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

It Appears That Christians May Forget Christ

“Do this in remembrance of Me!” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

It appears that Christians may forget Christ! There would be no need for this loving exhortation–if there were not a fearful possibility that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this an empty notion. It is, sadly, too well confirmed in our experience; not as a possibility–but as a lamentable fact!

It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God–could forget their gracious Savior! But if startling to the ear, sadly, it is too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime.

Can we forget Him–who never forgot us! Can we forget Him–who poured His blood out for our sins! Can we forget Him–who loved us even to death! Can it be possible?

Yes, it is not only possible–but conscience confesses that is is too sadly a fault with all of us. Instead of Him being a permanent resident in our memories–we treat Him as a visitor. The cross–where one would expect that memory would linger–is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness.

Doesn’t your conscience say that this is true? Don’t you find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some other love steals away your heart–and you are unmindful of Him upon whom your chief affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention–when you ought to be fixed steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things–which takes the soul away from Christ! While memory works to preserve a poisonous weed–it allows the rose of Sharon to wither!

Let us charge ourselves to tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and whatever else we let slip, let us hold tight to Him!

– Charles Spurgeon

What Is More Helpless Than You Without Christ

“I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you: ‘Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I Myself will help you! declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 41:13-14)

“What is more helpless than a child without its mother’s hand! Reader, what is more helpless than you without Christ! You can neither stand nor walk alone; but ‘God, who takes hold of your right hand, says to you: Do not fear; I will help you!’

He will help you against sin; against Satan; against the world; against your own evil heart. He will help you when you are weary; when you are downcast; in the time of trial; and in the hour of temptation. He will help you to understand; He will help you to pray; He will help you to fight; He will help you to avoid the snares; He will help you to despise the vanities of this poor world. Ah, my fellow-sinner, this help is promised, because you need it all.

What a world of temptation, sin, and danger–what a world of darkness and confusion you live in! There is none to help you–none to teach you–none to lead you on your way–but Jehovah Jesus. Do not be afraid! He will hold you by the right hand, saying, ‘I will help you!’

Do you say, ‘The way is long–and I am weary. The road is dark–and I have no light. Temptations are many–how shall I resist them? I need grace–where can I find it? Oh, how shall I persevere?’

Afflicted soul! Is there no Helper? Is there none to pity? Is there none to guide? Where is your heavenly Father? Where is Jesus? Where is the Comforter? Where is He who feeds His flock like a Shepherd; who gathers His lambs in His arms, and carries them close to His heart? (Isaiah 40:11) Where is He who has promised to hold you by the right hand, saying, ‘Do not be afraid–I will help you!’

Lift up your eyes to the hills, from whence comes your help. Your help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. Fear not! (Psalm 121:1-2, Psalm 146:5)

– George Mylne

Place a High Value Upon Your Time

“Place a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, worldly entertainment, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep—rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life which would rob you of your time—than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.”

– Richard Baxter

Has This Call Reached You?

Who are called.” The word “called” is never, in the New Testament Epistles, applied to those who are the recipients of a mere external invitation of the Gospel. The term always signifies an inward and effectual call. It was a call over which we had no control, either in originating or frustrating it. So in Romans 1:6-7 and many other passages: “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints.” Has this call reached you, my reader? Ministers have called you: the Gospel has called you, conscience has called you: but has the Holy Spirit called you with an inward and irresistible call? Have you been spiritually called from darkness to light, from death to life, from the world to Christ, from self to God? It is a matter of the greatest moment that you should know whether you have been truly called of God. Has, then, the thrilling, life-giving music of that call sounded and reverberated through all the chambers of your soul? But how may I be sure that I have received such a call? There is one thing right here in our text which should enable you to ascertain. They who have been efficaciously called, love God. Instead of hating Him, they now esteem Him; instead of fleeing from Him in terror, they now seek Him; instead of caring not whether their conduct honored Him; their deepest desire now is to please and glorify Him.”

– Arthur W. Pink, Comfort for Christians, p.13-14

Book Review: Regeneration – J.C. Ryle

What does it mean to be “born again”? Does it matter if I am regenerate or not? How does one become born again? There is confusion on this topic still today. In his clear, straightforward bible exposition, J.C. Ryle answers these questions from Scripture in his book, Regeneration. In addition to answering these vital questions, he draws from the book of First John to give six marks of those who are born of the Spirit. Here are the marks:

1. A regenerate person does not commit sin as a habit.

2. A regenerate person believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior by whom their soul can be pardoned and redeemed.

3. A regenerate person is a holy person.

4. A regenerate person has a special love for all true disciples of Christ.

5. A regenerate person does not make the world’s opinion their rule of right and wrong.

6. A regenerate person is very careful of their own soul.

He asks the reader to evaluate himself/herself in light of these characteristics. He encourages regenerate to grow in these all the more and warns the unregenerate to pray and ask the Spirit for the gift of a new heart and new nature. In the last chapter Bishop Ryle answers various objections in his day to his convictions on regeneration.

Overall, this was an edifying read. The first three chapters were concise, solid biblical teaching. In the last chapter on answering various objections, which was about half the book (over 50 pages!), he answers some interesting objections, but they mainly refer to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and specifically how the Church of England adheres to it. (If you don’t know what baptismal regeneration is, it’s the doctrine that teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation.) I could see why some people might want to skip this chapter because it’s just some theological debate, but I thought it was helpful to see how Ryle interpreted and used Scripture to come to his sound, logical conclusions.

I would recommend this book to Christians and non-Christians alike. Regardless of your theological background, Ryle is very readable and I think this would be a good, short book to get a introduction to his writing.

If you are curious to get more excepts of this book, I don’t have too many quotes from this book on my blog, but you can find some here (and many other encouraging J.C. Ryle quotes).