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    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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THE MARRED CLAY

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield   (1714-1770):

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:1-6 ESV)

Had we kept our original integrity, the law of God would have yet been written in our hearts, and thereby the want of a divine revelation, at least such as ours, would have been superseded; but being fallen, instead of rising in rebellion against God, we ought to be filled with unspeakable thankfulness to our all bountiful Creator, who by a few lines in his own books hath discovered more to us, than all the philosophers and most learned men in the world could, or would, have discovered, though they had studied to all eternity. Continue reading

In A Time of Trouble

Thomas_Case_(1598–1682)Thomas Case:

In the time of our trouble God causes us to see what an evil and bitter thing it is to grieve his good Spirit. When we are in the bitterness of our spirits, and want the Comforter, then we begin to call to mind how often we have grieved the Spirit which would have been a Comforter to us and have sealed us to the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); and say within ourselves in reference to the Spirit of God, as once the sons of Jacob said one to another in reference to Joseph, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21). In some such language, I say, will the soul in the hour of temptation bespeak itself? Ah, I am verily guilty concerning that tender Spirit of Grace and Comfort which hath often said, “O! Do not this abominable thing which I hate” (Jeremiah 44:4); but I would not hear. Is not this he whose rebukes I have slighted, whose counsels I have despised, whose warnings I have neglected, yea whose comforts I have undervalued, and counted them as a small thing? Ah wretch! How just is it now that the Spirit of God should withdraw? That he should despise my sorrows, and laugh at my tears; shut out my prayers, quench my smoking flax, and break my bruised reed? (cf. Isaiah 42:3). Well, if the Lord shall indeed be pleased to bring my soul out of trouble, and to revive my fainting spirit with his sweet consolations, I hope I shall carry myself for the future more obedient to the counsels and rebukes of the Spirit of Grace. (“Treatise on Affliction”)

Knowing Jesus

Is Jesus Christ God? John Calvin writes:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Do what we can, we shall never have any hope, or be able to lay hold of the bounty and goodness of God, to return to Him, and call upon Him, until we know the majesty of God that is in Jesus Christ; and likewise the weakness of man’s nature … The devil hath bestowed all his art to pervert this doctrine; seeing that our salvation is grounded thereon. We should therefore be so much the more confirmed and strengthened in it; that we may never be shaken, but stand steadfast in the faith, which is contained in the gospel.

First of all we have this to note, that we shall never know Jesus Christ to be our Savior, until we know that He was God from everlasting. That which was written of Him by Jeremiah the prophet, must needs be fulfilled: “Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord” (Jer. 9:24). St. Paul shows that this must be applied to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: and thereupon he protests that he made no account of any doctrine or knowledge, only to know Jesus Christ.

Again, how is it possible for us to have our life in Him, unless He is our God, and we are maintained and preserved by His virtue? How can we put our trust in Him? For it is written. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer. 17:5). Again, how can we be preserved from death except by God’s infinite power? Even if Scripture bore no witness to the Deity of Jesus Christ, it is impossible for us to know Him as our Savior, unless we admit that He possesses the whole majesty of God; unless we acknowledge Him to be the true God; because He is the wisdom of the Father whereby the world was made, preserved, and kept in being. Therefore let us be thoroughly resolved in this point, whenever we speak of Jesus Christ, that we lift our thoughts on high, and worship this majesty which He had from everlasting, and this infinite essence which He enjoyed before He clothed himself in humanity. (“The Mystery of Godliness”)

Evidence Supporting Jeremiah

Archaeology and the Bible:

In 2005, a Hebrew University archaeologist uncovered a clay seal dated from about 580 BC bearing the name Yehuchal ben-Shelemayahu, who is identified as a royal envoy and court minister sent by King Zedekiah to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37 and 38).

Christian Art?

According to R.C. Sproul:

“What makes art Christian art? Is it simply Christian artists painting biblical subjects like Jeremiah? Or, by attaching a halo, does that suddenly make something Christian art? Must the artist’s subject be religious to be Christian? I don’t think so. There is a certain sense in which art is its own justification. If art is good art, if it is true art, if it is beautiful art, then it is bearing witness to the Author of the good, the true, and the beautiful.” (Lifeviews)

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.

Why Does God Defer to Answer Prayers?

Prayer has the power to achieve the impossible. Yet, many do not use it regularly, or don’t believe in its efficiency as our Christian fathers certainly did. This is certainly a primary reason why our churches are so cold and, when we do pray, we feel as if our prayers are not penetrating the floor of heaven. John Knox continues this line of thought:

[S]ometimes God defers or prolongs to grant our petitions, for the exercise and trial of our faith, and not that he sleeps or is absent from us at any time, but that with more gladness we might receive that which, with long expectation, we have abidden [awaited]; that thereby we, assured of his eternal providence (so far as the infirmity of our corrupt and most weak nature will permit), doubt not but that his merciful hand shall relieve us in most urgent necessity and extreme tribulation. Therefore, such men as teach us that it is not necessarily required that we understand what we pray, because God knows what we need, would also teach us that we neither honor God, nor yet refer or give unto him thanks for benefits received. For how shall we honor and praise him, whose goodness and liberality we know not? And how shall we know, unless we receive and sometimes have experience? And how shall we know that we have received, unless we know verily what we have asked?

The second thing to be observed in perfect prayer is, that standing in the presence of God, we are found such as bear reverence to his holy law; earnestly repenting [of] our past iniquities, and intending to lead a new life; for otherwise all our prayers are in vain, as it is written, “Whoso withdraweth his ear that he may not hear the law of God, his prayer shall be abominable” (Prov. 28:9). Likewise Isaiah and Jeremiah says thus: “You shall multiply your prayers, and I shall not hear, because your hands are full of blood:” that is, of all cruelty and mischievous works (Isa. 1:15; cf. Jer. 11:14; 14:12). Also the Spirit of God appears by the mouth of the blind (whom Jesus Christ illuminated), by these words, “We know that God heareth not sinners” (John 9:31): that is, such as do glory and continue in iniquity. So that of necessity, true repentance must needs be had, and go before perfect prayer, or sincere invocation of God’s name. (“A Treatise on Prayer, or, a Confession, and Declaration of Prayers”)

Wandering Thoughts

Thought and wisdom are not to be confused. The wisdom that many possess in their later years comes by the Holy Spirit through the power of sanctification. The work of the Spirit in our minds facilitates the gradual dying out of the power of temptation over us. Yet our thoughts are not completely free of temptation. Thomas Goodwin writes:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

We find our minds ready to spend thoughts about anything rather than what God at present calls unto. When we go to a sermon, we find we could then spend our thoughts more willingly about reading, or haply searching our hearts; unto which at another time, when called to it, we should be most unwilling to. We could be content to run wild over the fields of meditations and miscellaneous thoughts, though about good, rather than to be tied to that task, and kept in one set path. . . .

[T]hough indeed the mind of man is nimble and able thus to run from one end of the earth to another, which is its strength and excellence, yet God would not have this strength, and nimbleness, and mettle spirit in curveting and trembling, as I may call it, but in steady directing all our thoughts straight on to his glory, our own salvation, and the good of others; he gave it this nimbleness to turn away from evil, and the first appearance of it. As we are to walk in God’s ways he calls us to, so every thought, as well as every action, is a step, and therefore ought to be steady; ‘Make straight steps to your feet,’ says the Apostle, Heb. xii. 13, turning not to the right hand nor to the left, until we come to the journey’s end of that business we are to think of. But our thoughts at best are as wanton spaniels, who, though indeed they go with and accompany their master, and come to their journey’s end with him in the end, yet do run after every bird, and wildly pursue every flock of sheep they see. This unsteadiness arises from the like curse on the mind of man as was on Cain, that it being ‘driven from the presence of the Lord,’ it proves a vagabond, and so ‘men’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.’ This foolishness is also seen in that independence in our thoughts; they hanging oft together as ropes of sand. . . . This madness and distemper is in the mind since the fall . . . that if notes were taken of our thoughts, we should find thoughts so vagrant, that we know not how they come in, nor whence they come, nor whither they would. . . . And as Seneca says of men’s lives, as of ships that are tossed up and down at sea, it may be said they have been tossed much but sailed nothing; the like in this respect may be said of the thoughts. Or as when men make imperfect dashes, and write nonsense, they are said to scribble, they do not write; so, in these follies and independencies, we . . . lose ourselves, we do not think.

The Sinfulness Of The Mind!

This excerpt from the writings of Thomas Goodwin reminds me of these verses:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:5-7 ESV)

Let us now read what Goodwin has to say on the matter:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears in a loathness to enter into holy thoughts, to begin to set itself to think of God, and the things belonging unto our peace; even as loath they are to this as schoolboys are to their books, or to busy their minds about their lessons, their heads being full of play; so loath are our minds to enter into serious considerations, into sad, solemn thoughts of God or death, etc. Men are as loath to think of death as thieves of the execution; or to think of God, as they are of their judge. So to go over their own actions, in a review of them, and read the blurred writing of their hearts, and to ‘commune with them,’ at night in the end of the day, (as David did, Ps. lxxvii. 6,) men are as loath to do this as schoolboys are to parse their lesson; and the false Latins they have made. Job xxi. 14, ‘Depart from us;’ say they in Job unto God; from their thoughts they meant it, for it follow; ‘we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.’ They would not think of him, or know him, by their good wills. And therefore our mind; like a bad stomach, are nauseated with the very scent of good things, and soon cast them up again: Rom. 1. 28, ‘They like not to retain the knowledge of God.’. . .

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears in the godly, that though they entertain good thoughts, yet the mind is not, will not, be long intent on them. Some things there are which we are and can be intent upon, and accordingly dwell long upon them; and therefore, in Job xvii. 11, the thoughts are called the ‘possessions of the heart,’ – so it is in the original and noted in the margin. Such thoughts as are pleasing, the heart dwells on them; yea, so intent are we often, that they hinder our sleep: as it is said of wicked men, ‘They cannot sleep for multitude of thoughts,’ Eccles. v. 12; so, ‘to devise froward things,’ Solomon says, Prov. xvi. 30, that ‘a man shuts his eyes,’ that is, is exceeding attentive, poreth upon his plots; for so a man doth use to do, to shut his eyes when he would be intent, and therefore it is so expressed. But now let the mind be occupied and busied about good things, and things belonging to our peace, how unsteady is it! Which things should yet draw out the intention of the mind; for the more excellent the object is, the stronger our intention should be. God is the most glorious object our minds can fasten on, the most alluring: the thoughts of whom therefore should swallow up all other, as not worthy to be seen the same day with him. But I appeal to all your experiences, if your thoughts of him be not most unsteady, and are, that I may so compare it, as when we look upon a star through an optic glass, held with a palsy-shaking hand. . . . So when we are hearing the word, how do our minds ever and anon run out of the church, and come in again, and so do not hear half what is said! So when we are at our callings, which God bids us to be conversant about with all our might, Eccles. ix. 10; yet our minds, like idle truants, or negligent servants, though sent about never so serious a business, yet go out of the way to see any sport, run after the hares that cross the way, fellow after butterflies that buzz about us. And so when we come to pray, Christ bids ‘watch to prayer,’ Mark xiii. 33; that is, as if we were at every door to place a guard, that none come in and disturb and knock us off. But how oft doth the heart nod, and fall asleep, and run into another world, as men in dreams do! Yea, so natural are distractions to us, when we are busied about holy duties, that as excrements come from men, when very, weak and sick, ere they are aware of it, so do worldly thoughts from him; and we are carried out of that stream of good our mind was running in, into some by-creek, ere we are aware of it. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

Learning From Injuries

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears the utmost in the ungodly. Yet, they may entertain good thoughts, but their minds will not dwell upon them very long. Thomas Goodwin elaborates:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

A heart sanctified, and in whose affections true grace is en-kindled, out of all God’s dealings with him, out of the things he sees and hears, out of all the objects are put into the thoughts, he distilleth holy, and sweet, and useful meditations; and it naturally doth it, and ordinarily doth it, so far as it is sanctified. So our Savior Christ, all speeches of others which he heard, all accidents and occurrences, did still raise and occasion in him heavenly meditations, as we may see throughout the whole Gospels. When he came by a well, he speaks of the ‘water of life,’ John IV. &c. Many instances might be given. He in his thoughts translated the book of the creatures into the book of grace, and so did Adam’s heart in innocency. His philosophy might be truly termed divinity, because he saw God in all; all raised up his heart to thankfulness and praise. So now, in like manner, our minds, so far as they are sanctified, will do. As the philosopher’s stone turns all metals into gold, as the bee sucks honey out of every flower, and a good stomach sucks out some sweet and wholesome nourishment out of what it takes into itself; so doth a holy heart, so far as sanctified, convert and digest all into spiritual useful thoughts. This you may see, Ps. cvii. 43. That psalm gives many instances of God’s providence, and ‘wonderful works which he doth for the sons of men;’ as deliverances by sea; where men see his wonders; deliverance to captives, &c. : and still the foot of the song is, ‘0 that men would therefore praise the Lord for the wonderful works he doth for the sons of men.’ Now, after all these instances, he concludes, that though others pass over such occurrences with ordinary slight thought; yet says he, ‘The righteous shall see it, and rejoice,’ that is, extract comfortable thoughts out of all, which shall be matter of joy; and ‘whoso is wise will observe these things,’ that is; makes holy observations out of all these, and out of a principle of wisdom he understands God’s goodness in all, and so his heart is raised to thoughts of praise, and thankfulness; and obedience. Now, compare with this the 92d Psalm, made for the Sabbath, when, in imitation of God, who that day viewed his work; we are, on our Lord’s day, still to raise holy praiseful thoughts out of them to his glory, which he that penned that psalm then did, ver. 1, 2, and ver. 5, 6, ‘How great are thy works!’ &c. ‘A brutish man knows not, nor will a fool understand this;’ that is, he being a beast, and having no sanctified principle of wisdom in him, looks no further than a beast into all the works of God and occurrences of things; looks on all blessings as things provided for man’s delight by God; but he extracts seldom holy, spiritual, and useful thoughts out of all, he wants the art of doing it.

If injuries be offered us by others, what do our thoughts distill out of those wrong; but thoughts of revenge? We meditate how to requite it again. But see how naturally David’s mind distills other thoughts of Shimei’s cursing, 2 Sam. xvi. 11, ‘God hath bidden him,’ and it may prove a good sign of God’s favor, ‘God may requite good for it.’ When we see judgments befall other; severe thoughts of censure our minds are apt to raise against our brother, as Job’s friends did. But a godly man, whose mind is much sanctified, raises other thoughts out of it, Prov. xxi. 29, ‘wisely consider.’

So when outward mercies befall us, the next thoughts we are apt to have is to project ease by our wealth, ‘Thou hast goods for many years;’ and when judgments befall us, we are apt to be filled with thoughts of complaint, and fear; and cares how to wind out again. But what were the first thoughts Job had upon the news of the loss of all? God hath given, and the Lord hath taken, blessed be the Lord for all.

Such thoughts as these, which all opportunities hint unto, a good heart is apprehensive of; and doth naturally raise for its own use. So far barren as our thoughts are, so far vain. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

Seek And Find God

In the words of John Piper:

Brothers and sisters, we must be more earnest in seeking God in worship. We must be less flippant and less frivolous and thoughtless and casual and disrespectful as we approach the chamber of God in the assembly of the faithful. Have you ever thought through the implications of Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me WITH ALL YOUR HEART.” There is only one reason to come to this service – to seek and find GOD! And the Lord God says to you straight from his Word every Sunday, “You will find me when you seek me with ALL YOUR HEART!”

Our Thoughts May Also Be Sins

Have you ever considered your thought life? Thomas Goodwin explains how our thoughts become our enemies:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

And because this is the sense I chiefly must insist on in handling the vanity of the thoughts, and also men usually think that thoughts are free, I will therefore prove this to you, which is the only doctrine raised, that thoughts are sins. . . .

They are to be repented of; yea, repentance is expressed as to begin at them: so, Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts.’ And a man is never truly and thoroughly wrought on, as 2 Cor, x. 4, 6, till ‘every thought be brought into obedience;’ which argues that they are naturally rebellious, and contrary to grace. And this also argues the power of grace, which is able to rule and to subdue so great an army as our thoughts are, and command them all, as one day it will do, when we are perfectly holy.

They defile the man; which nothing defiles but sin: Matt. xv. 18, 19, ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts; these defile the man.’ They are an abomination to the Lord, who hates nothing but sin, and whose ‘pure eyes can endure to behold no iniquity,’ Hab. i. 13. As good meditations are acceptable, Ps. xix. 14, so, by the rule of contrary, bad are abominable.

They hinder all good we should do, and spoil our best performances. Vain thoughts draw the heart away in them, that when a man should draw nigh to God, his heart, by reason of his thoughts, is ‘far off from him,’ Isa. xxix. 13. A man’s heart goes after his covetousness, when he should hear, as the prophet speaks, because his thoughts thus run. Now, nothing else but sin could separate; and what doth estrange us from God is sin, and enmity to him.

Our thoughts are the first motioners of all the evil in us. For they make the motion, and also bring the heart and object together, are panders to our lusts, hold up the object till the heart hath played the adulterer with it, and committed folly: so in speculative uncleanness, and in other lusts, they hold up the images of those gods they create, which the heart falls down and worships; they present credit, riches, beauty, till the heart hath worshipped them, and this when the things themselves are absent.

Do You Love The Word Of God?

Do you sit under a ministry that works upon your conscience? Are you grateful and humble when the Word of God strikes at the sin in your life? In the excerpt below, Thomas Watson continues this line of questioning:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

Do we love the Word preached? Do we prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us?

Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving his charge from the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.

Again, do we love the holiness of the Word (Psa. 119:140)? The Word is preached to beat down sin and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Word preached only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezek. 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers, but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts bettered. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face but neglects her health.

Again, do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister’s duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit, but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine hilt but without an edge. ‘Rebuke them sharply’ (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil, reprove in love, but strike the nail home. Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, ‘You are the man’, do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that ‘the sword of the Spirit’ has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word. (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

Thomas Goodwin: How Long?

There is much vanity in our thoughts and manner of thinking. Our thoughts are subject to vanity much more than we wish to admit. Thomas Goodwin explains:

How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? (Jeremiah 4:14)

In these words he compares the heart unto some house of common resort, made, as it were, with many and large rooms to entertain and lodge multitudes of guests in; into which, before conversion, all the vain, light, wanton, profane, dissolute thoughts that post up and down the world, as your thoughts do, and run riot all the day, have free, open access, the heart keeps open house to them, gives them willing, cheerful welcome and entertainment; accompanies them, travels over all the world for the daintiest pleasures to feed them with; lodgeth, harbors them; and there they, like unruly gallants and roisters, lodge, and revel it day and night, and defile those rooms they lodge in with their loathsome filth and vomits. ‘How long,’ says the Lord, ‘shall they lodge therein,’ whilst I, with my Spirit, my Son, and train of graces, ‘stand at the door and knock,’ Rev. iii. 20, and cannot find admittance? Of all which filthiness, etc the heart, this house, must be washed: ‘Wash thy heart from wickedness.’ Washed, not swept only of grosser evils, as, Matt. xii. 43, the house the unclean spirit re-enters into is said to be swept of evils that lay loose and uppermost, but washed and cleansed of those defilements which stick more close, and are incorporated and wrought into the spirit. And those vain and unruly guests must be turned out of doors without any warning; they have stayed there long enough, too long: ‘how long?’ And ‘the time past may suffice,’ as the Apostle speaks; they must lodge there no more. The house, the soul, is not in conversion to be pulled down, but only these guests turned out; and though kept out they cannot be, they will still enter whilst we are in these houses of clay, yet lodge they must not. If thoughts of anger and revenge come in the morning or daytime, they must be turned out ere night: ‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’ Eph. iv. 26; for so you may come to lodge yet a worse guest in your heart with them. ‘Give not place to the devil,’ for it follows, who will ‘bring seven worse with him.’ If unclean thoughts offer to come to bed to thee when thou lie down, let them not lodge with thee. To conclude, it is not what thoughts are in your hearts, and pass through them, as what lodging they have, that doth difference your repentance. Many good thoughts and motions may pass as strangers through a bad man’s heart; and so likewise multitudes of vain thoughts may make a thoroughfare of a believer’s heart, and disturb him in good duties, by knockings and interruptions, and breakings in upon the heart of a good man; but still they lodge not there – are not fostered, or harbored. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

The Holy Spirit And Ministry

Samuel Davies

Have you ever noticed that one minister who is a scholar, an excellent orator, and is sincere in his passion for the conversion of sinners, preaches and works in vain; while another, who is less qualified, is successful in bringing many more to Christ? This cannot be accounted for except by divine grace; for if salvation was dependent upon the talents of men then the most talented would always reap the harvest. History teaches us that sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening sinners, while at other times the most argumentative preaching moves no one at all. Where in this does the difference arise but in the grace of God? Samuel Davies offers the following explanation:

“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)

[T]he different success of the same means of grace in different periods of the church, sufficiently shows the necessity of gracious assistances to render them efficacious. The various states of the church in various ages are but comments upon the sacred pages, and accomplishments of scripture.

Now we find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means, as according to the degree of divine influence. Alas! What could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world, in vain: they would rush upon destruction before his eyes; and he could only persuade his own family; and even among them there was a cursed Ham. How little could Moses, the favorite messenger and intimate of God, prevail to make his people dutiful! Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious; for the Lord had not given them an heart to understand, etc., Deuteronomy 29:4. This heart to understand Moses mentions as something beyond his power and that could be effected by omnipotence only. What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet Jeremiah! Surely, many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success!

Nay, when the Son of God descended from heaven to be a teacher to the world, who spake as never man spake, who carried omnipotence along with him to attest his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles, how few, during his life, were brought seriously to regard his doctrine! He was pleased to deter the remarkable effusion of his Spirit till his return to his native heaven. And when the Spirit was poured out, what a glorious alteration followed! Then Peter, a poor fisherman, is the happy instrument of converting three thousand with one short sermon; which is more perhaps than his divine Master had done by a hundred. Then, in spite of the united opposition of earth and hell, the humble doctrines of the cross triumphed over the nations, and subdued millions to the obedience of faith. Then the doctrines of Jesus, who was crucified at Jerusalem like an infamous malefactor, between two thieves, became the mighty, all-conquering weapons, through God, to demolish the strong-holds of Satan, II Corinthians 2:4. And whence this strange alteration? It was from the more abundant effusion of the Spirit upon the minds of men; upon their minds, I say; for as to the external evidences from miracles, prophecies, etc., they were sufficiently clear before this happy season. But there was not the same degree of internal illumination by the Spirit. It is often intimated by Christ, in his last discourses with his disciples, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given; and hence it was that he and they labored so much in vain. But upon his ascension he performed the promise he had so often repeated, and sent the Spirit both upon them and their hearers; and then the aspect of affairs was happily altered: then the word had free course, and was glorified. Then the world was convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

This point might be illustrated farther by a history of the various periods of the church from the apostolic age to the present time; but it would be too tedious; and what has been offered is sufficient to convince us that it is not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, that the interests of religion are carried on, Zechariah 4:6. . . . (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

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