Tidbits of Faith - by the Puritans and Those Who Read ThemThe Era of the Puritans (1559-1662, or thereabouts)
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
The following tidbits are quotes from some of church histories greats. Some are long, some are short, but all are edifying. They are quotes from the puritans, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. I found them helpful, and encouraging at the time (and even now) and I hope you will as well.
The Voice of the Turtles
The Right Approach to Election
The Devil’s Expertise
Are there Grades of sin?
A Frowning Providence
Can I be sure?
With what violence, temptations, especially more dangerous ones, are to be resisted. Modest, maidenly, gingerly dealing here is not good. They are called “fiery darts”, Ephesians 6; we must therefore deal as with quenching fire. Thus violent was Paul, when he beat down the flesh with a club, 1 Cor. 9, and so here Christ deals violently with Satan. He would not endure with him, nor stand debating with him, but commands him away: as wicked men deal, making themselves intractable to all good persuasions, stopping their ears against them, Acts 7. So we should do against the Devil’s enchantments. Here is Eve was wanting.
Where are we wanting before the commands of Christ? Are we to be glibly throwing off such self-examinations by saying, “O such wretched men we are–thanks be to Christ” and leave things at that? What kinds of “wantings” do we have? Where are our trespasses and our sins the sum of Satan’s attacks to our flesh, and then our simple minds giving into such wicked adversity? How have we entered into true combat? Where is Christian warfare? Satan is no lazy dog, but a roaring lion. Daniel Dyke “Christ Tempted and Satan Foiled”
Do we want to foil Satan as well? (Luke 6:46)
Only thus much we may observe, that Christ being now occupied in heavenly and spiritual meditations, and contemplations, and talking secretly with his Father, this saucy Satan yet durst come, and interpose himself, and offer to interrupt, and to disturb these sweet soliloquies of our Savior. No marvel then if he deal thus with us in our prayers, meditations and the hearing of the Word. No such disturbance we feel at play. At gaming can some sit up all night without any heaviness, but at a sermon how quickly doth the Devil rock men to sleep? This shows that the one is of God, and for our good; the other is against God, and to our hurt. It cannot but be good which the Devil is an enemy to. It cannot be but evil, which he is a friend to.
—Daniel Dyke, “Christ Tempted, and Satan Foiled”
The correct observance of the Sabbath requires 2 things: rest, and sanctification of that rest. The rest required is the cessation from all work which might hinder divine worship. We must, therefore, abstain on that day from all works properly called servile. We may conclude from the subsequent words of the commandment, “On the Sabbath you shall not do any work.” that all work which may be properly called ours is forbidden. All work is included which pertains to our use of life, i.e., work which concerns natural and civil things and leads to our gain and profit. So work which of its own nature is not servile but befits a freeman, such as studying and the pursuit of the liberal arts, is prohibited. Especially included are those which are common to free men and servants, namely, traveling and handling business affairs. Likewise forbidden is work which either directly or remotely pertains to such holy things as the building of the tabernacle, Ex. 16, or the visiting of markets or fairs, Neh. 13. On this day public worship ought to b the chief matter and for this reason the sabbath is called a holy convocation Lev. 23:3; Acts 13:14; 15:23; 16:13. The public convocation of the church ought to be held both before and after the noon on the Lord’s Day; the double burnt offering of the sabbath in the morning and in the evening, Numbers 28:9 is the ample precedent.
—Williams Ames, “The Marrow of Theology.”
“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light…”
2 Cor. 11:14
It is observable that a forester goes usually in green, suitable to the leaves of the trees and the grass of the forest. By this means the most observant in all the herd never so much as distrusts him till the arrow pierces his side. And thus the devil shapes himself to the fashions of all men. If he meets with a proud man, or a prodigal man, then he makes himself a flatterer; if a covetous man, then he comes with a reward in his hand. He has an apple for Eve, a grape for Noah, a change of raiment for Gehazi, a bag for Judas. He can dish out his meat for all palates. He has a lace to fit every show He has something to please all conditions, to suit with all dispositions whatsoever.
“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands; but Satan his millions.”
SUBJECT: Great Things
“The Lord hath done great things for us, wherefore we are glad.”
Some Christians are more prone to look on the dark side of everything, and dwell more upon what they have gone through instead of what God has done for them. Ask for a description of the Christian life and they will describe for you their dark afflictions, their sad adversities and the sinfulness of their hearts, yet with a scarcity to alluding to the great mercy which God always helps them get through the darkest hours. What has God done? Has he not pulled us out of the miry clay and from adverse afflictions? Has he not sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from the power of sin and darkness? So, for the Christian, he is not to dwell upon the deep dark sin which is truly transient in his life, but rather the hopefulness of the Savior who delivers him from every trial and tribulation, giving him the hope of perfect blessedness in heaven. Our griefs cannot mar the joy he brings us. Our tribulations can never shut out the glory of his countenance upon us. He outshines the stars and sun, shall he outshine our sin? So each day brings us another time to receive great things from God. And since he brings us these great things, we are glad.
—C. H. Spurgeon
“…and some for dishonour…”
If man be not made to glorify his Creator, then there is no purpose that such a creature should exist.
–Jonathan Edwards, from “The Wicked Useful in their Destruction Only”
“made perfect…” Heb. 12:23
Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs–the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the work of the Holy Spirit. At present, corruption yet remains even in the breast of the regenerate–experience soon teaches us this. Within us are still lusts and evil imaginations. But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which He has begun; and He shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ, but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. Can it be true that this poor sinful heart of mine is to become holy even as God is holy? Can if be that this spirit that often cries, “O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of this sin and death?”–shall get rid of my sin and death–that I shall have no evil things to vex my ears, and no unholy thoughts to disturb my peace? Oh happy hour! may it be hastened! When I cross the Jordan, the work of sanctification shall be finished; but not till that moment shall I claim perfection for myself. Then my spirit shall have its last baptism in the Holy Spirit’s fire. Methinks I long to die to receive that last and final purification which shall usher me into heaven. Not an angel more pure than I shall be, for I shall be able to say in a double sense, “I am clean” through Jesus’ blood and through the Spirit’s work. O how shall we extol the power of the Holy Ghost in thus making us fit to stand before our Father in heaven! Yet not the hope of perfection hereafter make us content with imperfection now. If it does this, our hope cannot be genuine; for a good hope is a purifying thing, even now. The work of grace must be abiding in us now, or it cannot be perfected then. Let us pray to be filled “with the Spirit” that we may bring forth increasingly the fruits of righteousness.
“…woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites…”
Hypocrites are like pictures of canvas, they show fairest at farthest. A hypocrite’s profession is in folio, but his sincerity in decimo-sexto, nothing in the world to speak of. A hypocrite is like the Sicilian Etna, flaming at the mouth when it has snow at the foot: their mouths talk hotly, but their feet walk coldly. The nightingale has a sweet voice, but a lean carcass; a voice and nothing else but a voice: and so have all hypocrites… Hypocrites labour to seem saints, not to be so; but the holy labour to be saints, more than to seem saints. The kite may fly aloft but her eye and mind is to the earth. She seems to be a gallant bird at her pitch, till she falls down upon a carrion. Oh how the pretentious zealot makes a show to honor Christ with his lofty profession, as if he were altogether a man of heaven: tarry but a little, throw the bait of glory in his way, and he will stoop to a carrion, and be taken with the pride of His own commendation. If you have an angel’s tongue and a devil’s heart, you are no better than a post in the crossway, that rots itself to direct others; or a torch that, having pleasured others with the light, goes out itself in smoke and stench.
“Feigned equity is double iniquity.”
“…and their conscience being weak is defiled…”
1 Cor. 8:7
Conscience, as an expression of the law or will and mind of God, is not now to be implicitly depended on. It is not infallible. What was true of its office in Eden, has been deranged and shattered by the fall. It now lies, as I have seen a sundial in the neglected garden of an old desolate ruin, thrown from its pedestal, prostrate on the ground, and covered by tall rank weeds…Conscience has often lent its sanction to the grossest errors, and prompted the greatest crimes. Did not Saul of tarsus, for instance, drag men and women to prison; compel them to blaspheme; and stain his hands in saintly blood, while conscience approved the deed–he believed that he was doing God’ service… Read the “Book of Martyrs”, read the sufferings of our own forefathers; and under the cowl of a shaven monk, or the trappings of a haughty churchman, you shall see conscience persecuting the saints of God, and dragging even tender women and children to the bloody scaffold or the burning stake. With eyes swimming in tears, or flashing fire, we close the painful record, to apply to conscience the words addressed to Liberty by the French heroine. When passing its statue, she rose in the cart that bore her tot he guillotine, and throwing up her arms, exclaimed, “O Liberty, what crimes have been done in thy name!” And what crimes in thine conscience. So far as doctrines and duties are concerned, not conscience, but the revealed Word of God, is our only sure and safe directory.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian…”
What will become of those that have grown weary before they got half way to heaven? Why, man, it is he that holds out to the end that must be saved. It is h that overcomes that shall inherit all things–not every one that begins. Agrippa gave a fair step for a sudden, he steps almost into the bosom of Christ in less than a half an hour. “thou”, said he to Paul, has “almost persuaded me to be a Christian.” Ah! but it was almost; and so he might as well have been never a whit. He stepped fair indeed, but yet he stepped short. he was hot while he was at it, but he was quickly out of wind. All this but almost! I tell you, this is but almost, it lost his soul. Sometimes I imagine how these poor wretches that get but almost to heaven, how fearful their almost, and their but almost, will torment them in hell. They shall carry it in the bitterness of their souls, saying: “I was almost a Christian. I almost got into the Kingdom. Almost out of the hands of the devil. Almost out of my sins. Almost from under the curse of God. Almost and that was all. Almost, but not altogether. O that I should be almost at heaven, and should not go quite through!” Friend, it is a sad thing to sit down before we are in heaven, and to grow weary before we come to the place of rest. If this should be your case, I am sure it is because you did not so run as to obtain.
–John Bunyan, from “The Heavenly Footman”
“I am the rose of Sharon.”
Whatever there may be of beauty in the material world, Jesus Christ possesses all that in the spiritual world to a tenfold degree. Amongst flowers the rose is deemed the sweetest but Jesus is infinitely more beautiful in the garden o the soul than a rose in the garden of the earth. He takes the first place in the fairest of ten thousand. He is the sun, and al others are the stars; the heavens and the day are dark in comparison with Him for the king in his beauty transcends all. “I am the rose of Sharon.” This was the best and rarest of roses. Jesus is not “the rose” alone, he is the “rose of Sharon” just as He calls His righteousness “gold” and then adds the “gold of Ophir.”–the best o the best. He is positively lovely and superlatively the loveliest. There is variety in His charms. The rose is delightful to the eye, and its scent is pleasant and refreshing; so each of the sense of the soul, whether it be the taste or hearing, the feeling or sight, or the spiritual smell, finds appropriate gratification in Jesus. Even the recollection of His love is sweet. Take the rose of Sharon and pull it leaf from leaf, and lay the leave in the jar of memory and you shall find each leaf fragment long afterwards filling the house with perfumes. Christ satisfies the highest taste of the most educated spirit to the very full. The greatest amateur in perfumes is quite satisfied with the rose; and when the soul has arrives at her highest pitch of true taste she shall still be content with Christ, nay, she shall be the better able to appreciate him. Heaven itself possesses nothing itself which transcends the rose of Sharon. What emblem can fully set forth its beauty? Human speech and earth-born things fail to tell of Him. Earth’s choicest charms commingled feebly picture his abounding preciousness. Blessed rose, bloom in my heart forever!
“God, even our own God.”
It is strange how little we make of the spiritual blessings which God gives us, but it is stranger still how little use we make of God Himself. Though he is “our own God” we apply ourselves but little to Him, and ask but little of Him. How seldom do we ask counsel at the hands of the Lord. How often do we go about our business without seeking His guidance! In our struggles how constantly do we strive to bear our burdens ourselves, instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us. This is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say “I am thine soul, come and make use of me as thou wilt; thou mayest freely come to my store, and the oftener the more welcome.” It is our own fault if we make not free with the riches of our God. Then since thou hast such a friend, and He invites thee, draw from Him daily. Never want while thou hast a God to go to; never fear or faint while thou hast God to help thee; go thy treasures and take whatever thou needest-there is all that thou can want. Learn the divine skills of making God all things to thee. He can supply thee with all, of better still, He can be to thee instead of all. Let me urge thee then to make use of thy God. Make use of Him in prayer. Go to Him often because is thy God. O wilt thou fail to use so great a privilege? Fly to Him, tell Him all thy wants. Use Him constantly by faith at all times. If some dark providence has beclouded thee, use thy God as a sun; if some strong enemy has beset thee, find in Jehovah a shield; for he is a sun and a shield to His people. If thou hast lost thy way in the mazes of life; use Him as a guide for he will direct thee. Whatever thou art and wherever thou art, remember that God is just what thou wantest, and just where thou wantest, and that he can do all thou wantest.
SUBJECT: The voice of the turtles
“The flowers appear on earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
Song of Songs 2:12
Sweet is the season of spring; the long and dreary winter helps us to appreciate its genial warmth, and its promise of summer enhances it present delights. After periods of depression of spirit, it is delightful to behold again the light of the Sun of Righteousness; then our slumbering graces rise from lethargy, like the crocus and the daffodil from their beds of earth; then is our heart made merry with delicious notes of gratitude, far more melodious than the warbling of birds–and the comforting assurance of peace, infinitely more delightful than the turtle’s note, is heard within the soul. Now is the time for the soul to seek communion with her beloved; now must she rise from her native sordidness, and come away from her old associations. If we do not hoist the sail when the breeze is favorable, we shall be blameworthy: times of refreshing ought not to pass over us unimproved. When Jesus Himself visits us in tenderness, and entreats us to arise, can we be so base to refuse His request? He has Himself risen that he may draw us after Him; He now by his Holy Spirit has revived us, that we may, in newness of life, ascend into the heavenlies, and hold communion with Himself. Let our winter state suffice us for coldness and indifference; when the Lord creates spring within, let our sap flow with vigor, and our branch blossom with high resolve. O Lord, if it be not spring time in my chilly heart, I pray Thee make it so, for I am heartily weary at living at a distance from Thee. Oh! the long and dreary winter, when wilt Thou bring it to an end? Come, Holy Spirit and renew my soul! quicken Thou me! restore me, and have mercy upon me! This very night I would earnestly implore the Lord to take pity upon His servant, and send me a happy revival of spiritual life!
“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.”
What is this terror? It may be the cry of fire, or the noise of thieves, or fancied appearances, or the shriek of sudden sickness or death. We live in the world of death and sorrow, we may therefore look for ills as well in the might-watches as beneath the glare of the broiling sun. Nor should this alarm us, for be the terror what it may, the promise is that the believer shall not be afraid. Why should he? Let us put it more closely, why should we? God our Father is here, and will be here all through the lonely hours; He is an almighty Watcher, a sleepless Guardian, a faithful Friend. Nothing can happen without His direction, for even hell itself is under His control. Darkness is not dark to Him. He has promised to be a wall of fire around His people–and who can break through such a barrier? Worldings may well be afraid, for they have an angry God above them, a guilty conscience within them, and a yawning hell beneath them; but we who rest in Jesus are saved from all these through rich mercy. If we give away to foolish fear we shall dishonor our profession, and lead others to doubt the reality of godliness. W ought to be afraid of being afraid, let we should vex the Holy Spirit with foolish distrust. Down, then, ye dismal forebodings and groundless apprehensions, God has not forgotten to be gracious, nor shut up His tender mercies; it may be night in the soul, but there need be no terror, for the God of love changes not. Children of light may walk in darkness, but they are therefore not cast away, nay, they are now enabled to prove their adoption by trusting in their heavenly Father as hypocrites cannot do.
Though the night be dark and dreary
Darkness cannot hide from Thee
Thou art He, who, never weary
Watchest where Thy people be.
–C.H. Spurgeon, Evening, April 22
“Him hath God exalted…”
Jesus, our lord, once crucified, dead and buried, now sits upon the throne of glory. The highest place that heaven affords is by His undisputed right. It is sweeter to remember that the exaltation of Christ in heaven is a representative exaltation. He is exalted at the father’s right hand, and though as Jehovah he has eminent glories, in which finite creatures cannot share, yet as the mediator, the honors which Jesus wears in heaven are the heritage of all the saints. It is delightful to reflect how close is Christ’s union with His people. We are actually one with Him; we are members of His body; and His exaltation is our exaltation. He will give us to sit upon His throne, even as he has overcome, and is set down with His Father on His throne; He has a crown, and He gives us a crown too; He has a throne, but he is not content in having a throne to himself, on His right hand there must be a queen, arrayed in “gold Ophir.” He cannot be glorified without His bride. Look up, believer, to Jesus now; let the eye of your faith behold Him with many crowns upon His head; and remember that you will one day be like Him, when you see Him as He is; you shall not be so great as he is, you shall not be so divine, but still you shall, in a measure, share the same honors and show forth the same happiness and the same dignity which He possesses. Be content to live unknown for a little while, and walk your weary way through the fields of poverty, or up the hills of affliction; for by-and-by you shall reign with Christ, for he has made us “kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign for ever and ever.” Oh! wonderful thought for children of God! We have Christ for our glorious representative in heaven’s courts now, and soon He will come to receive us to Himself, to be with Him there, to behold His glory and share in His joy.
—C.H. Spurgeon, April 22, morning, from “Morning and Evening”
SUBJECT: Present help
“A very present help…”
Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou ought to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all they grief? Has He not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except in the bosom of the Lord. Are thou burdened with this days sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood; use it saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy wickedness? He is thy strength, why not lean upon Him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness and thine own fears too; put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thy feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer and call upon thy Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor; but thou hast a “kinsman, a mighty man of wealth. What! Wilt thou not go to Him and ask Him to give thee of His abundance, when He has given thee this promise, that thou shall be joint heir with him, and has made over all that He is and all that He has to be thine? There is nothing that Christ dislikes more than when His people make a show-thing of Him, and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders the more precious he will be to us.
“Let us be simple with him, then
Not backward, stiff or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old.”
“I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world.”
It is a sweet and blessed event which will occur to all believers in God’s own time–the going home to be with Jesus. in a few more years the Lord’s soldiers, who are now fighting “the good fight of faith”, will have done with conflict, and have entered into the joy of the Lord. But although Christ prays that His people may eventually be with Him where He is, he does not ask that they may be taken at once away from this world to heaven. He wishes them to stay here. Yet how frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer, “O that I had wings like a dove! for then I would be able to fly away and be at rest.” but Christ does not pray like that, He leaves us in the Father’s hands, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall each other be gathered into our Master’s garner. Jesus does not plead for our instant removal by death, for to abide in the flesh in needful for others if not profitable for others. He asks that we may be kept from evil, but he never asks that we may be admitted into the inheritance in glory till we are full of age. Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they will tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Savior’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave Him to say when “it is enough.”
“But Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart.”
There was an exercise on the part of this blessed woman, of three powers of her being: her memory-she kept these things; her affections-she kept them in her heart; her intellect-she pondered them; so that memory, affection, and understanding, were all exercised about the things which she had heard. Beloved, remember what you have heard of your Lord Jesus, and what he has done for you; make your heart the golden pot of manna to preserve the memorial of the heavenly bread whereon you have fed on days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either felt, or known, or believed, and then let your fond affections hold Him fast for evermore. Love the person of your Lord! Bring forth the alabaster box of your heart, even though it be broken, and let all the precious ointment of your affection come streaming on His pierced feet. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Meditate upon what you read: stop not on the surface; dive into the depths. Be not as the swallow which toucheth the brook with her wing, but as a fish which penetrates the lowest wave. Abide with your Lord: let Him not be to you as a wayfaring man, that tarrieth for a night, but constrain Him saying, “Abide with us, for the day is far spent.” Hold Him, and do not let Him go. The word “ponder” means to weigh. Make ready the balances of judgment. Oh, but where are the scales that can weigh the Lord Christ? “He taketh up the isles as a very little thing”–who shall take Him up? “He weigheth the mountains in scales”–in what scales shall we weigh Him? be it so, if your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend; and if your spirit cannot compass the Lord Jesus in the grasp of understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of affection.
—C.H. Spurgeon, “Morning and Evening”, p. 55
“Brethren, pray for us.”
1 Thess. 5:25
This one morning in the year we reserved to refresh the reader’s memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do not most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle and now repeated by us. Brethren, our work is solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at last we be found clear of the blood of all men. As officers in Christ’s army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labor to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt, above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are at a non plus; we observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded; we see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blest to your children; we long to be useful to both saints and sinners; therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God. Miserable men are we if we miss the aid of your prayers, but happy are we if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers; ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city missionaries, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you “BRETHREN, PRAY FOR US.”
“They weave the spider’s web.”
See the spider’s web, and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite’s religion. It is meant to catch his prey: the spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has him reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot escape. Philip baptized Simon Magnus, whose guileful declaration of faith was so soon exploded by the stern rebuke of Peter. Custom, reputation, praise, advancement, and other flies, are the small game which the hypocrite takes into his nets. A spider’s web is a marvel of skill: look at it and admire the cunning hunter’s wiles. Is not a deceiver’s religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth? How can he make his tinsel answer so well the purpose of gold? A spider’s web comes all from the creature’s own bowels. The bee gathers wax from her flowers, the spider sucks no flowers, and yet she spins out her material to any length. Even so hypocrites find their trust and hope within themselves; their anchor was forged on their own anvil, and their cable twisted by their own hands. they lay their foundation, and hew out the pillars of their own house, disdaining to be debtors to the sovereign grace of God. But a spider’s web is very frail. It is curiously wrought, but not enduringly manufactured. It is no match for the servant’s broom, or the traveler’s staff. The hypocrite needs no battery of Armstrongs to blow his hope to pieces, a mere puff of wind will do it. Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the besom of destruction begins it purifying work. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz., that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord’s house. He will see to it that they and those who spin them shall be destroyed forever. O my soul, be thou resting on something better than a spider’s web. Be thou Lord Jesus thine eternal hiding-place. –C.H. Spurgeon
SUBJECT: The Right Approach to Election
“Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”
2 Peter 1:10
Some are in trouble because they proceed by a false method and order in judging their estates. They begin with election, which is the highest step of the ladder; whereas they should begin from a work of grace wrought in their hearts, from God’s calling by His Spirit, and their answer to His call, and then raise themselves upward to know their election by their answer to God’s calling. “Give diligence” says Peter, “to make your calling and election sure.” your election by your calling. God descends to us from election to calling, and so to sanctification. We must ascend to Him beginning where He ends. Otherwise it is a great folly as in removing a pile of wood, to begin at the lower first, and so, besides the needless trouble, to be in danger to have the rest to fall upon our heads.
You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion, and then never doubt your election.
SUBJECT: Holy Zeal
Zeal has been little practiced, less studied. Zeal is everywhere spoken against; it has many enemies and few friends. The world can no more abide it, than beasts can the elementary fire…He is a zealot whose affections are passionately disposed; his love is ever fervent, his desires eager, his delights ravishing, his hatred deadly, and his grief deep. This being the nature of zeal in general, Christian zeal differs from carnal worldly chiefly in its causes and objects. It is a spiritual heat wrought in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, improving the good affections of love, joy, etc., for the furtherance of God’s glory, His word, His house, His saints, and salvation of souls; directing the contrary of hatred, anger grief, etc., towards God’s enemies, the devil, his angels, sin, the world, with the lusts thereof. A zealot, like David has zeal in every affection (Psalm 119). Love-“How I love thy law.” Hatred-“Thine enemies I hate…with a perfect hatred.” Joy-“Thy testimonies…are my delight.” Grief-“Rivers of waters run down my eyes, because they kept not thy law.” The fervency of the true zealot is in the spirit, not in show; for God, not himself; guided by the Word, not by His humors; such a man’s worth cannot be set forth with the tongues of men and angels.
—Samuel Ward, A Plea for Zeal, vol. 1 p.15
SUBJECT: The Devil’s Expertise
“…for we are not ignorant of his devices”
2 Cor. 2:11
The world is Satan’s bait. He seldom throws out a naked hook. Let murder, fraud, lying, or idolatry be presented in their undisguised turpitude, and only a few people of good education and correct morals will be taken in by him. But he conceals the hook in a godly bait, and like a skillful angler, he knows how to use the temptation best suited to our palate….For one he has a golden bait; for another, pleasure,; for a third, worldly fame and honors. And this line is thrown out everywhere–in our place of business, in our families, in our studies, at our tables, and on our pillows.
—Arthur Jackson, A Homiletic Encyclopedia, p. 4680
“The devil hath an apple for Eve, a grape for Noah, a change of raiment for Gehazi, a bag for Judas. He can dish out his meat for all palates.”
SUBJECT: Are there Grades of sin?
“…he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin…”
Some sins, in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others…The Stoic philosophers held all sins were equal; but some are greater than others; some are “mighty sins”, and “crying sins”. Every sin has a voice to speak, but some sins cry. As some diseases are worse than others, and some poisons more venomous, so some sins are more heinous. “Ye have done worse than your fathers,” your sins have exceeded theirs (Jer. 16:12)… 1. There was a difference in the offerings under the law; the sin offering was greater than the trespass offering. 2. Some sins are not capable of pardon as others are, therefore they must needs be more heinous, as the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31). 3. Some sins have a greater degree of punishment than others. “Ye shall receive greater damnation…” (Matthew 23:14) God would not punish one more than the other if one was not greater. —Thomas Watson SUBJECT: The Battle of Short Duration “…to him that overcometh…” (Rev. 2:7) Let this encourage you, O Christian, in your conflict with Satan: the skirmish may be sharp, but it cannot be long. Let him tempt you, let his wicked agents trounce you, it is only for a little while, and you shall be rid of both of them. The cloud while it drops rain is passing over you, and then comes fair weather and eternal sunshine of glory. Can’t you watch with Christ a couple of hours? And keep the field a few days? If you give up, you are finished forever. Persevere, and when the battle is over your enemy shall never rally again. Ask faith to look through the keyhole of promise, and tell you what it sees laid up for him that overcomes. Ask it to listen and tell you whether it can hear the shouts of the crowned saints, just as if they were dividing the spoils and receiving rewards for all their services and sufferings. Those sufferings and temptations that come to you are like a little splash of water coming between you and glory.
—William Gurnall, A Homiletic Encyclopedia, Page 4795
“If thou hast fallen into sin through violent temptations, seek speedily for repentance for it, recovery out of it, and reformation from it.”
SUBJECT: A Frowning Providence
“…wait for the promise of the Father…”
The providences of God are sometimes dark, and our eyes dim, and we can hardly tell what to make of them. But when we cannot unriddle providence, believe that it will work together for the good of the elect. (Rom. 8:28) God is to be trusted when His providences seem to run contrary to His promises. God promised David to give him a the crown, to make him king; but providence runs contrary to His promise. David was pursued by Saul, in danger of his life; but all this while it was David’s duty to trust God. The Lord does, oftentimes, by cross providence, bring to pass His promises. God promised Paul all the lives that were with him in the ship; but now the providence of God seems to run quite contrary to His promise. The winds blow, the ship splits and breaks into pieces; and thus God fulfilled His promise. Upon the broken pieces of the ship, they all come safe to shore. Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to His promises.
—Thomas Watson, A Homiletic Encyclopedia, Pages 4051-3
A word of caution: For the most part we live upon successes, not promises:—unless we see and feel the print of victories, we will not believe.
SUBJECT: Can I be sure?
“The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
If it be demanded on how a believer may be assured that the Spirit does certainly witness with our spirits; I answer: he may be assured by two things: 1) First, by that special distinguishing light that accompanies the testimony of the Spirit, which manifests itself so as to overcome all doubts and disputes both about our spiritual estate and about this testimony itself. Just as the light of the sun does not only discover other things and reveal them; but manifests itself by its self-evidencing property, which is bale to convince every beholder. 2) Secondly, by the harmony and agreement that is between the testimony of the Spirit of God and our spirits; just as we know the testimony of our spirits to be certain and true by its agreement wit the Word. Except all three agree in one, there can be no certainty; but a believer’s assurance is always confirmed by the concurring testimony of three things: 1) the word, 2) the conscience, 3) and of the Spirit–all witnessing one and the same thing: 1) the sure word of God lays down certain signs and marks of true grace, and witnesses these signs to be good evidences. 2) Then conscience, or our own spirit, witnesses that these signs are sound in a believer. 3) Then God super-adds the witness of His own Spirit, which enables us yet more fully to know the things which are freely given us of God. And now what doubts can remain?
—Richard Fairclough, Puritan Sermons, Vol. 6, pp404-405
“Let the saints know that unless the devil can pluck Christ out of heaven, he cannot pull a true believer out of Christ.”