Food for the Lambs; or, Helps for Young Christians
Charles Ebert Orr
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Joel Erickson, Christine Gehring, Dave Macfarlane
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
FOOD FOR THE LAMBS;
HELPS FOR YOUNG CHRISTIANS.
BY CHAS. E. ORR,
Author of "Christian Conduct," "The Gospel Day," etc.
* * * * *
"Feed my lambs."--_Bible_.
* * * * *
There is much more I should like to write, but I do not think a large
book is accepted by the general reader as readily as a smaller one. So
lest this grows to too great a size, I have concluded to close it with
what I now have written. The selections I have made from other writers
are "Spiritual Declension," "Seek First the Kingdom of God," "Stirring
the Eagle's Nest," "The Little Foxes," "On Dress," "Victory," and the
poems "The Solitary Way," "Sometime," and the closing.
I pray that the sayings of this little volume will animate many a soul
to a higher, nobler, holier life. Although it is written to young
Christians, it may do some good to older saints. I hope it will. I
commit it to the public with no other motive than to do good.
CHAS. E. ORR.
Federalsburg, Md., Sept. 15, 1904.
Feeding the Lambs
Who Are Christ's Lambs
Food for the Lambs
On Fruit Bearing
God Our Guide
_The Word Our Guide_
_The Spirit's Impressions_
Seek First the Kingdom
Rest of the Soul
Happiness of Life (Poem)
The Hidden Life
Consciousness of God's Presence
Love of Home
The First Love
The Little Foxes
The Elixir of Life
Rules for Every-Day Life
A Holy Life
A Solitary Way (Poem)
Stirring the Eagle's Nest
Some Things You Should Not Do
Means for Growth
Lay Hold of Eternal Life
Crucifixion of Self
Love Not the World
Have a Care (Poem)
The Guardian Angel
Fledging the Wings
Some Time (Poem)
The Precious Ointment
The Tree of Life
Nearer to Thee (Poem)
Out upon the sea of human life sails many a bark. But, alas! how few are
sailing tranquil waters. Ascend with me to some solitary height and let
us take a view of the innumerable human crafts as they sail out upon
life's broad ocean. Many are being tossed to and fro upon the angry
billows. Hope is almost gone. As they look forward into the distance all
is dark and uncertain. In the early days of their voyage all was
peaceful. They looked out over the broad expanse and saw only calm,
contented waters, and hope beamed bright. They fancied themselves
anchoring, in a ripe old age, in a beautiful haven of rest somewhere
behind the setting sun. But they sailed only in the strength of human
art. Storms unexpected arose, and winds adverse beat upon them.
The high, wild, angry billows threaten their destruction, and they
despair of ever entering their fancied golden port. Above the blackness
of the raging storm there is extended a delivering hand, but they see it
not. Their eyes are not upward; they are upon the turbulent waves. Oh,
how sad! How pellucid would have been the waters and how serene in glory
their voyage, if they had embarked in the strength of Him who at their
request would have said to the angry waves, "Peace, be still," and all
would have been at rest.
Yonder in the distance we see gay, glittering crafts sailing about in a
state of unrest. Some are sailing out upon the sea of worldly pleasure
in search of happiness. See them rush wildly about. Yonder they seem to
see bright, golden waters and hope that true pleasures are to be found
there. But, alas! just beneath the surface all is dark and murky and
bitter. Some are sailing out upon the highways of worldly fame and
honor, others upon the wild stream of worldly riches, all searching for
rest and finding none. See the surging, tossing mass of human barks and
hear their wail of disappointment as the sweet, golden waters turn to
bitter wormwood and gall. The rainbow-colored bubbles, from their
hoped-for fountain of joy, burst upon the air, leaving them empty-handed
and restless-hearted. Above the wild din of their clamor speaks a soft,
tender voice, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." But their ears are not turned to
catch sounds from above; they hear only the siren song of an enchanting
Down toward the setting sun we see many shattered vessels going down in
a wild vortex. The waters are closing over them. They found that human
strength was inadequate to life's voyage. They, having weathered many a
storm, hoped to gain the peaceful harbor. But, alas! they are overcome
at last, and, lamenting the day they ever set sail, they go down without
hope. From the ethereal heights of inspiration I hear a chiding voice
saying, "O had ye hearkened unto me, then had your peace been as a
river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea."
You, my dear young Christian reader, have just embarked upon life's
untried ocean. You have laid hold upon One who is mighty to save and
strong to deliver. Underneath you are the everlasting arms. Push out,
then, boldly into the broad expanse, fearing nothing. You can escape the
perils of the deep, only by making God your refuge. Anchor your faith in
him and see to it that your faith never breaks anchor. The billows may
threaten, the storms may rage; but by faith you can beat them back, and
sail out on unruffled seas. God pity the one who attempts life's voyage
without the aid, cheer, and comfort that Heaven gives.
Make the Word of God your compass, and obedience the rudder that steers
your little bark in all the ways God's commandments point you; and make
faith the mighty cable, and you will be towed safely past the dangerous
rocks and reefs and threatening billows into the peaceful haven of
Across the deep and wide unknown
The bark of life sails on:
Who thinks to trust to human art
Shall perish mid the storm.
The other shore far distant lies,
Wild billows intervene,
And dangers little known arise
To try the strength of men.
Man lays his purpose and his plan,
He fixes sail to-day;
But winds adverse sweep o'er the main
And turn him from his way.
Man's wisdom can not know the end,
Nor future courses see:
Whoever sails in human strength
Sails mid uncertainty.
Man has a strong inveterate foe,
So subtle in his art;
He tries the strength of human craft
And finds the weakest part.
By human strength man can not sail
O'er ocean's troubled breast:
God's hand alone can e'er prevail
And bring him into rest.
In plant, animal, and spiritual life mortality is greatest in infancy.
The plant in the first few days of its existence is very tender and
delicate. It will succumb to the winds if they be slightly too cool, or
to the sun's rays if they be too warm. The smallest insect feeding upon
one of its tiny roots will cause it to die. After it has formed more
roots and they have gone deeper into the earth and the plant becomes
stronger and coarser it is far less liable to destruction. The chilly
winds may blow or the sun's rays may pour upon it; it now has the power
of resistance, and so lives on.
The same is true of animal life. Mortality is far greatest among
children in the first few hours of life, and lessens as they grow older.
Only a slight current of cold air upon the newly born infant is likely
to cause its death. The new life is not yet able to resist opposing
elements, so it must be carefully guarded. As it grows stronger and
becomes capable of adapting itself to the elements of the outside world
it can with comparative safety be brought into contact with them.
What is true in the plant and the animal world is also true in the
spiritual world. You who have but recently been born of the Spirit are
not as able to resist the cold winds of persecution or the heat of fiery
trials as those who have been deepening and widening in the grace of
God. Guard carefully the new-born life of Christ in your soul. Seek an
establishing grace in sanctification, and you will be strong in the Lord
and fully able to cope with the dark powers of sin, Satan, and the
world, and triumph over all in Jesus' name. In the days of your infancy
we offer you our help in this little volume, and assure you a frequent
remembrance in fervent prayer.
FEEDING THE LAMBS.
Some years ago when attending to the work to which the Lord had called
me in one of the sunny Southern States it was my happy privilege to
enjoy for a few days the kind hospitality of a generous Christian
farmer. One balmy afternoon while walking over the pleasant fields of
his large farm, with my heart in sweet communion with God, I came upon
the most beautiful flock of sheep it had ever been my privilege to
behold. They were quietly grazing in a rich green pasture, near by which
silently flowed a deep, broad river. To me it was a fair reminder of the
"still waters" the Good Shepherd gave promise to lead his sheep beside,
and the "green pastures" he promised to make them to "lie down in."
From beholding this beautiful fleecy flock I learned a lesson which I
hope never to forget. The principal cause of their well-developed frame
and handsome appearance was, they were _well cared for when they were
lambs_. Since then I have often remembered, and felt the import of, the
command the Savior so tenderly gave his shepherds--"Feed my lambs." Over
and over has it in all its strength and beauty been breathed anew by the
Spirit in my soul, animating me to greater assiduity in caring for the
precious lambs of his fold. And, thus, I shall prove my love to him by
doing all I can in caring for his lambs.
Lambs need something more than feed; they must be sheltered from the
cold wind and cruel storm. Feed them ever so well, but if you expose
them to the wintry storm, they will die. In John 21:15 the word _feed_
is translated from the same Greek term as is the word _feed_ in the 17th
verse; but in the 16th verse the word _feed_ is translated from an
entirely different Greek term. In this verse the Greek does not mean
simply to feed, but to protect, to shelter, to tend. The shepherd's duty
is not only to feed the lambs, but also to guard them from the wolves
that are seeking to devour them.
WHO ARE CHRIST'S LAMBS.
It is those who are young in Christian experience whom the Savior calls
lambs. The shepherds that are to feed them are his ministers. A lamb is
one of the most meek, tender, and tractable of all the young animals,
and very fittingly represents one who has received the meek and tender
spirit of Christ. Christianity in its nature is meek and mild. It
converts the wolf into a lamb and the leopard into a kid. Young
Christians are, therefore, beautifully spoken of as lambs, whose nature
is mild and gentle. Christ's lambs are those who have received into
their hearts his lamb-like spirit. They are those whose hearts and souls
have been touched and thrilled with the mildness and tenderness of
divine life; those in whom the "hidden man of the heart" is robed in
righteousness and adorned with "a meek and quiet spirit," which is
precious before God.
You might robe a wolf with a lamb's skin, but it would still be a wolf.
A person may profess to be a Christian: but unless he has a change of
heart and affection; unless he has been made meek and gentle by the
Spirit of the Lord coming into his heart, he is only a wolf, after all,
and not of the Savior's fold. Jesus speaks of some who put on "sheep's
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." By "wolves" he means
men and women with wicked hearts. They profess to be Christians; but in
their hearts are envy, pride, hatred, jealousy, love of self, and love
of the world. They may appear quite lamb-like in public life, but in
their hearts no change has been wrought by the transforming power of
God's grace. To be "Jesus' little lamb" is not only to have a
profession of Christianity, but to have the heart cleansed by the blood
of Jesus from envy, pride, malice, love of the world, etc., and filled
with meekness, gentleness, and love.
A good old prophet in olden time, looking forward to when Jesus should
come to save people from their sins and speak peace to troubled hearts,
said, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the
lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom." When you were
wandering in the deserts and mountains of sin, Jesus, the true shepherd,
came seeking for you, and now that you have given yourself to his loving
care, always confide in him and yield to his guidance. Ever keep your
hand in his and follow where he leads, and your life will be full of joy
and terminate at last where there will be pleasures forevermore.
FOOD FOR THE LAMBS.
Of course, it is very important to know what foods are most conducive to
the growth of lambs. The apostle to whom Jesus gave the command "Feed my
lambs" has said to those lambs, "As new-born babes desire the sincere
milk of the Word that they may grow thereby." 1 Pet. 2:2. Milk is the
aliment which the nature of the newly born infant demands. The infant
instinctively receives it with a readiness. It is the natural and most
proper food. It is the food above all others for the sustaining of life
and the promotion of growth. So the glorious doctrines of the gospel are
the natural and most proper food for the Christian. The newly created
life in the regenerated soul instinctively turns to the word of God for
nourishment. It is the natural food for the new life. Nothing else can
be substituted for it and growth go on unhindered. Without this food the
Christian will die. "Man shall not live by bread alone," says the Great
Shepherd, "but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
[Illustration: "He shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them
in his bosom."]
The Christian has a twofold life: he has both physical life and
spiritual life. As bread sustains physical life, so the word of God
sustains spiritual life. I beseech you most earnestly, my dear young
Christian reader, to ever remember that you can no more live a spiritual
life independently of the word of God than you can live a physical
life independently of bread. If growth in grace is worth anything to
you, and eternal blessedness in the sweet fields of heaven of any value,
keep this ever in mind and act accordingly. As with the physical being,
so it is with the spiritual. There must be appetite, eating, digestion,
and assimilation, that the word of God may impart life.
Remember, it is the sincere milk of the Word that you need that you may
grow thereby. Sincere is from the Latin _sincerus_, which is derived
from _sine_, meaning without, and _cera_, meaning wax; honey separated
from the wax. Milk to which has been added chalked water may yet have
much the appearance of milk, but it has lost its nourishment. So the
word of God with the slightest adulteration will not meet the demands
for spiritual growth. The word of God, without modification or
exaggeration, without taking from or adding to, is the only wholesome
food for your soul, and may you "eat in plenty" and "grow up as calves
of the stall."
ON FRUIT BEARING.
The following beautiful language is found in Isa. 51:3: "For the Lord
shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will
make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the
Lord; joy and gladness shall he found therein, thanksgiving, and the
voice of melody." Zion is a metaphor signifying the church of God. It
is, therefore, the church which the Lord will comfort and whose
wilderness will be made an Eden. But what is the church of God? This is
a very important question; one which all people should fully understand,
and one which is very easily answered. You will learn at once by reading
Eph. 1:22,23 and Col. 1:18,24 that the church is the body of Christ,
and in 1 Cor. 12:27 we are plainly told that Christians are the body of
Christ; they are, therefore, the church of God. Dear reader, if you are
a Christian, you have been born of the Spirit; you have passed from
death unto life; you have been translated from the kingdom of darkness
into the kingdom of light; you have been created anew; you are,
therefore, a member of the body of Christ, and all such members make up
the church of God.
The children of Israel were the church of God in the old dispensation,
and he dwelt in a tabernacle or temple they built for him. In this more
glorious gospel dispensation those who have been born of the Spirit and
made pure in heart are the church of God. In this Holy-Spirit
dispensation we do not build temples for the Lord to dwell in; for "know
ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God
dwelleth in you?" 1 Cor. 3:16. "What? know ye not that your body is the
temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye
are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19. In this blessed gospel day Christians
are the "habitation of God through the Spirit." If you are a Christian,
God dwells in your heart; your body is his glorious temple. This is a
most stupendous thought, but it is true. In your soul is the sweet
heavenly manna, the budding rod, and the ark of the covenant
overshadowed by the cherubim of glory.
When God created man He placed him in a garden which He had planted
eastward in Eden. In this garden God made to grow every tree that was
pleasant to the sight and good for food; also, the tree of life and the
tree of knowledge of good and evil were in this garden, and a river to
water it. It is said that God "walked in the garden in the cool of the
day." That was in the day of literal things. We are now in the day of
spiritual things, when our bodies have become the temple of God through
the Spirit, and our hearts his lovely garden. It is in this garden he
dwells; it is there he walks. See 2 Cor. 6:16. When the south winds blow
and the spices flow out he comes into his garden to eat his pleasant
fruits; he gathers the myrrh and the spices, he eats honey and drinks
wine and milk. See Cant. 4:16 and 5:1. This is sweet language, and is
expressive of the purity of the Christian heart, where God dwells, and
where he walks in the gentleness of his Spirit, delighting himself in
the tender Christian graces that are budding and blooming all along the
peaceful avenues of the soul. Like as the gentle south wind blows upon
the flowers of the garden and scatters the fragrance; so the Spirit of
God fans the heavenly graces implanted in the heart, and a fragrance
flows out of the Christian life, awaking admiration in the minds of all
who come into its presence.
The trees that were pleasant to the sight and good for food in the
literal garden of Eden symbolize the graces of the regenerated heart,
which are lovely to behold, which feed the souls of those who look upon
your noble Christian walk, and which become a "tree of life" to the
desert hearts of men. In the garden of the Lord blooms the rose of
Sharon and the lily-of-the-valley. These are beautiful emblems of the
Christ-life in the Christian soul. The river which flowed through Eden's
literal garden represents the deep, broad river of peace which flows in
the heart which has tasted of redeeming love.
A young heart filled with the mild, meek spirit of Christ, and a young
life laden in rich profusion with kind words, generous deeds, and
gentle, modest ways, is the most beautiful object that ever graced this
mundane sphere. Angels look down and marvel, and throughout all heaven
is awakened songs of joy and praise. It is your privilege to be filled
with Jesus now; to be clothed in white and walk in purity. It is also
your privilege as you journey down life's way to grow more kindly; to be
more and more like Jesus; for the sweet graces of heaven to bloom more
beautifully in your heart and life; and the beauty of your young
Christian life to give way to more beauteous ripened age. If you attend
to all Christian duties and live in prayer and devotion to God, your
soul will become more and more weighted down with the riches of heaven,
and, looking out through the casement, your soul will hail with joy the
convoy that has come to bear it to its home of eternal rest.
The Savior in speaking of himself said, "I am the vine," and in speaking
of Christians he said, "Ye are the branches," and speaking of God he
said, "My Father is the husbandman." This very clearly and strikingly
illustrates the duty of a Christian, and the position he occupies.
Christians sustain the same relation to Christ that the branches do to
the vine. As the branch receives life through the vine and bears fruit,
so the Christian receives life through Christ and bears fruit. The
object of fruit bearing is the glory of God. You should be desirous of
bearing as great an abundance of fruit as possible, and do all you can
to increase your fruitfulness, since "herein is God glorified, that you
bear much fruit."
The apostle Paul in speaking of Christians said, "Ye are God's
husbandry," 1 Cor. 3:9. If you will examine the Greek text you will
find that a more proper rendering would be, "Ye are God's field." Greek
scholars tell us that the Greet term from which husbandry is translated
in our common version signifies a cultivated field. It answers to the
Hebrew word _sadeh_, which means a field sown and under cultivation.
From this you will be enabled to yet more fully understand the true
position you occupy under God. You are his fertile field, where he has
under cultivation the precious fruits of the kingdom of heaven. The
Husbandman has rooted up every plant that he has not planted, and sown
there the seeds of righteousness.
Not only are your hearts the "garden of the Lord" where blooms the
"rose of Sharon" and the "lily-of-the-valley" in all the sweetness of
their fragrance and beauty, but they are also the Lord's fertile field,
where the amiable Christian graces are to bud, bloom, and bear fruit.
Your duty as a Christian is to bear fruit for God, that he may be
glorified. Every fruit-bearing branch, therefore, he purges, that it may
bring forth more fruit. The successful farmer carefully removes all the
foreign growth out of his field, and then cultivates his plants, that he
may reap the greatest possible harvest.
Delicious fruits are brought from the tropical clime to this land of
ours, and they awaken in our hearts an admiration for that delightsome
country. We long to travel through those sunny lands. You are God's
fertile field. In your life has been placed the beautiful fruits of the
heavenly land. As this world looks upon your life and beholds these
fruits admiration will be awakened in their hearts for the fruitful
fields of heaven. They will be influenced by your life to seek the
kingdom of God and its riches, that they may taste of its fruits now and
forever. If you will walk with God and live devoted to him, those
precious fruits of the Spirit will become more plentiful and beautiful
in your life as you journey down the way, making you a greater blessing
to the hearts of others. To this end you must live.
In Heb. 10:33 it is said that Christians are a gazing-stock. The world
is looking upon your life. You have taken upon you the profession of
Christianity. If you live a pure and holy life, God will be honored;
others gazing at you will see that Christ lives in you, and many will
give to God the glory. You must be willing to be gazed at by the world.
You must let your light shine.
Your holy life will be a savor of life or a savor of death unto those
before whom you live. So do not think you are living to no purpose. Some
one is looking on every day, and if you will walk uprightly, it will
tell for God. What a privilege you have of living a life that God will
use to the salvation of some and to the condemnation of others! You must
be interested in living a pure, clean life, and live your very best each
day, so that you will not be ashamed before God to be a gazing-stock for
Among the different faculties which God gave to man in his creation is
one called the _will_. It is because you have this faculty that you
become a responsible being. Before the first man and woman in the garden
of Eden God placed two laws--one was the law of obedience, and the
other, the law of disobedience. These were subject to their choice. They
could will to obey God and live forever, or will to disobey and die.
Before all men are placed two ways--one is called the way of life, and
the other, the way of death. These are subject to their choice.
Therefore, the will is called that faculty of the soul by which we
choose or refuse things.
The will is capable of cultivation. By the exercise of your will you can
refuse to do wrong things, and thus strengthen your will-power. Men have
attained extraordinary heights of morality by the exercise of the will
in right-doing and refusing to do wrong. This is noble and beautiful,
but there is something more noble still and more beautiful. The moral
man wills to do right because it is right, while the Christian wills to
do right because it is the will of God and pleases him.
Although man can not by the exercise of his will-power in right-doing
evolve into a Christian, the will plays an important part in the
formation of Christian character. It is true, the will is most usually
led by the affections of the heart; therefore the writer of Proverbs
said, "Out of the heart are the issues of life." The heart must,
however, get consent of the will before its desires are fulfilled. Here
is a truth of vast importance to the Christian.
Many people's wills have become so in bondage to the impure affections
and desires of their depraved hearts that they have no will to do right
and shun the wrong. The desires of the heart sway their scepter of power
over the will, and it acts to the granting the heart its wishes. This is
a sad picture. A human being created to be free, but now a wretched
slave. When he wills to do good evil is present with him; the good he
would do, he does not do; and the evil he would not do, that is what he
does. O miserable man! A person who has rejected the mercy of God and
has yielded to the inclinations of an unholy heart until he has no
power to accept the offers of mercy and shun the ways of sin, is an
object of the greatest pity. To him there is no hope of escaping the
damnation of hell.
There is a time in the life of every rational young man and woman when
they can accept the blessed offers of salvation which God extends
through his Son, if they will. God gives the Holy Spirit to operate upon
the depraved heart, making it to feel something of the realities of a
Savior's love and goodness, and something of the awfulness of sin. The
Holy Spirit does not take hold upon the will and compel it to serve God,
or force it into right action. He just takes hold upon the heart,
suppressing its love for sin, and awakening desires for a better life,
thus removing the unrighteous scepter the heart swayed over the will,
giving the will freedom and power to accept or reject the mercies of
God. While the impure affections and unholy desires of a depraved heart
are being restrained by the power of the Holy Spirit, before the will is
set the way of life and the way of death, each subject to choice. Now is
the time for whosoever will to come and drink of the water of life
freely, and whosoever will now call upon the name of the Lord shall be
Not only does the will act an important part in securing the salvation
of the soul through the offered mercies of God, but it is the purpose of
God that the will act an important part all along the Christian way.
After the Christian enters through the "strait gate" and steps out upon
the "narrow way" that leads to eternal golden glories, he is not carried
forward in a "chariot of fire" through the journey of life and crowned
at the end with eternal blessedness irrespective of his will. Often it
is true that the soul is carried blessedly onward in the way of life on
the wings of joy, without any apparent exercise of the will; but how
often Good seems to have deserted or forsaken us, Joy has hid her
smiling face, and Good Feelings have departed, and we are left to serve
God and attend to our Christian duties from choice of will. God wants
our life service to be a willing service. It is necessary, therefore,
that he apparently forsake us and permit dark powers to engage us. It is
that our wills may be exercised. The Psalmist says, "I _will_ go the way
of thy commandment; I _will_ keep thy testimonies," and let us all say
The blessings and joys the Lord bestows upon us are the rewards of
willing service, for which things you should be very thankful; but never
let them influence you in your conduct toward God. There have been
those, who, in the hour of seeming desertion, refusing to use their
will-power, have turned back to the world. This is faint-heartedness and
cowardice, ignobleness and unmanliness.
Every faculty of the body or soul that is unused or unexercised will
weaken and die. The muscles if unused will grow weak, the mind if unused
will weaken, and the will if unexercised will lose its power. Should God
always keep us soaring aloft on the wings of peace and joy and
blessings, without the exercise of the will, this important faculty
would degenerate into weakness and slavery. O may my young readers arise
in the strength of their manhood and womanhood and use, in choosing and
doing the right, the will God has given them. The tempter may come, yea,
will come, and endeavor to get some of the affections of the heart set
upon the world; but you must reject all such temptations, and by the
force of your will set your affections on things above. God does never
will for us, but he gives us power to will if we will but use the power
he gives us.
You are exhorted by the Scriptures to "work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling." The "crown of life" lies at the end of the
Christian race. When we step over the boundary between time and eternity
our salvation is then eternally secured. Praises be to God! It is for
this crown of amaranthine glory, or blessed eternal salvation, that we
are to watch and labor with fear and trembling. O may you be very
careful! Be watchful, lest something should hinder you in your Christian
race, and you miss at last the blessedness of heaven. Guard the
affections of your heart with the strictest vigilance.
I said above that God would always give us power to will, if we would
but make use of that power. For proof of this I shall refer you to Phil.
2:13, which in our common version is rendered thus: "For it is God which
worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The meaning
of this text is not so readily comprehended by this version as it is by
some others. By Conybeare and Howson it is translated in these words:
"It is God who works in you both will and deed." Upon examination of the
different translations we find the meaning of this text to be this: "It
is God that gives us power _to will_ and _to do_ his good pleasure." In
the verse preceding this one the apostle tells us to "work out our
salvation with fear and trembling," and then he adds for our
encouragement, "God will work in you the power _to will_ and _to do_
that which will secure your eternal salvation." Never say, "I can't."
Here is something which will prove very valuable to you in your
Christian life if you can only get to fully comprehend it: You can do
nothing; your will is powerless without God and his grace, and God can
do nothing in you without the consent of your will. God does everything,
and we do everything: we are to purify our hearts, and yet it is God who
purifies our hearts; we are to make us a new heart, and yet it is God
who gives us a new heart; we are commanded to work out our salvation,
and God gives us power to do it. God furnishes the power; we are to do.
Do not think that God will act for you. He will give you power to act,
but he will not do the act for you. Do not, therefore, say, "I can't."
You can do "all things" through Christ, who strengthens you. You can
serve God in a way acceptable to him; you can keep your mind stayed on
him; you can pray; you can resist the devil and temptation and be an
overcomer; you can endure unto the end--you can do "all things" by the
grace and power of God, and he will always give you power to do his
pleasure. Do not serve and praise God only when he gives you blessings
and joy, but serve him and praise him when the way is dark. Have a fixed
decision of the will to serve God no matter what the feelings may be. Be
thankful to God for the will-power he has given you, and use it
manfully, nobly in his service. Do not cower and tremble before
temptation. You are to "fear and tremble" before God, but never before
trials, temptations, sin, nor the devil. God will cause you to triumph
by giving you power to will. Be steadfast, be faithful, fix your will
unswervingly to serve God, and in due season you shall reap if you faint
GOD OUR GUIDE.
This is a dark world of sin, error, and uncertainties. It is weak and
transitory. Man, God's chief and highest work in the things of creation,
is weak, ignorant, and can of himself do absolutely nothing. Though he
may have a most scholarly mind, he can not peer with any degree of
certainty one hour into the future. Who knows what the morrow may have
in store? Life may run about the same as to-day, or fortune may come, or
misfortune. Man may plan for the future, but the plan may never be
carried into effect. It is not in man to direct his way.
There is one, however, that knows all future things and shapes the
destiny of man. We are invited to commit our way unto him. He has
promised to guide us with his eye. Life lies before us like an unknown
sea, none know how many days' journey it is across, nor how much
sunshine and shadow there may be on the way. With the unknown expanse
before me, and I, in my ignorant finiteness, not knowing which way to
take, rejoice exceedingly in my heart to be permitted to commit my way
unto Him who makes the clouds his chariots, and rides upon the wings of
the wind, and stills the wave. He knows the best way and will direct in
tender care my every step. He guides me with his eye, and leads me by
his own right hand beside the still waters and into green pastures.
Why are there so many anxious hearts, so much unrest, so many
discontentments and fears? It is because man is attempting to direct his
own way. He feels his weakness, and fears; he knows his ignorance, and
becomes anxious. How blessed to walk out upon life's way trusting in God
and casting every care upon him! The waves may sometimes dash around our
feet, but we are looking up unto Him who shall guide us continually. The
secret of a happy and successful life is to let God lead us. When we get
in a hurry and pass on ahead of the Lord, devising, contriving, planning
over our work and way, then come fears and failures.
Many Christians find it difficult to know the will of God and understand
his leadings. Many hearts are longing to know God's will and way. You
may always know. Do not hurry, only wait, pray and trust, and God will
plainly and unmistakably teach you his way and give you a sweet
consciousness in your soul of his guidance. Sometimes it may require
long waiting. I have for months been almost daily praying and sometimes
rising a great while before day to seek God beneath the stars to know
his will in a certain matter. Sometimes it seems I must act, but God
whispers in sweet stillness, "Only wait."
The Word Our Guide.
In many affairs of life we need no guidance other than the Word of God.
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psa.
119:105. Much reading of the Scripture will impart wisdom and knowledge,
and be a help to us in directing the affairs of life. You may have a
difficult matter to settle with your neighbor. Open your Bible and read:
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
Quite likely this will enable you to settle the matter in perfect
satisfaction to all. Some one may have done you much harm, now what must
you do? Open your book of guidance and read: "Dearly beloved, avenge not
yourselves ... vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Thus,
much of life's duties and affairs can be determined and decided by the
Word of God.
The Spirit's Impressions.
The Holy Spirit is given us for a guide. With respect to our conduct and
our duty, we often feel the impressions of the Spirit. The Word of God
tells us to give of our goods as the Lord has prospered us, but the
Spirit may often impress us as to where to give.
We feel impressed by the Spirit to give, we feel impressed to go to a
certain place, we feel impressed to pray for such a one, we feel
impressed to fast and pray, etc. Many a precious soul that once was full
of joy and fatness is to-day in unrest and leanness because these
impressions have been resisted. But are there not impressions given by
an evil spirit? Most certainly, and these impressions have led many an
honest soul into the wildest of fanaticism. Thank God, by living very
humble, with all our motives very pure, and by acquaintance with the
Word of God, we may know the voice of the Spirit of God and that of the
evil spirit I have known people to receive and obey impressions to fast
and pray that were given by Satan. God's Word and God's Spirit favor
fasting and praying, but both are bounded by sound judgment; and in such
matters we should not follow a spirit beyond what common sense would
It is blessed and beautiful to be led by the Spirit of God. If its
impressions are not resisted, but encouraged by cheerful obedience, they
will lead us into a blessed felicity with God and a deep acquaintance
with him. An evil spirit's whisperings can be very easily detected by
one who has much communion with the Lord. Recently while standing on a
steamer's deck it was whispered to me that the steamer was an ill-fated
vessel, and that I never should see home again. At first I did not know
but that it was the voice of God, but soon I felt attempts being made to
cast over me a tormenting fear; this aroused my suspicion that it was
not God speaking, and to be convinced I allowed the spirit to talk on.
For a while it tried to torment me with fears that I should never see
the dear ones at home again, and then said, "You may as well cast
yourself overboard into the deep." Ah! now I knew the Satanic spirit and
I rebuked it in Jesus' name. I reached my home in safety. Praise the
Lord! Try the spirits by the Word; Satan will soon expose himself.
In the sure guidance of God we have his Word and his Spirit and also his
providences. Again, we would say, oh, how blessed to await the
providences of God! His providences are always in favor of the
righteous. "All things work together for good to them that love God."
How many can look back through their lives and see how the providences
of God have directed their ways. They may have planned, but God's
providence overthrew and brought better things to pass. Trust in the
providences of God, commit your way unto him, patiently wait, and he
will guide you into the way that is best. Never get in a hurry, but wait
on the Lord, and he will always make the way plain before you. I have
learned never to take a step until I know it is ordered of God. In the
providence of God, Joseph was sold to a company of Ishmaelites and cast
into prison and thus brought to be ruler over all Egypt. In the
providences of God, Kish's asses went astray and Saul being sent in
search of them was led to the prophet Samuel, who anointed him king
over Israel. You may meet with losses, all things may seem decidedly
against you; but be patient, trust in the providence of God, and in time
you will see his kind favor.
If you value your happiness and success in life, wait on God. If you do
not know which way to go or what thing to do, wait until you do know.
God will surely guide you; he will open the way clear and plain before
you. When he has given you full assurance, then go forward in all
security. Mountains may rise before you, but he will pluck them up and
cast them into the sea. Rivers and seas may lie across your path, but he
will divide the waters and let you pass through. Live humbly and only
for the glory of God. Trust in him with all the strength of your soul.
See that all motives are as pure as heaven. Prayerfully seek a knowledge
of God's will, patiently wait on him, cheerfully and promptly obey when
his will is known, and he will lead you in the path of security,
strewing the way with blessings and glory, and make your life one golden
gleam of light across this dark world to lead others to the Lamb.
Every saintly life on earth, is a sweet fragrance unto God, and every
sinful life is a stench in his nostrils. As the rose scents the evening
air, so a pure life scatters a sweet Christian influence and a knowledge
of God throughout the world. The literal translation of 2 Cor. 2:14
reads thus: "But thanks be to God, who leads me on from place to place
in the train of his triumph, to celebrate his victory over the enemies
of Christ, and by me sends forth the knowledge of him, a stream of
fragrant incense, throughout the world." A saintly life diffuses a
sweet, heavenly fragrance throughout the world, and brings a knowledge
of God and the nature of his salvation to the minds of men. Let me
exhort you, therefore, to a pure life, a life full of devotion and
reverence to God. You can make your life, by God's grace, a constant,
flowing stream of fragrant incense, whose sweetness will linger long on
the air after you have passed to higher realms. So may it be.
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all
these things shall be added unto you." Mat. 6:33. An injunction of much
importance is here given. Verses 24 to 34 of this chapter show how
beautifully it is in the plan of God to care for his own. We are taught
to have our trust in God for what we eat, for what we drink, for what we
wear--for all the necessities of this life. We are referred to the fowls
of the air and the lilies of the field, which take no thought for their
life, but live in their happy, independent way, without care or trouble.
These God cares for and says we are of more value than they.
What a valuable lesson we are to learn from this! But is it really true
that we are to have the same degree of freedom from care or anxiety that
the fowls or the lilies have? We shall also ask, Is it really possible?
This lesson surely teaches that we are to have such a trust in our
Maker, and therefore it must be possible. The apostle Paul instructs us
in Phil. 4:6, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
God." And in another place, "I would have you without carefulness." Our
lives are to be free from worry or anxiety about anything and
everything. This feature alone of the divine life, or this principle
alone in the economy of God's gracious plan, ought to represent
salvation as a thing greatly to be desired. But in the face of this
people fail to see anything desirable in it, because by their unbelief
they hold such a life to be impracticable. By this kind of unbelief the
enemy of souls deprives many of their privileges in Christ and hinders
the world from seeing the real nature of the salvation experience.
How the world is estranged from the principles of righteousness! How it
holds light to be darkness and darkness to be light! Instead of
accounting that there is any reasonableness in such trust in God as is
shown in this lesson they would fain be selfishly taking upon themselves
the responsibility of maintaining their own existence, and thus every
one seek for his own gain. Thinking that they thus have an excuse for
not devoting their time to God's service and their spiritual welfare,
the things of the Lord are forgotten and neglected, and their souls
consequently are lost. When will individuals learn that they have a
spiritual as well as a physical existence, and that the spiritual is the
more important of the two? Seek first the kingdom.
But the fact that we wish to bring out most prominently is that many
Christian professors, who are supposed to be examples of the Christian
life, do not comprehend the import of the test "Seek ye first the
kingdom of God." The mistake is made on the word _first_. They think to
obey this scripture by first gaining the profession of salvation,
presuming then that the blessings of the kingdom will follow, while they
live as selfishly as before and dig deep into the things concerning the
unrighteous mammon. In so doing they fail to experience the blessings of
the kingdom, and also misrepresent the kingdom to the world. The word
_first_ means not only first in time, but first in _importance_; and
this idea of _importance_ must ever be held before us, not only when we
enter the kingdom, but throughout our whole Christian life. We are to
hold the kingdom of righteousness _first_ in all our lives. If we hold
God first in everything and consider what will be to his glory before
we consider our own, we give God a chance to fulfil his word, and his
own good pleasure in us will be accomplished. We then place ourselves in
the order of his plan where it will be possible for him to do as he has
The salvation life means an unselfish life. We are not to seek selfish
glory in anything, but seek the glory of God _first_--above everything
else. It has been remarked concerning certain ones who were struggling
for an earthly existence, that if they would only get saved "all these
things" (all earthly necessities) would be added unto them. But it is
not those who merely get saved that can claim this promise; it is those
who _keep saved_ and carry out the principles of the plan of
righteousness. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" in
everything. Lose your own individuality in God, consign your all to him,
live for his glory in all your life, then "all these things shall be
added unto you."
Upon this subject and the one following I have written in other works
very similarly to this; but since these subjects are so well adapted to
a work of this nature I can hardly feel willing to leave them out. If
you have read very similar words to these in other productions of mine,
I hope the rereading of the subjects will not be time spent to no
The value of prayer can hardly be estimated. Unless you are willing to
take up a life of prayer and keep it until the close, you had just as
well not take up the Christian profession. Without prayer you will die.
Some one has expressed it thus:
"Prayer is our life, our soul's triumphant wings,
The arm that holds the shield and hand that takes the crown;
Along the line on which a thousand faithful prayers ascend,
Surely God doth send ten thousand blessings down."
What an honor it is to have audience with the King of glory! He extends
the golden scepter to us, and we come hopefully, confidingly, into his
presence and tell him all that is in our hearts. It is only because we
comprehend something of his great love to us that we venture to come
into his presence. Who would not consider it a great honor and blessed
privilege to be admitted into the courts of the lords and the kings of
earth? The greatest honor bestowed upon man is the privilege of coming
into the presence of God and conversing with him. Alas! how few
appreciate the privilege of prayer! How few can properly estimate its
true worth! Jesus by his example has taught us something of the worth of
prayer. His rising a great while before it was day to hold communion
with the Father, and his spending all night in prayer to him, teach us
something of its importance. If it was necessary for Jesus to spend so
much time in prayer, how much more necessary for us.
Prayer is the energy and life of the soul. It is the invincible armor
which shields the devoted Christian from the poisoned missles shot forth
from the batteries of hell. It is the mighty weapon in his hand with
which he fights life's battles unto victory. He who lives in prayer
reigns triumphant. His soul is filled with the peace of heaven. Power
is given him over sin and the world. By prayer all storm-clouds are
driven away, mountains of discouragement are cast into the sea, chasms
of difficulties are bridged, hope is given wings, faith increases, and
joys abound. Hell may rage and threaten, but he who is frequent and
fervent in prayer experiences no alarm. By prayer the windows of heaven
are opened, and showers of refreshing dews are rained upon the soul. It
is as a watered garden, a fertile spot where blooms the unfading rose of
Sharon and the lily-of-the-valley; where spread the undecaying,
unwithering branches of the tree of life.
By prayer the soul is nourished and strengthened by the divine life. Do
you long for deeper joys? for a greater sense of the divine fulness? for
a sweeter balm of hope to be shed upon your soul? for a closer walk with
God? then live much in prayer. Do you desire to feel the holy flame of
love burning in all its intensity in your soul? then enkindle it often
at the golden altar of prayer. Without prayer, the inner being will
weaken, famish, and die; the fountain of love dry up; the spring of joy
cease to flow; the dews will fail to descend; and your heart will
become a parched and dreary desert waste.
Look upon the character of Jesus. Behold his lowliness, his meekness,
gentleness, and tender compassion. Have they any beauty? and would you
love to have them grace your own soul? then draw them down from the
skies in all their glorious fulness by the fervent prayer of faith. As
through the process of assimilation food is transformed into an active,
living being; so through the medium of prayer the character of Jesus in
all its transcendent beauty and glory becomes the character of man.
If you desire victory during the day, begin it with prayer. Not a few
hurried words, but minutes of deep, intimate communion with God. Linger
at the sacred altar of prayer until you feel particles of glory drop in
richness into your soul, scattering sweetness throughout the whole and
relating you to the world above. In the early morning hour, when the
still, balmy breath of nature plays around, let your soul fly away on
the wings of prayer with its message of love and praise to its Maker.
Jesus went out a great while before day to hold communion with God.
There is no time better suited for prayer. The world is hushed in
slumber. There is less sin being committed, and if the world ever is
innocent, it is in the early morning time. We thus get an advantage of
the devil and have sweet converse with God before the devil is aware.
If you desire to be more deeply and sincerely pious, seek it in prayer.
If you desire heights in God's love, depths in his grace, fulness in his
joy, richness in his glory, seek it in prayer. Did you say you had not
time for prayer? What a pity! Your happiness and usefulness in life
depend upon it; your eternal welfare depends upon it--then, oh, what a
pity you have no time for it! But you must find time. You can not afford
to listen to Satan; there is too much at stake. This is an excuse that
many allow Satan to make for them. Time for rest, time for eating, time
for sleeping, time for friends, time for books; but no time for prayer.
This is a device of Satan to rob souls of the love of God. You must not
give him such an advantage of you.
In love for your spiritual welfare I beseech you in Jesus' name, live
much in prayer. Go often into your closet, and then, with the loins of
your mind girded up, in all earnestness of soul pray until the love of
God and the light of heaven fills your being. Satan will try to make you
listless and indifferent; he will try to make your thoughts to wander;
he will tell you of many other things that need to be done that very
moment; and many other things will he tell you to deprive you of the
blessings of prayer. But you must resist him and go the more earnestly
in prayer; and continue to pray until a rapture from the skies sweeps
over your soul, making the place of prayer the dearest spot on earth to
When the shades of night come softly stealing,
Softly stealing o'er the window sill;
When the busy day is slowly ending,
Slowly ending peacefully and still,--
Christian, with thy heart adoring Heaven,
Sweetest glories falling from above,
Go to God in secret, silent pleading,
Tell to him the wondrous tale of love.
When the morning light is gently dawning,
Gently dawning in the eastern sky;
When the darkness fast away is fleeing,
Duties of the day are drawing nigh,--
Down before the sacred, hallowed altar,
Christian, bow before thy God in fervent prayer,
Giving thanks to him for life's sweet blessings,
For the day imploring his kind care.
To be overcome to-day makes to-morrow's battles harder.
If you would be a better Christian to-morrow, live your very best
Like as the warming rays of the autumn's sun melt the early frost, so
the warmth of Christian love in our hearts will melt the coldness in the
hearts of sinful men.
Begin the day with prayer: it will fortify you against the tempter's
power. The result of neglecting prayer is to be tossed furiously about
upon the billows of temptation.
Time is of too great worth to waste one precious moment. An hour lost is
that much of life lost. For all the time spent in idleness, you had just
as well not have lived at all. By rightly using each moment you will
build up a character that will stand a monument upon the tomb of the
dead past. Moments misspent are life and character gone, and no imprint
is left on the hearts of men to tell that we have lived. How many golden
moments are flying away into eternity unladen with any fruit from your
life? Learn to value time. Redeem it because these days are evil. Seize
upon each passing moment, and send it up to the glorious Author of time
laden with golden deeds.
The Scriptures invite Christians on to greater depths in the love of God
and greater heights in his joy as they journey on through life. It is
the will of God that you grow in grace and become more spiritual each
day of your life. That meditation does affect one's spirituality is an
undeniable fact. Meditating upon God and his law is an excellent means
of increasing spiritual life in the soul. Vagrant thoughts dull the
finer sensibilities of the spiritual being, thereby rendering it less
capable of impression by the Holy Ghost.
"Keeping in touch with God" is an expression much used in these days by
people professing holiness, but what does it imply? We are all at sea
when not in touch with him. To be so kept is to have everything in us
fully alive to God. Every Christian grace must be in a perfect state of
health and vigorous growth. If there be any dwarfed condition of the
spiritual being in any part, it will be less sensible to God's touch.
The blind have been known to cultivate the sense of touch in the
physical being to the amazing acuteness of being able to distinguish
between colors. The sense of touch in the soul can by careful, earnest
cultivation be refined to such a degree as to make it susceptible to the
slightest impressions of the Spirit of God.
By an electric cable America is brought in touch with Europe. Were this
to become divided, communication would cease. Sin divided the
life-giving cable from the presence of God to the souls of men. In Jesus
the divided cable is taken up and united, and man brought into communion
with God. So cultured may become the sensibilities of the inner being,
and so thoroughly impregnated by God's enlivening power, that one empty
thought causing the slightest ebbing of life's current flow is keenly
felt. To keep in perfect touch with God is to live where there is a
soul-consciousness that he is pleased with every act of your life, and
where there is a clear, definite witnessing of the Spirit to your inmost
soul that the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart are
acceptable unto him.
Useless thought makes the soul coarse, and difficult of impression by
good influences. Pure and holy meditations are an excellent means for
the refinement of your moral being. Praying to God is talking to him,
telling him the desires of the heart; whereas meditating upon God is
contemplating his goodness, love, mercy, greatness, and wonderful works.
Meditation prepares the heart for that deeper communion with God called
prayer. Whoever gives attention to his meditations, and has learned to
fix his mind upon God; to whom "day unto day uttereth speech, and night
unto night showeth knowledge;" to whom "the heavens declare the glory of
God," and who hears God's voice in nature and sees the goodness of his
hand in all creation,--finds no difficulty in drawing to God in prayer.
If you allow your mind to wander vaguely about upon the vanities of the
world, you will find prayer a difficult and rather an unpleasant task.
Learn, therefore, I beseech you, to stay your mind upon the Lord, and
great will be the peace and quietness of your soul. Precious moments
spent in idle chit-chat with your companions or indulging vagrant
thoughts are time worse than wasted. As your mind acts once, so it is
disposed to act again. The mind forms habits of thinking. Then, how
careful you should be to direct it in proper and useful channels.
[Illustration: THINKING OF THE LIFE BEYOND.]
Some people have found it difficult to prevent their thoughts from
wandering while they were reading the Bible or in secret prayer. The
wonderful works of God hardly awaken any admiration within them; they
can not elevate the soul into a profound awe before his awful presence,
and there is but little conscious depths of inner reverence and devotion
to his name. There is a blessed and sure remedy for this serious
trouble. Carefully watch your meditations. Call the oftener upon God in
some silent, secret place. Select some secluded, hallowed place, where
nature is most inspiring for meditation. Isaac, the son of Abraham, went
into the field at eventide to meditate. The evening is a time well
suited to draw the soul out into deep, intimate communion with God.
The the setting of the sun is a reminder of life's setting sun. You will
be brought face to face with the fact that you must some day stand
before Him who created all things. Your meditations will become serious.
Oh, may you adore the Creator, and learn to admire his wondrous works!
Go forth in the starry evening, when Nature is most inviting, and
through her let your soul adore the Almighty, and let all within you be
awed to solemn stillness at his footfall.
Idle, careless thoughts generate a stupidity that will rob you of joy.
The sensibilities of your inner nature will become deadened, and you can
no more hear the solemn footsteps of the Lord, nor the whispers of his
voice. Meditating upon pure and holy things and seeing God in all, will
elevate the soul to a plane all radiant with light and love, and put a
meekness and modesty in your life and a sweet gentleness in every
expression that will seem to make you akin to angels.
Are you concerned about the peace of your soul? Is a happy life worth
anything to you? Do you have any desire to become more like Jesus? Do
you want to do all you can for him? Do you want to dwell in heaven with
him forever? Then let your meditation be upon him, and your soul sipping
at the fountain of Heaven's love as the flower drinks up the dew. I can
not be too earnest in my exhortation to you in this matter. I know how
important it is. I want to see you prosper and your soul increase in
God; therefore I exhort you to meditate upon his law day and night.
Down beside the rippling river
'Neath-the weeping willow-tree,
Viewing nature sweet and lovely,
Wond'ring what must heaven be.
List'ning to the merry songsters
In the near-by leafy world;
Such sweet music seems to bear me
Nearer to the gates of gold.
Breezes murm'ring through the branches,
Waters rippling o'er the stone,
What, oh, what must be the anthem
Ringing round the great white throne?
Songs of birds and streamlet rippling,
Meadow, flowers, and leafy tree,
Make of earth a land of beauty--
What indeed must heaven be?
If you love scenes of great grandeur,
And to hear sweet music ring,
Come, oh! come with me to heaven,
To the land where Christ is king.
A theater is a place where plays are performed before spectators. People
go to such a place to witness the acts of men. The apostle Paul says,
"We are made a spectacle unto the world." 1 Cor. 4:9. In the margin it
reads "theater" instead of "spectacle." In Conybeare and Howson's
translation this text reads thus: "To be gazed at in a theater by the
world." You as a Christian are here in this world on exhibition for God.
He is the character you are to represent in life's great play. You must
live in such a way as to do justice to his name. This world is looking
on. God has written the entire play in his book. You have a life-time
to play it in. If you will live in humble obedience to all the Word of
God, you will act your part well and faithfully represent his true
REST OF THE SOUL.
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Mat. 11:28,29.
Wonderful words of love and hope! Never did a sweeter nor richer
invitation than this reach mortal ears. A whole world of humankind
groaning under a burden, tossing in unrest, laboring under pain, sighing
with sorrow, roaming in discontent, filled with fear, sinking in
despair. But One appears upon the scene and says, "Come unto me, and I
will give you rest." Oh, may the humble followers of the lowly Nazarene
echo and reecho this invitation of love among the haunts of men as long
as time shall last! Amid a world of sin and trouble, a soul at rest; how
You remember the day you came to him. Your sins with all the burden of
guilt were taken away and you found rest. Later you dedicated yourself
fully and forever to the Lord and entered into the fulness of his rest.
Canaan's fair land is the soul's sweet home of rest. What heaven will be
we can not know now. Doubtless scenes and experiences will arise of such
a nature as to greatly enhance the felicity of our hearts; but the
revelation of heaven upon a sanctified soul and
"The enjoyment of heavenly bliss
E'en in a world like this"
can never be told. Storms will arise and threaten you; but if the cable
of faith remains unbroken and the anchor of hope unshaken, your little
bark can sail on sweetly at rest. Doubts are very destructive to
soul-rest; therefore they must be dispelled at their first approach. By
faith your soul can be kept in the precious realization of heavenly
enjoyments; you can have sweet walks with God and tastes of his love all
along your journey of life. By living in the vale of humble submission
to God, fully and freely yielded to his control, upon your soul the
sweets of heaven's graces will be distilled like the gentle siftings of
the evening dew upon the flower, transporting you to wondrous felicity
in God all along your pilgrim way.
Behold the fowls of the air:
They sow not, neither do they reap;
Yet kings have not more healthful fare,
Nor rest in calmer, sweeter sleep.
They have no barns nor hoarded grain,
Yet all day long a soft, sweet strain
They warble forth from forest tree;
Ever happy and ever free,
Teaching a lesson dear to me.
So free from care, O sylvan band;
Fed by a heavenly Father's hand.
Your freedom, O ye fowls of heaven,
New courage to my soul hath given;
I no more can doubt or sorrow:
God will care for me to-morrow.
Behold the lilies how they grow:
They toil not neither do they spin;
Yet kings in all their pomp and show
Are not arrayed like one of them;
Smiling and free in breezes sway,
Yet clothed by heavenly hand are they.
Meek lilies of the quiet fields,
Your growth instruction to me yields.
The One who clothes the lily fair
And gives it tender, earnest care--
Will he not hear my fervent prayer?
The One who notes the sparrow's fall--
Does he not love his creatures all?
If he so clothes each tuft and tree
And gives the birds such liberty,
Will he not clothe and care for me?
I no more can doubt or sorrow:
God will care for me to-morrow.
A merry heart is a continual feast.
It is the will of God that you be always happy.
If you are not contented with such things as you have, you would not be
contented had you ever so much.
Those who are always contented and happy are a most gracious
contribution from God to a discontented world.
This sin-darkened world is dotted here and there by beautiful Christian
lives, which are to the world's weary wastes what the oasis is to the
The Christian has the blessed privilege of proving to a covetous,
discontented world that man can by the grace of God he contented under
the most adverse circumstances.
Oftentimes people conclude that they would be happy if their surrounding
circumstances were different. True happiness consists not so much in the
environments, as in the dispositions of the heart.
After a day of labor, what a pleasure it is to meet at home the warmth
of hearts we love! After a life of toil, what will be the pleasure of
meeting all the loved in heaven?
I am told that the language of the Algonquin Indians of North America
contained no word from which to translate the word _love_. When the
English missionaries translated the Bible into that language they were
obliged to coin a word for love. What must be a language without love?
and what must be the heart!
The Christian out upon life's sea can, by faith, hope, and love, weather
the wildest storm that ever the winds of adversity blew. Hope is the
anchor fastened to the eternal word of God; faith is the cable attached
to the anchor hope.
My pathway of life is now paved with peace,
The flowers e'er bloom bright and gay;
A halo of light is shed around me
As I walk the beautiful way.]
HAPPINESS OF LIFE.
Down, down in the depths of infinite love,
Filled with all the fulness of God,
Joy's cup ev'ry moment filled from above,
As adown life's pathway I trod.
No sin sways its scepter over my soul,
God's righteousness fills ev'ry part,
His fulness of glory keeping the whole,
And I love him with all my heart.
Sing not to me of the pleasures of earth,
I have found a much happier way;
The joys of the Lord, of far greater worth,
Are filling my life ev'ry day.
Sorrow and sighing have flown away,
From trouble and care I am free,
The peace of God over my heart holds sway;
I am as happy as I can be.
You are tempted, you say, and sorely tried;
Of that I have nothing to say,
The victory is mine whate'er may betide;
I'm happy each hour of the day.
My pathway of life is now paved with peace,
The flow'rs ever bloom bright and gay;
A halo of light is shed around me
As I walk the beautiful way.
THE HIDDEN LIFE.
You have experienced a resurrection. You once were dead in sin; now you
are alive unto God. You have been translated from the kingdom of
darkness into the kingdom of light. You are a new creation; you have a
new life. Though you have existence in this world, yet the world does
not discover your true life. With Christ it is hid in God. The world
knows nothing of you except as they see you in the life you live in the
flesh. You have a higher life to which they are as insensible as the
inanimate stone is to the life of the bird. You are one of God's "hidden
ones," and a stranger on the earth, because you are unknown. You are not
found in the halls of worldly pleasure, but instead are to be found by
the bedside of the sick, reading the Bible, praying, or speaking words
of cheer and comfort, and the world wonders how you can enjoy yourself
in such a way. You have a joy that is unknown to them, because you have
a life that is hidden from them. That life of yours which is hid with
Christ in God finds no enjoyment in the pleasures of the world.
When adversity comes the world does not understand how it is that you
can rejoice; and when circumstances are very unfavorable, how you can be
happy is a mystery to them. It is because you do not live in the things
of the world, but in a much higher realm. If your life is hid with
Christ in God, your heart's longings will be for the things above; all
your affections will be on things above. Those who live upon earth are
seeking the things of earth; but those who live above in God seek the
things which are above. Nothing of earth has any charms for them. Christ
has won their hearts. They love him intensely. They live in him. They
are sojourning here upon earth for a time, but their hearts are with
Christ in heaven. Their home, their love, their treasures, their hopes,
their thoughts, their life,--all are there, and they are seeking with
eagerness for more of that sweet, precious life which is from above.
They walk here almost like one in a dream, as concerning this world;
they know but little of earth, but much of heaven.
This earth is not my home,
I live above,
Where peace and joys abound--
Sweet land of love.
My life is hid in God
With Christ the Son,
Though here on earth I am
By earth unknown.
I dwell in worlds above,
By thought and prayer--
Oh, blest eternal home!
My heart is there.
CONSCIOUSNESS OF GOD'S PRESENCE.
Happy and blessed is the soul that is conscious of God's sweet
indwelling presence. Being conscious of God's presence is what the
Psalmist meant when he said, "O taste and see that the Lord is good."
"Tasting God" is an expression incomprehensible to the unregenerate.
Those who have tasted him comprehend the meaning of this expression
better than they can tell it. When a bit of sugar is placed upon the
tongue there is experienced a sweetness in the sense of taste. When the
soul tastes of God there is experienced a sweetness in the spiritual
being. The sweetness of God's presence in the soul is as much more
glorious than the sweetness of sugar to the taste as spiritual and
heavenly things are above literal and earthly things. God and his word
are inseparable, or the word is God; therefore when the Psalmist says,
"How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my
mouth," it is in reality tasting the sweetness of God.
The awakened soul thirsts for this sweetness of the divine presence.
Nothing else can satisfy it. The wealth and pleasure of the world do not
contain a sweetness sufficient to satisfy the heart of man. It is only
God that can fill the hungry soul with goodness. The divine life sheds
peace and light and rest in the soul. Man receives the divine presence
into his spiritual being when he is quickened by the Spirit. In the Word
of God it is termed "passing from death unto life," and "being born
again." In sanctification when a revolution is effected in the nature of
man and he becomes a partaker of the divine nature, it is then he is
conscious of the fulness of the divine presence and is at rest. Glory be
To possess the divine presence in its fulness is not the end of the
Christian race. There are certain conditions for man to meet in order to
possess this glorious inheritance, and there are certain conditions for
him to meet in order to retain it. Not only is man able, in the economy
of grace, to retain the sweet consciousness of the divine presence in
the soul, but in his hands are placed instruments that enable him to
cultivate and deepen this consciousness and thus add glory to glory and
cause his way to shine more and more unto the perfect day. Oh, how many
Christians would enjoy more of heaven's glory in their souls, if by
careful cultivation they would increase the sense of the divine
presence! Dear pilgrim, have you reached the land of "eternal weights of
glory" or the regions where "joy is unspeakable"?
To cultivate or deepen the sense of the divine presence requires an
almost constant effort. Right at this point is where perhaps more
Christians have failed to do what was required of them than at any
other; and consequently experience less joy and power than formerly.
There are many things employed by Satan to weaken this consciousness of
God. Looseness of thought, moments of idleness, or yieldings to self,
serve to weaken the reverential feeling in our hearts toward him. A
little attention to the world, a little thought for the morrow, a little
anxiety, a little too much talking,--these things destroy the
consciousness of the divine presence in the soul, and rob us of
spiritual power and rest. Living before God in prayer, holy and pure
thoughts, the entertaining of right feelings toward God and man, acts of
benevolence and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, develop and
fashion the soul more and more into the beauty of the divine life.
It is the privilege of the saint so to walk in the presence of God and
live in holy communion with him as to draw God's glory and life into his
own, and give him a feature very distinguishing for ordinary natural
man. If we wish to be like Jesus and enjoy the sweet consciousness of
his presence, we must live with him in prayer. As we improve the health
and strength of our physical being by proper food and exercise, so we
improve the strength and beauty of our spiritual being by proper
meditation and prayer.
How often when walking down the country lane in the twilight of a
summer's evening you have looked upon the round, full moon and
exclaimed, "What a tender, beautiful light! how soft and mellow is the
glow!" But you must remember the light is not its own. Of itself it is a
cold, dark body. The great luminary that so recently sank behind the
western hills is the real light. It pours its brilliant rays upon the
moon and the moon reflects the sun's light upon your pathway. The moon,
therefore, is only a reflector. You stand before a mirror and behold
your face and form imaged in the glass. The glass acts as a reflector,
reproducing the objects that are placed before it and shine upon it. The
unregenerate heart is dark and reflects no light; but God can take it
and cleanse, purge, and polish it, and make it capable of reflecting the
virtues of heaven's grace.
1 Cor. 13:12 is rendered thus by Conybeare and Howson: "So now we see
darkly, by a mirror; but then face to face." While here in this life we
can not see the real and true glories of the eternal world; but we can
see some of its beauties and glories mirrored in the face of nature and
the Bible. The starry worlds above us, the verdant hills, the swaying
forests, the waving grain, the fleeting cloud, the blooming flower,
dimly shadow forth the glory that awaits our expectant souls in that
bright world where angels dwell.
The Greek text of 2 Cor. 3:18 is beautifully rendered in these words by
the above mentioned translators: "With face unveiled we behold in a
mirror the brightness of our Lord's glory, are ourselves transformed
into the same likeness; and the glory which shines upon us is reflected
by us, even as it proceeds from the Lord, the Spirit." These words are
full of grandeur to my soul. Their wondrous beauty and sublimity can not
fail to awaken admiration in every Spirit-quickened and purity-loving
heart. You will see, Christian reader, the position you occupy as a
follower of the Lamb of God. You are a reflector; you have no light of
yourself. God shines his glory upon you and you reflect it to the world,
and thus you become the light of the world. In one translation
"character" is used instead of "glory." God's character is shined into
your soul, and you are to reflect it to the world.
There is another clause in the above quotation too full of riches and
too well adapted to this work to pass by unnoticed. It is this: "We
behold in a mirror the brightness of our Lord's glory, are ourselves
transformed into the same likeness." We do not grow into salvation,
neither do we grow into sanctification; but after we receive this
glorious experience there is still a continual transforming into a more
perfect likeness of Christ. While in the Museum of Art in one of our
large cities last spring I saw an artist reproducing on canvas a
painting which hung upon the wall. I looked upon the painting on the
wall and upon the reproduction before the artist. So far as I could see
the reproduction was in exact imitation of the original; but the eye of
the artist could see farther than mine. He kept on applying the brush,
giving a slight touch here and a slight touch there, and soon I
discovered that the features stood out in more perfect imitation. So let
us stand before the original and let the Holy Spirit work in us that
which is pleasing to God, and we shall be continually transformed into a
more perfect likeness of God. This must be your daily life. Attend
strictly to every Christian duty, be obedient to the Word and Spirit of
God, and you will become more and more like him and your soul will be
rich in grace.
One translation has rendered Phil. 1:27 in these beautiful words: "Let
your manner of life be becoming the gospel of Christ." We speak of
anything being becoming when it gives a good appearance. An article of
clothing becomes you when it gives you a better or less awkward
appearance. So your life is to be becoming to the gospel of Christ. You
are to live so that your life will make the gospel of Christ more
beautiful to the hearts of men. You can do this only by living just as
the Bible reads. All the precious truths of the Bible are to read in
your life just as they do in the Bible, and thus your life will give a
better appearance to God's Word and make it more real and interesting to
LOVE OF HOME.
[Illustration: A HAPPY HOME.]
There are but few sweeter words in the English language than the word
_home_. I have thought the three sweetest words are _mother, home_, and
_heaven_. Home is the dearest place in all the world to the Christian
heart. To have a fond love for home is not at all injurious to Christian
character. Those who have but little love for home will never succeed
well in the Christian life. It may sometimes occur that some of the home
members are so disagreeable that the Christian for peace' sake will quit
the home roof; but he still loves home. Sometimes young people think
that to enjoy life they must get out from under parental rule and roof.
We have an instance of this nature recorded in the Bible. How soon we
learn of the prodigal's longing for the comforts of home. How often he
thought of his father's house, that place so dear to him now. The love
of home is a high mark of integrity. Show me one who has no love for
home, and I will show you one who has but little true manhood or
womanhood. The Bible command to young Christians is to be "chaste,
keepers at home." When our duty and service to God demand our absence
from home we submit and go in the strength of his grace, but lose not
our love for home, and return in joy at Father's will.
You can nowhere find more of heaven upon earth than in a Christian home.
Look at the picture: A father with the Holy Bible, the mother and
children listening in reverence to the heavenly message. Where, I say,
can you find more of heaven? Such a scene is most sweet and sacred.
Methinks the angels bend low to catch the chants of praise that arise
from those devoted hearts to the gates of heaven. "Such a picture," you
may say, "is very beautiful and inspiring to look upon, but where is the
reality?" Thank God, such a home can be real in life, and it is your
duty as a Christian to help make it so. God is pleased with such a home.
It is much to his praise. Since such homes are so rare they are all the
more glorifying to God, and we should strive the more earnestly to have
In your home is the place to shine for God. It is the place to shed
forth the radiant beams of Christian light from your grace-ladened soul.
If you hope to prosper in the divine life, be your best at home. Do not
think you can be careless at home and then shine in the splendor of
Christian virtue when before the public. Your life at home leaves its
mark upon you. Shine in Christian beauty at home, and you will shine in
beauty in public; but attempt away from home to be more than you are at
home, and you will miserably fail. A few years ago while in one of our
large Eastern cities laboring for Jesus and souls for whom he died I
wrote a few lines to the dear ones at home, which perhaps will not be
out of place to insert here.
When the light of day is dying
And the shades of night steal on,
Voices to my mem'ry whisper
Of the dear loved ones at home.
Ere the chandelier is lighted,
Ere the day's last ray is gone,
O'er me comes a fond remembrance
Of the dear loved ones at home.
Far above in arch of heaven
Lamps are lighted one by one,
But I only see the bright eyes
Of the dear loved ones at home.
Far away beyond the region
Where I see those shining stars,
Somewhere in the land of angels,
Dwells a little boy of ours.
Years ago one wintry evening
Heaven's gate was opened wide,
And an angel swift descended,
With a sickle at his side.
Paused he at our boy's low trundle
In the evening twilight hour,
Caught away his happy spirit
To its home beyond the stars.
How my heart adores the Giver
Of all good o'er land and sea,
But I praise him more than ever
For the dear ones left to me.
As I think of her he gave me
In my happy youthful time,
How he bound our hearts together
At love's pure and sacred shrine;
As I think of her this moment,
Given me by love divine,
Seems I almost feel the pressure
Of her gentle hand in mine.
In the arms of night I'm folded,
Soon in dreamland I shall roam;
Then I'll go and see the dear ones--
See the dear loved ones at home.
When you are forgotten or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you
smile inwardly, glorying in the insult or the oversight, because thereby
counted worthy to suffer with Christ--that is victory.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your
taste offended, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and
you take it all in patient, loving silence--that is victory.
When you are content with any food, any raiment, any climate, any
society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God--that is
When you can lovingly and patiently bear with any disorder, any
irregularity, any unpunctuality, or any annoyance--that is victory.
When you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance,
spiritual insensibility, and endure it all as Jesus endured it--that is
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record
your own good works, or to itch after commendation, when you can truly
love to be unknown--that is victory.
When, like Paul, you can throw all your suffering on Jesus, thus
converting it into a means of knowing his overcoming grace, and can say
from a surrendered heart, "Most gladly," therefore, do "I take pleasure
in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in
distresses, for Christ's sake"--that is victory. 2 Cor. 12:7-11.
When death and life are both alike to you through Christ, and to do his
perfect will, you delight not more in one than the other--that is
victory, for, through him, you may become able to say, "Christ shall be
magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." Phil. 1:20.
"Death is swallowed up in victory." 1 Cor. 15:54.
The perfect victory is to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" and thus to
triumph over one's self. Rom. 13:14.
"In all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
THE FIRST LOVE.
You may wonder why we write so much about love. It is for the very best
reason in the world. Nothing is so great as love, and no way so
excellent. It is difficult to bind people together where love is
lacking. A religious people may resolve to live in peace and confidence
with one another; but this they will find to be very difficult if there
is a deficiency of love. Love solves the problem; it removes every
difficulty, and is the perfect bond of union. Nothing can separate
hearts that are full of love. Love must be suppressed before division
can be admitted. The most earnest exhortations and entreaties and the
strongest reprovings fail to get men to attend to every Christian duty
where love is wanting; but it is not difficult to persuade men to obey
God and do all they can to glorify him when they love him with all their
There was much in the life of the angel of the church at Ephesus that
was praiseworthy; but something was lacking. He had left his first love.
But, what is the first love? There is no difference between first love
and last love if it be love. Pure, genuine love is the same
always--first, last, and all the time. The overseers of this church,
and doubtless the church in general, had lost the ardor of the love
which they had at the first. Oh, the warmth, the sweetness, of first
love! Do you not remember it, dear reader? When you were so clearly and
wonderfully born of the Spirit of God, how ardent was the love in your
heart! It thrilled you with delight. There was a delicious, sweet taste
all through your soul. How gladly you would have taken wings and have
flown away to the arms of Him whom your heart loved. The word of God was
to your soul like honeyed dew upon your lips. How delightful it was to
labor for Jesus! How preciously sweet to make the greatest sacrifices
for his sake! and to go away into some secret place and pray was dearer
to you than can ever be told. You found the greatest pleasure in
attending to every Christian duty. I should be glad if I could describe
to you just what that first love was in your heart. I can not do this,
neither can you; but you know how it felt, and how joyful was your soul.
Oh, blessed happy day, when your sins were washed away, and love sang
its sweetest lay within your soul!
Now, if you do not have the same ardor; the same warmth; the same sweet
relish for prayer, for the word of God, for a meeting; the same
thrilling sense of sweetness in your soul; that same precious drawing
toward God and toward the brethren; that same delight in laboring for
Jesus; that same joy and happiness in making sacrifices for him and for
your fellow man: if you do not feel those symptoms of love as deeply and
as delightfully, and if they are not in you as actively as they were at
the first,--you are like the church at Ephesus--you have left your first
love. In Wilson's excellent translation this text reads, "Thou hast
relaxed thy first love." They had lost the intensity of their first
love. It had relaxed, or lost tension, and had become languid. It does
not matter to what you testify, or who you are, if you have not the same
ardor and deep intensity of love that you had at the first, you have
Do not deceive yourself. Do not make any excuses. There is no necessity
of losing this fervency of love. The leaping, thrilling, bounding love
can be kept in the full blaze of its intensity in your soul as long as
you live. I can never encourage a cessation of love. No matter what the
circumstances, we can increase and abound more and more in love. You
may have works, you may have labor, you may have patience; so did the
church at Ephesus; but they had relaxed their first love.
See to it, O beloved, that you do not lose the deep fervency of love.
Keep it burning in all its brightness and warmth; and the works and
labor and patience are sure to follow. But do not let your works, and
labor, and patience deceive you. See that there is an underlying
principle of love in all you do. If your works and labor and patience be
devoid of love, there will be a secret desire in your heart to attract
attention, and a longing for a bit of praise. But if all is done in
purest sincere godly love, the joy you will find in doing is a full and
sufficient reward. And, may the Lord give you understanding.
THE LITTLE FOXES.
One little fox is, "_Some other time_." If you track him up, you come to
Another little fox is, "_I can't."_ Just set on him a plucky little "_I
can_," and he will kill him for you.
Another bad little fox is, "_Just a little_" pride, self-will, worldly
conformity, etc. That little mischief will strip the whole vine if left
Another malignant little fox is "_I haven't faith."_ He slips into the
vineyard through a knot-hole called _self_. You can shut him out by
removing the self-plank and filling up with Jesus only.
Another bad little fox is, "_I haven't power."_ Be sure and catch him.
If you will take the pains to dig him up, you will find his nest some
where beyond the end of your present consecration. It will pay you to
take him, if you have to "dig deep" and work hard.
Another devouring little fox is, "_My church_." "Salt" and "fire" is the
sure and only antidote for such nasty vermin.
We will point out one more little fox, and he is able to devour all the
fruit of the vineyard and kill the very vines. His species is "_Fear_."
One good dose of "perfect love" will kill him stone-dead. And a constant
application of the blood of Christ will prevent this, with all other
little or big foxes, yea, and all other animals, ever coming to life
A want of interest in the duties of secret devotion is a mark of
religious declension. It is well said that prayer is the Christian's
vital breath. A devout spirit is truly the life and soul of godliness.
The soul can not but delight in communion with what it loves with warm
affection. The disciple, when his graces are in exercise, does not enter
into his closet and shut the door, that he may pray to his Father who is
in secret, merely because it is a duty which must be done, but because
it is a service which he delights to render, a pleasure which he is
unwilling to forego. He goes to the mercy-seat as the thirsty hart goes
to the refreshing brook. The springs of his strength are there. There he
has blessed glimpses of his Savior's face, and unnumbered proofs of his
But sometimes the professing Christian comes to regard the place of
secret intercourse with God with very different feelings. He loses,
perhaps by a process so gradual that he is scarcely conscious of it for
a time, the tenderness of heart, and the elevation and fervor of devout
affection that he had been used to feel in meeting God. There is less
and less of spirit and more and more of form in his religious exercises.
He retires at the accustomed time rather from force of habit than
because inclination draws him. He is enclined to curtail his seasons of
retirement or to neglect it altogether if a plausible pretext can be
found. He reproaches himself, perhaps, but hopes that the evil will cure
itself at length. And so he goes on from day to day, and week to week.
Prayer--if his heartless service deserves the name--affords him no
pleasure and adds nothing to his strength. Where such a state of things
exists it is evident that the pulses of spiritual life are ebbing fast.
If the case is yours, dear reader, it ought to fill you with alarm.
Satan is gaining an advantage of you and seducing you from God.
A second sign of spiritual declension is indifference to the usual means
of grace. The spiritual life, not less than the natural life, requires
appropriate and continual nourishment. For this want God has made ample
provision in his Word. To the faithful-disciple the Scriptures are rich
in interest and profit. "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all
the day." To such a soul the preaching of the gospel is a joyful sound;
and the place where kindred spirits mingle in social praise and worship
is far more attractive than the scenes of worldly pleasure. But, alas!
from time to time it happens that some who bear the Christian name and
who have rejoiced in Christian hopes, insensibly lose their relish for
the Scriptures. If they continue to read them daily, it is no longer
with such appreciation of their power and beauty as makes them the bread
of life, refreshing and invigorating the soul. Their minds are occupied
no small portion of the time with thoughts of earthly things. They find
it easy to excuse themselves from frequenting the place of social
prayer, and even content themselves, perhaps, with an occasional
half-day attendance on the more public service of the sanctuary. And
when they are in the place of worship they feel listless, destitute of
spiritual affection, disposed to notice others or to attend to only mere
words and forms. They want, in a great measure, that preparation of the
heart, without which the means of grace are powerless and lacking in
pleasure or profit to the soul. Such indifference is conclusive proof
that the soul has departed from God; has grieved the Holy Spirit and
lost the vital power of godliness. If you, reader, are conscious of this
indifference, see in it an infallible sign of your backsliding. It
declares you have departed from the fountain of living waters and are a
wanderer from your God.
A third indication of declension in the Christian life is a devotion to
the world. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the
world." Covetousness is idolatry. Christians are solemnly enjoined to
set their affections on things above, and to lay up treasures in heaven.
But look at yonder professed disciple. See how inordinately anxious he
is about gain. He is giving all his thoughts and time to business. He
enlarges his plans and extends his views. He suffers the hours of
worldly business to encroach upon the time which should be spent in
secret or in family worship or in the social prayer. He forgets that he
has no right to do this, and that he can not, without sin, permit the
claims of earth to crowd out the claims of God and his own immortal
nature. Look, too, at his compliance with the tastes and maxims of
worldly people. He appears to feel it is not best to be strict in his
adhesion to his principles. He doubts if there is any harm in this or
that or the other worldly indulgence. He does not see the need of being
so strenuous about little things. He is anxious to please everybody and
can not bear to thwart the wishes of the worldly-minded. If the world
dislikes any of the doctrines or the duties of religion he would have
little said about them. In a word, he is all things to all men, in a
very different sense from what Paul meant. In his sentiments, his
associations, his pleasures, his mode of doing business, his
conversation, his whole character, there is far too little that evinces
strength of holy principle and godliness. O reader, has your case been
described? You are then a backslider from the God whom you covenanted to
A fourth sign of a state of declension in spirituality is an
unwillingness to receive Christian counsel or reproof. The Spirit of
Christ is a tender, gentle, docile Spirit. When the heart of the
disciple is full of holy affection he feels that he is frail and
insufficient. He seeks wisdom and strength from above and is thankful
for the kind suggestions of those whose experience and opportunities
have been greater than his own. If he errs and is admonished by some
faithful Christian brother, he receives it meekly and with a thankful
spirit. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness," is the
language of his heart. Even though reproof in itself be painful, he
would not that it should be omitted when he has been in fault, for he
dreads nothing so much as doing wrong--as sinning against God and his
But the spirit that departs from God and duty is a self-willed spirit.
It is impatient of restraint. It is irritable and captious instead of
meek and willing to be taught. It can not brook any crossing of its
views, but esteems advice impertinent and meets admonition with
resentment. When he exhibits such a temper of mind; when he disregards
the opinions and feelings of fellow Christians; when he affects
independence and prides himself on doing as he pleases; when he keeps
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