Saturday, 28 March 2015

Running to and fro like ants upon a heap!

Running to and fro like ants upon a heap!
(J.C. Ryle, "Riches and Poverty" 1878)

"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;" Luke 16:22

Observe how all classes alike come to the grave. Lazarus died--and the rich man also died. As different and divided as they were in their lives--they had both to drink of the same cup at the last. Both went to the 'house appointed for all living'. Both went to that place where rich and poor meet together. Dust they were--and unto dust they returned.

This is the lot of all men. After all our scheming, and contriving, and planning, and studying--after all our inventions, and discoveries, and scientific attainments--there remains one 'enemy' we cannot conquer and disarm--and that is Death! 

The chapter in Genesis, which records the long lives of Methuselah, and the rest who lived before the flood, winds up the simple story of each, by two expressive words, "He died." And now, after thousands of years, what more can be said of the greatest among ourselves? The histories of Washington, and Napoleon, and Shakespeare arrive at the same humbling conclusion. The end of each, after all his greatness, is just this, "He died."

Death is a mighty leveller! He spares none, he waits for none! He will not tarry until you are ready. He will not be kept out by doors, and bars, and bolts. The Englishman boasts that his home is his castle--but, with all his boasting, he cannot exclude death. An Austrian nobleman forbade death to be named in his presence. But named or not named, it matters little--in God's appointed hour, death will come!

One man rolls lazily along the road in the smoothest and handsomest carriage which money can procure; another toils wearily along the path on foot--yet both are sure to meet at last in the same long home!

One man, like Absalom, has fifty servants to wait upon him and do his bidding; another has none to lift a finger to do him a service--but both are travelling to a place where they must lie down alone!

One man is the owner of millions; another has scarcely a dollar that he can call his own property--yet neither one nor the other can carry one penny with him into the unseen world.

One man is the possessor of half a county; another has not so much as an inch of land--and yet 'six feet' of dirt will be amply sufficient for either of them at the last!

One man pampers his body with every possible delicacy, and clothes it in the richest and softest apparel; another has scarcely enough to eat, and seldom enough to put on--yet both alike are hurrying on to a day when "ashes to ashes, and dust to dust," shall be proclaimed over them! 

Fifty years hence, none shall be able to say, "This was the rich man's bone--and this the bone of the poor man."

Reader, I know that these are ancient things. I do not deny it for a moment. I am writing stale old things that all men know--but I am also writing things that all men do not feel. Oh, no! if they did feel them, they would not speak and live as they do.

We see 'death' gradually thinning our congregations; we miss face after face in our assemblies; we know not whose turn may come next! We only know as the tree falls--there it will lie, and that "after death comes the judgement!"

Oh, that men would learn to live--as those who must one day die! Truly it is poor work to set our affections on a dying world and its short-lived comforts--and lose a glorious immortality! Here we are toiling, and labouring, and wearying ourselves about trifles, and running to and fro like ants upon a heap--and yet after a few years we shall all be gone, and another generation will fill our place!

Live for eternity, reader! Seek a portion which can never be taken from you!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Everything short of Hell--is a mercy!

Everything short of Hell--is a mercy!
(James Smith, "Profitable Portions For the Lord's Day" 1865)

"Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5 
The humble man may have anything from God. Who are the humble? Those who have a proper sense of their guilt, emptiness, and utter nothingness before God. Divine teaching has . . .
  brought them into the dust,
  stopped their boasting,
  cropped their pride, and
  softened their stony hearts.
Pride is one of the most mischievous things in creation! It appears to have been the cause of the fall of angels, and it certainly was the cause of the fall of our first parents. Pride does more evil in the world, in the church, and in the domestic circle--than anything else; while humility is one of the most beautiful, beneficial, and pleasing of the graces. Humility pleases God, approves itself to man, and prevents a world of mischief and misery!
"The humble" have low views of themselves. They see so many sad defects on the one hand, and so many glaring inconsistencies on the other--that they are obliged to lay low before God in shame and self-abhorrence. With Job, they cry, "Behold, I am vile!" Or, with Agur, "So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a beast before You!"
"The humble" know that . . .
  their every grace is imperfect,
  their every service is polluted and defiled, and
  even their very prayers need to be cleansed in the blood of Jesus.
"The humble" have a vivid and abiding sense of their deserts. They know that if God were to deal with them in pure justice--they must be sent to Hell. They deserve nothing better. Everything short of Hell--is a mercy! They realize this, and it humbles them, it makes them willing to take the lowest place. They feel that all the difference between them and the most depraved person on earth--is to be traced to the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of God. "By the grace of God--I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
They have a humility of disposition, so that they do not complain of the Lord. He tries them. He strips them. He weans them from the world. He . . .
  baffles their schemes,
  frustrates their designs, and
  often cuts off their hopes!
But they justify Him, and say, "It is the Lord! Let Him do what seems good unto Him!"
"The humble" do not cavil at God's Word. They receive the doctrines, promises, and precepts of the Word, just as God has revealed them.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

What an amazing stoop of love is that!

What an amazing stoop of love is that!
(Arthur Pink, 1952)

"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory" 1 Samuel 2:8

What an amazing stoop of love is that--from His throne in the Heaven of heavens, the Lord reaches down to the dunghills of earth--that He may deliver those who are in a lost and loathsome estate!
But this verse tells us of something yet more wonderful than the grace which seeks out filthy objects who are a mass of corruption--making known how high it elevates them: "To set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory."

God does nothing by halves. He exalts beggars to the status of "beloved children." He takes them into the place of nearness unto Himself. He brings them into union with His dear Son, making them "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ!" (Romans 8:17). He takes them out of the miry clay of an unregenerate state--and sets them upon the rock. Marvellous transition and exaltation is that!

Translated from the most abject condition--to the highest possible dignity!

Shame is replaced by the highest honour;

filthy rags are replaced by the spotless robe of righteousness,

poverty is replaced by the unsearchable riches of Christ!

We rightly marvel at the goodness and power of God in raising poor beggars from such depths to such heights--but let us also be awed and solemnized by recalling afresh the dreadful price which had to be paid before that could righteously be done. The abasement of the Son of God was necessary--in order to the advancement of vile worms of the earth. He who was rich had to sound the lowest level of poverty--before we could be made rich. The Beloved of the Father had to be made an object of shame--before we could be raised. The Lord of glory must die--in order for Hell-deserving sinners to be made alive!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Why does God afflict us?

Why does God afflict us? 
(Ashton Oxenden, "The Blessings and Trials of Sickness" 1863)

"Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;" Job 5:6

"Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." Deuteronomy 8:5

"I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Revelation 3:19
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Hebrews 12:6

"I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it." Psalm 39:9 

 Dear Reader, I have come into your sick-room, as it were, and wish to tell you a few things for your comfort and profit.

God has seen fit to stop you in the midst of your busy life, and to lay you aside for a while. It is not by chance that His afflicting hand has fallen upon you. It is not at random that He has chastened you. It may seem to be a mere accident that you are afflicted, and not another. But no; God has done it purposely! 

Learn this then--that your present sickness or affliction is from God. It is His doing. He it is, who has brought this present chastisement upon you. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father's ordering, and He prizes His redeemed children more than many sparrows.

Sickness usually comes as a messenger of divine love--it is sent to be a blessing, and may be made, by God's grace, a very great blessing to the soul. God afflicts His children because He desires to do them some great good. 

The gardener cuts and prunes his tree, to make it grow better, and bear more precious fruit. In the same way, God often uses His sharp knife for some gracious purpose. 

The wise and loving father thwarts his child, and sometimes scourges it, for its good. Just so, God uses His chastening rod for the very same reason. 

The skilful physician prescribes nauseous medicines to restore his patient's health. In the same way, God makes us take His bitter medicines, though at the time they are very distasteful to us.

Why does God afflict us? 

Because He loves us, and wishes to make us holy as He is holy, and happy as He is happy. For, as it has been well said, "Fiery trials make golden Christians!" God had one Son without sin--but He never had any son without sorrow.

God chastens purposely and lovingly. Affliction comes from Him; and He afflicts, not as a stern Judge, but as a Father and a Friend.

Before then you go a step further, ask God to convince you of this precious truth: "It is my Father who corrects me--even He who loves me! I will receive this chastisement then from Him, and remember that it is a loving hand that smites. I will kiss the very rod that scourges me. Father, not my will, but may Your will be done!"

A true Christian will receive affliction with submission. It is his Father's doing; and therefore he quietly submits. It comes from Him, and must therefore be well. He feels that there is a needs-be for it. What a sweet pillow is this, on which to rest his weary head!

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Sunday, 1 March 2015

You have lately been in the furnace!

You have lately been in the furnace!
(Letters of John Newton)

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Dear friend,
You have lately been in the furnace — and are now brought safely out. I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross. Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times. Other trials will come — but you have found the Lord faithful to His promise, and have good encouragement to trust Him again.

I doubt not, but you will have your share of trials; but when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, it sweetens what bitter things the Lord puts into our cup, and enables us to say, "None of these things move me!"

Yes, the life of faith is a happy life, and
if attended with conflicts — there is an assurance of victory;
if we sometimes get a wound — there is healing balm near at hand;
if we seem to fall — we are raised again; and
if tribulations abound — consolations shall abound likewise.

Is it not happiness — to have an infallible Guide, an invincible Guard, an almighty Friend! to be able to say of the Maker of heaven and earth, "He is my Beloved, my Shepherd, my Saviour, and my Husband!"

Oh the peace that flows from believing . . .
that all events in which we are concerned, are under His immediate disposal;
that the hairs of our head are all numbered;
that He delights in our prosperity;
that there is a need-be, if we are in heaviness, and
that all things shall surely work for our good!

How happy to have such views of God's sovereignty, wisdom, love, and faithfulness — as will enable us to meet every painful dispensation with submission, and to look through the changes of the present life — to that unchangeable inheritance to which the Lord is leading us, when all evil shall cease, and where joy shall be perfect and eternal! "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4