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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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God is a Fountain

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. Every stream of holy love, yes, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds from God. In heaven, this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yes, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

When Prayers are not heard by God

Why are some of our prayers not answered? Perhaps we do not ask rightly and we bring too much pride to the altar of prayer. John Knox writes:

[L]et us not think that we should be heard [by God] for anything proceeding of ourselves; for such as advance, boast, or depend anything upon their own justice, [God] repels from the presence of his mercy. . . And, therefore, we find the most holy men most dejected and humbled in prayer.

David says, “O Lord, our Savior, help us, be merciful unto our sins for thy own sake. Remember not our old iniquities. But haste thee, O Lord, and let thy mercy prevent us” (Ps. 79:8-9). Jeremiah says, “If our iniquities bear testimony against us, do thou according to thy own name” (Jer. 14:7). And behold Isaiah: “Thou art angry, O Lord, because we have sinned, and are replenished with all wickedness; and our justice is like a defiled cloth. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are clay, thou art the workman, and we the workmanship of thy hands. Be not angry, O Lord, remember not our iniquities for ever” (Isa. 64:5-6, 8-9). And Daniel, greatly commended of God, in his prayer, makes most humble confession in these words: “We are sinners, and have offended; we have done ungodly, and fallen from thy commandment. Therefore, not in our own righteousness make we our prayers before thee, but thy most rich and great mercies bring we forth for us. O Lord, hear! O Lord, be merciful and spare us! O Lord, attend, help, and cease not; my God, even for thy own name’s sake do it; for thy city and thy people are called after thy own name” (Dan. 9:5, 18-19). Behold, that in these prayers is no mention of their own justice, their own satisfaction, or their own merits; but most humble confession, proceeding from a sorrowful and penitent heart; having nothing whereupon it might depend, but the free mercy of God alone, who had promised to be their God (that is, their help, comfort, defender, and deliverer); as he has also done to us by Jesus Christ, in time of tribulation; and that they despair not, but after the acknowledging of their sins, called for mercy, and obtained the same. Wherefore it is plain, that such men as, in their prayers, have respect to any virtue proceeding of themselves, thinking thereby their prayers are accepted, never prayed aright.

The Wrath of Hell

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

Hell is a place where God manifests his displeasure and wrath. Everything in hell is hateful. There is not one solitary object there that is not odious and detestable, horrid and hateful. There is no person or thing to be seen there, that is amiable or lovely; nothing that is pure, or holy, or pleasant, but everything abominable and odious.

There are no beings there but devils, and damned spirits that are like devils. Hell is, as it were, a vast den of poisonous hissing serpents – the old serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and with him all his hateful brood!

Those in hell hate God, and Christ, and angels, and saints in heaven; and not only so, but they hate one another, like a company of serpents or vipers, not only spitting out venom against God, but at one another, biting and stinging and tormenting each other.

All things in the wide universe that are hateful shall be gathered together in hell, as in a vast receptacle provided on purpose, that the universe which God has made may be cleansed of its filthiness, by casting it all into this great sink of wickedness and woe.

It is a world prepared on purpose for the expression of God’s wrath. He has made hell for this; and he has no other use for it but there to testify forever his hatred of sin and sinners, where there is no token of love or mercy. In hell, there is nothing there but what shows forth the Divine indignation and wrath.

Every object shows forth wrath. It is a world all overflowed with a deluge of wrath, as it were, with a deluge of liquid fire, so as to be called a lake of fire and brimstone, and the second death. (“Charity and its Fruit”)

The Spirit Operates Through the Word

Please note in this article by Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) that the power of the Spirit works through the Word of God. The implications and consequences are numerous for those who refuse to spend time in God’s Word. Alexander writes:

Regeneration must be the peculiar work of God, because it is “a new creation,” and no power but that of God is adequate to such a work. It is a resurrection from the worst kind of death, and none can inspire the dead with life but the Almighty. It is giving sight to the blind, and opening the eyes which never saw the light of day, to behold the beauty of holiness, and the glory of God; but the same power which in the beginning caused light to shine out of darkness, must shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. “Except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth, etc., so is every one that is born of the spirit.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Those who are the sons of God are not “born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Paul calls this change “the washing of regeneration,” and “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” And David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” But why multiply proofs of a truth so evident from reason as well as Scripture? If there be any such internal change of the heart, God must be its author; for how else could it be produced?

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” If a tree be evil, who can make it good, but he who created it? If the heart be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, will it purify itself? If all the thoughts and imaginations of man’s heart are evil and only evil and that continually, whence will spring a holy nature? For a sinner to regenerate himself would be as absurd an idea, as for a man to create or beget himself. It is God that begins this good work within his people, and he will carry it on.

As God the Holy Spirit is the Author of regeneration; so the instrument employed is the Word of God. This is as clearly taught in Scripture as that God is the author or efficient cause. God is able to work without means, but both in the worlds of nature and grace it has pleased him to employ appropriate means for the accomplishment of his own ends. . . . The Spirit operates by and through the word. The word derives all its power and penetrating energy from the Spirit. Without the omnipotence of God the word would be as inefficient as clay and spittle, to restore sight to the blind. (“A Practical View of Regeneration”)

The Powerful Word of God

Charles Spurgeon writes:

We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no one will ever be constrained toward Christ.

A man is not saved against his will, but he is made willing by the operation of the Holy Spirit. A mighty grace which he does not wish to resist enters into the man, disarms him, makes a new creature of him, and he is saved.

If I did not believe that there was might going forth with the word of Jesus which makes men willing, and which turns them from the error of their ways by the mighty, overwhelming, constraining force of divine influence, I should cease to glory in the cross of Christ.

The Idol of Benevolence

Many believe that conversion is a change which takes place when a person ceases to be selfish, and becomes benevolent. Such a person stops making his happiness the goal of life, and seeks to make others happy. Is this true Christianity? Charles Hodge (1823-1886) writes:

In painful contrast with the Christianity of the Bible and of the church, there is a kind of religion, very prevalent and very influential, calling itself Christianity, which may be properly designated Christianity without Christ. . . .

The lowest form of this kind of religion is that which assumes Christ to be a mere man, or, at most, merely a creature. Then, of course, He cannot be an object of adoration, of supreme love, of trust, and of devotion. The difference is absolute between the inward religious state of those who regard Christ as a creature, and that of those who regard him as God. If the one be true religion, the other is impiety.

The second form of this religion admits of higher views of the person of Christ, but it reduces Christianity to benevolence. And by benevolence is often meant nothing more than philanthropy. The gospel is made to consist in the inculcation of the command, Love your neighbor as yourself. All who approximately do this are called Christians. . . .

And hence, too, an avowed atheist is told, that if he sits up all night with a sick child, he is a Christian, whatever he may think. A popular poem — popular because of the sentiment which it teaches — represents the recording angel as placing at the head of those who love God, the name of the man who could only say; “Write me as one who loves my fellow-men.” The love of our fellow-men is thus made the highest form of religion. This is below even natural religion. It ignores God as well as Christ. Yet this is the doctrine which we find, variously sugared over and combined, in poetry, in novels, in magazines, and even in religious journals. . . .

Every Christian is benevolent; but his benevolence does not make him a Christian; his Christianity makes him benevolent. Throughout all ages the men who have labored most and suffered most for the good of others, have been Christians — men animated and controlled by Christ’s love to them, and by their love to Christ. It is evident that the spiritual life — the inward religious state — of the man to whom it is Christ to live, is very different from that of the man who lives for the happiness of the universe. (“Christianity without Christ”)

The Duty of Ministers

In the words of Jonathan Edwards:

It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honor, to imitate Christ, and do the work that he has done, and so act as co-workers with him.

The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of—the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world.

They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God. They should follow the example of his prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of his retiring from the world, away from the noise and applause of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father.

Ministers should be persons of the same quiet, lamb like spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God’s will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men; of the same calmness and composure of spirit under reproaches and sufferings from the malignity of evil men; of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries; of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence; the same disposition to pity the miserable, to weep with those that weep, to help men under their calamities of both soul and body, to hear and grant the requests of the needy, and relieve afflicted; the same spirit of condescension to the poor and lowly, tenderness and gentleness toward the weak, and great and effectual love to enemies. . . .

And in order to our imitating Christ in the work of the ministry, in any tolerable degree, we should not have our hearts weighed down, and time filled up with worldly affections, cares, and pursuits. The duties of a minister that have been recommended are absolutely inconsistent with a mind much taken up with worldly profit, glory, amusements, and entertainments.

The Price of Passion

In 1860 Thomas Phillips wrote the first comprehensive account of the 1859 revival in Wales. It is simply titled The Welsh Revival. There were other revivals in Wales after 1859. There are published accounts of these as well. G. Campbell Morgan uses this account from the great Welsh Revival to illustrate the price of passion in preaching:

The preacher comes with good news; but he does not come with something to be trifled with. His message has an insistent demand, because he comes on behalf of a King.

During the great Welsh Revival, it is said, a certain minister was marvelously successful in his preaching. He had but one sermon, but under it hundreds of men were saved. Far away from where he lived in a lonely valley, news of this wonderful success reached a brother preacher. Forthwith he became anxious to find out the secret of his success. At length, reaching the humble cottage where the good man lived, he said, “Brother, where did you get that sermon?”

He was taken into a poorly furnished room and pointed to a spot where the carpet was worn shabby and bare, near a window that looked out toward the mountains. The minister said,

“Brother, that’s where I got that sermon. My heart was heavy for men. One evening I knelt there and cried for power to preach as I had never preached before.

“The hours passed until the midnight struck, and the stars looked down on the sleeping valley and silent hills; but the answer came not. So I prayed until at length I saw a faint gray shoot up in the east. Presently it became silver, and I watched and prayed until the silver became purple and gold, and on all the mountain crests blazed the altar fires of the new day; and then the sermon came, and the power came.

“I lay down and slept, and arose and preached, and scores fell down before the fire of God. That is where I got that sermon.” (“Preaching With Passion”)

Back Door Christians

From the sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon:

Many come to God’s house disguised in manner and appearance. How good you all look!

When we sing and you take your books, how heavenly-minded! And when we pray, how reverent you are! How your heads are all bowed – your eyes covered with your hands! I do not know how much praying there is when you sit in a devout posture; though you assume the attitude and compose your countenance as those who draw near to supplicate the Lord. I am afraid there are many of you who do not pray a word or present a petition, though you assume the posture of suppliants. When the singing is going on there are many who never sing a word with the spirit and the understanding.

In the house of God I am afraid there are many who wear a mask, stand as God’s people stand, sit as they sit, pray as they pray, and sing as they sing- and all the while what are you doing? Some of you have been attending to your children while we have been singing tonight. Some of you have been casting up your ledger, attending to your farms, scheming about your carpentering and bricklaying; yet all the while if we had looked into your faces we might have thought you were reverently worshiping God.

Oh! Those solemn faces, and those reverent looks, they do not deceive the Most High God! He knows who and what you are! He sees you as clearly as men see through glass. As for hiding from the Almighty, how can you hide yourself from him? As well attempt to hide in a glass case, for all the world is a glass case before God. . . The eyes of God are on you continually; no veil of hypocrisy can screen you from him.

It is a melancholy and a most solemn reflection that there are many who profess to be Christians who are not Christians. . . .

I have tried, the Lord knows, to preach as plainly and as much home to the mark as I could, to sift and try you; but for all that the hypocrite will come in. After the most searching ministry, there are still some who will wrap themselves about with a ‘mantle of deception’. Though we cry aloud and spare not, and bid you lay hold on eternal life, yet, alas! How many are content with a mere name to live and are dead.

Many come here and even hold office in the Church, yes, the minister himself may even preach the Word, and after all be hollow and empty. How many who dress and look fair outside, are only fit to be tinder for the devil’s tinder box, for they are all dry and empty within! God save as from a profession if it is not real!

I pray that we may know the worst of our case. If I must be damned, I would sooner go to hell unholy, than as a hypocrite – that back-door to the pit is the thing I dread most of all. Oh! To sit at the Lord’s Table, and to drink of the cup of devils! To be recognized among God’s own here, and then to find one’s own name left out when God reads the muster-roll of his servants!

Oh! What a portion for eternity! I bid you tear off this mask, and if the grace of God is not in you, I beg you to go into the world which is your fit place, and abstain from joining the Church, if you are not really a member of the body of Christ.

“You, God, see me!” Write that on the palm of your hand, and look at it; wake up in the morning with it; sleep with it before you on your curtains. “You, God, see me!” (“A Hearer in Disguise” No. 584)

Who did Christ Redeem?

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

We hold that Christ did not redeem every man, but only redeemed those men who will ultimately attain unto eternal life.

We do not believe that he redeemed the damned. We do not believe that he poured out his life blood for souls already in hell.

We never can imagine that Christ suffered in the room and stead of all men, and that then afterwards these same men have to suffer for themselves.

We do not believe that Christ pays their debts, and then God makes them pay their debts again a second time.

We hold to this – that Christ laid down his life for his sheep, and that his laying down his life for the sheep involved and secured the salvation of every one of them. (No. 572, Romans 11:36)

Controversy

Many Christians will avoid controversy concerning the truth or truths of essential Christian doctrines for fear of alienating their companions. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) writes on this subject below:

It is certain that there are many in our midsts who fear controversy more than error. These assuredly do not stay to remember that Christianity’s sole weapon is reasoning, its supreme effort to reason itself into the acceptance of the world. What then will happen if it renounces the duty of reasoning? To be sure constant reasoning is weariness to the flesh, and the temptation lies very close to purchase longed-for and needed peace by calling a halt for a time and resting on what is already attained. This is much like seeking rest from the labors of life by ceasing to breathe for a season. Let us learn here from a remark of Coleridge’s. “For a nation to make peace only because it is tired of war,” he says, “in order just to take breath is in direct subversion to the end and object of the war, which was its sole justification.’Tis like a poor way sore foot-traveler getting up behind a coach that is going the contrary way to his.” Christianity is in its very nature an aggressive religion; it is in the world just in order to convince men; when it ceases to reason, it ceases to exist. It is no doubt the truth; but the truth no longer proclaimed and defended rots quickly down. The lawyers have a very instructive maxim which it will do us all no harm to heed: “A lie well stuck to,” they say, “is better than the truth abandoned.” “I have often asked my Radical friends,” Mr. Froude writes in one of his latest books, “what is to be done if out of every hundred enlightened voters two-thirds will give their votes one way but are afraid to fight, and the remaining third will not only vote but will fight too if the poll goes against them. Which has the right to rule? I can tell them,” he adds, “which will rule. … The brave and resolute minority will rule. The majority must be prepared to assert their Divine Right with their hands, or it will go the way that other Divine Rights have gone before.” Mr. Froude is dealing with political matters, and speaks of that strife with the sword which the Christian religion has renounced. But strife it has not renounced: and whenever it shall have renounced strife against its perennial foe with its own appropriate weapon—the Word—it will have renounced hope of ruling over the hearts and thoughts of men. Controversy is in this sense and to this degree is the vital breath of a really living Christianity.

Sin!

The following is by Thomas Boston:

Learn the evil of sin. Sin is a stream that will carry down the sinner, until he is swallowed up in the ocean of wrath! The pleasures of sin are bought too dear, at the rate of everlasting burnings!

What did the rich man’s purple clothing and sumptuous food avail him, when in hell he was encircled by purple flames, and could not have a drop of water to cool his tongue?

Alas! that men should indulge themselves in sin which will bring such bitterness in the end! That they should drink so greedily of the poisonous cup, and hug that serpent in their bosom that will sting them to the heart!

OK to Bully Christians?

The White House anti-bullying spokesman is Dan Savage. Savage is the founder of a pro-LGTB anti-bullying campaign. On April 13th, he turned an anti-bullying speech at the National High School Journalism Conference into an all-out attack on Christians and Christianity. Almost 100 students walked out during Savage’s diatribe. Savage mocked the Bible and anyone who believes it. He also urged the students to ignore the “bull —-” taught by the Bible. He proceeded to then call the students who walked out during his speech “pansy-a—d.” Obviously, bullying Christians is acceptable to the White House.

Read more about this subject. . . .

Now, consider and contrast the above incident with the following quotation from Justice Joseph Story who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845.

[I]t is impossible for those, who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster, and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects. This is a point wholly distinct from that of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, and of the freedom of public worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience. (From Justice Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, January 6, 1833)

[A] malicious intention . . . to vilify the Christian religion and the Scriptures. . . . would prove a nursery of vice, a school of preparation to qualify young men for the gallows and young women for the brothel. . . . Religion and morality . . . are the foundations of all governments. Without these restraints no free government could long exist. (Updegraph v. Commonwealth, 1824)

I find it amazing to see how far from our noble beginnings our government and people of this United States have fallen. Then again; it is always the disposition of the natural man to suppress the truth when it suits his own desires.

Faith, Peace, and Joy

Faith can do what nothing else can; it gives us joy and peace. Faith is the key which opens the gates of heaven. How can there be an objection to this means of salvation which is established by the mercy and the wisdom of God? Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Even in common things faith of a certain sort lies at the root of all. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except through faith of some sort. If I walk across my study it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food; he goes to business because he believes in the value of money; he accepts a cheque because he believes that the bank will honor it. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean; and the Pilgrim Fathers colonized it because they believed that God would be with them on those rocky shores. Most grand deeds have been born of faith; for good or for evil, faith works wonders by the man in whom it dwells. Faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force, which enters into all manner of human actions. Possibly he who derides faith in God is the man who in an evil form has the most of faith; indeed, he usually falls into a credulity which would be ridiculous, if it were not disgraceful. God gives salvation to faith, because by creating faith in us He thus touches the real mainspring of our emotions and actions. He has, so to speak, taken possession of the battery and now He can send the sacred current to every part of our nature. When we believe in Christ, and the heart has come into the possession of God, then we are saved from sin, and are moved toward repentance, holiness, zeal, prayer, consecration, and every other gracious thing. “What oil is to the wheels, what weights are to a clock, what wings are to a bird, what sails are to a ship, that faith is to all holy duties and services.” Have faith, and all other graces will follow and continue to hold their course.

Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it influences the affections toward God, and draws the heart after the best things. He that believes in God will beyond all question love God. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness”; and hence God gives salvation to faith because it resides next door to the affections, and is near akin to love; and love is the parent and the nurse of every holy feeling and act. Love to God is obedience, love to God is holiness. To love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ; and this is salvation.

Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad and joyous, and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all heavenly gifts to faith, for this reason among others, that faith worketh in us the life and spirit which are to be eternally manifested in the upper and better world. Faith furnishes us with armor for this life, and education for the life to come. It enables a man both to live and to die without fear; it prepares both for action and for suffering; and hence the Lord selects it as a most convenient medium for conveying grace to us, and thereby securing us for glory. (All of Grace)

A Prayer by Archibald Alexander

From Archibald Alexander’s Thoughts on Religious Experience:

“O most merciful God! I rejoice that thou dost reign over the universe with a sovereign sway, so that thou dost according to thy will, in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. Thou art the Maker of my body, and the Father of my spirit, and thou hast a perfect right to dispose of me, in that manner which will most effectually promote thy glory: and I know whatever thou dost is right, and wise, and just, and good….Grant, gracious God! that the rich blessings of the new covenant may be freely bestowed on thy unworthy servant….And now, righteous Lord God Almighty, I would not attempt to conceal any of my actual transgressions, however vile and shameful they are; but would penitently confess them before thee; and would plead in my defense nothing but the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died the just for the unjust, to bring us near to God….And grant, O Lord! that as long as I am in the body, I may make it my constant study and chief aim to glorify thy name, both with soul and body, which are no longer mine but thine; for I am ‘bought with a price’—not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Enable me to let my light so shine that others seeing my good works shall glorify thy name. O! make use of me as an humble instrument of advancing thy kingdom on earth, and promoting the salvation of immortal souls….And when my spirit leaves this clay tenement, Lord Jesus receive it! Send some of the blessed angels to convoy my inexperienced soul to the mansion which thy love has prepared. And O! let me be so situated, though in the lowest rank, that I may behold thy glory. May I have an abundant entrance administered unto me into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; for whose sake and in whose name, I ask these things. Amen.”

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