• 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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  • March 2023
    M T W T F S S
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The Presence Of Spiritual Thirst

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

Here is my favorite psalm of the many I love. The beauty of it is obvious. We may think of a deer that is being hunted and has almost come to the end of his strength. He sees before him a vast dry land but knows that beyond it is a cool flowing river of clear water. He agonizes in every movement of his muscles to reach that land and satisfy his thirst by drinking from its waters.

The Christian, spiritually speaking, finds himself in a world which is dry and weary; the carnal pleasures of worldliness leave him empty and so he seeks something more to satiate his thirst. However, it is not to be found in the world’s way of doing things. He needs the “water of life”.

The Christian thirsts after the Lord’s presence. He thirsts for His love and mercy. He thirsts to know God through His Word in a land that is made barren by the lack of it. He knows he would faint and die without God. The word “earnestly” expresses the seriousness of the Christian’s search to always be with God. It is an intense desire which only God can fulfill.

The Christian desires to be counted among the people of God. He does, however, realize that there are, in the Christian life, droughts in which it may seem that God’s Presence no longer abides with us. Yet, God is not absent and the Christian understands that in these barren times, God is still near. Thus he knows that the Lord is still his salvation and will apply peace to his heart at “just the right time”.

My wife and I have gone through something of a drought over the last two years. We have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually shaken by several turns of events in our lives that we did not see coming. I think, however, that these events, through the providence of God, have given us the opportunity to learn many things about ourselves. I, for one, still have a long way to go in growing to be a godly person. My soul thirsts continuously to feel the touch of His hand upon my shoulder which I know by faith is already there to bring guidance and peace. In closing, please note that we must put faith over our feelings in such times:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:1-6 ESV)

Because Of Your Unbelief

John Henry Jowett

In this article, John Henry Jowett (1863-1923) shares his thoughts on faith, belief, and unbelief:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20 ESV)

And this great and optimistic evangel was spoken, not to men who were marching with swinging jubilant stride in the paths of victory, but to men who were temporarily disheartened under the experience of defeat.” Nothing succeeds like success”; it is easy to be an optimist, and optimistic counsel is congenial, when one has the “open sesame,” when the iron gate swings back at one’s approach, and the obstructive mountains sink into a plain. In such conditions it is easy to engage in the winning shout. But is there anything more pathetic and depressing than the spectacle of men baffled in a noble enterprise and retiring beaten from the field? What can be more pathetic than to have watched some chivalrous knight, riding forth in the promising dawn, with waving plume and glittering lance, returning, in the melancholy evening, torn, bespattered, and ashamed, leaving the flippant enemy triumphant on the field? And the tragedy of the home-coming is all the deeper and darker when the way winds through ranks of contemptuous crowds, who assail the beaten knight with ribaldry and jeers. Such was the pitiable condition of this little company of the first knights of the Lord’s Kingdom. They had gone forth with flying banners, gazed at by sullen and silent crowds: they crept back with drooping banners, to the laughing accompaniment of the crowd’s contempt. They had met the enemy, and they had been overwhelmed in the fight. They had gone forth to battle, and they had been driven from the field. “I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him!”

Let us get the scene into the imagination. Here is a man devil-possessed, writhing in the torment of his awful bondage. And here are the expulsive knights of the Kingdom. And around them is a great crowd, the majority of them hostile, many of them cynical, and all of them curious, watching this mysterious encounter with devouring interest. And the knights of the Kingdom get to work. They command, but they are not obeyed! One after another tries his power, but his power is proved to be weakness. The knights become more vehement, their imperative rises to a scream, but the devil remains enthroned! Time after time is the attempt repeated amid the muttered comments of the suspicious crowed, and time after time are they repulsed, until at last these much-claiming knights have to confess their failure, and, to the accompaniment of laughter, they retire angrily or silently from the field, leaving the devil in possession. “I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

The victim was possessed of a devil. I will only pause to say I accept the explanation of his bondage. Some malign presence was making this man’s life chaotic, and was driving him according to its own malicious whim. There are phenomena in human life which cannot be otherwise explained. I cannot explain mysterious emergencies in my own mind and soul except on the theory of subtle and active presences, who seek by illicit snare and fascination to entice me into degrading bondage. The glamour of the world does not account for them. The gravitation of the flesh is an insufficient explanation. They are only interpreted in the Scriptural suggestion that “our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” But it is not necessary for my present purpose to win your assent to any particular theory: it is sufficient to insist that here was an evil in possession, exercising horrible control, paralyzing its pitiable victim, and the knights of the Lord’s Kingdom were incompetent to its expulsion. The evil was left on the field!

Now, our modern experiences very readily lead us to place ourselves in the depressed ranks of the defeated knights. Who is there who has not set out to evict an established evil, and who has not encountered bitter and ultimate defeat? It may be the evil possession was in your own body, or in your mind, or soul, or, maybe, it was housed in the life of your child, or in the life of your friend, or perhaps it was lodged in the corporate body in the shape of some social tyranny, some industrial disease, some national vice, whatever it be, and wherever its home, you have faced the intruder with the purpose of expulsion, and you have signally and utterly failed.

And now it is high time we hear our Master’s explanation of the failure. “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast it out? And He said unto them, “Because of your unbelief!” There is no uncertainty in the diagnosis. The cause is not complicated. It is single and simple. “Unbelief!” There had been a want of confidence. There was doubt at the very heart of the disciple’s effort. There was a cold fear at the very core of his enterprise. He went out with a waving banner, but the flag in his heart was drooping! “Because of your unbelief!” Our Lord is not referring to unbelief in any particular doctrine, but rather to the general attitude and outlook of the soul. There was no strong, definite confidence in the disciple, and such unbelief always ensures paralysis and defeat. . . .

What is the range and quality of our confidence? What amount of faith is there at the heart of our crusade? The answer to these questions will give the measure of our strength, and will reveal to us our possibilities in the ministry. . . . (“The Energy of Faith”)

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!

No Task Is Too Small For The Man Of God (C. H. Spurgeon)

Charles H. Spurgeon

We all become discouraged from time to time, but it is a shame to hear Christians discount their ability to do great things for God. Some will not take on the smallest ministry because they either see it to be insignificant or feel God has not given them any great gifts to share with others. C. H. Spurgeon speaks to this attitude:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

It is significant that the man with one talent went and hid his Lord’s money in the earth. He knew that it was but one, and for that reason he was the less afraid to bury it. Perhaps he argued that the interest on one talent could never come to much, and would never be noticed side by side with the result of five or ten talents; and he might as well bring nothing at all to his Lord as bring so little. Perhaps he might not have wrapped it up if it had not been so small that a napkin could cover it. The smallness of our gifts may be a temptation to us. We are consciously so weak and so insignificant, compared with the great God and His great cause, that we are discouraged, and think it vain to attempt anything.

Moreover, the enemy contrasts our work with that of others, and with that of those who have gone before us. We are doing so little as compared with other people, therefore let us give up. We cannot build like Solomon; therefore let us not build at all. Yet, brethren, there is a falsehood in all this; for, in truth, nothing is worthy of God. The great works of others and even the amazing productions of Solomon, all fell short of His glory. What house could man build for God? What are cedar, and marble, and gold as compared with the glory of the Most High? Though the house was “exceeding magnifical,” yet the Lord God had of old dwelt within curtains, and never was His worship more glorious than within the tent of badger’s skins; indeed, as soon as the great house was built, true religion declined. What of all human work can be worthy of the Lord? Our little labors do but share the insignificance of greater things, and therefore we ought not to withhold them: yet here is the temptation from which we must pray to be delivered.

The tendency to depreciate the present because of the glories of the past is also injurious. The old people looked back to the days of the former temple, even as we are apt to look upon the times of the great preachers of the past. What work was done in those past days? What Sabbaths were enjoyed then! What converts were added to the church! What days of refreshing were then vouchsafed! Everything has declined, decreased, degenerated! As for the former days, they beheld a race of giants, who are now succeeded by pigmies. We look at one of these great men, and cry,

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.”

But, brethren, we must not allow this sense of littleness to hamper us; for God can bless our littleness, and use it for His glory. I notice that the great men of the past thought of themselves even as we think of ourselves. Certainly they were not more self-confident than we are. I find in the story of the brave days of old the same confessions and the same lamentations which we utter now. It is true that in a spiritual strength we are not what our fathers were; I fear the Puritanic holiness and truthfulness of doctrine are dying out, while adherence to principle is far from common; but our fathers had also faults and follies to mourn over, and they did mourn over them most sincerely. Instead of being discouraged because what we do is unworthy of God, and insignificant compared with what was done by others, let us gather up our strength to reform our errors, and reach to higher attainments. Let us throw our heart and soul into the work of the Lord, and yet do something more nearly in accordance with our highest ideal of what our God deserves of us. Let us excel our ancestors. Let us aspire to be even more godly, more conscientious, and more sound in the faith than they were, for the Spirit of God remaineth with us. (Sermon: “The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

The Christian And Discouragement

It is easy to become discouraged in this present world whether you are a Christian or not. Sometimes Christians are discouraged by their own personal failures. This often happens when we evaluate our efforts to serve God, the church, and others as inadequate. Charles H. Spurgeon reminds us that our strength is in God’s Hands:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubabbel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

By the mouth of His servant Haggai stern rebukes were uttered, and the whole people were aroused. . . .

The present times are, in many respects, similar to those of Haggai. History certainly repeats itself within the church of God as well as outside of it; and therefore the messages of God need to be repeated also. The words of some almost-forgotten prophet may be re-delivered by the watchman of the Lord in these present days, and be a timely word for the present emergency. We are not free from the worldliness which puts self first and God nowhere, else our various enterprises would be more abundantly supplied with the silver and the gold which are the Lord’s, but which even professing Christians reserve for themselves. When this selfish greed is conquered, then comes in a timorous depression. Among those who have escaped from worldliness there is apt to be too much despondency, and men labor feebly as for a cause which is doomed to failure. This last evil must be cured. . . .

To begin with, here is DISCOURAGEMENT FORBIDDEN. Discouragement comes readily enough to us poor mortals who are occupied in the work of God, seeing it is a work of faith, a work of difficulty, a work above our capacity, and a work much opposed.

Discouragement is very natural: it is a native of the soil of manhood. To believe is supernatural, faith is the work of the Spirit of God; to doubt is natural to fallen men; for we have within us an evil heart of unbelief. It is abominably wicked, I grant you; but still it is natural, because of the downward tendency of our depraved hearts. Discouragement towards good things is a weed that grows without sowing. To be faint-hearted and downcast happens to some of us when we are half drowned in this heavy atmosphere, and it also visits us on the wings of the east wind. It takes little to make some hands hang down: a word or a look will do it. I do not, therefore, excuse it; but the rather condemn myself for having a nature prone to such evil.

Discouragement may come and does come to us, as it did to these people, from a consideration of the great things which God deserves at our hands, and the small things which we are able to render. . . . Have you not felt the depressing weight of what is so surely true? Brethren, all that we do is little for our God; far too little for Him that loved us and gave Himself for us. For Him that poured out His soul unto death on our behalf the most splendid service, the most heroic self-denial, are all too little; and we feel it so. Alabaster boxes of precious ointment are too mean a gift. It does not occur to our fervent spirit to imagine that there can be any waste when our best boxes are broken and the perfume is poured out lavishly for Him. What we do fear is that our alabaster boxes are too few, and that our ointment is not precious enough. When we have done our utmost in declaring the glory of Jesus, we have felt that words are too poor and mean to set forth our adorable Lord. When we have prayed for His kingdom we have been disgusted with our own prayers; and all the efforts we have put forth in connection with any part of His service have seemed too few, too feeble for us to hope for acceptance. Thus have we been discouraged. The enemy has worked upon us by this means, yet he has made us argue very wrongly. Because we could not do much, we have half resolved to do nothing! Because what we did was so poor, we were inclined to quit the work altogether! This is evidently absurd and wicked. The enemy can use humility for his purpose as well as pride. Whether he makes us think too much or too little of our work, it is all the same to him as long as he can get us off from it. . . .

But, brethren, we must not allow this sense of littleness to hamper us; for God can bless our littleness, and use it for His glory. (Sermon: “The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

Charles Spurgeon: People Have Not Changed All That Much!

Charles H. Spurgeon

There is not much difference in our times to the times of Haggai. God’s message to His people often has to be repeated over the years. The Lord always provides a timely word in a present crisis. So, like the people of Haggai’s time, we put ourselves first as Charles H. Spurgeon points out in the following excerpt:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubabbel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remains among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

Satan is always doing his utmost to stay the work of God. He hindered these Jews from building the temple; and to-day he endeavors to hinder the people of God from spreading the gospel. A spiritual temple is to be built for the Most High, and if by any means the evil one can delay its uprising he will stick at nothing: if he can take us off from working with faith and courage for the glory of God he will be sure to do it. He is very cunning, and knows how to change his argument and yet keep to his design: little cares he how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God. In the case of the Jewish people on their return from captivity he sought to prevent the building of the temple by making them selfish and worldly, so that every many was eager to build his own house, and cared nothing for the house of the Lord. Each family pleaded its own urgent needs. In returning to a long-deserted and neglected land, much had to be done to make up for lost time; and to provide suitably for itself every family needed all its exertions. They carried this thrift and self-providing to a great extreme, and secured for themselves luxuries, while the foundations of the temple which had been laid years before remained as they were, or became still more thickly covered up with rubbish. The people could not be made to bestir themselves to build a house of God, for they answered to every exhortation, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” A more convenient season was always looming in the future, but it never came. Just now it was too hot, further it was too cold; at one time the wet season was just setting in, and it was of no use to begin, and soon the fair weather required that they should be in their own fields. Like some in our day, they saw to themselves first, and God’s turn was very long in coming; hence the prophet cried, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”

By the mouth of His servant Haggai stern rebukes were uttered, and the whole people were aroused. We read in verse twelve of the first chapter, “Then Zerubabbel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord.” All hands were put to the work; course after course of stone began to rise. . . . (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

The Servant’s Comfort

Robert Hawker

Consider Christ and your duties to Him. How are you to approach each task? Are they burdensome? Robert Hawker explains the servant’s comfort in these things:

“His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3, 4)

Mark these pictures, my soul. Jesus has servants, and they are distinguished from the world. They “serve Him.” What is it to serve Christ? Free grace has made them servants, in bringing them from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

This is why the prophet proclaims in the Lord’s name, “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit.” (Isa 65:13, 14) How distinguishing are these pictures! God’s servants have the table of Jesus to sit down to; the bread of life, the bread of God, the living bread, which is Jesus himself, to feed upon. They shall drink also; for he that is their living bread is their living water also -even the water of life, of which whosoever drinks shall thirst no more; “But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) The servants of the Lord shall rejoice, and sing for joy of heart also.

Yes, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17) And this is not all. The servants of the Lord shall “See his face.” They do now, by faith in his word, in his ordinances, in his manifestations, visits, grace, providences. And, by and by, when this veil of covering, cast over all people, is totally taken down and removed at death, they shall have a glorious view of the King in his beauty by sight.

Moreover, his name is said to be “in their foreheads.” Yes, it is so; the image of Christ is impressed upon them, as “Holiness to the Lord” was engraved on the head covering of Aaron. “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [they] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) My soul, what do you say to these evidences? Are they yours? Take the comfort of them to yourself. (from: “The Poor Man’s Portions”)

The Lord Knows

The following article by James Smith provides us with a much needed reminder for the times that try our souls:

“Casting all your care upon Him — because He cares for you!” (1 Peter 5:7)

The Lord knows all His people — all their needs, and all their trials. He thinks upon them — to bless, deliver and supply them. He keeps His eye upon them — in all places, at all times, and under all circumstances. He has them in His hand — and will not loosen His hold.

He looks upon them always as His own ‘treasured possession’, the objects of His eternal love, the purchase of His Son’s blood, and the temples of His Holy Spirit. They are precious in His sight!

He knows they are weak and fearful — and that they have many enemies. He teaches them to cast themselves and all their cares into His hands! And He has given them His promise — that He will care for them. It is a Father’s care which He exercises. It is a wise, holy, tender, and constant care. Therefore all will be well with you — only trust Him.

Believe that He cares for you this day. Carry all your concerns to Him — in the arms of faith! Leave all with Him, persuaded that He will manage all by His infinite wisdom, and bring all to a good outcome by His omnipotent power. Cast all your cares upon Him — as fast as they come in. Do not worry about anything. (“The Pastor’s Morning Visit”)

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you! He will never allow the righteous to be shaken!” (Psalm 55:22)

Assurance In Prayer

Do we not all seek assurance that our prayers will be answered? Yet, we wonder if it can truly be known. In acquiring such information, much depends upon the mode of God’s dealing with the soul. God’s secret work, as well as the matter of Biblical revelation, must be taken into account when seeking assurance in prayer. Dr. John Kennedy has written:

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.”Psalm 25:14

A mere outside Christian is an utter stranger to . . . the special application of the statements or promises of the Bible. He judges that communion with the Lord is a one-sided matter. He thinks that in dealing with the Hearer of prayer the speaking is all on his side. He is so enamored of his own utterances that he cares not whether God speaks or not. But it is far otherwise with those who truly fear the Lord. It is when they hear the Lord’s voice speaking words of truth and mercy that they can venture to utter words of faith and hope. “Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.” “Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust.” “Be not silent to me.” “The companions hearken unto thy voice; cause me to hear it.” There are times when, in the face of His silence, as surely as in the face of His frown, they who fear Him cannot advance nor speak to the Lord. And when they have presented their suit, they look up for an answer in peace. This, in the meantime, the Lord often gives them by a word in season spoken to their heart. It may, sometimes, please Him not to give any intimation of His acceptance of their prayer till the time for granting their request has come. . . .

They who fear the Lord are not blind, as others are, to the indications of His mind in the dealing of His providence. They are acquainted, as others are not, with the principles of His moral government. They have the sensitiveness of spiritual life under the workings of His great hand, while others lie unaffected in death. They watch and walk with God, while others live without Him in the world. They speak to Him about His doings, and He speaks to them, while others are dumb and deaf before Him. Shall they not, therefore, know the bearings of God’s providence as others cannot? May not one, who fears the Lord, who is much given unto prayer, whose heart is charged with care about the interests of the cause of Christ, who watches over the movements of providence with a feeling of intense interest, who looks on God’s works in the light of His word, and of His recorded antecedents, and who has acquired the blessed habit of speaking about His doings to the Lord Himself, seem to penetrate a future, all dark to others, as with a seer’s eye, while, with all truth and honesty, he may disclaim being either a prophet or the son of one? They are little acquainted with the ways of God, who imagine God has ceased to give His people assurance. . . . (“The Secret of the Lord”)

Spurgeon On Substituting Rubbish For The Word Of God

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

Reckon that every sermon is a wasted sermon which is not Christ’s word. Believe that all theology is rotten rubbish which is not the Word of the Lord. Do not be satisfied with going to a place of worship and hearing an eloquent discourse, unless the sum and substance of it is the Word of the Lord. My brothers and sisters, whether you teach children or their parents, do not think you have done any good unless you have taught the Word of the Lord. For saving purposes we must have the Lord’s Word, and nothing else. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 33, p. 440)

Spurgeon On Preaching To Elevate Self

Charles H. Spurgeon

If you would have God speak to you, you must possess a deep seriousness of heart. It is said that when George Fox was called a Quaker, because he trembled at the name of God, the title was a great honor to him. C. H. Spurgeon admonishes preachers to do some trembling before they preach:

There are certain defects which cut a man off from the divine employ, and anything like a sinister motive is one of them. If you aim at making money, winning ease, securing approbation, or obtaining position, or even if you aim at the exhibition of rhetorical talent, you will not be fit for the Master’s use. God would not have us entangled with subordinate designs. . . . How contemptible it is when a minister so acts as to give the idea of childish display! He stands up to deliver his Lord’s message, but his hope is that people will say, “What a nice young man! How properly he speaks, and how prettily he quotes Browning!” Self-display is death to power. God cannot largely bless men with such small ideas. It were beneath the dignity of the Godhead for the Lord largely to use an instrument so altogether unadapted for his sublime purposes.

Beloved, I notice that God imparts his messages to those who have a complete subordination to him. I will tell you what has often crossed my mind when I have talked with certain brethren. . . . I have wondered which was the Master and which was the servant. . . . I have been sorry for the errors of these brethren; but I have been far more distressed by the spirit shown in those errors. It is evident that they have renounced that holy reverence for Scripture which is indicated by such an expression as this, “That trembleth at my word.” They rather trifle than tremble. The Word is not their teacher, but they are its critics. The Word of the Lord is no longer enthroned in the place of honor with many; but it is treated as a football, to be kicked about as they please; and the apostles, especially, are treated as if Paul, and James, and John were Jack, Tom, and Harry, with whom modern wise men are on terms of something more than equality. They pass the books of Scripture under their rod, and judge the Spirit of God himself. The Lord cannot work by a creature that is in revolt against him. We must manifest the spirit of reverence, or we shall not be as little children, nor enter the kingdom of heaven. . . . That which was created in the brain cannot yield comfort to the heart. The man will sorrowfully say, “Yes, that is my own idea; but what does God say?” Brethren; I believe in that which I could not have invented. I believe that which I cannot understand. I believe that which compels me to adore, and I thank God for a rock that is higher than I am. If it were not higher than I, it were not a shelter for me.

“But still,” says one, “we must be earnest students of the literature of the period, and of the science of the age.” Yes: I did not say you were not to be so; but keep them in subordination to the Word of God. (A Sermon to Pastors: ““The Preacher’s Power and the Conditions of Obtaining it”)

Teaching A Disagreeable Truth

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I sent out an order that everyone should go to the parish church on Sunday. Back then, the majority of the people were still Roman Catholics. This command went against the grain for those who did not want to attend a Reformed service. When they did attend, as prescribed by law, many of them put wool into their ears, that they might not hear the preacher. In other forms this practice is still popular today. Men will listen to the truth they want to hear, but when the truth is disagreeable to them; they make themselves dull of hearing. How then can we witness to those who are lost? Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

To begin with, it is our great desire to bear witness to the truth. I believe—and the conviction grows upon me—that even to know the truth is the gift of the grace of God; and that to love the truth, is the work of the Holy Spirit. I am speaking now, not about a natural knowledge, or a natural love to divine things, if such there be; but of an experimental knowledge of Christ, and a spiritual love to him: these are as much the gift of God in the preacher, as the work of conversion will be the work of God in his hearers. We desire so thoroughly to know, and so heartily to love the truth, as to declare the whole counsel of God, and speak it as we ought to speak. No small labor this. To proclaim the whole system of truth, and to deal out each part in due proportion, is by no means a simple matter. To bring out each doctrine according to the analogy of faith, and set each truth in its proper place, is no easy task. It is easy to make a caricature of the beautiful face of truth by omitting one doctrine and exaggerating another. We may dishonor the most lovely countenance by giving to its most striking feature an importance which puts it out of proportion with the rest; for beauty greatly consists in balance and harmony. To know the truth as it should be known, to love it as it should be loved, and then to proclaim it in the right spirit and in its proper proportions is no small work for such feeble creatures as we are. In this grand, yet delicate labor, we have to persevere year after year. What power can enable us to do this? While so many complain of the monotony of the old gospel, and feel a perpetual itching for something new, this disease may even infect our own hearts. This is an evil to be fought against with our whole being. When we feel dull and stale, we must not imagine that the truth of God is so; nay, rather by returning more closely to the Word of the Lord we must renew our freshness. To continue always steadfast in the faith so that our latest testimony shall be identical in substance with our first testimony, only deeper, mellower, more assured, and more intense—this is such a labor that for it we must needs have the power of God. Do you not feel this? I pray you feel it more and more. O brethren, if you propose to be true witnesses for God, your proposal is a very glorious one, and it will tend to make you feel the truth of what I am about to say, namely, that a more than human power must guide you, and make you sufficient for the difficult enterprise.

Your object is, however, so to bear your personal witness that others may be convinced thereby of the truth of what is so sure to your own soul. In this there are difficulties not a few, for our hearers are not anxious to believe the revelation of God; some of them are desirous not to do so. . . . I shall not attempt to teach a tiger the doctrine of vegetarianism; but I shall as hopefully attempt that task as I would try to convince an unregenerate man of the truths revealed by God concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come. These spiritual truths are repugnant to carnal men, and the carnal mind cannot receive the things of God. . . .

Except the Lord endow us with power from on high our labor must be in vain, and our hopes must end in disappointment. This is but the threshold of our labor: our inmost longing is to call out a people who shall be the Lord’s separated heritage. (“The Preacher’s Power and the Conditions of Obtaining It”)

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