After Hill Difficulty Comes the Arbor of Rest

“No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. There is no calm more deep than that which follows a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers.

After killing the lion–we eat the honey;
after climbing the Hill Difficulty–we sit down in the arbor to rest;
after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life.

Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them “afterwards.” It is peace, sweet, deep peace–which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls.

See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are “afterwards” good things–harsh ploughings–yielding joyful harvests. Even now . . .
he grows rich by his losses,
he rises by his falls,
he lives by dying, and
he becomes full by being emptied.

If, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life–what shall be the full vintage of joy “afterwards” in Heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days–what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun–what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon–how sweetly will he sing in Heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires–how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil is good to him now–what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then?

-Charles Spurgeon

Satan’s Dread

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. – Ex. 1:12

At this point in history, the Israelites were in Egypt because of God’s sovereign work through Joseph. They had been living in freedom and peace, when a new pharaoh comes into power and sees their prosperity. He does not regard Joseph’s memory, and he became concerned with Israel’s growth so he and the Egyptians begin to oppress God’s chosen people, but the more they afflicted them, the more they grew.

Within this historical truth we find a spiritual truth. Many people live in fear of Satan, but as children of God we need not fear, for he is fulfilling God’s will in our lives. He is so blinded with pride that he thinks he is thwarting God’s plan but is in fact helping to fulfill it.

When the Lord allows Satan and his demons to mettle in a Christian’s life, it is for a good reason. We know this because all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). God has started a good work in us which He will finish, and the more we are afflicted, the more we grow. Until, to Satan’s demise, He is in dread of us.

An example of this can be seen in the life of Peter. Satan, during the crucifixion, asked to sift him, and God allows him to do so. As a result of this sifting, Peter commits one of the most heinous sins possible, he denies Christ three times. Failure and affliction have hit hard, but to Satan’s dismay, it is this fall that the Lord used to grow Peter’s faith and make him more like Christ. After Jesus restores Peter with three affirmations, the same number as Peter’s denials, Peter then goes on to lead thousands to the Lord, and his testimony is still encouraging people today. After Satan thought he had defeated him, Peter became a dread to Satan. You can be sure that Satan regrets ever tempting Peter in that way.

Now many may say, it’s how you respond to affliction that matters. But we need to look at why Peter responded correctly. He responded correctly because God convicted him of his sin. God broke his heart instead of letting Peter harden it. God did it all. Why? Because Peter was one of His, and of us, He will not lose one. Sanctification is what God does in us, it is not what we do for God. What we end up doing for Him is merely a response of what He is doing in us.

As we face the schemes of the Devil, remember, God is always working in His Children, and He uses many things to grow our faith: even afflictions, temptations, and failures. So when you feel that the prince and the power of the air is winning the fight, remember he is only playing right into the hands of our Father.

To quote John Bunyan, let us never forget, “When Satan, death, the grave, and sin have done whatever they can do, we are still more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

Finally, let us never forget that, ultimately, it is not us that Satan dreads, it is God’s Spirit who is at work within us. For greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

D. Eaton

Anchored to the Distant Shore

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

Even as Christians, the greatest storm we face is the sin that rages in us. It crouches at our door, its desire is for us, and its only fruit is destruction. It threatens to sear our consciences, hinder our prayers, and even cause our love for Christ to grow cold. But even when we fail, and some of these things begin to be seen in our lives, let us never forget that our God will have compassion on His children. He delights in mercy, He will turn again to us to subdue our iniquities, and cast’s our sins to the depths of the sea.

Do you see dear believer what hope is found in this Scripture? God is not looking to help you because you have been perfect and you deserve to be helped. He desires to pardon your iniquity. He knows you have sinned and need to be delivered. He has placed the wrath that your sins deserve on Christ your substitution. And though your sinful heart still threatens to toss you where it will, like a lost vessel on an angry sea, our God anchors you with a strong and secure hope.

Grab hold of Christ who is that hope. Like an anchor securing a ship on a stormy sea has plunged beneath the veil of the water and cannot be seen, so Christ has entered within the veil; where he has gone as a forerunner on your behalf (Heb. 6:17). And though we cannot see Him at this moment, the hope he has given us is like a secure chain anchored to the throne of God, which is pulling us home through the tumultuous sea.

As the storms grow stronger, by His grace He strengthens our hold upon this hope, as we learn that nothing else can save us. The tighter we hold to our hope, the more tight the line between us and our true home becomes, until we can feel it pulling us homeward.

Though the storms of sin surround, take heart that your sins have been removed, and you are anchored to the distant shore through Christ. Fear not, for no surer hope has ever been tested, and as your love for this world slowly weakens, you will notice the chain between you and your true home has become that much shorter. When you see this, you will know He has turned to you, and is having compassion upon you, because this is work that only He can do.

Let us end with a short verse by Charles Spurgeon, who inspired most of the content of this devotion.

Let the winds blow, and billows roll,
Hope is the anchor of my soul.
But can I by so slight a tie,
And unseen hope, on God rely?
Steadfast and sure, it cannot fail,
It enters deep within the veil,
It fastens on a land unknown,
And moors me to my Father’s throne.

D. Eaton

5 Blessings of Suffering – Thomas Watson

“God disciplines us for our profit.” -Hebrews 12:10

What profit is in affliction? Afflictions are disciplinary. Afflictions teach us—they are the school of the cross.

Affliction shows us more of our own hearts.

Water in a glass looks clear—but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. Just so, when God sets us upon the fire—corruption boils up which we did not discern before. Sharp afflictions are to the soul, as a soaking rain to the house; we do not know that there are holes in the roof until the shower comes—but then we see it drop down here and there. Just so, we do not know what unmortified lusts are in the soul, until the storm of affliction comes—then the hidden evils of the heart come dropping down in many places. Affliction is a sacred eye-salve, it clears our eyesight. Thus the rod gives wisdom.

Affliction quickens the spirit of prayer.

Jonah was asleep in the ship—but at prayer in the whale’s belly. Perhaps in a time of health and prosperity we prayed in a cold and formal manner, we put no coals to the incense. Then God sends some affliction or other—to stir us up to take hold of Him. “They poured out a prayer—when Your chastening was upon them.” Isaiah 26:16. In times of trouble we pray feelingly and fervently.

Affliction is a means to purge out our sins.

Affliction cures the pestilence of pride—and the fever of lust. Affliction is God’s file—to scrub off our rust. Affliction is God’s flail—to thresh off our husks. The water of affliction is not to drown us—but to wash off our spots.

Affliction is a means to wean us from the world.

The world often proves, not only a spider’s web—but a cockatrice egg. Corrupting worldly things, are great enchantments. They hinder us in our passage to heaven. Affliction sounds a retreat, to call us off the immoderate pursuit of earthly things. When two things are frozen together—the best way to separate them is by fire; so, when the heart and the world are together—God has no better way to separate them than by the fire of affliction.

Affliction is a means to purify us.

It works us up to further degrees of sanctity. “God disciplines us for our profit—that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10. The vessels of mercy are the brighter for scouring. As you pour water on your linen when you would whiten it—so God pours the waters of affliction upon us to whiten our souls. Afflictions are in themselves bitter—but they bring forth the sweet fruits of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11.

-Thomas Watson

It is the Blood that Saves

“And He said unto them, This is My blood of the new testament, shed for many.” -Mark 14:24

Never did those lips, upon which grace shed its divinest, sweetest fragrance, utter words so precious as these. The language is figurative, but the truth is literal. “This is My blood,” or, this cup is the ’emblem’ of “My blood of the new testament,” the new covenant, “shed for many,” for the sins of beings whom no man can number. We are thus brought into contact with the most essential and vital doctrine of the Bible, the great Atonement of the Son of God. Beloved, the blood of Jesus is very precious to a poor, guilt-burdened sinner. It is the blood that saves him. There is everything you need in the blood of Jesus, forgiveness for every guilt-burdened, healing for every sin-wounded conscience.

The blood of Jesus speaks peace, the blood brings us into the holiest, and places us in the very presence of the Father. It is the blood that keeps the heart pure, and supplies it with the most powerful motive to holiness. It is the blood that sustains the soul in death, and after death places it before the throne in robes washed white, with the “new song” breathing from its joyous lips. My soul, consider the blood of Jesus in two or three essential points of light.

It is the blood of the Incarnate God. Herein lies its intrinsic worth, its essential efficacy. The Deity of the Savior gave it all its merit to atone, and all its virtue to cleanse. We marvel not that the apostle should denominate it, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish.” It is the most precious thing in the universe–it is the precious blood of Him whose person is precious to those who believe. Is it, my soul, precious to you?

And, then, remember that faith alone is necessary to make its saving virtue ours. Believe only, and all the sovereign efficacy of Christ’s blood is ours. This “precious blood” and “precious faith” constitute the two most precious things in the universe.

Look at it, also, as applied blood. We know that the blood of the paschal lamb would have availed nothing to the Israelites when the angel of death swept through the land to slay the first-born of the Egyptian, had it not been really and visibly sprinkled upon their dwellings. It was the applied blood that saved them. So must it be with the blood of Jesus, our Passover slain for us. If we want to be placed in a state of non-condemnation, if we desire to be quite sure that we are safe from eternal death, the blood of Jesus must be applied to the conscience. Rest not short of this, my soul! Clearly this is the mind of the Spirit in those remarkable words of the apostle, “You are come to the blood of sprinkling.” There is a present coming to the blood of Jesus, and this gives us a present salvation.

It is the blood of Jesus that sanctifies. It sets us apart as a holy people for God, it cleanses the heart from vain thoughts, worldly imaginations, and impure desires–from the taint and defilement of indwelling sin. Rest not short, then, of the applied blood of Jesus. This will remove all your doubts, quell all your fears, and bring you into perfect peace. The Holy Spirit is prepared to take of the blood of the covenant, and sprinkle it upon your heart, and then all will be peace.

The blood will give you great power in prayer. Coming to God with this plea, you may open all your heart to Him, confess every sin, disclose every sorrow, make known every need, and reveal, as in the light of the noontide sun, every secret cloistered there.

In a word, it is the blood of Jesus that saves, saves us from a present condemnation, and saves us to a future and eternal salvation. There is no salvation elsewhere. Here is pardon for the vilest sinner, for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Yes, dear Lord! it is Your blood, Your own blood, possessing all the dignity and virtue of Your Godhead, and this will be my song and my joy through eternity, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father–to Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

-Octavius Winslow

Primed for Tragedy: A Warning from the Life of Samson

And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. -Judges 16:20.

No matter how we try to read the story of Samson, from a literary perspective, it is a tragedy, and like all tragedies, we must take heed. Israel again had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years (Judges 13:1). The Lord had brought chastisement on His people for their sins, but it was now time to set them free, so the Lord sets his plan in motion to send a man to be a deliverer. That man was Samson.

Samson was a promised child to his parents, a man set apart for God through the Nazarite vow, and even as a young man the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him (Judges 13:25). From there, we are all familiar with his great feats of strength. From pulling out the gates of Gaza, posts and all, and carrying them away to a hill in front of Hebron (Judges 16:3), to his defeat of 1000 Philistines with jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15), all of it was done because the Spirit of the Lord had rushed upon him.

Perhaps you can think of times the Lord has worked through you to accomplish something significant. Maybe you have been used in ministry or accomplished something meaningful at your job. You may also have seen Him move in your family, or use you to comfort someone who was hurting. Whatever it is, you know that the only reason it happened was that the Spirit of the Lord was upon you, and in it, you greatly rejoice for the favor God has shown you. Like Samson, you have every reason to take pleasure in the goodness of God in those situations.

However, great moments with God in the past do not guarantee we will not fall in the future. There can be no resting on our laurels because we have walked closely with Jesus up to this point. We have not yet entered our rest, and we still have an enemy prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

Though Samson kept his life pure in so many ways, he had a weakness involving lust, and worse than that, he seems to have let God’s work in his life stir his pride. Why else would he tell Delilah the secret of his strength if on three prior nights she had attempted to make him weak by taking advantage of what he told her; unless he thought that it would not make a difference if she cut his hair. Perhaps he was strong in his own strength. Maybe he didn’t need God to continue to be the great Samson.

As we now know, Samson was nothing without the Lord. He woke up, ready to shake off his bonds, but he was no longer the man he used to be. He didn’t even know the Lord had left him. The deception of Delilah, which Samson fell for because of his own self-deception, led to his subsequent humiliation, blindness, and the enemies of God rejoicing.

We all know how the story ends, one last shot at redemption, and the Spirit of God gives him the strength to take down the palace filled with 3000 Philistines, a feat which ended his life as well. It is here you might say, “See, it is not a tragedy because God gave him back his strength,” but that is looking at the situation with one eye closed.

Samson wasted his blessing, and he wasted his gift. His life was cut short. He could have done more for the Lord, and he never would have had to suffer the way he did. There is an extremely clear message here for all of us, and too often it is missed. We must continue to guard our hearts.

We must never rest in what the Lord has done through us in the past, or see them as an indication that we are something special. We should cherish those sweet moments we have spent with the Lord, but we should never begin to think that we no longer need them going forward.

Have you grown distracted from the things of God, is there some sin you continue to play with while you think, “God has always shown me favor in the past, and I will never fall like Samson.” Or have you already quenched the Spirit and you have failed to notice that His abiding presence with you has been missing for some time? If that is you, you may very well be playing into the hands of your own lusts and into the hands of the enemy. You are primed for tragedy.

Any inclination to begin to see ourselves as the champion, the great deliverer of Gods people, is a pride that is sure to lead to a fall. There is only one Promised Child who can truly set us free, and we are entirely dependant upon Him for everything; He is not dependant upon us. It is in Jesus, that we live, move, and have our being.

There is only one way we can avoid a similar tragedy in our own lives, and that is by clinging to our Savior daily. No matter how great a woman or man of God people think we are, every one of us should get down on our knees at this moment and say, “Lord, save me from myself. If you do not keep me, I have no hope.” Holding fast to Christ in contrition is the only place we are safe, and He has promised that He will give grace to the humble.

We must never forget, at the end of the day, we have all wasted blessings, and we have all wasted His gifts to us, but Jesus took our tragedies upon Himself on the cross, and then He rose for our justification. We have no reason to boast. This fact is all the more reason we should say, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”

-D. Eaton

When God Disappoints

Men are so ignorant of their own hearts that they are incapable of determining what is best for them. Even regenerate men are but partially sanctified and enlightened. But God searches the heart. He understands our whole case. He knows what is most for our good. He sees our strong corruptions and sad deficiencies. When, in mercy to His child, He comes to heal his spiritual maladies, He does not take counsel with human reasoning or desires. It is right, it is best that He should act according to the wisdom which is infallible. He employs the requisite remedies. Often they are distasteful to flesh and blood. Sometimes they are frightful to contemplate, and terrible to endure.

Then man, in his ignorance, too often says, “If God loved me—He would not give me so bitter a cup to drink!” But this is man’s folly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall human weakness control divine power? Shall finite knowledge prescribe to omniscience? It is the height of wickedness for a worm of the dust—to revise the decisions, or pre-judge the justice of the Almighty. We would expect that God would deal with us in an incomprehensible way—if we did but remember how base, sordid, and narrow are our views and plans; and how holy, glorious, and eternal are His purposes and designs.

We are quite prone to magnify both the good and evil things of time—to the disparagement of those of eternity. But when God thwarts, afflicts, and mortifies us—He makes us look at the things which are unseen and eternal. If He racks this body with pain—it is that we may think of our house, not made with hands, eternal, and in the heavens. The shaking of this clay tabernacle forces upon us the recollection that this present world is not our rest—and that we ought to be seeking a heavenly country. If the godliest man on earth had his own way without divine guidance—he would soon be in full march towards destruction!

How kind is God in wisely and mercifully deciding so many things for us! God very mercifully marks out our course for us. God is governor. We are servants. To us belong obedience, submission, acquiescence. It is not ours . . .
to guide,
to decide what is best,
to rule the world,
to shape the course of events.

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say
to him who formed it—Why did you make me like this?”
– Romans 9:20

-William S. Plummer

7 Lessons When Prayer Seems Unanswered

Sovereign Lord, what I most desired you have denied, yet I praise you! On what account, I know not, yet I praise you. You have done it; that silences me. Your will makes it indisputable, and renders it my indispensable duty to your wise determinations. Hitherto I have had no complaint on the conduct of providence; nor shall I complain until all the mazes are explained. Do, then, all your counsel, though all my counsels should come to nothing. Can a person expect favors from God–who will not wait for God’s way and time?

But what does it matter how the affairs of a present world go, if the interests of the next world are secured? The weather-vane is whirled about with every blast, but the iron spire is still at rest, because it cannot be displaced. So, what does it matter though the outward man decays–if the inner man grows? What does it matter though the temporal condition be perplexed–if the conscience is possessed of spiritual peace? I praise you that you interpose your providence, even in disappointing my dearest plans; and do not give me up to the blind desires of my own heart, and to wander at random in counsels of mine own. I can resolve the present case into nothing but your will; yet I rejoice more to resign to your will, and to be submissive to your disposal, than to have my will in every point performed. This is the only way in my private capacity that I can glorify you.

If all things went as I would have them, I could not positively learn the care of God. But when providence, beyond all human probability, twists enterprises out of my hands, and well-resolved designs out of my heart–this clearly shows to me your condescending concern about my lot and life. Thus you take the wise in their own craftiness; for when all my schemes were so well laid, that human policy approved of, and wit itself commended; yet, when you did blow upon them, how did they like rainbows painted on the watery clouds, when thunders break, or boisterous winds attack–scatter into disappointments and pain!

Hence, in the school of providence I am taught some lessons.

  1. Not to look to the appearance of things, but to the power of God, who brings light out of darkness, and calls the things that are not, as though they were.
  2. That from probabilities, impossibilities may spring; while apparent impossibilities dissolve into easy escapes. As for the first, it was very probable that the Egyptians might overtake and put Israel to the sword, yet it became impossible for them to do it. And as for the second it seemed impossible that Israel could escape ruin, when enclosed with insurmountable hills, and swelling seas, and pursued by enraged foes; yet, in what an easy way did they walk to their deliverance!
  3. I am taught to believe, and to give glory to the almighty power of God, when impossibilities throng thick before me.
  4. To see my own finite wisdom to be but folly, that I can neither prevent nor foresee those events which I do not desire.
  5. To hold all my mercies, all my privileges from God, and not from the certainty in which they seem to stand.
  6. Not to think that things are lost, when so they seem to be. When I think I am most sure of some things, they are all on a sudden taken from me; so when lost, they can all of a sudden be restored.
  7. And, lastly, to see the mutable and fickle state of temporal things, and therefore to hold a loose grip on the creature, however dear, however near–and to set my affections on things that are above.

-James Meikle, 1730-1799

Times of Refreshing

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. -Acts 3:19

Has your life grown dim and stale because you are no longer walking closely with the Lord? Our God is so gracious that even after we have rebelled against him, he not only wipes out our sins, but he also goes on to give us times of refreshing. This phrase, “times of refreshing,” encompasses quite a bit, including the return of our Lord, but it also seems to include a sense of spiritual refreshment that comes to the individual believer. Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. The burden of your sin was heavy upon you as you felt the curse and judgment it demanded. Then someone pointed you to Christ, and through faith, your sins were washed away. Then, do you remember what followed? Do you remember being refreshed as the Joy of the Lord became your strength? The world was just a little brighter, the mountains where a bit more majestic, and the burdens of the world seemed lighter, because you knew nothing could separate you from his love.

What we experienced during these times was the Holy Spirit’s work, as he bore witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). As Paul told us, even if the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16) because even in this fallen world, the Spirit has been given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5). As he works in our lives, our spirits are refreshed knowing that our sins can no longer condemn us because of Christ’s work, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when this life is through.

There are, however, times in the believer’s life when this refreshing may fade. If we begin to turn our focus to the things of this world, whether its vanities or trials, there is an intimacy with Christ that can be lost; much like when Peter was walking on the water and turned his eyes away from Jesus. Maybe you are finding yourself in that place right now. Something has caught your eye that is luring you away from the Lord and seeking first the kingdom of God is no longer your main desire. Maybe the straight and narrow is not as appealing to you anymore because some lesser light has stolen your heart as it offers you more than it can actually provide. The problem with this is that you are being tempted by your own evil desires, and when it is conceived it will give birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death (James 1:15). As this process is taking place the Holy Spirit grieves within you, and there can be a dimness that can come back to your eyes as you once again try to shoulder the weight of this world without Christ’s abiding presence. So much so, that at times you can begin to wonder if you were ever a child of God to begin with.

It is at this point, that the enemy begins to mock you for taking the bait, and begins to tell you that you’ve gone too far and that you have never been his child. But the Spirit of God, who has never left you, has many ways of stirring you to a remembrance of the times of refreshing you once had. He moves you to recall the former times for at least two reasons. First, to remind you that you are his child and give you strength as you deal with the sin in which you now find yourself entangled, and second, to call you to repentance because the times of refreshing can be experienced again.

If you find yourself in this situation, and the joy of your salvation has been eclipsed by the cares and sins of this life, remember the times you once had with your Savior. By doing so you can be confirmed that you are his child, and you will hear the call to repentance saying, come back to your First Love, and as you “draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And if you have never come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you too can have your sins wiped out, that times of refreshing may come.

Wayward Christian: The Lord Wants you to Come Home

“Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”–Jeremiah. 3:1

Could there be a more touching “Thus says the Lord” than this? The voice of Jesus, as it echoed over the mountains and along the valleys of our unregenerate distance from God, seeking and finding and bringing us home, was inexpressibly sweet and irresistibly gracious. But, to hear that same voice, after our many wanderings, our repeated relapses, our sad backslidings, still seeking, still inviting, still imploring us to return, though we had “played the harlot with many lovers,” oh, there is music in that voice such as the heavenly minstrelsy must bend their ear to catch.

My soul, you are “bent upon backsliding, even as a backsliding heifer.” Your heart is as a broken bow, treacherous to the arrow fixed upon the string, and ready for its flight. Your purposes of good formed, but thwarted; resolutions of amendment made, but broken; plans of usefulness laid, but frustrated; prayers for grace offered, but forgotten; desires and aspirations after God sent up, but, through a deceitful and wicked heart, dissolving into air. Oh! how many and aggravated have your backslidings from God been–backslidings in heart, backslidings in deed–secret wanderings, open wanderings. You have “left your first love,” have “forgotten your resting-place;” and, straying from the cross, have gone back to walk no more with Jesus. Truly, your “heart is like a deceitful bow.”

But, has the Lord, by some gentle movement of His grace, or by some solemn event of His providence, aroused, overtaken, arrested you? Has He set a hedge around your path, that you could not find your lovers, bringing you to reflection, to penitence, to prayer? Then, listen, O my soul, to the gracious words of your “first husband;” “Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”

Spiritual restoration implies a spiritual re-conversion. In this sense we are to interpret our Lord’s words to His fallen apostle Peter–“When you are converted, strengthen your brethren,”–that is, when you are restored, recovered, turned back again, employ your restored grace, the experience you have derived, and the lessons you have learned by your fall and recovery, in strengthening your weak brethren–in warning and exhorting, in restoring and comforting those who have been alike tempted, and have alike fallen.

There is something very expressive, tender, and touching in the word–“Again.” “Yet return again.” It sounds like the “forgiveness of seventy times seven.” Lord! I have wandered from You times without number–“Yet return again.” Lord! I have so often sinned and repented–“Yet return again.” Lord! You have received and forgiven me more than seventy times seven–“Yet return again.” Lord! I come confessing the same sins, deploring the same backslidings, acknowledging the same self-will and base ingratitude–“Yet return again to me, says the Lord.” Then, Lord! I come with weeping, and mourning, and confession, since Your tenderness, grace, and changeless love, and outstretched hand bid me.

“Return to Me.” My soul, rest not until you rest in Jesus. Let nothing come between your returning heart and your advancing, loving, forgiving Father. There is no true return of a backsliding believer but that which takes him past his repentance, past his tears, past his confessions, past his amendments, past his minister, and brings him at once close to Christ. There is no healing of the hurt, no binding up of the wound, no cleansing, no peace, no comfort, no joy, but as the soul comes to the blood, and nestles once more within the very heart of Jesus. “Return unto ME.”

-Octavius Winslow