by James Meikle, 1730-1799
Many are reckoned great by the world, and are often envied by their inferiors, who are yet ignorant of what renders man truly great. A courtier, as Ahithophel, a prince, as Haman, and a king, as Belshazzar, may be vile and sordid people; for often in the highest stations the basest of men are set up. Coaches and chariots; horses and hounds; many servants, and a numerous retinue; a sumptuous table, and fine apparel; high titles, and honorary posts; great friends, and noble blood; rich connections, and immense wealth—do not constitute true greatness. It is not nobility, or popularity, or beauty, or talent—that will render one great. It is not strength of body, natural courage, liberal education, bright parts, or sparkling genius—that can make a truly great man. Hence this seeming contradiction, yet sterling truth, Great men are not always great.
Are there, then, great men any where to be found? Yes, though they attract not much notice or regard of men. The holy, humble, self-denied soul, is truly great. He who lives above the things of time, and has his meditation on God, and the things of the invisible world. He who is pleased with a little of the good things of this world—can forgive enemies—pass by affronts—forget injuries—repay hatred with love—rejoice in tribulation—triumph in faith—have rule over his own spirit—mourn for the sins of the times—weep over his lack holiness—tremble at God’s threatenings—depend on the promises—bewail his omissions—repent daily for his sin—wrestle in prayer, and prevail with God, and, Enoch-like, have his conversation in heaven, and walk with God—this is he who is truly great in the eye of angels, in the eye of God!
Category Archives: Hope
In one of my garden books there is a chapter with a very interesting heading, “Flowers that Grow in the Gloom.” It deals with those patches in a garden which never catch the sunlight. And my guide tells me the sort of flowers which are not afraid of these dingy corners–may rather like them and flourish in them.
And there are similar things in the world of the spirit. They come out when material circumstances become stern and severe. They grow in the gloom. How can we otherwise explain some of the experiences of the Apostle Paul?
Here he is in captivity at Rome. The supreme mission of his life appears to be broken. But it is just in this besetting dinginess that flowers begin to show their faces in bright and fascinating glory. He may have seen them before, growing in the open road, but never as they now appeared in incomparable strength and beauty. Words of promise opened out their treasures as he had never seen them before.
Among those treasures were such wonderful things as the grace of Christ, the love of Christ, the joy and peace of Christ; and it seemed as though they needed an “encircling gloom” to draw out their secret and their inner glory. At any rate the realm of gloom became the home of revelation, and Paul began to realize as never before the range and wealth of his spiritual inheritance.
Who has not known men and women who, when they arrive at seasons of gloom and solitude, put on strength and hopefulness like a robe? You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut up their treasure with them. You cannot shut it out. You may make their material lot a desert, but “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
“Every flower, even the fairest, has its shadow beneath it as it basks in the sunlight.”
Where there is much light there is also much shade.
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.
Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.
“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.”
“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”
Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.
“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”
“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”
“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”
L.B. Cowman from “Streams in the dessert”.
by Horatius Bonar
Afflictions are preparing for us a “more abundant entrance,” a weightier crown,a whiter robe, a sweeter rest,a home made doubly precious by a long exile and many sufferings here below. However desperate our earthly warfare may be, it is not forever. No,it is brief,very brief. Its end is near, very near. And with the end come triumph,and honor, and songs of victory. Then, too, there follows peace, and the return of the war-worn soldier to his quiet dwelling. This is the joy of the saint. He has fought a good fight, he has finished the course, he has kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for him the crown of righteousness. His battle is over, and then for him there are rest and home. Home! Yes,home! And what a home for us to return to and abide in forever! A home prepared before the foundation of the world. A home in the many mansions. A home nearest the throne and heart of God. A home whose peace shall never be broken by the sound of war or tempest. A home whose brightness shall never be overcast by the remotest shadow of a cloud. How solacing to the weary spirit to think of a resting-place so near, and that resting-place our Father’s house where we shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, where the sun shall not scorch us,nor any heat, where the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed us and lead us to living fountains of waters,and God Himself shall wipe away all tears from our eyes! The time is at hand. The conflicts are almost over. Our struggles and sorrows are nearly done. A few more years, and we shall either be laid quietly to rest, or caught up into the clouds to meet our coming Lord. A few more deaths, and then we shall be knit together in eternal brotherhood with all the scattered members of the family. A few more suns shall rise and set,and then we shall ascend in its strength the one unsetting sun. A few more days shall dawn and darken, and then shall shine forth the one unending day. A few more clouds shall gather over us, and then the world shall be cleared forever. But a few brief years, and we shall enter in through the gates into the city, sitting down beneath the shadow of the tree of life, feeding upon the hidden manna, and drinking of the pure river clear as crystal,which proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! Bu a few brief years and we shall see His face, and His name shall be upon our foreheads! We have only the foretaste now. The full brightness is in reserve,and we know that all that is possible or conceivable of what is good and fair and blessed shall one day be real and visible. Out of all evil there comes the good; out of sin comes holiness; out of darkness, light; out of death, life eternal; out of weakness, strength; out of the fading, the blooming; out of rottenness and ruin,loveliness and majesty; out of the curse come the blessing, the incorruptible, the immortal, the glorious, the undefiled! Our present portion, however, is but the pledge,not the inheritance. The inheritance is reserved for the appearing of the Lord. Here we see but through a glass darkly. It does not yet appear what we shall be. We are now but as wayfaring men,wandering in the lonely night,who see dimly upon the distant mountain peak the reflection of a sun that never rises here, but which shall never set in the “new heavens” hereafter. And this is enough. It comforts and cheers us on our dark and rugged way. It would not be enough hereafter,but it is enough just now. This wilderness will do for us until we cross into Canaan. The tent will do until the eternal city comes. The joy of believing is enough until we enter on the joy of seeing. We are content with the “mountain of myrrh,and the hill of frankincense,” until “the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
I have had a hard time lately just living.
It’s been a bit of a struggle, in all areas of my life for some reason, illness, financial issues, and assorted hurts and buffets abound but God in his amazing, unmerited mercy has supported me with great preaching and teaching and He’s blessed me so abundantly by just being there for me, there is so much evidence of His strength in my weakness. He is my rock and my fortress and the harder and tougher life is it seems the stronger the hold of His mighty hand! I love him so much and as I sat in my office trying to find some comfort in his word, I stumbled upon these two sermons. These are so good that I sat, in my office and sobbed into my paperwork. He is our Risen Savior and even in the most seemingly unimportant personal stuff, He cares for us. I hope these are encouraging to you. They sure were to me.
In Love and Faith in Jesus Christ, Mrs. B.
The Power and Pity of Jesus part 1
By John MacArthur
In 1874, a Baptist minister named Robert Lowry penned one of the most stirring hymns to ever exalt the resurrection of Jesus Christ–“Low in the Grave He Lay.” Notice how these verses contrast the impotence of death and suffering with the resurrection power of Christ:
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior;
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Death, man’s most dread enemy, is powerless to reign over the Lord of life. And that truth has significance for you and me, here and now in the twenty-first century. You can see it in the most exciting and rousing part of Lowry’s hymn, the refrain that punctuates each stanza:
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Do you see in those lines what Jesus’ resurrection means to you? If you are a Christian, you can rejoice in the fact that Christ rose from the dead as a victor, a champion who lives forever to reign, “with His saints.” That refers to the promise based on our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ–it is our hope and the reason and ground of all we believe.
But what if there were no resurrection? What if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is just a first-century myth to be ignored or marginalized as a secondary issue? The implications of that approach are devastating to Christianity.
I want to draw your attention to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19 so that you can see what happens when you forget the resurrection.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Without question, if Jesus is still in the grave, if He is perpetually the sufferer and never the Victor, then you and I are hopelessly lost. And though that is not the case, I want to focus on the hypothetical “what if” that Paul assumes temporarily in 1 Corinthians 15. “What if the resurrection were a myth? What if Jesus Christ were still dead and in the grave?”
First of all, you would still be in your sins, under the tyranny of death along with the most vile and unbelieving pagan. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then sin won the victory over Him and continues to be victorious over you too. If Jesus remained in the grave, then, when you die you would also stay dead. Furthermore, since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), were you to remain dead, death and eternal punishment would be your future.
The purpose of trusting in Christ is for forgiveness of sins, because it is from sin that we need to be saved. “Christ died for our sins” and “was buried, and … raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, your faith in Him would be pointless, and your sins would still be counted against you with no hope of spiritual life.
Second, if there is no resurrection, then “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” That means every Old Testament saint, every New Testament saint, and every saint since Paul wrote would be suffering in torment at this very moment. That would include Paul himself, the rest of the apostles, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, and the faithful and prayerful saints you’ve known–every other believer in every age also would be in hell. Their faith would have been in vain, their sins would not have been forgiven, and their destiny would be damnation.
In light of the other consequences, the last is rather obvious. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Without Christ’s resurrection, and the salvation and blessings it brings, Christianity would be pointless and pitiable. Without the resurrection we would have no Savior, no forgiveness, no gospel, no meaningful faith, no life, and we could never have hope for any of those things.
To have hoped in Christ alone in this life would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. If Christ is still dead, then He not only has no ability to save you in the future, but He can’t help you now either. If He were not alive, where would be your source of peace, joy, or satisfaction now? The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic and cruel joke. Christians who suffer and even die for the faith would be just as blind and pathetic as those “believers” who followed Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate cult.
Since a Christian has no Savior but Christ, no Redeemer but Christ, and no Lord but Christ, if Christ is not raised, He is not alive, and our Christian life is lifeless. We would have nothing to justify our faith, our Bible study, our preaching or witnessing, our service for Him or our worship of Him, and nothing to justify our hope in this life or the next. We would deserve nothing but the compassion reserved for fools.
But, God did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31).
We are NOT to be pitied, for Paul immediately ends the dreadful “what if” section by saying, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Paul said at the end of his life, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him [i.e. his life] until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Those who do not hope in Christ alone for salvation are the real fools; they are the ones who need to hear your compassionate testimony about the triumph of Christ’s resurrection. So don’t forget the resurrection; rejoice in it and glory in it, for He is risen indeed.