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My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
by John Henry Jowett
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"And your lights burning."

Be ready for the emergency. When the darkness falls, don't have to hasten away to buy oil. Look after your resources, and be competent to meet the crisis when it comes. Let the light of conscience be burning with clear flame, like a brilliant lighthouse on a dangerous shore. Let the light of love be burning, like a lamp which sends its friendly, cheery beams to the pilgrims of the night. "Our sufficiency is of God," and the oil of grace will keep the lights burning through the longest night.



OCTOBER The Twentieth

THE LORD AS THE SERVANT

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God, and goeth to God...." —JOHN xiii. 1-20.

And how shall we expect the sentence to finish? What shall be the issue of so vast a consciousness? "He took a towel, and girded Himself ... and began to wash the disciples' feet."

So a mighty consciousness expresses itself in lowly service. In our ignorance we should have assumed that divinity would have moved only in planetary orbits, and would have overlooked the petty streets and ways of men. But here the Lord of Glory girds Himself with the apron of the slave, and almightiness addresses itself to menial service.

And that is the test of an expanding consciousness. We may be sure that we are growing smaller when we begin to disparage humble services. We may be sure we are growing larger when we love the ministries that never cry or lift their voices in the streets. When a man begins to despise the "towel," he is losing his kingly dignity, and is resigning his place on the throne. "I have given you an example that ye also should do as I have done to you."



OCTOBER The Twenty-first

THE CONTRITE HEART

ISAIAH lvii. 13-21.

Let us look at this description of the dwelling-place of the Eternal God. "I dwell with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit."

And who are the contrite? In the original word there is the significance of pieces of rock or lumps of soil having been crumbled into the finest powder. Have I not sometimes heard the phrase—"He's just a lump of pride"? Well, that pride has to be broken down into the finest powder, until not a bit of stubborn self-conceit remains. And then the contrite become the humble! Our gracious Lord has sometimes to use heavy hammers in the destruction of this hard and stony pride: the shock of calamity, the battering of disappointment and defeat! Our pride must be ground to powder. Then He will come in and dwell with us!

And what then? He will "revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite ones." Our broken pride shall be as broken soil in which our Lord will grow the flowers and fruits of the Spirit. The death of pride shall be followed by a revival of all things sweet and beautiful. When pride is laid low, it is a "day of resurrection." The wilderness shall "blossom as the rose."



October The Twenty-second

THE TRUE STANDARD OF GREATNESS

MATTHEW xviii. 1-7.

Here is our Lord's estimate of true greatness. How infinite is the contrast between His standard and the standards of the world! The world measures greatness by money, or eloquence, or intellectual skill, or even by prowess on the field of battle. But here is the Lord's standard—"Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Those people are greatest who are most like God. We become partakers of the Divine nature through a child-like relationship to God. The grace and power of God pour into our souls when we wait upon Him like a little child.

Child-likeness opens the doors and windows to the incoming of the Almighty. The child-like is the trustful, and no barriers of cynical suspicion block the channels of spiritual communion. And the child-like is the docile, and no boulders of arrogance or self-conceit block the channel of the invigorating waters of life. And so the child-like become the God-like, and, of course, they are the greatest among the sons of men. The little child enshrines the secret of the God-man, and we should be infinitely wise if we had the little child always in our midst.



OCTOBER The Twenty-third

MASTERS AND SERVANTS

MATTHEW xx. 20-28.

It is always our peril that we hunger for place more than for character, for position more than for disposition, for a temporal sceptre more than for a majestic self-control.

These disciples coveted places on the right and left of the Lord, and they had little or no concern about their worthiness for the posts. Temporalities eclipsed spiritualities, fleeting fireworks hid the quiet stars. They wanted to be great and prominent, the Lord wanted them to be pure and good. They longed to be Prime Ministers, the Lord purposed that they should be glad to be ministers, working contentedly in an obscure place.

Now mark our Lord's response. "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of?" They wanted to be the King's cup-bearers; He offers them to drink of His cup. They call for sovereignty: He asks for sacrifice. They crave sweetness: He offers them bitterness. They seek a life of "getting": He demands a life of "giving." Who has a cup of bitterness to drink? Go and share it with him! Where are the morally and spiritually anaemic? Go and give them thy blood! "Whoever shall lose his life shall find it." Through self-sacrifice we pass to our throne.



OCTOBER The Twenty-fourth

"PUSH" AND "PULL"

LUKE xiv. 1-11.

The world canonizes "push." It eulogizes the "man of push." It loves to see a man elbowing his way through the jostling crowd, and gaining for himself a "chief seat" at life's feast. He is proclaimed a "successful" man, and he rises in "the chief seat," and amid loud hurrahs he responds to the toast of his health.

Yes, "push" is the word of the world, but "pull" is the word of the Lord, and between the two there is the difference of darkness and light. "Push" is selfish and exclusive: "pull" is inclusive and neighbourly. "Push" takes as its motto, "The weakest to the wall!" "Pull" takes as its motto, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

The final verdict upon life will be founded, not upon our own success in gaining a chief seat, but upon our success in encouraging the faint and the weakling, and in "helping lame dogs over stiles."

My gracious Lord, help me to put on "a heart of compassion" that by neighbourly feeling and ministry I may lead my fellows to the choice places of life's feast.



OCTOBER The Twenty-fifth

THE ROBE OF HUMILITY

1 PETER v. 1-11.

Let me, therefore, learn this lesson, that if my Lord should give me prominence in His church it is not to feed my lust of dominion, but in order to strengthen and extend the influence of the church's life. "Neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock."

The only truly imperial purple is the robe of humility. Any other sort of attire may appear to be kingly, but it has none of the glorious significance which belongs to our sovereign Lord. When a man puts on the robe of pride, he immediately belittles his manhood. When a man puts on the robe of humility, he becomes a greater man.

But humility is more than an imperial robe, it is a complete armour. It is fine for defence! The devil cannot get at the man who is "clothed in humility." There is no chink or crevice through which his deadly rapier can pierce. And it is equally fine for offence! Wearing this armour we can go out "redressing human wrongs." The stroke of pride is ever futile. When the humble man deals a blow, the power of the Almighty is in his right hand. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God."



OCTOBER The Twenty-sixth

THE LUST OF THE EXTERNAL

MATTHEW xxiii. 1-12.

Pharisaism is the lust of externalities, and the utter negligence of the inward sanctities of the spirit. It thinks more of decorum than of holiness, more of etiquette than of equity, more of ritualism than of "the robe of righteousness and the garment of salvation." Pharisaism lives in the streets: it does not dwell in the inner chambers of our mystic life.

Pharisaism thirsts for the homage of men and not for the approbation of God. It is far more alert to the "Rabbi! Rabbi!" of the crowd than it is to the secret callings of the Lord. The path between itself and the highest is unfrequented and grass-grown; the path between itself and the multitude is a well-trodden and barren road.

My Lord, let me be warned! Let me not pervert the ministries of religion to the aggrandizement of self. Let me not, in appearing to worship Thee, be seeking the worship of men. Give me singleness of mind. Give me purity of heart. And may I discover true greatness in seeking greatness for others.



OCTOBER The Twenty-seventh

PAYING HOMAGE TO THE KING

PROVERBS iii. 1-12.

"Acknowledge Him." But not with a passing nod of recognition. I must not merely glance at Him now and again, admitting His existence on the field. To acknowledge Him is to acknowledge Him as King, with the right to control, and as predominant partner in all the affairs of my life, even the right to give the determining voice in all my decisions. No, it is not the recognition paid to an acquaintance, it is the homage paid to a King.

And if I thus acknowledge Him, He will direct my paths. Life shall always be moving on to its purposed end and glory. The path chosen will not always be the most alluring one, but it will be the right one, and therefore the safe one, and there will be wonderful discoveries on the uninviting track.

How will He let me know which path to take? I cannot say. We can never anticipate God's ways of dealing with us. But if my life is bent to the loving acknowledgment of His will, He will assuredly find a way to make His will known. The light will always reach the willing mind.



OCTOBER The Twenty-eighth

PLEASANTNESS AND PEACE

"Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." —PROVERBS iii. 13-26.

In the ways of the Lord I shall have feasts of "pleasantness." But not always at the beginning of the ways. Sometimes my faith is called upon to take a very unattractive road, and nothing welcomes me of fascination and delight. But here is a law of the spiritual life. The exercised faith intensifies my spiritual senses, and hidden things become manifest to my soul—hidden beauties, hidden sounds, hidden scents! Faith adds a mysterious "plus" to my powers, and "all things become new."

And in the ways of the Lord I shall also find the gracious gift of peace. Not that the road will be always smooth, but that I may be always calm. I can be unperturbed when "all around tumultuous seems." I can journey in holy serenity, because the Lord of the road is with me. For peace consists, not in friendliness of circumstances, but in friendship with the Lord.



OCTOBER The Twenty-ninth

THE STORY OF THE PAST

DEUTERONOMY xxxi. 7-13.

And no ears are more receptive to spiritual story than the ears of a little child. It is not needful to open the gate of interest; it is wide ajar already. And imagination also is there, ready to busy itself about the story. And so, too, is the spirit of homage and adoration. The children are ready for the King! "Suffer little children to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

And, therefore, we have need of wise tellers of the story, who know the story themselves. And in these delicate regions I must ever remember how much my spirit shares in the story I tell. My spirit is a friend or a foe to my power. My words may be well chosen, but they may all be light as empty shells, devoid of all vitality. My words have just the power of their spiritual contents. "You cannot fight the French with 200,000 red uniforms," said Carlyle; "there must be men inside them." And we cannot engage in the evangelization with mere uniforms of words. There must be spirit inside them, even the spirit of pure and consecrated lives.



OCTOBER The Thirtieth

A TESTIMONY MEETING

PSALM xxxiv. 1-11.

This is a little testimony meeting, in which each of the witnesses tells the story of the Lord's gracious dealings with him. Let me listen to them.

"He delivered me from all my fears." His fears held him in dungeons. Even the noontide was as darkness round about him, and there was no song in his soul. And the Lord broke open the prison-gate and let him out to light, and joy, and belief.

"They looked to Him and were lightened." They looked upon the grace of the Lord, and were lit up, just as I have seen humble cottage windows ablaze with the glory of the rising sun. I must "set my face" towards the Lord, and I, too, shall catch the radiance of His glory.

"This poor man cried ... and the Lord saved him out of all his troubles." And these troubles were what I should call "tight corners," when the life is hemmed in by unfortunate circumstances, and there seems no way of escape. Disappointment shuts us in. Sorrow shuts us in. Lack of money shuts us in. Let me cry unto the Lord. He is a wonderful Friend in the tight corner, and He will bring my feet into "a large place."



OCTOBER The Thirty-first

TWO GREAT MYSTERIES

PSALM lxxxi.

This is an unutterable mystery, that a man can close his life against God. "Israel would have none of Me." We can shut out God as we can shut out the pure air. We can bar His entrance just as we can exclude the light from the chamber. And then the pity is, we can deceive ourselves into believing that the air is perfectly fresh and that the room is flooded with light. We lose our fine discernment, and we call evil good, and the darkness we call day. If we "refuse to have God" in our thoughts God gives us over to a "reprobate mind."

And it is an equally unutterable mystery that a man can open his life to the entertainment of Almighty God. "I will dwell with them!" That is my supreme honour, that the Lord will be my guest. I can "hearken" to Him, and "talk" to Him, and "walk" with Him. And He offers me protection. He will "subdue my enemies." And He offers me unfailing provision. The Guest becomes the Host! I put my little upon the table, and lo! I find that "the cruse of oil fails not, and the meal in the barrel is not consumed!"



NOVEMBER The First

IN THE DAYS OF YOUTH

ECCLESIASTES xii. 1-7.

In my university days at Edinburgh there was a young medical student named Macfarlane. He was one of our finest athletes, and everybody liked him. One day he was stricken with typhoid, which proved fatal. Macfarlane in his days of boisterous health had neglected his Lord, and when one of his friends, visiting him in his sickness, led his thoughts to the Saviour, he turned and said, "But wouldn't it be a shabby thing to turn to Christ now?" "Yes," replied his friend, "it will be a shabby thing, but it will be shabbier not to turn to Him at all!" And I believe that poor Macfarlane turned his shame-filled soul to the Lord.

But it is shabby to offer our Lord the mere dregs in life's cup. It is shabby to offer Him the mere hull of the boat when the storms of passion have carried its serviceableness away. Let me offer Him my best, my finest equipment, my youth! Let me offer Him the best, and give Him the helm when I am just setting sail and life abounds in golden promise! "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."



NOVEMBER The Second

LEADING TO CHRIST

"Suffer little children to come unto Me." —MARK x. 13-22.

"Unto Me!" We must not keep them at any half-way house. We are so prone to be satisfied if only we bring them a little way along the road. If we get them to pray! If we get them to attend the Lord's house! If we get them to be truthful and gentle! All of which is unspeakably good. It is a blessed thing to be in "the ways of Zion"; it is a far more blessed thing to be in the palace with Zion's King and Lord. When we are dealing with little children, every road must lead to Jesus, and not until the road is trodden and we arrive at Him must we think our ministry accomplished.

And, therefore, if I am talking to the little ones about Samuel, or David, or Paul, I must always see the short lane which leads to the Lord. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me!" And once they really own Him, we may trust their instincts for the rest. The heart in the child will leap to the love of the Lord, "for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." When a little one sees the Saviour, it is "love at first sight"!



NOVEMBER The Third

THE LORD'S OWN

JOHN xv. 11-25.

The "Lord's own" possess the Lord's love. "I have loved you." And love is not a beautiful sentiment, a passive rainbow stretched over the realm of human life. It is a glorious, active energy, infinitely more powerful than electricity, and always besieging the gates of the soul, or ministering to its manifold needs. Love is the greatest force in the world.

And the "Lord's own" are taken into the inner circle of intimacy, where the deepest secrets dwell. We are not kept on the door-step, or left standing in the hall, or limited to one or two "public rooms"; we are privileged to enter the King's privacy, and be nourished at the King's table, and listen to the King's table-talk concerning "all things" which He has heard of the Father. We have "the glorious liberty of the children of God."

And the "Lord's own" will experience the world's hatred. "Therefore the world hateth you." Our very friendship with the Lord pronounces judgment on the world, and its hostility is aroused. If we are "partakers of the glory" we shall most assuredly be "partakers of the sufferings of Christ."



NOVEMBER The Fourth

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS WITNESS

JOHN xv. 26—xvi. 11.

The Holy Spirit is to be a witness of Jesus. "He shall testify of Me." He shall be "the Friend of the Bridegroom," and He shall sing the Bridegroom's grace, and goodness, and prowess, in the eager ear of the bride. And the early love of the bride shall become deeper and richer as more and more she enters into "the unsearchable riches of Christ."

And the Holy Spirit is thus to be a strengthener of the friends of the Lord. He will be my "Comforter." By His gracious advocacy He will make my faith and hope invincible. The best service which can be rendered me is not to change my circumstances, but to make me superior to them; not to make a smooth road, but to enable me to "leap like an hart" over any road; not to remove the darkness, but to make me "sing songs in the night." And so I will not pray for less burdens, but for more strength! And this is the gracious ministry of "The Comforter."

Holy Spirit, strengthen me! Transform my frail opinions into firm convictions, and change my fleeting, dissolving views into abiding visions!



NOVEMBER The Fifth

THE TEMPLE OF THE BODY

ROMANS xii. 1-9.

The Lord wants my body. He needs its members as ministers of righteousness. He would work in the world through my brain, and eyes, and ears, and lips, and hands, and feet.

And the Lord wants my body as "a living sacrifice." He asks for it when it is thoroughly alive! We so often deny the Lord our bodies until they are infirm and sickly, and sometimes we do not offer them to Him until they are quite "worn out." It is infinitely better to offer them even then than never to offer them at all. But it is best of all to offer our bodies to our Lord when they are strong, and vigorous, and serviceable, and when they can be used in the strenuous places of the field.

And so let me appoint a daily consecration service, and let me every morning present my body "a living sacrifice" unto God. Let me regard it as a most holy possession, and let me keep it clean. Let me recoil from all abuse of it—from all gluttony, and intemperance, and "riotous living." Let me look upon my body as a church, and let the service of consecration continue all day long. "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit?"



NOVEMBER The Sixth

PEACE IN TRIBULATION

JOHN xvi. 25-33.

Here is a strange medley of experiences! I am to enjoy the gift of peace, and yet I am to be smarting under tribulation!

When the Holy Spirit is my guest I am to enjoy the gift of peace. "These things I said unto you that ye might have peace." The life of the soul is to move without jar or discord. It shall be like a quiet engine-house, in which every wheel co-operates with every other wheel, and there is no waste or friction in the holy place. "All that is within me" blesses God's holy name.

And yet, while peace reigns within, there may be tribulation without! "In the world ye shall have tribulation." Here is a peace which is not broken by the noise and assault of brutal circumstance. The most tempestuous wind cannot disturb the quiet serenity of the stars. When the world stones me, not one grain of its gritty dust need enter the delicate workings of my soul. That was the peace of my Lord, and it is my Lord who says to me: "My peace I give unto you!" So "be of good cheer," my soul! Thy Lord has "overcome the world," and thou shalt share His victory.



NOVEMBER The Seventh

REJECTED LOVE

ISAIAH lxiii. 7-14.

If I refuse the friendship of the Holy One I inevitably invite His hostility. "But they rebelled, and vexed His holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them."

And so, if I reject the forces of grace I do not turn them from my gate, I convert them into foes. Malachi teaches me that rejected sunshine becomes like a burning oven. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches me that rejected love becomes "a consuming fire." Holiness nourishes virtue, it withers vice. If I offer my Lord a tender aspiration, His breath wooes it like the balmy air of the spring; if I come before Him with the weeds of ignoble dispositions, He blights them as with the nipping of the frost.

And is it not well, for thee and me, that our Lord is thus fiercely hostile to our sins? Is not this "consuming fire" the friend of my soul? May I not pray: Burn on, burn on, pure flame, until all the refuse and rubbish of my life are utterly consumed; burn on, burn on, until fierce flame becomes mild light, flinging its genial radiance over a transfigured desert?



NOVEMBER The Eighth

THE ORGAN OF SPIRITUAL VISION

1 CORINTHIANS ii. 9-16.

Our finest human instruments fail to obtain for us "the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."

Art fails! "Eye hath not seen." The merely artistic vision is blind to the hidden glories of grace. Philosophy fails! "Neither hath ear heard." We may listen to the philosopher as he spins his subtle theories and weaves his systematic webs, but the meshes he has woven are not fine enough to catch "the deep things of God." Poetry fails! "Neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive." Poetic imagination may stretch her wings, and soar, but she fails to enter the guest-chamber of the Lord, and take an inventory of "the things prepared." All these gracious ministries fail to reach life's glorious and purposed end.

"But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." When art, and poetry, and philosophy all pitiably fail, the Spirit unveils to us the bewildering feast. And so the unlearned has the same ultimate advantage as the learned, and the cottager has equal privilege with the monarch. The greatest things are not the perquisites of culture, but the endowments of humility and holy faith. The poor man has access to the "many mansions," and finds a place at the King's feast.



NOVEMBER The Ninth

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS EMANCIPATOR

2 CORINTHIANS iii. 4-18.

In the Holy Spirit I experience a large emancipation. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." I am delivered from all enslaving bondage—from the bondage of literalism, and legalism, and ritualism. I am not hampered by excessive harness, by multitudinous rules. The harness is fitting and congenial, and I have freedom of movement, and "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

And I am to use my emancipation of spirit in the ministry of contemplation. I am to "behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord." My thought has been set free from the cramping distractions devised by men, and I am now to feast my gaze upon the holy splendours of my Lord. It is like coming out of a little and belittling tent, to feast upon the sunny amplitude of the open sky! I can "cease from man," and commune with God.

And the contemplation will effect a transformation. "We are changed into the same image from glory to glory." The serene brightness of the sky gets into our faces. The Lord becomes "the health of our countenance," and we shine with borrowed glory.



NOVEMBER The Tenth

NEVERTHELESS!

LUKE v. 1-11.

Here is obedience in spite of the night of failure. "Nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net." That word "nevertheless" has always made history. It has been spoken after scourgings, after "bonds and imprisonments." Ten thousand times has it been heard in the chamber of bereavement, the first sound to break the awful silence. "At evening my wife died.... In the morning I did as God commanded me." And may it be true of me! May my "nevertheless" of willing obedience rise like a lark above the storm.

And because there was obedience there came vision. In the wonderful answer to his faith Peter beheld the glory of his Lord. And so I never know where the unenticing road of obedience will lead me. At the end of the dull road there will be some gracious surprise! It is the rugged path which leads to the summit! The panorama comes as the reward of the toilsome climb! Always, in the realm of the Spirit, the dogged "nevertheless" will lead to the "shining tableland to which our God Himself is moon and sun."



NOVEMBER The Eleventh

FOILING THE ENEMY'S PLOTS

LUKE xxii. 24-34.

I do not meet my tempter alone. The engagement has been foreseen by my Lord. "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you!" The tempter's plots, and wiles, and ambuscades are all clearly perceived. My Lord has got the enemy's maps, and his plan of campaign, for all things are open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. I do not fight a lonely warfare on a dark and unknown field. My Lord Himself both scouts and fights for those who are His own.

And one great means of His co-operation is the mighty ministry of intercession. "But I have prayed for thee." That "but" is the massing of the forces of heaven against the black and subtle hordes of hell. Let me ever remember that the Lord's prayers are always the conveyers of holy power to those for whom He prays. It is as when Christian met Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation: there comes a sudden accession of strength to the bleeding warrior, and Apollyon retires wounded and beaten from the field.

And the only way to preserve the fruits of a triumph is by helping other warriors to gain a similar conquest. "When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren." I shall retain the hard, muscular limbs of a soldier if I am willing to share my blood with the entire army.



NOVEMBER The Twelfth

THE FASHIONING OF A DENIAL

LUKE xxii. 54-62.

From Peter's denial I would learn the peril of the first cowardly surrender to sin. Surely Peter must have "trimmed" many times in the days which preceded his actual discipleship. Great crises do not make men, they reveal them. The men have been made in the smaller issues which go before. We march to our crises by a gradient, every step of which is a moral decision. The interior of the tree is secretly eaten away by white ants; the tempest reveals and completes the destruction.

And I would learn from Peter's denial the cumulative power of sins. One sin widens the road for a bigger one to follow. The second denial will be more vehement than the first. The third will add the element of blasphemy. Yes, every sin is a miner and sapper for a larger army in the rear. It not only does its own work, it prepares the way for its successor.

But I will connect this "dark betrayal night" with that sweet after-morning when the Lord and His denier met face to face by the lake. And that sweet morning of reconciliation is a possible experience for all the deniers of the Lord, and it is therefore possible for thee and me.



NOVEMBER The Thirteenth

A TRANSFORMED FISHERMAN

"Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing." —JOHN xxi. 1-14.

Simon Peter had often gone a fishing, but never had he gone as he went in the twilight of that most wonderful evening. He handled the ropes in a new style, with a new dignity born of the bigger capacity of his own soul. He turned to the familiar task, but with a quite unfamiliar spirit. He went a fishing, but the power of the resurrection went with him.

This action of Simon Peter's is the only true test of the reality of any spiritual experience. How does it fit me for ordinary affairs? A spiritual festival should do for the soul what a day on the hills does for the body—equip it for the better doing of the duties in the vale.

This action is also a preparative to a renewal of the gracious experience. The road of common duty was just the way appointed for another meeting with his Lord, for in the morning-light there came a voice across the waters: "Children, have ye any meat?" "And that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter: 'It is the Lord.'"



NOVEMBER The Fourteenth

THE PURIFICATION OF LOVE

JOHN xxi. 15-25.

"Lovest thou Me?" There was a day, only a little while back, when Simon Peter's love was not yet purified, and it indulged itself in loud and empty boasts. True love never blusters and brawls. It is like a stream of water flowing silently underground, and secretly bathing the roots of things, and keeping their heads fresh, and cool, and sweet. The boast has now dropped out of the love! It is now ashamed of words! "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee!"

Yes, true love expresses itself, not in clamorous boastfulness, but in quiet services. It ministers to the Lord's sheep and the Lord's lambs. It spends its strength on the mountains, "seeking that which is lost," and it does this in the darkness, where there is no applauding crowd. The true lover does not ask for some dramatic scene where he can die for the beloved; he delights in obscure services, the feeding and tending of the sheep of the flock.

But the love that does the humbler thing will be ready for the greater sacrifice whenever the day shall demand it. Some day the once boastful denier shall lay down his life for his Saviour, and through martyrdom he shall pass to his crown.



NOVEMBER The Fifteenth

THE MUSIC OF RECONCILIATION

PSALM lxxxv.

Let me listen to this psalm of reconciliation, as it makes music for my soul to-day.

It tells me of the Divine favour. "Lord, Thou hast been favourable to Thy land." As I write these words, the sun has just slipped out from behind the cloud. It has been there all the time, but the ministry of the cloud was needed, and so it appeared as though there would be sun and spring no more. "Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face."

And it tells me of the Divine forgiveness. "Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people." Yes, when the sun appears, He loosens the frozen earth and streams, and turns the bondage into liberty. The soul that was imprisoned in freezing guilt attains a joyous freedom.

And it tells me of revival. "Wilt Thou not revive us again?" It is the next step in the returning spring. The sleeping, benumbed things will all awake! "The flowers appear on the earth." Where grace reigns, graces spring! Forgiveness is attended by renewal, and the wilderness begins to "blossom like the rose."



NOVEMBER The Sixteenth

THE MAKING OF A BRAVE MAN

ACTS iv. 13-22.

Here is a marvellous transformation! I have been wondering at the littleness of the denier, and now this same denier is making the world wonder by his majestic boldness! His one resource is now the risen Christ, and his one moral standard is "whether it be right!" Once he quailed before an accusing maid; now he stands undaunted before the rulers of the earth. How has it all come about?

He has been to the empty tomb. The awe of the resurrection is upon his spirit. Through the once blind cul-de-sac of the grave he has seen the King and the great white throne.

And he has been by the lake on the morning of reconciliation. The live coal from the altar of his Lord's love has touched him and has purged away the uncleanness of his denial.

And he has been in the upper room at Pentecost, and the mighty Spirit has come upon him like wind and flame, endowing him with forceful and enthusiastic character. Now he can dare for God, now he can work for God, now he can burn for God! And this is how he has been transformed.



NOVEMBER The Seventeenth

IF GOD BE FOR US——!

ROMANS viii. 31-39.

Who else is worth naming? How much does anybody count? If the sun be on my side, why should I be dismayed at any icy obstacle that may rear itself in my way? Sun versus ice! God versus my impediments! Why should I fear? If the atmosphere is on my side, then even the opposing strength of iron will rust away into powder. "The breath of the Lord bloweth upon it," and if the holy breath, God's Holy Spirit, is for us, then the apparently invincible obstacle will crumble away into dust.

But we are deceived by mass, and we are forgetful of spirit. Mere size affrights us. We are dismayed by numbers. We forget the quiet, pervasive, all-powerful ministry of the Spirit of God. We are overwhelmed by the phenomena of tempest and earthquake and fire, and we forget that almightiness hides in the "still, small voice," in "the sound of a gentle stillness." God's breath is more than the fierce threatenings of embattled hosts. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" I will hide myself in His holy fellowship, and "none shall make me afraid."



NOVEMBER The Eighteenth

EXHILARANT SPIRITS

"He maketh my feet like hinds' feet." —PSALM xviii. 31-39.

I think of Wordsworth's lines, in which he describes a natural lady, made by Nature herself:

"She shall be sportive as the fawn That wild with glee across the lawn Or up the mountain springs."

And it is this buoyancy, this elasticity, this springiness that the Lord is waiting to impart to the souls of His children, so that they may move along the ways of life with the light steps of the fawn.

Some of us move with very heavy feet. There is little of the fawn about us as we go along the road. There is reluctance in our obedience. There is a frown in our homage. Our benevolence is graceless, and there is no charm in our piety, and no rapture in our praise. We are the victims of "the spirit of heaviness." And yet here is the word which tells us that God will make our feet "like hinds' feet." He will give us exhilaration and spring, enabling us to leap over difficulties, and to have strength and buoyancy for the steepest hills. Let us seek the inspiration of the Lord. "It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect."



NOVEMBER The Nineteenth

THE ARMOUR OF GOD

EPHESIANS vi. 10-18.

The Word describes the armour, and it directs us to the armoury. The description would oppress me if the directions were absent. If I have to forge the armour for myself I should be in despair. But I can go to the armoury of grace, where there is an ever-open door and abundant welcome for every person who fain would be a knight-errant of the Lord. The Lord will provide me with perfect equipment suitable for every kind of contest which may meet me along the road. There are no favourites among the pilgrims except, perhaps, the neediest, and to them is given "more abundant honour."

Sometimes one of the Lord's knights loses one piece of armour, and he must at once repair to the armoury. Perhaps he has lost his helmet, or his shield, or even his breastplate, and the enemy has discovered his vulnerable place. We must never continue our journey imperfectly armed. The evil one will ignore the pieces we have, and he will direct all his attack where there is no defence. Back to the armoury! Back to the armoury, that we may "put on the whole armour of God." The Lord is waiting; let us humbly and penitently ask for the missing piece.



NOVEMBER The Twentieth

THE REAL ARISTOCRACY

"Abraham, my friend." —ISAIAH xli. 8-16.

I think that is the noblest title ever given to mortal man. It is the speech of the Lord God concerning one of His children. It is something to be coveted even to enjoy the friendship of a noble man; but to have the friendship of God, and to have the holy God name us as His friends, is surely the brightest jewel that can ever shine in a mortal's crown. And such recognition and such glory may be the wonderful lot of thee and me.

"Abraham, my friend." The Lord of hosts found delight in human friendships. He comes in to sup with us. He drinks of the cup of our delights. For, surely, it is one of the supreme characteristics of true friendship that it rejoices at the other's joy. And my heavenly Friend is glad in my gladness as well as sympathetic in the day of sadness and tears. Yes, He comes in to sup with me, and I may sup with Him.

"Abraham, my friend." And He shares His sweets with His friend, in inward counsels, and in tender revelations of His purposes and in the gifts of joy and peace. There is perfect openness between these friends; nothing is hid. They have the run of each other's hearts.

"I tell Him all my joys and fears, And He reveals His love to me."



NOVEMBER The Twenty-first

THE EARLY BUILDERS

1 KINGS viii. 1-21.

It is always a healthy means of grace to link my own accomplishments with the fidelity and achievements of the past. Solomon traced his finished Temple to the holy purpose in the heart of David his father. I lay the coping-stone, but who turned the first sod? I lead the water into new ministries, but who first dug the well?

There is the temple of liberty. In our own day we are enriching it with most benignant legislation, but we must not forget our dauntless fathers, in whose blood the foundations were laid. When I am walking about in the finished structure, let me remember the daring architects who "did well" to have it in their hearts.

Such retrospect will make me humble. It will save me from the isolation and impotence of foolish pride. It will confirm me in human fellowship by showing me how many springs I have in my fellow-men.

And such retrospect will make me grateful to my God. Noble outlooks always engender the spirit of praise. The fine air of wide spaces quickens the soul to a song.



NOVEMBER The Twenty-second

RECOVERING LOST STRENGTH

1 KINGS viii. 22-36.

In this portion of this great prayer I discern the unalterable mode in which nations and individuals recover their moral health and strength.

How do they lose it? Two words tell the story. They "sin" and are "smitten." It is an inevitable sequence. Every sin is the minister of disease. Sometimes we can see it, when the disease flaunts its flags in the flesh; lust and drunkenness have glaring placards, and we know what is going on within. But even when sin makes no visible mark the wasting process is at work. It is as true of falsehood as of drunkenness, of treachery as of lust. "Evil shall slay the wicked."

And how do we recover our lost estate? There are three words which tell the story. "Turn!" "Confess!" "Make supplication!" The words need no exposition. I must turn my face to my despised and neglected Lord; I must tell them all about my miserable revolt, and I must humbly crave for His restoring grace.

And the answer is sure. Such humble exercise sets the joy-bells ringing, and the rich forgiveness of the Lord fills the soul with peace. "O taste and see how gracious the Lord is."



NOVEMBER The Twenty-third

THE STRANGER

1 KINGS viii. 37-53.

Yes, indeed, what space has "the stranger" in my supplications? Has he any place at all? Are my intercessions private enclosures, intended only for the select among my friends? Do I ever open the door to anyone outside my family circle? Are my ecclesiastical sympathies large enough to include "outsiders" from afar? What do I do with "the stranger"?

There is nothing which keeps prayer sweet and fresh and wholesome like the letting in of "the stranger"! To let a new guest sit down at the feast of my intercession is to give my own soul a most nutritious surprise. It is a most healthy spiritual habit to see to it that we bring in a new "stranger" every time we pray. Let me be continually enlarging the circle of hospitality! Let some new and weary bird find a resting-place in the branches of my supplications every time I hold communication with God.

A prayer which has no room for "the stranger" can have little or no room for God.



NOVEMBER The Twenty-fourth

THE PRAYER WHICH ENDS IN SACRIFICE

1 KINGS viii. 54-66.

And that is the healthy order of all true worship. It begins in spacious supplication in which "the stranger" finds a place. Then there is a lavish consecration of self and substance. And then the wedding-bells begin to ring, and "the joy of the Lord is our strength!" "They went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done."

But so many suppliants miss the middle term, and therefore the gladness is wanting. Supplication is not followed by consecration, and therefore there is no exultation. It is a fatal omission. When we are asking for "the gift of God" our request must be accompanied by the gift of ourselves to God. If we want the water we must offer the vessel. No gift of self, no bounty of God! No losing, no finding! "When the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began."

"Take my life, and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee."



NOVEMBER The Twenty-fifth

AFTER THE PRAYER THE FIRE!

"When Solomon had made an end of praying the fire came down from heaven." —2 CHRONICLES vii. 1-11.

And the fire is the symbol of the Holy God. Pure flame is our imperfect mode of expressing the Incorruptible. This burning flame is heat and light in one. And when Solomon had prayed, the holy Flame was in their midst.

But not only is the flame the symbol of the Holy; it also typifies the power which can make me holy. We have no cleansing minister to compare with fire. Where water fails fire succeeds. After an epidemic water is comparatively impotent. We commit the infested garments to the flames. It was the great fire of London which delivered London from the tyranny of the plague. And so it is with my soul. God, who is holy flame, will burn out the germs of my sin. He will "purify Jerusalem with the spirit of burning." "Our God is a consuming fire."

Come to my soul, O holy Flame! Place Thy "burning bliss" against my wickedness, and consume it utterly away!



NOVEMBER The Twenty-sixth

UNCONSECRATED SOULS

"This house which I have sanctified will I cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a by-word among all nations." —2 CHRONICLES vii. 12-22.

And thus am I taught that consecrated houses are nothing without consecrated souls. It is not the mode of worship, but the spirit of the worshipper which forms the test of a consecrated people. If the worshipper is defiled his temple becomes an offence. When the kernel is rotten, and I offer the husk to God, the offering is a double insult to His most holy name.

And yet, how tempted I am to assume that God will be pleased with the mere outsides of things, with words instead of aspiration, with postures instead of dispositions, with the letter instead of the spirit, with an ornate and costly temple instead of a sweet and lowly life! Day by day I am tempted to treat the Almighty as though He were a child! Nay, the Bible uses a more awful word; it says men treat the Lord as though He were a fool!

From all such irreverence and frivolity, good Lord, deliver me! Let me ever remember that Thou "desirest truth in the inward man." "In the hidden parts" help me "to know wisdom."



NOVEMBER The Twenty-seventh

THE VALUE OF REVERENCE

ROMANS xiii. 1-7.

When I pay honour to honourable ministers I not only honour my God, but I enrich and refine my own soul. One of the great secrets of spiritual culture is to know how to revere. There is an uncouth spirit of self-aggression which, while it wounds and impoverishes others, destroys its finest spiritual furniture in its own ungodly heat. The man who never bows will never soar. To pay homage where homage is due is one of the exercises which will help to keep us near "the great white throne."

I know my peril, for I recognize one of the prevalent perils of our time. Some of the old courtesies are being discarded as though they belonged to a younger day. Some of the old tokens of respect have been banished to the limbo of rejected ritual. Dignitaries are jostled in the common crowd. "One man is as good as another!" And so there is a tendency to strip life of all its reverences, and venerable fanes become stables for unclean things.

My soul, come thou not into this shame! Move in the ways of life with softened tread, and pay thy respect at every shrine where dwells the grace and power of God.



NOVEMBER The Twenty-eighth

HOW TO FIGHT EVIL

"Overcome evil with good." —ROMANS xii. 9-21.

For how else can we cast out evil? Satan cannot cast out Satan. No one can clean a room with a filthy duster. The surgeon cannot cut out the disease if his instruments are defiled. While he removed one ill-growth he would sow the seed of another. It must be health which fights disease. It will demand a good temper to overcome the bad temper in my brother.

And therefore I must cultivate a virtue if I would eradicate a vice. That applies to the state of my own soul. If there be some immoral habit in my life, the best way to destroy it is by cultivating a good one. Take the mind away from the evil one. Deprive it of thought-food. Give the thought to the nobler mood, and the ignoble mood will die. And this also applies to the faults and vices of my brother. I must fight them with their opposites. If he is harsh and cruel, I must be considerate and gentle. If he is grasping, I must be generous. If he is loud and presumptuous, I must be soft-mannered and self-restrained. If he is devilish, I must be a Christian. This is the warfare which tells upon the empire of sin. I can overcome evil with good.



NOVEMBER The Twenty-ninth

TRANSFORMING OUR FOES

MATTHEW v. 38-48.

"Love your enemies."

It must be the aim of a Christian to make his enemy lovely. It is not my supreme business to secure my safety, but to remove his ugliness. He may only annoy me, but he is destroying himself. He may injure my reputation; but far worse, he is blighting his own character. Therefore must I seek to remove the greater thing, the corrosive malady in his own soul. I must make it my purpose to recover his loveliness, and restore the lost likeness of the Lord.

And only love can make things lovely. Revenge can never do it. Even duty will fail in the gracious work. There is a final touch, a consummate bloom, to which duty can never attain, and which is only attainable by love. All love's ministries are creative of loveliness. Wherever her finger rests, something exquisite is born. Love is a great magician: she transforms the desert into a garden, and she makes the wilderness blossom like the rose.

But where shall we get the love wherewith to make our enemy lovely? From the great Lover Himself. "We love, because He first loved us." The great Lover will love love into us! And we, too, shall become fountains of love, for our Lord will open "rivers in the high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys."



NOVEMBER The Thirtieth

THE SPRING AND THE RIVER

"With the Lord there is mercy." —PSALM cxxx.

That is the ultimate spring. All the pilgrims of the night may meet at that fountain. We have no other common meeting-place. If we make any other appointment we shall lose one another on the way. But we can meet one another at the fountain, men of all colours, and of all denominations, and of all creeds. "By Thy mercy, O deliver us, good Lord!"

"There is forgiveness with Thee." That is the quickening river. Sin and guilt scorch the fair garden of the soul as the lightning withers and destroys the strong and beautiful things in woodland and field. The graces are stricken, holy qualities are smitten, and the soul languishes like a blasted heath. But from the fountain of God's mercy there flows the vitalizing stream of His forgiveness. "There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God." It is the mystic "river of life, clear as crystal." "Everything shall live whither the river cometh."

"With Him is plenteous redemption." Salvation is not merely a recovered flower, it is a recovered garden. It is not the restoring merely of a withered hand; "He restoreth my soul." God does not make an oasis in a surrounding desert; He makes the entire wilderness to "rejoice and blossom as the rose."



DECEMBER The First

A FAITHFUL FRIEND

PROVERBS xxvii. 1-10.

"A faithful friend is a strong defence."

He is a gift of God, and therefore a "means of grace." The Lord's seal is upon his ministry. How we impoverish ourselves by separating these precious gifts from their Giver? We desecrate many a fair shrine by emptying it of God. We turn many a temple into just a common house. When we think of our friend let us link him to our Father, and fall upon our knees in grateful praise.

He is God's minister in his encouragements. When he cheers me, it is "the Sun of righteousness who rises with healing in His wings." All radiant words are just lamps for "the light of life." All genial speech carries flame from the altar fire of heaven.

And he is God's minister in his reproofs. He uses a clean knife: there is no poison on the blade. And when he does surgeon's work upon me, it is clean work, healthy work, the relentless enemy of disease. Some men cut me, and the wound festers. There is malice in the deed. My friend wounds me in order that he may give me a larger, sweeter life.



DECEMBER The Second

THE LORD AS A FRIEND

JOHN xv. 8-17.

"Ye are my friends!"

In my Lord's friendship there is the ministry of sacrifice. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." This great Friend is always giving His blood. It is a lasting shame when professed Christians are afflicted with spiritual anaemia. And yet we are often so fearful, so white-faced, so chicken-hearted, so averse from battle, that no one would think us to be "the soldiers of the Lord." We need blood. "Except ye drink my blood ye have no life."

And in my Lord's friendship there is the privilege of most intimate communion.

"All things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." He takes us into His confidence, and tells us His secrets. It is His delight to lift the veil, and give us constant surprises of love and grace. He discovers flowers in desert places, and in the gloom He unbosoms "the treasures of darkness." He is a Friend of inexhaustible resource, and His companionship makes the pilgrim's way teem with interest, and abound in the wonders of redeeming grace.



DECEMBER The Third

ARMS AND THE MAN!

1 THESSALONIANS v. 4-10.

What wonderful armour is offered to me in which to meet the insidious assaults of the devil!

There is "the armour of light." Sunlight is the most sanative energy we know. It is the foe of many a deadly microbe which seeks a lodging in our bodies. Light is a splendid armour, even in the realm of the flesh. And so it is in the soul. If the soul is a home of light, the eternal light, evil germs will die as soon as they approach us. They will find nothing to breed on. "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."

And there is the armour of "faith and love." The opposite to faith is uncertainty, and the opposite to love is cynicism, and who does not know that uncertainty and cynicism are the very hotbeds for the machinations of the evil one? When faith is enthroned the soul is open to the reception of grace, and when love shares the throne the sovereignty is invincible.

And there is the armour of "hope." Even in a physical ailment a man has a mighty ally who wrestles in hope. And when a man's hope is in the Lord his God all the powers in the heavenly places are his allies, and by his hope he shall be saved.



DECEMBER The Fourth

CHILDREN OF LIGHT

1 THESSALONIANS v. 5-11.

Can we think of a more beautiful figure than this—"children of light"? As I write these words I look out upon a building every window of which is ablaze with light, every room the home of attractive brightness. And my life is to be like that! And I look again and I see a lighthouse sending out its strong, pure, friendly beams to guide the mariner as he seeks his "desired haven." And my life is to be like that! And I look once more, and I see a common road lamp, sending its useful light upon the busy street, helping the wayfarer as he goes from place to place. And my life is to be like that!

And if my soul is all lit up in friendly radiance for others, the light will be my own defence. Light always scares away the vermin. Lift up a stone in the meadow, let in the light, and see how a hundred secret things will scurry away. And light in the soul scares away "the unfruitful works of darkness"; they cannot dwell with the light. Light repels the evil one; it acts upon him like burning flame. Yes, we are well protected when we are clothed in "the armour of light."

But how can we become "children of light," holy homes of protective and saving radiance? Happily, it is not our lot to provide the light, it is ours to provide the lamp. If we offer the lamp the Lord will give the flame.



DECEMBER The Fifth

THE SECOND-BEST FOR GOD

1 CHRONICLES xvii. 1-15.

So the best was for man, and the second-best for God! The cedar for self-indulgence, and the curtains for the home of worship! It is a marked sign of spiritual awakening when a man begins to contrast his own indulgences with the rights of God. There are so many of us who are lavish in our home and miserly in the sanctuary. We multiply treasures which bring us little profit, and we are niggardly where treasure would be of most gracious service.

"I dwell in a house of cedar," and yet I am thoughtless about God's poor! For I must remember that the poor are the arks of the Lord. "I was naked, and ye clothed Me not."

"I dwell in a house of cedar"; my liberties are many and spacious; and yet there are tribes of God's people held in the tyranny of dark and hopeless servitude. I dwell in England, but what about the folk on the Congo? I dwell in a land of ample religious freedom, but what about Armenia? Do my sympathies remain confined within my cedar walls, or do they go out to God's neglected ones in every land and clime?



DECEMBER The Sixth

THE GRACE OF LOWLINESS

1 CHRONICLES xvii. 16-27.

It is by such lowliness that we arrive at our true sovereignty. All spiritual treasures are hidden along the ways of humility, and it is meekness which discovers them. The uplifted head of pride overlooks them, and its "finds" are only pleasure of the passing day.

Lowliness is the secret of spiritual perceptiveness. I find my sight in lowly places. The Sacred Word speaks of "the valley of vision." I usually associate vision and outlook with mountain summits, but in spiritual realms the very capacity to use the heights is acquired in the vale.

Lowliness is the secret of spiritual roominess. It is only the humble man who has any room for the Lord. All the chambers in the proud man's soul are thronged with self-conceits, and God is crowded out. Our Lord always finds ample room for Himself wherever the heart bows in humility and says: "I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof."



DECEMBER The Seventh

CHOSEN AS BUILDERS

"Take heed now, for the Lord hath chosen thee to build." —1 CHRONICLES xxviii. 1-10.

And how must he take heed? For it may be that the Lord hath also chosen me to build, and the counsel given to Solomon may serve me in this later day. Let me listen.

"Serve Him with a perfect heart." God's chosen builders must be characterized by singleness and simplicity. He can do nothing with "double" men, who do things only "by half," giving one part to Him and the other part to Mammon. It is like offering the stock of a gun to one man and the barrel to another; and the effect is nil. No, the entire gun! The "perfect heart"!

"And with a willing mind." For the willing mind is the ready mind, and God can do nothing with the unready. I never know just when He will call me to add another stone to the rising walls of the New Jerusalem, and if I am "otherwise engaged" I am a grievous hindrance to His gracious plans. He must be willing and ready who would be a builder of the walls of Zion. And to that man the Lord will entrust the privilege of responsibility.



DECEMBER The Eighth

JUDGED BY OUR ASPIRATIONS

"Thou didst well, it was in thine heart." —2 CHRONICLES vi. 1-15.

And this was a purpose which the man was not permitted to realize. It was a temple built in the substance of dreams, but never established in wood and stone. And God took the shadowy structure and esteemed it as a perfected pile. The sacred intention was regarded as a finished work. The will to build a temple was regarded as a temple built. And hence I discern the preciousness of all hallowed purpose and desire, even though it never receive actual accomplishment. "Thou didst well, it was in thine heart."

And so the will to be, and the will to do, is acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord! "I wish I could be a missionary to the foreign field," but the duties of home forbid. But as a missionary she is accepted of our God, even though she never land on distant shore. Our purposes work, as well as the work itself. Desire is full of holy energy as well as fruition. The wish to do good is good itself; the very longing is a minister in the kingdom of our God. If, therefore, we are to be judged by our aspirations, there are multitudes of apparent failures who will one day be revealed as clothed in the radiance of spiritual victory.



DECEMBER The Ninth

NATIONAL BLESSEDNESS

"Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound." —PSALM lxxxix. 1-18.

Blessed is the people who love the sound of the silver trumpet which calls to holy convocation! Blessed is the people who are sacredly impatient for the hour of holy communion! Blessed is the people "in whose heart are the highways to Zion." And in what shall their blessedness consist?

In illumination. "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance." The favour of the Lord shall shine upon them when they walk through rough and troublous places. There shall always be a sunny patch where the soul is in communion with its Lord.

In exultation. "In Thy name shall they rejoice all the day." There is nothing like sunshine for making the spirits dance! Light is a great emancipator, a great breaker-up of frozen bondages. It thaws "the genial currents of the soul," and the stream of life sings in its progress.

In exaltation. "In Thy righteousness shall they be exalted." They will be lifted up above their enemies. In elevation they will find their safety. God lifts us above our passions, above our cares, above our little fears and tempers, and we find our peace upon the heights.



DECEMBER The Tenth

THE ONLY WISE BEGINNING

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." —PSALM cxi.

If I want to do anything wisely I must begin with God. That is the very alphabet of the matter. Every other beginning is a perverse beginning, and it will end in sure disaster. "I am Alpha." Everything must take its rise in Him, or it will plunge from folly into folly, and culminate in confusion.

If I would be wise in my daily business I must begin all my affairs in God. My career itself must be chosen in His presence, and in the illumination of His most holy Spirit. And in the subsequent days nothing must be done that is not rooted and grounded in Him.

If I would be wise as a teacher I must begin with God. I must not merely call Him in to bless my lesson when my labour is done. The very beginnings of my thinkings must be in Him. Our Lord will not write an appendix to a volume about which He has never been consulted. "They who seek Me early shall find Me." And so it is with the varied activities of our multitudinous life. If we would have them shine with quiet wisdom we must light them at the Sun of glory.



DECEMBER The Eleventh

THE SPEECH OF THE INCARNATION

"He hath spoken to us in His Son." —HEBREWS i.

And that blessed Son spake my language. He came into my troubled conditions and expressed Himself out of my humble lot. My surroundings afforded Him a language in which He made known His good news. The carpenter's shop, the shepherd on the hill, the ladened vine, a wayside well, common bread, a friend's sickness, the desolation of a garden, the darkness of "the last things"—these all offered Him a mode of speech in which He unveiled to me the heart of God.

He came as the Son to make me a son. For I had made myself a slave, and called my bondage freedom. I wore my badge of servitude with unholy pride. But when He came and spake to me, my lost inheritance dawned upon my wondering eyes, and I knew myself to be enslaved. But His was the glorious mission not only to awake but to emancipate, not only to unveil lost splendour but to recover it. He came to set us free, "and if the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed."

"This my son was lost and is found." Has that great word been spoken concerning me in the Father's home of light? "Lord, I would serve, and be a son. Dismiss me not, I pray."



DECEMBER The Twelfth

RELATING EVERYTHING TO GOD

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God." —1 CORINTHIANS x. 23-33.

And so all my days would constitute a vast temple, and life would be a constant worship. This is surely the science and art of holy living—to relate everything to the Infinite. When I take my common meal and relate it to "the glory of God," the common meal becomes a sacramental feast. When my labour is joined "unto the Lord," the sacred wedding turns my workshop into a church. When I link the country lane to the Saviour, I am walking in the Garden of Eden, and paradise is restored.

The fact of the matter is, we never see anything truly until we see it in the light of the glory of God. Set a dull duty in that light and it shines like a diamond. Set a bit of drudgery in that light and it becomes transfigured like the wing of a starling when the sunshine falls upon it. Everything is seen amiss until we see it in the glory! And, therefore, it is my wisdom to set everything in that light, and to do all to the glory of God.



DECEMBER The Thirteenth

THE HOLY AND THE PROFANE

"Put difference between the holy and the unholy." —LEVITICUS x. 1-10.

The peril of our day is that so many of these differences are growing faint. The holy merges into the unholy, and we can scarcely see the dividing line. Black merges into white through manifold shades of grey. Falsehood slopes into truth through cunning expediences and white lies. Lust merges into purity through conviviality and geniality and good-fellowship. So is one thing losing itself in another, and vivid moral distinctions are being obscured and effaced.

There is only one way to keep these native contrasts in vivid relief, and that is by living in the unsullied light of God's holy presence. "In Thy light shall we see light." Things are seen in their true colours only when we bring them before the great white throne. Fabrics seen in the gas-light reveal quite other shades when we bring them into the light of day. We must not make our distinctions in the gas-light of worldly standard and expediency; we must take them into His presence before whose radiance even the angels veil their faces, and we shall see things as they are, and we shall know "the difference between the holy and the profane."



DECEMBER The Fourteenth

THE SACRED USE OF LIBERTY

"Take heed lest this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling-block." —1 CORINTHIANS viii. 8-13.

That is a very solemn warning. My liberty may trip someone into bondage. If life were an affair of one my liberty might be wholesome; but it is an affair of many, and my liberty may be destructive to my fellows. I am not only responsible for my life, but for its influence. When a thing has been lived there is still the example to deal with. If orange peel be thrown upon the pavement, that is not the end of the feast. The man who slips over the peel is a factor in the incident, and my responsibility covers him.

I am, therefore, to consider both my deeds and their influence. How does my life trend when it touches my brother? In what way does he move because of the impact of my example? Towards liberty or towards license? To the swamps of transgression or to the fields of holiness? These are determining questions, and I must not seek to escape or ignore them. My brother is a vital part of my life. I must never shut him out of my sight. How is he influenced by my example? "If meat make my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth."



DECEMBER The Fifteenth

WHAT IS MY TENDENCY?

"Whether we live, we live unto...." —ROMANS xiv. 7-21.

Unto what? In what direction are we living? Whither are we going? How do we complete the sentence? "We live unto money!" That is how many would be compelled to finish the record. Money is their goal, and their goal determines their tendency. "We live unto pleasure!" Such would be another popular company. "We live unto fame!" That would be the banner of another regiment. "We live unto ease!" Thus would men and women describe their quests. "Unto" what? That is the searching question which probes life to its innermost desire.

"For whether we live, we live unto the Lord." That was the apostle's unfailing tendency, increasing in its momentum every day. He crashed through obstacles in his glorious quest. He sought the Lord through everything and in everything. When new circumstances confronted him, his first question was this—"Where is Christ in all this?" He found the right way across every trackless moor by simply seeking Christ.



DECEMBER The Sixteenth

THE GREATEST WONDERS

HEBREWS xi. 30-40.

The greatest wonders are not in Nature but in grace. A regenerated soul is a greater marvel than the marvel of the spring-time. A transfigured face is a deeper mystery than a sun-lit garden. To rear graces in a life once scorched and blasted by sin is more wonderful than to grow flowers on a cinder-heap. If we want to see the realm of surpassing wonders we must look into a soul that has been born again and is now in vital union with the living Christ. Even the angels watch the sight with ever-deepening awe and praise.

As the spiritual is the home of wonders, so also is it the field of brightest exploits. It is not what men have done by the sword that counts in the esteem of heaven—such deeds mean little or nothing; it is what they have done "by faith." Weak, frail men and women have put their faith in God, and have done the impossible! Faith unites the weakling with almightiness! Faith makes a lonely soul one with "the spirits of just men made perfect," and with them he shares "the power and the glory" of the eternal God.



DECEMBER The Seventeenth

GOD'S PRESENCE OUR DEFENCE

EXODUS xv. 11-18.

When we invent little devices to protect us against the evil one, he laughs at our petty presumption. It is like unto a child erecting sand ramparts against an incoming sea. The only thing that makes the devil fear is the presence of God. Our money can do nothing. Our culture can do nothing. Our social status can do nothing. Only God can deal with devils. "By the greatness of Thine arm they shall be still as a stone." When Thou art with me "I will fear no evil"; the fear shall be with my foes.

It is, therefore, the divine in anything which endows it with a strong defence. If the holy God dwells in our culture, then our culture becomes like an invulnerable fort. If God abides in our recreations, then our very sports are armed against our foes. If "the joy of the Lord" is in our festivity, then our very merriment is proof against the invasion of the world. When the Lord is in us, fear dwells in the opposite camp. "Therefore will not we fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be shaken in the heart of the seas."



DECEMBER The Eighteenth

THE SINNER'S GUEST

"He is gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." —LUKE xix. 1-10.

It was hurled as an accusation; it has been treasured as a garland. It was first said in contempt; it is repeated in adoration. It was thought to reveal His earthliness; it is now seen to unveil His glory. Our Saviour seeks the home of the sinner. The Best desires to be the guest of the worst. He spreads His kindnesses for the outcasts, and He offers His friendship to the exile on the loneliest road. He waits to befriend the defeated, the poor folk with aching consciences and broken wills. He loves to go to souls that have lost their power of flight, like birds with broken wings, which can only flutter in the unclean road. He went to Zacchaeus.

Yes, the Lord went to be "guest with a man that is a sinner," and He changed the sinner into a saint. The worldling found wings. The stone became flesh. Gentle emotions began to stir in a heart hardened by heedlessness and sin. Restitution took the place of greed. The home of the sinner became the temple of the Lord. "To-day is salvation come to this house forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham."



DECEMBER The Nineteenth

THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

"A light to lighten the Gentiles." —LUKE ii. 25-40.

That was the wonder of wonders. Hitherto the light had been supposed to be for Israel alone; and now a heavenly splendour was to fall upon the Gentiles. Hitherto the light had been thought of as a lamp, illuming a single place; now it was to be a sun, shedding its glory upon a world. The "people that sat in darkness" are now to see "a great light." New regions are to be occupied; there is to be daybreak everywhere! "The Sun of Righteousness is arisen, with healing in His wings."

"To lighten the Gentiles!" And thus the heavenly beams have come to thee and me, to Europe and America, and to all the nations of the earth. The amazing privilege is our personal inheritance. We are born to glorious rights in Christ Jesus. But a wealthy heir may neglect this inheritance. We may have the light and neglect our garden. We may have all the favours of a blessed clime, and yet our life may be like a wilderness. The Gentiles may have the light, and may yet be children of the darkness. It is ours to believe in the light that our lives may become "light in the Lord."



DECEMBER The Twentieth

THE COMING OF THE LORD

JOHN i. 1-14.

My Lord came as "the word." He came as the expression of the mind of the eternal God. Ordinary words could not have carried the "good news." Ordinary language was an altogether inadequate vessel for this new wine. And so the mighty news was spoken in the incarnation of the Lord.

My Lord came as "life." "In Him was life." But not a mere cupful of life, or even a cup running over. He came as "the fountain of life." Nay, if I had the requisite word I must get even behind and beyond this. For He was the Creator of fountains. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well." Yes, He was the fountain of fountains!

The Lord came as "light." "The life was the light." True light is always the child of life. Our clearest light comes not from speech or doctrine, still less does it emerge from controversy. It is the fine, subtle issue of fine living. And my light is to "shine before men" by reason of the indwelling life of the Christ.

And my Lord came as "power." "To them gave He power." All the power I need for a full, holy, healthy life I can find in Him. Every obligation has its corresponding inspiration, and I am competent to do His will.



DECEMBER The Twenty-first

THE LORD OF WORKING MEN

LUKE ii. 8-20.

And so the good news was told to shepherds, to working men who were toiling in the fields. The coming King would hallow the common work of man, and in His love and grace all the problems of labour would find a solution.

The Lord of the Christmas-tide throws a halo over common toil. Even Christian people have not all learnt the significance of the angels' visit to the lonely shepherds. Some of us can see the light resting upon a bishop's crosier, but we cannot see the radiance on the ordinary shepherd's staff. We can discern the hallowedness of a priest's vocation, but we see no sanctity in the calling of the grocer, or of the scavenger in the street. We can see the nimbus on the few, but not on the crowd; on the unusual, but not upon the commonplace. But the very birth-hour of Christianity irradiated the humble doings of humble people. When the angels went to the shepherds, common work was encircled with an immortal crown.

And it is in the Lord Jesus that all labour troubles are to be put to rest. If we work from any other centre we shall arrive at confusion confounded. "I have the keys."



DECEMBER The Twenty-second

THE LORD OF THE WORSHIPPER

LUKE ii. 25-35.

And so the good news was taken to the worshipper bowing within the gates of the Temple. The soul of old Simeon was filled with holy satisfaction and peace. The cravings of the heart were quieted, and its desires found the coveted feast in the holy Child of God.

And thus the Lord Jesus was not only to dignify the body but to gratify the soul. He was to be most efficient where He was most needed. And this has been the unfailing experience of the years. There is a hunger in my soul for which I can find no satisfying bread. I have tried many breads; I have tried nature, and art, and music, and literature, and I have tried human fellowship and social service. But my soul is hungry still! And the Lord Jesus comes to me, as I reverently grope in the vast temple, and He "satisfies the hungry soul" with good things. His "bread of life" is very wonderful; it lifts the soul into the restfulness of strength, and gives me a strange buoyancy, and "the glorious liberty of the children of God."

"My soul, wait thou only on Him!" He is thy hope, thy strength, and thy salvation! He is "the desire of all the nations."



DECEMBER The Twenty-third

THE LORD OF THE STUDENTS

MATTHEW ii. 1-12.

And so the good news came to "wise men," shall we say to students, busying themselves with the vast and intricate problems of the mind. And the evangel offered the students mental satisfaction, bringing the interpreting clue, beaming upon them with the guiding ray which would lead them into perfect noon.

Yes, our wise men must find the key of wisdom in the Lord. In a wider sense than the meaning of the original word it is true that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." To seek mental satisfactions and leave out Jesus is like trying to make a garden and leave out the sun. "Without Me ye can do nothing," not even in the unravelling of the problems which beset and besiege the mind.

If my mental pilgrimage is to be as "a shining light shining more and more even unto perfect day," I must begin with Jesus, and pay homage to His Kingly and incomparable glory. I must lay my treasures at His feet, "gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Then will He lead me "into all truth," and "the truth shall make me free."



DECEMBER The Twenty-fourth

ENTERING IN AT LOWLY DOORS

"Unto us a Child is born." —ISAIAH ix. 1-7.

How gentle the coming! Who would have had sufficient daring of imagination to conceive that God Almighty would have appeared among men as a little child? We should have conceived something sensational, phenomenal, catastrophic, appalling! The most awful of the natural elements would have formed His retinue, and men would be chilled and frozen with fear. But He came as a little child. The great God "emptied Himself"; He let in the light as our eyes were able to bear it.

"Unto us a Son is given." And that is the superlative gift! The love that bestows such gift is all-complete and gracious. And the Son is given in order that we may all be born into sonship. It is the Son's ministry to make sons. "Now are we the sons of God," and we are of His creation.

"Lord, I would serve, and be a son; Dismiss me not, I pray."



DECEMBER The Twenty-fifth

CHRISTMAS CHEER

"Good will toward men!" —LUKE ii. 8-20.

The heavens are not filled with hostility. The sky does not express a frown. When I look up I do not contemplate a face of brass, but the face of infinite good will. Yet when I was a child, many a picture has made me think of God as suspicious, inhumanly watchful, always looking round the corner to catch me at the fall. That "eye," placed in the sky of many a picture, and placed there to represent God, filled my heart with a chilling fear. That God was to me a magnified policeman, watching for wrong-doers, and ever ready for the infliction of punishment. It was all a frightful perversion of the gracious teaching of Jesus.

Heaven overflows with good will toward men! Our God not only wishes good, He wills it! "He gave His only begotten Son," as the sacred expression of His infinite good will. He has good will toward thee and me, and mine and thine. Let that holy thought make our Christmas cheer.



DECEMBER The Twenty-sixth

DAYBREAK IN THE SOUL

ISAIAH ix. 1-7.

It is a lonely and a chilling experience to sit in the darkness. And the gloom and the cold are all the more intense when there is death in the house. In such conditions we are in great need of light and fire.

And that is how the children of men were feeling before the Saviour came. They "sat in darkness" and in "the shadow of death." The world was cold, and sin and death were in it, and they longed for light and cheer. And "the great Light came," and His wonderful Presence not only illumines the house but banishes the fear of sin and death. "They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

Where can we get this living light except in the Lord Jesus Christ? Everything else is candle-light! It fails us in the midnight. It flickers amid conflicting currents. It goes out in the rough blast. The light of art and of literature fails me when I need them most. When I sit in the darkness, with death in the house, these kindly ministers have no effective beams. I turn to the Master, and He shines upon me, and it is daybreak in the soul!



DECEMBER The Twenty-seventh

THE SUNNY SIDE OF THINGS

1 JOHN i. 1-7.

I have just come out of a gloomy room into a sunny room to write these words. I had my choice. I could have stayed in the sombre room, but I choose to come into the sun-lit room and the warm, cheering beams are even now falling upon my page. "Walk in the light!" And I make my choice, and how often I choose to walk without Christ in the unfertilizing and unfruitful gloom of self-will! In the light of the Lord I could have a garden of Eden; how often I choose the dingy wilderness where I can grow neither flowers nor fruits.

"Walk in the light." The Lord's companionship always makes the sunny side of the street. It may be that the way is rough and stony and difficult, but in His company there is light that never fails, compared with which the world's noontide is only as the gloomiest night. And the souls that "walk in the light" gather "sacred sweets" all along the way. Heavenly fruits grow for the children of light, fruits of love and joy and peace, and the favoured pilgrim plucks them as he goes along. "All I find in Jesus." The way of light is the way of delight, and "the joy of the Lord is our strength."



DECEMBER The Twenty-eighth

IN HIM WAS LIFE

JOHN i. 1-18.

I have heard men speak of "wanting to see a bit of life," and I found that what they meant was to see a bit of death. It is as if a man should go to the hospital to see a bit of health, or as if he should go to a gory battlefield to see the human frame. It is like going to a refuse-heap to see a bit of garden. Life is not found in fields of license; it is not found among the wild oats of a dissipated youth. Life is found only in Christ, and if we want to see a bit of life we must go to Him.

"In Him was life"; and that not merely to be looked at but to be shared. He is the well to which everybody can bring his pitcher, and take it away filled. And my pitcher is just my need. "All the fitness He requires is to feel our need of Him." The Life is all-sufficient for the needs of the race. This Life can vitalize all that is withered and dead; it can make decrepit wills muscular and mighty, and it can transfigure the leper with the glow and purity of perfect health.

"Thou of life the Fountain art, Freely let me take of Thee."



DECEMBER The Twenty-ninth

THE LOVE OF GOD

1 JOHN iv. 7-14.

Let me more assiduously think of God's love. Let me sit down to it. In the National Gallery can be seen two sorts of people. There are the mere vagrants, who are always "on the move," passing from picture to picture, without seeing any. And there are the students, who sit down, and contemplate, and meditate, and appropriate, and saturate. And there are vagrants in respect to the love of the Lord. They have a passing glimpse, but the impression is not vital and vitalizing, and there are the students, who are always gazing, and who are continually crying, "O the depth of the riches of the love of God in Christ!" "His riches are unsearchable!"

And God's love is the creator of my love. "While I muse the fire burns." I am kindled into the same holy passion. That is to say, contemplation determines character. We acquire the hues of the things to which we cling. To hold fellowship with love is to become loveful and lovely. "We love because He first loved us."

And then, in the third place, it is through my love that I know my Lord. "Everyone that loveth knoweth God." Love is the lens through which I discern the secret things of God.



DECEMBER The Thirtieth

THE BLESSEDNESS OF FORGIVENESS

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." —PSALM xxxii.

It is the blessedness of emancipation. The boat which has been tethered to the weird, baleful shore is set free, and sails toward the glories of the morning. The man, long cramped in the dark, imprisoning pit, is brought out, and stretches his limbs in the sweet light and air of God's free world. Black servitude is ended; glorious liberty begins.

It is the blessedness of education. For when we are freed we are by no means perfected. We are liberated babes; and our Emancipator does not desert us in our spiritual infancy. The foundling is not abandoned. "Having loved His own He loved them unto the end." He begins with us in the spiritual nursery, and He will train and lead and feed us until we are "perfect in Christ Jesus."

Therefore is it the blessedness of exultation. The babe is resting on the bosom of the Lord, and "the joy of the Lord is his strength." It is not my emancipation that ensures my joy; it is the abiding Presence of the Emancipator.



DECEMBER The Thirty-first

THE REAR-GUARD

"Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." —PSALM xxiii.

But why "follow" me? Why not "go before"? Because some of my enemies are in the rear; they attack me from behind. There are foes in my yesterdays which can give me fatal wounds. They can stab me in the back! If I could only get away from the past! Its guilt dogs my steps. Its sins are ever at my heels. I have turned my face toward the Lord, but my yesterdays pursue me like a relentless hound! So I have an enemy in the rear.

But, blessed be His name, my mighty God is in the rear as well as my foe. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me!" No hound can break through that defence. Between me and my guilt there is the infinite love of the Lord. The loving Lord will not permit my past to destroy my soul. I may sorrow for my past, but my very sorrow shall be a minister of moral and spiritual health. My Lord is Lord of the past as well as of the morrow, and so to-day "I will trust and not be afraid."

* * * * *



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