Daily - by C.A. Coates
There are many here to-night who are young in the faith; they have not long taken upon their lips the confession of the Lord Jesus. I speak with an earnest desire to help and encourage such, and I should like to bring before you six things that will have a place in your everyday life if you go on with God. The first of them is brought before us in Acts 17 : 10-12.
DAILY SEARCHING OF THE SCRIPTURES
It is of great importance to the welfare of your soul that you should have, and cultivate, an appetite for the Word of God. But everything depends upon the spirit and attitude in which we approach the Scriptures. It is possible to study the Bible in schoolboy fashion, and to learn divinity just as people learn geology or botany. I do not want to encourage you to do that; there is already too much of it. We are not only told that the Bereans " searched the scriptures," but we are told why they searched. They heard the preaching of Paul and Silas, and " received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Wonderful things were brought to their ears, and they were not sceptical or indifferent, they "received the word with all readiness of mind," and they searched the Scriptures because they had received the word of the apostles. They searched, not like the antiquary who pores over an old will with curiosity or scientific interest, but like the person who has been told, and who has received the report, that a great legacy is bequeathed to him in it. I thank God that many of you have received the report of the marvellous blessings of His grace, but I fear that some of you have not been sufficiently interested in them to search the Scriptures daily whether these things are so. The result is that you are not so stable as you ought to be ; and if you were challenged as to some of the blessings which you think you have received, you might not be able to give a very good " reason of the hope that is in you."
There is often a carelessness amongst the children of God as to divine things which has no parallel in the ordinary affairs of life. If a man buys an estate he does not content himself with the bare word of the vendor; he will have the deeds searched with the utmost care to be quite sure the title is good. If a man has property left him in America and a detailed account of it is sent to him, you may be sure that he will read it carefully through, and that more than once. If I were to go to some Bradford merchant and tell him that the king had conferred upon him the honour of knighthood, he would insist on seeing the official document which would verify the statement. The more important a thing is, the more anxious people are to be sure about it, and I think if we got a right sense of the immensity of the very smallest bit of Christian blessing, we should go to the Word of God as the Bereans did to make quite sure that those things were so. I think where there is carelessness as to the Word of God it indicates that we have not a right sense in our hearts of the greatness of Christian blessings, or they would become matters of more earnest and anxious inquiry. These things are so important—the issues at stake are so vital—that we should take nothing on trust, even if the speaker be an apostle.
I am often surprised that Christians who have listened for years—apparently with interest and attention—to the ministry of the word know so little of divine things. They seem to enjoy the ministry, their faces are bright in the meetings, and yet when you come to talk to them you find that very little of it has got into their souls. I believe the secret is that they listen to what is said, but value it so little that they don't take the trouble of going to the Scriptures to verify it for themselves. Ministry has its own blessed and important place, but I do not believe that any ministry will be of permanent profit to our souls if it is not followed by searching of the Scriptures.
The young Christian, Timothy, was exhorted by the apostle Paul to " give attendance to reading " and to " meditate upon these things ; give thyself wholly to them ; that thy profiting may appear to all," 1 Tim. 4:13, 15. Further, as a servant he was to be a " workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth " ; and as a man of God he was to know that " all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," 2 Tim. 2 : 15 ; ch. 3 : 16, 17. In connection with this there is an exhortation in 2 Timothy 1 : 13 to which we might do well to take heed: "Hold fast the form of sound words," or as a new translation gives it—" Have an outline of sound words." Timothy was to have in his mind an outline of the truth so that it was clear before him. When I was at school we had sometimes to draw outline maps from memory, and very strange outlines used to be presented that would have puzzled anyone to tell what country they were intended to be like. Now suppose someone asked you to give an outline of the truth of Christianity, could you do it ? It is the will of God that we should have a clear outline of the truth before our minds, and we cannot have this without searching the Scriptures. Otherwise our thoughts on divine things will be vague and indefinite, and we may become the prey of some plausible system of error, of which there are such endless varieties at the present day. If we desire to be tenacious of the truth, it is more than ever necessary that we should search the Scriptures " daily."
" Searching " gives the idea of a definite object being in view. A great deal of Bible reading is profitless because aimless. The reader is seeking for nothing and finds it. I believe that we profit most when our souls are interested in certain subjects, and exercised before the Lord about them, and we turn to the Scriptures to search whether these things are so. There are surely many things with each one of us that we are more or less anxious to have divine light upon. Many of us do not know the doctrines of Scripture very clearly : questions arise as to practical details in our walk : surely each one of us has exercise as to his soul-experiences; and all these things should constrain us to " search the Scriptures."
And remember it must be " daily " ! I press upon every young Christian here the necessity for the daily study of the Word of God. You cannot maintain a vacuum in your mind ; if it is not occupied with divine things it will be with human or earthly things. The habit of searching the Scriptures grows upon you as you go on with it, but if you neglect the Word you soon lose a relish for it. I have heard Christians say something like this—I wish I could enjoy the Word of God more. When I read my Bible I don't get the blessing that some people do. I hear So-and-so say how his soul is refreshed by the Word, but I don't get it. I like to ask such persons, How often do you read the Word ? Once a week ? Or once a month ? The one who reads his Bible most is the one who enjoys it most, and who turns to it with the greatest delight. On the other hand, if you neglect the Word today you will have less taste for it to-morrow, still less the day after, and so on until it becomes a dry book to you. You must make a point of it that you are in company with the Word of God every day. It is not a question of a great deal—you perhaps have not time for that—but you must have it daily.
2. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life and shall obtain favour of the Lord," Prov. 8 : 34, 35.
You will get very little blessing for your soul, and you will make no spiritual progress even by daily searching of the Scriptures, unless you are also
DAILY WATCHING AT WISDOM'S GATES.
The great central figure of Scripture must be the object of your affections or you will read to little profit. In short, Christ must be before your heart, or you will miss the kernel of every truth in Scripture. The allusion in these verses is to an Eastern court, where certain favoured ones are admitted to the privilege of being near the monarch. In the first of Esther we read of seven princes who " saw the king's face." Others may read his commands and hear about him at a distance, but these stand in his presence and hear his voice. Are you going in for this, beloved young Christians ? The glorious Person who has been from eternity the delight of the heart of God has set His love upon us: He has revealed Himself to us as the One who has found His delight in us. Is that Person so holding your heart—are you so delighting in Him—that your whole inner life consists in hearing Him, in watching daily at His gates, and waiting at the posts of His doors ? The grand secret of spiritual freshness and soul-prosperity is to have the Person of Christ so before the heart that we are attracted to Himself with intense longing to know Him better. Now, beloved, let us challenge our hearts as to this ! Are we on the alert to improve our acquaintance with Christ ? The great defect of modern Christianity is that there is so little affection for Christ. Many hear what is called a " clear gospel," and trusting the blood and work of Christ they get the assurance of the Word of God that they will never perish, and this seems to satisfy them and they settle down upon it and go to sleep. There is not the earnest longing after Himself—the watching daily at His gates. Did it ever occur to you that Christ values your affections ? You belong to Him; you are the object of His love; you are " His own." Your heart is Christ's property : is it His dwelling-place ? His love counts on your giving Him a place in your affections, so that He may dwell in your heart by faith. If He does dwell there, you may depend upon it that you will be watching daily at His gates—not only seeking His benefits but longing after Himself, and finding it the deepest joy of your heart that you are admitted to personal acquaintance with Him.
If you read some of the works of the old divines you would be amazed to see how their hearts thirsted after Christ; they were absorbed with His Person and love; He was the " Object bright and fair" after which their hearts longed. Oh, that it might be more so with ourselves !Look at Mary of Magdala—in her day a lovely example of this precious affection for Christ! Apostles did not attract her heart; she let them go to their homes without her. Angels—the highest order in creation—speak to her, but leave her unsatisfied. She does not even turn to look properly at the supposed gardener. She has forgotten herself—a weak and defenceless woman—as she says, " Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." It was Himself that her devoted heart longed after with all the intensity of its affection. She watched at His gates and waited at the posts of His doors; and did she not " obtain favour of the Lord " ? No such message of divine love as that which she carried was ever entrusted to human lips before.
Andrew and John knew something of what I am speaking of when the longing of their hearts was expressed in the question: " Rabbi, where dwellest thou ? " John 1: 38, 39. They wanted to be in His company; they were in their day found watching at His gates and waiting at the posts of His doors. And what favour they obtained! " He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day." Was it not a royal day for them? Do you think they will ever forget it ? Oh! beloved, it is a glorious day for the heart when it makes personal acquaintance with Christ. I dare say there are some here tonight who could tell you that the deep joy of that hour was infinitely greater than the joy of the hour when they learnt the perfect efficacy of His work. Nor would the Lord have this to be a transient experience. They " abode with him that day "—a day typical of the whole present period—and though He is no longer in the world He would have us abiding with Him. His love could think of no sweeter portion for us than to have a part with Him, and no service of His love is more precious to a devoted heart than that washing by which He removes the defilement of the world from our feet that we may have a part with Himself where He dwells with the Father; John 13. Does not your heart long to taste more deeply the blessedness of the one who watches daily at His gates, and waits at the posts of His doors ?
Paul is another example of this when he tells us that he counted all things but dung that he might win Christ, and know Him. To attain this he was pressing on as a man wholly absorbed by one object. To use once more the words before us, he was watching daily at His gates, and waiting at the posts of His doors. And did he not " obtain favour of the Lord " ? Was it a small thing to be able to say as an experimental reality, " Our citizenship is in heaven " ? or to say, " I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be satisfied in myself" ? or to say, " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me " ? He did indeed verify the blessing spoken of in Proverbs 8 : 34, 35. May our hearts be very much drawn after that blessed Person in glory that we may verify it too.
3. " I cry unto thee daily," Psalm 86 : 3. I wish to remind you of the great importance of
and I have purposely left the subject of prayer until I had said a little about the affections of the heart being after Christ, because nothing will be more changed than your prayers if you are really after Christ. If Christ is before our hearts we feel the hindrances and the difficulties, and we understand the need for prayer in a very different way from one who has not Christ as his object. There never was upon the earth a man who was so continually in the spirit of prayer as the blessed Lord, for there never was one whose heart was so devoted to God. It was the very excellence of His devotedness to God that made Him so entirely dependent —so pre-eminently the Man of prayer. The more our hearts are set upon Christ in glory, and the more we are devoted to His interests here, the more do we feel our weakness and dependence. We feel that everything here is against us ; we are conscious of the opposition around and within, and we become more and more men of prayer. I think you will allow that the apostle Paul excelled all other saints in devotedness to Christ, and there never was one so saturated with the spirit of prayer. I am sure of this, that if our hearts are set upon Christ in glory the effect will be that we shall be much on our knees.
Allow me to give you a few practical words as to your prayers. Keep clear of the unprofitable habit of " saying your prayers." Christendom is full of solemn warnings as to the tendency of our hearts to drop into a routine of religious forms. It is a very great
The more our hearts are set upon Christ in glory, and the more we are devoted to His interests here, the more do we feel our weakness and dependence. We feel that everything here is against us ; we are conscious of the opposition around and within, and we become more and more men of prayer. I think you will allow that the apostle Paul excelled all other saints in devotedness to Christ, and there never was one so saturated with the spirit of prayer. I am sure of this, that if our hearts are set upon Christ in glory the effect will be that we shall be much on our knees.
Allow me to give you a few practical words as to your prayers. Keep clear of the unprofitable habit of " saying your prayers." Christendom is full of solemn warnings as to the tendency of our hearts to drop into a routine of religious forms. It is a very great loss to the soul to get into the habit of repeating substantially the same words in prayer every day. It is not real prayer at all. We read, " In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," Phil. 4 : 6. How can you do that if you are using the same form of words day after day and week after week ? Today is not like yesterday, and to-morrow will not be like today. If you are really with God you will be sensitive to the fresh needs of every day. God delights to have our confidence as to every need and care. Then let us cultivate a child's confidence and a child's simplicity as we come to Him in prayer. Bring the trying circumstances of to-day and the expected difficulties and perplexities of to-morrow to the blessed God who tells you to cast all your care upon Him for He careth for you. Be simple : give up the long preface: don't feel it necessary to quote a dozen scriptures : ask as a needy and confiding child would ask its parent. If I might venture to say one word about the prayer-meeting it would be this : I do not believe any brother should take part unless he has some definite petition to present. I have been in prayer-meetings where I have felt as if brothers began without knowing a single thing they were going to ask for, and discoursed about every subject that happened to come into their minds. This may be a profitable religious exercise, but it is certainly not prayer.
Then if we are really set for Christ, as I said before, we realise our dependence in a deeper way, because our faith connects the glory of His name with everything in our daily life, and we become sensible that it is only as we are maintained by divine power that we can be for Him here. Such a one has many an exercise that others miss who are less devoted, but he enjoys oftentimes the deep blessedness of communion with God while they are living and walking " as men." The more your heart is set for Christ, the more you will be characterised by humility and dependence, which will find their expression in daily prayer.
4. " Give us this day our daily bread," Matt. 6: 11. I suppose we all believe that the
here referred to is that which meets the need of the body. Those who know not God seek after what they may eat and drink, and what they may put on. Their concern is all about the body; we can rejoice that our Father knows we have need of these things, and He cares for us in every detail of that need. But I wish to use these words to-night to impress upon you the importance of having your soul nourished every day. We need " food convenient" for our bodies every day, and it is not less needful to have something fresh from the Lord for our souls. Now, come, what have you had from the Lord today ? "I have been reading a very good book, and part of one of the periodicals." I am glad to hear it, but did you get anything from the Lord ? "I have read one or two chapters in the Bible." I am very thankful for that, but still you might read many chapters without getting anything from the Lord to meet the present need of your soul. Reading and hearing are like looking at the food, but it is another thing to get the good of it. Food is that which satisfies a craving— a felt need—and unless we have an appetite there is not even the desire for it. It is one of the great principles of God's ways that He " satisfieth the longing soul," and " fills the hungry with good things." Hence the subject of the soul's daily bread is a deeply experimental one. The food of which I speak is the gracious supply to our souls of that which answers the exercises, and meets the need of which we become conscious in our experience day by day. I do not mean your external need, but the need of your heart and spirit in the various experiences of your soul.
One or two scripture illustrations may perhaps serve to make my meaning clear. On the night of the passover in Egypt the children of Israel had—as we often hear— the blood of the lamb to make them safe and the word of Jehovah to make them sure; but they had also the lamb roast with fire for their food. The soul in the position thus typified has a perfect shelter from judgment in the precious blood of Christ, and a perfect assurance in the Word of God, but has he no longings, no exercises, no experience ? He has escaped the judgment, it is true, but he feels how near it has been to him; he is conscious how truly he deserved it. It is a solemn hour for him; he has no doubt as to his safety, but still it is a solemn hour, for God in His holiness is passing over. Is there no food for him ? Is there no gracious supply of the very thing which will meet his present need ? Indeed there is : he feeds with self-judgment ("with bitter herbs they shall eat it ") on the Lamb " roast with fire." He appropriates to himself and takes into his moral being the precious fact that Christ has fully borne the judgment of God, and this meets the hunger of his soul. He loves to think of the spotless perfection of the Victim —of the love that made Him willing to bear the judgment—and of the infinite value of that divine work which has exhausted for ever the judgment under which he lay. The meaning of Calvary's darkness—of the cry of the Forsaken One—of the triumph-shout " it is finished," becomes great and real. The soul enters into it, takes possession of it by faith, feeds upon it. I trust we all know something of this!
At another stage of their experience the children of Israel were found in the wilderness—the place of no human resources—but they had food there, and they had it every day. Those who have seen the salvation of God, and have escaped from the judgment-land by faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, find themselves in the wilderness ; that is, in a place where they have fresh needs and exercises every day, without any human resources to satisfy those needs or answer those exercises. Alas! the perverseness and rebellion of Israel only too well represent our own. How often have our hearts refused the lessons of the wilderness, and sought to find a more pleasant and easy path where daily exercises of soul might be avoided! In Egypt we had no such exercises, and to escape them have we not often been ready to make a captain of our own choice and go back to be sustained by human resources ? How truly is the wilderness the place where we learn what is in our heart! (Deut. 8 : 2.)
But the manna fell every day. If they had fresh hunger every day, they had also fresh food every day. And, beloved brethren, for the renewed needs and exercises of every day we may have renewed supplies of heavenly grace to sustain us in the path of faith. There is One in glory who knows every bit of the wilderness, for He has been through it. He is out of it now, but from where He is in glory we may have the daily supply of grace suited to our wilderness experiences from One who knows well what wilderness circumstances are. Paul would have liked to escape from the exercise caused by the thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12), but he was better off with it than without it, for along with it he got what I think answers to the manna—" My grace is sufficient for thee." I am sure if you have known anything at all of this you will say that it is infinitely better to have the exercise and the grace than to be without them. As I said, this is very experimental, and when we come to experimental things we find out where we are. Doctrines will not help you in your everyday needs and exercises ; you must have the supply that is suited to them fresh from heaven. You must have " daily bread." The manna that sustained you through yesterday's experience will not do for to-day. You must have fresh grace from the Lord in glory for every hour of need. Thus the heart's intercourse with heaven is kept up from day to day, and our affections become more and more attracted to the Person and the place from whence our supplies come.
We have all, I trust, passed through some stages of divine experience. We have been —through grace—awakened, converted, led to trust in Jesus, and brought into peace with God on the ground of Christ's death and resurrection, but at this point many seem to stop. They have got all they want and they settle down and go to sleep—that is, they live more or less on the same principles as unconverted men. I ask you, young believer, whether it would not make a great difference in your life, if you were to accept a path where human resources cannot sustain you, and where you have to look continually to the Lord in glory for the supply of daily grace to carry you on. You cannot get on, as a Christian, on your own resources. Your only strength lies in " the grace which is in Christ Jesus," and you may have it fresh as the food of your soul every day and hour. This would keep us out of all ruts and formalities—there would be nothing humdrum or mechanical about our lives—because every day would bring fresh experiences of the grace of Christ, and the sense of His interest in us would knit our hearts more and more to Himself. May the Lord preserve us from becoming insensible to our daily need, or indifferent to the present grace that His love delights to supply as our daily bread !
5. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me," Luke 9 : 23.
I am quite sure that you would shrink from the
if you did not know something of the grace of which I have been speaking. It is feeding on the daily bread that enables us to sustain the daily cross, just as in Luke 14 you get the supper first and then the building and the fighting. How could you build or fight unless you were first fed ? In a similar way in Hebrews 13 you are first fed from the altar (v. 10), and then you are called to make a journey (v. 13). I have sometimes tried to get people to take the journey without feeding them, but that is not God's way. When He was going to send Elijah on a long journey He fed him first (1 Kings 19). You must feed upon the heavenly grace that comes from Christ, or you will never have the heart to " go forth unto him." It is when you have learnt that all your supplies come from Him, that you are willing to go forth to Him in the place of shame and reproach, which answers to the daily cross of Luke 9. You take up a path that exposes you to shame and contempt every day. If a man was seen bearing his cross everybody knew that he had done with the world, and as long as he remained in it he was an object of reproach. To bear the cross is to accept the reproach of being connected with that which is mean and despicable in the eyes of men. A crucified man was inconceivably despicable to both the Jew and the Greek, and we must not forget that though the cross is so highly honoured now in name, it is not really one whit more acceptable to men; and if we are true to the Man who died on the cross we shall be targets for the taunts and the scorn of the world. The daily cross is not bodily affliction or the ordinary trials of life, as so many suppose, for these things are not peculiar to Christians, they are the common lot of mankind. The daily cross is the acceptance day by day of a path which so far as this world goes is one of dishonour and reproach.
You may depend upon it that it will never be easy to the flesh to follow Christ and to bear His reproach. How much we need to remember those words of the Holy Spirit: " Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind : for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," 1 Peter 4:1. If we are true to Christ it will involve the surrender of much that we naturally esteem—the praise of men, and the honours of " life in this world." When our eye gets off Christ we shirk the cross and try to smooth its corners to avoid the scorn and the sneers of the world. It is a long time since I read Pilgrim's Progress, but I have not forgotten that Shame was one of the worst enemies he met with. A great soul-winner said that it cost him a struggle to give away a tract; and you may be sure that every bit of real testimony for Christ will cost you something. If you are acting in the flesh, of course you will escape this, for the flesh is not ashamed of its doings, and you may be very well pleased with yourself and your service. But true testimony involves the denial of self and the daily cross, for discipleship will never be a path of liberty to the flesh. As you keep your eyes upon Christ you do not seek to gratify the flesh, but to walk in the Spirit, and you are able to sing from your heart—
" Saviour, I long to follow Thee, Daily Thy cross to bear."
The child of God walking in the Spirit does not dread the cross, he longs for it. Like Moses, he esteems the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he has respect unto the recompense of the reward. As you take up the daily cross you will have a present reward in the sense of the Lord's approval; and by-and-by it will be your immeasurable gain in the thousand years of kingdom glory, and your joy for ever. May the Lord encourage all our hearts in this matter!
6. " Exhort [encourage] one another daily," Heb. 3 : 13.
There is immense need for such an exhortation as this, for there is a constant tendency in our hearts to be " discouraged because of the way." The young especially need
and it is a great privilege from the Lord to be able to " encourage one another." I am afraid that many souls backslide and drift away simply because we are not near enough to the Lord, and have not sufficient affection to give them a word of encouragement. It is no use trying to set the old man down; you may lecture and hammer at him with all your might, but he can stand all the blows that you give him. You must keep your eye on that which is of God in the saints and lay yourself out to encourage that. There is no other way to help one another. There is something which is of God in every saint; it may be very weak and small, but we must build on that—we must encourage that. You will see what I mean in the epistles. Take the Galatians ; they were in an awful state, in danger of leaving the very foundations of Christianity, and yet Paul says, " I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded," Gal. 5 : 10. We have to look at the saints from a divine standpoint, and we shall then recognise, as Balaam did, what they are in God's thoughts and purposes, and we shall count upon His Spirit's work in them, in spite of much that would turn our hearts from them if we judged after the sight of our eyes and the hearing of our ears. We must count on the work of God in the souls of His saints, and seek to help and encourage that which is of Himself in every way. As the Spirit's work in the soul prospers, Christ supersedes and displaces the flesh and the world, and this is the way of true sanctification.
Let none of us think that this is only for teachers and ministers of the Word ; we are to " encourage one another." This applies to every one of us in our individual contact with each other. I have often been encouraged by simply meeting a brother in the street. A kindly word of interest and of cheer often goes a long way. A hearty grip of the hand is in itself an encouragement; when the Holy Spirit says, " Salute one another with a holy kiss," He refers to the common salutation of the country which answers to our shake of the hand. We might have thought the reference to such a thing beneath the dignity of Christianity, but not so the Holy Spirit. There are a thousand ways in which we can " encourage one another " if we are near the Lord ourselves.
And, remember, this is to go on " daily." We are not to be spasmodic. It is an easy thing to make a flash like a meteor, but if we are to be fixed stars shining with a steady light from day to day for the encouragement of others we must ourselves daily abide in Christ, and walk in the Spirit. Then, instead of there being a falling off as to this, we should be " encouraging one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching," Heb. 10:25.
May God write these things on our hearts, that we may be more distinctly for Christ as we wait for His coming! Amen.
C. A. Coates