Category Archives: Sanctification

“I’m talking about Charles Haddon Spurgeon” by John Piper

“Mountains are not meant to envy. In fact they are not meant even to be possessed by anyone on earth. They are, as David says, ‘the mountains of God’ (Psalm 36:6).

If you try to make your Minnesota hill imitate a mountain, you will make a fool of your hill.

Hills have their place. So do the plains of Nebraska. If the whole world were mountains, where would we grow bread? Every time you eat bread say, ‘Praise God for Nebraska!’

I’m talking about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I am warning my wavering self that he is not to be imitated.

Spurgeon preached as a Baptist pastor in London from 1854 until 1891—thirty-eight years of ministry in one place.

He died January 31, 1892, at the age of fifty-seven.

His collected sermons fill sixty-three volumes equivalent to the twenty-seven-volume ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and stand as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

He read six serious books a week and could remember what was in them and where.

He read Pilgrim’s Progress more than one hundred times.

He added 14,460 people to his church membership and did almost all the membership interviews himself.

He could look out on a congregation of 5,000 and name the members.

He founded a pastors’ college and trained almost 900 men during his pastorate.

Spurgeon once said he had counted as many as eight sets of thoughts that passed through his mind at the same time while he was preaching.

He often prayed for his people during the very sermon he was preaching to them.

He would preach for forty minutes at 140 words a minute from a small sheet of notes that he had worked up the night before.

The result? More than twenty-five thousand copies of his sermons were sold each week in twenty languages, and someone was converted every week through the written sermons.

Spurgeon was married and had two sons who became pastors.

His wife was an invalid most of her life and rarely heard him preach.

He founded an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, responded to 500 letters a week, and often preached ten times a week in various churches as well as his own.

He suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease, and in the last twenty years of his ministry he was so sick that he missed a third of the Sundays at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

He was a politically liberal, conservative Calvinistic Baptist who smoked cigars, spoke his mind, believed in hell, and wept over the perishing, tens of thousands of whom were saved through his soul-winning passion.

He was a Christian hedonist, coming closer than anyone I know to my favorite sentence: “’God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.’

Spurgeon said, ‘One thing is past all question; we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace.’

What shall we make of such a man? Neither a god nor a goal. He should not be worshiped or envied.

He is too small for the one and too big for the other. If we worship such men, we are idolaters. If we envy them, we are fools.

Mountains are not meant to be envied. They are meant to be marveled at for the sake of their Maker. They are the mountains of God.

More than that, without envy, we are meant to climb into their minds and hearts and revel in what they saw so clearly and what they felt so deeply.

We are to benefit from them without craving to be like them. When we learn this, we can relax and enjoy them.

Until we learn it, they may make us miserable, because they highlight our weaknesses. Well, we are weak, and to be reminded of it is good.

But we also need to be reminded that, compared with our inferiority to God, the distance between us and Spurgeon is as nothing. We are all utterly dependent on our Father’s grace.

Spurgeon had his sins. That may comfort us in our weak moments.

But let us rather be comforted that his greatness was a free gift of God—to us as well as him. Let us be, by the grace of God, all that we can be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

In our smallness, let us not become smaller by envy, but rather larger by humble admiration and gratitude for the gifts of others.

Do not envy the mountain; glory in its Creator.

You’ll find the air up there cool, fresh, and invigorating and the view stunning beyond description.

So don’t envy. Enjoy!”

–John Piper, “Mountains Are Not Meant to Envy: Awed Thoughts on Charles Spurgeon,” A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), 263–265.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834.

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“His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love” by John Owen

“This love of Christ which we inquire after is the love of His person,—that is, which He in His own person acts in and by His distinct natures, according unto their distinct essential properties.

And the acts of love in these distinct natures are infinitely distinct and different; yet are they all acts of one and the same person.

So, then, whether that act of love in Christ which we would at any time consider, be an eternal act of the divine nature in the person of the Son of God; or whether it be an act of the human, performed in time by the gracious faculties and powers of that nature, it is still the love of one and the self-same person,– Christ Jesus.

It was an act of inexpressible love in Him, that He assumed our nature, (Heb. 2:14, 17). But it was an act in and of His divine nature only; for it was antecedent unto the existence of His human nature, which could not, therefore, concur therein.

His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love, (1 John 3:16). Yet was it only an act of the human nature, wherein He offered Himself and died.

But both the one and the other were acts of His divine person; whence it is said that God laid down His life for us, and purchased the church with His own blood.

This is that love of Christ wherein He is glorious, and wherein we are by faith to behold His glory.

A great part of the blessedness of the saints in heaven, and their triumph therein, consists in their beholding of this glory of Christ,– in their thankful contemplation of the fruits of it. (See Rev. 5:9-10)

The illustrious brightness wherewith this glory shines in heaven, the all-satisfying sweetness which the view of it gives unto the souls of the saints there possessed of glory, are not by us conceivable, nor to be expressed.

Here, this love passeth knowledge,– there, we shall comprehend the dimensions of it.

Yet even here, if we are not slothful and carnal, we may have a refreshing prospect of it; and where comprehension fails, let admiration take place.

My present business is, to exhort others unto the contemplation of it, though it be but a little, a very little, a small portion of it, that I can conceive; and less than that very little that I can express.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 336–337.

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“The line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament” by John Owen

“It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He declared unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,’ (Luke 24:27).

It is therefore manifest that Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scriptures, do give testimony unto Him and His glory.

This is the line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament, without the conduct whereof we can understand nothing aright therein: and the neglect hereof is that which makes many as blind in reading the books of it as are the Jews,—the veil being upon their minds. (2 Cor. 4:14-16)

It is faith alone, discovering the glory of Christ, that can remove that veil of darkness which covers the minds of men in reading the Old Testament, as the apostle declares, (2 Cor. 3:14–16). I shall, therefore, consider briefly some of those ways and means whereby the glory of Christ was represented unto believers under the Old Testament.

It was represented in the institution of the beautiful worship of the law, with all the means of it. Herein have they the advantage above all the splendid ceremonies that men can invent in the outward worship of God; they were designed and framed in divine wisdom to represent the glory of Christ, in His person and His office.

This nothing of human invention can do, or once pretend unto. Men cannot create mysteries, nor can give unto anything natural in itself a mystical signification.

But so it was in the old divine institutions.

What were the tabernacle and temple?

What was the holy place with the utensils of it?

What was the oracle, the ark, the cherubim, the mercy-seat, placed therein?

What was the high priest in all his vestments and administrations?

What were the sacrifices and annual sprinkling of blood in the most holy place?

What was the whole system of their religious worship?

Were they anything but representations of Christ in the glory of His person and His office?

They were a shadow, and the body represented by that shadow was Christ.

If any would see how the Lord Christ was in particular foresignified and represented in them, he may peruse our exposition on the 9th chapter of the Epistle unto the Hebrews, where it is handled so at large as that I shall not here again insist upon it.

The sum is, ‘Moses was faithful in all the house of God, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken afterward,’ (Heb. 3:5).

All that Moses did in the erection of the tabernacle, and the institution of all its services, was but to give an antecedent testimony by way of representation, unto the things of Christ that were afterward to be revealed.

And that also was the substance of the ministry of the prophets, (1 Pet. 1:11-12). The dark apprehensions of the glory of Christ, which by these means they obtained, were the life of the church of old.

Promises, prophecies, predictions, concerning His person, His coming, His office, His kingdom, and His glory in them all, with the wisdom, grace, and love of God to the church in Him, are the line of life, as was said, which runs through all the writings of the Old Testament, and takes up a great portion of them.

Those were the things which He expounded unto His disciples out of Moses and all the Prophets. Concerning these things He appealed to the Scriptures against all his adversaries: ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testily of Me.’ (John 5:39)

And if we find them not, if we discern them not therein, it is because a veil of blindness is over our minds.

Nor can we read, study, or meditate on the writings of the Old Testament unto any advantage, unless we design to find out and behold the glory of Christ, declared and represented in them.

For want hereof they are a sealed book to many unto this day.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 348-351.

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“The love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of our God” by Herman Witsius

“What we have proved concerning the love of God, the summary of the first table of the law; namely, that it is good in nature; might be also proved from the summary of the second table, the love of our neighbour.

For he who loves God cannot but love His image too, in which he clearly views express characters of the Deity, and not a small degree of the brightness of His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will, by virtue of that love, seriously wish, desire, study, and as much as in him lies be careful, that his neighbour, as well as himself, be under God, in God, and for God, and all he has be for His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will make it his business that God may appear every way admirable and glorious; and as He appears such most eminently in the sanctification and happiness of men, (2 Thess. 1:10), he will exert himself to the utmost that his neighbour make advances to holiness and happiness.

Finally, whoever sincerely loves God will never think he loves and glorifies Him enough; such excellencies he discovers in Him, sees His name so illustrious, and so exalted above all praise, as to long that all mankind, nay all creatures, should join him in loving and celebrating the infinite perfections of God.

But this is the most faithful and pure love of our neighbour, to seek that God may be glorified in him, and he himself be for the glory of God.

Hence it appears, that the love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of God.

If, therefore, it flows from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of Himself, as was just proved; it must likewise flow from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of our neighbour.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 43–44.

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“The special end of the covenant of grace” by Herman Witsius

“The special end of the covenant of grace is, ‘the praise of the glory of His grace,’ (Eph. 1:6), and the revelation of His unsearchable and manifold wisdom: which divine perfections shine forth with lustre in the gift of a Mediator, by whom the sinner is admitted to complete salvation, without any dishonour to the holiness, justice, and truth of God.

There is also a demonstration of the all-sufficiency of God, by which not only man, but even a sinner, which is more surprising, may be restored to union and communion with God.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 27.

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“Grace is the beginning of glory” by Thomas Manton

“Grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is but grace perfected.

Grace is glory in the bud, and moulding, and making; for when the apostle would express our whole conformity to Christ, he only expresseth it thus, ‘We are changed into his image from glory to glory,’ (2 Cor 3:18), that is, from one degree of grace to another.

It is called glory, because the progress of holiness never ceaseth till it comes to the perfection of glory and life eternal. The first degree of grace is glory begun, and the final consummation is glory perfected.

All the degrees of our conformity to Christ are so called. It is a bud of that sinless, pure, immaculate estate which shall be without spot and wrinkle; the seed of that perfect holiness which shall be bestowed upon us hereafter.

Thus the spiritual life is described in its whole flux; it begins in grace, and ends in glory.

See the golden chain: Rom. 8:30, ‘Whom he hath called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’

There is no mention of sanctification, for that is included in glory.

Grace is but young glory, and differs from glory as an infant doth from a man; therefore by degrees the Lord will have you enter upon your everlasting inheritance.”

–Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 13 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1870/2020), 13: 331.

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“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

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