They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. – Romans 2:15
The principal means which God uses in conversion, is that of conscience; and indeed without this, all the rest are in vain. Outward afflictions are of service—only as they tend to awaken the conscience from its lethargy to a faithful discharge of its duty. It is conscience which makes the sinner sensible of his misery and scourges him. The lashes of a guilty conscience are intolerable; and some under them have chosen strangling and suicide, rather than life.
Conscience is a serpent in his breast, which bites and gnaws his heart; and he can no more avoid it, than he can fly from himself!
Let not such of you as have never been tortured with its remorse, congratulate yourselves upon your happiness, for you are not innocents! Your conscience will not always sleep! It will not always lie torpid and inactive, like a snake benumbed with cold, in your breast!
It will awaken you either to your conversion—or condemnation!
Either the fire of God’s wrath flaming from His law will enliven it in this world—to sting you with medicinal anguish; or the unquenchable fire of His vengeance in the lake of fire and brimstone will thaw it into life—and then it will horribly rage in your breast, and diffuse its tormenting poison through your whole frame! And then it will become a never-dying worm, and prey upon your hearts forever!
If you find yourself being tormented by your conscience and in need of forgiveness, never forget, you can find your forgiveness in Jesus.
By other men’s sins, a holy man is put in mind of the badness of his own heart. Bernard makes mention of an old man, who, when he saw any man sin, lamented and wept for him. Being asked why he grieved so, for other men’s sins, answered, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
The falls of others puts a holy man in mind of the roots of sinfulness which are in himself. Other men’s actual sins are as so many looking-glasses, through which a holy man comes to see the manifold seeds of sin which are in his own heart, and such a sight as this cannot but humble him.
A holy heart knows that the best way to keep himself pure from other men’s sins, is to mourn for other men’s sins. He who makes conscience of weeping over other men’s sins will rarely be defiled with other men’s sins.
A holy heart looks upon other men’s sins as their bonds and chains, and this makes him mourn. Ah, how can tears but trickle down a Christian’s cheeks, when he sees multitudes fast bound with the cords of their iniquity, trooping to Hell? Who can look upon a lost sinner as a bound prisoner to the prince of darkness and not bemoan him?
If holy people thus mourn for the wickedness of others, then certainly those who take pleasure in the wickedness of others, who laugh and joy, who can make a sport of other men’s sins are rather monsters than men! There are none so nearly allied to Satan as these, nor any so resemble Satan as much as these! (The devil always joys most—when sinners sin most!) To applaud them, and take pleasure in those who take pleasure in sin, is the highest degree of ungodliness!
“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34
The annual Thanksgiving Day in America, has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.
But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day—all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.
Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.
Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. All ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings.
In one of the Psalms, the writer says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” He had learned to sing in the hours of pain—as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should live—nothing should hush his song or choke the voice of thanksgiving and praise.
The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.
Likewise, one who has been full of miserable discontents, utterly lacking in gratitude, gets a new Divine impulse, and one day is really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he let his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness, until by and by it has been lured altogether away from the old beaten paths of discontent, discouragement, and unhappiness, and runs always in the ways of thanksgiving.
If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness—we should instantly set about the breaking of a new path, a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions when long indulged persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered, and we should not pause in our effort until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.
There are many encouragements to a life of thanksgiving. For one thing, it makes life much happier. The person who indulges in fretting and complaining—is missing much that is loveliest, both in character and in experience. The tendency of such a life is toward gloom and depression, and these qualities in the heart soon show themselves on the face and in the manner. Light is the emblem of a beautiful life—but ingratitude is darkness rather than light. If we would be happy—we must train ourselves to be grateful. Ingratitude makes life dreary for us.
Another reason for cultivating the thanksgiving spirit, is because of its influence on others. Nobody loves a sullen person. We are exhorted to think of “whatever things are lovely,” and cheerlessness is not lovely. If we would have people like us, if we would attract them to us and have good influence over them—we must cultivate happiness in all our expressions. There are many people who have formed the habit of unhappiness. They may be good and honest—but they have not learned the lesson of gladness. And they are not helpful people. They are not diffusers of joy.
We are as responsible for our faces—as we are for our dispositions. If we go about with gloom on our countenances, we will cast shadows over others and make life harder for them. No one can be a real blessing to others, until he has mastered his gloom and has attained the thanksgiving face. No one can be of very much help to others, if he carries discontent and anxiety on his countenance. We owe it to our friends, therefore, as well as to ourselves, to form the habit of thanksgiving.
There are those who have learned this lesson so well, that wherever they go they make happiness. Their lives are blessings.
It ought not to be hard to train one’s self to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life, for continual thanksgiving. True, there are days when things may seem to go wrong—but it is only in the seeming. There is not doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings, which we may have if we will. The hardest experience of any day, enfolds in it, a gift from God—if only we receive it in faith and love. We think of the sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather bad. But if we understood it, we would know that God sends to the earth just as rich blessings in His clouds—as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain, and after the rain all nature appears clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is ready always to give cheerful thanks, even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be apparent.
Indeed, we shall some day see that many of the richest and best blessings of our lives, have come to us through experiences and circumstances which to us seemed adverse, and from which we shrank. There is an old promise which says that to those who love God—all things work together for their good. All we have to make sure of—is that we keep ourselves in the love of God. If we do this, everything which comes to us will bring its enriching in some way, and out of the painful things—our lives we will gather the best blessings and the deepest joys.
We shall not have many miles at the most—of the rough, steep road. In a few years we shall have gone over it all, and shall have come out into a place where there shall be nothing to vex or disturb us. And such gladness waits for us, such blessing, that one hour there—will make us forget all the sorrow and pain and toil of the way!
Godliness with contentment is great gain! – 1 Timothy 6:6
True godliness produces and strengthens contentment; and contentment is the calm sunshine of a man’s life. We do not mean sitting down in idleness, feeling at home in filth, or indulging in negligence; this would be a disgrace to any creature, especially a professing Christian! But contentment is connected with honest industry, general purity, and a concern for the honor of God.
True contentment springs from acknowledging and eyeing God’s providence, whose “tender mercies are over all His works.” It is a bowing to His will as the infinitely wise and invariably good; believing the promises He has given; expecting the provision He has made; and feeling satisfied to share in the common lot with His people.
Contented Christians prize spiritual blessings before temporal, and live sensible of their demerit and desert. They know that everything short of Hell is a favor and that the glories of Heaven will more than make amends for all the toils and privations of this world’s wilderness pilgrimage. They do not expect to find rest below, or a paradise in the desert of this world. They are persuaded, “that all things work together for good, to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.”
Pride is slain, and humility flourishes; for pride is the parent of discontent, ingratitude, peevishness, rebellion against God, and many other evils. While humility produces contentment, patience, gratitude, submission to the will of God, and many other virtues.
The godly who are contented are rich for they have a good fortune! They have inward peace and satisfaction of mind which are better than gold! They are filled with gratitude and thankfulness to God which are better than a large estate! They have love to God and delight in Him which are preferable to a splendid mansion! They have a joyful anticipation of eternal glory, of being acknowledged as the sons of God, and fellow-heirs of Jesus which is to be esteemed above all the titles and honors of this perishing world!
They contentedly live in the enjoyment of what they now have realizing that their glorious portion is yet to come! Their aspirations are on the same level as their earthly condition hence, they are strangers to fretfulness, murmuring, and the constant vexations which most men experience. They prove that, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.”
Reader, are you a godly person? Are you acquainted with God as your God, your Friend, your Father? Are you contented with your place, portion, and prospect in this perishing world! If so, you have a good fortune!
Suppose a person were to go to a blacksmith and say to him, ‘I want you to make me a long and heavy chain — I will pay you well for it.’ The blacksmith, for the sake of the money, commences it; and after toiling hard for some time, finishes it. The person calls, and says on looking at it, ‘Yes, it is a good chain — but not long enough; work on it another week, I will then call and pay you for it.’ Encouraged by the promise of full reward, the blacksmith toils on, adding link to link. When his employer calls again, he praises him as before — but still insists that ‘the chain is too short.’ ‘But,’ says the blacksmith, ‘I can do no more; my iron is all gone, and my strength too.’
‘Oh then, just add a few more links, the chain will then answer my purpose, and you shall be well paid.’ The blacksmith, with his remaining strength, and last few scraps of iron, adds the last link he can. ‘The chain will now do,’ says the man, ‘you have worked hard and long; I will now pay you your wages.’ And taking the chain, he suddenly binds the blacksmith hand and foot, and casts him into a furnace of fire!
Such are the wages of sin. It promises much — but its reward is damnation!
“The wages of sin is death!” – Romans 6:23
What! is the reward for all that hard toil — death? Yes, death! Oh, extraordinary wages — but more astonishing still, that any should be found to work for them!
If the only wages for sin were those received in a lifetime, we could be calmer. But oh, Eternity, Eternity is sin’s long pay-day — and the wages paid is Hell!
…But never forget, there is a way of escape in Jesus.
The imputed righteousness of Christ will answer all of the fears, doubts, and objections of your soul. How shall I look up to God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I have communion with a holy God?–In the righteousness of Christ? How shall I find acceptance with God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I die?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I stand before the judgment seat?–In the righteousness of Christ. The only sure way under all the temptations, fears, conflicts, doubts, and disputes, is by faith to remember Christ and the sufferings of Christ your mediator and surety.
Oh Christ, I am your sin, but you are my righteousness; I am your curse, but you are my blessing; I am your death, but you are my life; I am the wrath of God to you, but you are the love of God to me; I’m your hell, but you are my heaven. His righteousness answers all objections, though there may be a million of them made against a good estate of a believer. This is a precious truth, worth more than a world, that all our sins are pardoned. In Christ, justice and mercy kiss each other, yea justice says, ‘I am pleased.’
We own a Kingdom that will not shake, one eternal in the heavens. We have a certificate of guarantee for all the happiness and blessedness of the world to come. The righteousness of Christ is your life, your joy, your comfort, your crown, your confidence, your heaven, and your all. In righteousness you may safely and comfortably live, and happily and quietly die. Ah, that believers would dwell much upon this truth. The righteousness of Christ cannot be lost; it is from everlasting to everlasting. When once this white raiment is put on a believer, it can never fall off. Interest in his righteousness guarantees all the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom!
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”—Mal. 3:3
My soul! your Refiner and Purifier is Jesus. Jesus shapes all your trials; Jesus sends all your afflictions; Jesus mingles all your sorrows; Jesus shapes and balances all the clouds of your pilgrimage; Jesus prepares and heats the furnace that refines you as silver and purifies you as gold. Then, O my soul, tremble not at the knife that wounds you, at the flame that scorches you, at the cloud that shades you, at the billows that surge above you–Jesus is in it all, and you are as safe as though you had reached the blissful climate where the vine needs no pruning, and the ore no purifying, where the sky is never darkened, and upon whose golden sands no storms of adversity ever blow or waves of sorrow ever break.
And, O my soul, what deep need is there for this refining and purifying of your Lord. What inward corruption, what carnality, what worldliness, what self-seeking, what creature idolatry, what God-dishonoring unbelief, imperatively demand the searching, burning, purifying fires of Christ’s furnace! And this is the end of all–to take away your sin, and to make you a partaker of the Divine holiness.
And mark the Refiner’s position. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” It would be fatal to his purpose did the smelter and refiner leave his post while the liquid mass was fusing and seething in the furnace. But there he patiently sits, watching and tempering the flame, and removing the refuse and the dross as it floats upon the surface of the molten ore. So Christ sits as a Refiner; and with an eye that never slumbers, and with a patience that never wearies, and with a love that never chills, and with a faithfulness that never falters, watches and controls the process that purifies our hearts, burnishes our graces, sanctifies our nature, and impresses more vividly His own image of loveliness upon our soul. If He places you in the fire, He will bring you through the fire, “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Sweet and soothing is the truth that the believer is not alone in the fire. The Refiner is with us as with the three children passing through the burning furnace kindled by the king. The Lord will have us polished stones; and as some believers are more rusty and some more alloyed than others, they need a rougher file and a hotter furnace. This may account for the great severity of trial through which some of the Lord’s precious jewels are called to pass. Not less dear to His heart are they for this; it is said God had one Son without corruption, but no son without correction; for “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Look up, my soul, your Portion is your Refiner. Be still, humble, submissive. The knife is in a Father’s hand, the flame is under a Savior’s control.
“I will give you the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3
Is not this a strange expression? “Treasures of darkness!” How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness until they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness until they were broken up and given to Cyrus.
It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are “treasures of darkness,” so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, until we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus until he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.
But the word “treasures” signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount–an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all needs and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fullness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which “cleanses from all sin,” and that divine righteousness which is “unto all and upon all those who believe,” what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.
“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him!” Hosea 6:3
The expression, “press on,” implies that there are many difficulties, obstacles, and hindrances in a man’s way, which keep him back from “knowing the Lord.” Now the work of the Spirit in his soul is to carry him on in spite of all these obstacles—to lead him forward—to keep alive in him the fear of God—to strengthen him in his inner man—to drop in those hopes—to communicate that inward grace—so that he is compelled to press on.
Sometimes he seems driven, sometimes drawn, sometimes led, and sometimes carried, but in one way or another the Spirit of God so works upon him that, though he scarcely knows how—he still “presses on.”
His very burdens make him groan for deliverance—his very temptations cause him to cry for help—the very difficulty and ruggedness of the road make him want to be carried every step—the very intricacy of the path compels him to cry out for a guide—so that the Spirit working in the midst of, and under, and through every difficulty and discouragement, still bears him through, and carries him on—and thus brings him through every trial and trouble and temptation and obstacle, until He sets him in glory.
It is astonishing to me how our souls are kept alive. The Christian is a marvel to himself. Carried on, and yet so secretly—worked upon, and yet so mysteriously; and yet led on, guided, and supported through so many difficulties and obstacles—that he is a miracle of mercy as he is carried on amid all difficulties, obstacles, trials, and temptations.
Wandering again! And has He not left me to perish? Stumbling and straying on the dark mountains, away from the Shepherd’s eye and the Shepherd’s fold, shall He not leave the erring wanderer to the fruit of his own ways, and his truant heart to go hopelessly onward in its career of guilty estrangement? “My thoughts,” says God, “are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” Man would say, “Go, perish! ungrateful apostate!” God says, “Return, O backsliding children!” The Shepherd will not, cannot allow those sheep to perish which He has purchased with His own blood! How wondrous His forbearance towards it!—tracking its guilty steps, and ceasing not the pursuit until He lays the wanderer on His shoulders, and returns with it to His fold rejoicing! My soul! why increase by farther departures your own distance from the fold?—why lengthen the dreary road your gracious Shepherd has to traverse in bringing you back? Do not delay your return! Do not provoke His patience any longer! Do not venture farther on forbidden ground! He waits with outstretched arms to welcome you once more to His bosom. Be humble for the past, trust Him for the future. Think of your former backslidings, and tremble—think of His patience, and be filled with holy gratitude; think of His promised grace, “and take courage.”