The title of this book sufficiently interprets its purpose. I hope it may lead to such practical meditation upon the Word of God as will supply vision to common tasks, and daily nourishment to the conscience and will. And I trust that it may so engage the thoughts upon the wonders of meditation, as will fortify the soul for its high calling in Jesus Christ our Lord.
J. H. Jowett.
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church,
"He went out not knowing whither he went."—Hebrews 11:6-10
Abram began his journey without any knowledge of his ultimate destination. He obeyed a noble impulse without any discernment of its consequences. He took "one step," and he did not "ask to see the distant scene." And that is faith, to do God's will here and now, quietly leaving the results to Him. Faith is not concerned with the entire chain; its devoted attention is fixed upon the immediate link. Faith is not knowledge of a moral process; it is fidelity in a moral act. Faith leaves something to the Lord; it obeys His immediate commandment and leaves to Him direction and destiny.
And so faith is accompanied by serenity. "He that believeth shall not make haste"—or, more literally, "shall not get into a fuss." He shall not get into a panic, neither fetching fears from his yesterdays nor from his to-morrows. Concerning his yesterdays faith says, "Thou hast beset me behind." Concerning his to-morrows faith says, "Thou hast beset me before." Concerning his today faith says, "Thou hast laid Thine hand upon me." That is enough, just to feel the pressure of the guiding hand.
And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven!" The tent was changed for the sky! Abraham sat moodily in his tent: God brought him forth beneath the stars. And that is always the line of the Divine leading. He brings us forth out of our small imprisonments and He sets our feet in a large place. He desires for us height and breadth of view. For "as the heavens are high above the earth" so are His thoughts higher than our thoughts, and His ways than our ways. He wishes us, I say, to exchange the tent for the sky, and to live and move in great, spacious thoughts of His purposes and will.
How is it with our love? Is it a thing of the tent or of the sky? Does it range over mighty spaces seeking benedictions for a multitude? Or does it dwell in selfish seclusion, imprisoned in merely selfish quest? How is it with our prayers? How big are they? Will a tent contain them, or do they move with the scope and greatness of the heavens? Do they just contain our own families, or is China in them, and India, and "the uttermost parts of the earth"? "Look now towards the heavens!" Such must be our outlook if we are the companions of God.
I will establish My covenant." The good promises of God are never revoked. They are like springs which know no shrinking in times of drought. Nay, in time of drought they reveal a richer fulness. The promises are confirmed in the hour of my need, and the greater my need the greater is my bounty. And so it was that the Apostle Paul came to "rejoice in his infirmities," for through his infirmities he discovered the riches of Divine grace. He brought a bigger pitcher to the fountain, and he always carried it away full. "As thy days so shall thy strength be."
So I need never fear that the promise of yesterday will exhaust itself before tomorrow. God's covenant goes with us like the ever-fresh waters of the wilderness. "They drank of that rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." Every fulfilment of God's promise is the pledge of one to come.
God has no road without its springs. If His path stretches across the waste wilderness the "fountains shall break out in the desert," and "the wilderness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
I appeared unto Abraham... I will be to you a God." The covenant made with the father was renewed to the children. The father's death did not disannul the promise of the Lord. Death has no power in the realms of grace. His moth and his rust can never destroy the ministries of Divine love. Abraham died and was laid to rest, but the river of life flowed on, and the bounties of the Lord never failed. The village well quenches the thirst of many generations: and so is it through the generations with the wells of grace and salvation. The villagers have not to dig a new well when the patriarch dies: "the river of God is full of water."
And thus I am privileged to share the spiritual resources of Abraham, and the still richer resources of the Apostle Paul. Nothing was given to him that is withheld from me. He is like a great mountaineer, and he has climbed to lofty heights; but I need not be dismayed. All the strength that was given to him, in which he reached those lofty places, is mine also. I may share his elevation and his triumph. "For the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off."
1 Peter 1:1-9
An inheritance incorruptible." I am writing these words in the Island of Arran. Tomorrow I shall leave the land behind, but I shall take the landscape with me! It will be with me in the coming winter, and I shall gaze upon Goat Fell in the streets of New York. The land is a temporary possession, the landscape abides!
The praise of men often dies with the shout that proclaims it. Another idol appears and the feverish worship is transferred to him. The world's garland begins to fade as soon as it is laid upon the brow. The morning after the coronation I possess a handful of withering leaves. But the garland of God's praise acquires new grace and beauty with the years. It is never so fresh and flourishing as just when everything else is fading away. It is glorious in the hour of death! The soul goes, wearing her garland, into the presence of the gracious Lord who gave it.
We can begin even now to wear the flowers of Paradise. We can begin even now to furnish our minds with lovely thoughts and memories. We can have "the mind of Christ."
Count your blessings!" Yes, but over what area shall I look for them? There is my personal life. Let me search in every corner. I have found forget-me-nots on many a rutty road. I have found wild-roses behind a barricade of nettles. Professor Miall has a lecture on "The Botany of a Railway Station." He found something graceful and exquisite in the midst of its soot and grime. So I must look even in the dark patches of life, among my disappointments and defeats, and even there I shall find tokens of the Lord's presence, some flowers of His planting.
And there is my share in the life of the nation. "Ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen." There are hands that stretch out to me from past days, laden with bequests of privilege and freedom. Our feet "stand in a large place," and the place was cleared by the fidelity and the courage of the men of old. I have countless blessings that were bought with blood. The red marks of sacrifice are over all my daily ways. Let me not take the inheritance and overlook the blood marks, and stride about as though it were nought but common ground. Mercies abound on every hand! "Count your blessings!"
Thou hast performed Thy words: for Thou art righteous." Frances Ridley Havergal kept a journal of mercies. She had a record book, and she crowded it with her remembrances of God's goodness. She was always on the look-out for tokens of the Lord's grace and bounty, and she found them everywhere. Everywhere she had communion with a covenant-keeping God. The Bible became to her more and more the history of her own life and experience. Promise after promise told the story of her own triumphs. She appropriated the goodness of God, and she set her own seal to the testimony that God is true.
Many a complaining life would be changed into music and song by a journal of mercies. Many a fear can be dispersed by a ready remembrance. Memory can be made the handmaid of hope. Yesterday's blessing can kindle the courage of today. That is the purposed ministry of "the days that have been." We are to harness the strength of their experiences to the tasks and burdens of today; and in the remembrance of God's providences we shall march through our difficulties with singing.
1 Kings 8:54-62
There hath not failed one word of all His good promise." Supposing one word had failed, how then? If one golden promise had turned out to be counterfeit, how then? If the ground had yielded anywhere we should have been fearful and suspicious at every part of the road. If the bell of God's fidelity had been broken anywhere the music would have been destroyed. But not one word has failed. The road has never given way in time of flood. Every bell of heaven is perfectly sound, and the music is full and glorious. "God is faithful, who also will do it."
"God is love," and "love never faileth." The lamp will not die out at the midnight. The fountain will not fail us in the wilderness. The consolations will not be wanting in the hour of our distresses. Love will have "all things ready." "He has promised, and shall He not do it?" All the powers of heaven are pledged to the fulfilment of the smallest word of grace. We can never be deserted! "God cannot deny Himself." Every word of His will unburden its treasure at the appointed hour, and I shall be rich with the strength of my God.
There is nothing more divisive than wealth. As families grow rich their members frequently become alienated. It is rarely, indeed, that love increases with the increase of riches. Luxurious possessions appear to be a forcing-bed in which the seeds of sleeping vices waken into strength. For one thing, selfishness is often quickened with success. Plenty, as well as penury, can "freeze the genial currents of the soul." And with selfishness comes a whole brood of mean and petty dispositions. Envy comes with it, and jealousy, and a morbid sensitiveness which readily leaps into strife.
So do our possessions multiply our temptations. So does the bright day "bring forth the adder." So do we need extra defences when "fortune smiles upon us." But our God can make us proof against "the fiery darts" of success. Abram remained unscathed in "the garish day." The Lord delivered him from "the destruction that wasteth at noonday." His wealth increased, but it was not allowed to force itself between his soul and God. In the midst of all his prosperity, he dwelt in "the secret place of the Most High," and he abode in "the shadow of the Almighty."
Look at Lot. He was a man of the world, sharp as a needle, having an eye to the main chance. He boasted to himself that he always "took in the whole situation." He said that what he did not know was not worth knowing. But such "knowing" men have always very imperfect sight. Lot saw "all the well-watered plain of Jordan," but he overlooked the city of Sodom and its exceedingly wicked and sinful people. And the thing he overlooked was the biggest thing in the outlook! It was to prove his undoing, and to bring his presumptuous selfishness to the ground.
Look at Abram. His spirit was cool and thoughtful, unheated by the feverish yearning after increased possessions. He had a "quiet eye," the fruit of his faithful communion with God. He was more intent on peace than plenty. He preferred fraternal fellowship to selfish increase. And so he chose the unselfish way, and along that way he discovered the blessing of God. "The Lord is mindful of His own. He remembereth His children." In the unselfish way we always enjoy the Divine companionship, and in that companionship we are endowed with inconceivable wealth.