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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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“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.

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“Whatsoever is in God is God” by Thomas Brooks

“Premise this with me, that God is essentially holy, and in this sense, none is holy but Himself. Now essential holiness is all one with God Himself.

God’s essential holiness is God’s conformity to Himself. Holiness in God is not a quality, but His essence. Quicquid est in Deo, est ipse Deus, Whatsoever is in God, is God.

Holiness in angels and saints is but a quality, but in God it is His essence. The fallen angels keep their natures, though they have lost their holiness; for that holiness in them was a quality, and not their essence.

Look, as created holiness is the conformity of the reasonable creature to the rule, so the uncreated holiness of God is God’s conformity unto Himself.

God’s holiness and His nature are not two things, they are but one.

God’s holiness is His nature, and God’s nature is His holiness. God is a pure act, and therefore, whatsoever is in God is God.

It is God’s prerogative royal to be essentially holy. The most glorious creatures in heaven, and the choicest souls on earth, are only holy by participation: ‘There is none holy as the Lord,’ (1 Sam. 2:2).

God’s holiness is so essential and co-natural to Him, that He can as soon cease to be, as cease to be holy. Holiness in God is a substance, but in angels and men it is only an accident, or a quality.

The essence of the creature may remain when the holiness of the creature is lost, as you may see in Adam, and the fallen angels; but God’s essence and His holiness are alwa

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“Rest time is not waste time” by Charles Spurgeon

“As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, (2 Samuel 21:15) so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us.

Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.

There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust.

Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.

Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust?

Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment. To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin—are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth?

The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep. How can we be otherwise than sorrowful, while men believe not our report, and the divine arm is not revealed?

All mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the flesh; but ours is more than mental work—it is heart work, the labour of our inmost soul.

How often, on Lord’s-Day evenings, do we feel as if life were completely washed out of us! After pouring out our souls over our congregations, we feel like empty earthen pitchers which a child might break.

Probably, if we were more like Paul, and watched for souls at a nobler rate, we should know more of what it is to be eaten up by the zeal of the Lord’s house. It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus.

We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh.

Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail. Moses’ hands grew heavy in intercession, and Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

Even John the Baptist is thought to have had his fainting fits, and the apostles were once amazed, and were sore afraid.

There can be little doubt that sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions. To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature.

But add to this a badly-ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog.

Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the wardens of a jail, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy.

He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.

A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.

The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary.

For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim. In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour, the same affliction may be looked for.

The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. Our Sabbaths are our days of toil, and if we do not rest upon some other day we shall break down.

Even the earth must lie fallow and have her Sabbaths, and so must we. Hence the wisdom and compassion of our Lord, when he said to his disciples, “Let us go into the desert and rest awhile.”

What! when the people are fainting? When the multitudes are like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd? Does Jesus talk of rest?

When Scribes and Pharisees, like grievous wolves, are rending the flock, does he take his followers on an excursion into a quiet resting place?

Does some red-hot zealot denounce such atrocious forgetfulness of present and pressing demands? Let him rave in his folly. The Master knows better than to exhaust his servants and quench the light of Israel.

Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. Look at the mower in the summer’s day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets.

He pauses in his labour— is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with “rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink.”

Is that idle music— is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe!

But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him.

Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause. Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service.

To tug the oar from day to day, like a galley-slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill-streams go on and on for ever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals.

Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission?

Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintry months; and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigour or grow prematurely old.

It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.

On, on, on for ever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.

Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for awhile, but learn from the experience of others the necessity and duty of taking timely rest.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1875/2008), 179, 182, 183, 184, 186-188.

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“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.

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“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.

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“Christ has invited you to His own table abounding in all good things” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Do you wish to be happy? If you wish, I shall show you how you may be happy.

Continue to read that passage: ‘How long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity and seek after lying? Know ye—.’ What?—‘that the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful.’ (Psalm 4:3-5)

Christ came to our miseries. He was hungry and thirsty; He was weary and He slept; He worked wonders and He suffered evils; He was scourged, crowned with thorns, covered with spittle, beaten with cudgels, fixed to a cross, wounded with a lance, placed in a tomb.

But He rose again on the third day when His work was finished and death was dead. Lo, keep your eye fixed on His Resurrection, because ‘the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful’ to such a degree that He raised Him from the dead, and bestowed upon Him the honor of sitting at His right hand in heaven.

He showed you what you ought to attend to, if you wish to be happy, for here on earth you cannot be happy. In this life you cannot be happy; no one can.

You seek what is good, but earth is not the source of that which you seek. What are you seeking? A happy life. But it is not available here.

If you were looking for gold in a place where it did not exist, would not he who knew that it was not there say to you: ‘Why are you digging? Why are you plowing up the earth? You are digging a trench to descend into a place where you will find nothing.’ What are you going to answer the one who proffers you this advice? ‘I am looking for gold.’ And he answers: ‘I do not tell you that what you seek is of no importance, but I do say that it is not in the place where you are looking for it.’

Likewise, when you say: ‘I desire to be happy,’ [the answer may be given:] ‘You seek what is good, but it is not in this place.’

If Christ had happiness here, so also will you. But notice what He found in this land of your death. When He came from another region, what did He find here except what abounds here?

With you He ate what is plentiful in the cellar of your wretchedness. He drank vinegar here; He had gall, too. Behold, what He found in your cellar!

However, He has invited you to His own table abounding in all good things, the table of heaven, the table of the angels where He Himself is the bread.

Coming, then, and finding these unpalatable viands in your cellar, He did not disdain such a table as yours, but He promised you His own. And what does He say to us? ‘Believe, just believe that you will come to the good things of My table inasmuch as I did not scorn the poor things of your table.’

He accepted your evil; will He not give you His good? Certainly He will. He promised His life to us; but what He has done is more unbelievable.

He offered His own life to us, as if to say:

‘I invite you to My life where no one dies, where life is truly blessed, where food is not corrupted, where it refreshes and does not fail. Behold the place to which I invite you, to the abode of the angels, to the friendship of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, to the eternal banquet, to My companionship, finally, to Me Myself and to My life do I invite you. Do you not wish to believe that I will give you My life? Take My death as a pledge.’

Now, therefore, while we are living in this corruptible flesh, by changing our ways, let us die with Christ; by loving justice, let us live with Christ.

We shall not gain the happy life unless we shall have come to Him who came to us and unless we shall have begun to live with Him who died for us.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 231: On the Resurrection according to St. Mark,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 207-209.

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