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“The unstoppable miracle of God’s mercy” by John Webster

“Before it is proposition or oath of allegiance, the confession of the church is a cry of acknowledgement of the unstoppable miracle of God’s mercy.

Confession is the event in which the speech of the church is arrested, grasped and transfigured by the self-giving presence of God.

To confess is to cry out in acknowledgement of the sheer gratuity of what the gospel declares, that in and as the man Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s glory is the glory of His self-giving, His radiant generosity.

Very simply, to confess is to indicate ‘the glory of Christ’ (2 Cor. 8:23).”

–John Webster, “Confession and Confessions,” in Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 71.

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“Once in Christ, ever in Him” by Thomas Boston

“Once in Christ, ever in Him.

Having taken up His habitation in the heart, He never removes. None can untie this happy knot.

Who will dissolve this union? Will He Himself? No, He will not; we have His word for it; ‘I will not turn away from them,’ (Jer. 32:40).

But perhaps the sinner will do this mischief to himself? No, he shall not; ‘they shall not depart from me,’ saith their God. (Jer. 32:40)

Can devils do it? No, unless they be stronger than Christ and His Father too; ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,’ saith our Lord, ‘And none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand,” (John 10:28, 30).

But what say you of death, which parts husband and wife; yea, separates the soul from the body? Will not death do it? No: the apostle is ‘persuaded that neither death,’ terrible as it is, ‘nor life,’ desirable as it is; ‘nor’ devils, those evil ‘angels, nor’ the devil’s persecuting agents, though they be ‘principalities, nor powers’ on earth; ‘nor’ evil ‘things present,’ already lying on us; ‘nor’ evil ‘things to come’ on us; ‘nor’” the ‘height’ of worldly felicity; ‘nor depth’ of worldly misery; ‘nor any other creature,’ good or evil, ‘shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord,’ (Rom. 8:38-39).

As death separated Christ’s soul from His body, but could not separate either His soul or body from His divine nature; so, though the saints should be separated from their nearest relations in the world, and from all their earthly enjoyments; yea, though their souls should be separated from their bodies separated in a thousand pieces, their ‘bones scattered, as one cutteth or cleaveth wood,’ (Psalm 141:7) yet soul and body shall remain united to the Lord Christ.

For even in death, ‘they sleep in Jesus,’ (1 Thess. 4:14); and ‘He keepeth all their bones,’ (Psalm 34:20).

Union with Christ is the grace wherein we stand, firm and stable, as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed.”

–Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and a View of the Covenant of Grace (ed. Samuel M‘Millan; vol. 8; Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 8: 180.

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“Satan greatly approves of our railing at each other, but God does not” by Charles Spurgeon

“Next, the apostle says, ‘In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.’ (Phil. 2:3) Alas! how far we fall below this standard! How few have attained this grace!

Bunyan beautifully portrays Christiana and Mercy coming up out of the bath of the interpreter’s house. They have had jewels put upon them, and when they are both washed, Mercy saith to Christiana, “How comely and beautiful you look!”

“Nay,” Christiana said, “My sister, I see no beauty in myself, but how lovely you look! I think I never saw such loveliness.”

They were both lovely because they could see other people’s loveliness. Your own spiritual beauty may be very much measured by what you can see in other people.

When you say, “Ah! there are no saints now, it is to be feared that you are not one.” When you complain that love is dead in the Christian church, it must be dead in your heart, or you would not say so. As you think of others, that you are.

Out of your own mouth shall you be condemned. Your corn shall be measured with your own bushel. When we come to admire the good in other people that we have not yet attained ourselves, instead of depreciating other people because they have not something which we have, when we get to that, we shall be evidently approaching nearer to Christ.

If the popular preacher can say, “My beloved brother A has a smaller congregation, and is not a very attractive preacher, yet he visits his flock so carefully, and looks after each individual so well, that I admire him greatly, and must endeavour to imitate him;” and if the man with the small congregation says, “My brother B studies to find out acceptable words, and commend himself to the people of God, and he is very earnest, and is a great soul-winner, I wish I were as earnest; I admire it in him;” why, these interchanges of loving estimate are infinitely more Christlike than for the minister with the large congregation to say, “Brother A has mistaken his calling; he cannot get above a hundred people to hear him: what is the good of his preaching?” and for the lesser light to reply spitefully, “Ah, B’s work is just a flash in the pan—fine words and excitement—there’s nothing in it.”

Satan greatly approves of our railing at each other, but God does not.

Let us learn this morning to esteem others instead of depreciating them; for in proportion as we exhibit a meek and lowly spirit, we shall be working out our own salvation.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Working out What Is Worked in,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 14; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1868), 14: 391–392.

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“The Gospel is a joyful tiding for the whole groaning creation” by Herman Bavinck

“God so loved the world, the cosmos, that He sent His only Son, the one by whom all things were created. Granted, the word ‘world’ can have unfavorable connotations in the New Testament.

It can signify the organic unity of all created reality as instrument of sin in opposition to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This ‘world’ lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), has ‘the devil as its prince’ (John 14:30; 16:11), who is ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

This world knows neither God nor His children (John 17:25; 1 John 3:1). In fact, it hates the followers of Jesus as it hated Him (John 15:18,19; 17:14). For this reason ‘the world and its desires’ must be resisted and overcome by faith (1 John 2:15-17; 5:4).

It is undeniable that Jesus and his apostles after Him were drawn to the ‘foolish and the weak’ of the world, to ‘publicans and sinners.’ There is a real fear reflected in their repeated admonitions to be alert to the temptation found in abundance of possessions and in the reminders that this life is one filled with anxiety.

Christianity is the religion of the cross; the mystery of suffering is its center. An aesthetic enjoyment of the world as in the Hellenic tradition is not possible.

This single notion of ‘world’ shows us clearly how wide a gulf exists between the Christian and the classic worldview. And yet, the reverse side is not absent.

It is true that the Cross casts its shadow over all creation but so does the light of the Resurrection.

On the one hand, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price for which a man sells everything he has in order to buy it; at the same time it is also a mustard seed that grows into a tree in which the birds of the air build nests and a yeast that a woman takes and hides in three measures of flour until it is all leavened.

While the world is thoroughly corrupted by sin, it is precisely this sinful world that is the object of God’s love.

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting its sins (2 Cor. 5:19).

Jesus, who came to the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:16,17; 12:47), is the light (John 1:12), the life (John 6:33), the Savior of the world (John 4:14).

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

In Christ all things are reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), and under Him brought together in unity (Eph. 1:10).

The world, created by the Son (John 1:3), is also created for Him as its heir (Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2).

The kingdoms of this world shall eventually become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).

A new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells is coming (2 Peter 3:13).

It is impossible to express the thoroughgoing universal scope of the Christian faith in words more powerful and beautiful than these. Christianity knows no boundaries beyond those which God Himself has in His good pleasure established; no boundaries of race or age, class, or status, nationality, or language.

Sin has corrupted much; in fact, everything. The guilt of human sin is immeasurable; the pollution that always accompanies it penetrates every structure of humanity and the world.

Nonetheless sin does not dominate and corrupt without God’s abundant grace in Christ triumphing even more (Rom. 5:15-20). The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, it is able to restore everything.

We need not, indeed we must not, despair of anyone or anything.

The Gospel is a joyful tiding, not only for the individual person but also for humanity, for the family, for society, for the state, for art and science, for the entire cosmos, for the whole groaning creation.”

–Herman Bavinck, “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church,” Calvin Theological Journal 27 (1992): 223-224.

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“Our need of revival is indeed very great today” by Iain Murray

“Our need of revival is indeed very great today. It may be that a generation of freshly-anointed preachers is already being prepared. Whether that is so or not, when such men are sent forth by Christ we can be sure of certain things.

They will not be identical in all points with the men of the past, but there will be a fundamental resemblance.

They will be hard students of Scripture.

They will prize a great spiritual heritage.

They will see the danger of ‘unsanctified learning’.

While they will not be afraid of controversy, nor of being called hyper-orthodox, they will fear to spend their days in controversy. They will believe with John Rice that ‘the church is not purified by controversy, but by holy love’.

They will not forget that the wise, who will shine ‘as: the stars forever and ever’, are those who ‘turn many to righteousness’ (Dan. 12.3).

They will covet the wisdom which Scripture attributes to the one ‘that winneth souls’ (Prov. 11.30).

But their cheerfulness will have a higher source than their work. To know God Himself will be their supreme concern and Joy.

They will therefore not be strangers to humility.

And their experience will not be without trials and discouragements, not least because they fall so far short of their aspirations.

If they are spared to live as long as John Leland they will be ready to say with him at last: ‘I have been unwearedly trying to preach Jesus, but have not yet risen to that state of holy zeal and evangelical knowledge, that I have been longing after’.

Whether their days be bright or dark they will learn to say with Nettleton that ‘the milk and honey lie beyond this wilderness world’.”

—Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1994), 386-387.

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“Without Christ crucified” by J.C. Ryle

“The cross is the foundation of a church’s prosperity. No church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up.

Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order.

Without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done.

Dark hearts will not be enlightened.
Proud hearts will not be humbled.
Mourning hearts will not be comforted.
Fainting hearts will not be cheered.

Sermons about the Catholic Church and an apostolic ministry,—sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper,—sermons about unity and schism,—sermons about fasts and communion,—sermons about fathers and saints,—such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ.

They may amuse some. They will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room and splendid gold plate on the table will never make up to a hungry man for the want of food.

Christ crucified is God’s grand ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a church ceases to be useful.

Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.”

–J.C. Ryle, Startling Questions (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 295–297.

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“There we shall see” by Thomas Boston

“In the general assembly of the firstborn in heaven, none of all the saints, whoever were or will be on the earth, shall be missing.

They will all be together in one place, all possess one kingdom, and all sit down together to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

There we shall see Adam and Eve in the heavenly paradise freely eating of the tree of life.

There we shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the holy patriarchs, no more wandering from land to land, but come to their everlasting rest.

There we shall see all the prophets feasting their eyes on the glory of Him, of whose coming they prophesied.

There we shall see the twelve apostles of the Lamb, sitting on their twelve thrones.

There we shall see all the holy martyrs in their long white robes, with their crowns on their heads.

There we shall see the godly kings advanced to a kingdom which cannot be moved.

There we shall see those that turn many to righteousness, shining as the stars forever and ever.

There we shall see our godly friends, relations, and acquaintances, pillars in the temple of God, to go no more out from us.

There we shall have society with the Lord Himself in heaven, glorious communion with God in Christ, which is the perfection of happiness.

There we shall not only see, but ‘eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God,’ (Rev. 2:7).

There we shall behold the Mediator’s glory, and be satisfied with His goodness. No flaming sword shall be there, to keep the way of that tree of life; but we shall freely eat of it, and live forever.

We shall ‘drink of the river of pleasures,‘ (Psalm 36:8) the sweetest and purest pleasures which Immanuel’s land affords.

And we shall swim in an ocean of unmixed delight forevermore.

Who can conceive the happiness of the saints in the presence chamber of the great King?

There we shall see Jesus Christ, God and man with our bodily eyes, as He will never lay aside the human nature.

There we shall behold that glorious blessed body, which is personally united to the divine nature, and exalted above principalities and powers, and every name that is named.

There we shall see, with our eyes, that very body which was born of Mary at Bethlehem, and crucified at Jerusalem between two thieves.

There we shall see the blessed head that was crowned with thorns, the face that was spit upon, the hands and feet that were nailed to the cross, all shining with inconceivable glory.

Were each star in the heavens shining as the sun in its meridian brightness, it might possibly be some faint resemblance of the glory of the man Christ.

The wise men fell down, and worshipped Him, when they saw Him ‘a young child, with Mary His mother in the house.’ But O what a ravishing sight will it be to see Him in His kingdom, to see Him on His throne, to see Him at the Father’s right hand!

The Word was made flesh,’ (John 1:14), and the glory of God shall shine through that flesh, and the joys of heaven spring out from it, unto the saints, who shall see and enjoy God in Christ.

There we shall behold Him, who died for us, that we might live forevermore, whose matchless love made Him swim through the Red Sea of God’s wrath, to make a path in the midst of it for us, by which we might pass safely to Canaan’s land.

Then we shall see what a glorious one He was, who suffered all this for us, what entertainment He had in the upper house, what hallelujahs of angels could not hinder Him to hear the groans of a perishing multitude on earth, and to come down for their help, and what glory He laid aside for us.

Then we shall be more ‘able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,’ (Eph. 3:18, 19).

There we shall remember the waters of wrath which He was plunged into, and the wells of salvation from whence we draw all our joy.

There we shall remember we received the cup of salvation in exchange for the cup of wrath His Father gave Him to drink, which His sinless human nature shivered at.

Then shall our hearts leap within us, burn with seraphic love, like coals of juniper, and the arch of heaven ring with our songs of salvation!”

–Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and a View of the Covenant of Grace (ed. Samuel M‘Millan; vol. 8; Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 8: 328, 330, 326, 331, 332-333, 333-334.

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