Growing in Holiness

A brief summary of Thomas Brooks’ The Crown and Glory of Christianity, on the chapter “Eight means, helps, and directions for progress in holiness“.  If ever we would attain to higher degrees of holiness, he encourages us to:

  1. Labour to be more and more sensible of your spiritual wants and deficiencies of grace and holiness.
  2. Set the Lord always before your eyes, set yourselves always as in his presence, under His all-seeing eye, Ps. 41:12; 1 Sam. 2:1,3.
  3. Be most in with them that are most eminent and excellent in holiness.  Let the delight and joy of your hearts run most out to them who are still adding to their stock of holiness.  The prayers, the conferences, the counsels and all the carriages of a man eminent in holiness, will mightily help on the work of holiness in their hearts, where the streams of holiness runs but low.
    • Thomas Watson said, “Association begets assimilation.”
  4. Let those be thy choicest companions who have made Christ their chief companion.
    • As young plants will not thrive under dropping trees, such as are weak in holiness will never thrive so long as they only associate themselves with those that are weak . . . Look not so much at their external garb as at their internal worth; and always make them your choicest and your chiefest companions, who do most excel in grace and holiness.  Their tongues, their lips, their lives, will still be a-dropping divine marrow and fatness, and therefore be sure to keep most in with them.
  5. Be much in the exercise and actings of that holiness you have . . . as the frequent actings of sin is the strengthening of sin, so the frequent actings of holiness is the strengthening of holiness.
    • Look, as the non-exercise of holiness brings upon the soul a decay of holiness, so the exercise breeds in the soul an increase of holiness.  Holiness is always made more and more perfect by acting.
    • Look, as the running water is the best and sweetest water, so the active Christian is the best and sweetest Christian.
    • That musical instrument always makes the sweetest melody that is most frequently used, and so doth that Christian that is most frequent in the exercise of grace and holiness.  (e.g. fire being preserved and maintained by blowing and stirring of it up, so holiness is preserved and maintained in the soul by being stirred and blown up in the soul.)
  6. Be much in secret prayer, be much in closet duties, Matt. 6:5,9.
  7. Fall with all your might upon subduing and crucifying your most raging corruptions, and your most daring lusts.
  8. Dwell much upon the holiness of God . . . always keep a fixed eye upon the infinite and most glorious holiness of God.
    • God is essentially holy, unmixedly (pure) holy, universally holy (in all his ways and works), eminently holy, and originally, radically, and fundamentally holy, independently holy, constantly holy, exemplarily holy.

The Weary-Wayfarer

Today I am happy to share a guest blog below written by Vicki Joy Anderson.  She has written a poetry book, The Weary Wayfarer; A Pilgrim’s Progress Retold in Rhyme.  The poem is 1,678 stanzas (in homage to the year the book was first published) and contains the entire unabridged volume in iambic pentameter stanzas.

The Weary-Wayfarer
A Guest Blog by Vicki Joy Anderson

I spent the last two years meticulously rewriting The Pilgrim’s Progress into a poem. It was a labor of love. I often asked myself as I was writing, “Why does this archaic tome still have an audience in the modern world?” Indeed, it breaks every current rule of authorship and would likely get a pass from every major publisher today. And yet, here we are, three-hundred and thirty-nine years after its first publication and the book has never once been out of print. Why?

The fight of faith is a lonely venture.

In a world full of mega churches and Facebook friends, this fact is often forgotten; but try as we might to flood ourselves beneath a flurry of fellowship and fun–faith is a feat of solitude. Christian does manage to find two good friends along the way–Hopeful and Faithful. Two friends? This must seem foreign, if not sad, to a modern audience. But Christian’s lonesome journey—though it may fail to connect with the modern mind—finds its mark in every human soul. Because no matter how many friends we have, there is that realization, deep down, that despite the enormity of the Church, Christianity is still, and always will be, a lonesome venture.

I remember as a teenager going to my mom, crying, and confessing that I was lonely because it was difficult to find Christian friends at my large, public high school. She told me something I have never forgotten. She compared following Christ to going to the beach. If you just wanted to get your toes wet with Christ, you could lay out on the hot sand, enjoy the sun on your face, and listen to the laughter of hundreds of other people all around you. But if you truly wanted Him–all of Him–he was the buried treasure on the floor of the ocean. To get to that treasure, you would have to leave all of the comforts of the sun and sand and laughter and venture out alone into the sea. The deeper you swam, the darker and colder it would become. The pressure of the water would become difficult to swim against. And the two or three friends who may have started out on the venture with you are now long gone. “What do you want?” she concluded. “The sunshine or the treasure?”

When life is good and the kids are healthy and the bills are getting paid, there is no end to the friends, fellowship, and fun. But for any of you who have suffered a long season of sorrow, you have come to learn what Christian knew, and that is that the modern-day Church, like the world around it, has a very short attention span. Christ alone has the ability to long-suffer with us through every second of grief and every hour of loss–even when those seconds and hours turn into years and then decades. Christ is not preoccupied with His own pain or bored by our broken-record repetitions. He is not agitated by our anger or reproachful of our raw emotion. Christ knows deep sorrow. When wrapped in flesh, He wrestled against agony, loss, and rejection. His empathy is an endless well of strength for us to draw from in seasons of suffering. His grace is sufficient. He could stop there–with Himself. But oftentimes, He does not. He knows our weaknesses, that we are made of dust. And so, like Christian, He gives us a couple of faithful companions along the way, a House Beautiful for a season of respite, and a scroll in our bosom to remind us of our reward.

How is it that three-and-a-half centuries later, modern believers can read of Christian’s plight and feel akin to this lonely man? Perhaps it is because there, buried beneath the barrage of busyness, we too are that lonely man. Christian found hope and respite along his weary path and so will we. Press on, fellow saints! Our goal is the Wicket-gate! Our goal is the treasure on the ocean floor. Our goal is Christ alone.

Please click here for a poem excerpt taken from Chapter 1 of The Weary Wayfarer; A Pilgrim’s Progress Retold in Rhyme by Vicki Joy Anderson.

Matthew Henry on the New Year

On the first day of January 1713, Matthew Henry wrote the following words that is applicable as we recently entered 2017:

Firmly believing that my times are in God’s hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year to the wise and gracious disposal of the divine providence.  Whether God appoint for me health or sickness, peace or trouble, comforts or crosses, life or death, his holy will be done.

All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus; my studies and all my ministerial labors, and even my common actions.  It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor, that Jesus Christ may be magnified in my body.

In everything wherein I have to do with God, my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength and righteousness.  And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in his name, to make him my Alpha and Omega.  I have all by him, and I would use all for him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year upon my account, I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon him, his everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year, my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus.  And with a humble reliance upon his mediation, I would venture into another world looking for the blessed hope.  Dying as well as living, Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep in me always a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity, together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for both righteousness and strength.

Matthew Henry’s writing excerpted from J. B. Williams’ Memoirs of the Life, Character, and Writings of the Rev. Matthew Henry.

Be Not Vexed

This quotation by a 17th-century pastor, Willem Teellinck, is encouraging in light of today’s news and event (from Redeeming the Time, p. 36):

When you begin to consider the things which are happening all over the world, always remember that the Lord is working in them.  He who can bring light out of darkness, will yet from the completed and combined work bring forth something glorious.  Be not therefore too much vexed that there appears somewhere to come an ill stroke in your own affairs, or in the affairs of God’s people in your day, as is now the case; for the Lord would not permit this to take place, did He not mean to use it as a background to give the whole work a more beautiful lustre.

Of Two Moral Evils Choose Neither

“. . . Instead of being fixed by their favourite poster, ‘of two evils choose the least,’ I say . . . when you give me the choice of two moral evils, I can choose neither of them.  If I have the choice of two physical evils, I will choose the least.  If I am asked whether I would choose to lose a toe or a leg, I would choose to part with a toe; but if I am asked whether I would desecrate the Sabbath by steam or by horse power, I say I would do neither.  There is a dangerous and deadly fallacy lurking beneath this common maxim, against which I would warn all; for of two moral evils we must choose neither–we are not at liberty to do evil that good may come.”  —William Symington, Speech of the Rev. Dr. Symington at the great meeting, for protesting against the desecration of the Sabbath by the running of trains on the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway on the Lord’s day, held in the City Hall, Glasgow, February 26, 1842

Keep the Heart as Keeping a Garden

From Thomas Watson’s Sermon, The Spiritual Watch:

Keep your heart as you would keep a garden.  Your heart is a garden (Song of Solomon 4:12); weed all sin out of your heart.  Among the flowers of the heart, weeds will be growing—the weeds of pride, malice, and covetousness: these grow without planting and cultivating.  Therefore be weeding your heart daily by prayer, examination, and repentance.

Weeds hinder the herbs and flowers from growing; the weeds of corruption—hinder the growth of grace.  Where the weed of unbelief grows—it hinders the flower of faith from growing.

Weeds spoil the walkways.  Christ will not walk in a heart overgrown with weeds and briars.  Christ was sometimes among the lilies (Song of Solomon 6:3)—but never among the thistles.

James Durham on Providence

Reading a troubling news yesterday made this quotation poignant to me:

“And therefore: Let us stay our faith here, that our Lord is still working in all these confusions.  And when matters are turned upside down to human appearance, our blessed Lord is not nonplussed and at a stand when we are; he knows well what he is doing, and will make all things most certainly, infallibly, and infrustrably to work for his own glory, and for the good of his people.” –James Durham, Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53, Sermon 34 (on Isa. 53.9), p. 358

A World of Thought

Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

Bishop Joseph Hall, Meditation on the Sight of a Large Library:

What a world of wit is here packed up together! I know not whether this sight doth more dismay or comfort me. It dismays me to think that here is so much that I cannot know; it comforts me to think that this variety affords so much assistance to know what I should. There is no truer word than that of Solomon; There is no end of making many books. This sight verifies it. There is no end: indeed it were a pity there should . . . What a happiness is it that, without the aid of necromancy, I can here call up any of the ancient Worthies of Learning, whether human or divine, and confer with them upon all my doubts; that I can at pleasure summon whole synods of reverend Fathers and acute Doctors from all the coasts of the earth, to give their well-studied judgments in all doubtful points which I propose! Nor can I cast my eye casually upon any of these silent masters but I must learn somewhat. It is a wantonness to complain of choice. No law binds us to read all; but the more we can take in and digest, the greater will be our improvement.

Blessed be God who hath set up so many clear lamps in his church: now, none, but the wilfully blind can plead darkness. And blessed be the memory of those, his faithful servants, who have left their blood, their spirits, their lives, in these precious papers; and have willingly wasted themselves into these enduring monuments to give light to others.

From John Flavel’s Epistle to the Reader in preface to The Righteous Man’s Refuge:

If Heinsius, when he had shut up himself in the library at Leyden, reckoned himself placed in the very lap of eternity, because he conversed there with so many Divine souls, and professed, he took his seat in it with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that he heartily pitied all the great and rich men of the world, that were ignorant of the happiness he there daily enjoyed: How much more may that soul rejoice in its own happiness, who hath shut himself up in the chambers of the Divine Attributes, and exercise pity for the exposed and miserable multitude that are left as a prey to the temptations and troubles of the world.

One-Year Reading Plan for Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour

I came across a one-year reading plan of William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour.  It could seem a bit intimidating to tackle this unabridged volume of 1,100+ pages.  The grand theme of this book is spiritual warfare and how the Christian can furnish with ‘spiritual arms for the battle’ against the Satanic foe.

Sin never relaxes.  It never takes a vacation.  Our indwelling sin doesn’t lie down and wake up the next moment.  The Puritan John Owen wrote that sin may be most active when it seems to be the most dormant to us, hence we must be vigilant and vigorous against it in our spiritual warfare at all times and in all conditions, even when there is least suspicion.

The reading plan (page 1, 2, 3) breaks it down into manageable chunks of reading only a few pages per day (thanks to this webpage).  Because it is a 5-day-a-week reading plan, it allows two days within the week to catch up if needed or to reflect on what has been read throughout the week.