Daily Devotions from the Classics

A Monthly Reading of Insights from Renowned Christians

September

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Day 1

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, with you one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. You will fulfill your promise and Jesus will come to earth again. Though his coming be delayed, give us that patience to await your time and not be faint or weary in your service. Convince us that you are not slack concerning your promise, that there is no indifference or forgetfulness on your part that makes you delay. It is only to promote the welfare of man that you do so. Strengthen us, that we may set ourselves to secure your blessing and be found in all holy conversation and godliness as we pray for the hastening of the coming of Christ. Grant this in mercy and love for his sake. Amen.


The Lord's Coming
by
Alexander Reese

"He who testifies to these things says,
'Surely I am coming quickly.'
Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
Revelation 22:20

Until the second quarter of the nineteenth century, general agreement existed among premillennial advocates of our Lord's Coming concerning the main outlines of the prophetic future. Amid differences of opinion on the interpretation of the Apocalypse and other portions of Scripture, the following scheme stood out as fairly representative of the school.

1. The approaching Advent of Christ to this world will be visible, personal, and glorious.

2. This Advent, though in itself a single crisis, will be accompanied and followed by a variety of phenomena bearing upon the history of the Church, of Israel, and the world. Believers who survive until the Advent will be transfigured and translated to meet the approaching Lord, together with the saints raised and changed at the first resurrection. Immediately following this, Antichrist and his allies will be slain, and Israel--the covenant people--will repent and be saved by looking upon Him whom they pierced.

3. Thereupon, the Messianic Kingdom of prophecy, which as the Apocalypse informs us will last for a thousand years, will be established in power and great glory in a transfigured world. The nations will turn to God, war and oppression cease, and righteousness and peace cover the earth.

4. At the conclusion of the kingly rule of Christ and His saints, the rest of the dead will be raised, the Last Judgment ensue, and a new and eternal world be created.

5. No distinction was made between the Coming of our Lord, His Appearing, Revelation, and Day, because these were all held to be synonymous, or at least related, terms, signifying always the one Advent in glory at the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.

6. While the Coming of Christ--no matter how long the present dispensation may last--is the true and proper hope of the Church in every generation, it is nevertheless conditioned by the prior fulfillment of certain signs or events in the history of the Kingdom of God: the Gospel has first to be preached to all nations, the Apostasy and the Man of Sin be revealed, and the Great Tribulation come to pass. Then shall the Lord come.

7. The Church of Christ will not be removed from the earth until the Advent of Christ at the very end of the present Age. The Rapture and the Appearing take place at the same crisis; hence, Christians of that generation will be exposed to the final affliction under Antichrist.

Such is a fair statement of the fundamentals of Premillennialism as it has obtained since the close of the Apostolic Age. There have been differences of opinion on details and subsidiary points, but the main outline is as I have given it.

These views were held in the main by Irenaeus (the "grandpupil" of the Apostle John), Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and the primitive Christians generally, until the rise of the Catholic, political Church in the West. Since the beginning of the last century, what a galaxy of preachers, theologians, and expositors have appeared to maintain the ancient faith! The fact that so many eminent men reached similar conclusions regarding the subject of Christ's Coming and Kingdom creates a strong presumption that such views are scriptural, and that nothing plainly taught in Scripture and essential to the Church's hope was overlooked.

The Approaching Advent of Christ

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also our study on the Book of Revelation.

A very good book is "The Hope of Christ's Second Coming" by Samuel P. Tregelles.

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Day 2

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, to you only belong mercies and forgiveness. From no other can salvation come. You are God in heaven above, which manifestly declares your glory, and you rule over all the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Your eye surveys all things, and your mercy is over all your works. Oh, make us to rejoice that we are your workmanship, that it was you who fashioned us and who will not fail to preserve us! But above all, enable us to meditate upon that exceeding love shown to us, while we were yet sinners, in the death of Jesus. Make us fully sensible of it, and enable us to prove our gratitude for it by lives of holy and entire obedience. We confess that we can do nothing to compare with what you have done on our behalf, but all you ask we may give, even ourselves a living sacrifice unto you. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.


Tribulation Arguments Considered
by
Samuel P. Tregelles

"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened...Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:21-30)

The Lord Jesus gives a warning of an unequaled tribulation which shall immediately precede His coming in glory. Some have said, "What a fearful prospect it is if the Church shall be in this tribulation! Can we suppose it possible that the Lord can permit any part of this suffering to fall on His redeemed and believing people? Is it not more fitting, more in accordance with His dealings in grace towards them, that they should be removed to be with Him before this trouble sets in?" And by such thinking any theory is judged admissible which shall exclude the Church from sharing at all in this suffering or from being on earth at the time.

We cannot draw conclusions in this transcendental manner. Thus Peter argued and spoke when his Master foretold "that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." It was nature, and not spirituality, that led Peter to think in this way of the sufferings of his Lord, rather than of the promise of His resurrection. "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" Should not our Lord’s rebuke to Peter check all such reasonings, especially when He speaks of His followers taking up their cross and losing their lives, but having before them the promise that the "Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father?" We can never set our opinion of what is fitting in opposition to any direct statement of the Lord.

But is suffering and trial so strange a lot for the people of Christ? "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." How continually did the apostles teach that "we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." "No one should be shaken by these afflictions: for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation." If, then, certain tribulations are to be expected as the common experience of the faithful servants of Christ, why should it seem strange that they should be instructed concerning the great and final tribulation? Why should it be thought that they must previously be taken away?

"Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from? These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." The gathered assembly of those whose robes have been washed and made white in the blood of atonement are set forth as those who have passed through great tribulation. It is so spoken of as their characteristic; as if the last scene on earth in which they had been regarded was one marked by tribulation.

It has been asked, "If the great tribulation is an affliction for Israel and a punishment for the Gentiles, how can the Church be in it?" In this inquiry, two fallacies are assumed: First, that this tribulation is part of the outpouring of judgment; and second, that the Church, while in the world, is exempted from part of the suffering which falls on men or on nations. Concerning the first, for believers there is no penal suffering, because Christ in life and in death endured for His people all that is penal. As regards the second, any disciplinary sorrow on Israel or on the nations before Christ comes has, in part at least, a corrective character: it ought to lead to repentance. And from this, the last tribulation (though of a very special kind) is not to be excepted. However, in this last tribulation Christ is very mindful of His people: "for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened." Besides this, they are warned of that time, in order that they may at once flee away from the scene of suffering. Those who believe that these warnings are intended for Christians may, by obeying the word of the Lord, be locally removed from the fierceness of the trial.

Thus the Lord desires that His people should be enabled to endure; that in obedience to Him, they should watch the coming on of this tribulation, and that they should know that, however they may in part be sharers in it, His own coming is to follow at once.

The Hope of Christ's Second Coming

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also our study on the Book of Revelation.

John Scruby has a chapter examining pretribulationism which you might like, "Pre-Tribulation-Rapturism Merely Inferential".

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Day 3

A Morning Prayer

O eternal God, who dwells in light unapproachable, who reigns in heaven ordering all things, who sends his blessed angels to do his bidding, hear us now as we approach your throne of grace. Enable us to be as anxious to do your bidding as the angels. Give us a hearty zeal to promote your honor and glory among all whom we meet. If we should ask ourselves, "What have I done this day for you, how much have I given myself to you in thought, word, or deed, how often have I brought glory to your name," we must bow our heads in shame. Be merciful to us and pardon our weakness of faith, our deadness of spirit, our coldness of service. Let us make no provision for the lusts of the flesh, but let us call upon the aid of your Holy Spirit. And in all we do to glorify your name, keep us humble in its remembrance, knowing that having done all, we are still unprofitable servants, unable to stand before you except in the shadow of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Love of Human Praise Fatal to Faith
by
George Bethune

"How can you believe, who receive honor from one another,
and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?"
John 5:44

From the fall to this day, from Adam who hid himself from the face of the Lord God among the trees of the Garden to the unbeliever who listens with a careless heart to this sermon, "Everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light lest his deeds should be reproved." And "this is the condemnation" of us all--until we become children of God in Jesus Christ--"'that light," the light of truth, the light of holiness, the light of mercy, the light of virtuous hope, "has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Hence the necessity of that entire change of the heart which the Scriptures call a new birth, the acquiring of a new nature, before we can enter by faith into the kingdom of God.

One form of this evil influence so fatal to faith, our Saviour describes in our holy text. The Pharisees were enraged against him for the strange crime of healing a poor paralytic on the Sabbath day. But their rage rose to madness when he declared that he was working his Father's will with the power of God. They were ready to put him to death because he proved that he was the Son of God by an act of miraculous mercy, which nothing less than divine power could have performed. So true is it, that when men are determined to find fault they never lack a pretext, and that there are none so skeptical of goodness as those who are hypocritical boasters of their own morality. Our Saviour flings back the charge in their false faces. He shows them that if they truly believed in God, they could never doubt such mercy and such power. Then, as with a two-edged sword, he pierces to the malice rankling in their bosoms and says, "I know ye, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name," with the manifest proofs of my Father's approbation, "and ye receive me not. If another come, in his own name," one, like yourselves, pleasing your pride with a less holy doctrine, "him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?"

The doctrine is plain. No man can believe in Christ who, for the sake of praise from men, neglects to secure the approbation of his God.

Let me guard the proposition from being misunderstood. The Master does not mean to say that a Christian may take no pains to have a good character in the world. On the contrary, in another place he calls his true disciples "lights of the world," bidding them "let their light so shine before men, that they, seeing their good works, may glorify their Father who is in heaven." And Paul commands in his Lord's name that we "let not our good be evil spoken of," and "avoid the very appearance of evil."

Christian character has taken the place of natural miracles in proving the moral power of religion. The Christian should guard his character as not his own, but the testimony and property of Jesus Christ. And foul guilt rests upon those who, from envy, or malice, or idle tattling, mar the fair name and so hinder the usefulness of any child of God. They become one with the devil in the loathsome office of accusing the brethren and the saints of the Most High. Our Saviour here means to say, that the approbation of God should be our first care, and the praise of men sought only while obedient to his will. Though all the world should hiss and scoff, we are to hold fast our integrity in the sight of Him who knows the heart and metes out unfailing justice.

Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Let us seek more earnestly to praise Christ. See Theodor Zahn's sermon, "The Beauty of Praise".

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Day 4

A Morning Prayer

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


Christian Unity
by
Manton Eastburn

"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)

The first duty to which Paul calls the attention of the Philippians is that of Christian unity and agreement among themselves. The admonition here given is expressed with great beauty, and with somewhat more fullness, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1:10).

The intention of St. Paul is to enforce the propriety and the expediency of abstaining from controversy over minor points of difference, and of endeavoring rather (since they were possessors of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism") to "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." And would to God, my dear brethren, that the counsel of the Apostle could be engraved upon the hearts of all who, under the standard of Christ, profess to be "fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God!" For it would be difficult to suggest a more effectual method of lending weapons to the adversaries of the gospel than that spirit of contention over lesser things by which Christians, instead of presenting the appearance of one unbroken body, seem to be a "house divided against itself." The argument of the unbeliever is, "Amid such diversity of opinions, who shall venture to decide?"

Against this objection, then, the precept of St. Paul furnishes believers with a complete and triumphant defense. Let those who embrace the gospel of Christ merge unimportant differences into one common and absorbing attachment to the grand essentials of Christianity. Under varying names and with different modes of discipline and worship, but washed in the same blood and traveling to the same heavenly country, let them show that they are in reality one fold under one Shepherd by forgetting the points on which they differ and rejoicing in those on which they mutually agree. Now it is not to be expected that in the present state of things all men should think alike. Yet it is reasonable to look for unity in the bonds of the Lord Jesus, and that his disciples should be drawn together into one feeling with respect to the leading doctrines of the "glorious gospel of Christ." The trivial and annoying objections of opponents will then be silenced in proportion to the extent with which this holy unanimity prevails.

Where the Redeemer is acknowledged as the sinner's Savior and God and the holiness of his requirements is maintained, there let your affections be called forth, and there enjoy sweet fellowship. By doing so, the Psalmist's expressive description will be realized, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," as well as the Redeemer's prayer, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us."

Lectures, Explanatory and Practical, on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See this article on the church by Robert Culver, "Defining Ecclesiology".

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Day 5

A Morning Prayer

O God most high, look favorably upon us as we come before your throne of grace through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We confess our strength is only weakness and our energies but a breath, and that we have utterly failed this past week to live in the power of your Spirit. Pardon us, we pray, and grant that we may pursue with greater zeal a life of faith that proves our love for you. Amen


The Instructive Example of Baal's Priests
Part 1
by
Henry Melvill

"And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, 'O Baal, answer us!' But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.' And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention." (1 Kings 18:26-29 ESV)

Recorded in 1 Kings 18 is the remarkable and interesting narrative of Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Now it may appear somewhat strange to select as our subject those verses which relate exclusively to the conduct of the idolatrous priests. You would have expected to hear about the intrepidity of Elijah, his pointed question to the Israelites, or the noble demonstration which God gave of his greatness. You would receive it as a matter of course if we held up Elijah as a pattern, or if we transferred his remonstrances to our own day. But it is the three great respects in which Baal's priests set a most instructive example that we shall pursue.

The first example is their zeal: they were willing to suffer and "cut themselves with knives and lancets." Among the heathen there is an extraordinary readiness to make suffering a part of their religion, to undergo severe labors and excruciating pains in hope of averting the anger of some imagined deity. Now they are wrong to suppose virtue in such penances, for they apply them to the body rather than the soul. Nevertheless, they are quite right in a principle which may justly be called scriptural: that "they who would enter into heaven must suffer in the flesh." And among ourselves, how many are there who have wandered further from this truth than have the very heathen in the midst of their deep moral degradation! Mortification is a duty, and it is the soul that is to be especially its subject. The pagan is wrong in substituting mortification of the body for that of the soul, but is he not after all somewhat nearer to the truth than many a professed Christian who mortifies neither?

If you drew your conclusions from the deportment of the great mass of Christians, you would have thought it was the goal of the Gospel to release men from all that rigor and self-chastisement which natural religion had more or less dictated. But on the contrary, the Gospel has only corrected erroneous notions as to what this rigor should be and how the chastisement should be applied. The most severe rules that were ever laid down by the Indian devotee do not exceed those prescribed by Christianity: "And they who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts." "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection." "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out . . . if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off." You say, "This is just figurative language." But is there no meaning in the figure, nothing denoted by the metaphor? Where the figure is singularly energetic, the thing figured must be proportionately difficult or great. It would be accusing the Bible of the worst exaggeration to suppose that it drew its metaphors from what is great or tremendous to delineate only what is trifling.

Take heed, then, that you do not deceive yourselves. It is not without conflict, it is not without struggle, it is not without sacrifice, it is not without self-chastisement that you may look to be saved. Ask yourself whether you are acting on the meaning of those precepts of the Gospel that demand, under strong figures, the mortification of the flesh and the surrender of everything that hinders piety.

And here it is that the priests of Baal give their first lesson. They served a god to whom it would be acceptable to lacerate their bodies while acting as his worshippers. They did not at all shrink from doing what their creed required of them. Listen to the description: "They cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them." You are to observe the expression, "after their custom." It implies a habit, their usual practice when ministering at the altar of Baal. It was not when religion or even life was at stake that they were prompted to such action.

Dear Christian, can it be necessary to enlarge on the emphatic condemnation which those priests of Baal are pronouncing upon you? Will your zeal stand being brought into comparison with theirs? When in the privacy of your own home or business, is it your habit to keep a check on every evil propensity and to present your body a living sacrifice unto God, or is it merely on some grand occasion when thousands are gathered upon Carmel that you can perform an act of self-denial, resist a strong passion, or relinquish a favorite object? Are you the master of your appetite, or does it master you? Do you consider yourself a proprietor of money, or do you recognize yourself as only a steward who will have to give an account of its distribution to his Master? Do you abstain from those pleasures whose lawfulness seems doubtful? Do you practice self-restraint to further the great ends of moral discipline? Alas, Baal is often served better by his worshippers than Christ is by his. Baal's yoke was heavy, but it was borne. Christ's yoke is light, yet it is shrugged off.

Shall not the very heathen, who have inflicted upon themselves excruciating torments by believing a false religion, rise up against us in the judgment and condemn us, we who had all the advantages of a full revelation, begrudging those sacrifices that would yield a thousandfold return and casting off those restraints that would make us masters of ourselves? And what more can be said if falsehood of a most repulsive and oppressive form can gather to itself the most devoted adherents, and yet truth under the most engaging and beneficent form meets with nothing but coldness and scorn? Dear readers, be not one of those who will shrink away speechless from the judgment seat of Christ for pleading that Christianity exacted what could not be rendered, while heathenism produces its long host of devotees who, at the supposed bidding of a deity who took delight in the sufferings of his creatures, "cut themselves with knives and lancets until the blood gushed out."

The Church of England Magazine, No. 524, May, 1845

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is a great sermon by George Mountain on Luke 18:1, "He spake a parable . . . that men ought always to pray and not to faint".

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Day 6

A Morning Prayer

O gracious and glorious Lord God, let all the world praise you and magnify your name. Let multitudes here on earth proclaim your goodness day by day and tell forth your loving mercy and truth as each night returns. Let all your worshiping people tell of your wonders and go forth in your strength to proclaim them among the nations of the earth. Yea, let us acknowledge your honor to friends and neighbors, being the instrument in your hands to advance your kingdom. May we assist all within our reach to walk as your servants and magnify your name for mercies granted in love and pity, yet undeserved and unasked. We bring our petitions to your throne in the name of our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Instructive Example of Baal's Priests
Part 2
by
Henry Melvill

"And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, 'O Baal, answer us!' But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.' And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention." (1 Kings 18:26-29 ESV)

The second example regarding the priests of Baal is in respect to their courage: they persevered in spite of the keen ridicule of Elijah. No sooner had Baal's priests been taunted by Elijah, and that in a most biting strain of sarcasm, than they begin to cut themselves. It were as if the effect of ridicule had made them more earnest in their superstition. After having been engaged for hours in ineffectual supplication, you might have thought they would have been too abashed by such sarcastic words to continue. But so far from shrinking away with confusion of face, they seem rather to have been encouraged to make fresh efforts to attract the notice and aid of their idol.

In the matter of religion, and perhaps in almost every matter, there is nothing which men find so difficult to bear as ridicule. They can brave a frown, be daunted by a laugh, appalled by a sneer, when they would not have shrunk away from a sword. Take, for example, the man who has been praying for assistance from God. He has received no answer to his prayer. In fact, he thinks he has been unheard and deserted. Precisely at this moment he is taunted by an atheist, who mercilessly ridicules him for his belief in God and appeals to his unsuccessful prayers as evidence that his trust is wrongly placed in a God who does not hear. Under such circumstances, sarcasm would have extraordinary force, for it would be little more than the man's own suspicion worded in the most cutting form, and introduced at a time when he is most susceptible.

A Christian ought to be found strong against such ridicule. He has everything to encourage him, seeing that the whole tenor of Scripture and experience bears witness that there finally comes an answer of peace to those who "wait patiently upon the Lord." But if he needs something more to stimulate him, let him pass in thought to the grand scene upon Carmel. Were the priests of Baal negatively affected by sarcasm, these pagan ministers of an idol which cannot give evidence of any power to protect its worshippers? Did they abandon their petitions when laughed at and scorned?

Elijah taunted them with the uselessness of their petitions exactly at the moment when their petitions were most likely to be doubted by themselves. But yet we read that not only were their belief and courage not shaken, but they implored their god with increased ardor! And shall they not be brought up as witnesses against us at the judgment? It is hard to brave a laugh; this is not disputed. There is a power in sarcasm that may make days of outward peace days of actual persecution; this is not disputed. But when a Christian makes ridicule his apology for defeat, when he thinks it some excuse for being ashamed of his religion, for keeping it concealed, for giving up some of its observances, then let him not flatter himself that his vindication will be accepted so long as the priests of Baal can be pointed out. No sooner had their idolatry been despised and made the subject of a keen and bitter sarcasm, than they cried to their god with yet greater earnestness, and "cut themselves with knives and lancets until the blood gushed out."

The Church of England Magazine, No. 524, May, 1845

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Check out our Prayer page for many good sermons.

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Day 7

A Morning Prayer

We come to you, heavenly Father, as another day dawns. Be gracious to us, for we confess that too often we have strayed from the straight and narrow path. We have joined in the amusements of the world and found them very fleeting, leaving neither satisfaction nor comfort. We have given way to fancies and hopes built on no surer foundation than what this world can afford. But we have been left disappointed, for they were themselves vanity. And you know how often the things of time have engrossed us, have claimed and had our entire service even to the shutting out of all thought of Jesus who died to redeem us from this evil world and its vain pleasures. Encourage us now by your Spirit to come confidently and often to your throne of grace, trusting in our mediator and intercessor, Jesus the Messiah, who is ready to plead our cause. Amen.


The Instructive Example of Baal's Priests
Part 3
by
Henry Melvill

"And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, 'O Baal, answer us!' But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.' And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention." (1 Kings 18:26-29 ESV)

The priests of Baal have furnished a lesson by their zeal, another by their courage, and the third and last lesson is their importunity: they continued to pray though no answer was granted.

Is it not a notorious fact that many are disposed to question the possible efficacy of importunate prayer, even grounding their objections on the confessed attributes of God? "How can it be," they say, "seeing that prayer is addressed to an unchangeable Being, to one whose purposes are immutably fixed?" We quite agree with them as to the impossibility of any such change. But what does that have to do with the propriety or the usefulness of submitting to a positive commandment of God, namely, to pray without ceasing? In fact, no sooner does God issue a command than his unchangeableness becomes one reason for action on our part, and cannot without extraordinary perversion be wrested into an encouragement to disobedience. For the truth in reference to prayer is that since God has commanded us to be importunate in petitioning, our importunity then becomes one of those things that determines whether a certain course is adopted or not. We have no right to say that God has irrevocably determined beforehand to bestow on us one blessing and to withhold another regardless of what our prayers may be. We are rather bound to think that he has determined to bestow or withhold according as we are or are not persevering in prayer.

It is here that his unchangeableness comes in. He has irrevocably resolved that we shall obtain such or such a blessing if we reach a certain point in importunity; but that we shall miss it if we come short of that point. And thus, in place of any disagreement, there is the most thorough harmony between the truths that "with God is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," and that, nevertheless, we must ask if we hope to obtain--and that not once, nor twice, but frequently, as those who know that importunity may prevail where there has been for a long time refusal.

Oh, how soon do Christians begin to suspect their prayers are not heard because not immediately answered! How quickly are they discouraged, inclined to give up and conclude that it is useless to repeat petitions! They may have almost reached the point at which the blessing would be granted, but, unhappily, they stop and lose the blessing simply through lack of a little more perseverance.

But how eloquently did the priests of Baal reprove all this infidelity as to the efficacy of prayer and lack of importunity. The suspicion never seems to have crossed their minds that if Baal were a god he could not be expected to alter his purposes in consequence of their pleas; or that because many prayers had been fruitless it must be vain to offer more. The silence of their deity appears to have been with them nothing less than a reason for greater importunity! They were all the more earnest because they had obtained as yet no answer. Thus they seem to have held fast to a great principle handed down to them from the earliest day, the principle that the divine unchangeableness is not an argument against but for the possible utility of prayer, and that having long prayed apparently without success should only furnish motive to "praying without ceasing."

Be ashamed, then, servants of the one true God, if with all the advantages of revelation, and revelation most explicit in asserting the duty and profit of importunate prayer, you are soon wearied, soon tempted to think it useless, than the minister of an idol whose silence only served to encourage. Take a lesson in perseverance from the slaves of superstition; for Baal's priests called upon Baal from morning even until noon, and when midday was past, prophesied until the time of the evening sacrifice.

The Church of England Magazine, No. 524, May, 1845

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

John Lillie's exposition of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray Without Ceasing," is very helpful.

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Day 8

A Morning Prayer

Forgiveness, O good Lord, is your blessed attribute. You love to exercise mercy more than justice. You do not will that any should perish, but that all should come to you and be saved. Jesus, our great example, walked in the same spirit, being ready to forgive. Bring to our minds and hearts the great need we have of forgiveness, for we have often offended you in thought, word, and deed. And dare we come to you for pardon when we have not forgiven all who have offended us? Lord, open our eyes that we may read our hearts aright and see if our forgiveness of those who have offended us is sincere. And if any of them are yet unforgiven, this day lead us in the spirit of Jesus to forgive that one, even should he be our most bitter enemy. Let us pray that you would turn his heart, lest ruin follow on his iniquity. Implant such a love of you in our hearts that your love may influence all our dealings with our fellow men, and that peace may prevail and love abound, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


The Providence of God
by
John Calvin

"And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 45:7,8)

This is a remarkable passage. We are taught that the right course of events is never so disturbed by the depravity and wickedness of men but that God can direct them to a good end. We are also instructed in what manner and for what purpose we must consider the providence of God. Men of inquisitive minds argue against God's providence. They do not regard the end designed, but invent every absurdity to sully the justice of God. As soon as it is declared that God holds the government of the whole world in his hands, and that nothing is done but by his will and authority, they who think with little reverence of the mysteries of God break forth into frivolous and injurious questions. As a consequence, good men are ashamed to confess that what men undertake cannot be accomplished, except by the will of God. They fear that unbridled tongues will claim that either God is the author of sin, or that wicked men are not to be accused of crime, seeing they fulfill the counsel of God.

It is right to maintain what is declared by the clear testimonies of Scripture: Whatever men may contrive, yet, amid all their tumult God from heaven overrules their counsels and attempts. In short, God does, by their hands, what he has himself decreed. I speak of evils with respect to men who propose nothing else but to act perversely. As this vice dwells in them, so ought the whole blame also be laid upon them. But God works in a marvelous way, that from their wickedness he may bring forth his perfect righteousness. This method of acting is secret and far above our understanding. Therefore, it is not surprising that our carnal nature should rise against it. Much more diligently must we be on our guard that we do not attempt to reduce this lofty standard to the measure of our own littleness. Let this sentiment remain fixed with us, that while the lust of men exults and drives them here and there, God is the ruler. He, by his secret rein, directs their motions wherever he pleases. At the same time, however, it must also be maintained that no vice can attach itself to God's providence, and that his decrees have no affinity with the crimes of men.

A most illustrious example of this principle is placed before our eyes in this history. Joseph was sold by his brothers. For what reason? Because they wished, by any means whatever, to ruin and kill him. The same work is ascribed to God, but for a very different end; namely, that in a time of famine the family of Jacob might have an unexpected supply of food. Therefore, God willed that Joseph should be as one dead, for a short time, in order that he (God) might bring him forth from the grave as the preserver of life. Though God seems, at the beginning, to do the same thing as the wicked brothers, yet there is a wide distance between their wickedness and his admirable judgment.

Let us now examine the words of Joseph. For the consolation of his brothers, he seems to draw the veil of oblivion over their fault. But we know that men are not exempt from guilt, even though God may, beyond expectation, bring what they wickedly attempt to a good and happy issue. Joseph neither traces their fault to God as its cause, nor absolves them from it. Those whose consciences accuse them of evil derive no advantage from the pretense that the providence of God exonerates them from blame.

We see that Joseph was a skillful interpreter of the providence of God when he borrowed from it an argument for granting forgiveness to his brothers. The magnitude of the crime committed against him might have so incensed him that he would burn with a desire for revenge. But when he reflects that their wickedness had been overruled by the wonderful goodness of God, he forgets the injury received and kindly embraces his brothers, whose dishonor God had covered with his grace. Truly, love is ingenious in hiding the faults of others.

Joseph is carried forward to another view of the case; namely, that he had been divinely chosen to help his brothers. He not only remits their offense, but from an earnest desire to discharge his duty, he delivers them from fear and anxiety as well as from want. This is the reason why he asserts that he was ordained to preserve you a posterity. That is, to preserve them alive, and that by an excellent and wonderful deliverance.

In saying that he is a father to Pharaoh, Joseph is not carried away with empty boasting, as vain men are accustomed to be. Nor does he make an ostentatious display of his wealth. But he proves from an event so great and incredible, that he had not obtained the post by accident or by human means. Rather, by the wonderful counsel of God, a lofty throne had been raised for him from which he might aid his father and his whole family.

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For some additional reading, see "The Providence of God" by Loraine Boettner.

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Day 9

A Morning Prayer

O God, we bow before you asking for your blessing on our native land. In mercy stretch forth your arm over it. We need your protection, for evil abounds, sin in every shape is rife, blasphemy meets our ears, the careless and ungodly throng our streets, and both rich and poor seem to battle over who can show the greatest indifference to you. Do not, we plead, visit us in your anger for all this, but let your fatherly chastisements call us into the right way. Restrain us by your Holy Spirit and show us our folly and ruin before it is too late, before the sentence goes forth, before it is with us as with Sodom and Gomorrah, the godless cities of old. We confess that we deserve nothing from you but wrath and its dreadful consequences, nothing but immediate judgment and sure ruin. Turn us, O good Lord, and we shall be turned. May we as a nation confess our sins with unfeigned lips, and find pardon, peace, and deliverance. And let Jesus, our advocate, be our propitiation, for it is in his name we pray. Amen.


"Woe to You, Chorazin!"
by
Matthew Henry

"Then he began to rebuke the cities in which most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (Matthew 11:20-24)

The sin charged against these cities was not a sin against the moral law, for then an appeal would have been made to the gospel. But it was a sin against the gospel, the remedial law, and this is impenitence. They were reproached with the most shameful, ungrateful thing that could be: they repented not. Willful impenitence is the great damning sin of multitudes that enjoy the gospel, and which (more than any other) sinners will be upbraided with to eternity. Christ does not say because they believed not (for some kind of faith many had, such as Christ was a teacher come from God), but because they repented not. Their faith did not prevail to the transforming of their hearts and the reforming of their lives.

Let us see the aggravation of this sin. These were the cities in which most of Christ's mighty works were done, for thereabouts had been his principal residence for some time. Some places enjoy the means of grace in greater plenty, power, and purity than others. God is a free agent and acts so in all his disposals, both as the God of nature and as the God of common as well as distinguishing grace. The stronger inducements we have to repent, the more heinous is the impenitence and the more severe will be the reckoning. Christ keeps account of the mighty works done among us and of the gracious works done for us by which we should be led to repentance.

Now Chorazin and Bethsaida are here compared with Tyre and Sidon, two maritime cities we read much of in the Old Testament. They had been brought to ruin, but began to flourish again. These cities bordered upon Galilee, but they bore an ill name among the Jews because of their idolatry and other wickedness. Christ sometimes went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, but never there. The Jews would have taken it as reprehensible if he had. Therefore, Christ, in order to convince and humble the Jews, here shows that Tyre and Sidon would not have been so bad as Chorazin and Bethsaida if they had had the same word preached and the same miracles worked among them. They would have repented, and that long ago, as Nineveh did, in sackcloth and ashes. Christ, who knows the hearts of all men, knew that if he had gone and lived and preached among them, he should have done more good there than where he was. Our repentance is slow and delayed, but theirs would have been speedy--they would have repented long ago. Ours has been slight and superficial, but theirs would have been deep and serious--in sackcloth and ashes. Yet we must observe, with an awful adoration of the divine sovereignty, that the Tyrians and Sidonians will justly perish in their sin, though, if they had had the means of grace, they would have repented. God is a debtor to no man.

Capernaum is here condemned with an emphasis. "And you, Capernaum, hold up your hand and hear your doom." Capernaum, above all the cities of Israel, was dignified with Christ's most usual residence. It was like Shiloh of old, the place where God chose to put his name, and it fared with it as with Shiloh. Christ's miracles in Capernaum were daily bread, and as the manna of old, were despised. We have here that city's doom: "You who are exalted to heaven shall be brought down to hell." Those who enjoy the gospel in power and purity are thereby exalted to heaven. They have a great honor for the present and a great advantage for eternity. They are lifted up toward heaven, but if, notwithstanding, they still cleave to the earth, they have only themselves to thank if they are not lifted up into heaven. Gospel advantages abused will sink sinners so much the lower into hell.

We have it here put in comparison with the doom of Sodom, a place more remarkable both for sin and ruin than perhaps any other. Yet Christ here tells us that Capernaum's means would have saved Sodom. If these miracles had been done among the Sodomites, even as bad as the Sodomites were, they would have repented and their city would have remained unto his day. It would have remained a monument of sparing mercy rather than of destroying justice. Upon true repentance through Christ, even the greatest sin shall be pardoned and the greatest ruin prevented, that of Sodom not excepted. Angels were sent to Sodom, but the city was destroyed. If Christ had been sent there, the city would have remained. Sodom's ruin will, therefore, be less at the great day of judgment than Capernaum's. Sodom will have many things to answer for, but not for the sin of neglecting Christ, as Capernaum will.

We who now have the written word in our hands, the gospel preached, the gospel ordinances administered, and who live under the dispensation of the Spirit, have advantages not inferior to those of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. And the account in the great day will be accordingly. The professors of this age, whether they go to heaven or hell, will be the greatest debtors in either of these two places. If to heaven, they will be the greatest debtors to divine mercy for those rich means that brought them there. If to hell, they will be the greatest debtors to divine justice for those rich means that would have kept them from there.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Please check out Ken's article, "Gehenna and the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment".

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Day 10

A Morning Prayer

O God, from time to time you have proved and tried those who are yours by sore afflictions. From your devout worshipers you have taken houses, lands, friends, or health to see if they looked more to the Creator than to man, and to make them proofs before an evil world of the power of faith and the strength of grace. We beseech you to look upon us in mercy and compassion, and give us such a measure of your grace that we may learn to be content with what we have. May we bless and praise you because you have not visited us with the calamities and distresses which abound on every side. Let us remember to confess before an unbelieving world that the absence of pain, sorrow, and distress is a blessing beyond our liveliest gratitude to acknowledge as we ought. And let no complaints arise among us, but rather keep us kindly sympathetic to one another in brotherly love, bearing and forbearing even as did Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer, and God, in whose name we now plead. Amen.


The Cost of Discipleship
by
Horatius Bonar

"You are already full! You have reigned as kings without us--and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! . . . Therefore I urge you, imitate me." (1 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16)

This is one of the very few passages in which the apostle gives vent to his feelings as a suffering and injured man. Through no less than six verses here (8-13) there runs the utterance of a solemn sorrow, we might almost call it melancholy, at the contemplation of his present lot as an apostle of the Lord.

His life had many a bitterness. Danger, weariness, contempt, persecution, hunger, thirst, nakedness, buffeting, reviling, stoning, bonds--these were its chief earthly ingredients. And had there not been something heavenly compensating for all these, he would have been of all men most miserable. He felt the sorrow, for conversion had not lifted him out of the region of human feeling. Yet he seldom refers to it, and when he does it is more with triumph than with sadness: "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. viii. 18).

Here in our text his reference to his sorrows has more in it of sadness than elsewhere. Yet he has not repented of his course; he is not ashamed of his apostleship; he is willing to drink even a more bitter cup than he has yet tasted. The sadness that thus comes is altogether natural and shows how truly the apostle was a man--a man of like passions with ourselves. We get a passing insight into the noble soul and learn how profoundly he felt the evils that, like the waves of the storm, beat upon him without ceasing, and how oftentimes his heart was like to break even in the midst of the joy unspeakable and full of glory. He does not draw back nor refuse to pay the cost of apostleship. He accepts the present honour and the coming glory with all their conditions and penalties. For the joy set before him he endures the shame.

With some, however, I fear there is more than the apostle's sorrow. They do not, perhaps, repent having taken up the cross, but they shrink sometimes from what it has brought upon them. They counted on a little, but it has come to much more. They gladly took up the cross, but they had not ascertained its weight and its sharpness. They were prepared for some bitterness, but not for all this gall and wormwood. They made ready for battle, but the fight has proved sorer and longer than they dreamed of. They were not unwilling to bear shame for his name, but the reproach has proved heavier than they can bear. They knew that they were to meet resistance from the world, but not all this enmity, this malignity, this misrepresentation. They did not refuse sacrifice and suffering, but the poverty, the disappointment and the all but broken heart have gone beyond their calculations. The wounds are deeper, the fiery darts are sharper, the furnace is hotter, the road is rougher, the hill is higher, the stream is deeper than they thought.

They do not wish they had not become Christians, but they hardly know what to do nor which way to turn. They submit, but they do not count it all joy. They have the sadness of the apostle without his exulting gladness. His was but half a sorrow because of the joy; theirs is but half a joy because of the sorrow. In such a case they need to be put in mind of the apostolic hope by which the primitive Church was sustained, lest Satan should get an advantage over them, or lest they be weary and faint in their minds.

There is another class of Christians, however, of whom Paul here more especially speaks. They are the easy-minded and self-satisfied, who think themselves full and rich. They have not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and so they have settled on their lees. They are not Laodiceans, but very near them. They are not foolish virgins, but very like them. They would not think of following the world, but they do not like the idea of confronting and condemning it. They would rather be saved from the ill-will and scorn which separation from its vanities and gaieties is sure to produce, all the while enjoying Christianity at their firesides and congratulating themselves on the prudence by means of which they have succeeded in avoiding the reproach without relinquishing their profession. They would rather not expose themselves to too much shame, or over-zeal, or over-decision, or over-boldness in the cause of Christ. A little compromise with the world, they think, does no harm. A proper enjoyment of its harmless amusements, they are persuaded, is of great benefit to themselves, and of wonderful use in conciliating worldly men and smoothing away their prejudices. They look with no small dislike upon the outspoken fervor of fearless single-eyed disciples, to whom Christ is everything and the world nothing. Nay, they join with the scoffer in reviling these men as excited enthusiasts, professing themselves the best of Christians all the while, and announcing that the religion they admire is unostentatious and undemonstrative, modest and retiring. Nay, they grow warm in denouncing zeal for Christ, and never fail to add that these over-zealous Christians do more harm than good. Of such it is that the apostle writes these words of solemn rebuke: "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us."

Family Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will enjoy Charles Bridges' exposition of Psalm 119:5, "Oh, that my ways were directed to keep your statutes."

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Day 11

A Morning Prayer

O God, how mercifully you deal with sinful man, urging him day by day to accept the salvation which your Son, your only Son, has bought at so dear a cost to you. Your providence has kept him from danger, preserved him from evil, and warded off disease. Your holy word tells of your love and mercy to him, salvation being its design and happiness its promised end. Yet he seeks worldly pleasures and builds on worldly hopes. Your words, "Why will you die?" should ring in his ears, but they do not. Your exceeding earnestness that you do not delight in the death of the wicked should arouse him to serious, instant consideration, but it does not. Enable him to consider his state, then draw him by the cords of love that he may come and be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Palsied Soul
by
J. H. Jowett

"Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven you.' And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 'Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' " (Mark 2:3-5)

Here is a swift series of pictures both forceful and touching. There is the helpless paralytic, his face now and again revealing the faint flickering light of a glimmering hope. And here are the four friends, sympathetic, optimistic, perfectly assured, urging their way through the surging crowd. And here are "certain of the Scribes" sitting in the house, cold, unemotional, friendly only to precedent and tradition, and jealous for the sustained authority of their own school. And in the midst of it all, the Master! What does He see? He sees the invisible. The merely material becomes the superficial, and the spiritual stands revealed.

The picturesque setting melts away, and the unseen background of dispositions emerges into view. The naked spirit stands unveiled in the searching light. The harvest of the Master's eye is gathered from the mystic fields of the soul. He gazes at the bearers and sees their faith. He looks behind the rebellious limbs of the palsied and sees the servitude of the soul. He pierces the hard, impassive masks of the Scribes and reads their innermost thoughts. Everywhere it is the unseen which becomes conspicuous; the spiritual becomes emphatic. Let us look at the scene through the Master's interpreting eyes.

The Master sees the faith of the bearers. "Jesus, seeing their faith." There we have faith in its last analysis; it is simple trust in a person. To have faith in Jesus is to have confidence in the ability and reliability of Jesus to do what He claims to do. We have a similar instance in the graphic narrative recorded in the ninth chapter of John: "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam." The man obeyed and went. That was the vital element in his faith. The simple faith paved the way to the larger belief. So it is in the passage before us. These four men had trust in the Saviour's trustworthiness. They were assured that He had the power and the disposition to fulfil His own program, "the recovery of sight to the blind and the setting at liberty of them that are bruised."

The faith of these friends of the paralytic was energetic. It was a working faith. Vital faith and vital energy are inseparable. The faith of these men was full of power, applying itself as a splendid dynamic in actual service. It was also philanthropic. The sweep of its energy inevitably encompassed the life of another. Faith laid hold of this poor paralytic, the man of the palsied body and soul, and carried him to the Master's feet. Faith is inventive. Unbelief soon exhausts its resources. It makes a hopeless and therefore a lukewarm attempt, fails and turns back, and says, "I told you so." Faith is full of ideas, expediences, designs. Does the road seem closed this way? Faith says, We will try another. This man must be brought to the Master, and the pushing inventiveness of an energetic faith makes a way and lays its burden at the Healer's feet.

The Master sees the spiritual misery of the palsied. Here lies the man. His muscular action has lost its motion owing to some insidious disease upon the nerves. Here he lies a helpless log. The Master looks at him, through him, and behold! another kind of paralysis is revealed. The man cannot command the activities of his own soul. His spiritual volition is impaired. His body is imprisoned in the palsy, his soul is imprisoned in sin. The four friends had laid the paralyzed body at the Master's feet, and they expected that the great Healer would immediately address Himself to its urgent needs. How startled they would be when the first words of the Master had no reference to the body but were addressed to some need apparently remote. "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

The Lord addresses Himself to the direst need, to the palsied spirit. He sets Himself to liberate the powers and dignities of the soul. The paralysis of the soul is unveiled by the Bible in startling phraseology. "Sin dwells in me" (my personality is a kind of house and sin is its master). "Sin reigns in me" (sin is not only my master but my tyrant). "I was sold into sin" (I am a piece of merchandise, and I am disposed of into slavery; sold to a lust, to an evil desire, to the habit of greed, to the passion of jealousy, or to the ugly genius of revenge). "They are all under sin" (we are under its crushing domination, as though its feet were upon our necks). "Sin abounds" (it is a horrible disease that scatters its prolific germs over every faculty and disposition of life).

In all these phrases I see what is meant by the appalling sovereignty of sin. It is a dominion that results in a moral and spiritual paralysis, every dignity and prerogative in the life being crushed in an unclean and debasing servitude. And so to this sin-bound soul the Master brings the gracious message of forgiveness. "Your sins are forgiven you." The forgiveness of the Lord is not some sweet and ineffectual sentiment. It is the mystic and mighty energy of creation engaged in the work of re-creation. When the Lord says "forgiven," the life that was locked and imprisoned in icy winter feels round about it the influence of a warm and expansive spring. The Bible appears almost to wrestle for a varied phraseology in which to reveal the realities of this glorious deliverance. Sins are to be "blotted out," "wiped away," "covered," "taken away." Where sin abounds grace does much more abound. The forces of spiritual health are in the ascendant, and the powers of evil and night are dethroned and in retreat. "The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the singing of birds is come." When the Master said, "Your sins are forgiven you," an angel might have witnessed, "This your brother was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found."

Thirsting for the Springs

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will like Ken's article, "Am I Going to Heaven?"

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Day 12

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, you are the judge of all, keeping the law in your own hands and executing judgment according to its unerring precepts. Keep us, we pray, from presumptuously rushing in before you and usurping your authority by judging our brother. Make us to remember how we thereby bring ourselves into further judgment and provoke your wrath and indignation against us. Pardon us, we pray, for we have often broken that law which says "judge not." Set before us the holy example of our blessed Lord, who, as man, knew how to fulfill all righteousness by obeying your law to the letter, and who did not take judgment into his own hands but left the work of judgment to him who judges righteously. Preserve us from this great evil, for without your aid we are helpless. Let your dear Son's merits prevail for us, as we ask all in his name. Amen.


Judging One Another
by
Benjamin Hoadly

"Who are you to judge another's servant?"
To his own master he stands or falls."
John 6:37

In this chapter we find the Apostle, with his usual zeal, opposing that spirit of censuring and judging one another, which very early showed itself in the Christian church. The things which gave ground for this ill behavior of Christians to one another were of the smallest moment: some thinking to please their common master with observing several Jewish and trivial rules with respect to eating, and holy days, and the like; others thinking this a weakness and that Christians were freed from such like burdens.

Too much of this spirit was still seen in the earliest ages of the Church, and too much remains to this day; to which there is no other remedy to be applied but the same remedy prescribed in the Gospel, the same rules laid down by St. Paul, and the same arguments which he thought fit to make use of.

First, we are not at all qualified to sit in judgment upon one another. For who are you that judges another, but a weak, prejudiced, fallible man yourself and, consequently, not at all qualified for such an office. This is indeed a strong consideration against our assuming to ourselves the office of judging others--that we are void of all those qualifications which are requisite to our judging aright about them, and particularly with regard to their religious conduct. For being ourselves weak and fallible, and often passionate men, we are so easily imposed upon and misled; so insensibly and even undesignedly prejudiced; so little acquainted with the first springs of action in others; so wholly strangers to the inward thoughts and designs of their hearts; so unable to know all the several circumstances that ought to be thrown into the balance; and so unwilling to make all those necessary and due allowances which we always expect in our own case. Who would venture so far out of his depth as to declare or insinuate anything concerning not only the evil designs of others but their unacceptableness to God, Christian brethren who have no other apparent and visible mark of willful evil upon them but their differing in some opinions or circumstantial practices from ourselves?

Second, it is wholly out of our province, who are ourselves but fellow servants with those whom we thus treat as if we were their lords and masters. Judge one who is in the same rank and order with yourself? His being of another mind, or differing in judgment about some things relating to his master's service--in which honest men may differ--is no real injury to us. It imports no calamity, threatens us with no ruin, and therefore we have not the pretense of self-defense or self-preservation to take up the province. They are as tenacious of what they believe as we are, and think it as sacred and as important as we can think our own, and as far as we can know are as fully persuaded that it has all the marks of truth upon it.

Third, it is to be particularly considered that this is the province reserved to Himself, by that common Master whom we all serve. To Him the last appeal is justly made. He is qualified for the office, being perfectly knowing, wise, and good; perfectly free from all bias and prejudice; fully acquainted with every particular necessary to the forming a right judgment; and fully disposed to make all fitting and reasonable allowances for his creatures and servants. We invade the province of God, usurp his dominion, erect ourselves into gods over our brethren, and like the Man of Sin exalt ourselves to a dignity and office which is the sacred prerogative of God himself, who alone knows the hearts of men.

Fourth, we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and we shall every one give an account of himself to God. We have enough to do to prepare for our own judgment at that great and solemn day without troubling ourselves today with the censuring and judging of others. Who that thinks of that solemn day does not hope for and stand in need of the mercy of God for himself? And who that considers the matter in this light can suffer in himself a severity towards others while he himself expects all reasonable allowances at the hands of his great judge?

But what is it, then, that Christianity allows in this case? Does it not permit us to take any notice of the errors and mistakes in the important matters of religion in which we imagine others to be? Two particulars I shall mention in answer to this inquiry.

First, we are not at all forbidden but encouraged to endeavor to remove all prejudices and errors out of the minds of our fellow Christians, and to recommend to them--with all demonstration both of good argument and Christian temper--the way of truth which we are persuaded is right. St. Paul does not scruple to declare his own judgment in favor of any meat being lawful to partake of; but he does so with the design of leading weaker Christians away from the false belief they held.

Secondly, after this is done in the most inoffensive way, all the rest must be left to Christian charity, which never shines brighter and never displays its glory more than when it shows its power among those of different minds and different persuasions. St. Paul lays down his own judgment. And though he was an apostle and had as just a claim as possible to be followed in that judgment, yet he does not immediately expect that all those Christians who were prejudiced and biased the other way should at once leave off their practices, or correct their wrong judgment, in a matter which concerned not the vitals of religion. Rather, he thinks it most for the honor of God that charity should shine forth in these differences. Therefore, he prefers that humility and brotherly kindness should conquer passion and personal prejudice than that they all should presently be obliged to have or profess the same ideas or to conform themselves to the judgment of one another.

Twenty Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Also see John Calvin's entry from his Institutes entitled "Concerning Things Indifferent".

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Day 13

A Morning Prayer

O heavenly Father, when we consider your majesty and purity and reflect upon our lowliness and guilt, 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 from your presence. 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. We rejoice that he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and being raised from the dead he entered into the holy place to be our advocate. May we therefore draw near in full assurance of faith believing that all things are now ready, that we are as welcome as we are needy, and that the blessings we implore are as gracious as they are great. Yes, you delight in mercy, and have not only permitted but commanded us to ask and receive that our joy may be full. O hear us now for Jesus' sake, we pray. Amen.


Two Blind Men Healed
by
Matthew Henry

"When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, Son of David, have mercy on us! And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, Do you believe that I am able to do this? They said to Him, Yes, Lord. Then He touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith let it be to you. And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, See that no one knows it." (Matthew 9:27-30)

Let us observe here the confession of faith which Christ drew from these two blind men. When they came to him for mercy, he asked, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Faith is the great condition of Christ's favors. They who would receive the mercy of Christ must firmly believe the power of Christ. What we would have him do for us, we must be fully assured that he is able to do. They followed Christ, and followed him crying, but the great question is, Do you believe? Nature may work fervency, but it is only grace that can work faith; and spiritual blessings are obtained only by faith.

The blind men had intimated their faith in the office of Christ, as the Son of David, and in his mercy. But Christ demands likewise a profession of faith in his power. "Do you believe that I am able?" Christ will have the glory of his power ascribed to him by all those who hope to have the benefit of it. "Believe you that I am able, not only to prevail with God for it as a prophet, but that I am able to do it by my own power?" This will amount to their belief of his being not only the Son of David but the Son of God.

When they begged for a cure, he did not inquire into their wealth (whether they were able to pay him) nor into their reputation, but he inquired into their faith: "According to your faith let it be to you." This speaks of Christ's knowledge of the sincerity of their faith and his acceptance and approbation of it. It is a great comfort to true believers that Jesus knows their faith and is well pleased with it. Though it be weak, though others do not discern it, though they themselves are ready to question it, it is known to him.

Christ insists upon their faith as necessary for their cure. "If you believe, take what you come for." They who apply themselves to Jesus Christ shall be dealt with according to their faith, not according to their fancies or profession. True believers may be sure to find all the favor which is offered in the gospel, but our comforts ebb or flow according as our faith is strong or weak. We are not straitened in Christ, so let us not then be straitened in ourselves.

To Christ's question they give an immediate answer. "Yes, Lord." Though he had kept them in suspense and had not helped them at first, they honestly imputed this delay to his wisdom, not to his weakness. The treasures of mercy that are laid up in the power of Christ are laid out for those that trust in him. "Then he touched their eyes," and "their eyes were opened."

Jesus charges the men to keep their healing private, and thus sets us an example of humility and lowliness of mind. In the good we do, we must not seek our own praise, but only the glory of God. It must be more our care and endeavor to be useful than to be known and observed to be so. Some think that Christ, in keeping it private, showed his displeasure against the people of Capernaum, who had seen so many miracles and yet believed not. The silencing of those who should proclaim the works of Christ is a judgment to any place or people. Christ is just in denying the means of conviction to those who are obstinate in their infidelity, and to shroud the light from those that shut their eyes against it. Christ also commanded it for his own preservation. The more he was proclaimed, the more jealous would the rulers of the Jews be of his growing interest among the people. Another reason, which is very considerable, is that Christ sometimes concealed his miracles because he would not indulge that pernicious conceit, which obtained among the Jews, that their Messiah should be a temporal prince. Christ refrained from giving occasion to the people to attempt the setting up of his kingdom by tumults and seditions. But after his resurrection (which was the full proof of his mission), when his spiritual kingdom was set up, then that danger was over and his miracles must be published to all nations.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Take a few minutes to read "Sinners Entreated to Hear God's Voice" by Edward Payson.

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Day 14

A Morning Prayer

O Lord merciful and gracious, who has never refused to hear the petitions offered in faith through the name of your dear Son, we now plead that name before you, knowing that your ear is ever open to hear us. Strengthen our weak hands, and give us strength not only to withstand temptations but to do your work and your will. Preserve us from idleness and sloth. Make us to remember that every living man has his appointed work to do, and is called to labor diligently in it. Oh, how much time we waste and how much of it misused! Be merciful to us, put away our sin, and keep us for the time to come for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Redeeming the Time
by
Henry Blunt

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:16

Of all the talents with which the Almighty here on earth entrusts his creatures, time is the most important, and we fear we must add, the most frequently abused. Our infancy is spent in idleness, our youth in thoughtlessness, our mature age in business. But which of them can be said to be employed for God or for the important purpose for which it is bestowed? All complain of the shortness of time, and yet most possess more than they know what to do with, and everyone more than he employs well. Still it is of this much-wasted and misapplied talent that we shall one day be called upon to render a strict account.

Suppose you hired a laborer for a day's work, and in the evening you asked him how he spent the day and what did he do for you. I am sure you would be most dissatisfied if he answered, "I have spent four hours in loitering or talking with my fellow-laborers, four at my meals, three more in working for myself, and the remaining hour I have dedicated to your service." Would you pay that man his wages? I think not. So let me ask you, when you retire to rest at night, can you give to your Heavenly Master a better account of many a day which passes over you?

In explaining what is meant by redeeming time, I shall take the most simple illustration possible. The word is in the original to buy out, and the English word redeem expresses this as closely as possible. If an estate is mortgaged, if an article is pledged, the owner cannot repossess himself of them unless he is able to buy them, in other words, redeem them. By the use of this term, the apostle not merely urges us to future diligence but most strongly implies our improvidence and misuse of time. The very fact that it is necessary to redeem it implies that we have, as it were, mortgaged it to Satan, pledged it to vanity and sin. Now, strictly speaking, time misapplied is irrevocable. The hours and days and years that have been so improvidently disposed of are among those unredeemed pledges which must remain as evidences of our folly and our guilt to all eternity. The sin may, blessed be God, be removed by a penitent application to the blood of our great Redeemer; the guilt may be washed away; the iniquity be blotted out forever; but the years so spent can never be recalled, redeemed, or brought back again. Those hours are forever lost.

Since the advice of the apostle in its literal and strictest sense cannot be applied to the time which is passed, we must endeavor to render it applicable in our own case to that which may remain to us. My brethren, who shall say what this may be? It is easy to number the days that have fled, but who can calculate what is to come? Can the youngest or the strongest say that he assuredly shall greet the opening of another month in the same health, under the same circumstances, or even in the same state of existence in which he has beheld the present? You know that he cannot. You know that your sentence may have gone forth, that your hours may even now be numbered. I proceed, then, to consider from what you are to redeem the time which yet remains to you.

First, I charge you to redeem it from sloth and procrastination. An idle Christian is a disgrace to the very name he bears. Did not our Divine Master so occupy his time with his Father's business that he often had not time to eat and to drink? And can you imagine that you are among the number of his followers when you find time, perhaps, for little else? Can you claim to be his follower when every duty is too toilsome or troublesome, when you would rather sit for days in perfect inactivity or in the most trifling occupations of this poor, miserable, transitory life rather than stir one hand or engage in one labor for the glory of God or the eternity that is coming?

Secondly, I would urge you to redeem your time from vain and foolish company, and idle and unprofitable pleasures. There is nothing which tends more to rob the heart of every spiritual affection, to deaden love to God, to make all religious exercises dull and unprofitable than these great time-destroyers. Thus Isaiah, describing persons who so occupy themselves, says, "The harp and the strings, the tambourine and flute, and wine are in their feasts; but they do not regard the work of Yahweh, nor consider the operation of His hands." You might ask in reply, "Is then the spiritual life of a Christian, as portrayed by the example of his Divine Master and urged upon him by his commands, at odds with all the innocent activities of life? If we become really earnest in the great work of salvation, must we give up our friends, our social meetings, and many of the greatest enjoyments of our present lot?" This is by no means implied in the command to redeem your time from foolish company, and idle and unprofitable pleasures. When you become distinctly and decidedly the friends of the Lord Jesus Christ, they who are not his friends will very shortly cease to be yours, while they who love him will infallibly love you.

Lastly, I would urge you to redeem your time from worldly cares and worldly business. Our Lord himself has declared that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." He exemplifies this truth by the story of the foolish rich man who "laid up treasure for himself but was not rich towards God." Give some portion, however small, of every day to God, in private prayer, quiet meditation, and reading carefully and prayerfully his blessed Word.

A very few words in conclusion upon the objectives for which you are to "redeem the time." The first is glorifying God. This was one of our dying Lord's last declarations: "I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gave me to do." If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, you must strive by his grace to say the same. He had his work, and you have yours. His was the work of redemption, yours is the work of constant service and continued thankfulness.

Above all, far infinitely above all, you will "redeem the time" in order that you "may win Christ and be found in him." Every hour you can redeem will be made to contribute to this important and blessed end--to know more, to obey more, to love more the Lord Jesus Christ.

Posthumous Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Don't miss this study by Richard Trench, "The Unfinished Tower and the Deprecated War".

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Day 15

A Morning Prayer

O glorious God, from you all good gifts proceed. We bless you for your manifold and great mercies, for your love and compassion renewed to us each day, for the bounties of your providence. May our daily meals be always a reminder that we receive them from your hand. And forgive us in that we have permitted days and months, even years, to pass without thanking you for such innumerable blessings. With shame of face we confess that we have regarded them as our just due. Pardon us and grant that we may proclaim the abundance of your goodness all our earthly days, until we are called to depart this life and be with Christ our Savior, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Love of Life, A Duty
by
David Merrill

"Remember now, O Yahweh, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore." (Isaiah 38:3)

There is a natural love of life, and yet how few understand its value or the purpose for which it was given. How few feel that a whole eternity depends upon it. Days and years are wasted in those things that cannot profit. The great mass seem to have no proper balance but go to the extremes of presumption and despair. Life is wasted as if it could have no end and could not be exhausted, or it is suffered to rust out in idleness as if it had no goal and no proper use. But, whether men are aware of it or not, life has a determined goal, and one that cannot be accomplished without effort.

There is much to endure; there is much, very much, to be done. And what our hands find to do, we are to do with our might. We must enter heartily into all the appropriate business of life. We form characters for eternity. We sow seed whose fruit of good or evil, according to the seed, we shall reap forever. Here we receive that cast of righteousness or wickedness which fits for heaven or hell, which all eternity will but deepen. How important, then, this present life! And how foolish to dream it away in idle fancies or merely to be busy now and then! The beasts have their appropriate purpose in existence, and it is answered without their concurrence or consent. And with appetites satisfied they sink to rest, remembering no evil past, anticipating none future. And shall man live and die like them? Eat and drink, and sink to rest or rise up to play? Or spend all his strength and labor and thought about those things which perish with the using, laying up treasures on earth and none in heaven? Immortal interests are involved in this present life. It is the most important field that men can occupy.

The longest life is not long enough to answer life's great end. There is something still to do, or bear. No human being on earth ought, through depression of spirits or false views of life, to make himself useless. All cannot serve their generation in the same way, nor is the same kind of service needed from all; but each according to his particular ability, or the circumstances in which the providence of God has placed him. An example of faith and patience in the midst of severe and protracted affliction is not lost upon the world, nor is cheerful resignation in extreme poverty and age. The world needs such examples, and they are among the most useful that can be presented. They teach, experimentally and practically, lessons of the utmost importance and deepest interest. Those that cannot labor for Christ may suffer for him, and those that have no power of language to speak for him may yet exhibit in real life the power of his grace and exhibit it with a force and vividness that no language can equal. And then, who shall calculate the influence of their prayers, who are princes in disguise and have power with God and prevail.

There is a great and grievous mistake upon this subject, arising from very partial and limited views. A man who can no longer labor at his vocation or do business to his own advantage is too often deemed useless; and in spite of himself, perhaps, indulges the same feeling. "I am this day fourscore years old," said Barzillai. "Can thy servant taste what I eat, or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men or singing women? Wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord, the king." This was a good reason why he should not go to the palace, since age had unfitted him for its duties. But though eighty years old, was Barzillai useless? Certainly not. In a time of trouble and rebellion, his influence in favor of the right was better than a thousand fighting men

Be assured my brethren, there is always a legitimate motive to live.

Sermons by the late Rev. David Merrill

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

More on this subject in Ken's article, "The Christian Answer to Death and the Eternal Destiny of the Redeemed".

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Day 16

A Morning Prayer

O God, protector of all who trust in you, stretch forth your sheltering arm to aid and defend us from the assaults of the evil one. Make us watchful and diligent, ever on our guard, and prepared for the cunning devices he uses to deceive us. And when we bow in prayer, keep our minds focused on you, for we are prone to wandering thoughts. As you order our hours of labor and time for rest, open our eyes to see your providence busy for us. May we evermore seek and rejoice in your merciful protection, an inestimable benefit Christ purchased for us by his own most precious blood. Amen.


The Never-Failing Providence of God
by
Richard W. Church

"In thee, O Yahweh, have I put my trust;
let me never be put to confusion."
Psalm 31:1

There are times in our lives when at the thought of all that we have to do, and of all that we have to fear, our hearts sink within us. Our duties are great and often difficult, and they are unceasing. There is no end of them. Doing them today does not relieve us from the necessity of having to meet new ones tomorrow. And so much hangs on these duties. How can we be sure of always answering as we were meant to answer the call of God, of fulfilling His will?

And our dangers, too, are great. We see in the Bible, we see in all experience, how common it is to fail; to be led from the right way into the wrong; how much there is in the world of secret, hidden mischief; how the path of human life lies among snares and pitfalls. We know that we must be tried; we know that we must be tempted. Things will happen which will put us to the test, which will show what we are and what is in our hearts. And we know that we are weak and have made mistakes; that we have before now been tried and found wanting. And who can tell what is waiting for us in the dark unknown future before us? Who knows what we may have to suffer; who knows what we may have to lose; who knows what enemies are lying in wait for us in the dark time to come--enemies terrible, unseen, and unknown, of those in the spiritual world which war against the soul? What may not be our appointed lot of trouble? What strange changes of our fortune may we not see on our passage to the grave? What may we not have one day to choose between?

When these thoughts oppress us, we are told--and rightly told--to put them away from us. They are weak thoughts, vain thoughts, faithless thoughts, useless thoughts; and, taken by themselves as they come upon us when they distress us, they are false thoughts. For if it is true that our duties are great. It is true also that in their own due time and season they will not be greater than we may hope to have strength to do. If it is true that our dangers are great and manifold, it is also true that our safeguards and means of escape are as many and as various, and that we may wisely and reasonably trust them. If experience shows many failures, it shows too as many triumphs, so that to think only of what is against us is to think of what is only half the truth. And half the truth becomes falsehood when we think of it as if it were the whole truth.

But in our days of weakness and trouble these fears and anxieties will not always go because we bid them. They will not always give way to what, in calmer and cooler moments, we see to be truth and reason and good sense. And even if we do keep them down, they do not lose their power to disquiet and sadden. Their shadows falls across our path, and we cower and shrink before the unknown future and its unsearchable darkness, which looks so threatening because no one can tell what it may hide and have in store.

Is there nothing but the calm, deliberate debate of unexcited reason, which argues about what is likely and what is sensible and prudent, to meet this pressure? Is there nothing else to take the burden off the heart and spirit? Is there no present and immediate remedy against fears which are so trying just because they are so dim and vague? Is there any thought strong enough to overpower them, weighty enough to be put in the balance against them?

There is such a thought. It is the thought that God guides us. We are not walking and wandering unwatched, uncared for, helpless among enemies, blindly stumbling along a path in which no one directs our steps. But all around us are the watchful eyes and mighty hands of God. From the range of those eyes we can never stray. From out of those hands we can never fall. Infinite wisdom is in that foresight that never fails. Infinite love and goodness in that power which has no master. Are we able to trust that wisdom? Are we willing to submit ourselves to that will? Then we are within a shelter where we can receive no harm. Come what may, we are safe.

This is the belief which is the foundation of the book of Psalms. No man ever in this world felt this truth so deeply and so unceasingly, felt it as the living and ever-present principle of each word and thought as those men whose hearts the Spirit of God taught to write the Psalms. This thought, this truth that God guides those who trust Him and never guides them wrong, is the mark, the distinguishing doctrine, the keynote of the book of Psalms.

Let us then turn to those great truths of God's Guardianship and Providence on which our souls were meant to rest and stay themselves, and be at peace. Let us now, in our day of peace and calm, learn to commend into the Hands of God our spirit, soul, and body, which He has created, redeemed, regenerated; and with it our whole course of life, and all who are ours, and all that belongs to us.

Village Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also this article by Andrew Rule, "Providence and Preservation".

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Day 17

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, we beseech you to increase our faith, hope, and love. By faith may we ever see Jesus as our mediator and intercessor, trusting in him as the only sure anchor for our souls both now and for eternity. Enlarge our hope by giving it a greater confidence in your promises and providence. Let us not be cast down nor dismayed when the path seems dark, let us not be anxious over our earthly cares, and let nothing darken that bright gleam on which we have set our eyes, the return of our Savior in power and great glory. And let not love, that greatest gift, fail within. Teach us how it suffers long and is kind. Show it to us in all its excellence and beauty by enabling us to meditate on the love of Christ, who reconciled us to himself when we were yet enemies. Make us understand it as a divine emanation of the triune God. Teach us by sweet experience that all your paths are pleasantness, and all your ways peace. And uphold us against temptation that we may glorify you, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Pre-Tribulation Rapture
by
John J. Scruby

"Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
Titus 2:13

A brief account of the origin of the doctrine known as the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church should prove enlightening to all, and especially to those who adhere to that belief.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, the "Irvingite" movement came into existence. Among other things which distinguished the Irvingites, so named after their leader, was their alleged speaking in tongues and receiving inspired messages from the Holy Spirit through their supposed "prophets" and "prophetesses." The work went well for a while, but gradually errors and extravagances crept in, the work fell into disrepute, and at last it died an apparently well-deserved death, if one may judge from certain statements that have come down from those days. (There were many "confessions" by disillusioned adherents of the movement who declared that they had come to realize that frequently, at least, while speaking in tongues or allegedly giving messages in the Spirit, they were really under demon control.)

In one of the Irvingite meetings, a woman, professedly under the influence of the Spirit of God, gave a message to the effect that the Church would not go through the Great Tribulation, as had always been supposed, but would be raptured before it. Since at that time the Irvingites believed all such messages were divinely inspired, of course they had to believe this one too, although it contradicted what they had learned from the Scriptures and what had always, until then, been taught as "the faith once delivered to the saints." Later, as stated, many of them came to question the origin of these messages, then afterward to attribute them to demons (because of accompanying "manifestations"), and finally to reject them. Then an era of sanity followed, and Irvingism died, the good in the movement perishing with the bad.

But this particular message, that the Church would be raptured before the Tribulation, had fallen into soil favorable to its rapid and stupendous growth. That soil was the "weak flesh" of man. No matter that the spirit of the Christians of the first eighteen centuries had been willing to face the horrors of the Great Tribulation for their Lord's glory and their own resultant blessing. Had they known of any Biblical teaching that held out the hope of escape by removal from these ever-threatening horrors, certainly they would have caught at this hope and emphasized this teaching. But in none of the writings of any Christians during those eighteen centuries do we find so much as a hint of such a hope or such a doctrine.

The doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture might also have perished with the other errors of Irvingism if not for an incident which gave it new impetus. A few earnest men in Dublin, Ireland, gave themselves to independent study of the Scriptures. While doing so, they came to see the prominence which the Scriptures give to the second coming of Christ, and they at once began to preach Christ's coming as imminent, seeing that it was then eighteen hundred years since the formation of the Church to whom this doctrine had been given as an inspiring force. But when emphasizing the imminence of the coming of Christ, they were confronted with a difficulty, namely, the words of Christ in Matthew 24:29,30: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." For three years this passage tended to dampen their ardor when declaring the imminence of the Coming, for they realized that not only was the Tribulation not then in sight, but also that its immediately antecedent events were conspicuous by their absence.

Finally a minister came to them from England, named Tweedy, who taught that Jesus' discourse in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew's Gospel was intended for the Jews alone, not for the Church, and so he gave them the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture as we know it today. This seemed to them a happy solution to their problem. They proceeded with their "Imminent Coming" teaching, led by that eminent man J. N. Darby, whose piety and scholarship gave prestige to the doctrine, and it forged to the front in spite of opposition from prominent believers such as S. P. Tregelles, Charles H. Spurgeon, George Mueller of Bristol, and others.

The Great Tribulation, the Church's Supreme Test

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also our study on the Book of Revelation.

For more on Christ's coming again, see Wilbur Smith's "The Second Advent of Christ".

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Day 18

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, implant in us such a love of truth that a lie may never escape our lips nor stain our actions, that we would not willfully mislead another by compromising the truth of your word. We are often sorely tempted to say and do things in order to avoid giving offense to those who do not hold the faith of Christ. But this compromise cannot stand the scrutiny of your holy eye or the test of your perfect word. Oh, let us not deceive ourselves any longer, but grant that we may be bold to proclaim the truth, to declare it openly and honestly despite the threats of men or the fear of consequences. Establish us that we may be known and trusted as your disciples and bring forth good fruit by our life, that we may come into your presence rejoicing with the harvest of the good seed sown. And in our conversation may we show forth to the world the power of grace and the strength of faith purchased for us through the death of your dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Matthew 24 Intended for Christians
by
Frank H. White

"Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple,
and His disciples came to Him."
Matthew 24:1

It is often objected that the prophetic instructions and warnings given by our Lord in Matthew 24 have no direct bearing on ourselves as present-day believers. Rather, the disciples, including Peter, James, and John (who had forsaken all and followed Christ), were representatives not of "The Church of the Firstborn," but of a future "Jewish Remnant" who will be found in the place of testimony during the last Great Tribulation.

That our Lord, in Matthew 24, was not addressing Jews as such is abundantly clear from the concluding verses of chapter 23, which indeed seem expressly recorded to warn us against such a thought, marking, as they do, the close of the Savior's personal ministry in Jerusalem. These verses contain his solemn and significant declaration that they (the Jewish people) should see him no more until his return in glory. "For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"

After speaking these words, it is written, "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him." These are the disciples of whom Christ witnessed, "You are those who have continued with Me in My trials" (Luke 22:28). A little afterward Christ says, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you," (John 15:15). These are the very same disciples of whom he afterward testified, "They have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me" (John 17:6-8). They are the very same disciples for whom he prayed, "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me" (John 17:24).

If such disciples were not Christians proper, and so do not properly represent us in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, wherein the Lord instructed them with respect to circumstances that should surround them after his departure and after they should have received the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, when do they represent us, if at all?

If we reject our Lord's counsel in the above Scriptures, can we consistently claim his comfort in John 13 to 17? Were not the Apostles quite as much Jews by nature and by earthly location when that precious promise, recorded for us in John 14:3, fell on their ears: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also." Were they not quite as much Jews when he said a few hours before, "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that He is near--at the doors!" (Mark 13:28,29). And as if anticipating the teaching against which we contend, Christ adds, "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:37).

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

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also Ken's study on the Olivet Discourse.

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Day 19

A Morning Prayer

Almighty Father and God, we rejoice before you in the light of another day, and acknowledge that it was solely by your mercy that we passed safely through the darkness of night. As the sun now goes forth to do your bidding, enable us to do the same. Lead and guide us that we may walk boldly, and yet carefully, as we go forth to the work appointed for us. And let us keep our eyes focused on the promised prize, an incorruptible heavenly crown, all the while keeping our body in subjection as we contend with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be our companion, our friend and counselor this day, and keep us from sin for your dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ. Amen.


So Run That You May Obtain
by
Charles Mason

"Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize?
So run, that you may obtain."
1 Corinthians 9:24

To a certain and great extent our lot is controlled by the providence of God; and so far as temptations and trials thus come to us, they are a part of the probation through which we are to pass. And if we fail under this discipline, we have no reason to think we should have done better had God's providence ordered our lives differently. The very blessings of God--such as health, temporal prosperity, and earthly friends--are often occasions of danger. If men fall from their Christian devotion through the allurements of property or in consequence of the associations of earthly friendship not favorable to the spiritual interests of the soul, it is because they abuse the mercy of God and forget the design of His goodness. And yet nothing is more common than this attempt to find in our providential and merciful lot the cause of our sins. The heart follows in this the example of the first father of the race. When the Almighty charged upon him his first act of disobedience, he said, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

If God sends many blessings, they may become sources of temptation through an evil heart. If He withdraws those blessings the temptations change, but they are temptations still. Thus the rich may find them in their riches, and the poor in their poverty; the strong and healthy in their strength, and the weak and sickly in their weakness; those in high position in their earthly honor, and those in low estate in their want of the favor of man. With outward changes duties and temptations vary indeed, but the great causes of danger and difficulty in the work of salvation remain. The hermit flies from the busy world to the desert; but although the temptations of the world may thus be eluded, those from within his own heart may increase in power by the very fact of his loneliness. One forsakes the world, in disgust or from an earnest but ascetic purpose, and seeks to commune uninterruptedly with his God. But he carries with him the same heart, the same passions, the same appetites. And if he has not subdued and controlled these when in the world, he will not find that this can be done by a mere change of the outward life.

This is the truth we are to learn and apply from such experience: that whatever and wherever our lot in the providence of God may be, we are to use it, and by firm and resolute religious purposes overrule it for the highest ends of a religious life. We are to accept it as the sphere of probation to which we are called, and by God's blessing turn it to the great end of the spiritual and eternal good of the soul. And if men sought to regard their providential lot in this light, it would not so often be found an apparent hindrance to the great end of existence. Whether marked by temporal prosperity or by adversity, it would be made to promote their spiritual and eternal interests. If it be his supreme goal to live unto God and to work out his salvation, he will not find his providential lot a hindrance, but on the other hand will discover that "all things work together for good to them that love God." He will be able, in some degree, to enter into the experience of him who declared, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

The great trials and difficulties of the Christian life do not spring from changing circumstances. Wherever the Christian moves, they follow him. Their sources are unchanging. As long as he is in the body they will attend him. They form the discipline by which every soul must be trained for the heavenly world. They attend alike all the disciples of the Saviour. Christ has ordained that none shall follow Him who are not ready to take up the cross. Every disciple of Christ, whatever the circumstances of his outward lot or condition, must deny himself, be crucified to the world, and manfully contend against temptation. The vow which the Christian takes is plain and binding. It is "to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil."

Salvation must be worked out by constant watchfulness against the daily recurring temptations which beset the path of all who would live unto God. The prize set before the Christian will never be won by any who fail to run with patience the Christian race unto the end. We must fight the good fight of faith against all the sinful tendencies of our hearts and the corrupting influences of the world. We must strive against every temptation to lay aside any of the weapons by which alone the victory can be gained. We must put on the whole armor of God and remember that in this life these conflicts will never end. The Christian can lay down his arms only when he enters the gates of the celestial city, there to receive the victor's palm and the crown of glory.

"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."

Parochial Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Also see John Calvin's entry from his Institutes entitled "Concerning Works and Rewards".

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Day 20

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, we know that you will not hear the prayer of the hardened sinner, he whose heart is set on wickedness. Nor will you receive the prayer of the hypocrite, he who is a Christian in name only, who approaches you in the attitude of prayer but with words only. And yet we who are your disciples must confess that we have kneeled in your presence unprepared to make an acceptable offering. We have come without self-examination, without serious thought, as if we had only to bend the knee and bow the head and repeat a set form of words and all would be peace. Lord, you are merciful and long-suffering, and therefore we pray for pardon. Let your mercy in Christ Jesus blot out our sins, and let your love for him extend to us that we may repent of our ways and walk in that newness of life purchased for us at the cross. Bless and keep us, that we all may exclaim with the Psalmist, "God has heard me and considered the voice of my prayer. Praise be to God who has not cast out my prayer nor turned his mercy from me." Amen.


Man Pleading With His Maker
by
Edward Wilson

"Thy hands have made me and fashioned me:
give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments."
Psalm 119:73

This 119th Psalm is in a high degree the language of direct communion with God. In it the Psalmist "set Yahweh always before him," so much so that almost every verse is a fervent prayer, and a fervent prayer for some great spiritual benefit. He uses all sorts of arguments and pleas before his God, apparently with Jacob's determination--"I will not let thee go except thou bless me." There is, however, one blessing which, in this psalm, he seems to have desired above all others. He prays for it in every variety of supplication, and urges a multitude of reasons why it should not be withheld from him: I mean, the blessing of a spiritual understanding, or a power rightly and truly to "learn God's commandments."

Let us consider the force of this plea. The text is the language of man pleading with his Maker not to leave unfinished a great and good work which He had bountifully begun. "Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me: O give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments." Here the experience of some of God's power, and skill, and kindness is turned into a plea for experiencing the remainder. The argument is from the lesser to the greater. You have done great things for my body, but I want greater things done for my soul.

Let us also consider the propriety of our personally urging it in our own behalf.

First, we have the same need to use it. If David had not spiritual understanding, or had it not to the extent that was desirable, so neither have we. The most advanced among us will hardly presume ourselves to be better than "the man after God's own heart." In truth, the more advanced we are, the more sensible we are rendered of our shortcomings. The more light that has shone into our hearts, the more it has made our remaining darkness visible to ourselves. It is self-ignorance that alone suffers any person to be puffed up with self-conceit. True are St. Paul's words: "If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." "If any man among you seems to be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise." "See a man," says Solomon, "wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him."

Second, we have the same ground on which to urge it as David had. My brethren, we may each look at ourselves and then look up to God and say, "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me." "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." "Marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knows right well." David felt this of his own person, and we ought to feel it of ours. And feeling it, we should make it, as he did, a ground of pleading with God, that since He has done such wonders in our body He would do yet greater wonders in our soul.

This is a good plea in three respects. First, it is solid. There is a real and great weight in it. All unasked-for kindness naturally begets in the recipient an opinion of the goodwill of him that bestowed it. Our creation was an act of free goodness on the part of God. Hence, in that He made us He must have had goodwill toward us. Why did He act toward us in a manner directly calculated to inspire us with hope unless He indeed meant that we should hope in Him? We think it unprincipled in our fellow creatures to raise expectations which they never meant to satisfy; and shall we think that God would be guilty of what we should deem perfidious even in man? The perfect enjoyment of life is inseparable from the knowledge and favor of Him who gave it.

Second, it is a touching plea. What can our Creator say to us when humbly urging such a plea? How can He resist it? Indeed, so great is the love of God to us that nothing but extraordinary provocation on our part can make Him turn to be our enemy and fight against us.

Third, it is an honorable plea. It is for the honor of God that we should learn His commandments so thoroughly as to do them. "Herein is our Father glorified, if we bear much fruit." We may, then, honorably plead for that which, if granted, will be for the honor of Him who grants it. The stronger is our plea for such a favor, the more does it become us. Hence we shall do well to "put God in remembrance" that "his hands have made and fashioned us," because their having done so is the strongest reason for His enabling us by His grace to glorify Him.

Parochial Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Perseverance in prayer is crucial. See Neil McKinnon's sermon, "The Unjust Judge."

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Day 21

A Morning Prayer

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


Daniel's Prayer for the People
by
John Calvin

"And I prayed to Yahweh my God, and made confession, and said, 'O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments . . . O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face . . . to the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him." (Daniel 9:4-9)

Whenever we ask for pardon, the testimony of repentance ought to precede our request; for God announces that he will be propitious and easily entreated when men seriously and heartily repent. It is impossible for us to pray rightly unless we humble ourselves before God. This humility is a preparation for repentance. Daniel, therefore, sets before him the majesty of God, to urge both himself and others to cast themselves down before the Almighty, that they may really feel penitent before him. God is, he says, great and awesome. Too often we are careless in prayer and treat it as a mere matter of outward observance. The pious must humble their minds to prevent their aspiring to any self-exaltation or being puffed up with any self-confidence. Unless we appear in his sight with fear and trembling, and become truly humbled in his presence, it is impossible to obtain anything from God.

We must here notice the real condition of the people. The Israelites were in exile. We know how hard that tyranny was, how they were oppressed by the most cruel reproaches and disgrace, and how brutally they were treated by their conquerors. This might have impelled many to cry out, as doubtless they really did, "What does God want with us? What better are we for being chosen as his peculiar people?" Thus the Jews might complain with the most bitter grief, with the weariness of the weight of punishment which God had inflicted upon them. But Daniel presents himself before God, not to object or murmur, but only to entreat his pardon.

"We have done wickedly." Although we are easily induced to confess ourselves guilty before God, yet it is hard to find one who is affected with serious remorse; and those who do excel in this, who purely and reverently fear God, are still very dull and cold in recounting their sins. Scarcely do they acknowledge even one sin in a hundred. Of those which do come into their minds, they do not fully estimate their tremendous guilt, and although they perceive themselves worthy of a hundred deaths, yet they are not touched with bitterness; they do not loathe their own iniquities. Let us learn from this how far we are from penitence when we only verbally acknowledge our guilt. There are very few who prostrate themselves before God as they ought.

"Righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face." We cannot praise God, especially while he chastises us and punishes us for our sins, unless we become ashamed of our sins and feel ourselves destitute of all righteousness. Whoever cannot bear this self-condemnation displays his willingness to contend against God.

Daniel betakes himself to God's mercy as to a sacred asylum. It is not sufficient to acknowledge and confess our sins, unless we are supported by a confidence of our obtaining pardon from God's mercy. Recognition of a fault is without the slightest profit unless it has the hope of pardon. Daniel rests this hope of pardon on the very nature of God, who is full of mercy, inclined to clemency and pardon, and exercises much forbearance. To God belongs lovingkindness, and therefore, since he can never deny himself, he will always be merciful. This attribute is inseparable from his eternal essence. However we may have rebelled against him, yet he will never cast away nor disdain our prayers.

We may conclude from this passage that no prayers are lawful or rightly composed unless they consist of these two members. First, all who approach God ought to cast themselves down before him, acknowledging that they are deserving of a thousand deaths. Next, in order to emerge from this abyss of despair and to rise up to the hope of pardon, they should call upon God without fear or doubt, but rather with firm and stable confidence. For what is left, but for us to throw ourselves with all our trust upon the clemency and goodness of God, since he has borne witness to his being propitious to sinners who truly and heartily implore his favor!

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

This article on "Propitiation" by John Walvoord will be helpful. Some fascinating background to the book of Daniel can be found in Pfeiffer's Old Testament History,"The Persian Period."

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Day 22

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, enable us to understand your great love for us. Give us such an apprehension of it that we would show our gratitude by a constant and strict obedience to your commandments. Let us study them with deep attention and prayer, so that we may truly keep them in the right spirit. Let not the desire for wealth, honor, or earthly possessions blind us to their truth, for we are too prone to deceive ourselves that our motive was pure when we have succeeded in such endeavors. And give us honest upright hearts, looking not for the reward of our own cunning but of your bounty through Jesus Christ our Lord and God. Amen.


Tests of Discipleship
by
William Beveridge

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
take up his Cross, and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

"Let him deny himself." The self-denial here spoken of is opposed to self-love, or that corrupt and vicious habit whereby we admire and prefer our own fancies, wills, desires, interests, and such like, before Christ himself. He commands that we do not indulge or gratify ourselves in anything that comes into competition with himself, howsoever near and dear it may be to us. I shall show you more particularly what it is in ourselves that we are to deny.

First, we must deny your own reasoning in matters of divine Revelation. Use your reasoning no farther than to search into the grounds and motives for believing them to be revealed by God. We, who by all our art and cunning cannot understand the reasons for the most common and obvious things in nature, must not think to comprehend the great mysteries of the Gospel. These mysteries are not contrary to our reason, but are infinitely above them. By nature we are foolish, vain and ignorant. Yet we think ourselves so very wise as to comprehend within the narrow compass of our finite and shallow capacities matters of the highest and infinite nature.

Second, we must deny our own wills. At first, man was made upright and perfect, in every way corresponding to the will of God himself. But due to Adam's fall, mankind is now perverted and corrupt with sin, our wills naturally inclined toward evil. Instead of choosing the good and refusing the evil, we are generally apt to choose the evil and refuse the good. Christ himself denied his own most pure and perfect will in order that his Father’s will might be accomplished. How much more cause have we to deny our wills, which by nature prefer that which is evil and destructive before that which is truly good and advantageous for us.

Third, we must deny ourselves the use and enjoyment of earthly possessions whenever they come into competition with God's glory. We must be willing and ready to abandon and renounce whatever we have rather than renounce our interest in Christ. Indeed, he is not worthy to be Christ’s disciple who does not prefer him before all things. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Fourth, we must deny ourselves those sins in which we still indulge ourselves. It is vain to pretend to be true Christians so long as we live in any one known sin, with any love to it or delight in it. It is very rare to find a man that is not inclined to any. So long as we live in any known sin, it is that sin and not Christ that is our Master.

Fifth, we must deny and renounce all our self-righteousness. We are all prone to boast of our own good works and to pride ourselves with the conceit of our own righteousness. Mankind, in general, being so much in love with themselves and doting upon what they themselves can do, think that have no need of any other righteousness besides their own.

In taking up one's cross, we are to understand those troubles or calamities, inward or outward, which we meet with in the performance of our duty to God or man. Christ does not invite us to an earthly paradise of idleness and outward pleasures, as if we had nothing to do or suffer for him. He himself has told us that in the world we shall have tribulation. Therefore, whatever we meet with is no more than what we are to look for, especially if we walk uprightly. We must not think to be carried to heaven with popular applause, nor to swim through a deluge of carnal pleasures into the haven of everlasting happiness. No, we must look to be tossed to and fro in this world, as in a raging and tempestuous ocean. Not that we should run into danger, but we should balk no duty to avoid it. We must be willing and ready to undergo the greatest suffering rather than to commit the least sin, and to run the greatest danger rather than neglect the smallest duty. If, while walking in the narrow path of holiness, there happens to lie a cross in the way, we must not avoid it, but we must patiently take it up and carry it. If it be a little heavy at first, it will soon grow lighter and will not hinder, but rather further, our progress toward heaven.

God requires no more of us than what he has himself undergone, so we can suffer nothing for him but what he has suffered before for us. Have we grief in our hearts? So had he. Have we physical pain? So had he. Are we derided and scoffed at? So was he. Remember what he told us: "A disciple is not above his master, nor a servant above his lord." We cannot expect to fare better in the world than Christ himself did.

Yet neither, indeed, can we fare so badly, for it is impossible that we should undergo as much for him as he has undergone for us. Ours are only the sufferings of men; his the sufferings of one who was God as well as man. Therefore, we need not think it below us to stoop down and take up the cross of Christ, since Christ carried it before us. He has so blessed and sanctified the cross that it has now become an honorable, an advantageous, yes, a pleasant cross to them that bear it patiently. Whatever we can do or suffer for Christ here will be fully recompensed with glory hereafter.

The cross would never have been imposed upon us if it were not indispensably necessary for us. Therefore, if we are real and true Christians, let us manifest it to the world and to our own consciences by denying ourselves whatever Christ has denied us, and observing whatever he has commanded us. Self-denial, though unpleasant, is a most necessary duty. The cross, though it be ever so heavy, is but for a short time. It has nothing less than a Crown annexed to it.

Private Thoughts Upon a Christian Life

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Spurgeon's sermon, "Counting the Cost".

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Day 23

A Morning Prayer

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


The Joyful Christian
by
William Jay

"They rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest."
Isaih 9:3

Among the many mistakes entertained concerning religion, there is not one more common than the notion that it prescribes a forced, gloomy, melancholy life in which we must bid adieu to everything like pleasure. And nothing can be more injurious than this notion, for men will naturally turn from religion when they view it as the enemy of their happiness. But nothing is so unfounded and false as this opinion. Let us take it to three tribunals.

First, let us bring it to the bar of reason. It must be allowed that God is able to make us either happy or miserable. And if so, is it likely that he will suffer those who hate and oppose him to be happy and those who love and try to please him miserable? What a notion of the Supreme Being would this imply, and what could equally blaspheme his character? And should a hope that my sins are pardoned, that God is my Father, that Providence is my guide, and that heaven is my portion inspire me with sadness or with joy? And which is most adapted to make me happy--malice or benevolence, passion or meekness, pride or humility, envy or satisfaction, anxiety or confidence?

Things far off do not sufficiently impress us; we need something immediate. Our propensity to present gratification is powerful. And must not religion meet this state of feeling and provide for it? Thirsty as man is, if there be no pure stream at hand will he not kneel down to the filthy puddle? We shall soon decline a course in which we feel no interest or delight. And if we are strangers to holy pleasure, how can we impress others in favor of it? It is by singing at their work that God's servants praise their master and prove his yoke is easy and his burden light.

Second, let us take it to the bar of Scripture. Read the Bible all through for this purpose. Take its commands. What are these? "Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, ye righteous; and shout aloud for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." "Rejoice evermore." "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice." Take its promises. What are these? "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted." "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs." "They shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before them into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Take its representations. What are these? Go back to the beginning of the gospel. The first churches walked not only in the fear of the Lord, but "in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." Addressing Christians at large, Peter say, "in whom, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

If we libel Christianity and cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of, they honored it. What hindered their joy? Losses did not. "They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods." Persecutions did not. "They received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Guilt did not. They rejoiced in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom they received the atonement." Death did not. They longed to depart to be with Christ, which was far better. Eternity did not. They were looking for the blessed hope and hasting unto the coming of the day of God. Joy was then considered an essential part of genuine religion.

Third, let us bring it to the bar of experience. Experience signifies knowledge derived from experiment, in opposition to theory and hypothesis. And since experimental philosophy has been of late years much extolled, why should not experimental religion be equally recommended? Is there no standard in spiritual things to which we can appeal? And is there no way of subjecting the truth and importance of their claims to trial?

Many, indeed, are too careless and too prejudiced to pursue the process, but some have examined and reduced the subjects to decision. And they, and they only, are the persons to whom you should go in a case of this kind. They have this advantage over you: you have never walked in their ways, but they have walked in yours, and know as well as you that yours are not pleasantness and peace. After trying your resources and finding them to be vanity and vexation of spirit, they have tried the Saviour's blessings and found them to be full of grace and truth. At first they could only be swayed by faith, but now they have something more, the Witness in themselves. They know that he is a suitable, a willing, a mighty Saviour. They know that they were strangers to peace until they were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. They have found the fountain of life and can say, "It is good for me to draw nigh to God." They, therefore, ought to be heard. They can speak with confidence and earnestness, for they speak from experience.

Morning Exercises for Every Day in the Year

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Real joy belongs only to those who are born again. If you are not experiencing this joy, you should take time to read Spurgeon's sermon, "The New Heart."

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Day 24

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 to you with all the fervor of humble determination which must be heard, and then lead us to follow in his steps, saying "Not my will, but thine be done." All this we pray in the name of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Suffering: An Honor for the Christian
by
Henry Frost

"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." (Philippians 1:27-29)

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20)

The principle of Christians facing the Antichrist and enduring his persecutions is written large in the Scriptures. It is made very clear that the Church has always stood before and in opposition to antichrists, and has always suffered persecution from systems ruled by such. For the Church, therefore, to go into the days of the Antichrist and be called upon to endure his hatred and harassments, is but for her to pass from one phase of an experience into another, the difference being not in kind but in degree. Moreover, the fact that Christians have faced past antichrists and suffered because of them presents strong, presumptive evidence that they will face the future Antichrist and suffer because of him. Whatever may be true in regard to this last, it is unmistakably plain that suffering on the part of the Church because of antichrists is not inconsistent but, rather, wholly harmonious with the thought and fact of God's most tender love. The question of divine love permitting such suffering, therefore, is not one which needs to be considered.

The thought is often expressed, and still more often felt, that God loves his saints too well to allow them to stand face-to-face with the Antichrist and to pass through the Great Tribulation. If Scripture and experience teach this, all controversy, of course, is immediately ended. But do they? Did God love Christ too well to forbid His standing before His antichrist and passing through His great tribulation? Did God love Peter, James, John, and Paul too well for them to suffer, or the apostolic Church, the Church of the Reformation, or the more modern Christians of Armenia, Madagascar, and China? It is a historical fact that the Church, from apostolic days to the present, has always faced antichrists and has frequently passed through periods of tribulation. The Scripture makes it plain that this will be her appointed portion to the end of her earthly pilgrimage (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:35-39, I Thess. 3:4).

There is no occasion, then, for surprise on the part of the Church when an antichrist arises and persecution comes. As a matter of fact, there is more need for surprise when there are no antichrists and persecutions. Indeed, this latter is so true that when Christians are living in times of universal quiet and peace, they may well question if things are with them spiritually as they ought to be. For it is suffering, not comfort, that is the appointed lot of God's heritage, even as Paul said, "For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And again, "We must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God."

On God's side, there has been granted to the modern Church a breathing space in order that there might be ample and unhindered opportunity to pass through divinely opened doors. But as for the saints, the vast majority have accepted the breathing space but then refused to pass through these open doors. Therefore, these saints have, over time, come to conclude that the prosperity of quiet and ease from suffering is not only their lot, but also their right. What a shock it was in 1900 when the Boxer movement broke over their cherished kin like a devastating storm! In those days of sorrow, many a soul secretly demanded to know from God what he was doing. His only answer was the allowance of further torture and death, until the storm passed. Since then he has given another, and even more dreadful, answer to questioning souls, as France, Germany, Turkey and Armenia bear witness.

It is evident that He who has for a time turned the usual state of suffering into the unusual state of peace, will in coming days turn this unusual state of peace into the usual state of suffering. Accumulating evidence indicates that the Church, which had torment in the old days but has sat at ease in the new, will be called upon to reenter blood-stained paths and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

Matthew 24 and The Revelation

A note from Mr. Scruby, whose book was published in 1933: "As will be observed, Brother Frost wrote those words (his book was published in 1924) before the God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Bible-despising government of recently so-called "Holy Russia," (so called because of the alleged Christian piety of its people), began its church destroying, Bible destroying, and saint-persecuting work as part of its avowed purpose to make that country one-hundred percent atheistic and antichristian; something which no other government in all the history of the world had ever attempted to do. If one may believe just half the stories that have come out of Soviet Russia, then many of the saints there have already had to face as "great tribulation" as any saint will be called upon to face during the Great Tribulation itself.

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Check out "Church in the Tribulation?" by John Scruby.

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Day 25

A Morning Prayer

O merciful Father, hear us now for we come through the blood of your dear Son, Christ Jesus, who glorified your name in his death. We think upon his ignominious death, recognizing that it is only through faith in its efficacy that we can come before your throne of grace. Turn our eyes to Calvary and there behold his innocent hands pierced with cruel nails, a sad return for the healing touch they often gave. There we see his brow crowned in thorns and hear the heartless mockery of those who had heard his lips speak peace. Let your Holy Spirit rouse us from the dullness of indifference to meditate on the love which could endure such suffering for rebellious man. Amen.


The Transfiguration
by
Alexander Bruce

"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him." (Matthew 17:1-3)

The transfiguration is one of those passages in the Saviour’s earthly history which an expositor would rather pass over in reverent silence. Who is able fully to speak of that wondrous night scene among the mountains of Hermon? There the mortal body of Jesus, being transfigured, shone with celestial brightness, and the spirits of just men made perfect appeared and held converse with Him respecting His approaching passion. And a voice came forth from the excellent glory, pronouncing Him to be God’s well-beloved Son. It is too high for us, this august spectacle, we cannot attain unto it. Its mystery surpasses our comprehension.

The transfiguration must be viewed in connection with the announcement made by Jesus shortly before concerning His death. This is evident from the simple fact that the three evangelists note the time of its occurrence with reference to that announcement and the conversation which accompanied it. All tell how, within six or eight days thereafter, Jesus took three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, and brought them into a high mountain and was transfigured before them. This minute accuracy here signifies in effect, “While the foregoing communications and discourses concerning the cross were fresh in the thoughts of all the parties, the wondrous events we are now to relate took place.”

This inference is fully borne out by a statement made by Luke respecting the subject of the conversation on the holy mount between Jesus and His celestial visitants. "And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem." That death was the theme of their talk. They had appeared to Jesus to converse with Him about it; and when they ceased speaking, they took their departure for the abodes of the blessed.

Luke further records that, previous to His transfiguration, Jesus had been engaged in prayer. It was the same as that prayer in the garden. The cup of death was present to the mind of Jesus, the cross was visible to His spiritual eye, and He prayed for nerve to drink, for courage to endure. The attendance of the three confidential disciples, Peter, James, and John, significantly hints at the similarity of the two occasions. The Master took these disciples with Him into the mount, as He afterwards took them into the garden, that He might not be altogether destitute of company and kindly sympathy as He walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and felt the horror and the loneliness of the situation.

It is now clear how we must view the transfiguration scene in relation to Jesus. It was an aid to faith and patience, specially vouchsafed to the meek and lowly Son of man in answer to His prayers, to cheer Him on His sorrowful path towards Jerusalem and Calvary. Three distinct aids to His faith were supplied in the experiences of that wondrous night. The first was a foretaste of the glory with which He should be rewarded after His passion, for His voluntary humiliation and obedience unto death. For the moment He was, as it were, raptured up into heaven, where He had been before He came into the world; for His face shone like the sun, and His raiment was white as the pure untrodden snow on the high alpine summits of Hermon. “Be of good cheer,” said that sudden flood of celestial light, “the suffering will soon be past, and Thou shall enter into Thine eternal joy!”

A second source of comfort to Jesus was the assurance that the mystery of the cross was understood and appreciated by saints in heaven, even if not by the darkened minds of sinful men on earth. He greatly needed such comfort, for among the men then living (His chosen disciples no exception), there was not one to whom He could speak on that theme with any hope of eliciting an intelligent and sympathetic response. Only a few days ago He had ascertained, by painful experience, the utter incapacity of the twelve to comprehend the mystery of His passion, or even to believe in it as a certain fact. Speaking with the great lawgiver and the great prophet of Israel on the subject of His death was doubtless a real solace to the spirit of Jesus. We know how He comforted Himself at other times with the thought of being understood in heaven, if not on earth. When heartless Pharisees called in question His conduct in receiving sinners, He sought at once His defense and consolation in the blessed fact that there was joy in heaven at least, whatever there might be among them, over one penitent sinner. Surely, then, we may believe that when He looked forward to His own decease, the crowning evidence of His love for sinners, it was a comfort to His heart to think, “Up yonder they know that I am to suffer, and comprehend the reason why, and watch with eager interest to see how I move on with unfaltering step, with my face steadfastly set to go to Jerusalem.”

A third, and the chief solace to the heart of Jesus, was the approving voice of His heavenly Father. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," declaring in effect His satisfaction with the way in which His Son had glorified His name hitherto, and His confidence that He would not fail to crown His career of obedience by a God-glorifying death.

Training of the Twelve

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Richard Trench has a lecture on this topic, "The Transfiguration."

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Day 26

A Morning Prayer

O God, we confess with shame that we have been more diligent in earthly pursuits than in heavenly. We engage in earthly tasks with timely zeal in hopes of pleasing our earthly masters, yet in spiritual matters we are sluggish and cold, looking upon them as if they were a burden to be discharged and not a privilege to cherish. Forgive us, we pray, and let us not pass the remainder of our days in the darkness of such error, for we ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.


The Business Instinct in Religion
by
J. H. Jowett

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman."
Matthew 13:45

If the citizen of the Kingdom of God can be suggestively compared to a merchantman, there must be something about him exceedingly businesslike and enterprising. Our Lord appears to teach that business qualities are needful in the pursuit of the things that are needful in the Kingdom of God. I am to be as businesslike in my religious life as I am in my commercial life. The peril proclaimed is this: that men who are exceedingly businesslike in the market are exceedingly unbusinesslike in the sanctuary, and that men who are thoroughly alert and enterprising in earning their daily bread are sleepy and resourceless in their pursuit of a holy life. The counsel of the parable is therefore this: Be as businesslike in the building up of character as you are in the building up of fortune. Bring your business gifts and aptitudes in the affairs of business, and exercise them in the acquisition of the treasures of Heaven.

Now I propose to go into business life and cull out two or three of the qualities which are essential to worldly success. And then I propose to carry them over to the life of the spirit.

First, the quality of alertness. It is a maxim of every successful businessman: "A man must have all his wits about him." "It is the early bird that catches the worm." A businessman must be alert for the detection of hidden perils, and alert for the perception of equally hidden opportunity. He must clearly see where old roads are played out and where new ground may be broken. Let us now carry the suggestion over into the affairs of the Kingdom.

The Scriptures abound in counsel to alertness: "Awake, awake!" "Watch ye!" "Let us watch and be sober!" "Watching unto prayer." It is an all-essential ingredient in the life of the progressive saint. He is to be on the alert against pitfalls, bad bargains, selling pearls for refuse, and impoverishing compromise. But most importantly God wants us to be alert to the things of the Kingdom. "Watch ye, for at such an hour when ye think not the Son of Man comes." We never know when the august Visitor may turn up.

We are to be on the alert for the conversion of everything into spiritual gold: "Buy up the opportunity." Things that appear useless may be the raw material of the garments of Heaven. That is perhaps the main business of the successful citizen of the Kingdom, the conversion of waste. This disappointment which I have had today, what can I make out of it? This grief of mine, what can I make of it? Must I leave it as waste in the tract of the years or can it be turned into treasure? This pain of mine, is it only a lumbering burden or a vehicle carrying heavenly gold? It is in conditions of this kind that the spiritual expert reveals himself. He is all "alive unto God," and seeing the opportunity he seizes it like a successful merchantman.

Second is the quality of method. This is what I hear one man say to another who has risen to fortune: "Everything about him goes like clockwork." Of another man, whose days witness a gradual degeneracy, quite another word is spoken: "He has no system, no method, everything goes by the rule of chance." Is this equally true in the things of the Kingdom? How many there are who in religious life are loose, slipshod, unmethodical! How unsystematic we are in our worship and our prayers! Our worldly business would speedily drop into ruin if we applied the same inconsiderate ways with which we discharge the duties of our religion.ls himself. He is all "alive unto God," and seeing the opportunity he seizes it like a successful merchantman.

Now I know too much method may become binding, but too little may become a rout. Too much red tape is creative of servitude, but to have no red tape at all is to be the victim of disorder. But there is a happy medium between chaos and bondage. We need some method in prayer, so let us choose a certain time each day to pray. Praying regularly at that time will soon become a good habit, and thereafter we will instinctively be found upon our knees at the stated time. We also need some method in the arrangement of our prayers, lest they settle down into cold and heartless repetition. Even the ministry on behalf of others should be regular and systematic. It is the people who do not give by method who are always prone to greatly exaggerate the amount they give. A healthy citizen of the Kingdom of God is like a businessman. His life is regulated by vigorous order.

Third is the quality of firm decision. The profitable businessman waits until the hour is come and then acts decisively: "He strikes while the iron is hot." An indecisive businessman lives in perpetual insecurity. He meanders along in wavering uncertainty until his business house has to be closed. Is not this element of decision needful in the light of the Spirit? Religious life is too apt to be full of "ifs," "buts," "perhapses," and "peradventures." Suppose one feels a godly impulse of the Holy Spirit. In what then does his salvation consist? It is to strike while the iron is hot and not linger holding to flimsy excuses. No, the iron will speedily grow cold. While the holy thing glows before you, strongly decide and concentrate your energies in supporting your decision. "I am resolved what to do."

Last, we have the quality of courage. What does the man of the world say? "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." "Faint heart never won fair lady." Has the citizen of the Kingdom anything to risk? Indeed he has. He must risk the truth, even though a lie might appear to offer him a bargain. Let him sow the truth even though the threatened harvest may be weeds. Let him venture the truth even though great loss seems to draw nigh. "He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." A man must make his choice between Christ and the world. Let him make the venture. If it means closing shop, he will go out with Christ. "He that loses his life for My sake shall find it."

Alertness, method, decision, courage! These are some of the qualities needed by the citizen of the Kingdom. With them he will become rich in faith and hope and in love.

Thirsting for the Springs

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will like J. C. Ryle's sermon, "What Time Is It?"

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Day 27

A Morning Prayer

O glorious Lord God, draw us to a serious contemplation of that precious virtue of patience. Enable us to long for it with the sincerity of a most earnest desire. If you had not exercised patience toward us, your wrath would have consumed us long ago. Understanding, therefore, the importance of this gift, let us exercise it toward others, thereby proving ourselves your disciples. But above all, give us patience under the dispensation of your providence. When afflictions fall upon us, sorrows arise, or losses accumulate, make us remember their Author, even the Author of all good. Whatsoever may happen, let us bear patiently the trials and provocations of life, whether from you or from our fellow men, thus robbing them of their sting and securing your favor and regard, because you will accept the patient one. Bless us, we pray, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


Enduring Temptations
by
Ichabod Spencer

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)

There is nothing in the Scriptures which give us reason to suppose it is an easy thing to be a faithful and sincere Christians. Provision is made for us to resist and vanquish assaults, but the security and peace of heaven do not belong to us here. You can scarcely have failed to notice how the most full, clear, and frequent promises of the Bible are occupied with the triumphs of heaven and not the temptations of earth. So far is the Holy Spirit from assuring us that we shall have nothing to tempt our fidelity, but he warns us of the fear of falling when we are tempted. He promises everything to fidelity when we get to another world, but he promises sparingly while we stay in this. Heaven he holds up to our view to encourage and animate us while we are passing through the furnace.

The believer is engaged in a warfare. Enemies are before him. The battle is to be fought: "Fight the good fight of faith." "Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour." Whatever we may hope, there is no situation in this world which places us beyond danger. Take any example you will.

There are temptations of adversity. It is extremely difficult for those who have nothing in this world, and can expect to have nothing, to avoid envying the lot of more favored mortals. The hungry man will find it difficult, by faith, to live upon the precept, "Take no thought for tomorrow, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink." The desolate man, stripped of those who were the joy and solace of his life, will find it difficult to say over the tombs of his wife and children, "The Lord gave and the Lord has token away, blessed be the name of the Lord." The friendless child of misery, whom adversity drives into the wilderness like David, will find it no easy matter to exclaim, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Our confidence is apt to be shaken by reverses. Oh, how few are the Christians of whom it would be said under such trial, "In all this Job sinned not, nor cursed God in his heart."

There are temptations of prosperity. It may be more difficult for the believer to be faithful when the world smiles upon him than when it frowns. Prosperity places the means of sinful indulgence within our reach. We are very apt to think better of ourselves when prospered, as if Divine Providence would not thus distinguish us were we not more deserving than others. There are also correspondent duties which prosperity imposes, and there is no little danger that we shall fail to serve God in proportion to the ability he puts into our hands! How many rich men are in danger of being unfaithful in their stewardship, using their possessions as if God had not given them! It is no small matter to resist the temptations of prosperity.

If we look at the course in which God has led his own people, we shall find that they have been tried so as by fire. Can we find among the biographies of the saints anyone that entered into his rest by a smooth path? Behold Moses. His journey is in the wilderness. His calling is that for which he feels himself disqualified by nature. Hunger, thirst, the accusations of those he led, and his own impatience under difficulty present alarming obstacles to his fidelity. Behold Job. His possessions are swept away, his health gone, his children dead. Sick, bereaved, abandoned, and lying in the dust, he hears from the lips of his wife the most impious counsel, "Curse God and die." But despite the burdening difficulty, he received grace enough to say, "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil also?" Behold Abraham, Samuel, Elisha, Daniel, Jeremiah, Paul, Silas. Who of them ever found a way into heaven not beset with most perilous snares? Testing ought to be expected by God's people.

And are there not among us those who seem to imagine that it is easy to follow Christ? Their religion gives them little trouble. They do not even know what trial or enduring means! There is no spot in all their experience where they can say they were tried. There is no leaf in all their history which tells the tale of their endurance. When religion is not a most distinct and important business to us, when we do not find it demanding effort, when it makes no calls but such as are easy to answer, when it leaves our whole heart sound and our whole life untouched with trouble, when it permits us to flow on with the world, then where shall be our evidence that we are enduring trial? How shall we stand in the day of Christ? When I behold the easy life and untroubled mind of many who hope they shall be saved, I cannot but tremble for what is before them! They are so much like the world, their hearts dependent so much on it. Can it be that they are the sons of God and their hearts are settled in heaven?

What temptation has tried us? What endurance has demonstrated our faith? What furnace has kindled upon us to burn up the dross and brighten the spirit for heaven?

Life, Practical and Experimental Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read Charles Bridges' sermon on Psalm 119:28, "My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to your word".

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Day 28

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, with what shall we come before you? How shall we give you the honor due your name? All that we have is unworthy of your regard, and our best offerings serve only to remind us how gracious you are in receiving them. You continue to bless us day to day and permit us to come into your presence because you delight in mercy, because your goodness is from everlasting to everlasting, and because, above all, you have respect for the sacrifice of your beloved Son, who gave himself a ransom for our souls. Enable us to see our utter unworthiness and embrace humility, for with it comes your blessing. We ask in the name of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.


Humility
by
Francois Fenelon

"The fear of Yahweh is the instruction of wisdom,
and before honor is humility."
Proverbs 15:33

What a mercy is humiliation to a soul that receives it with a steadfast faith! There are a thousand blessings in it for ourselves and for others, for our Lord bestows his grace upon the humble. Humility renders us charitable toward our neighbor. Nothing will make us so tender and indulgent to the faults of others as a view of our own.

Our faults, even those most difficult to bear, will all be of service to us if we make use of them for our humiliation without relaxing our efforts to correct them. It does no good to be discouraged. Discouragement is the result of a disappointed and despairing self-love. The true method of profiting by the humiliation of our faults is to behold them in all their deformity, without losing our hope in God and without having any confidence in ourselves.

We must bear with ourselves without either flattery or discouragement. This is a mean seldom attained, for we either expect great things of ourselves and of our good intentions or we wholly despair. We must hope nothing for self, but wait for everything from God. Utter despair of ourselves (in consequence of a conviction of our helplessness) and unbounded confidence in God are the true foundations of the spiritual edifice.

That is a false humility which, acknowledging itself unworthy of the gifts of God, dares not confidently expect them. True humility consists in a deep view of our utter unworthiness and in an absolute abandonment to God, without the slightest doubt that He will do the greatest things in us. Those who are truly humble will be surprised to hear themselves exalted. They always take the lowest place, rejoice when they are despised, and consider everyone superior to themselves. They are lenient to the faults of others in view of their own, and very far from preferring themselves before anyone. We may judge of our advancement in humility by the delight we have in humiliations and contempt.

Spiritual Progress

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Read the exposition of Proverbs 21:2, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts," by Charles Bridges.

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Day 29

A Morning Prayer

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


The Cure for Care
by
J. H. Jowett

"Do not fret because of evildoers,
nor be envious of the workers of iniquity."
Psalm 37:1

“Fret not thyself.” Do not get into a perilous heat about things. And yet, if ever heat were justified, it was surely justified in the circumstances outlined in this psalm. Evildoers were moving about clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day. Workers of iniquity were climbing into places of power and oppressing their less fortunate brethren. Sinful men and women were stalking through the land in the pride of life, basking in the light and comfort of great prosperity. And good men were becoming heated and fretful. Even in a good cause fretfulness is not a wise helper. It only heats the bearings; it does not generate the steam. It is no help to a train for the axles to get hot; their heat is only a hindrance. The best contribution the axles can make is for them to stay cool.

Now, when the axles get heated it is because of unnecessary friction; dry surfaces are grinding together which ought to be kept in smooth cooperation by a delicate cushion of oil. And is it not a suggestive fact that this word “fret” is closely akin to the word “friction,” and is indicative of the absence of the anointing oil of the grace of God? In fretfulness, thought is grinding against thought, desire against desire, will against will. A little bit of grit gets into the bearings, some slight disappointment, some ingratitude, some discourtesy, and the smooth working of the life is checked.

The psalmist points out, in the earlier verses of his psalm, some of the stages of increasing destructiveness to which fretfulness leads. The first is envy, or jealousy. "Neither be thou envious." Let it be said that jealousy is heat out of place. Yet the "jealous" man and the "zealous" man are somewhat related, the difference being in the kind of heat. It is the difference between fever and fervor.

Another stage proclaimed by the psalmist is anger. "Cease from anger." The fire is now burning furiously, noisy in the fierceness of its wrath. What shall we expect as the climax of all this? "Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." That is what I should expect. Men who have worked themselves into envy and anger will be led into the very evil they originally resented. Men begin by fretting "because of evildoers," and they end by "doing the evil" themselves. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles!" "Fret not thyself!" Do not let your bearings get hot. Let the oil of the Lord keep you cool, lest you be reckoned among the evildoers.

How, then, is fretfulness to be cured? The psalmist brings in the heavenly to correct the earthly. Let us look at the counsel in detail.

“Trust in Yahweh.” It is helpful to remember that the word which is here translated “trust” is elsewhere in the Old Testament translated “careless.” “Be careless in Yahweh!” Instead of carrying a load of care, let care be absent! It is the carelessness of little children running about the house in the assurance of their father’s providence and love. It is the singing disposition that leaves something for the parent to do. Assume that He is working as well as yourself, and working even when things appear to be adverse. The supply of grace is not determined by the changes in our moods, for it is independent of our feelings. "There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God!" That river is flowing even when we are temporarily depressed and no longer enjoying the ecstasy of the heights. "Trust in Yahweh!" Believe in His fidelity! Assume that the river is flowing even on the darkest day.

“Delight yourself also in Yahweh.” How beautiful the phrase! If we only set about with ardent purpose to discover the delicacies on God's table, we should have no time and no inclination to fret. But this is just what the majority of us do not do. We take the crumbs from the Master’s table, having no taste for the excellent delicacies. Now the delicacies of anything are not found in the elementary stages; we have to move forward to the advanced. The delicacies of music are not found in the first half-dozen lessons. It is only in the later stages that we come to the exquisite. And so it is in art, and so it is in literature, and so it is with the “things of the Lord.” “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” The "unsearchable riches of Christ" will reveal themselves more and more to us throughout the glorious seasons of the eternal day.

“Commit your way to Yahweh.” Any purpose, ambition, duty, or action must be committed to God. And this is not to be done only while we are in the middle of the way and stuck and lost in the mire. Let us commit our beginnings to Him, before we have gone wrong. Let us have His companionship from the very outset of the journey. "I am Alpha." He likes to be in at our beginnings. What am I purposing for tomorrow? What am I setting out to do? Have I committed it to the Lord, or am I setting out upon a solitary journey? If I am going out alone, fretfulness will encounter me before I have gone many step. If I go out in the company of Jesus I shall have the peace that passes understanding, and the heat of my life will be the ardor of an intense devotion.

“Rest in Yahweh.” Having trusted in the Lord, delighted in the Lord, committed my way to the Lord, let me now just “rest.” Don’t worry. Whatever happens, he will adapt it to my need. This is the cure for care.

The Silver Lining

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Alexander McCaul's sermon, "Advice and Consolation".

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Day 30

A Morning Prayer

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


The Flood--A Type of The Day of the Lord
by
John J. Scruby

"For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made." (Genesis 7:4)

I will now show that the Flood (recorded in Genesis chapter 7) did not typify the Great Tribulation itself, but the Day of the Lord, which day will terminate that Great Tribulation.

Notice first, that in this type there is seen no person who typifies the Antichrist, the central figure of the Tribulation. Second, that there is nothing in the type to show the various deadly happenings which are so prominently connected with the Tribulation; viz., war, pestilence, famine, demon locusts, scorching heat, etc. The Flood was one swift, destroying judgment and was not, as will be the Tribulation, a series of tormenting judgments. Third, that the Flood came not at the beginning, nor in the middle, but at the end of the "seven days." These seven days typify the last seven years of this present age. Fourth, that there is an utter absence of anything to show that Noah and his family were persecuted by any of their contemporaries, whereas the bitter and deadly persecution of the saints is one of the most outstanding characteristics of the Tribulation. This is not to say that Noah and his family were not persecuted, but only that if they were, the type does not show it; and this for the simple reason that it is not a Tribulation type.

About five years, perhaps less, before the Flood came, the Lord instructed Noah how to prepare for its coming, in order to ensure the safety of himself and his household. Noah acted upon those instructions. Finally, all was in readiness with the exception of a few finishing touches. "Then the Lord said to Noah, 'Come into the ark, you and all your household...for after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights" (Gen. 7:1,4).

Noah and his family did not enter into the ark on the day the Lord gave him this command, nor was it intended that they should; but they proceeded to lead or drive the beasts into the ark and to see that they were safely stowed, and to attend to various other last-minute matters. Then, when everything to the last minute detail had been done, and just as the deluge swept upon them, Noah and his family rushed into the ark, just in time to escape the destroying waters, and the Lord closed the door. Let me try to describe it for you.

"Wife, sons, daughters," cried Noah, "the Lord has just informed me that we have only seven more days in which to get everything in order before the flood comes, so we must hurry, for there is much yet to do." And no matter how fast they may have labored before, now that they knew only one more week remained, they redoubled their efforts. Unquestionably, in addition to superintending the "round up" and arranging for the stowing of the creatures in the ark, Noah, like a traveler going with a large family on a first long journey, found a multitude of last-minute things to attend to, and they had to be attended to quickly.

The unbiased reader will readily see that the purpose of the warning--"For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth"--was to induce Noah to hasten and conclude these final matters. Here we have typified what the Church will be doing during the last seven years of this age. We will not be sitting idly by (shut up in the ark waiting for the Flood to come, as some erroneously think), but will be busy working, and more busy than ever, making final preparations for meeting the Tribulation-climaxing judgments of the Day of the Lord.

It is recorded, "In the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened...On the very same day Noah and Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered into the ark" (Gen. 7:11,13). The last hour of the last of the seven days had come. Apparently Noah and his family were still outside the ark, seeing that nothing had been left undone, that nothing had been overlooked. Then, suddenly, "the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened," and the deluge was on. If anything were now undone, it was too late to attend to it. Rushing to the ark, "driven by the waters of the deluge," Noah and his family entered and the Lord shut them in, just in time to prevent the inrush of the judgment waters, and perhaps also of a multitude of death-doomed jeering sinners who may have assembled, attracted by the unusual activities of Noah and his family during these last seven days. "On the very same day," mark you, Noah and his family entered the ark. What "very same day?" The very same day on which the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven opened. In verse 7 it is recorded, "So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood." This last sentence is very suggestive, for it indicates that Noah and his family were driven into the ark by the threatening waters.

As Noah entered the ark at the end of the seven days, so the rapture of the church will follow the tribulation. Because the Flood did not come until the very end of those seven days, it cannot typify the Tribulation, for the Tribulation is to begin in the middle of the last seven years of this age.

The Great Tribulation, The Church's Supreme Test

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For more information on the rapture and other issues connected with the the second advent, please see our "Short Study on the Book of Revelation".

Samuel Tregelles has a great book, "The Hope of Christ's Second Coming".

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