For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Song of Sol. 2:11, 12.
This lovely morning all nature appears fresh and beautiful. Earth has put on her summer robes of green and is smiling in almost Edenic loveliness.
I think our enjoyment of the summertime is heightened by the memory of the long, cold months of winter; and on the other hand, the hope of summer helps us to endure more cheerfully the winter's reign. If we were to permit our minds to dwell upon the barrenness and desolation with which the ice king surrounds us, we might be very unhappy; but, being wiser than this, we look forward in anticipation to the coming springtime, which is to bring back the birds, awaken the sleeping flowers, clothe the earth in her robes of green, and fill the air with light and fragrance and song.
The Christian's sojourn in this world may be fitly compared to the long, cold winter. Here we experience trials, sorrows and disappointments, but we should not permit our minds to dwell upon these. Let us rather look forward with hope and faith to the coming summer when we shall be welcomed to our Eden home, where all is light and joy, where all is peace and love.
Had the Christian never experienced the storms of affliction in this world, had his heart never been chilled by disappointment or oppressed by fear, he would scarcely know how to appreciate heaven. We will not be despondent, though often weary, sad, and heartsick; the winter will not always last. The summer of peace, joy, and eternal gladness soon will come. Then Christ will dwell with us and will lead us to fountains of living waters, and will wipe all tears from our eyes.
Let nothing . . . hinder you from making thorough work for eternity. . . . There will be no chilling winds, no wintry colds, but an eternal summer. There is light for the intellect, love that is abiding, sincere. There will be health and immortality, vigour for every faculty. There will be shut out forever every sorrow and every grief.
Chap. 153 - The Sign of the New Heart
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Eze. 36:26.
One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the Word of God is that of David when he pleaded, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." Ps. 51:10. God's response to such a prayer is, A new heart will I give you. This is a work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul. They are to labour earnestly and with humility of heart, each one looking to Jesus for guidance and encouragement. Then the building, fitly framed together, will grow into a holy temple in the Lord.
The youth especially stumble over this phrase, "a new heart." They do not know what it means. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. This they term conversion. Over this error thousands have stumbled to ruin, not understanding the expression, "Ye must be born again." John 3:7.
Satan leads people to think that because they have felt a rapture of feeling, they are converted. But their experience does not change. Their actions are the same as before. Their lives show no good fruit. They pray often and long, and are constantly referring to the feelings they had at such and such a time. But they do not live the new life. They are deceived. Their experience goes no deeper than feeling. They build upon the sand, and when adverse winds come, their house is swept away. . . .
When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being. To have a change of heart is to withdraw the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ. To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives. What is the sign of a new heart?--A changed life.
Chap. 154 - Beware of the Hard Heart
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Ps. 95:7, 8.
No man can even once devote his God-given powers to the service of worldliness or pride without placing himself on the enemy's ground. . . . Every repetition of the sin weakens his power of resistance, blinds his eyes, and stifles conviction. . . .
The Lord sends us warning, counsel, and reproof, that we may have opportunity to correct our errors before they become second nature. But if we refuse to be corrected, God does not interfere to counteract the tendencies of our own course of action. He works no miracle that the seed sown may not spring up and bear fruit. That man who manifests an infidel hardihood or a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest which he has himself sown. Such has been the experience of many. They listen with stoical indifference to the truths which once stirred their very souls. They sowed neglect, indifference, and resistance to the truth; and such is the harvest which they reap. The coldness of ice, the hardness of iron, the impenetrable, unimpressible nature of rock--all these find a counterpart in the character of many a professed Christian. It was thus that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. God spoke to the Egyptian king by the mouth of Moses, giving him the most striking evidences of divine power; but the monarch stubbornly refused the light which would have brought him to repentance. God did not send a supernatural power to harden the heart of the rebellious king, but as Pharaoh resisted the truth, the Holy Spirit was withdrawn, and he was left to the darkness and unbelief which he had chosen. By persistent rejection of the Spirit's influence, men cut themselves off from God. He has in reserve no more potent agency to enlighten their minds. No revelation of His will can reach them in their unbelief.
Unbending principle will mark the course of those who sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him.
Chap. 155 - The Work of Heart-Keeping
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23.
Diligent heart-keeping is essential to a healthy growth in grace. The heart in its natural state is a habitation for unholy thoughts and sinful passions. When brought into subjection to Christ, it must be cleansed by the Spirit from all defilement. This can not be done without the consent of the individual.
When the soul has been cleansed, it is the duty of the Christian to keep it undefiled. Many seem to think that the religion of Christ does not call for the abandonment of daily sins, the breaking loose from habits which have held the soul in bondage. They renounce some things condemned by the conscience, but they fail to represent Christ in the daily life. They do not bring Christlikeness into the home. They do not show a thoughtful care in their choice of words. Too often, fretful, impatient words are spoken, words which stir the worst passions of the human heart. Such ones need the abiding presence of Christ in the soul. Only in His strength can they keep guard over the words and actions.
In the work of heart-keeping we must be instant in prayer, unwearied in petitioning the throne of grace for assistance. Those who take the name of Christian should come to God in earnestness and humility, pleading for help. . . . The Christian cannot always be in the position of prayer, but his thoughts and desires can always be upward.
To keep your heart in heaven will give vigour to all your graces and put life into all your duties. To discipline the mind to dwell upon heavenly things will put life and earnestness into all our endeavours. Our efforts are languid, and we run the Christian race slowly, and manifest indolence and sloth, because we so little value the heavenly prize. We are dwarfs in spiritual attainments. It is the privilege and duty of the Christian to be increasing in the knowledge of the Son of God, "unto a perfect man."
Chap. 156 - Who Has Control of My Life?
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.
God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them into positions which are calculated to reveal the motives of the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advance step the heart is tested, and tried a little closer. If any find their hearts opposed to the straight work of God, it should convince them that they have a work to do in overcoming, or they will be finally rejected of the Lord.
This world is the place in which to prepare to appear in God's presence. Individuals will here show what power affects their hearts, and controls their actions. . . . If they prize anything higher than the truth, their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus, and He is consequently shut out. If individuals, when tested, refuse to sacrifice their idols, . . . the Spirit of God will leave them with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels.
Many who profess to be Christ's followers are unwilling to closely examine their own hearts, to see whether they have passed from death unto life. Some lean upon an old experience, seeming to think a mere profession of the truth will save them; but God's Word reveals the terrible fact that all such are cherishing a false hope. . . .
Young and old, God is now testing you. You are now deciding your own eternal destiny. Pride, fashion, empty conversation, and selfishness are evils which, if fostered, will increase, and choke the good seed sown in your hearts.
Let us, as Christ's followers, search our hearts as with a lighted candle to see what manner of spirit we are of. For our present and eternal good, let us criticise our actions, to see how they stand in the light of the law of God.
We need those who will follow Christ fully, whose head, hands, ears, and every faculty and power are consecrated to Jesus. It is not purse power or brain power, but heart power we need.
Chap. 157 - Soldiers on Life's Battlefield
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Tim. 6:12.
When souls are converted, their salvation is not yet accomplished. They then have the race to run; the arduous struggle is before them to "fight the good fight of faith." . . . The battle is lifelong, and must be carried forward with determined energy proportionate to the value of the object you are in pursuit of, which is eternal life. . . .
Satan is ever seeking to destroy; he is casting his hellish shadow between our souls and the light of the Sun of Righteousness. When you talk doubts, and distrust your heavenly Father's love, Satan comes in and deepens the impression, and that which is shadowed is made the blackness of despair. Now, your only hope is to cease talking darkness. In dwelling on the dark side, you cast away your confidence in God, and this is just what Satan wants you to do. He wants to sift you as wheat; but Jesus is making intercession for you; His love is broad and deep. Perhaps you will say, "How do you know He loves me?" I look where you may look, to the cross of Calvary. That blood shed upon the cross cleanseth from all sin. . . .
We are daily working out our destiny. We have a crown of eternal life to win, a hell to shun. We certainly cannot save ourselves, and we know that Christ wants us to be saved. He gave His own life that He might pay the ransom for our souls. When He has made this infinite sacrifice, He does not regard us with indifference. . . .
We want to cling to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. . . . We have a living Saviour, a living Intercessor, one who will help us in every time of need. When tempted to go into the dark cave of doubt and despair, sing,
"Arise, my soul, arise! Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice in thy behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written in His hands."
Chap. 158 - The Court of Holy Life
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9.
The church of Christ on earth is amid the moral darkness of a disloyal world, which is trampling upon the law of Jehovah. But their Redeemer, who has purchased their ransom with the price of His own precious blood, has made every provision that His church shall be a transformed body, illumined with Light of the world, possessing the glory of Emmanuel. The bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, shining through His church, will gather into His fold every lost, straying sheep who will come unto Him and find refuge in Him. They will find peace and light and joy in Him who is peace and righteousness forever.
The members of the church should individually keep the light of God's love burning brightly in their own souls, that it may also shine forth to others. We have too much at stake to allow spiritual lethargy to creep over us. Let us beware of indulging a disrelish for religious services and religious duties. Let us resolutely battle against that sluggishness of soul which is so fatal to the growth and even the life of the Christian. That church will be healthy and prosperous whose members are putting forth active, personal effort to do good to others, to save souls. This will be a constant incentive to every good work. Such Christians will labour with greater earnestness to secure their own salvation. The dormant energies will be aroused, the whole soul inspired with an unconquerable determination to win the Saviour's plaudit of "Well done," and to wear the victor's crown.
Christ makes His church a beautiful temple for God. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name," He declared, "there am I in the midst of them," Matt. 18:20. His church is the court of holy life, filled with varied gifts, and endowed with the Holy Spirit. Appropriate duties are assigned by Heaven to each member of the church on earth, and all are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless.
Chap. 159 - In the Workshop of God
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5.
The Jewish temple was built of hewn stones quarried out of the mountains; and every stone was fitted for its place in the Temple, hewn, polished, and tested, before it was brought to Jerusalem. And when all were brought to the ground, the building went together without the sound of axe or hammer. This building represents God's spiritual temple, which is composed of material gathered out of every nation, and tongue, and people, of all grades, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. These are not dead substances, to be fitted by hammer and chisel. They are living stones, quarried out from the world by the truth; and the great Master Builder, the Lord of the temple, is now hewing and polishing them, and fitting them for their respective places in the spiritual temple. When completed, this temple will be perfect in all its parts, the admiration of angels and of men; for its Builder and Maker is God.
The care shown in the building of the temple is a lesson to us regarding the care that we are to show in our character building. No cheap material was to be used. No haphazard work was to be done in matching the different parts. Piece must fit piece perfectly. Just as God's temple was, so must His church be. Into their character building His people are to bring no worthless timbers, no careless, indifferent work.
Now we are in the workshop of God, and the process is going on in these hours of probation to fit us for the glorious temple. We cannot now be indifferent, and negligent, and careless, and refuse to depart from sin, . . . and expect to become pure and holy and fashioned in character after the similitude of a palace. . . . Now is the day of preparation; now is the time when we can have our defects removed.
A stone that does not shine is worthless. That which constitutes the value of our churches is not dead, lustreless stones, but living stones, stones that catch the bright beams from the Chief Cornerstone, even the Sun of Righteousness.
Chap. 160 - The Blessings of Christian Fellowship
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Heb. 10:25.
Those who are of the household of faith should never neglect the assembling of themselves together; for this is God's appointed means of leading His children into unity, in order that in Christian love and fellowship they may help, strengthen, and encourage one another. . . .
As brethren of our Lord, we are called with a holy calling to a holy, happy life. Having entered the narrow path of obedience, let us refresh our minds by communion with one another and with God. As we see the day of God approaching, let us meet often to study His Word and to exhort one another to be faithful unto the end. These earthly assemblies are God's appointed means by which we have opportunity to speak with one another and to gather all the help possible to prepare, in the right way, to receive in the heavenly assemblies the fulfilment of the pledges of our inheritance.
Remember that in every assembly you meet with Christ, the Master of assemblies. Encourage a personal interest in one another; for it is not enough simply to know men. We must know men in Christ Jesus. We are enjoined to "consider one another." This is the keynote of the gospel. The keynote of the world is self.
I would encourage those who assemble in little companies to worship God. Brethren and sisters, be not disheartened because you are so few in number. The tree that stands alone upon the plain, strikes its roots deeper into the earth, spreads out its branches farther on every side, and grows stronger and more symmetrical while wrestling singly with the tempest of rejoicing in the sunshine. So the Christian, cut off from earthly dependence, may learn to rely wholly upon God, and may gain strength and courage from every conflict.
May the Lord bless the scattered and lonely ones, and make them efficient workers for Him.
Chap. 161 - One with the Church Above
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Eph. 3:14, 15.
The church of God upon the earth is one with the church of God above. Believers on the earth, and those who have never fallen in heaven, are one church. Every heavenly intelligence is interested in the assemblies of the saints, who on earth meet to worship God in spirit and truth, and in the beauty of holiness. In the inner court of heaven they listen to the testimonies of the witnesses for Christ in the outer court on earth, and the praise and thanksgiving that comes from the church below, is taken up in the heavenly anthem, and praise and rejoicing resounds through the heavenly court because Christ has not died in vain for the fallen sons of Adam. While angels drink from the fountainhead, the saints on earth drink of the pure streams flowing from the throne of God, making glad the city of God. . . .
In every assembly of the saints below, are the angels of God listening to the thanksgiving, the praise, the supplication, that is offered by the people of God in testimonies, songs, and prayers. Let them remember that their praises are supplemented by the choirs of the angelic host above. . . .
The company of believers may be few in number, but they have been taken by the cleaver of truth as rough stones from the quarry of the world . . . to be fitted up by test and trial for a place in God's heavenly temple, and they are very precious in the sight of the Lord. . . . Even in the rough they are precious in the sight of God. The axe and the hammer and the chisel of trial and test are in the hands of One who is skilful, and are used not to destroy, not to bring to nothingness, but to work out the perfections of every soul. . . .
The Lord will no more cast off the humblest, lowliest believer in Jesus, than He will demolish His throne. We are accepted in the Beloved. We are members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
Chap. 162 - Most Precious of All Meetings
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. Mal. 3:16.
What a hope-inspiring picture is this, where the Lord is represented as bending down and hearkening to the testimonies borne by His witnesses! . . .
The words to which God and the angels listen with delight are words of appreciation for the great gift that has been made to the world in the only-begotten Son of God. Every word of praise for the blessing of the light of truth . . . is written in the heavenly records. Every word that acknowledges the merciful kindness of our heavenly Father in giving Jesus to take away our sins, and to impute to us His righteousness, is recorded in the book of His remembrance. Testimonies of this kind "shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light." 1 Peter 2:9. . . .
The time and season are very precious. The assembled believers are in the audience chamber of the universe of heaven. They are to witness for God and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for the world. . . . What deep and grave importance is attached to these little assemblies! Jesus Christ has paid the ransom money of His own blood for their souls, and He is in the midst of them when they meet to worship God. The Majesty of heaven identifies His interests with those of the believers, however humble may be their circumstances. And wherever they are privileged to meet together, it is appropriate that they speak often one to another, giving utterance to the gratitude and love that results from thinking upon the name of the Lord. Thus shall God be glorified as He hearkens and hears, and the testimony meeting will be considered the most precious of all meetings. . . .
Let all remember that . . . angels are recording in the book of remembrance every word that vindicates the character and mission of Christ. Of those who testify of the love of God, the Lord says, "They shall be mine, . . . in that day when I make up my jewels." Mal. 3:17.
Chap. 163 - Unity in Diversity
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; . . . one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Eph. 4:4-7.
Unity in diversity is God's plan. Among the followers of Christ there is to be the blending of diverse elements, one adapted to the other, and each to do its special work for God. Every individual has his place in the filling up of one great plan bearing the stamp of Christ's image. . . . One is fitted to do a certain work, another has a different work for which he is adapted, another has a still different line; but each is to be the complement of the others. . . . The Spirit of God, working in and through the diverse elements, will produce harmony of action. . . . There is to be only one master spirit--the Spirit of Him who is infinite in wisdom, and in whom all the diverse elements meet in beautiful, matchless unity. . . .
Differences of character exist by nature, but our unity depends upon the degree in which we yield to the transforming influence of the Spirit of God. Through the grace of Christ, some persons possess precious traits of character, a kindly and genial disposition; their very rebukes are imbued with tenderness, for the Spirit of Christ seems manifest in them. . . . The power of His grace will mould and fashion character according to the divine Model, renewing it in softness and beauty, in conformity to His own blessed image. . . .
How great the diversity manifested in the natural world! Every object has its peculiar sphere of action; yet all are found to be linked together in the great whole. Christ Jesus is in union with the Father, and from the great centre this wonderful unity is to extend . . . through all classes and diversities of talents. We are all to respect one another's talent; we are to harmonise in goodness, in unselfish thoughts and actions, because the Spirit of Christ, as the living, working agency, is circulating through the whole. . . . It is not striking actions that produce unity; it is the mould of the Holy Spirit upon the character.
Chap. 164 - United in Christ
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:21.
The solemn, earnest prayer of Christ . . . . reaches down along the line to our time. What a position is this for fallen man to attain through obedience--oneness with God through Jesus Christ! To what heights we are permitted to rise if we will have respect unto the recompense of the reward! We are to receive power from God that human nature, under the divine working, may not always be perverted and not always be under the depraving, corrupting influence of sin. Human nature, through Jesus Christ, becomes allied to angels--yes, even to the great God.
Those who are truly connected with God will not be at variance with one another. . . . His Spirit ruling in their hearts will create harmony, love, and unity. The opposite of this works in the children of Satan; there is with them a continual contradiction. Strife and envy and jealousy are the ruling elements. The characteristic of the Christian is the meekness of Christ. Benevolence, kindness, mercy, and love originate from Infinite Wisdom, while the opposite is the unholy fruit of a heart that is not in harmony with Jesus Christ. . . .In union there is strength. In division there is weakness and defeat.
The most convincing argument we can give to the world of Christ's mission is to be found in perfect unity. . . .In proportion to our unity with Christ will be our power to save souls.
If we reach the standard of perfection, our peculiar traits of disposition must be moulded in harmony with Christ's will. Then we shall sit together in heavenly places in Christ. Brethren will work together, without a thought of collision. Little differences, dwelt upon, lead to actions that destroy Christian fellowship. . . . Let us keep drawing near to God, and He will draw near to us. Then, as one, we shall reach upward to Him. The churches will be as gardens of the Lord, under His cultivation. God's people will be trees of righteousness, planted by the Lord, and watered with the river of life.
Chap. 165 - One Great Brotherhood
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement. 1 Cor. 1:10.
We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The gospel of Christ is to reach all classes, all nations, all tongues and people. The influence of the gospel is to unite in one great brotherhood. We have only one Model that we are to imitate in character building, and then we all shall have Christ's mould; we shall be in perfect harmony; nationalities will blend in Jesus Christ, having the same mind, and the same judgement, speaking the same things, and with one mouth glorifying God. This is the work the world's Redeemer is to do for us. If we accept the truth as it is in Jesus, national prejudices and jealousies will be broken down, and the Spirit of truth will blend hearts in one. We will love as brethren; we will esteem others better than ourselves; we will be kind and courteous, meek and lowly, easy to be entreated; full of mercy and good fruits. . . .
God knows just how to meet the peculiarities of different nationalities. . . . The third angel's message . . . is to unite the people to do a special work, preparing them with perfection of character to unite in one great family in the mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those who love Him. . . .
The truth is all powerful and far reaching. It will unite nationalities in one great brotherhood. . . . Christ in men unites them on one grand platform, preparing for the uniting in one family in heaven. It is the truth that makes men one and removes national prejudice. . . .
The truth will have the same moulding influence upon hearts whatever the nationalities. Every human heart that accepts the truth will bow to the majesty of its sway, and when Christ is abiding in the heart by faith they will be of one mind, for Christ is not divided. They will be strong in His strength, happy and united in His peace. The truth is the same in its subduing power upon all hearts. It will refine and ennoble the heart of the receiver.
Chap. 166 - Victory Over Every Foe
By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. 2 Cor. 6:7.
Through the ages of moral darkness, through centuries of strife and persecution, the church of Christ has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations to the present time, the pure doctrines of the Bible have been unfolding within her borders. The church of Christ, enfeebled and defective though she may appear, is the one object on earth on which He bestows in a special sense His love and regard. The church is the theatre of His grace, in which He delights to make experiments of mercy on human hearts.
The church is God's fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of her sacred trust is treachery to Him who has bought her with the precious blood of His only begotten Son. All down through the history of the world, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. . . .
Today, as in the past, all heaven is watching to see the church develop in the true science of salvation. . . . Christ calls upon us to enter the narrow pathway, where every step means a denial of self. He calls upon us to stand upon the platform of eternal truth, and contend, yes, contend earnestly, for the faith once delivered to the saints. . . .
As we near the time . . . when Satan's deceptive power will be so great that, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect, our discernment must be sharpened by divine enlightenment, that we may not be ignorant of Satan's devices. The whole treasury of heaven is at our command in the work of preparing the way of the Lord.
It is God's design that His church shall ever advance in purity and knowledge, from light to light, from glory to glory.
Our hope is not in man, but in the living God. With full assurance of faith, we may expect that He will unite His omnipotence with the efforts of human instrumentalities, for the glory of His name. Clad with the armour of His righteousness, we may gain the victory over every foe.
Chap. 167 - The Golden Chain of Love
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34, 35.
The love of Christ is a golden chain that binds finite, human beings who believe in Jesus Christ to the Infinite God. The love that the Lord has for His children passeth knowledge. No science can define or explain it. No human wisdom can fathom it.
Selfishness and pride hinder the pure love that unites us in spirit with Jesus Christ. If this love is truly cultivated, finite will blend with finite, and all will centre in the Infinite. Humanity will unite with humanity, and all will be bound up with the heart of Infinite Love. Sanctified love for one another is sacred. In this great work Christian love for one another--far higher, more constant, more courteous, more unselfish, than has been seen--preserves Christian tenderness, Christian benevolence, and politeness, and enfolds the human brotherhood in the embrace of God, acknowledging the dignity with which God has invested the rights of man.
The golden chain of love, binding the hearts of the believers in unity, in bonds of fellowship and love, and in oneness with Christ and the Father, makes the connection perfect and bears to the world a testimony of the power of Christianity that cannot be controverted. . . . Then will selfishness be uprooted and unfaithfulness will not exist. There will not be strife and divisions. There will not be stubbornness in anyone who is bound up with Christ. Not one will act out the stubborn independence of the wayward, impulsive child who drops the hand that is leading him and chooses to stumble on alone and walk in his own ways.
Love is a tender plant, and it must be cultivated and cherished, and the roots of bitterness all have to be plucked up around it in order for it to have room to circulate, and then it will bring in under its influence all the powers of the mind, all the heart, so that we shall love God supremely, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Chap. 168 - Under the Yoke of Christ
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 1 John 2:10.
Satan is seeking by his temptations to obtain advantage over souls. Let nothing that you may do or say prove a temptation or discouragement to any soul. Remember he is the purchase of the blood of Christ. Every soul is precious. Only as you look to the cross of Calvary can you place a right estimate upon the soul. How sad a thing it would be to have anything you may do or say balance a soul in the wrong direction. You are bound by cords of obligation to God and to your fellow man; you cannot break these cords and free yourself from these obligations.
Do not be troubled by what other people think or say,...but cling to the Lord; He will never fail you.... We must ever bear in mind that Satan is working hard to secure every soul. We must work on the Lord's side, not giving the least occasion which anyone can take advantage of. ...If words are spoken and charges made to provoke you, the very best reproof you can give is to remain silent, as though you heard not.... We are all to remember that we are under the yoke of Christ, and we must not disgrace our Saviour or the yoke He has invited us to wear. We will just as surely rule our spirit as we wear the yoke.
What others may do, what others may say, what others may think of you, will not change God's thoughts toward you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, and the opinion of man will not change his character.... Jesus loves you; and He takes no man's measurement of your character. You are to behold Jesus and reflect His image. Keep His love in your thoughts. Invite the heavenly Guest to abide with you....
Let your spirit be cleansed from all earthliness, all unholy, uncharitable thoughts. Let your words be clean, sanctified, vivifying and refreshing all with whom you associate. Be not easily provoked. Let the praise of God be in your hearts and upon your lips, that no evil thing may truthfully be said of you.
Chap. 169 - The Outflow of Love
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7.
When the heavenly principle of eternal love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not merely because favours are received of them, but because love is the principle of action, and modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and elevates the affections. This love is not contracted, so as merely to include "me and mine," but is as broad as the world and as high as heaven. It is in harmony with that of the angel workers. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the entire life, and sheds a refining influence on all around. Possessing it, we cannot but be happy, let fortune smile or frown. And if we love God with all the heart, we must love His children also. This love is the spirit of God. It is the heavenly adorning that gives true nobility and dignity to the soul.
A soul filled with the love of Jesus lends to the words, the manners, the looks, hope, courage, and serenity.... It awakens a desire for a better life; souls ready to faint are strengthened; those struggling against temptation will be fortified and comforted. The words, the expression, the manners, throw out a bright ray of sunshine, and leave behind them a clear path toward heaven. . . . Every one of us has opportunities of helping others. We are constantly making impressions upon the youth about us. The expression of the countenance is itself a mirror of the life within. Jesus desires that we shall become like Himself, filled with tender sympathy, exerting a ministry of love in the small duties of life. . . .
Our duty is to live in the atmosphere of Christ's love, to breathe His love deeply, and to reflect its warmth around us. Oh, what a sphere of influence is open before us! How carefully we should cultivate the garden of the soul, so that it may bring forth only pure, sweet, fragrant flowers! Words of love, tenderness, and charity sanctify our influence over others.
Chap. 170 - The Silken Cord that Binds Hearts
By love serve one another. Gal. 5:13.
Love is the silken cord that binds hearts together. We are not to feel that we must set up ourselves as a pattern. As long as we think of ourselves and what is due to us from others it will be impossible for us to do our work of saving souls. When Christ takes possession of our hearts we shall no longer make the narrow circle of self the centre of our thoughts and of our attentions.
What a wonderful reverence for human life Jesus expressed in His life mission! He stood not among the people as a king, demanding attention, reverence, service, but as one who wished to serve, to uplift humanity. He said He had not come to be ministered unto but to minister. . . . Wherever Christ saw a human being, He saw one who needed human sympathy. Many of us are willing to serve particular ones--those whom we honour--but the very ones to whom Christ would make us a blessing if we were not so cold-hearted, so unkind and selfish, we pass by as unworthy of our notice....
The great lesson of forgiveness must be more perfectly learned by all of us.... The greatest wrong we can do to others is to be unforgiving if we think they injure us in any way. This is a most dangerous position for a professed Christian, because just in the manner in which he treats his brethren so will the Lord of heaven treat him.
We need to have higher and more distinct views of the character of Christ.... We are not to think of God only as a judge and to forget Him as a loving Father. Nothing can do our souls greater harm than this, for our whole spiritual life is moulded from our conceptions of God's character. We have lessons to learn of Jesus' love.
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." Eph. 5:1, 2. This is the height of the love we are required to reach. And the texture of this love is not tainted with selfishness.
Chap. 171 - Help for the Erring One
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Gal. 6:1.
Here is a special direction to deal tenderly with those overtaken in a fault. "Overtaken" must have its full significance.... To be led into sin unawares--not intending to sin, but to sin through want of watchfulness and prayer, not discerning the temptation of Satan and so falling into his snare--is very different from the one who plans and deliberately enters into temptation and plans out a course of sin....
More effective measures are needed to check the premeditated sin, but the apostle directs the treatment to be given to those who are overtaken or surprised or overcome by temptation.... Restore him in meekness, "considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Faith and reproofs will be needed, and kindly counsel and supplications to God, to bring them to see their danger and sin. The original word is, set in joint, as a dislocated bone; therefore the efforts should be made to set them in joint, and bring them to themselves by convincing them of their sin and error. . . . There should be no triumphing in a brother's fall. But in meekness, in the fear of God, in love for their soul's sake, seek to save them from sin.
When men have to swim against the stream, there is a weight of waves driving them back. Let a hand then be held out, as was the Elder Brother's hand to a sinking Peter. . . . Let the one who is supposed to have moved wrongly be given no occasion by his brother to become discouraged, but let him feel the strong clasp of a sympathizing hand; let him hear the whisper, "Let us pray." The Holy Spirit will give a rich experience to both. It is prayer that unites hearts. It is prayer to the Great Physician to heal the soul that will bring the blessing of God. Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives new strength and fresh grace to the fainting, perplexed soul to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Prayer turns aside the attacks of Satan.
Chap. 172 - One to a Hundred
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matt. 18:21, 22.
There is a great work before us. There are men and women straying from the fold of Christ, and as they become cold and indifferent, and lose all disposition to return, they will not run after you. You must take them where they are.... When you find a wandering sheep, call him to the fold; and leave him not until you see him safely enfolded there. ...Go out for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
If there is any point on which you have committed one wrong, although he may have committed one hundred, take that which you have done out of the way and open the way for him to come back again. Perhaps that was the very thing that was keeping a soul away. In your humility, confess your one wrong, and perhaps it may touch him and lead him with weeping to confess his hundred wrongs, and to take them out of the way. Thus a soul for whom Christ died will be saved. . . .
You may say, I have tried to save this one and that one, and they have only wounded me, and I am not going to try to help them any more. But do not become discouraged if they do not at once return to the fold. Reach out still for your fellow mortals around you. You shall reap if you faint not.
Press together. Do not make little wedges of slight differences of opinion, and drive them in to separate heart from heart, but see how you can love one another even as Christ has loved you. See how you can forgive those who trespass against you, even as you want your Father in heaven to forgive your trespasses. Then you can be definite in your requests; you can be bold in Christ; for Christ presents your requests to God with the heavenly credentials which are His own righteousness, and you can believe that Christ does hear, believe that He does bless, and say, "I am His, and He is mine."
Chap. 173 - All Honour to the Peacemakers!
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matt. 5:9.
Peacemakers! What a treasure is a peacemaker in the family; what a blessing in the church! Peacemakers may be tempted, but their life is hid with Christ in God. They look unto Jesus, copying His pattern. . . . They receive the peace which Christ gives. . . .
The true nature of our religion is not found in the position we occupy, but in the gentle spirit, the kindness, the peace which we manifest. Our religion is made manifest in the home circle by the atmosphere surrounding the soul that brings happiness to the family....
True Christians will not ... speak in a cheap or fretting way. In the familiar circle of the home they will do services of love and Christian courtesy. These services may seem very commonplace, but the universe of heaven will be interested in the consistent walk of those who seek to benefit others. . . .
It is not only our privilege but our duty to cultivate gentleness, to have the peace of Christ in the heart and as peacemakers and followers of Christ to sow precious seed that will produce a harvest unto eternal life. Professed followers of Christ may possess many good and useful qualities; but their characters are greatly marred by an unkind, fretful, faultfinding, harshly judging temper. The husband or the wife who cherishes suspicion and distrust creates dissension and strife in the home. Neither of them should keep his gentle words and smiles for strangers alone, and manifest irritability in the home, thus driving out peace and contentment....
It is practical Christlikeness alone that can make one a peacemaker in the home, in the church, in the neighbourhood, and in the world. Home religion is practical sanctification.... The true quality of religion is gauged by the manner in which each member in the family does his duty to his associates. . . . Learn the precious lesson of being peacemakers in your home life.
Chap. 174 - No Caste with God
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. James 2:1.
The wrongs existing in the society of the world should never, never find sanction among Christians. . . . God demands that you open your hand wide to the needy, and have the tenderest compassion for those who are afflicted, or who are suffering from want. . . .
If you have the spirit of Christ, you will love as brethren; you will honour the humble disciple in his poor home, because God loves him as much as He loves you, and it may be more. He recognizes no caste. He places His own signet upon men, not by their rank, not by their wealth, not by intellectual greatness, but by their oneness with Christ. It is purity of heart, singleness of purpose, that constitutes the true value of human beings.... All who are living in daily communion with Christ, will place His estimate upon men. They will reverence the good and pure, although these are poor in this world's goods. . . . Avarice, selfishness, and covetousness are idolatry, and are dishonouring to God. . . . Tenderness, compassion, and benevolence are enjoined upon Christians.
We should study to copy the Pattern, that the Spirit that dwelt in Christ may dwell in us. The Saviour was not found among the exalted and honourable of the world. He did not spend His time among those who were seeking their ease and pleasure. He went about doing good. His work was to help those who needed help, to save the lost and perishing, to lift up the bowed down, to break the yoke of oppression from those who were in bondage, to heal the afflicted, and to speak words of sympathy and consolation to the distressed and sorrowing. We are required to copy this pattern. Let us be up and doing, seeking to bless the needy and comfort the distressed. The more we partake of the spirit of Christ, the more we shall see to do for our fellow men. We shall be filled with a love for perishing souls, and shall find our delight in following the footsteps of the Majesty of heaven.
Chap. 175 - Root Out the Poisonous Plants
Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.
How close and tender should be the tie that binds us together! How careful we should be to have our words and actions in harmony with the sacred truths that God has committed to us! . . .
Let your conversation be of such a nature that you will have no need to repent of it. . . . If a word is dropped that is detrimental to the character of a friend or brother, never encourage this evilspeaking; for it is the work of the enemy. Remind the speaker that God's Word forbids this kind of conversation. . . . The Redeemer has told us how we may reveal Him to the world. If we cherish His spirit, if we manifest His love toward others, if we guard one another's interests, if we are kind, patient, forbearing, the fruits we bear will give evidence to the world that we are God's children. . . . To build up one another in the most holy faith is a blessed work; to tear down is a work full of bitterness and sorrow. . . .
We should seek to lighten one another's burdens by manifesting the love of Jesus to those around us. If our conversation were upon heaven and heavenly things, evilspeaking would soon cease to have any attraction for us. We would not then be placing our feet upon dangerous ground; nor would we enter into temptation, falling under the power of the evil one.
Instead of finding fault with others, let us be critical with ourselves. Every one should inquire, Is my heart right before God? Am I glorifying my heavenly Father? If you have cherished a wrong spirit, banish it from the soul. Eradicate from your heart everything that is of a defiling nature. Pluck up every root of bitterness, lest others be contaminated by the baleful influence. Do not allow one poisonous plant to remain in the soil of your heart. Root it out this very hour, and cultivate in its stead the plant of love. Let Jesus be enshrined in the soul-temple. . . . "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:12.
Chap. 176 - Helping One Another
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Gal. 6:10.
In the Lord's plan human beings have been made necessary to one another. If all would do their utmost to help those who need their help, their unselfish sympathy and love, what a blessed work might be done. To every one God has entrusted talents. These talents we are to use to help one another to walk in the narrow path. In this work each one is connected with the other, and all are united with Christ. It is by unselfish service that we improve and increase our talents.
The members of the church of God on this earth are as the different parts of a machine, all closely related to one another, and all closely related to and dependent on one great centre. There is to be unity in diversity. No member of the Lord's firm can work successfully in independence, detached from the others. . . . All are to use their entrusted capabilities in His service, that each may minister to the perfection of the whole. Each is to work under the supervision of God.
By Christ's wonderful union of divinity with humanity, we are assured that even in this world we may be partakers of the divine nature. . . . Christ has pledged Himself to cooperate with those to whom He has entrusted talents. He has pledged Himself to train us to be His co-labourers. He will help us to follow His example, doing good and refusing to do evil. We are to be consecrated channels through whom the love of Christ flows to those in need of help. . . .
Christ sends His light to those who keep the windows of the soul open heavenward. Under the Holy Spirit's influence, they work the works of God. He who approaches nearest to obedience to the divine law will be of the most service to God. He who follows Christ, reaching out after His goodness, His compassion, His love for the human family, will be accepted by God as a worker together with Him. Such a one will not be content to remain on a low level of spirituality. He will constantly reach higher and higher.
Chap. 177 - The Grace of Sympathy
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Rom. 15:1.
What we all need is a more pure, Christlike sympathy; not sympathy for those who are perfect--they do not need it--but sympathy for poor, suffering, struggling souls who are often overtaken in fault, sinning and repenting, tempted and discouraged. The effect of grace is to soften and subdue the soul. Then all this cold unapproachableness is melted, subdued, and Christ appears.
The love of God alone can open and expand the heart, and give to love and sympathy a breadth and height that is without measure. Those who love Jesus will love all the children of God. The sense of personal infirmities and imperfections will lead the human agent to look away from self to Christ; and the Saviour's love will break down every cold, Pharisaical barrier, it will banish all harshness and selfishness, and there will be a blending of soul with soul, even with those who are opposite in temperament.
The goodness and forbearance of God, His self-sacrificing love to sinful men, must lead all who discern His grace to manifest the same, to give sympathy liberally to others. The wonderful example of the life of Christ, the matchless tenderness with which He entered into the feelings of the oppressed soul, weeping with those that wept, rejoicing with all that rejoiced in His love, must have a deep influence upon the character of all who love God and keep His commandments.
They will give sympathy, not grudgingly but liberally; by kindly words and acts they will try to make the path just as easy for weary feet as they desire the path to be made for their feet. As we receive daily and hourly the blessing of God, we can do no less to show our gratitude than to have a kindly, unselfish interest in those for whom Christ has died. Have we blessings? Yes, we have. Well, Christ says, Pass them along to others, not to a favoured few, but to all with whom we come in contact. We must give grace for grace.
Chap. 178 - "Who is My Neighbour?"
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. Rom. 12:10.
A Christian life will be revealed by Christian thoughts, Christian words, and Christian deportment. In Christ there is a divine completeness of character. In Christ we will work the works of Christ. We shall in Christ sense our binding, far-reaching obligations to God and to our fellow man. . . . There are many cords which unite us to our fellow men, to humanity, and to God, and this relationship is solemn with its weight of responsibility.
As long as we are in this world, we must be linked one with another. Humanity is interlaced and interwoven with humanity. As Christians we are members one of another. . . . The Lord designs us as His sons and daughters, whom He calls His friends, to help one another. This is to be a part of our practical Christian work.
"Who is my neighbour?" . . . He is the very one who needs help the most. Thy brother, sick in spirit, needs you as you needed him. He needs the experience of one who has been as weak as himself, who can sympathize with and help him. The very knowledge of his own weakness helps that one to help another in his weakness.
Let it not be that the sympathetic cords, which should be quick to vibrate at the least touch, shall be cold as steel, frozen, as it were, and unable to help where help is needed.
Seek to help, to strengthen, to bless those with whom you are associated. The Lord will be merciful to those who are merciful. The Lord will be tender and pitiful to those who exercise tenderness and compassion and pity for others. We must realise that we are in Christ's school, not to learn how we may esteem ourselves, how we shall conduct ourselves so as to receive honour of men, but how we may cherish the meekness of Christ. Self and selfishness will be ever striving for the mastery. It is a fight we must have with ourselves, that self shall not have the victory. Through Christ you may triumph; through Christ you may conquer.
Chap. 179 - In the Footsteps of Jesus
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Heb. 12:12, 13.
The efficiency of Satan's kingdom is found in the blending together of satanic forces to extend the contagion of evil; but the Lord Jesus has devised a plan whereby He may work counter to the work of Satan. He designs to imbue His human agents, the subjects of His kingdom, with the principles of love and unity. With sanctified heart they are to build one another up and strengthen and extend that which is good. Reciprocating Christ's love, they are to deal in the goods of heaven. His church is to bear His superscription, and thus testify to the world that God has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. . . . Love is to be interwoven as threads of gold in all their actions.
Every Christian who is happy in the Lord will work zealously to bring the same happiness into the heart and life of one who is in need and affliction. Followers of Christ will produce their own happiness in the hearts of others by performing Christlike works. They will diffuse an atmosphere which is pure, peaceful, and Christlike. They will act out heavenly attributes, and will produce fruit after the heavenly kind and quality. That which they sow they shall also reap.
It is essential that every soul that names the name of Christ should make straight paths for his feet. Why? Lest the lame be turned out of the way. It is a terrible, terrible thing to give a soul a wrong example, and to lead him in a crooked course by the way in which you may walk. . . . Whatever you may see others doing that your judgement convicts you as being unseemly for a Christian, see to it that you never do the same things yourself. . . . Just as long as you will follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you will walk securely. . . .
We must look on the faults of others not to condemn, but to restore and heal. Watch unto prayer, go forward and upward, catching more and more of the spirit of Jesus, and sowing the same beside all waters.
Chap. 180 - Joy in Humble Service
Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Acts 9:6.
It matters not what our position may be or how limited our capacities, we have a work to do for the Master. Our graces are developed and matured by exercise. With the truth of God burning in the soul we cannot be idle. The happiness we shall experience in doing will compensate even in this life for every effort. Those only who have experienced happiness resulting from self-denying effort in the service of Christ can speak of the matter understandingly. It is indeed joy so pure, so deep, that language cannot express it.
". . . Through life's transient day
There is a special work marked out for you;
It may be of the lowliest kind, it may
Be such as shall the loftiest powers display.
But none besides yourself your work can do.
'What wilt Thou have me do?' With single eye
To your Redeemer's glory, work for Him;
Illumined every moment from on high,
Strive in each action God to glorify,
Nor let one thought of self life's radiance dim." . . .
We may have Christ with us while engaged in our daily avocations. Wherever we are, in whatever we are engaged, we may be indeed elevated because we are united to Christ. We may take up our humble life duties ennobled by and sanctified through the assurance of the love of God. Working from principle in the humblest calling invests it with dignity. The consciousness that we are indeed the servants of Christ will give a higher tone of character to our everyday duties--ever cheerful, patient, forbearing, and gentle. . . .
If you are seen to be firm in principle, fearless in duty, zealous in seeking to exemplify Christ in your daily work, yet humble, lowly, gentle and tender, patient and forgiving, ready to suffer and to forgive injuries, you will be a living epistle known and read of all men.
Chap. 181 - The Precious Treasure of Time
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Rom. 13:12.
If we would at last share the reward of the righteous, we must wisely improve the time of our probation. Moments are more precious than gold. . . .
The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. We have but a little time in which to make ready. If precious opportunities are slighted, it will result in eternal loss. We need a close connection with God. We are not safe a moment unless guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit. . . .
The months . . . are swiftly passing. Soon this year, with its burden of records, will be numbered with the past. Let the precious months remaining be devoted to earnest soul labour for our Master. Could we behold a faithful record of the manner in which we have spent the months already past, would the view be satisfactory? Deduct every action which would benefit no one, . . . and how little remains of willing service, performed for the glory of God! Is not the record alarming? How many precious hours have been squandered in selfish gratification! How often, to please ourselves, have we neglected opportunities to work for Christ! . . .
Life, with its marvellous privileges and opportunities, will soon be ended. The time for improvement in character will be past. Unless our sins are now repented of, and blotted out by the blood of the Lamb, they will stand in the ledger of heaven to confront us in the coming day. . . .
Life is short. The things of the world must perish with the using. Let us be wise, and build for eternity. We cannot afford to idle away our precious moments, or engage in busy activities that will bring forth no fruit for eternity. Let the time hitherto devoted to idleness, frivolity, worldliness, be spent in gaining a knowledge of the Scriptures, in beautifying our life, and blessing and ennobling the life and character of others. This work will meet the approval of God, and win for us the heavenly benediction of "Well done."