Daily Readings for December.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12. 21.
For who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 1 Peter 3. 13.
The Christian life is a warfare, and the conflict between sin and holiness, and between sorrow and comfort, is often very violent. The child of God has many evils to encounter with. Sin, Satan, self, and the world, are daily enemies. He is also exposed often to poverty, affliction, reproaches, and persecution. O my Saviour, help me to overcome every evil in the strength of the grace; give me a heart to do good to all who may seek to hurt me; "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" Not the Father for he loves you, not Jesus, for he died for you; not the Spirit, his work is to comfort you; not good men, they love those who follow that which is good; not wicked men, nor devils, for though enemies, they are confined, and cannot stir a step beyond what thy God and Saviour permits. When you meet with a trial, look not to men, but to Jesus. Pray for patience to bear it, and look up for a blessing upon it. Then all things shall work together for good.
Romans 8. 28. Let every temptation make you more careful, and put you on closer watching against the enemy. Cleave to Jesus by faith and prayer, like a child to its parent, when it sees an enemy coming towards it. Behold him, flee to him, rest upon him, and then you will rejoice in him.
How glorious, Lord thy wisdom shines,
And baffles Satan's deep designs,
Thy power is sov'reign to fulfil
The noblest counsels of thy will.
Prayer shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised. Psalm 72. 15.
Oh what a condescending King we have, who may always be approached! Who would not pray? You say, Oh that my coldness and indifference would permit me to do it! But are you sensible of your wants and miseries? Is not this coldness and backwardness misery enough? Therefore you ought always to pray, and to pray most when you are dull and drowsy, else it will never be better with you. Arise, therefore, and pray; the good Spirit of God will assist you. "Encouraged by the promises of a prayer-hearing God, and a special assistance of the Holy Spirit in this work, we must, even in the greatest conflicts, not omit to resist the temptations of the devil; and, though we have sinned, not defer it long; but pray directly, and say, The Lord is merciful, and I am unworthy and unable to pray, but, alas! what shall I do? Shall I wait till I am worthy and able? Oh no; perhaps that time will never come; for I am always a great, miserable sinner. A Christian always stands in the need of prayer; for since the sense of sin does not leave him, he must not leave off prayer." Lord, grant me more of the spirit of prayer, and let it never be extinguished in my heart.
Arise, my soul, from deep distress,
And banish every fear;
God calls thee to his throne of grace,
To spread thy sorrows there.
What doest thou here, Elijah? 1 Kings 19. 13.
Let this question be supposed as addressed to us:- What doest thou in this world into which thou art sent? Art thou working "the work of him that sent thee," or standing all the day idle? How dost thou acquit thyself in the duties of thy particular calling? Art thou upright, conscientious and useful therein? Art thou in the post assigned thee by Heaven, truly called, and properly qualified for it? or hast thou thrust thyself into it without warrant or invitation; and therefore hast no cause to expect success? What doest thou here in this retirement? Is the world shut out of thy thoughts, and are visits of the blessed Spirit invited? What doest thou here, if thy peace with an offended God is not already made, or more earnestly desired and sought after? If thou realy wantest peace and safety, plead the blood of Jesus, flee to the city of refuge before the avenger of blood overtake thee, and thou perish from the way. "Remember Lot's wife," and look not behind thee, lest thou become a monument of God's wrath. What doest thou here in times of trial and temptation? Art thou flying from danger, and boldly facing it in the name and strength of the Lord? Art thou ashamed of the cross, or dost thou willingly take it upon thee? Elijah failed here; he fled from Jezebel. And did such a one as Elijah fear? Then howl, ye fir-trees, if the cedars be thus shaken; hold fast by Christ,ye weak ones, if the strong. What doest thou here below? Art thou pitching thy tent this side of Jordan, satisfied with thy present portion? or art thou looking to a better country, to a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God? Life is uncertain, death approaches, the Judge is at the door: then, "Prepare to meet thy God."
Arm me with zealous care,
As in thy sight to live,
And thy weak servant Lord, prepare
A good account to give.
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25. 15.
Happy is the man that feareth alway. Proverbs 28. 14.
O how long can some enemies hide themselves with their nets before our eyes, and draw in all of a sudden! It is unspeakable how cunning and powerful our enemies are; how they lie in wait everywhere, so that in all places, and at all times, we are surrounded with cruel murderers of souls! Blessed is he that keeps clear from self confidence, and, fearing always within himself, as soon as he awakes in the morning. Who knows what temptations I may meet today? Perhaps, when I arise, by the first step my feet may be entangled in dangerous snares and nets. And, as self confidence ever will be ashamed, and a firm confidence in the Lord shall never fail, (Romans 9. 33.), grant, O Lord I beseech thee, that, distrusting myself, I may fully put my trust in thee, watching evermore in all things, and looking cautiously in all places about me, where there is any fear of danger. Whatever I am about to do or speak, let me converse with thee by prayer; that, keeping always close to thee, I may be preserved against the power and craft of my enemies, as in a stronghold; and confidently say, according to thy own pattern, given Psalm 16. 8.-- "I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."
God is my portion and my joy
His counsels are my light;
He gives me sweet advice by day
And gentle hints by night.
My soul would all her thoughts approve
To his all-seeing eye;
Nor death nor hell my hope shall move,
While such a friend is nigh.
My Father worketh hitherto, and I work, (as also the Holy Spirit.) John 5. 17.
O my poor soul, is not the blessed Trinity, thy God in three Persons, able to destroy the works of the devil, and fulfil his good will in thee? Oh yes, he works both to will and to do: and the very thing which is above your own power he works, and nothing else. If you can do little, he works much; if nothing at all, so much the better, then he works all; for he is our all, since we are nothing, and can do nothing. And happy are we that we can have him for our support in all things; and that the children of God are not required to direct their own steps, but shall be led by their heavenly Father. Now, O Lord, since by the will, guidings, and workings of my own heart, I throw only so many hindrances, and blocks in my way, grant, I beseech thee, that, in true dependence upon thee, I may venture, everything; and despairing of my own sufficiency, may always abide in thee, draw all necessary strength from thee by prayer, and bring forth many good fruits which may last eternity. For thy work in true believers, weak as it may seem now, will last forever, and none shall be able to destroy it.
Lord, let thy counsels guide my feet
Through this dark wilderness,
Thy hand conduct me near thy seat,
To dwell before thy face.
Then, if the strings of life were broke,
And flesh and heart should faint,
God is my soul's eternal rock,
The strength of every saint.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4. 7, 8.
And thus the effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5. 16.
O my dear soul, draw nigh to God in prayer, and he will draw nigh to thee; Be instant in it; the devil cannot stand against thee; for prayer will drive away sin and Satan, as the wind drives away smoke before it; it works wonderful things, and will make possible what seemeth most impossible. If God has given thee some spiritual blessings already, this is an encouragement to hope also for that which thou lackest yet: therefore only pray confidently, and you shall receive evermore; for unbelief is the only reason that God cannot work wonders in us.
My God, I bow before thy feet;
When shall my soul get near thy seat?
When shall I see thy glorious face
With mingled majesty and grace.
How should I love thee and adore,
With hopes and joys unknown before!
And bid this trifling world begone,
Nor tease my heart so near thy throne.
Creatures with all there charms should fly
The presence of a God so nigh;
My darling sins should lose their name,
And grow my hatred and my shame.
My soul should pour out all her cares
In flowing words or flowing tears;
Thy smiles should ease my sharpest pain,
Nor shall I seek my God in vain.
I live by the faith of the Son of God. Galatians 2. 20.
In spiritual things we are too often living upon self. We seek in frames, forms, creatures, and animal life, that inward peace and stability of mind which is only to be found in the Redeemer. Outward duties are well in their place, but they have no divine life in themselves, or to give. They are performed, but not trusted in; to be used with grace, but cannot buy grace. They are as the scaffold of the building, - a mean for carrying on the work, but not the end of the great design. In the power of Christ they are blessings; without it they have no power. The whole trust must be in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life; without him prayers, praises, rites and ordinances, are carcasses without a soul. Every performance of outward worship is so, unless the Saviour fills it with his Divine Spirit. Then in it we experience a communion of heart, a reviving of the soul after the adorable Jesus, and a delightful view behind the veil of outward ordinances, (such as no carnal eye can behold,) manifesting the Lord in his goodness, beauty, grandeur, blessedness, and glory.
Nature has all its glories lost,
When brought before thy throne;
No flesh shall in thy presence boast,
But in the Lord alone.
Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. Exodus 2. 9.
As Moses was ordered to be saved by the most cruel enemy's daughter, so Satan himself, even when he meditates our destruction, must be a mean of our life. So also Matthew 12. 48; "Who is my mother?" etc. Isaiah 8. 10; 9. 6. O Lord Jesus, if thou art a child born unto me, and I am willing to receive thee as my Immanuel, thou wilt be my shield and exceeding great reward, and defend me powerfully against all mine enemies. O dear Saviour, if thou art mine, all is mine, even thy Father, thy Spirit, and thy heavenly glory; all accidents, all enemies, must work for my good, and be instruments and ministers of my salvation. Oh that I may, trusting in thee, never fear anything; but thinking directly it is mine, may only make good use of everything. Thus even the very worst would turn to my great blessing; and without it perhaps I should want as needful a thing as a mill or a ship does when destitute of wind and water.
My soul, survey thy happiness,
If thou art found a child of grace
How richly is the gospel stored!
What joy the promises afford.
All things now are the gift of God,
And purchased with our Saviour's blood:
While the good Spirit shows us how
To use and enjoy them too.
If peace and plenty crown my days,
They help me, Lord to speak thy praise;
If bread of sorrows be my food,
Those sorrows work my real good.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and spiritual hymns. Ephesians 5. 19.
Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns. Colossians 3. 16.
If we are obliged to promote the temporal good of our neighbour, how much more the spiritual, by edifying discourses. But how is it? The children of God, when a person visits them (says a certain divine), are sometimes troubled and know not what discourse to enter upon; at last they begin an unprofitable discourse, or at least suffers others to do it, and are silent at it. I will tell you what I have done in such cases; I first prayed to God, saying, "O good God, here I receive a guest, and have nothing to set before and treat him with; I pray thee to give me the right bread for him;" which the Lord was pleased to hear in such a gracious manner, that I could sooner enter into edifying discourse. And thus we keep our consciences clean; and though perhaps the lips were frozen up at first, they are thawed and opened up by prayer. Some foolish philosophers, to the great offence of others, mock at divine things and even prayer; as if we needed no other help than our own depraved reason and will. But what St. Paul says (Romans 1. 22.) is fulfilled in them:- "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." What will become of these poor scoffers upon ther dying bed, and at the day of judgment? Oh that they would take warning while it is time!
Now if some proper hour appear,
Let none be overawed;
But let the scoffing sinners hear
That we can speak for God.
Tell his disciples, and Peter(who had deeply fallen) especially.Mark 16. 7.
If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous --- for the whole world. 1 John 2. 1,2.
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.
Hebrews 12. 12.
Hast thou been slack, unfaithful, and fallen away? O poor soul, thou art not to make light of it; but wilt thou continue in thy fallen condition any longer, and complain? Get thee up, and ask pardon of Christ; he is ready to forgive and receive thee again, like Peter "having received gifts for the rebellious." Delay not to lay hold of thy ransom, which is greater than all the sins of the world: nay, the ransom paid for this very sin, and a pardon purchased by it already. Therefore sue it out and be not discouraged, nor listen to the temptation of giving up hope, and turning back to the world. The Lord even now reaches forth his hand to thee anew by this very word; come, lift thyself up at it, and be careful for the time to come to be so much more cautious, humble, and gentle toward others; for a Christian's foot may trip; but when recovered, it slides deeper into humility.
Salvation! Oh the the joyful sound,
'Tis pleasure to mine ears;
A sov'reign balm for every wound,
A cordial for my fears.
Buried in sorrow and sin,
At hell's back door I lay;
But I arise by grace Divine
To see a heav'nly day.
Behold, we come unto thee. Jeremiah 3. 22..
The Eleventh of December.
(And)I will come unto you. John 14. 18 A lively representation of this happy meeting. See Luke 19. 4-6.
Zaccheus ran -- and Christ said unto him, Make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.
O my dear Saviour, since I come to thee, and thou to me, we shall certainly meet one another. Who will oppose and obstruct it? The devil and sin? Oh no! this wall of separation is pulled down. Christ says, "Come unto me; I am not an angry Judge, but a loving Mediator between God and thy frightened conscience; keep to me, and fear not wrath. I sit here, believing in me to make intercession for thee with God, no wrath or disgrace can befall thee. Should wrath and punishment come upon thee, it must first come upon me; wrath is quite impossible;" for Jesus is the dear Son of God, in whom dwells all the fulness of grace; and the Father looking upon him, his wrath must vanish away, and everything in heaven and earth be change into smiles of love and grace, Ephesians 1. 6. Dangers and conflicts being hot, God hastens with his assistance. At other times he tarries, and the work of our whole renovation goes on little by little; that, improving in the exercise of patience and faith, we must also bear with others, and learn not only to quicken our diligence, but also to wait for him.
In thine own way, O God of love,
We wait the visits of thy grace;
Our soul's desire is to thy name,
And the remembrance of thy face.
Mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
Psalm 38. 4.
It is a sure sign that a man is awakened out of his sleep, when he discovers the error of his dream. In the drawing up of water out of a deep well, so long as the bucket is under water, we feel not the weight of it; but as soon as it comes above water, it begins to hang heavily on the hand. When a man dives under water, he feels no weight of the water, though there be many tons of it over his head; whereas a tub half full of the same water, taken out of the river, and set upon the same man's head, would be very burdensome to him, and make him soon grow weary of it. In like manner, so long as a man is over head in sin, he is not sensible of the weight of sin; it is not troublesome in him; but when he begins once to come out of that state of sin wherein he lay and lived before, then beginneth sin to hang heavy upon him, and he groans under the weight thereof. So long as sin is in the will, the proper seat of sin, a man feels not the weight of it, but, like a fool, it is sport and pastime to him to do evil. It is therefore a good sign that sin is removed out of its seat, out of its chair of state, when it becomes burdensome to us; and such a sense of may well be considered as an entrance into a state of grace.
Give me, O Lord, the broken heart,
Which mourns for sin with inward smart;
And will to thy dear cross repair,
And seek and find it healing there.
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Jeremiah 3. 22.
The Thirteenth of December.
See also Luke 15.20.
When he was yet a great way off --
Hear therefore the voice of thy loving heavenly Father and Shepherd, O thou backsliding children and lost sheep, crying earnestly, Return, return. Do not run in the broad way with the world any longer. Are you not yet tired of the husks of the world? Do you feel no troubles in your soul? Shall not these drive thee to God? Lo! thy Father and Shepherd seek thee. He is gone forth to call and meet thee already. He will receive thee willingly and joyfully. Come, only praying as the prodigal son, and he will forgive thee all, though thou hast sinned ever so much. He is also able to heal and correct the most desperate corruptions of thy heart; he can deliver thee from the very jaws of hell and the devil. Nay, if thou wert possessed with more than seven devils, he can still cast them out. Begin to call upon him earnestly in prayer, and, poor and wretched as thou art, come to him as the physician of thy soul; for the physician and the sick, a rich Saviour and a poor sinner, are best suited to one another. He healeth all our diseases, and can make possible what seems most impossible to thee.
Come, all ye vile sinners, come,
He'll form your souls anew;
His gospel and his heart have room
For rebels such as you.
Watch ye therefore, and pray always. Luke 21. 36.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. Hebrews 12. 1.
The hearts of men are not like unto clocks, which only want to be wound up once a day. Oh no! the dullness and distractions are too great and dangerous. We must lift them up many times a day, yea, watch continually to lay aside every weight. Our going out and coming in, nay, all things, even the very least, we must do with prayer, always strictly examining what is the will of the Lord; else, if they are done after our own will, they do not tend to the glory of God, and cannot be attended with his blessing. But if we earnestly strive against our own will in prayer, patiently suffering every hour what the Lord thinks proper to lay upon us, and will be ruled by his hints and slight stroke of his rod, many heavy afflictions and scourges, and whips may be avoided; for the burdens which we bring upon ourselves, by our own will and impatience, are always the heaviest. A Christian has daily his proper burden, like a clock its weights, by which the flesh is kept under, so that the spirit can rise up; therefore, when anything comes cross, he looks upon it as his weight for the day, to stir him up to exercises of prayer and meditation in the word of God. O Lord, grant that I may always bear thy easy yoke, and never be the cause my own distress and dullness.
Wait on the Lord, ye trembling saints,
And keep your courage up;
He'll raise your spirit when it faints,
And far exceeds your hope.
Give an account of thy stewardship. Luke 16. 2.
The Fifteenth of December.
O Lord, how have I wasted my time, my goods, and faculties! Oh pardon me for thine mercy's sake; blot out my debt by thy blood; and grant that henceforth, keeping a daily good account, and acting more prudently, faithfully, and dilegently, my reckoning may not be false at last. But preserve me also from all needless cares, since the care to get something is not the steward's business, but only to husband everything carefully. "Teach me, O Lord, and give me wisdom and grace to govern my house, and manage all my affairs rightly. Be thou the principal governor and father of my family; I would be nothing, but thy servant; direct me only in all things, that I may not suffer or do any harm." He that does not expostulate with God, but accuses himself, as guilty in all things, even his best performances, and flies to Christ as his only refuge, will be justified of God through the righteousness of his dear Son. And being thus adopted of God, he is ready and willing to be governed and directed by him in all things as a child.
That awful day will surely come,
The appointed hour makes haste,
When I must stand before my Judge,
And pass the solemn test.
Thou lovely chief of all my joys,
Thou sovereign of my heart!
How could I bear to hear thy voice
Pronounce the word, Depart?
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. 2 Corinthians 13. 5.
Many might be induced to pray for faith, if they did not presumptuously pretend to it, thinking they were not heathens, but had faith already; for such as have actually faith often doubt whether they have it or not; and those that are without, imagine they have enough. But faith is only wrought in the souls of those who are deeply humbled by a through conviction of the greatness and heinousness of their sins, confessing themselves, not only with their lips, but with a true sense of their hearts, to be the chief of sinners; and looking upon themselves as the most unworthy of all creatures. Without this repentance we do not enter through the right gate, and our faith is only fancy, a false imagination in our minds; for faith is the greatest and most difficult thing, even to the child of God; it receives Christ into the heart, and overcomes the devil, world, and all sins, which is not easily done. Therefore, if the generality of people had true faith, nothing were easier than to believe; for what can be easier than to give mere assent to the Bible as true, which is all that Christians mean by faith in general? Then there would be no more need to pray for faith, nor to examine themselves whether they have it. The wicked, therefore, who live in sin, deceive themselves in thinking they have faith; for faith giveth victory over the world. And all who trust in their own works deceive themselves too; for the prayer of faith is, "God be merciful to me a sinner." If then the first Christians had need to examine themselves, how much more have we! Therefore, the best and safest way is, to pray earnestly for that faith which has boldness and triumphs even in death.
O Lord, thy grace and power display,
Let guilt and death no longer reign;
Save me in thy appointed way,
Nor let my humble faith be vain.
For thy name's sake lead me, and guide. Pull me out of the net, etc. Psalm 31. 3, 4.
The Seventeenth of December.
When the ark set forward, Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. Numbers 10. 35.
Every one having his own particular gift, has also his own particular enemies, who lay various nets and hinderances in his way. But as everybody must clear the way for a king when he travels, much more so our enemies when the King of kings guides us and goes before us. Grant, O Lord, that all my goings and restings may be done at thy will. Numbers 9. 17, 23. Be pleased to go always triumphantly before me, and to make room, that mine enemies may be scattered, and fall into their own nets; be thou, who dwellest in heaven, laughest at all, even mine inward, spiritual enemies, and art able to confound their deepest craft and strongest power. Enlighten my darkness, blessed Jesus, that I may see my enemies distinctly, and strengthen my faith in thee, that I may not fear them. Be the Captain of my salvation; lead me on praying and believing, and do thou fight all my battles for me. So shall I come off conqueror through thy love, and will give thee eternal praise.
Great God, preserve my conscience clean;
Wash me from guilt, subdue my sin;
Thy love shall guard me from surprise,
Though threatening dangers round me rise.
My faith would seize some promise, Lord;
There's power and safety in thy word;
Not all that earth and hell can say
Shall tempt to drive my soul away.
And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. Exodus 16. 15.
This manna is entirely different to common manna, which is shook from the leaves of trees, and used only in medicine; this dropped down from the clouds, and was truly a miraculous production, as is evident from the following circumstances -- That it fell but six days in the week; that it fell in such prodigious quantity as sustained almost three millions of souls; that a double portion of it fell the day before the sabbath, and none on that day, etc. This manna is called "spiritual meat." 1 Corinthians 10. 3; because it signified spiritual blessings in heavenly things. Christ himself is the true manna, the bread of life, of which that was a figure, John 6. 49 to 51. The word of God is manna too, by which our souls are nourished, Matthew 6. 4. The comforts of the Spirit are also a "hidden manna," Revelations 2. 17. These come down from heaven as the manna did; are the support and comfort of the Divine life in the soul, while we are in the wilderness of the world. The manna they gathered in the wilderness was not to be hoarded, but eaten; so that they who have received Christ must live upon him daily by faith, and not think laying up a stock to-day, to serve them tomorrow. They that did eat manna in the wilderness hungered again; whereas, they that feed on Christ by faith shal never hunger. "Lord, evermore give us this bread."
Whilst in the wilderness I stray,
Thy manna, Lord I need;
And fresh bestow it every day,
Or I shall faint indeed.
What wilt thou, Queen Esther? and what is thy request? It shall be given unto thee to the half of the kingdom. Esther 5. 3.
The Nineteenth of December.
Dost thou want nothing. O poor soul? Hast thou nothing to ask? Oh yes! you say, a great deal. Well then, draw near to thy gracious King and Bridegroom without fear. Lo! he holds out his golden sceptre to thee, saying, Only ask; not the half, but the whole of my kingdom shall be granted; nay, I will give myself unto thee! O dear soul, pray, and tell him everything that is wanting, be it ever so great or ever so small. His loving-kindness will hear even the least petition; nay, he will seem to be ignorant of what thou hast to tell him. But whatever is poured out before him is actually addressed and lodged in its proper place, and does not lie upon thy heart any longer, but upon his heart, which cannot rest till you are relieved. And if you have experienced his help aforetime in great or small things, you may depend on his readiness to help you out of troubles hereafter; only in earnest pray for his help. We often imagine we were willing and drawing near to him, but he was willing and refused our request; but it is not so; he rather draws us, and desires our relief more than we do; for it is he that works even this willing mind.
Are those the happy persons here,
Who dwell the nearest to their God?
Has God invited sinners near,
And Jesus bought this grace with blood?
Go, then, my soul, address the Son
To lead thee near the Father's face
Gaze on his glories yet unknown,
And taste the blessings of his grace.
What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? Luke 18. 41.
O Lord, dost thou ask me also this question? O yes! Well then, I answer, That I may see how gracious thou art; that, knowing thy love in thy light, I may love thee again. This is the sum and substance of all my prayer, because thou requirest it so seriously of me. 1 Corinthians 16. 22. But thou dost not require it as of myself, well knowing that I can do nothing; but dost signify only what I am to ask of thee, and what thou art willing to give and to work; for thou dost not require anything, but what thou workest thyself, and workest everything that thou requirest; therefore, faith and love being required by thee, I require the same from thee first. Grant, oh grant them to me, that I may return them to thee again! And since nothing is pleasing to thee but what is thy own gift, I trust that thou wilt certainly hear and fulfil this request. However, as my salvation is not grounded in my own, but on thine and thy Father's eternal love and counsel, save me by free grace through thy merits, and let me go covered all over with grace and pardon. This is treasure enough, by which my heart can be well satisfied.
He that can shake the world he made,
Or with his word, or his rod;
His goodness how amazing great!
And what a condescending God.
Our sorrows and our tears we pour
Into the bosom of our God;
He hears us in the mournful hour,
And helps is bear the heavy load.
In returning and rest shall ye be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.
The Twenty First of December.
Isaiah 30. 15.
In your patience possess ye your souls. Luke 30. 15.
Christians must suffer patiently, and patience is their armour, while God is fighting for them. But when we are unwilling to suffer, going about to make complaints everywhere, and to seek comfort, or to rid ourselves by contrivances, we lose the comfort of the Lord's help, we are stirring up the wasp-nest of our unruly thoughts, and more trouble upon ourselves and others; nay, we are fighting against God, who hereby intends to cure our impatience, pride, and anger. For the more peevish and wild we are, the more desperate is our disease; and consequently we have so much more need of such sharp and wholesome trials of affliction to mortify those bad passions of the flesh. Therefore, we must not presume to murmur and complain, which will only make bad worse; for he through imaptience will flee from one trouble, may run into ten others; and though it is possible sometimes to rid ourselves out of trouble, yet the help is not so glorious and blessed as if we had waited for help of the Lord.
Sure I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord;
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow'ry beds of ease,
While others suffer'd for the prize,
And sail'd through bloody seas.
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge, but he that hateth reproof is brutish. Proverbs 12. 1.
Nothing can be said so bad of us, which we have not the root of in our heart. And though we are convinced of and strive against our own weakness, yet we may not strive so earnestly as to conquer. Therefore God comes to our assistance in sharp reproof from others; For he knows how to use even the faults of others for our good. And if we receive everything as from him alone, striving so much against this our frailty, that we may not be offensive to our neighbour any more, we certainly gain a great victory and blessing. But if we grow impatient, and make many excuses, being unwilling to put up with anything, we make evil worse, and neglect the ammendment of ourselves, and others. O Lord, make us better and give us patience.
How should the sons of Adam's race
Be pure before their God?
If he contend in righteousness,
We fall beneath his rod.
To vindicate my words and thoughts,
I'll make no more pretence;
Not one of all my thousand faults
Can bear a just defence.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3. 28.
The Twenty Third of December.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. James 2. 24.
Both these apostles wrote by inspiration. St. Paul answers this question both affirmatively and negatively; "that a man is justified before God by faith without the deeds of the law;" and in the 20th verse positively affirms, that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." St. James asserts that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." St Paul speaks of a justification before God; St. James of a justification before men. St. Paul speaks of a justification of penitent sinners before God; James, of the justification of saints before men. St Paul, speaks of the the justification of sinners believing in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and life; James, of the works of righteousness after justification by faith in Christ. Paul speaks of faith touching its office in the article of justification before God: James, of faith in its fruits and effects. Paul's faith is supposed to be fruitful in obedience, in consequence of an interest in the merits of Christ; James' faith is declared so to be by obedience performed. Whenever there is true faith, it must fix on Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that is its principal act. This same faith unites to Christ; and where there is union, there must be love; and where there is love, there must be obedience; and where there is obedience, there will be a reward of grace; and where the reward is acknowledged to be of grace, and not of merit, God will have all the glory in time and eternity.
For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. Exodus 33. 16.
Reader, do you adopt the language of Moses, and request with him that in all your removals, God's presence may go with you? that you be not permitted to stir without this distinguishing testimony that you are in the path of duty? Are you waiting upon the Lord in earnest to serve him in sincerity and truth; "not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind," and desirous to be numbered with his separate people? Then you may expect the Divine blessing, and your way to be prosperous. It was a distinguishing privilege of the Israelites, that they were to dwell alone, and not to be reckoned among the nations; and it is the privilge and duty of the spiritual Israel to be separate and distinct from the world; they are a separate people in the love of God; in their election in Christ; in the covenant of grace made with them in him; in effectual vocation; in their being seated with him to all eternity. Nor are they reckoned among the nations, but as they are called out of them, and generally treated as the refuse and offscourings of all things; they do not reckon themselves to be of the world, but as pilgrims and strangers in it. Lord, let me be among thy separate people, the righteous, both here and for evermore.
Among the righteous let me dwell,
And cast my lot with them;
Dead to pleasure, dead to wealth,
And to the world's esteem.
And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1. 21.
The Twenty Fifth of December.
Sin is the deadliest foe we have; it cast our first parents out of paradise; it defaced God's image in man; it brought pain, sickness, and death into the world, and a spiritual death into the soul; it causes a distance from God, and a dislike to his holy ways; it gives Satan an interest in, and a power over, mankind; it once drowned the world, and will destroy it at last; it exposes body and soul to the just judgment of a holy God, and will sink every unpardoned offender ino everlasting destruction. How is this deadly foe to be conquered? How is this fretting leprosy to be cleansed? Reader, be careful in this matter, and seek after a remedy that will be lasting and efficacious. Duties, prayers, tears, sacrifices, morality and partial reformations, avail nothing in this case; all below Christ Jesus will prove physicians of no value. Jesus is the only Saviour; God the Father sent him into the world to save sinners; his name declares the same; he is "called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins:" his blood is the only atonement for sin; this sprinkled upon the heart by the Spirit, and apprehended by faith, removes the guilt and curse of sin, and speaks pardon and peace; his grace breaks the power of sin, and turns our former love to it into utter hatred of it; thus is holiness secured in the heart and walk, as well as peace in conscience. He will save from the very being of sin, after the conflict between the spirit and the flesh is over; his people are all that believe in him, and depend upon him for pardon, peace and everlasting salvation. In that happy number, reader, may you and I be found; may we be enabled to look to him, to receive him as our Lord Jesus, able and willing to be saved to the very uttermost. And may we walk as the redeemed of the Lord, in righteousness and true holiness, all the days of our life. Amen.
Behold, for me the Victim bleeds,
His wounds are opened wide;
For me the blood of sprinkling pleads,
And speaks me justified.
Pour out your heart before God. Psalm 62. 8.
What a different view does this lively text give of praying, when opposed to the usual expression of saying our prayers; saying what our books and our parents teach us; saying what we have been long used to say, perhaps of our own composing, in a formal and cutomary manner. To pour out our hearts is like emptying a vessel of all its contents, so that nothing remains; and, oh, what a pleasing, awful, important thing this must be! Whatever is in my heart, my guilt or fears, my sins or sorrows, my cares and crosses, my wants, my dangers, my weaknesses, temptations, darkness, and ignorance, my doubts and anxieties respecting both body and soul, myself and others, the church and the world; every thought that arises relating either to past, present, or future, I have leave to empty myself of, to pour out by drops, or in a more copious stream, till not one burden remains; and this not by myself, or before men; for what help can I get from either? but before God, who is a prayer-hearing God, both able and willing to relieve, and who will not turn away from his creatures who pour out their heart before, and empty themselves by prayer, but will fill them with his consolations, which are neither few nor small. He can send a Hannah away no longer sad; can say "Son, or daughter, be of good cheer thy sins are forgiven thee;" and send an instructor to an inquiring Cornelius, to inform him what he must do. No wonder, then, that real prayer is so much unknown, or is such a cordial when it is made before Him who is a refuge for us. Away then for ever with the prayer of the formalist; may I learn fervency of devotion from my heavenly Master, who in his agony prayed till drops of blood fell down; and in all my sorrows and distresses, spiritual and temporal, in life and in death, like him may I be heard of my heavenly Father in the things I fear. To a suffering Jesus I look for pardon and cleansing; oh let me be accepted in the Beloved, and purged daily from my defilements, and so become a vessel to honour, sanctified for the Master's use for ever. Amen.
Come, Holy Spirit heavenly Dove,
With all thy quick'ning powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.
By the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15. 10.
The Twenty Seventh of December.
Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. 1 Peter 1. 23; 2. 2.
What made the wonderful difference between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Christian? Grace. What made him trample upon his former legal righteousness, and desire to be found in the righteousness of Christ? Grace, enlightening grace. Wherein consists the difference between the mere formalist and the real Christian? There may be a moral conduct when there is no grace, no principle of saving, divine faith; there may be the fear of the Lord taught by the precept of men, and not by the Spirit of God. One may attend the ordinances of religion; have a regard to outward decency; may have a name to live while dead; be high in a profession; and at the same time a stranger to the power of godliness; many things outwardly decent and praiseworthy may be done without a principle of grace in the heart: witness Paul before his conversion.
Have I this principle called grace, in my soul? Have I been born of the incorruptible seed? Have I got the taste of a child of God? Have I tasted that the Lord is gracious? Then shall I desire the sincere milk of the word; the babe loves the pure milk of the breast. I shall love the milk of the pure word, and from these breasts of consolation will seek comfort and nourishment for my soul. Redeeming love shall be my delightful subject; it will sweeten everything in the service of Jesus, will constrain to extensive usefulness in my track of life; the grace of God in Christ Jesus will enlarge my views, keep me humble in heart, and give the praise where it alone is due. Through the sincere milk of the word may I grow daily, and be nourished up to eternal life. Amen.
Whate'er I am, I am by grace,
And unto be all the praise;
Grace turns the water into wine,
And makes the human heart divine.
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5. 10.
And are there scoffers, who walk madly after their own lusts, and question the coming of the Lord? the hour hastens, when infidelity shall doubt no more: "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." How will sinners fade away, and be afraid in their close places, when, visible to all, the Judge shall appear on his great white throne, and from his face the earth and the heaven flee away! Before him shall stand the whole race of men, small and great; and by the testimony of God and their own consciences, it shall be fully proved, and openly declared, what they have been, and what they have done. Then sentence, most righteous, irrevocable, and big with eternity, shall be pronounced. On the wicked, everlasting punishment; on the righteous, life eternal. Think, oh think, what destruction is hanging over your heads, ye obstinate transgressors; for, "Behold, he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him, and all (wicked) kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." "Now, now, is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;" now embrace him as your offered, your all sufficient Saviour; so shall you be ever delivered from him as your angry Judge. If this you neglect now how shall you abide the day of his coming in flaming fire, to take vengeance on all that know not God, and obey not his gospel? Lift up thy head, my soul; none else is judge but Christ. Will he, who bore my sins, plead against me in judgment? No; but he will put strength in me. I know in whom I believed; and he is able to keep that good thing, my soul, which I have committed to him against that day.
An awful day is drawing near,
When Christ shall judge the quick and the dead;
Ah, sinner! how wilt thou appear
With all thy sins upon thy head?
Now mercy seek, which may be found,
For yet you stand on praying ground.
We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another. Romans 12. 5.
The Twenty Ninth of December.
Oh the blessed communion of the saints! One member has the benefits of all the other members' gifts, prayers and ministrations. One prays for all, and all pray for one. What one has, the other enjoys also.It may be truly said of them, All is yours. There is no envy, no haughtiness, no harm of strife among real saints; for why should I envy that which is my own? Why should I despise that which serves for my necessary assistance? and why should I strive against and hurt him whose hurt is my own? Is there any strife between the the members of our natural body? By no means; they serve, help, and assist one another; and if one is injured and suffers, all the rest run to his relief, and are neither tired nor angry if the healing does not follow immediately. O Lord, unite us all in hearty fellowship and tender feelings for each other; and stop all open and subtle divisions which are fermented by loft spirits, which always boast of mighty things and to be wise above the rest. Suffer not a self-conceit and a party spirit, which is the spirit of the world, to influence the members of thy body; but bless and grace them all with true humility; then shall we live in a solid union and uninteruppted harmony.
O glorious portion of the saints
Let love suppress our sore complaints;
And tune our hearts and tongues to sing
"All glory to our sovereign King."
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 2 Corinthians 3. 3.
The image is beautiful and instructing:- "The epistle of Christ written, not in tables of stone," not on a stony heart, but on a heart of flesh; a heart softened by grace, and made capable of good impressions; the heart, the seat of vital religion. So runs the gracious promise, Jeremiah 31. 33.
The word read and preached is not effectual without the operation of the Spirit of God. By the Spirit, Christians are cast into the gospel mould; thereby get evangelical, spiritual, and heavenly dispositions; Their resemblence to Christ is gradually increased; they have the witness in themselves; have the comfortable experience that they are Christ's, when they can read his image on their hearts. They are manifestly declared to others, that they are the epistles of Christ, by their good conduct and conversation in the world, confessing him before men, and speaking forth his praise. "Holiness to the Lord," is written with lovely characters on this epistle. They also resemble one another in mutual love, and in love to all that bear their Master's image. They are the epistles of Christ, as sealed by his Spirit to the day of redemption; are enabled to show forth the truth, reality and power of religion in times of affliction, and often at a dying hour.
Am I an epistle of Christ? Do I read the epistles of Christ in my Bible, and find them written in my heart? Do I see the finger of God in this Divine book, and feel the finger of his Spirit renewing and reviving my soul? Do I read the mind of God there, and heartily appove of his mind? O blessed discovery! What condescending grace! The great God, by his Spirit, to dictate epistles so loving and kind! the great God, Whom I have offended, to send me pardon, not only in his word, but by his Son also! Do I read the word of reconciliation in his gospel? Do these glad tidings of great joy revive my drooping spirit? I would read this epistle from heaven over and over again. Oh, how much do I find in it, while the Spirit opens my understanding to understand the Scriptures!
Lord, write thy law upon my heart,
For thine epistle I would be;
But write it well on every part,
And make me all resemble thee.
ALLELUIA. Revelations 19. 1.
The Thirty First of December.
Thou didst begin the year, O my soul, with a Hosanna, imploring the Lord's blessing; canst thou now conclude it with an Alleluia? Surely thou canst celebrate the praise of a gracious and loving God. Take review of the year past; hast thou not had many mercies? Have not the eyes of the Lord been upon thee for good, from the beginning of the year to the end thereof? Hath he not conducted thee through many seen, and many more unseen dangers? Canst thou not with truth as well as gratitude set up thine Ebenezer, saying, "hitherto the Lord hath helped me?" 1 Samuel 7. 12. If thou hast not been so fruitful in good works as might have been expected, is the Lord to blame, or thyself? Whatever good has been done in thee or by thee, surely belongs to the favour of God; and whatever has caused shame or humiliation, is nowhere chargeable but upon thyself. Praise the Lord, then, O my soul; and all that is within me, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all my sins, and healeth all my infirmities; who saveth thy life from destruction, and year after year crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness: and may I be crowned at length with everlastig glory! Thou wilt soon, O my soul, enter upon another year; let dear bought experience teach me to avoid all occasions of evil, and keep me close to God. If thou livest to see another day, set out afresh, and remember to offer thy daily sacrifices of obedience, as well as praise, to thy gracious God. Let every revolving day remind thee of thy approaching last day, and daily be thou preparing to meet thy God; that so when thy days are ended, thou mayest sing Alleluias before the throne of God and the Lamb for ever and ever.
This God is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
Whose love is as great as his power,
And neither knows measure or end.
'Tis Jesus, the first and last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We'll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that's to come.