• 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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  • December 2022
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

Jump-Starting the Day

Jump-Starting the DayLet me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8 ESV)

How do you jump-start your day? Is it with a cup of coffee? Personally, I prefer a Coke. I suppose it is not the healthiest of nutritional habits, but for many caffeine is the preferred means of physically jump-starting the day. For others it may be jogging or some other form of exercise. Human beings, however, are both flesh and spirit. There is a spiritual side to man that must be nourished for each new day as well. I believe it is the more important of the two.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks eloquently of the potential mercies of God awaiting us each day: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Martin Luther recognized the potential of prayer for each new day, when he said, “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.” E. M. Bounds tells us, “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees.” Henry Ward Beecher writes, “In the morning, prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings …”

The Puritans had a wonderful sense of the gift of each new day and they relied upon God for the spiritual mercies to make it fruitful. Below is a prayer that exemplifies this attitude from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett:

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest. Let me this day know Thee as Thou art, love Thee supremely, serve Thee wholly, admire Thee fully. Through grace let my will respond to Thee, knowing that power to obey is not in me, but that Thy free love alone enables me to serve Thee. Here then is my empty heart, overflow it with Thy choicest gifts; here is my blind understanding, chase away its mists of ignorance.

O ever watchful Shepherd, lead, guide, tend me this day; without Thy restraining rod I err and stray. Hedge up my path lest I wander into unwholesome pleasure, and drink its poisonous streams; direct my feet that I be not entangled in Satan’s secret snares, nor fall into his hidden traps. Defend me from assailing foes, from evil circumstances, from myself. My adversaries are part and parcel of my nature; they cling to me as my very skin; I cannot escape their contact. In my rising up and sitting down they barnacle me; they entice with constant baits; my enemy is within the citadel. Come with almighty power and cast him out, pierce him to death, and abolish in me every particle of carnal life this day.

I have noticed that when my prayer life decreases, chaos seems to increase. The power of prayer has a tremendous effect on one’s life. Do not allow what you have to do on a given day to overshadow your time in prayer. Prayer is the best way to jump-start your day.

Samuel at Gilgal


According to Charles H. Spurgeon:

‘As the apostle says to Timothy, so also he says to everyone, ‘Give yourself to reading.’ He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritan writers, and expositions of the Bible. The best way for you to spend your leisure is to be either reading or praying.’

By Grace Through Faith

There are many in this world who, no doubt, understand the doctrine of faith, but will one day be in hell because they did not believe. Yet, not any who have trusted in our Lord Jesus Christ will ever be cast out, even if his faith is as a grain of Mustard seed. Read here the words of Charles Spurgeon and receive Christ into your soul:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Commit yourself to the merciful God; rest your hope on the gracious gospel; trust your soul on the dying and living Savior; wash away your sins in the atoning blood; accept His perfect righteousness, and all is well. Trust is the lifeblood of faith; there is no saving faith without it. The Puritans were accustomed to explain faith by the word “recumbency.” It meant leaning upon a thing. Lean with all your weight upon Christ. It would be a better illustration still if I said, fall at full length, and lie on the Rock of Ages. Cast yourself upon Jesus; rest in Him; commit yourself to Him. That done, you have exercised saving faith. Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. That is one way of describing what faith is.

Let me try again. Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him. The Scriptures speak of Jesus Christ as being God; God is human flesh; as being perfect in His character; as being made of a sin-offering on our behalf; as bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. The Scripture speaks of Him as having finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. The sacred records further tell us that He “rose again from the dead,” that He “ever liveth to make intercession for us,” that He has gone up into the glory, and has taken possession of Heaven on the behalf of His people, and that He will shortly come again “to judge the world in righteousness, and his people with equity.” We are most firmly to believe that it is even so; for this is the testimony of God the Father when He said, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye him.” This also is testified by God the Holy Spirit; for the Spirit has borne witness to Christ, both in the inspired Word and by diverse miracles, and by His working in the hearts of men. We are to believe this testimony to be true.

Faith also believes that Christ will do what He has promised; that since He has promised to cast out none that come to Him, it is certain that He will not cast us out if we come to Him. Faith believes that since Jesus said, “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, it must be true; and if we get this living Water from Christ it will abide in us, and will well up within us in streams of holy life. Whatever Christ has promised to do He will do, and we must believe this, so as to look for pardon, justification, preservation, and eternal glory from His hands, according as He has promised them to believers in Him.

Jesus is what He is said to be, Jesus will do what He says He will do; therefore we must each one trust Him, saying, “He will be to me what He says He is, and He will do to me what He has promised to do; I leave myself in the hands of Him who is appointed to save, that He may save me. I rest upon His promise that He will do even as He has said.” This is a saving faith, and he that hath it hath everlasting life. Whatever his dangers and difficulties, whatever his darkness and depression, whatever his infirmities and sins, he that believeth thus on Christ Jesus is not condemned, and shall never come into condemnation. (All of Grace)

John Owen On Preaching And Prayer

Quoting Puritan theologian John Owen:

To preach the word . . . and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random. (“The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government”, Works, Vol. 16)

The Preacher and Pastoral Care

James Montgomery Boice

Quoting James Montgomery Boice:

[T]he greatest periods of faithful expository preaching were inevitably accompanied by the highest levels of sensitivity to the presence of God in worship and the greatest measure of concern for the cure of souls.

The Puritans are a great example, though one could cite the Reformation period or the age of the evangelical awakening in England as well. The Puritans abounded in the production of expository material. We think of the monumental productions of men like Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Richard Baxter (1615-l691), John Owen (1616-1683), Thomas Watson (d. l686), John Flavel (1627-1691), Jonathan Edwards (1702-1758), and that later Puritan Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). These men produced material so serious in its nature and so weighty in its content that few contemporary pastors are even up to reading it. Yet common people followed these addresses in former times and were moved by them. Worship services were characterized by a powerful sense of God’s presence, and those who did such preaching and led such services were no less concerned with the individual problems, temptations, and growth of those under their care. Who in recent years has produced a work on pastoral counseling to equal Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor (1656)? Who has analyzed the movement of God in individual lives as well as did Jonathan Edwards in A Narrative of Surprising Conversions (1737) and Religious Affections (1746) or Archibald Alexander in his Thoughts on Religious Experience (1844)? Questions like these should shake us out of self-satisfied complacency and show that we are actually conducting our pastoral care, worship, and preaching at a seriously lower level. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

The New Born Soul

Quoting George Swinnocke (1660):

“How wonderfully does the new born soul differ from his former self. He lives a new life, he walks in a new way, he steers his course by a new compass, and towards a new coast. His principle is new, his pattern is new, his practices are new, his projects are new, all is new. He ravels out all he had wove before, and employs himself wholly about another work.”

The Loss Of Heaven

Richard Baxter

Quoting English Puritan preacher, minister and author Richard Baxter (1615-1691):

“A hard heart now makes heaven and hell seem but trifles. We have showed them everlasting glory and misery, and they are as men asleep; our words are as stones cast against a wall, which fly back in our faces. We talk of terrible things, but it is to dead men; we search the wounds, but they never feel it; we speak to rocks rather than to men; the earth will as soon tremble as they. But when these dead souls are revived, what passionate sensibility, what working affections, what pangs of horror, what depths of sorrow will there then be! How violently will they denounce and reproach themselves! How will they rage against their former madness! The lamentations of the most affectionate wife for the loss of her husband, or of the tenderest mother for the loss of her children, will be nothing to theirs for the loss of heaven.” (From: “Lamentations of the Lost,” excerpt from The Saint’s Everlasting Rest)

A Prayer For Rest

O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls. Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit. Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling. Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God. (Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett)

Christianity’s Influence On Colonial Government

American Christian Rulers by Reverend Edward J. Giddings

Mark David Hall, Ph.D., is Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University. He is the author or co-editor of eight books, including The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church–State Relations in the American Founding (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Press, 2009) and The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009). In a recent article titled “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” he writes:

Few doubt that Puritans were serious Christians attempting to create, in the words of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, “a shining city upon a hill” (a reference to Matthew 5:14). Puritans separated church and state, but they clearly thought the two institutions should work in tandem to support, protect, and promote true Christianity. . . .

It is certainly the case that colonists were attracted to the New World by economic opportunity (in New England as well as in the South), and yet even in the southern colonies the protection and promotion of Christianity was more important than many authors assume. For instance, Virginia’s 1610 legal code begins:

Whereas his Majesty, like himself a most zealous prince, has in his own realms a principal care of true religion and reverence to God and has always strictly commanded his generals and governors, with all his forces wheresoever, to let their ways be, like his ends, for the glory of God….

The first three articles of this text go on to state that the colonists have embarked on a “sacred cause,” to mandate regular church attendance, and to proclaim that anyone who speaks impiously against the Trinity or who blasphemes God’s name will be put to death.

Early colonial laws and constitutions such as the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and Massachusetts Body of Liberties are filled with such language—and in some cases, they incorporate biblical texts wholesale. Perhaps more surprisingly, tolerant, Quaker Pennsylvania was more similar to Puritan New England than many realize. The Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania (1681) begins by making it clear that God has ordained government, and it even quotes Romans 13 to this effect. . . .

An extensive survey of early colonial constitutions and laws reveals many similar provisions. As well, at least nine of the 13 colonies had established churches, and all required officeholders to be Christians—or, in some cases, Protestants. Quaker Pennsylvania, for instance, expected officeholders to be “such as possess faith in Jesus Christ.”

If one is to understand the story of the United States of America, it is important to have a proper appreciation for its Christian colonial roots. By almost any measure, colonists of European descent who settled in the New World were serious Christians whose constitutions, laws, and practices reflected the influence of Christianity.

More On The Cultural Preacher

Many preachers today do not emphasize repentance in any real sense. They make a wide gate leading to salvation and a broad highway leading to heaven. Don’t worry about sinfulness; you do not need to understand your sinful nature. Just make a decision for Christ and you are now safe. It is entirely unlike the evangelism of the Puritans, Whitefield and others, where men who taught the terrifying  judgment of God.

Repentance means you know you are a guilty sinner in the presence of God. You know that you deserve the wrath of God. True repentance acknowledges that you are hell-bound. You realize that this thing called sin is in you and you long to get rid of it. You are now willing to turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world system that operates in sin no matter the cost. You take up your cross and you follow Christ. You may suffer for following Christ but that is the price of repentance.

The false preacher does not teach it like this. He counsels the hurts of his congregation in order to temporarily heal them through psychological encouragement. He promises that things are OK and you simply need to make a decision for Christ and all will be well. Therefore, circumstances govern their attempt at conversion rather than the conviction of the Holy Spirit who demands it. God, give us men obedient to the Holy Spirit to fill our pulpits!

Drinking From The Fountain Of Life

We Americans should be thankful that we live in a land where the great remedy for spiritual thirst is known. We live in a land of Bibles, the preached Gospel, and where the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is still proclaimed. We take too little notice of our privileges. Like Israel, we have become unimpressed with God’s daily supply of manna. (Num. xxi. 5.) Yet, the humblest man who grasps the Scriptures knows more about peace with God than Plato and all the philosophers of the Athenian sage. . . . We must learn to be thankful that our lot is cast in this Christian land. Do not give God cause to have controversy with us because of our unthankful ness. Bishop J. C. Ryle gives us cause to hope:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

But, simple as this remedy for thirst appears, it is the only one for man’s spiritual disease, and the only bridge from earth to heaven. Kings and their subjects, preachers and hearers, masters and servants, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all must alike drink of this water of life, and drink in the same way. For eighteen centuries men have labored to find some other medicine for weary consciences; but they have labored in vain. Thousands after blistering their hands and growing grey in hewing out “broken cisterns which can hold no water.” (Jer. ii 13); have been obliged to come back at last to the old Fountain, and have confessed in their latest moments that here, in Christ alone, is true peace.

And simple as the old remedy for thirst may appear, it is the root of the inward life of all God’s greatest servants in all ages. What have the saints and martyrs been in every era of Church history, but men who came to Christ daily by faith, and found His flesh meat indeed and His blood drink indeed. (John vi. 55.) What have they all been but men who lived the life of faith in the Son of God, all drank daily out of the fullness there is in Him (Gal. ii. 20.) Here, at all events, the truest and best Christians, who have made a mark on the world, have been of one mind. Holy Fathers and Reformers, holy Anglican divines and Puritans, holy Episcopalians and Nonconformists, have all in their best moments borne uniform testimony to the value of the Fountain of life. Separated and contentious as they may sometimes have been in their lives, in their deaths they have not been divided. In their last struggle with the king of terrors they have simply clung to the cross of Christ, and gloried in nothing but the “precious blood,” and the Fountain open for all sin and uncleanness. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

John Owen On Preaching With Power

John Owen, by John Greenhill (died 1676). See ...

John Owen

Quoting the great Puritan, John Owen:

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.


John Owen On The Word Of Power

Quoting the great Puritan, John Owen:

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savory unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.

Christopher Love

Christopher Love

Christopher Love was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1618. At the age of fourteen, he went to hear William Erbury, vicar of St. Mary’s in Cardiff, who would later stray into mysticism. His wife later wrote how Love reacted to that sermon: “God met with him and gave him such a sight of his sins and his undone condition that he returned home with a hell in his conscience.” His father noticed his son’s depression and locked him in a room on the second floor of the house to prevent him from attending church the next Sabbath. Love tied a cord to the window, slid down it, and went to church. His earlier convictions deepened and he was soon converted. (Excerpt from Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson)

Whatever Happened To The Young, Restless, And Reformed?

The Reformed Church changed the world by the obedience of teaching the nations and building the Kingdom of God. They believed they were God’s chosen vessels to manifest God’s Sovereignty over the cultures of men by building a new civilization. Puritan thought was rich in its interest of exerting God’s sovereignty over the kingdoms of this world. But, how has this great Reformed legacy worked out in today’s world? Gary DeMar writes:

Four years ago, Christianity Today ran an article, Young, Restless, Reformed.” In it, the author Collin Hansen covered a phenomenon that has been around for the last decade: The return of many young Christians to the Reformed doctrines. He interviewed quite a few pastors and young church members who came out of Charismatic and “seeker-sensitive” churches, who now embrace the doctrines of Calvinism. Hansen saw this return as a less-advertised, but much larger and more pervasive phenomenon than the “emergent church” or the “seeker-sensitive church.” He believed the comeback of “Calvinism” was “shaking up the church.” He pointed to the popularity of the old Puritan authors among the “new Reformed,” and especially among the young. The old-fashioned Puritanism of the 17th and the 18th centuries seemed to be the ideological fuel behind this Calvinist comeback. Many of the Puritans’ works were being reprinted because of the renewed interest in them. A professor at Gordon-Conwell even said he suspected “young evangelicals gravitate toward the Puritans looking for deeper historic roots and models for high-commitment Christianity.”

This was highly encouraging. Everything good the Western world has today – the concepts of liberty, rule of law, superior work ethic, charitable organizations, entrepreneurial spirit, thrift and long-term investment, etc. – it owes it to the Reformed theology and those who applied it in practice. When the time came for liberty to be defended throughout the Western world, and especially in America, it was Reformed and Puritan preachers who encouraged populations to defend their freedom under God, and it was Reformed and Puritan laymen who first manned the battle stations against oppression. And it was Reformed and Puritan leaders who worked to build the West to a just and prosperous society, and to spread the ideas of liberty to the rest of the world; everyone else followed their example. So, if Collin Hansen was right in his assessment of the pervasiveness of this Calvinist comeback, then we had back again the historically proven solution to America’s descent into socialism, paganism, political turmoil and economic recession.

But whatever hopes one could derive from that Calvinist comeback that Hansen saw, they would have been completely extinguished in our experience of the last two years. In a time when our society is struggling to preserve everything America once proudly stood for – everything that the Puritans handed down to us through the generations – these “new Reformed” of Hansen failed to materialize when their influence was most necessary. Since 2008, in our intense cultural wars against those who want to subvert America, the churches declared as “Reformed” by Hansen are nowhere to be seen.

Continue reading. . . .

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