Thirsting soul, the Kingdom is near to you

Ryle

Who is there that really feels the words of our Prayer-book Confession,—“I have erred and strayed like a lost sheep,—there is no health in me,—I am a miserable offender”? Who is there that enters into the fulness of our Communion Service, and can say with truth, “The remembrance of my sins is grievous, and the burden of them is intolerable”? You are the man that ought to thank God. A sense of sin, guilt, and poverty of soul, is the first stone laid by the Holy Ghost, when He builds a spiritual temple. He convinces of sin. Light was the first thing called into being in the material creation. (Gen. 1:3.) Light about our own state is the first work in the new creation. Thirsting soul, I say again, you are the person that ought to thank God. The kingdom of God is near you. It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step towards heaven. Who taught thee that thou wast naked? Whence came this inward light? Who opened thine eyes and made thee see and feel? Know this day that flesh and blood hath not revealed these things unto thee, but our Father which is in heaven. Universities may confer degrees, and schools may impart knowledge of all mysteries, but they cannot make men feel sin. To realize our spiritual need, and feel true spiritual thirst, is the A B C in saving Christianity.

It is a great saying of Elihu, in the book of Job,—“God looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from death, and his life shall see the light.” (Job 33:27, 28.) Let him that knows anything of spiritual “thirst” not be ashamed. Rather let him lift up his head and begin to hope. Let him pray that God would carry on the work He has begun, and make him feel more.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness, 373–375.

The secret of the Christian’s power

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The ministry of prayer has been the peculiar distinction of all of God’s saints. This has been the secret of their power. The energy and the soul of their work has been the closet. The need of help outside of man being so great, man’s natural inability to always judge kindly, justly, and truly, and to act the Golden Rule, so prayer is enjoined by Christ to enable man to act in all these things according to the Divine will. By prayer, the ability is secured to feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do everything in harmony with the law of love.

God can help us. God is a Father. We need God’s good things to help us to “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.” We need Divine aid to act brotherly, wisely, and nobly, and to judge truly, and charitably. God’s help to do all these things in God’s way is secured by prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Edward M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer, 4

An ocean of glories and wonders

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[God] is an immense ocean of glories and wonders. There is nothing in God but what would be marvellous and astonishing to us, if we had our eyes divinely enlightened, and our hearts fired with divine love. Every creature has something in it that surpasses our knowledge, and commands our admiration: But what are all these in comparison of God, the all-wise and all-mighty artificer, who made them all by wisdom, and the breath of his mouth? The soul that loves God is ready to see and take notice of God in every thing: He walks through the fields, he observes the wonders of divine workmanship in every different tree on his right-hand and on his left, in the herbs and flowers that he treads with his feet, in the rich diversity of shapes and colours and ornaments of nature: He beholds and admires his God in them all. He sees the birds in their airy flight, or perched upon the branches, and sending forth their various melody: He observes the grazing flocks, and the larger cattle in their different forms and manners of life; he looks down upon little insects, and takes notice of their vigorous and busy life and motions, their shining bodies, and their golden or painted wings, he beholds and he admires his God in them all: In the least things of nature, he can read the greatness of God, and it is what of God he finds in the creature that renders creatures more delightful to him. Creatures are but his steps to help him to rise toward God.


 

Isaac Watts, The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 2, 526. | Photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Sincere love always finds new beauties in the One beloved

 

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If the soul be warmed with divine love, “the various discover that God makes of himself to us, will not only be matter of frequent contemplation, but of pleasing wonder.” Admiration or wonder is a noble passion, arising from the view of something that is new and strange, or upon the notice of some rare and uncommon object: Now when so glorious and transcendent a being as the great and blessed God, becomes the object of our notice and our love, with what pleasure do we survey his glories, which are so rare, so uncommon, that there are none to compare with them. We shall meditate on the surprizing discoveries that he has made of himself, till we find new matter of holy admiration in all of them. Sincere and fervent love is ever finding some new beauties and wonders in the person so much beloved.

Isaac Watts, The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 2, 525

 

Before all time, God is love

amber-heart

The one living and true God is revealed, not as God absolute, but as God related, or as God subsisting from the beginning with certain internal relations; in a way admitting, in some sense, of mutual action and reaction; of a certain reciprocity of loving and being loved.

So we are to conceive of God as love. He is love. And his being love is not dependent on what may be called the accident or contingency of his having creatures to be loved. It springs out of the very necessity of his nature. It is his essential manner of being. Before the existence of any creature—before all time—God is love.

And he is not love potentially only, but actually: not capable of loving, but loving. He loves and is loved. He is love itself. He is not love quiescent, but love active and in exercise. He is so from all eternity. And he is so, and can only be so, in virtue of the eternal distinction of the divine persons in the Godhead, and the eternal relations which they sustain towards one another.

More particularly, it is in respect of the eternal relation of fatherhood and sonship that God is thus, from everlasting, love. It is chiefly in virtue of that relation that God is revealed as consciously, if I may so say, and energetically, love. From everlasting the Son is in the bosom of the Father. And the infinite, ineffable complacency subsisting between the Father and the Son in the Holy Ghost, is the primary exercise of that love which God is; that love which is of the essence of his nature.

It is thus that love in God has never been, properly speaking, the love of himself, or self-love. For there have ever been in the one undivided Godhead the holy three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, mutually loving and loved. And especially in the second person, and in the real and intimate relation of fatherhood and sonship between the first person and the second, the deep disinterestedness of the divine love is proved. The Father loveth the Son. The Spirit glorifieth the Son. For it is in the Son, as the Son, that the fatherly love of God flows forth in full stream. It flows forth to create and bless the countless multitude of intelligences who are, throughout eternity, to rejoice in calling the highest Father, in and with the Son.

Robert J. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, pp. 67-69

Where the Sermon on the Mount leads

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Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained. Even Moses was too high for us; but before this higher law of Jesus who shall stand without being condemned? The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

J.Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism | Image source: Lightstock

When I die, will I be missed?

Jesus-Reaching-Out

The godly aim of our lives should be that when we die we may be missed. My soul longs for grace so to live, so to walk, so to act, that when my course is finished, I may be missed,—I may be greatly missed. It becomes every one in the body of Christ,—every member in the body of Christ, to aim after this; that when their course is finished they may be missed,—they may be missed.… Suppose this were my last night on earth, suppose I should not have to stay another day here, would my brethren and sisters in Christ miss me? How deeply important it is that we should so walk, so act, and so pass through this world, that when we are gone we may be missed. If when gone, we are not missed by the saints, it is a plain proof that we have not been strengthening their hands in God, it is a plain proof that we have not been ministering to their spiritual profit, that we have not been helping them forward in the things of God. If we take our place,—though we may not be preachers, though we may not be pastors, though we may not be holding any public position among the saints,—yet if we take our place as members in the body of Christ, and act according to the place the Lord has given us, and walk graciously according to that place, when we are gone we shall be missed,—we must be missed. After this we all have to aim. Let each one take away with us to-night this godly purpose,—that by the grace of God, from this evening and henceforth, it shall be my earnest prayer, my constant aim, so to live, so to walk, so to carry myself, that when I am gone I shall be missed.


George Müller, Jehovah Magnified, pp. 8-9 | photo credit: iStock

All who believe are family

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

If we are the children of God, if we are the heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, then all who believe in the Lord Jesus constitute one family. They may be scattered all over the world, may in ten thousand things differ as to the present life, and in ten thousand things have differed as to their manner of life before they were brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus,—may differ after their conversion as to their position in life, and in numberless ways also as to attainments in knowledge and grace; but nevertheless, as assuredly as they believe in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls do they constitute one heavenly family—they are brethren. We glorify God by living as such here. In heaven we shall be together. Throughout eternity we shall be unspeakably happy, and love one another perfectly and habitually. But we are to glorify God by manifesting this love now, while on the earth, while in weakness and exposed to conflict, while the struggle is going on; now we are to be united together, and to manifest that we are one family, the heavenly family. This is the way to bring glory to God.

George Müller, Jehovah Magnified

Why we love the Lord’s Day

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

“This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Rev. 1:10. It is his, by example. It is the day on which he rested from his amazing work of redemption. Just as God rested on the seventh day from all his works, wherefore God blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it—so the Lord Jesus rested on this day from all his agony, and pain, and humiliation. “There remaineth, therefore, the keeping of a Sabbath to the people of God.” Heb. 4:9. The Lord’s Day is his property. Just as the Lord’s Supper is the supper belonging to Christ. It is his table. He is the bread He is the wine. He invites the guests. He fills them with joy and with the Holy Ghost. So it is with the Lord’s Day. All days of the year are Christ’s, but he hath marked out one in seven as peculiarly his own. “He hath made it,” or marked it out. Just as he planted a garden in Eden, so he hath fenced about this day and made it his own.

This is the reason why we love it, and would keep it entire. We love everything that is Christ’s. We love his Word. It is better to us than thousands of gold and silver. “O how we love his law—it is our study all the day.” We love his House. It is our trysting-place with Christ, where he meets with us and communes with us from off the mercy-seat. We love his Table. It is his banqueting-house, where his banner over us is love—where he looses our bonds and anoints our eyes, and makes our hearts burn with holy joy. We love his people, because they are his, members of his body, washed in his blood, filled with his spirit, our brothers and sisters for eternity. And we love the Lord’s Day, because it is his. Every hour of it is dear to us—sweeter than honey, more precious than gold. It is the day he rose for our justification. It reminds us of his love, and his finished work, and his rest. And we may boldly say that that man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ who does not love the entire Lord’s Day.

Robert Murray McCheyne, The Works Of The Late Rev. Robert Murray Mccheyne

I am debtor

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.

When the praise of heaven I hear,
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall—but still arise—
The Spirit comes—the tempter flies;
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign—
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night thine anger burns—
Morning comes and joy returns;
God of comforts! bid me show
To thy poor, how much I owe.

Robert Murray McCheyne, The Works Of The Late Rev. Robert Murray Mccheyne

To be ignorant of Christ is to be without Christ

Ryle

A man is “without Christ” when he has no head-knowledge of Him. Millions, no doubt, are in this condition. They neither know who Christ is,—nor what He has done,—nor what He taught,—nor why He was crucified,—nor where He is now,—nor what He is to mankind. In short, they are entirely ignorant of Him. The heathen, of course, who never yet heard the Gospel come first under this description. But unhappily they do not stand alone. There are thousands of people living in England at this very day, who have hardly any clearer ideas about Christ than the very heathen. Ask them what they know about Jesus Christ, and you will be astounded at the gross darkness which covers their minds. Visit them on their death-beds, and you will find that they can tell you no more about Christ than about Mahomet. Thousands are in this state in country parishes, and thousands in towns. And about all such persons but one account can be given. They are “without Christ.”

I am aware that some modern divines do not take the view which I have just stated. They tell us that all mankind have a part and interest in Christ, whether they know Him or not. They say that all men and women, however ignorant while they live, shall be taken by Christ’s mercy to heaven when they die! Such views, I firmly believe, cannot be reconciled with God’s Word. It is written, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) It is one of the marks of the wicked, on whom God shall take vengeance at the last day, that they “know not God.” (2 Thess. 1:8.) An unknown Christ is no Saviour. What shall be the state of the heathen after death?—how the savage who never heard the Gospel shall be judged?—in what manner God will deal with the helplessly ignorant and uneducated?—all these are questions which we may safely let alone. We may rest assured that “the Judge of all the earth will do right.” (Gen. 18:25.) But we must not fly in the face of Scripture. If Bible words mean anything, to be ignorant of Christ is to be “without Christ.”

J.C. Ryle, Holiness

A certain cure for every ill

spurgeon

Communion with Christ is a certain cure for every ill. Whether it be the wormwood of woe, or the cloying surfeit of earthly delight, close fellowship with the Lord Jesus will take bitterness from the one, and satiety from the other. Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is a matter of secondary importance whether thou livest on the mountain of honour or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to Jesus, thou art covered with the wings of God, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Let nothing keep thee from that hallowed intercourse, which is the choice privilege of a soul wedded to the well-beloved. Be not content with an interview now and then, but seek always to retain his company, for only in his presence hast thou either comfort or safety. Jesus should not be unto us a friend who calls upon us now and then, but one with whom we walk evermore.

Thou hast a difficult road before thee: see, O traveller to heaven, that thou go not without thy guide. Thou hast to pass through the fiery furnace; enter it not unless, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, thou hast the Son of God to be thy companion. Thou hast to storm the Jericho of thine own corruptions: attempt not the warfare until, like Joshua, thou hast seen the Captain of the Lord’s host, with his sword drawn in his hand. Thou art to meet the Esau of thy many temptations: meet him not until at Jabbok’s brook thou hast laid hold upon the angel, and prevailed. In every case, in every condition, thou wilt need Jesus; but most of all, when the iron gates of death shall open to thee. Keep thou close to thy soul’s Husband, lean thy head upon his bosom, ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of his pomegranate, and thou shalt be found of him at the last, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Seeing thou hast lived with him, and lived in him here, thou shalt abide with him for ever.

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

Jehovah Tsidkenu

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I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree.
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seem’d nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over his soul
Yet thought not that my sins had nail’d to the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu—’twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In Thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath,
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

Memoir and Remains of the Reverend Robert Murray McCheyne, pp. 574-575

Faith has learned to set God against all

Richard-Sibbes

One main stop that hinders Christians from rejoicing is, that they give themselves too much liberty to question their grounds of comfort and interest in the promises. This is wonderful, comfortable say they, but what is it to me, the promise belongs not to me? This ariseth from want of giving all ‘diligence to make their calling sure,’ 2 Pet. 1:10, to themselves. In watchfulness and diligence we sooner meet with comfort than in idle complaining. Our care, therefore, should be to get sound evidence of a good estate, and then likewise to keep our evidence clear; wherein we are not to hearken to our own fears and doubts, or the suggestion of our enemy, who studies to falsify our evidence, but to the word, and our own consciences enlightened by the Spirit; and then it is pride and pettishness to stand out against comfort to themselves. Christians should study to corroborate their title. We are never more in heaven, before we come thither, than when we can read our evidences. It makes us converse much with God, it sweetens all conditions, and makes us willing to do and suffer anything. It makes us have comfortable and honourable thoughts of ourselves, as too good for the service of any base lust, and brings confidence in God both in life and death.

But what if our condition be so dark that we cannot read our evidence at all?

Here look up to God’s infinite mercy in Christ, as we did at the first, when we found no goodness in ourselves, and that is the way to recover whatsoever we think we have lost. By honouring God’s mercy in Christ, we come to have the Spirit of Christ; therefore, when the waters of sanctification are troubled and muddy, let us run to the witness of blood. God seems to walk sometimes contrary to himself; he seems to discourage, when secretly he doth encourage, as the ‘woman of Canaan,’ Matt. 15:21–23; but faith can find out these ways of God, and untie these knots, by looking to the free promise and merciful nature of God. Let our sottish and rebellious flesh murmur as much as it will, Who art thou? and what is thy worth? yet a Christian ‘knows whom he believes,’ 2 Tim. 1:12. Faith hath learned to set God against all.

Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes Vol. 1, p. 124