“For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“I trust that your own studies get on well, dear friend.

Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.

He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams.

Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.

Cry after divine knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasure, according to the word in Prov. 2:4.

See that verse 10 (Prov. 2:10) be fulfilled in you.

Let wisdom enter into your hearts, and knowledge be pleasant to thy soul; so you will be delivered from the snares mentioned in the following verses.

Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.

Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

I must now commend you all to God and the word of His grace. My dear people are just assembled for worship.

Alas! I cannot preach to them tonight. I can only carry them and you on my heart to the throne of grace. Write me soon.

Ever yours,

Robert Murray M’Cheyne”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 293.

“The oil of prayer” by William Gurnall

“The Christian’s armour will rust, except it be furbished and scoured with the oil of prayer.”

–William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1662/2002), 2: 289.

“Meditation is not an option for the Christian reader of Holy Scripture” by Scott Swain

“Meditation represents the reflective moment of biblical interpretation. In meditation, we seek to understand a given text of Scripture in light of Scripture’s overarching message.

Ultimately, Scripture is a single book, written by one divine author, concerning one central subject matter (Christ and covenant), and with one ultimate aim (the love of God and neighbor).

Therefore, if we wish to understand what God is saying in a given text, we must attend to the ultimate context of His self-communication, Scripture as a whole.

Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for searching the Law of Moses to find eternal life while failing to see that the Law of Moses bore witness to his person and work (Jn 5:39). When he appeared to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, and later to the eleven, Jesus rebuked their failure to understand the prophets and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:25–27; cf. 44–47).

Meditation, then, is not an option for the Christian reader of Holy Scripture. Because Christ has come,

“the seals are broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light—that Christ, God’s Son became man, that God is Three in One, that Christ suffered for us, and will reign forever.” (Martin Luther)

In the light of these gospel realities—the unveiling of the triune God, Christ’s incarnation, atonement, and enthronement—the whole of scriptural teaching is illumined (cf. 2 Cor. 3–4).

We may not therefore assume that we have understood any text of the Bible properly until we have considered how it pertains to Jesus Christ and His messianic dominion.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 129-130.

“Stop and listen” by Scott Swain

“Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what He says.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 128.

“The most precious promise that exists for the reader of Holy Writ” by Scott Swain

“It is striking how many times in Psalm 119—an extended meditation on God’s written Word, the Torah—the psalmist begs for divine assistance in order that he might understand and obey God’s word.

The following list is merely representative, not exhaustive:

  • Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes (Psalm 119:5).
  • Let me not wander from your commandments (Psalm 119:10).
  • Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes (Psalm 119:12).
  • Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word (Psalm 119:17).
  • Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).
  • Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law (Psalm 119:29).
  • I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32).
  • Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end (Psalm 119:33).

The psalmist prays for an obedience that is steadfast (Psalm 119:5) and consistent (Psalm 119:10), that excels (Psalm 119:32) and perseveres (Psalm 119:33).

He also acknowledges his dependence upon divine grace for spiritual perception (Psalm 119:18), receptivity (Psalm 119:32), and understanding (Psalm 119:12, 29, 33).

Prayer is the most rational possible course of action for the Christian reader of Holy Scripture. After all, in Holy Scripture we face a grand and glorious terrain of revealed truth, so wonderful that the possibility of taking it all in is immediately ruled out.

And yet, we are called to meditate on this Word (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2), to walk in it (Ps. 119:1), and to praise it (Ps. 56:4, 10). The sheer magnitude of scriptural teaching alone makes our calling impossible apart from divine assistance.

Add to this our innate blindness, our fallen will and passions, and our tendency toward sloth in this calling and the desperate nature of our situation as readers becomes quite clear.

If there is to be any possibility of success in reading Holy Scripture, the Spirit of truth and light must shine upon us: opening our eyes, renewing our wills, and awakening us to action.

The good news is that God has promised to bless our reading. Thus Paul encourages Timothy: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7).

This is perhaps the most precious promise that exists for the reader of Holy Writ. We may confidently apply ourselves to this otherwise impossible task because God has promised to grant us success—“the Lord will give you understanding.”

According to Whitaker:

“He that shall be content to make such a use of these means, and will lay aside his prejudices and party zeal, which many bring with them to every question, will be enabled to gain an understanding of the scriptures, if not in all places, yet in most; if not immediately, yet ultimately.”

In prayer, exegetical reason takes its proper place and, like Mary, sits at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 10:39). And because it is confident in God’s fatherly generosity, exegetical reason asks, seeks, knocks—and finds (Lk. 11:10–13).”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 125–127.

“This happy victory” – The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

“O Almighty God,

The sovereign commander of all the world, in whose hand is power and might which none is able to withstand:

We bless and magnify Thy great and glorious name for this happy victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to Thee, who art the only giver of victory.

And, we beseech Thee, give us grace to improve this great mercy to Thy glory, the advancement of Thy gospel, the honour of our nation, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind.

And, we beseech Thee, give us such a sense of this great mercy, as may engage us to a true thankfulness, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, and obedient walking before Thee all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Spirit, as for all Thy mercies, so in particular for this victory and deliverance, be all glory and honour, world without end.

Amen.”

–Samuel L. Bray and Drew Nathaniel Keane, eds., The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, International Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021), 576.

“A sight of the glory, beauty, and love of King Jesus” by John Newton

“I hope your souls prosper, and that the Lord hears from you and you from Him often.

And I hope that you both live a life of faith in the Son of God, are strong in His might, and comforted by refreshing views of His glory.

The great secret of our profession, (oh, that I could learn it better!) is to be looking at Jesus.

I am a stranger to the court; but I am told that those who wait there form themselves into little parties, have their own conversation, or make their remarks upon what passes, till the king appears; then every thing is hushed and dropped, and their attention is fixed upon him alone.

Oh, that thus by the eye of faith we might obtain such a sight of the glory, beauty, and love of King Jesus, as might unite our scattered thoughts, and attract all our powers and affections to Himself.

But, alas! we are prone (at least I may speak for myself) to forsake the fountain of living waters, and to hew out broken cisterns.

Instead of receiving Him, I am often looking in myself for something to enable me to do without Him, or at least for something to strengthen the warrant He has given me in His word to come to Him.

The Lord be merciful to my unbelief and slowness of heart; though taught and warned again and again, I am frequently repeating the old mistake, and seeking the living among the dead.

I have some faint idea of the life of faith, and can talk a little about it; but to experience myself the power of what I preach to others, this is too often what I find not.

Yet I must praise Him. If I did not, might not the very stones cry out and shame me?

For surely He hath dealt marvelously with me.

He found me in a waste howling wilderness, in more than the prodigal’s distress, with my heart full of madness and rebellion, and beset with horror on every side.

In this state I was when He first passed by me, and bid me live.

He sent from on high, and delivered me out of deep waters. And, oh, what has He not done for me since!

Given me to know, yea, to preach, His Gospel, cast my lot in a pleasant place, filled and surrounded me with mercies on every side.

And He has spoken good concerning me for a great while to come, even forever and ever. Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Come, my dear friends, and magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 74-75.

“Where our warfare and tears shall cease forever” by John Newton

“Rejoice, therefore, my dear friends, that you are God’s husbandry.

The early and the latter rain, and the cheerful beams of the Sun of Righteousness, are surely promised to ripen your souls for glory;—but storms and frosts likewise are useful and seasonable in their places, though we perhaps may think we could do better without them.

In our bright and lively frames, we learn what God can do for us; in our dark and dull hours, we feel how little we can do without Him; and both are needful to perfect our experience and to establish our faith.

At one time we are enabled to rejoice in God; at another we are seeking after Him sorrowing: these different seasons are equally good in their turns, though not equally comfortable; and there is nothing we need fear but security, carelessness, and presumption.

To think ourselves rich and increased with goods, or to suppose we are safe a moment longer than while depending upon Jesus would be dangerous.

Let us pray the Lord to keep us from such a mistake; and, as to the rest, we shall do well.

Let us be faithful and diligent in the use of all appointed means, especially in secret exercises, and then leave Him to lead us as He pleaseth.

And, though our path should lie through the fire or through the water, we may trust His power and love to bring us safely through, and at last to fix us in a wealthy place, where our warfare and tears shall cease forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 64-65.

“The glorious assembly” by John Newton

“The day must come when all creature-comforts shall vanish.

And when we view things in the light of eternity, it seems comparatively of small moment whether it is this year or twenty years hence.

If we are interested in the covenant of grace; if Jesus is our beloved, and heaven our home; we may be cast down for a little season, but we cannot be destroyed; nay, we shall not be overpowered.

Our faithful God will surely make our strength equal to our day.

He that has delivered, and does deliver, will deliver to the end; and it will not be long before he will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Therefore let us not fear: whatever sufferings may be yet appointed for us, they shall work together for our good; and they are but light and momentary in comparison of that exceeding and eternal weight of glory to which we are drawing nearer every hour.

Well, the day is coming when all the Lord’s people who are scattered abroad, who praise him in different ages and different languages, shall be collected together, and stand with one heart, consent, and voice before the throne.

Oh, the glorious assembly! how white are their robes, how resplendent their crowns, how melodious their harps!

Every hour the chorus is augmented by the accession of fresh voices; and ere long we hope to join them.

Then shall we remember the way by which the Lord led us through this dark wilderness; and shall see that all our afflictions, our heaviest afflictions, were tender mercies, no less than our most pleasing comforts.

What we shall then see, it is now our privilege and duty to believe.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 62-63.

“We are traveling towards a land of light” by John Newton

“You have lately been in the furnace, and are now brought safely out. I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross.

Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times.

Other trials will come; but you have found the Lord faithful to His promise, and have good encouragement to trust Him again.

You know your weak side; endeavour to set a double guard of prayer there.

Our earthly comforts would be doubly sweet, if we could but venture them without anxiety in the Lord’s hands.

And where can we lodge them so safely?

Is not the first gift, the continuance, the blessing which makes them pleasing, all from Him?

Was not His design in all this, that we should be happy in them?

How then can we fear that He will threaten them, much less take them away, but with a view to our farther benefit?

Let us suppose the thing we are most afraid of actually to happen. Can it come a moment sooner, or in any other way, than by His appointment?

Is He not gracious and faithful to support us under the stroke?

Is He not rich enough to give us something better than ever He will take away?

Is not the light of His countenance better than life and all its most valued enjoyments?

Is not this our time of trial, and are we not traveling towards a land of light?

I think when we view things in the light of eternity, it is much the same whether the separating stroke arrives at the end of seven or seventy years; since, come when it will, it must and will be felt.

But one draught of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand will make us forget our sorrows forever; or the remembrance, if any, will only serve to heighten our joys.

What is more, what life did He lead whom we call our Master and our Lord?

Was not He a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?

Has He marked out one way to heaven with His painful footsteps, and shall we expect, or even wish, to walk in another?

With such considerations as these, we should endeavour to arm our minds, and pray to the Lord to fix a sense of them in our hearts, and to renew it from time to time; that, when changes are either feared or felt, we may not be like the people of the world, who have no hope, no refuge, no throne of grace, but may be enabled to glorify our God in the fire, and give proof that His grace is sufficient for us in every state.

It is neither comfortable for ourselves, nor honourable to our profession, to startle at every shaking leaf.

If we are sensible of this, mourn over our infirmities before the Lord, and faithfully strive in prayer against the fear that easily besets us, then He can, and He will, strengthen us with strength in our souls, and make us more than conquerors, according to His sure promise.

Oh, that I could improve the present, and cheerfully commit the future to Him who does all things wisely and well, and has promised that all shall work together for good! (Rom. 8:28)”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 59-61.