Collection of Quotations

Gospel of Mark 9:38-50

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Let us be on our guard against this feeling. It is only too near the surface of all our hearts. Let us study to realize that liberal, tolerant spirit which Jesus here recommends, and be thankful for good works whosesoever and by whosoever done. Let us beware of the slightest inclination to stop and check others, merely because they do not choose to adopt our plans, or work by our side.

We may think our fellow Christians mistaken in some points. We may fancy that more would be done for Christ, if they would join us, and if all worked in the same way. We may see many evils arising from religious dissensions and divisions.-But all this must not prevent us rejoicing if the works of the devil are destroyed and souls saved. Is our neighbour warring against Satan? Is he really trying to labor for Christ?  This is the grand question. Better a thousand times that the work should be done by other hands than not done at all.  Happy is he that knows something of the spirit of Moses, when he said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets;” –and of Paul, when he says, “If Christ is preached, I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” (Num. xi. 29; Phil. i:18).  (J. C. Ryle)


Conflict and Triumph

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1 KJV) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13 KJV)

He who has any just sense of his own weakness and frailty, and of the frightful evil of sin, must be incessant in his entreaties that he may be upheld in steadfastness by an almighty arm, and guarded from the assaults of one who succeed even in enticing angels to their fall, and prevailed over our first parents in all the vigour of their early integrity, and to whom we shall prove an easy prey, unless One stronger than the strong man armed, interferes for our rescue. A proper sense of our peril will not only tend to beget the general conviction that in God alone is our help, but will, in addition, lead us to fasten upon those particular assurances and grounds of encouragement which are afforded by him for just such a crisis as this. The knowledge of the vast power of our spiritual adversary will lead us to take refuge in the omnipotence of God, to place a new value upon this glorious attribute, to avail ourselves of it as a basis of repose and confidence, to experience in our daily consciousness what it is to have a God of such infinite resources to supply our pressing need. 

The almighty power of God is then no longer an abstraction to us-an intellectual conviction-but a present practical necessity; not a perfection which we distantly contemplate, but one by which we live and without which we perish. The dire necessity which drives us to the fount of life is, in its results, and incalculable blessing. And the temptation of Satan which terrifies the soul out of all self-dependence and creature-dependence, and compels it to find refuge in an almighty Saviour, has accomplished a gracious end.

And with this, so with other perfections of the ever-blessed God, and with the precious promises of his Word, and with merciful provisions of the covenant of grace, and with the priceless salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tempted soul learns afresh how to prize them, and embrace them, and cling to them, and rest upon them, and live by them.   

(Conflict and Triumph by W. H. Green)

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Quest. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

Ans. 16.
The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression. Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 5:12; I Cor. 15:21-22.

Quest. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

Ans. 17.
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. “Rom. 5:12.

The point that we wish to emphasize here is that the very representative principle which brought death and condemnation to all men is also the means of bringing eternal life. Let us not cherish enmity, then, against God’s dealings with us in Adam. Let us acknowledge that God has done that which is right and good (even though we do not fully understand it).

And let us above all make sure that we heartily embrace the offer of God’s free grace in Christ, and cast ourselves upon His representative work that we might be saved.

In any case: we accomplish nothing in objecting to Adam’s representation.

The fact remains that we are guilty, sinful, and miserable (by nature). Explain it, or explain it not, as we may, it remains true.

It is also a fact that there is no other salvation for such sinners as we are, except by the work of Jesus Christ as the representative of His people. (G.I. Williamson vol. 1).

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

And so, the word of the cross speaks of a wondrous love. It proclaims that God, before the world was, loved us and ordained us unto everlasting life and glory; that, unto that end. He appointed His only begotten Son to be the Head of His brethren, the Church, that He might bear their sins, atone for their iniquities, obtain for them everlasting righteousness, deliver them from all their woe, and lead them into the glory of God’s heavenly tabernacle with them. It proclaims that this good pleasure of the God of our salvation was realized in the fullness of time, that He sent His only begotten Son into the world, loaded all the burden of our sin upon Him, delivered Him over unto death, yea, the death of the cross, and thus redeemed us by His own blood. At the cross our power and wisdom are brought to nought, but God’s wisdom and the power of His eternal love gloriously shine forth. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And that word is power, a power of God! It does not merely speak of righteousness and judgment, of love and salvation, of redemption and eternal life: it accomplishes it. By the power of the word of the cross the burden of our sins is rolled from our weary shoulders, the shackles of corruption are cut, death loses its sting; and righteousness and peace, life and glory are bestowed up us.
It is such a power, exactly because it is the Word of God. He speaks it. And when He speaks it to our soul, we are saved. And when we are saved the word of the cross is a power God to us.“The Power of the Cross” by H. Hoeksema)

That is the power of the cross

Do you know the power of Christ’s cross?
Have your sins been rolled away by the power of the cross of Christ?
Has death lost its sting!
Do you know Christ’s righteousness and peace, has life and glory been bestowed upon you?

The Term Providence

The Term providence does not occur in Holy Writ. According to the literal significance of the word, it does not represent a scriptural idea. Literally the term is derived from the Latin provideo, which means “to prevision, to see ahead.” The term, therefore, denotes a seeing and knowing the things that are to happen and a preparing for them in advance. For example, I see beforehand that winter is coming, and I prepare myself by filling my coal bin. In this sense, however, we cannot properly speak of the providence of God. God does not see things beforehand, but he brings them to pass. He knows them not by a certain prescience, but eternally from his counsel. For that reason God does not prepare for the things that happen, but all things flow from his own will and counsel. However, the term providence has obtained a place in theological parlance; and, for want of a better term, we may well continue to use it. Providence is the almighty and omnipresent power of God whereby he causes all things to continue to exist, and whereby he executes his counsel in and through all creatures and guides them in such a way that they must all, without exception, lead to the end he has determined for them in his counsel. (H.H. Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1)

“HERE I STAND”

“When I am told that God became man, I can follow the idea, but I just do not understand what it means. For what man, if left to his natural promptings, if he were God, would humble himself to lie in the feedbox of a donkey or to hand upon a cross? God laid upon Christ the iniquities of us all.

This is that ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend and much less utter-that unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God’s love toward us. ….

In God alone can man ever find peace. God can be known only through Christ, but how lay hold on Christ when his ways are likewise so incredible? The answer is not by sight but by faith which walks gaily into darkness. Yet once again, how shall one come by this faith? It is a gift of God. By no act can it be induced. Martin Luther

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Another great enemy to brotherly love is a sectarian spirit, and this evil is far more widespread than many suppose …..  Alas, how frequently is a spirit of partizanship mistaken for brotherly love: so long as a person “believes our doctrines” and is willing to “join our church,” he is received with open arms. On the other hand, no matter how sound in the faith a man may be, nor how godly his walk, if he refuses to affiliate himself with some particular group of professing Christians, he is looked upon with suspicion and given the cold shoulder. But such things ought not to be: they betray a very low state of spirituality…..We are to love the saints for what we see of Christ in them; yes, love them and for that reason – in spite of all their ignorance, perverseness, ill-temper, obstinacy, fretfulness. It is the image of God in them- not their wealth, amiability, social position –which is the magnet that attracts a renewed heart toward them.   (A. W. Pink, Hebrews 13:1-3 “Brotherly love”)

To many among you who have no part nor lot in Christ, I would say, “See here the happiness of being a Christian in time of trouble.” It is no small joy to be able to sing Psalm xlvi. (Psalm 46) In the dark and cloudy day. I have often told you, and now tell you when I am far from you, “We are journeying to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you: come then with us, and we will do thee good, for God hath spoken good concerning Israel.” Robert Murray M‘Cheyne “How God works by Providence” Edinburgh, Feb. 13, 1839

Greenham (one of the most valuable of the Puritans writers upon experimental subjects) used to bring distractions of mind to this test- “If they brought any past sin to mind for his humiliation, or any comfort to excite his thankfulness, or any instruction suitable to the present moment-he took them to be of God. But if they drew off his mind from present duty to rove after other subjects, he suspected their source, and girded himself to prayer for increasing steadiness of application to the matter in hand.” Being asked to account for distractions in holy meditations, he said-“It was either want of preparation and sanctifying the heart by prayer before we set upon so holy an exercise, and therefore a rebuke from the Lord for our ‘presumption in being bold to work upon holy matters in our own strength’-or else a dependence upon a general purpose of thinking good, or restraining evil, without fasting our minds upon some particular object, but rather ‘ranging up and down,’ Leaving some part of our mind and meditation void for other matters, without wholly and seriously setting on a thing propounded. When any complained to him of blasphemous thoughts, he would say-‘Do not fear them, but abhor them.’” (Psalm 119 v113: “I hate vain thoughts.”)

“We are called to walk as pilgrims and strangers in the world. At times we find ourselves altogether too much at home here, so that every thought and desire of heaven fades from our consciousness. This needs correction, and God does what is necessary to correct us. Calvin says in his commentary on the Gospel according to John that God sends us afflictions so that we do not forget that heaven is our home.”  (When you Pray, p.85. by H.H.)

“When I was assaulted by some wicked thought, I then betake me to the wounds of Christ. When my flesh casteth me down, by the remembrance of my Saviour’s wounds, I rise up again. Am I inflamed with lust? I quench that fire with the meditation of Christ’s passion. Christ died for us. There is nothing so deadly, that is not cured by the death of Christ.” Augustine

“God is true, and may be trusted, but every man a liar, and must be suspected. The Creator is a rock of ages, the creature a broken reed. We cannot expect too little from man nor too much from God.” M. Henry

 “Now let us turn in, and inquire-What is our daily use of the word of God? Are we satisfied with a slight looking, or do we seek an intimate acquaintance with it? Is its influence ever present-ever practical? Do we prize it as a welcome guest? Is it our delightful companion and guide? Oh! meditate in this blessed book. “Eat the word,” when you “have found it; and it will be unto you the joy and rejoicing of your heart.” (Jer. xv. 16.) The name of Jesus-its great subject-will be more precious-your love will be inflamed (Ps. xxxix. 3)-your perseverance established (Verse 23, 95)-and your heart enlivened in the spirit of praise. (Ps. lxiii. 5, 6.) Thus bringing your mind into close and continual contact with the testimonies of God, and pressing out the sweetness from the precious volume, it will drop as from honeycomb, daily comfort and refreshment upon your heart.”*  (Charles Bridges Psalm 119:98-100)

*Thus Luther recommends us to ‘pause at any verse of Scripture we choose, and to shake, as it were, every bough of it; that if possible, some fruit at least may drop down to us. Should this mode’-he remarks-‘appear somewhat difficult at first, and no thought suggest itself immediately to the mind capable of affording matter for a short ejaculation; yet persevere, and try another and another bough. If your soul really hungers, the Spirit of God will not send you away empty. You shall at length find an abundance of delicious fruit, that you will gladly seat yourself under its shade and abide there, a under a tree laden with fruit.’

Psalm 119:97 “O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day”

Now-Reader-do you search for him in his law? Do you love his law, because it “testifies of him?” Do you pray for his Spirit, that his law may guide you to him? Charles Bridges

John v.39 ‘Where I to enjoy Hezekiah’s grant, and to have fifteen years added to my live, I would be much more frequent in my applications to the throne of grace. Were I to renew my studies I would take my leave of those accomplished triflers-the historians, the orators, the poets of antiquity-and devote my attention to the Scriptures of truth. I would sit with much greater assiduity at my Divine Master’s feet, and desire to “know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” This wisdom, whose fruits are peace in life, consolation in death, and everlasting salvation after death-this I would trace-this I would seek-this I would explore through the spacious and delightful fields of the Old and New Testament.’ Such was the testimony of one, who had cultivated the classic fields with no inconsiderable success, and who above most men had enriched his soul with glorious treasures of the word of God-whose praise is all the churches as the author of ‘Theron and Aspasia.’

Psalm 119:89

 “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”

“The decrees of the kings of the earth, “settled” on earth, are exposed to all the variations and weakness of a changing world. They may be revoked by themselves or their successors, or they may die away. The empty sound of the “law of the Medes and Persians that altereth not” (Dan. vi. 8), has long since been swept away into oblivion. But while “the word settled” on earth has “waxed old like a garment,” and perished; the word settled in heaven-is raised above all the revolutions of the universe, and remaineth as the throne of God-unshaken and eternal; exhibiting the foundations of the believer’s hope and of the unbeliever’s terror to be alike unalterably fixed.” (Charles Bridges)

“They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts”

“When therefore, we are tempted to neglect the precepts, or when we fail to live in them, and to delight in them, let us each bring our hearts to this test: ‘What would I take in exchange for them? Will the good-will and approbation of the world compensate for the loss of the favour of God? Could I be content to forgo my greatest comforts, to “suffer the loss of all things” (Phil. iii. 8), yea, of life itself (Acts, xx. 24), rather than forsake one of the ways of God?   (Comment on Psalm 119:87 Charles Bridges)

Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

Love How does the Spirit cultivate and nurture that fruit of love in and through us throughout our lives? He cultivates and nurtures love by the means of grace: the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Powerfully and irresistibly the Spirit calls us unto newness of life. In the justified, he works by means of grace to purify us unto the production of love. He turns us from the hatred of our old flesh and leads us forth into the love of our new nature in Christ Jesus.

Consequently, it is vitally important that we attend a church where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is most purely preached and the sacraments are faithfully administered according to the ordinances of Christ. By the means of grace, the Spirit uses many passages in Scripture, including John 13:34-35, to work in us the fruit of the exercise of true love. By the living word of Christ, the Spirit of Christ cultivates, fertilizes, waters, and rigorously prunes us unto faithful production of the sweet fruit of love.      (Richard J. Smit: “The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” p.25)

Faithfulness- “Christ’s loyalty to his church is encouraging. Because he is faithful, he promised that he will be with his church unto the end. He will not forsake his people. He will not leave his sheep and lambs so that they are destroyed by the devil, by the world, or by themselves. He is our good shepherd, who provides his church with the necessary gifts and means to be preserved unto the end. All of the promises that Christ declares to his church are true, and he is faithful to them and to all those in whom those promises must be realized.” (Richard J. Smit: “The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”)

Longsuffering Christ is the supreme example of longsuffering. When Christ “was reviled. [he] reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened no; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). He endured suffering at the hands of sinners, including his own people, and submitted to his heavenly Father’s way. He suffered long with his people who sinned against him. Although he was forsaken and denied by his disciples, he did not retaliate in kind. He did not deny his unfaithful disciples before his heavenly Father. He confessed their names before the throne of his heavenly Father in his longsuffering and prayer, saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What applied to his disciples applies to his church. (Richard J. Smit: “The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” p.76)

Meekness It is humbling is it not, that Christ humbled himself so low for us in order that we, who deserve to be cast down, might inhabit the heights of underserved glory in his heavenly kingdom? What Christ by his death and resurrection earned for us, a life of his humility, he is pleased to work in us by his Spirit through the preaching of the word. By the preaching of the gospel of God’s sovereign, electing grace in Christ, the Spirit is pleased to call us out of the darkness and death of pride into the light and life of genuine humility.

That virtue we need for faithful lives in our respective churches, homes, and places in daily life. For example, the meek wife will be faithful to her husband in her lifelong marriage, will guide her house with wisdom and discretion, and also, as time and opportunity permit, bear the burdens of others within the household of faith. ….

As the meek fulfil their calling in the church, home, and other areas of life, they put others first. The husband will think of his wife first, and so wife toward her husband. The meek parents will not put themselves, their vacations, their hobbies, or other earthly desires first, but will put the needs and spiritual welfare of their children and their children’s children first. Bearing the burdens of fellow saints becomes a priority for the meek. Interceding for others in the church in prayers before God’s throne of grace is a daily element of prayers of the meek. Just as the Father in heaven so esteemed those others in the church that he gave his only begotten Son for them, so surely must we esteem our fellow saints.  (Richard J. Smit: “The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” pp.132, 134)

“What a privilege it is to be children of good parents. The parents in covenant with God, and God lays up mercy for their children. “The just man walketh in his integrity, his children are blessed after him.” Prov. xx.7. A religious parent does not procure wrath, but helps to keep off wrath from his child; he seasons his child with religious principles, he prays down a blessing on it; he is a loadstone to draw his child to Christ by good counsel and example. Oh, what a privilege is it to be born of godly, religious parents! Augustine says that his mother Monica travailed with greater care and pains for his new birth, than for his natural. Wicked idolaters entail misery on their posterity; God ‘visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children;’ but religious parents procure a blessing upon their children; God reserves mercy for their posterity.” (Second Commandment. Thomas Manton p. 67)

“I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.”

We often read and sing David’s Psalms; but we have little of David’s spirit. A man’s employment is as the constitution of his mind is; for all things work according to their nature. A man addicted to God; that is to say, one who hath taken God for his happiness, his word for his rule; his Spirit for his guide, and his promises for his encouragement, his heart will always be working towards God, day and night. In the day, he will be studying God’s word: in the night, if his sheep be interrupted, he will be meditating on God’s name; still entertaining his soul with God. The predominant affection will certainly set the thoughts awork. The man of God had told us, in the former verse, what was his chief employment in the day-time; and now he telleth us how his heart wrought in the night: night and day he was remembering God; and his duty to him. In the day, the statues of God were his solace, and as songs to him in the house of his pilgrimage: in the night, the name of God was his meditation: “I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.” (Thomas Manton, Psalm 119:55)

    It is just because modern Christendom has such an inadequate estimate of the fearful and universal effects which the Fall has wrought, that the imperative need for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit is now so little realized. It is because such false conceptions of human depravity so widely prevail that, in most places, it is supposed all which is needed to save half of the community is to hire some popular evangelist and attractive singer. And the reason why so few are aware of the awful depths of human depravity, the terrible enmity of the carnal mind against God and the heart’s inbred and inveterate hatred of Him, is because His character is now so rarely declared from the pulpit. If the preachers would deliver the same type of messages as did Jeremiah in his degenerate age, or even as John the Baptist did, they would sooner discover how their hearers were really affected toward God; and then they would perceive that unless the power of the Spirit attended their preaching they might as well be silent.” (A. W. Pink “The work of the Holy Spirit.” P. 47)

“What a privilege it is to be children of good parents. The parents in covenant with God, and God lays up mercy for their children. “The just man walketh in his integrity, his children are blessed after him.” Prov. xx.7. A religious parent does not procure wrath, but helps to keep off wrath from his child; he seasons his child with religious principles, he prays down a blessing on it; he is a loadstone to draw his child to Christ by good counsel and example. Oh, what a privilege is it to be born of godly, religious parents! Augustine says that his mother Monica travailed with greater care and pains for his new birth, than for his natural. Wicked idolaters entail misery on their posterity; God ‘visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children;’ but religious parents procure a blessing upon their children; God reserves mercy for their posterity.” (Second Commandment. Thomas Manton p. 67)

 “Though idolaters love the false image of God in a picture, they hate his true image in a believer. They pretend to honour Christ in a crucifix, and yet persecute him in his members.” (Thomas Manton. The Ten Commandments p.67)

My times are in thy hands “…The great truth is this-all that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God. “My times”, these change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. “My times,” that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth-all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to his holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights. Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and eternity; and we are glad of it…” (CHS on Psalm 31:15a)

“The Bible is the statute-book of God’s Kingdom, wherein is comprised the whole body of the heavenly law, the perfect rules of a holy life, and the sure promises of a glorious one.” Ezekiel Hopkins (Posted 5/Sep//2018) The Puritan Treasury p.32)

The work of the Holy Spirit- “All around us are those willing to receive Christ as their Saviour, who are altogether unwilling to surrender to Him as their Lord. They would like His peace, but they refuse His “yoke,” without which His peace cannot be found (Matt. 11:29). They admire His promises, but have no heart for His precepts. They will rest upon His priestly work, but will not be subject to His kingly sceptre. They will believe in a “Christ” who is suited to their own corrupt tastes or sentimental dreams, but they despise and reject the Christ of God. Like the multitudes of old, they want His loaves and fishes, but for His heart-searching, flesh-withering, sin-condemning teaching, they have no appetite. They approve of Him as the Healer of their bodies, but as the Healer of their depraved souls they desire Him not. And nothing but the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit, can change this bias and bent in any soul.

Since God places your salvation in himself alone, why should you descend to yourself? Since he assigns you his own mercy alone, why will you recur to your own merits? Since he confines your thoughts to his own mercy, why do you turn partly to the view of your own works? (Calvin’s Inst. 3/22/6)

“A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content, And strength for the toils of the morrow: But a Sabbath profaned, whate’er may be gained, Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.”

“You will never glory in God till first of all God has killed your glorying in yourself.” C. H. Spurgeon

Psalm 54:4 “Blessed are they that dwell in his house,”But how dwell in it? Not to look in sometimes as we pass by, or to stay in it a time, as we do at an inn, but to be constant abiders in it day and night, as to which we have devoted ourselves and vowed our service… They are dwellers, not visitors, in God’s house.” Richard Baker

Institutes of the Christian Religion John Calvin By Henry Beveridge

Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the distinction of special grace. Some moderate men speak in this way, not so much for the purpose of suppressing the truth, as to get quit of puzzling questions, and curb excessive curiosity. The intention is laudable, but the design is by no means to be approved, dissimulation being at no time excusable. In those again who display their petulance, we see only a vile cavil or a disgraceful error. The mode in which Scripture reconciles the two things-viz. that by external preaching all are called to faith and repentance, and that yet the Spirit of faith and repentance is not given to all-I have already explained, and will again shortly repeat. But the point which they assume I deny as false in two respects: for he who threatens that when it shall rain on one city there will be drought in another (Amos 4:7); and declares in another passage, that there will be a famine of the word (Amos 8:11), does he who, forbidding Paul to preach in Asia, and leading him away from Bithynia, carries him over to Macedonia (Acts 16:6:), shows that it belongs to him to distribute the treasure in what way he pleases. But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isaiah 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be sat apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all.   (Vol. 2, Book 3, Ch.22, Sec. 10, pp. 221-222)

  1. The Typology of the Ark. A.W. Pink -The ark was a place of absolute security.

This truth is seen in several particulars. First, this ark itself was pitched “within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14), hence it would be thoroughly watertight, and as such, a perfect shelter. No matter how hard it rained or how high the waters rose, all inside the ark were secure. The ark was in this respect also, a type of our salvation in Christ. Speaking to the saints, the apostle said, “Your life is hid (like Noah in the ark) with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). In the next place, we read concerning Noah after he had entered the ark, “And the Lord shut him in” (Gen. 7:16). What a blessed word this is! Noah did not have to take care of himself; having entered the ark, God was then responsible for his preservation. So it is with those who have fled to Christ for refuge, they are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Finally the security of all in the ark is seen in the issuing of them forth one year later on to the destruction-swept earth-“And Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him: every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark” (Gen. 8:18, 19). All who had entered had been preserved, none had perished by the flood, and none had died a natural death, so perfect is the type. How this reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Of them which thou gavest Me I have lost none” (John 18:9). (Gleanings in Genesis pp 105-6)THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.” (Psalm 139:2-4). What a wondrous Being is the God of Scripture! Each of His glorious attributes should render Him honourable in our esteem. The apprehension of His omniscience ought to bow us in adoration before Him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this divine perfection! Is it because the very thought of it fills us with uneasiness? How solemn is this face: nothing can be concealed from God! And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: “for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them” (Ezekiel 11:5). Though He be invisible to us, we are not so to Him. Neither the darkness of night, the closest curtains, nor the deepest dungeon can hide any sinner from the eyes of Omniscience. The tress of the garden were not able to conceal our first parents. No human eye beheld Cain murder his brother, but his Maker witnessed his crime. Sarah might laugh derisively in the seclusion of her tent, yet was it heard by Jehovah. Achan stole a wedge of gold and carefully hid it in the earth, but God brought it to light. David was at much pains to cover up his wickedness, but ere long the all-seeing God sent one of His servants to say to him, “Thou art the man”! And to writer and reader is also said, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).  (A.W. Pink)

Hebrews 12:25: See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh”-note carefully the present tense: not “that spoke.” Christ is still speaking through His Gospel, by His Spirit, and instrumentally through His own commissioned servants, calling upon all who come under the sound of his voice to serve and obey Him. There are many ways in which we may “refuse” to hear and heed Him. First, by neglecting to read daily and diligently the Scriptures through which He speaks. Second, by failing to attend public preaching where His Word is faithfully dispensed-if so be we live in a place where this holy privilege is obtainable. Third, by failing to comply with the terms of His Gospel and yield ourselves unto His authority. Fourth, by forsaking the Narrow Way of His commandments and going back again to the world. Fifth, by abandoning the truth for error, which generally ends in total apostasy. How we need to pray for an hearing ear, that is, for a responsive heart and yielded will.     (A. W. Pink commentary)

Puritan, Joseph Caryl, very pertinently asked, “You will swallow words until you have tried them. Why else have we ears to hear? Why are we trusted with reason to judge things with, or with rules to judge them?  There is no greater tyranny in the world than to command men to believe (with implicit faith) as others believe, or to impose our opinions and assertions upon those who hear them and not give them liberty to try them” (Practical Christianity A.W. Pink)

(W.T. Shedd Presbyterian, (1889) The unenlightened understanding is unable to apprehend, and the unregenerate will is unable to believe. Vital force is lacking in these two principle factors. What is needed at this point is life and force itself. Consequently, the Author of spiritual life Himself must operate directly, without the use of means or instruments; and outright give spiritual life and power from the dead: that is, ex nihilo. The new life is not imparted because man perceives the truth, but he perceives the truth because the new life is imparted. A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerate.

Surely, we come to Scripture to be learners only: not to teach the blessed writers how they ought to have spoken about God! When will men learn that “the Scripture phrase, or language of the Holy Ghost” is as much above them as heaven is above earth? …….What is the use of the inspiration of the Bible, if no form of the Bible that we now have is inspired? Why should God have worked a stupendous miracle in order to preserve the writers of the Biblical books from error and make the autographs of their books completely true, if He intended then to leave the books thus produced to the mere chance of transmission from generation to generation by every human and often careless copyists?” (Counterfeit or Genuine by David O. Fuller, DD)

(Exposition of Psalm 119 by Charles Bridges) In connecting this verse with the preceding, how accurately is the middle path preserved, equally distant from the idea of self-sufficiency to “keep the Lord’s statutes,” and self-justification in neglecting them! The first attempt to render spiritual obedience will quickly convince us of our utter helplessness. We might as soon create a world, as create in our hearts one pulse of spiritual life. And yet our inability does not cancel our obligation. Shall God lose his right, because sin has palsied our ability? Is not a drunken servant still under his master’s law? and is not the sin which prevents him from performing his duty, not his excuse, but his aggravation? Thus our weakness is that of an heart, which “cannot be subject to the law of God,” only because it is carnal, “enmity against God.” The obligation therefore remains in full forWhat then remains for us, but to return the mandate to haven, accompanied with an earnest prayer, that the Lord would write upon our hearts those statutes,  to which he requires obedience in his word?-“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy statutes diligently.” We acknowledge, Lord, our obligation; but we feel our impotency. Lord help us: we look unto thee. “Oh that our ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” Give what thou commandest; and then command what thou wilt.” Now, as if to exhibit the fullness and suitableness of the promises of the gospel, the commands and prayers are returned back again from heaven with promises of quickening and directing grace. Thus does the Lord fully answer his end with us. He did not issue the commands, expecting that we could turn our own hearts to them; but that the conviction of our entire helplessness might cast us upon him, who loves to be sought, and never will be thus in vain. And indeed this is a part of the “mystery of godliness,” that in proportion as we depend upon him who is alike, “the Lord our righteousness,” and our strength, our desire after holiness will increase, and our prayers become more fervent. He who commands our duty, perfectly knows our weakness, and he who feels his own weakness is fully encouraged to depend upon the power of his Saviour. Faith is then the principle of evangelical obedience, and the promises of his grace enable us for duty, at the very time that we are commanded to it. In this view are brought together the supreme authority of the Lawgiver, the total insufficiency of the creature, the full provisions of the Saviour, and the all-sufficiency of “the God of grace.” We pray for what we want; we are thankful for what we have; we trust for what is promised. Thus “all is of God.” Christ “is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Rev. 22:13.) Thus “grace reigns” triumphant. The foundation is laid in grace, and the headstone will be brought forth with shouting, crying, “Grace, grace unto it.” (Zech. 4:7). The Saviour’s work is finished and Jesus is crowned Lord of all for ever. From the time of the Apostles until the present God’s people have loved His Word. In times of sorrow they have found solace in its promises, in days of sadness, they have been comforted and strengthened by its testimonies; in the midst of happiness, they have rejoiced in its commands, and always has this been the so because they have regarded this Word as God’s Word; it words indeed, have been a blessing to their souls. Thus, even though many of its implications have only been worked out since the days of the Reformation, the idea of verbal inspiration has been present from the beginning. One thing at least is clear: the doctrine of verbal inspiration, which Bible believers are defending today, is a doctrine which has been defended since the days of the Apostles. It is indeed the very view which the Apostles and, above all, our Lord Himself maintained. The view of modernism, neo-orthodoxy and destructive criticism do not represent a natural development of the attitude toward the Bible which has characterized the Church since the time of its inception. Those who espouse the doctrine of verbal inspiration and Scriptural infallibility are in a true apostolic succession.

Psalm 119: 5.O that my ways were directed to keep thy statues! The Lord has indeed “commanded us to keep his precepts.” But, alas! Where is our power? Satan would make the sense of our weakness an excuse for indolence. The Spirit of God convinces us of it, as an incitement to prayer and an exercise of faith. If, Reader, your heart is perfect with God, you “consent to the law that it is good;” you “delight in it after the inner man” (Rom. 7:16, 22); you would not have one jot or tittle altered, mitigated, or replaced, that it might be more conformed to your own will, or allow you more liberty or self-indulgence in the ways of sin. But you do not sigh to think, that, when you aim at the perfect standard of holiness, you should, at your best moments, and in your highest attainments, fall so far below it; seeing indeed the way before you, but feeling yourself without ability to walk in it? Then let a sense of your helplessness for the work of the Lord lead you to the throne of grace, to pray, and watch, and wait, for the strengthening and refreshing influences of the Spirit of grace. Here let your faith realize at one and the same view your utter insufficiency, and your complete All-sufficiency. (2 Cor. 3:5.) Here behold Him, who is ever presenting himself before God as our glorious Head, receiving in himself, according to the good pleasure of the Father (Col. 1:18, 19),  the full supply for this and every successive moment of inexpressible need. Our work is not therefore left upon our own hands, or wrought out at our “own charges.” So long as “He hath the residue of the Spirit” (Matt. 2:15), “grace” will be found “sufficient;” –Divine “strength will be made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) “Without him we can do nothing” (John 15:5); “through him, all things.” (Phil. 4:14) Even the “worm Jacob shall thresh the mountains,” when the Lord says, “Fear not, I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:14, 15.)

Psalm 40:12- “For innumerable evils have compassed me about” “Come at length the dreadful night; Vengeance with its iron rod Stood, and with collected might

Bruised the harmless Lamb of God. See, my soul, thy Saviour see Prostrate in Gethsemane!

There my God bore all my guilt This through grace can be believed; But the horrors which he felt Are too fast to be conceived. None can penetrate through thee, Doleful, dark Gethsemane!

Sins against a holy God; Sins against his righteous laws; Sins against his love, his blood; Sins against his name and cause; Sins immense as is  the sea Hide me, O Gethsemane!” (The Treasury of David)

Psalm 33:20b “He is our help” There is an excellent story of a young man, that was at sea in a mighty raging tempest; and when all the passengers were at their wit’s end for fear he, only was merry; and when he was asked the reason of his mirth, he answered, “That the pilot of the ship was his farther, and he knew his father would have a care of him.” The great and wise God, who is our Father, hath from all eternity decreed what shall be the issue of all wars, what the event of all troubles; he is our pilot, he sits at the stern; and though the ship of the church or state be in a sinking condition, yet be of good comfort, our Pilot will have a care of us. There is nothing done in the lower house of Parliament on earth, but what is first decreed in the higher house in heaven. All lesser wheels are ordered and overruled by the upper. Are not five sparrows, saith Christ, sold for a farthing? One farthing’s worth of harm more than God hath decreed from all eternity.-Edmund Calamy (The Treasury of David P. 120)

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy lawThe light which they beg is not anything besides the word. When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in his word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed. Those that vent their own dreams under the name of the Spirit, and divine light, they do not give you mysteria, but monstra, portentous opinions; not show you the wondrous things of God’s law, but he prodigies of their own brain; unhappy abortives, that die as soon as they come to light. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this words, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). (Psalm 119 Volume 1, Sermon XIX. Thomas Manton)

(E.J. Young “Thy Word is Truth”) …..The Bible is indeed indispensable, for without it we could not know the will of God. One of the Reformed catechisms asks the pertinent question, ‘Whence do you know your misery?’ The answer which is given is very simple, but also very penetrating. It merely says, ‘Out of the law of God’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Question No. 3) According to this catechism one would not know how great his misery was, were it not for the law of God. The Bible, of course, teaches the same thing: ‘for by the law is the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20). This law to which the Bible refers is something that was once for all written down. It is there in the Bible, accessible at all times to those who desire to consult it.

THE DECREES OF GOD. The Attributes of God by A.W.Pink “Let us now consider some of the properties of the divine decrees. First, they are eternal. To suppose any of them to be made in time is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred; some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High to form a new resolution. This would argue that the knowledge of the Deity is limited, and that He is growing wiser in the progress of time-which would be horrible blasphemy. No man who believes that the divine understanding is infinite, comprehending the past, the present, and the future, will ever assent to the erroneous doctrine of temporal decrees. God is not ignorant of future events which will be executed by human volitions; He has foretold them in innumerable instances, and prophecy is but the manifestation of His eternal prescience. Scripture affirms that believers were chosen in Christ before the world began (Ephesians. 1:14), yea, that grace was “given” to them (II Timothy 1:9). Secondly, the decrees of God are wise. Wisdom is shown in the selection of the best possible ends and of the fittest means of accomplishing them. That this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their execution, and every proof of the wisdom of the plan, in conformity to which they are performed. As the Psalmist declared, “O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom Thou made them all” (104:24). It is indeed but a very small part of them which falls under our observation, yet, we ought to proceed here as we do in other cases, and judge of the whole by the specimen, of what is unknown, by what is known. He who perceives the workings of admirable skill in the parts of a machine which he has an opportunity to examine, is naturally led to believe that the other parts are equally admirable. In like manner we should satisfy our minds as to God’s works when doubts obtrude themselves upon us, and repel any reconcile to our notions of what is something that we reach the bounds of the finite and gaze toward the mysterious realm of the infinite, let us exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33).  Thirdly, they are free. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counsellor hath taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14). God was alone when He made His decrees, and His determinations were influenced by no external cause. He was free to decree or not to decree, and to decree one thing and not another. This liberty we must ascribe to Him who is Supreme, Independent, and Sovereign in all His doings. Fourthly, they are absolute and unconditional. The execution of them is not suspended upon condition which may, or may not be, performed. In every instance where God has decreed and end, He has also decreed every means to that end. The One who decreed the salvation of His elect also decreed to work faith in them (II Thessalonians 2:13). “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10); but that could not be, if His counsel depended upon a condition which might not be performed. But God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Surgeon on the Sovereignty of God Sermon on Matthew 20:15- “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation- the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands-the throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great and stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth.  And we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne we trust.”

THE BEAUTY Of HOLINESS OF GOD “As it seems to challenge an excellency above all His other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest: as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them. Should this be sullied, all the rest would lose their honour; as at the same instant the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, it strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the lustre of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendour of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice, His wisdom a holy wisdom, His power a “holy arm” (Psalm 98:1). His truth or promise a “holy promise” (Psalm 105:42). His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction is “holy” (Psalm 103:1). (S. Charnock).

The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 34: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

LAMENT TO THE LORD They’ve brought you up to date, Lord down at old St. Machar’s They’ve pensioned off the organ and they’re praising on guitars! They’ve done it for the young ones; ‘we want to draw them in’ But I do wish they could worship without making such a din! I’m growing rather deaf, Lord, and where there’s all that noise It gets so very hard, Lord, to hear your loving voice. They’re using SGP, Lord, words and tunes that I don’t know, So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so. They’re very go ahead, Lord, They’re using the NIV, But the words are not so beautiful as the others used to be.

So they’ve modernised the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed When the old ones were so perfect that they filled my every need. My mind’s not quite so agile as it was some years ago And I miss the age old beauty of the words that I still know. It’s very clear to me, lord, I’ve overstayed my time, I don’t take to change so kindly as I did in my prime. But it can’t be very long now before I’m called above. And I know I’ll find you there, lord, and glory in your love. So till then I’ll stick it out, lord, though it is not the same for me, But while others call you “YOU”, Lord, do you mind if I say “THEE”?

“The Christian family is the greenhouse within which is nurtured the tender plant of obedient service to Christ; therefore the church should keep the glass clean, the temperature warm, and the soil well watered and fertilized.” (With a Shepherd’s heart p. 81)

And so, the word of the cross speaks of a wondrous love. It proclaims that God, before the world was, loved us and ordained us unto everlasting life and glory; that, unto that end. He appointed His only begotten Son to be the Head of His brethren, the Church, that He might bear their sins, atone for their iniquities, obtain for them everlasting righteousness, deliver them from all their woe, and lead them into the glory of God’s heavenly tabernacle with them. It proclaims that this good pleasure of the God of our salvation was realized in the fullness of time, that He sent His only begotten Son into the world, loaded all the burden of our sin upon Him, delivered Him over unto death, yea, the death of the cross, and thus redeemed us by His own blood. At the cross our power and wisdom are brought to nought, but God’s wisdom and the power of His eternal love gloriously shine forth. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And that word is power, a power of God! It does not merely speak of righteousness and judgment, of love and salvation, of redemption and eternal life: it accomplishes it. By the power of the word of the cross the burden of our sins is rolled from our weary shoulders, the shackles of corruption are cut, death loses its sting; and righteousness and peace, life and glory are bestowed up us.

It is such a power, exactly because it is the Word of God. He speaks it. And when He speaks it to our soul, we are saved. And when we are saved the word of the cross is a power God to us..

“The Power of the Cross” by H. Hoeksema)

That is the power of the cross

Do you know the power of Christ’s cross?

Have your sins been rolled away by the power of the cross of Christ?

Has death lost its sting!

Do you know Christ’s righteousness and peace, has life and glory been bestowed upon you?

And that word is power, a power of God! It does not merely speak of righteousness and judgment, of love and salvation, of redemption and eternal life: it accomplishes it. By the power of the word of the cross the burden of our sins is rolled from our weary shoulders, the shackles of corruption are cut, death loses its sting; and righteousness and peace, life and glory are bestowed up us.

It is such a power, exactly because it is the Word of God. He speaks it. And when He speaks it to our soul, we are saved. And when we are saved the word of the cross is a power God to us..

“The Power of the Cross” by H. Hoeksema)

That is the power of the cross

Do you know the power of Christ’s cross?

Have your sins been rolled away by the power of the cross of Christ?

Has death lost its sting!

Do you know Christ’s righteousness and peace, has life and glory been bestowed upon you?

The almighty power of God is then no longer an abstraction to us-an intellectual conviction-but a present practical necessity; not a perfection which we distantly contemplate, but one by which we live and without which we perish. The dire necessity which drives us to the fount of life is, in its results, and incalculable blessing. And the temptation of Satan which terrifies the soul out of all self-dependence and creature-dependence, and compels it to find refuge in an almighty Saviour, has accomplished a gracious end.

And with this, so with other perfections of the ever-blessed God, and with the precious promises of his Word, and with merciful provisions of the covenant of grace, and with the priceless salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tempted soul learns afresh how to prize them, and embrace them, and cling to them, and rest upon them, and live by them.   

The Cross!

WHAT THE CROSS IS

1 A magnet to draw us

2 A Gallows to slay us

3 A Balance to weigh us

4 A Ladder to lift us

WHAT THE CROSS SHOWS US

1 Sin at its blackest

2 Law at its sternest

3 Love at its highest

4 Life at its fullest

THE DIMENSIONS OF THE CROSS

1 It is as high as heaven

2 It is as deep as damnation

3 It is as wide as the world

A Plea To Read

 

…OR, THE STORY OF A BOY, A REPAIRMAN, AND THE TRUTH

In the title I promised you a story. Actually that was mainly to draw you in. I figured stories sell more magazines. But it’s not entirely untrue. I want to start with a couple of stories. They happen to be autobiographical.

The first story starts at about grade 3, around the age of 8. You may think that my qualification for making a “plea to read” is my current calling as pastor, or my (excessive) years of education before this. But that’s not really it. That’s not really why I agreed to share this article about reading. Instead, the story begins, once upon a time, when I was 8. That was the year I discovered reading, or at least my passion for reading. In the years that followed it became my number one activity. I was almost always reading, probably at an unhealthy level.

You want to know why I say that? Well, my parents would often ignore my lengthy birthday or Sinter Klaas lists and buy me things I didn’t ask for and, truth be told, I didn’t necessarily want. I asked for the next book in a series; they bought me a hockey stick. I asked for the first book in a new series; they bought me a Lego set.

Actually, we used to have a cartoon on our fridge. I think it was from Punch Comics. One of my siblings stumbled across it, cut it out, and posted it there. It’s a sketch of a family gathered around a television set in the living room. Two ladies on the couch are talking to each other and looking rather concerned about the boy in the foreground who’s curled up in a chair reading a book, oblivious to the rest of the family. The caption at the bottom reads, “We’re rather worried about William.” I kid you not. That was the name. Google it if you don’t believe me. It doesn’t quite work because we never had a TV in the house, but you get the picture, I think.

So that’s where this story begins. My plea to read is in part a plea for you to join me in the best hobby there is.

A dog-eared copy of Reformed Dogmatics

But that’s not a terribly convincing appeal. That comes in the next story (I hope). We have to jump forward about twenty years to what was one of my more embarrassing moments in recent years, which for some reason I’m sharing publicly with you all.

You have to try to imagine the scene with me. I was in first year at the seminary at the time. And you have to know that first year seminary is that stage where you feel like you know everything. You have an opinion on everything. And you want to fight about everything. Things change after four years. Thankfully… and by the grace of God.

Well, we were back home in Richmond Hill for the weekend. We got invited to my wife Diane’s Opa and Oma Kampen’s for dinner (don’t tell them I told you this story) and we were sitting around waiting for dinner to be ready and chatting and what not.

Now, before I continue, I have to give a quick character sketch. Opa Kampen is retired now, but he was an appliance repairman all of his years in Canada. I’m not sure when his education stopped, but he definitely didn’t have anything like the years of education that I had at that point.

So, anyway, we’re talking together about one thing or another, and suddenly the conversation shifts. I don’t remember why anymore, but rather unexpectedly Opa asked me whether I favoured Infralapsarianism or Supralapsarianism. Remember, I was the first year seminary student and he was the appliance repairman.

I don’t remember why it came up, but I definitely remember my reaction. Vividly. I started sweating. I had heard those words before, but I had almost no idea at that point what they meant, let alone which one I leaned towards. I thought, here we go, Opa’s about to expose me as a complete fraud. My education has meant nothing! I was tempted to slip out quickly to the bathroom so that I could Google it, but there was no time. I actually don’t even know what happened in the end, but that moment of panic has stuck with me.

So why am I sharing this story? Well, to me it illustrates a change over the years in terms of our investment into reading and educating ourselves in Reformed doctrine. Gone are the days when your appliance repairman read through Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, in Dutch or in English. Gone are the days when you can expect men nominated as elders or deacons to have invested significant time into studying Reformed doctrine over and above their catechism instruction as young people.

Now, before you get up in arms, I’m not saying there are none of these. I’m just saying that with the younger generations this breed is not as common. And I’m indicting myself with this too. I was a deacon before coming to seminary. Well, if that’s the case with those being put up for church leadership, then how about the other people in the pew?

Before I continue, I should add a disclaimer. My comments here are completely unscientific. My doctoral supervisor would never forgive me for my poor research. I haven’t crunched any numbers or done any surveys. I’m basing this on my experiences as an office-bearer, both before and after I went through seminary. If you have a more positive outlook, I’d love for you to convince me. But right now, this is my article, so you’ll have to bear with me.

So why should we care? Why should I make this plea for us to read more widely and more deeply today, in the 21st century? Let me devote the next half of this article to exploring an answer to that question.

Theologians should read (and we’re all theologians)

Well, first of all, everyone is a theologian. (If you’re on Twitter, you might want to tweet that, although I certainly can’t take credit for coining the phrase, so don’t quote me). Everyone is a theologian. Even the atheist is a theologian. That’s because theology is, essentially, thoughts or words about God. And the atheist has thoughts about God. Now, his thought happens to be that God doesn’t exist – and he happens to be wrong – but that still makes him a theologian.

So, if we’re all theologians then the important question is what kind of theologians are we going to be? You see, the problem with the atheist isn’t that he’s a theologian, it’s that his theology is coming from the wrong source. If we don’t study theology from the right sources – if we don’t allow our thoughts and words about God to be shaped by the right sources – then our theology is going to be shaped by the wrongsources. If we don’t consciously do theology – that is, if we don’t consciously train our minds in the knowledge of God – we’re going to end up basing our theology either on our own experiences and our own feelings or on whatever else we happen to be taking in.

Because we are reading. Maybe some of us – and I’m talking especially about my generation and younger – are reading more than ever. I’m thinking of social media. Don’t tell me you’re not a reader if you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe those who only use Instagram, which focuses on pictures, can have a legitimate claim not to be readers, but the other social media users can’t. [1]

But the problem with only reading online, and not engaging in books, is that by its very nature the online world tends towards the superficial. Let’s think specifically of theology – of the study of God. If your thoughts are shaped by your reading of little quotes that someone decided to share, taken out of context, written by who knows who, or if all you read are the musings of someone who is just “feeling philosophical” (as the Facebook status often says) then you can’t expect anything but superficial knowledge.

That, I think, is the biggest danger with losing our interest in reading deeply and studying deeply the doctrines of God found in his Word. We end up with an overall superficiality in terms of our theology, what we know about God. Worse, we can rely more on our subjective experiences than the objective truth we find in God’s Word.

Feelings aren’t reliable…but there is a book that can be trusted

Let me explain that. What is subjective is based on our own experiences, our feelings, our emotions. We can’t really call it truth – although as postmoderns we might want to – because we aren’t reliable sources of truth. Our sinful, fallen nature means that we can’t be trusted to process things correctly, understand things properly. We can’t be trusted to theologize helpfully on our own. General revelation can only go so far (Rom. 1:19-23). We need objective truth. We need something to build our lives on that is absolutely rock solid, unshakeable. We find that foundation in the Word of God alone. Because it’s a revelation from outside of us, from outside of this fallen world. It’s special revelation from the unshakeable source of truth, God himself.

That’s why we’re called to pore over Scripture, to internalize it, to let it light our path, to let it shape our thoughts, to let it cut deeply into our hearts. And we have to trust that the Spirit works transformation through the Word. We have to believe that. And then live like we believe it.

But we also don’t read Scriptures alone. We read them with the church of all times and places. That’s why we guide and inform our reading with creeds and confessions. That’s also why we supplement our reading of Scripture with studying good theology, with reading solid literature. Because it all helps ground us further in the objectivetruth of God’s Word.

When we’re deeply grounded in the truth of God’s Word, then we are better able to process our subjective feelings and emotions. The psalms in Scripture provide us with great examples of what that looks like. But let me explain what I mean by what I think is the most powerful and poignant illustration of this, where the believer directs his experience of reality by the truth that he knows from God’s revelation.

It lies at the very center of the most tragic book in the Bible, Lamentations, traditionally understood to be written by Jeremiah. The prophet is lamenting over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. His world, the world of God’s own people, has completely fallen apart. He finds himself sitting in the ashes and ruins of the holy city. Many of the people of God have died in the Babylonian invasion. Many others have been deported to far away Babylon.

The whole poem is centred around the question: how could God allow this to happen to his chosen people? The prophet’s present experience is of pain, disillusionment, disappointment. Almost the entire book is a long cry of deepest despair. But then, at the very heart of the poem, in the middle of “the wormwood and the gall” (3:19), we get this incredible confession of faith,

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23).

One Bible teacher suggests that we imagine ourselves sitting in the ashes of the World Trade Center in New York City after 9/11 and speaking these words to ourselves.

That’s what I mean by looking at our experiences and filtering our emotions through our objective knowledge of God… our theology. The prophet, sitting among the ashes, knows this truth because God has spoken it, and so he applies this truth to his troubled soul and to his experiences, which appear to contradict it.

Like the prophet, it’s our knowledge of the objective truths of God’s Word that gives us the wherewithal to process our experiences and feelings. Not vice versa. Then our theology lets us speak truth to our souls when our experience doesn’t seem to line up with our knowledge.

That’s part of why we read. That’s part of why we pursue a deeper and deeper knowledge of God, above all through his Word, but also through reading deeply and widely with the church.

How can we encourage reading?

I want to explore the answer to one last question before I let you go: what should we do? I don’t have space to pay much attention to this, but let me make a start by saying what we shouldn’t do: we shouldn’t do nothing. We shouldn’t finish reading this article, muse about it for a few moments, and then just move on, mildly annoyed at the fact that this wasn’t a story like it was advertised to be, but otherwise untouched. We shouldn’t do nothing.

So what should we do? Well, let me issue a plea to all of you reading this to do something. What that something is will depend on who you are and what you do.

  • Are you a parent or grandparent? Stimulate the love for reading good books in your kids and grandkids. Do that by modeling it for them and by giving them the right resources for it. And if you can’t stimulate a lovefor it, then at least impress on them their responsibility to keep educating themselves in the doctrines of the Word of God.
  • Are you an elder or deacon or pastor? First of all, create a culture of “professional development” within your church council and consistory. Secondly, stimulate that same love and that same sense of responsibility for reading in the sheep under your care.
  • Are you a member of the body of Christ? Develop your own desire to grow in the doctrines of the Word of God, in sinking the objective truths of Scripture into your hearts and minds. And then make it your mission to share that love with your fellow members.
  • Start with the people closest to you, your friends within the church. Buy them books – good books, mind you – and then talk about them. Start with easier (but not easy) reads and then make your way into heavier ones. Stretch yourself and stretch them too.
  • Plan book review nights where you get together with your friends and you all share thoughts and insights from the books you happen to be reading at present. It doesn’t have to be formal or complicated. Just talk. And when you’re done your book (and it’s a good one), pass it along to someone else. Don’t let it collect dust on your shelf.

In all this, though, never forget that studying theology ought to be an act of worship. We can’t let our reading become an end in itself. We can’t become obsessed with theology for the sake of theology. We do theology because we exist to glorify God and because we were created to know Him. So as you read and discuss, do it with a conscious posture of worship. Let your increase of knowledge lead to an increase of worship. Soli Deo Gloria!

Endnotes

[1] For this point, see Aimee Byrd’s No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God, page 202.

Rev. den Hollander is the pastor of Langley Canadian Reformed Church. This article was originally delivered as a speech at the December 8, 2017 Reformed Perspective fundraising dinner at the Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church.

By William den Hollander

Charles Bridges on Psalm 119

Psalm 119:156 “Great is thy tender mercies, O Lord; quicken me according to thy judgments.”

It is most cheering to pass from judgment to mercy-from the awful state of the wicked, to adore the mercies of God to his people. We were naturally no better than they. The most eminent sinner looks on himself with wonder- “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:2.) Never will he lose the remembrance – “Who maketh thee to differ?” (1 Cor. 4:7.) To mercy-rich mercy alone-we trace the distinction between those that are “quickened,” and those that remain “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1, 4, 5.)

But let us mark the features of this mercy. How great in extent! Estimate its greatness by the infinite debt which blots out (Isaiah 43:22-25; 1:18)-the eternal ruin from which it saves (Ps. 86:13)-the heavenly crown to which it raises (Rev. 1:5, 6.) Trace it to the mind of God-that first eternal purpose of mercy, which set us apart for his glory. (Eph. 1:4-6.) Mark it in that “time of love,” when his mercy rescued us from Satan, sin, death, and hell, and drew us to himself. (Ezek. 16: 6-8.) As soon as might we span the arch of heaven, as fully grasp the greatness of his mercy. (Psal. 103: 11. Isa. 55:8, 9.) And then how tender is it in its exercise! Such was the first beam of mercy that “visited us.” (Luke 1:78.) Such has been the continued display. So natural, as from a Father. (2 Cor. 1:3. Psal. 103:13.) So yearning, “as one whom his mother comforteth!” Such a multitude of those tender mercies! The overflowing stream follows us through every step of our wilderness-journey. The blessing “compasses us about,” abounds towards us, keeps us steadfast, or restores us when wandering, and will preserve us to the end. Happy are we-not in the general perception-not in the hearsay of it, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (Psal. 103:3.) But what poor returns have we made for this infinite love! Surely the petition for quickening grace suits us well. This was the constant burden of David’s prayer. For he was not like many professors, who can maintain their assurance in a lower and careless walk. No he was a believer of a very high standard; desirous not only of proving his title to the blessing, but of living in its habitual and active enjoyment.

Often as this petition has been brought before us, in the course of this Psalm, it is too important ever to be passed over. Let us at this time us it for the purpose of individual self-inquiry. In what respects do I need quickening grace? Are my views of sin, and especially of the sin of my own heart, slight and superficial? Do they fail in producing humility, abasement, tenderness of conscience, circumspection of conduct? If it be so-Quicken me, O my God! Does my apprehension of a Saviour’s love serve to embitter sin to me? To crucify sin in me, to warm and enliven my heart with love to him, and zeal in his service?  If I am convicted of coldness to such a Saviour, sluggishness in such a service, I need to pray-­O Lord, quicken thou me! And how do I find it with regard to prayer itself? Are not my prayers general-unfrequent-wandering? Is not my service too often constrained, a forced duty, rather than a privilege and delight? O Lord, quicken me!

Yet many Christians, through a mistaken perception, know not when they have received the blessing. They have looked for it in strong and sensible excitement; and in defect of this sink into despondency. Whereas; the solid influence is independent of sensations, and consists in a tender sensibility of sin, a spiritual appetite for the gospel, active energy in Christian duties, and continual progress in heavenly exercises. But under no circumstances must the evil of a dead and drooping state be lightly thought of; obscuring as it does the difference between the believer and the worldling, or rather between the believer and the formalist. O believer, you have great need to carry your complaint again and again unto the Lord! ‘Quicken me-quicken me-according to thy judgments­ according to those gracious promises, which are the method of thy proceedings, and the rule of thy dispensations of grace.’ You cannot be too earnest to welcome the breathings of the Spirit, or too cautious, that your indolence resists not the Divine impression. When he quickens you with his influence, do you quicken with your supplications-“Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south: blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” (Cant. 4:16.) Persuade-entreat-constrain his stay. Enlivened by his energy, how happy, and in your own sphere how useful, a member of the Church of Christ you may be found!  Your soul will be invigorated-your graces strengthened-and your affections elevated-in trouble, cheerful, steady dependence upon the Saviour, and in daily renewed devotedness to his service. The more the spiritual life is thus “exercised unto godliness, the more delightfully will you realise the active service and everlasting praise, which will constitute the perfection of heavenly enjoyment.” (Rev. 22:3, 4; 4:8.)

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Learning to Love the Psalms

David, the Believer, and Christ in Psalm 22

The psalm begins with a section dominated by the agonized prayer of David (vv.1-21). David is expressing in the first place his own experience of feeling abandoned by God. Here is the most intense suffering God’s servant can know – not just that enemies surround him (vv.7, 12-13) and that his body is in dreadful pain (vv.14-16), but that he feels that God does not hear him and does not care about his suffering. And this is not just the experience of David. It is the experience of all God’s people in the face of terrible trouble. We wonder how our loving Father can stand idly by when we are in such distress.

And then after pointing out the faith and hope of David expressed in that deep cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (v.1), showing that David still held on to the truth that God was his God, Godfrey returns to that idea of God’s apparent abandonment:

John Calvin in his commentary concluded that a sense of being forsaken by God, far from being unique to Christ or rare for the believer, is a regular and frequent struggle for believers. He wrote, ‘There is not one of the godly who does not daily experience in himself the same thing. According to the judgment of the flesh, he thinks he is cast off and forsaken by God, while yet he apprehends by faith the grace of God, which is hidden from the eye of sense and reason.’ We must not think that living the Christian life is easy or that we will not daily have to bear the cross.

But then the author takes us to Christ, in whom these words are fulfilled – for our salvation:

This psalm  is not only the experience of every believer, but it is also a very remarkable and specific prophecy of the sufferings of Jesus. We see the scene of the crucifixion especially clearly in the words, ‘A company of evil doers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots’ (vv.16-18). Here we see that indeed this psalm comes to its fullest realization in Jesus.

Jesus knew this psalm and quoted its first words to identify with us in our suffering since He bore on the cross our agony and suffering. ‘Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death’ (Heb.2:14). Jesus does deliver us by becoming our substitute and the sacrifice for our sins.

Learning-love-psalms-Godfrey-2017Taken from W. Robert Godfrey’s new book Learning to Love the Psalms(Reformation Trust, 2017). I am now reading through the sections that treat various psalms from each of the five books into which the Psalter is divided. This is drawn from the author’s explanation of Psalm 22 (Book 1).

Taken from: The Three R’s Blog

Lament to The Lord

They’ve brought you up to date, Lord down at old St. Machar’s
They’ve pensioned off the organ and they’re praising on guitars!
They’ve done it for the young ones; ‘we want to draw them in’
But I do wish they could worship without making such a din!
I’m growing rather deaf, Lord, and where there’s all that noise
It gets so very hard, Lord, to hear your loving voice.
They’re using S G P, Lord, words and tunes that I don’t know,
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so.
They’re very go ahead, Lord, They’re using the NIV,
But the words are not so beautiful as the others used to be.

So they’ve modernised the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed
When the old ones were so perfect that they filled my every need. 
My mind’s not quite so agile as it was some years ago
And I miss the age old beauty of the words that I still know.
It’s very clear to me, lord, I’ve overstayed my time,
I don’t take to change so kindly as I did in my prime.
But it can’t be very long now before I’m called above.
 And I know I’ll find you there, lord, and glory in your love.
So till then I’ll stick it out, lord, though it is not the same for me,
But while others call you “YOU”, Lord, do you mind if I say “THEE”?     Anon.

CHRISTIAN HOMES

Many of those who look no farther than the temporal happiness of individuals and the welfare of the State are not insensible of the importance and value of domestic relationships, realizing that the family is but the unit of the nation. No matter how excellent the constitution and laws of a country may be, or what its material resources, they are insufficient and effectual, unless sure foundation for social order and public virtue be laid in the healthy regulation and wise disciple of its families. The nation is but the aggregate of individuals comprising it; and unless there be good fathers and mothers, good sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, there will be no good citizens. It is because our home life has so sadly deteriorated that social decay is now far advanced, nor can it be arrested until parents once again properly discharge their responsibility. We have no hesitation in saving that the future welfare of Britain (and the USA too) is more seriously menaced by the relaxation of family government and the breakdown of home life than by any government incompetence or foreign hostility. 

Home! How much that one word used to convey! It is still one of the most precious in the English language unto some of us. Much more so when to all its natural attractions are added the hallowed associations which gather around a Christian home. Is it not our favourite concept of heaven embodied in that blessed expression, “my Father’s House” (John 14.2). Because the Christian is God in every relation of life. No matter what station he occupies, or wherever home should be the sphere of his most manifest devotedness unto Him. All its arrangements should bear the stamp of his heavenly calling. All its affairs should be so ordered that everyone entering it should feel, “God is here!” The supreme aim of family life should be household piety, everything else being subordinated thereto.

It is in the home our real characters are most manifested and best known. Out in the world, a certain measure of restraint is placed upon both our corruptions and our graces; but in the home, we are freer to act naturally, and it is there that our worst and best sides alike are exhibited the plainest. As a close observer and one of wide experience said, “I can never form a correct judgment of a man from seeing or hearing him in a religious meeting. He may seem a very spiritual person there, and say very beautiful things, but let me go home with him, and there I learn the actual state of the case.” He may indeed pray like a saint in the church, but unless his home be governed according to the Word of God, and his own conduct be regulated by the Spirit of Christ, he fails to witness for him in that most important and influential sphere.

The reality and extend of “a work of grace” in the soul are most clearly revealed amid the petty trials of home life. In the Scriptures, we find some of its most eminent characters subjected to that severe test. For example, the Lord gave as the reason for the intimate confidences He was about to make unto Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD” (Gen. 18:19): thus his home life was pleasing to God as was his public. Nor are the Scriptures less explicit in showing us the disastrous consequences which attend a believer’s unfaithfulness in this relation. A notable case in point is the fearful ruin of Eli’s family: “I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 Sa. 3:13). The state of a preacher’s home is like made the test of his character: he is disqualified from the sacred office, unless he be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity,” adding, “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). 

“What have they seen in thine house?” (2 Ki. 20:15). Have you observed my reader, how much in Scriptures is in the interrogatory form? How frequently the Lord used that method of teaching, both with His disciples, and His enemies! It is most definite and searching form of instruction. A considerable part of God’s Word is made up of questions; and it is our wisdom not only to thoughtfully and prayerfully ponder them, but to regard the same as being addressed to us individually-and thereby bare our hearts to their penetrating power. This we should do with the “Where art thou?” of Genesis 3:9, right through the Scriptures to the 2wherefore didst thou marvel” of Revelation 17:7. The one now before us was uttered by way of rebuke unto Hezekiah’s vanity, who-in a spirit of pride and ostentation-had shown the massagers from Babylon the treasures of his palace.

“What have they seen in thine house?” Let each of us take that inquiry home to himself and herself. What do visitors, especially those who spend a night under your roof, behold in thy home? Do they see a household which is well ordered, everything regulated according to God’s Word; or do they behold a scene of confusion and turmoil? Do the furnishings of your home bespeak a heart which is dead to the world? Is there a noticeable absence of that carnal luxury and fleshly display which mark those whose affections are set upon things below? On the other hand, is there that cleanliness and tidiness everywhere which honours the Lord? Nothing is more incongruous for one who professes to be a stranger and pilgrim (1 Pe. 2:11) here than to behold him or her endeavouring to outshine their neighbours in that which ministers to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jo. 2:16). Equally so do neglect and dirt indicate that something is wrong with the heart, and mar a Christian’s testimony.

“What have they seen in thine house?” Do they behold a husband “under petticoat government,” or one who takes his proper place at the head of the home? The household must have a leader; and God has committed rule to the husband, and holds him responsible for its management. It is no valid excuse for him to say that he is the breadwinner, and therefore, he leaves the wife to run the house. Not that he is to be a tyrant, but firm, asserting his authority, ruling in holy love. Yet unless the wife fully do-operates, much of his effort will be unavailing. Not only does God require her to be subject unto her husband’s will (Eph. 5:22, 24), but to loyally support and further him-unless his requirements manifestly clash with the Bible. He is necessarily absent from the home most of the day, and therefore, it largely devolves upon her to “train up” their children “in the way [they] should go” (Pro. 22:6).

“What have they seen in thine house?” Little or nothing to distinguish it from the worldlings?-or everything in it aiming at the glory of God? The husband and wife conducting themselves as “being heirs together of the grace of life” (1Pe. 3:7)? The children brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and “in subjection with all gravity” (1 Tim. 3:4)-or utterly spoiled unruly, and a trial to those who have to endure their presence? Do visitors behold an example of parental piety, of salutary discipline maintained, evidences on every side that their hearts set upon something higher than the baubles of earth? Do they see the family altar? Do they behold the Sabbath day-duly honoured-all unnecessary cooking avoided? If they do not, they will rightly suspect the genuineness of your Christian profession! If those things be absent, be not surprised if your children abandon religion as they grow older.  Having no confidence in what they were reared. God search every one of us with this important question. (Studies in the Scriptures by A.W. Pink Sep. 1948 Vol. xxvii No. 9)    

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Forever with the Lord

FOREVER WITH THE LORD

The Clouds Of The Christian, The Chariot Of God
“Who maketh the clouds his chariot” (Psalm l04:3).

If God were perfectly comprehensible in his being and government to a finite mind, then either he must forego his claim to divinity, or we must cease to be human. And yet in nothing, scarcely, is the Christian more at fault than in attempting to fathom those dispensations of his government in which he conceals his purposes and enshrouds himself, and failing, he then questions the wisdom and rectitude of his procedure! But how gently does the result rebuke and confound our misapprehension and distrust. When from the secret place of thunder he utters his voice, when in his dealings darkness is under his feet, when he makes darkness his secret place, his pavilion round about him dark waters and thick clouds of the skies (Psa. 18:11), even then he is but making a way for his love to us, which shall appear all the more real and precious by the very cloud-chariot in which it travels.

The believer in Christ has nothing slavishly to dread, but everything filially to hope from God. So fully is he pardoned, so completely is he justified, so perfectly is he reconciled to God, that even the darkest dispensations in which he hides himself shall presently unveil the brightest views of his character and love; and thus the lowering cloud that deepened in its darkness and grew larger as it approached shall dissolve and vanish, leaving no object visible to the eye but him whose essence and name is love. Oh, it is because we have such shallow views of God’s love that we have such defective views of God’s dealings! We blindly interpret the symbols of his providence because we so imperfectly read the engraving of his heart. Faith finds it difficult to spell the word ‘love’ as written in the shaded characters of its discipline; to believe that the cloud which looks so somber and threatening is the love-chariot of him who for our ransom gave himself unto the death because he so loved us!

The subject on which this chapter engages our thoughts presents another path heavenward for the Christian. And as this path is frequently trodden by many, we desire to present it in such an aspect as shall help onward those who are walking in darkness having no light, or around whose way the dense dark clouds of divine dispensations are gathering, filling the soul with fear and trembling. He makes the clouds his chariot; and soothed with this assurance, the beclouded, benighted traveler may be still and know that he is God. Let us view some of those clouds of the Christian pilgrimage which Christ makes his chariot.

The heavens are draped with many clouds of varied forms and hues. Such are, figuratively, the dealings of God with his people. Our Lord has many chariots. It is recorded of Solomon that his chariots were fourteen hundred; but the chariots of God are twenty thousand. In every cloud in the history of the church and in the experience of the saints is a divine chariot, and every chariot is, like the King of Israel’s, paved in the midst with love. We may illustrate this by a reference to Christ’s state-chariot, or, in other words, the Lord’s appearance to his people in the cloud of his essential and divine glory. It was in this cloud he entered and filled the tabernacle ‘so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD’ (I Kings 8:11). In this same cloud, too, he descended upon Mount Sinai: And a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai’ (Exod. 24:15-16). The same glorious chariot was seen descending and lighting upon Mount Tabor, in that sublime and expressive scene of our Lord’s transfiguration, when ‘he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (2 Pet. 1: 1 7). The same chariot of state waited his ascension and bore him back to heaven, reinvested with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was; for as he went up and his form disappeared from the gaze of his disciples, ‘a cloud received him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9). In like manner, descending in the state-chariot of his own glory and the glory of his Father, shall he come again. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him’ (Rev. 1:7). Solemn scene! Sublime advent! Blessed hope of those who love and look and long for his appearing! Saints of God, it speedeth on! The day of your full redemption draweth nigh. The state-chariot of our Immanuel is preparing for its descent to the world, conveying him to his church, his loving, longing bride. Lord, why tarry the wheels of thy chariot? Come, quickly come, and terminate the reign of sin and sorrow and death in the dominion of holiness and happiness and endless life, and take thy wearying church to thyself.

Come, great Redeemer, open wide
The curtains of the parting sky;
On a bright cloud in triumph ride,
And on the wind’s swift pinions fly.

Come, King of kings, with thy bright train,
Cherubs and seraphs, heavenly hosts;
Assume thy right, enlarge thy reign,
As far as earth extends her coasts.

Come, Lord, and where thy cross once stood,
There plant thy banner, fix thy throne;
Subdue the rebels by thy Word,
And claim the nations as thine own.

May we not pause at this part of our subject and ask the reader, have you seen the King riding in his chariot of state? To drop the figure, have you seen his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth? Oh, it is a grand spectacle, the glory that is in Christ Jesus, the glory of his person, his atoning work, his redeemed church! Blessed are the eyes enlightened to behold it! Deem not your Christianity as true, nor your religion as sound, nor your hope as valid, unless you have seen by faith’s spiritual, far-discerning eye Jesus in his divinity, the King riding in majesty and beauty in this cloud-chariot of his essential dignity and glory. It is only in the beaming effulgence of this glory that all our demerit and deformity is absorbed and annihilated. So divine, blinding, and overpowering is the essential glory of our redeeming God that a believing sinner, enveloped by its beams, is changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. All his unrighteousness, his sins, and hell-deservings are consumed and destroyed by the divine Sun of righteousness. Jesus makes this cloud his chariot and waits to bless us with its vision.

There are, too, divine truths—the mysteries of the gospel, for example—which may be regarded as the cloud chariots of God. It is a favorite maxim with the objector to Christianity—plausible yet fallacious—that where mystery begins faith terminates. And yet never did the genius of error forge a weapon more weak and powerless with which to attack our divine and holy faith! If the Bible be the revelation of God, mysteries must necessarily form an essential part, if not its very substance. It would indeed be astonishing if God should not know more than man; or that if, in condescending to reveal to man his being, his will, and his heart, there should not be problems in divine truth man cannot solve, depths he cannot reach, mysteries he cannot unravel, and revelations he may not reconcile. Such, for example, are the revealed doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, atonement, election, sovereignty, the new birth, and resurrection. We own the mystery which envelops so much connected with these great verities of our faith; that there are depths too profound for reason’s line to touch, modes of existence which forbid the rash doubts of the skeptic and the vain speculation of the philosopher, while they demand the unquestioning faith and profound homage of the believing mind.

And yet are we then to reject them? We may, we do, believe a thousand things in nature which the mind cannot fully comprehend. Our very existence is a mystery; every movement of the body, every action of mind, every volition of will, every emotion and affection of the heart encompasses us with mystery. Yet on that account do we doubt our own existence? My being confounds, but does it transcend my reason? And are we not at every step confronting mysteries in nature and in providence which we accept as credible, which otherwise we must reject as incomprehensible? If, then, my reader, your mind is perplexed, agitated, and distressed respecting these clouds which veil so much connected with the revealed truths of the gospel, learn this lesson—that Christ makes these very clouds his chariot. In each and all of these profound yet glorious verities of our faith, these great and precious doctrines of the gospel, Christ is revealed Christ is embodied, Christ travels. The gospel is the vehicle in which Christ makes his constant advent to our souls; and if our reason may not be able perfectly to comprehend all the parts of the vehicle, let it content our faith that Jesus, the revelation ‘ the substance, and glory of all divine truth, occupies it; and that ere long the cloud of mystery into which we entered with trembling will, as in the transfiguration, dissolve into light and splendor, pure and soothing, and we shall see Jesus only.

Regard it as one of your chief mercies that your salvation depends not upon reason but upon faith. You are not called upon fully to comprehend, but unquestioningly to believe and love. You are not the less saved because your faith deals with obscurity, nor is your faith less real, precious, or saving because it abjures the wisdom of the sage for the docile spirit of the child, and the learning of the philosopher for the humility of the disciple. Let your great study be the mystery of Christ’s love to sinners—the mystery of Christ’s love to you. The apostle was content to leave all mysteries to the day of perfect knowledge, if he could but attain unto love. Though I know all mysteries, and have not love, I am nothing. Study that grand truth, ‘God is love’, as embodied in the cross of Christ, and you can well afford to refer all that is obscure and hard to understand in revealed truth to the day when we shall know all, as we also are known. Cease to dispute, cavil, and speculate on the subject of religion and revealed truth, and receive the gospel and enter into the kingdom of Christ as a little child.

In the momentous matter of your future destiny, you have but to deal with two specific and distinct facts – your sinnership and Christ’s Saviorship. What if you solve all the problems of science, and fathom all the depths of learning, and unravel all the mysteries of truth, and yet are lost! What will your speculations, and researches, and discoveries avail, if at last they be found ineffectual to distil one drop of the water of life upon the tongue, now caviling and profane, then fevered and tormented in the quenchless flame? Are you not, by your present persistent course of unbelief, pride, and rejection of truth, in danger of finding yourself there? Oh, it is of infinite importance to you that you come as sinful to the blood of Christ, as condemned to his righteousness, as ignorant and unlearned to the feet of Christ. The great problem you have to work out is your own salvation. The grand mystery you have to unravel is the mystery of your union with Jesus. The momentous questions you have to decide are the place, the society, and the employment of your endless future! Where, with whom, and how will you spend your long eternity? Compared with these grave considerations, all your doctrinal hair-splitting and your religious speculations, your vain disputes and your dreamy hopes, are as the follies of driveling idiocy, or the aberrations of a mind insane.

Shakespeare portrays his ‘Lear’ as gathering straws with the hand that had wielded a scepter, and devoting to childish thoughts a mind which once gave laws to a kingdom. With a yet more powerful hand the sacred historian describes the monarch of Babylon quitting the occupation and abodes of men and betaking himself to the pursuits and companionship of irrational animals. But what are these sad pictures of a mind diseased, wrecked, and ruined, compared with the moral madness of the man who disbelieves the gospel, cavils at truth, and perils the eternal interests of his soul—who employs the rational powers with which God has endowed him in attempting to subvert the foundations of Christianity, to extinguish the beacon light erected on the headlands and the shores of time to guide the spiritual voyager safe to eternity, involving in the destruction of others Ws own personal salvation?

The clouds of God’s providential government are no less his chariot. ‘Clouds and darkness are round about him’ (Psa. 97:2), and in these dispensations of his government he moves among men, and especially his saints. It is by a ‘cloudy pillar’, sometimes turning towards us gleams of light, at other times casting deep and dark shadows on our way, that God is conducting us heavenward. Oh, how many and how varied in form and in hue are the trying, afflictive, and disciplinary dealings of our heavenly Father! How soon the bright blue sky smiling down upon us may be wreathed with the drapery of clouds, each one dark and portentous. God blows upon wealth and it vanishes, touches health and it droops, smites the creature and it dies, and we exclaim in the words of David, ‘I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears’ (Psa. 6:6). But the night of cloud and gloom is to the kingdom of grace what the darkness of night is to the kingdom of nature. Darkness possesses the twofold property of concealing and revealing; and it would perhaps be impossible to say in which it most excelled, whether it does not reveal as much, if not more, beauty and wonder than it veils. Those clouds of providential dispensations which turn our day into night bring out to view such constellations of divine promises, discover such perfection of the divine character, and present such discoveries of divine love, as to make even night more wonderful and resplendent than day. Ah, beloved, we should know but little what Christ’s chariot of love was, but for the clouds in which he comes to us! Are cloudy dispensations gathering around you? Are God’s ways such as fill you with fear and foreboding, agitation and alarm? Does sickness threaten, do resources fail, friendships chill, changes in the relations or social position of life approach? Is separation feared, death anticipated, followed in its gloomy wake by weakened dependencies, closed channels, sundered ties, the sad farewell to a parent’s society, the home of childhood, and the dearest, sweetest ties of earth? Oh, these gathering clouds are but the Lord’s chariot, in which he rides to thee in all the wisdom of His dealings, the faithfulness of his covenant, the tenderness of his love, and the righteousness of his procedure.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace,
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

But consider who it is that rides in this chariot. It is the Lord your God. Many of God’s people are so absorbed in their contemplation of the chariot as to overlook the one who sits in it. Their emotions vary according to the appearance which it presents. If the cloud is bright and promising, their feelings and hopes are correspondingly so; but should it wear a somber, threatening appearance, faith sinks and fears rise. But faith has nothing to do with the chariot, whatever may be its magnitude, shape, or hue, but with Christ in the chariot and with God in the cloud. For example, with regard to divine truth, it is not with the vehicle of truth itself, but with Christ as revealed in the truth, that our faith must deal. I may not be able to comprehend and understand all the parts of the chariot—its complexity may baffle, its gorgeousness may blind me—but I may be able to see and understand who is enthroned upon its seat.

If the mystery of the doctrine of the Trinity, and of the incarnation, and of the atonement, and of election, is so profound that I cannot explain or comprehend it, I still may discern in them one glorious object, and discerning that object, it were enough for my salvation. I can see Jesus in the Trinity, Jesus in the incarnation, Jesus in the atonement, Jesus in election, and this will suffice until the night of divine mysteries gives place to the meridian sunshine of a perfect and eternal day of knowledge and glory; and then I shall as fully understand the mysterious construction and comprehend all the different parts of the chariot as my mind will be capable of knowing, and my heart of loving him, whose name is Wonderful, who rode in it to my salvation. Then shall we know even as also we are known. Oh, how fully and blessedly shall we know Jesus then! How gloriously will this great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, unveil to our enlarged and sanctified intellect. We shall no more see the King in his beauty as through a glass darkly, nor the good land very far off. With souls perfected in holiness, how clear will be the vision, how transparent the medium, how glorious the Object! There shall be no more night of mystery, no more night of obscurity, no more night of sin, no more night of weeping. No disease shall shade the intellect, no prejudice shall warp, no shock shall unhinge it. No adversity shall touch the heart, no bereavement shall sadden, no changed and chilled affection shall collapse it.

That there will be gradations of knowledge and degrees of glory, I think is probable. There are so in the Church of God on earth; I see nothing to exclude the same from the Church of God in heaven. But this will not in the slightest degree affect the happiness or glory of the saints. Is there less beauty in a tuhp-bed, or in a conservatory of flowers, because there is so rich an assemblage of varied colors? Or, is there less splendor in the heavenly bodies because there is so great a variety of magnitude, effulgence, and orbit? And will there be less enjoyment, or less beauty, or less song amidst the countless numbers who throng the temple above, because ‘One star differeth from another star in glory’ (1 Cor. 15:41)? Oh, no, the glory and the happiness of each will be full and perfect! Every spirit will possess a happiness and reflect a glory equal to its capacity. As two luminous bodies in the celestial system may shine in perfection, though in widely different orbits and with different degrees of splendor, and as two streams, the rivulet and the river, may course their way through landscape, the one gliding in simple, pensive beauty, the other rolling in majestic waves, and yet each filling its channel, both equally charming the eye and declaring the glory of God; so the ‘spirits of just men made perfect’ (Heb. 12:23) shall each be a differing, yet full, vessel of happiness. The image of God will shine with full-orbed splendour in both, though with different intensity, and by each one shall Christ perfect to himself endless praise.

Oh, beloved, if we but reach that world of purity and of bliss, we shall be so satisfied with the orbit we roll in, the glory we emit, and the happiness we feel, as never to question the goodness or the righteousness of God in the sphere assigned us! Christ will then be all in all to us, and we shall be satisfied with all that Christ has done. I think that our bliss will be so complete, our joy so full, and our glory so resplendent, we shall scarcely be conscious that there is another saint fuller, happier, or more glorious than ourselves. Blessed world of glory, we long to be within thy walls! Open, ye everlasting doors, and admit us, that we may eat of the tree of life and recline upon the sunlight banks of the crystal river that makes glad the city of our God.

Salem, city of the holy,
We shall be within thy walls:
There, beside yon crystal river,
There, beneath life’s wondrous tree,

There, with nought to cloud or sever,
Ever with the Lamb to be!
Heir of glory!
That shall be for thee and me!

The Lord, too, is equally in all the providential clouds which unfold his government and trace our pilgrimage heavenward. It is our wisdom and our happiness to know that there is not an event or circumstance, a cloud or a sunbeam, in our personal history and experience that is not a vehicle of Christ. He makes the clouds his chariot; and his providential dispensations, whatever their form or their hue, are his means of approaching and visiting us. ‘The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet’ (Nahum 1:3). Fear not, oh Christian traveler, that dark, lowering cloud rising above thee. It grows large, and it looks threatening, and thou thinkest it will overtake and consume thee before thou hast crossed the plain and reached the shelter. Tremble not, it will roll no thunder, it will flash no lightning! The cross of Christ is the great lightning conductor for the Church of God. Around that cross, law and justice met in awful array, the thunderbolt struck and the lightning scathed the Son of God, and upon him they spent their force. And now beneath the shelter of that cross, the penitent sinner may safely stand, and the darkest cloud, and the loudest thunder, and the most vivid lightning that gathers and verberates and illumines above shall pass him by untouched, for there is now ‘no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Why, then, fear the dealings, and the readings, and the chastenings of God in providence? That somber chariot that appears at thy door, enters thy abode, mounts into thy chamber, is the chariot of love, the chariot of Jesus. Christ is in that adversity, Christ is in that loss, Christ is in that bereavement, Christ is in that sickness; in a word, that cloud, whatever may be its nature, its form, and its darkness what it may, is one of the twenty thousand chariots of God in which he rideth to thy help, in his excellency, on the sky. Oh, learn to see Christ and to deal closely with God in all his dispensations and dealings with you. No enemy bent on destruction, no foe armed with vengeance, sits in the cloud chariot that approaches you—it is your Father, your covenant God, your Redeemer. It is he to whose heart you are more precious than the universe, in whose eye you are more beautiful than angels, and on whose ear the accents of your voice fall with a melody infinitely surpassing the sweetest cherub before the throne.

Look not, I beseech you, at the somber hue of the chariot, but rather at the love and loveliness and graciousness of him who sits within it. It is your beloved Lord! His person is white and ruddy, human and divine. His countenance is brighter than the sun shining in its strength. His voice is gentle, tender, and winning, uttering the speech and the accent and the words of love. Then be not afraid. Christ will never send an empty chariot to his people. When his chariot lights at our door, we may be assured that he is in it. No angel, no ransomed spirit shall occupy the seat, but he himself. Welcome, then, the visit of your gracious King. He comes laden with the ‘sure mercies of David’, freighted with covenant blessings and bearing the sweet grapes and the fragrant flowers gleaned from the vineyards and the paradise of heaven. He comes in this cloud to talk with and to manifest himself to you and to make you more intimately and personally acquainted with himself, with his truth and his love. Welcome him to your dwelling, receive him into your heart, and bid him abide with you there, never to leave you again. Be not satisfied unless you discern the Ying in the chariot. This only will dispel your fears and reconcile you to the dispensation, however dark and painful it may be. The moment you realize, ‘Thou art near, O Lord’—that moment your heaving, panting bosom will be at rest. The disciples feared as they entered into the cloud upon the Mount of Transfiguration, but discovering the Lord in it, their trembling was changed into confidence, their apprehension into joy, and they desired to build their tabernacle on its summit and no more descend to the toil and the strife below.

Beloved, are you entering some overshadowing cloud trembling and apprehensive? Fear not! Thy Lord is in it, and a Father’s voice of love shall speak to thee from out of its veiling shadows, saying, ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior’ (Isa. 43:2-3). Glorious cloud that enshrines the form of my redeeming God! Welcome, thou coming chariot, that brings Jesus near to my soul. Thy vesture is dark, thy form gigantic, thy appearance threatening, but my heart shall not fear, nor my faith falter, for in this will I be confident, that he makes the clouds his chariot, and in this chariot comes my Savior to shelter, to soothe, and to bless me. Truly, ‘there is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deut. 33:26-27). Ere long another chariot will appear at your door, the chariot sent to bear you home to God, to Christ, to heaven. We know not what form this messenger will as- sume, whether it will be Christ’s state-chariot, which shall convey him in person to us, or whether it shall be Christ’s chariot of death, which will convey us to him; but this we believe and are assured of, that in a very little while we shall see the Lord and be with him forever. The chariot is preparing for us, let us be preparing for the chariot. Let us so live detached from, and above, the world, and creatures, and earthly delights; let us so live in fellowship with God and in communion with divine and eternal things, that when the Lord’s chariot gently knocks at our door, we may have nothing to do but to step into it and away to heaven! Aged saint, art thou looking through the window and the lattice of thy frail tabernacle, exclaiming, ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming. Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?’ (Judg. 5:28).

Be patient and trustful; the Lord’s time is best, and ere long thou shalt exclaim, ‘It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh! The Master is come and calleth for me. Earth, farewell! Friends, farewell! Parents, kindred, wife, children, home, farewell! Sorrow, suffering, trial, sin, farewell! I go to be with Jesus forever!’ And then a cloud of glory shall receive you out of their sight, and so shall you ever be with the Lord.

Forever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be,
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality.

Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day’s march nearer home.

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul, so near,
At times, to faith’s far-seeing eye
Thy golden gates appear!

Yet clouds will intervene,
And all my prospect flies,
Like Noah’s dove, I flit between
Rough seas and stormy skies.

And the clouds depart,
The winds and waters cease,
While sweetly o’er my gladdend heart
Expands the bow of peace.

In darkness as in light,
Hidden alike from view,
I sleep, I wake, as in His sight,
Who looks all nature through.

Forever with the Lord!
Father, if ’tis Thy will,
The promise of that faithful word
Even here to me fulfil.

Be Thou at my right hand,
Then can I never fail,
Uphold Thou me, and I shall stand,
Fight, and I must prevail.

Knowing as I am known,
How shall I love that word!
And oft repeat before the throne,
Forever with the Lord!

Forever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be,
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality

Octavius Winslow

A Most Precious Enjoyment

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Let us be thankful for the institution of the Christian Sabbath.

It is a thing wherein God hath shown His mercy to us and His care for our souls. He shows that He by His infinite wisdom is contriving for our good. Christ teaches us that the Sabbath was made for man: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mar. 2:27). It was made for the profit and for the comfort of our souls.

The Lord’s Day is a day of rest: God hath appointed that every seventh day we should rest from our worldly labors. Instead of that, He might have appointed the hardest labors for us to go through, some severe hardships for us to endure. It is a day of outward, but especially of spiritual, rest. It is a day appointed of God that His people thereon may find rest unto their souls; that the souls of believers may rest and be refreshed in their Savior. It is a day of rejoicing: God made it to be a joyful day to the Church…They that receive and improve the Sabbath aright, call it a delight and honorable (Isa. 58:13-14). It is a pleasant and joyful day to them; it is an image of the future heavenly rest of the Church: “There remaineth therefore a rest” (or Isabbatism, as it is in the original) “to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:9-11).

 The Christian Sabbath is one of the most precious enjoyments of the visible Church. Christ showed His love to His Church in instituting it; and it; [is appropriate for] the Christian Church to be thankful to her Lord for it. The very name of this day-the Lord’s Day or Jesus’ day-should endear it to Christians, as it intimates the special relation it has to Christ and the design of it, which is the commemoration of our dear Savior and His love to His Church in redeeming it.

Be exhorted to keep this day holy. God hath given such evidences that this is His mind, that He will surely require it of you, if you do not strictly and conscientiously observe it. And if you do thus observe it, you may have this comfort in the reflection upon your conduct: (1) that you have not been superstitions in it, but have done as God hath revealed it to be His mind and will in His Word that you should do; and (2) that in so doing you are in the way of God’s acceptance and reward.

Here let me lay before you the following motives to excite you to this duty:           

  1. By strict observation of the Lord’s Day, the name of God is honored, and that in such a way as is very acceptable to Him. “If thou…call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him” (Isa. 58:13). God is honored by it, as it is a visible manifestation of respect to God’s holy Law and a reverencing of that which has a peculiar relation to God Himself…If a person, with evident strictness and care, observe the Sabbath, it is a visible manifestation of a conscientious regard to God’s declaration of His mind, and [this is] a visible honor done to His authority.

 By a strict observance of the Sabbath, the face of religion is kept up in the world. If it were not for the Sabbath, there would be but little public and visible appearance of serving, worshipping, and reverencing the supreme and invisible Being. The Sabbath seems to have been appointed very much for this end, to up hold the visibility of [Christianity] in public…By how much greater the strictness is with which the Sabbath is observed and with how much more solemnity the duties of it are observed among a people, by so much the greater is the manifestation among them of respect to the Divine Being.

This should be a powerful motive with us to the observation of the Sabbath. It should be our study above all things to honor and glorify God. It should be the great thing with all that bear the name of Christian to honor their great God and King… 

  1. That which is the business of the Lord’s Day is the greatest business of our lives, that of religion. To serve and worship God is that for which we were made and for which we had our being given us. Other business, which is of a secular nature and on which we are wont to attend on week days, is but subordinate and ought to be subservient to the higher purposes and ends of religion. Therefore, surely we should not think much of devoting one-seventh part of our time to be wholly spent in the business and to be set apart to exercise ourselves in the immediate duties of religion.
  1. Let it be considered that all our time is God’s. Therefore, when He challenges of us one day in seven, He challenges His own. He doth not exceed His right: He would not have exceeded it if He had challenged a far greater proportion of our time to be spent in His immediate service. But He hath mercifully considered our state and our necessities here; and, as He hath consulted the good of our souls in appointing a seventh day for the immediate duties of religion, so He hath considered our outward necessities and hath allowed us six days for attendance on our outward affairs. What unworthy treatment therefore will it be of God, if we refuse to allow Him even the seventh day!

  2. As the Lord’s Day is a day that is especially set apart for religious exercises, so it is a day wherein God especially confers His grace and blessing. As God hath commanded us to set it apart to have converse with Him, so hath He set it apart for Himself to have converse with us. As God hath commanded us to observe the Sabbath, so God observes the Sabbath too….His eyes are open upon it. He stands ready then especially to hear prayers, to accept of religious services, to meet His people, to manifest Himself to them, to give His Holy Spirit and blessing to those who diligently and conscientiously sanctify it.

That we should sanctify the Lord’s Day, as we have observed, is according to God’s institution. God in a sense observes His own institutions, i.e., [He] is wont to cause them to be attended with a blessing. The institutions of God are His appointed means of grace; and with His institutions, He hath promised His blessing: “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee” (Exo. 20:24). For the same reason, we may conclude that God will meet His people and bless them, waiting upon Him not only in appointed places, but at appointed times and in all appointed ways….God hath made it our duty, by His institution, to set apart this day for a special seeking of His grace and blessing. [Therefore,] we may argue that He will be especially ready to confer His grace on those who thus seek it. If it is the day on which God requires us especially to seek Him, we may argue that it is a day on which especially He will be found. That God is ready on this day especially to bestow His blessing on them that keep it aright is implied in that expression of God’s blessing the Sabbath day (Gen. 2:3)….So here is great encouragement for us to keep holy the Sabbath, as we would seek God’s grace and our spiritual good. The Sabbath day is an accepted time, a day of salvation, a time wherein God especially loves to be sought and loves to be found. The Lord Jesus Christ takes delight in His own day: He delights to honor it. He delights to meet with and manifest Himself to His disciples on it, as He showed before His ascension by appearing to them from time to time on this day. He delights to give His Holy Spirit on this day, as He intimated by choosing it as the day on which to pour out the Spirit in so remarkable a manner on the primitive church (Acts 2:1-4), and on which to give His Spirit to the apostle John (Rev. 1:10).

Of old, God blessed the seventh day or appointed it to be a day whereon especially He would bestow blessings on His people, as an expression of His own joyful remembrance of that day and of the rest and refreshment that He had in it: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath…for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:16-17).

But how much more has Christ to bless the day of His resurrection, to delight to honor it, and to confer His grace and blessed gifts on His people on this day. It was a day whereon Christ rested and was refreshed in a literal sense. It was a day of deliverance from the chains of death, the day of His finishing that great and difficult work of redemption, which had been upon His heart from all eternity; the day of His [vindication] by the Father; the day of the beginning of His exaltation, and the fulfillment of the promises of the Father; the day when He had eternal life, which He had purchased, put into His hands. On this day, Christ doth indeed delight to distribute gifts, blessings, joy, and happiness, and will delight to do the same to the end of the world.

O therefore, how well is it worth our while to improve this day, to call upon God and seek Jesus Christ! Let awakened sinners be stirred up by these things to improve the Lord’s Day, as they would lay themselves most in the way of the Spirit of God. Improve this day to call upon God, for then He is near. Improve it for reading the Holy Scriptures and diligently attending His Word preached; for then is the likeliest time to have the Sprit accompanying it. Let the saints who are desirous of growing in grace and enjoying communion with Christ improve the Lord’s Day in order to it.

From: “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath” in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, in the public domain