Watching for God’s Answers to Our Prayers

Psalm 5:2, 3; Psalm 130:5

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892):Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God.” Here is a grand argument why God should answer prayer―because he is our King and our God. We are not aliens to Him: He is the King of our country. Kings are expected to hear the appeals of their own people. We are not strangers to Him; we are His worshippers, and He is our God: ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood…Above all, we should cultivate the habit of expecting answers to our prayers. We should do like the merchant who sends his ships to sea. We should not be satisfied unless we see some return.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): True faith looks to a promising God, and expects Him to be a performing God, too.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We must look after our praying, and see what answer God gives.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up, Psalm 5:3—“I will look up.” The prophet, in these words, makes use of two military words. First, he would not only pray, but marshal up his prayers, he would put them in battle-array; so much the Hebrew word gnarach imports. Secondly, when he had done this, then he would be as a spy upon his watchtower, to see whether he prevailed, whether he got the day or not; and so much the Hebrew word tsaphah imports. When David had set his prayers, his petitions, in rank and file, in good array, then he was resolved he would look abroad, he would look about him, to see at what door God would send in an answer of prayer.

C. H. SPURGEON: We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be easy without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend upon important business, and had received no reply.

THOMAS BROOKS: He is either a fool or a madman, he is either very weak or very wicked, that prays but never looks after his prayers; that shoots many an arrow towards heaven, but never minds where his arrows alight. When children shoot their arrows, they never mind where they fall; but when prudent archers shoot their arrows up into the air, they stand and watch where they fall.  You must deal by your prayers as prudent archers do by their arrows: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, Habakkuk 2:1―the prophet who, in the former chapter, had been very earnest and very fervent in his supplications, gets now upon his watchtower, to see what becomes of his prayer. He stands as a sentinel, and watches as vigilantly and as carefully as a spy, a scout, earnestly longing to hear and see the event, the issue, and success of his prayers.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): To pray, and not watch what becomes of our prayer is a great folly, and no little sin. What is this but to take the name of God in vain? Yet thus do many knock at God’s door, and then run away to the world and think no more of their prayers.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It is more than trifling [with God]; it is even insulting Him, to awaken His attention when we never mean to regard His benefits. Yet thousands never think more of their prayers when they have once offered them. They knock, but never stay to see whether the door of mercy is opened.  They send an address, but never wait for a reply, or read it when it comes. And will God remember prayers which we ourselves forget, or regard prayers which we ourselves despise?

F. W. KRUMMACHER (1796-1868): Too often we omit to notice God’s answer to our prayers, otherwise how often should we find to our glad astonishment that at the time of our supplication, the commandment had gone forth to help us.

THOMAS BROOKS: Certainly there is little worth in that man’s heart, or in that man’s prayers, who keeps up a trade of prayer, but never looks to see what becomes of his prayers.

WILLIAM JAY: Yet as prayer is answered, it is proper and important to attend to it; and whoso is wise and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, Psalm 107:43.

C. H. SPURGEON: Answers to prayer should be noted and acknowledged…Answers to prayer serve in no small degree to illustrate the goodness of God; and confirm our faith in it.

WILLIAM JAY: How desirable to know that He has not forgotten to be gracious, or turned away our prayer from Him. How confirming to our confidence to be able to say with Moses, The Lord heard me at that time also, Deuteronomy 10:10. What excitement to praise and prayer does David derive from the persuasion, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications; because he hath incline his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live,” Psalm 116:1,2.

C. H. SPURGEON: The Psalmist not only knows that he loves God, but he knows why he does so. When love can justify itself with a reason, it is deep, strong, and abiding―David’s reason for his love was the love of God in hearing his prayers―Answered prayers are silken bonds which bind our hearts to God. When a man’s prayers are answered, love is the natural result. According to Alexander, both verbs may be translated in the present, and the text may run thus, “I love because Jehovah hears my voice, my supplications.” This also is true in the case of every pleading believer. Continual love flows out of daily answers to prayer.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Now this was the frame and temper of David’s spirit when he came off from praying; he falls into waiting for a gracious answer…Carefully watch what happens to your private prayers. Look at what door, in what way, and by what hand the Lord shall please to give you an answer to the secret desires of your souls.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): But how few—how very few—watch the hand and doings of God! And lacking this, they continue blind to His great goodness and His unceasing care.

 

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The Gift of Utterance & its Effects

Colossians 4:2, 3; Ephesians 6:19

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same, with thanksgiving; withal praying for also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ.

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Observe, Paul had a great command of language; they called him Mercury, because he was the chief speaker, Acts 14:12, and yet he would have his friends ask of God the gift of utterance for him. He was a man of great courage, and often signalized himself for it; yet he would have them pray that God would give him boldness. The chief speakers need prayer, that God would give them a “door” of utterance―to this there is a further gift requisite, even the gift of utterance.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Utterance; the word may be translated, “in everything,” or, “in all speech.”

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): But we come to a more particular inquiry into these words, what the apostle means by ‘utterance,’ which he desires may be given him. When the apostle desires “utterance” to be given him, he may mean that he may have a word given him to preach—according to that which Christ promiseth, Matthew 10:19: “It shall be given you in that hour what he shall speak.”

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There you see this great idea of prophesying comes in—this word from God. Now, this brings us a little bit nearer still perhaps to this whole idea of preaching. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that a man has a revelation from God in the sense of some new truth—I’m not saying that. But to me, when a man is truly preaching, he has been given the message.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Heavenly wisdom creates heavenly utterance.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Then I would add to that “the gift of speech.”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate and increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Preaching is a gift. It cannot be learned by industry and imitation only, as a man may learn to make a chair or a table: it comes from above.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: So if the candidate has not got the gift of speech, whatever else he may have, he is not going to make a preacher. He may be a great theologian, he can be an excellent man at giving private advice and counselling, and many other things, but by basic definition, if a man has not got the gift of speech he cannot be a preacher.

ROWLAND HILL: There is something in preaching the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven I long to get at. If we deal with Divine realities, we ought to feel them such, and then the people will in general feel with us, and acknowledge the power that does wonders on the heart.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: 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. The man is taken up! He’s in this realm of the Spirit, and God is giving a message through this man to the people. It isn’t an inspired utterance in the sense that the Scriptures are, but in another sense it is an inspired utterance, because the Spirit is giving it and using it in that way. So a vital element in preaching is a reliance upon the Spirit.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Not only “the preparations of the heart,” but “the answer of the tongue,” both are “of the Lord,” Proverbs 16:1. God keeps the key of the mouth as well as of the heart.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Of ourselves we are but unprofitable instruments, and when He has given us utterance, He must also make it effectual, in accordance with the saying that he who plants is nothing, and he who waters is nothing, but it is God that gives the increase.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Do ministers depend thus on God for utterance?

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Be chiefly solicitous to obtain an unction upon what you do say.

E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life begin.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: How does one know it? It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy.

E. M. BOUNDS: It inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

JOHN CALVIN: Whence we may learn, that the faculty of speaking freely is no more in our power than are the affections of the heart. As far, then, as God directs our tongues, they are prepared for ready utterance―a contrast is always to be observed between that knowledge which springs from performance and that arising from utterance.

E. M. BOUNDS: This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not. It backs and impregnates revealed truth with all the energy of God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: You cannot be filled with the Spirit without knowing it…What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens―they know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): Preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit, which men so much quarrel about, is nothing less than the evidence in preaching of unction.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The gift of utterance is a high favour.

 

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Do the Angels of God Have Bodies?

John 20:11,12

Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): She knew these to be angels by their white and glistening robes.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Their garments were bright and glittering like lightning, to set forth the glory and majesty of these celestial spirits, and that they might be known to be what they were.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Now another point that has often been discussed in the long history of the church is the question as to whether the angels have bodies. Have the angels bodies? The question arises because they are often referred to as spirits in the same way as men as referred to as spirits after their death. You remember that reference in 1 Peter 3:19, “the spirits in prison.” There are people who are not in the body, and that has led some people to think that the angels do not have bodies.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): They imagine them to have been mere specters, and not endued with real bodies. But, in my judgment, the thing is far otherwise.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): Angels are called in the Scriptures “spirits” πνευματα, Hebrews 1:14, a word which is also used to designate the souls of men when separate from the body. There is however nothing in that word, nor in the opinions of the Jews at the time of Christ, nor in anything which is told us of the nature or the employments of angels in the Scriptures, which prove that angels are absolutely destitute of proper material bodies of any kind.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: On the whole, I am entirely in agreement with those who say that is probably false teaching. The angels have bodies.

A. A. HODGE: How are the apparitions of angels to be accounted for?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: They have spiritual bodies, as you and I will eventually have spiritual bodies, and as our Lord’s human frame became a spiritual body, a glorified body, so it is certain that the angels have a body which is appropriate for their spiritual condition, and thus you can account for what are called apparitions to different people.

A. A. HODGE: Indeed, as the Son of God is to have “a glorious body,” and “a spiritual body” forever, and since all the redeemed are to have bodies like His, and since the angels are associated with redeemed men as members of the same infinitely exalted kingdom, it may appear probable that angels may have been created with physical organizations not altogether dissimilar to the “spiritual bodies” of the redeemed.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But at the same time we must remind ourselves of this: that the angels can appear in the form of human beings. You remember, for instance, the three men which appeared before Abraham in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, and there are other examples of the same thing.

A. A. HODGE: One of the three men who appeared to Abraham at Mamre and who ate the meat he had prepared, was Jehovah, the second Person of the Trinity, Who had no body till He acquired it many centuries afterwards in the womb of the Virgin. If the apparent human body of one of these angels, was not a real permanent human body, there is no ground to argue from the recorded phenomena that the others were.

JOHN CALVIN: Though Christ appeared in the form of an angel, we must remember what the apostle says to the Hebrews, Hebrews 2:16, that “he took not on him the nature of angels,” so as to become one of them, in the manner in which he truly became man; for even when angels put on human bodies, they did not, on that account, become men…God clothes them for a single day or a short period in bodies, for a distinct purpose and a special use.

A. A. HODGE: In certain situations the angels “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 6:21).

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: In the case of Samson’s father and mother (Judges 13), there was obviously something unusual about the angel’s physical appearance.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The angel “ascended in the flame,” Judges 13:20, to manifest his nature and essence to be spiritual, and celestial, because it was not capable of being hurt by the fire.

A. A. HODGE: The bodily appearance of angels, therefore, must have been something newly assumed, or something preexistent and permanent greatly modified for the purpose of enabling them to hold, upon occasion, profitable interaction with men.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: So that, we decide―on the whole―that the angels probably have a spiritual body which is appropriate for their spiritual condition.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): 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!”―which was just exactly what I wanted him to say.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 6: The Maturing Believer

1 Peter 5:10; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Timothy 2:1

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.

Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): All grace is from God; it is He who restrains, converts, comforts, and saves men by His grace.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): It is a mighty manifestation of His grace indeed, when it can live, and act, and conquer in such hearts as ours; when, in defiance of an evil nature and an evil world, and all the force and subtlety of Satan, a weak worm is still upheld, and enabled not only to climb, but to thresh the mountains; when a small spark is preserved through storms and floods. In these circumstances, the work of grace is to be estimated, not merely from its imperfect appearance, but from the difficulties it has to struggle with and overcome; and therefore our holiness does not consist in great attainments, but in spiritual desires, in hungerings, thirstings, and mournings; in humiliation of heart, poverty of spirit, submission, meekness; in cordial admiring thoughts of Jesus, and dependence upon Him alone for all we want.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): To grow in poverty of spirit is truly to grow in grace: “Without me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): The more of humility the more of grace.

JOHN NEWTON: A measure of this grace is to be expected in every true Christian: but it can only appear in proportion to the knowledge they have of Christ, and it styles himself “less than the least of all saints, and of sinners the chief,” Ephesians 3:8. A new convert, and a young believer, know that they ought to be humbled; but the older believer is truly so, and a young believer’s character, in my judgment, is complete, and he becomes a mature believer when the habitual frame of his heart answers to that passage in the prophet Ezekiel 16:63, “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more—to boast, complain, or censurebecause of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): This is the Spirit’s work alone, and this only will make us go softly all our days.

JOHN NEWTON: Neither has the mature believer, properly speaking, any more strength or stock of grace inherent in himself than a young believer, or even than a new convert. He is in the same state of absolute dependence, as incapable of performing spiritual acts, or of resisting temptations by his own power, as he was at the first day of his setting out. Yet in a sense he is much stronger, because he has a more feeling and constant sense of his own weakness. The Lord has been long teaching him this lesson by a train of various dispensations; and through grace he can say, that he has not suffered so many things in vain. His heart has deceived him so often, that he is now in a good measure weaned from trusting to it; and therefore he does not meet with so many disappointments. And having found again and again the vanity of all other helps, he is now taught to go to the Lord at once for “grace to help in every time of need,” Hebrews 4:16. Thus he is strong, not in himself, but “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Nothing can be done aright without grace.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Grace in Christ is what believers should always have recourse unto, and exercise faith on; and not only believe that there is such a fullness of grace in Christ, which they have both heard of and seen, and which they know is laid up for them, and given to them, and is sufficient for them; but they should go forth out of themselves unto it, and draw water with joy out of the full wells of salvation in Christ: and this grace is of a strengthening nature—to be strong in it, is to be rooted and grounded in it, and to have a strong sense and firm persuasion of interest in it, and that nothing can separate from it.

JOHN NEWTON: Oh, it is a great thing to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus! but it is a hard lesson: it is not easy to understand it in theory; but, when the Lord has taught us so far, it is still more difficult to reduce our knowledge to practice.

A. W. PINK: None of us knows how weak he is till God withdraws His upholding grace―as He did with Peter―and we are left to ourselves. True, the Lord has plainly told us that “without me ye can do nothing.”  We think we believe that word, and in a way we do; yet there is a vast difference between not calling into question a verse in Scripture, an assenting to its verity, and an inward acquaintance with the same in our own personal history.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): What, for example, is the great lesson that Paul learned in the matter of the thorn in the flesh? It is that “when I am weak then am I strong,” 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul was taught through physical weakness this manifestation of God’s grace. I must regard circumstances and conditions, not in and of themselves therefore, but as a part of God’s dealings with me in the work of perfecting my soul and bringing me to final perfection.

MATTHEW HENRY: The perfecting, establishing, strengthening, and settling of good people in grace, and their perseverance therein, is so difficult a work, that only the God of all grace can accomplish it; and therefore He is earnestly to be sought unto by continual prayer, and dependence upon His promises.

JOHN NEWTON: Whatever outward changes a mature believer may meet with, he will in general be the same man still. He has learned, with the Apostle, not only to suffer need, but which is perhaps the harder lesson—how to abound, Philippians 4:12. A palace would be a prison to him, without the Lord’s presence; and with the Lord’s presence, a prison would be a palace. From hence arises a peaceful reliance upon the Lord: he has nothing which he cannot commit into His hands, which he is not habitually aiming to resign to His disposal. Therefore he is not afraid of evil tidings; but when the hearts of others shake like the leaves of a tree, he is fixed, trusting in the Lord, who he believes can and will make good every loss, sweeten every bitter, and appoint all things to work together for his advantage.

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW: Such a soul is maturing in holiness and is becoming fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:12.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 5: Experiential Heart Knowledge

Romans 7:21-23; 2 Chronicles 32:30, 31

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Hezekiah prospered in all his works. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Since the Lord hates and abhors sin, and teaches His people whom He loves to hate it likewise, it might seem desirable that at the same time they are delivered from the guilt and reigning power of sin, they should likewise be perfectly freed from the defilement of indwelling sin, and be made fully conformable to Him at once. His wisdom has, however, appointed otherwise.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): He could, if He pleased, render them perfectly holy at once; and they are often ready to imagine, that this would be much the better way, both for His glory and their own good. But instead of adopting this method, He grants them, at first, but small degrees of grace, and increases it in a very slow and gradual manner. He leads them round for many years, through a wilderness beset with temptations, trials and sufferings, with a view to humble them, prove them, and show them all that is in their hearts.

JOHN NEWTON: The Lord would not allow sin to remain in them, if He did not purpose to over-rule it, for the fuller manifestation of the glory of His grace and wisdom, and for the making His salvation more precious to their souls. It is, however, His command, and therefore their duty—yes, further, from the new nature He has given them, it is their desire to watch and strive against sin; and to propose the mortification of the whole body of sin, and the advancement of sanctification in their hearts, as their great and constant aim, to which they are to have a habitual persevering regard. Upon this plan the young believer sets out…

But a depraved nature still cleaves to him; and he has the seeds of every natural corruption yet remaining in his heart. He lives likewise in a world that is full of snares, and occasions, suited to draw forth those corruptions; and he is surrounded by invisible spiritual enemies, the extent of whose power and subtlety he is yet to learn by painful experience…He knows that his heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9, but he does not—he cannot know at first—the full meaning of that expression. Yet it is for the Lord’s glory, and will in the end make His grace and love still more precious, that he should find new and mortifying proofs of all his evil nature as he goes on, such as he could not once have believed had they been foretold to him, as in the case of Peter, (Mark 14:29,30).

WILLIAM TIPTAFT (1803-1864): We need restraining grace as well as saving grace.

ATHANASIUS (276-373): We need grace alike to keep us from breaking the weightiest commandment of the law, and from falling into the most trifling vanity of the age.

JOHN NEWTON: The exceeding sinfulness of sin is manifested, not so much by its breaking through the restraints of threatening and commands, as by its being capable of acting against light and against love. Thus it was with Hezekiah. He had been a faithful and zealous servant of the Lord for many years; but I suppose he knew more of God, and of himself, in the time of his sickness, than he had ever done before. The Lord, who had signally defended him from Sennacherib, was pleased likewise to raise him from the borders of the grave by a miracle, and prolonged the time of his life in answer to prayer. It is plain, from the song which he penned upon his recovery, that he was greatly affected with the mercies he had received; yet still there was something in his heart which he knew not, and which it was for the Lord’s glory he should be made sensible of, and therefore He was pleased to leave him to himself. It is the only instance in which he is said to have been left to himself, and the only instance in which his conduct is condemned.

JOHN BERRIDGE (1716-1793): Oh! what is man! But how easily we spy the vanity and inconsistency of the creature in another, and how hardly we discern it in ourselves.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Oh, the aboundings of sin there which no eye discerneth but God’s, until He, by increasing light, declares it to us little by little!  How have I to mourn and weep before Him, while He shows me to myself—poor wretched, sinful, and yet washed and justified from all things! What can I say to these things?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Experience teaches us all—everything is of grace in the Christian life from the very beginning to the very end.

JOHN NEWTON: For a season after we have known the Lord, we have usually the most sensible and distressing experience of our evil natures. I do not say that it is necessary that we should be left to fall into gross outward sin, in order to know what is in our hearts; though I believe many have thus fallen, whose hearts, under a former sense of redeeming love, have been as truly set against sin, as the hearts of others who have been preserved from such outward falls. The Lord makes some of His children examples and warnings to others as He pleases. Those who are spared, and whose worst deviations are only known to the Lord and themselves, have great reason to be thankful.

MARY WINSLOW: To be well acquainted with our own hearts is to bring us nearer to Jesus, and to make us more firmly cling to the cross. Your poor heart is the same as it was years ago, but there was no light to show its evil. But as you grow in grace you will see more and more the goodness of God in the gift of His dear Son, to make an all-sufficient atonement for sinners so vile and utterly helpless as we are. It is a great mercy that, while the Holy Ghost opens up the deep fountain of iniquity within to our view, He also, at the same time, shows us the Fountain open, always open, in which we may wash and be clean.  This makes Jesus so precious to the deeply-taught Christian.  To be well acquainted with your own heart is worth all the pain you may be called to suffer.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Let us not be discouraged by any humiliating discoveries we may make of the evils of our hearts. God knows them all, and has provided the blood of Jesus Christ His Son to cleanse us from all sin.

 

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The God-Dishonouring Despair of Arminian Insecurity

Hebrews 3:12-14

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The words strongly imply, as indeed does the whole epistle of Hebrews, the possibility of falling from the grace of God, and perishing everlastingly.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): God keeps them by His grace from falling away entirely, and finally brings them safe to glory.

ADAM CLARKE: Final perseverance implies final faithfulness―he that endures to the end shall be saved, Matthew 10:22―he that is faithful unto death shall have a crown of life. And will any man attempt to say that he who does not endure to the end, and is unfaithful, shall ever enter into life?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Our Saviour reminded His disciples of the personal responsibility of each one of them in such a time of trial and testing as they were about to pass through. It is not the man who starts in the race, but the one who runs to the goal, who wins the prize: “He that shall endure to the end shall be saved.” If this doctrine were not supplemented by another, there would be but little good tidings for poor, tempted, tried, and struggling saints in such words as these. Who among us would persevere in running the heavenly race if God did not preserve us from falling, and give us persevering grace? But, blessed be His name, “The righteous shall hold on his way,” Job 17:9. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6.

ADAM CLARKE:We are made partakers of Christ.” Having believed in Christ, they were made partakers of all its benefits in this life, and entitled to the fulfillment of all its exceeding great and precious promises relative to the glories of the eternal world. The former they actually possessed, the latter they could have only in the case of their perseverance; therefore the apostle says, “If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end,” for our participation in glory depends on our continuing steadfast in the faith, to the end of our Christian race…If this were not held fast to the end, Christ, in His saving influences, could not be held fast; and no Christ―no heaven.

C. H. SPURGEON: It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but His hold of you.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY (1713-1778): I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one, John 10:28-30. How we are to understand that part of the passage that expressly declares concerning Christ’s people, that they shall never perish, since perish they necessarily must and certainly would, if eventually separated from Christ?

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): We are made partakers of Christ.”―And we shall still partake of Him and all His benefits, if we hold fast our faith unto the end. If―but not else.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY: I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, Hebrews 13:5…If any of Christ’s people can be finally lost, it must be occasioned either by their departing from God, or by God’s departure from them. But they are certainly and effectually secured against these two only possible sources of apostasy. For thus runs the covenant of grace: I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me,” Jeremiah 32:40. Now if God will neither leave them, nor suffer them to leave Him, their final perseverance in grace to glory must be certain and infallible.

ADAM CLARKE: Why should the apostle exhort a believer to persevere, if it be impossible for him to fall away?

C. H. SPURGEON: How can God be God, and let His people be plucked out of His hand? Sure He were no God to us, if He were unfaithful to a promise so oft repeated and so solemnly confirmed. Besides, mark ye this. If one saint should fall away and perish, God would not only break His Word, but His oath, for He hath sworn by Himself “that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,” Hebrews 6:18.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The honour and glory of Jehovah is bound up in the final perseverance of the saints.

ADAM CLARKE: Angels fell; Adam fell; Solomon fell; and multitudes of believers have fallen, and, for aught we know, rose no more; and yet we are told that we cannot finally lose the benefits of our conversion!

JOHN WESLEY: A child of God, that is, a true believer―for he that believeth is born of God―while he continues a true believer, cannot go to hell. But if a believer “make shipwreck of the faith,” he is no longer a child of God! And then he may go to hell, yea, and certainly will, if he continues in unbelief. If a believer may make shipwreck of the faith, then a man that believes now may be an unbeliever some time hence; yea, very possibly, tomorrow; but, if so, he who is a child of God today, may be a child of the devil tomorrow. For, God is the Father of them that believe, so long as they believe. But the devil is the father of them that believe not, whether they did once believe or no.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): Can these men fancy God so unconcerned as to let the apple of His eye be plucked out, as to be a careless spectator of the pillage of His jewels by the powers of hell, to have the delight of His soul tossed like a tennis ball between Himself and the devil?

A. W. PINK: If the final perseverance of the saints be a delusion, then one must close his Bible and sit down in despair.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The doctrine of the saints final perseverance asserts the unchangeableness of God, and does honour to it; but the contrary doctrine makes Him changeable in His nature, will, and grace, and reflects dishonour on Him…God is unchangeable; this is asserted by Himself: “I am the Lord; I change not;” and He Himself drew this inference from it: “Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed;” ye that are Israelites indeed perish not, nor ever shall―if they are consumed, or perish everlastingly, He must change in His love to them―which He never does―and in His purposes and designs concerning them. And those whom He has appointed to salvation, He must consign over to damnation; and His promises of grace made to them, and His blessings of grace bestowed on them, must be reversed. But He will not alter the thing that is gone out of His lips, nor change His mind; for He is “of one mind, and who can turn him?” Job 23:13.

C. H. SPURGEON: God promises to keep His people, and He will keep His promise.

 

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The Need for Watchfulness in Old Age

1 Kings 11:4

It came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): When Solomon was old―when it might have been expected that age should have cooled his lust, and experience have made him wiser and better, and when probably he was secure as to any such miscarriages; then God permitted him to fall so shamefully, that he might be to all succeeding generations an example.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): God thus shows us there is no protection in years.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It is very remarkable that all the falls, as far as I remember, recorded in Scripture, are those of old men. This should be a great warning to us who think we are getting wise and experienced. Lot and Judah and Eli and Solomon and Asa were all advanced in years when they were found faulty before the Lord.

THOMAS ADAMS (1583-1656): Apostasy in old age is fearful. So wretched is it for old men to fall near to their very entry of heaven, as old Eli in his indulgence, 1 Samuel 2; old Judah in his incest, Genesis 38; old David with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11; old Asa trusting in the physicians more than in God, 2 Chronicles 16:12; and old Solomon built the high places.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Satan made a prey of old Solomon, Asa, Lot, others; whom when young he could never so deceive…Many that have held out well in youth, have failed and been shamefully foiled in old age.

A. W. PINK: Lot did not transgress most grossly until he was an old man. Isaac seems to have become a glutton in his old age, and was as a vessel no longer meet for the Master’s use, which rusted out rather than wore out. It was after a life of walking with God, and building the ark, that Noah disgraced himself. The worst sin of Moses was committed not at the beginning, but at the end of the wilderness journey. Hezekiah became puffed up with pride near the sunset of his life.  What warnings are these!

C. H. SPURGEON: Thus many men have borne temptation bravely for years—and just when the trial was over and they reckoned that they were safe—they turned aside to crooked ways and grieved the Lord. You are greatly surprised aren’t you? You would have believed it of anybody sooner than of them, but so it is.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I have observed in some good men and good ministers, improprieties in their latter days, which I have been willing to ascribe to the infirmities of old age, than to a defect in real grace…I have known good men, in advanced life, garrulous, peevish, dogmatic, self-important, with some symptoms of jealousy, and perhaps envy, towards those who are on increase while they feel themselves decreasing.

A. W. PINK: We have often heard older saints warning younger brothers and sisters of their great danger, yet it is striking to observe that Scripture records not a single instance of a young saint disgracing his profession…It is true that young Christians are feeblest, and with rare exceptions, they know it; and therefore does God manifest His grace and power upholding them: it is the “lambs” which He carries in His arms! But some older Christians seem far less conscious of their danger, and so God often suffers them to have a fall, that He may stain the pride of their self-glory, and that others may see it is nothing in the flesh—standing, rank, age, or attainments—which insures our safety; but that He upholds the humble and casts down the proud.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” I Corinthians 10:12. The harms sustained by others should be cautions to us. He that thinks he stands should not be confident and secure, but upon his guard. Others have fallen, and so may we.

RICHARD STEELE (1629-1692): When old people fall, they fall with a great weight, and are crushed more than younger people, and perhaps they have more difficulty to rise again. Far more excuses are found for the lapses of young people, than can be pretended by the aged…Take warning by poor Noah―one hour’s drunkenness discovered that [nakedness] which six hundred years sobriety had concealed.

C. H. SPURGEON: Take this, then, as a caution, lest we spoil a lifelong reputation by one wretched act of sin.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): All sins are rooted in love of pleasure. Therefore be watchful.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): A wandering heart needs a watchful eye.

MATTHEW HENRY: Sometimes those who, with watchfulness and resolution, have, by the grace of God, kept their integrity in the midst of temptation, have through security, and carelessness, and neglect of the grace of God, been surprised into sin when the hour of temptation has been over.

MATTHEW POOLE: Thus Lot―he who kept his integrity in the midst of all the temptations of Sodom, falls into a grievous sin in a place where he might seem most remote from all temptations; God permitting this, to teach all following ages how weak even the best men are when they are left to themselves, and what absolute need they have of Divine assistance.

JOHN RYLAND (1723-1792): How many are the evils of our hearts!  What need do we find of constant watchfulness and earnest prayer for the supply of the Spirit.  Self, that most subtle and dangerous of all our foes, will assume a thousand forms to draw our supreme attention from our Lord.  Both the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the mind must be continually opposed and mortified.

THOMAS MANTON: The Lord’s grace is promised to him that resisteth. God keepeth us from the evil one, but it is by our watchfulness and resistance; His power maketh it effectual.

C. H. SPURGEON: Cool passions are no guarantees against fiery sins, unless grace has cooled them.

A. W. PINK: If we do need not more grace, certain it is that we need as much grace when we are grown old, as while we are growing up.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): As it starts, so it continues.  It is a “fight of faith” always, right to the end.

 

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The Sin of the Angels that Sinned

Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 2:4

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.

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

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): They are referred to as spirits. But we also find them described in Ephesians 1:21 as principalities, powers, dominions, and mights―those terms, when they are used, are always used of angels, and angelic beings; used of good angels, and bad evil angels. When Paul talks about our “wrestling not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, and against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world,” he is referring to angelic beings―evil angels, Ephesians 6:12.

A. A. HODGE: Other evil spirits are called διαμονες―demons (translated devils), Mark 5:12; unclean spirits, Mark 5:13; lying spirits, 2 Chronicles 18:22; angels of the devil, Matthew 25:41; “angels that sinned,” 2 Peter 2:4; and “angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” Jude 6.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Pride was the sin that changed angels into devils.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): From what they fell, or from what cause or for what crime, we know not. It is generally thought to have been pride; but this is mere conjecture. One thing is certain; the angels who fell must have been in a state of probation, capable of either standing or falling, as Adam was in paradise. They did not continue faithful, though they knew the law on which they stood.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Take away humility from an angel, and he is a devil…As God hath two dwelling-places, heaven and a contrite heart, so hath the devil—hell and a proud heart.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): There were a great number of the angels who “left their own habitation;” that is, who were not pleased with the posts and stations the supreme Monarch of the universe had assigned and allotted to them, but thought, like discontented ministers in our age―I might say in every age―that they deserved better; they would, with the title of ministers, be sovereigns, and in effect that their Sovereign should be their minister―do all, and only, what they would have Him; thus was pride the main and immediate cause or occasion of their fall. Thus they quitted their post, and rebelled against God, their Creator and sovereign Lord.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): A wide difference there is between a good angel and a fallen angel; a good angel will not suffer himself to be worshipped by men, but directs to the worship of God only, Revelation 19:10, but a fallen angel not only seeks to be worshipped by men, but by the Son of God Himself―even by Him whom all the holy angels worship, Hebrews 1:6. This was what Satan at first aspired after, and by which he fell: he affected deity, and sought to have divine worship given him; and in this sin he still persisted, and grew worse and worse, more daring and insolent, desiring worship of Him who is God over all, blessed for ever―the good angels are called morning stars, Job 38:7; and such he and his angels once were.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): When these fallen angels came out of the hands of God, they were holy; else God made that which was evil: and being holy, they were beloved of God; else He hated the image of His own spotless purity. But now He loves them no more; they are doomed to endless destruction.

JOHN GILL: God has showed a regard to fallen men, and not to fallen angels―none of the fallen angels are sought, recovered, and saved.

MATTHEW HENRY: God did not spare them―high and great as they were; He would not truckle to them; He threw them off, as a wise and good prince will a selfish and deceitful minister; and the great, the all-wise God, could not be ignorant, as the wisest and best of earthly princes often are, what designs they were hatching. After all, what became of them? They thought to have dared and outfaced Omnipotence itself; but God was too hard for them, He cast them down to hell. Those who would not be servants to their Maker and His will in their first state were made captives to His justice.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): When they fell from their first estate, God left them forever without hope—and they live in their rebellion against Him, waiting for the awful day when they shall receive the full recompense of their infamous revolt. There is no mercy for fallen spirits! I see how God exercised His Sovereignty, for when men and angels had both sinned, He passed by the greater sinners and took up the lesser ones. The fallen spirits He has “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the Great Day,” Jude 6.

JOHN GILL: Indeed the Lord does no wrong to any, by the distinction which He makes among His creatures: He is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works: He does no injury to the evil angels, by choosing the good angels, and confirming them in the estate in which they were created; when the others are reserved in chains of darkness.

MATTHEW HENRY: They are under darkness, though once angels of light; so horribly in the dark are they that they continue to fight against God, as if there were yet some small hope at least left them of prevailing and overcoming in the conflict. Dire infatuation!

JOHN GILL: They are not their own lords, and cannot do as they would; they are under restraints, and in chains, and not to be feared; which must be a great mortification to their proud and malicious spirits: and since this is the case of fallen angels, what severity may be expected from God against the opposers of the truths of the Gospel?

MATTHEW HENRY: There is―undoubtedly there is―a judgment to come; the fallen angels are reserved to “the judgment of the great day;” and shall fallen men escape it? Surely not. Let every reader consider this in due time. Their chains are called everlasting, because it is impossible they should ever break loose from them, or make an escape―the decree, the justice, the wrath of God, are the very chains under which fallen angels are held so fast. Hear and fear, O sinful mortals of mankind!

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 4: Grace in the Ear, or the Young Believer

Ephesians 4:7; Mark 4:28

Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

First the blade, then the ear.

JEREMIAH DYKE (1584-1639): It is a point that concerns us at all times to look to the growth of our grace, as that which much evidences the truth of it. For where there is no growth of grace, there is no truth of grace. True grace is growing grace. There is a growing in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), a growing in wisdom (Luke 2:40), and a growing in faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3). All true grace grows.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): When it is sprung up, it will go forward; nature will have its course, and so will grace―though at first it is but a tender blade, which the frost may nip, or the foot may crush, yet it will increase to the ear.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): This state I suppose to commence, when the soul, after an interchange of hopes and fears, according to the different frames it passes through, is brought to rest in Jesus, by a spiritual apprehension of his complete suitableness and sufficiency, as the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of all who trust in him, and is enabled by an appropriating faith to say, “He is mine, and I am is.” There are various degrees of this persuasion; it is of a growing nature, and is capable of increase so long as we remain in this world.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): We discern the growth of grace as the growth of plants, which we perceive it rather to have grown than to grow.

JOHN NEWTON: I call it assurance, when it arises from a simple view of the grace and glory of the Saviour, independent of our sensible frames and feelings, so as to enable us to answer all objections from unbelief and Satan, with the Apostle’s words, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died; yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us,” Romans 8:34. This, in my judgment, does not belong to the essence of faith, so that he should be deemed more truly a believer than the new convert, but to the establishment of faith. And now that faith is stronger, it has more to grapple with.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Faith must be tested—and developed…and having learned—through grace—the difficult lessons of one, he must now go forward to grapple with others yet more difficult.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Faith is the wrestling grace.

JOHN NEWTON: I think the characteristic of grace in the blade is desire, and of grace in the ear is conflict. Not that his desires have subsided, or that he was a stranger to conflict; but as there was a sensible eagerness and keenness in his first desires, which, perhaps, is seldom known to be equally strong afterwards, so there are usually trials and exercises in his subsequent experience; something different in their kind and sharper in their measure than what he was exposed to, or indeed had strength to endure. Like Israel, he has been delivered from Egypt by great power and a stretched-out arm, has been pursued and terrified by many enemies, has given himself up for lost again and again. He has at last seen his enemies destroyed, and has sang the song of Moses and the Lamb upon the banks of the Red Sea. Then he commences the stage of grace in the ear. Perhaps, like Israel, he thinks his difficulties are at an end, and expects to go on rejoicing until he enters the promised land. But, alas! his difficulties are in a manner but beginning; he has a wilderness before him, of which he is not aware.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): A Christian’s work is not over as soon as he has got into a state of grace; he must still hope and strive for more grace. When he has entered the narrow gate, he must still walk in the narrow way, and gird up the loins of his mind for that purpose.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): The life of grace is the death of sin, and the growth of grace the decay of sin.

RICHARD CECIL (1748-1810): A Christian has advanced but a little way in religion when he has overcome the love of the world; for he has still more powerful and importunate enemies: self―evil tempers―pride―undue affections―a stubborn will. It is by the subduing of these adversaries that we must chiefly judge of our growth in grace.

R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): Let any Christian view his own life, and see how nearly his whole spiritual progress has been made in the seasons of trial. It is by their private afflictions chiefly that individuals grow in grace.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): By the discoveries which they make of their own weakness, ignorance, and propensity to sin, their pride is humbled; their self-confidence destroyed; their patience, meekness and candor are increased; the Saviour, and His method of salvation rendered more precious, and all ground for boasting forever excluded. All these happy effects, however, are produced in a way which they would never have thought of; and it is a long time before they can be made to understand God’s method of proceeding, so that they are often ready to say with Jacob, Genesis 42:36, “All these things are against me!”—when, in fact, every thing is working together for their good. Even when God answers their prayers, He very often does it in ways and by means, which they did not expect; and as often as they attempt to mark out a path for Him in their own minds, so often they find themselves disappointed, and are constrained to confess, that His ways are not like theirs.

A. W. PINK: In what, then, does an increase of faith consist? Is it not the Christian’s growth, as a believer, a growth in a true, living, spiritual, experimental knowledge of himself as a sinner, and of God in Christ as the Father of mercies?―As this knowledge increases, faith increases; as this knowledge is confirmed in the soul, faith is confirmed and strengthened. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law,” Psalm 94:12. Again, “He led him about, He instructed him,” Deuteronomy 32:10; God leads into a great variety of circumstances, and in these circumstances He causes His people to receive instruction. In that way they learn the truth in an experimental manner, and what they receive from the Word is confirmed more and more unto them. In that way they learn the vanity of the world, the fickleness of the creature, the depravity of their own hearts.

JOHN NEWTON: The Lord is now about to suit his dispensations to humble and to prove him, and to show him what is in his heart, that he may do him good at the latter end, and that all the glory may redound to his own free grace.

 

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The Form of the Lord’s Supper in Scriptural Simplicity

Acts 2:46

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The ancient churches celebrated this ordinance every Lord’s day, if not every day when they assembled for worship.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Breaking bread from house to house.”―Either administering the Lord’s supper in private houses, sometimes administering it at one house, sometimes at another; or because their number was so large that one house could not hold them, they divided themselves into lesser bodies, and some had the ordinance administered to them in one house, and some in another.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Continuing daily”―as did many Churches for some ages.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Of his own age, Augustine testifies: “The sacrament of the unity of our Lord’s body is, in some places, provided daily, and in others at certain intervals, at the Lord’s table.”

AUGUSTINE (354-430): In some places, not a day intervenes on which it is not offered―in others, on the Lord’s day only.

JOHN GILL: As often as ye eat,’ 1 Corinthians 11:26. Though there is no set fixed time for the administration of this ordinance, yet this phrase seems to suggest that it should be often.

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): Although we have no express command respecting the frequency of its observance, yet the example of the apostles and of the first disciples would lead us to observe this ordinance every Lord’s day.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Shame on the Christian church that she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread, and showing forth the death of Christ till He come.

JOHN CALVIN: The Lord’s Supper might be most properly administered, if it were set before the church very frequently, and at least once in every week in the following manner: The service should commence with public prayer; in the next place, a sermon should be delivered; then, the bread and wine being placed upon the table, the minister should recite the institution of the supper, should declare the promises which are left to us in it, and, at the same time, should excommunicate all those who are excluded from by the prohibition of the Lord; after this prayer should be offered―then either some psalms should be sung, or a portion of Scripture should be read, and believers, in a becoming order, should participate of the sacred banquet, the ministers breaking the bread and distributing it, and presenting the cup to the people.

C. H. SPURGEON: This leads on to the notion in some churches that only an ordained or recognized minister should preside at the Lord’s table. Small is our patience with this unmitigated Popery, and yet it is by no means uncommon―the friends like a “stated minister” to “administer the sacrament.” This may not always be the language employed, but it often is, and it is an unsanctified jargon, revealing the influence of priestcraft. Whence comes it? By what scripture can it be justified? “Breaking bread from house to house” does not read very like it―even now we know of churches which have dispensed with the Lord’s Supper week after week because the pastor was ill, there being, of course, no other brother in the whole community who had grace enough to preside at the table, or to “administer the sacrament,” as some of the brotherhood call it…We suppose that the idea of a deacon leading the communion would horrify a great many, but why? If the church should request a venerable brother to conduct the service, a brother of eminent grace and prayerfulness, would the ordinance be any the less instructive or consoling because he was not in the ministry?

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): That man has no right to preach, nor administer the sacraments of the Church of Christ, whom God has not sent; though the whole assembly of apostles had laid their hands on him.

C. H. SPURGEON: Who are we that our presence should render more valid, or more lawful, the remembrance of our Lord’s death until He come?

MATTHEW HENRY: Sacraments derive not their efficacy from those who administer them.

C. H. SPURGEON: Naturally enough the pastor, when there is one, leads the way by the respectful consent of all; but would fellowship with Jesus be more difficult, if he were out of the way, and an elder or deacon occupied his place? Our experience has never led us to bemoan, on the account of our people, that the communion was a maimed rite when a beloved deacon or elder has filled our chair. We love to have our brethren sitting with us at the table, breaking the bread as much as we do, and giving thanks aloud as we do, because we hope that by this visible sign men will see that “one is our Master, even Christ, and all we are brethren.”

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): I have long been of opinion that there was no scriptural authority for confining the administration of the Lord’s Supper to a minister. I had no doubt but that the primitive pastors did preside at the Lord’s table, as well as in the reception and exclusion of members, and in short in all the proceedings of the church; and that, where there was a pastor, it was proper that he should continue to do so. But that when a pastor died, or was removed, the church was not obliged to desist from commemorating the Lord’s death, any more than from receiving or excluding members. Neither do I recollect that any minister is said to have “administered” the Lord’s Supper, unless we consider our Saviour as sustaining that character at the time of its institution; and this silence of the Scriptures concerning the administration appears to me to prove that it was a matter of indifference

C. H. SPURGEON: All things are to be done decently and in order, but that order does not necessitate a church’s going without the Lord’s Supper because there is no pastor or regular minister to be had. At least we fail to see any support for such an idea, except in the traditions of the fathers, and the sooner these are consigned to oblivion the better. We confess we do not admire the Plymouth Brethren fashion of passing round a lump of bread for all to peck at, like so many crows, or the plan of hawking a slice from hand to hand, for each one to break on his own account, for it is not a clean or decorous practice; and as it never would be tolerated at our own tables, it certainly ill becomes the table of the Lord: but even these odd ways are better, or at least less harmful, than the practice of a “stated minister” administering the elements, for “stated minister” is little more than “priest writ large” in the idea of weaker brethren and the sooner it is put an end to the better…When matters have gone so far, it is surely time to speak out against such worship of men.

 

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