“Ravished with wonder” by John Calvin

“David shows how it is that the heavens proclaim to us the glory of God, namely, by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect.

When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendour which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of His providence.

Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by His hands: and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of His glory.

As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1: 309. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 19:1.

“His works preach His existence all the time and in every place” by William Plumer

“Everything God has made and everything God has spoken, with all the relations and uses of each, may teach us some valuable lesson, (Psalm 19:1–6).

His works declare, preach, show, publish His existence all the time and in every place.

Tholuck: “Though all the preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim his majesty.”

The smallest piece of granite or of old red sandstone, the least shell or insect as truly requires a Creator as the heavens above us.

Morison: “It is impossible to direct even a cursory glance to the greater and lesser lights which rule by day and night, without being compelled to think with reverential awe of that incomprehensible Being who kindles up all their fires, directs all their courses, and impresses upon them all laws, which contribute alike to the order, beauty and happiness of the universe.”

Well did the apostle say that all men, even the heathen, are without excuse. Even one day or one night proves that there is a God, as there is but one being that could cause either.

Everett: “I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose rose at two o’clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapt in darkness and hushed in silence, broken only by what seemed at that hour the unearthly clank and rush of the train.

It was a mild, serene, midsummer’s night—the sky was without a cloud—the winds were whist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a spectral lustre but little affected by her presence.

Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the Pleiades just above the horizon shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the zenith; Andromeda veiled her newly-discovered glories from the naked eye in the South; the steady pointers far beneath the pole looked meekly up from the depths of the north to their sovereign.

Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children went first to rest; the sister-beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged.

Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels hidden from mortal eyes shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn. The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle.

Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance: till at length as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy tear-drops of flower and leaf into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state…

I am filled with amazement, when I am told that in this enlightened age, and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’ (Psalm 14:1)”

–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), 262–263. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 19:1-6.

“The blood of the Son of God” by Stephen Charnock

“The sin of a creature could never be so filthy as the blood of the Son of God was holy.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death,” The Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1865/2010), 4: 558.

“The four prime things that should be most studied” by Thomas Brooks

“Beloved in our dearest Lord, Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.

If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.

It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 3.

“Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love” by J.C. Ryle

If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” (Luke 11:13)

There are few promises in the Bible so broad and unqualified as those contained in this wonderful passage. The last in particular deserves especial notice.

The Holy Spirit is beyond doubt the greatest gift which God can bestow upon man.

Having this gift, we have all things, life, light, hope and heaven.

Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love, God the Son’s atoning blood, and full communion with all three Persons of the blessed Trinity.

Having this gift, we have grace and peace in the world that now is, glory and honor in the world to come.

And yet this mighty gift is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ as a gift to be obtained by prayer!

“Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”

There are few passages in the Bible which so completely strip the unconverted man of his common excuses as this passage.

He says he is “weak and helpless.” But does he ask to be made strong?

—He says he is “wicked and corrupt.” But does he seek to be made better?

—He says he “can do nothing of himself.” But does he knock at the door of mercy, and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit?

—These are questions to which many, it may be feared, can make no answer. They are what they are, because they have no real desire to be changed.

They have not, because they ask not. They will not come to Christ, that they may have life; and therefore they remain dead in trespasses and sins.

And now, as we leave the passage, let us ask ourselves whether we know anything of real prayer?

Do we pray at all?

—Do we pray in the name of Jesus, and as needy sinners?

—Do we know what it is to “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock,” and wrestle in prayer, like men who feel that it is a matter of life or death, and that they must have an answer?

—Or are we content with saying over some old form of words, while our thoughts are wandering, and our hearts far away?

Truly we have learned a great lesson when we have learned that “saying prayers” is not praying!

If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers. A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers.

Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers, we may depend upon it, there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls.

There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 2: 9-10. Ryle is commenting on Luke 11:5-13.

“Christ’s arms are wide open to embrace the returning prodigal” by Thomas Brooks

“The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the promise of grace and mercy is to returning souls.

And, therefore, though thou art never so wicked, yet if thou wilt return, God will be thine, and mercy shall be thine, and pardon shall be thine:

2 Chron. 30:9, ‘For if you turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord our God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.’

So Jer. 3:12, ‘Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever.’

So Joel 2:13, ‘And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.’

So Isa. 55:7, ‘Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,’ or, as the Hebrew reads it, ‘He will multiply pardon:’ so Ezek. 18.

Ah! sinner, it is not thy great transgressions that shall exclude thee from mercy, if thou wilt break off thy sins by repentance and return to the fountain of mercy.

Christ’s heart, Christ’s arms, are wide open to embrace the returning prodigal.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 140.

“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

“Practical Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 289. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

“Keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds” by C.S. Lewis

“Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.

And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet.

A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light.

Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.

Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point.

In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed ‘at’ some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance.

The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.

Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.

We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it.

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny.

They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.

We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books.

Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill.

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.

They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.

Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.

To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.”

–C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock: Essays on God and Ethics, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Harper, 1970), 201-202.

“A pointer to something other and outer” by C.S. Lewis

“But what, in conclusion, of Joy?

For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian.

I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away.

I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.

But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it.

It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.

While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.

When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter.

He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares.

But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.

They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.

But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold.

‘We would be at Jerusalem.'”

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1955), 238.