A Basket of Summer Fruit
by Susannah Spurgeon (written after the death
of her beloved husband, C. H. Spurgeon)
"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me." Psalm 50:23
"The time of the singing of birds is come," and from early morning until the sun sets, their sweet notes are a constant reminder of the duty and delight of thanksgiving. Out of the joy of their hearts they trill forth their gladness for the sunshine, and the opening flowers, and the unfolding leaves; and I have heard the same tender song when the rain has fallen, and cold winds have blown, and dark clouds have swept across the sky. Many a time have the birds in the garden sung a lesson in my listening ears, and rebuked my dullness or my unbelief, by their gleeful carolings.
Ah! dear friends, some of us do not praise our God half enough. We "raise an Ebenezer" now and then; but we pitifully fail to obey the command. "Rejoice in the Lord always." Yet, how much we have to bless Him for, and what sweet encouragement is given to our gratitude by His assurance, "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me!" How often are we told, in His Word, that He takes delight in our thanksgivings and songs! The praise we render is dearer to Him than that of angels—for they cannot bless Him for redeeming love, for pardoned sin, and the blessed hope of resurrection glory.
Oh! is it not to the eternal praise of a covenant-keeping God, that poor pilgrims, wandering through a wilderness, and having to wage constant war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, should yet be enabled to sing gloriously, as they put their enemies to flight, and overcome by the blood of the Lamb? It is the overcoming ones who learn to praise. The fingers which can most adroitly use the sword, are the most skillful in touching the harp. Each time God gives us the victory over sin, we learn a new song with which to laud and bless His holy Name.
Does it not make your heart leap to know that your Lord takes pleasure in your praise? In His ears are ever sounding the eternal symphonies of the universe—that majestic chorus which began "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy;" but He turns from these to you, and with infinite tenderness and love, bends to listen to the grateful songs of His redeemed ones, as they bless Him for all His benefits.
The feeble notes uttered on earth by a truly thankful and sanctified heart must, I think, swell into anthems of glorious melody as they rise to the throne of God!
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You have heard of the man who made such a notable change of residence, from "Grumble Corner" to "Thanksgiving Street," that the result was, his friends scarcely knew him, for—
"His face had lost the look of care,
And the ugly frown it used to wear."
Without presuming that a need exists for any of my dear readers to remove from their present habitation, it is laid on my heart to remind them of the joy of thanksgiving, and to say, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!" What a God-honoring employment it is, to "offer the sacrifice of praise continually!" We are constantly praying for one thing or another, often selfishly spending our breath in a long catalogue of our own needs and desires; but our thanks to our gracious God are soon told out, and our praises form but a small part of our devotions.
This is not as it should be—and not as God would have it. To enrobe ourselves daily in "the garment of praise," is not only to secure our own happiness, but to fulfill the blessed service of "glorifying God." Prayer is good, but praise is better. Praise is—prayer in richest fruitfulness, prayer in highest spirituality, prayer in nearest approach to Heaven. Prayer is the language of earth, praise is the native-tongue of the angels. Gratitude to God is not cultivated in our lips and lives, as it ought to be. Each moment of mercy should strike a note of praise as it passes, and then our days would be one long-continued psalm. Praise has power to lift the soul above all care as if on wings.
Sometimes, when we feel cold and lifeless, and supplications languish on our tongues, a prelude of praise will awaken the heart's inmost music, and move it to pour forth its tenderest melody. We are too prone to take our daily blessings and mercies as rights, instead of receiving them as undeserved gifts of "free grace and dying love," and then returning to our gracious God the full measure of loving gratitude of which our poor hearts are capable. If, in looking back but a day, we fail to count the loving-kindnesses with which its minutes have been laden, how must the retrospect of a lifetime overwhelm us with its weight of indebtedness to the Lord, and also, alas! with a sense of our guilty unmindfulness of "all His benefits!"
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As this is a "personal note", I may be allowed to tell you that, in my deep and increasing loneliness, I still find sweetest comfort in praising God for His will concerning my beloved and myself, and have even been able to thank Him for taking His dear servant from this sorrowful land of sin and darkness—to the bliss and glory of His eternal presence. Fixing my heart on the blessed fact that what the Lord does is right and best, simply because He does it, I feel the anchor hold in the depths of His love—and no tempest is powerful enough to drive faith's barque from these moorings. It can outride any storm with anchorage in such a haven. Many a time, when the weight of my dreadful loss seemed as if it must crush me, it has been lifted by the remembrance that, in Heaven, my dear one is now perfectly praising his Lord; and that, if I can sing, too, I shall even here on earth be joining him in holy service and acceptable worship.
How many of you, dear readers, will be "chief singers" unto our God, and resolve that, henceforth, His praise shall be continually in your mouth? Let us, each one, say to the Lord, with good Isaac Watts—
"Long as I live, I'll bless Your Name,
My King, my God of love;
My work and joy shall be the same,
In the bright world above."
Our Great Adversary
"Your adversary the devil." 1 Peter 5:8
The conversation, at our midday meal, turned upon the dread subject of Satan's rule and reign in the world. Someone remarked on the significance of the title given to him in the Epistle to the Ephesians, "the prince of the power of the air," and said that, if Christians could only know the awful strength and might of their arch-enemy, they would be more vigilant, more constant in prayer, more unceasingly intent on abiding in Christ. We spoke softly and with bated breath, as soldiers in ambush might, who feared to be overheard; and each one had some terrible experience to relate of the craftiness and malice of "the accuser of the brethren." The impression made was a solemn one, and did not lightly pass away.
There are many instances in which God's Word recognizes the power and malignity of the devil; but they are sufficient to prove the necessity of stern watchfulness against so powerful and insidious a foe. If we are not ignorant of his devices, it behooves us to be prepared against his attacks.
Feeling somewhat downcast at the prospect of the ceaseless war which must be waged, and the constant precautions which must be taken against the enemy—knowing, moreover, by sad experience, that the same dreadful power had a too-willing ally within me, and so could the more easily tempt and deceive my soul—with a cry to God for help, I turned to the following quotation from Dr. Saphir: "Although we trust in the power of the death of Jesus to cancel the guilt of sin, we do not exercise a reliant and appropriating faith in the omnipotence of the living Savior to deliver us from the bondage of sin and the power of Satan in our daily life. We forget that Christ works in us mightily, and that, one with Him, we possess strength sufficient to overcome every temptation."
Here was just the word of gracious strengthening which I needed, and truly my heart did bless God for it. Yes, Satan is strong; but my Lord Jesus is stronger than he. The devil may hate me with all the vehemence of his malicious nature; but "love is strong as death," and the love of God in Christ is my everlasting safeguard.
How blessed it was to roll this burden upon the Lord, and feel even this care lifted from my heart by faith in the faithfulness of Him who cares for me! "In the shadow of His hand has He hid me." I am securely kept. All the rage of hell cannot reach me there. The united forces of evil, are unequal to the task of destroying one of the weakest of the Lord's own sheep. "No one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." Blissful confidence! It sends me on my way singing Toplady's fearless song—
"Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in Heaven."
God's Glory in the Wilderness
"And it came to pass, as Aaron spoke unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." Exodus 16:10.
A friend, writing to me from China, quoted part of this passage as having brought much comfort and blessing to him in a time of trial and difficulty. On turning to my Bible, I discovered that the context indicated that the appearance of the Lord, on that particular occasion, was rather matter for fear than for joy, for the people had grievously sinned, and could expect only the just punishment of their offences. But my friend, being not under the law, but under grace, did rightly, I think, in eating the honey out of this dead lion. For him, the cloud-enveloped glory could mean only deliverance, safety, and peace.
But from what an unexpected quarter the glorious vision came! "They looked toward the wilderness." Not a cheering prospect, surely! Not a likely spot to which one's eyes would naturally turn for a revelation of the Divine presence! A solitary place, without habitation, or fruitfulness, or beauty; a waste and arid land, where the sun smites by day, and the moon by night; a place where the wild beasts meet, and dragons and owls dwell in safety. Yet such a desert does God choose, in which to reveal Himself; and the watcher sees, amid all this desolation and loneliness, nothing less than "the glory of the Lord."
It is marvelous how full God's Words are, of blessed possibilities of unfolding and disclosure. However dark and indistinct a passage may at first sight appear to be, it will glow as with hidden fire when the Spirit of the Lord breathes upon it, and the eyes of faith and desire look closely into its depths. You have, doubtless, known the joy of this insight, dear reader. A text you may have read hundreds of times without noticing anything special about it, suddenly becomes alive, as it were, for you, and speaks to your heart, as the very voice of God Himself!
My correspondent had this delightful experience with the verse we are considering; and do you wonder at it? Cannot you make it your own?
Look into your past life, and see whether you cannot recall many times when you "looked toward" some wilderness of trial, or sorrow, or affliction, which lay directly in your pathway, but without the expectation of seeing "the glory of the Lord" there. Everything else you saw—the darkness, and the discomfort, and the danger—and you feared exceedingly.
Yet, has it not been true that, where and when you most needed Him, your blessed God has come to you; and, before long, your dreary desert has "blossomed as the rose!"
Then, too, with what infinite compassion for our weakness does He manifest Himself! His unveiled glory would strike us with blindness; so He makes it appear "in a cloud." With tenderest condescension, He deigns to enwrap His splendor in a misty veil of light, that the brightness of His presence may shine through, and yet not dazzle us.
Do not fear to look toward the wilderness, then, if your God has put you there; for here are the "goings forth" of the Lord from of old, and even thus does He give "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
A Paradox of Providence
"He brought us out, . . . that He might bring us in." Deuteronomy 6:23
"Dear Lord, this is a paradox of Your providence, which both manifests and magnifies the glorious sovereignty of Your grace! Give us such true and tender trust in You, that Your "dealings" may never perplex or terrify us; but, rather, be the openings and discoveries of Your covenant love. Let us learn to read Your ways with us, as a skillful reader interprets a choice book, seeing the sentences in advance, as it were, and thus rendering a clear and continuous impression of the author's mind and purpose."
The lesson set before us may be, "He has torn, He has smitten," "He makes sore, He wounds;" and, in our own experience, we may feel how painful is the truth thus taught. But if the eye of faith can discern the precious postscripts which follow, "He will heal," "He will bind us up," "His hands make whole," we are strengthened to endure patiently the trial which is so sure to end in triumph; and we say, "Ah, Lord! You do but frown—to make Your smile the sweeter! You do kill— only that You may make alive! Blessed wounding, gracious suffering, which places us under the great Physician's love and care!"
"Tis worth the tearing to be tended
By hands so gentle in their touch;
Pains and griefs are sweetly ended;
Can I praise You, Lord, too much?"
"He brought us out." This is another aspect of the same subject, though, of course, it primarily refers to the deliverance of the Israelites from their cruel taskmasters. But, sometimes, Egypt is not such a land of bondage to us—as a country of carnal delights, where we desire to remain because our affections are entangled, and our hearts are firmly tethered there—by the cucumber and melon vines of worldliness and vanity. These quickly close around us, overshadow us with a confusing dimness, and effectually fetter all spiritual growth and aspiration. We must be "brought out" of such a sad condition if we are really the Lord's people—so He cuts loose those clinging tendrils, destroys our gourds, and leads us into the wilderness, that He may there teach us to serve Him; and, after a while, "bring us in" to His own land, the Heavenly Canaan.
He must "bring us out" of self, and sin, and Satan's slavery, before He can "bring us in" to holiness, pardon, and the liberty with which Christ makes us free. Many a time has the Lord had to disturb our nest, and "bring us out" of some earthly refuge which was becoming too easy and too dear to our soul. But, as music sounds the sweetest when heard across the waters—so do God's dealings make the purest harmony in our hearts, when they reach us over the waves of affliction and trial. When a tried and tempted soul stays itself on God, and sings in the midst of the flood or the fire, such praise must, methinks, be more glorious and glorifying to Him and His mighty grace, than the hallelujahs of unfallen angels.
"He brought us out." Mark the tenderness of our dear Lord and Shepherd; He does not "drive" us either way—"in" or "out." No! "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." John 10:3-4. God grant that this may be true of you and I, dear reader! May we never hesitate to go where He leads, or think any road too rough or dark—when we hear His dear voice calling us to come!
And who can imagine what the "bringing in" will be, by-and-by, when, after all the toils, and pains, and sorrows of the earthly pilgrimage—we reach the Father's house, and all tears are wiped away, and we enter on the blessedness which knows no ending!
Those of us, whose dearest and best-beloved have already "crossed the flood," are often wondering what their inheritance is like, and what the "eternal weight of glory" means to them; but our loftiest flight of imagination must fall far short of the glorious reality. Not until the Lord brings us out of the river of death, and brings us into Emmanuel's Land—can we know the joy that awaits us there!
I remember hearing of a dear saint of God who, when dying, was asked if he had any fear. "No," said he, "I have no fear, for Christ has saved me by His precious blood; but I am conscious of feeling an absorbing and solemn curiosity—I am impatient to learn the secrets of Heaven, and to know for myself the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
Dear soul, he had not long to wait, for, very quickly, the gates opened—and he went in!
"The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because the Lord your God loved you." Deuteronomy 23:5
Here, my soul, in this most sweet assurance, you will find your Lord's one reason for all His dealings with you, whether tender or severe. In this earthly pilgrimage, you do meet with so many experiences and providences that are inexplicable and mysterious, that you are apt to say, "Why this trial, Lord?" "Why this affliction?" "Why this disappointment of all my hopes and plans?"
Blessed be the Name of the Lord for such a full and amazing answer as is this precious verse—to all the questions with which a doubting heart or a feeble faith can vex me! It must needs be that my finite mind fails to understand the ways of God; but if I can believe that He loves me, this is faith's sufficiency.
My heart, until you have learned the lesson of perfect trust—doubts and misgivings are sure to arise, and cloud your fairest prospects. The darkness looks impenetrable when you do try to peer into it—the rough places seem impassable when your weary feet stumble over the big stones in the pathway—the mountains of difficulty appear inaccessible when the mists of unbelief veil their true proportions. Truly, the Lord is a God who hides Himself; and, oftentimes, His purposes are carried out on our behalf under cover of the thick clouds, in which He enwraps Himself.
But what a bright star amidst the darkness, what a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, are the blessed words of this Divinely-illuminated text, "Because the Lord your God loved you!" It completely solves all doubts, it wipes away all tears, it is a remedy for every fear, a refuge from every distress! No sweeter assurance could fill my trembling heart with joy, no softer resting-place could be found for a weary, heavy-laden sinner.
To know, of a surety, that all God's dealings with me are those of a loving Father towards a dear and well-beloved child; to be absolutely certain that every sorrow conceals a blessing, because He has appointed it; to look upon pain, and trial, and bitter experiences as the outcome of a love which is so infinite that I cannot fathom it—this is to live in "the secret place of the Most High," this is to "abide under the shadow of the Almighty!"
If we would but meet every affliction, be it small or great, with a brave confidence in our Lord's mighty love to us, and an unquenchable faith in His power—our trials would either vanish altogether, or be transformed into triumphs which would bring honor to our King!
"Crosses and trials all are right,
And pain is sweet, and troubles light,
When Christ my soul does fill."
"My heart melts within me, Lord, when, by Your Holy Spirit's aid, I can get even a glimpse of that wonderful love which You have for me—so undeserving and so vile. It does seem "too good to be true," sometimes, that I, notwithstanding all my faults and failings, and despite all my hardness of heart and guilty indifference, should be the recipient of such free, unmerited favor! Lord, open my understanding as well as my heart, that my love may sun itself in Yours, and have a blessed realization of what Your grace really means to my poor soul!"
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A present-day writer speaks very forcibly on this subject in the following words: "The grace of God is the unhindered, wondrous, boundless love of His heart, poured out upon His people in a countless variety of ways, without stint or measure—not according to our deserving, but according to His infinite heart of love! This I cannot understand—so unfathomable are its heights and depths! God's love is infinitely tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted, and patient, and eager to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of His love. Put together all the tenderest love you know of, the deepest love you have ever felt, and the strongest love that has ever been poured out upon you--and heap upon it all the love of all the human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity--and you will begin, perhaps, to have some faint glimpse of the love and grace of God towards His people!" "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge!" Ephesians 3:17-19
"Glorious Lord, such measureless, wonderful love is indeed incomprehensible; but I ask that Your gracious Spirit may strengthen the eyes of my mind—that I may see something more of the glory and beauty of Your rich grace, and that He may enable the hands of my faith to cling tenaciously to the everlasting consolation which lies in the fact of Your eternal, unchanging, and covenant love in Christ Jesus! When, in response to the skeptical suggestions of my own evil heart, or the malicious insinuations of the enemy of souls, I can confidently say, "All this is because the Lord loved me," it is evident that faith has quenched the fiery darts—that I stand upon a rock which no powers of earth or hell can move—I am hidden in a pavilion, unassailable by the craftiest foe; I have an overflowing well of joy in my heart which no drought can dry up, and no impurity can defile."
How different would have been the conditions and conclusions if my love for You, had depended the comfort of my daily life, and the security of my soul! Alas, that I should have to say, "My love to You is unworthy of mention—so cold, so faint, so variable is it." But Your love to me is an "everlasting love," unchangeable, and full of tenderness and compassion. Had I a seraph's pen, I might, perchance, be able to set forth something of what my soul sees of the possibilities of my Lord's love-
"But I fail, and falter forth
Broken words, not half His worth."
The sweet singer who said, "We must die to speak of Christ," vainly tried to sound the depths of this ocean of grace. He found it bottomless. Never, until we "see Him as He is," shall we be able "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge!" Ephesians 3:17-19.
Now, my soul, from this time forth, decide to answer all the whys and wherefores which perplex your life, by the simple response, "Because the Lord loved me!" This will ensure complete deliverance from your fears every time you do in faith use it; and your Lord and Master will be greatly honored by such a casting of yourself upon His word and promise. Can you imagine a condition more blissful than that of being so sheltered and surrounded by His love—that no doubt, no fear, no questioning of His tender purpose can possibly touch you to harm you?
The Shadow of God's Wings
"In the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge." Psalm 57:1
What comfort the shadow gives, and what a refuge is thus provided!"
That passage had for me a specially personal interest, for I had chosen it as the motto-text for the anniversary of my beloved's birthday—June 19; and on that date I wrote thus concerning it—
Today's text is a very precious one to me, for though my dear one enjoys the full blaze of the light of God's countenance, while I am only "in the shadow of His wings," yet how blessed is it to rejoice in such a refuge—"Until the storm of life be past!"
It is very gracious of the Lord to use the homely illustration of "wings" and "feathers" in His Word, for the comfort of His people. The most simple, as well as the most sorrowful, can understand the beauty of it. Many a time have I profitably watched the feathered folk of the farmyard, and been taught by them that, in every time of trouble, be it little or great, the safest place in all the world is, "under the wings."
How well the wee chicks know this! When the least thing alarms them, or the drops of rain come pattering down, then fly quickly to their mother's wings for shelter and safety, and you can see nothing of them but a collection of legs, tiptoeing in their eagerness to press very close to the warm breast which covers them!
Sometimes, I have dared to claim even such an experience! Not content with the blessed fact that I was hidden "beneath His wings," my faith nestled up, as it were, to the loving heart which brooded over me, and found such a glow of everlasting love there, that all outside ills and evils were as if they were not. Oh, that such times were less rare!
But if any timid, afflicted souls read these few lines, let me whisper to them to run at once to their God, "when troubles assail, and dangers affright." We are so safe when "covered with His feathers," so cared for, and comforted, and welcomed, so defended from everything that could harm us.
In one place, the text reads, "Hide me beneath the shadow of Your wings." The hen effectually conceals her brood from any passing enemy—but God is an impenetrable hiding-place for His people. Surely this is the meaning of the psalmist when he says, "I will trust in the covert of Your wings" (Psalm. Lxi. 4).
Is it not a sad wonder that, sometimes, we willfully stay out in the rain and the storm, facing unknown dangers—when, all the while, so gracious a shelter is provided and accessible?
The Night Watcher
"I will watch to see what He will say unto me." Habakkuk 2:1
A new year's motto-card bears the above text, with the representation of an armed man standing on the wall of a fortress, in a posture of intense expectation and watchfulness. With his hand, he uplifts his visor, that he may the more steadfastly look through the enveloping darkness; and whether he be waiting for the day to dawn, or looking for the approach of an enemy, or anticipating the arrival of friends, his whole attitude is suggestive of patient and expectant watching, of danger disregarded, and of duty nobly done.
It is not, however, so much to this pictured warrior that I wish to draw your attention, as to the text he is supposed to illustrate. Do you notice, dear reader, the singular form of expression here used? "I will watch to see what He will say unto me." Watch to see what God says! There lies the strangeness of the prophet's exclamation, for if he had said he would "wait to hear," we would have found nothing extraordinary in the sentence.
But God often spoke by signs to His people in those days, and Habakkuk was, doubtless, quite accustomed to watch for indications of His mind and will in all the surroundings of Nature and Providence. "As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters," so did the prophet's eyes wait upon the Lord his God; and as he stood upon his watch-tower, God revealed the "goings forth" of the Lord to him, and instructed His servant by signs and wonders in Heaven, and earth, and sea. Who can read, in the third chapter of this prophecy, those glorious descriptions of Heavenly panoramic visions, without being awed and thrilled by their majesty?
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Those olden days of open vision and prophecy are gone by; but does not our loving Father, even now, though in gentler fashion, sometimes speak to His children by what they see, as certainly and truly as if a voice had reached their outward ears? I think so; and to explain my thought, I will relate an incident which happened to me, and which forcibly interpreted to my heart the words of the inspired prophet.
Awaking from a quiet sleep, a little after midnight, I experienced a curious constraint to leave my warm bed, and draw aside the curtains of my window. I obeyed the impulse, and was rewarded by a sight, common enough it may be, but so fraught with spiritual meaning to my soul, that it will be photographed on my mind while life lasts.
The sky was dark and heavy, not a star was to be seen. The black mantle of night hung low upon the earth, and seemed ponderous in its dense obscurity. The lights of distant villages and towns twinkled feebly, and a deep silence made the darkness more oppressive. But across one portion of the heavens, the clouds had parted in a long, narrow line, like a rift or chasm in the mountains of blackness; and along this passage-way the moon was sailing, a ship of silver passing through a river of light, while the cloudbanks on either side were luminous with celestial radiance.
So great was the contrast between the general blackness of the sky and the brilliance of the rifted clouds, that it was as if Heaven's pearly gates were opened, and through them came streaming the light of that City which "had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Often have I seen grand and glorious sights in cloudland, when pictures of inexpressible beauty have formed themselves under my astonished gaze. Alpine peaks, and snows, and glaciers, as apparently real as the sublime realities, have for a time displayed their magnificent proportions; and then, gradually melted into lovely green lakes, and purple hills, and golden sands, and shining rivers; and, sometimes—though far more rarely—while I have watched the heavens with spellbound eyes, whole cohorts of angels have passed by on swift wings, or gathered their shining legions together for fierce battle with the opposing forces of "the prince of the power of the air."
But this midnight scene was less imaginative, more real, more spiritual than anything I had before witnessed. It seemed to have God in it, and the place whereon I stood was holy ground.
The appearance of such pure, unsullied light breaking through a dark and threatening sky—the strange position of the long, illuminated pathway across the heavens, and the unusual effulgence of the clouds lining that pathway—all these presented a vision so sublime and celestial that my heart was awed and humbled as in the very presence of God, and my soul said, "Surely this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven."
For some time I stood gazing at the Heavenly vision, adoring and admiring, "watching to see what He would say unto me," trying to spell out the words which Heaven was signaling to earth, and worshiping with loving reverence the tender Father whose love, and care, and faithfulness were written in letters of light across that black and threatening sky.
Then, with a solemn feeling of awe upon me, as if I had almost seen the open gates of the Celestial City, and heard the songs of the redeemed ones, I crept back to my bed, trembling, but trusting, glad in the Lord, and rejoicing in my God. The thick curtains of my window shut out both the light and the darkness, but the glorious vision had done its sweet work in my heart—I had seen the words by which the Lord comforted and cheered my soul, and I fell immediately into a peaceful and refreshing sleep.
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Are any of my readers in such deep trouble that all around them looks black, and thick, and threatening, as did that notable midnight sky? Let me beg you to watch to see what He will say unto you. If you watch with real desire to hear and to obey, you will certainly see the light of His love parting the densest gloom, and the tokens of His mighty power appearing to reassure your fainting spirit.
There are no clouds so thick, that they can obscure His glorious light if He bids it shine; there are no troubles so black and appalling, that they can fright the soul from beholding the brightness of His grace and truth when He reveals them; and the feeblest of His children may always trust Him to fulfill that blessed promise in His Word, "I will make darkness light before them."
And, oh! how small and light our greatest griefs, and losses, and afflictions seem, when illumined by the bright beams of the Glory-land! Away up there, where we are so soon going, there are no clouds, no darkness, no nights of pain, no days of sorrow; and it is, after all, but a thin, dark veil which separates us from the "beautiful home on high." Part of the special message which my soul received, on that night, was that Heaven was very near, and the gate wide open! The clouds have but to break, and the call to be given, and straightway my ransomed spirit will—
"Run up with joy the shining way
To embrace my dearest Lord."
So, cheer up your heart, poor, timid child of God—if such a one be reading my little book! You may not be able to see your way on earth; but turn your eyes to Heaven, and gaze long and lovingly there. You do not need to see the path down below, because He has said He will guide you, and you know the darkness and the light are both alike to Him. Put your hand in His, and trust Him, for "by His light you shall walk through darkness."
Remember, too, that He is watching for you to watch. That lovely vision in the sky was there when I drew aside the curtains; I know not how long its glory had been shining, for the dear Lord may have had hundreds of "watchers by night" to whom He would speak by its glory; but I do know that, if I had "folded my hands" again to sleep, and failed to go up to my watch-tower, I would have missed the blessing it brought me. When I think of this, there comes to my heart the sweetness of the text, "Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you," and I would gladly learn and teach the lesson that we may often lose the manifestations of our Father's love and care—by simply not looking for them.
Watch, then, and wait, dear reader of mine, "watch to see what He will say" unto you, and wait with eager anticipation "until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away," "for the Lord shall be your everlasting light."
Walking in the Spirit
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:25
I have heard of some people, who openly boast that their religion is, and ought to be, confined within the walls of their church, and that they do not seek or desire to bring it into any connection with their daily life and its duties or delights. They go to church on the Sabbath morning, perform various pious genuflexions, hear certain selected words softly intoned by vested priests, pay a small tribute to the Deity who perchance may have some influence over their affairs, and whom, therefore, it is just as well to propitiate with a coin; get it all over as soon as they can, and then feel free to take their own way, and cram into the rest of the day, and all the subsequent days of the week, as much of gain and greed and worldly enjoyment as is possible! The fact itself is not a novelty, but I think the unblushing boast of it, is a new feature, and a very significant sign of the times—the God-dishonoring, man-exalting times in which we live.
There is another class of people, whose spiritual sight is not so darkened as to lead them to mistake evil for good, as do those described above, yet who so far imitate them that they fall short of the high standard of holy living and godliness which assures "a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." They are well described in a passage which I read in one of Mr. Andrew Murray's books: "How much our Christianity suffers from the fact that it is confined to certain times and places! A man, who seeks to pray earnestly in the church, or in the closet, spends the greater part of the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance with that in which he prayed. His worship is the work of a fixed place or hour, not the blessed outcome of his whole spiritual being."
Dear friends, to which of these two classes do you and I belong? I ask myself the question, and find that, though I may be blameless on the first count, on the second I must plead "guilty" before God.
Kneeling before the Lord in prayer, in the early morning—it seems so easy to hate sin, and dwell in Him, that one looks forward to the day's trials and perplexities, that they can all be overcome. There is a tenderness of heart, a yielding of the will to God, an eagerness for communion with Him, and a desire to be well-pleasing in His sight, all of which are very delightful and precious.
But, alas! when I leave the mercy-seat, and go about my daily work and service, the most of this fades like a beautiful dream! Too often, when reviewing a day begun under such sweet auspices, I find, to my dismay, that God has not been in all my thoughts, sin has crept in unawares, many things have been said and done contrary to the law of kindness; and, in the highest spiritual sense, the day has been a sad failure.
The humble, trustful, thankful spirit, which seemed to characterize the quiet hour with God in the morning, has not been carried into all the events and experiences of the day; the resolution to "set the Lord always before me" has been for a while forgotten, and I have allowed the fogs and glooms of earthly cares, ay, and even the smoke from the altar of sacrifice and service, to obscure my soul's vision, and hide, for a time at least, that glorious goal towards which my heart pressed, when I felt myself to be in the presence of God.
Must you not, my dear readers, many of you, join me in making the same sorrowful confession? Yet it ought not to be thus. If the Spirit of God dwells within us, a different state of things is not only possible, but it is enjoined upon us. If we pray in the Spirit, we must also walk in the Spirit; and "the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe" is more than equal to any strain which our cares or circumstances can bring to bear upon it.
Surely, could we but realize the close presence of the Lord Jesus, hour by hour, and minute by minute—Heaven would be begun on earth. But, sometimes, even work for Him so entirely engrosses thought and heart, that He himself seems forgotten. Sweet "frames and feelings" vanish when the burden and heat of the day oppress both soul and body.
Yet I am sure this should not be. Christ says, "Abide in Me," and He would not tell me to do an impossible thing. "Blessed Jesus, put forth Your hand, and take Your poor, silly, fluttering dove into the ark of Your love!"
What a revolution there would be in all our Christian circles, if each one of us carried into every thought and word and action of the day the fragrance and freshness of our seasons of sweet communion with our Master! It is good to talk with God; it is far better to walk with Him. About the former, we may be self-deceived; but about the latter—never!
Well, dear friends, we cannot set the world right; we have not the power to persuade or convince multitudes of their errors of doctrine or practice; but we can see to it that we ourselves are walking "worthy of God," and letting our light shine so brightly that all may see more plainly the pathway to the Celestial City, because we are passing along it.
"Lord, I desire to live as one
Who bears a blood-bought name,
As one who fears but grieving You,
And knows no other shame.
"As one who daily speaks to You,
And hears Your voice Divine
With depths of tenderness declare,
Beloved, you are Mine!"
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46
This passage is truly "the burden of the Lord" on my heart at this time, and I almost unwillingly prepare to examine and meditate upon it, because I am ashamed to know what cause the Master has to speak such tenderly reproachful words to me. There will be some, at least, of my readers who will sympathize with me in this feeling. Shall we, then, go hand in hand into His presence, bearing "the indignation of the Lord, because we have sinned against Him," hushing our souls to a solemn silence while we listen to the grave charge He makes against us?
In what pathetic tones He pleads with us to note the inconsistency of our words and actions! "Lord, Lord," we say, professing to be His happy and devoted servants; but, as a matter of fact—do we not constantly do our own will rather than His? We please ourselves in most of the matters which should be subject to His approval, and we constantly comport ourselves, as if no vows of obedience and consecration had ever passed our lips. Is our time at His disposal and command? Is our money spent chiefly for His honor and glory, looked upon as absolutely His, and lent to us only for His service and kingdom? Do we ask the Lord's counsel over everything which occurs in our daily life?
Of course, there are occasions when, with a start, we wake up to a sense of our deep responsibility to our Master as His professed servants; but does our daily, hourly life show that we are striving in everything to do His commandments, and thus prove our love and loyalty to Him?
Dear friends, my sense of shortcomings, in this respect, is so painfully strong that I would sincerely write with tears, rather than with ink, if I could thereby bring you and myself to a practical realization of our duty to our Master if we have once taken His vows upon us, and called Him "Lord." I do not wish to judge you; but if, in judging and condemning myself, you should find your own experience described and repeated in mine, I earnestly pray that you will receive my words as a message from God to you personally, and not rest until your sin has been confessed and pardoned.
When I measure myself by the standard of Christian maturity given by the Lord Jesus in His Word, I feel ashamed to call myself His follower at all, so far do I lag behind in running the race, so destitute do I seem of those traits which would prove me to be the Lord's. I came across the following paragraph in a book I much value; read it carefully, dear friends, and if your heart does not condemn you, (as mine does me,) then lift up your voice in thankful praise to God—that His grace in you has gained so great a victory—
"An ill-tempered Christian, or an anxious Christian, a discouraged, gloomy Christian, a doubting Christian, a complaining Christian, a demanding Christian, a selfish Christian, a cruel, hardhearted Christian, a self-indulgent Christian, a worldly Christian, a Christian with a sharp tongue or bitter spirit—all these may be very earnest in their work, and may have honorable places in the Church, but they are not Christlike Christians; and, no matter how loud their professions may be, they know nothing of the realities of a devoted, consecrated life."
To be Christlike, is the duty and privilege of every believer. God's Word distinctly settles that matter when it affirms, "Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." I ask myself—oh, will not you do the same—how much of His likeness has been visible in my conduct during this day? How far have I been from that which my Lord expects me to be—His representative in this sinful world? If bearing the cross after Christ is the chief work of the Christian, have I borne it in patience, and obedience, and full surrender to His will in all things; or have I, as far as I was able, put it aside, and thought my own thoughts, walked in my own ways, and done what pleased myself without any reference to Him or recognition of His right to "reign over me"?
"There are Christians who think they have liberty to do their own will in a thousand things. They speak very much as they like; they do very much as they like; they use their property and possessions as they like; they are their own masters, and they have never dreamed of saying—Jesus, we forsake all to follow You." May God keep us from the sin and error of thinking that we can accept Christ as our Savior, and yet practically deny Him as our Master! How must His loving heart grieve over the wounds He thus receives in the house of His friends!
* * * *
"O Lord, it is a hard task which I have undertaken, to try to show to myself and others of Your people, what a low standard of practical piety has hitherto satisfied us! I am unable to set forth our shortcomings, to describe the deceitfulness of our hearts, or to repeat the excuses which the flesh makes as it "lusts against the Spirit," and seeks to delude the soul into false peace, and an unspiritual contentment. Your hand alone can do the work; only Your own gracious Spirit can convince us of our wrongdoing, and set our feet in the right path. O Lord, revive Your work in us! Help us to cry mightily to You for grace to walk closely with You, that we may be more conformed to Your blessed image!"
"We know, in our hearts, what You mean by "the things which I say." They are Your gentle commands—Your loving counsels—Your easy yoke—Your tender teachings; henceforth, dear Master, may these be the rule of our life and conduct! Self set aside, Your will paramount; Heaven more near, and better loved than earth; then, indeed, without a question, we may call You "Lord," and rejoice in the blessedness of union with You. "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6
"He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them." Mark 1:31
"Blessed Lord Jesus, very many of Your poor, despondent, downcast children are at this moment holding out their fevered hands to You, that Your Divine and gracious act, here recorded, may be repeated in their experience! Your compassions were not exhausted on this case. Your sympathy did not expend itself in this one effort of love. You are able and willing now, as then, to work Your miracles of grace and healing on mind as well as body. Oh, that we could bless You as we ought for Your unfailing mercy!"
The depths of despondency and darkness, to which a soul may descend even while Your everlasting arms are underneath it—are known only to You. It may be forced to cry out, with Jonah, "The depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head." A sense of desertion may even be permitted to oppress the spirit, and Satan will not miss this opportunity to vex and harass the tried believer. But You, O compassionate Redeemer, will never forsake a trembling one whose only hope is in You! Blessed be Your Name, there are no depths deep enough to "separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
How often has it been with me as it was with the poor woman of whom it was written, "She could by no means lift up herself;" and is not this true of you also, dear reader? The struggle has been long and wearisome—the result unsuccessful and disappointing. No human power, from without or from within, can raise a prostrate soul out of the "miry clay" into which unbelief has dragged it. Our own exertions are of no avail; nay, they do but sink us more deeply than before, and weaken us to no purpose.
But Your hand, precious Savior, can work prompt deliverance; it takes You but an instant to accomplish that which has baffled all our best efforts. It needs a mighty leverage to raise so dead a weight as a heavy heart—but in Your wounded hand there lies hidden the power (Habak. 3:4) which created all things, and which the love of Your heart places freely at the service of a helpless sinner. Touched by the strength of its sweet uplifting—what a gracious change comes over my heart and life! No longer bowed down by a sense of guilt and helplessness—no longer the miserable target for Satan's innuendoes and accusations—no longer weak, and doubting, and downcast—that touch has wrought a miracle of grace in me. Not only am I restored, but I can rise and "minister unto others."
Ah! thank God that the joy of uplifting, compensates so richly for the sorrow of a season of discouragement. The Valley of Humiliation is not always a barren place; God's "forget-me-nots" are growing there, and are always to be found by those who know how to search for them; and the purple tassels of the Amarantus ("love-lies-bleeding") flourish abundantly in its shady groves. Do not let us dread any sorrow which the Lord may bring upon us; it is only when, by our own sin or willfulness, we fall into grief, that we need fear the consequences; for when our Lord casts us down, or lifts us up, both experiences are blessings—the one in grim disguise, the other in all the brightness of revealed love and pity.
What a distrustful heart must mine be, dear Lord, when, after so much mercy in the past, I dare for a moment to doubt the loving purpose of Your present dispensations! As I think of the unequaled union of love and power which meet in the person of my Divine Redeemer, I am indeed ashamed of the unbelief which so often steals away my joys.
It is the beginning of a glad uplifting when we realize that there is nothing impossible to our God, and that, however low we may be brought, His saving love is more than equal to the task of reaching and restoring us.
* * * *
"He took her by the hand."
Do but imagine the thrill of returning health and joy which swept through that poor woman's frame when the cool, calm hand of the Savior was laid on her fevered and trembling fingers. "She arose, and ministered unto them." What a glad alacrity do these simple words express! Her heart would at once show its gratitude by service; and we can well believe that the hands, so recently touched by the Lord Jesus, would have acquired a skill and tenderness hitherto unknown or undeveloped.
There was a healed and happy woman in Capernaum that day; and the same Lord still waits to be gracious to you, dear reader, and to me. O downcast soul, be no longer faithless and distressed! One stands beside you, who knows all your faintness and feebleness; and presently He will "make all His goodness pass before You," will lift you up, put strength into you, and so graciously deliver you, that you shall praise and glorify His dear Name "while life and breath remain."
"The Lord brings low—and lifts up."
A Feast for the Fainting
"I don't want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the road." Matthew 15:32
Blessed Master, these compassionate words of Yours, give us such an assuring glimpse into Your heart of infinite love and grace, that we thank You for permitting them to be recorded in Your Book! They manifest You so clearly to our human comprehension, that in them we see, "as in a glass," the reflection of Your Divine pity and power.
There were some thousands of people, on that mountain side, who had been with the Lord for three days, receiving His gifts of healing, teaching, and cleansing; and they were evidently reluctant to leave Him. Yet the meager provision which, presumably, some had brought with them, had been consumed; and the Master's great loving heart found it impossible to dismiss them without food. During the three days, His Divine power had been in constant manifestation in the miracles which He had wrought; but, now, His human pity finds expression in His desire to give them something to eat, that they might not faint on their homeward road.
And, since He was as really human as they were, and even then was "touched with the feelings of our infirmities," I do not think it irreverent to imagine that He, too, felt the need of earthly sustenance, and Himself partook of the bread and fish which He had blessed and broken. Surely, this tender care of the Lord Jesus for the bodily needs of the multitudes around Him, should comfort us greatly, and strengthen our faith in the fact which He unfolded to us when He said, "Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things."
I wonder why it is, that we learn so slowly this sweet lesson of confidence in God, and are sometimes so backward in trusting Him with the safe management and supply of our temporal necessities. We would always be as carefree as the birds of the air, and as beautiful as the lilies of the field—if we depended on Him as absolutely as they do.
And this is also true in spiritual matters. Can you think, poor longing, hungry hearts—that the Lord Jesus will be less pitiful to your soul's need than He was to that hungry multitude? Your hunger is keen for "the bread which came down from Heaven;" your thirst is unquenchable until "the water of life" touches your lips; you are ready for the blessing—the spiritual food which so far exceeds the earthly counterpart; so that you may be quite sure that He is readier still to bestow it.
It matters not that the source of supply is not visible to you. "How could we have so much bread in the wilderness," said the undiscerning disciples, "as to fill so great a multitude?" They forgot, as we, alas! too often forget, "what manner of man" this is, and what He can accomplish by the power of His Word. See, dear soul, if you have come to the Lord hungering and thirsting for His love and pardon, it is not possible that He should send you away empty. His heart is too tender, His hands are too full of blessing, His desire to feed and comfort you is too intense, for there to be any failure on His part in supplying to you all that you crave.
I know there are some who say that they are seeking Christ, and yet cannot find Him. Dear hearts, do not be angry with me—for I write for myself as well as for you—when I tell you that, if you are not fed, it must be because you will not eat! Suppose you had been one of that favored company on the mountainside, and that you had, at the Lord's command, sat down with the others; but when one of the disciples brought to you the basket of food, made ready by the Lord's own hand, and blessed by His own lips, you had refused to take it, from some foolish whim, or caprice, or doubt which possessed you, would you have had anyone to blame but yourself, had you fainted with exhaustion on your return journey over the hills of Judea to your home?
Ah! None at that wonderful feast were as foolish and unreasonable as you and I sometimes are, for it is recorded that "they all ate, and were filled." There, as in the time of the old law given by Moses, they did "ate before the Lord;" and doubtless it was, to every man, woman, and child present, the sweetest and most sacred meal they had ever tasted; and there was no fainting in the way as they traversed the hills and plains, but rather a strengthening of heart, and a freshness of joy, and a filling of the mouth with songs of praise, as the result of that wondrous feast.
Now, will not some poor sinful, suffering, starving one take heart from the teaching of this miracle, and come at once to the compassionate Savior to have all need supplied? The more hungry you are, the greater will be your joy in being filled; and He has said, "I will not send them away hungry." Trust Him, and be abundantly satisfied. My dear husband once happily said, "He may make us wait to awaken appetite, but He will not in the end dismiss us unfed." So, let nothing discourage you. Sit on the ground before Him, as He bids you, until the basket comes round; or, if the disciples pass you by, venture to His side, and take the blessing straight from His loving hand. He will never chide you for trusting Him too much!
Unbelievers laugh to scorn our Scriptural confidence in an Omniscient God, who is also our tender Father. They ridicule the idea that He watches over us with Divinely parental solicitude, and Himself appoints and permits every event in our lives. But their derision does not alter or destroy the blessed fact, nor does it leave the least impression or disquietude on a believing heart. Yet it does distress us for their own sake.
While these "personal notes" were taking shape in my mind, and, in the multitude of my thoughts within me, this comfort of God was delighting my soul, I happened to see a sharp criticism of a popular author's recent book, in which these words occurred—"brought up in the belief that Providence concerns itself with the petty details of their lives, in a manner most intimate and most improving—if chastening is improving."
How my heart ached at the darkness and blindness of a man who could write like that! He would want none of my pity, I know; but I could not withhold it, nor could I rest until I had carried the matter before the Lord in prayer. Of course, I know there are thousands of people who are like-minded and skeptical; but that only increases my sorrow. To them, our loving, gracious God is simply "Providence itself;" -nothing more than a neutral agency, about which they know little, and care less; there is no personal tenderness—no near relationship—no "cords of a man, and bands of love," which draw their souls irresistibly into the blessedness of His loving-kindness and tender mercy. We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen. Today, God's children can tell of deliverances as miraculous, of supplies as unexpected, and of dangers as certainly averted—as any of those recorded in the chronicles of the Kingdom!
The Sight of Sights
"We want to see Jesus." John 12:21
Most probably, the "certain Greeks" here mentioned, who expressed the desire to see the Lord, were proselytes to the Jewish faith, for they had come to Jerusalem "to worship." Perhaps they had heard, in their own land, of the wonderful Man who claimed to be "the Messiah"; and it may be that some feeling, deeper than that of mere curiosity, stirred their hearts to seek His presence. However that may be, we make their request our own this morning, and very earnestly would we plead that a sight of the Lord Jesus, in His many endearing relations to us, may be vouchsafed to our waiting souls. "Let me see the King's face," is a prayer that can never be overlooked or disregarded at the court of the Majesty on High.
What is it to "see" You, blessed Master? We cannot look upon You with our natural eyes, as these long-ago seekers expected to do; but if You will open the eyes of our soul, and give us the vision of faith, we shall spiritually discern You, and behold something of the heavenly beauty and grace of "Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." And even if You will but give to us a partial and half-concealed view of Yourself, as You did to Your spouse, the Church, when she said, "He looks forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice," yet this will be inexpressibly precious; for, to see You, is to love You; and to love You, is to know that You have first loved us; and to know this, is Life Eternal!
Lord, I would see You as You were when incarnate on this sin-stricken earth—meek, lowly, suffering, "acquainted with grief," veiling Your own glory by being made "in fashion as a man," that You might raise poor fallen men to the high estate of "heirs together" with You in Your Kingdom. I would see You as You did walk, with weary footstep, along that sad and gloomy valley of humiliation which ended in the cruel cross, Your precious death, Your glorious resurrection and ascension; and, as I gaze on all these wondrous mysteries and revelations of Your love, my faith overcomes all fear, and I cry out—My Lord, and my God—all this for me!"
Lord, I would see You as You are now, in glory at the Father's right hand, waiting until "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever." Until that blessed day shall dawn, You are watching over and interceding for Your own, comforting, strengthening, delivering them—caring for every item of their daily experience, keeping them abiding in Yourself, and preparing them for the inheritance which Your great love has secured to them through faith in Your Name.
But, Lord, it is here and now that I desire most of all to see You; Your visits are so precious, Your fellowship most exceeding sweet. How the shadows flee away at Your approach, and the darkest night is lightened if You do but appear to me! One glimpse of Your face, one love-whisper from Your lips, ravishes my heart with a foretaste of Heaven's blessedness.
Lord, I would see You in all my joys, not only receiving them as gifts from Your bountiful hand, but feeling that You Yourself share them with me, thus sanctifying and exalting them; and I would see You in every sorrow, when only Your voice can comfort, and Your sympathy reach to the depths of my suffering. I would see You when perplexed and anxious concerning either heavenly or earthly things, for You are "the wisdom of God," and I cannot go wrong, or do amiss, so long as I follow closely after You, and keep Your commandments. I would see You, You blessed One, in Your wondrous relation to me as my Redeemer, and my Husband! I would often look upon You as the Purchaser of my soul by Your own precious blood, and realize that the absolute surrender of myself, and my will, is but the natural consequence of such an unparalleled sacrifice as Yours!
* * * *
As these are "personal" notes, I may be pardoned for introducing a personal experience in illustration of my subject. A glimpse of the Lord Jesus was given me, just lately, under stress of temptation, in this way. It was a fair and lovely Sabbath morning when I awaked from sleep much depressed in spirit, and with a sense of coming evil heavy upon me. Presently, I felt the ominous warnings of an ague-fit, and feared I might again have to wrestle with the strong agitation which it produces. I had looked forward to a day of enjoyment and success with my small service for the Master; but my hopes were at once crushed, as I knew well the weakness and weariness, the loss of all physical and mental energy, which these painful attacks leave behind them.
The enemy of souls immediately availed himself of the opportunity to molest and trouble me. Into my heart he threw wicked doubts of God's love and care, suggesting cruel and ungrateful thoughts of Him who is all tenderness and pity to His children. "God doesn't care," he hissed, "else He would not have permitted this pain and discomfort to come upon you at the very moment when you were anticipating a joyful day of rest. Is it likely that He thinks about you, and remembers your need, when He has the whole universe to support and control? You are very fond of saying, 'God never makes a mistake;' but are you quite sure there is a God at all? Do not all things happen by chance; or, at least, according to the ordinary course of nature?"
Many more cruel and fiery darts he hurled at me; but, in a few moments, the blessed Spirit revealed the Lord Jesus to me as the Vanquisher of Satan, and the Deliverer of His people, and I was enabled to "resist the devil," and set him and his vile insinuations at defiance. I saw Jesus, by faith, as my faithful, unchangeable Savior, "a very present help in trouble;" I put my case into His hands, and He rebuked my enemy, liberated my soul, and caused me to triumph in Him alone.
Oh, to be thus helped and comforted always! It is possible to those who look, and wait, and watch, for He is infinitely willing to reveal Himself to the soul which, "like a deer for water-brooks," pants after His presence, and thirsts to be refreshed by a draught of His love and grace. Surely, if we have ever known anything of the joy of seeing Jesus, we shall not rest content when He is absent, or close our eyes in willful indifference when He is passing by.
And yet, alas! This is just what we often do, causing Him to withdraw Himself, or make His visits rare, and thus both grieving Him and wickedly sinning against our own souls. For, how desolate we are without Him! There is no real joy, no happiness, no satisfaction to be found except in Him. My life is as a vine stripped of its fruit, a fire extinguished and dead, a sky without a star, and a landscape without the sun—if Jesus be not with me.
And if this be really so, what cause have I for deep thanksgiving and gratitude, for if I missed You not, dear Lord, when You are gone away, I might well doubt if ever Your presence had been manifested to me. A soul, once feasted on the dainties of Your love, can never again enjoy the coarse and unclean fare provided by the world. One thing I know, blessed Master, I would now sooner starve than feed upon earthly delights; I would rather always mourn after You, than be content without You; I would choose to pass my life in seeking and sighing for You, rather than be one of those poor blind mortals who can say, "There is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him."
May our eyes be constantly looking up for the sweet vision, and our prayer be continually, "Lord, that I may receive my sight!" For, many a time, I doubt not, we might have seen Him but for eyes blurred with tears of self-pity, or aching with the windblown dust of the world's pleasures or pains, or dim with the long-cherished doubt and sadness which becloud our upward glances. Oh, for the day when we shall "see His face" without a veil between, and gaze unhindered upon the glorious loveliness of Him who loved us even unto death!
I never look with satisfaction or emotion on any pictured semblance of the Savior. They all seem so far, far below the ideal which is in my heart, that they utterly fail to set forth either the grief or the hidden glory which must have dwelt in His blessed countenance. But this does not matter, if I see Him by faith. If I "endure as seeing Him who is invisible," I can then be content to wait until He meets me in the Homeland, and I see Him as He is!
The Spotless Spouse
"You are so beautiful, My beloved; there is no spot in you." Solomon's Song 4:7
"Ah!" I hear some timid, trembling believer say, "such a text can have nothing to do with me! I am the very opposite of all that is beautiful and spotless. The eyes of my soul have seen hideous sights within, which I can never forget; and I loathe myself and my sin so much that, though I believe God has forgiven me for Christ's sake, I feel it impossible to take those precious words as addressed to one so sinful and imperfect."
Yet, trembling soul, I would bid you take courage, and look up. Christ's love for His people is marvelously set forth in this Song of Songs; and if you are a believer in Him, you must be part of that Church—as much His bride and spouse as the greatest saint, or most renowned disciple. The Master makes no difference between upper and lower servants in His household. The same price was paid to redeem the least lamb of the flock, as for the choicest sheep; the same precious blood was poured out to ransom the feeblest child of the great family, as for its strongest and most notable member.
Come, then, timid one, fear not to grasp the truth now put before you; delay not to rejoice in the blessed fact that you are indeed precious to the Lord; and when He says, "You are all beautiful, My beloved," do not contradict Him by lamenting your blackness; but, rather, adoringly bow before Him in wonder at the miracle His love has wrought in you. It ill becomes the bride of Christ to ignore His loveliness, which He has put upon her, and go about bemoaning the scars and blemishes which His great love overlooks and forgets.
It is quite true that, in themselves, believers are sorrowfully imperfect and sinful; but if the Lord Jesus, in His marvelous mercy, unrobes Himself to cover over their unrighteousness, they may well be content to be thus made "beautiful" in His sight. Do you ask, "Why should He do this?" Look at the succeeding words, "My beloved." We cannot comprehend the mystery and sublimity of Divine love; but it is the sole and all-sufficient reason for the dear Lord's estimate of us; and when He uses such endearing language, our hearts melt and are ravished by His condescension. Even as earthly affection is intensified and nourished by tender tones and words of special grace, so, (with reverence we say it,) when our dear Master deigns to address us in accents of love and admiration, our souls are thrilled with heavenly bliss, and we are uplifted beyond all the sorrows and vexations of this world, into an atmosphere of unspeakable spiritual joy! To be "the beloved of the Lord," to "dwell in safety by Him," as our Husband and dearest Friend, is so high an attainment, and so glorious a privilege, that it must forever be a marvel why we are so listless in seeking it, or so sinfully content without it.
"My beloved," Oh, say it again, dear Master! Let the music of Your voice touch and vibrate through the deepest chords of my nature, and awaken sweet responses in my soul! You are the fount and source of all love; oh, fill me, overwhelm me, plunge me in this sea of mercy and of grace! I would be swallowed up in it, knowing no other joy or bliss comparable to that of being able to say, "My Beloved is mine—and I am His."
"There is no spot in you." Can our loving Lord really mean this, and mean it of you and I, dear reader? He does, indeed, if only we have believed on His Name to the saving of our soul, and trusted in His precious blood to wash away all our sin. But is it not a love passing knowledge which can cause such a statement to be absolute truth? "There is no spot in you." "Where, then, are all my spots, dear Lord, for they were legion; and sin must have rendered me vile and loathsome in Your pure sight?" The reply comes direct from the Lord's own Word: "When I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love. So I spread the edge of My garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged Myself to you, entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine!"
"Before He saved her, well He knew,
What a heart like her's would do."
All the uncleanness—past, present, and future—all the deformity and blackness is put aside by love, cleansed away by blood, covered by Christ's righteousness; and so completely is this done, that God Himself can find no remnant or stain of that which would have meant eternal death to an unwashed soul. Oh, the "riches of the glory of this mystery," this mighty power which lifts a poor sinner from the depths of sin—to the heights of heavenly bliss! "What kind of love is this?" It is so Divine and incomprehensible that, in the contemplation of it, we are lost in wonder and amazement, and have to cry out, with the disciples of old, "Lord, increase our faith! "
"There is no spot in you." An old writer says—"Now, if God sees no spot, why should you be prying after one? Poring over your misery, searching after your blackness and depravity, will be no help to you. It is only keeping your eye off Jesus, instead of up unto Jesus. You cannot look two ways at once. How did the poor serpent-bitten Israelites in the wilderness get relief and healing? By looking to their sores, their wounds, their malady? Oh, no! it was by looking to the brazen serpent! And if you would get relief, it must be by looking to Jesus Christ!"
Now, my poor heart, will you not accept your Lord's own verdict concerning you, and rejoice in His assurance that you are lovely with His loveliness which He has put upon you? That HE thinks you to be "all beautiful" will make you guard against any defilement, and keep aloof from anything which could sully your purity. That He should say, "My beloved," will help you to listen more eagerly for His sweet voice, waiting upon His lips lest one love-word should be lost. And that He should declare, "There is no spot in you," will make you so tenderly circumspect that you will be enabled to "walk worthy of God" and of love so unspeakable and Divine.
Lord Jesus, what a glorious Savior You are! How can Your bride, Your Church, tell forth her delight in Your beauty? All the sin, which made her SO black and vile, was laid upon You; yet it only made You "fairer than the children of men;" and the bearing of that awful burden does but immeasurably enhance the glory which was Your with the Father before the world was created. How sorrowful it is that such love should be despised and rejected by thousands whom it could and would save from eternal death!
The question comes pertinently, "What do you think you of Christ?" Bless the Lord, if we can make answer, "He is the chief among ten thousand! Yes, He is altogether lovely!"
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