Good Works in Their Proper Scriptural Place

Ephesians 2:8; James 2:14-26
       By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
       What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
       Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Does not James here contradict Paul’s doctrine in the matter of justification?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): James never intended, for a moment, nor do any of his words lead us into such a belief, that there can be any merit whatever in any good works of ours. After we have done all, if we could do all, we should only have done what we were bound to do. Surely there is no merit in a man’s paying what he owes; no great merit in a servant who has his wages for doing what he is paid for…The fact is, James and Paul are perfectly reconcilable, and they are viewing truth from different standpoints.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The justification of which Paul speaks is different from that spoken of by James; the one speaks of our persons being justified before God, the other speaks of our faith being justified before men: “Show me thy faith by thy works,” says James―“let thy faith be justified in the eyes of those that behold thee by thy works;” but Paul speaks of justification in the sight of God, who justifies those only that believe in Jesus, and purely on account of the redemption that is in Him. Thus we see that our persons are justified before God by faith, but our faith is justified before men by works. This is so plainly the scope and design of the apostle James that he is but confirming what Paul, in other places, says of his faith, that it is a laborious faith, and a “faith working by love,” Galatians 5:6; I Thessalonians 1:3; Titus 3:8; and many other places.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): We must come to good works by faith, and not to faith by good works.

R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): While our works are naught as a ground of merit for justification, they are all-important as evidences that we are justified.

C. H. SPURGEON: Good works are useful as evidences of grace. The Antinomian says, “But I do not require evidences; I can live without them.” This is unreasonable. Do you see yonder clock? That is the evidence of the time of day. The hour would be precisely the same if we had not that evidence. Still, we find the clock of great use. So we say, good works are the best evidence of spiritual life in the soul. Is it not written, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren?” Loving the brethren is a good work. Again, “If any man abide in me, he shall bring forth fruit.” Fruits of righteousness are good works, and they are evidences that we abide in Christ…Our good works must flow from our union with Christ by virtue of our faith in Him.

HUGH LATIMER (1483-1555): We must first be made good before we can do good; we must first be made just before our works can please God―for when we are justified by faith in Christ, then come good works.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): When God’s children are once planted in Christ, they begin then to bud. When Matthew was converted, he followed Christ; he made a feast to Christ, there is his bounty; he invited the publicans and sinners to Christ, there is his charity. So Job feared God, and eschewed evil. Cornelius prayed, and, with his prayers, his alms-deeds ascended up to heaven. Dorcas was a disciple full of good works.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Dorcas was constantly employed in doing good…she was very kind and beneficent to the poor, she wrought with her hands much for their sakes.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Good works have their proper place. They justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men.

JOHN GILL: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified.”―Not as causes procuring his justification, but as effects declaring it.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): There is, therefore, no contradiction between the apostles.

C. H. SPURGEON: Secondly, we think good works are the witnesses or testimony to other people of the truth of what we believe…and a new-born creature—the man created in Christ—must preach Jesus Christ wherever he goes. This is the use of good works. He will preach, not with his mouth always, but with his life. The use of good works is, that they are a Christian’s sermon. A sermon is not what a man says, but what he does. You who practice are preaching; it is not preaching and practising, but practising is preaching. The sermon that is preached by the mouth is soon forgotten, but what we preach by our lives is never forgotten. There is nothing like faithful practice and holy living, if we would preach to the world…Faith shows itself by good works, and therefore is no dead faith. God’s house is a hive for workers, not a nest for drones.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is not alone.

C. H. SPURGEON: The faith which does not produce good works is not saving faith: it is not the faith of God’s elect: it is not faith at all in the Scriptural sense.

 

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The Language of Holy Humility & its Conversational Counterfeit

Luke 5:8, 9
       When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): This word of Peter’s came from the same principle with theirs who, under the Old Testament, so often said that they did exceedingly fear and quake at the extraordinary display of the divine glory and majesty. It was the language of Peter’s humility and self-denial.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): The most holy men are always the most humble men.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Humility is one of the chief of all the Christian virtues; it is the hallmark of the child of God…The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The most holy men, when once they have fixed their eyes awhile upon God’s holiness, and then looked upon themselves, have been quite out of love with themselves. After the vision the prophet Isaiah had of God sitting upon the throne, and the seraphim about Him, covering their faces, and crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” how was this gracious man smitten with the sense of his own vileness! They did no more cry up God as holy than he did cry out upon himself as unclean, Isaiah 6:5. So [also] Job, “Now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself,” Job 42:5,6.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.

DAVID BRAINERD (1718-1747): I could not but think, as I have often remarked to others, that much more of true religion consists in deep humility, brokenness of heart, and an abasing sense of barrenness and want of grace and holiness than most who are called Christians imagine; especially those who have been esteemed the converts of the late day. Many seem to know of no other religion but elevated joys and affections, arising only from some flights of imagination, or some suggestion made to their mind, of Christ being theirs, God living in them, and the like.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): The humble, however, even when they have extraordinary discoveries of God’s glory, are overwhelmed with their own vileness and sinfulness.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): The state of the heart of God’s children is not to be judged by what they call “comfort,” or the lack of it; by strong words or lively feelings; but by steady obedience to His Word.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): It is true that you feel contrary principles, that you are conscious of defects and defilements; but it is equally true, that you could not be right, if you did not feel these things. To be conscious of them, and humbled for them, is one of the surest marks of grace; and to be more deeply sensible of them than formerly, is the best evidence of growth in grace.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Real progress may be usually reckoned by the gauge of humility…The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Most men are too great and too good in their own esteem. Self-love representeth ourselves to ourselves in a feigned shape and likeness, much more wise, and holy, and just, than we are; it maketh us loath other men’s sins, rather than our own; to extenuate other men’s gifts and graces, and cry up our own; but this should not be: “Let each esteem other better than themselves,” Philippians 2:3. Humility is content to sit in the meanest place: “Who am less than the least of all saints,” Ephesians 3:8; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” I Timothy 1:15.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Poverty of spirit is the bag into which Christ puts the riches of His grace.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The most difficult thing in the world is to become poor in spirit.

C. H. SPURGEON: Humility itself may be counterfeited with much ostentation.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: If our humility is not unconsciousness it is exhibitionism…I always think of a man whom I once met. I was due to preach for a weekend in a certain town and he met me at the station, and then, before I had had time to say almost anything to him, he said, “Well, of course, I am not one of the great people in this church, I am just, you know, a very ordinary, humble man. I am not a great theologian, I am not a great speaker. I do not take part in the prayer meeting, but you know I am just the man who carries the visiting preacher’s bag.” “Oh, what a humble man I am!” I thought.

C. H. SPURGEON: Those who are proud of their humility are proud indeed…Oh, let us beware of mock humility!

JONATHAN EDWARDS: Those who possess apparent humility are inclined to boast of it, and to make an exhibition of it in some affected singularity…But it is quite otherwise with real humility; those who are truly self-abased, make no display of their humility; nor do they at all affect singularity in dress or manner.

JOHN NEWTON: To speak of one’s self in abasing terms is easy: and such language is often a thin veil, through which the motions of pride may be easily discerned; but though the language of humility may be counterfeited, its real fruits and actings are inimitable…An humble frame of mind is the strength and ornament of every other grace, and the proper soil wherein they grow.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Humility is the sweet spice that grows from poverty of spirit…Poverty of spirit is a kind of self-annihilation.

R. C. CHAPMAN: Christ was the only one who could, without a struggle, be content to be “a worm, and no man,” Psalm 22:6—The more we have of Christ in our hearts, the less room for self—Self-humiliation brings with it a tenderness of spirit; and as we sink in our own esteem, the Lord fulfills in us that precious promise, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word,” Isaiah 66:2.

ROWLAND HILL: If you want to see the height of the hill of God’s eternal love you must go down into the valley of humility…Where do the rivers run that fertilize our soil―is it on the barren top of yonder hill? No, it is in the vales beneath. If you would have the river, whose streams make glad the city of our God, to run through your hearts and enrich them to His glory, you must abide in the vale of humility.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): The proud hilltops let the rain run off; the lowly valleys are richly watered.

C. H. SPURGEON: Humble hearts lie in the valleys where streams of grace are flowing, and hence they drink of them…Let us be humble that we may not need to be humbled, but may be exalted by the grace of God.

 

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Obedience to God’s Word: The Best Proof of True Love for Christ

John 14:21, 23; John 15:10; John 14:24; Luke 6:46
       He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me…If a man love me, he will keep my words.
       If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
       He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
       Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): For some reason or other we tend to think of love as being a mere matter of sentiment and feeling; we tend to regard it as simply an emotion. And we tend to carry this over into our thinking concerning the New Testament’s great gospel of love, and the announcement of the love of God to offending sinners. Yet think for a moment of John’s Gospel and his first Epistle in which so much is said about love, and also of I Corinthians 13. You will see that their whole emphasis is upon the fact that love is something which is very practical. How often does our Lord say in various ways, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): When a man has true love to Christ, it is sure to lead him to dedication. There is a natural desire to give something to the person whom we love, and true love to Jesus compels us to give ourselves to Him. One of the earliest acts of the Christian’s life is to take ourselves, and lay body, soul and spirit upon the altar of consecration, saying, “Here I am; I give myself to thee.”

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Where there is a true love to Christ there is a value for His favour, a veneration for His authority, and an entire surrender of the whole man to His direction and authority.

C. H. SPURGEON: True love next shows itself in obedience. If I love Jesus, I shall do as He bids me. He is my husband, my Lord—I call Him “Master.” “If ye love me,” saith He, “keep my commandments.” This is His chosen proof of my love, and I am sure, if I love Him, I shall keep His commandments.

MATTHEW HENRY: Love is the root, obedience is the fruit. Where a sincere love to Christ is in the heart, there will be obedience.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): As obedience is the best evidence of love, so love is the best spring of obedience. It is love that makes it pleasant to ourselves.

MATTHEW HENRY: All obedience begins in the affections, and nothing in religion is done right, that is not done there first…Where love is, duty follows of course, is easy and natural, and flows from a principle of gratitude.

C. H. SPURGEON: Love is the spring of true obedience. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments,” I John 5:3. Now a man who is not obedient to God’s commandments is evidently not a true believer; for, although the keeping of the commandments does not make me a child of God, yet, being a child of God, I shall be obedient to my heavenly Father. But this I cannot be unless I love God. A mere external obedience, a decent formal recognition of the laws of God, is not obedience in God’s sight. He abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found. I must obey because I love, or else I have not in spirit and in truth obeyed at all.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): No man will actually obey God but he who loves Him.

WILLIAM JAY: Jesus would have this known, not to His disciples only, but to others, and to all: “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do,” John 14:31.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Christ subjects Himself to the moral law, and did apply the precepts to Himself, no less than to us; and so is a pattern of obedience to us, that we ought to direct and order all our actions according to the law and word of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: And yet there are some who profess to love Christ who very seldom think of keeping some of His commandments.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Not one nor two only, but all. It is not given us to choose which we shall keep, and which we shall break.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): If any one duty be willingly neglected, the golden chain of obedience is broke. And nothing is really good that is not so in all its parts.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): There is no such thing as a saving faith in Christ where there is no real love for Him, and by “real love” we mean a love which is evidenced by obedience. Christ acknowledges none to be His friends save those who do whatsoever He commands them, John 15:14. As unbelief is a species of rebellion, so saving faith is a complete subjection to God: hence we read of “the obedience of faith,” Romans 16:26.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Our Lord says it is useless to talk about loving Him unless we keep His commandments. “He that loveth me truly,” He seems to say, “does what I tell him to do.” Nothing is so fallacious as to substitute feelings and sensibilities for definite obedience.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): Love is a conduct, not a feeling; and the evidence of love is not emotion, but obedience.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Others may talk of loving Christ, but this is the man that truly does love Him; for his observance of Christ’s commands is a proof and evidence that he loves Him not in word only, but in deed and in truth.

A. W. PINK:And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments,” I John 2:3. Is that not plain enough? A godly life is the first proof that I am a child of God. But let us observe the solemn declaration that immediately follows. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” verse 4. Do these words anger you? We trust not: they are God’s, not ours.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Obedience is the best test…The best mark to judge, and which He has given us for that purpose, is to inquire if His Word and will have a prevailing, governing influence upon our lives and temper. If we love Him, we do endeavour to keep His commandments. If your love and dependence are not fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ, if your tempers and practice are not governed by His commands, you are not of God.

 

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Reading the Bible with Personal Application

I Peter 2:2,3
       As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Strong desires and affections to the Word of God are a sure evidence of a person’s being born again. If they be such desires as the babe has for the milk, they prove that the person is new-born. They are the lowest evidence, but yet they are certain.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): If ye be led by the Spirit, ye will love the Bible. You will say, “Oh, how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day,” Psalm 119:97.

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): Through His Word, our Father speaks to us, encourages us, comforts us, instructs us, humbles us, and reproves us.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Read it because it is the food that God has provided for your soul, because it is the Word of God, because it is the means whereby you can get to know God. Read it because it is the bread of life, the manna provided for your soul’s nourishment and well-being…The Bible is God’s Book and it is a Book of Life. It is a Book that speaks to us a word from God.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): It is true that God does not address you in His Word by name, but the Word is to each one in particular. “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men,” Proverbs 8:4; what Jesus declares unto you, is spoken to you in particular, as though your name and surname stood printed in the Bible.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): What the Scripture speaketh to all, is to be esteemed as spoken to every singular person, for they are included in their universality―So Psalm 27:8, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” God’s words invite all, but David maketh the application to himself.

THOMAS ADAM (1701-1784): Every one should apply Scripture to himself, as if it was written for him only.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The Bible is a book which calls not so much for the exertion of our intellect as it does for the exercise of our affections, conscience and will. God has given it to us not for our entertainment but for our education, to make known what He requires from us. It is to be the traveller’s guide as he journeys through the maze of this world, the mariner’s chart as he sails the sea of life. Therefore, whenever we open the Bible, the all-important consideration for each of us to keep before him is, What is there here for me today? What bearing does the passage now before me have upon my present case and circumstances—what warning, what encouragement, what information? What instruction is there to direct me in the management of my business, to guide me in the ordering of my domestic and social affairs, to promote a closer walking with God?

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): We should read with a view to self-application. Instead of thinking of others—which is too frequently the case—we should think of ourselves, inquiring how it bears upon our own character and condition.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the Word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins.” When it emphasizes any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the Word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

THOMAS BRADBURY (1831-1905): You read your Bible every day, you say? Well! that is good so far as it goes. But does the Bible ever read you?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: When the Spirit is illuminating the page and our minds at the same time, as He does with a child, the first thing you’re conscious of is that the Bible after all is speaking to you. When you read about the Pharisees, you’re not reading about people who lived two thousand years ago, you feel you’re reading about yourself. And when you read about some of these characters in the Old Testament, David and so on, you’re not reading a history book, you’re reading about yourself. You say, “That’s me! It’s all very well; it looks terrible in David, but I’ve got that sort of thing in me.” When the Bible speaks to you like that, you’re a child of God. He never does that with a hypocrite. He never does that with a man who only has an intellectual interest in it. If you feel therefore that the Bible is speaking to you about yourself, speaking to you directly, that it’s not merely some general truth, or the gathering of doctrines, but is a living word that’s saying something to you, upbraiding you, condemning you, increasing your hunger and thirst, and so on―well then that’s a living spiritual relationship that the Holy Spirit alone can produce.

WILLIAM TYNDALE (1490-1536): As thou readest, think that every syllable pertaineth to thine own self, and suck out the pith of Scripture.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: When you are reading your Scriptures in this way—it matters not whether you have read little or much—if a verse stands out and hits you and arrests you, do not go on reading. Stop immediately, and listen to it. It is speaking to you, so listen to it and speak to it.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Say, therefore, with David, “Blessed be thou, O Lord, teach me thy statutes,” Psalm 119:12. And with Zwingli, “I beseech thee, Almighty God, to direct our ways.”

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): You never read God’s Word to profit but as it teaches you to pray while you read.

A. W. PINK: There should be a definite asking of Him to graciously anoint our eyes, (Revelation 3:18), not only that we may be enabled to behold wondrous things in His law, (Psalm 119:18), but also that He will make us of quick discernment to perceive how the passage before us applies to ourselves—what are the particular lessons we need to learn from it. The more we cultivate this habit, the more likely that God will be pleased to open His Word unto us.

MATTHEW HENRY: The Bible is a letter God has sent to us; prayer is a letter we send to Him.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): Never neglect daily private Bible reading. And when you read, remember that God is speaking to you.

 

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The Deceptive False Faith of Trusting in Faith

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

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Observe adoringly the fountain-head of our salvation, which is the grace of God. “By grace are ye saved.”
        Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost. “No man cometh unto me,” saith Jesus, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” John 6:44. So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith” but salvation is “by grace”―Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream; faith is the aqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men.

PHILIP MELANCTHON (1497-1560): When thou art told that we are justified by faith think not that this takes place because faith is a virtue in us by which we secure the approbation of God, or because faith is the parent stock of other virtues; but be assured of this, whenever thou hearest the word faith, that what is offered is something out of ourselves.

C. H. SPURGEON: Faith is getting right out of yourself and getting into Christ.

JAMES HERVEY (1713-1758): The ground of our comfort, the cause of our justification, is not the grace of faith, but the righteousness which is of God by faith; not the act of believing, but that grand and glorious object of a sinner’s belief, the Lord our Righteousness. Faith recommends to God, and justifies the soul, not for itself or its own worth, but on account of what it presents and what it pleads.

C. H. SPURGEON: The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our faith. Faith is only the channel or aqueduct, and not the fountainhead, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of it as if it were the independent source of your salvation. Our life is found in “looking unto Jesus,” not in looking to our own faith. By faith all things become possible to us; yet the power is not in the faith, but in the God upon whom faith relies. Grace is the powerful engine, and faith is the chain by which the carriage of the soul is attached to the great motive power. The righteousness of faith is not the moral excellence of faith, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ which faith grasps and appropriates. The peace within the soul is not derived from the contemplation of our own faith; but it comes to us from Him who is our peace, the hem of whose garment faith touches, and virtue comes out of Him into the soul.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Read the works of the Puritans and you will find that they devoted not only chapters but volumes to the question of “false peace.” Indeed, this danger has been recognized throughout the centuries. There is the danger of trusting your faith instead of Christ, of trusting your belief without really becoming regenerate. It is a terrible possibility.

C. H. SPURGEON: They attend a revival meeting, and they declare themselves saved, though they have not been renewed in heart, and possess neither repentance nor faith. They come forward to avow a mere emotion. They have nothing better than a resolve; but they flourish it as if it were the deed itself.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: No sinner ever really “decides for Christ.” That term “decide” has always seemed to me to be quite wrong…I can think of an old man who often used the following expression: “You know, friends, I decided for Christ forty years ago, and I have never regretted it.” What a terrible thing to say! “Never regretted it!” But that is the kind of thing people say who have been brought up under this teaching and approach.

C. H. SPURGEON: Do you not see at once that this is legality? that this is making our eternal life to depend on something we do? Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, after all! for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature, and a condition of his acceptance. It is as false to say that a man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the Law. We are saved by faith as the gift of God, and as the first token of His eternal favour to us; but it is not our faith as our work that saves, otherwise we are saved by works, and not by grace at all.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Faith is not the product of man’s free will and power, but it is the free gift of God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: No man truly comes to Christ unless he flies to Him as his only refuge and hope, his only way of escape from the accusations of conscience and the condemnation of God’s holy law…The convicted sinner no more “decides for Christ” than the poor drowning man “decides” to take hold of that rope that is thrown to him and suddenly provides him with the only means of escape. The term is entirely inappropriate.

C. H. SPURGEON: Now you who have been looking to your faith, I want you to look to Jesus Himself rather than at your poor feeble faith…Mark, thy faith has nothing to do with anything within thyself; the object of thy faith is nothing within thee, but a something without thee. Believe on Him, then, who on yonder tree, with nailed hands and feet, pours out His life for sinners. There is the object of thy faith for justification; not in thyself―thou art to look to Christ and to Christ Jesus alone.

JOHN ANGELL JAMES (1785-1869): It is by faith, not for faith, that we are justified.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): Faith in faith is faith astray.

C. H. SPURGEON: If you trust to your faith and to your repentance, you will be as much lost as if you trusted to your good works or trusted to your sins. The ground of your salvation is not faith, but Christ; it is not repentance, but Christ. If I trust my trust of Christ, I am lost. My business is to trust Christ; to rest on Him.

 

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An Appreciation of John Wesley & the Sovereign Grace of God

Psalm 65:4
       Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causeth to approach unto thee.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Whether we like it or not, John Wesley was a mighty instrument in God’s hand for good; and, next to George Whitefield, was the first and foremost evangelist of England [about three] hundred years ago.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): Whilst deeply thankful to God for the grace given to him we must not make excuses for that in him which was contrary to the mind of God…John Wesley was not in all matters a safe guide.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Wesley believed in original sin and also that a man could do nothing about his salvation apart from grace. But he also believed that this grace was available to all, and that it was left to man himself to decide whether to take advantage of it or not.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Certainly, we are not obliged to our free-will for our conversion, but to His Spirit.

J. C. RYLE: John Wesley was an Arminian in doctrine. I fully admit the seriousness of the objection. I do not pretend either to explain the charge away, or to defend his objectionable opinions. Personally, I feel unable to account for any well-instructed Christian holding such doctrines as perfection and the defectibility of grace, or denying such as election and the imputed righteousness of Christ.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I remember speaking once on the difference between the theological standpoints of Whitefield and Wesley―I said that John Wesley was to me the greatest proof of Calvinism. Why? Because in spite of his faulty thinking he was greatly used of God to preach the gospel and to convert souls! That is the ultimate proof of Calvinism―predestination and election.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Mr. Wesley, I think, is wrong in some things; but I believe he will shine bright in glory.

J. C. RYLE: If I am asked whether I prefer Whitefield’s gospel or Wesley’s, I answer at once that I prefer Whitefield’s: I am a Calvinist, and not an Arminian…But if I am asked to go further, and to say that Wesley preached no gospel at all, and did not real good, I answer at once that I cannot do so―that he preached the gospel, honoured Christ, and did extensive good, I no more doubt than I doubt my own existence.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Though a man may be muddled in his thinking, as John Wesley was at certain points, God may nevertheless, bless him and use him. And if He cannot do this, then there is no such thing as the sovereignty of God, and His omnipotence.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I can only say concerning John Wesley that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan.

J. C. RYLE: Then let us thank God for what John Wesley was, and not keep pouring over his deficiencies, and only talking of what he was not…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 or noon 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 plinths and polished stones. Whitefield was the barge-man 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.”

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I think I never saw the like of Mr. 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 brethren John and Charles Wesley to press after holiness. I see every day that each has his peculiar gifts and talents in the work.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): I preached at the Tabernacle in Norwich to a large, rude, noisy congregation. I took knowledge what manner of teachers they had been accustomed to, and determined to mend them or end them. Accordingly, the next evening, after sermon, I reminded them of two things: the one, that it was not decent to begin talking aloud as soon as service was ended; and hurrying to and fro, as in a bear-garden. The other, that it was a bad custom to gather into knots just after sermon, and turn a place of worship into a coffee-house.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: John Wesley! If ever there was a church disciplinarian it was that man! In his Journals, he records that one occasion he went over to visit a church—the class meeting at Dublin—and when he arrived there he found about six hundred people. Then he began to examine the church members one by one, and when he had finished a few days later, the church numbered three hundred.

JOHN WESLEY: I met the society at seven; and told them in plain terms, that they were the most ignorant, self-conceited, self-willed, fickle, untractable, disorderly, disjointed society, that I knew in the three kingdoms.

FRANCES BEVAN: [Wesley journeyed] all over the country—by horseback, through all weathers—it seemed a perfect matter of indifference to him that it should hail, rain, or snow, blow hurricanes, or turn to sultry heat.

JOHN WESLEY: As long as God gives me strength to labour I am to use it…I have none of the infirmities of old age…The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him. The chief means are—
      1. My constant rising at four in the morning for about 50 years.
      2. My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world.
      3. My never travelling less, by sea or land, than 4500 miles a year.

VERNON J. CHARLESWORTH (1839-1915): George Whitefield, it appears, in thirty-four years, preached 18,000 sermons; and John Wesley, who lived [thirty years longer] delivered 40,560 sermons.

J. C. RYLE: John Wesley died in the sixty-fifth year of his ministry…The manner of his dying was in beautiful harmony with his life. He preached within a very few days of his death―the last [sermon] of all was at Leatherhead, on the words, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found,” Isaiah 55:6….He retained his senses until the end, and showed clearly where his heart and thoughts were to the very last. The day but one before he died he slept much and spoke little. Once he said in a low but distinct manner, “there is no way into the holiest but by the blood of Jesus.”

BETSY RITCHIE (1752-1835): Finding we could not understand what he said, John Wesley paused a little, and then with all the remaining strength he had, cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us,” and then, as if to assert the faithfulness of our promise-keeping Jehovah, and comfort the hearts of his weeping friends, he lifted up his dying arm in token of victory, raised his feeble voice with a holy triumph not to be expressed, and again repeated the heart reviving words, “The best of all is, God is with us!”―and the last word he was heard to articulate was, “Farewell!”

 

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The Great Methodist Revival of the 18th Century

I Corinthians 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:3
       It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
       Therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It was a brave day for England when George Whitefield began field preaching.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): At three in the afternoon I went to Kingswood among the coal miners…I preached and enlarged on John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” for near an hour.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): When the Kingswood coal miners, near Bristol, first heard [the gospel] from Whitefield’s lips, they wept till their black faces were seamed with white lines of tears.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life—till very lately—so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if had it not been done in a church.

C. H. SPURGEON: John Wesley stood up and preached a sermon on his father’s grave, because the parish priest would not allow him admission within the so-called sacred edifice, the church.

JOHN WESLEY: I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father’s tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit.

J. C. RYLE: These gallant evangelists shook England from one end to the other. At first people in high places affected to despise them. The men of letters sneered at them as fanatics; the wits cut jokes, and invented smart names for them; the church shut her doors on them.

CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788): I stood by George Whitefield while he preached on the mount in Blackheath. The cries of the wounded were heard on every side. What has Satan gained by turning him out of the churches?

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: At Usk, the pulpit being denied, I preached upon a table under a large tree to some hundreds, and God was with us of a truth.

C. H. SPURGEON: It was blessed day when the Methodists and others began to proclaim Jesus in the open air; then were the gates of hell shaken, and the captives of the devil set free by hundreds and by thousands…Among the leaders of the great revival of the 18th century were Captain Toriel Joss, a sea-captain, and Captain Scott, a captain of dragoons. Both became famous preachers. Whitefield said of them, “God, who sitteth upon the flood, can bring a shark from the ocean, and a lion from the forest, to show forth His praise.”

JOHN WESLEY: Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): A little before, John Wesley would have been shocked to hear of a stonemason [named John Nelson] preaching the gospel, or, in fact, anybody who was not a clergyman.
      When he had first heard of such a thing in England, it was in the case of a young man called Thomas Maxfield. Not long before, when going from London to Bristol, he had once left Maxfield to look after the classes and meetings at the Foundry, telling him he might read the Bible to any anxious to be taught, and now and then make a remark, but he was on no account to preach. Maxfield found, however, so many longing to hear the gospel, that he dared not refuse to preach it to them. Wesley heard of it, and his mother saw him one day unexpectedly walk in, when she thought he was busy at Bristol. He looked very much disturbed, and very angry.
      “So,” he said, “Thomas Maxfield has turned preacher, I find.”
      “John,” said Wesley’s mother, “you know I used to think none but a clergyman ought to preach, but take care what you do with respect to that young man, for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his preaching, and hear him yourself.”
      Wesley was wise enough to take his mother’s advice. He went to hear Maxfield, and was only thankful when he found that he preached faithfully and well. “It is the Lord,” he said, “let Him do what seemeth Him good. What am I that I should withstand God?”

J. C. RYLE: Their proceedings were neither fashionable nor popular, and often brought on them more persecutions and abuse than praise.

CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788): Hell from beneath was moved to oppose us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Amid jeering crowds and showers of rotten eggs and filth, the immediate followers of the two great Methodists continued to storm village after village and town after town. Varied were their adventures, but their success was generally great. One smiles often when reading incidents in their labours. A string of packhorses is so driven as to break up a congregation, and a fire-engine is brought out and water played over the throng to achieve the same purpose. Hand-bells, old kettles, marrow-bones and cleavers, trumpets, drums, and entire bands of music were engaged to drown the preachers’ voices.

FRANCES BEVAN: Many Methodists were severely hurt, women especially, who were dragged about and trampled on by the mob. In various places the buildings where meetings were held were torn down.

C. H. SPURGEON: The preachers needed to have faces set like flints, and so indeed they had.

JOHN FURZ (1717-1800): As soon as I began to preach, a man came straight forward, and presented a gun at my face, swearing that he would blow my brains out, if I spake another word. However, I continued speaking, and he continued swearing, sometimes putting the muzzle of the gun to my mouth, sometimes against my ear. While we were singing the last hymn, he got behind me, fired the gun, and burned off part of my hair.

JOHN WESLEY: Two years ago a piece of brick grazed my shoulders. It was a year after that a stone struck me between the eyes. Last month, I received one blow, and this evening two; one before we came into town, and one after we had gone out.

CHARLES WESLEY: He looked like a soldier of Christ. His clothes were torn to tatters.

FRANCES BEVAN: Once near Bristol, a mob brought a bull they had been baiting, and drove him into the crowd when John Wesley was preaching on the village green. They hoped the bull would upset the table on which the preacher stood. But though the bull stood close to the table he was quite quiet, which so provoked the mob that they seized the table themselves and broke it in pieces, whilst some of Wesley’s friends rushed to the rescue, and carried him off on their shoulders.

JOHN WESLEY: We reached St. Ives [in Cornwall] about two in the morning. At five I preached on Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies;” and at Gwennap, in the evening, on 2 Timothy 3:12, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

J. C. RYLE: But the movement of these gallant evangelists went on, and made itself felt in every part of the land. Many were aroused and awakened to think about religion; many were shamed out of their sins; many were restrained and frightened at their own ungodliness—many were converted.

JOHN WESLEY: How strange has one year changed the scene in Cornwall! This is now a peaceable—nay, honourable station. They give us good words almost [everywhere]. What have we done, that the world should be so civil to us?

FRANCES BEVAN: At Gwennap, in Cornwall, there is a hollow in the hills, in the form of a horse-shoe. Here the crowds would sit around John Wesley, one row above another, so that twenty thousand or more could hear him at the same time.

JOHN WESLEY: It is field preaching which does the execution still: for usefulness there is none comparable to it.

 

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The Hopeless Futility of Trying to Be Saved by “Good Works”

I Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 2:8,9
       Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
       By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): “Good works,” as they are called, in sinners, are nothing but splendid sins.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): This is true of the best works of the best man, who is out of Christ, they are nothing but splendid sins—varnished sins—Nothing is a good work unless it is done with a good motive; and there is no motive which can be said to be good but the glory of God. He who performs good works with a view to save himself, does not do them from a good motive, because his motive is selfish.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Unless a man is already a believer and a Christian, his works have no value at all. They are foolish, idle, damnable sins, because when good works are brought forward as the ground for justification, they are no longer good…Jesus Christ never died for our works. They were not worth dying for. But He gave Himself for our sins, according to the Scriptures.

C. H. SPURGEON: And, next, I think it will be admitted by all, that the way of salvation by good works would be self-evidently unsuitable to a considerable number. I will take a case. I am sent for on an emergency, and it is the dead of night. A man is dying. I go to his bedside, as requested. Consciousness remains; but he is evidently in mortal agony. He has lived an ungodly life, and he is about to die…Shall I tell him that he can only be saved by good works? Where is the time for works? Where is the possibility of them? Almost while I am speaking, his life is struggling to escape him. He looks at me in the agony of his soul, and he stammers out, “What must I do to be saved?” Shall I read to him the moral law? Shall I expound to him the Ten Commandments, and tell him that he must keep all these? He would shake his head, and say, “I have broken them all; I am condemned by them all.”
      But if salvation be of works, what more have I to say? I am of no use here…The man is utterly lost. There is no remedy for him…There is no whisper of hope for a dying man in the hard and stony doctrine of salvation by works. If salvation had been by works, our Lord could not have said to the thief, dying at his side, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” Luke 23:43. That man could do no works. His hands and feet were fastened to the cross, and he was in the agonies of death. No, it must be of grace, all-conquering grace; and the modus operandi must be by faith, or else for dying men the gospel is a mockery…Is it not clear that the gospel of works is unsuitable in such a case as that? Now, a gospel which is unsuitable to anybody is not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

MARTIN LUTHER: The gospel preaches nothing of the merit of works; he that says that the gospel requires works for salvation, I say flat and plain, is a liar.

C. H. SPURGEON: Yes, I put it plainly―there is no other present salvation except that which begins and ends with grace.

MARTIN LUTHER: Nobody has died for our sins but Jesus Christ the Son of God…and if it be He alone who takes away sin, it cannot be ourselves with our works.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Remember, there are no works that can merit anything—but the work of Christ.

WILLIAM TYNDALE (1490-1536): If thou trust in thy works, there is no rest. Thou shalt think, I have not done enough. Have I done it with so great love as I should do? I have left this or that undone; and such like. If thou trust in confession, then thou shalt think, Have I told all? Have I told all the circumstances? Did I repent enough? Had I as great sorrow in my repentance for my sins, as I had pleasure in doing them?

J. C. RYLE: Remember there is no priest who can truly absolve—but Christ…Hold fast the truth of God about justification, and be not deceived. Listen not to anything you may hear about other mediators and helpers to peace.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714):There one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:5. There is one Mediator, and that Mediator gave Himself a ransom for all.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): This excludes all other mediators, as saints and angels, whom the Papists set up.

C. H. SPURGEON: I have no doubt that all of us who know anything of true religion are of the same opinion as that celebrated Scotch divine, old David Dickson, who was asked when dying, what was the principal subject on which his thoughts were engaged. And he answered, “I am gathering up all my good works, and all my bad works, tying them into one bundle, and throwing them all alike down at the foot of the cross, and am resting alone upon the finished work of Jesus.”

WILLIAM TYNDALE: Remember, Christ is the end of all things. He only is our resting-place, and He is our peace. For as there is no salvation in any other name, so is there no peace in any other name. Thou shalt never have rest in thy soul, neither shall the worm of conscience ever cease to gnaw thine heart, till thou come at Christ; till thou hear the glad tidings, how that God for His sake hath forgiven thee all freely.

J. C. RYLE: This is the one true way of peace—justification by Christ. Beware lest any turn you out of this way and lead you into any of the false doctrines of the Church of Rome. Remember there is no mediator but one—Jesus Christ. Remember there is no purgatory for sinners but one—the blood of Christ. Remember there is no sacrifice for sin but one—the sacrifice once made on the cross.

C. H. SPURGEON: No one in the Church of Rome claims to be now saved—completely and eternally saved. Such a profession would be heretical. Some few Catholics may hope to enter heaven when they die, but the most of them have the miserable prospect of purgatory before their eyes. We see constant requests for prayers for departed souls, and this would not be if those souls were saved, and glorified with their Saviour. Masses for the repose of the soul indicate the incompleteness of the salvation Rome has to offer. Well may it be so, since Papal salvation is by works, and even if salvation by good works were possible, no man can ever be sure that he has performed enough of them to secure his salvation.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Works? Works? A man get to heaven by works? I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand.

MARTIN LUTHER: If salvation could be attained only by working hard, then surely horses and donkeys would be in heaven…I have preached justification by faith so often, and I feel sometimes that you are so slow to receive it that I could almost take the Bible and bang it about your heads.

 

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Why Does God ‘Permit’ Evil? The Secret Purposes of God

Proverbs 16:9; Ephesians 1:11
        A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
        According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): All events are governed by the secret counsel of God…He governs heaven and earth by His providence, and regulates all things in such a manner that nothing happens but according to His counsel.

GEORGE LAWSON (1749-1820): It is exceedingly dishonouring of God to suppose than any sin can be committed without His permission or any calamity befall men or nations that was not appointed for them in His eternal purpose.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): God would never permit any evil if He could not bring good out of evil.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen; He either permits to happen, or He brings it about Himself.

JOHN CALVIN: Good men, who fear to expose the justice of God to the calumnies of the impious, resort to this distinction, that God wills some things, but permits some others to be done…Good men are ashamed to confess, that what men undertake cannot be accomplished except by the will of God; fearing lest unbridled tongues should cry out immediately, either that God is the author of sin, or that wicked men are not to be accused of crime, seeing they fulfill the counsel of God.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): We read the Scriptures in vain if we fail to discover that the actions of men, evil men as well as good, are governed by the Lord God…God is working out His eternal purpose, not only in spite of human and Satanic opposition, but by means of them.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): In providence there are two things considerable. First, man’s will. Secondly, God’s purpose. What man’s will intends as a harm in sin, God in His secret purpose orders to some eminent advantage.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Observe, that often God has one design, and men another; and that God will have His design to stand, and infrustably to take effect…
        From these words, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief,” Isaiah 53:10, observe that the Lord Jehovah had the main and principal hand in all the sufferings of [Christ]. It was not the Jews nor the scribes and Pharisees, nor Pilate; but it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, and to put Him to grief; as is clear, from Acts 4:27,28, “Herod and Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” In all that they did, they were but doing that which was carved out before, in the eternal counsel of God; and therefore Peter says, in Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” The Lord’s hand was supreme in the business.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK: God, by His providence, draws glory to Himself and good out of sin…God orders the sins of men to the glory of His grace.

JAMES DURHAM: This leads us into the vindicating of the sovereign and holy providence of God, in that wherein men have a most sinful hand, they are most inexcusable. Though Judas that betrayed, and Pilate that condemned the innocent Son of God, acted most sinfully; yet the Lord Himself has an active overruling hand, in carrying out His own design; and what Judas and Pilate, with other wicked men, did, was so far from being by guess, that they were the executions of His ancient decrees. And He is most pure and spotless in venting and manifesting grace, holiness and justice, when men were venting their corruptions, impiety and injustice most―Nay, this is a principal diamond in His crown, that He cannot only govern all the natural second causes that are in the world, in their several courses and actings, and order them to His own glory, but even devils, and wicked men, and hypocrites, in their most corrupt and abominable actions, and He makes them subservient to [accomplish] His own holy ends and purposes.

ALEXANDER CARSON (1776-1844): God does the thing: the man does it. In doing the work of the Lord man acts freely, and is justly accountable for doing what is directly appointed for him to do.

JAMES DURHAM: And as it was no excuse to Judas nor to Pilate, that they did what before was decreed of God; so it shall be no excuse to any man in a sinful course, that God has a hand in everything that comes to pass, who yet is just and holy in all.

JOHN CALVIN: Away, then, with that vain figment, that, by the permission of God only, and not by His counsel or will, those evils are committed which He afterwards turns to a good account. I speak of evils with respect to men, who propose nothing else to themselves but to act perversely. And as the vice dwells in them, so ought the whole blame also to be laid upon them. But God works wonderfully through their means, in order that, from their impurity, He may bring forth His perfect righteousness…At the same time, however, it must also be maintained, that God acts so far distinctly from them, that no vice can attach itself to His providence, and that His decrees have no affinity with the crimes of men.

ALEXANDER CARSON: God’s purpose is brought about by those whose only view is fulfill their own purposes. How inscrutable are the mysteries of Providence! How unsearchable are His counsels in the government of the world! Men are His enemies, they hate Him, and disobey Him; yet in all their plans and actions they fulfill His will―men think, and resolve, and act for themselves; yet they fulfill the plans of Jehovah, as much as the sun, moon, and stars. His very enemies in opposing Him, are made the instruments of serving Him.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK: Providence is a great deep…Neither the greatness of His means, nor the wisdom of His workings, can be fully apprehended by men.

ALEXANDER CARSON: This is a depth we cannot fathom; but it is a truth necessary for the honour of the character of God; and one which the Scriptures leave no room for doubt. The sin and misery that are on the earth, the endless perdition of wicked men and devils, are subjects of melancholy consideration to the man of God; but let him be consoled with the thought that Jehovah worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will.

JOHN CALVIN: Let this sentiment remain fixed with us, that while the lust of men exults, and intemperately hurries them hither and thither, God is the ruler, and, by His secret rein, directs their motions whithersoever He pleases.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Let all true Christians lay these things to heart, and take courage. We live in a world where all things are ordered by a hand of perfect wisdom, and where in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, Romans 8:28. The powers of this world are only tools in the hand of God: He is always using them for His own purposes, however little they may be aware of it.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I know of nothing more consoling than that. In a world in which you can’t tell what tomorrow is going to bring forth, and everything has become so uncertain, here is the great certainty: that God rules and reigns over all, and everything is under His mighty hand.

 

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Nationalistic Pride & War

Jeremiah 48:29; Zechariah 9:6; 10:11; 11:3; Jeremiah 13:9
       We have heard of the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.
       The pride of the Philistines.
       The pride of Jordan.
       The pride of Assyria.
       The pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and ambitious projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The Christian message does not denounce patriotism. There’s nothing wrong in it. It’s a poor man who doesn’t love his country and his nation. There’s nothing in the Scriptures against that; it is God who has divided up the nations, and described and defined the bound of their habitations. It is God’s will that there should be nations. But it is not God’s will that there should be nationalism―an aggressive nationalism. There’s nothing wrong, I say, in a man honouring his own country and delighting in it, but it is utterly un-Christian to say “my country right or wrong.” That’s wrong. That is fatally wrong. That is flying into the face of the Scripture.

C. H. SPURGEON: Wherever great powers have interfered with smaller and inoffensive nationalities, for the sake of increasing their territory, or their influence, they are very guilty; and wherein nations have shown a feverish irritability, or a readiness for war, they are also to be censured. Is not war always a conglomerate of crimes?

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): War is the slaughterhouse of mankind, and the hell of this present world.

ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER (1772-1851): No man in his right sense can believe that is a right thing for men to destroy each others’ lives. For a man to shed the blood of his brother, is murder: to shed the blood of hundreds, is murder on a large scale. There is no excuse for war but dire necessity. As long as possible, every nation should avoid war; but a state of warfare may be forced upon a nation. Self defence is the first law of our nature, and is a duty. On the contrary principle, the lawless and violent would have every thing in their own hands, and the virtuous and peaceable would be the prey of the wicked. But still, it is an evident truth, that every case in which human life is taken in war, is a case of murder; some persons must be accountable for the shedding of all the blood which is spilled. And if this be so, then that nation which, without sufficient reason, commences a war, or provokes a war, has an awful responsibility resting on it; and so also, when a war is in progress, that nation which refuses to make peace, or insist on unreasonable conditions, is guilty of all the blood which may be shed, and all the misery produced.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Crusades for the recovery of a holy land so called―by the way, latterly, the most unholy in the map of the world―and wars for the support of religion, are an insult to the Gospel, and blasphemy against God!

WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): Let men who delight in the cruelties of war remember that their day is coming.

C. H. SPURGEON: A teacher was once instructing a class in patriotism and nationality. He happened to see the national flag hanging up upon the wall, and he asked a child, “Now, my boy, what is that flag?”
      “It is the English flag, sir.”
      “And what is the use of it?”
      The truthful boy replied, “It is used to cover the dirty place in the wall behind it.”
      I need not interpret the parable.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I believe there are many outside the church today because in the First World War the Christian church so frequently became a recruiting station…But the Church in the New Testament is not identified with any nation or nations.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The man who is content to sit ignorantly by his own fireside, wrapped up in his own private affairs, and has no public eye for what is going on in the church and the world, is a miserable patriot, and a poor style of Christian.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I am profoundly convinced that what is keeping large numbers of people from Christ, and from salvation, and from the Christian church, is this awful confusion of which the church herself has so frequently been guilty―There are certain things which should never be confused―Well, let me put if first by saying that [the Christian message] is not a great appeal for patriotism…
      If ever a man was proud of the fact of his nationality, it was the apostle Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, Philippians 3:5. He was a narrow nationalist. He despised the others; the Gentiles were dogs outside the pale. Ah, yes! but [after his conversion to Jesus Christ] the thing he glories in, you remember, is this: in whom ye also have trusted, Ephesians 1:13; the Gentiles have come in, have been made fellow heirs with Jews, the middle wall of partition has been broken down, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, male or female, all are one in Christ, Colossians 3:11. That’s the Christian position…Here is the way to break down that kind of nationalistic spirit that leads to war―the belief that we are always right, and everyone else always wrong. It’s as wrong in nations as it is in individuals. It’s always wrong. So that the Christian message is not an appeal to patriotism, and if Christianity is ever portrayed in that form it is a denial―a travesty of the message!―and it is misleading in the eyes and the ears of those who listen to it.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): It is astonishing what nonsense some people will talk in the pulpit. When I was out the other day, I heard of a man who had been preaching on modern improvement; and, amongst other things, of the merciful way of making war since the invention of gunpowder, which proved so much easier a death than that inflicted by the ancient weapons. He got rightly served for his pains; for they have called him the gunpowder parson ever since…I preach Christ crucified; and when that ceases to my only theme, may I cease from the pulpit.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Christianity has not come into the world to put an end to war; it has not come to reform the world. What has it come for? It has come to save us from the destruction that is coming to the world. This Book asserts a judgement, an end of history. God in Christ will judge the whole world in righteousness, sending those who have turned their backs upon Him, refused His offer of salvation in Christ, to everlasting perdition, and ushering the saints into the glory of a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” 2 Peter 3:13.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): There we shall hear the voice of war no more.

 

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