Follow the Lamb

by Horatius Bonar

Horatius BonarYour life is a book; and conversion is but the title-page or the preface. The book itself remains to be written; and your years and weeks and days are its chapters, pages, and lines. It is a book written for eternity; see that it be written well. It is a book for the inspection of enemies as well as friends; be careful of every word. It is a book written under the eye of God; let it be done reverently; without levity, yet without constraint or terror. Let me give you a few counsels:

I. Be Strong in the Grace of Christ Jesus.

It was this grace or free love which first began with you, and with which you began. This grace of God is your strength, as it is your joy; and it is only by abiding in it that you can really live the life of the redeemed. Be strong, then, in this grace; draw your joy from it; and beware how you turn to anything else for refreshment, or comfort, or holiness.

Though a believer, you are still a sinner; a sinner to the last; and, as such, nothing can suit you but the free love of God. Be strong in it. Draw continually on Christ and His fulness for this grace. If at any time you are beguiled away from it, return to it without delay. To recover lost peace, go back to where you got it at first; begin your spiritual life all over again.

II. Keep Your Conscience Clean.

When you first saw the cross and understood the meaning of the blood, you got your conscience "purged from dead works" (Heb. 9:14); and it was this cleansing of the conscience that gave you peace. It is by keeping constantly before your eyes this blood of propitiation that you will keep your conscience clean and your soul at peace. This blood alone can wipe off the continual sins that are coming across your conscience-which, if not wiped off immediately, will stain it and cloud your peace.

Cultivate a tender conscience; but beware of a diseased and morbid one. The former takes an honest, straightforward view of truth or duty, and acts accordingly. The latter is always on the hunt for trifles, quibbling and questioning about things of no importance. Thus a stiff Christianity is produced, an artificial religion (cf. 1 Cor. 8:9-13). Certainly beware of little sins; but be sure that they are sins. Omit no little duties; but see that they are duties. A tender and tranquil conscience makes a man frank, cheerful, brotherly, and obliging, in the family, in the shop, in the congregation, in the market-place, "adorning the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10).

III. Hold Fast That Which You Have Received.

Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. It is a bad sign when a man is frequently shifting his ground and adopting new opinions. "It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace" (Heb. 13:9); and it is good to hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Heb. 3:14). God's reckoning your sin to Christ, and His righteousness to you was joy and peace, when you found the burden of your grief too great for you to bear. Never let go your hold of this truth.

When a man gets wearied of what is old, and is always catching hold of what is new, it looks as if he had been beguiled from the simplicity that is in Christ; nay, almost as if he had never been "rooted and grounded in love." Love of novelties has been the shipwreck of many a soul. Beware of "itching ears'"(2 Tim. 4:3), and of "heaping to yourselves teachers" (2 Tim. 4:3).

Almost equally pernicious is the love of controversy, even when it takes the side of truth. The man who likes fighting about his food better than eating it, is likely to remain lean enough. Yet if error does assail you, contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints'; that which ye have already, hold fast, that no man take thy crown.' Don't dally with error, and don't tamper with truth.

IV. Deal Honestly With Yourselves.

"If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Cor. 11:31). Strange that in spiritual things we should try to cheat ourselves as well as others! Yet so it is. We are loath to take the worst view of our own case; to think evil of ourselves; to act the stern censor in regard to our own omissions and commissions. We have few excuses for others, many for ourselves. This dishonest dealing is destructive both of peace and progress. And when we remember that all dishonest dealing with ourselves is in reality dishonest dealing with God, the evil is seen to be the more hateful and the more inexcusable (Hos. 11:12). Don't flatter your own heart, nor tell a lie to conscience, nor think to deceive God (Ps. 101:7; Jer. 9:6; 17:9; Gal. 6:3; James 1:22; 1 John 1:8).

V. Keep Company With God and His People.

Intimacy with God is the very essence of religion, and the foundation of discipleship. It is in relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit that the most real parts of our lives are lived; and all parts that are not lived in fellowship with Him, "in whom we live, and move, and have our being," are unreal, untrue, unsuccessful, and unsatisfying.

Understanding doctrine is one thing, and intimacy with God is another. They ought always to go together; but they are often seen asunder; and, when there is the former without the latter, there is a hard, proud, hollow religion.

Beware of going through prayer in a perfunctory way, like a hireling doing his work in order to get done with it. "Pray in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20). "Pray without ceasing." Pray with honest fervor and simple faith. Few things tend more to deaden the soul, to harden the heart, to drive out spirituality, than cold, formal prayer.

Be much alone with God. Do not put Him off with a quarter of an hour morning and evening. Take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Unbosom yourself wholly-every thought, feeling, wish, plan, doubt-to Him. He wants, not merely to be on "good terms" with you, if one may use man's phrase, but to be intimate. Shall you be satisfied with mere acquaintance?

Do not shrink from being alone. Much of a true man's true life must be so spent. David Brainerd thus writes: "My state of solitude does not make the hours hang heavy upon my hands. Oh, what reason of thankfulness have I on account of this retirement! I find that I do not, and it seems I cannot, lead a Christian life when I am abroad and cannot spend time in devotion, in conversation, and serious meditation, as I should do. These weeks that I am obliged now to be from home, in order to learn the Indian tongue, are mostly spent in perplexity and barrenness, without much relish of divine things; and I feel myself a stranger at the throne of grace for want of a more frequent and continued retirement."

Much private fellowship with God will give you sevenfold success. Luther used to say, when an unusual press of business came upon him, "I must pray more to-day." Be like him in the day of work or trial.

VI. Study the Bible

Study it, every word of it; the whole Bible, Old Testament and New-not your favorite chapters merely, but the complete Word of God from beginning to end. Do not trouble yourself with commentators; they may be of use if kept in their place, but they are not your guides; your guide is "the Interpreter," the one among a thousand (Job 33:23), who will lead you into all truth, and keep you from all error.

Let your other reading be always select; and whatever you read, begin with seeking God's blessing on it. But see that your relish for the Bible be above every other enjoyment, and the moment you begin to feel greater relish for any other book, lay it down till you have sought deliverance from such a snare, and obtained from the Holy Spirit a keener appetite for the Word of God (Jer. 15:16; Ps.19:7-10).

VII. Take Heed to Your Steps.

"Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise"; like men in an enemy's country, or like travelers climbing a hill, slippery with ice, and terrible with precipices, where every step may be a fall, and every fall a plunge into a chasm. Beware of little slips; they are the beginning of all backsliding, and they are in themselves hateful to God. Keep your garments undefiled (Rev. 3:4); and the moment you discover any speck, however small, go wash in the fountain, that your "garments may be always white" and so pleasing in the eyes of Him, whose you are, and whom you serve. "Crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). "Mortify your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:5).

Walk straight up,' along the path of life, like a forgiven man, with God at your side (Gen. 5:24, 6:9), and with the joy of the Lord for your strength (Neh. 8:9; Eccl. 9:7); doing heartily your daily work, whether sacred or common, with an unshaded brow and an earnest but cheerful face. In short, watch against your old self at every point.

VIII. Put Away Boastfulness and Love of Praise.

God's aim in all His doings of grace is to hinder boasting; to keep the sinner humble. All that the old Christian can say is, "By the grace of God I am what I am"; and the youngest has no other confidence or boast. All "confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:1,3), all trust in self, all reliance on the creature, are set aside by that great work of the Divine Substitute, who did all for us, and left us nothing out of which to extract a boast (2 Cor. 12:9; Gal. 6:14; Isa. 41:16; 45:25).

What things before were gain to us, these we then counted loss for Christ; and we ceased for ever to glory in the flesh, or to be debtors to anything but the blood and righteousness of the Son of God. We learned to say, "God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14).

Let us fling away self-esteem and high-mindedness, for it is the very essence of unbelief. Put away all envy, and jealousy of others, as well as all malice and evil-speaking (Eph. 4:31). Don't grudge a brother a few words of honest praise, unless you have very special reasons for disallowing the eulogy.

If God puts work into your hands, do it faithfully, through good report or bad report. Do not fret when things go wrong with you or your schemes. If called to preside or manage, do it; and do it with energy and authority, as one who has a trust to fulfill. But "seek not great things for thyself'" (Jer. 45:5); "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve" (Luke 22:26);

IX. Watch Against Satan.

He is above all others your enemy. It is with him that you are to fight, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph. 6:12). The world tries to bewitch and beguile us; but it is the "god of this world," that so especially lays snares for us, making use of the world's beauty, and pleasure, and vanity for leading us captive at his will.

We know that through his successful wiles, perilous times are to come, when many, while lovers of self, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure, are still to have the "form of godliness" (2 Tim. 3:1-4); and we know that the last days are to be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26-32), days of revelling, and banqueting, and luxury. Let us be wary, lest, standing as we do on the edge of these days, we be drawn away into the sins of an age led captive by Satan at his will.

X. Beware of One-Sided Truth.

There are few things more dangerous or more likely to lead into open error. Take care, for instance, of misunderstanding what the Scripture says about the old man and the new man, the flesh and the spirit, and so making void your own personal responsibility for all you say and do, and also setting aside the necessity for the blood of Christ, as daily needed for our whole person, and the power of the Spirit, as needed constantly for our whole being, as long as we live.

Beware specially of this one-sidedness in everything connected with Christ Himself. Faith connects us with the Person of Christ in all its parts and aspects, from the cradle to the throne, from Bethlehem to the heaven of heavens. It connects us with His birth, His life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension and glory. Out of all these it draws life and strength. This is the heritage of faith.

XI. Do Something for God.

You were neither born nor re-born for yourselves alone. You may not be able to do much, but do something; work while it is day. You may not be able to give much, but give something, according to your ability, remembering that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.

Do something, then, for God, while time lasts. It may not be long; for the day goeth away, and the shadows of evening are stretched out. Do something every day. Work joyfully and with a right good will, as men who love both their work and their master. Be not weary in well-doing. Work, and work in faith, in love, in patience, and in hope. Don't shrink from hard labor or disagreeable duties, or a post trying to flesh and blood. "Endure hardness, as a good soldier in Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3). Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). Don't give way to slothfulness and flesh-pleasing, saying to yourselves, "I can get to heaven without working."

XII. Live Waiting for Your Lord.

He that loves Christ will long to see Him. The lover seeks the absent loved one, the wife the husband, the child the mother; so do you your Lord. It is not enough that you can communicate with Him daily by the epistles which faith brings and carries; you must see Him face to face, otherwise there is a blank in your life, a void in your existence, a cloud over your love, and a faltering in your song. The saved one desires to meet his Savior, and feels that his joy must be imperfect till then. It is the mark of a disciple that he "waits for the Son of God from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:10); that he loves, looks for, longs for the appearance of Christ.

XIII. The Lord Our God.

"I am the Lord your God," was God's greeting of love to Israel (Lev. 11:44); it is no less now His salutation of grace to every one who has believed on the name of His Son, Christ Jesus. God becomes our God the moment that we receive His testimony of His beloved Son. This new relationship between God and us, in virtue of which He calls us His, and we call Him ours, is the simple result of a believed gospel.

When God said to Israel, "I am the Lord your God," He added this, "Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves; and ye shall be holy, for I am holy." God calls us to be holy. He becomes our God to make us like Himself.

He glorifies Himself in our imperfect bodies; in an imperfect Church, on an imperfect earth. His object here is to glorify Himself in imperfection and growth, as He is hereafter to glorify Himself in perfection and completeness of every kind.

He expects us to grow in unlikeness to this world, and in likeness to that world which is to come. He expects us to follow Him who did no sin, even though the attainment of perfection should not be in a day or a year, but the growth of a lifetime.

Let us grow daily and hourly.

XIV. Hindrancess to Avoid.

Many things can hinder growth and fruit-bearing. Mark the following:

Unbelief: "So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:19). This poisons the tree at its very root. Christ can do no mighty works in us, or for us, because of unbelief (Matt. 13:58; compare John 7:38).

Want of love: No love, no fruit; much love, much fruit (Heb. 10:24). Love is by its very nature fruit-bearing. When we "leave our first love" (Rev. 2:4), then everything that deserves the name of fruit dies away. Get more love by dealing more with Jesus personally, and then love will set you on fire. You will work unbidden; you will work in the liberty of fellowship and in the joy of love (1 Thess. 3:12; Gal. 5:6; 2 Cor. 5:14).

Selfishness (Mark 8:34): Self in all its forms is a hindrance to our growth (Rom. 14:7). Self-will, self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, self-importance, self-glory, self-seeking, self-brooding-all these mar fruitfulness. Denying self is the beginning, the middle, and the end of our course here, as followers of Christ. Selfishness takes the form of covetousness, or love of money; of luxury, or love of meats and drinks, and the good things of this life. These are some of the forms of selfishness which destroy both growth and fruitfulness.

Pride: Self-satisfaction in any shape, or self-admiration of any kind, in regard to person, or property, or accomplishments, or position; these are immensely hurtful to spiritual life. True godliness prospers only in the lowly heart; the heart which, in proportion as it becomes more and more satisfied with Christ, becomes more and more dissatisfied with itself. If the Master was meek and lowly, shall the disciple be anything else?

Easy-mindedness: To take things easy is by some reckoned a great virtue; and not to get warm or excited or zealous, is regarded as proof of a noble and well-balanced mind. This be the case in worldly matters. To lose a fortune, and yet be calm, is well. But to take religion easy is not to be commended. Easy-going religionists are strangers to the fervor of John or Paul. The good-natured formality of thousands is just the hateful lukewarmness of Laodicea.

XV. Be of Good Cheer.

Though we bid you count the cost, yet we say to you, as God said to Israel, "Behold, the Lord your God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged" (Deut. 1:21).

Be of good courage. You have God upon your side. You have Christ to fight for you. You have the Holy Spirit to sustain and comfort you. You have more encouragements than discouragements. You have the example of millions that have gone before you. You have exceeding great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4). You have many fellow-travelers and fellow-soldiers on the right hand and on the left. You have a bright Kingdom in view which will compensate for all triaI and conflict here. And the way is short. The toil will soon be over. The battle will not last forever. Greater is He that is with you than all that can be against you. Be strong in the Lord. Be strong in His love and in His power. Take to you the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10,11).

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) was born at Old Broughton, Edinburgh, Scotland. His brother was Andrew Bonar, likewise a noted preacher. Following his education at the University of Edinburgh, Horatius maintained an active and powerful ministry for more than half a century pastoring churches in that area until his death. Throughout his life Bonar avoided all sensationalism and was calm, patient, sincere, solemn, and a steady writer. His tracts and books are well-received and well-read in all Christian circles. He wrote well over 600 hymns of which more than 100 are still in use. Bonar has been described as "the prince of Scottish hymn-writers." The following lines taken from one of his hymns express Bonar's view of the work of his glorious Savior, Jesus Christ-

"Glory be to Him who loved us,
washed us from each spot and stain.
Glory be to Him who bought us,
made us kings with Him to reign!
Glory, glory, to the Lamb that once was slain!"

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