In the "April 15" meditation, the author mentions reading from Tennyson's "Palace of Sin", which doesn't appear to exist. Possibly "Vision of Sin" was meant?
"The greatest living master of the homiletic art." —British Weekly.
J. H. JOWETT, D.D.
Things That Matter Most Devotional Papers. A Book of Spiritual Uplift and Comfort. 12mo, cloth, net $1.25
The Transfigured Church A Portrayal of the Possibilities Within the Church. 12mo, cloth, net $1.25
The High Calling Meditations on St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, 12mo, cloth, net $1.25
The Silver Lining A Message of Hope and Cheer, for the Troubled and Tried. 12mo, cloth, net $1.00
Our Blessed Dead 16mo, boards, net 25c
The Passion for Souls Devotional Messages for Christian Workers. 16mo, cloth, net 50c
The Folly of Unbelief And Other Meditations for Quiet Moments. 12mo, cloth, net 50c
* * * * *
SENTENCE PRAYERS for EVERY DAY ================================
"Brief, pertinent, helpful. Each prayer can be read in a minute, but will give inspiration for the entire day."
The Daily Altar A Prayer for Each Day. Cloth, net 25c Leather, net 35c
Yet Another Day A Prayer for Each Day. 32mo, cloth, net 25c Leather, net 35c A new large type edition. Cloth, net 75c Leather, net $1.00
* * * * *
MY DAILY MEDITATION FOR THE CIRCLING YEAR
JOHN HENRY JOWETT
New York Chicago Fleming H. Revell Company
Copyright, 1914, by Fleming H. Revell Company New York: 158 Fifth Avenue Chicago: 125 N. Wabash Ave. Toronto: 25 Richmond St., W. London: 21 Paternoster Square Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street
The title of this book sufficiently interprets its purpose. I hope it may lead to such practical meditation upon the Word of God as will supply vision to common tasks, and daily nourishment to the conscience and will. And I trust that it may so engage the thoughts upon the wonders of meditation, as will fortify the soul for its high calling in Jesus Christ our Lord.
J. H. JOWETT.
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York.
JANUARY The First
THE UNKNOWN JOURNEY
"He went out not knowing whither he went." —HEBREWS xi. 6-10.
Abram began his journey without any knowledge of his ultimate destination. He obeyed a noble impulse without any discernment of its consequences. He took "one step," and he did not "ask to see the distant scene." And that is faith, to do God's will here and now, quietly leaving the results to Him. Faith is not concerned with the entire chain; its devoted attention is fixed upon the immediate link. Faith is not knowledge of a moral process; it is fidelity in a moral act. Faith leaves something to the Lord; it obeys His immediate commandment and leaves to Him direction and destiny.
And so faith is accompanied by serenity. "He that believeth shall not make haste"—or, more literally, "shall not get into a fuss." He shall not get into a panic, neither fetching fears from his yesterdays nor from his to-morrows. Concerning his yesterdays faith says, "Thou hast beset me behind." Concerning his to-morrows faith says, "Thou hast beset me before." Concerning his to-day faith says, "Thou hast laid Thine hand upon me." That is enough, just to feel the pressure of the guiding hand.
JANUARY The Second
THE LARGER OUTLOOK
GENESIS xv. 5-18.
"And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven!" The tent was changed for the sky! Abraham sat moodily in his tent: God brought him forth beneath the stars. And that is always the line of the Divine leading. He brings us forth out of our small imprisonments and He sets our feet in a large place. He desires for us height and breadth of view. For "as the heavens are high above the earth" so are His thoughts higher than our thoughts, and His ways than our ways. He wishes us, I say, to exchange the tent for the sky, and to live and move in great, spacious thoughts of His purposes and will.
How is it with our love? Is it a thing of the tent or of the sky? Does it range over mighty spaces seeking benedictions for a multitude? Or does it dwell in selfish seclusion, imprisoned in merely selfish quest? How is it with our prayers? How big are they? Will a tent contain them, or do they move with the scope and greatness of the heavens? Do they just contain our own families, or is China in them, and India, and "the uttermost parts of the earth"? "Look now towards the heavens!" Such must be our outlook if we are the companions of God.
JANUARY The Third
THE NEVER-FAILING SPRINGS
GENESIS xvii. 1-8.
"I will establish My covenant." The good promises of God are never revoked. They are like springs which know no shrinking in times of drought. Nay, in time of drought they reveal a richer fulness. The promises are confirmed in the hour of my need, and the greater my need the greater is my bounty. And so it was that the Apostle Paul came to "rejoice in his infirmities," for through his infirmities he discovered the riches of Divine grace. He brought a bigger pitcher to the fountain, and he always carried it away full. "As thy days so shall thy strength be."
So I need never fear that the promise of yesterday will exhaust itself before to-morrow. God's covenant goes with us like the ever-fresh waters of the wilderness. "They drank of that rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." Every fulfilment of God's promise is the pledge of one to come.
God has no road without its springs. If His path stretches across the waste wilderness the "fountains shall break out in the desert," and "the wilderness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
JANUARY The Fourth
THE GOD OF THEIR SUCCEEDING RACE
EXODUS vi. 2-8.
"I appeared unto Abraham.... I will be to you a God." The covenant made with the father was renewed to the children. The father's death did not disannul the promise of the Lord. Death has no power in the realms of grace. His moth and his rust can never destroy the ministries of Divine love. Abraham died and was laid to rest, but the river of life flowed on, and the bounties of the Lord never failed. The village well quenches the thirst of many generations: and so is it through the generations with the wells of grace and salvation. The villagers have not to dig a new well when the patriarch dies: "the river of God is full of water."
And thus I am privileged to share the spiritual resources of Abraham, and the still richer resources of the Apostle Paul. Nothing was given to him that is withheld from me. He is like a great mountaineer, and he has climbed to lofty heights; but I need not be dismayed. All the strength that was given to him, in which he reached those lofty places, is mine also. I may share his elevation and his triumph. "For the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off."
JANUARY The Fifth
THE FLOWERS THAT NEVER FADE
1 PETER i. 1-9.
"An inheritance incorruptible." I am writing these words in the Island of Arran. To-morrow I shall leave the land behind, but I shall take the landscape with me! It will be with me in the coming winter, and I shall gaze upon Goat Fell in the streets of New York. The land is a temporary possession, the landscape abides!
The praise of men often dies with the shout that proclaims it. Another idol appears and the feverish worship is transferred to him. The world's garland begins to fade as soon as it is laid upon the brow. The morning after the coronation I possess a handful of withering leaves. But the garland of God's praise acquires new grace and beauty with the years. It is never so fresh and flourishing as just when everything else is fading away. It is glorious in the hour of death! The soul goes, wearing her garland, into the presence of the gracious Lord who gave it.
We can begin even now to wear the flowers of Paradise. We can begin even now to furnish our minds with lovely thoughts and memories. We can have "the mind of Christ."
JANUARY The Sixth
"COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS"
PSALM cv. 1-15.
"Count your blessings!" Yes, but over what area shall I look for them? There is my personal life. Let me search in every corner. I have found forget-me-nots on many a rutty road. I have found wild-roses behind a barricade of nettles. Professor Miall has a lecture on "The Botany of a Railway Station." He found something graceful and exquisite in the midst of its soot and grime. So I must look even in the dark patches of life, among my disappointments and defeats, and even there I shall find tokens of the Lord's presence, some flowers of His planting.
And there is my share in the life of the nation. "Ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen." There are hands that stretch out to me from past days, laden with bequests of privilege and freedom. Our feet "stand in a large place," and the place was cleared by the fidelity and the courage of the men of old. I have countless blessings that were bought with blood. The red marks of sacrifice are over all my daily ways. Let me not take the inheritance and overlook the blood marks, and stride about as though it were nought but common ground. Mercies abound on every hand! "Count your blessings!"
JANUARY The Seventh
A JOURNAL OF MERCIES
NEHEMIAH ix. 6-11.
"Thou hast performed Thy words: for Thou art righteous." Frances Ridley Havergal kept a journal of mercies. She had a record book, and she crowded it with her remembrances of God's goodness. She was always on the look-out for tokens of the Lord's grace and bounty, and she found them everywhere. Everywhere she had communion with a covenant-keeping God. The Bible became to her more and more the history of her own life and experience. Promise after promise told the story of her own triumphs. She appropriated the goodness of God, and she set her own seal to the testimony that God is true.
Many a complaining life would be changed into music and song by a journal of mercies. Many a fear can be dispersed by a ready remembrance. Memory can be made the handmaid of hope. Yesterday's blessing can kindle the courage of to-day. That is the purposed ministry of "the days that have been." We are to harness the strength of their experiences to the tasks and burdens of to-day; and in the remembrance of God's providences we shall march through our difficulties with singing.
JANUARY The Eighth
HE IS FAITHFUL!
1 KINGS viii. 54-61.
"There hath not failed one word of all His good promise." Supposing one word had failed, how then? If one golden promise had turned out to be counterfeit, how then? If the ground had yielded anywhere we should have been fearful and suspicious at every part of the road. If the bell of God's fidelity had been broken anywhere the music would have been destroyed. But not one word has failed. The road has never given way in time of flood. Every bell of heaven is perfectly sound, and the music is full and glorious. "God is faithful, who also will do it."
"God is love," and "love never faileth." The lamp will not die out at the midnight. The fountain will not fail us in the wilderness. The consolations will not be wanting in the hour of our distresses. Love will have "all things ready." "He has promised, and shall He not do it?" All the powers of heaven are pledged to the fulfilment of the smallest word of grace. We can never be deserted! "God cannot deny Himself." Every word of His will unburden its treasure at the appointed hour, and I shall be rich with the strength of my God.
JANUARY The Ninth
THE PERILS OF POSSESSIONS
GENESIS xiii. 1-9.
There is nothing more divisive than wealth. As families grow rich their members frequently become alienated. It is rarely, indeed, that love increases with the increase of riches. Luxurious possessions appear to be a forcing-bed in which the seeds of sleeping vices waken into strength. For one thing, selfishness is often quickened with success. Plenty, as well as penury, can "freeze the genial currents of the soul." And with selfishness comes a whole brood of mean and petty dispositions. Envy comes with it, and jealousy, and a morbid sensitiveness which readily leaps into strife.
So do our possessions multiply our temptations. So does the bright day "bring forth the adder." So do we need extra defences when "fortune smiles upon us." But our God can make us proof against "the fiery darts" of success. Abram remained unscathed in "the garish day." The Lord delivered him from "the destruction that wasteth at noonday." His wealth increased, but it was not allowed to force itself between his soul and God. In the midst of all his prosperity, he dwelt in "the secret place of the Most High," and he abode in "the shadow of the Almighty."
JANUARY The Tenth
THE LUST OF THE EYE
GENESIS xiii. 10-18.
Look at Lot. He was a man of the world, sharp as a needle, having an eye to the main chance. He boasted to himself that he always "took in the whole situation." He said that what he did not know was not worth knowing. But such "knowing" men have always very imperfect sight. Lot saw "all the well-watered plain of Jordan," but he overlooked the city of Sodom and its exceedingly wicked and sinful people. And the thing he overlooked was the biggest thing in the outlook! It was to prove his undoing, and to bring his presumptuous selfishness to the ground.
Look at Abram. His spirit was cool and thoughtful, unheated by the feverish yearning after increased possessions. He had a "quiet eye," the fruit of his faithful communion with God. He was more intent on peace than plenty. He preferred fraternal fellowship to selfish increase. And so he chose the unselfish way, and along that way he discovered the blessing of God. "The Lord is mindful of His own. He remembereth His children." In the unselfish way we always enjoy the Divine companionship, and in that companionship we are endowed with inconceivable wealth.
JANUARY The Eleventh
SELF-MADE OR GOD-MADE
MATTHEW vi. 26-33.
Think of Lot and then think of a lily of the field! Think of the feverishness of the one and of the serenity of the other, or think of the ugly selfishness of the one, and of the graceful beauty of the other! Look upon avarice at its worst, upon a Shylock, and then gaze upon a lily of the field! How alarming is the contrast! The one is self-made, guided by vicious impulses; the other is the handiwork of God. The one is rooted in self-will; the other is rooted in the power of the Divine grace. God has nothing to do with the one; He has everything to do with the other. So one becomes "big" and ugly; the other grows in strength and beauty.
Now the wonder is this, that we, too, may be rooted in the power from which the lily draws its grace. We may draw into our souls the wealth of the Eternal, even the unsearchable riches of Christ. We may put on "the beauty of holiness." We may become clothed in the graces of the Spirit. When we are in the field of the lilies we may appear unto the Lord as kindred flowers of His own garden.
"He that abideth in Me and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit." "Rooted in Him," we shall "grow up in all things unto Him."
JANUARY The Twelfth
"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." —1 JOHN ii. 13-17.
No man can love two opposites any more than he can walk in contrary directions at the same time. No man can at once be mean and magnanimous, chivalrous and selfish. We cannot at the same moment dress appropriately for the arctic regions and the tropics. And we cannot wear the habits of the world and the garments of salvation. When we try to do it the result is a wretched and miserable compromise. I have seen a shopkeeper on the Sabbath day put up one shutter, out of presumed respect for the Holy Lord, and behind the shutter continue all the business of the world! That one shutter is typical of all the religion that is left when a man "loves the world" and delights in its prizes and crowns. His religion is a bit of idle ritual which is an offence unto God!
So I must make my choice. Shall I travel north or south? Which of the two opposites shall I love—God or the world? Whichever love I choose will drive out and quench the other. And thus if I choose the love of God it will destroy every worldly passion, and the river of my affections and desires will be like "the river of water of life, clear as crystal."
JANUARY The Thirteenth
THE MIRACLE IN A DRY PLACE
PSALM cvii. 33-43.
"He turneth ... the dry ground into water-springs." This is one of the miracles of grace. The good Lord makes a dry experience the fountain of blessing. I pass into an apparently waste place and I find riches of consolation. Even in "the valley of the shadow" I come upon "green pastures" and "still waters." I find flowers in the ruts of the hardest roads if I am in "the way of God's commandments." God's providence is the pioneer of every faithful pilgrim. "His blessed feet have gone before." What I shall need is already foreseen, and foresight with the Lord means forethought and provision. Every hour gives the loyal disciples surprises of grace.
Let me therefore not fear when the path of duty turns into the wilderness. The wilderness is as habitable with God as the crowded city, and in His fellowship my bread and water are sure. The Lord has strange manna for the children of disappointment, and He makes water to "gush forth from the rock." Duty can lead me nowhere without Him, and His provision is abundant both in "the thirsty desert and the dewy mead." There will be a spring at the foot of every hill, and I shall find "lilies of peace" in the lonely valley of humiliation.
JANUARY The Fourteenth
DEUTERONOMY viii. 11-20.
"Beware ... lest when thou hast eaten and art full ... thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God." I was in a little cottage near Warwick. I said to the good man who lived in it, "Can you see the castle?" and he replied, "We can see it best in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. In the summer time it is apt to be hid!" The summer bounty hid the castle; the winter barrenness revealed it! And so it is in life. In the season of fulness we are prone to be blind to "the house of many mansions," and we forget the Master of the house, the Lord our God. Our material wealth hides our eternal treasure.
What, then, shall we do in the days of our prosperity, when all our trees are in full leaf? We must pray that material things may never become opaque, that they may be always transparent, so that through the seen we may behold the unseen. This is a gift of the Spirit, and it may be ours. He will anoint our eyes with the eye-salve of grace, and everything will become to us a symbol of something better, so that even in the midst of material plenty our hearts will be with our treasure in heaven. Everything will be to us "as it were transparent glass."
JANUARY The Fifteenth
THE MINISTRY OF PRAISE
"The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us." In that joyful assurance there is both retrospect and prospect. There is the trodden pathway of Providence, and there is the star of hope! The eyes are steadied and refreshed in sacred memories, and then they gaze into the future with serene and happy confidence. And so the Ebenezer of the soul becomes both a thanksgiving and a reconsecration.
Now perhaps our hopes are thin because our praises are scanty. Perhaps our expectations are clouded because our memories are dim. There is nothing so quickens hope as a journey among the mercies of our yesterdays. The heart lays aside its fears amid the accumulated blessings of our God. Worries pass away like cloudlets in the warmth of a summer's morning. And the recollections of God's goodness always make summer even in the wintriest day.
Now I see why the New Testament is so urgent in the matter of praise. Without praise many other virtues and graces cannot be born. Without praise they have no breath of life. Praise quickens a radiant company of heavenly presences, and among them is the shining spirit of hope.
JANUARY The Sixteenth
THE DISTINCTION OF BEING RECOGNIZED
JOHN x. 1-18.
The Good Shepherd knows His sheep, and knows them by name. And that is what I am tempted to forget. I think of myself as one of an innumerable multitude, no one of whom receives personal attention. "My way is overlooked by my God." But here is the evangel—the Saviour would miss me, even me!
At a great orchestral rehearsal, which Sir Michael Costa was conducting, the man who played the piccolo stayed his fingers for a moment, thinking that his trifling contribution would never be missed. At once Sir Michael raised his hand, and said: "Stop! Where's the piccolo?" He missed the individual note. And my Lord needs the note of my life to make the music of His Kingdom, and if the note be absent He will miss it, and the glorious music will be broken and incomplete.
There is a common vice of self-conceit, but there is also a common vice of excessive self-depreciation. "My Lord can do nothing with me!" Yes, my Lord knows thee and needs thee! And by the power of His grace thou canst accomplish wonders!
JANUARY The Seventeenth
"My sheep hear My voice!" —JOHN x. 19-30.
This is spiritual discernment. We may test our growth in grace by our expertness in detecting the voice of our Lord. It is the skill of the saint to catch "the still small voice" amid all the selfish clamours of the day, and amid the far more subtle callings of the heart. It needs a good ear to catch the voice of the Lord in our sorrows. I think it requires a better ear to discern the voice amid our joys! The twilight helps me to be serious; the noonday glare tends to make me heedless.
"And they follow Me!" Discernment is succeeded by obedience. That is the one condition of becoming a saint—to follow the immediate call of the Lord. And it is the one condition of becoming an expert listener. Every time I hear the voice, and follow, I sharpen my sense of hearing, and the next time the voice will sound more clear.
"And I give unto them eternal life." Yes, life is found in the ways of a listening obedience. Every faculty and function will be vitalized when I follow the Lord of life and glory. "In Christ shall all be made alive."
My Saviour, graciously give me the listening ear! Give me the obedient heart.
JANUARY the Eighteenth
EZEKIEL xxxiv. 1-10.
This word of the Lord puts before me the unlovely lineaments of the false shepherds.
They are self-seeking. They "feed themselves," but they "feed not the flock." They take up religion for what they can make out of it! It is a carnal ambition, not a holy service. It is used for getting, not for giving, for self-glorification and not for self-sacrifice. It is selfishness masquerading as holiness, the thief in the garb of the shepherd.
And, therefore, the false shepherds are devoid of sympathy. "The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick." Selfishness always tends to benumbment. Humaneness is fostered by sacrifice. Our sympathetic chords are kept refined by chivalrous deeds. Drop the deeds and all our refinements begin to coarsen, and we make no response to our brother's cries of need and pain.
And because there is no sympathy there is no quest. "My sheep wandered ... and none did seek after them." How can we seek them if we have never missed them, if we have no sense that they are lost? Our Lord came in travail of soul to "seek that which was lost." And I must share His travail if I would share in the search.
JANUARY The Nineteenth
THE LOST SHEEP
EZEKIEL xxxiv. 11-19.
And now, again, I am bidden to contemplate the gracious ministries of the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd searches the "far country" for His lost sheep. "I will bring them ... out of all places where they have been scattered." He goes into the hard wilderness of cold indifference, and wasteful pride, and desolating sin, searching "high and low" for His foolish sheep. And no place is unvisited by the Great Seeker! Every perilous ravine, where a sheep can be lost, knows the footprints of the Shepherd. And He knows my far-country, and He is seeking me!
And the Good Shepherd brings His wandering sheep back home. "I will bring them ... to their own land." We return from the land of pride to the home of lowliness, from hard indifference to gracious sympathy, from the barrenness of sin to the beauty of holiness. We come back to God's beautiful "lily-land" of eternal light and peace.
And what nutriment the Good Shepherd provides for the home-coming sheep! "I will feed them in a good pasture." Our wasted powers shall be renewed and strengthened by the fattening diet of grace. Love shall be both host and meat! "He will satisfy thy mouth with good things."
JANUARY The Twentieth
THE PASSING OF THE BEAST
EZEKIEL xxxiv. 23-31.
When the Good Shepherd has charge of His flock "the wild beasts will cease out of the land." All beastly passions shall be destroyed. The fair gardens of our souls shall no longer be ravaged by sleek pride, or fierce appetite, or ravenous lust. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet."
And the forces of nature shall be in friendly co-operation. "I will cause the shower to come down in his season." We are to have mystic allies in sky and field. Nature sides with the man who sides with God. Our very garden becomes our helpmeet when we are cultivating the fruits of the Spirit. The heavens assume a friendly aspect when we are "marching to beautiful Zion." But when we are against the Lord all these forces appear to be hostile. "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera."
And we are to have a joyful assurance of the companionship of our God. "This shall they know, that I, the Lord their God, am with them." And in that precious assurance every other treasure is found! Only be sure of that, and we shall walk about as kings and queens!
JANUARY the Twenty-first
THE VALUE OF ONE SOUL
MATTHEW xviii. 7-14.
What an infinite value the Lord attaches to one soul! "And one of them be gone astray!" I thought He might never have missed the one! And yet the Eastern shepherd says that out of his great flock he can miss the individual face. A face is missing, as though a child were absent from the family circle. When a soul is wandering in the far country there is an awful gap in the Father's house! Is thy place empty? Is mine?
And mark the pangs of the Shepherd's quest. He "goeth into the mountain and seeketh!" The Eastern shepherd goes out in tempest, and in rocky ravine, or in thorny scrub that tears the hands and feet, he seeks and finds his sheep. And my Lord sought me, in stony and thorny places, in the darkness of Gethsemane, and in the awful desolations of The Hill.
And the Shepherd found His sheep, and He returns across the hills singing the song of the triumph of grace—
"And up from the mountains, thunder-riven, And up from the rocky steep, A cry arose to the gates of heaven, 'Rejoice! I have found My sheep!' And the angels echo around the throne, 'Rejoice! for the Lord brings back His own!'"
JANUARY The Twenty-second
MY OWN SHEPHERD
How shall we touch this lovely psalm and not bruise it? It is exquisite as "a violet by a mossy stone!" Exposition is almost an impertinence, its grace is so simple and winsome.
There is the ministry of rest. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The Good Shepherd knows when my spirit needs relaxation. He will not have me always "on the stretch." The bow of the best violin sometimes requires to have its strings "let down." And so my Lord gives me rest.
And there is the discipline of change. "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness." Those strange roads in life, unknown roads, by which I pass into changed circumstances and surroundings! But the discipline of the change is only to bring me into new pastures, that I may gain fresh nutriment for my soul. "Because they have no changes they fear not God."
And there is "the valley of the shadow," cold and bare! What matter? He is there! "I will fear no evil." What if I see "no pastures green"? "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me!" The Lord, who is leading, will see after my food. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." I have a quiet feast while my foes are looking on!
JANUARY The Twenty-third
THE GIVER'S HAND
GENESIS iv. 3-15.
Cain and Abel both brought an offering unto the Lord, but one was accepted and the other rejected. It is the giver who determines the worth or the worthlessness of the gift. God looks not at the gift, but at the hand that brings it. "Your hands are full of blood!" "Your hands are unclean!" The Lord demands "clean hands." He will not have our compliments if there is defilement behind them. Our courtesies are rejected if iniquity attends them. The shining gloss on the linen is an offence if the dirt looks through! Who cares for food if presented by unclean hands? "Be ye clean, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord!"
Every gift is welcome to the Lord if offered with clean hands. A mite, or a cup of cold water, or our daily labour, or the first-fruits of garden or field—all receive the blessing of our God if the hands that bring them are free from defilement. So is it with everything we offer to the Lord. A song of praise makes sweet music in the hearing of our God if it come from pure lips! Purity, as Thomas a' Kempis says, gives the wings which carry everything into the Father's presence.
JANUARY The Twenty-fourth
THE VOICE OF THE DEAD
HEBREWS xi. 1-6.
With what voice shall we speak when we are dead? What will men hear when they turn their thoughts toward us? What part of us will remain alive, singing or jarring in men's remembrance? It is the biggest part of us that retains its voice. In some it is wealth, in others it is goodness; some go on speaking in their cruelty, others in their gentleness. Cain still speaks in his jealous passion. Abel speaks in his faith. Dorcas speaks in her "good works and alms-deeds which she did"; Judas Iscariot speaks in his betrayal. Yes, something goes on speaking. What shall it be?
But these biggest things not only continue to speak in the ears of memory, they persist as actual forces in the common life of men. Our faith is not buried with our bones, nor is our avarice or pride. Our characters do not die when our hearts cease to beat. "The evil that men do lives after them," and so does the good. But deeper than our deeds, our dominant dispositions persist and mingle as friends or enemies in the lives of others. By them we, being dead, still speak, and we speak in subtle forces which aid or hinder other pilgrims who are fighting their way to God and heaven.
JANUARY The Twenty-fifth
FIRST, MY BROTHER!
MATTHEW v. 17-24.
"First be reconciled to thy brother." We are to put first things first. When we bring a gift unto the Lord He looks at the hand that brings it. If the hand is defiled the gift is rejected. "Wash you, make you clean." "First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
All this tells us why some resplendent gifts are rejected, and why some commonplace gifts are received amid heavenly song. This is why the widow's mite goes shining through the years. The hand that offered it was hallowed and purified with sacrifice. Shall we say that in that palm there was something akin to the pierced hands of the Lord? The mite had intimate associations with the Cross.
And it also tells me why so much of our public worship is offensive to our Lord. We come to the church from a broken friendship. Some holy thing has been broken on the way. Someone's estate has been invaded, and his treasure spoiled. Someone has been wronged, and God will not touch our gift. "Leave there thy gift; first be reconciled to thy brother."
JANUARY The Twenty-sixth
THE FIRE OF ENVY
"Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work!" —JAMES iii. 13-18.
In Milton's "Comus" we read of a certain potion which has the power to pervert all the senses of everyone who drinks it. Nothing is apprehended truly. Sight and hearing and taste are all disordered, and the victim is all unconscious of the confusion. The deadly draught is the minister of deceptive chaos.
And envy is like that potion when it is drunk by the spirit. It perverts every moral and spiritual sense. The envious is more fatally stricken than the blind. He gazes upon untruth and thinks it true. He looks upon confusion and thinks it order. Envy is colour-blind. It is like jealousy, of which it is a blood-relation. It never sees anything in its natural hues. It misinterprets everything.
No one can quench the unholy fire of envy but the mighty God Himself. It is like a prairie fire: once kindled it is beyond our power to stamp it out. But God's coolness is more than a match for all our feverish heat. His quenchings are transformations. He converts the perverted and changes envy into goodwill. The bitter pool is made sweet. For confusion He gives order, for ashes He gives beauty, and in the face of an old enemy we see the countenance of a friend.
JANUARY The Twenty-seventh
THE CONFESSION OF SIN
"I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me." —PSALM li. 1-12.
Sin that is unconfessed shuts out the energies of grace. Confession makes the soul receptive of the bountiful waters of life. We open the door to God as soon as we name our sin. Guilt that is penitently confessed is already in the "consuming fire" of God's love. When I "acknowledge my sin" I begin to enter into the knowledge of "pardon, joy, and peace." But if I hide my sin I also hide myself from "the unsearchable riches of Christ." "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
I must then make confession of sin in my daily exercises in the presence of the Lord. I am taking the way to recovered victory when I tell the Lord the story of my defeat. Satan strengthens his awful chains when he can induce me to keep silence concerning my sin. All his plans are thrown into confusion as soon as I "pour out my soul before the Lord." When I fall let me not add to my guilt the further sin of secrecy. Unconfessed sin breeds in its lurking-place and multiplies its hateful offspring. The soul that makes confession is washed through and through, and the seeds of iniquity are driven out of my soul.
JANUARY The Twenty-eighth
CLEAN AND UNCLEAN ANGER
EPHESIANS iv. 25-32.
"Let all anger be put away from you." And yet only a moment ago the Apostle had written the words, "Be ye angry and sin not." My power of anger is not to be destroyed, it is to be transformed and purified. Anger can be like an unclean bonfire; it can also be like "a sea of glass mingled with fire." There can be more smoke than light in it, more selfish passion than holy purpose. The fuel that feeds it may be envy, and jealousy, and spite, and not a big desire for the good of men and the glory of God. Worldly anger "is set on fire of hell"; holy anger borrows flame from the altar-fires of God.
Our anger reveals our character. What is the quality of our anger? What kindles it? Is it incited by our own wrongs or by the wrongs of another? Is it set on fire by self-indulgence or by a noble sympathy? Here is a sentence which describes the anger of the Apostle Paul: "Who is made to stumble and I burn not?" Paul's holy anger was made to burn by oppression, by the cruelty inflicted upon his fellow-men. His fire had nothing unclean in it; it was pure as the flame of oxygen.
This is the anger we must cherish. We cannot "work ourselves up" into it. We must seek to be "baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
JANUARY The Twenty-ninth
"I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy." —PSALM vii. 4.
That is the noblest revenge, and in those moments David had intimate knowledge of the spirit of his Lord. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him!"
Evil for good is devil-like. To receive a favour and to return a blow! To obtain the gift of language, and then to use one's speech to curse the giver! To use a sacred sword is unholy warfare! All this is devil-like.
Evil for evil is beast-like. Yes, the dog bites back when it is bitten. The dog returns snarl for snarl, venom for venom. And if, when I have been injured, I "pay a man back in his own coin," if I "give him as good as he gave," I am living on the plane of the beast.
Good for good is man-like. When I requite a man's kindness by kindness! When I send presents to one who loads me with benefits! This is a true and manly thing to do, and lifts us far above the beast.
Good for evil is God-like. Yes, that lifts me into "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Then I have "the mind of Christ." Then do I unto others as my Saviour has done unto me.
JANUARY The Thirtieth
"When I cry unto Thee, then shall mine enemies turn back." —PSALM lvi.
But it must be a real "cry"! It must not be an idle recitation which sheds no blood. It must be a cry like the cry of the drowning, a cry which cleaves the air like a bullet. Said a man to me some while ago, "Assault the heavens with cries for me!" That is the cry which takes the kingdom by storm.
When such a cry rends the heavens, "my enemies turn back." A secret and irresistible artillery begins to play upon them, and their strength fails. Yes, believing prayer calls these invisible allies into the field. "The mountains are full of horses and chariots of fire round about!" And the enemy flies!
"This I know." The psalmist is building upon experience. The miracle has happened a hundred times. Many a morning has he seen the enemy vaingloriously tramping the field, and he has cried unto the Lord, and before nightfall there has been a perfect rout. Blessed is the man who has had such heartening dealings with the Lord that he can now face a hostile host in unclouded faith and assurance!
JANUARY The Thirty-first
UNDER HIS WINGS
"In the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge." —PSALM lvii.
Could anything be more tenderly gracious than this figure of hiding under the shadow of God's wings? It speaks of bosom-warmth, and bosom-shelter, and bosom-rest. "Let me to Thy bosom fly!"
And what strong wings they are! Under those wings I am secure even from the lions. My animal passions shall not hurt me when I am "hiding in God." The fiercest onslaughts of the devil are powerless to break those mighty wings. The tenderest little chick, "one of these little ones," nestling behind this soft and gentle shelter, shall be perfectly secure; "none of its bones shall be broken."
I do not wonder that this sheltering psalmist begins to sing! "I will sing and give praise!" I have often listened to the sheltering chicks, hiding behind the mother's wings, and I have heard that quaint, comfortable, contented sound for which our language has no name. It is a sound of incipient song, the musical murmur of satisfaction. "I will sing unto Thee ... for Thy mercy is great."
FEBRUARY The First
THE SOUL IN PRISON
"Bring my soul out of prison!" —PSALM cxlii.
I too, have my prison-house, and only the Lord can deliver me.
There is the prison-house of sin. It is a dark and suffocating hole, without friendly light or morning air. And it is haunted by such affrighting shapes, as though my iniquities had incarnated themselves in ugly and repulsive forms. None but the Lord can bring me out.
And there is the prison-house of sorrow. My griefs sometimes wrap me about like cold confining walls, which have neither windows nor doors. It seems as though a fluid sorrow can congeal into a cold, hard temperament, and hold me in its icy embrace. And none but the Lord can bring me out.
And there is the prison-house of death. I must perforce pass through the gate of death. Shall I find it a castle of gloom, or is there another gate through which I shall emerge into the fair, sweet paradise of God? My Master is Lord of the road! And He tells me that death shall not be a castle of captivity, but only a thoroughfare through which I shall pass into the realm of eternal day.
FEBRUARY The Second
HOW TO APPROACH A CRISIS
"It shall be given you in that same hour." —MATTHEW x. 16-28.
And so I am not to worry about the coming crisis! "God never is before His time, and never is behind!" When the hour is come, I shall find that the great Host hath made "all things ready."
When the crisis comes He will tell me how to rest. It is a great matter to know just how to rest—how to be quiet when "all without tumultuous seems." We irritate and excite our souls about the coming emergency, and we approach it with worn and feverish spirits, and so mar our Master's purpose and work.
When the crisis comes He will tell me what to do. The orders are not given until the appointed day. Why should I fume and fret and worry as to what the sealed envelope contains? "It is enough that He knows all," and when the hour strikes the secrets shall be revealed.
And when the crisis comes He will tell me what to say. I need not begin to prepare my retorts and my responses. What shall I say when death comes, to me or to my loved one? Never mind, He will tell thee. And what when sorrow or persecution comes? Never mind, He will tell thee.
FEBRUARY The Third
TRANSFORMING THE HARD HEART
The Lord "turned the flint into a fountain of waters." —PSALM cxiv.
What a violent conjunction, the flint becoming the birthplace of a spring! And yet this is happening every day. Men who are as "hard as flint," whose hearts are "like the nether millstone," become springs of gentleness and fountains of exquisite compassion. Beautiful graces, like lovely ferns, grow in the home of severities, and transform the grim, stern soul into a garden of fragrant friendships. This is what Zacchaeus was like when his flint became a fountain. It is what Matthew the publican was like when the Lord changed his hard heart into a land of springs.
No one is "too far gone." No hardness is beyond the love and pity of God. The well of eternal life can gush forth even in a desert waste, and "where sin abounds grace doth much more abound." Let us bring our hardness to the Lord. Let us see what He can make of our flint. When we are dry and "feelingless," and desire is dead, let us bring this Sahara to the great Restorer, and "the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the rose."
FEBRUARY The Fourth
"When thou passeth through the waters they shall not overflow thee." —ISAIAH xliii. 1-7.
When Mrs. Booth, the mother of the Salvation Army, was dying, she quietly said, "The waters are rising but I am not sinking." But then she had been saying that all through her life. Other floods besides the waters of death had gathered about her soul. Often had the floods been out and the roads were deep in affliction. But she had never sunk! The good Lord made her buoyant, and she rode upon the storm! This, then, is the promise of the Lord, not that the waters of trouble shall never gather about the believer, but that he shall never be overwhelmed. He shall "keep his head above them." Yes, to him shall be given the grace of "aboveness." He shall never be under, always above! It is the precious gift of spiritual buoyancy, sanctified good spirits, the power of the Christian hope. When we are in Christ Jesus circumstances shall never be our master. One is our Master, and "we are more than conquerors in Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
FEBRUARY The Fifth
EVERYWHERE THE GATE OF HEAVEN
"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." —GENESIS xxviii. 10-22.
That is the first time for many a day that Jacob had named the name of God. In all the dark story of his wicked intrigue the name of God is never mentioned. Jacob wanted to forget God! God would be a disturbing presence! But here he encounters Him in a dream, and in the most unlikely place. "And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!"
Jacob had yet to learn that there is everywhere "a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reaches to heaven." There was a ladder from the very tent in which he wore his deceptive skin. There was a ladder from the secret place where he and his mother wove their mischievous plot. There is no corner of earth which is cut away from the Divine vigilance. God gets at us everywhere.
But there is a merciful side to all this. If the ladder be everywhere, and God can get at us, then also everywhere we can get at God. There are "ascending angels" who will carry our confessions, our prayers, our sighs and mournings, to the very heart of the eternally gracious God.
FEBRUARY The Sixth
PSALM xci. 1-12.
I read a sentence the other day in which a very powerful modern writer describes a certain woman as "having God on her visiting list." We may recoil from the phrase, but it very vitally describes a very awful commonplace. Countless thousands have God on their visiting lists. They pay Him courtesy-calls, and between the calls He is forgotten. Perhaps the call is paid once a week in the social function of worship. Perhaps it is paid more rarely, like calls between comparative strangers. How great the contrast between a caller and one who dwells in the secret place! It is the difference between a flirt and a "home-bird," between one who flits about on a score of fancies, and one who settles down in the solid satisfaction of a supreme affection.
"Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Such is the reward of the "home-bird," the settled friend of the Lord. The shadow of the Lord shall rest upon him continually. I sometimes read of our monarchs being "shadowed" by protective police. In an infinitely more real and intimate sense the soul that dwells in "the secret place" is shadowed by the sleepless grace and love of God.
FEBRUARY The Seventh
LEAVING ITS MARK
"Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will make thee a threshing instrument with teeth." —ISAIAH xli. 8-14.
Could any two things be in greater contrast than a worm and an instrument with teeth? The worm is delicate, bruised by a stone, crushed beneath a passing wheel; an instrument with teeth can break and not be broken, it can grave its mark upon the rock. And the mighty God can convert the one into the other. He can take a man or a nation, who has all the impotence of the worm, and by the invigoration of His own Spirit He can endow them with strength by which they will leave a noble mark upon the history of their time.
And so the "worm" may take heart. The mighty God can make us stronger than our circumstances. We can bend them all to our good. In God's strength we can make them all pay tribute to our souls. We can even take hold of a black disappointment, break it open, and extract some jewel of grace. When God gives us wills like iron we can drive through difficulties as the iron share cuts through the toughest soil. "I will make thee," saith the Lord, "and shall He not do it?"
FEBRUARY The Eighth
REVISITING OLD ALTARS
"I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress." —GENESIS xxxv. 1-7.
It is a blessed thing to revisit our early altars. It is good to return to the haunts of early vision. Places and things have their sanctifying influences, and can recall us to lost experiences. I know a man to whom the scent of a white, wild rose is always a call to prayer. I know another to whom Grasmere is always the window of holy vision. Sometimes a particular pew in a particular church can throw the heavens open, and we see the Son of God. The old Sunday-school has sometimes taken an old man back to his childhood and back to his God. So I do not wonder that God led Jacob back to Bethel, and that in the old place of blessing he reconsecrated himself to the Lord.
It is a revelation of the loving-kindness of God that we have all these helps to the recovery of past experiences. Let us use them with reverence. And in our early days let us make them. Let us build altars of communion which in later life we shall love to revisit. Let us make our early home "the house of God and the gate of heaven." Let us multiply deeds of service which will make countless places fragrant for all our after years.
FEBRUARY The Ninth
THE ROCK AND THE BOWING WALL
Here are two symbols by which the psalmist describes the confidence of the righteous. "He only is my rock." Only yesterday I had the shelter of a great rock on a storm-swept mountain side. The wind tore along the heights, driving the rain like hail, but in the opening of the rock our shelter was complete.
And the second symbol is this: "He is my high place." The high place is the home of the chamois, out of reach of the arrow. "Flee as a bird to your mountain!" Get beyond the hunter's range! Our security is found in loftiness. It is our unutterable privilege to live in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Such is the confidence of the righteous.
In this psalm there is also another pair of symbols describing the futility of the wicked. The wicked is "as a bowing wall." The wall is out of perpendicular, out of conformity with the truth of the plumb-line, and it will assuredly topple into ruin. So is it with the wicked: he is building awry, and he will fall into moral disaster. He is also "as a tottering fence." The wind and the rain dislodge the fence, it rots at its foundations, and one day it lies prone upon the ground.
FEBRUARY The Tenth
REGISTERING A VERDICT
"The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey." —JOSHUA xxiv. 22-28.
Here was a definite decision. Our peril is that we spend our life in wavering and we never decide. We are like a jury which is always hearing evidence and never gives a verdict. We do much thinking, but we never make up our minds. We let our eyes wander over many things, but we make no choice. Life has no crisis, no culmination.
Now people who never decide spend their days in hoping to do so. But this kind of life becomes a vagrancy and not a noble and illumined crusade. We drift through our days, we do not steer, and we never arrive at any rich and stately haven.
It is therefore vitally wise to "make a vow unto the Lord." It is good to pull our loose thinkings together and to "gird up the loins of the mind." Let a man, at some definite place, and at some definite moment, make the supreme choice of his life.
FEBRUARY The Eleventh
THE HILL COUNTRY OF THE SOUL
There should be a hill country in every life, some great up-towering peaks which dominate the common plain. There should be an upland district, where springs are born, and where rivers of inspiration have their birth. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills."
The soul that knows no hills is sure to be oppressed with the monotony of the road. The inspiration to do little things comes from the presence of big things. It is amazing what dull trifles we can get through when a radiant love is near. A noble companionship glorifies the dingiest road. And what if that Companion be God? Then, surely, "the common round and daily task" have a light thrown upon them from "the beauty of His countenance."
The "heavenlies" are our salvation and our defence. "His righteousness is like the great mountains." "The mountains bring forth peace unto His people."
FEBRUARY The Twelfth
THE BULB AND THE SOIL
"He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me." —JOHN xiv. 15-24.
Yes, but how can I keep them? Some one sent me a bulb which requires a certain kind of soil, but he also sent me the soil in which to grow it. He sent instructions, but he also sent power. And when I am bidden to keep a commandment I feel as though I have received the bulb but not the soil! But is this God's way of dealing with His people? I will read on if perchance I may find the gift of the soil.
"He that abideth in Me ... the same bringeth forth much fruit." That is the gift I seek. For the keeping of His commandments the Lord provides Himself. I am not called upon to raise fruits out of the soil of my own will, out of my own infirmity of aspiration or desire. I can rest everything in God! I can "abide in Him," and I may have the holy energies of the Godhead to produce in me the fruits of a holy and obedient life. The good Lord provides both the bulb and the soil.
It is the tragedy of life that we forget this, and seek to make a soil-bed of our own. And thus do we suffer the calamity of fruitless labour, the heavy drudgery of tasks beyond our strength. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
FEBRUARY The Thirteenth
"Thou shalt not bear any grudge." —LEVITICUS xix. 11-18.
How searching is that demand upon the soul! My forgiveness of my brother is to be complete. No sullenness is to remain, no sulky temper which so easily gives birth to thunder and lightning. There is to be no painful aloofness, no assumption of a superiority which rains contempt upon the offender. When I forgive, I am not to carry any powder forward on the journey. I am to empty out all my explosives, all my ammunition of anger and revenge. I am not to "bear any grudge."
I cannot meet this demand. It is altogether beyond me. I might utter words of forgiveness, but I cannot reveal a clear, bright, blue sky without a touch of storm brewing anywhere. But the Lord of grace can do it for me. He can change my weather. He can create a new climate. He can "renew a right spirit within me," and in that holy atmosphere nothing shall live which seeks to poison and destroy. Grudges shall die "like cloud-spots in the dawn." Revenge, that awful creation of the unclean, feverish soul, shall give place to goodwill, the strong genial presence which makes its home in the new heart.
FEBRUARY The Fourteenth
MATTHEW xix. 16-22.
The rich young ruler consecrated a part, but was unwilling to consecrate the whole. He hallowed the inch but not the mile. He would go part of the way, but not to the end. And the peril is upon us all. We give ourselves to the Lord, but we reserve some liberties. We offer Him our house, but we mark some rooms "Private." And that word "Private," denying the Lord admission, crucifies Him afresh. He has no joy in the house so long as any rooms are withheld.
Dr. F. B. Meyer has told us how his early Christian life was marred and his ministry paralyzed just because he had kept back one key from the bunch of keys he had given to the Lord. Every key save one! The key of one room kept for personal use, and the Lord shut out. And the effects of the incomplete consecration were found in lack of power, lack of assurance, lack of joy and peace.
The "joy of the Lord" begins when we hand over the last key. We sit with Christ on His throne as soon as we have surrendered all our crowns, and made Him sole and only ruler of our life and its possessions.
FEBRUARY The Fifteenth
THE WITNESS OF YESTERDAY
PSALM lxxviii. 1-8.
Our yesterdays are to be the teachers of our children. We are to take them over our road, and show them the pitfalls where we stumbled and the snares that lured us away. And we are to show them how we found the springs of grace, and how the Lord made Himself known to us in daily providence and care. We are to relate His exploits, "His wonderful dealings with the children of men." We must make our life witness of God to our children, and when their minds roam over our road they must see it radiant with the grace and mercy of the Lord.
The best inheritance I can give my child is a steadfast witness of my knowledge of God. The testimony of a light that never failed may give him the needful wisdom when his own way becomes troubled with clouds and darkness. And what a story it is, this story of the deeds of our gracious God. It is full of quickening for weary and desponding souls. It is a perfect reservoir of inspiration for those whose desire has failed, and in whose lives the wells of impulse have become dry. Let us bring forward yesterday's wealth to enrich the life of to-day. "Do ye not remember the miracle of the loaves?"
FEBRUARY The Sixteenth
CROWDING OUT GOD
"Lest thou forget." —DEUTERONOMY iv. 5-13.
That is surely the worst affront we can put upon anybody. We may oppose a man and hinder him in his work, or we may directly injure him, or we may ignore him, and treat him as nothing. Or we may forget him! Opposition, injury, contempt, neglect, forgetfulness! Surely this is a descending scale, and the last is the worst. And yet we can forget the Lord God. We can forget all His benefits. We can easily put Him out of mind. We can live as though He were dead. "My children have forgotten Me."
What shall we do to escape this great disaster? "Take heed to thyself!" To take heed is to be at the helm and not asleep in the cabin. It is to steer and not to drift. It is to keep our eyes on the compass and our hands on the wheel. It is to know where we are going. We never deliberately forget our Lord; we carelessly drift into it. "Take heed."
"And keep thy soul diligently." Gardens run to seed, and ill weeds grow apace. The fair things are crowded out, and the weed reigns everywhere. It is ever so with my soul. If I neglect it, the flowers of holy desire and devotion will be choked by weeds of worldliness. God will be crowded out, and the garden of the soul will become a wilderness of neglect and sin.
FEBRUARY The Seventeenth
BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS
"He read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings." —JOSHUA viii. 30-35.
We are inclined to read only what pleases us, to hug the blessings and to ignore the warnings. We bask in the light, we close our eyes to the lightning. We recount the promises, we shut our ears to the rebukes. We love the passages which speak of our Master's gentleness, we turn away from those which reveal His severity. And all this is unwise, and therefore unhealthy. We become spiritually soft and anaemic. We lack moral stamina. We are incapable of noble hatred and of holy scorn. We are invertebrate, and on the evil day we are not able to stand.
We must read "all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings." We must let the Lord brace us with His severities. We must gaze steadily upon the appalling fearfulness of sin, and upon its terrific issues. At all costs we must get rid of the spurious gentleness that holds compromise with uncleanness, that effeminate affection which is destitute of holy fire. We must seek the love which burns everlastingly against all sin; we must seek the gentleness which can fiercely grip a poisonous growth and tear it out to its last hidden root. We must seek that holy love which is as a "consuming fire."
FEBRUARY The Eighteenth
THE SUBTLETY OF TEMPTATION
JAMES i. 12-20.
Evil enticements always come to us in borrowed attire. In the Boer War ammunition was carried out in piano cases, and military advices were transmitted in the skins of melons. And that is the way of the enemy of our souls. He makes us think we are receiving music when he is sending explosives; he promises life, but his gift is laden with the seeds of death. He offers us liberty, and he hides his chains in dazzling flowers. "Things are not what they seem."
And so our enemy uses mirages, and will-o'-the-wisps and tinselled crowns. He lights friendly fires on perilous coasts to snare us to our ruin. And therefore we need clear, sure eyes. We need a refined moral sense which can discriminate between the true and the false, and which can discern the enemy even when he comes as "an angel of light." And we may have this wisdom from "the God of all wisdom." By His grace we may be kept morally sensitive, and we shall know our foe even when he is a long way off.
FEBRUARY The Ninteenth
THE THOUGHT AFAR OFF
PSALM cxxxix. 1-12.
"Thou knowest my thought afar off." That fills me with awe. I cannot find a hiding-place where I can sin in secrecy. I cannot build an apparent sanctuary and conceal evil within its walls. I cannot with a sheep's skin hide the wolf. I cannot wrap my jealousy up in flattery and keep it unknown. "Thou God seest me." He knows the bottom thought that creeps in the basement of my being. Nothing surprises God! He sees all my sin. So am I filled with awe.
"Thou knowest my thought afar off." This fills me also with hope and joy. He sees the faintest, weakest desire, aspiring after goodness. He sees the smallest fire of affection burning uncertainly in my soul. He sees every movement of penitence which looks toward home. He sees every little triumph, and every altar I build along life's way. Nothing is overlooked. My God is not like a policeman, only looking for crimes; He is the God of grace, looking for graces, searching for jewels to adorn His crown. So am I filled with hope and joy.
FEBRUARY The Twentieth
TAMPERING WITH THE LABEL
1 JOHN iii. 4-10.
Sin is transgression. It is the deliberate climbing of the fence. We see the trespass-board, and in spite of the warning we stride into the forbidden field. Sin is not ignorance, it is intention. We sin when we are wide-awake! There are teachers abroad who would soften words like these. They offer us terms which appear to lessen the harshness of our actions; they give our sin an aspect of innocence. But to alter the label on the bottle does not change the character of the contents. Poison is poison give it what name we please. "Sin is the transgression of the law."
Let us be on our guard against the men whose pockets are filled with deceptive labels. Let us vigilantly resist all teachings which would chloroform the conscience. Let us prefer true terms to merely nice ones. Let us call sin by its right name, and let us tolerate no moral conjuring either with ourselves or with others. The first essential in all moral reformation is to call sin "sin." "If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin."
FEBRUARY The Twenty-first
ROMANS v. 12-21.
When old Mr. Honest came to the river, and he entered the cold waters of death, the last words he was heard to utter by those who stood on the shore were these:—"Grace reigns!" All through his pilgrimage old Mr. Honest had been in Emmanuel's land where grace reigned night and day. It was through grace that he had found the way of life. It was through grace that he had been delivered from the beasts and pitfalls of the road. It was grace that had given him lilies of peace, and springs of refreshment, and the fine air that inspired him in difficult tasks. And in death he still found "grace abounding," and the Lord of the changing road was also Lord of the dark waters through which he passed into the radiant glories of the cloudless day.
In every yard of a faithful pilgrimage we shall find the decrees of sovereign love. We are never in alien country. "Grace reigns" in every hill and valley, through every green pasture and over every rugged road, in every moment of "the day of life," and in the last sharp passage through the transient night of death.
FEBRUARY The Twenty-second
THE THREE GARDENS
REVELATION xxii. 1-14.
The Bible opens with a garden. It closes with a garden. The first is the Paradise that was lost. The last is Paradise regained. And between the two there is a third garden, the garden of Gethsemane. And it is through the unspeakable bitterness and desolation of Gethsemane that we find again the glorious garden through which flows "the river of water of life." Without Gethsemane no New Jerusalem! Without its mysterious and unfathomable night no blessed sunrise of eternal hope! "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."
We are always in dire peril of regarding our redemption lightly. We hold it cheaply. Privileges easily come to be esteemed as rights. And even grace itself can lose the strength of heavenly favour and can be received and used as our due. "Gethsemane can I forget?" Yes, I can; and in the forgetfulness I lose the sacred awe of my redemption, and I miss the real glory of "Paradise regained." "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price." That is the remembrance that keeps the spirit lowly, and that fills the heart with love for Him "whose I am," and whom I ought to serve.
FEBRUARY The Twenty-third
THE PROCESS AND THE END
"Ye have seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." —JAMES v. 7-11.
And so we are bidden to be patient. "We must wait to the end of the Lord." The Lord's ends are attained through very mysterious means. Sometimes the means are in contrast to the ends. He works toward the harvest through winter's frost and snow. The maker of chaste and delicate porcelain reaches his lovely ends through an awful mortar, where the raw material of bone and clay is pounded into a cream. In that mortar-chamber we have no hint of the finished ware. But be patient, even in this chamber of affliction the ware is on the way to glory!
And so it is with the ministries of our Lord. He leads us through discords into harmonies, through opposition into union, through adversities into peace. His means of grace are processes, sometimes gentle, sometimes severe; and our folly is to assume that we have reached His ends when we are only on the way to them. "The end of the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." "Be patient, therefore," until it shall be spoken of thee and me, "And God saw that it was good."
FEBRUARY The Twenty-fourth
MOVING TOWARDS DAYBREAK
"He hath brought me into darkness, but not into light." —LAMENTATIONS iii. 1-9.
But a man may be in darkness, and yet in motion toward the light. I was in the darkness of the subway, and it was close and oppressive, but I was moving toward the light and fragrance of the open country. I entered into a tunnel in the Black Country in England, but the motion was continued, and we emerged amid fields of loveliness. And therefore the great thing to remember is that God's darknesses are not His goals; His tunnels are means to get somewhere else. Yes, His darknesses are appointed ways to His light. In God's keeping we are always moving, and we are moving towards Emmanuel's land, where the sun shines, and the birds sing night and day.
There is no stagnancy for the God-directed soul. He is ever guiding us, sometimes with the delicacy of a glance, sometimes with the firmer ministry of a grip, and He moves with us always, even through "the valley of the shadow of death." Therefore, be patient, my soul! The darkness is not thy bourn, the tunnel is not thy abiding home! He will bring thee out into a large place where thou shalt know "the liberty of the glory of the children of God."
FEBRUARY The Twenty-fifth
THE FRESH EYE
"His compassions fail not: they are new every morning." —LAMENTATIONS iii. 22-33.
We have not to live on yesterday's manna; we can gather it fresh to-day. Compassion becomes stale when it becomes thoughtless. It is new thought that keeps our pity strong. If our perception of need can remain vivid, as vivid as though we had never seen it before, our sympathies will never fail. The fresh eye insures the sensitive heart. And our God's compassions are so new because He never becomes accustomed to our need. He always sees it with an eye that is never dulled by the commonplace; He never becomes blind with much seeing! We can look at a thing so often that we cease to see it. God always sees a thing as though He were seeing it for the first time. "Thou, God, seest me," and "His compassions fail not."
And if my compassions are to be like a river that never knows drought, I must cultivate a freshness of sight. The horrible can lose its horrors. The daily tragedy can become the daily commonplace. My neighbour's needs can become as familiar as my furniture, and I may never see either the one or the other. And therefore must I ask the Lord for the daily gift of discerning eyes. "Lord, that I may receive my sight." And with an always newly-awakened interest may I reveal "the compassions of the Lord!"
FEBRUARY The Twenty-sixth
THE CELLARS OF AFFLICTION
PSALM xxxiv. 9-22.
Samuel Rutherford used to say that whenever he found himself in the cellars of afflictions he used to look about for the King's wine. He would look for the wine-bottles of the promises and drink rich draughts of vitalizing grace. And surely that is the best deliverance in all affliction, to be made so spiritually exhilarant that we can rise above it. I might be taken out of affliction, and emerge a poor slave and weakling. I might remain in affliction, and yet be king in the seeming servitude, "more than conqueror" in Christ Jesus. It is a great thing to be led through green pastures and by still waters; I think it is a greater thing to have a "table prepared before me in the presence of mine enemies." It is good to be able to sing in the sunny noon; it is better still to be able to sing "songs in the night."
And this deliverance may always be ours in Christ Jesus. The Lord may not smooth out our circumstances, but we may have the regal right of peace. He may not save us from the sorrows of a newly-cut grave, but we may have the glorious strength of the immortal hope. God will enable us to be masters of all our circumstances, and none shall have a deadly hold upon us.
FEBRUARY The Twenty-seventh
THE MIGHT OF FRAILTY
PSALM cv. 23-36.
That is the wonder of wonders, that the Almighty God will use frail humanity as the vehicles of His power, and will make Moses and Aaron shine with reflected glory. Man can send an electric current into a fragile carbon film and make it incandescent. He can send his voice across a continent, and make it speak on a distant shore. And the Lord God can do wonders compared with which these are only as the dimmest dreams. He can send His holy power into human speech, and the words can wake the dead. He can send His virtue into the human will, and its strength can shake the thrones of iniquity. He can send His love into the human heart, and the power of its affection can capture the bitterest foe.
And so the word "impossible" becomes itself impossible when the soul of man is in fellowship with the Lord of Hosts. The pliant will becomes an iron pillar. The weak heart becomes "as a defended city" when it is the home of God. Dumb lips become the thrones of mysterious eloquence when touched with divine inspiration.
FEBRUARY The Twenty-eighth
THE TEST OF FULNESS
DEUTERONOMY viii. 1-10.
"And thou shalt eat and be full, and thou shalt bless the Lord thy God." Fulness is surely a more searching test than want. Fulness induces sleep and forgetfulness. Many a man fights a good fight with Apollyon in the narrow way, who lapses into sleepy indifference on the Enchanted Ground. Men often sit down to a full table without "grace." Pain cries out to God, while boisterous health strides along in heedlessness. Yes, it is our fulness that constitutes our direst peril. "This was the iniquity of Sodom, fulness of bread and abundance of idleness."
And so our tests may come on the sunny day. A nation's supreme tests may come in its prosperity. The sunshine may do more damage than the lightning. The soul may falter even in Beulah land, where "the sun shines night and day."
Prayer must not, therefore, tarry until sickness and adversity come. We must "pray without ceasing" in the cloudless noon, lest we are stricken with "the arrow that flieth by day." We must seek the eternal strength when no apparent enemy crouches at our gate, and when our easy road is lined with luxuriant flowers and fruit.
FEBRUARY The Twenty-ninth
HEBREWS xi. 17-22.
"Accounting that God was able." That is the faith that makes moral heroes. That is the faith that prompts mighty ventures and crusades. It is faith in God's willingness and ability to redeem His promises. It is faith that if I do my part He will most assuredly do His. It is faith that He cannot possibly fail. It is faith that when He makes a promise the money is already in the bank. It is faith that when He sends me into the wilderness the secret harvest is already ripe from which He will give me "daily bread." It is faith that "all things are now ready," and in that faith I will face the apparently impossible task.
And thus the "impossible" leads me to the "prepared." The desert leads me to "fields white already." The hard call to sacrifice leads me to the "lamb in the thicket." "God is able," and He is never behind the time. The critical need unveils His grace.
Faith goes out on this invincible reliance. It is "the assurance of things hoped for." And by faith it inherits these things and is rich and strong in their possession.
MARCH The First
OVERCHARGING THE HEART
LUKE xxi. 25-36.
Here is a great peril. Our hearts may be "overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares." Our mode of living may send our spirits to sleep. Yes, we may so ill-use our bodies that the watchman sleeps at his post! We can over-eat, and dim our moral sight. A man's daily meals have vital relationship with his vision of the Lord. If I would have a clear spirit I must not overburden the flesh.
And therefore am I bidden to "take heed" to myself. I must exercise common sense, the most important of all the senses. I must put a bridle upon my appetite, and hold it in subjection to my Lord.
And I must "watch!" The devil is surpassingly cunning, and, if he can, he will mix an opiate even with the sacramental wine. He will lure me among the winsome poppies, and put me into a perilous sleep.
And I must "pray!" I have a great and glorious Defender! Let me humbly yet confidently use Him, and I shall be delivered from the snares of appetite, and from the benumbing influence of all excess.
MARCH The Second
THE POWER OF THE CROSS
JOHN x. 11-18.
"I lay down my life." In that supreme sacrifice all other sacrifices turn pale. In the power of that sacrifice the blackest guilt finds forgiveness. Its energies seek out the ruined and desolate life with glorious offer of renewal. When the Lord laid down His life the entire race found a new beginning. Our hope is born at the Cross. It is there that "the burden of our sin rolls away." In His night we find daybreak. When He said, "It is finished," our soul could sing, "Life is begun."
And so pilgrims gather at the Cross. Songs are heard there, the "sweetest ever sung by mortal tongues." And the power of the Cross never wanes. Its glorious grace reaches the soul to-day as in the earliest days. It inspires the despairing heart. It transforms the mind. It remakes the tissues of the will. There is no shattered power that the power of the Cross cannot restore. "We are complete in Him."
"In the Cross of Christ I glory, Towering o'er the wrecks of time; All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime."
MARCH The Third
PREPARING FOR THE BRIDE
JOHN xiv. 1-14.
Our Lord has prepared a place. It is the Bridegroom "getting the house ready" for the bride. And, therefore, the preparations are not made grudgingly and with slow reluctance. Everything is of the best, and done with the swift delight of love. "Come, for all things are now ready."
And our Lord will fetch His bride to the prepared place. "I am the way." We become so wrapt up in Him that nothing else counts. I once travelled through the Black Country with a fascinating friend, and I never saw it! And we can become so absorbed in our glorious Bridegroom that we shall be almost oblivious of adverse circumstances which may beset us. Yes, even this is possible: "He that believeth in Me shall never see death!"
"I will receive you unto Myself." The last obscuring veil is to be rent, and we are to see Him "face to face." And that will be home, for that will be satisfaction and peace. The deepest hunger of the soul will be gratified in a glorious contentment, and we shall find that "the half hath not been told."
MARCH The Fourth
THE GREAT COMPANION
JOHN xiv. 15-31.
And so even the road is to have the home-feeling in it. "I will not leave you orphans." Yes; there is to be something of home even in the way to it. I find something of Devonshire even in Dorsetshire; Shropshire gives me a taste of Wales. My Lord will not leave me comfortless. Heaven runs over, and I find its bounty before I arrive at its gate. The "Valley of Baca" becomes "a well."
And there are to be wonderful visions to speed the pilgrim's feet. "I will manifest Myself unto him." At unexpected corners the glory will break! We shall be assuming that we have picked up a common traveller, and suddenly we shall discover it is the Lord, for He will be made known to us "in the breaking of bread." And at many "risings" of the road, where the climbing is stiff and burdensome, we shall be inspired with many a glorious view, and we shall see "the land that is very far off."
The one condition is, that I keep His word. If I am obedient, He will appear unto me, and the humdrum road will shine with miracles of grace.
MARCH The Fifth
THE TENT AND THE BUILDING
2 CORINTHIANS v. 1-9.
At present we live in a tent—"the earthly house of this tabernacle." And often the tent is very rickety. There are rents through which the rain enters, and it trembles ominously in the great storm. Some tents are frail from the very beginning, half-rotten when they are put up, and they have no defence even against the breeze. But even the strongest tent becomes weather-worn and threadbare, and in the long run it "falls in a heap!" And what then?
We shall exchange the frail tent for the solid house! "If the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." When we are unclothed we shall find ourselves clothed with our house which is from heaven. The glory of this transition can only be confessed by "the saints in light." To awake, and discover that the creaking, breaking cords are left behind, that all the leakages are over, that we are no longer exposed to the cutting wind, that pain is passed, and sickness, and death—this must be a wonder of inconceivable ecstasy!
And "absent from the body" we shall be "present with the Lord."
MARCH The Sixth
HOME-LIFE IN GOD
JOHN xvii. 20-26.
The home-life in God is to be a life of perfect union—"I in them, and Thou in Me." Home is only another name for union. It is the perfect fusion of life with life, the harmonizing of differences as many different notes combine to form the mystery of choral song. And so will it be in the home-land! Our manifold individualities will be retained, but we shall "fit into one another," and in the perfect harmony we shall hear the "new song" of heaven.
And we are to prepare that union by the contemplation of the glory of the Lord. "That they may behold My glory." Yes, and we can begin to do that now. We can lift our eyes away from the ugly compromises of men and fix them upon the radiant holiness of the Lord. We can look away from the dirty Alpine village and gaze upon the virgin snow of the uplifted heights. "Looking unto Jesus!"
And in that contemplation we shall most assuredly become transformed. "I have given unto them the glory which Thou gavest Me." That is our wonderful possibility. For thee and me is this prize offered, we can "awake in His likeness."
MARCH The Seventh
THINGS MISSING IN HEAVEN
REVELATION xxi. 1-7.
What a number of "conspicuous absences" there are to be in "the home-land!"
No more sea! John was in Patmos, and the sea rolled between him and his kinsmen. The sea was a minister of estrangement. But in the home-country every cause of separation is to be done away, and the family life is to be one of inconceivable intimacy. No more sea!
And no more pain! Its work is done, and therefore the worker is put away. When the building is completed the scaffolding may be removed. When the patient is in good health the medicine bottles can be dispensed with. And so shall it be with pain and all its attendants. "The inhabitant never says: 'I am sick!'"
And no more death! "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death." Yes, he, too, shall drop his scythe, and his lax hand shall destroy no more for ever. Death himself shall die! And all things that have shared his work shall die with him. "The former things have passed away." The wedding-peal which welcomes the Lamb's bride will ring the funeral knell of Death and all his sable company.
MARCH The Eighth
THE CITIZENS OF THE HOME-LAND
REVELATION vii. 9-17.
The citizen of "the home-land" wears white robes. His habits are perfectly clean. And the purity which he wears is a Divine gift and not a human accomplishment. It cannot be attained by self-sacrifice; it is ours through the sacrifice of our Lord. "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
And every citizen of the home-land bears a palm in his hand. It is the emblem of conquest and sovereignty. By the grace of Christ they have been lifted above self and sin, and the devil, and death, and "made to sit with Him" on His throne. The palm is the heavenly symbol that all their spiritual enemies are under their feet.
And every citizen of the home-land takes part in the new song. The home-folk are therefore one in purity, one in self-conquest, and one in praise. "Salvation unto our God which sitteth upon the throne!" In that melody of thankfulness their union is deepened and enriched.
And we, too, can begin now to wear the white robe! And even now can we carry the palm! And even now we can join in the song of ceaseless praise.
MARCH The Ninth
2 TIMOTHY iv. 1-8.
Here is a most valiant pilgrim nearing home! By the mercy of Christ he can look back upon a brave day, and there's a fine hopeful light in the evening sky.
He has fought well! "I have fought a good fight." And his has been a hard field. The enemy has ever regarded him as a leader in the army of the Lord and against him has the fiercest fight been waged. But he has never lost or stained his flag.
And he has run well! "I have finished my course." There was no melancholy turning back when the feverish start had cooled. There was no shrinking when the biting wind of malice and persecution swept across his track. On and on he ran, with increasing speed and ardour, until he reached the goal.
And well had he guarded his treasure! "I have kept the faith." He was the custodian of "unsearchable riches," and he watched, day and night, lest any infernal burglar should despoil him of his wealth. He guarded his gospel, his liberty, his hope, as the sentinels guard the crown jewels in the Tower.
And now the hard day is nearly over. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will give me at that day."
MARCH The Tenth
EXALTATION BY SEPARATION
2 CORINTHIANS vi. 11-18.
When we turn away from the world, and leave it, we ourselves are not left to desolation and orphanhood. When we "come out from among them" the Lord receives us! He is waiting for us. The new companionship is ours the moment the old companionship is ended. "I will not leave you comfortless." What we have lost is compensated by infinite and eternal gain. We have lost "the whole world" and gained "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
And therefore separation is exaltation. We leave the muddy pleasures of Sodom and we "drink of the river of His pleasures." We leave "the garish day," and all the feverish life of Vanity Fair, and He maketh us "to lie down in green pastures," "He leadeth us beside the still waters." We leave a transient sensation, we receive the bread of eternity. We forfeit fireworks, we gain the stars!
What fools we are, and blind! We prefer the scorched desert of Sodom to the garden of Eden. We prefer a loud reputation to noble character. We prefer delirium to joy. We prefer human applause to the praise of God. We prefer a fading garland to the crown of life. Lord, that we may receive our sight!
MARCH The Eleventh
GOOD AND BAD ROADS
There is nothing breaks up more speedily than a badly-made road. Every season is its enemy and works for its destruction. Fierce heat and intensest cold both strive for its undoing. And "the way of the ungodly" is an appallingly bad road. There is rottenness in its foundations, and there is built into it "wood, and hay, and stubble," How can it stand? "The Spirit of the Lord breatheth upon it," and it is surely brought to nought. All the forces of holiness are pledged to its destruction, and they shall pick it to pieces, and shall scatter its elements to the winds.
"I am the way!" That road remains sound "in all generations." Changing circumstances cannot affect its stability. It is proof against every tempest, and against the most violent heat. It is a road in which little children can walk in happiness and in which old people can walk in peace. It is firm in the day of life, and it is absolutely sure in the hour of death. It never yields! "Thou hast set my feet upon a rock and hast established my goings." "This is the way, walk ye in it."
MARCH The Twelfth
THE COMING OF THE LORD
LUKE xvii. 22-32.
In a certain very real way the Lord is coming every moment. And the great art of Christian living is to be able to discern Him when He arrives. He may appear as the village carpenter; or we may "suppose Him to be one of the gardeners," and we may mistake His appearing! He may meet us in some lowly duty, or in some seemingly unpleasant task. He may shine in the cheeriness of some triumph, or whisper to us in a message of good news. "I come again." And if our eyes are open we shall see Him coming continually. It is by this perception that the value of our life is measured and weighed.
But He will also come again "suddenly," when the soul will be translated into unknown climes. He will come again in the sable robes of death. Shall we know Him? Will our eyes be so keen and true that we shall be able to pierce the dark veil and say "It is the Lord!" This has been the joyful experience of countless multitudes. When the summons came their souls went forth, not as victims to encounter death, but as the bride "to meet the bridegroom!" They had intimacy with Him in life; they had glorious fellowship with Him in death!
MARCH The Thirteenth
SICKNESS AMONG CHRIST'S FRIENDS
JOHN xi. 1-16.
And so sickness can enter the circle of the friends of the Lord. "He whom Thou lovest is sick." My sicknesses do not mean that I have lost His favour. The shadow is His, as well as the sunshine. When He removes me from the glare of boisterous health it may be because of some spiritual fern which needs the ministry of the shade. "This sickness is ... for the glory of God." Something beautiful will spring out of the shadowed seclusion, something which shall spread abroad the name and fame of God.
And, therefore, I do not wonder at the Lord's delay. He did not hasten away to the sick friend: "He abode two days still in the same place where He was." Shall I put it like this: the awaking bulbs were not yet ready for the brighter light—just a little more shade! We are impatient to get healthy; the Lord desires that we become holy. Our physical sickness is continued in order that we may put on spiritual strength.
And there are others besides sick Lazarus concerned in the sickness: "I am glad for your sakes I was not there." The disciples were included in the divine scheme. Their spiritual welfare was to be affected by it. Let me ever remember that the circle affected by sickness is always wider than the patient's bed. And may God be glorified in all!