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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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If The Lord Be On Our Side

Thomas Watson

From the pen of Thomas Watson:

If the Lord be on our side He can save us in that very way in which we think He will destroy us. Would not any have thought the whale’s belly should have been Jonah‘s grave? But God made the fish a ship, in which he sailed to the shore . . . If the Lord of Hosts be on our side, He can make the Church’s affliction a means of her augmentation, ‘The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied.’ (Ex.1:12) (Watson, Religion Our True Interest, 91)

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God Knows

Thomas Watson

We cannot write our sins in such small letters that God cannot read them. He understands our hearts. He knows all our treachery. None of us can climb so high or dig so low to find a hiding place where God cannot see us and know our secret thoughts. All such efforts are in vain. Here are a few words from Thomas Watson (1620-1686) to guide us in our understanding of this great truth:

“But all Things are naked and open unto the Eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

All things are naked. It is a metaphor from the taking off the skin of any beast, which doth then appear naked. Thus our hearts are said to be naked; they lie open to the eye of God, they have no covering; there is no veil over the heart of a sinner, but the veil of unbelief; and this covering makes him naked.

This is not all, the apostle goes higher: they are naked and open. It alludes to the cutting up of the sacrifices under the law, where the priest did divide the beast in pieces, and so the intestines, the inward parts, were made visible. Or it may allude to an anatomy, where there is a dissection and cutting up of every part, the mesentery, the liver, the arteries. Such a kind of anatomy doth God make; an heart-anatomy: he doth cut up the inwards, and make a difference; this is flesh that is spirit; this is faith, that is fancy. He makes a dissection, as the knife that divides between the flesh and the bones, the bones and the marrow, the sinews and the veins. ‘All things are open;’ they are cut up before him.

The next word is all things. There is nothing escapes his eye: and herein God’s knowledge doth infinitely differ from ours. We cannot see in the dark, nor can we see many things at once; but it is not so with him; there is nothing so deep, but God will bring it above-board, ‘who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness;’ and he sees many things at once, nay, all are as if they were but one. All things being represented to him in the pure crystal of his own essence are but as one individual thing. . . .

Eyes are ascribed to God, not properly, but metaphorically: idols have eyes, ‘yet they see not;’ God hath no eyes, yet he sees; the eye of God is put in scripture for his knowledge; all things are naked to his eye, that is, they are obvious to his knowledge. We cannot sin, but it must be in the face of our Judge. . . .

The proposition I shall dilate on is this – Doctrine: That the most secret cabinet-designs of man’s heart are all unlocked and clearly anatomized before the Lord.

I might produce a whole cloud of witnesses, giving in their full vote and suffrage to this truth. I shall rest in two or three, that in the mouth of three witnesses this great truth may be established.

‘He knows the secrets of the heart,’ Psalm. 42.21. In the original it is, the hidden things of the heart; those which are most veiled and masked from human perception.

And Psalm. 139.2. ‘Thou knowest my thoughts afar off.’ Here are two words that set out the infiniteness of God’s knowledge. . . .

God knows our thoughts before we ourselves know them. He knows what designs are in the heart, and men would certainly pursue, did not he turn the wheel another way. God knew what was in Herod’s mind before Herod himself knew it, viz. that he would have destroyed the child Jesus. God knew his thoughts afar off: he sees what blood and venom is in the heart of a sinner, though it never comes to have vent: he looks at the intention, though it be not put in execution. . . .

God knows our thoughts when we have forgotten them: they are afar off to us, but they are present with him. ‘These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest I was such an one as thyself,’ &c. That is, that I had a weak memory, ‘but I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order before thee,’ Psalm 50.21. Millions of years are but as a short parenthesis between: and that we may not think God forgets, he keeps a book of records, Rev. 20.12. ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before the Lord, and the books were opened:’ God writes down, Item, such a sin; and if the book be not discharged, there will be an heavy reckoning: to every believer, the debt-book is crossed; the black lines of sin are crossed out in the red lines of Christ’s blood. (“God’s Anatomy Upon Man’s Heart”)

When The Holy Spirit Abides With Us

Charles H. Spurgeon

The Holy Spirit is able to work in us the deepest conviction and the truest repentance. All that is needed for godliness, He can give. Where we are blind, the Spirit gives us sight. The Holy Spirit works in us a wondrous change to bring us out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Please regard the following words of Charles H. Spurgeon:

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4-5)

If the Spirit be with us, there will come multitudinous conversions. We cannot get at “the lapsed masses,” as they are pedantically called. We cannot stir the crass infidelity of the present age: no, we cannot, but He can. All things are possible with God. If you walk down to our bridges at a certain hour of the day you will see barges and vessels lying in the mud; and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot stir them. Wait until the tide comes in, and they will walk the water like things of life. The living flood accomplishes at once what no mortals can do. And so to-day our churches cannot stir. What shall we do? Oh, that the Holy Spirit would come with a flood-tide of His benign influences, as He will if we will but believe in Him; as He must if we will but cry unto Him; as He shall if we will cease to grieve Him. Everything will be even as the saints desire when the Lord of saints is with us. The hope of the continuance and increase of the church lies in the remaining of the Spirit with us. The hope of the salvation of London lies in the wonder-working Spirit. Let us bow our heads and worship the omnipotent Spirit who deigns to work in us, by us, and with us.

Then, brethren, if this should happen—and I see not why it should not—then we may expect to see the church put on her beautiful garments; then shall she begin to clear herself of the errors which now defile her; then shall she press to her bosom the truths which she now begins to forget; then will she go back to the pure fount of inspiration and drink from the Scriptures of truth; and then out of the midst of her shall flow no turbid streams, but rivers of living water. If the Holy Ghost will work among us we shall rejoice in the Lord and glory in the name of our God. . . .

If God is with us, why need we fear . . . .? If any say, “If you hold to these old-fashioned doctrines you will lose the educated, the wealthy, the influential,” we answer: But if we do not lose the godly and the presence of the Holy Ghost we are not in the least alarmed. If the Holy Ghost remaineth with us, there is a river the streams whereof make glad the city of God. Brethren, my heart leaps within me as I cry, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

Charles H. Spurgeon: The Spirit Of God Is With Us

Charles H. Spurgeon

We are born again of the Spirit of God and He remains with us still. He continues to work a marvelous change in us to bring us out of the clutches of the devil into the kingdom of God’s Son. The Holy Spirit is with us. Do you want to conquer sin in your life? Who made you desire this? It is the Holy Spirit who remains with us. It is through the Spirit of God that we can overcome every sin. It is the power of the Spirit of God that will help us. Charles Spurgeon tells us more:

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4-5)

Though truth may be driven back, and error may prevail, Jesus comes, and He is the great Lord and patron of truth: He shall judge the world in righteousness, and the people in equity. . . .

It is at the beginning of every gracious purpose that men have most fear, even as these people had who had newly begun to build. When first the Holy Spirit begins to strive with a man to lead him to Jesus, he is apt to say—”I cannot; I dare not; it is impossible. How can I believe and live?” Now I want to speak to some of you here who are willing to find Christ, and to encourage you by the truth that the Spirit lives to help you. I would even like to speak to those who are not anxious to be saved. I remember that Dr. Payson, an exceedingly earnest and useful man of God, once did a singular thing. He had been holding inquiry meetings with all sorts of people, and great numbers had been saved. At last, one Sunday he gave out that he should have a meeting on Monday night of those persons who did not desire to be saved; and, strange to say, some twenty persons came who did not wish to repent or believe. He spoke to them and said, “I am sure that if a little film, thin as a web of the gossamer, were let down by God from heaven to each one of you, you would not push it away from you. Although it was almost invisible, you would value even the slightest connection between you and heaven. Now, your coming to meet me tonight is a little link with God. I want it to increase in strength till you are joined to the Lord for ever.” He spoke to them most tenderly, and God blessed those people who did not desire to be saved, so that before the meeting was over they were of another mind. The film had become a thicker thread, and it grew and grew until the Lord Christ held them by it for ever. Dear friends, the fact of your being in the Tabernacle this morning is like that filmy thread: do not put it away. Here is your comfort; the Holy Ghost still works with the preaching of the word. Do I hear you say, “I cannot feel my need of Christ as I want to feel it”? The Spirit remaineth among us. He can make you feel more deeply the guilt of sin and your need of pardon. “But I have heard so much about conviction and repentance; I do not seem to have either of them.” Yet the Spirit remaineth with us, and that Spirit is able to work in you the deepest conviction and the truest repentance. “O sir, I do not feel as if I could do anything”: but the Spirit remaineth with us, and all things that are needful for godliness He can give. He can work in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. “But I want to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Who made you want to do that? Who but the Holy Spirit? Therefore He is still at work with you; and though as yet you do not understand what believing is, or else I am persuaded you would believe at once, the Spirit of God can instruct you in it. You are blind, but He can give you sight; you are paralyzed, but He can give you strength—the Spirit of God remaineth. (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

Charles Spurgeon On The Quickened Church

Charles H. Spurgeon

The blessings of the Holy Spirit are needed in every church in every age. This need has become magnified in our day as church leaders tend to turn to packaged programs for drawing to and keeping people in the membership of the church. We have pushed aside the notion that the Holy Spirit builds the church. Charles Spurgeon comments on the work of the Holy Spirit:

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4-5)

The Holy Spirit being with us, He can move the whole church to exercise its varied ministries. This is one of the things we want very much—that every member of the church should recognize that he is ordained to service. Everyone in Christ, man or woman, hath some testimony to bear, some warning to give, some deed to do in the name of the holy child Jesus; and if the Spirit of God be poured out upon our young men and our maidens, each one will be aroused to energetic service. Both small and great will be in earnest, and the result upon the slumbering masses of our population will surprise us all. Sometimes we lament that the churches are so dull. There is an old proverb which says of So-and-so, that he was “as sound asleep as a church.” I suppose there is nothing that can sleep so soundly as a church. But yet the Spirit of God still remaineth, and therefore churches go to be awakened. I mean that not only in part but as a whole, a church may be quickened. The dullest professor, the most slovenly believer, the most captious and useless member of a church, may yet be turned to good account. I see them like a stack of faggots, piled up, dead and dry. Oh for the fire! We will have a blaze out of them yet.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, brood over the dark, disordered church as once thou didst over chaos, and order shall come out of confusion, and the darkness shall fly before the light. Only let the Spirit be with us, and we have all that is wanted for victory. Give us His presence, and everything else will come in its due season for the profitable service of the entire church. (“The Abiding of the Spirit, the Glory of the Church”)

No Task Is Too Small For The Man Of God (C. H. Spurgeon)

Charles H. Spurgeon

We all become discouraged from time to time, but it is a shame to hear Christians discount their ability to do great things for God. Some will not take on the smallest ministry because they either see it to be insignificant or feel God has not given them any great gifts to share with others. C. H. Spurgeon speaks to this attitude:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

It is significant that the man with one talent went and hid his Lord’s money in the earth. He knew that it was but one, and for that reason he was the less afraid to bury it. Perhaps he argued that the interest on one talent could never come to much, and would never be noticed side by side with the result of five or ten talents; and he might as well bring nothing at all to his Lord as bring so little. Perhaps he might not have wrapped it up if it had not been so small that a napkin could cover it. The smallness of our gifts may be a temptation to us. We are consciously so weak and so insignificant, compared with the great God and His great cause, that we are discouraged, and think it vain to attempt anything.

Moreover, the enemy contrasts our work with that of others, and with that of those who have gone before us. We are doing so little as compared with other people, therefore let us give up. We cannot build like Solomon; therefore let us not build at all. Yet, brethren, there is a falsehood in all this; for, in truth, nothing is worthy of God. The great works of others and even the amazing productions of Solomon, all fell short of His glory. What house could man build for God? What are cedar, and marble, and gold as compared with the glory of the Most High? Though the house was “exceeding magnifical,” yet the Lord God had of old dwelt within curtains, and never was His worship more glorious than within the tent of badger’s skins; indeed, as soon as the great house was built, true religion declined. What of all human work can be worthy of the Lord? Our little labors do but share the insignificance of greater things, and therefore we ought not to withhold them: yet here is the temptation from which we must pray to be delivered.

The tendency to depreciate the present because of the glories of the past is also injurious. The old people looked back to the days of the former temple, even as we are apt to look upon the times of the great preachers of the past. What work was done in those past days? What Sabbaths were enjoyed then! What converts were added to the church! What days of refreshing were then vouchsafed! Everything has declined, decreased, degenerated! As for the former days, they beheld a race of giants, who are now succeeded by pigmies. We look at one of these great men, and cry,

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.”

But, brethren, we must not allow this sense of littleness to hamper us; for God can bless our littleness, and use it for His glory. I notice that the great men of the past thought of themselves even as we think of ourselves. Certainly they were not more self-confident than we are. I find in the story of the brave days of old the same confessions and the same lamentations which we utter now. It is true that in a spiritual strength we are not what our fathers were; I fear the Puritanic holiness and truthfulness of doctrine are dying out, while adherence to principle is far from common; but our fathers had also faults and follies to mourn over, and they did mourn over them most sincerely. Instead of being discouraged because what we do is unworthy of God, and insignificant compared with what was done by others, let us gather up our strength to reform our errors, and reach to higher attainments. Let us throw our heart and soul into the work of the Lord, and yet do something more nearly in accordance with our highest ideal of what our God deserves of us. Let us excel our ancestors. Let us aspire to be even more godly, more conscientious, and more sound in the faith than they were, for the Spirit of God remaineth with us. (Sermon: “The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

The Christian And Discouragement

It is easy to become discouraged in this present world whether you are a Christian or not. Sometimes Christians are discouraged by their own personal failures. This often happens when we evaluate our efforts to serve God, the church, and others as inadequate. Charles H. Spurgeon reminds us that our strength is in God’s Hands:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubabbel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

By the mouth of His servant Haggai stern rebukes were uttered, and the whole people were aroused. . . .

The present times are, in many respects, similar to those of Haggai. History certainly repeats itself within the church of God as well as outside of it; and therefore the messages of God need to be repeated also. The words of some almost-forgotten prophet may be re-delivered by the watchman of the Lord in these present days, and be a timely word for the present emergency. We are not free from the worldliness which puts self first and God nowhere, else our various enterprises would be more abundantly supplied with the silver and the gold which are the Lord’s, but which even professing Christians reserve for themselves. When this selfish greed is conquered, then comes in a timorous depression. Among those who have escaped from worldliness there is apt to be too much despondency, and men labor feebly as for a cause which is doomed to failure. This last evil must be cured. . . .

To begin with, here is DISCOURAGEMENT FORBIDDEN. Discouragement comes readily enough to us poor mortals who are occupied in the work of God, seeing it is a work of faith, a work of difficulty, a work above our capacity, and a work much opposed.

Discouragement is very natural: it is a native of the soil of manhood. To believe is supernatural, faith is the work of the Spirit of God; to doubt is natural to fallen men; for we have within us an evil heart of unbelief. It is abominably wicked, I grant you; but still it is natural, because of the downward tendency of our depraved hearts. Discouragement towards good things is a weed that grows without sowing. To be faint-hearted and downcast happens to some of us when we are half drowned in this heavy atmosphere, and it also visits us on the wings of the east wind. It takes little to make some hands hang down: a word or a look will do it. I do not, therefore, excuse it; but the rather condemn myself for having a nature prone to such evil.

Discouragement may come and does come to us, as it did to these people, from a consideration of the great things which God deserves at our hands, and the small things which we are able to render. . . . Have you not felt the depressing weight of what is so surely true? Brethren, all that we do is little for our God; far too little for Him that loved us and gave Himself for us. For Him that poured out His soul unto death on our behalf the most splendid service, the most heroic self-denial, are all too little; and we feel it so. Alabaster boxes of precious ointment are too mean a gift. It does not occur to our fervent spirit to imagine that there can be any waste when our best boxes are broken and the perfume is poured out lavishly for Him. What we do fear is that our alabaster boxes are too few, and that our ointment is not precious enough. When we have done our utmost in declaring the glory of Jesus, we have felt that words are too poor and mean to set forth our adorable Lord. When we have prayed for His kingdom we have been disgusted with our own prayers; and all the efforts we have put forth in connection with any part of His service have seemed too few, too feeble for us to hope for acceptance. Thus have we been discouraged. The enemy has worked upon us by this means, yet he has made us argue very wrongly. Because we could not do much, we have half resolved to do nothing! Because what we did was so poor, we were inclined to quit the work altogether! This is evidently absurd and wicked. The enemy can use humility for his purpose as well as pride. Whether he makes us think too much or too little of our work, it is all the same to him as long as he can get us off from it. . . .

But, brethren, we must not allow this sense of littleness to hamper us; for God can bless our littleness, and use it for His glory. (Sermon: “The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

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