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FEW BOOKS ATTAIN A DISTRIBUTION RECKONED IN MILLIONS OR EXERT SO GREAT AN INFLUENCE IN THE UPLIFTING OF HUMANITY AS HAS STEPS TO CHRIST. IN COUNTLESS EDITIONS, THIS LITTLE VOLUME HAS BEEN PRINTED IN MORE THAN SEVENTY LANGUAGES, BRINGING INSPIRATION TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MEN AND WOMEN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, EVEN THOSE WHO DWELL IN THE REMOTE CORNERS OF THE EARTH. IT POINTS THE READER TO JESUS CHRIST AS THE ONLY ONE WHO IS ABLE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE SOUL.
WITH NO CHANGE IN THE TEXT, BUT WITH A FORMAT, SPELLING, AND CAPITALIZATION IN KEEPING WITH THE TIMES, THIS LITTLE COMPENDIUM OF DEVOTION WILL CONTINUE ON ITS MISSION, BUT NOW IN SUCH FORM, REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE OF THE TYPE OR PAGE, AS TO CONFORM TO THE NEW INDEX TO THE WRITINGS OF ELLEN G. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air, the lofty trees of the forest with their rich foliage of living green -- all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy. Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people.
That is, "My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. As the inspired apostle John beheld the height, the depth, the breadth of the Father's love toward the perishing race, he was filled with adoration and reverence; and, failing to find suitable language in which to express the greatness and tenderness of this love, he called upon the world to behold it.
But after his sin, he could no longer find joy in holiness, and he sought to hide from the presence of God. The idea that it is necessary only to develop the good that exists in man by nature, is a fatal deception. It is not enough to discern the wisdom and justice of His law, to see that it is founded upon the eternal principle of love. When, after his sin in deceiving Esau, Jacob fled from his father's home, he was weighed down with a sense of guilt.
Let us try to appreciate the labor and energy that Heaven is expending to reclaim the lost, and bring them back to the Father's house.
We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness; until we turn away from it in heart, there will be no real change in the life.
Multitudes sorrow that they have sinned and even make an outward reformation because they fear that their wrongdoing will bring suffering upon themselves.
The consequences that were to result to him filled him with terror, but there was no deep, heartbreaking grief in his soul, that he had betrayed the spotless Son of God and denied the Holy One of Israel.
Just here is a point on which many may err, and hence they fail of receiving the help that Christ desires to give them. Christ must be revealed to the sinner as the Saviour dying for the sins of the world; and as we behold the Lamb of God upon the cross of Calvary, the mystery of redemption begins to unfold to our minds and the goodness of God leads us to repentance. But whenever they make an effort to reform, from a sincere desire to do right, it is the power of Christ that is drawing them.
Ask Him to give you repentance, to reveal Christ to you in His infinite love, in His perfect purity. Then we shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our hearts in His own likeness. It makes apparent the unhallowed desires, the infidelity of the heart, the impurity of the lips.
Judged by the letter of the law as men apply it to the outward life, he had abstained from sin; but when he looked into the depths of its holy precepts, and saw himself as God saw him, he bowed in humiliation and confessed his guilt.
His heart was open for the Spirit of God to do its gracious work and set him free from the power of sin. But this small matter was the transgression of God's immutable and holy law, and it separated man from God and opened the floodgates of death and untold woe upon our world. They think that after doing despite to the Spirit of grace, after casting their influence on the side of Satan, in a moment of terrible extremity they can change their course. The Lord does not require us to do some grievous thing in order that we may have the forgiveness of sin.
If we have not experienced that repentance which is not to be repented of, and have not with true humiliation of soul and brokenness of spirit confessed our sins, abhorring our iniquity, we have never truly sought for the forgiveness of sin; and if we have never sought, we have never found the peace of God.
They were suffering the consequences of sin; for they had lost their faith in God, lost their discernment of His power and wisdom to rule the nation, lost their confidence in His ability to defend and vindicate His cause.
At first their only thought was how to excuse their sin and escape the dreaded sentence of death.
Paul did not seek to shield himself; he paints his sin in its darkest hue, not attempting to lessen his guilt. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. He was sinless, and, more than this, He was the Prince of heaven; but in man's behalf He became sin for the race.
A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love.
By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You feel that sin has separated you from God, that you are in bondage to the power of evil. Money cannot buy it, intellect cannot procure it, wisdom cannot attain to it; you can never hope, by your own efforts, to secure it.
As it is by giving yourself to God, and believing Him, that you become His child, so you are to live in Him. Can you believe that when the poor sinner longs to return, longs to forsake his sins, the Lord sternly withholds him from coming to His feet in repentance? The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. If he restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, confess his sins, and love God and his fellow men, the sinner may be sure that he has passed from death unto life.
The first, already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled.
But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous.
This is evidence that Satan's delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ.
A view of our sinfulness drives us to Him who can pardon; and when the soul, realizing its helplessness, reaches out after Christ, He will reveal Himself in power. It is only through the life which God Himself has imparted, that either plant or animal can live.
All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. They have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, but now they seek by their own efforts to live aright. Hence it is Satan's constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break this tie--to choose to separate ourselves from Christ.
He was not only self-assertive and ambitious for honor, but impetuous, and resentful under injuries.
In solemn awe they bowed in prayer, repeating the assurance, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. FROM THE APPEARANCE OF THE FIRST EDITION IN 1892, THE PUBLISHERS HAVE BEEN CALLED UPON TO ADD PRINTING TO PRINTING TO MEET THE IMMEDIATE AND SUSTAINED DEMAND FROM THE READING PUBLIC. BORN NEAR PORTLAND, MAINE, SHE SPENT HER EARLY LIFE IN THE NEW ENGLAND STATES, AND THEN HER TRAVELS AND LABORS LED HER TO THE RAPIDLY EXPANDING CENTRAL AND WESTERN AREAS OF THE UNITED STATES. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul.
It is from the Father's heart that the streams of divine compassion, manifest in Christ, flow out to the children of men. God permitted His beloved Son, full of grace and truth, to come from a world of indescribable glory, to a world marred and blighted with sin, darkened with the shadow of death and the curse. Nothing less than the infinite sacrifice made by Christ in behalf of fallen man could express the Father's love to lost humanity. Lonely and outcast as he was, separated from all that had made life dear, the one thought that above all others pressed upon his soul, was the fear that his sin had cut him off from God, that he was forsaken of Heaven. The Saviour's life and death and intercession, the ministry of angels, the pleading of the Spirit, the Father working above and through all, the unceasing interest of heavenly beings,--all are enlisted in behalf of man's redemption.
Motives stronger, and agencies more powerful, could never be brought into operation; the exceeding rewards for right-doing, the enjoyment of heaven, the society of the angels, the communion and love of God and His Son, the elevation and extension of all our powers throughout eternal ages--are these not mighty incentives and encouragements to urge us to give the heart's loving service to our Creator and Redeemer? It is only through Christ that we can be brought into harmony with God, with holiness; but how are we to come to Christ? Pharaoh, when suffering under the judgments of God, acknowledged his sin in order to escape further punishment, but returned to his defiance of Heaven as soon as the plagues were stayed. There was no effort to palliate his guilt; no desire to escape the judgment threatened, inspired his prayer.
They think that they cannot come to Christ unless they first repent, and that repentance prepares for the forgiveness of their sins. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts.
In dying for sinners, Christ manifested a love that is incomprehensible; and as the sinner beholds this love, it softens the heart, impresses the mind, and inspires contrition in the soul. An influence of which they are unconscious works upon the soul, and the conscience is quickened, and the outward life is amended. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest--the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness. In the Saviour's life the principles of God's law--love to God and man--were perfectly exemplified. The sinner's acts of disloyalty in making void the law of God, are exposed to his sight, and his spirit is stricken and afflicted under the searching influence of the Spirit of God. The soul thus touched will hate its selfishness, abhor its self-love, and will seek, through Christ's righteousness, for the purity of heart that is in harmony with the law of God and the character of Christ. The drunkard is despised and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked. The Pharisee's boastful, self-righteous prayer showed that his heart was closed against the influence of the Holy Spirit. Age after age there has gone up from our earth a continual cry of mourning, and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain as a consequence of man's disobedience.
The man who manifests an infidel hardihood, or a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest of that which he has himself sown.
We need not make long and wearisome pilgrimages, or perform painful penances, to commend our souls to the God of heaven or to expiate our transgression; but he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy.
If you have given offense to your friend or neighbor, you are to acknowledge your wrong, and it is his duty freely to forgive you.
The only reason why we do not have remission of sins that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts and comply with the conditions of the word of truth. But all confession should be definite and to the point, acknowledging the very sins of which you are guilty.
They turned from the great Ruler of the universe and desired to be governed as were the nations around them. And can it be that we, the unworthy objects of so great love, will withhold our hearts from Him? Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith. But it is the will of God to cleanse us from sin, to make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life. They must have His grace, the Spirit of Christ, to help their infirmities, or they cannot resist evil.
It is the privilege of all who comply with the conditions to know for themselves that pardon is freely extended for every sin.
He desires to take every glimmer of hope and every ray of light from the soul; but you must not permit him to do this. While the sinner is yet far from the Father's house, wasting his substance in a strange country, the Father's heart is yearning over him; and every longing awakened in the soul to return to God is but the tender pleading of His Spirit, wooing, entreating, drawing the wanderer to his Father's heart of love.
Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart.
He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life?
You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us. The existence and power of God, the truth of His word, are facts that even Satan and his hosts cannot at heart deny.
We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more fully we shall reflect His image.
So it is only through the life from God that spiritual life is begotten in the hearts of men. You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. The pleasures of the world, life's cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections--to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind.
Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this. But as the character of the Divine One was manifested to him, he saw his own deficiency and was humbled by the knowledge. THE YEARS 1885 TO 1887 SHE DEVOTED TO WORK IN THE LEADING COUNTRIES OF EUROPE, WHERE SHE OFTEN ADDRESSED LARGE AUDIENCES, AND CONTINUED HER WRITING.
IT LEADS THE SEEKER AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WHOLENESS OF CHARACTER, STEP BY STEP, ALONG THE WAY OF CHRISTIAN LIVING, TO THAT EXPERIENCE WHERE HE CAN KNOW THE FULLNESS OF BLESSING WHICH IS FOUND IN THE COMPLETE SURRENDER OF SELF.
Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but of all living creatures. Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. There were whole villages where there was not a moan of sickness in any house, for He had passed through them and healed all their sick. He permitted Him to leave the bosom of His love, the adoration of the angels, to suffer shame, insult, humiliation, hatred, and death. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken.
But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. He longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, "O wretched man that I am!
In sadness he lay down to rest on the bare earth, around him only the lonely hills, and above, the heavens bright with stars. Let us avail ourselves of the means provided for us that we may be transformed into His likeness, and be restored to fellowship with the ministering angels, to harmony and communion with the Father and the Son. It is true that repentance does precede the forgiveness of sins; for it is only the broken and contrite heart that will feel the need of a Saviour. We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ. And as Christ draws them to look upon His cross, to behold Him whom their sins have pierced, the commandment comes home to the conscience. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. When he saw the spiritual nature of the law, sin appeared in its true hideousness, and his self-esteem was gone.
But these are sins that are especially offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe.
Because of his distance from God, he had no sense of his own defilement, in contrast with the perfection of the divine holiness. It was because there was no other way in which man could be saved, because without this sacrifice it was impossible for the human race to escape from the defiling power of sin, and be restored to communion with holy beings,--impossible for them again to become partak- ers of spiritual life,--it was because of this that Christ took upon Himself the guilt of the disobedient and suffered in the sinner's stead. But the sins and defects of others do not excuse anyone, for the Lord has not given us an erring human pattern.
The experi- ence, the education, of a lifetime, has so thoroughly molded the character that few then desire to receive the image of Jesus.
Then you are to seek the forgiveness of God, because the brother you have wounded is the property of God, and in injuring him you sinned against his Creator and Redeemer. When Christ dwells in the heart, the soul will be so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it will cleave to Him; and in the contemplation of Him, self will be forgotten. Every moment of our lives we have been partakers of the blessings of His grace, and for this very reason we cannot fully realize the depths of ignorance and misery from which we have been saved. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. The divine requirements call upon us to shun those indulgences that would bring suffering and disappointment, that would close to us the door of happiness and heaven. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. So we may ask for these blessings, and believe that we receive them, and thank God that we have received them. Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart. Nothing can hurt your own soul more than to entertain such a conception of our heavenly Father. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christ's sake did all this for you. Your weakness is united to His strength, your ignorance to His wisdom, your frailty to His enduring might. The strength and patience, the power and tenderness, the majesty and meekness, that he beheld in the daily life of the Son of God, filled his soul with admiration and love.
IT REVEALS TO HIM THE SECRET OF VICTORY AS IT UNFOLDS IN SIMPLICITY THE SAVING GRACE AND THE KEEPING POWER OF THE GREAT FRIEND OF ALL MANKIND.
The sunshine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator's love. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice,--one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world.
His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil.
The sinner could not be happy in God's presence; he would shrink from the companionship of holy beings. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. With His own merits, Christ has bridged the gulf which sin had made, so that the ministering angels can hold communion with man. The sinner has a sense of the righteousness of Jehovah and feels the terror of appearing, in his own guilt and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts. To all these souls, who are vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine message is addressed, "Let him that is athirst come. It is as we behold Him, as the light from our Saviour falls upon us, that we see the sinfulness of our own hearts.
He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give. The love and suffering and death of the Son of God all testify to the terrible enormity of sin and declare that there is no escape from its power, no hope of the higher life, but through the submission of the soul to Christ.
The spotless Son of God has been given as our example, and those who complain of the wrong course of professed Christians are the ones who should show better lives and nobler examples.
Sin, however small it may be esteemed, can be indulged in only at the peril of infinite loss. Calvary stands as a memorial of the amazing sacrifice required to atone for the transgression of the divine law. No earthly parent could be as patient with the faults and mistakes of his children, as is God with those He seeks to save. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him. Can we look upon Him whom our sins have pierced, and yet be willing to do despite to all His love and sacrifice? No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The world's Redeemer accepts men as they are, with all their wants, imperfections, and weaknesses; and He will not only cleanse from sin and grant redemption through His blood, but will satisfy the heart-longing of all who consent to wear His yoke, to bear His burden. This is the lesson which Jesus taught while He was on earth, that the gift which God promises us, we must believe we do receive, and it is ours. It is our privilege to go to Jesus and be cleansed, and to stand before the law without shame or remorse. We may come with all our weakness, our folly, our sinfulness, and fall at His feet in penitence.
He hates sin, but He loves the sinner, and He gave Himself in the person of Christ, that all who would might be saved and have eternal blessedness in the kingdom of glory.
It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly,--by abiding in Him, --that we are to grow in grace.
By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you are to grow up in Him--by giving and taking. So you are not to look to yourself, not to let the mind dwell upon self, but look to Christ.
Many who are really conscientious, and who desire to live for God, he too often leads to dwell upon their own faults and weaknesses, and thus by separating them from Christ he hopes to gain the victory. They were with Him as pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from His lips lessons of holy truth. Day by day his heart was drawn out toward Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master. FROM HER PEN HAVE COME FORTY-FIVE VOLUMES, LARGE AND SMALL, IN THE FIELDS OF THEOLOGY, EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND THE HOME, AND PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY, SEVERAL WITH A DISTRIBUTION EXCEEDING THE MILLION-COPY MARK. The thorn and the thistle--the difficulties and trials that make his life one of toil and care--were appointed for his good as a part of the training needful in God's plan for his uplifting from the ruin and degradation that sin has wrought.
He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. Love, mercy, and compassion were revealed in every act of His life; His heart went out in tender sympathy to the children of men. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness.
Through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ the sons of Adam may become the sons of God. The thought has a subduing power upon the soul and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God. He was made captive by Satan, and would have remained so forever had not God specially interposed.
They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life.
Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power. Balaam, terrified by the angel standing in his pathway with drawn sword, acknowledged his guilt lest he should lose his life; but there was no genuine repentance for sin, no conversion of purpose, no abhorrence of evil.
He sees the love of God, the beauty of holiness, the joy of purity; he longs to be cleansed and to be restored to communion with Heaven. They begin to comprehend something of the righteousness of Christ, and exclaim, "What is sin, that it should require such a sacrifice for the redemption of its victim? If they have so high a conception of what a Christian should be, is not their own sin so much the greater? One owed his lord a small sum, and the other owed him a very large sum; but he forgave them both, and Christ asked Simon which debtor would love his lord most. Paul says, speaking of the work of repentance: "Ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! These were the questions implied in her excuse for her sin, thus charging God with the responsibility of their fall. Those who feel the constraining love of God, do not ask how little may be given to meet the requirements of God; they do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer. In view of the infinite humiliation of the Lord of glory, shall we murmur because we can enter into life only through conflict and self-abasement? Jesus healed the people of their diseases when they had faith in His power; He helped them in the things which they could see, thus inspiring them with confidence in Him concerning things which they could not see--leading them to believe in His power to forgive sins. It is His glory to encircle us in the arms of His love and to bind up our wounds, to cleanse us from all impurity. Strength and grace have been provided through Christ to be brought by ministering angels to every believing soul. What stronger or more tender language could have been employed than He has chosen in which to express His love toward us? As you draw near to Him with confession and repentance, He will draw near to you with mercy and forgiveness. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact.
If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law. Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works --works of righteousness, obedience. Where there is not only a belief in God's word, but a submission of the will to Him; where the heart is yielded to Him, the affections fixed upon Him, there is faith--faith that works by love and purifies the soul. The plants and flowers grow not by their own care or anxiety or effort, but by receiving that which God has furnished to minister to their life.
You are to give all,--your heart, your will, your service,--give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all,--Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper,--to give you power to obey. We should not make self the center and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. He was presenting before God the merits of His own precious blood, showing His wounded hands and feet, in remembrance of the price He had paid for His redeemed.
It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.
He wept over Jerusalem, the city He loved, which refused to receive Him, the way, the truth, and the life. The more we study the divine character in the light of the cross, the more we see mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness blended with equity and justice, and the more clearly we discern innumerable evidences of a love that is infinite and a tender pity surpassing a mother's yearning sympathy for her wayward child. It was the tempter's purpose to thwart the divine plan in man's creation, and fill the earth with woe and desolation. The spirit of unselfish love that reigns there --every heart responding to the heart of Infinite Love --would touch no answering chord in his soul. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. With joy and gratitude he saw revealed a way by which he, a sinner, could be restored to communion with God. But in vain are men's dreams of progress, in vain all efforts for the uplifting of humanity, if they neglect the one Source of hope and help for the fallen race. We must not wait for stronger persuasions, for better opportunities, or for holier tempers. It is not to be made in a flippant and careless way, or forced from those who have no realizing sense of the abhorrent character of sin. The spirit of self-justification originated in the father of lies and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of Adam. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton.
With earnest desire they yield all and manifest an interest proportionate to the value of the object which they seek. He requires us to perform only those duties that will lead our steps to heights of bliss to which the disobedient can never attain. None are so sinful that they cannot find strength, purity, and righteousness in Jesus, who died for them.
He declares, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. So from natural life, illustrations are drawn, to help us better to understand the mysterious truths of spiritual life.
You are just as dependent upon Christ, in order to live a holy life, as is the branch upon the parent stock for growth and fruitfulness.
Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate.
Christ in His self-denial, Christ in His humiliation, Christ in His purity and holiness, Christ in His matchless love --this is the subject for the soul's contemplation. They knew that He had ascended to heaven to prepare places for them, and that He would come again and take them to Himself.
He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Cal-vary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption. His thoughts, his interests, his motives, would be alien to those that actuate the sinless dwellers there. The mystic ladder of his dream represented Jesus, the only medium of communication between God and man. The confession that is the outpouring of the inmost soul finds its way to the God of infinite pity. When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his character nor realize the enormity of the evil he has committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit he remains in partial blindness to his sin. Confessions of this order are not inspired by the divine Spirit and will not be acceptable to God. A profession of Christ without this deep love is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery.
If you believe the promise,--believe that you are forgiven and cleansed,--God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. He is waiting to strip them of their garments stained and polluted with sin, and to put upon them the white robes of righteousness; He bids them live and not die. Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience.
Righteousness is defined by the standard of God's holy law, as expressed in the ten precepts given on Sinai.
And the heart that in its unrenewed state is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, now delights in its holy precepts, exclaiming with the psalmist, "O how love I Thy law! He is to be with us, not only at the beginning and the end of our course, but at every step of the way.
Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.
It is by loving Him, copying Him, depending wholly upon Him, that you are to be transformed into His likeness.
His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness. True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt himself and acknowledge it without deception or hypocrisy.
He desires that man, the crowning work of His creative power, shall reach the highest possible development. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. The plant, the child, grows by receiving from its surroundings that which ministers to its life --air, sunshine, and food. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God--it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God. Heaven would be to him a place of torture; he would long to be hidden from Him who is its light, and the center of its joy. Those to whom He has forgiven most will love Him most, and will stand nearest to His throne to praise Him for His great love and infinite sacrifice. To every acknowledgment of his guilt he adds an apology in excuse of his course, declaring that if it had not been for certain circumstances he would not have done this or that for which he is reproved.
He sets before us the height of blessing to which He desires to bring us through His grace. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ.
What these gifts of nature are to animal and plant, such is Christ to those who trust in Him. While He ever bore Himself with divine dignity, He bowed with the tenderest regard to every member of the family of God. It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. It is when we most fully comprehend the love of God that we best realize the sinfulness of sin.
Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.
The heart that rests most fully upon Christ will be most earnest and active in labor for Him.
Christ's Spirit, His love, softens the heart, subdues the soul, and raises the thoughts and desires toward God and heaven.
When we see the length of the chain that was let down for us, when we understand something of the infinite sacrifice that Christ has made in our behalf, the heart is melted with tenderness and contrition. It remains for us to choose whether we will be set free from the bondage of sin, to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance.
They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. If you will leave yourself in His hands, He will bring you off more than conqueror through Him that has loved you.
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