Grace Gems for DECEMBER 2019

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Even the very hairs of your head have all been numbered!

(Don Fortner)

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head have all been numbered! So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

With these words our Lord Jesus Christ assures us that none of God's elect shall ever be in any real danger or suffer any real harm, for we are under the special care and protection of God Himself.

I see six things in this sentence which are a constant source of peace and encouragement to me.

The blessed fact of divine predestination
Before the world began, our heavenly Father counted up and ordained the number of hairs that were to be upon your head at this very moment! That is meticulous predestination. What does it tell us? God's sovereign purpose of grace in predestination includes all that we do and experience.

A comforting assurance of divine providence
The primary intent of the text is to show us our Father's constant rule of all things. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground, nor can a hair fall from your head, without your Father's eternal decree in predestination and His direction in providence.

Our heavenly Father's divine knowledge of all things concerning us
Our God, who predestined all things and rules all things, knows all things. We are so well known by God that He has even numbered the hairs of our heads. "Your Father knows." We need no other comfort. The Lord's knowledge of us is constant and entire. His knowledge of us is the knowledge of a tender, sympathetic Father.

Our Father's constant, divine care
He who takes the trouble to number the hairs of our heads must surely care for us. We are the apple of His eye. Cast all your care upon Him, for "He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

The honor and divine esteem God has for us
God has numbered our hairs because He values them. He holds us in honor and esteem above all the people of the world because of His gracious purpose toward us in Christ (Isaiah 43:3-5; 1 John 4:9-11).

The promise of divine protection
The hairs of our head are all numbered because our God intends that, "Not a hair of your head shall perish."

Trials are certain.
Temptations are sure.
Tribulations are constant in this evil world.

But there is no cause for fear, for "The very hairs of your head are all numbered!"

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A rare creature!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service." 1 Timothy 1:12

A faithful preacher is a rare creature; and, like a diamond, as precious as he is rare!

If you always enjoy his sermons, that minister is not a faithful steward. He who gives out nothing but sweets is not acting wisely.

It is the duty of the Christian pastor, if he would make full proof of his ministry—to warn men of the results of sin—to tell them that there is a judgment—that for every idle word they speak they will have to account.

Some preachers do not preach of eternal wrath and its terrors. This is cruel, for they ruin souls by hiding from them their ruin!

The object of all true preaching is the heart. Godly ministers aim at divorcing the heart from sin, and wedding it to Christ.

"If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed." 1 Timothy 4:6

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Infinite wisdom directs every step!

(J.H. Brookes, "The Mystery of Suffering" 1894)

Our ascended Savior holds the scepter of universal empire in His imperial hand! He is on His glorious throne, controlling all the affairs of this world, directing all the events of the believer's life, and permitting no trial to befall His blood-bought people, except as it executes His own loving design.

Infinite wisdom directs every step of the suffering Christian, and unchanging love attends upon every sorrow!

The love of Jesus is so deep and tender that it secures His constant presence at every step of our journey through this unfriendly world. "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age!" Matthew 28:20

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It is a broken-backed snake!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!" Isaiah 64:6

The believer is a new creature;
he belongs to a holy generation and a peculiar people;
the Spirit of God is in him; and
in all respects he is far removed from the natural man.

But for all that, the Christian is a sinner still.
He is so from the imperfection of his nature.
He will continue so to the end of his earthly life.
The black fingers of sin leave smuts upon our fairest robes!
Sin mars our repentance upon the wheel, before the great Potter has finished it.

Apart from the merit of Jesus, the best thing we ever did—only swelled the number of our sins! For when we have been most pure in our own sight—yet, like the Heavens, we are not pure in God's sight! And as He charged His angels with folly, much more must He charge us with it—even in our most angelic frames of heart!

Our song which thrills to Heaven, and seeks to emulate seraphic strains—has human discords in it.
Our prayer which moves the arm of God—is still a bruised and battered prayer, and only moves that arm because the sinless One, the great Mediator, has stepped in to take away the sin of our supplication.

The most golden faith, or the purest degree of sanctification to which a Christian ever attained on earth, has still so much alloy in it—as to be only worthy of the eternal flames, in itself considered.

Every night we look into the mirror—and we see a sinner
; and have need confess, "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!"

Oh, how precious is the blood of Christ to such hearts as ours!
Oh, how priceless is the gift of His perfect righteousness!
Oh, how bright is the hope of perfect holiness hereafter!

Even now, though sin dwells in us, its power is broken. It has no dominion. It is a broken-backed snake! We are in bitter conflict with it, but it is with a vanquished foe that we have to deal. In but a little while we shall enter victoriously into the city where, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life!" Revelation 21:27

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The lost soul's first day in eternity!

(J.M. Humphrey, 1912)

"The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him: Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." Luke 16:22-24

At last I am in Hell. In spite of all my resolutions not to come, I am here to suffer the just demands of a broken law. O God, can it be that I, who has taught the way of truth, virtue and Heaven—should choose sin, Hell and eternal damnation?

Death and judgment are passed. The time of repentance has slipped away. Mercy's door is forever shut. I would not heed the warning voice of God, though it thundered in my ears night and day from my cradle to my grave. I hardened my heart and said, "I will not yield!"

At last death came; I tried to repent, but my heart refused to shed a tear. I passed into eternity, a damned soul.

The worm that never dies has coiled its slimy folds around my naked heart and in it fastened its venomous fangs.

Merciful God, pity me. But the white-winged angel of mercy has flown away forever.

The fiends with their bony hands are grasping for my defenseless soul. Away, you devils, you shall not touch me, you shall not have my soul.

Ah, they have me at last! It is useless for me to resist. Is there none to deliver—none, great God, none! I turned my back on You, now You refuse to hear my cry of anguish. The flames of damnation are wrapping my soul in shrouds of eternal misery!

O that I had a drop of water to quench this raging thirst that consumes me, but there is no water here.

Devils laugh at my agony and exultantly shout: Enjoy the wages of sin, FOREVER!

O God, I have been here but one short hour and have suffered more than a thousand tongues can tell; and must I forever suffer thus? Through the ceaseless ages yet to come, must I still suffer on?

Yes, it is forever! FOREVER!

The darkness is intense, broken only by the lurid flashes of divine wrath that are thrown like thunderbolts from the hand of a just God! I grope in the darkness to find Him, but plunge over the precipice of despair onto the rocks below.

Bruised and mangled I rise and stagger on in search of friends, but none are found. All are my enemies. I scream for help and the only answer is the echo of my own sad cry and the yells of delight from the throats of demons.

Alone! Yet multitudes are here; they gnash on me with their teeth; they trample me under their feet. I struggle to rise, and they dash me into the lake of everlasting fire.

Alone! Yes, alone! Without God, without hope, without Heaven. O that I had a moment in which to repent, but it will never be given. I have sealed my own doom. God's mercy was extended; I refused until too late. Now Eternal Justice is being satisfied. 'Tis just. God is love and just and holy. He is righteous, but I am guilty damned, and that righteously.

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This God is mine, in all His glorious perfection!

(Archibald Brown, "This God Is Our God!" 1896)

"The LORD's portion is His people!" Deuteronomy 32:9

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" Lamentations 3:24

The above two passages of Scripture ought never to be separated.

God and my soul possess each other.
God finds his portion in His people—and His people find their portion in God!

This God is mine, in all His glorious perfection!
His heart is mine, for He loves me.
His ear is mine, for I may pour into it all my tales of sorrow, and all my songs of joy.
His eyes are mine, for they watch me from morning until night.
His hand is mine, for it is stretched out to uphold me.

Oh, He is a God of infinite glory! Abased in the very dust, and half bewildered by the thought, I yet dare to look up and say, "This God is my God forever and ever! He will be my guide even unto death!"

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I would rather have a crooked creed and a straight Bible

(Charles Spurgeon)

My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views, is not great enough to allow me to knowingly alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over, appear to be inconsistent with myself, than be inconsistent with the Word of God.

If your creed and Scripture do not agree, then cut your creed to pieces and make it agree with this Book. The Word of God is the infallible chart of faith. Follow it closely, for this Book cannot lead you astray.

Some want to shape the Scriptures to fit their creed, and they get a very nice square creed too, and trim the Bible most dexterously. It is astonishing how they do it, but I would rather have a crooked creed and a straight Bible, than I would try to twist the Bible to suit what I believe.

Those who will only believe what they can reconcile in their own minds, will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation.

Those who receive by faith everything which they find in Scripture, will receive many things which they can never harmonize into a definitive creed.

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A worldly Christianity

(Octavius Winslow)

"Do not be conformed to this world." Romans 12:2

Professor of the gospel! Guard against the world; it is your undoing! Watch against conformity to it . . .
  in your dress,
  in your mode of living,
  in the education of your children,
  in the principles, motives, and policy that govern you.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by . . .
  any known inconsistency of conduct,
  any sinful conformity to the world,
  any inordinate pursuit of . . .
    its wealth,
    its honors,
    its pleasures,
    its friendships,
    its great things.

Pray against the sin of covetousness, that canker-worm that feeds at the root of so many souls!

Pray against the love of dress, that sin that diverts the mind of so many professors from the simplicity of Christ, and takes the eye off from the true adornment!

Pray against a thirst for light and trifling reading, that strange and sinful inconsistency of so many, the certain tendency of which is to starve the life of God in the soul, to engender a distaste for spiritual nourishment for the Word of God, for holy meditation, and for Divine communion and fellowship.

Yes, pray against the spirit of worldly, sinful conformity in everything!

Reader! are you a professing Christian? Then guard against a worldly Christianity—a Christianity that wears a fair exterior, so far as it is composed of church attendance; but which excludes from it the cross of the meek and lowly Lamb of God—a Christianity which loves the world and the things of the world, "makes a fair show in the flesh," speaks well of Christ—and yet betrays Him with a kiss.

Oh, awful state! Oh, fearful deception! Oh, fatal delusion!

The world is the sworn enemy of your Savior; let it not be your friend. No, come out of it and be separate!

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Whatever opinion men may hold concerning the principles of Christ

(G. Campbell Morgan)

Whatever opinion men may hold concerning the principles of Christ or His doctrines—they at least agree that if only all men would live His life, or would perfectly obey His instructions, there would be . . .
   an immediate solution to all problems,
   a healing of all wounds,
   a righting of all wrongs, and
  the bringing in of that golden age concerning which the prophets and seers and psalmists have been singing to men through all human history.

Yet if Jesus has done no more for men than to have given them the pattern of His life and the illumination of His teaching—then He has only succeeded in revealing the depth of human degradation, and the impossibility of man's ever attaining the highest or the best standard.

If Jesus Christ has done no more than give me the pattern of His life—then He has made me the most hopeless and despairing of men, for I cannot reproduce it in my own. If Jesus Christ has done no more than enunciate the laws which I find in the New Testament records—then He has only succeeded in mocking my hopelessness, and leaving me helpless and undone upon life's broad highway.

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Eight Myths about Hell

(Sam Storms, March 2, 2018)

The reality of Hell and eternal punishment is not a popular topic, even among Christians. Part of the problem is that the nature of Hell has been horribly distorted in our culture and portrayed as an experience that is far from what we read in the New Testament. When I'm asked why I believe in Hell, my response is three-fold.

First, I have such unshakable and robust confidence in the inerrant truth of every word in the Bible that the matter is already settled before I even read the text. I believe, as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, that "all Scripture [even texts such as Revelation 14:9-11] is breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

Second, by God's grace I have come to understand, at least to some degree, the immeasurable magnitude and majesty of God's holiness and beauty and authority and the honor that is due to Him from all of His creatures, including you and me.

Third, again by God's grace I have come to understand the immeasurable horror and ugliness and self-centeredness of humanity's sin and depravity and wickedness.

So I can honestly say that to the degree that you and I struggle with the concept of Hell and eternal punishment is the degree to which we don't understand God's holiness and honor, on the one hand, or the horror and depravity of mankind's sin, on the other. In other words, if Hell strikes you as unreasonable or unfair or disproportionate, it can only be due to the fact that either you don't believe the Bible is inspired and true, or you don't believe that God is infinitely holy and just, or you don't believe that mankind is morally depraved and has committed cosmic treason and is thus deserving of eternal condemnation.

As noted, contributing to the problem of Hell are the numerous myths or false beliefs that surround it. Here are eight of them:

    Myth #1. There is widespread belief among non-Christians that Hell is a place where they will be united with their unbelieving friends and drink beer all the time in an endless party.
The fact is that Hell is a place of utter isolation, loneliness, and deprivation.

    Myth #2. Another false belief is that Hell is the place where Satan and his demons exercise their authority to rule and reign.
The fact is that Hell is the place where Satan and his demons suffer eternal punishment. Satan and his demons are inhabitants in Hell, not its warden or guards. See Matthew 25:41 for one clear statement to that effect.

    Myth #3. Directly related to the previous myth, there is the notion among many that in Hell Satan and his demons torment human beings who also are there.
No. There is not one text in the Bible that suggests Satan and his demons afflict or torment human beings. They themselves, instead, are the object of God's punishment. There have been numerous books written by people who claim to have visited Hell in which they describe a scene where demons are tormenting humans who have been consigned there. This should be the first indication to all careful, Bible-believing readers that such an experience is fabricated.

    Myth #4. Yet another misconception is that there are people in Hell crying out for mercy who want to reconcile with God.
Nothing in Scripture indicates this is so. Instead, those in Hell are eternally defiant of God and hate Him all the more with each passing moment.

    Myth #5. One of the more blasphemous notions about Hell is that there are people in Hell who don't deserve to be there.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. God's justice is impeccable and He never consigns anyone to punishment in Hell who does not fully deserve to suffer there.

    Myth #6. A related myth is the notion that there are people in Hell who wanted to go to Heaven while they were still alive, but God wouldn't let them.
That is utterly false. Jesus Himself made this clear when He said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. . . . whoever comes to Me I will never cast out . . . . For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:35, 37b, 40).

    Myth #7. A seventh myth is that there are people in Hell who will eventually be released and granted entrance into Heaven.
As much as we might wish this were true, it isn't. The Bible does not teach the doctrine of universalism, that is, the idea that everyone will eventually be saved and given eternal life in the new Heaven and new earth.

    Myth #8. Finally, there is the myth that in Hell people will be rid of God and have no experience of Him.
That is not true. It is true they will have no experience of God's loving and gracious presence, but they will most assuredly experience His presence in justice and wrath. In fact, we read in Revelation 14:10 that they will be tormented "in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb," that is, in the presence of Jesus Christ.

I'll conclude with two brief observations:

    First, I can't read biblical portrayals of Hell and eternal punishment or think about it without feeling a deep and unrelenting agony in my heart. We should never talk about Hell without weeping, for it is real and people are going there. This is not a subject for joking or lighthearted banter. It is an issue that should provoke within us both anguish and an urgent commitment to share the gospel with those who remain in unbelief.

    My second reaction is one of unfathomable gratitude. When I read about Hell in a passage like Revelation 14:9-11 I'm reading about what I deserve. God would have been perfectly just and righteous had He chosen to consign me to eternal torment. But in mercy He has drawn me to faith in His Son. In mercy He has poured out His wrath on Jesus in my place, a wrath and judgment that Jesus lovingly and willingly embraced and endured. Every single one of us deserves damnation. God owes us nothing but justice. The fact that He has given us mercy instead, and forgiveness instead of condemnation, ought to awaken in us the most heartfelt and passionate gratitude and praise.

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Puckered sewing

(J.R. Miller)

There is a rich home which I visit, in which the most sacred and precious household treasure is a piece of puckered sewing.

A little child one day picked up the simple handkerchief which her mother was in the midst of sewing. After half an hour's quiet work, the child brought it to her, saying, "Mother, I's been helping you, 'cause I love you so."

The stitches were long and the sewing was puckered—but the mother saw only beauty in it all, for it told of her child's love and eagerness to please her. That night the little one sickened, and in a few hours was dead. No wonder the mother keeps that piece of puckered sewing among her rarest treasures. Nothing that the most skillful hands have wrought among all her household possessions, means to her half so much as that handkerchief with the child's unskilled work on it.

In the same way, the things we do out of love to God, though they may be marred and imperfect, are precious to Him!

"And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is My disciple, surely I declare to you, he shall not lose his reward!" Matthew 10:42

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The diamonds of Heaven!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You keep track of all my sorrows.
 You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
 You have recorded each one in Your book." Psalm 56:8

"Behold, he is praying!" Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray, the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears; yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of Heaven. "You have collected all my tears in Your bottle." This implies that they are caught as they flow!

The suppliant, who groans out his words, will be well understood by the Most High God. He may only look up with misty eye; but prayer is the falling of a tear! Tears are the diamonds of Heaven! Sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, and are numbered with the most sublime strains which reach the majesty on high!

Do not think that your prayers, however weak or trembling, will be unregarded. Our God not only hears prayers, but also loves to hear them. "He does not forget the cry of the humble."

True, He does not regard proud looks and lofty words.
He has no concern for the pomp and pageantry of kings.
He does not listen to the swell of martial music.
He does not regard the triumph and pride of man.

But wherever there is a contrite heart full with sorrow, or a lip quivering with agony, or a deep groan, or a penitential sigh—the heart of Jehovah is open! He marks that prayer down in the registry of His memory! He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom!

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Only two families inhabit earth!

Henry Law, 1858)

Only two families inhabit earth!
In principle,
in taste,
in habit,
in desire,
in eternal destination—
they are as separate as . . .
  light from darkness,
  heat from cold,
  life from death,
  Heaven from Hell.

There is the serpent's seed.
There is the heaven-born race.

There is the wide wicked world.
There is the little flock of grace.

There is the broad road that leads to eternal destruction.
There is the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

There are the cursed goats.
There are the blessed sheep. 

Hence the importance of the question:
"Have you escaped from nature's thraldom?
 Do your feet tread the upward path of holiness?
 Do you belong to Satan—or to Christ?"

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What a believer would do, if he could!

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1881)

"The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you want to do." Galatians 5:17

"You cannot do the things that you want to do" is indeed often a true testimony as regards the experience of the believer.

He would follow Christ in heart and life—but, alas, he sees how little there is of Christ in either heart or life.

He would be spiritually-minded in all things—but often finds that he has been guided by worldly policy and worldly influences, rather than by spiritual principle.

He would be meek and lowly in heart—but he has cause for sorrow that pride of heart is so often and so quickly manifested.

He would sincerely pray—but often finds that he knows not what to ask, and cannot pray as he ought.

He knows that the reading of God's Word should always be a pleasure to him—but he often finds that Scripture reading is rather a task than otherwise.

He would be gentle and easily entreated—yet sometimes he stands upon his rights with a sternness and stubbornness which is not of the Spirit.

He would always please Christ—but, alas, he sees how often his motive has rather been self-pleasing, or the pleasing of his fellows.

He would have more firmness in holy desires—but he sees how faint, even at the best, are those desires.

He would have his mind often engaged with spiritual things—but finds how much more readily it runs after things that are trifling and profitless.

He would have a more determined will against the seducing influences around him—yet too often his will plays the coward when most needed to be firm and decided.

He would be thankful to God for the many and great things He has done for him and given him—but sometimes he forgets all, in regret for the loss or refusal of some one thing which his Heavenly Father has in love denied him.

This is a very sad and very humbling exhibition of a believer. It is, however, too often a true one, as many a child of God will sorrowfully testify, who truly knows the evil of his own heart.

"You cannot do the things that you want to do." This, however, is not written to make us satisfied with such a state of things, but rather to show us that the life of the believer is one of much conflict amidst many opposing influences, and that we have no sufficient strength of our own to overcome them. Also, to teach us to walk with more watchfulness, humility, and self-distrust, and to go more constantly and earnestly to our Heavenly Father, seeking for the increased assistance of the Holy Spirit, that we may thereby live a life of faith in the Lord Jesus, who alone can enable us to war a good warfare, and continually overcome every evil.

It is by thus showing us what we are, in our sinfulness and our need—that the Holy Spirit brings us more lowly and willingly to the Lord Jesus to find our all in Him.

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All things, the bitter and the sweet

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1881)

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

Infinite wisdom, as well as infinite love, guides the Lord Jesus in all His doings. Thus it is He sees it best for His own glory and our good, that His doings should at times be contrary to our own desires for ourselves. All things, the bitter and the sweet, are from the hands of Him who makes all work together for our good.

All the trials and afflictions the believer meets with in this life, are for the promotion of . . .
  our growth in grace,
  the true knowledge of self,
  love to Christ, and
  faith in our covenant God and Father.

Christ's rough-hewn diamonds are precious to Him, but it is His polished ones that shine the brightest, and most reflect His holy image, and have the most conspicuous place among His jewels. Though the process of polishing is often painful to the flesh and trying to the spirit—yet the result is worth it all, for that result is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!"

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The consciousness of all our infirmities, our inward lusts, and our utter helplessness

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1881)

The Christian life is one of continual conflict from its commencement to its close. There is no hope whatever that it can be otherwise. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and never can be anything else but flesh. It continually wars against the spirit—so that oftentimes, as the Apostle says, "When I would do good, evil is present with me."

This was Paul's own experience to the end of life, for never did he find any good thing in himself, that is, in his flesh. The flesh never changes for the better. Our only expectation and our encouragement is that through the grace of our Lord Jesus, with watchfulness and prayerfulness, it will be kept under control, and that the spiritual nature will increase in vigor daily.

The consciousness of all our infirmities, our inward lusts, and our utter helplessness—but makes the Lord Jesus more precious! The very lusts we abhor, do serve our best interests when they cause us to look more to Him. Thus they are among the all things that work for our good, by keeping us in our proper place and exalting the Lord.

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Regeneration, repentance, faith, conversion

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

The Holy Spirit quickens the sinner with new spiritual life. He is thus born again. It is a work complete at once, and one in which the sinner is completely passive.
This is regeneration.

The sinner knows not that he is born again, but by the results which are manifested in the mind, heart and life.

His MIND is enlightened. He becomes deeply conscious of his personal relationship to God's holiness, to eternity, and to the judgment to come. These are to him realities such as they had never been before. He sees himself to be guilty before God, and deserving of eternal condemnation.
This is repentance.

His HEART becomes restless in consequence of his change of mind. He is weary and burdened under a consciousness of guilt. He looks to Jesus dying on the cross as the sinner's substitute. He trusts in Him as his only hope of salvation, and thus with the heart he believes and is saved.
This is faith.

His LIFE is now changed. The mind and heart being thus affected, the whole current of his outer life is altered. The man turns from the ways of sin and turns to God. He becomes a true disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus.
This is conversion.

In other words:

I. REGENERATION is the impartation of a new nature, and is in Scripture termed "being born again." It is an instantaneous work of the Holy Spirit, complete at once, though capable of increase in vigor and manifestation.

II. REPENTANCE is a change of mind about our relationship to God, whereby we become conscious that however moral or religious we may have been—we are really without God, and without hope in the world. We deeply sense that we are guilty before God and deserving eternal condemnation.

III. FAITH is the trust of the heart in Christ crucified, as the way of deliverance from guilt and deserved condemnation.

IV. CONVERSION is the change of the outward life. Having received Christ as his Savior, the believer now serves and follows Him as his Lord and Master.

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The deeper the work of grace

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

It is the characteristic of a growing state of grace not to see its growth, but to see more clearly its shortcomings.

The nearer the light, the more visible are the imperfections.

In the same way, the deeper the work of grace, the more opposition will it usually encounter in the heart; and the inward evil will generally become more vividly realized by the believer.

The more we have of each grace, the more clearly shall we discern its opposite within:

The more we have of humility, the more shall we know and mourn over our pride.

The more we have of patience, the more shall we know and mourn over our impatience.

The more we have of faith, the more shall we know and mourn over our unbelief.

The more we have of conformity to the image of Christ, the more shall we know and mourn over our lack of conformity to Him.

The more we have of self-denial, the more shall we know and mourn over our selfishness.

The more we have of love to Christ, the more shall we know and mourn over our lack of love to Him.

Thus each grace becomes a light to show us how much of the contrary we have by nature.

Indeed, by this means we grow in grace, because thus we more fully know our great need of the Lord Jesus, and are led to look more humbly, confidently, and helplessly to Him, to whom we can never look in vain. Nothing draws so abundantly from His fullness, as a helpless trusting heart.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Three rules for a happy marriage

(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

Of all relationships of life, none ought to be regarded with such reverence and none taken in hand so cautiously, as the relationship of husband and wife.

In no relationship is so much earthly happiness to be found, if it is entered upon discreetly, advisedly, and in the fear of God. In none is so much misery seen to follow, if it is taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, wantonly, and without thought.

From no step in life does so much benefit come to the soul, if people marry "in the Lord." From none does the soul take so much harm, if imagination, passion, or any mere worldly motive is the only cause which produce the union.

There is, unhappily, only too much necessity for impressing these truths upon people. It is a mournful fact, that few steps in life are generally taken with so much levity, self-will, and forgetfulness of God, as marriage. Few are the young couples who think of inviting Christ to their wedding!

It is a mournful fact that unhappy marriages are one great cause of the misery and sorrow of which there is so much in the world. People find out too late that they have made a mistake, and go in bitterness all their days.

Happy are they, who in the matter of marriage observe three rules:

The first is to marry only in the Lord, and after prayer for God's approval and blessing.

The second is not to expect too much from their partners, and to remember that marriage is, after all, the union of two sinners, and not of two angels.

The third rule is to strive first and foremost for one another's sanctification. The more holy married people are, the happier they are.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The eminent prayerfulness of Jesus

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and spent all night in prayer to God." Luke 6:12

If ever one might have lived without prayer, it was our spotless, perfect Lord—and yet none was ever so much in supplication as He! Such was His love to His Father, that He loved much to be in communion with Him! Such was His love for His people, that He desired to be much in intercession for them.

The fact of the eminent prayerfulness of Jesus is a lesson for us—He has given us an example that we may follow in His steps.

The time He chose was admirable:
  it was the hour of silence, when the crowd would not disturb Him;
  it was the time of inaction, when all but Himself had ceased to labor;
  and the season when slumber made men forget their woes, and cease their applications to Him for relief. While others found rest in sleep, He refreshed Himself with prayer.

The place was also well selected. He was alone where none would intrude, where none could observe—thus was He free from Pharisaic ostentation and vulgar interruption. Those dark and silent hills were a fit oratory for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended.

The continuance of His pleadings is remarkable:
  the long watches were not too long;
  the cold wind did not chill His devotions;
  the grim darkness did not darken His faith, or loneliness check His importunity.
We cannot watch with Him one hour, but He watched for us whole nights!

The occasion for this prayer is notable. It was after His enemies had been enraged at Him, that prayer was His refuge and solace. It was before He sent forth the twelve apostles—that prayer was the gate of His enterprise, the herald of His new work. Should we not learn from Jesus to resort to special prayer when we are under peculiar trials, or contemplate fresh endeavors for the Master's glory?

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

There are no difficulties, no sorrows or joys which are matters of chance

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

"Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:30

"But not a hair of your head will perish!" Luke 21:18

Nothing is more clearly revealed in Scripture than the reality of God's dealings with each of His redeemed people as individuals, in all that pertains to their providential path through life. In a special manner God is daily working providentially in everything small or great, for those whom He has led to seek for refuge in His once crucified Son.

There are no difficulties, no sorrows or joys which are matters of chance.

Every step in their providential path is watched over with the tenderest love and care.

There are no rough places in the way, but those which have been particularly ordained and arranged.

There are no lessons to be learned, but had long been prepared by the most wise and loving of Teachers.

There are no trials, but were planned to work out great and exceeding good by Him who has all power in Heaven and earth.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Folly duped the whole race!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. They knew nothing about what would happen until the Flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!" Matthew 24:37-39

Universal was the doom—none escaped!

The rich and poor,
the learned and the illiterate,
the admired and the abhorred,
the religious and the profane,
the old and the young—
all sank in one common ruin!

Some had doubtless ridiculed Noah—where were their merry jests now? Others counted him mad for his zeal—where were their boastings and hard speeches now? The carper who criticized old Noah's work—is drowned in the same sea which covers his sneering companions. Those who spoke patronizingly of Noah's fidelity to his convictions—but did not share in them, have sunk to rise no more! And the workers who were paid to help build the wondrous ark, are all lost also.

The flood swept them all away, and made no single exception!

Just so, final destruction is sure to every person outside of Christ! No rank, possession or character, shall suffice to save a single soul who has not savingly believed in the Lord Jesus. My soul, behold this wide-spread judgment and tremble at it.

How astonishing was the general apathy! They were all eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage—until the dreadful morning dawned. There was not one wise man upon earth, outside of the ark. Folly duped the whole race, folly as to self-preservation—the most foolish of all follies. Folly in doubting the most true God—the most malignant of fooleries!

Strange, my soul, is it not? All men are negligent of their souls until saving grace gives them reason, then they leave their madness and act like rational beings, but not until then.

All who in the ark were safe—no ruin entered there. All in Jesus are safe. My soul, are you in Him?

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth!

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(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love!
With unfailing love, I have drawn you to Myself!" Jeremiah 31:3

The love of Christ is unending; it is not a passion of His humanity, but a perfection of His divinity. He has always existed, and He has always loved His people. His people . . .
  always had a place in His thoughts,
  have ever been before His eye,
  and have always been loved by Him!
He has loved them ever since He knew them—and He knew them from eternity! His love ran through the boundless ages of eternity past—and fixed upon poor sinners who were to appear during the existence of time; and having fixed upon them—His love maintains its unfailing hold!

When He created the earth, spread abroad the Heavens, and gave His decree to the sea—His love was fixed upon His people! Their welfare, in connection with His Father's glory—was the object which He sought in all things.

Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! That Jesus should have fixed His love upon such poor, depraved, insignificant creatures—and that from eternity past!

When we meditate upon eternity past—we can say in reference to the most distant periods, "My Savior loved me then! He loved me from all eternity!" Glorious truth! He always has loved me—and He always will love me! He loved me . . .
  before angels existed,
  before devils appeared,
  before sin was committed!

He loved me—when the Godhead dwelt all alone!
O the depths!
Astonishing mystery!
It seems too good to be true!
But God has said it, and my soul shall rejoice in it and praise Him for it!

His love to me is as eternal as His nature—without beginning of days, or end of years.
From His love, as from a mighty ocean, flows . . .
  all the acts of His power,
  all the displays of His benevolence,
  all the manifestations of His grace,
  and all the provisions of His gospel.

It is sweet to silently meditate upon the thought of such a vile and insignificant creature as I am—that Jehovah-Jesus not only thought of me—but eternally loved me with all the strength of His Deity! He so loved me, as to be willing, when it became necessary—to take my nature, and to save me by His humiliation, sufferings, and death!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Avoid foolish questions." Titus 3:9

Our days are few, and are far better spent in devoting ourselves to good works, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. Incessant discussion of subjects of no practical value, do a world of mischief. Our churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said—neither party is any the wiser! Therefore, the discussion no more promotes knowledge, than love! It is foolish to sow in so barren a field.

Questions upon . . .
  points wherein Scripture is silent;
  mysteries which belong to God alone;
  prophecies of doubtful interpretation;
  modes of observing mere human ceremonies
—are all foolish! Wise men will avoid them!

Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions—but to avoid them altogether! If we observe the apostle's precept to be careful to devote ourselves to good works—we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business, to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings!

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish—which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly answer, such as these:
  Am I growing in grace and Christ-likeness?
  Does my life adorn the doctrine of my Savior?
  What more can I do for Jesus?
Such inquiries as these, urgently demand our attention!

If we have been at all given to arguing and disputing, let us now turn to a service so much more profitable. Let us endeavor to lead others, both by our precept and example, to "avoid foolish

Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." 2 Timothy 2:23

"Be careful to devote yourself to good works." Titus 3:8

    ~  ~  ~  ~

O the depths!

(Charles Spurgeon, "The Treasury of David")

"O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep!" Psalm 92:5

Man is superficial, God is inscrutable.
Man is shallow, God is deep.

"O LORD, how great are Your works!"
The Psalmist is lost in wonder. He utters an exclamation of amazement. How vast! How stupendous are the doings of Jehovah! All the creations of the Infinite One are great for number, extent, and glory, and design!

"Your thoughts are very deep!"

The Lord's thoughts and plans are as marvelous as His works.

His designs are as profound, as His doings are vast.

Creation is immeasurable, and the wisdom displayed in it unsearchable.
Providence is inexhaustible, and the divine decrees which originate it are inscrutable.
Redemption is grand beyond conception, and the thoughts of love which planned it are infinite.

Dive as we may, we shall never fathom the mysterious plan, or exhaust the boundless wisdom of the all-comprehending mind of the Lord. We can only stand by the fathomless sea of divine wisdom, and exclaim with holy awe, "O the depths!"

"O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep!"

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Just what is best for you!

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

Remember that among your chief thoughts of the Lord Jesus, this one must ever have a prominent place: that He is ever looking down upon you and watching you with tenderest love, and ordering all things for your eternal good.

Sometimes it is spiritual medicine, at other times it is spiritual nourishment—but at all times it is spiritual good and just what is best for you! He sees and knows beyond anyone else what is best for you in each circumstance of each moment. So, always when you think of Him, think of Him as thus looking down upon you and ever caring for you.

Often the Lord, in His discipline of love, not only withholds what the heart longs for, but gives what the heart shrinks from naturally. If this is not patiently received at His hands, the discipline is of no avail and the Lord has to begin the discipline again, and sometimes again and again, but all in love—that the believer may at last leave it to Him to give, or take away, or withhold, even as He pleases.

To enjoy rest in the Lord Jesus in every providence however trying—each trying providence should be interpreted in strict accordance with His covenant love and faithfulness. To the believer, He is all love. His providences never contradict this—however unpleasing, undesirable, or disappointing they may be.

The Lord Jesus by affliction calls His people to draw still nearer to Himself in daily fellowship, in secret and personal communion, so that, having become the still deeper necessity of their souls, He may still more become their fullness of life, and peace, and joy.

With believers who are often in much affliction, the question should not be, "Why am I thus afflicted by Him more than many are who appear to be always well?" But rather, "Why am I so loved by Him more than many are; I who deserve this love no more than they do!"

The Lord Jesus wants the believer to look to Him as his all—both in providence and grace, in temporal things and in spiritual.

Affliction, pain, and trial, are not evil things. Nothing is evil but sin!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

One of the sure results of living by faith

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

One of the sure results of living by faith
, is to bring everything in the daily life, and every thought of the heart, into subjection to the Lord Jesus, and to have no will but His.

Walking with Christ, you are sure to walk in the path of safety and blessing. What if the way is sometimes marked with rough and thorny places? What if the difficulties and perplexities are many and unexpected? Looking unto Jesus, they will be but His opportunity to prove to you more vividly and fully—what a ready helper, and what a faithful and ever-present friend you have in Him.

All that the Lord Jesus does in relation to you, is prompted by His special individual love for you.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The gentleness of Jesus in His dealings with us every step of the way

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

His hand is a gentle one, though it be a mighty one—for to us, it is the once pierced hand of Jesus. The gentleness of Jesus is as much a feature of His character as His love. It is because He loves so much, that He is so gentle in His dealings with His people. No mother can lead her darling child so gently, or watch its path so carefully, or stoop to do such lowly acts for its well-being—as our Jesus leads, and watches over, and works for His people.

Adversity often finds rough voices and unfriendly conduct where least expected, but it always meets with gentleness in Jesus. Those whose eyes are often blinded by affliction's tears—best know how gently the gentle hand of the Lord Jesus can wipe sorrow's tears away. More glorious is omnipotence in wiping those tears away, than in the creation of a universe!

It is the glory of omnipotence to be gentle.
It is the sweetness of majesty to condescend.
It is the beauty of love to walk in lowliness and uplift the fallen.

Hearts wounded by disappointed hopes, by misplaced confidence, by harsh treatment—ever meet with sweet solace and soothing consolation in the gentleness of Jesus.

When the believer's feet have slipped and he has fallen into sin, fellow-Christians may speak harshly, and upbraid and condemn—but the returning wanderer always meets with gentleness in Jesus. Love never hesitates, and can never stoop too low to multiply the comforts and the joys of the beloved one.

Psalm 18:35, "Your gentleness has made me great," for it has raised me up from sin and shame, from sorrow and despair.

How low our Jesus stooped—let Bethlehem, and Gethsemane, and Calvary tell.

He still stoops low, for He comes down to our lowly walk and our little needs to be our daily companion, and to multiply our daily blessings. And when our lowly walk on earth is over, and from the light of glory we contemplate the path of our earthly pilgrimage—among the many manifestations of love then made clear, will be seen the gentleness of Jesus in His dealings with us every step of the way.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Without that one very unpleasant thing!

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
"According to His purpose"—for He had purposed before the world was who His called ones would be, and also purposed that all things would work for their good. The doings of His grace in time, are ever the result of the purposes of His grace before the foundation of the world! Romans 8:30

"Those who are CALLED according to His purpose."
These are called to know themselves as guilty before God and deserving of eternal condemnation.
These are called to know the all-sufficiency of Christ to save.
These are called to trust in His sin-atoning death as their only hope of salvation.
These are called out of the world. They no longer revel in the world's gaieties, or are swayed by its corrupt principles.
These are called to be followers of the despised Lord Jesus, treading in His footsteps.
This is the calling which distinguishes those who love God, and for whose good God causes all things to work together.

Yes, "God causes all things to work together for good . . . " It is not said that they work singly or alone, but in relationship to one another—they "work together." One little thing which we cannot at all understand, or see the reason of—the Lord sees is necessary to make several other things properly work for our good. Without that one very unpleasant thing—all the rest would not be for our benefit.

We are too apt to look at things singly, and therefore our mind often becomes perplexed. A single thread is not of much importance in itself—but if left out in the weaving, the pattern in the loom would be rendered imperfect.

These "all things" are so many shuttles running to and fro, weaving the web of goodness and blessing for the children of God. The hand that throws the shuttles is the hand of Jesus. In the web which He weaves, no thread will be found misplaced, when the weaving is over.

Therefore let us leave all things in the hands of Jesus, who has the whole plan of the life of each believer always before Him, and who in His infinite wisdom causes all things to work together for good to them, so as to produce the best results and accomplish all His purposes of love.

Let us trust Him at all times, even when . . .
  our expectations of earthly things are disappointed,
  or when our plans are frustrated,
  or when darkness surrounds our path,
  or when trials and affliction are our portion.

Be assured that when we have attained a keener vision and a fuller understanding than our pilgrim state affords us—we shall see that God caused all things to perfectly work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose! We will then testify to the wisdom, power, and love of Him who does all things well!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Disagreement with the path, is disagreement with Him who ordained it

(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1882)

"Be content with such things as you have, for He has said: I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

The Lord Jesus never leaves His people. Whether they realize His presence or not, it does not alter the fact, for He is ever with them as their loving and sympathizing friend and helper—true God, yet always true man.

"I will never leave you"—there is the assurance of His gracious presence.

"Nor will I ever forsake you"—there is the assurance of His watchful care and changeless love.

It is possible for a person to have much of the company of one by whom he is forsaken in heart affection. The Lord Jesus does not deal thus with His people. His language means, "My presence shall ever go with you, My heart shall ever be towards you, and My hand shall ever hold you." There is nothing in the darkest and most trying path in which a believer can possibly be placed, that need prevent him constantly realizing the presence and love of His Lord, and quietly resting in Him.

Fully, however, to realize the Lord's presence and love, and quietly rest in Him, there must not only be looking up, and trusting, and waiting—but the heart must also be content with the providential path below.

If a believer would walk in loving fellowship with the Lord Jesus when in the path of trial—there must be a quiet, contented, patient abiding in that path where the Lord has placed him; for there, and there alone, will the Lord Jesus meet with him. Disagreement with the path, is disagreement with Him who ordained it.

There should be not only abiding with the Lord as the source of rest and comfort, but abiding in the path as the way of His appointment in love. The lack of this patient abiding is the reason why so many believers have such a joyless, anxious, troubled, barren experience. "Be content with such things as you have, for He has said: I will never leave you nor will I ever forsake you."

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Pithy gems from the puritan William Secker

(William Secker)

Pride is the sinner's torment; humility is the saint's ornament.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Many have passed the rocks of gross sins—who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Many blush to confess their faults, who never blush to commit them.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Until we taste the bitterness of our own misery, we will never relish the sweetness of God's mercy.

Until we see how foul our sins have made us, we will never pay our tribute of praise to Christ for redeeming us.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

If you would know the heart of your sin, then you must know the sins of your heart!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Sin's first-born is death—and its last-born is Hell.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

"I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13

God abhors those people worst, who adore themselves most.

Pride is not a Bethel—that is, a house where God dwells;
but a Babel—that is, a stinking dungeon in which Satan abides.

Pride is not only a most hateful evil—but the most radical evil.

As all other lusts are found lodging in it—so they are found springing from it.

Pride is a foul leprosy, in the face of morality.

Pride is a hurtful worm, gnawing at the root of humility.

Pride is a cancer within, and a spreading plague without!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul.
By praying, the soul learns to command the body.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

A true Christian no more trusts in the best of his services, as in the worst of his sins!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Pastoral Counsels

(James Meikle, 1730-1799)

"Watch your life and doctrine closely!" 1 Timothy 4:16

Do not meddle much with the affairs of this life—or else celestial truths, as uttered by you, will be despised. 

Do not pretend a 'show of sanctimony' before men.

Whatever else you read, read a double portion in God's Word.

Do not be much concerned about your own reputation.

Learn daily more of Christ and more of yourself—or else your other studies will profit little.

Seek not great things for yourself. Seek not great fame, great applause, great comforts, or a great income.

Be scant in exhibiting 'specimens of your learning', or comments on the Scriptures in their original languages.

Consider the preciousness of souls, the value of salvation, the terrors of the Almighty, the solemn day of judgment, and your own utter inability. Then you shall have no vain confidence, but depend on God alone.

Please all men so long as you are consistent with the truth—but do not wound the truth to please any. 

Set your affections on things above—so shall spiritual things be your delight, and not your burden.

In company, always study to say something for edification.
In this way, you preach every day—as well as on Sundays.

Be much with God in secret—so shall God be with you in public.

Have sympathetic feelings with the sufferings of all your flock, and especially embrace those golden opportunities—sickness and affliction.

Let your life be consistent with your message
What you preach on Sunday—practice through the week.

Lend your ear to reproaches—rather than applauses.
Reproaches may let us see some of our foibles or failings.
Commendation is very apt to kindle self-conceit, of which everyone has enough.
Give a pleasant ear when others are commended, but always frown away the one that would commend you to your face.

In preaching, aim at God's glory and the good of souls.
And then, without deviating from that rule—please all men as much as possible.

Let your sermons be always the fruit of much study and application.
Never dare to serve God or His people with that which cost you nothing.

"Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12