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    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 Jerusalem Water Shaft

Archaeology and the Bible:

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” (2 Samuel 5:6-8 ESV)

David’s capture of Jerusalem recounted in 2 Samuel 5:6-8 speaks of Joab using a water shaft built by the Jebusites to surprise them and defeat them. Historians had assumed it was simply a legend until archaeological excavations by R.A.S. Macalister, J.G. Duncan, and Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel found these very water shafts.

Knowing Truth

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. (1 Kings 12:25-31 ESV)

I believe God put stories in the Bible for a purpose. One interesting story is about how Jeroboam sinned by changing how God was to be worshiped. Jeroboam changed the place of worship, the qualifications for priests, the date of the feast, and so forth. He was guided by his heart in these decisions.

Eventually, Jeroboam believed he should be a priest and planned to offer incense on his new altar at Bethel. Through this bit of Bible history, we learn about the destructive nature of a lie.

Too many people today need to understand that believing a thing to be true, does not make it true. If you were told that one church is just as good as another and you believed it, does that make it true? A good church is one that obeys and teaches God’s Word. Our emotions and desires for various activities and programs should never outweigh the pure teaching of God’s Word and obedience to it.

A thing cannot be judged as absolutely true of God by the simple word of your fellow creature. Believing a lie has terrible consequences. We must learn that no matter how high an I.Q. we may boast of, we can still be deceived. We must always test what is said by God’s Word.

If you wish to be godly-wise, you must read and study the Bible for yourself. Never misuse or misapply the word. There are all kinds of lies being preached and followed today. If we do not develop a love for God’s truth, we will listen to the lies of mere men and forsake the God of the Scriptures. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6 ESV) Jesus is the “way” to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is also truth. What better source can you find than the Author of all truth? Jesus is life because His life purchased “rebirth” and access to “eternal life” for God’s elect. Let us pray and discipline ourselves to love God’s truth. It is the persevering and consistent Bible student who is equipped to discern the truth from a lie.

Wandering Thoughts

Thought and wisdom are not to be confused. The wisdom that many possess in their later years comes by the Holy Spirit through the power of sanctification. The work of the Spirit in our minds facilitates the gradual dying out of the power of temptation over us. Yet our thoughts are not completely free of temptation. Thomas Goodwin writes:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

We find our minds ready to spend thoughts about anything rather than what God at present calls unto. When we go to a sermon, we find we could then spend our thoughts more willingly about reading, or haply searching our hearts; unto which at another time, when called to it, we should be most unwilling to. We could be content to run wild over the fields of meditations and miscellaneous thoughts, though about good, rather than to be tied to that task, and kept in one set path. . . .

[T]hough indeed the mind of man is nimble and able thus to run from one end of the earth to another, which is its strength and excellence, yet God would not have this strength, and nimbleness, and mettle spirit in curveting and trembling, as I may call it, but in steady directing all our thoughts straight on to his glory, our own salvation, and the good of others; he gave it this nimbleness to turn away from evil, and the first appearance of it. As we are to walk in God’s ways he calls us to, so every thought, as well as every action, is a step, and therefore ought to be steady; ‘Make straight steps to your feet,’ says the Apostle, Heb. xii. 13, turning not to the right hand nor to the left, until we come to the journey’s end of that business we are to think of. But our thoughts at best are as wanton spaniels, who, though indeed they go with and accompany their master, and come to their journey’s end with him in the end, yet do run after every bird, and wildly pursue every flock of sheep they see. This unsteadiness arises from the like curse on the mind of man as was on Cain, that it being ‘driven from the presence of the Lord,’ it proves a vagabond, and so ‘men’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.’ This foolishness is also seen in that independence in our thoughts; they hanging oft together as ropes of sand. . . . This madness and distemper is in the mind since the fall . . . that if notes were taken of our thoughts, we should find thoughts so vagrant, that we know not how they come in, nor whence they come, nor whither they would. . . . And as Seneca says of men’s lives, as of ships that are tossed up and down at sea, it may be said they have been tossed much but sailed nothing; the like in this respect may be said of the thoughts. Or as when men make imperfect dashes, and write nonsense, they are said to scribble, they do not write; so, in these follies and independencies, we . . . lose ourselves, we do not think.

Learning From Injuries

The vanity and sinfulness of the mind appears the utmost in the ungodly. Yet, they may entertain good thoughts, but their minds will not dwell upon them very long. Thomas Goodwin elaborates:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

A heart sanctified, and in whose affections true grace is en-kindled, out of all God’s dealings with him, out of the things he sees and hears, out of all the objects are put into the thoughts, he distilleth holy, and sweet, and useful meditations; and it naturally doth it, and ordinarily doth it, so far as it is sanctified. So our Savior Christ, all speeches of others which he heard, all accidents and occurrences, did still raise and occasion in him heavenly meditations, as we may see throughout the whole Gospels. When he came by a well, he speaks of the ‘water of life,’ John IV. &c. Many instances might be given. He in his thoughts translated the book of the creatures into the book of grace, and so did Adam’s heart in innocency. His philosophy might be truly termed divinity, because he saw God in all; all raised up his heart to thankfulness and praise. So now, in like manner, our minds, so far as they are sanctified, will do. As the philosopher’s stone turns all metals into gold, as the bee sucks honey out of every flower, and a good stomach sucks out some sweet and wholesome nourishment out of what it takes into itself; so doth a holy heart, so far as sanctified, convert and digest all into spiritual useful thoughts. This you may see, Ps. cvii. 43. That psalm gives many instances of God’s providence, and ‘wonderful works which he doth for the sons of men;’ as deliverances by sea; where men see his wonders; deliverance to captives, &c. : and still the foot of the song is, ‘0 that men would therefore praise the Lord for the wonderful works he doth for the sons of men.’ Now, after all these instances, he concludes, that though others pass over such occurrences with ordinary slight thought; yet says he, ‘The righteous shall see it, and rejoice,’ that is, extract comfortable thoughts out of all, which shall be matter of joy; and ‘whoso is wise will observe these things,’ that is; makes holy observations out of all these, and out of a principle of wisdom he understands God’s goodness in all, and so his heart is raised to thoughts of praise, and thankfulness; and obedience. Now, compare with this the 92d Psalm, made for the Sabbath, when, in imitation of God, who that day viewed his work; we are, on our Lord’s day, still to raise holy praiseful thoughts out of them to his glory, which he that penned that psalm then did, ver. 1, 2, and ver. 5, 6, ‘How great are thy works!’ &c. ‘A brutish man knows not, nor will a fool understand this;’ that is, he being a beast, and having no sanctified principle of wisdom in him, looks no further than a beast into all the works of God and occurrences of things; looks on all blessings as things provided for man’s delight by God; but he extracts seldom holy, spiritual, and useful thoughts out of all, he wants the art of doing it.

If injuries be offered us by others, what do our thoughts distill out of those wrong; but thoughts of revenge? We meditate how to requite it again. But see how naturally David’s mind distills other thoughts of Shimei’s cursing, 2 Sam. xvi. 11, ‘God hath bidden him,’ and it may prove a good sign of God’s favor, ‘God may requite good for it.’ When we see judgments befall other; severe thoughts of censure our minds are apt to raise against our brother, as Job’s friends did. But a godly man, whose mind is much sanctified, raises other thoughts out of it, Prov. xxi. 29, ‘wisely consider.’

So when outward mercies befall us, the next thoughts we are apt to have is to project ease by our wealth, ‘Thou hast goods for many years;’ and when judgments befall us, we are apt to be filled with thoughts of complaint, and fear; and cares how to wind out again. But what were the first thoughts Job had upon the news of the loss of all? God hath given, and the Lord hath taken, blessed be the Lord for all.

Such thoughts as these, which all opportunities hint unto, a good heart is apprehensive of; and doth naturally raise for its own use. So far barren as our thoughts are, so far vain. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

“I crucified Thee”

Dr. Robert Crouse was a noted Patristic and Medieval scholar, and a teacher and priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. Father Crouse instilled a deep love of learning in generations of students. He was also a noted priest, a bulwark of orthodox faith, and has been described as “the conscience of the Canadian Church”. The following contains excerpts from a Good Friday sermon by Dr. Crouse:

“Then Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things written by the Prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and spitefully entreated and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them; neither understood they the things which were spoken.” (Luke 18.31-34)

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem” is the summons of this day. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, to witness those things which come to pass here. We gaze and fix our minds and hearts upon the passion of the Son of God. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, to witness a mystery which astounds and stupefies, a mystery before which all words seem cheap, and every symbol seems too shallow. What thoughts or what emotions can embrace such horrendous contradictions: the Son of God is spitted on; the Son of God, the Word of Life, goes down to death. How can we contemplate such things? How can we even begin to understand? How can we fix our minds and hearts on that?

In the mystery of that moment, all the powers of heaven and earth and hell are shaken. The sun withholds its light, and the whole creation, which longs for its redemption, utters its astounded cry, as the earth quakes, and the rocks are rent. In that moment, all the hopes and expectations of religion are confounded, and the veil of the Temple is rent in twain from the top unto the bottom. Many bodies of the saints arise and go about the city. That is to say, the whole settled order of the universe and of human life and expectations, all that is reasonable and dependable, is overturned; turned upside down when God, the Son of God, is spitted on, when the Word of Life goes down to death. . . .

The power of human wickedness is no doubt great. Its machinations sink into the very fabric of our life, and cripple the mind and heart. The power of human wickedness is great, but not so great that it should touch the holy peace of God, unless he willed that it should touch him. Jesus says to Pilate, “Thou could’st have no power against me, unless it were given thee from above.” Human wickedness will raise itself in pride and claim to be “as God,” but that is devilish delusion. God is not touched unless he will it so to be.

We bear in mind today the weight of human wickedness, that reckless pride which rises up against the holiness of God and the order of his universe. But that is not what is first and most important in the mystery of the love of God, who freely wills our woes to touch his heart, who freely gives himself against our sins, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is the mystery of this day, and that is why we call this Friday “Good.” We celebrate the mystery of the love of God: that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Begotten Son.” (John 3.16) That is love unthinkable, utterly unmerited, beyond all possible expectation.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5.6-8).

Our task today is nothing other than the contemplation of that mystery of love. It is to fix our minds and hearts upon the passion and the dying of the Son of God . . . All that is understandable. But in the end, there is only one answer to all of this: we must gaze upon the charity of God in Christ. The charity of God must be our food and drink. . . .

This is why the heart of Christian life is the sacrament of Calvary, the sacrament of body broken, and blood out-poured. Christ’s sacrifice abides with us in the sacrament, so that we may look upon the mystery of love and eat and drink the charity of God . . . We must eat and drink the charity of God so that God’s own charity, which hears, believes, hopes and endures, may be the substance of our life and the renewal of our minds.

© R.D. Crouse, all rights reserved

Who Is Your King?

Quoting Charles Henrickson:

“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” So the psalmist writes, and then he adds this question, calling for our reflection: “Who is this King of glory?” That is our question this morning, on this Day of the Palms, when we also look ahead to the Day of the Passion. Today we look upon this man Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, and we ask, “Who Is This King of Glory?”

Well, on Sunday, Palm Sunday, he certainly looks like a king of glory. Cheering crowds, palm branches, cloaks spread on the road–a triumphal entry into the royal city, Jerusalem. What a scene of joy and triumph it is, fulfilling the ancient prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But by the end of the week, that Holy Week, instead of a triumphal entry, there is a tearful exit. The daughters of Jerusalem who were rejoicing on Sunday are weeping on Friday, as the King of glory is led out of town in shame and sorrow. Who is this King of glory?

On Sunday Jesus is acclaimed as the messianic king: ““Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” On Friday he is accused of claiming to be that king: “We found this man misleading our nation . . . saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Jesus doesn’t deny it: “Are you the King of the Jews?” “You have said so.” Who is this King of glory? Soldiers array him in splendid clothing, only to beat him up and mock him. Who is this King of glory?

Glory? Glory, you say? Where is the glory in being nailed to a cross, and having a sign placed over your head, “This is the King of the Jews”? No garments strewn before him, now his own garments are stripped from him.

Strange king, indeed. On Sunday he rides in triumph on the Way of Glory. On Friday he staggers, condemned, on the Way of Sorrows, the way of the cross and darkness and degradation. Who is this King of glory?

The world today would just as soon forget about this king, this puzzling man, Jesus. They want to put him on the shelf, push him out of sight, out of mind, and get on with their lives–their busy, distracted, no-need-for-God lives. Instead of cheering crowds–or hostile crowds, either, for that matter–now there are just busy crowds, bustling crowds, too-busy-to-be-bothered and too-bored-to-care crowds. What a vacuous lot we have become! Overloaded with information, but starved for wisdom. All too busy, and yet filling our lives with nothing. Junk food for the mind. Junk food for the soul. No time or need for this man Jesus. Who is this King of glory?

Continue reading here. . . .

Truth

Our modern Christians want little to do with controversy and I dare say they are likely to shun martyrdom as well. It is certain that such a weak Christianity will never fight for truth until Christians have the nerve to die for it. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) explains below:

It is the primary claim of Christianity that it is “the truth.” Jesus Christ, its founder, calls himself significantly “the truth” (John xiv. 6), and sums up his mission in the world as a constant witness-bearing to “the truth” (John xviii. 37). It is accordingly as “the truth” that the gospel offers itself to men; and it seeks to propagate itself in the world only as “truth,” and therefore only by those methods by which “truth” makes its way. Not the sword but the word is Christianity’s weapon of defense and instrument of conquest. “Cut me off that old man’s head” was Caliph Omar’s answer to the arguments with which the aged Christian priest met him as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem: and in this scene we have revealed the contrast between Christianity and all other religions. “That old man,” says Dr. James MacGregor, “with no shield but faith, no sword but the word, setting himself alone to stem the then raging lava-torrent of fanaticism, with its brutish alternative of the Koran or death, is typical of the fact that Christianity is an apologetic religion.” Confident that it is the only reasonable religion, it comes forward as pre-eminently the reasoning religion. The task it has set itself is no less than to reason the world into acceptance of the “truth.”

If the world were only as eager to receive the truth as the truth is to win the world, the function of Christian men might well be summed up in the one word, proclamation. But the typical responses of the world to the proclaimed truth are the cynical sneer of Pilate, “What is truth?” and the brutal commend of Omar, “Cut me off that old man’s head!” So, proclamation must needs pass into asseveration, and asseveration into contention, that the truth may abide in the world. “Bear witness to the truth”; “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”: these are the twin exhortations by which every Christian man’s duty is declared for him. How early did the Christian proclamation produce its double fruitage of martyrdom and controversy! The old Greek word “martyr,” “witness” soon took on a specific Christian meaning, and became more and more confined to those who had sealed their testimony with their blood; and everywhere the irritated world complained of these persistent reasoners that they were turning the world upside down. (“Christianity: The Truth”)

Thomas Watson: Everything In Its Proper Place

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) discusses here the ungratefulness of men who oppose truth in God’s church:

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)

This nation is sick of a spiritual pleurisy, we begin to surfeit upon the bread of life; when God sees his mercies lying under table, and it is just with him to call to the enemy to take away. I heartily pray that plenty of ordinances doth not as much hurt in this city, as famine hath done in other places of the land; and if we once say, what is this manna? No wonder if we begin to say, who is this Moses? Oh what a sad change is there in our days! Those that once would have counted our feet beautiful that would have been ready to have pulled out their eyes for their minister, are now ready to pull out their minister’s eyes; and what is the quarrel? Even this, ‘Am I become your enemy because I tell yon the truth?’ If ministers would preach smooth things, make the way to heaven nearer than ever Christ made it, then they should be admired. (You have more people gaze at a Comet or blazing star, than at the sun.) But if they come to lay the ax of the law to the root of conscience; if they fall a hewing and cutting down men’s’ sins, ‘The land is not able to bear their words.’ If the prophet goes to tell king Asa of his great sin in joining with a wicked army; ‘Herein thou hast done foolishly.’ if he goes about to imprison his sin, he himself shall be imprisoned. ‘Then Asa was wroth with the Seer, and put him in a prison-house.’ This was Jerusalem’s sin, and it drew tears from Christ. . . .

Those that would annihilate the ministry, go to pull the stars out of Christ’s hand; and they will find it a work not feasible; it will fare with them as with the eagle, that going to fetch a piece of flesh from the altar, a coal sticking to the flesh, she burnt herself and the young ones in the nest. . . .

We act against God, when we act against that order and government which he hath set up in his church; God is the God of order, he hath set every thing in its proper sphere. . . .

Seeking Wealth To Find Happiness

In the article below, Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) reminds us that the journey to achieve great wealth may not yield the results we hope for:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV)

In these striking words we see that [Solomon] found the path of riches a disappointing path also. Finding bitterness in the path of wine, finding no peace in human wisdom alone, he turned to the path of riches, hoping therein to find the joy and the peace the human heart needs.

See how rich he was.

  • “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold.” (I Kings 10:14)
  • “And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold, six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields, of beaten gold; three pounds of gold went to one shield; and the, king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.” (I Kings 10:16,17)
  • “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” (I Kings 10:22)
  • “And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.” (I Kings 10:26)
  • “So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” (I Kings 10:23)

Yes, gifts poured into his coffers in a continuous stream so that he was able to hire men singers and women singers able to build himself and his wives gorgeous palaces able to enjoy all that money could provide. He was able at any time to pay a king’s ransom for a day of pleasure. He had riches till the end of his life. He never knew the pinch of poverty; never knew any anxiety about his daily bread. Yet, even in the security of his nest of wealth, he fully realized the futility of their values. “Vanity of vanities ! “

No man can buy a contented heart.

Money is powerless to furnish this. No man can purchase with riches a soul at peace with God. No man can pay in money the price of the hope of immortality and of a meeting in the Great Beyond. No man can find in riches the purchase price of God’s favor or the realization of eternal salvation.

Not even in this day does money guarantee health, or hold friends, or bring contentment! (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

Athens And Jerusalem

Dinesh D'Souza

From the pen of Dinesh D’Souza:

The West was built on two pillars: Athens and Jerusalem. By Athens I mean classical civilization, the civilization of Greece and pre-Christian Rome. By Jerusalem I mean Judaism and Christianity. Of these two, Jerusalem is more important. The Athens we know and love is not Athens as it really was, but rather Athens as seen through the eyes of Jerusalem.

Slowly and surely, Christianity took the backward continent after the fall of the Roman Empire and gave it learning and order, stability and dignity. The monks copied and studied the manuscripts that preserved the learning of late antiquity. Christopher Dawson shows in Religion and the Rise of Western Culture how the monasteries became the locus of productivity and learning throughout Europe. Where there was once wasteland they produced hamlets, then towns, and eventually commonwealths and cities. Through the years the savage barbarian warrior became a chivalric Christian knight, and new ideals of civility and manners and romance were formed that shape our society to this day. If Christianity had not been born out of Judaism, Rodney Stark writes, we might still be living in the Dark Ages. (“Adrift”)

Read the entire article at. . . .

Mourning For The Lost

We mourn at the loss of a relative, a friend, or someone we just happen to work along side of. It is a mourning that follows the physical death of someone whose presence will be missed. Should we not, however, mourn most for those who are still physically alive and yet, their souls are spiritually dead? Bishop J. C. Ryle discusses this topic below:

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

What shall I say to you? What can I say? What words of mine are likely to have any effect on your hearts? This I will say—I mourn over your souls. I do most sincerely mourn. You may be thoughtless and unconcerned. You may care little for what I am saying. You may scarcely run your eye over this paper, and after reading it you may despise it and return to the world; but you cannot prevent my feeling for you, however little you may feel for yourselves.

Do I mourn when I see a young man sapping the foundation of his bodily health by indulging his lusts and passions, sowing bitterness for himself in his old age? Much more then will I mourn over your souls.

Do I mourn when I see people squandering away their inheritance, and wasting their property on trifles and follies? Much more then will I mourn over your souls.

Do I mourn when I hear of one drinking slow poisons, because they are pleasant, as the drunkard or the opium-eater—inch by inch digging his own grave? Much more then will I mourn over your souls.

I mourn to think of golden opportunities thrown away—of Christ rejected, of the blood of atonement trampled under foot—of the Spirit resisted; the Bible neglected—heaven despised, and the world put in the place of God.

I mourn to think of the present happiness you are missing, the peace and consolation you are thrusting from you, the misery you are laying up in store for yourselves—and the bitter waking up which is yet to come!

Yes! I must mourn. I cannot help it. Others may think it enough to mourn over dead bodies. For my part, I think there is far more cause to mourn over dead souls. The children of this world find fault with us sometimes for being so serious and grave. Truly, when I look at the world, I marvel we can ever smile at all.

To everyone who is dead in sins I say this day—Why will you die? Are the wages of sin so sweet and good, that you cannot give them up? Is the world so satisfying that you cannot forsake it? Is the service of Satan so pleasant that you and he are never to be parted? Is heaven so poor a thing that it is not worth seeking? Is your soul of so little consequence, that it is not worth a struggle to have it saved? Oh, turn! turn before it be too late! God is not willing that you should perish. “As I live,” He says, “I have no pleasure in the death of him who dies.” Jesus loves you, and grieves to see your folly. He wept over wicked Jerusalem, saying, “I would have gathered you—but you would not be gathered.” Surely if lost, your blood will be upon your own heads. “Awake, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Ezek. 18″32; Matt. 23:37; Eph. 5:14.)

Believe me, believe me, true repentance is that one step that no man ever repented of. Thousands have said at their latter end, they had “served God too little.” But no person ever said, as he left this world, that he had cared for his soul too much. The way of life is a narrow path—but the footsteps in it are all in one direction—not one child of Adam has ever come back and said it was a delusion. The way of the world is a broad way—but millions on millions have forsaken it, and borne their testimony that it was a way of sorrow and disappointment. (“Alive or Dead?”)

Do Not Measure Your Condition By The Condition Of Others

Bishop J. C. Ryle

Why die in your sins? Is sin so sweet that you cannot give it up? Is worldliness so satisfying that you cannot forsake it? Is being a servant of Satan so pleasant? Does your soul mean so little to you? Come to Christ now before it is too late! God is grieved when He sees you in your folly! Was it not Christ who wept over wicked Jerusalem? He said, “I would have gathered you—but you would not be gathered.” Bishop J. C. Ryle writes the following out of concern for your soul:

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

You do not know! Yet all around you is uncertainty. You are a poor frail worm—your body fearfully and wonderfully made—your health liable to be put out of order in a thousand ways. The next time the daisies bloom, it may be over your grave! All before you is dark. You know not what a day might bring forth, much less a year. Oh! Why not bring your soul’s business to a point without delay?

Let every reader of this paper begin the great business of self-examination. Rest not until you know the length and breadth of your own state in God’s sight. Backwardness in this matter is an evil sign. It springs from an uneasy conscience. It shows that a man thinks ill of his own case. He feels, like a dishonest tradesman, that his accounts will not bear inquiry. He dreads the light.

In spiritual things, as in everything else, it is the highest wisdom to make sure of your work. Take nothing for granted. Do not measure your condition by that of others. Bring everything to the measure of God’s Word. A mistake about your soul is a mistake for eternity! “Surely,” says Leighton, “they that are not born again, shall one day wish they had never been born.”

Sit down this day and think. Commune with your own heart and be still. Go to your own room and consider. Enter into your own closet, or at any rate contrive to be alone with God. Look the question fairly, fully, honestly in the face. How does it touch you? Are you among the living or among the dead?

“If your state be good, searching into it will give you the comfort of it. If your state be bad, searching into it cannot make it worse; nay, it is the only way to make it better—for conversion begins with conviction.” (Hopkins. 1680) (“Alive or Dead?”)

Finding Satisfaction

Charles H. Spurgeon

From the pen of Charles H. Spurgeon:

“Behold, all is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:14

Nothing can fully satisfy a person—but the Lord’s love and the Lord’s own self. Christians have tried other pursuits—but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges.

Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all; and to do for us—what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words, “So I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind! Nothing was gained under the sun!” “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

What! Is the whole of it meaningless? O favored monarch—is there nothing in all your wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in your glorious palaces? Is there nothing—in all your music and dancing, and wine and luxury? “Nothing!” he says, “but a chasing after the wind!” This was his final verdict—after he had trodden the whole round of pleasure.

To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love, and be fully assured of union with Him—this is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of pleasure in order to see whether they are better than Christ. If you roam the whole world—you will see no sights like a sight of the Savior’s face! If you could have all the comforts of life—without the Savior, you would be most wretched. But if you possess Christ—though you should rot in a dungeon—you would find it a paradise! Though you should live in obscurity, or die with famine—yet you would be satisfied with the favor and goodness of the Lord!

A Sovereign Love

John MacDuff

From the pen of John MacDuff, 1864:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love! Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Here we have an everlasting thought of God, “in the beginning, before ever the earth was.” Believer, travel back in imagination to the ages of the past. Before the trance of eternity was broken by any visible manifestation of power — before one temple was erected in space, before one angel waved his wing, or one note was heard of seraph’s song — when God inhabited alone, these sublime solitudes — then there was a thought of you — and that thought was — Love!

Think of the sovereignty of that love. He says not, ‘You have loved Me with your poor earthly love — therefore have I drawn you.’ No, no! It is from nothing in you — no foreseen goodness on your part. Grace is the reason for all He has done, “God who is rich in mercy for His great love with which He loved us.” “I will have mercy,” is His own declaration — on whom I will have mercy!” “Jacob,” (that cunning, scheming, crafty youth) “Jacob I loved — but Esau I hated!”

Manasseh, (that miserable man who has defiled his crown, dishonored his throne, and deluged Jerusalem with blood) “I have loved.” That dying thief — fresh from a life of infamy, breathing out his blasphemies on a felon’s cross, “I have loved.” And why, let each of us ask, am I not a Cain or a Judas? Why am I not a wrecked and stranded vessel, like thousands before me? Here is the reason; “Yes, I have loved you.” Before you had one thought of Me, yes, when your thoughts were those of hatred, rebellion, and enmity — My thoughts towards you were thoughts of love!

And that Sovereign love, as it is from everlasting, so is it to everlasting — endless in duration — enduring as eternity. The love of the creature is but of yesterday — it may be gone tomorrow — dried like a summer-brook when most needed. But the love of God is fed from the glacier summits — the everlasting hills. We may estimate its intensity, when the Savior could utter regarding it such a prayer as this, “That the love with which You have loved Me — may be in them.”

Oh, amid the often misgivings of my own doubting heart, with its frames and feelings as vacillating as the shifting sand, let me delight to ponder this precious thought — the long line of unbroken love — every link love — connecting the eternity that is past with the eternity to come — God thinking of me before the birth of time — even then mapping out all my future happiness and heavenly bliss — and standing now, with the hoarded love of that eternity in His heart, seeking therewith to “draw” me!

It is “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus” — which is the moral gravitation-power of the cross, by which His true people have ever been drawn. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth — will draw all men unto Myself!” Draw me, Lord — and I will run after You. Show me Your loving-kindness thus enshrined and manifested in Your dear Son. Constrain me to love You in Him, because You have first loved, and so loved, me! “How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

Afflictions Overcome

Quoting Abraham Wright:

I am mended by my sickness, enriched by my poverty, and strengthened by my weakness…. Thus was it with…. Manasseh, when he was in affliction, “He besought the Lord his God”: even that king’s iron was more precious to him than his gold, his jail a more happy lodging than his palace, Babylon a better school than Jerusalem. What fools are we, then, to frown upon our afflictions! These, how crabbed so ever, are our best friends. They are not indeed for our pleasure, they are for our profit.

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