That which I now considered the best mode of preparation for the public ministry of the Word, from deep conviction and from the experience of God’s blessing upon it, is as follows: I ask the Lord that He would graciously be pleased to teach me on what subject I shall speak, or what portion of His Word I shall expound. Sometimes it happens that a subject, or a passage, has been in my mind; in that case I ask Him whether I should speak on it. If after prayer I feel persuaded that I should, I fix upon it, yet so that I would desire to leave myself open to the Lord to change it if He please. Frequently however, it occurs that I have no text or subject in my mind before I give myself to prayer. In this case, I wait some time for an answer, trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit to direct me. If then a passage or subject is brought to my mind, I again ask Him, and that sometimes repeatedly, whether it be His will I should speak on it. Frequently it happens that I not only have no text or subject, but also do not obtain one after once or twice or more times praying about it. What I do is to go on with my regular reading of the Scriptures, praying whilst I read, for a text. I have even had to go to the place of meeting without a text, and obtained it perhaps only a few minutes before I was going to speak; but I have never lacked the Lord’s assistance at the time of preaching, provided I had earnestly sought it in private.
Now when the text has been obtained, whether it be one or two or more verses, or a whole chapter, I ask the Lord that He would graciously be pleased to teach me by His Holy Spirit whilst meditating over it. Within the last sixty-three years I have found it the most profitable plan to meditate with my pen in my hand, writing down the outlines, as the Word is opened to me. This I do for the sake of clearness, as being a help to see how far I understand the passage. I very seldom use any other help, besides the little I understand of the original of the Scriptures and some good translations in other languages. My chief help is prayer. I have never in my life begun to study one single part of divine truth without gaining some light about it, when I have been able really to give myself to prayer and meditation over it. This I most firmly believe: that no one ought to expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he is not much given to prayer and meditation.
That which I have found most beneficial in the public ministry of the Word is expounding the Scriptures. This may be done in a twofold way, either by entering minutely into the bearing of every point occurring in the portion, or by giving the general outlines and thus leading the hearers to see the meaning and connection of the whole. The benefits which I have seen resulting from expounding are these:
Simplicity of expression, whilst the truth is set forth, is of the utmost importance. It should be the aim of the teacher so to speak that children, servants, and people who cannot read may be able to understand him, so far as the natural mind can comprehend the things of God. It should also be considered, that if the preacher strive to speak according to the rules of this world, he may please many, particularly those who have a literary taste but in the same proportion he is less likely to become an instrument in the hands of God for the conversion of sinners or for the building up of the saints. For neither eloquence nor depth of thought makes the truly great preacher, but such a life of prayer, meditation, and spirituality as may render him “a vessel…meet for the master’s use” (2 Ti 2:21) and fit to be employed both in the conversion of sinners and in the edification of the saints.
November 27th, Lord's day. Our money had been reduced to 2 1/2d.; our bread was hardly enough for this day. I had several times brought our need before the Lord. After dinner, when I returned thanks, I asked Him to give us our daily bread, meaning literally that He would send us bread for the evening. Whilst I was praying, there was a knock at the door of the room. After I had concluded, a poor sister came in, and brought us some of her dinner, and from another poor sister, 5s. In the afternoon she also brought us a large loaf. Thus the Lord not only literally gave us bread, but also money.
In reading about all these answers to prayer, the believing reader may be led to think that I am spiritually minded above most of the children of God, and that, therefore, the Lord favours us thus. The true reason is this. Just in as many points as we are acting according to the mind of God, in so many are we blessed and made a blessing. Our manner of living is according to the mind of the Lord, for He delights in seeing His children thus come to Him (Matt. vi.); and therefore, though I am weak and erring in many points, yet He blesses me in this particular, and, I doubt not, will bless me, as long as He shall enable me to act according to His will in this matter.
WHILE I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost—though now, while preparing the eighth edition for the press, more than forty years have since passed away. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
Before this time my practice had been at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditate on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it—not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this: that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, thanksgiving, intercession, or supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.
The difference then between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly, when I rose I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events, I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the Word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for a revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer. But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being flourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private communion with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as everyone must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man?—not prayer but the Word of God; and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
When we pray we speak to God. Now prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire. And the season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed, is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, comfort us, instruct us, humble us, reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God’s blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. There is thus far less to be feared from wandering of mind, than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had previously time for meditation.
I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength that I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I had ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!
On November 15 a brother arrived to work for a little while in Bristol. I told him about having to move the orphans from Wilson Street. He felt that it was God's will that I build. This dear brother's judgment greatly encouraged me. He also suggested that I seek God's direction for the design of the building. He said, "You must ask help from God to show you the plan, so that all you do may be according to the mind of God."
I waited daily upon God for finances for this work, and not a single penny had been given to me. Nevertheless, this did not discourage me. My assurance increased more and more that God, in His own time and in His own way, would give the means.
More than at any period in my life, I was struck by these verses: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" James 1:2-4). These words spoke to my heart about building the Orphan House. I asked the Lord to increase my faith and sustain my patience. I knew that I needed patience as well as faith.
On the thirty-sixth day after I began to pray, I received one thousand pounds for building the Orphan House. It was the largest single donation I had ever received. But I was as calm and quiet as if I had only received one shilling because I was expecting to receive an answer to my prayers. Even if five thousand pounds or ten thousand pounds had been given to me, it would not have surprised me.
Partnership with God
“And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
--1 John 1:3
(1) The words fellowship, communion, co-participation, and partnership mean the same.
(2) The believer in the Lord Jesus does not only obtain forgiveness of all his sins (as he does through the shedding of the blood of Jesus, by faith in His name), does not only become a righteous one before God (through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, by faith in His name), is not only begotten again, born of God, and partaker of the divine nature, and therefore a child of God and an heir of God—but he is also in fellowship or partnership with God. Now, so far as regards God and our standing in the Lord Jesus, we have this blessing once for all; nor does it allow of either an increase or a decrease. Just as God’s love to us believers, His children, is unalterably the same (whatever may be the manifestations of that love), and as His peace with us is the same (however much our peace may be disturbed), so it is also with regard to our being in fellowship or partnership with Him: it remains unalterably the same, so far as God is concerned.
(3) But then there is an experimental fellowship, or partnership, with the Father and with His Son, which consists in this: that all which we possess in God, as being the partners with God, is brought down into our daily life, is enjoyed, experienced, and used. This experimental fellowship, or partnership, allows of an increase or a decrease in the measure in which faith is in exercise, and in which we are entering into what we have received in the Lord Jesus. The measure in which we enjoy this experimental fellowship with the Father and with the Son is without limit; for without limit we may make use of our partnership with the Father and with the Son, and draw by prayer and faith out of the inexhaustible fullness that there is in God. Let us take a few instances in order to see the practical working of this experimental partnership with the Father and with the Son. Suppose there are two believing parents who were not brought to the knowledge of the truth until some years after the Lord had given them several children. Their children were brought up in sinful, evil ways whilst the parents did not know the Lord. Now the parents reap as they sowed. They suffer from having set an evil example before their children; for their children are unruly and behave most improperly. What is now to be done? Need such parents despair? No! The first thing they have to do is to make confession of their sins to God, with regard to neglecting their children whilst they were themselves living in sin; and then to remember that they are in partnership with God, and therefore to be of good courage though they are in themselves still utterly insufficient for the task of managing their children. They have in themselves neither the wisdom, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love, decision and firmness, nor anything else that may be needful in dealing with their children aright. But their Heavenly Father has all this. The Lord Jesus possesses all this. And they are in partnership with the Father and the Son, and therefore they can obtain by prayer and faith all they need out of the fullness of God. I say “by prayer and faith,” for we have to make known our need to God in prayer, ask His help, and then we have to believe that He will give us what we need. Prayer alone is not enough. We may pray never so much, yet if we do not believe that God will give us what we need, we have no reason to expect that we shall receive what we have asked for. So then these parents would need to ask God to give them the needful wisdom, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love, decision, firmness, and whatever else they may judge they need. They may in humble boldness remind their Heavenly Father that His Word assures them that they are in partnership with Him, and as they themselves are lacking in these particulars, ask Him to supply their need—and then they have to believe that God will do it, and they will receive according to their need.
Another instance: Suppose I am so situated in my business that day by day such difficulties arise that I continually find that I take wrong steps, by reason of these great difficulties. How may the case be altered for the better? In myself I see no remedy for the difficulties. In looking at myself I can expect nothing but to make still further mistakes, and therefore trial upon trial seems to be before me. And yet I need not despair. The living God is my partner; I have not sufficient wisdom to meet these difficulties so as to be able to know what steps to take, but He is able to direct me. What I have, therefore, to do is this: in simplicity to spread my case before my Heavenly Father and my Lord Jesus. The Father and the Son are my partners. I have to tell out my heart to God, and to ask Him that, as He is my partner, and I have no wisdom in myself to meet all the many difficulties which continually occur in my business, He would be pleased to guide and direct me, and to supply me with the needful wisdom. And then I have to believe that God will do so, and go with good courage to my business, and expect help from Him in the next difficulty that may come before me. I have to look out for guidance, I have to expect counsel from the Lord; and, as assuredly as I do so, I shall have it. I shall find that I am not nominally, but really in partnership with the Father and with the Son.
Another instance: There are two believing parents with seven small children. The father works in a factory but cannot earn more than ten shillings per week. The mother cannot earn anything. These ten shillings are too little for the supply of nourishing and wholesome food for seven growing children and their parents, and for providing them with the other necessaries of life. What is to be done in such a case? Surely not to find fault with the manufacturer, who may not be able to afford more wages, and much less to murmur against God. But the parents have in simplicity to tell God, their partner, that the wages of ten shillings a week are not sufficient in England to provide nine persons with all they need, that their health may not be injured. They have to remind God that He is not a hard master, not an unkind being, but a most loving Father, Who has abundantly proved the love of His heart in the gift of His only begotten Son. And they have in childlike simplicity to ask Him, that either He would order it so that the manufacturer may be able to allow more wages, or that the Lord would find them another place where the father would be able to earn more, or that He would be pleased somehow or other, as it may seem good to Him, to supply them with more means. They have to ask the Lord in childlike simplicity again and again for it, if He does not answer their request at once; and they have to believe that God, their Father and partner, will give them the desire of their hearts. They have to expect an answer to their prayers; day by day they have to look out for it, and to repeat their request till God grants it. As assuredly as they believe that God will grant them their request, so assuredly it shall be granted.
Again, suppose I desire more power over my besetting sins; suppose I desire more power against certain temptations; suppose I desire more wisdom, or grace, or anything else that I may need in my service among the saints, or in my service towards the unconverted; what have I to do, but to make use of my being in fellowship with the Father and with the Son? Just as, for instance, an old faithful clerk—who is this day taken into partnership by an immensely rich firm, though himself altogether without property—would not be discouraged by reason of a large payment having to be made by the firm within three days, though he himself has no money at all of his own, but would comfort himself with the immense riches possessed by those who so generously have just taken him into partnership. So should we, the children of God and servants of Jesus Christ, comfort ourselves by being in fellowship, or partnership, with the Father and the Son—though we have no power of our own against our besetting sins, though we cannot withstand temptations which are before us in our own strength, and though we have neither sufficient grace nor wisdom for our service among the saints or towards the unconverted. All we have to do is to draw upon our partner, the living God. By prayer and faith we may obtain all needful temporal and spiritual help and blessings.
In all simplicity we have to tell out our heart before God, and then we have to believe that He will give to us according to our need. But if we do not believe that God will help us, could we be at peace? The clerk, taken into the firm as partner, believes that the firm will meet the payment though so large, and though in three days it is to be made—and it is this that keeps his heart quiet, though altogether poor himself. We have to believe that our infinitely rich partner, the living God, will help us in our need, and we shall not only be in peace, but we shall actually find that the help we need will be granted to us.
Let not the consciousness of your entire unworthiness keep you, dear reader, from believing what God has said concerning you. If you are indeed a believer in the Lord Jesus, then this precious privilege, being in partnership with the Father and the Son, is yours, though you and I are entirely unworthy of it. If the consciousness of our unworthiness were to keep us from believing what God has said concerning those who depend upon and trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation, then we should find that there is not one single blessing with which we have been blessed in the Lord Jesus from which, on account of our unworthiness, we could derive any settled comfort or peace.
The child of God has been bought with the “precious blood of the Christ” (1 Pe 1:19) and is altogether His property, with all that he possesses: his bodily strength, his mental strength, his ability of every kind, his trade, business, art, profession, his property, etc.— for it is written: “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price” (1 Co 6:19-20). The proceeds of our calling are therefore not our own in the sense of using them as our natural heart wishes us to do, whether to spend them on the gratification of our pride, our love of pleasure, or sensual indulgences, or to lay by the money for ourselves or our children, or use it in any way as we naturally like. But we have to stand before our Lord and Master, whose stewards we are, to seek to ascertain His will, how He will have us use the proceeds of our calling. But is this indeed the spirit in which the children of God generally are engaged in their calling? It is but too well known that it is not the case!
Can we then wonder at it, that even God’s own dear children should so often be found greatly in difficulty with regard to their calling, and be found so often complaining about stagnation or competition in trade, and the difficulties of the times, though there have been given to them such precious promises as: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat 6:33), or “Let your conversation [disposition or turn of mind] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ ” (Heb 13:5)? Is it not obvious enough that, when our Heavenly Father sees that we His children do, or would, use the proceeds of our calling as our natural mind would desire, He either cannot at all entrust us with means or will be obliged to decrease them? No wise and really affectionate mother will permit her infant to play with a razor or with fire, however much the child may desire to have them; and so the love and wisdom of our Heavenly Father will not, cannot, entrust us with pecuniary means (except it be in the way of chastisement or to show us finally their utter vanity), if He sees that we do not desire to possess them as stewards for Him, in order that we may spend them as He may point out to us by His Holy Spirit, through His Word.
In connection with this I give a few hints to the believing reader on three passages of the Word of God. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, we find it written to the brethren at Corinth, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him.” A contribution for the poor saints in Judea was to be made, and the brethren at Corinth were exhorted to put by every Lord’s Day, according to the measure of success which the Lord had been pleased to grant them in their calling during the week. Now, ought not the saints in our day also to act according to this word? There is no passage in the Word of God telling us not to do so, and it is altogether in accordance with our pilgrim character, not only once or twice, or four times a year, to see how much we can afford to give to the poor saints, or to the work of God in any way, but to seek to settle it weekly...
It might also be said by a brother whose earnings are small, “Should I also give according to my earnings? They are already so small that my wife can only with the greatest difficulty manage to make them sufficient for the family.” My reply is: Have you ever considered, my brother, that the very reason why the Lord is obliged to let your earnings remain so small may be the fact of your spending everything upon yourselves, and that if He were to give you more, you would only use it to increase your own family comfort, instead of looking about to see who among the brethren are sick, or who have no work at all, that you might help them, or how you might assist the work of God at home and abroad? There is a great temptation for a brother whose earnings are small to put off the responsibility of assisting the needy and sick saints, or helping on the work of God, and to lay it upon the few rich brethren and sisters with whom he is associated in fellowship, and thus rob his own soul!
It might be asked, “How much shall I give of my income? The tenth part, or the fifth part, or the third part, or one half, or more?” My reply is, God lays down no rule concerning this point. What we do we should do cheerfully and not of necessity (2 Co 9:7). But if even Jacob, with the first dawning of spiritual light (Gen 28:22), promised to God the tenth of all He should give to him, how much ought we believers in the Lord Jesus to do for Him?—we, whose calling is a heavenly one, and who know distinctly that we are children of God and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus! Yet do all the children of God give even the tenth part of what the Lord gives them?
In connection with 1 Corinthians 16:2, I would mention two other portions.
1. 2 Corinthians 9:6 “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2Co 9:6). It is certain that we children of God are so abundantly blessed in Jesus, by the grace of God, that we ought to need no stimulus to good works. The forgiveness of our sins, the having been made for ever the children of God, the having before us the Father’s house as our home, these blessings ought to be sufficient motives to constrain us in love and gratitude to serve God abundantly all the days of our life, and cheerfully also to give up, as He may call for it, that with which He has entrusted us of the things of this world. But whilst this is the case, the Lord nevertheless holds out to us in His Holy Word motives why we should serve Him, deny ourselves, use our property for Him, etc.—and the last mentioned passage is one of that kind. The verse is true, both with reference to the life that is now and that which is to come. If we have been sparingly using our property for Him, there will have been little treasure laid up in heaven, and therefore a small amount of capital will be found in the world to come—so far as regards reaping. Again, we shall reap bountifully if we seek to be rich towards God, by abundantly using our means for Him, whether in ministering to the necessities of the poor saints, or using otherwise our pecuniary means for His work.
Dear brethren, these are realities! Very shortly will come the reaping time, and then will be the question whether we shall reap sparingly or bountifully.
But while this passage refers to the life hereafter, it also refers to the life that now is. Just as now the love of Christ constrains us to communicate of that with which the Lord entrusts us, so will be the present reaping, both with regard to spiritual and temporal things. Should there be found therefore in a brother the want of entering into his position as being merely a steward for the Lord in his calling, and should he give no heed to the admonitions of the Holy Ghost to communicate to those who are in need or to help the work of God; then can such a brother be surprised that he meets with great difficulties in his calling, and that he cannot get on? This is according to the Lord’s Word.
He is sowing sparingly, and he therefore reaps sparingly. But should the love of Christ constrain a brother out of the earnings of his calling to sow bountifully, he will even in this life reap bountifully, both with regard to blessings in his soul and with regard to temporal things. Consider in this connection the following passage, which though taken from the Book of Proverbs, is not of a Jewish character, but true concerning believers under the present dispensation also:
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself ” (Pro 11:24-25).
2. Luke 6:38 In connection with 1 Corinthians 16:2, I would also direct my brethren in the Lord to the promise made in Luke 6:38,
“Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
This refers evidently to the present dispensation, and evidently in its primary meaning to temporal things. Now let anyone constrained by the love of Christ act according to this passage; let him on the first day of the week communicate as the Lord has prospered him, and he will see that the Lord will act according to what is contained in this verse. If pride constrains us to give, if self-righteousness makes us liberal, if natural feeling induces us to communicate, or if we give whilst we are in a state of insolvency, not possessing more perhaps than ten shillings in the pound were our creditors to come upon us; then we cannot expect to have this verse fulfilled in our experience. Nor should we give at any time for the sake of receiving again from others, according to this verse. But if indeed the love of Christ constrain us to communicate according to the ability that the Lord gives us, then we shall have this verse fulfilled in our experience, though this was not the motive that induced us to give. Somehow or other the Lord will abundantly repay us through the instrumentality of our fellow men, what we are doing for His poor saints or in any way for His work; and we shall find that in the end we are not losers even with reference to temporal things, whilst we communicate liberally of the things of this life.
Here it might be remarked: if it be so that even in this life, and with regard to temporal things it is true, that “To him that gives shall be given, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over,” and that “He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully,” then in the end the most liberal persons would be exceedingly rich.
Concerning this we have to keep in mind that the moment persons were to begin to give for the sake of receiving more back again from the Lord, through the instrumentality of their fellow men, than they have given; or the moment persons wished to alter their way, and no more go on sowing bountifully, but sparingly in order to increase their possessions, whilst God is allowing them to reap bountifully, the river of God’s bounty towards them would no longer continue to flow. God had supplied them abundantly with means because He saw them act as stewards for Him. He had entrusted them with a little which they used for Him, and He therefore entrusted them with more; and if they had continued to use the much also for Him, He would have still more abundantly used them as instruments to scatter abroad His bounties. The child of God must be willing to be a channel through which God’s bounties flow, both with regard to temporal and spiritual things. This channel is narrow and shallow at first, it may be; yet there is room for some of the waters of God’s bounty to pass through. And if we cheerfully yield ourselves as channels, for this purpose, then the channel becomes wider and deeper, and the waters of the bounty of God can pass through more abundantly. Dropping figurative language it is thus: At first we may be instrumental in communicating £5, £10, £20, £50, £100, or £200 per year, but afterwards double as much; and if we are still more faithful in our stewardship, after a year or two four times as much, afterwards perhaps eight times as much, at last perhaps twenty times or fifty times as much. We cannot limit the extent to which God may use us as instruments in communicating blessing, both temporal and spiritual, if we are willing to yield ourselves as instruments to the living God—and are content to be only instruments and to give Him all the glory. But with regard to temporal things it will be thus: that if indeed we walk according to the mind of God in these things, whilst more and more we become instruments of blessing to others, we shall not seek to enrich ourselves, but be content when the last day of another year finds us still in the body, to possess no more than on the last day of the previous year or even considerably less, whilst we have been, however, in the course of the year the instruments of communicating largely to others through the means with which the Lord had entrusted us.
As to my own soul, by the grace of God it would be a burden to me to find that I was increasing in earthly possession, for it would be a plain proof to me that I had not been acting as a steward for God, and had not been yielding myself as a channel for the waters of God’s bounty to pass through. I also cannot but bear my testimony here, that in whatever feeble measure God has enabled me to act according to these truths for the last sixty-four years and a half, I have found it to be profitable, most profitable to my own soul, and, as to temporal things, I never was a loser in doing so, but I have most abundantly found the truth of 2 Corinthians 9:6, Luke 6:38, and Proverbs 11:24-25 verified in my own experience. I only have to regret that I have acted so little according to what I have now been stating, but my godly purpose is, by the help of God, to spend the remainder of my days in practicing these truths more than ever; and I am sure that, when I am brought to the close of my earthly pilgrimage, either by death or by the appearing of our Lord Jesus, I shall not have the least regret in having done so. I know that should I leave my dear child behind, the Lord will abundantly provide for her and prove that there has been a better provision made for her than her father could have made, if he had sought to insure his life or lay up money for her.
Treasures in Heaven (1844)
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Observe, dear reader, the following points concerning this part of the divine testimony:
Dear reader, does your soul long to be rich towards God, to lay up treasures in heaven? The world passes away and the lust thereof (1Jo 2:17)! Yet a little while, and our stewardship will be taken from us. At present we have the opportunity of serving the Lord with our time, our talents, our bodily strength, our gifts, and also with our property; but shortly this opportunity may cease. Oh, how shortly it may cease! Before ever this is read by anyone, I may have fallen asleep; and the very next day after you have read this, dear reader, you may fall asleep! And therefore whilst we have the opportunity let us serve the Lord—I believe, and therefore I speak. My own soul is so fully assured of the wisdom and love of the Lord toward us His disciples as expressed in this Word, that by His grace I do most heartily set my seal to the preciousness of the command, and I do from my inmost soul not only desire not to lay up treasures upon earth, but believing as I do what the Lord says, I do desire to have grace to lay up treasures in heaven.
(5) The Lord lastly adds: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where should the heart of the disciple of the Lord Jesus be, but in heaven? Our calling is a heavenly calling; our inheritance is a heavenly inheritance; our citizenship is in heaven; but if we believers in the Lord Jesus lay-up treasures on earth, the necessary result of it is that our hearts will be upon earth—nay, the very fact of our doing so proves that they are there! Nor will it be otherwise till there be a ceasing to lay up treasures upon earth. The believer who lays up treasures upon earth may, at first, not live openly in sin; he in a measure may yet bring some honor to the Lord in certain things—but the injurious tendencies of this habit will show themselves more and more, whilst the habit of laying up treasures in heaven would draw the heart more and more heavenward. [This habit] would be continually strengthening his new, his divine nature, his spiritual faculties, because it would call his spiritual faculties into use, and thus they would be strengthened—and he would more and more, whilst yet in the body, have his heart in heaven and set upon heavenly things. And thus the laying up treasures in heaven would bring along with it, even in this life, precious spiritual blessings as a reward of obedience.
Seeking First the Kingdom (1844)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.”
AFTER our Lord, in the previous verses, had been pointing His disciples to “the fowls of the air” and “the lilies of the field,” in order that they should be without carefulness about the necessaries of life, He adds:
“Therefore take no thought [literally, “be not anxious”], saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Mat 6:31-32).
Observe here particularly that we, the children of God, should be different from the nations of the earth, from those who have no Father in heaven, and who therefore make it their great business, their first anxious concern, what they shall eat, what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed. We, the children of God, should, as in every other respect so in this particular also, be different from the world, and prove to the world that we believe that we have a Father in heaven Who knoweth that we have need of all these things. The fact that our almighty Father—Who is full of infinite love to us His children, and Who has proved to us His love in the gift of His only begotten Son and His almighty power in raising Him from the dead—knows that we have need of these things, should remove all anxiety from our minds.
There is, however, one thing which we ought to attend to with reference to our temporal necessities. It is mentioned in our verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” The great business which the disciple of the Lord Jesus has to be concerned about (for this word was spoken to disciples, to professed believers) is to seek the kingdom of God, i.e., to seek, as I view it, after the external and internal prosperity of the Church of God. If, according to our ability and according to the opportunity which the Lord gives us, we seek to win souls for the Lord Jesus, that appears to me to be seeking the external prosperity of the kingdom of God; and if we, as members of the body of Christ, seek to benefit our fellow members in the body, helping them on in grace and truth, or caring for them in any way to their edification, that would be seeking the internal prosperity of the kingdom of God. But in connection with this we have also to “seek His righteousness,” which means (as it was spoken to disciples, to those who have a Father in heaven, and not to those who were without), to seek to be more and more like God, to seek to be inwardly conformed to the mind of God. If these two things are attended to (and they imply also that we are not slothful in business), then do we come under that precious promise: “And all these things [that is food, raiment, or anything else that is needful for this present life] shall be added unto you.” It is not for attending to these two things that we obtain the blessing, but in attending to them.
I now ask you, my dear reader, a few questions in all love, because I do seek your welfare. I do not wish to put these questions to you without putting them first to my own heart. Do you make it your primary business, your first great concern, to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are the things of God—the honor of His name, the welfare of His Church, the conversion of sinners, and the profit of your own soul— your chief aim? Or does your business, your family, or your own temporal concerns, in some shape or other, primarily occupy your attention?
I never knew a child of God who acted according to the above passage, in whose experience the Lord did not fulfill His word of promise, “All these things shall be added unto you.”
The Faith Principles of Ministry (1824)
The Life of Faith (1855)
Excerpt taken from “The Autobiography of George Müller,” pp. 226-227
If anyone desires to live a life of faith and trust in God he must: