Monday, December 15, 2008
I've been out of town (and thus away from my source materials) more often than not for the past 6 months, which may serve as an explanation for my long breaks in posting here. Some of my trips away from home I have taken materials with me to type up and post, but others it hasn't worked out to do that. If I'm away from home I also can't just wander around until I find an interesting book -- which makes my selections much more mundane (although I hope still worth reading). I don't exactly have it in me to trek around the country with rare old Puritans in fragile (or not so fragile) bindings. I apologize again for my lack of posts and hope to start up again toward the end of this month or perhaps in January -- and continue again more faithfully whilst I am in the Philadelphia area (for as long as that may or may not be).
Assuming I have time, I'm looking forward to delving into (or back into) Baxter, Gillespie, a few letters I ran across by a well-known Presbyterian whose name currently slips my mind, and a volume which is to the best of my Dad's knowledge the only Puritan book on the subject of dreams. Those are my known targets, who knows what I might actually lay my hands on.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson.
Learn to be working Christians. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is very striking to see the usefulness of many Christians. Are there none of you who know what it is to be selfish in your Christianity? You have seen a selfish child go into a secret place to enjoy some delicious morsel undisturbed by his companions. So it is with some Christians. They feed upon Christ and forgiveness; but it is alone, and all for themselves. Are there not some of you who can enjoy being a Christian, while your dearest friend is not, and yet you will not speak of Him? See, here you have got work to do. When Christ found you, he said, “Go, work in my vineyard.” What were you hired for, if it was not to spread salvation? What blessed for? Oh, my Christian friends! How little you live as thought you were the servants of Christ! How much idle time and idle talk you have! This is not like a good servant. How many things you have to do for yourself! How few for Christ and his people. This is not like a servant.—McCheyne.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
“...Work is lauded and glorified, even for its own sake, without regard to its end. It is held to be something sacred, a thoroughly manly and almost devout pursuit. Nay, it has been exalted into a kind of deity in our day, to be worshipped with a pure and rigorous devotion. Life is to be doing, because it is felt more than ever that there is power in life. And insensibly this character of force and strength has spread itself over the various fields of thought. Literature, science, art, bear witness to the dominant practical tone as much as the ceaseless ring of the workshop, the fever of modern business, or the structure of our social life. There is even a muscular Christianity,--curious outgrowth of a strong-limbed generation. And there is a healthiness about this zeal for work. ... There is something genuine and through and earnest about it. It is some recognition of the meaning and dignity of life. And looking at what has been accomplished, the vast stride forward that has been taken, looking at the vigor of Christian work and the numberless Christian activities that have been called into play, there is cause of honest, thankful congratulation. Yet there is also cause for much fear and regret. There is a rapid growth of materialism. ... People demand a sensation, unreal or immoral, if it be only sensation. The tendency is to exalt the lower and visible agencies, to depreciate the higher and spiritual, to measure life by what it can shew for itself rather than by what it is; to cultivate and respect mere display of strength...”
“Is there not the notion that the world is only what the world sees itself to be, that if you take any other than worldly forces you will come to no result? Is there not more than ever the disposition to throw over upon praying men, who believe in an invisible power and skill and law and presence, the charge of folly, enthusiasm, fanaticism? To work is honest enough; but prayer over and above the work is treated as a courteous superfluity. Let the work be done manfully, it is preached; let it be even blundering, provided it is sincere; but as for prayer, it is somewhat a waste of energy. Or, if there be prayer, it is freely hinted, let it be kept apart; let it have its own sphere, and not intrude upon the working day; nay, let it have its praying men, and give us our working men. Praying men may not always have been judicious; there may be some plausible foundation for separating the working from the praying man; foolish and impracticable things may have been attempted by well-meaning and unwise people. Prayer, moreover, has its own sphere, and is not to encroach upon another; it is not to usurp the place of work. But neither is it to be divorced from work, nor is it less real and needful; and to say that the praying man is to be kept distinct from the working man is practically to close the common energies of life against the intrusion of prayer. Those who say it have a vague impression that a man who lays stress upon prayer is deficient in practical wisdom; that the devotional element of character tends to remove a man from the region of common sense to the borders of the fairy-land of sentiment; that he becomes a dreamer of dreams that will never fit into the plain rough order of the world. If that were true, it would be worth considering. Any element of character existing in excess will disturb a man’s balance. But if the inevitable tendency of a prayerful spirit were to thwart a man’s activity and usefulness, it would be incompatible with Bible-teaching and Christian principle. There is no need to deny any inevitable tendency of the kind. The Bible, which exhorts to prayer, is the most practical of all books; devout men are at least as practical as their neighbors; and if they were not, it would be because they have not rightly understood the Bible doctrine, or because of some strong natural fault. If three men were singled out who laid almost extravagant stress upon prayer, whose belief in it would startle many modern Christians, they would be Augustine, and Bernard, and Luther; yet men of the most various temperament, and men of the rarest practical gifts and insight. For the greatest workers will always be the foremost in communion with God, and communion with God is the very heart of prayer.”
“Nor are prayer and work connected by any arbitrary link, but as different aspects of the same man. ‘Ora et labora,’ writes Dr Wichern in one of his pleasant papers, ‘is carved on a peasant’s house in the Vierland. ‘It must be French,’ said a neighbor’s wife, as I stood looking at the legend, ‘but you know it just means ---
With this hand work, and with the other pray,
And God will bless them both from day to day.’’
Ora et labora [pray and work] is the legend of the Christian’s faith, and the plan of his life. His fervent prayer begets honest, manly, unshrinking work; his work, as it is faithful,--and it is faithful in proportion as he realizes it is for God,-- throws him back upon prayer.”
“...Work is no more prayer than prayer is work, although the looseness of the expression is often forgiven for the deeper truth of the thought. Work is no more prayer than a walk in the fields is religious worship. To the devout man both are devout. To the undevout man they are nothing. Nay, work without prayer is as dangerous, ay, and more, than prayer without work. It is the practical ignoring of God, of a spiritual world and spiritual laws. It is the start downwards of the grossest and most superstitious materialism. It is a clear peril of our present time. ...we do want to be taught the need and sacredness of prayer, and that it is a force, of which though the world knows nothing, yet it establishes greater than the world’s works.”
“And it just so happens that in our own generation [that of 1863] there is a singular group of men, who, somewhat about the same time, and without the least knowledge of one another, and in very different spheres, took for their watchword that “French” puzzle of the simple Vierlander, and over whose lives might be written, as their clearest exponent, Ora et labora. They are men who maintain that God exercises some direct influence in the affairs of the world; who therefore appeal to Him in any puzzle or difficulty; who expect His help, and as they believe that He has the hearts of all men in His hand, do not know any special circle or class of men, or any special type of actions, within which that help must be limited. They distinctly believe in God as their Father, and never acre to realize Him either as a pure, infinite Intelligence, or as an eternal Law. They believe, also, that prayer is not an arbitrary provision for temporary circumstances, but that it is fixed in the ways of God, and in harmony with the settled relations of the world and the laws of human conduct. And they believe that if in God’s name they begin a fitting work, God will establish it; answer their prayers regarding it; enable them to deal wisely, and righteously, and prosperously by it; and that behind every other means to its success, and as the very highest means, and often supplanting the others, there is prayer itself.”
“...These men are all one in the principle of their work, but very various in its application. It is a mistake to suppose that that principle discourages the use of means. It is merely selecting from many means what appears the most efficient; and to these men that is prayer. As to other means, some use them more freely than others, but they all use them in subordination to the first. They do not hold that prayer nullifies a man’s wit, or thrift, or counsel, or prudence, but intensifies and guides and purifies them. From what has been said already ,it may be inferred they do not hold that prayer justifies inaction. They are conscious of work to do; it is in the strength of that consciousness that they commit it to God; that while using every likely way to success they believe there may be unlikely ways, that they do not see all God sees. Nor are they so foolish as to believe that God will help them to a work for which they have no fitness; but on the other hand, they believe that the man who prays that he may do a work for which he has no aptitude is praying against the laws of prayer."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
III. God’s beneficent design and wish to restore man to his original purity, and the difficulty of reconciling the claims of his justice, with the designs of his mercy.
Nature teaches us not only that there is a God, a great, self-existent, omnipotent Creator, but that this God, in his creation, has looked to the comfort, well-being, and happiness of his creatures in the disposition of his Providence. The only fact, in the remotest degree militating against the thousand proofs of his beneficence, is his permission to the existence of sin; and even that seems to be only the consequence of the bestowal upon man of the gifts of free agency. That such a God should not desire the restoration of man to a state of holiness – a state consistent with his own attributes – would be utterly at war with all the manifestations of his Providence.
But if such be the desire of Omnipotence, who shall it be effected? What difficulty lies in the way of an immediate, unconditional restitution of man to his original state of purity? That it is in the power of God to do this is unquestioned. It is true that an essential attribute of the Most High, without which we would not recognize his perfection, is justice. A just retribution to the wrongdoer, is not only demanded by the obedience of the righteous, but enters into all the ideas which human reason can devise of the Ruler of the Universe—such an idea has been universal with mankind from the earliest ages, and is not only consistent with, but demanded by human reason. To that reason, then, a difficulty exists in reconciling the claims of divine justice with the designs of divine mercy. It may be replied, that this is but an apparent difficulty. With Omnipotence all things are possible. Granted, but how does human reason dictate that this apparent difficulty can be avoided? A thousand expedients might be suggested by an all-wise and omnipotent God; but we are inquiring into the consistency of the alleged revealed scheme with human reason—of this reason, then, we must demand a scheme—and this brings us to the consideration of our fourth point, viz.:
IV. The reconciliation of these conflicting attributes by the scheme devised, viz.: the expiation of man’s sin by the vicarious sacrifice of a being combining the infinity of the God with the mortality and finite nature of the man.
Monday, October 27, 2008
"Effectual fervent prayer" -- James v.16
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask?" -- Matt vii.11
There is a reposeful rest beyond all other at the mercy-seat. When the hurricane of temptation and trial--the simoom blast of the wilderness is fiercest--who has not felt the peaceful overshadowing of this Elim palm?
Prayer for ourselves, the unburdening the heart of its sins and sorrows into the ear of our Heavenly Father; unbosoming our wants, our weaknesses, our frailties and backslidings; it may be the crimson and scarlet stains of which none but the Heart-searcher is cognizant. The cry for "more grace;" realising our own weakness, yet realising, too, the strong arm on which we are encouraged to lean, when our temporary Elim must be left, and the buffeting storm of the wilderness and the unknown perils of the renewed journey must be faced!
Prayer for others. Delightful it is to feel that our intercessions fetch down blessings on the absent. Prayer annihilates space; it knows nothing of distance. That friend, that brother, the companion of your youth, is far separated from you,--out on the perilous ocean, away in the distant colony. The sound of the Sabbath-bell falls no more on his ear; you can go with him no longer to the house of God in company; his place is vacant in the pew; his chair is empty at the table; his voice is missed at the home-hearth! But you can be present with him. Prayer can bring you to his side. Prayer can whisper a father's benediction over him. Prayer can sprinkle him with better than a mother's tears. Prayer can fetch the angels of God around him as a guard; his shield in danger, his defense in trouble. Far off in her cottage-home, a thousand miles away, a mother, all unconscious at the moment of the danger of her sailor-boy, is uttering her midnight pleadings for the wanderer. They have ascended at the very crisis of destruction. The cry of the trembling form kneeling by her lonely couch has rocked the waves to rest. Is is a mother's "effectual fervent prayers" that have turned the storm into calm!
Prayer is still the golden key by which we can unlock, alike for ourselves and for others, the treasury of heaven, and "move the arm of Omnipotence." Yes, and what we owe, on the other hand, to the prayers which have hovered over our cradles and our early years, followed us into the world, grappling for us in our strong temptations, and which, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, have prevailed, will never be known until that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed!
Gracious indeed is this Palm-tree; to be under its shelter is to be beneath the shadow of God. As the devout Payson expresses it, using a different simile, "The best means of keeping near the Lord is the closet. Here the battle is lost or won."
What an encouragement to prayer is the divine challenge given in the second of our motto-verses; the earthly father yielding to the requests and importunities of his children-- the pledge and guarantee of a still greater willingness on the part of the Heavenly Parent to respond, and that too with a royal plenitude to our wants! "How much more?" Never let us suppose that God is unwilling to hear. There is no exhausting that infinite fullness treasured up in him. It is one of Philip Henry's quaint sayings, "When Abraham interceded for Sodom, God granted as long as he asked, Abraham left off first." He is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." 'It is said,' observes the saintly Rutherford, '"He answered not a word." But it is not said, "He heard not a word." These two differ much. Christ often heareth, when He doth not answer. His not answering is an answer and speaks thus, "Pray on, go on, and cry; for the Lord holdest His door fast bolted, not to keep you out, but that you may knock and knock."' Can we doubt either His willingness or ability to hear, when we think of Him who is our Advocate with the Father?--the Angel Intercessor with His censer "full of much incense," sprinkling therewith the polluted and unworthy prayers of His people, and causing them to ascend with acceptance before God? "Ask in My name," says that Divine Intercessor Himself; adding, "And I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you." What means He by this asserted suspension or intermission of His pleadings? Simply, because the utterance of His name is sufficient. It is the passport to the Mercy-seat, the Key which unlocks the Treasury of heaven, and obtains the "how much more" from the Father's heart!
In the time that's past,
Thou must still pray on,
For thy wants come fast;
Now ask what ye will
From His boundless store,
The Father is able
To give 'much more.'
"Hold out the empty hand,
And He will fill it;
Tell Him Thy vexing fear,
And He will still it.
Now take what ye will
From His boundless store,
The Father is willing
To give 'much more.'"
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you."
from J. R. Macduff, Palms of Elim; or Rest and Refreshment in the Valleys. New York: Carter, 1879. pp109-112
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
In these days when the Spirit of God is searching the hearts of men and convincing them of sin, the inquiry often arises, “Am I a Christian?”
This question is not to be settled by vague impressions, made in some mysterious way upon the mind. Nor is it safe to permit dreams, visions, or voices to settle this question. Nor will the sudden recurrence of the mind to some passage of Scripture—such as, “Son, daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins which are many are forgiven thee”—be a sufficient reason for regarding the person thus cheered as a Christian. Nor will any amount of happy emotions, which may follow conviction of sin, determine that the person is a Christian. Nor will the cherishing of a hope settle the question. What, then, is it to be a Christian? The Christian is:
- One who believes or trusts in Christ as God’s appointed sacrifice for sin, through whom it may be forgiven, and through whose righteousness and mediation all else needful to salvation may be obtained. His whole expectation of salvation is reposed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Christian has the Spirit of Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
- The Christian is the property of Christ. He acknowledges that he is not his own, but that he is under the highest obligations to glorify God in his body and spirit, which are God’s. He aims to be conformed to this obligation; hence, he strives to eat and drink and do whatever he does to the glory of God.
- He loves the service of Christ. He accounts as more than his meat and his drink to do the will of his Father who is in Heaven. In keeping of the commandments he finds great reward.
- He loves the kingdom of Christ. The prayer for its full establishment in the earth is prominent in all his supplications at the throne of grace. He seeks it first, as involving all his own highest good, as well as that of others.
- He loves the friends of Christ. “Hereby,” said our Saviour, “shall ye know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.”
- He is not ashamed of Christ. He is not ostentatious in the profession of religion. Nor is he careful to conceal his attachment to Christ. He knows that he who is despised and rejected of men, is at the summit of power and glory in the heavens; therefore he accounts it his highest honour to be known as a servant and friend of Christ.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I remember well, in my early days, seeing upon my grandmother’s mantel-shelf an apple contained in a phial. This was a great wonder to me, and I tried to investigate it. My question was, “How came the apple to get inside so small a bottle?” The apple was quite as big round as the phial; by what means was it placed within it? Though it was treason to touch the treasures on the mantel-piece, I took down the bottle, and convinced my youthful mind that the apple never passed through its neck; and by means of an attempt to unscrew the bottom, I became equally certain that the apple did not enter from below. I held to the notion that by some occult means the bottle had been made in two pieces, and afterwards untied in so careful a manner that no trace of the join remained. I was hardly satisfied with the theory, but as no philosopher was at hand to suggest any other hypothesis, I let the matter rest. One day, the next summer, I chanced to see upon a bough another phial, the first cousin of my old friend, within which was growing a little apple which had been passed through the neck of the bottle while it was extremely small. “Nature well known, no prodigies remain.” The grand secret was out. I did not cry, “Eureka! Eureka!” but I might have done so if I had then been versed in the Greek tongue.
This discovery of my juvenile days shall serve for an illustration at the present moment. Let us get the apples into the bottle while they are little: which, being translated, signifies, let us bring the young ones into the house of God, by means of the Sabbath-school, in the hope that, in after days, they will love the place where His honour dwelleth, and there seek and find eternal life. By our making the Sabbath dreary, many young minds may be prejudiced against religion: we would do the reverse. Sermons should not be so long and dull as to weary the young folk, or mischief will come of them; but with interesting preaching to secure attention, and loving teachers to press home the truth upon the youthful heart, we shall not have to complain of the next generation, that they have “forgotten their resting places.”
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
From the Presbyterian Magazine, October 1858. Edited by Dr. Van Rensselaer. Pages 452-458.
“Bible Theology Consistent with Human Reason”
II. Man’s fall from this original state of purity and holiness, and the consequent corruption and depravity of his entire nature.
We might here appeal again to the sages of antiquity to show that the perverseness of man’s nature, and his tendency to do wrong, was by them all admitted as a fact, differing, as they did, only in the causes assigned in explanation of the fact. With some, the mind was a blank paper, and received from education the perverted, sinful dispositions. With others, as before stated, his nature was pure, but excess indulged in, caused the errors of his life. While with others, his evil passions were held to be his original nature, and education and culture alone transformed him from a beast into a civilized man. But we need not this testimony. We have an unerring witness in the consciousness of each individual, and this witness we propose now to examine. Let every man review his own life, take up one by one every honorable, noble, praiseworthy act which memory has retained—spread open before himself, as if to the All-seeing eye, every hidden motive conspiring upon his will, to produce his action, select the one to this own search, most free from unworthy motives, and then confess to himself whether even his own consciousness cannot discover in the hidden recesses of his heart some trace of selfish love, some taint which bars the claim of perfect purity in all its bearings. If the blurred eye of erring man can thus discern the trace of sin, how polluted must it seem to the undimmed vision of perfect holiness and purity. Strive as we may against it, with shame confess it to ourselves, and straight resolve that in the future we will not again be forced to confess so mortifying a fact, and yet again and again in our own self-communings we discover this underlying stratum of selfishness, tingeing every fountain that breaks forth from the heart.
We thus find in human nature these conflicting elements, the one indicating a pure, perfect, and holy origin, the other evidencing a depraved and corrupt principle pervading the entire soul. By the unaided light of human reason, then, we discover in man the relics and evidence of a perfect original, but so marred and defaced by error and sin as to destroy its symmetry, and almost obliterate its proportions.
What disposition will the Creator make of such a creature? This question brings us to the consideration of the third point, viz.:
Saturday, October 11, 2008
“Why am I not a Christian?”
- Is it because I am afraid of ridicule, and of what others may say of me?
- “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.”
- Is it because of the inconsistencies of professing Christians?
- “Every man shall give account of himself to God.”
- Is it because I am not willing to give up all for Christ?
- “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
- Is it because I am afraid that I shall not be accepted?
- “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.”
- Is it because I fear that I am too great a sinner?
- “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.”
- Is it because I am afraid that I shall not “hold out?”
- “He that hath begun a good work in you, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
- Is it because I am thinking that I will do as well as I can, and that God out to be satisfied with that?
- “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
- Is it because I am postponing the matter without any definite reason?
- “Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for you know not what a day may bring forth.”
- Is it because I am trying to save myself by morality, or in any other way of my own?
- “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
- Is it because I do not clearly see the way to be saved?
- “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
From the Presbyterian Magazine, October 1858. Pages 479-480. [Language updated]
Friday, October 3, 2008
... “The desire of novelty,” says Mr. Hamilton of London, writer of The Mount of Olives, “is not in itself blameworthy; but there is one form of it which we would like to see more frequent. To freshen old truths is nearly as important as to discover new ones; and instead of telling or hearing some new thing, our time would often be as advantageously occupied in thinking over and brightening up some old thing.”...
“One often thinks what a pity that so excellent a work as the “Westminster Shorter Catechism,” greatly as it is prized, should not be prized and used far more than it is. Let us freshen it up. Let us commend it, not only to the young, but to the old too. Let us point out its beauties and dilate upon them. Take for instance the answer to question thirty-six.
“The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.”
What a cluster of diamonds! What an assemblage of glorious things! Is it possible in any other words of the same compass to set forth so much of the blessedness of the Christian’s portion this side of heaven? Poor, sorrowing, lost, afflicted soul; sometimes you are sorely tempted almost to despair. But cheer up. Think of your portion—not of that unspeakable one in sure reserve, but of that now in hand. No matter what your lot. It may be you are overwhelmed with ills under which mere nature cannot sustain you. But think a moment. You have a title to—nay, you have possession of—priceless blessings. Think over these five benefits.
Assurance of God’s love. –Not his general love, his love of benevolence merely, but of complacency too. He delights in you for what he has wrought in you. Amazing grace! And to be assured of this benefit; to have a warrant to say, I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded he is able to keep what I have committed to him, against that day. Not everyone attains to this blessing; but God has graciously made it accessible to all; and what but the Christian’s own fault hinders his actual possession of it.
Then, Peace of conscience. –Ah, you are somewhat sensible to your ill desert and sinfulness. But the gracious covenant is so ordered as to make full provision for you. God in Christ is not only reconciled to you, but He has in a measure removed your unholy opposition to Him. And since you are reconciled to God, you know the import of the blessed word—peace. John, 14:27.
Your glorious Advocate has so triumphantly interceded for you, that the next benefit in order, Joy in the Holy Ghost, follows as a matter of course. And when it pleases God to grant a large measure of this earnest of heaven, then it does not matter what the outward accidents of the humble soul may be,--lofty or lowly, honoured or despised in the world’s regard, living in a palace, embracing a dunghill, or pining in a dungeon—it is all one. That soul has within itself a fund of life and joy. Who shall harm it? No wonder it joys in God.
But full conformity to the image of Christ will not be attained to in this life. It is therefore a blessed provision that the lineaments of that image shall be growing more and more distinct and symmetrical. Child of God, you will never be satisfied with your attainments here, and if you think you are now perfect, you have not yet learned your first lesson in the school of Christ. Reach forward. Despair not. God will grant thee Increase of grace.
As the outward man perishes, the inward man shall be renewed, day by day. And this by logical sequence involves the next benefit, Perseverance to the end.—Practically considered, this is the culminating point. What would it avail to have the blessedness of heaven in prospect, and desires awakened for its fruition, if, as a matter of fact, the gracious soul may come short of the prize? You know full well, humble child of God, that of yourself you could not persevere. But you shall be held up—kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation—being confident of this very thing, that He that has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ. Is not this a most blessed truth?
He will not, he will not forsake to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
He’ll never, no never, no NEVER forsake.”
Perseverance to the end! And that end, though it may seem dark, and clouds may gather around it, and for a time terrors may encompass the soul in view of it, yet darkness, and clouds, and terror shall soon vanish. That sad end shall be but the bright beginning of immortal blessedness—the portal of eternal life and joy.
Thus have I worked to freshen one of the beauties of the old Catechism. But in that Casket of Gems there are a hundred and six beside, all rich and polished. True, they are somewhat old-fashioned, but not a whit for the worse for that; nay, the better....”
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I. Man’s original creation in a state of purity and holiness.
It is a fact well known, that ancient philosophers had arrived at this truth without the revelation of the bible. Aristotle bases his system of ethics upon the assumption that all human passions are pure, and that error lays only in the excess. He carries the doctrine far beyond its legitimate results, but still it effects the purpose for which we use it, viz., to show that human reason discovers in human nature such relics of original purity as to authorize the belief of the existence of such a state. But without invoking the authority of any great name, we may arrive at this truth ourselves. Let us examine the human heart, analyze its passions, explore the deep regions of original motives, and we shall be forced to the same conclusion. As to the better feelings and affections—love, gratitude, pity, &tc.—argument is unnecessary. To the baser passions, then, let us appeal; for example, envy, revenge, hatred, avarice, covetousness. Is there a foundation of good, a corner-stone of purity, upon which such passions as these are reared? A few moments’ reflection will show that there is.
To admire the good, to seek to arrive at its attainments, is laudable. To remove real obstacles in the way is necessary to success. Real or imaginary thwart our purposes, and produce unpleasant reflections. A successful aspirant in the same race becomes in our eyes an obstacle to the attainment of the desired end, and hence Envy.
To love and protect those dependent upon and dear to us, is praiseworthy. To shield them from present harm and future injury, is pleasing and grateful to a generous heart. Every injury unprevented by us, grates harshly on these better feelings, reproaches our self-love for neglect, and demands a reparation, and hence, Revenge.
To love the right must necessarily produce a contrary feeling for the wrong. If both right and wrong make the same impression upon the heart and excite the same feeling, there could be no incitement to the one nor prevention of the other. The existence of real or imaginary wrong gives rise to this repulsive emotion of the heart, and hence, Hatred.
To provide not only for present wants, but to lay up for future necessities, is the prudent foresight of a reasonable being. So great and unexpected are the events which a day brings forth, that the teachings of experience prompt to the accumulation of more than actual necessity requires. This desire for accumulation becomes a master passion, and hence Avarice, and in its train, Covetousness.
The list might be extended until we had exhausted every passion. Sufficient illustration has been given for our purpose, viz.: to demonstrate the traces of a pure fountain for all the dark schemes flowing forth from the human heart.
While we have thus to dig deep into the foundations of the passions to seek for laudable motives, it requires but ordinary observation to arrive at the conclusion, that by some means the waters have become bitter and the streams turbid, and this brings us to our second proposition, viz.:
II. Man’s fall from this original state of purity and holiness, and the consequent corruption and depravity of his entire nature. (Part 3)
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
The philosophy of the plan of salvation, as revealed and developed in the sacred Scriptures, has so often been considered, and the consistency of the revealed with the natural law so often shown, that one cannot expect to advance any new views of the one or proofs of the other. Yet so varied is the human mind that the presentation of the same idea clothed in different words, or from a different point of view, will sometimes make an impression, never before following a score of previous repetitions. With this view, we propose to consider the consistency of the theology of the Bible with human reason.
We will not stop with the atheist to argue that there is a God, a great creative, self-existent, omnipotent first cause. Nor will we repeat the conclusive and uncontradicted argument derived from history and observation, to show that man is a religious creature, acknowledging always his dependence upon a Supreme Being or Beings, and thereby evidencing, from the internal consciousness of the entire race, our relation as subjects of a higher power. We are tempted to enter upon the enticing field of god’s external providences, to show how mercy and goodness are exhibited in all his creation, thence to draw the conclusion that this mercy and goodness would not stop short at the provision for our carnal wants, and leave unsupplied that intense thirsting of the soul for the spiritual and eternal. And hence, that it is natural that we shall expect such light upon these great interests as would satisfy the craving of the spirit and make plain and sure the path of rectitude. This light is the true religion. It would be pleasant and easy to examine the many lights which have been exhibited to the world, each claiming to be the true emanation from the Deity, and to show that to the enlightened mind none can claim so high a regard from the intellect as that portrayed in the Christian Bible, and thus demand for it the meed [sic] of being the true light of the world—the true religion—until some purer, more spiritual, more reasonable system disputes with it the palm. All these points however have been so clearly, elaborately, conclusively exhibited and illustrated by others that we propose to take them as granted for our present purpose, and from this stand-point to apply to this best of religious systems the crucible of human reason, and independent of its pre-eminence thus established, to examine its claim to Divine authority and human obedience.
We confine ourselves to internal evidence. We leave out of our consideration all the usual external proof derived from human, and consequently fallible testimony. We propose to take the system as if offered now, for the first time, for our adoption, and without other evidence of its genuineness than its own consistency with our finite reason.
The cardinal fundamental truths taught in the religion of the Bible may be reduced to the following:
- Man’s original creation in a state of purity and holiness.
- Man’s fall from this state, and the consequent corruption and depravity of his entire nature.
- God’s beneficent design to wish to restore man to his original purity, and the difficulty of reconciling the claims of his justice with the designs of his mercy.
- The reconciliation of these conflicting attributes by the scheme devised, viz., the expiation of man’s sin by the vicarious sacrifice of a Being combining the infinity of the God with the mortality and finite nature of the man.
- The terms upon which this atonement is made efficacious, viz., Faith in the heart and consistency in the life.
[I will post this, Lord willing, in 6 parts, including this introduction.]
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"...[Baxter] having no where in his works, (as I have observed) given any directions to those who were once oppressed with Melancholy, but are delivered from it, I shall take the liberty to subjoin a few things by way of advice to such...
IV. Magnify the mercy of God toward you, in bringing you out of your sad, dark, and disconsolate condition. ... What a condition were you in, when through the prevalency of your distemper, and the devils temptations, you made an absolute surrender of your selves to the Devil, and seemed satisfied in what you had done? You wished your selves in Hell, that you might know the worst of your condition? But a merciful God had more compassion on you, than to say it should be unto you according to your distempered desires. What a case were you in, when to think of the mercy of God, the merits of Christ, or the Happiness of heaven, did strike you like so many daggers to the heart, because you thought you had no part in either of these? But when you reflected upon the wrath of God incensed by sin, and the miseries of hell, which the Devil did frequently set before you; the renewed thoughts of this, caused your hearts as it were to die within you, and the more because you were to suffer in the one, and lie under the dreadful effects of the other, to all eternity. Can you think upon these things, and not magnify the mercy of God towards you?
Time was, (may you say) when I thought no person in the world was ever in the like deplorable case with myself, and that it would never be otherwise with me. I looked upon my self, as a cast away, as a vessel of wrath, fitted for destruction. I looked upon my self, as an heir of hell, and felt an hell of horror in my conscience, and apprehended it to be some drops of that wrath, which was to be forever pouring down upon me. But God was merciful to me not only beyond my deserts, but altogether beyond my expectation too. When it was midnight with my soul and I verily thought that Blackness of Darkness was reserved for me: when I walked in darkness and saw no light, then did God shine into my soul. By reading such a passage of Scripture, and other books which God directed me to, by hearing such expressions in publick from ministers, or in private from friends; it pleased God at first to let some light into my dark soul, and to increase it more and more, till I who walked in darkness and saw no light, have now hopes to be one among the member of those, who shall dwell in the regions of glorious light, even in the presence of God, where there is fullness of Joy and Pleasure forevermore. Let the present age, and generations to come, magnify the mercy of God. Bless the Lord O my Soul and all within me, magnify His Holy name. Come you who have been in the like circumstances with me, let us speak of the great and wonderful things which God hath done for us, and excite one another with thankful hearts to exalt his name together. We who have tasted that the Lord is gracious in such a signal manner, must be some of the most ungrateful wretches in the world, to forget what God hath done for us, and to deny him his due Praises.”
(From The Signs and Causes of Melancholy, with directions suited to the case of those who are afflicted with it. Collected out of the works of Mr. Richard Baxter, for the sake of those, who are wounded in Spirit. By Samuel Clifford, minister of the Gospel London, Bible and Three Crowns, 1716. Extracted from somewhere between pages xi-xlvi.)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
[Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship. First published 1648, published by Soli Deo Gloria in 1990. pages 80-81, 86-87]
The Right Manner of Sanctifying the Name of God in General
And Particularly in these 3 Great Ordinances
1. Hearing the Word
2. Receiving the Lord’s Supper
The fourth thing for preparation is to watch and to pray.
We should watch over our hearts lest they be made unfit for duties. So we should prepare for prayer all day long in this sense. That is, we should watch over our hearts that they are not let out so far as will hinder us in prayer when we come to do it. I remember Tertullian said that the Christians supped as if they were about to pray. So when you are with company, you should watch unto prayer. Oh, that you did so. You cannot but be conscious of the fact that oftentimes when you have been with company your hearts have been out of tune and frame, that you have been in no way fit for prayer. When you come home, your house and family finds it so. You that take such delight in company and sitting up late, I appeal to your consciences whether you can come home and find yourselves fit either in your family or closet to go and open your hearts to God.
This is one note, by the way, whereby you may come to know whether you have been immoderate in company at any time. God does not give men liberty to be busy in any outward occasions in the world so as to make them unfit for His service. Preparation consists in that, in watching over your hearts that you may not be unfitted for any holy duty when God calls you to it, but that you may be ready even to every good work.
...We should always be prepared either for prayer, hearing the Word, or receiving the Sacraments. Now because Sacraments are so rare [at the time in England, Burroughs likely would have held communion at most twice a year – SML], those that have any enlightened consciences think that they dare not but prepare for Sacraments, but you should always be in preparation for the receiving of the Sacraments as the primitive Christians were. And those that have been acquainted with this point of preparing for duties have come to such a frame of spirit that there is not as much time required of them as others, for they are in a constant fitness so that there is not an instant of time in the whole day but, if God calls them to prayer, they could immediately fall down upon their knees and pray so as to sanctify God’s name in prayer.
That would be an excellent temper, indeed, if you could find it so that you walk so spiritually and holily before God that there could never be a quarter of an hour from morning to night, nor from the beginning of the week to the end, but if you were called to pray, or to receive the Sacrament, you had your heart fitted so that you could come into God’s presence with a prepared heart and would be able to sanctify God’s name in that duty. Acquaint yourselves with this work of preparation, and so you may have hearts fitted to come into God’s presence at any time.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson.
If women could only believe it, there is a wonderful beauty even in growing old. The charm of expression arising from softened temper or ripened intellect, often amply atones for the loss of form and colouring; and, consequently, to those who never could boast of either of these latter, years give much more than they take away. A sensitive person often requires half a lifetime to get thoroughly used to this corporeal machine, to attain a wholesome indifference, both to its defects and perfections, and to learn, at last, what nobody would acquire from any teacher but experience, that it is the mind alone which is of any consequence; that with a good temper, sincerity, and a moderate stock of brains—or even the two former only—any sort of body can, in time, be made useful, respectable, and agreeable, as a traveling-dress for the soul. Many a one who was absolutely plain in youth, thus grows pleasant and well-looking in declining years. You will hardly ever find anybody, not ugly in mind, who is repulsively ugly in person after middle life.
So with the character. If a woman is ever to be wise or sensible, the chances are that she will have become so somewhere between thirty and forty. Her natural good qualities will have developed; her evil ones have been either partly subdued, or have outgrown her, like rampant weeds; for however we may talk about people being “not a whit altered –just the same as ever”—not one of us is, or can be, for long together, exactly the same; no more than the body we carry with us is the identical body we were born with, or the one we supposed ours seven years ago. Therein, as in our spiritual self which inhabits it, goes on a perpetual change and renewal; if this ceased, the result would be, not permanence, but corruption. In moral and mental, as well as physical growth, it is impossible to remain stationary; if we do not advance, we retrograde. Talk of “too late to improve”—“too late to learn,” &c. Idle words! A human being should be improving with every day of a lifetime; and will probably have to go on learning through all the ages of immortality.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson, p87.
From Household Thoughts: “Little Children A Great Help”
I am fond of little children. I think them the poetry of the world; the fresh flowers of our hearths and homes – little conjurors, with their “natural magic,” evoking by their spells what delights and enriches all ranks, and equalizes the different classes of society. Often as they bring with them anxieties and cares, and live to occasion sorrow and grief, we should get on very badly without them. Only think, if there was never anything anywhere to be seen but great grown-up men and women! Every infant comes into the world like a delegated prophet, the harbinger and herald of good tidings, whose office it is “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and to draw “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” A child softens and purifies the heart, warming and melting it by its gentle presence; it enriches the soul by new feelings and awakens within it what is favorable to virtue. It is a beam of light, a fountain of love, a teacher whose lessons few can resist. Infants recall us from much that engenders and encourages selfishness, that freezes the affections, roughens the manners, indurates the heart; they brighten the home, deepen love, invigorate exertion, infuse courage, and vivify and sustain the charities of life. It would be a terrible world, I do think, if it was not embellished by little children.—Binney.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson, p86.
From Household Thoughts: “Religious Education for the Young.”
In religious education properly conducted, science becomes the handmaid of religion, by employing scientific facts and principles in vindicating and illustrating the claims of Christianity. Such an education is, therefore, not only compatible with a thorough literary course, but is greatly aided by such a course. It might easily be shown that (other things being equal) the most thorough and ripe scholars in secular learning, have been those who, while prosecuting their researches, devoted a portion of time daily to the study of the Bible; and further, that their attention to God’s word facilitated their progress in science and philosophy.
But though the true idea of religious education does not exclude or diminish literary or scientific attainments, its special object requires us, in opposition to Deistical sentiments, to hold and teach the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures; to explain the glorious mystery of redemption, which it is the grand object of the Scriptures to reveal; and to inculcate and to enforce those moral principles and precepts which constitute the essence and glory of practical Christianity.”
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Individuality in the Church
It was a custom of the Apostles to send their Christian salutations to individual believers in the churches to which their epistles were written, but in no other epistle is it done so largely as in that to the Church at Rome.
In the last chapter there are not fewer than twenty-eight persons mentioned by name, besides two families, the heads of which are named, and other little circles of friends, called “the Church that is in their house,” or, “the brethren which are with them,” or “all the saints which are with them.” Of the number distinctly designated, seventeen or eighteen were men and ten were women.
The epithets, or descriptive expressions, applied to many of the individuals, are not without interest, as well as meaning. One is called “out sister, who is a servant of the Church ... a succourer of many and of myself also.” Others are named “my helpers in Christ Jesus,” “my work-fellow,” “well-beloved,” “beloved in the Lord,” “approved in Christ,” “in Christ before me,” “who bestowed much labour on us,” “my fellow-prisoners,” “who labour in the Lord,” “salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.”
It is further to be noticed that other Christians joined the Apostle in these particular messages. Eight persons, including the amanuensis, are named as taking the opportunity of sending their Christian greeting; most probably from their residence in Corinth to their friends in Rome.
The object of these apostolic messages was principally that of friendly remembrance of Christians, whom Paul had found to be distinguished by their piety and zeal in the little Church at Rome, who had given him their assistance in promoting his Gospel errand, or who were remembered from some other interesting association with his evangelical visits. Some of them had been ready to lay down their own necks to protect the Apostle from persecutors. Some were, in his mind, as “the first fruits of Achaia;” and one purpose was to commend to their attention a member of the Cenchrean Church, then about to go among them, probably the bearer of this introduction, on some concern of religious benevolence.
The chapter into which these paragraphs are thrown, furnishes traits of the early Church that may suggest some useful patterns for the imitation of our own day.
- One of these traits is the social fellowship of these primitive believers. They were duly organized churches with their officers, ordinances, and discipline; they had ministers of apostolic dugnity to serve them, and to be over them in the Lord. But the community was more than that of a corporate body, or an ecclesiastical estate, or a hierarchy. The mode of address used by this Apostle is more like that of an absent member of a family writing home, than that of a dignitary issuing an authoritative document. Yet it was more than an ordinary domestic letter he had been dictating. It was as a postscript to one of the most important theological and church papers ever transmitted through the instrumentality of man, that these holy greetings were inserted. But when the doctrines had been fully recorded, when the messages of the Holy Ghost had been first reduced to manuscript, with what honest simplicity does the pen of the writer set forth, in the incidental forms of the last page of a letter, the brotherly intimacy and affection that subsisted between himself and his correspondents. He calls them by name. He knows their families. He does not forget what individual members of the Church had done, nor their several characteristics.
This very mention of names shows that these disciples were on terms of intimate fellowship among themselves; otherwise, they could not comply with the writer’s request to communicate his messages one to another. And they were not only the twenty-eight individuals named that were thus known as one circle or class out of the whole Church; but such expressions are used as show the mutual acquaintance and fellowship to have been as wide as “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” Naming five persons, he adds, “and the brethren that are with them.” Naming five others, he adds, “and all the saints who are with them.” “Salute one another,” he says again. Paul himself must have felt this interest in them individually, and when he says, “without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Rom. i), it is most probable that he prayed not only distinctly for the Church at Rome, as he did also for that at Corinth, and that at Galatia (1 Cor. I, Gal. i), and for others (Eph. I, Phil, i, Col. I, 1 Thess i, 2 Thess. i), but that he prayed for them by name as individuals. The frequent messages and references to particular persons indicate this specific knowledge and regard on the part of the Apostle. He would not only say “greet them that love us in the faith,” “grace be with you all,” “salute every saint in Christ Jesus,” but, as John did, “greet the friends by name.” It is likely, therefore, that he prayed for them by name, and the more so, as he so often wrote “pray for me.” He remembered that Marcus was sister’s son to Barnabas; that Andronicus and Junias were converts before himself; that he had baptized Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. In Rome, he remmeber that Euodias and Syntyche, of Philippi, were not of the same mind in the Lord. He did not forget that Onesiphorus visited him in prison; he prescribed for the ailments of Timothy; he provided for the personal comforts of Zenas and Apollos on their journey; he exerted himself for the slave Onesimus. He knew that the churches felt an interest in him personally, and could refer to such as Tychicus “that ye may know my affairs and who I do.” He thought that the Church of Philippi would be pleased to hear that Epaphroditus was recovering from illness, and he was glad at the arrival of Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus. What fervent fellowship must have prevailed in the Church.
- Another fact is evident from this chapter, and others like it; it was common to see active co-operation in the whole body of believers.
To be continued...
Monday, August 25, 2008
Chapter 8: Of Company in General. Rules Concerning It. Part 3
Fourthly, your conversations amongst all must be loving: you should be kind and courteous towards all men, Tit. iii.2. Do good to all, according as you have ability and opportunity, Gal.vi.10. Give offence willingly to none, I Cor,x.32. Do wrong to no man, 1 Cor.vi.1-8, either in his name, life, chastity, or estate, or in any thing that is his; but be ready to forgive wrongs done to you, Col.iii.13, and to take wrong, rather than to revenge, or unchristianly to seek your own vindication. As you have calling and opportunity, do good to the souls of your neighbors; exhort and encourage unto well-doing, 1 Thess.v.14. If they show not themselves to be dogs and swine, Matt.vii.6; that is, obstinate scorners of good men, and contemnors of the pearl of good counsel, you must, so far as God gives you any interest in them, admonish and inform them with the spirit of meekness and wisdom, Lev.xix.17. With this cloak of love you should cover and cure a multitude of your companions; infirmities and offences, 1 Peter iv.8. In all your behavior towards him, seek not so much to please yourself as your companion, in that which is good to his edification, Rom.xv.2.
- Speak evil of no man, Tit.iii.2; nor yet speak the evil you know of any man, except in these or the like cases.
(1) When you are thereunto lawfully called by authority.
(2) When it is those whom it concerns, to reform and reclaim him of whom you speak, and you do it to that end, 1 Cor.i.11.
(3) When it is to prevent certain damage to the soul of estate of your neighbor, Acts xxiii.16, which would ensue, if it were not by you thus discovered.
(4) When the concealment of his evil may make you guilty and accessory.
(5) When some particular remarkable judgment of God is upon a notorious sinner for his sin, then, to the end that God may be acknowledged in his judgments, and that others may be warned, or brought to repent of the same or like sin, you may speak of the evils of another, Psa.lii.6,7. But this is not to speak evil, so long as you do it not in envy and malice to his person, nor with aggravation of the fault more than is cause, nor yet to the judging of him as concerning his final estate.
- When you shall hear any in your company speak evil of your neighbor, by slandering, whispering, or tale-bearing, whereby he detracts from his good name; you must not only stop your ears at such reports, but must set your speech and countenance against him, like a north wind against rain, Prov.xxv.23.
- When you hear another well reported of, let it not be grievous to you, as if it detracted from your credit; but rejoice at it, inasmuch as God has enabled him to be good, and to do good; all which makes for the advancement of the common cause of religious, wherein you are interested; envy him not therefore his due praise.
- Detract not from any man’s credit, either by open backbiting, Psa.xv.3, or by secret whispering, Prov.xvi.28, or by any cunning means of casting evil aspersions, whether by way of pitying him, or otherwise: as, He is good or does well in such and such things; but, &tc. This but mars all.
- And, in a word, in all speeches to men, and communications with them, your speech must be gracious, Col.iv.6, that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace, not vice, to the hearers. If must not be profane, nor any way corrupt, Eph.iv.29, as defiled with oaths, curses, or profane jests; it must not be flattering, Job xvii.5, nor yet detracting; not better, not railing, censorious, or injurious to any man, Eph.iv.31. It must not be wanton, lascivious, and filthy, Eph.v.3,4. Col.iii.8. It must not be false, Col.iii.9; no, nor yet foolish, idle, and fruitless; for all evil communication does corrupt good manners, I Cor.xv.33. And we must answer for every idle word which we speak, Matt.xii.36. Besides, a man may easily be discerned of what country he is, whether of heaven, or of the earth, by his language; his speech will betray him.
- There is no wisdom, or power here below, can teach and enable you to do all, or any of the aforementioned duties. This wisdom and power must be had from above, James iii.13-18. Wherefore, if you would in all companies carry yourself worthy the gospel of Christ:
First, Be sure that the law of God, and the power of grace be in your heart, else the law of grace and kindness cannot be in your life and speech, Psa.xxxvi.30,31. Prov.xxxi.26. You must be endued, therefore, with a spirit of holiness, humility, love, gentleness, long-suffering, meekness, and wisdom; else you can never converse with all men as you ought to do. For such as the heart is, such the conversation will be. Out of the evil heart come evil thoughts and actions, Matt.xv.19; but a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and according to the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Matt.xii.34-35. A man must have the heart of the wise, before the tongue can be taught to speak wisely, Prov.xvi.23.
Secondly, you must resolve beforehand, as David did, to take heed to your ways, that you sin not with your tongue; and that you will keep your mouth as with a bridle, Psa.xxxix.1. Before your speech and actions, be well advised; weigh and ponder in balance of reason, all your actions and words, before you vent them.
Thirdly, let no passion of joy, grief, fear, anger, &tc. get the head, and exceed their limits. For wise and good men, as well as bad, when they have been in any of these passions, have spoken unadvisedly with their lips, Job iii.3,23. Psa.cvi.32,33. Mark ix.5,6. Jonah iv.8,9. Mark vi. 22,23. And experience will teach you, that your tongue never runs before your wit so soon, as when you are over-afraid, over-grieved, over-angry, or over-joyed.
Fourthly, you must be much in prayer to God, before you come into company, that you may be able to order your conversation aright; let your heart also be lifted up often to God when you are in company, that he would set a watch before your mouth, and keep the door of your lips, and that your heart may not incline to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity, Psa. cxli. 3,4; and that he would open your lips, that your mouth may show forth his praise, Psa. li. 15; and that you may speak as you ought to speak, knowing how to answer every man, Col.iv.6; for the tongue is such an unruly evil, that no man, but God only, can tame and govern it, James iii.8.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Chapter 8: Of Company in General. Rules Concerning It. Part 2.
Thirdly, You must be wise and discreet in your carriage towards all, and that in divers particulars.
- Be not too open, nor too reserved; not over suspicious, 1 Cor. Xiii.7, nor over credulous, John ii.24. Jer. xl.14-16. For the simple believes every word, but the prudent looks well to his going, Prov. xiv.15.
- Apply yourself to the several conditions and dispositions of men in all indifferent things, so far as you may, without sin against God, or offence to your brother, becoming all things to all men, 1 Cor. ix. 19-23; suiting yourself to them in such a manner, that if it be possible, you may live in peace with them, Rom. xii.18, and may gain some interest in them, to do them good.
But far be it from you to do as many, who under this pretence, are for all companies; seeming religious with those that are religious; but profane and licentious with those that are profane and licentious; for this is carnal policy, and damnable hypocrisy, and not true wisdom.
- Intermeddle not with other men’s business, I Thess. iv.11, but upon due and necessary occasion.
- Know when to speak, and when to be silent, I Tim. v.13. How excellent is a word spoken in season! Eccles. iii.7. As either speech or silence will make for the glory of God, and for the cause of religion, and good one of another, so speak, and so hold your peace, Prov. xv.23, xxv, 11.
- Be not hasty to speak, Prov. xxix.11, nor be much in speaking, Prov. xvii. 27, Eccl. x.14, but only when just cause shall require; for as it is shame and folly to a man to answer a matter before he hears it, Prov.xviii.13, so is it for any to speak before his time and turn, Job xxxii.4-6. Likewise consider, that in the multitude of words there wants not sin; but he that refrains his lips is wise, Prov.x.19.
- Be sparing to speak of yourself or actions, to your own praise, except in case of necessary apology, 2 Cor xii.11, and defense of God’s cause maintained by you, and in the clearing of your wronged innocency, or needful manifestation of God’s power and grace in you; but then it must be with all modesty, giving the praise unto God, Phil. iv.12, 13. Neither must you cunningly hunt for praise, by debasing or excusing yourself and actions, that you may give occasion to draw forth commendations of yourself from others. Thus seeking of applause, argues pride and folly. But do praiseworthy actions, seeking therein the praise of God, that God may be glorified in you, then you shall have praise of God, Rom. ii.29, whatever you have of man. However, follow Solomon’s rule: Let another praise thee, not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips, Prov. xxvii. 2.
- As you must be wise in your carriage towards others, so you must be wise for yourself; which is to make a good use to yourself of all things that occur in company. Let the good you see, be matter of joy, and thankfulness to God, and improved for your own imitation, Rom. xii.9. Let the evil you see, be matter of grief and humiliation, and a warning to you, lest you commit the like, since you are made of the same mould that others are, and are liable to the same temptations. If men report good of you to your face, repress these speeches as soon and as wisely as you can, giving the praise of all things to God, Gen. xli. 15,16, Acts xi. 23; knowing this is be a temptation and a snare, Prov. xxvii. 14, and a means to breed self-love, pride, and vain-glory in you. If this good report be true, bless God that he has enabled you to deserve it, and study by virtuous living to continue it. If this good report be false, endeavor to make it good by being hereafter answerable to the report.
- If men report evil of you to your face, be not so much inquisitive who raised it, or how to confute them, or clear your reputation amongst men; as to make a good use of it to your own heart before God.
For you must know, this evil report does not rise without God’s providence, 2 Sam. xvi.11. If the report be true, then see God’s good providence; it is that you may see your error and failings, that you may repent. If the report be false, yet consider, if you have not run into the appearance and occasions of those evils. Then say, though this report be false, yet it comes justly upon me, because I did not shun the occasions and appearances. This should humble you, and cause you to be more circumspect in your ways. But if neither the thing reported be true, nor you have given occasion for it, yet see God’s wise and good providence; not only in discovering the folly and malice of evil men, who raise and take up an evil report against you without cause; but in giving you warning to look to yourself, lest you deserve thus to be spoken of. And how do you know, but that you should have fallen into the same, or the like evil, if by these reports you had not been forewarned? Make use therefore of the railings and revilings of an enemy, 2 Sam. xvi.10-12; though he be a bad judge, yet he may be a good remembrancer; for you shall hear from him those things, of which flatterers will not, and friends, being blinded, or over indulgent through love, do never admonish you.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Of Company in General. Rules Concerning It.
When you are in company, of whatever sort, you must amongst them walk with God.
Directions relating to this are of two sorts:
- First, showing how you should behave towards all:
- Secondly, how you should behave towards good or bad company.
- Glory to God, Matt, v.16
- Credit to religion, 1 Tim. vi.1.
- All mutual, lawful, content, help, and true benefit to each other, Gen. ii.18.
To attain these ends, your conversation must be, 1. Holy; 2. Humble; 3. Wise; 4. Loving.
First, It must be holy, 1 Peter i.15; you must, as much as in you is, prevent all evil speech and behavior, which might else break forth, being careful to break it off, if it be already begun in your company. Suffer not the name and religion of God, nor yet your brother’s name to be traduced, or evil spoken of; but in due place and manner vindicate each. Be diligent to watch, and improve all fit opportunities of introducing pious and useful conversations; even whatsoever may tend to the practice and increase of godliness and honesty.
Secondly, Your conversation must be humble. You must give all due respect to all men, according to their several places and gifts; reverencing your betters, submitting to all in authority over you, 1 Peter ii.17, Eph. v.21; esteeming others as better than yourselves, in honour preferring them before you, Phil ii.3; condescending unto, and behaving respectfully towards, those of meaner rank, Rom. Xii.16.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I'm open to input as to what is more and less profitable or helpful. If you have feedback for what is worth your time and energy to read, please let me know so that I don't end up spending my time typing things up to no purpose.
Thanks for your patience and interest.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.
Direction 9. When you do think of any holy things, let it be of the best things; of God and Grace and Christ and Heaven: of or your brethren or the church; and carry all your meditations outward; but be sure that you pour not on your selves, and spend not your thoughts upon your thoughts.
As we have need to call the thoughts of careless sinners inwards, and turn them from the creature and sin upon themselves; so we have need to call the thoughts of self-perplexing Melancholy persons outwards: for it is their disease to be still grinding upon themselves. Remember that it is a far higher, nobler and sweeter work to think of God and Christ and Heaven, than of such worms as we ourselves are. When we go up to the God, we go to Love and Light and Liberty: but when we look down into ourselves, we look into a dungeon, a prison, a wilderness, a place of darkness, horror, filthiness, misery and confusion.
Therefore such thoughts (tho’ needful so far as without them our repentance and due watchfulness cannot be maintained yet) are grievous ignoble, yes, and barren, in comparison of our thoughts of God. When you are pouring on your own hearts, to search whether the Love of God be there or no, it were wiser to be thinking of the infinite Amiableness of God, and that will cause it, whether it were there before or not.
So instead of pouring on your hearts, to know whether they are set on Heaven, lift up your thoughts to Heaven, and think of it’s Glory, and that will raise them thither, and give you and show you that which you were searching for. Spend that time in planting holy desires in the garden of your hearts, which you spend in puzzling yourselves in searching whether it be there already. We are such dark confused things, that the fight of our selves is enough to raise a loathing and horror in our minds, and make them melancholy: but in God and Glory, there is nothing to discourage our thoughts, but all to delight them, if Satan does not misrepresent him to us.
Monday, May 26, 2008
The Signs and Causes of Melancholy, with directions suited to the case of those who are afflicted with it. Collected out of the works of Mr. Richard Baxter, for the sake of those, who are wounded in Spirit. By Samuel Clifford, minister of the Gospel London, Bible and Three Crowns, 1716. pp83-85. [Edited and abridged by SML.]
Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.
When the disease is gone very far, directions to the melancholy persons themselves are vain, because they have not reason and free will to practice them: at that point, it is their friends around them who must have the directions. But because with most of the melancholy people, and at the onset, there is still some power of reason left, I shall give the following directions for use of such ones.
Direction 8: When blasphemous or disturbing thoughts intrude or fruitless musings; presently meet them and use that Authority of Reason which you still have to cast and command them out.
If you have not lost it, Reason and the Will have command over the Thoughts, as well as over the tongue, or hands or feet. And as you would be ashamed to run up and down, or fight with your hands and say, I cannot help it: so you should be ashamed to let your thoughts run at random or on hurtful things, and say I cannot help it. Do you do the best you can to help it? Can you not bid them be gone? Can you not turn your thoughts to something else? Or can you not rouse up your self and shake them off? Some by casting a little cold water in their own faces, or bidding another do it, can rouse them from melancholy musings as from sleep.
Or if you cannot otherwise command and turn away your thoughts, rise up and go into some company, or to some employment which will divert you and take them away. Tell me what you would do, if you heard a scold in the street reviling you, or heard an atheist talk against God, would you stand still to hear them, or would you talk it out again with them, or rather go from them, and disdain to hear them, debate the case with such as they. Do you the like in your case: when Satan casts in ugly or despairing or murmuring thoughts, go away from them to some other thoughts or business. If you cannot do this of your self, tell your friend when the temptation comes, and it is his duty who has the cure of you, to divert you with some other talk or works or force you into diverting company. Yet be not too much troubled at the temptation, for trouble of mind does keep the evil matter in your memory, and so increase it, as pain of a sore draws the blood and spirits to the place. And this is the design of Satan, to give you troubling thoughts, and then to cause more by being troubled at those, and so for one thought and trouble to cause another, and so as waves in the sea, do follow one another.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The Signs and Causes of Melancholy, with directions suited to the case of those who are afflicted with it. Collected out of the works of Mr. Richard Baxter, for the sake of those, who are wounded in Spirit. By Samuel Clifford, minister of the Gospel London, Bible and Three Crowns, 1716. pp51-66. [Edited and abridged by SML.]
Click here for an introduction to Baxter on Melancholy
Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.
Direction 1: Take notice of worldly sorrows and discontents: do not put so much value in earthly things to that they can disquiet you: but learn to cast your cares upon God.
[This objection is in light of being directed as Children of God to fully trust God, yet fearing that we do not have the necessary heart-attitude to be called His children.]
Objection: BUT how can I be a Child of God, and not have the Spirit of Adoption.
Answer: The spirit of adoption means:
1. That spirit, or those qualifications and workings in their souls, which by the Gospel God gives only to his children.
2. And which raise in us some such child-like affections to God, inclining us in all our wants to run to him in prayer as to a father, and to make our moan to him and open our griefs and cry for redress and look to him and depend on him as a child on the father.
This spirit of adoption you may have and yet not be certain of God’s special love to you. The knowledge only of his general goodness and mercy may be a means to raise in you true child-like affections. You may know God to have fatherly inclinations to you, and yet doubt whether he will use you as a child, for want of assurance of your own sincerity. And you may hope God is your father, when yet you may apprehend him to be a displeased angry father, and so he may be more you terror than your comfort. Are you not ready in most of your fears and doubts and troubles to go to God before all other for relief? And does not your heart sigh and groan to him when you can scarcely speak? Does not your troubled Spirit there find its first vent!
And say Lord kill me not: forsake me not: my life is in your hands: O soften this hard heart and make this carnal mind more spiritual! O be not such a stranger to my soul. Woe to me that I am so ignorant of you! So disaffected to you! So backward and disinclined to Holy Communion with you! Woe to me that I can take no more pleasure in you, and am so mindless and disregardful of you! O that you would stir up in me more lively desires and workings of my soul toward you! And suffer me not to be at such a distance from you. Are not such as these the breathings of the Spirit! Why these are child-like breathings after God: this is crying Abba, Father. This is the work of the Spirit of Adoption, even when you fear that God will cast you off.