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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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Reading the Bible

George WhitefieldGod’s revealed Word, the Bible, is so important that Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If you want to live life as it should be lived, as God intended, you must listen to, read, and heed the Bible. George Whitefield writes of this:

Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by the reading of his holy word. ‘Search the scriptures’, says our blessed Lord, ‘for these are they that testify of me’. And the royal Psalmist tells us ‘that God’s word was a light unto his feet, and a lantern unto his paths’; and he makes it one property of a good man, ‘that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and that he exercises himself therein day and night’. ‘Give thyself to reading’, (says Paul to Timothy); ‘And this book of the law, (says God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth’. For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning. And the word of God is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, and every way sufficient to make every true child of God thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though he had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by, and fought the devil with, ‘It is written’. This, the apostle calls the ‘sword of the Spirit’. We may say of it, as David said of Goliath’s sword, ‘None like this’. The scriptures are called the lively oracles of God: not only because they are generally made use of to beget in us a new life, but also to keep up and increase it in the soul. The apostle Peter, in his second epistle, prefers it even to seeing Christ transfigured upon the mount. For after he had said, chap. 1:18. ‘This voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount’; he adds, ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts’: that is, till we shake off these bodies, and see Jesus face to face. Till then we must see and converse with him through the glass of his word. We must make his testimonies our counselors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus’ feet, by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls. (“Walking with God”)

Do You Believe God?

Quoting R. C. Sproul:

“The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” (Knowing Scripture, p.35)

Are We Lovers Of The Word?

Thomas Watson

The Word of God is spiritually pure. By the Word of God, we are convicted. People who love the Word will seek to be a part of a heart-searching ministry. A Christian soul rejoices when God’s Word has pierced his sin. Thomas Watson shares his perspective on this subject in the excerpts below:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the Word written. This day-star has risen in his heart, and ushered in the Sun of righteousness. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out. The Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The Word preached is ‘the rod of God’s strength’ (Psa. 11O:2) and ‘the breath of his lips’ (Isa. 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that it was built by the sound of Amphius’ harp, is much more true of soul conversion. It is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the preaching of the Word is called ‘the power of God to salvation’ (Rom 1:16). By this, Christ is said (now) to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.

A godly man loves the Word preached, partly from the good he has found by it – he has felt the dew fall with this manna – and partly because of God’s institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save him. The king’s image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority on the Word preached makes it an instrument conducive to men’s salvation.

  • Application: Let us test by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?

Do we love the Word written? What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few pages of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? As Moses often had ‘the rod of God’ in his hand, so we should have ‘the Book of God’ in our hand. When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this ‘sword of the Spirit’ to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word! But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armor which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They would rather look at a deck of cards than at a Bible. (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

Thomas Brooks: This Incomparable Book!

From the pen of Thomas Brooks:

The whole of Scripture is but one entire love letter, dispatched from the Lord Christ, to His beloved spouse!

Oh! the mysteries, the excellencies, the glories which are in this incomparable book! There are none so useful, none so needful, none so delightful, none so necessary to make you happy and to keep you happy–as this!

Ah! the Word of the Lord is . . . 

  • a light to guide you, a counselor to counsel you,
  • a comforter to comfort you, a staff to support you,
  • a sword to defend you, a physician to cure you!

The Word is . . .

  • a mine to enrich you, a robe to clothe you,
  • a crown to crown you, bread to strengthen you,
  • wine to cheer you, a honeycomb to feast you,
  • music to delight you, a paradise to entertain you!

Oh! therefore, before all and above all: search the Scripture, study the Scripture, meditate on the Scripture, delight in the Scripture, treasure up the Scripture!

There is . . .

  • no wisdom like Scripture wisdom, no knowledge like Scripture knowledge, no experience like Scripture experience,
  • no comforts like Scripture comforts, no delights like Scripture delights, no convictions like Scripture convictions,
  • no conversion like Scripture conversion!

I exhort you to a speedy, serious, diligent, and constant study of the Scripture. Ah! you do not know how soon . . .

  • your blind minds may be enlightened, your hard hearts may be softened, your proud spirits may be humbled,
  • your sinful natures may be changed, your defiled consciences may be purged, your distempered affections may be regulated,

and your poor souls may be saved . . .

  • by searching into the Scriptures, by reading the Scripture, and
  • by pondering upon the Scripture.

Ah! if you do not in good earnest, give yourself up . . .

  • to the reading, to the studying, to the pondering, to the believing,
  • to the practicing, to the applying, and to the living up to the Scripture–
  • Satan will be too hard for you, the world will be too hard for you,
  • your lusts will be too hard for you, temptations will be too hard for you, deceivers will be too hard for you, and in the end you will be miserable! (“Apples of Gold”, 1660)

Loving The Written Word Of God

Thomas Watson

We should do our best to meditate on the Bible every day. The true Christian meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He endeavors to saturate his mind with the Scriptures. Thomas Watson explains the importance of loving God’s Word:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. (Psalm 119:97-98 ESV)

Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with ornaments and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word: He loves the counseling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the direction sign which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practiced. A godly man loves the directions of the Word.

He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. ‘God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses.’ (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt half-way between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (I Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threats against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying scroll full of curses (Zech. 5:1). A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God’s threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.

He loves the consolatory part of the Word – the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8, 9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are reviving to us when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. ‘In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.’ (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David’s harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.

A godly man shows his love to the Word written by diligently reading it. The noble Bereans ‘searched the Scriptures daily’ (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:12). The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what truth is and what error is. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man’s heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of Melancthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word shall be judged by the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

James Montgomery Boice On Inerrancy

James M. Boice

Do you believe that the Bible is true? Do you believe there are no errors in the Scriptures? Do you believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God? What difference do the answers to these questions make to preachers and congregations? James Montgomery Boice addresses the problems connected with the questions above:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

It is often said by those who adhere to inerrancy that a departure from the orthodox view of the Scripture at this point inevitably leads to a decline in adherence to orthodox views in other areas. This would no doubt be true if all deviators were consistent, but it is hard to demonstrate that this is always true, since one individual is not always as rigorous in carrying out the full implications of a position as another. It is enough to say that this has happened enough times with those who have entered the ministry to concern deeply anyone who sincerely desires the stability and growth of evangelicals and evangelical institutions.

On the other hand, and this is perhaps even more significant, many of those who have wrestled through the problem of the Bible’s inerrancy or noninerrancy and have come down on the inerrancy side, testify to this as the turning point in their ministries, as that step without which they would not have been able to preach with the measure of power and success granted to them by the ministration of the Holy Spirit. I can testify that this has been true in my own experience. As pastor of a church that has seen many hundreds of young men go into the ministry through years of seminary training, I can testify that this has been the turning point for the majority of them as well. It is sometimes said by those who take another position that inerrantists have just not faced the facts about the biblical material. This is not true. These men have faced them. But they are convinced that in spite of those things that they themselves may not fully understand or that seem to be errors according to the present state of our understanding, the Bible is nevertheless the inerrant Word of God, simply because it is the Word of God, and that it is only when it is proclaimed as such that it brings the fullest measure of spiritual blessing.

May God raise up many in our time who believe this and are committed to the full authority of the Word of God, whatever the consequences. In desiring that “Thus saith the Lord” be the basis for the authority of our message, the seminaries, whether liberal or conservative, are right. But we will never be able to say this truthfully or effectively unless we speak on the basis of an inerrant Scripture. We are not in the same category as the prophets. God has not granted us a primary revelation. We speak only because others, moved uniquely by the Holy Spirit, have spoken. But because of this we do speak, and we speak with authority to the degree that we hold to what Charles Haddon Spurgeon called “the ipsissima verba, the very words of the Holy Ghost.”

We need a host of those who have heard that Word and who are not afraid to proclaim it to a needy but rebellious generation. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. Pp.123-143)

Would You Believe That Everyone Goes To Heaven?

Archibald Alexander

If you would believe that everyone goes to heaven then repentance is useless; and there is no need of sanctification. Heaven would be the sinner’s right. There is no need for Christianity; no connection exists between Christianity and salvation. There is no need to love and serve God. Either atheism or hatred of God is just as good as piety. Archibald Alexander explains why this belief is so perverse:

“Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, but are obeying unrighteousness; affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. There is no favoritism with God. All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. (Romans 2:3-12)

Greater mischief cannot be done to men, than by disseminating among them such erroneous opinions as remove from their minds those beneficial restraints which preserve them from giving indulgence to sin, or such as lull them into a false security, and persuade them to neglect attention to that preparation which is necessary to fit them for death and judgment. [The belief that there is no punishment beyond the grave and that all will enter paradise] . . . does violence to the Holy Scriptures, and perverts the plain and obvious meaning of numerous passages which speak of the future punishment of impenitent sinners. And if in one case we may thus set aside the express and repeated declarations of God, to accommodate the doctrine to our own reason and inclinations, the volume of inspiration is dishonored and rendered useless; for upon these principles we may reject every fundamental truth of the Bible. If the doctrine of future punishment is not taught in the Bible, neither is the doctrine of future happiness; for they are commonly taught in the same passages, and in similar language.

If it be true that sin is not punished in the future world, then it would follow that God exercises no moral government over the world; for in the present life the wicked often live at ease and are prosperous, while the virtuous are afflicted. This doctrine goes far to annihilate all difference between virtue and vice, for we must judge of these according to the treatment which they respectively receive from the supreme Ruler; but if there be no future punishment, there is no strong mark of disapprobation set on vice. A doctrine which involves such a consequence as this must be false and dangerous.

If this doctrine should become general, human society could not exist. Like atheism, to which it is near akin, its malignant tendency is not fully seen while society at large is under the influence of a contrary belief. But take away from the minds of all men the fear of judgment and eternity, and this world becomes a scene of violence—an aceldama. All confidence among men would be destroyed; all the bonds of civil society would be severed. Do not say that vice might be coerced by the civil law—a vain hope. Where the whole mass is corrupt, laws are useless. (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted”)

Transforming Life

Quoting Albert N. Martin:

B. B. Warfield describes Calvinism as ‘that sight of the majesty of God that pervades all of life and all of experience’. In particular as it relates to the doctrine of salvation its glad confession is summarized in those three pregnant words, God saves sinners. Now whenever we are confronted with great doctrinal statements in Holy Scripture, God does not leave us merely with the statement of doctrine. The end of God’s truth set before the minds of God’s people is that, understanding it, they might know its effect in their own personal experience. So the grand doctrinal themes of Ephesians, chapters 1, 2 and 3 are followed by the application of those doctrines to practical life and experience in Ephesians, chapters 4, 5 and 6. The end for which God gave his truth was not so much the instruction of our minds as the transformation of our lives. But a person cannot come directly to the life and experience, he must come mediately through the mind. And so God’s truth is addressed to the understanding and the Spirit of God operates in the understanding as the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. He does not illuminate the mind simply that the file drawers of the mental study may be crammed full of information. The end for which God instructs the mind is that he might transform the life. (Albert Martin is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Essex Fells, New Jersey)

The Practice Of Godly Discernment

Most of us would very much like to see God’s hand write a special message to us in the clouds so that we might know God’s providential guidance and will for our own actions. The truly serious Christian wants God to lead in each step before him, but very often he is faulty in his discernment of God’s Will.

How is such discernment to be found? It is to found by listening to the voice of God in His Word; the Bible. In the Scriptures, you will find the mind and will of God through the careful reading and hearing of His Word. God makes it our duty to study and live by His Word because it will be to our good and to His Glory. Therefore, discerning the Will of God involves acting in accordance with the Bible’s teachings to test the circumstances and then follow the godly path.

Suppose you have some business pending, whether secular or spiritual (Personally, I believe it is correct to look at the secular as only a subheading of the spiritual because all the areas of life are under God.): that you do not know the correct course of action to take. What you want is to know the Will of God. To do this, you use your understanding and judgment to apply God’s Word to your situation to decide the proper course of action. We do this by reading the Bible; serious contemplation of the matter; seeking the advice of godly friends; and earnest prayer to God to grant us understanding. We must also do all we are able to submit our own pride to the wisdom of the Lord.

Are you seeking knowledge of God’s Will by mysterious impulses or impressions upon your mind? I would suggest to you that this is not safe. Should we look for marks or signs indicating the way we should go? I do not deny that sometimes in His mercy God may offer such indications of His guidance. However, we must not make such things our rule of discernment. The mind is often inclined to see what we want it to see. Our own inclinations may overrule good sense, prudence, and our knowledge of the Scriptures.

Christian, do not use the Bible as a fortune-telling book. In troublesome times, opening the Bible carelessly and allowing your eyes to gaze as they will upon some random verse of Scripture and then ascribing to it some meaning which fits your fancy is ridiculous. This is an abuse of the Word of God. Do not forsake the Bible for imagination, impressions, or impulses. Do you consider yourself a spiritual giant who can easily discern the divine from the diabolical? Such lofty opinions of yourself will make you dependent upon delusions and self-deception.

The Holy Spirit will lead us through our minds; that our thoughts will be directed to the Word of God. Saturated in the truth of the Scriptures, we may then confidently begin to apply God’s principles to our circumstances. This is the practice of godly discernment.

The Preacher Must Sit Under The Judgment Of God’s Word

James Montgomery Boice

While many may say in our modern times that the Bible contains errors and has many difficulties, these are not recent discoveries. They were known centuries ago to the most serious Bible students: Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and many others were aware of these so-called problems. However, they did not deem them worthy to compel the abandonment of orthodoxy and the Scriptures. The basis for their stand against these difficulties was their own careful study of the Bible and (as they would say) the compelling witness of the Holy Spirit to them through that study. They believed that the Old and New Testaments are uniquely the Word of God and are entirely reliable and truthful. In the article below. James Montgomery Boice touches on this theme:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

The important teaching is that the Scriptures had their origin in God; therefore the copies that Peter’s readers had were also to be considered as being from God and thus worthy of their careful study . . . Certainly Peter is not making a distinction between the originals and copies. That is just the point. He is not even thinking in these terms. . . .

Peter is not the only one whose sermons are recorded in Acts, of course. Stephen is another. Stephen was arrested by the Sanhedrin on the charge of speaking “blasphemous words against [the law of] Moses and God,” and he replied with a defense that occupies nearly the whole of Acts 7. This sermon contains a comprehensive review of the dealings of God with Israel, beginning with the call of Abraham and ending with the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. It is filled with Old Testament quotations.

Its main point is that those who were defending the law were not obeying it. Rather, like those before them, they were resisting the Word of God and killing God’s prophets (Acts 7:51-53). . . .

We conclude that each of the New Testament preachers is concerned to proclaim God’s word as fulfilled in the events of his own lifetime. Moreover, his emphasis is on this word rather than on his own subjective experiences or any other less important matter. The thesis that emerges at this point . . . is that preaching that is patterned on the preaching of the apostles and other early witnesses will always be biblical in the sense that the very words of the Bible will be the preacher’s text and his aim will be a faithful exposition and application of them. This cannot be done if the preacher is sitting in judgment on the Word rather than sitting under it. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

Closing Down Hell And Swinging Wide The Gates Of Heaven

 

Archibald Alexander

Archibald Alexander was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, 17 April 1772, and died in Princeton, New Jersey, 22 October 1851. He was licensed to preach 1 October 1791, ordained by the presbytery of Hanover 9 June 1794, and for seven years was an itinerant pastor in Charlotte and Prince Edward counties. On the organization of the theological seminary at Princeton in 1812 Dr. Alexander was unanimously chosen as the leading professor. His powers both for pulpit oratory and polemic disquisition were extraordinary. He was always busy, and from 1829 to 1850 scarcely a number of the Princeton Review appeared without an article from his pen. In the following excerpt, Alexander warns us of the doctrines of Universalism:

No benevolent being delights in the suffering of others—for its own sake. But it is one of the clearest dictates of reason, that sin should be visited with punishment. Men may differ widely in opinion as to what sin is, in regard to many particulars, but everyone sees and feels the propriety of punishing crimes, which he acknowledges to be such, in proportion to their evil. Indeed, it would be difficult to give a definition of sin which does not involve this idea; and a better definition of moral evil could not easily be given, than that it is that which deserves punishment. None are found, therefore, who, while they acknowledge a difference between virtue and vice, deny that the latter deserves punishment. And as all sinful acts are not of equal malignity or turpitude, it will be agreed by all, that, in justice, everyone ought to receive just recompense according to his deeds; and that he whose sins are less, should not suffer equally with him whose sins are greater. . . .

Whether the end of punishment is always the good of the sufferer is disputed. On this point it may here be observed that, that intuitive perception, which exists in every mind, of the connection between sin and punishment, has no respect whatever to the benefit of the guilty person. Punishment, according to the clearest and simplest idea of its nature, is some pain or loss to the person who endures it. . . .

Although we are so constituted as to perceive and feel that sin deserves punishment according to its evil, yet we have no precise standard of the degree of punishment which any sin deserves. Reason cannot tell how much pain is due to any particular offence: its clear perception goes no further than to the general proposition that it ought to be punished according to its desert, whatever that may be. Yet it has appeared exceedingly evident to most men, that although some degree of punishment follows sinful actions in this life, men do not receive here a full retribution for their crimes; since very often great transgressors are prosperous. . . .

But in our times and in our country, a new phenomenon has appeared in the religious world. A sect has risen up . . . who profess to receive the Bible as the word of God, and yet utterly deny all future punishment. . . .

[T]he primary motive which has led men to [reject future punishment] is the desire of removing from the minds of worldly and wicked men the dreadful apprehension of endless torments. I say worldly and wicked men, for the true Christian does not need this doctrine for his consolation. He is safe without it. Therefore the humble and devoted Christian is not commonly, if ever, the advocate of this system. It was a doctrine invented for the lawless and disobedient—a doctrine to bring comfort, not to penitent believers, but to impenitent sinners, who are not willing to forsake their sins. . . .

Sinners, if this doctrine be true, may dismiss all their foreboding apprehensions. They may, indeed, “eat, drink, and be merry;” and if they will only make up their minds to bear the inconvenience which sin may bring upon them here—and few are restrained from the indulgence of revenge, ambition, avarice, and lust by this consideration—they may give full swing to their corrupt inclinations, and be just as wicked as they please. And indeed, if there be no future reckoning, the principal source of uneasiness to the sinner here will be removed, namely, the fear of judgment to come. This is indeed a glorious doctrine for impenitent sinners. They may even set their Maker at defiance, for they have nothing to fear from him after this life. Nothing which they can do will either retard or hinder their eternal happiness. . . .

But it may be asked, “Why do these deceivers connect their doctrine with the BIBLE?” Would it not be much easier to take the ground of infidelity at once, and depend upon ‘reason’ for support, instead of Scripture . . . [M]ost people have a veneration for the Bible, [these deceivers] wish to avail themselves of these common sentiments in favor of the Scriptures; and by this means they get a handle for working on the credulity and prejudice of unstable souls, who are ever gaping after something new and strange in religion; “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” By the perversion of the sacred Scriptures, also, they are able to promise their followers not only exemption from future misery, but positive felicity in heaven, which they could not do on the principles of infidelity. (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted”)

What God Has Provided

 

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was probably America’s greatest philosopher and theologian. In the following excerpts from one of his sermons, he clearly demonstrates our dependence on God for everything good. Indeed, we have good reason to boast in the Lord:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

God is glorified in the work of redemption in this, that there appears in it so absolute and universal a dependence of the redeemed on him. . . .

There is an absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on God. The nature and contrivance of our redemption is such, that the redeemed are in every thing directly, immediately, and entirely dependent on God: they are dependent on him for all, and are dependent on him in every way.

The several ways wherein the dependence of one being may be upon another for its good, and wherein the redeemed of Jesus Christ depend on God for all their good, are these, viz., that they have all their good of him, and that they have all through him, and that they have all in him: that he is the cause and original whence all their good comes, therein it is of him; and that he is the medium by which it is obtained and conveyed, therein they have it through him; and that he is that good itself that is given and conveyed, therein it is in him.

Now those that are redeemed by Jesus Christ do, in all these repects, very directly and entirely depend on God for their all.

The redeemed have all their good of God; God is the great author of it; he is the first cause of it, and not only so, but he is the only proper cause.

It is of God that we have our Redeemer: it is God that has provided a Saviour for us. Jesus Christ is not only of God in his person, as he is the only begotten Son of God, but he is from God, as we are concerned in him, and in his office of Mediator; he is the gift of God to us: God chose and anointed him, appointed him his work, and sent him into the world.

And as it is God that gives, so it is God that accepts the Saviour. As it is God that provides and gives the Redeemer to buy salvation for us, so it is of God that salvation is bought: he gives the purchaser, and he affords the thing purchased.

It is of God that Christ becomes ours, that we are brought to him, and are united to him: it is of God that we receive faith to close with him, that we may have an interest in him. “For by grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). It is of God that we actually do receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased. It is God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell, and it is his favor that the redeemed are received into, and are made the objects of, when they are justified. So it is God that delivers from the dominion of sin, and cleanses us from our filthiness, and changes us from our deformity. It is of God that the redeemed do receive all their true excellency, wisdom, and holiness; and that two ways, viz., as the Holy Ghost, by whom these things are immediately wrought, is from God, proceeds from him, and is sent by him; and also as the Holy Ghost himself is God, by whose operation and indwelling, the knowledge of divine things, and a holy disposition, and all grace, are conferred and upheld.

And though means are made use of in conferring grace on men’s souls, yet it is of God that we have these means of grace, and it is God that makes them effectual. It is of God that we have the holy Scriptures; they are the word of God. It is of God that we have ordinances, and their efficacy depends on the immediate influence of the Spirit of God. The ministers of the gospel are sent of God, and all their sufficiency is of him. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Their success depends entirely and absolutely on the immediate blessing and influence of God. (“God Glorified In Man’s Dependence”)

Thomas Brooks On Reading The Bible

Quoting Thomas Brooks:

  • Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul.
  • It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet.
  • It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.

J. C. Ryle’s Rules For Reading The Bible

Quoting J.C. Ryle:

1. READ THE BIBLE WITH AN EARNEST DESIRE TO UNDERSTAND IT.

Do not be content to just read the words of Scripture. Seek to grasp the message they contain.

2. READ THE SCRIPTURES WITH A SIMPLE, CHILDLIKE FAITH & HUMILITY.

Believe what God reveals. Reason must bow to God’s revelation.

3. READ THE WORD WITH A SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE AND SELF-APPLICATION.

Apply what God says to yourself and obey His will in all things.

4. READ THE HOLY SCRIPTURES EVERY DAY.

We quickly lose the nourishment and strength of yesterday’s bread. We must feed our souls daily upon the manna God has given us.

5. READ THE WHOLE BIBLE AND READ IT IN AN ORDERLY WAY.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” I know of no better way to read the Bible than to start at the beginning and read straight through to the end, a portion every day, comparing Scripture with Scripture.

6. READ THE WORD OF GOD FAIRLY AND HONESTLY.

As a general rule, any passage of Scripture means what it appears to mean. Interpret every passage in this simple manner, in its context.

7. READ THE BIBLE WITH CHRIST CONSTANTLY IN VIEW.

The whole Book is about Him. Look for Him on every page. He is there. If you fail to see Him there, you need to read that page again.

Dependence On Spiritual Truth

There is more to enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit than feeling tingles run up and down your spine. The Spirit teaches those who desire to learn the very thoughts of God in the Scriptures. The Word of God guides and changes us. Dr. John Kennedy explains:

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

Let all beware of an unlawful employment of the Word of God, as well as of entire ignorance of its sweetness and its power. There are those who find it easy to appropriate for themselves without misgiving the precious promises of the Word, not caring to ascertain their right to them in Christ, to be rightly informed of the mind of God as expressed in them, or to be strengthened to take hold of the truth and power and grace of Him who gave them at His footstool. There are others who lay themselves open to the suggestion of “a word” as they crave encouragement or direction; and who, if a Scripture saying which seems seasonable comes abruptly into their mind, conclude, because of its suitableness and suddenness, that it is a message to them from heaven. These care not whether their application of it accords with the scope of the passage in which it occurs; they realize not His authority who’s Word it is; and they demonstrate no experience of its sanctifying power. It is convenient for them to get it, and it seems to them safe to take it, and this is all about which they care.

There are others still who have settled down in the conviction that a speculative acquaintance with what is written is all that it is wise to seek. Utter strangers to the seasonable suggestion of the truth by the Lord, blind to the wonders of grace which the world unfolds, without any exercise of appropriating faith in Christ whom it reveals, and destitute of all experience of its power to kill or to quicken, to wound or to heal, to cast down or to raise up, to burn as a fire or to break as a hammer – these go on at their ease, without joy in the communion, or profit from the Word of the Lord.

But let it be ours to be dependent on the gracious and effectual teaching of the Spirit of truth, under whose guidance even fools can be kept from wandering, and who can make it impossible that even they can be deceived. Let us not think that, amidst the multiform delusion which prevaileth, there is no genuineness and no security. . . . Let us not be content with what is barely necessary to salvation in our intercourse with God. From unholy aspirations after being like the Christian in some of his attainments, without being like him in his character, may the Lord deliver us. May we be kept athirst for communion with the Lord, and seeking grace to prepare us to enjoy it. Let His Word be precious to us, and may we be wise to use it for the ends for which it is given. Let us aspire after clearer views of its wonders, a simpler faith in its truth, a more ravishing sense of its sweetness, and a deeper experience of its power. And thus may we be guided by its light, molded by its form, fed by its manna, and cheered by its comforts, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts; till perfect likeness to Christ is attained; till the land of promise and of plenty is reached, and the fullness of pleasures enjoyed, at the right hand of God. (“The Secret of the Lord”)

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