“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”
MADAME Guyon says that there are three classes of souls that may be compared to rivers flowing towards God as their ocean.
1. Some move on sluggishly and feebly. These are often discouraged, dwell much in the outer and emotional, and fail to seek God with their whole strength.
2. Some proceed decidedly and rapidly. These have large hearts, and are quick in their responses to God’s Spirit.
3. Some press on in headlong impetuosity.
This comparison of our hearts to watercourses filled with torrents from the hills is a very beautiful one, and is capable of great expansion.
Watercourses need fresh supplies of water from the hills: and our hearts are in constant need of freshets from the everlasting fountain of God’s nature.
Watercourses must fulfil their ministry in all weathers: and we must continue patiently in faith and well-doing, whatever be our circumstances or emotions. If we fail, the whole land will be smitten with drought.
Watercourses end in merging their waters with the ocean tides: so God will one day be all in all.
Will you let God lead your heart whither He will? Just as a husbandman will cut watercourses in different directions to conduct the flow of the water, so will you not let God lead your life? You can be a watercourse: He must give the water. Only be content, like the river-bed, to lie deep hidden beneath the waters; not noticed or thanked by those that stoop to drink the refreshing draughts. It is impossible for the water to pass through you without nourishing your own soul.
“Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.”
THIS is due to the love of God, shown in the constitution of the world. It would have been malignity indeed to have placed us in the world without the warning signal of pain to show us where we are wrong, and to sting us when we go astray. By the pitiful mercy of our Creator, pain is the inevitable consequence of the breach of physical and moral law; thus men are shown that they are on the wrong path, and driven back in repentance and rectitude. The Greek motto said: “Pain is therefore gain.”
You say that there are many who suffer, who are among the holiest and meekest of mankind; and you wonder how it is that those snares have come so plentifully to their share. But you must remember that though an individual may not have broken the law himself in any special sense, yet he inherits broken law. By virtue of his union with a sinful race he reaps a harvest sown by others’
sins; and by bearing it meekly and lovingly he enters into union with some aspects of the death of Christ, and fills up that which is behind of his sufferings. When wrong is borne sweetly and uncomplainingly, some froward deed that started long before, and had been cursing the world, is for ever arrested and cancelled; as a cannon ball in a bank of sand.
But, in addition, there are some who suffer according to the will of God. Pain, beneath the touch of the Spirit of God, is in the highest degree disciplinary. As the angels watch the result on a soul of God’s sharp ordeal of suffering, they say: “The keen sanctity,
Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothed And circled round the Crucified, has seized And scorched, and shriveled it”
“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.”
I ASKED a working man the other day how he fared. His wife, the partner of many years, has died, and there is no one to welcome him on his return from work and prepare for him. His fellow-workmen, younger men, delight in tormenting him and increasing his arduous toils, because they hate his simple godliness.
A physical weakness grows upon him distressingly. But he said that he was very happy, because he lived in God. All the way along it was Jesus — Jesus when he woke in the morning; Jesus when he went to bed at night; Jesus when he wrote a letter; Jesus when he went to the butcher’s shop to buy his little piece of meat for Sunday — said he, “He made the beasts; He must know what is good to eat.” And when I asked how he managed to maintain this life, he said, “I always ask Him to rouse me up early enough to have a good time in fellowship with the Master.” From the way he spoke, he reminded me of the priest’s portion of the shoulder and breast as symbolizing the strength and love of the Lord Jesus.
If we are in the love of God we shall be in His fear; for though perfect love casts out fear that hath torment, it introduces the fear that dares not cause needless pain to the Infinite Lover of souls. We fear to tear open His wounds again, to expose His heart to the spear-thrust, or to miss aught of His gracious pains to make us what He wants us to become.
“If ye keep my commandments,” the Master said, “ye shall abide in my love.” (John 15:10) To abide in His fear is equivalent to abiding in His love. They are two sides of the same coin. Only they love who fear. The woman feared Solomon’s sword, because the babe was her own.
“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
CHRIST has greatly added to the convicting power of truth.
Before His time men were taught that it was wrong to do wrong; but He taught that it was wrong not to do right. In the Christian church we confess that we have done the things that we ought not to have done — we do this in common with all men that acknowledge the rule of conscience. But we are taught by our Lord, and by such passages as this, to go farther, and confess that we have not done the things that we ought to have done. This is our great and damning crime.
The priest and Levite that did not go to the help of the wounded traveller; the servant who simply did not use the Lord’s money; the nations that did not feed, clothe, or visit Him in the persons of the distressed; the virgins who had not oil in their vessels; the trees that did not bear — these Christ held up to shame and everlasting contempt. We cannot ignore the evil around us, and say we are not responsible for it. We cannot shut our eyes and avert our faces from wrongdoing, and tyranny, and oppression. We cannot profess that it is not our business, whosoever else’s it may be, without it becoming known to the Searcher of all hearts, who will certainly reckon it against us on the day of account. Not to do is to incur Christ’s displeasure.
What a striking illustration is afforded to these words in the Book of Esther! When the young queen was hesitating, Mordecai said very truly: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”
THE pagan ideal of a manly life was to succeed in doing as much good to your friends, and as much injury to your enemies, as possible. A few exceptions to this rule are recorded; but the wonder at them proves that the sentiments of forgiveness and mercy were foreign to popular morality and public opinion. How different is the teaching of the Bible! And in this have we not an evidence of its Divine authority? Our Lord went further even than this noble maxim; He said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matthew 5:44
We are not taught to be entirely indifferent to the moral qualities of actions. The perception of sin and evil is necessary to a holy soul.
And it is not required that we should abjure that holy resentment to wrongdoing, to which the apostle alludes when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ephesian 4;26) We must always resent wrong as wrong, though we must carefully eliminate any vindictive feeling towards the wrongdoer.
Do you think that others have wronged you? Pity them; pray for them; seek them out; show them their fault, humbly and meekly; wash their feet; take the mote out of their eye; seek to restore them in a spirit of meekness, remembering that you may be tempted; heap coals of loving-kindness on their heads; bring them if possible into such a broken and tender frame of mind, that they may seek forgiveness at your hand and God’s. If you cannot act thus with all the emotion you would feel, do it because it is right, and the emotion will inevitably follow. It was said of Archbishop Leighton, that to do him an injury was to secure his lasting friendship.
“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
HOW simple a parable! Of course it must be so. As soon as a fire has reached the end of the material on which it fed, it expires.
This is true of the fire of slander. As long as there is an ear to receive, and a tongue to pass on, some piece of malicious slander will continue to circulate. But directly it reaches a hearer who will not whisper it forward, in that direction at least its progress is arrested. Why do you not adopt this role, and urge others to do so?
Hear if you must the whisper of the slanderer; but let it stop with you, locked in the secret of your own breast. You may be voted rather uninteresting and stupid by a certain society which thrives in whispered calumnies; but you will save many a heart from being torn and lacerated by unkindness and falsehood.
How graphic that word “whisperer” is! People always tell you to be sure not to tell; it is a way they have, though they do not expect you for a moment to keep the story to yourself. It is the kiss under which they betray. Always tell them that you refuse to be an accomplice in evil. If there is a wrong concerning which you must neither take action nor speak, you had better not defile your ears with it.
This is true of the fire of the Holy Ghost. You must feed it by your loving obedience, your study of the Word of God, your faith and prayer. Yield yourself more entirely to His possession. Let your spirit, soul, and body, your every act and desire, be as fuel to the Spirit of God. Pile up the wood of continual sacrifice and self-surrender, till the Divine fire reaches out its hands toward heaven.
Even though the wood, like Elijah’s, be drenched with water, God’s fire will conquer!
“The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
HONEY was not used in sacrifices made by fire unto the Lord.
Its luscious taste may have made it an emblem of the pleasures of the world. As bees roam from flower to flower, sipping nectar here and there, so does the heart of the worldling roam over the world for satisfaction; settling nowhere for long, but extracting sweets from a variety of attractive sources.
The best way of combating worldliness is by satisfying the heart with something better. The full soul loatheth even the honeycomb.
When the prodigal gets the fatted calf, he has no further hankering after the husks which the swine eat. The girl who gets real jewels throws away her shams; and the child who has become a man has no taste for childish toys that once seemed all-important. This is the meaning of the old proverb: Love God, and do as you like.
Whenever the spirit of worldliness gets into a congregation, you may be sure that the teaching has been defective, and that souls have not been made to sit at the rich banquet of the Divine providing.
We are reminded of the words which the psalmist applied to the Word of God: “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
(Psalm 19:10) Fill your heart with God and His sacred truth, and the things of the world will lose their charm. Do you know this absorbing love of Jesus? We can at least choose to know it, and present ourselves to the Holy Spirit, that He may shed it abroad in our hearts. Oh to be full! Full of the more abundant life of which the Lord spoke, of the unspeakable joy, of the peace that passeth understanding — in a word, of Jesus, as the chief and best.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
THERE must be confession before forgiveness. This is clearly taught everywhere in God’s Word. “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
(Luke 17:3,4) But he must turn and say, I repent. This is the clear condition. You may and must use every method of inducing him to say this; but he must be brought to say it, before it is right to pronounce the gracious formula of absolution. There may be the disposition to forgive, but there cannot be the declaration of forgiveness, until the wrongdoer perceives the wrong and expresses his regret and sorrow.
The prodigal must say to his father, “I have sinned.” It is only as we confess our sins, that our merciful High Priest can forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confession is to take God’s side against sin. It is the lifting out of one thing after another from heart and life, and holding them for a moment before God, with the acknowledgment that it is our fault, our grievous fault.
There is only one way in which transgressions can be covered: that of which the psalmist speaks, when he says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1), because hidden under the propitiation of the blood. In Hood’s poem, Eugene Aram sought to cover his sin under the leaves of the forest, and beneath the waters of the river. But in vain. So sinners try to cover their sins in vain. But God hath set forth Christ Jesus to be a propitiation — a word which denotes the mercy-seat — the lid that covered the stone slabs on which the finger of God had written the Law.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
WHAT a difference it makes to our teaching and preaching where there is no vision! The people perish for want of seers of those who can say with the apostle, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:3) It is not difficult to know whether a poet or painter has a vision. If he has, there is glow and passion in his work. And it is not more difficult to detect in the accent of the speaker on divine things, whether he is speaking at secondhand, or as the result of direct vision.
This vision of God was vouchsafed to Moses and Elijah and the apostle Paul. Concerning the latter God said, he shall be “a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;” (Acts 26:16) This is our only qualification for teaching others; not intellect, nor imagination, nor rhetoric, but to have seen the King and beheld the pattern on the mount. For such a vision, on our part, there must be humility, patience, and faith, a definite withdrawal from the life of sense, and a definite fixedness of gaze on the things that are unseen and eternal. But on God’s part there must be revelation. “It pleased God, ... ” said the apostle, “ ... to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach Him. ... ” (Galatians 1:15, 16) The apostle said, “I could not see for the glory of that light.”
(Acts 22:11) A party of tourists was divided one dull morning in Switzerland; the majority thought that it was useless to attempt the mountains. A few started, soon got beyond the low-hanging clouds, spent a day in the heights under marvellous skies, and returned at night, radiant, and overflowing with what they had seen. Ah, speaking is easy when one has seen!
“Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:”
GOD knows what you need for the maintenance of physical life and strength. The body is more than meat, and to have given you this is a pledge that He will give you that. The body is the vehicle and organ of the soul; and since God has given such a wonderful instrument into your custody, He is bound as need arises to furnish needful supplies. He could not expect that you should do what He has arranged should be done in your life, without providing for the repair and maintenance of the wonderful machine through which alone your life-plan can be realized. Trust in His faithfulness.
He cannot deny Himself.
But there is other food which is needful. The daily bread of love, of hope, of holy thought and fellowship. There is other hunger than that of the body. But this also will be provided, according as each day requires. If the human fails, the Divine will take its place, and God Himself will become the complement of your need. The Chinese Christians often put on the gravestones of their cemeteries the words, “They shall hunger no more,” in allusion to the idea of the Confucians that children must constantly be sending on supplies to maintain their ancestors. And may we not say, with unwavering certainty, of those who have learnt to be satisfied with God, “They shall hunger no more”? (Revelation 7:16) In God’s granaries there is our share of corn already calculated for and provided. Let us ask for and claim it. We have no wish to have more than our share, or to despoil others. As Jesus said, Give us each day the day’s supply. O happy child of the great Father, His hired servants have enough and to spare; there is plenty for thee!
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”
THIS alphabetical poem to godly womanhood is one of the gems of Old Testament Scriptures. Clearly the Hebrew woman was held in high honour, and had as much freedom of action as she enjoys in Christian countries. Herein the contrast was very marked, as against the women of other Oriental nations. But in the whole delineation there is hardly any trait more beautiful than this — absolute trustworthiness. You can see the pair together: the husband comes in from sitting among the elders, his heart weighted with affairs of state, and he seeks her confidence and advice. He has no fear of her betraying his secrets. He can safely trust her.
This surely is the most sacred joy a woman can have. To be consulted, to be trusted, to share the common toils and responsibilities. Who would not work willingly with her hands, and rise while yet night, and engage in ceaseless toils, if only she had the inspiration that trust brings!
“If then your future life should need A strength my love can only gain
Through suffering — or my heart be freed Only by sorrow from some stain,
Then you shall give, and I will take This Crown of fire for Love’s dear sake.”
Can Christ, in like manner, safely trust us? Can He trust us with His secrets, His interests, His money? Abraham was one whom God could safely trust, and He did trust him as His friend: “Shall I hide from Abraham ... for I have known him?”(Genesis 18:17-19) It is required of us also that we be absolutely trustworthy.