Christ often takes the crown off his own head, and puts it upon the head of faith; witness such passages as these, which are frequent in Scripture: "Thy faith hath saved thee" (Luke vii. 50). "Thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matt. ix. 22). And no wonder that Christ crowns faith, for of all graces, faith takes the crown off a man's own head, and puts it upon the head of Christ.
The little word "father," (saith Luther) lisped forth in prayer by a child of God, exceeds the eloquence of Demosthenes, Cicero, and all the other famed orators of the world.
Sin is bad in the eye, worse in the tongue, worse still in the heart, but worst of all in the life.
It was a good saying of one to a great lord, upon his showing his stately house, and pleasant gardens: "Sir, you had need make sure of heaven, or else, when you die, you will be a very great loser."
If you would be good betimes, you must acquaint yourselves with yourselves betimes. No man begins to be good till he sees himself to be bad. The ready way to be found is to see ourselves lost. The first step to mercy, is to see our own misery; the first step towards heaven, is to see ourselves near hell.
Ah, believer, it is only heaven that is above all winds, storms, and tempests; God did not cast man out of paradise, that he might be able to find himself another paradise in this world. The world and you must part, or Christ and you will never meet. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
"Speak, that I may see thee," said Socrates to a fair boy. We know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking. Happy was that tongue in the primitive time, that could sound out anything of David's doing; but how much happier is he who can tell anything of Christ from sweet experience!
"Let the thoughts of a crucified Christ," said one, "be never out of your mind. Let them be meat and drink unto you. Let them be your sweetness and consolation, your honey and your desire, your reading and your meditation, your life, death, and resurrection."
There is no time yours but the present time, no day yours but the present day; therefore, do not please and feed yourselves with hopes of time to come; that you will repent, but not yet; and lay hold on mercy, but not yet; and give yourselves up to the Lord next week, next month, or next year; for that God who has promised you mercy and favour upon the day of your return, has not promised to prolong your lives till that day comes.
O how strong is grace! How victorious over sin, how dead to the world, how alive to Christ, how fit to live, and how prepared to die, might many a Christian have become had they been more frequent, serious, and conscientious in the discharge of closet duties!
It is the very nature of grace to make a man strive to be most eminent in that particular grace which is most opposed to his bosom sin.
Young men are very apt to compare themselves with those who are worse than they are, and this proves a snare unto them, and oftentimes their ruin, as it did to the Pharisee in the gospel, who pleaded his negative righteousness; he was not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, nor even as the publican; he stood not only upon his comparisons, but upon his disparisons: being blind at home, and too quick-sighted abroad, he contemns the poor publican who was better than himself, making good that saying of Seneca, "The nature of man is very apt to use spectacles to behold other men's faults, rather than looking-glasses in which to survey their own."
Among all God's children, there is not one possessed with a dumb devil. Prayerless persons are forsaken of God, blinded by Satan, hardened in sin, and with every breath they draw, liable to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments.
There is no such way to attain to greater measures of grace, as for a man to live up to that little grace he has.
Bring your graces to the touchstone, to try their truth, rather than to the balance to weigh their measure.
Christ is of all gifts the sweetest gift. As the tree (Exod. xv. 25) sweetened the bitter waters, so this gift, the Lord Jesus, of whom that tree was a type, sweetens all other gifts that are bestowed upon the sons of men. He turns every bitter into sweet, and makes every sweet more sweet.
Pride grows with the decrease of other sins, and thrives by their decay. Satan is subtle; he will make a man proud of his very graces—he will make him proud that he is not proud.
There is nothing, says one, "that endures so small a time as the memory of mercies received; and the more great they are, the more commonly they are recompensed with ingratitude."
It is very observable that the eagle and the lion, those brave creatures, were not offered in sacrifice unto God, but the poor lamb and dove, to denote that God regards not high and lofty spirits; but meek, poor, contemptible spirits God will accept.
"Talk not of a good life," said a heathen, "but let thy life speak." God appointed that the weights and measures of the sanctuary should be twice as large as those of the commonwealth, to show that he expects much more of those that wait upon him in the sanctuary, than he does of others. Christians should be like musk among linen, which casts a fragrant smell; or like that box of spikenard, which being broken open filled the house with its odour.
Impunity oftentimes causeth impudency, but forbearance is no acquittance. The longer the hand is lifted up, the heavier will be the blow at last. Of all metals, lead is the coldest, but being melted, it becomes the hottest. Humble souls know how to apply this, and proud souls shall sooner or later experience this.
It was a sweet saying of one, "O Lord, I have come to thee; but by thee, I will never go from thee, without thee."
Our hearts naturally are like the isle of Patmos, which is so barren of any good, that nothing will grow but in earth that is brought from other places; yet Christ can make them like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
The choicest buildings have the lowest foundations; the best balsam sinks to the bottom; those ears of corn and boughs of trees that are most filled and best laden, bow lowest; so do those souls that are most laden with the fruits of paradise.
Souls that are rich in grace, labour after greater measures of grace out of love to grace, and because of an excellency that they see in grace. Grace is a very sparkling jewel, and he who loves it and pursues after it for its own native beauty, has much of it within him.
Mercies make a humble soul glad, but not proud. A humble soul is lowest when his mercies are highest; he is least when he is greatest; he is most poor when he is most rich.
Pride is a sin that will put the soul upon the worst of sins. Pride is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague. It is the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of mercy, the moth of holiness, the blinder of hearts, the turner of medicines into maladies, and remedies into diseases.
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Pet. i. 4). The promises are a precious book; every leaf drops myrrh and mercy. They are golden vessels, laden with the choicest jewels that heaven can afford, or the soul desire. There is nothing you can truly call a mercy, but you will find it in the promises.
Souls that know by experience what the bosom of Christ is, what spiritual communion is, and what the glory of heaven is, will not be put off by God or man with things that are mixed, mutable, and momentary. So Luther, a man strong in grace, when he had a gown and money given him by the elector, turned himself about, and said, "I protest, God shall not put me off with these poor low things."
Plutarch reports, that it was wont to be the way of the Molossians, when they would seek the favour of their prince, that they took up the king's son in their arms, and so went and kneeled before the king, and by this means overcame him. So do humble souls make a conquest upon God with Christ in their arms: the Father will not repulse the soul that brings Christ with him.
Katherine Bretterge once, after a great conflict with Satan, said, "Reason not with me, I am but a weak woman, if thou hast anything to say, say it to my Christ, he is my advocate, my strength, and my Redeemer; and he shall plead for me."
Every soul won to Christ is a glorious pearl added to a preacher's crown. They who, by preaching Christ, win souls to Christ, shall shine as the stars in the firmament (Dan. xii. 3).
It is a sad thing when Christians borrow spectacles to behold their weak brethren's weaknesses, and refuse looking-glasses wherein they may see their weak brethren's grace.
Three things are called precious in the Scriptures: "precious faith" (2 Pet. i. 1); "precious promises" (ver. 4); "precious blood" (1 Pet. i. 19). All our precious mercies twine to us in precious blood, as may be seen by comparing these Scriptures together, Rom. v. 9; Ephes. i. 7; Col. i. 20; Heb. ix. 7, 14; x. 19; 1 John i. 7; Rev. i. 5. It was an excellent saying of Luther, "One little drop of this blood is more worth than heaven and earth." Christ's blood is heaven's key.
Well may grace be called the Divine nature, for as God brings light out of darkness, comfort out of sorrow, riches out of poverty, and glory out of shame, so does grace bring day out of night, and sweet out of bitter, and plenty out of poverty, and glory out of shame. It turns counters into gold, pebbles into pearls, sickness into health, weakness into strength, and wants into abundance; having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
He who is good, is bound to do good; for gifts and graces are given, not only to make us good and keep us good, but also to make us, yea, to provoke us to do good. Why has Christ put a box of precious ointment into every Christian's hand, but that it should be opened for the benefit of others?
Pride is Satan's disease. It is so base a disease, that God would rather see his dearest children buffeted by Satan, than that in pride they should be like to Satan (2 Cor. xii. 7).
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase (Eccles. v. 10). A man may as soon fill a chest with grace, or a vessel with virtue, as a heart with wealth. If Alexander conquer one world, he will wish for another to conquer.
Sin's murdering morsels will deceive those who devour them. Many eat that on earth, which they digest in hell.
Human doctrines cannot cure a wound in the conscience. The remedy is too weak for the disease. Conscience, like the vulture of Prometheus, will still lie gnawing, notwithstanding all that such doctrines can do.
Zeal is like fire: in the chimney it is one of the best servants; but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters. Zeal, kept by knowledge and wisdom in its proper place, is a choice servant to Christ and the saints; but zeal not bounded by wisdom and knowledge is the highway to undo all, and to make a hell for many at once.
Has God given thee a crown, and wilt thou not trust him for a crumb? Has he given thee a house that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God? Has he given thee a kingdom that shaketh not? And wilt thou not trust him for a cottage, for a little house-room, in this world? Has he given thee himself, his Son, his Spirit, his grace; and wilt thou not trust him to give thee bread, and friends, and clothes, and other necessary mercies that he knows thou needest? Has he given thee the greater, and will he stand with thee for the less? Surely not. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. viii. 32).
One asked a philosopher what God was doing; he answered, that his whole work was to lift up the humble, and to cast down the proud.
A thankful soul holds consort with the music of heaven. The little birds do not sip one drop of water, but they look up as if they meant to give thanks;—to show us what we should do for every drop of grace.
The dove made use of her wings to flee to the ark; so does a humble soul of his duties to flee to Christ. Though the dove did use her wings, yet she did not trust in them, but in the ark; so though a humble soul does use duties, yet he does not trust in his duties, but in his Jesus.
Dionysius having not very well used Plato at the court, when he was gone, fearing lest he should write against him, sent after him to bid him not to do so. "Tell Dionysius," says Plato, "that I have not so much leisure as to think of him." So humble, wronged souls are not at leisure to think of the wrongs and injuries that others do them.
The strongest creature, the lion, and the wisest creature, the serpent, if they be dormant, are as easily surprised as the weakest worms. So the strongest and wisest saints, if their graces be asleep, if they be only in the habit and not in the exercise, may be as easily surprised and vanquished as the weakest Christians in all the world: witness David, Solomon, Samson, and Peter. Every enemy insults over him that has lost the use of his weapons.
—Smooth Stones taken from Ancient Brooks