The Good Shepherd’s Work (A retro-post by John Newton)

Written by krkeyser on March 20th, 2018

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with his arm, And carry them in his bosom, And shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11, KJV

“‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.’ The word is not restrained to feeding. It includes all the branches of the shepherd’s office. He shall act the part of a shepherd to his flock. We have a beautiful miniature description of what he has engaged to do, and what he actually does, for his people, as their Shepherd, in the twenty-third Psalm. And the subject is more largely illustrated in the thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel’s prophecy. His sheep, from age to age, have been witnesses to the truth of his promises. He has a flock at present who rejoice in his care, and greater multitudes, as yet unborn, shall successively arise in their appointed seasons, ‘and call him blessed.’* For he is the ‘same yesterday, to-day, and forever.’

‘He feeds them.’

He leads them into green and pleasant pastures. These pastures are, his word and ordinances, by which he communicates to them of his own fulness; for in strict propriety of speech, he himself is their food. They eat his flesh, and drink his blood.† This was once thought a hard saying‡ by some of his professed followers, and is still thought so by too many. But it is his own saying, and therefore I am not concerned, either to confirm or to vindicate it. The knowledge they receive by faith, of his incarnation and sufferings unto death, of the names he bears, and of the offices and relations in which he is pleased to act for them, is the life and food of their souls. The expression of feeding them, is agreeable to the analogy he has been pleased to establish, between the natural and the spiritual life. As the strength of the body is maintained and renewed by eating and drinking; so they who, in this sense, feed upon him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving, even they live§ by him; ‘for his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed.’

The Highland Shepherd, 1859 (oil on canvas); by Bonheur, Rosa (1822-99); 49×63 cm; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany; French, out of copyright

‘He guides them.’

First by his example. He has trodden the path of duty and trial before them; and they perceive and follow his footsteps. Again, by his word and Spirit he teaches them the way in which they should go; and both inclines and enables them to walk in it.* He guides them, likewise, by his providence; he appoints the bounds of their habitations, the line and calling in which they are to serve him, and orders and adjusts the circumstances of their lives according to his infinite wisdom, so as, finally, to accomplish his gracious designs in their favour.

‘He guards them.’

It is written concerning him, ‘He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.’† If we conceive of a flock of sheep feeding in the midst of wolves, who are restrained from breaking in upon them, not by any visible enclosure, but merely by the power of the shepherd’s eye, which keeps them in awe and at a distance, it will give us some idea of the situation of his people. He provides them food in the midst of many and mighty‡ enemies, who envy them their privilege, but cannot prevent it. If he should withdraw his attention from the flock, for a single minute, they would be worried. But he has promised to keep them night and day§ and every moment; therefore their enemies plot and rage in vain. Their visible foes are numerous; but if we could look into the invisible world, and take a view of the subtlety, malice, machinations, and assiduity of the powers of darkness, who are incessantly watching for opportunities of annoying them, we should have a most striking conviction, that a flock so defenceless and feeble in themselves, and against which such a combination is formed, can only be kept by the power of God.

‘He heals them.’

A good shepherd will examine the state of his flock. But there is no attention worthy of being compared with his. Not the slightest circumstance in their concerns escapes his notice. When they are ready to faint, borne down with heavy exercises of mind, wearied with temptations, dry and disconsolate in their spirits, he seasonably revives them. Nor are they in heaviness without a need-be for it. All his dispensations towards them are medicinal, designed to correct, or to restrain, or to cure, the maladies of their souls. And they are adjusted, by his wisdom and tenderness, to what they can bear, and to what their case requires. It is he, likewise, who heals their bodily sickness, and gives them help in all their temporal troubles. He is represented to us, as counting their sighs,* putting their tears into his bottle, recording their sorrows in his book of remembrance; and even, as being himself ‘touched with a feeling of their infirmities,’† as the head feels for the members of the body.

‘He restores them.’

 The power and subtlety of their enemies are employed to force or entice them from his rule; and too often prevail for a season. The sheep turn aside unto forbidden paths; and whenever they do, they would wander farther and farther, till they were quite lost again, if he were not their Shepherd. If he permits them to deviate, he has a time to convince them, ‘that it was an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord their Shepherd,’‡ and to humble them, and to bring them back. Thus they become more sensible of their own weakness, and of their obligations to his gracious care; for he will not suffer their enemies to triumph over them. He will not lose one of his true flock; not one convinced sinner, who has, in deed and in truth, surrendered and intrusted [sic] his all to him. They must, and they shall, smart and mourn for their folly; but he will, in due season, break their snares, and lead them again into the paths of peace, for his own name’s sake.”

* Psal. 72:17.

† John, 6:54.

‡ John, 6:60.

  • John, 6:57.

* Isa. 30:21.

† Micah, 5:4.

‡ Psal. 23:5.

  • Isa. 27:3.

* Psal. 56:1.

† Heb. 4:15.

‡ Jer. 2:19.

John Newton, “Sermon XIII: The Great Shepherd,” in Messiah: Fifty Expository Discourses On the series of Scriptural Passages which form the subject of the celebrated Oratorio Of Handel. (preached in the years 1784 and 1785, in the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard-street) in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 4, ed. Richard Cecil. (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 153–157. [Italics original.]


The Lord Jesus Christ Gives Peace (A Quotation by C.H. Spurgeon)

Written by krkeyser on March 16th, 2018

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” Matthew 14:24–33, KJV

“Do you suppose that the Lord Jesus comes only to speak peace to those who have peace already, or to give peace to those enduring a trifling disturbance of mind? Man, do you think Jesus a superfluity? Or do you imagine that he is only suited for little occasions? Be ashamed of such insinuations; for he reigns on high above tremendous storms; he rules the hugest waves and the most roaring floods: when all our nature is vexed, when our hopes are gone, and our despair is uppermost, it is amid the tumult of such a tempest that he says, ‘Peace, be still,’ and creates a calm. Believe in the Christ who can save you when most your temptations threaten to swallow you up. Do not think him to be only able to save when you are not in extremities, but believe him to be best seen when your uttermost calamities are near.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “Jesus No Phantom,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on October 2, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 595.


Immanuel Against the Idols (A retro-post by John Newton)

Written by krkeyser on February 26th, 2018

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” Romans 1:18–22, NKJV

wikipedia commons; public domain here:

“The prevalence of idolatry was early, and (with an exception to the people of Israel) soon became universal. Men who boasted of their reason, worshipped the sun and moon, yea, the works of their own hands, instead of the Creator. And even where revelation is vouchsafed, the bulk of mankind live without God in the world. But he is known, trusted, and served, by those who know Messiah. To them his glory is displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.‡ His agency is perceived in the creation, his providence is acknowledged, and his presence felt as God with us.

The Conflict 

As fallen creatures, God is against us, and we are against him. The alienation of our hearts is the great cause of our ignorance of him. We are willingly ignorant. The thoughts of him are unwelcome to us, and we do not like to retain him in our knowledge. Guilt is the parent of atheism. A secret foreboding, that if there be a God, we are obnoxious to his displeasure; and that if he takes cognizance of our conduct, we have nothing to hope, but everything to fear from him, constrains many persons to try to persuade themselves that there is no God; and many more to think, or at least to wish, that if there be a God, he does not concern himself with human affairs. What a proof is this of the enmity of the heart of man against him! that so many persons who would tremble at the thought of being in a ship; driven by the winds and waves, without compass or pilot, should yet think it desirable, if it were possible, to be assured, that in a world like this, so full of uncertainty, trouble, and change, all things were left at random, without the interference of a supreme governor. But this enmity, these dark apprehensions, are removed, when the Gospel is received by faith. For it brings us the welcome news, that there is forgiveness with him; that God is reconciled in his Son to all who seek his mercy. In this sense, likewise, Messiah is ‘Immanuel, God with us,’ on our side, no longer the avenger of sin, but the author of salvation.

Our Mediator, Representative, & Head

‘Immanuel’ is ‘God with us,’ God in our nature still. He suffered as a man, and as a man he now reigns on the throne of glory; exercising all power and authority, and receiving all spiritual worship both in heaven and upon earth. He is the head of all principalities and powers, thrones and dominions. Thus man is not only saved, but unspeakably honoured and ennobled. He is brought into the nearest relation to him, who is over all blessed forever. The angels adore him; but only redeemed sinners can say, ‘He loved us and gave himself for us; he has washed us from our sins in his own blood;’* he is our Saviour, our Shepherd, our Friend, our ‘Immanuel, God with us.’”

‡ 2 Cor. 4:6.

* Gal. 2:20; Rev. 1:5.

John Newton, “Sermon V: Immanuel,” in Messiah: Fifty Expository Discourses, on the series of Scriptural Passages Which form the Subject of the celebrated Oratorio of Handel (preached during 1784 & 1785) in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 4, ed. Richard Cecil. (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 64–66. [Italics original.]


God’s wonderful works (A retro-post by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Written by krkeyser on February 24th, 2018

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered.” Psalm 40:5

“Creation, providence, and redemption, teem with wonders as the sea with life. Our special attention is called by this passage to the marvels which cluster around the cross and flash from it. The accomplished redemption achieves many ends, and compasses a variety of designs; the outgoings of the atonement are not to be reckoned up, the influences of the cross reach further than the beams of the sun. Wonders of grace beyond all enumeration take their rise from the cross; adoption, pardon, justification, and a long chain of godlike miracles of love proceed from it. Note that our Lord here speaks of the Lord as ‘my God.’ The man Christ Jesus claimed for himself and us a covenant relationship with Jehovah. Let our interest in our God be ever to us our peculiar treasure. ‘And thy thoughts which are to us-ward.’ The divine thoughts march with the divine acts, for it is not according to God’s wisdom to act without deliberation and counsel. All the divine thoughts are good and gracious towards his elect. God’s thoughts of love are very many, very wonderful very practical! Muse on them, dear reader; no sweeter subject ever occupied your mind. God’s thoughts of you are many, let not yours be few in return. ‘They cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee.’ Their sum is so great as to forbid alike analysis and numeration. Human minds fail to measure, or to arrange in order, the Lord’s ways and thoughts; and it must always be so, for he hath said, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ No maze to lose oneself in like the labyrinth of love. How sweet to be outdone, overcome and overwhelmed by the astonishing grace of the Lord our God! ‘If I would declare and speak of them,’ and surely this should be the occupation of my tongue at all seasonable opportunities, ‘they are more than can be numbered;’ far beyond all human arithmetic they are multiplied; thoughts from all eternity, thoughts of my fall, my restoration, my redemption, my conversion, my pardon, my upholding, my perfecting, my eternal reward; the list is too long for writing, and the value of the mercies too great for estimation. Yet, if we cannot show forth all the works of the Lord, let us not make this an excuse for silence; for our Lord, who is in this our best example, often spake of the tender thoughts of the great Father.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 27-57, Vol. 2. (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 237. [Italics original.]


Believing & not merely seeking – A retro-post by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Written by krkeyser on February 17th, 2018

“. . . [T]he seeker after Christ remains disobedient to the great command of the gospel. If he were obedient to the great gospel precept, he would at once cease to be a seeker, and become a happy finder. What is the command of the gospel? ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ Properly speaking, Christ is not an object for seeking, he is not far from any of us; like the brazen serpent uplifted by Moses, he is not so much to be looked for as looked at. We have neither to clamber to heaven to find him in the loftiness of his Deity, and bring him down; nor dive . . . to bring him up again from the dead. Thus saith the Lord, ‘The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. A prayer will reach him, a wish will find him, a groan will pierce his heart—do but confide in him, and he is yours. The first command of the gospel to guilty sinners is not to pray, to search the Scriptures, to attend upon sermons—all these are natural duties, and woe unto the man who neglects any of them; but the command, the special command of the gospel is, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!’ Now, the seeking sinner is disobedient to the command. He is going about hither and thither seeking, but he declines trusting; he is eagerly looking abroad for that which is at home; he is seeking for peace afar off when it is nigh him. He looks east and west to behold a wonder, while the Wonderful, the Saviour, stands at his right hand ready to forgive.

The way of salvation for me as a sinner is simply this, that I, being a sinner, do now put my trust in Christ Jesus the substitute for sinners. God has set forth his crucified Son as the accepted propitiation for sin: the way of salvation is that I accept him for what God has set him forth, namely, as the atonement for my sin, in which I place my sole reliance. Seeing he is God, seeing he took upon himself the nature of man, seeing that as mediator he suffered in the stead of as many as trust in him, I trust him, and I obtain thereby the blessed result of his sufferings—I am in fact thereby saved.

Now, it is some good thing certainly to be a seeker, but it is also an ill thing if I follow my seeking and refuse God’s way of salvation. Hear what the apostle John saith: ‘He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.’ This is no small sin to be guilty of, and it entails no small punishment, for ‘he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’

Suppose that I have been told of a remedy for my disease. Well, it is so far good that I desire to be cured of my deadly malady, it is so far hopeful that I have sent for a physician. But after being informed that there is the one specific for my disease, and that it alone will certainly heal me—if I were still to continue seeking a remedy, or to say I am seeking this one true remedy, I shall remain sick, and ultimately die. I shall never be healed unless I take that which is prescribed: to seek it is not enough, I must actually take it. In seeking, then, there is some good, but oh, how much of evil! Here are gleams and flashes of light, but oh, how dense is the darkness! Here is a little smoke in the flax, but I dare scarcely call it a spark. O seeker for Jesus, think of this, for while I would not discourage thee, yet would I encourage thee to end thy seeking by becoming a believer. Look not at salvation’s cup, but drink of it. Stand not by the fountain’s brim, but wash in it and be clean.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “Seeking for Jesus,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on August 21, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 470–471. [Italics original.]


The Absurdity of Evolution, Illustrated From Daniel’s University Experience (An excerpt from a readable talk by D.W. Gooding)

Written by krkeyser on February 5th, 2018

Commenting on Daniel’s rejection of Babylonian food (Daniel 1):

“Many of the forces and objects that the Babylonians worshipped as gods were real enough. Their fault was, as Paul would put it, ‘they worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator’ (Rom 1:25). Today atheists of one sort or another laugh at the ancient world for its polytheism and its idols. They have long since got rid of them. They think in fact that they have had the intellectual courage to go the whole road and they have banished not only polytheism but monotheism as well. They have got rid of the whole concept of god—one or many—and are left, so they think, with freedom. But what are they really left with? Well, just matter and energy—both of them by definition mindless, purposeless and irrational—so that everything and everyone that now is has arrived at its present state by evolution out of the basic constituents, matter and energy.

But what of this evolution? In the popular mind it is doubtless a goddess, every bit as much as an ancient goddess. Her name is frequently spelled with a capital letter, Evolution. She controls, directs, accounts for the change of this organ, and the function of that. Actually, she doesn’t exist at all. There is no such thing or force (still less, mind or purpose) as Evolution. At the best, evolution is only a name put by some scientists on a process through which they see, or think they see, matter going; and according to them the process is as blind and mindless as the matter and energy which is going through the process. What, then, controls this process? Ultimately, chance. Many of the ancients were inclined to agree, only they called chance a goddess. The difference is minimal. In the end what is the relation of man and his mind to this combination of blind matter and purposeless energy controlled by mindless chance? Does man control them, or they him? Obviously this is a question that we need to ask, if we are going to talk about gaining freedom to develop by getting rid of the idea of a personal purposeful creator. And the answer to the question is: without any doubt they control him at the practical level.

Naturally he does his best to control or at least cajole them, as the ancient did his gods. Eventually he dies, in spite of all his efforts, and there is nothing that he can do to stop it. At the logical level too, it is obvious that they control him. If man and his mind are nothing but the chance product of mindless matter worked on by blind forces, it makes no logical sense to talk of man controlling this mindless matter and these blind forces which constitute his own mind. Those who have the thoroughness to take their materialistic evolutionary theories to their logical conclusion hold that it is man’s cells and genes that determine him and his behaviour, and his so-called thinking. Man, they conclude, is a pre-set machine; he has no real freedom.

These mindless things are his masters, and by definition will always remain so. Of course he tries to understand them by his science so that he can then cajole them by his technology; but they prove endlessly more complex than he anticipates, and they remain his masters. But men have aspirations! Yes, and other men have other aspirations. Who shall say which are good and which are bad, which ought to triumph and which should be suppressed, when there is no ultimate court of appeal except blind matter and mindless forces? The only hope of a golden age would be if in the end the conflicting forces came into some kind of equilibrium. Till then you may expect the forces to fight among themselves every bit as much as the ancient gods and goddesses, and just as arbitrarily and irrationally as those gods and goddesses are reputed to have fought among themselves, with the battle going on all the time at a level beyond man’s power to control it.

The fact is that ancient man was talking ultimately about the same matter and forces as we are, though the ancients did not understand so much about them as we do (and we do not understand all that much). The ancients said that these things were in control of the universe and of man and man’s affairs. Since they were much more powerful than he was, he called them gods and goddesses, hoping that they were more sensible as well as more powerful, though it was rarely apparent that they were. The modern atheist agrees with the ancient polytheist that these things are in control. He calls them not gods and goddesses but atoms, protons, neutrons, cells, genes, forces—but it makes little difference. According to him they still produce and control this world, and beyond and above their mindless workings there is no Creator, no Mind, in whose love and wisdom man’s own love and reason can confidently trust.

Man is the prisoner of irrational forces. Why, then, do men believe the theory of atheistic evolution? Are they forced to it by the evidence, by rigorous inescapable logic? No! The theory, even according to some of its propounders themselves, is unproved and unprovable. To accept it as truth is as much an act of faith as believing in a Creator, except that by definition the atheist’s act of faith implies that his mind, logic and reason—his aesthetic sense and his love—are the products of blind forces working by purposeless chance upon mindless matter, and therefore ultimately meaningless. It is surely the strangest of strange things how this anti-intellectualist theory has come to be the unquestioned—and in some quarters the unquestionable—basic constituent in so many academic courses, and served up as though it were proven fact to schoolchildren, undergraduates and the general public. Isn’t it time that a few more people in the name of reason itself protested at the food?

Mercifully, there is scarcely an atheist living who is prepared to swallow his atheism neat and undiluted. Even the most extreme of them seem, in spite of their presuppositions, to hold that there are real values in life. Humanity, they maintain, is valuable and ought to be loved. Everyone ought to have a social conscience and love his fellow—or the state, or someone or ones. But then values and duties cannot be derived logically from their atheistic premises. You cannot logically turn an ought into an is. If the truth were told they have pinched these values and duties out of the temple of Jehovah and, like Nebuchadnezzar, installed them in the temples of their own ideologies where logically they do not belong. But you will never produce a golden age for man on the basis of atheistic ideology decorated with a few golden vessels stolen from the worship of Jehovah.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel & The King’s Food: Why All The Fuss? (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2016), 9-11. Download it in its entirety here.


Humble & Authentic Preaching (A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon)

Written by krkeyser on January 30th, 2018

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

“Dear brethren, may we, every one of us, be as far removed as possible from anything like egotism, which is hateful to the last degree. It is to be hoped that vanity is rare in ministers, for vanity is the vice of novices, and may be sooner excused in young students than in actual teachers of the Word. Experience, if it be worth having, exterminates a man’s vanity; but so bad is our nature, that it may increase his pride if it be an experience sweetened with success. It were hard to say which is the greater sin, vanity or pride, but we know which is the more foolish and ridiculous. A proud man may have some weight, but a vain man is light as air, and influences no one. From both these egotisms may we be kept, for they are both injurious to ourselves and hateful to God. Too frequent an intrusion of self is another form of egotism to be avoided. I hope our sermons will never be of the same order as those which were set up by a certain printing office, and the chief compositor had to request the manager to send for an extra supply of capital I’s. The letter ‘I’ is a noble vowel, but it may be sounded too loudly. Great ‘I’ is very apt to become prominent with us all; even those who labour after humility can barely escape. When self is killed in one form, it rises in another, and, alas, there is such a thing as being proud of being humble, and boasting one’s self of being now cleansed from everything like boasting.

What Is Man That Thou Art Mindful Of Him?

Brethren, I hope that however useful God may make us in our spheres, we do not conceive ourselves to be vastly important, for indeed we are no such thing. The cock was of opinion that the sun rose early every morning on purpose to hear him crow; but we know that Sol did nothing of the kind. The world does not revolve, the sun does not blaze, the moon does not wax and wane, the stars do not shine, entirely for the especial benefit of any one brother here, however admirable he may be in his own place; neither does Christendom exist for the purpose p 247 of finding us pulpits, nor our own particular church that it may furnish us a congregation and an income; nay, nor does even so much as one believer exist that he may lay himself out for our sole comfort and honour. We are too insignificant to be of any great importance in God’s great universe; he can do either with or without us, and our presence or absence will not disarrange his plans.

C.H. Spurgeon by A. Melville; public domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Servants, Not Celebrities

Yet for all that, our subject is individuality, and we hope that each man will recognise and honourably maintain his personality. The proper recognition of the ego is a theme worthy of our attention. I will make a word if I may: let egotism stand for proud, vainglorious, intrusive selfhood, and let egoism stand for the humble, responsible, and honest selfhood which, finding itself in being, resolves to be at the divine bidding and to be at its best, to the glory of God. In this age, when crowds follow their leaders, and bold men easily command a following; when the flocks cannot move without their bell-wethers, and rough independence is rarely to be found, it is well for us to be self-contained, whole men and not limbs of a body, maintaining ourselves in the integrity of personal thought, conscience, manner, and action. Monopolisers now-a-days almost push the individual trader out of the market: one party cry up wood as the only material for building the house of the Lord, and another sect with equal zeal extol their own hay and stubble. We shall not by all their efforts be induced to cease from building with the few precious stones which the Lord has entrusted to us; nor shall even our brethren who so admirably pile up the gold and silver persuade us to hide away our agates and carbuncles. We must each build with such material as we have, neither, if the work be true and honest, ought we to censure others or condemn ourselves because our labour is after its own kind . . .

Preaching The Gospel To One’s Self

A penitent mourning for sin fits us to preach repentance. ‘I preached,’ says John Bunyan sometimes, ‘as a man in chains to men in chains, hearing the clanking of my own fetters while I preached to those who were bound in affliction and iron.’ Sermons wrung out of broken hearts are often the means of consolation to despairing souls. It is well to go to the pulpit at times with ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ as our uppermost prayer. Some mourners will never be cheered till they see the preacher smite on his own breast, and hear him confess his personal sense of unworthiness. It would not be right, however, for us to stay upon such low ground, for we preach the gospel, and not the law; we are bound, therefore, to rejoice because we feel the power of the blood of Jesus upon our own consciences, giving us peace and pardon in him. Our joy will give life to our message. We have also tasted of the honey of communion with Jesus: we have not, perhaps, feasted upon handfuls of it, as some of our Samsons have done, but we have at least, like Jonathan, dipped the end of our rod into it, and our eyes are enlightened, so that our hearers can see them sparkle with joy while we tell them how precious Jesus is. This gives emphasis to testimony. When we speak as ministers and not as men, as preachers p 248 instead of penitents, as theologians instead of disciples, we fail: when we lean our head too much upon the commentary and too little upon the Saviour’s bosom, when we eat too largely of the tree of knowledge and too little of the tree of life, we lose the power of our ministry. I am a sinner, a sinner washed in the blood myself, delivered from the wrath to come by the merit of my Lord and Master—all this must be fresh upon the mind. Personal godliness must never grow scant with us. Our own personal justification in the righteousness of Christ, our personal sanctification by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, our vital union with Christ, and expectancy of glory in him, yea, our own advancement in grace, or our own declension; all these we must well know and consider.

Authenticity In The Pulpit

We must never preach to others with a counterfeit voice, narrating an experience we have not enjoyed, but if we feel we have backslidden ourselves, we must rally to the mark, or penitently speak from the stand-point we actually occupy. On the other hand, if we have grown in grace, it is wicked to conceal what we have tasted and handled, and affect a mock humility; in fact, we dare not do so, we cannot but speak what Christ has taught us. We must speak out of the God-given fulness within, and not borrow from another; better far to be silent than to do that. We must be true to our personal condition before God, for perhaps the Lord allows the state of heart of his ministers to vary on purpose that their roving paths may lead to the discovery of his wandering sheep. I have sometimes traversed a portion of the pilgrim path by no means to be desired, and I have groaned in my soul, ‘Lord, why and wherefore is it thus with me?’ And I have preached in a way which made me lie in the dust, fearing that the Lord had not spoken by me, and all the while he was leading me by the hand in a way I knew not, for the good of his own. There have come forward ere long one or two who have been just the people God intended to bless, and they were reached by the very sermon which cost me so dear, and grew out of an experience so bitter. ‘He carried me in the spirit,’ says one of the prophets, and such carryings, so often as they occur, are matters for praise. Not so much for our own good or edification so much as for the benefit of our fellow men are we borne into valleys of dry bones and chambers of imagery. We must watch these phases of soul, and be true to divine impulses. I would not preach upon the joy of the Lord myself when I feel broken-hearted, neither would I enlarge upon a deep sense of indwelling sin while rejoicing in a full sense of cleansing by the word. We must pray the Holy Spirit to keep up and elevate our individual life in its connection with our ministry. We must ever remember that we are not preaching doctrine which is good for others merely, but precious truth which has been proved to be good for ourselves. We may not be butchers at the block chopping off for hungry ones the meat of which we do not partake; but we must ourselves feed upon it, and must show in our very faces what fattening food it is which we present to the starving sons of men.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “Inaugural Address For The Pastor’s College Conference of 1875,” in The Sword and Trowel: May, 1875. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1875), 246–248. [Italics original; boldface subdivisions mine.]


“The Humbling of Nebuchadnezzar” (A guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Written by krkeyser on January 27th, 2018

Commenting on Daniel 4:28-33 –  “What a disaster it was to see poor old Nebuchadnezzar. He had failed to live to the glory of God. He had made himself the chief end. And now the great beautifier of Babylon, who had imposed order on the waste lands of that part of the world and made something beautiful of it, was living like an animal. He had just let himself go without any order whatsoever, and was living like a beast.

The discipline carries a message by itself. The New Testament talks about these things in those solemn and black verses in Romans 1. What happens when men decide not to acknowledge God? God judges them (v. 32). Not merely in the day to come, but he judges them now. Because they refuse to retain the knowledge of God, God gives them over to a debased mind—God does it. It is not that they develop a debased mind, and then God judges them for having it—the debased mind is God’s judgment on them. They said they could enjoy life without God and the discipline of God on that kind of thing is to deliver people over to a reprobate judgment. Their own judgment goes all astray; they dishonour their bodies and then glory in perversion.

It is not merely that God will judge them for it; this is the judgment of God—‘God gave them up to a debased mind’ (v. 28). They shall receive in their bodies their due penalty, says Paul (v. 27), a mind that can no longer discern what is truly holy, healthy and beautifully human, but descends to the level of the beasts.

Listen to Peter, talking to the church. He says that there are false teachers who will come into the church preaching permissiveness, that pre-marital unchastity is OK, just like the world does it.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption. (2 Pet 2:12 KJV)

That is God’s judgment on a decadent civilization. We need, therefore, to evaluate the culture that surrounds us. Our young people especially need help and guidance in this very matter; the peer pressures in school and in society are tremendous. Satan finds it so easy to represent God (as he did to Eve) as a kill-joy who wants to keep us back from beautiful things p 56 and lovely experiences. It is so easy to swallow part of the lie and think that to indulge ourselves is the way to health and maturity. It isn’t.

We need to evaluate art. I love going round art galleries, but not all art is good. Much of it is, but some of it is positively evil. Not all literature is good. It secretly used to amaze me to see young women coming up to university and reading subjects that involved them reading literature written by the most rabid existentialist philosophers, preaching their values. Good literature is good, like good bread and butter is good; it is not to be despised. We don’t have to avoid the world’s good literature. In the world there is good and healthy literature, but there is also poisonous literature. And not all you see on the TV is good, is it? It is not good when believers are watching programmes late on a Saturday night for which they would need to repent before they go to the Lord’s Supper on Sunday morning.

Our minds are our most valuable things. Listen to the advice of the apostle,

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)

But fill your mind with the immoral trash and beastliness of the world, and what you sow you will reap.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 55-56. [Italics original.] Read the entire work here.


God’s Justice & Love (A guest-post by David Gooding)

Written by krkeyser on January 26th, 2018

“‘What is the answer to evil?’ asks the psalmist.

Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Ps 98:8–9)

  Don’t you want there to be a judgment? Who wants the evil of the world to go unchecked for ever? The unconverted man with any moral sense would want a judgment; even if he doesn’t believe in it and thinks it is ‘whistling in the dark’ and comforting yourself with fairy tales. But he would hope it is true that evil will not go on for ever, and there is going to be a judgment.

[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

  Picture the scene with the help of the imagery. ‘The Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool’ (Dan 7:9). Over against this fearful, hideous beast, put the triumph of rationality and wisdom. The books are opened—a perfect record; the thrones are set—perfect justice. The ultimate triumph of rationality, wisdom and justice. Incidentally, notice that it is not one throne, but thrones. We shall come to that again.

  Praise God in your heart that the vision is true and let us preach it unashamedly. It is gospel for our world; let us hold up our heads before the atheist and the humanist. Precisely at this point they have no gospel to preach. The humanist declares that his interest is in humanity. He has got rid of God with all his tyranny and he is on man’s side.

  Let’s take him to visit Auschwitz. Here is a row of cells and the occupants are scheduled to be gassed next Thursday. What shall we say to them?

  When they see us and think we bring hope they ask, ‘What are you doing for us? We want justice.’

  I will say, ‘You will not get justice in this world. You will be gassed, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. But there is hope; this life is not the end. The sense of right and wrong that you have in your heart is not your own imagination. Our Creator put it there; it is not put there to mock you. There is to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. For you, there is forgiveness of all your sins right now, if you will have it. The marvellous assurance from the judge himself is that, if you trust him, you will never come into judgment, but will pass from death to life.’

  And what will the humanist say to them? These people want justice, and he is interested in humanity; he has got rid of God in order to improve the lot of humanity. But he will have to say, ‘I am sorry, you are not going to get justice in this life. You are going to be gassed on Thursday, and since there is no God, no life to come and no judgment, you are never going to get justice.’ The prisoners will say, ‘Do you mean that all my hope in justice has been a mocking delusion?’

‘Yes,’ says the humanist.

  And it is not just Hitler’s victims in the gas chambers. Who shall count the multi-millions that have died unjustly in this world? God has an answer to it, our sense of right and wrong is not put there to mock us. It comes from our Creator God and there is going to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. The resurrection of Christ is the final assurance of the fact.

Perhaps some of you are saying, ‘You denounce one tyrant and his excessive power; but you seem to substitute one tyrant for another tyrant who happens to have a bit more power, namely almighty God.’

Is that so? The final answer in the great struggle of life is simply who has the greatest power. The beast destroyed other people; now God destroys him. What’s the difference? They both destroy. You wouldn’t say anything so silly, would you? God has anticipated this objection. ‘With the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man’ (Dan 7:13). We know exactly who that person is. It was precisely with reference to that text that our Lord claimed to be the Son of Man. To his judges in the priestly court, he said,

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son . . . And he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:22, 27)

Our Lord is qualified to be judge because he is the Son of Man. The amazing grace of almighty God, he shall judge nobody. It will not be a question of God Almighty, in his position of God Almighty, just crushing his creatures; God himself has decreed that the judgment of man shall be done by a man, a perfect man who isn’t obsessed with power. As he looked over his beloved mother city of Jerusalem and saw the sufferings that must descend upon that city he (the judge in that final day) broke down and wept over it.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37)

  The judgment of mankind will be in the hand of that sinless, compassionate, perfect, ideal Son of Man.

It is not a question of who has the greatest power, but who has the greatest love 

  Nobody—not even the devil himself—has ever thought that he could attain greater power than God Almighty. The ultimate question is, who loves man the best? Judgment shall be given to the Son of Man. Not only because it shall be judgment by peer (man judged by man), but because of his worthiness to judge.

I would remind you of that well-loved vision of Revelation 5, where the hosts of heaven proclaim the Lamb worthy to take the book and open the seals. With that the preparations for the judgment of mankind begin. Why is he worthy to do it? It is not only because he is the Son of Man, but because he himself was slain. There shall be no voice raised at this judgment to say it is unfair and he is unqualified. They shall be shown Calvary and how the wild beasts tore him there, with their enmity and jealousy, their envy and spite, their power politics, both religious and civil. Invested with the very power of God, why did he put up with it?

  If you were out walking and a mosquito landed upon you and stung you, you wouldn’t think twice what you would do to it. But to think that a little bit of clay six foot tall should turn round and do insult to God and crucify his Son—why didn’t God smudge out the planet? Because that’s not God! Before the blessed Son of God should mount the throne in judgment, he was first lifted up on the cross of Calvary. He is worthy to execute judgment because he was slain so that men might go free and be redeemed.

  And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ (Rev 5:9–10)

  God is determined not just to destroy creation—he will not thus yield to defeat. Christ is going to make something of it and he will yet make something of human beings. By his redemption not only to forgive them, but to turn them into a kingdom of priests to live and serve God for his eternal pleasure . . .  The answer to the destructive power of the unregenerate Gentile political system is not only that God shall have a judgment; and not only shall the Son, the Messiah, be the judge; but dominion shall be given to the saints.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 41-43. [Italics original.] Read the entire work here.


Daniel’s Gospel For A Hopeless World (A Guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Written by krkeyser on January 25th, 2018

Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

“Though he prospered so remarkably in this strange and, to him, foreign culture, we were led to admire the fact that he maintained not only his personal piety and continued praying to his God, but he maintained his faith. The faith of Israel; that Israel was God’s chosen and elect people, carrying a special role in the world and given a glorious and unique gospel message to preach to the Gentiles. What a glorious message that was for Daniel to bear in that pagan Gentile court. There is hope for this world; there is coming a glorious time of peace and plenty and glory.

  Our life’s experience is not meant to mock us; this world is not a deceit, it comes from the hand of God. The glories of creation around us are not sent to mock us; there is a future for this world. Though this world is marred at present, God has a redemption for it. The day is coming when creation herself shall be delivered from her bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21 KJV).

  Like Daniel, we are privileged to carry that glorious message of hope to our own contemporaries, who flounder in their humanism, atheism and general worldliness and ungodliness and have no ultimate hope. It is worthwhile noticing that, at this stage in history, this gospel message preached by Daniel (in the Old Testament and elaborated in the New) stands in marked contrast to other major religious faiths in the world. We need that observation nowadays, for there is a spirit abroad that advocates pluralism.

  They say, ‘Let’s take the best out of all religions. Are not all religions different ways of climbing the same mountain, so it doesn’t matter whether you come up the northern face, or the southern face, the east or the west? If you persevere you will all come up the mountain and meet each other there. All the world religions are but different ways of climbing the same mountain and coming to the same pinnacle at the end.’

  It sounds wonderful, but of course a moment’s thought is enough to show that it isn’t true and the great religious faiths of the world would be insulted if you took them so superficially. The only way to show respect for the great religious faiths of the world is to study them and take them seriously. If you do, you will find that there are irreconcilable differences and contradictions between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and, say, Hinduism on the other.

  Hinduism, for the most part (although Hinduism is a name given to a whole collection of religions), holds that the material universe (and therefore, our bodies) is, if not unworthy, certainly less than the ideal. This material world was created by some lesser deity, who had not enough wisdom not to do it and went and created this rather demeaning world of matter, instead of leaving things as pure spirit. The ideal for each individual, therefore, is to pass through the cycle of existence as quickly as possible. Being born in this material world, you die and go out into the world of pure spirit; then, having been re-born by reincarnation into this material world, you go back again through death into the immaterial spiritual world. The individual’s wisdom would be to try and escape that endless cycle of re-birth and death; to escape from this material world into the great spirit world beyond.

  As for human history, they say that human history in this world has no particular goal. It is like a wheel that simply goes round everlastingly in circles, getting absolutely nowhere: an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Therefore, the wisdom for each individual is to escape from the rim of the wheel (it doesn’t matter through which spoke) and try and get away from the material world into the refined essence of Nirvana, or whatever you would call it.

  At once you will see that that stands in marked contrast to what Judaism and Christianity are saying. The Bible says that this material world around us is not an illusion. It is not unworthy; it is the very handiwork of God, the almighty Creator. When he created it he pronounced that it was good, and good it is. And not only the creation around us, but ourselves. Our human bodies are not things to be despised, to be run away from (as the Greek philosophers like Socrates used to say). Our human bodies are good.

  It is true that creation has been marred by the rebellion of the creature; but still again the Old and New Testaments combine to tell us that God, in his great mercy, has a scheme of redemption for his creatures, from which springs new and everlasting hope. There is forgiveness and there is redemption. And not only forgiveness for our sins, but the very body of matter that we inhabit, says the Bible, shall one day be redeemed itself. Our blessed Lord’s bodily resurrection from the grave is but the firstfruits of a coming vast harvest. God will not be content to preserve our redeemed spirits, he is going to raise our redeemed bodies from the dead and make them like our Lord’s glorious body (Phil 3:21). And, not content with that, creation herself shall be delivered from her bondage to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21).

  God the Creator is not going to be defeated. He is not going to bring this planet to an end and say, ‘Sorry, it all went wrong and it is beyond my power to redeem it.’ God shall yet be victorious. There is hope and we have a gospel message to preach. In the words of the apostle, ‘According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Pet 1:3) . . . What a glorious gospel it was that Daniel, even in those far-off days, could bring to that highly developed civilization that, for all its sophistication, had no hope.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 21-23. [Italics original.] Download the entire work here.