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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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The New Born Soul

Quoting George Swinnocke (1660):

“How wonderfully does the new born soul differ from his former self. He lives a new life, he walks in a new way, he steers his course by a new compass, and towards a new coast. His principle is new, his pattern is new, his practices are new, his projects are new, all is new. He ravels out all he had wove before, and employs himself wholly about another work.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones On Praise, Worship, And The Trinity

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Understanding the nature of salvation leads to praise. God has blessed us and we praise Him. If there is no praise in a Christian’s life it is because he is ignorant of the Scriptures. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains our relationship of praise for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Praise distinguishes the Christian particularly in his prayer and in his worship. The Manuals on the devotional life which have been written throughout the centuries, and irrespective of particular Communions, agree that the highest point of all worship and prayer is adoration and praise and thanksgiving. Are we not all guilty at this point? Are we not aware of a serious deficiency and lack as we consider this? When we pray in private or in public what part does adoration play? Do we delight simply to be in the presence of God ‘in worship, in adoration’? Do we know what it is to be moved constantly to cry out, ‘Blessed be our God and Father’, and to ascribe unto God all praise and blessedness and glory? This is the highest point of our growth in grace, the measure of all true Christianity. It is when you and I become ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’ that we really are functioning as God means us to function in Christ.

Praise is really the chief object of all public acts of worship. We all need to examine ourselves at this point. We must remember that the primary purpose of worship is to give praise and thanksgiving to God. Worship should be of the mind and of the heart. It does not merely mean repeating certain phrases mechanically; it means the heart going out in fervent praise to God. We should not come to God’s house simply to seek blessings and to desire various things for ourselves. . . .

But let us note that the praise and the adoration and the worship are to be ascribed to the blessed Holy Trinity. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings.’ The blessings come through the Holy Spirit. The praise and worship and adoration, indeed all worship, must be offered and ascribed to the Three blessed Persons. The Apostle Paul never fails to do this. He delights in mentioning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Christian position is always and inevitably Trinitarian. Christian worship must be Trinitarian if it is true worship; there is no question, no choice about this. If we have the correct biblical view of salvation, then the Three Persons of the blessed Holy Trinity must always and invariably be present. (God’s Ultimate Purpose: an Exposition of Ephesians One published by Baker Book House, 1978)

Jerry Bridges: The Antidote To Worry

Quoting Jerry Bridges:

The great antidote to anxiety is to come to God in prayer. We are to pray about everything. Nothing is too big for Him to handle, and nothing is too small to escape His attention. (The Practice of Godliness, NavPress, 1996, p. 159)

John Jay On The Bible

John Jay

Quoting the first Chief Justice of the United States John Jay:

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. (Letter to Peter Augustus Jay, April 9, 1784)

The Blessing Of God Found In Our Dependence Upon Him

God’s power preserves us in a state of grace. Saving grace is first given from God and is maintained by Him. We are dependent on the power of God for every part of grace; for the continual work of grace in our hearts; for the overcoming of sin; for growth in holiness; for enabling us to produce good fruit; and at the end for glorification. Jonathan Edwards gives us a look into the thoroughness of our dependence:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

Man hath now a greater dependence on the grace of God than he had before the fall. He depends on the free goodness of God for much more than he did then: then he depended on God’s goodness for conferring the reward of perfect obedience: for God was not obliged to promise and bestow that reward: but now we are dependent on the grace of God for much more: we stand in need of grace, not only to bestow glory upon us, but to deliver us from bell and eternal wrath. Under the first covenant we depended on God’s goodness to give us the reward of righteousness; and so we do now. And not only so, but we stand in need of God’s free and sovereign grace to give us that righteousness; and yet not only so, but we stand in need of his grace to pardon our sin, and release us from the guilt and infinite demerit of it.

And as we are dependent on the goodness of God for more now than under the first covenant, so we are dependent on a much greater, more free and wonderful goodness. We are now more dependent on God’s arbitrary and sovereign good pleasure. We were in our first estate dependent on God for holiness: we had our original righteousness from him; but then holiness was not bestowed in such a way of sovereign good pleasure as it is now. Man was created holy, and it became God to create holy all the reasonable creatures he created: it would have been a disparagement to the holiness of God’s nature, if he had made an intelligent creature unholy. But now when a man is made holy, it is from mere and arbitrary grace; God may forever deny holiness to the fallen creature if he pleases, without any disparagement to any of his perfections.

And we are not only indeed more dependent on the grace of God, but our dependence is much more conspicuous, because our own insufficiency and helplessness in ourselves is much more apparent in our fallen and undone state, than it was before we were either sinful or miserable. We are more apparently dependent on God for holiness, because we are first sinful, and utterly polluted, and afterwards holy: so the production of the effect is sensible, and its derivation from God more obvious. If man was ever holy and always was so, it would not be so apparent, that he had not holiness necessarily, as an inseparable qualification of human nature. So we are more apparently dependent on free grace for the favor of God, for we are first justly the objects of his displeasure and afterwards are received into favor. We are more apparently dependent on God for happiness, being first miserable, and afterwards happy. It is more apparently free and without merit in us, because we are actually without any kind of excellency to merit, if there could be any such thing as merit in creature excellency. And we are not only without any true excellency, but are full of, and wholly defiled with, that which is infinitely odious. All our good is more apparently from God, because we are first naked and wholly without any good, and afterwards enriched with all good. (“God Glorified In Man’s Dependence”)

Worried?

Quoting John Stott:

All worry is about tomorrow, whether about food or clothing or anything else; but all worry is experienced today. Whenever we are anxious, we are upset in the present time about some event which may happen in the future. However, these fears of ours about tomorrow, which we feel so acutely today, may not be fulfilled. The popular advice, “Don’t worry, it may never happen,” is doubtless unsympathetic, but perfectly true. People worry that they may not pass an exam, or find a job, or get married, or retain their health, or succeed in some enterprise. But it is all fantasy. “Fears may be liars;” they often are. Most worries…never materialize. (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, IVP, 1978, p. 168-169)

The Holy Spirit Is Doing Great Wonders

Bishop J. C. Ryle

The Holy Spirit is the agent who brings life to the spiritually dead. As Christians, we should all be praying for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives an edge to sermons and power to the rebukes of the minister of God. The iron gates of a sinful heart cannot prevail against the Spirit of God. We do not need man-contrived schemes to motivate an audience. We need more of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Bishop J. C. Ryle tells us more about the Spirit’s power:

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

Never, never will the Spirit turn away from a soul because of its corruption. He never has done so—He never will. It is His glory that He has purified the minds of the most impure, and made them temples for His own abode. He may yet take the worst of us, and make him a vessel of grace.

Why indeed should it not be so? The Spirit is an Almighty Spirit. He can change the stony heart into a heart of flesh. He can break up and destroy the strongest bad habits, like string in the fire. He can make the most difficult things seem easy, and the mightiest objections melt away like snow in spring. He can cut the bars of brass, and throw the gates of prejudice wide open. He can fill up every valley, and make every rough place smooth. He has done it often, and He can do it again.

Such is the power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate people, and as it were to bring them forth anew, so that they shall be nothing like the people they were before.

The Spirit can take . . . the bitterest enemy of Christianity, the fiercest persecutor of true believers—the strongest stickler for Pharisaical notions, the most prejudiced opposer of Gospel doctrine—and turn that man into an earnest preacher of the very faith he once destroyed. He has done it already. He did it with the Apostle Paul.

The Spirit can take a . . . monk, brought up in the midst of Romish superstition—trained from his infancy to believe false doctrine, and obey the Pope—steeped to the eyes in error, and make that man the clearest upholder of justification by faith the world ever saw. He has done so already. He did it with Martin Luther.

The Spirit can take an English tinker, without learning, patronage, or money—a man at one time notorious for nothing so much as blasphemy and swearing—and make that man write a pious book, which shall stand unrivaled and unequaled, in its way, by any book since the time of the Apostles. He has done so already. He did it with John Bunyan, the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The Spirit can take a sailor drenched in worldliness and sin—a profligate captain of a slave ship, and make that man a most successful minister of the Gospel—a writer of godly letters, which are a storehouse of experimental religion—and of hymns which are known and sung wherever English is spoken. He has done it already. He did it with John Newton.

All this the Spirit has done, and much more, of which I cannot speak particularly. And the arm of the Spirit is not shortened. His power is not decayed. He is like the Lord Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) He is still doing wonders, and will do to the very end. (“Alive or Dead?”)

Future Worry

Quoting Bill Elliff:

Future worry is overwhelming. There’s a reason. We don’t have grace today for tomorrow. One of Satan’s simplest tricks and most effective devices is to draw our attention to things we can do nothing about. There’s nothing worse than a crisis that can’t be fixed. If our hours are spent with thoughts of tomorrow’s problems, which are not accessible today and which we know we cannot touch with today’s resources, we are doomed to worry. And worry wears us out… [Yet] our calling is today. It’s not that we don’t think of tomorrow, but it must consistently be filed under “future grace.” The tide of confidence in God’s sufficiency must wash out worry. In fact, it’s a command. “Do not be anxious for tomorrow.” To go there is to disobey a directive from the One who holds every moment in His hand. (“The Sufficiency of Daily Grace”, Christian Communicators Worldwide)

The Christian And Suffering

Richard Baxter

After Satan had taken away Job’s family and property, Job makes this remarkable statement: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Then the Bible tells us, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:22) These are truly amazing statements! Richard Baxter writes here sound advice for the Christian who is facing suffering:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-16, 19)

There is scarce any point that God hath been pleased to be more full in, in the holy Scriptures, than the encouraging of his suffering servants against the fears of men; acquainting them that their sufferings are the matter of their profit and exceeding joy and therefore not of too great fear. . . .

How joyfully did the ancient Christians go to martyrdom! Many of them lamented that they could not attain it: and what comfort have Christ’s confessors found, above what they could ever attain before! And how honorable now are the names and memorials of those martyrs, who died then under the slanders, scorn, and cruelty of men . . . Comfort and honor attend the pain and shame of the cross. Acts 5:41, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Acts 16:25, “Paul and Silas sang praises to God at midnight in the prison and stocks,” when their backs were sore with stripes. It is written of some of the Christians that were imprisoned by Julian, that they would not forbear in the emperor’s hearing as he passed by, to sing, “Let God arise, and his enemies shall be scattered.”

Love better the holy image of God upon your souls, and then you will be glad of the great helps to holiness which sufferings do afford. Who findeth not that adversity is more safe and profitable to the soul than prosperity? Especially that adversity which Christ is engaged to bless to his servants, as being undergone for him? Rom. 10:3-5, “We glory in tribulation also knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.” God “chasteneth us for our profit that we may be partakers of his holiness: now no chastisement for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby,” Heb. 12:10-11. . . .

Remember that sufferings are the ordinary way to heaven. Love heaven better, and your sufferings will seem lighter, and your fear of them will be less. (“Directions Against Sinful Fear”)

Worry Is Not A Trivial Sin

John MacArthur

Quoting John MacArthur:

Worry is not a trivial sin, because it strikes a blow both at God’s love and at God’s integrity. Worry declares our heavenly Father to be untrustworthy in His Word and His promises. To avow belief in the inerrancy of Scripture and in the next moment to express worry is to speak out of both sides of our mouths. Worry shows that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspectives and understanding rather than by God’s Word. Worry is therefore not only debilitating and destructive but maligns and impugns God. (Matthew 1-7, Moody, 1985, p. 425)

Part V: George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior

George Washington

George Washington wrote a set of rules about how a man should behave in public. This is the fifth part of my posting of these rules. Some of his ideas may seem quaint to our modern minds but they are an excellent reminder of the importance of being a gentleman!

51 Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.

52 In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and places.

53 Run not in the streets, neither go too slowly, nor with mouth open; go not shaking of arms, nor upon the toes, nor in a dancing [damaged manuscript].

54 Play not the peacock, looking every where about you, to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly and clothes handsomely.

55 Eat not in the streets, nor in your house, out of season.

56 Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.

57 In walking up and down in a house, only with one in company if he be greater than yourself, at the first give him the right hand and stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him; if he be a man of great quality walk not with him cheek by jowl but somewhat behind him but yet in such a manner that he may easily speak to you.

58 Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ’tis a sign of a tractable and commendable nature and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

59 Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.

60 Be not immodest in urging your friends to discover a secret.

The Current Decline In Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice was truly one of the great preachers of our time. In the following excerpt, Boice addresses the decline of sound preaching in our modern times. Is it possible for someone to attend a church most of their lives and not hear Biblical preaching? Tragically, I believe this is so. How is it that we now find much preaching in such poor condition? Boice shares his conclusions with us:

[T]he current decline in preaching is due, not to external causes, but to a prior decline in a belief in the Bible as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God on the part of the church’s theologians, seminary professors, and those ministers who are trained by them. Quite simply, it is a loss of confidence in the existence of a sure Word from God. Here the matter of inerrancy and authority go together. For it is not that those who abandon inerrancy as a premise on which to approach the Scriptures necessarily abandon a belief in their authority. On the contrary, they often speak of the authority of the Bible most loudly precisely when they are abandoning the inerrancy position. It is rather that, lacking the conviction that the Bible is without error in the whole and in its parts, these scholars and preachers inevitably approach the Bible differently from inerrantists, whatever may be said verbally. In their work the Bible is searched (to the degree that it is searched) for whatever light it may shed on the world and life as the minister sees them and not as that binding and overpowering revelation that tells us what to think about the world and life and even formulates the questions we should be asking about them.

Nothing is sadder than the loss of this true authority, particularly when the preacher does not even know it. The problem is seen in a report of a panel discussion involving a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister. The rabbi stood up and said, “I speak according to the law of Moses.” The priest said, “I speak according to the tradition of the Church.” But the minister said, “It seems to me…” (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

Preaching Christ And The Cross

Dorothy L. Sayers

Quoting mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers:

At the risk of appearing quite insolently obvious, I shall say that if the Church is to make any impression on the modern mind she will have to preach Christ and the cross. Of late years, the Church has not succeeded very well in preaching Christ: she has preached Jesus, which is not quite the same thing. I find that the ordinary man simply does not grasp at all the idea that Jesus Christ and God the Creator are held to be literally the same Person. . . . The distinction of the Persons within the unity of the Substance is philosophically quite proper, and familiar enough to any creative artist: but the majority of people are not creative artists, and they have it very firmly fixed in their heads that the Person who bore the sins of the world was not the eternal creative life of the world, but an entirely different person, who was in fact the victim of God the Creator. It is dangerous to emphasize one aspect of a doctrine at the expense of the other, but at this present moment the danger that anybody will confound the Persons is so remote as to be negligible. What everybody does is to divide the substance—with the result that the whole Jesus history becomes an unmeaning anecdote of the brutality of God to man. It is only with the confident assertion of the creative divinity of the Son that the doctrine of the Incarnation becomes a real revelation of the structure of the world. And here Christianity has its enormous advantage over every other religion in the world. . . .

But it seems to me most important that, in face of present world conditions, the doctrines of the reality of evil and the value of suffering should be kept in the very front line of Christian affirmation. I mean, it is not enough to say that religion produces virtues and personal consolations side by side with the very obvious evils and pains that afflict mankind, but that God is alive and at work within the evil and the suffering, perpetually transforming them. . . . (“Creed or Chaos?”)

God Gives The Increase

 

Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies was born in New Castle County, Delaware in 1723, of Welsh descent. In 1747 he was ordained by New Castle Presbytery as an evangelist to visit the newly formed congregations in Hanover County, Virginia. He itinerated in the care of seven Virginia congregations east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1753 he sailed to England and Scotland to raise funds in support of the proposed College of New Jersey, which was established at Princeton. He was elected president of the college in 1759, and served in that capacity until his death in 1761. He was often referred to as the apostle of Virginia, and what he understood Scripture to teach about human instrumentality appears in the following sermon:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7)

The design of God in all his works of creation, providence, and grace, is to advance and secure the glory of his own name; and therefore, though he makes use of secondary causes as the instruments of his operations, yet their efficacy depends upon his superintending influence. It is his hand that sustains the great chain of causes and effects, and his agency pervades and animates the worlds of nature and of grace.

In the natural world, he makes use of the instrumentality of the husbandman to till the ground, to sow the seed, and water it. But it is he that commands the clouds to drop down fatness upon it, and the sun to diffuse its vital influence. It is he that continues to the earth, and to the other principles of vegetation, their respective virtues; and without this influence of his the husbandman’s planting and watering would be in vain; and, after all his labor, he must acknowledge, that it is God that giveth the increase.

So in the world of grace, God uses a variety of suitable means to form degenerate sinners into his image, and fit them for a happy eternity. All the institutions of the gospel are intended for this purpose, and particularly the ministry of it. Ministers are sowers sent out into the wild field of the world, with the precious seed of the word. It is the grand business of their life to cultivate this barren soil, to plant trees of righteousness, and water them that they may bring forth the fruits of holiness. It is by the use of painful industry that they can expect to improve this wilderness into a fruitful field; and the Lord is pleased to pour out his spirit from on high at times to render their labors successful; so that they who went forth bearing precious seed with sorrow and tears, return bringing their sheaves with joy. But alas! They meet with disappointments enough to convince them that all their labors will be in vain, if a sovereign God deny the influences of his grace. The agency of his Holy Spirit is as necessary to fructify the word, and make it the seed of conversion, as the influences of heaven are to fructify the earth, and promote vegetation. A zealous Paul may plant the word, and an eloquent Apollos may water it; the one may attempt to convert sinners to Christianity, and the other to build them up in faith, but they are both nothing as to the success of their labors, unless God gives the increase; that is, unless he affords the influence of his grace to render their attempts successful in begetting and cherishing living religion in the hearts of men. This is the great truth contained in my text: Neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 23 – OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE

Westminster Assembly

Every few days, I am posting one chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. I would like to encourage all Christians to make a point of studying its biblical teachings. In 1643, an Assembly of Divines convened at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship:

CHAPTER 23

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

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