Almighty God, thou hast set above all things the cross of Jesus Christ thy Son. All things are now changed by that cross—all values, and meanings, and influences. Those things that were princely have become mean; ambitions have been rebuked, powers have been overthrown, and the weakness of God is stronger than the might of men. We now see these truths as we never saw them before, and they make us glad. We have been blind, we have been groping in infinite darkness, not knowing the right hand from the left; but now that we have seen the cross we know how all things lie, where heaven is, where thy throne is set, and we see a great light far away, shining like an infinite welcome. We bless thee for the cross of Christ: it is the way to heaven; it is the mystery of love; it is high above us like a great sky, yet round about us like a living air. We will not glory but in the cross: its shame is greater in glory than is all the pride in creation; its very weakness is almightiness; its condescension is majesty. Thy love is shown in the cross of Jesus; and we need that cross more and more as we see what sin is, and feel how poor and weak we are ourselves. Blessed cross! Tree of death, yet tree of life; an open way for sinners only into heaven’s eternal peace. Precious cross of Christ! The life of the world, the security of the universe; we gather round thee and bless the love that set thee up. We are crucified with Christ: nevertheless we live; yet not we, but Christ liveth in us: and the life which we now live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us. No man entereth into this wisdom but he who is taught of God. Verily it is folly of all folly to those who serve the flesh and are greedy for the world. How nobly wise, how tenderly beautiful, is the cross of Christ to those who have begun to see that without the cross the world is a deception and life an intolerable lie! We praise thee for what visions we have had of the cross: they have made us glad; we can never forget them; they have given a new setting and tone to our whole life: we are debtors to the cross, and our debt we can never pay. Help us to think upon these things with steadfastness of attention. May we know that these are the deep things of God, that the universe is but a temporary accident, the momentary clothing of God, to be thrown off and forgotten, but at the heart of things lies the eternal fact of sacrifice. Save us from distracted attention; save us from mistaking things for great because they are only near; give us the genius of the heart which sees things as they really are; and give us that true wisdom which knows where to build the altar and to what to offer the tribute of our life. We are here but for a day or two; we are pilgrims and can tarry but for a night; we are on the high road: we cannot see more than one step at a time; the next step may be the grave, or there may be long checkered years yet before us and to be traversed: help us to lay hold of thy hand, O Leading One; to stop where thou dost stop; teach us that to obey is to conquer, that to receive God’s will and live it is to be in God’s heaven: then shall we have no unrest, or disquiet, or cancer of the heart eating out our love and peace; we shall be calm with God’s tranquility and steadfast in God’s almightiness. Regard us as men who need daily light and daily care. Thou didst never put two days into any man’s hand at once. We are not to boast of tomorrow. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men: the true, the noble, the beautiful, the good are taken away like shadows; those whom we accounted as rocks are overturned, and we shall see their faces no more; the great and the small die. Help us to know that though we too must die, yet whilst we live we may live a doubly energetic or beneficent life. May we work with both hands earnestly, sparing nothing, hiding in our hearts the sweet thought that the Son of man may come today. Blessed are they who shall be found ready when he opens heaven’s door, and comes down to claim the issue of his sacrifice. May he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied! In that spirit would we wait and toil and hope, not as fools but as wise, seizing time with a strong hand, and filling it to the full with duty and with sacrifice. Heal our broken hearts; dry our penitential tears; subdue our unholy anger, and lead us in the way everlasting. Speak to the old man, and he will be young again; lay thy hand, so gentle because so mighty, on the youngest child and the weakest life, and it shall become dignified and noble. Visit our sick-chambers; we steal up to them, lest the very noise of the footfall should injure those we love; do thou go in with the boldness of love, and heal our sick with the momentary health of the body or with the immortality which comes through faith. Watch us; care for us; be pitiful to us. We are bruised reeds; we are as smoking flax; we are as a flower which cometh for a little time and then passeth away because the wind is cold. We know our prayer shall be heard; for thy mercy reacheth unto the heavens. Amen.
Almighty God, thou art indeed a consuming fire to them that are out of the way, whose hearts are obstinate and whose will has gone wantonly from God. Thou dost fight with fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We come to thee for mercy,—for a gentle rain of mercy, pity, compassion, love. We have done the things we ought not to have done, and all we hold in our hands is a broken law. God be merciful unto us, sinners! Speak to us from the cross: there do thou commune with our hearts, letting us whisper our sin and rather hint at our shame than tell it in plain words. We bless thee for a gospel so many-sided; it is like a thousand doors opening upon the heart of God. The prodigal is welcome: therefore are we here,—not because of our goodness and perfectness, but because our of evil and imperfection. We are here where the cross is and the speaking blood—the sacrifice for the sins of the world: a mystery even greater than our sin, and for the mystery we bless thee. To no argument would we trust, to no wall of words would we come for security and rest, but to an infinite mystery, to that which is above us like a sky, beyond us like the horizon,—something without words, putting all speech to shame and confusion because of its inadequacy to express the infinite compassion of God. Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound. Who can be greater than God? What can be vaster than his love? What can get so deeply into the nature that the all-penetrating blood of Jesus Christ cannot remove it? Wash us, and we shall be clean. Undertake for us when our strength is all gone; when our sorrow is intolerable, do thou find the solace which we need; when we are blind through tears, do thou terminate the weeping by one night’s grief, that in the morning we may see a risen sun and a radiant sky. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Samuel 19 – 1 Kings 13: Volume 7.
Almighty God, thou dost train us to strength and lead us to peace by thine own way. What strange things thou dost permit us to see; they shock our sense; yea, sometimes our piety revolts, and we begin to ask our souls most painful questions. Sometimes it seems as if thou wert absent altogether from thy creation, or as if thou hadst turned away from it in disdain, and left all men to do what they please. We have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading themselves like a green bay tree, and we have wondered where their root was, and how they came to be nourished by the light and the dew of heaven; they are not in trouble as other men: their eyes stand out with fatness; their houses are full of beautiful things, and their stables are full of horses, and as for their fields they abound in grass and in corn; and we have said to ourselves, surely God hath forgotten his own children, and hath lavished his love upon men who never name his name. The evildoer has outrun the doer of good, and has had rest and peace and plenty and fatness, when men whose souls are pure have been left without to lie down where they might, and suffer all the ills of contemptuous fortune. Behold, we have looked upon these things, and we have no answer to them. If they lie within the compass of time, then are we without reply to the mysteries which they present. Whilst we say these things our hearts go down within us; yea, they sink like lead in the waters. Then a voice is heard, saying, Their time is very short, their rope is very little, their opportunity is but a moment long: presently they will consume like the fat of lambs, into smoke shall they consume away, and the place of their root shall know them no more, and their evil shadow shall be chased from the earth. So then we take comfort in the words we have read—for ever; yea, for ever. Then any little measurable time set against this infinite period is as the twinkling of an eye, or as a watch in the night; it is nothingness and disappointment. Then we hear still further music from heaven: Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him; commit thy way unto the Lord, and he shall bring it to pass; trust in the Lord, and do good. Such exhortations elevate us, bring us to a new level and tone of mind, and make us feel that we are not yet without teaching and without spiritual direction. Thou hast thine own way of teaching thine own school; we cannot tell altogether what it is, but we have come to believe that it is well, wise, best; we are now willing to do what once we could not do—to wait, to stand still, to expect and hope. This is thy miracle wrought in the heart. We praise thee for it. Once we were blind, now we see; once impatient, now time is nothing to us: the days come, and linger for a moment, and fly away, and the years are rounded off and the hour of consummation draws near. We bless thee for all thy care—tender, minute, full of detail, so that every moment has been treated as an eternity, and every pain as an agony, and every cry of sorrow and need as a mighty prayer. Thou hast anticipated all our wants: whilst we have been praying for them thou hast been spreading the table, so that when our eyes have been opened the feast has been ready. When we have said, we will hasten unto the sanctuary and tell God this, behold messengers have met us to say the prayer is answered. We thank thee for all personal testimony, for direct individual oath, sworn in the court of the universe and in the presence of men and of angels. We thank thee for the assurance that we are standing upon a rock, that what is over us is God’s own blue sky, full of hidden stars and warm with coming summer. So now we have no pain, or fear, or grief, dragging us down into unfaith and despair, but we know that the word of Jesus Christ thy Son shall be realized, that thy kingdom shall come, that thy will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven, and that thy day will burn as an oven against all evil. We cannot give up this holy truth, this poetry of the soul, this revelation of God; it is most to us when the world is least to us: disappointment helps our prayer; the emptiness of the world suggests the fullness of heaven; when there is no water in the channel, when our feet are pained and bruised by the rocks over which we pass to seek thy fountains, behold a voice says, The river of God is full of water. All this we have learned in the school of Christ under the discipline of the Cross and under the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost. We have learned this because of thy providence in the ages gone. All past time gathers up its fullness in our experience; so that we are not ourselves only: we represent the generations that are passed. We increase the faith of the olden time; we add to it our own experience, and speak it all with our own accent. Look upon men as they need to be looked upon. Too swift a glance would kill some men, because they are so weak; look gently upon those, as if not looking: come to them as a dawning day rather than as a flash of lightning. Speak comfortably to those who are much cast down, whether through bodily infirmity, or circumstantial difficulty, or domestic perplexity, and breathe into such the spirit of hope. Comfort those who do not know what to do because of the many ways which lie before them—some full of temptation, and others hard with difficulty. Be thou the guide and light, and a lamp unto the feet, a directing voice in the soul; then shall men be delivered from perplexity and led in an open way. Pity those who have seen how bad a master the devil is, and how hot are the wages of sin,—fools who have been led miles down the wrong road, and who have been evasive and false and equivocating, who have tampered with evil, who have compromised with wickedness and have gone near to being criminals, but who this day see how foul is the wrong road, how detestable is the evil spirit, how awful is the pit of hell. They have come back; they are in thy house; they are scourged; they are bent down; they feel that their bones are full of arrows, and that a spear is in their heart Wherein they repent and shed true tears of contrition, thou wilt be pitiful to them, and merciful, with an infinite gentleness, and even they may be brought to see how good a master is Christ, how mighty a Redeemer bows his head upon the Cross. The Lord permit us to walk still in his way, and teach us by the sufferings of others how we may avoid some suffering ourselves; may the lessons of the day not be lost upon us; may the events of the time be eloquent preachers, discoursing of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and lead us to say to the living Father, hold thou me up, and I shall be safe. The Lord heal broken hearts; the Lord himself make soft the bed of pain and the pillow of weariness; the Lord set a lamp in the house at midnight; the Lord receive the prodigal with open arms. Cleanse us by the precious blood—the blood of Christ, the atoning, sacrificial blood,—the mystery of eternity, the mystery of love. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – Psalms: Volume 12.
Almighty God, our joy is that the tabernacle of God is with men upon the earth; it is not far away in the inaccessible heavens; it is here, close at hand, amongst our own houses, making all other habitations, if they will be so made, holy, and doors into heaven. May we understand so much of thy providence as will enable us to see that every place is praying ground, that not in this mount nor yet at Jerusalem shall men worship the Father, but everywhere men, with honest hearts, may address the throne of the heavenly grace. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. May our hearts hold communion with heaven; may it be easy to us, by reason of reverent familiarity, to pray to the living God through the living Christ, that so we may receive grace to help in time of need, and all mercy for the recovery of our souls from sin. “We have heard of the cross of Christ, and we know that thy love was manifested therein as nowhere else; we have seen the dying Son of God, we have heard his expiring cry, we have listened to the appeals of his infinite heart; now may we enter into the mystery of his shed blood, and know the joy of pardon, the rapture of liberty. We have seen somewhat of thy way, and we are glad: we have been touched by the divine power, no longer are we in bondage; we stand before God as free men, having been released by the gracious and mighty power of the Son of God. We commit ourselves to thy tender care; thou knowest what is best for us: we know that we cannot carry all the burden of life, but thou canst reduce the burden, or thou canst increase our strength. Teach us that nothing happens by chance, that we are under the rule and government of a good Father, and that all things are meant for our purification, for our mental enlightenment, for our spiritual refining, and at the end we shall praise thee for processes we could not understand. We would have no will but thine; thou seest to-day, and tomorrow, and the third day, and all time lies nakedly before thy vision: why should we interrupt thy processes, or question thy providence, or kick against the pricks? We will say, God knoweth, God is wise, God is love, God will not suffer anything to befall us to our harm: not our will, but God’s, be done. Upon all men let thy blessing rest—upon the old man who is nearing the end of the journey; upon the busy man who is full of plan and enterprise and strenuous endeavor; upon the young man whose life is all passion and enthusiasm and hope; and upon the little child, who lives the blessed life of unconsciousness; upon all estates, classes, and conditions of men let the divine blessing fall like a plentiful rain. This prayer we pray in the Name that is above every name. This weakness of speech we hide in the almightiness of Christ. Amen.
– People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – 1 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 20: Volume 9.
Almighty God, we have read of thy care of our life, and without reading it in a book we know it well, for day by day thou art at our right hand, thou dost satisfy our mouth with good things, thou dost renew our youth like the eagle’s, our strength is returned to us after its expenditure, thou dost keep our eyes from tears, our feet from falling, and our soul from death. Thou hast shown unto us great and wonderful things as we have come along the pathway of life; we have begun to pray where we expected to die; thou hast planted a tree beside the bitter lake, and made its waters sweet with the branches thereof; thou hast planted flowers upon the tomb; thou hast dried tears which no human hand of sympathy or tenderness could reach; and, when the grief was keenest and the darkness most burdensome, then was the star the brightest and in the cold wind there were voices of hope.
We bless thee for all thy tender care, thy long-continued patience; thou dost watch over each of us as if he were an only child. Behold there is no measure to the Lord’s mercy, and his compassions fail not. We bless thee for thy great Book, so full of music and truth and beauty; touching us at every point of our life, speaking to us the one word we most need, comforting us with infinite solaces, opening the prospect beyond the horizon of time, and enabling us to see into the rest and the joyous service of heaven.
We give ourselves into thy keeping; we would have no will but thine; we would not attempt to open any door but with thy key. Thou hast been our God and our Helper, and in thy love do we rest as in an inviolable defence. Show us more of thyself; fill our whole life with light, may our eye be single, that our whole body may be lighted with the flame of thy glory. May our whole life, body, soul, and spirit, be a daily sacrifice on the sacred altar; may our whole desire rise up before thee in a solemn and all-believing prayer.
We thank thee for thine house; we bless thee that no storm can overtake us hidden in the sanctuary of God. The Lord’s blessing be in every heart, the Lord’s light shine upon every eye, and, as for our whole life, we open it now and give thee all the hospitality of our love. Come, abide with us, and in the breaking of our bread we shall see great revelations of heaven.
We commend one another to thy tender care. The Lord help every man, woman, child, now bent in prayer. Thou knowest the secret desire of each heart, the solemn purpose of each life; thou knowest the sting that pierces the heart, the burden too heavy for mortal strength, the great fear that deepens into dejection, and threatens to become a mortal injury. Thou knowest our family life, our commercial difficulties, and our whole estate is known to thee. The Lord undertake for every one of us according to the heart’s necessity, and multiply unto us his grace, so that beyond all our want there may be an overflow of divine love.
We bless thee again and again, in never-ending hymn and psalm, for the gift of thine only-begotten and well-beloved Son. We know Jesus Christ, we have heard his words, we have touched the hem of his garment, we have seen the outflowing of his sacred blood; we remember that his cross was set up for us, and in the agony of our contrition He is our only hope. God be merciful unto us sinners: give us assurance of daily pardon, and strengthen our confidence in every divine promise; then shall our life be quiet and bright, and strong and good. Hear us when we sing thy praises, hear the desires we cannot put into words, see the falling of secret tears on account of secret sin, and help us one and all with the unfailing strength of thine infinite grace to live before thee in all faith, in all affection, and in pure desire to know and do thy blessed will. Amen.
-People’s Bible, The – The People’s Bible – Matthew 1-7: Volume 18
Almighty God, surely thy word is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. Thine eye of judgment is as a great fire, from the light of which nothing can be hidden. Thou triest the reins and searchest the hearts of the children of men. Thou wilt not be satisfied by the offering of the hand, thou dost demand the loyalty of our undivided love. Thou dost make great charges upon us—who can answer thy call, for thou demandest the whole heart? Surely we are surrounded by infinite temptations, the earth claims us, sense and time urge their importunate appeals, the necessity of the passing hour claims to be answered instantly—yet thou dost thunder down from thy heavens upon us the demand for our united heart. Surely thou dost also send grace, so that thou supportest the soul on which thou dost lay this great obligation; thou givest more grace, thy commands are equalled by thy mercy; if thou dost call for much, thou dost give the needful strength; if the burden be heavy, thou dost give us power to sustain it every whit. Enable us to look into our hearts and to see the condition of our spirit, and awaken within us the cry, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew within me a right spirit.
Save us from imagining that by fulfilling the letter we have fulfilled the law, and that by our outward observances we prove that we have entered into the inner sanctuary of thy kingdom. Show us how possible it is to read thy Book in the letter without understanding it in the spirit, and how easy it is to wash the hands, and how all but impossible to cleanse the heart. Herein is thy gospel sweet to us, the very word we need, the one voice that touches with its sacred music, our wonder and our desire. The blood of Jesus Christ thy Son cleanseth from all sin: thou hast made provision for the cleansing of every heart; we bless thee for its fullness, we thank thee that every one of us can avail himself of thy grace; we bless thee that there is no guilt too great for thy cleansing. Thou canst come over the mountain of our transgression though it be high as the heaven, and thou canst melt it so that it fall away, and thou canst meet us in reconciliation, and in all the warmth and joy of eternal affection.
We praise thee that we may read thy word to our understanding, to the profit of our heart, to the sanctification and obedience of our will, and so as to realize all the comfort and strength which thou dost design to give unto the life of men. Let a light shine upon thy word whilst we read it, so that we may see its inner beauty, its heavenly grace, and let thy Spirit work in our heart that we may give great and glad welcome to all the messages of Heaven.
We have done the things we ought not to have done, there is not a finger upon our hands that has not sinned against thee, and thou knowest, in numbering the hairs of our head, that our sins are more in number than they. Our way has been broadened out for the society of the evil, and our souls have been shut up so as to exclude the light of the good. We will not seek for words in self-defence, nor shall we try to build up a high wall to shut out the judgments of God. We will fall down before thee, and, in tearfulness and contrition and penitence, each will say, “God be merciful to me a sinner, and repeat thy miracle in my cleansing and redemption.”
Help us to live the remainder of our days before thee in all reverence, quietness, love, and usefulness. Enable us to remember the brevity of the day, the sudden coming of the night, and to be obedient with all diligence and ardour whilst we can. Wherein thou has prospered us in basket and in store, let these goodnesses lead us to repentance, let all these proofs of thy outward regard for our life lead us to consider how much thou hast done for our redemption and sanctification, and thus may we grope our way little by little from that which is outward and perishable to that which is internal and indestructible.
According to our necessity do thou now come to us. Touch every one of us with a beam of light from heaven, speak a word especially to each heart; whilst the great general truth is being proclaimed in universal terms, may a tender accent fall upon every ear, as a special token of thy peculiar care and love. May the old forget their age in the gladness of high communion with heaven, may the youthful imagination be touched into a religious wonder whilst the great truths of heaven are being proclaimed with fulness and unction. May the slave of time and the serf of the earth pause in his toil to hear of the kingdom wherein the service is rest. Heal us wherein we are sick, give us light wherein the darkness is too thick to be penetrated by our own vision, and lead us evermore, one step at a time, not where we want to go, but where it is best for us to be.
The Lord’s angels be our servants, the Lord’s light be our morning, and the infinite gospel of the blood of Christ be our hope and joy in the time of torment and despair. Amen.