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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Triumph Over Temptation

George Whitefield

Quoting George Whitefield:

The riches of His free grace cause me daily to triumph over all the temptations of the wicked one, who is very vigilant, and seeks all occasions to disturb me.

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Let Us Not Labor In Vain!

Benjamin Franklin

Quoting Benjamin Franklin (Signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence):

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service. (Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

J. C. Ryle: He Only Lives Who Lives To God

Bishop J. C. Ryle

If you have not already figured this out for yourself, “Time is short, and life uncertain!” I pray that none of you should die in your sins, unprepared, impenitent and unchanged. Sometimes the preacher or teacher of the Gospel must speak to you strongly with words you don’t want to hear. Such ministers must not speak lightly and say smooth things. The man of God will not cry “Peace, peace,” when life, death and eternity are at stake. This same issue is addressed below by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

We may not like this perhaps. We may shut our eyes both to facts in the world, and texts in the Word. But God’s truth must be spoken, and to keep it back does positive harm. Truth must be spoken, however condemning it may be. So long as a man does not serve God with body, soul, and spirit, he is not really alive. So long as he puts the first things last and the last first, buries his talent like an unprofitable servant, and brings the Lord no revenue of honor, so long in God’s sight he is dead. He is not filling the place in creation for which he was intended; he is not using his powers and faculties as God meant them to be used. The poet’s words are strictly true—

“He only lives, who lives to God,

And all are dead beside.”

This is the true explanation of sin not felt, and sermons not believed—and good advice not followed—and the Gospel not embraced—and the world not forsaken—and the cross not taken up—and self-will not mortified—and evil habits not laid aside—and the Bible seldom read—and the knee never bent in prayer. Why is all this on every side. The answer is simple—Men are dead!

This is the true account of that army of excuses, which so many make “with one consent.” Some have no learning, and some have no time. Some are consumed with business and the care of money, and some with poverty. Some have difficulties in their own families, and some in their own health. Some have peculiar obstacles in their calling, which others, we are told, cannot understand; and others have peculiar drawbacks at home, and they wait to have them removed. But God has a shorter word in the Bible, which describes all these people at once. He says, “They are dead.” If spiritual life began in these people’s hearts, their excuses would soon vanish away.

This is the true explanation of many things which wring a faithful minister’s heart. Many around him never attend a place of worship at all. Many attend so irregularly, that it is clear they think it of no importance. Many attend once on a Sunday who might just as easily attend twice. Many never come to the Lord’s Table—and never appear at a weekday means of grace of any kind. And why is all this? Often, far too often, there can be only one reply about these people—they are dead.

See now how all professing Christians should examine themselves and try their own state. It is not in churchyards alone where the dead are to be found; there are only too many inside our churches, and close to our pulpits—too many on the benches, and too many in the pews. The land is like the valley in Ezekiel’s vision, “full of bones, very many, and very dry.” (Ezek. 37:2) There are dead souls in all our parishes, and dead souls in all our streets. There is hardly a family in which all live to God; there is hardly a house in which there is not someone dead. Oh, let us all search and look at home! Let us prove our own selves. Are we alive or dead?

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