Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baxter on Melancholy (or Depression)

What is “Melancholy”? I hesitate to answer that and soon Baxter will speak for himself, but since that may be the question in your mind, I want to address it now. If you disagree, please feel free to reasonably (and briefly) let me know why or how I should change this post. Do read on in Baxter as I post him for a better understanding. Until then, basically Melancholy is an old term for some of what we generally call depression now. The word melancholy has some advantages, even though most people aren’t familiar with it, simply because it doesn’t have the baggage that the term depression has.

At any rate, my dad has a bunch of piles of books sitting on the dining room table at the moment, and recommended to me that I should look there for fodder for this site. What I found is something I’ve wanted for a while: a puritan view, help, and analysis of, loosely speaking, depression. This small book is a compilation of various other works, put together after his death and never reprinted. I hope that the extracts I post here are as encouraging and helpful to you as I have found the book to be already. Melancholy (“depression”) is not just a modern phenomenon – it was a problem 400 years ago as well as now – and there is both hope and help.

The book is made up of six sections, the first by Samuel Clifford & the rest by Richard Baxter.

  1. To the Reader: Advice directed to those who have suffered from Melancholy in the past but no longer suffer from it, by Samuel Clifford. Excerpt 1, Excerpt 2.
  2. Chap. I: The Nature of Melancholy.
  3. Chap II: The Signs of Melancholy.
  4. Chap III: The Causes of Melancholy.
  5. Chap IV: Directions to the Melancholy.
    1. Direction 1: Take notice of worldly sorrows and discontents: don’t put so much value in earthly things to that they can disquiet you: but learn to cast your cares upon God. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  6. Chap V: Directions to those who are concerned in the care of Melancholy Persons.

I am including the compilers’ and editors’ recommendation as the intent with which it was written.


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.

The Epistle Recommendatory.

The subject of this treatise, and the manner in which things are laid together in it, is such as will render it of standing service to many in the world. There are few as become real Christians, but, at one time or other are exercised with something of that melancholy which is here described: and we believe there are none that have chosen to be the companions of them that fear God, who do not meet it in the cases of others, however free from it they are in themselves. Where it prevails to a high degree, ‘tis one of the most deplorable cases in the world; and even the least degree of it requires good help, and some pains to get rid of it.

Such a book as this, must be greatly valuable to those, who are either afflicted with melancholy themselves; or desirous to relieve and assist others under such a disorder. There is not anywhere yet published, that we know of, so full, and distinct, and orderly a consideration of this case, as in the following collection.

We need not say anything of the Author from whose Writings this collection is made; since we have it already as the concurrent sentiment of 34 ministers, (who have all subscribed a Recommendation of Mr. Baxters Practical Works) That the things treated on, “are most accurately handled, and at the same time with greatest plainness, suited to the capacities, and pressed home upon the consciences of readers with inimitable life and fervor.” [...]

Now may that God, who comforts those that are cast down, make this Book useful to such an End...

Samuel Wright

W. Tong, T. Reynolds, Simon Brown, John Evans,
W. Harris, T. Bradbury, B. Grosvenor.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hannah More on Prayer

an excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 22-25.

From chapter XI, of Perseverance in Prayer and Praise, pages 154-158.

We think, perhaps, that had [God] commanded us "to do some great thing," to raise some monument of splendor, some memorial of notoriety and ostentation, something that would perpetuate our own name with his goodness, we should gladly have done it. How much more when he only requires
"Our thanks how due!"
when he only asks the homage of the heart, the expression of our dependence, the recognition of his right!

But he to whom the duty of prayer is unknown, and by whom the privilege of prayer is unfelt, or he by whom it is neglected, or he who uses it for form and not from feeling, may probably say, Will this work, wearisome even if necessary, never know an end? Will there be no period of God will dispense with its regular exercise? Will there never be such an attainment of the end proposed, as that we may be allowed to discontinue the means?

To these interrogatories there is but one answer, an answer which shall be also made, by an appeal to the inquirer himself.

If there is any day in which we are quite certain that we shall meet with no trial from Providence, no temptation from the world, any day in which we shall be sure to have no wrong tempers excited in ourselves, no call to bear with those of others, no misfortune to encounter, and no need of Divine assistance to endure it, on that morning we may safely omit prayer.

If there is any evening in which we have received no protection from God, and experienced no mercy at his hands; if we have not lost a single opportunity of doing or receiving good, if we are quite certain that we have not once spoken unadvisedly with our lips, nor entertained one vain or idle thought in our heart, on that night we may safely omit to praise God, and to confess our own sinfulness; on that night we may safely omit humiliation and thanksgiving. To repeat the converse would be superfluous.

When we can conscientiously say, that religion has given a tone to our conduct, a law to our actions, a rule to our thoughts, a bridle to our tongue, a restraint to every wrong passion, a check to every evil temper, then some will say, We may safely be dismissed from the drudgery of prayer, it will then have answered all the ends which you so tiresomely recommend. So far from it, we really figure to ourselves, that if we could hope to hear of a human being brought to such perfection of discipline, it would unquestionably be found that this would be the very being who would continue most perseveringly in the practice of that devotion, which had so materially contributed to bring his heart and mind into so desirable a state, who would most tremble to discontinue prayer, who would be most appalled at the thought of the condition into which such discontinuance would be likely to reduce him. Whatever others do, he will continue for ever to "sing praises unto Thee, O Thou most Highest; he will continue to tell of they loving kindness early in the morning, and of thy truth in the night season."

It is true that while he considered religion as something nominal and ceremonial, rather than as a principle of spirit and life, he felt nothing encouraging, nothing refreshing, nothing delightful in prayer. But since he began to feel it as the means of procuring the most substantial blessings to his heart, since he began to experience something of the realization of the promises to his soul, in the performance of this exercise, he finds there is no employment so satisfactory; none that his mind can so little do without; none that so effectually raises him above the world; none that so opens his eyes to its empty shadows; none which can make him look with so much indifference on its lying vanities; none that can so powerfully defend him against the assaults of temptation, and the allurements of pleasure; none that can so sustain him under labour, so carry him through difficulties; none that can so quicken him in the practice of every virtue, and animate him in the discharge of every duty.

An additional reason why we should live in the perpetual use of prayer, seem to be, that our blessed Redeemer, after having given both the example and the command, while on earth, condescends still to be our unceasing intercessor in heaven. Can we ever cease petitioning for ourselves, when we believe that he never ceases interceding for us?

Hannah More on Prayer

An Excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883.

from Chapter XI, Of Perseverance in Prayer and Praise, page 153.

"Prayer draws all the Christian graces into its focus. It draws Charity, followed by her lovely train, her forbearance with faults, her forgiveness of injuries, her pity for errors, her compassion for want. It draws Repentance, with her holy sorrows, her pious resolutions, her self-distrust. It attracts Faith, with her elevated eye,-- Hope, with her grasped anchor,-- Beneficence, with her open hand,-- Zeal, looking far and wide to serve,-- Humility, with introverted eye, looking at home. Prayer, by quickening these graces in the heart, warms them into life, fits them for service, and dismisses each to its appropriate practice. Prayer is mental virtue; virtue is spiritual action. The mould into which genuine prayer casts the soul is not effaced by the suspension of the act, but retains some touches of the impression till the act is repeated. "

Gillespie's Miscellany Questions: Why Truth must be Declared and Defended

A Treatise of Miscellany Questions: Wherein Many useful Questions and Cases of Conscience are discussed and resolved: for the satisfaction of those, who desire nothing more, than to search for and find out the precious truths, in the controversies of these times.

By Mr. George Gillespie, late minister at Edinburgh.

Published posthumously by his brother, Mr. Patrik Gillespie, minister at Glasgow.
Edinburgh, 1649.

Publisher to the Reader.

It hath been a grand design of the Devil and Instruments acted by him, with much controversy to darken the light in the very breaking up of this present Reformation, and to hid the precious Truth that the simple should not find it, such pure malice doth he carry against the high way of the Lord, [Isa. 35.8] and so afraid he is, that the Way-faring men shall not err therein: but they know now the Counsel of the Lord, [Mich. 4.12] nor the thoughts of his heart, who is about to clear the Truth, by the manifold Errors which have risen in these late Times, to work His peoples hearts to a deep detestation of Error, as well as ungodliness, and to declare his Truth, to be proof of all the controversy that can be moved against it, when every Work shall be tried by the fire. There must be heresies, for making manifest who are approved, [1 Cor. 13.19; Zech. 14.7] and what is precious and praiseworthy Truth, but at the Evening time it shall be light, and the Lord shall make Truth shine the more brightly, that it hath been for a time darkened and born down, this cloudy Morning shall end in a clear day. This little treatise doth help to blow away and dispel the mists of Error, and clear many questioned Truths, beside some points which are practically handled therein. [....] I shall only wish that it may prove as useful and acceptable to the judicious and godly, as other pieces which came from [George Gillespie’s] Pen.

I am

Thy servant,

Pat; Gillespie.

Gillespie's Miscellany Questions: Stability and Firmness in the Truth

A Treatise of Miscellany Questions: Wherein Many useful Questions and Cases of Conscience are discussed and resolved: for the satisfaction of those, who desire nothing more, than to search for and find out the precious truths, in the controversies of these times.

By Mr. George Gillespie, late minister at Edinburgh.

Published posthumously by his brother, Mr. Patrik Gillespie, minister at Glasgow. Edinburgh, 1649, Pages 138-142.

Chap XI.

Of Stability and firmness in the truth.

It is good Divinity to maintain that Skepticism, fluctuation and wavering concerning those things which God hath revealed, to be believed or done by us, is a sin: and to be firm fixed and established in the truth, to hold fast the profession thereof, to stand fast in the faith, is a duty commanded...

Now the preservatives against Wavering, and helps to steadfastness in the faith, are these:

  1. Grow in knowledge and circumspection; be not simple as Children in understanding. There is a slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive: so speaks the Apostle of these that spread diverse and strange Doctrines, Eph. 4.14 and Rom 16.18. he warns us that they do by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Thou hast therefore need of the wisdom of the serpent that thou be not deceived, as well as of the simplicity of the Dove, that thou be not a deceiver, Phil: 1.9:10. Do not rashly engage into any new opinion, much less into the spreading of it. With the well-advised is wisdom: Pythagoras would have us Scholars only to hear, and not to speak for five years. Be swift to hear but not to speak or engage: Prove all things, and when thou hast proved, the be sure to hold fast that which is good. 1 Thess 5.21. Mat: 7.15.17. There was never an Heresy yet broached, but under some fair plausible pretence; beguiling unstable souls, as Peter speaks, 2. Pet 2.14. Pro: 14.15. The simple believes every word. Be not like the two hundred that went in the simplicity of their hearts after Absalom in his rebellion, not knowing anything, but that he was to pay his vow in Hebron, 2 Sam: 15:11.
  2. Grow in grace and holiness, and the love of the truth, for the stability of the heart in grace, go hand in hand together, Heb: 13.9. David’s rule is good, Ps.24.12. What man is he that fears the Lord, him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. Which is also Christ’s rule, John 7.17. If any man will do his will he shall know of the Doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. See also Deut 11.13,16. Elisha healed the unwholesome waters of Jericho by casting salt into the fountain, 2. Kings 2.21, so must the bitter streams of pernicious errors be healed by getting the salt of mortification, and true sanctifying grace in the fountain.
  3. Be sure to cleave to thy faithful and sound teachers, the sheep that follows the shepherd, are best kept from the wolf. I find the exhortation to stability in the faith, joined with the fruitful labors of faithful teachers, Phil 3.16.17 Heb:13 7,9. So the Apostle Eph 4. from the work of the Ministry verse 11.12,13. draws this consequence v.14. that we henceforth be no more Children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of Doctrine. The Galatians were easily seduced, als soon as they were made to disgust Paul.
  4. Watch and be vigilant against the first beginnings of declining, against the first seeds of error, Gal 5.9. It was while men slept, that the enemy came and sowed tears among the Wheat, and when he had done, went his way, Mat.13.25. Therefore watch ye, stand fast in the faith, I Cor 16.13. go hand in hand together.
  5. Avoid and withdraw from the Authors and spreaders of Heresies and dangerous errors, Rom. 16.17. I Tim: 6,5. 2 epist John, 10.11. Phil 3.2. He that would be godly should not use ungodly company, and he that would be Orthodox should not sue heretical company, unless he have some good hopes to convert some who have erred from the truth, and come into their company only for that end, Ja.5.19,20: I remember Chrysostom in diverse places warns his hearers how much they endangered their souls by going into the Jewish synagogues, and there was a great zeal in the Ancient Church to keep Christians that were Orthodox from the Assemblies and company of Heretics.
  6. Get Church Discipline established & duly exercised, which is ordained to purge the Church from false Doctrine. Rev. 2.14.20.
  7. Lean not to thy own understanding, and be not wise in thine own eyes, Prov. 3.5.7. Let reason be brought in captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor: 10.5. That which made the Antitrinitarians and Socinians fall away from the belief of the Trinity of persons in the godhead, and of the union of the two natures of God and Man in the person of Christ, was because their reason could not comprehend these articles: which is the ground of their opinion professed by themselves. When I speak of Captivating reason, I do not mean implicit faith: the eyes of my understanding must be so far opened by the holy Ghost, that I may know such an article is held forth in Scripture to be believed, and therefore I do believe that it is, though my reason cannot comprehend how it is.
  8. Count thy cost, and be well resolved before hand what it will cost thee to be a Disciple of Christ, to be a constant professor of the Truth. Luk. 14.26. to verse 34. Act 14.22. Confirming the souls of the Disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. This is surer than to confirm our selves with the hopes of a golden age of prosperity in which we shall fell no affliction.
  9. Search the Scriptures, Joh. 5.39, Act, 17.11. Do not take upon trust new Lights from any man, be he never so eminent for parts or for grace, but to the law and the Testimony.

The upshot of all is that we ought to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be steadfast and even unmovable in the truth, and not to give place to the adversaries, no not for an hour, Gal, 4,5...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hannah More - Prayer

Excerpted from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 16-18.

Chapter II.
The Duty of Prayer Inferred from the Helplessness of Man, pp 16-18.

Man is not only a sinful, he is also a helpless, and therefore a dependent being. This offers new and powerful motives for the necessity of prayer, the necessity of looking continually to a higher power, to a better strength than our own. If that power sustain us not, we fall; if he direct us not, we wander. His guidance is not only perfect freedom, but perfect safety. Our greatest danger begins from the moment we imagine we are able to go alone.

The self-sufficiency of man arising from his imaginary dignity, is a favourite doctrine with the nominal Christian. He feeds his pride with this pernicious aliment. And, as we hear much, so we hear falsely, of the dignity of human nature. Prayer, founded on the true principles of Scripture, alone teaches us wherein our true dignity consists. The dignity of a fallen creature is a perfect anomaly. True dignity, contrary to the common opinion, that it is an inherent excellence, is actually a sense of the want of it; it consists not in our valuing ourselves, but in a continual feeling of our dependence upon God, and an unceasing aim at conformity to his image.

Nothing but a humbling sense of the sinfulness of our nature, of our practised offences, of our utter helplessness, and constant dependence, can bring us to fervent and persevering prayer. How did the faith of the saints of old flourish under a darker dispensation, through all the clouds and ignorance which obscured their views of God! "They looked unto him, and were enlightened!" How do their slender means and high attainments reproach us!

David found that the strength and spirit of nature which had enabled him to resist the lion and the bear, did not enable him to resist his outward temptations, nor to conquer his inward corruptions. He therefore prayed, not only for deliverance "from blood-guiltiness," for a grievously remember sin, he prayed for the principle of piety, for the fountain of holiness, the "the creation of a clean heart," for "the renewing of a right spirit," for "truth in the inward parts," that the "comfort of God's help might be granted him." This uniform avowal of the secret workings of sin, this uniform dependence on the mercy of God to pardon, and the grace of God to assist, render his precatory addresses, though they are those of a sovereign and a warrior, so universally applicable to the case of every private Christian.

the Presbyterian Magazine: Religious Lessons

Presbyterian Magazine
May, 1858.
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson, pp 239-240.

This copy was owned and signed by Rev. Charles Hodge.

To Those Commencing A Religious Life

  1. Do not expect so sudden and remarkable a change as to leave no doubt of its reality. Did religion enter the soul in perfection, and to the entire exclusion of sin, the change would be so marked and obvious as to leave no room for doubt. But usually, there is, in the Christian heart, a perpetual struggle between good and evil, and thus a continual competition of evidence for and against, according as the good or evil prevails.
  2. Evidence of piety is not so much to be sought in high emotions of any kind, as in real humility, self-distrust, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, sorrow for sin, and a continual effort, in every-day life, to the nature, and not the degree of our affections which is to be regarded in the examination of our evidences.
  3. Do not expect to find, in your own case, everything you have heard or read of in the experience of others. For it may be, that many things we hear and read of are not correct feelings, and do not afford just grounds of confidence for any one; and if they are correct experience, it may be the experience of a mature Christian, and not to be expected in the beginning of a religious life.
  4. Do not suppose that religion is a principle of such self-preserving energy, that when once implanted in the soul, it will continue to thrive and increase without effort. God will not sustain and bring to maturity the work of grace, without your own voluntary concurrence in the diligent use of means, more than he will cause the harvest to whiten in the field of the sluggard.
  5. Do not expect to be made happy by religion unless you become eminent Christians. A half-way Christian can neither enjoy the pleasures of the world nor the pleasures of religion, for his conscience will not let him seek the one, and he is too indolent to obtain the other. The Christian may be the happiest man on earth, but he must be a faithful, active, and devoted Christian.
  6. Do not make the practice and example of other Christians the standard of piety at which you aim. By this means, a more disastrous influence has been exerted on the Church and on the world, than perhaps by all other causes that could be named. But look into your Bible and see how Christians ought to live. See how the Bible says those who are Christians must live, and then if you find your Christian friends living in a different way, instead of having cause for feeling that you may do so too, you have only cause to fear that they are deceiving themselves with the belief that they are Christians when they are not.
  7. Remember that your evidence of possessing ceases when anything else has the first place in your thoughts and interests. Religion should not lessen our love for our friends, or our enjoyment of rational pleasures; but the desire to please God, in all our ways, should be the prevailing feeling of the mind. Our Saviour says, we cannot have two masters; God and his service must first be in our thoughts and affections, or else the world and its pleasures are first. If, then, we would find whose servants we are, we must find who has the first place in our thoughts and affections.
  8. Never for one day omit to read the Bible, with prayer. This is a most important direction. It is of the utmost importance that you should never, for once, break through this habit. Prayer and the Bible are your anchor and your shield; they will hold you firmly in the path of duty, and protect you from temptation.
  9. Attempt, by your efforts and example to raise the standard of piety and activity. If all who are now commencing the Christian life should make this an object, and not fall into the temptation which professed Christians so often set before the lambs of the flock, the Church would indeed soon rise before the world, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."
  10. Be active in promoting all benevolent objects. Make it an object to prepare to lead with propriety, when necessary, in all social devotional duties. At this period, when prayer and effort must unite in hastening the great day of the Lord, let every Christian learn to guide the devotions of others, as well as to lift up his own private supplications.
  11. Remember that the principal duty of a Christian, as it respects others, is to excite them to the immediate performance of their religious duty. There is no Christian but can find some one mind, at least, over which he can have some influence, and if we can do anything to save others from eternal death, nothing should for a moment prevent our attempting it.
  12. Lastly, do not be discouraged because you find that you are very deficient in every one of the particulars specified. Remember, that the Christian life is a warfare, and that it is only and the end that we are to come off conquerors, and more than conquerors. When you feel your own strength and resolution failing, go to Him who hath said, "My grace is sufficient for thee, and My strength shall be made perfect in weakness," Call upon Him, "and He will be very gracious unto the voice of thy cry when he shall hear it, He will answer thee." Remember, also, that the conflict is short; the race will speedily be accomplished.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What is Prayer?

Ever since she sent her kids off to college (regardless of the fact that we returned home at some point), my mommy has made the time to do a fair bit of reading. Occasionally she writes out quotes from what she reads. This is an anonymous (unless or until she remembers who said it) quote which has hung on our kitchen cabinet for a few years now.

"What is prayer but the breathing forth of that grace which is breathed into the soul by the Holy Spirit? When God breathed into man the breath of life, he became a living soul. So, when God breathes into the creature the breath of spiritual life, it becomes a praying soul. 'Behold he prayeth!' saith God of Paul ... Acts 9.11."

The Christian's Daily Walk by Henry Scudder

A few weeks back, my mommy handed me a book she read recently. In thinking about this blog, the recommendation written by Richard Baxter for the book stuck me as both informative and a guiding principle for what books I read should be. Perhaps another time I will divulge what Scudder himself has to say in this book, but for now, consider this.

by the
Rev. Richard Baxter.

Reader, I take it for some dishonour of our age, that such a book as this should need any man's recommendation, to procure its entertainment, having been so long known and so greatly approved by the most judicious and religious ministers and people, as it hath been; even to be practical Christians, the one instead of many, for the ordering of their daily course of life, and securing their salvation and well-grounded peace. And though I know that there are some few words, especially about perseverance, of which all good Christians are not fully of one mind, (and I never undertake to justify every word, in my own books, or any others, while we all confess that we are not absolutely infallible;) yet I must say, (without disparagement to any man's labours,) that I remember not any book which is written to be the daily companion of Christians, to guide them in the practice of a holy life, which I prefer before this: I am sure, none of my own. For so sound is the doctrine of this book, and so prudent and spiritual, apt and savory the directions, and all so fully suited to our ordinary cases and conditions, that I heartily wish no family might be without it; and many volumes (good and useful) are now in religious people's hands, which I had rather were all unknown than this. And I think it of more service to the souls of men, to call men to the notice and use of such a treasure, and to bring such old and excellent writings out of oblivion and the dust, than to encourage very many who overvalue their own, and to promote the multiplication of things common and undigested, to the burying of more excellent treatises in the heap.
Reader, if thou wilt make this book (after the sacred Scripture) thy daily counsellor, and monitor, and comforter, I am assured the experience of thy own great advantage, and increase of wisdom, holiness, and peace, will commend it to thee more effectually than my words can do.
Read, love, and practise that which is here taught thee, and doubt not of thy everlasting happiness.
Jan. 16th, 1673-4.

Taken from The Christian's Daily Walk, in holy Security and Peace. Henry Scudder, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hannah More on Prayer

I like little books. My dad is very generous. Thus, he semi-regularly gives me little books. Sometimes when he bestows small volumes on me he does so for size or binding. This particular book he gave me for the content (and because I asked nicely).

Herewith, an excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 22-25.

Chapter III.

Prayer.-- Its Definition.

"Prayer is the application of want to Him who alone can relieve it, the voice of sin to him who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the "Lord, save us, we perish," of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.

Adoration is the noblest employment of created beings; confession, the natural language of guilty creatures; praise, the spontaneous expression of pardoned sinners. Prayer is desire; the abasement of contrition; the energy of gratitude. It is not a mere conception of the mind, nor an effort of the intellect, nor an act of the memory; but an elevation of the soul towards its Maker. It is the devout breathing of a creature struck with a sense of its own misery, and of the infinite holiness of Him whom it is addressing, experimentally convinced of its own emptiness, and of the abundant fulness [sic] of God, of his readiness to hear, of his power to help, of his willingness to save. It is not an emotion produced in the senses, nor an effect wrought by the imagination; but a determination of the will, an effusion of the heart.

"Prayer is the guide to self-knowledge, by prompting us to look after our sins, in order to pray against them; it is a motive to vigilance, by teaching us to guard against those sins which, through self-examination, we have been enabled to detect.

"Prayer is an act both of the understanding and of the heart. The understanding must apply itself to the knowledge of the Divine perfections, or the heart will not be led to the adoration of them. It would not be a reasonable service, if the mind was excluded. It must be rational worship, or the human worshipper [sic] would not bring to the service the distinguishing faculty of his nature, which is reason. It must be spiritual worship, or it would want the distinctive quality to make it acceptable to Him who is a spirit, and who has declared that he will be worshipped [sic] "in spirit and in truth." Prayer is right in itself as the most powerful means of resisting sin and advancing in holiness. It is above all right, as every thing is, which has the authority of Scripture, the command of God, and the example of Christ.

"There is a perfect consistency in all the ordinations of God; a perfect congruity in the whole scheme of his dispensations. If man were not a corrupt creature, such prayer as the Gospel enjoins would not have been necessary. Had not prayer been an important means for curing those corruptions, a God of perfect wisdom would not have ordered it. He would not have prohibited every thing which tends to inflame and promote them, had they not existed; nor would he have commanded every thing that has a tendency to diminish and remove them, had not their existence been fatal. Prayer, therefore, is an indispensable part of his economy and of our obedience."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

About the Antiquarian Bookworm

To all who have ever drooled over the contents of my house:

It took about 24.6 years for this to permeate my thick skull in practical terms, but I do indeed live surrounded by a veritable feast for bookworms. In fact, I dare say I live in a fantastic world of which most antiquarian bookworms can only dream.

Those who know my situation will attest to this. After all, my father is a bookseller, dealing in antiquarian and theological books and Bibles. Our Victorian three-story home is filled with stack upon stack as well as (too few) bookcases filled to overflowing with old leather- or cloth-bound puritan and reformed theology. Mix in Bibles, miniatures, Salesman's Samples, communion tokens, Spurgeon's original sermons, Matthew Henry, Richard Sibbes, Samuel Rutherford, and many more authors and bits of ephemera than I am aware of and you imagine only a small portion of the piles I avoid as I walk down the hallway.

Bookworms thrive in this sort of environment, where stacks are left untouched from one year to the next. Fortunately not many of them survive squashing in this home. Bookworms of the human variety also thrive, and instead of facing their demise, they are encouraged to read. Unfortunately, they aren't encouraged to read here (it's not a lending-library except to the privileged few... family members) and many would-be bookworm patrons find that the cost of admission (the temptation to covet a multiplicity of good books at reasonable prices) is too great for their budget.

Having always been a self-proclaimed bookworm, I have decided it is long past time that I share some of the treasure-trove to which I have access. I hope you enjoy these appetizers of out-of-print volumes as I share with you a variety of the books I try not to trip over on a daily basis.