From Morning and Evening:
We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.
How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of His people’s interests which He does not consider, and there is nothing which concerns their welfare which is not important to Him. The smallest interests of all His saints—are all borne upon the broad bosom of the Son of God. Oh, what a heart is His, that does not merely comprehend the salvation of His people—but comprehends also, all their diverse and innumerable concerns!
Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind—but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us; He never turns aside His mind from us, and has us always before His eyes! This is precisely as we would have it—for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment, beyond the observation of our heavenly Father.
The Lord always did think upon His people—hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured. He always will think upon them—hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest. In all our wanderings, the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us!
In our sorrows He observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes Him! In our toils He marks all our weariness, and writes in His book all the struggles of His faithful ones.
These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for.
It is a sweet and blessed event which will occur to all believers in God’s own time—the going home to be with Jesus. In a few more years the Lord’s soldiers, who are now fighting “the good fight of faith” will be done with conflict, and have entered into the joy of their Lord.
But although Christ prays that His people may eventually be with Him where He is, He does not ask that they may be taken at once away from this world to heaven. He wishes them to stay here.
Jesus does not plead for our instant removal by death—for to abide in this world is needful for others—if not profitable for ourselves. He asks that we may be kept from evil—but He never asks for us to be admitted to the inheritance in glory—until we are fully matured.
Dying in faith has distinct reference to the past. They believed the promises which had gone before, and were assured that their sins were blotted out through the mercy of God.
Dying in faith has to do with the present. These saints were confident of their acceptance with God, they enjoyed the beams of His love, and rested in His faithfulness. Dying in faith looks into the future. They fell asleep, affirming that the Messiah would surely come, and that when He would in the last days appear upon the earth, they would rise from their graves to behold Him.
Ah! if you had no devil to tempt you, no enemies to fight you, and no world to ensnare you, you would still find in yourself evil enough to be a sore trouble to you, for “the heart is deceitful above all things—and desperately wicked.”
Believer, you do not make use of Christ—as you ought to do. When you are in trouble, why do you not tell Him all your grief? Has He not a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve you? But no—you are going about to all your friends—except your best Friend, and telling your tale everywhere, except into the bosom of your Lord.
Are you burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood—use it, saint, use it! Has a sense of guilt returned upon you? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be used again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing!
Do you deplore your weakness? He is your strength—why not lean upon Him? Do you feel naked? Come here, soul—put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Do not stand looking at it—but wear it. Strip off your own righteousness, and your own fears too—put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear.
Do you feel yourself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive you.
There is nothing Christ dislikes more—than for His people to make a show-thing of Him, and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders—the more precious will He be to us.
What a sweet title, “My people!” What a cheering revelation: “Their God!” How much of meaning is couched in those two words, “My people!”
Dear friends, can you, by faith, see yourselves in that number? Can you look up to heaven and say, “My Lord and my God—mine by that sweet relationship which entitles me to call You Father—mine by that hallowed fellowship which I delight to hold with You when You are pleased to manifest Yourself unto me as You do not unto the world?”
Can you, by humble faith, lay hold of Jesus’ garments, and say, “My Christ”? If you can, then God says of you, and of others like you, “My people;” for, if God is your God, and Christ is your Christ, the Lord has shown special, peculiar grace to you—you are the object of His choice, accepted in His beloved Son!
The true way to handle a matter wisely—is to trust in the Lord. This is the sure clue to the most intricate labyrinths of life—follow it and find eternal bliss.
What do we think and feel about the cross of Christ? I want to examine what one of the greatest Christians that ever lived thought of the cross of Christ. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul The place where you will find his opinion, is in the letter which the Holy Ghost inspired him to write to the Galatians. The words in which his judgment is set down, are these, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now what did Paul mean by saying this?
Let others, if they would, look elsewhere for salvation; let others, if they were so disposed, trust in other things for pardon and peace: for his part the apostle was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place confidence in nothing, glory in nothing, except “the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Heaven or hell, happiness or misery, life or death, blessing or cursing in the last day,--all hinges on the answer to this question: “What do You think about the cross of Christ?”
Let me show you, first of all, what the Apostle Paul did not glory in. There are many things that Paul might have gloried in, if he had thought as some do in this day. He never gloried in his national privileges. He never gloried in his own works. He never gloried in his knowledge. He never gloried in his graces. He never gloried in his Churchmanship. Now if the apostle Paul never gloried in any of these things, who in all the world, from one end to the other,-who has any right to glory in them in our day?
Learn, I say, this day, that you are very unlike Paul. Your Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul would not glory in anything but “the cross.” Neither ought you.
Oh, let us beware of self-righteousness! Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands.
Be thankful if you have grace, but never glory in it for a moment. Work for God and Christ, with heart and soul and mind and strength, but never dream for a second of placing confidence in any work of your own.
Once more I say, let us beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their fancied virtues as others do from their sins.
Let me explain, in the second place, what we are to understand by the cross of Christ. What did St. Paul mean when he said, “I glory in the cross of Christ,” in the Epistle to the Galatians? The cross sometimes means that wooden cross, on which the Lord Jesus Christ was nailed and put to death on Calvary. This is not the cross in which St. Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood. The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through, if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion’s sake. This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well: he carried it patiently. But he is not speaking of it here. But the cross also means, in some places, the doctrine that Christ died for sinners upon the cross,--the atonement that He made for sinners, by His suffering for them on the cross,--the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up, when He gave His own body to be crucified. In short, this one word, “the cross,” stands for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.” (1 Corinthians 1:18.)
Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting-place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul’s soul.
Depend upon it, the cross of Christ,--the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners,--is the centre truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses, and the history of the Jews.
Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics without the key that interprets their meaning,--curious and wonderful, but of no real use.
But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.
As long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross.
Let me show, lastly, why all Christians ought to glory in the cross of Christ.
People seem to me to forget that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident: they were all planned, counselled, and determined from all eternity.
People seem to me to forget that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were necessary for man’s salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all. With His stripes alone could we be healed. This was the one payment of our debt that God would accept: this was the great sacrifice on which our eternal life depended.
If I listened to the wretched talk of proud men, I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful! But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ.
Oh, no! what Jesus paid for, Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it. He will not let it easily be lost. He called me to Himself when I was a dark sinner: He will never forsake me after I have believed.
When Satan tempts us to doubt whether Christ’s people will be kept from falling, we should tell Satan to look at the cross.
Other religions cannot tell us of a dying Saviour. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone.
“All,” said a dying missionary, “there is but one thing needful on a death-bed, and that is to feel one’s arms around the cross!”