Almighty God, how do they praise thee who stand in the unclouded light and sing thy name and do thy service evermore? We wonder, but we cannot tell. We long sometimes to be of their number even but for one moment, that we might return again and praise thee on earth as they do in heaven. How sweet their song, how undivided their thought, how complete their loyalty! Yet may we be growing up toward all this by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, becoming wiser, purer, tenderer, more like thyself at least in our love of holiness. Help us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Save us from foolish and vain notions concerning thyself. Deliver us from the power of superstition, lest we forget how really to pray, and how truly to worship the threefold name. May we know thee as Father, King, mighty one, yet tenderer than a mother, more patient than a nurse who serves for love. We bless thee for all our mental illumination; we thank thee now, whereas once we were blind and could not see afar off; now we seem to know better what the meaning of life is, what are its capacities, and what is its destiny. We cannot tell how the idea grew in our mind, but it was a miracle of thine—that we know. We could now tell thy word, because we know what it is in pureness, in wisdom, in righteousness, and in the spirit of hopefulness, so that no man can now deceive us by saying, This is the word of God, when it is not. Behold, thou hast set thy witness in our hearts, which says to us, This is God’s word, and that is a counterfeit gospel: reject it, for there is no blessing in it. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. Help us to read thy book with eyes which thou thyself hast opened, so that we may see not the letter only but the spirit, so that looking upon the letter we see within it chariots and horses of fire, living spirits, gracious angels; and may we yield ourselves to the whole spiritual ministry. Thus shall we show what it is to be in God, to live, and move, and have our being in him, by the loftiness of our judgment and the Christliness of our charity. May we hate sin, which is an abominable thing in thy sight. May we know that sin always means leprosy—leprosy for ever: but that in Jesus Christ there is a healing even for the leper in the sweet gospel we have heard. The Lord cleanse us, and we shall be clean. We would that we might be recovered of our spiritual leprosy, that we might be healed with the blood of sacrifice, the precious blood, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. We have heard of this gospel of blood, this salvation by atonement: what it all is we cannot tell, but we long to know; by faith we cast ourselves upon it; living or dying our cry shall be, Lord, we believe, help thou our unbelief. Amen.
God of our fathers be the God of their succeeding race. Let thy light and thy truth shine forth and establish themselves in the love and confidence of all mankind. Hide not thy face from us. In the hiding of thy face is darkness, and the keeping back of thy hand is death. Draw near unto us! To our hearts daily do thou speak comfortably. Rebuke us not in thine anger, chide us not in thy displeasure, for the look of thy judgment will destroy us, and the breath of thine anger will carry us away. Our only hope is in thy love. Thy love we know best in Christ Jesus, the priest, the victim, the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. In his love would we meet thee, it is thine own love, eternal, unchangeable, infinite. We would hide ourselves in it as in a sanctuary that cannot be violated. May we stand in the infinite enclosure, safe from every assault and every temptation. Thou knowest us every one. Thou art the father which seeth in secret. Thou knowest our innermost thought There is not a word on our tongue that thou hast not weighed. There is not a thought in our heart that thine eyes have not penetrated. What shall we say unto thee, then, but God be merciful unto us sinners. We know the mystery of doubt We know what it is to go away from God, and to endeavour to create for ourselves gardens in the bleak wilderness. We are ashamed of our inventions, we renounce our hypocrisies. We come with the frankness of contrition, owning all our sin, and asking thee whilst looking upon the Saviour’s cross to pardon it with infinite forgiveness. Keep us every one during the few days we may have yet to live. Put within us the spirit of wisdom and of patience, and create in us that sacred expectation which expresses itself in filial prayer. Go with us the remainder of the journey. If there be long hills which we have yet to climb, the Lord help us to ascend every one of them in his own strength and grace. If the darkness should soon settle upon us, may we have a light in our hearts which no night can quench. Enable every man who has made a good vow, to keep it. Give answers of peace to those who have sought them in the name of Christ; and give to every one of us such a conception of life as shall make us solemn yet cheerful; sober because of the nearness of death, yet joyous because of our approaching immortality. “Jesus, refuge of my soul, let me to thy bosom flee.” “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me find my rest in thee.” Blind us to every other attraction, and fix our eyes on thine own fascination, thou Christ of God, fairest among ten thousand and lovely altogether. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Kings 15 – 1 Chronicles 9: Volume 8.
Almighty God, how near thou art in thy heaven, yet how far; near unto those whose trust is in thee and whose life is hid with Christ in God, who are branches of the true vine; and far from those who do not know God nor love him nor care for his word and his law. Teach us that our life is in thy hand and not in our own, that there is an appointed time to man upon the earth, that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without thee—teach us, therefore, that thou art round about us always, understanding our thoughts, looking into our motives, considering our desires, listening to our sighings and prayers. Thus may we live and move and have our being in God; may God always be the nearest to us, always at hand and not afar off. Help us to consult thee in every movement of our life, to stand still and see the salvation of God, to look up unto the hills whence cometh our help, lo take nothing into our own hands, to wait the disclosure of thy counsel and the indication of thy power, and to walk humbly but steadfastly and with persistence and loyalty in the way thou dost mark for our feet.
Thou hast led us wondrously; behold, if we look back, our yesterdays are full of the fire of heaven. Thou hast led us by a way that was right, thou hast defended us from danger, seen and unseen, thou hast opened doors for us of which we had no key, thou hast sent an angel to throw back the gate and deliver from the prison. Glory and honour and praise and power be unto thy name, thou mighty Deliverer and Saviour of our souls. Now we are in thy house, and it is the gate of heaven: quiet us, fill us with thy peace, make us calm with thy restfulness, shed upon us the Spirit that is holy and eternal, and make the fire of the Lord abound in our hearts, and the wisdom that cometh down from heaven enlighten our understanding. May we feel that thy word is light and life and peace and comfort, the very beginning of heaven, the life of God in the soul, the first throb of our immortality.
May thy word come to us today from ancient time, as new as if but just spoken. May we know that thy word abideth for ever, that its accents and purposes and commandments and injunctions are not measurable by time—that it is the ever-spoken word, the ever commanding “Be” and fiat of Jehovah, our present and almighty sovereign. And thus may we come to it as the oldest book and the newest, old as thine own eternity, new as our present need. Thus may thy word be unto us meat and drink, manna in the wilderness, and water out of the rock, a great joy, a perpetual light and satisfaction. If so be we are tempted to think we have read all thy word, show us our mistake; may the wonder of its revelations, the awful suddenness of its surprises, be the outflaming of a fire we have never seen, from heaven—be the utterance of a new music, tender as our own sighing, loud as our own triumphing, surrounding us with all the grandeur and force of Almighty God. And if it enter into the heart of man to believe a lie, and to consider that he knows all that is written in thy book, and has fathomed the depths of infinitude and taken into his nostrils the whole breath of eternity, let him be rebuked even to his shame and confusion today, as hearing new tones and seeing new lights and being bowed down by undisclosed presences and unrevealed glory, so that he may say, The word of the Lord abideth for ever: it is the perpetual word, the everlasting testimony, and the incessant challenge to our minds.
O this wonderful life of ours, a truth, a lie, a reality, a delusion: something to be touched and yet never to be approached: here and yet there; luring us as if by mockery, and jeering our disappointment, and yet now and again opening up prospects and stretches of landscapes and visions of heaven and realities of being that astound the imagination and confound all attempts to explain it. O wondrous life—it is God in us, it is a spark of the essential fire. It is a voice from the eternal courts. O that we may be stewards of ourselves, that we may feel the responsibility of our own being, that we may find in Christ the only answer to our sin and the only consolation of our sorrow, the only interpretation of our discipline, our All and in all, today and yesterday and tomorrow and for ever the same, the eternal Christ, the eternal Judge.
If now and again we have been straying from thy way, even in our thinking—whilst our heart has been right, yet our thoughts have gone out to make new creations of our own—surely thou hast brought us back again, humbled and subdued and broken in pieces, that we might ask for the old way and inquire for the ancient path, and drink again out of the river of God which is full of water. Thou dost not chide us to our destruction, but to our conversion: wherein we have hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, their brokenness has been thy best correction, the disappointment has been the interpretation of thy purpose, and we have made a sword for our own hurt, and cut ourselves in pieces before the Lord.
O that we may in future cling to thy testimony, be steadfast to thy word, firm and loyal to thy revelation, contented with what thou hast shown unto us and receiving it with all thankfulness and delight, and yet with all the hopefulness of fuller revelation. If it be thy will, oh continue our days a little longer, but make our life as useful as it is continuous; may every day bear some fruit which shall be the development of some new grace: the formation of character, the ennobling of principle, the outwidening and glory of our best purpose and highest aspiration. And when the day is done, the work all closed, it will be our fruition to hear thee say, Well done.
Console the grief-stricken, lift up those that be bowed down; if any be in special perplexity or have a cloud of unusual gloom, Lord, look upon such—do thou meet them in all the pain of their need and comfort them with the infinite grace of God. Show us how brief our life is and how vain if it be not rooted in Christ. Lead us along with new penitence, new contrition and brokenheartedness to the cross of the Lamb of God, the Saviour of all mankind. Amen.
-People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Kings 15 – 1 Chronicles 9: Volume 8.
Almighty God, with thee is light and in thee is no darkness at all. Thou hast called upon us to be children of the light, and to walk in the day and not in the night, that we may show forth the glory of thy word and the meaning of thy kingdom. May we answer that great call in thine own strength; then shall men know that we are reflecting Christ’s glory, and are not shining in a light of our own creation. We bless thee for thy word, the entrance of which giveth light. It is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path; it shineth afar over our whole life, so that there is no dark place in all the days of man, if so be he put his trust in the living God, and walk only according to the living word. Thou hast set around us circumstances designed to teach us. Thou dost call upon us to read the book of providence, to turn over its pages carefully, and to consult all its records patiently and with an understanding mind. Thou hast also written round about us the wonderful writing of nature—a marvellous revelation, so grand, yet so simple; so infinite, yet in every detail of it intelligible and representative of such care and wisdom and love. Then thou hast written thy book which is addressed to our souls—the book of inspiration, the living Bible, the marvellous speech of God’s own wisdom. Surely we shall read some of these writings of thine—the great providence, the splendid nature, the vital book. May we be found diligent students of one of these at least; then we shall proceed unto the other: for they are all connected, and belong to one another, and lead up to one another, and complete one another: may we begin where we can only begin reverently, thoughtfully, and hopefully and thus in due time may we become men of God thoroughly instructed in all good works, armed at every point against the tempter, having the Holy One dwelling in our hearts and making us holy, turning our whole life into a sacrifice, and setting before us a luring and welcoming destiny. Meanwhile, we need so much guidance and comfort and sympathy, for the way is dark, and the day is as nothing. Oh how rough is the path sometimes, and how dangerous! We hear voices in the wind which we interpret into threatening or cruelty or some kind of alarm, and we shrink back and are dismayed because there is no more strength in us. Sometimes we go out to seek water, and there is none, and our tongue faileth for thirst. Now we say, Today will be the beginning of liberty; and, lo, it does but lengthen our chain and add to the weight which we are carrying. We need to be comforted, upheld, sustained, directed. How many angels do we need to minister unto us would we be heirs of salvation!—one to answer the great argument; another to dispel the frowning, sullen doubt; another to sing to us in the nighttime of our heartlessness: but are not all thine angels ministering spirits, sent forth to minister, living to serve, and ordered by thee to nourish and cherish thy Church? We pray thee to be with us thyself—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three in one, one in three. We feel our need of this tri-unity, for we ourselves are three in one—a great mystery of being: now full of pain and sorrow, and now almost angels for brightness and joy. Pardon our sin. Only God can forgive sin: but the blood of Jesus Christ thy Son was shed for sinners, and that blood availeth still. May we know the meaning of its application, may we feel its gracious virtue, and when the enemy would tell us that pardon is impossible, may we be told in our own consciousness to answer that he was a deceiver from the beginning. Help all men who need special favour. Sometimes they are all but in despair; sometimes the hand is half put out towards the poison or the steel: they say they cannot bear the pain and darkness any longer: they are mad with agony. O thou who didst make that marvellous instrument the human constitution, thou who knowest all its fashioning, all its limits, all its desires’ and passions, its susceptibilities, do thou undertake thyself cases which are beyond our strength and help. The Lord hear us at all times; specially when we beg for light and wisdom and forgiveness. Amen.
-People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Kings 15 – 1 Chronicles 9: Volume 8.
Almighty God, thy grace is greater than our sin. Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound. Thou dost not only pardon, thou dost abundantly pardon, as a sea might swallow up a little stream. When we look at our sin we burn with shame, we stagger under a great burden which we cannot carry; but when we look at thy grace, at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, behold, how wondrous it is, and how our hearts are constrained to right again, and how our whole life answers the mighty appeal of thy love. Thou wilt conquer sin: thou wilt destroy all the darkness,—yea, the sun itself shall be counted dark, and as for the moon, thou wilt drop it out of thy great creation as needed no more. The Lamb shall be the light of the new place, the face of God shall irradiate the heavens. Thou doest great things and marvelous; yea, thou dost overpower our imagining and make all our fancy foolish when we attempt to set forth before ourselves the wonders of thy doing. We would live in the spirit of this education: we would be moved by impulses arising from this contemplation of thy greatness. Then shall our life be ennobled, our whole being shall assume new proportions, our lowliest service shall be touched with a royal value, and all we say and do will have about it the breathing of the grandeur of eternity. We bless thee for any uplifting of mind, and especially for the elevation of soul which comes at the altar of the sanctuary in the overpowering presence of the dying Son of God. Here thou dost exalt our thought, and here thou dost give us softening of love and melting of heart so that our whole life runs out to thee, for thou alone art its beginning and its sufficiency. We pray for one another. Every heart, having spoken its own little prayer for its own little self, would think of the other now,—the dumb tongue that cannot pray, the hard heart that will not pray, the weary traveller who cannot find strength to pray. The Lord remember us every one, omit none from his blessing, but seek out that which is lost, find it, save it, and may every heart be touched with comfort, be enriched with new grace, and arise to new conceptions of Christian thought, and offer itself a new sacrifice on the altar of the cross. Dry our tears when we cannot count them. Give us lifting up of mind when the clouds are like a burden upon our head, and whisper to us some gentle word that shall be a singing gospel in the heart when no other voice can reach our weariness or heal our woe. We come with this prayer because of the authority and encouragement of Jesus Christ. He hath opened a door that is very wide, he hath uttered welcomes broader than our necessity, penetrating into the region of our pain and distress, and he hath offered us the hospitality of God, whereby our hunger and our thirst may be for ever appeased, and he has given unto us thy rest, which is an infinite calm. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Kings 15 – 1 Chronicles 9: Volume 8.
Almighty God, why art thou so concerned that we should obey thee? Why dost thou not close thine hand upon us, and return us to the earth? Thou dost stoop down to us, and care for us as though we were of consequence to thee. The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee. The angels thou dost charge with folly; the heavens are not clean in thy sight. Yet thou dost look down upon the children of men, and shed blood for them, thou dost call for them as loving hearts would call for those who are hungry, and offer them bread. Yea, thou dost seem to stop the universe in its way that some poor lost lamb may be gathered up again. The Son of man came, to seek and to save that which was lost. Why came he? We can be of no consequence to the Eternal. Surely we are but as insects in the sunbeam, living a moment, and quickly dying in the presence of him who made all time and who opens the year as he closes it without sign or token that any great event has occurred to himself. Thou dwellest in eternal time, thou art measured by the unending and unbeginning now. Yet thou dost care for us, thou dost pity us with tears; thine heart grieves over us, as if we could complete thy dominion and enhance thy joy. Like as a father pitieth his children, even so dost thou pity the sons of men. We know it. In no otherwise can we understand the providences which make up our lives. They are not judgments, they are not symbols and pledges of wrath; they are veiled angels, they are messengers of love, tenderness, and redemption. All things are greater than we suppose. When thou art feeding the one bird in the winter time, thou art feeding the whole universe the year round. If thou canst be interested in one of us, then art thou interested in all. The whole earth is thine; the Jew and the Gentile are thine; the uttermost part of the earth is not far from thee: the whole earth in all its points touches the eternal throne. Give us grace, mercy, and peace as a new year token. May we feel that the Lord is still amongst us—the fire that burns but does not consume: a presence that would cheer by suppressing itself rather than a fire that would flame out upon us, and terrify by judgment and penalty. Give us understanding of ourselves that we may have better understanding of others. Open thou our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law. The Lord be pitiful to us still with tenderness of mercy. The moment the mercy is withdrawn our life is extinguished. We live in mercy, we live in the pity of God; we are preserved by thine heart, else would we be crushed by thine hand. We love the Saviour. His name becomes dearer to us as the years rise and fall, and number themselves with the eternity gone. He is all in all. He is the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star. He is Alpha and Omega; and there is no escape from the line of his love—high as heaven, deeper than any parts of the earth, stretching over every sea, so that the land and the water, and the family and the state, and the market-place and the cemetery, are all under his watch and care. Plant many a flower upon the grave; conceal it with flowers; may they spring so richly and so beauteously that the grave shall be rather a type of the resurrection than a sign of the conquering death. Do for us all we want; or take hold of our hands, and help us to do it ourselves, that we may be pleased for a moment, though never missing the consciousness that our hand is in the hand of God. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—thou dost by these names stand far away from us; God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ—by this sweet name dost Thou come into every house, and touch every heart. Amen.