Tuesday, August 4, 2009



"I knew a man in Christ."
—2 Cor. xii. 2.

I Knew a man in Christ: He died and was buried in Christ. He travelled with his Saviour through Golgotha and the Sepulchre. The world used to divert his affections and activities away from God ; but to-day he is separated by a river of blood from the territory where it is supreme, the blood of the everlasting covenant. The flesh was accustomed to break his truces with conscience and his treaties with heaven; but Jesus drove a nail through it, and now he reckons himself to be dead indeed unto sin. His old life is crucified with his Lord.

I knew a man in Christ: He stands before God justified in Christ. The rays of the Father's love, which fall on Jesus, embrace him in their scope and sweep, while the stroke of the Father's judgment is as far removed from him as it is from One in Whom He discovers no spot or flaw. His justification does not rise and fall with the tides of his own feeling ; it is not a thing of degrees. The standard of his Lord's meritoriousness, by which it is determined, is an absolute standard. In Christ he is always whiter than the snow, always the child of the King.

I knew a man in Christ: He lives his daily life in Christ. Is Jesus Prophet, Priest, Monarch ? He is a prophet too, leading and teaching others. He is a priest, who never ceases invoking the mercy of God for kinsfolk and neighbours and the wide world. He is a monarch, ruling over his own spirit, and over outside circumstances, and over the fear of death which holds many in bondage. He seeks to reproduce his Lord's life, and he does it in his Lord's power. For Jesus inhabits him, and governs him from within even more than from without.

I knew a man in Christ: He grows on and up to his perfection in Christ. Night after night the crescent moon advances to its full-orbed roundness and beauty. Month after month, and year after year, this man puts on Jesus Christ. He keeps his own individuality ; and yet he shines with Another's light and loses himself in Another's diviner grace. By continuous trust, and humble prayer, and the willingness to lift and carry the cross, he is gradually and surely refined into the image of his meek and majestic Lord.

I knew a man in Christ: He will ultimately be glorified in Christ. He will be caught up into Paradise, not for one transcendent hour, but for the ages of ages, to see the flowers which bud and bloom there, and to hear the words which it is not lawful to utter. And his heaven will be Christ—Christ's throne on which he sits, Christ's praise which he sings, Christ's sevenfold purity which he shares, Christ's face which is his brightest flower and chiefest good. The Lamb is all the glory in Immanuel's land.

I knew a man in Christ: Let that man, O Lord, be I myself. For only in Him can I reach my truest,strongest, richest, holiest manhood.



"For this God is our God for ever and ever."
—Ps. xlviii. 14.

On the west coast of Scotland, out in the Atlantic, lies the little island of lona. Such sights it has seen : Columba and his missionaries who went near and far; the boat anchored on the beach that brought some saint from Ireland; the tiny fleet which carried the body of a Scandinavian king to be buried in the holy ground; the famine and fire and slaughter of the heathen; Queen Margaret's happier time and fostering care. It is many a long year since she died. But the island survives, and the sea lashes its shores as it did before Columba came, and the unwearied sun rises morning by morning on St. Oran's Chapel and the waters of the Sound. Like island and sea and sun, God is to hearts that trust him—unchangeable, whatever else passes away.

I contrast Him with human teachers and friends. I look back on some whose speech used to thrill my being, and whose example moved me powerfully. I long for the touch of vanished hands and the sound of voices that are still. But my Lord Himself is here. I have His Word, living and active. I have His Spirit, convincing and comforting as ever. I can hearken to His accents, and find them impulse and rest, wine and balm, wisdom and might. He is better than the best of men. His eye is clearer; His arm is stronger; His feet are swifter; His heart is kinder. And He remains always.

I contrast Him with religious institutions and beliefs. Old doctrines are questioned, old forms of worship no longer held in the honour that was given them once. The sifting and scrutiny will do me good, if they compel me to enquire into the grounds of my faith and to cherish it more intelligently than I am accustomed to do. But, in any event, God stands sure. If I lost Him, I should lose everything. Because I cannot lose Him, I have abundant compensation for change elsewhere. The Father's glory cannot be shaken. The virtue of the Saviour's blood is undiminished. The Spirit's grace does not dwindle and perish. My Lord is untouched —Prophet, Priest, King, Lover and Beloved.

I contrast Him with spiritual frames and moods. Through many avenues sin returns to my regenerated life, and fear creeps in, and joy departs, and restlessness deprives me of strength and calm. Is there alteration in God as there is in me ? There is none whatever. He is untiring in His readiness to forgive, in His refusal to be driven from me by my unworthiness, in His power to use even my sins for my humbling and my sanctifying and my growth in grace. It is His patient love which makes my progress possible. It is the dew of the Lord which keeps green the field of my soul. He abides.

Through life and death, sorrow and sinning, He is my God for ever and ever.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb."
—Rev. xv. 3.

Moses and Jesus join in teaching me the psalm of the favoured children in God's family—a psalm not for the future only, when I shall be " safe from the frost and the snow, safe from the storm and the sun," but for the present, while the beast confronts me and entices me to worship his image. Moses cannot lead me so far as Jesus can; my Saviour and Master gives breadth and length and depth and height to the melody. But the one song is the precursor of the other. Moses points me forward to Christ, and Christ acknowledges and honours Moses; and I learn the doxologies both of the servant and of the Son.

The song of Moses is the song of emancipation. Broke are their nets, and thus escaped we: that is what it says. And it is the song of guidance. It celebrates the life of marching and encamping and marching again, over which the mercy and the wisdom and the omnipotence of the Lord preside. And it is the song of inheritance. Happy art thou, O Israel! the brave voice cried, on the borders of the land of brooks of water and wheat and barley and oil olive and honey. I hope I have learned, and am learning more fully and perfectly, such chords and octaves as these. Do I commemorate the goodness of the God, Who discovered me in the prison of shame and fear and helplessness and despair, and Who brought me forth by the promises of His Gospel and the bloodshedding of His Son and the mightiness of His Holy Spirit? Have I my testimony to bear to Him Who rules over the wilderness experiences of my history, and makes me glad according to the years wherein I have seen evil? Can I speak of the treasures of His wealthy land? The song of Moses is pregnant and rich.

But the song of the Lamb has new elements of delightsomeness and wonder. The crucified Lamb, as it had been slain, the cruel wounds healed, but the scars left as mementoes of the anguish and shame. The royal Lamb, in the midst of the throne, the Controller and the Lord of all. The Shepherd Lamb, feeding His flock and leading it to living fountains of waters. The conquering Lamb ; for these shall make war on Him, but He shall overcome them. Is He the theme of the hymns which entrance and satisfy me most? How He assumed my misery, and reaped the harvest I had sown. How He governs the" great world in my behoof, and directs and curbs the storms within my soul. How He conducts me by the best paths, and supplies my wants when I am hungry and athirst, and shelters me from every peril. How He is lionlike and soldierly, and will roll my strangling load from me, and will slay my craftiest and strongest enemies, and will rid me of the besetting sins which torment me most: Vicit Agnus noster, Eum sequamur.

I would complete the song of Moses the servant with the song of Jesus the Lamb.


"Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
—Ex. iii. 5.

I Have no need to go to the loneliness of Sinai to meet with God. I find the holy ground much nearer home. But I wonder whether I put my shoes from off my feet.

He reveals Himself to me in His written Word. It is His sanctuary. By its agency my deepest life is created, quickened, sustained. Listening to it the saints have heard the very voice of their Lord ; and it is associated with the faith and purity and joy of many centuries of Christians. But do I never raise a laugh by my grotesque and frivolous use of the words of Scripture ? And, whenever I open the Book, do I remember that God has breathed the Spirit of Life into its chapters and verses? Mine is culpable levity.

He reveals Himself, also, in the newborn character of His people. They are temples of the Holy Ghost, as the bush was which burned and was not consumed. Their aim is that the Father's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Their desire is to reflect His likeness as they move among their fellows. But because they do it with human vacillations, and because it is not difficult to detect in them shortcoming and fault, I am afraid that at times I make light of their godliness, and I forget that thus I am dishonouring religion itself. I should hold the saints in higher regard.

He reveals Himself in the history of my land, as truly as ever He did in the history of Israel. In it the devout heart will trace His power, His wisdom, His stern hatred of sin, His overflowing goodness. But have I not winged my shafts of easy ridicule at some of the greatest names of the past? Have I not been slow to see the heroism and the consecration of which they are the summary? It is as if one should" peep and botanise upon his mother's grave," or should detect no holy flame in the thorn-tree of Horeb.

Best of all, He reveals Himself in Christ. But if Christ brings Him close to me, He teaches me fresh reasons for standing in awe of Him. His life shows me what God is—spotless, righteous, faithful, unchanging in antagonism against sin. And His Cross has a more impressive message still. Here are God's infinite gentleness and shoreless mercy ; and, side by side with these, here are God's abhorrence of my iniquity, and His unconquerable justice, and His rigorous determination to have done with my evil. He is holy, holy, holy, even in the brightest and sweetest manifestation of His grace. Yet I do not always worship Him, disclosed to me in His Son, " with trembling hope and penitential tears."

Not a day passes that I am not standing in the courts of His house. Not a place can I visit where the Spirit of glory and of God may not overshadow me. I pray for tenfold more thoughtfulness and adoration and humility.


"For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
—Acts iv. 20.

For two reasons I profess to be afraid of religious speech.

In the first place, I am disposed to assert that it becomes readily a thing of course and custom, a glib utterance of the tongue, shallow, insincere, mechanical, almost if not quite empty of vital significance. No doubt, there is a sad possibility of my learning to traffic in the false commerce of a truth unfelt. I may be professional and perfunctory, when there ought to be behind my words an emotion which pulses and palpitates and will not be held in check. I may even deceive myself into the belief that I am in living union with Christ Jesus, although I have never touched the hem of His garment, simply because I have such proficiency in saying Lord! Lord! But it cannot be right to discontinue and prohibit what is good, merely because it may be abused. What a world of desirable and noble things I must forego, if I make this my consistent and universal rule!

But then again, I contend that there must be reserves in true religion, secret and hidden places, experiences that cannot be repeated, joys unspeakable and full of glory, shrines which are to be trodden by no human foot. I am right. For every genuinely Christian heart God has His own whisper, which it is unlawful to publish from the housetops. Let me thank Him if I am conversant in any measure with these unrecitable communions and sanctities, and if He bids me come apart into His Paradise and tarry alone with Himself there. But there are other ingredients than these in the faith and life of His children—things commoner, and more elementary, and capable of explanation to many. And I must never make the intimacies of the Holy of holies a plea for declining to tell men about the Beautiful Gate. If the top of the mountain is veiled in the Shekinah-cloud, its base is near their homes and accessible to their feet, and I must bid them climb till they too know the ecstasies of the summit.

If I have had such experience of Christ's grace as the apostles had, I shall not be able to maintain silence. Suppose that the Good Shepherd's voice, " sword-like sweet," has sung to me,—

It told of rude disgrace;
And of an anguished face
It told, methought; and of a wounded Friend;
Of pain it told, and shame;
Of love that overcame
Through simple skill of loving to the end:

shall I not forsake my own strains and stories for this " story sad and plain"? And, having mastered the Shepherd's one and only song, must I not echo and proclaim its music wherever I go?


"And I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."
—Mic. vi. 4.

I Am interested in the inclusion of Miriam's name. Long generations after her death, God commemorates her deeds no less than those of her great brothers. For in His Kingdom there is neither male nor female, and the woman is as essential and as helpful as the man. How it illustrates His forgiveness, too, that He recalls about Miriam only that which is good ! There was a mournful episode in her history, when she spake against Moses, and when, for a little while, the frightful scourge of the leprosy fell upon her. But this is forgotten, and nothing is recounted except her brave leadership of Israel. Who is so liberal-hearted as God, and so rich in magnanimity ? My sins He writes on the sand, and the flowing waters of His mercy and grace soon obliterate the indictment. My services, small as they are in comparison with what He deserves, He writes on the undecaying page of His Book of Remembrance, and they live abidingly in His thought and heart.

What gives Miriam a right to the immortality of Moses and Aaron?

Her patriotism does. The fires of an unquenchable affection for her afflicted countrymen burned in her breast. When, after his forty years' silence and schooling in Midian, Moses reappeared as their deliverer, perhaps it helped to gain him credence and welcome that, during his absence, his sister had been preparing them to receive the word of Jehovah. She could not suffer their wrongs in patience. She hated the tyrant with righteous hatred. And I, too, would learn the lofty and steadfast patriotism which plans and strives and labours to emancipate my land from every evil force that holds it in vassalage.

But behind the patriotism is her religion. On the Arabian shores of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's vaunting pride for ever humbled, and with his chariots sunk in the pitiless waves, it is to the Lord that she ascribes all the glory. She cherishes the firmest faith in His presence and might and championship of His people. And is not that the best love of country which discerns Him standing always behind the shadow and keeping watch above His own? I would summon my neighbours to behold Him. I would urge them to crown Him with honour and praise.

And, added to patriotism and religion, is her queenly endowment of poetry and song. It was she who led forth the maidens of Israel with timbrels and dances, she who taught them the majestic hymn of victory, she who gave their lips and their souls the notes and chords of triumphant thanksgiving. What a faculty the singer's is, and what a constraining and impelling power the singer wields ! If these are mine in any degree, God help me to use them for Him—to wed great thoughts to melodious words, and to peal them forth on His behalf. Then, like Miriam, I shall take rank with lawgiver and priest.


" Who is this Son of Man?"
—John xii. 34.

The name puzzled the Jews; but Christ loved and employed it beyond all others. I gather that He intends me to have a special delight in its meaning and message.

It rings forth the music of His nearness to me. His was an everlasting past; but He has identified Himself now with my changeful and indigent lot. He descends to my level, that He may taste my weakness and my weariness and the manifold troubles of my life. He clothes His glory in my nature, that He may have a true body and a reasonable soul to offer on the Cross for my redemption. He is close of kin with me, that He may be my pattern of faith and courage in temptation and sorrow. He is the Son of Man, a child of my own family, that it may be easy for me to believe in Him with my whole heart.

The name proclaims the music, no less, of his height above me. Something singular, unique, unparalleled, clings to One Who has to assure me that beyond question He is enrolled in my death- stricken race. Through the ages men had succeeded each other, and without exception they were tarnished and erring men. The taint was universal; the poison ran in the veins of every one. But then, in the midst of a sin-paralysed world, this Son of Man appeared, perfect in beauty and far-shining in grace. Ah! He is the very God in my flesh; and therefore He meets and overcomes my saddest and deepest and utterest necessity.

In His name I hear the music, too, of His spacious and unfettered salvation. Not of this nationality or of that is He Son ; He is Son of Man everywhere, under all skies and in all conditions. He is dear to the unchanging East and the enterprising West and the frozen North and the burning South. Many differences separate them among themselves ; but with one consent they turn to Him, and in Him they have a centre and a home. Wherever lost sheep and lost men wander to their undoing, He is the Redeemer suitable and sufficient. In His pardon and fellowship and holiness is there not ample room for me?

And His name sounds out the music of the new heavens and the new earth over which He will reign for ever. One day I shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power. One day He will give my beleaguered soul its final and consummate deliverance from the enemies that have survived so long, and He will invite me to enter into His joy. One day His monarchy of purity and love will be supreme; and the things that hurt and annoy, that corrupt and degrade, will not be found in all His holy mountain. O day of days, and goal of goals, to which He points my heart and leads my feet!

This Son of Man: none on my earth., and none in the heaven of heavens, can be compared with Him. Let me bring forth my diadem to crown His brow.

Monday, July 13, 2009


" Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me."
—Mal. iii. 8.

Other things I withhold from Him besides the tithes and offerings that are His due.

Do I not rob Him of thought? He is a theme of study and meditation that need never become monotonous, wearisome, stale; He has so many sides and aspects. His existence, His holiness. His saving grace, His sympathy and friendship : here are worlds to roam over, which I cannot exhaust. But it is at rare intervals that I turn to Him, and then I am content with the briefest interview. Sometimes I find the recollection of Him troublesome and tormenting. I do not practise His presence in earnest thought.

Do I not rob Him of fear? My age has to a great degree lost the reverence that marked former generations, and I am too entirely the child of my age. I have forgotten the seemly habit of walking softly before the Lord. He has ceased to be so sacred, so awful, so glorious in majesty, as He used to be. I seldom feel myself in a shrine where I must tread quietly, and must shut my lips, and must lay myself in the dust. I am merry where I should be serious, and flippant when I should tremble. I do not fear enough.

Do I not rob Him of love ? It matters to Him, indeed it does, if I refuse Him the love of gratitude, and the love of trust, and the love of adoration and obedience and delight. He loses a man, a woman, created in His image, and for His glory. He forfeits an affection which He has been eager to encourage and to keep. The ever-blessed God is poorer, sadder, sorrowfuller, because of my rebelliousness and negligence. Have I considered the pain, the wound, the enfeeblement, the wrong I inflict on Him, when I do not love Him well?

Do I not rob Him of speech ? It is wonderful, a good Bishop of last century said, that " what is every man's chief concern should be no man's conversation ; " and that is hardly an exaggeration of the facts of the case. Amidst the crowding words that are continually crossing the threshold of my lips, how rarely do I interpose a sentence on behalf of God, or in praise of Him whom I call my Saviour and my Master, or in commendation of truth and righteousness! It is most sinful to be so tongue-tied.

And do I not rob Him of life? He requires the influence of my life; a character restful, fragrant, impressive—how much He can do with it! He requires the prayers of my life; petitions which are believing, reiterated, specific and particular, wide-reaching and catholic, wield an invincible power. He requires the endeavour of my life ; if only I am faithful in that which is least, I magnify His name and widen the bounds of His kingdom. But how little of my life is undeniably His!

What can I do but claim the mercy Christ gave to the robber on the Tree?



"The heaven was opened.—Luke iii. 21.

So it was for Jesus; and so it may be for me. Inhabiting eternity as God does, He bends to me; He would unite Himself with me, my Portion, my Satisfaction, my Father.

Are the skies obedient and pure ? But God repairs my disobedience and restores my purity. The thought of how it could be done transcends me, and the way in which the thought has become a reality ; they are better than anything human, for they are divine. But they are disclosed to me, as sun and moon and stars are disclosed, that I may believe and rejoice in them. My disobedience has been atoned for by Christ. My squandered and wasted purity is given back when His love and His Spirit rule the heart. The heavens are not unscalable after all. God and I are reconciled.

Do the skies oppress me by their strength and independence? But God puts their powers into the hands of my Redeemer and Lord. The sun's heat, the mists and fogs, light and dark and cloud and storm, are under His control, and are compelled to work together for my good. If death comes through any of them, it will but conduct me to the shining of His Face: I recollect how John Howe, sailing back to England from his exile in Antrim, cheered himself by the certainty that, let some tempest wreck the ship, the voyage intended to land him in Liverpool would land him in heaven. The strong skies are my friends, and their God is my Father, when I see them subject to the pierced hands of Jesus.

Are the skies discomposing because of their space and infinitude? But somewhere in the heavenly places God has fixed a dwelling for His people, and Christ is in it already as their Forerunner. This is what robs the upper world of its vagueness, its disconcerting immensity, its blinding glory. It ceases to be a wide wilderness of blazing suns. It has received a centre in Him Who is the bright and morning Star. I breathe my desires upward to Him. I have sent some of my dear ones as heralds of my own coming. He has my heart to-day, and He will have my presence soon.

Do the skies seem to rob me of God's living personality ? But in His Son I know Him and have seen Him. A God Who lives and loves. A God to Whom I have such worth that He does not count Calvary too great a sacrifice to win me. A God Who, so far from holding aloof, bows His heavens and conies down, and seeks me until He finds, and sings over me His song of redemption. Has He not Eyes of pity? Has He not a Heart of unsearchable grace ? Has He not a beating and tender Soul? He is a Person, and the Best of persons.

I rejoice that, though the heavens are high, the heavens are open too.


"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, ao are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
—Isa. Iv. 9.

God's world is wide apart from mine—wide apart, as the calm, lofty, imperishable, unattainable heavens, to which none of my ladders can climb.

I feel it difficult to discover a living Person in the skies. It is not hard to think of God, when I look on the homelier and gentler aspects of nature, or when I turn to the kindly relationships of human life, or when^I enter my soul with its cries and hopes and longings. But when I leave such missionaries of Him for the heavens, I am disappointed. They seem so far from humanity, and so oblivious to my sorrows and joys. Is there a Heart up there? I ask. Is there an Eye which takes in those constellations upon constellations ? Is there a Soul that plans for them? In the vastness I lose the personality of God.

I am overpowered by the infinitude of the skies. I can set limits to the earth, and can pierce to its origins, and can classify its forms, and can track its changes. But the midnight heavens confound and baffle me, and, looking up to them, I am oppressed by my insignificance. The remoteness of luminary and planet, their mass, their number : I shrink from contemplating these. I see more stars than I can count, and those are the nearest fringe of the universe; beyond them are worlds behind worlds. The God Who comprehends this mighty sum of things, and governs it, bewilders me. I must be valueless in His presence, I say; and the thunder of His majesty and power makes me afraid.

I realise my frailty in comparison with the strength and independence of the skies. Alps may be tunnelled by man's genius and patience ; the estuaries of the seas can be bridged; an agent so impalpable and so arbitrary as electricity is harnessed to a thousand uses. But the heavens teach me my limitations. I cannot keep the glory of the sunset. I cannot moderate the glare of the noonday heat. I cannot bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion, or lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season. And the God Who marshals them as a shepherd does his sheep : His mightiness abashes me.

I am rebuked by the obedience and purity of the skies. To my vision, there is nothing but order, nothing but brightness, nothing but the music of the spheres. Duty is not flouted in the celestial world. She " preserves the stars from wrong, and the most ancient heavens through her are fresh and strong." And God is still holier than the skies. Cherubim and seraphim veil their faces before His radiance, and the heavens are not clean in His sight. How He must abhor my evil ways and thoughts I I have not kept my orbit. I have not maintained my stainlessness. I have grieved and disavowed my Lord.

Am I not rebuked by the heavens which speak of Him?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


"When I became a man, I put away childish things."
—I Cor. xiii. 11.

I Must bid farewell to the light-hearted gaiety of the little child. For, take it as a whole, childhood brims over with happiness, and carries no burdens of responsibility, and is full of laughter and buoyancy and song. There are parallel experiences of the spirit, when the sense of pardon and the great love of God and the new sun that brings the new year are all fresh and novel and gladdening. The liberty and the joy are to continue ; but other elements must come in soon to modify and solemnise them. I must be strenuous, serious, awake to the possibilities and tasks and dangers of life. Thought, prayer, decision, energy, are requisite. I have no right to be simply gay and untroubled.

Side by side with the child's license is the child's limitation ; and that, also, must diminish as my life matures. In infancy and youth I am set in a sphere of definite precepts." Parents first season us ; then schoolmasters deliver us to laws." Thus it is that I begin to live in the family of the redeemed, asking a guidance that is very specific, and afraid to take a step without the sanction of God's Thou shalt. It is a beautiful anxiety, and it will never be quite abandoned. But a man, if he is to be manly, must be ordered by deep principles rather than by minute commandments. Let me steep myself in the atmosphere of the Word and the Spirit, and I shall leave nursery and schoolroom.

The child's intelligence, moreover, is crude and elementary, however quaint and suggestive the fancies and surmises of the little one often are. His ideas need correction, adjustment, expansion. And in the dawn of my new day, I have but a few themes which absorb me utterly—the magnitude of my sin, and the magnitude of my Lord's forgiving grace. I would never lose my vivid realisation of these magnitudes. But I have many things yet to learn: truth and holiness, service and patience and courage, the sweet uses of adversity and the strong comforts of hope. In understanding I should be a man ; and I maim myself and mar my testimony if I tarry a child.

It is a childish religion, also, which attaches an excessive value to outward forms, making godliness an affair of ceremonies and sacraments, an honouring of days and weeks and months and years. There is a prettiness, an allurement, an appeal about stately rites and priestly functions. But they are puerile, and fitted for a state of pupillage and minority. Now abideth faith, hope, love : that is a man's religion, and up to that St. Paul summons me to rise. I need the Bible, indeed, and the Sabbath, and the historical Christ; but let me probe down to their inward and saving significance, and let me stand fast in the liberty wherewith I have been made free, refusing stoutly to be entangled in any yoke of bondage.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


"Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
—Matt. xviii. 3.

Of Robert Louis Stevenson Mr. Sidney Colvin writes that "it was part of his genius that he never seemed to be cramped, like the rest of us, within the limits of his proper age, but to be child, boy, young man, and old man all at once." And Jesus bids me be sure that I keep the young lamb's heart amid the full-grown flocks.

I look into the face of the child. There are no hard and haughty lines of pride, there is no blatant self-assertion, in the features. Modesty is written there. And can I get back my vanished humility? I can. God the Spirit creates it when, in my conversion, He teaches me to abhor myself. And He fosters it more and more, as He confirms in me the conviction that not for a moment dare I dispense with God my Saviour and Keeper and Friend.

I survey the mind of the child. It is teachable. It comes soon to be aware of its ignorance, and it hungers and thirsts for knowledge of every description. And is there a mind anywhere, that God has touched, which does not feel itself in the presence of problems still to be deciphered, mysteries waiting to be unfolded, great tracts of truth of which it knows little? I have parted with the delusion of my own wisdom. I sit at the feet of my Prophet Christ.

I peer into the imagination of the child. It lives in a realm of miracle. " The corn was orient and immortal wheat," says Thomas Traherne ; " I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold. The gates were the end of the world." As I grow older, I pass out of the magical country. But when I listen to the Holy Ghost, I am amongst the marvels of grace ; and they are more extraordinary than the marvels I have left behind. The sense of wonder is reborn.

I remember the affections of the child. They are the shrine of love, love unbounded and enthusiastic and outspoken. By and by I am less frank and more reticent. Convention, if not cynicism, has frozen the love-look in the eyes and the love-speech on the tongue. Is there anything that will break the ice? Yes, the sight of God's grace in Christ will. That brings back the spring. That makes my heart grateful, susceptible, responsive.

I note the hand of the child. It is not feverish and unquiet. It trusts. It lies in the father's hand, certain that the father will lead it aright. To the same peace and unruffled faith the new birth should conduct me. Confiding in Christ's Father and mine, I ought to have no gloomy fears, about either my outward or my eternal well-being. My feeble hand lies in His; His mighty hand is clasped round mine.

"Behold, my childhood is dead!" St. Augustine laments. But may my childhood be begotten anew into undying life. May I tread again that ancient track.


"And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God."
—Gen. iii. 8.

Sin has entered my world and my heart.

I describe man's first disobedience as the Fall. Never was there a truer word. This is the melancholy Fall of falls. This is an unnatural movement. This is a descent from the shining tablelands to the saddest depths. I was made upright; but I sought out many inventions. I was meant to look upward to the skies ; but I permitted Satan to bind me with a spirit of infirmity, and now my gaze is fastened on the ground beneath my feet. God desired me to walk with Him in a Paradise of holiness and obedience and use and praise; but I spurned so high a sphere and sacred a fellowship, and turned my face to what is lower and worse. Have I not travelled down and down? Am I not chargeable with debasement, depravity, degeneracy?

I acknowledge that it is not the popular idea of sin. The literature of imagination—much of the fiction of my time and some of its poetry—is skillful in painting the wicked thing, until it appears gay and brilliant and free. There are philosophies and theologies which apologise for it, and teach me to view it almost as a necessity for my fuller life, or as a halting-place in the march of my soul to what is higher and holier. Society has a hundred affectations and excuses that hide its foulness, as I read of Greek assassins who concealed their death-bringing daggers under the greenery of myrtle leaves. It is a fall upward, I am told, and not a fall downward. On the Amazon a famous naturalist discovered a spider which spread itself out as a flower ; but the insects lighting on it found destruction instead of sweetness and honey. My sin is my sin, evil, poisonous, fatal, although it transmutes itself into an angel of goodness.

It is best for me to give it its proper name, best to admit sorrowfully that I have fallen from my original estate of righteousness and kinghood. If the process is unnatural, if it is a reversal of God's intention for me and a contradiction of my chief end, surely the likelihood is that it will be remedied, and that some way of return will be devised by which I can go back to the loftier levels I have left. If there has been descent, will there not be ascent as well ? Because I have wandered so very far from my first love, an almighty wisdom and power will be required to accomplish my recovery. Because my downgoing has been so wilful and deliberate, a divine grace must interpose on my behalf. But the primal will of my Lord for me cannot be finally defeated. And my Fall will have its check and stop and ending, when I repair by faith to the Seed of the woman Who bruises the head of the serpent.

A " greater Man restores us, and regains the blissful seat." Since my case is desperate, I will put all my trust in Him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


"I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness."
—Ps. xvii. 15.

When the morning of eternity breaks, I shall be satisfied.

My senses will. Just now, the eye is not content with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. But aggrandisement awaits my bodily powers. I have hints of it in thrilling moments here, when I catch visions to which others are blind, and listen to voices that summon me away. Are not these harbingers and foregleams of the ultimate dawn ? " My eyes will behold Christ. My ears will be filled with the melody of His tones.

My mind will share the benediction. God holds back from me truth that would be too high and mysterious meantime. He keeps the best cup for the day when I shall quaff it with Jesus in His Kingdom. Hereafter I shall know even as also I am known—as clearly, unerringly, fully, as I myself lie open to my Lord's gaze. What an enlargement it will be for my intellect and thought!

And my memory will have her coronation. I shall drink no Water of Forgetfulness before entering God's Elysium. Still I will recall my sin and misery. But the remembrance will have lost its sting and poison, by reason of the glory that excelleth. The messages of memory will always be good and comfortable, because always she will dwell in the presence of Christ. Her perpetual study will be His salvation and His love.

My conscience, too, will enter into peace. It has been quieted since it saw Jesus bearing my sin in His own body on the Tree. It is growing under His tuition, I trust, in sensitiveness and delicacy and strength. But it is visited yet by alarms, and sometimes it is in dubiety as to its Master's command. Its last fear will vanish, its last problem will be solved, when it walks with the Lamb in white.

My will is certain to reap its ripest fruit. To-day there are fluctuations and disappointments in my believing life ; and, after I have been lifted from the dust to sit with princes, my will too often selects and does what is evil. It is waiting for its estate of perfection in heaven. There, of its own accord, it will forsake sin, and will serve Christ in His Temple. And that is better than "the shady city of palm trees " it lost so long ago.

My heart will be full. Even a Christian's heart has many unrealised yearnings, many broken aspirations. But when I come to the Father, when I see the person of my Saviour and have His endless companionship, when I find and keep my unforgotten dead—it is the heart's uttermost attained, and the heart's harbour made after the stormy sea.

When I awake. Lord Jesus Christ, I shall be satisfied if Thou bid me to some humble door among Thy many mansions. Some sheltering shade where sin and sorrow cease.

July 7 - 0 HAPPY SLAVE

"Doing the will of God from the heart."
—Eph. vi. 6.

So St. Paul wrote to the Christian slaves of Ephesus and the Asian towns near at hand ; and I know no better epitome of the career to which I am set apart.

Here is the continuous activity of my life. It is a doing. It is doing as distinct from thinking and dreaming and meditating. Not that 1 can dispense with these. I must live in secret, behind all my outward service and diligence. I must have my spaces for prayer, and for the study of the Scriptures, and for deliberate remembrance of the treasures I possess in my Lord. But from the hidden place I should come out to speak and labour ; and each hour should be fruitful, in the family, in the church, in the world. Doing it is, too, as distinguished from embracing God's will and acquiescing in it. At times the Father's will is disclosed to me in the shape of a cross to carry and a sorrow to bear. Then I must not be content to say, " I will lie still." I must ask help to glorify Him under the load and in the fires. Through my very pains I would have His Kingdom furthered.

Here, again, is the heavenly ownership of my life. I do not live to carry out my own will. There is plenty of selfishness in the world, and plenty of self-reliance also, which is a much better thing. But Another has assumed the reins of government over me, and I am bought with a price. Nor do I live to fulfil the will of others. I am their helper and minister and brother, so far as in me lies ; but I do not take my instructions from them, nor is it to them that I render my final account. I live to serve the will of God. What a simplicity His control gives my history !— through all my duties, secular and sacred, runs the golden thread, For His sake. What a glory it gives !—in my narrow place I am a fellow-worker with the Eternal King. And what a spur it gives ! —I must not disappoint Him ; He reckons on my fidelity, and He must receive it.

And here is the deep spring of my life. From the heart, or from the soul, I do God's will. My task is not a friction or a fatigue. It is a matter of willingness and spontaneity and affection. It is " not a sigh but a song." What prompts it ? A heart which has seen God in the face of the Good Shepherd, marred and wounded for my redemption. A heart which has been led from darkness into light and from death into life. A heart that clings daily to the divine power which has made it what it is, feeling and confessing that without its Lord it can do nothing. A heart ardent in its thanksgiving and devotion. For such a heart the will of God, however it may be expressed, is gracious as a friend's greeting and a child's caress.

Yes, happy, happy slave ! Mine be his bonds, his subjection, his Master.


"Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel."
—Josh. i. 2.

In Canaan the Israelites had a home after homelessness. The insecure and perilous tent-life was past ; they could sit every man under his own vine and his own fig-tree. And when I believe in Christ, I leave the wilderness for the Father's house, where I have all and abound. Here is truth which is inexhaustible. Here is righteousness which pardons every sin and makes the chief of sinners just with God. Here is love whose breadth and length and depth and height are supreme and unutterable. This is the Holy Grail in my hands at length. This is the Land of Promise where my soul is at home.

In Canaan the Israelites passed from impotence to partnership with God. Out in the desert everything was done for them. By miracle their route was indicated, their wants were supplied, their march was shielded. But in the fields across the Jordan, while God remained essential, much more was entrusted to the people themselves. " O to grace how great a debtor I "—it is my humble and adoring psalm to the Lord Whose right arm alone rescues me from bondage and leads me into the inheritance. But, inside the land, I have my part to play and my place to fill. There must be constant prayer. There must be habitual self-denial. There must be daily recollection of Christ. I am God's partner now.

In Canaan the Israelites were secluded from the world, and learned the meaning of separation. No more were they in the heart of the civilisation and idolatry of Egypt ; miles and miles of waterless sand divided them from their old abode. The geography of Palestine has its sermon for me. Positively it says : Dwell much with God, for He has many things to disclose to you, and He will only disclose them if you linger in His company. And negatively it says: Be prepared to curb and limit your fellowship with the world, that Christ's beauty and Christ's message may not be lost by your heart.

In Canaan the Israelites put on the soldier's armour as well as the dress of the scholar and the worshipper. In the wilderness, they had learned God's mind from the mouth of Moses, and, instructed by Aaron, they had brought His offerings to the tabernacle of the congregation ; but now they made the acquaintance of Joshua, " foremost captain of his time." I need Jesus the Prophet, and Jesus the Priest ; but I ought to follow Jesus, too, as Leader in the Holy War. Within me and without are Hittite, Perizzite, Jebusite. I must gird on my sword against them. I must aid my Joshua in His desperate strife. " It's no longer disputing, but out instantly all you can," wrote Oliver Cromwell in 1643.

The land is a good land and large ; let me be very certain that I understand and possess its wealth.


"The blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
—Heb. xii. 24.

It was poured out on the Cross. It lies now on the Mercy-Seat in the heavens. The eyes of God rest on it with satisfaction. In the ears of God it speaks better things than the blood of Abel, His martyred saint and servant of the old time.

For it speaks of love and not of hate. The world was young ; but in its youth it was stained with blood wrongfully and cruelly shed. It was wide ; but it was not wide enough for two brothers to dwell together in unity. Cam's sin conceived, and brought forth death. But the blood of sprinkling preaches the mystery of grace : God manifest in the flesh, and dying in the flesh out of the compassion He bears to me. Cain hated and slew the only brother whom he had ; Christ loved and gave Himself for the wanderer and the foe.

And it speaks of God's forgiveness and not of God's displeasure. Cain had missed the favour of the Lord before, and had been told that his offering of trailing leaves and golden fruits could not be accepted; and this was mournful enough. But now Abel's blood brought him God's anger and sentence ; and this was a thousand times worse. How different the tones are of the blood of Jesus ! It declares my redemption. It comes and says, Fear not \ And, since Christ has died, who is he that can condemn?

Of inward peace it speaks, too, and not of inward trouble. All the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten the hand that had been dipped in Abel's blood ; all the multitudinous seas could not wash away its stain. On the face of Cain, Cardinal Newman says, " toil, care, and guilt their hues have set, and fixed their sternness there." But the better I understand the blood of sprinkling, the more is my fear allayed and my remorse overcome. I behold Jesus, and my sorrow and sighing flee away.

And it speaks of Paradise regained and not of Paradise lost. To Adam and Eve the blood of Abel was proof only too vivid and lurid that they were no longer dwellers in Eden. They had wandered far, they had fallen low, when this could happen. But Christ's blood gives me back the Eden I have forfeited. Does it not make the prodigal a child again? Does it not win for my soul God's fellowship here and God's heaven hereafter?

It speaks, moreover, with power and not with feebleness. Abel and Abel's blood did live in the Lord's remembrance. Yet the ruddy stream had no efficacy to cleanse away Abel's guilt. His own death could not charm his sins out of God's memory and hide them from God's view. It needs a better blood to do that—the blood of Him Whose day Abel greeted from afar. I pray my Judge to hear the blood of sprinkling as it begs mercy for me. " And then the Judge will be my Father and my Friend.


"And ye shall know that . . . I am the Lord your God,"
—Joel ii. 27.

Is it not a great thing to be sure of God? Spectres of the intellect haunt me, and perplexities of the heart; and I begin to question His existence and His grace. James Renwick, the martyr of twenty-six, wandered for a while in the labyrinth. Once, " being in the Fields and looking to the Mountains, he was so strongly assaulted with Temptations of Atheism that he said, ' If these were all devouring Furnaces of burning Brimstone, I should be content to go through them, if thereby I could be assured that there is a God.'" I can sympathise with him. Often, with me too, the clouds conceal the Sun.

Is it not a greater thing to be certain that God and I are in closest union? To hear Hun say to me, I am the Lord your God, and to respond to Him, My Lord and my God : this is heaven begun on earth; this is rest of conscience, and quietude of mind, and coronation of character, and the life that is life indeed. He with whom the King of kings links Himself in an alliance never to be dissolved is, sick or healthy, slave or free, the most enviable of men.

And how shall I attain the happy certitude?

There is the highroad of enfranchisement. In the Book of Exodus I read God's promise to bring out the children of Israel from under the burdens of the Egyptians ; and He adds, Ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. No stronger evidence of His being and His mercy can I imagine than His redemption of me, shackled, incarcerated, downtrodden. If He slays my Egyptian taskmasters, if in Christ He sets me free, I cannot question that He is and that He is my Friend.

There is the highroad of obedience. Walk in My statutes, God says to the Jews through the prophet Ezekiel, and hallow My Sabbaths, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. In proportion as I am willing to do His will, so far as it is understood by me, I learn the doctrine, and my difficulties disappear, and the dawn has risen on my mind and soul. I realise that His commandments are not grievous, and that He Himself is Light and is Love.

And there is the highroad of rejuvenation. In these verses of Joel, I have the great promises of God to His erring children. Let them return to Him in penitence, and He would return to them. in most liberal bounty, and would pour on them His Spirit, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. Most winsome cure of doubt ! I have wandered. I have wounded Him since He redeemed me. But let me confess my sin ; and He will come so near that all the shadows will flee.
By one or other of these roads I can travel from my troubles to His tranquillities and joys. Thus the sick man gains health, the prisoner liberty, the mourner a song.


" The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."
—Matt. xx. 28.

Lord of all, Christ made Himself Vassal of all.

I cannot forget the unspeakable condescension in which His ministry began. The Son of Man came, with His own consent and of His own will, consciously and spontaneously. He had been a Monarch in heaven, and He was now a Subordinate on earth, misread by friends, pursued by enemies, and yet standing by choice and deed of His own in the lowly and menial sphere. Behind the miracle of His serving is the miracle of His stooping. He was the Eternal Son of the Father, and He emptied Himself.

I think, too, of the incomprehensible love which sustained His ministry. A holy intention, Jeremy Taylor says, is to my actions what the soul is to the body, what the fountain is to the river, what the root is to the tree, what the sun is to the world. It is in my intentions that I fall short, and the taint of self is apt to spoil my best deeds. But Jesus had no oblique thoughts about His own reputation. His one purpose was to please God and to bless men. He shows me a love without blemish and flaw.

And I remark the cheerful alacrity of His ministry. It is difficult for me not to flag sometimes. Hearts are stolid, and the outlook is discouraging. But when did Christ murmur ? when did He faint ? If a demoniac boy required Him at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, He left the glorious hill for the boy's sake. If a dying robber asked to be remembered in the Kingdom, He forgot His own Cross to answer the penitent's cry. It was impossible to interrupt Him. He was willing-hearted always.

And then I notice the rich many-sidedness that marked His ministry. Sometimes it was the cure of a diseased body, sometimes the pardoning of a conscience-smitten spirit. It might be a look, or a touch, or a word ; a discourse in the synagogue, or a heart-to-heart interview with a single enquirer ; or a miracle of Godlike power and Godlike tenderness. It was gentle, and it was severe. I find it hard to be efficient in one department ; but this Workman is not ashamed in any department.

There is no ministry like His. Yet it is the pattern for mine, if I am His disciple. I, also, am to serve in the New Testament style and after the Christlike model. I have been brought into the family for this very end. Noblesse oblige; my rank constitutes my responsibility ; my high honours carry great obligations along with them. Ah ! but do not let me be spiritless and despairing. Christ is Power as well as Pattern. He goes before me ; but He dwells within me too. He is not only King among the choirs and societies of the angels in heaven ; He is King in the citadel of my soul. His life will create my life anew, till I am signed with His autograph and changed into His image.

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"But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou may cat be feared."
—Ps. cxxx. 4.

Forgiven, in order to fear : does it seem a poor and pitiful way of stating the issues of God's mercy ? Would I rather say : Forgiven, and therefore loving, rejoicing, praising, thanking the Forgiver with heart and voice and life ? But my version is not far removed from the Jewish Psalmist's; only mine is more meagre and less significant. The fear of which he speaks includes all that I mean by practical religion and godliness ; and the doctrine he teaches is that the grace of God in pardoning me makes me willing, through every one of my days, to follow behind His chariot wheels.

One thing I see is that His forgiveness throws my nature open to a world of blessed communications from Himself. Sin's separating wall of adamant is gone, and there is no barrier now. I can carry my needs to Him, and it is His royal and tender habit to hold converse with me ; He has inaugurated a communion which is to last as long as I live. But can I do anything else than adore and reverence and fear this ever-present Lord, Who is watching so sedulously over my obedience and my growth ?

Or I may express the truth in this fashion : since His forgiveness came, I have been free to serve Him. Until then, I was a debtor owing Him ten thousand talents, and I had not a farthing to pay. The mere thought of Him was a millstone crushing my spirit; and in that wintry time what heart had I to do His will ? But the shades of the prison-house lie behind me now. The incubus is lifted, the spectre banished. I cannot but dedicate myself to my Liberator absolutely and always.

Let me view it again : when He forgave me, He planted in my nature the strongest motives to fear. Worshipfulness was born in me then ; for I saw the holiness of Him Who had to purchase my freedom with a great price. Gratitude was stirred—a gratitude in which many graces are rooted and grounded, such as submission to His will, and the hatred of what He hates, and the hunger to glorify Him. Hope, too, awoke ; and since I shall see Him face to face soon, I must purify myself as He is pure.

First, forgiveness ; and then afterwards, and perpetually to the end, fear. But a reasonable and beautiful and seemly fear. The fear to lose one glance of the Father's love. The fear to miss one syllable of the Saviour's evangel of peace. The fear to forfeit one instant of the Spirit's presence, or one breath of His renewing power. The fear of drifting away on insidious currents of worldli- ness and sin from the haven of daily fellowship with my Lord. The fear of slumber. The fear of error. The fear of not enough pleasing Him Who, with His precious blood, has redeemed me to Himself.


"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden."
—Gen. ii. 8.

"God Almightie," says Lord Bacon, "first Planted a Garden; and it is the Purest of Humane pleasures." I pray that in my heart and life God Almighty may find a garden of His own planting, where He can talk with me in the cool of the day.

" I doe hold it," the essayist writes, " there ought to be Gardens for all the Moneths of the yeare;" and he travels from December to December, describing the growths of each season, till I can almost see the colours and feel the fragrance. Let my winter of adversity grow submissiveness and patience and prayer ; my spring of promise abound in hope ; my summer of attainment show the blossoms of thanksgiving and humility ; my autumn of fruit be dedicated to God's glory and praise.

" Nothing is more fit than to know what be the Flowers and Plants that doe best perfume the Aire "—violets, for instance, and musk-roses, and sweet-brier, and wall-flower, and pinks, and the three which, being trodden on and crushed, yield their odours, "Burnet, Wilde-Time, and Water-Mints." I would acquire skill in the horticulture of the heart, by keeping company with my Master's friends, by reading much in His Book, by communing with Himself, and by kissing His chastening rod.

" The Garden is best to be Square, incompassed, on all the Foure Sides, with a Stately Arched Hedge." And I must reverence God's hedges : the restraints of His providence, the monitions of His Word, the bounds imposed by an enlightened conscience, the forbiddings of the Holy Ghost. I must have no wish for the profane territory outside.

" For Fountaines, they are a great Beauty and Refreshment." But the main matter is " so to Convey the Water as it never Stay, either in the Bowles or in the Cesterne ; " for then it will be discoloured, or will gather mossiness and putrefaction. And if the garden of the soul is to maintain beauty and fragrance, must not the waters of my spiritual life be constantly renewed ? must I not return daily to the Weil-Head from which the living streams flow ever forth ?

In his garden Lord Bacon would have a "Heath, framed, as much as may be, to a Natural Wildernesse," where the flowers, low and sweet and sightly, are not set in precise and regular array. And there should be no primness in the garden of a regenerated life. The divine Husbandman does not desire me to be a martinet, a precisian, a Pharisee. May the Lord the Spirit fill me to overflowing, that my goodness may be spontaneous, enthusiastic, exuberant, not to be fettered and checked.

So I, too, shall have a Ver Perpetuum. I, too, even " when the Wind blows Sharpe," shall walk in peace and pleasantness; and in the garden God will talk with me.