Category Archives: Gentleness

“Merciful, gracious, and tender” by William Plumer

“A cold, harsh, severe, untender character is no part of the product of Christianity.

Godliness is God-likeness. If we would be God’s children, we must be merciful, gracious, tender, pitiful.

He who is harsh to the unfortunate, and cruel to the needy, who never forgives the wayward, nor seeks to recover the prodigal, is not like God.”

–William Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1867/2016), 986. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 112:4-5.

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“A sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness” by John Calvin

“‘And He stretched forth His hand, and touched him.’ (Matt. 8:3)

In the Law, the touch of the leper was contagious, but as there is such purity in Christ He absorbs all uncleanness and pollution, He does not contaminate Himself by touching the leper, nor does He transgress the Law.

For in assuming our flesh, He has granted us more than the touch of His hand. He has brought Himself into one and the same body with us in order that we should be the flesh of His flesh.

He does not only stretch out His arm to us, but He comes down from heaven, even to the very depths. Yet He catches no stain thereby, but stays whole, clears all our dirt away, and pours upon us His own holiness.

Now, while He could heal the leper by His word alone, He adds the contact of His hand to show His feeling of compassion: no wonder, since He willed to put on our flesh in order that He might cleanse us from all our sins.

So the reaching out of His hand was a sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness.

Here is a thing which we pass over without much impression at an idle reading, but must certainly ponder, with much awe, when we take it properly—that the Son of God, so far from abhorring contact with the leper, actually stretched out His hand to touch his uncleanness.”

–John Calvin, A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. 1; trans. A.W. Morrison, Ed. David Torrance and Thomas Torrance (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972/1994), 1: 244. Calvin is commenting on Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:41; and Luke 5:13.

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“He will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now” by John Newton

“As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.

This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” (2 Sam. 18:5)

The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should shew tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,) he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “he knows not what he does.”

But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defence of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistence be offended at their obstinacy.

But if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose, “if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” (2 Tim. 2:25)

If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the blind, or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their prejudices, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.”

–John Newton, “Letter XIX: On Controversy,” The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 1: 268-270.

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“The anguish and tears of others” by Dane Ortlund

“Twice in the Gospels we are told that Jesus broke down and wept. And in neither case is it sorrow for Himself or His own pains.

In both cases it is sorrow over another– in one case, Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), and in the other, His deceased friend, Lazarus (John 11:35).

What was His deepest anguish? The anguish of others.

What drew His heart out to the point of tears? The tears of others.”

–Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 26.

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“Not a pointed finger but open arms” by Dane Ortlund

“Meek. Humble. Gentle.

Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated.

He is the most understanding person in the universe.

The posture most natural to Him is not a pointed finger but open arms.”

–Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 19.

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“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works” by John Newton

“There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only shewing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from, and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse was always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind.

I think I have known some Arminians—that is, persons who, for want of clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace—who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of.

Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.

Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.

Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.

I hope your performance will savour of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”

–John Newton, “Letter XIX: On Controversy,” The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 1: 272-273.

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“Though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever” by John Newton

“As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.

This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’ (2 Samuel 18:5)

The Lord loves him and bears with him. Therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly.

The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven. He will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now.

Anticipate that period in your thoughts. And though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 1: 268-269.

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