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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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WHEN I LIE DYING

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“When I lie dying, when heart and flesh are failing me, when I shall have little else to think of but my Lord and the eternal state, then shall thoughts of Him pull up the floodgates of the river of bliss and let the very joy of Heaven into my heart! And, by His Grace, I shall be eager to be up and away! I shall not dread the pains, and groans, and dying strife of which some talk so much—but the sweetness of “my meditation of Him” shall make me forget even the bitterness of death, itself.” (1895, Sermon #2403)

THE DECEASE OF THE GODLY

Charles SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace. To the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing from his sins and infirmities. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory.

The Death of the Godly and Ungodly

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace. To the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing from his sins and infirmities. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory.

The Tomb Of Jesus

Excerpts from the sermon “The Tomb of Jesus” by Charles H. Spurgeon:

“Come; see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:6)

I shall commence my remarks this morning by inviting all Christians to come with me to the tomb of Jesus. “Come; see the place where the Lord lay.” We will labor to render the place attractive, we will gently take your hand to guide you to it; and may it please our Master to make our hearts burn within us while we talk by the way. . . .

Come, then, for ’tis the shrine of greatness, ’tis the resting-place of the man, the Restorer of our race, the Conqueror of death and hell . . . Ask me the greatest man who ever lived—I tell you the man Christ Jesus was “anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellow.” If ye seek a chamber honored as the resting-place of genius, turn in hither; if ye would worship at the grave of holiness, come ye here; if ye would see the hallowed spot where the choicest bones that e’er were fashioned lay for awhile, come with me, Christian, to that quiet garden, hard by the walls of Jerusalem. . . .

Yea, more, I will further urge you to this pious pilgrimage. Come, for angels bid you. Angels said, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The Syriac version reads, “Come, see the place where our Lord lay.” Yes, angels put themselves with those poor women, and used one common pronoun—our. Jesus is the Lord of angels as well as of men. Let me lead thee by the hand of meditation, my brother; let me take thee by the arm of thy fancy, and let me again say to thee, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”. . .

It is in a pleasant garden, far from the hum of Jerusalem; the noise and din of business will not reach thee there; “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” It is a sweet resting spot, a withdrawing room for thy soul, where thou mayest brush from thy garments the dust of earth and muse awhile in peace.

Thus I have pressed the invitation; now we will enter the tomb. Let us examine it with deep attention, noticing every circumstance connected with it.

And, first, mark that it is a costly tomb. It is no common grave; it is not an excavation dug out by the spade for a pauper, in which to hide the last remains of his miserable and over wearied bones. It is a princely tomb; it was made of marble, cut in the side of a hill. . . .

But, though it is a costly grave, it is a borrowed one. I see over the top of it, “Sacred to the memory of the family of Joseph of Arimathea;” yet Jesus slept there. Yes, he was buried in another’s sepulcher . . . It was a borrowed tomb; and why? I take it, not to dishonor Christ, but in order to show that, as his sins were borrowed sins, so his burial was in a borrowed grave. Christ had no transgressions of his own; he took ours upon his head; he never committed a wrong, but he took all my sin, and all yours, if ye are believers; concerning all his people, it is true, he bore their griefs and carried their sorrows in his own body on the tree; therefore, as they were others’ sins, so he rested in another’s grave; as they were sins imputed, so that grave was only imputedly his. . . .

Let us not weary in this pious investigation, but with fixed attention observe everything connected with this holy spot. The grave, we observe, was cut in a rock. Why was this . . .? O! my soul, canst thou find a spiritual reason? Christ’s sepulcher was cut in a rock. . . . The sepulcher stands, I believe, entire to this day; if it does not naturally, it does spiritually. The same sepulcher which took the sins of Paul, shall take my iniquities into his bosom, for if I ever lose my guilt, it must roll off my shoulders into the sepulcher. It was cut in a rock, so that if a sinner were saved a thousand years ago, I too can be delivered, for it is a rocky sepulcher where sin was buried—it was a rocky sepulcher of marble where my crimes were laid forever—buried never to have a resurrection.

You will mark; moreover, that tomb was one wherein no other man had ever lain. Christopher Ness says, when Christ was born, he lay in a virgin’s womb, and when he died, he was placed in a virgin tomb; he slept where never man had slept before. The reason was that none might say that another person rose, for there never had been any other body there, thus a mistake of persons was impossible. . . .

[L]et us stoop down once more before we leave the grave, and notice something else. We see the grave, but do you notice the grave-clothes, all wrapped and laid in their places, the napkin being folded up by itself? Wherefore are the grave-clothes wrapped up? The Jews said robbers had abstracted the body; but if so, surely they would have stolen the clothes; they would never have thought of wrapping them up and laying them down so carefully; they would be too much in haste to think of it. Why was it then. . . So at the precise hour, the decreed instant, Jesus Christ . . . came forth in his pure and naked innocence, perhaps to show us that as clothes were the offspring of sin—when sin was atoned for by Christ, he left all raiment behind him—for garments are the badges of guilt: if we had not been guilty we should never have needed them. . . .

I . . . bid you stand and see the place where the Lord lay with emotions of deep sorrow. Oh come, my beloved brother, thy Jesus once lay there. He was a murdered man, my soul, and thou the murderer. . . .

I slew him—this right hand struck the dagger to his heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved; I killed him who loved me with an everlasting love. . . .

Ah! we may indeed regret our sin, since it slew Jesus . . . Thy sin slew him, but his divinity raised him up. Thy guilt hath murdered him, but his righteousness hath restored him. Oh! he hath burst the bonds of death; he hath unit the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath his feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for he is not there—he is risen. . . .

And now, Christian brethren, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay,” to learn a doctrine or two. What did you see when you visited “the place where the Lord lay?” “He is not here; for he is risen.” The first thing you perceive, if you stand by his empty tomb, is his divinity. The dead in Christ shall rise first at the resurrection: but he, who rose first— their leader, rose in a different fashion. They rise by imparted power. He rose by his own. He could not slumber in the grave, because he was God. . . .

A second doctrine here taught well may charm thee, if the Holy Spirit applies it with power. Behold his empty tomb, O true believer: it is a sign of thine acquittal, and thy full discharge. If Jesus had not paid the debt, he ne’er had risen from the grave. He would have lain there till this moment if he had not cancelled the entire debt, by satisfying eternal vengeance. O beloved, is not that an overwhelming thought . . . ?

One more doctrine we learn, and with that we will conclude—the doctrine of the resurrection. Jesus rose, and as the Lord our Savior rose, so all his followers must rise. . . . O my soul, dost thou now dread to die? Thou wilt lose thy partner body a little while, but thou wilt be married again in heaven; soul and body shall again be united before the throne of God. The grave—what is it? It is the bath in which the Christian puts the clothes of his body to have them washed and cleansed. Death—what is it? It is the waiting-room where we robe ourselves for immortality. . . .

Come; view the place then, with all hallowed meditation, where the Lord lay. Spend this afternoon, my beloved brethren, in meditating upon it, and very often go to Christ’s grave, both to weep and to rejoice. (No. 18, April 8, 1855)

We Must Be Made Alive!

Bishop J. C. Ryle

If you see a man who has been converted and wonderful changes have taken place in his life and manner of living, as a Christian what would you say about this man? Would you say he has reformed his ways? Would you say he has “turned over a new leaf”? No! He has experienced a new birth. There has been a quickening of the dead. These are the right words to use. J. C. Ryle explains why:

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

See how sad is the condition of all . . . whose hearts are still the same as in the day they were born. There is a mountain of division between them and heaven. They have yet to “pass from death to life.” (1 John 3:14) Oh, that they did but see and know their danger! Alas, it is one fearful mark of spiritual death, that, like natural death—it is not felt! We lay our beloved ones tenderly and gently in their narrow beds—but they feel nothing of what we do. “The dead,” says the wise man, “know nothing.” (Eccl. 9:5) And this is just the case with dead souls.

See, too, what reason ministers have to be anxious about their congregations. We feel that time is short, and life uncertain. We know that death spiritual is the high road that leads to death eternal. We fear lest any of our hearers should die in their sins, unprepared, unrenewed, impenitent, and unchanged. Oh, marvel not if we often speak strongly and plead with you warmly! We dare not give you flattering titles, amuse you with trifles, say smooth things, and cry “Peace, peace,” when life and death are at stake, and nothing less. The plague is among you. We feel that we stand between the living and the dead. We must and will “use great plainness of speech.” “If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?” (2 Cor. 3:12, 1 Cor. 14:8)

Let me tell you . . . what every man needs who would be saved. He must be quickened and made spiritually alive.

Life is the mightiest of all possessions. From death to life is the mightiest of all changes. And no change short of this will ever avail to fit man’s soul for heaven. Yes! it is not a little mending and alteration—a little cleansing and purifying—a little painting and patching—a little whitewashing and varnishing—a little turning over a new leaf and putting on a new outside that is needed. It is the bringing in of something altogether new—the planting within us of a new nature, a new being—a new principle—a new mind. This alone and nothing less than this, will ever meet the necessities of man’s soul. We need not merely a new skin—but a new heart.

“It is not a little reforming that will save the man, no, nor all the morality in the world, nor all the common graces of God’s spirit, nor the outward change of the life; they will not do, unless we are quickened, and have a new life wrought in us.” (Usher’s Sermons)

To hew a block of marble from the quarry—and carve it into a noble statue; to break up a waste wilderness—and turn it into a garden of flowers; to melt a lump of ironstone—and forgo it into watch-springs—all these are mighty changes. Yet they all come short of the change which every child of Adam requires, for they are merely the same thing in a new form and the same substance in a new shape. But man requires the grafting in of that which he had not before. He needs a change as great as a resurrection from the dead—he must become a new creature. “Old things must pass away, and all things must become new.” He must be “born again, born from above, and born of God.” The natural birth is not a whit more necessary to the life of the body, than is the spiritual birth to the life of the soul. (2 Cor. 5:17, John 3:3)

I know well this is a hard saying. I know the children of this world dislike hearing that they must be born again. It pricks their consciences—it makes them feel they are further off from heaven than they are willing to allow. It seems like a narrow door which they have not yet stooped to enter, and they would gladly make the door wider, or climb in some other way. But I dare not give place by subjection in this matter. I will not foster a delusion, and tell people they only need repent a little, and stir up a gift they have within them, in order to become real Christians. I dare not use any other language than that of the Bible; and I say, in the words which are written for our learning, “We all need to be born again—we are all naturally dead, and must be made alive.”

The Undisciplined Mind

Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680)

Thomas Goodwin

The following article is from an essay by Thomas Goodwin which is titled “The Vanity of Thoughts.” Goodwin clearly understands that a few thoughts of faith will save us from dwelling on many unproductive cares and fears:

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears in a loathsomeness to enter into holy thoughts, to begin to set itself to think of God, and the things belonging unto our peace; even as loath they are to this as schoolboys are to their books, or to busy their minds about their lessons, their heads being full of play; so loath are our minds to enter into serious considerations, into sad, solemn thoughts of God or death, etc. Men are as loath to think of death as thieves of the execution; or to think of God, as they are of their judge. So to go over their own actions, in a review of them, and read the blurred writing of their hearts, and to ‘commune with them,’ at night in the end of the day, men are as loath to do this as schoolboys are to parse their lesson. . . . And therefore our mind; like a bad stomach, are nauseated with the very scent of good things, and soon cast them up again. . . . + Let us go and try to wind up our souls, at any time, to holy meditations, to think of what we have heard, or what we have done, or what is our duty to do, and we shall find our minds, like the pegs of an instrument, slip between our fingers, as we are a-winding them up, and to fall down suddenly again, ere we are aware of it; yea, you shall find, will labor to shun what may occasion such thoughts, even as men go out of the way when they see they must meet with one they are loath to speak withal; yea, men dare not be alone, for fear such thoughts should return upon them. The best shall find gladness for an excuse by other occasions to knock off their thoughts from what is good; whereas in thinking of vain earthly things, we think the time passeth too fast, clocks strike too soon, hours pass away ere we are aware of it.

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears in the godly, that though they entertain good thoughts, yet the mind is not, will not, be long intent on them. Some things there are which we are and can be intent upon, and accordingly dwell long upon them. . . . Such thoughts as are pleasing, the heart dwells on them; yea, so intent are we often, that they hinder our sleep. . . . But now let the mind be occupied and busied about good things, and things belonging to our peace, how unsteady is it! Which things should yet draw out the intention of the mind; for the more excellent the object is, the stronger our intention should be. God is the most glorious object our minds can fasten on, the most alluring: the thoughts of whom therefore should swallow up all other, as not worthy to be seen the same day with him. But I appeal to all your experiences, if your thoughts of him be not most unsteady, and are, that I may so compare it, as when we look upon a star through an optic glass, held with a palsy-shaking hand. It is long ere we can bring our minds to have knowledge of him, to place our eyes upon him; and when we have, how do our hands shake, and so lose sight ever and anon! So whilst we are in never so serious talk with him, when all things else should stand without, and not dare to offer entrance till we have, done with him, yet how many chinks are there in the heart at which other thoughts come in! And our minds leave God, and follow them. . . . So when we are hearing the word, how do our minds ever and anon run out of the church, and come in again, and so do not hear half what is said! So when we are at our callings, which God bids us to be conversant about with all our might; yet our minds, like idle truants, or negligent servants, though sent about never so serious a business, yet go out of the way to see any sport, run after the hares that cross the way, follow after butterflies that buzz about us.

Packer Compares Calvinism To Arminianism

J. I. Packer

Quoting J.I. Packer:

  • “One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself.
  • One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly.
  • The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them.
  • The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms.
  • One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.
  • Plainly these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.” (Introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)

Are You A Comfortable Professor Of The Faith?

Quoting James Smith:

You take things easy now. You pretty much study your own comfort now. There you are on Sunday, in your accustomed seat in the house of God. There you are all the week in your business. You are not in troubles as other men, neither are you plagued as other men. But are you safe for heaven? Are your evidences Scriptural? Have you made your calling and your election sure? Is there no ground for doubt, or cause for fear? Perhaps there is, if you would only carefully examine yourself—whether you are truly in the faith.

Will you dwell with devouring fire, with everlasting burnings? It is possible that you may! It is very probably you will! But what if you should? The bare supposition is dreadful.

What! Will you go through the house of God—to the flames of hell!

Well, many do! There are no comfortable professors in hell! But there are many in hell now—who were easy go-and-come professors on earth. (“The Fearful Destiny”)

Why The Cross Produces Anger

John Stott

From the pen of John Stott:

What is there about the cross of Christ which angers the world and stirs them up to persecute those who preach it? Just this: Christ died on the cross for us sinners, becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). So the cross tells us some very unpalatable truths about ourselves, namely that we are sinners under the righteous curse of God’s law and we cannot save ourselves. Christ bore our sin and curse precisely because we could gain release from them in no other way. If we could have been forgiven by our own good works, by being circumcised and keeping the law, we may be quite sure that there would have been no cross. Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size. And of course men do not like it. They resent the humiliation of seeing themselves as God sees them and as they really are. They prefer their comfortable illusions. So they steer clear of the cross. They construct a Christianity without the cross, which relies for salvation on their works and not on Jesus Christ’s. They do not object to Christianity so long as it is not the faith of Christ crucified. But Christ crucified they detest. And if preachers preach Christ crucified, they are opposed, ridiculed, persecuted. Why? Because of the wounds which they inflict on men’s pride.

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