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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!

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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.

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