Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Victorian Year #1

This week, I reviewed J.C. Ryle's Coming Events and Present Duties. But it wasn't the only Victorian book I spent time reading.

This year, I'm reading Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. I've started it many, many, many times. But I don't think I've ever finished it. But maybe this year is the year. Here are some of my favorite quotes so far:

  • Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be “forever with the Lord.”
  • We will be GLAD and REJOICE. These are two words with one sense, double joy, blessedness upon blessedness. Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in the Lord even now?
  • We will be glad and rejoice IN YOU. That last word is the dainty in the dish—the kernel of the nut—the soul of the text. What heavens are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, yes, and every drop of their fullness in Him!
  • We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it.
  • So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Do you need nothing? Then, I fear you do not know your poverty. Have you no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show you your misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul.
  • If our piety can live without God—it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon Him as the flowers wait upon the dew.
  • Jesus Christ is Himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and is one of its gifts.
  • You may dive into the immense ocean of His love, and you may say of it all, “It is mine!”
  • “Grow in grace“ not in one grace only—but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity.
  • Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed.
  • He who does not grow in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know Him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ—knows nothing of Him yet.
  • If you do not desire to know Him better—then you love Him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer!” Absence from Christ is hell—but the presence of Jesus is heaven.
  • When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ—we behold SIN in its true colors, and OURSELVES in our real position; we see the Most Holy GOD as He reveals Himself, the plan of MERCY as He propounds it, and the WORLD to come as the Word describes it.
  • Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them—let us not confound them.
  • It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, “The Lord knows those who are His.” 

I also read two sermons by J.C. Ryle from his At the Pulpits of Liverpool sermon collection. Both are EXCELLENT.

Be Zealous (Galatians 4:18)

  • If we make the Bible our rule of faith and practice, we cannot turn away from it [zeal]. We must look it in the face. What does the Apostle Paul say to Titus? "Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:14.) What does the Lord Jesus say to the Laodicean Church? "Be zealous and repent." (Rev.3:19.)
  • Reader, I say plainly, I want to plead the cause of zeal in religion. I am not afraid of it. I love it. I admire it. I believe it to be a mighty blessing. I want to strike a blow at the lazy, easy, sleepy Christianity of these latter days, which can see no beauty in zeal, and only uses the word "zealot" as a word of reproach.
  • Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way.
  • A zealous man is pre-eminently a man of one thing. He only sees one thing he cares for one thing he lives for one thing he is swallowed up in one thing and that one thing is to please God.
  • There never was a grace of which Satan has not made a counterfeit. No grace has suffered so much in this way as zeal. Of none perhaps are there so many shams and counterfeits abroad. We must therefore clear the ground of all rubbish on this question. We must find out when zeal in religion is really good, and true, and of God.
  •  Reader, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal according to knowledge. It must not be a blind, ignorant zeal. It must be a calm, reasonable, intelligent principle, which can show the warrant of Scripture for every step it takes.
  • Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal from true motives. Such is the subtlety of the heart, that men will often do right things from wrong motives.
  • Man looks only at the actions. God looks at the motives. Man only thinks of the quantity of work done. God considers the doer's heart.
  • Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal about things according to God's mind, and sanctioned by plain examples in God's Word.
  • Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal tempered with charity and love. It will not be a bitter zeal. It will not be a fierce enmity against people. It will not be a zeal ready to take the sword, and to smite with carnal weapons.
  • True zeal will hate sin and yet love the sinner. True zeal will hate heresy and yet love the heretic. True zeal will long to break the idol but deeply pity the idolater. True zeal will abhor every kind of wickedness but labor to do good, even to the vilest of transgressors. True zeal will be decided as a surgeon dealing with a diseased limb but true zeal will be gentle as one that is dressing the wounds of a brother.
  • Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be joined to a deep humility.
  • In the name of the Gospel, and in the name of the Bible, I enter my protest against the theory, that mere earnestness can make a man a truly zealous and pious man in the sight of God.
  • These idolaters of earnestness would make out that God has given us no standard of truth and error, or that the true standard, the Bible, is so obscure, that no man can find out what truth is by simply going to it. They pour contempt upon the Word, the written Word, and therefore they must be wrong.
  • Let me show you WHY it is good for a man to be zealous.
  • It is certain that God never gave a man a commandment which it was not man's interest, as well as duty, to obey. He never set a grace before His believing people which His people will not find it their highest happiness to follow after. This is true of all the graces of the Christian character. Perhaps it is pre-eminently true in the case of zeal.
  • Zeal is good for a Christian's own soul. We all know that exercise is good for the health, and that regular employment of our muscles and limbs promotes our bodily comfort, and increases our bodily vigor. Now that which exercise does for our bodies, zeal will do for our souls.
  • It will help mightily to promote inward feelings of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness.
  • Reader, as zeal is good for ourselves individually, so it is also good for the professing Church of Christ generally. Nothing so much keeps alive true religion as a leaven of zealous Christians scattered to and fro throughout a Church. Like salt, they prevent the whole body falling into a state of corruption.
  • Oh, reader, there is little danger of there being too much zeal for the glory of God. God forgive those who think there is! You know little of human nature. You forget that sickness is far more contagious than health, and that it is much easier to catch a cold than impart a glow.
  • Go and read that long-neglected Bible. Take up that blessed Book which you have, and perhaps never use. Read that New Testament through. Do you find nothing there to make you zealous, to make you earnest about your soul? Go and look at the cross of Christ. Go and see how the Son of God there shed His precious blood for youhow He suffered and groaned, and died for you. how He poured out His soul as an offering for sin, in order that you, sinful brother or sister, might not perishbut have eternal life. Go and look at the cross of Christ, and never rest until you feel some zeal for your own soulsome zeal for the glory of Godsome zeal for extension of the Gospel throughout the world.
  • Think of the precious souls which are perishing, while you are sleeping.
  • But remember all this time souls are going to hell, and you might do something to save them by working, by giving, by writing, by begging, and by prayer. Oh, awake, be zealous, and repent.
  • In heaven there will be no ignorant people to instruct, and no unconverted to reclaim. Whatever you do must be done now. Oh, when are you going to begin? Awake! be zealous, and repent.
  • Think of the devil, and his zeal to do harm. It was a solemn saying of old Bernard when he said that "Satan would rise up in judgment against some people at the last day, because he had shown more zeal to ruin souls than they had to save them." Awake! be zealous, and repent.
  • Think of your Savior, and all His zeal for you. Think of Him in Gethsemane and on Calvary, shedding His blood for sinners. Think of His life and deathHis sufferings and His doings. This He has done for you. What are you doing for Him? Oh, resolve that for the time to come you will spend and be spent for Christ. Awake! be zealous, and repent.

Ready to Be Offered (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

  • In these words you see the apostle Paul looking three waysdownwards, backwards, forward. Downwards to the grave, backwards to his own ministry, forward to that great day, the day of judgment. Let us stand by his side a few minutes, and mark the words he uses. Happy is that soul among us who can look where Paul looked, and then speak as Paul spoke.
  • 1. He looks downwards to the grave, and he does it without fear. Hear what he says. "I am ready to be offered."
  • 2. Let us listen to him again. He looks backwards, to his ministerial life, and he does it without shame. Hear what he says. "I have fought a good fight." There he speaks as a soldier. I have fought that good battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from which so many shrink and draw back. "I have finished my course." There he speaks as one who has run for a prize. I have run the race marked out for me. I have gone over the ground staked out for me, however rough and steep. I have not turned aside because of difficulties, and have at length reached the goal. "I have kept the faith." There he speaks as a steward. I have held fast that glorious gospel which was committed to my trust.
  • 3. Let us hear the apostle once more. He looks forward to the great day of reckoning, and he does it without doubt. Mark his words: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me onlybut unto all those who love His appearing." A glorious reward, he seems to say, is ready and laid up in store for me, even that crown which is only given to the righteous.
  • You see, brethren, he speaks without any hesitation or distrust. He regards the crown as a sure thing, as his own already. He declares his belief that the righteous Judge will give it to him, with an unfaltering confidence. Paul was no stranger to all the circumstances and accompaniments of that great day to which he referred. The great white throne, the assembled world, the opened books, the revealing of all secrets, the listening angels, the solemn sentence, the eternal separation, all these were things with which he was well acquainted. But none of these things moved him. His faith overleaped them all, and only saw Christ, his all-prevailing Advocate, and the blood of sprinkling, and sin washed away. "A crown," says he, "is laid up for me. The Lord Himself SHALL give it to me." He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes.
  • Now, there are just four things which I wish to bring before you, and it may perhaps clear our way if I name them to you at once: I. First, then, I will try to show you that an assured hope, such as Paul here expresses, is a true and Scriptural thing. II. Secondly, I will make this broad concession, that a man may never arrive at this assured hope, and yet be saved. III. Thirdly, I will give you some reasons why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired. IV. Lastly, I will try to point out some causes why an assured hope is so seldom attained.
  • Assurance, such as Paul here expresses, is a positive gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed without reference to men's bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ should aim at, and seek after.
  • I lay it down deliberately that a true Christian or converted man may reach that comfortable degree of faith, that in general he shall feel confident as to the safety and forgiveness of his own soul, shall seldom be troubled with doubts, seldom be distracted with hesitations, seldom be distressed with anxious questionings, seldom be alarmed about his own state.
  • It cannot be wrong to feel confident in a matter where God speaks unconditionally, to believe decidedly when God speaks decidedly, to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when one rests on the word and oath of Him that never changes.
  • It is an utter mistake to suppose that the believer who feels assurance is resting on anything he sees in himself. He simply leans on the Scriptures of truth, and on the Mediator of the new covenant. He believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and takes Him at His word.
  • I shrink not from saying, that by grace a man may have sufficient faith to flee to Christ, really to lay hold on Him, really to trust in Him, really to be a child of God, really to be saved; and yet never, to his last day, be free from much anxiety, doubt, and fear.
  • A man must feel his sins and lost estate, must come to Christ for salvation, must rest his hope on this alone. But if he has only faith to do this, however weak that faith may be, I will engage he will not miss heaven.
  • Faith is the still small voice, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief"; assurance is the confident challenge, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? who is he who condemns?"
  • Faith is life. How great the blessing! Who can tell the gulf between life and death? Yet life may be weak, sickly, unhealthy, painful, trying, anxious, worn, burdensome, joyless, smileless, to the last. Assurance is more than life. It is health, strength, power, vigor, activity, energy, manliness, beauty.
  • Too many among us begin doubting and go on doubting, live doubting, die doubting, and go to heaven in a kind of mist. It would ill become me to speak slightingly of "hopes "and "wishes," but I fear many of us sit down content with them and go no further.
  • Know then, for one thing, that assurance is a thing to be desired, because of the present joy and peace it affords. Doubts and fears have great power to mar the comfort of a true believer. Uncertainty and suspense are bad enough in any conditionin the matter of our health, our property, our families, our affections, our earthly callings but never so bad as in the affairs of our souls.
  • Assurance, my brethren, goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and mightily ministers to comfort. It gives him joy and peace in believing. It makes him patient in tribulation, contented in trial, calm in affliction, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings. It sweetens his bitter cups, it lessens the burden of his crosses, it smooths the rough places on which he travels, it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes him feel as if he had something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hand, a sure Friend by the way and a sure home in the end.
  • Assurance can give songs in the night.
  • Assurance is to be desired, because it tends to make a Christian an active, useful Christian.
  • A believer who lacks an assured hope will spend much of his time in inward searchings of heart about his own state. He will be full of his own doubtings and questionings, his own conflicts and corruptions. In short, you will often find that he is so taken up with this internal warfare that he has little leisure for other things, little time to work for God.
  • Assurance is to be desired, because it tends to make a Christian a decided Christian. Indecision and doubt about our own state in God's sight is a grievous disease, and the mother of many evils. It often produces a wavering and an unstable walk in following the Lord. Assurance helps to cut many a knot, and to make the path of Christian duty clear and plain.
  • Assurance is to be desired because it tends to make the holiest Christians.
  • I promised to point out some probable causes why an assured hope is so seldom attained. 1. One common cause, I suspect, is a defective view of the doctrine of justification. I am inclined to think that justification and sanctification are in many minds insensibly confused together. They receive the gospel truth that there must be something done in us, as well as something done for us, if we are true believers; and so far they are right. But then, without being aware of it perhaps, they seem to imbibe the erroneous idea, that this justification is in some degree affected by something within themselves. They do not clearly see that Christ's work and not their own work, either in whole or in part, either directly or indirectly, alone is the ground of our acceptance with God; that justification is a thing entirely outside of us, and nothing is needful on our part but simple faith, and that the weakest believer is as fully justified as the strongest. They appear to forget sometimes that we are saved and justified as sinners, and only as sinners, and that we never can attain to anything higher, if we live to the age of Methuselah. 
  • 2. Another common cause, I am afraid, is slothfulness about growth in grace.3. Another common cause is an inconsistent walk in life. With grief and sorrow I feel constrained to say, I fear nothing in this day more frequently prevents men attaining an assured hope than this. Inconsistency of life is utterly destructive of great peace of heart. 
  • Take the advice of a minister of Christ. Seek a treasure that cannot be taken from you; seek a city which has lasting foundations. Do as the apostle Paul did. Give yourself to Christ, and seek an incorruptible crown that fades not away. Come to the Lord Jesus Christ as lowly sinners, and He will receive you, pardon you, give you His renewing Spirit, fill you with peace. This shall give you more real comfort than this world has ever done. There is a gulf in your heart which nothing but Christ can fill.
  • For one thing, resolve this day to seek after an assured hope, if you do not feel you have got it. Believe, me, believe me, it is worth the seeking. If it is good to be sure in earthly things, how much better is it to be sure in heavenly things! Seek to know that you have a title, good and solid and not to be overthrown. Your salvation is a fixed and certain thing. God knows it. Why should not you seek to know it too?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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