“A Prayer Before Dying” by Zacharius Ursinus

“We give thanks to You, almighty, eternal, and merciful God and Father, because on account of Your inexhaustible mercy among us, You have gathered the Church to Yourself through the Word and Spirit, and You have revealed to us that only and solid comfort in Your Word, which we all know– we who breathe our last in true faith and with the invocation of Your name.

We give thanks not only because You granted to us the use of this life, and up to this point have kindly preserved us, but because You have also begun that spiritual and eternal life in us, and You embraced us in such great love that on our behalf You delivered up Your only begotten son to death, so that all who would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

And You have called us to that blessed fellowship of Your son, and by the work of Your Holy Spirit You have kindled true faith in us, and You have mercifully protected us up to this day against the force and attack of the Devil.

You have guarded us in the truth known. And finally, You have fortified our hearts with this steadfast comfort, that temporal death is our entrance into eternal life.

We ask, O eternal God, that You would cause the pure and sincere teaching of the Gospel to enlighten us and our posterity forevermore, for the sake of the glory of Your name and our salvation.

Always raise up faithful ministers in place of those who have passed on, and send out many into Your harvest. Also strengthen and protect the good work that You have begun in us.

Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from eternal death, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Likewise, daily mortify our corrupt nature until at last we lay down the burden of sins, under which we frequently grow weary in this life. Cause that we are comforted with a firm faith in the blessed resurrection of our flesh to eternal glory.

Guard us against the temptations of Satan. Be at hand and help us especially when we must leave this life.

Cause us to be rendered compliant, ready, and thankful to Your divine will in our life and death, and let us rejoice in pain and suffering, because we are being conformed to our head, Christ.

Grant constancy to us, increase of faith, and holiness of life. Cause that we deny ourselves and seek things above, where Christ is, and let us not seek our joy in the desires of this world but in meditation upon Your Word.

And finally, pour out in our hearts the Spirit of grace and prayer so that we may always be vigilant, and let us pray that we would not fall into temptation but be ready, so that whenever it would please you, we would pass to you through a blessed, noble death, and bring us boldly to the tribunal of Your Son.

All this, what You would most mercifully lavish upon us, through and on account of Your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with You forevermore, Amen.”

–Zacharius Ursinus, “A Godly Meditation Upon Death, (1564)” in Faith in the Time of Plague: Selected Writings from the Reformation and Post-Reformation, Eds. Stephen M. Coleman and Todd M. Rester (Glenside: PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2021), 269-270. Ursinus wrote this treatise in 1564 when a plague “was prowling about widespread along the banks of the Rhine.”

“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God” by Stephen Nichols

“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God.”

–Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 195.

“Three simple rules for hearing a sermon” by J.C. Ryle

“It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and ‘be nothing bettered, but rather worse.’ (Mark 5:26) “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how ye hear.” (Luke 8:18)

Would any one know how to hear aright? Then let him lay to heart three simple rules.

For one thing, we must hear with faith, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The Word in old time did not profit the Jews, “not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. 4:2)

For another thing, we must hear with reverence, remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s message, “not as the word of men, but the word of God.” (1 Thess. 2:13)

Above all, we must hear with prayer, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over.

Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.

Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached.

Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done.

Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit, and return with praise.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 197. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:16-21.

“Then he has come close to grace” by Martin Luther

“God has assuredly promised His grace to the humble [1 Peter 5:5], that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.

But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.

For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.

But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.”

–Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, Luther’s Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 33 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 33: 61–62. As quoted in Dane Ortlund, Deeper (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 38.

“An awful flux of words” by Charles Spurgeon

“To any brother who says, ‘I do not know how I can preach more gospel than I do, for I preach very often,’ I would reply, ‘You need not preach oftener, but fill the sermons fuller of gospel.’

The Saviour at the marriage-feast said, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ (John 2:7) Let us imitate the servants, of whom we read, ‘They filled them up to the brim.’ (John 2:7)

Let your discourses be full of matter,—sound, gracious, and condensed.

Certain speakers suffer from an awful flux of words; you can scarcely spy out the poor little straw of an idea which has been hurried down an awful Ganges or Amazon of words.

Give the people plenty of thought, plenty of Scriptural, solid doctrine, and deliver it in a way which is growingly better,—every day better, every year better,—that God may be more glorified, and sinners may more readily learn the way of salvation. (1 Tim. 4:15)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 130-131.

“Faith feeds on Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“Faith feeds on Christ.

Feed faith with the truth of God, but especially with Him who is the Truth.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 22.

“We dwell in a temple of providence” by Charles Spurgeon

“We have faith in God. We believe ‘that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ (Heb. 11:6).

We do not believe in the powers of nature operating of themselves apart from constant emanations of power from the Great and Mighty One, who is the Sustainer as well as the Creator of all things.

Far be it from us to banish God from His own universe. Neither do we believe in a merely nominal deity, as those do who make all things to be God, for we conceive pantheism to be only another form of atheism.

We know the Lord as a distinct personal existence, a real God, infinitely more real than the things which are seen and handled, more real even than ourselves, for we are but shadows. He alone is the I AM, abiding the same for ever and ever.

We believe in a God of purposes and plans, who has not left a blind fate to tyrannize over the world, much less an aimless chance to rock it to and fro. We are not fatalists, neither are we doubters of providence and predestination.

We are believers in a God “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).

We do not conceive of the Lord as having gone away from the world, and left it and the inhabitants thereof to themselves; we believe in Him as continually presiding in all the affairs of life.

We, by faith, perceive the hand of the Lord giving to every blade of grass its own drop of dew, and to every young raven its meat.

We see the present power of God in the flight of every sparrow, and hear His goodness in the song of every lark.

We believe that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof’ (Psalm 24:1), and we go forth into it, not as into the domains of Satan where light comes not, nor into a chaos where rule is unknown, nor into a boiling sea where fate’s resistless billows shipwreck mortals at their will; but we walk boldly on, having God within us and around us, living and moving and having our being in Him, and so, by faith, we dwell in a temple of providence and grace wherein everything doth speak of His glory.

We believe in a present God wherever we may be, and a working and operating God accomplishing His own purposes steadfastly and surely in all matters, places, and times; working out His designs as much in what seemeth evil as in that which is manifestly good; in all things driving on in His eternal chariot towards the goal which infinite wisdom has chosen, never slackening His pace nor drawing the rein, but for ever, according to the eternal strength that is in Him, speeding forward without pause.

We believe in this God as being faithful to everything that He has spoken, a God who can neither lie nor change. The God of Abraham is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is our God this day.

We do not believe in the ever-shifting views of the Divine Being which differing philosophies are adopting; the God of the Hebrews is our God,—Jehovah, Jah, the Mighty One, the covenant-keeping God,—’this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our Guide even unto death’ (Psalm 48:14).”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 4-5.