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Love is of God!

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Love is of God!

From Timeless Grace Gems

William Bacon Stevens

"Love is of God." 1 John 4:7

No writer gives us such lofty ideas of love as John. His First General Epistle is an epitome of the whole philosophy of love, human and divine; and all that subsequent authors have done has been to amplify and interpret the principles enunciated by the beloved disciple.

Love is the most powerful and influential of human passions. It has been analyzed and described by more minds, and has engrossed more hearts, than any other affection. Yet the majority of writers have failed to apprehend the true character of love, and have busied themselves in describing some of its turbid and earth-polluted streams, flowing between the banks of human selfishness--instead of rising to the fountain-source of the passion, and showing us its existence as it fills the bosom of the eternal God.

John takes us up to this fountain-head, and, in the words of the text, shows us the origin of all love, when he says, "Love is of God."

The point which I wish to illustrate is--that all the love in the universe is the gift of God. The proposition, as thus stated, is a very simple one; but it involves consequences of the most interesting and responsible character. Let us first unfold the principle, and then ascertain some of its resulting consequences.

In another part of this love-filled epistle, John utters the sublime truth, "God is love"; and, by many, this has been considered as equivalent to the declaration of the text, "Love is of God." This, however, is not so. When the apostle tells us that "God is love," he designs to say, not that God has had this attribute and no other--not that He has this attribute paramount to others; for, as the attributes of any mind must partake of the character of the mind which exercises them, so the attributes of God must partake of the essence of God, and be in all aspects, therefore, infinite and divine: no one attribute, therefore, can be less than divine. Each attribute--His truth, His power, His wisdom, and the like--must stand on the same footing as His love, and be equally great and glorious.

But, by the expression "God is love," John evidently wishes to convey to us the idea that love is the great motive power of the Divine Being. Love is that which shapes and guides all His attributes; so that each is manifested under the working of love, and each directed to the securing of love.

We can imagine, indeed, that God might possess certain attributes without that of love--as, for example, power, wisdom, holiness, truth. But what a fearful God would He be--if almighty power was not guided by love; if infinite wisdom, in its contrivings and legislations, was not pervaded by infinite love; if perfect holiness was only a cold and ice-like purity, devoid of the warmth and redolence of love; if truth was the mere mechanical utterance of right by lips on which sat no law of kindness, from a heart which had in it no pulsation of love!

Love, then, is the affection of the Divine Being, which, not operating by itself, permeates and influences each attribute, moves them in harmony, throws over them the beauty of holiness, and thus quickens into action, controls in motion, and guides to its destined end--all the workings of Jehovah. And, because every attribute is thus set in motion by love, hence we say, "God is love."

But when the apostle says, "Love is of God," he means something different from the truth just unfolded. He looks at love from another standpoint. He marks it in its human manifestations; and beholding it not so much as a great and original attribute of the Most High--but as seen in daily life, ramifying through all the grades and conditions of society, and observing its power, its workings, its sway in man's heart--he traces the affection to its source, and says, "Love is of God."

When God created man, He made him in His own likeness--not in the likeness of His power to do all things, or His wisdom to know all things; but of His love and of His holiness--those purely moral qualities in which he could alone be fashioned in the divine likeness; and so man was created lovely, lovable, loving, and pure.

In the fall which brought in sin and death upon our race, and a curse upon the ground--man was morally wrecked. He lost the image of God, in which he was made; and he no longer was, to the extent which he had been--lovely, lovable, loving, and pure. He was a guilty and a polluted being; and all his powers of mind and heart were perverted and debased by sin.

While, however, man made a total loss of holiness--there was not a total loss of love. In mercy to our race, God permitted this affection to continue--not, indeed, in its original beauty or force or purity--but still to exist, though shorn of its glory, as the great happiness-creating power of mankind; so that to the exercise of this one affection, more than to any other, is the world indebted for all that remains to it of Eden's bliss, before man was driven from Eden's bower.

A few familiar illustrations will fully establish this point.

Take the first love which one human being ever felt for another--marital love--and mark how that is of God.

When God formed Eve, He brought her to Adam; and He implanted in them such love for each other, that not only did Adam say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," but henceforth it was ordained that the twain united by this marital relation, should be one flesh; that is, that they should live and act and feel as a moral unit, having one interest, one heart, one aim. Thus also Paul writes: "So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the Church."

In making the woman out of the rib of man; in uniting them, by the act of God himself, in holy wedlock; in proclaiming, that, by such a relation, the man and the woman are no more twain--but one flesh; in inspiring prophets and apostles to urge men to love their wives as their own bodies; and in likening the union of husband and wife to the mystical union which exists between Christ and the Church--God has indicated, by the most direct, solemn, and authoritative way which infinite wisdom could devise--that He was the author and giver of marital affection; and therefore, in respect of that emotion of the heart which is . . .

the source of more joy,

the light of more dwellings,

the comforter of more sorrows,

the strengthener of more weakness,

the sustainer of more hope--

than any other passion, we say that it springs direct from Heaven; so that, in very truth, this marital love is of God.

Take the second love which grew up on earth--parental love--and see how this is of God. We say, in common parlance, that it is natural for a man to love his child, and that it is unnatural for him to dislike him. But what constitutes the naturalness of this love, other than the fact that God implanted it in parents' hearts, as a part of their moral constitution? A parent's heart is the peculiar workmanship of God. He has so fitted it up with sensibilities and affections, and so adjusted these to the necessities of infancy and childhood--that all the needs, physical, mental, and moral, of the babe and the youth--are fully provided for in the love which God has placed, as a controlling power, in the father's and the mother's heart.

What mightiness of affection is lodged in a father's love! How it nerves him to toil, and to spend and be spent, for his children! How it fills him with glad thoughts of home, and proud hopes of the future! And who can speak aright of a mother's love?--its depth, its force, its purity, its unselfishness, its long-suffering, its self-sacrificing character. Poets have essayed to portray it in verse, and sentimentalists to describe it in prose; but words feebly illustrate its nature, or enable us to compute its worth. Yet all the happiness which is spread over the face of society by parental love; which permeates each family group, each home; which links heart with heart, though sundered by continents and oceans; which draws out and gives back affection, like the sun which exhales the vapor from the earth, only to return it in dew and rain to beautify and fertilize it; all the joy and peace and comfort which springs from parental affection--is the direct gift of our heavenly Father; for this love is of God.

Take the third kind of affection, which, in the order of time, rises in the human breast--the love of children for parents--and we shall find the same truth holds here also. Before the infant mind can reason, or understand its relations, or even appreciate the kindness shown to it, there is felt the goings-forth of love; and the little delicate fibers of affection, each as slender, perhaps, as the gossamer thread that "floats idly in the summer air," strengthen with the growth of days, become interlaced and braided with others. And thus the child, the youth, the adult, is moored to the parent's heart by cables of love, which only life-wrecking tempests can part or loosen.

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Love is of God!

From Timeless Grace Gems

William Bacon Stevens

Suppose that there was no love in children's hearts for parents until they came to years of discretion, what a dreary waste of unrewarded toil and self-sacrificing drudgery would be the season of childhood and youth! What would a household be, devoid of children's love? What would a parent's heart be, if its outgoings of affection found no response in prattling boys and gentle girls? And how much of the sunlight of home would become darkness, if the indescribable ways and means which evince filial love were blotted out from mind and memory and heart? Filial love constitutes a large part of human happiness, and pervades every class and condition of our race; and as it could never, by its very nature, create itself, because it is begotten before reason and judgment begin their workings--it must be divine. And so we say of this elevating affection--filial love--this love is of God.

The same line of remark applies also to that love of kindred which constitutes a part of man's moral being. The hundred social circles which this love of kindred creates, and which, like so many togged wheels, catch into and rotate each other, diffusing joy and happiness over the habitations of men--are the product of this kindred love. And this love is of God; for He it is "who sets the solitary in families," who groups men into social circles; and, bestowing upon His creatures affections, calls out these affections in the various forms of social and domestic life.

Once more: look at love in the form of philanthropy. Here we behold it breaking over the dikes and channels of marital, family, or social affection, and spreading away, like the Nile in its overflow, until it covers the entire lowlands of our race. This love of man for his race is mostly the product of the religion of Jesus Christ. Before that era, the Jew loved the Jew, the Persian loved the Persian, the Roman loved the Roman; but, beyond the boundaries of one's nation, all were considered as barbarians, dogs, and enemies. There was no expansive, world-embracing love in the heart of man; there were no broadly devised and widely applied schemes for the amelioration of woe, ignorance, and sin; there were no projects for spreading knowledge, civilization, and religion to regions benighted, savage, and idolatrous; there were no outgoing affections of men, throwing their tendrils of mercy around the world, and clasping the debased and the vile in the arms of its heart-throbbing philanthropy.

This earth-encompassing and man-elevating love is of God. It is because the Bible tells us that we have one common Father, one common Savior, one common Comforter, one common salvation, and one common earthly destiny--the grave; it is because the Bible puts us all on one platform, as sinners, and seeks to raise us all to one common Heaven, and puts into our hands the instrumentalities and agencies for this lifting-up of our race, and bids us to use them in the name and strength of Jehovah--that we find stirring within us this love of our race, this desire for its advancement, this putting forth of effort for their regeneration, this Bible-spreading and Christ-preaching and gospel-publishing spirit, which seeks to enclose the world in the meshes of the gospel-net, and then draw it to the land, where Jesus stands waiting to receive and bless it.

Every blessing, then, which has flowed to our race through the building of hospitals, asylums, and benevolent institutions; through societies for the diffusion of education and wholesome knowledge; through the agencies of the Church, in its manifold institutions for the circulation of the Bible and tracts, the establishment of schools and colleges, the publishing of papers and religious books, and the preaching of the Word--dates its origin in the influence of the constraining love of Christ upon the heart; and thus, in very deed, this love of our race, this philanthropy, is of God.

Now, what would earth be without these various kinds of love? What, without philanthropy? It would be a mass of conglomerate selfishness--a world of war, antagonistic states, of cruel governments, of social discord, and of domestic misery! There would be no hospitals and infirmaries; no asylums for the orphan, the widow, the outcast; no retreats for the aged and destitute; no homes for friendless children and disabled industry; no associations for charity and mutual aid; no societies for the amelioration of crime, disease, suffering, and the many ills which afflict our race; no boards of missions, spreading their network of divine truth over our own and foreign lands; no institutions for the circulation of Bibles, tracts, and a sanctified literature; no churches; no Sunday-schools. But all would be blotted out--and intense selfishness, with its consequent envyings, jealousies, and hatreds, would rule in the ascendant!

What would earth be without this love of kindred, so that, along the ties of affinity and blood--there thrilled no electric sensations of social love? The interlacing bonds of family with family would be sundered; society would be disintegrated, and resolved into its individual elements, except only when force or self-interest made a union of what was else repulsive and undesired.

What would the world be without filial or parental love? A family where there was parental authority without parental love, and where filial obedience was required without filial affection rendered--would not be a home--but a prison! The parents would be jailers; the children would be as felons; and the law of brute force alone would bind them in one household of domestic tyranny!

And above all, what would earth be without marital love? What if there was no heart-union between man and wife; no love to cheer, soften, and irradiate the lot of woman; no responsive affection to nerve and lift up and make happy the soul of man--if the marriage tie was only a bond of self-interest or of lust--a bond as galling as the manacle of the convict in the chain-gang, and each day made more chafing by the bickerings of hate and the collisions of selfishness?

It is scarcely possible even to imagine a world devoid of love, where all that is congenial and loving and sympathetic; all that welds together households and families and society; all that imparts the highest earthly pleasure; all that . . .

sweetens toil,

and soothes care,

and comforts sorrow,

and solaces bereavement;

all that raises man above lust and sordidness, and a mere sensuous existence; all that typifies and illustrates, feebly indeed, yet truly--the purity and bliss of Heaven--should be completely blotted out!

It would be as if some demon from the pit should pass through this world, and turn . . .

its green fields--into sand-wastes,

ts forest-crowned and picturesque hills--into bald rock,

its floral kingdom--into bramble-land,

its dancing, leaping, silvery waters--into asphaltic streams,

its exquisitely tinged clouds and its brilliant sunsets--into black gloom,

its thousand bird-melodies--into discordant screams;

and, rending into tatters the robe of beauty, which, like a bridal veil, covers without concealing, and covers only to enhance--the loveliness of nature, should force its divinely-molded form into a tunic of sackcloth, and cover its face with a hood of darkness!

No, not even this would be as sad, as full of misery, as would this world be--if each fountain of affection were sealed up, and no love were to pervade, warm, cheer, beautify, ennoble, or make godlike, the human race.

Seeing, then, that with all man's sins and ill-doings, with all God's punishments and curses, He has continued to us this love, the question arises: Have you ever seriously thought how much you ought to love God, who has given you the inestimable blessing of human affection? Can you sum up your debt to Him for this one gift? Can you ever sufficiently praise Him for its continuance and blessing?

Yet, when man rebelled against God, and cast off His sway, and virtually said to Him, "We desire not a knowledge of Your ways!"--God might most justly have stripped him of love, and left him to the curse of the loveless and the unloved. It was His love to us--which caused Him to continue love in us. There is no love among the fallen angels. There is no love in Hell. There is authority there; and fear, and servile obedience, and defiance, and tongue-gnawing pain, and smoke of endless torment, there--but there is no love there. And God, who cleansed the old world's sins by a deluge, and purged the foul cities of the plain with fire and brimstone, and stayed the heaven-climbing aims of the Babelites by a confusion of tongues--could as easily have plucked out love from man's heart, and left him to his sins and his love-shorn existence, as He could have inflicted any other punishment! But He did not! He continued love to him; and hence all the love that exists, and which blesses man in every relation and condition of life, is of God.

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Love is of God!

From Timeless Grace Gems

William Bacon Stevens

This is a truth but little considered; yet it presents an aspect of God's character which is full of mercy, and which demands boundless thanks. We revel in this love--yet how heedless of its Author! We expend this love upon our fellow-creatures--yet how little is given to God! And it is a grave question, which I put to the conscience of each person: How can you refuse to exercise towards God the affection which is His by right of creation, and which, in its outgoings, constitutes the supreme felicity of earth? Can you give a good reason for not loving God? He is a God of love; and, as you love earthly beings in proportion to their loveliness--so should you love Him who is all love, and who has manifested His love by the most wonderful displays and the most marvelous sacrifices. If it is dishonorable to refuse gratitude for services rendered; if it is base to be the recipients and users of continual favors--and yet make no acknowledgments--then must you condemn yourselves, for turning away from the love of God, for using the affections He bestows for selfish ends, and giving no thanks or glory to Him who made you a being susceptible of loving and being loved.

It was a most forcible appeal which Paul made to the Romans, when he asked, "Do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" It was an equally strong appeal which he made to the same Church, when He said, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God--that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." And it is in the spirit of these apostolic appeals, that I ask: Can such exhibitions of love on the part of God--call out from you no love to Him?

There is one other aspect of the subject which I must touch upon, though only touch.

As wondrous as is the fact, that, notwithstanding our sins, God still continued to us human love; and highly exalting as that fact is of His grace and mercy--it is not so great a display of His love as that manifested in providing for man's redemption.

In those few but majestic words of John, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish--but have everlasting life"--we have the faint outline of a love which we can never fully understand, because it is an eternal love, an infinite love, a love which only God can feel, and only God describe.

So impressed was the apostle with this, that he says, "Herein is love, not that we loved Him--but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins." As if He had said: It matters not where else you see love, or what else you see of love--herein is love. And the love herein displayed, in this prior love to us, in this sacrifice made for us, in this gift bestowed upon us, in these blessings offered to us--this love takes precedence of all other love, even as God, who shows it is higher than all the gods of heathen mythology, or than all the imaginings of heathen philosophy.

We have not time now to give even a linear sketch of this divine love, as seen in the reciprocal affection of God the Father and God the Son; as beheld in the love evinced in the gift of the Holy Spirit; as shown in the life and sufferings and death of the Son of God; as witnessed in the mighty preparation whereby was ushered in this work of love; as viewed in the love of Christ to the Church; or as heard of in God's Word, in connection with those provisions of glory and greatness with which He endows His saints in the kingdom of Heaven.

This love of God has provided an atonement for sins; the full and eternal benefit of which, in bestowing pardon and peace, are offered to you on the terms of faith in Jesus. Will you reject this blood-bought reconciliation? This love has given you a divine Savior, to save you from your sins, and to be . . .

the Prophet to teach you,

the Priest to sacrifice for you,

and the King to reign over you;

so that your salvation is complete in Him. Will you slight this Redeemer?

This love has bestowed upon you the Holy Spirit . . .

to convict you of sin,

to guide you to Christ,

to bow your else unbending will,

to teach you all truth,

to sanctify your soul, and

to be the Comforter of your heart.

Will you do despite to this Spirit?

This love has revealed for you the Word of truth--the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation. Will you heed its holy teachings?

This love has surrounded you with the means of grace--the Church, which is Christ's mystical body; the ministry, which is of Christ's ordaining; the sacraments, which are of Christ's institution; the preached word, which is the testimony of Jesus. Will you misimprove these instrumentalities of grace, and go down to eternal death from under the very droppings of the sanctuary?

There is nothing which your soul needs for its peace and happiness on earth--for which this divine love has not made ample provision. And there is nothing which it can ask for or require, to its full enjoyment in the world to come--which has not been stored up for it in those mansions which the pierced hands of the loving Savior have prepared for his redeemed in Heaven.

Would that I could impress upon all those who are unreconciled to God by faith in Jesus Christ, that they are fighting, not against God's stern decrees of justice, not against His almighty power, not against His infinite wisdom--but against His love; that the warfare of their souls discharges itself into the heart of Jehovah; and that the enmity of the unrenewed man is directed against the love of the God of love!

Remember also, that one of the most fearful elements in the condemnation of the lost, is . . .

not that God's justice smites them with legal power,

not that omnipotence holds them in its almighty grasp,

not that wisdom approves the decision which consigns them to eternal woe,

nor that holiness requires their eternal exclusion from Heaven

--but that they rejected the overtures of love! That its divine movings in the grace of God the Father, in the death of Christ, in the pleadings of the Spirit--were in vain; that the mighty affections of God were so slighted; and that they dared to trample under foot God's beloved Son, and do despite unto the Spirit of His grace.

And, as the remembrance of a slighted love, will be one of the most fearful instruments of eternal sorrow--so an accepted love of God in Christ, will be one of the most joyous elements of eternal bliss. The happiness of Heaven lies not primarily in freedom from pain and want and woe; not in exemption from change and death; nor does it consist in its exultant songs, its perpetual day, its mental enlargement, its intellectual satisfaction, its lofty tone of thought, its companionship with the angels and archangels. The great bliss of Heaven lies in the presence of perfect love! The saints' hearts are full of love; the angels' hearts are full of love. Everything that is done there, and said there, and thought there--is influenced by love. Love pervades that world, and enfolds it in an atmosphere of divine affection; for He whose name is love sits upon the throne, and pours out, from the fountain of His infinite affection, all the love which warms the inhabitants of that land of glory! For there is not an affection manifested by saint or seraph, which is not traceable up to this fountain, and of which we can not say, "This love is of God!"

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WOW thank you for this thread:D I am one of those lucky few who know and experience his love. He revealed himself to me one time in an unusual way.. you see i sometimes lay down in the dark and just enjoy being with him. I was about to do this and i entered my room and felt a presence, I layed down and suddenly i felt my soul become comepletely exhuasted for no reason at all. In my mind i saw me laying face down and suddenly I felt god's amazing powerful love. i saw in my mind i was in his arms and his love was so majestic and powerful that I begged him to take me home to him so i may always be in his arms. I saw in my mind him gently making me stand when i was face down but i said no lord I don't want to stand because i knew if i did i would be strong and leave his arms( Or at least in that way) And i heard him clearly say Be strong for me my child and suddenly i was strong and stood up. His love stayed with me in my heart from then on, not as powerful or else i would just want to go home but i felt many different supernatural experiences of his love since then, And now His love has made me want to have certain things only he can give me

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Thank you ,how awesome,,we had a message on sunday on love,i was talking to the Lord just that morning before church about it ,soo God confirms His words,God bless you sweet brother

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    • By nChrist
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      Precious Promises for Aged Saints


      (N.B. The following is a selection of eight choice gems--so it is longer than usual. Please forward this on to every aged saint you know!)


      "Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days--so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25

      "Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone!" Psalm 71:9

      "Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God." Psalm 71:17-18

      "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!" Psalm 92:12-14

      "Hearken unto Me! I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:3-4

      "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day! For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-17



      THE AGED BELIEVER'S CORDIAL

      (James Smith, 1802--1862)

      "Hearken unto Me! I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:3-4

      This passage of Scripture is the aged believer's cordial. Let us look at the beautiful images employed.

      God is our heavenly parent--a kind and tender-hearted parent. He is peculiarly attached to His people--they are dear to Him, precious in His sight. They are His portion. He prizes them above all creation. He is strong to sustain, to defend, and support them. His strong arm, tender heart, and watchful eye--are all employed for them--and especially so in old age.

      The aged believer is as a child. He is weak. He feels exposed and defenseless. He is timid and fearful. But the Lord, as a tender parent, engages to take him up in the arms of His power--and carry him in the bosom of His love! Like a tender lamb in the shepherd's bosom, on a cold and frosty night, borne across a bleak and snow-covered wasteland--so the believer, in the winter of old age, shall be carried in the bosom of his God, across the bleak and cheerless desert of time.

      God will carry him tenderly--hushing the weak one's fears. He will bear him carefully--so that nothing shall harm or hurt him. He will soothe him with gentle words, and encourage him with kind acts--until He safely introduces him at Home!

      Dear aged Christian, you have nothing to fear! Your God says, "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age! I am your Father--your Friend--your solace--and your confidence! Look unto Me--even to old age, I will carry you. I will bear you up under all that you feel and fear. I will carry you through all that discourages or distresses you. I will deliver you from foes, fears, dangers, and death itself! Nothing shall by any means hurt you! My arm is strong enough--trust in it. My bosom is your resting-place--lean on it, lean hard! Do not be afraid . . .
      eternal love dwells there,
      divine pity rules there,
      your name is engraved there!
      Trust Me, I will never leave you nor forsake you!

      "Hearken unto Me!" Believer, your God bids you to "hearken." His words are true and faithful. He speaks to banish your fears. He speaks to strengthen your faith. He speaks to comfort your poor drooping heart. He speaks to clothe your care-worn brow, with the light of hope, with the cheerfulness which confidence imparts.

      Hearken to Him--not to unbelief!
      Hearken to Him--not to carnal reason!
      Hearken to Him--not to Satan!
      Hearken to Him--not to erroneous men!

      Hearken, it is your Savior who speaks;
      it is the Guide of your youth who addresses you;
      it is your tender Parent who seeks to cheer your heart.

      "As a mother comforts her child--so will I comfort you." Isaiah 66:13
      He is near you--near you every moment;
      He will carry you--carry you every step;
      He will deliver you--deliver you from every danger, trouble, and foe!



      COMFORT FOR THE AGED

      (James Smith, 1802--1862)

      "Now that I am old and gray--do not abandon me, O God!" Psalm 71:18

      Old age and its infirmities will creep in on us; and with old age come weakness, pains, and fears. But an aged Christian should be a happy person; for he has proved the Lord to be faithful so many years, he has had answers to prayer so many times, and the God of his youth stands pledged never to leave nor forsake him. Will the Lord forsake an old servant? Never! Will the Father of mercies forsake one of His children when compassed with the infirmities of old age! Impossible! No, no! The Lord, who has borne with us so long--will bear with us to the end. The Lord, who has glorified Himself in our life--will get glory to Himself in our death.

      As the God of all comfort, He will comfort us on the bed of languishing, and will make all our bed in our sickness; and when heart and flesh are failing--He will be the strength of our heart, and our portion forever!

      Aged believer--doubt not, fear not! God has given you His Word--trust it. He has confirmed His Word by the death of His Son--therefore exercise confidence in Him. He has been a Friend and a Father to you for many years; and He will be your Friend and Father to the very last!

      Be much with Him in prayer. With all the simplicity of a little child--let your requests be made known unto Him. He has grace for old age--as He had for youth; and He has grace for a dying bed--as He had grace for all the conflicts of life. Believe His word, rest in His love, expect His blessing to the end--and you shall be more than a conqueror through Him who loved you. God never loved you more than He does now in your weakness, pains, and old age; and--sweet thought!--He will never love you less! His love is infinite, everlasting. Having loved you--He loves you to the end!

      Father in Heaven, I thank You for the mercies of my life. Help me to trust You through to the end of my life--in spite of my weakness and human frailty.

      "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:4
    • By nChrist


      The Surety's Cross

      From Timeless Grace Gems
      By Horatius Bonar, 1867


              "The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians 6:14

              The death of the cross has always been, above every other, reckoned the death of shame. The fire, the sword, the axe, the stone, the hemlock, have in their turns been used by law, as its executioners; but these have, in so many cases, been associated with honor, that death by means of them has not been reckoned either cursed or shameful. Not so the cross. Its victim, nailed in agony to the rough wood, suspended naked and torn to the gaze of multitudes, has always been reckoned a specimen of disgraced and degraded humanity; rather to be mocked than pitied. With Jew and Gentile alike—evil and not good, the curse and not the blessing—have been connected with the cross. In men's thoughts and symbols it has been treated as synonymous with ignominy, and weakness, and crime. God had allowed this idea to root itself universally, in order that there might be provided a place of shame, lower than all others, for the great Substitute who, in the fullness of time was to take the sinner's place, and be himself the great outcast from man and God, despised and rejected, deemed unworthy even to die within the gates of the holy city.

              When the fullness of time had come, it begin to be rumored that the cross was not what men thought it, the place of the curse and shame—but of strength and honor and life and blessing. Then it was, that there burst upon the astonished world the bold announcement, "As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Greek and Roman, Jew and Gentile, prince, priest, philosopher, Rabbi, Stoic, Epicurean, Pharisee, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, North, South, East and West—looked to one another with contemptuous impatience, indignant at the audacity of a few humble Christians, thus affronting and defying the "public opinion" of nations and ages; assailing the religions of earth with the cross as their only sword; striking down the idols with this as their only hammer; and with this, as their one lever, proposing to turn the world upside down.

              From that day the cross became "a power" in the earth; a power which went forth, like the light, noiselessly yet irresistibly, smiting down all religions alike, all shrines alike, all altars alike; sparing no superstition nor philosophy; neither flattering priesthood, nor succumbing to politics; tolerating no error, yet refusing to draw the sword for truth; a superhuman power, yet wielded by human, not angelic hands; "the power of God unto salvation."

              This power remains—in its mystery, its silence, its influence—it remains. The cross has not become obsolete; the preaching of the cross has not ceased to be powerful and effectual! There are men among us who would persuade us that, in this modern age, the cross is out of date and out of fashion, time-worn, not time-honored; that Golgotha witnessed only a common martyr scene; that the great sepulcher is but a Hebrew tomb; that the Christ of the future and the Christ of the past are widely different. But this shakes us not. It only leads us to clasp the cross more fervently, and to study it more profoundly, as embodying in itself that gospel which is at once the wisdom and the power of God.

              The secret of its power lies in the amount of divine truth which it embodies. It is the summary of all the Bible; the epitome of Revelation. It is pre-eminently the voice of God; and, as such, conveying his power as well as uttering his wisdom. "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty."

              Yet is the cross not without its mysteries, or, as men would say, its puzzles, its contradictions. It illuminates, yet it darkens; it interprets, yet it confounds. It raises questions—but refuses to answer all that it has raised. It solves difficulties—but it creates them too. It locks as well as unlocks. It opens, and no man shuts; it shuts, and no man opens. It is life, yet it is death. It is honor, yet it is shame. It is wisdom—but also foolishness. It is both gain and loss; both pardon and condemnation; both strength and weakness; both joy and sorrow; both love and hatred; both medicine and poison; both hope and despair. It is grace, yet it is righteousness; it is law, yet it is deliverance from law; it is Christ's humiliation, yet it is Christ's exaltation; it is Satan's victory, yet it is Satan's defeat; it is the gate of heaven and the gate of hell.

              Let us look at the cross as the divine proclamation and interpretation of the things of God; the key to his character, his word, his ways, his purposes; the clue to the intricacies of the world's and the Church's history.

              I. The cross is the interpreter of MAN. By means of it God has brought out to view—what is in man. In the cross man has spoken out. He has exhibited himself, and made unconscious confession of his feelings, especially in reference to God—to his Being, his authority, his character, his law, his love. Though "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) were at work in the dreadful transaction—yet it was man who erected the cross, and nailed the Son of God to it. Permitted by God to give vent to the feelings of his heart, and placed in circumstances the least likely to call forth anything but love, he thus expressed them—in hatred of God and of his incarnate Son. Reckoning the death of the cross the worst of all deaths—man deems it the fittest for the Son of God. Thus, the enmity of the natural heart speaks out, and man not only confesses publicly that he is a hater of God—but he takes pains to show the intensity of his hatred. No, he glories in his shame, crying aloud, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" "This is the heir, come let us kill him!" "Not this man—but Barabbas!" The cross thus interpreted man; drew the mask of pretended religion from his face; and exhibited a soul overflowing with the malignity of hell.

              You say, "I don't hate God. I may be indifferent to him; he may not be in all my thoughts; but I don't hate him." Then, what does that cross mean?—Love, hatred, indifference—which? Does love demand the death of the loved One? Does indifference crucify its objects? Look at your hands! Are they not red with blood? Whose blood is that? The blood of God's own Son! No—neither love nor indifference shed that blood. It was hatred that did it! Enmity—the enmity of the carnal mind. You say that I have no right to judge you. I am not judging you. It is yon cross which judges you, and I am asking you to judge yourselves by it. It is yon cross that interprets your purposes, and reveals the thoughts and intents of your heart. Oh, what a revelation! Man hating God—and hating most, when God is loving most! Man acting as a devil! And taking the devil's side against God!

              You say, "What have I to do with that cross, and what right have you to identify me with the crucifiers?" I say, "You are the man." Do not say, "Pilate did it, Caiaphas did it, the Jews did it, the Romans did it; I did not crucify Jesus." No—but you did, you did! You did it in your representatives—the civilized Roman and the religious Jew; and until you come out from the crucifying crowd, disown your representatives, and protest against the deed—you are truly guilty of that blood. But how am I to sever myself from these crucifiers, and protest against their crime? By believing in the name of the crucified One! For all unbelief is approval of the deed and identification with the murderers. Faith is man's protest against the deed; and the identification of himself, not only with the friends and disciples of the crucified One—but with the crucified One himself.

              The cross, then, was the public declaration of man's hatred of God, man's rejection of his Son, and man's avowal of his belief that he needs no Savior. If anyone, then, denies the ungodliness of humanity, and pleads for the native goodness of the race, I ask, what means yon cross? Of what is it the revealer and interpreter? Of hatred or of love? Of good or of evil? Besides, in this rejection of the Son of God, we have also man's estimate of him. He had been for thirty years despised and rejected; he had been valued and sold for thirty pieces of silver; a robber had been preferred to him; but at the cross, this estimate comes out more awfully; and there we see how man undervalued his person, his life, his blood, his word, his whole errand from the Father. "What do you think of Christ?" was God's question. Man's answer was, "Crucify Him!" Was not that as explicit as it was appalling?

              As the cross reveals man's depravity, so does it exhibit his foolishness. His condemnation of him, in whom God delighted, shows this. His erection of the cross shows it still more. As if he could set at nothing Jehovah, and clear the earth of him who had come down as the Doer of his will! His attempt to cast shame upon the Lord of glory is like a child's effort to blot out the sun. And as his erection of the cross was the revelation of his folly, so has been his subsequent estimate of it, and of the gospel which has issued from it. He sees in it no wisdom—but only foolishness; and this ascription of foolishness to the cross is but the more decided proof of his own foolishness. He stumbles at this stumbling-stone. The cross is an offence to him, and the preaching of it folly.
    • By nChrist


      The Surety's Thirst

      From Timeless Grace Gems
      By Horatius Bonar, 1867


              "I thirst." John 19:28

              Three things need our notice here—the thirst, the cry, the answer. They are not trifles, nor accidents, either in themselves or in connection with the great event of which they form a part. They have much to tell us of the Sufferer, and the nature of his sufferings; and they help us to get at the meaning of the mysterious transaction of that hour—an hour of the deepest darkness which ever rested over earth, yet an hour which proved the forerunner of the brightest and most blessed day-spring that ever shone from heaven!

              I. The thirst. It was a true thirst, and as deep and sore as it was true. It was a thirst corresponding with the character of him who felt it. He was human, and He was divine. It was, of course, humanity which thirsted; but it was humanity in union with divinity, and therefore made more susceptible of suffering, more capable of enduring what alone it would not have been capable of undergoing. Christ's humanity was perfect; but that only made it more sensitive, more acutely alive to suffering, so that his hunger, his thirst, his weariness, instead of being mitigated or made unreal—became more real and intense, more unmodified and harder to bear, than they are or can be in our imperfect humanity. The perfection of humanity implies the perfection of suffering, whenever that perfect humanity comes into contact with suffering at all. Pre-eminence in sorrow, and pre-eminence in joy, must be the portion and prerogative of such exalted perfection. It is only perfection such as this, which can sound the depths of creature-sadness, or reach the heights of human joy. Had there been one taint of imperfection, about either the body or the soul of Jesus, he could not have tasted the whole bitterness of our anguish; he could not have drained our cup; he could not have paid our penalty; he could not have felt that extremity of thirst, regarding which he uttered the bitter outcry in the hour of his conflict with death, and with the powers of darkness, upon the cross.

              Christ was filled with the Spirit, "without measure," in a way and to an extent such as no other man ever was or could be; yet this did not exempt him from pain, or make his thirst unreal, or alleviate one pang which fell to his lot as the Sin-bearer. With that Spirit He was filled; by that Spirit he was sustained and strengthened; by that "eternal Spirit" he "offered himself without spot to God;" but in no way and at no time did this Spirit come between him and suffering, either to blunt the edge of the weapon or ward off the stroke. The indwelling of the Spirit in him added to his perfection, and every addition to his perfection was an increase of his susceptibility to suffering; so that he felt pain more than we can do; he felt weariness, hunger, thirst, more than we can do. The Spirit who dwelt within him could not, indeed, feel the pain or the thirst; but the human nature thus inhabited by the Spirit was made capable of containing or receiving more pain, and thirst, and sorrow than it could have done otherwise, even as perfect humanity.

              Christ was God-man; very God as truly as very man. But this did neither prevent nor nullify his sufferings. No abatement could be made from his sorrows, either in respect of number or intensity, because of his Godhead. That Godhead seemed only to present him as a broader mark for the arrows of his enemies; to make him a more capacious vessel for containing the fullness of the divine wrath due to him as the sinner's substitute. The Godhead could not, indeed, suffer, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor weep; but, by its union with the manhood, it could make all these endurances more true and more intense to that humanity with which it was united; not only attaching to these sufferings a value which they could not otherwise have had—but imparting to them a profound reality, which, in other circumstances, could not have belonged to them. We need to be cautious in using language respecting Christ not expressly employed in Scripture; but, seeing the love of Christ is called the love of God, and the blood of Christ is called the blood of God, may we not term the thirst of the Son of God upon the cross, "the thirst of God?"

              How true was the humanity of Christ! That thirst proclaims him truly a man; in body and in soul a man; in sorrow and in joy a man. His Godhead did not neutralize his manhood, nor make any of its actings less truly human. That which was divine in his person, made that which was human more thoroughly human than it could have been in any other circumstances. As his humanity showed forth his Godhead more illustriously, so his Godhead brought out his humanity into fuller, wider, truer, and more perfect action—exhibiting it in an extremity of weakness and suffering, to which it could not otherwise have been reduced without wholly giving way. No mere man could have passed through Gethsemane and Golgotha, could have endured the agony of the one, and the thirst of the other, without being annihilated.

              And what does this thirst mean? Is it a mere vain exhibition of what humanity can bear; of what the Creator can enable the creature to endure? No. He thirsts as the sinner's substitute; and his strength is dried up like a potsherd, because the heat of divine wrath was withering up his moisture. That thirst is expiatory; for he suffers the Just for the unjust. He thirsts, that we might not thirst. He is parched, that we might not be parched. He is consumed with wrath, that we might not be consumed. That thirst is the bearing of your sin and your hell, O believer. That thirst is the unsealing of the eternal fountain, that its waters might flow forth to the parched and weary sons of earth. How much we owe to that dreadful thirst! How much we owe to the love of Him who thirsted upon that cross for us!

              II. The cry. "I thirst!" or, "I am thirsty!" These are common words among us; and the cry, in itself, does not strike us as remarkable. "I am thirsty," says the child to its mother. "I am thirsty," says the traveler on the highway. "I am thirsty," says the sick man on his hot bed of fever. We are familiar with the cry; it is that of a fellow-mortal; and we know that it will be met with a quick response, for it is a cry for something which can be easily and cheaply supplied.

              But when such words come from the lips of the Son of God, the case is wholly different. It is no remarkable thing to hear a beggar asking alms on the highway or at our door; but when the great Roman general, the conqueror of kings, is reduced to poverty, and begs his bread, we are amazed; an interest is immediately excited, and we ask, How is this? So, when the cry comes from him who is God over all, the Creator of heaven and earth, the framer of all earth's fountains and streams, the fashioner of man's soul and body, we are startled. How can this be? Whence does it arise? What can it mean? Is the cry a real and natural one? Is it the true expression of deep-felt pain in the divine utterer? or is it the mere indication by him of what, in such circumstances, a crucified malefactor would feel—but which he himself, in virtue of his exalted nature, could not possibly have been supposed to suffer?

              One thing strikes us much here. His is the only cry heard at this time. There are two men on crosses beside him; but they utter no cry. One spends his breath in reviling, the other in praying; but they do not say, "I thirst." This is a peculiarity which we cannot fail to notice. Of the three sufferers, the Son of God alone utters the cry of thirst. How great must that thirst have been! how bitter the cry thus wrung from his expiring lips!

              Specially does this appear when we call to mind the meek and uncomplaining character of the holy sufferer. Only once or twice, in a life of unutterable sorrow, did he allow any expression of his grief to escape him, as when he said, "Now is my soul troubled;" and when in Gethsemane he said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;" and now on the cross, when he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and again, in the words of our text, "I thirst." Intense and overpowering must have been his thirst before it could have extorted from him such an utterance at such a time.

              The present is the only reference which the Lord makes to pain of body; the others are to the griefs of his troubled soul. No doubt, in the Psalms he alludes once or twice to his bodily sufferings, as when he speaks of his bones being out of joint, his heart melted like wax, his strength dried up like a potsherd. But these intimations of physical pain are few; it is of the sorrows of his soul, in connection with the wrath of God, that he speaks so fully. In the Gospels, this cry of thirst is the only expression of bodily anguish that is recorded; and from the way in which it is introduced we are plainly given to understand that even this cry would not have been uttered had it not been for the fulfilling of Scripture. However terrible the thirst, the cry would have been repressed, had it not been for what was written in the Psalms concerning this—"In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21). For thus the Evangelist writes—"After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, says, I thirst."
    • By nChrist


      CALVARY!
      From Timeless Grace Gems
      by J. C. Ryle



      You probably know that Calvary was a place close to Jerusalem, where the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified. We know nothing else about Calvary beside this. I call this tract "Calvary," because I am going to speak to you about the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ.

      I am afraid that much ignorance prevails among people on the subject of Jesus Christ's sufferings. I suspect that many see no peculiar glory and beauty in the history of the crucifixion: on the contrary; they think it painful, humbling, and degrading. They do not see much profit in the story of Christ's death and sufferings: they rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing.

      Now I believe that such people are quite wrong. I cannot agree with them. I believe it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on the crucifixion of Christ. That is a good thing to be often reminded how Jesus was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, -how they condemned Him with most unjust judgment, -how they spit on Him, scourged Him, beat Him, and crowned Him with thorns, -how they led Him forth as a lamb to the slaughter, without His murmuring or resisting, -how they drove the nails through His hands and feet, and set Him on Calvary between two thieves, how they pierced His side with a spear, mocked Him in His suffering, and let Him hang there naked and bleeding until He died. Of all these things, I say, it is good to be reminded. It is not for nothing that the crucifixion is described four times over in the New Testament. There are very few things that all the four writers of the Gospel describe: generally speaking, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell a thing in our Lord's history, John does not tell it; but there is one thing that all the four give us most fully, and that one thing is the story of the cross. This is a telling fact, and not to be overlooked.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings at Calvary were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident: they were all planned, counseled, and determined from all eternity; the cross was foreseen, in all the provisions of the everlasting Trinity for the salvation of sinners. In the purposes of God the cross was set up from everlasting. Not one throb of pain did Jesus feel, not one precious drop of blood did Jesus shed, which had not been appointed long ago. Infinite wisdom planned that redemption should be by the cross: infinite wisdom brought Jesus to the cross in due time. He was crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings at Calvary were necessary for man's salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all: with His stripes alone could we be healed. This was the one payment of our debts that God would accept; this was the great sacrifice on which our eternal life depended. If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us; there would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed. The cross was necessary, in order that there might be an atonement for sin.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings were endured voluntary and of His own free will. He was under no compulsion: of His own choice He laid down His life: of His own choice He went to Calvary to finish the work He came to do. He might easily have summoned legions of angels with a word, and scattered Pilate and Herod, and all their armies, like chaff before the wind; but He was a willing sufferer: His heart was set on the salvation of sinners. He was resolved to open a fountain for all sin and uncleanness, by shedding His own blood.

      Reader, when I think of all this, I see nothing painful or disagreeable in the subject of Christ's crucifixion; on the contrary, I see in it wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation. The more I keep the cross in my mind's eye, the more fullness I seem to discern in it; the longer I dwell on the crucifixion in my thoughts, the more I am satisfied that there is more to he learned at Calvary than anywhere else in the world.

      Would I know the length and breadth of God the Father's love towards a sinful world? Where shall I see it most displayed? Shall I look at His glorious sun, shining down daily on the unthankful and evil? Shall I look at the seed time and harvest, returning in regular yearly succession? Oh, no! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this sort. I look at the cross of Christ: I see in it not the cause of the Father's love, but the effect. There I see that God so loved this wicked world, that He gave His only begotten Son,-gave Him to suffer and die-that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. I know that the Father loves us, because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. Ah, reader, I might sometimes fancy that God the Father is too high and holy to care for such miserable, corrupt creatures as we are: but I cannot, must not, dare not think it, when I look at Christ's sufferings on Calvary.

      Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I turn to the wandering Jews, and observe how sin has scattered them over the face of the earth? No: I can find a clearer proof still, I look at what happened on Calvary. There I see that sin is so black and damnable that nothing but the blood of God's own Son can wash it away; there I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us: nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ. Ah, if I listened to the wretched talk of proud men I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful; but I cannot think little of sin when I look at Calvary.

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    • By nChrist


      The Outlook
      From Timeless Grace Gems
      J. C. Ryle, 1886



      (1) The first and worst cloud which I see in our Church's outlook, is the widespread disposition to regard religious externalism as a substitute for vital soul-saving Christianity.

      When I speak of externalism, let me explain what I mean. We all know that the external part of religion has received a large amount of new attention during the last forty years. All over the land it has become the fashion to restore churches, to get rid of old square pews, to improve the singing and music, to have a well-adorned choir, to decorate the church-building in a most elaborate style, and, in one word, to adorn, beautify, and improve the whole exterior of Church Christianity. Do I say there is anything sinful in all this? Nothing of the kind! I abhor everything like slovenliness in the ceremonials of worship. I dislike square pews, and bad music, and bad singing as much as anyone! But I do say, that I fear an external improvement often takes place in a church—without the slightest corresponding increase of godliness in the worshipers! No doubt there is a far more show of religion in our Churches—but it is very doubtful whether there is more vital Christianity, more presence of the Holy Spirit, more heart and conscience work, in the private lives and the homes of our people. I fear that in hundreds of cases, men have rested content with having secured a handsome church and a 'bright and hearty service,' and have forgotten that what God looks at—is the hearts of the worshipers, and the quantity of grace to be found among them.

      This is a very delicate subject, and I would be sorry to be misunderstood, or to give pain to anyone in handling it. But I am obliged to say plainly, that I fail to see that all the external improvement of the last forty years, is accompanied by any corresponding growth of practical holiness! There is no decrease in the total idolatry of recreations, or the extravagant expenditure of money, or self-indulgence of all kinds. On the contrary, there is far less repentance, faith, holiness, Bible-reading, and family religion! If this state of things is not a most unhealthy symptom in the condition of a Church, I know not what is!

      We may depend upon it—that knowledge of Christ, obedience to Christ, and the fruits of the Spirit—are the only tests by which God weighs and measures any Church. If these are absent, He cares nothing for beautiful buildings, fine singing, and a pompous ceremonial. These are 'leaves,' and He desires to see not leaves only, but 'fruit'. The tree of the Church of England perhaps never had so many leaves on it, as it has just now. I wish there was a corresponding quantity of fruit!

      We must never forget that the Temple service at Jerusalem in the day of our Lord's crucifixion was the most perfect ceremonial that ever was—whether for singing, order, vestments, or general magnificence and beauty. Yet we all know that at this very time, the Jewish Church was thoroughly rotten at heart, and after forty years was swept away! Who can doubt that the little upper chamber, where the apostles met on the day of our Lord's ascension, was far more beautiful in God's sight, than the beautiful temple which our Master Himself called 'a den of thieves'? I heartily wish that we would remember this, more than we appear to do. The disposition to make an idol of externals, and to sacrifice the inside of religion to the outside, is, in my judgment, the darkest cloud on our ecclesiastical horizon! Of this we may be quite certain—that God will never support a Church which is content with such a low standard of practical piety.

      "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness!" Matthew 23:25-28


      (2) The second thing which I see with pain in the outlook of the Church of England at the present time, is the growing tendency to ignore all distinct doctrine.

      The leading idea of many minds in this day appears to be, that it does not signify much what a man believes or teaches about what are commonly considered the principal verities of the Christian faith. A wave of extravagant liberalism in religion, as well as in everything else, is sweeping over England. Concerning the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the atonement, the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, conversion, justification, the inspiration of Scripture, the future state, and the like—it seems to be agreed that men may believe as much or as little as they please, and nobody is to find fault. The only question you are to ask is, whether a man is 'earnest, sincere, and zealous,' and if he is, you are not to ask anything more. It is thought very narrow and illiberal to say that any opinion in religion is false, or that anybody is unsound in the faith. Distinct and positive statements about anything in Christianity are thought downright uncharitable. All the old dogmas are to be held back, and never to be put forward in a solid, tangible state—or to be put forward in such a foggy, misty manner that, like a half-developed photographic plate, they are never to come out distinct, sharp, and clear. I challenge any one who observes closely the pulpit utterances of this day, or reads speeches which touch religion, to deny the accuracy of what I have just said.

      Now all this, no doubt, sounds very noble and generous and liberal. It is in perfect harmony with the political tendencies of the age, which all lean in the direction of the principle—that everybody is to be allowed to do what he likes, and to be at liberty to do anything except commit theft or murder. Moreover, these ideas save men a great deal of trouble in the way of thinking and inquiry in order to find out truth. But the question still remains to be answered, Can this indifference to doctrine stand the test of cross-examination? Is it really true that there are no limits to the Church's comprehensiveness? If it does not matter what we believe—where is the use of the Bible, Creeds, Confessions, and Articles of faith? We may as well throw them aside as useless lumber! Beside this, does history show that any good work has been done in improving human nature during the last eighteen centuries by any instrumentality except that of distinct and positive doctrine? Did the apostles turn the world upside down by proclaiming everywhere, 'Be earnest, be sincere, be moral, be charitable—and it does not matter what you believe'? Did the early church Fathers, or the Continental and English Reformers, work on these lines? Do the missionaries to the heathen abroad, or to those who are practically heathen at home, ever obtain success without distinct doctrinal statements? And, to come home to ourselves at last—is there a man or woman among us who would be content on a deathbed to be told, 'Never mind what you believe; if you are in earnest you will go to heaven'? Questions like these demand very serious consideration.

      I commend this whole subject to the attention of all who hear me. I am convinced that it is a very dark spot in the outlook of our Church at the present time, and I apprehend great danger in this quarter. Surely we must stop somewhere. There is such a thing as liberality and 'breadth of thought' gone mad! The modern notion, that all faiths so called are equally good and true, is very dangerous, and replete with eternal harm to men's souls!

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