Daily Readings for November.
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth.
Continuing instant in prayer. Romans 12. 12.
Oh, comfortable and encouraging thought! that in the same moment that the supplication ascended from the prophet's heart, the gracious answer descended from Jesus. When we call upon the name of the Lord with simplicity and holy earnestness of soul, the return of grace and love meets our request before it hath ascended half way to heaven; and when the Lord is going to bless us, he pours out a spirit of prayer, and raises a cry in our hearts after that blessing he is going to communicate.
Therefore, when we are enabled to pray earnestly, we may be sure that blessings are coming, and that we cetainly shall receive, in due time, a seaonable and visible help. Then let us only go on, and put, as it were, one weight of prayers after another on the scales of the sanctuary: surely, our greatest distress will at last be over-balanced, and salvation brought down. Bu it is well to be observed, that we must also be watchful, and not act contrary to the intent of our prayers, which might provoke the Lord to disannul his grant, or at least to delay his help. But when he tarries long, it is not his intention to give us a denial, but rather make us more desirous and earnest, that he may bestow the more upon us afterwards; for this delay he certainly will recompense, and grant us abundantly above all that we could ask or think.
Lord, I will not let thee go
Till the blessing thou bestow
Hear my Advocate Divine
Lo! to his suit I join;
Join'd to his I cannot fail;
Jesus suing must prevail.
Friend of sinners, King of saints,
Answer my minutest wants,
All my largest thoughts require;
Grant me all my hearts desire;
Give me till my cup run o'er;
Then my heart can hold no more.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. Genesis 3.16.
Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, etc. James 1. 14, 15.
Thus, one sin always begets another: by the eyes it rushes into the heart; from the heart it proceeds into the mouth, hands and feet; from us it is transferred upon others; and thus we go on sinning and falling deeper and deeper. Therefore, we must set a strict guard over our eyes and ears; be very cautious, and resist the least beginnings of sin, not making light of any,: for the least spark of worldly lust being entained and cherished, we eat of the forbidden tree, standing every way before us, and thereby a great fire may be kindled. But having always our eyes fixed, and all our conversation upon the presence of God in Christ, so as to walk continually in the light, and directly to quell the least inward notions of evil, they will never break forth into gross outward sins, but we shall daily grow in grace. May the Lord enable me to practice this good lesson, and watch himself continually over my heart, eyes, lips, and all other senses and thoughts.
With my whole heart I seek thy face;
Oh let me never stray
From thy commands, O God of grace,
Nor tread the sinner's way!
Thy word I hide within my heart,
To keep my conscience clean,
And be an everlasting guard
From every rising sin.
The preaching of the cross is unto us which are saved the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1.18.
Oh that I might always lay hold on the cross, and experience its power, till I have obtained a complete victory! Whoever was bit by a fiery serpent, and looked upon the brazen serpent, lived. Numbers 21.9. Thus always to look upon Christ crucified is the one thing needful, from which all other blessings flow.
John 3.14, 15. Oh may the eyes of my faith be fixed immovably on thee, my crucified Saviour: for, as long as I live, I shall feel the biting of the old serpent, and, therefore, I have need to look unto thee continually; and thou, gracious Lord, afford me cure, day by day with entire healing at last.
So did the Hebrew prophet raise
The brazen serpent high;
The wounded felt immediate ease,
The camp forbore to die.
"Look upward in the dying hour,
And live" the prophet cries;
But Christ performs a nobler cure
When lifts up her eyes.
High on the cross the Saviour hung,
High in the heavens he reigns;
Here sinners, by th' old serpent stung,
Look and forget their pains.
When God's own Son is lifted up,
A dying world revives;
The Jew beholds the glorious hope,
The expiring Gentile lives.
The law is not made for a righteous man, to condemn him. 1 Timothy 1. 9.
For he being dead to the law by the death of Christ, and living to God in righteousness, the law can condemn him no more than a dead man, or one that liveth in heaven already, nay, Christ himself; for it condemns only the sin; but he is in Christ without sin; for the sin being abolished, the wrath the curse of the law are also removed, and grace and blessing restored in its place. Christ has taken all his sins upon himself, and imparted his own perfect obedience to the law to him; therefore, in Christ he has fully satisfied all the demands of the law, and is entirely free from its dreadful curse in his conscience; the blood of Christ cleansing us from all sins, and, consequently, from an evil conscience, Hebrews 4. 9, 14; 10. 22. Being sprinkled with his blood, and graciously covered with his golden robes, the Lord is perfectly pleased, and finds no fault with us. The atoning blood makes intercession for us with God, crying, continually, "Abba, Abba; mercy, mercy; peace, peace!" and obtains grace, life, and salvation.
Blood has a voice to pierce the skies,
Revenge! the blood of Abel cries;
But the dear stream when Christ was slain
Speaks peace as loud from every vein.
Pardon and peace from God on high;
Behold, he lays his vengeance by;
And rebels, that deserve his sword,
Become the fav'rites of the Lord.
There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. Deuteronomy 33.26.
In these last words of Moses, we have the glory of God set forth in the communication of good to God's Israel. The whole universe of God hath made for his own use to be the chariot of him to ride in, as is represented in Ezekiel's vision. In this chariot God's seat or throne in heaven, where he sits and governs. This visible universe, subject to continual changes and revolutions, we may compare to the wheels of this chariot. God's providence is represented by the motion of the wheels; he brings to pass his counsels in the lower world, and manages and directs all as a man doth his chariot, which he turns as it pleases him. How safe, then, must they be who are under the wing of the God of Jeshurun; who find him reconciled to them by the death of his Son, and feel themselves reconciled to him by the power of his grace! "He rideth on the heavens for their help," and none can outstrip his progress, or overturn his purpose. Verily, he it is that giveth strength and victory to his people, blessed be God. Reader, is the God of Jeshurun, the God of Israel, thy God? Is he who rideth on the heavens thy help? Does thy heart trust in him alone, and his grace subdue thine outward iniquities, and thine inbred corruptions? Is he who rideth on the sky, thine excellence? Does he seem excellent only in thy eyes, and cause thee to excell in virtue? Hath he planted thee among his excellent ones of the earth, and made thee to abound in faith, love, and fruits of righteousness? If the Lord is not thy help, alas, thou wilt be slain by sin, and prove a ruined soul! If the Lord is not thy excellence, thou art still an apostate spirit, a stranger unto God and to his Christ. Awake, arise, and call unpon God; his ear is open unto prayer; and thou art yet on mercy's ground; oh, call upon him speedily, and cry unto him earnestly, that thou perish not.
May Christ, who ruleth in the sky,
And is Jeshurun's God,
My soul defend, my wants supply
And wash me in his blood.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have. Hebrews 13.5. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, etc. 1 Timothy 6. 9,10.
A covetous man is called an idolator, and has no part in the kingdom of God: but who believes that he is covetous? Now here you see that every one is covetous who is not content with what he has. And what says the apostle of such as will be rich? They fall. Not only they may fall, but they actually do fall: nor can the fall be avoided, if men are determined they will be rich. O reader, be thou frightened; get covetous desires of thy heart subdued, and keep disentangled from worldly things; for who knows how soon you must go out of this world, and leave everything behind? Away with it from thy heart, else thy death will be very hard. The Christian motto is, God and enough: for he that has God is content, and consequently always rich enough, even in poverty; and that must be a covetous man indeed, who has not enough, having God. O Lord, make me so free by faith from the love of earthly things, that I may equally praise the, whether thou be pleased to give me something, or take it away from me; and that I may never covetously refuse that to others or to myself which thou hast given for my own and my neighbour's comfort.
The rich young man whom Jesus loved
Should warn us to forbear;
His love of earthly pleasures proved
A fatal golden snare.
The soul of the diligent shall be made fat. Proverbs 23.4.
You are concerned for having no more grace. What is the reason. Perhaps you are indolent, careless and unfaithful. And though you have no warrant even for an hour to live, yet unreasonably you suppose you have time enough; therefore you are not serious, diligent, and fervent in prayer for sufficient strength to be always prepared, and have boldness in death. No wonder, if you do not immediately resist sin, that it grows strong, and you always are weak and discouraged. And how can you expect to receive more grace, if you do not faithfully improve what little you have? If you could but diligently and faithfully apply yourself to the word and prayer, God would certainly not be wanting on his part to fulfil his promises, and give you enough; but not otherwise: for it is well to be observed, and we must know it once for all, that there is no such thing as making any progress in grace, and carrying our point, unless we are mindful of ourselves: watching and praying against all sins, and whatever may be an hinderance on one hand, and following with all diligence that which is is good, and what may be a furtherance, on the other. It is not enough to use some, but we must use all diligence; and according as our grace is increased, our diligence must increase also, since it goes against the stream.
Well to resist the sinful pow'r,
Requires a strong restraint;
We must be watchful ev'ry hour
And pray, but never faint.
In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Philippians 2.3. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; for if a man think himself to be something, etc. But let every man prove his own work, and the shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 4. 2-4.
If we were truly humble, and looked upon ourselves as most miserable sinners, we should willingly submit to all adversities, and patiently bear the burdens and infirmities of others, considering the God has borne with us a great deal more. Observing, therefore, the faults of others, we must not forget our own. Perhaps, in other things we are weaker than he. This will restrain us from judging rashly, or speak unadvisedly to others; but first we should speak to God about it, and then try with gentle means to bring them to rights again. Nay, the best method is to consider our neighbour on the good, and ourselves on the bad, side: and to see whether we can excuse him, and accuse ourselves; and see if his faults could not be excused in any manner, we not suffer him to stir up our corruption, but come in with prayer between God and him, to plead his cause before his throne in hearty love. It is very easy to find fault with others; but to show love, and restore them by prayer and brotherly correction, is quite another thing.
Bless'd are the souls who stand afar
From rage and passion, noise and war;
God will secure their happy state,
And plead their cause against the great.
Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145. 16.
Who considers these words enough? The hand of God being my chief provision and store-house, is it not a shame to be anxiously careful about anything? Has not the Lord all things in his hands - then surely I will receive what he has for me, none will be able to withhold it. Faith has always a free access to the treasures of God, who is never wanting. Christians have their chests and treasures in such a high place, even in God, that no thief can rob them, and they are sure to have enough from God; though the Lord should try them with want a little while, yet he relieves them in due time: their bread must rain from heaven, rather than they should be left without. You need not, says Christ, seek these other things, they shall be brought to you, if ye only abide in me. if this does not comfort and strenghten us, nothing else will. Now, many rely on their full pockets and purses; but if they had true faith, it would be enough that they believed and had it in God's hand, purse and chest. If the Lord is pleased to bestow some provision on his servant, he is very thankful for it, and is careful to apply it well. But if God thinks it proper to deny him, he is content and cheerful.
The Lord is good, the Lord is kind,
Great is his grace, his mercy is sure;
And the whole race of mankind shall find
His truth from age to age endures.
And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests of the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary, for thou hast trespassed: neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God. 2 Chronicles 26.18.
Here is the only blot we find upon the name of Uzziah; as long as he sought the Lord, and worshipped according to the Divine appointment, God made him to prosper; God helped him marvellously till he was strong, but when he was strong his heart was lifted up to his own destruction. He was not content with the honours God had put on him, but would usurp those that were forbidden him, like our first parents. The chief priests and the other priests were ready to burn incense for the king, according to the duty of their office; and plainly acquainted him, that if, through a mistaken zeal, he offered to do it himself, he would incur the wrath of God, and suffer for it; but this only served to excite his wrath, till he felt the judgment of God's hand in his punishment. Though he strove with the priest, he would not strive with his Maker, but retired as soon as he was smitten with the leprosy. We see, in the present instance, as in many others, that "the God we have to deal with is a jealous God," who expects all that serve him shall do it according to his own institutions. Do you reader, come to him in the way of his appointments? Take care that you come not with unhallowed fire before the Lord, lest you be also smitten. Our prayers, our graces, and our duties must all be put by faith into the the hands of our Lord Jesus, the great high priest of our profession, to be by him presented unto God along with the sweet incense of his merits, else we shall find ourselves deceived, and have no acceptance with God.
No strange incense let us bring
To present unto our King;
I renounce my own heart;
Jesus, thou my incense art.
He(the Lord) will beautify the meek with salvation. Psalm 149. 4
The Eleventh of November.
And if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye. 1 Peter 3. 14; Psalm 10. 17; 22. 26; 37. 11; 48. 10; Isaiah 54. 11.
All this for the humble and poor in spirit. How does that agree? - poor and yet blessed? Oh yes, poor in ourselves, but blessed and glorious in Christ. If we never experience his glory, the reason is, we are not truly sensible of our misery; but when we are come quite low, let us confidently lay hold on Christ, and we shall be blessed; for all is ours. We may say, O Lord, if thou art a glorious help to the needy, lo! here is want and misery enough: therefore I come, with all my want and poverty, to the fulness of thy grace and riches, with my darkness to thy light, with my death to thy life. Grant that all my evils may be swallowed up by thy goodness and glorious deliverance. Mine innumerable wants I set before thee, as so many empty vessels, and desire to have them filled with thy spiritual and heavenly blessings.
Oh might I hear thy heavenly tongue
But whisper, "Thou art mine!"
Those gentle words should raise my song
To notes almost divine.
How would my leaping heart rejoice,
And think my heaven secure!
I trust the All-creating voice,
And faith desires no more.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Ephesians 4. 23.
O Lord, grant me daily repentance, and a tender feeling of my sins, that by the power of thy death the old man may be crucified; and by the power of thy resurrection, the new man may rise up, and grow in grace, being filled and refreshed by the fruits of the Spirit. Let me ever be earnest, and look upon every day as the first and the very last; that with each I may, as it were, begin anew to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, and so be always prepared for death and eternity. Give me grace to surrmount all difficulties, and avoid every thing that may prove a torment of conscience in the hour of death. And, as there is no standing still, I humbly beseech thee to stir me up daily and hourly more and more, that I may make all haste, and "give all diligence to make my calling and election sure."
Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,
And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
Corrupts the race and taints us all.
Soon as we draw our infant breath,
The seeds of sin grow up for death;
The law demands a perfect heart,
But we're defiled in every part.
Great God, create my heart anew,
And form my spirit pure and true;
Oh make me wise betimes to see
My danger and my remedy.
He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor: his righteousness endureth for ever.Psalm 112. 9.
The Thirteenth of November.
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withold not thine hand. Ecclesiastes 11. 6.
Those that lay up treasures on earth suffer nothing to lie long useless, but lend out as fast as they can; and such as desire to reap soon and plentifully, are careful to sow soon and plentifully. Therfore, lend and sow ye also in good time, for their may be times when you cannot show charity, or at least not so largely. We must not pretend to pay debt of charity with some poor mites and pence. If you will give something, give bountifully; take your hands full, as if you were sowing, like the poor widow with her two mites, which she sowed freely, though it were her whole substance. But the rich ones which were not so liberal, but covetously offered only what they could spare very well. Is it not said we should sow? Now, seedsmen sow with their hands full, and so should we; for God loveth a cheerful giver, and will in his turn dispense again bountifully to you, that ye should have sufficiently in all things to every good work; (for God dispensing so bountifully to you, why should you then grudge him anything, or only make such poor returns?) for what we do to our neighbour, is the same as if it were done to God himself, if done in faith and love.
Awake, my zeal; awake, my love;
And serve my saviour here below,
In works which all saints above
And holy angels cannot do.
Awake, my charity, and feed
The hungry soul, and clothe the poor,
In heaven are found no sons of need;
There all these duties are no more.
He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Psalm 130. 8.
O the hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble. Jeremiah 14. 8.
In wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3. 2.
Despair not, O my soul, in any tribulation or conflict, as it were impossible to overcome it. The all-healing word of God contains advice and comfort for all cases. The Lord being my helper in adversity, and able to turn the sharpest afflictions into the greatest blessings, he would never smite or withhold something from thee, if he was not also willing to heal, and give thee something better in its place. O Lord, I trust thou wilt carry me through all difficulties. Though my misery and weakness were ever so great, yet there is nothing too great for thee; it is alone to thee to help in great and little distresses; nay, the more I am surrounded with grief and weakness, the more thou wilt pity, spare and nourish me, as a tender mother does the least of all her children; and the more occasion there will be to display thy mighty salvation. The sharper and longer my distress and conflicts have been, the nearer, greater, and sweeter, I trust, will also be my salvation; for the same Lord who has said I shall not be tried above measure, has also engaged to lead me on conquering, till at length all my enemies are subdued.
There's full redemption at his throne
For sinners long enslaved;
The great Redeemer is his Son,
And Israel shall be saved.
There is the accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
Joshua 7. 13. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1. 4.
The Fifteenth of November.
The entertaining of any worldly lust and indulgence of any known wilful sin, is an accursed thing, by which we are deprived of the power of God, and cannot stand before our enemies. Behold, therefore, the severity of God. Joshua 7: 24-26. and be more earnest. Make all haste to flee from the lust of the world, especially from the lust of the eye, which is the love of money. What more needful than to break off even from the most subtle and specious bands of unrighteousness? Unless the splinters of unjust mammon be taken out, the wound cannot heal up. Nay, examine thyself closely in other things, and whatever sinful lust habours in thy breast, be faithful to put it off, and flee from it, else you must not wonder at your being so weak in spirit. He that does not resist the sinful motions of his heart, will very easily give a loose to his hands and tongue; but he that immediately subdues the inward corruptions, will certainly be preserved from their breaking out in sinful actions. O Lord, deliver me from all accursed things, and and keep my heart always under thy closest inspection and discipline. Amen.
Why should my passions mix with earth,
And thus debase my earthly birth?
Why should I cleave to things below,
And let my God, My Saviour go?
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
My dear reader, reflect for a moment who it was that made this confession, and consider the many excellencies that he had; (see chapter 31.) Doubtless you will be ready to ask, Why this self-abhorrence? Whay did this man want? Let me give this answer to you: Before his eyes were opened, he wanted humility, or the knowledge of his own vileness - the very thing that you need, if not deeply humbled, and the want of which makes every man vile in the eyes of God. Elihu charges Job home with an undue opinion of his own righteousness; and God, who, by stroke upon stroke, and not too much, had him brought him to the dunghill, is represented as carrying on the same accusation against him. The whole issues in Job's humiliation, and conveys a most important lesson of instruction to all mankind, never to stand upon there vindication with God. The book, in this view of it, is prepartory to the gospel, and a striking comment upon those words of St. Paul and the psalmist, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" "In thy sight shall no living be justified." "God be merciful to me a sinner!" is a prayer easy to be said, but hard to be felt. One eye upon the perfection of God's laws, and another upon your own heart, may bring you up to it. But the Spirit's light is also needful, for which you must pray earnestly.
A sinner vile I am, O Lord,
A sinner day by day;
Much cause I have to loathe myself,
And for thy mercy pray.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Revelations 5. 9.
The Seventeenth of November.
In heaven the saints have a full sense of their great deliverance, together with a perfect knowledge of sin, far beyond anything we may conceive of it: the glory of redeeming grace with all the eternal ground of their love and adoration. On earth, it is the great excercise and difficult work of faith to see sin and Christ at the same time, or be penetrated with a lively sense of our desert and absolute freedom from condemnation. But the more we know of both, the nearer the approach we shall make to heaven; and we are our own greatest enemies, if, together with the fullest comphrehension of sin, and the deepest humility for it, we do not look stedfastly unto Jesus, and see it taken away by the Lamb of God. This, though continually repeated, by the heavenly choir, is called their new song; because it is always a matter of as great joy to them as if they had never sung it before; and because the love of God and Christ, in their redemption, is always opening upon them with new and increasing wonders. O my soul, let nothing, let not thy sin, hinder thee from beginning it new!
Saints cannot do less
Than Jesus to bless;
His name they rely on,
His Godhead confess.
My soul, bear a part,
If ransom'd thou art,
By Jesus' blood-shedding,
His burial and smart.
To him that was slain,
The scorn'd Nazarene,
By glory and honour!
Let all say, Amen.
Follow me. Luke 5. 27.
And endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2. 3.
Would you follow Christ? Then follow him in self-denial, in humility, in patience, and in readiness for every good work. Follow him with a daily cross upon your back, and look to his cross to make your burden light. Follow him as your guide and guard, and learn to see with his eyes, and to trust in his arm for defence. Follow him as the Friend of sinners, who healeth the broken in heart, and giveth rest to weary souls, and casteh out none that come to him. Follow him with faith, resting your whole acceptance with God, and your title to heaven, on his meritorious blood and righteousness. Lastly, follow him with much prayer. For, though, he is full of compasion, he loves to be much entreated, and when he is determined to give a blessing, you must yet wrestle with him for it. Thus follow Jesus, and he will lead you to glory.
My dearest Saviour and my guide,
I would be walking at thy side;
O let me never run astray,
Nor follow the forbidden way.
The Lord is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17. 27,28.
Even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Luke 7. 7.
The Nineteenth of November.
Oh the close and tender love of the Lord over his people. Nothing is so mean, but it is under the providence of God, since even the least can either hurt or profit the soul. And how sweet is it to observe his footsteps, even in the minutest things, and to be satisfied that we may trust our greater and lesser concerns to his care! O Lord, grant that I may never swerve from, nor do anything without thee; but that my goings in and goings out may be always done in thy presence, as if I had to do with none but thee; nay, as if we both lived together alone in the world. Oh that I could transact all my affairs with thee alone, and in all places look upon thee as if thou only a God for me. Let me carefully mark the inward workings of thy grace, and the outward tokens of thy providence, so as daily to have a true sense of thy gracious presence in everything, more or less important, and thereby to be ever strengthened in faith, and kept in a composed state of mind; considering that nothing happens by mere chance, but all is wisely ordered by thy providential care to our good; firmly believing, if anything goes contrary to expectation, that something better will follow in its stead, if we can only can be quiet and wait the time.
God that must stoop to view the skies,
And bow to see what angels do,
Down to our earth he cast his eyes,
And bends his footsteps downwards too.
He overrules all mortal things,
And manages our mean affairs,
On humble souls the King of kings
Bestows his counsels and his cares.
Cleave to that which is good. Romans 12. 9.
Seek those things which are above. Colossians 3. 1.
The manner of such things or persons as we frequently converse with cleave very easily to us. If we converse much with God and heavenly things, we shall be heavenly-minded: but if we deal much with the world and temporal things we must be sensual and earthly-minded. Up, therefore, with thy heart to God; lift it hourly up to him; and though it sinks down often to the earth again, yet the Lord has patience, and will as often recieve it again. Therefore raise it up continually, and take great care to keep it above, that it may not sink down and be defiled by earthly things again. Thus it will be easy to abide in a spiritual frame; but without this care we cannot abide in it at all: a feather easily rises higher and higher when kept above the ground; but it moves very heavily upwards when once fallen into the dirt. This you may take as a lively figure of an easy and heavy method in the practice of religion. Choose now which you please. Oh that I may always choose the best, namely to cleave unto the Lord, seeking the things which are above, and never plunge into the world to defile and distress my soul.
Descend from heaven, Immortal Dove,
Stoop down, and take us on thy wings:
And mount, and bear us far above
The reach of these inferior things.
Beyond, beyond this lower sky,
Up where eternal ages roll;
Where solid pleasures never die,
And fruits immortal feast the soul.
Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, etc. Luke 2. 29, 30.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, etc. Isaiah 35. 4.
The Twenty First of November.
Wilful unbelief only is damnable, and not the weak faith of a fearful and tempted believer. If I do not reject the ransom of Christ, my Surety, but feel my utter need of it, and am heartily desirous to accept it by faith, God can no more reject me than he can reject my Surety, or his own eternal decree. Yet, since I have very weak faith, and am often ready to sink into despair, it passeth my understanding to conceive how I can depart this life in peace. But as thy peace is said to pass all understanding, Philipians 4. 7. it is sufficient to keep the weakest or most fearful soul; because it is not by any power of our own, but solely by thy Divine power, that we shall be kept "through faith unto salvation." And it is equally the same to thee to carry the weakest or the strongest through the gates of death; for since thou art always the same wise, gracious, and mighty God, in all circumstances, and must do the work alone for both, I trust thou wilt lend me also, a poor and weak creature, thine all-sufficient help in time of need.
Saints by the power of God are kept,
Till the salvation come;
We walk by faith, as strangers here,
Till Christ shall call us home.
Lord, at thy temple we appear,
As happy Simeon came,
And hope to meet our Saviour here;
Oh, make our joys the same!
O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom thou hast made them all; the earth is full of thy riches. Psalm 104. 24.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, etc. Psalm 107. 43.
O Lord, how many are thine unknown mercies! I am surrounded with them on all sides; yet how little do I observe them, and acknowledge them to thy praise! If thou hast punished even the heathen for not having minded, and glorified thee in thy works, what will become of me? Pardon, O Lord, this my blindness and ingratitude, and to all thy other kindness add a thankful heart; that I may joyfully praise thee for all the blessing of creation, the daily bounty of thy providence, and the adorable gift of thy Son. In all thy creatures may I see and adore thy infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, and be thereby continually strengthened in faith, and stirred up to thy praise and love. Thus let me always converse with thee, cleave to thee, and have uninterrupted communion with thee; that nothing may interfere and disturb this religious disposition of my soul in the least. Yes, O Lord, grant me this wisdom and close attention for thy glory's sake. Amen.
The glories of my Maker God,
My joyful voice shall sing,
And call the nations to adore
Their Former and their King.
The brightness of our Maker's name
The wide creation fills;
And his unbounded grandeur flies
Beyond the heavenly hills.
The sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Judges7. 20.
For they are bread for us; fear them not. Numbers 14. 9.
But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went. Verse 24.
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. Psalm 76. 10.
The Twenty Third of November.
Take care, O my soul, that there may also be another, namely, a kingly spirit with thee, as there was with Joshua and Caleb, not to be discouraged on account of thy weakness and great number of frailities and enemies, as if it were impossible to live holily, and get the victory. Behold, Christ, the true and great Joshua and Caleb, marches out before thee, to make war himself against thine enemies; and who can conquer him? He is unchangeable, his Spirit now is as mighty as ever, and his word as powerful, and sharper than a two edged sword. Against thy various infirmities he offers also a variety of Divine strength, and against each of thine enemies he holds forth to thee a particular sword in his word: and, abiding in his word, thou shalt surely conquer. Though the enemy should raise thine inward and ourward calamities to the highest degree, as so many strong walls, yet he must fall; one single word will strike him down.
Not all that tyrants think or say,
With rage and lightening in their eyes,
Nor hell, shall fright my heart away,
Should hell with all its legion rise.
Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry. We are are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Isaiah 46. 12, 13; 64. 6.
True religion is founded upon the knowledge of the true God. Sinners are apt to think that they have a high opinion of God, because they think highly of his mercy; whereas God is as holy and just as he is merciful, and he will as certainly punish the guilty as he will pardon the penitent and believing soul. "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are," says every self-righteous sinner; not considering that if God were extreme to mark what is amiss, no flesh living could be justified. "God be merciful to me a sinner," says every true Christian and real believer. Till this be thy language, O my soul; till thou feelest thyself a lost, ruined and helpless sinner; till thou art brought to acknowledge the justice of God in thy condemnation; Till thou art driven to Christ as thy only refuge and hope of salvation; thou art ignorant of God's righteousness, art going about to establish thine own righteousness, and thou dost not submit to the righteousness of Christ.
I am, saith Christ, the way;
Now, if we credit him,
All other paths must lead astray
How fair soe'er they seem.
I am, saith Christ, the truth;
Then all that lacks this test,
Proceed it from an angel's mouth,
Is but a lie at best.
I am, saith Christ, the Life;
Let this be seen by faith;
It follows, without further strife,
That all besides is death.
Thou therefore endure hardness; as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2. 3.
The Twenty Fifth of November.
Princes combat with flesh and blood, Christian wrestle with principalities and powers; their wars give days of truce, ours not a minutes rest; conditions of peace there may cause retreat, nothing but death here can raise the siege; kings, if overcome, may save themselves by flight: but Christians may as soon fly from themselves as from their enemies; the soldier of Christ is in a field of continual conflict; he cannot let fall his hands, but Amalek prevails; not to be a conqueror is to be a prisoner; not to win in the field is to lose the soul; security wounds thee, yielding kills thee but victory crowns thee. Therefore watch as for thy life; fight as for thy soul; the time will come when "When these enemies thou seest today, thou shalt see them no more forever." Then thou shalt lay down the sword, and take up thy crown, and sing. "Victory, victory," for ever, through the blood of the Lamb! Let then the prospect of heavenly glory fire thee: though thine enemies be powerful, yet remember to go forth against them in the strength of the Captain of thy salvation. Though assaults be many, and my enemies mighty, if God strengthen me; for the greater my enemy, the more glorious my victory; and the more glorious my victory, the more triumphant my glory.
Lord, let me spare no inbred foes,
But fight them well by faith;
Be daily dealing mortal blows,
And triumph at my death.
I will heal your backsliding. Jeremiah 3. 22.
It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2. 13.
O my dear Saviour, I would fain believe in thee, be faithful, obedient, and work always that which is good. And since this is also thy will, I trust it shall be done, for, If thou wilt and I will, who can hinder it? True it is, that sin, flesh, the world, and devils are against it ; but shall these enemies be stronger than thou, the mighty God? Shall their opposition be able to quell thy work in me, if I do not consent to it? That can never be. The more violence they use upon me, the more earnest may I be with thee in prayer; and the more I pray, the more glorious will thine assistance be: the more they hinder, the more thou wilt further, that all their hinderances may be swallowed up by thy furtherances, as the serpents of the sorcerers in Egypt were swallowed up by the serpent of Moses. The enemy will fall by his own sword; and the greatest opposition will turn to my good, and to the promoting of thy work. Everything, indeed, can overcome me if I do not abide in Christ by continual acting of faith and prayer; but by thus abiding in him, all opposition proves not only weak in itself, but profitable to my soul.
We honour our exalted King,
How sweet are his commands!
He guards our souls from hell and sin
By his almighty hand.
Fearless of hell and ghastly death,
We'll break through every foe;
The wings of love and arms of faith
Shall bear us conqu'rors through.
I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found. Hosea 14. 8.
I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground. Malachi 3. 11. see also Isaiah 27. 3, 6.
The Twenty Seventh of November.
Is it not a disagreeable thing for a gardener to see the finest blossoms and fruits destroyed by caterpillars? Doth it not rejoice hime to see all the branches bow with ripe fruits? O my heavenly Lord, grant that I may not displease, but rejoice thy heart also. Let me abide in Christ, my true vine, and always bring forth good fruits. But since every fruit has its enemies, and thou hast no sooner worked anything, than insects of sin endeavour to destroy it, I beseech thee to make me watchful of these insects, and diligent in every good work. Rebuke the devourer presently, and preserve me as a branch of Christ, night and day, as thou hast promised, that my fruits may endure to eternity. Doth a diligent gardener dress and cultivate his garden as well as he can? why shouldest not thou cultivate my heart also, since thou art honoured by my fruits? Oh yes; I trust the crystal stream of thy throne will water me, that I may bring forth greater plenty of fruit.
Like trees of myrrh and spice we stand,
Planted by God the Father's hand;
And all his springs in Zion flow,
To make the young plantation grow.
Let my beloved come and taste
His pleasant fruits at his own feast;
"I come, my spouse, I come," he cries,
With love and pleasure in his eyes.
I will do it. John 14. 14.
And what is that? Whatsoever thou desirest. For the Lord will fulfil the desires of them that fear him. Psalm 145. 19..
Yes, he does "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think;" granting not only according to the notion of our narrow hearts, but according to the riches of his glory, as becomes his majesty. Christ delights in great petitions; for he is a great Lord, and is rich unto all that call upon him. He has all the riches of his merits and gifts, not for himself (since, being the very God, he wanted for nothing himself,) but only for us, even the rebellious, who sincerely call upon him. Therefore, what he has as Mediator all belongs to me, if I do but call upon him faithfully. O my soul, pray to him; nay, be much in prayer; and as often as thou pourest out thy soul before him in prayer, let nothing resound in thy heart but these words: "I will, I will do it." As God can never lie, there is not one single groan lost; but every one will be found to be a jewel in the life to come; by which thy riches are increased, and one treasure put upon another. Oh, how much is there neglected in this already! Why shouldest thou not be earnest now to redeem that little remaining part of thy time, by prayer for eternity, to lay up there many treasures, and richly adorn thy crown? O Lord, grant that this may be done.
Now is the time he lends his ear,
And waits for your request;
Come, lest he rouse his wrath, and swear,
"Ye shall not see my rest."
Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Joshua 8. 26.
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3. 8.
The Twenty Ninth of November.
A willing subjection to any one sin is not consistent with the grace of God, and true saving faith, Romans 6. 14; for though wicked inhabitants will abide in the heart, and sometimes prevail over the believer, they must not reign there, nor should be suffered to stir without resistance: since we may be utterly ruined by the dominion of a single sin, that is, by a single subjection to it, as by the dominion of a thousand, just as a bird is caught by a single snare; and though you are actually converted, and have gained the dominion over your sins, yet you must not draw back your hand, and lay the spear and sword of the Spirit aside. There is no truce in this war, nor any rest found, but in fighting; for if you beat not your enemies, they beat you. Therefore, the Christian soldier's watchtword is, Fight on, looking to Jesus. Satan left Christ only for a time; much more will he renew his assaults upon us again and again; nay, if a man is not watchful, but presumptuous, "he takes to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself." But if the conflict lasteth long, remember that is also the case of others; and even the ancient fathers have gone under it till they were gray; at last the victory will be the more sweet and glorious. Only, above all things, take the shield of faith, for faith alone triumphs; by which we are in covenant with Christ, and he makes one cause with us.
'Tis faith that conquers earth and hell,
By a celestial pow'r;
This is the grace that shall prevail
In the decisive hour.
Come, and buy without money and without price. Isaiah 55. 1.
Come: for all things are now ready. Luke 14. 17.
Him(be it who it will) that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6. 37.
How could a tender mother's heart cast out her sick child calling for help? Come, my poor soul, come only as well as thou canst. Better to come in a cold, fearful, and miserable condition, than not at all; for if we cannot come boldly to Christ with a strong faith, we must even come trembling, just as we are; nor will such coming, be offensive to Christ; for he says, "Him that cometh," come how he will, "I will in no wise cast out." A feeling of joy is not needful to bring us to Christ, but a feeling of our wants, for it is not required to bring any money of our own worthiness, but only the whole heap of our misery along with us, and desire grace. God does not look upon the sensible joy of faith, (for this is his particular gift, which he could soon give, if need was) but upon the sincerity, application and earnestness of a poor sinner. John Bunyan very fitly compares such a one to a man who would feign ride at full gallop, whose horse is hardly able to go a good trot. In this instance, the intention of the rider is not to be judged by the slow pace of the horse, (which resembles our corrupt and unwilling nature,) but by his whippings, spurrings and beatings of the beast.
See, dearest Lord, our willing souls
Accept thine offer'd grace;
We blest the great Redeemer's love,
And give the Father praise.