Daily Readings for January.
HOSANNA. Mark 11. 9.
A new scene of time now begins: put up thy hosannas, O my soul, that the Lord may save, bless, and proper thee; may he grant thee a happy new year indeed! For this purpose begin it with a dedication of thyself to God; thy time, circumstances, and life are in his hands; implore his blessing and protection over thee this ensuing year. Begin this and every following day with prayer; let God have thy first thoughts in the morning, the impression they make will not be easily erased by worldly matters. Grace is promised in the use of means, be thou diligent, then, and punctual in the performance of them; let thy daily request be for an increasing knowledge of thyself, and Jesus Christ in his offices; for a sense of pardoning mercy; for a lively, vigorous faith; for communion with the Father and the Son through the Spirit; for true holiness in heart and life; for strength and protection against thy spiritual foes, and for preserving grace to the end. Pray for the prosperity of Zion; they prosper that love her; for thy friends and relations, begging the Almighty to take them into a covenant relation to himself; for blessings on thy worldly affairs; for a sanctified use of health or sickness, prosperity or adversity, as God shall be pleased to send. Perhaps, O my soul, this may be the last year of the Lord's patience and thy pilgrimage. Is thy state safe? Are thou a real believer in Jesus? Is the oil of grace in thy vessel? If so, thou art prepared for every energency.
And now, my soul, another year
Of thy short life is past
I cannot long continue here;
And this may be my last.
Now a new scene of life begins;
Set out afresh for heaven;
Seek pardon for thy daily sins,
In Christ so freely given.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues: O grave, I will be thy destruction. Hosea 13. 14.
(Christ) having spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them it. Colosians 2. 15.
The world is afraid of a hidden poison where there is none. The real hidden poison is sin, which the Lord granted me to fear everywhere: for it has infected all things and all places. But oh, my dear Saviour, thou being my all sufficient preservative and antidote, in all places, oh, dwell in me continually, and increase thou my faith, that I may know thee and enjoy thee more and more. Take away all slavish fears of death and hell from my soul, for thou hast conquered both for me.
Hosanna to the Prince of light
That clothed himself in clay;
Enter'd the iron gate of death,
And tore the bars away.
Death is no more the king of dread
Since our Immanuel rose;
He took the tyrant's sting away,
And spoil' our hellish foe.
Now holy triumphs of the soul
Shall death itself outbrave;
Leave dull mortality behind,
And fly beyond the grave.
But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art the potter; and we all the work of thy hands. Isaiah 64. 8.
Being only clay in thy hands, O Lord, as I must not, so I would not, resist thy workings by any means: and I pray and hope thou wilt prepare and perfect me for a meet vessel of grace, in spite of a thousand hinderances. No work of thine ever comes short of its intended perfection: for who can stay thy hand? It is thy own saying, "I will work, and who shall let it?" Isaiah 43. 13.
An artist delights in his own workmanship, and would not leave one single flaw or defect in it designedly. Philippians 1. 6. Oh, then, look upon me too, thou wise Creator!-- see how flesh and blood disorder my poor soul, and deliver me from all that may endanger my spiritual life. Knowing thou canst do no less than a human artist, who is ever ready, and exerts all his skill to mend and perfect his work, I trust that thou wilt not always suffer these impediments to hinder and disgrace thy work. Nay, such is thy wisdom and power, that out of darkness thou canst bring light; out of sickness, health; and though I am now destitute of strength and life, yet I believe thy work will be finished at last, and glorify the name of its Maker. 1 Peter 5. 10.
Finish, Lord, thy new creation;
Pure in heart, oh, let us be;
See at length they great salvation,
Perfectly restored by thee.
Oh, that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. Psalm 14. 7.
--Divine Answer. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8. 36. See also verses 31, 32.
Not as if sin should be utterly destroyed, or entirely dead, and could not stir anymore in the heart of believers; for the Scripture speaks of them as having still the lusts and motions of sin (Galatians 5. 17.); but it imports only that it has no power either to condemn or reign over us; nay, it shall be weakened more and more (Romans 6. 12-14.; so that Christ reigns in the heart even where sin dwells, in the midst of his enemies; and it is a dangerous error indeed to believe that sin is destroyed in the root. If it were so, whence those frequent expressions and exhortations to crucify, withstand, and rule over it? Galatians 5. 14.
Now sits our Saviour on his throne,
With pity in his eye;
And hears the dying pris'ners' groan,
And listens to their sighs.
He frees the souls condemn'd to death
And when his saints complain,
It shan't be said that praying breath
Was ever spent in vain.
This shall be known when we are dead,
And left on long record,
That ages unborn may read,
And trust and praise the Lord.
All that live godly in Christ Jesus shal suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3. 12.
The world hated them because they are not of the world. John 17. 14.
The children of God do not love and please the world, and are oftentimes greatly afflicted on account of abounding wickedness, and particularly the profanation of the Lord's name. Now, when you can like the world, and the world can like you, there must be much worldliness in you; for the world loves its own.
Many pretend to be Christians, but they will not endure persecution. Instead of this they blame others for too much rashness, and not acting prudently enough to avoid the mockings and hatred of the world. Therefore, they propose to take wiser measures; and, in order to do more good, take great care not to be despised or rejected; but under this pretence of wisdom and prudence, very often lies concealed a dangerous love of the world and fear of man. Be thou nobler minded, live as Chritians indeed, and be not ashamed to bear the cross of Christ. "The disciple is not above his master." Has eternal love, wisdom, and power endured the contradiction and reproach of sinners? Thou shouldst be wiser than him indeed, if thou couldst escape the reproach and hatred of the world.
May but his grace my soul renew,
Let sinners gaze and hate me too;
The word that saves me does engage
A sure defence from all their rage.
All things are possible to him that believeth.
Mark 9. 23.
Faith is the principle thing in the Christian religion. It is the spiritual eyes enlightening the mind, directing the feet, and cheering the heart; the whole turns upon it. As our faith is, so is our strength and fruitfulness in good works. But at the same time there is nothing more out of our own power than to believe, even after the work of grace has been actually wrought in our hearts. Therefore, nothing is more needful than to pray for faith as long as we live. May the Lord give and increase it continually!
Nothing can be stronger in the universe than the hand of faith. By this we lay sure hold on glorious and almighty Lord in heaven, and such an inviolable union is established between Christ and a believing soul, that none can separate the one from the other; all the powers of sin and hell avail nothing against it. Faith breaks through the greatest obstacles, removes mountains of difficulties and has, as it were, a kind of omnipotence in it. For "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5. 4. Nay, it even wrestles with God, and prevails. Genesis 32. 28. As straw cannot withstand the force of fire, so God being a wall of fire around his people, the greatest power of our mighty enemies shall be consumed like the stubble. Oh, then, look upon them steadfastly, my soul, and believe in him with a simple heart. Wonderous are his ways with his people, and past finding out, but at last their sorrows and strife, by the management of his infinite wisdom, must come to a glorious and triumphant end.
Oh let us go from strength to strength
From grace to greater grace,
From one degree of faith to more,
Till we behold thy face.
Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3. 11.
For a believer to receive and know Christ as his All, is the only means to live truly a life of faith; and when he has done this, it will not be hard to resign all other things. To talk much of Christ, and make frequent use of his name to one another, is commendable, if the heart goes along with the words; but to call upon God the Father with a filial confidence is also our duty, and does not contradict the apostle's meaning at all, for it is only through Christ we can do it; and, as he says himself, the Father and He are one. Thou art my All, O gracious Lord!-- what then can I want? I desire no more than to be put always in mind by the animating voice of thy Spirit.
My Lord, my life, my love,
To thee, to thee I call;
I cannot live if thou remove,
For thou art all in all.
Thy shining grace can cheer
This dungeon where I dwell;
'Tis paradise when thou art here;
If thou depart, 'tis hell.
Nor earth, nor all the sky,
Can one delight afford;
No, not a drop of real joy,
Without thy presence, Lord.
To thee my spirits fly
With fulness of desire;
And yet how far from thee I lie!
Dear Jesus, raise me higher.
They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righeousness of God. Whosoever believeth on him shal not be ashamed. Romans 10. 3, 11.
The same mistake which proved so fatal to the Jews, proved equally fatal to many who pretend to call themselves Christians. Ignorant alike of the Divine character and their own, they build their hope of the favour of God and eternal life upon some works of righteousness which they have done or intend to do, and reject the righteousness of Christ, in which alone they can be justified and accepted. In this mistake the decent and the profane are equally involved; for the worst of mankind fancy themselves possessed of some virtues and good qualities that will entitle them to Divine favour. The delusion remains till the light of the Holy Spirit darts in, like a sunbeam, upon the mind, and discovers the guilt and pollution that defile the best of us. We then abhor ourselves, and look to the free grace of God in Christ Jesus for pardon and salvation. We have a hope that maketh not ashamed.
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these array'd,
With joy shall I lift my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully through thee absolved I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes. Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies; for all my ways are before thee. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119. 145, 165, 168, 176.
The word of God should ever be connected with prayer; for why is it many hear and read without being the better? They do not pray in faith for a blessing. We must, like David, pray with the utmost fervour, that we may understand and retain the word of God, and bring forth fruit; for a Christian has nothing so much at heart as that he may always act up to the word and will of God: his prayer is, Lord, let my footsteps be sure, according to thy word; and let nothing contary to thy law have dominion over me, either in my doctrine or practice. If this prayer be granted, great will be our peace: Jesus himself will be our peace, and then nothing shall offend us; we shall take heed unto all our ways before God, and so walk before him as to continue humble, like David, who considered himself as a straying and lost sheep. Lord, we are by nature straying and lost sheep; seek and fetch us back from the error of our ways, and preserve us in thy pastures.
My soul has gone too far astray,
My feet too often slip;
Yet since I've not forgot thy way
Restore thy wand'ring sheep.
I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. Genesis 49. 18.
Many have received comfort from these words in death, and waited in faith for their salvation. The thoughtless and impenitent wait only for temporal prosperity in their lives, and therefore cannot expect eternal bliss: but on the contrary, a dreadful judgment after death. Oh, that they would enter into themselves this very day, that at the eve of life they might, like Jacob and Simeon, depart in peace! We will not, therefore, look for any earthly things, but for the Saviour, who is already come, who will grant us his salvation, his aid and deliverance in life and death, and will conduct us safely at last, though we should wait some time for his help. Yes, my Redeemer, they who wait, depend upon, and hope in thee shall not be ashamed. Grant us only faith and patience, that we may wait on thee from one morning watch to another; and, enduring all things, make the whole course of our lives one perpetual expectation of thy aid; and may we ever abundantly experience thy help and salvation, especially at our latter end.
Christ's own soft hands shall wipe the tears
From every weeping eye;
And pains and groans, and griefs and fears
And death itself shall die.
How long, dear Saviour, oh how long
Shall this bright hour delay?
Fly swiftly round, ye wheels of time,
And bring the welcome day.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should nor perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned. John 3. 16-18.
Oh that these truly precious words were ever warmly impressed on our hearts; That they were our last thoughts at night, and the first at our waking in the morning, and that they were improved in such a manner as to make our dying bed easy in the evening of our life, and to ensure our rising with gladness in the morning of the resurrection! And what more delightful meditations can I daily dwell upon than to think thus: God has loved me, even me, that he gave me; when I was his enemy; and so loved me, that he gave me his only Son? "Bless me with faith in Christ, then Christ is mine, and all things are mine; 1 Corinthians 3. 21.; for "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8. 32. He will never suffer a believing soul to perish; he has passed his word for it. It is he that says "I shall not perish, I shall not be condemned," but have everlasting life, if I believe. This will I build and depend upon to my last moments, as upon an immovable rock. Amen and Amen.
Oh, for this love let earth and skies
With hallelujahs ring,
And the full choir of human tongues
All hallelujahs sing!
In whom (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1. 14.
Having forgiven you all trespasses. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. Colossians 2. 13, 14. Therefore, he said, It is finished. John 19. 30.
Hast thou, O my soul, felt the weight of thy own guilt and misery, and been enabled, in reality and truth, to lay hold by faith on the blood of Christ by redemption, and faithfully devote thyself to him in heart and life? Then hast thou a sure foundation to go upon; let it be thy constant care firmly to depend upon these and such-like belssed declarations; look to Jesus for every blessing thou standest in need of. Hast Christ brought life and immortality to light? -- then look to him and live. Is there redemption through his blood, even forgiveness of sins? -- then throw all thy guilt upon his atonement. Has he blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against thee? -- then shake off self-righteous dependencies and legal fears also. Did he die for thy sins? -- then let his goodness and love lead thee to unfeigned repentance; let the sense of thy sins break thine heart, but encourage thy hope in the gospel.
Not all the blood of beasts,
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sin away;
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.
My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.
My soul looks back to see
The burdens thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings. Psalm 17. 8.
The Thirteenth of January.
Divine Answer. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Psalm 91. 4.
There is none, O Lord, that has more need continually to keep close to thee in prayer and faith; and at the same time none is more unable to do it than I, the least of all thy flock. O that thou wouldst be graciously pleased to incline and enable me to this blessed work; and grant that thy good Spirit, according to his own pleasure, may never suffer me to be faint and backward in the same. Whilst I truly rest my faith under the wings of grace, I am sure of defence, power and comfort; but as soon as I wander form thee, I am in danger of losing the comfortable sense of these privileges, and falling into various errors and perplexities "Guide me, O Lord, by thy counsel in this world, and at last receive me into glory." Amen.
He that has made his refuge God
Shall find a most secure abode;
Shall walk all day beneath his shade,
And there at night shall rest his head.
Just as a hen protects her brood
From birds of prey that seek their blood
Under her feathers; so the Lord
Makes his own arm his people's guard.
Thrice happy man! thy Maker's care
Shall keep thee from the fowler's snare;
Satan the fowler, who betrays
Unguarded souls a thousand ways.
What though a thousand at thy side
At thy right hand two thousand died?
Thy God his chosen people saves,
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4. 17.
The kingdom of heaven pertains to those who repent; And the first mark of repentance is poverty of spirit: whence Jesus saith, chapter 5. 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." John preached repentance; Jesus preaches it here, and so did the apostles preach afterwards. This true repentance is necesary for all; and the beginning of it is to acknowledge ourselves poor miserable sinners, depraved by nature, and totally void of any righteousness or worth of our own; to confess our nakedness; to drop all the fig leaves of vain excuses and false comforts; to lay open our poverty and wants before God, to accuse ourselves and plead guilty of all our sins, and to seek mercy from Christ. If we do this we are blessed, and the kingdom of God is ours. This poverty of spirit is both the first and last foundation laid in the heart; for the faithful are more and more grounded in poverty of spirit the nearer they approach to their consumation.
Pure are the joys above the sky,
And all the regions peace;
No wanton lips, no envious eye,
Can see or taste the bliss.
For holy gates forever bar
Pollution, sin and shame;
None shall obtain admittance there
But followers of the Lamb.
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5. 17.
The Fifteenth of January.
If we have not grace enough, it is because we do not pray enough. Most true it is, we need not strive to move God to compassion, and extort, as it were, the blessings from him by our prayers, which he has promised; very far from it. He is every minute communicating to us; in every word he holds forth Christ and every good thing to us. But we must always have a soul hungering after Christ, and by incessant prayer stretch out the hand of faith to receive him. This is to be chiefly understood of the inward desires and groanings of our spirit: but we must not omit to pour out our supplications daily, as oft as we can, by words; else our secret mental prayers at last may become so secret as to cease, perhaps, entirely.
Holy Father, lend and ear,
Whilst I sue in Jesus' name;
Surely thou wilt kindly hear,
Since I bring no human claim;
Let me for adoption stay,
Only give me power to pray.
Grant me comfort, or deny;
Visit, or from me depart;
Only let thy Spirit cry
Abba, Father, in my heart!
Abba, Father, would I say,
Only give me power to pray.
Abide in me. John 15. 4. Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John 6. 68. It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God. Psalm 73. 28.
To abide in Christ, who is our righeousness and strength, and not to be moved from him, is the power and life of Christianity, we do this when our thoughts are going out after him, our hearts cleaving to him, and our minds stayed upon him. Now, to know Christ, and thus abide in him, as our righteousness, brings peace and joy, which joy in the Lord is certainly followed with strength to overcome sin and the world, which believers renounce the more readily, as they have found something better in Christ. May the Lord give me grace likewise immovably to abide in him.
Christ is my life, my light, my care,
My blessed hope, my heavenly prize;
Dearer than all possessions are,
Chief of ten thousand in my eyes.
My God, and can a humble child,
That loves thee with a flame so high,
He ever from thy face exiled,
Without the pity of thine eye?
Impossible! for thine own hands
Have tied my heart so close to thee
And in thy book thy promise stands,
That where thou art thy friends must be.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3. 13, 14.
The Seventeenth of January.
The spirit of sanctification is the gift of Christ. Consequently there is a great difference between moral actions done by our own strength, and true sanctification of the Spirit. The latter cannot take place before the soul truly receives Christ, and abides in him as its only propitiation, righeousness and peace; for he being first made to us of God our righeousness, will then be made our sanctification likewise; (1 Corinthians 1. 30.) and the kingdom, work, and image of God will go on best when we trust least to our own strength. Sanctification is now become a more easy task since Christ lives and works in us, and we, in child like temper, live henceforth to him who died for us.
The law commands and makes us know
What duties to our God we owe;
But 'tis the gospel must reveal
Where lies the strength to do his will.
The law discovers guilt and sin,
And showed how vile our hearts have been,
Only the gospel can express
Forgiving love and cleansing grace.
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Romans 10. 4.
The law calls for a perfect righteousness, which, in ourselves, never will be found: but all its demands were fulfilled by our Surety. Every true believer finds that righteousness in Christ which he stands in need of; and is enabled, through the Spirit, to rest upon it for justification; he faithfully endeavours to obey the law as the great rule of his duty, both to God and man; yet is so sensible of his own manifold defects, that he would utterly depair, if he could not look up to Jesus, and say, "Thou shalt answer me, O Lord, my God."
Lord, when my thoughts with wonder roll
O'er the sharp sorrows of thy soul,
And read my Maker's broken laws
Repair'd and honour'd by thy cross.
When I behold death, hell and sin
Vanquish'd by that dear blood of thine,
And see the Man that groan'd and died
Sit glorious by his Father's side:
My passions rise and soar above;
I'm wing'd with faith, and fired with love:
Fain would I reach eternal things,
And learn the notes that Gabriel sings.
But my heart fails, my tongue complains,
For want of their immortal strains;
And in such humble notes as these
Must fall below thy victories.
For the dove found no rest for the soul of her feet, and she returned unto him (Noah) into the ark; then he put forth his hand and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. Genesis 8. 9.
The Nineteenth of January.
That dove-like spirit, communicated to the soul in regeneration, can find no rest for the soul of its foot, until it brings us to Jesus, who is the great ark of the covenant. Many, on their first awakening from sin, apply themselves to very hard works and rigorous duties, thereby expecting to to find rest for their wounded consciences. But though the right and diligent use of all the means of grace is absolutely required, yet great care must be taken not to quiet ourselves by that only. We should not place any confidence at all in our own doings, but only look for rest through the blood of Christ. To be found in him, justified and accepted, would soon fill our hearts with peace, nay, encourage and enable us to do good works.
In vain the trembling conscience seeks
Some solid ground for rest;
With long despair the spirit breaks,
Till we apply to Christ.
Just as we see the lonesome dove
Bemoan her widow'd state;
Wand'ring she flies through all the grove
And mourns her loving mate.
Just so our thoughts from thing to thing
In restless circles rove;
Just as we droop and hang the wing
When Jesus hides his love.
While Jesus shines with quickening grace,
We sing and mount on high;
But if a frown becloud his face
We faint, and tire, and die.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one to another. John 13. 35. Forbearing one another in love. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let not the sun go down on your wrath. Be ye kind to one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4. 2, 3, 26, 32.
Humble Christians never affect singularly, nor pretend to have preference one to another: they rather study to be of one mind, and strive not about words, lest the general harmony subsisting between them; and the edification of souls be hindered. Whoever judges and blames everything and can never agree in words and notions, or join in devotion with other experienced Christians is puffed up with self conceit, and in the way to make a dangerous shipwreck; for pride comes before a fall.
Not diff'rent food, or diff'rent dress,
Compose the kingdom of the Lord,
But peace, and joy, and righteousness,
Faith, and obedience to his word.
When weaker Christians we despise,
We do the gospel mighty wrong;
For God, the gracious and the wise,
Receives the feeble with the strong.
Let pride and wrath be banish'd hence
Meekness and love our souls pursue;
Nor shall our grace give offence
To saints, the Gentiles or the Jew.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. Matthew 25. 5.
The Twenty First of January.
Oh that I may be roused out of my slumber, and be watchful and ready against the coming of my Bridegroom! How many are there that set out in good earnest in their way to heaven, and run well for some time, but at last are lulled to rest, and entangled again with a false notion of liberty! Even the wise virgins fell asleep. Let this be a warning to me, O Lord. Set a guard before my eyes, ears, and other faculties, lest the world again should enter through these avenues of the heart; if the spark be not speedily extinguished, it will soon break out into a flame: thus sin is of a progressive nature, and its vemon spreads very quickly and very wide, unless it be stopped and opposed in time. Watch, therefore, over this unsteady heart of mine, O thou Keeper of Israel! that as soon, as it begins to wander from thee, I may be alarmed to flee from sin as from a serpent. Give me grace to look upon every hour as my last; so that being ever wisely upon my guard, I may meet thee with joy when my time is run out, whenever it shall please thee to call me hence.
The fearful soul that tires and faints,
And walks the ways of God no more,
Though number'd once among the saints
Now makes his own destruction sure.
Lord, let not all my hopes be vain,
Create my heart entirely new;
Which hypocrites could ne'er attain,
Which false apostates never knew.
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. Matthew 13. 25.
No wonder that Christians lose their power and strength, if the enemy of souls finds them asleep. How soon may he gain advantage from without, if a strict guard is not kept within! Though Satan seems to sleep sometimes, and we should by all appearances be in no great danger, it is only his stratagem to make us careless. He never fails to be vigilant, and watch his opportunity, that he may offer us battle with advantage; and who knows but he may gain the victory by those very sins to which perhaps we, for many years, had hardly any temptation? Oh, how cunningly does he work! how enticing is the world! Even in lawful things, very often, the most dangerous snares lie hidden. A single word that we hear may be able to disturb our peace. One unguarded look is sometimes enough to infatuate our hearts. There is danger on all sides. Unless the Lord open our eyes, and preserve us on all occasions, each of us, even the best may still be overcome and deadly hurt by sin and the world. Satan is particularly busy to sift the godly most of all; and having caught them in the net, triumphs exceedingly over them. O Lord, suffer me never to fall asleep again.
Help me to watch and pray,
And on thyself rely;
And let me ne'er my trust betray,
Lest I for ever die.
The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came unto God by reason of the bondage. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them. Exodus 1. 12; 2. 23, 25.
The Twenty Third of January.
The more we are oppressed by our spiritual and temporal enemies, the more will the kingdom of God increase in and through us. And when distress and dangers oppress us most, God hastens to our aid, and makes our necessity itself the means of our relief; for the ways of God are always wonderful. It was an extreme distress when the children of the Israelites were cast into the river; but this was the means of preserving Moses, their intended deliverer. When Moses came, they were not relieved immediately, for their calamities increased. This is God's method. But they cried the more unto God, and he relieved them by signs and wonders. After this, their distress was greater than ever at the Red Sea; for, after God has shown his glory in assisting us, he can still send greater trials. But when they were beset on all sides by distress and death, then came the most glorious succour of all, and their enemies perished in the Red Sea. Lord, suffer us not to despair in any extremity, but enable us to believe and experience that the greater our distress, the nearer and more glorious will be thy aid, and all our enemies will be consumed as stubble before the devouring flame.
Lord, I am thine; but thou wilt prove
My faith, my patience and my love;
When men of spite against me join,
They are the sword, the hand is thine.
What sinners value, I resign;
Lord, 'tis enough that thou art mine
I shall behold thy blissful face,
And stand complete in righteousness.
Herein is love, not that we first loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love him because he first loved us. 1 John 4. 10, 19. He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14. 21, 23.
Oh, what a glorious promise! what manner of love is this! Lord, I would not exchange my cross and sufferings, much less thy love, for the love and honours of the world. Only make it more known to me how great thy love is, and how much thou hast forgiven me, that I may love thee much again, and be thereby still better purged from the inordinate love of temporal things. It is my earnest desire that the gates of my heart should be open to none but thee, that thou alone may dwellest in me. Shed thy love abroad in my heart, quicken and renew all the faculties of my mind and body, and work everything in and by me.
Oh! for this love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Saviour's praises speak.
Yes; we will praise thee, dearest Lord,
Oh set each heart on flame!
Hosanna round the spacious earth,
To thine adored name.
Angels, assist our mighty joys,
Strike all your harps of gold;
But, when you raise your highest notes,
His love can ne'er be told.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted in him. 2 Corinthians 5. 9.
The Twenty Fifth of January.
This indeed is the true disposition of a soul espoused to Christ. She has but one care, which is, to please him in all things. And this desire to do his will is, as it where, the ring and seal of her Bridegroom; which she may look upon, even in the absence of all spiritual joy, as a token for good that she is his spouse. Ought not then this day, O my soul, to be a new wedding-day with Christ? He is desirous that thou shouldst be betrothed unto him, even now, and wait only for thy consent. Hearken, O daughter, consider and incline thine ear; be no longer married to the world. Forget thine own people, and thy father's house, and take him alone for thy husband; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty. Wilt thou give the refusal to this glorious and loving Saviour? I hope not. Give it rather to the world, and resolutely say, I have done with thee, O poor world! I break the bonds of my former love; my eyes and my feet shall henceforth be directed to the blessed and eternal city of the new Jerusalem, where my heavenly Bridegroom resides. And oh! what need I have to be duly prepared, dressed, and beautiful, against his coming, and the time of taking me home to himself. Lord Jesus, keep me longing for thine appearance.
If Christ is ours, we may despise
All rage, though hell against us rise;
His love experienced will impart
Immortal transport to the heart.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4. 16.
Oh that we were all so wise as to prepare and provide ourselves in due time with the right armour of faith, before the time of need and hour of death approach! Come, my reader, let us begin now, and go directly to the gate of mercy, lest we should come to late, and be undone. Behold the encouragement of Christ:- "I am the door, (says he) and the way." John 10. 9; 14. 6. Now, by this door you may find the entrance into the heart and favour of God, Christ himself sitting on a mercy seat to receive and welcome the vilest of sinners. And there is no drawing near to God but through him, and clothed in the robes of the righteousness of our only Redeemer, Mediator, and Advocate. He is the Alpha, and Omega, the Beginning and the End: nay, the very ALL in ALL to believers. With Christ they can never part, and he can never part with them.
Of him who did salvation bring
I could for ever think and sing
Arise, ye guilty, he'll forgive
Arise, ye poor, he will relieve.
Ask but his grace, and lo! 'tis given;
Ask, and he turns your hell to heaven;
Though sin and sorrow wound your soul
Jesus, thy balm can make it whole.
Guide Thou, O Lord, guide thou my course,
And draw me on with thy sweet force;
Still make me walk, still make me tend,
By thee, my way, to God, my end.
God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5. 8-10.
The Twenty Seventh of January.
Here we have much more reason to cry out than Moses, Deuteronomy 33. 3. "The Lord loved the people:" but here I must beseech thee too, O Lord, that this infinite gift of thy Son may appear greater to me and greater every day; and that thy love, shining out in his redemption, may go on so to increase in my soul as to diperse all clouds of darkness, unbelief, and hard thoughts of thy goodness. Whenever this slanderous spirit tries to lift up his head, grant that my faith and love may be quickened and strengthened in such a manner, as heartily to praise thy great love, in spite of all his suggestions; this is the chief desire which I offer unto to thee in all my prayers night and day. The want of faith and love, I am sensible, is still my greatest want; my soul is like a large empty vessel; but I pray thee to fill it speedily, notwithstanding any opposition that may be made by my unrenewed part.
Come, guilty souls, and flee away,
Like doves, to Jesus' wounds;
This is the welcome gospel day,
Wherein free grace abounds.
God loved the world, and gave his Son
To drink the cup of wrath;
And Jesus says he'll cast out none
That come to him by faith.
For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. 1 Peter 2. 21.
To believe in Christ for justification is but one half of the duty of faith; it respects Christ only as he died and suffered for us, as he made atonement for our sins, peace with God, and reconciliation for us, and as our righteousness; unto these ends, he is, indeed, primarily and principally proposed unto us in the gospel; and with respect unto them, we are exhorted to receive, and to believe in him. But this not all that is required of us:- Christ in the gospel is proposed unto us as our pattern and example of holiness; and as it is a cursed imagination that the whole end of his life and death was to exemplify and confirm the doctrine of holiness which he preached, so to neglect his being our example, in considering him by faith unto that end, and labouring after conformity to him, is evil and pernicious; let us be much in contemplation of what he was, what he did, how in all instances of duties and trials he carried himself, until a glorious image of his perfect holiness is implanted in our minds and we are made like unto him thereby.
Let me walk with Christ below,
In his likeness daily grow;
Follow him, and run my race,
Daily nourished by his grace.
The gospel is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. Romans 16. 26.
The obedience of faith here spoken of, is the same thing as believing the report of the gospel, Romans 10. 16. A hearty submission to the righteousness of God, even to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believeth; this is the obedience of faith, strictly speaking, by which we give glory to God, take full shame of ourselves, renounce all that nature is proud of, and are brought to rest for our justification and acceptance with God, on that alone which has satisfied his law and justice. However slightly we may be disposed to pass over this, it is a high point of obedience, not easily brought about in such a creature as man, and needing an effectual light and energy from above. It is taught purely from above; and he who would learn it must seek it by prayer continually; for in vain shall we strive to obey God in other things, until we learn to obey him in this. Careless reader, see to it that you learn your need of Christ. Awakened and distressed sinner, seek not to heal yourself by a forced obedience, learn the obedience of faith, that you may be purged in your conscience from dead works to serve God. Self-despairing sinner, obey the gospel-call of God to your soul and live. Believer, let your fruit be holiness.
Within me, Lord, thy Spirit place,
Conveying health, and peace, and power
And let me daily grow in grace,
That I may love and serve thee more.
Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11. 28.
This is a free invitation to every weary and heavy-laden sinner, made by Him who alone is able to take away the load and guilt of sin. Every person under the pressure of sin, not only may, but must, come to Jesus, thus laden with guilt, if he hopes to succeed for pardon. While we endeavour to prepare our way by holy qualifications, we rather fill it with stumbling blocks, whereby our souls are hindered from attaining to salvation of Christ. Christ would have us believe on him who justifies the ungodly, and therefore he doth not require us to be godly before we believe; he came as a physician for the sick, and doth not expect they should recover their health in the least degree before they come to him. The vilest sinners are fitly prepared and qualified for this design, which is to show forth the exceeding riches and grace, pardoning our sins, and saving us freely, Ephesians 2. 5, 8. It is no affront to Christ, or slighting or contemning the justice and holiness of God, to come to God, while we are polluted sinners; but rather it is an affront and contemning the saving grace, merit, and fulness of Jesus, if we endeavour to make ourselves righteous and holy before we receive Christ himself, and all holiness and righteousness in him by faith.
Come, sinners, laden deep with woe,
And unto Christ for healing go!
He cures all sickness, and all sore,
And turns no beggar from his door.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went, and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13. 45, 46.
The Thirty First of January.
Blessed are they to whom the gospel has made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.He is that one pearl of great price in comparison of whom all other goodly things that men desire are worthless. Without him we are poor and miserable, though we abound in all manner of worldly store; but if we have found him, and discovered the excellency of his name, we are in possession of a treasure that makes us rich indeed, and have reason to be content with our portion, though stripped of every earthly comfort; for the Father gives grace and glory, even eternal life, in his Son Jesus Christ; and he that hath the Son of God hath life. O my soul, thou like the merchant-man, hast been seeking goodly pearls, and eager looking here and there for happiness all thy days! Hast thou at length been enlightened to perceive where true joys are to be found? Then wilt thou be willing to sell all in order to win Christ, and be found in him; if there is anything that thou art unwilling to part with for his sake, thou knowest not his value, thou art not worthy of him.
Long did my soul in Jesus' form
No comeliness or beauty see;
His sacred name, by others prized,
Was tasteless still and dead to me.
Thanks to the Author of all grace,
That show'd me wretched, naked, poor,
That sweetly led me to the Rock
Where all salvation stands secure.
Glad I forsook my righteous pride,
My moral, tarnish'd, sinful dress:
Exchanged my dross away for Christ,
And found the robe of righteousness.