Daily Devotions from the Classics

A Monthly Reading of Insights from Renowned Christians

November

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Day 1

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, merciful and gracious, give us grace to receive every trial you send as an act of mercy and proof of love. Remove all discontent, murmuring, and complaining when the things of time do not please us. Rather let our disappointments lead us to a more close examination of ourselves, to see wherein we have needed chastisement or required correction. Endue us with power to bend under sorrows and afflictions, though they be keen. And if your hand spares and affliction comes not near, then save us from the great delusion that we are more favored of heaven than others; for we must confess that we err and go astray continually. Let our prayer then be that you would visit us here on earth with affliction that you may lead us joyfully to the world to come where everlasting life will be our portion. Yes, Lord, correct us; but let your judgment be tempered with mercy, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


The Furnace of Affliction
by
George Whitefield

"Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver;
I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction."
Isaiah 48:10

What can be the meaning of these words? Why, it is very plain that the import of them must be this: I have chosen you, and it is my determination that the way to heaven should be through the road of affliction. This is the believer's way, especially the ministers of Christ. When Paul was converted, what preferment did God promise him? Was it to be a great dignitary in the church? Was it to wear a triple crown? Says God, "I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Ministers that hold the banner up must expect the enemy to fire on them from every quarter. And if they happen to be instrumental in comforting others "with the same comforts wherewith they themselves are comforted of God," they must expect to bear their part of affliction, not only for their own purification but for the benefit of those to whom they minister. And I believe audiences find that ministers minister best, and the bread comes best, when it comes out of the furnace of a minister's affliction.

The word affliction is of a very complex kind. It is like the word tribulation, which comes from the Latin tribulus, signifying a pricking thorn, a scratching briar, or wounding spikes concealed in the way. And the word affliction arises from a word that signifies something that beats down, presses sore, and is very grievous and tormenting. It is a word of so general import that it takes in all the troubles we meet with from men, all the wounds we receive from enemies as well as friends. It takes in all our domestic trials, all our inward struggles and dreadful temptations occasioned by the fiery darts of a watchful devil. And if I am not mistaken, when the great God said, "I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction," it implies that this is really to continue with us even to the very end of our days.

This is what young converts do not wholly see. For if they were to know all they have to suffer, it would dreadfully discourage them. It is our happiness that God seldom lets us know our trials beforehand. But when one trial is over, God teaches us another. Hence our trials are not only new but constant. This may perhaps open to us a gloomy scene; and it would be gloomy indeed if we were not living in a state of preparation. It would be gloomy indeed if God were to afflict without a cause. But God sends affliction that we might grow in grace. He knows that without these means we would be set back in our Christian life despite all the comforts he bestows, for sin still dwells within us. We find that if we live without exercise, our bodies are liable to have a variety of diseases. Therefore we submit to the remedies a physician prescribes. And if the disorders in our bodies make us willing to submit to a prescribed regimen, does it not follow by the same sound reasoning that we need something to remedy the sin that cleaves to us?

God does not intend to destroy you, but to refine and humble you by affliction. The devil wants to sift you as wheat, letting the good grain itself go through the sieve. But Christ will only let the chaff fall through, and the sooner that is gone the better. Therefore, if any of us have a mind to set out for heaven, expect trouble. "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me."

Sermons on Important Subjects

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Be sure to read "Counting the Cost," by Charles Spurgeon. Read James Richards' helpful sermon, "God's Thoughts and Ways Above Ours." And we all will benefit from "A Prayer" by Thomas Chalmers, written when affliction brought him close to death.

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Day 2

A Morning Prayer

O eternal God, who would have all men come to you for that salvation which they cannot secure by their own strength or merits, we ask that in mercy you would look upon the whole race of mankind and break down all that hinders them from a right and ready reception of the truth as it is in Jesus. Subdue all false notions of human power and perfection, for to be clothed with one's own righteousness is to be clothed with filthy rags. We pray that you would shed abroad in the hearts of all who profess Christ the love that he exhibited, that we may become instruments of good to our fellowmen. Turn our eyes to the Savior's life, that we may remember our need to be about the Father's business, rejoicing in a work so holy and a calling so high. Hear now our petitions and answer speedily, that we may live up to our profession as the called and pledged servants of a holy God, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


God Justifies the Ungodly
by
Charles Spurgeon

"To him that works not but believes on him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is counted for righteousness."
Romans 4:5

This message is for you. Are you not surprised that there should be such an expression as this in the Bible, who justifies the ungodly? Those men who hate the doctrines of the cross bring it as a charge against God that He saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. But see how this Scripture accepts the charge, and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, God takes to Himself the title of "Him who justifies the ungodly." He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good and that God's grace was for the pure and holy who are free from sin. It has entered your mind that if you were excellent then God would reward you. You have thought that because you are not worthy there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this, "who justifies the ungodly." We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold that there must be something in us to win the notice of God. But God, who sees through all deception, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. "There is none righteous, no not one."

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Now, while this is very surprising, I want you to notice how it makes the gospel available to you and me. If God justifies the ungodly, then, dear friend, He can justify you, for are you not that very kind of person? If you are unconverted at this moment, it is a very proper description of you. You have lived without God, you have been the reverse of godly. In one word, you have been and are ungodly. Perhaps you have not even attended a place of worship on Sunday but have lived in disregard of God's day, house, and Word. This proves you to have been ungodly. Sadder still, it may be that you have even tried to doubt God's existence, and have gone so far as to say that you did. You have lived on this fair earth, which is full of the tokens of God's presence, and all the while you have shut your eyes to the clear evidences of His power and Godhead. Possibly you have lived a great many years this way, so that you are now pretty well settled in your ways. If you were labeled ungodly, it would describe you in the same way as the sea is labeled salt water, would it not?

Possibly you are a person of another sort. You have regularly attended to all the outward forms of religion, but you have had no heart in them. Though meeting with the people of God, you have never met with God himself. You have been in the choir and yet not praised the Lord with your heart. You have lived without any love to God in your heart or regard to his commands. Well, you are just the kind of man to whom this gospel is sent--this gospel which says that God justifies the ungodly. It is happily available for you. It suits you perfectly, does it not? How I wish that you would accept it! If you are a sensible man, you will see the remarkable grace of God in providing for such men as you, and you will say to yourself, "Why then should I not be justified, and justified at once?"

If there is a physician who has discovered a sure and precious remedy, to whom is that physician sent? To those who are perfectly healthy? I think not. Put him down in a district where there are no sick persons and he feels that he is not in his place. There is nothing for him to do. "The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick." Is it not equally clear that the great remedies of grace and redemption are for the sick in soul? If you, dear friend, feel that you are spiritually sick, know that the Physician has come into the world for you. Jesus seeks and saves those who are lost.

Do not attempt to touch yourself up and make yourself something other than you really are, but come as you are to Him who justifies the ungodly. The gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation but come at once for salvation. God justifies the ungodly, and that means you as you now are; it meets you in your worst estate. Come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are: leprous, filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing upon you like a horrible nightmare. Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one. Why should He not? Come, for this great mercy of God is meant for such as you are.

I put it in the language of the text, and I cannot put it more strongly. The Lord God Himself takes to Himself this gracious title, "Him who justifies the ungodly." Those who by nature are ungodly He makes just and causes to be treated as just. Is not this a wonderful word for you?

All of Grace

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read William Nevin's sermon on Micah 7:18, "Who is a God like unto thee, who pardons iniquity?" You will also find "The Plan of Salvation" by Pastor Elifson, and "Am I Going to Heaven?" by Ken, very helpful. And for more about the book of Romans, Robert Haldane has a very helpful introduction.

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Day 3

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, you are a most merciful God, not willing that any should perish but that all might come to repentance. Show yourself to us in this rich attribute, and enable us to apprehend its fulness by revealing the fearful depravity of our own hearts, the total alienation to you we possess by nature, and our rejection of your rightful sovereignty. Then open our eyes to the sacrifice made for our redemption, that of your only and beloved Son. Draw us by your Holy Spirit to come to Jesus for salvation, for we cannot come by our own strength; in that we are utterly helpless. Draw us now, and the merits of Jesus, our great Redeemer, shall plead for us. Amen.


Man's Native Enmity to God
by
John Smalley

"The carnal mind is enmity against God."
Romans 8:7

The enmity of the mind of man against God is manifest from what we read and see of the unbelief of mankind. David says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" By the fool is commonly meant in Scripture a sinner in contradistinction to a saint, or, in the language of the New Testament, the natural man. That this is what David means in this text is plain from what immediately follows: "They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good." He is plainly giving the character of all mankind by nature.

The enmity of the human heart against the Supreme Being is exceedingly evident from the so early and universal prevalence of the most stupid and abominable idolatry in this fallen world. The apostle proves the extreme ungodliness of the heathen Gentiles in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." Paul imputes this not to a lack of the necessary means of coming to the knowledge of the truth, but to their holding the truth in unrighteousness, to their not being disposed to glorify God when they knew him, and to their not liking to retain God in their knowledge.

No other probable explanation can be given for the so universal prevalence of the worship of false gods, and such strange ones as were worshiped in all parts of the world. Certainly had mankind been of a disposition to delight themselves in the Almighty, they would never have made them such gods as birds and beasts and the lowest reptiles; nor such as Bacchus and Venus, Belial and Moloch, or even as Jupiter and Juno--gods and goddesses, the patrons and patronesses of lewdness, drunkenness, envy, revenge, and every human or diabolical vice. By the gods that men believe in and worship, it is seen what gods they wish to have. We need not wonder, therefore, that the heathen idolaters are said to have been without excuse, or that their alienation from the life of God is resolved into the blindness of the heart.

That the carnal mind is still enmity against God appears evident from the strange delight in profaneness, so natural to mankind. The psalmist, complaining to God of the profligate workers of iniquity, says, "They speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain." And well may those be called the enemies of God who do this, or who take pleasure in them that do it. When our neighbors speak lightly of us, when they use our name as a proverb and a byword, when they make a mock of our serious instructions, counsels and admonitions, how do we take it? Certainly not as a mark of their esteem and friendship but of their hatred and contempt.

But how common a thing is it among mankind to treat the name, word, and ways of God in this contemptuous manner! How natural is it for the sons of men to be profane, to turn the sacred Scriptures into ridicule, to curse and swear, and take the name of God in vain! It is so natural to them that nothing is more difficult than to keep little children from learning such language when they hear it, or to break them of the habit when once they have learned it. The pleasure taken in profane discourse must proceed from a personal enmity against God and religion. Were it not for this enmity, such horrid profanation of sacred things could afford no delight or entertainment to any mortal, but would instead be most certainly offensive and disgusting to them.

The enmity of the natural mind of man against the very being of God is evident from the aversion revealed to his absolute purposes and decrees, and to the gospel doctrines of grace: "Being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will"; "Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens"; "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?" These are hard sayings; who can hear them?

The moment these texts and others like them are named as subjects of discourse, they give disgust to many in most congregations. Nor will this disgust be removed unless the true sense of the texts be twisted, explained away, or flatly contradicted. It does no good to show the reasonableness of them and to guard against false inferences from them of a dangerous tendency. The objections still remain. The reins of God's sovereignty must be given up to everyone's own self-determining power, or the mind of man will not be satisfied. God must have no decrees, no sovereignty, no government of the moral world, or the haughtiness of man will be offended.

Some may be afraid, perhaps, that the preaching of such doctrines will make men think they are not free agents, or will encourage them in carelessness and sin. It is true that these doctrines may be perverted and abused to evil purposes; and so may every other doctrine of the gospel and everything else that is good. But, in general, the danger of this is not the root of the objection. If it were, why is there not as much opposition to other divine truths which are not more clearly revealed?

Whatever may be the ostensible reason, the real objection is that men do not like that God should govern the world. They are not willing that His counsel should stand, or that His pleasure should be done. They would have Him have no purpose which cannot be frustrated, or which is not perpetually liable to be altered by every caprice of his giddy creatures. They would have Him determine nothing without consulting them, and knowing first what is their will and pleasure. In short, man would be God, or he would have no God.

Sermons on a Number of Connected Subjects

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will find the following extremely helpful: "Practical Excursus on the Potter and the Clay" by James Morison; "Three Difficulties of Arminianism" by George Hill; "The Destruction of the Canaanites" by William Paley; and "The Distinction between Natural and Moral Inability" by Joseph Stibbs Christmas. Also, please find time to read Payson's sermon, "Sinners Entreated to Hear God's Voice."

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Day 4

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, our Governor and King, look with mercy upon this nation and the people for whom you have done such great things. We are a sinful people who walk as if we were gods and you were not. Our elected representatives rule in the fear of men more than they do of you, and your name is a mere object of scorn among us. We make a mockery of sin, iniquity is our pleasure. Christianity may be our profession, but idolatry is our practice. Piety is almost an unknown thing. Turn us, good Lord, and stir up our cold spirits to a holy glow. Then will virtue grow and abound and your name be magnified among us for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


Lukewarm Christians
by
Samuel Davies

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Revelation 3:15,16)

Nothing can be so important to us as God's favor, and nothing so terrible as his displeasure. If he be our Maker, Benefactor, and Judge, then it must be our greatest concern to serve him with all our might. If Jesus Christ is such a Saviour as our religion represents and we profess to believe, then he demands our warmest love and most lively service. If eternity, heaven and hell, and the final judgment are awful realities, then the most weighty concerns of the present life are but trifles in comparison. If prayer is our duty, then certainly it requires vigor of soul.

Consider who and what God is. He is the original uncreated beauty, the sum total of all natural and moral perfections, the origin of all the excellencies that are scattered throughout this glorious universe. He sustains the most majestic and endearing relations to us, our Father, our Preserver and Benefactor, our Lawgiver and our Judge. And is such a Being to be put off with heartless, lukewarm service? What can be more impious than to dishonor this supreme excellency with a languid esteem; to trifle in the presence of the most venerable Majesty; to treat the best of Beings with indifference; to return such a Benefactor only insipid expressions of gratitude; to be dull and spiritless in obedience; and to be indifferent about the favor or displeasure of such a Judge! Let heaven and earth attest if this is not the most shocking conduct imaginable. It is astonishing that God should bear with such treatment so long.

Are there not some lukewarm Laodiceans here? Jesus knows your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; and it is fit that you also should know them. Are your hearts habitually indifferent toward God? You may have a theoretical esteem or a good opinion of him, but are your souls alive toward him? Do they burn with his love? Are you fervent in spirit when you are serving him? Do you consider lukewarmness a suitable return for that love which brought Christ down from his native paradise into our wretched world, kept his mind for thirty-three painful and tedious years intent upon the salvation of sinners, rendered him cheerfully patient of the shame, curse, and tortures of crucifixion? Is it a suitable return for that love which makes him the sinner’s friend still in the courts of heaven, where he is our prevailing Advocate and Intercessor?

My fellow-sinners, you who are the objects of all this love, can you put him off with languid devotions and faint services? If so, then every grateful and generous passion is extinct in your souls. Was Christ indifferent about your salvation? Was his love lukewarm toward you? No. Your salvation was the object of his most intense prayers night and day, and it lay nearest his heart in the agonies of death. His love! What language can describe its strength and ardor? Never was a father more anxious to rescue an only son from the hands of a murderer, or to pluck him out of the fire, than Jesus was to save perishing sinners. You expect everlasting happiness from him, purchased at the expense of his own blood. And can you hope for such an immense blessing without feeling yourselves most sensibly obliged to him? Can you be content to do nothing for him or hurry through his service with lukewarmness and languor? Can anything be more absurd or impious than this? If this be your habitual temper, then you may expect him to reject you with the most nauseating disgust and abhorrence.

View a lukewarm professor in prayer. He prays to an omniscient God with bended knee. Yet in addressing the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth he hardly recollects in whose presence he is, pouring out empty words into the air. He is a needy, famishing beggar, pleading for such immense blessings as everlasting salvation and the joys of heaven, yet prays as if he did not care whether his requests were granted or not. He is an obnoxious offender confessing his sins with a heart untouched with sorrow, worshiping the living God with a dead heart, making great requests which are forgotten as soon as he rises from his knees. Can there be a more shocking, impious, and daring conduct than this? For a criminal to catch flies or play with a feather when pleading with his judge for his pardon would be but a faint shadow of such religious trifling.

Consider now the Word of God. You believe it to be divine, the standard of your religion, and the most excellent book in the world. It is God's letter to you. How impious and provoking, then, must it be to neglect it as an antiquated, useless book. How impious must it be to read it in a careless, superficial manner and hear it with an inattentive, wandering mind? How would you like it if when you spoke to your servant about his own interest he should turn away and ignore you? Would you like it if you wrote a letter to your son and he did not carefully read it or labor to understand it? But do not some of you treat the sacred oracles in this manner? One would think you would be all attention and would reverence every word, drink it in, feel its energy, and acquire the character of that happy man to whom the God of heaven condescends to look upon.

Consider how full of energy, fire, and hurry men are in other pursuits. What labor and toil, schemes and contrivances, solicitude about success and fears of disappointment! Hands, heads, hearts, all busy. And all to procure enjoyments which at best cannot be long retained, and which may be torn from them the next hour. What hardships are undergone, dangers confronted to acquire a name or obtain riches and honors! On sea and land, at home and abroad you will find men eagerly pursuing some temporal good. Here men act like themselves, showing they are alive and endowed with powers of great activity. And shall they be zealous and laborious in the pursuit of earthly vanities but quite indifferent and sluggish in the infinitely more important concerns of eternity, solicitous about a mortal body but careless about an immortal soul?

If you are possessed with this Laodicean spirit, I beseech you, indulge it no longer. It mars all your religion and will end in your eternal ruin. Let the best of us lament our lukewarmness and earnestly seek more fervor of spirit. You know where to apply. Christ is your life, so cry to him for the communication of it. “Lord Jesus! A little more life, a little more vital heat to this languishing soul, I pray.”

Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 1

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here are two important sermons: "The Portion of the Men of the World and the Hope of the Godly" by Joseph Milner, and "The Grace of God Not in Vain" by Theodor Zahn. An interesting companion piece is John Rachoy's article, "A Note on Demas." Was he saved, lost, or was he a lukewarm Christian?

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Day 5

A Morning Prayer

O mighty God, arise and help us, for we come through the merits of our great Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the spirit of man is set to do evil continually, and we lose ourselves in strife and contention even while we profess to love peace. We do not live together as we ought, because we will not walk by the Spirit. We refuse to obey the Holy Spirit's motions and therefore fall into temptation and sin, even when we have called for his aid. We refuse your counsels for godly living, even when we have asked for wisdom to help and deliver us. Oh, pardon our perverseness and inconsistency, our rebellion and sin, our weakness and folly. Enable us to see the utter sinfulness of sin and stand our watch so as not to dally with it. Let today witness better things of us, we plead, and grant that our future lives will be spent in accordance with the holy example of Jesus, who was obedient in all things. Amen.


The Danger of Strife
by
Ralph Wardlaw

"It is an honor for a man to cease from strife; but every fool will be meddling."
Proverbs 20:3

It is best to avoid strife altogether. But supposing it has already begun, is it an honor still to cease from it? Solomon says it is. This is not the world's view of the matter, not the view of human nature as it exists and operates. Quite the contrary. When we have started a controversy (however trivial the matter may be), how fond we naturally are to have the last word! To let our adversary have it is the keenest mortification. When he persists in his view, we persist in ours. We feel as if the victory depended on who should say it last! We get impatient, our voice rises, our face flushes, our eyes kindle, our utterance is choked with passion. Or, knowing the temper of our opponent, we keep ourselves provokingly calm, and by our very cool and scornful calmness we stir up with secret delight all his hasty passions, all the fuel of his fiery spirit.

If a man of the world's honor has sent a challenge, he is bound to stand to the very last upon every punctilio which the law of that honor has fixed, and to fight it out until the honor of the last shot is determined by the fall of his adversary or himself. The man of a litigious spirit, having once begun his suit, feels himself bound in honor (but not the honor of high principle towards another but a jealous and proud determination to maintain his own) to prosecute to the utmost, to go from the lowest court up to the highest, never resting short of the last appeal. No matter what the value of the litigated object may be--even that of a mere trifle!--he must risk all that he is worth rather than give in, be ruined rather than yield; because to yield is dishonor, so his pride and folly think.

How different, how opposite are the principles and maxims of the Bible: "It is honorable for a man to stop striving." This is simply stating what every man of calm thinking and sound judgment must own: (1) that it is "an honor" for a man to have the command of his own passions; (2) that it is "an honor" for a man not to tamper selfishly and recklessly with the passions of others; (3) that it is "an honor" for a man to keep his ear candidly open to reason, and when convinced by reason, to yield to truth; (4) that it is "an honor" for a man not only to shun quarrels, but when he has unhappily fallen into one, to look at the cause of it with fairness, admitting the equity of every equitable claim and the reasonableness of every reasonable explanation; and when an opponent reveals an indomitable spirit of stubbornness, passion, and pride with which there is obviously no dealing and no hope of bringing to anything like calm and fair settlement, to quietly leave him to himself rather than make matters worse by imitating his spirit; (5) that it is "an honor" for a man never to go unjustly or even needlessly to law with others; but when obliged to do so, never to persist further than is necessary to ascertain with clearness what the law of the case is; not to persist in reckless and resentful pride but instead to be the last to begin and the first to give up.

But "any fool can start a quarrel." These are pithy words. They afford another example of the identity of human nature in Solomon's day and in our own. How many such fools there are still! Such a fool either seeks to provoke a quarrel with himself or to excite and foment one between others. How many prying and officious fools there are who incessantly peer into matters not their own, forcing in their sage advice where it is not wanted, provoking people to say, "What business is it of yours?" And these same fools will also step into quarrels between others, stimulating passions on both sides, inflaming pride and resentment, and thereby confirming their alienation. The whole matter might have been settled had it not been for his interference.

Oh, how much have such intermeddling fools to answer for! They may call themselves friends, but they are the enemies of both parties, the enemies of mankind, and their own enemies to boot.

Lectures on the Book of Proverbs

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For more on self-control, read "Temperance" by Joseph Thompson. For more on the book of Proverbs, we have many entries by both Ralph Wardlaw and Charles Bridges. And let us beware of "The Growth and Power of Sin."

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Day 6

A Morning Prayer

O gracious God, we beseech you to illumine the hearts and minds of lost sinners to know the truth of your word. They cannot learn it on their own, nor can the world teach it to them, for it comes from heaven. Such truth is spiritually discerned. Therefore we will praise your name because the poor laborer can know it as fully as the leader of the most powerful nation, and there is none so weak that he cannot receive it and none so poor that he cannot procure it. Who shall despair when there is hope for all? Show them now the glorious truth, that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Set forth this truth with convicting grace, that they might come to the foot of the cross and trust in his atonement for their salvation. And let us, your disciples, spread this good news far and wide, that each day may witness the conversion of many. Make us an instrument in so glorious a work, we pray, granting it for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


The Person of Christ--Death, Resurrection, Ascension
by
Ralph Earle

"And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice,
and yielded up His spirit."
Matthew 27:50

It was the world's blackest hour. It was the world's brightest hour. This is the paradox of the cross. It was the blackest hour because human hate came to its fiercest focus. It was the brightest hour because divine love came to its fullest flower. There, hate was seen in all its heinous horror. But there also love revealed the heart of God.

Calvary stands at the crossroads of human history. All the divine paths of the past led to it. All the divine paths of the present and future lead from it. At the cross, all the sin of the ages was placed on the heart of the sinless Son of God, as he became the racial representative of all humanity. From the cross, salvation flows to every believing soul. This is the Gospel, the greatest good news the world has ever heard.

The death of Jesus differed from that of every other man. He "dismissed his spirit." His was a completely voluntary decease: "No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself." Death was not forced upon him. He accepted it as the will of God for the salvation of man. What did Jesus' death mean for him? The answer is best suggested by his prayer in Gethsemane. There he cried out in agony of soul, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Then, he bowed his head in humble submission and said, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

What was this cup from which he prayed to be delivered? Carping critics have said that Jesus cringed with cowardly fear at the thought of death. But these critics are utterly ignorant of the true significance of that hour. Jesus was not afraid to die! It was his Father's face turned away from him in the awful hour, from which he shrank in anguish of spirit. Our substitute took the torturous trail of a lost soul, walking out into the serpentine depths of outer darkness. He tasted death for every man. That means more than physical death. He was paying the penalty for sin--not his, but ours. The penalty for sin is separation from God. This was the price that Jesus had to pay for our salvation. He who could say "I do always those things that please him," had to endure the displeasure of the one he delighted to serve.

In those few but fateful hours on the cross, Jesus tasted the unspeakable horror of eternal death. Olin Curtis has well expressed it thus: "And so, there alone, our Lord opens his mind, his heart, his personal consciousness to the whole inflow of the horror of sin--the endless history of it, from the first choice of selfishness on to the eternity of hell; the boundless ocean and desolation he allows, wave upon wave, to overwhelm his soul." This terrific cost reveals God's moral concern for sin. His holiness forbade him to treat it lightly. That he would forsake his Son shows the ethical intensity of the redemptive deed.

What does Jesus' death mean to us? First, it means that a guilty sinner has access to a holy God. This was symbolized by the fact that at Jesus' death the inner veil, which closed off the Holy of Holies, was torn in two. Second, it means the forgiveness of sins. The essential thing in forgiveness is the separation of the sinner from his sin. This required Calvary. Third, it involves the crucifixion of self. His crucifixion must become our crucifixion. What was potential and provisional at Calvary must become actual and experimental in our own lives.

Without the resurrection the crucifixion would have been in vain. Brunner asserts, "On the resurrection everything else depends." It was the resurrection that validated the atoning death of Jesus and gave it value. It proved that his sacrifice for sins had been accepted. The whole redemptive scheme would have fallen apart without it. For by his resurrection, Jesus Christ became the first fruits of a new race, a new humanity.

The resurrection holds a more prominent place in the New Testament as a whole than in modern preaching, even that of evangelicals. Alan Richardson asserts: "Every book in the New Testament declares or assumes that Christ rose from the dead." One striking feature of early apostolic preaching is the emphasis not only on Christ's rising from the dead, but on the fact that God raised him. The resurrection was a divine act. It is the keystone of the Christian faith. Without it we have no salvation from sin and no hope of our own resurrection.

Actual descriptions of the ascension are very limited in number and scope. Only two specific passages can be cited, both written by Luke. But as Floyd Filson notes, "...eleven New Testament books, by at least seven different writers, refer clearly to this Exaltation. It obviously was a constant feature of early Christian preaching and teaching."

It should be noted in this connection that the resurrection and ascension are very closely united in the apostolic kerygma [proclamation]. Together they constitute the exaltation of the crucified Christ. The significance of the ascension is clear. It means that Jesus Christ was exalted to the right hand of the Father, there to receive his proper place as Sovereign Lord. But it also suggests that he carried his humanity with him back to heaven. This idea is emphasized in Hebrews where it is stated that since he shared our human experiences, he is able to be a merciful and faithful High Priest.

The death, resurrection, ascension--these were epochal events in human history. But have they become epoch-making experiences in our individual lives? Do we know Christ in the forgiveness of our sins, in identification with him on the cross, in the crucifixion of self? Do we know him in the power of his resurrection? Have we accepted him as Sovereign Lord of our lives?

Basic Christian Doctrines (edited by Carl F. H. Henry)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Please read Robert Culver's short book of six chapters on Isaiah 53, "The Sufferings and the Glory of the Lord's Righteous Servant." You may also read "The Reality of the Resurrection" by Merrill Tenney.

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Day 7

A Morning Prayer

Almighty Father, be merciful to us and send your Holy Spirit upon us in his fulness and power. Let him anoint our hearts that we may read your word with profit and pray with importunity. We know your word is truth, but we are slow to believe it. We confess with our lips that Jesus is coming again soon, but we live as if there were no urgency in preparing for it. How often do days pass by without a single thought of your loving kindness and gracious providence on our behalf. May your Holy Spirit be to us as cloven tongues of fire, giving us a burning zeal to live for your glory. May his influence be visibly seen by our lives and actions, and may we ever rejoice in his holy comfort. We bring these petitions before your throne through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


God Cares for You
by
John Brown

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!"
Psalm 139:17

When the savages of Louisiana were going to murder LaSalle, he told them that such was his regard for them that he had them all in his heart. And would they murder a man who loved them so well? At the same time he laid a small mirror on his breast and asked them to look and see if it was not so. Upon observing their own image, it is said their barbarity melted into the most tender compassion and love, and they would not hurt him or suffer him to be hurt by others for all the world.

Now, my Christian brethren, Jesus bids you look into his heart and see yourselves there. "Behold," he says, "you were in my heart from eternity, when I undertook for you. You were in my heart on Calvary, when it was melted as wax because of the wrath due your sins. Look and see how you are in my heart even now, while I intercede for you in the presence of God the Father, and prepare a place for you."

Dear believer, does not your soul melt into tender affection for him? All his thoughts concerning you were thoughts of love. What shall you render to him for his kindness?

Select Remains of the Rev. John Brown

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

An excellent sermon is "The Sincerity of the Divine Compassion" by Horatius Bonar. Charles Mason also has a most encouraging sermon, "Present Duty." And be sure to read Ken's tract, "Am I Going to Heaven?" For more on the Psalms, see Charles Spurgeon.

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Day 8

A Morning Prayer

Gracious God, you are the sovereign ruler over all. We trust in you, for vain is the help of man. You open your hand and fill all things living with plenty. Your mercy is over all your works. Your goodness is shown in every place, and your faithfulness and truth are known to the sons of men. You give eternal life to all who come to you by faith, trusting in the blood of Jesus the Messiah to atone for their sins. Oh, who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity? Empower us to go forth bearing the precious gospel seed, and grant a bountiful harvest for your own glory. Hear us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Decrees, Election, Predestination
by
William Nevins

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Of all thoughts, the one most effective in humbling and overwhelming the soul with gratitude is the thought that before I was born--yea, from eternity!--God graciously appointed me to salvation, prepared a durable mansion for me, and erected a throne for me beside himself. When a father is bestowing upon his son some good thing, what is more common than for him to tell his son that it has long been his design to do it, that he has always intended to do it. Would not such a long continued purpose enhance the father's bountiful generosity?

God does not bless us on the spur of the moment or in consequence of any recent and sudden determination to do so. He blesses us in accordance with an everlasting intention. Nothing magnifies the grace of God more than his eternal purpose to exercise it, and nothing is better suited to promote humility and gratitude on the part of man. It fills our soul with wonder, love, and joy that we should have been in the thoughts of God from eternity.

Some say they do not believe the doctrines of election and predestination. Perhaps they do not mean exactly that, for if they believe the Scriptures, they must and do believe these doctrines. These people only mean that they do not believe certain explanations of those doctrines. But the doctrine itself is as clear a revelation as that of salvation by the death of Christ. Perhaps most men are really less opposed to the divine decrees than to the things decreed.

The doctrine of predestination is not fatalism. No denomination teaches the doctrine so as to discourage human efforts. Where it is rightly understood, it is in a superlative degree calculated to excite the mind and impel it to action. So far from rendering our efforts useless, it establishes the necessity of them and ensures their success. Such has always been the effect of the doctrine when rightly understood, and cheerfully and cordially embraced.

Select Remains of the Rev. William Nevins

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Be sure to read "Effectual Calling" by J. Norval Geldenhuys, and "Three Difficulties of Arminianism" by George Hill. You will also enjoy "The Best Personal Testimony to Calvinism is Given by an Arminian!" written by Ken, and "Who Is a Pardoning God Like Thee?" by William Nevins.

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Day 9

A Morning Prayer

O blessed Lord and Savior, Son of the living God, you indeed are God, and as God you were manifested in the flesh. We know that on the confession of this truth depends life eternal, and that its belief can exist only as the gift of the Holy Spirit. Enable us to say with holy confidence and unwavering faith, "You, O Lord, are our God forever and ever, holy and reverend is your name." For that great multitude who cannot confess this truth, set before them in its awful reality that great day which is coming, when every knee shall bow and every tongue be constrained to own you as Lord and God. Will they be among those who obeyed your bidding and thus remain among the glorious company of the redeemed, or will they be among the hard-hearted who refused to have you reign over them and therefore must depart as accursed into perdition? Open their ears, O Holy Spirit, and draw them to yourself, O Mighty Father, for we ask in the name of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


Christian Essentials
by
Thomas Witherow

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

It is very common for professing Christians to draw a distinction between essentials and non-essentials in religion. They infer that if any fact or doctrine rightly belongs to the latter class, it must be a matter of very little importance and may in practice be safely set aside. In other words, "The matter is not essential to salvation; therefore we need give ourselves little concern on the subject."

But this thinking is certainly dangerous. Let us ask ourselves, what are the truths essential to salvation? Are they not these? (1) there is a God; (2) all men are sinners; (3) the Son of God died upon the cross to make atonement for the guilty; and (4) whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. There is good reason for believing that not a few souls are now in happiness who in life knew little more than these first principles of the oracles of God, the very alphabet of the Christian system. And if so, no other Divine truths can be counted absolutely essential to salvation.

But if all the other truths of revelation are unimportant because they happen to be non-essentials, it follows that the Word of God itself is in the main unimportant, for by far the greatest portion of it is occupied with matters not absolutely indispensable to the everlasting happiness of men. Let a man once persuade himself that importance attaches only to what he is pleased to call essentials, and he will practically set aside all except a very small part of the Scriptures. If such a principle does not mutilate the Bible, it stigmatizes much of it as trivial.

Though every statement in the Scripture cannot be regarded as absolutely essential to salvation, yet everything there is essential to some other wise and important end, otherwise it would not find a place in the good Word of God. Human wisdom may be baffled in attempting to specify the design of every truth that forms a component part of Divine revelation, but eternity will show us that no portion of it is useless. All Scripture is profitable. A fact written therein may not be essential to human salvation, and yet it may be highly conducive to some other great and gracious purpose in the economy of God. It may be necessary for our personal comfort, for our guidance in life, or for our growth in holiness; and most certainly it is essential to the completeness of the system of Divine truth. The law of the Lord is perfect. Strike out of the Bible the truth that seems the most insignificant of all, and the law of the Lord would not be perfect any more. Every fact, great or small, that God has been pleased to insert in the Bible is invested with importance, answers its end, and, though perhaps justly considered as non-essential to salvation, does not deserve to be accounted as worthless.

Every Divine truth is important, though it may be that all Divine truths are not of equal importance. The simplest statement of the Bible is a matter of more concern to an immortal being than the most sublime sentiment of mere human genius. The one carries with it what the other cannot show--the stamp of the approval of God. The faith of a Christian should strive to reach and grasp everything that God has honored with a place in that Word, the design of which is to be a light to our feet as we thread our way through this dark world. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the words of Christ shall not pass away.

The Apostolic Church, Which is it?

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

John Murray offers some needed help in "The Study of the Bible." See also J. C. Ryle's essay, "The Inspiration of the Scriptures." And click and scroll down our Biblical/Theological Studies page for a number of chapters from the book, From God to Us: How We Got our Bible, by Geisler and Nix.

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Day 10

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come before your throne of grace pleading 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 Jesus the Messiah in faith. And give us, your disciples, a passion for their salvation, for unto them were committed the oracles of God. Amen.


The Seed of Abraham
by
David L. Cooper

"And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 12:3

When Abraham lived in the midst of a pagan environment, God called him forth and commanded him to leave relatives, friends, and the land of his nativity and to journey to a land which He would show him. At first he failed to follow the Lord implicitly, in that he took his father and his nephew Lot along. After his father's death, when he was dwelling in Haran, the Lord called him again.

At this time God entered into a sevenfold covenant with him: "Now Yahweh said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curses thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3). The heart and soul of this call and covenant are God's yearning desire to bless all families of the earth.

Since the prediction is that all families of the earth shall be blessed in Abraham's seed, it is of the utmost importance to ascertain the significance of seed (zera') in this promise. This word is derived from the verb which literally means to sow, or scatter seed. Hence in the primary sense it refers to the seed of plants; in a secondary use it refers to the offspring or posterity of men. Like the English word seed, zera', though a singular noun, is frequently used in a collective sense. For instance, "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth" (Gen. 13:16); "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs" (Gen. 15:13); and "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens" (Gen. 22:17). In these and many other passages seed unmistakably refers to the literal descendants of Abraham. On the other hand, many contexts where this same word is used in the singular show most clearly that it refers to a single individual. For example, Genesis 4:25: "God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel," speaking specifically of Seth. Again, in Hannah's prayer, "If thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child , , ," (1 Sam. 1:11). The facts show that Hannah was asking for a son, which petition was fulfilled in the birth of Samuel.

In order to determine its specific meaning in this wonderful and far-reaching promise to Abraham, we must examine two predictions made in connection with it. First, the Lord affirms that He will bless all nations through Abraham's seed. The question arises at once: Has the world been blessed in the way and to the extent contemplated in this promise through the literal descendants of Abraham? Undoubtedly a blessing has flowed out to the world through the Hebrew people; no intelligent, informed person will question that. Israel has been used mightily during the past in keeping alive the knowledge of the true God. But the promise is that all nations shall be blessed in this seed, that is, all nations shall receive the blessing of God through the seed. No one acquainted with history and present conditions will affirm that the world has been signally blessed as pledged in these passages.

In the second place, the Lord assured Abraham, "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen. 22:17). A slight knowledge of the past and the present proves that in no sense have the Hebrew people enjoyed the realization of this prediction. To the contrary, we see that the nations of earth have greatly mistreated the Chosen People. Israel has been properly called the football of the nations. Her history for nearly three thousand five hundred years, with short respites now and then, has been written in blood. In no sense have the Hebrew people possessed the gate of their enemies. Therefore, we cannot believe that seed in these passages primarily refers to Abraham's literal descendants. It doubtless includes them, but unquestionably its primary meaning is to a single individual who will bring this universal blessing and relief from the curse.

Thus far we have seen that deliverance from the curse is to come through an individual, "the seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15). Since men cannot be blessed and enjoy life so long as sin, sickness, and sorrow prevail and the curse remains, and since these evils will be banished only when "the seed of the woman" triumphs over the great enemy of mankind, it follows that the blessing of the nations will come as a result of His conquest of Satan, the adversary. Habakkuk portrays very graphically the conquest of the Lord when He comes as a mighty warrior. The psalmist also gave a vivid picture of the conquests of the King in Psalm 45. In fact, most of the prophets delivered messages of the final triumphs of this same one.

In the light of all the facts, one logically concludes that the seed of Abraham in these passages does not primarily refer to the nation of Israel, though she doubtless is included in the prediction, but to an individual of the race who can properly be called the seed of Abraham.

The primeval prediction simply foretold the coming of one who should be in a special and peculiar sense the seed of the woman. The oracle affirms that this future world deliverer, though more than man according to the necessary inferences of the forecast, is nevertheless a man--the man par excellence. In the prophecy of Noah, the statement relative to the deliverer becomes more specific in that it is narrowed to the Semitic world. The Abrahamic covenant limits it still more by restricting the promise to the seed of Abraham. Therefore the descendants of Abraham have correctly contended that the Prince of Peace will come to the world through the Hebrew race.

Messiah: His Nature and Person

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Be sure to read Ken's paper, "The Centrality of Israel in the Bible and in Theology." You may also want to check out this "Introduction to Genesis" by W. H. Griffith Thomas. For some fascinating reading on what transpired with Israel between the Old and New Testaments, be sure to read Pfeiffer's "Between the Testaments." Scroll down for your choice of 16 different chapters.

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Day 11

A Morning Prayer

O most holy Lord, who can adequately express your praise or declare your mercy? Angels and archangels pass eternity singing it. It is the willing employment of those who have washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb, who now stand in your presence forevermore beholding the fulness of the glory and majesty of their Redeemer and their God. And shall we who are receiving continual and abundant mercies be silent? Shall we refuse to prepare ourselves here for our hoped-for employment hereafter? Alas, we live as if our lives had no reference to the future, as if our work were to accumulate this world's goods only and rejoice in the things of time and sense. Teach us better, O Lord. Seal us as your own by a zealous obedience and love for Jesus Christ's sake, our God and Savior. Amen.


The Divine Transcendence
by
A. W. Tozer

"There is none like you, O Yahweh;
you are great, and your name is great in might."
Jeremiah 10:6 ESV

When we speak of God as transcendent, we mean of course that He is exalted far above the created universe, so far above that human thought cannot imagine it. To think accurately about this, however, we must keep in mind that "far above" does not here refer to physical distance from the earth but to quality of being. We are concerned not with location in space nor with mere altitude but with life.

God is spirit, and to Him magnitude and distance have no meaning. To us they are useful as analogies and illustrations, so God refers to them constantly when speaking down to our limited understanding. The words, "Thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity," give a distinct impression of altitude, but that is because we who dwell in a world of matter, space, and time tend to think in material terms and can grasp abstract ideas only when they are identified in some way with material things.

A little child strays from a party of sightseers and becomes lost on a mountain, and immediately the whole mental perspective of the members of the party is changed. Rapt admiration for the grandeur of nature gives way to acute distress for the lost child. The group spreads out over the mountainside anxiously calling the child's name and searching eagerly into every secluded spot where the little one might chance to be hidden. What has brought about this sudden change? The tree-clad mountain is still there towering into the clouds in breath-taking beauty, but no one notices it now. All attention is focused upon the search for a curly-haired little girl not yet two years old and weighing less than thirty pounds, for she is more precious than all the huge bulk of the vast and ancient mountain. It is the child's quality of being that gives her worth.

Yet we must not compare the being of God with any other as we just now compared the mountain with the child. We must not think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with the single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence, but that is not enough. We must grant Him transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word.

Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, are nevertheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that-which-is-not-God, and are separated from God by infinitude itself.

In olden days men of faith were said to "walk in the fear of God" and to "serve the Lord with fear." Whenever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same--an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram stretched himself upon the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face in fear to look upon God. Isaiah's vision of God wrung from him the cry, "Woe is me!" and the confession, "I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." Daniel's encounter with God was probably the most dreadful and wonderful of them all. The prophet lifted up his eyes and saw One whose "body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude." "I Daniel alone saw the vision," he afterwards wrote,"for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground."

These experiences show that a vision of the divine transcendence soon ends all controversy between man and his God. The fight goes out of the man and he is ready with the conquered Saul to ask meekly, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

Conversely, the self-assurance of modern Christians, the basic levity present in so many of our religious gatherings, the shocking disrespect shown for the Person of God, are evidence enough of deep blindness of heart. Many call themselves by the name of Christ, talk much about God, and sometimes pray to Him, but evidently do not know who He is. "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life," but this healing fear is today hardly found among Christian men.

Once in conversation with his friend Eckermann, the poet Goethe turned to thoughts of religion and spoke of the abuse of the divine name. "People treat it," he said, "as if that incomprehensible and most high Being, who is even beyond the reach of thought, were only their equal. Otherwise they would not say 'the Lord God, the dear God, the good God.' This expression becomes to them, especially to the clergy who have it daily in their mouths, a mere phrase, a barren name to which no thought whatever is attached. If they were impressed by His greatness they would be dumb, and through veneration unwilling to name Him."

The Knowledge of the Holy

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Take time to read "The Knowledge of God: General and Special Revelation," by Addison Leitch. And you will love watching these two short videos highlighting some of God's great creation: "The Lord's Creation," and "The Queen of Sheba and Solomon's Wisdom."

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Day 12

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God most holy, our creator and preserver, we bless your name for all your mercies granted to us. Enable us to recall them and thereby stir up our hearts to gratitude and heavenly love. May we be led to see more clearly how much you have done for us in giving your only beloved Son as an atonement for our sins. May we apprehend more fully the agonies of him whose vicarious death on the cross redeemed us from the power of Satan and set us on a sure footing in the kingdom of grace. Let your Holy Spirit enlighten our minds to show us the victorious Savior pleading on our behalf at your right hand. And make us to praise you for all your glorious works from the day of our birth until now, that we may be prepared to enter into that scene of praise when our summons comes. There we shall praise you throughout eternity for your redeeming love in Jesus Christ, our Savior, Lord, and God. Amen.


Christ's Vicarious Death
by
Daniel A. Clark

"Who gave himself for us,
that he might redeem us from all iniquity."
Titus 2:14

Man's lost and desperate condition, requiring an atonement, is found in one shape and another on almost every page of the Bible. His safety depends on knowing it, and the gospel was sent to acquaint him with it. Hence this must be a radical truth in every message we carry from God to man. Moreover, we see men exhibit that temper, and form those habits, which would teach us their ruin even if we had not been taught it from heaven. Now a truth that comes to us so confirmed we must receive and must proclaim. And if men will not believe it, or they do not choose to lay it to heart, we can only say with the prophet, "If ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride."

If you can keep your apostasy a secret from your fellowmen, or from angels, or from devils, then do! And if you can hide the shame of it, then do that also! And if by such a course you can escape the dire consequences of that apostasy, then do so! We wish you safe and wish you happy. And if you know of a safer or happier course than this gospel presents, you have but to make the experiment. But then remember: if your experiment fails and you do not find out your ruin till death, you must not calculate that your mistake can then be corrected.

If you are conscious of some depravity and still cannot believe that there is redemption in the death of Christ, then you must reject the Bible or explain it as you can. The text says he gave himself for us. And we hear him say, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Why object to the idea that he died for us? Does it too much degrade and blacken the human character that we must thus come as it were to the place of execution, and have the halter about our neck, and there stand and see another take our place and hang upon the tree in our stead? I know it will be the everlasting disgrace of our world that we should have so conducted ourselves as to render it necessary that Christ should die for us. But it will deepen our disgrace if we deny the fact and assign some other reason why the Lord of glory was crucified on a tree. We shall then crucify him afresh, and put him to open shame.

If his was not a vicarious death, why did he die? Do you answer, "Death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Then it seems you make him a sinner! But the good Book assures me that there was no guile found in his mouth. Satan came and found nothing in him. He was a Lamb without spot.

Do you say that he died to finish out his obedience? Obedience to what law? Does the law of God require that his perfectly obedient subjects should die, or is death there made the wages of sin? I see no demand for his death unless he died for us, or was himself a sinner. If you are not driven to the same alternative and can invent a third reason more satisfactory, then you must adopt it and make the Bible bear you out in it if you can.

Do you object to this gospel because it requires that you be purified​? Then it seems you doubt whether sin has polluted you. And if it has not, why have any gospel? Or do you choose to carry all your moral deformity with you into the grave and into eternity? And if this be so, then we understand you. You have only then to leave the gospel alone and let others have the benefit of its overtures, those who would not choose to die in their sins.

Sermons, Vol. III

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

The words "atonement," "propitiation," "reconciliation," "justification," redemption," etc. are not fully understood by most of us. Leon Morris has an excellent book on the atonement called The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. You can read his concluding chapter by clicking here. Robert Culver also has a great chapter called "The Atonement of the Servant of the Lord." It is a study on Isaiah 53:4-6. And John Calvin has a technical exposition of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 entitled "The Suffering Servant."

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Day 13

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, in mercy you have surrounded us with good things. You have given us the rich gifts of life to partake of freely and to enjoy. Make us content with your provision. Let us not cast a lustful desire upon that which it has pleased you to deny us and give to another. Your word is plain, your law clear, "You shall not covet." Yet our eyes are continually set upon things not our own, and we vainly think that you have been unfair in your distribution to the sons of men. Remove all discontent and give us the humble, lowly spirit which was in Christ Jesus, who knew that true wealth is not of this world and poverty is no disgrace. Let us truly labor to provide for our own living, giving thanks all the while to him who purchased our redemption with his own blood, in whose name we bow before your throne of grace. Amen.


On Discontentment
by
Thomas Gisborne

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.' So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius." (Matthew 20:1-10)

When the laborers assembled to receive their wages, the owner of the vineyard bountifully directed that a sum of money--the same with that which he had contracted to give to the persons who had been hired early in the morning--should also be paid to the others who had been hired at later periods of the day, even up to an hour before sunset. This determination raised considerable discontent among the laborers hired earlier and who now imagined that they should receive an additional sum to the terms for which they had bargained. Disappointed, they murmured against the landowner, saying, "These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and heat of the day." The landowner answered, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?"

We may easily suppose the landowner, kind no less than just, had various motives and principles inducing him to act as he had done. Perhaps it was not from unwillingness to work that several groups of his workmen had lost part of the day, but merely because no man had hired them. Perhaps he observed them working with greater diligence than their companions who had been hired sooner. Perhaps he reflected that those hired at the eleventh hour would have to pay as much for necessities during the past day as the others. At any rate, he was under no obligation to account for his liberality. Those who murmured did not complain that he was withholding from them any portion of the sum which he had promised. They did not intimate that the sum which they received from him was not an equitable recompense for their labor. Their eye was evil because he was good. Because he was kind, they were grudging.

Let us learn a lesson from this parable. Discontent involves folly, ingratitude, and presumption. It charges the wisdom of God with folly. It implies that He has not distributed His gifts to the greatest advantage, that we could have chosen better for ourselves than He has chosen for us.

Discontent is base ingratitude to our Heavenly benefactor. Because He withholds some one particular gift on which we have fixed our desires, we refuse to render the tribute of cheerful thanks for the benefits which He has bestowed. He has crowned us with numberless blessings. He sustains and protects us by night and by day. He has mercy upon us, notwithstanding our continual transgressions. He has given his own Son to die for our iniquities. He sets before us a kingdom of everlasting glory. Yet because there is one object which He withholds or refuses--and withholds or refuses because He loves us--we are dissatisfied with His dealings and slight His immeasurable goodness.

Discontent is presumption against the Lord of the whole earth. It forgets that we are His servants. It assumes God's prerogative, and aspires to regulate after its own will the course of His providence, to dispense according to its own pleasure the works of His hand and the offices of His household. Shall an earthly master choose his own servants for the different posts in his house, and do you deny the same power to God? Shall an earthly master judge what is the situation in which this man may serve him best, and would you interfere with God in a similar exercise of His rights? Shall an earthly proprietor dispense his bounty according to his discretion, and do you call to account the Proprietor of all things for the manner in which He distributes His blessings?

Let me now suggest some considerations which may be instrumental, under the grace of God, in strengthening you against discontent. First, when you have procured those objects which you were so anxious to obtain, recall that they many times did not fulfill the expectations you had cherished. Second, when something you had set your heart on has proved unattainable, have you not learned by experience that its possession was of less importance to your welfare than you had supposed, and you have lived in reasonable comfort without it? Third, how often has the coveted object repaid you with more uneasiness when once acquired than before you possessed it?

Listen now to a word of encouragement. "All things work together for good to those who love God." Where, then, is the place for discontent? If you do not love God, on what pretense can you desire gifts and favor from Him? If you do love God, then all things work together for your good. Let us, my brethren, seek from the Giver of all good things the blessing of a contented spirit. "Let us be content with such things as we have, for He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Sermons Principally Designed to Illustrate and to Enforce Christian Morality

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here are three helpful sermons: Bishop Weaver's sermon, "Providence-Mysterious," John Caird's sermon, "Self-Ignorance," and James Richards' sermon, "The Spirit of Christ."

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Day 14

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, who dwells in light unapproachable, enable us now to seek you with fervent spirits, to worship you with sincere hearts, to love you with the warmest affections, and to be quick in obeying your word. May we strive with more earnestness, more zeal, and more watchfulness to walk in a manner worthy of our vocation in Christ Jesus. Let us go forth to our duties of this day with the confidence that you are with us to guide and direct in all we do. Stretch forth your arm to protect us and let your comforting spirit give us an assurance that we are safe. Be our shield and buckler, our strong tower. We pray in the name of our great intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Andrew
by
F. J. A. Hort

"The two disciples heard him [John the Baptist] speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, 'What do you seek?' They said to Him, 'Rabbi' (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), 'where are You staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him [Jesus], was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which is translated, the Christ)." (John 1:37-41)

The first person who appears before us in St. John's account is his namesake, St. John the Baptist. His preaching in the wilderness had led many to repentance. Multitudes flocked to him from far and near, from crowded cities and lonely villages. Rich and poor, great and small, learned and ignorant, all were eager to hear the burning words in which he proclaimed the approaching kingdom of heaven, and besought all men to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Among the rest who clung to him as a teacher come from God, and lingered near him for the sake of his lessons of holiness, were two disciples. One we are told was Andrew; the name of the other is not given, but there can be little doubt that it was John himself.

These two were with John the Baptist one day when they saw Jesus walking near them. This was not the first time that the Baptist had met Jesus. He had beheld with wonder and awe the heavenly life which Jesus lived, as yet in private and unknown. And when Jesus had come to be baptized by him, and he had heard the voice from heaven and seen the descending Spirit, the thought had flashed upon him who that meek and humble Nazarene must be. But we do not hear of his telling out any such higher belief about Jesus to the two disciples who stood by his side. He merely said in their presence, "Behold the Lamb of God." Jesus turned round and saw the two disciples of John the Baptist following Him. He stopped and waited till they came up and asked them simply, "What seek ye?"

"Rabbi," they asked, "where dwellest thou?" He answered their half-formed wish rather than the words of their question by saying only, "Come and see." They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. What and where that home was we are not told, and it is useless to guess. We are told what followed, perhaps on the next day, and this gives us some idea of the impression made on the mind of at least one of the disciples by their stay with Jesus. "One of them was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first finds his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus."

It would be out of place to say much about St. Peter today. I will only remind you how many of his sayings and doings are recorded in the Gospels, how large a place he fills in the Acts of the Apostles, how he is mentioned repeatedly by St. Paul, and himself wrote part of the New Testament. He is beyond all comparison the most famous and the best known of the Twelve Apostles. And now how stands it with Andrew? Except in these few verses of St. John, we hear nothing whatever of him beyond his name. He was, we know, one of the Twelve, and must have borne his share of the work which was laid on them. But as far as the Bible is concerned, the one single action by which he will be known to Christian people to the end of the world is by his having brought another man to Christ, even St. Peter.

When we consider it, brethren, this is a thought well worthy of being deeply weighed and remembered. We often are tempted in one mood to ask ourselves or others, Of what possible use can this or that man be in the world? Or in what may sometimes be a better and a humbler, but never a right mood, we question with ourselves of what use we can possibly be. Often the next result is that we resolve to go our own way and seek our own pleasure, because we cannot think that what we do can matter to anyone else. We do not see how deep and subtle and manifold is God's Providence, how He uses His creatures to minister to each other step over step in a wonderful order. A Peter may be only the last link in the chain by which God works out a mighty purpose. Men see him and think not of any other, while all the while an Andrew is just as needful for God's purposes. He is the next link, and without him perhaps a Peter would not be. The fiery zeal, the vigorous action of Peter may be required for some things, and yet those very qualities may make his heart too hot and restless to discern first for himself the Divine glory in the gentle eye and voice of the Lamb of God. He must be led there by the hand of Andrew, one of calmer but more heavenly spirit, though not fit perhaps for stirring deeds. When Andrew's own task is done, he falls into the background; but he is not forgotten before God.

Notice again how little we can judge whether a matter be great or small. What Andrew discovered and told Peter was by him told to others, and from them it has spread on and on, even to ourselves. The good news which Andrew invited Peter to share was the first message in the good news which we call the Gospel of Christ. Shall we ever dare again to think and act on the thought that our good or our evil are for ourselves alone, and not for all with whom we have anything to do?

Lastly, learn from Andrew's own experience how God in Christ makes Himself known to the hearts of men. There were thousands in that day who were ever on the lookout for the Messiah, and yet saw Him not when He came among them. Such were the men who sought to stone Him, and who at last crucified Him. Andrew, the ignorant fisherman, was able to see the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, only because his hopes and desires were such as none but One of perfect holiness and goodness could satisfy. When he met with Jesus, he needed no proofs to tell him that he had found One come from God. With the man of simple trusting heart, who strives to be delivered from his own sin and burns with love to God and man, Christ Himself, the image of the Father's love, will surely dwell.

Village Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Another good exposition of this text is that of J. C. Ryle. And find out more about Andrew in "The Early Preaching and the First Disciples" by G. A. Chadwick. And read about another rather unknown man, "Jabez."

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Day 15

A Morning Prayer

O Yahweh our God, yours is the kingdom, power belongs to you, and we must work according to your bidding. Vain is all the wisdom of man to countermand your counsels and useless is the strength of man to oppose your designs. You have declared your will, and you shall do it; your word must come to pass. The earth is yours, the sea also, and the heavens are the work of your hands. What then is man that you are mindful of him? We are as dust in the balance, as chaff before the wind. You spoke and we were made. At your call we return to dust again. Make us reflect upon this truth in deep abasement, that we no more walk high and proudly, no more boast in wealth, health, or any earthly possession, that we no longer value our power to do any work or deed better than our neighbor. In your sight we are all miserable, ignorant, foolish, and vain, except as we stand in Christ's righteousness, who propitiated your wrath at the cross of Calvary. Hear us now through his merits and intercession for us. Amen.


Sincerity Essential in Prayer
by
Jared Waterbury

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

Sincerity is an essential ingredient in prayer. Without it, no prayer can be acceptable. Indeed, if we are insincere we cannot be said to pray. A mere form of words is not prayer. Prayer is the desire of the heart for something necessary or beneficial. It implies a knowledge of our needs and an urgent wish to have them supplied. If, therefore, the heart is roving after one object while the lips are asking for another, we are insincere and unacceptable worshipers.

Take time to reflect before you bend the knee at the throne of grace. You are not about to approach an earthly monarch, who, though surrounded with the pomp of royalty, is but a worm in the dust like yourself. But you are to have audience with the King of kings, the Lord of the whole earth! Were you in the presence of a mere earthly king, you might conceal your feelings under a form of words, uttering one thing and meaning quite another. But can you practice such deception with God? Are not all things "naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account?" Does He not search the hearts of the children of men? "He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?"

Now I would not clothe the character of God in terrors to your mind, or send you to tremble like a slave at his feet. No, he is a God of love, of compassion, of long forbearance. He is more beneficent and tender than the fondest earthly parent. You may go to him--and you must go--in the confiding simplicity of a child and a favorite. You may unburden your whole heart, tell him things that you could not confide to any mortal ear, make confession of sins that you dare only whisper in your closet; and in frankness of faith and penitence, humbly cast yourself on his all-supporting arm.

Before entering on prayer, know what you are praying for, what sins you have to confess, what mercies you are to acknowledge, what needs there are to be supplied. Do not cover over one sin or keep back one confession. Do not ask for holiness if you would retain a single lust, if you are not resolved to crucify all. Do not ask for power in witnessing if in your heart you do not sincerely desire it. "Search me, O God," should always be your petition. Nothing is so well calculated to foster the spirit of devotion as to be enabled to say with Peter, "Thou knowest." Your words may fail in expressing the number and aggravation of your sins, yet you can pray, "Thou knowest." Although your words fail in expressing your gratitude, yet you can pray, "Thou knowest." It is a sweet expression in the ears of a prayer-hearing God.

Be aware that you will be tempted to be superficial and hurried in your prayers. Your enemy will suggest some activity that will preclude or cut short your supplications, some suggestion that all this meditation before God is unnecessary. If these attacks prevail, you will find yourself wishing your prayer time to be over, and uttering it rather as a sedative to conscience than as the supreme delight of your soul. Henceforth you will come like a slave to the altar, and having satisfied conscience that you have performed the accustomed task, you will be glad of a speedy relief. You may even find yourself uttering words and forms the meaning of which you are totally unconscious. This is sinful in the extreme.

But I urge you to come boldly to the throne of grace and yield not to the power of the tempter. Give him no advantage over you. Dispute every inch of ground. Instead of retreating, advance; instead of relaxing, brace anew your nerves for the conflict. Take the whole armor of God. Look upward for grace and strength to wield it. March forward to the glory that lies beyond. Keep your eye steadily on the Captain of your salvation. May you be found where his banners wave, even though it be in the thickest of the fight. And soon your trials will be over, your victory won, and you will have nothing to do but lay aside your weapons and sing the note of eternal triumph.

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

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read Bickersteth's "On Distractions in Prayer." You might also like to check out our many entries on prayer by clickong on our Prayer Page.

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Day 16

A Morning Prayer

We adore and magnify your name, O Father of mercies and God of all consolation, for having called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to your own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. O for a song of praise, for a psalm of everlasting thanksgiving to thee, the God of our salvation! O Lamb of God, worthy are you who were slain, for you have redeemed us unto God by your blood! Worthy are you to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing! Worthy are you, our Advocate and Intercessor, in whose name we offer this prayer. Amen.


Election
by
Joseph Belcher

"But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."
John 5:40

In one of his sermons an eminent minister gave the following illustration of the Divine dealings with sinners.

A clergyman sitting in his study saw some boys in his garden stealing melons. He quietly arose, and walking into his garden, called them: "Boy, boys." They immediately fled with the utmost haste, tearing through the shrubbery and tumbling over the fences. "Boys," cried out the gentleman, "stop, do not be afraid. You may have as many melons as you want. I have more than I know what to do with." The boys, urged by the consciousness of guilt, fled with increasing speed. They did not like to trust themselves to the gentleman's hands. Neither did they exactly relish the idea of receiving favors from one whose garden they were robbing.

The clergyman continued to entreat them to stop, assuring them that they should not be hurt, and that they might have as many melons as they wished for. But the very sound of his voice added wings to their speed. They scampered on in every direction, with as determined an avoidance as though the gentleman was pursuing them with a horsewhip. He determined, however, that they should be convinced that he was sincere in his offers, and therefore pursued them.

Two little fellows who could not climb over the fence were taken. He led them back, telling them they were welcome to melons whenever they wanted any; and giving to each of them a couple, he allowed them to go home. He sent the two boys with a message to the other boys, that whenever they wanted any melons they were welcome to them if they would just come to him.

The other boys, when they heard of the favors with which the two had been laden, were loud in the expression of their indignation. They accused the clergyman of partiality in giving to some without giving to all. And when reminded that they would not accept of his offers but ran away from him as fast as they could, they replied, "What of that? He caught these two boys, and why should he have selected them instead of the rest of us? If he had only run a little faster, he might have caught us. It was mean in him to show such partiality."

Again they were reminded that the clergyman was ready to serve them as he did the other two he caught and give them as many melons as they wanted, if they would only go and ask him for them. Still the boys would not go near him, but accused the generous man of injustice and partiality in doing for two that which he did not do for all.

So it is with the sinner. God finds all guilty, and invites them to come to him and be forgiven and receive the richest blessings heaven can afford. They all run from him, and the louder he calls the more furious do they rush in their endeavors to escape. By his grace he pursues, and some he overtakes. He loads them with favors and sends them back to invite their fellow-sinners to return and receive the same. They all with one accord refuse to come, and yet never cease to abuse his mercy and insult his goodness. They say, "Why does God select some and not others? Why does he overtake others who are just as bad as we and allow us to escape? This election of some and not others is unjust and partial." And when the minister of God replies, "The invitation is extended to you; whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely," the sinner heeds it not but goes on in his sins, still complaining of the injustice and partiality of God in saving some and not saving all.

The Clergy of America

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

You will find much help in understanding Calvinism by reading Spurgeon's article, "A Defence of Calvinism." See also the essay by J. Norval Geldenhuys on "Effectual Calling." Charles Hodge has an important chapter in his Systematic Theology on "Free Agency." And check out our Calvinism page for more helpful articles.

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Day 17

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. 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! Cause them to remember that though man looks on the outward appearance, the living God looks on the heart. Your warnings are plain and fearful, and should make them pause and tremble. Oh, keep your church as a shining light and its members as living stones, we ask for Christ's sake. Amen.


The Relation of Pious Joy to the Doctrine of Providence
by
J. B. Waterbury

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matthew 10:29,30)

The Bible teaches the doctrine of a particular providence, which the pious man not only believes but in practice recognizes in all the events of life; and it is this practical recognition alone that is the foundation of joy. But how many do not sympathize in the least with this view of Divine providence! They are willing to install the great Creator on the universal throne and pay Him the homage due to a distant and comparatively uninterested monarch--too lofty to stoop to the affairs of men, and too much absorbed in His vast empire above to interfere in the concerns of this diminutive sphere. Hence it is we hear so much of chance, fortune, second causes, and so little of the Divine hand in the changing conditions of nations and individuals.

But what is our Savior's view? The bird that folds its wing and falls to the earth is directed in its fall by the hand of God. The hairs of our heads, insignificant as they may singly seem, are still noticed and numbered by the Almighty. Not a step that we take nor a purpose that we accomplish are taken or accomplished independent of Him. This is the view that brings God near, that acknowledges His hand in the minutest affairs of life, and yet does not detract from His dignity as the maker and mover of the spheres. He who lit up the sun formed the moth that bathes in the bright sunbeam; and the moth's existence as truly demonstrates the infinitude of His power as does the great fountain of light in whose radiance it rejoices.

The pious mind embraces this scriptural doctrine of a particular providence and finds it both consolatory and encouraging. In all that relates to the external world--its physical changes and its great moral and political events--the good man is busy in interpreting the will of God. Where other men are prying into second causes and noticing their influence alone, he traces the finger of Providence operating through these causes in the production of the highest good. Here his advantage must be conceded in having, above others, his heart fixed on the great First Cause, whose authoritative decree is the law of the universe, and whose power, wisdom, and goodness are pledges for the moral virtue of His government.

But it is in view more especially of his own private history that the Christian finds this idea of a particular providence so productive of joy. From his infancy onward, he sees and acknowledges the hand of his Heavenly Father. He turns back to the first page of his earthly existence and loves to read a lesson of gratitude in the parents whose affectionate looks awakened the first infant smile. He marks a hand Divine thrown around him during the reckless period of youth, and pointing out his path as he emerged from youth into manhood. Even disappointments, which at the time of their occurrence were so hard to bear, in retrospect he sees to have been ordained from a kind regard to his real good. It is a practical impression of this unseen hand moving in all that happens to the believer--administering the cup of joy and of affliction, and all for his ultimate good--that throws over the soul a quiet confidence, and enables it in "every situation therewith to be content." His Heavenly Father is at the helm, and neither adverse winds that blow nor threatening waves that rise can excite a fear in his trustful heart.

If the wisdom that knew "the end from the beginning" (that laid the plan of the universe in all its minute circumstances as well as its good results) is busied in shaping his lot in life, and if this omnipotent power is under the guidance of eternal love (employed in carrying out these designs), then how calm and thankful, yes, even joyous must be his feelings! Every blessing would then be viewed as from the hand of God, and even disappointment interpreted as an inexplicable yet certain token of the Divine favor. Now who can deny that such a doctrine puts the language of praise as well as of prayer into the lips, and enables him who believes it to "rejoice in the Lord always!"

If the father of a numerous family is known to be wise in all his domestic arrangements, exact in their accomplishment (blending patriarchal dignity with paternal love), ever seeking the good of his household and contriving a thousand affectionate ways to win their confidence and increase their respect and affection, how certain it is that such a household will be pervaded by a lovely and joyous spirit! Even the discipline of that house will wear the aspect of tenderness, and every member will be watching for the returning smile upon the face as the signal for a renewal of their gladness. If domestic trials come, all will turn their confident expectations to the father. In his wisdom they have a pledge that everything will be done which can be done, and in his affection an equally sure pledge that what is done will have a respect to their interests.

Now this portrays the confidence in God's providence, which spreads such satisfaction and joy over the soul of a pious man. As one of a numerous family, he knows that while every incident is ordered and arranged by the great Head for the good of the whole, yet each individual's good is included in and is conducive to the good of the whole. Therefore, among the changing situations of his life, he will discover and rejoice in the tokens of Divine favor which permeate all that he enjoys and suffers. In his passage to the eternal rest, not one inch will be too thorny nor one moment too dark. No cup will be too bitter when he is convinced that his Heavenly Father has given it to him to drink. He will go on his way rejoicing in the full belief that all things will at last work together for his good.

The Happy Christian

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read "Providence and Preservation" by Andrew Rule. And Erich Sauer has more about God's providence in the affairs of nations: "The Times of the Nations (The Four World Empires of Daniel)."

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Day 18

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, hear our cry, let your ears be attentive to the voice of our supplications! We confess that we do not know our own hearts as we ought, that they are deceitful and ever leaning to evil. They flatter us in thinking that we are not as wicked as some of our neighbors. They whisper peace to us when there is no peace. Alas, if you should note iniquity, who can stand? But there is forgiveness with you. Jesus has died on the cross to secure it. Enable us to seek it as we would a great treasure and to cleave to it as the anchor of hope, for with you there is mercy and plenteous redemption. Time is short and the hours pass swiftly away. Year follows year and we forget that now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Let your Holy Spirit teach us this truth and so write it on our hearts that no pleasure of time or sense can blot it out. Then shall we walk in its remembrance and be secure through Christ, in whose all-prevailing name we pray. Amen.


Regeneration
by
Louis Berkhof

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17

Relative to the nature of regeneration, there are several misconceptions which should be avoided. It may be well to mention these first, before stating the positive qualifications of this re-creative work of God.

MISCONCEPTIONS: (a) Regeneration is not a change in the substance of human nature. No new physical seed or germ is implanted in man; neither is there any addition to, or subtraction from, the faculties of the soul. (b) Neither is it simply a change in one or more of the faculties of the soul (as, for instance, of the emotional life--feeling or heart) by removing the aversion to divine things, as some evangelicals conceive of it; or of the intellect, by illuminating the mind that is darkened by sin, as the Rationalists regard it. It affects the heart, understood in the Scriptural sense of the word, that is, as the central and all-controlling organ of the soul, out of which are the issues of life. This means that it affects human nature as a whole. (c) Nor is it a complete or perfect change of the whole nature of man, or any part of it, so that it is no more capable of sin. This does not mean that it does not in principle affect the entire nature of man, but only that it does not constitute the whole change that is wrought in man by the operation of the Holy Spirit. It does not comprise conversion and sanctification.

POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF REGENERATION. First, regeneration consists in the implanting of the principle of the new spiritual life in man, in a radical change of the governing disposition of the soul, which, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives birth to a life that moves in a Godward direction. In principle this change affects the whole man: the intellect, the will, and the feelings or emotions.

Second, it is an instantaneous change of man's nature, affecting at once the whole man, intellectually, emotionally, and morally. The assertion that regeneration is an instantaneous change implies two things. (1) That it is not a work that is gradually prepared in the soul (as the Roman Catholics and all Semi-Pelagians teach). There is no intermediate stage between life and death; one either lives or is dead. (2) That it is not a gradual process like sanctification.

Third, it is in its most limited sense a change that occurs in the sub-conscious life. It is a secret and inscrutable work of God that is never directly perceived by man. The change may take place without man's being conscious of it momentarily, though this is not the case when regeneration and conversion coincide; and even later on he can perceive it only in its effects. This explains the fact that a Christian may, on the one hand, struggle for a long time with doubts and uncertainties, and can yet, on the other hand, gradually overcome these and rise to the heights of assurance.

DEFINITION OF REGENERATION. Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. But in order to include the idea of the new birth as well as that of the "begetting again," it will be necessary to complement the definition with the following words: "and the first holy exercise of this new disposition is secured."

Systematic Theology

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For a good three-part essay on regeneration, see J. C. Ryle (scroll down). See also "Regeneration: Beginning with God," by Eric Alexander, and "Regeneration," by Asahel Nettleton. And here is an interesting article by Evan Probert on "Human Depravity."

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Day 19

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, how many there are who profess salvation but do not possess it. Satan leads them captive, persuading them they are walking in the light. He makes the false gleam of error and the fancied enjoyment of evil appear as the true shining of the Sun of righteousness. He makes them believe their mere presence at church, with the bending of the knee and the bowing of the head, are all meritorious, and that when they have fasted and gone through stated prayers they are acceptable in your sight. Open their eyes, we pray, that they may see themselves as they truly are, helpless and unclean. And then enlighten their minds to see that though they are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table, you will sufficiently feed all who come to you in faith. We bring these petitions before your throne of grace through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


True Conversion
by
Louis Berkhof

"Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
John 3:3

True conversion is born of a godly sorrow, and issues in a life of devotion to God. It is a change that is rooted in the work of regeneration and that is effected in the conscious life of the sinner by the Spirit of God; a change of thoughts and opinions, of desires and volitions, which involves the conviction that the former direction of life was unwise and wrong and alters the entire course of life. There are two sides to this conversion, the one active and the other passive; the former being the act of God, by which he changes the conscious course of man's life, and the latter the result of this action as seen in man's changing his course of life and turning to God.

Consequently, a twofold definition must be given of conversion. (1) Active conversion is that act of God whereby He causes the regenerated sinner, in his conscious life, to turn to Him in repentance and faith. (2) Passive conversion is the resulting conscious act of the regenerated sinner whereby he, through the grace of God, turns to God in repentance and faith.

Conversion belongs to the re-creative rather than to the judicial acts of God. It does not alter the state but the condition of man. In conversion man becomes conscious of the fact that he is worthy of condemnation and is also brought to a recognition of that fact. While this already presupposes faith, it also leads to a greater manifestation of faith in Jesus Christ, a confident trusting in Him for salvation. And this faith, in turn, by appropriating the righteousness of Jesus Christ, is instrumental in the sinner's justification. In conversion man awakens to the joyous assurance that all his sins are pardoned on the basis of the merits of Jesus Christ.

Conversion takes place, not in the subconscious, but in the conscious life of the sinner. This does not mean that it is not rooted in the subconscious life. Being a direct effect of regeneration, it naturally includes a transition in the operations of the new life from the subconscious to the conscious life.

Conversion marks the conscious beginning, not only of the putting away of the old man, a fleeing from sin, but also of the putting on of the new man, a striving for holiness of life. This does not mean, however, that the struggle between the old and the new is at once ended; it will continue as long as man lives.

While conversion may be a sharply marked crisis, it may also be a very gradual change. Crisis conversions are most frequent in days of religious declension, and in the lives of those who have not enjoyed the privileges of a real religious education and who have wandered far from the path of truth, righteousness, and holiness.

When we speak of conversion, we have in mind a supernatural work of God resulting in a religious change.

Systematic Theology

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Another good exposition of this text is that of J. C. Ryle. Read "Am I Going to Heaven? The Nature of Belief," by Ken, and "The Love of God in the Gift of His Son," by Henry Martyn. And a good companion piece is "Naaman's Conversion, Gehazi's Greed," by Henry Blunt, interesting.

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Day 20

A Morning Prayer

O eternal Lord God, we have heard the great message of your salvation with joy. Let us ponder that glorious message with hearts full of love and gratitude, and to speak of it in words of deep adoration and holy praise. Let it be the subject of our morning thoughts and evening meditations. Today may we enter our engagements and perform our duties as those called by the name of Christ, and not merely because we are working for man or seeking a livelihood or earning wages. Grant that we may declare our Christian profession by obeying your law and doing all things to your honor and glory. Then may we expect our handiwork to prosper and our labor to be blessed, and thus rejoice with quiet minds and approving consciences. We pray in the name of our Savior, who shed his blood for us. Amen.


Chosen in Christ
by
Stephen H. Tyng

"And those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."
Revelation 17:14

Each particular title of the people of God has a practical import of its own. When God has been pleased to give us so many distinct and peculiar names, it is that we may consider our obligations as they are thus expressed, and regulate our characters and lives accordingly. These several titles may be arranged under several distinct classes. They display the origin, the relations, the characters, the privileges, the prospects of the servants and followers of Christ.

The present title comes under the first head. It describes the origin of our Christian state and character. It takes us back to the grace which has been manifested to us before the world began. It shows us that all things are of God, who has reconciled us unto himself by Jesus Christ, and has sent to us the word of reconciliation. Let me consider the practical importance of this great fact.

First, Who has chosen me? God has chosen me. All my hopes and privileges come from this one source--of his own love wherewith he loved me before the foundation of the world. With what gratitude I ought to think of him, with what confidence and affection I ought to regard him! It was not I that sought him but he that sought me. This is a blessed remembrance to me. My character and hope spring not from my feeble will but from his abounding grace. They stand not in my weakness but in his eternal strength. Do I love him? Have I sought him? Do I delight to pray to him? Is it my real desire to obey him? All these are the result of his choice. Every plant that can bear good fruit in me my heavenly Father has planted. Let me never fail to give him the glory and praise for his work.

Second, Why has he chosen me? It was for no excellence of mine. I was not [created] when his choice was made, and when I came into being it was in sin and death. My nature was corrupt, and there was no prospect of good from me. No, it was his own will, His own grace and love. for why he chose me. He had mercy because he could have mercy. There has never been anything in me but obstacles and objections to his work. I ought to think of this with deep humility, with entire renunciation of myself. My own sinfulness shuts out every reason for his goodness to me. I can never have anything of my own in which to glory.

Thirdly, For what purposes has he chosen me? To honor himself. To show forth his own glory. He means to show in me his grace, and love, and power to save. He will display this in my present life of trial, and in my future life of glory. How earnestly, then, ought I to watch! How carefully ought I to walk that I may honor him! It must be my effort, in all the fruits of holy action, to glorify him. I am never off duty in this respect. Every part of my life has some connection with his great design. Every step is a part of his plan. When I am obedient, I fulfill his will and further his design. When I am disobedient, I dishonor him and violate his purpose. Oh, with what vigilance ought I to walk with him and before him, that my whole life may carry out the purpose for which I was made! There is no other happiness for man.

Fourthly, For what results has he chosen me? Surely this is for everlasting glory. He can have no inferior end to this. The end is eternal life. Then my hope ought to be clear and constant. God has chosen me to salvation. This will encourage me to press forward, to contend faithfully. I cannot be overcome, for no weapon that is formed against me can prosper. Oh, let me never faint then. My present pilgrimage may be full of trial and pain. In the world I must have tribulation. But God my Saviour will carry me safely through. He will make me more than a conqueror. And then his rest remains. How satisfied shall I be when I awake after his likeness and behold his glory!

Fifthly, Has God thus chosen me? The evidence of it is in my own character and state. I was far off when he brought me nigh. It was he who made me seek his face and his favour. My choice of Christ is the evidence of Christ's choice of me; and it is a very precious evidence, for I really choose him. Nothing seems to me so important as an interest in my Saviour and a partnership with him. How willingly would I part with everything rather than this! How rich and full should I feel myself with this alone! Oh, what mercy has thus been bestowed upon me! How grateful, how humble, how watchful, how hopeful I ought to be as one of God's chosen generation!

Let me strive to grow in this blessed character and in these heavenly fruits. Thus my walk will be peaceful and successful. And the God of hope will fill me with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Ghost.

What thousands never knew the road!
What thousands hate it when 'tis known!
None but the chosen tribes of God
Will seek or choose it for their own.

Christian Titles: A series of Practical Meditations

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read "Free Will--A Slave," by Spurgeon. You will also find "The Method of Salvation Through Jesus Christ" by Samuel Davies very helpful. And Pastor Elifson has a short entry called "The Most Important Question Ever Asked."

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Day 21

A Morning Prayer

O God our Father, you are very good and gracious in giving us your inerrant word. Fix our minds upon its precepts, and may we be able to say with the psalmist David, "Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Enable us to see that you are a God of perfect holiness, of majesty unbounded, of infinite love. Let us meditate on your promises, especially that of a divine Savior who intercedes for us at your throne of grace, who promises that if we ask anything in his name, you will hear us. Inspire us by your Holy Spirit to go out and sow the precious seed of salvation, teaching men their utter insufficiency to secure eternal happiness by their own righteousness. May your Holy Spirit convince them of the all-sufficiency of Christ's righteousness, bringing them to repentance and salvation for his sake. Amen.


Inspiration
by
Edward J. Young

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20,21)

One of the best ways to attack something is to demonstrate that it is unimportant; and that is precisely what some writers attempt to accomplish with respect to the Biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration. The originals of Scripture are lost, so it is argued, and we cannot completely reconstruct them. Therefore, those originals must have been unimportant. If a man wishes to do scholarly work on the Bible, he may use the Greek and the Hebrew texts which are available to him, and the plain man has a Bible in his own vernacular. Consequently, all this talk about an inspired and errorless original text is really beside the point. Furthermore, even if there were errors in the original, this would not hinder us from receiving a blessing from the Bible; and we would be foolish indeed if we were to maintain that unless the original were free of errors we could receive no blessing from the Bible.

But is the doctrine of an errorless autographa of Scripture actually so unimportant after all? Let us suppose that the Scriptures actually were given to us by a special revelation of God. If they are indeed breathed forth from the mouth of God, does it matter whether they contain in them statements which are contrary to fact? To ask the question in this fashion is, of course, to answer it. It matters tremendously, for the veracity of God Himself is at stake.

How disturbing is the annoyance of tiny inaccuracies! Upon receiving a letter filled with trifling errors and misspelled words, we are displeased and annoyed; the letter casts reflection upon its writer. In writing a letter we want to spell our words correctly and get our facts straight. If a person does not even take the trouble to do this, he may justly be considered a boor or an ignoramus. It is difficult to maintain a high respect for someone who is consistently careless in the letters he writes to us. When an educated person writes and permits minor inaccuracies to characterize his writing, we are disappointed in him and our respect for him is affected by it.

God has revealed to us his word. What are we to think of him if this word is glutted with little annoying inaccuracies? Why could not the omnipotent and omniscient God have taken the trouble to give us a word that was free from error? What kind of a God is he if he has given such an untrustworthy word to mankind? And this brings us to the heart of the matter. The Scriptures claim to be breathed forth from his mouth. If they partake of error, must not he himself also partake thereof? If the original autographs of Scripture are marred by flecks of mistake, God simply has not told us the truth concerning his word. To assume that he could breathe forth a word that contained mistakes is to say, in effect, that God himself can make mistakes.

It does not follow from this that only an errorless text can be of devotional benefit to Christians; nor do those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture maintain such a position. There are those who through the King James Version have come to know Christ and have grown in grace daily, yet the King James Version is not inerrant.

The serious student of the Bible, nevertheless, will desire to approximate the original insofar as that is possible. We may revert to the illustration of the teacher who had received a letter from the President. When the original was destroyed, the teacher had only the copies which the pupils had made. As a result of the ignorance of the children who did the copying, these became imperfect copies. The teacher might have remained satisfied with these imperfect copies. She, however, had great respect for her President. Consequently, she endeavored to the best of her ability to correct each copy so that the exact wording of the original might be restored. It would be foolish to maintain that because they contained mistakes the copies were therefore without any value. Anyone could read those copies and learn what the President had written. To obtain the President's message, all one had to do was to read a copy of his letter.

So it is with the Bible. The copies of Scripture which are now extant are remarkably accurate, and hence, like the original, they are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Minor, indeed, are those errors which may be found in the copies of the Bible which we possess, and through careful, scholarly study they are being in remarkable measure removed. Very different, however, was the original. That was the actual God-breathed Word, true to fact in all its statements. Let no one say that it is a matter of indifference whether this original was inerrant. It is a matter of greatest importance, for the honor and veracity of God himself are at stake. It is for this reason that those who embrace the Biblical doctrine are so zealous to maintain the absolute perfection of the Divine revelation in its original manuscripts.

Thy Word is Truth

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here are two helpful articles: "The Apocrypha" by David H. Wallace, and "The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies" by Everett F. Harrison. You might also like to read "The Study of the Bible" by John Murray, and refer to that great hermeneutical work by Bernard Ramm, "Protestant Biblical Interpretation." A short but good companion piece gives two views identifying the Zechariah in Matthew 23:35. Read "The Blood of Zechariah, Son of Berechiah."

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Day 22

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, all things are known to you. Sinful man deludes himself when he thinks he may enjoy his sins unobserved. He flatters himself that they shall not be found out and bring punishment and eternal death. Open his eyes to such awful error. Enable him to realize your presence in every place. Grant him the sure knowledge that your eye beholds him at all times, and that it is your mighty arm only that can restrain him from iniquity. Then draw him by your Holy Spirit to repentance and faith in Christ, that he may walk the remainder of his days in Christian piety. We ask in the name of our Redeemer, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


The Divine Omniscience
by
A. W. Tozer

"He knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:10

To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn. The Scriptures teach that God has never learned from anyone. ”Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor has taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” ”For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?" These rhetorical questions put by the prophet and the apostle Paul declare that God has never learned.

From there it is only a step to the conclusion that God cannot learn. Could God at any time or in any manner receive into His mind knowledge that He did not possess, and had not possessed from eternity, He would be imperfect and less than himself. To think of a God who must sit at the feet of a teacher, even though that teacher be an archangel or a seraph, is to think of someone other than the Most High God, maker of heaven and earth.

This negative approach to the divine omniscience is, I believe, quite justified in the circumstances. Since our intellectual knowledge of God is so small and obscure, we can sometimes gain considerable advantage in our struggle to understand what God is like by the simple expedient of thinking what He is not like. This method of trying to make men see what God is like by showing them what He is not like is used also by the inspired writers in the Holy Scriptures. ”Have you not known? Have you not heard?” cries Isaiah. ”The everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” And that abrupt statement by God Himself, ”I am Yahweh, I change not,” tells us more about the divine omniscience than could be told in a ten-thousand word treatise, were all negatives arbitrarily ruled out. God’s eternal truthfulness is stated negatively by the apostle Paul: ”God . . . cannot lie." And when the angel asserted that ”with God nothing shall be impossible,” the two negatives add up to a ringing positive.

That God is omniscient is not only taught in the Scriptures, it must be inferred also from all else that is taught concerning Him. God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn.

Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions. God is self-existent and self-contained and knows what no creature can ever know--Himself, perfectly. ”The things of God know no man, but the Spirit of God.” Only the Infinite can know the infinite.

In the divine omniscience we see set forth against each other the terror and fascination of the Godhead. That God knows each person through-and-through can be a cause of shaking fear to the man that has something to hide--some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against man or God. The unblessed soul may well tremble that God knows the flimsiness of every pretext and never accepts the poor excuses given for sinful conduct, since He knows perfectly the real reason for it. ”You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.” How frightful a thing to see the sons of Adam seeking to hide among the trees of another garden. But where shall they hide? ”Whither shall I go from your spirit? or whither shall I flee from your presence? . . . If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from you; but the night shines as the day."

And to us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick. No forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past. No unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. ”For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says Yahweh, who has mercy on you.”

Our Father in heaven knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. He knew our inborn treachery, and for His own sake engaged to save us (Isa. 48:8-11). His only begotten Son, when He walked among us, felt our pains in their naked intensity of anguish. His knowledge of our afflictions and adversities is more than theoretic; it is personal, warm, and compassionate. Whatever may befall us, God knows and cares as no one else can.

The Knowledge of the Holy

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

We have a good many excellent excerpts from Franz Delitzsch's commentary on "The Book of Job." Spurgeon has a great exposition of Psalm 139, "O Yahweh, you have searched me and known me."

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Day 23

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, who requires truth and hates all hypocrisy and lies with a perfect hatred, look upon us with mercy, for our nature is ever frail and we are continually acting the hypocrite's part before you. Enable us to see the folly as well as the sin of hypocrisy, of endeavoring to appear what we are not, of uttering that which our hearts do not feel. Purge us from such self-deception and make us open, sincere, and truthful. May we seek the truth as we would a rich and hidden treasure. May we long to know it with the earnestness of holy desire. And may we love it, for it is eternal. We come before your throne to ask these blessings through our great intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Character of Saul
by
Joseph Milner

"Then he said, 'I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship Yahweh your God.'" (1 Samuel 15:30)

The chapter before us lets us into Saul's true character very completely. He received a positive direction to destroy Amalek and all their possessions, yet performed the commission with great partiality. What he approved of in it, he did. What did not suit with his reason, he left undone.

But it seems that Saul did not think he had done much, if anything, amiss. He boasts before Samuel how well he had done. He insists that he had obeyed. He defends himself with frivolous objections and excuses! Finally, he is brought to confess that he had sinned, and yet in spite of it expects Samuel to honor him: "Yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship Yahweh your God." Samuel, who had a strong affection for Saul and mourned for him deeply before God, complies. But he cannot reverse the righteous sentence which takes the kingdom of Israel from him. And how little reason is there to hope that Saul will repent while he is far more concerned for his own honor and character than on account of his sin.

So I fear it is no uncharitable conjecture to believe that this false-hearted formalist, having been seen in public with the prophet and gone through some forms of prayer and thanksgiving with pomp, afterwards forgot his sin and dismissed the burden of it from his mind. His future conduct--full of pride, obstinacy, and rebellion against God, and ending in the dreadful guilt of self-murder--speaks awfully to the case of Pharisaic formalists who would be thought men of great virtue, while none are farther from it, and who will scarce ever see themselves sinful in anything. Saul, in short, seems the very picture of such characters, which are very common in the world! With our eye, however, on the pattern of Saul, we will endeavor more distinctly to describe in a few particulars the workings of a mind like his.

A false professor of religion, like Saul, is partial in his obedience. Some duties he will perform, others he will omit. In doing this he is led by his own will, humor, and what he calls his reason. It is indeed his reason, but not right reason. For the reasoning powers of man in religion are corrupted by sin and the fall as much as the affections and passions. Such men will pick and choose among the Scriptures themselves. Some things they approve, others they cannot endure. That which bears hard on their pride they will not receive. Hence, views of the natural depravity, misery, and ignorance of man, though most wholesome, most humbling, and directly leading us to Christ and salvation, they reject. They consult what is pleasing and agreeable, and by this they measure doctrines, practice, and everything in which they are concerned. Cheap duties and services, which cost them nothing, they will practice. Difficult, burdensome duties, which would cause them trouble or expose them to reproach, they disregard. Whatever happens to be the fashionable virtues, they will follow. What is not agreeable to the times they live in, they hate.

A false professor of religion never confesses his sin heartily. He does not see the evil of it. He will always defend himself as meaning well and as right in his intentions, even where his actions will bear no argument to vindicate them. Hear him represent his own cause and you can scarcely find anything wrong, even in those transactions where you are sure there must be great blame.

A false professor of religion hides, even from his own eyes, the wickedness of his heart by a multitude of formalities. This was the case of Saul all his days. He worshiped Yahweh, he suppressed witchcraft, he fought the Lord's battles against the Philistines, he discouraged all gross idolatry, he supported a decent show of religious forms, he reverenced the Lord's prophets, and he treated the law of Moses with decent respect. Can it be possible that a man so courageous in the cause of the Lord, so zealous for religion, so decorous in his deportment and so apparently devout, could be in his heart an enemy of God? If it had not been so, I believe it impossible that he should have been forsaken of God at last, and left to despair and self-murder.

A hypocritical professor of religion is far more solicitous about the praise of men than the praise of God. He quiets his mind concerning his sins and evils by contriving to appear well before men. The fear of God and the apprehension of his just displeasure are objects of small concern. If he can contrive to be well received by men, especially men of eminent reputation, he is at ease.

Brethren, tremble at the thought of self-deception. Cry unto God in the language of an honest and true penitent: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Practical Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

"Saul and the Medium at En-Dor" by John Kitto is very good, as is Maclaren's "The Growth and Power of Sin." Other helpful sermons are "Confession of Sin" by James Yonge, and "The Rule of God's Righteous Judgment" by Alexander McCaul.

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Day 24

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, who is like you, full of mercy, tenderness, and compassion? You know our infirmities and pity us because we are weak and frail. You sustain us because we cannot stand alone. You have wrought out a redemption for us because we could not redeem ourselves. You provide food, clothes, and all things necessary, even though our thoughts are not on you. You preserve us from danger and distress and are ever near to help and defend, though we neglect to return grateful thanks. O pardon our blind ignorance, our presumptuous rebellion, our daring folly, and open our eyes to see your favor working for us in every event, your providence directing all things for our welfare. And may we keep them in remembrance that they may sustain us during times of trial or affliction, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We ask in Christ's name. Amen.


Good-Night and Good-Morning
by
George W. Sanville

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort."
2 Corinthians 1:3

Plowing the soul with the sorrow of a great loss often turns into the furrow some nuggets of gold. When Mrs. Lizzie DeArmond lost one of her lovely daughters, she was deeply stricken. Her struggle to understand the great question, "Why?" revealed a depth of character that has given us the comforting message of "Good-night and Good-morning." Like so many gospel hymns, it has come to us because someone had to say "good-bye" to a loved one.

Mrs. DeArmond said to me, "Mr. Sanville, when God called my girl to live with Him, I felt I could not spare her, and it left an ache in my heart that was difficult to bear. The ever-present, persistent question, 'Why should my girl be taken?' became the overwhelming burden of my waking moments. Why should it be my child?

"After several months of wrestling with this question, my health was affected and my faith clouded. Then one night, while I was pacing up and down on my lawn, there came to me the words as if spoken from the sky: 'We Christians do not sorrow without hope. We do have to say good-bye to our loved ones here, but we have that glorious hope of good-morning over there.'

"The message brought surcease [cessation] from my sorrow, comfort for my heart, and stimulus to my faith. I hastened to my room where the poem took form. God gave me a song that has been a blessing in my life, as it will be to others who sorrow for loved ones."

Homer Rodeheaver wrote the musical score for this lovely poem. The evident fine balance between music and poem has brought forth a song of peace and comfort to all who must say "Good-bye" to loved ones. "Let not your heart be troubled; . . . where I am, there ye shall be also."

Note: Our pastor from Chicago, Don Elifson, once sang this hymn during the church service. He introduced it by saying, "I want everyone to know that this is my testimony that when I say 'Good-night' here, I'll say 'Good-morning' up there." Click here for his memorial page and the words of the hymn.

Forty Gospel Hymn Stories

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

The reader will find Ralph Wardlaw's exposition of Ecclesiastes 3:21, "All Return to Dust," very interesting. Read also Ken's paper, "The Christian Answer to Death and the Eternal Destiny of the Redeemed."

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Day 25

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 in 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.


Failing in Prayer
by
O. Hallesby

"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:16

Why do most of us fail so miserably in prayer? I think we will all admit, both to ourselves and to others, that to pray is difficult for everyone. And the difficulty lies in the very act of praying; it feels like too much of an effort.

That the unsaved feel prayer is an effort is not strange in the least. They "receive not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them." They may, of course, feel a desire to pray at times, such as when they are in danger or when they are in a religious frame of mind. But they can never become reconciled to daily and regular prayer, saying, "The Lord certainly does not expect people who are well, strong, and able to work to spend so much valuable time in prayer, especially in these modern times when everyone is so busy."

However, it is something of a surprise to find this view prevalent also among some believing Christians. At conversion they were led into a life of earnest, diligent prayer, and seasons of prayer were the happiest time of the day. But after a certain passage of time, they began to encounter difficulties, and prayer became a burden, an effort. As honest souls they clung diligently and faithfully to prayer; but the free, happy, grateful communion of a redeemed soul with God began to become a matter of duty, performed more or less punctiliously when they felt compelled.

Now the more of an effort prayer becomes, the more easily it is neglected. Results fatal to spiritual life then follow, maybe not immediately but nonetheless certainly. Our minds become worldly. We feel more and more alienated from God, having less and less about which to speak with Him. We develop an unwilling spirit, always finding excuses for having neglected prayer. Our inner life begins to weaken. The pain of living in sin is not felt as keenly as before, because sin is no longer honestly confessed before God. As a result, our spiritual vision becomes blurred, and we can no longer distinguish clearly between that which is sin and that which is not. From now on we resist sin in essentially the same way as worldly people do, struggling only against those sins that are exceedingly dangerous from the standpoint of their consequences.

But such people have no desire to lose their reputation as Christians. For this reason they try to hide the worldliness of their minds as long as possible. In conversation, as well as in the prayer meeting, they are tempted to use language not in harmony with their inner selves. Empty words and affectation now seek to strangle what little prayer life is left in their hearts.

All this and a great deal more is the result of an impaired prayer life. And this is just what has taken place in the lives of many believers.

Prayer

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Check out our Prayer page for a great many helpful articles on prayer. And be sure to read "A Call to Prayer," by J. C. Rule.

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Day 26

A Morning Prayer

O God our heavenly Father, be pleased to hear us now for Jesus Christ's sake. We come before your throne to ask that you instruct us in the nature and spirit of prayer. Make us to understand that no words can reach you unless the Spirit takes them and shows them to Christ, who will plead his merit on our behalf and his sufficiency to supply our weakness. As we enter our private place to worship you, too often we find ourselves distracted by wandering thoughts. Yet we desire them to be entirely focused on you, as if the world were shut out and we had no occupation but to commune with our God. This is a hard task; yea, we confess it is an impossible one. But with you all things are possible, and so we ask your aid with the confidence that you hear us and are waiting to be gracious. Bless us, we pray, for you are a kind, tender, and loving Father who remembers that we are but dust. Amen.


Wrestling in Prayer
by
O. Hallesby

"Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."
Mark 14:38

Why should praying entail so much suffering? Why should our prayer life be a constantly flowing source of anguish? If we will reflect but for a moment, we will, however, see that it really cannot be otherwise. If prayer is the central function of the new life of faith, the very heartbeat of our life in God, it is obvious that our prayer life must become the target against which Satan directs his best and most numerous darts. He understands better than we do what prayer means to ourselves and to others. That is why his chief attack is directed against our prayer life. If he can in one way or another weaken it, his prospects of stealing our life in God without us even noticing it are of the very best.

The first and the decisive battle in connection with prayer is the conflict which arises when we are to make arrangements to be alone with God every day. If the battle is lost for any length of time at this point, the enemy has already won the first skirmish. But even if we gain the victory at the threshold of our prayer closet, our prayer-struggle is by no means over, for our enemy will pursue us right into the prayer closet itself. And here our carnal nature--the old Adam--and Satan will take up the battle anew. Every effort will be concentrated upon making our prayer session as brief as possible, distracting us so completely that we have no opportunity to be alone with God.

My friend, do you know anything about this battle? As you kneel to pray, does it seems as though everything you have to do appears vividly before your mind's eye? You try to keep your thoughts collected and to speak with God, but you succeed only for a moment now and then. Your prayer hour becomes really the most restless hour of the day. To put it plainly, you feel the time you are spending on your knees is just so much time wasted. Then you stop praying, and the enemy has won a very neat victory!

Here is where we are face-to-face with enemies who are vastly superior to us. And they will defeat us every time if we do not learn the true secret of prayer, which is to open our hearts to Jesus. Prayer is for the helpless, and helplessness is not a hindrance. Jesus is knocking at my heart's door desiring to enter in and employ His power to relieve my distress. He has power over my restless thoughts, He can rebuke the storm in my soul and still its raging waters.

The only way in which we can gather and keep collected our distracted minds and our roaming thoughts is to center them about Jesus Christ. By that I mean we should let Christ lay hold of, attract, captivate and gather about Himself all our interests. Then our sessions of prayer will become real meetings with God. "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."

Prayer

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Be sure to read "Answers to Prayer," from George Muller's Narratives. And George Adam Smith has a great sermon, "Our Lord's Example in Prayer." We also have a link to Sir Robert Anderson's book, The Silence of God.

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Day 27

A Morning Prayer

O Lord almighty and eternal, let our prayers be a hallowed sacrifice unto you. We come in faith because you have promised to hear us. You love the petitions of the sincere penitent, and you are ever waiting to be gracious to all men, to have mercy and to forgive. Day by day we should kneel before you in grateful remembrance of your goodness and mercy. With tongues of praise we should glorify you, hourly acknowledging your long-suffering toward us. Enable us to do this for the sake of Jesus, who came down from heaven, took on human flesh, and died to make us heirs of eternal salvation. Amen.


The Purpose of Prayer
by
O. Hallesby

"I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and I will glorify Your name forevermore."
Psalm 86:12

From the very beginning we approach prayer with a grave misconception. Our selfishness knows no bounds. We look upon God as another means of gaining our own ends. We have a carnal nature, and when it can gain some advantage or be delivered from some great suffering or misfortune, it has no objections whatever to praying. On the contrary, then it, too, manifests a desire to pray which is nothing short of astonishing!

We should note well that the temptation to misuse prayer is native to us and comes automatically to every believer. The sons of Zebedee came with their mother to Jesus and asked for the highest places of honor in the earthly kingdom which was about to be established, as they thought. Their prayer was no doubt offered in all innocence and good faith. They were cousins of Jesus and had, together with Peter, already been given positions of preference in the intimate circle of Jesus' friends. When the other apostles heard what the two had done, they became indignant.

But Jesus reacted in an entirely different way. He took very kindly and understandingly to the whole affair. He advised them of their fault and explained everything to them. Such a tender and fervent tone runs though the whole admonition and warms our very souls. It tells us what Jesus' attitude is toward us when we come by families into His presence and ask Him to favor us in every possible way and avert from us all danger and all unpleasantness. He does not become angry with us as we might expect. He understands us, advises us of our mistakes, and tells us how we should pray.

This is what the Spirit of prayer undertakes to do every time we misuse prayer and ask for things for ourselves, for our own enjoyment. Lovingly and kindly, but firmly, He reminds us that this is not in accordance with the true meaning of prayer. He shows us that this is to pray amiss, and points out our mistakes.

The purpose of prayer is to glorify the name of God. Prayer life has its own laws, as all the rest of life has. The fundamental law in prayer is this: Prayer is given and ordained for the purpose of glorifying God. Prayer is the appointed way of giving Jesus an opportunity to exercise His supernatural powers of salvation; and in so doing, He desires to make use of us. If we will make use of prayer, not to wrest from God advantages for ourselves or our dear ones, or to escape from tribulations and difficulties, but to call down upon ourselves and others those things which will glorify the name of God, then we shall see the strongest and boldest promises of the Bible about prayer fulfilled. We shall see such answers to prayer as we had never thought possible.

It is written, "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we ask of him." The apostle establishes the fact from his own prayer experience as well as that of his readers, that if we pray for anything according to the will of God, we already have what we pray for the moment we ask it. It is immediately sent from heaven on its way to us. We do not know exactly when it will arrive while we are asking for it, but those who have learned to know God through the Spirit of God have learned to leave this in His hands, and to live just as happily whether the answer arrives immediately or later.

By this time, no doubt some of my sincere praying readers are feeling depressed. After what has been said so far, you are beginning to suspect that you have misunderstood and misused the sacred privilege of prayer altogether. You have in your daily prayer life been speaking with God about everything, greater as well as lesser things. You have even asked Him for most insignificant things. You are afraid that this is a misuse of prayer and that you should therefore cease at once.

No, my friend, you should by no means cease. On the contrary, you should ask God for still greater simplicity of mind in your daily conversation with Him. Pray that you may become so confidential with Him that you can speak with Him about everything in your daily life. That is what He desires. "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

God knows that it is in our daily lives that we most easily become anxious. He knows that our daily lives are made up of little things, not great things. Therefore, whether you pray for big things or little, say to God, "If it will glorify Thy name, then grant my prayer and help me. But if it will not glorify Thy name, then let me remain in my predicament, and give me power to glorify Thy name in the situation in which I find myself." Only by praying in this way will we succeed in opening our hearts to Jesus. This will give Him the opportunity to exercise His power on our behalf, not only as He wills but also when He wills.

Prayer

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Another excellent sermon on prayer is "The Certainty of Prayer" by James H. McConkey. Also helpful is "The Rules of Right Prayer" by John Calvin.

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Day 28

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, for you have redeemed us and ransomed us from the hand of him who was stronger than we. 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. Therefore we come in his name, confident that his prayer will not be denied. Amen.


Effectual Prayer
by
Charles Spurgeon

"Oh, that I knew where I might find him! That I might come even to his seat!
I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments."
Job 23:3,4

In Job's uttermost extremity he cried after the Lord. It appears that his objective was to pray as in God's presence. He would appeal from the lower courts, where his friends had judged unrighteously, to the High Court of heaven. There, said Job, "I would order my cause before him and fill my mouth with arguments." There are two things here set forth as necessary in prayer: ordering of our cause, and filling our mouth with arguments.

Job teaches us how he meant to plead and intercede with God. He does, as it were, reveal the secrets of his closet and unveils the art of prayer. We are admitted into the guild of suppliants; we are shown the art and mystery of pleading; we have taught to us the blessed handicraft and science of prayer.

First, it is needful that our suit be ordered before God. There is a vulgar notion that prayer is a very easy thing, a kind of common business that may be done anyhow, without care or effort. Some think that you have only to pull a book down from the shelf and get through a certain number of very excellent words and you have prayed, and then you may put the book up again. Others suppose that to use a book is superstitious, and that you ought rather to repeat extemporaneous sentences, sentences which come to your mind with a rush, like a herd of swine or a pack of hounds, and that when you have uttered them with some little attention to what you have said, you have prayed.

Now neither of these modes of prayer were adopted by ancient saints. They were accustomed, like Job, to order their cause before God in the manner of a petitioner coming into Court. A petitioner does not come into court unprepared, stating his case on the spur of the moment. Rather, he enters into the chamber with his case well prepared, having learned, moreover, how he ought to behave in the presence of the great One to whom he is appealing. There are times, when in peril and distress, that we may fly to God just as we are, as the dove enters the cleft of the rock even though her plumes are ruffled. But in ordinary times we should not come with an unprepared spirit. See yonder priest? He has a sacrifice to offer. But he does not rush into the court of the priests and hack at the bullock with the first ax upon which he can lay his hand. He washes his feet at the brazen laver, puts on his garments, adorns himself with his priestly vestments, and then he comes to the altar with his victim properly divided according to the law. He is careful to do according to the command and takes the blood in a bowl and pours it in an appropriate place at the foot of the altar, not throwing it any which way. He does not kindle the fire with a common flame but with the sacred fire from off the altar. Now this ritual is all superseded, but the truth which it taught remains the same: our spiritual sacrifices should be offered with holy carefulness. God forbid that our prayer should be a mere leaping out of one's bed and kneeling down and saying anything that comes first to mind.

When I feel that I am in the presence of God and take my rightful position in that presence, the next thing I shall want to recognize will be that I have no right to what I am seeking. I cannot expect to obtain it except as a gift of grace. I must also recognize that the only channel for receiving mercy is through his dear Son. Let me put myself then under the patronage of the great Redeemer. Let me feel that now it is no longer I that speak but Christ who speaks with me, and that while I plead, I plead his wounds, his life, his death, his blood, himself.

The next thing is to consider what I am to ask for. It is most proper to aim at great distinctness in supplication. Do not beat around the bush but come directly to the point. I like that prayer of Abraham's: "Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!" There is the name of the person prayed for and the blessing desired all in a few words. Many persons would have used a roundabout expression of this kind: "Oh that our beloved offspring might be regarded with the favor which thou bearest to those who," etc. Why not be distinct and say what we mean as well as mean what we say? It is not necessary to rehearse the catalog of every desire you may have had, can have, or shall have. Ask for what you now need. Ask for it plainly. Your eloquence and oratory will be less than nothing and vanity. Let your words be few but let your heart be fervent.

You have not quite completed the ordering when you have asked for what you want through Jesus Christ. There should be a searching as to whether it is assuredly a fitting thing to ask, for some prayers would never be offered if men did but think. A little reflection would show us that some things which we desire were better let alone. We may, moreover, have a motive at the bottom of our desire which is not Christ-like, a selfish motive which forgets God's glory and caters only for our own ease and comfort. Now although we may ask for things which are for our profit, yet still we must never let our profit interfere in any way with the glory of God. There must be mingled with acceptable prayer the holy salt of submission to the divine will. When we are sure that what we ask for is for God's glory, then, if we have power in prayer, we may say, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me."

The second part of prayer is filling the mouth with arguments, and the first question is, why are arguments to be used at all? Most certainly it is not because God is slow to give or because we can change the divine purpose or because he needs to be informed of our circumstances. The arguments to be used are for our own benefit. When we bring forth strong reasons, it shows that we feel the value of the mercy. There is no need for prayer at all as far as God is concerned, but what a need there is for it on our own account! The very act of praying is a blessing. To pray is to bathe oneself in a cooling stream, to mount on eagle's wings above the clouds, to enter the treasure house of God. To pray is to grasp heaven in one's arms, to embrace the Deity within one's soul. To pray is to cast off your burdens, to throw away your rags, to shake off your diseases, and to be filled with spiritual vigor. It is to reach the highest point of Christian health.

Now the most interesting part of our subject remains: a rapid summary and catalog of a few of the arguments which have been used with great success with God.

It is well in prayer to plead with Jehovah his attributes. Abraham did so when he laid hold upon God's justice when he pleaded for Sodom. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Here the wrestling begins. It was a powerful argument by which Abraham grasped the Lord's left hand and arrested it just when the thunderbolt was about to fall. But there came a reply to it. It was intimated to him that this would not spare the city, and you notice how the good man, when sorely pressed, retreated by inches; and at last, when he could no longer lay hold upon justice, he grasped God's right hand of mercy, and that gave him a wondrous hold when he asked that if there were but ten righteous there the city might be spared. So you and I may take hold at any time upon the justice, the mercy, the faithfulness, the wisdom, the long-suffering, the tenderness of God, and we shall find every attribute of the Most High to be, as it were, a great battering ram with which we may open the gates of heaven.

Another mighty piece of ordnance in the battle of prayer is God's promise. When Jacob was on the other side of the brook Jabbok and his brother Esau was coming with armed men, he pleaded with God not to suffer Esau to destroy the mother and the children. As a master reasoner he pleaded, "And thou said, Surely I will do thee good." Oh the force of that plea! He was holding God to his word, "Thou said."

A third argument to be used is that employed by Moses, the great name of God. How mightily did he argue with God upon this ground! "What will thou do for thy great name? The Egyptians will say, Because the Lord could not bring them into the land, therefore he slew them in the wilderness." Now, if the Lord should not be as good as his promise, not only is the believer deceived but the wicked world looking on would say, "Aha! Where is your God?"

We may also plead the sorrows of his people. Jeremiah is the great master of this art. "The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" He talks of all their griefs and trials in the siege. He calls upon the Lord to look upon his suffering Zion, and ere long his plaintive cries are heard.

It is good to plead with God the past. David prays, "Thou hast been my help. Leave me not, neither forsake me." Moses also, speaking with God, says, "Thou did bring this people up out of Egypt." As if he would say, "Do not leave thy work unfinished."

Lastly, the grand Christian argument is the suffering, the death, the merit, the intercession of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I am afraid we do not understand what it is that we have at our command when we are allowed to plead with God for Christ's sake. When we ask God to hear us, pleading Christ's name, we usually mean, "O Lord, thy dear son deserves this of thee; do this unto me because of what he merits." But we might go farther. Supposing you should say to me, you who keep a warehouse in the city, "Sir, call at my office and use my name, and say that they are to give you such a thing." I should go in and use your name and obtain my request as a matter of right and a matter of necessity.

This is virtually what Jesus Christ says to us. "If you need anything of God, all that the Father has belongs to me; go and use my name." When you have Christ's name, to whom the very justice of God has become a debtor and whose merits have claims with the Most High, there is no need to speak with fear and trembling and bated breath. Oh waver not and let not faith stagger. The name of Christ which you plead shakes the gates of hell!

The man who has his mouth full of arguments in prayer shall soon have his mouth full of benedictions in answer to prayer. It is said (I know not how truly) that the explanation of the text, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," may be found in a very singular Oriental custom. It is said that not many years ago (I remember the circumstance being reported) the King of Persia ordered the chief of his nobility, who had done something which greatly gratified him, to open his mouth. And when he had done so, he began to put into his mouth pearls, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds until he had filled it as full as it could hold. Then he bade him go his way. This is said to have been occasionally done in Oriental courts toward great favorites. God says, "Open thy mouth with arguments," and then he will fill it with mercies priceless, gems unspeakably valuable. Would not a man open his mouth wide to have it filled in such a style? Surely the most simple-minded among you would be wise enough for that. Let us then open wide our mouths when we have to plead with God. Our needs are great. Let our requests be great, and the supply shall be great too.

12 Sermons on Prayer

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will benefit from Walter Chantry's chapter on "Prayer." Read also "Job's First Answer" from Franz Delitzsch's commentary (scroll down).

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Day 29

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, how shall we come into your presence to bow before your throne of grace? We are unworthy of your notice, and were you to judge us according to our deserts, our most innocent periods of life and most devout times of worship would make us shrink back with dread and despair. But we are encouraged to approach you by the revelation you have given of yourself as the Lord God gracious and merciful, by the invitations and promises of your word, and by the mediation of your dear Son. May we therefore draw near in full assurance of faith, believing that we are as welcome as we are needy, and your blessings as gracious as they are great. Hear us now for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Prayer Answered
by
Francis Trench

"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
John 14:13, 14

It is not my purpose to dwell on the general subject of prayer but to take up three points regarding it. First, the need of our prayers being offered in the name of Jesus, who, as our Mediator, intercedes between God and us. Second, the promise and assurance that all prayer offered in his name shall be heard and answered. Third, that in spite of apparent denial, all prayer made in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is really answered, as He Himself infallibly and unquestionably assures us in our text.

First, we have no permission and no right to approach God at all except as redeemed creatures; otherwise, to sinful and fallen creatures like ourselves, He must be "a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29), "dwelling in unapproachable light" (1 Tim. 6:16). This was plainly typified when Israel stood before God at Mount Horeb. What was their cry? "Let me not hear again the voice of Yahweh my God, neither let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die." And God said, "What they have spoken is good," and Moses alone was permitted a close access to God in order that he might come, stand, act, and intercede between God and men as the Mediator of the old covenant. Moreover, he occupied this wonderful place not on account of any peculiar merit or excellency in himself, but as typifying and representing Jesus Christ our Lord, the Mediator of the new Covenant, sanctioned and sealed by His own precious blood.

Accordingly, we come before God solely on account of the merits and the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ; and we dishonor God by any other mode of approach, for in Jesus "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9), and in Him are stored and treasured up all good gifts for us. Merely to worship God as some unknown, though Almighty, Being is not to be a Christian. To deserve that honorable name of Christian, or to enjoy any of its true privileges either here or hereafter, we must worship Him as revealed in and through Jesus Christ. And in all the range of Divinity no subject of more practical importance can be impressed on the human heart, for though the world at large is willing to acknowledge and speak of God as the Almighty, it is ever unwilling to acknowledge and to speak of Jesus Christ as God revealed to man, as the dying and the suffering Savior, as the only and exclusive way for anyone on earth to come to God and be saved.

Now to the second part of our subject. It is not merely that some prayer but that all prayer offered in His name is received and granted. "Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do." And to begin, let me state that as wide, grand, and comprehensive as this promise is, it is by no means a solitary passage of the kind. Very much the contrary. In fact, all the assurances of Scripture relative to prayer in the name of Jesus are precisely of the same character. See for instance the Sermon on the Mount: "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:9,10). No limitation here. Again Jesus says, "Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). No limitation here either. Once more He says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23,24). Again, no limitation.

What blessed encouragements are these! What blessed liberty is opened before us in our petitions to God! Yet there are many who sadly limit themselves in their prayers by thinking their temporal affairs are not important enough to bring before God in comparison with their spiritual needs, or that the small, daily circumstances of life do not require the Lord's guidance. But surely the examples of the saints encourage us in the opposite direction. Does Paul want a safe journey? He prays for it. Does Hezekiah want to be cured of his sickness? He prays for it. Is Peter in prison? Prayer is made for his deliverance. Is rain needed? Elijah prays and rain is given. Is Jacob afraid of his brother's wrath? He prays that it may be restrained. Does Nehemiah want the favor of the king? He prays for it. Does Hannah want a child? She prays for one. What does our Lord say? "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6).

Third, in all cases prayer offered in the name of Jesus is heard and answered by Him; yes, even though our petitions are apparently refused. But here we must be careful to explain (not to explain away) what that means; to show the strength (not to dilute or virtually annul it) of God's promises; to raise up our apprehensions of them (not to bring them down to the narrow and puny capacity of our own natural understanding).

Some will say that they have often prayed; but as far as they can judge, their prayers have not been answered. Take spiritual things. They have prayed for peace and the strong consolation of the Spirit, or for success in some undertaking for the good of another's soul, or for ability to speak and show forth the praises of God when in the company of others. But peace, they say, did not come. They enjoyed no consolation. No apparent good was done to the object of their Christian concern. They were silent when they felt that they should have spoken openly and boldly in their Saviour's praise and in confession of His name. Or take temporal things. You have asked for health, but sickness continues; for ease, but pain still afflicts you; for the life of a beloved one, but death took the sufferer away; for aid in poverty, but poverty is still your lot; for friends, but you are still desolate; for a clear path before you, but perplexity surrounds you still. And therefore you want it explained how your experience can correspond to the text, how you can say your own personal "Amen!" to the many declarations of the kind found in God's Word.

Now all is explained when we remember that the true believer knows that he ought always to exercise one grand desire paramount to all the wishes of his own heart: that God would not grant him his petition if it would not be for the glory of God and according to His sovereign will, or if the refusal of his request and the appointment of a different lot in the all-wise and loving purposes of God would be better for him than that which he himself seeks. To ask otherwise would just be irreverence, presumption, and petulance; yes, oftentimes our complete ruin.

However earnestly we ask anything from God, every one of us must feel that all should be asked in due subordination to His power, who is mightier than us; to His wisdom, who is wiser than us; and to His love, who loves us more than we can love ourselves. And, indeed, when we duly consider it, this appears the very and precise truth that enables us to make our supplications at all with anything like firmness, heartiness, or peace of mind.

I do not hesitate to say that according to these principles the apparent denial of our prayer is a real answer to it. Yet how few are such cases when compared with the obvious answers to such prayers. Often, no doubt, you have found that your own extremity was God's opportunity. The Spirit led you to pour forth your petitions to Him in the name of His own dear Son. Then, while you were yet speaking, or soon afterward, or at all events just at the right and befitting time, you received the desire of your heart and the request of your lips. I ask, is it not so? Happy are they who most experience such things! And may these blessed truths, these glad remembrances, stir us all up far more than ever to pray for all good things, for ourselves and for others, for body and soul. And may it be the prayer of faith. From it, or rather from God through it as His own ordained means, let us ever expect and anticipate ample and glorious results. And let us remember always to pray in the name of Jesus, under the mighty sanction and warrant of His own most faithful Word. Then, indeed, how surely and fully shall He accomplish for us the precious assurance of the text, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it."

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

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Another good exposition of this text is that of J. C. Ryle. Here too is a most helpful sermon, "On Prayer," by B. S. Maturin. And for more encouragement, read "Answers to Prayer from George Muller's Narratives." It will prove fascinating reading.

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Day 30

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God not of the dead but of the living. 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? Open your word to us by your Holy Spirit, lest we sleep away the precious time remaining. Awaken us, lest the precious days when your mercy is offered come to an end and we find ourselves standing before the judgment seat of Christ. It is then that all our works 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. 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.


A Conversation with Nicodemus
by
Merrill C. Tenney

"Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? . . . For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:10, 16)

We meet with Nicodemus in this third chapter of John: "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do except God be with him." Here was a declaration that was both a polite concession and an initial step of faith. It revealed he was a gentleman, because he paid Jesus a sincere compliment. He was also a thinker, because his words implied that he had concluded that only a heaven-sent person could perform them.

The reply of Jesus was startling for its abruptness: "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The statement seems almost irrelevant, but Jesus knew that his circuitous approach concealed a deeper need. He was seeking the kingdom of God. "Cannot" implies incapability rather than prohibition. The natural man is not arbitrarily debarred from the kingdom, but he is inherently incapable of apprehending it, just as a blind man cannot enjoy a sunset. The figure of speech which Jesus employed was possibly familiar to Nicodemus. At any rate, its meaning was clear to him. Just as an infant, by the very occurrence of his birth, is fitted for a new life in a strange realm, so men must experience spiritual rebirth preparatory to their entrance into the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus' second utterance was a twofold query. "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" To assume that a man so astute as Nicodemus should have thought the new birth to be literally physical is absurd. The question rather meant: "I acknowledge that a new birth is necessary, but I am too old to change. My pattern of life is set. Physical birth is out of the question and psychological rebirth seems even less probable. Granting the truth of what you say, is not my case hopeless?"

The reply of Jesus was an appeal to Nicodemus' knowledge. "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "Water" would recall to the inquirer the ministry of John the Baptist, whose preaching of repentance and of baptism would be fresh in his mind. To a Jew, the idea of baptism would be repugnant since it connoted the ceremony by which an unclean Gentile became a member of the Jewish faith. Such a step as this for Nicodemus would involve humiliation, a virtual acknowledgment that he, a Pharisee, needed to repent just as a Gentile outside the law needed repentance. Furthermore, this birth must come through the Spirit. Nicodemus knew nothing of the Spirit experimentally. In Old Testament teaching, the Spirit came upon the prophets or other specially chosen men for unusual reasons, but nowhere in Judaism was taught the coming of the Spirit upon all men for their personal regeneration. The mystery and reality of the Spirit's work were both contained in Jesus' illustration of the wind whose origin was undiscoverable but whose presence was manifest. Nobody could deny its existence. Thus it was with those born of the Spirit. The origin of their life could not be defined, but its actuality could be seen by all.

Nicodemus posed a further question: "How can these things be?" This was an earnest plea for a method of fulfillment, not an expression of amazement and incredulity. The seeker was eager to participate in the spiritual privileges of which Jesus spoke, and he pressed the point. A fair paraphrase of the passage would be, "How can I experience this new birth?"

Jesus answers, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?" The definite article implied that Nicodemus must have been regarded as the outstanding teacher in Israel, yet he was ignorant of a cardinal spiritual truth. Jesus was hesitant about telling him more. If he were unable to comprehend matters illustrated by material experience, he would be incapable of grasping truth which had no earthly analogy. Beyond Jesus' own word there could be no further explanation. He was the sole link between heaven and earth.

For this reason Jesus approached the problem from the standpoint of the Jewish Scriptures with which Nicodemus undoubtedly was familiar. He selected the story of the brazen serpent and made a direct comparison between the serpent and Himself. It was a startling simile, for the serpent was the emblem of sin under judgment, as Nicodemus would recognize. The points of comparison were as follows:

(1) The brazen serpent was prepared by the command of God. (2) It symbolized God's way of saving men who are under the condemnation of sin and suffering from its effects. (3) It made curative power available on the basis of faith rather than of works. The sufferers did nothing but look at the serpent. (4) It was lifted up on a banner staff. The word here translated "lifted up" (hypsoo) was used by John only of the passion of Christ (8:28, 12:32, 34), and the inference is clear that he intended an analogy between the brazen serpent and the cross. (5) The serpent itself was a representation of God's judgment on sin. (6) The destiny of the individual was determined by his response to God's invitation.

God's positive purpose in Christ is the salvation of the unbeliever. Although judgment is the inevitable consequence of disbelief, it is not God's primary desire for men. The breadth of the invitation is revealed by the "whosoever," which is as inclusive and indefinite as possible. Salvation is not restricted to any race, color, or class, but is the heritage of all who will truly believe.

JOHN: The Gospel of Belief

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Another good exposition of this text is that of J. C. Ryle. Samuel Davies has a wonderful sermon on salvation, "The Method of Salvation through Jesus Christ." And Maclaren writes about "Guilty Silence and its Reward." For more by Tenney, read his book, The Reality of the Resurrection.

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