"Kindle a flame of sacred love On these cold hearts of ours."
MAY The Twenty-fourth
CALVARY AND PENTECOST
ACTS ii. 22-36.
The Apostle Peter traces the stream of Pentecostal blessing to a tomb. This "river of water of life" has its "rise" in a death of transcendent sacrifice. And I must never forget these dark beginnings of my eternal hope. It is well that I should frequently visit the sources of my blessedness, and kneel on "the green hill far away."
It will save me from having a cheap religion. I shall never handle the gifts of grace as though they had cost nothing. There will always be the marks of blood upon them, the crimson stain of incomparable sacrifice.
And it will save me from all flippancy in my religious life. When I visit the cross and the tomb, life is transformed from a picnic into a crusade. For that is ever my peril, to picnic on the banks of the river and to spend my days in emotional loitering.
After all, my Pentecost is purposed to prepare me for my own Gethsemane and Calvary! Life is given me in order that I may spend it again in ready and fruitful sacrifice.
MAY The Twenty-fifth
VISIONS AND DREAMS
JOEL ii. 21-32.
And this old-world promise is good for me to-day. It is like some weather-stained well, whose waters have continued flowing throughout the generations, right down to my own time. Let me drink!
Holy inspiration will give me insight into the mind of my God. "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." The breath of God creates an atmosphere in which spiritual realities are clearly seen. It is like the Sabbath air in some busy city, when the fumes and smoke of commerce have been blown away. "Thou shalt behold the land that is very far off."
And so in my younger days holy inspiration will give me visions. "Your young men shall see visions." I shall be an idealist, and I shall see things as they exist in God's idea, even though at present they be maimed and imperfect. I shall see them "according to the pattern on the Mount."
And in my later days holy inspiration will give me dreams. "Your old men shall dream dreams." And what shall they dream about? Not like the Chinese, of a golden age in a distant past, but of a golden age to be. Their dreams shall have a "forward-looking eye." They shall see "the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God."
MAY The Twenty-sixth
THE UNITING OF SUNDERED PEOPLES
"On the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." —ACTS x. 34-48.
And this is ever the issue of a true outpouring of the Spirit: sundered peoples become one. At "low tide" there are multitudes of separated pools along the shore: at "high tide" they flow together, and the little distinctions are lost in a splendid union.
It is so racially. "Jew and Gentile!" Peter and Cornelius lose their prejudices in the emancipating ministry of the Spirit. And so shall it be with English and Irish, with French and German, with Asiatic and European: they shall be "all one" in Christ.
It is so socially. "Bond and free!" The master and the servant shall discover a glorious intimacy and union. And so shall rich and poor, the learned and the illiterate, the many-talented and the obscure. The pools shall flow together.
It is so ecclesiastically. Our sectarianisms are always most frowning and obtrusive when spiritually we are at "low tide." When the tide rises, it is amazing how the ramparts are submerged. It is not round-table conferences that we need, but seasons of communion when together we shall await the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.
MAY The Twenty-seventh
RECEIVING THE HOLY GHOST
ACTS ii. 37-47.
The sacred process by which the Holy Spirit is received is the same throughout all the years.
First there is repentance. And repentance is not a flow of emotion, but a certain direction of mind. I may repent with dry eyes. It is not a matter of feeling, but of willing. It is to lay hold of the aimless, drifting thought, and steer it toward God! It is a change of mind.
Second, there is a definite and avowed choice of my new Goal, my new Lord and King. The Christian life cannot be a subterfuge. It cannot be lived incognito. I cannot be the Christ's and wear the livery of an alien power. There must be confession, a bold and clarion-like avowal that henceforth I am a soldier of the Lord.
And the spiritual experiences will be sure, as sure as the law-governed processes of the material world. There will be "remission of sins." The old guilt will fall away from my soul as the chains fell from Peter's limbs when the angel touched them. And there will be "the gift of the Holy Ghost." A new dynamic is mine! I enter into fellowship with the power of the ascended Lord.
MAY The Twenty-eighth
THE SONS OF GOD
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God." —ROMANS viii. 9-17.
And how unspeakably wealthy are the implications of the great word!
If a son, then what holy freedom is mine! Mine is not "the spirit of bondage." The son has "the run of the house." That is the great contrast between lodgings and home. And I am to be at home with the Lord.
And if a son, then heir! "All things are yours." Samuel Rutherford used to counsel his friends to "take a turn" round their estate. And truly it is an inspiring exercise! The Spirit shall lead me over my estate, and I will survey, with the sense of ownership, "the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
I wonder if I have the manner of a king's son? I wonder if there is anything in my very "walk" which indicates distinguished lineage and royal blood? Or am I like a vagrant who has no possessions and no heartening expectations?
"Lord, I would serve, and be a son!"
MAY The Twenty-ninth
MANY GIFTS—ONE SPIRIT
1 CORINTHIANS xii. 1-13.
There is no monotony in the workmanship of my God. The multitude of His thoughts is like the sound of the sea, and every thought commands a new creation. When He thinks upon me, the result is a creative touch never again to be repeated on land or sea. And so, when the Holy Spirit is given to the people, the ministry does not work in the suppression of individualities, but rather in their refinement and enrichment.
Our gifts will be manifold, and we must not allow the difference to breed a spirit of suspicion. Because my brother's gift is not mine I must not suspect his calling. To one man is given a trumpet, to another a lamp, and to another a spade. And they are all the holy gifts of grace.
And thus the gifts are manifold in order that every man may find his completeness in his brother. One man is like an eye—he is a seer of visions! Another man is like a hand—he has the genius of practicality! He is "a handy man"! One is the architect, the other is the builder. And each requires the other, if either is to be perfected. And so, by God's gracious Spirit, the individual man is only a bit, a portion, and he is intended to fit into the other bits, and so make the complete man of the race.
MAY The Thirtieth
FINDING THE DEEP THINGS
"The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." —1 CORINTHIANS ii. 7-12.
The deep things of God cannot be discovered by unaided reason. "Eye hath not seen:" they are not to be apprehended by the artistic vision. "Ear hath not heard:" they are not unveiled amid the discussion of the philosophic schools. "Neither hath entered into the heart of man:" even poetic insight cannot discern them. All the common lights fail in this realm. We need another illumination, even that provided by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is offered unto us "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
And here we have the reason why so many uncultured people are spiritually wiser than many who are learned. They lack talent, but they have grace. They lack accomplishments, but they have the Holy Ghost. They lack the telescope, but they have the sunlight. They are not scholars, but they are saints. They may not be theologians, but they have true religion. And so they have "the open vision." They "walk with God," and "the deep things of God" are made known to their souls.
We must put first things first. We may be busy polishing our lenses when our primary and fundamental need is light. It is not a gift that we require, but a Friend.
MAY The Thirty-first
CONNECTION AND CONCORD
"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." —1 CORINTHIANS xii. 12-19.
It is only in the spirit that real union is born. Every other kind of union is artificial, and mechanical, and dead. We can dovetail many pieces of wood together and make the unity of an article of furniture, but we cannot dovetail items together and make a tree. And it is the union of a tree that we require, a union born of indwelling life. We may join many people together in a fellowship by the bonds of a formal creed, but the result is only a piece of social furniture, it is not a vital communion. There is a vast difference between a connection and a concord.
Many members of a family may bear the same name, may share the same blood, may sit and eat at the same table, and yet may have no more vital union than a handful of marbles in a boy's pocket. But let the spirit of a common love dwell in all their hearts and there is a family bound together in glorious union.
And so it is in the spirit, and there alone, that vital union is to be found. And here is the secret of such spiritual union. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The Spirit of God, dwelling in all our spirits, attunes them into glorious harmony. Our lives blend with one another in the very music of the spheres.
JUNE The First
THE BEAUTY OF VARIETY
1 CORINTHIANS xii. 20-31.
God's glory is expressed through the harmony of variety. We do not need sameness in order to gain union. I am now looking upon a scene of surpassing loveliness. There are mountains, and sea, and grassland, and trees, and a wide-stretching sky, and white pebbles at my feet. And a white bird has just flown across a little bank of dark cloud. What variety! And when I look closer the variety is infinitely multiplied. Everything blends into everything else. Nothing is out of place. Everything contributes to finished power and loveliness. And so it is in the grander sphere of human life. The glory of humanity is born of the glory of individuals, each one making his own distinctive contribution.
And thus we have need of one another. Every note in the organ is needed for the full expression of noble harmony. Every instrument in the orchestra is required unless the music is to be lame and broken. God has endowed no two souls alike, and every soul is needed to make the music of "the realm of the blest."
JUNE The Second
OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDE
"When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth." —JOHN xvi. 7-14.
How great is the difference between a guide-post and a guide! And what a difference between a guide-book and a companion! Mere instructions may be very uninspiring, and bare commandments may be very cold. Our Guide is an inseparable Friend.
And how will He guide us? He will give us insight. "He will guide you into all truth." He will refine our spirits so that we may be able to distinguish "things that differ," and that so we may know the difference between "the holy and the profane." Our moral judgment is often dull and imperceptive. And our spiritual judgment is often lacking in vigour and penetration. And so our great Spirit-guide puts our spirits to school, and more deeply sanctifies them, that in holiness we may have discernment.
And He will also give us foresight. He will enable us to interpret circumstances, to apprehend their drift and destiny. We shall see harvests while we are looking at seeds, whether the seeds be seeds of good or evil. All of which means that the Holy Spirit will deliver our lives from the governance of mere whim and caprice, and that He will make us wise with the wisdom of God.
JUNE The Third
THE SAFETY OF THE OCCUPIED HEART
GALATIANS v. 16-25.
Two friends were cycling through Worcestershire and Warwickshire to Birmingham. When they arrived in Birmingham I asked them, among other things, if they had seen Warwick Gaol along the road. "No," they said, "we hadn't a glimpse of it." "But it is only a field's length from the road!" "Well, we never saw it." Ah, but these two friends were lovers. They were so absorbed in each other that they had no spare attention for Warwick Gaol. Their glorious fellowship made them unresponsive to its calls. They were otherwise engaged.
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." That great Companionship will make us negligent of carnal allurements. "The world, and the flesh, and the devil" may stand by the wayside, and hold their glittering wares before us, but we shall scarcely be aware of their presence. We are otherwise engaged. We are absorbed in the "Lover of our souls."
This is the only real and effective way to meet temptation. We must meet it with an occupied heart. We must have no loose and trailing affections. We must have no vagrant, wayward thoughts. Temptation must find us engaged with our Lover. We must "offer no occasion to the flesh." Walking with the Holy One, our elevation is our safety.
JUNE The Fourth
LIFE'S REAL VALUES
PROVERBS viii. 10-19.
Here is a man who knows the relative values of things. "Instruction is better than silver"; "knowledge rather than choice gold"; "wisdom is better than rubies." He weighs the inherent worth of things, and puts his choice upon the best.
Let me remember that "all is not gold that glitters." The leaden casket is often the shrine of the priceless scroll. The glaring and the theatrical have often a ragged and seamy interior, and won't bear "looking into." A man may have much display and be very lonely; he may have piles of wealth and be destitute of joy. His libraries may cover an acre, and yet he may have no light. And a man may have only "a candle, and a table, and a bed," and he may be the companion of the eternal God.
I would seek these priceless things. And I would "seek them early." I have so often been late in the search. I have given the early moments to seeking the world's silver and gold, and the later weary moments have been idly devoted to God. "They that seek Me early shall find Me." Let me put "first things first." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
JUNE The Fifth
THE SPEECH OF EVENTS
ACTS xiii. 14-23.
Do I sufficiently remember the witness of history? Do I reverently listen to the "great voice behind me"? God has spoken in the speech of events. "Day unto day" has uttered speech. There has been a witness in national life, sometimes quiet as a fragrance, and sometimes "loud as a vale when storms are gone." Is it all to me as though it had never been, or is it part of the store of counsel by which I shape and guide my life?
And do I sufficiently remember my own providences, "all the way my God has led me"? When a day is over, do I carry its helpful lamp into the morrow? Do I "learn wisdom" from experience? That is surely God's purpose in the days; one is to lead on to another in the creation of an ever brightening radiance, that so at eventide it may be light.
And do I sufficiently remember that I, too, am making history for my fellows who shall succeed me? What kind of a witness will it be? Grim and full of warning, like the pillar of salt, or winsome and full of heartiness, like some "sweet Ebenezer" built by life's way? Let me pray and labour that my days may so shine with grace that all who remember me shall adore the goodness of my Lord.
JUNE The Sixth
1 JOHN iii. 11-18.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because "He laid down His life for us." And the real test of any love is what it is prepared to "lay down." How much is it ready to spend? How much will it bleed? There is much spurious love about. It lays nothing down; it only takes things up! It is self-seeking, using the speech and accents of love. It is a "work of the flesh," which has stolen the label of a "fruit of the Spirit." Love may always be known by its expenditures, its self-crucifixions, its Calvarys. Love is always laying down its life for others. Its pathway is always a red road. You may track its goings by the red "marks of the Lord Jesus."
And this is the life, the love-life, which the Lord Jesus came to create among the children of men. It is His gracious purpose to form a spiritual fellowship in which every member will be lovingly concerned about his fellows' good. A real family of God would be one in which all the members bleed for each, and each for all.
How can we gain this disposition of love? "God is love." "We love because He first loved us." At the fountain of eternal love we too may become lovers, becoming "partakers of the divine nature," and filled with all "the fulness of God."
JUNE The Seventh
GALATIANS vi. 1-8.
This is a surgical operation in the realm of the soul. A man has been "overtaken in a fault," some evil passion has pounced upon him, and he is broken. Some holy relationship has been snapped, and he is crippled in his moral and spiritual goings. Perhaps his affections have been broken, or his conscience, or his will. Or perhaps he has lost his glorious hope or the confidence of his faith. Here he is, a broken man, the victim of his own broken vows, lame and halt in the pilgrim-way! And some surgeon is needed to re-set the dislocation, and to make him whole again.
And who is to be the surgeon? "Ye which are spiritual restore such a one." The men who live under the control of God's Spirit are to be the surgeons for broken hearts and souls. When a man has fallen by reason of sin, the Christian is to be a Good Samaritan, seeking to restore the cripple to health and strength again. We are to kneel and minister to him, binding up his wounds, giving him the balm and cordial of oil and wine.
And what is to be the spirit of the surgeon? "The spirit of meekness." We are not to be supercilious, for the "touch" of pride is never the minister of healing. We are to heal as though some day we may need to be healed.
JUNE The Eighth
THE NEW BIRTH
JOHN iii. 1-21.
Here is the Life in contact with the icy legalism of the day. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and his piety was cold and mechanical. Religion had become a bloodless obedience to lifeless rules. Men cared more about being proper than about being holy. Modes were emphasized more than moods. An external pose was esteemed more highly than an internal disposition. The popular Saint lived on "the outsides of things."
Then came the Life. And what will He say to the externalist? "Ye must be born again." Nothing else could He have said. If the mechanical is to become the vital there is nothing for it but a new birth. To get from the outside into the inside of things, from the letter into the spirit, we need the miracle of renewal, the recreating ministry of grace.
And so it is to-day. The ritualistic is vitalized by the evangelistic. If the mechanical is to become the spontaneous, there is need of the "well of living water, springing up unto eternal life." When we are born again, ritual becomes helpful trellis for the spiritual flowers; the outward form becomes the helpmeet of redeeming grace.
JUNE The Ninth
THE STORY OF A SORROWFUL SOUL
This tearful little psalm tells me where a sorrowful soul found a place of help and consolation. He resorted to God.
"Thou art a shield about me." He got the Lord between him and his circumstances. There is nothing else subtle enough to interpose. Our hurtful circumstances are so invasive and so immediate that only God can come between us and them. But when God gets in between we are immune. "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear."
"Thou art my glory." And that is an honour that need never be stained. My worldly glory can be besmirched. An evil man throws mud, and my poor reputation is gone. "There's always somebody ready to believe it!" But my glory with God, and in God—man's mud cannot touch that fair fame! Even Absalom cannot defile that resplendent robe.
"Thou art the lifter-up of my head." The flower is "looking up" again! In the Lord's presence we recover our lost spirits. "He restoreth my soul." "And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me."
JUNE The Tenth
PILLARS OF CLOUD AND FIRE
"The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud." —EXODUS xiii. 17—xiv. 4.
I need His leadership in the daytime. Sometimes the daylight is my foe. It tempts me into carelessness. I become the victim of distraction. The "garish day" can entice me into ways of trespass, and I am robbed of my spiritual health. Many a man has been faithful in the twilight and night who has lost himself in the sunshine. He went astray in his prosperity: success was his ruin. And so in the daytime I need the shadow of God's presence, the cooling, subduing, calming influence of a friendly cloud.
"And by night in a pillar of fire." And I need God's leadership in the night. Sometimes the night fills me with fears, and I am confused. The darkness chills me, sorrow and adversity make me cold, and I shiver along in uncertain going. But my God will lead me as a presence of fire. He will keep my heart warm even in the midnight, and He will guide me by the kindlings of His love. There shall be "nothing hid from the heat thereof." And my bewildering fears shall flee away, and I will sing "songs in the night."
JUNE The Eleventh
THE PATH ACROSS THE SEA
"Thy way is in the sea." —PSALM lxxvii. 11-20.
And the sea appears to be the most trackless of worlds! The sea is the very symbol of mystery, the grim dwelling-house of innumerable things that have been lost. But God's way moves here and there across this trackless wild. God is never lost among our mysteries. He knows his way about. When we are bewildered He sees the road, and He sees the end even from the beginning. Even the sea, in every part of it, is the Lord's highway. When His way is in the sea we cannot trace it. Mystery is part of our appointed discipline. Uncertainty is to prepare us for a deeper assurance. The spirit of questioning is one of the ordained means of growth. And so the bewildering sea is our friend, as some day we shall understand. We love to "lie down in green pastures," and to be led "beside the still waters," and God gives us our share of this nourishing rest. But we need the mysterious sea, the overwhelming experience, the floods of sorrows which we cannot explain. If we had no sea we should never become robust. We should remain weaklings to the end of our days.
God takes us out into the deeps. But His way is in the sea. He knows the haven, He knows the track, and we shall arrive!
JUNE The Twelfth
WAITING FOR THE SPECTACULAR
"The waves covered their enemies.... Then believed they His words." —PSALM cvi. 1-12.
Their faith was born in a great emergency. A spectacular deliverance was needed to implant their trust in the Lord. They found no witness in the quiet daily providence; the unobtrusive miracle of daily mercy did not awake their song. They dwelt upon the "special" blessing, when all the time the really special blessing was to be found in the sleepless care which watched over them in their ordinary and commonplace ways.
It is the old story. We are wanting God to appear in imperial glory; and He comes among us as a humble carpenter. We want great miracles, and we have the daily Providence. We see His dread goings in the earthquake; we do not feel His presence in the lilies of the field. We watch Him in the smoke and flames of Vesuvius; we do not recognize His footprints in the little turf-clad hill that is only a few yards from our own door.
It is a great day when we discover our God in the common bush. That day is marked with glory when our daily bread becomes a sacrament. When we enjoy a closer walk with God, common things will wear the hues of heaven.
JUNE the Thirteenth
CLOUDED BUT NOT LOST!
"Clouds and darkness are round about Him." —PSALM xcvii.
When Lincoln had been assassinated, and word of the tragedy came to New York, "the people were in a state of mind which urges to violence." A man appeared on the balcony of one of the newspaper offices, waving a small flag, and a clear voice rang through the air: "Fellow-citizens! Clouds and darkness are round about Him! His pavilion is dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne! Fellow-citizens, God reigns!" It was the voice of General Garfield.
That voice proclaimed the divine sovereignty, even when the heavens were black with the menace of destruction. Lincoln had been assassinated, but God lived! Human confusion does not annihilate His throne. God liveth! "The firm foundation standeth sure." This is the only rock to stand upon when the clouds have gathered, and the waters are out, and the great deeps are broken up. God's sceptre does not fall from His grasp, nor is snatched by alien hands. The throne abideth. Joy will rise from the apparent chaos as springs are unsealed by the earthquake. He will bring fortune out of misfortune; the darkness shall be the hiding-place of His grace.
JUNE The Fourteenth
THE LAW IN THE HEART
"I will put My laws into their hearts." —HEBREWS x. 16-22.
Everything depends on where we carry the law of the Lord. If it only rests in the memory, any vagrant care may snatch it away. The business of the day may wipe it out as a sponge erases a record from a slate. A thought is never secure until it has passed from the mind into the heart, and has become a desire, an aspiration, a passion. When the law of God is taken into the heart, it is no longer something merely remembered: it is something loved. Now things that are loved have a strong defence. They are in the "keep" of the castle, in the innermost custody of the stronghold. The strength of the heart is wrapped about them, and no passing vagrant can carry them away.
And this is where the good Lord is willing to put His laws. He is wishful to put them among our loves. And the wonderful thing is this: when laws are put among loves they change their form, and His statutes become our songs. Laws that are loved are no longer dreadful policemen, but compassionate friends. "O! how I love Thy law!" That man did not live in a prison, he lived in a garden, and God's will was unto him as gracious flowers and fruits. And so shall it be unto all of us when we love the law of the Lord.
JUNE The Fifteenth
THE KING'S GUESTS
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" —PSALM xxiv.
Who shall be permitted to pass into the sanctuary of the cloud, and have communion with the Lord in the holy place? "He that hath clean hands." These hands of mine, the symbols of conduct, the expression of the outer life, what are they like? "Your hands are full of blood." Those hands had been busy murdering others, pillaging others, brutally ill-using their fellow-men. We may do it in business. We may do it in conversation. We may do it in a criminal silence. Our hands may be foul with a brother's blood. And men and women with hands like these cannot "ascend into the hill of the Lord." There must be no stain of an unfair and scandalous life.
"And a pure heart." We need not trouble about the hands if the heart be clean. If all the presences that move in the heart—desires, and motives, and sentiments, and ideals—are like white-robed angels "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," everything that emerges into outer life will share the same radiant purity. The heart expresses itself in the hands. Character blossoms in conduct. The quality of our current coin is determined by the quality of the metal in the mint. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
JUNE The Sixteenth
SINAI AND CALVARY
HEBREWS xii. 18-28.
We need not live at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is like living at the foot of Mount Pelee, the home of awful eruption, and therefore the realm of gloom and uncertainty and fear. We are not saved by law, neither indeed can we be. Neither can law heal us after our transgressions and defeats. The law has nothing for prodigal men but "blackness, and darkness, and tempest." It has no sound but dreaded decree, no message but menace, no look but a frown. Who will build his house at the foot of Mount Sinai?
"But ye are come unto Mount Zion." Our true home is not at Sinai, but at Calvary. There is no place for the sinner at the first mount; at the second mount there is a place for no one else. At Calvary we may find our way back to the holiness we lost at Sinai. Through grace we may drop the burden of our sin and begin to wear the garments of salvation. The way back to heaven is by "the green hill, without a city wall." It is a mount that can be reached by the most exhausted pilgrim; and the one who has "spent all" will assuredly find a full restoration of life at the gate of his Saviour's death. "Ye are come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant."
JUNE The Seventeenth
THE INVISIBLE PRESENCE
"Show me Thy glory." —EXODUS xxxiii. 12-23.
Moses wist not what he asked. His speech was beyond his knowledge. The answer to his request would have consumed him. He asked for the blazing noon when as yet he could only bear the quiet shining of the dawn. The good Lord lets in the light as our eyes are able to bear it. The revelation is tempered to our growth. The pilgrim could bear a brightness in Beulah land that he could not have borne at the wicket-gate; and the brilliance of the entry into the celebrated city throws the splendours of Beulah into the shade. Yes, the gracious Lord will unveil His glory as our "senses are exercised to receive it."
"My Presence shall go with thee." That is all the glory we need upon the immediate road. His companionship means everything. The real glory is to possess God; let Him show us His inheritance as it shall please Him. Life's glory is to "feel Him near." When the loving wife feels that the husband is in the house, and when the loving husband feels that the wife is in the house, that is everything! The joy of each other's presence is the crown of married bliss. And so it is with the soul that is married to the Lord: His presence is the soul's delight. "Thou, O Christ, art all I want." "O Master, let me walk with Thee."
JUNE The Eighteenth
THE BENEFITTED AS BENEFACTORS
"Who comforteth us ... that we may be able to comfort." —2 CORINTHIANS i. 3-7.
And how does the Lord comfort us? He has a thousand different ways, and no one can ever tell by what way the comfort will come to his soul. Sometimes it comes by the door of memory, and sometimes by the door of hope. Sometimes it is borne to us through the ministry of nature, and at other times through the ministry of human speech and kindness. But always, I think, it brings us the sense of a Presence, as though we had a great Friend in the room, and the troubled heart gains quietness and peace. The mist clears a little, and we have a restful assurance of our God.
Now comforted souls are to be comforters. They who have received benefits of grace are to be benefactors. They who have heard the sweet music of God's abiding love are to sing it again to others. They who have seen the glory are to become evangelists. We must not seek to hoard spiritual treasure. As soon as we lock it up we begin to lose it. A mysterious moth and rust take it away. If we do not comfort others, our own comfort will turn again to bitterness; the clouds will lower and we shall be imprisoned in the old woe. But the comfort which makes a comforter grows deeper and richer every day.
JUNE The Nineteenth
RECKONING UP THINGS
PSALM xc. 1-12.
Numbering things is one of the healthful exercises of the spiritual life. Unless we count, memory is apt to be very tricky and to snare us into strange forgetfulness. Unless we count what we have given away, we are very apt to exaggerate our bounty. We often think we have given when we have only listened to appeals; the mere audience has been mistaken for active beneficence. The remedy for all this is occasionally to count our benevolences and see how we stand in a balance-sheet which we could present to the Lord Himself.
And we must count our blessings. It is when our arithmetic fails in the task, and when counting God's blessings is like telling the number of the stars, that our souls bow low before the eternal goodness, and all murmuring dies away "like cloud-spots in the dawn."
And we must also "number our days." We are wasteful with them, and we throw them away as though they are ours in endless procession. And yet there are only seven days in a week! A day is of immeasurable preciousness, for what high accomplishment may it not witness? A day in health or in sickness, spent unto God, and applied unto wisdom, will gather treasures more precious than rubies and gold.
JUNE The Twentieth
THE REVEALING PRESENCE OF THE LORD
EPHESIANS vi. 1-10.
A starling never reveals the richness of its hues until we see it in the sunlight. A duty never discloses its beauties until we set it in the light of the Lord. It is amazing how a dull road is transfigured when the sunshine falls upon it! God's grace reveals the graces in all healthy things. Hidden lovelinesses troop out when we set them in the presence of the Lord.
And so the Apostle counsels an obedience which is "in the Lord." He wants us to know how beautiful common things can be when they are linked to Christ. And what he says about obedience he says about everything. One of the great secrets in the teaching of Paul is expressed in just this phrase, "in the Lord," "in Christ." It meant connection with a power-house whose energy would light up all the common lamps of life—the lamps of hope, of faith, of love, of daily labour, and of human service.
And this is the secret of the Christian life. We need no other; at least, all other secrets are involved in this. If we attend to this little preposition "in," we have entry into the infinite. If we are "in Christ," we are in the kingdom of everything that endures, and we are outside nothing but sin.
JUNE The Twenty-first
ROOM FOR THE SAPLINGS
"Children crying in the temple, saying Hosanna!" —MATTHEW xxi. 1-16.
Children's voices mingling in the sounds of holy praise! A little child can share in the consecrated life. Young hearts can offer love pure as a limpid spring. Their sympathy is as responsive as the most sensitive harp, and yields to the touch of the tenderest joy and grief. No wonder the Lord "called little children unto Him"! They were unto Him as gracious streams, and as flowers of the field.
Let the loving Saviour have our children. Let there be no waiting for maturer years. Maturity may bring the impaired faculty and the embittered emotion. Let Him have things in their beginnings, the seeds and the saplings. Let Him have life before it is formed, before it is "set" in foolish moulds. Let us consecrate the cradle, and the good Lord will grow and nourish His saints.
JUNE The Twenty-second
MARK ix. 33-41.
It is the child-spirit that finds life's golden gates, and that finds them all ajar. The proudly aggressive spirit, contending for place and power, may force many a door, but they are not doors which open into enduring wealth and peace. Real inheritances become ours only through humility.
The proud are, therefore, self-deceived. They think they have succeeded when they have signally failed. They have the shadow, but they have missed the substance. They may have the applause of the world, but the angels sigh over their defeat. They pride themselves on having "got on"; the angels weep because they have "gone down."
When we grow away from childlikeness we are "in a decline." "God resisteth the proud; He giveth grace to the humble." The lowly make great discoveries; to them the earth is full of God's glory.
JUNE The Twenty-third
THE GREATEST BENEFACTORS
MATTHEW x. 29-42.
It is a very wonderful thing that the finest services are within the power of the poorest people. The deepest ministries find their symbols in "cups of cold water," which it is in the power of everybody to give. The great benefactors are the great lovers, and their coin is not that of material money, but the wealth of the heart. A bit of affection is worth infinitely more than the gift of a necklace of pearls. To kindle hope in a fainting soul is far more precious than to adorn the weary pilgrim with dazzling gems. "He brought me heaps of presents, but I was hungering for love!" Such was the pathetic cry of one who was "clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day."
"Cups of cold water," simple ministries of refreshment, the love-thought, the love-prayer, the love-word—these are the privileged services of all of us. And everybody needs these gentle and gracious services of refreshment, and often there is greatest need where there seems to be least.
JUNE The Twenty-fourth
AT EASE IN ZION
"Woe to them that are at ease in Zion!" —AMOS vi. 1-7.
I would be delivered from the folly of confusing ease and rest. There is an infinite difference between comforts and comfort. It is one thing to lie down on a luxurious couch: it is a very different thing to "lie down in green pastures" under the gracious shepherdliness of the Lord. The ease which men covet is so often a fruit of stupefaction, the dull product of sinful drugs, the wretched sluggishness of carnal gratification and excess. The rest which God giveth is alive and wakeful, abounding in tireless and fruitful service. "Oh, rest in the Lord."
But is it not a strange thing that men can be "at ease in Zion"? That they can play the beast in the holy place? Zion was full of holy memory, and abounded with suggestions of the Divine Presence. And yet here they could carouse, and lose themselves in swinish indulgence! A little while ago I saw a beautiful old church which had been turned into a common eating-house!
My soul, be on thy guard. Be watchful and diligent, and busy thyself in the practice of "self-knowledge, self-reverence, self-control."
JUNE The Twenty-fifth
DESOLATIONS WROUGHT BY SIN
"The Lord hath spoken this word." —ISAIAH xxiv. 1-12.
"The Lord hath spoken this word," and it is a word of judgment. It unveils some of the terrible issues of sin.
See the effects of sin upon the spirit of man. "The merry-hearted do sigh." Life loses its wings and its song. The buoyancy and the optimism die out of the soul. The days move with heavy feet, and duty becomes very stale and unwelcome. If only our ears were keen enough we should hear many a place of hollow laughter moaning with troubled and restless sighs. The soul cannot sing when God is defied.
But see another effect of sin. "The earth moaneth." That is a frequent note in Bible teaching. The forces of nature are mysteriously conditioned by the character of man. When man is degraded, nature is despoiled. The beauty of the garden is checked when man has lost his crown. "The whole creation groaneth in pain," waiting for the manifestation of the children of God.
Sin spreads desolation everywhere. When I sin, I become the centre of demoralizing forces which influence the universe. And so let me ever pray, "Deliver me from evil."
JUNE The Twenty-sixth
CRUCIFYING THE FLESH
"Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind." —1 PETER iv. 1-8.
Let not the body be dominant, but the soul. Let me study the example and counsel of the Apostle Paul.
"I keep my body under." Literally, I pummel it! If it is obtrusive and aggressive, its appetites clamouring for supremacy, I pummel it! Paul was not afraid of severe measures where carnality was concerned. He would fast a whole day in order to put the flesh in its place. And so should it be with all the Lord's children. We are too self-indulgent. It is well at times to put the body on the cross, and crucify its cravings.
"Give no occasion to the flesh." Do not give it a chance of mastery! And, therefore, do not feed it with illicit thought. Turn the mind away from the subjects in which the body will find exciting stimulant. It is thought which awakes passion, and thought can do much to destroy it. "Set your mind on things which are above." Keep the mind pure, and the swine will never enter the holy place.
JUNE The Twenty-seventh
GOD IS LIGHT!
"In Him is no darkness at all." —1 JOHN i.
That wonderful mansion of God's Being is gloriously radiant in every room! In the house of my life there are dark chambers, and rooms which are only partially illumined, the other parts being in the possession of night. Some of my faculties and powers are dark ministers, and some of my moods are far from being "homes of light." But "God is light," and everything is glorious as the meridian sun! His holiness, His grace, His love, His mercy: there are no dark corners where uncleanness hides; everything shines with undimmed and speckless radiancy!
And if I "walk in the light," I, too, shall become illumined. "They looked unto Him and were lightened." We are fashioned by our highest companionships. We acquire the nature of those with whom we most constantly commune.
And the light He gives is also fire. It will burn away our sin. We may measure the reality and strength of our communion by the destruction of our sin. A great burning will be proceeding in our life, and one evil habit after another will be in the love-furnace of purification. The Lord still "purifies Jerusalem by the spirit of burning."
JUNE The Twenty-eighth
THE WAITING LIGHT
2 CORINTHIANS iv. 1-6.
I can shut out the sweet light of the morning. I can refuse to open the shutters and draw up the blinds. And I can shut out the Light of life. I can draw the thick blinds of prejudice, and close the impenetrable shutters of sin. And the Light of the world cannot get into my soul.
And I can let in the waiting light of the morning, and flood my room with its glory. And the Light is "a gracious, willing guest." No fuss is needed, no shouting is required. Open thy casement, and the gracious guest is in! And my Lord has no reluctance in His coming; we have not to drag Him to our table. Open thy heart, and the Lord is in!
And when the light is within there will be radiance at the windows. And when the Lord is shining in our hearts there will be a witness in the life. Men will see that we are "with Jesus," because we are "light in the Lord."
Good Lord, deliver me from "the god of this world" lest I be blinded and become unable to see Thee! I open my heart to Thee! Shine in, Thou light of life, and make my soul the radiant witness of Thy grace.
JUNE The Twenty-ninth
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." —JAMES v. 13-20.
Or, as Weymouth translates it, "The heartfelt supplication of a righteous man exerts a mighty influence." Prayer may be empty words, with no more power than those empty shells which have been foisted upon the Turks in their war with the Balkan States. Firing empty shells! That is what many professed prayers really are; they have nothing in them, and they accomplish nothing. They are just forged upon the lips, and they drop to the earth as soon as they are spoken. Effectual prayers are born in the heart; they are stocked with heart-treasure, with faith, and hope, and desire, and holy urgency, and they go forth with power to shake the world.
What are my prayers like? If I were God, could I listen to them? Are they mere pretences at prayer, full of nothing but sound? Is there any reasonable ground for assuming that they can accomplish anything? Or are my prayers weighted with sincere desire? Do they comprehend my brother's good as well as my own? Are they spoken in faith? Do they go forth in great expectancy? Then do they surely "exert a mighty influence," and they become fellow-labourers with all God's ministries of grace. The greatest thing I can do is greatly to pray.
JUNE The Thirtieth
GOD MY STRENGTH AND SONG
"The Lord is my strength and my song." —PSALM cxviii. 14-21.
Yes, first of all "my strength" and then "my song"! For what song can there be where there is languor and fainting? What brave music can be born in an organ which is short of breath? There must first be strength if we would have fine harmonies. And so the good Lord comes to the songless, and with holy power He brings the gift of "saving health."
"And my song"! For when life is healthy it instinctively breaks into song. The happy, contented soul goes about the ways of life humming its satisfactions to itself, and is now and again heard by the passer-by. The Lord fills the life with instinctive music. When life is holy it becomes musical with His praise.
So here I see the appointed order in Christian service. It is futile to try to make people joyful unless we do it by seeking first to make them strong. First the good, and then the truly happy! First the holy, and then the musical. First God, and then the breath of His Holy Spirit, and then "the new song."
JULY The First
THE LIFE OR THE LIGHT OF MEN
"In Him was life." —JOHN i. 1-18.
Not merely a pool of life, but the well-spring. All rivers of enriching vitality have their source in Him. Nowhere is there a crystal stream which was not born at the Fountain. Let us make our claim for the Lord all-comprehensive and inclusive. Whatever energizes body, mind, or soul, has its origin in our Sovereign King. "All our springs are in Thee." "Thou of life the Fountain art."
"And the life was the light of men." And what did He not light up? His amazing rays streamed down the darkest ways of men, and illumined the vast, sombre chambers of human circumstance. He lit up sin and showed its true colour! He lit up sorrow, and transfigured it! He lit up duty, and gave it a new face. He lit up common work, and glorified it. He lit up death, and we could see through it! But, above all, He lit up God, and "the people that sat in darkness saw a great light."
"And the darkness apprehended it not." The darkness could not lay hold of it and quench it! It was not overwhelmed and eclipsed by the murkiest fog of prejudice, or by the dingiest antagonism of sinful pride. "The light showeth in the darkness," inviolable and invincible!
JULY The Second
LIGHT AND LIGHTNING
"And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him." —ISAIAH xi. 1-10.
And the spirit is one of light! All the doors and windows are open. His correspondences are perfect and unbroken. He is of "quick understanding," keen-scented to discern the essences of things, alert to perceive the reality behind the semblance, to "see things as they are." All the great primary senses are awake, and He has knowledge of every "secret place."
"He shall smite ... with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay." The spirit of light follows a crusade of holiness. The light becomes lightning! The "breathing," which cools the fever-stricken, can also become a hot breath, which wastes and destroys every plant of evil desire. It is an awful thing, and yet a gracious thing, that "our God is a consuming fire." It was foretold of our Lord that He should baptize "with fire."
And this crusade of holiness is in the ministry of peace. He will burn away all that defileth, in order that He may create a profound and permanent fellowship. When His work is done, there will be a mingling of apparent opposites, and antagonisms will melt into a gracious union. "The sucking child will play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den."
JULY The Third
MY ELDER BROTHER
HEBREWS ii. 9-18.
And doth my Lord call me one of His brethren? Let me leisurely think upon it, until my very soul moves amid my affairs in noble and hallowed dignity. If I steadily remember "who I am," it will assuredly transfigure "what I am." I lose the sense of my high kinship, and then I am quite content to be "sent into the fields to feed swine."
And my elder Brother came to "destroy the works of the devil." That is the entire ministry of destruction. Nothing beautiful does He destroy, nothing winsome: only the insidious presences which are the foes of these things. He will destroy only the pestiferous microbes which ravage the vital peace of the soul. Our Lord is the enemy of the deadly, and therefore of "him that had the power of death—that is, the devil!"
And in this holy ministry of destruction He can defend my soul as "one who knows," Himself "having been tempted." He knows the subtlety of the devil, and where the soul is most perilously exposed, and He is therefore "able to succour them that are tempted."
JULY The Fourth
"He emptied Himself." —PHILIPPIANS ii. 1-11.
In Mr. Silvester Horne's garden a very suggestive scene was one day to be witnessed. A cricketer of world-wide renown was playing a game with Mr. Horne's little four-year-old son! And the fierce bowler "emptied himself," and served such gentle, dainty little balls that the tiny man at the wickets was not in the least degree afraid! And the Lord of glory "emptied Himself," fashioning Himself to our "low estate," and in His unspeakably gentle approaches we find our peace.
And I, too, am to seek a corresponding lowliness of mind in order that I, too, may be of service to my weak and needy brother. It is for me to empty myself of the pride of strength, the brutal aggressiveness of success, the sometimes unfeeling obtrusiveness of health; I must empty myself, and "get down" by the side of weakness and infirmity, and in gentle fellowship humbly proffer my help.
And if the mind is to be in me "which was also in Christ Jesus," it is needful for me to commune with Him "without ceasing." His gentleness can make me great.
JULY The Fifth
THE DISCIPLESHIP THAT TELLS
"He that followeth Me." —JOHN viii. 12-20.
Yes, but I must make sure that I follow Him in Spirit and in truth. It is so easy to be self-deceived. I may follow a pleasant emotion, while all the time a bit of grim cross-bearing is being ignored. I may be satisfied to be "out on the ocean sailing," singing of "a home beyond the tide," while all the time there is a piece of perilous salvage work to be done beneath the waves. To "follow Jesus" is to face the hostility of scribes and Pharisees, to offer restoring friendship to publicans and sinners, to pray in blood-shedding in Gethsemane, to brave the derision of the brutal mob, and to be "ready" for the appalling happenings on Calvary! Therefore, following is not a light picnic; it is a possible martyrdom!
But if I set my face "to go," the Lord Himself will visit me with "the light of life." And the resource shall not be broken and spasmodic: it shall be mine without ceasing. "Be thou faithful ... and I will give thee ... life." That life will flow into my soul, just as the oxygenating air flows down to the diver who is faithfully busy recovering wreckage from the wealth-strewn bed of the mighty sea. Let me be faithful, and every moment the Lord will crown me with His own vitalizing life!
JULY The Sixth
LIFE AS A VOICE
JOHN i. 19-34.
This man humbly desires to be "a voice." He has no ambition to receive popular homage. He does not covet the power of the lordly purple. He does not crave to be a great person; he only wants to be a great voice! He wants to articulate the thought and purpose of God. He is quite content to be hidden, like a bird in a thick bush, if only his song may be heard.
And in order that he may be a voice he retires into the silent solitudes of the desert. He will listen before he speaks. Come thou, my soul, into his secret! The air is clamorous with speech behind which there has been no hearing. Men speak, and in their words there is no pulse of the Infinite. In their consolations there is no balm. In their reproaches there is no sword. Their words are empty vessels, full of sound! Let my voice be hushed until I have heard the voice of the Highest. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
And when he spake, it was in clear and definite testimony, "Behold the Lamb of God!" The "voice" succeeded, for men began to look away from the herald to the herald's Lord. In forgetting John they found the King. They passed the signpost, and arrived at home!
JULY The Seventh
IN THE GOLDEN AGE
ISAIAH xl. 1-10.
And so these things are to happen when the Lord has come to His own, and His decrees are honoured in our midst.
Certain inequalities are to be ended. Valleys are to be exalted, and mountains are to be made low. There is to be a levelling! Men are to be equal in freedom and opportunity.
Certain crookednesses are to be ended. They are to be "made straight." Society has become warped with the heat of lust, and the fierce fever of competition, and the hot, devouring fires of greed. When the Lord is enthroned the fires will be put out, the heat will pass, and the twisted fellowships will be rectified.
Certain roughnesses are to be ended. Class works against class with jagged edge, like the teeth of a saw. They tear and rend one another, and the family of God is always bleeding. These "rough places" are to be "made plain." We are to "work in to one another," smoothly, congenially, in a frictionless peace.
And this Lord is coming, coming every day, and "His arm shall rule for Him." "Say unto the cities of Judah—Behold your God!"
JULY The Eighth
WHAT MANNER OF MAN?
MATTHEW xi. 7-15.
There are some men who are only as desert reeds! They move to the breath of the desert wind. They bend before it, no matter in what way it may be blowing. They never resist the wind. They never become "hiding places from the wind," stemming a popular drift. They are the victims of passing opinions, and are swayed by the current passions.
And some men are "clothed in soft raiment"! They shrink from the rough fustian, the labourer's cotton smock, the leather suit of George Fox. They are ultra-"finicky." They are afraid of the mire. They touch the sorrows of the world with a timid finger, not with the kindly, healing grasp of a surgeon.
And other men are "prophets"! They have a secret fellowship with the Infinite. When we listen to them it is like putting one's ear to the seashell: we catch the sound of the ocean roll. "The voice of the Great Eternal dwells in their mighty tones."
And others are "children of the Kingdom." They are greater than the old prophets, because the mystic voice has become a Presence, and they have "seen the Lord." The veil has been rent, and they "walk in the light" as "children of light."
JULY The Ninth
SCHOLARS IN CHRIST'S SCHOOL
"He taught His disciples." —MARK ix. 30-37.
And my Lord will teach me. He will lead me into "the deep things" of God. There is only one school for this sort of learning, and an old saint called it the Academy of Love, and it meets in Gethsemane and Calvary, and the Lord Himself is the teacher, and there is room in the school for thee and me.
But the disciples were not in the mood for learning. They were not ambitious for heavenly knowledge, but for carnal prizes, not for wisdom, but for place. "They disputed one with another who was the greatest." And that spirit is always fatal to advancement in the school of Christ. Our petty ambitions close the door and windows of our souls, and the heavenly light can find no entrance. We turn Gethsemane into "a place of strife," and we carry our clamour even to Calvary itself. From this, and all other sinful folly, good Lord, redeem us!
They who would be great scholars in this school must become "as little children." Through the child-like spirit we attain unto God-like wisdom. By humility is honour and life.
JULY The Tenth
THE GREAT RENUNCIATION
MATTHEW xvii. 1-13.
What if the Transfiguration was the type of the purposed consummation of every life? If we had remained "without sin," it may be that we should have gradually ripened up to a moment when we should have become transfigured, and in the surpassing brilliance have been translated to higher planes of being. Perhaps our Lord had reached this material consummation, and was now on the wonderful border land, and could by choice slip into "the glory!"
But He made another choice. And this was, of a truth, the "great renunciation!" He turned His back on the glory, and deliberately faced the darkening way which led to Calvary and the grave. I do not wonder that His mysterious visitors spake with Him "of the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." He could talk about nothing else! He "set His face to go."
And in my Master's choice of death I find my hope of life. Through "the dark gate" I can find "the mount." My transfiguration is made possible in His humiliation. If my Lord had never descended I could never have ascended. If He had abode on the mount I should have remained in my sin. He has "opened to me the gates of righteousness."
JULY The Eleventh
THE FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM
"He that hath the bride is the bridegroom." —JOHN iii. 23-36.
We ministers sometimes speak of "my church." I occasionally read of Mr. So-and-So's church! I know that the phrase is colloquially used, but nevertheless, it is unfortunate. Words that are perversely used tend to pervert the spirit. And this phrase tends to displace the Bridegroom. It helps to make us obtrusive, unduly aggressive, when we ought to be reverently hiding our faces with our wings. The Bride is His!
"But the friend of the bridegroom." That is my place, and that is my dignity. And what a title it is, making me a member of the finest and most select aristocracy in heaven or on earth! The "friend of the bridegroom" used to carry messages to the bride, to share in the wooing, and to help to bring the wedding about. And that, too, is my gracious office, to be a match-maker for my Lord, to testify concerning Him, to speak His praises, until the soul "fall in love" with Him.
"He must increase, but I must decrease." Yes, when the sun is rising the moon becomes dim! When the glory of the Bridegroom breaks upon the bride He becomes "all in all," "the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely."
JULY The Twelfth
PREPARING HIS SERVANTS
JOHN i. 35-51.
Our Lord does not stumble upon His disciples by accident. His discoveries are not surprises. He knows where His nuggets lie. Before He calls to service He has been secretly preparing the servant. "I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me."
He knew all about Simon. "Thou art Simon"—just a listener, not yet a strong, bold doer: a man of many opinions not yet consolidated into the truth of experimental convictions. "Thou shalt be called Peter." Simon become Peter! Loose gravel become hard rock! Hear-says become the "verilies" of unshakable experience! The Lord proclaims our glorious possibilities.
And He knew all about Nathanael. "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee." "In that secret meditation of thine, when thy wishes and desires were being born, 'I saw thee!'" "When others saw nothing, I had fellowship with thee in the secret place."
And He knows all about thee and me. "I know My sheep." We do not take Him by surprise. He does not come in late, and find the performance half over! He is in at our beginnings, when grave issues are being born. "I am Alpha."
JULY The Thirteenth
"They were fishers." —MATTHEW iv. 12-22.
And so our Lord went first to the fishing-boats and not to the schools. Learning is apt to be proud and aggressive, and hostile to the simplicities of the Spirit. There is nothing like plain glass for letting in the light! And our Lord wanted transparent media, and so He went to the simple fishermen on the beach. "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world."
And by choosing labouring men our Master glorified labour. He Himself had worn the workman's dress, and the garment which the King wears becomes regal attire. Yes, the workingman, if he only knew it, is wearing the imperial robe. He is one of the kinsmen of the Lord of Glory!
Our Lord took the fisherman's humble calling, and made it the symbol of spiritual service. "I will make you fishers of men." And He will do the same for thee and me. He will turn our daily labour into an apocalypse, and through its ways and means He will make us wise in the ministry of the kingdom. He will make the material the handmaid of the spiritual, and through the letter He will lead us into the secret places of the soul.
JULY The Fourteenth
THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE UNLIKELY
MATTHEW ix. 1-13.
A Disciple from among the publicans! In what waste places our Lord Jesus finds His jewels! What exquisite possibilities Ruskin saw in a pinch of common dust! What radiant glory the lapidary can see in the rough, unpolished gem! The Lord loves to go into the unlikely place, and lead forth His saints. "In the wilderness shall waters break out!"
We must prayerfully cultivate this sacred confidence in the possibilities of the unlikely. We can never be successful helpers of the Lord unless we can see the diamond in the soot, and the radiant saint in the disregarded publican. It is a most gracious art to cultivate, this of discerning a man's possible excellencies even in the blackness of his present shame. To see the future best in the present worst, that is the true perception of a child of light.
"O give us eyes to see like Thee!" Well, this is the medium of vision:—"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," and the god-like, even in the wilderness of sin. "Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou may'st see!"
JULY The Fifteenth
THE DAILY CROSS
LUKE ix. 18-26.
Our Lord never bribes His disciples by promising them ways of sunny ease. He does not buy them with illicit gold. He does not put the glittering crown upon the entrance-gate, and hide the cross behind the wall. No: on the very first stage of the sacred pilgrimage there falls "the shadow of the Cross." "Let him take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
And yet, the Lord's blessing is hidden in the apparent curse. In the act of bearing the cross we increase our strength. That is the heartening paradox of grace. Virtuous energies pass from our very burdens into our spirits, and thus "out of the eater comes forth meat." We bravely shoulder our load, and lo! a mystic breath visits the heart, and a strange facility attends our goings! The dead cross becomes a tree of life, and a secret vitality renews our souls.
How foolish, then, O heart of mine, to avoid and evade Thy cross! Refuse the burden, and thou declinest the strength! Ignore the duty, and thou shalt feel no inspiration! Carefully husband thy blood, and thou shalt remain for ever anaemic! But lose thy life, and thou shalt find it!
JULY The Sixteenth
THE VINE AND THE BRANCH
JOHN xv. 1-16.
I need the Lord. What can a branch do apart from the vine? It may retain a certain, momentary greenness, but death is advancing apace. And there are multitudes of professing Christians who are like detached branches; their spiritual life is ebbing away: they do not startle the beholder and cause him to exclaim, "How full of life!" They do not strike at all! They have no splendid "force of character," and they therefore exercise no arresting witness for the King. They are not "abiding" in the Eternal, and therefore there is no powerful pulse from the Infinite. "Apart from Me ye can do nothing!"
And my Lord needs me. For the vine has need of the branch! The vine expresses itself in the branch, and comes to manifestation in leaf, and flower, and fruit. And my Lord would manifest Himself in me, and cause my branch to be heavy with the glorious fruits of His grace. And if I deprive Him of the branch, and deny Him this means of expression, I am "limiting the Holy One of Israel." "My son, give Me thine heart!"
Lord, help me to abide in Thee! Save me from the follies of a fatal independence! Good Lord, "Abide in me."
JULY The Seventeenth
THE DYING OF SELF
JOHN xii. 12-36.
"Except a corn of wheat ... die!" Yes, it is through death we pass to life. Discipleship in which there is no death can never be truly alive. The nipping winter is essential to the green and flowery spring. No tomb, no resurrection glory! In every life there must be a grave, and self must be buried within it.
We must die to self in our prayers. In many prayers self is obtrusive and aggressive from end to end. It is self, self, self! That self must be crucified. We must make more room for others in our supplications. On our knees the egotist must die, and the altruist be born. And "if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit"! There are multitudes of professing Christians who would experience a wonderful resurrection if they were more "given to hospitality" in their communion with the Lord.
And if self die in our prayers, nowhere else will it be seen. That which is truly slain when we are upon our knees will not reassert itself when we return to common ways of work and service. And, therefore, let the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die!
JULY The Eighteenth
THE MESMERISM OF THE WORLD
MATTHEW xix. 23-30.
Material possessions multiply our spiritual difficulties. It is hard for a rich man "to enter into the kingdom of heaven." For what is the kingdom? It is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." It is easy for a rich man to appear respectable, but how hard is it to be holy! He may surround himself with comforts, but how hard to get into peace! He may move in the cold gleam of a glittering happiness, but how hard to get into the rich, warm quietness of an abiding joy! Yes, our material possessions so easily range themselves as ramparts between us and our destined spiritual wealth.
And if we find that any material thing so mesmerizes us that we are held in fatal bondage, we are to sacrifice it. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee!" Whatever interposes itself between us and our Lord must go! It is a hard way, but it leads to a sound and boisterous health. We verily "receive an hundredfold!" We lose "a thing," and gain a grace. We lose fickle sensations and gain abounding inspiration. We lose the world, and gain the Lord!
JULY The Nineteenth
THE WRATH OF THE LAMB
JOHN ii. 13-22.
The narrative of the cleansing follows the story of the wedding-feast. In the one the Lord has taken the spirit of the sanctuary into a worldly feast, and thereby illumined and glorified the feast. In the other, the spirit of the world has invaded the sanctuary, and thereby defiled and dishonoured it. The spirit of worldliness, like an unclean, insurgent flood, would enter and possess the entire realm of human life and service. And here it converted a legitimate convenience into an unhallowed business. It transformed a needful expedient into an unholy end. It fixed its tables in the very courts of the Temple, and exalted the quest of money above the worship of God.
"And He made a scourge of cords." And is this "the Lamb of God"? Yes, "the Lamb of God" is also "the lion of Judah." The mild sunshine can become focussed into scorching flame! As soon as blessings touch sin they become curses. "For this was the Son of Man manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."
My soul, remember thou the scourge of thy Lord, and do not trifle in His holy place! Seek thou the clean hands and the pure heart, and the thunders of Sinai shall come to thee as beatific music from the hill.
JULY The Twentieth
DEFILING THE HOLY PLACE
MARK xi. 11-19.
It was a teaching of the old Rabbis that no one should make a thoroughfare of the Temple, or enter it with the dust upon his feet. The teaching was full of sacred significance, however far their practice may have departed from its truth.
Let me not use the Temple as a mere passage to something else. Let me not use my religion as an expedient for more easily reaching "the chief seats" among men. Let me not put on the garments of worship in order that I may readily and quickly fill my purse. Let me not make the sanctuary "a short cut" to the bank!
And let me not carry the dust of the world on to the sacred floor. Let me "wipe my feet." Let me sternly shake off some things—all frivolity, easeful indifference, the spirit of haste and self-seeking. Let me not defile the courts of the Lord.
And let me remember that "the whole earth is full of His glory." Everywhere, therefore, I am treading the sacred floor! Lord, teach me this high secret! Then shall I not demean the Temple into a market, but I shall transform the market into a temple. "Lo, God is in this place, and I knew it not!"
JULY The Twenty-first
PURIFYING THE SANCTUARY
2 CHRONICLES xxix. 1-11, 15-19.
Worship has vital connections with work. There are nerve-relationships between the heart and the hand. The condition of the sanctuary is reflected in the state of the empire. If there is uncleanness in "the holy place," there will be blight and degeneracy among the people. The fatal seeds of national instability and decay are not found in economics; they are found in the sanctuary. "Until I went into the sanctuary ... then understood I!"
Hezekiah cleansed "the house of the Lord." He cast forth the filthiness out of the holy place. He ushered in his golden age with the reformation of worship. He recalled exiled and white-robed Piety to her appointed throne. He began the re-establishment of right by recognizing the rights of God. He gave the Lord His due! All our rights are born out of our "being right" with God! We begin to be rich when we cease to rob God!
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also." That is ever so. Our real songs begin with our sacrifices. We enter the realm of music when we enter the realm of self-surrender. A willing offering, on a clean altar, introduces the soul into "the joy of the Lord."
JULY The Twenty-second
VISIONS AND TASKS
2 CHRONICLES xxxiv. 1-11.
Josiah "began to seek after God." The other day I saw a young art student copying one of Turner's pictures in the National Gallery. His eyes were being continually lifted from his canvas to his "master." He put nothing down which he had not first seen. He was "seeking after" Turner!
And thus it was with Josiah. His eyes were "ever toward the Lord!" He studied the "ways" of the Lord, in order that he might incarnate them in national life and practice. Wise doings always begin in clear seeing. We should be far more efficient in practice if we were more diligently assiduous in vision. It is never a waste of time to "look unto Him." Looking is a most needful part of our daily discipline. "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!"
And because Josiah saw the holiness of the Lord he saw the uncleanness of the people. He had a vision of God's holy place, and he therefore saw the defilement of the material worship.
"In the twelfth year he began to purge Judah." Yes, that is the sequence. The reformer follows the seer. We shall begin to sweep the streets of our own city when we have gazed upon the glories of the holy city, the New Jerusalem.
JULY The Twenty-third
A GREAT SOUL AT PRAYER
2 CHRONICLES vi. 12-21.
Let me reverently study this great prayer in order that, when I go to the house of God, I may be able to enrich its ministry by the wealth of my own supplications.
Solomon prayed that the eyes of the Lord might be open toward the house "day and night." Like the eyes of a mother upon her child! Like the eyes of a lover upon his beloved! And therefore it is more than protective vision; shall we reverently say that it is inventive vision, devising gracious surprises, anticipating needs, preparing love-gifts; it is sight which is both insight and foresight, ever inspecting and prospecting for the loved one's good.
And Solomon prayed that God's ear might be open to the cry of His people's need. "Hear Thou from Thy dwelling-place." He prayed that the house of God might be the place of open communion. That is ever the secret of peace, and therefore of power. If I know that I have correspondence with the Holy One, I shall walk and work as a child of light. If God hear me, then I can sing!
And Solomon prays for the grace of forgiveness. He prays for the sense of sweet emancipation which is the gift of grace. It is the miracle of renewal, and it ought to happen every time we open the doors of the sanctuary.
JULY The Twenty-fourth
LOVE OF THE SANCTUARY
Gracious is the strength of this man's desire for the holy place. He covets the privilege of the very sparrow which builds its nest beneath the sacred eaves! When he is away from the Temple its worship and music haunt his mind and soul. It wooes him in the market-place. Its insistent call is with him by the fireside. Yes, "in his heart are the highways to Zion!"
And the permanency of this devotional mood transfigures every place. It turns "the valley of weeping" into "a place of springs." The colour of any place is largely determined by our moods. It is surprising what treasures we find when our soul is full of light. What discoveries old Scrooge made when the Christmas mood possessed his own heart! When we carry about the spirit of the sanctuary, we convert every spot into rich and hallowed ground.
"I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Better to have the temple-spirit, even as a menial, than the unhallowed heart in the glittering high places of sin. "God's worst is better than the devil's best."
JULY The Twenty-fifth
NO TEMPLE THEREIN
"And I saw no temple therein!" —REVELATION xxi. 22-27.
And that because it was all temple! "Every place was hallowed ground." There was no merely localized Presence, because the Presence was universal. God was realized everywhere, and therefore the little meeting-tent had vanished, and in place of the measurable tabernacle there were the immeasurable and God-filled heavens.
Even here on earth I can measure my spiritual growth by the corresponding enlargement of my temple. What is the size of my sanctuary? Am I moving toward the time when nothing shall be particularly hallowed because all will be sanctified? Are the six days of the week becoming increasingly like the seventh, until people can see no difference between my Monday manners and my Sunday mood? And how about places? Do I still speak of "religion being religion," and "business being business," or is something of the sanctuary getting into my shop, and is the exchange becoming a side-chapel of the Temple?
"And the Lamb is the light thereof." When we have done with the local temple we can dispose of its candles. When we pass out of the twilight into the morning "the stars retire." The fore-gleams will change into the wondrous glory of the ineffable day.
JULY The Twenty-sixth
THE WELLS OF SALVATION
JOHN iii. 1-21.
The springs of our redemption are found in infinite love. "God is love!" Redemption was not inspired by anger, but by grace. We do not contemplate an angry God, demanding a victim, but a compassionate Father making a sacrifice. At one extreme of our golden text is eternal "love," and at the other extreme is "eternal life." What if the two are one? Etymologically, "love" and "life" are akin. What if they are only two names for the same thing?
To "believe" in the love is to receive the life. For when I believe in a person's love I open my doors to the lover. And to believe in the love of God is to let the heavenly Lover in. And with love comes a wonderful tropical air—light, and warmth, and air; and "all things become new!" It is the letting in of the spring, and things which have been in wintry bondage awake, and arise from their graves.
And so I "enter into the kingdom of God." I become a native of a new and marvellous country. I begin to be acclimatized in the realm of the blest. And I "see the kingdom of God." Spiritual perceptions become mine, and I gaze upon the mystic glories of the home of God.
JULY The Twenty-seventh
THE WORK OF FAITH
1 JOHN v. 1-13.
And so by belief I find life. I do not obtain the vitalizing air through controversy, or clamour, or idle lamentation, but by opening the window! Faith opens the door and window of the soul to the Son of God. It can be done without tears, it can be done without sensationalism. "If any man will open the door, I will come in." "And he that hath the Son hath the life."
And by belief I gain my victories. "Who is he that overcometh ... but he that believeth?" It is not by flashing armour that we beat the devil, but by an invincible life. On these battlefields a mystic breath does more destruction than all our fine and costly expedients. To believe is to obtain the winning spirit, and every battle brings its trophies to our feet.
And by belief I gain assurance. "He that believeth ... hath the witness in him." So many Christians fight in doubt and indecision, and their uncertainty impairs their strength and skill. It is the man who can quietly say "I know" who is terrible in battle and who drives his foes in confusion from the field.
JULY The Twenty-eighth
ALL THINGS NEW!
2 CORINTHIANS v. 14-21.
Here is a new constraint! "The love of Christ constraineth me." The love of Christ carries me along like a crowd. I am taken up in its mighty movement and swept along the appointed road! Or it arrests me, and makes me its willing prisoner. It lays a strong hand upon me, and I have no option but to go. A gracious "necessity is laid upon me." I must!
And here is a new world. "Old things are passed away." The man who is the prisoner of the Lord's love will find himself in new and wonderful scenery. Everything will wear a new face—God, man, self, the garden, the sky, the sea! We shall look at all things through love-eyes, and it is amazing in what new light a great love will set familiar things! Commonplaces become beautiful when looked at through the lens of Christian love. When we "walk in love" our eyes are anointed with "the eye-salve" of grace.
And here is a new service. "We are ambassadors ... for Christ." When we see our Lord through love-eyes, and then our brother, we shall yearn to serve our brother in Christ. We shall intensely long to tell the love-story of the Lord our Saviour. What we have seen, with confidence we tell.
JULY The Twenty-ninth
NAMES AND NATURES
ROMANS viii. 1-10.
Men will recognize my Christianity by the sign of the Spirit of Christ. And they will accept no other witness. I saw a plant-pot the other day, full of soil, bearing no flower, but flaunting a stick on which was printed the word "Mignonette." "Thou hast a name to live and art dead." The world will take no notice of our labels and our badges: it is only arrested by the flower and the perfume. "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His."
And in the Spirit of Christ I shall best deal with "the things of the flesh." There are some things which are best overcome by neglecting them. To give them attention is to give them nourishment. Withdraw the attention, and they sicken and die. And so I must seek the fellowship of the Spirit. That friendship will destroy the other. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." If I am in communion with the Holy One the other will pine away, and cease to trouble me.
Lord, make my spirit a kinsman of Thine! Let the intimacy be ever deeper and dearer. "Draw me nearer, blessed Lord," until in nearness to Thee I find my peace, my joy, and my crown.
JULY The Thirtieth
SIN AS POISON
NUMBERS xxi. 4-9.
And this is the familiar teaching, that sin is a serpent. It possesses a deadly poison. We may give it pleasant names, but we are only ornamenting death. A chemist might put a poison into a chaste and elegant flask, but he has in no wise changed its nature. And when we name sin by philosophic euphemisms, and by less exacting terminologies—such as "cleverness," "smartness," or "fault," or "misfortune," we are only changing the flask, and the diabolical essence remains the same.
And, then, sin is a serpent because it is so subtle. It creeps into my presence almost before I know it. Its approaches are so insidious, its expedients so full of guile. "Therefore, I say unto all, Watch!"
But in Christ the old serpent is dead! Christ "became sin," and in Him sin was crucified. The thing that bit is bitten, and its nefarious power destroyed. But out of Christ the serpent is still busy and malicious, claiming what he presumes to call his own.
Let me, then, dwell in Christ, where sin "has no more dominion." "Whosoever believeth shall not perish but have life."
JULY The Thirty-first
THE CLEAN FLAME OF LOVE
1 JOHN iv. 4-14.
This aged apostle cannot get away from the counsels of love. All his mental movements circle about this "greatest thing in the world." Once he would "call down fire upon men"; now the only fire he knows is the pure and genial flame of love. Beautiful is it when our fires become cleaner as we get older, when temper changes to compassion, when malice becomes goodwill, when an ill-controlled conflagration becomes a homely fireside.
And all the love we acquire we must get from the altars of God. "We love because He first loved us." We can find it nowhere else. "Love is of God." Why, then, not seek it in the right place? Why seek for palms in arctic regions, or for icebergs in the tropics? God is the country of love, and in His deep mines there are riches "unsearchable."
And the gracious law of life is this, that every acquisition of love increases our powers of discernment. "He that loveth knoweth...!" It is as though every jewel we find gives us an extra lens for the discovery of finer jewels still. And thus the love-life is a continual surprise, and the surprise will be eternal, for the object of the wonder is the infinite love of God.
AUGUST The First
GOD AS OUR ALLY!
ROMANS viii. 31-39.
"If God is for us!" But we must make sure of that. Is God on the field, taking sides with us? Have we been so busy with our preparations, so concerned with many things, and everybody, that we have forgotten our greatest possible Ally? Is He on the field, and on which side! My soul, go on thy knees, and settle this in secret. That purpose of thine! That choice of thine! That work of thine! Is it hallowed with thy Lord's approval and seal?
And "if God is for us, who can be against us?" Nothing else counts. It is ever a foolish and futile thing to count the heads in the opposing ranks. "God is always on the side of the big battalions!" It is a black lie of the devil! We need not fear the big battalions if only we are securely in the right. We are not to count heads, but to weigh and estimate causes. Which of the causes provides a tent for the Lord of Hosts? Where has the truth its waving flag? Stand near that flag, my soul, and thou wilt be near thy Lord! And nothing shall separate thee from His love, and leave thee weak and isolated on the field. Thou shalt be "more than conqueror" in Him who loves thee, and will love thee for evermore.