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The Blessedness of Trusting in the Lord
(A Posthumous Sermon)
Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London,
on July 18, 1869, by J. C. Philpot
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Jer 17:7, 8
What a dreadful thing it is to be under the CURSE of God; to have his curse in our body, his curse in our soul, his curse in our family, in our substance, in our goings out, in our comings in; his curse in life, his curse in death, and his curse to all eternity. And how the fear and apprehension of this curse has made the hearts of many wither like the grass, filled them with gloomy forebodings night and day, and made them sink under apprehensions of dying in despair, and lying forever under the wrath of the Almighty!
But on the other hand, what bliss and blessedness there is in being under the BLESSING of the Lord; his blessing in body, his blessing in soul, his blessing in our families, his blessing in our substance, his blessing in life, his blessing in death, and his blessing through all eternity. And as there are many who have feared and trembled under his curse, when events proved in the end there was no real cause for apprehension; so many have rejoiced, or thought they rejoiced in God's blessing, when it was all a delusion, for they were among those who said they would be blessed, though they added "drunkenness to thirst."
Thus we must not altogether take our fears and feelings, nor our doubts and apprehensions, of these matters as certain indications whether we are under the curse or under the blessing. But we must come to the word of God that is the grand arbiter; that is God's own judgment of these matters; that speaks as the voice of God, and pronounces who, according to the mind of God and the estimate of God, are under God's curse; and who, according to the mind and estimate of God, are under his blessing. Now I do not know a more remarkable passage in the whole compass of God's word, to point out who are under the curse and who are under the blessing, than my text and the connection of it.
But the Holy Spirit, by the pen of Jeremiah, makes a contrast between those who are under the curse and those under the blessing; and he says of the former, speaking authoritatively in the name of the Lord "Thus says the Lord Cursed is the one who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord." The Lord here does not lay down a man's moral or immoral character as a test of salvation. He does not say, "Cursed is the thief, the adulterer, the extortioner, the murderer, the man who lives in open profanity." He puts all that aside, and fixes his eye and lays his hand upon one mark, which may exist or does exist with the greatest morality, and it may be with the highest profession of religion. "I will tell you," the Lord says, "who are under my curse. This is the person who trusts in man, who makes flesh his arm, and in so doing his heart departs from Me."
Now taking a wide and general survey, who is there free from this intimation of the Lord's eternal displeasure? Who can say he does not trust in man and make flesh his arm? Why all have done it and all will do it until they are taught better. The confidence of most stands wholly upon this ground. They trust in man, in themselves, or some other, and they make flesh their working arm, to work out their own plans of salvation, build up their own goodness, establish their own righteousness, and bring forth something in and by the creature with which they hope to gain eternity with God. But this is the point that God especially sets his hand upon as marking them, that in trusting in man and making flesh their arm, their heart departs from the Lord; it being impossible in God's view for a man to be neutral in these matters; it being impossible in the judgment of God for a man to trust in man, and make flesh his arm in one direction; and to trust in God and make the power of God his arm in another direction. God knows no such neutrality; he winks at no such half measures; he does not allow a man to stand with one leg upon self and one leg upon God; one foot on free will and one foot on free grace; to work with his own right arm his own righteousness, and take with his left gospel blessings. Such neutrality in the sight of God is as bad as it would be in the case of a war for a man, a subject of Queen Victoria, to stand neutral be sometimes in favor of the Queen, and sometimes in favor of the invader. Such a man would deserve to be shot by both armies.
"He shall be like the HEATH in the desert." You have seen, perhaps, the sorry heath, the ground not being good enough to produce food for man or beast; but it can produce a little stunted leaf, a few miserable reeds that just relieve the dry sand, please the eye, but contain in them no nutriment or utility. And so this person who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, is like the heath in the desert; with an 'appearance of verdure' and something like greenness and growth, and yet, when examined, a miserable crop that benefits neither himself nor anybody else; a few stunted starved specimens of miserable heath, that cannot feed a lamb or even sustain a goat. Such a man "shall not see when good comes." Good may come to others, but good will never come to him; a blessing may fall upon the righteous, but no blessing shall fall upon him. Trusting in man, departing from the Lord, he sets himself out of the reach of God's blessing, puts himself into a place where God's mercy falls not, and therefore never sees when good comes, for there is no good for him.
"But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited." That is, a religion merely in name and appearance, without anything fruitful, god-like, or God-glorifying. And thus he lives and thus he dies under the eternal curse of the Almighty, as making flesh his arm and trusting in man.
Now it will be my object this evening, taking the words of our text, to contrast with such the character on whom God has pronounced his blessing; and you will see how the two differ in almost every point; how the Holy Spirit with his graphic and vigorous pen, has sketched both these characters and painted them in such life-like colors, that each stands out as it were in contrast to the other, that we may compare the two men in the curse and in the blessing, see the dealings of God with each, and thus, if we be under the blessing, gather for ourselves some good hope through grace, and have some testimony that not the curse rests upon us, but the blessing of the Lord which makes rich and he adds no sorrow with it.
In opening up the text, I shall, therefore, with God's help
First, direct your thoughts to the blessedness of the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
Secondly, take up the comparison which the Holy Spirit has given us that such a man resembles "a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river."
And Thirdly, speak of the fruits and blessings that spring out of his being thus planted by the hand of God by the waters and by the river that he "shall not see when heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
I. The BLESSEDNESS of the man who trusts in the Lord. I intimated in the opening of this discourse, that we were not to take our 'fears and feelings' as certain marks and indications of our state and standing before God. If we took our fears and feelings at certain stages of our experience, we would draw altogether a false conclusion. For instance, when the Lord begins his gracious work upon a sinner's heart, he opens to him the evil of sin; he sends the Holy Spirit with power into his conscience to apply his law; and with the law comes a curse. So that while he is in that state and stage of experience, under a sensible feeling of the wrath of God in his conscience, under the application of a fiery law, under the dismal apprehension of wrath to come, under miserable forebodings of what his state may be for time and for eternity, that man would draw altogether wrong conclusions if he concluded he must live and die in this miserable condition; that because he is now feeling the wrath of God, he will forever feel the wrath of God; because now under the curse of the law, he will live and die under the curse of the law; and because he has dismal forebodings of a dreadful eternity, it will be so on his death-bed.
We will take him at that stage, to throw a clearer light upon the whole subject, and we shall see the Lord sends his law into the man's conscience, and lets down a sense of his displeasure into his mind, for the very purpose of breaking him off from his trust in man and making flesh his arm, that he might not live and die under the curse attached to those who do trust in man and make flesh their arm. He, like others, trusted in himself; he, like others, made flesh his arm in working out, as he thought, a righteousness which would please God; in performing a number of good works, to build up a Babel tower to reach to heaven, and to satisfy the demands of a righteous law by yielding what the law demanded.
But wrath still pursuing, the curse still continuing, fear still prevailing, bondage still settling upon him, he is taught eventually by those means, the folly of making flesh his arm and trusting in man, in self, or anybody else. Thus preparatory to the blessing comes the curse; before the gospel comes the law; before the ceasing to trust man, and ceasing to make flesh his arm, comes the breaking of the arm and the destroying of the confidence in the flesh. Then taking him at that period, he is brought to this point, that he cannot put trust in himself nor in anybody else. Whenever he has put his trust in himself or anybody else, he has met with nothing but disappointment; whenever he has accepted anything from the creature, nothing has followed but vexation, destroyed hopes, and blighted expectations.
Now when he is in this state, the Lord begins to commune with him from the mercy seat he draws him near to his gracious self; he begins to open up his word to his apprehension, enlightens the eyes of his understanding, drops some sweet promise into his heart, and discovers his truth in its sweetness and blessedness; or by some such operations of his grace for we cannot limit the Lord he has various ways of unfolding his truth to believing hearts he brings this poor, tried, distressed, and exercised soul to look unto him. And the more the soul is enabled to look unto him, the more it sees in him his suitability to its wants and woes.
The more we look to the creature, the worse we find it; the more we look to self, the worse we find it; the more we trust in man or in one's own self, the greater is the disappointment.
But when we are drawn off from this vain-confidence and enabled by the power of grace to see who and what the Son of God is, and he is presented to our mind in the word, or in the sweet revelation of his person and work, and the Holy Spirit is pleased to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, and raise up a living faith in our soul, then we begin to see and feel how worthy he is of our confidence. We see his glorious Person Immanuel, God with us and all the glory of God shining forth in his most beautiful and blessed countenance; and this draws forth faith and love. And we see from time to time what a wondrous work he came to do, and how he did it completely. We are led to see how he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; to make reconciliation for iniquity; to bring in an everlasting righteousness, and to do the whole will of God. And we find as we look unto him, trust in him, and cast the weight of our weary souls upon him, there is a stay, there is a support, there is an encouragement which we could never have found anywhere else.
We have tried the creature, and the more we leaned upon the creature, the weaker it was. But when we are brought off the creature and begin to lean upon the Lord, he honors that faith by showing us what a strong foundation is laid in his Person and work. Thus he sweetly draws us and encourages us by his alluring grace to come out of our miserable selves, in which there is nothing but confusion and disappointment, and bondage, sin, and misery, and to come to him and find rest and peace. And as we find the benefit and blessing of so doing, and God's face begins to shine as the face of the Father in Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities, then we begin to see what a suitable object of faith, this dear Son of God is; and the more we believe in him, the sweeter we find him; and the more he draws forth faith upon his glorious person and work, the more darkness is dispelled from the mind, the more bondage is loosened from the spirit, and the more peace and consolation are felt in the soul. This is trusting in the Lord. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord."
Now these lessons are taught us, that we might ever make the Lord our trust. Until we have had some discovery of this nature, some bringing near of the person and work of Christ some sweet teaching to make him known and precious, some revelation of his person, blood, and work, there is no trust in him eternal matters are so at an uncertainty. But when he has made himself known and precious, then he teaches us by these things to trust in him.
Now he is determined to make us trust in him at all times and all seasons; because he won't continue these sweet feelings, nor ever indulge the soul by setting it at rest. But he will teach us to trust in him when we cannot see these manifestations. And thus it may be, he will bring upon us some trial in providence, or some affliction in the family, or some circumstance in grace that shall very much try the mind.
Now, perhaps, we are losing sight of Jesus, our best Friend by this time, and through unbelief and weakness, and the fermenting infidelity of our wretched heart, beginning again to trust in self and make flesh our arm. And what is the consequence? The Lord does not appear, and we get into bondage, confusion, and misery. Now the Lord has to teach us to trust in him, and therefore he will bring those things upon us whereby we shall have reason to trust him. If in providence we go to a friend for help and find that help withheld; or if, trusting in our own strength, we find it but weakness, our plans all disappointed, our finest schemes all turned upside down what are we to do? Trust in the Lord! for all this is meant to bring us out of self-confidence, and leaning upon an arm of flesh, to trust in the Lord, and look to him and him alone.
So it is in grace. It is easy to believe when the Lord is present; easy to walk upon the water when he upholds; but how are we in a storm? How do we get on when circumstances threaten, and conscience accuses, and temptations of various kinds start up some to draw aside, and some to alarm and threaten? Why, like Peter, we begin to sink into the water. Now the Lord will teach us still to trust not to live by sense nor sight, but to live by faith in the Son of God to trust him in the dark; to look unto him, because there is nobody else that can do us any good; to hang upon him, because look where we will, all is darkness, confusion, guilt, and bondage, except in him and through him.
And thus, sometimes from sheer necessity, having no other refuge, driven out of all other hope, and having no other help from sheer necessity, as in the case of Esther when she went to the king from sheer necessity, having nobody else to look to, we are taught sometimes to trust in the Lord. And we shall always find, sooner or later, if we trust in the Lord and do not trust in ourselves if we do not make flesh our arm, God will honor that faith and crown that trust with his manifested approbation. Therefore, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord!"
And is there not everything in the Lord to draw forth this trust? Look at his power. "All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth." O what almighty power! Where can we find power in any body else? power in ourselves or power in a friend? All their strength is weakness when it comes to the point; all their help, when it comes to the push, fails and is broken. The Lord has all power, both in providence and in grace, "The silver and the gold are his, and the cattle on a thousand hills." He has but to speak and it is done.
So in grace who can speak peace to a troubled conscience but he? Who can take a load of guilt off the mind but he? Who can calm anxious fears but he? Who can pardon sin, forgive iniquity, heal backsliding, cast all our transgressions into the depths of the sea, and reveal a sense of mercy and love, but he? Thus we see he has all power; and when we can behold by the eye of faith the heights, lengths, depths, and breadths of his dying love, and see that those whom he loves, he loves unto the end that he never will leave nor forsake the objects of his eternal mercy this draws forth out of the heart a trust in him, a looking once more, as Jonah looked in the whale's belly a looking once more to him, even from the very ends of the earth. Now this is a blessed man, who has the approbation of God upon him, and sometimes a sweet testimony of God himself in his conscience.
But it is said further of such a man, that "the Lord is his HOPE" not "in the Lord," but the Lord himself is his hope; because he is the hope of Israel. And he is worthy of that hope. Wherever there is trust, there will be hope, because hope is connected with trust, grows out of it, and is the fruit of it. And it is this hope that encourages the soul still to go on seeking his face, pleading his word, and looking to him for a fulfillment in answer to prayer. When trust begins to droop, hope droops with it; as faith becomes weak in the soul, hope also languishes. But as faith is drawn forth into living exercise, and with faith comes trust, then hope lifts up its head as a co-worker with faith and love, and strengthens itself in the Lord, as David did.
Hope is compared to an anchor, sure and steadfast, entering within the veil; and it takes firm hold of the Son of God as an intercessor and mediator between God and man. And thus the Lord becomes our hope. The man who has this hope and who trusts in the Lord, is pronounced to be blessed. And though his hope may coexist with many doubts and fears, many temptations and trials, many sinkings and givings way for an anchor is only of use in a storm yet still, the Lord being his hope, he will ride out the gale; his ship shall not drive upon the rocks, but in due time it shall enter the harbor of eternal rest. This is the man whom God has pronounced blessed!
II. The COMPARISON that such a man resembles "a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river." The Lord has given us a very striking figure, which I shall now endeavor, with God's blessing, to open up. In those hot eastern climates, trees cannot live or bear fruit except on mountain slopes, or else when planted by rivers; for the power of the sun is so intense, the atmosphere so dry, and the drought so lasting that a tree withers and dies away for lack of water and nutriment. The heath may stand it in the wilderness, but the tree would die under the drought that lets the heath live. Therefore, this man whom the Lord has blessed, is compared to a tree planted by the waters.
By these waters we may understand the teachings, testimonies, operations, work, and witness of the blessed Spirit, water being often in Scripture a type and figure of the Holy Spirit in his divine operations in the hearts of God's saints. And to be planted by the waters is to be brought into contact with the operations and influences, teaching and testimony of this holy and blessed Comforter. God plants his people by these waters that they may irrigate, so to speak, the roots of their religion; that they may not dry up, wither away, and become fruitless and worthless; but be so planted by the waters of God's grace in the operations of the Holy Spirit as to keep their leaf green, make the stem grow, cause the blossom to come out on the boughs, and in due time the branch to bear fruit.
And perhaps we may consider the ordinances of God's house the operations of his grace under a preached word, the teaching of the Holy Spirit privately in the soul, and his blessed intercession in the heart at the throne of grace, as connected with these waters. It is a very blessed thing to be brought where the waters flow with any measure of purity and clearness; to be brought into contact with a gospel ministry, so that the power of God's word in the ministry may water your religion; keep your soul alive in the things of God; strengthen your faith, hope, and love; confirm the good work of God in you; bring forth the verdant leaf of profession, and crown it with gospel fruit. And as the people of God delight in the waters, as being so salutary and so refreshing, as they love their gentle murmur, and delight in the coolness and refreshment derived from them, they will bring themselves, and with themselves their religion, to these waters, that they may derive from them the nutriment that God has put into them.
It is because these waters, like Shiloh's stream, flow so gently and so stilly, that the Lord's people come from time to time to the house of God to get their souls refreshed by the word, read the Scriptures in private, fall upon their bended knee before the throne of grace, and seek the Lord according to his own word "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find." And there, now and then, these waters will gently flow into their souls, and it will be found that they gently bathe the roots of their religion so that it shall not wither and come to nothing but be maintained in their soul with some degree of strength and verdure.
We further read that this tree spreads out her roots by the river. This river is considered to be the river John speaks of, and which he saw in vision; the river of the water of life. And Ezekiel saw it issuing out of the Temple. It is the river of life and love. And as it is a goodly tree the Lord has planted by the waters, it has roots roots of faith and hope and love; and these roots are very much in love with this river, because it contains the waters of life and love which irrigate these roots, mount up through the rootlets into the branch, and make it green and verdant. The tree spreads out her roots to the river that it may suck up all the nutriment it can; for it finds there is such blessedness in having such a river of life and love flowing by it, and such blessedness in having roots that can dip into this river and draw life and love out of it into the soul, so as to fill it with all joy and peace in believing. It is never satisfied except its roots can get into the river of life and love and draw life and love out of it.
When the river seems to flow scanty and low, the roots seem to dry up for lack of contact with the river; and if the roots begin to dry up, everything suffers in the tree; because the source of nutriment being cut off through the withering of the root, there is no life or love drawn up from the river into the soul, to spread itself over every spiritual faculty, as the water of the river spreads itself over the literal tree. And thus these roots take great delight in the river, because they find in the river a suitable nutriment; it being designed for that purpose and flowing out of the throne of God and the Lamb, to give life to this tree and maintain it in verdure and being.
There are times and seasons, and many such in the soul, when this river does not seem to flow into the roots and we find the misery of it. Darkness, deadness, coldness, bondage, worldly-mindedness all creep in; and we find there is something wrong some gracious influence suspended, some communication apparently cut off, something lacking in our religion that we cannot supply, but which has to be supplied by the river of life and love. And thus as the work is God's, and not our own; as he who has begun, carries on; as he who gave the river, gave the roots; as he who gave the roots, gave the tree from which those roots spring; and as that tree is under his special blessing, as a tree of righteousness that his own right hand has planted he will take care that in due time the river of life and love shall once more flow the roots shall once more dip into it, once more draw nutriment out of it it shall once more feed faith, hope, and love, and once more the tree shall be manifested as a tree of righteousness.
III. And now to our third point what is the FRUIT and consequence of this?
1. "He shall not see when heat comes." Here he is contrasted with the man under the curse he was not to see when good came. He saw no good, because no good was needed; and when good came to others, good came not to him, because he was under the curse of God as trusting in man.
Now take the contrast another man is under the blessing of God. The Lord has thoughts of peace, mercy, and love toward him. He has pronounced him blessed, and he goes on to ratify this blessing by giving him good which he did not give to the other. And as when good came to others, good came not to the man under the curse, because he trusted in man; so when heat comes to others, heat does not come to the man who trusts in the Lord, or rather the consequences; for heat may come without the consequences. The heat that withers, dries up, and brings to nothing all other religion, all other hopes, and all other confidence, does not affect this man under the blessing of God, for he has a 'spiritual religion' the roots of which are in the river. And, therefore, when the heat comes it dries up all religion whose roots are not in the river; but it makes that thrive all the more which is fed by the river of life and love. Instead of withering and drying up his religion, acting together with the river of life and love, the heat only makes it more fruitful.
As in the man under the curse, good comes to others, not to him; so in the man under the blessing, heat comes to others to burn and dry them up; but it does not come to him to burn and dry him up, because his roots are in the river. If you took two trees, and planted one where there was no water, and planted the other by the riverside in a hot country, the tree planted where there was no water would sooner or later wither and die; but the tree planted by the rivers of water would not wither and die, because the river flows by, to keep it alive and make it fruitful.
Temptation may be compared to heat. "Look not upon me, because I am black." (Canticles 1:6.) The burning sun of temptation withers up everybody's religion but his who is planted by the rivers of water; sooner or later, all 'mere profession' dries up and withers except that which is of the operation of God. But God takes care that neither the profession nor the possession of the religion which he gives shall dry up and wither, because he takes the tree of righteousness with his own hand, and plants that tree by the rivers of water; and he keeps his work upon the soul alive by enabling it to draw up through its roots nutriment to maintain it in vigor, and make it fruitful in every good word and work.
2. "Her leaf shall be green." It is a very blessed thing for the live profession to have a green leaf. How many once apparently green leaves have become brown and withered and almost ready to fall off. Is your leaf green? How does your profession appear before others? Do your families see greenness in your leaf? Do the members of the church that you are connected with see that your leaf still is green? And those among whom your daily business lies, do they look to your profession and see it all withered, and brown, and dry, like a tree in autumn, before the leaves fall; or do they see a verdure and greenness about your profession that commends itself to their conscience?
Now you never can maintain the leaf in any degree of greenness or verdure, unless the roots of your religion are in contact with the river of life and love. Your leaf is sure to get speckled, spotted, brown, and withered, unless this blessed river of life and love mounts up through the roots, fills it with sap and juice, banishes the dryness that would creep over it, and makes it green and verdant.
It is a blessed thing, and one might almost say a rare thing, for man or woman, after many years of profession, still to stand in the house of the Lord and the courts of our God with a green leaf. Many seemed in times past to have green leaves where are they? Their leaf has become withered, their profession dry, and they have been like the chaff which the wind has driven away. If your profession stands for a single day with any degree of verdure and greenness upon it, and is not spotted and speckled or become brown and dry it is only because there is a river of life and love that bathes the roots of your religion.
3. "And shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." "Careful" means worried as to the consequences of the year of drought. Last year was a year of drought then we felt the need of water. When the springs are low, the brooks dried up, and the rain ceases to fall, we soon see the consequence upon the parched soil. Though this may not apply to the present year we have had already so much wet and cold yet were the hot, dry weather long continued, we might suffer from a year of drought now as we suffered last year.
But this godly man is said not to be worried in the year of drought, because he does not depend only upon the rain from heaven, but upon the river which flows by the river of life and love. Therefore, he is not so worried in the year of drought, lest the leaf withers and the fruit drops off, and he be thrown out of the vineyard as a withered stump because he knows that there is this blessed river of life and love, the power of which is felt in his soul and while this river runs and his religion dips its roots into it, the year of drought will not utterly consume him. He may languish, as we may languish, under the burning heat; the branches may decline; there may be a temporary effect come over the whole tree. But still it will be protected more or less, by the river of life and love, so that it shall not be utterly burnt up.
4. "Neither shall cease from yielding fruit." God looks for fruit. According to the parable, the owner of the vineyard came every year looking for fruit. Our Lord came to the fig tree expecting to find fruit. "Every branch in me that bears no fruit, he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:2) Now we never can bear fruit by trusting to an arm of flesh, or leaning upon our own doings and duties. To lean upon an arm of flesh, brings us away from the river of life and love.
But when we can (to refer to the beginning of our text) trust in the Lord, and have the Lord for our hope, and then feel some flowing in of the river of life and love, then there will be a bearing fruit; and the bearing of this fruit will prove the goodness of the tree, the goodness of him who planted the tree, the blessedness of the river that waters the roots of the tree, and the certainty that the whole is under the blessing of God.
But into what a narrow compass this brings most people's religion! How it cuts down thousands as if with the heavy strokes of a broadsword. Take all those with a religious profession, or without of a profession who make flesh their arm and trust in themselves, and see how the curse of God is upon them, and what a sweeping of all these there is, into destruction.
Now take the reverse. Fix your eye upon those whom God has blessed, and ask yourself how many you know, and whether you are one of those, who have been brought by the work and witness of the Holy Spirit in the heart, to trust in the Lord and to make the Lord your hope. And look and see how far your religion stands not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God; and if it has a root to it; and if these roots of your religion are fed and nurtured by being planted by the waters, and sustained, and fed, and nourished by the river of life and love.
You may receive these things or reject them; pronounce them as "mere babblings of narrow-minded, bigoted men," or receive them as common truths on the testimony of God's word. But if my preaching, whether it be true or false, comes short or not of the reality it can never alter God's testimony. He has recorded it with a "Thus says the Lord." Those whom he has cursed must be cursed, whatever blessing man may pronounce upon them; and those whom God has blessed will remain blessed, whatever curse man may denounce against them.
We must stand in one of those two positions under the curse or under the blessing we must be under God's displeasure or under his approbation. And therefore those who are anxious about their souls and want matters right between God and conscience, will be led from time to time to examine these matters in the light of divine teaching, and weigh them up in the balance of the sanctuary, that they may come to some clear understanding how they stand for eternity. And O, if they can find themselves under the blessing of the Lord, what a theme for gratitude, what a debt of endless praise will flow from their lips that the kind and merciful Redeemer has had pity upon them and blessed them with every spiritual blessing and it will be their happy lot to bless him who blessed them, and put his rightful crown upon him!
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| Re: He who eats the grapes of Sodom|
"Horror grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken Your law!" Psalm 119:53
My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David's cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried because of the abominations of Jerusalem.
It cannot but grieve gracious souls--to see what pains men take to go to Hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze!
Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God's holy law, which is to every man's highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society!
Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, "He fell today--and, but for God's grace--I may fall tomorrow!"
Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity--the nails and the spear! How can a saved soul behold that cursed kill-Christ sin--without abhorrence?
Say, my heart--do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment; the great God claims it; the just God will have it--or repay His adversary to his face!
An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin--and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is sin! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly!
My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries--lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your Lord's enemy, and your enemy--view it with detestation, for only so, can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.
| 2009/5/6 9:52||Profile|
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You say you want to be like Christ
You say you want to be like Christ. You pray
to Him to imprint His own image on your heart.
The monks thought that they were like Christ,
when they went into the wilderness, away from
men, to live in cold cells or caves.
But "to serve"that is the Christ-like thing.
Instead of fleeing away from menwe are to
live among men, to serve them, to live for them,
or seek to bless them, to do good, to give our
lives. "The Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for
many." Matthew 20:28
| 2009/5/6 21:38||Profile|
| Re: |
The diamonds of heaven!
"Beholdhe prays!" Acts 9:11
Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to praythe Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed, but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his kneebut can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears. Yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of heaven. "You put all my tears into Your bottle," implies that they are caughtas they flow!
The suppliant, who can only groan out his words, will be well understood by the Most High God. He may only look up with misty eye; but prayer is the falling of a tear! Tears are the diamonds of heaven! Sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, and are numbered with the most sublime strains which reach the majesty on high!
Do not think that your prayer, however weak or tremblingwill be unregarded. Our God not only hears prayerbut also loves to hear it. "He does not forget the cry of the humble." True, He does not regard proud looks and lofty words. He has no concern for the pomp and pageantry of kings. He does not listen not to the swell of martial music. He has no regard the triumph and pride of man. But wherever there is . . .
a heart full with godly sorrow,
or a lip quivering with agony,
or a deep groan,
or a penitential sigh
the heart of Jehovah is open! He marks that prayer down in the registry of His memory! He puts our prayers, like rose leavesbetween the pages of His book of remembrance; and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom!
| 2009/5/6 23:54||Profile|
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Petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions
"Be careful to devote yourself to good works." Titus 3:8
"Avoid foolish questions." Titus 3:9
Our days are few, and are far better spent in devoting ourselves to good works, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. Incessant discussion of subjects of no practical value, do a world of mischief. Our churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be saidneither party is any the wiser! Therefore, the discussion no more promotes knowledge, than love! It is foolish to sow in so barren a field.
Questions upon . . .
points wherein Scripture is silent;
mysteries which belong to God alone;
prophecies of doubtful interpretation;
modes of observing mere human ceremonies
are all foolish! Wise men will avoid them! Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questionsbut to avoid them altogether! If we observe the apostle's precept to be careful to devote ourselves to good workswe shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable businessto take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings!
There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolishwhich we must not avoidbut fairly and honestly answer, such as these:
Am I growing in grace and Christ-likeness?
Does my life adorn the doctrine of my Savior?
What more can I do for Jesus?
Such inquiries as these, urgently demand our attention!
If we have been at all given to arguing and disputing, let us now turn to a service so much more profitable. Let us endeavor to lead others, both by our precept and example, to "avoid foolish questions."
| 2009/5/8 5:07||Profile|
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Having nothingpossessing everything
"Knownyet regarded as unknown;
dyingand yet we live on;
beatenand yet not killed;
sorrowfulyet always rejoicing;
pooryet making many rich;
having nothingand yet possessing everything."
2 Corinthians 6:9-10
The Christian is a paradox. Because he has Christ, he
has the unsearchable riches of Christ. Believers . . .
have full and free forgiveness of all their sins;
are fully accepted in the Beloved;
are clothed in Christ's spotless righteousness;
are adopted into the family of God;
have a perfect title to heaven through Christ;
have God for their Father,
have Christ for their Savior,
have the Holy Spirit for their Comforter,
have heaven for their home;
shall be like Christ and with Christ forever;
shall inherit all things;
are sure of ultimate victory over . . .
| 2009/5/8 8:39||Profile|
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We must be wedded to the Leah of real holiness
"Laban repliedIt is not our custom here, to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one." Genesis 29:26
We do not excuse Laban for his dishonestybut we desire to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order; and if we would win the secondwe must secure the first. The second may be the more desirable in our eyesbut the rule of the heavenly country must standthe elder must be married first.
For instance, many men desire the beautiful Rachel of joy and peacebut they must first be wedded to the bleary-eyed Leah of repentance. Everyone falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it. But according to the rule of the Lord's kingdomwe must be wedded to the Leah of real holinessbefore the Rachel of true happiness can be gained.
Heaven is not firstbut second; and only by persevering to the end, can we enter into it.
The cross must be carriedbefore the crown can be worn!
We must follow our Lord in His sufferingsor we shall never rest with Him in glory.
Dear heart, are you so vain as to hope to break through this heavenly rule? Do you hope for reward without laboror honor without toil? Dismiss the idle expectation! Be content to take the difficult thingsfor the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will recompense you for all. In such a spirit, laboring and suffering, you will find that bitters grow sweetand that hard things grow easy. Like Jacob, your years of service will seem unto you but a few daysfor the love which you have to Jesus. And when the dear hour of the wedding feast shall comeall your toils shall be as though they had never been! An hour with Jesuswill make amends for ages of pain and labor!
| 2009/5/9 2:38||Profile|
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This was his final verdict!
"Behold, all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:14
Nothing can fully satisfy a personbut the Lord's love and the Lord's own self. Christians have tried other pursuitsbut they have been driven out of such fatal refuges.
Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all; and to do for uswhat we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words, "So I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind! Nothing was gained under the sun!" "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"
What! Is the whole of it meaningless? O favored monarchis there nothing in all your wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in your glorious palaces? Is there nothingin all your music and dancing, and wine and luxury? "Nothing!" he says, "but a chasing after the wind!" This was his final verdictafter he had trodden the whole round of pleasure.
To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love, and be fully assured of union with Himthis is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of pleasure in order to see whether they are better than Christ. If you roam the whole worldyou will see no sights like a sight of the Savior's face! If you could have all the comforts of lifewithout the Savior, you would be most wretched. But if you possess Christthough you should you rot in a dungeonyou would find it a paradise! Though you should you live in obscurity, or die with famineyet you would be satisfied with the favor and goodness of the Lord!
| 2009/5/10 6:16||Profile|
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Secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly
(J. C. Ryle, "Pharisees and Sadducees")
"Watch out for false prophets! They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves!" Matthew 7:15
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light!" 2 Corinthians 11:13-14
False doctrine does not meet us face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before us in broad day, and summon us to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm our suspicion, and throw us off our guard. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing, and Satan in the garb of an angel of lightwho have always proved the most dangerous foes of the church of Christ.
Let us be on our guard against the "insidiousness" of false doctrine. Like the fruit of which Eve and Adam ateat first sight it looks pleasant and good, and a thing to be desired. "Poison" is not written upon it, and so people are not afraid. Like counterfeit coin, it is not stamped "bad." It passes for the real thing, because of the very likeness it bears to the truth.
Let us be on our guard against the "very small beginnings" of false doctrine. Every heresy began at one time, with some little departure from the truth. There is only "a little seed of error" needed to create "a great tree of heresy!" It is the little stones, which make up the mighty building. It was the little pieces of lumber, which made the great ark that carried Noah and his family over a deluged world. It is the little leaven, which infiltrated the whole lump. It is the little flaw in one link of the chain cable, which wrecks the gallant ship, and drowns the crew. It is the omission or addition of one little item in the doctor's prescription, which spoils the whole medicine, and turns it into poison!
Let us never allow a little false doctrine to ruin us, by thinking it is "but a little one," and can do us no harm.
There are three things which we never ought to trifle with:
a little poison,
a little sin, and
a little false doctrine.
Let us read the Bible regularly, daily, and with fervent prayer. Let us receive nothing, believe nothing, follow nothingwhich is not in the Bible. Let our rule of faith, our touchstone of all teachingbe the written Word of God. "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them." Isaiah 8:20
| 2009/5/10 21:04||Profile|
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Christ the Cleanser
By Horatius Bonar, 1867
"A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." John 13:10
This washing of the disciples' feet was one of the last of our Lord's acts on earth, as the servant of his disciples, the servant of sinners. How fully did that towel, and that basin, show that he had "taken upon him the form of a servant," (Phil. 2:7), and that he had come "not to be ministered untobut to minister!" This last act of lowly love, is the filling up of his matchless condescension; it is so simple, so kindly, so expressive; and all the more so, because not referring to positive need, such as hunger, or thirst, or painbut merely to bodily comfort. Oh, if he is so interested in our commonest comforts, such as the washing of our feet, what must he be in our spiritual joys and blessings! How desirous is he, that we should have peace of souland how willing to impart it!
This scene of condescending love is no mere show. It is a reality. And it is a reality for us to copy. Love to the saints; love showing itself in simple acts of quiet, lowly service; service pertaining to common comforts; this is the lesson for us, which the divine example gives. If He did this, what should we do? "If I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."
But, in the midst of this scene and its lesson, there suddenly rises up a spiritual truth, called forth by Peter's remonstrance. The whole transaction is transferred into a type, or symbol, by the Lord himself. The earthlyall at once rises into the heavenly, as he utters these words, "If I wash you notyou have no part in me." It is as if he had lighted up a new star in the blue, or rather withdrawn the cloud that hid a star already kindledbut hindered, in its shining, by an earthly veil.
Accepting, then, this spiritual truth as a vital part of the transaction, let us study its full meaning, as thus unveiled to us. The words of this tenth verse might be thus translated, or at least paraphrased"He who has bathed needs only, after that, to wash his feet; the rest of his person is clean." Here, then, we have first the bathing; and, secondly, the washing.
I. The Bathing. The reference here may be to "the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness;" in which we are "washed from our sins in his own blood" by "Him who loved us" (Rev. 1:5). The bath is the blood, and the bathing is our believing. From the moment we bathe, that is, believe, we are personally and legally clean in God's sight; our "bodies are washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:20). We may accept the reference here, as being either to the temple, or to the bath. He who bathes, say in the morning, is clean for the whole day. Our believing is our taking our morning bath. That cleanses our persons; and during all the rest of our earthly day we walk about, as men forgiven and clean; who know that there is no condemnation for them, and that God has removed their sins from them, as far as east is from the west.
Connecting the washing here referred to, with the temple service, the meaning would be thisWe go to the altar and get the blood, the symbol of death, sprinkled upon us, implying that we have died the death, and paid the penalty, in him who died for us. From the altar we go to the laver, and get the blood washed off from our persons, proclaiming that we are risen from the dead, and therefore in all respects most thoroughly clean"clean every whit,"all over clean in our persons before God.
This is the bathing; and thus it is that we are cleansed, realizing David's prayer, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than the snow." When I believe in Christ as the fountain, as the altar and the laverthat is, when I receive God's testimony concerning his precious blood, I am washed. I become clean; as Christ said to his disciples, "Now are you clean through the word that I have spoken unto you." When I believe in Christ as the righteousness, that is, when I receive God's testimony concerning his divine righteousness, I am immediately righteous. When I receive him as the life, I have life. When I receive him as Redeemer, I am redeemed. When I receive him as the sinner's surety, I am pardoned; there is no condemnation for me. When I receive him as the dead and risen Christ, I die and rise again.
Such are the results of this divine bathing. They are present and immediate results. They spring straight from that oneness with him in all things into which my believing brings me. As a believing man, I enter upon his fullness; I become partaker of his riches; and so identified with himself, that his cleanness is accounted my cleanness, his excellence my excellence, his perfection my perfection. As he was the Lamb without blemish, and without spot, so I am "clean every whit;" and to me, as part of the cleansed Bride, the Lamb's wife, it is said, "You are so beautiful, my beloved, so perfect in every part."
II. The Washing. This is something different from the bathing, and yet there is a likeness between the two things. Both refer to forgiveness; or rather, we should say, that the first refers to personal acceptance, the latter to the daily forgiveness of the accepted one. The washing is, not that of the person's whole bodybut of the person's feetthose parts which come constantly into contact with the soil and dust of the earth. Considered personally, and as a whole, he is far above the earth, and beyond its pollutions; for he is with Christ in heavenly places. But, considered in parts, his feet may be said to be still upon the earth. In one sense he is "clean every whit," seated with Christ in heaven; in another, he is still a sinner, walking the earth, and getting his feet constantly soiled with its dust, or "thick clay." Our Lord here speaks of the washing in reference to this latter condition; and contrasts the continual washingwith the one bathing. He contrasts the daily pardons, upon confessionwith the one acceptance, in believing; an acceptance with which nothing can interfere. With the sense of acceptance, we may say that many things can and do interfere; but with the acceptance itself, nothing can, either within or without, either in heaven or on earth.
The person who is bathed, is exposed after coming from the bath, to constant soiling of his feet; but that is all. His person remains clean. The priest who has washed at the laver, is constantly getting his feet soiled with the dust of the temple pavement, or with the clotted blood which adheres to it. But this does not affect his person. That remains clean. So is it with the believing man. Personally accepted, and delivered from condemnation, he is every moment contracting some new stain, some defilement which needs washing. But this defilement does not affect his personal forgiveness, and ought not to lead him into doubt as to his acceptance. He himself is clean, through his reception of the word spoken to him by his Lord and Master; and he goes about the removal of his ever-recurring sins, as one who knows this. He betakes himself to Christ for the hourly removal of his sins, as one who has tasted that the Lord is gracious; he comes for the washing of his feetto him who has already bathed his person.
It is this distinction between the "bathing" and the "washing" that meets the difficulty felt by some, as to a believer constantly seeking pardon. He who has bathed, needs only to wash his feet. He who has been accepted in the beloved, has not daily to go and plead for acceptance, nor to do or say anything which implies that the condemnation, from which he has been delivered, has returned; but he has to mourn over, to confess, to seek forgiveness for daily sins. The two states are quite distinct, yet quite consistent with each other. The complete acceptance of the believing man does not prevent his sinning, nor do away with the constant need of new pardons for his sins; and the recurrence of sin does not cancel his acceptance, nor is the obtaining of new pardons at variance with his standing as a forgiven man.
It is this distinction which answers a question often raised, "Are all our sins, future as well as past, forgiven the moment we believe?" In one sense they are; for from the time of our believing, we are treated by God as forgiven men, and nothing can interfere with this. But in another they are not; for, strictly speaking, no sin can be actually forgiven until it exists, just as no one can be raised up until he actually falls, and as we cannot wash off the soil from our feet until it is on them. That God should treat his saints as forgiven ones, and yet that he should be constantly forgiving, are two things quite compatibleand the "bathing and washing" of our text, furnish an excellent illustration of their consistency. All such questions have two sides, a divine and a human one. The mixing up of these two, or the ascribing to the one what belongs to the other, confuses and perplexes. The keeping of them separate makes all clear. With the divine side God has to do, with the human we have to do. Eternal forgiveness is God's purposedaily forgiveness is our enjoyment and privilege.
We are apt to get into confusion here, and to feel as if our daily sins did interfere with our acceptance, and ought, for the time, to destroy our consciousness, or assurance of acceptance. Our Lord's words here clear up this difficulty, and rectify this mistake. "A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean." Our state of "no condemnation," is one which our daily sins cannot touch. These sins need constant washing; but that does not affect the great truth of our personal cleanness in the sight of God, our having found grace in the eyes of the Lord. To suppose that it could do so, would be to misunderstand our Lord's distinction between the bathing and the washing.
Let us learn, then, how to deal with our daily sins, in consistency with this distinction. Suppose I sinsuppose I get angry; shall I conclude that I have never been accepted by God, or that this sin has thrown me out of acceptance? No! But holding fast my acceptance, I go and confess my anger to the Master. Suppose I allow the world to come in, and perhaps for days I become cold, and prayerless; shall I say, Ah, I have never been a forgiven man? or, This has broken up the reconciliation? No! but, undisturbed in my consciousness of pardon and reconciliation, I simply take my worldliness, my coldness, my prayerlessness to God. I go and wash my feet as often as they need it, and that is every moment; but, in doing so, I never lose sight of the blessed fact, that I have bathed, and that as nothing can alter this fact, so nothing can invalidate its effects. It abides unchanged. Once bathedthen bathed forever!
Shall we sin, then, because grace abounds? Shall we soil our feet because our cleansing has been so perfect, and because the washing is so easy? No! How shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein? So far from being now in a more favorable position for committing sin, we are placed in one which, of all others, is the most effectual for delivering us from it. The conscious completeness of the pardon is God's preservative from sin; and it is the best, the most effectual preservative. There is none like it. It is the source of our power against sin, and for holiness. Without this, progress in goodness, freedom in service, and success in labor are all impossible.
The bathing and the washing are, both of them, God's protests against sin; and, if understood aright, would be our most effectual safeguards. They come to us like Christ's words to the woman, "Neither do I condemn yougo and sin no more." And what more likely to deepen our hatred of sin, than this necessary communion with our holy Master, in the reception of constant forgivenesses from his priestly hands. The more that we have to do with Him, the more are we sure to become like him; nor is anything more fitted to make us ashamed of our sins, than our being compelled to bring them constantly, and to bring them all, small and great, for pardon to HIMSELF.
It is thus that the Highest stoops to the lowest, and discharges toward them the offices of happy affection and considerate sympathy in the most menial things of life. Shall we not imitate his love, and by our daily acts of kindly service to our fellow-saints, knit together the members of the blessed household? However great in rank, or riches, or learningshall we not stoop? "High in high places, gentle in our own." Shall we not thus win love? Not so much to ourselves, as to the beloved One; showing his meekness in ours, his gentleness in ours, his lowliness in ours, his patience in ours; thus melting hearts that would not otherwise be melted, and winning affections that would not otherwise be won. "For as He is, so are we in this world."
| 2009/5/11 6:20||Profile|