The Great Physician’s Prescription for Overcoming Fear

Mark 4:40; Matthew 10:29-31; Mark 11:22
       Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?
       Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. The very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
       Have faith in God.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The providence of God extends to the minutest things; every thing is continually under the government and care of God, and nothing occurs without His will or permission; if then He regards sparrows, how much more man, and how much more still the soul that trusts in him!

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): This is the polar star of a child of God—faith in his Father’s providence, promises, and grace…It is the trust of the heart, of all the heart. It is a child-like, unwavering confidence in our Father’s well-proved wisdom, faithfulness, and love. Any limit to this confidence is a heinous provocation (Psalm 78:18-22). He is truth itself. Therefore He would have us take Him at His Word, and prove His Word to the utmost extent of His power.

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

J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): Precisely for this reason is faith so often dwelt upon as the instrument; because faith, as faith, lays hold of God’s veracity; and trust is nothing else but faith in a promise.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The strongest and most lively assurance that we can conceive attainable in the present life, is wrought and maintained by the very same principles which have so faint an influence in the infancy of faith.
      Let us hear the great champion, Paul, in the close of an exemplary, laborious life, giving an account to a dear and intimate friend of the hope that was in him. He had been honoured and distinguished for grace, gifts, and usefulness, in a peculiar manner; he had laboured more abundantly than all the Apostles; he had fully preached the Gospel, and gathered churches throughout a very large part of the Roman empire: his first call was extraordinary, by the Lord’s appearing to him in glory; and some of his succeeding experiences had been no less singular, for he had been caught up into the third heavens: finally, his suffering for the Gospel had been as great and remarkable as his services. But when he expresses his assurance of salvation, he says not a syllable of these things, but rests the whole upon such points as are common to him with all believers: “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” 2 Timothy 1:12. 
      We see there Paul’s assurance was founded on, first, A knowledge of Jesus Christ, the object of his faith; secondly, A consciousness of transactions which had passed between him and his Saviour; he had committed something to Him—that was, his soul, with all its interests; thirdly, A persuasion of His ability, willingness, and faithfulness, to secure and preserve what he had taken charge of. And these are the very same principles which are necessary to the first act of faith.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The other thing I find here is the absolute certainty of it all, and the assurance of it all. If my confidence of my final salvation, and of my ultimate perfection, rested in myself―my own energy, my own zeal, my own purposes and desires―I know that I’d never get there. My assurance is based on this: that God, the infinite eternal God, is vindicating His own eternal character, through me. And if He started saving me, and then left it undone or unfinished, and I ever arrived in hell, the devil would have the greatest joke of eternity. He’d say “there’s a being that God began to save, and failed to complete.” It’s impossible, it can’t happen. There is no more monstrous idea than the idea that you can fall away from grace―that you can ever be born again, and then be damned! The character of God is involved, it’s impossible! It’s not merely to save me, it’s to vindicate His own being and nature, and I’m being used to that end; I’m getting all the benefits. But the thing’s absolutely certain, because God’s character is involved in it…There is nothing that gives me greater hope and assurance this morning than my knowledge of the character of God.

HUDSON TAYLOR (1832-1905): There is a living God. He has spoken in His Word. He means just what He says and will do all that He has promised.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679):I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5―there is the promise; and the inference, which He teacheth us to draw by faith from this, follows―verse 6―“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper.” We may boldly assert it in the face of men and devils, because He that is almighty hath said it…Assurance is, as it were, the cream of faith.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: God is concerned about me as My Father, and nothing happens to me apart from God. Even the very hairs on my head are numbered. I must never forget that.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.

RICHARD CECIL (1748-1810): I shall never forget standing by the bed-side of my dying mother. “Are you afraid to die?” I asked. “No!” she replied.
      “But why does the uncertainty of another state give you no concern?”
      “Because God has said, Fear not; when thou passeth through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee,” Isaiah 43:2.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): God is with His children, and ever will be.

DUTCH PSALTER 226 (Psalm 84:12): O Lord of hosts, most blest is he,
                                                                                  who puts his steadfast trust in Thee.

 

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The Certain Sinless Perfection of Every Believer in Jesus Christ

I Peter 5:10; Psalm 138:8
       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.
       The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): All deviation from perfect holiness is sin.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): When our holiness is perfect, our happiness shall be perfect; and if this were attainable on earth, there would be but little reason for men to long to be in heaven.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): Holiness indeed is perfected in heaven: but the beginning of it is invariably confined to this world.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The doctrine of “sinless perfection” [in this world] is not to be rejected, as though it were a thing simply impossible in itself, for nothing is too hard for the Lord, but because it is contrary to that method which He has chosen to proceed by. He has appointed that sanctification should be effected, and sin mortified, not at once completely, but by little and little; and doubtless He has wise reasons for it.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): When God converts His people from sin to holiness, He could, if He pleased, render them perfectly holy at once…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: Some of the first prayers which the Spirit of God teaches us to put up, are for a clearer sense of the sinfulness of sin, and our vileness on account of it.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Many appear to forget that we are saved and justified as sinners, and only sinners; and that we never can attain to anything higher, if we live to the age of Methuselah. Redeemed sinners, justified sinners, and renewed sinners doubtless we must be—but sinners, sinners, sinners, we shall be always to the very last. They do not seem to comprehend that there is a wide difference between our justification and our sanctification. Our justification is a perfect finished work, and admits of no degrees. Our sanctification is imperfect and incomplete, and will be so to the last hour of our life.

C. H. SPURGEON: This is quite true, but why not go a little further, and remember that we are “perfect in Christ Jesus,” Colossians 1:28…It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace, to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would if they could always see their perfection in Christ.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I was for some time much perplexed about perfection. Paul applied this to himself, and to many others, in Philippians 3:15. It was in that chapter that I had the most satisfaction as to what is meant by perfection. I saw that believers are perfect in all respects in Christ, but imperfect as to degrees in themselves.

C. H. SPURGEON: All of you, I am sure, who know anything about the experience of a living child of God, have found that in your best and happiest moments sin still dwells in you…There have been many saints of God who have abstained, for a time, from doing anything they have known to be sin; but still there has not been one who has been inwardly perfect―Surely, if any man had a right to say, I am not vile, it was Job; for, according to the testimony of God Himself, he was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil,” Job 1:8. Yet we find even this eminent saint, when by his nearness to God he had received light enough to discover his own condition, exclaiming, “Behold I am vile.”

JOHN LELAND (1754-1841): When Isaiah, the sublime prophet, saw the Lord on a throne of glory, and the heavenly host adoring before him, from a deep sense of his own pollution, the pensive confession flowed from his lips: “Woe is me, for I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips.”

JOHN NEWTON: The examples of the saints recorded in Scripture prove—and indeed of the saints in general—that the greater measure any person has of the grace of God…so much the more deep and sensible their perception of indwelling sin and infirmity has always been: so it was with Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and Paul.

JOHN LELAND: The knowledge which Paul had in the mysteries of God, was exquisite—his labours in the ministry were abundant—his sufferings, for Christ’s sake, above measure—his tour to the third heaven, very friendly for the health of his soul—and yet, long after this, we hear him lamenting in piteous groans, “O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I yet find a law in my members, bringing me into captivity, to the law of sin,” Romans 7:23,24.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): The reason for this mixture is that we carry about us a double principle, grace and nature. The end of it is especially to preserve us from those two dangerous rocks which our natures are prone to dash upon, security and pride, and to force us to pitch our rest on justification, not sanctification, which, besides imperfection, has some stains. “O wretched man that I am!” says Paul, with a sense of his corruption. Yet he breaks out into thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, verse 25.

C. H. SPURGEON: Sometimes, I think that, if God’s people mentioned in the Old and New Testaments had all been perfect, I should have despaired, but, because they seem to have had just the kind of faults I grieve over in myself, I do not feel any more lenient toward my faults, but I do rejoice that I also may say with each of them, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Surely the Scripture promises the thing; and the power of God can carry us on to the possession of it.

C. H. SPURGEON: He will most assuredly, beyond a doubt, bring to perfection my faith, my love, my hope, and every grace. He will perfect my body, and perfect my soul. While I am fully persuaded that perfection is absolutely impossible to any man beneath the sky, I feel equally sure that, to every believer, future perfection is certain beyond a doubt. The day shall come when the Lord shall make us perfectly pure and holy; when He shall not merely subdue our lusts, but He shall make us holy, and unblamable, and unreproveable in His sight.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Paul’s confidence was this, that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6. That is my only hope. I am in His hands, and the process is going on. God is dealing with me, and my heart is being cleansed. God has set His hand to this task, and I know, because of that, that a day is coming when I shall be faultless and blameless, without spot or wrinkle, without any defilement.

C. H. SPURGEON: That day, however, I believe, shall not come until we enter into the joy of our Lord, and are glorified together with Christ in Heaven. Then, but not till then, shall He present us “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” Jude 24.

THOMAS BROOKS: In heaven man’s greatest happiness will be his perfect holiness.

 

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Can Any Christian on Earth Live a Life of Sinless Perfection?

2 Timothy 3:17; Hebrews 6:1
        That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
       Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.

J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): What perfection does the Holy Ghost speak of here? Certainly not perfection in the flesh; that is but a wild dream of free-will and Arminianism.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The original is very emphatic: Επι την τελειοτητα φερωμεθα· “Let us be carried on to this perfection.” God is ever ready by the power of His Spirit, to carry us forward to every degree of light, life, and love, necessary to prepare us for an eternal weight of glory. There can be little difficulty in attaining the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls from all sin, if God carry us forward to it; and this He will do if we submit to be saved in His own way, and on His own terms.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): We are not sinless and perfect in this world, we cannot be; and therefore, if we think we are, there is something wrong with our doctrine.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Original sin in us, is like the beard. We are shaved today and look clean, and have a smooth chin; tomorrow our beard has grown again, nor does it cease growing while we remain on earth. In like manner original sin cannot be extirpated from us; it springs up in us as long as we live…A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): What is Christian perfection? Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

ADAM CLARKE: To love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and one’s neighbor as one’s self, is the perfection which the new covenant requires, and which the grace and Spirit of Christ works in every sincerely obedient, humble believer; and that very love, which is the fulfilling of the law and the perfection itself which the Gospel requires…Many tell us that “this never can be done, for no man can be saved from sin in this life.” Will these persons permit us to ask, how much sin may we be saved from in this life?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Our Wesleyan brethren have a notion that they are going to be perfect here on earth. I should be very glad to see any of them when they are perfect; and if any of them happen to be in the position of servants and want a situation, I would be happy to give them any amount of wages I could spare, for I should feel myself greatly honoured and greatly blessed in having a perfect servant.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): They appear to expect that a believer may at some period of his life be in a measure free from corruption, and attain to a kind of inward perfection.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: This again is obviously impossible. If that were the teaching, then we could be quite certain that there never has been and there never will be a single Christian in the world. For “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We have all failed. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It cannot be sinless perfection, therefore, which is advocated here.

J. C. PHILPOT: Perfection here and elsewhere [in the Bible] means being well-established and grounded in the faith, as we find the Apostle speaking, Hebrews 5:14, “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age”—literally, as we read in the margin, perfect—“even those who by reason of use have their sense exercised to discern both good and evil.” Christian perfection does not then consist in a perfection in the flesh, but in having arrived at maturity in the divine life, in being what I may call a Christian adult, or what the Apostle terms “a man in Christ.” When Paul therefore says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect,” he means, “being no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” It is this Christian maturity which is called in Scripture, “perfection.”

RICHARD GLOVER (circa 1862): If a man is a perfectionist, and thinks he is sinless, it is proof not that he is better, but only that he is blinder, than his neighbours.

C. H. SPURGEON: I question whether any man is much better than he is thought to be by his wife. Did you ever see a perfect man? I did once. He called upon me, and wanted me to come and see him, for I should get great instruction from him if I did. I said, “I have no doubt of it, but I should not like to come into your house; I think I should be hardly able to get into your room.”
      “How is that?” he replied.
      “Well, I suppose your house would be so full of angels that there would not be room for me.”
      He did not like that; so I broke another joke or two upon his head; whereupon he went into a perfect furor. “Well friend,” I said to him, “I think I am as perfect as you after all; for do perfect men get angry?” He denied that he was angry, although there was a peculiar redness about his cheeks that is very common to persons when they are angry; at any rate I think I rather spoiled his perfection, for he evidently went home less satisfied with himself than when he went out.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY (1713-1778): A very small house, I am persuaded, would hold the really perfect upon earth. You might drive them all into a nutshell.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Sinless perfection in this world is a madman’s delusion.

C. H. SPURGEON: I met another man who considered himself perfect, but he was thoroughly mad; and I do not believe that any of your pretenders to perfection are better than good maniacs, superior bedlamites; that is all I believe they are. For while a man has got a spark of reason left in him, he cannot, unless he is the most impudent of imposters, talk about his being perfect.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): The nearer men are to being sinless, the less they talk about it.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Perfection cannot be found in fallen man. The best are sometimes blamable, and the wisest often mistaken.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): This life was not intended to be the place of our perfection, but the preparation for it.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We shall never come to the perfect man till we come to the perfect world.

C. H. SPURGEON: If a being were perfect, the angels would come down in ten minutes, and carry him off to heaven, for he would be ripe for it as soon as he had attained perfection.

 

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Seasons of Grace in the Garden of God

Daniel 2:21; Song of Solomon 4:16
        He changeth the times and the seasons.
       Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The Lord is the gardener.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): God gives the increase―but He also knows how He gives it―and therefore manures, and ploughs, and sows, and weeds.

JOSEPH ALLEINE (1634-1668): As God makes use of all the seasons of the year for the harvest―the frost and cold of the winter, as well as the heat of the summer―so doth He, of fair and foul, pleasing and unpleasing providences, for promoting holiness.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Seasons of prosperity and times of adversity are regulated by Him as He deems best.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The frosts and snows of December and January, being as necessary for the fructification of the soil, as the gentle showers of spring.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): A tree is most valuable when laden with ripe fruit, but it has a peculiar beauty when in blossom. It is spring-time with [the new convert]. He is in bloom, and, by the grace and blessing of the heavenly Farmer, will bear fruit in old age. His faith is weak, but his heart is warm. He will seldom venture to think himself a believer; but he sees, and feels, and does those things which no one could, unless the Lord was with him. The very desire and bent of his soul is to God, and to the word of His grace. His knowledge is but small, but it is growing every day—But, alas! his difficulties are in a manner but beginning; he has a wilderness before him, of which he is not aware. The Lord is now about to suit his dispensations to humble and to prove him, and to show him what is in his heart.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): Perpetual sunshine is not usual in this world, even to God’s true saints.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Before corn be ripened it needeth all kinds of weather. Rainy weather is troublesome, but sometimes the season requireth it.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Sharp afflictions are to the soul as a driving rain to the house; we know not that there are such crannies and holes in the house, till we see it drop here and there. Thus we perceive not how unmortified this corruption, nor how weak that grace is, till we are thus searched, and made more fully to know what is in our hearts by such trials…The day of affliction makes discovery of much evil to be in the heart, which was not seen before.

C. H. SPURGEON: Very small must be the number who have had fair weather all the way to glory: it is questionable if ever one has been so favoured…It is mid-summer sometimes with the soul, when it enjoys God’s sweet and felt presence—[But] there is no sunshine without a shadow.

F. W. KRUMMACHER (1796-1868): It is not usually good that a man’s life should continue flowing on in one and the same easy manner. A long state of prosperity might leave his corrupt nature to become presumptuous, and forgetful of its meanness and poverty. Perpetual quietude serves to nourish a false spirit of independence. Long seasons of rest, for sacred musings, are too much open to the intrusion of self-complacency; and therefore, generally, a condition subject to no interruptions or changes is not good for us.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Worldly prosperity is but indifferent soil for the Christian to grow in. It rather stunts the soul.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): We can stand affliction better than we stand prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.

WILLIAM GURNALL: The richest soil, without culture, is most tainted with weeds—He that desires to live all his days in an isle of providence, where the whole year is summer, will never make a good Christian. Resolve for hardship, or lay down thine arms.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds.

WILLIAM GREENHILL (1591-1677): Thorns, briers, weeds, nettles, do grow up in God’s gardens.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Earthly riches are called thorns, and well they may; for as thorns, they pierce both head and heart; the head with cares in getting them, and the heart with grief in parting with them.

C. H. SPURGEON: Luke tells us of another kind of weed, namely, the “pleasures of this life,” Luke 8:14. I am sure that these thorns play a dreadful part nowadays…Certain forms of recreation are needful and useful; but it is a wretched thing when amusement becomes a vocation…Sometimes we may be so drunken with sense, that we become proud and haughty. We think this a good case; yet, there is great danger that we provoke our Lord Christ to go away from us. Therefore, we have now need of a holy fear.

JOSEPH ALLEINE (1634-1668): Pride is such a choking weed that nothing will prosper near it.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): There be two herbs that grow quickly in our souls in summer weather; security and pride. When security and pride, and other like weeds, are rank and up, the temptation has us in the night. Then if ye would be kept from the black hour of temptations, swell not on pride, turn not lazy in the use of good means.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Pray in prosperity, that thou mayst not be ensnared by thy prosperity—Prayer is not a winter garment: it is then to be worn indeed, but not to be left off in the summer of prosperity.

A. W. PINK: Very few souls thrive as well in times of prosperity as they do in seasons of adversity. Winters’ frosts may necessitate warmer clothes, but they also kill the flies and garden pests.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD: Our pride must have winter weather to rot it…Some graces grow best in winter. Humility is a strong flower, that grows best in winter weather, and under storms and afflictions…Faith is the better of the free air, and of the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity.

WILLIAM BRIDGE (1600-1670): The sins of God’s people are like bird’s nests; as long as the leaves are on the trees you cannot see them, but in the winter of affliction, when all the leaves are off, the bird nests appear plainly.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Afflictions are continued no longer than till they have done their work.

HORATIUS BONAR (1808-1889): In the day of prosperity we have many refuges to resort to; in the day of adversity only one.

JOHN NEWTON: And He can make the season of their greatest tribulations, the season of their greatest consolations.

WILLIAM GURNALL: This sorrow is but like a summer shower, melted by the sense of God’s love, as that by the warm sun, and leaves the soul—as that doth a garden of sweet flowers—on which it falls, more fresh and odoriferous…Though your life be evil with troubles, yet it is short―a few short steps and we are out of the rain.

 

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Geriatric Giants: Old Preachers Graced With the Spirit of Caleb

Joshua 14:6-12
       Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal.
       And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea. Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God.
       And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.
       Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): God has given every man a task, and a time to perform it in…Think not that men have power to take lives, or pull men off the stage before their work is done. This will hold true of all men, especially of these that have any special work from God; their days and tasks are determined with Him, Revelation 2—the two witnesses could not be prevailed over till their testimony was finished.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Moses had said in his prayer, Psalm 90:10, that at eighty years old even their “strength is labour and sorrow,” and so it is most commonly. But Caleb was an exception to the rule; his strength at eighty-five was ease and joy: this he got by following the Lord fully.

JOSIAH PRATT (1768-1844): After John Newton was turned eighty, some of his friends, fearing that he might continue his ministrations too long, recommended through his friend Richard Cecil that he should “consider his work done, and that he should stop before he should evidently discover that he could speak no more.” “I cannot stop,” said Newton, raising his voice. “What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): If all the physicians in the world were to tell me I must renounce my ministry on account of my increasing debility, and that such debility would increase till a speedy death would be the result, I would keep his fee in my pocket, and labour till I died…Should a physician tell me that my life is in danger if I continue to preach, I will answer him—“Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” So said Paul, Acts 20:24, and so says poor old Rowland Hill—I would rather be shut up in my coffin than shut out of the pulpit.

PHILIP HENRY (1631-1696): If I die in the pulpit, I desire to die preaching repentance and faith; and if I die out of the pulpit, I desire to die practising repentance and faith.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): As long as God gives me strength to labour I am to use it. I am still a wonder to myself. My voice and strength are the same as at nine-and-twenty. This also God hath wrought—my sight is considerably better now, and my nerves firmer than 30 years ago. I have none of the infirmities of old age, and have lost several I had in my youth. The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him. The chief means are—
        1. My constant rising at four in the morning for about 50 years.
       2. My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world.
       3. My never travelling less, by sea or land, than 4500 miles a year.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The effect of preaching on one’s own health is quite remarkable. Those who have read the Journals of Geroge Whitefield will have noticed that he often referred to that. He had not been feeling well—probably it was his heart troubling him, or his excessive corpulence in his later years—and you find in his Journal, or in a letter to somebody a statement like this, “I shall not be right again until I have had a good pulpit sweat.” I have often said that the only Turkish baths I have had have been in pulpits. This is something that literally happens, one is completely reinvigorated and restored to health and strength by preaching, and you scarcely know yourself. I know of nothing else that does this.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): We are to fill our days, and live as long as we breathe. When John Calvin was requested to leave off writing and correcting, “What,” said he, “shall the Master come and find me doing nothing?” And Philip Henry’s remark is well known, who, when desired to spare himself, said, “What are candles for but to burn out?”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I hope to keep on until I die…My own model, if I may have such a thing in due subordination to my Lord, is George Whitefield; but with unequal footsteps must I follow in his glorious track.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): George Whitefield’s last sermon was two hours long. He preached in the open air. We are told it was wonderful beyond measure. He went on that evening to a place called Newburyport, where he was to preach the next day—Sunday; but on the Saturday evening, as he sat at supper, a crowd came together around the house, and pressed into the hall and passages to hear more. Whitefield was very tired. He said to a friend, “Brother, you must speak to these dear people, I cannot say a word.” He took his candle to go up to bed; but he stopped on the stairs. He felt as though he could not send these hungry souls away empty. He began to speak over the banisters—he could not cease—the candle burned down in its socket, and went out before he had said his last word.
      At six the next morning, as the sun was rising over the sea, Whitefield lay dead. He had been taken ill at two o’clock. He could not speak afterwards, except to say “I am dying.” He had said not long before, “God will give me nothing to say when I am dying. He will have given me all the messages He has for me to give during my life.” And so it was.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): We are immortal till our work is done.

 

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Adding Members to Christ’s Church

Acts 2:47
       And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): It may be well just to add a word here as to the strict meaning of the term “the Church,” Christ’s body.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Though the word “church” is now expressive of some particular places of worship, it is never, in the New Testament, applied to buildings, but to persons only.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): Stating it is just about the most simple terms we know, the Christian church is the assembly of redeemed saints.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I would exhort you to be careful about the admission of members into the church―It is lawful to unite with all sorts of men for good and benevolent and necessary purposes, even as at a fire, Pagan and Papist and Protestant may each one hand on the buckets and in a sinking ship, heathen and Christian alike are bound to take turns at the pumps…But the case before us is that of a distinctly religious communion, a professed fellowship in Christ. Is this to be made so wide that those who contradict each other on vital points may yet pretend to be at one?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Is it not significant that we hear so very little today about what the Puritans called the “false professor”? Read the history of the Church in [England] and you will find that in great periods such as the Puritan era and the Evangelical Revival they paid great attention to this subject. It is seen in the way in which Whitefield and Wesley and others examined the converts before they admitted them to membership of their classes. The same is seen in the great days of the Church of Scotland, and in the first hundred years of the story of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Indeed it has always been the most prominent feature among all who think of the Church as “gathered saints.”

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The church of God is a congregation of men gathered out of the world by effectual grace.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): The question is not, whether Christ has made converting grace itself the condition or rule of His people’s admitting any to the privileges of members in full communion with them—It is the credible profession that is the church’s rule.

ALEXANDER CARSON (1776-1844): Faith in Jesus Christ is the only bond of the union of Christians, and no questions ought ever to be put to any who seek admission among them, but such as are intended to ascertain this. To refuse any whom Christ has received, is as sinful as to receive those whom Christ has rejected. It is the very spirit of antichrist. Some may think that they discover zeal for the honour of Christ, when they insist on perfect conformity in order to fellowship. But like the Hebrews to whom Paul wrote, they need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. Accordingly, we find that when any, in the days of the apostles, confessed their faith in Christ, they were admitted among the disciples.

UNCLE JACK* (174?-1843): If you adopt this method of admitting members, you must see to it that your back door is as wide as the front. You must prepare for dropping them, as readily as you took them up.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: We are not prepared to recognize all who ‘call’ themselves Christians as ‘being’ Christians. This is what these people are doing. They assume that if a man says I am a Christian and he belongs to a church, it does not matter what he believes, it does not matter what he denies, if he regards himself as a Christian then they regard him as a Christian. They say that it is wrong to say that any man is not a Christian if he says he is a Christian, irrespective of his belief…We are fighting a battle for the Church, a true conception of the Christian Church.

C. H. SPURGEON: We wish Christ’s church to be as large as possible. God forbid that by any of our winnowing, we should ever cast away one of the precious sons of Zion…But on the other hand, we have no wish to see the church multiplied at the expense of its purity. We do not wish to have a charity so large that it takes in chaff as well as wheat.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The excellence of the church does not consist in multitude, but in purity.

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN (1863-1945): Quality is always the thing that counts in the church of God, and among the disciples of Jesus, not quantity. We have such an unholy passion for quantity. We say, “great crowds go to that church; it is a scene of success.” Not at all. It may be that little chapel down in the valley, or on the hillside, away in the Highlands, or in the valleys of Wales where two and three are gathered, is of more use to God than the great congregation.

DAVID LIVINGSTONE (1813-1873): Nothing will induce me to form an impure church. “Fifty added to the church” sounds well—but if only five of these are genuine, what will it profit in the Great Day?

ALEXANDER CARSON: That true faith—as far as it can be ascertained—is required for a right of admission, is clear with respect to the hesitancy of the Church at Jerusalem, in relation to the reception of Paul. They did not take his mere confession, when they had cause of suspicion that his confession was feigned. He was received not simply on his confession, but on the recommendation of Barnabas, Acts 9:26,27. What a providential thing, then, was it that Paul was stopped a moment at the door of the church at Jerusalem! Even an apostle was not received on his mere profession, when there was a ground of suspicion.

UNCLE JACK: The Church will not suffer half as much, by keeping a dozen worthy members out a little too long, as she will by admitting one individual too soon…It is much easier and safer, to keep unworthy persons out of the Church, than to get them out, after they have been once received.

C. H. SPURGEON: Unconverted members lower the whole tone of the church. How low that tone has now become, let spiritual men judge for themselves.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There are so many people who may be described as spiritual worldlings. If you talk to them about salvation they have the correct view; but if you talk to them about life in general they are worldlings. When it is a matter of the salvation of the soul they have the correct answer; but if you listen to their ordinary conversation about life in this world you will discover a heathen philosophy.

C. H. SPURGEON: Let the door of the church be opened to all sincere souls, but closed against all whose hearts are in the world. It is not even for the worldling’s good that he should hold the form of godliness while he is a stranger to its power. As you love your Lord, and value men’s souls, guard well the entrance of the church.
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*Editor’s Note: Uncle Jack was an American preacher, a former black slave, known by no other name.

 

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The Importance of Jesus Christ’s Atonement in the 21st Century

Leviticus 17:11; I John 1:7; Romans 5:11
       The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
       The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.
       We also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

JAMES DENNEY (1856-1917): There is in truth only one religious problem in the world―the existence of sin. Similarly there is only one religious solution to it―the atonement.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): It should be recollected, that immediately after the fall of man, God was pleased to reveal a way, in which sinners might be reconciled, return to Him, escape the punishment which they deserve, and regain His forfeited favour. This way consists in repentance towards God, and faith in a Mediator of God’s providing, and reliance upon an atonement for sin made by that Mediator. This way of salvation was at first revealed to mankind in an imperfect manner, under a veil of types and shadows. This atonement, which Christ, the Lamb of God, intended to make in the fulness of time, was typically represented by the sacrifice of a lamb without spot or blemish.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Isaiah had foretold, that the Lord would lay upon Him the iniquities of us all; that He was to be wounded for our transgressions, and by His stripes we should be healed, Isaiah 53:6. Here then we see the manifold wisdom of God: His inexpressible love to us commended; His mercy exalted in the salvation of sinners; His truth and justice vindicated, in the full satisfaction for sin exacted from the surety; His glorious holiness and opposition to all evil, and His invariable faithfulness to His threatenings and His promises. Considered in this light, our Saviour’s passion is the most momentous, instructive, and comfortable theme that can affect the heart of man.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The doctrine of the atonement is to my mind one of the surest proofs of the Divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. Who would or could have thought of the just Ruler dying for the unjust rebel? This is no teaching of human mythology, or dream of poetical imagination. This method of expiation is only known among men because it is a fact: fiction could not have devised it. God Himself ordained it; it is not a matter which could have been imagined.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Whoever would have imagined that sin was such a vile and dreadful thing in the sight of God that nothing but the precious blood of His own beloved Son could make an atonement for it!

C. H. SPURGEON: Through His blood there is forgiveness; and by reason of His vicarious satisfaction, guilt is put away, and the believer is “accepted in the Beloved.”

JOHN NEWTON: But if His substitution and proper atonement are denied, the whole is unintelligible.

EDWARD PAYSON: Hast thou marked the old way, which wicked men have trodden?” Job 22:15.—It consists in rejecting the Mediator, and the atonement which God has provided, and substituting something else in their place. In other words, it consists in presumptuously attempting to approach God in a way of our devising, instead of that way which He has provided. The first wicked man who walked in this way, was Cain. While his righteous brother Abel, agreeably to God’s appointment, offered a lamb in sacrifice as an atonement for his sin, Cain presented nothing but a gift of the fruits of the earth, disbelieving the great truth, that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin; and showing that he did not regard himself as a sinner who needed an atonement. The consequences was such as might have been expected. The sacrifice of Abel, offered in faith and in obedience to the requisitions of God, was accepted; while the offering of the self-righteous Cain was rejected—a circumstance, which led him to murmur against God, to envy, hate, and at length murder his brother.

C. H. SPURGEON: Those who set aside the atonement as a satisfaction for sin, also murder the doctrine of justification by faith. They must do so. There is a common element which is the essence of both doctrines; so that, if you deny the one, you destroy the other.

EDWARD PAYSON: Soon after the death of the apostles, the Christian church began to apostatize from the faith, to forsake the way of life, and to walk in the way we are describing. They lost the power of Godliness, but multiplied its forms, and substituted ceremonies, as a ground of dependence for salvation. Hence the Christian church gradually degenerated into the Church of Rome. Neglecting Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man, they prayed to angels, to the virgin Mary, and to departed saints, as mediators; and instead of relying on His merits and atonement, they substituted in their room penances, bodily austerities, superstitious observances, and the endowment of churches and monasteries, by which they vainly hoped to atone for their sin, and obtain the favour of God. In a way which is essentially the same, many walk at the present day. They depend for salvation on their religious services, their moral duties, their liberality to the poor, their orthodox sentiments, or on a profession of religion, while they neglect the atonement and intercession of Christ, the only sure foundation, the only way of access to the Father.

C. H. SPURGEON: Modern thought is nothing but an attempt to bring back legal system of salvation by works. Our battle is the same as that which Luther fought at the Reformation. If you go the very ground and root of it, grace is taken away, and human merit is substituted. The gracious act of God in pardoning sin is excluded, and human effort is made all in all, both for past sin and future hope.

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): The doctrine we teach must be that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The person and work of Christ have ever been the corner-stone of the Christian fabric…If I really believe the record that God has given of His Son, that is the same thing as to think of His excellencies, in measure, as God thinks of them; and, in that case, I cannot but embrace Him with all my heart, and venture my everlasting all upon His atonement.

A. W. PINK: God is satisfied with the work of Christ, why are not you? Sinner, the moment you believe God’s testimony concerning His beloved Son, that moment every sin you have committed is blotted out, and you stand accepted in Christ! O would you not like to possess the assurance that there is nothing between your soul and God? Would you not like to know that every sin had been atoned for and put away? Then believe what God’s Word says about Christ’s death…There is only way of finding peace, and that is through faith in the shed blood of God’s Lamb. “It is finished,” John 19:30. Do you really believe it? Or, are you endeavouring to add something of your own to it and thus merit the favour of God?

 

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Christ’s Example for Christian Submission to the Will of God

Luke 22:42; John 18:11
         Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.
         The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The reason of Christ’s submission to His sufferings, was, His Father’s will; He grounds His own willingness upon the Father’s will, and resolves the matter wholly into that; therefore He did what He did, and did it with delight, because it was the will of God, Psalm 40:8. This He had often referred to, as that which put Him upon, and carried Him through, His whole undertaking—My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, John 4:34.

HENRY SCOUGAL (1650-1678): He endured the sharpest of all afflictions and extremest miseries that ever were inflicted on any mortal, without a repining thought or discontented word; for though He was far from a stupid insensibility, or a fantastic or stoical obstinacy, and had as quick a sense of pain as other men, and the deepest apprehension of what He as to suffer in His soul, as His “bloody sweat, and the sore amazement and sorrow” which He professed, do abundantly declare, yet did He entirely submit to that severe dispensation of Providence, and willingly acquiesced in it. And He prayed to God, that “if it were possible,” Mark 14:36, or, as another one of the Evangelists hath it, “if he were willing, that cup might be removed;” yet He gently added, “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): And herein He sets us a perfect pattern for our prayers for deliverance from temporal evils, with a submission to the will of God.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): There is no higher aspect of faith than that which brings the heart to patiently submit unto whatever God sends us, to meekly acquiesce unto His sovereign will, to say, “the cup which My Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Oftentimes the faith which suffers is greater than the faith that can boast an open triumph. Love “beareth all things,” I Corinthians 13:7, and faith when it reaches the pinnacle of attainment declares, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” Job 13:15.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): It is a genuine evidence of true godliness when, although plunged into the deepest afflictions, we yet cease not to submit ourselves to God.

A. W. PINK: Faith is ever occupied with God. That is the character of it; that is what differentiates it from intellectual theology. Faith endures “as seeing Him who is invisible,” Hebrews 11:27—endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heart-aches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings—whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyr’s stake—we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant place,” Psalm 16:6. But that is the language of faith, not of sight or sense.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Job eyed God in his affliction, and that meekened his spirit. “The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job 1:21. He does not say, “The Chaldeans have taken away,” but “the Lord hath taken away.” What made Christ so meek in His sufferings? He did not look at Judas or Pilate, but at His Father: “The cup which my Father hath given me.”

MATTHEW HENRY: It is not enough to bear the cross, but we must take it up, we must accommodate ourselves to it, and acquiesce in the will of God in it. Not, “this is an evil, and I must bear it, because I cannot help it,” but “this is an evil, and I will bear it, because it is the will of God.”

MATTHEW POOLE: I delight to do thy will, Oh my God, Psalm 40:8. This, though in a general sense it may be true of David and of all God’s people, yet it must be appropriated to Christ, of whom it is eminently true, and it is here observed as an act of heroical obedience, that He not only resolved to do, but delighted in doing, the will of God, or what God had commanded Him and He had promised to do, which was to die, and that a most shameful, and painful, and cursed death.

MATTHEW HENRY: We then are disposed as Christ was, when our wills are in every thing melted into the will of God, though ever so displeasing to flesh and blood.

JOHN CALVIN: It is the height of piety to be submissive to the sovereignty of God.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): An acquiescence in the Lord’s will is founded in a persuasion of His wisdom, holiness, sovereignty, and goodness. This is one of the greatest privileges and brightest ornaments of our profession. So far as we attain to this, we are secure from disappointment. Our own limited views, short-sighted purposes and desires, may be, and will be, often over-ruled; but then our main and leading desire, that the will of the Lord may be done, must be accomplished. How highly does it become us both as creatures, and as sinners, to submit to the appointments of our Maker! And how necessary is it to our peace! This great attainment is too often unthought of, and overlooked; we are prone to fix our attention upon the second causes and immediate instruments of events; forgetting that whatever befalls us is according to His purpose, and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good. From hence arise impatience, resentment, and secret repinings, which are not only sinful, but tormenting.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): It is impossible to be submissive and religiously patient, if ye stay your thoughts down among the confused rollings and wheels of second causes, as O, the place! O, the time! O, if this had been, this had not followed! O, the linking of this accident with this time and place! Look up to the master-motion and the first wheel; see and read the decree of heaven and the Creator of men.

JOHN NEWTON: If all things are in His hand, if the very hairs of our head are numbered; if every event, great and small, is under the direction of His providence and purpose―and if He has a wise, holy, and gracious end in view, to which everything that happens is subordinate and subservient―then we have nothing to do, but with patience and humility to follow as He leads, and cheerfully to expect a happy issue. The path of present duty is marked out; and the concerns of the next every succeeding hour are in His hands. How happy are they who can resign all to Him, see His hand in every dispensation, believe that He choses better for them than they possibly could for themselves.

JEREMY BURROUGHS (1599-1647): Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

 

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Considering God in the Midst of Our Adversities

Job 2:10; Ecclesiastes 7:14
       What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?
       In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Consider. Consider what? This, that “God also hath set the one over against the other,” and, therefore, thou must take the one as well as the other.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): Consider where your affliction originates. It does not originate with yourself, for you love yourself too much for this. It does not originate with men, for they cannot so much as move without the will of God, nor pull one of your hairs out. Rather, it is the Lord Himself who sends this upon you—the sovereign Lord whose hand none can stay and to whom no one can say, “What doest Thou?” It is your reconciled Father in Christ who sends this upon you in His wisdom, goodness, and love, doing so to your advantage. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,” Hebrews 12:9.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): All the injuries and unkind usages we meet with from the world, do not fall out by chance, but are disposed of by the all-wise God for our good. Many are like the foolish cur that snarls at the stone, never looking to the hand that threw it—if we looked higher than instruments our hearts would grow meek and calm. David looked beyond Shimei’s rage: “Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him,” 2 Samuel 16:11. What wisdom for Christians to see the hand of God in all the barbarisms and incivilities of men! Job eyed God in his affliction, and that meekened his spirit: “The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job 1:21. He does not say, The Chaldeans have taken away, but “The Lord hath taken away.”—Whoever brings an affliction, it is God that sends it.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): I would therefore take all things as coming from God, that they may lead me to God.

WILLIAM CAREY (1761-1834): God has sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases. We ought to acquiesce in all that God does with us and to us.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Shall we poor worms give laws to our supreme Lord and Governor, and oblige him always to bless and favour us, and never to afflict us?

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Observe from the words: “Should it be according to thy mind?” Job 34:33. Folks would have God guiding the world according to their mind and will. There is not a more unreasonable thing to seek to take the guiding of the world out of God’s hand, and yet this is the ground of our fretting and complaining, and not submitting to God, because we get not our will. Therefore when the heart rises, say to yourselves, “Should dispensations come as you would, or as God would?”

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We must bear our daily afflictions with submission to His will; We are bid to expect trouble in the flesh, something or other happens every day that grieves us, something in our relations, something in our callings, events concerning ourselves, our families, or friends, that are matters of sorrow: perhaps we have every day some bodily pain or sickness; or, some cross and disappointment in our affairs; now in these we must wait upon God. Christ requires it of all His disciples, that they take up their cross daily, Matthew 16:24…It is not enough to bear the cross, but we must take it up, we must accommodate ourselves to it, and acquiesce in the will of God in it. Not, “this is an evil, and I must bear it, because I cannot help it,” but “this is an evil, and I will bear it, because it is the will of God.”

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Consider the design of affliction. Without this, you cannot discharge the duty of the condition. For what is this duty? It is not only to possess your souls with patience―it is not only to submit yourselves under the mighty hand of God―but to acquiesce in the pleasure of the Almighty. It is not to say, “This is my grief, and I must bear it;” but, “Here I am, let him do what seemeth Him good,” 2 Samuel 15:26. Nothing less is required of you, as Christians, than a willing, cheerful resignation. But this can only flow from a knowledge of Him that smiteth you. You may yield, but you cannot acquiesce, without confidence in Him.

THOMAS WATSON: What made Christ so meek in His sufferings? He did not look at Judas or Pilate, but at His Father.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): We forbid not the consideration of instruments and secondary causes. Let them be observed―but do not stop there. Do not finish off with these dumb messengers whom the Lord sends; they are sent for the very purpose of inviting you to a conference, secret and personal, with Himself.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): When faith is not in exercise, the heart is occupied with the things which are seen and temporal: only the creature’s hand or the creature’s treachery is viewed, and peevishness and resentment prevail; or worse still, we are tempted to entertain hard thoughts against God, and to say “the Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): The Scripture gives us ground of comfort from the Author of our afflictions, who is our Father, and never manifests the comfort of adoption so much as then when we are under chastening: “The exhortation which speaketh unto you as children,” Hebrews 12:5. And again, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11. It is a bitter cup, but it is from a father, not from a judge or an enemy. Nothing but good can come from Him who is love and goodness itself; nothing but what is useful from a father, whose affection is not to be measured by the bitterness of the dispensation, but by His aims, what He intends.

MATTHEW HENRY: Good men, even when God frowns upon them, think well of Him.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): Does He not love us, and does He not know what is best for us? Oh, for grace to remember, not only when His dispensations are agreeable to the flesh, but also when they are painful and flesh-crucifying, that the Lord reigneth, that the Lord is our Father, and to praise the Lord. I believe that there is nothing that honours God more, or that God more honours, than praising Him in tribulation; and few men know what a talent He commits to their charge when He gives them bitter water. When did Paul ever honour God more than when at midnight, in the inner prison, his back cut to pieces by the Roman whips, and his feet made fast in the stocks, he prayed, and sang praises unto God? And when did God ever honour Paul more than when, through the instrumentality of those prayers and praise, he brought the jailor to his feet with question, “What shall I do to be saved?”

 

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Sermon Preparation: Saturday Night in Spurgeon’s Study

Haggai 1:13
       Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying…

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Brethren, it is not easy for me to tell you precisely how I make my sermons. All through the week I am on the look-out for material that I can use on the Sabbath; but the actual work of arranging it is necessarily left until Saturday evening, for every other moment is fully occupied in the Lord’s service.

MRS. SUSANNAH SPURGEON (1832-1903): Up to six o’clock, every Saturday evening, visitors were welcome…At six o’clock, every visitor left. Mr. Spurgeon would often playfully say, “Now, dear friends, I must bid you ‘Good-bye’ and turn you out of this study; you know what a number of chickens I have to scratch for, and I want to give them a good meal tomorrow.”

WILLIAM WILLIAMS (circa 1895): Sometimes he would ask me to wait a little while alone with him, and we would talk some subjects over; then he would say, “You had better go now, my sermon pangs have come.”

MRS. SUSANNAH SPURGEON: So, with a hearty “God bless you!” he shook hands, and shut himself to companion with his God. The inmates of the house went quietly about their several duties, and holy silence seemed to brood over the place. What familiar intercourse with the Saviour he so greatly loved, was then vouchsafed to him, we can never know, for, even while I write, I hear a whisper, “The place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” No human ear ever heard the mighty pleadings with God, for himself, for his people, which rose from his study on those solemn evenings; no mortal eyes ever beheld him as he wrestled with the Angel of the covenant until he prevailed, and came back from the brook Jabbok with the message he was to deliver in his Master’s name. His grandest and most fruitful sermons were those which cost him most soul-travail and spiritual anguish; not in their preparation or arrangement, but in his own overwhelming sense of accountability to God for the souls to whom he had to preach the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.

C. H. SPURGEON: I have often said that the difficulty is to fix my mind upon the particular texts which are to be the subjects of discourse on the following day; or, to speak more correctly, to know what topics the Holy Spirit would have me bring before the congregation. I confess that I frequently sit hour after hour praying and waiting for a subject, and that this is the main part of my study; much hard labour have I spent in manipulating topics, ruminating upon points of doctrine, making skeletons out of verses and then burying every bone of them in the catacombs of oblivion, sailing on and on over leagues of broken water, till I see the red lights and make sail direct to the desired haven. I believe that almost any Saturday in my life I make enough outlines of sermons, if I felt at liberty to preach them, to last me for a month, but I no more dare to use them than an honest mariner would run to shore a cargo of contraband goods.

E. J. POOLE-CONNOR (1872-1962): With all his great gifts, he could not preach with ease or power—sometimes he felt he could not preach at all—without the assurance that he was then and there the Divine mouthpiece. When preparing for public service, a dozen subjects would present themselves to his mind; but he must needs wait until some Scripture was impressed upon him as the paramount theme for the occasion, one from which without disobedience he could not escape. It was this feature of his ministry which gave his utterances their peculiarly prophetic character. Like Haggai, he was supremely “the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message.”

MRS. SUSANNAH SPURGEON: Sometimes, but not often, he would leave the study for a few moments, to seek me, and say, with a troubled tone in his voice, “Wifey, what shall I do? God has not given me my text yet.” I would comfort him as well as I could; and, after a little talk, he would return to his work, and wait and watch for the Word to be given. It was, to me, a cause for peculiar thankfulness when I was able to suggest to him a passage from which he could preach; and, afterwards, in referring to the sermon, he seemed pleased to say, “You gave me that text.”

C. H. SPURGEON: As soon as any passage of Scripture really grips my heart and soul, I concentrate my whole attention upon it, look at the precise meaning of the original, closely examine the context so as to see the special aspect of the text in its surroundings, and roughly jot down all the thoughts that occur to me concerning the subject, leaving to a later period the orderly marshalling of them for presentation to my hearers.
       When I have reached this point, I am often stopped by an obstacle which is only a trouble to those of us whose sermons are regularly printed. I turn to my own Bible, which contains a complete record of all my published discourses; and, looking at those I have preached upon the text, I find perhaps that the general run of thought is so similar to that which I have marked out, that I have to abandon the subject, and seek another. Happily, a text of Scripture is like a diamond with many facets, which sparkles and flashes whichever way it is held, so that although I may have, already printed, several sermons upon a particular passage, there is still a fresh setting possible for the priceless gem, and I can go forward with my work. I like next to see what others have to say about my text.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): It is a great privilege to have the thoughts that these men have been digging for all their lives.

C. H. SPURGEON: As a rule, my experience is that, if its teaching is perfectly plain, the commentators, to a man, explain it at great length whereas, with equal unanimity, they studiously avoid or evade the verse which Peter might have described as “things hard to be understood.” I am much obliged to them for leaving me so many nuts to crack; but I should have been just as grateful if they had made more use of their own theological teeth or nut-crackers. However, among the many who have written upon the Word, I generally find some who can at least help to throw a side-light upon it; and when I have arrived at that part of my preparation, I am glad to call my dear wife to my assistance.

MRS. SUSANNAH SPURGEON: I always found, when I went into the study, an easy chair drawn up to the table, by his side, and a big heap of books piled one upon the other, and opened at the place where he desired me to read. With those old volumes around him, he was like a honey-bee amid the flowers; he seemed to know how to extract and carry off the sweet spoils from the most unpromising-looking tome among them. His acquaintance with them was so familiar and complete, that he could at once place his hand on any author who had written upon the portion of Scripture which was engaging his attention; and I was, in this pleasant fashion, introduced to many of the Puritans and other divines whom, otherwise, I might not have known.

C. H. SPURGEON: She reads to me until I get a clear idea of the whole subject; and, gradually, I am guided to the best form of outline, which I copy out, on a half-sheet of notepaper, for use in the pulpit.

 

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