Perhaps, there never was a greater profession of Christ, and of the truth as it is in Him, than in this day; yet many, very many professors content themselves with the form of godliness—instead of the power; the mere notion of truth—instead of the experience of it; the name of faith—instead of the grace of faith—the mere profession of Christ—instead of the actual possession of him. How few really feel their hearts happy in Him, their hopes centered on him, and then affections going out after him! Hence they are not devoted in life and walk to the glory of Christ. This calls for much self-examination, and great searching of heart. But, O the love of his royal heart! Instead of executing fierce vengeance upon us, for our sins, lo, he came from heaven to earth, with a flame of love in his heart, and matchless grace on his lips, on purpose to die for us, to wash us from our sins in his own blood, to conquer the rebellion of our hearts against him, and to win our affections to him. Has he saved us by his precious blood? Has he made us his willing, loving disciples, by his powerful grace? Surely, it is that we should live in the sweet enjoyment of all the rich blessings of his kingdom, and be holy and happy every day, yes, every hour, in him. In life and love be wholly devoted to him. (William Mason, 1719-1791)
You say “Tomorrow, tomorrow I will repent,” when you know not what a tomorrow will bring forth. Alas! how many thousand ways may death surprise you before tomorrow comes! Though there is but one way to come into the world–yet there are a thousand thousand ways to be sent out of the world. Oh, the diseases, the hazards, the dangers, the accidents, the deaths–which daily, which hourly attend the life of man! Ah friends! it is a dangerous thing to make repentance to be the task of old age. The longer any man defers his repentance, the more difficult it will be for him to repent: his heart will every day grow more and more hard, and his will more and more perverse, and his judgment more and more corrupted, and his affections more and more disordered, and his conscience more and more benumbed or enraged, and his whole life more and more defiled and debauched.
Friends, do not deceive yourselves! Old age is but a tottering and sinking foundation for you to build your eternal hopes and happiness upon–your eternal making or marring upon! Are the dog-days of old age–are the trembling hands, the wrinkled face, the failing eyes, the gasping lungs, the fainting heart, the feeble knees, and the broken down legs–are these a sacrifice worthy of a majestic God? Is a body full of sores, aches, and diseases–and a soul full of sin–an offering worthy of a holy God? Surely not! Oh, what madness, what wickedness is this: to serve Satan, your lusts, and this world with full dishes–and to put off God with scraps! To serve Satan, your lusts, and this world in the flower, in the prime and primrose of your days–and to put off God with the dregs of old age! Oh, do not let Satan deceive you, do not let your own hearts delude you! (Thomas Brooks, continued from last week).
“Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!” Numbers 23:10. Many desire to repent when old age comes, when their wits are cracked, their souls distracted, their senses stupefied, their hearts bewildered, their minds darkened and their bodies diseased and distempered. Oh, then they think that they will be able to leap into Heaven, with a “Lord have mercy upon me” in their mouths. Even though they have lived like devils–yet they hope they shall die like saints! Do you think, O vain man–that after you have spent your time, and wasted your strength, and exhausted your energies in the work of Satan, and in the service of your lusts–that God will receive you to His grace and favor? If you do thus flatter yourself–it is ten thousand to one that you will deceive yourself! Though true repentance is never too late–yet late repentance is seldom true. Ah, how many millions are now in Hell–who have thought, and resolved, and said that they would repent hereafter–but that hereafter never came! (Thomas Brooks, “The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness“, 1662)
“You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21. If we do not preach about sin and God’s judgment on it, we cannot present Christ as Savior from sin and the wrath of God. And if we are silent about these things and preach a Christ who saves only from the sorrows of this world–then we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible. We are, in effect bearing false witness, preaching a false Christ, and our message is another gospel. Such preaching may soothe some, but it will help nobody; for a Christ who is not seen and sought as a Savior from sin, will not be found to save from anything else. An imaginary Christ will not bring a real salvation; and a half-truth presented as the whole truth is a complete untruth. He that has learned to feel his sins, and to trust Christ as his Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” 1 Peter 2:24. (J.I. Packer, “The Puritan View of Preaching the Gospel” who passed away last week at the age of 93)
As life is the seedtime for eternity, so is childhood and youth the seedtime for riper years. According to the seed then sown will be the future fruit. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” What duty can be more in agreement with reason and Scripture than that of the religious instruction of the young by their parents, their natural guardians? When professing Christian parents can trample underfoot the most solemn vows; exhibit an utter destitution of Christian, if not of natural, affection towards their offspring; set before them no holy example; instill into their youthful minds no sound religious principles; and disregard their spiritual interests, how can it be otherwise than that the rising generation should spring up a seed of evil doers – children that are corrupters – that they should prove forsakers of God, disobedient to parents, covenant breakers, unruly? Each successive generation, copying the evil example of that which preceded, becomes in this manner more deeply depraved, departs farther from God, and at last, when their measure of iniquity is full, God is provoked to pour out his fury on the families and nation that call not upon His name. (C. C. Stewart on Proverbs 4 in The Family Worship Commentary)
Riches and Poverty! Many in every age have disturbed society by stirring up the poor against the rich. But so long as the world is under the present order of things, universal equality cannot be attained. So long as some are wise, and some are foolish; some are strong, and some are weak; some are healthy, and some are diseased; so long as children reap the fruit of their parent’s misconduct; so long as sun, and rain, and heat, and cold, and wind, and waves, and drought, and blight, and storm, and tempest are beyond man’s control – so long will there be inequality in this world. Take all the property in England by force this day, and divide it equally among the inhabitants. Give every person over twenty years old an equal portion. Let all share alike, and begin the world over again. Do this, and see where you would be at the end of fifty years. You would just have come round to the point where you began! You would just find things as unequal as before! Some would have worked–and some would have been lazy; some would have been always careless–and some always scheming; some would have sold–and others would have bought; some would have wasted–and others would have saved. And the end would be that some would be rich–and others would be poor. Settle it in your mind that the main cause of all the suffering you see around you, is sin. Sin is the grand cause of the enormous luxury of the rich–and the painful degradation of the poor; of the heartless selfishness of the highest classes–and the helpless poverty of the lowest. Sin must be first cast out of the world; the hearts of all people must be renewed and sanctified; the devil must be bound; the Prince of Peace must come down and take His great power and reign – all this must be before there ever can be universal happiness, or the gulf be filled up which now divides the rich and poor. Labor to do good to all men; pity your poorer brethren, and help every reasonable endeavor to raise them from their low estate. Do not slacken your hand from any endeavor to increase knowledge, to promote morality, to improve the temporal condition of the poor. But never, never forget that you live in a fallen world, that sin is all around you, and that the devil is abroad. (J.C. Ryle)
The world and the Church are essentially and eternally distinct–and they ought to be distinguishable. The Church ought not to mix with the world–but to bear a practical testimony against it, that its works and ways are evil. All through our Lord’s prayer, He keeps up the distinction, and twice over He asserts of His disciples, “They are not of the world–even as I am not of the world!”
Believers are not of the world. They are born from above, and possess a nature far superior to that of the world, which unfits them for its pleasures and pursuits; and qualifies them for the enjoyments and employments of the heavenly world. They are delivered from the thraldom of the world–and are raised above its pursuits and its joys. They will not be conquered by the world–but overcome it by faith. They will not be judged with it–but with Christ will sit in judgment upon it. They will not be punished like it–neither in the present nor in the future state. True believers are not of the world! Look at the world’s state–condemned; and theirs, justified! Look at its condition–wretched; and theirs, happy! Look at its character–enemies to God; and theirs, the friends of God! Look at its course–sin; and theirs, holiness! Look at its god–Satan, the most degraded, depraved, and despicable being in existence; and theirs, Jehovah, the high and lofty one, the holy and happy one, the great and glorious one! Look at its end–destruction; and theirs, salvation! The world is darkness–they are light. The world is corrupt–they are purified. The world is in chains–they are free. (James Smith, “The Wondrous Love of Christ, as Displayed in His Intercessory Prayer!” 1861)
The Gospel of Christ, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, is the only effectual means for reforming mankind. To the man who possesses and knows the use of this grand, this wonderful machine, if I may be allowed the comparison–what is otherwise impossible becomes easy. The Gospel removes difficulties insurmountable to human power. It causes the blind to see, it causes the deaf to hear; it softens the heart of stone, and raises the dead in trespasses and sins, to a life of righteousness. No force but that of the Gospel is sufficient to remove the mountainous load of guilt from an awakened conscience, to calm the violence of tumultuous passions, to raise an earthly soul from groveling in the mire of sensuality or avarice – to a spiritual and divine life, a life of communion with God. No system but the Gospel can communicate motives, encouragements, and prospects–sufficient to withstand and counteract all the snares and temptations with which the spirit of this world, by its frowns or its smiles, will endeavor either to intimidate or to bribe us from the path of duty. But the Gospel, rightly understood and cordially embraced, will inspire the slothful with energy and the fearful with courage. It will make the miser generous, melt the grouch into kindness, tame the raging tiger in the bosom, and, in a word, expand the narrow selfish heart and fill it with a spirit of love to God, cheerful unreserved obedience to His will, and benevolence to mankind. (Letters of John Newton)
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever!” Revelation 22:3-5. This vision of Heaven, how wondrous it is! What a contrast to this poor earth of ours. Streets of gold, and seas of glass, and pearly gates, and rivers and trees of life–in exchange for this vile dust and dross, and worthless ugliness, and for these fruits of pain and death! A realm of splendid light, without a sun! A world, without a sea! Bodies, without pain! Faces, with no tears and no furrows of grief! Hearts, without sighs! Duration, without mutation and reverse! Life, without age or decay! No death! Creatures, but no death! Day, bright, blazing, gorgeous day–but no night! (“No Night in Heaven!” George Conder, 1821-1874)
“Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able!” Luke 13:24. I do not wonder that so many are deceived, when I see the careless way in which they deal with their souls. When men have to do with their estates, they are very careful; they pay a lawyer to go back over the title-deeds perhaps for two or three hundred years. In trade they will hurry hither and thither to attend to their commercial engagements; they would not launch into speculations, nor would they run great risks. But the soul, the poor soul–how men play with it as a toy, and despise it as if it were worthless! Two or three minutes in the morning when they first roll out of bed; two or three odd minutes in the evening, when they are nearly asleep–the fag-ends of the day given to their souls, and all the best part given to the body! And then, with what indifference do you lend your ears too often to the preaching of the Word! It is an old song–you have heard it so many times. Heaven has become a trifle to you, Hell is almost a jest, eternity an empty notion, and death but a bugbear! Alas! it is a marvel that there are not more deceived. The wonder is that any find the gate, that any discover eternal life, when we are so, so mad, so foolish, so insane–as to trifle where we ought to be solemnly in earnest; and to play and toy–where the whole heart should be given to a work of such everlasting importance. God help us, since it is so easy to be deceived–to search, and watch, and look, and test, and try, that we be not found castaways at the last! “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it!” Matthew 7:13-14. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. (Charles Spurgeon)