NOW we come to a very important part of our subject -- Grace for living. One of the saddest things in the present day is the fact that so many professed Christians have no spiritual power. They bear no testimony for Christ. There are so few who can go to the homes of the sick and read the Bible to them, pray with them, and minister comfort to their souls. How few can go to the abode of the drunkard, and tell him of Christ's power to save! How few there are who are wise in winning souls to Christ!
It is the low spiritual state of so many in the Church of Christ that is the trouble. We are not living up to our privileges. As you go through the streets of London you will see here and there the words, |Limited Company.| There are many Christians who practically limit the grace of God. It is like a river flowing by; and we can have all we need: but if we do not come and get a continual supply, we cannot give it out to others.
Mother! father! are you not longing to see your children won to Christ? What is the trouble? Is it the fault of the minister? I believe that though ministers were to preach like angels, if there is a low standard of Christian life in the home, there will be little accomplished. What we want, more than anything else, is more grace in our lives, in our business affairs, in our homes, in our daily walk and conversation. I cannot but believe that the reason of the standard of Christian life being so low, is that we are living on stale manna. You know what I mean by that. So many people are living on their past experience -- thinking of the grand times they had twenty years ago, perhaps when they were converted. It is a sure sign that we are out of communion with God if we are talking more of the joy, and peace, and power, we had in the past, than of what we have to-day. We are told to |grow in grace;| but a great many are growing the wrong way.
You remember the Israelites used to gather the manna fresh every day: they were not allowed to store it up. There is a lesson here for us Christians. If we would be strong and vigorous, we must go to God daily and get grace. A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough to-day to last him for the next six months; or take sufficient air into his lungs at once to sustain life for a week to come. We must draw upon God's boundless stores of grace from day to day, as we need it.
I knew a man who lived on the banks of Lake Erie. He had pipes laid to his house from the lake; and when he wanted water, all he had to do was to turn the tap and the water flowed in. If the Government had presented him with the lake, he would not have known what to do with it. So we may say that if God were to give us grace enough for a lifetime, we should not know how to use it. He has given us the privilege of drawing on Him day by day -- not |forty days after sight.| There is plenty of grace in the bank of heaven; we need not be afraid of its becoming exhausted.
We are asked to come boldly to the throne of grace -- as sons to a father -- that we may find grace. You have noticed that a son is very much more bold in his father's house than if he were simply a servant. A good many Christians are like servants. If you go into a house, you can soon tell the difference between the family and the servants. A son comes home in the evening; he goes all over the house -- perhaps talks about the letters that have come in, and wants to know all that has been going on in the family during his absence. It is very different with a servant, who perhaps does not leave the kitchen or the servants' hall all day except when duty requires it.
Suppose some one had paid a million dollars into the bank in your name, and had given you a check-book so that you could draw out just as you wanted: would you go to work and try to live on ten dollars a month? Yet that is exactly what many of us are doing as Christians. I believe this low standard of Christian life in the Church is doing more to manufacture infidels than all the skeptical books that were ever written.
Hear what the Apostle says: |My God shall supply all your need.| Look at these words carefully. It does not say He will supply all your wants. There are many things we want that God has not promised to give. It is |your need| and |all your need.| My children often want many things they do not get; but I supply all they need, if it is in my power to give it to them. I do not supply all their wants by any means. My boy would probably want to have me give him a horse; when I know that what he really needs, perhaps, is grace to control his temper. Our children might want many things that it would be injurious for them to have. And so, though God may withhold from us many things that we desire, He will supply all our need. There can come upon us no trouble or trial in this life, but God has grace enough to carry us right through it, if we will only go to Him and get it. But we must ask for it day by day. |As thy days, so shall thy strength be.|
I met a man once in Scotland who taught me a lesson that I shall never forget. A Christian friend wanted me to go and have a talk with him. He had been bedridden for many years. This afflicted saint comforted me and told me some wonderful things. He had fallen and broken his back when he was about fifteen years of age, and had lain there on his bed for some forty years. He could not be moved without a good deal of pain, and probably not a day has passed all those years without suffering. If any one had told him he was going to lie there and suffer for forty years, probably he would have said he could not do it. But day after day the grace of God has been granted to him; and I declare to you it seemed to me as if I were in the presence of one of God's most highly-favored children. It seemed that when I was in that man's chamber, I was about as near heaven as I could get on this earth. Talk about a man's face shining with the glory of the upper world! I very seldom see a face that shines as did his. I can imagine that the very angels when they are passing over the city on some mission of mercy, come down into that man's chamber to get refreshed. There he has been lying all these years, not only without a murmur, but rejoicing all the while.
I said to him: |My friend, does the devil never tempt you to doubt God, and to think He is a hard master?| |Well now,| he said, |that is just what he tries to do. Sometimes, as I look out of the window and see people walking along in health, Satan whispers: 'If God is so good, why does He keep you here all these weary years? Why, if He loved you, instead of lying here and being dependent on others, you might now have been a rich man, and riding in your own carriage.'| |What do you do when the devil tempts you?| |Oh, I just take him up to the Cross; and he had such a fright there eighteen hundred years ago, that he cannot stand it; and he leaves me.| I do not think that bedridden saint has much trouble with doubts; he is so full of grace.
And so if we will only come boldly to God, we shall get all the help and strength we need. There is not a man or woman alive but may be kept from falling, if they will let God hold them up in His almighty arms.
There is a story in the history of Elisha the prophet that I am very fond of; most of you are familiar with it. Sometimes we meet with people who hesitate to accept Christ, because they are so afraid they will not hold out. You remember there was a young prophet who died and left a widow with two little boys. It has been said that misfortunes do not come singly, but in battalions. This woman had not only lost her husband, but a creditor was going to take her boys and sell them into slavery. That was a common thing in those days. The widow went and told Elisha all about it. He asked her what she had in the house. Nothing, she said, but a pot of oil. It was a very hard case.
Elisha told her to go home and borrow all the vessels she could. His command was: |Borrow not a few.| I like that. She took him at his word, and borrowed all the vessels her neighbors would lend to her. I can imagine I see the woman and her two sons going from house to house asking the loan of their vessels. No doubt there were a good many of the neighbors who were stretching their necks, and wondering what it all meant; just as we sometimes find people coming into the inquiry-room to see what is going on. If this woman had been like some modern skeptics, she would have thought it very absurd for the prophet to bid her do such a thing; she would have asked what good could come of it. But faith asks no questions: so she went and did what the man of God told her to do. I can see her going up one side of the street knocking at every door and asking for empty vessels. |How many do you want?| |All you can spare.| There are the two sons carrying the great vessels; some of them perhaps nearly as large as the boys themselves. It was hard work. When they had finished one side of the street, they went down the other. |Borrow not a few,| she had been told; so she went on asking for as many as she could get. If there were as much gossip in those days as there is now, all the people in the street would have been talking about her. Why, this woman and her boys have been carrying vessels into the house all day; what can be the matter?
But now they have all the vessels the neighbors would lend. She locks the door; and she says to one of the boys, |James, you are the younger; bring me the empty vessels. John, you are the stronger; when, I have filled them you take them away.| So she began to pour. Perhaps the first vessel was twice as big as the one she poured from; but it was soon filled: and she kept on pouring into vessel after vessel. At last her son says, |Mother, this is the last one;| and we are told that the oil was not stayed till the last vessel was full.
Dear friends, bring your empty vessels; and God will fill them. I venture to say that the eyes of those boys sparkled as they saw this beautiful oil, fresh from the hand of the Creator. The woman went and told the man of God what had happened; he said to her, |Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt; and live thou and thy children off the rest.| That is grace for the present, and for the future. |As thy days so shall thy strength be.| You will have grace not only to cover all your sins, but to carry you right into glory. Let the grace of God into your heart; and He will bring you safely through.
Let me close by quoting the words of an old prayer: |God give us grace to see our need of grace; give us grace to ask for grace; give us grace to receive grace; give us grace to use the grace we have received.|
|Grace taught my soul to pray,
And pardoning love to know;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.
Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise!|