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  • 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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The Nature of Love

Martyn Lloyd-JonesD. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Now this is the very nature of love. It must express itself; it is always active; and if our love does not do that, I say it is not true love. You see, the real trouble with the person who is seated there in the study reading beautiful poems or books about love and who feels that he is controlled by it and that he is a fine Christian is this: What is really happening to that person is that he is simply in love with himself, because he appreciates these elevating thoughts. He is loving himself because he thinks he is in love. He has turned in upon himself, and that is the very antithesis to love; love does not look at itself – it is absorbed in the object of its love.

R. L. Dabney on Preaching

R. L. DabneyR. L. Dabney (1820-1898):

The preacher is a herald; his work is heralding the King’s message. . . . Now the herald does not invent his message; he merely transmits and explains it. It is not his to criticize its wisdom or fitness; this belongs to his sovereign alone. On the one hand, . . . he is an intelligent medium of communication with the king’s enemies; he has brains as well as a tongue; and he is expected so to deliver and explain his master’s mind, that the other party shall receive not only the mechanical sounds, but the true meaning of the message. On the other hand, it wholly transcends his office to presume to correct the tenor of the propositions he conveys, by either additions or change. These are the words of God’s commission to an ancient preacher: “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”

The preacher’s task may be correctly explained as that of (instrumentally) forming the image of Christ upon the souls of men. The plastic substance is the human heart. The die which is provided for the workman is the revealed Word; and the impression to be formed is the divine image of knowledge and true holiness. God, who made the soul, and therefore knows it, made the die. He obviously knew best how to shape it, in order to produce the imprint he desired. Now the workman’s business is not to criticize, recarve, or erase anything in the die which was committed to him; but simply to press it down faithfully upon the substance to be impressed, observing the conditions of the work assigned him in his instructions. In this view, how plain is it, that preaching should be simply representative of Bible truths, and in Bible proportions! The preacher’s business is to take what is given him in the Scriptures, as it is given to him, and to endeavor to imprint it on the souls of men. All else is God’s work. The die is just such, so large, so sharp, so hard, and has just such an “image and superscription” on it, as God would have. Thus, He judged, in giving it to us. With this, “the man of God is perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:17) This is enough for us. (Evangelical Eloquence: A Course of Lectures on Preaching [Banner of Truth, 1999] originally published as Sacred Rhetoric, 1870)

Austin Phelps On Holiness And Solitude With God

Austin Phelps

From the writings of Austin Phelps:

It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God. (The Still Hour or Communion with God, 1974, p. 64, Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)

The 1801 Revival At Cane Ridge

In 1801, Barton Warren Stone, pastor of Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church, began circulating the word that the Cane Ridge sacramental communion was to be “one of the greatest meetings of its kind ever known.” As the news spread, congregations and pastors packed up for journeys from not only Central Kentucky but also southern Ohio and northern Tennessee.

The Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church sat on the slopes of a large hill covered with bamboo (hence the name) and some trees. It was a rustic meeting-house which could hold as many as 500 people (standing). Recently, the congregation had also erected a large tent to accommodate more people.

Scottish and Ulster Presbyterians had held these types of regional communion services back in their old countries for centuries. In times of persecution, they had thrived in rural settings. Sacramental communion services in the months preceding the early August gathering at Cane Ridge had attracted thousands of people.

Pastor Stone had previously shared with the Cane Ridge Congregation his own experiences of what he had seen take place at the previous meetings elsewhere. He told them of many people falling down, like rows of soldiers shot down by volley fire. Many lay quiet for hours and then spoke declaring the wonderful works of God.” As Stone spoke to his congregation they were affected with a deep solemnity and many wept. After the great meeting yet to come, Pastor Stone would say, “A particular description of this meeting would fill a large volume, and then the half would not be told.”

When August 6 arrived, no one had anticipated what was coming. The atmosphere was electric. As travelers began to arrive, there was a downpour of rain. Cane Ridge families opened their homes to the travelers. The visitors, however, grew from hundreds into thousands. Many had to find lodging miles away, but many had come ready to camp. The rain continued into the evening which may have held back some of the crowds. Yet, the meetinghouse was packed. A sermon was delivered by Matthew Houston and afterwards some lingered all night in prayer.

On Saturday morning, the services were quiet. By afternoon, however, the preaching from both the meetinghouse and the tent was continuous. Emotions increased and the camp was erupting in noise. There was shouting and crying, and then some began falling. Others experienced weakened knees or a light head. According to testimonies, those who fell did so out of agony and fear. They were so scared that they couldn’t move. Some lay on the ground for two or three days praying until they received assurance of salvation.

There were preachers from several denominations who arrived and set up pulpits in tree stands. Often, as many as seven preachers were addressing different crowds throughout the woods. According to Iain Murray there were eighteen Presbyterian ministers. There were also many Baptist and Methodist preachers who took part in the services which continued for a week. The tents that had been set up were estimated to shelter between 10,000 and 21,000 people.

Some people supposed there were nearly twenty-five thousand men, women, and children collected together around Cane Ridge. The roar of noise was described like that of Niagara. Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy, while others were shouting. One witness looking over these scenes said he felt a peculiarly strange sensation, such as he had never felt before. His heart was beating wildly, his knees trembled, his lip quivered, and he felt he would fall to the ground. Later, this same witness reported seeing at least five hundred people swept down in a moment. It was as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them. According to another witness, the meeting appeared as if twenty thousand persons were being tossed to and fro, like waves of the sea in a storm.

In spite of the sincere and serious Christian attitude of the encampment, there was all manner of wickedness taking place outside the camp. Men, in a drunken fever, committed indecent acts; and others, would ride their horses at full gallop among the people. One of the leaders of these ruffians rode a large white horse into a circle of praying worshippers. At the same time, he was shouting obscene curses at those gathered. Then, suddenly, he appeared to be struck from his horse. As he lay on the ground, his limbs were rigid, no pulse could be found, and the breath was knocked out of him. Several of his gang came to see him, but after looking at him they fell like men slain in battle. He lay there for thirty hours. At last he exhibited signs of life, but appeared to be in agony. When he gained use of his feet, his groans were converted into loud and joyous shouts of praise.

Night came and the camp fires cast large shadows against the trees. There were candles, lamps, and torches throughout the camp as hundreds moved about. Preachers continued to shout sermons from the tent as people sang hymns.

On Sunday morning, many had been up most of the night. Yet, the Communion took place as scheduled in the meetinghouse. The minister of a nearby congregation preached the traditional sermon outside and those with Communion tokens went inside for the sacrament. The tables could accommodate about 100 at a time.

Since the Methodists were excluded from the meetinghouse and tent, William Burke, one of Methodism’s most esteemed preachers, began Methodist services outside and gathered a huge audience. There ran concurrently four centers of activity around the camp and dozens of informal prayer groups at various camp sites. Crying for mercy, believers praying, fainting, and raptures of joy continued. The people sang, shouted, clapped their hands, and hugged one another. As the night came, some stayed up all night continuing in more prayer, exhortation, and singing.

Food and supplies were running short by Monday and many had to leave. In spite of this, there came many new arrivals and Cane Ridge remained densely populated. The meeting continued for four more days before ending on Thursday. These extraordinary services began at sun up and continued well into the night. While some fell to their faces as the weight of their sins struck them cold, many sang and danced as they felt the presence of God in their midst and experienced a touch from Jesus Christ.

Bibliography

Erdmann’s Handbook to Christianity in America. Editor Mark Noll. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1983.

Johnson, Charles A. The Frontier Camp Meeting: Religion’s Harvest Time, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985.

LaTourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, IV (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 192.

Murray, Iain H. Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994.

The Source Of Power

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

From the writings of Charles Spurgeon:

“Who is sufficient for these things?” We are weak, exceedingly weak, every one of us. If there is any brother here who is weaker than the rest, and knows that he is so, let him not be at all cast down about that, for you see, brethren, the best man here, if he knows what he is, knows that he is out of his depth in his sacred calling. Well, if you are out of your depth, it does not matter whether the sea is forty feet or a full mile deep. If the sea is only a fathom deep, you will drown if you be not up borne; and if it be altogether unfathomable, you cannot be more than drowned. The weakest man here is not, in this business, really any weaker than the strongest man, since the whole affair is quite beyond us, and we must work miracles by Divine power, or else be total failures. We have all set up in the Divine profession of working by omnipotence; or, rather, of yielding ourselves up to omnipotence that it may work by us. If, therefore, omnipotence be not within hail, and if the miracle-working power is not within us, then the sooner we go home, and plough the fields, or open shop, or cast up accounts, the better. Wherefore should we undertake what we have not the power to perform? Supernatural work needs supernatural power; and if you have it not, do not, pray you, attempt to do the work alone, lest, like Samson, when his locks were shorn, you should become the jest of the Philistines. (An All-Round Ministry, Chapter 9, “The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining It.” Now published by Banner of Truth Trust)

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