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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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Calvin’s Thoughts

Quoting John Calvin:

“However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.”

“Let us not cease to do the utmost that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.”

Is Faith Rational?

The Bible was not written for philosophers, but for the popular mind. Its statements about exercises of the soul are not intended to be analytical, but practical. Robert L. Dabney explains this:

Protestants . . . hold that faith must be explicit and intelligent, or it cannot be proper faith; that the propositions embraced must be known; and the evidence therefore comprehended intelligently. They grant to Aquinas, that faith derives its moral quality from the holiness of principles and voluntary moral dispositions actuating the exercise; but his conclusion in favor of an unintelligent faith is absurd, because voluntary moral dispositions can only act legitimately, through an intelligent knowledge of their objects. The right intelligence is in order to the right feeling. Protestants again distinguish between a comprehension of the evidence, and a full comprehension of the proposition. The former is the rational ground of belief, not the latter. The affirmations of many propositions, not only in theology, but in other sciences, are rationally believed, because their evidences are intelligently seen, when the predications themselves are not fully or even at all comprehended . . . We grant that many professed Protestants have only a spurious faith. Again, a humble mind cannot always state in language intelligently, what he understands intelligently.

For an explicit faith, hence defined, we argue: 1. That it is the only sort possible, according to the Laws of the mind. A man cannot believe, except by seeing evidence. As well talk of perception of objects of sight occurring in one, without using one’s own eyes. . . .

The Bible agrees to this, by directing us to read and understand in order to believe; to search the Scriptures. See John 5:39; Romans 10:17; Psalm 119:34; Proverbs 16:22; Acts 28:27; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 11:29; John 6:45. 3. We are commanded to be “able to give to every man that asketh of us, a reason of the hope that is in us” (1 Pet. 3:15). And faith is everywhere spoken of as an intelligent exercise; while religious ignorance is rebuked as sin. (Systematic Theology)

With Christ in View

Written by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

The Christian’s Interest Hindered

Men often complain they are in darkness concerning their position in Christ and this often because they have not believed and given credit to the record which God has given of the Son. As long as people neglect these things, they can hardly come to the knowledge of the gracious state. William Guthrie guides us through some issues that hinder our understanding of these matters:

Men must resolve to be determined by Scripture in this matter of their interest in Christ. The Spirit speaking in the Scripture is judge of all controversies’ – To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’ (Isa. 8: 20) – and of this also, whether a man be savingly in covenant with God or not. Therefore do not mock God whilst you seem to search after such a thing. If we prove from Scripture, which is the uncontroverted rule, that you are gracious, and have made a covenant savingly with God, then resolve to grant so much, and to acquiesce in it. . . .

[A]lthough the matter of a man’s interest in Christ be of so great importance, and the way to attain to the knowledge of it so plainly held forth in the Scriptures, yet there be but few who reach the distinct knowledge of it. And that this may not discourage any person from attempting it, I shall hint some few reasons why so few come to the clear knowledge of it. . . .

The first thing which hinders many from the knowledge of their interest in Christ is their ignorance of some special principles of religion; as,

That it was free love in God’s bosom, and nothing in man, that moved Him to send a Savior to perfect the work of redemption (John 3: 16). . . .

They are ignorant how that love effectually discovers itself to a man’s heart, so as he has ground to lay claim to it. . . .

Many are also ignorant of this, that God alone is the hope of His people; He is called ‘the hope of Israel.’ (Jer. 14: 8.) Although inherent qualifications are evidences of it, yet the staying of the heart upon Him, as a full blessing and satisfying portion, is faith. . . .

They are ignorant of the different degrees and ways of that work of the law, by which God ordinarily dealeth with men, and of the different ways in which the Lord bringeth people at first to Christ. . . .

There is one thing or other wherein their heart, in some respect, does condemn them, as dealing deceitfully and guilefully with God. It is not to be expected that those can come to clearness about their interest, whose heart does condemn them for keeping up some known transgressions against the Lord, which they will not let go, neither are using the means which they know to be appointed by God for delivering them from it. . . .

[Another hindrance] is a spirit of sloth and careless negligence. They complain that they know not whether they are in Christ or not; but as few take pains to be in Him, so few take pains to try if they be in Him. It is a work and business which cannot be done sleeping: ‘Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves.’ (2 Cor. 13: 5.) The several words used here, namely, Examine, prove, know–intimate that there is a labor in it: Diligence must be used to make our ‘calling and election sure. . . .’ (2 Peter 1: 10)

Be ashamed, you who spend so much time in reading of romances, in adorning your persons, in hawking and hunting, in consulting the law concerning your outward state in the world, and it may, be in worse things than these; – Be ashamed, you that spend so little time in the search of this, whether ye be an heir of glory or note whether you be in the way that leadeth to heaven, or that way which will land you in darkness for ever? You who judge this below you, and unworthy of your pains, any part or minute of your time, it is probable, in God’s account, you have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, so that you shall have no lot with God’s people in this matter.

The Heart

From the desk of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“What is meant by this term, ‘the heart’? According to the general scriptural usage of the term, the heart means the centre of the personality. It does not merely mean the seat of the affections and the emotions.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

All That Is Good Is But a Shadow of Christ

As a child in Sunday School, our class would often be led in the song; “He Has The Whole World In His Hands”. Little did I realize at that time how true those words were. Ralph Erskine reminds us of this great truth below:

“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)

“Vanity of vanity, says the preacher, all is vanity,” Eccl. 1:2. All the riches, pleasures, profits, and preferments of the world are but emptiness; your wisdom, your parts, your children, your lands, your revenues, without Christ, can amount to nothing; they are but like zeros without a number. It is said of believers, 2 Cor. 6:10. Having nothing, they possess all things; because, though they had nothing in the world, yet, having Christ, they have all things; and on the other hand, it may be truly said of the wicked and unbelieving, that, having all things, they possess nothing; because, though they had all things in the world at their will, yet, being without Christ, they have nothing; all they have is but emptiness; yea, all they have is a curse, because they have not Christ. And thus all things, without him, are not only nothing, but worse than nothing.

Demonstration of this truth is, “If all things in the world be but a shadow of what is in Christ, then all things are in Christ’s hand substantially; but so it is, all good things in the world are but shadows of what is in Christ.” Outward riches are but a shadow of the unsearchable riches of Christ; outward life is but a shadow of him who is the way, the truth, and the life; outward liberty is but a shadow of that freedom that is to be had in Christ; If the Son make you free, then are you free indeed,” John 8:36 importing that no freedom is freedom indeed, and in truth, but this; outward rest is but a shadow of the rest that is to be had in him; “Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The sun in the firmament is but a shadow of the Sun of righteousness, and of his glory; roses and lilies are but shadows of his beauty, who is the rose of Sharon, and lily of the valley; rivers and fountains are but shadows of his fullness, who is the fountain of living waters; not a fountain closed, but a fountain opened to us: plants and trees are but a shadow of the verdure of him who is the plant of renown, the tree of life. All things that have any excellency in them are but shadows of him in whom all excellencies do concentre [focus]. All the stars of creature-excellencies are but shadows of him who is the bright and morning Star. (“Heaven’s Grand Repository”)

Grace

Quoting R.C. Sproul:

“God’s grace is not infinite. God is infinite, and God is gracious. We experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace is not infinite. God sets limits to His patience and forbearance. He warns us over and over again that someday the ax will fall and His judgment will be poured out.” (The Holiness of God)

Behold the Cross of Christ

The cross tells us that Jesus is a mighty, loving, and complete Savior of men. Surely this should improve our confidence in Him. Believer, you will learn holiness at Calvary. Bishop J. C. Ryle offers us these words:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear, I beseech you, what I say to you this day, “Behold the Cross of Christ.” See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation. Yes—careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are those whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh, that it might be so this very day! Oh, that you would come at once to that Savior who died for you, and is willing to save! Come, and cry to Him with the prayer of faith, and I know that He will listen. Come, and lay hold upon the cross, and I know that He will not cast you out. Come, and believe on Him who died on the cross, and this very day you shall have eternal life. How will you ever escape if you neglect so great salvation? None surely will be so deep in hell as those who despise the cross!

Are you inquiring the way toward heaven? Are you seeking salvation—but doubtful whether you can find it? Are you desiring to have an interest in Christ—but doubting whether Christ will receive you? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Here is encouragement if you really want it. Draw near to the Lord Jesus with boldness, for nothing need keep you back. His arms are open to receive you—His heart is full of love towards you. He has made a way by which you may approach Him with confidence. Think of the cross. Draw near, and fear not. (“The Cross of Christ”)

A Warning

From the writings of John Calvin:

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”

“The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.”

God Governs in the Affairs of Men

According to Benjamin Franklin:

All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? 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?” (Words spoken to Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention)

Men Who Chase Strange Fire

Do not be so puffed up with pride that you go off track after your own foolish imaginations. Take heed that you keep yourself in obedience to the Word of God. Then you will, day by day, be more confirmed in the faith until God calls you home. John Calvin reminds us:

But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

St. Paul hath shown us, that if we will be of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be partakers of His cross; we must walk in death before we can come to life. How long will this death continue? As long as we are in this world. Therefore St. Peter saith, baptism is, as it were, a figure of the ark of Noah (I Pet. 3:21). For we must be enclosed, as it were, in a grave; being dead to the world, if we will be quickened by the mark of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

Let us learn that until God shall take us out of this world, we must be as pilgrims in a strange country: and that our salvation shall not be shown us until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: for He has become the first fruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15). And likewise, “He is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18). . . .

St. John saith that we are sure we are God’s children: that we shall see Him even as He is, when we shall be made like Him. It is true, God is revealed to us when He transformed us into His image; but that which we conceive by faith, is not yet seen, we must hope for it at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

We see how the children of God are afflicted in this world; yea, it is often pitiable to behold their situation; while the unbelievers who contemn God, are at their ease, and live in pleasure. They make their triumph, whereas the saints are made as the off-scouring of the world (I Cor. 4:13). How is it possible for men to conceive this heresy: to say the resurrection is already past? And yet we see that this was welcome to some; yea, in the primitive church in the time of the apostles. When they, whom Jesus Christ had chosen to preach His truth throughout the world, still lived, some fell from the faith.

When we see such an example, have we not occasion to be astonished, and walk in fear! Not that we should doubt but what God will help and guide us, but it behooves us to arm ourselves with prayer, and rely upon the promises of our God . . . If the apostles, who exercised all the power that was given them from above to maintain the truth of God, could not prevent men from being misled, what must we expect now-a-days! Let us be diligent in prayer, and flee to God that He may preserve us by His Holy Spirit. May we not be puffed up with presumption, but consider our nothingness, for we should quickly be overthrown, if we were not upheld by the Supreme Being. (“Pure Preaching of the Word”)

“All Scripture is Profitable”

J. C. Ryle writes:

Read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. “All Scripture is profitable.” [2 Timothy 3:16]. To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people’s Bible-reading is a system of perpetual ‘dipping and picking’. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

“Poor in Spirit”

According to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“Meekness does not mean indolence.”

“But observe that [Peter] never ceases to be a bold man; he does not become nervous and diffident. No, he does not change in that way. The essential personality remains; and yet he is ‘poor in spirit’ at the same time.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Let Him who is Athirst Come

If you are a great sinner, know that Jesus is a great Savior. John A. Broadus once preached the excerpt below:

Come with the same confidence in his [Christ’s] power that they felt who asked him to heal their disease. There are many to testify that they have come and been heard, and none been sent empty away – do you come, and you too shall hear him say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Come with the same humility the Syrophoenician woman felt, when she pled that the dogs, though they should not eat the children’s food, might yet have the crumbs that fell under the table-and that she, though a Gentile, might yet have some humble share in that salvation which was of the Jews. Come with all the earnestness the poor blind man felt. He heard that Jesus was passing, and none could hinder him with all their charges, from crying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” And when the compassionate Savior stopped, and commanded him to be called, they said to him, “Be of good comfort, rise! he calleth thee.” Even so, my hearer, Jesus commands you to be called, as you sit in your spiritual blindness. Just as Bartimaeus threw away his cloak that nothing might hinder him, and went eagerly to Jesus, so you come at once unto him, and ask that you may receive your sight. You too shall hear him say, “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

All must come from him. Let him be your Lord, your life, your sacrifice, your Savior and your all. You are a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

It is said (many here have doubtless read the account) that a brother of the famous Whitefield was once conversing, in great distress, with Lady Huntingdon. She told him of the infinite love and mercy of Jesus, but he replied, “I know all that; but there is no mercy for me – I am lost, I am lost.” “I am glad to hear it, Mr. Whitefield, very glad to hear it.” “How, my dear Madam, glad to hear that I am lost?” “Yes, Jesus came to save the lost.” That word moved him; he believed on Jesus, and lived and died a Christian. And so may you, if you believe on him who is the Savior of the lost and ruined. Then come to Jesus, come earnestly, come just as you are.

Just as I am, without one plea

Save that thy blood was shed for me,

And that thou bidst me come to thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Come, and you will be heard – you shall find rest. He will not send you away. He came into the world to save sinners – he suffered and died to save sinners – he invited burdened sinners to him. Then take this blessed, this precious invitation to yourself, come to Jesus, and your soul shall live. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (“Come Unto Me”)

The Hands of God

From the desk of R. C. Sproul

“When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. We may dislike giving our attention to God’s wrath and justice, but until we incline ourselves to these aspects of God’s nature, we will never appreciate what has been wrought for us by grace. Even Edwards’s sermon on sinners in God’s hands was not designed to stress the flames of hell. The resounding accent falls not on the fiery pit but on the hands of the God who holds us and rescues us from it. The hands of God are gracious hands. They alone have the power to rescue us from certain destruction.” (The Holiness of God)

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