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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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Love for the Brethren

John OwenHave you considered this? There is no real proof of salvation or evidence of our love for God unless we love the brethren. No matter how kind we are, if we don’t love our fellow Christians our words and deeds are empty. John Owen writes:

‘And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.’ (Colossians 3:14, KJV)

The word ‘agape,’ which is translated in the King James Version as ‘charity’ is the only word used in the New Testament to signify ‘love.’ And I wish that this word had always been rendered as such because in common speech, ‘charity’ – relieving the poor and afflicted – is merely one fruit of love. This is not the main sense of the word in Scripture. So our text could be better rendered, ‘Above all these things put on love.’ Every virtue and duty commanded in the Scriptures is usually placed on equal level with other virtues and duties, but there is one that has precedence over all other commands, as is here stated in our text, ‘Above all these things put on love.’ Other Scriptures state the same truth: ‘Before all things, have fervent love among yourselves’ (1 Peter 4:8). ‘Earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way… the greatest of these is love’ (1 Cor. 12:31, 13:13).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Apostle Paul gives directions for the use of spiritual gifts for the edification of the church (and this is a most excellent thing). But when all is said and done, he emphasizes the ‘more excellent way’ of love, which he describes in detail in chapter 13. Not only is love commanded, but it is shown to have a special preeminence and excellency above all other things.

Therefore, I offer the following observation: Love is the principal grace and duty that is required from, and expected from, the saints of God. This is to be especially evident when they are engaged together in church fellowship. (“Gospel Charity”)

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He is Faithful

As Christians, we have hope that we shall persevere to the end. The reasons we shall be found blameless in the end, are all found in our God. Charles H. Spurgeon writes on this topic:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

We are variable as the wind, frail as a spider’s web, weak as water. No dependence can be placed upon our natural qualities, or our spiritual attainments; but God abideth faithful. He is faithful in His love; He knows no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is faithful to His purpose; He doth not begin a work and then leave it undone. He is faithful to His relationships; as a Father He will not renounce His children, as a friend He will not deny His people, as a Creator He will not forsake the work of His own hands. He is faithful to His promises, and will never allow one of them to fail to a single believer. He is faithful to His covenant, which He has made with us in Christ Jesus, and ratified with the blood of His sacrifice. He is faithful to His Son, and will not allow His precious blood to be spilled in vain. He is faithful to His people to whom He has promised eternal life, and from whom He will not turn away.

This faithfulness of God is the foundation and cornerstone of our hope of final perseverance. The saints shall persevere in holiness, because God perseveres in grace. He perseveres to bless, and therefore believers persevere in being blessed. He continues to keep His people, and therefore they continue to keep His commandments. This is good solid ground to rest upon, and it is delightfully consistent with the title of this little book, “All of Grace.” Thus it is free favor and infinite mercy which ring in the dawn of salvation, and the same sweet bells sound melodiously through the whole day of grace. (All of Grace)

 

Spending the Day with God Part II

Matthew Vogan provides us with an updated version of Richard Baxter’s (1615 – 1691) “How to Spend the Day with God”:

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

Family Worship:

Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

Ultimate Purpose:

Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.

Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Diligence in Your Calling:

Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:

• You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.

• You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind that swarm in the minds of idle persons.

• You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.

• You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.

• You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.

• You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.

• It may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul. (“How to Spend the Day with God”)

The Excellency Of Christ

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment.”

J. Edwards: Labor To Understand

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scripture; labor to understand as much of what he saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much knowledge as is thrown in your way, and as you receive in some sense unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching of the word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or as you accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold.”

The Power Of Grace And The Necessity Of It

Samuel Davies had a keen appreciation of grace and understood its importance. In the excerpt below, he discusses its application:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Have you not found that the very same things have very different effects upon you at different times? Those truths, which at one time leave you dull and sleepy, at other times quicken all your powers to the most vigorous exercise. Sinners, do you not return from the house of God in very different frames, though the service there has been substantially the same? At one time you sweat and agonize under a sense of guilt and make many resolutions to change your course of life; and at another time there is a stupid calm within, and you matter not all the concerns of eternity. Some indeed have lain so long under the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, that they are hardened, like clay, and hardly susceptive of any deep impressions at any time, after they murdered their conscience, and silenced all its first remonstrances. These may go on serene and placid, till the flames of hell give them sensation; and this is most likely to be their doom; though it is not impossible but that this gospel, this stale, neglected gospel, which now makes no impression on their stony hearts, may yet be endowed with almighty power to break them into the tenderest contrition: and I pray God this may be the happy event. . . .

How essential and important the doctrine of divine influence is to the church of God. The very life, and the whole success of the gospel depend upon it. And since this necessity supposes the utter depravity and spiritual impotence of human nature in its fallen state, that doctrine also must be frequently and plainly inculcated.

Alas! The great defect of the system of theology too fashionable in our days, and one great cause of the languishing state of religion in our age, and of the prevalence of vice and impiety! Since it has been the mode to compliment mankind as able to do something very considerable in religion, religion has died away. Since it has been the fashion to press a reformation of men’s lives, without inculcating the absolute necessity of divine grace to renew their nature, there is hardly such a thing as a thorough reformation to be seen; but mankind are evidently growing worse and worse. . . .

We are apt to think, if we had but such a minister among us, how much good would be done! It is true, that faithful and accomplished ministers are singular blessings to the places where they labor, because it is by their instrumentality that the Lord is wont to work: but still let us remember that even a Paul or an Apollos is nothing, unless the Lord gives the increase. One text of scripture, one sentence will do more execution, when enforced by divine energy, than all the labors of the ablest ministers upon earth without it. For this divine energy therefore let us look; for this let us cry; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, etc. When we depend upon the instruments, we provoke the Spirit of God to leave us. . . .

That we should ascribe all the success of the gospel to God alone, and not sacrilegiously divide the honor of it between him and the instruments of it, or between him and ourselves, the ministers of Christ are ready to answer you, in the language of Peter, if we be examined of the good deed done to impotent sinners, by what means they are made whole; be it known unto you, that by the name of Jesus do they stand whole before you, Acts 4:9-10. Why do ye look so earnestly upon us, as if by our own power or holiness we had done this! (Acts 3:12). It is a very shocking compliment to them to be accounted the authors of your faith. God’s ministers love to be humble, to lie in their proper sphere, and would have God to have all the glory, as the great efficient; and when we ascribe the work of God to the instrument, we provoke him to withdraw his influence, that we may be convinced of the mistake. Let us also take care that we do not assume the honor of the work to ourselves.

Hence also we may learn, whither we should look for grace to render the gospel successful among us. Let us look up to God. Saints, apply to him for his influences to quicken your graces, and animate you in your Christian course. Sinners, cry to him for his grace to renew your nature and sanctify you. Not all the men, nor all the means upon earth, can be of any service to you without him. Carefully attend upon the gospel, and all its institutions; but still be sensible, that these alone will not do; more is necessary; even the supernatural agency of divine grace. . . .

We observe that whatever excellent outward means and privileges a church enjoys, it is in a most miserable condition, if the Lord has withdrawn his influences from it: and whether this be not too much our own condition, I leave you to judge. Some of you, I doubt not, are even now, when others are withering around you, flourishing in the courts of the Lord, and feel the dews of heaven upon you: such I heartily congratulate. But in general, it is evident that a contagious lukewarmness and carnal security have spread themselves among us . . . and is it not time for you to cry mightily to God that he would pour out his Spirit upon you! (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

God’s Glory In Redemption

Jonathan Edwards

Is there any goodness or glory that is attributable to man in his personal redemption? The answer to this question is “absolutely none!” Jonathan Edwards helps us to understand why:

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)

Faith is a sensibleness of what is real in the work of redemption; and as we do really wholly depend on God, so the soul that believes doth entirely depend on God for all salvation, in its own sense and act. Faith abases men, and exalts God, it gives all the glory of redemption to God alone. It is necessary in order to saving faith, that man should be emptied of himself, that he should be sensible that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Humility is a great ingredient of true faith: he that truly receives redemption receives it as a little child. “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10-15). It is the delight of a believing soul to abase itself and exalt God alone: that is the language of it, “Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory” (Ps. 115: 1).

Let us be exhorted to exalt God alone, and ascribe to him all the glory of redemption. Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent, and self-righteous disposition. Man is naturally exceeding prone to be exalting himself and depending on his own power or goodness, as though he were he from whom he must expect happiness, and to have respect to enjoyments alien from God and his Spirit, as those in which happiness is to be found.

And this doctrine should teach us to exalt God alone, as by trust and reliance, so by praise. Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord. Hath any man hope that he is converted, and sanctified, and that his mind is endowed with true excellency and spiritual beauty, and his sins forgiven, and he received into God’s favor, and exalted to the honor and blessedness of being his child, and an heir of eternal life; let him give God all the glory; who alone makes him to differ from the worst of men in this world, or the most miserable of the damned in hell. Hath any man much comfort and strong hope of eternal life, let not his hope lift him up, but dispose him the more to abase himself, and reflect on his own exceeding unworthiness of such a favor, and to exalt God alone. Is any man eminent in holiness, and abundant in good works, let him take nothing of the glory of it to himself, but ascribe it to him whose workmanship we are, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”

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