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The Lord's Garden

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The Lord's Garden

From Timeless Grace Gems

by J. C. Ryle

"A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse." Song of Solomon 4:12

The Lord Jesus Christ has a garden. It is the company of all who are true believers in Him. They are His garden.

Viewed in one light, believers are Jesus Christ's SPOUSE. They are all joined to Him by an everlasting covenant that cannot be broken; wedded to Him by the marriage of faith—taken by Him to be His forever, with all their debts and liabilities, with all their faults and imperfections. Their old name is gone—they have no name but that of their Bridegroom. God the Father regards them as one with His dear Son. Satan can lay no charge against them. They are the Lamb's wife—"My Beloved is mine, and I am His" (Song. 2:16).

Viewed in another light, believers are Christ's SISTER. They are like Him in many things. They have His Spirit—they love what He loves, and hate what He hates—they count all His members brethren—through Him they have the spirit of adoption, and can say of God, "He is my Father." Faint indeed is their resemblance to their elder Brother! And still they are like.

Viewed in a third light, believers are Christ's GARDEN. Let us see how and in what way.

1. Jesus calls His people a garden, because they are altogether different from the men of the world. The world is a wilderness—it brings forth little but thorns and thistles—it is fruitful in nothing but sin. The children of this world are an untilled wilderness in God's sight. With all their arts and sciences, intellect and skill, eloquence and statesmanship, poetry and refinement—with all this they are a wilderness, barren of repentance, faith, holiness, and obedience to God. The Lord looks down from heaven, and where He sees no grace, there the Lord can see nothing but a "wilderness" state of things. The Lord Jesus Christ's believing people are the only green spot on the earth—the only oasis amid barren deserts—they are His garden.

He calls His people a garden, because they are sweet and beautiful to His mind. He looks on the world, and it grieves Him to the heart—He looks on the little flock of His believing people, and is well pleased. He sees in them the fruit of His travail, and is satisfied. He rejoices in spirit when He sees the kingdom revealed to babes, though the wise and prudent receive it not. As in the day of Noah's sacrifice, He smells a sweet aroma—and is refreshed. It is very wonderful, very mysterious! Believers are vile in their own eyes, and feel themselves miserable sinners; yet Jesus says, "You are all fair—sweet is your voice—your countenance is lovely—beautiful as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, fair as the moon, and clear as the sun" (Song. 1:15, 4:7, 2:14, 6:10, etc.) Oh, the depths! It sounds incomprehensible and almost incredible; but it is true!

He calls His people a garden, because He delights to walk among them. He sees the children of this world—but He mingles not with them. His eyes are on all their ways, but He does not come down to talk with them, as He did to Abraham, like a man with his friend.

On the other hand, He loves to walk among His candle-sticks, and see whether the light burns brightly. He loves to be present in the assemblies of His saints, and to come in and sup with them, and they with Him. He loves to come with His Father, and make His abode with His disciples—and wheresoever two or three are gathered in His name, there is He. He loves to come into His garden and eat His pleasant fruits; to go down to the beds of spices, and gather lilies; to see whether the vine flourishes, and the tender grape appears, and the pomegranates bud forth (Song. 7:12). In short, He holds special communion with His people, and deals intimately with them, as He does not with the world.

He calls His people a garden, because they are useful, and bear fruit and flowers. Where is the real use of the children of this world? Of what value are they, while they continue unconverted? They are unprofitable tenants and worthless cumberers of the ground. They bring no glory to the Lord that bought them—they fulfill not their part in creation—they stand alone in the world of created beings, not doing the work for which their Maker meant them. The heavens declare the glory of God—the trees, the corn, the grass, the flowers, the streams, the birds speak forth His praise—but the man of the world does nothing to show that he cares for God, or serves God, or loves God, or feels grateful for Christ's redeeming death.

The Lord's people are not so. They bring Him some revenue of glory. They bear some little fruit, and are not altogether barren and unprofitable servants. Compared to the world, they are a garden.

2. The Lord's garden has a distinctive peculiarity about it. It is a garden ENCLOSED.

There is an enclosure around believers; or else they never would be saved. This is the secret of their safety. It is not their faithfulness, their strength, or their love, it is the wall around them which prevents their being lost. They are a "garden enclosed."

They are enclosed by God the Father's everlasting election. Long before they were born—long before the foundations of the world, God knew them, chose them, and appointed them to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ. The children of this world do not like to hear this doctrine proclaimed. It humbles man, and leaves him no room to boast. But whether it is abused or not—the doctrine of election is true. It is the corner-stone of the believer's foundation, that he was chosen in Christ before the world began. Who can rightly estimate the strength of this enclosure?

They are enclosed by the special love of God the Son. The Lord Jesus is the Savior of all men—but He is specially the Savior of those who believe. He has power over all flesh—but He gives eternal life to those who are specially given to Him, in a way that He does to none others. He shed His blood on the cross for all—but He only washes those who have part in Him. He invites all—but He quickens whom He will, and brings them to glory. He prays for them—He prays not for the world. He intercedes for them—that they may be kept from evil, that they may be sanctified by the truth, that their faith fail not. Who can fully describe the blessedness of this enclosure?

They are enclosed by the effectual working of God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls them out from the world, and separates them as effectually as if a wall were built between them and it. He puts in them new hearts, new minds, new tastes, new desires, new sorrows, new joys, new wishes, new pleasures, new longings. He gives them new eyes, new ears, new affections, new opinions. He makes them new creatures; they are born again, and with a new birth they begin a new existence. Mighty indeed is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit! The believer and the world are completely put asunder, and everlastingly separated. You may place a believer and an unbeliever together, marry them, join them under one roof, but you cannot unite them any more into one piece. The one is part of the "garden enclosed," and the other is not. Effectual calling is a barrier that cannot be broken.

Who can tell the comfort of this threefold wall of enclosure! Believers are enclosed by election, enclosed by washing and intercession, enclosed by calling and regeneration. Great is the consolation of these threefold bands of love around us, the love of God the Father, the love of God the Son, the love of God the Holy Spirit! A threefold cord is not easily broken.

Does any reader suppose for a moment that all this was not needed? I believe that nothing short of this threefold enclosure could save the Lord's garden from utter ruin. Without election, intercession, and regeneration—there is not one soul who would get to heaven. The wild boar out of the woods would break in and devour—the roaring lion would come in and trample all under his feet. The devil would soon lay the Lord's garden level with the ground.

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The Lord's Garden

From Timeless Grace Gems

by J. C. Ryle

Blessed be God for this, that we are "a garden enclosed!" Blessed be God, our final safety hangs not on anything of our own—not on our graces and feelings—not on our degree of sanctification—not on our perseverance in well-doing—not on our love—not on our growth in grace—not on our prayers and Bible-readings—not even on our faith. It hangs on nothing else but the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If this three-fold work encloses us, who shall overthrow our hope? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Adam had a heart free from sin. Adam was strong in innocency, and undefiled by contact with bad examples and corrupt neighbors. Adam was on vantage ground, a thousand times higher than we now occupy—and yet Adam fell before temptation. There was no enclosure round him, no wall to keep Satan out, no barrier round the first flower of the Lord's garden—and see how Adam fell!

Let believers open their sleepy eyes—and try to understand the value of their privileges! This is the most blessed part of the Lord's garden. It is a "garden enclosed." I believe if there was no election, there would be no salvation. I never saw a man who would be saved if it depended in any wise on himself. Let us all thank the Lord Jesus, every day, and thank Him from our hearts, that His people are a chosen and guarded people, and that His garden is nothing less than "a garden enclosed."

3. The Lord's garden is not empty—it is always full of FLOWERS. It has had many in time past, it has many at the time present. Believers are the flowers that fill the Lord's garden.

I will mention two things about the flowers in the garden of the Lord Jesus. In some things they are all exactly like one another. In some things they are as various and diverse as the flowers in the gardens of this world.

In some things they are all ALIKE.

(1) They have all been transplanted. Not one of the Lord's flowers grew naturally in His garden. They were all born children of wrath, even as others. No man is born with grace in his heart. Every believer among the Lord's people was at one time at enmity with Him, and in a state of condemnation. It was the grace of God that first called him out of the world. It was the Spirit of Christ who made him what he is, and planted him in the garden of the Lord. In this the Lord's people are all alike—they are all transplanted flowers.

(2) The Lord's flowers are all alike in their root. In outward things they may differ, but underneath they are all the same. They are all rooted and grounded on Jesus Christ. Believers may worship in different places, and belong to different churches, but their foundation is the same—the cross and the blood of Jesus.

(3) The Lord's flowers are all at their beginning weak. They do not come to full maturity at once. They are at first like new-born babes, tender and delicate, and needing to be fed with milk, and not with strong meat. They are soon checked and thrown back. All begin in this way.

(4) The Lord's flowers all need the light of the sun. Flowers cannot live without light. Believers cannot live comfortably unless they see much of the face of Jesus Christ. To be ever looking on Him, feeding on Him, communing with Him—this is the hidden spring of the life of God in man's soul.

(5) The Lord's flowers all need the dews of the Spirit. Flowers wither without moisture. Believers need daily, hourly, to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in the spirit of their minds. We cannot live on old grace, if we would be fresh, living, real Christians. We must be daily more 'filled with the Spirit'. Every chamber in the inward temple must be filled.

(6) The Lord's flowers are all in danger of weeds. Flower-beds need constant weeding. Believers need daily to search and see that they do not let besetting sins grow on undisturbed. These are the things that choke the actings of grace, and chill the influences of the Spirit. All are in peril of this—all should beware.

(7) The Lord's flowers all require pruning and cutting. Flowers left alone soon dwindle and grow small. No careful gardener leaves his roses alone all the year round. Just so believers need stirring, shaking, mortifying—or else they become sleepy—and incline like Lot to 'settle down by Sodom'. And if they are slow about the work of pruning, God will often take it in hand for them.

(8 ) The Lord's flowers all grow. None but hypocrites, and wolves in sheep's clothing, and 'painted Christians', stand still. True believers are never long the same. It is their desire to go on from grace to grace, strength to strength, knowledge to knowledge, faith to faith, holiness to holiness. Visit a border of the Lord's garden after two or three years' absence, and you will see this growth. If you do not see growth—you may well suppose there is a worm at the root. Life grows—but death stands still and decays.

But while the Lord's flowers are all alike in some things, they are VARIOUS and DIVERSE in others, even as the flowers in our own gardens. Let us consider this point a little.

Believers have many things in COMMON—one Lord, one faith, one baptism of the Spirit, one hope, one foundation, one reverence for the Word, one delight in prayer, one newness of heart. And yet there are some things in which they are not one. Their general experience is the same, and their title to heaven the same—and yet there are VARIETIES in their specific experience. There are shades of diversity in their views and feelings. They are not so altogether and completely one that they can quite understand each other in all things, at all times, and in all points. Very important is it to bear this in mind! Believers are—one in great principles, not one in all particulars—one in reception of the whole truth, not one in the proportion they give to the parts of truth—one in the root, but not one in the flower—one in the hidden part that only the Lord Jesus sees, not one in the visible part that is seen of the world.

You cannot understand your brother or sister in some things. You could not do as they do; speak as they speak; act as they act; laugh as they laugh; admire what they admire. Oh, be not hasty to condemn them! Make them not offenders for a word. Do not set them down in a low place because they and you have little in common—few harmonizing and responding strings in your hearts—because you soon come to a standstill in communing with them, and discover that they and you have only a limited extent of ground in common! Write it down on the tablets of your heart, that there are many schools, orders, classes, diversities of Christians. You may all be in the Lord's garden, and be united on grand doctrines—and yet for all that, the Lord's garden is made up of various sorts of flowers! All His flowers are useful—none must be despised. And yet His garden contains widely different sorts.

(1) Some that grow in the Lord's garden are like the flowers which are brilliant and SHOWY in color—but not sweet. You see them afar off, and they attract the world's eye, and their tints are beautiful, but you can say no more.

These are frequently the public Christians—the popular preachers—the speakers on platforms—the leaders of listening assemblies—the people talked of, and pointed at, and run after. Such people are the tulips, and sunflowers, and peonies, and dahlias of the Lord's garden—brilliant, flamboyant, bright and glorious in their way—but not sweet.

(2) Some are like those flowers which make no show at all—and yet are the SWEETEST.

These are the Christians whom the world never hears of—they rather shrink from public observation. They hold on the even tenor of their way, and pass silently on towards home—but they sweeten all around them.

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The Lord's Garden

From Timeless Grace Gems

by J. C. Ryle

These are those who are rare and hard to find—but the better they are known, the more they are loved. Ask their true character in their own homes, and in their families—ask husbands, wives, children, servants, their character—and you will soon discover that not a tenth part of their beauty and excellence is known by the world. The nearer you go—the more perfume will these dwellers in the Lord's garden give out. These are the Lord's violets—valued by only few, but to those who know them, oh, how sweet!

(3) Some in the Lord's garden are like those flowers which cannot live in cold weather.

These are the Christians who have but a little strength—who faint in the day of adversity—who only flourish when everything around them is smooth and warm. A cold wind of trial, and unexpected frost of affliction—nips them and cuts them down. But the Lord Jesus is very merciful—He will not allow them to be tempted above what they can endure. He plants them in sheltered and sunny places of His garden. He protects them and hedges them round by strong plants, to break the cold. Let no man despise them. They are the Lord's flowers—beautiful in their place and in their way.

(4) Some in the Lord's garden are like those hardy flowers which flower even in winter.

These are those rough Christians who never seem to feel any trials—whom nothing, either of opposition or affliction, appears to move. Doubtless there is not that softness and sweetness about them that we admire in others. We miss that lovable delicacy which in some people is such an unexplainable charm. They chill us sometimes by their harshness and lack of sympathy—when compared to many we know. And yet let no man despise them. They are the crocuses in the garden of the Lord, beautiful in their place and way, and valuable in their own season.

(5) Some in the Lord's garden are never so sweet as after STORM.

These are the Christians who show most grace under trial and affliction. In the day of sunshine and prosperity they become careless—they need the shower of some sorrow to come down on them, to make their full excellency appear. There is more beauty of holiness about their tears, than about their smiles—they are more like Jesus when they weep, than when they laugh. These are the roses of the Lord's garden—lovely and sweet and beautiful at all times—but never so much so as after storm.

(6) Some in the Lord's garden are never so sweet as at NIGHT.

These are the believers who need constant trial to keep them close to the throne of grace. They cannot bear the sunshine of prosperity—they become careless in prayer, sleepy about the Word, listless about heaven, too fond of nestling with some beloved idol in the corner of this world. Such people the Lord Jesus often keeps under a cloud, to preserve them in a right frame. He sends wave after wave, trouble after trouble, to make them sit like Mary at His feet—and be near the cross. It is the very darkness they are obliged to walk in, which makes them so sweet.

(7) Some in the Lord's garden are never so sweet as when CRUSHED.

These are the Christians whose reality comes out most under some tremendous and uncommon judgment. The winds and storms of heavy affliction roll over them, and then, to the astonishment of the world—the spices flow out! I once saw a young woman who had lain on a bed six years in a garret, with a spinal complaint, helpless, motionless, cut off from everything that could make this world enjoyable. But she belonged to the garden of Jesus—she was not alone, for He was with her. You would have thought she would have been gloomy—but she was all brightness. You would have expected her to be sorrowful—but she was ever rejoicing. You would suppose she was weak and needed comfort—but she was strong and able to comfort others. You would fancy she must have felt dark—but she seemed to me all light. You would imagine her countenance was grave—but it was full of calm smiles, and the gushing forth of inward peace. You would have pardoned her almost if she had murmured—but she breathed of nothing but perfect happiness and contentment. The crushed flowers in the Lord's garden are sometimes exceeding sweet!

(8 ) Some of the flowers in the Lord's garden are never fully valued until they are dead.

These are those humble believers who, like Dorcas, are full of good works and active love towards others. These are those unostentatious ones who dislike profession and publicity, and love to go about, like their Lord and Master, doing good to souls—visiting the fatherless and the widows, pouring in balm on wounds which this heartless world neither knows nor cares for—ministering to the friendless, helping the destitute—preaching the gospel not to 'silk and velvet', but to the poor.

These are not noticed by this generation—but the Lord Jesus knows them—and His Father also! When they are dead and gone, their work and labor of love all comes out. It is written with a diamond on the hearts of those they have assisted—it cannot be hidden. They speak being dead, though they were silent when living. We know their worth when gone, if we did not while we had them with us. The tears of those who have been fed in soul or body by their hand, tell forth to the wondering world that some have gone home whose place cannot easily be supplied, and that a gap is made which it will be hard to fill up. These shall never have that wretched epitaph, "Departed without being desired." These are the lavender in the Lord's garden—never so much appreciated and admired as when cut off and dead.

And now let me wind up with a few words of PRACTICAL APPLICATION—

There is one thing about the Lord's garden, which I see nothing like in this world's flowers.

The 'flowers of this world' all die, and wither and lose their sweetness, and decay, and come to nothing at last. The fairest flowers are not really everlasting. The oldest and strongest of nature's children comes to an end.

It is not so with 'the Lord's flowers'. The children of grace can never die! They may 'sleep' for a season—they may be taken away when they have served their generation, and done their work. The Lord is continually coming down to His garden and gathering His "lilies"—laying flowers in His bosom one after the other. But the Lord's flowers shall all rise again.

When the Lord comes again the second time, He shall bring His people with Him. His flowers shall live once more—more bright, more sweet, more lovely, more beautiful, more glorious, more pure, more shining, more fair! They shall have a glorious body like their Lord's—and shall flourish forever in the courts of our God!

Reader, are you in the Lord's garden—or are you in the wilderness of this world?

You must be in one or the other. You must take your choice. Which have you chosen, and which do you choose now? The Lord Jesus would gladly transplant you.

He strives with you by His Spirit. He would gladly add you to the number of His beloved ones. He knocks at the door of your heart by word and by providence. He whispers to your conscience, "Awake, arise, repent, be converted, and come away!"

Oh, do not turn away from Him who speaks! Resist not the Holy Spirit. Do not choose your place in the wilderness—but in the garden. Awake, arise, and turn away from the world!

Reader! the wilderness—or the garden! Which will you have?

If the wilderness, you will have your own way, run wild, grow to waste, bring forth fruit and flowers to yourself, become a barren, unprofitable, useless plant, live unloved and unlovable to yourself, and at last be gathered in the bundle with the tares, and burned in hell!

If the garden—you will not have your own way. But you will have what is far better, you will have God and Christ for your own. You will be cultivated, watered, tended, moved, pruned, trained by the Lord Jesus Himself—and at the last, your name shall be found in the eternal paradise-garden of the Lord!

"A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse." Song of Solomon 4:12

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It blessed my heart more than words can say, thanks.

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You are most welcome. I'm very happy that God is still using this old and beautiful material. It blessed me also.

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    • By nChrist
      From Grace Gems:
      Very Old - But Beautiful and Timeless Treasures.
      Everything is FREE and Public Domain.
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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


      (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!


      (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

      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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