Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Friday, February 12, 2016

Christ's love, the Father's love

"AS the Father has loved Me — SO have I loved you; continue in My love." John 15:9

 I have already said, that if we are able to understand the love of the Father to Christ — then we shall then be able to understand the love of Christ to us. Here is an "if" indeed. How can the finite measure that which, in itself, is infinite? The difficulty is increased also by the matter of contemplation. It is love — Divine love. The love of Him who is love. The love of God to Christ.
I find it easier to form in some measure, a conception of His power than I do of His love. True, both are infinite. But then one is a matter of His arm — while the other concerns His heart. On every hand I can perceive His might: the sun marching in its course by day, and the stars gliding along their paths by night. Both alike declare a power that is infinite, for it is He who has set "a tabernacle for the sun," and as for the stars, "He calls them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and being strong in power, not one fails." Isaiah 40.26. Moreover, power, wisdom and glory seem things that one may venture to speak about; but a peculiar sacredness, almost commanding silence, surrounds the deep love of God's heart. That heart, the heart of God and the object of that love, is His Son.
As we approach the subject with a feeling akin to awe, we almost imagine that we can hear with Moses, the voice of God, saying, "Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground." Exo 3.5.
The love of God to Christ — here is the "AS."
While pondering this mighty "as" in the quiet of my study, the scene around me changed. Familiar objects seemed to fade away, and in imagination, I stood upon ashore. Stretching out before me was an ocean. Far as the eye could reach there was water everywhere. As I stood contemplating this vast expanse, I thought I heard a voice saying to me, "The ocean on which you are gazing has no other shore. Before you — to the right — to the left — it has no bound, no limit — form an idea of its extent." My mind was staggered, and I answered, "How can I measure what has no boundary, knows no end?" The voice again said, "The ocean on which you look has no bottom — fathom it." Overwhelmed, I replied, "How can I sound that which is all depth?"
This ocean awed me by its calm. No wave, no ripple broke or murmured on the shore on which I stood. I felt as if it was too vast to heave, too deep to know disquiet. It was the ocean of the Father's love to Christ.
Again, the scene changed, and I found myself standing at the foot of a giant mountain. Beside it all other mountain ranges were dwarfed to mole hills. Astonished, I looked upwards to the towering peaks only to find there were higher still. Sight failed and the spirit quailed, while the same voice I had heard before said, "This mountain has no top — climb it." Ah! how? Who can gain a summit when there is none? It was the love of God to Christ which in its height and depth, and length and breadth, is measureless.
Behold, beloved, the boundlessness of the "AS" — to fathom it — to encircle it — to scale it — are but impossibilities. All we can hope to do is just mention some of its leading features, and then try and show you that the leading features of the "as," are also the leading features of the "so."
First then, the love of the Father to the Son was a SUPREME love. It is . . .
higher than the highest,
deeper than the deepest,
longer than the longest,
broader than the broadest.
It was love beyond all love — the greatest love with which the God of love could love. It was a love into which the whole divine power of loving was thrown. It would be the foulest blasphemy to imagine it is possible for Christ to be loved with a greater love. Here is the "AS."
Now turn to the "SO." "So have I loved you." Christ loves His people with an affection that is incapable of increase. It is no comparative love — but a superlative love. The whole heart of Christ loves every saint to its utmost power. I know this is hard to realize. Painfully conscious of our own utter unworthiness, and of our ten-thousand inconsistencies — we often feel that if Jesus will show us just bare mercy and pity — it is all we can dare to ask.
But, dear friend, this is wrong. It is judging our Lord's love by our own — it is bringing Him down to our own low level. We have nothing to do with what we feel — but what he has said — and he has declared that His love to us is the same as His Father's love to Him. You dare not doubt the latter — then do not doubt the former.
The only true way of judging love, is by what love will do. O, try the love of Jesus by this test. See if it is possible for Him to give higher or deeper proofs than those he has given. The greatest exhibition of love is for a man to lay down his life for his friends — but Jesus far exceeded this proof. He gave His life for His enemies. He endured Gethsemane and stooped to Calvary, for His foes.
"And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony,
Yes, death itself and all for me,
Who was your enemy!"
And now, although exalted high, "his love is still as great." Poor trembling down-cast saint, take this thought into your heart this morning, and let it be a solace to you:Jesus loves you with a love as infinite as the Father's love to Him!
The love of the Father to the Son was also an ETERNAL love. If you will turn with me to the seventeenth chapter of this Gospel, and the twenty-fourth verse, you will read, "For you loved me before the foundation of the world." Here we are brought face to face with one of those truths that can never be grasped by the mind — but only believed in the heart.
Who can form a conception of what eternity is? Who can explain in language, the meaning of the word "everlasting?" There is something transcendent in the depth of a past eternity. Go back as far as the mind can imagine — it is always infinitely before that. What ages have rolled their courses since the solid foundations of the world were laid — how far remote is that time when "in the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth."
But the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. If we go back in thought to the time when no world existed, when space did not know a star; yes, further back than that, when an angel did not exist, when not a single "son of the morning" had ever raised his voice — we find that the Father loved the Son. From all eternity, when God alone was everywhere, and everything was nowhere — the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father. There never was a moment when Christ was not the well-beloved. Here, dear friends, you have the "as," and that was an eternal one.
Now turn to the "SO." "So have I loved you." As eternal as the Father's love to the Son — is the Son's love to His people. Child of God, the love of Jesus to you is no love of yesterday. Listen to His word: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness I have drawn you." Jeremiah 31.3. Before the foundation of the world, He had thoughts of love to you — for even then He was in purpose "the Lamb slain." In the council chamber of eternity, His heart yearned over you, and made Him cry, "Save from going down into the pit, for I have found a ransom." Job 33.24.
The "so" has ever run parallel with the "as." There never was a time when Jesus did not love you. O, what infinite value does this thought give to "the love of Christ to me!" I would abide under its influence. I would revel in its sweetness. The love I know and feel He has to me this morning, dates back with the love the Father ever had to Him!
"His love, from eternity fixed upon you,
Broke forth, and discovered its flame,
When each with the cords of His kindness He drew,
And brought you to love His great name."
The Father's love to the Son was also an UNFLUCTUATING love. Our Savior says, concerning it, "I always abide in His love." John 15.10. It is impossible to imagine a momentary alteration in the divine love of the Father. It is a deep, deep ocean, that knows no flow or ebb. It is love that rests in infinite delight in Christ. It is always at the fullest.
There you have the "as," now listen to the "so." "So have I loved you." I frankly confess, dear friends, that it is this view of Christ's love that I find most difficult to realize in my own soul. I can far easier imagine a love that has no end — than a love that knows no variation in degree of intensity. When one looks within, and watches the changing experience of the heart — when one finds it today burning with a returning love, and tomorrow frozen up and coated with the ice of indifference — it is indeed hard to realize that the love of Jesus has known no corresponding alterations. It is so natural to measure our Savior's love to us — by ours to Him; and think that because we feel more of His love, therefore there is more. But blessed be God, although we cannot always grasp the fact — yet the fact remains.
"His is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above;
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death!"
"What," I think I can hear one of you saying, "Do you mean to say that Jesus loves me just as much when I am depressed, and deep down in the dark valley — as when I am full of sunshine, and standing on the mount of God?" Yes, I do, dear friend, quite as much. His love was never begotten by anything he saw in you — and can therefore never be changed by anything about you. The roots of love are deep within His own heart — and therefore the fruits are never increased or diminished by anything in you. Surely, of all thoughts one can possibly have of the love of Jesus, it would be impossible to find one more full of refreshment and joy to the sorrowing saint, than the thought of its unchangeableness.
Jesus finds His joy in loving His people! Is it bliss to me to be beloved by Him? It is also a cause for song on His part to love me. He finds satisfaction in His love. He rests in it. "The Lord your God, in the midst of you, is mighty; He will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph 3.17.
Yes, child of God, your Savior's love, unlike your own, is a resting love. It rests on the person, never leaving him. It rests in degree, never varying in itself. Until the Father's love to the Son fluctuates, and not until then — you need not fear the love of Christ ever altering in its intensity towards you.
The Father's love, moreover, was one of DELIGHT. This is the highest kind of love — far beyond the love of compassion or the love of pity. It is a love full of pleasure and satisfaction in the person loved. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." These words give us an insight into the nature of the Father's love. It is love unmingled with sorrow or disappointment. It is love reposing — love rejoicing — love singing.
Now turn to its counterpart. "So have I loved you." The love of Jesus is something far more than compassionate love. Let me illustrate what I mean by compassionate love. Walking through the streets, I may perchance come across some little lost boy, crying enough to break its heart. The big tears roll down the little dirty cheeks in quick succession. Something makes me stop and ask the little fellow the cause for all this grief.
Broken by many a sob, he tells me he has lost his way, and wants to find his mother. I cannot leave him in his piteous distress. Compassionate love says, "Wipe his eyes, take his little grimy hand in yours; never mind if you do look odd with such a companion; don't leave him until you find his home, and return him to his half-distraught mother."
Now perhaps this work may occupy many an hour, and overthrow a dozen plans I have drawn out for the day. Never mind! It cannot be helped. The child must be looked after. Now this is the love of compassion — but not delight; for all during the time there is no sweet fellowship between us. I may not even be pleased with the child. It was his state, not himself, that was the object and the care of love.
This is far different from the walk of bosom friends, who find mutual delight in each other's company. That is the love of delight.
Dear friend, Jesus finds His delight in you, if you are His redeemed child. True, His love commenced as the love of compassion. He "found us wandering;" but now that love has mellowed into one of infinite satisfaction. He not only refreshes — but he is refreshed by communion with His people. Not only does He make and keep His church as His garden — but walking in that garden, He is himself refreshed. This truth is most beautifully and poetically taught in the Canticles. "Where has your beloved gone, that we may seek Him?" is the question asked of the spouse. Mark the answer, "My beloved has gone down into His garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather bliss. I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine; he feeds among the lilies." Song 6.1-3
Believer in Jesus, try and grasp this thought, it will be a source of unbounded joy to you. Your Savior rests in His love, and reposes in His affection towards you. He delights in you, as much as you ever delight in Him. He says concerning you, as the Father said concerning Him, "In whom I am well pleased."
It was also a love manifested in the time of HUMILIATION. Not only is love precious — but also the time and way in which love declares itself. The deeper our state of trial and humiliation — the more valued will the manifestation of an unaltered affection become.
When was it that the Father first gave from Heaven the glorious declaration of His love of delight in Jesus? I answer, at Christ's baptism. It was at the moment of our Lord's condescending obedience that the Father broke silence, and declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father's love remained unaltered by the Son's humiliation. The same love that had rested on Christ during an eternity of glory, followed Him through the shame of earth, and refused to leave him at the cross.
Here is the "as," now turn to the "so." "So have I loved you." Christ's love to His people is never withdrawn on account of any humiliation or suffering they may be called to bear. You may be called to pass through a very baptism of fiery trial, the heat of which will scorch almost all the professed friendship now made; but hovering over you like a dove, it will still remain the love of Jesus. Like the Hebrew youths, there may be in store for you a furnace seven times heated; but you will find, when cast into its flaming mouth, that there is one "like the Son of God," who will walk the furnace with you.
The deeper the trial, the nearer the Savior. When most needed, the Savior's love is always most felt. Fear not, tried child of God, that Jesus will ever be afraid to own you for His friend, for as the Father loved Him in His deepest abasement — so He will ever manifest His love to you in your times of greatest grief.
Once more, and lastly, upon this amazing comparison. The Father's love only found its CULMINATION IN GLORY. He raised up Christ on the third day, and shortly after, our Savior ascended to enter into His mediatorial glory. O! who can describe that triumphal entry, when the everlasting gates lift up their heads to let the King of glory in? Who can tell the honors paid to the Son when he ascended the throne, and took His place at the Father's right hand? His prayer is answered, "Glorify me with yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." John 17.5.
The "as" is one that reaches Heaven. The "so" meets it there. Christ so loves us that He will have us by His side. As He shares the glory of the Father — so He will have us share His glory.
Listen to the wondrous yearning of His heart for his peoples' company. "Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world." John 17.24. Here you have the Father's love to Christ linked with Christ's prayer for our glory. O, blessed love of Jesus!!
"Love, which will not let Him rest,
Until His chosen all are blessed;
Until they all for whom he died
Live rejoicing by His side!"
Thus much for our first division, on which we have dwelt longer than we anticipated — but too shortly to satisfy our desire. Christ's love to us, like the Father's love to Him, is . . .
full of delight,
manifested in time of humiliation,
and culminating in glory!
II. A Loving Admonition. "Continue in my love." I can well imagine one of you saying, "Whatever does that mean? Have you not just been telling us that the love of Jesus knows no variation, and never ceases to encircle the saint? Why then are we told to continue in that love? I will try and explain what I think our Lord meant by these words.
Although His love abides always upon us — yet we are not always consciously living in it. Our Savior having just described to his disciples what His love was, now gently admonishes them to live in its influence. Our appreciation of, and joy in, His love — is a very different thing to the love itself. The latter never changes, the former hardly ever remains the same. Yet it is only in proportion, as we live in the love of Jesus, that we can live a happy and useful life.
It is a sad, sad fact, that many seem almost ignorant of such a life. There are most Christians — and there are some Christians who live under the influence of the love of Jesus. Have we not all come across many whom we could not dare to unchristianize — and yet who seem ignorant of the fact that there is such a thing as living, walking, and working under the influence of a realized Savior's love!
To live under this influence is to live within a charmed circle of light. O, do not be content to dwell outside this happy sphere. To be saved — but only just saved. To enter Heaven at last — but never to know what it is to have Heaven in your own soul on earth. If up to the present you have been a Christian living in an atmosphere other than that of Christ's love — do not be content to remain in it any longer. Listen to the gentle admonition of Jesus this morning, "Continue in my love."
Do you ask, "What is the secret of doing so?" I answer, or rather your Savior does, obedience. Kindly turn with me to the tenth verse of this chapter, and there you will read, "If you keep my commandments — then you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." Turn also to the previous chapter, the twenty-first verse, and onwards, "He who has my commandments and keeps them — is the one that loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
One said to Him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Now mark the answer. "Jesus answered, and said to him, if a man loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him."
The disobedient child will never have the sweet manifestations of a Savior's love that the one will have who keeps the words of Jesus. If my life is not in harmony with the Savior's commandments, it is foolish to expect the Father and the Son to come and make their abode with me. A disobedient walk will ever prove a barrier to my entering and dwelling within the bright region of a Savior's realized love. Grieving the Spirit of God, and resisting His gentle drawings to a higher life, will render my continuing in Christ's love an impossibility.
Beloved friends, permit me to plead with you and my own heart to no longer be strangers to this heavenly experience. If we are, we are strangers to a joy that is unutterable in its fullness. It was Christ's love to his disciples, and His desire for their joy that made him admonish them this way, for he says, in the eleventh verse, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

May God, in His mercy, give to us a daily increase of this fullness of joy which comes from abiding in that amazing love, concerning which our dear Redeemer says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." Amen.

Archibald G. Brown, March 12th, 1871, Stepney Green Tabernacle

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My monstrous heart!

(Letters of John Newton)

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? " Jeremiah 17:9 Alas! the most marvelous proofs of the Lord's patience and goodness to me are utterly unfit for publication; nay, I could not whisper some things into the ear of a friend.

It has been since my conversion, and not by what happened before it, that I have known the most striking instances of the vileness and depravity of my nature. My heart has been continually producing new monsters! I have good reason to believe, that it is still comparatively an unknown territory to me; and that it contains bottomless mines, depths, and sources of iniquity in it, of which I have hardly a more adequate conception, than I could form of the fishes that are hidden in the sea, by taking a survey of the fish-market at Billingsgate!

But oh! wonderful, transporting thought! He, before whom its most retired recesses lie naked and open, can and does bear with me! How wonderful is it, likewise, that notwithstanding all these floods of abomination, He has been pleased to keep me outwardly, so that I have not been allowed to make any considerable blot in my profession before men, since He was pleased first to number me among His children. But truly I have nothing to boast of. I may well say, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is exceedingly abundant!" 1 Timothy 1:14

"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
 That saved a wretch like me!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Christian on his watchtower

In rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah's workmen combined a triplet of duties — watching, working, praying. With a weapon in the one hand, they guarded against their foes. With a trowel in the other hand, they labored at their work. With a heart toward Heaven, they prayed to their God.
The servants of Christ must do likewise: it is the Master's own teaching. "Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It is like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch." (Mark 13:33, 34.) On the first of these duties, let me here address a few words of counsel, and reserve the two latter for the following chapter.
Watch against sin. You have three great foes whom you are pledged to renounce — the world, the flesh, and the devil — but sin is the spear or the arrow by which alone any one of them can injure you. Therefore, if you watch against sin, you watch against all.
Be on your guard, because of the hidden peril of sin. The bird sees not the net set for her destruction — nor the fish the hook beneath the tempting bait. Alike unseen at the time, is the danger by which the sinner is afterwards overtaken. What did Eve know of the untold wretchedness that would follow her disobedience? Or the Israelites, led into sin by Moabite women, of the thousands that would be slain that very day? Or, when they murmured, of the serpents that would destroy them? Little did Gehazi, carrying away the talents and the clothing, foresee the leprosy that would cleave to him. Nor did Ananias and Sapphira imagine the speedy discovery that would follow their agreement in falsehood.
Nor, my reader, can you tell, when you yield to the Tempter, when in anything you act against your conscience — to what sore evils and miseries it may lead? It has been said, "The devil leads the sinner down a winding staircase." One step in sin leads to another, and that to one still lower — and you never know where the final endmay be.
Before you sin, consider the sorrow of a possible repentance. Of course you may hereafter repent of the sin you now commit — but will not the bitterness of the sorrow connected with it far outweigh any pleasure or profit it may give you now?
Consider also the woe of a possible impenitence. You may repent — but you may not. And if so, what follows? What but the worm that never dies — and the fire that is never quenched?
In watching against sin, be careful never to act the part of the Tempter. Bitter must have been the remembrance of his own crafty persuasiveness, when the old prophet of Bethel heard of the death of the man of God whom he had brought back. And who can tell the bitter remorse that may be felt even here, if by any word or deed of ours, we have turned the scale for death in the history of a fellow-man? "It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence comes. It were betterfor him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea!"
Be equally guarded in never being persuaded against your conscience. Clever reasons may be suggested for your compliance with the request made to you — theadvantage it may afford — the example of others, even Christians — the frailty of youth — the slightness of the sin, etc. But do not hearken. Have the courage to say "No!" and stick to it — and you will gain a great victory — you are one of God's heroes. "Blessed is the man who endures temptation."
"Flee youthful lusts." Mark the expression. "Flee" as from a house infected with the plague! Flee, as from a serpent whose poison is death. In thought, word, and deed — be pure, be chaste. Say "good bye" forever to any companion in whose society you are not safe from allusions to evil. Keep far from any place where there may be danger. Be like Joseph. Utterly abhor all such iniquity. Say, "How shall I do this great wickedness — and sin against God?"
Shrink from the least approach to profane conversation. There is nothing manly about such a way of speaking. The noblest spirits the world has ever known, have cherished the most profound reverence for the Most High God.
Watch against pride of every kind. Boasting speech, arrogance, self-glorying — little befit a follower of the Lamb. Be not proud of wit — or wealth; of your person — or bodily strength. A very small worm may soon destroy your pleasant gourd. Like Jonah's, it may wither in a night. More than all other, guard against spiritual pride. Keep on the low ground. Do not think that you have reached a higher standard of knowledge or of grace than others. Be you content to walk in the old paths, to keep low at Christ's footstool, to love your fellow-Christians of every name, and spend your life in doing all the good you can.
Watch against the indulgence of any wrong temper. Avoid ruffling your own spirit or disturbing the comfort of those about you. Do not be irritated if others do not act always as you wish. Expect many contrary winds. Check yourself at once, when you find passion rising — keep it down with a high hand. Do not be sarcastic, or sullen, or silent — when something is amiss. Try to overcome that pettishness which is often worse than sudden anger — a sitting still for half-an-hour without speaking a word; the unkind look, the refusal to be pacified, the sharp, curt "yes," or "no."
Nor is it fitting that a Christian should manifest a cold, frozen manner. Natural temperament has much to do with this; but surely it is more Christ-like to manifest love, as well as feel it. An icy chilliness deadens sympathy and cuts up by the root many of life's purest pleasures. It hinders usefulness and puts a stumbling block in the way of young inquirers. Far better is it to live in Italy, than SiberiaThe warm sun of kindness is better every way, than the frost of harshness and indifference.
With reference to temper, let me remind you to be considerate for the feelings of servants and dependents. They are of the same flesh and blood as yourself, and you are bound so to regard them. None can tell what disquietude is caused, and harm done by young people being harsh, exacting, or dictatorial to those about them. Instead of this, be kindly and forbearing. Do all you can to make them happy, and to win them for Christ. Remember, a servant brought to repentance and faith, is a soul saved from Hell, and another jewel in the crown of the Redeemer.
Keep off the border land between right and wrong. Fear the least sin more than the greatest suffering. Maintain a conscience void of offence. Reckon no sin to be a light matter. Little acts of dishonesty, of selfishness, of neglect, the love of dress, petty deceits, half untruths — who can tell how great the guilt of these things in the sight of our Judge? "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults."
Watch for the Lord's appearing. The right position for every Christian is that named by the Apostle, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ!" Apart from all disputed questions, the coming of Christ is the great object of hope and expectation. Ever has it been the cry of His Church, and never should it be more so than now, "Come Lord Jesus, come quickly!" Though we may rejoice that His servants are carrying the Gospel into all lands, though many come from east and west to sit down in His kingdom — yet, side by side with this, error abounds and unbelief spreads wide in nations and in Churches that are called by His name. Well, then, is it that the young Christian should stand on his watch-tower, eagerly looking for that glorious day, as the Jewish watchmen would look out for the first beams of the rising sun.
"That day" will reveal much of the mystery of God's dealings with our world, and put an end forever to all that opposes itself against the Lord and His Christ. The thought of "that day" will likewise animate you to the exercise of every Christian grace and duty. Regarding Christ as near at hand, you will . . .
guard against all that may offend His all-searching eye,
diligently employ the talents He commits to you, and
be patient in suffering, knowing that in a little while, the days of your mourning shall be ended.
Perhaps in nothing will this spirit of watchfulness give plainer guidance than as to the Christian's separation from the world. Twice does our Lord speak of His own, "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world." And so is it written in James, "True religion and undefded before God and the Father is this to keep himself unspotted from the world." And again, "Don't you know that friendship of the world, is enmity with God?"
But the difficult problem is — How can the Christian practically manifest this separation? How far may you mix in general society? Where can you draw the line between one scene of recreation and another? Which invitations shall you accept — and which decline? What deference is due to the wishes of parents, when they conflict with your own conscientious scruples? How may you perform all the social duties that pertain to your position in life — and yet live in deed and in truth as a citizen of the heavenly Zion?
These are questions by no means easy to be answered. It seems to me clearly impossible to lay down any rules that will determine all such cases. Each case requires prayerful consideration and a desire to please God and not self.
But may not the subject of Christ's return afford a clue to direct you? It is clearly your duty to watch and pray always, to have your lamps trimmed, to be ready at any hour for the Bridegroom's approach. You cannot, therefore, safely frequent any scenes where this would be impossible.
It is likewise your duty never in any company to be ashamed of Christ, but to be prepared, as occasion may demand, boldly to confess His name before men — remembering that only thus can you receive the promise that He will confess your name at His coming before His Father and the Holy angels. If, therefore, from any place the name of Christ and the subject of religion is banished by common consent — is that the right position for one who professes to love Him as their Lord and Savior?
It is moreover your duty and privilege, in anticipation of the joyful welcome Christ will bestow upon the faithful when He appears, to rise far above mere morality — even . . .
to live as strangers and pilgrims here,
to keep yourselves in the love of God,
to witness for Christ by a very self-denying life,
to utilize time and means, strength of body and spirit,
to be active in your Master's service.
Whatever, therefore, interferes with this — to you is sin. "To him that knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin." If, therefore, by late hours you turn recreation from its proper intention of refreshing you for other work, if you thus over-tax strength and hinder devotion, if you use your Lord's money to no profit, if you waste your substance in dress or luxury — are you not sinning against Christ, and marring the effectiveness of your service for Him?
"Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things." "The end of all things is at hand — be therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He comes shall find watching; truly I say unto you, He shall gird Himself and make them to sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them."

O God, my Father in Christ, I come to ask You for a watchful spirit. Teach me to avoid the very least approach to evil. Give me a tender conscience. Keep me from every wrong temper and disposition. Keep me from sin in thought, word, or deed. I ask You also to prepare me for the great day of Christ's appearing. May I cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. May I purify myself, through Your Spirit, even as Christ is pure. And O my Father, keep me from all the snares andallurements of this present evil world. Keep me far from the brink of danger, and very near to Yourself. In all doubtful matters, give me heavenly wisdom, that I may know what things I ought to do — and give me grace faithfully to perform the same. When this world and all within it shall be destroyed, grant that I may be found among Your elect, safe in Your kingdom forever. Hear me, O my Father, and fulfill all my petitions, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

G. Everard

Monday, February 8, 2016

The privilege of prayer

"Wait on your God continually." Hosea 12:6
"Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
None can tell the privilege of prayer — if only it is real and true.
Prayer is the great feeder and sustainer of the Divine life.
Prayer fans the flame of grace, and makes it burn brighter and brighter.
Prayer counterplots the devil, and confounds all his devices.
Prayer gives force and power to every effort for the good of others.
Therefore pray.
Pray in sincerity.
Pray frequently.
Never, never grow weary of prayer.
Do you remember when Hagar cast her son down under the shrubs on the way to Egypt? He had no water, and it seemed that he must die. But what is told us afterwards? "God heard the voice of the lad;" and the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven and said unto her, "What ails you, Hagar? Do not be afraid — God has heard the voice of the lad where he is" (Genesis 21:17).
I am not sure whether it is meant that Ishmael prayed, or that God heard the cry of his distress and need. In either case it is a great encouragement to a lad to pray; for if it were but the cry of his distress that God heard — how much more will He hear and regard the earnest cry of faith and prayer! And God heard him "where he was," under the shrub. And God will hear you wherever you pray. It may be in the school or the dormitory, or during a stroll in the playground, or during a walk along the road; but wherever you pray in your heart, if it is but a word, but a sigh toward Heaven, an upward look — there is an eye to notice it, and an ear to receive it.
Perhaps you ask — How shall I pray?
Remember that the words, "You shall worship the Lord your God," are as plain a command as "You shall do no murder." Prayer and praise are the bounden duty of man towards the Creator who formed him capable of worship. Do not slight this duty. Do not permit the society of the careless to hinder your performance of it. Do not neglect prayer, or hurry over it, or be content with a few words in bed. Look upon a day without prayer as a positive sin, a robbery of your own soul, an injury to those connected with you, and a dishonor to God Himself.
Make a reality of your prayers. Think over them beforehand. Shut the door of your chamber against your dearest friend, and the door of your heart against all intruding thoughts. Beware of lip prayers, for God searches the heart. Beware of mere formal, unfelt prayers, for "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth." Speak to God as to a kind Father or a loving Friend.
Be particular in asking what you really need and desire. Ask for things that you really wish for to add to your daily happiness, as well as for spiritual blessings. Confess, one by one, the sins of which conscience accuses you. Name before God your parents, your brothers or sisters, and ask a blessing for each. Think of the daily mercies you receive, and heartily thank God for them. Be very real in every prayer you offer. Whether it is short or long, only let it be the genuine expression of your desires, and it will not be lost.
Make a pleasure of your prayers. There are many who know that prayer is a duty, but there they stop. They do not take any delight in prayer. It is a dull routine they try to get through, and are glad when it is over. But try to rise far above this. Do not say to yourself, "I must pray," but rather say, "Thank God, I am allowed to pray!"
If a rich man, and one worthy of your highest regard, one who could counsel you in difficulty, and whose society was always pleasant and profitable — if such a man were to ask you to his house whenever you liked, and then you found he was always ready to give you a little pocket-money, or perhaps an interesting book, or some other token of his affection — you would scarcely say, "I must go and call on Mr. So-and-So," but when you could, you would go with all your heart.
Now think of your Father in Heaven. Oh, if only you knew Him! If only you knew one half of His kind thoughts toward you, and His willingness to help you! Why, if you did, twenty times a day you would rejoice to come to Him, if it were but for a moment's prayer. You would find a real pleasure in every season for prayer. Do you wish to experience this? I will give you one or two further hints.
Consider this: God delights in the true-hearted prayers of His children. He delights to listen to them, and then to give the most appropriate answer to their petitions, in His infinite wisdom. Now, if God delights to hearken and to give — then should not you delight to ask and receive? If He is so bountiful that it is a pleasure to Him to open His hand wide in giving — then surely it should be a joy to you to go and tell Him your needs and necessities.
Give God credit for His tender Fatherliness. Remember His heart of love towards those who seek Him. Remember, too, the channel through which your prayers arise to Heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is ever pleading at the Father's right hand, and He gives you His name as the ground of your confidence. His name is an all-sufficient plea, and you can never use it in vain before God.
Remember, too, that the Holy Spirit is ever ready to assist you in prayer. He will prompt and suggest that for which you should pray. When you feel dead and cold in prayer, He is ready to come and quicken your heart that you may desire spiritual things, and realize that the Father is near to hear you.
Think, too, of the great promise given at the head of this chapter to those who wait on God. While even the young and the strong who depend on their own strength or resolution will utterly fall — if you depend on God you will renew your strength. Upward, higher and higher, you shall mount in faith and hope. Onward in the heavenly race you shall run with patience and perseverance. You shall neither faint nor grow weary until you reach the City of the Living God. Oh, that you would pray, and pray perpetually!
"Whatever the care that breaks your rest,
Whatever the wish that swells your breast,
Spread before God that wish, that care,
And change anxiety to prayer."

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

George Everard