Daily Devotions from the Classics

A Monthly Reading of Insights from Renowned Christians

May

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Day 1

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 threatenings 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.


A Summary of Matthew 24
by
S. D. Gordon

"And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" (Matthew 24:2,3)

Let us keep in mind that this is our Lord's anwer to the questions about His coming (the full end of the age) and the destruction of Jerusalem which, in the disciples' minds, was connected with it. The Olivet discourse, in Matthew's account of it, may be easily grouped under three general headings, after the introductory bit out of which it all grew.

The first of these may be called the tribulation group of paragraphs. It runs from verses four to forty-four of chapter twenty-four. In it our Lord speaks of a time of great distress or tribulation coming to the whole earth. This is the uppermost thought through the whole section. This is apt to come as a distinct surprise to one who is listening for something about His coming again. Yet this is the first thing He speaks of in answering the questions about when He will come.

There are five distinct paragraphs in this tribulation section.

The first paragraph runs through verses four to eight. It cautions against evil men coming under the pretence of being Christ, and gives the general characteristics of the tribulation in its beginnings as wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes.

The second paragraph runs through verses nine to fourteen inclusive. It tells of great tribulation coming to the Lord's followers. It helps here to remember that these disciples represent the Church and not the Jewish nation. The Church will suffer during this awful time of persecution, and some will be killed. As a result of the terrible persecution, there will be a great testing and sifting. Many will "stumble," that is, give up their faith. False religious teachers will add to the confusion, and the love of many will grow cold. These are the general characteristics of the time for the Christian people. Then our Lord gives a clue to determining when the end of all will come: it will not be until the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in all the world as a testimony unto all nations.

The third paragraph runs through verses fifteen to twenty-eight. It gives the opening event of this tribulation time, by which its beginning may be surely recognized. Jesus makes a quotation from Daniel, referring to something or someone called "the abomination of desolation." When this is seen standing in the holy place of the temple in Jerusalem, that will indicate the beginning of this great tribulation. And our Lord significantly adds, "let him that reads understand." This event will be followed by a time of awful happenings. The tribulation will be such as has never been known, and never will be again. It will be a time of such terrible experience for Christ's own followers that for their sakes it is mercifully shortened.

The fourth paragraph is a brief one but brings us to the central event we are thinking of. It runs through verses twenty-nine to thirty-one and fixes the closing event of the tribulation time. There will be disturbances in the heavenly bodies -- the sun, moon, and stars, and "the powers of the heavens" (i.e., powers of physical attraction and cohesion) "shall be shaken." Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. His appearance will cause mourning among all the tribes of the earth. The word translated "mourning" has in it the thought of grief. And that suggests a sorrow and penitence among men when they see and recognize the Lord Jesus in His glory. Then he sends His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and the redeemed will be caught up into His presence from every corner of the earth.

The fifth paragraph runs through verses thirty-two to forty-four and mingles earnest pleadings to faithfulness with additional information. The budding of the fig tree was a certain sign to them of the coming of summer; so these occurrences will be the sure indication not only of His coming but that He is near. Then comes the prophetic utterance about the preservation of the Jewish race until all these things shall take place. Thereafter follows an assurance of the absolute certainty of these events occurring, but that the time of them is known only to the Father. The people of the earth will be as unprepared and as completely taken by surprise as were the people in the days of Noah. The separation of some being caught up and the rest being left on the earth would come as they were busy about their common duties, utterly unexpectant of anything unusual being likely to occur. Then is the earnest plea to live so as to be always ready for His coming, however unexpected it may be when it actually occurs.

It is interesting to note that the line of division between the Jews, the nations, and Christ's followers is distinctly drawn in this Olivet discourse. The Jews are referred to in the third person as "this people" (Luke 21:23), as "they" (Luke 21:24), and as "this race" (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). The nations or people of the earth generally, as distinct from Jews and from the group of Christ's followers, are referred to likewise in the third person as "Gentiles." Christ's followers are spoken to, the second person being used. The persecution which they suffer is "for My Name's sake" (Matt. 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:12). To them is promised special wisdom in time of need (Mark 13:11). It is they who are urged to be watchful against the evil and to watch for His return. Indeed the whole discourse is addressed to the circle of Christ's own people, later called the Church.

Here then may be put into a few sentences the teaching of Matthew, from our Lord's own lips, regarding His return. It is to be preceded by a time of tribulation, which will be a terrible experience for all and of sore testing and suffering for God's people. This will be introduced by an event in the Jewish world at Jerusalem, something or someone called "the abomination of desolation" set up in the holy place in the temple. And it will come to an end with an unsettling or a shaking of the powers that hold the heavenly bodies in their places. Then our Lord Jesus Himself shall come openly to all, in great glory, and gather to Himself His own followers, leaving all others on the earth. His coming will find the world wholly unprepared.

Quoted by John J. Scruby in The Great Tribulation The Church's Supreme Test

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also Ken's study on The Olivet Discourse.

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Day 2

A Morning Prayer

O Lord most holy and merciful, we come before you with grateful hearts, for although we are but dust and ashes and weak and miserable, you have given us the means and aids by which we may be accepted at your throne of grace. We therefore come pleading 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. We ask in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who died that we might have everlasting life. Amen.


Anger
by
Matthew Henry

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny." (Matthew 5:21-26)

Christ here explains the law of the sixth commandment according to the true intent and full extent of it. The exposition of this command which the Jewish teachers contented themselves with was, Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. This was all they had to say upon it: that willful murderers were liable to the sword of justice, and casual ones to the judgment of the city of refuge. The courts of judgment sat in the gate of their principal cities; the judges, ordinarily, were twenty-three in number. These judges tried, condemned and executed murderers, so that whoever killed was in danger of their judgment. Now this restricted interpretation of theirs was faulty, for it intimated that the law of the sixth commandment was only external and forbid no more than the act of murder. It laid no restraint upon the inward lusts. This was indeed the fundamental error of the Jewish teachers -- that the divine law prohibited only the sinful act and not the sinful thought.

The commandment is exceedingly broad and not to be limited by the will of men. Christ tells us that rash anger is heart murder. Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause breaks the sixth commandment. Anger is a natural passion. There are cases in which it is lawful and laudable. But it is sinful when we are angry without cause: (l) When it is without any just provocation given; for no cause or no good cause. (2) When it is without any good aim but merely to show our authority, to gratify a brutish passion, to let people know our resentments and excite ourselves to revenge. If we are at any time angry, it should be to awaken the offender to repentance and prevent his doing so again. (3) When it exceeds due bounds; when we are headstrong in our anger, violent and vehement; when we seek the hurt of those we are displeased with.

From this it is inferred that we ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren, and that if at any time a breach happens, we should labor for a reconciliation by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to him, begging his pardon, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed. Because until this is done, we are utterly unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances. The case supposed is, "That your brother has something against you;" that you have injured and offended him either in reality or in his apprehension. If you are the party offended, there need be no delay; make short work of it as there is no more to be done but to forgive him. But if the quarrel began on your side and the fault is yours, go and be reconciled before you offer your gift at the altar. God will have reconciliation made and is content to wait for the gift rather than have it offered while we are under guilt.

Until this is done, we lie exposed to much danger. It is at our peril if we do not labor after an agreement, and that quickly, upon two accounts: (l) If the offense we have done is in his body, goods, or reputation, such as will bear an action in which he may recover considerable damages, it is our wisdom and duty to our family to prevent that by a humble submission and a just and peaceable satisfaction. Otherwise he may recover it by law. In such a case, it is better to make the best terms we can than to hold out, for it is in vain to contend with the law, and there is danger of our being crushed by it. (2) While the quarrel continues and we are unfit to bring our gift to the altar, unfit to come to the table of the Lord, so we are unfit to die. If we persist in this sin, there is danger lest we be suddenly snatched away by the wrath of God, whose judgment we cannot escape. Hell is a prison for all that live and die in malice and uncharitableness, and out of that prison there is no rescue, no redemption, no escape.

This is very applicable to the great business of our reconciliation to God through Christ. (l) God is an adversary to all sinners. He has a controversy with them, an action against them. (2) It is our concern to agree with him, to acquaint ourselves with him that we may be at peace. (3) It is our wisdom to do this quickly, while we are in the way. While we are alive, we are in the way. After death it will be too late. (4) They who continue in a state of enmity to God are continually exposed to the arrests of his justice and the most dreadful instances of his wrath. Hell is the prison into which those will be cast who continue in a state of enmity. (5) Damned sinners must remain in it to eternity. They shall not depart until they have paid the last penny; and that will not be to the utmost ages of eternity. Divine justice will be forever in the satisfying, but never satisfied.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Spurgeon has a very good sermon on this subject, "Consider Before You Fight".

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Day 3

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, 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.


God is the Disposer of All Events
by
Charles Simeon

“The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from Yahweh."
Proverbs 16:33

With the Scriptures in our hands, we are perfectly assured that all things, however casual or contingent with respect to man, are under the control of a Superintending Providence; or, as it is said in our text, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from Yahweh." In confirmation of this truth we shall show, first, that God is the disposer of all events, and second, that he is constantly to be regarded by us in this character.

All events, whatever kind they may be, are equally under the direction of Almighty God. He disposes of the things which are most dependent on human agency, such as the government of kingdoms. Although the powers of the human mind are called forth and concentrated in governmental administration, yet the commencement and continuance of any kingdom is altogether under the direction of a superior power. Also, the success of all human plans, whether relating to military enterprises, commercial speculations, agricultural pursuits, or matters of inferior moment and of daily occurrence, depends entirely on God. It was God who directed the arrow to Ahab's heart, though it was drawn at random. It was God who directed the stone out of David's sling to Goliath's forehead. In a word, God "works all things after the counsel of his own will," and "his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure."

All events independent of human agency are under the direction of Almighty God. Nothing has less dependence on human skill or foresight than a lot. In respect to the outcome of such a random drawing, an utterly foolish man is on a par with the wisest man in the universe. But the outcome is entirely at God's disposal, as all who acknowledge the existence of a Deity have confessed by resorting to it on emergencies. The Apostles had recourse to it when they determined who would be the successor of Judas. The heathen sailors had recourse to it, after which Jonah was found to be the cause of their danger.

But in the event these instances are thought to be merely casual, we will adduce one which marks beyond all possibility of doubt the Divine interposition. In the language of chances, it was above a million to one that the lot would fall on the very person to whom God infallibly directed it. We speak here of Achan, the man who had troubled the camp of Israel. The lot fell first on the right tribe, then on the right family of that tribe, then on the right household, and lastly on the right individual in that household.

Our second point is that God should always be regarded as the disposer of every event. We should trace his hand in everything that is past. Have we been loaded with benefits? They must be received as from Him, "from whom comes every good and perfect gift." It does not matter whether our blessings came by inheritance or were the fruit of our own industry. To God, and to God alone, must they be acknowledged as their proper source. Have we, on the other hand, been visited with afflictions? We should know that they did not just spring up from the ground but proceeded from his gracious hand.

We should trace God's hand in everything that is future. If nothing can occur without his special appointment, how safely may we commit to him our every concern, and how confidently may we expect a happy issue of every occurrence! Can we do better than leave ourselves at his disposal? Were it possible that he should err, or that having devised anything he should be unable to accomplish it, or that having begun to accomplish it he should change his purpose and alter his dispensations, we might then not feel so well satisfied with having everything subject to his disposal. But when infinite wisdom and goodness concur to direct all our concerns, and infinite power also engages to overrule everything for our good, we may well dismiss every fear, saying with the Apostle, "I know whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him." We may be as composed as Hezekiah when surrounded by Sennacherib's army, or as Elisha when surrounded by the army of the king of Syria.

Hence, let us see the excellence of faith. This is the principle which beyond any other honors and glorifies God. By faith we are prepared to receive everything as from him, and to say, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him." Mere reason, though it may acknowledge these truths, can never enable us to realize them. But "by faith we see Him who is invisible," and learn to acknowledge him as much "in the falling of a sparrow" as in the ruin of an empire.

Whatever confederacies may be against you, it is your privilege to know that "no weapon that has been formed against you can prosper." God has said that "all things shall work together for your good." And they shall do so, however much you may be at a loss to conceive in what way the good shall be elicited.

The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A. (minimally paraphrased)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Bridges has a helpful exposition of Psalm 119 on "Assurance".

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Day 4

A Morning Prayer

Almighty Lord, we come before you now not to plead our righteousness or any deeds we have done, but to make the righteousness of Christ our plea, his death and resurrection our satisfaction. We confess that we have fallen short of our duty, and with deep humility we fall low before your footstool seeking pardon. Enable us to search ourselves carefully and diligently by your word to see where we have walked amiss, and make us see the folly of trying to conceal it from you. You would not that man should deceive himself by vain endeavors to deceive you. Yet how often we do this, all the while owning your omniscience. Strengthen us, we pray, that our penitence may be sincere, and answer for Christ's sake. Amen.


The Prodigal Son
by
Henry Augustus Coit

"How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare,
and I perish with hunger!"
Luke 15:17

The hero, in the current fiction of the day, is a man not only of magnificent physical powers and unlimited capacity for deeds of daring and generous impulse, but one who has a habitual disregard of duty, whether to God or man. And frequently the end attained is a triumphant arrival in ports of peace and safe anchorage while the evil actions are condoned, forgotten, or redressed by some one act or coup of splendid showy self-sacrifice. It is safe to say, however, that in most of these imaginary stories the hero is a character wholly unlike any met with in common life, just as the events through which he marches to the denouement are totally unlike such as meet us in our individual experience. Unlike fiction, there is no world where there is no God and no sure consequences of evil actions. On this side of the grave we must anticipate that final judgment seat before which every one of us alike will give account of the deeds done in his body.

Look at the picture in the parable. The youth whom we call the prodigal son has had a sorrowful experience. He has cast off restraint -- the restraint of love and duty, of home and conscience, of social and Divine law. To use a late phrase, he has wearied of the stagnation of comfort, the quiet order, the loving care of his father's house. Like so many he has undervalued the sweetness of innocence, of lying down at night and rising in the morning in health of body and mind with no black stain in the memory, no frenzied grip at some base indulgence. The hot blood surges through his veins and cries out for freedom to have his own money and do with it what he will. The daily round of prayer and blessing is irksome. Any daily round is irksome. He chafes at his mother's gentle remonstrances and his father's firm refusals. Oh, for the wilderness and the sea, to try things for one's self, to pluck at will the poisonous wild flowers, to lose his way in the trackless desert, to stray into the portal and chambers of moral death! What he wants is life without conscience, without duty, without God. This, he fancies, is to live like a man, with some dash and swing and sparkle in life, even though he shatters a father's hopes and breaks a mother's heart.

Then the inevitable hour comes. The fires of passion are spent, the precious gifts of life are exhausted, and memory becomes an avenger. The early days come back to him, when the morning land was fresh with blossoms of spring, when the voice of parents was sweet in childish ears and the chances of happiness and blessing still lay nigh. Oh, what might have been! That is the barbed arrow that rankles in the mind of the broken, remorseful, hopeless spendthrift.

Alas, in the majority of cases, this is where the lost soul stops. I must warn you younger ones now listening, that it is not safe to count on rising from such hopelessness to the hopefulness of what may yet be, as did the prodigal in our blessed Lord's parable. Vicious indulgence and sinning against light and knowledge paralyzes the moral powers. The long disuse of prayer incapacitates one for praying. Memory and association may recall the years long past, but the will may be hopelessly weakened. And thus the day of grace passes, the shadows lengthen, and that night comes when there is no longer an opportunity for repentance.

My dear brethren, heed the warnings. There is not a one of us in danger of dreading sin too much. Many of you have a hard struggle before you. Hold fast and tread the narrow way, and the welcome of the Father's house will await you.

School Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You might enjoy this article, "Who Can Forgive Sins," by Pastor Elifson.

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Day 5

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, in your hands are the issues of life and death. As you spoke the word and we were made, so at your bidding we shall pass away and be no longer among the sons of men. At its longest, life is short; our days pass quickly away. Year follows year, seasons come and go, all things come to an end to warn us of our approaching reckoning at your throne of judgment. Prepare us daily that we may be as much nearer to you in spirit as we are to the grave. While health and strength abound, give us grace to walk before you among the living by revealing the fullness of your majesty and holiness. And enable us, we pray, to use our energy and mind in your service as we prepare to meet our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we offer our petitions. Amen.


Comfort in Death
by
Grattan Guinness

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."
Psalm 23:4

Now perhaps some of you look forward with fear to that passage, "through the valley of the shadow of death." "Ah!" says one, "it is so dark." Tell me, did you ever stand on the edge of a dark valley filled to the very brim with the damp mists of night in the early morning before the sunrise? And have you waited till the sun rose and shone down into its depths, turning those black mists to golden clouds? And though you have feared to go down in the darkness, have you feared to go down in the light? Now 'tis something like this with death. If you are God's child, when you come to the edge of this valley God shall so cause the gates of glory to be opened beyond as to fill this valley with light, and all your fears shall vanish with the darkness.

There is an old saying which occurs to me just now about this darkness. It is well worth repeating to you. "There never was a shadow without a light!" Now I say, look not at the shadow of death but rather at the light of life. What light? Why this: "Thou art with me!"

"But," says one, "you cannot persuade me we don't suffer in death, for I have seen some who have suffered intense pain in dying." But may not your comfort outweigh your suffering? There was a minister on his death-bed not long ago who often had fears of death during his ministry. But when he came to the last, those fears were taken away. In fact, he expressed himself in these words: "My pains are so great that I feel as if I were being consumed with fire. But I am filled with joy in God." And before his spirit departed, he had himself propped up with pillows, and he took a pen in his hand and wrote thus to his sister: "My much-loved sister, were I to use the figurative language of Bunyan, I would date my letter from the land of Beulah; for here all is light by day and by night. My sins are gone! My soul seems to float in the light of God's countenance." Now mark what he added: "Death's cold river that I once feared is now narrowed to a little stream, which I can cross at a single step. And to me to die is gain." And he laid himself back gently, his eyelids closed, and angels bore him to the bosom of Jesus. Now you may never suffer such pain of body as he suffered. But even if you did, if God's comforts come in and fill you to overflowing, will you not be able to bear it? Oh! say with David, "I will fear no evil."

"But," says one, "is not death the king of terrors?" It is to the ungodly. It is to them the hand of God hurrying them to judgment and to hell. But not so to the Christian. It wears a dark mask, 'tis true, but a face bright with loving-kindness is shining underneath! A little child lies awake near its mother in the room at night. It sees a dark shadowy form coming toward it and screams with terror. "Fear not, child!" says the mother, "I am with you." But the child still trembles. Then she rises and and goes to the window, lifts the curtains and lets in the dawning light of day. And the child sees the countenance of one who loves it in the face of the stranger and smiles at its former fears, running to her bosom.

So it is with you, Christian. Death is coming and you fear it. Christ says, "Fear not, for I am with you." But you still tremble. Ah, when you come to die Christ will lift the veil, let the light of eternity shine on the face of death, and you will see the face of an angel holding in his hand the key of heaven, ready to bear you away from sorrow to joy, from darkness to light, and from the bed of pain to the rest of peace everlasting.

"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Did you ever see a man fording a river on foot? Taking his staff, he goes down into the water feeling his way as he goes. When he comes to a deep place, he puts down the staff first in order to find the bottom, and having felt it he takes the step with confidence and so passes safely through. Christian, as you walk through the waters of death, and when you come to the deep places where you say "Surely I shall sink," put down the staff of precious promises and you shall find the rock, Christ Jesus, at the bottom and shall cross safely over.

Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also Pastor Nolen's sermon on Infant Salvation.

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Day 6

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, your mercy has brought us to the morning of another day. Bless our labors by giving us that honest industry which can bear the scrutiny of your searching eye. Let us treat our fellow workers with kindness by overlooking their shortcomings, always remembering that "golden rule," to treat others as we would have them treat us. Make us very diligent, patient, and zealous in all things, for we must one day give an account to you. And grant that we may be blessed with the happy and comforting assurance that you will accept us, because your glory was our objective, your work our delight, and to do our Father's business our first aim. Bless us for Jesus' sake we pray. Amen.


A Time to be Silent
by
Ralph Wardlaw

"Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles."
Proverbs 21:23

Here we have still another characteristic and another advantage of wisdom. It enables its possessor to "keep the mouth and the tongue" -- to know the "time to be silent and the time to speak," and in the time to speak what to say.

We have had repeated occasion to notice the incalculable amount and variety of mischief of which the tongue is the occasion: [1] how its openly uttered or secretly whispered words may break hearts, may ruin characters, may sever friends, may bring individuals and families to beggary and disgrace; [2] may spread alienation and discord through extensive circles of intimacy and affection; [3] may "pierce through with many sorrows" spirits that were enjoying peace and love; [4] may be even as barbed daggers that take away life.

We have also noticed how too they recoil in mischief to ourselves: [1] how a word of slander brought out in a moment of irritation or thoughtlessness may cost a man the humiliation of submissive apology, or the annoyance and expense of litigation and the reparation of heavy damages; [2] how the recollection of a hasty expression, along with the effects which have arisen from it to those to whom at the time no harm was meant, may inflict severe and long-continued self-reproach with all its accompaniments of mental disquietude and distress; [3] how the foolish utterances of an unguarded hour may go far to shake the credit of years of discretion -- the recollection of that hour of folly ever returning upon the mind of previous admirers, and, if not absolutely obliterating their former estimate of a man's sound sense and dignity, operating at least as a serious drawback on their respect for his character; [4] how too it leads to inward deep remorse arising from a consciousness of having spoken inconsistently with our Christian profession and principles, and the thought of having given an unfavorable impression of our religion and failed of an opportunity of honoring God is a thought which to a Christian heart there is none more galling, spirit-sinking, and severe.

It is indeed emphatically true that "whoso keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles."

Lectures on the Book of Proverbs

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

We will all bow our heads in shame after reading Walter Smith's sermon entitled "The Law Kept by Sympathy".

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Day 7

A Morning Prayer

O gracious Father, shall we not come to you with confidence and plead before your throne of grace with boldness? Yes, Lord, we shall, for we remember what you have done for us. You have redeemed us, ransomed us from the hand of him who was stronger than we, for the evil one had mastery over us and there was none to help. Our enemy came against us and there was none to whom we might flee. We had sinned against our God and there was no one to make reconciliation. But you sent Jesus, your only Son, to shed his blood that our sins might be remitted. He died that we might live, rose again for our justification, his righteousness has been imputed to us, and he now stands at your right hand interceding for us. We know that whatever Jesus asks on our behalf will be for our best, and therefore we come in his name confident that his prayer will not be denied. Amen.


Imputation of Righteousness
by
Charles Hodge

“Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh shall not impute sin.”
Romans 4:8

The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification. The word impute is familiar and unambiguous. To impute is to ascribe to, to reckon to, to lay to one's charge. When we say we impute a good or bad motive to a man, or that a good or evil action is imputed to him, no one misunderstands our meaning. Philemon had no doubt what Paul meant when he told him to impute to him the debt of Onesimus (Phi. 1:18). We read elsewhere, "Let not the king impute anything to his servant" (1 Sam. 22:15). "Let not my lord impute iniquity to me" (2 Sam. 19:19). "Neither shall it be imputed to him that offers it" (Lev. 7:18). "Blood shall be imputed to that man; he has shed blood" (Lev. 17:4). "Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh imputes not iniquity" (Ps. 32:2). "To whom God imputes righteousness without works" (Rom. 4:6). God is "in Christ not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Cor. 5:19).

The meaning of these and similar passages of Scripture has never been disputed. Every one understands them. We use the word impute in its simple admitted sense when we say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification.

It seems unnecessary to remark that this does not, and cannot, mean that the righteousness of Christ is infused into the believer, or in any way so imparted to him as to change or constitute his moral character. Imputation never changes the inward, subjective state of the person to whom the imputation is made. When sin is imputed to a man he is not made sinful; when the zeal of Phinehas was imputed to him he was not made zealous. When you impute theft to a man you do not make him a thief. When you impute goodness to a man you do not make him good. So when righteousness is imputed to the believer he does not thereby become subjectively righteous. If the righteousness be adequate, and if the imputation be made on adequate grounds and by competent authority, the person to whom the imputation is made has the right to be treated as righteous. And, therefore, in the forensic, although not in the moral or subjective sense, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does make the sinner righteous. That is, it gives him a right to the full pardon of all his sins and a claim in justice to eternal life.

That this is the simple and universally accepted view of the doctrine as held by all Protestants at the Reformation, and regarded by them as the cornerstone of the Gospel, has already been sufficiently proved by extracts from the Lutheran and Reformed Symbols, and has never been disputed by any candid or competent authority.

Systematic Theology

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Imputation is a cardinal doctrine of our faith. Take time to read about the imputation of Adam's sin on mankind in Part II of Boardman's book, A Treatise on the Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin. You also may enjoy reading Zahn's sermon, "True Righteousness".

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Day 8

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, teach us to pray. Make us feel its privilege and rejoice in the mercy which permits sinful man to approach his Maker with importunity and to storm his throne with the violence of earnest desire. Show us how our best interests depend on prayer. Open our eyes to see our Savior bending his knee in the garden and crying unto you with all the fervor of humble determination which must be heard, and then lead us to follow in his steps. Give to each one of us his spirit, his entire trust on his Father's mercy, that we in our affliction will say with him, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will but Thine be done." All this we pray in the name of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Privilege of Prayer
by
James Hamilton

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16,17

Few expressions in theology are older than that which speaks of the "privilege of prayer." But nothing could be a greater novelty, in the history of some who now hear me, than to find prayer an actual privilege. Am I wrong? "The privilege of prayer!" Do not some feel that the burden of prayer, the obligation, the duty, would be a truer name for it? Do not some of you feel that to call it a privilege is just to give a pleasant name to an irksome thing? If so, instead of initiating you in a new science, that individual would do you a better service who should give you fresh light on this old truth, and make you feel that not only has prayer power with God, but that it is very nearly the highest privilege of man.

Let us make a supposition. Suppose that the individual in this kingdom who combines in himself the greatest wisdom and goodness were accessible to you. Suppose that when anything pressed upon you (such as a difficulty from which your own sagacity could not extricate you, or an undertaking which your own resources could not compass) you had only to send him a statement of the case, and were sure, in good time, to get his best and kindest counsel. Would not you deem this a great privilege?

Would not something of this sort meet the case of many here? One is entering on a new course of occupation, and in its very outset meets with problems that fairly baffle him, but which a friend of a little more experience or perspicacity could instantly solve. Another is overtaken by a sea of troubles, a concourse of trials which quite overwhelm him, but through which he perfectly believes that a stronger arm or a more buoyant spirit could carry him. But where shall he look for that wiser friend, that stronger arm?

Suppose again that when in sudden danger or in deep distress there were some way by which you could make known your situation to a spirit departed. That spirit is now far wiser than he was when on earth. He has sources of knowledge that are not open to you, and he has powers not yet possessed by you. Suppose that in grief or in difficulty you could invoke him. Suppose that there were some process by which you could arrest his ear among the glorified, and in the lapse of a brief moment bring him, though unseen, to your side. And suppose that to this spirit made perfect (the spirit of your departed parent or of someone remarkable for his wisdom and sanctity) you could detail the whole matter that grieves and perplexes you; and though there should be no response from the viewless shade, you knew that he had heard you and was away to interpose effectively on your behalf. Would you not feel much comforted and lightened? Would you not resume your own active exertions with far greater hopefulness, assured that there would now attend them a power beyond what was proper to them or inherent in yourself?

But further, suppose that instead of any wise or influential person on earth or any glorified spirit in paradise, it was possible for you to secure the ear and engage the help of one of the principalities or powers in the heavenly places, some being of such bright intelligence that he can smile at all our wisdom, and who has such commanding might that he can do in a moment what would occupy our race for a millennium. If you could for an instant engage his attention and gain assurance of his willingness to help, then would you not feel that your object was unspeakably promoted, or your burden amazingly lightened? To have enlisted such ability and skill by means of the few minutes spent in securing such superhuman help, would you not feel that those minutes were a larger contribution toward eventual success than a lifetime of your personal efforts?

But rise a step higher -- an infinite step! -- and suppose that it were possible to arrest the ear and secure the help of the Most High, that you could secure the interested regard and the omnipotent interposition of Jehovah himself. Would not this be a privilege? But this is precisely what prayer is.

Some have no friend of extraordinary sagacity or power to go to. The spirits of the departed cannot come to us; and neither to them nor to angels are we warranted to pray. And even though we could evoke a Samuel from the sepulchre or bring down Gabriel from above, the blessings which are most needful for us are such as they cannot give, Rather, they are blessings of which the treasure lies within the light inaccessible, and of which Omnipotence alone preserves the key. It is that Almighty hand which prayer moves. It is that incommunicable key which prayer turns. It is that unfathmoable treasure which prayer opens.

But set it in another light. Imagine that there had been certain limitations on prayer. Imagine that there had only been one spot on the earth from which prayer could arise with acceptance. Imagine that the Lord had selected some little spot of earth, a Mount Zion or a Holy Land, and said that here and here only was the place to worship. Imagine that from this hallowed spot alone there had existed a passage into heaven for the prayers of earth, and that all other supplications, however earnest, had gone for nothing. Would we not then have seen an influx of people to that place beyond our wildest imagination?

And imagine, further, that there had just been one day in the year when prayer was permitted, and that those who arrived too late would find the gate closed for the next twelve months. No matter how sudden the emergency or extreme its exigency, would not prayer still have been felt to be a privilege worth the trip and the long wait?

Just fancy that in our earth's yearly revolution round the sun there was disclosed a crevice in the sky; that on one night in the year and on one mountaintop there was a vista opened through the encircling vault and a sight of dazzling glories revealed to all who gazed from the favored summit. And fancy that through the brilliant gap there fell a shower of gold and gems, and that this recurred regularly on the self-same evening every year. What a concourse to that Pisgah might you count upon! How many eager eyes would strain the breathless hour beforehand till the first streak of radiance betokened the bursting glory! And how many competitive hands would rush together to catch the flaming rubies and rain of diamonds!

And lastly, just conceive that certain costly or arduous preliminaries were essential in order to successful prayer. Suppose a day's strict abstinence or some painful self-punishment were exacted, or that each worshiper were required to bring in his hand some costly offering. And who would say that this was unreasonable? Would not access into God's own presence be wisely purchased at any price? And might not sinful "dust and ashes" marvel that after any ordeal or purifying process it was admitted near such Majesty?

But how does the case truly stand? Prayer, we assure you, is not a consultation with the highest wisdom which this world can supply. It is not intercourse with an angel or a spirit made perfect. But it is an approach to the living God. It is access to the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity. It is confessing every sorrow in the ear of Divine sympathy. It is consulting with Divine wisdom on every difficulty. It is asking from Divine resources the supply of every need. And we may avail ourselves of this privilege not just once in a lifetime, but at any moment and from any place.

Prayer requires no earthly saint, no one proficient in piety, no one adept in eloquent language, no dignitary of earthly rank. And it needs no sharp ordeal, no costly passport, no painful expiation of yours to bring you to the mercy seat. But it does require the costliest sacrifice of all -- the blood of atonement, the Saviour's merit, the name of Jesus. As priceless as they are, they have cost the sinner nothing. They are freely put at his disposal, and instantly and constantly he may use them. This access to God in every place, at every moment, without any price or any personal merit, is it not a privilege?

Expositions of Holy Scripture

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

How gracious is our God, the creator and owner of all, who says to us, "Ask, and it shall be given you." Read Henry Alford's sermon on Matthew 7:7.

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Day 9

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. 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 threatenings 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.


Temptation and the Devices of Satan
by
Henry Blunt

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."
Jeremiah 17:9

“That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
Ephesians 6:1

If "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," how can I know whether any temptation is the offspring of my evil imagination, thus having its origin in my own heart, or whether it comes from without, thus being the inspiration of the spirit of wickedness and sin?

This is an extremely difficult point to determine, and in offering a few very brief remarks upon it, I would not be understood to speak with the same degree of confidence as upon those things which are the subjects of express revelation, for here we can only give the opinion and experience of men, not the word of God; of eminent Christians, indeed, but still merely of uninspired mortality.

Following, then, the guide of Christian experience, we should say that one of the most decisive points of distinction is this: that when sin is the natural birth of our hearts, it grows up leisurely and by degrees. It does not rush upon us at once in an overwhelming flood, but is thought of and ruminated upon, and viewed perhaps at first with reluctance, but soon with complacency, and then entered upon gradually from its lighter to its deeper shades of criminality and guilt. But when sin comes immediately from the devil, there are none of these gradations, and it is remarkable for its suddenness and abruptness. It rushes in at once upon the thoughts, and we are hurried away into transgression without time for reflection. It is, perhaps, on this account that the devices of Satan are compared to "fiery darts," which can be cast in a moment and carry sudden destruction to the soul.

Two other methods of determining this difficult point are the nature of the sins to which we are tempted and the effect they have on our minds and hearts.

The nature of the sin. Some of the most horrible and dreadful sins originating from the direct agency of Satan are profane and blasphemous thoughts of God, murder, and especially self-murder. Through the instrumentality of Job's wife, Satan tempted him to unholy thoughts of God. The devil tempted the Saviour of the world, when having placed him upon a pinnacle of the temple said, "Cast thyself down." And he successfully tempted the miserable Judas to suicide, for we are expressly told that Satan entered into him before he engaged in his last dreadful deed of blood.

Its effect upon our own minds and hearts. Suppose the moment an evil suggestion arises in your soul you feel an unspeakable degree of loathing and abhorrence. This is a strong presumptive evidence that it is the work of an enemy from without. The heart does not usually feel such violent dislike for sins which it has itself engendered. This then is a favorable sign to the tempted believer, and one which if followed up by fervent, faithful, persevering prayer, will usually be succeeded by victory over temptation and the tempter.

Remember, when you become a Christian you become a soldier, not a conqueror. You are called to fight, run, wrestle, and enter upon a course of difficulty and trial, not a season of enjoyment and rest. Why else would our Lord himself have told us first to sit down and count the cost? Therefore, expect to meet with these spiritual assailants and spiritual difficulties. Following are some reasons why our heavenly Father sees that it should be so.

Temptation or trials are most effectual tests of our Christian graces. The full extent of Abraham's faith would never have been known had it not been tried by God himself. The reality and depth of Job's sincerity and patience would have been equally unknown had they not been subjected to the temptations of Satan. Our heavenly Father, therefore, permits you to be tempted in order that you may bear more abundant fruit to the honor of his name.

Temptations often produce equally salutary effects upon the darker and more unholy portion of our Christian character. For instance, you are beginning to feel proud of your spiritual attainments. Then it is that God permits your spiritual enemy to tempt you, thereby revealing your liability to sin and destroying these first buddings of pride. God permitted St. Paul to suffer from a thorn in the flesh, which he expressly says "was a messenger of Satan to buffet him," not because he had actually become proud and self-sufficient, but lest he should be lifted up, lest he should grow proud through the abundance of the revelations which were granted to him.

Through fiery trials of temptation God enables us to sympathize with others who are tempted. It was a frequent saying of the great Martin Luther, that "temptation, meditation, and prayer can alone make a minister." He who has never been deeply tried and exercised in his own heart will never be able to say with St. Paul, "We are not ignorant of Satan's devices," and therefore will never be able wisely and feelingly to counsel those who are in "danger through manifold temptations."

The Almighty permits us to be tried and tempted that we might not settle and root ourselves too firmly here below. In the midst both of worldly and spiritual prosperity, we should know something experimentally of the Psalmist's feeling, "Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest." Blessed is that trial, whatever it may be, if it strengthens this desire to be forever with the Lord and to behold his glory.

I shall now consider how God supports us in temptation.

First, there is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." This is our only offensive weapon. Even the Lord Jesus Christ wielded it. When Satan tempted him, he replied to every one of the three temptations by a quotation from the written Word, choosing to select his arrows from the same quiver which is available to you and me.

Second, there is constant, faithful, fervent prayer. This is our greatest defensive weapon. When a temptation has entered your thoughts or affections, take yourself at once to secret, silent prayer. There you may hide yourself under the very wings of Omnipotence, through which no weapon of Satan's armory can ever penetrate.

Let every tried and tempted soul rest calmly and contentedly upon God's promises and omnipotence. In this assurance we shall obtain fresh grace, fresh strength, fresh resolution to "run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith."

Posthumous Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is a very good sermon by Howard Crosby on Matthew 6:13, Lead us not into temptation, entitled "The Philosophy of Temptation".

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Day 10

A Morning Prayer

O God our Father, accept us now and bless us for Jesus Christ's sake, for we come pleading his merits. He died for our sins and rose again for our justification. If not for our iniquities, he would never have left your throne and borne a life of sorrow and suffering, and undergone an ignominious death. But he saw man's miserable and lost condition. And when there was no one to help, nothing that could avail to appease your righteous indignation for broken laws and despised commands, he then offered himself as the lamb of God to redeem lost mankind. By means of Christ's precious blood you are pleased to accept all who will come to you through him. Our time for repentance is very short, our opportunities very few. Yet they are sufficient if we will neither waste the one nor despise the other. Enable us to use both in our service and to our soul's eternal benefit. Amen.


Christ's Gift of Himself
by
Archibald Alexander

“Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity."
Titus 2:14

That Jesus Christ is the person here spoken of is perfectly evident; and the divinity of Christ being a fundamental doctrine, we find the proofs of it everywhere scattered through the Scriptures.

In the verse preceding our text the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, says: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us." Now the point to be determined is whether by the terms "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" two persons are intended or only one. If the former, then this text furnishes no evidence of our doctrine. But if both appellations belong to one person, then the doctrine of Christ's supreme Deity is taught in the very strongest terms.

In our version there exists some ambiguity which does not appear in the original. According to the established rules of construction in Greek, where two nouns are connected by a copulative and the first has the article prefixed and the other is without it, both must be referred to the same person or thing. That is the fact in this case. Therefore the Saviour, Jesus Christ, is the great God. Ambiguity would be removed and the true meaning given if we substituted "even" for "and." Then it will read, "the great God even our Saviour Jesus Christ."

The same doctrine seems to be clearly indicated by comparing the third and fourth verses of the third chapter of this epistle. In the former God is called our Saviour, and in the latter "the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour" is the form of expression. We can hardly avoid the conclusion that in both verses the same person is called Saviour. Moreover, the word appearing is never used in reference to the Father, whom no man has seen or can see, but constantly in relation to the second Person, who was manifest in the flesh.

Having ascertained the character of the person spoken of, we are prepared to consider the gift he is said to have made and the end he had in view in making it: "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity." The value of a gift may be estimated by several considerations. First, from the dignity of the person by whom it is bestowed. A ring or medal from a king, queen, or other royal personage is appreciated not so much by the intrinsic value of the gift itself as by the condescension manifested toward one in an inferior condition. But what is the disparity between a king and the lowest of his subjects compared with that which exists between the infinite God and the greatest of his creatures? That this august Being should regard such creatures as sinners of the human race with any favour is indeed astonishing.

A second means of estimating the value of a gift is the sacrifice at which it is made, or what it costs the donor. God bestows upon us the bounties of his providence without any sacrifice, for giving does not impoverish him. But in man's redemption it was necessary that God should give his own Son. It is written that "He spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." And of the Son it is said, "He loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sweet smelling sacrifice unto God."

Next, let us endeavour to estimate the value of the gift itself. The text says, "He gave himself for us." This was the greatest gift which could possibly be made. Heaven itself could furnish nothing more valuable than the Son of God. And a second gift equal to it could not be made.

But that which chiefly enhances the value of a gift is the motive which impelled the donor to bestow it. Now that motive which puts a greater value on this gift over every other is love. Love may be truly said to be the most excellent thing in the universe. It gives worth to everything else. The love of rational creatures toward others is the most valuable thing which they have it in their power to bestow. And the richest possession which any creature is capable of receiving is the love of God. This love is continually manifested in the natural world by the provision God has made for our comfort. But in the gospel we have a new view of this attribute of the divine nature. It is the love of God to sinners and the wonderful provision for their redemption: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

The excellency of this gift will also be manifest from the benefit which accompanies it. Man was placed in a very needy condition. He had fallen into a state of sin and misery from which he could not deliver himself. He was bound by a holy law to suffer a dreadful penalty, which could not be set aside unless an adequate atonement should be made. The eternal Son of God offers himself to be the Redeemer and to pay the price required. "Lo, I come," says he, "in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God, by which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

When all the ransomed children of God from every region under heaven shall be gathered together in the kingdom of heaven, their song shall ever be, "To him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."

Practical Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is an interesting article by Wayne Ward, "The Person of Christ: The Kenotic Theory".

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Day 11

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God Almighty, let your Holy Spirit bear witness with our spirits that we are children of God. Impart to us the fullness of your Spirit in order that we may bring forth love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, long-suffering, patience, and temperance in all our doings, even in the seemingly unimportant interactions of life. Grant that we may so copy the example of our Savior as to be the letters of Christ, known and read of all men, but especially by those of our own household. Teach us to live so that we may glorify you. Let us recognize your presence with us at all times, remembering that we have been bought with a price of amazing value--the blood of your own Son, Jesus, in whom we offer this prayer. Amen.


Pleasing Not Ourselves
by
Richard W. Church

"We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them who reproached Thee fell on me." (Romans 15:1-3)

St. Paul gives us the rule for our behavior in the common everyday concerns of life, those hundreds of little matters that arise in our families, employments, and among those whom we meet with day after day. We call them little matters, and taken one by one they are, perhaps, so. But they are not at all little or of small consequence when taken all together. In fact, our whole life is made up of them, and they fill our hours and days. Great and serious events do not make up our lives. It is not every day that we have an opportunity of helping some neighbor in trouble, of bearing some great trial well, or of showing patience in suffering. These things come only now and then.

In truth, a man's character is more readily seen in his common words and everyday actions. It may be that a person who is peevish and ill-natured to people around him may be greatly touched by some case of distress, may even put himself to great trouble and inconvenience to relieve it. And it is a good thing that he should do so. He may even look on it as a proof of his ready sense of duty, of his love to Christ. But I greatly fear that the peevish temper displayed in the small events of life is much more serious in Christ's eyes than any one service, however apparently great.

The Christian rule is pleasing not ourselves. It is the rule not for once in a while but for all day long. It includes not merely what we do to others but what we say; and not merely what we say but the way in which we say it -- not by word only but by look and manner, tone of voice, or an unkind silence. Who can conceive the unkindness shown in even the short "yes" and "no" which pass between us.

Such is St. Paul's rule, the rule of taking thought for the feelings and wishes and comfort of others. What a different rule is this from that of the world! "Why should I care about what so and so likes? Why can't I say what I think? Why should I put up with his unpleasant disagreeable manner?" These are the common sayings of the world. They bid us to please ourselves and show our dislike for what does not please us; to be kind and friendly to those we like and turn away from those we do not; to think there is no harm in always putting first our own pleasure over another's; that assure us it is sufficient to be well-behaved in company but ill-natured, sulky, and bad-tempered at home.

There is hardly a better test of whether a man is truly trying to serve Christ with all his strength than his steady effort not to please himself first. Many men would find setting aside their pleasures for another's -- and that in mere trifles! -- too heavy a burden for their faith and their love of Christ.

Nothing shows the heart mortified from the world and given wholly to God more than the cheerful, gentle, constant endeavor to make the pleasure of others our pleasure. Nothing shows it more than the honest attempt to bear the infirmities and faults of those with whom God has bound us, and not to let our own faults provoke them and make their path more difficult. Nothing shows it more than the endeavor to be, all day long, looking out for what will please those with whom we work and live -- whether they be strong or weak, good-tempered or cross, sensible or foolish, patient or impatient. Let us seek what will please them for their good, and, in pleasing them, will please God and Christ.

Village Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Read Charles Bridges' brief exposition of "Proverbs 16:7", "When a man's ways please Yahweh."

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Day 12

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. May we meditate much on the life of Jesus, who was tempted even as we are. Let each thought of him animate our zeal, increase our hope, and give us new energy and determination to walk with him. 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. In every affliction and trial, enable us to cleave to Jesus as the only anchor of hope in this world of storms and difficulties. 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 to us and be truly grateful. We ask all in the name of our great Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Amen.


Bearing Adversities
by
John Calvin

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
James 1:2,3

We are exhorted to bear trials with a cheerful mind. It was especially necessary at that time to comfort the Jews, as they were almost overwhelmed with troubles. The very name of the nation was so infamous that they were hated and despised wherever they went. Their condition as Christians rendered them still more miserable because their most inveterate enemies were of their own nation. This consolation was not suited to one time only, but is always useful to believers whose life is a constant warfare on earth.

We must doubtless take trials as including all adverse things, and they are so called because they are the tests of our obedience to God. He bids the faithful, while exercised with trials, to rejoice, and not only when they fall into one temptation, but into many of various kinds. They doubtless serve to mortify our flesh; and as the vices of the flesh continually shoot up in us, so trials must necessarily be often repeated. As we labor under diseases, so it is no wonder that different remedies are applied to remove them. The Lord then afflicts us in various ways, because ambition, avarice, envy, gluttony, intemperance, excessive love of the world, and the innumerable lusts in which we abound cannot be cured by the same medicine.

When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said that temptations ought to be deemed as gain; as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy. And thus, he not only commands us to bear adversities calmly and with an even mind, but shows that there is a reason why the faithful should rejoice when pressed down by them. It is, indeed, certain, that all the senses of our nature are so formed that every trial produces in us grief and sorrow, and no one of us can so far divest himself of his nature as not to grieve and be sorrowful whenever he feels any evil. But this does not prevent the children of God from rising, by the guidance of the Spirit, above the sorrow of the flesh.

"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith produces patience." We now see why he called adversities trials -- because they serve to try our faith. We ought to rejoice in afflictions because they produce fruit that ought to be highly valued, even patience. Were God not to try us but rather leave us free from trouble, there would be no fortitude of mind in bearing evils.

"But let patience have her perfect work." As boldness and courage often appear in us and soon fail, James therefore requires perseverance. "Real patience," he says, "is that which endures to the end." Work here means the effort not only to overcome in one contest, but to persevere through life. There are many, as we have said, who show at first a heroic greatness, but who shortly afterward grow weary and faint. He therefore bids those who would be perfect and entire to persevere to the end, since those who being overcome as to patience must by degrees be necessarily weakened and at length wholly fail.

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read Pastor Nolen's sermon, "Giving Thanks in Hard Times".

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Day 13

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come now imploring you to hear our prayer as we remember the sacrificial death of your only Son, Jesus Christ, the son of David. Give us that strength which shall enable us to be ever ready 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 and obedience and love, if it be your good pleasure. Endue us with your Holy Spirit that we may think no sacrifice too great if it brings us nearer to you. May no labor be too arduous if it assists us in perfecting holiness and bringing men, both 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 the Messiah. Amen.


The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints
by
John Bull

"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)

That which was so needful in the times of the apostles has been found needful in every age of the Church including our own, when dangerous errors and bewildering systems spring up around us and are industriously cherished by "men of corrupt minds." What is the faith for which we must strenuously contend?

The word faith must be understood as meaning the objects of faith; that is, all the great doctrines of the Gospel which we must sincerely believe and all its holy precepts which we must diligently practice. A brief summary of the most essential doctrines of the Gospel was drawn up in that revered document called The Apostles' Creed. Later, when various heresies sprang up and troubled the Church, this creed was further enlarged and illustrated by those summaries called the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. They were designed as a sacred bulwark to secure the minds of the simple against the pernicious devices of those who "lay in wait to deceive." They were sacred standards of divine truth under which pious Christians might rally and be united in the bonds of faith and love, and strenuously fight the Lord's battles against the enemies of their salvation. This is the faith for which we must contend.

And how are we to contend for this faith once delivered to the saints?

The apostle Jude instructs us to contend for it strenuously. The Greek verb which is rendered earnestly contend is one word, but it is very expressive and full of energy. It is a word used in reference to those who contended in the Olympic games, and comprises the idea of earnestness, diligence, anxiety, and perseverance. We must strenuously contend for this faith as a prize of inestimable value, seeking it as the greatest treasure, "a pearl of great price." We must not rest satisfied with seeing it at a distance and expressing some faint wish to attain it, but must strive for it with the most lively ardor and unwearied efforts.

We must also contend for this faith with great diligence. Other things we may seek and study with moderation, but this should be the great business of our lives. It should be our daily study. And it should be our daily prayer that this faith be firmly rooted in our hearts, and in the hearts of all placed under our care or influence. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual weapons, which are mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin and Satan, and to the establishing of "that kingdom of God, which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." We must, therefore, put on the whole armor of God.

We must contend for the faith once delivered to the saints with much carefulness. We must be sober and vigilant, knowing that we are exposed to many enemies who would rob us of our faith and hinder us from running the Christian race. We must struggle hard to maintain and uphold this faith in its purity and strength against all its opponents, for it is the foundation of our our hopes, the sacred depository of our richest treasures, the unfailing source of blessings, and the pure fountain of eternal life. We must anxiously guard it against the wiles of those who would secretly undermine it.

Lastly, we must further contend with constant perseverance. It should be our daily prayer that we endure to the end so that we may obtain the crown of glory. We must pursue our course through many raging storms, never leaving the vessel to the mercy of the waves because some dark clouds appear. We should also remember the cloud of witnesses above, the saints and martyrs who have passed through greater hardships than those which threaten our vessel, who are now secure in the land of everlasting life. Let us look unto Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, trusting in his wisdom, committing ourselves to his care, and praying that we may be more than conquerors through his never failing love.

The Church of England Magazine, vol. IV, 1838

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Take time to read Maclaren's sermon, "A Strange Reward for Faithfulness".

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Day 14

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, we bow before you as humble and penitent sinners. Increase our faith and improve our practice, for we must confess that our faith is very weak. Recent days bear sad witness to that fact. Much of our service has been a lifeless offering, a mockery of you. When we have knelt before you in prayer, our thoughts have wandered, and we have indulged in vain imaginations. We have taken our Bibles in hand more as an obligation than a privilege, and its study has seemed more like a burden than a joy. Our spirits have slumbered, even while in your house of worship. Oh, pardon us who forget our duty, and supply us with strength that we offend not so again. Let not indifference creep upon us, but preserve us by your power and in your great mercy. Rule and guide us as if every day were a holy day, for every day is yours and our lives should be dedicated to you in them all. We pour out our hearts to you with gratitude for such gracious forbearance and with the assurance of pardon and peace. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.


The Patience of God
by
Charles Bradley

"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

The patience of God is one of those attributes which the sins of his creatures first called into exercise. It evidently implies guilt and provocation on our part, and a readiness in God to spare us and keep back his vengeance. We are not therefore to suppose that it proceeds from any ignorance or carelessness in the Almighty. It is not because he does not see our iniquities that he does not punish them, for he tells us that "he has set all our misdeeds before him, and our secret sins in the light of his countenance."

Nor is it the fruit of indifference. On the contrary, it implies that "God is angry with the wicked every day," that he is exceedingly displeased with our sins, and with us on account of them. While we are contemplating them with cold unconcern, he regards them with an abhorrence which no mind but his own can comprehend.

Neither must we ascribe the patience of God to weakness, to a lack of power to punish. We sometimes bear with provocations because we are unable to avenge them. But the Lord God Omnipotent has at all times the means of executing vengeance in his own hands. He could in a moment consume man as a moth, level his body with the dust, and send his soul into a world of anguish.

To what then must we ascribe the riches of the Almighty's patience? Solely to his goodness. We find these attributes mentioned together in the text, and the one must be regarded as the spring and origin of the other. Goodness, when exercised in withholding the vengeance denounced against transgressors, is forbearance; and when continued under repeated provocations, it is termed longsuffering. There is, however, a distinction to be made between the goodness and the patience of God. Man, being needy, is the partaker of the one, God's goodness; while man, being guilty, is the object of the other, God's patience. Goodness supplies our needs; patience bears with our sins. Goodness will endure forever and is inseparable from the divine nature. Patience is adapted only to the present scene of things and may end tomorrow. The sacrifice and intercession of Christ first caused it to be manifested, and when his mediatorial work of mercy is accomplished, patience will be seen no more but remain hidden forever in the bosom of Jehovah.

Consider how long God's patience has been exercised. It was first exhibited to the universe in the garden of Eden. In that scene of blessedness man first spurned the authority of his Creator. And what followed his daring transgression? Did the earth immediately open its mouth to swallow him up, or did vengeful lightnings descend from heaven to blast him? No; he remained for nine hundred years a living monument of the forbearance and goodness of his insulted God.

Age after age has since passed away, during every moment of which the multiplied millions of mankind have been in a state of open rebellion against their sovereign. But the riches of his patience are not exhausted, nor the treasures of his mercy diminished. The number and greatness of the provocations with which he is still bearing prove that he is as abundant in longsuffering now as in the days of old.

But for what end are these amazing riches of mercy displayed? What effect is this patience designed to produce in sinners towards whom it is exercised? The apostle informs us that it is intended to lead them to repentance. It springs from goodness, and it makes mercy the end at which it aims.

The forbearance of the Almighty gives us time for repentance. It affords us an opportunity of learning our need of it, and of seeking it. The God who spares is anxious to be reconciled to us. When we behold him deferring to execute on us the sentence of his violated law, we are encouraged, nay, we are commanded to conclude that there is mercy with him, and that with him is plenteous redemption.

God's patience ought to excite our thankfulness, but we think and talk of it as though we had no personal concern, no interest in it. Yet if his longsuffering toward us were to be suspended for even a moment, we would find ourselves in a world of unmixed wretchedness. And it is a miracle of mercy that every one of us is not already there. Though we think so lightly of it, there is not a greater cause for astonishment in the universe than the patience of God towards man, unless it be man's neglect and contempt of it.

The time of patience will have an end. Notwithstanding all present appearances to the contrary, there is a day coming in which it will give place to wrath. And this wrath will be aggravated by the mercy which has preceded it. The fact is, that God exercises his longsuffering for his own glory as well as for our salvation; and though we may lose the advantages, he will not lose the honor of it. When patience has performed her appointed work, she will retire from our sight, and justice will ascend the throne and have a solemn triumph in the final destruction of those who have spurned God's mercy. O consider this, all you who forget God. Force your careless souls to reflect and your stubborn knees to bend. Be determined to live no longer utterly regardless of the patience which spares you. Bring it before your mind in the morning, and in the evening meditate on it again. Perish not while mercy so great and so free is waiting to deliver you.

To the fearful and penitent, the subject before us is calculated to administer encouragement. You hear of the mercy of a dying Jesus, but you fear that for you the time of mercy is passed and the day of grace ended. These fears are groundless. The longsuffering you have experienced tells you, as plainly as God can tell you, that he is willing to be reconciled to you, that he keeps you alive for the very purpose of giving you time and encouragement to return to him and lay hold of his great salvation. If he extends his longsuffering year after year to the thousands of hardened sinners who openly despise his authority and glory in blaspheming his name, surely his mercy can reach to those who are mourning over their transgressions and trembling at his word.

The pardoned also, the sinners whom the goodness of God has already led to repentance and righteousness, may learn much from the contemplation of his patience. It is to this that they are indebted for all their present privileges and future prospects. Remember, brethren, the years that are passed. How many of your companions in folly have been summoned away? Where are they now? We dare not answer the question. But where are you? Safe in Christ, cleansed by his blood, clothed in his righteousness, sanctified by his Spirit, living in the arms of mercy, and rejoicing in the hope of glory. And to what must you trace the difference between your condition and that of your lost companions? Not to your less daring wickedness, for you perhaps were as thoughtless as they; but to the forbearance of God, to that forbearance which kept you alive till grace softened and changed you.

You are this day still indebted to the continued exercise of his patience. May a conviction of this truth affect and humble you! May it attach you more closely to your longsuffering God, and endear to you that Savior whose blood purchased the mercy that spares as well as the grace which enriches you. In the midst of the blessings and honors which are heaped on your head, regard yourselves as criminals offending every hour, and every hour receiving a pardon; and show that you regard yourselves in this light by the readiness with which you bear with the offenses of others. Who should exercise mercy more than they who have found it? None will exercise it more. The pardon they have obtained disposes them to be willing to pardon, and the patience they are receiving makes them patient also. Follow God as dear children, and prove your relation to him by resembling him in that which he deems the chief glory of his nature--his slowness to wrath, his ability to bear provocations, and his readiness to forgive them.

Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of High Wycombe (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You can read more about reconciliation here.

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Day 15

A Morning Prayer

Merciful God, give ear to our prayer, for we cry unto you in the name of Jesus Christ. The things of the world--the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life--are continually tempting us and leading us astray. Our affections toward you are cold and dull. Our tempers are often unsanctified, and we are lukewarm and indifferent to perishing sinners when we ought to have holy zeal for their salvation. Oh, give us grace this day to overcome temptation and to mortify all our corrupt affections, and grant an abundance of your Holy Spirit that we may abound in every good work and walk worthy of the gospel of Christ, proclaiming the good news of salvation to all men. And we pray especially for your chosen people, Israel, asking that you would give them a new heart and new spirit, that they may worship their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the land you promised to their fathers. Amen.


God's Faithfulness
by
Robert Culver

"O Yahweh, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for you have done wonderful things; your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." (Isaiah 25:1)

The Bible reveals that the very worthiness of God as the object of the faith of the patriarchs requires that He yet restore Israel and fulfill the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In Romans 11:28 Paul writes that Israel is yet "beloved for the fathers' sake." This means that God's present care for His ancient people is, at least in part, out of respect for the faith of "the fathers" who believed God and expected Him to fulfill His ancient promises. After writing of the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the writer to the Hebrews observes: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13, A.S.V.).

Not all of the promises of God to the patriarchs have been fulfilled yet. Of course, as the New Testament makes clear, some of the promises have come true in Christ, in the benefits of His redeeming work at Calvary. But all the distinctive promises to Israel wait for complete fulfillment. We know that unbelief and resultant chastening are the cause. But God has made a promise concerning the overruling of the unbelief, and to this promise Paul must have turned his mind as he wrote that Israel was still "beloved for the fathers' sake." I refer to a passage in the Pentateuch, the portion of God's Word in which this series of arguments began. After detailing the dread results of disobedience--banishment from the land--God says:

"They shall confess . . . then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left by them, and it shall enjoy its sabbaths . . . And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am Jehovah their God; but I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am Jehovah" (Leviticus 26:40, 42-45, A.S.V.).

I can think of nothing more utterly compelling and appropriate with which to close my remarks on this theme than the prophecy of Jeremiah 33:25,26. "Thus saith Jehovah: If my covenant of day and night stand not, if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and of David my servant, so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and will have mercy on them."

Daniel and the Latter Days

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

For more on the return of Israel and the millennium, read Jack Deere's essay "Premillennialism in Revelation 20:4-6".

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Day 16

A Morning Prayer

O everlasting God, our Rock and Guide, you have always been the defense of your people in the hour of danger. You have been their refuge in every trial and their stronghold when temptation assailed. When blackness comes upon their fainting souls through sorrow or affliction, you love to shed beams of mercy upon them. When any are weary, you delight to lead and support them. Your mercy guides them to the waters of comfort where they find rest. We acknowledge with gratitude your ever present help, and humbly ask that you give us perfect satisfaction in our earthly lot, utmost confidence in your divine providence, and a patient waiting for Jesus Christ's return, when he will come in the full glory of his Father, with his angels, to establish his kingdom here on earth. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and our Intercessor through whom we come before your throne of grace. Amen.


Rest In the Lord
by
James Hoyle

"Rest in Yahweh, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." (Psalm 37:7)

Rest is a blessing which properly belongs to the child of God; it is his spiritual birthright. The idea glimmers like some distant nebula through every page of the Holy Scriptures. You see it in the ordinance of the Sabbath; in the law relating to the tilling of the soil, which provided that the land was to lie fallow, to rest, every seventh year. The year of Jubilee too was a time of peculiar and emphatic rest; the idea was symbolized in the Conquest of Canaan. Then as if to show us even still more clearly how this idea of rest enters into the Divine plan of human life, God is spoken of as resting. It is, of course, inconceivable that He should actually be fatigued. It were profanity to suppose that He who "faints not, neither is weary," of whose understanding there is no searching, can ever be in a condition to render rest needful. And yet when He had finished all the work from His hands in the six days' creation, we are told "He rested on the seventh day" and "sanctified it."

Perhaps the most prominent ingredient in this rest is a sense of security and fixedness, a settled belief in the teachings of the Divine Spirit in the Gospel we have received, a sense of having grasped the blessings which that Gospel holds out to us, and therefore a sense of our acceptance with God and of our eternal security in Christ Jesus. This hallowed state of mind cannot exist in the man who is always in a state of unsettled doubt, who changes his creed almost every day of his life. The sacred dove-like spirit leaves the regions of uncertainty and dwells with those who know whom they have believed. There is no real rest till you are sure. A little "if" is like a small stone in one's shoe, which soon blisters the foot and prevents anything like restful progress.

But this rest is in another aspect contentment, perfect satisfaction with our earthly lot. We often feel how difficult, how well-nigh impossible it is to see the reason for many experiences we are called to pass through, and in our innermost hearts we say, "Is this right?" "Can this be a tender Father?" "Can this be love--infinite, unerring love?" And so the murmuring spirit finds its way to the throne of the heart. Remember, that though God is revealed His providences are not. He is a God that hides Himself. His path is in the great waters. His footsteps are not known. But He is our own precious God working in His own way, working in His own time, and working His own purposes of love. The contented spirit leaves all to him; it rests in the Lord.

This rest consists in submission. The text according to the Hebrew is, "Be silent to the Lord." One of the old versions has it, "Hold thou still before God." This is illustrated by what we read of Aaron. When his sons died before the Lord, Aaron held his peace. In like manner let your tongue be quiet. Do not murmur, do not argue, be quite still. Leave all to God and bow in silence.

Lastly, this rest is a patient waiting. While you have and must have wishes, keep them tethered. While you have a will, keep it in subservience to a wiser and kinder will that rules above. God never sent you yet upon a sea of tribulation without bringing you safe home again. Oh, it is a blessed thing to be quite confident that God cannot err, cannot forsake, cannot cease to love, and that everything that comes from Him comes at the right time, in the right way, and in the right measure. Wait for God's time. Rest in the Lord.

Two Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You might enjoy the sermon "He Doeth All Things Well" by Theodor Zahn.

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Day 17

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, Jehovah Jesus, our propitiation and by whom our redemption was worked out, plead with the Father for us. Look now upon us from your seat of glory and remember all the trials and temptations to which you were subjected on earth, and then strengthen your plea on our behalf. Call to mind our weakness, and then ask that we may be strengthened. Forget not our total inability to do, say, or think anything of ourselves that can be acceptable before our God, and then send upon us the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts to you. Let him teach us what we ought to speak, what we ought to do, and to set our feet in the right path that we may run in the way of your commandments. May he teach us the depravity of our own hearts, which of themselves ever choose evil before good, which refuse the benefits you have in store for us, and reject the blessings and mercies you so freely offer to every one of us, and which were purchased at the exceeding great price of your own blood. Amen.


Freedom, Free Will
by
James Packer

"But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." (Romans 6:22)

The ordinary idea of freedom as the happy state of not being a slave is common throughout the Bible. The unique biblical development of it sprang from reflection on the unique privileges of Israel. God, in sovereign mercy, had brought the Israelites out of bondage, made them his people, given them his covenant, settled them in the promised land, and undertaken to maintain them there in political independence and economic prosperity as long as they eschewed idolatry and kept his laws. This meant that Israel's freedom would depend, not on human effort or achievement, either military or political, but on the quality of Israel's obedience to God. Freedom was a supernatural blessing, God's gracious gift to his own people, unmerited and, apart from God, unattainable in the first instance, and now maintained only through God's continued favor. Disobedience, whether in the form of religious impiety or social injustice, would mean the loss of freedom; divine judgment would take the form of national disaster and subjugation, and ultimately of deportation into a land in which no token of God's favor could be expected (see Deut. 28:15 ff.; Amos 5; II Kings 17:6-23). The theological idea of freedom thus comes to mean, on the one hand, deliverance from all created forces that would prevent men from serving and enjoying their Creator, and, on the other, the positive happiness of living in fellowship with God in the place where he is pleased to bless. It is a free gift of grace, bestowed on those who serve God according to his covenant. The condition of freedom from bondage to the created is therefore bondage to the Creator. Freedom is God's gift to his own slaves. This is the essence of the biblical concept.

This concept was given its Christian reference, in outline at least, by Christ himself, who opened his public ministry by announcing himself as the fulfilment of Isa. 61:1: ". . . he hath anointed me . . . to preach deliverance to the captives. . ." (Luke 4:16 ff.). Ignoring Zealot hankerings after national deliverance from Rome, Christ declared that he had come to liberate the slaves of sin and Satan (John 8:34-36, 41-44); to overthrow the "prince of this world," the "strong man"; and to release his prisoners (John 12:31-32; Mark 3:27; Luke 10:18). Exorcisms (Mark 3:22 ff.) and healings (Luke 13:16) were part of this work of dispossession.

Paul expands the thought that Christ liberates believers, here and now, from destructive influences to which they were previously in bondage: from sin, the tyrant whose wages for services rendered is death (Rom. 6:18-23); from the "power of darkness" (Col. 1:13); from polytheistic superstition (I Cor. 10:29; Gal. 4:8 ff.); from the law as a system of salvation (Gal. 4:21 ff.; 5:1; Rom. 7:6), and from the burden of Jewish ceremonialism (Gal. 2:4). To all this, freedom from physical corruption and death will be added in due course (Rom. 8:18-21). This comprehensive freedom is the gift of Christ, who bought his people out of bondage (I Cor. 6:20; 7:22-23), just as, by a legal fiction, Greek deities "bought slaves for their manumission." It is creatively conveyed to believers by the indwelling Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:2; II Cor. 3:17).

It is the royal freedom of God's adopted sons, to whom accordingly the Spirit witnesses as a Spirit, not of bondage, but of adoption (Rom. 8:15-16; Gal. 4:6-7). The obverse of Christ's gift of freedom (eleutheria) is the Christian's freely accepted bondservice (douleia) to God (Rom. 6:22), to Christ (I Cor. 7:22), to righteousness (Rom. 6:18), and to all men for the sake of the gospel (I Cor. 9:19-23) and of the Saviour (II Cor. 4:5). The "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12), which is the "law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2; cf. I Cor. 9:21) for his free servants, is the law of love (Gal. 5:13-14), the principle of voluntary self-sacrifice without limit for the good of men (I Cor. 9:1-23; 10:23-33) and the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). This is the essential NT ethic; a life of love is the response of gratitude which the gospel of grace both requires and evokes. Christian liberty is precisely freedom to love and serve, and is therefore abused when it is made an excuse for loveless license (Gal. 5:13; cf. I Pet. 2:16; II Pet. 2:19) or inconsiderateness (I Cor. 8:9-12).

The historic controversy about "free will" is connected with the biblical concept of freedom only indirectly. It concerns the question whether fallen man's slavery to sin is so radical and complete as to make him wholly unable to perform spiritual good or to avoid sinning, or to repent and put faith in Christ. Reformed theology follows Augustine in affirming, on the basis of such passages as Rom. 8:5-8; Eph. 2:1-10; John 6:44; 15:4-5, that man's will is not in fact free for obedience and faith till freed from sin's dominion by regenerating grace. Only on this basis, it is claimed, can human merit be excluded and God's sovereignty acknowledged in the matter of salvation, and justice be done to the biblical insistence that we are saved by faith alone (without works, Rom. 3:28), through grace alone (not human effort, Rom. 9:16), and for God's glory alone (not man's, I Cor. 1:28-31). Any alternative view, it is said, makes man a decisive contributor to his own salvation, and so in effect his own Saviour.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Arndt; MM; H. Schlier in TWNT; J. P. Thornton-Duesbery in RTWB; Deiss LAE, pp. 326 ff.; H. Wedell in AThR 32, pp. 205-16.

Baker's Dictionary of Theology (pp. 229-230)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also this article by John Smalley, "On the Immutability of God".

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Day 18

A Morning Prayer

Rejoice! O let our souls rejoice, and let us lift up our hearts unto the Lord our God, for he has dealt graciously with his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation in the house of his servant David. He who was dead is alive again, and behold, he lives forevermore. Vain was the sealed tomb, the Roman guard, the malice of enemies, and the fear of friends. The Lord has risen, and we rejoice in our salvation thus secured to us. Touch our hearts, most gracious God, with your Spirit's influence, that we may feel and know the value of this memorable day's work, and that henceforth we may speak from our hearts of the abundance of your great love which has redeemed us from the dominion of sin and made us heirs of heaven through our crucified Lord and Savior, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Source of Grace
by
Charles Rawlings

"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." (1 Peter 5:10)

God is designated by the apostle Peter as "the God of all grace," the rich and inexhaustible fountain of every kind of grace that can enrich and beautify the soul for eternity. There is a great variety in the character of grace, and I will particularize some of the kinds of grace of which God is the bountiful author and source.

There is first converting grace. It is under the influence of converting grace that the soul is "turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Appeals of eloquence are in vain, the force of argument is in vain, for both have been found to be lamentably inadequate for the conversion of the soul. But when God sends forth the Spirit of grace, it is the Spirit of power. The great moral result is accomplished, the conscience is awakened to a sense of guilt, the tyranny of sin and Satan is cast aside, and the happy redeemed soul exults in the liberty of the Gospel. God alone is the source of converting grace. The experience of all true Christians to the end of time will bear united attestation to this truth.

But further, God is the author of sanctifying grace. God is holy in himself, and the source of holiness to others. By virtue of this grace, all who believe are "qualified to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." The work of sanctification is a progressive work. It goes on in the regenerate soul from day to day and from hour to hour. The principle of grace is more and more carried out and developed in all heavenly dispositions, tempers, and purity of life. The immediate agent employed in sanctification is the Holy Ghost. He daily weakens the power of inward corruption, deadens the influence of the world, purifies the affections, strengthens faith, animates hope, and kindles love with a still more intense flame. The evidences of sanctification are many and decisive: consecration of the heart to God, a uniform obedience to the precepts of the Gospel, and a longing anticipation of a purer world on high.

God is also the author of consoling grace, the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." In our passage through the wilderness of this world to the rest above, we have need of consolation. There are wars without, fears within, and difficulty and trials that assail us under every possible form. But God has promised to be with us in every arduous conflict. "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will he[p you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isa. 41:10); "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).

This is a most encouraging assurance. Every affliction that the Christian traveler is called upon to experience is designed to prove the reality of his faith and to display the glory of God's grace. "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12,13). It is a blessed thing to realize the comforts of God's grace! The soul is maintained in a state of tranquility and repose amid the fluctuations and sorrows of time. The grace of consolation here on earth is but a sweet prelude to the unclouded glory, the full unalloyed bliss, of the celestial paradise above.

The Church of England Magazine, vol. IV, 1838

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

What is meant by "common" grace? Read a short essay on this subject by Osterhaven.

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Day 19

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come before your throne of grace through the merits of Jesus, who for our sakes fasted forty days and nights and suffered in order that we might have a blessing. Enable us to use such abstinence over our bodies that they may truly be temples of the Holy Spirit. The lusts of the flesh are very strong, and we do not seriously lay to heart our natural corruption, depravity, and inability to do any good thing. Work in us, we pray, to will and to do of your good pleasure. May we be brought entirely into subjection to your law and perceive the folly, unprofitableness, and wickedness of sin. May we strive ever more earnestly than we have so far to know the spiritual meaning and extent of your law, its force and requirements. May we seek more diligently the Holy Spirit's aid and assistance in every matter to which we are called. And may we, under your blessing, bring forth much fruit to the praise of your holy name. Amen.


Praying for our Daily Bread
by
Richard Cattermole

"Give us this day our daily bread."
Matthew 6:11

When living in a prosperous condition, we are in danger of falling into that sin which tempted Agur (and from which he so earnestly prayed to be delivered), that of being full and denying our Great Benefactor, and thereby deeming ourselves sufficient for our own preservation and well-being. In order to cure us of such forgetfulness and presumption, let Divine grace direct our minds to the consideration of our text, a prayer so often on our lips but too little impressed upon our hearts. If the professed followers of Christ kept in mind the plain inference from this petition, then the folly of being proud of what they call theirs would be practically admitted, and they would find themselves acting and speaking under a wholesome sense of their naturally helpless and dependent condition.

To the pious man, this prayer is a most elevating and consoling reflection. It tells him that throughout his entire life, and in all his concerns, he is connected with his God by present needs as well as by religious sentiments and future hopes. He desires nothing better than to be totally dependent upon the most powerful and gracious of Beings. Indeed, the desires and necessities which connect the believer to his heavenly Father are precious avenues of communion. He is not satisfied with tracing the hand of Providence in only a few singular benefits and striking deliverances, but he acknowledges the same hand of Providence for his daily preservation and continual supplies.

When we look at our text more closely, we find that we are, first of all, to pray for what is needful and no more. "A man's life," says Jesus, "does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). What is more than enough frequently proves to multiply our troubles and anxiety in a far greater degree than they minister to our enjoyment. The true Christian, who looks upon the present as a preparatory and probationary condition, and who has more regard for the good of his soul than the delight of his body, is governed by higher considerations. Simplicity in the use and moderation in the pursuit of worldly goods are qualities essential to his character.

But, second, even when praying for our necessities we are taught to limit our prayers to the needs of the present time: "Give us this day our daily bread." From this we are to infer our duty of being willing to cast our cares each day upon God. Whatsoever our prudent endeavors and the success of them may have been, we truly have been supported by God's providence and not our own. Though our food may be purchased from a store with inexhaustible supplies, we are yet dependent for it upon the Divine Bounty. Hence a Christian may not pray to receive at once a provision for his whole life, as if taking his future maintenance out of God's hands. He is not allowed to ask for an amount that will suffice for a year, a month, or even a few days. He is commanded to desire only that which God would give him for one day. Though a man has a great estate and a large and secure income, yet he trusts no more in these, independently of God, than if he had nothing. And if he had bread only for today and nothing more (as the Israelites had the manna in the desert), yet he trusts no less cheerfully in Providence than if he had the greatest abundance of wealth laid up.

There is a proud, rebellious spirit in man which dispenses of God's providence and laws, aiming to be independent of Him. Now, the use of prudence and industrious labor for the supply of our real needs is, indeed, not forbidden. On the contrary, when they are honestly and piously employed, these virtues never fail to be the means of crowning those who cultivate them with lasting blessings. But to desire great estates and incomes, to be placed above the need of God's providential care and in a condition too firmly established to require his protection, is grossly inconsistent and unbecoming in a Christian. "After all these things," observed our Lord, "do the Gentiles seek." They were ignorant of God and not acquainted with the methods of His providence. They did not how to open afresh and continually the channels of His mercies by means of acceptable prayer.

In regard to this present life, the disciples of Christ must esteem the Divine Providence our most secure estate, the Divine Bounty our richest treasury, the Fatherly Care our only infallible support, all the while remembering that God knows our weakness and necessities. The plea, "Give us this day our daily bread," diffuses and earnestness and reality over all aspects of our life, making second causes so remote that they no longer appear gigantic in themselves so as to conceal and put Him, the first cause, out of sight. Let us, therefore, rest upon His promise in all our trials and afflictions, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Sermons Preached in the District Church of St. Matthew

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will also find this sermon by Joseph Milner helpful, "The Portion of the Men of the World and the Hope of the Godly".

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Day 20

A Morning Prayer

O eternal God, you have given mankind laws and ordinances whereby they prove themselves willing and obedient disciples. Give us grace and strength that we may obey and observe them now and all our days. Endue us with the Christian graces and virtues in order that we may be temperate, patient, charitable, meek, and forgiving. And may we exercise every day and in all our actions that most excellent gift of charity. Your holy apostle has taught us that though we bestow all our goods to feed the poor, it profits us nothing if we have not love. Impress us with the example of our Savior Christ, who showed forth its power and excellence in every action of his life and every word he spoke, whose whole career was an illustration of his great name, Love. Let us pass through this transitory life walking in his steps, for we ask in his holy name. Amen.


The Love Chapter
by
John Calvin

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

The first commendation of love is this: that by patient endurance of many things, it promotes peace and harmony in the church. Near akin to this is the second excellence: gentleness and leniency. A third excellence is that it counteracts emulation [rivalry, competition], the seed of all contentions. Under emulation Paul comprehends envy. Where envy reigns, that is, where everyone is desirous to be the first or appear so, love has no place.

Another aspect of love is moderation. Paul declares it a bridle to restrain men so that they may live together in a peaceable and orderly manner. He adds that love has nothing of the nature of pride. A man, then, who is governed by love, is not puffed up with pride so as to despise others and feel satisfied with himself.

Love does not behave itself unseemly. That is, love does not exult in a foolish ostentation. It does not bluster, but observes moderation and propriety.

Love does not seek its own. From this we may infer how very far we are from having love implanted in us by nature, for we are naturally prone to have love and care for ourselves and aim at our own advantage. Nay, to speak more correctly, we rush headlong into it. The remedy for so perverse an inclination is love, which leads us to leave off caring for ourselves and feel concerned for our neighbors, so as to love them and be concerned for their welfare. In addition, to seek one's own things is to be devoted to self and to be wholly taken up with concern for one's own advantage. Paul does not here reprove every kind of care or concern for ourselves, but the excess of it which proceeds from an immoderate and blind attachment to ourselves.

Loves bears all things. By this Paul estimates that love is neither impatient nor spiteful. For to bear and endure all things is the part of forbearance: to believe and hope all things is the part of candor and kindness. As we are naturally too much devoted to self, this vice renders us morose and peevish. The effect is that everyone wishes that others should carry him upon their shoulders, but refuses for his part to assist others. The remedy for this disease is love, which makes us subject to our brethren and teaches us to apply our shoulders to their burdens. And as we are naturally spiteful, we are, consequently, also suspicious and take almost everything amiss. Love, on the other hand, calls us back to kindness so that we think favorably and candidly of our neighbors.

When Paul says "all things," we must understand him as referring to the things that ought to be endured, and in such a manner as is befitting. We are not to bear with vices so as to give our sanction to them.

Love believes all things. Not that the Christian knowingly and willingly allows himself to be imposed upon, or that he divests himself of prudence and judgment that he may be the more easily taken advantage of, but that there is simplicity and kindness in judging. The consequence will be that a Christian will reckon it better to be imposed upon by his own kindness and easy temper than to wrong his brother by an unfriendly suspicion.

Love never fails; it endures forever. We should eagerly desire an excellence that will never come to an end. And so it must be preferred before temporary and perishable gifts. Prophecies have an end, tongues fail, knowledge ceases. Hence love is more excellent than they on this ground -- that while they fail, love survives.

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Charles Bridges' exposition of Proverbs 3:27-28, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so."

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Day 21

A Morning Prayer

Almighty and most merciful God, go with us this day and bless us in all our ways. Whatever we do, may we do it heartily as unto you, with a single eye to your glory and a humble dependence on your fatherly protection. Preserve us so that the pleasures, cares, and honors of this life do not turn away our thoughts from the life which is to come, a life of eternal happiness. Enable us to live above the deceitful riches of this world and to follow our occupations with a heavenly mind, taking pleasure in the work you have appointed for us. And let us be always ready for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who shall appear in power and glory when he receives the kingdom promised to him by his Father. May we ever be defended by your most gracious and ready help, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The New Earth
by
Anthony A. Hoekema

"Nevertheless we, according to His promise,
look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells."
2 Peter 3:13

In this chapter we shall deal with the final state of those who are in Christ. The Bible teaches that believers will go to heaven when they die. That they will be happy during the intermediate state between death and resurrection is clearly taught in Scripture. But their happiness will be provisional and incomplete. For the completion of their happiness they await the resurrection of the body and the new earth which God will create at the culmination of his redemptive work. To that new earth we now turn our attention.

The doctrine of the new earth, as taught in Scripture, is an important one. It is important, first, for the proper understanding of the life to come. One gets the impression from certain hymns that glorified believers will spend eternity in some ethereal heaven somewhere off in space, far away from earth. The following lines from the hymn "My Jesus, I Love Thee" seem to convey that impression:

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright.

But does such a conception do justice to biblical eschatology? Are we to spend eternity somewhere off in space, wearing white robes, plucking harps, singing songs, and flitting from cloud to cloud while doing so? On the contrary, the Bible assures us that God will create a new earth on which we shall live to God's praise in glorified, resurrected bodies. On that new earth, therefore, we hope to spend eternity, enjoying its beauties, exploring its resources, and using its treasures to the glory of God. Since God will make the new earth his dwelling place, and since where God dwells there heaven is, we shall then continue to be in heaven while we are on the new earth. For heaven and earth will then no longer be separated, as they are now, but will be one (see Rev. 21:1-3). But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come.

Secondly, the doctrine of the new earth is important for a proper grasp of the full dimensions of God's redemptive program. In the beginning, so we read in Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth. Because of man's fall into sin, a curse was pronounced over this creation. God now sent his Son into this world to redeem that creation from the results of sin. The work of Christ, therefore, is not just to save certain individuals, not even to save an innumerable throng of blood-bought people. The total work of Christ is nothing less than to redeem this entire creation from the effects of sin. That purpose will not be accomplished until God has ushered in the new earth, until Paradise Lost has become Paradise Regained. We need a clear understanding of the doctrine of the new earth, therefore, in order to see God's redemptive program in cosmic dimensions. We need to realize that God will not be satisfied until the entire universe has been purged of all the results of man's fall.

The Bible and the Future

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Ken's article "How Much Did the Prophets Know?" will prove of interest. So will his short essay, "The Christian Answer to Death and the Eternal Destiny of the Redeemed."

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Day 22

A Morning Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, the only and eternal God, we bow before you now in your threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, give us grace to learn, patience to hear, and determination to obey your holy precepts. We regard you as our only instructor, and acknowledge that life and immortality can come no other way. As Priest, you have offered yourself for us. It is by your sacrifice alone that we may be perfected. Let us seek no other atonement, for there is none. Your blood shed upon the cross is the only path to redemption. As King, rule in our hearts. Subdue all evil desires, affections and lusts, and break down that barrier of pride which bars our entrance to your throne. Show us the joy of your rule, the comfort of your sovereignty. Give us such perfect obedience that we may walk before you here on earth without fear of evil, and be ever ready to hear your summons to the heavenly kingdom. Accept our grateful, though feeble, homage we pray, O blessed Savior. Amen.


Melchizedek, A Type of Christ
by
Milton S. Terry

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he [was] the priest of God Most High." (Genesis 14:18)

"Yahweh has sworn and will not relent, You [are] a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:4)

"For this Melchizedek . . . without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually." (Hebrews 7:1,3)

In Hebrews 7 the priesthood of Christ is illustrated and enhanced by typical analogies in the character and position of Melchizedek. Four points of resemblance are there set forth. (1) Melchizedek was both king and priest; so Christ. (2) His timelessness -- being without recorded parentage, genealogy, or death -- is a figure of the perpetuity of Christ's priesthood. (3) Melchizedek's superiority over Abraham and over the Levitical priests is made to suggest the exalted dignity of Christ. (4) Melchizedek's priesthood was not, like the Levitical, constituted by formal legal enactment, but was without succession and without tribe or race limitations; so Christ, an independent and universal priest, abides forever, having an unchangeable priesthood. Much more is said in the chapter by way of contrasting Christ with the Levitical priests, and the manifest design of the writer is to set forth in a most impressive way the great dignity and unchangeable perpetuity of the priesthood of the Son of God.

But interpreters have gone wild over the mysterious character of Melchizedek, yielding to all manner of speculation, first, in attempting to answer the question "Who was Melchizedek?" and second, in tracing all imaginable analogies. Whedon observes sensibly and aptly: "Our opinion is, that Melchizedek was nobody but himself; himself as simply narrated in Gen. 14:18-20; in which narrative both David, in Psa. 110, and our author after him, find every point they specify in making him a king-priest, typical of the king-priesthood of Christ.

Yet it is not in the person of Melchizedek alone, but in the grouping also of circumstances around and in his person, that the inspired imagination of the psalmist finds the shadowing points. Melchizedek, in Genesis, suddenly appears upon the historic stage, without antecedents or consequents. He is a king-priest not of Judaism, but of Gentilism universally. He appears an unlineal priest, without father, mother, or pedigree. He is preceded and succeeded by an everlasting silence, so as to present neither beginning nor end of life. And he is, as an historic picture, forever there, divinely suspended, the very image of a perpetual king-priest. It is thus not in his actual unknown reality but in the Scripture presentation that the group of shadowings appears. It is by optical truth only, not by corporeal facts, that he becomes a picture, and with his surroundings a tableau, into which the psalmist first reads the conception of an adumbration [faint indication] of the eternal priesthood of the Messiah; and all our author does is to develop the particulars which are in mass presupposed by the psalmist.

Biblical Hermeneutics

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Genesis is a fascinating book. You may want to check out this "Introduction to Genesis" by W. H. Griffith Thomas.

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Day 23

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God not of the dead but of the living. Enable us, with this dawning of another day, to live in obedience to your commandments. With the passing of each day we are reminded how fast time flies. Are we prepared for that great end, when time shall be no more and we are summoned to give our last account? For those unsaved, open your word to them by your Holy Spirit lest they sleep away the precious time remaining. Let your trumpet voice startle them to serious thought and grant them convicting grace. Awaken them from the sleep of death, lest the precious days when your mercy is offered come to an end and they find themselves standing before the judgment seat of Christ. And for us your disciples, let us remember that it is then that all our works for you will be examined. They will be tested by fire to see of what they were made, either hay and stubble or gold and precious gems. Oh, let us not waste time searching for worldly praise, but let us go forth with godly zeal sowing the precious seed of salvation to both Jew and Gentile, seeking only the praise of him who washed us from our sins in his own blood, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Judgment Seat of Christ
by
Stephen H. Tyng

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (1 Corinthians 5:10)

Sin having been adjudged on the Cross, it remains that the saint's services should be scrutinized before "he shall receive a reward." For this, "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad." The saints in Corinth were thus warned that the actions of present life had inevitable influences upon the measure and station of their eternal condition. In almost identical words St. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. . . . everyone of us shall give account of himself to God."

The remembrance of this assize might well restrain the Christians of those days and our time from mutual judgment and contempt. This will be found to be the teaching of the context. The purpose of the revelation of Christ to His people is declared by the Lord Himself: "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 20:12). The measure of our glory is determined before we die, or are "caught up." "Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor." The differences in duties are not graded. "He that plants and he that waters are one." The reward will be assigned according to the motive and spirit of the service.

When the saint's character and consecration are examined, though "every man shall have praise of God," yet must every man "suffer loss." Who dare claim that throughout life he has built on the foundation "that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," nothing but "gold, silver, precious stones?" Have no "wood, hay, stubble," worthless and vain things, been worked into your character? We shall then know the importance of wasted time. At what a ruinous price of earthly pleasures will we find that we have exchanged our ranks in glory. "Every man's work shall be made manifest." The day of secret thoughts and covered selfishness will have passed. "The day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." "The brightness of His coming," which shall afterwards consume the wicked, will in that day clear the saints of all taint of imperfection. They shall "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And how their results of life shall be sifted. That which is true and pure and good shall be accepted, while that which has been imperfect through selfishness and sin must be denied.

What marvelous reversals of earthly judgments will the Master make. The pomp and pride of profession will pass for nothing when searched by "the eyes that were as a flame of fire." The meek and lowly, who have learned of Him, will no longer be despised. Not the least of the saints' services shall be forgotten. "Whatsoever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord." "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." "Of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."

With these passages before him it will not be difficult for every believer to learn a lesson of solemn responsibility. The trifling and frivolity of earth clearly detract from the capacity and condition of glory. The Christian has only time to "lay up treasures in heaven." To this he must dedicate every power of mind and soul and body. For this all days and institutions and associations are sanctified. In comparison with this, true prudence will permit no less worthy choice. "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."

He Will Come

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

In view of Christ's coming, let us repent of our wasted time. You might find reading about "Nineveh's Repentance" helpful.

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Day 24

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come before you in humble faith. We know that you are tender and compassionate, so we open our hearts that you may see the many troubles, distresses, and needs that weigh upon them. We love the vanities and follies of the world too much. We build up worldly hopes, which sickness and death banish. We turn our worldly desires into necessities, and mourn over them as if your hand were heavy upon us. Yet we own that you are our God and acknowledge your sovereign right to rule over us. Let your Holy Spirit strive with us more and more. Remove that obstinacy in which we so much indulge, that love of self which so greatly predominates and glories over our brethren. Visit us with your mercy and grace this day, and sanctify us daily that we may glorify you when Jesus comes again to receive his kingdom. Amen.


The Pre-Tribulational Rapture
by
Oswald J. Smith

"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition." (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

Why did the Lord Jesus conceal the Secret Rapture in Matthew chapter twenty-four? How are we to explain the silence of the Church for centuries concerning it? What about the passages that have been used to support it? Have we been lulling the Church into a false security? Are there any outstanding Christian leaders who believe that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation?

In my first book on Prophecy, I asked the question, "Will the Church pass through the Tribulation or be raptured out of it?" In answering, I made this statement: "I have always held the view that the Rapture precedes the Revelation by some seven years, and that the Church, therefore, will not go through the Tribulation, but I do not want to be dogmatic about it and, if God should reveal the contrary to me, I will gladly accept it". Hence, you see, I did not approach the subject with my mind closed to new light and my heart already prejudiced. I was open to whatever God might reveal.

Now, after years of study and prayer, I am absolutely convinced that there will be no rapture before the Tribulation, but that the Church will undoubtedly be called upon to face the Antichrist, and that Christ will come at the close and not at the beginning of that awful period. I believed the other theory simply because I was taught it by W. E. Blackstone in his book Jesus is Coming, the Scofield Reference Bible, and Prophetic Conferences and Bible Schools. But when I began to search the Scriptures for myself, I discovered that there is not a single verse in the Bible that upholds the pre-tribulation theory, but that the uniform teaching of the Word of God is of a post-tribulation Rapture.

My first awakening to this important truth came one day in 1925. One of my neighbors simply made the suggestion to me. I opposed it at once. "Why," I exclaimed, "however could that be? What about the Scriptures? The teaching of a pre-tribulation Rapture is clear and indisputable." But he quietly affirmed that I was wrong. Of course, I was not convinced. I almost ridiculed the very idea of such a possibility. And there the matter rested.

One day, in the early twenties, I began preaching on Prophecy. I had taken my people through Daniel without difficulty. Then came Mark 13, Luke 21, and Matthew 24 and 25. But, lo and behold, no sooner had I started on Matthew 24 than I got into trouble. I had announced that I would deal with Matthew 24 at the next service. Hundreds had gathered. I was in a maze, for I was perplexed. So I took a verse here and there through the chapter and thus satisfied the people for that hour at least. But now the next meeting was coming. What was I to say? I need not point out that there is no pretribulation Rapture in Matthew 24. The Second Coming is unmistakably placed "immediately after the Tribulation," and I was forced to the conclusion that if the Rapture was to be before the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ would certainly have given some hint of it at least. He was dealing with the end time of the Age. It is unthinkable that He would have spoken so minutely of the Tribulation without stating that the Church would escape. Instead, He purposely led His hearers to the belief that His followers would be in it. Hence, I was staggered, nor could I honestly defend my previous position. So, when I again faced the people, I said sufficient to let them know that I questioned my former stand and saw evidence of a post-tribulation Rapture. For, as I read Matthew 24 and 25, I saw that many things, as prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ, simply had to take place before Jesus could come, namely, "All these things," especially the prediction regarding the preaching of the Gospel.

Then came into my hands a copy of a book by Dr. Henry W. Frost. It was entitled Matthew 24 and the Revelation, a volume of over 300 pages. I fairly devoured it. Portions of it I read through twice. It was most conclusive in its arguments for a post-tribulation Rapture. About the same time I got hold of a book by James H. McConkey, called The Book of Revelation, and another--perhaps the best of all--by Edmund Shackleton entitled Will the Church Escape the Great Tribulation? Before I had read them through, I was firmly convinced that there would be no Rapture before the Tribulation, and that I had done wrong in promising the Church an escape instead of preparing her for the terrible ordeal that must most surely be awaited. My "any moment" theory could not be sustained. In fact, the very first statement in the latter book, which was written about 1890, amazed me beyond measure, and I was fairly staggered as I grasped its significance. Let me quote it verbatim:

"All who held the pre-millennial Coming of Christ were, till about sixty years ago, of one mind on the subject. About that time a new view was promulgated that the Coming of Christ was not one event, but that it was divided into stages, in fact, that Christ comes twice from heaven to earth, but the first time only as far as the air. This first descent, it is said, will be for the purpose of removing the Church from the world, and will occur before the Great Tribulation under Antichrist. This they call 'The coming for His saints' or 'Secret Rapture.' The second part of the Coming is said to take place when Christ appears in glory and destroys the Antichrist. This they call 'The coming with His saints.'

"Apart from the test of the Word, which is the only final one, there are certain reasons why this doctrine should be viewed with suspicion. It appears to be little more than sixty years old, and it seems highly improbable that if scriptural, it could have escaped the scrutiny of the many devoted Bible students whose writings have been preserved to us from the past. More especially, in the writings of the early Christian fathers would we expect to find some notice of this doctrine if it had been taught by the Apostles. But those who have their works declare that they betray no knowledge of a theory that the Church would escape the Tribulation under Antichrist, or that there would be any "coming" except that spoken of in Matthew 24, as occurring in manifest glory 'after the Tribulation.' This is all the more significant, because these writers bestowed much attention upon the subject of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. Augustine, referring to Daniel 7, wrote: 'But he who reads this passage even half asleep cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church.'

Then when I remembered that the death of Peter, his prediction of corruption and apostasy after his decease, the death of Paul, and many other events had to occur before the Rapture (especially the evangelization of the world), my "any moment" theory took wings and fled.

Last of all, I ran across The Great Tribulation—The Church’s Supreme Test by John B. Scruby, the most convincing and most unanswerable of all. It deals with every point minutely and proves conclusively that the Tribulation precedes the Rapture. Recently I got hold of that remarkable book Tribulation to Glory by H. A. Baker in which he wrote: "For eighteen centuries the fundamental principle of tribulation to glory was the universal belief of the truly born-again members of the Church." He goes on to show that the new pre-tribulation rapture teaching was first proclaimed as a direct revelation by a woman in Edward Irving’s church, and then taken up by John Nelson Darby (and the Scofield Reference Bible) in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Church for eighteen hundred years. But now, thank God, large numbers of our leading Bible Teachers are coming back to the original position.

Tribulation or Rapture - Which?

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Check out our study on the Book of Revelation.

We have posted S. P. Tregelles' book, "The Hope of Christ's Second Coming," Scruby's book, "The Great Tribulation: The Church's Supreme Test", Shackleton's book, "Will the Church Escape the Great Tribulation?," and Frost's book, "Matthew Twenty-Four and the Revelation".

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Day 25

A Morning Prayer

O God, as we bow before you we realize that all our thoughts are known to you. Sanctify us, therefore, that our minds may not be tempted to indulge in vain and evil thoughts. In the secrecy of our own chambers, when darkness closes in and no eye but yours is upon us, grant that we may not yield to the suggestions of the devil. He goes about seeking whom he may devour. He puts into our hearts evil imaginations and stirs us up to continually indulge in thoughts which our tongues would dare not utter, and which we should dread to carry into effect. Oh, make us remember that even the thought of foolishness is sin, and he who dares dwell upon vain, unprofitable, or forbidden things has forgotten your law and despised your commandments. When we kneel before you to offer our petitions and thanksgivings, enable us to think of nothing but the solemn service in which we are engaged. Lift up our dull and heavy hearts to embrace the great privilege of coming before your throne of grace through the merits of him who died in our place. In mercy hear us, O Lord, and now and ever shield us for your dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Defensive Power of the Peace of God
by
Henry Melvill

"And the peace of God, which passes all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Phillipians 4:7

The expression here used by Paul, and which we render by the word "keep," is stronger in the original Greek than in the English translation. It is a military term denoting occupancy by a garrison. In another place our translators have used several words to convey this idea, though there is nothing in the Greek but the single word which occurs in our text. We refer to that passage in which Paul mentions the attempt to detain him in Damascus: "In Damascus, the governor, under Aretas the king, kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me." Here "kept with a garrison" is the translation of the one word which in our text is rendered simply by "keep." What the apostle, therefore, designed to affirm in regard to the "peace of God," was that this peace took military possession of the soul, occupied it as a garrison, and enabled it to ward off assaults.

Now you will recall that in our Lord's parting discourses he solemnly bequeathed "peace" as his legacy. This could not have been a peace resulting from a sense that sin was forgiven, for he had no sin. Neither could it have been a peace of reconciliation to God, for there had never been any enmity between him and the Father. Therefore, we must understand this peace to be the thorough harmony which existed between his will and the divine, his perfect acquiescence in every appointment of the Father, his undeviating confidence in his protection, and the imperturbable assurance of his love.

It is this peace that Christ gives to his Church. The man on whom God bestows it will enjoy a tranquil assurance that nothing can separate him from the love of his Maker, and that in the midst of dangers and difficulties he will be enabled to fix his eye on an incorruptible inheritance. It is far more than the peace of one who hears the proclamation of pardon from his king after having taken up arms against him. Rather, it is the peace of oneness of will, of a felt and endearing relationship to God, of a renewed nature, of an anticipated immortality.

It is a peace that passes all understanding. It cannot be expressed when felt, and even when felt it cannot be understood; for it is worked into the mind by the Spirit of God. But yet it is no mystical thing of which it were vain to ask a rational account. Since the apostle speaks of this peace as keeping the hearts and minds of those by whom it is possessed, it is evidently a practical peace, not something dwelling sublimely in the clouds and to be pursued by the imagination and enjoyed in some rare moment of spiritual ecstasy. Rather it is an active, vigorous principle, armed with the weapons of a warrior, taking a defensive stand amid the noise and struggle of everyday life. And this peace of God passes all understanding not because it is unintelligible in its nature and, much less, inscrutable in its effects, but because it is of such high origin and rare excellence, of such preeminent energy, that even the very thoughts must fail to comprehend it.

You might have been prepared to hear that the power or the Spirit of God would effectually garrison the human soul, not that "the peace of God" would defend it against every enemy. But that is exactly what it does. It is adapted to "keep" the heart and mind. By the mind, we must suppose Paul to mean the understanding, the intellectual faculties. By the heart, he means the affections. To keep the mind is to preserve man from the assaults made on his understanding by skeptical objections or insinuations. To keep the heart is to preserve him from the assaults made on his affections by the world and worldly things. It is declared that the peace of God shall actually garrison both the heart and the mind, and it is certainly implied that a soul thus occupied and guarded shall not be overcome.

The common idea of Christianity, however, is far below this truth. The man who is always bewailing his depravity, confessing his inconsistencies, and cherishing but a faint hope of pardon and acceptance, is the one who passes for an admirable Christian. And if the world, the flesh, and the devil are but feebly resisted; if victory is not the habit and defeat the exception; if there is no decided permanent preference of invisible things to visible; if you do not find your chief delight in God but in the world; and if your experience of his consolations do not fortify you against the worst forms of trouble; then you may find cause for questioning whether you truly have this peace of God.

Now we must distinguish between what we call the offensive weapons of a Christian and the defensive, between the arguments with which he may attempt to beat down the infidelity of another and those which may suffice to keep infidelity from infecting him. What would be very efficacious in confirming and strengthening the faith of a believer may not be capable of being woven into reasoning and brought to bear on the unbeliever; for it may be something altogether of personal experience--certain and sure to those by whom it is felt, but not evident to others and therefore powerless if used in debate. He must then betake himself to external evidence, that is, to the witness from miracle and prophecy, to the "proofs" of Christianity. And if the believer knows little or nothing of this external testimony, he will be no match for his opponent.

But will he, on this account, be himself an easy prey to the infidel? Simply because he is unequipped with offensive weapons, will he be found unprepared to maintain a defensive position? I reply that, on the contrary, his mind is too well garrisoned to be carried by the assaults of an enemy. Though he may not have studied what are popularly called the "evidences of Christianity," he has been obeying the precepts of God and relying on his promises. And thus he is his own witness to the truth of the Bible. He has put the precepts of the Bible to the test and found them true. Another man to whom he may tell of his experience may be doubtful of the facts, but to himself the argument is absolutely conclusive. No matter how little his ability to make manifest the reality of his Christian experience against a bold and cunning assailant, he nevertheless has an armory in the depths of his own experience from which he may fetch weapons for guarding his citadel, and thus he enjoys the "peace which passes all understanding."

Now we may pass through life with but little skeptical assault, but we are attacked through the affections daily, even hourly. We are in peril of being overcome by the allurements of the world. Here we especially need a defense, a garrison that will enable us to withstand those temptations to which we are naturally prone to yield. Let us therefore aim at an abiding and elevating sense of God's love and favor, an actual delighting in him, and an anticipation of heavenly joys; for then we would have comparatively no relish for base and transient pleasures. We would prefer the honors that God alone can bestow to those offered by the world. We would be attached to the service of piety rather than the service of sin. With our faith kept in vigorous exercise, there would be little probability of being seduced by a base appetite or allured by a worldly trinket. The temptation would be powerless, and our hearts would be garrisoned by the "peace which passes all understanding."

We find in the verse preceding our text how the peace of God may be obtained: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." It is by prayer that we obtain that peace which garrisons both the heart and mind, by the cultivation of a devotional habit of communing with our heavenly Father. We can hardly doubt that one grand reason why Christians make so little progress and have so little enjoyment is that they are so scant in their devotions. God is ready to bestow great blessings, but he will be asked and importuned for them. The condition of bestowal is, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." Let us be frequent and fervent in communion with God, for then shall we gain the "peace that passes all understanding."

Who would be without this peace? Is not the night closing in, is not the storm rising? It is but a little while and each of us will be summoned to leave the world and appear before God. And what then shall comfort and sustain us? Nothing else but a full persuasion that our sins are blotted out and we are accepted in Christ, that God is on our side and heaven is our portion. This persuasion is "the peace of God" which he bestows on those who wait upon him diligently, and who hearken to his word. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

The Church of England Magazine, vol. IV, 1838.

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also our Prayer page for many helpful sermons.

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Day 26

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, King of kings and Lord of lords, we seek your favor and grace. Root out that pride which lurks in our hearts and that self-confidence which mars our best hopes. Silence within us all rebellious thoughts, all evil imaginations, all proud and presumptuous stirrings of discontent. Remove from among us every unkind word and every foolish boast, as if we were better than our brethren. Make us be of one heart and one mind, preferring the lowly station in order that others might be preferred. Let us follow the example of our great Redeemer, Jesus, who came from heaven to be a servant of sinners. It is in his name that we bring these petitions. Amen.


Be Not Many Masters
by
John Calvin

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:1,2)

The common and almost universal interpretation of this passage is that the Apostle discourages the desire for the office of teaching and for this reason: because it is dangerous and exposes one to a heavier judgment in case he transgresses. But I take masters not to be those who performed public duty in the church, but such as took upon them the right of passing judgment upon others. Such reprovers sought to be accounted as masters of morals. It was a mode of speaking among the Greeks, as well as the Latins, that they were called masters who superciliously criticized others.

It is an innate disease in mankind to seek reputation by blaming others. And in this respect a twofold vice prevails: though few excel in wisdom, yet they all intrude indiscriminately into the office of master; and they are stimulated by hypocrisy and ambition, rather than care for the salvation of their brethren. It is to be observed that James does not discourage those brotherly admonitions which the Spirit so often recommends to us, but only that desire to condemn, which proceeds from ambition and pride when one exalts himself over his neighbor and slanders, carps, and malignantly seeks for what he may turn to a sinister purpose. This is usually done when impertinent censors insolently boast in the work of exposing the vices of others. James tells us that those who are thus severe toward others shall undergo a heavier judgment. He imposes a hard law on the man who tries the words and deeds of others according to the rule of extreme rigor: he does not deserve pardon who will pardon none. This truth ought to be carefully observed: they who are too rigid toward their brethren provoke the severity of God against themselves.

"For in many things we all offend." This may be taken as having been said by way of concession--"No one is free from sins, but do you think that you are perfect who uses a slanderous and virulent tongue?" James exhorts us by this argument to meekness, since we ourselves are surrounded with many infirmities. He acts unjustly who denies to others the pardon he needs himself.

"If any man offend not in word." James now shows that the disease of speaking evil is more odious than other sins. By saying that he who offends not with his tongue is perfect, he intimates that the restraining of the tongue is not only a great virtue but one of the chief virtues. Hence they act most perversely who curiously examine every fault, even the least, and yet so grossly indulge themselves. James indirectly touches here on the hypocrisy of censors, because in examining themselves they omitted what was of great importance, even their evil speaking. They who reproved others pretended a zeal for perfect holiness, but they ought to have begun with their own tongue if they wished to be perfect. As they made no account of bridling the tongue but on the contrary did bite and tear others, they exhibited only a fictitious sanctity. It is therefore evident that they were the most reprehensible of all because they neglected a primary virtue.

The contagion of the tongue spreads through every part of life; the tongue pollutes the whole man. When other vices are corrected by age or succession of time, or when they at least do not possess the entire man, the vice of the tongue continues to spread and prevail over every part of life. Supercilious censors who largely indulge themselves and at the same time spare none, seem to themselves to be very wise. But they are greatly mistaken. The Lord teaches his people to be meek and courteous to others. They alone are wise in the sight of God who connect meekness with honest conversation; for they who are severe and inexorable, though they may excel others in many virtues, do not follow the right way of wisdom.

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Calvin has more to say about our need to bridle the tongue in his commentary on Matthew. See "Excerpts from Matthew" and scroll down to Matthew 7:1, "Judge not."

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Day 27

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, another Sabbath day is ours. Let each one resolve to worship you in spirit and in truth, showing forth your praise with thanksgiving and blessing your name with humble reverence. Give your ministers strength to labor in your vineyard. Grant that they may know how to speak the word of caution, of instruction, of advice, and of warning. May they ever remember their great and solemn trust to shepherd the flock in their care. And may we meditate on what we hear this day, that it may be a blessing to us throughout the week ahead. We ask in Christ's name. Amen.


Desiring and Seeking
by
J. H. Jowett

"One thing I have desired of Yahweh, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Yahweh, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to Yahweh." (Psalm 27:4-6)

In this psalm the veil is lifted, and we overhear the prayer of a saint of old. What is the nature of the prayer? What is the goal which offered the greatest allurement? "One thing I have desired of Yahweh; that will I seek after." What is this thing which formed the all-attractive goal of his devotional life?

"That I may dwell in the House of Yahweh all the days of my life." He prays that his life may be spent in a sanctuary. To him, the ideal life is that of ceaseless worship. In the perfected life the soul is always upon its knees. The saint "dwells in the House of Yahweh all the days of his life." Life is not broken up into minutes or hours spent in devotion and days spent away from it. The whole life is pervaded by the atmosphere of worship. Now, when we usually speak of the devotional life, we describe a mere patch of our days, a little fringe or a thin thread in a wide barren waste. We think of the early moments of the day or of its later moments, and these we regard as constituting the devotional season. We commonly speak of the religious and the secular as though they were two quantities running along in parallel lines without flowing into intimate combination. This distinction is perilous and illegitimate. The psalmist wanted no such divisions in his life. He wanted all the days and every moment of the days to be spent as in the House of Yahweh.

"To behold the beauty of Yahweh." That is the second of the great emphases of the psalmist's prayer. He yearned for a life inspired by contemplation of the divine beauty. Is it altogether irrelevant to say that nowadays we give ourselves very little time to "behold" anything? We hurry at a gallop, and a quiet, fruitful "seeing" is not consistent with the faced-paced life. A mere glance appropriates nothing, but a long gaze appropriates the beauty it beholds. It is only when we behold with quiet, steady, persistent contemplation that we pierce beneath the surface of things and possess the hidden wealth. I do not wonder that another psalmist proclaims this most natural sequence: "When I meditate on Thee in the night watches . . . my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness."

"And to inquire in His Temple." He wants to seek his knowledge in the spirit of devotion. Where will he make his inquiries? "In His Temple." That is the place in which all inquiries should be made. All investigations should commence and be continued on one's knees. The solution of pressing problems must be sought in the mood of prayer. And here we come to the root of many of our errors; that is, we ask our questions defiantly. Grief overshadows us, and we raise our questions in stiff rebellion. Adversity comes, and we project our inquiries in bitterness. The healing answer is frequently withheld because we have asked amiss. We must ask our questions in reverence. We must kneel if we want to inquire. We must not give up when face-to-face with a hard difficulty, but we must take it to our Lord in prayer.

What will be the fruits of such a quest?

Restfulness. "In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me." There shall be a center of rest even though there be a circumference of trouble. The life shall be kept calm and free from panic, as in a secret place. When the foes are many and threatening, there shall be a place of rest, even in their midst.

Security. "He shall set me up upon a rock." He will inspire my consciousness with the faith that everything is not loose, slippery and uncertain, but that it is firm and dependable. There is a rock beneath me. "Yahweh is my rock." That man becomes sure of God, and in that assurance his security is complete.

Elevation. "Now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me." The foes that conquer shall themselves be conquered. The enemy that ruled shall become a subject. The things that troubled him shall now be beneath his feet. He shall rise above his old worries, old irritations, old temptations.

This kind of life was not only desired by the psalmist, it was sought after. "That will I seek after." His prayer determined his pursuit. That is the order in all fruitful religion. A man's practical search must follow the vision of his supplications. He must turn his supplications into duties and let his prayers determine the trend and intensity of his search, for it is not merely a coincidence that our Master linked the two words ask and seek together.

Brooks by the Traveller's Way

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Charles Hodge's helpful article, "Prayer".

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Day 28

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, we plead, 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. And give us, your disciples, a passion for their salvation, for unto them were committed the oracles of God. Amen.


Prophetic Future for National Israel
by
Alva J. McClain

"He who scatters Israel will gather him."
Jeremiah 31:10

The prophecies of the future Mediatorial Kingdom are replete with glowing promises made to the Old Testament people of Israel. They are to be made the head over all other nations, both religiously and politically. All their enemies are to be put down. Through them the glorious blessings of the Kingdom will flow out to all the world. As to the existence and reality of these promises, there can be no dispute.

Attempts have been made, however, to deny the historical continuity of the Israel of the future Kingdom with the Israel of Old Testament history. Two hermeneutical schemes have been devised to implement this denial: first, certain of the Old Testament promises to Israel are treated as having been fulfilled in the historic return of the exiles from the Babylonian captivity; and second, those prophetic promises which cannot be thus handled are stripped down to a tenuous "spiritual" content and transferred to another "Israel" having no genuine nexus with the historical nation. Such attempts to eviscerate the promises of God to the Israel of history cannot be sustained in the face of the Biblical testimony. What are the facts?

First, all the prophets unite in a solemn warning that the people of Israel are to be punished for their sins, and that this punishment will involve defeat by their enemies, the loss of their place in the promised land, and dispersal among all the Gentile nations. "Ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And Yahweh shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other. . . . And among these nations shalt thou find no ease" (Deut. 28:63-65). Here there can be no question as to identity. This is the Israel of Old Testament history.

Second, during this divinely imposed and world-wide dispersal of Israel, according to the prophets, there will be no absolute break in the historical continuity of the nation. "For I am with thee, says Yahweh, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished" (Jer. 30:11). "Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says Yahweh" (Amos 9:8).

Third, the prophets promise specifically that there will be a restoration of the nation which was once cast off. "For I have mercy upon them," Yahweh declares, "and they shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am Yahweh their God, and will hear them" (Zech. 10:6). "And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, says Yahweh" (Jer. 31:28).

Fourth, the prophets assert that the promised restoration of historic Israel will involve a regathering of the dispersed nation back into the land from which they were cast out. The Word of God is that He "shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isa. 11:12). "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd does his flock" (Jer. 31:10). "Yahweh thy God will . . . gather thee from all the nations, whither Yahweh thy God has scattered thee. . . . And Yahweh thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it" (Deut. 30:3,5).

Fifth, to this same historic nation of Israel, regathered from its world-wide dispersion, there will come a restoration of ancient privileges and rights. In the day of their regathering in the land, to "her that was cast far off," God will speak, "And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem" (Mic. 3:7-8). More than that, the future dominion will surpass all the glories of the past: "I will settle you after your old estates," Yahweh promises, "and will do better unto you than at your beginnings" (Ezek. 36:11).

Sixth, all this will come to pass in what the prophets call the last days. This is clearly indicated by the fourth chapter of Micah. The first five verses describe the glories of Yahweh's Kingdom which will be established in "the last days," and verse six fixes definitely the regathering and restoration of Israel at that time. Since the phrase "in the last days," as used in the context of Micah 4, certainly refers to eschatological time, the prophecies of Israel's restoration cannot be regarded as fulfilled by any partial restorations in the past.

Seventh, all the prophetic descriptions of historic Israel's future restoration indicate that the restored relation to Yahweh's favor will be something permanent, never again to be interrupted. "Yahweh shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even forever" (Mic. 4:7). Of this chosen people, finally restored, it is said by the prophet Isaiah, "Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for Yahweh shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (60:20).

The 37th chapter of Ezekiel may well be used to summarize the entire point under discussion. Here the prophet is set down in a valley filled with dry bones and commanded to prophesy to these dead bones. And as he spoke the word of Yahweh, the bones came together, flesh and sinew appeared upon them, they stood up a great army, breath came into them, and they lived. The vision is explained by Yahweh thus: "These bones are the whole house of Israel," who are to be brought up out of their graves, and back into their own historic land (vss. 1-11). Thus the people of Israel, long dispersed and with waning hopes as to the future, will again be made a nation. But this is not enough. The divided people must become one nation. To impress upon the prophet this lesson, Yahweh commands him to take two sticks, one for Ephraim and one for Judah, and "make them one stick" before the eyes of the people. Then Ezekiel is told to explain the meaning of the symbol: "Thus says the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (vss. 21-22).

Certainly, in no place throughout this remarkable chapter is there any point where the historical continuity may be broken. To use a modern figure: If anyone should wish to take off on some hermeneutical flight of fancy, he will find himself compelled to land exactly where he took off, or not come down at all. The Old Testament nation of Israel, historically ruptured and scattered among the nations, is the nation which in the prophets is again restored and reunited in the future Kingdom of God.

The Greatness of the Kingdom

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You may find Alan Johnson's "A Brief Summary of the History of Millennialism" interesting.

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Day 29

A Morning Prayer

O almighty God, you have given gifts according to your own good pleasure, and all of us have received such talents as seemed best to you. Show us then, we pray, your great love and the wisdom which made the appointment, that we may glorify you by using them in your service. We are too apt to forget that we are but stewards of these gifts, that they are profitable to us only in their use and as they shall supply the needs of others. So we ask that you would open our hearts to be ready and glad to give, laying up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, doing our duty with kindly affection in that state of life in which it has pleased you to place us. And then we will not be cast out as unfaithful stewards who abused our privilege, but we will be rewarded as faithful servants of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Unjust Steward
by
Richard W. Church

"And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." (St. Luke 16: 8)

"The children of this world:" that is, the people who plainly and entirely live for this world alone and do not care, or profess to care, for anything beyond it. "The children of light:" that is, those whom God's grace and calling has enlightened and drawn to the light of goodness and truth, whose hearts and consciences feel and acknowledge what is right and lovely and of good report, and who in various measures try to follow it--wish to be on the right side and in God's favor, [and] hope in the end to attain by His mercy to the light of His countenance and the blessedness of His kingdom. And the lesson which our Lord means to teach by the remarkable story of the unjust steward (the dishonest servant who did his evil work thoroughly, and, having begun by cheating his master and not being willing to repent and do better, did not stop half-way but carried out his cheating to the last and made the most of it as a provision against the evil day)--the lesson, for the sake of which our Lord is not afraid to represent the master as praising the unjust steward because he had done wisely, is this: that the men of this world, in the sense which they show and in the thoroughness and consistency with which they live for the world, outstrip and put to shame the men with consciences.

That was the general sight when our Lord was among us. It was never different before He came and has never been different since. The world is served more perfectly, more wisely, more successfully than God [is served]. Men think, and look forward, and take trouble, and even suffer for the world in a way in which they will not think and act and suffer for the sake of the world to come. The children of this world do their work with a whole heart; the children of light do theirs with only half a heart.

"In their generation." With a view to the object for which they choose to live and work, "the children of this world are wiser than the children of light." They are wiser, more prudent and sensible in what they do because they are more in earnest in what they want, and use the proper means to gain it. If the unjust steward wants still to enjoy himself and to have friends to receive him into their houses, he knows that he must think beforehand of the most likely way to gain his end; and when he has thought of the means, he must use them. He knows that he will never reach what he wants by dreaming about it, or wishing it, or talking about it, or beginning and then drawing back. Yet this is the way in which "the children of light" seem to think that they may gain their ends, may fulfill the will of God and please Him in their lives.

There are two points worth noticing in that wisdom of the unjust steward for which his master commended him. One is, that the unjust steward had the sense to look forward. The evil day, he knew, must come--the day when, unless he had something wherewith to meet it, things would go hardly with him. He knew it was no good shutting his eyes and wishing and hoping that it would not come. He did not try weakly and foolishly to escape from what cannot be escaped from. But he knew that he had certain means of preparing for it. He had time still; he had that knowledge of the business of his master's debtors and their affairs that gave him the opportunity of doing something for himself before the evil day came. We are not talking, as the parable does not talk, of the right and wrong of what he did. The point is, that there were certain things to be done and he did them.

In the next place, he went through with what he had begun. Wicked and unscrupulous at first, he was wicked and unscrupulous to the end. A less bad man might have seen his fault and repented of it, and taken the consequences--ruin and beggary--as the just punishment of it. A weaker man would have been frightened, and faltered, and hesitated, and have been afraid to go on in the bold bad path he had entered on. But the unjust steward saw that to save himself at all he must act boldly. Nothing could be gained by being a coward and shrinking from using the opportunity which lay open to him. He had had no scruples about cheating his master before, and he had no difficulty about it now. He was consistent. He would not lose the fruit of his past life by giving way to discouragement or shrinking from the courses which he had followed.

So does wickedness. In the resolute earnestness with which it follows its bad ends, in the trouble it takes about them, in the risks that it is willing to venture for them, in the forethought and patience with which it compasses them, [and] in the thorough and complete mind with which it sticks to them, it rebukes and shames the coldness, the half-heartedness, the cowardice with which most of us serve our Master and follow religion and goodness.

What goes on in the world, what succeeds in the world is a rebuke and condemnation to the "children of light." Take the two points which I mentioned in the case of the unjust steward--his looking forward to the day of trial and difficulty, and his steady, unflinching, thorough carrying out of the unscrupulous manner of life which he had chosen. Compare that with the way in which we so often act as regards the claims of God and the next world, as regards our duty and the principles which we profess. As to looking forward, how little does that come into the common ordering of our lives. We know that we have to be prepared. It is the very thing for which we believe that we are on earth. We have to be prepared for trials and temptations which may meet us--sickness, pain, losses; the breaking up of all that makes life happy. We have to be prepared for occasions which may try our principles, whether they are sound or only fair on the outside; our honesty, our tempers, our unselfishness. We have to be prepared for the judgment-seat of God.

Are such things to be met without preparation? Can we really expect that without looking forward, without taking any trouble to be ready when they come, they will cause us no difficulty, they will all come straight of themselves? Can we really think that these things can be safely left to take their chance, to find us as they may? Can we really think that it is safe to let our tempers, our thoughts, our tongues run riot now, and that in the day of temptation we shall be able to keep them in order without difficulty? What trouble do we commonly take by examining ourselves, by finding out what is amiss in us, by passing sentence in our own consciences, on our own evil and perverse ways, to condemn beforehand what God must condemn, to meet His judgment with that deep sense of all that has to be pardoned in us?

And so with the other point. We are not thorough. We have only half a heart in our wish to do right. Else why is it that when we know the sins and temptations which beset us we take so little trouble to escape from them and conquer them? Our conscience makes us see and wish for what is right. We follow it to a certain point. We follow it while it gives us no trouble. Nay, we follow it up to a certain point in spite of difficulties. We follow and keep to it for a certain time, in spite of attempts to lead us wrong. And then, just when we have half gained our victory we give way, we let ourselves be shaken, we slip back again into the mire from which our steps were all but delivered; and all our endeavors, all our progress, all our good resolutions are wasted and thrown away.

The unjust steward ended as he began. He began by cheating and carried his bad ways through. And so he gained what he cheated for--an idle living. We begin well and spoil it all by stopping short, by slackness, by lack of faith, by lack of serious belief that we have to live and work in earnest for God and in the ways of goodness, as much as people work in earnest for the world and its rewards. He went through and faltered not. We do things by halves.

Remember, our Master has warned us. Do not let us think that [just] because we may hope that by His mercy we have been made "children of light" we are freed from that care and trouble which we all see to be so necessary in the world. The world and all that goes on in it--its great movements, its wonderful schemes, its astonishing successes, its endless labors--all witness against us, that with such heavenly and lasting hopes we are so far below those who serve only the world in earnestness and seriousness and consistency.

Village Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For three additional expositions of this parable see [1] Matthew Henry, [2] Matthew Poole, and [3] Richard Trench.

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Day 30

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, you have made the heavens, and throughout their vast expanse your law is observed in unfailing regularity and order. The starry host above rejoice to do your bidding, shining in splendor upon man as your blessing. Yet man looks up and refuses to acknowledge you. He will not see you in your own creation, because his heart is corrupt and set upon vanity. The things of the world only are what pleases him. He sets his treasure-house here on earth, storing up the wealth which, alas, shall one day be his no more. Even the simple breeze that moves through the air whispers of you, bringing health to the cheek and fresh beauty to the earth. The trees and herbs rejoice in your sunshine, bringing forth fruit in due season. Oh, be merciful to us, we pray, and give us new hearts, that we might set our affections on things above. And may we especially consecrate ourselves to the Lord Jesus, who, by coming to earth and laying aside his glory, condescended to live and die among men, purchasing by his merits salvation for us. Grant this, we pray, in his dear name. Amen.


God's Glory
by
Charles Spurgeon

"The heavens declare the glory of God."
Psalm 19:1

The book of nature has three leaves: heaven, earth, and sea. Heaven is the first and the most glorious, and by its aid we are able to see the beauties of the other two. Any book without its first page would be sadly imperfect; especially the great Natural Bible, since its first pages--the sun, moon, and stars--supply light to the rest of the volume and are thus the keys without which the writing which follows would be dark and undiscernible. Man walking erect was evidently made to scan the skies, and he who begins to read creation by studying the stars begins the book at the right place.

The "heavens" are plural for their variety, comprising the watery heavens with their clouds of countless forms, the aerial heavens with their calms and tempests, the solar heavens with all the glories of the day, and the starry heavens with all the marvels of the night. What the Heaven of heavens must be has not entered into the heart of man. Any part of creation has more instruction in it than human mind will ever exhaust, but the celestial realm is peculiarly rich in spiritual lore. The heavens declare, or are declaring, for the continuance of their testimony is intended by the participles employed. Every moment God's existence, power, wisdom, and goodness are being sounded abroad by the heavenly heralds which shine upon us from above. He who would guess at divine sublimity should gaze upward into the starry vault. He who would imagine infinity must peer into the boundless expanse. He who desires to see divine wisdom should consider the balancing of the orbs. He who would know divine fidelity must mark the regularity of the planetary motions. And he who would attain some conceptions of divine power, greatness, and majesty must estimate the forces of attraction, the magnitude of the fixed stars, and the brightness of the whole celestial train. It is not merely glory that the heavens declare, but the "glory of God," for they deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unpredjudiced person can remain unconvinced by them. The testimony given by the heavens is no mere hint, but a plain unmistakable declaration, and it is a declaration of the most constant and abiding kind. Yet for all this, to what avail is the loudest declaration to a deaf man, or the clearest showing to one spiritually blind? God the Holy Ghost must illuminate us, or all the suns in the milky way never will.

"The firmament shows his handiwork." The expanse is full of the works of the Lord's skillful, creating hands ("hands" being attributed to the great creating Spirit to set forth his care and workmanlike action, and to meet the poor comprehension of mortals). It is humbling to find that even when the most devout and elevated minds are desirous to express their loftiest thoughts of God, they must use words and metaphors drawn from the earth. We are children and must each confess, "I think as a child, I speak as a child." In the expanse above us God flies, as it were, his starry flag to show that the King is at home, and hangs out his escutcheon that atheists may see how he despises their denunciations of him. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar.

"There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." Every man may hear the voices of the stars. Many are the languages of terrestrials, but to celestials there is but one, and that one may be understood by every willing mind. The lowest heathens are without excuse if they do not discover the invisible things of God in the works which he has made. Sun, moon, and stars are God's traveling preachers; they are apostles upon their journey confirming those who regard the Lord, and judges on circuit condemning those who worship idols.

Treasury of David

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Ken's short article, "Who Is the King of Glory?"

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Day 31

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, it is a fearful thing to fall into your hands, for you are a living God. It is a fearful thing to arouse your anger, for you are a jealous God. If your wrath be kindled, yea but a little, how can sinful man abide it? He cannot hide himself from your presence, for wherever he is your eye sees him. He cannot hide his secret thoughts from you, for you already know them. Make him to understand this truth and teach him to set a guard upon his lips, lest a thought of which he will be ashamed becomes known. Though it may for a time be hid from his fellow man, the time will come when he shall appear at the judgment seat of Christ. There all the secrets of his sinful heart shall be revealed and stand as an accusing witness against him. Oh spare him, we plead, and open his eyes before it is too late! Rouse him from his sleep of death before Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, returns in power and great glory. We ask in Christ's name. Amen.


The Urgency of Today
by
Joseph Washburn

"Today, if ye will hear His voice,
harden not your hearts."
Hebrews 3:15

Time is the gift of God, and the man of true wisdom will improve the present by securing an interest in Christ and laying a foundation for a happy future. The salvation of the gospel is of such infinite importance, and delays respecting it are so dangerous, that no possible excuse can justify the sinner in neglecting it a single moment.

By the voice of Christ salvation is now offered to sinners, and for this reason they ought immediately to accept it. If this be not the case, if sinners are not obligated to accept Christ--to repent and believe immediately--but may put it off to the next moment or hour in order to prepare themselves (as some suppose they may and must), then it follows that were they to be cut off by death in the present hour or moment and be summoned to the bar of God, they might there plead "not guilty" for the neglect of salvation; and their plea would be admitted by the Judge of the quick and dead, for God is a reasonable being and cannot condemn the innocent.

But it is far otherwise. Were every sinner who has up till now neglected the offers of the gospel be immediately cut off, he would be wholly without excuse and speechless before God. We are nowhere informed that we may love the Lord Jesus Christ and accept of his gracious proposals tomorrow and not today. "But today, if ye will hear His voice"; "Behold now is the accepted time." It is therefore a plain, incontestable truth, that if sinners can ever be under obligation to accept salvation, they are to do so immediately without the least delay.

It seems too plain a case to need an illustration. The most inattentive sinner would be fully convinced that the criminal at the bar of justice ought to accept pardon from his judge as soon as it is offered, and instantly to return his most cordial thanks. To delay a moment would enhance his crime and greatly aggravate it. So too with an indulgent father, who had been long dishonored by a disobedient child. Were the father to offer forgiveness, the son would be under the strongest obligations to accept it immediately with humility and gratitude.

But what are such instances of offered pardon in comparison with God's saying to the sinner, "Come, for all things are ready?" He is infinitely above the best earthly rulers and parents. His salvation, therefore, ought to be immediately accepted because it is now offered. The nature of the present offer makes it a present duty to accept it.

Consider also that Christ's salvation is infinitely more excellent than anything which can engage our present affections. Nothing can compare with the salvation of the gospel. It is superlatively excellent. It therefore not only demands our attention and affections at some future period, but our supreme love and delight immediately. Hence Christ tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This is the pearl of great price. If any pearl could be found more valuable and precious than the gospel, then sinners would be wise in neglecting salvation to secure it; for it is a dictate of reason that the most excellent things are to be preferred to all others.

But what is there that can compare in excellence to the love of the gospel? When we think of the length, breadth, depth, and height of the love of Christ, other things have no glory. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him."

I speak now to ministers of the gospel. Sinners are dying men and ought to be addressed as dying men, as those whose probation may end the next moment. We must therefore direct them to repent immediately; and if they refuse, we must direct them again to repent immediately, and continue to do so as long as we have any opportunity to give directions. To tell sinners in one breath that it is their immediate duty to seek first the kingdom of God, and in the next to direct them to something else because they have no disposition to do this, is inconsistent and dangerous. It plainly supposes that sinners are excusable for not repenting and accepting salvation so long as they have no disposition to do it. The gospel, however, makes no allowance for opposition of heart. The call of it is, "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts"; "Come, for all things are now ready."

Allow me to conclude by repeating and pressing the exhortation upon all who hear the voice of Christ, to immediately comply with his gracious offer. Delays are infinitely hazardous; you do not know what a day may bring forth. Life and death are set before you. Therefore choose life, choose the Saviour, for whoever believes in Him shall live forever.

Sermons on Practical Subjects (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read also "Sinners Entreated to Hear God's Voice" by Edward Payson.

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