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“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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“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration” by J.C. Ryle

“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is ‘facile princeps’ (‘easily the first or best’) among the divines of the Puritan school.

The value of expository preaching is continually pressed on ministers in the present day, and not without reason.

The end of all preaching is to bring men under the influence of God’s Word; and nothing seems so likely to make men understand and value the Word as lectures in which the Word is explained.

It was so in Chrysostom’s days; it ought to be so again. The idea, no doubt, like every good theory, may be easily ridden to death; and I believe that with ignorant, semi-heathen congregations, a short pithy text often does more good than a long passage expounded.

But I have no doubt of the immense value of expository preaching, when people will bring their Bibles to the service, and accompany the preacher as he travels on, or go home to their Bibles after the service, and compare what they have heard with the written Word.

I hold it to be a prime excellence of Manton’s expository sermons that, while they are very full, they are never too long.

For my own part, I am painfully struck with the general neglect with which these expository works of Manton’s have been treated of late. Modern commentators who are very familiar with German commentaries seem hardly to know of the existence of Manton’s expositions.

Yet I venture boldly to say, that no student of the chapters I have named will ever fail to find new light thrown on their meaning by Manton. I rejoice to think that now at length these valuable works are about to become accessible to the general public.

They have been too long buried, and it is high time they should be brought to light. I value their author most highly as a man, a writer, and a theologian; but if I must speak out all I think, there is no part in which I value him more than as a homiletical expositor of Scripture.

It only remains for me to express my earnest hope that this new edition of Manton’s works may prove acceptable to the public, and meet with many purchasers and readers.

If any one wants to buy a good specimen of a Puritan divine, my advice unhesitatingly is, ‘Let him buy Manton.’

We have fallen upon evil days both for thinking and reading. Sermons which contain thought and matter are increasingly rare.

The inexpressible shallownesss, thinness, and superficiality of many popular sermons in this day is something lamentable and appalling.

Readers of real books appear to become fewer and fewer every year. Newspapers, and magazines, and periodicals seem to absorb the whole reading powers of the rising generation. What it will all end in God only knows.

The prospect before us is sorrowful and humiliating.

In days like these, I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer some real literary gold to the reading public. I earnestly trust that they will meet with the success which they deserve.

If any recommendation of mine can help them in bringing out the writings of this admirable Puritan in a new form, I give it cheerfully and with all my heart.

J.C. RYLE,
Vicar of Stradbroke, Suffolk.
29th October 1870.”

–J.C. Ryle, “An Estimate of Thomas Manton,” in Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1871/2020), 2: xvii–xix.

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“An infallible interpretation” by Richard Barcellos

“Let us consider Genesis 1:2 once again.

While Genesis 1:2 says, ‘And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,’ Psalm 104:24 says, ‘O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions–‘ and in Ps. 104:30 we read, ‘You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.’

In Job 26:13 we read, ‘By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.’

These texts (and there are others) outside of Genesis echo it and further explain it to and for us. These are instances of inner-biblical exegesis within the Old Testament.

When the Bible exegetes the Bible, therefore, we have an infallible interpretation because of the divine author of Scripture.

Scripture not only records the acts of God, it also interprets them. If we are going to explain the acts of God in creation, God’s initial economy, with any hope of accurately accounting for those acts, we must first know something of the triune God who acts.

And the only written source of infallible knowledge of the triune God who acts is the Bible and the Bible alone.”

–Richard C. Barcellos, Trinity and Creation: A Scriptural and Confessional Account (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2020), 23.

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“Glory in nothing but Christ” by J.C. Ryle

“Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases.

He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and Hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head?

What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength?

What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life?

These things are sad indeed; but there is hope even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can cleanse you. Christ can raise you from your low estate.

Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Reader, are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief,—come to Christ, and live.

I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires.

Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ by faith, and live.

Reader, are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ.

Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ.

Alas! the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fulness there is in Him.

Reader, do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ.

Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ.

Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love.

Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings.

Tell them of what He has done for the chief of sinners.

Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time.

Tell it them over and over again. Never be tired of speaking of Christ.

Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did,—come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 262–265.

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“‘Lovest thou Me?'” by J.C. Ryle

“The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life.

He feels his sinfulness, guilt, and badness, and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that Divine Saviour whom his soul needs, and commits himself to Him.

He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits, and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life, fighting habitually against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Christ Himself is the corner stone of His Christianity.

Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you, in the death of Christ.

Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell You it is the righteousness of Christ.

Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.

But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ.

Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience, are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect if you omitted his “love” to his Divine Master.

He not only knows, trusts, and obeys. He goes further than this,—he loves.

This peculiar mark of a true Christian is one which we find mentioned several times in the Bible. “Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” is an expression which many Christians are familiar with.

Let it never be forgotten that love is mentioned by the Holy Ghost in almost as strong terms as faith. Great as the danger is of him “that believeth not,” the danger of him that “loveth not” is equally great. Not believing and not loving are both steps to everlasting ruin.

Hear what St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.” (1 Cor. 16:22) St. Paul allows no way of escape to the man who does not love Christ.

He leaves him no loop-hole or excuse. A man may lack clear head-knowledge, and yet be saved.

He may fail in courage, and be overcome by the fear of man, like Peter.

He may fall tremendously, like David, and yet rise again.

But if a man does not love Christ, he is not in the way of life. The curse is yet upon him. He is on the broad road that leadeth to destruction.

Hear what St. Paul says to the Ephesians, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” (Eph. 6:24) The Apostle is here sending his good wishes, and declaring his good will to all true Christians.

Many of them, no doubt, he had never seen. Many of them in the early Churches, we may be very sure, were weak in faith, and knowledge, and self-denial.

How, then, shall he describe them in sending his message? What words can he use which will not discourage the weaker brethren? He chooses a sweeping expression which exactly describes all true Christians under one common name.

All had not attained to the same degree, whether in doctrine or practice. But all loved Christ in sincerity.

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says to the Jews, “If God were your Father, ye would love Me.” (John 8:42) He saw His misguided enemies satisfied with their spiritual condition, on the one single ground that they were children of Abraham.

He saw them, like many ignorant Christians of our own day, claiming to be God’s children, for no better reasons than this, that they were circumcised and belonged to the Jewish Church.

He lays down the broad principle that no man is a child of God, who does not love God’s only begotten Son.

No man has a right to call God Father, who does not love Christ. Well would it be for many Christians if they were to remember that this mighty principle applies to them as well as to the Jews.

No love to Christ,—then no sonship to God!

Hear once more what our Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostle Peter, after He rose from the dead. Three times He asked him the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me.” (John 21:15–17)

The occasion was remarkable. He meant gently to remind His erring disciple of His thrice-repeated fall. He desired to call forth from Him a new confession of faith, before publicly restoring to him his commission to feed the Church.

And what was the question that He asked him? He might have said,—“Believest thou? Art thou converted? Art thou ready to confess Me? Wilt thou obey Me?”

He uses none of these expressions. He simply says, “Lovest thou Me?”

This is the point, He would have us know, on which a man’s Christianity hinges. Simple as the question sounded, it was most searching.

Plain and easy to be understood by the most unlearned poor man, it contains matter which tests the reality of the most advanced apostle. If a man truly loves Christ, all is right;—if not, all is wrong.

Would you know the secret of this peculiar feeling towards Christ which distinguishes the true Christian? You have it in the words of St. John, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

That text no doubt applies specially to God the Father. But it is no less true of God the Son.

A true Christian loves Christ for all He has done for him.

He has suffered in his stead, and died for him on the cross.

He has redeemed him from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin, by His blood.

He has called him by His Spirit to self-knowledge, repentance, faith, hope, and holiness.

He has forgiven all his many sins, and blotted them out.

He has freed him from the captivity of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

He has taken him from the brink of hell, placed him in the narrow way, and set his face toward heaven.

He has given him light instead of darkness, peace of conscience instead of uneasiness, hope instead of uncertainty, life instead of death.

Can you wonder that the true Christian loves Christ?

And he loves Him besides, for all that He is still doing.

He feels that He is daily washing away his many shortcomings and infirmities, and pleading his soul’s cause before God.

He is daily supplying all the needs of his soul, and providing him with an hourly provision of mercy and grace.

He is daily leading him by His Spirit to a city of habitation, bearing with him when he is weak and ignorant, raising him up when he stumbles and falls, protecting him against his many enemies, preparing an eternal home for him in heaven.

Can you wonder that the true Christian loves Christ?

Does the debtor in jail love the friend who unexpectedly and undeservedly pays all his debts, supplies him with fresh capital, and takes him into partnership with himself?

Does the prisoner in war love the man who at the risk of his own life, breaks through the enemies’ lines, rescues him, and sets him free?

Does the drowning sailor love the man who plunges into the sea, dives after him, catches him by the hair of his head, and by a mighty effort saves him from a watery grave?

A very child can answer such questions as these. Just in the same way, and upon the same principles, a true Christian loves Jesus Christ.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Carlise, PA: Banner of Truth, 1877/2014), 322-325.

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“Bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error.

Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions.

And let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion.

If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology:

  • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
  • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
  • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
  • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
  • by lifting up the brazen serpent; by telling men to look and live– to believe, repent, and be converted.

This is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad.

Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology,– the preachers of the Gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality,– let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma,’ by their principles.

They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.

It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts.

The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed.

But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma.’

No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Carlise, PA: Banner of Truth, 1877/2014), 398-399.

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“You have never to drag mercy out of Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“Jesus deserves to be trusted, and trust Him we will– for He is full of power to save, for He is now upon the throne, and all power is given Him in heaven and in earth.

He is full of power to save we know, because He is saving souls every day.

Some of us are the living witnesses that He can forgive sin, for we are pardoned, accepted, and renewed in heart; and the only way in which we obtained those boons was this—we trusted Him, we did nothing else but trust Him.

If any soul here that believes in Jesus should perish, I must perish with him. I sail in that boat, and if it sinks I have no other to fly to, I avow before you all that I have no other confidence.

I have not so much as the shred of a reliance in any sacrament I have undergone or enjoyed, in any sermon I have ever preached, in any prayer I have ever prayed, in any communion with God I have ever known.

My hope lies in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And I shake off as though it were a viper, into the fire, as a deadly thing only fit to be burned, all pretense of relying on anything I may be, or can be, or ever shall be, or do.

‘None but Jesus,’—this is the settled pillar upon which we must build. It will bear us up, but nothing else can.

Moreover, remember also that Jesus Christ this morning is by no means unwilling to save sinners, but on the contrary, He delights to do it.

You have never to drag mercy out of Christ, as money from a miser, but it flows freely from him, like the stream from the fountain, or the sunlight from the sun.

If He can be happier, He is made happier by giving of His mercy to the undeserving.

When a poor wretch who only deserves hell, comes to Him, and he says, ‘I have blotted out thy sins,’ it is joy to Christ’s heart to do it.

When a poor blasphemer bows his knee, and says, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,’ it makes Christ’s heart glad to say, ‘Thy blasphemies are forgiven: I suffered for them on the tree.’

When a poor little child, by her bedside, cries, ‘Gentle Jesus, teach a little child to pray, and forgive the sins which I have done;’ the Saviour loves to say, ‘Suffer these little children to come to Me, for this also is a part of My recompense for the wounds I endured in My hands, My feet, and My side.’

When any of you come to Him and confess your transgressions and trust yourselves in His hands, it will be a new heaven to Him.

It will put new stars into His ever bright and lustrous crown.

It will make Him see of the travail of His soul and give Him satisfaction.

Have we not here arguments to prove that Jesus is worthy to be trusted?”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Essence of Simplicity,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 18 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1872), 18: 728–729.

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