Full Bellies & Fat Hearts

Luke 21:34; Psalm 119:70

Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.

Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Two things we must watch against, lest our hearts be overcharged with them: the indulging of the appetites of the body, and allowing of ourselves in the gratifications of sense to an excess.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): “Overcharged.”―Literally, be made heavy, as is generally the case with those who have eaten or drank too much.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Excessive eating and drinking, as they oppress and burden the stomach, and disorder the body, so they stupefy the senses, and make the mind dull and heavy, and unfit for spiritual and religious exercises; such as reading, meditation, and prayer.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Full bellies are fitter for rest.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): We certainly experience that after a full meal the mind does not so rise toward God as to be borne along by an earnest and fervent longing for prayer, and perseverance in prayer.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): “Their heart is as fat as grease.” Being anxious to know the medical significance of a fatty heart, I applied to an eminent gentleman, Sir James Risdon Bennett, who is well known as having been President of the Royal College of Physicians.  His reply shows that the language is rather figurative than literal.

JAMES RISDON BENNETT (1809-1891): There are two forms of a so-called “fatty heart.” In the one there is an excessive amount of fatty tissue covering the exterior of the organ, especially about the base. This may be observed in all cases where the body is throughout over fat, as in animals fattened for slaughter. It does not necessarily interfere with the action of the heart, and may not be of much importance in a medical point of view.

The second form is, however, a much more serious condition.

In this, the muscular structure of the heart, on which its all important function as the central propelling power depends, undergoes a degenerative change. The contractile fibres of the muscles are converted into a structure having none of the properties of the natural fibres, in which are found a number of fatty, oily globules, which can be readily seen by means of the microscope. This condition, if at all extensive, renders the action of the heart feeble and irregular, and is very perilous, not infrequently causing sudden death. It is found in connection with a general unhealthy condition, and is evidence of general malnutrition. It is brought about by an indolent, luxurious mode of living, or by neglect of bodily exercise and those hygienic rules which are essential for healthy nutrition…The heart, in this form of the disease, is literally, “greasy,” and may be truly described as “fat as grease.” So much for physiology and pathology.

May I venture on the sacred territory of biblical exegesis? Is not the Psalmist contrasting those who lead an animal, self indulgent, vicious life, by which body and mind are incapacitated for their proper uses, and those who can run in the way of God’s commandments, delight to do His will, and meditate on His precepts? Sloth, fatness and stupidity―versus activity, firm muscles, and mental rigour.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Fatness in the heart makes it dull and heavy. Thus this phrase is used in Psalm 119:70.

MATTHEW HENRY: The immoderate use of meat and drink burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind; they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty; they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with things that are most affecting.

JOHN TRAPP: Of such a fat heart beware―a full belly makes a foul heart: the rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil.

MATTHEW HENRY: Fullness of bread was fuel to the fire of Sodom’s lusts. Luxurious living feeds the flames of lust, (Jeremiah 5:8). “This was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness, Ezekiel 16:49. Their “going after strange flesh,” which was Sodom’s most flagrant wickedness, is not mentioned, because notoriously known, but those sins which did not look so black opened the door and led the way to these more enormous crimes, and began to fill that measure of her sins, which was filled up at length by their unnatural filthiness.

SAMUEL MILLER (1769-1850): Hence it will always be found that habitual luxury, in direct proportion to the degree in which it is indulged, is unfavourable to deep spirituality.

MATTHEW HENRY: Fasting would help to tame the unruly evil that is so full of deadly poison, and bring the body into subjection.

HENRY SCUDDER (died 1659): Fasting is contrary to that fullness of bread, which maketh both body and soul more disposed to vice, and indisposed to religious duties, through drowsiness of head, heaviness of heart, dullness and deadness of spirit. Now these being removed, and the dominion of the flesh subdued by fasting, the body will be brought into subjection to the soul, and both body and soul to the will of God, more readily than otherwise they would be. A day of fasting is a great assistance to the soul, and for the better performing of holy duties, such as meditation, reading, and hearing the word, prayer, examining, judging, and reforming a person’s self; both because his spirits are better disposed when he is fasting to serious devotion; and the mind being so long taken wholly off from the thoughts, cares, and pleasures of this life, he may be more intent and earnest in seeking of God.

JOHN TRAPP: Not the body so much as the soul is more active with emptiness…Fasting days are soul fatting days: prayer is edged and winged thereby―it is good so to diet the body, that the soul may be fattened.

C. H. SPURGEON: I believe, literally, that some of you would be a great deal the better if you did occasionally have a whole day of fasting and prayer. There is a lightness that comes over the frame, especially of bulky people like myself; we begin to feel ourselves quite light and ethereal―an elevation of the spirit above the flesh, that will come over you after some hours of waiting upon God in fasting and prayer. I can advise brethren sometimes to try it; it will be good for their health, and it certainly will not harm them. If we only ate about half what is ordinarily eaten, we should probably all of us be in better health; and if, occasionally, we put ourselves on short commons, not because there is any virtue in that, but in order to get our brains more clear, and to help our hearts to rest more fully upon the Saviour, we should find that prayer and fasting have great power.

 

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The Relentless Inevitable Progression of Old Age

Genesis 24:1; Genesis 25:7

Abraham was old and well stricken in age.

Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The thing that ultimately is going to test the value of our professed Christian faith is the way in which we face old age, the way in which we face death.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Old age and death will speedily come, against which every wise man will take care to lay in solid provisions and comforts.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It is good for those who are old and stricken in years to be put in remembrance of their being so. Some have gray hairs here and there upon them, and perceive it not; they do not care to think of it, and therefore need to be told of it, that they may be quickened to do the work of life, and make preparation for death, which is coming towards them apace.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Queen Elizabeth I [got angry] with the bishop that put her in mind of her great age and death.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I cannot imagine or dream that I need offer any apology for preaching to aged people. If I were in sundry stupid circles where people call themselves ladies and gentlemen, and always want to conceal their ages, I might have some hesitation; but I have nothing to do with that here. I call an old man, an old man, and an old woman, an old woman; whether they think themselves old or not is nothing to me. I guess they are, if they are getting anywhere past sixty, or on to seventy or eighty.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away,” Psalm 90:10.  That witness is indeed true.

RICHARD STEELE (1629-1692): In Genesis 18:11 Abraham was an old man, and in Genesis 24:1, there he is called with the very same word, but “an old man,” though he was then forty years older than before. The Hebrew commonly calling an old man “full of days,” or “stricken in years,” though sometimes they are distinguished.

WILLIAM PRINGLE (1790-1858): The words “old and stricken in years” (Joshua 13:1) accurately express the period of life according to a division which was long familiar to the Jews…According to this division, old age consisted of three stages—the first extending from the sixtieth to the seventieth year, constituting the commencement of old age properly so called; the second extending from the seventieth to the eightieth year, and constituting what was called “hoary,” or “hoary-headed” age; and the third extending from the eightieth year to the end of life, and constituting what was called advanced age, and caused the person who had reached it to be described as one “stricken in years.”

RICHARD STEELE: A universal fixed period cannot be set herein; the diversity of mens’ natural constitutions, employments, diet, exercises, causeth old age to come sooner to some, and slower to others.

JOHN TRAPP: Old age stealeth upon us.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not,” Hosea 7:9. Or, “gray hairs are sprinkled on him.” Gray hairs, when thick, are a sign that old age is come; and, when sprinkled here and there, are symptoms of its coming on, and of a person’s being on the decline of lifeand are a sure indication of the approach of old age.

RICHARD STEELE: As for the progress of old agethis is plain, that there is a vigorous, and a decrepit old age. During the former, natural abilities are not so decayed, as to render a man uneasy, or unserviceable. Abraham was an elderly man, Genesis 18:1. He was old and well stricken in years, Genesis 24:1, being then about one hundred and forty years of age: but in Genesis 25:8 he was old and full of years, being one hundred seventy and five; then, he was very oldby which it should seem, that old age comes somewhat short of fulness of days.

WILLIAM PRINGLE: The view of most as to “old” and “full of years” is that the first is mature old age, and that the second is the last stage of life, the age of decrepitude. The person full of days is “one” as Blayney says, “who has arrived at the full period of human life;” and hence Abraham, Isaac, David, and Job are said to have died “full of years, or of days.”

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): In the Hebrew it is only full, or satisfied; but you must understand, with days or years, as the phrase is fully expressed―When he had lived as long as he desired, being in some sort weary of life, and desirous to be dissolved.

MATTHEW HENRY: Abraham “died in a good old age, an old man;” so God had promised him, Genesis 15:15. His death was his discharge from the burdens of his age―he did not live till the world was weary of him, but till he was weary of the world; he had had enough of it, and desired no more…All that come to old age do not find it alike good; generally, the days of old age are evil days, and such as there is no pleasure in, nor expectation of service from…the days of old age and death are the “days of evil,” Ecclesiastes 12:1.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): It is true, that as soon as we advance towards old age, we speedily fall into decay…Old age naturally tends to death.

JOHN TRAPP: Young men, we say, may die; old men must die. Old men have one foot in the grave already.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): If youth has no security against death―then old age has no possibility of escaping the grim monster.

MATTHEW HENRY: What cure is there for old age?

JOHN GILL: Though young men may promise themselves many days and years, an old man cannot, but must, or should live in the constant expectation of death.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom,” Psalm 90:12. We can never do that, except we number every day as our last day.

JAMES JANEWAY (1636-1674): How can you live within a few inches of death, and look the king of terrors in the face every day, without some well grounded evidence of your interest in God’s love?

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW (1808-1878): “How old art thou?” A solemn question to ask ourselves.  How old in nature?  How old in grace?

 

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Ministerial Individuality

I Corinthians 12:1,8

Now there are differences of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): What qualifies men for the work of the ministry is a gift from God: it is not of nature, nor is it mere natural abilities and capacity; nor is it any thing acquired, it is not human learning, or the knowledge of languages, arts, and sciences; nor is it special saving grace; for a man may have all these, and yet not be apt to teach, or fit for the ministry; but it is a peculiar and distinct gift, it is a gift of interpreting the Scriptures, and of dispensing the mysteries of grace to the edification of others.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Different persons have different gifts and graces.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In the measure of their ministerial abilities, and in the peculiar turn of their preaching, there is a great variety…Some are more happy in alarming the careless, others in administering consolation to the wounded conscience. Some are set more especially for the establishment and confirmation of the Gospel doctrines; others are skillful in solving casuastical points; others more excellent in enforcing practical godliness; and others again, having been led through depths of temptation and spiritual distress, are best acquainted with the various workings of the heart, and know best how to speak a word in season to weary and exercised souls…

In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could make a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of Mr. A, the knowledge of Mr. B, the zeal of Mr. C, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of Mr. D: then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, “This would be a perfect minister.” Now there is One, who, if He chose it, could actually do this; but He never did. He has seen fit to do otherwise…The servants of Christ all preach the same truths; but the Holy Spirit, who furnishes them all for the work He appoints them to, distributes to each one severally, according to His own will.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Look at the flowers. No two are identical. It is in the variety within the fundamental unity that God displays the wonders of His ways. And it is exactly the same in the Christian Church. We are all different, our temperaments are different.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): There is not a greater, or more pleasant variety of qualities, smells, and colours, among the herbs and flowers with which the earth is variegated and decked for the delight and service of men, than there is in the gifts and abilities of ministers for the use and service of the church. One hath quickness of parts, but not so deep and solid a judgment. Another is grave and solid, but not so ready and [spontaneous]. One is wary and reserved, another open and plain. One is melancholy and timorous, another cheerful and courageous.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): One can wield the sledge hammer but could not heal a broken heart. If he were to attempt it, you would be reminded of an elephant trying to thread a needle. Such a man can reprove, but he cannot apply oil and wine to a bruised conscience. Why? Because God hath not given to him the gift.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Some are called to awaken, others to establish and build up.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): There are some Boanerges, sons of thunder, alarming and thundering preachers; some Barnabases, sons of consolation, sweetly comforting preachers.

J. HALL (circa 1861): Look at Melancthon and Luther. Melancthon said the scriptures imparted to the soul a holy and marvellous delight, it was the heavenly ambrosia.  Now, Luther said, the Word of the Lord was a sword, it was a war, it was a destruction, and it leaped upon the children of Ephraim like lions of the forest.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils.  I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forest―I am rough, boisterous, stormy and altogether warlike…but Master Philip Melancthon comes softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy.

J. HALL: Look at the history of George Whitefield and of Jonathan Edwards.  Why, the ministry of Edwards burst upon the people as alarming as the trump of doom, terrible as the kindling of the last fires, while the preaching Whitefield came down upon the ears of the people like rain upon the new-mown grass. Depend upon it, Whitefield could never have preached that sermon, “Sinners in the hand of an angry God.” He would have been compelled to stop a hundred times in the course of the sermon to preach the love of Christ to sinners, and to shed tears over souls in peril of the wrath to come.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I think I never saw the like of George Whitefield in some things; such as strong faith, brokenness of spirit, Catholic love, and true sympathy. Indeed, his tongue is like the pen of a ready writer to call sinners to Christ. And none are like the brethren John and Charles Wesley to press after holiness. I see every day that each has his peculiar gifts and talents in the work.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): A writer in the North British Review has well and forcibly described the difference between the two great English evangelists of the [18th] century: “Whitefield was soul, and Wesley was system. Whitefield was the summer cloud which burst at morning a fragrant exhalation over an ample trace, and took the rest of the day to gather again; Wesley was the polished conduit in the midst of the garden, through which the living water glided in pearly brightness and perennial music, the same vivid stream from day to day. All force and impetus, Whitefield was the powder-blast in the quarry, and by one explosive sermon would shake a district, and detach materials for other men’s long work; deft, neat, and painstaking, Wesley loved to split and trim each fragment into uniform polished stones. Whitefield was the bargeman or the wagoner who brought the timber of the house and Wesley was the architect who set it up. Whitefield had no patience for ecclesiastical polity, no aptitude for pastoral details; Wesley, with a leader-like propensity for building, was always constructing societies, and with a king-like craft of ruling, was most at home when presiding over a class or a conference.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): How wise is God in giving different preachers different talents!

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Some have popular gifts fit for large auditories, others move best in a more contracted sphere, and may be exceedingly useful in the private societies.

JOHN LIVINGSTON (1603-1672): My gift was rather suited to simple common people, than to the learned and judicious auditors.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): I used to mourn because I couldn’t be an orator. I thought, ‘Oh, if I could only have the gift of speech like some men!’―I know perfectly well that, wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers than I am―all that I can say is that the Lord uses me.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The answer to this is simply―Be yourself! You are never meant to be anything but yourself…You are an individual made by God. These things are not accidental. There is great value in individuality.

C. H. SPURGEON: There is Divine Sovereignty in all this, and we must learn to recognize and admire it.

 

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Samson’s Riddle Unriddled

Judges 14:5,6,8,9

Samson…came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand…

After a time he returned…and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. And took thereof in his hands and went on eating, and he came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It was a singular circumstance that a man unarmed should have slain a lion in the prime of its vigour, and yet more strange that a swarm of bees should have taken possession of the dried carcass and have filled it with honey. In that country, what with beasts, birds, insects and the dry heat, a dead body is soon cleansed from all corruption and the bones are clean and white. Still, the killing of the lion and the finding of the honey make up a remarkable story. These singular circumstances became afterwards the subject of a riddle: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness, (verse 14).

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This riddle may be an emblem of those sweet blessings of grace which come to the people of Christ through His having destroyed Satan the roaring lion, and all his works.

C. H. SPURGEON: What a type we have here of our Divine Lord and Master, Jesus, the conqueror of death and hell. He has destroyed the lion that roared upon us and upon Him…To each one of us who believe in Him, He gives the luscious food which He has prepared for us by the overthrow of our foes. He bids us come and eat that we may have our lives sweetened and our hearts filled with joy. To me, the comparison seems wonderfully apt and suggestive. I see our triumphant Lord laden with sweetness, holding it forth to all His brethren.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The sweet promises of grace are sweeter than honey.

RICHARD ROGERS (1550-1618): If the cause be sought why Samson propounded this riddle, I answer: It was a pleasant whetting of their wits―God prepared the honey in the body of lion―Samson made use of the works of God, which he considered and observed.  For to his great benefit he gathered a riddle, and raised thereby a question out of the work of God…So it behooves us to mark things that come to pass daily―which all fall out by God’s providence, and His dealing in and by them, that we may learn wisdom thereby, and take good by them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): This riddle is applicable to many of the methods of divine providence and grace. When God, by an over-ruling providence, brings good out of evil to His church and people―when that which threatened their ruin turns to their advantage―when their enemies are made serviceable to them, and the wrath of men turns to God’s praise―then comes “meat out of the eater,” and “sweetness out of the strong.

C. H. SPURGEON: Conflicts come to us when we are least prepared for them. Samson was walking in the vineyards of Timnath, thinking of anything but lions, and “Behold, says the Scripture, “a young lion roared against him.”―By a young lion is not meant a whelp, but a lion in the fullness of its early strength and not yet slackened in its pace, or curbed in its fury by growing years. Fresh and furious, a young lion is the worst kind of beast that a man can meet with. Let us expect, as followers of Christ, to meet with strong temptations, fierce persecutions, and severe trials, which will lead to stern conflicts.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): This riddle may be viewed as referring to the blessed results of affliction to the Lord’s children.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion that roared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them, we shall find a nest of honey within them.

RICHARD ROGERS: By this example we may learn that though the cross be as fearful when we see it coming toward us, as a bear or a lion is to meet with, yet the Lord who loveth us, as He did Samson, doth by His quickening grace hearten us against it, so as that we may find it to turn to our great good and benefit.

C. H. SPURGEON: All this is clear to the eyes of faith, which unriddles the riddle…Alas, when under deep depression the mind forgets all this, and is only conscious of its unutterable misery; the man sees the lion but not the honey in its carcase―but faith finds honey in the lion.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): The slothful man saith, there is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets, Proverbs 22:13. This sentence belongs to those who flinch from the cross. Real difficulties in the way to heaven exercise faith…There is a lion without. True. But hast thou forgotten the promise in the ways of God?―“Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet,” Psalm 91:11-13.

JOHN GILL: Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil? Psalm 49:5. A saint has nothing to fear in the worst of times; which is a riddle to a natural man.

MATTHEW HENRY: Behold Samson’s riddle again unriddled―for we have [in Psalm 73] an account of the good improvement which [Asaph] made of that sore temptation with which he had been assaulted and by which he was almost overcome…many good lessons he learned from his temptation, his struggles with it, and his victories over it. Nor would God suffer His people to be tempted if His grace were not sufficient for them.

C. H. SPURGEON: I remember the days of old, Psalm 143:5.

When we see nothing new which can cheer us, let us think upon old things…Jehovah rescued His people in the ages which lie back, centuries ago; why should He not do the like again? We ourselves have a rich past to look back upon; we have sunny memories, sacred memories, satisfactory memories, and these are as flowers for the bees of faith to visit, from whence they may make honey for present use…God, who is the same today, as yesterday, will be the same tomorrow―It is His way! I want you, my dear Brother, to feel that if God has blessed you in the past, He will bless you still! You were helped—you can never forget it—you were helped right through. It was a severe crisis in your life and you were wonderfully carried over it. Does not this fact fill you with hope? There came another somewhat different trial, as different from the former trouble as a bear may be from a lion, but you were again helped—very remarkably helped. You have not forgotten it—you cannot forget it though your hair is gray. Are not such encouragements very many and very sweet?

 

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When in Doubt, What Should We Do? Consult our Privy Counsellors.

Psalm 119:24

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The commandments of God, or His law, and the precepts of it, were [David’s] privy counsellors, with whom on all occasions he consulted.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Princes do nothing without the advice of their Privy Counsel. A child of God hath also his Privy Counsel―God’s testimonies…Alphonsus, king of Aragon, being asked who were the best counsellors, answered, “The dead,” meaning books, which cannot flatter, but do without partiality declare the truth. Now of all such dead counsellors, God’s testimonies have the pre-eminence.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): God’s testimonies will be the best counsellors both to princes and private persons. They are the men of my counsel, so the word is [in the original Hebrew].

THOMAS MANTON: A poor godly man, even when he is deserted of all, and hath nobody to plead for him, he hath his senate, and his council of state about him, the prophets and apostles, and other “holy men of God, that spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”―he hath counsellors about him that tell him what is to be believed or done; and they are such counsellors as cannot err, as will not flatter him, nor applaud him in any sin, nor discourage or dissuade him from that which is good, whatever hazard it expose him to. And truly, if we be wise, we should choose such counsellors as these.

MATTHEW HENRY: There will be found more safety and satisfaction in consulting them than in the multitude of other counsellors.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): This is the book of books, let it not lie idle and unemployed.

THOMAS MANTON: To press us to this consulting with the Word of God, to make the testimonies of the Lord “the men of our counsel,” there are many qualifications and tempers of heart necessary.

First, the fear of God.

What man is he that feareth the Lord: him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose,” Psalm 25:12.  He that is in doubt and perplexed, and would have counsel from God’s Word; who is the man that is like to have it?  He that feareth the Lord. There is a great suitableness between the qualification and the promise: partly, he that fears God hath a greater awe of the Word than others have, and is loath to do anything contrary to God’s will: he would know what is God’s mind in every particular case: “My heart standeth in awe of thy word,” Psalm 119:161. To offend God, and to balk at the direction of God’s Word, that is the greatest terror to him, greater than all other dangers.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Let the fear of God dwell richly in you.

EBENEZER ERSKINE (1680-1754): This is not a slavish fear of hell and vindictive wrath, for that is inconsistent with [a Christian's] freedom from condemnation: but it is a filial fear of God as a Father, flowing from an affectionate regard to His authority, interposed in the commands of the law. Though [believers] be not afraid of being cast into hell―yet they have much reason to fear Him as a father Judge, lest he “visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes,” Psalm 89:32; for, pass who will unpunished, they shall not pass: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2.

WILLIAM BATES (1625-1699): Therefore, fear God with a fear of reverence.

THOMAS MANTON: Such a man is less apt to miscarry by the rashness and impetuous bent of carnal affections. And he that fears God, he aims at God’s glory rather than his own interest, and so is rather swayed by reasons of conscience and religion, than of carnal concernments. Many times the doubtfulness that is upon the spirit, is because of conflicts between lust and knowledge; our light is weakened by an inordinate affection to our own interests, otherwise we would soon come to the deciding of our case by the Word of God.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Get the true fear of God upon your hearts: be really afraid of offending Him; God will not hide His mind from such a soul, Psalm  25:15: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.

THOMAS MANTON: Now he that would know God’s mind in everything, this is the man whom God will direct…The second qualification is the meek: “The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way,” Psalm 25:9. By the meek is meant a man who is humble, that will submit himself to God whatever condition He shall appoint.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Such as whose hearts are supple and soluble, tractable and teachable…Such as lie at His feet, and say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

THOMAS MANTON: The third qualification mentioned in order to this, is a constant dependence upon God: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5,6. O! when a man is brought off this spiritual idolatry of making his own bosom to be his oracle, and his own heart to be his counsellor; when he doth in the poverty of his spirit humbly and entirely cast himself upon the help of God, and acknowledge Him in all his ways, then he shall see a clear direction what God would have him to do. You have another place to this purpose: “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk: for I lift up my soul unto thee,” Psalm 143:8.

MATTHEW HENRY: All those who commit themselves to God shall be guided with His counsel, with the counsel both of His Word and of Spirit, the best counsellors―that is, those that are humble and low in their own eyes, that are distrustful of themselves, desirous to be taught, and honestly resolved to follow the divine guidance…We do not truly desire to know the mind of God if we do not fully resolve to comply with it once we do know it.

THOMAS MANTON: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God,” John 7:17. A man does not know whether this opinion, or that, be according to God’s mind, when there are plausible pretenses on every side. He that maketh conscience of known truth, and walketh up to his light, and he that doth not search to satisfy curiosity, but out of a thorough resolution to obey and submit his neck to the yoke of Christ―whatever he shall find to be the way of Christ―that man shall know what is the way in times of controversy and doubtful uncertainty.

MATTHEW HENRY: Those and those only can expect to be taught of God, who are ready and willing to do as they are taught.  If any man will do His will, and be steadfastly resolved in the strength of His grace to comply with it, He shall know what His will is.

JOHN FLAVEL: If, therefore, in doubtful cases, you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by these rules.

 

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A Bible Text Loved by Libertines & Ignored by Pharisees

Matthew 7:1,2

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): There are few verses quoted more frequently than the opening one of Matthew 7, and few less understood by those who are so ready to cite it and hurl it at the heads of those whom they ignorantly or maliciously suppose are contravening it. Let the servant of God denounce a man who is promulgating serious error, and there are those, boasting of their broadmindedness, who will say to him, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): This prohibition, like many others in our Lord’s discourse, if interpreted in its utmost latitude, would go to censure what is elsewhere commended.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): We must be careful not to strain [this sentence] beyond its proper meaning. It is frequently abused and misapplied by the enemies of true religion. It is possible to press the words of the Bible so far that they yield not medicine but poison.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): And there are people who are guilty of this―we must remember that if our interpretation of any one of these things contradicts the plain and obvious teaching of Scripture at another point, again it is obvious that our interpretation has gone astray. Scripture must be taken and compared with Scripture.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Our Saviour must not be understood here prohibiting any judgment, which is elsewhere in holy writ allowed…Nor is all judgment of our neighbour’s actions with reference to him forbidden: how can we reprove him for his errors, or restore him that is fallen, without a previous judgment of his actions?

J. C. RYLE: When our Lord says “Judge not,” He does not mean that it is wrong, under any circumstances, to pass an unfavourable judgment on the conduct and opinions of others―nor yet does He mean that it is wrong to reprove the sins and faults of others until we are perfect and faultless ourselves. Such an interpretation would contradict other parts of Scriptures: and it would make it impossible to condemn error and false doctrine; it would debar any one from attempting the office of a minister or a judge. The earth would be “given into the hands of the wicked,” Job 9:24; heresy would flourish; wrong-doing would abound.

ANDREW FULLER: If we judge not truth and error, good and evil, we cannot embrace the one and avoid the other…Paul and Silas are supposed to have judged Lydia faithful ere they entered her house, Acts 16:15; and Peter did not scruple to tell the sorcerer that he “perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity,” Acts 8:23. We are not only allowed, but directed, even in this discourse, to judge of men, as of trees, by their fruit, verses 16-20. It is part of our duty as ministers to declare from God’s word that they who live after the flesh will die; and that they who are carried away by strong delusions and the belief of a lie are in the utmost danger of damnation. They may be displeased with us for thinking so hardly of them, and may allege this passage as a reproof to our presumption.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You are not to judge, but you are not to act without judgment.

A. W. PINK: “Judge not” unmercifully. While on the one hand we are certainly not, as far too many today appear to think, obliged to regard one who holds fundamental error or one who is thoroughly worldly as a good Christian, yet on the other hand the law of charity requires us to put the best construction we can on doubtful actions…God does not require us to call darkness light or evil good―we are not to go about with our eyes closed nor wink at sin when we see it, yet it is equally wrong for us to hunt for something to condemn and seize upon every trifle and magnify molehills into mountains. We are not to make a man an offender for a word.

ANDREW FULLER: The judgment which Christ forbids is that which arises not from good-will and a faithful discharge of duty, but from a censorious spirit, which takes pleasure in thinking and speaking evil of those about us, puts the worst construction upon actions of doubtful motive, and is severe in detecting smaller faults in another, while blinded to far greater ones in ourselves. It stands opposed by Luke to a forgiving spirit, chapter 6:27. It is therefore the judgment of rancour, selfishness, and implacability.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: It is a self-righteous spirit. Self is always at the back of it, and it is always a manifestation of self-righteousness, a feeling of superiority, and a feeling that we are all right while others are not. That then leads to censoriousness, and a spirit that is always ready to express itself in a derogatory manner. And then, accompanying that, there is the tendency to despise others, to regard them with contempt.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It is common for those who are most sinful themselves, and least sensible of it, to be most forward and free in judging and censuring others; the Pharisees, who were most haughty in justifying themselves, were most scornful in condemning others.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I am not only describing the Pharisees, I am describing all who have the spirit of the Pharisee.

C. H. SPURGEON: Some men seem to think God ordained them to be celestial hedgehogs or spiritual porcupines.

ANDREW FULLER: They would seem to be great enemies to sin, whereas, if this were the case, they would begin with their own. It is therefore nothing better than selfish rancour, under the mask of zeal and faithfulness…To deter us from this evil spirit and practice, we are given to expect that if we judge we “shall be judged,” and that “with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again.”

C. H. SPURGEON: If you impute motives, and pretend to read hearts, others will do the same towards you. A hard and censorious behaviour is sure to provoke reprisals.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): None are so shunned and censured as those that are most censorious.

ANDREW FULLER: Such is the ordinary course of things even in the present life. A censorious spirit towards others brings censure in abundance upon ourselves. Neither is it in this life only, nor chiefly, that such things will meet with a righteous retribution. If we go on condemning in this manner till death, we must expect to be condemned at a judgment-seat, from the decisions of which there is no appeal.

C. H. SPURGEON: Use your judgment, of course. But do not indulge the criticizing faculty upon others in a censorious manner, or as if you were set in authority, and had a right to dispense judgment among your fellows.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”―Awful words! So we may, as it were, choose for ourselves, whether God shall be severe or merciful to us.

 

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The Precious Promises of God Given to Believers in Jesus Christ

Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 6:12,13

My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): God’s promises are made to the spiritual children of Abraham (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7), and none of them can possibly fail of accomplishment. “For all the promises of God are in Him―namely Christ―are yea, and in Him amen,” 2 Corinthians 1:20. They are deposited in Christ, and in Him they find their affirmation and certification, for He is the sum and substance of them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): They are all confirmed by the oath of God. He has not only given his people His word, and His hand and seal, but His oath. And here, you will observe, he specifies the oath of God to Abraham, which, being sworn to him as the father of the faithful, remains in full force and virtue to all true believers.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham, Galatians 3:7. They who are partakers of his faith, these, and these only, are the sons of Abraham, and therefore heirs of the promises made to him.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Now to these spiritual Israelites, or ‘seed’ of Abraham, were the word of God, the promises of God concerning spiritual and eternal things made.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: God promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption; He declares that He counts us just; we are covered with sins; He testifies that He is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten His wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true―the promises of God ought to be most highly valued.

FRANCIS RIDLEY HAVERGAL (1836-1879): Because the promise of the Lord can never, never fail.

JOHN GILL: The promises of God are exceeding great and precious, very ancient, free, and unconditional, irrevocable and immutable, and are admirably suited to the cases of His people―they include in them things temporal, spiritual, and eternal; things temporal, as that His people shall not want, that their afflictions shall work for good, and that He will support them under all their troubles; things spiritual, as that He will be their God, which takes in His everlasting love to them, and His gracious presence with them, and His protection of them; and that all grace shall be wrought in them, and every blessing of grace bestowed on them: and things eternal, as everlasting glory and happiness…The promises of God are sure and certain, being made by the God of truth, and being in Christ, and the performance of them being for the glory of God by the saints.

SAMUEL CLARKE (1684-1759): A thorough acquaintance with the promises would be of the greatest advantage in prayer.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to Him and saying, “Do as Thou hast said.”  Prayer is the promise utilized.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The subject of Scripture promises is a vast and most interesting one. I doubt whether it receives the attention which it deserves in the present day. Few Christians realize the number, and length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and variety of the precious “shalls” and “wills” laid up in the Bible for the special benefit and encouragement of all who will use them.

A. W. PINK: The promises of God are numerous: relating to this life and also that which is to come. They concern the needs of the body as well as those of the soul.

C. H. SPURGEON: God never gives His children a promise which He does not intend them to use―If you are not familiar with them, I should advise you to get a little book called Clarke’s Precious Promises, where you will find them all arranged.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): The worthy author of that collection, whom I have long known with esteem and honour, has chosen to reduce all the most useful and important promises of the Word of God into order, and set them before us…The disposition of them is elegant and regular; so that it is an easy matter to find something suited to the frame of our souls, or our present wants on every occasion; and that soul who knows what a suitable promise is worth in an hour of darkness or temptation, will never think such a work as this, and such a various treasure, can have sufficient value set upon it.

J. C. RYLE: Clarke’s Scripture Promises is an old book which is far less studied now, I suspect, than it was in the days of our fathers.

C. H. SPURGEON: General Gordon, who was killed at Khartoum,* used to carry a copy in his pocket wherever he went, and he and many others have found it to be a great help to them.

ISAAC WATTS: Those who have little leisure for reading may find [it worthwhile] in keeping this book always near them; and with the glance of an eye they may take in the riches of grace and glory, and derive many a sweet refreshment from hence, amidst their labours and travels through this wilderness. It is of excellent use to lie on the table in a chamber of sickness, and now and then to take a sip of the river of life, which runs through it in a thousand little rills of peace and joy.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): What is it to be possessor of all the promises of God?

ISAAC WATTS: These are the constant food of a living Christian, as well as his highest cordials in a fainting hour. And in such a world as this, where duties perpetually demand our practice, and difficulties and trials are ever surrounding us, what can we do better than to treasure up the promises in our hearts, which are the most effectual persuasives to fulfil the one and sustain the other? Here are laid up the true riches of a Christian, and his highest hopes on this side of heaven.

BILLY BRAY (1794-1868): The promises of God are just as good as ready money all day.
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*Editor’s Notes: Clarke’s Scripture Promises was composed by Samuel Clarke and first published in 1720. British General Charles Gordon was killed in 1885 by the jihadist forces of Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, who had proclaimed himself the Mahdi (the messiah of Islam). After a ten month siege, the Mahdi’s followers captured Khartoum, and massacred the entire Egyptian garrison and several thousand Sudanese.

 

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The Unity of the Trinity in the Salvation of Man

Isaiah 61:1,2

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Our Lord Jesus Himself, who read this in the synagogue at Nazareth, applied it entirely to Himself, saying, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears, Luke 4:21.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): There are those who observe in this text, and not amiss, the mystery of the Holy Trinity―God the Father anointing his Son Christ with the Holy Ghost.

B. B. WARFIELD (1851-1921): In the unity of the Godhead there subsist three Persons, each of whom has His particular part in the working out of salvation.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner’s soul.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): From this great truth we learn another, namely, the perfect co-operation of the three persons of the blessed Trinity in the work of our redemption. The Father sends the Son, the Son with alacrity comes to redeem us, and the Spirit of God is upon Him; so that Father, Son, and Spirit have each a part in the saving work, and the one God of heaven and earth is the God of salvation.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): They have all a concern it―the Gospel and the doctrines of it―which is called the Gospel of God, and the Gospel of Christ, and the ministering of the Spirit. The grace of God in regeneration and conversion is sometimes ascribed to one and sometimes to another, and an increase of it in the heart is wished for from all three, Revelation 1:4-6; and they have a hand in all the glory the saints shall enjoy hereafter: the Father has prepared the kingdom from the foundation of the world; the Son has made way for it by his obedience, sufferings, and death; and the Spirit is the earnest of it, makes meet for it, and introduces into it.

C. H. SPURGEON: Now, let us, for a few moments, discourse upon this wondrous theme—the unity of the three persons with regard to the great purpose of the salvation of the elect. When God first made man, he said, “Let us make man,” not let me, but, “Let us make man in our own image,” Genesis 1:26. The covenant Elohim said to each other, “Let us unitedly become the creator of man.” So, when in ages far gone by in eternity, they said, “Let us save man:” it was not the Father who said, “Let me save man,” but the three Persons, with one consent, said “Let us save man.”

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Each of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity is concerned with our salvation: with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with the Spirit regeneration.  The Father chose us; the Son died for us; the Spirit quickens us.

MATTHEW HENRY: There is an order among the three persons, though no superiority; they are equal in power and glory, and there is an agreed economy in their works. Thus, in the affair of man’s redemption, election is by way of eminency ascribed to the Father, as reconciliation is to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Ghost, though in each of these, one person is not so entirely interested as to exclude the other two.

JOHN GILL: The order of the three divine persons in the Trinity, and in the economy of man’s salvation, required such a method to be observed; that the Father should first, and for a while, be more especially manifested; next the Son, and then the Spirit. Besides, our Lord has given a reason Himself, why the Spirit “was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” John 7:39. And the coming of the Spirit as a Comforter, and the spirit of truth, was to be through the intercession, and by the mission of Christ; and therefore it was proper He should go away first, in order to send Him.

C. H. SPURGEON: I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, John 14:6. Look at the text, and you will find all the three persons mentioned―all of them doing something for our salvation. “I will pray,” says the Son. “I will send,” says the Father. “I will comfort,” says the Holy Ghost…Now, observe here that each person is spoken of as performing a separate office. “I will pray,” says the Son; that is intercession. “I will send,” says the Father; that is donation. “I will comfort,” says the Holy Spirit; that is supernatural influence…There is a manifest distinction in the divine persons, since one speaks to another; yet the Godhead is one.

JOHN GILL: This is no inconsiderable proof of a trinity of persons in the Godhead; here is the Father prayed unto, the Son in human nature praying, and the Holy Ghost the Comforter prayed for; who is the gift of the Father, through the prevalent mediation of the Son, and is another “Comforter;” distinct from the Messiah.

C. H. SPURGEON: Remember, you cannot pray without the Trinity―you cannot draw near to the Father except through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit…It is well to have clear views of the mutual relations of the persons of the blessed Trinity; indeed, the knowledge of these truths is essential for our comfort and growth in grace.

JOHN TRAPP: Remarkable is that [passage] of the apostle Paul, I Corinthians 12:4-7, where the diversities of gifts are said to be of the Spirit; the diversities of ministries―whereby these gifts are administered―are said to be of the Lord, that is, of Christ; and the diversities of operations―effected by the gifts and ministries―are said to be of God, the Father.

C. H. SPURGEON: It is to me a source of sweet comfort to think that it is not one person of the Trinity that is engaged for my salvation; it is not simply one person of the Godhead who vows that he will redeem me; but it is a glorious trio.

JAMES HARRINGTON EVANS (1785-1849): It requires a whole Trinity to keep a saint of God.

JOHN GILL: They are held and secured by a threefold cord, which can never be broken: by God the Father, who has loved them with an everlasting love, chosen them in Christ, and secured them in the covenant of grace, who keeps them by His power; He has given them grace, and will give them glory; and by the Son, who has undertook for them, redeemed and purchased them, and who prays and makes preparations in heaven for them; they are built on Him, united to Him, and are His jewels, whom He will preserve; and by the Holy Ghost, whose grace is incorruptible, whose personal indwelling is for ever, and who Himself is the earnest and seal of the heavenly inheritance, who having begun, will finish the good work of grace.

 

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Our Busy Lives

Luke 10:40

Martha was cumbered about with much serving.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Martha was encumbered. The Greek word properly signifies to be drawn different ways at the same time, and admirably expresses the situation of a mind, surrounded―as Martha’s then was―with so many objects of care, that it hardly knows which to attend to first.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Her fault was not that she served: the condition of a servant well becomes every Christian. “I serve,” should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had “much serving.” We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can…Her fault was that she grew “cumbered with much serving,” so that she forgot Him, and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): She was just distracted with it―when she should have been with her sister, sitting at Christ’s feet to hear His word.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Martha was faulty in this respect, that she neglected the main business, and devoted herself entirely to household affairs…We must pay a proper attention to order, lest what is accessory―as the phrase is―become our chief concern.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Others are so taken up with their worldly affairs, and are so busy providing for themselves and their families, they say, “I pray thee have me excused,” Luke 14:18.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): It seems so proper to attend to the duties of our station! It is just here that our danger lies. Our families, our business, our daily callings, our household affairs, our interaction with society, all, all may become snares to our hearts, and may draw us away from God.

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW (1808-1878): The busy whirl of life.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): It fills the heart with cares, and so unfits and deadens it to divine duties.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Look at the scenes of a busy world, how they pass away; it is but as the buzzing of a summer fly, and all is gone.  Therefore, set your affections on things above.

R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): Our hurry and externality has impoverished our graces.

C. H. SPURGEON: The most of you are too busy, you have too much to do in the world; but what is it all about?  Scraping together dust, loading yourselves with thick clay.  O that you were busy after the true riches, and could step aside awhile to enrich yourselves in solitude, and make your hearts vigorous by feeding upon the person and work of your ever blessed Lord!  You miss a heaven below by a too eager pursuit of earth.  You cannot know these joyful raptures if meditation be pushed into a corner.

J. C. RYLE: The fault of Martha should be a perpetual warning to all Christians. If we desire to grow in grace, and to enjoy soul-prosperity, we must beware of the cares of this world. Except we watch and pray, they will insensibly eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness on our souls.

R. L. DABNEY: Too much of even a religious bustle is unwholesome for the soul.

ANDREW BONAR (1810-1892): One of the gravest perils which besets the ministry is a restless scattering energies over an amazing multiplicity of interests which leaves no margin of time and of strength for receptive absorbing communion with God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): You can be so busy preaching and working that you are not nurturing your own soul. You are so neglecting your own spiritual life that you find at the end that you have been living on yourself and your own activities…That is why it is a good thing for all of us from time to time to stop and take a rest, and to examine ourselves, and ask, “What am I living on?”  What if the meetings you attend so frequently and so regularly were suddenly prohibited to you, and how would you find yourself? What if your health broke down and you could not read, or enjoy the company of other people, and you were just left alone? What would you do? We must take time to ask ourselves these questions, for one of the greatest dangers to the soul is just to be living on our own activities and on our own efforts. To be over-busy is one the high-roads to self-deceptions.

JOHN TRAPP: God would not have the strength of his people to be exhausted in His service, but that respect be had to the health of their bodies, as well as to the welfare of their souls.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Rest is necessary for those who labour; and a zealous preacher of the Gospel will as often stand in need of it as a galley slave.

MATTHEW HENRY: Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while, Mark 6:31. Christ calls them only to rest awhile; they must not expect to rest long, only to get breath, and then to go to work again…The reason given for this, is, not so much because they had been in constant work, but because they now were in a constant hurry;―“for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

J. C. RYLE: “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” These words are full of deep wisdom. Our Lord knows well that His servants must attend to their own souls as well as the souls of others. He knows that a constant attention to public work is apt to make us forget our own private soul-business, and that while we are keeping the vineyards of others, we are in danger of neglecting our own, (Song of Solomon 1:6). He reminds us that it is good for ministers to withdraw occasionally from public work, and look within…The prosperity of a man’s ministry and public work is intimately bound up with the prosperity of his own soul. Occasional retirement is one of the most useful ordinances.

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (1759-1833): Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean.

C. H. SPURGEON: We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands. The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear: the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate…Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

 

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Serving Our Generation

Acts 13:36

David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): It is an honourable epitaph which Paul sets on the memory of David that he “in his own generation served the will of God.” He made it the business of his life to carry on God’s designs: and all gracious hearts touched with the same lodestone of God’s love stand to the same point.  All the private ends of a sincere soul are swallowed up in this, that he may “do the will of God in his generation.”

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): If we serve God according to His own will, and in doing so serve our generation, we shall have accomplished all that is possible for any human being.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): But here may a question be asked, whether we ought not also to care for our posterity?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): This is a question which ought to interest us all very deeply. We live in the midst of our own generation, and seeing that we are part of it, we should serve it, that the generation in which our children shall live may be better than our own…Even when passing away, David served his generation by giving Solomon some last charges concerning the kingdom.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): David was not permitted to build the temple, and therefore when he had made preparation for it, which was the service he was designed to, he fell asleep, and left the work to Solomon.

C. H. SPURGEON: What, then, is it for a man to serve his own generation?

I note, first, that it is not to be a slave to it. It is not to drop into the habits, customs, and ideas of the generation in which we live―he is not to serve this generation by yielding to any of its notions or ideas which are contrary to the Word of the Lord. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not only for one generation, it is for all generations. It is the faith which needed to be only “once for all delivered to the saints;” it was given stereotyped as it always is to be…That man serves his generation best who is not caught by every new current of opinion, but stands firmly by the truth of God, which is a solid, immovable rock―Look you, sirs, there are ages to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): If I profess, with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth, except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefields besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point.

C. H. SPURGEON: If any man says, “The world is so bad, that I will avoid coming into contact with it altogether; even the teaching of Christianity has become so diluted, and is so thoroughly on the Down-grade, that I will have nothing to do with it,” he is certainly not serving his own generation. If he shall shut himself up like a hermit in his cave, and leave the world to go to ruin as it may, he will not be like David. She that goes into a nunnery, and he that enters a monastery are like soldiers who run away, and hide among the baggage. You must not do anything of the sort. Come forward and fight evil, and triumph over it, whether it be evil of doctrine, evil of practice, or evil of any other kind. Be bold for Christ; bear your witness, and be not ashamed. If you do not take your stand in this way, it can never truly be said of you that you served your generation. Instead of that, the truth will be that you allowed your generation to make a coward of you, or, to muzzle you like a dog, and to send you out, into the streets neither to bark nor to bite, nor to do anything by which you might prove that there is a soul within you.

MATTHEW HENRY: We may be useful and serviceable to others for their instruction―knowledge is given us to do good with, that others may light their candle at our lamp.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): This is abundantly exemplified in David.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): David, in the different periods of his varied life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, be he rich or poor in this world’s goods, can be placed.  This is one feature which makes the study of his life of such practical interest unto us today. And this also it was which experimentally fitted him to write so many Psalms, which the saints of all ages have found so perfectly suited to express unto God the varied feelings of their souls.

JOHN CALVIN: The ministry of the godly is also profitable for the posterity, as we see that David, being dead, doth profit us more at this day than a great part of those which live with us―the sum is, that we must have respect first to our time, that we may serve our brethren, with whom and among whom we lead our life; and, secondly, we must do our endeavour that the fruit of our ministry may redound unto our posterity.

MATTHEW HENRY: Even those that are in a lower and narrower sphere must look upon it that they live to serve their generation.

J. R. MILLER (1840-1912): We are apt to overlook the minor actors in Scripture stories in our absorbed interest in the prominent ones. Yet often these lesser people are just as important in their own place, and their service is just as essential to the final success of the whole as the greater ones. The little girl in the story of Naaman the leper is scarcely seen among the splendours of the Syrian court; but without her part, we would never have had the story at all.  The young lad with the basket is hardly ever thought of when we read the account of the miracle; but they were his loaves with which the Master fed all those hungry thousands that day on the green grass. The smallest links in a chain are often quite as important as the greatest links…And perhaps our lowly part may some day prove to have been as essential as the great deeds which all men praise. We may at least help some others in doing the great things that they are set to do in this world.

C. H. SPURGEON: It is truly written, “None of us liveth to himself.” we either help or hinder those amongst whom we dwell. Let us see to it that we serve our age, and become stepping-stones rather than stumbling-blocks to those by whom we are surrounded.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Why art thou here, thou who art yet in the world? Is it not that thou also mayest serve the will of God? Art thou serving it now?

 

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