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Pictures of Life PDF

By C. H. Spurgeon

What is your life?” James 4:14

It well behoves me, now that another year of my existence has almost gone, standing on the threshold of a fresh era, to consider what I am, where I am going, what I am doing, whom I am serving, and what shall he my reward.  I will not, however, do so publicly before you; I hope that I may be enabled to perform that duty in secret; but rather let me turn this occurrence to another account by speaking to you of the frailty of human life, the fleeting nature of time, how swiftly it passes away, how soon we all shall fade as a leaf, and how speedily the place which knows us now shall know us no more for ever.

The apostle James asks, “What is your life?” and, thanks to inspiration, we are at no great difficulty to give the reply; for Scripture being the best interpreter of Scripture, supplies us with many very excellent answers.  I shall attempt to give you some of them.

I. First, we shall view life with regard to ITS SWIFTNESS.

It is a great fact that though life to the young man, when viewed in the prospect appears to be long, to the old man it is ever short, and to all men life is really but a brief period.  Human life is not long.  Compare it with the existence of some animals and trees, and how short is human life!  Compare it with the ages of the universe, and it becomes a span; and especially measure it by eternity, and how little does life appear!  It sinks like one small drop into the ocean, and becomes as insignificant as one tiny grain of sand upon the seashore.

Life is swift.  If you would picture life, you must, turn to the Bible, and this evening we will walk through the Bible-gallery of old paintings.  You will find its swiftness spoken of in the Book of Job, where we are furnished with three illustrations.  In the ninth chapter and at the twenty-fifth verse, we read, “Now my days are swifter than a post.”  We are most of us acquainted with the swiftness of post-conveyance.  I have sometimes, on an emergency, taken posthorses where there has been no railway, and have been amazed and pleased with the rapidity of my journey.  But since, in this ancient Book, there can be no allusion to modern posts, we must turn to the manners and customs of the East, and in so doing we find that the ancient monarchs astonished their subjects by the amazing rapidity with which they received intelligence.  By well-ordered arrangements, swift horses, and constant relays, they were able to attain a speed which, although trifling in these days, was in those slower ages a marvel of marvels; so that, to an Eastern, one of the clearest ideas of swiftness was that of “a post.”  Well doth Job say that our life is swifter than a post.  We ride one year until it is worn out, but there comes another just as swift, and we are borne by it, and soon it is gone, and another year serves us for a steed, post-house after post-house we pass, as birthdays successively arrive, we loiter not, but vaulting at a leap from one year to another, still we hurry onward, onward, ever onward.  My life is like a post: not like the slow wagon that drags along the road with tiresome wheels, but like a post, it attains the greatest speed.

Job further says, “My days are passed away as the swift ships.”  He increases, you see, the intensity of the metaphor; for if, in the Eastern’s idea anything could exceed the swiftness of the post, it was the swift ship.  Some translate this passage as “the ships of desire;” that is, the ships hurrying home, anxious for the haven, and therefore crowding, on all sail.

You may well conceive now swiftly the mariner flies from a threatening storm, or seeks the port where he will find his home.  You have sometimes seen how the ship cuts through the billows, leaving a white furrow behind her, and causing the sea to boil around her.  Such is life, says Job, “as the swift ships,” when the sails are filled by the wind, and the vessel dashes on, cleaving a passage through the crowding waves.  Swift are the ships, but swifter far is life.  The wind of time bears me along.  I cannot stop its motion, I may direct it with the rudder of God’s Holy Spirit; I may, it is true, take in some small sails of sin, which might hurry my days on faster than otherwise they would go; but, nevertheless, like a swift ship, my life must speed on its way until it reaches its haven.  Where is that haven to be?  Shall it be found in the land of bitterness and barrenness, that dreary region of the lost?  Or shall it be that sweet haven of eternal peace, where not a troubling wave can ruffle the quiescent glory of my spirit?  Wherever the haven is to be, that, truth is the same, we are “as the swift ships.”

Job also says that life is “as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.”  The eagle is a bird noted for its swiftness.  I remember reading an account of an eagle attacking a fish-hawk, which had obtained some booty from the deep, and was bearing it aloft.  The hawk dropped the fish, which fell towards the water; but before the fish had reached the ocean, the eagle had flown more swiftly shall the fish could fall, and catching it in its beak it flew away with it.  The swiftness of the eagle is almost incalculable; you see it, and it is gone; you see a dark speck in the sky yonder; it is an eagle soaring; let the fowler imagine that, by-and-by, he shall overtake it on some mountain’s craggy peak, it shall be gone long before he reaches it.  Such is our life. It is like an eagle hasting to its prey; not merely an eagle flying in its ordinary course, but an eagle hasting to its prey.  Life appears to be hasting to its end; death seeks the body as its prey; life is ever fleeing from insatiate death; but death is too swift to be out run, and as an eagle overtakes his prey, so shall death.

If we require a further illustration of the swiftness of life, we must turn to two other passages in the Book of Job, upon which I shall not dwell.  One, will be found in the seventh chapter, at the sixth verse, where Job says, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,” which the weaver throws, so quickly that the eye can hardly discern it.  But he gives us a yet more excellent metaphor in the seventh verse of the same chapter, where he says, “O remember that my life is wind.”  Now this excels in velocity all the other figures we have examined.  Who can out stride the winds? Proverbially, the winds are rapid; even in their gentlest motion they appear to be swift.  But when they rush in the tornado, or when they dash madly on in the hurricane, when the tempest blows, and tears down everything, how swift then is the wind!  Perhaps some of us may have a gentle gale of wind, and we may not seem to move so swiftly; but with others, who are only just born, and then snatched away to heaven, the swiftness may be compared to that of the hurricane, which soon snaps the ties of life, and leaves the infant dead.  Surely our life is like the wind.

Oh, if you could but catch these idea, my friends!  Though we may be sitting still in this chapel, yet you know that we are all really in motion.  This world is turning round on its axis once in four-and-twenty hours, and besides that, it is moving round the sun in the 365 days of the year.  So that we are all moving, we are all flitting along through space, and as we are traveling through space, so are we moving through time at an incalculable rate.

Oh, what an idea this is could we but grasp it!  We are all being carried along as if by a giant angel, with broad outstretched wings, which he flaps to the blast, and flying before the lightning, makes us ride on the winds.  The whole multitude of us are hurrying along, — whither, remains to be decided by the test of our faith and the grace of God; but certain it is that we are all traveling.  Do not think that you are stable, fixed in one position; fancy not that you are standing still; you are not.  Your pulses each moment beat the funeral marches to the tomb.  You are chained to the chariot of rolling time; there is no bridling the steeds, or leaping from the chariot; you must be constantly in motion.

Thus then, have I spoken of the swiftness of life.

II. But, next, I must speak concerning THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE, of which we have abundant illustrations.

Let us refer to that part of Scripture from, which I have chosen my text, the Epistle of James, the fourth chapter, at the fourteenth verse: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  If I were to ask for a child’s explanation of this, I know what he would say.  He would say, “Yes, it is even a vapor, like a bubble that is blown upward.”  Children sometimes blow bubbles, and amuse themselves thereby.  Life is even as that bubble.  You see it rising into the air; the child delights in seeing it fly about, but it is all gone in one moment.

“It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  But if you ask the poet to explain this, he would tell you that, in the morning, sometimes at early dawn, the rivers send up a steamy offering to the sun.  There is a vapor, a mist, an exhalation rising from the rivers and brooks, but in a very little while after the sun has risen all that mist has gone.  Hence we read of “the morning cloud, and the early dew that passeth away.”  A more common observer, speaking of a vapor, would think of those thin clouds you sometimes see floating in the air, which are so light that they are soon carried away. Indeed, a poet uses them as the picture of feebleness, —

“Their hosts are scatter’d, like thin clouds

Before a Biscay gale.”

The wind moves them, and they are gone.  “What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  So uncertain is life!

Again, if you read in the Book of Ecclesiastes, at the sixth chapter, and the twelfth verse, you will there find life compared to something else, even more fragile than a vapor. The wise man there says that it is even “as a shadow.”  Now, what can there be less  substantial than a shadow?  What substance is there in a shadow?  Who can lay hold of  it?  You may see a person’s shadow as he passes you, but the moment the person passes away his shadow is gone.  Yea, and who can grasp his life?  Many men reckon upon a long existence, and think they are going to live here for ever; but who can calculate upon a shadow? Go, thou foolish man, who sayest to thy soul, “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease! eat, drink, and be merry;” go thou, and store thy room, with shadows; go thou, and pile up shadows and say, “These are mine, and they shall never depart.”  But thou sayest, “I cannot catch a shadow.”  No, and thou canst not reckon on a year, or even a moment, for it is as a shadow, that soon melteth away, and is gone.

King Hezekiah also furnishes us with a simile, where he says that life is as a thread which is cut off.  You will find this in the prophecy of Isaiah, the thirty-eighth chapter, at the twelfth verse: “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life.”  The weaver cuts off his thread very easily, and so is life soon ended.

I might continue my illustrations at pleasure concerning the uncertainty of life.  We might find, perhaps, a score more figures in Scripture if we would search.  Take, for instance, the grass, the flowers of the field, etc.  But though life is swift, and though it is to pass away so speedily, we are still generally very anxious to know what it is to be, while we have it.  For we say, if we are to lose it soon, still, while we live, let us live; and whilst we are to be here, be it ever so short a time, let us know what we are to expect in it.

III. And that leads us, in the third place, to look at LIFE IN ITS CHANGES.

If you want pictures of the changes of life, turn to this wonderful Book of poetry, the Sacred Scriptures, and there you will find metaphors piled on metaphors.  And, first, you will find life compared to a pilgrimage by good old Jacob, in the forty-seventh chapter of Genesis, and the ninth verse.  That hoary-headed patriarch, when he was asked by Pharaoh what was his age, replied, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not obtained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”  He calls life, a pilgrimage.  A pilgrim sets out in the morning, and he has to journey many a day before he gets to the shrine which he, seeks.  What varied scenes the traveler will behold on his way!

Sometimes he will be on the mountains, anon he will descend into the valleys, here he will be where the brooks shine like silver, where the birds warble, where the air is balmy, and the trees are green, and luscious fruits hang down to gratify his taste, anon he will find himself in the arid desert, where no life is found, and no sound is heard, except the screech of the wild eagle in the air, where he finds no rest for the sole of his foot, — the burning sky above him, and the hot sand beneath him, — no roof-tree, and no house to rest himself; at another time he finds himself in a sweet oasis, resting himself by the wells of water, and plucking fruit from palm-trees.  At one time he walks between the rocks, in some narrow gorge, where all is darkness, at another time he ascends the hill Mizar; now he descends into the valley of Baca anon he climbs the hill of Bashan, and a high hill is the hill Bashan and yet again going into the mountains of leopards, he suffers trial and affliction.

Such is life, ever changing.  Who can tell what may come next?  Today it is fair, tomorrow there may be the blundering storm; today I may want for nothing, tomorrow I may be like Jacob, with nothing but a stone for my pillow, and the heavens for my curtains.  But what a happy thought it is, though we know not how the road winds, we know where it ends.  It is the straightest way to heaven to go round about. Israel’s forty years wanderings were, after all, the nearest path to Canaan.  We may have to go through trial and affliction; the pilgrimage may be a tiresome one, but it is safe; we cannot trace the river upon which we are sailing, but we know it ends in floods of bliss at last.  We cannot track the roads, but we know that they all meet in the great metropolis of heaven, in the center of God’s universe.  God help us to pursue the true pilgrimage of a pious life!

We have another picture of life in its changes given to us in the ninetieth Psalm, at the ninth verse: “We spend our years as a tale that is told.”  Now David understood about tales that were told; I daresay he had been annoyed by them sometimes, and amused by them at other times.  There are, in the past, professed story-tellers, who amused their hearers by inventing tales such as those in that foolish book the “Arabian Nights.”  When I was foolish enough to read that book, I remember sometimes you were with fairies, sometimes with genii, sometimes in palaces, anon you went, down into caverns.  All sorts of singular things are conglomerated into what they call a tale.

Now, says David, “we spend our years as a tale that is told.”  You know there is nothing so wonderful as the history of the odds and ends of human life.  Sometimes it is a merry rhyme, sometimes a prosy subject; sometimes you ascend to the sublime, soon you descend to the ridiculous.  No man can write the whole of his own biography, I suppose, if the complete history of a man’s thoughts and words could be written, the world itself would hardly contain the record, so wonderful is the tale that might be told.  Our lives are all singular, and must to ourselves seem strange; of which much might be said.  Our life is “as a tale that is told.”

Another idea we get from the thirty-eighth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, at the twelfth verse: “I am removed as a shepherd’s tent.”  The shepherds in the East build temporary huts near the sheep, which are soon removed when the flock moves on; when the hot season comes on, they pitch their tents in the most favorable place they can find, and each season has its suitable position.  My life is like a shepherd’s tent.  I have pitched my tent in a variety of places already; but where I shall pitch it by-and-by, I do not know, I cannot tell.  Present probabilities seem to say that —

“Here I shall make my settled rest,

And neither go nor come:

No more a stranger or a guest,

But like a child at home.”

But I cannot tell, and you cannot divine.  I know that my tent cannot be removed till God says, “Go forward;” and it cannot stand firm unless he makes it so.

“All my ways shall ever be

Order’d by his wise decree.”

You have been opening a new shop lately, and you are thinking of settling down in trade, and managing a thriving concern; now paint not the future too brightly, do not be too sure as to what is in store for you.  Another has for a long time been engaged in an old establishment; your father always carried on trade there, and you have no thought of moving; but here you have no abiding city; your life is like a shepherd’s tent; you may be here, there, and almost everywhere before you die.  It was once said by Solan, “No man ought to be called a happy man till he dies,” because he does not know what his life is to be; but Christians may always call themselves happy men here, because, wherever their tent is carried, they cannot pitch it where the cloud does not move, and where they are not surrounded by a circle of fire.  God will be a wall of fire round about them, and their glory in the midst.  They cannot dwell where God is not the bulwark of their salvation.

If any of you who are God’s people are going to change your condition, are going to move out of one situation into another, to take a new business, or remove to another county, you need not fear, God was with you in the last place, and he will be with you in this.  He hath said, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.”  That is an oft-told story of Caesar in a storm.  The sailors were all afraid; but he exclaimed, “Fear not! thou carriest Caesar and all his fortunes.”  So is it with the poor Christian.  There is a storm coming on, but fear not, thou art carrying Jesus, and thou must sink or swim with him.  Well may any true believer say, “Lord, if thou art with me, it matters not where my tent is.  All must be well, though my life is removed like a shepherd’s tent.”

Again, our life is compared in the Psalms to a dream.  Now, if a tale is singular, surely a dream, is still more so.  If a tale is changing and shifting, what is a dream?  As for dreams, those flutterings of the benighted fancy, those revelries of the imagination, who can tell what they consist of?  We dream of everything in the world, and a few things more!  If we were asked to tell our dreams, it would be impossible for us to do so.  You dream that you are at a feast; and lo! the viands change into Pegasus, and you are riding through the air; or, again, suddenly transformed into a morsel for a monster’s meal.  Such is life.  The changes occur as suddenly as they happen in a dream.  Men have been rich one day, and they have been beggars the next.  We have witnessed the exile of monarchs, and the flight of a potentate; or, in, another direction, we have seen a man, neither reputable in company nor honorable in station, at a single stride exalted to a throne; and you, who would have shunned him in the streets before, were foolish enough to throng your thoroughfares to stare at him.  Ah! such is life. Leaves of the Sibyl were not more easily moved by the winds, nor are dreams more variable.  “Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”  How foolish are those men who wish to pry into the future!  The telescope is ready, and they are going to look through it, but they are so anxious to see, that they breathe on the glass with their hot breath, and they dim it, so that they can discern nothing but clouds and darkness.  Oh, ye who are always conjuring up black fiends from the deep unknown, and foolishly vexing your minds with fancies, turn your fancies out of doors, and begin to rest on never-failing promises!  Promises are better than forebodings.  “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

Thus I have spoken of the changes of this mortal life.

IV. And now, to close, let me ask, WHAT IS TO BE THE END OF THIS LIFE?

We read in the second Book of Samuel, chapter 14, and verse 14, “We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.”  Man is like a great icicle, which the sun of time is continually thawing, and which is soon to be as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.  Who can recall the departed spirit, or inflate the lungs with a new breath of life?  Who can put vitality into the heart, and restore the soul from Hades?  None.  It cannot be gathered up again; the place that once knew it shall know it no more for ever.

But here a sweet thought charms us.  This water cannot be lost, but it shall descend into the soil to filter through, the Rock of ages, at last to spring up a pure fountain in heaven, cleansed, purified, and made clear as crystal.

How terrible if, on the other hand, it should percolate through the black earth of sin, and hang in horrid drops in the dark caverns of destruction!  Such is life!  Then, make the best use of it, my friends, because it is fleeting.  Look for another life, because this life is not a very desirable one, it is so changeable.  Trust your life in God’s hand, because you cannot control its movements, rest in his arms, and rely on his might; for he is able to do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think; and unto his name be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

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A More Extensive Use of the Word by Jacob Spener

Thought should be given to the more extensive use of the Word of God among us. We know that by nature we have no good in us. If there is to be any good in us, it must be brought about by God. To this end the Word of God is the powerful means, since faith must be rekindled through the gospel, and the law provides the rules for good works and many wonderful impulses to attain them. The more at home the Word of God is among us, the more we shall bring about faith and its fruits.

It may appear that the Word of God has sufficiently free course among us inasmuch as at various places (as in this city [Frankfurt am Main]) there is daily or frequent preaching from the pulpit. When we reflect further on the matter, however, we shall find that with respect to this first proposal, more is needed. I do not at all disapprove of the preaching of sermons in which a Christian congregation is instructed by the reading and exposition of a certain text, for I myself do this. But I find that this is not enough. In the first place, we know that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Accordingly all Scripture, without exception, should be known by the congregation if we are all to receive the necessary benefit. If we put together all the passages of the Bible which in the course of many years are read to a congregation in one place, they will comprise only very small part of the Scriptures which have been given to us. The remainder is not heard by the congregation at all, or is heard only insofar as one or another verse is quoted or alluded to in sermons, without, however, offering any understanding of the entire context, which is nevertheless of the greatest importance. In the second place, the people have little opportunity to grasp the meaning of the Scripture except on the basis of those passages which may have been expounded to them, and even less do they have opportunity to become as practiced in them as edification requires. Meanwhile, although solitary reading of the Bible at home is in itself a splendid and praiseworthy thing, it does not accomplish enough for most people.

It should therefore be considered whether the church would not be well advised to introduce the people to Scripture in still other ways than through the customary sermons on the appointed lessons. This might be done, first of all, by diligent reading of the Holy Scriptures, especially of the New Testament. It would not be difficult for every housefather to keep a Bible or at least a New Testament handy and read from it every day or, if they cannot read to have somebody else read.

Then a second thing would be desirable in order to encourage people to read privately, namely, that where the practice can be introduced the books of the Bible be read one after another, at specified times in the public service, without further comment (unless one wished to add brief summaries). This would be intended for the edification of all, but especially of those that cannot read at all, or cannot read easily or well or of those who do not own a copy of the Bible.

For a third thing it would perhaps not be inexpedient (and I set this down for further and more mature reflection) to reintroduce the ancient and apostolic kind of church meetings. In addition our customary services with preaching, other assemblies would also be held in the manner in which Paul describes them in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. One person would not rise to preach (although this practice would be continued at other times), but others who have been blessed with gifts and knowledge would also speak and present their pious opinions on the proposed subject to the judgment of the rest, doing all this in such a way as to avoid disorder and strife. This might conveniently be done by having several ministers (in places where a number of them live in a town) meet together or by having several members of a congregation who have a fair knowledge of God or desire to increase their knowledge me under the leadership of the Minister, take up the Holy Scriptures, read aloud from them, and fraternally discuss each verse in order to discover its simple meaning and whatever may be useful for the edification of all.  Anybody who is not satisfied with his understanding of a matter should be permitted to express his doubts and seek further explanation.  On the other hand, those (including the ministers) who have made more progress should be allowed the freedom to state how they understand each passage.  Then all that has been contributed, insofar as it accords with a sense of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, should be carefully considered by the rest, especially by the ordained ministers, and applied to the edification of the whole meeting.  Everything should be arranged with an eye to the glory of God, to the spiritual growth of the participants, and therefore also to their limitations.  Any threat of meddlesomeness, quarrelsomeness, self-seeking, or something else of this sort should be guarded against and tactfully cut off especially by the preachers who retain leadership in these meetings.

Not a little benefit is to be hope for from such an arrangement.  Preachers would learn to know the members of their own congregations and their weaknesses or growth in doctrine and piety, and a bond of confidence would be established between preachers and people which would serve the best interests of both.  At the same time, the people would have a splendid opportunity to exercise your diligence with respect to the word of God and modestly to answer their questions (which they do not always have the courage to discuss with their minister in private) and get answers to them.  In a short time, they would experience personal growth and would also be capable of giving better religious instruction to their children and servants at home.  In the absence of such exercises, sermons which are delivered in continually flowing speech are not always fully and adequately comprehended because there’s no time for reflection in between or because when one does stop reflect, much of what follows is missed (which does not happen in a discussion).  On the other hand, private reading the Bible, reading in the household, where nobody is present who may from time to time help point out the meaning and purpose of each verse, cannot provide the reader with sufficient explanation of all that he would like to know.  What is lacking in both of these instances (in public preaching and private reading) would be supplied by the proposed exercises.  It would not be a great burden either to the preachers or to the people, and much would be done to fulfill  the admonition of Paul in Colossians 3:16, “ let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach in an honest one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spirituals songs.  “ In fact, such songs may be used in the proposed meetings for the praise of God and the inspiration of the participants.

This much is certain: The diligent use of the word of God, which consists not only a listening to sermons, but also reading, meditating, and discussing (Psalm 1:2 ), must be the chief means for reforming something, whether this occurs in the proposed fashion or in some other appropriate way.  The word of God remains the seed from which all that is good in us must grow.  If we succeed in getting the people to seek eagerly and diligently in the Book of life for their joy, their spiritual life will be wonderfully strengthened and they will become altogether different people….

One of the principal wrongs by which papal politics became entrenched, the people were kept in ignorance, and hence complete control of their consciences was maintained was that the papacy prohibited, and insofar as possible continues to prohibit, the reading of the Holy Scriptures.  On the other hand, it was one of the major purposes of the Reformation to restore to the people the Word of God which had lain a hidden under the bench (and this word was the most powerful means by which God blessed his work).  So this will be the principal means, now that the church must be put in better condition, whereby the aversion to scripture which many have may be overcome, neglect of the study be counteracted, and ardent zeal for it awakened.

From Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, edited and translated by Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964).

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Piercing Preaching by C. H. Spurgeon

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”-Acts 2:36, 37

This was the first public preaching of the gospel after our Lord was taken up into glory.  It was thus a very memorable sermon, a kind of first-fruits of the great harvest of gospel testimony.  It is very encouraging to those who are engaged in preaching that the first sermon should have been so successful.  Three thousand made up a grand take of fish at that first cast of the net.  We are serving a great and growing cause in the way chosen of God, and we hope in the future to see still larger results produced by that same undying and unchanging power which helped Peter to preach such a heart-piercing sermon.

Peter’s discourse was not distinguished by any special rhetorical display: he used not the words of man’s wisdom or eloquence.  It was not an oration, but it was a heart-moving argument, entreaty, and exhortation.  He gave his hearers a simple, well-reasoned, Scriptural discourse, sustained by the facts of experience; and every passage of it pointed to the Lord Jesus.  It was in these respects a model of what a sermon ought to be as to its contents.  His plea was personally addressed to the people who stood before him, and it had a practical and pressing relation to them and to their conduct.  It was aimed, not at the head, but at the heart.  Every word of it was directed to the conscience and the affections.  It was plain, practical, personal, and persuasive; and in this it was a model of what a sermon ought to be as to its aim and style.

Yet Peter could not have spoken otherwise under the impression of the divine Spirit: his speech was as the oracles of God, a true product of a divine inspiration. Under the circumstances, any other kind of address would have been sadly out of place.  A flashy, dazzling oration would have been a piece of horrible irreverence to the Holy Ghost; and Peter would have been guilty of the blood of souls if he had attempted it.  In sober earnestness, he kept to the plain facts of the case, setting them in the light of God’s Word; and then with all his might he pressed home the truth upon those for whose salvation he was laboring.  May it ever be the preacher’s one desire to win men to repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!  May no minister wish to be admired, but may he long that his Lord and Master may be sought after! May none bewilder their people with the clouds of theoretic philosophy, but refresh them with the rain of revealed truth!  Oh, that we could so preach that our hearers should be at once pricked in their hearts, and so be led at once to believe in our Lord Jesus, and immediately to come forward and confess their faith in his name!

We must not forget, however, to trace the special success of the sermon on the day of Pentecost to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in which Peter had shared.  This it is which is the making of the preacher.  Immersed into the Holy Spirit, the preacher will think rightly, and speak wisely; his word will be with power to those who hear.  We must not forget, also, that there had been a long season of earnest, united, believing prayer on the part of the whole church.  Peter was not alone: he was the voice of a praying company, and the believers had been with one accord in one place crying for a blessing; and thus not only was the Spirit resting upon the preacher, but on all who were with him.  What a difference this makes to a preacher of the gospel, when all his comrades are as much anointed of the Spirit as himself!  His power is enhanced a hundred-fold.  We shall seldom see the very greatest wonders wrought when the preacher stands by himself; but when Peter is described as standing up “with the eleven,” then is there a twelve-man ministry concentrated in one; and when the inner circle is further sustained by a company of men and women who have entered into the same truth and are of one heart and one soul, then is the power increased beyond measure.  A lonely ministry may sometimes affect great things, as Jonah did in Nineveh; but if we look for the greatest and most desirable result of all, it must come from one who is not alone, but is the mouthpiece of many.  Peter had the one hundred and twenty registered brethren for a loving bodyguard, and this tended to make him strong for his Lord.  How greatly I value the loving co-operation of the friends around me!  I have no words to express my gratitude to God for the army of true men and women who surround me with their love, and support me with their faith.  I pray you never cease to sustain me by your prayers, your sympathy, and your co-operation, until some other preacher shall take my place when increasing years shall warn me to stand aside.

Yet much responsibility must rest with the preacher himself; and there was much about Peter’s own self that is well worthy of imitation.  The sermon was born of the occasion, and it used the event of the hour as God intended it to be used.  It was earnest without a trace of passion, and prudent without a suspicion of fear.  The preacher himself was self-collected, calm, courteous, and gentle.  He aired no theories, but went on firm ground, stepping from fact to fact, from Scripture to Scripture, from plain truth to plain truth.  He was patient at the beginning, argumentative all along, and conclusive at the end.  He fought his way through the doubts and prejudices of his hearers; and when he came to the end, he stated the inevitable conclusion with clearness and certainty.  All along he spoke very boldly, without mincing the truth – “Ye with wicked hands have crucified and slain him whom God has highly exalted.”  He boldly accused them of the murder of the Lord of glory, doing his duty in the sight of God, and for the good of their souls, with great firmness and fearlessness.  Yet there is great tenderness in his discourse.  Impulsive and hot-headed Peter, who, a little while before, had drawn his sword to fight for his Lord, does not, in this instance, use a harsh word; but speaks with great gentleness and meekness of spirit, using words and terms all through the address which indicate a desire to conciliate, and then to convince.  Though he was as faithful as an Elijah, yet he used terms so courteous and kindly that, if men took offense, it would not be because of any offensiveness of tone on the speaker’s part.

Peter was gentle in his manner, but forceful in his matter.  This art he had learned from his Lord; and we shall never have master-preachers among us till we see men who have been with Jesus, and have learned of him.  Oh, that we could become partakers of our Lord’s spirit and echoes of his tone!  Then may we hope to attain to Pentecostal results, when we have preachers like Peter, surrounded by a band of earnest witnesses and all baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

When we follow the run of Peter’s argument, we do not wonder that his hearers were pricked in their hearts. We ascribe that deep compunction to the Spirit of God; and yet it was a very reasonable thing that it should be so.  When it was clearly shown to them that they had really crucified the Messiah, the great hope of their nation, it was not wonderful that they should be smitten with horror.  Looking as they were for Israel’s King and finding that he had been among them, and they had despitefully used him, and crucified him, they might well be smitten at the heart.  Though for the result of our ministry we depend wholly upon the Spirit of God, yet we must adapt our discourse to the end we aim at; or, say rather, we must leave ourselves in the Spirit’s hand as to the sermon itself as well as in reference to the result of the sermon.  The Holy Ghost uses means which are adapted to the end designed.  Because, beloved, I do desire beyond all things that many in this congregation may be pricked in the heart, I have taken this concluding part of Peter’s discourse to be the text of my sermon this morning.  Yet my trust is not in the Word itself, but in the quickening Spirit who works by it.  May the Spirit of God use the rapier of his Word to pierce the hearts of my hearers!

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The Life of Faith by A. W. Pink

Yes, the life which Jesus lived here upon earth was a life of faith. This has not been given sufficient prominence. In this, as in all things, He is our perfect Model.

By faith, He walked, looking always unto the Father, speaking and acting in filial dependence on the Father, and in filial reception out of the Father’s fullness. By faith, He looked away from all discouragements, difficulties, and oppositions, committing His cause to the Lord, who had sent Him, to the Father, whose will He had come to fulfill. By faith, He resisted and overcame all temptation, whether it came from Satan, or from the false Messianic expectations of Israel, or from His own disciples. By faith, He performed the signs and wonders, in which the power and love of God’s salvation were symbolized. Before He raised Lazarus from the grave, He, in the energy of faith, thanked God, who heard Him always. And here we are taught the nature of all His miracles: He trusted in God. He gave the command, ‘Have faith in God,’ out of the fullness of His own experience” (Adolph Saphir).

But let us enter into some detail. What is a life of faith?

First, it is a life lived in complete dependence upon God. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding… in all thy ways acknowledge Him” (Proverbs 3:5, 6.) Never did any so entirely, so unreservedly, so perfectly cast himself upon God as did the Man Christ Jesus; never was another so completely yielded to God’s will. “I live by the Father” (John 6:57) was His own avowal. When tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, He replied “man shall not live by bread alone.” So sure was He of God’s love and care for Him that He held fast to His trust and waited for Him. So patent to all was His absolute dependence upon God, that the very scorners around the cross turned it into a bitter taunt. — “He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him” (Psalm 22:8).

Second, a life of faith is a life lived in communion with God. And never did another live in such a deep and constant realization of the Divine presence as did the Man Christ Jesus. “I have set the Lord always before Me” (Psalm 16:8) was His own avowal. “He that sent Me is with Me” (John 8:29) was ever a present fact to His consciousness. He could say, “I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly” (Psalm 22:10). “And in the morning, rising a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). From Bethlehem to Calvary He enjoyed unbroken and unclouded fellowship with the Father; and after the three hours of awful darkness was over, He cried “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”

Third, a life of faith is a life lived in obedience to God. Faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6), and love delights to please its object. Faith has respect not only to the promises of God, but to His precepts as well. Faith not only trusts God for the future, but it also produces present subjection to His will. Supremely was this fact exemplified by the Man Christ Jesus. “I do always those things which please Him” (John 8:29) He declared. “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49) characterized the whole of His earthly course. Ever and anon we find Him conducting Himself. “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” He lived by every word of God. At the close He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10).

Fourth, a life of faith is a life of assured confidence in the unseen future. It is a looking away from the things of time and sense, a rising above the shows and delusions of this world, and having the affections set upon things above. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), enabling its possessor to live now in the power and enjoyment of that which is to come. That which enthralls and enchains the ungodly had no power over the perfect Man: “I have overcome the world” (John 16:31), He declared. When the Devil offered Him all its kingdoms, He promptly answered, “Get thee hence, Satan.” So vivid was Jesus’ realization of the unseen, that, in the midst of earth’s engagements, He called Himself “the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). “And so, dear brethren, this Jesus, in the absoluteness of His dependence upon the Father, in the completeness of His trust in Him, in the submission of His will to that Supreme command, in the unbroken communion which He held with God, in the vividness with which the Unseen ever burned before Him, and dwarfed and extinguished all the lights of the present, and in the respect which He had ‘unto the recompense of the reward’; nerving Him for all pain and shame, has set before us all the example of a life of faith, and is our Pattern as in everything, in this too.

“How blessed it is to feel, when we reach out our hands and grope in the darkness for the unseen hand, when we try to bow our wills to that Divine will; when we seek to look beyond the mists of ‘that dim spot which men call earth,’ and to discern the land that is very far off; and when we endeavor to nerve ourselves for duty and sacrifice by bright visions of a future hope, that on this path of faith too, when He ‘putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them,’ and has bade us do nothing which He Himself has not done! ‘I will put My trust in Him,’ He says first, and then He turns to us and commands, ‘Believe in God, believe also in Me’” (A. Maclaren, to whom we are indebted for much in this article).

Alas, how very little real Christianity there is in the world today! Christianity consists in being conformed unto the image of God’s Son. “Looking unto Jesus” constantly, trustfully, submissively, lovingly; the heart occupied with, the mind stayed upon Him — that is the whole secret of practical Christianity. Just in proportion as I am occupied with the example which Christ has left me, just in proportion as I am living upon Him and drawing from His fullness, am I realizing the ideal He has set before me. In Him is the power, from Him must be received the strength for running “with patience” or steadfast perseverance, the race. Genuine Christianity is a life lived in communion with Christ: a life lived by faith, as His was. “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); “Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20) — Christ living in me and through me.

From An Exposition of Hebrews, Volume 2.

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The ungodly are ever seeking after joy, but they do not find it: they busy and weary themselves in the pursuit of it, yet all in vain.  Their hearts being turned from the Lord, they look downward for joy, where it is not; rejecting the substance, they diligently run after the shadow, only to be mocked by it.  It is the sovereign decree of heaven that nothing can make sinners truly happy but God in Christ; but this they will not believe, and therefore they go from creature to creature, from one broken cistern to another, inquiring where the best joy is to be found.  Each worldly thing which attracts them says, It is found in me; but soon it disappoints.  Nevertheless, they go on seeking it afresh today in the very thing which deceived them yesterday.  If after many trials they discover the emptiness of one creature comfort, then they turn to another, only to verify our Lord’s word, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13).

Going now to the other extreme: there are some Christians who suppose it to be sinful to rejoice.  No doubt many of our readers will be surprised to hear this but let them be thankful they have been brought up in sunnier surroundings, and bear with us while we labor with those less favored.  Some have been taught—largely by implication and example, rather than by plain inculcation—that it is their duty to be gloomy.  They imagine that feelings of joy are produced by the Devil appearing as an angel of light.  They conclude that it is well-nigh a species of wickedness to be happy in such a world of sin as we are in.  They think it presumptuous to rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven, and if they see young Christians so doing they tell them it will not be long before they are floundering in the Slough of Despond.  To all such we tenderly urge the prayerful pondering of the remainder of this chapter.

“Rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  It surely cannot be unsafe to do what God has commanded us.  The Lord has placed no embargo on rejoicing.  No, it is Satan who strives to make us hang up our harps.  There is no precept in Scripture bidding us “Grieve in the Lord always: and again I say, Grieve;” but there is an exhortation which bids us, “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright” (Psalm 33:1).

Reader, if you are a real Christian (and it is high time you tested yourself by Scripture and made sure of this point), then Christ is yours, all that is in Him is yours.  He bids you “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (Song of Solomon 5:1): the only sin you may commit against His banquet of love is to stint yourself.  “Let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2) is spoken not to those already in heaven but to saints still on earth.

This leads us to say that:

1. We profit from the Word when we perceive that joy is a duty. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  The Holy Spirit here speaks of rejoicing as a personal, present and permanent duty for the people of God to carry out.  The Lord has not left it to our option whether we should be glad or sad, but has made happiness an obligation.  Not to rejoice is a sin of omission.  Next time you meet with a radiant Christian, do not chide him, ye dwellers in Doubting Castle, but chide yourselves; instead of being ready to call into question the Divine spring of his mirth, judge yourself for your doleful state.

It is not a carnal joy which we are here urging, by which we mean a joy which comes from carnal sources.  It is useless to seek joy in earthly riches, for frequently they take to themselves wings and fly away.  Some seek their joy in the family circle, but that remains entire for only a few years at most.  No, if we are to “rejoice evermore,” it must be in an object that lasts for evermore. Nor is it a fanatical joy we have reference to.  There are some with an excitable nature who are happy only when they are half out of their minds; but terrible is the reaction.  No, it is an intelligent, steady, heart delight in God Himself.  Every attribute of God, when contemplated by faith, will make the heart sing.  Every doctrine of the Gospel, when truly apprehended, will call forth gladness and praise.

Joy is a matter of Christian duty.  Perhaps the reader is ready to exclaim, My emotions of joy and sorrow are not under my control; I cannot help being glad or sad as circumstances dictate.  But we repeat, “Rejoice in the Lord” is a Divine command, and to a large extent obedience to it lies in one’s own power.  I am responsible to control my emotions.  True, I cannot help being sorrowful in the presence of sorrowful thoughts, but I can refuse to let my mind dwell upon them.  I can pour out my heart for relief unto the Lord, and cast my burden upon Him.  I can seek grace to meditate upon His goodness, His promises, the glorious future awaiting me.  I have to decide whether I will go and stand in the light or hide among the shadows.  Not to rejoice in the Lord is more than a misfortune, it is a fault which needs to be confessed and forsaken.

2. We profit from the Word when we learn the secret of true joy. That secret is revealed in 1 John 1:3-4: “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”  When we consider the littleness of our fellowship with God, the shallowness of it, it is not to be wondered at that so many Christians are comparatively joyless.  We sometimes sing, “Oh happy day that fixed my choice on Thee, my Savior and my God!  Well may this glowing heart rejoice and tell its raptures all abroad.”  Yes, but if that happiness is to be maintained there must be a continued steadfast occupation of the heart and mind with Christ.  It is only where there is much faith and consequent love that there is much joy.

Rejoice in the Lord always.”  There is no other object in which we can rejoice “always.”  Everything else varies and is inconstant.  What pleases us today may pall on us tomorrow.  But the Lord is always the same, to be enjoyed in seasons of adversity as much as in seasons of prosperity.  As an aid to this, the very next verse says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).  Be temperate in connection with all external things; do not be taken with them when they seem most pleasing, nor troubled when displeasing.  Be not exalted when the world smiles upon you, nor dejected when it scowls.  Maintain a stoical indifference to outward comforts: why be so occupied with them when the Lord Himself “is at hand”?  If persecution be violent, if temporal losses be heavy, the Lord is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)—ready to support and succor those who cast themselves upon Him. He will care for you, so “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6).  Worldlings are haunted with cares, but the Christian should not be.

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).  As these precious words of Christ are pondered by the mind and treasured in the heart, they cannot but produce joy.  A rejoicing heart comes from an increasing knowledge of and love for the truth as it is in Jesus. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).  Yes, it is by feeding and feasting upon the words of the Lord that the soul is made fat, and we are made to sing and make melody in our hearts unto Him.

“Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).  As Spurgeon well said, “With what exultation should believers draw near unto Christ, who is the antitype of the altar!  Clearer light should give greater intensity of desire.  It was not the altar as such that the Psalmist cared for, for he was no believer in the heathenism of ritualism: his soul desired spiritual fellowship, fellowship with God Himself in very deed.  What are all the rites of worship unless the Lord be in them; what, indeed, but empty shells and dry husks?  Note the holy rapture with which David regards his Lord!  He is not his joy alone, but his exceeding joy; not the fountain of joy, the giver of joy, or the maintainer of joy, but that joy itself.  The margin hath it, ‘The gladness of my joy;’ i.e. the soul, the essence, the very bowels of my joy.”

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).  That is something of which the worldling knows nothing; alas, that it is an experience to which so many professing Christians are strangers!  It is in God that the fount of spiritual and everlasting joy originates; from Him it all flows forth.  This was acknowledged of old by the Church when she said, “All my springs are in thee” (Psalm 87:7).  Happy the soul who has been truly taught this secret!

3. We profit from the Word when we are taught the great value of joy. Joy is to the soul what wings are to the bird, enabling us to soar above the things of earth. This is brought out plainly in Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  The days of Nehemiah marked a turning point in the history of Israel.  A remnant had been freed from Babylon and returned to Palestine.  The Law, long ignored by the captives, was now to be established again as the rule of the newly-formed commonwealth.  There had come a remembrance of the many sins of the past, and tears not unnaturally mingled with the thankfulness that they were again a nation, having a Divine worship and a Divine Law in their midst.  Their leader, knowing full well that if the spirit of the people began to flag they could not face and conquer the difficulties of their position, said to them: “This day is holy unto the Lord: (this feast we are keeping is a day of devout worship; therefore, mourn not), neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Confession of sin and mourning over the same have their place and communion with God cannot be maintained without them.  Nevertheless, when true repentance has been exercised, and things put right with God, we must forget “those things which are behind” and reach forth unto “those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13).  And we can only press forward with alacrity as our hearts are joyful.  How heavy the steps of him who approaches the place where a loved one lies cold in death!  How energetic his movements as he goes forth to meet his bride!  Lamentation unfits for the battles of life.  Where there is despair there is no longer power for obedience.  If there be no joy, there can be no worship.  My dear readers, there are tasks needing to be performed, service to others requiring to be rendered, temptations to be overcome, battles to be fought; and we are only experimentally fitted for them as our hearts are rejoicing in the Lord.  If our souls are resting in Christ, if our hearts are filled with a tranquil gladness, work will be easy, duties pleasant, sorrow bearable, endurance possible.  Neither contrite remembrance of past failures nor vehement resolutions will carry us through.  If the arm is to smite with vigor, it must smite at the bidding of a light heart.  Of the Savior Himself, it is recorded, “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

4. We profit from the Word when we attend to the root of joy. The spring of joy is faith:

“Now the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing” (Romans 15:13).  There is a wondrous provision in the Gospel, both by what it takes from us and what it brings to us, to give a calm and settled glow to the Christian’s heart.  It takes away the load of guilt by speaking peace to the stricken conscience.  It removes the dread of God and the terror of death which weighs on the soul while it is under condemnation.  It gives us God Himself as the portion of our hearts, as the object of our communion.  The Gospel works joy, because the soul is at rest in God.  But these blessings become our own only by personal appropriation.  Faith must receive them, and when it does so the heart is filled with peace and joy.

And the secret of sustained joy is to keep the channel open, to continue as we began.  It is unbelief which clogs the channel.  If there be but little heat around the bulb of the thermometer, no wonder that the mercury marks so low a degree.  If there is a weak faith, joy cannot be strong.  Daily do we need to pray for a fresh realization of the preciousness of the Gospel, a fresh appropriation of its blessed contents; and then there will be a renewing of our joy.

5. We profit from the Word when we are careful to maintain our joy. “Joy in the Holy Spirit” is altogether different from a natural buoyancy of Spirit.  It is the product of the Comforter dwelling in our hearts and bodies, revealing Christ to us, answering all our need for pardon and cleansing, and so setting us at peace with God; and forming Christ in us, so that He reigns in our souls, subduing us to His control.  There are no circumstances of trial and temptation in which we may refrain from it, for the command is, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  He who gave this command knows all about the dark side of our lives, the sins and sorrows which beset us, the “much tribulation” through which we must enter the kingdom of God.

Natural hilarity leaves the woes of our earthly lot out of its reckoning.  It soon relaxes in the presence of life’s hard-ships: it cannot survive the loss of friends or health.  But the joy to which we are exhorted is not limited to any set of circumstances or type of temperament; nor does it fluctuate with our varying moods and fortunes.  Nature may assert itself in the subjects of it, as even Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.  Nevertheless, they can exclaim with Paul, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).  The Christian may be loaded with heavy responsibilities, his life may have a series of reverses, his plans may be thwarted and his hopes blighted, the grave may close over the loved ones who gave his earthly life its cheer and sweetness, and yet, under all his disappointments and sorrows, his Lord still bids him “Rejoice.”

Behold the apostles in Philippi’s prison, in the innermost dungeon, with feet fast in the stocks, and backs bleeding and smarting from the terrible scourging they had received.  How were they occupied?  In grumbling and growling?  In asking what they had done to deserve such treatment?  No!  At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25).  There was no sin in their lives, they were walking obediently, and so the Holy Spirit was free to take of the things of Christ and show them unto their hearts, so that they were filled to overflowing.  If we are to maintain our joy, we must keep from grieving the Holy Spirit.

When Christ is supreme in the heart, joy fills it. When He is Lord of every desire, the Source of every motive, the Subjugator of every lust, then will joy fill the heart and praise ascend from the lips.  The possession of this involves taking up the cross every hour of the day; God has so ordered it that we cannot have the one without the other.  Self-sacrifice, the cutting off of a right hand, the plucking out of a right eye, are the avenues through which the Spirit enters the soul, bringing with Him the joys of God’s approving smile and the assurance of His love and abiding presence.  Much also depends upon the spirit in which we enter the world each day.  If we expect people to pet and pamper us, disappointment will make us fretful.  If we desire our pride to be ministered to, we are dejected when it is not.  The secret of happiness is forgetting self and seeking to minister to the happiness of others.  “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” so it is a happier thing to minister to others than to be ministered to.

6. We profit from the Word when we are sedulous in avoiding the hindrances to joy. Why is it that so many Christians have so little joy?  Are they not all born children of the light and of the day?  This term “light,” which is so often used in Scripture to describe to us the nature of God, our relations to Him and our future destiny, is most suggestive of joy and gladness.  What other thing in nature is as beneficent and beautiful as the light?  “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  It is only as we walk with God, in the light, that the heart can truly be joyous.  It is the deliberate allowing of things which mar our fellowship with Him that chills and darkens our souls.  It is the indulgence of the flesh, the fraternizing with the world, the entering of forbidden paths which blight our spiritual lives and make us cheerless.

David had to cry, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).  He had grown lax and self-indulgent.  Temptation presented itself and he had no power to resist.  He yielded, and one sin led to another.  He was a backslider, out of touch with God.  Unconfessed sin lay heavy on his conscience.  Oh my brethren and sisters, if we are to be kept from such a fall, if we are not to lose our joy, then self must be denied, the affections and lusts of the flesh crucified.  We must ever be on our watch against temptation.  We must spend much time upon our knees.  We must drink frequently from the Fountain of living waters.  We must be out-and-out for the Lord.

7. We profit from the Word when we diligently preserve the balance between sorrow and joy. If the Christian faith has a marked adaptation to produce joy, it has an almost equal design and tendency to produce sorrow—a sorrow that is solemn, manly, noble. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) is the rule of the Christian’s life.  If faith casts its light upon our condition, our nature, our sins, sadness must be one of the effects.  There is nothing more contemptible in itself, and there is no surer mark of a superficial character and trivial round of occupation, than unshaded gladness, that rests on no deep foundations of quiet, patient grief—grief because I know what I am and what I ought to be; grief because I look out on the world and see hell’s fire burning at the back of mirth and laughter, and know what it is that men are hurrying to.

He who is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Psalm 45:7) was also “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” And both of these characters are (in measure) repeated in the operations of His Gospel upon every heart that really receives it.  And if, on the one hand, by the fears it removes from us and the hopes it breathes into us, and the fellowship into which it introduces us, we are anointed with the oil of gladness; on the other hand, by the sense of our own vileness which it teaches us, by the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, there is infused a sadness which finds expression in “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). These two are not contradictory but complementary.

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