Tag Archives: Alexander Maclaren

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

A NEW NAME AND A NEW NATURE

If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new. – 2Co_5:17

Jesus Christ gave the Apostle, whom He called to Himself in the early days, a new name, in order to prophesy the change which, by the discipline of sorrow and the communication of the grace of God, should pass over Simon Barjona, making him into a Peter, the Man of Rock. With characteristic independence, Saul chooses for himself a new name, which shall express the change that he feels has passed over his inmost being. True, he does not assume it at his conversion, but that is no reason why we should not believe that he assumes it because he is beginning to understand what it is that has happened to him at his conversion.

The central heart of Christianity is the possession of a new life, communicated to us through faith in that Son of God who is the Lord of the Spirit. Wheresoever there is a true faith, there is a new nature.

Opinions may play upon the surface of a man’s soul, like the moonbeams on the silver sea, without raising its temperature one degree or sending a single beam into its dark caverns. And that is the sort of Christianity that satisfies a great many of you – a Christianity of opinion, a Christianity of surface creed, a Christianity which at the best slightly modifies some of your outward actions, but leaves the whole inner man unchanged.

Paul’s Christianity meant a radical change in his whole nature. He went out of Jerusalem a persecutor; he came into Damascus a Christian. He rode out of Jerusalem hating, loathing, despising Jesus Christ; he groped his way into Damascus broken, bruised, clinging contrite to His feet, and clasping His Cross as his only hope. He went out proud, self-reliant, pluming himself upon his many prerogatives, his blue blood, his pure descent, his Rabbinical knowledge, his Pharisaical training, his externally religious earnestness, his pure morality; he rode into Damascus blind in the eyes, but seeing in the soul, and discerning that all these things were, as he says in his strong vehement way, ” but dung ” in comparison with his winning Christ. And his theory of conversion, which he preaches in all his epistles, is but the generalization of his own personal experience, which suddenly, and in a moment, smote his old self to shivers, and raised up a new life, with new tastes, views, tendencies, aspirations, with new allegiance to a new King. Such changes, so sudden, so revolutionary, cannot be expected often to take place amongst people who, like us, have been listening to Christian teaching all our lives. But unless there be this infusion of a new life into men’s spirits which shall make them love and long and aspire after new things that once they did not care for, I know not why we should speak of them as being Christians at all. The transition is described by Paul as “passing from death unto life.” That cannot be a surface thing. A change which needs a new name must be a profound change. Has our Christianity revolutionized our nature in any such fashion? It is easy to be a Christian after the superficial fashion which passes muster with so many of us. A verbal acknowledgment of belief in truths which we never think about, a purely external performance of acts of worship, a subscription or two winged by no sympathy, and a fairly respectable life between the cloak of which all evil may burrow undetected – make the Christianity of thousands. Paul’s Christianity transformed him; does yours transform you? If it does not, are you quite sure that it is Christianity at all?

 

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

CONTINUOUS STRENGTH

He giveth more grace. – Jam_4:6.

God ‘s strength, poured into our hearts, if we wait upon Him,  shall fit us for the moments of special hard effort.  ” They shall run and not be weary,” for the crises which require more than an ordinary amount of energy to be put forth; and for the long dreary hours which require nothing but keeping doggedly at monotonous duties, ” They shall walk and not faint.”

It is a great deal easier to be up to the occasion in some shining moment of a man’s life when he knows that a supreme hour has come than it is to keep that high tone when plodding over all the dreary plateaux of uneventful, monotonous travel and dull duties. It is easier to run fast for a minute than to grind along the dusty road for a day.

Many a ship has stood the tempest, and then has gone down in the harbor because its timbers have been gnawed to pieces by white ants. And many a man can do what is wanted in the trying moments, and yet make shipwreck of his faith in uneventful times.

Like ships that have gone down at sea,
When heaven was all tranquility.

Soldiers who could stand firm and strike with all their might in the hour of battle will fall asleep or have their courage ooze out at their fingers’ ends when they have to keep solitary watch at their posts through a long winter’s night. We have all a few moments in life of hard, glorious running; but we have days and years of walking, the uneventful discharge of small duties. We need strength for both; but paradoxical as it may sound, we need it most for the multitude of smaller duties. We know where to get it. Let us keep close to ” Christ, the Power of God,” and open our hearts to the entering in of His unwearied strength. ” Then shall the lame man leap as a hart,” and we shall ” run with patience the race that is set before us,” if we look to Jesus, and follow in His steps.

A man complains that his path is hid, his course on earth seems so sad and cloudy and weary as compared with the paths of those great stars that move without friction, effort, confusion, dust, noise, while all these things – friction, effort, confusion, dust, noise – beset our little carts as we tug them along the dreary road of life.

But, says Isaiah, His power does not show itself so nobly up there among the stars as it does down here. It is not so much to keep the strong in their strength as to give strength to the weak. It is much to “preserve the stars from wrong,” it is more to restore and to break the power into feeble men; much to uphold all them that are falling so that they may not fall, but it is more to raise up all those that are fallen and are bowed down. So, brother, what God does with a poor, weak creature like me, when He lifts up our weakness and replenishes our weariness; pouring oil and wine into our wounds and a cordial into our lips, and sending us, with the joy of pardon, upon our road again; that is a greater thing than when He rolls Neptune in its mighty orbit round the central sun, or upholds with unwearied arms, from cycle to cycle, the circle of the heavens with all its stars.  “He giveth power to the faint ” is His divinest work.

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

History has a voice, and if we choose to listen to it, rather than talk about it, we can still hear it’s echo….still trying to speak truth even now….

HUMAN REMEDIES FOR SIN UNAVAILING

Though thou wash thee with lye, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God. – Jer_2:22

Education? Yes! it will do a great deal, but it will do nothing in regard of sin. It will alter the type of the disease, because the cultured man’s transgressions will be very different from those of the illiterate boor. But wise or foolish, professor, student, thinker, or savage with narrow forehead and all but dead brain, are alike in this, that they are sinners in God’s sight. I would that I could get through the fence that some of you have reared round you, on the ground of your superior enlightenment and education and refinement, and make you feel that there is something deeper than all that, and that you may be a very clever, and a very well educated, a very highly cultured, an extremely thoughtful and philosophical sinner, but you are a sinner all the same.

Again, we hear a great deal at present, and I do not desire that we should hear less, about social and economic and political changes, which some eager enthusiasts suppose will bring the millennium. Well, if the land were nationalized, and all  “the means of production and distribution” were nationalized, and everybody got his share, and we were all brought to the communistic condition, what then? That would not make men better, in the deepest sense of the word. The fact is, these people are beginning at the wrong end. You cannot better humanity merely by altering its environment for the better. Christianity reverses the process. It begins with the inmost man, and it works outwards to the circumference; and that is the thorough way. Why?  Suppose you took a company of people out of the slums, for instance, and put them into a model lodging-house, how long will it continue a model?  They will take their dirty habits with them, and pull down the woodwork for firing, and make the place where they are as like as possible to the hovel whence they came in a very short time. You must change the men, and then you can change their circumstances, or, rather, they will change them for themselves. Now, all this is not to be taken as casting cold water on any such efforts to improve matters, but only as a protest against its being supposed that these alone are sufficient to rectify the ills and cure the sorrows of humanity. ” Ye have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly.”  The patient is dying of cancer, and you are treating him for a skin disease. It is Jesus Christ alone that can cure the sins, and so the sorrows, of humanity.

 

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

This speaks right to the heart of the matter with all of us.

THE THREE-HEADED EVIL THING – I

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is desperately sick: who can know it? – Jer_7:9

I was going to use an inappropriate word, and say, the superb ease with which Christ grappled with, and overcame, all types of disease is a revelation on a lower level of the inexhaustible and all -sufficient fulness of His healing power. He can cope with all sin, the world’s sin and the individual’s. And, as I believe. He alone can do it.

Just look at the problem that lies before any one who attempts to staunch these wounds of humanity. What is needed in order to deliver men from the sickness of sin? Well! that evil thing, like the fabled dog that sits at the gate of the infernal regions, is three-headed. And you have to do something with each of these heads if you are to deliver men from that power.

There is, first, the awful power that evil once done has over us of repeating itself on and on. There is nothing more dreadful, to a reflective mind, than the damning influence of habit. The man that has done some wrong thing once is a rara avis indeed.  If once, then twice; if twice, then onward and onward through all the numbers. And the intervals between will grow less, and what were isolated points will coalesce into a line; and impulses wax as motives wane, and the less delight a man has in his habitual form of evil the more its dominion over him; and he does it at last, not because the doing of it is any delight, but because the not doing of it is a misery. If you are to get rid of sin and to eject the disease from a man, you have to deal with that awful degradation of character and the tremendous chains of custom. That is one of the heads of the monster.

But, as I said, sin has reference to God, and there is another of the heads. For with sin comes guilt. The relation to God is perverted; and the man that has transgressed stands before Him as guilty, with all the dolefulness that that solemn word means; and that is another of the heads.

The third is this- the consequences that follow in the nature of penalty – “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  So long as there is a universal rule by God, in which all things are concatenated by cause and effect, it is impossible but that ” Evil shall slay the wicked.” And that is the third head. These three, habit, guilt, and penalty, have all to be dealt with if you are going to make a thorough job of the surgery.

And here I want not to argue, but to preach. Jesus Christ died on the Cross for you, and your sin was in His heart and mind when He died, and His atoning sacrifice cancels the guilt, and suspends all that is dreadful in the penalty of the sin. Nothing else – nothing else will do that. Who can deal with guilt but the offended Ruler and Judge? Who can trammel up consequences but the Lord of the Universe? The blood of Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient oblation for, and satisfaction for, the sins of the whole world.

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

I came across this in my devotions tonight.  It gave me something to think about.  Perhaps it will give you something to ponder as well.

OUR LEADER IN THE WORLD’S WARFARE

In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. – Joh_16:33

If the revelation made to Joshua and his host be for us as truly as for them a revelation of who is our true leader, surely all of us in our various degrees, and especially any of us who have any ”Quixotic crusade ” for the world’s good on our consciences and on our hands, may take the lessons and the encouragements that are here. Own your Leader. That is one plain duty. And recognise this fact, that by no other power than by His, and with no other weapons than those which He puts into our hands, in His Cross and meekness, can a world’s evils be overcome, and the victory be won for the right and the truth. I have no faith in crusades which are not under the Captain of our salvation. And I would that the earnest men, and there are many of them, – the laborious and the self-sacrificing men in many departments of philanthropy and benevolence and social reformation – who labour unaware of who is their Leader, and not dependent upon His help, nor trusting in His strength – would see beside them the Man with the drawn sword in His hand, the Christ with the sharp two-edged sword going out of His mouth, by whom, and by whom alone, the world’s evil can be overcome and slain.

Own your General; submit to His authority; pick the weapons that He can bless; trust absolutely in His help. We may have, we shall have, in all enterprises for God and man that are worth doing, need of patience, just as the army of Israel had to parade for six weary days round Jericho blowing their useless trumpets, whilst the impregnable walls stood firm, and the defenders flouted and jeered their aimless procession. But the seventh day will come, and at the trumpet blast down will go the loftiest ramparts of the cities that are walled up to heaven, with a rush and a crash, and through the dust and over the ruined rubbish Christ’s soldiers will march and take possession. So trust in your Leader, and be sure of the victory, and have patience and keep on at your work.

Do not make Joshua’s mistake. “Art Thou for us? ” – Nay! ” Thou art for ME?.” That is a very different thing. We have the right to be sure that God is on our side, when we have made sure that we are on God’s. So take care of self-will and self-regard, and human passions, and all the other parasitical insects that creep round philanthropic religious work, lest they spoil your service. There is a great deal that calls itself after Jehu’s fashion, ” My zeal for the Lord,” which is nothing better than zeal for my own notions and their preponderance. Therefore we must strip ourselves of all that, and not fancy that the cause is ours, and then graciously admit Christ to help us, but recognise that it is His, and lowly submit ourselves to His direction, and what we do, do, and when we fight, fight, in His name and for His sake.

From “Music For The Soul” by Alexander Maclaren

     At times, we allow things to disrupt and get in the way of our relationships with others.  When those things happen let us be quick to acknowledge and deal with them so they don’t hamper us or put distance between us and the ones we love.

FOLLOWING AFAR OFF

 

But Peter followed Him afar off. – Mat_26:58

Many women were there beholding from, afar. – Mat_27:55

The consciousness of God’s presence with us is a very delicate thing. It is like a very sensitive thermometer, which will drop when an iceberg is a league off over the sea, and scarcely visible. We do not want His company, or we are not in harmony with His thoughts, or we are not going His road, and therefore, of course, we part. At bottom there is only one thing that separates a soul from God, and that is sin – sin of some sort, like tiny grains of dust that get between two polished plates in an engine, that ought to move smoothly and closely against each other. The obstruction may be invisible, and yet be powerful enough to cause friction which hinders the working of the engine and throws everything out of gear. A light cloud, that we cannot see, may come between us and a star, and we shall only know it is there because the star is not visibly there. Similarly, many a Christian, quite ignorantly, has something or other in his habits or in his conduct or in his affections which would reveal itself to him, if he would look, as being wrong because it blots out God.

Let us remember that very little divergence will, if the two paths are prolonged far enough, part their other ends by a world. Our way may go off from the ways of the Lord at a very acute angle. There may be scarcely any consciousness of parting company at the beginning. Let the man travel on upon it far enough, and the two will be so far apart that he cannot see God or hear Him speak. Take care of the little divergences which are habitual, for their accumulated results will be complete separation. There must be absolute surrender if there is to be uninterrupted fellowship.

Such, then, is the direction in which we are to look for the reasons for our low and broken experiences of communion with God. Oh! dear friend, when we do as we sometimes do, wake with a start, like a child that all at once starts from sleep and finds that its mother is gone – when we wake with a start to feel that we are alone, then do not let us be afraid to go straight back. Only be sure that we leave behind us the thing that parted us.

You remember how Peter signalized himself on the lake, on the occasion of the second miraculous draught of fishes, when he floundered through the water, and clasped Christ’s feet. He did not say then, ” Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! ” He had said that before on a similar occasion, when he felt his sin less; but knew that the best place for the denier was with his head on Christ’s bosom.

So, if we have parted from our Friend, there should be no time lost ere we go back. May it be with us all that we walk with God, so that at last the great promise may be fulfilled about us, ” that we shall walk with Him in white,” being, by His love, accounted ” worthy,” and so ” follow,” and keep company with, ” the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.”

 

 

From “Music For The Soul” from Alexander Maclaren

 

     How would you define your relationship with Christ?  How would you answer this question, “Christ is my . . . .?” 

 

A COMPANIONSHIP THAT CHEERS

 

Shall two walk together , except they have agreed?- Amo_3:3

There are three phrases in the Old Testament very like each other and yet presenting different facets or aspects of the same great truth. Sometimes we read about “walking before God,” as Abraham was bid to do. That means ordering the daily life under the continual sense that we are ever in the great Taskmaster’s eye. Then there is “walking after God,” and that means conforming the will and active efforts to the rule that He has laid down; setting our steps firm on the paths that He has prepared, that we should walk in them; and accepting His providences. But also, then, high above both these conceptions of a devout life, is the one which was realized in the case of the patriarch Enoch – walking “with God.” For to walk before Him may have with it some tremor, and may be undertaken in the spirit of the slave, who would be glad to get away from the jealous eye that rebukes his slothfulness; and “walking after Him” may be a painful and partial effort to keep His distant figure in sight; but to “walk with Him ” implies a constant, quiet sense of His Divine presence which forbids that I should ever be lonely, which guides and defends, which floods my soul and fills my life, and in which, as the companions pace along side by side, words may be spoken by either, or blessed silence may be eloquent of perfect trust and rest.

But far above us as such experience seems to sound, such a life is a possibility for every one of us. We may be able to say, as truly as our Lord said it, “‘ I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” It is possible that the dreariest solitude of a soul, such as is not realized when the body is removed from men, but is felt most in the crowded city, where there is none that loves or fathoms and sympathies, may be turned into blessed fellowship with Him. Yes! but that solitude will not be so turned unless it is first painfully felt. As Daniel said, ” I was left alone, and I saw the great vision.” We need to feel in our deepest hearts that loneliness on earth before we walk with God.

If we are so walking, it is no piece of fanaticism to say that there will be mutual communications. As really as it was ever true that the Lord said unto Abraham, or Isaiah, or Paul, it is true that He now speaks to the man that walks with Him. Frank speech on both sides beguiles many a weary mile when lovers or friends foot it side by side. And this pair of friends, of whom I have spoken, have mutual intercourse. God speaks with His servant now, as of old, “as a man speaketh with his friend.” And we, on our parts, if we are truly walking with Him, shall feel it natural to speak frankly to God. As two friends on the road will interchange remarks about trifles, and, if they love each other, the remarks about the trifles will be weighted with love, so we can tell our smallest affairs to God; and, if we have Him for our Pilgrim-Companion, we do not need to lock up any troubles or concerns of any sort, big or little, in our hearts, but may speak them all to our Friend that goes with us.