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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God’s Election of Grace Unto Good Works

Ephesians 2:8-10

By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): We trust, by the Holy Spirit, we are not afraid that you will so misunderstand us, as to suppose that when we speak of good works today, we shall in any way whatsoever wish you to imagine that they can promote your eternal salvation.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): A man is justified by faith alone, and not by works. Without works―that is, without regard to any former good works supposed to have been done by him―so the righteousness of Christ, without the good works which we afterwards perform, brings us life.

C. H. SPURGEON: I shall call your attention to the near neighbourhood of these two phrases, “not of works,” and “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The text reads with a singular sound; for it seems strange to the ear that good works should be negatived as the cause of salvation, and then should be spoken of as the great end of it.

WILLIAM JENKYN (1613–1685): We are not justified by doing good works, but, being justified, we then do good.

C. H. SPURGEON: Those who place least reliance upon good works are very frequently those who have the most of them; that same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God…If we are not positively serving the Lord, and doing his holy will to the best of our power, we may seriously debate our interest in divine things, for trees which bear no fruit must be hewn down and cast into the fire.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): True faith is the fountain of good works. Good works are fruits of faith and characteristic of it, and it is thus evident that where good works are absent, true faith is also absent. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” James 2:26. You can be certain that the body is dead if breathing has ceased. You may likewise know that faith is dead, that is, that true faith is not present, when it does not manifest itself.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): They who are redeemed and purified by Christ, through the power of His grace upon them, become a people “zealous of good works.”

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): As Paul more plainly teaches us that we are redeemed from all iniquity, that Christ “might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Titus 2:14.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): Far be it from us to suggest that the apostle here states that God perceives the faith and good works of some in advance and therefore elects them…These are fruits issuing forth from election. They are not the causes of election. They do not precede election but are a consequence of it. There is nothing which necessitates God to do anything. Nothing which would be in man, nor any future deeds, moved God to elect a person. The reason for election is nothing but the sovereign good pleasure of God, Ephesians 1:5,9. This alone is the fountain of election…God does not choose anyone unto salvation because of his good works, rather He chooses them unto good works.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Should not we likewise be excited to good works by this―that we were elected to them?

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works,” Titus 3:8. To “maintain” these according to the signification of the word used, is to excel in them; to outdo others; to go before others, by way of example.

JOHN WESLEY: Though the apostle does not lay these for the foundation, yet he brings them in at their proper place, and then mentions them, not slightly, but as affairs of great importance. He desires that all believers should be careful―have their thoughts upon them, use their best contrivance, their utmost endeavours, not barely to practise, but to excel, to be eminent and distinguished in them: because, though they are not the ground of our reconciliation with God, yet they are amiable and honourable to the Christian profession.

JOHN TRAPP: In all things show thyself a pattern of good works,” Titus 2:7. The word τυπος there used, signifies a thing that makes the stamp on the coin, or the mould whereinto the vessel is cast and shaped―the excellency of a Christian is to follow God fully, as Caleb, Numbers 14:24; to have a heart full of goodness, as those of Romans 15:14; and a life full of good works, as Tabitha, Acts 9:33.

NATHANIAL HARDY (1618-1670): Good works are jewels not to be locked up in a cabinet, but to be set forth to public view. If Christ would have Mary’s name remembered in the gospel until the world’s end for one box of ointment poured on His head, we cannot imagine that He would have the many pious and charitable deeds of His servants to be buried in oblivion.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL: Therefore “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

JOHN CALVIN: And hence, as often as we become languid, or more remiss than we ought to be, in good works, let the promises of God recur to us, to correct our tardiness.

RALPH VENNING (1620-1673): Though we should not serve God for a reward, yet we shall have a reward for our service. The time is coming when ungodliness shall be as much prosecuted by justice, as in times past godliness had been persecuted by injustice. Though our reward be not for our good works, yet we shall have our good works rewarded, and have a good reward for our works.

C. H. SPURGEON: Yet even then the reward is not of debt, but of grace. God first works in us good works, and then rewards us for them.

JOHN CALVIN: We do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption…We must therefore hold these two principles: First, that believers are called to the possession of the kingdom of heaven―not because they deserved it through the righteousness of works―but because God justifies those whom He previously elected, Romans 8:30; Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term “reward” is applied to that which is bestowed by grace.

JOHN WESLEY: Although still, every good, as well as evil work, will receive its due reward.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works.

 

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The Idolatrous Strange Fire of Roman Catholic Worship

Leviticus 10:1,2

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The purpose of God in rejecting strange fire was to retain the people in His own genuine ordinance prescribed by the Law, lest any inventions of men should insinuate themselves; for the prohibition of strange fire was tantamount to forbidding men to introduce anything of their own, or to add to the pure doctrine of the Law, or to decline from its rule…All who forsake the Word fall into idolatry.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): What is idolatry? Is it not the transferring to the creature, the homage due to the Creator?

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Idolatry is a worship in which the honour due unto God in Trinity, and to Him only, is given to some of His creatures, or some invention of His creatures.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Worship God and Him only, even God the Father, Son, and Spirit―this excludes all creatures, angels, and men, things animate or inanimate, and images of them.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): What is the Romish doctrine and practice with regard to the worship of angels?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): [The Roman Catholic church] has commanded its votaries to pay religious homage to angels, contrary both to the example, and the express precept of Holy Writ; the angels are no more to be adored than saintly men, and neither the one nor the other can be worshipped without incurring the sin of idolatry! Take two parallel cases, [Revelation 19:10 and Revelation 22:8 & 9]. When John, seeing an angel, taking him for his Lord, bowed down to worship him, the answer was, “See thou do it not, for I am of your fellow servants, the prophets; worship God.”

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): In the original Greek, it is only, “See not,” with a beautiful abruptness.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The angel doth not only refuse it, but with some indignation.

C. H. SPURGEON: When the heathens, at Lystra, brought forth bullocks and sheep, and were about to do sacrifice unto Paul and Barnabas as unto Mercury and Jupiter, these holy men tore their clothes, and declared that they were men of like passions with others, Acts 14:6-18. Angels and holy men refuse all kinds of worship; they unanimously sing, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto the name of Jehovah be all the praise.”

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The simplicity of the primitive Christian worship, as laid down in the book of the Acts, is worthy of particular notice and admiration. Here are no expensive ceremonies: no apparatus calculated merely to impress the senses, and produce emotions in the animal system, “to help,” as has been foolishly said, “the spirit of devotion.” The heart is the subject in which this spirit of devotion is kindled; and the Spirit of God alone is the agent that communicates and maintains the celestial fire; and God, who knows and searches that heart, is the object of its adoration, and the only source whence it expects the grace that pardons, sanctifies, and renders it happy. No strange fire can be brought to this altar: for the God of the Christians can be worshipped only in spirit and truth.

J. C. RYLE: As for the Church of Rome, if there is not an enormous quantity of systematic organized idolatry, I frankly confess that I do know not what idolatry is…It is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory, and to address them in language never addressed in the Scripture except to the Holy Trinity.

JOHN WESLEY: There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all,” 1 Timothy 2:5,6. This excludes all other mediators, as saints and angels, whom the Papists set up.

J. C. RYLE: It is idolatry to adore that which man’s hands have made―to call it God, and to adore it when lifted up before our eyes. And if this be so, then with the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the elevation of the host, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

MATTHEW POOLE: What a fig leaf they have made to cover their idolatry, in worshipping the bread in the eucharist, who think they may be excused from idolatry in it, because they think the bread is turned into the body of Christ; idolatry is not to be excused by think so’s.

H. A. IRONSIDE (1876-1951): I have often pressed this question home to Catholic priests: “What is your function as a sacrificing priest?” They say, “It is my privilege to offer up the Lord Jesus from time to time a continual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead.” I generally put it like this: “Well, Christ has to be slain that He may be offered up, doesn’t He?”

“Yes.”

“You claim then that every time you pronounce the blessing, you are sacrificing Christ for the sins of the living and the dead?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, you kill Christ afresh every time you offer that sacrifice!”

Then they begin to hedge. But there is no escape from the horrible conclusion. The Roman priest says that when he offers the sacrifice of the mass he is presenting Christ again for the sins of the living and the dead. And the only way the Christ can be a sacrifice is to be put to death; therefore, the priest kills Him afresh every time he offers. They cannot get away from it…If Christ has to be offered continually, then every priest is guilty of murdering the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins,” Hebrews 10:10,11…How vain are the Romish inventions of confession, absolution, indulgences, masses, penances, purgatory, and the like tom-fooleries!

H. A. IRONSIDE: It was because the great reformers of the sixteenth century saw this clearly and were assured in their own hearts that the doctrine of the Church of Rome in regard to the Eucharist or the Mass was absolutely opposed to the Word of God and was not only blasphemous but idolatrous, that they came out in protest against that apostate system.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): I know they have many evasions; but yet the stain of idolatry sticketh so close to them, that all the water in the sea will not wash them clean from it. This text clearly stareth them in the face―“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” Matthew 4:10.

C. H. SPURGEON: Oh, the long-suffering of God in tolerating that apostate and accursed church which has dared to set up both saints and angels, men and women, and I know not what besides, as objects of reverence in rivalry of the Lord of Hosts!

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 3: The New Convert Growing in Grace

I John 2:12,13; I Peter 2:2,3; Exodus 33:13

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake…I write unto you little children, because ye have known the Father.

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

Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): It is a sure mark of grace to desire more.

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

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): Receptiveness is a characteristic of the new heart; the new-born babe desires the sincere milk of the Word, that it may grow thereby.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Now, as God only thus reveals Himself by the medium of Scripture truth, the light received this way leads the soul to the Scripture from whence it springs, and all the leading truths of the word of God soon begin to be perceived and assented to. The evil of sin is acknowledged; the evil of the heart is felt.

JAMES HARRINGTON EVANS (1785-1849): A sense of God’s love in the soul will make a man of tender conscience.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): This tender conscience is afraid to put one foot before the other, lest it should put its foot in the wrong place.

JOSEPH ALLEINE (1634-1668): How warily does he walk, lest he should tread upon a snare!  He looks in front, and behind: he has his eye upon his heart, and is often casting it over his shoulder, lest he should be overtaken with sin…His fears are not so much of suffering as of sinning.

C. H. SPURGEON: Poor tender conscience; some despise him; but he is dear to the King’s heart. I would to God, my brethren, you and I knew more about him. I used to know a conscience so tender, that I would wish to feel it again.  Then we questioned the lawfulness of every act before we committed it; and then, though it was lawful, we would stop to see if it were expedient; and if we thought it expedient, even then we would not do it, except we felt it would be abundantly honourable to the Lord our God.  Every doctrine we used to scruple at, lest we should believe a lie; every ordinance we examined, lest we should commit idolatry; happy were the days when tender conscience went with us.

JOHN NEWTON: Indeed, notwithstanding the weakness of his faith, and the prevalence of a legal spirit, which greatly hurts him, there are some things in his present experience which he may, perhaps, look back upon with regret hereafter, when his hope and knowledge will be more established…His zeal is likewise lively; and may be, for lack of more experience, too importunate and forward. He has a love for souls, and a concern for the glory of God; which, though it may at some times create him trouble, and at others be mixed with some undue motions of self, yet in its principle is highly desirable and commendable.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): As children grow that are got stronger and riper, so as people grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be more settled, more confirmed: on first setting out they will prattle, but later they will be more manly, more firm, more steady.

JOHN NEWTON: The old Christian has more solid, judicious, connected views of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the glories of His person and redeeming love: hence his hope is more established, his dependence more simple, and his peace and strength, more abiding and uniform, than in the case of a young convert; but the latter has, for the most part, the advantage in point of sensible fervency…Particularly that sensibility and keenness of appetite with which he now attends the ordinances, desiring the sincere milk of the word with earnestness and eagerness, as a babe does the breast. He counts the hours from one opportunity to another; and the attention and desire with which he hears, may be read in his countenance―and the desire of grace, in this way, is grace.

JEREMIAH DYKE (1584-1639): 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. There are counterfeit and false graces, and this is the main thing that differentiates between true and counterfeit ones: true grace grows, counterfeit grace grows not.  There is a great deal of difference between a true tree and a pictured tree, between a true child, and the statue or image of a child.  A true child grows, but the image grows not—it is no taller or bigger at a hundred years old than it was the first day it was made. Where there is truth of grace, there is a life of grace, and life will put forth itself and cause a growth, as we see in living trees, and living children that are not yet come to their full growth—they grow because they live.

JOHN NEWTON: 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. If he is not a father or a young man in grace, he is a dear child. The Lord has visited his heart, delivered him from the love of sin, and fixed his desires supremely upon Jesus Christ. The spirit of bondage is gradually departing from him, and the hour of liberty, which he longs for, is approaching, when, by a farther discovery of the glorious Gospel, it shall be given him to know his acceptance, and to rest upon the Lord’s finished salvation.

C. H. SPURGEON: Everything in the kingdom of grace is not to be learned in ten minutes. I bless God that a man who has believed in Jesus only one second is a saved man; but he is not an instructed man, he is not an established man.  He is not trained for battle; nor tutored for labour.  These things take time.

 

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The Atheist: The Ultimate April Fool

Psalm 14:1; Psalm 94:8; Proverbs 8:5; 3:35; 19:29

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?

O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools. Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.

JOHN JAMIESON (1759-1838): The world we live in is a world of fools.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We are sometimes tempted to think, “Surely there never was so much atheism and profaneness as there is in our days;” but we see the former days were no better; even in David’s time there were those who had arrived at such a height of impiety as to deny the very being of a God.

JEREMY TAYLOR (1613-1667): Who in the world is a verier fool, a more ignorant, wretched person, than he that is an atheist?

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Such are commonly and justly called fools every where in Scripture, and that purposely to meet with their false, yet common conceit of themselves, as if they were the only wise men, and all others were fools.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): There are others who, without absolutely denying the Divine existence, deny His providence; that is, they acknowledge a Being of infinite power, etc., but give Him nothing to do, and no world to govern. There are others, and they are very numerous, who, while they profess to acknowledge both, deny them in their heart, and live as if they were persuaded there was no God either to punish or reward.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): There is no fear of God before his eyes; no reverential affection for Him, but enmity to Him…As the atheist denies God in words, the idolater denies Him in facts, worshipping the creature besides the Creator, and giving his glory to another, and his praise to idols, which is a virtual denial of Him.

MATTHEW HENRY: Atheistical thoughts are very foolish wicked thoughts, and they are at the bottom of a great deal of the wickedness that is in this world.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): A hypocrite may well be termed a religious atheist, an atheist masked with religion.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): An Atheist, strictly speaking, is one who does not believe, and who absolutely ridicules, the being of a God. That appellation, certainly, is not usually given to superstitious persons, but to those who have no feeling of religion, and who desire to see it utterly destroyed.

JOHN GILL: Atheists condemn revelation, despise the Word of God, and regard no day nor manner of worship; and this notwithstanding the majesty of God, at whose presence they tremble not, and notwithstanding the goodness of God, which should induce them to fear Him, and notwithstanding the judgment of God on others, and even on themselves; and notwithstanding the future awful judgment, which they put far away or disbelieve.

MATTHEW HENRY: An atheist justifies himself in his iniquity and evades the argument taken from the judgment to come by pleading that there is not another life after this, but that when man dies there is an end of him, and therefore while he lives he may live as he lists.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The Atheist is the fool pre-eminently, and a fool universally―to say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): The name of God is written in such full, fair and shining characters upon the whole creation, that all men may run and read that there is a God. The notion of a deity is so strongly and deeply impressed upon the tables of all men’s hearts, that to deny a God is to quench the very principles of common nature; yea, it is formally deicidium—a killing of God, as much as in the creature lies.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): This is the secret desire of every unconverted bosom.

C. H. SPURGEON: If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates there were some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity; but as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks His laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it.

JEREMY TAYLOR: A man may better believe there is no such man as himself, and that he is not in being, than that there is no God―and if he knows it not, he is a fool.

C. H. SPURGEON: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, Psalm 19:1. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK: A fool is one that hath lost his wisdom and right notion of God and divine things, which were communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties, as of grace in those faculties; not one that wants reason, but who abuses his reason.

JEREMY TAYLOR: Can anything in this world be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth can come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster? To see rare effects, and no cause―a time without an eternity; a second without a first; a thing that begins not from itself, and therefore, not perceive there is something from which must be without beginning? These things are so against philosophy and natural reason, that he must needs be a beast in his understanding that does not assent to them.

JOSEPH ADDISON (1671-1719): There is not a more ridiculous animal than an atheist―his mind is incapable of rapture or elevation: he can only consider himself as an insignificant figure in a landscape, and wandering up and down in a field or a meadow, under the same terms as the meanest animals about him, and as subject to as total a mortality as they―with this aggravation: that he is the only one amongst them who lies under the apprehension of it. In distresses he must be of all creatures the most helpless and forlorn; he feels the whole pressure of a present calamity, without being relieved by the memory of anything that is past, or the prospect of anything that is to come. Annihilation is the greatest blessing that he proposes to himself, and a halter or a pistol the only refuge he can fly to. But if you would behold one of these gloomy miscreants in his poorest figure, you must consider them under the terrors―or, at the approach of death.

MURDOCH CAMPBELL (1901-1974): Someone once asked Margaret Mackenzie to explain the request of the foolish virgins when they said to wise―“Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out, Matthew 25:8. She replied, “Did you ever hear of godless persons on their death bed asking the Lord’s people to pray for them. Well, that is the meaning of their cry.”

 

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