• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Dependence On Spiritual Truth

There is more to enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit than feeling tingles run up and down your spine. The Spirit teaches those who desire to learn the very thoughts of God in the Scriptures. The Word of God guides and changes us. Dr. John Kennedy explains:

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” (Psalm 25:14)

Let all beware of an unlawful employment of the Word of God, as well as of entire ignorance of its sweetness and its power. There are those who find it easy to appropriate for themselves without misgiving the precious promises of the Word, not caring to ascertain their right to them in Christ, to be rightly informed of the mind of God as expressed in them, or to be strengthened to take hold of the truth and power and grace of Him who gave them at His footstool. There are others who lay themselves open to the suggestion of “a word” as they crave encouragement or direction; and who, if a Scripture saying which seems seasonable comes abruptly into their mind, conclude, because of its suitableness and suddenness, that it is a message to them from heaven. These care not whether their application of it accords with the scope of the passage in which it occurs; they realize not His authority who’s Word it is; and they demonstrate no experience of its sanctifying power. It is convenient for them to get it, and it seems to them safe to take it, and this is all about which they care.

There are others still who have settled down in the conviction that a speculative acquaintance with what is written is all that it is wise to seek. Utter strangers to the seasonable suggestion of the truth by the Lord, blind to the wonders of grace which the world unfolds, without any exercise of appropriating faith in Christ whom it reveals, and destitute of all experience of its power to kill or to quicken, to wound or to heal, to cast down or to raise up, to burn as a fire or to break as a hammer – these go on at their ease, without joy in the communion, or profit from the Word of the Lord.

But let it be ours to be dependent on the gracious and effectual teaching of the Spirit of truth, under whose guidance even fools can be kept from wandering, and who can make it impossible that even they can be deceived. Let us not think that, amidst the multiform delusion which prevaileth, there is no genuineness and no security. . . . Let us not be content with what is barely necessary to salvation in our intercourse with God. From unholy aspirations after being like the Christian in some of his attainments, without being like him in his character, may the Lord deliver us. May we be kept athirst for communion with the Lord, and seeking grace to prepare us to enjoy it. Let His Word be precious to us, and may we be wise to use it for the ends for which it is given. Let us aspire after clearer views of its wonders, a simpler faith in its truth, a more ravishing sense of its sweetness, and a deeper experience of its power. And thus may we be guided by its light, molded by its form, fed by its manna, and cheered by its comforts, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts; till perfect likeness to Christ is attained; till the land of promise and of plenty is reached, and the fullness of pleasures enjoyed, at the right hand of God. (“The Secret of the Lord”)

J. C. Ryle On The Corruption Of Truth

Quoting J. C. Ryle

“Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated, can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies.”

Christianity And Freedom

Quoting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country. (Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).)

An Introduction To Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was an American puritan theologian and philosopher. He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Timothy Edwards, pastor of East Windsor. Jonathan was the only son in a family of eleven children. He entered Yale in September, 1716 before his 13th birthday and graduated four years later as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later.

In 1727 he was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a student minister, not a visiting pastor, his rule being thirteen hours of study a day. In the same year, he married Sarah Pierpont, then age seventeen, daughter of James Pierpont, a founder of Yale. In total, Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children.

Solomon Stoddard died on February 11th, 1729, leaving his grandson in charge of one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony. Throughout his time in Northampton his preaching brought remarkable religious revivals. Jonathan Edwards was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.

When Jonathan Edwards preached, his expressionless face, and sober clothing were quickly forgotten. His was a devoted heart intent on rightly dividing the word of truth. His method was scholarship on fire for God. Edwards’ tongue must have been like a sharp two-edged sword to his attentive hearers. His words must have been as painful to their hearts and consciences. Nevertheless, men gave heed, repented, and were saved. Before Edwards’ spiritual hurricane, the crowd collapsed. Some fell to the earth as if pole-axed. Others, with heads bowed, clung onto the posts of the temple as if afraid of falling into the nethermost depths of hell.

Edwards, however, would not continue his grandfather’s practice of open communion. Stoddard, his grandfather, believed that communion was a “converting ordinance.” Edwards became convinced that this practice was harmful and his public disagreement with the idea caused his dismissal in 1750.

Edwards then moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a frontier settlement, where he ministered to a small congregation and served as missionary to the Housatonic Indians. There, having more time for study and writing, he completed his celebrated work, The Freedom of the Will (1754).

Edwards was elected president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in early 1758. He was a popular choice, for he had been a friend of the College since its inception and was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time. On March 22, 1758, he died of fever at the age of fifty-four following an experimental inoculation for smallpox and was buried in the President’s Lot in the Princeton cemetery beside his son-in-law, Aaron Burr.

We see today a thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, which keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edward!

Research source and more information on Jonathan Edwards may be found here. . . .

Dorothy Sayers On Deserting Doctrines

Dorthy Sayers

It is my pleasure, if you are not familiar with her already, to introduce you to Dorothy L. Sayers. Sayers is the author of some of my favorite fictional crime novels. In particular, I recommend for your reading pleasure her “Lord Peter Wimsey” series. Dorothy Sayers also became a Christian and a very articulate Christian thinker and apologist. Below, you will find an excerpt from one of her talks:

And when he is come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)

It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ. If you think I am exaggerating, ask the Army chaplains. Apart from a possible one per cent of intelligent and instructed Christians, there are three kinds of people we have to deal with.

There are the frank and open heathen, whose notions of Christianity are a dreadful jumble of rags and tags of Bible anecdote and clotted mythological nonsense. There are the ignorant Christians, who combine a mild gentle-Jesus sentimentality with vaguely humanistic ethics—most of these are Arian heretics. Finally, there are the more or less instructed church-goers, who know all the arguments about divorce and auricular confession and communion in two kinds, but are about as well equipped to do battle on fundamentals against a Marxian atheist or a Wellsian agnostic as a boy with a pea-shooter facing a fan-fire of machine guns. Theologically, this country is at present in a state of utter chaos, established in the name of religious toleration, and rapidly degenerating into the flight from reason and the death of hope. We are not happy in this condition and there are signs of a very great eagerness, especially among the younger people, to find a creed to which they can give whole-hearted adherence.

This is the Church’s opportunity, if she chooses to take it. So far as the people’s readiness to listen goes; she has not been in so strong a position for at least two centuries. The rival philosophies of humanism, enlightened self-interest, and mechanical progress have broken down badly; the antagonism of science has proved to be far more apparent than real, and the happy-go-lucky doctrine of “laissez-faire” is completely discredited. But no good whatever will be done by a retreat into personal piety or by mere exhortation to a “recall to prayer.” The thing that is in danger is the whole structure of society, and it is necessary to persuade thinking men and women of the vital and intimate connection between the structure of society and the theological doctrines of Christianity.

The task is not made easier by the obstinate refusal of a great body of nominal Christians, both lay and clerical, to face the theological question. “Take away theology and give us some nice religion” has been a popular slogan for so long that we are apt to accept it, without inquiring whether religion without theology has any meaning. And however unpopular I may make myself I shall and will affirm that the reason why the Churches are discredited to-day is not that they are too bigoted about theology, but that they have run away from theology.

Are Your Material Comforts Leading You Away From God?

Quoting John Flavel:

Whatsoever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to be rid of our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately upon them.

Pray For Your Children’s Salvation

Parents have a significant responsibility to pray for their children. You must never neglect this duty as a parent. You must particularly pray for their early conversion which is pointed out by William Scribner below:

You should pray for your children’s conversion because:

1. Their salvation is so great a prize that it is worth all the pains which your prayer to secure it for them may cost you. . . .

2. Few will pray for them if you do not.

Though we are commanded to intercede for all men (1 Tim. 2:1), few engage in this duty as they should. . . .

3. No one else can pray for them as you do.

The genuine love you have for your children, the tenderness you feel for them and your knowledge of their make-up, needs and problems, qualify you to plead with God on their behalf with an urgency and earnestness which can take no refusal. . . .

4. Your omitting to do so will be perilous to them and to you.

God notes our attempts to fulfill our parental obligations. It is not to unfaithful, prayerless parents that his exceeding great and precious promises are addressed:

“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Ps. 103:17-18)

5. You will then find it easier to perform other parental duties on the performance of which God has conditioned their salvation.

God commended Abraham for being one who would fulfill his parental duties (Gen. 18:18-19):

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:6-7)

6. Prayer alone can call into exercise that divine power in their behalf, which is absolutely necessary in order that the prayers which you may employ for their salvation may not be used in vain. . . .

7. By their salvation, granted in answer to your prayers, your Savior will be glorified. . . .

8. You have a strong encouragement and incentive to do so in the explicit promise of God that, if you are faithful to your trust, He will be their God.

Because God loves his own people with a love which passes knowledge, they cannot earnestly plead for such a thing as the salvation of their children without having power with him. In addition to this, his love for them causes Him to have tenderness for their children. They also are beloved by Him and are dear to Him for their parents’ sake.

The Cure For Spiritual Blindness

Think about comparing your heart to a dirty room that’s been shut up for years. Inside this room, there has been no light. Now inside the room there is dirt, dust, and cobwebs everywhere. Suddenly, someone comes in and turns a light on. The spiders and roaches run to hide. The cobwebs, dirt, and dust are now visible and it is evident that the room must be cleaned out. The human heart is in a similar condition. Our own dirty, rotten, fallen natures cannot be seen until the light of the Gospel shines in. Maurice Roberts explains:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

[G]od says: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” Now there are two kinds of blindness. One is blindness of the body and the other is blindness of the soul, spiritual blindness we call it. Now if you have blindness of the body you may not be to blame for that. I mean if you’re born blind you’re not to blame for that – it’s not your fault if you’re born blind, that’s just God’s sovereign will and nobody’s to be blamed for being born blind. But if you’re spiritually blind you are to blame for it, and sadly that’s the condition in which we’re all born. We’re all born spiritually blind. We’re all ignorant of God by nature, all ignorant of how to get to heaven by nature. Let me prove it.

Three great questions people never want to ask. Where do they come from? They don’t know – maybe ape men or some big explosion or great bang or… they don’t know, they don’t know how they came and they don’t want to enquire really. That’s the first question. The second question is: what’s life all about? Is it just getting dead drunk on a Friday night? Is that what life’s all about? They don’t know. You ask them. You ask people round about you in the street, “Why are we living in this world? What’s the point of it all?” They don’t know but they just found themselves here, like a spider that dropped from the ceiling, they don’t know why they’re here. The Bible says we’re here to glorify God. We’re here to prepare for death and eternity. Because the third great question is: where are we going? And if we don’t know the way of eternal life and the way of the gospel then we’re going to outer darkness forever.

So that’s what God means when he says, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” People don’t know how to get to heaven, so, because they’re spiritually blind, God tells them, “I’m going to show them.” And the way he shows them is with this book, the Bible, the gospel, the truth concerning Christ. He’s showing us here in this inspired and infallible and blessed book how we can be saved. . . .

Years and years ago there was a very clever man called Hone, that’s his surname, Mr. Hone – a very clever man – and not a Christian, and no interest in the Bible, no interest in Christ, no interest in heaven or anything like that. He was an unbeliever, a very hard man. And this is what happened to him. One day he was walking along down a street – I think it was somewhere in the south of England, or the Midlands – and he saw a cottage, a little house, and outside the cottage was sitting a little girl. What was she doing? She was reading the Bible. And his lips curled up in scorn. So he decided he would have a little conversation with this girl reading her Bible. So he said to her, “What are you doing?” “Please sir, she said, I’m reading the Bible.” “And what would you be doing that for?” he said with scorn. And she said something like this: “Sir, because my dear mother is a believer and she gets a lot of help from this book, sir, and I love reading it too, with the sunshine, coming down and sitting in the sun, I love reading this book. It’s God’s book, sir,” she said. And this man Hone was taken aback. He’d never heard anyone talk about loving the Bible, and he thought about it. And he came out of his darkness to become a believer – very famous story that – through a little girl. And you see, that’s what God does. He brings the blind, the spiritually blind, by a way that they never knew. They come to understand the secret of God, the secret of the gospel. We don’t know it by nature. Oh you can go to university and get first degrees, second degrees, third degrees, you can get a hundred degrees, but that won’t necessarily save you. Oh yes, education’s a good thing up to a point, but more important than education is to be saved, to know God, to be sure that you have God. So it’s in the Bible we get this light. This book is God’s light in man’s darkness. But it has to be more than just reading the Bible. It has to be God giving us light on it. You see, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” And this light has to shine in our hearts, and that’s the light of the Holy Spirit.

Charles Spurgeon: People Have Not Changed All That Much!

Charles H. Spurgeon

There is not much difference in our times to the times of Haggai. God’s message to His people often has to be repeated over the years. The Lord always provides a timely word in a present crisis. So, like the people of Haggai’s time, we put ourselves first as Charles H. Spurgeon points out in the following excerpt:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubabbel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remains among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

Satan is always doing his utmost to stay the work of God. He hindered these Jews from building the temple; and to-day he endeavors to hinder the people of God from spreading the gospel. A spiritual temple is to be built for the Most High, and if by any means the evil one can delay its uprising he will stick at nothing: if he can take us off from working with faith and courage for the glory of God he will be sure to do it. He is very cunning, and knows how to change his argument and yet keep to his design: little cares he how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God. In the case of the Jewish people on their return from captivity he sought to prevent the building of the temple by making them selfish and worldly, so that every many was eager to build his own house, and cared nothing for the house of the Lord. Each family pleaded its own urgent needs. In returning to a long-deserted and neglected land, much had to be done to make up for lost time; and to provide suitably for itself every family needed all its exertions. They carried this thrift and self-providing to a great extreme, and secured for themselves luxuries, while the foundations of the temple which had been laid years before remained as they were, or became still more thickly covered up with rubbish. The people could not be made to bestir themselves to build a house of God, for they answered to every exhortation, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” A more convenient season was always looming in the future, but it never came. Just now it was too hot, further it was too cold; at one time the wet season was just setting in, and it was of no use to begin, and soon the fair weather required that they should be in their own fields. Like some in our day, they saw to themselves first, and God’s turn was very long in coming; hence the prophet cried, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”

By the mouth of His servant Haggai stern rebukes were uttered, and the whole people were aroused. We read in verse twelve of the first chapter, “Then Zerubabbel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord.” All hands were put to the work; course after course of stone began to rise. . . . (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

Arthur Pink On Adversities

Arthur W. Pink

Quoting Arthur W. Pink:

For a Christian to defy adversities is to “despise” chastisement. Instead of hardening himself to endure stoically, there should be a melting of the heart.

How Shall We Be Cured Of The Love Of Sin?

Robert Murray McCheyne

Robert Murray McCheyne was born in Edinburgh, 21 May 1813. At the age of four he knew the characters of the Greek alphabet, and was able to sing and recite fluently. He was licensed as a preacher by the Annan presbytery on 1 July 1835. His health, which had never been robust, broke down under the strain of his new office; but his fame as a preacher spread through Scotland, and on 24 November 1836 he was ordained to the pastorate of St. Peter’s Church, Dundee. The congregation numbered eleven hundred hearers, and McCheyne addressed himself to the work of the ministry with so much ardor that his health again gave way, and in December 1838 he was compelled to desist from all public duty. By the end of 1839 McCheyne resumed his ministerial duties in Dundee with renewed energy. In the autumn of 1842 he visited the north of England on an evangelical mission, and made similar journeys to London and Aberdeenshire. On his return from the latter place he was seized with sudden illness, and died on Saturday, 25 March 1843. In the article below, McCheyne helps us to understand how we might cast sin aside:

The love of Christ to man constrains the believer to live a holy life, because that truth takes away all his dread and hatred of God. Now I am quite sure that many of you may hear this charge against the natural man with incredulous indifference, if not with indignation. You do not feel that you hate God, or dread his presence; and therefore you say it cannot be true. But when God says of your heart that it is “desperately wicked”; when god claims for Himself the privilege of knowing and trying the heart, is it not presumptuous in such ignorant beings as we are to say that that is not true with respect to our hearts, which God affirms to be true, merely because we are not conscious of it? God says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”, that the very grain and substance of an unconverted mind is hatred against god, absolute, implacable hatred against Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It is quite true that we do not feel this hatred within us; but that is only an aggravation of our sin and of our danger. We have so choked up the avenues of self-examination, there are so many turnings and windings before we can arrive at the true motives of our actions, that our dread and hatred of God, which first moved man to sin, and which are still the grand impelling forces whereby Satan goads on the children of disobedience; these are wholly concealed from our eyes, and you cannot persuade a natural man that they are really there. But the Bible testifies that out of these two deadly roots – dread of God and hatred of God – grows up the thick forest of sins with which the earth is blackened and overspread. . . .

If, then, dread of God, and hatred of God, be the cause of all our sins, how shall we be cured of the love of sin, but by taking away the cause? How do you most effectually kill the noxious weed? Is it not by striking at the root? In the love of Christ to man then – in that strange, unspeakable gift of God, when He laid down His life for His enemies, when He died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God – do you not see an object which, if really believed by the sinner, takes away all his dread and all his hatred of God? The root of sin is severed from the stock. In His bearing double for all our sins, we see the curse carried away, we see God reconciled. Why should we fear any more? Not fearing, why should we hate God any more? Not hating God, what desirableness can we see in sin any more? Putting on the righteousness of Christ, we are again placed as Adam was, with God as our friend. We have no object in sinning; and, therefore, we do not care to sin. . . .

[I]t is indeed too true that believers do sin; but it is just as true that unbelief is the cause of their sinning. If you and I were to live with our eye so closely on Christ bearing double for all our sins, freely offering to all a double righteousness for all our sins; and if this constant view of the love of Christ maintained within us, as assuredly it would if we looked with a straightforward eye, the peace of God which passes all understanding – the peace that rests on nothing in us, but upon the completeness that is in Christ – then I do say that, frail and helpless as we are, we should never sin; we should not have the slightest object in sinning. But this is not the way with us. How often in the day is the love of Christ quite out of view! How often is it obscured to us! Sometimes hid from us by God Himself, to teach us what we are. How often are we left without the realizing sense of the completeness of His offering, the perfectness of His righteousness, and without the will or confidence to claim an interest in Him . . . .?

The matter is very plain, if only we had spiritual eyes to see it. If we live a life of faith on the Son of God, then we shall assuredly live a life of holiness. I do not say we ought to do so; but I say, we shall, as a matter of necessary consequence. But in as far as we do not live a life of faith, in so far we shall live a life of unholiness. It is through faith that God purifies the heart; and there is no other way.

Relativism And Moral Truth

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”

Ideas Have Consequences!

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:36-38)

Ideas have consequences. If you accept relativism as a moral code, then you really can have no system of morality. The philosophy of relativism demands that every man has the right to do what he defines as right for himself. This world view believes everything is permissible and nothing is impermissible. The Old Testament tells us there were times like this in ancient Israel: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21, 25). This text defines moral relativism: right and wrong is what you choose it to be; morality comes from within you.

If there is no absolute standard of right or wrong then there is no concept of guilt. This is why relativism is so popular today. If there is guilt, then there is responsibility. Guilt implies an absolute standard of right and wrong. This is what the culture today is seeking to avoid.

The very people in our culture who hold to this position, however, still try to hold on to morality for self-protection. They even want other people to be accountable for their actions. If nothing is absolutely true or right, if nothing is absolutely wrong, how can anything be condemned? Therefore, if relativism prevails, morality dies. If there is nothing true beyond what you will to be, there is no objective right or wrong to provide a moral compass for your life. Some people look at this belief as something that frees them from the law of the Bible. In reality, however, it locks them in a dark prison of opposing truths which lead to insanity. Without God’s absolute objective truth to hang on to, all is lost.

Relativism kills meaning and with it, motivation. Why? It is because there can be no real meaning in anything you do. This, in turn, leads to the addiction of escapism in order to avoid reality. We find escapism in things like alcoholism and drugs.

People do not have anything to live for. Their lives are filled with emptiness, anguish and despair. There is no point to this life, so why live? The philosophy of relativism is destroying our culture and, as Christians, we need to understand it and oppose it.

Triumph Over Temptation

George Whitefield

Quoting George Whitefield:

The riches of His free grace cause me daily to triumph over all the temptations of the wicked one, who is very vigilant, and seeks all occasions to disturb me.

Let Us Not Labor In Vain!

Benjamin Franklin

Quoting Benjamin Franklin (Signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence):

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service. (Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

J. C. Ryle: He Only Lives Who Lives To God

Bishop J. C. Ryle

If you have not already figured this out for yourself, “Time is short, and life uncertain!” I pray that none of you should die in your sins, unprepared, impenitent and unchanged. Sometimes the preacher or teacher of the Gospel must speak to you strongly with words you don’t want to hear. Such ministers must not speak lightly and say smooth things. The man of God will not cry “Peace, peace,” when life, death and eternity are at stake. This same issue is addressed below by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

We may not like this perhaps. We may shut our eyes both to facts in the world, and texts in the Word. But God’s truth must be spoken, and to keep it back does positive harm. Truth must be spoken, however condemning it may be. So long as a man does not serve God with body, soul, and spirit, he is not really alive. So long as he puts the first things last and the last first, buries his talent like an unprofitable servant, and brings the Lord no revenue of honor, so long in God’s sight he is dead. He is not filling the place in creation for which he was intended; he is not using his powers and faculties as God meant them to be used. The poet’s words are strictly true—

“He only lives, who lives to God,

And all are dead beside.”

This is the true explanation of sin not felt, and sermons not believed—and good advice not followed—and the Gospel not embraced—and the world not forsaken—and the cross not taken up—and self-will not mortified—and evil habits not laid aside—and the Bible seldom read—and the knee never bent in prayer. Why is all this on every side. The answer is simple—Men are dead!

This is the true account of that army of excuses, which so many make “with one consent.” Some have no learning, and some have no time. Some are consumed with business and the care of money, and some with poverty. Some have difficulties in their own families, and some in their own health. Some have peculiar obstacles in their calling, which others, we are told, cannot understand; and others have peculiar drawbacks at home, and they wait to have them removed. But God has a shorter word in the Bible, which describes all these people at once. He says, “They are dead.” If spiritual life began in these people’s hearts, their excuses would soon vanish away.

This is the true explanation of many things which wring a faithful minister’s heart. Many around him never attend a place of worship at all. Many attend so irregularly, that it is clear they think it of no importance. Many attend once on a Sunday who might just as easily attend twice. Many never come to the Lord’s Table—and never appear at a weekday means of grace of any kind. And why is all this? Often, far too often, there can be only one reply about these people—they are dead.

See now how all professing Christians should examine themselves and try their own state. It is not in churchyards alone where the dead are to be found; there are only too many inside our churches, and close to our pulpits—too many on the benches, and too many in the pews. The land is like the valley in Ezekiel’s vision, “full of bones, very many, and very dry.” (Ezek. 37:2) There are dead souls in all our parishes, and dead souls in all our streets. There is hardly a family in which all live to God; there is hardly a house in which there is not someone dead. Oh, let us all search and look at home! Let us prove our own selves. Are we alive or dead?

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