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Piety Quotations Theological Reflections

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Accomplishing Salvation

I found this lovely quote in a paper by Mark Jones.

Thomas Goodwin, Works III, Man’s Restauration

I will chuse him to Life, saith the Father, but he will fall, and so fall short of what my Love designed to him: but I will redeem him, says the Son, out of that lost Estate: but yet being fallen he will refuse that grace, and the offers of it, and despise it, therefore I will Sanctify him, said the Holy Ghost, and overcome his unrighteousness, and cause him to accept it.

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Philosophical Points Piety Quotations Theological Reflections

A Cambridge Don, the Stagyrite, and the Increase of Holiness

C.S. Lewis, “Free” from Studies in Words

[Of Aristotle] Looking from his study window he sees the hens scratching in the dust, the pigs asleep, the dogs hunting for fleas; the slaves, any of them who are not at that very moment on some appointed task, flirting, quarrelling, cracking nuts, playing dice, or dozing. He, the master, may use them all for the common end, the well-being of the family. They themselves have no such end, nor any consistent end, in mind. Whatever in their lives is not compelled from above is random—dependent on the mood of the moment. His own life is quite different; a systematised round of religious, political, scientific, literary and social activities; its very hours of recreation (there’s an anecdote about them) deliberate, approved and allowed for; consistent with itself. But what is it in the structure of the universe that corresponds to this distinction between Aristotle, self-bound with the discipline of a freeman, and Aristotle’s slaves, negatively free with a servile freedom between each job and the next? I think there is no doubt of the answer. It is the things in the higher world of aether which are regular, immutable, consistent; those down here in the air that are subject to change, and chance and contingence. In the world, as in the household, the higher acts according to a fixed plan; the lower admits the ‘random’ element. The free life is to the servile as the life of the gods (the living stars) is to that of terrestrial creatures. This is so not because the truly free man ‘does what he likes’, but because he imitates, so far as a mortal can, the flawless and patterned regularity of the heavenly being, like them not doing what he likes but being what he is, being fully human as they are divine, and fully human by his likeness to them. For the crown of life—here we break right out of the cautious modesty of most Greek sentiment—is not ‘being mortal, to think mortal thoughts’ but rather ‘to immortalise as much as possible’ and by all means to live according to the highest element in oneself.

The bearing that this remarkable passage has on the doctrine of sanctification may be too obvious to need to be pointed out. But perhaps it would not come amiss to remark simply that being made free from sin and having become the servants of righteousness, we have indeed been brought into the large freedom of being what we are – the children of God.

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Piety Quotations

Theology is Piety

Karl Rahner, Thomas Aquinas: Monk, Theologian, and Mystic
One becoming a priest must be a theologian. Not a schoolboy who snakes his way through examinations because otherwise one won’t get ordained. We don’t need to be theological geniuses. But we have to be human beings and Christians who love theological knowledge, who are there for it with mind and heart. For us there can in the long run be no really spiritual life without an intellectual life. In theology we have to allow ourselves to be challenged as whole persons with all we are, with mind and heart, with the whole weight and seriousness of existence in our times, with all the experience of our lives. Not only what is written in schoolbooks belongs to theology.
But theology can only be pursued as preparation of the whole priestly person preaching later on, if there flows into it and there is elaborated in it whatever moves or what ought to have moved a cultivated person in the age in which God has placed us without our asking. Just as Thomas did, so must we. If the living God has spoken to us, and if theology is nothing but the exact listening to God’s revelation with every means of grace and nature available to a person, then we have to be theologians, or we are not in general what we should be. For us, theology is simply a part, an inner moment of the work of salvation on our own existence and that of others. Not just an academic affair.

Categories
Piety Preaching Quotations

Mary’s Eternity

A remarkable instance of valuable reflections upon an occasion of lies.

Karl Rahner, “The Assumption of Mary into Heaven”

Today we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Assumption. After her quiet death, the Blessed Virgin and mother of God entered, body and soul, into eternal life, the life of God himself. In Mary’s case, too, the fruit of death was life, and so this feast is also the anniversary day of a death. It is a question of that mysterious moment when time and eternity, transitoriness and immortality touch one another in the existence of one human being, the moment when a mortal person enters the house of her eternity. From this point of view we shall attempt to come a little closer to the mystery of this feast.
If we examine the life of a human being as it appears to us externally and immediately, we find in that life—as in all things—that common trait of being bound up with and limited by time. Everything breathes the breath of evanescence, every earthly thing lives only a moment, laboriously joining one tiny interval to the next, just as one breath follows the other, so that life may continue. And each period of time, each breath, can be the last. Each is born only for a little while, first one, and only then the next. As we seize the next, the first escapes from us, and no power calls it back to life again.
So, everything that we do—whether in the inner life of the soul or in the external works of the body—takes place in this temporal order. Everything is endlessly a coming and a going. People come into existence and pass away; they are born and they die. Everything that has its beginning here on earth must someday come to an end. The shout of joy will someday fade away; all misery will one day be wept out; someday all power will vanish like smoke. Vanity of vanities, moaned Qoheleth.
How strangely vain and puny, in a certain sense, must all our activity be: no matter how great it may have been, it cannot endure, but passes away. It hastens away as soon as possible to hide its insignificance in the empty darkness of the past. This is probably why human beings, whose hands tremble with greed and with secret horror in the face of death, snatch up in this short interval, in this short dream that we call life, as much pleasure and honor, power and knowledge as they can. But the vessel is narrow, and everything that we pour into it is finite. Both the wine of joy and the bitter water of suffering are always coming to nothing. Everything ends in death.
The immortal soul seems to be only the ground over which marches the ghastly procession of things and actions destined for death. The soul seems to exist only for this purpose, that the eternal succession of all thoughts, actions, and feelings that flutter past may be eternally accompanied by the painful knowledge of their transitory nature. The soul seems to exist only for the purpose of whispering to each moment of success the bitter truth that it shall pass away like the success that was previously experienced and seen to pass away. All living is dying.
Still there is something in these things that does not pass away. Every wave of time that seems to rise only to sink back as if it had never existed lifts something up that it does not take back again into the frightening emptiness of the past. In the indifference of all coming and going there mysteriously lives something full of meaning, something eternal: good and evil. It is as if every wave of time in its restless rise and fall is continually beating against the shore of eternity, and each wave, each moment of time, each human deed leaves there what is eternal in it: the good and the evil. Good and evil are things of eternity; they are eternity in the things of time.
It is at once a comforting and a frightful mystery: our deeds sink into nothingness, but before they die they give birth to an eternal property that does not disappear with them. The eternal goodness and badness of our perishable works sink down into the eternal “ground” of our imperishable soul, and shape this hidden ground. Even if new transitory waters keep rushing over this deep ground of the soul, neither time nor forgetting obliterates what goodness and badness have brought about in those depths. Only new goodness and repentance can make good what evil has done there for eternity; and only new evil can still destroy the hidden beauty of the goodness there. Only evil, not time; not what is transitory.
In this way the eternal countenance of our soul—and in it our eternal destiny—slowly develops while we exist in this transitory state. And then the moment comes when a person passes out of the temporal order into eternity. When this happens, a stream of transitoriness vanishes forever. The restless fluctuation of time ceases to surge over a soul in endless rise and fall, and it sets free the ground of the soul that until now was seen by God alone. The eternal countenance of the soul is now revealed—the countenance that was hidden in the depths, veiled by the haze of life on earth. What exists now, what has endured, is eternal; and we are eternal because of what we have thus become in time. This means that an individual travels the path of his or her life through time into an eternity that is no longer time.
Mary has traveled this path. Today we celebrate the day when for her time became eternity. She too led this life of transitoriness. With her as with all the children of the earth, life was a restless coming to be and passing away. Her life began quietly and obscurely, somewhere in a corner of Palestine, and soon it was snuffed out, gently, and the world knew it now. In between these two points, her life was filled with the same restless change that constitutes our life, and it was filled with the cares common to all Eve’s children: anxiety for bread, suffering and tears, and a few small joys.
So too were her hours measured out to her: a few hours of the utmost happiness in God her savior joined with many routine, ordinary hours of grief, one after another, lusterless, feeble, and seemingly so empty and dull. But finally all the hours, the sublime as well as the ordinary, had passed away; and they could all now appear as one insignificant whole, precisely because they could thus fade away into the past.
Mary’s life was a life of transitoriness, just like our own. And yet, in one respect it was entirely different. How enigmatic and incomprehensible our life is, not because of the darkness of fate—Mary, too, [345]had her share in this common loss—but because of guilt. This is what makes our life so paradoxical and so confused. In our life, the eternal that makes up a part of our moments is sometimes good, sometimes evil.
And when through God’s grace a moment of repentance blots out what the evil hours would have made eternal in the depths of our being, even then there is one effect still left: these evil hours are gone forever; they are forever empty. Never again will a bright eternity issue from their womb, for they have sunk back fruitless into the nothingness of hours that “have been.” No one can fetch them back again to relive them in the present, to make them good. Never again will the radiant light of the goodness that shall shine like an everlasting dawn rest upon them.
We know of only one person besides Jesus who can enter into eternity without repentance. This is Mary, the ever-pure Virgin, the immaculate one. What our heart in its bitter experience can hardly believe has become true for one human being—Mary. She need not disclaim one moment of her life; no part of it has remained empty and dead. She can stand by each deed of her life: not one was dark; not one passed away without enkindling an eternal light, without shining with the luminosity that entirely consumes the moral possibilities of each moment.
Such a life did not come to an end with Mary’s death; when she died, only the transitory died, so that what was eternal in her life might be revealed—that eternal light from the many thousand candles enkindled by each moment of her life. Thus her whole life entered eternity—each day, each hour, each breaking of the waves of the life of her soul, every joy and every pain, the great and the small hours. Nothing was abandoned; everything lives on in the eternal goodness of the soul that has gone home.
Is not such a day, a day of joy for us? We know, indeed, from our own experience, that our constantly changing human life hurries on towards its eternity, to its everlasting destiny. But when the last moment of time that is meted out to an individual has come, then his mouth is closed in death, and his eyes no longer transmit a glimpse of his soul; only an enigmatic death mask looks at us—and he is silent. It is as if the passageway of death had two gates, and when the person steps into this passageway, she closes the first gate behind her before she opens the second, so that no light shines through to us from tat land that lies beyond the passageway.
Is it not wonderfully consoling, then, that our faith tells us of that world into which the dead have gone and of their eternal destiny? What can move us most deeply in all this is that this witness of faith does not [346]merely give us information about the objective, impersonal possibilities that can begin after death. It is rather as if God’s revelation, which speaks to us of the life of God hidden in inaccessible light, reveals to us more than that life’s blessedness.
The very same word of God speaks also of the holy lives of those who rest eternally in the merciful heart of God. God affectionately calls each one by name: Peter, with his repentance and threefold love, is with me; Paul, the great warrior and long-sufferer is with me; Francis, the happy beggar, is with me; Benedict Labre is with me, and he spent his life begging on the highway; Stanislaus is with me, and he was simply a pious, brave child.
And so God still has many names for us: he has called us by countless names. He has thereby willed to entrust to us a sweet mystery of his heart; he has, as it were, placed us in intimate contact with those whom he has sheltered forever in his heart as his child, his friend, his betrothed. And thus we know that a blessed soul’s quite fixed life—a life which cannot be repeated once it is lived, which we can call by name, which we can narrate, in the paths of which we follow, which we love and honor and which calls us to imitation—this life has not disappeared, but still lives.
With meaning and profit let each moment of such a life pass before us once again and we can say again and again: the goodness that inspired that fixed deed still shines unimpaired and bright in the soul; the heroic spirit that sacrificed its life at that instant has outlived death.
That is why the church celebrated feast upon feast of her saints, fresh again every day, birthdays of an eternity, victory feasts of imperishable goodness, feasts of delight because love never ceases. They rouse us anew every day from tired resignation to transitoriness: it is not true that everything passes away, for the good is immortal. Wherever in this world only a tiny light of purity, of kindness, of humility, of fortitude, of patience shines, it burns on before God’s eternal light as the reflection of his own eternally blessed light.
And just as the mysterious God is quite close to us in faith because his own reality brings the shining rays of his beauty to the eye of our faith, so too, in the same faith, these holy men and women of eternity are close to us; the beauty of their goodness completes our love. It is as if each one gently touches our soul, and we can say to each in words of love: I am joyful over your eternal goodness, you are very close to me, and your goodness is an eternal victory.
Thus it is with the Virgin Mary. In faith we know that the charming splendor of grace that already filled her soul when the word of her maker called her into being is still an indestructible reality. The tender humility, the brightness of her grand spirit, the boundless submission to God—everything that filled her soul when she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord”—all this is always present and new. The simple greatness of her life, the sacrifice of her Son under the cross: all this goodness and holiness that once brightened this dark world is eternal that now, at this very hour, mixes its roar with the waves of divine life in the eternal today.
As eternal life slowly came into being during her earthly existence, all that was once broken up and then vanished into the past has streamed together into a superabundance of bliss in the one now of eternity. This now of eternity, always the same and always new, beyond all time, sees how, in the uttermost depths, time makes its way.
And only the thin veil of this earthly life lies between us and this perpetual rejoicing—a veil through which the light of faith and the voice of God, who is a God of the living, penetrate. And these give witness of the eternal life of the most pure Virgin. For him who in yearning and longing reaches out for it, isn’t her gracious heart close to us through the nearness of faith and of love, through the still, holy nearness of eternity?
When we, from the depths of our dying day, greet this eternal today, we will be greeted with the same endlessness of eternal life that has been roaring for two thousand years (in human measurement) and that shall never vanish. And then we reflect that this eternity rises up out of the dark valleys of the transitoriness, and we look up full of blessed hope, because in Mary’s bliss we see prefigured the blessed destiny that our soul shall one day find.
If it is true that we merit more love the purer and holier we are, then whose love are we indebted to, if not that of the most Blessed Virgin and mother of Jesus? When we love goodness, we should be excited by the thought that Mary’s incomprehensible goodness is now blessed and preserved in eternity.
Thus we are blessed in the pure, unselfish joy that the goodness, purity, and all the virtues that we love have achieved an eternal victory through the most Blessed Virgin. We sense that her victory is our own. We know, too, that the goodness that today has become eternity was not on that account taken away from us, but works among us in blessing and grace.
That is why we should fold our hands and pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now in this transitoriness, which was also yours, and in the hour of our death, so that we may enter into the eternity that today is yours.

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Piety Poetry Quotations

Prayer Answered Through Trial

John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face.
‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray, and He, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favoured hour at once He’d answer my request;
And, by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.
Yea, more, with His own hand He seemed intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried, “Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“‘Tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith.
“These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free,
“And break the schemes of earthly joy, that thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”

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Piety Quotations

Opposition to vice does not always imply pursuit of virtue

G.K. Chesterton, Chaucer

But what the medievals meant, by thus dividing and labeling the vices, was that a man might fall into one of these vices even when fleeing too far from another. A man who neglects his business may fall into sloth; a man who pursues his business may fall into avarice. And what the wreckers of the medieval system really did, practically and in the long run, was to let loose some of the vices on the excuse of exterminating the others. After the Renaissance, the Pagans went in for unlimited lust and the Puritans for unlimited avarice; on the excuse that at least neither of them was being guilty of sloth.

Note that unlimited avarice is a defection from Puritanism, not a tenet of it.

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Piety Poetry Preaching Quotations

An Ensample for Preachers, Teachers and Exhorters

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Prologue

A good man ther was of religioun,
That was a poure PERSONE of a tonn:
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche.
His parishens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversite ful patient:
And swiche he was ypreved often sithes.
Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yeven out of doute,
Unto his poure parishens aboute,
Of his offring, and eke of his substance.
He coude in litel thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder,
But he ne left nought for no rain ne thonder,
In sikenesse and in mischief to visite
The ferrest in his parish, moche and lite,
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet therto,
That if gold ruste, what shuld iren do?
For if a preest be foule, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed man to rust:
And shame it is, if that a preest take kepe,
To see a shitten shepherd, and clene shepe: soe
Wei ought a preest ensample for to yeve,
By his clenenesse, how his shepe shulde live.
He sette not his benefice to hire,
And lette his shepe acombred in the mire,
And ran unto London, unto Seint Poules,
To seken him a chanterie for soules,
Or with a brotherhede to be withold:
But dwelt at home, and kepte wel his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarie.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenarie.
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous,
Ne of his speche dangerous ne digne,
But in his teching discrete and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven, with fairenesse,
By good ensample, was his besinesse :
But it were any persone obstinat.
What so he were of highe, or low estat,
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.
A better preest I trowe that no wher non is.
He waited after no pompe ne reverence,
Ne maked him no spiced conscience,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.

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Controversy Piety

The Fundamental Problem with Fundamentalism

Let me preface this by saying that my qualifications to express an opinion on fundamentalism are not so much scholarly as experiential. I am not drawing on my rather scanty reading of studies of fundamentalism, so much as on the fact that my upbringing was among fundamentalists. Of my American acquaintances, the majority in my generation wound up going to Bob Jones University –or to institutions which considered BJU as somewhat deficiently conservative. Harold Sightler was a familiar voice from his sermons on tape: my father was an admirer of Carl McIntire. I believe the first theological topic I became conversant with was the doctrine of separation: and I first learned to pour scorn on labels by being taught to see through those who mocked the pursuit of purity in the church as “secondary separation”. For many years I have been part of a church with historic ties to Dr. Ian R.K. Paisley. In my own upbringing, it may suffice to point out that I did not enter a movie theater for the first time until I was in my twenties, and drinking, smoking, gambling, and listening to rock music were all placed on the same level of unbelievable and intolerable wickedness which perhaps someone might have done once years ago before they were saved. I believe, in other words, that I have enough experience among the fundamentalists to say something about them.
And let me say as well that it is not my purpose to undervalue fundamentalism. They have certainly opposed liberalism and apostasy and compromise. They have not been afraid to call error by its own proper name. They have been generous: they have sent out many missionaries; they have been certain enough of the Bible to stand out against contemporary culture on the strength of it. I think it is indisputable that without them the numbers of those who actually believe that the Bible is God’s word would be much smaller. In my own experience, the most shining examples of hospitality, of generosity, of prayerfulness, of zeal have usually come from my fundamentalist, rather than from my Reformed or broadly evangelical acquaintances
And yet it is obvious on the face of it that there are problems within the movement. Doctrinal minimalism (and at least at times a sort of anti-intellectualism) is one point that springs to mind. Instead of keeping a full-orbed confession, they have deliberately shaved doctrinal statements down to a minimum. In close connection with this, there has been a massive emphasis on points of external conduct, and many are more zealous for maintaining a code of standards than for upholding the law of God or preaching the Gospel of Christ. They have seized on ancillary points (sometimes legitimate, sometimes without even that) and elevated them to absolute criteria for fellowship, obscuring more fundamental concerns. Naturally in many cases this has led to a great deal of hypocrisy.
Obviously in many cases there has also been an undue belligerence. The separatists have become schismatic, and in an ironic turn have become those who cause divisions, whom, according to the apostolic precept, we must avoid (Romans 16:17). In connection with this must be mentioned the lack of self-control manifested in fits of temper and self-righteous outbursts which have plagued many adherents of the movement. And of course there is a great lack of love manifested in and strengthened by this tendency. And these points often show up in graceless, legalistic, browbeating preaching which is nothing short of spiritual abuse of the sheep of God’s flock.
But these, I think, with the possible exception of the doctrinal minimalism, are symptoms rather than the disease itself (in part because of the exceptions which I, and anyone well acquainted with fundamentalism of the variety I am describing here can easily come up with). There is a common thread which binds these different defects together, and is clearly seen in the grasping for power and control, the hunger for notoriety, which can often be observed within the movement. Closely allied to this is the spin, the way of excusing or justifying or concealing obvious abuses within the institutions. Dissenters are vilified: people who leave are sadly prayed for as being in spiritual peril, or denounced as spiritual traitors. Authority and influence (legitimate or illegitimate) are systematically used and abused for the preservation of people and institutions, to achieve the continued hegemony of a particular leader, organization, or platform.
Our Lord makes two statements which I believe sum up the root of the problems that fundamentalism has been plagued with since its inception (to pursue this further may I recommend the sympathetic history by David O. Beale called In Pursuit of Purity and published by Bob Jones University press). These words cut through the pretenses and lay bare the real suppurating wound in the heart of this Christian movement.
John 5:44 “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
There is a real, in many cases a patent, ignoring or twisting of God’s word in order to maintain a certain position within the world of fundamentalism. Preachers who seem to be polar opposites in methodology and what theology they have, nonetheless invite one another to preach: politics dictates who is “godly” and “a good preacher” and “a great man of God”. Fawning introductions are given in introducing guest speakers. And of course this can only be sustained by a persistent refusal to look on anything except the outward appearance –and even that, only in a limited sense.
In what may seem like a paradoxical twist, the fundamentalists who are constantly mocked by the world, have developed a consuming concern for their own reputation for respectability. Many times this eagerness to be thought well of is concealed under or justified by an exaggerated concern to “have a good testimony”. This seems paradoxical, because of course many fundamentalists are perfectly willing to be scorned by the world and be written off as crazy, illiterate, behind the times, or fanatical. But those are not the points on which they pride themselves: their positive self-image does not depend on favorable views from the world. But it does depend on being perceived as godly, anointed, steadfast, fearless, in the right. This is the explanation of their externalism: “we must look godly.” This is the explanation for a lot of their rage: “those who might make us look bad must be so thoroughly discredited that no one who matters will ever believe them.” Hence the rather frequent question, “Are you going to take the word of some malcontent over that of these godly men?” But what if the malcontent has documents, recordings, witnesses? And what if the godly men aren’t actually godly?
In other words, my thesis is that the explanation for the defects of fundamentalism is almost brutally simple. They have fallen prey to worldliness. The pride of life has consumed them (see this previous post for a documentation of worldliness with regard to the ministry). Their zeal has become a zeal for their own righteousness –a paltry, external thing that must be propped up by unbiblical standards and maintained in the minds of other fundamentalists whatever the cost. We thought that in the last days men would be lovers of themselves (though we didn’t always see that it would be in their own self-righteous self-image); we knew that they would be boastful (though we haven’t always understood that it would be in how well they kept their precious standards); but what we didn’t see was that these people would be in the church, that they would have a very impressive form of godliness.
What if there was always a creeping worm of self-righteous pride at the back of this movement? And what if it has become a mighty dragon of worldliness, an insatiable longing for being acknowledged as godly? It would certainly not mean that there are no true believers within that movement: it does not mean that even among the leadership there are not many who will sit down in the kingdom with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, instances of people who having been redeemed by the Lord have become holy, and humble, and happy. But it does mean that many have lost their first love: it does mean that many have a name that they live and are, in fact, dead. And it does mean that we are called upon to turn away from such as have the form of godliness, but deny the power of it (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Categories
Piety Poetry Quotations

An Unexpected Find

Spurgeon can be quite unexpected. That he was a gripping preacher, of course, is an historic fact. That he was a great saint with a lively sense of humor is likewise established beyond dispute. But that he was capable of real poetry was a fact I had never suspected, until I came across this in his remarks on Psalm 8 in the Treasury of David

Yet in all these how great soe’er they be,
We see not Him. The glass is all too dense
And dark, or else our earthborn eyes too dim.
Yon Alps, that lift their heads above the clouds
And hold familiar converse with the stars,
Are dust, at which the balance trembleth not,
Compared with His divine immensity.
The snow-crown’d summits fail to set Him forth,
Who dwelleth in Eternity, and bears
Alone, the name of High and Lofty One.
Depths unfathomed are too shallow to express
The wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord.
The mirror of the creatures has no space
To bear the image of the Infinite.
‘Tis true the Lord hath fairly writ his name,
And set his seal upon creation’s brow.
But as the skilful potter much excels
The vessel which he fashions on the wheel,
E’en so, but in proportion greater far,
Jehovah’s self transcends his noblest works.
Earth’s ponderous wheels would break, her axles snap,
If freighted with the load of Deity.
Space is too narrow for the Eternal’s rest,
And time too short a footstool for his throne.
E’en avalanche and thunder lack a voice,
To utter the full volume of his praise.
How then can I declare him? Where are words
With which my glowing tongue may speak his name?
Silent I bow, and humbly I adore.

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Pastoral Care Piety Quotations Theological Reflections

Faith and Sanctification

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Direction XI (pp.157,158)

You must therefore endeavour to continue and go on in the same right manner as I have taught you to begin this great work of believing in Christ, that your faith may be of the same nature from the beginning to the end, though it increase in degrees, for our faith is imperfect and joined with much unbelief in this world and we have need to pray still, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24), and therefore we have need to strive for more faith, that we may receive Christ in greater perfection. If you find that your faith has produced good works, you should thereby increase your confidence in Christ, for salvation by His mere grace. But take heed of changing the nature of your faith, from trusting on the grace and merits of Christ, to trusting on your own works, according to the popish doctrine ‘that our first justification is by grace and faith only, but our second justification is only by works’.

Beware also of trusting on faith itself, as a work of righteousness, instead of trusting on Christ by faith. If you do not find that your believing in such a right manner as I have described does produce such fruits of holiness as you desire, you ought not to diminish, but rather to increase your confidence in Christ, knowing that the weakness of your faith hinders its fruitfulness. And the greater your confidence is concerning the love of God to you in Christ, the greater will be your love to God and to His service. If you fall into any gross sin, after the work is begun in you, as David and Peter did, think not that you must cast away your confidence and expect nothing but wrath from God and Christ, and that you must refuse to be comforted by the grace of Christ, at least for some time; for thus you would be the more weak, and prone to fall into other sins; but rather strive to believe more confidently that you have ‘an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’, and that ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:1,2). And let not the guilt of sin stay at all upon your conscience, but wash it away with all speed in the fountain of Christ’s blood, which is opened for us, that it may be ready for our use on all such incident occasions; that so you may be humbled for your sins in a gospel way, and may hate your own sinfulness, and be sorry for it with godly sorrow, out of love to God. Peter might have been ruined for ever by denying Christ, as Judas was by betraying Him, if Peter’s faith had not been upheld by the prayer of Christ (Luke 22: 31,32).

If a cloud be cast over all your qualifications, so that you can see no grace at all in yourselves, yet still trust on Him that justifies the ungodly, and came to seek and to save them that are lost. If God seems to deal with you as an enemy, bringing on you some horrible affliction, as He did upon job, beware of condemning your faith and its fruits, as if they were not acceptable to God, but rather say, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; but I will maintain mine own ways before Him’ (Job 13:15). Strive to keep and to increase faith by faith, that is, by acting faith frequently, by trusting on God to keep and to increase it, ‘being confident, that He which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6).