By WM. BUNTING
WHY should we be so foolish as to allow Satan to sow amongst us the seeds of distrust, discord, and division? Can we read aright the history of assemblies during the past century without learning its salutary lesson relative to this matter? Surely at this late hour, with the return of our beloved Lord so imminent and His solemn Judgment Seat almost in view, our energies should be bent upon removing all that mars fellowship and upon promoting that unity which to our God is as fragrant as the anointing-oil upon Israel’s high priest of old (Ps. 133:2). Is there not every reason why we should dwell together harmoniously? Think of how much we have in common. We are loved by the same Lord, redeemed by the same precious blood, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, united as members of the same body, and destined to dwell in the same happy home for ever. Further, we own the same Book as our sole guide in all matters of faith and conduct, we proclaim the same emancipating Gospel to the lost, and the gathering centre of all our assembly meetings is the same glorious Person. Why then should there be disunity amongst us? How inconsistent and unpardonable it seems! As children we used to repeat:
- “Birds in their little nests agree.
- But ’tis a shameful sight,
- When children of one family
- Fall out and chide and fight.”
and the words are more pregnant with meaning than we imagined in our school days.
On the other hand, of course, when we consider that there is as much of the flesh in any one of us as would wreck the most godly company of saints, we should be thankful for the measure of unity that is manifested by assemblies. When we further consider that in a local church there may be hundreds of members, drawn from different walks of life, and in some cases from different races of people, each one having a natural disposition and outlook dissimilar from the others, need we marvel if at times all do not walk and work in perfect concord? If we take into account, moreover, that Satan to-day seems to be concentrating upon a special effort to divide the saints, as we suggested in our last paper, we begin to realise how much we should be cast upon God for grace, so that despite all the obstinacy and disruptive tendencies to which the flesh within us is disposed, and all the machinations of Satanic opposition without, our ranks may remain unbroken and that breaches which alas are already existent may be healed in a godly way.
How then can we foster the cause of unity? How can its interests best be served? How can spiritual harmony amongst God’s people be promoted to the greatest advantage? Perhaps the most fitting answer to these and similar questions is to point out from Scripture certain basic principles of, and practical exhortations bearing upon, Christian unity.
UNITY A RESULT-NOT AN OBJECT
In the first place, practical unity which, of course, is outward, is ever viewed in Scripture as the result of a right inward condition. It is not mechanical. It is not a confederacy. It cannot be produced by artificial means. It is not mere uniformity, though where there is true unity, uniformity in all matters that are vital will be the fruit. Further,, it is not dependent upon any central human authority, nor is it maintained by adherence to certain rules, whether scriptural or otherwise, emanating from a controlling board or body.
“Unity is a result, not an object. In building the wall of Jerusalem, each man with his family built opposite his own house, and built upon THE OLD FOUNDATION. Thus acting, there was no need to be concerned about unity. When the building advanced far enough, each portion met with and joined on to the next. Thus in time, unity was the result” (J. R. Caldwell). It is ever so. Given the right internal conditions, the underlying oneness and harmony of the saints will in each case become visible and effective. It cannot be otherwise. The principle runs throughout Scripture. Melchisedec was “first . . . king of righteousness and after that . . . king of peace” (Heb. 7:2). Solomon’s benign reign, during which an united Israel “dwelt safely, every man under his own vine and under his fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25), was the fruit of David’s reign of equity. In the New Testament, “the wisdom that is from above … is peaceable, gentle . . . without wrangling (marg.).” the reason being that it “is first pure” (Jas. 3:17). These scriptures clearly demonstrate that the unity, peace, and safety of God’s people flow spontaneously from, and are the direct result of, a right internal state. In Millennial days it will be the same. Then “the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. 32:17). True unity, however, cannot be forced. It cannot be attained by bolstering wrong, nor can it be maintained if built upon an unsound foundation. Oneness at the expense of holiness and righteousness is but an ungodly compact towards which the Lord will in due time manifest His displeasure. Moreover, the unjudged leprosy though covered meanwhile, will reappear in a worse form, to the confusion of those who should have dealt with it. A sound, healthy internal state, therefore, is the great prerequisite for unity.
In the next place, having regard to those opposing elements which have been mentioned earlier in this paper, it is obvious that for the preservation of unity our utmost effort is necessary. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called … ENDEAVOURING to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). The R.V. reading of verse 3—“GIVING DILIGENCE to keep the unity”—is even stronger than that of the A.V. Far from sitting complacently with our hands folded, imagining that unity will take care of itself, we are to make it our zealous business so to act that the oneness which the Spirit has formed will be preserved. If hindrances stand in the way to it, we are responsible to the best of our ability to remove them. We must respect the feelings, viewpoint, and rights of others, for example. We must speak and act with sweet reasonableness and moderation. We must confess our faults one to another, restrain passions, and indeed die to self. In a word, we must stand shoulder to shoulder as good soldiers of Christ, armed in the Spirit’s might against our common foe—division. There is no easy way, beloved saints, to spiritual concord and harmony ; but then all things noble are difficult, and in this case the end to be achieved is well worth the effort. Let us at this juncture pause and ask our hearts if we are making it our aim to preserve unity, or are we known as those who ferment trouble amongst God’s people? Is talebearing, for instance, the mark of one who endeavours to cement the saints together in love? Arc we striving for unity when we ignore, or perhaps even try to nullify, the disciplinary action of an assembly, just because the delinquent happens to be a likeable person or a relative of ours? Are elders seriously trying to promote happy inter-assembly relations when they welcome to fellowship a brother from a neighbouring meeting who bears no letter of commendation and whom they know has come to them only because of his insubjection to godly rule, or because of his being involved in a quarrel in his home assembly? Surely if wie were all “giving diligence” these and such like irregularities which destroy unity could easily be averted.
THE SPIRIT CONDUCIVE TO UNITY
Furthermore, Eph. 4 indicates the temper or spirit which is conducive to unity. We are to “WALK . . . WITH ALL LOWLINESS AND MEEKNESS, WITH LONG-SUFFERING, FORBEARING ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE ; giving diligence to keep the unity” (vv. 1-3). It is of interest to note that having shown in chapters 1, 2 and 3 the glory and height of our heavenly calling, the first word used of our “walk” here below in this chapter is indicative of our taking the lowest room and being content to be of no account in the eyes of our brethren “LOWLINESS” is humbleness of mind, and since it is “Only by pride cometh contention” (Prov. 13:10), it follows that where pride is absent contention will be non-existent. “MEEKNESS” is that grace which willingly submits to God’s dealings and to the preference of others. It is the antithesis of self-interest and assertiveness. The meek man will not fight for his rights, much less will he push for place or power. “LONG-SUFFERING” is patient endurance under wrong. It bears with annoyance and provocation, and is the opposite of the hasty temper which gives way to anger. “FORBEARANCE” is that quality of holding oneself back, of keeping oneself in check, and is to be exercised “IN LOVE.” Indeed, it has been well said that “Love is the sum and essence of all that makes for unity.”
What a transformation there would be in many assemblies if these graces were being cultivated! Why should they not be? If my brother and I cannot see eye to eye upon some point of doctrine, some interpretation of Scripture, or the proper procedure to be followed in some matter affecting the assembly, why should we be unkind and discourteous to each other? Yet how often animosity and bitterness of spirit are manifested by Christians both in and out of assemblies, and in many cases by those who talk most about large-heartedness and love! “I never would have dreamt,” said an esteemed elder brother who recently took a firm yet gracious stand for certain truths, “that Christians could indulge in such vituperation—many of the communications I received would have shamed a worldling—let alone a Christian dealing with the holy things of God.” To such a low and unworthy level will some of the Lord’s dear people stoop in contending for their point of view.
The four virtues we have considered were seen in all their fulness and moral beauty in the life of our adorable Lord, and we suggest that if we were more in His company we would unconsciously manifest the same gracious qualities to a greater degree than we do ; or, to take the opposite standpoint, the characteristics inconsistent with these virtues—summed up in the six vices named almost at the close of Eph. 4—the “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking”—would be “put away, with all malice” (v. 31). These vices “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (v. 30), and consequently mar our unity which is expressly named “the unity of THE SPIRIT.”
If such roots of bitterness are in our hearts, let us drag them to the light and deal honestly with them in God’s presence. It matters not what Bible knowledge we may have acquired, or how gifted we may be, if we are proud and harbour personal dislikes, prejudices, envies, and old grudges, we are not walking in the light. If our spirits are hard, unforgiving, and vindictive, and we keep up petty squabbles and party bickerings, we are not in fellowship with Him whose name is Love. The pressing need is that each of us should manifest the mind of Christ—unfeigned and unfailing love for all saints. Let us face up to this, and let us fervently pray that His love may be rekindled in our hearts, for if I “have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2). It may not be inappropriate if, before passing to our next point, we read upon our bended knees the passage in the Colossian Epistle which is parallel to the one we have been considering in Ephesians: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule (arbitrate, R.V. marg.) in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body ; and be ye thankful” (chap. 3:12-15).
- “Lord, call us back to those sweet days
- When hearts were knit as one,
- When prayer was as the breath of life ;
- Ere we were so undone,
- Ere souls were rife with endless strife ;
- For Jesus’ sake, Thy Son,
- Lord, call Thy people back.”
(To be continued)
CLEAVE to the Lord with purpose of heart. Depend on Him. There is power in Christ; there is sufficiency in Christ for all He would have you do or be. Some are allowed a long season of joy on first believing. But God knows our hearts, and how soon we begin to depend on our joy, and not on Christ. He is our object—not the joy.
Sin no longer remains on you, but the flesh is in you to the end: the old stock will put forth its buds, which must be nipped off as they appear. No fruit can come of it. It is the new nature that bears fruit unto God. But though the flesh is in you, do not be thinking of this, but think of Christ.
As you grow in the knowledge of Christ, a joy comes, deeper than the first joy. I have known Christ more or less between thirty and forty years, and I can truly say I have ten thousand times more joy in Him now than I had at first. It is a deeper, calmer joy. The water rushing down a hill is beautiful to look at, and makes most noise ; but you will find the water in the plain deeper, calmer, more fit for general use.
Cleave to Christ with purpose of heart. A distracted heart is the bane of Christians. When we have got something that is not Christ, we are away from the source of strength. When my soul is filled with Christ, I have no heart or eye for the trash of this world. If Christ is dwelling in your heart by faith, it will not be a question with you, “What harm is there in this and that ?” But rather, “Am I doing this for Christ ?” “Can Christ go along with me in this ?”
Do not let the world come in and distract your thoughts. I speak especially to you younger ones. They who are older have had more experience in it, and know more what it is worth: but it all lies shining before you, endeavouring to attract you. Its smiles are deceitful ; still it smiles. It makes promises which it cannot keep ; still it makes them. Your hearts are too big for the world; it cannot fill them. They are too little for Christ: He fills heaven. He will fill you to overflowing.
Cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. He knew how treacherous the heart is, and how soon it would put anything in His place. You will have indeed to learn what is in your own heart. Abide with God and you will learn it with Him, and with His grace. If you do not, you will have with bitter sorrow to learn it with the devil, through his successful temptation.
But God is faithful. If you have been getting away from Him, and other things have come in, and formed a crust, as it were, over your hearts, you will not at once get back the joy. God will have you deal with this crust, and get rid of it. Remember, Christ bought you with His own blood, that you should be His, not the world’s. Do not let Satan get between you and God-‘s grace. However careless you may have been, however far you may have got away from Him, count on His love. It is His joy to see you back again. Look at the sin with horror, but never wrong Him by distrusting His love. Mistrust not His work, mistrust not His love. He has loved you, and will love you to the end.
Talk much with Jesus. Never be content without being able to walk and talk with Christ as with a dear friend. Be not satisfied with anything short of close intercourse of soul with Him who has loved you and washed you from your sins in His own blood.
Col. 1:18 … III John 9
PRE-EMINENCE IN WORSHIP “No man save JESUS only”
THE supremacy of the Lord Jesus is a subject over which the Holy Spirit has exercised a very jealous guard throughout the entire Book of God. In type and shadow, in prophetic utterance, in the flowery language of the Psalms, and in historical fact, this unique protection has been fully maintained. More remarkable still is the intense use of language, even to the selection of specific words, such as the one at the head of this paper. This word—PROTUO—is most important, because it occurs only once in the Scriptures. It is extremely solemn when the Holy Spirit uses a word but once ; such an instance demands our immediate and careful attention. Another word —PHILOPROTUO—coming from the same root, is to be found in John’s third epistle. This also is a solus word, and therefore eminently important. Now “Diotrophes loveth to have the pre-eminence.” We do not say that Diotrophes was a type of the antichrist, but the spirit of antichrist was there. “Already,” says John, “there are many antichrists amongst us.” What we have in III John is a Satanic emissary seeking to destroy the lordship and power of Christ. By and by both the spirit and ’ person of antichrist will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord’s presence, but in the meantime His patience is shown as He awaits the day of manifestation. However, the established will and purpose of God is that Christ should have the pre-eminence, and it is remarkable that each of the four Gospels deals with His supremacy in the order associated with the character of each particular book. Matthew is the Gospel of the great King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the only Potentate, the Prince of the kings of the earth. Already in the purposes of God He holds that place (Psalm 2), and allhough for a season a usurper sits upon the throne, yet shortly He will come and in the brightness of His power and glory claim the kingdom for His own and rule in resplendent majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords. Then His enemies shall be made to lick the dust and earth’s potentates shall come and lay their glory and honour at His once pierced feet. All this might have been accomplished at His first advent, but “His own received Him not.” and thus in the 12th chapter of the King’s Gospel the kingdom goes into mystery and the rejected Sovereign becomes a Sower and goes forth to sow. It may seem strange to many that it is in this Gospel, and in no other, that we get the church introduced and this, we judge, because of the kingdom going into mystery and the Sower going forth to sow. The kingdom in manifestation is therefore reserved for a future day and the King presents Himself as Lord of that (the church) which He Himself is now building It is important in this connection to remember Psalm 45, where the writer is inditing a goodly matter concerning the King. After recounting His resplendent regal glories, we are admonished “HE is thy LORD, WORSHIP thou Him,” and if His own ancient people refuse to give Him glory and honour and worship, He will have it from the new thing He has formed — the Ecclesia. Hence in chapter xvii of the King’s Gospel we have the Lord supreme, pre-eminent in worship—the highest function of the redeemed gathered in church capacity.
Before proceeding further, it would be helpful to differenciate between three words which so often pass in a general way for worship, but which are so entirely separate and distinct—i.e., praise, thanksgiving, worship.
PRAISE.—Praise is that which we offer to God for what He has done, for the work of His hands, the magnitude and magnificence of it. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth God”—but praise is not worship, although it may lead to it.
THANKSGIVING.—We give thanks unto our God for the manifold blessings we have received from His gracious and beneficent hands—for life, for salvation, for favours both temporal and spiritual. But thanksgiving is not worship, although again it may lead to it.
WORSHIP.—We worship God because of WHO He is, apart altogether from what He has done. The PERSON as distinct from His work is the governing factor in worship.
To return to our Gospel: if we exclude the fourth chapter of John, we shall find “worship” mentioned twice as many times in Matthew as we do in the other three Gospels put together.
- MATTHEW ………………………… 13 times
- MARK ……………………………….. 2 times
- LUKE ………………………………… 3 times
- JOHN ………………………………… 2 times
(omitting chapter 4 of John, where the word occurs seven times)
This is significant and important. Now worship belongs to God and to God alone. The Lord Jesus Himself said “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God (Jehovah Elohim) and Him only,” and since “no man hath seen God at any time” we are utterly dependent upon the Lord Jesus “Who is in the bosom of the Father1” to declare Him unto us so that we may worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Only thus may we know the Father and behold the majesty that marks out His Person for “the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ” and “He that seeth Me. seeth the Father that sent Me” (John xii). “If ye had known Me ye should have known My Father also ; and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him” (John xiv).
How wonderfully the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus in worship is portrayed in figure in the Old Testament! Says Abraham to his son Isaac as ‘they went both together’ up Moriah—“God shall provide for HIMSELF a lamb for a burnt offering.” Now the burnt offering was wholly for God ; every bit of the sacrifice was placed upon the altar to be utterly consumed by the fire —a sweet-smelling savour rising into the presence of God. Further, the only things found in the Holy of Holies (the blood, the incense, the ark of the covenant) in the light and glory of the shikinah, were those which spoke of Christ and spoke of Christ exclusively. This is exactly what we have on the mount of transfiguration—JESUS ALONE, in glory and majesty and worship. Jesus taketh with Him Peter. James and John into a high mountain apart. This is fundamental ; the first essential to worship is that we must be above and apart from the world. Occupation with the world and/or the things of the world positively shuts out all, possibility of being a worshipper. The soul must be separated entirely from the world and all its allurements to be found in that profound attitude of] worship. Down in the valley the disciples were busily engaged in seeking to cure a poor boy torn and tormented by the devil. This work ; tremendously important—the harvest in the field is plenteous and the labourers few, but the worshipper must leave this and ascend to the higher plane of worship :
- “Far, far above this restless world
- That wars below.”
The worshipper must also turn his eyes away from men. Moses and Elijah were there talking with the Lord regarding His exodus—honoured servants of the Lord who had stood true to Him in days of apostasy ; men who had been in the mount with God previously, but they must be forgotten and blotted out. Great men, noble men, honoured men have no power to produce worship. THEY must go. Self must go, too. Peter, James and John were sore afraid and fell on their faces—this is the right and proper position of worship—prostrate at His feet, self gone and gone utterly. And then their eyes were opened, they looked and “saw no one but JESUS only”—alone. WHAT A SIGHT !—the blessed Lord in the brightness of His own glory—majestic and transcendent. The radiance of His Holy Person filled the whole scene as it will do in a coming day, soon to dawn. Every other object that would intervene or intercept was blotted out utterly and entirely by the unspeakable brightness of His own Person. HE filled the whole scene while a voice came from the excellent glory, “This is My Son, My Beloved”—the Father’s delight, the object of all His eternal affection. HE will be the centre of all heaven’s homage and worship in a coming day—and the circumference of it, too. HE will be the theme of heaven’s never-ending praise! HE will be the subject of everlasting thanksgiving! HE will be the object of eternal worship! Heaven’s glad hallelujahs shall echo and re-echo until heaven’s arches vibrate with that grand diapason note as the unnumbered host swell the anthem, “WORTHY IS THE LAMB.” We await that day with joyful expectation, and while we wait our occupation would be to have our hands full of the perfections and glories and excellencies of the Lord Jesus and to offer them to the Father in the power and energy of the Lord the Spirit. THIS IS WORSHIP, AND HE IS SUPREME AND PRE-EMINENT IN IT.
- “To Him whom men despise and slight,
- To Him be glory given ;
- The crown is His and His by right
- The highest place in heaven.”
(To be continued)
(By JAMES GEDDIS, N. Rhodesia)
A PURE HEART
IN the Sermon on the Mount our Lord makes the solemn announcement, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). These words clearly imply that purity of heart is an essential condition if the believer is to enjoy communion with God. Likewise Paul, writing to Timothy, speaks of those who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Even in his first epistle the apostle emphasises the importance of this purity of heart, for in chapter 1:5 he enjoins his dear son to aim at promoting “love out of a pure heart.” ‘In almost the same words Peter also exhorts his readers to “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22).
Man’s heart by nature is full of guile and hypocrisy, and it is only by “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible” (1 Pet. 1:23) that it can be changed and made pure. The character of the seed by which we have been regenerated ought to be manifested in all our ways—i.e. purity of thoughts, words, and works. It becomes us constantly to pray as did the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23. 24). The thoughts of our hearts go to form our character. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7) ; so the child of God should seek grace to “keep his heart with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life” |(Prov. 4:23). How can our thoughts be kept pure in a world defiled by sin? The answer to this question is as simple as it is important—by meditating upon God’s holy Word, for “Thy Word is very pure” (Ps. 119:140) ; and the same writer said, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (v. 11).
Though we cannot claim that sin has been eradicated from our hearts, there is no excuse for our harbouring any known impurity in them. God has promised heavenly wisdom to those who ask for it (see James 1:5), and of this wisdom it is written in ch. 3:17 that it is “first pure.”
Fellowship with God is indispensable for the well-being of God’s people, whether we think of individuals or assemblies, but He cannot dwell with impurity. Even orthodox assembly principles (and it is incumbent upon us that we maintain these) are not sufficient. He demands our inward condition to be in keeping with His holy character. The first step, therefore, to blessing in our assemblies is that each member should attend to inward purity. Thus we shall make room for Him to manifest His presence amongst us.
We express our thoughts by words. Did not the Lord say, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of his heart the mouth speaketh”? (Luke 6:45). Our words may be far-reaching in their effects either for good or ill. Cruel words, whether written or spoken, can damage God’s people, whereas words of comfort, encouragement, or even warning, can be an untold help to them. In view of our responsibility as assemblies to manifest the unity for which our Lord so earnestly prayed in John 17:21, we do well to guard our words lest by them we cause strife or division. The world is looking on, and if saints arc seen confused and divided the estimate of the unconverted will be that we are “weighed in the balances and found wanting.”
It is interesting to note that the word rendered “talebearer” in 1 Tim 5:13 is the same as is translated “curious arts” in Acts 19:19. Its meaning, according to Vine’s “Dictionary of New Testament Words” is, “The arts of those who pry into forbidden things with the aid of evil spirits.” Does not this suggest that those who practise talebearing are doing the Devil’s work? May God preserve us from this terrible evil.
We have a striking example of the power of words to comfort in the case of Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:1-8). Although the enemy had invaded the land the King told his people to “be strong and courageous … for there is more with us than with him.” Then we read, “the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” The enemy still invades the people of God, and there is great need for guides who can minister words which will be a stay and a comfort to them in the day of their distress.
Our ways as well as our words ought to be pure, for there is much truth in the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Paul, in writing to Titus, emphasises the importance of this godly behaviour. Note especially the words of ch. 2:14, “zealous of good works” ; ch. 3:8, “maintain good works”; and ch. 3:14, “and let our’s also learn to maintain good works.” Neither a cruel devil nor a godless world can argue against a holy life. In the case of Job, the enemy had no answer to that man’s righteous testimony, and all he could do was try to overthrow his faith in God, but even in this Job triumphed when he exclaimed, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
The enemy hates holy living, loyalty to Christ and separation from an evil world. He therefore tries to turn aside those who set themselves to glorify God. If persecution and suffering are not successful he will try more subtle ways, which, alas, are often all that is needed to snare the feet of the unwary. Compromise is his master stroke, and is usually excused under the plea of large-heartedness and broadmindedness. In this connection, the mixing with evil in the case of good King Jehoshaphat has many weighty lessons for us. He first of all visited Ahab and sat down to feast with that ungodly king. Then he and Ahab arranged to fight together at Ramoth-gilead. Although the prophet Micaiah faithfully warned him of the consequences and suffered for his faithfulness, poor Jehoshaphat rushed on into battle—a battle that almost cost him his life. The prophet’s path of separation may have seemed costly at the time, but ultimately the cost to Jehoshaphat was much greater, for his son Jehoram joined the house of Ahab and lost not only his life but in all probability his soul. What a price to pay for compromise! Well might we hearken to God’s message to him, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from the Lord” (2 Chron. 19:2).
Every young believer should cherish a pure testimony, for once it is lost it can never be restored. One may get back to the fellowship of God’s people and be restored to communion with the Lord, but if the testimony has been ruined in the world, the unsaved will never forget that, consequently power for witness is weakened. Many of the saints look back with regret upon their past ways, and more especially as they watch their families repeat their follies.
May our daily prayer be, “Preserve me, O God” (Ps. 16:1). We need His help to keep our thoughts pure, our words pure, and our ways pure. If such be our portion we shall enjoy communion with Him and be a fruitful testimony both as individuals and as assemblies. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word” (Isa. 66:2)
- O keep my heart at leisure
- From all the world beside.
- In close communion, ever
- Thus, with Thee to abide—
- So all Thy whispered breathings
- Of love and truth to hear ;
- And hail Thee with rejoicing,
- When Thou shalt soon appear.
“Be of good cheer: it is I s be not afraid !”—Mark vi. 50
- ‘The night wore on, and fiercer grew the conflict,
- Higher the waves, more boisterous the wind;
- And in the boat, a horror of great darkness
- Rested upon each weary heart and mind.
- Worse than the storm, more fearful than the tempest,
- Lay the dark doubt that He Who let them go,
- Must have forsaken them, else why this silence ?
- Did He not care,—for surely He must know.
- Comes the fourth watch, and lo, upon the waters,
- In the grey dawn, there moves a distant form!
- ‘Who can this be ?’ they cry in sore amazement—
- Is it a ghost, more awful than the storm ?
- Listen! He speaks! Above the tempest’s raging
- His voice rings out, so welcome to their ears—
- ‘Be not afraid, for it is I, your Master’—
- Oh, how it drives away all doubts and fears.”
- —(Ivy M. Fordham)
Behold the wounds of Him who hangeth on the Cross, the blood of Him who dieth ; the price of Him who redeemeth thee ; His head bent down to kiss thee ; His heart open to love thee ; His arms stretched wide to embrace thee ; His whole body laid out to redeem thee! Consider how great things are these ; weigh them in the balance of thine heart, that He may be fixed whole in thine heart who for thee was fixed whole upon the Cross.
LEARN to entwine with your prayers the small cares, the trifling sorrows, the little wants of daily life. Whatever affects you—be it a changed look, an altered tone, an unkind word, a wound, a demand you cannot meet, a sorrow you cannot disclose—turn it into prayer, and send it up to God. Disclosures you may not make to man you can make to the Lord. Men may be too little for your great matters ; God is not too great for your small ones. Only give yourself to prayer, whatever be the occasion that calls for it.
I find it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell, is to live without temptations ; if my waters should stand, they would rot. Faith is the better of the free air, and of the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.
Thou temptest God to suffer thy locks to be cut, when thou art so bold to lay thy head in the lap of a temptation.
The more public thy place, Christian, and the more eminent thy service for God, the more thou must expect some dangerous design of the devil against thee. And if every private soldier needs armour against Satan’s bullets of temptation, much more the officers who stand in front of the battle.
All the water is waste that runs beside the mill ; so all thy thoughts and words are waste which are not to the glory of God. A bee will not sit on a flower where no honey can be sucked ; neither should the Christian engage in anything but for his soul’s good and God’s honour.
- Let me both diligently work, and duly pray ;
- Let me be kind in word and deed, just for to-day.
- Let me be slow to do my will, prompt to obey ;
- Help me to sacrifice myself, just for to-day.
God is omnipotent just because He is Love, and Love is the only power in the universe which can never be defeated, because out of its own apparent defeat it can win its greatest victories.