Saturday, 29 August 2015

To an angel's eye, it must be the ugliest thing on earth!

To an angel's eye, it must be the ugliest thing on earth!
(Archibald Brown, "The Pioneer of Destruction!" 1869, Stepney Green Tabernacle)

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

Chrysostom has aptly called pride "the mother of Hell" — for Hell with all its horrors is its hideous offspring!

Had there been no treacherous pride, there would have been no bottomless pit! Perdition was prepared for the Devil and his angels — and pride prepared the Devil and his angels for perdition! We need fear no language we can possibly use being too strong to denounce pride, for as Aristotle says, "Pride comprehends all vice!"

Is drunkenness to be condemned with unmeasured severity? Then let pride be equally so, for it is nothing less than a spiritual drunkenness. Pride flies as wine to the brain, and produces the same result. No wretched drunkard reeling along the road is a more pitiable or disgusting sight, than the man who is intoxicated into idiocy with the alcohol of his own accursed pride!

May the most unsparing language be employed in the denunciation of the sin of idolatry? Then let it be equally strong in the condemnation of pride, for they are one in essence. The proud man is simply one who bends the knee and worships a more hateful idol than can ever be found in the whole catalogue of heathendom; and its name is "Self!"

God loathes pride, for "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord" Proverbs 16:5. To an angel's eye, it must be the ugliest thing on earth! And the saint, often deploring it, hates it with a perfect hatred.

But although universally condemned — it is too generally harboured. It is easy work to find a thousand excuses for the particular species of pride we possess, which is almost always, according to our own estimate, "only proper pride."

It is the minister's imperative duty to cry out against particular sins, and lay the axe at the root of special iniquities. I want this evening, by God's help, to strike a blow at the deadly root of pride. I have no doubt many things I may say will be considered too severe. I cannot help it if they are. The language of my text is strong and unvarnished enough; the truth it contains is put in the most uncomplimentary mode, and I would be a traitor were I to attempt to smooth it down. My work is to declare that "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Sunday, 23 August 2015

If we were directing the affairs of our own lives!

If we were directing the affairs of our own lives!
(J.R. Miller, "The Lesson of Love" 1903)

We often think we could do better if we were directing the affairs of our own lives. We think we could get more happiness and greater good out of life if things were in our hands. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, with blue skies and no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers without thorns or any rough places. Would we not be happier if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful?

So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world would be to have the direction of the affairs, and the shaping of the experiences of our lives, put into our own hands!
We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life — there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today — might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.

We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity — but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.

We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle — but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.

We should always remember that the object of living in this present world, is not merely . . .
  to have unlimited pleasure and comfort,
  to get along with the least trouble,
  to gather the most we can of the world's treasures,
  to win the brightest fame.
We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God's will that belongs to us!

There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world — and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life — something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives, we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good — and His glory.

It is the highest honour that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours — since He is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. It may be painful and hard — but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.

Of course we may not know all the reasons there are in the divine mind, for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God's design for us in these trials is. Yet without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love — and whose wisdom also is infinite!

When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans — and spoiled our pleasant dreams!

It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor foolish hands — but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father!

"My times are in thy hand" Psalm 31:15

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The divine magnet that draws with irresistible force, hearts of steel!

The divine magnet that draws with irresistible force, hearts of steel!
(Archibald Brown, "My Banner!" December 5th, 1869)

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." John 12:32 

Whenever and wherever Christ is lifted up, then His power to attract is made plain. The elect of God, drawn by a power they have no ability or will to resist, take their places beneath the cross. The uplifting of Christ crucified, is God's chosen means to draw to Himself His elect, yet hidden people. The cross is the divine magnet that draws with irresistible force, hearts of steel. So mighty is its magnetic power, that it attracts those on whom all other means have failed.

We had often been compelled to take our stand before Mount Sinai. But though its lightnings flashed into our very eyes, and its thunders crashed right over head, our heart remained as hard as rock — yes, pride seemed more rampant in that dread storm than ever — we felt we might be broken — but we resolved we would never bend.

There have been moments when Hell argued with us, and all its sentences were written in glowing flame! There were moments when eternal damnation forced itself upon our thoughts, and made us dread the death that never dies. But though our knees shook with fright, our flinty hearts remained unmelted.

Sinai and Hell both failed. So also did Heaven, for though we read of its glories, and heard tell of its joys, and sometimes had a languid desire at last to find our way there — we still remained unattracted, and revelled in the vain world.

But when a bleeding Saviour hanging on a tree met our sight, then not only were our eyes riveted — but an unseen hand touched every heart-string. We looked — and looked — and looked again — and felt that as we looked, we were being drawn with silken cords nearer, yet nearer still, until we found ourselves as penitents at His blessed feet!

Beautifully has John Newton described this sweet experience as his own:

"In evil long I took delight,
 Unawed by shame or fear;
Until a new object struck my sight,
 And stopped my wild career!

I saw One hanging on a tree,
 In agonies and blood.
He fixed His languid eyes on me,
 As near His cross I stood.

Sure never til my dying breath,
 Can I forget that look!
It seemed to charge me with His death,
 Though not a word He spoke.

A second look He gave, which said,
 I freely all forgive;
This blood is for your ransom paid,
 I die, that you may live!"

Sunday, 9 August 2015

He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way!

He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way!
(Matthew Henry)

"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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30 

We are here invited to Christ as . . .
  our Priest, to be saved by Him,
  our Prince, to be ruled by Him, and
  our Prophet, to be taught by Him.

First, we must come to Christ as our Rest, and repose ourselves in Him.

Second, we must come to Him as our Ruler, and submit ourselves in Him, 'Take My yoke upon you.' This must go along with the former, for Christ is exalted to be both a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31), 'a priest upon his throne' (Zechariah 6:13). The rest He promises is a release from the drudgery of sin — not from the service of God. Christ has a yoke for our necks — as well as a crown for our heads; and this yoke He requires that we should take upon us.

Third, we must come to Him as our Teacher, and set ourselves to learn of Him. We must learn of Him to be 'meek and lowly,' and to mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to Him. We must so learn of Christ, for He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way.

Christ's garden!

Christ's garden!
(Charles Spurgeon)

"I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse." Song of Solomon 5:1 

The heart of the believer is Christ's garden. He bought it with His precious blood, and He enters it and claims it as His own.

A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness — it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear Christians saying, "Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that," thus getting as near to the world as possible. Grace is at a low ebb in that soul which can even raise the question of how far it may go in worldly conformity.

A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated lands. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ's garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor, compared with Christ's deservings; let us not put Him off with withering and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses ought to bloom in the place which Jesus calls His garden.

The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the Gardener, and the Holy Spirit the dew from above.

A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our souls as a place in which He can manifest Himself, as He does not unto the world. O that Christians were more retired, that they kept their hearts more closely shut up for Christ! We often worry and trouble ourselves, like Martha, with much serving — so that we have not the room for Christ that Mary had, and do not sit at His feet as we should. May the Lord grant the sweet showers of His grace to water His garden this day.