Streams in the Desert

July 3

“Doth the plowman plow all day to sow?” (Isa. 28:24.)

ONE day in early summer I walked past a beautiful meadow. The grass was as soft and thick and fine as an immense green Oriental rug. In one corner stood a fine old tree, a sanctuary for numberless wild birds; the crisp, sweet air was full of their happy songs. Two cows lay in the shade, the very picture of content.
Down by the roadside the saucy dandelion mingled his gold with the royal purple of the wild violet.
I leaned against the fence for a long time, feasting my hungry eyes, and thinking in my soul that God never made a fairer spot than my lovely meadow.
The next day I passed that way again, and lo! the hand of the despoiler had been there. A plowman and his great plow, now standing idle in the furrow, had in a day wrought a terrible havoc. Instead of the green grass there was turned up to view the ugly, bare, brown earth; instead of the singing birds there were only a few hens industriously scratching for worms. Gone were the dandelion and the pretty violet. I said in my grief, “How could any one spoil a thing so fair?”
Then my eyes were opened by some unseen hand, and I saw a vision, a vision of a field of ripe corn ready for the harvest. I could see the giant, heavily laden stalks in the autumn sun; I could almost hear the music of the wind as it would sweep across the golden tassels. And before I was aware, the brown earth took on a splendor it had not had the day before.
Oh, that we might always catch the vision of an abundant harvest, when the great Master Plowman comes, as He often does, and furrows through our very souls, uprooting and turning under that which we thought most fair, and leaving for our tortured gaze only the bare and the unbeautiful.—Selected.
Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh the deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposeth a crop.—Samuel Rutherford.

365 days with Newton

3 JULY

Sovereign grace

‘And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.’ Genesis 4:3–5
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: 1 Samuel 16:1–13

If any say, ‘Is God then a respecter of persons?’ I answer, God respects not persons of men so as to be influenced by any outward differences between one man and another, which is the proper sense of the word. He does not prefer the rich to the poor, the wise to the ignorant, or the mighty to the mean. The cry of a beggar will enter the ear of the Lord of hosts and obtain a gracious answer as soon as the cry of a king. Yet in the dispensation of his grace he is sovereign, he gives what none has a right to demand, to whom he pleases. Cain and Abel were both born in sin. He might have rejected them both, and in preferring one to the other he exercised his undoubted right to do what he will with his own. This is mortifying doctrine to the pride of man—but as it gives all the glory of salvation to the Lord, so it provides the surest ground of peace to an awakened soul, when taken in connection with the rest of his Word. When you know yourselves, you will soon see that if it was not thus you could not be saved at all.
Observe: though the ways of God are sovereign, they are just and equal. Though he gives not a full account of his matters, yet he reveals enough not only to silence our cavils but to satisfy our doubts.

FOR MEDITATION: ‘What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.… Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?’ (Romans 9:14–16, 19–21).

SERMON SERIES: GENESIS, NO. 11 [2/4], GENESIS 4:3–5

My Utmost for His Highest

July 2nd

The conditions of discipleship

If any man come to Me, and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26, also 27, 33.

If the closest relationships of life clash with the claims of Jesus Christ, He says it must be instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between devotion to a Person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted love-slave of the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not devoted to Jesus Christ. No man on earth has this passionate love to the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Ghost has imparted it to him. We may admire Him, we may respect Him and reverence Him, but we cannot love Him. The only Lover of the Lord Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and He sheds abroad the very love of God in our hearts. Whenever the Holy Ghost sees a chance of glorifying Jesus, He will take your heart, your nerves, your whole personality, and simply make you blaze and glow with devotion to Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is stamped by ‘moral spontaneous originality,’ consequently the disciple is open to the same charge that Jesus Christ was, viz., that of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent to God, and the Christian must be consistent to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to hard and fast creeds. Men pour themselves into creeds, and God has to blast them out of their prejudices before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.

Streams in the Desert

July 2

“When thou goest, thy way shall be opened up before thee step by step.” (Proverbs 4:12, free translation.)

THE Lord never builds a bridge of faith except under the feet of the faith-filled traveler. If He builds the bridge a rod ahead, it would not be a bridge of faith. That which is of sight is not of faith.
There is a self-opening gate which is sometimes used in country roads. It stands fast and firm across the road as a traveler approaches it. If he stops before he gets to it, it will not open. But if he will drive right at it, his wagon wheels press the springs below the roadway, and the gate swings back to let him through. He must push right on at the closed gate, or it will continue to be closed.
This illustrates the way to pass every barrier on the road of duty. Whether it is a river, a gate, or a mountain, all the child of Jesus has to do is to go for it. If it is a river, it will dry up when you put your feet in its waters. If it is a gate, it will fly open when you are near enough to it, and are still pushing on. If it is a mountain, it will be lifted up and cast into a sea when you come squarely up, without flinching, to where you thought it was.
Is there a great barrier across your path of duty just now? Just go for it, in the name of the Lord, and it won’t be there.
—Henry Clay Trumbull.
We sit and weep in vain. The voice of the Almighty said, “Up and onward forevermore.” Let us move on and step out boldly, though it be into the night, and we can scarcely see the way. The path will open, as we progress, like the trail through the forest, or the Alpine pass, which discloses but a few rods of its length from any single point of view. Press on! If necessary, we will find even the pillar of cloud and fire to mark our journey through the wilderness. There are guides and wayside inns along the road. We will find food, clothes and friends at every stage of the journey, and as Rutherford so quaintly says: “However matters go, the worst will be a tired traveler and a joyful and sweet welcome home.”

I’m going by the upper road, for that
  still holds the sun,
I’m climbing through night’s pastures where
  the starry rivers run:
If you should think to seek me in my
  old dark abode,
You’ll find this writing on the door,
  “He’s on the Upper Road.”

—Selected.

365 days with Newton

2 JULY

Children of his grace

‘And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.’ Genesis 4:3–5
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Genesis 4:1–7

From the Fall of man, the Scripture proceeds to an exemplification of the effects of sin, the manifestation of grace, and the opposition foretold between the seed of the serpent and those who by faith belonged to him who was revealed as the hope of sinners, by the name of the seed of the woman. These are the chief points insisted on through the whole Bible. The first remarkable instance in which they are confirmed is the history of Cain and Abel. It seems that Eve had great joy in the birth of Cain, nay some from the manner of her expression think that she supposed Cain was the promised Messiah. If so, she was greatly disappointed. Parents usually receive children with joy—but if God has given you children, pray that they may be the children of his grace; if not, rejoice with trembling. If the Lord is not honoured by them, you will have small comfort in them. You know not what they may come to. And this should be a quieting thought when the Lord has taken away children while young. We are informed that Cain was a wicked man, yet he was not without a form of religion. Cain himself would probably pass for a saint if he were alive now, in comparison with many who are not only destitute of the life and power of godliness, but despise and renounce the very appearance of it. But his religion was vain—the Lord had respect to Abel and his offering and not to Cain’s.

FOR MEDITATION: Give my love to all your children, particularly to the little stranger [baby ‘John Newton’ Coffin]. I am duly sensible of the honour you have done me in incorporating my name with your own. May the name of Newton be to him as a lighthouse upon a hill as he grows up, to warn him against the evils I ran upon in my youth, and on which (without a miracle of mercy) I should have suffered a fatal shipwreck.
John Newton to James Coffin, 29 September 1792

SERMON SERIES: GENESIS, NO. 11 [1/4], GENESIS 4:3–5

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