Be Cautious of Grace Denial

“Beloved, mistake not the nature and the evidence of growth in sanctification. In all your self-denial in this great work, be cautious of grace denial. You will need much holy wisdom here, lest you overlook the work of the Spirit within you.

You have thought, it may be, of the glory that Christ receives from brilliant genius, and profound talent, and splendid gifts, and glowing zeal, and costly sacrifices, and extensive usefulness.

But have you ever thought of the glory, the far greater, richer glory, that flows to Him from the contrite spirit, the broken heart, the lowly mind, the humble walk, the tear of godly repentance that falls when seen by no human eye, the sigh of godly sorrow that is breathed when heard by no human ear, the sin abhorrence, the self loathing, the deep sense of vileness, and poverty, and infirmity that takes you to Jesus with the prayer: ‘Lord, here I am; I have brought to You my rebellious will, my wandering heart, my worldly affections, my peculiar infirmity, my besetting and constantly overpowering sin. Receive me graciously, put forth the mighty power of Your grace in my soul, and subdue all, and rule all, and subjugate all to Yourself! Will it not be for Your glory, the glory of Your great name if this strong corruption were subdued by Your grace, if this powerful sin were nailed to Your cross, if this temper so volatile, if this heart so impure, if these affections so truant, if this mind so dark, if these desires so earthly, if these pursuits so carnal, if these aims so selfish, were all entirely renewed by Your Spirit, sanctified by Your grace, and made each to reflect Your image? Yes, Lord, it would be for Your glory, through time and through eternity!’ “

– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts

Directions for Reading Christian Books

“Because God has made the excellent, holy writings of his servants, the singular blessing of this land and age; and many may have a good book, even any day or hour of the week, who cannot at all have a good preacher — I advise all God’s servants to be thankful for so great a mercy, and to make use of it, and be much in reading. For reading, with most, does more conduce to knowledge than hearing does, because you may choose what subjects and the most excellent treatises you please; and may be often at it, and may peruse again and again what you forget, and may take time as you go to fix it on your mind. And with very many, reading does more than hearing also to move the heart — because lively books may be more easily accessed than lively preachers.

Especially these sorts of men should be much in reading:

1. Masters of families, who have more souls to care for than their own.

2. People who live where there is no preaching; or bad preaching — which is worse than none!

3. Poor people, and servants, and children, who are forced on many Lord’s days to stay at home, while others have the opportunity to hear the Word preached.

4. And non-working persons that have more leisure than others have.

To all these, but especially masters of families, I shall here give a few directions.

Direction 1. I presuppose that you keep the devil’s books out of your hands and house. I mean cards, and idle tales, and play-books, and romances or love-books, and false, bewitching stories, and the seducing books of all false teachers, and the railing or scorning books which the men of several sects and factions write against each other, on purpose to teach men to hate one another, and banish love. For where these are allowed to corrupt the mind — all grave and useful writings are forestalled; and it is a wonder to see how powerfully these poison the minds of children, and many other empty heads.

Also refrain from books that are written by the sons of Korah, to breed distastes and discontents in the minds of the people against their governors, both magistrates and ministers. For there is something in the best rulers, for the tongues of seditious men to fasten on, and to aggravate in the people’s ears; and there is something even in godly people, which tempts them too easily to take fire and be distempered before they are aware; and they foresee not the evil to which it tends.

Direction 2. When you read to your family, or others, let it be seasonably and gravely, when silence and attendance encourage you to expect success; and not when children are crying or talking, or servants bustling to disturb you. Distraction is worst, in the greatest businesses.

Direction 3. Choose such books as are most suitable to your state, or to those you read to. It is worse than unprofitable, to read books for comforting troubled minds, to those that are blockishly secure, and have hardened, obstinate, unhumbled hearts. It is as bad as to give medicines or remedies contrary to the patient’s need, and such as nourish the disease. So is it to read books of too high a style or subject, to dull and ignorant hearers. We use to say: That which is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison. It is not enough that the matter is good — but it must be agreeable to the case for which it is used.

Direction 4. To a common family begin with those books, which at once inform the judgment about the fundamentals, and awaken the affections to entertain them and improve them. Such as are treatises of regeneration, conversion, or repentance.

Remember that they are not the most learned, who read most — but those who read that which is most necessary and profitable.

Direction 5. Next these, read over those books which are most suited to the state of young Christians for their growth in grace, and for their exercise of faith, and love, and obedience, and for the mortifying of selfishness, pride, sensuality, worldliness, and other the most dangerous sins.

Direction 6. At the same time labor to methodize your knowledge; and to that end read first and learn some short catechism, and then some larger catechism. And let the catechism be kept in memory while you live, and the rest be thoroughly understood.

Direction 7. Next read (to yourselves or families) the larger expositions of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments; such as Thomas Watson on the Commandments; that your understanding may be more full, particular, and distinct, and your families may not stop in generals, which are not understood.

Direction 8. Read much those books which direct you in a course of daily communion with God, and holy ordering your daily life.”

Richard Baxter, Christian Directory

God’s Arrows Never Miss

“God is a righteous judge–and God is angry with the wicked every day!” (Psalm 7:11)

“God not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no ignorant or indifferent God to deal with; He can be angry, nay, He is angry today and everyday with you–you ungodly and impenitent sinners! The best day that ever dawns on a sinner, brings a curse with it. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God’s oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble before Him!”

“If he does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready!” (Psalm 7:12)

“What blows are those which will be dealt by that long-uplifted omnipotent arm! God’s sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces! Turn or burn is the sinner’s only alternative.” 

“He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts!” (Psalm 7:13)

“Even now God’s thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of the ungodly! His bow is bent, His aim is taken, His arrow is fitted to the string–and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at you even now! Remember, God’s arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them, ‘instruments of death.’ Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too late. The Greek proverb says, ‘The mill of God grinds slowly–but grinds to powder!’ “

– Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David

The Lord My Restorer

“The Lord is my Shepherd…He restores my soul.”  (Psalm 23:1, 3).

It is not the least important duty of the Shepherd–under which similitude our meditation yesterday viewed our blessed Lord–to go in quest of the stray ones of the flock. It would be an extraordinary exception indeed, were there none such–no silly lamb, no fickle sheep wandering from the fold. The religious history of the believer is a history of declension and revival, of departure and return, of his backsliding and of the Savior’s restoring. The regenerate soul is bent upon backsliding from the Lord. The sun does not more naturally decline, nor the planets start off from their center, than does the believing heart wander from God.

“O Lord, how many and hidden are my soul’s departures from You, You only know! How often my love chills, my faith droops, my zeal flags, and I grow weary, and am ready to halt in Your service. Mine is a sinful, roving heart, fickle to You as the changing wind; false to my vows as a broken bow. But You, O Lord, are my Shepherd, and You restore my soul; pitying my infirmity, knowing my wanderings, and tracking all my steps, You recover, heal, and pardon Your poor, silly sheep, prone to leave Your wounded, sheltering side in quest of that which can be found in Yourself alone.”

He restores us gently. When He might justly commission some harsh messenger to awaken us from our reverie, and bring our sin to our remembrance, He sends a gentle Nathan to say to us, “You are the man”–some kind and loving messenger, filled with the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ,’ to remind us of our backsliding, to deal with our sin, and to win and lead us back to the Savior, towards whom our love had chilled, and from whom our feet had strayed. Recall His own gentle dealing. Behold Him traversing mountain and valley in search of the one sheep that had wandered; nor resting until He had found it–then, laying it upon His shoulder, with soft and gentle step, He bears it back to the fold, amid the welcomings of the flock, the music of its own restored joy and the songs of angels.

The faithfulness of Jesus in our restorings is not less conspicuous. Though we prove faithless and unbelieving–and oh, what words can describe our unfaithfulness to Christ!–yet He is faithful and cannot deny Himself. It is a sweet truth, O my soul, which you should never forget, that the love and constancy and promises of Jesus are never negated or affected by your conduct towards Him. When our love to Jesus chills, or our spiritual frames and feelings fluctuate, we are prone to infer a similar change in the Lord; whereas, to awaken us from our drowsiness, to bring us to reflection and prayer, He may suspend the sensible manifestations of His presence and the especial communications of His grace; and, ceasing to stand and knock, may withdraw Himself a while, leaving us to exclaim, “I opened to my beloved, and He had withdrawn Himself.” Nevertheless, His loving-kindness He will not take from us, nor allow His faithfulness to fail.

Oh, the love of Jesus in curbing our waywardness, checking our wanderings, arresting, healing, and restoring our souls. Truly He forsakes not His people, though they forsake Him times without number. How can He turn His back upon one bought with His sufferings, groans, and tears? How can He forsake the work of grace wrought in the soul by His Spirit? He may withdraw Himself for a time, gently to awaken us from our slothfulness and slumber, yet He returns again, and our lips gratefully sing, “He restores my soul.”

And for what intent are all the Lord’s loving corrections and faithful rebukes–His measured, though often painful, and even crushing afflictions–but to bring back our wandering hearts to Himself? O blossoming rod, O sweet bitter, O bright cloud, O loving, gentle chastening, that arrests my wanderings, hedges my path so that I cannot find my lovers, and turns my feet back to His ways of pleasantness and to His paths of peace. “He restores my soul, He leads me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.”

– Octavius Winslow, Daily Need Divinely Supplied

He is Not a Half Savior

“He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their ‘righteousness,’ but their ‘sanctification’ (1 Cor. 1:30). Let us hear what the Bible says: ‘For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.’ ‘Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.’ ‘Christ . . . gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ ‘Christ . . . bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.’ Christ ‘has . . . reconciled [you] in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight’ (John 17:19; Eph. 5:25, 26; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24; Col. 1:22). Let the meaning of these five texts be carefully considered. If words mean anything, they teach that Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification, of His believing people. Both are alike provided for in that “everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure,” of which the Mediator is Christ. In fact, Christ in one place is called ‘He who sanctifies,’ and His people ‘they who are sanctified’ (Heb. 2:11).”

– J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p.20

A Religion That Costs Nothing is Worth Nothing

“I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But what sane man or woman can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.”

– J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p.79

The Willingness That is in the Heart of God to Save Sinners

“There is nothing that will press the soul more to seek after God, and to cry for pardon, than an understanding of the willingness that is in the heart of God to save sinners. If a man should see a pearl worth an hundred pounds lie in a ditch, yet if he understood not the value of it, he would lightly pass it by: but if he once get the knowledge of it, he would venture up to the neck for it. So it is with the souls concerning the things of God: if a man once get an understanding of the worth of them, then his heart, nay, the very strength of his soul, runs after them, and he will never leave crying till he have them. The two blind men in the gospel, because they did certainly know that Jesus, who was going by them, was both able and willing to heal such infirmities as they were afflicted with: therefore they cried, and the more they were rebuked the more they cried (Matt. 20:31).”

– John Bunyan, Prayer, p.38