The Sad Lament of Balaam

Hebrews 9:2; Numbers 23:10

It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): There are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous. Gladly would they have their end like theirs, but not their way. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Death is the end of a man in this world; and the end of a righteous man in it is peace, rest, salvation, and eternal life―truly gracious persons, who have the truth of grace, and the root of the matter in them, die as well as others, yet their death is different from others―they die in the Lord, in union to Him, in faith of Him, in hope of eternal life by Him, and their death is precious to Him, Psalm 116:15; and in consequence of this they are carried by angels to glory at death are immediately in heaven with Christ, and it will be well with them to all eternity.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Their happiness begins where the happiness of other people ends.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Where you die—when you die—or by what means is scarcely worth a thought, if you do but die in Christ.

JOHN GILL: Balaam had some notion of this; and though he did not care to live the life of such, he wished to die their death, or that he might be as happy at death as they; by which he bears a testimony to the immortality of the soul, to a future state after death, and to an eternal life and happiness to be enjoyed by good men.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Turn to the book of Numbers, the 22nd chapter and the 34th verse: “And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned.” “I have sinned,” said Balaam; but yet he went on with his sin afterwards. One of the strangest characters of the whole world is Balaam. I have often marvelled at that man; he seems really in another sense to have come up to the lines of Ralph Erskine—

“To good and evil equal bent,

And both a devil and a saint.”

For he did seem to be so. At times no man could speak more eloquently and more truthfully, and at other times he exhibited the most mean and sordid covetousness that could disgrace human nature.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): A man may be a false prophet and yet speak the truth.

C. H. SPURGEON: See Balaam; he stands upon the brow of the hill, and there lie the multitudes of Israel at his feet; he is bidden to curse them, and he cries, “How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed?” And God opening his eyes, he begins to tell even about the coming of Christ, and he says, “I shall see Him, but not now. I shall behold Him, but not nigh.” And then he winds up his oration by saying—“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” And ye will say of that man, he is a hopeful character. But wait till he has come off the brow of the hill, and ye will hear him give the most diabolical advice to the king of Moab which it was even possible for Satan himself to suggest. Said he to the king, “You cannot overthrow these people in battle, for God is with them; try and entice them from their God.” And ye know how with wanton lusts they of Moab tried to entice the children of Israel from allegiance to Jehovah; so that this man seemed to have the voice of an angel at one time, and yet the very soul of a devil in his bowels.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In general, the proper evidence of true Christians is, not merely that they can talk about Divine things, but that, by the grace of God, they live and act agreeable to the rules of His Word, in the state in which His providence has placed them, whether as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children; bearing rule, or yielding obedience, as in His sight.

RICHARD SIBBES: Balaam here wishes, “Oh, that I might die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be as his!” It was a strange speech of such a man as this, that his soul should be rapt up in this manner―But God will sometimes even stir the hearts of wicked men to a sight and admiration of the excellence of God’s children. What a thing is this, that a wicked man should see such an estate and not take it!

MATTHEW POOLE: But it was a vain wish; for as Balaam would not live as God’s people did.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Carnal men care not to seek that which they would gladly find. Some faint desires, and short-winded wishes, may be sometimes found in them, but the mischief is, they would break God’s chain, sunder happiness from holiness, salvation from sanctification, the end from the means; they would dance with the devil all day, and then sup with Christ at night; live all their lives in Delilah’s lap, and then go to Abraham’s bosom when they die.

EDWARD TAYLOR (1793-1871): I hope none of my people calculate on serving the devil all their lives and cheating him with their dying breath. Don’t look forward to honouring God by giving him the last snuff of an expiring candle.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): He who would die well should live well; for a bad death must be the issue of a bad life.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): A Christian is not afraid of death, but of sin; an unconverted man is not afraid of sin, but of death.

C. H. SPURGEON: Balaam was a terrible character; he was a man of two things, a man who went all the way with two things to a very great extent. I know the Scripture says, “No man can serve two masters.” Now this is often misunderstood. Some read it, “No man can serve two masters.” Yes he can; he can serve three or four. The way to read it is this: “No man can serve two masters,” They cannot both be masters. He can serve two, but they cannot both be his master. A man can serve two who are not his masters, or twenty; he may live for twenty different purposes, but he cannot live for more than one master purpose—there can only be one master purpose in his soul. But Balaam laboured to serve two; it was like the people of whom it was said, “They feared the Lord, and served other gods,” 2 Kings 17:33.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Purify your hearts, ye double-minded,” James 4:8. Be no more double minded, vainly endeavouring to serve both God and mammon.

MATTHEW HENRY: Therefore, if you resolve to serve God, you must renounce all competitors with Him.



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Proverbs 13:11; 28:22; 28:20; 1 Timothy 6:10; Ephesians 4:28
       Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase…He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him…A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.
       For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some have coveted after, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
       Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I noticed, some time ago, that a learned prelate said that he could not find any Commandment against gambling. Where were his eyes? Is it not plainly written, “Thou shall not covet”? What is gambling but covetousness in action?

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN (1863-1945): The whole habit of gambling is of the essence of theft, and this for the reason that it is a means of coming into possession of property for which one has done no honest work.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Wealth that is not the result of honest industry and hard labour is seldom permanent. All fortunes acquired by speculation, lucky hits, etc., soon become dissipated―God’s blessing is not in them, because they are not the produce of industry…A speculation in trade is a public nuisance and a curse. How many honest men have been ruined by such!

C. H. SPURGEON: When business is mere gambling, it ceases to be legitimate. Let speculators take heed of those dangers which necessarily attend all games of chance. I believe that every form of gambling, though it may take a business shape, tends more or less to harden the heart—Nobody but gamblers could have cast the dice, all blood bespattered, at the foot of the cross of our Redeemer. Gambling brings men into a state of heart worse than almost any other form of sin. When a man is willing to risk his all practically on the mere toss of a halfpenny whether goods shall go up or down, he is usually a bad man. And if he is not, he will be so before long.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): The devil invented gambling.

C. H. SPURGEON: I hold it to be fraught with more deadly evils than anything else that could be invented, even by Satan himself. I saw an old respectable-looking man put down ten pounds [in a casino]. He won, and he received twenty. He put down the twenty; he won again, and he had forty. He put down the forty, and received eighty. He put down the eighty, and took up one hundred and sixty pounds. Then he put it all in his pocket, and walked away as calmly as possible. The man would lose money by that transaction, because he would go back on the morrow, and probably play till he would sell the house that covers his children’s heads, and pawn the very bed from under his wife.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Such is the madness to which their greed carries them.

C. H. SPURGEON: The worst thing that can happen to a man who gambles is to win. If you lose, it serves you right, and there is hope that you will repent of your folly; if you win, the devil will have you in his net so thoroughly that escape will be well-nigh impossible…A young gambler is sure to be an old beggar if he lives long enough.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): In gambling there is a secret enchantment. A man will play a little, and only venture a small sum—but soon he is enticed in, and more and more entangled. Just so, men think it is no great matter to sin a little—and yet that little leads on to more!

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN: There is no more insidious evil sapping away the integrity and uprightness of the nation today than this lust for possession without toil, which lies at the root of all gambling.

WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): Vast schemes of lotteries under various pretexts have been introduced into society, and have greatly corrupted the morals of the people.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): There are lotteries, for instance, that we have in many churches. If a man wants to gamble, he doesn’t have to go to some gambling den; he can stay in the church. And there are fairs—bazaars, as they call them—where they have raffles and grab-bags…I believe all these things grieve the Spirit of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: The Bishop of Gibraltar did well to address his clergy in words such as these―“What is wanted of us all is that we should endeavour to form a healthy and righteous public opinion on the subject of gambling, draw away the veil which hides its guilt, and exhibit it to our congregations in its real deformity.”

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Money won by gambling is not won without self-seeking sin.

C. H. SPURGEON: And yet many say, “Well, I only play for the fun of it—you know there is nothing in it.” Of course there is nothing in it, but look at the connection of it.

JEREMY TAYLOR (1613-1667): If a man be willing or indifferent to lose his own money, and not at all desirous to get another’s, to what purpose is it that he plays for it? If he be not indifferent, then he is covetous or a fool.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): Gambling and lotteries are sin…It is an abomination before God to give a portion to the poor from that which we have obtained through unrighteous means or by way of gambling, doing so to quiet the conscience somewhat―this is no more pleasing to God than “the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog” (Deuteronomy 23:18), God forbidding that such funds would come into the treasury.

C. H. SPURGEON: No sin hardens the heart like gambling. Inhumanity is only a natural result of it. The play burns the heart, and dries up the milk of human kindness. While it renders a man weary of ordinary labour, for he fancies he has found a swifter road to riches, it makes him fit for any villainy and vice. It arouses covetousness, creates a selfish excitement, unfits for duty, and prepares for every iniquity. Need we say more against it? Can more be said?

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Of all gambling in the world, there is none so reckless as that of the man who lives unprepared to meet God, and yet puts off repentance―Break off from those sins, cast away your transgressions, and turn away from them without delay―Apply to Christ at once.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): What shall it profit a man to win the whole world and lose his own soul?


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Is Every Affliction a Judgment of God Upon Sin?

John 9:1-3
       And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The disciples’ question supposed two things for truth: That all bodily punishments and afflictions come upon men for sin, [and] that as some come upon them for personal sins, so others come upon them for the sins of their parents. The latter is unquestionably true: so is the former, but not universally: as there are afflictions which are punishments of sin, so there are some that are trials.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY (1713-1778): King Charles II once said to that great man, John Milton, “Do not you think your blindness is a judgment upon you for having written in defence of my father’s murder.” “Sir,” answered the poet, “it is true, I have lost my eyes; but, if all calamitous providences are to be considered as judgments, your majesty should remember that your royal father lost his head.”

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces…Christ, who perfectly knew the secret springs of the divine counsels, told them two things concerning such uncommon calamities: that they are not always inflicted as punishments of sin [and] that they are sometimes intended purely for the glory of God, and the manifesting of His works.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of his children’s graces, to make them shine the better.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): In the darkness of our miseries the grace of God shines more brightly.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The Gospel reveals the one thing needful, the pearl of great price; and supposes, that they who possess this are provided for against all events, and have a ground of unshaken hope, and a source of never-failing consolation under every change they can meet with during their pilgrimage state. When His people are enabled to set their seal to this, not only in theory, when all things go smooth, but practically, when called upon to pass through the fire and water; then His grace is glorified in them and by them; then it appears, both to themselves and to others, that they have neither followed cunningly devised fables, nor amused themselves with empty notions; then they know in themselves, and it is evidenced to others, that God is with them of a truth.

RICHARD CECIL (1748-1810): Often is trial great as an honour, to illustrate the strength of the grace given.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Stars shine brightest in the darkest night.

C. H. SPURGEON: There are some of thy graces which would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials…It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith.” Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?―for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence.

THOMAS BROOKS: Grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press.

JOHN NEWTON: Affliction is a touchstone that discovers what spirit a man is of. The hypocrite may keep up a fair semblance of true piety, while all things go smooth and to his wish; but in sharp troubles the mask will drop off. When faith endures the fire, we know it to be of the right kind; and others, who see we are brought safe out, and lose nothing but the dross, will confess that God is with us of a truth. Surely this thought should reconcile us to suffer, not only with patience but with cheerfulness, if God may be glorified in us. This made the Apostle rejoice in tribulation, that the power of Christ might be noticed, as resting upon him, and working mightily in him.

C. H. SPURGEON: Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials.

THOMAS BROOKS: Afflictions ripen the saints’ graces.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): Some graces grow best in winter…Faith is the better of the free air, and of the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity.

DANIEL ROWLAND (1711-1790): The lowly graces of the Spirit thrive best under crosses.

JOHN NEWTON: Many of our graces likewise cannot thrive or shew themselves to advantage without trials; such as resignation, patience, meekness, long-suffering—it is by our own sufferings we learn to pity and sympathize with others in their sufferings: such a compassionate disposition, which excites our feelings for the afflicted, is an eminent branch of the mind which was in Christ. But these feelings would be very faint, if we did not in our experience know what sorrows and temptations mean.

THOMAS BROOKS: Gold looks the brighter for scouring…Afflictions, they are but our Father’s goldsmiths who are working to add pearls to our crowns.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): It seems also from the teaching of the Scriptures and the lives of saints, that God sometimes prepares a man for a great trial in this way. I mean that He prepares him for a great trial by giving him some lesser trials.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): The Lord’s jewels need grinding, and cutting, and polishing.

JOHN LELAND (1754-1841): Grievous afflictions are not always sent as a scourge for crimes committed, but sometimes as preventatives from crimes. Paul’s thorn prevented his pride.

C. H. SPURGEON: God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains his soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs.

JOHN NEWTON: It is so in the Christian life: activity and strength of grace is not ordinarily acquired by those who sit still and live at ease, but by those who frequently meet with something which requires a full exertion of what power the Lord has given them.

C. H. SPURGEON: However, let us remember that grace is increased, in the exercise of it, not by virtue of the exercise itself, but as Christ by His Spirit flows into the soul and brings us nearer to Himself, the fountain, so instilling such comfort that the heart is further enlarged. The heart of a Christian is Christ’s garden, and his graces are as so many sweet spices and flowers, when His Spirit blows upon them, to send forth a sweet savour.

THOMAS BROOKS: Spices smell sweetest when pounded—and juniper smells sweeter in the fire.

C. H. SPURGEON: Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which thou art passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow?


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False Foundations of “Faith” that are Certain to Fail

John 14:6; I Corinthians 3:11
       Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
       For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): Each one who lives under the Gospel and has a concern over his soul for an approaching eternity, has a foundation, good or bad, upon which he is building his hope of salvation, upon which he rests his comfort in a dying hour. And of a truth, experience teaches us, that men lay foundations which are so precarious that a perceptive eye looking upon them must tremble on their behalf. It is impossible for any man to name all these foundations, since each has something peculiar to itself; yet they all coincide in this, that they build upon another foundation than Christ the Lord.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Men may attempt to lay other foundations than Christ, and build upon them, but to no purpose; they will be of no avail. All besides Him are sandy foundations—such as fleshly privileges, a carnal descent, a religious education, an external profession of religion, a man’s own righteousness, and the absolute mercy of God.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): They think God loves them because they love themselves; and though they know they have sin, yet they think God will not be so ill, as to reckon with them; they think they are sure that God loves them, but they cannot give a ground for it.

ALEXANDER COMRIE: Many mistake as a basis the convictions, the concerns, the continual accusations of their conscience, thinking these come from the Lord, and are a sign that God is working in them, and that they possess something different from their neighbours who live untroubled. But Saul (I Samuel 15:24) cried out, “I have sinned,” as also did Pharaoh and Judas. O! it is no good sign if a man places his convictions for a “foundation” without considering whether the blood of Jesus is ever applied to the soul to make its peace with God.

THOMAS BOSTON (1676-1732): Others come forth too soon; they are born, like Ishmael, before the time of the promise. They take up with a mere Law work, and stay not till the time of the promise of the Gospel. They snatch at consolation, not waiting till it be given them; and foolishly draw their comfort from the Law that wounded them. They apply the healing plaster to themselves before their wound is sufficiently searched.

MATTHEW MEAD (1629-1699): Never rest in convictions till they end in conversion. This is that wherein most men miscarry: they rest in their convictions, and take them for conversion, as if sin seen were therefore forgiven, as if a sight of the want of grace were the truth of a work of grace.

ALEXANDER COMRIE: Others place as their “foundation” their peace of mind; heretofore they have indeed had troubles and have long mourned, but now they are quiet, which is a sign of peace with God, since the wicked are like the troubled sea; however, the young man in Luke 18 was also at peace.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): It is manifest, therefore, that too much stress has been laid by many persons on a great work of the law preceding their comforts, who seem not only to have looked on such a work of the law as necessary to precede faith, but also to have esteemed it as the chief evidence of the truth and genuineness of succeeding faith and comforts. By this means it is to be feared very many have been deceived and established in a false hope.

ALEXANDER COMRIE: Many place as their “ground” the good opinion of others. In their perplexity they have spoken to this or that minister or godly person, relating to them their pathway; and these appeared by their utterances to place the seal of approval upon it; now all is well, no trouble, no arrow can now hit them; such a one has said it; therefore, others may think and say what they will, they take no notice, but go to perdition with a lie in their right hand.

JAMES DURHAM: A second sort are they that take the legal way for making their peace with God. Not as if they thought to appear before God without sin, and holy, as the covenant of works requires; but if they sin, they will make amends. And it is either something negative that they have not done, or something positive that they have done, or some internal qualifications, that they rest upon.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): We all naturally are legalist, thinking to be justified by the works of the law. When somewhat awakened by the terrors of the Lord, we immediately, like the Pharisees of old, go about to establish our own righteousness, and think we shall find acceptance with God, if we seek it with tears; finding ourselves damned by nature and our actual sins, we then think to recommend ourselves to God by our duties, and hope, by our doings of one kind or another, to inherit eternal life.

ALEXANDER COMRIE: Many place as their “foundation” that their convictions have been followed by some breaking off and changing of their deeds, so that they not only forsake former sins, but practise the contrary virtues; just as Herod did many things through the powerful ministry of John (Mark 6:20). Many use for their “foundation” their holy life in the practice of the duties of worship, their hearty prayers, their regular attendance on the means, their love to the ministers, having nothing more than Micah in the book of Judges, who thought that all would be well because he had a Levite to his priest, Judges 17:13. Many set down not only their knowledge of historical truths, but their skill in the knowledge of God and their understanding of God’s word for their “foundation;” however, there is a knowledge with puffeth up, and a wisdom which is not of God.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Most that perish, it is not their disease that kills them, but their physician; they think to cure themselves, and this leaves them incurable.

ALEXANDER COMRIE: Since a man must have a foundation which is sound, he is now out to make provision to have one that is good, so that he partly settles upon the rock of Christ, while there is another part which rests upon a sandy foundation; such are they who receive Christ in part—they are sinners and cannot stand before God, so they receive Jesus for guilt which is past, but now they will by the goodness of God live for Him; just as thousands receive Christ as Priest, but not as King. The Galatians would also lay Christ thus as their foundation, building part upon His righteousness and partly upon their own.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): He who depends in part or in whole on his own righteousness will surely be damned.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Jesus is the only door, the only way of a sinner’s access to the knowledge and favour of God. This is the precious and sure foundation which He has laid in Zion (I Peter 2:6); and to presume to build our hope upon any other, is to build upon a quicksand.


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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.
*Editor’s Note: Uncle Jack was an American preacher, a former black slave, known by no other name.


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