The alabaster sheet which is intended to be fitted into the lamp is pared very thin that the light may shine through. And God pares away much of our lives in order that through what is left there may gleam more clearly and lambently the light of an indwelling God. There is nothing to be won in the perfecting of Christian character without our setting ourselves to it persistently, doggedly, continuously all through our lives.
Brethren, be sure of this, you will never grow like Christ by mere wishing, by mere emotion, but only by continual faith, rigid self-control, and by continual struggle. Now, it seems to me that, in this hypothetical exhortation there are three points to be noted, two of them being somewhat unlike what we should have looked for. One is the great deficiency in the average Christian character - wisdom; another is the great means of supplying it - ask; and the third is the great guarantee of the supply - the giving God, whose gifts are bestowed on all liberally and without upbraiding.
The great deficiency in the average Christian character - wisdom. Now, that is not exactly what we should have expected to be named as the main thing lacking in the average Christian. If we had been asked to specify the chief defect we should probably have thought of something else than wisdom. But, if we remember who is speaking, we shall understand better what he means by this word.
James is a Jew, steeped through and through in the Old Testament. This Epistle is more of an echo of the earlier revelation than any other part of the New Testament, and we may be quite sure that James uses this venerable word with all the associations of its use there, and in all the solemn depth of meaning which he had learned to attach to it, on the lips of psalmists, prophets, and teachers of the true wisdom.
These characteristics must apply to something a great deal more august and more powerful in shaping and refining character.
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He means the sum of practical religion. With him, as with the psalmist, sin and folly are two names for the same thing, and so are religion and wisdom. He, and only he, has wisdom who knows God with a living heart-knowledge which gives a just insight into the facts of life and the bounds of right and wrong, and which regulates conduct and shapes the whole man with power far beyond that of knowledge however wide and deep, illuminating intellect however powerful. The use of this expression to indicate the greatest deficiency in the average Christian character, just suggests this thought, that if we had a clear, constant, certain, God-regarding insight into things as they are, we should lack little.
It would be an impossibility for him, with all that illumination blazing in upon him, not to walk in the paths of righteousness with a glad and serene heart. And, brethren, I think that there is a practical direction of no small importance here, in the suggestion that the thing that we want most is clearer and more vivid conceptions of the realities of the Christian revelation, and of the facts of human life.
These will act as tests, and up will start in his own shape the fiend that is whispering at our ears, when touched by the spear of this divine wisdom. Thai direction might at first sight strike one as being, like the specification of the thing lacking, scarcely what we should have expected. Very strange, if wisdom lives only up in the head! If you want to learn theology you have to study.
If you seek to master any science you have to betake yourself to the appropriate discipline. But if a man wants the divine wisdom, let him get down on his knees. That is the best place to secure it. And that, I believe, is to a large extent the reason why the other truths of Christianity have so little power upon people. It is of less use, no doubt, to hold a Christianity which does not begin with that death.
And to receive that spirit of wisdom, the one thing necessary is that we should want it.
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Nothing more, but nothing less. I doubt very much whether hosts of the average Christian people of this generation do want it, or would know what to do with it if they had it; or whether the gift of a heart purged from delusions, and of eyes made clear always to behold the God who is ever with us, and the real importance of the things around us, is the gift that most of us pray for most. The measure of their desire is the measure of their possession.
That wisdom can be had for the asking, and is not to be won by proudly self-reliant effort. The petition that avails must be sincere, intense, constant, and accompanied by corresponding conduct. It is not faint and feeble desire, but one presented with continuity which is not shameless importunity, but patient persistence. It must breathe intense desire and perfect confidence in the willingness of the Giver and in the power of prayer.
The great guarantee that such petitions shall be answered. James has an arrangement of words in the original which can scarcely be reproduced in an English translation, but which may be partially represented thus: That is the very life-breath of love, and such is the love of God. There is a must even for that heavenly nature. Just as the sun cannot but pour out his rays, so the very activity of the divine nature is beneficence and self-impartation; and His joy is to grant Himself to His creature, whom He has made empty for the very purpose of giving all of Himself that the creature is capable of receiving.
That is the way in which God gives. People have sometimes objected to the doctrine of which the Scripture is full from beginning to end, that God is His own motive, and that His reason in all His acts is His own glory, that it teaches a kind of almighty and divine selfishness. But it is perfectly consistent with this thought of my text, that He gives simply for the benefit of the recipient, and without a thought of what may accrue to the bestower.
For why does God desire His glory to be advanced in the world? For any good that it is to Him, that you and I should praise Him? But, beyond that, none. The reason why He seeks that men should know and recognise His glory, and should praise and magnify it, is because it is their life and their blessedness to do so.
He desires that all men should know Him for what He is, because to do so is to come to be what we ought to be, and what He has made us to try to be; and therein to enjoy Him for ever. Were you ever thankful enough for those other benefits that you have had? What is become of all those? Go away and make a better use of what you have had before you come and ask Me for any more.
That is not how God talks to us. Time enough for upbraiding after the child has the gift in his hand! He gives us these, and then He bids us go away, and profit by them, and, in the light of His bestowments, preach rebukes to ourselves for the poverty of our askings and our squandering of His gift. What thick obscuration of clouds would he swept clean from between us and the sun! These passages are numerous.
I ask you, then, first to look with me at the general idea conveyed by the symbol. Now the word which is employed in the passages to which we have referred is not that which usually denotes a kingly crown, but that which indicates the garland or wreath or chaplet of festivity and victory. A twist of myrtle or parsley or pine was twined round the brows of the athlete flushed with effort and victory.
And it is thoughts of these rather than of the kingly tiara which is in the mind of the New Testament writers; though the latter, as we shall see, has also to be included. So we get three general ideals on which I touch very lightly, as conveyed by the emblem. The first is that of victory recognised and publicly honoured.
We do not look for flowers on the hard-beaten soil of the arena; and the time of conflict is no time for seeking for delights. We have, then, the general idea of victory recognised and publicly honoured by the tumult of acclaim of the surrounding spectators. Then there is the other general idea of festal gladness.
But, says Peter, this wreath fades never. The flowers of heaven do not droop. It is an emblem of the calm and permanent delights which come to those behind whom is change with its sadness, and before whom stretches progress with its blessedness. Festal gladness, society, and the satisfaction of all desires are included in the meaning of the wreathed amaranthine flowers that twine round immortal brows.
But the usage in the Book of the Apocalypse stands upon a somewhat different footing. There are no Gentile images there. We hear nothing about Grecian games and heathen wrestlings in that book; but all moves within the circle of Jewish thought. Dominion over self, dominion over the universe, a rule mysterious and ineffable which is also service, cheerful and continuous, are contained in the emblem. So these three general ideas, victory, festal gladness and abundance, royalty and sovereignty, are taught us by this symbol of the crown.
Now, secondly, note more particularly the constituent parts of that chaplet of blessedness. There are two phrases as to these, amongst the passages with which we are now concerned. Now, as to the first of these - what dim and great thoughts are taught us in it! And such life - full, perfect, continual - is regarded as being in itself the crown and reward of faithful Christian living here below. In our experience life is often a burden, a weariness, a care.
If it be a crown, it is a crown of thorns. But yonder, to live will be blessedness; being will be well-being. The reward of heaven will simply be the fact of living in God. Here life comes painfully trickling, as it were, in single drops through a narrow rift in the rock; yonder it will spread a broad bosom, flashing beneath the sunshine.
Here the plant grows strugglingly in some dusty cleft, amidst uncongenial surroundings, and with only occasional gleams of sunlight; its leaves are small, its stem feeble, its blossoms pallid; yonder it will be rooted in rich soil and shone upon by an unclouded sun, and will burst into flowers and forms of beauty that we know nothing of here. Life is the crown. Then it is a crown of glory. That is the full meaning of glory in the Old and in the New Testament. And all that is transferred to those who cleave to Him here and are perfected yonder.
There will be complete perfection of nature. Here it struggles for expression, and what we seem to be, though it is often better, is just as often much worse than we really are. But there we shall be able to show ourselves as what in our deepest hearts we are. For the servants who, girt with priestly vestments, do Him sacerdotal service in the highest temple, have His name blazing upon their foreheads, and shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. But why speak of what we know as little about as the unborn child does of the world, or the caterpillar of its future life when winged and painted and basking in the sunshine?
These are variously put with a rich variety. None but the righteous can wear it. That is the first and prime indispensable condition. But then there are others stated in the other passages to which we have referred. The martyr must be willing to die, if need be, for fidelity to his Master. But two of the passages to which I have referred add yet another kind of condition and requirement. Fundamental to all is love to Jesus Christ. That is the beginning of everything. Then, built upon that, for His dear sake, the manful wrestling with temptations and with difficulties, long-breathed running, and continual aspiration after the things that are before, fidelity, if need be, unto death, and a grim tenacity of grasp of the truth and the blessings already bestowed.
These things are needed. And then as the result of the love that grasps Christ with hooks of flesh, which are stronger than hooks of steel, and will not let Him go, and as the result of the efforts and struggles and discipline which flow from that love to Him, there must be a righteousness which conforms to His image and is the gift of His indwelling Spirit. These are the conditions on which the crown may be ours. Such righteousness may be imperfect here upon earth, and when we look upon ourselves we may feel as if there were nothing in us that deserves, or that even can bear, the crown to be laid upon our brows.
But if the process have been begun here by love and struggling, and reception of His grace, death will perfect it, But death will not begin it if it have not been commenced in life. Yet, let us remember that He does not give it in such a fashion as that the gift may be taken once for all and worn thereafter, independent of Him.
It must be a continual communication, all through eternal ages, and right on into the abysses of celestial glories - a continual communication from His ever-opened hand. Like the rainbow that continues permanently above the cater-act, and yet at each moment is fed by new spray from the stream, so the crown upon our heads will be the consequence of the continual influx into redeemed souls of the very life of Christ Himself. So, dear brethren, all ends as all begins, with cleaving to Him, and drawing from His fulness grace whilst we need grace, and glory when we are fit for glory.
Strength for the conflict and the reward of the victory come from the same hand, and are ours on the same conditions. No part of the harvest was permitted to be used for food until after this acknowledgment, that all had come from God and belonged to Him. A similar law applied to the first-born of men and of cattle. Both were regarded as in a special sense consecrated to and belonging to God. In His case the ideas attached to the expression are not only that of consecration, but that of being the first of a series, which owes its existence to Him.
Then that which Jesus Christ is, primarily and originally, all those who love Him and trust Him are secondarily and by derivation from Himself. Thus, both these phrases are further transferred in the New Testament to Christian people. And I want you to look at these for a moment or two. The sheaf was presented before God in the symbolical ceremonial, as an acknowledgment of His ownership of it, and of all the wide-waving harvest. It thereby became His in a special sense.
In like manner, the purpose of God in bestowing on us the wondrous gift of a regeneration and new life by the word is that we should be His, yielding to Him the life which He gives, and all that we are, in thankful recognition and joyful consecration.
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We hear a great deal about consecration in these days. Let us understand what consecration means. There is an inward and an outward aspect of it. In the inward aspect it means an entire devotion of myself, down to the very roots of my being, to God as Lord and Owner. And the whole purpose of the gospel is to decentralise him and to give him a new centre, even God, for whom, and by whom, and with whom, and in whom the Christian man is destined, by his very calling, to live. Now, how can an inward devotion and consecration of myself be possible? Only by one way, and that is by the way of love that delights to give.
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The yielding of the human spirit to the divine is only accomplished through that sweet medium of love. Self-surrender is the giving up of self at the bidding of love to Him to whom my heart cleaves. The will will yield itself. There will be no murmuring at hard providences; no regrets darkening a whole life and paralysing duty, and blinding to blessings, by reason of the greatest sorrow which He may have sent. The will will yield in submission; the will will yield in obedience. Consecration means self-surrender; and the fortress of self is in the will, and the way of self-surrender is the flowery path of love.
One can feel the passion of this man for the word of God, it is palpable. I think the Kindle price was 0. I can only say one thing, if you are a committed Christian, you must read anything and everything by Alexander McLaren. It will make your faith stronger. This man knew more about the real meaning of Faith in God and how to get that meaning across by clear expository writing than any other Christian commentary available today. Just straight up Bible knowledge without reference to any denominational cliches.
Easy to read, logical to follow and clear to understand. Take it one day at a time, go slowly and meditatively. You can't find anything better for the foundational truths of the Bible than Alexander MacLaren's commentary. Of course, straight out reading of the scriptures everyday is necessary as well.
All commentary needs to be corroborated by the Bible itself. This is a wonderful book of expositions of selected verses and passages. It is not a commentary. Some of the negative reviewers seem to have expected a verse-by-verse commentary on the whole Bible. This is a valuable in-depth treatment of hundreds of the most important texts of the Bible. Some of the passages are treated more than once. It is certainly worth the money. For such a huge work, it is easy to navigate.
One person found this helpful. Scholar with a heart, erudition with depth as well as soul. For my money better than Matthew Henry who didn't live to do the N. Especially at the kindle price, and this is not one of those poorly executed classics you will find here with half the letters replaced with uninteligible symbols and no table of contents, its not one of those. Old-school, but absolutely beautifully vivid commentary on scriptures.
Never fails to give me new perspectives to consider when meditating on scripture. Along with Gill's Expositions, they have completely elevated and enhanced my personal Bible study. One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. Lot of material and looks to be of top quality content. However quality control concerning proofreading is often lacking in these digital bargains. One of them is flagrantly wrong. It would be better to raise the price by a dollar or two and get the major things right rather then get the reputation for sloppy product.
Really we are not talking about some minor typos or punctuation. I will be happy to update my review and rating when or if this is corrected. Just started reading this but it is one of the best commentaries and I belive tells more than what others do. See all 36 reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published 1 month ago. Published 3 months ago.
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Forty-six sermons on Ephesians. Thirty sermons on 1 Corinthians Twelve sermons on 2 Corinthians chapters 1—5. Eleven sermons on 2 Corinthians chapters 7—12 Eleven sermons on Galatians Twenty-two sermons on Philippians chapters 1—3. Philippians 4, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Timothy Author: Hebrews 7—13, and James Author: Thirty-nine sermons on Hebrews chapters 6—13 Ten sermons on James. Robertson Nicoll Scripture and subject index.
More details about these resources Expositions of Holy Scripture: Genesis Expositions of Holy Scripture: Deuteronomy—1 Samuel Expositions of Holy Scripture: Esther—Ecclesiastes Expositions of Holy Scripture: Psalms 1—49 Expositions of Holy Scripture: Psalms 51— Expositions of Holy Scripture: Isaiah 1—48 Expositions of Holy Scripture: Isaiah 49—66, Jeremiah Expositions of Holy Scripture: Matthew 1—8 Expositions of Holy Scripture: Matthew 9—17 Expositions of Holy Scripture: Matthew 18—28 Expositions of Holy Scripture: Mark 1—8 Expositions of Holy Scripture: