AUGUST The Second
BY JACOB'S WELL
JOHN iv. 1-15.
A weary woman and a weary Lord! But the Lord was only weary in body; the woman was dry and exhausted in soul. Her heart was like some charred chamber after a destructive fire. All its furniture was injured, and some of it was almost burnt away. For sin had been blazing in the secret place, and had scorched the delicacies of the spirit, and the inward satisfaction was gone. And now she was very weary, and her daily walk had become a most tiresome march.
And the Lord, with sympathetic insight, discerned the inward dryness. There was no sound of holy contentment, no melody of joyful, spiritual desire. There was only the cold, clammy silence of death. "He knew what was in man." And there was no "river of water of life" making glad the streets of this woman's soul.
And so He would bring to her the waters of spiritual satisfaction, the holy well of eternal life. "In the wilderness shall waters break out, and springs in the desert." The Lord is about to work a miracle of grace, changing dull pang into healing peace, and suffocated desire into soaring fellowship with God. He is about to transform an outlawed woman into one of the "elect saints." How will He do it? Let us watch Him.
AUGUST The Third
CHANGING ASKING INTO THIRSTING
"Go, call thy husband!" —JOHN iv. 16-30.
I never supposed that the transformation would begin here. I thought that there were some words which would remain unspoken. But here our Master speaks a word which only deepens the weariness of the woman, and irritates the sore of her galling yoke. What is He doing?
He is seeking to change the sense of wretchedness into the sense of sin! He is seeking to change weariness into desire! He wants to make the woman thirst! And so He puts His finger upon her sin. He cannot give the heavenly water to lips that merely ask for it. "Sir, give me this water!" No, it cannot be had for the asking, only for the thirsting! And so the gracious Lord turns the woman's eyes upon her own sinful life, in order that in the heat of a fierce shame she might cry out, "I thirst for God, for the living God!" And sure I am that, before the Lord had done with her, this quiet, lone cry leapt from her lips, and in immediate response to the cry she was given a deep draught from the eternal well.
And, good Lord, arouse my sense of my sin that I, too, may thirst for Thy water! Now, make me thirst for it, and in the thirst receive it!
AUGUST The Fourth
"I have meat to eat that ye know not of." —JOHN iv. 31-42.
And what sort of meat is this? The Lord found secret refreshment in feeding other people. In vitalizing the woman of Samaria He restored His own soul. The disciples were amazed when they returned to find that the weariness had gone out of His face, and that He looked like one who had been at a feast!
And that is the law of life. "My meat is to do the will." There is a secret nutriment in the bread we give away. The Lord gives us to eat of the "hidden manna" whenever we are seeking the refreshment of our fellows. Distributed bread has a sacramental efficacy for our own souls. The man who feeds the hungry shall himself be "satisfied as with marrow."
And these ways of service are open on every side. There are millions of weary people waiting, like the woman at the well. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest!" Be it mine to be a minister in the mighty service, and in the ways of obedience let me find delights and delicacies for my own soul.
"Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more!"
AUGUST The Fifth
BROOKS BY THE WAY
The wells of the Lord are to be found where most I need them. The Lord of the way knows the pilgrim life, and the wells have been unsealed just where the soul is prone to become dry and faint. At the foot of the hill Difficulty was found a spring! Yes, these health-springs are lifting their crystal flood in the cheerless wastes of evil antagonisms and exhausting grief.
Sometimes I am foolish, and in my need I assume that the well is far away. I knew a farmer who for a generation had carried every pail of water from a distant well to meet the needs of his homestead. And one day he sunk a shaft by his own house door, and to his great joy he found that the water was waiting at his own gate! My soul, thy well is near, even here! Go not in search of Him! Thy pilgrimage is ended, the waters are at thy feet!
But I must "draw the water out of the wells of salvation." The hand of faith must lift the gracious gift to the parched lips, and so refresh the panting soul. "I will take the cup of salvation." Stretch out thy "lame hand of faith," and take the holy, hallowing energy offered by the Lord.
AUGUST The Sixth
WATERS OF CONTENTMENT
ISAIAH iv. 1-7.
The refreshing waters are offered to "everyone" that is thirsty. The evangel is like some clear bugle peal, sounded on some commanding upland, and which is heard alike in palace and cottage, in school and at the mill, by the child of plenty and by the child of want. "Ho, everyone!" The appeal is to the common heart, whether the setting be squalor or splendour, whether the soul faints in the glare of the prosperous noon, or under the chill of the burdensome night. "Ho, everyone that thirsteth!"
And the waters may be ours "without money and without price." We have not to earn them by the sweat of body, mind, or soul. We have not to make a toilsome pilgrimage, on bleeding feet, to some distant Lourdes, where the sacred healer abides. No, we are asked to pay nothing, and for the simple reason that we "have nothing wherewith to pay." The reviving grace is given to us "freely," and all that we have to present is our thirst.
And yet we spend and spend, we labour and labour, but we buy no bread of contentment, and the waters of satisfaction are far away. The satisfying bread cannot be bought; it can only be begged. The water of life cannot be taken from a cistern; it must be drunk at the spring.
AUGUST The Seventh
RIVERS FROM THE SNOW
REVELATION xxii. 1-7, 17-21.
The water of life flows out of the throne. Grace has its rise in sovereign holiness. This river is born amid the virgin snow. All true love springs out of spotless purity. "Love" from any other source is illegitimately wearing a stolen name. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!" That is the first note in the song of redemption. In that burning whiteness I discern the possibility of my own sanctification.
For the grace which flows out of sovereign holiness is a minister of the holy Lord to make me holy. If it were not perfectly pure it would itself be an agent of defilement. But it is "clear as crystal," and therefore it purifies and fertilizes wherever it flows. Rare trees grow upon its banks, and grace-fruits make every season beautiful. "Everything shall live whither the river cometh."
But without the river my soul shall be "as an unwatered garden." My life shall be a realm of perpetual drought. Things may begin to grow, but they shall speedily droop and die. The heavenly Husbandman shall find no fruit when He walks amid the garden in the cool of the day. And therefore, my soul, look to the river which flows from the throne! "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God," and that river is for thee!
AUGUST The Eighth
THE SCARLET SIN
ISAIAH i. 10-20.
How can we deal with glaring sin, with sin that is "scarlet," that is "red like crimson"? And when the red stain has soaked into the very texture of the character, and every fibre is stupefied, what can we do then? Let me listen.
"Wash you." But ordinary washings will not suffice. The ministry of education will fail. Art, and literature, and music will leave the internal stain undisturbed. They may impart a polish, but the polish shall be like the gloss on badly-washed linen. And the ministry of work will fail. Work never yet made a foul soul clean. There is "a fountain opened for all uncleanness." I must wash "in the blood of the Lamb." That red sacrifice can wash out the deep red stain.
"Cease to do evil." Yes, I must turn my back on the roads of defilement. There must be a sharp decision, and an immediate reversal of my ways. "Halt!" "Right about turn!" "Quick march!"
"Learn to do well!" Yes, let me diligently learn, like a child at school, until the deliberative becomes the instructive, and "practice makes perfect."
AUGUST The Ninth
"What doth the Lord require of thee?" —MICAH vi. 1-8.
"To do justly." Then I must not be so eager about my rights as to forget my duties. For my duties are just the observance of my neighbour's rights. And to see my neighbour's rights I must cultivate his "point of view." I must look out of his windows! "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
"And to love mercy." And mercy is justice plus! And it is the "plus" which makes the Christian. His cup "runneth over." He gives, like his Lord, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over." There is always "a little extra" for Christ's sake! And "blessed are the merciful."
"And to walk humbly with thy God." And there I am at the root of the two graces which have been enjoined upon me. The lowly friend of the Lord will most surely be both just and merciful. He cannot help it. The fragrance will cling to him as the fragrance of the orange clings to him who labours in the fruitful groves of Spain.
AUGUST The Tenth
LUKE vi. 43-49.
My Lord seeks "good fruit." It must be sound. No disease must lurk within it. My virtues are so often touched with defilement. There is a little untruth even in my truth. There is a little jealousy even in my praise. There is a little superciliousness even in my forbearance. There is a little pride even in my piety. It is not "whole," not holy. God demands sound fruit.
And "good fruit" demands "a good tree." We must not look for truth from an untrue soul. If the bullet-mould is deformed, all the bullets will share its deformity. First get the mould right, and every bullet will share its rectitude. When the soul is "true," all our words, and deeds, and gestures will be "of the truth," and will be true indeed. "Make the tree good."
And that is just what our Lord proclaims His willingness to do. He does not begin with effects, but with causes; not with fruit, but with trees. He does not begin with our speech, but with the speaker; not with conduct, but with character. And, blessed be His name, He can transform "corrupt trees" into "good trees," until it shall be said: "He that hath turned the world upside down has come hither also."
AUGUST The Eleventh
THE CONSECRATION OF THE WILL
JOHN v. 1-18.
My Lord demands my will in the ministry of healing. "Art thou willing to be made whole?" He will not carry me as a log. When my schoolmaster put a belt around me, and held me over the water with a rope, and taught me to swim, I had to use my arms. The condition of help was endeavour. And so in my salvation. I have always will-power sufficient to pray and to try. In the effort of faith I open the door to the energies of God. Grace flows in the channels of the determined will. "O, God, my heart is set!"
And my Lord demands my will in the living of the consecrated life. "Sin no more!" I must "will" to be whole, and I must will to remain holy. And here is the gracious law of the kingdom, that every time I exercise my will I add to its power. Every difficulty overcome adds its strength to my resources. Every enemy conquered marches henceforth in my own ranks. I go "from strength to strength."
"God worketh in me to will!" The gracious Lord ever strengthens the will that is willing. He transforms the frail reed into an iron pillar, and makes trembling timidity bold as a lion.
"Mighty Spirit, dwell with me, I myself would mighty be."
AUGUST The Twelfth
MY LIFE AND HOPE
JOHN v. 19-30.
Here is my reservoir. "The Son hath life in Himself." All vitality has its source in Him. He is the enemy of death and the deadly. I can paint the dead to look like life; I can use rouge for blood, and make the white lips red, but it all remains clammy and cold. I can galvanize, but I cannot vitalize. I can "break the ball of nard," and make perfume, "but still the sleeper sleeps." "In Him is life." "In Christ shall all be made alive!"
And here is my hope. "The Son also quickeneth." He is not only a reservoir, He is a river. He is "the river of water of life." And His blessed purpose is to flow into desolate places, converting deserts into gardens, and making wildernesses to blossom as the rose.
And He will come my way if only I will "hear" and "believe." There is a flippant hearing which, while it listens, laughs Him to scorn. There is a cheap hearing which will venture nothing on His counsel. And there is the hearing of faith, which simply "takes Him at His word," and in the glorious venture experiences the unsealing of the fountain of eternal life. "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely."
AUGUST The Thirteenth
THE INNER ROOMS
JOHN v. 31-47.
What should I think of a man who was contented to remain in the outer halls and passages of Windsor Castle, when he was invited into the royal precincts to have gracious communion with the King? And what shall I think of men who are contented to "search the Scriptures" and "will not come" to the Lord? They spend their life exploring the lobbies, when the Host and the feast are waiting in the upper room!
And some men spend their days in criticism and they never advance to worship. They are like unto one who should give his strength to the deciphering of some time-worn inscription on the outer wall of some grand cathedral, and who never treads the sacred floor in fruitful and enriching awe.
And some men live in the senses, and not in the conscience, in the awful presence of the great white throne. They are for ever seeking sensations, and avoid the fellowship of duty. They ride about in the channel, and they never come to the harbour. They have no settled moral home.
My Lord, help me to regard all good things as merely passages leading to Thee! Let all good things bring me into intimate fellowship with Thee.
AUGUST The Fourteenth
THE PARALYSIS OF THE SOUL
LUKE v. 17-26.
The miracle done in the body is purposed to be a symbol of a grander miracle to be wrought in the soul. "That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, then saith He...!" He heals the paralyzed body that we may know what He can do with a paralyzed soul. He liberates the man who is bound by palsy that we may know what He can do for a man who is bound by guilt. We are to reason from the less to the greater, from the material type to the spiritual reality.
And so it is with all my Lord's doings in nature. They are a glorious symbolism of what He will do in the spirit. "That ye may know how beautiful the Son of Man can make the heart of man, then saith He to the seeds of the spring-time, Come forth!" And so nature becomes a literature, in which we see our possible inheritance in the Spirit.
But on our side it is all conditioned by faith. "There He could do no mighty works because of their unbelief." Even in the miracles of the Spirit our faith must co-operate. Divine grace and human faith can transfigure the race. "Lord, increase our faith!" And everywhere, let palsied souls be delivered, and attain to glorious freedom!
AUGUST The Fifteenth
MARK iii. 1-8.
There are withered limbs of the spirit as well as of the body. There are faculties and powers which are wasting away, sacred endowments which have lost their vital circulation. In some lives the will is a withered limb. In others it is the conscience. In others, again, it is the affections. These splendid moral and spiritual powers are being dried up, and they hang comparatively limp and useless in the life. They have been withered by sin and sinful negligence.
And the Lord is the healer of withered limbs. He can deal with imprisoned affections as the warm spring deals with the river which has been locked in ice. He can minister to a stricken will, and make it as a benumbed hand when the circulation has been restored. He can give it grip and tenacity. And so with all our powers. He, who is the Life, can vitalize all!
But here again the remnant of our withered endowment must be used in the healing. We must surrender to the Healer. We must obey. If the Lord says: "Stretch forth thy hand," we must attempt the impossible! In this region the impossible becomes possible in sanctified endeavour.
AUGUST The Sixteenth
THE CHURCH AS AN INFIRMARY
LUKE xiii. 10-17.
What infirmities gather together in the synagogue! What moral and spiritual ailments are congregated in every place of worship! If the veil of the flesh could be removed, and the inward life revealed, how we should pity one another, and how we should pray! In how many lives should we behold a spirit "bound together," who "could in no wise lift herself up!" Wills like crushed reeds, consciences like broken vocal chords, hopes like birds with injured wings, and hearts like ruined homes!
But the blessed Lord still goes into the synagogue; nay, He anticipates our coming. And He is present "to heal the broken in heart," and to "bind up his wounds." His touch "has still its ancient power." Still does the gracious Master speak with authority. "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity!" And immediately she is "made straight."
Then why do so many spiritual cripples leave the synagogue cripples still? Because they do not give the Healer a chance. No one can remain crooked and broken in conscience and will who grips the hand of the Lord of Life.
AUGUST The Seventeenth
THE PSALM OF PRAISE
PSALM cvii. 1-15.
The miracle of deliverance must be followed by the psalm of praise. There are multitudes who cry, "God be merciful!" who never cry, "God be praised!" "There were none that returned to give thanks save this Samaritan." Ten cleansed, and only one grateful! "Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness!" Many a blessing becomes stale because it is not renewed by thanksgiving. Graces that are received ungratefully droop like flowers deprived of rain. Yes, gratitude gives sustenance to blessings already received. Therefore "in everything give thanks."
But emancipated lives are not only to break into praise before God, they must exercise in confession before men. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!" Unconfessed blessings become like the Dead Sea; refused an outlet they lose their freshness and vitality. I am found by the Lord in order that I, too, may be a seeker. I receive His peace in order that I may be a peacemaker. I am comforted in order that I "may comfort others with the comfort wherewith I am comforted of God." Have you ever received a blessing; "pass it on!" Tell the story of thy deliverance to the enslaved, that he, too, may find "the iron gate" swing open, and so attain his freedom.
AUGUST The Eighteenth
THE CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." —PSALM cxxii.
And my Jerusalem is "the church of the living God." Do I carry her on my heart? Do I praise God for her heritage, and for her endowment of spiritual glory? And do I remember her perils, especially those parts of her walls where the defences are very thin, and can be easily broken through? Yes, has my Church any place in my prayer, or am I robbing her of part of her intended possessions?
And is the entire Jerusalem the subject of my supplication? Or do I only think of a corner of it, just that part where my own little synagogue is placed? I am a Congregationalist; do I remember the Anglican? I am an Anglican; do I remember the Quaker? Am I thus concerned only with a small section of Jerusalem, or does my intercession sweep the entire city?
"They shall prosper that love thee." I cannot be healthy if I am bereft of fellowship. If I ignore the house of prayer I impoverish my home. The peaceful glow of the fireside is not unrelated to the coals upon the common altar. The sacrament is connected with my ordinary meal. To love the Church of Christ is to become enriched with "the fulness of Christ."
AUGUST The Nineteenth
IN GREEN PASTURES
This little psalm has been called the nightingale of the psalms. It sings "in the shade when all things rest." It makes music in the darkness; it gives me "songs in the night." And what does it sing about?
It sings of God's bounty in food and rest. "Green pastures"; "still waters." My Lord knows when my heart is faint, when it needs His reviving food. He knows when my heart is tired and needs His sweet rest. "He restoreth my soul."
And it sings of the God-appointed way across the hill. "He leadeth me in paths of righteousness." He makes the right way clear. He walks the path of duty with me. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."
And it sings of the feast which the Lord serves in the very midst of my foes. "He spreadeth a table before me in the midst of mine enemies." He gives me the fat things of grace in the very presence of frowning circumstances.
And it sings of the providence which guards the rear. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me!" God's grace comes between me and my yesterdays. It cuts off the heredity from the old Adam, and no far-off plague comes nigh my dwelling.
AUGUST The Twentieth
FEEDING THE FLOCK
ISAIAH xl. 1-11.
Here is the gracious promise of provision. "He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd." He knows the fields where my soul will be best nourished in holiness. I am sometimes amazed at His choice. He takes me into an apparent wilderness, but I find rich herbage on the unpromising plain. And so I would rest in His choice even when it seems adverse to my good.
And here is the gracious promise of gentle discrimination. "He shall gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom." Says old Trapp, "He hath a great care of His little ones, like as He had of the weaker tribes. In their march through the Wilderness He put a strong tribe to two weak tribes, lest they should faint or fail." Yes, "He knoweth our frame." He will not lay upon us more than we can bear. At the back of every commandment there is a promise of adequate resource. His askings are also His enablings. The big duty means that we shall have a big lift. And when we are tired He will lead on gently. Such is the grace and tenderness of the Lord.
AUGUST The Twenty-first
"My people shall be satisfied with My goodness." —JEREMIAH xxxi. 10-14.
And how unlike is all this to the feasts of the world! There is a great show, but no satisfaction. There is much decorative china, but no nutritious food or drink. "Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again." We rise from the table, and our deepest cravings are unappeased. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" We know. We have had a condiment, but no meat; a showy menu-card, but no reviving feast.
Nothing but the goodness of the Lord can satisfy the soul. Whatever else may be on the table of life, if this be absent we shall go away unfed. We may have money, and pleasure, and success, and fame, but they are all delusive husks if the grace of the Lord be absent.
This is the real furnishing of the feast. There are vast multitudes of things I can do without if only I have the holy bread of life in the gracious Presence of my Lord. In this sphere it is the Guest who makes the table! "Thou, O Christ, art all I want!" "Having Him we have all things." A glorious satisfaction possesses the soul, and though we may not increase our worldly possessions, we do something better, we "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
AUGUST The Twenty-second
THE SICK AND THE LOST
EZEKIEL xxxiv. 11-16.
Surely everybody is included in this redemptive purpose of the Lord! He is looking for everybody, for everybody finds a place in His holy quest.
He is seeking the "lost" sheep. The one that has wandered far away, and now no longer hears the sound of the Shepherd's voice! The one that is carelessly nibbling the herbage on the very edge of perdition! He is looking for this one. Is He therefore looking for thee and me?
He is seeking "that which was driven away." Some hireling, some enemy of the shepherd, drove it far away from the fold. "A thief and a robber," for his own purposes, hath done this. And the Lord's sheep are driven away by "principalities and powers," and by the violence of wicked men. Some impure and unworthy professor of religion can drive a whole household from the fellowship of the Church. And the Good Shepherd is seeking these. Is He therefore looking for thee or me?
And He is seeking "that which was sick." And some of the Lord's sheep are sickly. The chill of disappointment, or failure, or bereavement has blown upon them, and they are "down." Or they have been feeding on illicit pleasure. And the Lord is seeking such. Is He therefore seeking thee or me?
AUGUST The Twenty-third
NOT LOST IN THE FLOCK
"I know My sheep, and am known of mine." —JOHN x. 7-16.
There is mutual recognition, and in that recognition there is confidence and peace.
"I know my sheep." He knows us one by one. My knowledge of the individual wanes in proportion as the multitude is increased. The teacher with the smaller class has the deepest intimacy with her scholars. The individual is lost in the crowd. But not so with our Lord. There are no "masses" in His sight. However big the crowd, even though it be "a multitude which no man can number," we still remain individuals, known to the Lord by name, and face, and personal need. If thou art away from the fold, thy face is missed, and the Shepherd is away in search of thee!
"And I am known of mine." And the knowledge deepens with every day's experience. There are false shepherds who can subtly mimic the Good Shepherd, and in my early discipleship I am liable to be deceived. The devil himself can array himself like a shepherd, and imitate the very tones of the Lord. Therefore must I watch, and ever watch. But here is my hope and inspiration. Every day I spend with my Good Shepherd sharpens my discernments, enables me to see through the outer show of things, and to discriminate between the false and the true.
AUGUST The Twenty-fourth
THE LORD'S BODY
"I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." —JOHN xvii. 1-11.
This quiet confession is in itself a token of our Lord's divinity. The serenity in which He makes His claims is as stupendous as the claims themselves. "Finished," perfected in the utmost refinement, to the last, remotest detail! Nothing scamped, nothing overlooked, nothing forgotten! Everything which concerns thy redemption and my redemption has been accomplished. "It is finished!"
"And now ... I come to Thee." The visible Presence is withdrawn. There is no longer in our midst a Jesus whose body we can bruise and crucify. "But these are in the world." Yes, and His disciples are now His body. He becomes reincarnated in them. If they refuse Him a body, He has none! He looks through their eyes, listens through their ears, speaks through their lips, ministers through their hands, goes on sacred pilgrimages with their feet! "Know ye not that ye are the body?"
Does my discipleship offer my Lord a limb? Can He communicate with the world through me? Does my discipleship multiply His powers of expression? Has He more eyes, more ears, more hands because I am a member of His Church? Or——?
AUGUST The Twenty-fifth
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" —ROMANS viii. 31-39.
Who can get between the love of Christ and me? What sharp dividing minister can cleave the two in twain, and leave me like a dismembered and dying branch?
Terrible experiences cannot do it. "Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword!" All these may come about my house, but they cannot reach the inner sanctuary where my Lord and I are closeted in loving communion and peace. They may bruise my skin, nay, they may give my body to be burned, but no flame can destroy the love of Jesus which enswathes my soul with invisible defence.
And terrible ministers cannot do it. "Angels, nor principalities, nor powers." These mysterious agents of darkness, for they must be the legions of the evil one, are unable to quench the light and fire of my Saviour's love. The devil can never blow out the lamp of grace.
And terrible death itself cannot do it. Death does not separate me from Jesus; death is the Lord's minister to lead me into deeper privilege and ripe experiences of grace and love. Therefore, "I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest."
AUGUST The Twenty-sixth
MISSING THE LORD
"Thou knowest not the time of thy visitation." —LUKE xix. 37-44.
Yes, that has been my sad experience. I have wasted some of my wealthiest seasons. I have treated the hour as common and worthless, and the priceless opportunity has passed.
There have been times when my Lord has come to me, and I have turned Him away from my door. He so often journeys "incognito," and if I am thoughtless I dismiss Him, and so lose the privilege of heavenly communion and benediction. He knocks at my door as a Carpenter, and the humble attire deceives me, and I treat Him with scant courtesy, and sometimes with contempt. I know not the time of my visitation.
He comes to me in the guise of needy people—as sick, or hungry, or a stranger, and I cannot be troubled with His presence. I dismissed Him as a pauper, little knowing that I was turning away a millionaire! I knew not the time of my visitation! "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat," and so we missed the bread of life.
And so there is nothing for it, but to be always "on the watch." I must treat everybody as though everybody was the Christ. And I must treat every commonplace moment as though it were the home of the eternal.
AUGUST The Twenty-seventh
WHAT ABOUT TO-MORROW?
JOSHUA xxiv. 1-15.
It is not mine to worry about the coming day, but to fill the immediate moment with radiant duty. My Lord is the Pioneer, the great Maker of roads, and He will see to the appointments and provisions of the way. He has His scouts, His advance guard, His miners and sappers opening the highway across the waste! "I will send mine angel before thee!" "I will send hornets before you!" Yes, the Lord will look after the road. What, then, am I called to do? Let me find the answer in the 14th verse.
"Fear the Lord!" The Lord must be the sovereign thought in my life. All true and well-proportioned living must begin in well-proportioned thought. God must be my biggest thought, and from that thought all others must take their colour and their range.
"Put away the gods." My supreme homage must not be shared among many, it must be given to One. When the Lord is enthroned as King all usurpers must be banished. When He comes to His own the others go into exile.
"Serve ye the Lord." My strength must be enlisted with my loyalty. I must not merely shout; I must work. I must not merely clap my hands when the King goes by, I must consecrate those hands in sacrificial service.
AUGUST The Twenty-eighth
WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING
"The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." —JOB xxviii. 12-28.
Mere learning will not make me wise. The path to wisdom is not necessarily through the schools. The brilliant scholar may be an arrant fool. True wisdom is found, not in mental acquisitions, but in a certain spiritual relation. The wise man is known by the pose of his soul. He is "inclined toward the Lord!" He has returned unto his rest, and he finds light and vision in the fellowship of his Lord.
"To depart from evil is understanding." Yes, I need the lens of purity if I am to see the secrets of things. A dirty lens is the explanation of much ignorance and obscurity. I do not think I can ever see a flower if my lens is defiled. Much less can I see "the things of others." And still less again can I enjoy "the secret of the Lord." What we want is not so much a theological training as a right spirit, not so much to go to school as to "depart from evil." When I leave an evil habit worlds unseen begin to show their glory. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
AUGUST The Twenty-ninth
THE RICHES OF SPIRITUALITY
PROVERBS iv. 1-13.
Let me review some of these riches which are conferred upon the man who has made his soul the guest-room of spiritual religion.
"Love her, and she shall keep thee." Spirituality is to be my true defence. All other ramparts are vulnerable. They are the happy hunting-ground of the ravages of time; they fail in the crisis; they are the sure victims of moth and rust. But spirituality keeps me from childhood to age, and its shields are invincible, even in the hour of death. "There shall no evil befall thee."
"Exalt her, and she shall promote thee." She will lead me in the paths of progress. Every day she will lead me to new conquests, and in constantly enriching character I shall move towards life's appointed goal. Holiness is the only success worth having. Other successes are like lamps whose trembling flames are blown out in the first gusty, stormy night. "But the path of the just is as a shining light that shineth more and more even unto perfect day."
"She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace." Yes, and her adornments are always beautiful. No beauty ever steals into the human face comparable with the delicate presence of spirituality. It makes plain features lovely, and transfigures them with "the glory of the Lord."
AUGUST The Thirtieth
HOW TO DELIGHT IN THE WORD
PSALM cxix. 97-104.
A man may measure his growth in grace by his growing delight in the speech of the Lord. When His words are unwelcome in my ears, when they are an intrusion which mars my pleasures, it is clear I am still in the far country of revolt. But if His words make "music in my ears," if the Lord's conversation is the very marrow of the feast, then I have entered into the circle of His intimate friends. When His words taste sweet, even with a bare board, I am "in heavenly places with Christ."
And how can I attain unto this spiritual delight? Well, first of all I must make "His testimonies my meditations." Our doctors tell us that the only way to taste the real savour of food is to masticate it well. Bolted food never unlocks its essences. And meditation is just mental mastication. To "turn the word over" in my mind will help to disburden its treasure.
And then I must diligently put the word into practice. "I have not departed from Thy judgments." There is nothing like obedience for setting free a spiritual essence. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him."
AUGUST The Thirty-first
THE REAL GAINS AND LOSSES
"Godliness with contentment is great gain." —1 TIMOTHY vi. 6-16.
And so I must go into my heart if I would make a true estimate of my gains and losses. The calculation is not to be made in my bank-books, or as I stride over my broad acres, or inspect my well-filled barns. These are the mere outsides of things, and do not enter into the real balance-sheet of my life. We can no more estimate the success of a life by methods like these than we can adjudge an oil-painting by the sense of smell.
What is my stock of godliness? That is one of the test questions. What are my treasures of contentment? What about peace and joy, and hallowed and blessed carelessness? How much pure laughter rings in my life? How much bird-music is heard in the chambers of my heart? Is the note of praise to be found in the streets of my soul? Am I rich in these things or pathetically poor? "By these things men live," and therefore of these things will I make my balance-sheet and reckon up my gains.
SEPTEMBER The First
THE VIRTUE OF PROPORTION
MATTHEW vi. 25-34.
I must put first things first. The radical fault in much of my living is want of proportion. I think more of pretty window curtains than of fresh air, more of "nice" wallpaper than of the moving pageant of the skies. I magnify the immediate desire and minimize the ultimate goal. And so "things do not come right!" How can they when the apportionment is so perverse, when everything is topsy-turvy? If I want things to be firm and durable I must revere the Divine order, and must put first things first. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
And, therefore, I must seek holiness before success. I am to esteem holiness with apparent failure as infinitely better than success with stain and shame.
I must seek character before reputation. The applause of the world must be as nothing compared with the approbation of God. The favouring "voice from heaven" must be sweeter to my ears than the noisy cheers of the crowd.
And I must seek righteousness before quietness. The way of disturbance is sometimes the way to peace. I must not be so concerned for a quiet life as for a life that is "right with God."
SEPTEMBER The Second
PRAYER AND REVOLUTION
JOHN iv. 43-54.
This miracle began in a prayer. The nobleman went unto Jesus "and besought Him." In such apparently fragile things can mighty revolutions be born! "Prayer," said Tennyson, "opens the sluice-gates between us and the Infinite." It brings the frail wire into contact with the battery. It links together man and God.
Prayer was corroborated by belief. "The man believed the word that Jesus spake unto him." By our faith we cut the channels along which the healing energy will flow. Faith "prepares the way of the Lord." Our faith is purposed to be a fellow-laborer with grace, and, if faith be absent, grace "can do no mighty works."
The healing begins with the faith. "It was at the same hour in which ... he himself believed." These "coincidences" are inevitable happenings in the realm of the Spirit. When we offer the believing prayer, God's mighty energies begin to besiege the life for which the prayer is made. Mr. Cornaby, the Methodist missionary, declares how conscious he is in far-away China when someone is interceding for him in the home-land! The power possesses him in vitalizing flood! Hudson Taylor's mother shuts herself in a little room to pray, and eighty miles away her son is converted.
SEPTEMBER The Third
MY SHARE IN THE MIRACLE
JOHN ii. 1-11.
Our Lord always demands our best. He will not work with our second-best. His gracious "extra" is given when our own resources are exhausted. We must do our best before our Master will do His miracle. We must "fill the water-pots with water"! We must bring "the five loaves and two fishes"! We must "let down the net"! We must be willing "to be made whole," and we must make the effort to rise! Yes, the Lord will have my best.
Our Lord transforms our best into His better. He changes water into wine. He turns the handful of seed into a harvest. Our aspirations become inspirations. Our willings become magnetic with the mystic power of grace. Our bread becomes sacramental, and He Himself is revealed to us at the feast. Our ordinary converse becomes a Divine fellowship, and "our hearts burn within us" as He talks to us by the way.
And our Lord ever keeps His best wine until the last. "Greater things than these shall ye do!" "I will see you again," and there shall be grander transformations still! "The best is yet to be." "Dreams cannot picture a world so fair." "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
SEPTEMBER The Fourth
A PORTRAIT OF A GREAT SUPPLIANT
MATTHEW viii. 5-13.
Here we have the grace of sympathy; one man troubled about the sickness of another. We are drawing very near to the Lord when our soul vibrates responsively to another man's need. We can measure our likeness to the Lord by the range of our sensitiveness to the world's sorrow and pain. Our God is the "Father of pities"; He is sensitive in every direction, no side is numb, and we are putting on His likeness in proportion as we attain an all-round responsiveness to the cries of human need.
And here we have the grace of humility. "I am not worthy!" Our pride always blocks "the way of the Lord." Our humility makes us porous to the Divine. The "poor in spirit" are already in the kingdom, and the gracious powers of the kingdom are commanded to attend their bidding.
And here we have the grace of faith. "Only say the word!" The centurion conceives the Lord's words as soldiers attending on the Lord's will. Let one be spoken, and at once the mission is executed. And so it is. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." His words are vehicles of power, and when they are spoken, miracles are always wrought. "The entrance of Thy word giveth light."
SEPTEMBER The Fifth
FAITH AND RIDICULE
MATTHEW ix. 18-26.
And, so one man's faith is more than a match for many people's scorn. The steady trust of the ruler was not shaken by the rude flippancy of the artificial mourners, and his daughter was brought from the dead. "This is the victory that overcometh, even our faith." Everything bows, like fragile reeds, before the march of a victorious faith. Scorn, and hatred, and all manner of devilry, and death itself, all lose their power in the presence of a belief which remains steady and steadfast. "Said I not unto thee that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?"
And what an infinite reservoir of power is waiting to be tapped by the hand of faith! A ruler believes and his daughter is vitalized. A poor woman, bent and broken, reaches out her thin, frail hand, and lo! she is erect and graceful as the pine! And "my sufficiency is of God!" All that I may need is in the same wonderful reservoir of grace. That healing flood is like the ocean fulness, and it will fill every bay, and cove, and creek in the wide-stretching shore of human need.
"The healing of His seamless dress Is by our beds of pain, We touch Him in life's throng and press, And we are whole again."
SEPTEMBER The Sixth
MATTHEW xv. 21-28.
I wonder if this word "dogs" was my Saviour's word, or had He picked it up from the disciples that He might cast it away again for ever? Did He use it that He might reveal its ugliness, and so banish it from human speech? As Jesus and His disciples came along the road the Master walked before them. "And behold, a Canaanitish woman came out from those borders!" And the disciples whispered to one another, "Here comes one of the dogs!" And the Master overheard it, and His tender spirit grieved. And there and then He resolved to help the woman and at the same time cleanse the men.
Is there not therefore something half-ironical in our Saviour's use of the word? When He spake of the woman as a "dog," and of the disciples as "the children," would there not be something significant in His very looks and tones? These cold, unfeeling men "the children," and this tender yearning woman the "dog"!
When the Lord used the disciples' word they began to be ashamed, and in the fire of their shame their self-conceit was consumed. He turned with impatient longing to the woman, "O, woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
SEPTEMBER The Seventh
EXPERIMENT AND EXPERIENCE
HEBREWS xi. 1-6.
I like the marginal rendering of the introductory sentence of this great chapter. "Faith is the giving substance to things hoped for." Faith converts cloudy castles into substantial homes. Faith substantiates the unseen. Faith sucks the energy out of splendid ideals, and incorporates it in present and immediate life. Faith unfolds the eternal in the moment, the infinite in the trifle, the divine in the commonplace. Faith incorporates God and man. Yes, faith gives substance to "things hoped for," it brings them out of the air, and gives them reality and movement in the hard and common ways of earth and time.
And faith is also "the test of things not seen." By a test faith gains a conquest. By an experiment faith acquires an experience. By a great speculation faith makes a great discovery. "Try me now herewith, and prove Me!" It is an invitation to humble and sincere assumption. Try if it works! Make a hallowed experiment with the powers of grace.
Lord, incline me to make the gracious test! Let me stake my all upon the venture! Let me dare all in order that I may gain all! Let me sow bountifully, and so reap a bountiful harvest.
SEPTEMBER The Eighth
THE BRACING AIR OF PUBLICITY
ROMANS x. 1-13.
There is a belief which never registers itself in confession. It never exercises itself in the strong, bracing air of publicity. It is a cloistered belief, and suffers from want of ventilation. Such Christians are always anaemic; indeed, they are always puny, and never get beyond the stage of spiritual babyhood. "Ye are yet babes!" Belief which is never oxygenated by open confession can never nourish the soul into vigorous and exhilarant health.
But there is a belief which expresses and confirms itself in confession. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Such confession is a means of moral and spiritual health. And confession in the early days meant risk, venture which exposed the life to the shedding of blood. It meant a frank defiance of the world, and an eager challenge of the devil. And it is on such fields of open encounter for the Lord that muscle is made, and the soul goes "from strength to strength," and "from glory to glory."
My soul, art thou secretly ashamed of thy Lord? Art thou afraid to "lift high His royal banner"? Then thou wilt always be as a feather-bed soldier, and the trophies of the honourable war are not for thee. Stand out in the open, and boldly testify, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"
SEPTEMBER The Ninth
DEALING WITH SIN
Here is the burden of unconfessed sin. "When I kept silence my bones waxed old." There is nothing brings on premature age like secret sin. It keeps the mind in perpetual unrest, and a troubled mind soon makes the body old. The real nourisher of the body is a quiet and radiant soul. But let the soul be in chaos, and the body will soon be a ruin.
And here, too, is the healthy act of confession. "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid." He retained no single germ of the whole unclean brood. He brought them out into the light one by one, as though he were emptying a noisome kennel. He brought them out, and named them, in the awful Presence of the Lord.
And here is the ministry of forgiveness, and therefore the miracle of restored health. Let me mark the rich variety of the descriptive words. "Forgiven!" "Covered!" "Imputed not!" It is all removed and obliterated, and the place of defilement and profanity becomes the holy temple of the Lord.
SEPTEMBER The Tenth
CRITICISM AND PIETY
"Thinkest thou, that judgest them that do such things, that thou shalt escape?" —ROMANS ii. 1-11.
That is always my peril, to assume that by being severe with others I exculpate myself. I go on to the bench, and deliver sentence upon my brother, when my proper place is in the dock. And this is the subtlety of the snare, that I regard my criticisms and condemnations of other people as signs of my own innocence. This is the last refinement in temptation, and multitudes fall before its power.
The way to moral and spiritual health is to direct my criticisms upon myself. I must stand in the dock, and hear the grave indictment of my own soul. Unless I pass through the second chapter of Romans I can never enter the fifth and sixth, and still less the glorious forgiveness of the eighth. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." I pass into that warm, cheery light through the cold road of acknowledged guilt and sin.
"If we confess our sins He is just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
SEPTEMBER The Eleventh
A FATAL DIVORCE
"They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." —2 KINGS xvii. 24-34.
And that is an old-world record, but it is quite a modern experience. The kinsmen of these ancient people are found in our own time. Men still fear one God and serve another.
But something is vitally wrong when men can divorce their fear from their obedience. And the beginning of the wrong is in the fear itself. "Fear," as used in this passage, is a counterfeit coin, which does not ring true to the truth. It means only the payment of outward respect, a formal recognition, a passing nod which we give on the way to something better. It is a mere skin courtesy behind which there is no beating heart; a hollow convention in which there is no deep and sacred awe.
But the real "fear of God" is a spiritual mood in which virtue thrives, an atmosphere in which holy living is quite inevitable. "The fear of the Lord is clean." It is not lip-worship, but heart-homage, a reverence in which the soul is always found upon its knees. And so "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil"; it is an indignant repulsion from all that is hateful to God. It is the sharing of the Spirit of the Lord. There cannot be any true fear where the soul does not worship "in spirit and in truth."
SEPTEMBER The Twelfth
THE GARMENTS OF THE SOUL
JOEL ii. 12-19.
I am so apt to think that the rending of an outer garment is a token of true penitence and amendment of life. But it is the inner garments I must deal with, the raiments and habits of the soul. Some of these robes—such as vanity and pride—are as gay and showy as a peacock; others are dirty and leprous, and we should not dare to bring them to the door, and display them in the light. But all need severe treatment; they must be torn, fibre from fibre, and reduced to rags.
But "rending" must be accompanied by "turning." "Turn unto the Lord your God." For the Lord our God is gracious, and His love will not only provide a new wardrobe, but a swift furnace in which to burn the remnants of the old. Yes, His "great kindness" will burn away the filth of my alienation, and will "bring forth the best robe" and put it on me. The good Lord will give me new habits. He will "cover me with the robe of righteousness, and the garment of salvation."
SEPTEMBER The Thirteenth
THE CLEAN HEART
What will the Lord do with my sin, if in true humility I come into His Presence? Let me hear the music of the evangel.
He will "blot out my transgression." He will so erase it that even His own holy eyes can see no stain or shame. He will blot it out, as I have seen a gloomy cloudlet blotted out, and there has been nothing left but radiant sky.
And He will "wash me throughly from mine iniquity." Yes, and that not like the washing of the hands, but like the washing of clothes, not like the washing of a surface, but the removal of uncleanness from a fabric, the ousting of every germ lurking in the innermost cells of the stuff. When the Lord washes a soul it is "throughly" done, and every strand is white in holiness.
So will He give me "a clean heart"; so will He "renew a right spirit within me." The very atmosphere of my life shall be as the air after deluges of cleansing rain. It shall be sweet, and clean, and clear! I shall walk in a new inspiration, and I shall "behold the land that is very far off."
SEPTEMBER The Fourteenth
THE SENSE OF WANT
"This man went down to his house justified rather than the other." —LUKE xviii. 9-14.
The Master sets the Pharisee and publican in contrast, and His judgment goes against the man who has made some progress in moral attainments, and favours the man who has no victories to show, but only a hunger for victory. The dissatisfied sinner is preferred to the self-satisfied saint. The Pharisee had gained an inch, but had lost his sense of the continent. The publican had not pegged out an inch of moral claim, but he had an overwhelming sense of the untrodden universe.
So this, I think, is the teaching for me. We are justified by the penitent sense of want and not by the boastful sense of possession. Our sense of lack is the measure of our hope, and our measure of hope determines the poverty or fulness of our communion with the Lord. The Pharisee had no "beyond," no realm of admiration, no hope! Aspiration was dead, and therefore inspiration had ceased. Our possibilities nestle in our cravings.
SEPTEMBER The Fifteenth
RESTORING A RUINED LIFE
PSALM ciii. 1-18.
Could there be a sweeter chime than the opening music of this psalm?
"Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." He receives me back home again, interrupts the broken story of my sin, and drowns my sobbings in His rejoicings.
"Who healeth all thy diseases." He takes in hand the foul complaints which I acquired in "the far country," and with His powerful medicines, and His wonderful "bread of life," He drives the foul things from my soul.
"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction." Yes, with His own blood He buys me back from a midnight servitude, strikes every chain and shackle from my limbs, and makes me dance in "the glorious liberty of the children of God."
"Who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercy." He encircles me with the invulnerable army of His own love. Henceforth if the devil would get at me he must deal with God. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people."
"Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things." He sets before me a glorious table, and enlivens my spirits with glorious fellowship. That so I can be no other than "satisfied," and my heart is at rest in the Lord. "Thou, O Christ, art all I want!"
SEPTEMBER The Sixteenth
THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE LORD
"My covenant shall stand fast." —PSALM lxxxix. 19-29.
Such a divine assurance ought to make me perfectly quiet in spirit. Restlessness in a Christian always spells disloyalty. The uncertainty is born of suspicion. There is a rift in the faith, and the disturbing breath of the devil blows through, and destroys my peace. If I am sure of my great Ally, my heart will not be troubled, neither will it be afraid.
And such a divine assurance ought to make me bold in will and majestic in labour. I ought to be inventive in chivalrous enterprise, and I ought to covet the hardest parts of the field. If the mighty Ally will never fail, I should never be afraid of the marshalled hosts of wickedness. "One with God is in a majority." "He always wins who sides with God." "The Lord is on my side, whom shall I fear?"
And such a divine assurance ought to give me a kingly demeanour. The members of the Court acquire a certain stateliness by their lofty fellowship. And, surely, one who walks with God should be characterized by something of the Divine glory, and men should know that his acquaintances are found in the courts of heaven.
SEPTEMBER The Seventeenth
THE NEVER-WITHERING LEAF
JEREMIAH xvii. 5-11.
Let me look at "the blessed man" in the interpreting symbol of this healthy and graceful tree.
The blessed life is a life of vast resource. "As a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river." It is not watered by an occasional shower, it is unceasingly bathed by the vitalizing flood. Its rootlets are always drinking the nutritious waters of grace. The blessed life is planted on the banks of that wonderful river which takes its rise in the great white throne.
And just because of these boundless supplies, the blessed life is undisturbed in times of grave crisis and emergency. "He shall not see when heat cometh." He shall be cool when the unblessed are hot and fever-stricken. He shall "keep his head" in times of general panic. His powers of endurance shall make the world wonder! He shall "hold out" when everybody else is faint.
So shall there be nothing "sere and yellow" about him. "His leaf shall be green." His faith, and hope, and love shall remain fresh and beautiful even in "the dark and cloudy day."
SEPTEMBER The Eighteenth
THE ALL-ROUND DEFENCE
"Thou hast beset me behind." —PSALM cxxxix. 1-12.
And that is a defence against the enemies which would attack me in the rear. There is yesterday's sin, and the guilt which is the companion of yesterday's sin. They pursue my soul like fierce hounds, but my gracious Lord will come between my pursuers and me. His mighty grace intervenes, and my security is complete.
"Thou hast beset me ... before." And that is a defence against the enemies which would impede my advance and frighten me out of the heavenly way. There is fear—fear of the morrow, fear of consequences, fear of death! And my Lord will come between me and them, and their menace shall be destroyed. The fiery darts shall be quenched before they reach my soul.
"And laid Thine hand upon me." And that is a defence against the enemies which may lie in ambush in present and immediate circumstances: the sudden temptation to passion, or the temptation to panic, or the temptation which would snare me to criminal ease. But my Lord's hand is all-sufficient! And so on every side my defence standeth; "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him."
SEPTEMBER The Nineteenth
THE NEEDS OF THE BODY
JOHN vi. 1-21.
The Lord who came to save His people was sensitive to His people's hunger. In the presence of the supreme need the smaller need was not forgotten. He honoured the body as well as the soul. He ministered to the transient as well as the eternal. And that is ever the characteristic of true kingliness; it has a kingly way of doing the smaller things. I can measure my own progress toward the throne by my sovereign attention to scruples. "He that is faithful in that which is least, the same also is great."
The Lord is not oppressed by the multitude of His guests. "He Himself knew what He would do." We need not jostle one another for His bounty. We shall not crowd one another out. "There is bread enough and to spare." Even in the material realm this is true, and everybody would have his daily bread if the will of the Lord were done. There is no straitness in the gracious Host! It is the greed of the guests which mars the satisfaction of the feast.
And how careful the Lord of Glory was to "gather up the fragments"! Our infinitely wealthy Lord is not wealthy enough to "throw things away." He cannot afford to waste bread. Can He afford to lose a soul? "He goeth out after that which is lost until He find it"!
SEPTEMBER The Twentieth
THE PATHETIC MULTITUDE
MARK viii. 1-9.
My Lord has "compassion upon the multitude." And (shall I reverently say it?) His compassion was part of His passion. His pity was always costly. It culminated upon Calvary, but it was bleeding all along the road! It was a fellow-feeling with all the pangs and sorrows of the race. And a pity that bleeds is a pity that heals. "In His love and in His pity He redeemed us."
And the multitude is round about us still, and the people are in peril of fainting by the way. There is the multitude of misfortune, the children of disadvantage, who never seem to have come to their own. And there is the multitude of outcasts, the vast army of publicans and sinners. And there are the bewildering multitudes of Africa, and India, and China, and they have "nothing to eat"!
How do I regard them? Do I share the compassion of the Lord? Do I exercise a sensitive and sanctified imagination, and enter somewhat into the pangs of their cravings? My Lord calls for my help. "How many loaves have ye?" "Bring out all you have! Consecrate your entire resources! Put your all upon the altar of sacrifice!" And in reply to the call can I humbly and trustfully say, "O, Lamb of God, I come!"
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-first
LIFE AS BREAD
MARK viii. 10-21.
It is gracious to know that my Lord is "the Bread of Life," and that I can feed on Him. It is fearful to know that I, too, am bread, and that others are feeding on me. Am I the nutriment of vice or the sustenance of virtue? Am I an evil leaven, like the Pharisees, or a holy leaven like the Lord? When little children feed on my presence do they grow in strength and beauty? Or do they become relaxed and demoralized? Who will feed upon me to-day, and what will be the end of it?
If I would have my life to be as hallowed and hallowing leaven I must regularly feed upon the Bread of Life. If I am sustained by the Lord, I too shall be a sustainer of all who aspire after a true and holy life. My very character will itself become heavenly bread, and men will be nourished by it even when I am unconscious of the ministry. When they have spent a brief hour in my company they will go away refreshed.
"Lord, evermore give us this bread!" So feed us with Thyself that we may share Thy nature. Let "virtue" go forth from us, and let it be as holy bread to all who are heavy-laden, and ready to faint.
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-second
THE HANDFUL OF MEAL
1 KINGS xvii. 8-16.
What marvellous "coincidences" are prepared by Providential grace! The poor widow is unconsciously ordained to entertain the prophet! The ravens will be guided to the brook Cherith! "I have commanded them to feed thee there." Our road is full of surprises. We see the frowning, precipitous hill, and we fear it, but when we arrive at its base we find a refreshing spring! The Lord of the way had gone before the pilgrim. "I go to prepare ... for you."
But how strange that a widow with only "a handful of meal" should be "commanded" to offer hospitality! It is once again "the impossible" which is set before us. It would have been a dull commonplace to have fed the prophet from the overflowing larder of the rich man's palace. But to work from an almost empty cupboard! That is the surprising way of the Lord. He delights to hang great weights on apparently slender wires, to have great events turn on seeming trifles, and to make poverty the minister of "the indescribable riches of Christ."
The poor widow sacrificed her "handful of meal," and received an unfailing supply. And this, too, is the way of the Lord.
"Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee, Repaid a thousand fold will be."
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-third
THE DEDICATION OF SUBSTANCE
2 KINGS iv. 38-44.
Here is a man recognizing the sacredness of his substance. He saw the seal of the Lord upon his harvest, and he offered the first-fruits in token of its rightful Owner. Men go wrong when the only name upon their field is their own. "My power, and the strength of my hand hath gotten me this wealth." It matters nothing what the wealth may be—material substance, mental skill, or business sagacity. It becomes unhallowed power when we attach our own label to it, and erase the name of God.
This man dedicated his substance, and the hunger of his fellows was appeased. That is a great principle in human life. One man's satisfaction is dependent on another man's fidelity. His want is to be filled with my fulness. If I am selfish he remains hungry. If I acknowledge "the rights of God," and therefore "the rights of man," he has "enough and to spare." If I hoard my treasure I rob both God and man.
My gracious Lord, remove the scales from my eyes. Help me to be sensitive to the obligations of all wealth. Let my plenty call me to the children of need. Let me acknowledge my stewardship, and be Thy fellow minister in the service of man.
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-fourth
AFTER THE TRIUMPH!
MATTHEW xiv. 23-33.
After the great miracle of feeding the multitude our Lord "went up into a mountain to pray." May we reverently wonder if it was a season of temptation? Did they want to make Him a King? Was our human Lord assailed by "the destruction that wasteth at noonday"? And did He shut Himself up with the Father?
I am so disposed to pray up to my successes, and to cease to pray in them! I remember God in my struggles, I forget Him in my attainments. I hold fellowship with Him on the road, I part company with Him when I arrive. I become a practical atheist in the midst of my successes. My only security is to go up into a mountain apart and pray. Unless I become closeted with God, and see all things in their true colours and proportion, I shall be lifted up in most unholy and destructive pride.
And let me notice that our Lord returned from His privacy with the Father to do even greater miracles still. He had appeased the pangs of hunger; now He appeases the passion of the sea. And so in my degree shall it be with me. If in all my triumphs I remain the humble companion of the Lord, my triumphs shall be repeated and enriched. "Greater works than these shall ye do."
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-fifth
THE SENSE OF GRACE
PSALM cvii. 21-32.
A vital part of all devotion is the remembrance of the goodness of God. Such a remembrance keeps my soul in the realm of grace. I am so inclined to proclaim my personal rights rather than glorify the favour of God, so inclined to exhibit my own prowess rather than God's most gracious bounty. And whenever I lose the sense of grace I become a usurper and take the throne. Our salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast."
And such a remembrance would keep my soul in the mood of humility. "Nothing in my hands I bring." I can no more claim the glory of salvation than a child, who has cut a shallow trench on the sands, can claim the glory of initiating the roll of the ocean-tide. I owe all my desires and all my hopes and all my present attainments to the boundless goodness of God.
And such a remembrance would keep my soul in the dispensation of love. I cannot quietly and steadily contemplate the goodness of the Lord without my soul being kindled into loving response. Without high contemplations love smoulders, and will eventually die out. But God's goodness inflames the soul, and communicates its own most gracious heat. "We love because He first loved us!"
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-sixth
MY LORD AS MY BREAD
JOHN vi. 26-35.
Our life's bread is a Person. We may have much to do with Christianity and nothing to do with Christ. The other day I was in a great and wonderful bakery, but I never ate nor touched a morsel of bread. I touched the machinery. I was absorbingly interested in the processes, but I ate no bread! And I may be deeply interested in the means of grace, I may be familiar with all "the ins and outs" of ecclesiastical machinery, and I may never handle nor taste "the bread of God." Our religion is dead and burdensome until it becomes a personal relation, and we have vital communion with Christ.
"Thou, O Christ, art all I want." We find everything in Him. Everything else is preliminary, preparatory, subordinate, and to be in the long run dropped and forgotten. A ritual is only a way to "the bread," and by no means essential, and very often undesirable. The heart can find the Lord with a look, with a cry, and needs no obtrusion of ritual or priest. But how pathetic! To be contented to potter about among the ritual and never to find the Bread! To be in the house and never to see the Host! "Ye search the Scriptures ... and ye will not come to Me."
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-seventh
TAKE AND EAT
JOHN vi. 52-63.
There is, first of all, appropriation. I must "stretch out" "lame hands of faith"; and "take" before I "eat." In the lives of many Christians there is too much asking and too little taking. If it were only rightly regarded, prayer is companionship as well as petition, and companionship is literally significant of the sharing of bread. In every season of communion a part must be assigned to the taking of the things for which we have prayed. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
And there is assimilation. We must "eat" as well as "take." It is in the exercises of obedience that we digest and incorporate the bread of life. Without our obedience the living Lord never becomes "part of ourselves." We never "become one in the bundle of life" with the Lord our God. And truth which is not assimilated becomes a drug. Instead of being a "savour of life unto life," it becomes a "savour of death unto death."
And there is vitalization. The assimilated bread of life makes everything alive. Every faculty in my being feels the touch of divine inspiration. It is native bread for native power, and everything is renewed.
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-eighth
THE DAILY MANNA
"I will rain bread from heaven for you." —EXODUS xvi. 11-18.
And this gracious provision is made for people who are complaining, and who are sighing for the flesh-pots of Egypt! Our Lord can be patient with the impatient: He can be "kind to the unthankful." If it were easy to drive the Lord away I should have succeeded long ago. I have murmured, I have sulked, I have turned Him out of my thoughts, and "He stands at the door and knocks!" I yearn for "the flesh-pots," "He sends me manna," "Was there ever kindest shepherd half so gentle, half so sweet?"
"And they gathered it every morning." And that I think is the best time to gather the heavenly food. At night I am weary, my body is craving sleep, and I am not vitalized in the fields of grace. But in the morning I am refreshed, and I can go to the heavenly fields and gather "the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." I can be fed as the day begins, and I can set out to my daily work with the taste of God in my mouth, and His mighty grace in my heart, and I shall delight to "walk in the paths of His commandments."
SEPTEMBER The Twenty-ninth
1 JOHN v. 9-21.
My Lord is "the fountain of life." "This life is in His Son." The springs are nowhere else—not in elaborate theologies, or in ethical ideals, or in literary masterpieces, or in music or art. "In Him was life." It is so easy to forget the medicinal spring amid the distractions of the fashionable spa. There are some healing waters at Scarborough, but they have been almost "crowded out" by bands and entertainments. It is possible that the secondary ministries of the Church may crowd out the Church's Lord. I do not object to the entertainment if only it opens out on to the Spring!
To have the Son is to have life. Nothing else is needed. "Thou, O Christ, art all I want." Ritualisms, and ecclesiasticisms, and formal theologies are not requisite. We can be saved without an academic knowledge of "the plan of salvation." Many a gamekeeper's little child knows all the roads on the estate, although she would be quite "at sea" in explaining "the plan of the estate" which hangs in the house of the steward. "This is life eternal, to know Thee and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."
SEPTEMBER The Thirtieth
WHITE ROBES IN THE STREETS
JOHN xvii. 11-28.
The man who has been fed with the "bread of life" must remain "in the world." The Lord gives no countenance to the life of the ascetic. Our sanctification is not to be gained by withdrawal and retreat. At the best, that would be a holiness sickly and anaemic, a coddled virtue devoid of firm muscle and iron nerve. Our Lord purposes a holiness which shall wear white robes in the streets, and shine like virgin snow in the market, and keep itself chivalrous and stately in the common fellowships of men.
"In the world," but "not of the world." The man who is fed on "the bread of life" is endowed with powers of resistance against "the noisome pestilence." The germs of worldly epidemics find no nutriment in him. "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." When an evil microbe finds no foothold it withers away. If I am not "of the world" I shall quite naturally and instinctively be able to resist "all the wiles of the devil."
And my Lord purposes me to have this positive, masculine holiness in order "that the world may believe." He wants disciples who will arrest the world by their glorious health, and by their invincible moral defences. He wants my purity to advertise His grace; He wants my faith to increase "the household of the faith."
OCTOBER The First
A WONDERFUL UNBELIEF
PSALM lxxviii. 15-25.
"They believed not in God ... though He had——" Let everyone finish that sentence out of his own experience. How much grace can our unbelief withstand? The Lord had made the rock like unto a spring of water, and yet these people believed not! What has He done for thee and me? Let us retrace the pilgrimage of our own years. Let us recall the blessings by the way—the streams in the desert, the pillar of fire that led us in the night. And yet what is the quality of our faith? It is often weak and reluctant, riddled with timidities, or moth-eaten with worldly ease. It is not mighty and daring, riding forth every morning like a chivalrous knight to inevitable conquest. It creeps along, like Mr. Halting, and Miss Much-Afraid, and Mr. Little-Faith.
"He marvelled at their unbelief." The Lord Jesus wondered that men and women, seeing what they had seen, did not immediately spring to the life and service of faith. Perhaps we do not give time for faith to be born! Perhaps we do not see because we do not look. Perhaps we are blind to His mercies and are therefore dead to the faith. And therefore, perhaps, our first prayer should be, "Lord, that I might receive my sight," and then the prayer, "Lord, increase my faith."
OCTOBER The Second
HUMBLING OUR PRIDE
JOB xxxviii. 1-15.
"I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me." When our God begins to ask questions our pride is soon humbled, for the limits of our knowledge and power are speedily reached. The mist is very close to our doors, and in a very few steps we are lost on a trackless moor. Who can trace the real springs of a tear and lay his hand on the emotion that gave it birth? Who can lead us into the bright realm where smiles are born? Who knoweth the way of a frown, or who can uncover the secrets of fear? No living man can explain his own breathing, or can unravel the mysterious decree which moves his own finger!
And as there is so much mystery, it must be surely true that mystery is a very gracious thing. Uncertainty is the divine ministry of blessedness. If it were not so, He would have told us! "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." If it were best for us that the mist should be removed, He would roll it up like a garment and give us the light of unclouded day. But the mist remains, the home of blessing. "He cometh in a thick cloud." "The clouds drop fatness."
OCTOBER The Third
WATCHING THE CREATOR
JEREMIAH x. 10-16.
"He hath made the earth by His power." And He is making it still. Even in the material world "His mercies are new every morning." James Smetham used to speak of going into his garden "to see what the Lord is doing." He would stand on the top of Highgate Hill on a blustering night "to watch the goings of the Lord in the storm." And all this means that to James Smetham creation was not merely a single event, but a process whose countless events are still going on. He watched his Lord at work! Every sunset was a new creation from the Almighty Maker's hands.
To many of us the Creator is remote from His works. He is not immediately near. And so He no longer "walks in the garden in the cool of the day." The garden is no longer a holy place. Let us recover the sacredness of things. Let us "practise the presence of God." Let us link His love and power to every flower that blows. And so shall we be able to say, as we move amid the glories of the natural world, "The Lord is in His holy temple."
OCTOBER The Fourth
CREATOR AND CREATURE
ISAIAH xl. 9-28.
Let me mark the range of this teaching. "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand.... He shall feed His flock like a shepherd." And let me mark it again. "The Creator of the ends of the earth ... giveth power unto the faint." Almightiness offers itself to carry my burden! The Creator offers Himself to re-create me! I can engage the forces of the universe to help me on my journey. Emerson counselled us to hitch our wagon to a star. We can do better than that. We can hitch it to the Maker of the star! We have something better than an ideal; we have the Light of the world. We are not left to a radiant abstraction; we have a gracious God.
The water flows from the Welsh hills to every house in Birmingham. Rich and poor alike share the bounty of the mountains. The wealth of the mountains comes to the common thirst. And everybody, too, may have the water from the everlasting hills. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him." The river of life will flow to every soul of man.
OCTOBER The Fifth
THE SOUL AND NATURE
"Praise ye the Lord." And the Psalmist calls upon the creation to join in the anthem. And that is the gracious purpose of our God, that the world should be filled with harmonious praise. It is His will that the character of man should harmonize with the flowers of the field, that the beauty of his habits should blend with the glories of the sunrise, and that his speech and laughter should mingle with the songs of birds and with the melody of flowing streams. But man is too often a discord in creation. The flowers put him to shame. The birds make him sound harsh and jarring. He is "out of tune."
What then? "Tune my heart to sing Thy praise." We must bring the broken strings, the rusted strings, the jarring strings to the Repairer and Tuner of the soul. It is the glad ministry of His grace to re-awaken silent chords, to restore broken harps, to "put new songs" in our mouths. He will make us the kinsfolk of all things bright and beautiful. We shall "go forth with joy," and "all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
OCTOBER The Sixth
HE KNOWETH OUR FRAME
PSALM ciii. 13-22.
"He knoweth our frame." The Bible abounds in such gracious and tender words. "He remembereth us in our low estate." "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." "He will not permit you to be tempted above that ye are able." The burden is suited to our strength. The revelation is determined by our experience. The pace is regulated by our years. "He carrieth the lambs in His arms." He "leads on softly." Nothing is done in ignorance. "The Lord is mindful of His own. He remembereth His children."
And so I must practise the belief in God's compassionate nearness. In my childhood I used to sing "There's a Friend for little children, Above the bright blue sky." I know better now. He is nearer to me than I can dream. I used to sing "There is a happy land, Far, far away." Now I sing, "There is a happy land, Not far away." The good Father and His home are not in some remote realm. They are very, very near to me, and He knows all about me. "He knoweth our frame."
OCTOBER The Seventh
NEEDING AND WANTING
ACTS xvii. 22-31.
"As though He needed anything." "He may not need us; but does He want us?" Such is the question I heard Dr. Parker ask as he preached upon these words. And he took up a handful of flowers which he had upon the pulpit, and said: "These flowers were gathered for me by little hands in a Devonshire lane. Did I need them? No. Did I want them?... Your little girl kissed you before you left for business this morning. Did you need it?... Did you want it?"
And so Almightiness may not need our weakness, but the loving Father wants His children. "We are His offspring." Our Father delights in the love of His children. The Saviour said to a Samaritan woman, "Give Me to drink." And perhaps it is within the scope of our holy privilege to refresh the heart of our Lord. Perhaps we can give Him to drink of the well of our affections, and He will see of "the travail of His soul and be satisfied."
OCTOBER The Eighth
GOD'S GLORIOUS PURPOSE
"I have created him for My glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." —ISAIAH xliii. 1-7.
That is surely a superlative honour! "I have created him for My glory." I stood before one of Turner's paintings, and a man of fine judgment said to me, "That is Turner's glory!" He meant that in that picture the genius and the power and the grace of Turner were most abundantly expressed. And it is the will of God that man should express His glory, and by his righteousness and goodness witness to the great Creator's power and love. Amid all the wonders and sublimities of earth, and sky, and sea, man is to be the Almighty's "glory."
The contrast is pathetic when we turn from the Creator's purpose to our immediate life. There is so much that is shameful, crooked, and perverse. There is little or nothing of "glory." But, blessed be God! the purpose abides, and the Creator's work goes on. In His redemptive grace He has made provision for marred work, for spoilt and perverted life. "The crooked shall be made straight." "I will bring again that which is out of the way." "Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound."
OCTOBER The Ninth
THE LARGER WATERS
1 THESSALONIANS iv. 13-18.
Death is not an end; it is only a new beginning. Death is not the master of the house; he is only the porter at the King's lodge, appointed to open the gate, and let in the King's guests into the realms of eternal day. "And so shall we be ever with the Lord."
And so the range of three score years and ten is not the limit of our life. Our life is not a land-locked lake enclosed within the shore-lines of seventy years. It is an arm of the sea, and where the shore-lines seem to meet in old age they open out into the infinite. And so we must build for those larger waters. We must lay our life plans on the scale of the infinite, not as though we were only pilgrims of time, but as children of eternity! We are immortal! How, then, shall we live to-day in prospect of the eternal morrow?
OCTOBER The Tenth
OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH
"God is our refuge and strength." And in the varied conflicts and perils of life we need both these resources. We need the "refuge." There are times when our mightiest warfare is to lie passive, to shelter quietly in the strong defences of our God. Our finest strategy is sometimes to "rest in the Lord and wait." We can slay some of our enemies by leaving them alone. We can "starve them out." They can be weakened and beaten by sheer neglect. We feed their strength, and give them favoured chances, if we go out and face them actively, "marching as to war." The best way is to hide, and keep quiet; and "God is our refuge."
But we also need the "strength." This is positive equipment for active service. The defensive is changed to the offensive, and in the "strength" of the Lord we advance against the foe. We "ride abroad, redressing human wrongs." We "tread upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the dragon we trample under foot." We meet our enemy on the open field, and we slay him in his pride!
And so our God is our resource in the double warfare of active and passive crusade. In Him we can take refuge, and the enemy withers. In Him we can find fighting strength, and the enemy is overthrown.
OCTOBER The Eleventh
THE OLD COMPANION ON THE NEW ROAD
"Get thee out ... and I will show thee." "So Abram departed ... and the Lord appeared." —GENESIS xii. 1-9.
We must bring these separated passages together if we would appreciate the graciousness of the Lord's call. They are like the two sides of the same shield. They answer each other as voice and echo. When I move in obedience the Lord moves in inspiration. He never lets me go on my own charges. "All things are now ready." Before He makes me hunger the bread is prepared. Before I thirst the water is at hand. Before He calls me He has opened springs in difficult places and arbours of rest along the road. When Abram set out from his own country the Lord went before him.
And so I need not fear the arduous call. The very measure of its difficulty is also the measure of the riches of the divine provisions. "As thy day so shall thy strength be." At every turning of the winding way the Lord will appear unto us. At every new demand we shall discover new bounty, and everywhere in the unfamiliar road we shall gaze upon the familiar and friendly face of the Lord.
OCTOBER The Twelfth
ACTS vii. 1-7.
"Unto a land that I will show thee." But what mysterious windings there often are before that land is reached! But God's windings are never wasteful and purposeless. The apparent deviations are always gracious preparations. We are taken out of the way in order that we may the more richly reach our end. George Pilkington yearned to go to the foreign field, and God sent him to a dairy farm in Ireland. But the Irish dairy farm proved to be on the way to Uganda; and all the experience and knowledge which Pilkington picked up in this strange business proved invaluable when he reached his appointed field. "He bringeth the blind by a way that they know not."
So I will remember that the "short cut" is not always the finest road. God's round-about ways are filled with heavenly treasure. Every winding is purposed for the discovery of new wealth. What riches we gather on the way to God's goal!
"The hill of Zion yields A thousand sacred sweets Before we reach the heavenly fields Or walk the golden streets."
OCTOBER The Thirteenth
THE ROYAL AIR
GALATIANS iii. 6-14.
Emerson says somewhere that he has noticed that men whose duties are performed beneath great domes acquire a stately and appropriate manner. The vergers in our great cathedrals have a dignified stride. It is not otherwise with men who consciously live under the power of vast relationships. Princes of royal blood have a certain great "air" about them. The consciousness of noble kinships has an expansive influence upon the soul. The Jews felt its influence when they called to mind "our Father Abraham."
So is it with men and women of glorious kinships in the realm of faith. Their souls expand in the vast and exalted relations. "The children of faith" have vital communion with all the spiritual princes and princesses of countless years. They have blood-relationship with the patriarchs, and psalmists, and prophets, and they dwell "in heavenly places" with Paul, and Augustine, and Luther, and Wesley.
Surely, such exalted kinship should influence our very stride, and set its mark upon our "daily walk and conversation." It ought to make us so big that we can never speak a mean word, or do a petty and peevish thing.
OCTOBER The Fourteenth
JOHN i. 35-47.
Our Lord delights to glorify the commonplace. He loves to fill the common water-pots with His mysterious wine. He chooses the earthen vessels into which to put His treasure. He calls obscure fishermen to be the ambassadors of His grace. He proclaims His great Gospel through provincial dialects, and He fills uncultured mouths with mighty arguments. He turns common meals into sacraments, and while He breaks ordinary bread He relates it to the blessing of heaven.
And "this same Jesus" is among us to-day, with the same choices and delights. He will make a humdrum duty shine like the wayside bush that burned with fire and was not consumed. He will make our daily business the channel of His grace. He will take our disappointments, and, just as we sometimes put banknotes into black-edged envelopes, He will fill them with treasures of unspeakable consolation. He will use our poor, broken, stammering speech to convey the wonders of His grace to the weary sinful souls of men.
OCTOBER The Fifteenth
THE CALL AND THE EQUIPMENT
LUKE v. 27-32.
Matthew was very weary, and the all-seeing Lord read the signs of his spiritual dissatisfaction and unrest. As Jesus "passed by" nothing escaped His watchful eye. He saw a look in Matthew's eye as of some caged creature longing for freedom. Matthew's office, the contempt of his fellows, and perhaps his own self-contempt held him in imprisoning disquietude. The Lord knew it all, and one word from Him and the iron gate was open, and the prisoner was free! "Follow Me! And he left all, rose up, and followed Him." With the Lord's command was conveyed the ability to obey, and Matthew stepped into "the glorious liberty of the children of God."
And this is the Master's way. His calls are always equipments. Every received commandment is also the vehicle of requisite grace. God's decrees are also promises, nay, they are immediate endowments. If we reverently open one of His callings we shall find it a store-house of needed strength.
And therefore we need not fear the calls of the Lord. They are not the harsh commandments of a tyrant, they are the loving invitations of a friend. If we obey them we shall taste the grace of them, and "His statutes will become our songs."
OCTOBER The Sixteenth
THE INSPIRATIONS OF THE PAST
ISAIAH li. 1-6.
Here is a sentence from Lord Morley: "If a man is despondent about his work the best remedy I can prescribe for him is to turn to a good biography." He counsels him to go into the yesterdays to find inspiration for the life of to-day. Other men's attainments are bugle-calls to me. "Look unto Abraham, your father." Look unto the blessings which waited upon his obedience! See how springs of refreshment broke out in the troubled way! God "called him and blessed him." Rekindle your hope at his radiant triumph. Strengthen your will in his glorious persistence.
Here do I see God's mercy in the gift of memory and in the witness of history. I can turn to the yesterdays for light and quickening. "Do ye not remember the miracle of the loaves?" Yes, I can recall the grace that met me in my need, the power that made the crooked straight and the rough places plain. And I am privileged to turn the pages of other men's testimonies and read the record of the Lord's dealings with them. And so do memory and history come as helpful angel-presences to my soul.
"His love in time past Forbids me to think He'll leave me at last In trouble to sink."
OCTOBER The Seventeenth
NO QUEST OF GOD
"He inquired not of the Lord." —1 CHRONICLES x. 6-14.
That was where Saul began to go wrong. When quest ceases, conquests cease. "He inquired not"; and this meant loss of light. God will be inquired after. He insists that we draw up the blinds if we would receive the light. If we board up our windows He will not drive the gentle rays through our hindrance. We must ask if we would have. The discipline of inquiry fits us for the counsel of the Lord.
"He inquired not"; and this meant loss of sight. When light fails, sight fails. The ponies in our pits become blind. When a spiritual power is not exercised in the heavenly, it is deprived of its appointed functions. And the tragedy is this, that the blind are deceived into thinking that they still retain their sight. "Ye say, we see!"
"He inquired not"; and this meant loss of might. For "the light of life" is not only illumination; it is inspiration too. It is both light and heat; it confers guidance and dynamic. When a man, therefore, refuses the light he becomes a weakling, and he will meet with disaster in the first tempestuous day.
OCTOBER The Eighteenth
UNANIMITY IN THE SOUL
"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." —JAMES i. 1-8.
If two men are at the wheel with opposing notions of direction and destiny, how will it fare with the boat? If an orchestra have two conductors both wielding their batons at the same time and with conflicting conceptions of the score, what will become of the band? And a man whose mind is like that of two men flirting with contrary ideals at the same time will live a life "all sixes and sevens," and nothing will move to purposeful and definite issues. If the mind flirt with Satan and Christ, life will be filled with disastrous instability and confusion.
The first thing we need, therefore, for influential and impressive living is unanimity. Unanimity in the mind is the primary factor in a forceful life. To bring "all that is within me" into concord, to make every instrument of the soul bow to one conductor, to lead all the powers into homage to the Lord—this is the unanimity which assures the perfection of holiness. "Unite my heart to fear Thy name." That is the mood which wins life's prize, "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
OCTOBER The Nineteenth
"Let your loins be girded about." —LUKE xii. 35-40.
Loose garments can be very troublesome. An Oriental robe, if left ungirdled, entangles the feet, or is caught by the wind and hinders one's goings. And therefore the wearer binds the loose attire together with a girdle, and makes it firm and compact about his body. And loose principles can be more dangerous than loose garments. Indefinite opinions, caught by the passing wind of popular caprice, are both a peril and a burden. Many people go through life with loose beliefs and purposes, and they never arrive at any glorious goal. "Let your loins be girded about." Bind your loose thinkings together with the girdle of truth into firm and saving conviction.