Evening, May 19th

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”— 1 Kings 19:4

It was a remarkable thing that the man who was never to die, for whom God had ordained an infinitely better lot, the man who should be carried to heaven in a chariot of fire, and be translated, that he should not see death–should thus pray, “Let me die, I am no better than my fathers.”

We have here a memorable proof that God does not always answer prayer in kind, though he always does in effect. He gave Elias something better than that which he asked for, and thus really heard and answered him.

Strange was it that the lion-hearted Elijah should be so depressed by Jezebel’s threat as to ask to die, and blessedly kind was it on the part of our heavenly Father that he did not take his desponding servant at his word.

There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss.

If we ask for that which is not promised–if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate–if we ask contrary to his will, or to the decrees of his providence–if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to his glory, we must not expect that we shall receive.

Yet, when we ask in faith, nothing doubting, if we receive not the precise thing asked for, we shall receive an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for it. As one remarks, “If the Lord does not pay in silver, he will in gold; and if he does not pay in gold, he will in diamonds.”

If he does not give you precisely what you ask for, he will give you that which is tantamount to it, and that which you will greatly rejoice to receive in lieu thereof. Be then, dear reader, much in prayer, and make this evening a season of earnest intercession, but take heed what you ask.

Morning, May 19th

“I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.”— Ecclesiastes 10:7

Upstarts frequently usurp the highest places, while the truly great pine in obscurity. This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright; but it is so common a fact, that none of us should murmur if it should fall to our own lot.

When our Lord was upon earth, although he is the Prince of the kings of the earth, yet he walked the footpath of weariness and service as the Servant of servants: what wonder is it if his followers, who are princes of the blood, should also be looked down upon as inferior and contemptible persons?

The world is upside down, and therefore, the first are last and the last first. See how the servile sons of Satan lord it in the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they lift up their horn on high!

Haman is in the court, while Mordecai sits in the gate; David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state; Elijah is complaining in the cave while Jezebel is boasting in the palace; yet who would wish to take the places of the proud rebels? and who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints?

When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.

Let us not fall into the error of letting our passions and carnal appetites ride in triumph, while our nobler powers walk in the dust. Grace must reign as a prince, and make the members of the body instruments of righteousness.

The Holy Spirit loves order, and he therefore sets our powers and faculties in due rank and place, giving the highest room to those spiritual faculties which link us with the great King; let us not disturb the divine arrangement, but ask for grace that we may keep under our body and bring it into subjection.

We were not new created to allow our passions to rule over us, but that we, as kings, may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of spirit, soul, and body, to the glory of God the Father.

Evening, May 18th

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. ”— Hebrews 12:11

How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. No calm more deep than that which succeeds a storm.

Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers.

After killing the lion we eat the honey; after climbing the Hill Difficulty, we sit down in the arbour to rest; after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life.

Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them “afterwards.” It is peace, sweet, deep peace, which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls.

See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are “afterward” good things, harsh ploughings yielding joyful harvests.

Even now he grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied; if, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life, what shall be the full vintage of joy “afterwards” in heaven?

If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days, what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun, what must his sunlight be?

If he can sing in a dungeon, how sweetly will he sing in heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires, how will he extol him before the eternal throne! If evil be good to him now, what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then?

Oh, blessed “afterward!” Who would not be a Christian? Who would not bear the present cross for the crown which cometh afterwards? But herein is work for patience, for the rest is not for today, nor the triumph for the present, but “afterward.”

Wait, O soul, and let patience have her perfect work.

Morning, May 18th

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”— Colossians 2:9, 10

All the attributes of Christ, as God and man, are at our disposal. All the fulness of the Godhead, whatever that marvellous term may comprehend, is ours to make us complete.

He cannot endow us with the attributes of Deity; but he has done all that can be done, for he has made even his divine power and Godhead subservient to our salvation. His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability and infallibility, are all combined for our defence.

Arise, believer, and behold the Lord Jesus yoking the whole of his divine Godhead to the chariot of salvation! How vast his grace, how firm his faithfulness, how unswerving his immutability, how infinite his power, how limitless his knowledge!

All these are by the Lord Jesus made the pillars of the temple of salvation; and all, without diminution of their infinity, are covenanted to us as our perpetual inheritance. The fathomless love of the Saviour’s heart is every drop of it ours; every sinew in the arm of might, every jewel in the crown of majesty, the immensity of divine knowledge, and the sternness of divine justice, all are ours, and shall be employed for us.

The whole of Christ, in his adorable character as the Son of God, is by himself made over to us most richly to enjoy. His wisdom is our direction, his knowledge our instruction, his power our protection, his justice our surety, his love our comfort, his mercy our solace, and his immutability our trust.

He makes no reserve, but opens the recesses of the Mount of God and bids us dig in its mines for the hidden treasures.

“All, all, all are yours,” saith he, “be ye satisfied with favour and full of the goodness of the Lord.” Oh! how sweet thus to behold Jesus, and to call upon him with the certain confidence that in seeking the interposition of his love or power, we are but asking for that which he has already faithfully promised.

Evening, May 17th

“Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”— Isaiah 41:9

If we have received the grace of God in our hearts, its practical effect has been to make us God’s servants. We may be unfaithful servants, we certainly are unprofitable ones, but yet, blessed be his name, we are his servants, wearing his livery, feeding at his table, and obeying his commands.

We were once the servants of sin, but he who made us free has now taken us into his family and taught us obedience to his will. We do not serve our Master perfectly, but we would if we could.

As we hear God’s voice saying unto us, “Thou art my servant,” we can answer with David, “I am thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds.” But the Lord calls us not only his servants, but his chosen ones–“I have chosen thee.”

We have not chosen him first, but he hath chosen us. If we be God’s servants, we were not always so; to sovereign grace the change must be ascribed. The eye of sovereignty singled us out, and the voice of unchanging grace declared, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”

Long ere time began or space was created God had written upon his heart the names of his elect people, had predestinated them to be conformed unto the image of his Son, and ordained them heirs of all the fulness of his love, his grace, and his glory.

What comfort is here! Has the Lord loved us so long, and will he yet cast us away? He knew how stiffnecked we should be; he understood that our hearts were evil, and yet he made the choice.

Ah! our Saviour is no fickle lover. He doth not feel enchanted for awhile with some gleams of beauty from his church’s eye, and then afterwards cast her off because of her unfaithfulness. Nay, he married her in old eternity; and it is written of Jehovah, “He hateth putting away.”

The eternal choice is a bond upon our gratitude and upon his faithfulness which neither can disown.

Morning, May 17th

“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”— 1 John 2:6

Why should Christians imitate Christ? They should do it for their own sakes. If they desire to be in a healthy state of soul–if they would escape the sickness of sin, and enjoy the vigour of growing grace, let Jesus be their model.

For their own happiness’ sake, if they would drink wine on the lees, well refined; if they would enjoy holy and happy communion with Jesus; if they would be lifted up above the cares and troubles of this world, let them walk even as he walked.

There is nothing which can so assist you to walk towards heaven with good speed, as wearing the image of Jesus on your heart to rule all its motions. It is when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to walk with Jesus in his very footsteps, that you are most happy, and most known to be the sons of God.

Peter afar off is both unsafe and uneasy. Next, for religion’s sake, strive to be like Jesus.

Ah! poor religion, thou hast been sorely shot at by cruel foes, but thou hast not been wounded one-half so dangerously by thy foes as by thy friends. Who made those wounds in the fair hand of Godliness?

The professor who used the dagger of hypocrisy. The man who with pretences, enters the fold, being nought but a wolf in sheep’s clothing, worries the flock more than the lion outside.

There is no weapon half so deadly as a Judas-kiss. Inconsistent professors injure the gospel more than the sneering critic or the infidel. But, especially for Christ’s own sake, imitate his example.

Christian, lovest thou thy Saviour? Is his name precious to thee? Is his cause dear to thee? Wouldst thou see the kingdoms of the world become his? Is it thy desire that he should be glorified?

Art thou longing that souls should be won to him? If so, imitate Jesus; be an “epistle of Christ, known and read of all men.”

Evening, May 16th

“And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.”— 2 Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing.

Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled.

The Lord has his own sovereign modes of action: he is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as he pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from him, and not to dictate to him.

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply–there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which thou art so willing to bestow.

Morning, May 16th

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”— 1 Timothy 6:17

Our Lord Jesus is ever giving, and does not for a solitary instant withdraw his hand. As long as there is a vessel of grace not yet full to the brim, the oil shall not be stayed.

He is a sun ever-shining; he is manna always falling round the camp; he is a rock in the desert, ever sending out streams of life from his smitten side; the rain of his grace is always dropping; the river of his bounty is ever-flowing, and the well-spring of his love is constantly overflowing.

As the King can never die, so his grace can never fail. Daily we pluck his fruit, and daily his branches bend down to our hand with a fresh store of mercy.

There are seven feast-days in his weeks, and as many as are the days, so many are the banquets in his years. Who has ever returned from his door unblessed? Who has ever risen from his table unsatisfied, or from his bosom un-emparadised?

His mercies are new every morning and fresh every evening. Who can know the number of his benefits, or recount the list of his bounties?

Every sand which drops from the glass of time is but the tardy follower of a myriad of mercies. The wings of our hours are covered with the silver of his kindness, and with the yellow gold of his affection.

The river of time bears from the mountains of eternity the golden sands of his favour. The countless stars are but as the standard bearers of a more innumerable host of blessings.

Who can count the dust of the benefits which he bestows on Jacob, or tell the number of the fourth part of his mercies towards Israel? How shall my soul extol him who daily loadeth us with benefits, and who crowneth us with loving-kindness?

O that my praise could be as ceaseless as his bounty! O miserable tongue, how canst thou be silent? Wake up, I pray thee, lest I call thee no more my glory, but my shame. “Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake right early.”

Evening, May 15th

“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”— Hebrews 12:23

Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs–the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the Holy Spirit.

At present, corruption yet remains even in the breasts of the regenerate–experience soon teaches us this. Within us are still lusts and evil imaginations.

But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which he has begun; and he shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ, but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing.

Can it be true that this poor sinful heart of mine is to become holy even as God is holy? Can it be that this spirit, which often cries, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death?” shall get rid of sin and death–that I shall have no evil things to vex my ears, and no unholy thoughts to disturb my peace?

Oh, happy hour! may it be hastened! When I cross the Jordan, the work of sanctification will be finished; but not till that moment shall I even claim perfection in myself. Then my spirit shall have its last baptism in the Holy Spirit’s fire.

Methinks I long to die to receive that last and final purification which shall usher me into heaven. Not an angel more pure than I shall be, for I shall be able to say, in a double sense, “I am clean,” through Jesus’ blood, and through the Spirit’s work.

Oh, how should we extol the power of the Holy Ghost in thus making us fit to stand before our Father in heaven! Yet let not the hope of perfection hereafter make us content with imperfection now.

If it does this, our hope cannot be genuine; for a good hope is a purifying thing, even now. The work of grace must be abiding in us now or it cannot be perfected then.

Let us pray to “be filled with the Spirit,” that we may bring forth increasingly the fruits of righteousness.

Morning, May 15th

“And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”— Acts 13:39

The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit by-and-by, but now.

So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it closes with Christ, and accepts him as its all in all. Are they who stand before the throne of God justified now?–so are we, as truly and as clearly justified as they who walk in white and sing melodious praises to celestial harps.

The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was the thief with no service at all. We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today acquitted at the bar of God.

Oh! soul-transporting thought! There are some clusters of Eshcol’s vine which we shall not be able to gather till we enter heaven; but this is a bough which runneth over the wall. This is not as the corn of the land, which we can never eat till we cross the Jordan; but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, a portion of our daily nutriment with which God supplies us in our journeying to and fro.

We are now–even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of his people. Who dareth to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth.

Let present privilege awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus.

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