Elect Angels & Their Employments

1 Timothy 5:21

I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): What are the Scriptural designations of angels?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): We have a description of them in 1 Timothy 5, verse 21, as the “elect angels”―there are some angels that can be described as the elect angels, and others not.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): He calls the angels elect, unquestionably in opposition to the evil and reprobate angels.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The elect angels are called the sons of God in Job 1:6 and elsewhere; not because they are so by eternal generation, as Christ alone; nor by adoption and regeneration as the saints; but by creation―as Adam is called the son of God, Luke 3:38; and by resemblance, for they are made in God’s image, and are like Him as His children, both in their substance, which is incorporeal, and in their excellent properties, which are life and immortality, blessedness and glory; wherein we shall one day be their equals, Luke 20:3.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Another term that is used about angels is that they are called the “holy angels.”

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): There are good angels, who have continued in that goodness in which they were created…Good angels may be said to have been ever with God, and are always serving Him, and since they never sinned, they stand in no need of renovation.

JOHN TRAPP: The good angels are not stable by their own strength, but by God’s stablishing of thereto stand when others fell―and that the good angels stand, and are out of danger of ever falling, is of divine grace.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): They are the objects of God’s free and sovereign grace.

First, because of His election of them from out of the whole angelic race (I Timothy 5:21).

Secondly, and in consequence of their election, because of His preservation of them from apostasy, when Satan rebelled and dragged down with him one-third of the celestial host (Revelation 12:4).

Thirdly, in making Christ their Head (Colossians 1:15-18; I Peter 3:22), whereby they are eternally secured in the holy condition in which they were created.

Fourthly, because of the exalted position which has been assigned them: to live in God’s immediate presence (Daniel 7:10); to serve Him constantly in His heavenly temple; to receive honourable commissions from Him (Hebrews 1:14).

A. A. HODGE: What are their employments?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The first thing we are told about them that they spend their time in adoring God and the Lamb. Read again the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, and you’ll find that they’re singing His praise, worshipping and adoring Him. That’s the thing that comes first. That’s the thing they delight in.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Those that are employed in the court above rest not day nor night from praising God, which is their business there; and those that are employed in the camp below are never idle, nor lose time; they are still “ascending and descending upon the Son of man, John 1:51, as on Jacob’s ladder, Genesis 28:12; they are still “walking to and fro through the earth, Zechariah 1:10.

A. A. HODGE: God employs them as His instruments in administering the affairs of His providence.

JOHN MILTON (1608-1674): Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth

Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): They do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word. He says to one, Go, and he goeth; to another, Come, and he cometh: and it is His pleasure they regard, and not the nature of the employment; and if two of them were summoned into His presence, and ordered, the one to govern an empire, and the other to show Hagar a well, they would repair to their posts with equal readiness and delight.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): In angelic ministry, it matters not to an angel whether he be sent to destroy an army or to protect the person of some heir of salvation; it is the Master who entirely fills his vision…This is most true, and so should it be with us.

MATTHEW HENRY: Good angels are employed not only as the ministers of God’s providence, but sometimes as the ministers of His Word.

A. A. HODGE: The law “was ordained by angels,” Galatians 3:19.

JOHN GILL: Angels were concerned in the giving of the law, and were frequently employed under the former dispensation, in messages to men, and in making revelations of God’s mind and will to them.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: And, of course, we have this crucial statement in that last verse of the first chapter of Hebrews, where they are described as “ministering spirits”―“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” And I understand from Acts 27, verses 23 and 24, that the angels are sometimes used by God to cheer us, and to give us comfort and consolation, for the apostle Paul tells his companions on that ship, you remember, that was already in a shipwrecked condition―“for there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul;” and he told him certain things. The angel was sent by God in order to cheer up the apostle.

JOHN TRAPP: The holy angels are styled Eγρηγοροι―“watchers,” Daniel 4:10.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Indeed the whole Scripture is full of evidences, which prove that angels are guardians to the godly, and watch over them.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Christians, God and angels are observing how you quit yourselves like children of the Most High.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: They’re looking at us. In 1 Corinthians 11:10, Paul uses these words: “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” You remember that he’s considering the question of women praying without their heads being covered. Apparently, some of the women at Corinth were taking part in prayer with their heads uncovered, and the apostle tells them that’s quite wrong; it’s not only wrong because a women should have her covered to show that she is under the authority of the man, but in addition to that he says that she should be covered because of the presence of the angels. In other words, the scripture teaches that when we are met together in prayer, that the angels of God are present, and they are looking upon us, and the women is to be covered when she takes part in public prayer because of the presence of the angels. It’s a tremendous and a remarkable thing; let us bear it mind.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Remember that, ye sons of men, ye are not unregarded; ye do not pass through this world in unseen obscurity. In darkest shades of night eyes glare on you through the gloom. In the brightness of the day angels are spectators of your labours. From heaven there look down upon you spirits who see all that finite beings are capable of beholding.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 2: Grace in the Blade, or, the New Convert

John 1:16

And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Grace is both a grace, and a vessel to receive grace.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The Lord leads all His people effectually and savingly to the knowledge of the same essential truths, but in such a variety of methods, that it will be needful in this discussion to set aside, as much as possible, such things as may be only personal and occasional in the experience of each, and to collect those only which in a greater or lesser degree are common to them all.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The kingdom of God, which is generated in the soul by the Word of life, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is first very small; there is only a blade, but this is full of promise, for a good blade shows there is a good seed at bottom, and that the soil in which it is sown is good also.

JOHN NEWTON: He may be a believer thus far: he believes the word of God, sees and feels things to be as they are there described, hates and avoids sin, because he knows it is displeasing to God, and contrary to His goodness: he receives the record which God has given of His Son; he has his heart affected and drawn to Jesus by views of His glory, and of His love to poor sinners; he ventures upon His name and promises as its only encouragement to come to a Throne of Grace; he waits diligently in the use of all means appointed for the communion and growth of grace; he loves the Lord’s people, accounts them the excellent of the earth, and delights in their conversation. He is longing, waiting, and praying, for a share in those blessings which he believes they enjoy, and can be satisfied with nothing less. He is convinced of the power of Jesus to save him; but, through remaining ignorance and legality, the remembrance of sins previously committed, and the sense of present corruption, he often questions His willingness; and, not knowing the aboundings of grace, and the security of the promises, he fears lest the compassionate Saviour should spurn him from his feet.

ROBERT BOLTON (1572-1631): That faith which is never assaulted with doubting is but a fancy. Assuredly that assurance which is ever secure is but a dream.

J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): You may not perhaps, for the most part, enjoy a strong or clear assurance of your interest in Christ; you may be frequently much exercised whether you are a child of God; and yet you may at times have had a sweet testimony that grace is in your heart.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): A bruised reed will He not break, and the smoking flax will He not quench, Matthew 12:20. He gathers the lambs with His arm, and carries them in His bosom. He affords to young converts some peculiar encouragements to allure them on, till they have advanced too far to think of going back, whatever they meet with.

JOHN NEWTON: While he is thus young in the knowledge of the Gospel, burdened with sin, and perhaps beset with Satan’s temptations, the Lord, “who gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom,” is pleased at times to favour him with cordials, that he may not be swallowed up with over-much sorrow. Perhaps his heart is enlarged in prayer, or under hearing [a sermon], or some good promise is brought home to His mind, and applied with power and sweetness.

SAMUEL MARTIN (1802-1850): So God deals with us in our spiritual childhood, and the weakness of our faith.

JOHN NEWTON: But he mistakes the nature and design of these comforts, which are not given him to rest in, but to encourage him to press forward. He thinks he is then right because he has them, and fondly hopes to have them always. Then his mountain stands strong. But before long he feels a change: his comforts are withdrawn; he finds no heart to pray; no attention in hearing; indwelling sin revives with fresh strength, and perhaps Satan returns with redoubled rage. Then he is at his wits’ end; thinks his hopes were presumptuous, and his comforts delusions.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Up, poor soul! If Satan is trying to tear thee, tell him it is written, He is able to save to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him;” that “whosoever cometh he will in no wise cast out,” Hebrews 7:25; John 6:37. And it may be that thus God will deliver thee from that desperate conflict into which, as a coming sinner, thou hast been cast.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Have they little grace?  Is it scarce smoking?  He is not a rigid taskmaster, like to the Egyptians, nay, nor like to the law. He quenches not the smoking flax. Are they staggering because of apprehended or real weakness, and their hearts shaking like the trees in the wood, or rather, like so many straws?

PHILIP MELANCTHON (1497-1560): Contemplate the Son of God on the right hand of His Father, as a powerful Mediator who intercedes for us; and He asks you to be assured that your sins are forgiven, and that you are accounted righteous, and received by the Father for the sake of His Son, offered as a victim on the cross.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): Faith may be as “a grain of mustard seed.” Matthew 17:20. Nothing so little as grace at first, and nothing more glorious afterward.

WILLIAM JAY: A spark is fire, and a little grace is grace, and perfectly distinguishable from mere nature.

RICHARD SIBBES: Let us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elected to be “holy and without blame,” Ephesians 1:4. In case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ does, who looks on us as those He intends to fit for Himself. Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto. We call a little plant a tree, because it is growing up to be so. “Who has despised the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10. Christ would not have us despise little things—a pearl, though little, yet is of much esteem…Christ, we see, ever cherishes even the least beginnings.

JOHN NEWTON: By these changing dispensations, the Lord is training him up, and bringing him forward. He receives grace from Jesus, whereby he is enabled to fight against sin: his conscience is tender, his troubles are chiefly spiritual troubles; and he thinks, if he could but attain a sure and abiding sense of his acceptance in the Beloved, hardly any outward trial would be capable of giving him much disturbance.

WILLIAM JAY: Remember one thing: be simple, and receive the kingdom of God as a little child, not only as to its doctrines, but as to its invitations and promises. The writer one day attended the dying-bed of a young female. “I have little,” said she, “to relate as to my experience. I have been much tried and tempted, but this is my sheet-anchor: He has said, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” I know I come to Him, and I expect that He will be as good as His Word.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): Assurance is the fruit that grows out of the root of faith.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 1: Awakening Grace, or The Effectual Call

Ephesians 2:8; Mark 4:28

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

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

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” As it very aptly describes the progress of the seed from first to last, so it very beautifully represents the gradual increase of the work of grace, under the instrumentality of the Word, accompanied with the Spirit and power of God.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): By grace in the blade, I would understand a person who is under the drawings of God, which will infallibly lead him to the Lord Jesus Christ for life and salvation. The beginning of this work is instantaneous. It is effected by a certain kind of light communicated to the soul, to which it was before an utter stranger. The eyes of the understanding are opened and enlightened.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): First, the Spirit makes his approach to the understanding, and on it He puts forth an act of illumination: the Spirit will not work in a dark shop; the first thing he does in order to faith, is to beat out a window in the soul, and let in some light from heaven: hence believers are said “to be renewed in the spirit of their mind,” Ephesians 4:23; which the same apostle calls being “renewed in knowledge,” Colossians 3:10. By nature we know little of God, and nothing of Christ, or the way of salvation by Him. The eye of the creature therefore must be opened to see the way of life, before he can by faith get into it.

JOHN NEWTON: The light at first afforded is weak and indistinct, like the morning dawn…We commonly speak as if conviction of sin was the first work of God upon the soul, that He is in mercy about to draw unto Himself. But I think this is inaccurate. Conviction is only a part, or rather an immediate effect of that first work; and there are many convictions which do not at all spring from it, and therefore are only occasional and temporary, though for a season they may be very sharp, and put a person upon doing many things. In order to a due conviction of sin, we must previously have some adequate conceptions of the God with whom we have to do. Sin may be feared as dangerous without this; but its nature and demerit can only be understood by being contrasted with the holiness, majesty, goodness, and truth, of the God against whom it is committed. No outward means, no mercies, judgments, or ordinances, can communicate such a discovery of God, or produce such a conviction of sin, without the concurrence of this Divine light and power to the soul.

WILLIAM GURNALL: When the Spirit of God has sprung with a divine light into the understanding, then He makes his address to the conscience, and the act which passes upon that is an act of conviction—this conviction is nothing but a reflection of the light that is in the understanding upon the conscience, whereby the creature feels the weight and force of those truths he knows, so as to be brought into a deep sense of them.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): No man can feel sin but by grace.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The grace of God works in, and by, the Word of God, brings that to mind, and sets that home to the conscience.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): None are converted, but are first convinced of their danger and evil estate; God’s first work is upon their understandings: “After that I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh,” Jeremiah 31:19. There is some light that breaks in upon the soul, which sets them seriously a-considering, “What am I? Whither am I going? What will become of me?”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): He is like John Bunyan’s pilgrim, he has a heavy burden on his back, and he knows not how to get rid of it; he wrings his hands and cries, “What shall I do?  I am undone.  I have rebelled against God, and God is angry with me.”

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Persons under soul-trouble, and sore conviction, would be glad to do anything, or comply on any terms, to get peace with God…We all naturally are legalist, thinking to be justified by the works of the law. When somewhat awakened by the terrors of the Lord, we immediately, like the Pharisees of old, go about to establish our own righteousness, and think we shall find acceptance with God, if we seek it with tears; finding ourselves damned by nature and  our actual sins, we then think to recommend ourselves to God by our duties, and hope, by our doings of one kind or another, to inherit eternal life.  But whenever the Comforter comes into the heart, [He] convinces the soul of these false rests, and makes the sinner to see that all his righteousness is but as filthy rags: that his best works are but so many splendid sins.

JOHN NEWTON: There may be for a while some efforts to obtain the favour of God by prayer, repentance, and reformation; but, for the most part, it is not very long before these things are proved to be vain and ineffectual. The soul, like the woman mentioned Mark 5:26, wearied with vain expedients, finds itself worse and worse, and is gradually brought to see the necessity and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation.

MATTHEW HENRY: It must be resolved purely into the free grace of God, given through Jesus Christ to all true believers that receive it as a free gift.

HORATIUS BONAR (1808-1889): The reason why we so often find the awakened sinner so slow in apprehending the simple gospel of the grace of God, is that he cannot understand its freeness or fullness.

JOHN NEWTON: He wants to feel something that may give him a warrant to trust in the free promises of Christ. His views of the Redeemer’s gracefulness are very narrow: he sees not the harmony and glory of the Divine attributes in the salvation of a sinner: he sighs for mercy, but fears that justice is against him.

JOHANN VON STAUPITZ (1460-1524): Look to the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood which He has shed for thee: then thou shalt see the grace of God.

WILLIAM FENNER (1560-1640): This is for all poor broken hearts in whom God hath engendered the true desire of grace. Let such know that the first step to grace is to see that they have no grace; and the first degree of grace is the desire of grace.

 

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Staggering in Unbelief at the Promises of God

2 Timothy 2:13

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): If we believe not.” This may be understood, either of such who are altogether destitute of faith, who do not believe in Christ at all―or, it may be understood of true believers, whose faith sometimes is very low, as to its exercise on Christ, and with reference to their future glory and happiness.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God’s promises. It is not the promise that fails, but our faith that fails when we stagger.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Experience teaches us how backward and slow we are to embrace the promises of God…But whence is it, that we with so much difficulty rely on the promises of God, except that we imagine Him to be like ourselves?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It is the cause of much weakness to many that they do not treat the promises of God as realities.  If a friend makes them a promise, they regard it as a substantial thing, and look for that which it secures; but the declarations of God are often viewed as so many words which means very little.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): But there is one grand difference between the promises of Adam’s children and the promises of God, which ought never to be forgotten. The promises of man are not sure to be fulfilled. With the best wishes and intentions, a man cannot always keep his word. Disease and death may step in like an armed man, and take away from this world him that promises. War, or pestilence, or famine, or failure of crops, or hurricanes, may strip him of his property, and make it impossible for him to fulfil his engagements. The promises of God, on the contrary, are certain to be kept. He is Almighty: nothing can prevent His doing what He has said. He never changes: He is always “of one mind:” and with Him there is “no variableness or shadow of turning,” Job 33:13; James 1:17. He will always keep His word.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The permanence of God’s character guaranties the fulfilment of His promises.

JOHN CALVIN: This doctrine must be frequently repeated and inculcated, that we may know that God will do what He hath once spoken.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Whether we believe or believe not, or whether we be faithful to our trust or be not, yet God will show Himself faithful, either to His promises made to them that believe, or to His threatenings denounced against those that believe not―for it is impossible that He Who is truth itself should be otherwise.

J. C. RYLE:It is impossible for God to lie,” Hebrews 4:18. The most unlikely and improbable things, when God has once said He will do them, have always come to pass. The destruction of the old world by a flood, and the preservation of Noah in the ark, the birth of Isaac, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the raising of David to the throne of Saul, the miraculous birth of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the scattering of the Jews all over the earth, and their continued preservation as a distinct people―who could imagine events more unlikely and improbable than these? Yet God said they should be, and in due time they all came to pass. In truth, with God it is just as easy to do a thing as to say it. Whatever He promises, He is certain to perform.

JOHN CALVIN: The promises of God, and His truth in performing them, are inseparably joined together…Let us therefore embrace all the promises of God with our whole heart, and let us also add to them His power; for His hand ought never to be separated from His mouth. We must not imagine His power to be, as philosophers talk, a power that is unemployed, but, as the Scriptures teach us, powerful and active.―“Therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak. Behold, it is I,” Isaiah 52:6. The verb “to speak” relates to the promises. Behold I, relates to actual power; as if He had said, “Although now there be nothing more than that there sound in your ears the words by which I promise what is hardly probable, yet you shall speedily obtain it; for I will actually accomplish what I promise.” Hence we ought to draw the universal doctrine, that the promises of God and the fulfillment of them are linked together by an indissoluble bond.

A. W. PINK: Where Divine veracity is engaged, omnipotence will make it good.

JOHN CALVIN: Unless we depend upon the word of God, all the benefits which He confers upon us will be unsavoury or tasteless to us…For of what advantage to us will the promises of God be, if we distrust Him?

JOHN GILL: There is no reason to stagger at, or hesitate about any of the promises of God, since they are made by Him that cannot lie; His faithfulness is engaged to perform them; with Him all things are possible; every promise is in Christ, yea and amen, and never did any fail; and yet so it is, that some of God’s children, through unbelief, do stagger at the promises of God; thinking either that they are too great for them, or demur upon them through difficulties which attend them.

C. H. SPURGEON: When we believe God as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, we believe all His promises. Confidence in the Person involves confidence in all that he speaks: hence we accept all the promises of God as being sure and certain.  We do not trust one promise and doubt another but we rely upon each one as true, and we believe it to be true to us so far as it has respect to our condition and circumstances.

JOHN CALVIN: All the promises of God must lean and be stayed upon this foundation, that they may be sure and certain to us, that God hath adopted us in Christ, and hath promised that He will be our God and our Father.

JOHN GILL: Christ is faithful to all His covenant engagements for [His people], to bring them to glory, and to every word of promise concerning their happiness, and to every branch of the faithful saying above mentioned; and He is ever the same in his love to them, and in the efficacy of His blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; and His salvation is an everlasting and unchangeable one; nor do the saints’ interest in it, and security by it, depend upon their acts of believing, or their frames, but upon the firmness and unchangeableness of Christ, the object of faith. “He cannot deny himself;” He cannot go contrary to His word; that would be to act contrary to His nature and perfections, and would be a denying of Himself, which is not possible; wherefore His faithfulness will never fail, even though, the faith of His people does, as to the exercise of it.

TIMOTHY CRUSO (1657-1697): The being of God may as well fail as the promise of God.

 

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Waiting on the Lord in Faith & Hope

Psalm 130:5-7

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let all Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): The Lord usually trains his servants to waiting, and to much conflict in their way to His immediate service.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait.

JOHN MILTON (1608-1674): They also serve who only stand and wait.

C. H. SPURGEON: He that waiteth on his master shall be honoured,” Proverbs 27:18, even though the waiting be almost passive.  Sometimes our master may not require us to do anything more than stand still.  But you know John, the footman, behind his master’s chair—if his master bids him stand there, he is as true a servant as the other attendant who is sent upon an errand of the utmost importance. The Lord for wise reasons may make us wait awhile.  Having done all, we may yet have to stand still and see the salvation of God, and we find it to be the hardest work of all.  In suffering especially is that the case; for it is painful to be laid aside from the Master’s service; yet the position may be very honourable. There is a time for soldiers to lie in the trenches as well as to fight in the battle.

JAMES VAUGHAN (circa 1878): Waiting is a great part of life’s discipline, and therefore God often exercises the grace of waiting. Waiting has four purposes. It practices the patience of faith. It gives time for preparation for the coming gift. It makes the blessing the sweeter when it arrives. And it shows the sovereignty of God—to give just when, and just as He pleases.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): There is no place for faith if we expect God to fulfill immediately what He promises.

C. H. SPURGEON: Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid. In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord.  It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): The best answers to prayer are those we have to wait and trust for. If we are answered quickly, let us be thankful; but let us be assured that by and by God will change His method with us, and that we shall be often made to wait.

C. H. SPURGEON: But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord.  Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, “Now, Lord, not my will, but Thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until Thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if Thou keep me waiting many a day, for my heart is fixed upon Thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for Thee in the full conviction that Thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”

JOHN CALVIN: As we act unjustly towards God when we hope for nothing from Him but what our senses can perceive, so we pay Him the highest honour, when, in affairs of perplexity, we nevertheless entirely acquiesce in His providence.

EDMUND CALAMY (1600-1666): But now, the promises are the wings of prayer. Prayer without a promise is as a bird without wings. Therefore we read both of Jacob and Jehosaphat, how they urged God in their prayer, with His promises, Genesis 32:9-12; 2 Chronicles 20:5-12.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Remember also the Word—the Word, I say, upon which the Lord hath caused you to hope.

JAMES VAUGHAN: The picture of the waiting man is a striking one. It is as one on the ridge of a journey, looking onward on his way, standing on tiptoe, and therefore needing something to lean on, and to support him…Take care that you have a promise underneath you—“In His Word do I hope.”

JOHN CALVIN: For it is certain that faith cannot stand, unless it be founded on the promises of God…The word hope I take for faith; and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.

JOHN BUNYAN: Hope is never ill when faith is well.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): Faith doth ultimately centre in the Deity. God Himself in His glorious nature, is the ultimate object whereunto our faith is resolved.  The promise, simply considered, is not the object of trust, but God in the promise; and from the consideration of that we ascend to the Deity, and cast our anchor there. “Hope in the word” is the first act, but succeeded by hoping in the Lord―“In his word do I hope:” that is not all; but, “Let all Israel hope in the Lord.”  That is the ultimate object of faith, wherein the essence of our happiness consists, and that is God.  God himself is the true and full portion of the soul.

JAMES VAUGHAN: Let it not be so much the event which you wait for, as the Lord of the event, and the Lord in the event.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): This is your God, too. And though He tries the faith of His people, He will appear. Remember Joseph was two long years in prison, after he had got the promise from the chief butler; and no doubt his faith was sharply tried, for God had partly given him the promise, by enabling him to interpret the dream. But, at last, the promise was fulfilled, and the blessing came in rich abundance. Take courage, He is the same now that He ever was.

 

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Are You Preparing a Sermon, or Writing an Essay?

Psalm 45:1

My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the thing which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): “My heart is inditing”― In Hebrew, it “boileth,” or “bubbleth up” like water in a pot over the fire. This phrase denotes that the workings of his heart were fervent and vehement, free and cheerful, and withal kindled by God’s grace, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): And it is confirmed by this, that from this verb is derived the noun מרהשת, marchesheth, a word which is found once or twice in Moses, and signifies a frying-pan, in which sweet-meats are baked. It is then of the same import as if the inspired writer had said, ‘My heart is ready to breathe forth something excellent and worthy of being remembered.’ He afterwards expresses the harmony between the tongue and the heart, when he compares his tongue to “the pen of a ready writer.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The pious meditations of the heart must not be smothered, but expressed in the words of our mouth, for God’s glory and the edification of others…Thus ministers should in their studies and meditations take in that Word of God which they are to preach to others. Thy words were found, and I did eat them, Jeremiah 15:16. They must be both well acquainted and much affected with the things of God, that they may speak of them both clearly and warmly, with a great deal of divine light and heat.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): As a rule, it is the best way to study Scripture apart from the idea of having to preach. It is not good always to be reading for others; one is in danger of falling into the mere business of sermon-making, which is very withering to the soul.  It is well to go to the word on the principle set forth in John 7:37, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” We only speak of the principle, not the strict application of the passage. We should betake ourselves to the fountain of holy Scripture, not to draw for others, but to drink for ourselves…The apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy is salutary to us all, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all,” I Timothy 4:15―The “profiting” is sure to “appear” if the habit of meditation be diligently cultivated; but if one goes to a meeting with a sermon diligently prepared, it may be not the thing which the Lord would have spoken at all.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Do you not think that many sermons are “prepared” until the juice is crushed out of them, and zeal could not remain in such dry husks? Sermons which are studied for days, written down, read, re-read, corrected, and further corrected and emended are in danger of being too much cut and dried.  You will never get a crop if you plant boiled potatoes. You can boil a sermon to a turn, so that no life remaineth in it.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Prepare, but beware of the danger of over-preparation. This is particularly true of written sermons. The danger is to be too perfect―very nice, very quiet, very ornate sentences turned beautifully, prepared carefully. What has this polishing of phrases, this writing and re-writing to do with Truth? There must be form, but we must never give inordinate attention to it. Can you conceive of the Apostle Paul spending three weeks in the preparation of one sermon, polishing phrases, changing a word here and there, putting in another adjective or adding another bon mot? The whole thing is utterly inconceivable.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): In all my observation I have not found, that ever God hath made much use of laboured periods, rhetorical flowers, and elegancies to improve the power of religion in the world.

C. H. SPURGEON: Do you not all know the superfine preacher? You ought to listen to him, for he is clever; you ought to be attentive to his words, for every sentence of that paper cost him hours of toilsome composition; but somehow it falls flat, and there is an offensive smell of stale oil―So long as the life of the sermon is strengthened by preparation, you may prepare to the utmost; but if the soul evaporates in the process, what is the good of such injurious toil? It is a kind of murder which you have wrought upon the sermon which you dried to death. I do not believe that God the Holy Ghost cares one single atom about your classical composition.

JAMES HARRINGTON EVANS (1785-1849): Our aim is not preach nicely arranged essays.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: No, what is needed is authority!  Do you think that John Knox could make Mary Queen of Scots tremble with some polished little essay?

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): An affected starchiness and over-accuracy will fetter you, will make your discourses lean and dry, preclude a useful variety, and savour more of the school-lamp, than of that heavenly fire which alone can make our meditations efficacious, and profitable either to ourselves or our hearers.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: What is a preacher? The first thing, obviously, is that he is a speaker. He is not primarily a writer of books, he is not an essayist or a literary man; the preacher is primarily a speaker…He is speaking in the Spirit, in demonstration of the Spirit and in power. I think this is an absolutely vital element in true preaching. A man cannot preach in cold blood—it’s impossible! He can offer a sermon, he read an essay, he can recite an essay, he can give a Bible lecture, but you can’t preach in cold blood…So a vital element in preaching is a reliance upon the Spirit. And another one is freedom. He must be free. That is why I say there are generally loose ends about preaching. A sermon that is perfect in its form, its diction, and in everything else, mitigates against preaching.

JOSEPH MILNER (1744-1797): What a number of elaborate sermons have been preached to no purpose!  Even the truth that is in them is rendered, in a great measure, useless, by the wisdom of words with which it is clothed.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): If you pray and hope for the assistance of the Spirit of God in every part of your work, do not resolve always to confine yourself precisely to the mere words and sentences which you have written down in your private preparations. Far be it from me to encourage a preacher to venture into public work without due preparation and a regular composure of his discourse…But what I mean is, that we should not impose upon ourselves just such a number of pre-composed words and lines to be delivered in the hour, without daring to speak a warm sentiment that comes fresh upon the mind.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: A sermon is not an essay. That is something that needs to be said, and said constantly, because there are so many who clearly draw no distinction between a sermon and an essay―an essay is meant to be read, a sermon is primarily meant to be spoken and listened to.

C. H. SPURGEON: Give us sermons, and save us from essays!

 

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What Do God’s Holy Angels Really Look Like?

Genesis 18:1-3

And the LORD appeared unto [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): Have angels bodies?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Angels are pure spirits, though they are permitted to assume a visible form when God desires us to see them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): These three men were three spiritual heavenly beings, now assuming human bodies, that they might be visible to Abraham, and conversable with him.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Abraham knew them not to be angels at first; they appeared as men, and he treated them as such; but they were angels―yea, one of them was Jehovah Himself.

A. A. HODGE: In certain situations the angels have “appeared” precisely like common men, and in other situations they acted very differently, in passing through stone walls, appearing and disappearing at will, Acts 12:7-10; Numbers 22:31; Judges 13:20…How are the apparitions of angels to be accounted for?

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Angels were represented by cherubim and seraphim…

By cherubim, no doubt Moses means angels, and in this accommodates himself to the capacity of his own people. God had commanded two cherubim to be placed at the ark of the covenant, which should overshadow its covering with their wings; therefore He is often said to sit between the cherubim. That He would have angels depicted in this form, was doubtless granted as an indulgence to the rudeness of that ancient people…That they covered the lid of the ark with their extended wings, I do not imagine to have been done to hide it, but to mark the readiness of their obedience, for the extension of their wings is equivalent to their being prepared for the performance of whatever God might command…The seraphim, of which Isaiah makes mention of in Isaiah 6, signify the same as the cherubim.

A. A. HODGE: The word seraphim signifies “burning, bright, dazzling.”

MATTHEW HENRY: Whether they were only two, or four, or―as I rather think―an innumerable company of angels that Isaiah saw, is uncertain. It is the glory of the angels that they are seraphim, and have heat proportionable to their light, and an abundance, not only of divine knowledge, but of holy love. Special notice is taken of their wings―and of no other part of their appearance―because of the use they made of them, which is designed for instruction to us. They had each of them six wings, not all stretched upwards―as those whom Ezekiel saw―but four wings were made use of for a covering, as the wings of a fowl, sitting, are; with the two upper wings, next to the head, they covered their faces, and with the two lowest wings they covered their feet, or lower parts. This bespeaks their great humility and reverence in their attendance upon God.

A. A. HODGE: It probably presents, under a different aspect, the ideal beings commonly designated “cherubim” and “living creatures” in Ezekiel.

MATTHEW HENRY: The “living creatures” which Ezekiel saw coming out of the midst of the fire, Ezekiel 1:5,  were seraphim―“burners;” for “he maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire, Psalm 104:4…The prophet himself explains this vision, Ezekiel 10:20, I knew that the living creatures were the cherubim, which is one of the names by which the angels are known in Scripture…That which comes out of the fire, of a fiery amber colour, when it comes to be distinctly viewed, is “the likeness of four living creatures;” not the living creatures themselves―angels are spirits, and cannot be seen―but the likeness of them, such a hieroglyphic, or representation, as God saw fit to make use of for the leading of the prophet, and us with him, into some acquaintance with the world of angels.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The extraordinary shape of these angels, which appeared to the prophet in this vision, is symbolical.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Great angels they are, but they act invisibly for the most part; their hands are under their wings, Ezekiel 1:8.

JOHN CALVIN: It is enough for me that the images were winged, which represented angels…Besides, it is preposterous, as I have said, forcibly to transfer these rudiments, which God delivered only to His ancient people, to the fullness of time, when the Church has grown up and has passed out of its childhood.

JOHN TRAPP: The distinct knowledge of angels, as angels, is reserved till we are like the angels in heaven―I read of a friar that undertook to show to the people a feather of the wing of the angel Gabriel, and so verified the old proverb, “a friar, a liar.”

C. H. SPURGEON: There was an amusing incident in my early Waterbeach ministry which I have never forgotten.

One day, a gentleman, who was then mayor of Cambridge, and who had more than once tried to correct my youthful mistakes, asked me if I really had told my congregation that if a thief got into Heaven, he would begin picking the angels’ pockets. “Yes, sir,” I replied, “I told them that if it were possible for an ungodly man to go to Heaven without having his nature changed, he would be none the better for being there; and then, by way of illustration, I said that were a thief to get in among the glorified, he would remain a thief still, and he would go round the place picking the angels’ pockets!”

“But, my dear young friend,” asked Mr. Brimley, very seriously, “don’t you know that the angels haven’t any pockets?”  “No, sir,” I replied, with equal gravity, “I did not know that, but I am glad to be assured of the fact from a gentlemen who does know. I will take care to put it right the first opportunity I get.” 

The following Monday morning, I walked into Mr. Brimley’s shop, and said to him, “I set that matter right yesterday, sir.”

“What matter?” he enquired.

“Why, about the angels’ pockets!”

“What did you say?” he asked, in a tone almost of despair at what he might hear next.

“Oh, sir, I just told the people I was sorry to say that I had made a mistake the last time I preached to them; but that I had met a gentleman—the mayor of Cambridge—who had assured me that the angels had no pockets, so I must correct what I had said, as I did not want anybody to go away with a false notion about Heaven. I would therefore say that, if a thief got among the angels without having his nature changed, he would try to steal the feathers out of their wings!”

“Surely, you did not say that?” said Mr. Brimley.

“I did, though,” I replied.

“Then,” he exclaimed, “I’ll never try to set you right again.”

 

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Filling the Spiritual Storehouse with the Promises of God

2 Peter 1:2-4; Psalm 144:13

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.

That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): “Our garners.” Some read storehouses, and I would not reject this meaning.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): The right use of knowledge is first to “lay it up” in a storehouse―“Wise men lay up knowedge,” Proverbs 10:14; then out of the storehouse to disperse it.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): The time of trouble and darkness and anxieties is the time when support is needed through promises.  See it with Moses, Abraham, Jeremiah, John and others.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” I Samuel 30:6―exercised faith on his God; he encouraged himself in the power and providence of God; in the promises of God, and His faithfulness in keeping them; in a view of his covenant relation to God; in remembrance of the grace, mercy, and goodness of God, and his former experiences of it; hoping and believing that God would appear for him in some way or another, and work salvation for him.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): In a time of trial you will find one promise will give you more comfort and support than all the arguments that can be produced by reason: “This is my comfort in my affliction, thy word hath quickened me,” Psalm. 119:50; he had a word to support him.

JOHN CALVIN: The promises of God do not have place in a time of quietness and peace, but in the midst of severe and terrible conflicts.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Get hold of the promises of God, and when you feel downcast, when the wind is in the east, when the liver does not work, or when you have a real heart-ache, when the dear child is dead, when the beloved wife is sick, or when there is trouble in the house from any cause, then get you the words of the Lord; and may it always be said of you: “The people rested themselves on the words of King Jesus, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords!”

JOHN CALVIN: It is this alone which supports the believer amidst all the fears, dangers, and distresses of his earthly pilgrimage; for the joy of the Spirit is inseparable from faith…It is certain that faith cannot stand, unless it be founded on the promises of God.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The wise Christian will store himself with promises in health for sickness and in peace for future perils.

THOMAS MANTON: Every time you read the Scriptures, you should lay something up…“Lay up his words in thine heart,” Job 22:22. What [promises] have you hidden in your heart for comfort against temptations, desertions, afflictions? What have you laid up against a dear year?

C. H. SPURGEON: It is well when there is plenty, and that plenty consists of “all manner of store.”―There are some promises in the Bible which I have never yet used; but I am well assured that there will come times of trial and trouble when I shall find that that poor despised promise, which I thought was never meant for me, will be the only one on which I can float. I know that the time is coming when every believer shall know the worth of every promise in the covenant.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): God’s promises, and our own experiences, are sufficient to encourage our dependence upon God, and our expectations from Him, in all the affairs of this life.

C. H. SPURGEON: As we believe our Bibles, we are bound to rely upon the promises contained there…I remember a minister who went to see an old lady, and he thought he would give some precious promises out of the word of God.  Turning to one, he saw written in the margin of her Bible, ‘P,’ and he asked, “What does that mean?”  “That means precious, sir,” she answered.  Further down, he saw ‘T & P,’ and he asked what the letters meant.  “That,” she said, “means tried and proved, for I have tried and proved it.”

DAVID DICKSON (1583-1662): The Lord will hear when I call unto him,” Psalm 4:3. Let us remember that the experience of one of the saints concerning the verity of God’s promises, and of the certainty of the written privileges of the Lord’s people, is a sufficient proof of the right which all his children have to the same mercies, and a ground of hope that they also shall partake of them in their times of need.

MATTHEW HENRY: Those that have experienced the performance of God’s promises themselves should encourage others to hope that He will be as good as His word to them also.

C. H. SPURGEON: Oh that our conversation were more often sweetened with the precious promises of God! After dinner we often sit for half an hour, and pull our ministers to pieces, or scandalize our neighbours.  It would be far better if we said, “Now, friend, quote a promise,” and if the other replied, “And you mention a promise too.”  Then let each one speak according to his own personal knowledge concerning the Lord’s fulfillment of these promises, and let everyone present tell the story of the Lord’s faithfulness to him.  By such holy converse we would warm our own hearts, and gladden one another’s spirits… Let us know the promises. Should we not carry them at our fingers’ ends?  Should we not know them better than anything else?

THOMAS MANTON: That we may not have to seek them in a time of distress, it is good they should be familiar.

C. H. SPURGEON: If a poor Christian in distress could remember God’s promises they would inspire him with new life; but when they are forgotten, his spirits sink.

JOHN GILL: Saints are sometimes apt to forget even the gracious promises of God they have understood and received comfort from; the word, or words, on which they have been caused to hope, until the Spirit of God, who is their best remembrancer, puts them in mind of them.

JOHN CALVIN: Let us therefore embrace all the promises of God with our whole heart, and let us also add to them His power.

C. H. SPURGEON: He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5. Go, brother, anywhere on earth, and even up to heaven with that in thy hand: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Or will this other word suit you better, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.― If you do not need this promise just now, you may very soon.  Treasure it up.

THOMAS MANTON: Therefore let us treasure up all the promises; all will be little enough when we need comforts…As you read the word, collect [God’s promises] for your comfort and profit; happy is the man that hath his garner full of them.

 

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The Mysterious Beginnings of Grace in the Soul

John 3:1-8

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The beauty and propriety of this simile will more appear by observing that the same Hebrew word רוח is used both for the wind, and for the Spirit of God; it is used for the “wind” in Genesis 3:8, and in other places; and for the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2, and elsewhere. So likewise the Greek word πνευμα is used for them both, for the wind in this place, and often for the Holy Ghost. And it may be observed, that the Holy Spirit, because of His powerful, comfortable, and quickening influences, is compared to the wind.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The Spirit came upon the apostles in a rushing mighty wind, Acts 2:2. His strong influences on the hearts of sinners are compared to the breathing of the wind Ezekiel 37:9, and His sweet influences on the souls of saints to the north and south wind, Song of Solomon 4:16.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The manner of the Lord’s work in the hearts of His people is not easily traced; though the fact is certain, and the evidence demonstrable from Scripture. In attempting to explain it, we can only speak in general, and are at a loss to form such a description as shall take in the immense variety of cases which occur in the experience of believers.

JOHN GILL: The Spirit of God is a free agent in regeneration; He works how, and where, and when He pleases; He acts freely in the first operation of His grace on the heart, and in all after influences of it; as well as in the donation of His gifts to men, for different purposes, I Corinthians 12:11. And this grace of the Spirit in regeneration, like the wind, is powerful and irresistible; it carries all before it; there is no withstanding it; it throws down Satan’s strong holds, demolishes the fortifications of sin; the whole posse of hell, and the corruptions of a man’s heart, are not a match for it.

MATTHEW HENRY: The Spirit, in regeneration, works powerfully, and with evident effects―Thou hearest the sound thereof―though its causes are hidden, its effects are manifest. When the soul is brought to mourn for sin, to groan under the burden of corruption, to breathe after Christ, to cry “Abba, Father,” then we hear the sound of the Spirit, and we find He is at work, as in Acts 9:11: “Behold he prayeth.” He works mysteriously, and in secret hidden ways: Thou canst not tell whence it comes, nor whither it goes. How it gathers and how it spends its strength is a riddle to us; so the manner and methods of the Spirit’s working are a mystery.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): The way of God, in the regeneration of man, is past finding out. One part of it He keeps near Himself, concealed by the clouds and darkness that surround His throne; another part of it He has clearly revealed to our understandings, and pressed on our hearts.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Ghost, is the grand instrument by which souls are first converted to God.  That mighty change is generally begun by some text or doctrine of the Word brought home to a man’s conscience.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Usually when God converts young people in the first stages of sin, before they have formed evil habits, He does it in a gentle manner; not by the “terrors of the law, the tempest, fire and smoke,” but He makes them like Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened” that she received the word.  On such “it droppeth like the gentle dew from heaven upon the place beneath.” With hardened sinners grace cometh down in showers that rattle on them; but in young converts it often cometh gently. There is just the sweet breathing of the Spirit. They perhaps scarcely think it is a true conversion; but true it is, if they are brought to life.       

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): Even in the common way of conversion, one experiences something with which another is not acquainted.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Many of God’s children cannot trace the particular footsteps of their conversion.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): Conversion is a great and glorious work of God’s power, at once changing the heart, and infusing life into the dead soul; though the grace then implanted more gradually displays itself in some than in others. But as to fixing on the precise time when they put forth the very first act of grace, there is a great deal of difference in different persons; in some it seems to be very discernible when the very time was; but others are more at a loss…It is to be feared that some have gone too far in attempting to direct the Spirit of the Lord, and to mark out His footsteps for Him. Experience clearly shows that we cannot trace the operations of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of some who afterward prove the best of Christians.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): There is no reason to doubt that it was religious principle and conscientious feeling that excited in Nicodemus the desire to gain a more intimate knowledge of the doctrine of Christ. And although that seed remained long concealed and apparently dead, yet after the death of Christ it yielded fruit, such as no man would ever have expected, John 19:39.

ANDRONICUS (16th Century): The Lord’s dealings with His people are various, but all lead to the same end; some are shaken with terror, while others are more gently drawn, as with cords of love. In these things believers should not make their experiences standards one for another; still there is a similarity in their being brought to the same point of rejecting both sinful and righteous self, and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as their complete salvation.

 

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Seeking God’s Guidance When Troubles & Confusions Multiply

2 Corinthians 4:8; Psalm 73:24 ;Psalm 31:3

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.

For thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Any sincere follower of God may use these words.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Happy is the man who personally appropriates God’s Word, and practically uses it as his comfort and counsellor…One of the most practical benefits of Holy Writ is guidance in the acts of daily life; it is not sent to astound us with its brilliance, but to guide us by its instruction.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): In dark and doubtful [times], when a man multiplieth consultations and perplexed thoughts, and changeth conclusions as a sick man doth his bed, and knows not what course to take, whether this or that, then the Word will direct him what to do, so as that a man may find quiet in his soul.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): The grand question is this: Is God’s Word sufficient or not?

THOMAS MANTON: Indeed, here is the question: How far is the Word of God a counsellor to us in such perplexed and doubtful cases?

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): [Believers] “expect” counsel and teaching in obscure matters. Sometimes the soul is brought into circumstances wherein she knows not God’s will, nor can distinguish between sin and duty, which come very close, since both in what she commits and omits, the soul can fall into sin against the Lord.

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

THOMAS MANTON: The Word of God will help him to understand how far he is concerned in such an action in point of duty and conscience…Now it is a great relief to the soul, when a man understands how far he is concerned in a point of duty. The conflict many times lies not only between light and lust, or light and [self-interest]―then a gracious man knows what part to take; but when it lies between duty and duty, then it is tedious and troublesome to him. Now the word will clearly tell you what is your duty in any action, whatever it be. As to the prudent management of the action in order to success, the Word will teach you to go to God for wisdom (James 1:6), and to observe His answer.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): God at all times, circumstances, and places, though ever so minute, ever so particular, will―if we diligently seek the assistance of His Holy Spirit, apply general things to our hearts, and thereby―to use the words of the Holy Jesus―“lead us into all truth” and give us the particular assistance we want.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): If any man object, that angels come not down daily from heaven to reveal unto us what we ought to do, the answer is ready, that we are sufficiently taught in the Word of God what we ought to do, and that they are never destitute of the counsel who ask it of Him, and submit themselves to the government of the Spirit. Therefore nothing doth hinder and keep us back from being ready to follow God, save only our own slothfulness and coldness in prayer.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): Study the Word with prayer. Mark the Divine Spirit shedding light upon it.  Compare it with the observation of the providences of the day (Psalm 107:43); not judging by constitutional bias―a most doubtful interpreter―but pondering with sober, practical, reverential faith. Let the will be kept in a quiet, subdued, cheerful readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand or to the left, at the Lord’s bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: It is the application of all the doctrinal and historical parts of Scripture, when we are reading them over, that must render them profitable to us, as they were designed “for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to make every child of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. I dare appeal to the experience of every spiritual reader of Holy Writ, whether or not, if he consulted the Word of God in this manner, he was not at all times and at all seasons, as plainly directed how to act, as though he had consulted the Urim and Thummin which was upon the high priest’s breast.  For this is the way God now reveals Himself to man: not by making new revelations, but by applying general things that are revealed already to every sincere reader’s heart.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): One erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days to guide His saints―at least some that are more eminent―by inspiration, or immediate revelation.

A. P. GIBBS (1890-1967): Like the people of Athens, they spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear of some new thing.  This is a mischievous malady indeed.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in His word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed.  Those that vent their own dreams under the name of the Spirit, and divine light, they do not give you mysteria, but monstra―portentous opinions; not to show you the wondrous things of God’s law, but the prodigies of their own brain…The light which we have, is not without the Word, but by the Word.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): He that would utterly separate the Spirit from the Word, had as good as burn His Bible.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Our blessed Lord, though He was the eternal God, yet, as man, He made the Scriptures His constant rule and guide―And thus, when led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, He repelled all his assaults with “It is written.”  A sufficient confutation this, of their opinion who say “the Spirit only, and not the Spirit by the Word, is to be our rule of action.”  If so, our Saviour, who had the Spirit without measure needed not always to have referred to the written word.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Every child of God has a twofold guide: the Word without, and the Spirit within, Isaiah 30:20,21: “Thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): To ascertain the Lord’s will we ought to use scriptural means.  Prayer, the Word of God, and His Spirit should be united together. We should go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer, and ask Him to teach us by His Spirit through His Word.  I say by His Spirit through His Word. For if we should think that His Spirit led us to do so and so, because certain facts are so and so, and yet His Word is opposed to the step which we are going to take, we should be deceiving ourselves.

 

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