By J.R. Miller
Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your affection sealed and laid away--until your friends are dead. Fill their present days with tenderness. Speak your words of commendation, while their ears can hear them! The things you mean to say when they are dead and gone--say before they go! The flowers you mean to send for their coffins--send beforehand to brighten and sweeten their homes, before they leave them forever!
I have often said--and I know I speak for thousands of other weary, plodding toilers--that if my friends have vases laid away, filled with the perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break over my dead body--I would far rather they would bring them out now along my toilsome days and open them--when I can enjoy them and be refreshed by them!
Post-mortem kindnesses do not cheer the burdened spirit. Tears falling on the icy brow of death, make poor and too tardy atonement for coldness, neglect, and cruel selfishness in life's long, struggling years. Appreciation, after the heart is stilled in death--has no inspiration for the departed one; it comes too late, when it is pronounced only in funeral eulogies. Flowers piled on the coffin--cast no fragrance backward over weary days.
But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language." Colossians 3:8
All the precepts of the Bible are aimed towards the fashioning of spiritual beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
all that is sinful,
all that is marring,
every blot and blemish,
every unholy desire, feeling, and affection,
everything that would defile.
And we are to put on whatever is lovely and Christlike.
The one great work of Christ in Christian lives--is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from our deformities, our faults and infirmities, our poor dwarfed, stunted life--and into spiritual beauty! The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! "We shall be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is!" 1 John 3:2
How much did he leave?
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." Proverbs 23:5
People are badly cheated in this world. They imagine that the things they can see are the real things--that the gold, lands, and stocks are the true treasures. So they toil for those things and gather them into their possession, piling up what they suppose to be wealth. Thus they live in pomp, with their fine houses, and all their brilliant show. But one day their supposed riches sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Or they may keep their wealth, perchance, and die at last in the midst of it, and have a great funeral; but they find that they cannot carry a penny of it with them. "How much did he leave?" was asked about a rich man who had died. "All of it!" was the answer.
If only people knew that there are things which will never fly away--they would no longer live for fleeting worldly wealth. They would pass by the glittering unrealities, to lay hold of the true riches. He who is rich toward God--is the truly wealthy man.
The happiest homes in the world
Nothing is lovelier in life, than the spirit of contentment. Fretting mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one's world. Out of whatever window he looks--the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing.
But a contented person sees only good everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture--but those in which contented, joyful hearts dwell. A mind at peace, beautifies the plainest surroundings and even the hardest conditions.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
Gather more worldly trinkets
Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed! A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15
Few people think of the danger of getting rich.
Most think that they become great--just in proportion as they gather wealth. Yet there never was a more fatal error!
A man is really measured by what he IS--not by what he HAS. We may find a shriveled soul in the midst of a great fortune; and a noble soul in the barest poverty.
A man's real "life" is what would be left of him--if everything he has were stripped off. His real 'worth' is his character, as it appears in God's sight.
We will make a great mistake if our goal in life--is simply to gather more worldly trinkets than our neighbor!
The BOOK you are writing
You ought to live holy and godly lives." 2 Peter 3:11
The only way to have a stainless and beautiful year at its close--is to keep the days, as they pass, all pure and sweet, with the loveliness of holy, useful living.
It is thus, in little days--that our years come to us. We have but the one small fragment to fill and beautify at a time.
The year is a book, and for each day--one fair white page is opened before us.
And we are artists, whose duty it is to put something beautiful on the page.
Or we are poets, and are to write some lovely thought, some radiant sentence, on each leaf as it lies open before us.
That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:2
The only refuge in sorrow
Being in anguish--He prayed more fervently." Luke 22:44
We see the Master at prayer in Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His Cross. We should notice that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow--was prayer; and that, as the sorrow deepened--the refuge still was prayer. Prayer is the only refuge in sorrow. The lesson from the garden prayer is that we should take all the hard things, the anguishes, the insufferable pains, the bitter griefs of our lives--to God in prayer. We may be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the suffering, He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on trusting and singing.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
When earth's wine gives out!
When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to Him: They have no more wine." John 2:3
This incident is a very fitting illustration of the failure of all this world's joys. The wine gave out at a wedding-feast. There was not enough of it to last through to the end of the feast. It is just so with all earth's pleasures. It comes in cups--not in fountains; and the supply is limited and soon exhausted. It is especially so with sin's pleasures. The prodigal soon ran out of money, and began to be in need. A poet compared the pleasures of sin to a snowflake on the river, "a moment white--then gone forever!"
But it is true in a sense also--of pure pleasures. Even the sweetness of human love is but a cupful which will not last forever. The joy which so fills us today, tomorrow is changed to sorrow. Amid the gladness of the marriage altar there is the knell of the end, in the words "until death do us part." One of every two friends must hold the other's hand in farewell at the edge of the valley of the shadow of death--and must stand by the other's grave, and walk alone for part of the way.
The best wine of earthly life and of love--will fail. If there were nothing better in this world--how sad it would be! But it is here that we see the glory of Christ's gospel. Jesus comes when earth's wine fails--and gives heaven's wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture here: the failing wine, and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need! That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness--and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they need nothing more.
When human joy fails--Jesus gives new joy, better than the world's, and in unfailing abundance. How sad it is for those who have not taken Christ into their lives, and who have nothing but the empty cup--when earth's wine gives out!
As the tree falls--so must it lie
Let him who does wrong--continue to do wrong; let him who is vile--continue to be vile" Revelation 22:11
The character with which men reach the final judgment--will be their permanent character forever. The man who lives in sin unto the end--is making his own destiny. Habits of sin--make the whole life sinful. It is this that gives such solemnity to life. The seeds of our future eternity--lie in our present.
Out of our little acts--habits grow;
from our habits--character springs;
and our character--fixes our destiny!
Everyone goes to his own place--that is, the place for which he is fitted by his life on the earth. He who has always sinned here on earth--will continue to sin forever. Eternal death--is simply eternal sin, along with the punishments and consequences thereof. The punishment of the wicked will not be an arbitrary punishment--but the natural result of their own choices and acts in this life.
As the tree falls--so must it lie;
As the man lives--so must he die!
As a man dies--such must he be;
All through the ages of eternity!
It makes a great difference, therefore, how we live in this world. There is an false impression in some people's minds, that they can live in sin all their days, and then by a few tears of penitence and a few cries of mercy in a dying hour--can change all the course of their life and spend eternity in heaven. This verse does not favor such a view. The future life--is but the harvest of this present life.
Men will be judged by their deeds. The New Testament everywhere teaches the same solemn truth. This does not mean that salvation is by works. We are saved by grace--but grace changes the life and makes us holy.
"To die is gain"--only to those who can sincerely say, "To me, to live is Christ!"
Most punctilious in their religious rituals!
To avoid ceremonial uncleanness--the Jews did not enter the palace." John 18:28
The religious rulers carried their pious scruples even to the palace of Pilate. Amazingly, they had no scruples about their wicked treatment of an innocent man--but they were scrupulously conscientious about matters of mere ceremonial requirement! They would not set their feet on the Gentile's floor--for that would have defiled them! Yet meanwhile their hearts were full of evil and murderous thoughts and resolves!
There will always be people who are most punctilious in their religious rituals--but who in practical life, are little better than heathen!
We should learn well, that God is grieved more by our bitter feelings, our lack of love, our hate and envy--than He is with little omissions in religious ceremonies and formalities.
This strange, double picture of Jesus!
"Look! The LION of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!
Then I saw a LAMB, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!" Revelation 5:5-6
John was looking for a Lion--and he saw a Lamb. This strange, double picture of Jesus as He appears in heaven, is very suggestive.
He was a lion in His conflicts and victories, and as such overcame all His enemies and ours also. But He was a lamb in the gentleness of His character and disposition. The lamb is an emblem of meekness and of unresisting obedience and submission.
As we think about Christ, we soon see how true both of these pictures are.
Like a lion, He has power and majesty, and is dreadful to His enemies! As a lion He met and overcame Satan, and triumphed over death and the grave. As a lion He is able to defend us from all our enemies, and the feeblest believer is safe under His protection. He is the omnipotent God--and has all power in heaven and on earth.
At the same time, the other picture is just as true.
He is like a little lamb in His gentleness. The whole spirit of His life on earth shows this. Never was a mother so gentle to her children, as was Jesus to the weary, troubled and penitent ones who came to Him. He was lamb-like, too, in the way He endured wrongs and sufferings. Other animals fight in their own defense--but the lamb does not resist. When Christ was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten in return. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers--He did not open His mouth."
He is the same Jesus now in the midst of the throne--and it is this astonishing combination of strength and gentleness which makes Him such a wondrous Savior! In Him, we have the union of all the truest qualities of love that our hearts so hunger for: tenderness, affection, patience, sympathy. Then, when we have laid ourselves down to rest in all this blessed warmth of love, we look up and see that we are in the bosom of Omnipotence! Mere gentleness may be very weak--but while He is a lamb--He is also a lion!
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. He had seven horns and seven eyes." Revelation 5:6.
Here we have three other thoughts about Christ.
1. Not only did He appear as a lamb--but as a lamb that had been slain. There were wound marks on Him, telling that once He had been dead. One suggestion of the emblem of the lamb, is sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away sin--by bearing it Himself! Thus even in glory, the fact of salvation by His sacrificial death, is set forth to the eyes of all. Thus we are always to be reminded of the cost of our redemption.
2. A second suggestion about Christ, is in the representation of the "seven horns." The horn in the Bible is the symbol of strength, and seven is the symbol of completeness. Jesus appears there as the omnipotent One, having all power.
3. The third symbol in the picture is the "seven eyes". An eye sees, and seven eyes represent the perfection of vision, seeing everywhere. The eyes of Christ are in all parts of the earth, and on all events. This thought of the omniscience of Christ is dreadful to the unrepentant sinner--but to the Christian at peace with God--it has great comfort! Christ is watching over us and is ready to fly to our help and rescue at any moment. His eye is fearsome only to the wicked; to those who are His friends and are saved by Him, it gives no terror to think of the unsleeping divine eye ever looking down upon them with love!
None of us would want to have our hearts photographed!
Having loved His own who were in the world--He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1
A friend is one who loves--and does not cease to love. Christ having loved His people--loves them unto the end.
One quality of true friendship, is trust. What could be more sacred than this comfort of feeling safe with a person, absolutely safe? That is the kind of friend Jesus is. You may always feel safe with Him. You may confess all your sins to Him. You may tell Him all your faults and your failures--how you denied Him the other night, how you failed to be true to Him, and all the evil thoughts of your heart; and He will be just as tender and gracious--as if you never had sinned! He loves unto the end!
None of us would want to have our hearts photographed, and the picture held up before the eyes of our neighbors! We would not want even our best friends to see a full transcript of our secret life--what goes on within us:
the bitter feelings,
the impure thoughts,
the doubts and fears!
Yet Christ sees all this unworthy inner life--He knows the worst that is in us--and loves us still! We do not need to hide our weaknesses from Him. He never withdraws His love. We may trust Him absolutely and forever!
Having loved His own who were in the world--He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1
One cannot have an omelet--without breaking eggs!
The goal of noble living, is to gather new virtue and grace--from all life's struggles, cares and sorrows.
A mark of a all noble character--is its desire to do hard things!
The man who seeks only easy things--will never make much of his life.
One who is afraid of hard work--will never achieve anything worth while.
In an art gallery, before a lovely masterpiece, a young artist said to Ruskin, "Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!" "Dream on canvas!" growled the old master. "It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas--to put your dream there!" No doubt, many beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people--for lack of effort to make them realities.
In all departments of life--this indolent, easy-going way of getting on in life--is working its mischief. People do only what is easy--and never grapple with anything that is hard.
Indolence is the bane of countless lives! They do not rise--because they have not the courage and persistence to climb!
There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain sort--but it is ambition to have the 'victory' without the battle; to 'get the gold' without digging for it. They would like to be learned and wise--but they do not care to toil in study, and "burn the midnight oil," as they must do--if they would realize their desire. They may have a certain longing to be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect and confidence--but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.
They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood--but lack that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere "holy dreaming" will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy! No religion is worthy--which does not seek to attain the best things; and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most persistent striving!
We should not forget, that no one ever did anything of great value in this world--without cost. A quaint old proverb says, "One cannot have an omelet--without breaking eggs!" If we would do anything really worth while, that will be a blessing in the world--we must put into it, not merely . . .
conventional good wishes, and
courtesies that cost nothing!
We must put into it . . .
There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful 'red' which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his 'color' died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The lesson of the legend is . . .
no great achievement can be made,
no lofty attainment can be reached,
nothing of much value to the world can be done
--except at the cost of heart's blood!
I labor--struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29