HAPPINESS COMES FROM SELF-CONTROL
A petulant, ill-natured man or woman really knows not what it
is to be happy. Every cup which he puts to his lips seems to be bitter as
wormwood, and his path seems strewn with rough stones, with briars and thorns;
but he must add to temperance patience and he will not see or feel slights.
Alexander and Caesar found it easier to subdue a world than to subdue
themselves. After conquering nation after nation, they fell--one of them the
victim to beastly intemperance, the other to mad ambition.
Patience must have its perfect work or we cannot be perfect
and entire, wanting nothing. Troubles and afflictions are appointed unto us, and
shall we bear them all patiently or shall we make everything bitter by our
complaining? The gold is put into the furnace that the dross may be removed.
Shall we, then, not be patient under the eye of the Refiner? We must refuse to
sink into a sad and disconsolate state of mind, but show calm trust in God,
counting it all joy when we are permitted to endure trials for Christ's sake.
Having added patience to temperance, we are then to ascend
the ladder of progress and add to patience godliness. This is the very outgrowth
of patience. Said the apostle Paul, "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that
tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope:
and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:3-5).
Here, then, is an advance grace, godliness, which is to have
the spirit and the likeness of the character of Jesus Christ. To raise us to His
divine ideal is the one end of all the dealings of God with us, and of the whole
plan of salvation. For this His Spirit strives with us to exalt us to this great
purpose. The corruption of the world is seeking to steal our senses; all the
unholy influences on every side are working to hold us to a low, earthly
level--blinding our sensibilities, degrading our desires, enfeebling our
conscience, and crippling our religious faculties by urging us to give sway to
the lower nature. Corruptions around us find corruptions within. Each works upon
THE INVITATION--COME UP HIGHER!
To draw us away from all this is the precious ladder. The eye
is attracted to God above the ladder. The invitation comes from the glory above
it, Come up higher. The heart is attracted. Steps are taken in advance, one
after another. Higher and still higher we ascend. At every step the attraction
becomes greater. Higher, holier ambitions take possession of the soul. The guilt
of the past life is left behind. We dare not look down the ladder at those
things which long poisoned the springs of true happiness and kindled remorse,
weakened and depraved the will, and repressed every better impulse. The eye is
steadfastly fixed, with grateful, trembling emotion, upon God above the ladder.
Christ is the ladder. We lay hold on Christ, climbing up by Christ, resolving to
return, broken, contrite, subdued, to the Father above the ladder. The offers of
God's mercy, of living connection with God, of grace multiplied as we advance
step by step, make the distance from earth more apparent.
The aim of God's Word is to inspire hope, to lead us to
fasten our hands to this Ladder and climb step by step heavenward, with
ever-increasing vigor. It is the key to the sense in which we partake of the
nature of God. We attain a likeness of character to God by the imparting of His
own grace. In the measure of our limited powers we can be holy as He is holy and
can reproduce the truth and love which exist in Him who is at the top of the
ladder. As wax takes the counterpart of the seal, so the soul receives and
retains the moral image of God. We become filled and transfigured by His
brightness, as the cloud--dark in itself--when filled with the light is turned
to stainless whiteness.
There are still additional steps to take. Add "to godliness
brotherly kindness." Thus there will not be merely a profession of Bible
religion, but a sincere, earnest practice of godliness. We must be partakers of
the divine nature before we can represent the Christlike character and practice
the works of Christ. The climbing Christian will not sit passively, claiming the
promises, enjoying the grace given him of God, but will work from principle. He
is a worker together with God. The grace given him of God teaches him how to be
kind and tender and helpful to his brethren. There is no waiting for an
overpowering, magical change to be wrought into the conversion of others without
any action of our own. Life becomes a humble but earnest working out of
salvation with fear and with trembling, knowing that God worketh in us both to
will and to do of His own good pleasure. The very exercise of brotherly kindness
assimilates the soul to Christ and brings him into sympathy with Christ.
Growing in grace is an earnest working out of what God works
in. It is an earnest of future glory, the working out here upon the earth of the
spirit that is cherished in heaven.
The Word of God enjoins upon every one of His children: "Be
ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be
pitiful, be courteous" (1 Peter 3:8). Now, unless godliness was added to
patience, man would not show that brotherly kindness. Christ has shown man in
His mission to our world the graces of the Spirit of God which, when accepted,
fashion and mold the entire man, externally as well as internally, by abasing
his pride and leading him not to esteem himself highly but to esteem his brother
as precious in the sight of God because Christ paid an infinite price for his
soul. When man is valued as God's property, then we will be kind, amiable, and
condescending toward him.
The religion of Jesus Christ is a system of the true heavenly
politeness, and leads to a practical exhibition of habitual tenderness of
feeling, kindness of deportment. He who possesses godliness will also add this
grace, taking a step higher on the ladder. The higher he mounts the ladder, the
more of the grace of God is revealed in his life, his sentiments, his
principles. He is learning, ever learning, the terms of his acceptance with God,
and the only way to obtain an inheritance in the heavens is to become like
Christ in character.
The whole scheme of mercy is to soften down what is harsh in
temper, and refine whatever is rugged in the deportment. The internal change
reveals itself in the external actions. The graces of the Spirit of God work
with hidden power in the transformation of character. The religion of Christ
never will reveal a sour, coarse, and uncourteous action. Courtesy is a Bible
virtue. The virtue of this grace of brotherly kindness characterized the life of
Christ. Never was such courtesy exhibited upon the earth as Christ revealed, and
we cannot overestimate its value.
CHARITY IS LOVE
The next step in the ladder is charity. Add "to brotherly
kindness charity," which is love. Love to God and love to our neighbor
constitute the whole duty of man. Without brotherly kindness we cannot exhibit
the grace of love to God or to our fellow men.
This last step in the ladder gives to the will a new spring
of action. Christ offers a love that passeth knowledge. This love is not
something kept apart from our life, but it takes hold of the entire being. The
heaven to which the Christian is climbing will be attained only by those who
have this crowning grace. This is the new affection which pervades the soul. The
old is left behind. Love is the great controlling power. When love leads, all
the faculties of mind and spirit are enlisted. Love to God and love to man will
give the clear title to heaven.
LOVE KEEPS THE COMMANDMENTS
No one can love God supremely and transgress one of His
commandments. The heart softened and subdued with the beauty of Christ's
character and bridled by the pure and lofty rules which He has given us will put
into practice what it has learned of love, and will follow Jesus forthwith in
humble obedience. The living power of faith will reveal itself in loving acts.
What evidence have we that we have the pure love, without
alloy? God has erected a standard--His commandments. "He that hath My
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (John 14:21). The words
of God must have an abiding place in our hearts.
We are to love our brethren as Christ has loved us. We are to
be patient and kind, and yet there is something lacking--we must love. Christ
tells us that we must forgive the erring even seventy times seven, and how
infinitely greater is the love of God than is our love. It is not the greatness
of our sin but the depth of our repentance that brings the pardoning love of God
to our hearts. When there is much forgiven, the heart loves much. Love is a
tender plant. It needs to be constantly cultured or it will wither and die.
All these graces we must have. We must climb the whole length
of the ladder. "If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye
shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and
hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather,
brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do
these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:8-10).
ADDITION & MULTIPLICATION
The only safety for the Christian is to be unwearied in his
efforts to live on the plan of addition. The apostle shows the advantages to be
gained in thus doing. For those who add grace to grace, God will work on the
plan of multiplication, so that the graces will be in and abound in the
religious life, and he will not "be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of
our Lord Jesus Christ." Those abounding in the Christian graces will be zealous,
lively, vigorous in all practical Christianity, and will practice
righteousness--just as the branch abiding in the vine will produce the same
fruit that the vine bears and will bring forth much fruit.
He who does not climb the ladder of progress and add grace to
grace "is blind, and cannot see afar off," He fails to discern that without
taking these successive steps in ascending the ladder round after round, in
growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is not placing
himself in a position where the light of God above the ladder is reflected upon
him. As he does not add grace to grace, he has forgotten the claims of God upon
him, and that he was to receive the forgiveness of sins through obedience to the
requirements of God. He is in the position of a sinner before God. If he has the
graces of Christ he will exercise and increase them, but if he does not bear
fruit in good works to the glory of God he remains in a state of blindness and
ignorance, self-indulgence, and sin. He "cannot see afar off." His eyes are
fastened upon the earth, not on God above the ladder.
This class may have earthly advantages but have no
discernment of the privilege and blessings of living in the light which shines
from God above the ladder. They know not the things that make for their peace.
They cannot look backward with clear spiritual sight, as they do not view things
in the light of heaven. They once enjoyed the love of God; they repented of
their sins and enlisted to become servants of Jesus Christ, but they forgot all
the vows made to God at baptism--all the solemn obligations taken upon
themselves to seek for glory, honor, and immortality.
SET AFFECTIONS ABOVE
Says the apostle, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek
those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set
your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are (through
the baptismal vows) dead (to the world, dead to its customs, its ambition, its
pride, its pursuits), and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who
is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory: (Col.
These things are to be often in mind. Meditate upon them.
Think of your serious obligations you have entered into, and do not defraud God
by violating any one of your solemn promises.
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your
calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). We need not have a supposed hope, but
an assurance. To make our calling and election sure is to follow the Bible plan
to closely examine ourselves, to make strict inquiry whether we are indeed
converted, whether our minds are drawn out after God and heavenly things, our
wills renewed, our whole souls changed. To make our calling and election sure
requires far greater diligence than many are giving to this important matter.
"For if ye do these things"--live on the plan of addition, growing in grace and
the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ--ye shall mount up, step by step, the
ladder Jacob saw, and "ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be
ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ."
CHRIST IS THE LADDER
Let us consider this ladder which was presented to Jacob. The
human race was cut off from intercourse with God. They might look at a paradise
lost but could see no means of entering it and holding communion with heaven.
The sin of Adam cut off all intercourse between heaven and earth. Up to the
moment of man's transgression of God's law there had been free communion between
earth and heaven. They were connected by a path which Deity could traverse. But
the transgression of God's law broke up this path and man was separated from
As soon as Satan seduced man to disobedience of God's holy
law, every link which bound earth to heaven and man to the infinite God seemed
broken. Man might look to heaven, but how could he attain it? But joy to the
world! The Son of God, the sinless One, the One perfect in obedience, becomes
the channel through which the lost communion may be renewed, the way through
which the lost paradise may be regained. Through Christ, man's substitute and
surety, man may keep the commandments of God. He may return to his allegiance,
and God will accept him.
Christ is the ladder. "By Me if any man enter in, he shall be
saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9).
This is the ladder, the base of it resting upon the earth,
the top reaching to the highest heavens. The broken links have been repaired. A
highway has been thrown up along which the weary and heavy laden may pass. They
may enter heaven and find rest.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN GOD & MAN
The ladder is the medium of communication between God and
man. Through the mystic ladder the gospel was preached to Jacob. As the ladder
stretched from earth, reaching to the highest heavens, and the glory of God was
seen above the ladder, so Christ in His divine nature reached immensity and was
one with the Father. As the ladder, though its top penetrated into heaven, had
its base upon the earth, so Christ, though God, clothed His divinity with
humanity and was in the world "found in fashion as a man." The ladder would be
useless if it rested not on the earth or if it reached not to the heavens.
God appeared in glory above the ladder, looking down with
compassion on erring, sinful Jacob, addressing to him words of encouragement. It
is through Christ that the Father beholds sinful man. The ministering angels
were communicating to the inhabitants of the earth through the medium of the
ladder. The only way that man can be saved is by clinging to Christ.
We ascend to heaven by climbing the ladder--the whole height
of Christ's work--step by step. There must be a holding fast to Christ, a
climbing up by the merits of Christ. To let go is to cease to climb, is to fall,
to perish. We are to mount by the Mediator, and all the while to keep hold on
the Mediator, ascending by successive steps, round above round, stretching the
hand from one round to the next above. In the work of redemption we may have a
knowledge of Jesus Christ by planting the feet on one round after another in
perfect obedience to all the commandments of God. This is a necessity for each
individual--striving and making progress at every step. It is simply impossible
to enter heaven without constant striving. There is fearful peril in relaxing
our efforts in spiritual diligence for a moment, for we are hanging, as it were,
between heaven and earth.
We must keep the eye directed upward to God above the ladder.
The question with men and women gazing heavenward is, How can I obtain the
mansions for the blessed? It is by being a partaker of the divine nature. It is
by escaping the "corruption that is in the world through lust." It is by
entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, laying hold of the hope set
before you in the gospel. It is by fastening yourself to Christ and straining
every nerve to leave the world behind, laboring to diminish by successive steps
your distance from God, who is at the top of the ladder. It is by being in
Christ and yet led by Christ; by believing and working--trusting in Jesus, yet
working upon the plan of addition, holding onto Christ and constantly mounting
upward toward God.
When the successive steps have all been mounted, when the
graces have been added one after another, the crowning grace is the perfect love
of God--supreme love to God and love to our fellow men. And then the abundant
entrance into the kingdom of God.
We point you to the mansions Christ is preparing for all
those who love Him. We point you to that city that hath foundations, whose
builder and maker is God. We show you its massive walls, with the twelve
foundations, and tell you that these walls must be scaled. You look discouraged
at the magnitude of the work before you. We point you to the ladder set up on
earth, reaching to the city of God. Plant your feet on the ladder. Forsake your
sins. Climb step by step and you will reach God above the ladder, and the Holy
City of God. None who will resolutely mount up on the ladder will fail of
everlasting life. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly
into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 1884.