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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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FREE WILL

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield to John Wesley:

Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God works in him to will and to do his good pleasure. (Dallimore, George Whitefield, 407)

One Hundred Preachers

John WesleyJohn Wesley:

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”

Writing the Bible

John WesleyJohn Wesley (1703-1791)

“This book had to be written by one of three people: good men, bad men or God. It couldn’t have been written by good men because they said it was inspired by the revelation of God. Good men don’t lie and deceive. It couldn’t have been written by bad men because bad men would not write something that would condemn themselves. It leaves only one conclusion. It was given by divine inspiration of God.”

Augustus Toplady and the Evidence of Salvation

Augustus Montague TopladyAugustus Montague Toplady was an Anglican cleric, hymn writer, and Calvinist. He opposed John Wesley’s teaching of Arminianism. He is probably remembered most as the author of the hymn “Rock of Ages”. The substance of the following discourse from 1 Timothy was preached in the parish church of St. Ann, Blackfriars; on Sunday, April 29, 1770:

St. Paul, in the opening of his apostolic directions to Timothy, adopts the same simple, majestic, and evangelical exordium, with which the rest of his epistles usually begin. Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ; ordained and sent forth by the head of the Church, the supreme master of the spiritual vineyard: without whose internal, authoritative commission, none have a real right to minister in sacred things, nor to thrust the sickle into God’s harvest. For how can men preach to purpose, so as to be instruments of conviction, comfort and sanctification, except they be sent (Rom. x. 15.) of God, and owned of him? Whence the apostle adds, by the commandment of God our Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope. … A sufficient degree of gospel light and knowledge; an ardent love of souls, and a disinterested concern for truth; a competent measure of ministerial gifts and abilities; and, above all, a portion of divine grace and experience; a saving change of heart, and a life devoted to the glory of God; are essential pre-requisites to an evangelical discharge of the sacred function.

The first verse may be read thus: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the express, or authoritative, designation of Jesus Christ our God, Savior, and Lord. So the passage may be rendered; and so perhaps it ought to he understood, in its natural and most obvious construction. Now, even supposing that the apostle had not the divinity of Christ immediately in view, at the time of his writing these words; yet, you must either give up his inspiration, or believe that Christ is, with the Father and the Spirit, God over all, blessed for ever: since on a subject of such unspeakable consequence, it would have argued a degree of negligence, little short of criminal, had the apostle expressed himself in terms palpably liable to misapprehension. I therefore conclude that both as a scholar and as a Christian; as Gamaliel’s pupil and as an inspired apostle; our sacred penman would have delivered himself in a far more guarded style, had not the Son of God been indeed God the Son. Either Jesus is the God, Savior and Lord of his people, or St. Paul was guilty of such inexcusable inaccuracy, as every writer of common sense and common honesty would be sure to avoid.

He goes on to style the blessed Jesus our hope. Ask almost any man, “Whether he hopes to he saved Augustus M. Topladyeternally?” He will answer in the affirmative. But inquire again, “On what foundation he rests his hope?” Here too many are sadly divided. The Pelagian hopes to get to heaven by a moral life and a good use of his natural powers; the Arminian by a jumble of grace and free-will, human works, and the merits of Christ; [and] the Deist by an interested observance of the social virtues. Thus merit-mongers, of every denomination, agree in making anything the basis of their hope, rather than that foundation which God’s own hand hath laid in Zion. But what saith Scripture? It avers, again and again, that Jesus alone is our hope: to the exclusion of all others and to the utter annihilation of human deserving. Beware, therefore, of resting your dependence partly on Christ, and partly on some other basis. As surely as you bottom your reliance partly on the rock, and partly on the sand; so certainly, unless God give you an immediate repentance to your acknowledgment of the truth, will your supposed house of defense fall and bury you in its ruins, no less than if you had raised it on the sand alone. Christ is the hope of glory. (Colossians i. 27) Faith in his righteousness received and embraced as our sole justifying obedience before God; and the love of Christ (an inseparable effect of that faith), operating on our hearts, and shining in our lives; are the most solid evidences we can have below of our acceptance with the Father, and of our being saved in Jesus with an everlasting salvation. (“A Caveat against Unsound Doctrine”)

Charles H. Spurgeon: Preparing Your People For Death

Speaking to a conference of preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon reminded them of the importance of declaring the whole counsel of God to their congregations. They were to especially be faithful stewards of God’s people as they prepared for the day in which they would see their Savior plainly beyond the veil:

I would enhance our sense of responsibility by the remembrance of the death-beds of our people. Unless we are faithful to them, it will be a painful sight to be present when they come to die. Suppose that any one of our hearers should stretch out his bony band, and say, “I am lost, and you never warned me; you always gave me some idea that it might be a little way round-about, but I should get right all the same; and I chose the round-about way of the larger hope, instead of the divine hope that is set before us in the gospel.” I would rather never have been born than have anybody speak thus to me when he shall come to die. My brother said to me the other day what Charles Wesley said to John Wesley: “Brother, our people die well!” I answered, “Assuredly they do!” I have never been to the sick bed of any one of our people without feeling strengthened in faith. In the sight of their glorious confidence, I could sooner battle with the whole earth, and kick it before me like a football, than have a doubt in my mind about the gospel of our Lord. They die gloriously. I saw, last week, a dear sister, with cancer just under her eye. How did I find her? Was she lamenting her hard fate? By no means; she was happy, calm, joyful, in bright expectation of seeing the face of the King in his glory. I talked with a tradesman, not long ago, who fell asleep, and I said, “You seem to have no fears.” “No,” he said, “how can I have any? You have not taught us what will make us fear. How can I be afraid to die, since I have fed these thirty years on the strong meat of the Kingdom of God? I know whom I have believed.” I had a heavenly time with him. I cannot use a lower word. He exhibited a holy mirth in the expectation of a speedy removal to the better world.

Now, dear brethren, suffer one last word. You and I will soon die ourselves, unless our Master comes; and blessed will it be for us, if, when we lie in the silent room, and the nights grow weary, and our strength ebbs out, we can stay ourselves upon the pillows and say, “O Lord, I have known thee from my youth, and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works; and now that I am about to depart, forsake me not.” Thrice happy shall we be, if we can say, in the last article, “I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. . . .”

I charge you, be faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of his grace. Be ye faithful unto death, and your crowns will not be wanting. But oh! let none of us die out like dim candles, ending a powerless ministry in everlasting blackness. The Lord himself bless you! Amen. (Sermon addressed to ministers: “The Preacher’s Power and the Conditions of Obtaining it”)

The Amazing George Whitefield

George Whitefield

George Whitefield is estimated to have preached some 18,000 sermons in his lifetime. His histrionic ability, his beautiful voice, and a compulsive personal conviction enabled him to hold an audience with remarkable power. Multitudes clamored to hear him. Benjamin Franklin wrote of Whitefield: “The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admired and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.” More than any other preacher of his day, he made the Great Awakening a vital, far-reaching force, religiously, socially, and politically, in America. The article below offers some brief details of his life:

George Whitefield was a Calvinistic Methodist; born in Gloucester, England, Dec. 27, 1714; died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Sept. 30, 1770. At the age of twelve he was placed in the school of St. Mary de Crypt at Gloucester, and in 1732, he entered Pembroke College, Oxford. The religious impressions which he had felt on different occasions had been deepened while he was at school the second time, and at Oxford he fell in with the Wesleys, joined the “Holy Club,” and observed its rules rigorously, being the first of the Oxford “Methodists” to profess conversion (1735). In 1736 he was ordained deacon, taking his B.A. in the same year. He now spent much time among the prisoners in Oxford, preached in London and elsewhere and speedily rose to great prominence as a pulpit orator.

Whitefield had been requested by the Wesleys to come to them in Georgia, and he finally resolved to go, though he did not sail until the beginning of 1738. He spent several months in Georgia, preaching with great acceptance, but in the same year returned to England to be ordained priest. Here he found many London churches closed to him because he was considered fanatical, but he preached to such as would receive him, and also visited and worked among the Moravians and other religious societies in London. Early in 1739 he held a conference with the Wesleys and other Oxford Methodists and in February went to Bristol. Being excluded from the churches, he preached in the open air, and induced Wesley to take a similar step, thus establishing an innovation which gave opportunity to the Methodist movement. At Kingswood, near Bristol, he laid the foundations of the Kingswood School, which became so important to Methodism.

Whitefield now began his career as an itinerant evangelist. He visited Wales, and gave an impulse to the revival movement already begun by Howell Harris; and he next traveled through Scotland, and then went through England, attracting extraordinary attention everywhere. But his critical characterization of the clergy as “blind guides” roused many to oppose him, and this hostile feeling preceded him to America, where some of the Anglican churches refused him their pulpits, though other churches were open to him. He preached in Philadelphia and New York, and on his way to Georgia; during a visit to New England the revival which had begun in Northampton in 1736 was renewed. Whitefield visited America on seven occasions.

He early became Calvinistic in his views, and his association with Calvinistic divines in America deepened them. He complained to Wesley because he (John) attacked the doctrine of election, and there was a sharp controversy between them. Whitefield was nominally the head of the Calvinistic Methodists, but he left to others the work of organization. His time was divided between Great Britain and America, and he preached among all denominations. He continued in active service until the end, preaching for two hours at Exeter, Mass., the day before his death, while it was his regular custom to preach every day in the week, often two and four times daily. 1

“Whitefield was one of the first to enlist the aid of laymen, thereby helping to break down the rigid clergy-laity distinction in ministry. While not despising educated and ordained clergy, he was led to emphasize piety and gifts over official sanction. What was needed were men truly converted, called, gifted, and living a godly life. In addition, he believed that personal study was an indispensable part of the Christian life; thus he was directly involved in helping to found three American educational institutions: the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), and Dartmouth; and at the time of his death he was intending to begin one in Georgia.” 2

1. Article above is an abridged and edited copy taken from The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Philip Schaff Vol. XII: H.K. CARROLL

2. Final paragraph is an excerpt from Who’s Who In Christian History – Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Opinions Matter

 

B. B. Warfield

Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t give me doctrines, just give me Jesus”? Perhaps they said they were tired of hearing the opinions of preachers. Perhaps they just wanted the preacher to “motivate” them to feel good about Jesus. There are lots of ways of saying we don’t want to get too deep in this thing called Christianity. Some are simply interested in getting the generalities that work in their favor. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) explains why this approach to Christianity does not work:

It is easy to say: “We refuse to believe that a man’s opinions on the minute details of history or metaphysics are sufficient either to admit or to exclude him from the Kingdom of grace and glory.” But when we have said that, we have already expressed a portentous opinion. . . . It is a matter of historical opinion whether such a person as Jesus Christ ever existed, and surely whether any given man ever existed or not is a very small historical detail. And if we are of the opinion that he existed, it is still a matter of historical opinion whether he was the Son of God who came into the world on a mission of mercy to lost men, and died for our sins and rose again for our justification; or was merely a man who suggested to us as his opinion, which it was his opinion it would be well that we also should adopt, that God is a good fellow, and it is all right with the world. We cannot get along without metaphysical delimitations and historical judgments. We cannot go one step without them. And what we call Christianity is bound up with a very definite set of both.

He who adopts this definite set of metaphysical and historical opinions is so far on his way to being a Christian. He who rejects them, or treats them as indifferent, is not even on his way to being a Christian. This is not to say that Christianity is just a body of metaphysical and historical opinions. But it is to say that Christianity is, among other things, a body of metaphysical and historical opinions. It is absurd to say that a man can be a Christian who is of the opinion that there is no God; or that no such person as Jesus ever lived: or who does not believe very many very definite things about the really existing God and the actually living Jesus. . . .

No less a man than John Wesley is appealed to, however, to support this minimizing of the value of truth. And certainly John Wesley did say—he surely was speaking unadvisedly with his lips-something which lends itself too readily to this bad use. “I am sick of opinions,” he writes; “I am weary to bear them; my soul loathes the frothy food. Give me solid substantial religion; give me a humble gentle lover of God and man, a man full of mercy and good fruits, a man laying himself out in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labor of love. Let my soul be with those Christians wheresoever they be and whatsoever opinions they are of.” John Wesley’s righteous soul had evidently been vexed by men who had nothing but “opinions” to show for their Christianity. But did he ever see such a man as he here paints for us: “a humble gentle lover of God and man, a man full of mercy and good fruits, a man laying himself out in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labor of love,” who was without the opinion that there is a God to love. . . ? ” Did “solid substantial religion” ever exist apart from the “opinions” which lie at its basis? A man who is of the opinion that there is no God will not manifest “solid substantial religion” in his life. . . . No man can live a Christian life who is not first of “the Christian persuasion.”

That is the reason why Christianity is propagated by preaching. There may be other ways in which other religions are spread. The propagation of Christianity has been very definitely committed to “the foolishness of preaching”-not to foolish preaching, however, which is something very different. It is fundamentally “faith”; and faith implies something to be believed and therefore comes of hearing; while hearing implies something presented to the apprehension of the intelligence- the “Word of God.” Whatever we may say of a so-called Christianity which is nothing but “opinions,” there is no Christianity which does not begin with opinions, which is not formed by opinions, and which is not the outworking of these opinions in life. Only we would better call them “convictions.” Convictions are the root on which the tree of vital Christianity grows. No convictions, no Christianity. Scanty convictions, hunger-bitten Christianity. Profound convictions, solid and substantial religion. Let no man fancy it can be otherwise. Ignorance is not the mother of religion, but of irreligion. The knowledge of God is eternal life, and to know God means that we know him aright..

A Poor Sermon

George Whitefield

Quoting George Whitefield:

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher”

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