This sentence is perhaps the most frequently misused utterance in the whole Bible. It is constantly interpreted to mean that we are perfectly justified in taking the law of God with a grain of salt. It is held to indicate that Paul was no "literalist" but a "liberal," who believed that the Old Testament law was not valid in detail, but that all God requires is that we should extract the few great principles which the Bible teaches and not insist upon the rest. Thus has one of the greatest utterances in the New Testament been reduced to comparative triviality--a triviality with a kernel of truth in it, to be sure, but triviality all the same.

What Paul is really doing here is not contrasting the letter of the law with the spirit of the law but contrasting the law of God with the Spirit of God. When he says "the letter kills," he is setting forth the terrible majesty of God's law. The letter, the "thing written" in the law of God, says Paul, pronounces a dread sentence of death upon the transgressor; but the Holy Spirit of God, as distinguished from the law, gives life.

The law of God is external. It is God's holy will to which we must conform; but it contains in itself no promise of its fulfilment. It is one thing to have the law written and quite another thing to have it obeyed. In fact, because of the sinfulness of our hearts, because of the power of the flesh, the recognition of God's law only makes sin take on the definite form of transgression; it only makes sin more exceedingly sinful. The law of God was written on tables of stone, or on the rolls of the Old Testament books, but it was quite a different thing to get it written in the hearts and lives of the people. So it is today. The text is of very wide application. The law of God, however it comes to us, is "letter"; it is a "thing written," external to the hearts and lives of men. It is written in the Old Testament. It is written in the Sermon on the Mount. It is written in Jesus' stupendous command of love for God and one's neighbor. It is written in whatever way we become conscious of the commands of God. "When the Gentiles," Paul says, "which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves."

There is no doubt about what Paul means by "the Spirit." He does not mean the "spirit of the law" as contrasted with the letter. He certainly does not mean the lax interpretation of God's commands which is dictated by human lust or pride. He certainly does not mean the spirit of man. The Apostle means the Spirit of God. God's law brings death because of sin; but God's Spirit, applying to the soul the redemption offered by Christ, brings life. The thing that is written kills; but the Holy Spirit, in the new birth, or, as Paul says, the new creation, gives life.

The contrast runs all through the New Testament. Hopelessness under the law is described, for example, in the seventh chapter of Romans. "Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But this hopelessness is transcended by the gospel. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." The law's just sentence of condemnation was borne for us by Christ who suffered in our stead. The handwriting of ordinances which was against us--the dreadful "letter"--was nailed to the cross, and we have a fresh start in the full favor of God. And in addition to this new and right relation to God, the Spirit of God also gives the sinner a new birth and makes him a new creature.

The New Testament from beginning to end deals gloriously with this work of grace. The giving of life of which Paul speaks in this text is the new birth, the new creation; it is Christ who lives in us. Here is the fulfillment of the great prophecy of Jeremiah: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, says Yahweh, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." For the Christian, the law is no longer a command which he must obey in his own strength. On the contrary, its requirements are fulfilled through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. This is the glorious freedom of the gospel. The gospel does not abrogate God's law but makes men love it with all their hearts.

How is it with us? The law of God stands over us. We have offended against it in thought, word and deed. Its majestic "letter" pronounces a sentence of death against our sin. Shall we obtain a pleasing but deceptive security by ignoring God's law or by taking refuge in an easier law of our own devising? Or shall the Lord Jesus wipe out the sentence of condemnation that was against us and the Holy Spirit write God's law in our heart and make us doers of the law and not hearers only? So, and only so, will the great text be applied to us: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

What Is Faith

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Let us be sure we have "The Spirit of Christ." See also the essay by Geoffrey Bromiley, "The Holy Spirit." And you will find Edward Bickersteth's book, The Holy Spirit, very helpful. And for more about Machen, read William Masselink's short biography, J. Gresham Machen, His Life and Defence of the Bible.

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Day 23

A Morning Prayer

O Lord most holy and merciful, we come with grateful hearts, acknowledging that we are but dust and ashes. Yet you have given us the means and aids by which we may plead our cause at your throne of grace, the merits and sufficiency of your Son and our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. This day will bring trials and temptations to prove our love for you. Grant that we may follow in the steps of our Savior by doing good to all men. Let us not seek revenge, but let us repay our enemies with kindness. Let not the prosperity of the wicked cause us distress, but let us be content with our allotted portion, trusting in your wisdom and divine providence. And let us give all the glory to our triune God. Amen.


Loving the Enemy
by
J. H. Jowett

"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High." (Luke 6:35)

This searching counsel describes a certain pose or posture of the soul. A soul in the attitude of prejudice is disinclined to the light. A soul in the attitude of jealousy presents a front of unkindly suspicion. A soul in the attitude of hatred bristles with perpetual antagonisms. Love is likewise an attitude of the soul and characteristic of a certain prominent temper in the life.

Love is the attitude of wooing. Love seeks to convert the hostile forces into a friendly power. Its aim is to transform the unfriendly sword into a friendly plowshare. Love is that temper of the soul which seeks to change alienation into intimate fellowship. This pose or temper of the soul can only be acquired in the atmosphere of prayer. It is in the ministry of prayer that the crooked becomes straight. If we harbor feelings of perilous hatred against another, let us force ourselves into the presence of God, and in that all-corrective Presence the foul inclination will be changed and the posture of the soul transformed into the forgiving attitude of God. Love your enemies.

Love is the instrument of knowing. We can have no real knowledge of our enemy if we are destitute of love. Love is the posture in which vision becomes possible. If a man say, "I know my brother," and he loves him not, his knowledge is only pretense. In order to see anybody in a true light, we require a disposition of love.

Love reflects the disposition of God. If I may say it reverently, to love an enemy is the very pose of our God. "While we were yet sinners Christ died." "When we were enemies we were reconciled." God is well disposed toward us and all men. "I know the thoughts that I have toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." To let the mind dwell upon the character of God is to unconsciously acquire it. The attitude of the one we love imperceptibly fashions our own. Because God loves His enemies, we shall find it possible to love ours. "We love because He first loved us."

And do them good. Love will inevitably issue in doing good. Let me put three words together which, in their order, suggest a sequence of actual life: benevolence, benediction, benefaction! Benevolence is the pose of love. To be benevolent is to be well-disposed, to be will-disposed. To be benevolent is to have the kindly inclination to woo and to win even our fiercest foe. Benevolence will issue in benediction. Benediction is benevolence expressed in speech. Our diction will be ordered and chastened by our benevolence. Unkindly criticism will be checked. Contempt will be changed into eulogy. The art of fault-finding will be changed into the ministry of grace-finding. Benevolence will also express itself in benefaction. Benefaction is benevolence expressed in service. It is love displayed in gracious service. "If your enemy hungers, feed him." Love will discover what the enemy's hungers are. Love will interpret and supply the enemy's lacks and gaps. It may not be the hunger for bread but the hunger for comfort and cheer. Whatever the hunger may be, God shall reveal that to you. Do them good. Kill the enemy by unfailing kindness.

And lend. I cannot limit the interpretation of this work to the mere content of money. Love is self-impartation, and with self we give all things. Lend to the enemy! Let out your substance, your possessions. Make use of everything that may woo and win him. Be liberal in thought, in sympathy, in labor, in prayer. Sacrifice freely, that he may be allured into communion.

Lend, never despairing. Never say, "I have prayed so long for the enemy, and he is as unfriendly as ever. I shall attempt the insuperable task no more." That is the very opposite to the course of much-enduring love. There are some phrases which love never uses, and I think they ought never to pass over Christian lips. Here are one or two--"a hopeless case," "too far gone." The despair which is expressed in these phrases ought never to find entrance into the hearts of the disciples of Christ. We never know just how near we are to victory. The chairman of one of our great mining companies was telling us a little while ago how very near they were to overlooking the wealth of a great estate. They had been working for a long period and the labor appeared to be absolutely fruitless. And one day, when the purpose to cease work was almost ripe and the settlement was to be left as quite a hopeless sphere, the manager, while speaking to one of the workmen, was idly poking his cane into the embankment when a small quantity of the soil tumbled down; and lo, the long-sought-for vein was discovered! They were planning on giving up when the gold was only a hand's breadth away. This is even so in the searching for souls. When the work appears hopeless, we may be within an inch of victory. One more try, and we may be at the gold. "Lend, never despairing."

And your reward shall be great. To some extent love enshrines its own reward. Even when love is wounded, we would not lose our love to escape the pain. If the love of a mother over a wayward son brings her constant sorrow, still she would not be willing to lose her love that she might escape the grief. No mother would have the nerve of love deadened in order that her sensitiveness might be benumbed. No, there is something in love itself which has its own reward. But beyond this, to love an enemy brings to man the reward of fellowship with God. "Everyone that loves . . . knows God." We "walk together" because we are "agreed." And beyond all this, to love the enemy brings to the lover a spiritual transformation. "Ye shall be sons of the most High." Our character is to be elevated and sublimed. Our sonship is to be worthy of the father. The child is to be glorified. We are to "awake in His likeness."

Thirsting for the Springs

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is a helpful sermon by Alexander Maclaren, "Avenge Not Yourselves." You will also like this lecture on "Temperance," that is, self-control, by Joseph Thompson.

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Day 24

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, you have told us that in the world we shall have tribulation, that man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward. You have often allowed your disciples to experience these solemn truths. May we show our belief in them by a more determined clinging to our Savior, by a more untiring walk in the light of your Spirit, by a more steadfast confidence in your providence, and by a faith that knows all things will work out for our best. And let us not love the world nor the things of the world, but open our eyes to its vanities and follies, the emptiness of its pleasures and the unsatisfying nature of its amusements. Let us, like Moses, choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. We ask all in the name of Jesus, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


Wealth
by
Thomas Scott

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Wealth is a talent entrusted by the great Proprietor of the world to some for the good of many. It is commonly wasted in gratifying all the senses and appetites, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," and thus is considered in Scripture as exceedingly dangerous to the souls of those who possess it. Yet the wise man had reason to say that "money answers all things," for it may be extensively useful to others and thus eventually profitable to the faithful steward himself. And "the wisdom that is from above" will teach the Christian how to make this use of it.

The wealthy are not required in Scripture to part with their estates. Nor is it generally advisable to abolish all distinction between them and their inferiors in their style of life. Nay, those men who are engaged in lucrative business (provided it be lawful and they are on their guard against its snares) will generally be more useful by continuing in it as the Lord's servant, and using its profits as his stewards, than by retiring in the prime of life to a situation which, perhaps, has not fewer snares and certainly inferior advantages for doing good.

The confident believer, however, will be influenced by his principles to curtail a variety of superfluous expenses in order that he may raise a fund for charitable and pious uses. And while he shows a readiness for every good work, by which the needs and miseries of men may be relieved, he will especially endeavor to render all his liberality subservient to the more important interests of religion.

Wealth gives a man influence also. When the leisure time wealth affords is accompanied by a pious frame of mind, a man may do good among his peers by an edifying conversation. His conduct may likewise be rendered useful among his tenants, domestics, and neighbors. And if he frequently disperses his charity with his own hands, it will have a vast effect in conciliating men's minds to his religious principles when accompanied by his pious exhortations and friendly but serious discourse.

They also who are in more narrow circumstances still have a talent to improve even in this respect. Much might be saved from superfluous expenses by most Christians and employed in those good works which are "through Christ Jesus to the praise and glory of God."

Time is a universal talent which every Christian should redeem from waste. Let him employ it in some beneficial manner, for idleness is intolerable in a disciple of Him who "went about doing good." Every man has influence in his own circle, however small, and may use it to good purposes. For if we duly considered our obligation to God our Saviour, then a desire would be excited in our hearts to live to his glory and to serve our generation. And if every professor of the gospel abounded in the work of the Lord, the blessed effects of it would be beyond measure.

Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Alexander McCaul's sermon on "Poverty and Riches." Here is a good selection from John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion called "Concerning Works and Rewards."

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Day 25

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, you have commanded us to pray for all men, for kings and those in authority. We beseech you now to look upon our President. Be gracious to him and give him a knowledge of your law and an understanding of your will. Grant that he may always seek the aid of your Holy Spirit, that he may fill the high station to which you have been pleased to call him with faith and zeal as your representative upon earth, for he will have to account for every word, thought, and deed equally with the most lowly citizen of this nation. Guide those in authority under him, that they may be led to promote the Christian faith, to put down error, to discourage immorality, and by their lives to set forth your honor. And make us a nation serving and glorifying you, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


Intercession: Every Christian's Duty
by
George Whitefield

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." (I Timothy 2:1)

If we ask why there is so little love to be found among Christians, we shall find it owing in a great measure to a neglect of intercession, that is, imploring the divine grace and mercy in behalf of others. Prayer is a duty founded on natural religion. The very heathens never neglected it, though many Christian heathens among us do. It is so essential to Christianity that you might as reasonably expect to find a living man without breath as a true Christian without the spirit of prayer and supplication. No sooner was St. Paul converted than the scriptures record, “behold he prays."

Christians are earnest and importunate in praying for themselves, but remiss and defective in their prayers for others. If we loved our neighbor according to Christ's command and example, we could not but be as importunate for their spiritual and temporal welfare as for our own, and desire and endeavor as earnestly that others should share in the benefits of the death and passion of Jesus Christ as we ourselves.

Our intercession must be universal. "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men." As God's mercy is over all his works, as Jesus Christ died to redeem a people out of all nations and languages, so we should pray that "all men may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved."

We should, according to St. Paul's rule, also pray for kings, in order that we may lead quiet lives in all godliness and honesty. If we consider how heavy the burden of government is, how much the welfare of any people depends on the zeal and godly conversation of those that have the rule over them, and if we set before us the many dangers and difficulties to which governors by their station are exposed and the continual temptations they lie under to luxury and self-indulgence, we shall not only pity but pray for them.

We should especially pray for those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over us. This is what St. Paul begs, again and again, of the churches to whom he writes: “Brethren, pray for us.” And again, “Praying always, with all manner of supplication, and for me also that I may open my mouth boldly to declare the mystery of the gospel.” If the great St. Paul, that chosen vessel, that favorite of heaven, needed the most importunate prayers of his Christian converts, much more do the ordinary ministers of the gospel stand in need of the intercession of their respective flocks. Shall not they be remembered in your prayers who daily feed and nourish your souls? Praying for your ministers will be a manifest proof of your believing, that though Paul plants and Apollos waters, yet it is God alone who gives the increase.

Our friends claim a place in our intercessions; but let us not content ourselves with praying in general terms but suit our prayers to their particular circumstances. When the nobleman came to apply to Jesus Christ in behalf of his child, he said, “Lord, my little daughter lies at the point of death. I pray thee come and heal her.” Is a friend sick? We should pray that if it be God's good pleasure, it may not be unto death. But if otherwise, that God would give him grace so to endure his affliction, that after his painful life is ended he may dwell with God in life everlasting. Is a friend in doubt on an important matter? We should lay his case before God, as Moses did that of the daughters of Zelophehad, and pray that God's Holy Spirit may lead him into all truth and give all seasonable direction. Is he in need? We should pray that his faith may never fail, and that in God's due time he may be relieved.

We must also pray for our enemies. “Bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” Jesus enforced this command in the strongest manner by his own example. In the very agonies and pangs of death he prayed even for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is a difficult duty, yet not impracticable to those who have renounced the things of this present life.

I now offer some reasons for this practice of daily intercession. First, it will fill your heart with love for one another. Envy, malice, and revenge can never dwell long in a gracious intercessor's heart. Abound, therefore, in prayers of intercession. When you hear of your neighbor's faults, instead of exposing them before others lay them in secret before God. You cannot imagine what a blessed change this practice will make in your heart, and how much you will increase day-by-day in the spirit of love and meekness toward all mankind!

Consider the many instances in holy scripture of the power and efficacy of intercession. It has stopped plagues, opened and shut heaven, and frequently turned away God's fury from his people. When Daniel humbled and afflicted his soul and interceded for the Lord's people, how quickly was an angel dispatched to tell him his prayer was heard!

Remember that it is the never-ceasing employment of the holy and highly exalted Jesus himself to hear all our prayers and make continual intercession for us! Imagine, therefore, when you are lifting up holy hands in prayer for one another, that you see the heavens opened and the Son of God in all his glory, Jesus our great High-Priest, pleading for you the all-sufficient merit of his sacrifice before the throne of his heavenly Father! This imagination will strengthen your faith and excite a holy earnestness in your prayers.

Sermons on Important Subjects

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Spurgeon gives six arguments to use when coming before the throne of grace. One is Christ interceding for us. You will love his sermon, "Order and Argument in Prayer." And Joseph Frey's letter to his brother on "The Intercession of the Messiah" will lift your heart.

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Day 26

A Morning Prayer

Almighty Lord, you are the searcher of hearts. All secrets are known to you. Sinful man is continually going astray, running from you as if he could escape. He thinks he may hide himself and so enjoy his sins unobserved. And because they may not be so glaring and offensive as those of his neighbor, because they are unseen by man so as not to bring shame upon him, he flatters himself that they shall not be found out and bring punishment and eternal death. Open his eyes, we pray, to such awful error. Enable him to realize your presence in every place. Grant him the sure knowledge that your eye beholds him at all times, and that it is your mighty arm only that can restrain him from iniquity. Then draw him by your Holy Spirit to repentance, that he may faithfully and joyfully serve you during the remainder of his days. We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


God's All-Seeing Eye
by
Richard W. Church

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight,
but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
Hebrews 4:13

There are some things in religion which are among its plainest and most familiar teachings, but which yet, when we come to think what they really mean, seem almost too awful and tremendous to be endured by the mind of man. Among these is the truth that the eye of God is always upon us. The Bible everywhere takes it for granted, and appeals to it. "Thou God sees me." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." "The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, and upon them that put their trust in His mercy."

God sees me always. It must be so; it must be true. Here I am conversing with others, yet standing before His all-seeing eye, never out of His sight, never for an instant hidden. And how dismaying to realize that even when on my knees speaking words of prayer to Him I yet so often fail to remember that He is listening, that He knows what I am saying, and whether I am thinking of Him or not. How differently I might have spoken if I had only had it in my mind that He observes me and knows what I am saying at all times and in all places.

The thought of God's eye upon us is generally looked upon as a restraint and bridle, to impress upon us His awful strictness and holiness of judgment. And so, of course, it is. It is a terrible thought to have hanging over us when we are inclined to do wrong and to play with sin. But is this all? Does that holy eye of God ever fixed upon us speak only of severity, of warning, of reproof? Is it fixed on us only to condemn and make us feel our infinite distance from Him who is our Father and God, only to make us shrink and tremble before Him? Is this the reason why the thought of God's continual knowledge disquiets and presses down the soul?

But is it not, rather, a great comfort to be able to fall back on the thought that there is One who knows us perfectly, who is never tempted to misunderstand or misrepresent what we say and do? Is it not a great comfort to know that our wishes and attempts to do right are not all useless and thrown away? There is One to whom we can always reveal our cause, knowing that it will be perfectly understood and fairly weighed. To His absolute and perfect knowledge we can make our appeal, even if we can only make it with shame and self-reproach and bitter abasement. Let us learn, awful as it is, to welcome the thought and make it real to ourselves; to believe in it, to face it steadily as often as we can. And so shall we find it what it is meant to be--God's great encouragement and help to His creatures and His children in doing right. There is His eye. Not of a Judge and Ruler only, but of a Shepherd, a Father, a Giver of all good gifts, a Promiser of all blessed hopes, the Lover of the souls of men, even to the extent that he did not spare His only Son for them.

Village Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read Spurgeon's commentary on "Psalm 139" together with "The Omnipresence of God" by James Yonge.

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Day 27

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, awaken us, we pray, from the paralyzing delusion that we may sit with our arms folded and our minds at ease, having nothing to do this day for you. Rouse us now, while we have energy to stir, to a sense of our danger from the enemy who roams tirelessly about seeking whom he may devour. Impress upon us the solemn and startling truth that it was anger kindled by our sins that led our Savior to the cross, and that only through his merits can we behold your holiness and glory. Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that our penitence this day may be sincere, and sanctify us that we may glorify the triune God in all we do. We offer these petitions in the name of our precious Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Amen.


Sanctification
by
Richard W. Church

"This is the will of God, even your sanctification."
1 Thessalonians 4:3

The work of sanctification is the work of that Blessed Spirit of Holiness. From Him only can come our sanctification, our improvement, our being gradually changed into better men. And He works in wonderful ways. He works in secret, and He works through his appointed instruments. He works in our conscience and in our prayers, in our solemn thoughts and desires and purposes after good. He works through the written Word, in our meditation on its realities, and in our sacred services of prayer and praise in the House of God. He comes with deep and unsearchable power, with comfort and encouragement, with precious blessings.

He is with us in our temptations. When we waver, it is He who whispers that we still must resist. When we fall, it is His strength which keeps us from utterly giving way. When we triumph, it is He who upholds our heart. It is He who confirms and settles us in winning one more step forward on the road to holiness. Without Him we can do nothing; and those who seek in earnest after better things find His power at their side at every step. They know that without Him they could have done nothing. They know that with Him and by His help, their labor need never fail.

That is His part in the work of our sanctification. But there is another part that is our own. When the Apostle says, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification," he means not only that you should be sanctified by the Holy Ghost, but that the work of sanctification should be done by you for yourselves. This work has its many parts and duties, but its essence is this: taking care of your thoughts.

Yes, take care of your thoughts. Then your words and your deeds will follow of their own accord. Take care that you do not let wrong things dwell and lurk in your thoughts, and you will be safe from them in your life and dealings. Take care that you chasten and keep in order your heart within, that you restrain its secret angry swellings, that you turn it away from the forbidden and evil thing. Then gentleness and pureness will flow forth of themselves into your temper and character, your speech and actions.

Take care of your thoughts. Let nothing unclean or shameful rest in them. Let your thoughts be truly raised above selfish and worldly ways. Suffer no hypocrisy, nothing low and base. Let your thoughts be in reality what you profess them to be outwardly. Let it be there that you try daily to become better, more truly holy, more truly Christ-like. Then the sanctification of your actions and outward life will be no vain struggle. You shall have no divided heart, no doing good while feeling only half-minded to do it; no doing right with the secret wish that you might be allowed to do wrong. The good within shall naturally issue forth into the same good without. The vine will bring forth her natural grapes and the fig-tree her figs. "Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things," just as "an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil things."

Let us remember that there is no word or law in heaven or earth that can override this great saying: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." As the Apostle says, we have been forewarned by the life and example of Christ, forewarned by the solemn words of His apostles, and forewarned by our own consciences which witness that it must be so. Do and say what we will, let us remember that "God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despises, despises not man but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit."

Village Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Do we have the Holy Spirit? Read "The Spirit of Christ" by James Richards. A most helpful book is The Trinity by Edward Bickersteth, and a most helpful sermon is "Governing Our Thoughts" by Rev. D. L. Carroll.

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Day 28

A Morning Prayer

O gracious Lord, look upon us as a nation and in pity regard the church of this land. See the iniquity that abounds not only among the powerful in government but among professing Christians as well. Behold the sins committed by those who claim to be your disciples. Week after week opens with the Lord's day, and thousands congregate as if to worship you. But once their solemn engagements are over, they rush again into the world as if you were asleep and did not behold their wickedness. Fraud is used, falsehood prevails, the love of money sways, worldly ambition is intoxicating, earthly pleasures drug the soul, and a travesty is made of their Christian profession. Rise in your strength, O mighty God, to rebuke such sin! Warn such nominal professors in order that they may amend their ways. Cause them to remember that man may look on the outward appearance but the living God looks on the heart. Your warnings are plain and fearful, and should make them pause and tremble. Oh, keep your church among us as a shining light and its members as living stones. Let us not bring reproach upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Abuse of Power
by
Ralph Wardlaw

"Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there. I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work." (Ecclesiastes 3:16,17)

The possession of power invariably brings along with it a temptation to its perversion and abuse; a temptation so strong that many who previous to their advancement have appeared to "walk uprightly," "doing justly and loving mercy," have no sooner been raised to the perilous eminence than they have fallen before it, and to the surprise and disappointment of all have assumed the character of unrighteous and ruthless oppressors.

The seat of power is not always the seat of true honor; and as it is surrounded with temptations to such conduct as may cover its possessor with infamy and contempt, let aspiring ambition be repressed. Let the man who is seeking happiness in the attainment of power pause and reconsider. Let him not too cheerfully indulge optimistic expectations and assurances of finding what he seeks. Let him not deride the warning and in self-confident presumption pronounce it impossible that he should ever act a part which so many have acted before him, many who had quite as good a ground for boasting.

No man knows what is in his heart till his heart has been tried by the eliciting powers of temptation. Besides, even the upright and conscientious ruler may suffer by his official connection with others, by that general "principle of association," which attaches to him the impious character of those governing with him. We know well how unfairly this principle frequently operates, and how difficult it is for a man of even the purest integrity and most consummate prudence to avoid incurring his share, however undeserved, of this official odium, and to preserve his reputation unsullied.

Lectures on the Book of Ecclesiastes

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You might want to read "The Philosophy of Temptation" by Howard Crosby, and "Strange Fire" by Alexander Maclaren. And for more on Ecclesiastes by Wardlaw, check out our Ecclesiastes page. You will also find a good "Introduction to Ecclesiastes" there by Ken.

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Day 29

A Morning Prayer

Lord Jesus, our great intercessor, plead for us before your Father's throne. We know he is very merciful, patient, and forbearing, that his love is great and extends to all his creatures. And though he has promised to give us all things, still we have no claim in ourselves for the least favor. But coming in your name our prayer must be heard, and if we ask aright our petitions will be answered. We confess our sinfulness in falling short of our known duty. But you appeared on earth as man and learned all that he must endure. You can pity us when Satan buffets, because the evil one tried your faith and attacked your suffering human frame. You can feel for us when sorrows arise, because you wept and grieved. Intercede for us that we may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and let your chief desire be accomplished, that we may be saved to spend eternity with you, for you died to secure it. Amen.


A Divine Cordial
by
Thomas Watson

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

If the whole Scripture be the feast of the soul, as Ambrose said, then Romans 8:28 may be a dish at that feast. In the preceding verses, the apostle had been wading through the great doctrines of justification and adoption, mysteries so arduous and profound that without the help and conduct of the Spirit he might soon have waded beyond his depth. In this verse, the apostle touches upon that pleasant string of consolation, “We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God.” Not a word but is weighty; therefore I shall gather up every filing of this gold that nothing be lost.

Here are two things to be considered: (1) The certainty of the privilege--“We know.” (2) The excellency of the privilege--“All things work together for good.”

“We know.” It is not a matter wavering or doubtful. The apostle does not say we hope or we conjecture but, like an article in our creed, we know that all things work for good. A Christian may come not merely to a vague opinion but to a certainty of what he holds. As axioms and aphorisms are evident to reason, so the truths of religion are evident to faith.

“We know.” Though a Christian has not a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, yet he has a certain knowledge. “We see through a glass darkly,” and therefore have not perfection of knowledge; but “we behold with open face," therefore we have certainty. The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths upon the heart as with the point of a diamond. A Christian may know that he is in the state of grace.

“We know that we have passed from death to life." He may know that he shall go to heaven. “We know that if our earthly tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The Lord does not leave His people with uncertainty in matters of salvation. We have both the Spirit of God and our own experience setting seal to it.

“All things work together for good.” This is like Jacob’s staff in the hand of faith, with which we may walk cheerfully to the mount of God. What will satisfy or make us content if this will not? All things work together for good. This expression “work together” refers to medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the skill of the apothecary, make a sovereign medicine and work together for the good of the patient.

All God’s providential purposes are being divinely tempered and sanctified to work together for our best. He who loves God and is called according to His purpose may rest assured that everything in the world shall be for his good. This is a Christian’s cordial, a stimulating medicine. Why should he kill himself with care when all things shall sweetly concur, yea, conspire for his good? The result of the text is this: all the various dealings of God with His children do by a special providence turn to their good. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant.” If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good.

God’s power works for good. It is a glorious power, and it is engaged for the good of the elect. It supports us in trouble. “Underneath are the everlasting arms." What upheld Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah in the whale’s belly, the three Hebrews in the furnace? Only the power of God. How is a weak Christian able not only to endure affliction but to rejoice in it? He is upheld by the arms of the Almighty. “My strength is made perfect in weakness."

The power of God works for us by supplying our needs, giving comfort when means fail. He who brought food to the prophet Elijah will bring sustenance to His people. God can preserve the “oil in the cruse." Is your sin strong? "He will subdue our iniquities." He will break the head of this leviathan. Is your heart hard? God will dissolve that stone in Christ’s blood. “The Almighty makes my heart soft." When we say, like Jehoshaphat, “We have no might against this great army,” the Lord goes up with us to fight our battles. He strikes off the heads of those goliath lusts which are too strong for us.

The goodness of God works for good to the godly. It is a means to make us good. “The goodness of God leads to repentance." It is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart into tears.

The promises of God are as cordials to a soul that is ready to faint. Are we under the guilt of sin? “The Lord is merciful and gracious." Are we under the defilement of sin? “I will heal their backsliding." Are we in great trouble? “I will be with him in trouble." Do we fear lacking outward needs? “They that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." If it is good for us, we shall have it. If it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good.

Christ’s intercession works for good. When a Christian is weak and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him. He prays for three things. First, that the saints may be kept from sin. “I pray that thou should keep them from the evil.” We live in the world as in an infected house. Christ prays that His saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times. Second, for His people’s progress in holiness. “Sanctify them." Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit and be anointed with fresh oil. Third, for their glorification. “Father, I will that those whom thou has given me be with me where I am." Christ is not content till the saints are in His arms. What a comfort is this! When Satan is tempting, Christ is praying!

All Things for Good

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Why are we so cold-hearted when praying? Please take time to read "The Intercession of the Messiah" by Joseph Frey. After doing so, you will understand the power of our Great Intercessor by reading "Answers to Prayer from George Muller's Narratives." And for more about the book of Romans, Robert Haldane has a very helpful introduction.

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Day 30

A Morning Prayer

O Father of mercies, you are a very present help in every time of need. You wait to be gracious, and you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. Enable us in every hour of trial and temptation to flee to you as our strong tower. In the dark periods of sorrow and affliction, which checker all of human life and often cast a deep gloom over the rejoicing and buoyant spirit, grant that we may seek you with an earnest heart in order that we may find sweet joy and peace. We confess that we nurse despondency and court gloom too much, dwelling upon things of time rather than upon our eternal interests. O teach us, we pray, to recognize that trials and afflictions work for our good, and grant that we may have a more abiding trust in your divine providence. We ask all in the name of our great Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Evil of Affliction Works for Good to the Godly
by
Thomas Watson

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn Your statutes."
Psalm 119:71

In all the afflictions that befall us, it is one heart-quieting consideration that God has a special hand in them. Instruments can no more stir without God giving them a commission than the ax can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, "The Lord gave, and the devil took away," but "The Lord has taken away." Whoever brings an affliction to us, it is God that sends it.

Another heart-quieting consideration is that afflictions work for good. Afflictions to the godly are medicinal. Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation. Afflictions are as needful as ordinances. No vessel can be made of gold without fire; so it is impossible that we should be made vessels of honor unless we are melted and refined in the furnace of affliction. I shall show you several ways how affliction works for good.

Affliction is our preacher and tutor. "Hear ye the rod." Luther said that he could never rightly understand some of the Psalms until he was in affliction. Affliction teaches what sin is. In the word preached we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning; but we fear it no more than a painted lion. Therefore God lets loose affliction, and we feel the bitterness of sin. A sickbed often teaches more than a sermon. In prosperity we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction that we may better know ourselves. We see the corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we otherwise would not believe was there.

Afflictions work for good as they are the means of making the heart more upright. In prosperity the heart is apt to be divided, cleaving partly to God and partly to the world. Now God takes away the world that the heart may cleave more to him in sincerity. Oh how good it is, that when sin has bent the soul awry from God, affliction should straighten it again!

Afflictions work for good as they put to silence the wicked. How ready are they to malign the godly, that they serve God only for self-interest. Therefore, God will have his people endure sufferings for religion, that he may put a padlock on the lying lips of wicked men.

Afflictions work for good as they make way for glory. Not that they merit glory, but they prepare for it. As plowing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us meet for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark colors, so God first lays the dark colors of affliction and then lays the golden color of glory. The vessel is first seasoned before wine is poured in. The vessels of mercy are first seasoned with affliction and the wine of glory is poured in. Thus we see that afflictions are not prejudicial but beneficial to the saints. We should not so much look at the evil of affliction as the good, not so much at the dark side of the cloud as the light. The worst that God does to his children is to whip them to heaven.

All Things for Good

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Alexander Maclaren's sermon, "A Strange Reward for Faithfulness," will be of benefit. John Kitto has a short entry on affliction entitled "Joseph in Egypt." We also have a good many excellent excerpts from Franz Delitzsch's commentary on "The Book of Job."

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Day 31

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, another day dawns for us according to your mercy. We therefore come in confidence, knowing we have a mediator and intercessor ready to plead our cause and strengthen us through the Holy Spirit. Be gracious to us, for we confess that too often we have strayed from the straight and narrow path. We have tasted of worldly pleasures and found them very bitter. We have joined in the amusements of the world and found them very fleeting, leaving neither satisfaction nor comfort. We have given way to fancies and hopes built on no surer foundation than what this world can afford, but we have been left disappointed, for they were themselves vanity. And you know how often the things of time have engrossed us, have claimed and had our entire service even to the neglect of Jesus, who died to redeem us from this evil world and its vain pleasures. Forgive us and make us remember our weakness and frailty, and enable us to go forward with determination in the power of the Spirit, that we may be more than conquerors through Christ. Amen.


Sin and Shame
by
Job Orton

"And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: 'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.' And he said: 'Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.' " (Genesis 9:20-23)

We learn hence how odious a sin drunkenness is. Though many excuses may be urged in behalf of Noah, and we know not that he ever repeated this crime, yet what dreadful consequences followed! "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). Let professing Christians walk circumspectly, and carefully guard against whatever might prove the occasion of sin and folly.

The apostle not only delivered that prohibition, "Be not drunk with wine wherein there is excess" (Eph. 5:18), but adds, "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22). In order to avoid criminality in this as well as in other things, it is good to keep out of the way of temptation. "Look not on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper" (Pr. 23:30,31). This was strikingly illustrated in the case of Noah; it exposed him to shame. If men did but see what beasts they make of themselves when drunk, how unbecoming a situation it often places them in and what folly they unwittingly speak, surely they would abhor the thought of being guilty of this vice. "Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15).

See the scandal and sin of disobedience to parents and how heinous it is in the sight of God. Ham, one of Noah's sons, was of so depraved a disposition that he made sport of his good father's weakness and publicly told his brethren of it in the streets. He secretly rejoiced, it may be, to see the good old man overtaken in a fault for which Noah had severely reproved others, and perhaps Ham himself. Herein he showed himself to be one of those fools which Solomon speaks of, who makes a "mock at sin" (Pr. 14:9). It is no uncommon thing for the wicked to make a jest of the sins of others as well as their own, and to make the sins and weaknesses of good men in particular the subjects of their ungodly mirth. But it shows a dreadful degree of hardness in those who are capable of it, and especially in children, to mock at the weakness of their pious parents. Let young people carefully guard against everything of this kind; and let good men take care that they give them no occasion.

The conduct of the other two sons of Noah, who so decently and kindly laid a covering over their father, was much to their honor, and affords an example well worthy of imitation. True charity, or love, will hide a multitude of sins and cast a veil over a thousand infirmities of good parents, neighbors, and friends. Those who are thus kind and dutiful may expect a blessing; but wicked scoffers, and especially wicked children of pious parents, shall be cursed with Canaan.

What a striking proof have we here of the foreknowledge of God and the divine origin of the Scriptures! This prophecy has been most remarkably accomplished in the history of Noah's sons and their posterity. We all know in what an awful manner the curse denounced upon Ham was executed in the total extermination of the Canaanites. And we know also that the blessing pronounced upon the other two sons of Noah was as remarkably fulfilled, particularly in the descent of the glorious Redeemer from the posterity of Shem.

Once more, let us who are of the race of Japheth be thankful that we have been persuaded to dwell in the tents of Shem, and that the Lord God has dwelt in our tents; that we sinners of the Gentiles, who were once strangers and foreigners, are made fellow-citizens with the saints and heirs of the promise. Let us be thankful that we have still the tokens of the divine presence among us, and especially if any of us have been persuaded to open to him the door of our hearts. Let us pray in faith for the accomplishment of the prophecies concerning the universal establishment of the Redeemer's kingdom, that all the sons of Noah may become holiness to the Lord, and the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Short and Plain Exposition of The Old Testament, with Devotional and Practical Reflections for the Use of Families

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Ralph Wardlaw's lecture on Proverbs 20:1, "Wine is a mocker," is very good. Maclaren has a good selection called "Open Sins." Also, a good companion reading for today's devotional would be Ken's paper on "The Centrality of Israel In the Bible and In Theology."

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