Practical Notes Quotations

A Sandwich of Sentences

A rather ancient statement:

Time washes away the fancies of imagination but confirms the judgments of nature.

Cicero, The Nature of the Gods

One that needs some context:

The lady says to her would-be lover, “Who secheth sorowe, his be the receyt!”

(From La Belle Dame Sans Merci, translated by Sir Richard Ros from Alain Chartier’s original)

A quite pithy comment from an often long-winded fellow:

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess that itself will need reforming.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria)

Two from The Treasury of David:

Common honesty is no longer common, when common irreligion leads to universal godlessness.

…we cannot master our affections by love, but first we must master our understandings by faith. –Richard Capel

One that has been often verified by experience:

And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

One recycled from previous posting:

…ingratitude is like an abyss which absorbs all the fullness of God’s blessings.

John Calvin, Commentary on Lamentations (1:7)

And another slice from ancient Rome to finely close off this miscellany of maxims:

God is not subject to obey the laws of nature. It is nature that is subject to the laws of God.

Cicero, The Nature of the Gods

Poetry Practical Notes Quotations

Two Parts of the Mind

C.S. Lewis, “Reason” (quoted in Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis, “Barfield and/or Lewis”

Set on the soul’s acropolis the reason stands

A virgin, arm’d, commercing with celestial light,

And he who sins against her has defiled his own

Virginity; no cleansing makes his garment white;

So clear is reason. But how dark, imagining,

Warm, dark, obscure and infinite, daughter of Night:

Dark is her brow, the beauty of her eyes with sleep

Is loaded, and her pains are long and her delight.

Tempt not Athene. Wound not in her fertile pains

Demeter, not rebel against her mother-right.

Oh who will reconcile in me both maid and mother,

Who make in me a concord of the depth and height?

Who make imagination’s dim exploring touch

Ever report the same as intellectual sight?

Then could I truly say, and not deceive,

Then wholly say, that I BELIEVE.

Practical Notes Quotations

Cæsar’s Wife and my uncle Toby

Narrating his father’s reactions to the news of his brother’s death, the redoubtable Tristram Shandy records some episodes remarkable revealing of human frailty.

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, v.5, Ch.III

When Tully was bereft of his dear daugher Tullia, at first he laid it to his heart,—he listened to the voice of nature, and modulated his own unto it.—O my Tullia!—my Tullia! Methinks I see my Tullia, I hear my Tullia, I talk with my Tullia.—But as soon as he began to look into the stores of philosophy, and consider how many excellent things might be said upon the occasion—no body upon earth can conceive, says the great orator, how happy, how joyful it made me.

[A little later, having been diverted from the steady course of his narrative]

Now let us go back to my brother’s death.

[And the moving and immortal close of the chapter, introduced in his father’s words:]

Vespasian died in a jest upon his close stool—Galba with a sentence—Septimius Severus in a dispatch—Tiberius in dissimulation, and Cæsar Augustus in a compliment.—I hope, ’twas a sincere one—quoth my uncle Toby.

‘Twas to his wife,—said my father.

But really there is no substitute: the whole admirable chapter must be read.

Practical Notes Quotations

Something Jacob Will Like

Richard Sibbes, The Saints’ Safety in Evil Times, Manifested by St. Paul, from his Experience of God’s Goodness in Greatest Distress (v.1, p. 331 BOT)

No man can warrant himself to be a good Christian, but he that labours to have the church and commonwealth flourish; to have a happy kingdom, happy government, and happy laws.

Practical Notes Quotations

What Kills Controversy?

Charles J. Brown, in his book, The Ministry: Addresses to Ministerial Students (and Iain Murray in the biographical introduction) answers that question.


There is one particular hindrance to such a revival and Charles Brown often spoke of it. He noted how, in periods when spiritual conditions are low, love and forbearance grown weak while disputes and controversies among Christians become common.

When, in his words, ‘There is little communion with God, little striving against sin, little pressing after the divine image,’ then, ‘Disputes and discords rush in to fill up the very vacuum.’ He continued:

I am quite well aware that, in existing circumstances, many controversies must be continued; but let the church only be revived – let a spirit of faith and holiness be but poured forth – and the circumstances will change; and we shall find far too much to do in setting ourselves against the common enemy, to have either leisure or heart for contentions among ourselves.

Practical Notes Quotations

Doing all to the glory of God

Thomas Watson:

Though a child of God shoots short, yet he takes a right aim.


Practical Notes Quotations

Freedom to Love

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III:19.12 (Battles)

We have due control over our freedom if it makes no difference to us to restrict it when it is fruitful to do so. (…) …it is the part of a godly man to realize that free power in outward matters has been given him in order that he may be the more ready for all the duties of love.

Practical Notes Quotations

Delaying Believing

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Direction XI (pp.153-155)

[Speaking of those whom Satan urges to delay believing]


Others imagine that, after they have heard the gospel of salvation by Christ, they may lawfully defer the believing it until they have sufficiently examined the truth of some other different doctrine, or until God be pleased to afford them some other means to assure them fully of the truth of the gospel. Thus they that are called ‘seekers’ misspend the day of grace, ‘ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). But the truth of the gospel so clearly evidences itself by its own light that, if people do not wilfully shut their eyes, or blind themselves by their own pride, and love their lusts, they would easily perceive that it is the truth of God, because the image of His grace, mercy, power, justice and holiness appears manifestly engraven upon it. It is a sign people are proud when they consent not to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the ‘doctrine which is according to godliness’ (1 Tim. 6:3). If they were humble and sincerely inclined to do the will of God, they would ‘know whether the doctrine is of God, or no’ (John 7:17); they would quickly be persuaded of the truth by Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles, spoken to them in the Scripture. And if they will not hear them, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead, or whatever other miracle be wrought to confirm the divine authority of the gospel (Luke 16:31).

Another sort of people there are that delay the great work of believing, to the ruin of their souls, resting in an attendance upon the outward means of grace and salvation, instead of any endeavours to receive Christ by faith, though they be convinced of the truth of the gospel. This they call waiting upon God at the doors of His grace and salvation, in the use of means appointed by Him, and sitting under the droppings of the sanctuary. But let them know that this is not the right waiting on God required in Scripture. It is rather disobedience to God, and to the means of His appointment, who requires that we should be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves’ (James 1:22), and that we should come in to the spiritual feast (Luke 14:23), and not only stand at the door, or sit under the droppings of the house of God, lest Christ repute us no better than eavesdroppers. That holy waiting on the Lord commended to us in Scripture is ever accompanied with believing and hoping in the Lord, and depends thereon: ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord’ (Ps. 27: 13, 14). ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lam. 3:26 ).

What is it that these deluded ones wait for, before they perform the duty of believing? Is it for more knowledge of the gospel? The way to increase your knowledge, as well as any other talent, is to make use of what you have received already. Believe heartily on Christ for all your salvation, according to that little knowledge of the gospel which you have, and you will have an interest in the promise of knowledge contained in the new covenant: ‘They shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, says the Lord’ (Jer. 31:34). Is it for the appointed time of your conversion that you wait? Then you wait as those impotent folk that lay at the pool of Bethesda , waiting for the season when the angel will come down and move the water. Know, then, that if you enter into Christ now by faith, you shall find in Him waters of life, and the Spirit moving them for the healing and quickening of your soul. God has appointed, by His work, that it shall be your duty to endeavour that the present time shall be the time of your conversion: ‘As the Holy Ghost says, Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart’ (Heb. 3:7,8 ). And you shall never know at what time God has purposed, in His secret council, to give faith to you, until you actually believe.

Do you wait for any manifestations or flowings in of God’s saving love to your soul? Then the way to obtain it is to believe that the ‘God of hope may fill you with all joy and peace in believing’ (Rom. 15:13 ). You have sufficient manifestation of God’s love to your soul by the free promises of life and salvation by Christ. Do but ‘trust on the name of the Lord, and stay upon your God’, when you ‘walk in darkness, and see no light’ of sensible comforts any other way, otherwise you wait for comforts in vain, and this shall ‘you have at the Lord’s hand, you ‘shall lie down in sorrow’ (Isa. 50:10, 11). Do you wait for any qualifications to prepare you for the work of believing? If they be good and holy qualifications, you cannot have them before faith, but they are rather included in the nature of faith, or they are fruits of it – as has been largely proved. If they be bad and sinful, it is strange that any should wait for them, and yet no more strange than true. Some foolishly wait to be terrified with a sense of God’s wrath, and despairing thoughts, and these they call the pangs of the new birth; though, in their own nature, they are rather the pangs of spiritual death, and bring forth hatred to God, rather than holiness, and, therefore, we should strive to prevent them by believing God’s love in Christ, rather than to wait for them. It is true, God makes these despairing thoughts, as well as other sins, work for good to them that are delivered from them by faith in Christ; they are moved thereby to hate sin, and to prize Christ the more and the comforts of His gospel, and to loathe and abhor themselves; yet many are brought to Christ without them, by God’s giving them the knowledge of their own sins and of Christ’s salvation together. Several examples of these were above-mentioned, who received the Word with joy at the first hearing of it. And we must not desire or wait for any evil or sin, such as these despairing thoughts are, that good may come of it; neither should we expect to be worse before we be better, when we may and ought to be better presently, by believing on Christ.

Outsourcing Practical Notes Quotations

Justice and Activism

From The Poor of the Land and the Pride of Jacob, a sermon on Amos by John Piper preached on October 10, 1982.

What does it mean to have justice established in the gate? I don’t think it means to have a society without distinctions, but a society without oppression. No more exploitation; no more small print in the contracts; no more price-manipulating monopolies; no more Marie Antoinettes who say of the poor, “Let them eat cake.” And no more Robin Hoods who steal from the rich. No more central socialist committees who hold a gun to your head and tell you how much of yours is really your neighbor’s, and no more fat capitalistic cats who walk by Lazarus every day on their way to work off their latest five pounds of wine on the silver running machine. No more false advertising; no more slipshod workmanship at $30 an hour. When every wage is fair, every contract is plain, every agreement is kept, and everyone strives for the advancement of his fellow man and not just his own—and all to the glory of God, then justice will be established in the gate.


And how shall we do it? By striving to produce men and women whose hearts are aflame with the righteousness of God. And by struggling together to know what elements of righteousness should be enacted into civil law. When a slumlord gouges a Laotian family with exorbitant rent in the Phillips neighborhood, it is not necessarily because of bad laws; it’s because of a bad man. Therefore, we must guard ourselves against the naïve idea that those who work for rent control at city hall are necessarily working harder to establish justice than those who work to convert evil men so that their hearts and business practices will ring with the righteousness of Christ.

If America stays free—which, by the way, is not the main goal of the church but, I pray, a happy byproduct—if America stays free, it will not be because Christian right-wingers push through a prayer amendment, or because Christian left-wingers push through bigger government subsidies for housing and health and jobs. It will be because the salt of the earth and the light of the world have exerted such a profound spiritual effect on the heart and soul of the nation that men and women feel pangs of conscience when contracts are broken, and refugees are gouged, and prices are inflated, and workmanship is shabby, and babies are intentionally aborted. Constraining civil laws are necessary in a fallen world. But if violations of love are not treated at the spiritual spring, then the river of evil that flows out of man’s heart will break through every legal dam and sweep the world away with injustice. One group on earth has this potential and this mission—the Church of Jesus Christ. If we are not wholeheartedly engaged in this indispensable spiritual work, no one else will do it, for no one else has the message of redemption. And justice will most assuredly, then, not be established in the gate. And then, who will stand when the Lord roars from Zion?

Read the rest of this very good sermon.

Practical Notes Preaching Quotations

Partial Systems Are Terribly Limiting

John Newton, Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects, Letter VII, “On the Propriety of a Ministerial Address to the Unconverted.”


We should undoubtedly endeavour to maintain a consistency in our preaching; but unless we keep the plan and manner of the Scripture constantly in view, and attend to every part of it, a design of consistency may fetter our sentiments, and greatly preclude our usefulness. We need not wish to be more consistent than the inspired writers, nor be afraid of speaking as they have spoken before us.