25 December 2006

The Significance of the Incarnation

The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born in time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day for His human birth. In the bosom of His Father He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day.

The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.

To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits.

Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons

17 December 2006

Love One Another

Those that are at peace in their own consciences will be peaceable towards others. A busy, contentious, quarrelsome disposition, argues that it never felt peace from God, and though many men think it commendable to censure the infirmities of others, yet it argues their own weakness; for it is a sign of strength, where we see in men anything good, to bear with their weakness. Who was more indulgent than Christ? He bore with the infirmities of His disciples from time to time; therefore we should labor to carry ourselves lovingly towards them that are weak. Nothing should raise us so high in our own esteem above others as to forget them to be our brethren, inasmuch as those infirmities that we see, shall be buried with them.

--Richard Sibbes

13 December 2006

Was the Master There?

It is said that among Church people the prayers are the main thing, and among Dissenters the sermon. I believe that in both cases this would be a fault. Praying should not eclipse preaching; for to preach or to listen to preaching, is as true an act of worship as to pray.

We never worship God better than when we hear his Word, reverently receive it, and are moved thereby to love and gratitude. To hear preaching is, in a sense, praying; since the true effect of all preaching that is worth the listening to, draws us into a spirit of devotion, and makes us ready for prayer and every other form of worship.

But what do we come here for? I am afraid there are some who come merely because it is the time to come, because the hour of worship has come round; and others come only because a certain preacher happens to stand upon the platform.

Ah! this is not how God’s own beloved ones come up to his house ! They desire to meet with him. Their prayer as they tread the hallowed courts of God’s house will be “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”

There is no hymn sung so well as when we really do praise Jesus in it. No prayer is so true as that prayer which really comes to the mercy-seat, and spreads itself before the all-seeing eye. There is no preaching like that which is full of Christ, which gives forth a savor of his good ointments.

Worship is not to be commended because of the glorious swell of a Gregorian chant, or because of the equally majestic volume of sound which this great assembly may send forth from that sweet instrument, the human voice. A service is not to be commended because of the eloquence of the preacher, or because of the display of learning which he is able to make in expounding his discourse. No, to the Christian it is, “Was the Master there?”

C. H. Spurgeon, MTP vol. 10

12 December 2006


God sets a high estimate upon the righteous, and that appears by bestowing more excellent titles on them than upon others.

1. God calls them His jewels. He laid His best jewel to pawn for them. They are jewels for their sparkling quality. They shine in God's eye. The saints have a kind of angelic brightness, as one of the ancients expresses it.

They are jewels for their price. Diamonds, said Pliny, were not known a long time but among kings and emperors. The price of a saint is above others, "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that perverteth his ways, though he be rich", Proverbs 28:6.

2. God calls the righteous "hidden ones," Psalm 83:3. They are hidden, first, for their invisibility. Their excellence is not known to many. The world can see their infirmity, not their eminence. A saint has that eternal glory which cannot be beheld by a carnal eye; the fair face is hid under a veil Second, righteous are hidden for their safety. Diamonds are hid in the rock, so the saint's life is hid in Christ, the Rock of Ages, Colossians 9:5.

3. God calls the righteous "the excellent of the earth," Psalm 16:2, or 'the magnificent, " as Junius renders it. They are the spiritual phoenixes; they are the cream and flower of the creation; they are the purer part of the world, doubly refined, Zechariah 13:9.

4. God calls them "vessels of honor, 2 Timothy 2:21.Though they are earthen vessels, yet they have heavenly treasure in them. They are filled with the wine of the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 Though they are scoured with affliction, yet it is to make them brighter, Daniel 12:10.

5. God calls them the apple of His eye Zechariah 2:8. The apple of the eye is the tenderest part of the eye, to express God's tenderness of them, said Salvian God cannot endure to have His eyeball touched.

6. God calls them "His portion, " Deuteronomy 32:9. As if riches lay in them. As a man seals a hag of money for his use, so the Lord seals His people as His portion with a double seal, one of election, 2 Timothy 2:19, the other of assurance, Ephesians 1 :13.

7. God calls them His "plant of renown. "Ezekiel 34:19. He hedges in this noble plant with His protection, waters it with the silver drops of His ordinances, blesses the springing of it, adorns it with fruit, and transplants it into the heavenly paradise where it grows continually in the sweet sunshine of His favor.

8. God calls them "joint heirs with Christ, "Romans 8:17. Jesus Christ is a rich heir. He is Lord of all. and the saints have shares with Christ.

9. God calls them the luminaries of the world. They give light by their precepts and example. "Among whom ye shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:15, Lot was a bright star in Sodom. The world would be dark were it not for the children of light.

10. God calls them a "peculiar people," 1 Peter 2:9. He has taken them out of the world as out of the wild forest, and enclosed them to Himself by a decree. They are a purchased people. The righteous are the purchase of Christ's blood, and He will not lose His purchase.

11. God calls them a kingdom of priests. They are kings. They have their throne, Revelation 3:21, and white robes, Revelation 6:11, Robes signify their dignity and white their sanctity.

11 December 2006

Once Dead Now Alive Sermon Notes

Our Condition: dead

Romans 6:16 (NASB95)
16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

Romans 6:21 (NASB95)
21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.

Romans 6:23 (NASB95)
23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7:5 (NASB95)
5For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

The verse that best sums up what it means to be spiritually dead is this:

‘the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14).

They are dead to God and insensitive to Him, but full of life toward everything contrary to the law or the holiness of God.

Spurgeon said:

We were dead, all of us; and yet we were not all like on another. Death may be universal over a certain number of bodies, and yet those bodies may look very different. The dead that lie on the battle-field, torn of dogs or kites, rotting, corrupting in the sun, what a horrible sight! The corpse looks like life still; yet is your beloved one in the coffin as dead as the mangled bodies on the battle-field. Corruption has not yet done its work, and tender care has guarded the body as yet from what will surely come to it; yet is there death, sure, complete death, in the one case as well as in the other.

So we have many who are lovely, amiable, morally admirably, like him whom the Savior looked upon and loved; yet they are dead for all that. We have others who are drunken, profane, unchaste; they are dead, not more dead than the others; but their death has left its terrible traces more plainly visible.

But dead we were, most certainly. Even though trained by godly parents, though well instructed in the gospel scheme, though saturated with the piety that surrounded us, we were dead, as dead as the harlot of the street, as dead as the thief in the jail.

Our Conduct: under sway of world, flesh and devil

Those who are spiritually dead are under the sway of the world, the Devil, and the flesh:


Regarding their domination by the world, he says in the first part of verse 2, “in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world.” The word translated “world” (kosmos) is used 186 times in the Greek New Testament, and virtually every instance has an evil connotation.

DEFINITION: To be of the world is life lived apart from God, in attitude and action. It is an attitude towards everything, towards God, towards ourselves, and towards life in this world; to be of the world is to view all these things apart from God.

To be of the world—and this is repeated by the apostles—means that we are governed by the mind and the outlook and the way of this world in which we live.

The Devil.

Paul describes the Devil as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (v. 2). Satan is described in Scripture as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), “the prince of demons” (Matthew 9:34), and, a sobering title, “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). This Devil dominates and energizes the spiritually dead.

The flesh.

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature [the flesh] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (v. 3). The dead are corrupted from within too.

. The general description is ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life’ (1 Jn 2:16), and that is a perfect analysis.

Bunyan described it all in his picture of Vanity Fair:

Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair: it is kept all the year long; it beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, “All that cometh is vanity” (Eccl. 1; 2:11, 17; 11:8; Isa. 40:17).
This fair is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing; I will show you the original of it.
Almost 5,000 years agone, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long: therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair there is at all times, to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.

Condemnation—under wrath and liable to judgment

Colossians 3:6-7 (NASB95)
6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:

Let us make no mistake about this. If you and I go out of this life belonging to the world, and of the world, we have nothing to look forward to but wrath. I do not know if you can tell me of a sadder statement in Scripture than John 17:9: ‘I pray not for the world.’ Those who are of the world are under the wrath of God until they come out of that position, until they believe in Christ and until they are saved and reconciled to God. He does not pray for them, they are just left, and it is an appalling thing to think that people who go out like that go to nothing but the wrath of God. Oh the folly of being of the world! For, as John tells us, the world passes away and the lust thereof. Is it not astounding that everybody does not realize that? Let us pay heed to the warning of things that happen. The world is passing away. Your pride in your appearance, in your life and position, all you have and what you are, my friend, is decaying and rotting even as you are boasting of it. And a day will come when it will be useless and your naked soul will be there alone. ‘The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever’ (1 Jn 2:17).

Saved by Grace: BUT GOD (Divine Initiative and Intervention)

God has called us

out of death and into life (John 5:24-25),
out of darkness and into light (1 Pet. 2:9),
out of Satan’s kingdom and into the kingdom of his Son (Col. 1:13),
out of shame and into his wonderful glory (1 Pet. 5:10).

Salvation is initiated by God:

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:3–5)

Jesus: He is full of grace.

Phil and Darlene Johnson joined Royale and me on a visit to Hampton Court. There we saw among this grand place, the King’s Chambers. The entrance to these chambers brought us into a large gathering room with a grand staircase, rising up to meet the king. The walls were lined with huge murals meant to impose and astound. The top of the stairs opened into a large guards quarters, surrounded by weapons. One could feel the strength of these images of grandeur, wealth, prestige and power.

Are you dressed properly? Do you carry the right credentials? Is your business pertinent? Do you deserve to demand the king’s presence?

But think of the Lord in his exalted place. Higher and higher we go, until all human ability to connect departs and we are left speechless, with no mental capacity to take in the vastness of God’s glory. Awe, wonder, are all we can say of that grandeur.

Dare we go in? Are we dressed correctly? No, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. Are we positioned well enough? No, we are a son of Adam, who disobeyed at the first and ran from His presence when invited back. Are we powerful enough? Only a fool would think that possible. And so here we are, outside. Outside where we deserve.

But wait, what is this? A message from the king….In its first statement, it calls “Sinner, Come In!” O, that is a hopeful sound! A sinner can come in. But what about me?

Then, by the mercy, here the words change---Chris, Dave, Sheila, Sue, Bob—we are called by name. “Come in.”

How did this entrance happen—through the death of Christ, bearing your punishment. Through His blood which stands as the basis for your forgiveness.

He is set forth as betrayed, apprehended, condemned, spit on, scourged, buffeted, mocked, crowned with thorns, crucified, pierced with nails and a spear,
to save the soul from being betrayed by the devil and sin;
to save it from being apprehended by justice, and condemned by the law;
to save it from being spit on, in a way of contempt, by holiness; to save it from being scourged with guilt of sins, as with scorpions;
to save it from being continually buffeted by its own conscience;
to save it from being mocked at by God;
to save it from being crowned with ignominy and shame for ever;
to save it from dying the second death;
to save it from wounds and grief for ever.

Do you understand? He wrestled with justice, that you might have rest; He wept and mourned, that you might laugh and rejoice; He was betrayed, that you might go free; was apprehended, that you might escape; He was condemned, that you might be justified; and was killed, that you might live; He wore a crown of thorns, that you might wear a crown of glory; and was nailed to the cross, with His arms wide open, to show with what freeness all His merits shall be bestowed on the coming soul; and how heartily He will receive it into His bosom?

(3) Salvation brings a new orientation. We now enjoy the things of God, rejoicing in his glory, preferring his people, affirming his laws, and seeking his counsel.

We should in our conversation adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

It is a great word of the apostle, “Only let your daily living be as it becomes the gospel of Christ,” which is the gospel of the grace of God (Phil 1:27). God expects that there should in our whole life be a fragrance of the gospel, or that in our life among men there should be preached to them the grace of the gospel of God.

07 December 2006

How England Was Revived in the 18th Century by J.C. Ryle

That a great change for the better came over England during the 18th century is a fact that I suppose no well-informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther, a Long Parliament in the time of Cromwell, or a French Republic at the end of the 18th century. There was a vast change for the better. Both in religion and in morality, the country gradually went through a complete revolution. This is a great fact that even the irreligious cannot deny, however they may attempt to explain it.
But, by what means was this great change effected? To whom are we indebted for the immense improvement in religion and morality that undoubtedly came over the land? Who, in a word, were the instruments whom God employed in bringing about the great English reformation of the 18th century?

The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit for the change. Morality cannot be called into being by laws and statutes. People have never yet been made religious by acts of government. In fact, the parliaments and administrations of the 18th century did as little for religion and morality as any that ever existed in England. Nor did the change come from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable institution were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of pride and inactivity.

Nor did the change come from the independent churches of the dissenters. Content with their recently won freedoms, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars. In the general enjoyment of their new rights of conscience, they forgot the vital principles of their forefathers as well as their own duties and responsibilities.

Who, then, were the reformers of the 18th century? To whom are we indebted, under God, for the change that took place? The men who wrought deliverance at this period were a few individuals, most of them clergymen of the Established Church, men whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country. They were not wealthy or highly connected. They had neither money to buy adherents nor family influence to command attention and respect. They were not put forward by any church, party, society, or institution. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work without previous concert, scheme, or plan.

They did Christ’s work in the old apostolic way by becoming the evangelists of their day. They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, and earnestness. They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate, and like Paul, even weeping, but always bold, unflinching, and not fearing the face of man. They did not wait for sinners to come to them, but rather they sought sinners. Instead of sitting idle until sinners offered to repent, they assaulted the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach, giving sinners no rest so long as they held to their sins.

The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another. From the beginning, people in high places made it known that they despised them. The educated class sneered at them as fanatics.

The humorists made jokes and invented sarcastic names for them. The Church of England shut her doors on them, and even the dissenters turned the cold shoulder on them. The ignorant mob persecuted them. But the movement of these few evangelists went on and made itself felt in every part of the land.

Many were aroused and awakened to think about religion. Many were shamed out of their sins. Many became frightened at their own ungodliness. Many were converted. Many who declared their dislike of the movement were secretly provoked to imitation. The little sapling became a strong tree; the little creek became a deep, broad stream; and the little spark became a steady, burning flame. A candle was lighted of which we are now enjoying the benefit.

The feeling of all classes in the land about religion and morality gradually assumed a totally different complexion. And all this, under God, was effected by a few unpatronized, unpaid adventurers! When God takes a work in hand, nothing can stop it. When God is for us, none can be against us.

The Sword of Preaching

The instrumentality by which the spiritual reformers of the 18th century carried on their operations was of the simplest description. It was neither more nor less than the old apostolic weapon of preaching. The sword that Paul wielded with such mighty effect when he assaulted the strongholds of heathenism 1,800 years ago was the same sword by which they won their victories.

To say, as some have done, that they neglected education and schools is totally incorrect. Wherever they gathered congregations, they cared for the children. To say, as others have done, that they neglected the sacraments is simply false. Those who make these assertions only expose their entire ignorance of the religious history of that period. But beyond a doubt, preaching was their favorite weapon. They wisely went back to first principles and took up apostolic plans. They held, with Paul, that a minister’s first work is to preach the gospel.

They preached everywhere. If the pulpit of a parish church was open to them, they gladly availed themselves of it. If it could not be obtained, they were equally ready to preach in a barn. No place was too unworthy for them. In the field or by the roadside, on the village grass or in a marketplace, in lanes or in alleys, in cellars or in attics, on a tub or on a table, on a bench or on a horse block, wherever hearers could be gathered, the spiritual reformers of the 18th century were ready to speak to them about their souls. They were instant in season and out of season in doing Christ’s work, and crossed sea and land in carrying forward their Father’s business. Now, all this was a new thing. Can we wonder that it produced a great effect?

They preached simply. They rightly concluded that the very first qualification to be aimed at in a sermon is to be understood. They saw clearly that thousands of able and well composed sermons are utterly useless because they are above the heads of the hearers. They strove to come down to the level of the people and to speak what the poor could understand.

To attain this, they were not ashamed to sacrifice their reputations as learned men. They willingly used illustrations and anecdotes in abundance and, like Jesus their Master, borrowed lessons from every object in nature. They carried out the maxim of Augustine, “A wooden key is not so beautiful as a golden one, but if it can open the door when the golden one cannot, it is far more useful.”

They revived the style of sermons in which Luther and Latimer were so eminently successful. In short, they saw the truth of what the great German Reformer meant when he said, “No one can be a good preacher to the people who is not willing to preach in a manner that seems childish and vulgar to some.” Now all this, again, was quite new in their age.

They preached fervently and directly. They cast aside that dull, cold, lifeless mode of delivery that had long made sermons boring. They proclaimed the words of faith with faith, and the story of life with life. They spoke with fiery zeal, like men who were thoroughly persuaded that what they said was true and that it was of the utmost importance to your eternal interest to hear it.
They spoke like men who had a message from God for you, who felt that they must deliver it, and that they must have your attention while they delivered it. They threw heart, soul, and feeling into their sermons, and they sent their hearers home convinced that the preacher was sincere and wished them well. They believed that you must speak from the heart if you wish to speak to the heart, and that there must be unmistakable faith and conviction within the pulpit if there is to be faith and conviction among the pews. All this was a thing that had become almost obsolete. Can we wonder that it took people by storm and produced an immense effect?

The Substance of Preaching

But what was the substance and subject matter of the preaching that produced such wonderful effect in the 18th century? I will not insult my readers’ common sense by only saying that it was simple, earnest, fervent, real, genial, brave, lifelike, and so forth. I would have it understood that it was eminently doctrinal and distinct. The strongholds of that century’s sins would never have been cast down by mere earnestness and negative teaching. The trumpets that blew down the walls of Jericho were trumpets that gave no uncertain sound. The English evangelists of the 18th century were not men of an uncertain creed. But what was it they proclaimed? A little information on this point may be useful.

For one thing, the spiritual reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture. The Bible, whole and unmutilated, was their sole rule of faith and practice. They accepted all its statements without question or dispute. They knew nothing of any part of Scripture being uninspired. They never flinched from asserting that there can be no error in the Word of God, and that when we cannot understand or reconcile some part of its contents, the fault is in the interpreter and not in the text. In all their preaching they were eminently men of one book. To that book they were content to pin their faith, and by it to stand or fall. This was one grand characteristic of their preaching. They honored, loved, and reverenced the Bible.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the total corruption of human nature. They knew nothing of the modern notion that Christ is in every man, and that all possess something good within that they have only to stir up and use in order to be saved. They never flattered men and women in this fashion. They told them plainly that they were spiritually dead and must be made alive again, that they were guilty, lost, helpless, hopeless, and in imminent danger of eternal ruin. Strange as it may seem to some, their first step toward making men good was to show them that they were utterly bad, and their primary argument in persuading men to do something for their souls was to convince them that they could do nothing at all.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin, and that Christ died as our substitute, the just for the unjust. This, in fact, was the cardinal point in almost all their sermons.

They never taught the modern doctrine that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice. They saw in it something far greater and deeper than that--they saw in it the payment of man’s mighty debt to God. They loved Christ’s person, they rejoiced in Christ’s promises, and they urged men to walk after Christ’s example. But the one subject concerning Christ that they delighted to dwell on above all others was the atoning blood that Christ shed for us on the cross.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the great doctrine of justification by faith. They told men that faith was the one thing needful in order to obtain an interest in Christ’s work for their souls. They declared that before we believe, we are spiritually dead and have no interest in Christ, but that the moment we do believe, we live and are entitled to all Christ’s benefits. Justification by virtue of church membership - justification without believing or trusting - were notions to which they gave no merit. 'Everything if you will believe, and nothing if you do not believe': this was the very marrow of their preaching.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the universal necessity of heart conversion and new creation by the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed everywhere to the crowds whom they addressed, “You must be born again.” Sonship to God by baptism or while continuing to do the will of the devil they never admitted. The regeneration they preached was no dormant, motionless thing. It was something that could be seen, discerned, and known by its effects.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness. They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the least proof of a man being a true Christian if he lived an ungodly life. A true Christian, they maintained, must always be known by his fruits, and these fruits must be plainly manifest and unmistakable in all aspects of life. “No fruits, no grace” was the constant tenor of their preaching.

Finally, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught, as equally true doctrines, God’s eternal hatred against sin and God’s love toward sinners. They knew nothing of a heaven where the holy and unholy are both able to find admission. With respect to heaven and hell, they used the utmost plainness of speech. They never shrank from declaring, in plain terms, the certainty of God’s judgment and wrath to come if men persisted in impenitence and unbelief - and yet they never ceased to magnify the riches of God’s kindness and compassion, and to entreat all sinners to repent and turn to God before it was too late. Such were the main truths that the English evangelists of those times were constantly preaching.

These were the principal doctrines they were always proclaiming, whether in town or in the country, whether in church or in the open air, whether among the rich or among the poor. These were the doctrines by which they turned England upside down, made farmers weep until their dirty faces were streamed with tears, arrested the attention of peers and philosophers, stormed the strongholds of Satan, plucked thousands like brands from the burning, and altered the character of the age.
Call them simple and elementary doctrines, if you will. Say, if you please, that you see nothing grand, striking, new, or peculiar about this list of truths. But the fact is undeniable that God blessed these truths to the reformation of England. What God has blessed, man ought never to despise.

06 December 2006

The wise still seek Him

Are you following the guidance of the star of Bethlehem through the dark wilderness of life? If you are, you will be led to the Sun of Righteousness; you will find Jesus; and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man can take from you. And in a little while, your eyes shall behold the King of Zion, your exalted Savior, in the heavenly mansions, where his glory will be no more veiled as it was on earth. This blessed vision may be very near.

The sight of your Father's house above, may be ready to open upon your enraptured view. Angels may be waiting to conduct your happy soul to the glorious presence of King Jesus, who now reigns on heaven's highest, brightest throne. You may be about to sit down among that ransomed throng, who are now beholding the glory of Him, who was born in Bethlehem, and crucified on Calvary. You may be about to gaze upon that countenance which now shines as the sun- to see those hands which were for you nailed to the cross- to hear that voice, which alone can speak pardon and peace to the guilty, troubled soul. Oh, let us be thankful for that spiritual light which points us to such untold blessedness: and let our joy increase more and more, as by faith we see the Star of Morning, guiding us to glory and immortality. 'Exult in his holy name; O worshipers of the Lord, rejoice!'

When the wise men find the Savior they fall down, and worship Him. Notwithstanding the low and unhonored condition in which they see Him, they at once prostrate themselves in His presence with grateful hearts, paying homage to His name, and presenting unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. What a noble example is here presented to us! When we find the blessed Jesus, we should acknowledge His majesty, worship Him as our divine Savior, while, at the same time, we should give Him the strongest affections of our hearts, and the best services of our lives. We should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him, which is our reasonable service. We should honor Him with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase. Counting nothing too valuable to be withheld from Him, we should be ready, if necessary, to part with life itself for the sake of Him who, in His incomparable mercy, laid down His own precious life for us, that we might never experience the second death- that we might be crowned with a blissful immortality.

Thomas Brooks, The Star of Bethlehem

Preparing the Heart for Christmas

Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes!
The Savior promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan's bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.
Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Your welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With Your beloved name. -Doddridge

04 December 2006

Oratory not a substitute for Truth

Table Talk No. 3975: Church Fathers Do Not Adhere to Scriptures August 24, 1538

Then there was talk about the writings of the church fathers on the Bible and how these left the reader in uncertainty. He [Martin Luther] responded,

“I’m not allowed to make judgments about them because they’re writers of recognized authority and I’m compelled to be an apostate. But let him who wishes read them, and Chrysostom in particular. He was the supreme orator, but how he digressed from the thing at hand to other matters! While I was lecturing on the letter to the Hebrews and consulted Chrysostom, [I found that] he wrote nothing about the contents of the letter.

I believe that as the greatest orator Chrysostom had plenty of hearers but that he taught without fruit. For it ought to be the primary and principal function of a preacher to reflect upon the substance, contents, and sum total of the matter and instruct his hearer accordingly. Once this is done the preacher can use rhetoric and exhort.”

Luther, M. Vol. 54:304 Luther's works, Table Talk

01 December 2006

Forgiven and Forgiving

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." –Luke 23:34

If the Christian precept of FORGIVENESS be estimated by the magnitude of the injury forgiven, then these words of Jesus present to our view a forgiveness of an inconceivable and unparalleled injury. The greatest crime man ever committed was the crucifixion of the Son of God; and yet, for the forgiveness of that crime, the Savior prays at the very moment of its perpetration, fully persuaded of the sovereign efficacy of the blood His enemies were now shedding, to blot out the enormous guilt of the sin of shedding it.

This interceding prayer of Jesus for His murderers was in the sweetest harmony with all He had previously taught. On no gospel precept did He seem to lay greater stress than the precept of forgiveness of injury. "FORGIVE, and you shall be forgiven." "When you stand praying, FORGIVE, if you have anything against any." "But if you do not FORGIVE, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive you your trespasses." "How often shall my brother sin against me, and I FORGIVE him? Until seven times? Jesus says unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times, but UNTIL SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN." Where shall we find any Christian precept enjoined in our Lord's teaching so lucidly explained, so frequently enforced, or so impressively illustrated, as the forgiveness of injury?

Thus, what Jesus taught in His preaching, He embodied in His example. In addition to this prayer for His murderers, uttered amid the insults and tortures they were at that moment inflicting--see Him healing the ear of one of the band sent to arrest Him; see Him turning a look of forgiving love upon the penitent dying at His side; listen to the charge He gave to His apostles after His resurrection, to 'begin' their work of unfolding the message of salvation 'at Jerusalem,' whose inhabitants were to be the first to drink of the Rock they had smitten, and the first to wash in the blood they had shed. Oh, was ever forgiveness of injury like Christ's? My soul, sit down at His feet, yes, beneath His cross, and learn the lesson now so solemnly taught, and so touchingly enforced, even the lesson of forgiving and praying for your enemies, and for all who despitefully use you--"Father, forgive them!"

We cannot pass through an ungodly world, nor even mingle with the saints, and not be often unjustly misrepresented, strangely misunderstood, and unkindly wounded. The lily grows among thorns; the lamb goes forth among wolves. So Jesus reminded His disciples. And yet it is the saddest thought of all that, our deepest wounds are those which we receive in the house of our friends. There are no injuries so unexpectedly inflicted, or so keenly felt, as those which we receive from our fellow-saints.

But, oh, the blessedness of writing as Christ did, those injuries upon the sands, which the next flood-tide of forgiving love shall instantly and utterly efface! Standing before this marvelous spectacle of forgiveness--Christ on the cross praying for His slayers--what true believer in Jesus can think of the wrong done to himself, the injustice inflicted, the pain produced, and yet harbor in his heart a revengeful, unforgiving spirit? My soul, go to the brother who has offended, to the sister who has wounded you, and say, "In lowly imitation of my Savior, I FORGIVE you all that wrong." "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Col. 3:12-13

Octavius Winslow. Consider Jesus.

“Make a Way for the King” Isaiah 40

Isaiah lived in momentous days, in critical days of international upheaval, and he wrote what many consider to be the greatest book in the Old Testament. In our present troubling times, Isaiah is the prophet we need to hear when he cries out God’s message, “Comfort, comfort my people!”

Here's an outline of promises of comfort--promises realised in the coming of Jesus:

Comfort One: Pardon instead of sin (vv. 1–2).

Comfort Two: Obstacles removed; Glory displayed (vv.3-5)

Comfort Three: God’s Word remains forever (vv.6-8)

Comfort Four: The Lord helps and heals His own (vv.9-11)