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Posts Tagged ‘C. H. Spurgeon’

Martyn Lloyd Jones’ “Spiritual Depression” Book and Series

August 16, 2016 2 comments

I have often heard Martyn Lloyd Jones recommended, though in my studies so far had not yet read anything from him.  Recently I revisited a link to the MP3 collection of his “Spiritual Depression” series.  As noted at the beginning of the first message, the audio quality is not that great, restored as best as possible from old recordings – and so I’m reading the Kindle book version instead.

Dan Phillips provided a helpful review of this work a few years ago, and the ‘chronological qualifier’ comment is spot on, in reference to Lloyd Jones for the 20th century and Spurgeon from the 19th century.  I too have found Spurgeon helpful in this area, one he was so well acquainted with.  The foreward included in the edition that Phillips reviewed, can also be read here (Banner of Truth article).

The introductory chapter, General Consideration, is quite helpful.  As MLJ pointed out (and no real surprise here), some of us have the personality-temperament (of introverts) that is naturally more pre-disposed to depression.  He observed that sometimes depression has a physical cause—and attributed the well-known case of Spurgeon’s frequent depression to his physical problem of gout.  A closer look at Spurgeon’s life, though (see this article), tells us that Spurgeon’s experiences with depression began several years before the gout.  It is generally recognized today that Spurgeon’s depression came from a combination of factors, not just the  gout.  Another cause of depression is the “reaction” that comes after an especially intense moment: the familiar story of Elijah victorious over the priests of Baal, and then downcast and running away to hide is a classic example of this.  (I can also relate to this situation at various times in my life.)

From the biblical material, as well as Lloyd Jones’ experience as a pastor, the problem of spiritual depression is fairly common.  Psalm 42 is a guide to the experience, and provides the key to the cure.  When feeling down, I often sing the familiar scripture words to a well-known praise song, “Why so downcast, oh my soul?  / Put your hope in God.”    Going beyond just a simple song tune, though, the real point here is that “we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us.”

This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?  Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning.  You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.  Somebody is talking.  Who is talking to you?  Your self is talking to you.  Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks.  His soul had been depressing him, crushing him.  So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a  moment.  I will speak to you.’

The following chapters (different sermons) consider many different types of people that experience spiritual depression, relating each to a passage of scripture.  For some, the problem is due to an incomplete knowledge of the doctrines of God, or imbalance in the doctrines, and along the way Lloyd Jones makes strong statements regarding the sufficiency of scripture and the Christian faith, such as the following samples:

The gospel is not something partial or piecemeal: it takes in the whole life, the whole of history, the whole world.  It tells us about the creation and the final judgment and everything in between.

and

It is doctrine first, it is the standard of teaching first, it is the message of the gospel first.  We are not concerned simply to attract people emotionally or in the realm of the will, we are concerned to ‘preach the Word’. …. Truth comes to the mind and to the understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  Then having seen the truth, the Christian loves it.  It moves his heart.  He sees what he was, he sees the life he was living, and he hates it.  If you see the truth about yourself as a slave of sin you will hate yourself.  Then as you see the glorious truth about the love of Christ you will want it, you will desire it.  So the heart is engaged.  Truly to see the truth means that you are moved by it and that you love it.  You cannot help it.

This work is well worth reading, for all Christians, as a great book about Christian living and appreciating the truth and greatness of the Christian life.

The Regulative Principle, and Spurgeon on “Thus Says the Lord”

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment

From my current reading, Going Beyond the Five Points includes a helpful chapter on the Regulative Principle, explaining what it is (and what it isn’t), including the theological background of it (that public worship is something God gives us more specifics on, and holds a higher standard, than our everyday life) and the scriptural basis. Among the interesting points: the regulative principle – unlike what I always associated the idea with – does not necessitate exclusive psalmody or music without instruments. Such practices are often (but not always) associated with churches that hold to the regulative principle, but not a necessary conclusion — and as I have observed, at least a few current-day Reformed Baptists have stated their disagreement with exclusive psalmody. As noted in this chapter, the doctrine of original sin and infant baptism also have such historical association, but that does not mean that the one (infant baptism) follows from the other.

From my ongoing Spurgeon reading comes a sermon related to this overall topic. Though Spurgeon never mentions the term “regulative principle,” his sermon #591, “Thus Says the Lord,” is an interesting one in which Spurgeon addresses the emphasis found in so many scriptures, “Thus Says the Lord” as a way to address an error in the Anglican church and its “book of common prayer.” This message was one of several such messages from the 1864 volume in which Spurgeon – age 30 at this time, several years before the Downgrade controversy — first publicly addressed errors in the professing Christian church, publicly challenging those of the establishment (the Anglican Church) to prove their practice from scripture. (The issue here was infant baptism, including statements in the Book of Common Prayer, such as having godparents vow saving faith and commitment on behalf of the infant being “baptized.” In a style well familiar to modern-day blog readers – links to all the posts in a blog series – the notes at the end of this sermon list the numbers and titles in this series regarding this issue.)

Alongside specific comments that tell us about the controversy itself, and some of the specific criticism Spurgeon had experienced (and in this sermon he names names), Spurgeon continually emphasizes the issue of authority, the only authority as “Thus says the Lord.” His explanations relate to the 1689 Confession (which Spurgeon agreed with) understanding of the regulative principle, as he notes God’s concern for proper worship, as God wants it.  Here, strong words from Spurgeon about God’s authority in His Church:

“Thus says the Lord” is the only authority in God’s Church. When the tabernacle was pitched in the wilderness, what was the authority for its length and breadth? Why was the altar of incense to be placed here, and the brazen laver there? Why so many lambs or bullocks to be offered on a certain day? Why must the Passover be roasted whole and not boiled? Simply and only because God had shown all these things to Moses on the holy mount; and thus had Jehovah spoken, “Look that you make them after their pattern, which was shown you on the mount.”

It is even so in the Church at the present day; true servants of God demand to see for all church ordinances and doctrines, the express authority of the Church’s only Teacher and Lord. They remember that the Lord Jesus bade the apostles to teach believers to observe all things whatever He had commanded them—and He neither gave to them nor to any man power to alter His commands. The Holy Spirit revealed much of precious truth and holy precept by the apostles, and to His teaching we would give earnest heed; but when men cite the authority of fathers, and councils, and bishops, do we give place for subjection? No! Not for an hour! They may quote Irenaeus or Cyprian, Augustine or Chrysostom; they may remind us of the dogmas of Luther or Calvin; they may find authority in Simeon, or Wesley, or Gill—we will listen to the opinions of these great men with the respect which they deserve as men, but having done so, we deny that we have anything to do with these men as authorities in the Church of God, for in the Church of God nothing has any authority but, “Thus says the Lord of Hosts.”

If you bring us the concurrent consent of all tradition—if you shall quote precedents venerable with 15, 16, or 17 centuries of antiquity, we burn the whole lot as so much worthless lumber, unless you put your finger upon the passage of Holy Writ which warrants the matter to be of God! You may further plead, in addition to all this venerable authority, the beauty of the ceremony and its usefulness to those who partake, but this is all foreign to the point, for, to the true Church of God, the only question is this—is there a, “Thus says the Lord,” for it? And if divine authority is not forthcoming, faithful men must thrust forth the intruder as the cunning craftiness of men.

Charles Spurgeon: The Political Restoration of the Jews

May 28, 2011 1 comment

From Sermon #582, from June 16, 1864: The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews.

First, THERE IS TO BE A POLITICAL RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations. Her sons are scattered far and wide. Her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed—no king reigns in Jerusalem! She brings forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored! She is to be restored “as from the dead.” When her own sons have given up all hope of her, then is God to appear for her. She is to be reorganized—her scattered bones are to be brought together. There will be a native government again. There will again be the form of a political body.

A State shall be incorporated and a king shall reign. Israel has now become alienated from her own land. Her sons, though they can never forget the sacred dust of Palestine, yet die at a hopeless distance from her consecrated shores. But it shall not be so forever, for her sons shall again rejoice in her—her land shall be called Beulah—for as a young man marries a virgin so shall her sons marry her. “I will place you in your own land,” is God’s promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees!

And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one—one Israel praising one God—serving one king and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah! They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous. No, so glorious shall they be that Egypt and Tyre and Greece and Rome shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David! The day shall yet come when all the high hills shall leap with envy because this is the hill which God has chosen! The time shall come when Zion’s shrine shall again be visited by the constant feet of the pilgrim—when her valleys shall echo with songs and her hilltops shall drop with wine and oil.

If there is meaning in words this must be the meaning of this chapter! I wish never to learn the art of tearing God’s meaning out of His own Words. If there is anything clear and plain, the literal sense and meaning of this passage—a meaning not to be spirited or spiritualized away—it must be evident that both the two and the ten tribes of Israel are to be restored to their own land and that a king is to rule over them. “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen where they are gone and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king to them all.

Spurgeon: What is Done on Earth is Known in Heaven

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon sermon #203, The Sympathy of the Two Worlds:

But I have no doubt, Beloved, the thought has sometimes struck us that our praise does not go far enough. We seem as if we dwelt in an isle cut off from the mainland. This world, like a fair planet, swims in a sea of ether unnavigated by mortal ship. We have sometimes thought that surely our praise was confined to the shores of this poor narrow world— that it was impossible for us to pull the ropes which might ring the bells of Heaven—that we could by no means whatever reach our hands so high as to sweep the celestial chords of angelic harps! We have said to ourselves there is no connection between earth and Heaven. A huge black wall divides us. A strait of unnavigable waters shuts us out. Our prayers cannot reach to Heaven, neither can our praises affect the celestials. Let us learn from our text how mistaken we are! We are, after all, however much we seem to be shut out from Heaven and from the great universe but a province of God’s vast united empire and what is done on earth is known in Heaven! What is sung on earth is sung in Heaven! And there is a sense in which it is true that the tears of earth are wept again in Paradise and the sorrows of mankind are felt again, even on the Throne of the Most High.

The “Crumbs” of Scripture

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Among all the riches of God’s word, sometimes we have to search diligently, exhausting the depth of scripture verses, to find treasures, even to the “crumbs” of God’s word.  Spurgeon used the term in reference to seemingly obscure verses — not the ones we typically remember — that, even so, bring great insights, such as his reference to Ezekiel 16:20-21:

Where we have but little, we must pick up even the crumbs and do as our Master did—gather up the fragments that nothing is lost

Likewise, sometimes Bible teachers will expand on the seemingly trivial pieces of information found in scripture, grasping at the crumbs, as for instance John MacArthur did with the writings about the “12 Ordinary Men” and the “12 Extraordinary Women.”

But now to a particular case in the Bible where someone literally grasped at the crumbs provided in God’s plan:  the Syro-Phoenician woman of Matthew 15:21-28 (parallel passage Mark 7:24-30) who asked for the crumbs that fall from the children to the dogs under the table.  S. Lewis Johnson’s Matthew series provides some good teaching concerning this often misunderstood incident.

In my early Christian years, the view I heard at church was that Jesus acted as He did to make a point to the disciples who were annoyed at the woman:  first acting like them, then showing them the proper response and to not be so exclusive.  In the more recent church setting, the general emphasis (repeated frequently) is the fact that Jesus called her a dog (with no distinction as to the type of dog), just an unclean wild animal, and how we all are as unclean dogs so unworthy before God.  Such superficial, incomplete (and wrong) conclusions often reflect a person’s own bias rather than a serious look at the text:  the one view from a people-oriented teacher interested in our relationships with one another, the second from one who is not a “people-person” and who has a rather negative and distorted concept of God.

As S. Lewis Johnson noted, this particular incident cannot be understood apart from an understanding of God’s Purpose of the Ages, sometimes referred to as the Divine Purpose, a fundamental aspect of dispensationalism.  The underlying issue here is the priority of the gospel:  as Paul says in Romans, “first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.”  As earlier in Matthew (Matthew 10:5-6), Jesus sent the twelve disciples out — only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  Christ came into the world, to the Jews first:  to confirm the promises made to their fathers — and then (next in the sequence), in order that the Gentiles would glorify God for His mercy (Romans 15:8-9).

Jesus’ silence towards the woman here is not one of harshness, the type of silence He showed towards His enemies beyond hope of redemption (the Pharisees, Pilate and Herod) but one of serious contemplation over this matter of God’s priority in redemption.  Jesus knew that the woman had faith to receive the healing of her daughter: she called Him “son of David,” (she understood something of the Davidic promise) and showed all the other indications of faith as previously shown in others (Jews) who had been healed.  Yet here he wanted to point out the order of salvation: first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.  The woman — her name according to tradition was Justa, and her daughter Bernice — accepted this.

The parallel account in Mark includes an extra statement, before the line It is not right to take the children’s bread and  throw it to the dogs: “let the children be fed first.”  The woman seized on this “crumb” of truth, recognizing the idea of a “doggie” under the table, which is the type of dog described here (not the wild, wolf-type pack dogs).  We know the rest of the story, that Jesus proclaimed “great is your faith!” and answered her petition.  This woman’s “crumb” turned out to be pretty important after all: the healing of her demon-possessed daughter.

Spurgeon: A Present Religion

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

From Sermon #196, “A Present Religion” — May 30, 1858

Very differently, however, do we act with affairs of the present life—things that are sweet to us become the more sweet by their nearness. Was there ever a child who longed for his father’s house who did not feel that the holidays grew more sweet in his estimation the shorter the time was that he had to tarry?

What man is there who having once set his heart on riches, did not find his delight in the thought of being rich increase with the nearness of his approach to the desired objective? And are we not, all of us, accustomed when we think a good thing is at a distance, to try if we can shorten the time between us and it?

We try anything and everything to push on the lagging hours! We chide them, wish that Time had double wings, that he might swiftly fly and bring the expected season! When the Christian talks of Heaven, you will always hear him try to shorten the distance between himself and the happy land. He says—
“A few more rolling suns at most
Will land me on fair Canaan’s coast.”
There may be many years between him and Paradise, but still he is prone to say—
“The way may be rough, but it cannot be long.”

Thus do we all delight to shorten the distance between us and the things for which we hope. Now let us just apply this rule to religion. They who love religion love a present thing. The Christian who really seeks salvation will never be happy unless he can say, “Now am I a child of God.” Because the worldling dislikes it, he puts it from him! Because the Christian loves it, therefore its very fairest feature is its present existence, its present enjoyment in his heart! That word, “now,” which is the sinner’s warning and his terror, is to the Christian his greatest delight and joy! “There is therefore”—and then the sweetest bell of all rings—“there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.”

New Blog Feature — Our Blessed Hope

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve just added a new feature to this blog — and a spin-off to a second blog, Our Blessed Hope.

At least a few times a week, the new category “Our Blessed Hope” will feature select quotes from several Christian names, including Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, Horatius Bonar, and others — concerning  eschatology, prophecy and its right interpretation, the future for Israel, the premillennial return of Christ, and more.

See the first post, C. H. Spurgeon:  Jesus the Ruler Over His People Israel,  as a sample, the first in this series.

Or stop by the new blog, a site dedicated to these quotes:

http://ourblessedhope.wordpress.com/

C.H. Spurgeon: Jesus the Ruler Over His People Israel

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

From sermon #57, “The Incarnation and Birth of Christ” (December 23, 1855)

Blessed Lord Jesus! thou art ruler in thy people’s hearts, and thou ever shalt be; we want no other ruler save thyself, and we will submit to none other. We are free, because we are the servants of Christ; we are at liberty, because he is our ruler, and we know no bondage and no slavery, because Jesus Christ alone is monarch of our hearts. He came “to be ruler in Israel;” and mark you, that mission of his is not quite fulfilled yet, and shall not be till the latter-day glories. In a little while you shall see Christ come again, to be ruler over his people Israel, and ruler over them not only as spiritual Israel, but even as natural Israel, for the Jews shall be restored to their land, and the tribes of Jacob shall yet sing in the halls of their temple; unto God there shall yet again be offered Hebrew songs of praise, and the heart of the unbelieving Jew shall be melted at the feet of the true Messiah. In a short time, he who at his birth was hailed king of the Jews by Easterns, and at his death was written king of the Jews by a Western, shall be called king of the Jews everywhere—yes, king of the Jews and Gentiles also—in that universal monarchy whose dominion shall be co-extensive with the habitable globe, and whose duration shall be coeval with time itself. He came to be a ruler in Israel, and a ruler most decidedly he shall be, when he shall reign among his people with his ancients gloriously.

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Practical Sermons, Spurgeon, and Reading Good Sermons

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

In a recent post over at Pyromaniacs, Dan Phillips discussed different types of sermons, and noted a weakness in C.H. Spurgeon, that Spurgeon always preached on the doctrinal portions but never on the practical Christian living texts (such as in Ephesians 5, etc.).  I can certainly see that point:  even when Spurgeon chose such texts he would turn the subject away from the part dealing with, say, a husband’s duty, and focus instead on Christ.  Yet in my own reading through Spurgeon’s sermons, I have found many great treasures of wisdom for practical life:  the exhortations and practical advice included within the context of an overall doctrinal sermon, much as the New Testament epistles often begin with chapters of doctrine, followed by chapters of practical application.

Grace Gems well points out the great benefits from reading good sermons, benefits I have only begun to appreciate in my reading through the early Spurgeon sermon volumes:

The reading of good sermons is the most underrated kind of Christian literature on the market today. In former centuries, the reading of sermons was the bulk of the mature Christian’s reading diet. Most Puritan books, for example, are sermons edited for print. Sermon reading keeps believers in the Word, matures the soul, and whets the appetite for good preaching. It promotes Christ-centered thinking, healthy self-examination, and godly piety in every sphere of life.

Consider the following practical words from Spurgeon:

  • continuous exhortations to study the Bible for oneself
  • advice to pray for those who do not understand some of the Bible’s teachings as we do, instead of trying to win them by mere words

Says one, “How can I do God’s business? I have no talent, I have no money. All I earn in the week I have to spend and I have scarce money enough to pay my rent. I have no talent. I could not teach in a Sunday-School.” Brother, have you a child? Well, there is one door of usefulness for you. Sister, you are very poor. No one knows you. You have a husband and however drunk he may be, there is a door of usefulness for you. Bear up under all his insults, be patient under all his taunts and jeers and you can serve God and do God’s business so.

“But, Sir I am sick, it is only today I am able to get out at all. I am always on my bed.” You can do your Master’s business, by lying on a bed of suffering for Him, if you do it patiently. The soldier who is ordered to lie in the trenches, is just as obedient as the man who is ordered to storm the breach. In everything you do you can serve your God. Oh, when the heart is rightly tuned in this matter we shall never make excuses and say, “I cannot be about my Father’s business.”

“How, then,” says one, “am I to make my calling and election sure?” Why, thus—if you would get out of a doubting state—get out of an idle state. If you would get out of a trembling state, get out of an indifferent lukewarm state. …Wherein shall you be diligent? Note how the Scripture has given us a list. Be diligent in your faith. … And when you have given diligence about that, give diligence next to your courage. Labor to get virtue. Plead with God that He would give you the face of a lion, that you may never be afraid of any enemy—however much he may jeer or threaten you but that you may with a consciousness of right, go on, boldly trusting in God. And having, by the help of the Holy Spirit, obtained that, study well the Scriptures and get knowledge. For a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm your faith. Try to understand God’s Word. Get a sensible, spiritual idea of it.  Get, if you can, a system of divinity out of God’s Bible. Put the doctrines together. Get real, theological knowledge, founded upon the infallible Word. … And when you have done this, “Add to your knowledge temperance.” Take heed to your body—be temperate there. Take heed to your soul—be temperate there. Be not drunken with pride. Be not lifted up with self-confidence. Be temperate. Be not harsh towards your friends, nor bitter to your enemies. Get temperance of lip, temperance of life, temperance of heart, temperance of thought. … Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur in your sicknesses.  That you may not curse God in your losses, nor be depressed in your afflictions.