For Sanctifying Grace

The Morning Watches, John MacDuff— 1852

“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

“I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” — Exod. 31:13

Most blessed God, You have permitted me in Your great goodness to see the light of another day. May I be enabled to receive every returning morning as a fresh token of Your love — a renewal of my lease of existence — a fresh grant of mercy from the Author of all being. May I seek, this day, and every day, to consecrate the life spared by Your bounty more and more to Your praise.

Lord, I come anew with my burden of sin. It is Your marvelous forbearance that does not make every succeeding morning my last. I bless You that there is still the cleansing blood, the “Wonderful Counselor,” the all-gracious Spirit. Give me to know, before I go forth into the world, what it is to have the sense of Your reconciled love. Whether in public or in private, in the communion of life or in the seclusion of solitude, may I realize Your presence. May it be to me the sweetest and most blessed of all thoughts, that a covenant God is “compassing my path” — that by Him I am defended, guided, supported — safe!

Heavenly Father, it is the unholiness of my heart which mars the joys of my communion with You. It is my especial prayer that You may impart largely to me of the sanctifying influences of Your grace and Spirit. Let sin be crucified more and more. Let SELF be subjugated more and more. Under the transforming power of new affections, may You become all in all. May it be mine to know, in growing experience, the happiness of true holiness. May I jealously avoid all that is likely to estrange me from You, and zealously cultivate all that is calculated to draw me nearer towards You. “Your favor is life” — O show me that to lose Your favor is death indeed!

This blessed work of inward sanctification is Yours. Alas! I feel my constant proneness to wander from You, and to seek my happiness in that which is perishable. My best resolutions, how frail! — my warmest affections, how languid and lukewarm! — my holiest moments, how distracted with vain thoughts and worldly cares! — my whole life, how stained with sin! But strengthen me with all might, by Your Spirit, in the inner man. My daily cry would be, “More grace! more grace!” There is no sufficiency in myself; but have You not promised to make Your grace sufficient? May I make it my grand ambition to be marking, day by day, my Zionward progress — my growing conformity to the holy character of a holy God.

For this end, overrule all the dispensations of Your providence. May I hear a voice in each of them proclaiming, “Be holy.” May I be led to bear them all, and to rejoice in them all, if they thus be the means of bringing me nearer Yourself.

I commend to Your fatherly protection all my beloved friends, and all for whom I ought to pray. “Sanctify them through Your truth.” May they all be presented unblameable before You in the day of Christ’s appearing.

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the communion and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with me now and ever. Amen.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

For Renewal of Heart

The Morning Watches, John MacDuff— 1852

“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and wait in expectation.”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” — Psalm 51:10

Almighty God, who has mercifully preserved me during the unconscious hours of slumber, I desire to dedicate my waking moments and thoughts to You. Pre-occupy my mind with hallowed and heavenly things. May I be enabled throughout this day, by the help of Your Holy Spirit, to exclude all that is vain and frivolous and sinful — and to have my affections centered on You, as my best portion and chief joy. As Your Spirit of old brooded over the face of the waters, may that same blessed Spirit descend in all the plenitude of His heavenly graces, that the gloom of a deeper moral chaos may be dispersed, and that mine may be the beauty and happiness and gladness of a soul that has been transformed “from darkness — to light; and from the power of sin and Satan — unto God.”

Forbid, blessed Lord! that I should be resting in anything short of this new creation. May my old nature be crucified; and, as one alive from the dead, may I “walk with Jesus in newness of life.” May the new life infused by Your Spirit urge me to higher attainments and more heavenly aspirations. May I be enabled to see the world in its true light — its pleasures fading, its hopes delusive, its friendships perishable. May I be more solemnly and habitually impressed by the surpassing magnitude of “the things not seen.” May I give evidence of the reality of a renewal of heart by a more entire and consistent dedication of the life. May my soul become a temple of the Holy Spirit; may “Holiness to the Lord” be its superscription. May I be led to feel that there can be no true joy but what emanates from Yourself, the fountain and fullness of all joy — the God in whom “all my well springs” are.

Whatever maybe the discipline You are employing for this inward heart-transformation, let me be willing to submit to it. Let me lie passive in the arms of Your mercy, saying, “Undertake for me.” May it be mine to bear all, and endure all, and rejoice in all — adoring a Father’s hand, and trusting a Father’s faithfulness — feeling secure in a Father’s tried love.

Blessed Jesus! anew would I wash in the opened Fountain. The new heart, like every holy blessing I can ask, is the purchase of that blood which You so freely shed. May it be sprinkled on my guilty conscience. May I ever know what it is to be living on a living Savior, bringing my all-emptiness to His all-fullness; the unworthiness of my infinite demerit — to the worthiness of His all-sufficient, all abounding, grace and mercy.

Shine upon my ways. May I this day get nearer heaven. May I feel at its close that I have done something for God — something to promote the great end for which existence was given me — the glory of Your holy name. Bless all my beloved friends. Unite us together in bonds of holy fellowship here; and at last, in Your presence, may we be permitted to drink together of the streams of everlasting love. And all I ask is for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.”

For Pardon of Sin

THE MORNING WATCHES by John MacDuff, 1852

“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and wait in expectation.” — Psalm 5:3

“For Your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity — for it is great.” — Psalm 25:11

O God, I bless You that You have permitted me to lie down in sleep, and to awake this morning in safety. You have dispersed the darkness of another night — may no shadow of sin obscure the sunshine of Your favor and love. May the returning light of day be to me the type and emblem of that better radiance with which you visit the souls of Your people, when they are enabled, in Jesus, to behold a pardoning God seated on a throne of reconciliation and grace.

I come to You, acknowledging my transgressions in all their heinousness. I have nothing to plead in extenuation. Warnings have been abused, providences slighted, grace resisted, Your Spirit grieved. It is of the Lord’s mercies I am not consumed — that You have not long before now consigned me, with all this load of unpardoned guilt, to that place where pardon is unknown.

But I do rejoice to know that “there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” — that I can bring my great sins to a great Savior. May I be enabled to feel that this all-glorious name of a reconciled God in Christ is “a strong tower,” into which I may “run, and be safe.” Give me grace, in self-renouncing lowliness, to disown every other ground of confidence or hope of mercy; and to cast myself, a broken-hearted, humbled penitent, at the feet of Him on whom was laid the burden of all my transgressions. May mine henceforth be the blessedness of those “whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”

May life’s joys be sweetened, and life’s sorrows sanctified, and life’s terminating hour gladdened, with the assurance: “I am at peace with my God.” May Your favor brighten every scene, and the sweet sense of Your reconciling love be interfused with all my occupations. If sorrow should cloud or darken, may I be brought to feel that there can be no true sorrow or disquietude to the soul which has found its rest in the finished work of Jesus, and which has attained that blessed peace here, which is the prelude of glory hereafter.

Give me grace to walk more closely with You in the time to come. Being forgiven much — may I love You all the more. May my life be one habitual effort of self-crucifixion and sin-crucifixion, seeking to consecrate my soul’s best energies to Him who is willing to “blot out as a thick cloud” all my transgressions. Overrule the discipline of Your providence for promoting within me this death of sin, and this life of righteousness. Amid earth’s many disquietudes, its crosses and its losses — enable me with joy to look forward to that blessed hour when there shall be no more sin, and therefore no more sorrow — when every tear shall be wiped from every eye, and when I shall be permitted to know all that is comprehended in the holy beatitude, how “blessed” indeed are “the pure in heart,” who are to “see God.”

Direct, control, suggest, this day — all my designs and thoughts and actions — that every power of my body, and every faculty of my mind, may unite in devotedness to Your sole service and glory. And all I ask is for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” — Psalm 143:8

The Lord Faithful and His Word True to the Last

Words of Divine Comfort, Octavius Winslow— 1872

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14

There is no testimony to the faithfulness of God in His Word so convincing and touching as that of the dying believer. If ever a man is sincere, it is then. If ever the veil is laid aside and the soul appears real and undisguised, be it a saint or a sinner, it is at that solemn moment. No motive now exists for the false, and no cloud can conceal the true; the coin that has passed current with many for genuine is now found to be counterfeit, and that which many regarded as counterfeit–even the possessor himself–proves to be genuine! Nature now appears to be but nature; and grace, vindicating its true character, proves itself grace. The specious hope dies, and the true hope gathers life; the false faith sinks, and the real rises; and the timid believer, who went doubting and trembling all the way to Jordan’s brink, plunges boldly into the river, and passes over to the other side, with the paean of triumph breathing sweetly from his lips, “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?”

Such is the picture which the position of Joshua now presents to our view. He is standing upon the sunny slope, and before the soles of his feet smite the cold waters, he casts a back glance upon all the way the Lord his God had brought him; and in words the most emphatic and impressive, testifies to the divine faithfulness and unchanging love of his covenant God in making good all His great and precious promises He had so graciously given, “Not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord, your God, spoke unto you; all are come to pass.”

Such is the divine assurance with which we conclude our daily thoughts. What more precious truth, blended with sweeter melody, could linger upon the ear as we close the volume than this–God’s faithfulness in the fulfillment of His Word? Let us look at this truth as confirmed by the experience, first, of the living, and then of the dying believer, for both are God’s witnesses.

What is the life of the child of God but a continuous experience of the truth of His Word, and the veracity of His promises? You have, perhaps, been placed in trying circumstances; resources have lessened and demands have increased; your faith has been sharply tried; your spirits depressed; the sky has lowered and the waters have risen; but lo! the Spirit, the Comforter, has guided you to some precious promise which has just met your case. It has touched your heart, moistened your eye, uplifted the pressure, and your whole soul has been, as it were, absorbed in God. And now the harp that hung sad and mute upon the willow is taken down, and thrills with a new song of praise and thanksgiving to the faithfulness of God in the fulfillment of His Word.

Yes, my soul, you can testify to the truth that every sweet invitation and precious promise and loving word of Jesus, upon which He causes your soul to rest in its grief and desolation, has come to pass–not one word has failed. This is a clear proof of God’s veracity in the making good His every word of promise. Has He not promised to provide for you? then trust Him. Has He not pledged Himself to guide you? then commit your way to Him. Has He not undertaken to save you? then believe His Word and pray–“Say unto my soul, I am your salvation.”

Soon the living witness to the faithfulness of the Lord in His Word will become the dying one. When heart and flesh are failing–when the solemn curtain of eternity is rising–when the eye is darkening, and the pulse is sinking, and earth is receding, and eternity is nearing, and, heaven is opening, oh, then, like Joshua, you shall testify to the unchanging love and faithful word and precious comforts and secure supports of your covenant God and redeeming Savior, as He gently leads you down the valley, radiant with His presence, resounding with your song–up the delectable mountains, home to your Father’s House–“Forever with the Lord!

The Lord’s Loving Remembrances of Youth

Words of Divine Comfort, Octavius Winslow—1872

“Thus says the Lord; I remember you, the kindness of your youth.”–Jer. 2:2

If there is a stage of the Christian’s life ever verdant, ever precious in God’s remembrance, it is that important and memorable period when he gave his youth, consecrated his first and best to God. God calls it “kindness.” How gracious and condescending is our God! Can he ever forget that solemn moment of life’s turning-point, when the great and blessed decision for eternity was made, when the world was forsaken and sin renounced, and the creature relinquished, and the good part was chosen? that hour of the soul’s espousals to Christ, when the divine marriage between Jesus and your heart took place, and all the angels sang the nuptial song in heaven?

“Your youth.” In its spiritual aspect what an important period is youth! It is the moral spring of human life. It maintains the same spiritual relation to our being, as the natural spring does to the autumn of the year. It is the seed-time of life. It seems to hold the future of our existence in its grasp, fixing and foreshadowing its mold and destiny. In almost every case the noon and evening of life reflect the morning. A religious, virtuous, God-fearing morning predicts a career holy, happy, and useful. On the other hand, youth tainted, stunted, and shaded by sinful indulgence, often transmits a sad and fearful heritage of suffering, sorrow, and remorse, mental and physical, to life’s future; crippling its prime, and bringing down the grey hairs of age–if indeed it reach that period–with shame and sorrow to the grave.

Oh! then, seize the golden period, and by prayer and God’s Word, by Christ’s grace and the Spirit’s help, seek its renewal, sanctification and dedication, that you may be like the Savior, a “holy child;” like Josiah, fearing God in your youth; like Samuel, early found in the Temple, hearkening to the call of God and doing His will; like thousands we could mention, of later times, who consecrated the “dew of their youth” to Christ, and gave the first and best to God.

“The kindness of your youth.” The early seeking and finding the Lord, He condescends to denominate a kindness shown Him. He seems to lose sight of His own kindness in early giving His Spirit, in early calling by His grace, and to speak only of the kindness done Him in responding to that call and in yielding to that grace. Are you prepared to manifest this kindness to Jesus? It is kindness to Him when you weep in penitence at His feet. It is kindness to Him, when you arise in faith and wash in His precious blood. It is a kindness to Him, when you accept the free gift of His salvation without a work of your own. It is a kindness, when you lay the sheaf of the “first fruits” of your being–intellect, rank, wealth, service–upon the altar of consecration.

“‘Tis done! the great transaction’s done!

I am my Lord’s, and He is mine;

He drew me, and I followed on,

Charmed to confess the voice divine.

“Now rest my long-divided heart,

Fixed on the blissful center rest;

With ashes who would grudge to part,

When called on angels’ bread to feast?

“High Heaven that heard that solemn vow,

That vow renewed shall daily hear;

Until in life’s latest hour I bow,

And bless in death a bond so dear.”

“I remember you.” Lord, amid the myriad thoughts and memories that crowd Your mind, do You remember that sacred vow, that solemn hour, that blissful moment, when You and I did became one? Oh! matchless love! oh! infinite long-suffering, to remember it still, after all my sinful and sad forgetfulness of You and of Your love! Here beneath Your cross, let me renew my vow of dedication, consecrate myself afresh to You; devoting more holily and unreservedly than ever the little remnant that is left of this sinful, transient being. Remember your servant, O Lord, for good; and give Your grace that, in hallowed remembrance of his “first love,” and of all the long line of Your mercies, he may be faithful unto death, and through Your grace receive the crown of life that fades not away.