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Quotes

June 10, 2012

The Puritan writer Matthew Henry must be one of the most quotable of all the Christian authors. He had an amazing ability to grab ahold of a great text or a great doctrine and to reduce it to a few sentences that beautifully sum it all up. Recently I went looking for what he said about suffering, and found a few powerful quotes. 

He never intended this world for our rest, and therefore never appointed us to take our ease in it. This travail is given to us to make us weary of the world and desirous of the remaining rest. It is given to us that we may be kept in action, and may always have something to do; for we were none of us sent into the world to be idle. Every change cuts us out some new work, which we should be more solicitous about, than the event.

The calamities of the righteous are preparing them for their future blessedness, and the wicked, while their days are prolonged, are but ripening for ruin. There is a judgment to come, which will rectify this seeming irregularity, to the glory of God and the full satisfaction of all his people, and we must wait with patience till then.

What life or light can we look for from those who have no light or life themselves? God tries what less judgments will do with a people before he brings greater; but if a light affliction do not do its work with us, to humble and reform us, we must expect to be afflicted more grievously; for when God judges he will overcome.

The reasons why the judgments of God are prolonged is because the point is not gained, sinners are not brought to repentance by them. “The people turn not to him who smites them,” and therefore he continues to smite them; for when God judges he will overcome, and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.

God usually gives a morning of opportunity before he sends a night of calamity, that his own people may be prepared for the storm and others left inexcusable.

And one final one: “Those who will not be persuaded now to fly to the arms of divine grace, which are stretched out to receive them, will not be able to flee from the arms of divine wrath, which will shortly be stretched out to destroy them.”

June 07, 2012

I don’t often read The Southern Seminary Magazine but recently I came across some notes I had taken on an article from all the way back in 2006. In the “President’s Journal,” Al Mohler wrote a brief commentary on “The State of Preaching Today.” He wrote “On the one hand, there are signs of great promise and encouragement. On the other hand, several ominous trends point toward dangerous directions for preaching in the future. The last few decades have been a period of wanton experimentation in many pulpits and preaching has often been redefined and reconceived as something other than the exposition and application of the biblical text.”

He offered five points relevant to the downgrade of preaching. They remain relevant six years later. Here they are:

#1. A loss of confidence in the power of the Word. Our culture is gravitating towards images as the preferred mode of communication. Words are, then, necessarily losing their power and this in turns impacts preaching. But “the audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher’s voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver.”

#2. An infatuation with technology. “We live in a day of technological hubris and the ubiquity of technological assistance. For most of us, the use of these technologies comes with little attentiveness to how the technology reshapes the task and the experience. The same is true for preachers who have rushed to incorporate visual technology and media in the preaching event.” While technology is not inherently bad, it has allowed the visual to overcome the verbal. Yet God has chosen to be heard rather than seen so that we know God through what we read and hear.

May 27, 2012

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them, they reacted with sorrow, but then, when it actually happened, they reacted with joy? (Compare John 16:16-20 with Luke 24:50-53) What can account for this change? In his book The Work of Christ, R.C. Sproul provides a simple answer: the disciples had come to understand why and where Jesus was going. From here he shows four great results of Christ’s ascension.

#1. Glorification. “When Jesus departed this world on the shekinah cloud, He was going back to the realm of glory. He was going to receive the glory that He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity. So, the ascension was a glorious thing. That is why, after He ascended, the disciples went back into Jerusalem and praised God in the temple. They understood that their Master was getting His glory back. His humiliation was over, and His exaltation had begun.”

#2. Coronation. “In the ascension, Jesus went up to His coronation. He did not go up simply to enter into His rest. He went up for His investiture service. He ascended to the throne, to the right hand of God, where He was given dominion, power, and authority over the whole earth. The Lamb who was slain became the Lion of Judah, who now reigns over the earth.”

#3. The Gift of the Comforter. “One of the most important reasons for Jesus’ ascension was that Pentecost might take place, that the Father and the Son might pour out the Spirit on the church to strengthen it and empower it for its earthly mission. As we all know, to witness for Christ in a corrupt world requires strength greater than our own. John Calvin said that the most important task of the church is to be the visible witness of the invisible kingdom, and for that we need the Holy Spirit.”

#4. The Ministry of the High Priest. “We have a great High Priest who offered a sacrifice for us on the cross once and for all—His own blood. That portion of His priestly ministry is finished. But His priestly work for us goes on as He intercedes for us. … Today, Jesus is in heaven, interceding for you and me, if indeed we belong to Him, and His prayers for us are equally effective. We should rejoice that He has taken up this priestly ministry on our behalf in the heavenly tabernacle.”

May 20, 2012
Jeremiah Burrough’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is one of the most important and personally-impactful Puritan works I’ve ever read. Let me give you just a taste of what Burroughs has to say about contentment. Here he shares eight things that will be opposed by a true, biblical contentment.
  1. It is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God, as the discontented Israelites often did. If we cannot bear this either in our children or servants, much less can God bear it in us. 
  2. To vexing and fretting, which is a degree beyond murmuring. 
  3. To tumultuousness of spirit, when the thoughts run distractingly and work in a confused manner, so that the affections are like the unruly multitude in the Acts, who did not know for what purpose they had come together. The Lord expects you to be silent under His rod, and, as was said in Acts 19:36, “Ye ought to be quiet and to do nothing rashly.”
  4. It is opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships—towards God, others, and ourselves. We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion. 
  5. It is opposed to distracting, heart-consuming cares. A gracious heart so esteems its union with Christ and the work that God sets it about that it will not willingly suffer anything to come in to choke it or deaden it. A Christian is desirous that the Word of God should take such full possession as to divide between soul and spirit (Heb 4:12), but he would not allow the fear and noise of evil tidings to take such a hold in his soul as to make a division and struggling there, like the twins in Rebekah’s womb (Gen 25:22). 
  6. It is opposed to sinking discouragements. God would have us to depend on Him though we do not see how the thing may be brought about; otherwise, we do not show a quiet spirit. 
  7. It is opposed to sinful shiftings and shirkings to get relief and help. Thus do many, through the corruption of their hearts and the weakness of their faith, because they are not able to trust God and follow Him fully in all things and always. For this reason, the Lord often follows the saints with many sore temporal crosses as we see in the case of Jacob, though they obtain the mercy. It may be that your carnal heart thinks, “I do not care how I am delivered, if only I may be freed from it.” Your hearts are far from being quiet! 
  8. The last thing that quietness of spirit is the opposite of is desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion. That is the most abominable. They find in their hearts something of a rising against God. Their thoughts begin to bubble, and their affections begin to move in rebellion against God Himself. This is especially the case with those, who besides their corruptions, have a large measure of melancholy. The devil works both upon the corruptions of their hearts and the melancholy disease of their bodies. 

Now Christian quietness is opposed to all these things. When affliction comes, whatever it is, you do not murmur or repine, you do not fret or vex yourself.  

May 13, 2012

We are not God. That seems obvious when we consider it and yet so often we act as if we actually are God, or gods, at least. John Piper talks about this and many of its implications in one of his meditations from Pierced by the Word. Here is what he says:


We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Our existence is secondary and dependent on the absolute Reality of God. He is the only Given in the universe. We are derivative. …We were. He simply is. But we become, “I Am Who I Am” in His name (Exodus 3:14).

May 06, 2012

What do we mean when we say that God is sovereign? A.W. Pink tackles this question right out of the gate in his book The Sovereignty of God. He explains what the Bible means when it claims that God is sovereign and he then compares this to modern sentimentality.


The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.

How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence. To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is apparent that the great majority of our fellowmen are dying in sin, and passing into a hopeless eternity; is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue baldly, but there is no escaping the conclusion. 

The Sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is Sovereign we affirm His right to govern the universe which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i. e., that He may mold that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour. We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside of His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any.

April 29, 2012

Though prayer is instictive, it is also difficult labor. David M’Intyre makes and explains this point in his book The Hidden Life of Prayer:


Instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him. The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness.

“Dear Christian reader,” says Jacob Boehme, “to pray aright is right earnest work.” Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the “heavenly footman.” The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill. Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter. A man that truly prays one prayer,” says Bunyan, “shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.” The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: “Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,” they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, “He shall have whatsoever he saith.” Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward. The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these prayer is one. One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, “It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.” David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul “exceedingly enlarged” in supplication, he was “in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,” that when he rose from his knees he felt “extremely weak and overcome.” “I could scarcely walk straight,” he goes on to say, “my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.” A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.

Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is “the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.” St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day. Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into “dry” and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer. Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage. “And what I say unto you,” said the Lord to His disciples, “I say unto all, Watch! “

April 22, 2012

I have probably shared this quote before—a quote drawn from D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry, but I found myself thinking about these words this morning and asking myself this: How many of these things could I do today? Which of these things could I do today and perhaps unwittingly undermine my church from within. I do not anticipate teaching rank heresy today, but would about gossip? What about living an unholy life? What about bitterness? If all of this is true—if all of these are ways in which we can undermine the church—then it presents us a list of specific things to pray against on our behalf and on behalf of others.

The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it—admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism—all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

April 15, 2012

Kerry Allen is a keeper of all things Spurgeon, including a Twitter feed that shares Spurgeon quotes and Spurgeon.us, a web site that contains a massive database of Spurgeon material. He recently shared with me an interesting quote from Spurgeon. It comes from the sermon “Further Afield,” preached on September 23, 1888. Here Spurgeon describes his first encounter with recorded sounds (and, of course, uses the experience to make a gospel illustration).

Surely, you do not know what is in the gospel, or you would hearken to its every tone. I sat yesterday with two tubes in my ears to listen to sounds that came from revolving cylinders of wax. I heard music, though I knew that no instrument was near. It was music which had been caught up months before, and now was ringing out as clearly and distinctly in my ears as it could have done had I been present at its first sound. I heard Mr. Edison speak: he repeated a childish ditty; and when he had finished he called upon his friends to repeat it with him; and I heard many American voices joining in that repetition. That wax cylinder was present when these sounds were made, and now it talked it all out in my ear. Then I heard Mr. Edison at work in his laboratory: he was driving nails, and working on metal, and doing all sorts of things, and calling for this and that with that American tone which made one know his nationality. I sat and listened, and I felt lost in the mystery. But what of all this? What can these instruments convey to us? But oh, to sit and listen to the gospel when your ears are really opened! Then you hear God himself at work; you hear Jesus speak: you hear his voice in suffering and in glory, and you rise up and say, “I never thought to have heard such strange things! Where have I been to be so long deaf to this? How could I neglect a gospel in which are locked up such wondrous treasures of wisdom and knowledge, such measureless depths of love and grace?” In the gospel of the Lord Jesus, God speaks into the ear of his child more music than all the harps of heaven can yield. I pray you, do not despise it. Be not such dull, driven cattle that, when God has set before you what angels desire to look into, you close your eyes to such glories, and pay attention to the miserable trifles of time and sense.

April 08, 2012

Christ has died and Christ has risen. He has called a people to himself and he is jealous of those who are his. Read and reflect upon what Charles Spurgeon says about Christ’s holy, jealous love:

The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honour and glory, and he cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world. His love is strong as death towards you, and therefore will be cruel as the grave. He will be as a cruel one towards you if you do not love him with a perfect heart. He will take away that husband; he will smite that child; he will bring you from riches to poverty, from health to sickness, even to the gates of the grave, because he loves you so much that he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and him. Be careful, Christians, you that are married to Christ; remember, you are married to a jealous husband.

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