“He is the sanctuary of His people” by Stephen Charnock

“That God is present everywhere, is as much a comfort to a good man as it is a terror to a wicked one. He is everywhere for His people, not only by a necessary perfection of His nature, but an immense diffusion of His goodness.

He is in all creatures as their preserver, in the damned as their terror, in His people as their protector. He fills hell with His severity, heaven with His glory, His people with His grace.

He is with His people as light in darkness, a fountain in a garden, as manna in the ark. God is in the world as a spring of preservation, in the church as His cabinet, a spring of grace and consolation.

The omnipresence of God is a comfort in sharp afflictions. Good men have a comfort in this presence in their nasty prisons, oppressing tribunals; in the overflowing waters or scorching flames, He is still with them, (Isa. 43:2).

And many times, by His presence, He keeps the bush from consuming, when it seems to be all in a flame. In afflictions, God shows Himself most present when friends are most absent: ‘When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord shall take me up,’ (Ps. 27:10).

Then God will stoop and gather me into His protection; Heb. ‘shall gather me,’ alluding to those tribes that were to bring up the rear in the Israelites’ march, to take care that none were left behind, and exposed to famine or wild beasts, by reason of some disease that disenabled them to keep pace with their brethren.

He that is the sanctuary of His people in all calamities is more present with them to support them, than their adversaries can be present with them, to afflict them: ‘A present help in the time of trouble,’ (Ps. 46:2).”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse Upon God’s Omnipresence,” in The Existence and Attributes of God, in The Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2010), 1: 450, 452.

“The infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners” by J.C. Ryle

We see, fifthly, in this parable, the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God.

Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history, in the most touching manner. We read:

“When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless.

It is like gilding refined gold, and painting the lily. They show us in great broad letters the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners.

They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him, and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things.”—“He is plenteous in mercy.” (Acts 13:39; Psalm 86:5)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be graven deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds. Let us never forget that He is One “that receiveth sinners.”

With Him and His mercy sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe.

‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says St. Paul, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 2: 138. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:11-24.

“We have more mercies than we deserve” by J.C. Ryle

“Cultivate a thankful spirit.

It has ever been a mark of God’s most distinguished saints in every age (David, in the Old Testament, and St. Paul, in the New), are remarkable for their thankfulness.

We seldom read much of their writings without finding them blessing and praising God.

Let us rise from our beds every morning with a deep conviction that we are debtors, and that every day we have more mercies than we deserve.

Let us look around us every week, as we travel through the world, and see whether we have not much to thank God for.

If our hearts are in the right place, we shall never find any difficulty in building an Ebenezer.

Well would it be if our prayers and supplications were more mingled with thanksgiving. (1 Sam. 7:12. Phil. 4:6.)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 36-37. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“Pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend” by John Stott

“At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”

–John Stott, “Pride, Humility, and God,” in Alive to God, eds. JI Packer & Loren Wilkinson, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 119.

“No one was ever saved other than by grace” by A.W. Tozer

“No one was ever saved other than by grace, from Abel to the present moment. Since mankind was banished from the east-ward Garden, none has ever returned to the divine favor except through the sheer goodness of God.

And wherever grace found any man it was always by Jesus Christ. Grace indeed came by Jesus Christ, hut it did not wait for His birth in the manger or His death on the cross before it became operative.

Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The first man in human history to be reinstated in the fellowship of God came through faith in Christ.

In olden times men looked forward to Christ’s redeeming work; in later times they gaze back upon it, but always they came and they come by grace, through faith.

We must keep in mind also that the grace of God is infinite and eternal. As it had no beginning, so it can have no end, and being an attribute of God, it is as boundless as infinitude.

Instead of straining to comprehend this as a theological truth, it would be better and simpler to compare God’s grace with our need.

We can never know the enormity of our sin, neither is it necessary that we should. What we can know is that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ (Rom. 5:20)”

—A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1961/1978), 148-149.

“It is only an infinite God, and an infinite good, that can fill and satisfy the immortal soul of man” by Thomas Brooks

“He who is not contented with a little, will never be satisfied with much. He who is not content with pounds, will never be satisfied with hundreds; and he who is not content with a few hundreds, will never be satisfied with many thousands.

‘He that loveth silver, shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance, with increase.’ (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Money of itself cannot satisfy any desire of nature. If a man be hungry, it cannot feed him; if naked, it cannot clothe him; if cold, it cannot warm him; if sick, it cannot recover him.

A circle cannot fill a triangle; no more can the whole world fill the heart of man. A man may as soon fill a chest with grace, as a heart with wealth.

The soul of man may be busied about earthly things, but it can never be filled nor satisfied with earthly things.

Air shall as soon fill the body, as money shall satisfy the mind. There is many a worldling who hath enough of the world to sink him, who will never have enough of the world to satisfy him.

The more a man drinketh, the more he thirsteth. So the more money is increased, the more the love of money is increased; and the more the love of money is increased, the more the soul is unsatisfied.

It is only an infinite God, and an infinite good, that can fill and satisfy the precious and immortal soul of man, (Gen. 15:1).

Look, as nothing fits the ear but sounds, and as nothing fits the smell but odours, so nothing fits the soul but God.

Nothing below the great God can fit and fill an immortal soul.”

–Thomas Brooks, The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 6, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 6: 259.

“The emotion we find most frequently attributed to Jesus during the course of his earthly ministry is mercy” by Mark Jones

“The emotion we find most frequently attributed to Jesus during the course of His earthly ministry is mercy.

Christ, anointed with the Spirit, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Jesus was often “moved with pity” toward others (Mark 1:41; see also Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 20:34).

But Christ extended mercy not simply toward people in their physical or spiritual suffering (e.g., demon possession); he showed pity toward the whole person (Mark 6:34). He sought ways to be merciful.

Very often in the Christian life, we are too reactionary, always having to respond to situations and then not as we should. One way for us to respond better comes through understanding our holy Savior’s mercy to us and pursuing Christian holiness.

These actions will lead us to show mercy to others and to relieve others of their physical and spiritual misery while treating them as whole people.

The Christian who has received mercy seeks to show it. Knowing includes experiencing. Indeed, Christ issues a rather startling command in his Sermon on the Mount concerning the need for us to show mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Thomas Watson quotes the early church father Ambrose as saying, “The sum and definition of religion is, Be rich in works of mercy, be helpful to the bodies and souls of others. Scatter your golden seeds; let the lamp of your profession be filled with the oil of charity. Be merciful in giving and forgiving.”

Here Ambrose understands our duty to the whole person: body and soul. God’s mercy and our mercy are not mere concepts or ideas but actions toward others.

In expressing spiritual mercy, we must show mercy to those who have sinned against us. Like our Father in heaven, we should be more willing to show mercy than the offender was willing to sin against us. Thomas Watson observes,

Thus Stephen the proto-martyr, “He kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). When he prayed for himself he stood—but when he came to pray for his enemies, he kneeled down, to show, says Bernard, his earnestness in prayer and how greatly he desired that God would forgive them. This is a rare kind of mercy. “It is a man’s glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). Mercy in forgiving injuries, as it is the touchstone, so the crown of Christianity. Cranmer was of a merciful disposition. If any who had wronged him came to ask a favor from him, he would do all that lay in his power for him, insomuch that it grew to a proverb: “Do Cranmer an injury and he will be your friend as long as he lives.” To “overcome evil with good,” and answer malice with mercy is truly heroic, and renders piety glorious in the eyes of all.

In sum, ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).”

–Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 154–155.

“The presence of God in the pressures of His people” by Stephen Charnock

“The omnipresence of God is a comfort in sharp afflictions. Good men have a comfort in this presence in their nasty prisons, oppressing tribunals; in the overflowing waters or scorching flames, He is still with them, (Isa. 43:2).

And many times, by His presence, He keeps the bush from consuming, when it seems to be all in a flame. In afflictions, God shows Himself most present when friends are most absent: ‘When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord shall take me up,’ (Ps. 27:10).

Then God will stoop and gather me into His protection; Heb. ‘shall gather me,’ alluding to those tribes that were to bring up the rear in the Israelites’ march, to take care that none were left behind, and exposed to famine or wild beasts, by reason of some disease that disenabled them to keep pace with their brethren.

He that is the sanctuary of His people in all calamities is more present with them to support them, than their adversaries can be present with them, to afflict them: ‘A present help in the time of trouble,’ (Ps. 46:2).

He is present with all things for this end; though His presence be a necessary presence, in regard of the immensity of His nature, yet the end of this presence, in regard that it is for the good of His people, is a voluntary presence.

It is for the good of man He is present in the lower world, and principally for the good of His people, for whose sake He keeps up the world: (2 Chron. 16:9), ‘His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him.’

If he doth not deliver good men from afflictions, He will be so present as to manage them in them, as that His glory shall issue from them, and their grace be brightened by them.

What a man was Paul, when he was lodged in a prison, or dragged to the courts of judicature; when he was torn with rods, or laden with chains! Then did he show the greatest miracles, made the judge tremble upon the bench, and break the heart, though not the prison, of the jailor,—so powerful is the presence of God in the pressures of His people.

This presence outweighs all other comforts, and is more valuable to a Christian than barns of corn or cellars of wine can be to a covetous man, (Ps. 4:7). It was this presence was David’s cordial in the mutinying of his soldiers, (1 Sam. 30:6).

What a comfort is this in exile, or a forced desertion of our habitations! Good men may be banished from their country, but never from the presence of their Protector; ye cannot say of any corner of the earth, or of any dungeon in a prison, God is not here.

If you were cast out of your country a thousand miles off, you are not out of God’s precinct. His arm is there to cherish the good, as well as to drag out the wicked.

It is the same God, the same presence in every country, as well as the same sun, moon, and stars.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse Upon God’s Omnipresence,” in The Existence and Attributes of God, in The Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2010), 1: 451–452.

“He will never leave us” by Garry J. Williams

“As God, the Son is omnipresent in his divine essence. As man, the same Son is present in just one place at a time, now at the right hand of God the Father (Heb. 1:3). In his speech in Acts 7 Stephen defends himself from the charge that he denounced the temple.

He does not deny that the temple was the dwelling place of God, but he does recount various ways in which God had met his people in other places before and beyond the temple, even on Gentile ground in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the wilderness.

Toward the end of his speech Stephen sees heaven itself opened and Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. He is the new temple (John 2:18–22), the dwelling place of God, now in the heavenly home of God’s glory. There is a new place where God dwells, and it is in the heavenly Jesus.

Given this, how could Jesus himself promise his disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20)? If he is in heaven, and heaven is the place of glory, how can he be with us here below in the goodness and grace of his human nature?

John Calvin puts the answer beautifully: “The coming of the Spirit and the ascent of Christ are antithetical.” When Christ ascends, he sends the Holy Spirit down to be with us.

Because the Spirit is his Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), he mediates Christ’s presence to us. The Son is with us to the end of the age by the Spirit.

Does this then mean that we always have our Brother with us, but not our Father? Do we have only the goodness and grace of the Son with us but not the goodness and grace of the Father?

Is God the Father ever-present with us only in his essence (as he is present even to the lost), but not as our loving Father? This does not follow, because as the Son is present in his goodness and grace by the Spirit, so the Father is present in his goodness and grace by the Son.

The Spirit makes the Son present to us, and in doing that makes the Father present to us as well, because the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father (John 14:10).

The persons of the Godhead indwell one another, so that by having the Son in us by the Spirit, we have the Father in us by the Son.

Our Brother and Father together come to dwell in us: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

Because the Son has promised us that he will never leave, we have the same assurance from the Father, who is in him.”

–Garry J. Williams, His Love Endures Forever: Reflections on the Immeasurable Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 90–91.

“The most excellent study for expanding the soul” by Charles Spurgeon

“It has been said by some one that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead.

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.

Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’

No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity.

Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.

I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary.

Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.

It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. We shall present you with one view of it,—that is the immutability of the glorious Jehovah.

“I am,” says my text, “Jehovah,” (for so it should be translated) “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ (Malachi 3:6)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Immutability of God,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Volume 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 1. Spurgeon preached this sermon from Malachi 3:6 on January 7, 1855. He was twenty years old.