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.
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.
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:
. . . 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.
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.
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
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.
I found a one-year reading plan for 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 (available here) breaks it down into manageable chunks of reading only a few pages per day. 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.
Came across this super charming picture. I like the details that went into it. The thick black-framed glasses adorning the girl’s face, along with two pigtails. The piles of books. Her little hands framing an overwhelmed facial expression. Her dainty, old-fashioned, retro dress. She could be a mini Librarian.
This picture somehow reminds me of a time, when I was perhaps an eight- or nine-year-old girl, browsing through my Dad’s bookshelves at home. At that age I didn’t have the capacity to fully comprehend what I was trying to read from those books, but I’ve always loved books for as long as I can remember. I recall turning the pages, pondering what was being written and thinking along the lines of, “When I grow up someday, maybe I’ll then be able to read many books and understand what I read . . .”
“I’ve traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.”
If I were to pick any Baptist preacher in Church history whom I’d like to meet, the beloved “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon would be amongst the top of my list. I was often blessed upon reading his sermons, for he has a way with words that can encourage the soul. He provides concrete examples with which his layman audience could easily understand. His diction and delivery are inspirational; they enhance the beauty and force of his message. After reading Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, I’ve come to appreciate also his character, wit, and humor, for Spurgeon showed with his ready humor how it is possible for the highest spirituality to be exemplified in the cheeriest character. His wit is as abundant as his wisdom.
Some favorite sayings and writings of Spurgeon which I find rather memorable (some are funny, and others edifying)…
Spurgeon was well-known as a cigar smoker, mostly for medicinal reasons as he faced certain health problems in his life. He didn’t view cigar smoking as intrinsically wrong, if not in excess, and said he would quit if he finds himself smoking too much. One time someone, who was particularly critical of Spurgeon, asked him how much is “too much”; to which Spurgeon replied, “Two at a time, of course.” 🙂
On head of family:
One time, in speaking to a couple getting married, he encouraged that they would both be “dearly-beloved” not only at the beginning of their marriage, but all through the end; and that, while their sorrows would be mutually shared, their joys would all be multiplied. Referring to Ephesians 5:23, he addressed the bride and said:
“According to the teaching of the apostle, ‘The husband is the head of the wife.’ Don’t you try to be the head; but you be the neck, then you can turn the head whichever way you like.”
On his age:
Spurgeon had incredible oratory skills. On his first effort at preaching in the pulpit, an elderly woman, who was enthusiastic of his preaching, cried out, “Bless your heart, how old are you?” He replied that there should not be interruption in the service. After the last hymn was sung she asked the same question again. He replied, “I am under sixty.” “Yes, and under sixteen!” the lady replied. The congregation asked him to come and preach to them again as soon as possible.
On the truly Christian marriage:
From his sermon titled “The Saint One With His Savior” in which he beautifully describes a happy marriage and the true wife, all the while describing his beloved wife Susannah:
Sometimes we have seen a model marriage, founded on pure love, and cemented in mutual esteem. Therein, the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a true spouse, realizes the model marriage-relation, and sets forth what our oneness with the Lord ought to be. She delights in her husband, in his person, his character, his affection; to her, he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all-in-all; her heart’s love belongs to him, and to him only. She finds sweetest content and solace in his company, his fellowship, his fondness; he is her little world, her Paradise, her choice treasure. At any time, she would gladly lay aside her own pleasure to find it doubled in gratifying him. She is glad to sink her individuality in his. She seeks no renown for herself; his honor is reflected upon her, and she rejoices in it. She would defend his name with her dying breath; safe enough is he where she can speak for him. The domestic circle is her kingdom; that she may there create happiness and comfort, is her lifework; and his smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in her dress, she thinks of him; without constraint she consults his taste and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him.
A tear from his eye, because of any unkindness on her part, would grievously torment her. She asks not how her behavior may please a stranger, or how another’s judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content, and she is glad. He has many objects in life, some of which she does not quite understand; but she believes in them all, and anything she can do to promote them, she delights to perform. He lavishes love on her, and, in return, she lavishes love on him. Their object in life is common. There are points where their affections so intimately unite that none could tell which is first and which is second. To watch their children growing up in health and strength, to see them holding posts of usefulness and honor, is their mutual concern; in this and other matters, they are fully one. Their wishes blend, their hearts are indivisible. By degrees, they come to think very much the same thoughts. Intimate association creates conformity; I have known this to become so complete that, at the same moment, the same utterance has leaped to both their lips.
Happy woman and happy man! If heaven be found on earth, they have it! At last the two are so welded, so engrafted on one stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment, a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh bonds of love. So happy a union of will, sentiment, thought, and heart exists between them, that the two streams of their life have washed away the dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of united existence, until their common joy falls into the main ocean of felicity.
A gentleman said to Spurgeon, “Ah! Mr. Spurgeon, I don’t agree with you about religion; I am an agnostic.” Spurgeon replied, “Yes! That is a Greek word, and the exact equivalent is ignoramus; if you like to claim that title, you are quite welcome to.”
On God’s providence:
From Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening; Or, Readings at Eventide for the Family or the Closet (p. 318):
Believer, if your inheritance be a lowly one, you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you. Unerring wisdom ordained your lot, and selected for you the safest and best condition. A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is sand-bank; should some one ask, “Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel, and deviate so much from a straight line?” his answer would be, “Because I should not get my vessel into harbor at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.” So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction, where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little; you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection. Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, “Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.” Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Down, busy self and proud impatience; it is not for you to choose, but for the Lord of Love!