The Political Princes of Modern Times

Psalm 146:3; Psalm 118:9; Psalm 40:4

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): I have heard that politicians can make use of a state lie—though the credit of it lasts but a little while—for great advantage to their designs.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Politicians consider not often what is just, but what is of use for the present purpose, be it right or wrong.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Oh, how often we hear this brought up! You are told to regard the difference between right and wrong everywhere, except when you get into politics; then stick to your party through thick and thin. Right and wrong vanish at once. Loyalty to your leader—that is the point. Never mind where he leads you, follow him blindly. You are even told that you may do wrong because it is politically right. I hate such an argument!

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Crimes are not lessened in their demerit by the political importance of those who commit them.

C. H. SPURGEON: There seems to be connected with politics in every country, something that besmears the mind, and defiles the hand that touches it.

ROBERT E. LEE (1807-1870): Politicians are more or less so warped by party feeling, by selfishness, or prejudices, that their minds are not altogether balanced. They are the most difficult to cure of all insane people.

JOHN TRAPP: There is no more truth nor assurance in them than in a false tale…Politicians are all for their own ends—when they soar highest, they are like the eagle, which, while aloft, hath her eye still upon the prey, which by this means she spies sooner, and seizes upon better…Nothing more ordinary, with politicians, than to cover private ends and respects with a pretense of public good: as Jeroboam told the people, it was too much trouble for them to go up to Jerusalem to worship; they should take a shorter cut to Dan and Bethel, 1 Kings 12:26-33. So Jehu, in all his reformations, had a hawk’s eye to a kingdom; his main end was to settle the crown upon his own head.

C. H. SPURGEON: May we not trust the elite? Surely reliance may be placed in the educated, the chivalrous, the intelligent?

JOHN KING (1559-1621): If princes deserve not confidence, the argument must needs hold by comparison, much less do meaner men deserve it.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): They promise much, but generally deceive those who trust in them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): There is no depending upon their wisdom to advise us, their power to act for us, their good-will to us, no, nor upon their promises.

JOHN DONNE (1572-1631): Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity,” Psalm 62:9. The Holy Ghost hath been pleased to vary the phrase here, and to call “men of high degree not “vanity,” but “a lie; because the poor, men of low degree, in their condition promise no assistance, feed not men with hope, and therefore cannot be said to lie; but in the condition of men of high degree, who are of power, there is a tacit promise, a natural and inherent assurance of protection and assistance flowing from them. For the magistrate cannot say that he never promised me justice, never promised me protection; for in his assuming that place, he made me that promise…So, then, when men of high degree do not perform the duties of their places, then they are a lie of their own making.

ADAM CLARKE: “Rich men are a lie.” They promise much, but perform nothing; they cause you to hope, but mock your expectation…Men of high estate are generally proud, vainglorious, self-confident, and rash: it is better to trust in God than in them. Often they cannot deliver, and often they will not when they can.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): This is the reason why Scripture so frequently warns “not to trust in men, than whom nothing can be more vain,” Psalm 146:3; “Cursed is he who trusteth in man, and relieth on an arm of flesh,” Jeremiah 17:5. Yet we see both princes and men of ordinary rank contrive and resolve in such a manner as if they could establish for a hundred years all that they contrived, and could subject heaven, sea, and earth, and could regulate and dispose everything according to their will.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The first thing the Gospel tells you is that you can never put yourself right; men can never put the world right.  Now that is the very heart of the Gospel.  Ah, the politicians say the opposite, they say, “now, we can put it right.” Well all I say is this: they’ve had a very long time, why don’t they do it?  They cannot do it. History proves that they cannot do it.—Do you people still believe in politicians?

C. H. SPURGEON: To trust God is better policy than the craftiest politicians can teach or practise.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I heard one man say that he didn’t really see could how a Christian could possibly be a conservative.  But I heard another man say that he really didn’t see how any Christian could possibly be a socialist.  The fact of the matter is, of course, that both were wrong―both were wrong! And any attempt to equate the teaching of the New Testament with either of the political parties, or any other conceivable party, is to do violence to the teaching of the Scripture.

C. H. SPURGEON: Of two evils, choose neither.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I have so poor an opinion of the bulk both of the electors and the elected, that I think if the seats in the house of commons could be determined by a lottery, an abundance of mischief and wickedness might be prevented, and perhaps the nation might be represented to as much advantage by this as by any other method.

 

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The Greatest Peril of Perilous Times

2 Timothy 3:1-6; Matthew 24:10-13

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Ask the children of this world what it is in their account that makes the times bad, and they will tell you, “Scarcity of money, decay of trade, and the desolations of war, make the times bad.” But the scripture lays the badness of the times upon causes of another nature: “Perilous times shall come,” for “iniquity shall abound.”

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Surely no anointed eye can fail to see that this prediction is now being fulfilled. Men are bent on pleasing themselves. Authority is openly flouted. Discipline is a thing of the past. Parental control is rarely exercised. Marriage has, for the most part, degenerated into a thing of convenience.

SAMUEL MILLER (1769-1850): Think of the abounding atheism and various forms of infidelity, the pride, the degrading intemperance, the profanations of the Sabbath, the fraud, the gross impiety, the neglect and contempt of the gospel, and all the numberless forms of enormous moral corruption ­which even in the most favoured parts of our country prevail in a deplorable degree, and in the less favoured hold a melancholy and undisturbed reign.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Worse still, if worse can be: those who dare walk our streets after sundown tell us that Sodom, in its most putrid days, could scarce exceed this metropolis for open vice.

MATTHEW HENRY: The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted,” Psalm 12:8. When wickedness abounds, and goes barefaced, under the protection and countenance of those in authority, then the times are very bad. When the vilest men are exalted to places of trust and power (who, instead of putting the laws in execution against vice and injustice and punishing the wicked according to their merits, patronize and protect them, give them countenance, and support their reputation by their own example), then the wicked walk on every side; they swarm in all places, and go up and down seeking to deceive, debauch, and destroy others; they are neither afraid nor ashamed to discover themselves; they declare their sin as Sodom and there is none to check or control them.

C. H. SPURGEON: Deep is our shame when we know that our judges are not clear in this matter, but social purity has been put to the blush by magistrates of no mean degree.

SAMUEL MILLER: Think of these abounding sins; and think also in how small a degree multitudes even of the professing people of God seem to be awake to the great responsibilities and duties of their high vocation.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): One of the heaviest complaints made in the prophets against Jerusalem for her backsliding, is that she was a “comfort” to Samaria and Sodom (Ezekiel 16:54); that those who had the name and place of God’s people, so lived as to make the wicked feel at ease.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): I confess to a feeling of uneasiness about this when I observe the questionable things Christ is said to do for people these days. He is often recommended as a wonderfully obliging, but not too discriminating Big Brother―who delights to help us to accomplish our ends, and who further favours us by forbearing to ask any embarrassing questions about the moral and spiritual qualities of those ends.

Within the past few years, Christ has been popularized by some so-called evangelicals as one who, if a proper amount of prayer were made―would help the pious prize fighter to knock another fighter unconscious in the ring. Christ is also said to help the big league pitcher to get the proper hook on his curve. In another instance He assists an athlete to win the high jump; and in another case, not only to come in first in a track meet―but to set a new record in the bargain. He is said also to have helped a praying businessman to beat out a competitor in a deal. He is even thought to lend support to a praying movie actress while she plays a role so lewd as to bring the blood to the face of a professional prostitute!

Thus our Lord becomes the Christ of utility―a kind of Aladdin’s lamp to do minor miracles in behalf of anyone who summons Him to do his bidding…Theirs is a Christ of carnal convenience, not too far removed from the gods of paganism.

C. H. SPURGEON: Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. They have risen in all ages; in these modern times they have risen in clouds, till the air is thick with them, as with an army of devouring locusts.  These are the men who invent new doctrines, and who seem to think that the religion of Jesus Christ is something that a man may twist into any form and shape that he pleases…Yet, when it so happens, let us remember that the King said it would be so. Is it any wonder that, where such “iniquity abounds” and such lawlessness is multiplied, “the love of many shall wax cold?”

MATTHEW HENRY: Though the world always lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), yet there are some times in which it may be said, that iniquity doth in a special manner abound; as when it is more extensive than ordinary, as in the old world, when “all flesh had corrupted his way,” Genesis 6:12; and when it is more excessive than ordinary―and the abating of love is the consequence―Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Understand it in general of true serious godliness, which is all summed up in love; it is too common for professors of religion to grow cool in their profession, when the wicked are hot in their wickedness; as the church of Ephesus in bad times “left her first love,” Revelation 2:2-4.

C. H. SPURGEON: I think that you can see why our Saviour has given us a warning in this particular form. Iniquity is naturally opposed to grace, but it is most of all injurious to the grace of love.

A. W. PINK: This particular grace is the one which most affects the others: if the heart be kept right the head will not go far wrong; but when love cools, every grace languishes. Hence we find the apostle praying for the Ephesian saints that they might be “rooted and grounded in love,” Ephesians 3:17…In fact, of all of our graces this one is the most sensitive and delicate and needs the most cherishing and guarding (Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:5).

C. H. SPURGEON: No peril can be greater than this. Lose love, lose all!

 

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Angels & Archangels: The Ranks of God’s Holy Angels

Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21

And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.

Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): When Daniel saw this angel Gabriel that appeared in a human form, and he knew this to be his name, by a man’s voice calling him by it; and now he knew him to be the same angel by his appearance and voice.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): Gabriel is distinguished as one that “stands in the presence of God” evidently in some preeminent sense, Luke 1:19―Is there any evidence that angels are of various orders and ranks?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): It seems quite clear that there is a division both in status, and in the work. For instance, we read twice in the scripture of one who is described as the “archangel,” the chiefest of all, the supreme. He is only mentioned twice in the New Testament, you remember, but it’s important to notice it. In the first epistle to the Thessalonians, the fourth chapter, the sixteenth verse, we read this: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The archangel will discharge the office of a herald to summon the living and the dead to the tribunal of Christ. For though this will be common to all the angels, yet, as is customary among different ranks, He appoints one in the foremost place to take the lead of the others.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The other reference [to an archangel] is in the ninth verse of the epistle of Jude, where we read that “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” I think that taking the two together, we are not only entitled to deduce, but we must come to the conclusion that the archangel therefore is the one who is also referred to as Michael.

A. A. HODGE: Do the Scriptures speak of more than one archangel?

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Indeed there is no archangel mentioned [by name] in the whole Scripture but this one…There can be properly only one archangel, one chief or head of all the angelic host. Let it be observed that the word archangel is never found in the plural number in the sacred writings.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Michael is called “one of the chief princes,” Daniel 10:13, which, though the word “archangel” be not found in the plural number in Scripture, it may well imply a plurality of them; for what is one of the chief princes among the angels, but an archangel?

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Whether there be one archangel only, or more, it is not possible for us to determine.

A. A. HODGE: In both instances the term “archangel” is used in the singular number, and preceded by the definite article―many suppose that the archangel is the Son of God. Others suppose that he is one of the highest class of creatures, since he is called “one of the chief princes,” and since divine attributes are never ascribed to him.

JOHN WESLEY: That Michael is a created angel appears from his not daring, in disputing with Satan, to bring a railing accusation; but only saying, “The Lord rebuke thee,” Jude 9. And this modesty is implied in his very name; for Michael signifies, “Who is like God?” which implies also his deep reverence toward God, and distance from all self-exaltation. Satan would be like God: the very name of Michael asks, “Who is like God?” Not Satan; not the highest archangel.

JOHN GILL: Michael the archangel is not a created angel, but an eternal one, the Lord Jesus Christ; as appears from his name Michael, which signifies, “who is as God”―and who is as God, or like unto him, but the Son of God, who is equal with God? And from his character as the archangel, or Prince of angels, for Christ is “the Head of all principality and power,” Colossians 2:10; and from what is elsewhere said of Michael, that he is the great Prince and on the side of the people of God, and to have angels under him, and at his command, Daniel 10:21.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: You’ll find a reference to him also in Daniel 12:1; Michael seems to have a special relationship to the children of Israel; he was the one who fought for them against the prince of Persia. The children of Israel seem to have been allotted to Michael as his special care, his special work; he looked after them, and does look after them, he is their protector; his peculiar function is to guard them.

A. A. HODGE: In Revelation 12:7, Michael is said to have fought with his angels against the dragon and his angels.

MATTHEW POOLE: Whether this “archangel” be not the same with Christ Himself, who is “the Head of all principality and power I leave it as doubtful.

JOHN CALVIN: By Michael many agree in understanding Christ as the Head of the Church. But if it seems better to understand Michael as the archangel, this sense will prove suitable, for under Christ as the Head, angels are the guardians of the Church. Whichever be the true meaning, God was the preserver of His Church by the hand of His only-begotten Son, and because the angels are under the government of Christ, He might entrust this duty to Michael.

ADAM CLARKE: But we know so little of the invisible world that we cannot safely affirm anything positively.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: And then you’ll remember the other angel that is mentioned by name is Gabriel, and we are told about Gabriel that he “stands in the presence of God.”

ADAM CLARKE: From the allusion we may conceive the angel Gabriel to be in a state of high favour and trust before God.

JOHN CALVIN: To “stand before God signifies to be ready to yield obedience.

JOHN GILL: Sometimes such are God’s messengers, sent by Him on errands to men, and are interpreters of things to them, as Gabriel was to Daniel.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: He “stands in the presence of God,” waiting, as it were, to be given a message. And he has been given messages. It was he, you remember, that was given the special message to tell Mary what was to happen to her, and how she was to become the mother to the Son of God.  And in the same way we are told that it was he who gave the message to Zacharias.

JOHN GILL: Gabriel, as seems manifest from Luke 1:19, is the same angel that had appeared to Daniel, about the time of the evening oblation, near five hundred years before, and gave him an account of the time of the Messiah’s coming. Now the angel, by making mention of his name, puts Zacharias in mind of the prophecy of Daniel concerning the coming of the Messiah.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Thus, you see, he has a special function with regard to the coming of the Lord into this world, and into this life. So thus there is some kind of order, some kind of division.

 

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The Devil’s Deceptions & Decoys

Matthew 4:6

And [the devil] saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

JOSEPH HALL (1574-1656): But what is this I see? Satan himself with a Bible under his arm and a text in his mouth: “It is written.” What can be a better act than to speak Scripture? It is a wonder if Satan does a good thing well―he cites Scripture―but with mutilation and distortion; it comes out of his mouth maimed and perverted; one piece left [out and] all misapplied.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The devil has always tried to pervert scripture.

JOSEPH HALL: Let no man henceforth marvel to hear heretics or hypocrites quote the Scriptures, when Satan himself has not spared to cite them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Hypocrisy is a thing not to be much wondered at in this world, especially when we consider the great influence Satan has upon the minds of many, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience. As he can turn himself into any shape, and put on almost any form, and look sometimes like an angel of light, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, so he will teach his ministers and instruments to do the same.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Therefore he is said to “transform himself into an angel of light,” 2 Corinthians 11:14. Of all plots it is most dangerous, when he appears in Samuel’s mantle, and silvers his foul tongue with fair language. Thus in a point of error he corrupts some in their judgement, by commending his notions for special gospel truths, and like a cunning chapman puts off his old wares―errors I mean, that have lain long upon his hand, only turning them a little after the mode of the times, and they go for new light, under the skirt of Christian liberty.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Under a show of truth, Satan introduces the most notorious falsehoods and errors; and, under a pretense of religion, all sorts of idolatry, superstition, and impiety; it is in this way he has succeeded in his enterprises and temptations; these are his wiles, stratagems, and cunning devices.

JOSEPH HALL: No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil―those that wrest or mangle Scripture for their own purpose, it is easy to see from what school they come.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): And mark, Satan is very careful in the men whom he chooses to be decoys. He never employs a wicked man to be a decoy for a good man. It is very seldom, when Satan would decoy a Christian into a snare, that he makes use of an open reprobate. No; he makes use of the man who is pretendedly religious, and who looks to be of the same quality as yourself, and therefore entices you astray.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): The devil is a cunning pirate―he puts out false colours, and ordinarily comes up to the Christian as a friend.

WILLIAM GURNALL: He comes up to the Christian in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either be discovered―such as 1 Kings 13:18―the old prophet leads the man of God out of his way: “He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): A prophet, and yet tell a lie! What a foul business is that! A prophet of God, likely, but corrupt.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Probably once a prophet of the Lord, who had fallen from his steadfastness, and yet not so deeply as to lose the knowledge of the true God, and join with Jeroboam in his idolatries.

JOHN GILL: It is hard to say what he was, a good man or a bad man; if a good man, he was guilty of many things which are not in his favour, as dwelling in such an idolatrous place, suffering his sons to attend idolatrous worship, and telling the man of God a premeditated lie.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): I cannot but call him a false prophet and a bad man.

JOHN GILL: Yet there are several things which seem contrary to his being a bad man, and of an ill character, since he is called an old prophet, did not attend idolatrous worship, showed great respect to the man of God, had the word of God sent unto him concerning him, believed that what he had prophesied should come to pass, buried the man of God in his own grave, and desired his sons to bury him with him—though he now dwelt at Bethel, he was originally of Samaria, 2 Kings 23:18.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): A holy prophet might possibly have continued in the kingdom of Israel, but he would never have gone from his own habitation to dwell at Bethel, the chief seat of idolatry, unless with design to preach against it―which it is evident he did not―his sin was great; for he did not only tell a premeditated lie, but also made God a liar, and to contradict Himself.

JOHN TRAPP: Nothing is so apt to deceive as the fairest semblances, as the sweetest words. We cannot be deceived, saith a reverend writer, if we believe not the speech for the person, but the person for the speech. A good man, saith another, may act for Satan, and not discern it.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Every heresy that the church has ever known has been introduced by men who were sincere and who thought that they were promoting God’s interest and God’s kingdom by teaching what they taught. It’s the subtlety of it all.

C. H. SPURGEON: If Satan wants his errand done well, he sends one to me whom I call brother; and so through the brotherhood of profession, I am apt to give him credence and pay him respect; and then if he goeth astray the force of example is very powerful, and so I may easily be led into the net too.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Satan makes choice of such as have a great name for holiness: none like a live bird to draw other birds into the net. Abraham tempts his wife to lie: “Say thou art my sister,” Genesis 12:13.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): It is his policy, to send his temptations by the hands of those that are dear to us. We must therefore carefully watch, that we be not drawn to any evil, by them whom we love and value the most.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Sometimes he pretends pity and natural affection, which in some cases may be good counsel, and all the while he desires to promote cowardice and sinful self-love, whereby the Christian may be brought to fly from his colours, shrink from the truth, or decline some necessary duty of his calling. This wile of his, when he got Peter to be his spokesman, saying, Master, pity thyself, Christ soon spied, and stopped his mouth with that sharp rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” O what need have we to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and Satan’s wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome, and all the while think it is Christ that is our guest!

 

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Overcoming the Prejudices of a Religious Upbringing

Acts 15:1-15

Certain men came which came down from Judæa taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question…

And when they were come to Jerusalem…there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise [the Gentiles], and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider this matter.

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simon [Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written…

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It is very hard for men suddenly to get clear of their prejudices: those that had been Pharisees, even after they became Christians, retained some of the old leaven. All did not so—witness Paul―but some did. And they had such a jealousy for the ceremonial law, and such a dislike of the Gentiles, that they could not admit the Gentiles into communion with them, unless they would be circumcised, and thereby engage themselves to keep the law of Moses. This was, in their opinion, needful; and for their parts they would not converse with them unless they submitted to it.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): There remained no Phariseeism in Paul, but a great part [of the Pharisees] had gotten the habit of stubbornness by long custom, which they could not shake off so easily by and by. They were likewise puffed up with pride, so that they did tyrannously covet to make all other men subject to their decrees.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The whole tragedy of the Jew at that time was that he’d missed the real point. He’d missed the real sense of values. He thought that it was circumcision in the flesh that mattered. What Paul and others had to teach him was that it was circumcision in the spirit that really matters―that the man who is right with God is a man who has been circumcised in his spirit…They were only interested in the externals, the forms, the ceremonies, and the rituals, and missed the spirit completely.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): No one would think what danger there is in traditions and ceremonies. Of the law cometh a trust and affiance in works, and where that is, there can be no proper trust in Christ.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): After that council, when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, Peter came there; and the following contention happened [between Peter and Paul]:

JOHN CALVIN: Peter Judaized in such a manner as to “compel the Gentiles” to suffer bondage, and at the same time to create a prejudice against Paul’s doctrine.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Here was Peter’s fault. He was convinced that God had pulled down the middle wall of partition that had so long separated the Jews and Gentiles, and he acted on this conviction, associating with the latter and eating with them; but when certain Jews came [to Antioch], who it appears considered the law still to be in force, lest Peter should place a stumbling-block before them, he withdrew from all commerce with the converted Gentiles, and acted as if he himself believed the law to be still in force, and that the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles should still be kept up.

MARTIN LUTHER: It is much to be marvelled that Peter, being so excellent an apostle, should fall into this error, for at the council in Jerusalem, he was very bold in defence of this very article, when the Pharisees which believed, held that it was necessary to circumcise the Gentile converts, and command them to keep the law of Moses. Peter then protested vehemently against putting a yoke upon the Gentiles.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Even believers are apt to retain their former turn of mind, and prejudices derived therefrom.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I think this is true of many of us. We may have been worshipping for years in a given way and manner. Why have we done that?  There is only one answer: it is how we were brought up. We have never thought about it, we have never examined it, we have never asked any questions. We have inherited a custom; we have inherited a tradition and, indeed, a prejudice.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Martin Luther himself, though he saw many things were without ground which he had received for truth, had yet to work hard enough, as he himself intimates, to get his conscience clear from all those roots and strings of inbred error.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Luther’s view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper—Luther wrecked the whole prospect of comprehension and Protestant unity on this one particular. As somebody has put it so well, “The sacrament of communion became the apple of discord.” It is a terrible thing, but it is true…Just before his death in 1546, Luther read a little book by John Calvin which bore the title A Little treatise on the Holy Supper of our Lord, and having read it, this is what he said to Melanchthon: “In this matter of the sacrament we have gone much too far. I will commend the thing to the Lord.  Do something after my death.”  Pathetic, is it not?

MARTIN LUTHER: Learn by me how difficult it is to disencumber oneself of errors which the whole world confirms by its example, and which, from long habit, have become a second nature.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: And it’s still the same…You know there are people who are much more loyal to the tradition of their particular denomination than they are to the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s generally an accident that they belong to the denomination; it was simply that their parents did, and they were brought up in it, but they’ll fight for it, they’ll quarrel about it―this is the important thing! and Christ and His truth are somehow forgotten entirely and are not mentioned…Very well, there’s the cause, what of the cure?

AUGUSTINE (354-430): We must surrender ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture.

J. H. M. d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): The infallible authority of the Word of God alone was the first and fundamental principle of the Reformation…The Reformers and the Apostles held up the Word of God alone for light, just as they hold up the sacrifice of Christ alone for righteousness. To attempt to mix human authority with this absolute authority of God, or human righteousness with this perfect righteousness of Christ, is to corrupt Christianity in its two foundations.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): This is a most weighty principle for every child of God and every servant of Christ—the vital importance of submitting, in all things, to the inspired testimony—the voice of God in Scripture.

 

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The Preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ over Angels

Isaiah 6:1-3; Colossians 1:16-18

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Isaiah saw not Jehovah, the essence of God―no man has seen that, or can see it―but Adonai, His dominion. He saw the Lord Jesus; so this vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ’s glory and spoke of Him, which is an incontestable proof of the divinity of our Saviour.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): John, therefore, saying that it was the glory of Jesus, shows that he considered Jesus to be Jehovah.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” It is there expressly said to be the glory of the Lord, Jehovah, the Supreme God…“Holy”―This is repeated thrice, to intimate the Trinity of persons united in the Divine essence.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): I have no doubt that the angels here describe One God in Three Persons―and, indeed, it is impossible to praise God without also uttering the praises of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit.

MATTHEW HENRY: See God upon His throne, and that throne “high and lifted up,” not only above other thrones, as it transcends them, but over other thrones, as it rules and commands them…Above the throne, as it were hovering about it, or nigh to the throne, bowing before it, with an eye to it, the seraphim stoodthe holy angels, who are called seraphim―“burners;” for He “makes his ministers a flaming fire,” Psalm 104:4…Whether they were only two or four, or―as I rather think―an innumerable company of angels that Isaiah saw, is uncertain.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): How many angels are there? The answer of the Scriptures is that they are very great, that they are countless in number…You remember that we are told that the shepherds at His birth heard “a multitude of the heavenly host,” suggesting almost an innumerable company, Luke 2:13. And indeed, the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation tells us that such is the case, for “the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,”―a great mighty host, a myriad of these angelic beings…Read again the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, and you’ll find that they’re singing His praise, worshipping and adoring Him―that’s the thing they delight in.

JOHN CALVIN: Now, when we are informed that the angels are employed in uttering the glory of God, let us know that their example is set before us for imitation.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The holy angels make their addresses unto Him with greatest reverence and self-abasement; for they know that He humbleth Himself to behold things in heaven, Psalm 113:4-6.

MATTHEW HENRY: The earth is full of his glory,” the glory of his power and purity; for He is “holy in all His works,” Psalm 145:17. “Holy, holy, holy”―this bespeaks the zeal and fervency of the angels in praising God; they even want words to express themselves, and therefore repeat the same again. It is God’s holiness which, above all His attributes, the angels celebrate―the superlative excellency of God’s holiness, above that of the purest creatures. He is holy―thrice holy, infinitely holy―originally, perfectly, and eternally so.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Though there are holy men and holy angels, there are none holy as the Lord.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews draws a distinction between the Son of God and the angels―the angels, while they are spiritual beings, are nevertheless created beings; they have not existed from eternity, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have existed. Indeed, Paul in Colossians 1:16 very definitely teaches that the angels were created by the Son. So, as we think of the angels, we realize that they are inferior to the Godhead, inferior to the Son in particular.

JOHN GILL: Christ is not only above them, as He is God, being their Creator Who has made them―but also as He is man, in union with the Son of God; and chiefly in Hebrews 1:13, He is said to be above them on account of place, being at the right hand of God, where they are not: “To which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Christ having the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily, is Head unto the good angels in regard of His excellency and eminency above them, who are far below Him in perfection, Ephesians 1:21 Hebrews 1:4; the best of them are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14), and “subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:22), and so under His authority and at His command, (Matthew13:41; 24:31).

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Clearly, the angels are divided into two groups…There are good angels, and bad angels―there are some angels that can be described as the elect angels, and others not.

JOHN CALVIN: The elect angels are always obedient to Him, and the devils are compelled to obey His command, although they strive in the contrary direction. We know how strongly the demons resist God, but yet they are compelled to obey Him, not willingly, but by compulsion.

JOHN GILL: The holy elect angels―good angels―are subject to Him, as appears by their attendance on Him at His incarnation, ascension, and second coming; by their ministration to Him in the wilderness, and in the garden; by their employment under Him, for the good of the heirs of salvation; by their dependence on Him, as their Creator and Head, and by their adoration of Him as their Lord and God. Evil angels, the devils, are also put under His feet, as is evident from His overcoming Satan, and baffling all his temptations; by His dispossessing the devils out of the bodies of men, and giving His disciples also power over them; by His spoiling them at death, and triumphing over them in His ascension; by delivering His people out of their hands, and power, in conversion; and by His binding of Satan during the thousand years, and by casting him and his angels into everlasting fire prepared for them.

JOHN CALVIN: It hence follows that none of the angels should stand in the way of His preeminence, Who alone possesses supremacy.

 

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The Existence & Attributes of God Are Evidenced by Creation

Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): We argue from the creation to the Creator; and this very argument is one proof of the existence of God.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): By what they see created, they may easily collect or understand, that there is an eternal and almighty Creator; they may argue from the effects to the cause—but the plain sense is this: that God hath given all men such means of knowledge as sufficeth to leave them without excuse.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): How they knew it? By the things that are made―which could not make themselves, nor fall into such an exact order and harmony by any casual hits; and therefore must have been produced by some first cause or intelligent agent, which first cause could be no other than an eternal powerful God. The workman is known by his work. The variety, multitude, order, beauty, harmony, different nature, and excellent contrivance, of the things that are made, the direction of them to certain ends, and the concurrence of all the parts to the good and beauty of the whole, do abundantly prove a Creator and his eternal power and Godhead.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892):The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, Psalm 19:1. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar.

JEREMY TAYLOR (1613-1667): Can anything in this world be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth can come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster? To see rare effects, and no cause.

PHILIP MAURO (1859-1952): The theory of Evolution, as a universal or cosmic process, requires us to believe that the entire organic world emerged, at some past era, from the inorganic. Surely, if such were indeed the case, then the latter would contain abundant evidences thereof, showing how individual entities, with their characteristic life changes, came into existence. And not only so, but we should also find everywhere inorganic groupings of atoms gradually reaching forth towards organic existence; and most certainly it would be possible by laboratory methods to transform the one into the other…Going on further we come to creatures having that mysterious thing called “Life.” Does Evolution account for the origin of that? Quite the contrary; Darwin himself declared that spontaneous generation is “absolutely inconceivable.”

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): To create requires infinite power. All the world cannot make a fly.

JAMES SAURIN (1760-1842): How absurdly have the philosophers treated of the origin of the world! How few of them have reasoned conclusively on this important subject! [The Psalmist] solves the important question by one single principle; and, what is more remarkable, this principle, which is nobly expressed, carries the clearest evidence with it. The principle is this: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” Psalm 33:6. This is the most rational account that was ever given of the creation of the world. The world is the work of a self-efficient will, and it is this principle alone that can account for its creation. The most simple appearances in nature are sufficient to lead us to this principle.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The manifestation of God, by which He makes His glory known in His creation, is, with regard to the light itself, sufficiently clear.

MATTHEW POOLE: That which may be known of God”―or, that which is knowable of God by the light of nature.

MATTHEW HENRY: Which implies that there is a great deal which may not be known.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): There are some things which could not be known of God by the light of nature; as a trinity of Persons in the Godhead; the knowledge of God in Christ as Mediator; the God-man and Mediator Jesus Christ; His incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection; the will of God to save sinners by a crucified Jesus; the several peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, particularly the resurrection of the dead, and the manner of worshipping of God with acceptance―but then there are some things which may be known of God, without a revelation.

MATTHEW POOLE: The apostle tells us afterwards what he means by the “invisible things of God”―His being and His attributes, particularly His eternity and almighty power.

ADAM CLARKE: His eternal power―That all-powerful energy that ever was, and ever will exist; and Godhead―His acting as God in the government and support of the universe. His works prove his Being; the government and support of these works prove it equally. Creation and Providence form a twofold demonstration of God―First, in the perfections of His nature; and, Secondly, in the exercise of those perfections. His invisible perfections are manifested by His visible works, and may be apprehended by what He has made; their immensity showing His omnipotence, their vast variety and contrivance, His omniscience; and their adaptation to the most beneficent purposes, His infinite goodness and philanthropy.

JAMES SAURIN: Now, this is the reasoning of the Psalmist in Psalm 33:5: “The Lord loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”―that is to say, it is impossible to consider the works of the Creator, without receiving evidence of His goodness.

MATTHEW POOLE: To which we might add, His wisdom. These things, though invisible in themselves, yet are discernible by His works.

MATTHEW HENRY: Atheists are the greatest fools in nature; for they see there is a world that could not make itself, and yet they will not own that there is a God that made it.

C. H. SPURGEON: To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness―As denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks His laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it.

 

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Job’s Answer to Satan, Arminianism & Roman Catholicism

Job 1:8-12; Job 2:3-10; Job 19:25-27

The LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD…

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): In all ages this doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints has been opposed and denied. Satan himself believed in the apostasy of Job and had the effrontery to avow it unto Jehovah.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The devil will also pervert the doctrine of final perseverance…he tries to pull and tear the poor soul on that great and comforting doctrine. The same nail on which a sinner must hang his hope the devil tries to drive into the very temples of his faith, that he may die like Sisera in the tent of Jael.  “Look,” says Satan, “the children of God always hold on their way: they never leave off being holy; they persevere; their faith is like the path of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day; and so would yours be if you were one of the Lord’s. But you will never be able to persevere―therefore, you cannot be one of the Lord’s.”

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Observe from Job’s way of answering, in granting what is true and denying what is false, that in every temptation readily there are two things: (1) A true ground; (2) A false conclusion from it.  Satan will say, “You are in such a condition, therefore you are not a child of God.” Learn then with Job to grant the ground, but to deny the conclusion.

C. H. SPURGEON: Oh, poor soul, tell Satan that thy perseverance is not thine, but that God is the author of it; that however weak thou art thou knowest thy weakness, but that if God begins a good work He will never leave it unfinished.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): He that keeps heaven for us will give us necessary graces to bring us thither.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let us defy the devil, because we are in the protection of our God, who is of invincible power, and because our Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon Him the charge of our salvation and promised to be a faithful keeper of our souls to the end. When we are once at that point, then we shall beat back the darts of the devil.

C. H. SPURGEON: There are in the world certain people who teach that Christ gives grace to men, and tells them, “Now, you shall be saved if you will persevere; but this must be left to yourself.”

A. W. PINK: These are what are known as Arminians, for James Arminius or Van Harmin, a Dutchman of the sixteenth century, was the first man of any prominence in orthodox circles who opposed the theology taught by John Calvin—opposed it covertly and slyly and contrary to the most solemn and particular promise and pledge which he gave to church governing bodies before he was installed as professor of divinity at Leyden in 1602. Since then, for the purpose of theological classification, non-Calvinists and anti-Calvinists have been termed “Arminians.” The one man who did more than any other to popularize and spread Arminianism in the English-speaking world was John Wesley.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): The Calvinists hold that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace.  The Arminians hold that a true believer may “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;” that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever.

C. H. SPURGEON: This reminds me of an old Puritanical illustration: “The Duke of Alva having given some prisoners their lives, they afterwards petitioned him for some food. His answer was that ‘he would grant them life but no meat.’ And they were famished to death.” The deniers of final perseverance represent the Deity in a similar view―“God promises eternal life to the saints if they endure to the end, but He will not secure to them the continuance of that grace without which eternal life cannot be had!”

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): God deals not as that cruel Duke of Alva did in the Netherlands, governor there for the Spaniard, infamous for his inhumanity. For he roasted some to death, and starved others. “These are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah… Genesis 36:40. We had a Duke d’Alva in the Netherlands―this was a right Romish Edomite―sure I am, if they be not of the natural descent, they are of the spiritual.

A. W. PINK: We need not be surprised then to find that [Roman Catholicism] repudiates most vehemently this precious truth and pronounces accursed all who hold it. That Roman Catholics and Arminians walk hand in hand may be seen from the ‘decrees’ issued by the Council of Trent. Among the ‘decrees’ of the Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the following: “If any one shall affirm with positive and absolute certainty, that he shall surely have the gift of perseverance to the end let him be accursed!’

C. H. SPURGEON: Our hope for the final perseverance of the believer lies in the final perseverance of believer’s God. If the Lord begins to build, and does not finish, it will not be to His honour.

A. W. PINK: One of the outstanding glories of the Gospel is its promise of eternal security to all who truly believe it…It proclaims no feeble Redeemer, but One who is “mighty to save:” though the world, the flesh and the Devil, combine against Him, He cannot be frustrated. He who triumphed over the grave cannot be thwarted by any feebleness or fickleness in His people. “He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him,” Hebrews 7:25. Those whom He pardons He preserves. Therefore each one who trusts in Him, though conscious of his own weakness and wickedness, may confidently exclaim “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day,” 2 Timothy 1:12.

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW (1808-1878): Oh, what a crown of glory will Christ have in that day when He presents His people, whom He not only redeemed and bought with His precious blood, but kept by His power! We need as much the power of Christ to keep us, and finally to preserve us to eternal life, as we need the atonement of Christ to save us.

 

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The Growth of Grace, Part 7: The Full Ear in the Corn

Mark 4:28; I Corinthians 15:10; 2 Timothy 1:12

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

By the grace of God I am what I am.

For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Our Lord taught His disciples gradually; their knowledge advanced as the light, or, according to His beautiful simile, first the blade, then the ear; first green corn, then fully ripe…

I can think of no single word more descriptive of the full corn in the ear than contemplation. His eminence, in comparison of the new convert, does not consist in the sensible warmth and fervency of his affections: in this respect many of the most exemplary believers have looked back with a kind of regret upon the time of their espousals, when, though their judgments were but imperfectly formed, and their views of Gospel truths were very indistinct, they felt a fervour of spirit, the remembrance of which is both humbling and refreshing; and yet they cannot recall the same sensations. Nor is he properly distinguished from a young believer by a consciousness of his acceptance in the Beloved, and an ability of calling God his Father; for this I have supposed a young believer has attained to―the mature believer, having had his views of the Gospel, and of the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy, confirmed by a longer experience, his assurance is of course more stable and more simple, than when he first saw himself safe from all condemnation. Thus, though his sensible feelings may not be so warm as when he was a new convert, his judgment is more solid, his mind more fixed, his thoughts more habitually exercised upon the things within the veil…His contemplations are not barren speculations, but have a real influence, and enable him to exemplify the Christian character to more advantage, and with more consistence, than can be expected either from a new convert or a young believer

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Young Christians are like little rivulets, that make a great noise, and have shallow water; old Christians are like deep water, that makes little noise, carries a good load, and gives not way.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” Philippians 4:11. You notice that Paul says: “I have learned,” or better, ‘I have come to learn.’ I thank God that Paul said that. Paul was not always like this any more than any one of us. How did he come to learn?―It was by sheer experience. I need only direct your attention to Second Corinthians 12, verses 9 & 10, about “the thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not like it. He struggled against it; three times he prayed that it might be removed. But it was not removed. He could not reconcile himself to it…But then he was taught the lesson: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” He came to a place of understanding as the result of sheer experience of the dealings of God with him. He had to learn, and experience teaches us all. Some of us are very slow to learn, but God in His kindness may send us an illness―sometimes He even strikes us down―anything to teach us this great lesson and to bring us to this great position.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Nor is this, as a rule, obtained through a single episode, any more than a nail is driven in securely by one blow of the hammer.  No, we have to learn, and re-learn, so stupid are we.

JOHN NEWTON: Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and have been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance.

F. W. KRUMMACHER (1796-1868): Does anyone inquire wherein consists the Christian’s sanctification? It consists in this, that Christ increases in us, and we decrease.  Does any one desire to know whether he is advancing in the way of salvation? Observe whether Christ increases, while you decrease, in your own estimation.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.

JOHN NEWTON: As he knows most of himself, so the mature believer has seen most of the Lord. The apprehension of infinite Majesty combined with infinite Love, makes him shrink into the dust. From the exercise of this grace he derives two others…One is submission to the will of God. The views he has of his own vileness, unworthiness, and ignorance, and of the Divine sovereignty, wisdom, and love—teach him to be content in every state, and to bear his appointed lot of suffering with resignation…

A union of heart to the glory and will of God is another noble distinction of the mature believer’s spirit. The glory of God, and the good of His people are inseparably connected. But of these great ends the first is unspeakably the highest and the most important, and into which everything else will be finally resolved. Now, in proportion as we advance nearer to Him, our judgment, aim, and end will be conformable to His, and His glory will have the highest place in our hearts.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): This must surely be our strong desire, as we become more acquainted with Him.

JOHN NEWTON: At first it is not so, or but very imperfectly. Our concern is chiefly about ourselves; nor can it be otherwise. The convinced soul inquires, “What shall I do to be saved?” The young convert is intent upon sensible comforts―but a mature believer has attained to more enlarged views: he has a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which would be importunate if he considered only himself; but his chief desire is, that God may be glorified in him, whether by his life or by his death…And though he loves and adores the Lord for what He has done and suffered for him, delivered him from, and appointed him to; yet he loves and adores him likewise with a more simple and direct love, in which self is in a manner forgotten, from the consideration of God’s glorious excellence and perfections, as He is in Himself. That God in Christ is glorious over all, and blessed forever, is the very joy of his soul; and his heart can frame no higher wish, than that the sovereign, wise, holy will of God may be accomplished in him, and all His creatures. Upon this grand principle his prayers, schemes, and actions, are formed. Thus he is already made like the angels; and, so far as is consistent with the inseparable remnants of a fallen nature, the will of God is regarded by him upon earth as it is by the inhabitants of heaven…He sees that the time is short, lives upon the foretastes of glory, and therefore accounts not his life, or any inferior concernment, dear, so that he may finish his course with joy.

 

 

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Seeking God’s Special Guidance by Fasting & Prayer

Ezra 8:21,23; Daniel 10:1-5,11,12; Acts 13:1-3

[Ezra] proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance…So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel…In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz…And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee…Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set think heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers…As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Note here that fasting is not abolished with the ceremonial law, but still to be used as a duty of the gospel…Weighty businesses are best dispatched fasting―to edge our prayers and give wings to them; for fasting inflameth prayer, and prayer sanctifieth fasting; hence they go coupled for the most part, Luke 2:37, Matthew 17:21, 1 Corinthians 7:5.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has heaven’s gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central Glory.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Prayer is extraordinary when fasting is joined to the duty of prayer.

ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER (1772-1851): One special occasion on which the apostles and their companions were accustomed to fast, was when ministers were to be ordained and sent forth. Thus we read in Acts 13. And again, Acts 14:23, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”  Is this practice now followed by those who ordain?

E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): One great need of the modern church is for leaders after the style of Ezra.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): They “wait upon” God in their fasting.

HUDSON TAYLOR (1832-1905): It is not lost time to wait upon God. May I refer to a small gathering of about a dozen men in which I was permitted to take part in November 1886? We, in the China Inland Mission, were feeling greatly the need of Divine guidance in the matter of organization in the field, and in the matter of reinforcements, and we came together before our conference to spend eight days in united waiting upon God—four alternate days being days of fasting as well as prayer…We had a thanksgiving, for the men and the money that were coming, in November, 1886, and they were all received and sent forth before December, 1887.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): How often we are exercised about some important matter, some critical step in life, some change in our affairs involving momentous issues.  We distrust our own wisdom, we want to be sure of God’s will in the matter, we spread our case before the throne of grace, and ask for light and guidance. So far, so good.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Bring thy condition to Christ in this solemn ordinance of prayer and fasting; this hath at last been the happy means to strengthen many a poor Christian.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): There is nothing which God hath promised to give or bestow on any but faith will obtain from Him, if attended by a fervent prayer, to which fasting is subservient, as preparing us to it. There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are―fasting was always used in extraordinary cases.

JOHN TRAPP: Fasting and prayer are like Jonathan’s bow and Saul’s sword, that never turned back or returned empty (2 Samuel 1:22). God is a liberal rewarder of all such as in this sort diligently seek Him. He will turn their fasting into feasting, their prayers into praises, Zechariah 8:19. They shall have out their prayers either in money or money’s worth; either in the very thing they desired, or at least strength to stay themselves upon God, with good assurance that His grace shall be sufficient for them, and that He will be their shield, and their exceeding great reward.

WILLIAM GURNALL: When the Christian is in the dark concerning any truth, and cannot satisfy his judgment by humble and diligent inquiry he hath made after it―now is a fit season to take up this extraordinary duty as an excellent means to be led into the knowledge of the mind of God therein. Prayer is the proper key to unlock God’s heart, and he alone can open our understandings and satisfy our scruples.

JOHN TRAPP: It is a help to the understanding of heavenly mysteries, as Daniel found it.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Daniel, no doubt, had often visited the throne of grace, and been a long trader in that duty; but God reserved the fuller manifestation of His love, and the opening of some secrets to him, till he did, to ordinary prayer, join extraordinary fasting and prayer…This course Daniel took, and got more understanding by his fasting and prayer than by all his study, for a messenger is sent from heaven to “give him skill and understanding,” Daniel 9:20-23, and again, in chapter 10:12. In both he sped. And the angel is careful to let him know that it was his extraordinary praying that procured this extraordinary favour, and also how acceptable his motion was, by the easy access and quick despatch it found with God; and therefore tells him in both, that he had no sooner set upon this course of afflicting his soul but he was heard, and the messenger ordered to give him an answer to his prayer.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Thus Cornelius, in Acts 10, came to be instructed in the mystery of the gospel, upon his extraordinary seeking of God by fasting and prayer. It is very probable this good man in those divided times, wherein he saw many zealous for the old way of Jewish worship, and others preach up an new way, stood in some doubt what to do; and this might stir him up by fasting and prayer to ask counsel, and beg further light of God to direct him in the way of truth, as may seem by the tenor of the message sent him from God in the vision while he was at prayer, which bade him send to Joppa ‘for one Simon, whose surname is Peter…and he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do,’ verses 5, 6.

 

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