• 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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Professors Who Are Not Possessors

I suspect that the fact there are those who claim to have salvation and do not, is a problem in many congregations. I also suspect there are few pastors who can or will take the time to talk deeply and thoroughly to these professors about their spiritual condition. Charles Spurgeon, however, was a pastor who challenged his congregation’s easy assumptions about the condition of their souls. Thus I am challenged by Spurgeon’s words below:

My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. (Psalm 119:139 ESV)

But what shall be done with such persons as live in the church, but are not of it having a name to live, but are dead? What shall be done with mere professors who are not possessors? What shall become of those who are only outwardly religious but inwardly are in the gall of bitterness? We answer, as good Calvin did once: “They shall walk in black, for they are unworthy.” They shall walk in black—the blackness of God’s destruction. They shall walk in black—the blackness of hopeless despair. They shall walk in black—the blackness of incomparable anguish. They shall walk in black—the blackness of damnation. They shall walk in black for ever, because they were found unworthy. O professors, search yourselves. O ministers, search yourselves.

O ye, who make a profession of religion now, put your hands within your hearts, and search your souls. You live in the sight of a rein-trying God. Oh! Try your own reins, and search your own hearts. It is not a matter of half-importance for which I plead, but a matter of double importance. I beseech you, examine and cross-examine your own souls, and see whether ye be in the path, for it will go ill with you if ye shall find at last that ye were in the church, but not of it, that ye make a profession of religion, but it was only a cloak for your hypocrisy—if ye should have entered into his courts below, and be shut out of the courts above. Remember, the higher the pinnacle of profession the direr your fall of destruction. Beggared kings, exile princes, crownless emperors, are always subjects of pity. Professor, what wilt thou think of thyself when thy robes are taken from thee, when thy crown of profession is taken from thy head, and thou standest the hiss of even vile men, the scoff of blasphemers, the jeer of those who, whatever they were, were not hypocrites, as thou art?

They will cry to thee, “Art thou become like one of us? Thou professor, thou high-flying man, art thou become like one of us?” And ye will hide your guilty heads in the dark pit of perdition, but all in vain, for you never will be able to avoid that hiss which shall ever greet you. “What! Thou!” the drunkard whom you told to drink no more will say “Art thou become like one of us?” And the harlot whom you scorned, and the young debauched man whom you warned, will stare you in the face, and say, “What! You! You who talked of religion. A pretty fellow you were! Art thou become one of us?” Oh! I think I hear them saying in hell, “Here’s a parson, come here; here’s a deacon; here’s a church member; here’s a man who has had the sacramental wine within his lips; here’s a man that has had the baptismal water on his garments.”

Ah! Take care. There are but a few names in Sardis who shall walk in white. Be ye of that few. May God give you grace that ye be not reprobates, but may be accepted of the Lord in that day! May he give you mercy, that when he severs the chaff from the wheat, you may abide as the good corn, and may not be swept away into unquenchable fire! The Lord in mercy bless this warning, and hear our supplication, for Christ’s sake. Amen. (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”, February 24, 1856)

They Shall Walk In White

Every church-going man should examine his soul to see if he is on the right path. It would be a tragedy to be in the church and found to be not of it! How many professions of religion are but a cloak for hypocrisy? Charles Spurgeon tells us what this means for the hypocrite and the true child of God:

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4 ESV)

“They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” A good old author says there is a reference here to that fact, that the rabbis allowed persons to walk in white who could trace their pedigree without a flaw; but if they found any blot on their escutcheon, and could not trace their birth up to Abraham, they were not allowed to walk in white on certain days. Well, he says he thinks the passage means that those who have not defiled their garments will be able to prove their adoption, and will walk in white garments as being sure they are the sons of God. If we would be certain that we are the people of God, we must take care that we have no blots on our dress, for each one of those spatterings of the mire of this earth will cry out, and say “Perhaps you are not a child of God.” Nothing is such a father of doubts as sin; sin is the very mother of our distress. He who is covered with sin must not expect to enjoy full assurance, but he who lives close to his God, and keeps his garments unspotted from the world—he shall walk in white, knowing that his adoption is sure.

But chiefly we should understand this to refer to justification. “They shall walk in white;” that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that they have:

A matchless robe which far exceeds

What earthly princes wear;”

that they have been washed and make whiter than snow,

and purified and made more cleanly than wool.

Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. They that have not defiled their garments, shall have their faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works.” He who is accepted of God shall wear white garments, being received by the Father—garments of joy and gladness. Whence so many doubts, so much distress, and misery, and mourning? It is because the church has defiled her garments; they do not here below walk in white, because they are not worthy.

And lastly, it refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those who have not defiled their garments here, shall most certainly walk in white up yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most High. If thou hast not defiled thy garments, thou may say, “I know whom I have believed;” not for my works, not by way of merit, but as the reward of grace. If there be joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached, thou shalt have all these: thou shalt walk in white, since thou art worthy. Christ shall say to thee “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”)

There Are Still A Few Names In Sardis

I am grateful to Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) for preaching so many sermons that are relevant to any time period. Of course, since he was a steadfast Bible preacher, how could he do otherwise since the Bible is relevant, eternal truth for every age? Listen to Spurgeon and reject those pulpits that have deserted eternal Bible truth:

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4 ESV)

Look into what denomination you please, Independent, or Baptist, or any other—have they not all defiled their garments in some way or other? Look at the churches around, and see how they have defiled their garments by giving baptism to those who whom it was never intended, and degrading a holy church ordinance to become a mere sop with which they feed their babes. And see how they have taken away Christ’s honor, how they have taken the bread that was meant for the children, and cast it to ungodly persons. Look at our own denomination: see how it has deserted the leading truths of the gospel. For a proof hereof, I refer you to hundreds of our pulpits. Oh church of God! I am but a voice crying in the wilderness, but I must cry still, “How art thou fallen from heaven, thou son of the morning! how art thou fallen!” “Remember how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.” If thou dost not watch, thy Master will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know in what hour he will come unto thee. . . .

[W]henever you go to your chamber and mourn over the sad condition of the church, think you hear that good old woman in her closet groaning and crying; think you hear that minister faithfully dispensing the word; think you see that valiant deacon standing up for God’s truth; think you see that young man strong in the midst of temptation; think of these few in Sardis, and they will cheer you. Do not be quite downcast. Some heroes have not turned their backs in the day of battle; some mighty men still fight for the truth. Be encouraged; there are a few in Sardis. But be careful, for perhaps you are not one of the few. Since there are but a few, there ought to be great searchings of heart. Let us look to our garments and see whether they be defiled. If they be not, we shall walk in white, for we are worthy through Jesus. Be active; be prayerful. The fewer the workmen to do the work the greater reason is there that you should be active. Be instant in season and out of season, because there are so few. Oh! if we had hundreds behind us, we might say, “Let them do the work;” but if we stand with only a few, how should each of those few rush hither and thither! A city is besieged: it is full of inhabitants; half of them are asleep; the others watch the walls, and thus they relieve each other. Another city has but a few defenders: see how that champion rushes first to that breach and routs the enemy; now he brings his might to another place; a bastion is assaulted, and he is there; now a postern is attacked—there he is with all his force behind him; he is here, he is there, he is everywhere, because he feels there is but a handful of men who can gather round him. Take courage, take heart; stir yourselves up to the sternest activity, for verily there are but a few in Sardis who have not defiled their garments. Above all, be prayerful. Put up your earnest cries to God that he would multiply the faithful, that he would increase the number of chosen ones who stand fast, that he would purify the church with fire in a furnace seven times heated, so that he might bring out her third part through the fire; cry unto God that the day may come when the much fine gold shall be no longer dim, when the glory shall again return unto Zion. Beg of God to remove the cloud, to take away “the darkness that may be felt.” Be doubly prayerful, for there are but a few in Sardis who have not defiled their garments. (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”)

Walking With Christ

On February 24th, 1856, Charles H. Spurgeon preached a sermon titled “A Solemn Warning for All Churches”. What follows here are excerpts from that sermon:

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4 ESV)

“They shall walk in white, for they are worthy.” The attentive reader will observe that in quoting the passage just now, I left out two of the sweetest words in the passage. It reads: “They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” That is the very pith of the honor; if the rest of it be gold this is the jewel. “They shall walk with me in white.” That is to say, communion with Christ on earth shall be the special reward of those who have not defiled their garments. Now, I must say a very hard thing again, but it is a true one. Go into what company you please, do you meet with many men who hold communion with Christ? Though they may be godly men, upright men, ask them if they hold communion with Christ, and will they understand you? If you give them some of those sweetly spiritual books, that those who hold fellowship love to read, they will say they are mystical, and they do not love them. Ask them whether they can spend an hour in meditation upon Christ, whether they ever rise to heaven and lay their head on the breast of the Savior, whether they ever know what it is to enter into rest and get into Canaan; whether they understand how he has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; whether they can often say,

Abundant sweetness while I sing

Thy love, my ravished heart overflows;

Secure in thee my God and King

Of glory that no period knows.”

Ask them that, and they will say, “We don’t comprehend you.” Now, the reason of it is in the first part of my sermon—they have defiled their garments, and therefore Christ will not walk with them. He says, “Those that have not defiled their garments shall walk with me.” Those who hold fast the truth, who take care to be free from the prevailing sins of the times, “These,” he says, “shall walk with me; they shall be in constant fellowship with me; I will let them see that I am bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh: I will bring them into the banqueting-house; my banner over them shall be love; they shall drink wine on the lees well refined; they shall have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto them, because they are the people who truly fear me: they shall walk with me in white.” Oh, Christian! If thou wouldst have communion with Christ, the special way to win it is by not defiling thy garments, as the church has done. (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”)

Where Is The Spirit Of The Living God?

Charles H. Spurgeon

There is a want of zeal throughout the modern church. We presently have an abundance of cold, calculating Christians, who profess Christ; but where are the zealous Christians? Where are the leaders of the children of God? How many of our pulpits are filled by earnest, enthusiastic preachers who have an impassioned love for souls? C. H. Spurgeon warns us about this state of affairs below:

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” (Revelation 3:4)

My learned and eminently pious predecessor, Dr. Gill, is of opinion that the different churches spoken of in the Book of Revelation are types of different states through which the church of God shall pass until it comes into the Philadelphia state, the state of love, in which Jesus Christ shall reign in its midst, and afterwards, as he thinks, shall pass into the state of Laodicea, in which condition it shall be when suddenly the Son of Man shall come to judge the world in righteousness and the people in equity. I do not go with him in all his suppositions with regard to these seven churches as following each other in seven periods of time; but I do think he was correct when he declared that the church in Sardis was a most fitting emblem of the church in his days, as also in these. The good old doctor says, “When we shall find any period in which the church was more like the state of Sardis as described here, than it is now?” And he points out the different particulars in which the church of his day (and I am sure it is yet more true of the church at the present day) was exactly like the church in Sardis. I shall use the church in Sardis as a figure of what I conceive to be the sad condition of Christendom at the present moment. My first point will be general defilement—there were but “a few names” in Sardis who had not “defiled their garments;” secondly, special preservation—there were a few who had not defiled their garments; and thirdly, a peculiar reward—”And they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.”

The holy apostle, John, said of the church in Sardis, “These things saith he that hath the Seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou has a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou has received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.”

The first charge of general defilement he brings against the church in Sardis was that they had a vast deal of open profession, and but little of sincere religion. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” That is the crying sin of the present age. I am not inclined to be morbid in my temperament, or to take a melancholy view of the church of God. I would wish at all times to exhibit a liberality of spirit, and to speak as well as I can of the church at large; but God forbid that any minister should shrink from declaring what he believes to be the truth. In going up and down this land, I am obliged to come to this conclusion, that throughout the churches there are multitudes who have “a name to live, and are dead.” Religion has become fashionable. The shopkeeper could scarcely succeed in a respectable business if he were not united with a church. It is reckoned to be reputable and honorable to attend a place of worship; and hence men are made religious in shoals . . . You can scarcely meet with a man who does not call himself a Christian, and yet it is equally hard to meet with one who is in the very marrow of his bones thoroughly sanctified to the good work of the kingdom of heaven. We meet with professors by hundreds; but I must expect still to meet with possessors by units. The whole nation appears to have been Christianized in an hour. But is this real? Is this sincere? Ah! We fear not. How is it that professors can live like other men? How is it that there is so little distinction between the church and the world? Or, that if there is any difference, you are frequently safer in dealing with an ungodly man than with one who is professedly righteous? How is it that men who make high professions can live in worldly conformity, indulge in the same pleasures, live in the same style, act from the same motives, deal in the same manner as other do? Are not these days when the sons of God have made affinity with the sons of men? And may be not fear that something terrible may yet occur unless God shall send a voice, which shall say, “Come out of them, my people, lest ye be partakers of their plagues?” Take our churches at large—there is no lack of names, but there is a lack of life. Else, how is it that our prayer-meetings are so badly attended? Where is the zeal or the energy shown by the apostles? Where is the Spirit of the living God? Is he not departed? Might not “Ichabod” be written on the walls of many a sanctuary? (“A Solemn Warning for All Churches”)

J. C. Ryle Asks: “Are You Dead Or Alive?”

If something is a matter of great importance, you seek to know it or accomplish what needs to be done in order to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. What if heaven or hell is wrapped up in this matter? What if an eternity of happiness or misery hinges upon your answer to a simple question? Would it be wise to leave your earthly business so unsettled? No! You insure life, property, and health. Should then, you leave the fate of your immortal soul undecided? Bishop J. C. Ryle poses this question:

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

First, let me put this question to every soul who reads this paper, “Are you dead, or are you alive?”

Allow me, as an ambassador for Christ, to press the inquiry on every conscience. There are only two ways to walk in, the narrow way and the broad way. There are only two companies in the Day of Judgment, those on the right hand, and those on the left. There are only two classes of people in the professing Church of Christ, and to one of them you must belong. Where are you? What are you? Are you among the living, or among the dead?

I speak to you yourself, and to none else—not to your neighbor—but to you, not to Africans or New Zealanders—but to you. I do not ask whether you are an angel, or whether you have the mind of David or Paul—but I do ask whether you have a well-founded hope that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus, I do ask whether you have reason to believe you have put off the old man and put on the new—whether you are conscious of ever having gone through a real spiritual change of heart—whether, in one word, you are dead or alive.

Think not to put me off by saying, “you were admitted into the Church by baptism, you received grace and the Spirit in that sacrament, you are alive.” It shall not avail you. Paul himself says of the baptized widow who lives in pleasure, “She is dead while she lives.” (1 Tim. 5:6.) The Lord Jesus Christ Himself tells the chief officer of the Church in Sardis, “You have a name that you live, and are dead.” (Rev. 3:1.). The life you talk of is nothing if it cannot be seen. Show it to me, if I am to believe its existence. Grace is light, and light will always be discerned. Grace is salt, and salt will always be tasted. An indwelling of the Spirit which does not show itself by outward fruits, and a grace which men’s eyes cannot discover, are both to be viewed with the utmost suspicion. Believe me, if you have no other proof of spiritual life but your baptism, you are yet a dead soul.

Think not to tell me “It is a question that cannot be decided, and you call it presumptuous to give an opinion in such a matter.” This is a vain refuge, and a false humility. Spiritual life is no such dim and doubtful thing as you seem to fancy. There are marks and evidences by which its presence may be discerned by those who know the Bible. “We know,” says John, “that we have passed from death unto life.” (1 John 3:14.) The exact time and season of that passage may often be hidden from a man. The fact and reality of it will seldom be entirely an uncertain thing. It was a true and beautiful saying of a Scotch girl, to Whitefield, when asked if her heart was changed, “Something was changed, she knew, it might be the world, it might be her own heart—but there was a great change somewhere, she was quite sure, for everything seemed different to what it once did.” Oh, cease to evade the inquiry! “Anoint your eyes with eye-salve that you may see.” (Rev. 3:18.) Are you dead or alive? (“Alive or Dead?”)

The Inch Turns In To A Mile

Thomas Manton

Quoting Thomas Manton:

If you yield to Satan in the least, he will carry you further and further, till he has left you under a stupefied or terrified conscience: stupefied, till thou hast lost all thy tenderness. A stone at the top of a hill, when it begins to roll down, ceases not till it comes to the bottom. Thou thinkest it is but yielding a little, and so by degrees are carried on, till thou hast sinned away all thy profession, and all principles of conscience, by the secret witchery of his temptations.

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