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airIam2worship
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Early In The Morning I Will Praise The Lord


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« on: September 01, 2006, 01:29:58 PM »

A Devotional Commentary on the Gospels

Arranged for family devotions, for every day in the year.
By Favell Lee Mortimer (1802—1878)

This book is a clear, sweet and practical commentary on the life of Christ. It is intended for reading during family worship, or for personal devotional reading. Though it has some theological flaws which we do not endorse, in the main it is very profitable and Christ-centered. This book may be used with children as young as six or seven. Adults will find it to be both challenging and comforting.

    Can there be any account in the world so interesting to us as the history of our Lord and Savior, while he spent thirty-three years upon earth? There were people with him who heard his sayings and observed his actions. Four holy men, as you are aware, wrote accounts of his life. It might well be supposed that these histories would not contradict each other, for they were all true. But the writers not only wrote what they knew to be true—the Holy Spirit instructed them what to relate. They were inspired of God. When we read their writings, we read the words of God himself. With what reverence should we attend! As some of these four Evangelists related one event, and some related another, it is interesting to place their accounts together, endeavoring to observe, as well as we can, the order of time in which the events occurred. Such an arrangement is called a "Harmony of the gospels."

    We shall begin with the words of John, because he speaks of Jesus before he came into the world, even when he was with his Father in heaven. We shall find that the Son of God made the world. He did not appear in it as a man, until four thousand years had rolled away; but long before he came, he was promised by God, and described by the prophets, such as Moses, David, Isaiah, and many others—of whom Malachi was the last.

    At length he appeared, and fulfilled all that had been said of Him.

    Let us read of Him, as of one that came into the world to save us. Everything that concerns him is of the greatest importance to us; for if we do not believe on him, and love him above all, we shall perish forever. Let us, therefore, always before we read, lift up our hearts to God in prayer. "O Lord, grant unto us your Holy Spirit, that our souls may be saved by the knowledge of your blessed Son!"

    We shall not always meet together to worship God as we do now. A day will come when each of us will unite with the rest in reading and prayer for the last time.

    But if we believe in Jesus, we shall not part forever. We shall meet again in Heaven. Then how delightful it will be to look back upon the time, when as one family, we used to assemble to hear about our beloved Lord. Many hours which we spent below may then be remembered with regret; but not those precious moments devoted to hearing about Him, whose presence will make us happy through eternity!


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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2006, 01:31:16 PM »

SEPTEMBER 1

John 12:34-36. Christ exhorts the people to believe while they have the light.

While ministers are preaching, their hearers are often answering them in their own minds. Satan never fails to suggest objections against the truth to all who are willing to listen to his whispers. He did not fail to attempt to extinguish the light of the truth when Jesus held it up. When those affecting words were pronounced, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me," the people, instead of receiving the truth, objected, saying, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abides ever; and how say you, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up;' who is this Son of Man?" This objection was not urged in a right spirit. If it had been meekly proposed, the gentlest of Teachers would have solved the difficulty. He could easily have explained it by saying, "The Son of man will be lifted up on the cross—then rise to live forever." The people were right in saying that the law had declared that Christ abides ever, because it is written in Ps. 41, "You set him before your face forever;" but they were wrong in the conclusion they drew. How diffident and humble we ought to be when we speak on divine subjects! Our understandings are so feeble, that we fall into mistakes continually. Our only hope of obtaining wisdom is by waiting with meekness on Jesus to be taught—"He will guide the meek in judgment."

Instead of answering the cavils of the people, the Lord gave them a solemn warning. He saw with sorrow that they were wasting the little time during which they would enjoy his instructions. Therefore he said, "Yet a little while is the light with you." They knew not how very little while that light would shine. If these words were uttered on the day of our Lord's arrival in Jerusalem, (that is, on Sunday evening,) then there remained only three days more for him to teach, and for the people to learn. On Thursday it appears all classes were engaged in preparing the Passover, and on Friday in gazing on the crucified Savior. After that day none saw him but his own disciples. He taught the people no more.

Who can tell how long he may retain the light he now enjoys? A child who has a godly parent knows not how soon that parent may die, and how soon the voice may cease that now prays so often with him, and so much oftener for him! There are many who would tremble if they knew how shortly their only opportunity of salvation will end.

A minister who was preaching on the words, "Seek the Lord while he may be found," observed, "There may be some here who, if I had preached tomorrow instead of today, would then have been in that place where, if they sought the Lord, they would not find him."

A farmer's laborer was deeply impressed by the sermon, and sought the Lord that very night. The next morning, as he was with his horses in the field, one grew restive, and, in rearing, struck him with the iron harrow on the temple, so that he died. Had that man delayed to seek the Lord but one day more, he would have been forever in darkness. With what feelings must lost spirits remember the last opportunity they neglected, the last sermon they disregarded, the last conviction they suppressed!



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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2006, 01:32:09 PM »



September 2

John 12:37-41. Some refuse to believe.

"He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts." These words have perplexed many minds. Does a merciful God blind the eyes of his creatures? We thought it was He who took away the heart of stone, and gave the heart of flesh. And so it is. All good comes from him, and nothing but good. But it is good to inflict righteous judgment, and there is a sin for which blindness is a righteous judgment. When men love darkness rather than light, and obstinately refuse to come to the light, at length God blinds their eyes. For what use is sight to those who abide in darkness? Jesus came a light into the world; but there were many whose deeds were evil, and who refused to come to the light, lest their deeds should be made manifest. It was these whose eyes were blinded, and whose hearts were hardened, so that they could not see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts. The dayspring from on high visited them, to guide their feet into the way of peace, through the tender mercy of their God—but they turned away from the glorious light—from that light which fills all heaven with joy. How it must have astonished angels to see men turn away from the Son of God!

Isaiah once beheld his glory in the temple. He beheld the Lord Jehovah sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, attended by the seraphim, who cried one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with his glory." This was the glory that Isaiah saw. The apostles also saw the glory of the Son of Man; but it was displayed in a different manner. They beheld one clothed in flesh, yet possessed of divine power—they saw him suffering insults and injuries, and yet conferring benefits, and promising blessings. The glory of the Son of God did not shine more brightly from his heavenly throne than it did through the veil of a human form.

But the blind in heart could not behold this glory. None saw it but those whose eyes God had opened. There is no calamity so great as to be blind to the glory of the Redeemer. When we see a very enchanting sight, then it is that we pity the blind. When we look upon the beauties of the opening spring, or the splendor of the setting sun, then we feel compassion for those who can never be cheered by such lovely sights. When we behold the countenance of a dearly-beloved friend, a parent, or a child, then, above all, we feel for those who can never be delighted by seeing the objects of their fondest affections.

And when is it the Christian feels most for the blind world? When he contemplates the glories of his Savior, when he meditates upon his power, and faithfulness, and love, and thinks that there are men who never beheld these glories—who never will behold them—who do not desire to behold them. Though the wicked shall see the Son of man come with power and great glory at the last day, yet they shall never comprehend his greatest glory—which is his goodness. Moses once prayed, and said, "Lord, I beseech you show me your glory;" and God answered, "I will make all my goodness pass before you." And then he proclaimed his name as the merciful, gracious, patience God, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. This is the glory which believers behold with so much satisfaction, but which unbelievers cannot see. In another world they will feel the power of God, and, like the devils, tremble beneath its weight—but they will never, never know the God of love.

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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2006, 01:33:05 PM »



September 3

John 12:42, 43. Many who believe, refuse to confess Christ.

It is very profitable to observe what temptations have overcome men in past times. None can estimate the force of temptation, excepting those who are actually under its influence. Even those temptations by which we ourselves have once been overcome, appear feeble and insignificant when we are removed from their power. We have read of a young ruler who refused to follow Christ because he had great possessions. Now we read of many rulers who refused to confess him, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. What various reasons men have for not doing the will of God! But there is not one of all those reasons that will appear a strong one at the last day. "We cannot," thought these rulers, "confess that Jesus is the Son of God, lest we should be put out of the synagogue." There was a beggar born blind who endured the trial; why could not they endure it? When he was cast out, the Son of God found him and revealed himself unto him. Had those rulers acted as he did, they would have been comforted as he was. One word from the Son of God could impart more peace to the heart than the plaudits of a whole multitude, or the praise of the whole Sanhedrin. But it appeared to these rulers an insupportable calamity to be put out of the synagogue. Not to be allowed to approach within an arm's length of any person, or to eat and drink with any for thirty days, was a trial they would not encounter. Then if, at the end of thirty days, they continued to confess Christ, a curse would be pronounced on them in the midst of the congregation, accompanied by the extinguishing of lights, and the sounding of trumpets. Then would follow destitution, and desolation, and disgrace. They would be deprived of their property, forbidden to hire or to be hired, to buy or to sell, to teach or be taught; when they died stones would be cast at their coffin, and none would follow them to the grave.

These things were sufficient to terrify a human heart; but yet what were they all, compared to the woes God will inflict on the unbelieving and the fearful! Not to be permitted to approach our fellow-mortals is not so dreadful as to be separated from saints and angels and God and Christ forever and ever. The sudden darkness in the synagogue, and the clangor of trumpets, could not be as appalling as the darkness of the sun at noonday, and the sound of the last trumpet!

But though these rulers believed that Jesus was the Christ, they did not believe with the heart. They did not love him. They loved men more than God; therefore they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. It is possible that a true believer may be tempted to deny his Lord—but then he will not continue in the sin. Peter denied Christ; but one "kind upbraiding glance" brought him to repentance, and made him go out and weep bitterly. These rulers were not like Peter. They could bear to see their companions insult the Lord day after day, and yet never take his part—they could bear to hear them plotting his death, and yet be silent. They were content to be on good terms with his enemies, and not to be counted among his friends. Could they have done this had they loved him? O no! had they loved him they would, on some occasion, have betrayed their feelings. Nicodemus could not sit in the Sanhedrin and hear the Lord calumniated. He exclaimed, "Does our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he does?" and thus he brought upon himself the derision of the assembly. Could an affectionate son hear his father insulted day after day, and never show by word or look how deeply he was wounded!

Perhaps we never hear men speak openly against Jesus himself. But do we not meet with many who speak against his laws and his people? It is before such persons that we are called upon to confess him. If we do not seem to approve of worldly amusements, if we show an attachment to truly religious people, if we refuse to smile at sin, and to admire what the world admires, the enemies of Christ will hate and despise us. Are we willing to bear their hatred and contempt for our dear Master's sake? Is Christ's approbation dearer to us than the world's admiration? These are signs that we love the Lord, and that he loves us; and that he will confess us when he comes in his glory with all his holy angels.


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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2006, 12:01:29 AM »

September 4

John 12:44 to end. Christ declares himself to be the light of the world.

The most glorious light that ever shone upon this world was now about to set. While his beams were still visible, a voice was heard saying, "I am come a light into this world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness." This is the last invitation to an unbelieving world recorded as uttered by our Lord before his crucifixion. We know that he preached the gospel daily during the short remainder of his life of suffering; but we are not informed what other invitations he made; though we are informed of many parables he related, of many answers he gave, and of many warnings he uttered.

What infinite love breathed in this invitation! Jesus came a light into the world, not for his own happiness, but that whoever believed in him should not abide in darkness. He had beheld the world lying in darkness; he had pitied their dreadful state—and had consented to penetrate the dismal recesses of their abode, that he might bring to them the light of life.

How gloomy this world of sin must appear when viewed from those sunny heights where the saints abide! But darkness is not only gloomy, it is unwholesome. Plants cannot grow in the dark. It is only the boughs that drink in the light of day, that bring forth leaves and fruit. The flowers turn their lovely heads to the sun, and every branch bends forward to meet its rays. As soon as the infant has strength to open its tender eyelids it begins to seek the light. Those poor babes who are reared in dark alleys show by their pale and sickly looks that they have been deprived of the light that makes the whole creation bloom and rejoice. Darkness is dangerous as well as unwholesome. The traveler in the desert, if he is benighted, is exposed to pitfalls and wild beasts. The prince of the power of the air exercises his power in darkness; there he lays his snares; there he watches for his prey.

It was to relieve men in this deplorable state that the Son of God was manifested. He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person; therefore he said, "Whoever sees me sees him that sent me." The King eternal, immortal, invisible, dwells in light which no man can approach unto; but his Son was veiled with flesh, and sent forth into the world clothed in such mild beams that men could approach him. But if men still loved darkness rather than light, if they shut their eyes upon the Sun of righteousness, and retired farther into their dark retreats, what would become of them at last! The words which Jesus spoke would judge them at the last day. That word, "I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness," that very word will judge all those who, having heard it, have not come unto the light. For when Jesus comes again he will not save the world. He will only save his people, and he will judge the world. All the invitations which the world have received are recorded, and will be brought forward at the last day. They may forget the sermons they have heard, the chapters they have read; they may forget the faithful expostulations of their pious friends, and the fervent prayers of their fond parents, but God does not forget them; for all these means of grace were arranged by Him in his eternal counsels with his Son. He determined what they should hear, and He observes how they hear. The sinner's heart will thrill with terror when his Judge inquires, "Why did you not come unto me? Then you might have had light. Why did you abide in darkness?" What reason can a sinner give for abiding even one day in darkness, when light is come into the world? There is not a single soul who hears this invitation who might not enjoy light this very hour, if he would but lift up his heart to the Savior of the world with this earnest cry, "Enlighten my darkness, O light of life."


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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2006, 12:02:36 AM »

September 5

Mark 11:11-19. Christ curses the barren fig-tree.

Such is the history of the manner in which our Lord spent one of the last days before his death. It was, as we believe, on Sunday that he entered with triumph into Jerusalem. On the evening of that day Mark records that he looked round about on all things, and then went to Bethany with the twelve. And what did those holy eyes behold when they looked round about upon the temple? They must have looked upon the smoking sacrifices, upon the burning lights, and upon the white-robed priests. But these sights cannot have imparted joy to the Savior's heart; for he knew how those sacred ordinances were profaned by an unbelieving nation.

How sweet must the calm of Bethany have seemed after the tumult of Jerusalem! That lovely village, embosomed among the fruitful trees that adorned the foot of Olivet, contained some of the Lord's most devoted followers. Whether he spent the night in solitary prayer on the mountain, or whether he slept beneath the roof of some beloved disciple, we know not. However engaged, he was hid from the pursuit of his enemies. For it is said in John's Gospel concerning this period, "These things spoke Jesus and departed, and did hide himself from them." (12:30.)

On the morning of the next day, (which, we believe, was Monday,) the Lord again repaired to the scene of labor and conflict, to the temple at Jerusalem. The distance was about one mile and a half, and the way lay through a fertile valley, close by the Garden of Gethsemane, and over the brook Kidron. As the Savior walked he was hungry; for he had probably left Bethany at an early hour, and without taking refreshment. His hunger reminds us that he had a body like our own, and was subject to all our infirmities except sin. It was at this moment he beheld a fig-tree having leaves, and he approached it, but, finding no fruit upon it, he cursed it, saying, "No man eat fruit of you hereafter forever." There is one thing in this account which it is difficult to understand. Mark observes, "The time of figs was not yet." It is natural to inquire, "Why did the Savior expect to find figs before the season was arrived?" This difficulty has been explained. There is a kind of fig-tree which always has leaves, and always bears fruit. The common sort of fig-trees in the early spring neither bear leaves nor fruit. When our Lord beheld afar a fig-tree having LEAVES, he knew it must be of the kind that bears fruit at all times; and when he found none, he cursed it for its barrenness.

But surely there must have been some deep meaning in this action; for a tree can neither deserve cursing nor blessing. It must have been to teach his apostles who then heard his words, and us who now hear them, that Jesus cursed the tree. This tree afforded an apt emblem of the Jewish nation. The leaves of a tree drink in air and moisture, and promote its strength and fruitfulness. The sacred privileges bestowed on the Jews may be compared to leaves. But when the Son of God came looking for fruit, he found none—no repentance—no faith—no love—no holiness—for though there were a few who believed, the nation, as a nation, believed not. He did not expect fruit from the Gentiles, for the time of figs was not yet come with them; but he had a right to expect much from those to whom he had given much.

When he entered the temple again that day, he found the buyers and sellers engaged in their profane traffic. It seems, from this account, that after having been driven away the evening before, they had returned to their old practices, and that the Son of man showed his power again in casting them out.

Jesus passed the day in teaching the people, while maliciously observed by the scribes and chief priests. And, when evening was come, he went out of the city, and sought again to hide himself from his enemies in his favorite retreat. Thus closed another of his few remaining days of sorrow. It seemed as if he spent his strength for nothing, and in vain; but his judgment was with the Lord, and his work with his God. (Is. 49:4.)

Do those who labor for our souls, whether they be ministers or friends, look in vain for fruit? May the Savior's dreadful sentence prove a warning to us. God can say to a man, as well as to a tree, "Let no man eat fruit of you hereafter forever." Is there anyone who could bear the prospect of never being a blessing throughout all the ages of eternity? Even those who are useless and hurtful now, hope that they shall one day be different. But opportunities are rapidly passing away. The trees, that are now bearing the lovely fruits of praise and holiness in the paradise above, began to bring forth fruit unto God when upon earth. Even that malefactor whose Christian course lasted but an hour or two, brought forth good fruit in his believing prayer to Jesus, and in his faithful reproof of his fellow-sufferer; while the aged apostle Paul was like a tree whose boughs are pressed to the earth under the weight of a fragrant and delicious load. Have we begun to bear heavenly fruit? If not, when shall we begin? Let us not delay—we cannot tell how soon God may fix our state forever.


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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2006, 12:03:39 AM »



September 6

Mark 11:20-26. Christ and his disciples pass by the withered fig-tree.

After having passed the night in Bethany, the Redeemer, with his little band, left his retreat to resume his labors in Jerusalem. In the course of their walk a very impressive object met their sight. It was the fig-tree that had been cursed the morning before. On passing by the fig-tree in the evening, the darkness must have prevented the apostles from seeing it; but the morning light revealed its withered state. Peter called the attention of his Lord to the circumstance, by saying, "Master, behold the fig-tree which you cursed has withered away." From this remark we are led to conclude that the curse pronounced by the Lord did not produce an immediate effect upon the tree, but caused it gradually to consume and to perish. The apostles, who knew the reason for its withered state, must have looked upon it with feelings of awe and astonishment. They had never before seen such a display of their Lord's power. They had seen life bestowed by his word, but never had they seen even the life of a tree TAKEN AWAY. Had the Son of God exercised his power as he might have done, his enemies had long before been blasted by the breath of his nostrils—for it is God who kills, as well as makes alive. But he refrained from executing judgment, for He came to draw sinners to himself by the riches of his goodness, and not to appall them by the terrors of his hand. But it was well that his apostles should have proof that he could destroy his enemies. They would soon be exposed to a tremendous trial of faith. They would behold their Master apparently overpowered by men. The remembrance of the fig-tree ought to have convinced them in that terrible hour that he could have dried up the arms stretched out to take him, and struck mute the tongues that rose in judgment against him.

Nor was it Jesus alone who had power to subdue his enemies. He promised similar power to his apostles, even power to wither fig-trees and remove mountains. Matthew thus records the Lord's answer—"Verily I say unto you, if you have faith and doubt not, you shall not only do that which is done unto the fig-tree, but also if you shall say unto this mountain, 'Be removed, and be cast into the sea,' it shall be done." Matthew 21:26. It is evident that trees and mountains represent the difficulties and trials of the Christian life. By faith they may be overcome. The apostle Paul triumphed over the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, and through faith learned to take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses, for Christ's sake, because he found the grace of God sufficient for him. (2 Cor. 12:10.)

It is by believing prayer that such victories are attained. Therefore the Lord gave his apostles some directions concerning prayer. He knew they were going to spend another day exposed to the malice of wicked men, and he warned them against cherishing an unforgiving spirit, by saying, "When you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any—that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." There are few who are not sometimes injured or insulted. It is not enough for us to endeavor to banish the thoughts of our enemies from our minds, we must think of them for the purpose of asking, "Have I forgiven them?" We must mention them in prayer as objects for whom we especially desire mercy. One who has himself been forgiven by God will be enabled to forgive others. The spirit of revenge may arise occasionally in his heart; but the remembrance of what has passed between Jesus and his own soul will quench the vindictive feeling, and will make him desire to meet even his enemies in glory, and to live with them forever in love.


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« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2006, 12:04:54 AM »


September 7

Matthew 21:23-32. The Elders question Christ concerning his authority.

We are now beginning to read the account of the last two days of our Lord's public ministry—the Tuesday and Wednesday before his death. There are very ample records of the conversations he held on those days. None who heard him, knew that he would so soon cease to speak on earth; but we know that these were his last warnings.

Early in the morning he arrived as usual at Jerusalem, having conversed with his disciples on the way concerning the withered fig-tree, and the power of faith and prayer. He found his enemies much enraged against him, both on account of his words and his doings. They had witnessed the buyers and sellers, at his command, leaving their accustomed posts. The sight was a reproach to those who had so long allowed the profanation of the house of prayer. Having consulted together, they proposed a question which they imagined he could not answer without furnishing them with a new accusation against him—"By what authority do you these things?" If he should reply, "By the authority of God," then they resolved to accuse him of blasphemy; and if he said, "By my own," of rebellion. But the wisdom of the Lord easily confounded the cunning of men. He answered by proposing a question they could not answer. Therefore they were compelled to reply that they did not know whether John the Baptist was a true prophet or not. What a confession for teachers of religion to make! All who hear it might naturally conclude that those who did not know whether John were a true prophet, might not know whether Jesus was.

But while his enemies were suffering under the confusion of their defeat, the Lord related a parable, which must have confounded them still more. There were often gathered around the Savior a class of persons whom the Pharisees considered as the dregs and scum of the earth. They were penitents who had once led wicked lives; they were such persons as the rich tax-collector and the weeping sinner. Once they had openly disobeyed the command of their God, and had insolently answered, "I will not;" but afterwards they had repented; while the Pharisees, with all their professions, had never yet really obeyed the will of God. It was easy to say which of these characters was the most guilty. Even if the open transgressors had never repented, they would not have been so wicked in God's sight as the false pretenders to religion. But they had repented, and, therefore, they were fully forgiven, and were as much beloved by God as angels that have never sinned. Their repentance added greatly to the guilt of the Pharisees, for the very sight of these penitents ought to have convinced them of their own need of repentance.

But the proud have no feelings to vent at the feet of Jesus. There is no sin that hardens the heart so much as pride. Open sins, though they expose to shame and misery in this life, sometimes render men more willing to humble themselves before God. A liar, who blushes because of the lies he has told, will, perhaps, listen to the voice of mercy, while the proud truth-speaker rejects it, because he rests upon his integrity. Of all sins let us most beware of pride. It is Satan's first-born. It possesses the wonderful faculty of occupying the space of any other sin which is cast out of the heart. If intemperance be cast out, then pride swells and fills the room that intemperance occupied before. Often pride will arise and by its own strength cast out some other vice, in order that it may have more room to grow in, and more food to feed upon.

Most of all, pride dreads the entrance of the Son of God into the heart. Then it knows its reign will be at an end. How it bars and bolts the doors of the heart, against the rightful owner! Yet Christ has broken through even these bars. Saul of Tarsus was a proud Pharisee, when Jesus spoke to him from heaven; but he became as lowly as that penitent tax-collector, who said, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."



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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2006, 01:25:07 PM »



September 8

Luke 20:9-19. The parable of the rebellious husbandmen in the vineyard.

In this parable the base conduct of the Jewish nation is plainly set forth. When the conduct of men towards God is represented in parables, we perceive its ingratitude and treachery more clearly than we did before. And why? Because there is no being whose claims are so little understood by men, as the claims of God.

Everyone will admit, that the lord of the vineyard had a right to demand a portion of its fruits, as rent, from the husbandmen. But God has a right to all our obedience, and to all our love. To him we owe all we enjoy, or ever can enjoy—indeed the very power of enjoyment comes from him. But how do men behave towards Him? In the same manner that these husbandmen behaved to their lord. They not only refuse to obey God, but are angry with those who reprove their disobedience.

Like these husbandmen, unconverted men become hardened in sin. The husbandmen treated the servants worse and worse. They beat the first servant, shamefully treated the second, and wounded the third. Thus sinners increase in wickedness—for every sin committed and not repented of, prepares for the commission of a greater.

If any of you who have been converted to God, look back upon your days of rebellion, you will perceive that you grew worse. There was some docility in your childhood—some fear of evil in your early youth—which were lost as you grew older. If God had not interfered by his grace, you would, by this time, have reached a higher pitch of iniquity than you ever before attained. There is even in the converted a tendency to return to their former state, and there is need constantly to apply to God for fresh supplies of His Holy Spirit, or, like a wheel upon a sloping bank, they will slide back into their old sins.

When the Savior had concluded the parable, he declared the punishment the lord would inflict on the husbandmen. "He will come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others." This prophecy was intended as a warning to the Jews, who had persecuted the prophets, and were now plotting the death of the Son of God. The people understood that the warning applied to themselves, for they exclaimed, "God forbid." If they had been as anxious to avoid sin as they were to avoid suffering, they would have escaped both. What must have been the expression of his countenance when Jesus looked upon those who had answered, "God forbid;" for it is said, "He beheld them?" It must have been a look that seemed to say, "Your sorrows are nearer than you suppose, and greater than you can bear."

He now changed the figure from a vineyard to a building, and alluded to a passage in Ps. 118, in which it is said, "The stone which the builders refused has become the head-stone of the corner." Great was the folly of the builders who knew not the value of the finest, firmest, most precious stone that had ever been hewn out of a quarry; and great would be their punishment. That stone, while it lay upon the ground, would be a stumbling-block, and those who fell over it would be broken; but it would not always lie upon the ground; it would be exalted, and falling upon the wicked, by the righteous anger of God, would grind them to powder. What does this short parable signify? When Christ was a man upon earth, those who rejected him sinned, yet not beyond the reach of pardon; but when he was exalted to God's right hand, those who continued to reject him perished eternally. The everlasting anger of God is represented by this expression, "It will grind him to powder." That blessed Savior who might, like a stone, be a support and defense, will become, if we refuse to believe in him, the instrument of our destruction. If we build upon him all our hopes for eternity, he will not fail us—but if we neglect him, he will crush us beneath the weight of his righteous indignation.
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2006, 01:29:05 PM »



September 9

Matthew 22:1-14. The parable of the man without a wedding garment.

There is one circumstance concerning this parable which renders it peculiarly solemn. It is the last parable recorded, that our Lord related in public. There are others, which he related to his apostles in private, but there are no more written in the Bible which were spoken in the presence of the chief priests and the multitude.

This parable contains a description of all the different kinds of characters that were assembled round the Lord in the temple. Each of us who hears this parable now, may find in it his own character.

There were some who made light of the invitation to the wedding, and went to their farms and to their merchandise. These persons represent the worldly-minded and the indifferent. The great mass of hearers are of this class. They do not oppose the Gospel by argument; they do not persecute Christians by violence; but they treat serious subjects with levity, and give their hearts and minds to the world. They have various tastes; some are engrossed with business, others with society; some with learning and accomplishments, others with domestic duties and delights—but they all agree on this point,—they neglect the invitations of the Gospel.

There were certain persons described in the parable, who took the servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. These, we know, must represent persecutors, such as the chief priests and scribes. The punishment that would soon be inflicted on the murderers of the Lord was plainly indicated by these words, "But when the king heard thereof, he was angry, and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed these murderers, and burned up their city."

The servants represent prophets, apostles ministers, and teachers, in all ages, who endeavor to persuade sinners to come to Christ.

The guests who accepted the invitation, signify all those who make a profession of religion.

The most remarkable character described in the parable is the man who had not on a wedding garment. It is the custom in the East, when royal feasts are given, to provide each guest with a robe of honor, and it would be considered a great insult, if any of those who came were to refuse to wear it. This man had neglected to put it on. The servants may not have observed the omission, or if they had observed it, they still permitted this rebellious guest to remain seated at the table. But when the KING came in to see the guests, he immediately expostulated with the transgressor. And what answer did the man return? What excuse did he make? None. He was speechless. Now every sinner has many excuses to offer for his transgressions, but he will not be able to bring them forward when he stands before the Son of God.

The wedding garment signifies that righteousness which Christ has promised to bestow on all who believe in him; it is the linen clean and white, spoken of in the Book of Revelation, (19:Cool—it is the righteousness which is by faith of Jesus Christ. Every one might obtain this precious gift. It is offered to all. To refuse this gift is an insult to the King of kings. Are there any here who venture to appear before God in their own righteousness—in that righteousness which the prophet Isaiah compares to "filthy rags?" Are there any who know not they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and who will not ask for the white clothing that Jesus offers to bestow? (64:6.) You may escape the observation of your fellow-guests,—you may elude the vigilance of the servants—but when the KING comes in to see the guests, you will be detected and cast out. All our religion will prove utterly worthless, if we stop short of true faith and real conversion. That unhappy man might as well have stayed away altogether from the feast, as have come there without a wedding garment. He would have had less trouble—less disappointment—less shame—and perhaps less weeping; for of all the lost, surely none will weep so bitterly as those who imagined to the last they were going to heaven.

 
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2006, 12:57:55 PM »



September 10

Matthew 22:15-22. Christ replies to the Pharisees and Herodians respecting paying tribute.

Full of Satanic are and Satanic malice, the Pharisees approached the Lord, to ask him a question which they imagined he could not answer without exposing himself to danger. It was this. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" Caesar was the Roman emperor who had conquered the Jewish nation. Could there be any doubt whether it was right to pay tribute or taxes to the monarch who ruled over them? There could be none, because God has commanded submission to rulers. But the Pharisees understood the law of God so ill, that they considered it was wrong to submit to a heathen governor. This was a false notion. It is true the Jews would never have been conquered by the heathen if they had been faithful to God; but being conquered, it was their duty to submit. We read in the prophet Ezekiel, that the Lord was once angry with the Jews for breaking their covenant with the king of Babylon. (Ez. 17:15.) The Pharisees did not venture openly to express their rebellious thoughts, for fear of incurring the displeasure of the Romans; yet they were so base as to wish to induce the Lord to endanger his life by uttering the very sentiments which they inwardly approved. In this malicious design they were assisted by the Herodians. These persons were called Herodians after Herod, the governor the Romans had appointed. They were not only willing to submit to the Romans in lawful, but also in unlawful matters. If the Roman governor gave a command contrary to the law of God, they would obey the governor and disobey God. We perceive, therefore, that the Pharisees and the Herodians had fallen into opposite errors. But the Lord's answer was like a two-edged sword. When Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," he reproved the secret notions of the Pharisees, and when he said, "Render to God the things that are God's," he reproved the avowed doctrine of the Herodians.

It is interesting to observe how the attempts of man to perplex the Son of God only drew forth new treasures of wisdom from his lips! How valuable is this rule, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's!" It shows us that though all things belong to God, yet that some are more peculiarly his own. There are certain rights which God has given to kings. These rights we must render to them. Parents have certain claims upon their children, and children upon their parents. God does not require parents to neglect their children in order that they may devote all their time to his worship. It was very sinful in the Jews to refuse to support their aged parents, and to bring the money they ought to have bestowed on them to the priests, saying, "It is Corban, or a gift." (Mark 7:11.)

But if it is sinful not to render unto men the things which (by God's appointment) belong to men, how much more sinful it must be not to render unto God the things that belong to God? Yet it is in this point that we are the most negligent. The world thinks it but a slight fault to neglect their Creator. How many parents there are who render to their children the love that is due to them, but who render no love to God! There are children to be found who honor their parents, but who dishonor God; servants who obey their masters, but who disobey God; masters who act justly towards their servants, but deceitfully towards God; brothers and sisters who live in harmony with each other, but at enmity with God. Such persons may say, "I have done my duty; I have done nobody any harm." But what will God say to them? Will he not remember that they have trampled upon His rights? Will not broken Sabbaths, heartless prayers, neglected Bibles, rise up to condemn them? God has greater claims upon us than any other being can have. He created man in his image, bestowing upon him a reasonable soul and an immortal spirit. Therefore we are God's, because we bear his image, as the tribute money bore the image of Caesar. But God has not only created us; he has redeemed us. When Satan had taken us captive, Christ redeemed us with his precious blood, and now he says to each of us, "You are not your own; you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20.) Have we given ourselves to the Redeemer? Is it our chief desire to do his will and to promote his glory? Or do we ungratefully spurn his authority, seeking our own pleasure and doing our own will?


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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2006, 12:59:08 PM »



September 11

Luke 20:27-38. Christ replies to the Sadducees respecting the resurrection.

Here is another instance of precious truth being uttered in answer to frivolous questions. What light is thrown upon the eternal state by these two sentences! "They are equal to the angels! All live to him."

The Sadducees did not believe that there would be any resurrection of the dead, because they did not understand how it could be. When they applied to Jesus they described a case which might have occurred under the Jewish law. The land of Canaan was divided into small inheritances. If a man died without a child to succeed him, God enjoined that his brother should marry the widow, and that if a child were born, he should succeed to the property of the deceased brother, and be considered as his heir. The Sadducees imagined that they had proposed a difficulty that the Lord could not solve; but by a word he exposed their folly. He declared that departed saints are "equal to the angels of God." Angels are not divided into families as men are; and glorified saints will not be connected in heaven with the relations they had upon earth. They will have connections, but not of an earthly kind. The pastor will rejoice to find again the flock he fed below. As Paul says to his converts, (1 Thess. 2:19,) "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" The godly parent will find himself united in spiritual bonds to the children who were born the second time, in answer to his fervent supplications. The friends who bore each other's spiritual burdens up the hill of Zion, will walk together by the waters of life that gladden the city of their God. Spiritual bonds can never be dissolved. Now is the time to multiply these bonds. Some who knew upon earth few of the sweet ties of kindred will be bound by numerous sacred everlasting ties in heaven.

But Christ knew that the Sadducees denied not only the resurrection of the body, but the immortality of the spirit. Therefore he brought forward a proof of the eternal life of the pious dead; and he brought it out of those five books of Moses, in which alone the Sadducees professed to believe. God would not have said to Moses, when he spoke from the burning bush, "I am the God of Abraham," if Abraham had ceased to exist.

How glorious is the idea that all the saints are actually in existence! All those holy men whom we have read of in the Scriptures, all whom we have heard of, all whom we have known and loved,—they LIVE. They not only live; but are equal to the angels. We delight to think of our absent living friends, to imagine how they are now engaged, to hope they sometimes think of us, and will some day return to us; but while we are indulging these tender thoughts, they may be in pain and trouble; they may be entangled in sin, and wandering far from God. But with what confidence may we think of the pious dead! When we hear the sweetest strains of music, we may think, "Those sounds give but faint ideas of their feelings, as they pass from bliss to bliss." But though we know not the degree of their happiness, Jesus did. He had but lately left the blessed company above, and now he was going to die that they might live on forever, and that their number might continually increase. Once Abel was the only redeemed saint in heaven, but at length there shall be a multitude that no man can number, who will join in Abel's song, and say, "Salvation to our God, which sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Rev. 7:10.)

Ten thousand times ten thousand sung
Loud anthems round the throne,
When lo! one solitary tongue
Began a song unknown;
A song unknown to angel ears,
A song that told of banished fears,
Of pardoned sins, and dried up tears.
Not one of all the heavenly host
Could those high notes attain,
But spirits from a distant coast
United in the strain;
Until he who first began the song
(To sing alone not suffered long)
Was mingled with a countless throng.
And still as hours are fleeting by
The angels ever bear
Some newly-ransomed soul on high
To join the chorus there;
And so the song will louder grow,
Until all whom Christ redeemed below
To that fair world of rapture go.
O give me, Lord, my golden harp,
And tune my broken voice,
That I may sing of troubles sharp,
Exchanged for endless joys;
The song that never was heard before
A sinner reached the heavenly shore,
But now shall sound for evermore.


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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2006, 01:00:05 PM »



September 12

Mark 12:28-34. Christ replies to a Scribe concerning the greatest commandment.

It is not surprising that the Scribes admired the Lord's answer to the Sadducees, because they believed in the resurrection. They showed their admiration by exclaiming, "You have well said." Yet they did not give up the hope of entangling the divine Teacher by questions; and one of them made this inquiry, "Which is the first commandment of all?" The Scribes often disputed with each other on this subject, and some asserted that to offer a certain sacrifice, and others that to keep a certain fast, or to repeat certain prayers, or to bestow certain alms, was the service the most acceptable to God. How much the Lord's reply must have surprised them! Instead of selecting any one command as greater than the rest, he pointed to the root of all acceptable obedience, Love. He made only one distinction, and that was with regard to the objects towards whom love is to be exercised. These objects are "God and man;" and as God is infinitely greater than man, love to Him must be infinitely more important than love to man. Yet where love to God is found, love to man will always follow; but it will be a love very different from that selfish, capricious, and partial love which unconverted men feel for their friends and relatives.

The Scribe, who asked the question with the evil design of tempting the Lord, (as Matthew declares,) was convinced by the answer, and expressed his sentiments with cordiality and candor. He did not speak hypocritically when he said, "Well, Master, you have said the truth." No other of our Lord's tempters ever showed such readiness to receive instruction, and such frankness in avowing his convictions. He, who knew his heart, encouraged him by this commendation—"You are not far from the kingdom of God." He did not say, "You are in the kingdom of God." He did not say, as once he said to a weeping penitent, "Your faith has saved you." He did not say, as once he said to a dying thief, "You shall be with me in Paradise." Yet what he did say was very encouraging. In a world in which so many are as far from the kingdom of God, as the east is from the west, it is encouraging for a sinner to hear that he is not far from it. It is God alone that can draw a soul even to its borders—and it is our hope that if he bring it thus far, he will bring it farther still. To perish at the very barrier that separates death from life would be dreadful indeed. The shipwrecked mariner who perishes in the waves when in sight of the shore, seems in a more pitiable case than one who had not so nearly reached his native land and his beloved home.

Are we convinced that without love all the services we can offer to God are worthless? Even a human creature would not be pleased with our gifts, if he KNEW that we did not love him, and that we presented them only with the view of gaining a reward. And will God be pleased with interested services? How much has he done to win our love? He has given his only-begotten Son to die for our sakes. Is not that enough to melt the hardest heart? There can be no greater proof of the natural wickedness of the human heart than this—it finds it difficult to love God—to love the most lovely Being, the most gracious Benefactor.

Let none of us be satisfied with feeling we ought to love God. As soon as a spark of real affection for our heavenly Father is kindled in our hearts, then we are in the kingdom of God—then we are safe, then we are happy. Not so happy as we shall be when we love him more; but happier than the most prosperous worldling who does not love him. Our love can never entitle us to eternal life; Christ's blood can alone do that; but it affords a proof that we are the children of God, and that we shall dwell with him forever! for "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that LOVE him." (1 Cor. 2:9.)


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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2006, 01:05:31 PM »



September 13

Matthew 22:41 to end. Christ questions the Pharisees concerning himself.

We have already admired the wisdom of the Lord's answers. We have now an instance of the wisdom of his questions. Though his enemies could not perplex him, yet he could easily perplex them. But his questions were not like theirs, frivolous; they were important. There is no subject more important than who Christ is. The Pharisees thought they knew, but they were profoundly ignorant on the subject. They knew, indeed, the meaning of the word "Christ." It signifies "anointed"—one set apart by the anointing of oil as priest and king. Jesus was the Christ, anointed of the Father with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness, to be priest and king forever. In the second Psalm there is a prophecy of this anointed one. "The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed (or his Christ.)" The Pharisees had read the Scriptures, and they knew that the Christ would come into the world, and that he would be born of the family of David. But they did not know that the Christ was the Son of God, as well as the Son of David. Therefore Jesus brought forward a passage from the Psalms, in which David calls the Christ his Lord. It is this, "The Lord said unto my Lord." (Ps. 110:1.) That is, "The Lord the Father said unto my Lord the Son." How could David's Son be David's Lord? This was a mystery hidden from the Pharisees. It is the great mystery of godliness. "God manifest in the flesh." It has been revealed to us. We know that from everlasting the Son has been with the Father in glory, and that in the fullness of time he was born into the world—the infant of a humble daughter of the royal David.

Thus he is at once David's Son and David's Lord. The Pharisees did not ask him to explain the passage he had quoted; for they were contented with their ignorance, and loved darkness better than light. But they will understand it when it is too late. The prophecy shall be fulfilled. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." Part of it has already been accomplished. Christ is now sitting at the right hand of God, but he has not yet come to make his enemies his footstool. With what dismay will those who once rejected him behold the Son of God when he appears in his glory! "Every eve shall see him, and they also that pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." That is, some of all kindreds shall wail, because some of all kindreds have rejected him. It was not the Jews only who said, "We will not have this man to reign over us;" it was not the Romans only who pierced him with a spear; there are many belonging to Christian nations who have crucified him afresh and have trodden him under foot. (Heb. 6:6; 10:29.) All who do not love him are his enemies, and shall be made his footstool. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. How terrible it must be to be trampled beneath his feet! Yet those who have trodden under foot the Son of God shall, if they do not repent, be trodden under foot themselves—for he has declared, "I will tread them in my anger, and trample them in my fury." (Isa. 63:3.) In that day he will save his people, and while he makes his enemies his footstool, he will exalt them to his own THRONE, for he has said, "To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in MY THRONE." (Rev. 3:21.)


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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2006, 10:01:29 AM »



September 14

Matthew 23:1-12. Christ warns the people against the pride of the Pharisees.

This is the last discourse recorded which our Savior uttered in the presence of his enemies. How alarming it is! Surely those sins must be very dangerous which called forth such warnings from the meek and gentle Savior! The first part of the discourse was not addressed to the Pharisees themselves, but to the disciples and to the multitude. The Lord warned them against imitating the example of their teachers. With regard to their instructions, this was the rule laid down. When the Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, that is, when they read the books of Moses in the synagogue to the people, then they were to be regarded. We know that their FALSE interpretations were not to be received; for our Savior on one occasion censured them for teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9.) Therefore we perceive how we ought to understand the words in verse 3—"All, therefore, whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do." All the instructions they gave, which agreed with the word of God, the people were bound to observe, however wicked their teachers might be.

The Lord next commanded the people not to imitate the example of the Pharisees. "Do not you after their works." We are apt to imitate those we admire. The people admired the Pharisees exceedingly, for they could not detect their motive. It was PRIDE. All they did was to be seen of men; therefore all they did was abominable to God. The phylacteries (those strips of parchment on which texts of Scripture were written) were harmless in themselves, but the Pharisees wore them with the wicked desire of gaining admiration from men by an appearance of piety. The borders, or fringes on the garments, were even commanded by God in the law. In Numbers 15:38, the Israelites were desired to put fringes (or borders) on their garments, and upon the fringes a ribbon of blue, in order that when they looked upon it they might remember all the commandments of the Lord. Christ did not reprove them for wearing these borders, but for wearing them in order to be seen of men; neither did he censure them for sitting in the most honorable places at feasts or in the synagogue, but for LOVING to sit there.

It is natural for men to wish to be noticed and admired. Even Christians feel this desire, but they do not cherish it; no, they abhor it, and pray against it, and strive to overcome it. Whenever we feel mortified because we have been overlooked, or elated because we have been noticed, we should bewail before the Lord the pride of our hearts. Why is pride so offensive in God's eyes? Because it leads men to desire to be in the place of God. Pride is never satisfied. Were a man to gain the admiration of a hundred persons, he would wish to gain that of a hundred more, and his desires would never stop until he was the object of universal homage, until he occupied the throne of the Almighty. It is not wonderful that God abhors a sin that aims to dethrone himself, and to render his whole creation miserable. The happiness of the universe depends upon God being seated upon his own throne, and upon all his creatures submitting to his government. God must humble every one that he would save. If we are to be saved, we must be humbled. People little know what they are doing when they cherish pride in children. Many of the common modes of education are calculated to feed this dangerous passion. The desire to be first is encouraged by numerous expedients, when every means ought to be used to check the love of distinction in the young heart. Nothing can so effectually subdue it as the Gospel of Christ. There man learns that he is a polluted being, and that nothing but the blood of the crucified Savior can wash out his stains. Do we believe this humbling doctrine? Then let us remember the words of the apostle Paul, "I beseech you that you walk worthy of your vocation with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness." (Eph. 4:2.)


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PS 91:2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust
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