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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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None is Exempt from Trouble

Charles H. SpurgeonDo you too often feel as if everything is against you? Charles H. Spurgeon sheds a different light on this attitude:

The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron. (2 Samuel 15:23)

David passed that gloomy brook when flying with his mourning company from his traitor son. The man after God’s own heart was not exempt from trouble, nay; his life was full of it. He was both the Lord’s Anointed, and the Lord’s Afflicted. Why then should we expect to escape? At sorrow’s gates, the noblest of our race have waited with ashes on their heads, wherefore then should we complain as though some strange thing had happened unto us? The KING of kings himself was not favored with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the filthy ditch of Kidron, through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed. God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod. It is a great joy to believe that Jesus has been tempted in all points like as we are. What is our Kidron this morning? Is it a faithless friend, a sad bereavement, a slanderous reproach, a dark foreboding? The King has passed over all these. Is it bodily pain, poverty, persecution, or contempt? Over each of these Kidrons the King has gone before us. “In all our afflictions He was afflicted.” The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and forever, for He who is the Head of all saints, knows by experience the grief, which we think so peculiar. All the citizens of Zion must be free of the Honorable Company of Mourners, of which the Prince Immanuel is Head and Captain. Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city, and David’s Lord arose victorious from the grave; let us then be of good courage, for we also shall win the day. We shall yet with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation, though now for a season we have to pass by the noxious streams of sin and sorrow. Courage, soldiers of the Cross, the King himself triumphed after going over Kidron, and so shall you. (Morning & Evening)

The Tel Dan Stele

Archaeology and the Bible:

A stele is an upright stone that is inscribed and used as a monument of an important event or achievement. Rulers and groups of people from Egypt, Israel, and across Mesopotamia used these steles to commemorate great victories and accomplishments. The Tel Dan Stele is extraordinary because carved on its stone face is the expression, “House of David.” This stele affirms that the United Monarchy under King David existed in history and flatly contradicts the long-held opinions of skeptics who denied that David ever existed.

The True Ground and Nature of all True Religion

The natural powers of men come from the one power of God. All that comforts, enlightens, blesses, gives peace and rest to man’s natural powers can come only from God’s immediate holy operation. William Law writes:

“The heavens,” saith David, “declare the glory of God”; and no creature, any more than the heavens, can declare any other glory but that of God. And as well might it be said, that the firmament shows forth its own handiwork, as that a holy divine or heavenly creature shows forth its own natural power.

But now, if all that is divine, great, glorious, and happy, in the spirits, tempers, operations, and enjoyments of the creature, is only so much of the greatness, glory, majesty, and blessedness of God, dwelling in it, and giving forth various births of his own triune life, light, and love, in and through the manifold forms and capacities of the creature to receive them, then we may infallibly see the true ground and nature of all true religion, and when and how we may be said to fulfill all our religious duty to God. For the creature’s true religion, is its rendering to God all that is God’s, it is its true continual acknowledging all that which it is, and has, and enjoys, in and from God. This is the one true religion of all intelligent creatures, whether in heaven, or on earth; for as they all have but one and the same relation to God, so though ever so different in their several births, states or offices, they all have but one and the same true religion, or right behavior towards God. Now the one relation, which is the ground of all true religion, and is one and the same between God and all intelligent creatures, is this, it is a total unalterable dependence upon God, an immediate continual receiving of every kind, and degree of goodness, blessing and happiness, that ever was, or can be found in them, from God alone. The highest angel has nothing of its own that it can offer unto God, no more light, love, purity, perfection, and glorious hallelujahs, that spring from itself, or its own powers, than the poorest creature upon earth. Could the angel see a spark of wisdom, goodness, or excellence, as coming from, or belonging to itself, its place in heaven would be lost, as sure as Lucifer lost his. But they are ever abiding flames of pure love, always ascending up to and uniting with God, for this reason, because the wisdom, the power, the glory, the majesty, the love, and goodness of God alone, is all that they see, and feel, and know, either within or without themselves. Songs of praise to their heavenly Father are their ravishing delight, because they see, and know, and feel, that it is the breath and Spirit of their heavenly Father that sings and rejoices in them. Their adoration in spirit and in truth never ceases, because they never cease to acknowledge the ALL of God; the ALL of God in the whole creation. This is the one religion of heaven, and nothing else is the truth of religion on earth. (“An Address to the Clergy”)

The Spirit Operates Through the Word

Please note in this article by Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) that the power of the Spirit works through the Word of God. The implications and consequences are numerous for those who refuse to spend time in God’s Word. Alexander writes:

Regeneration must be the peculiar work of God, because it is “a new creation,” and no power but that of God is adequate to such a work. It is a resurrection from the worst kind of death, and none can inspire the dead with life but the Almighty. It is giving sight to the blind, and opening the eyes which never saw the light of day, to behold the beauty of holiness, and the glory of God; but the same power which in the beginning caused light to shine out of darkness, must shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. “Except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth, etc., so is every one that is born of the spirit.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Those who are the sons of God are not “born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Paul calls this change “the washing of regeneration,” and “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” And David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” But why multiply proofs of a truth so evident from reason as well as Scripture? If there be any such internal change of the heart, God must be its author; for how else could it be produced?

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” If a tree be evil, who can make it good, but he who created it? If the heart be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, will it purify itself? If all the thoughts and imaginations of man’s heart are evil and only evil and that continually, whence will spring a holy nature? For a sinner to regenerate himself would be as absurd an idea, as for a man to create or beget himself. It is God that begins this good work within his people, and he will carry it on.

As God the Holy Spirit is the Author of regeneration; so the instrument employed is the Word of God. This is as clearly taught in Scripture as that God is the author or efficient cause. God is able to work without means, but both in the worlds of nature and grace it has pleased him to employ appropriate means for the accomplishment of his own ends. . . . The Spirit operates by and through the word. The word derives all its power and penetrating energy from the Spirit. Without the omnipotence of God the word would be as inefficient as clay and spittle, to restore sight to the blind. (“A Practical View of Regeneration”)

Our Times are in God’s Hands

Finding peace is impossible unless you yield your life to the will of God. Our times are in His hand. We must accept this as best for us. Waves of trouble may come against you, but it will soon be over. By and by when you enter heaven’s gate, you will see in the light of His Divine presence that “all things” did “work together” for good – your eternal good and the eternal good of all who love God. Thomas Watson (1620-1686) writes:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)

Here is a breast of consolation to the saints of God (in these sad times), in the midst of all that hard measure they may meet with; let the world frown, let men persecute and calumniate, (and it may be, think they do God service), here is sap in the vine, a strong cordial to take, all things are naked. They do nothing but what our Father sees. They make wounds, and then pour in vinegar; God writes down their cruelty, he sees what rods they use, and how hard they strike; and he that hath an eye to see, hath also an hand to punish; ‘I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people,’ not only with an eye of providence, but with an eye of pity. This was a great comfort to David in his affliction, and was like a golden shield in the hand of his faith, ‘My groaning is not hid from thee,’ Psalm 38.6. When I weep, Christ weeps in my tears, he bleeds in my wounds. There are two bloods will cry: the blood of souls, when they have been starved or poisoned, and the blood of saints. I do not mean saints without sanctity, titular saints, but such as have Christ engraven in their hearts, and the word copied out into their lives: it is dangerous meddling with their blood; if we spill their blood, it is no better than spilling Christ’s blood, for they are members of his body, ‘In all their afflictions he was afflicted.’ The people of God are precious to him. . . .

God being so infinite in wisdom; if things go cross in church or state, take heed of charging God with folly; do not censure but admire. All things are naked. There is not any thing that stirs in the world, but God hath a design in it, for the good of his church: he carries on his designs by men’s’ designs: all things are unveiled to the eye of providence. God is never at a stand: he knows when to deliver, and how to deliver.

David saith, ‘My times are in thy hand,’ Psalm 31.15. If our times were in our own hand, we would have deliverance too soon; if they were in our enemy’s hand, we should have deliverance too late: But my times are in thy hand; and God’s time is ever best. Every thing is beautiful in its season: when the mercy is ripe, we shall have it. It is true; we are now between the hammer and the anvil: we may fear we shall see the death of religion, before the birth of reformation. But do not cast away your anchor; God sees when the mercy will be in season. When his people are low enough, and the enemy high enough, then usually appears the church’s morning-star: let God alone to his time. (God’s Anatomy upon Man’s Heart)

Secrets of the Heart

God is so infinite in wisdom that all things are naked to His eyes. Nothing stirs in the world except God knows its intent, purpose, and eventual outcome. Thomas Watson (1620-1686) discusses what this means concerning men’s hearts:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)

If the secrets of our hearts are unveiled and unmasked, walk as in the eye of God. Methinks that of Hagar should be a Christian’s motto, Thou God seest me. And David’s prospect should be ever in our eye, Psalm 16.8. ‘I have set the Lord always before me:’ some set their bags of money always before them, others set the fear of men always before them; but a wise Christian will set God, and judgment, and eternity always before him. If indeed God’s eye were at any time off from us, we might take the more liberty; but if all things be naked, and open to his eye, we cannot sin but in the face of our Judge. Oh then reverence this eye of God. . . .

The eye of God should be ever in our eye; this would be as a counter poison against sin: nor is it enough to prune sin, viz. to cut off the external acts, but kill the root. Crucify complexion sins; let not thy heart sit brooding upon sin. Again, let God’s omniscience deter thee from hiding sin. . . . Men think to walk in the dark, and to carry their sins under a canopy, that no eye shall see them: as those that have bad eyes think that the sky is ever cloudy, whereas the fault is not in the sky, but in their eyes; so when the prince of the world hath blinded men’s eyes, because there is darkness within, they think it is dark abroad too, and now the sky is cloudy, God cannot see: but remember, all things are naked: do not go about to hide sin: confess, confess, it is a work proper for the day. Confession doth that to the soul which the surgeon doth to the body; it opens a spiritual vein, and lets out the bad blood. The only way to make God not see sin, is to see it ourselves, but not with dry eyes; point every sin with a tear. . . .

It is a whetstone to duty. O thou Christian that art much in private, that settest hours apart for God, (a sign he hath set thee apart) thou sheddest many tears in thy closet: the world takes no notice; but remember, God’s eye is upon thee, thy prayers are registered, thy tears are bottled up, ‘and he that sees in secret will reward thee openly.’ How should this add wings to prayer, and oil to the flame of our devotion? (“God’s Anatomy upon Man’s Heart”)

Unforeseen Consequences

Quoting John Newton:

” I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, of which I have not since seen reason to be satisfied, that had it taken place in season and circumstance just as I proposed, it would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least it would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge of things by their present appearances, but the Lord sees them in their consequences, if we could do so likewise we should be perfectly of His mind; but as we cannot, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is spoken of as one of his heaviest judgments, when He gives any person or people up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk after their own counsels.”

The Dark Times Of God’s People

O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. (Psalm 38:9-10 ESV)

I love the Psalms. They touch on every human experience. In the verses of the Psalm above, David is pouring out the contents of his heart. He is guilt ridden under a sense of God’s displeasure. The Holy Spirit has brought David’s sins to the attention of his heart and mind. His heart is heavy because he has seen the darkness of his sins. What other feelings will we find in him? Are no sensations alive in his heart other than self-loathing? Here we find the difference between the remorse of the world that brings death and the remorse of God’s people that leads unto life eternal. Worldly sorrow does not seek the Lord for comfort or forgiveness. In contrast, the Christian seeks the light of God. However dark things may be, there is divine life in the soul which guides the Christian into God’s presence and grace.

We find David humbled by sin and shame. He is troubled by the workings of inward corruption. Light is revealing the hidden evils of his heart. In the midst of these circumstances, David cries to the Lord: “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.” (Psalm 38:9-10 ESV)

Do you understand the deep conviction which comes from realizing your heart and mind and actions are under the eyes of an all-seeing holy God? This conviction only exists in the hearts of those who know the grace of God. The worldly man does not acknowledge an all-knowing God. He does not fear the Lord. David, on the other hand, knows that God is aware of his every thought. He calls out to God, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9-10 ESV) He understands that his heart is as an open book before God. There is nothing that God’s omniscient eyes fail to see.

David desires the Lord’s favor. The Holy Spirit is lifted in his soul as David seeks God’s grace and mercy. He desires to have a sense of God’s favor imparted into his own soul. David calls out to God: “all my longing is before you”. Thus the desires of his heart and all the longings of his soul are known by God. Consider the following verses:

[W]hich one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV)

The Christian may expect that the darkness will become light as he continues to call out to God.

Keep Watch Until The End

Quoting John Owen:

Let us never reckon that our work in fighting against sin — in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing it — is at an end. … We may think that we have thoroughly won the field, but there is still some reserve remaining that we did not see or know. Many conquerors have been ruined by carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes. David’s great fall into sin followed a long profession, many experiences of God, and watchfulness in keeping himself from his iniquity. And this is part of the reason why the profession of many has declined in their old age or riper years. They have given up the work of mortifying sin before the work was finished. … It is as necessary to watch towards the end of the race as at the beginning. ‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth’ (Col 3:5).

Faith And Providence

B.H. Carroll

To be able to trust in the providence of God is a necessary step in achieving peace in all circumstances. B.H. Carroll explains below the relationship of faith to providence:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

Why is your right arm nerveless? Why have you permitted the devil to come and pluck courage and faith and hope out of your heart when the Lord God omnipotent reigneth and reigneth today and reigneth over everything? Let us . . . ascertain the relation of faith to Providence. How manifest and self-evident is this relation? Inquire of your own heart: Does your faith rest in a dead God or a living one? A God who sleeps or who is awake? Do you believe in a God manifest in Christ or without a manifestation . . . .?

Have you faith in the providences of God? The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us see now if you have faith in Providence. Test it, my brethren. Are you like David once when his heart failed him? Hear his doleful confession, Psalm 73:

“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Verses 1-3.)

“Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.” (Verses 12, 13.)

“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou casts them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.” (Verses 16-19.)

Ah, brother, have you worried over the prosperity of the wicked? Have you been a fool and brutish, like David? Have you stumbled at such thoughts? Then enter the sanctuary. Stand next to God; get behind the curtain; see the reach of God’s foresight and the sweep of His sword of justice, see the threads of all events in His hands, see how He is drawing them to a consummation absolutely at His disposal; then understand. . . .

Jesus, forgive me, if for one treacherous moment I ever allow a shadow of doubt as to divine providence to come into my heart.

Very briefly, in conclusion, what is the relation of prayer to Providence? Let a single scripture express it:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”. . . . (Hebrews 4:14-16.)

Many of God’s saints, in the stormiest and darkest periods of their lives, have had that peace, perfect peace, without anxiety in view of trouble or difficulty. “Lord, I trust thee. My song is this: That I have faith in God, faith in the Providence of God; and while wolves may howl around my dwelling, they cannot enter in, and while night may bring her curtains of darkness and wrap the world about, there is a light inside. While winter may come with its cold and chilling blasts and bind in iron the earth outside, it is warm in here. My heart is full of peace because I stayed on God. My trust is in thee.”

Now, brethren, I ask you, when you seriously reflect on what Providence implies, on what Providence is and who Providence is, the relation of faith to Providence and the relation of prayer to Providence ought not your hearts at once to accept this proposition expressed so often in the scriptures? What is it? “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth forever. Let the earth rejoice. Let it rejoice.” Let the world be glad that God reigneth. Trust it. Lean your head on it and your heart on it. Put your soul’s most perfect love upon Jesus.

Spurgeon On Doing More By Doing Less

 

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon gives an affectionate call to pastors to stir up the gifts which the Holy Spirit has imparted to them. He reminds them to cultivate their natural and spiritual qualifications for the ministry. Spurgeon writes:

One thing is past all question; we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace. If I have much faith, so that I can take God at His word; much love, so that the zeal of His house eats me up; much hope, so that I am assured of fruit from my labor; much patience, so that I can endure hardness for Jesus’ sake; then I shall greatly honor my Lord and King. Oh, to have much consecration, my whole nature being absorbed in His service; then, even though my talents may be slender, I shall make my life to burn and glow with the glory of the Lord! This way of grace is open to us all. To be saintly is within each Christian’s reach, and this is the surest method of honoring God. Though the preacher may not collect more than a hundred in a village chapel to hear him speak, he may be such a man of God that his little church will be choice seed-corn, each individual worthy to be weighed against gold. The preacher may not get credit for his work in the statistics which reckon scores and hundreds; but in that other book, which no secretary could keep, where things are weighed rather than numbered, the worker’s register will greatly honor his Master.

Brethren, my desire is to do everything for the Lord in first-rate style. We are all of us eager to do much for the Lord, but there is a more excellent way. With ringing trowel we strike away and build a wall, and girdle a city in six months: the aforesaid wall will be down in six days afterwards. It would be better to do more by doing less. Thoroughness is infinitely preferable to superficial area. It is well to work for God microscopically; each tiny bit of our work should bear the closest inspection. The work of the Church had need be done in perfect fashion; for her flaws are sure to show themselves in exaggerated form before long. The sins of today are the sorrows of ages. . . . How slight a deviation from the right line may involve ages of dreary labor! Our Puritan forefathers raised their walls, and laid their stones in fair colors, building well the city of God. Then that greatest of heroes, Oliver Cromwell, looked upon them, and lent his aid. He handled the sword of steel as few have ever done, but his carnal weapon agreed not with the temple of the Lord. The Lord seemed to say to him, even as He said unto David, “Thou shalt not build an house for My Name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood.” Therefore Puritanism had to come down, with all its exceeding stateliness of holiness, because its sons saw not that the Kingdom of the Lord is not of Church and State, nor of the law of nations, but purely of the Spirit of the Lord. We, upon whom the ends of the world are come, must be careful that we do not send the armies of the Lord wandering for another forty years in the wilderness, when Canaan else had been so near. The Lord help us to be workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth! May we live in the eye of the ages, past and future; above all, may we live as seeing Him who is invisible! (“What We Would Be”)

The Permissive Providence Of God

B.H. Carroll

Does the providence of God sometimes keep us from sinning? What happens when God lifts His providential care from protecting us against sin? As you read the following, please keep this verse in mind, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:13-14) B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains:

The permissive providence of God is simply God’s not putting forth His preventive force; that is all. We sometimes see that God permits a man to sin who has been hindered a week, a year, two years, five years. He has tried hard hitherto to do this mean, devilish thing and God has withheld opportunity. God has brought in somebody or something to interrupt him.

Some force visible or [supernatural] has stayed his hand. But he incorrigibly followed after that sin until at last God said, “Now I will just remove my prevention, I will not incite him, but I will break down my hedge of thorns.”

God never tempts to sin. That is what is called “letting a man alone,” “leaving him to his own devices.” God says to His Spirit, “Let him alone. You have been preventing. You have been guarding. You have been hedging. And he fights against the restraint and bruises himself against the hedge, and manifests an incorrigible spirit to go on and commit this offense. Now, if he will, let him go his way. I will call him no more. I will visit him neither by day nor by night. So far as that providence is concerned which has hovered over him and kept him back from presumptuous sin, I will take it away. Now, sinner, commit thy sin.” That is permissive providence.

The case of a good man, Hezekiah, is an example. He had grown unmindful of God’s care for him and got to thinking that he was holding himself up until it became necessary to teach him a lesson. The Scriptures tell us, in the 32nd chapter of 2 Chronicles, how this man, who it seemed could not make a mistake, that went along accomplishing everything he wished, until he really thought that he was infallible and invincible, all at once stumbled and fell, as much to his own surprise as to the wonder of others.

God explains it to him. He had let him alone for a little season to show him that his help was in the Lord. It needed to be done. It was a part of God’s discipline. So dealt the Lord with David, another good man. David knew his fundamental principles of divine government, that as power rested in God it made no difference about numbers; that the Lord could work with a few people; that one could chase a thousand and two could put ten thousand to flight. But David got into his mind a vain conceit that frequently misleads modern Christians – pride in numbers: “I have a large people now, let us count them and glory in their multitude.”

Seeing David’s bent, the Lord took away the hedge and let him do what he pleased. One scripture expresses it, “The Lord moved David to number Israel,” while another, referring to the same event, says, “Satan moved David to number Israel.” And the question is, “How can both be true?” The answer is this: Satan had been trying to move him to do that for a long while and Satan could not make him do it because this intervening providence of God had kept him from it. Now when God just gets out of the way, Satan gets in and you may say the Lord moved, or the Lord permitted it to be done. Satan moved him. He would have moved him sooner if God had permitted. (“The Providence of God”)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Shall The Preacher Not Suffer?

Quoting Charles Spurgeon:

May not severe discipline fall to the lot of some to qualify them for their office of under-shepherds? We cannot speak with consoling authority to an experience which we have never known. The suffering know those who have themselves suffered, and their smell is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed. The “word to the weary” is not learned except by an ear which has bled while the awl has fastened it to the door-post. “The complete pastor’s” life will be an epitome of the lives of his people, and they will turn to his preaching as men do to David’s Psalms, to see themselves and their sorrows, as in a mirror. Their needs will be the reason for his griefs. As to the Lord himself, perfect equipment for his work came only through suffering, so must it be to those who are called to follow him in binding up the broken-hearted, and loosing the prisoners. Souls still remain in our churches to whose deep and dark experience we shall never be able to minister till we also have been plunged in the abyss where all Jehovah’s waves roll over our heads. If this be the fact – and we are sure it is – then may we heartily welcome anything which will make us fitter channels of blessing. For the elect’s sake it shall be joy to endure all things. (“Laid Aside. Why?” Sword and Trowel May 1876)

J. C. Ryle On Affliction

Quoting J.C. Ryle:

Affliction is one of God’s medicines! By it He often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin and the world, which would otherwise have perished everlastingly. Health is a great blessing but sanctified disease is a greater. Prosperity and worldly comfort, are what all naturally desire, but losses and crosses are far better for us if they lead us to Christ. Let us beware of murmuring in the time of trouble. Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that there is a meaning, a “needs be”, and a message from God in every sorrow that falls upon us. There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction. There is no commentary that opens up the Bible so much as sickness and sorrow. The resurrection morning will prove, that many of the losses of God’s people were in reality, eternal gains. Thousands at the last day will testify with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm. 119:71)! (The Gospel of John)

Victory Over Ourselves

Matthew Henry

Will the meek truly inherit the earth? The following excellent article is by reformed Protestant, revival preacher, and Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714):

“We are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37)

“The excellency of a meek and quiet spirit will appear, if we consider the credit of it, and the comfort of it – the present profit there is by it, and the preparedness there is in it for future blessings.

Consider how creditable a meek and quiet spirit is. Credit or reputation all desire, though few consider aright either what it is, or what is the right way of obtaining it; and particularly it is little believed what a great deal of true honor there is in the grace of meekness, and what a sure and ready way mild and quiet souls take to gain the approval of their Master, and of all their fellow-servants who love him, and are like him.

There is in it the credit of a victory. What a great figure do the names of high and mighty conquerors make in the records of fame! How are their conduct, their valor and success cried up and celebrated! But if we will believe the word of truth, and pass a judgment upon things according to it, ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.’ Behold, a greater than Alexander or Caesar is here; the former of whom (some think) lost more true honor by yielding to his own ungoverned anger, than he got by all his conquests. No triumphant chariot so easy, so safe, so truly glorious, as that in which the meek and quiet soul rides over all the provocations of an injurious world with a gracious unconcernedness; no train so splendid, so noble, as that train of comforts and graces which attend this chariot. The conquest of an unruly passion is more honorable than that of an unruly people, for it requires more true courage. It is easier to kill an enemy without, which may be done at a blow, than to chain up and govern an enemy within, which requires a constant, even, steady hand and a long and regular management. It was more to the honor of David to yield himself conquered by Abigail’s persuasions, than to have made himself a conqueror over Nabal and his entire house. A rational victory must needs be allowed more honorable to a rational creature than a brutal one. This is a cheap, safe and unbloody conquest that does nobody any harm, no lives, no treasures are sacrificed to it, the glory of these triumphs are not stained as others generally are, with funerals. Every battle of the warrior, says the prophet, ‘is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;’ but this victory shall be obtained by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. Nay, in meek and quiet sufferings we are “more than conquerors with little loss, we lose nothing but the gratifying of a base lust; conquerors with great gain, the spoils we divide are very rich – the favor of God, the comforts of the Spirit, the foretastes of everlasting pleasures; these are more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. We are more than conquerors; that is, triumphers; we live a life of victory; every day is a day of triumph to the meek and quiet soul. (“A Discourse on Meekness and Quietness of Spirit” by Matthew Henry)

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