“Exceedingly great and precious promises” by John Bunyan

“O how excellent are the Scriptures to thy soul! O how much virtue dost thou see in such a promise, in such an invitation!

They are so large as to say, Christ will in no wise cast me out! (John 6:37) My crimson sins shall be white as snow!

I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars; because through them Christ is pleased by his Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.

I say, when the law curses, when the devil tempts, when hell-fire flames in my conscience, my sins with the guilt of them tearing of me, then is Christ revealed so sweetly to my poor soul through the promises that all is forced to fly and leave off to accuse my soul.

So also, when the world frowns, when the enemies rage and threaten to kill me, then also the precious, the exceeding great and precious promises do weigh down all, and comfort the soul against all.

This is the effect of believing the Scriptures savingly; for they that do so have by and through the Scriptures good comfort, and also ground of hope, believing those things to be its own which the Scriptures hold forth (Rom 15:4).”

–John Bunyan, Some Sighs from Hell, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 3 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 3: 721-722.

“We are not to be always going about the world searching out heresies like terrier dogs sniffing for rats” by Charles Spurgeon

“We should avoid everything like the ferocity of bigotry.

There are religious people about, who, I have no doubt, were born of a woman, but appear to have been suckled by a wolf.

I have done them no dishonour: were not Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome, so fed?

Some warlike men of this order have had power to found dynasties of thought; but human kindness and brotherly love consort better with the kingdom of Christ.

We are not to be always going about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing for rats, and to be always so confident of one’s own infallibility, that we erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to roast all who differ from us.

And, dear brethren, we must acquire certain moral faculties and habits, as well as put aside their opposites. He will never do much for God who has not integrity of spirit.

If we be guided by policy, if there be any mode of action for us but that which is straightforward, we shall make shipwreck before long.

Resolve, dear brethren, that you can be poor, that you can be despised, that you can lose life itself, but that you cannot do a crooked thing.

For you, let the only policy be honesty.

May you also possess the grand moral characteristic of courage.

By this we do not mean impertinence, impudence, or self-conceit; but real courage to do and say calmly the right thing, and to go straight on at all hazards, though there should be none to give you a good word.

I am astonished at the number of Christians who are afraid to speak the truth to their brethren.

I thank God I can say this, there is no member of my church, no officer of the church, and no man in the world to whom I am afraid to say before his face what I would say behind his back.

Under God I owe my position in my own church to the absence of all policy, and the habit of saying what I mean.

The plan of making things pleasant all round is a perilous as well as a wicked one. If you say one thing to one man, and another to another, they will one day compare notes and find you out, and then you will be despised.

The man of two faces will sooner or later be the object of contempt, and justly so.

Now, above all things, avoid that. If you have anything that you feel you ought to say about a man, let the measure of what you say be this— ‘How much dare I say to his face?’

We must not allow ourselves a word more in censure of any man living.

If that be your rule, your courage will save you from a thousand difficulties, and win you lasting respect.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 78-79.

“The second­-century world is, in a sense, our world” by Carl Trueman

“It is appropriate that Christians who acknowledge that they have a religion that is both rooted in historical events and transmitted through history via the church ask whether there is an age that provides precedent for the one in which we live.

Nostalgic Roman Catholics might point to the high medieval period, when the papacy was powerful and Thomas Aqui­nas’s thought offered a comprehensive synthesis of Christian doctrine. Protestants might look back to the Reformation, when the Scripture principle galvanized reform of the church.

But neither period is truly a plausible model for the present. The pope is not about to become the unquestioned head of some united world church to whom secular princes all look for spiritual authority; Thomism is not about to unify the field of knowledge; and the Reformation unleashed religious choice on the world in a manner that meant the Reformation itself could never again occur in such a form.

If there is a precedent, it is earlier: the second century.

In the second century, the church was a marginal sect within a domi­nant, pluralist society. She was under suspicion not because her central dogmas were supernatural but rather because she appeared subversive in claiming Jesus as King and was viewed as immoral in her talk of eating and drinking human flesh and blood and expressing incestuous­ sounding love between brothers and sisters.

This is where we are today. The story told in parts 2 through 4 of this book indicates how a pluralist society has slowly but surely adop­ted beliefs, particularly beliefs about sexuality and identity, that render Christianity immoral and inimical to the civic stability of society as now understood.

The second­-century world is, in a sense, our world, where Christianity is a choice—and a choice likely at some point to run afoul of the authorities.

It was that second­-century world, of course, that laid down the foun­dations for the later successes of the third and fourth centuries. And she did it by what means?

By existing as a close­-knit, doctrinally-bounded community that required her members to act consistently with their faith and to be good citizens of the earthly city as far as good citizenship was compatible with faithfulness to Christ.

How we do that today and where the limits are—these are the pressing questions of this present moment and beyond the scope of this volume. But it is a discussion to which I hope the narratives and analyses I have offered here might form a helpful prolegomenon.”

–Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 406-407.

“The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment” by Carl Trueman

“This book is not a lament for a lost golden age or even for the parlous state of culture as we now face it. Lamentation is popular in many conservative and Christian circles, and I have indulged in it a few times myself.

No doubt the Ciceronian cry “O tempora! O mores!” has its therapeutic appeal in a therapeutic time like ours, whether as a form of Pharisaic reassurance that we are not like others, such as those in the LGBTQ+ movement, or as a means of convincing ourselves that we have the special knowledge that allows us to stand above the petty enchantments and superficial pleasures of this present age.

But in terms of positive action, lamentation offers little and delivers less. As for the notion of some lost golden age, it is truly very hard for any competent historian to be nostalgic.

What past times were better than the present? An era before antibiotics when childbirth or even minor cuts might lead to septicemia and death?

The great days of the nineteenth century when the church was culturally powerful and marriage was between one man and one woman for life but little children worked in factories and swept chimneys?

Perhaps the Great Depression? The Second World War? The era of Vietnam?

Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.”

–Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 29-30.

“God shattered that man” by Franciscus Junius

“On Friday the eighteenth of October I held our first assembly among the residents of Limburg in a field not far from Herve, along the road that leads to Liège.

The crowd was large enough. There a certain man positioned himself behind me, armed with a hunting spear and having sworn before that he would kill me if he could get within a spear’s length of me.

God shattered that man, though leaving his spear intact, to such an extent that he listened calmly and with a peaceful mind to the Word of the Lord.”

–Franciscus Junius, A Treatise on True Theology: With the Life of Franciscus Junius, trans. David C. Noe (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1594/2014), 61-62.

“A minister needs to be a jack of all trades” by John Newton

“Give my love to Mr. ****. He has desired a good work; may the Lord give him the desires of his heart.

May he give him the wisdom of Daniel, the meekness of Moses, the courage of Joshua, the zeal of Paul, and that self-abasement and humility which Job and Isaiah felt when they not only had heard of Him by the hearing of the ear, but saw His glory, and abhorred themselves in dust and ashes.

May he be taught of God, (none teacheth like Him,) and come forth an able minister of the New Testament, well instructed rightly to divide and faithfully to distribute the word of truth.

In the school of Christ, (especially if the Lord designs him to be a teacher of others,) he will be put to learn some lessons not very pleasant to flesh and blood: he must learn to run, to fight, to wrestle, and many other exercises, some of which will try his strength, and others his patience.

You know the common expression of a jack of all trades. I am sure a minister had need be such an one: a soldier, a watchman, a shepherd, a husbandman, a builder, a planter, a physician, and a nurse.

But let him not be discouraged. He has a wonderful and a gracious Master, who can not only give instructions, but power, and engages that His grace shall be sufficient, at all times and in all circumstances, for those who simply give themselves up to His teaching and His service.

I am sincerely yours’s,

John Newton”

–John Newton, “Letter XVIII (August 13, 1773)” in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 6. Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6:102–103.

“A witness of word and love” by D.A. Carson

“The multiplying witness of the church has two elements to it, according to this passage. The first is proclamation of the message (John 17:20) which is to be believed (17:20, 21, 23).

The second is the public demonstration of the unity for which Jesus prays (17:21, 23), calling to mind the purpose of the ‘new commandment’: ‘All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another’ (13:35).

Both aspects of our witness are essential. The truth of the gospel, announced without the demonstration of the power of the gospel in transformed and loving lives, is arid. It may be beautiful in the way that the badlands can be beautiful; but not much grows there.

On the other hand, the demonstration of love within a believing community does not by itself proclaim the source or cause of that love. Attractive in its own right, like a luxuriant south sea island, nevertheless such love does not call forth disciplined obedience or informed belief, and cannot of itself call others to true faith. It is merely a place to rest.

The multiplying witness Jesus has in mind is both propositional and exemplary, both confessional and demonstrative. It is a witness of word and of love.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 200. Carson is commenting on John 17.

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way” by D.A. Carson

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way. Those who claim all the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth in the present time frame have not come to grips with New Testament eschatology.

True, the age to come has dawned, and the Holy Spirit himself is the down payment of future bliss; but it does not follow that all material blessings, prosperity, and freedom from opposition are rightfully ours now.

Even John, who of New Testament writers is most inclined to focus attention on the already-inaugurated features of the age to come, makes it clear that the Christian can in this age expect hatred, persecution, and even violence.

Perhaps this chapter, taken by itself, might prove depressing to some. It is helpful to remember that the biblical passage being expounded, John 15:17–16:4, does not stand in isolation. It is the counterpoint to intimacy with Jesus Christ and rich fruitbearing in the spiritual life.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life; and this is worth everything. In ultimate terms, the acclaim of the world is worth nothing. That is why the dark brush strokes of this passage, 15:17–16:4, far from fostering gloom and defeat, engender instead holy courage and spiritual resolve.

Meditation on these verses forges men and women of God with vision and a stamina whose roots reach into eternity. It calls forth a William Tyndale, who while constantly fleeing his persecutors worked at the translation of the Bible into English. Through betrayal, disappointment, and fear, he struggled on until he was captured and burned at the stake. His dying cry revealed his eternal perspective: ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

In a similar vein, William Borden prepared for missionary service in the Muslim world. Born to wealth, he poured his money and his example into missions. After the best of training at Yale University and Princeton Seminary, he arrived in Egypt to work with Samuel Zwemer. Almost immediately he contracted a terminal case of cerebral meningitis. His dying testimony did not falter: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

C.T. Studd, born to privilege, gifted athletically, and trained at Eton and Cambridge, turned his back on wealth and served Christ for decades against unimaginable odds, first in China and then in Africa. He penned the words:

Some want to live within the sound
of church or chapel bell;
I want to build a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.

This is the passion we need: a passion that looks at the mountainous difficulties and exults that we are on the winning side. By all means, let us face the worst: Christ has told us these things so we will not go astray.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 130-132.

“Hitherto the Lord hath helped us” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’ (1 Samuel 7:12)

Were we a hundred when first I addressed you? What hosts of empty pews, what a miserable handful of hearers. With the staff we crossed that Jordan.

But God has multiplied the people and multiplied the joy, till we have become not only two bands but many bands; and many this day are gathering to hear the gospel preached by the sons of this church, begotten of us, and sent forth by us to minister the word of life in many towns and villages throughout these three kingdoms.

Glory be unto God, this cannot be man’s work. What effort made by the unaided strength of man will equal this which has been accomplished by God. Let the name of the Lord, therefore, be inscribed upon the pillar of the memorial. I am always very jealous about this matter.

If we do not as a Church and a congregation, if we do not as individuals, always give God the glory, it is utterly impossible that God should work by us. Many wonders I have seen, but I never saw yet a man who arrogated the honour of his work to himself, whom God did not leave sooner or later.

Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Behold this great Babylon that I have built.’ Behold that poor lunatic whose hair has grown like eagle’s feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws—that is Nebuchadnezzar.

And that must be you, and that must be me, each in our own way, unless we are content always to give all the glory unto God. Surely, brethren, we shall be a stench in the nostrils of the Most High, an offence, even like carrion, before the Lord of Hosts, if we arrogate to ourselves any honour.

What doth God send his saints for? That they may be demigods? Did God make men strong that they may exalt themselves into His throne? What, doth the King of kings crown you with mercies that you may pretend to lord it over Him?

What, doth He dignify you that you may usurp the prerogatives of His throne? No; you must come with all the favours and honours that God has put upon you, and creep to the foot of His throne and say, What am I, and what is my father’s house that thou hast remembered me. ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’

I said this text might be read three ways. We have read it once by laying stress upon the centre word. Now it ought to be read looking backward. The word ‘hitherto’ seems like a hand pointing in that direction.

Look back, look back. Twenty years—thirty—forty—fifty—sixty—seventy—eighty—’hitherto!’ say that each of you. Through poverty—through wealth—through sickness—through health—at home—abroad—on the land—on the sea—in honour—in dishonour—in perplexity—in joy—in trial—in triumph—in prayer—in temptation—hitherto.

Put the whole together. I like sometimes to look down a long avenue of trees. It is very delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of leafy temple with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves.

Cannot you look down the long aisles of your years, look at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness which bear your joys? Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many.

And the bright sunshine and the blue sky are yonder; and if you turn round in the far distance, you may see heaven’s brightness and a throne of gold. ‘Hitherto! hitherto!’

Then the text may be read a third way,—looking forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes ‘hitherto,’ he looks back upon much that is past, but ‘hitherto’ is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed.

More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more lions and bears to be fought, more tearings of the lion for God’s Davids; more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet.

And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no!

We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: ‘hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ for there is more to come. An awakening in His likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss.

Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as today, He will help us to the close. ‘I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee; I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end.’

Courage, brethren, then. And as we pile the stones, saying, ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Ebenezer!” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 9; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 166–167. Spurgeon preached this sermon on 1 Samuel 7:12 on March 15, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.

“He appeared like a man of God” by David Hall

“That faithful witness received the shock unshaken. I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week, but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies, and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good, overbalancing all imaginable ills of life, even to the astonishment of many, who could not be at rest without his dismission.”

–Reverend David Hall, as quoted in Ola Winslow, Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758: A Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1940), 256. Cited in Ian Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 327. On June 22, 1750, Jonathan Edwards was fired after serving over two decades as the pastor of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts. Reverend Hall participated in the proceedings and recorded in his diary the way Edwards responded to the news of his dismissal.