Grace Gems for OCTOBER 2008


The free grace of God!

(Letters of John Newton)

"By the grace of God I am what I am!"
 1 Corinthians 15:10

The true Christian is sensible and mindful of
indwelling sin. He confesses that in everything
he comes exceedingly short, and that his best
services are not only defective—but defiled. He
accounts himself as an unprofitable servant—and
is abased in his own eyes. He knows that all that
distinguishes him from the vilest of men—is the
free grace of God!

He derives all his hope and comfort, as well as his
strength—from Jesus, whom he has known, received
and loved, and to whom he has committed his soul.
He renounces all confidence in the flesh, and esteems
all things as loss—compared to the surpassing greatness
of knowing Jesus Christ his Lord, for whose sake he has
lost all things—considering them rubbish, that he may
gain Christ!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Worldly losses

(J. R. Miller, "Living Without Worry")

If we have God—no other loss is irreparable! There
is surely enough in God's love, to compensate a
thousand times for every earthly deprivation! Our
lives may be stripped bare—home, friends, riches,
comforts, every sweet voice of love, every note of
joy—and we may be driven out from brightness and
music and tenderness and shelter—into the cold ways
of sorrow
. Yet if we have God Himself left—ought it
not to suffice? Yes, is not He Himself infinitely more
than all His gifts?

Often we do not learn the depth and riches of God's
love, and the sweetness of His presence—until earthly
joys vanish out of our hands, and beloved ones fade
away out of sight. The loss of temporal things empties
our hearts—to receive spiritual and eternal things! The
sweeping away of earthly hopes—reveals the glory of
our heart's refuge in God. "God is our refuge and
strength, an ever-present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have
 called you by name; you are Mine! When you go
 through deep waters and great trouble, I will be
 with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty,
 you will not drown! When you walk through the
 fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the
 flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord,
 your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"
    Isaiah 43:1-3

    ~  ~  ~  ~

This huge mass of rubbish!

(J. C. Ryle, "What Do We Owe to the Reformation?")

We have neither an adequate conception of the
from which the Reformation freed us—nor
of the enormous good which it brought in.

In the days when the Roman Catholic Church ruled
England—he who desired to obtain forgiveness of
his sins—had to seek it through a jungle of . . .
  and the like!

This huge mass of rubbish was shoveled
out of the way
by the Reformers. They taught
that justification was by faith alone, and that
every heavy-laden sinner on earth had a right
to go straight to the Lord Jesus Christ for
remission of sins—without waiting for Pope
or priest, confession or absolution, masses or
extreme unction. From that time, the backbone
of English Popery was broken!

The Reformation found Englishmen steeped
in ignorance—and left them in possession of
knowledge. It found them blind—and left
them seeing.

It found them without Bibles—and left them
with a Bible in every parish.

It found them priest-ridden—and left them
enjoying the liberty which Christ bestows.

It found them strangers to saving faith, and
grace, and holiness—and left them with the
key to those things in their hands.

It found them slaves—and left them free.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption

(Robert Traill)

"But from Him you are in Christ Jesus—who for us became
 wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification,
 and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:30

Wisdom outside of Christ—is damning folly!

Righteousness outside of Christ—is guilt and condemnation!

Sanctification outside of Christ—is filth and sin!

Redemption outside of Christ—is bondage and slavery!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The value of choice devotional reading

(J. R. Miller)

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a
 light on my path." Psalm 119:105

Nothing is more helpful and practical in
Christian living—than the habit of getting
a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind
and heart in the morning. Its influence stays
through the day, weaving itself into all the
day's thoughts and words and experiences.

Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us
to live—and a good devotional book opens
up the precious teachings which are folded
up in Scripture.

A devotional book, which takes a Scripture
text, and so opens it for us in the morning—
that all day long it helps us to live, becoming
a true lamp for our feet, and a staff to lean
upon when the way is rough—is the very best
help we can possibly have. What we need in
a devotional book which will bless our lives—
is the application of the great teachings of
—to common, daily, practical life.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

If we would be like our Master
(J. R. Miller, "Living Without Worry")

"Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as
 Jesus did."
1 John 2:6

Every true Christian should desire to be Christlike in
. It is not enough to be honest, and upright,
and true, and just. Christ had these strong qualities
—but He was also gentle, and kind, and loving, and
patient. If we would be like our Master—we must
have these traits of character also in us. When we pray
that the beauty of the Lord may be upon us, we must
ask for these finer features of His beauty—as well as
for the more rugged ones. We need His strength and
truth and faithfulness and justice—but we need His
love and tenderness as well. "Leaving you an example,
so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

    ~  ~  ~  ~

A jewel more worth than a thousand worlds!

(Thomas Brooks)

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
 and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

Christ is a jewel more worth than a thousand
—as all know, who have Him.

Get Him—and get all; miss Him—and miss all.

Your life is short—and our duties are many. Yet your
assistance great—and your reward sure. Therefore
faint not—hold on and hold up, in ways of holiness,
and heaven shall make amends for all! "Be faithful
until death—and I will give you the crown of life!"
 Revelation 2:10

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Adorn the gospel

(John Flavel, "The Method of Grace")

"That they may adorn the doctrine of God
 our Savior in all things." Titus 2:10

Your duty is to adorn the gospel by your life.
The words signify to deck or adorn the gospel,
to make it attractive and lovely to the eyes of
beholders. When there is a beautiful harmony
and lovely proportion between Christ’s doctrine
and our practice—then do we walk suitably to
the Lord of glory.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Progress in the divine life

(Octavius Winslow, "Help Heavenward")

Many sincere Christians deem that they make no
progress in the divine life, because they do not
attain all that they desire.

But one real view of Jesus,
one corruption subdued,
one temptation vanquished,
one worldly fetter broken,
one sunbeam of holy joy shining upon the soul—
is a victory achieved, a spiritual blessing possessed,
more momentous that the taking of a city, and
more enriching that the conquest of a world.

It may be through deep trial, in the face of
powerful opposition and beset by great weakness
—that the advanced step has been made.
Nevertheless, it has brought the heart nearer
to God, has transcribed some lineament of
Jesus on the soul, and is so much actual gain
in the believer's progress towards, and in his
fitness for heaven.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The world's theology

(by James Montgomery Boice)

The world's theology is easy to define.
It is the view . . .
  that human beings are basically good,
  that no one is really lost,
  that belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation.

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."
     Romans 1:22

    ~  ~  ~  ~

A low state of piety

(William S. Plumer, "The Rock of Our Salvation" 1867)

A low state of piety paralyzes half the limbs of the body
of Christ. Cold and selfish—many never aim high. A low
estimate of evangelical doctrine, makes many indifferent
to the teachings of Christ Himself.

Love is too cold.

Faith too often staggers.

Repentance sheds too few tears.

Joy has but few spiritual feasts.

Pity for the perishing too seldom stirs the soul to its depths.

Adoring views of God have too little power over men's minds.

Hope is too feeble to impart much animation.

The standard of Christian living and morals is low.

Sadly is the Christian profession compromised.

Covetousness has fearful power.

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the
pride of life—terribly prevail among professors.

Fashion is the Juggernaut of Christendom.

Christ and Belial are invited to the same feast!

A much deeper tone of piety is needed in all the churches.

It is a great fault in professors, that they do not
more earnestly strive to imitate Christ . . .
  in love,
  in gentleness,
  in tenderness of heart,
  in submission to the will of God,
  in zeal for the divine glory,
  in self-abnegation,
  in silence under unjust reproaches,
  in all His imitable virtues.

The highest honor which we can render to
the Lord Jesus—is honestly and earnestly
to pray and labor to be like Him.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Theological controversies and disputes

(Letters of John Newton)

I am not to expect others to see with my eyes! I am deeply convinced of the truth of John the Baptist's aphorism in John 3:27, "A man can receive nothing—except it be given him from Heaven." I well know, that the little measure of knowledge I have obtained in the things of God—has not been owing to my own wisdom and teachableness, but to God's goodness. Nor did I learn everything all at once—God has been pleased to exercise much patience towards me, for the past twenty-seven years—since He first gave me a desire of learning from Himself. He has graciously accommodated Himself to my weakness, borne with my mistakes, and helped me through innumerable prejudices, which, but for His mercy, would have been insuperable hindrances! I have therefore no right to be angry, impatient, or censorious to others, especially as I have still much to learn, and am so poorly influenced by what I seem to know!

I am weary of theological controversies and disputes, and desire to choose for myself, and to point out to others, Mary's part—to sit at Jesus' feet, and to hear His words. I cannot, I must not, I dare not—be contentious! Only, as a witness for God, I am ready to bear my simple testimony to what I have known of His truth, whenever I am properly called to it.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Were I to define a Christian

(Letters of John Newton)

Were I to define a Christian, or rather to describe him at large, I know of no text I would choose, sooner than Galatians 5:17, "The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other—so that you do not do what you want."

A Christian has noble aims—which distinguish him from the bulk of mankind. His leading principles, motives, and desires—are all supernatural and divine. Could he do as he desires—there is not a angel before the Eternal Throne, that would excel him in holiness, love, and obedience! He would tread in the very footsteps of his Savior, fill up every moment of time in His service, and employ every breath in His praise!

This he would do—but, alas! he cannot! Against these spiritual desires, there is a contrary desire and working of a corrupt nature, which meets him at every turn! He has a beautiful copy set before him in the Scriptures—he is enamored with it, and though he does not expect to equal it, he writes carefully after it, and longs to attain to the nearest possible imitation. But indwelling sin and Satan continually jog his hand, and spoil his strokes!

Therefore, the most spiritual and gracious people confess themselves as vile and worthless! One eminent branch of our holiness, is a sense of shame and humiliation for those evils which are only known to ourselves, and to Him who searches our hearts!

In proportion as the Lord enables you to live more simply upon the blood, righteousness, and grace of the Mediator—you will possess a more stable peace. The nearer you are brought to Him—the more lively sense you will have of your vileness and worthlessness; and your continual need of Him. Thereby your admiration of His power, love, and compassion, will increase from year to year.

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No storms, assaults, sieges, or pestilences

(Letters of John Newton)

"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God—to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

September 28, 1774.
My dear friend,
Certainly, if my ability was equal to my inclination—I would remove your tumor with a word or a touch—I would exempt you instantly and constantly from every inconvenience and pain! But you are in the hands of One who could do all this and more, and who loves you infinitely better than I can do—and yet He is pleased to permit you to suffer! What is the plain lesson? Certainly, that at the present juncture, He, to whom all events and their consequences are present in one view—sees it better for you to have this tumor than to be without it! There is a cause, a need-be for it!

The promise is express, and literally true—that all things, universally and without exception, shall work together for good to those who love God. But they work together! The smallest as well as the greatest events have their place and use—like the movement of a watch, where, though some pieces have a greater comparative importance than others—yet the smallest pieces have their place and use, and are so far equally important, that the whole design of the machine would be obstructed for lack of them.

Some workings and turns of Divine Providence have a more visible, sensible, and determining influence upon the whole tenor of our lives. But the more ordinary occurrences of every day are adjusted, timed, and suited with equal accuracy—by the hand of the same great Artist who planned and executes the whole! We are sometimes surprised to see how much more depends and turns upon these minor events, than we were aware of. Then we admire His skill, and say, "He has done all things well!"

Such thoughts as these, when I am enabled to realize them, in some measure reconcile me to whatever He allots for myself or my friends; and convinces me of the propriety of that verse, which speaks the language of love, as well as authority, "Be still—and know that I am God!"

I sympathize with you in your severe trial, and pray and trust that your Shepherd will be your Physician. No storms, assaults, sieges, or pestilences, can hurt us—until we have filled up His appointed measure of service! And when our work is done, and He has ripened us for glory—it is no great matter by what means He is pleased to call us home to himself!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

What is this babbler trying to say?

(Letters of John Newton)

"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

The Apostles were accounted as foolish babblers. We are no better than the Apostles; nor have we reason to expect much better treatment—so far as we walk in their steps.

On the other hand, there is a way of speaking of God, and goodness, and benevolence, and morality—which the world will bear well enough. But if we preach Christ as the only way of salvation, lay open the horrid evils of the human heart, tell our hearers that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and have no better ground of hope in themselves than the vilest malefactors; if we tell the virtuous and moral, as well as the profligate—that unless they are born again, and made partakers of living faith, and count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ—that they cannot be saved—this is the message they cannot bear!

We shall be called knaves or fools, uncharitable bigots, and twenty harsh names! If you have met with no treatment like this—you should suspect whether you have yet received the gospel; for, depend upon it—the offense of the cross is not ceased!

"You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!" Acts 26:24

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The value of time

(Letters of John Newton)

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

The value of time must be taken into the account. Time is a precious talent, and our Christian profession opens a wide field for the due improvement of it. Much of it has been already lost—and therefore we are exhorted to redeem it.

Many things which custom pleads for, will not be suitable to a Christian, for this one reason—that they are not consistent with the simplest notion of the redemption of time. It is generally said—that we need relaxation. I allow it in a sense—the Lord Himself has provided it; and because our spirits are too weak to be always upon the wing in meditation and prayer, He has appointed to all men—the cares and toils of life.

And when everything of this sort in each person's situation is properly attended to, if the heart is in a right state—spiritual concerns will present themselves, as affording the noblest, sweetest, and most interesting relaxation from the necessary toils of life. On the other hand, secular work will be the best relaxation and unbending of the mind from pious exercises. Between the two, perhaps there ought to be but little mere leisure time. A life, in this sense divided between God and the world, is desirable, when one part of it is spent in retirement, seeking after and conversing with Him whom our souls love; and the other part of it employed in active services for the good of our family, friends, the church, and society, for His sake. Every hour which does not fall in with one or other of these views, I apprehend is lost time.

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

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The best human advice

(Letters of John Newton)

No person can adjust and draw the line exactly for another. There are so many particulars in every situation, of which a stranger cannot be a competent judge, and the best human advice is mixed with such defects—that it is not right to expect others to be absolutely guided by our rules; nor is it safe for us implicitly to adopt the decisions or practices of others.

But the Scripture undoubtedly furnishes sufficient and infallible rules for every person, for whatever the circumstances; and the throne of grace is appointed for us to wait upon the Lord for the best exposition of His precepts. Thus David often prays to be led in the right way, "Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach me." Psalm 25:4-5

By frequent prayer, and close acquaintance with the Scripture, and a habitual attention to the frame of our hearts, there is a certain delicacy of spiritual taste and discernment to be acquired, which renders a proper judgment concerning the nature and limits of questionable things. Love to Christ is the clearest and most persuasive factor; and when our love to Jesus is in lively exercise, and the rule of his Word is in our eye—we seldom make great mistakes!

The believer should also avoid and forbear, whatever has a tendency to dampen and indispose his spiritual mindedness. For such things, if they are not condemned as downright sinful; if they are not absolutely unlawful; yes though they are, when duly regulated, lawful and right (for often our chief snares are entwined with our blessings); yet if they have a repeated and evident tendency to deaden our hearts to Divine things, (of which each person's experience must determine,) there must be something in them—which is wrong to us! And let them promise what they will, they do but rob us of our gold—to pay us with pebbles! For the light of God's countenance, and an open cheerfulness of spirit in walking with Him in private, is our chief joy; and we must be already greatly hurt, if anything can be pursued, allowed, or rested in—as a tolerable substitute for it.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

This is the God whom we adore!

(Letters of John Newton)

"I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:5-6

God rules all! And though He is concealed by a veil of second causes from common eyes, so that they can perceive only the means, instruments, and contingencies by which He works, and therefore think He does nothing; yet, in reality, He does all according to His own counsel and pleasure, in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.

Who can enumerate all the beings and events, which are incessantly before His eye, adjusted by His wisdom, dependent on His will, and regulated by His power! If we consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars which He has ordained; if we call in the assistance of astronomers to help us in forming a conception of the number, distances, magnitudes, and motions of the heavenly bodies—the more we search, the more we shall be confirmed, that these are but a small portion of His ways! He calls them all by their names, upholds them by His power, and without His continual energy upholding them—they would rush into confusion, or sink into nothing! They are all dependent upon His power, and obedient to His command.

To come nearer home, and to speak of what seems more suited to our scanty apprehensions—still we may be lost in wonder. With respect to mankind, He reigns with uncontrolled dominion over every kingdom, family, and individual. Before this blessed and only Potentate, all the nations of the earth are but as the dust upon the balance, and the small drop of a bucket—and might be thought (if compared with the immensity of His works) scarcely worthy of His notice! Yet here He presides, pervades, provides, protects, and rules! All changes, successes, and disappointments—all that is memorable in the annals of history, all the rising and falls of empires, all the turns in human life—take place according to His plan!

In Him His creatures live, move, and have their being. From Him is their food and preservation. The eyes of all are upon Him—what He gives they gather—and can gather no more! And at His word they sink into the dust! There is not a worm which crawls upon the ground, or a flower which grows in the pathless wilderness, or a shell upon the sea-shore—but bears the impress of His wisdom, power, and goodness! He preserves man and beast, sustains the young lion in the forest, feeds the birds of the air, which have neither storehouse or barn, and adorns the insects and the flowers of the field with a beauty and elegance beyond all that can be found in the courts of kings!

All things serve Him, and are in His hands—as clay in the hands of the potter. Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of saints!

This is the God whom we adore! This is He who invites us to lean upon His almighty arm, and promises to guide us with His unerring eye!

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Seriously engaged about trifles

(Letters of John Newton)

"This world is fading away, along with everything it craves!" 1 John 2:17

God's own people are so shamefully inconsistent with themselves, and with their acknowledged principles.

In the midst of the hurries and changes of this unsettled state—we glide along swiftly towards an unchangeable world. We shall soon have as little connection with the scenes we are now passing through—as we have with what happened before the Flood! All which appears great and interesting in the present life, abstracted from its influence upon our internal character, and our everlasting destiny—will soon be as unreal as a dream of the night!

This we know and confess. But though our judgments are convinced, it is seldom that our hearts are duly affected by the thought. And while I find it easy to write in this moralizing strain—I feel myself disposed to be seriously engaged about trifles—and trifling in the most serious concerns—as if I believed the very contrary!

"This world and all it contains, is passing away!" 1 Corinthians 7:31

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Do not be afraid

(Letters of John Newton)

How wonderful is Christ's administration in His kingdom of grace! He is present with all His creatures—but in a special manner with His own people—each of whom are monuments of His saving power. For He finds them all in a state of rebellion and enmity—and makes them His willing people! >From the moment that He reveals His love to them—He espouses their cause, and takes all their concerns into His own hands. He is near and attentive to every one of them—as if there were only that one!

This high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, before whom the angels veil their faces—condescends to hold communion with those whom men despise. He passes by the kings and the princes—to manifest Himself to a humble soul in a mud-walled cottage! He . . .
  comforts them when in trouble,
  strengthens them when weak,
  makes their beds in sickness,
  revives them when fainting, and
  upholds them when falling!

He so wisely and effectually manages for them, that, though they are persecuted and tempted, though their enemies are many and mighty—nothing is able to separate them from His love!

We shall find Him, in all situations—to be our sun, shield, and exceeding great reward! He says to all of His children, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you! I have called you by name—you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble—I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty—you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression—you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3.

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By the grace of God I am what I am!

(Letters of John Newton)

"By the grace of God I am what I am!"
1 Corinthians 15:10

As believers, we are often affected with a sense of God's distinguishing mercy to us. We are debtors, great debtors to the sovereign grace of God, which alone makes us to differ from the perishing world around us!

Yet it does not yet appear what we shall be. We cannot form a just conception of the misery from which we are redeemed, much less of the price paid for our redemption! How little do we know of the Redeemer's surpassing excellency, and of the unutterable agonies He endured, when His soul was made an offering for sin, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him—that by His stripes we might be healed! These things will strike us in quite another manner—when we view them from the light of eternity!

May the cheering contemplation of the glorious hope set before us—support and animate us to improve our short interval on earth, and fill us with a holy  ambition of shining as lights in this evil world, to the praise and glory of His grace—who has called us out of darkness, into His glorious light!

Encompassed as we are with snares, temptations, and infirmities, it is possible (by His promised assistance) to live in some good measure above the world—above the influence of its cares, its smiles, or its frowns. Our citizenship is in heaven—we are not at home—but only reside here on earth for a season, to fulfill our appointed service. The Lord, whom we serve, has promised that He will guide us by His wisdom, strengthen us by His power, and comfort us with the light of His countenance, which is better than life. Every temporal blessing we receive from Him, is a token of His favor, and a pledge of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which He has reserved for us in heaven. Oh! to hear Him say at last, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!" will be rich amends for all that we can lose, suffer, or endure, for His sake!

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined—what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

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Exercises of sin and grace

(Letters of John Newton)

Alas, how vain is man! What a contradiction is a believer to himself!

If I were to describe him from the Scriptural portrait—I would say that he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for His glory, and for His presence; that his affections are fixed upon an unseen Savior; that his treasures, and consequently his thoughts, are on eternal realities, far beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced much God's forgiveness, he is full of mercy and forgiveness to all around. Having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more—but lives by faith in the Son of God—for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from Him grace upon grace; sensible that without Him—he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought! In short—he is dead to the world, to sin, to self; but alive to God, and lively in His service. Prayer is his breath, the Word of God is his food, and Christ is more precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer—in his judgment and prevailing desires.

But was I to describe him from his actual experience, especially at some times—how different would the picture be!

Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not compel him—he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day!

He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper!

He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of the world, and all beneath the sun; and yet he is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle—as those who have their only portion in this world!

He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the most high God appoints, adjusts, and overrules all of his concerns; yet he feels the risings of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary was true!

He owns himself to be ignorant, and liable to be deceived by a thousand fallacies; yet he is easily betrayed into flattering views of himself, and self-conceit! He feels himself to be an unprofitable, unfaithful, unthankful servant—and therefore blushes to harbor a thought of desiring the esteem and commendations of men—yet he cannot suppress it!

By these exercises of sin and grace—the Lord teaches us more truly to know and feel the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature—that we are indeed defiled in every part! His method of salvation is hereby exceedingly endeared to us! We see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ, and His perfect righteousness, is and must be—our all in all.

God's power likewise, in maintaining His own work, notwithstanding
our infirmities, temptations, and enemies—is hereby displayed in the clearest light; His strength is manifested in our weakness!

Satan likewise, is more remarkably disappointed and put to shame—when he finds bounds set to his rage and wiles, beyond which he cannot pass; and that those in whom he finds so much evil to work upon, and over whom he so often prevails for a season—escape at last out of his hands!
He casts them down—but they are raised again!
He wounds them—but they are healed!
He obtains his desire to sift them as wheat—but the prayer of their great Advocate prevails for the maintenance of their faith!

Further, by what believers feel in themselves—they learn by degrees how to warn, pity, and bear with others. A soft, patient, and compassionate spirit, and a readiness and skill in comforting those who are cast down—is not perhaps attainable in any other way!

I believe that nothing more habitually reconciles a child of God to the thought of death, than the wearisomeness of this warfare with sin and temptation. Death is unwelcome to human nature. But the Christian knows that not until death—will the conflict cease! Then we shall sin no more! The flesh, with all its attendant evils, will be laid in the grave. Then the soul, which has been partaker of a new and heavenly birth, shall be freed from every encumbrance, and stand perfect in the Redeemer's righteousness before God in eternal glory! When we see Jesus, we shall be transformed into His image—and be done with sin and sorrow forever!

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This wretched state of sin and temptation

(Letters of John Newton)

"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death!" Romans 7:24

Though we can fall of ourselves—we cannot rise without God's help! Indeed, every sin, in its own nature, has a tendency towards a final apostasy! By our repeated slips and falls into sin, we gain a more emphatic conviction of our own vileness and depravity; and we experimentally learn and feel our own weakness.

In His own time, Jesus returns to convince, humble, pardon, comfort and renew the soul. We begin at length to learn that we are nothing, have nothing, can do nothing—but sin! And thus we are gradually prepared to live more outside of ourselves—and to derive all our sufficiency of every kind from Jesus, the fountain of all grace. We learn to tread more warily; to trust less to our own strength; to have lower thoughts of ourselves, and higher thoughts of Jesus!

This wretched state of sin and temptation, makes the thoughts of death and eternity desirable. Then this conflict shall cease! Then I shall sin and wander no more, shall see Him as he is, and be like Him forever!

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A huge hodge-podge of ignorance and idolatry!

(J. C. Ryle, "What Do We Owe to the Reformation?")

The Reformation delivered England from an immense quantity of evils, such as gross religious ignorance and spiritual darkness.

In the days when the Roman Catholic Church ruled England, before the Reformationthe immense majority of the Catholic clergy did little more than say masses and offer up pretended sacrifices—repeat Latin prayers and chant Latin hymns, which of course the people could not understand. They heard confessions, granted absolutions, gave extreme unction, and took money to get dead people out of Purgatory. Preaching was utterly at a discount. As Latimer truly remarked, 'When the devil gets influence in a church—up go candles and down goes preaching.'

As to the laity, it is not too much to say that the bulk of them had no religion at all. There was no one to tell them of the love of God, the mediation of Christ, the glad tidings of free salvation, the precious blood of Christ's atonement, and justification by faith. They could only send for the priest, who knew nothing himself and could tell nothing to others; and then at last they received absolution and extreme unction—and took a leap in the dark!

To sum up all in a few words, the religion of our English forefathers before the Reformation, was a religion without knowledge, without saving faith, and without true hope! It was a religion without justification, regeneration, and sanctification—a religion without any clear views of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Except in rare instances, it was little better than an organized system of . . .
  masses, and
  blind obedience to the priests!
It was a huge hodge-podge of ignorance and idolatry! The only practical result, was that the priests took the people's money, and undertook to secure their salvation—and the people flattered themselves, that the more they gave to the priests—the more sure they were to go to heaven!

Such was the IGNORANCE, which was scattered to the winds by the English Reformation!

For another thing, the Reformation delivered England from the most groveling, childish and superstitious practices in religion. I allude especially to the worship of relics. Destitute of the slightest Scriptural knowledge, our forefathers were taught by the priests to seek spiritual benefit from the so-called relics of dead saints, and to worship them!

The following are examples of some of the relics which they honored and worshiped:
the spear-head which pierced our Savior's side;
the apostle James' hand;
a bone of Mary Magdalene;
pieces of our Savior's cross;
the Virgin Mary's smock;
a part of the stone upon which our Lord was born at Bethlehem;
a part of the bread used by Christ at the first Lord's Supper;
a belt of the Virgin Mary, made of red silk;
some of the Virgin Mary's breast-milk!

Facts like these are so amazingly silly, as well as painful—that one hardly knows whether to laugh or to cry over them! But it is positively necessary to bring them forward, in order that men may know what was the religion of our forefathers, in the days when the Roman Catholic Church ruled the land, before the Reformation! Let us never forget, that this was the SUPERSTITION which was shattered to pieces by the Reformation!

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Murmuring, dissatisfaction, discontent

(J. C. Ryle, "Be Content" 1885)

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with such things as you have, because God has said—Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

These words are very simple. A little child might easily understand them. They contain no high doctrine; they involve no deep metaphysical question; and yet, as simple as they are—the duty which these words enjoin on us, is of highest practical importance to all Christians.

Contentment is one of the rarest graces. Like all precious things—it is most uncommon. To practice contentment, is very hard. To talk of contentment in the day of health and prosperity is easy enough; but to be content in the midst of poverty, sickness, trouble, disappointments, and losses—is a state of mind to which very few can attain!

The fallen angels had heaven itself to dwell in, and the immediate presence and favor of God—but they were not content. Adam and Eve had the garden of Eden to live in, with a free grant of everything in it excepting one tree—but they were not content. Ahab had his throne and kingdom, but so long as Naboth's vineyard was not his—he was not content. Haman was the chief favorite of the Persian king—but so long as Mordecai sat at the gate—he was not content.

It is just the same everywhere in the present day. Murmuring, dissatisfaction, discontent with what we have, meet us at every turn. To say, with Jacob, "I have enough," seems flatly contrary to the grain of human nature. To say, "I want more," seems the mother tongue of every child of Adam.

Paul's direction ought to come with power to all our consciences: "Be content with such things as you have," not with such things as you once used to have—not with such things as you hope to have—but with such things as you now have. With such things, whatever they may be—we are to be content. With such a dwelling, such a family, such health, such income, such work, such circumstances as we now have—we are to be content.

Ah! reader, if you would be truly happy—seek it where alone it can be found. Seek it not in money, seek it not in pleasure, nor in friends, nor in learning. Seek it in having a will in perfect harmony with the will of God. Seek it in studying to be content.

You may say, that is fine talking—but how can we be always content in such a world? I answer, that you need to cast away your pride, and know your deserts, in order to be thankful in any condition. If men really knew that they deserve nothing, and are debtors to God's mercy every day—they would soon cease to complain.

Let me tell you why there is so little contentment in the world. The simple answer is, because there is so little grace, and true godliness. Few know their own sin; few feel their desert; and so few are content with such things as they have. Humility, self-knowledge, a clear sight of our own utter vileness and corruption; these are the true roots of contentment.

Let me tell you—what you should do, if you would be content. You must know your own heart, seek God for your portion, take Christ for your Savior, and use God's Word for your daily food. Contentment must be learned at the feet of Jesus Christ. He who has God for his friend, and heaven for his home—can wait for his good things, and be content with little here below.

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In the furnace of affliction

(J. R. Miller, "Living Without Worry")

Sooner or later, affliction and sorrow come to every Christian. We ought, therefore, to have true views about pain, about the divine reasons for sending it, and about the mission on which it comes. We ought to know, also, how to endure suffering so as to get from it the blessing, which its hot hand brings to us.

While they do not solve all the mystery of human suffering, the Scriptures show, at least, that suffering is no accident in God's world—but is one of His messengers; and that it comes not as an enemy—but as a friend on an errand of blessing. The design of God, in all the afflictions which He sends upon His people—is to make them more holy, to advance their purification of character.

It is very clearly taught in the Word of God, that suffering is necessary in preparing sinful souls in this world, for heavenly glory. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." There is no easy way to glory. There is so much evil in us, even after we are born again, that nothing less than the discipline of pain, can cleanse our nature.

Tribulation is God's threshing, not to harm us or to destroy us—but to separate what is heavenly and spiritual in us—from what is earthly and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. Evil clings strongly, even to the godly. The golden wheat of godliness is so wrapped up in the strong chaff of the flesh—that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation. Godly character can never be attained, but through suffering. Holiness cannot be reached, without cost. Those who would gain the lofty heights—must climb the cold, rough steeps which lead to them.

It is God's design, in all the pain which He sends—to make us more Christlike. His puts us in the fire of purification, until His own image shines reflected in the gold! His prunings mean greater fruitfulness. In whatever form the suffering comes—the purpose of the pain is merciful. In all our life in this world, God is purifying us—and suffering is one of the chief agents which He employs.

"We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4. Suffering develops in us, qualities of Christian character, which cannot be developed in any other way.

But not all afflictions make people better. They do not always produce endurance. Chastening does not always yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We all have seen people suffering—who became only more impatient, irritable, ill-tempered, and selfish—as they suffered. Many a life in the furnace of affliction, loses all the beauty it ever had. It is not by any means universally true—that we are made more holy and Christlike, by pain.

Afflictions must be received as God's messengers. They often come in very somber garb, and it is only when we receive them in faith, that they disclose to us their merciful aspect and mission.

We should therefore receive afflictions reverently, as sent from God. We may be assured that there is always some blessing for us, in pain's hot hand. There is some golden fruit, wrapped up in the rough husk. God designs to burn off some sins from us, in every fire through which He calls us to pass. No one who murmurs under God's chastening hand, is ever made better by it.

The true aim of suffering is to get from it—
  more purity of soul,
  greater revelations of God's face,
  more love to Christ,
  deeper joy in the heart,
  holier living, and
  fresh strength for obedience and all duty.

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We have many foes!

(by Charles Spurgeon)

In one sense the path to heaven is very safe—but in other respects, there is no road so dangerous! It is beset with many difficulties. One false step (and how easy it is to take that, if grace is absent), and down we go! What a slippery path is that which we have to tread!

How many times have we to exclaim with the Psalmist, "My feet were almost gone—my steps had well nigh slipped!" If we were strong, sure-footed mountaineers, this would not matter so much; but in ourselves, how weak we are! In the best roads—we soon falter; in the smoothest paths—we quickly stumble. These feeble knees of ours, can scarcely support our tottering weight. A straw may trip us, and a pebble can wound us! We are mere children, tremblingly taking our first steps in the walk of faith; our heavenly Father holds us by the arms—or we would soon go down! Oh, if we are kept from falling, how must we bless our patient Father, who watches over us day by day!

Think—how prone we are to sin, how apt to choose danger, how strong our tendency to cast ourselves down—and these reflections will make us sing more sweetly than we have ever done, "Glory be to Him, who is able to keep us from falling."

We have many foes who try to push us down. The road is rough—and we are weak! But in addition to this, enemies lurk in ambush, who rush out when we least expect them, and labor to trip us up, or hurl us down the nearest precipice! Only an Almighty arm can preserve us from these unseen foes—who are seeking to destroy us. Such an arm is engaged for our defense. He is faithful, who has promised, and He is able to keep us from falling—so that with a deep sense of our utter weakness, we may cherish a firm belief in our perfect safety, and say, with joyful confidence, "To Him who is able to keep us from falling and to present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24-25

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These are to reappear in us!

(J. R. Miller, "Living Without Worry")

"Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

Many have written 'lives of Jesus', setting forth the beauty, the grace, the wisdom, the gentleness, and the power of Him who was the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely one. But Paul tells us that in every Christian's life—the life of Jesus is to be written, "That the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:9. And it is these lives of Christ, written in men's daily lives—which are needed in the world.

How is the life of Jesus to be manifested in His followers? It is not enough to merely talk about Him. There are those who, with silver tongue, can speak of Jesus eloquently and winsomely, in whom it cannot be said that His life is manifested in them. In this sense—it is not more preaching which is needed today—it is more gospels in the lives of Christians. It is only what we manifest of Christ in our own life—which is really witnessing for Him. We preach just as much of the gospel—as we get into disposition, character, deeds, life.

What was secret of the life of Christ? You have read your New Testament and have been charmed by the matchless beauty of that life which is portrayed in the gospels. His great central feature was love—love full of compassion; love serving even to the humblest needs and at the greatest cost; love which was patient, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle; love unto the uttermost—which went to a cross to save sinners!

Every page reveals some new beauty in the character of Jesus, and uncovers some new depth of His love. And the qualities of that blessed life—are to shine in our life! His disposition, His spirit, His compassion, His patience, His meekness, His peace, His joy, His humility—these are to reappear in us!

It is not enough—let us again and again remind ourselves—to preach about these gracious things in Jesus, to talk about them in our conferences, to extol them in our hymns—they must be manifested in our life! We must repeat in our own dispositions and lives—the story of Jesus!

"Leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

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What is the secret, grandmamma?

(J. R. Miller, "The Duty of Pleasing Others" 1904)

"Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up." Romans 15:2

The Duchess of Kent was universally beloved. Once the Princess Alice, herself simple, sweet and unspoiled, asked her: "What makes everyone love to be with you? I am always so sorry to have to leave you—and so are all the others who come here. What is the secret, grandmamma?"

It was not easy for the noble woman to answer such a personal question. But it was important that it should be answered for the sake of her who had asked it, and who was indeed hungry to know the secret. So the noble lady gave this memorable answer:

"I was early instructed, that the way to please others—was to be sincerely interested in the things which interested them, namely their own affairs; and that this could be accomplished only by burying one's own troubles, interests, or joys completely out of sight. Forgetfulness of one's own concerns, a smiling face, a sincere word of sympathy, or unselfish help, where it is possible to give it—will always please others—and the giver equally so."

"I try to please everyone in everything I do.
I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them—so they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:33

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Christians and Politics

(By John MacArthur, October 19th, 2008)

With the nation focused on the November elections, we thought a post on politics might be appropriate. The point of this article is not that we should abstain from any participation in the political process, but rather that we must keep our priorities straight as Christians. After all, the gospel, not politics, is the only true solution to our nation’s moral crisis.

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a facade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

    A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

    American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.