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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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RIGHTEOUSNESS

John BunyanJohn Bunyan:

“But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes [matters or sins] on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and I thought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, He lacks my righteousness, for that [my righteousness] was just before him.  I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet was my bad frame that [which] made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness – Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 35-36)

JUSTIFICATION

John BunyanJohn Bunyan:

“And, indeed, this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world; namely, that a righteousness that resides in heaven should justify me, a sinner on earth!” (“Justification by an Imputed Righteousness”)

Better than All the Gifts

John BunyanQuoting English Preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“I concluded, a little grace, a little love, a little of the true fear of God, is better than all the gifts: yea, and I am fully convinced of it, that it is possible for souls that can scarce give a man an answer, but with great confusion as to method; I say, it is possible for them to have a thousand times more grace, and so to be more in the love and favor of the Lord, than some who by the virtue of the gift of knowledge, can deliver themselves like angels.” (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)

The Devil Told Me That!

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Somebody once told John Bunyan that he had preached a delightful sermon. “You are too late,” said John, “the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” Satan is adept in teaching us how to steal our Master’s glory.

The man who cannot weep cannot preach. At least, if he never feels tears within, even if they do not show themselves without, he can scarcely be the man to handle such themes as those which God has committed to his people’s charge. (15.233)

God’s Distinguishing Love

John BunyanJohn Bunyan:

Christian, let God’s distinguishing love to you be a motive to you to fear Him greatly. He has put His fear in your heart, and may not have given that blessing to your neighbor, perhaps not to your husband, your wife, your child, or your parent. Oh, what an obligation should this thought lay upon your heart to greatly fear the Lord! Remember also that this fear of the Lord is His treasure, a choice jewel, given only to favorites, and to those who are greatly beloved.

Fears

John BunyanJohn Bunyan:

Look how fears have presented themselves, so have supports and encouragements; yea, when I have started, even as it were at nothing else but my shadow, yet God, as being very tender of me, hath not suffered me to be molested, but would with one Scripture or another, strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comfort’s sake.

Things Bitter to the Flesh

John BunyanJohn Bunyan:

Do not even such things as are most bitter to the flesh, tend to awaken Christians to faith and prayer, to a sight of the emptiness of this world, and the fadingness of the best it yield? Doth not God by these things (ofttimes) call our sins to remembrance, and provoke us to amendment of life? How then can we be offended at things by which we reap so much good? … Therefore if mine enemy hunger, let me feed him; if he thirst, let me give him drink. Now in order to do this, (1) We must see good in that, in which other men can see none. (2) We must pass by those injuries that other men would revenge. (2) We must show we have grace and that we are made to bear what other men are not acquainted with. (4) Many of our graces are kept alive, by those very things that are the death of other men’s souls. . . .

Sin!

The following is by Thomas Boston:

Learn the evil of sin. Sin is a stream that will carry down the sinner, until he is swallowed up in the ocean of wrath! The pleasures of sin are bought too dear, at the rate of everlasting burnings!

What did the rich man’s purple clothing and sumptuous food avail him, when in hell he was encircled by purple flames, and could not have a drop of water to cool his tongue?

Alas! that men should indulge themselves in sin which will bring such bitterness in the end! That they should drink so greedily of the poisonous cup, and hug that serpent in their bosom that will sting them to the heart!

The Folly of Ignorance

How often do we act or fail to act with no understanding? Undoubtedly, there are many who follow a path all their lives while in total ignorance of where it really leads. Such is the fate of the ungodly. The following is from the pen of John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

[S]ome are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know where they are, until they come into hell. . . . There it is that they come to themselves, that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed. Thus it fares with some men that they scarce know where they are, till they lift up their eyes in hell. . . .

Truly thus, it is to be feared, it is with many poor souls, they are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience (1 Tim 4:2), that they are very ignorant of their state; and when death comes it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly, and so they are hurried away, and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes. . . .

Indeed this is too much known by woeful and daily experience; sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live, O how senseless, how seared in their consciences are they! They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a Savior; speak to them of their condition, and the state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no souls to regard. . . . Ah, poor souls! Though they may go away here like a lamb, as the world says, yet, if you could but follow them a little, to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared, you should hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell. . . .

Now, by this one thing doth the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy; when, alas! it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly, was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their consciences; yea, dead before in sins and trespasses. For, had they had but some awakenings on their death-beds, as some have had, they would have made the entire town to ring of their doleful condition; but because they are seared and ignorant, and so depart quietly, therefore the world takes heart. . . . But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus now, while they live in the world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go unto the same place; ‘and lifted up their eyes in hell.’ (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

That Which Waits

We should all be fearful for the many poor souls who are so senseless and hard, that they are almost totally ignorant of the state of their souls. When death comes they are hurried away, and do not know what is happening until they are swallowed by hell. John Bunyan continues our education in this matter:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

And thou that art wanton, and dost make but a mock at the servants of the Lord, when they tell thee of the torments of hell, thou wilt find that when thou departest out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet thee in thy journey thither; and will, with its hellish crew, give thee such a sad salutation that thou wilt not forget it to all eternity. When that scripture comes to be fulfilled on thy soul, in Isaiah 14:9, 10, ‘Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they,’ that is, that are in hell, shall say, ‘Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?’ O sometimes when I have had but thoughts of going to hell, and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in thither, it hath stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from thence, than to slight it, and make a mock at it. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

[A]ll the ungodly that live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they depart this life, do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable, where Christ said, He ‘died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ As the tree falls, so it shall be, whether it be to heaven or hell (Eccl 11:3). And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’ Even so the devil in the like manner may say unto thy soul, To-morrow shalt thou be with me in hell. See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell; from the grippings of death, to the everlasting torments of hell. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Ah friends! If you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls; if you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. O what will it profit thy soul to have pleasure in this life, and torments in hell? (Mark 8:36). Thou hadst better part with all thy sins, and pleasures, and companions, or whatsoever thou delights in, than to have soul and body to be cast into hell. O then do not now neglect our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou drop down to hell (Heb 2:3). Consider, would it not wound thee to thine heart to come upon thy death-bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the comforts of his glorious Spirit: to have, first, the sight of an ill-spent life, thy sins flying in thy face, thy conscience uttering itself with thunder-claps against thee, the thoughts of God terrifying of thee, death with his merciless paw seizing upon thee, the devils standing ready to scramble for thy soul, and hell enlarging herself, and ready to swallow thee up; and an eternity of misery and torment attending upon thee, from which there will be no release. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

The Departure Of The Ungodly

There are many who would mock God’s servants when they speak of the torments of hell. However, after this life, you who are mockers now – will face that hell and wonder how you could have taken the warnings so lightly. John Bunyan (1628-1688) writes this:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Verse 23 – The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

The former verse speaks only of the departure of the ungodly out of this life, together with the glorious conduct that the godly have into the kingdom of their Father. Now our Lord doth show, in this verse, partly what doth and shall befall to the reprobate after this life is ended, where he saith, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ That is, the ungodly, after they depart this life, do lift up their eyes in hell.

From these words may be observed these things, First. That there is a hell for souls to be tormented in, when this life is ended. Mark, after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Second. That all that are ungodly, and do live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they die, they go into hell: he died and was buried; ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Third. That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know well where they are till they come into hell; and that I gather from these words, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ He was asleep before, but hell makes him lift up his eyes.

As I said before, it is evident that there is a hell for souls, yea, and bodies too, to be tormented in after they depart this life, as is clear, first, because the Lord Jesus Christ, that cannot lie, did say that after the sinner was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’

Now if it be objected that by hell is here meant the grave, that I plainly deny: Because there the body is not sensible of torment or ease; but in that hell into which the spirits of the damned depart, they are sensible of torment, and would very willingly be freed from it, to enjoy ease, which they are sensible of the want of; as is clearly discovered in this parable, ‘Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.’ It is not meant the grave, but some other place, because the bodies, so long as they lie there, are not capable of lifting up their eyes, to see the glorious condition of the children of God, as the souls of the damned do. ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ It cannot be the grave, for then it must follow that the soul was buried there with the body, which cannot stand with such a dead state as is here mentioned; for he saith, ‘The rich man died’; that is, his soul was separated from his body. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

If it be again objected that there is no hell but in this life; that I do also deny, as I said before: after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ And let me tell thee, O soul, whoever thou art, that if thou close not in savingly with the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on what he hath done and is doing in his own person for sinners, thou wilt find such a hell after this life is ended, that thou wilt not get out of again for ever and ever. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

Unspeakable Glory

It is very great honor and distinction to die a Christian; for the ungodly this is not so. The ungodly die and are carried from their homes to the grave. The ungodly are buried, hid in the dust, and come to nothing there. John Bunyan explains:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

David had the comfort of this, and speaks it forth for the comfort of his brethren (Psa 34:7), saying, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.’ Mark, the angel of the Lord encampeth round about his children, to deliver them. From what? From their enemies, of which the devil is not the least. This is an excellent comfort at any time, to have the holy angels of God to attend a poor man or woman; but especially it is comfortable in the time of distress, at the time of death, when the devils beset the soul with all the power that hell can afford them. But now it may be, that the glorious angels of God do not appear at the first, to the view of the soul; nay, rather hell stands before it, and the devils ready, as if they would carry it thither. But this is the comfort, the angels do always appear at the last, and will not fail the soul, but will carry it safe into Abraham’s bosom. Ah friends, consider, here is an ungodly man upon his death- bed, and he hath none to speak for him, none to speak comfort unto him; but it is not so with the children of God, for they have the Spirit to comfort them. Here is the ungodly, and they have no Christ to pray for their safe conduct to glory; but the saints have an intercessor (John 17:9). Here is the world, when they die, they have none of the angels of God to attend upon them; but the saints have their company. In a word, the unconverted person, when he dieth, he sinks into the bottomless pit; but the saints, when they die, do ascend with, and by the angels, into Abraham’s bosom, or into unspeakable glory (Luke 23:43).

Again, it is said, that the rich man when he died was buried or put into the earth; but when the beggar died, he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The one is a very excellent style, where he saith he was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: it denotes the excellent condition of the saints of God, as I said before; and not only so, but also the preciousness of the death of the saints in the eyes of the Lord (Psa 116:15). That after-generations may see how precious in the sight of the Lord the death of his saints is, when he saith they are carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

What Advantage Have The Godly?

The experience of dying is not something that most people look forward to. Does the Christian have any advantage over the sinner during this final act of our lives? John Bunyan (1628-1688) writes:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

But it may be objected, if the godly do die as well as the wicked, and if the saints must appear before the judgment seat as well as the sinners, then what advantage have the godly more than the ungodly, and how can the saints be in a better condition than the wicked?

Read the 22d verse over again, and you will find a marvelous difference between them, as much as is between heaven and hell, everlasting joy and everlasting torments; for you find, that when the beggar died, which represents the godly, he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, or into everlasting joy (Psa 1). But the ungodly are not so, but are hurried by the devils into the bottomless pit, drawn away in their wickedness (Prov 14:32), for he saith, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ When the ungodly do die, their misery begins, for then appear the devils, like so many lions, waiting every moment till the soul depart from the body. Sometimes they are very visible to the dying party, but sometimes more invisible; but always this is certain, they never miss of the soul if it do die out of the Lord Jesus Christ; but do hale it away to the prison, as I said before, there to be tormented and reserved until that great and general day of judgment, at which day they must, body and soul, receive a final sentence from the righteous Judge, and from that time be shut out from the presence of God into everlasting woe and distress. But the godly, when the time of their departure is at hand, then also are the angels of the Lord at hand; yea, they are ready waiting upon the soul to conduct it safe into Abraham’s bosom. I do not say but the devils are ofttimes very busy doubtless, and attending the saints in their sickness: ay, and no question but they would willingly deprive the soul of glory. But here is the comfort, as the devils come from hell to devour the soul, if it be possible, at its departure, so the angels of the Lord come from heaven, to watch over and conduct the soul, in spite of the devil, safe into Abraham’s bosom.

The Careless Life

The ordinary worldly man does not really and seriously think on death, and the judgment that will follow. We would all do well to remember, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. . . . (Hebrews 9:27 ESV) John Bunyan (1628-1688) adds more to this line of reasoning:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Now if this one truth, that men must die and depart this world, and either enter into joy or else into prison, to be reserved to the day of judgment, were believed, we should not have so many wantons walk up and down the streets as there do, at least it would put a mighty check to their filthy carriages, so that they would not, could not walk so basely and sinfully as they do. Belshazzar, notwithstanding he was so far from the fear of God as he was, yet when he did but see that God was offended and threatened him for his wickedness, it made him hang down his head and knock his knees together (Dan 5:5,6). If you read the verses before you will find he was careless, and satisfying his lusts in drinking and playing the wanton with his concubines. But so soon as he did perceive the finger of a hand-writing, ‘then,’ saith the scripture, ‘the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.’ And when Paul told Felix of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, it makes him tremble. And let me tell thee, soul, whosoever thou art, that if thou didst but verily believe that thou must die and come into the judgment, it would make thee turn over a new leaf. But this is the misery, the devil doth labor by all means as to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart, as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows, if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins, and so from closing with Jesus Christ; as Job saith, ‘Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.’ Which makes them say to God; ‘Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways’ (Job 21:14). Because there is no fear of death and judgment to come, therefore they do put off God and his ways, and spend their days in their sins, and in a moment, that is, before they are aware, go down to the grave (Job 21:17). And thus it fared also with the man spoken of in Luke 12:20. The man, instead of thinking of death, he thought how he might make his barns bigger. But, in the midst of his business in the world, he lost his soul before he was aware, supposing that death had been many years off. But God said unto him, ‘Thou fool,’ thou troublest thyself about things of this life, thou puttest off the thoughts of departing this world, when this night thy soul shall be taken from thee; or, this night, they, that is, the devil, will fetch away thy soul from thee. And here it comes to pass, men’s not being exercised with the thoughts of departing this life, that they are, so unexpectedly to themselves and their neighbors, taken away from the pleasures and profits, yea, and all the enjoyments they busy themselves withal while they live in this world. And hence it is again, that you have some in your towns and cities that are so suddenly taken away, some from haunting the ale- houses, others from haunting the whore-houses, others from playing and gaming, others from the cares and covetous desires after this world, unlooked for as by themselves or their companions. Hence it is also that men do so wonder at such tidings as this.

There is such a one dead, such a one is departed; it is because they do so little consider both the transitoriness [transitory nature] of themselves and their neighbors. For had they but their thoughts well exercised about the shortness of this life, and the danger that will befall such as do miss of the Lord Jesus Christ, it would make them more wary and sober, and spend more time in the service of God, and be more delighted and diligent in inquiring after the Lord Jesus, who is the deliverer ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Thess 1:10). (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

Take Comfort, Afflicted Christian!

Quoting George MacDonald:

No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in the wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have “learned in suffering what they taught in song.” In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim’s Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He put them in the fire.

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