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More meat from Burroughs “Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”:
A GODLY MAN HAS CONTENTMENT AS A MYSTERY, because just as he sees all his afflictions come from the same love that Jesus Christ did, so he sees them all sanctified in Jesus Christ, sanctified in a Mediator. He sees, I say, all the sting and venom and poison of them taken out by the virtue of Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man. For instance, when a Christian would have contentment he works it out thus: what is my affliction? Is it poverty that God strikes me with?-Jesus Christ had not a house to hide his head in, the fowls of the air had nests, and the foxes holes, but the Son of man had not a hole to hide his head in; now my poverty is sanctified by Christ’s poverty. I can see by faith the curse and sting and venom taken out of my poverty by the poverty of Jesus Christ.
Christ Jesus was poor in this world to deliver me from the curse of my poverty. So my poverty is not afflictive, if I can be contented in such a condition. That is the way, not to stand and repine, because I have not what others have; no, but I am poor, and Christ was poor, that he might bless my poverty to me.
And so again, am I disgraced or dishonored? Is my good name taken away? Why, Jesus Christ had dishonor put upon him; he was called Beelzebub, and a Samaritan, and they said he had a devil in him. All the foul aspersions that could be, were cast upon Jesus Christ, and this was for me, that I might have the disgrace that is cast upon me sanctified to me. Whereas another man’s heart is overwhelmed with dishonor, and disgrace, and he seeks in this way to get contentment: perhaps you have been spoken ill of and you have no other way to ease and right yourselves, but if they abuse you, you will abuse them back; and so you think to ease yourselves. Oh, but a Christian has another way to ease himself: others abuse and speak ill of me, but did they not abuse Jesus Christ, and speak ill of him? And what am I in comparison of Christ? And the subjection of Christ to such an evil was for me, that though such a thing should come upon me, I might know that the curse of it is taken from me through Christ’s subjection to that evil.
Thus, a Christian can be content when anybody speaks ill of him. Now, this is a mystery to you, to get contentment in this way. So if men jeer and scoff at you, did they not do so to Jesus Christ? They jeered and scoffed at him, and that when he was in his greatest extremity upon the Cross: they said, Here is the King of the Jews, and they bowed the knee, and said, Hail King of the Jews, and put a reed into his hand, and mocked him. Now I get contentment in the midst of scorns and jeers, by considering that Christ was scorned, and by acting faith upon what Christ suffered for me. Am I in great bodily pain?-Jesus Christ had as great pain in his body as I have (though it is true he did not have the same kind of sicknesses as we have, yet he had as great pain and tortures in his body, and that which was deadly to him, as much as any sickness is to us). The exercising of faith on what Christ endured, is the way to get contentment in the midst of our pains.
Someone lies vexing and fretting himself, and cannot bear his pain: are you a Christian? Have you ever tried this way of getting contentment, to act your faith on all the pains and sufferings that Jesus Christ suffered: this would be the way of contentment, and a Christian gets contentment when under pains, in this way. Sometimes one who is very godly and gracious, may be found bearing grievous pains and extremities very cheerfully, and you wonder at it. He gets it by acting his faith upon what pains Jesus Christ suffered. You are afraid of death-the way to get contentment is by exercising your faith on the death of Jesus Christ. It may be that you have inward troubles in your soul, and God withdraws himself from you; still your faith is to be exercised upon the sufferings that Jesus Christ endured in his soul. He poured forth his soul before God, and when he sweat drops of water and blood, he was in an agony in his very spirit, and he found even God himself about to forsake him. Now thus to act your faith on Jesus Christ brings contentment, and is not this a mystery to carnal hearts? A gracious heart finds contentment as a mystery; it is no marvel that St. Paul said, ‘I am instructed in a mystery, to be contented in whatsoever condition I am in.’ 11. THERE IS STILL A FURTHER MYSTERY, for I hope you will find this a very useful point and that before we have finished you will see how simple it is for one who is skilled in religion to get contentment, though it is hard for one who is carnal. I say, the eleventh mystery in contentment is this: A gracious heart has contentment by getting strength from Jesus Christ; he is able to bear his burden by getting strength from someone else. Now this is a riddle, and it would be counted ridiculous in the schools of the philosophers, to say, If there is a burden on you you must get strength form someone else. Indeed if you must have another come and stand under the burden, they could understand that; but that you should be strengthened by the strength of someone else, who is not near you as far as you can see, they would think ridiculous. But a Christian finds satisfaction in every circumstance by getting strength from another, by going out of himself to Jesus Christ, by his faith acting upon Christ, and bringing the strength of Jesus Christ into his own soul, he is thereby enabled to bear whatever God lays on him, by the strength that he finds from Jesus Christ. Of his fullness do we receive grace for grace; there is strength in Christ not only to sanctify and save us, but strength to support us under all our burdens and afflictions, and Christ expects that when we are under any burden, we should act our faith upon him to draw virtue and strength from him. Faith is the great grace that is to be acted under afflictions. It is true that other graces should be acted, but the grace of faith draws strength from Christ, in looking on him who has the fullness of all strength conveyed into the hearts of all believers.
Now if a man has a burden to bear, and yet can have strength added to him-if the burden is doubled, he can have his strength trebled-the burden will not be heavier but lighter than it was before to his natural strength.
Indeed, our afflictions may be heavy, and we cry out, Oh, we cannot bear them, we cannot bear such an affliction. Though you cannot tell how to bear it with your own strength, yet how can you tell what you will do with the strength of Jesus Christ? You say you cannot bear it? So you think that Christ could not bear it? But if Christ could bear it why may you not come to bear it? You will say, Can I have the strength of Christ? Yes, it is made over to you by faith: the Scripture says that the Lord is our strength, God himself is our strength, and Christ is our strength. There are many Scriptures to that effect, that Christ’s strength is yours, made over to you, so that you may be able to bear whatever lies upon you, and therefore we find such a strange expression in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, praying for the saints: ‘That they might be strengthened with all might according unto his glorious power’, unto what? ‘Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness’-strengthened with all might, according to the power of God, the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and longsuffering with joyfulness. You must not therefore be content with a little strength, so that you are able to bear what a man might bear by the strength of reason and nature, but you should be strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and to all longsuffering.
Oh, you who are now under very heavy and sad afflictions more than usual, look at this Scripture, and consider how it is made good in you; and why may you not have this Scripture made good in you, if you are godly? You should not be quiet in your own spirits, unless in some measure you get this Scripture made good in you, so that you may with some comfort say, ‘Through God’s mercy, I find that strength coming into me that is spoken of in this Scripture.’ You should labor when you are under any great affliction (you who are godly) to walk so that others may see such a Scripture made good in you. This is the glorious power of God that strengthens his servants to all longsuffering, and that with joyfulness. Alas, it may be that you do not exercise as much patience as a wise man or a wise woman who has only natural reason. But where is the power of God, the glorious power of God? Where is the strengthening with all might, unto all longsuffering and patience, and that with joyfulness? It is true, the spirit of a man may be able to sustain his infirmities, may be able to sustain and keep up his spirits, the natural spirit of a man can do that, but much more when the spirit is endued with grace and holiness, and when it is filled with the strength of Jesus Christ. This is the way a godly man gets contentment, the mystery of it, by getting strength from Jesus Christ.
From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Feast of the Lord”, delivered on the Lord’s-day Evening, August 6th, 1871.
It is said in the text, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death.” How do we show it? What do we show? Well, first of all, we show that God has set forth Christ for men. The table is spread; there is bread on it; there is the cup upon it. What for? Not for beasts. Here is the food of men. It is set there for men. It is intended that the bread should be eaten, that the wine should be drunk. Everybody who sees a table spread knows at once that there are preparations for a meal or a festival. Now God has set forth Christ for men. There is in Christ what man wants. As bread meets his hunger, as the cup meets his thirst, so Christ meets all the spiritual wants of mankind. And the soul that would live, and the soul that would rejoice, must come to God’s provision for his living and his rejoicing, and that provision is to be found in Jesus Christ crucified. God set forth Christ of old. Even in the garden, he set him forth in the first promise. He continued to set him forth by all the prophets, and in this last day every veil has been taken away by an open Bible inviting all comers. God has set forth the bread of life to the sons of men. And you to-night will show that fact. When you see that table uncovered, you have a representation. God has made a feast of fat things for the sons of men in the person of Jesus Christ. The feast consists of bread and wine. Now in this we represent Christ’s human person, Christ’s humanity. That he is no myth, but real flesh, is taught by the bread being on the table—that he was no phantom, but that real blood coursed through his veins as through ours—that the Lord of life and glory was, like ourselves, a real man, in humanity in all respects like to ourselves, sin alone excepted. There shall be no phantom feast upon the table, and the materialism that is there is meant to show that he was a man, a real man
“Who once on Calvary died,
When streams of blood and water ran
Down from his wounded side.”
But the next thing we show forth is his death. We have his person; then we have his death—observe how. Recording to the Romish Church, the most of the people are only to participate in the bread—the wafer. Now such persons never show Christ’s death at all, for the text says, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye show Christ’s death.” It is only by the two that you show his death at all. The bread represents the body, but the cup must represent the blood, or else you have no token of his suffering—no emblem of his death. Cannot the two be mixed together? No, for if the blood and flesh be together, you have the living man. It is when the blood flows—when the lifeblood ebbs from the body, and the body is bloodless, that then you have the wine as a token of death; and the separation of the two—the use of the two emblems—is absolutely needful to set forth death. The more you think this the more you see in it. The emblem is the simplest in the world, but yet the most instructive. Take either one of the elements—the bread, how it typifies Christ’s suffering! Here was the corn bruised beneath the thresher’s flail; then was it cast into the ground. It sprung up and ripened, and had to be cut down with the sickle; then it had to be threshed; then ground in the mill; then was it baked in the oven. A whole series of sufferings, if I may use the term, it had to pass through before it became proper food for us. And so must our Saviour pass through sufferings innumerable before he could become food for our souls, and redeemer of our spirits. As for that which is in the cup, it was trodden beneath the foot in the wine-press—its juice was pressed forth. So in the wine-press of Jehovah’s wrath was Christ pressed before he could become the wine that maketh glad both God and man. Both emblems represent suffering, each one separately, but put together they bring forth the idea of death, “and as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death.”
But more than this; we show that God set forth Christ; we show his person as a real man; we show his sufferings and his death; but next we show our participation in the same, for it is not “as often as ye look at this bread,” or “as ye gaze upon this cup,” but “as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup.” Christ saves us not until we do receive him by an act of faith. The bread satisfies no hunger while it rests upon the table, and a draught from the cup quenches no thirst until it really is drunk. So the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour must be received by our faith. We must believe in him to the saving of our souls. Now how simple a matter is eating! It matters not, unless a man be dead—he wants little teaching to know how to eat. It is as simple as a natural act—he puts food into his mouth. It is just so here. There is the Saviour, and I take him—that is all. It seems to me to be even a more complex act to eat than simply to trust in Jesus, yet is it a very simple thing. The idiot can eat. No matter how guilty a man, he can eat; no matter how dark and despairing his fears, he can eat; and O poor soul, whoever thou mayest be, there shall be no want of wit or merit that shall keep thee back from Christ. If thou art willing to have him, thou mayest have him. The act of trusting Christ makes Christ as much thy own as the eating of the bread. Suppose some difficulty were raised about whether a piece of bread was mine. Well, the legal question would take a long time to decide. I cannot produce the document, nor find the witnesses to prove it is mine. But there is one little fact, I think, which will settle it—I have eaten it. So if the devil himself were to say that Christ is not mine, I have believed on him; and if I have believed on him, he is mine just as surely as when I have eaten a piece of bread there can be no question about its being mine. Now we set forth to-night, by eating bread and drinking of the cup, the fact that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and we take him by simple faith to be our all in all.
But there is more teaching still. The bread and wine, are being eaten and drunk, are assimilated into the system; they minister strength to bone, sinew, muscle; they build up the man. And herein is teaching. Christ believed in is one with us—”Christ in us the hope of glory. “We have heard persons talk of believers falling from grace and losing Christ. No, sir, a man has eaten bread—he ate it yesterday. Will you separate that bread from the man? Will you trace the drops that came from the cup, and fetch them out of the man’s system? You shall more easily do that than you shall take Christ away from the soul that has once fed upon him. “Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?” He is in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life. See then how large a letter Christ has written to us with these pens—how in this bread and this wine, eaten and drunk, he has taught us wondrous mysteries—in fact, the whole Christian faith is, in brief, summed up here upon this table.
David Clarkson (1621 – 1686)
“You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or covetous person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a such a person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:5
A covetous man is an idolater. Not only the covetous, but the immoral, are idolaters. For the apostle, who here makes covetousness to be idolatry, considers voluptuous people to be idolaters also, where he speaks of some who make their belly their God (Phil. 3:19). Indeed, every reigning lust is an idol—and every person in whom it reigns is an idolater. “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” Pleasures, and riches, and honors are the carnal man’s trinity. These are the three great idols of worldly men, to which they prostrate their souls! And giving that to them which is due only to God, they hereby become guilty of idolatry. That this may be more evident—that covetousness, immorality, and other lusts are idolatry—let us consider what it is and the several kinds of it.
Idolatry is to give that honor and worship to ‘the creature’, which is due to the Creator alone. When this worship is communicated to other things, whatever they are, we thereby make them idols, and commit idolatry. Now this worship due to God alone, is not only given by the savage heathen to their stick and stones—and by papists to angels, saints and images—but also by carnal men to their lusts.
There is a twofold worship due only to God–
1. External, which consists in acts and gestures of the body. When a man bows to or prostrates himself before a thing, this is the worship of the body. And when these gestures of bowing, prostration are used, not out of a civil, but a religious respect, with an intention to testify divine honor, then it is worship due only to God.
2. Internal, which consists in the acts of the soul and actions answerable thereto. When the mind is most taken up with an object and the heart and affections most set upon it, this is ‘soul worship’—and this is due only to God. For He being the chief good and the chief end of intelligent creatures, it is His due, proper to Him alone, to be most minded and most loved. It is the honor due only to the Lord to have the first, the highest place, both in our minds and hearts and endeavors.
Now according to this distinction of worship, there are two sorts of idolatry–
1. Open, outward idolatry, when men, out of a religious respect, bow to, or prostrate themselves before anything besides the true God. This is the idolatry of the heathen, and in part, the idolatry of papists.
2. Secret and soul idolatry, when the mind is set on anything more than God; when anything is more valued than God, more desired than God, more sought than God, more loved than God. Then is that soul worship, which is due only to God.
Hence, “secret idolaters” shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Soul idolatry will exclude men out of heaven as well as open idolatry. He who serves his lusts is as incapable of entering heaven, as he who worships idols of wood or stone!
Before we come to confirm and apply this truth, it will be requisite to make a more clear discovery of this secret idolatry. In order thereunto, observe, there are thirteen acts of soul worship–
1. ESTEEM. That which we most highly value, we make our God. For esteem is an act of soul worship. Worship is the mind’s esteem of a thing as most excellent. Now the Lord demands the highest esteem, as an act of honor and worship due only to Himself. Therefore, to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry. To have an high opinion—of ourselves—of our abilities and accomplishments—of our relations and enjoyments—of our riches and honors—or those that are rich and honorable—or anything of like nature, when we have low opinions of God, is to advance these things into the place of God—to make them idols and give them that honor and worship which is due only to the divine Majesty. What we most esteem—we make our god. If you hold other things in higher esteem than the true God, you are idolaters (Job 21:14).
2. MINDFULNESS. That which we are most mindful of—we make our God. For to be most remembered, to be most minded, is an act of worship which is proper to God, and which He requires as due to Himself alone (Ecc. 12:1). Other things may be minded; but if they be more minded than God, it is idolatry—the worship of God is given to the creature. When you mind yourselves, mind your estates and worldly interests, mind your profits or pleasures more than God—you set these up as idols in the place of God.
When that time, which should be taken up with thoughts of God, is spent in thoughts of other things—when God is not in all your thoughts—or if He sometimes is there, yet if other things take a higher place in your thoughts—if when you are called to think of God—as sometimes every day we should do with all seriousness—if ordinarily and willingly you make these thoughts of God give place to other things, it is idolatry.
If either you do not think of God or think otherwise of Him than He is—think Him all mercy, disregarding His justice—think Him all pity and compassion, disregarding His purity and holiness—think of His faithfulness in performing promises, not at all regarding His truth in execution of threatenings—think Him all love, not regarding His sovereignty—this is to set up an idol instead of God. Thinking otherwise of God than He has revealed Himself—or minding other things as much or more than God—is idolatry.
3. INTENTION. That which we most aim at, we make our God. For to be most intended is an act of worship due only to the true God. For He being the chief good—He must be the chief end. Now the chief end must be our chief aim—it must be intended and aimed at for itself; and all other things must be aimed at for its sake in a subserviency to it.
Now, when we make other things our chief aim or main design, we set them up in the stead of God and make them idols. When our chief design is to be rich, or great, or safe, or famous, or powerful—when our great aim is our own ease, or pleasure, or credit, or profit and advantage—when we aim at, or intend anything more, or anything as much, as the glorifying and enjoying of God—this is soul idolatry.
4. RESOLUTION. What we are most resolved for, we worship as God. Resolvedness for God, above all things, is an act of worship which He demands as due to Himself alone. To communicate it to other things is to give the worship of God unto them, and so to make them gods. When we are fully resolved for other things—for our lusts, pleasures, outward advantages—and but faintly resolved for God, His ways, honor, service—this is soul idolatry.
When we resolve presently for other things, but refer our resolves for God to the future—”Let me get enough of the world, of my pleasure, of my lusts, now—I will think of God hereafter, in old age, in sickness, on a deathbed”—these are idolatrous resolutions. God is thrust down—the creatures and your lusts advanced into the place of God—and that honor which is due only to Him, you give unto idols.
5. LOVE. That which we most love—we worship as our God. For love is an act of soul-worship. To love and to adore are sometimes both one. That which one loves—he worships. This is undoubtedly true, if we intend hereby that love which is superlative and transcendent—for to be loved above all things is an act of honor and worship, which the Lord demands as His due in peculiar (Deut. 6:5). In this the Lord Christ summed up all that worship which is required of man (Mat. 22:37). Other things may be loved—but He will be loved above all other things. He is to be loved transcendently, absolutely, and for Himself. All other things are to be loved in Him and for Him. He looks upon us as not worshiping Him at all, not taking Him for a God, when we love other things more or as much as Himself (1 John 2:15). Love to the creature, whenever it is inordinate, it is an idolatrous affection.
6. TRUST. That which we most trust we make our God. For confidence and dependence is an act of worship, which the Lord calls for as due only to Himself. And what act of worship is there which the Lord more requires than this soul-dependence upon Him alone? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prov. 3:5). He will allow no place for confidence in anything else. Therefore, it is idolatry to trust in ourselves—to rely upon our own wisdom, judgments, abilities, accomplishments. The Lord forbids it (Prov. 3:5).
To trust in wealth or riches—Job disclaims this and reckons it among those idolatrous acts that were punishable by the judge (Job 31:24). And our apostle, who calls covetousness idolatry, dissuades from this ‘confidence in riches’ as inconsistent with confidence in God (1 Tim. 6:17). To trust in friends though many and mighty—He fixes a curse upon this as being a departing from—a renouncing of God—an advancing of that we trust into the room of God (Psalm 136:3). Psalm 118:8, 9—”It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” The idolatry of this confidence is expressed, in that the true God is laid aside. Trust in the creature is always idolatrous.
7. FEAR. That which we most fear, we worship as our God. For fear is an act of worship. He who fears, worships that which is feared—which is unquestionable when his fear is transcendent. The whole worship of God is frequently in Scripture expressed by this one word “fear” (Mat. 4:10; Deu. 6:13); and the Lord demands this worship, this fear, as due to Him alone (Isa 50:12, 19). That is our god which is our fear and dread (Luke 12:4, 5). If you fear others more than Him, you give that worship to them which is due only to God—and this is plain idolatry.
8. HOPE. That which we make our hope we worship as God. For hope is an act of worship—and worship is due only to God. It is His prerogative to be the hope of His people (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). When we make other things our hope, we give them the honor due only to God. It is a forsaking of the Lord the ‘Fountain’—and setting up of ‘broken cisterns’ into His place (Jer 2:13), hereby worshiping them as God. Thus do the papists openly, when they call the virgin mother, the wooden cross, and departed saints, their hope. And thus do others among us, who make their prayers, their sorrow for sin, their works of charity, or any acts of religion or righteousness, their hope—when men expect hereby to satisfy God’s justice, to pacify God’s displeasure, and to procure heaven. Nothing can effect this, but that which is infinite—the righteousness of God. And this we have only in and from Christ. He is therefore called our hope (1 Tim. 1:1); “our hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Those who make their own righteousness the foundation of their hope—they exalt it into the place of Christ and honor it as God.
9. DESIRE. That which we most desire—we worship as our God. For that which is chiefly desired, is the chief good, in the estimation of the one who desires it. And what he counts his chief good, that he makes his god. Desire is an act of worship—and to be most desired is that worship, that honor, which is due only to God. To desire anything more, or as much, as the enjoyment of God—is to idolize it, to prostrate the heart to it, and worship it as God alone should be worshiped. He alone should be that one thing desirable to us above all things. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after—that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4
10. DELIGHT. That which we most delight and rejoice in—that we worship as God. For transcendent delight is an act of worship due to God alone. And this affection in its height and elevation is called glorying. That which is our delight above all things, we glory in it—and this is the prerogative which the Lord demands (1 Cor. 1:31; Jer. 9:23, 24). To rejoice more in our wisdom, strength, riches, than in the Lord—is to idolize them. To take more delight in relations, wife, or children, in outward comforts and accommodations, than in God—is to worship them, as we ought only to worship God. To take more pleasure in any way of sin, uncleanness, intemperance, earthly employments—than in the holy ways of God—than in those spiritual and heavenly services wherein we may enjoy God—is idolatry.
11. ZEAL. That for which we are most zealous, we worship as God. For such a zeal is an act of worship due only to God. Therefore, it is idolatrous to be more zealous for our own things—than for the things of God—to be eager in our own cause; and careless in the cause of God—to be more vehement for our own pleasure, interests, advantages; than for the truths, ways, honor of God—to be fervent in following our own business, promoting our designs; but lukewarm and indifferent in the service of God—to count it intolerable for ourselves to be reproached, slandered, reviled; but manifest no indignation when God is dishonored, His name, Sabbaths, worship, profaned; His truths, ways, people, reviled—this is idolatrous.
12. GRATITUDE. That to which we are most grateful, that we worship as God. For gratitude is an act of worship. We worship that for which we are most thankful. We may be thankful to men, we may acknowledge the helpfulness of means and instruments—but if we rest here and rise not higher in our thanks and acknowledgments—if the Lord is not remembered as Him without whom all these are nothing—it is idolatry. For this the Lord threatens those idolaters (Hos. 2:5, 8). Thus when we ascribe—our plenty and riches to our care and industry—our success to our prudence and diligence—our deliverances to friends, means, instruments—without looking higher—or not so much to God as unto these—we idolize them, sacrifice to them, as the prophet expresses it (Hab. 1:16). To ascribe that, which comes from God unto the creatures, is to set them in the place of God and so to worship them.
13. When our care and industry is more for other things, than for God—this is idolatrous. No man can serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon—God and our lusts also—because this service of ourselves and of the world, takes up that care, that industry, those endeavors, which the Lord must have of necessity, if we will serve Him as God. And when our time and endeavors are laid out for the world and our lusts, we serve them as the Lord ought to be served—and so make them our gods. When you are more careful and industrious to please men or yourselves, than to please God—when you are more careful to provide for yourselves and posterity, than to be serviceable unto God—when you are more careful as to what you shall eat, drink, or be clothed, than how you may honor and enjoy God—when you are more careful to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, than how to fulfill the will of God—when you are more industrious to promote your own interests, than the designs of God—when you are more careful to be rich, or great, or respected among men, than that God may be honored and advanced in the world—when you are more careful how to get the things of the world, than how to employ them for God—when you rise early, go to bed late, eat the bread of carefulness, that your outward estate may prosper, while the cause, and ways, and interests of Christ have few or none of your endeavors—this is to idolize the world, yourselves, your lusts, your relations, while the God of heaven is neglected! And the worship and service due unto Him alone is hereby idolatrously given to other things!
He who makes Christ his chief aim, if at length he finds Him whom his soul loves—this quiets his heart—whatever he lacks, whatever he loses besides. He counts this a full recompense for all his tears, prayers, inquiries, waitings, endeavors.
“Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry!” 1 Corinthians 10:14
by Jonathan Edwards
HUMILITY may be defined to be a habit of mind and heart corresponding to our comparative unworthiness and vileness before God, or a sense of our own comparative meanness in His sight, with the disposition to a behaviour answerable thereto. And a truly humble man is sensible of the small extent of his own knowledge, and the great extent of his ignorance, and of the small extent of his understanding as compared with the understanding of God. He is sensible of his weakness, how little his strength is, and how little he is able to do. He is sensible of his natural distance from God, of his dependence on Him, of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for; and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and his might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.
Humility tends to prevent an aspiring and ambitious behaviour amongst men. The man that is under the influence of an humble spirit is content with such a situation amongst men as God is pleased to allot to him, and is not greedy of honour, and does not affect to appear uppermost and exalted above his neighbours. Humility tends also to prevent an arrogant and assuming behaviour. On the contrary, humility disposes a person to a condescending behaviour to the meekest and lowest and to treat inferiors with courtesy and affability, as being sensible of his own weakness and despicableness before God.
If we then consider ourselves as the followers of the meek and lowly and crucified Jesus, we shall walk humbly before God and man all the days of our life on earth.
Let all be exhorted earnestly to seek much of an humble spirit, and to endeavour to be humble in all their behaviour toward God and men. Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and man. Know God. Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before Him. Distrust yourself. Rely only on God. Renounce all glory except from Him. Yield yourself heartily to His will and service. Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, wilful levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was on earth. Humility is a most essential and distinguishing trait in all true piety.
Earnestly seek then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish an humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, He will receive you to the honours bestowed on His people at Christ’s right hand.
Thoughts on the Government of the Tongue
by John Newton
There is, perhaps, no one test or proof of the reality of a work of grace upon the heart, more simple, clear, and infallible—than the general tenor of our language and conversation; for our Lord’s aphorism is of certain and universal application, that, “out of the abundance of the heart—the mouth speaks.” To the same purpose, the apostle James proposes to all who make profession of the gospel, a searching criterion of their sincerity, when he says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight bridle on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” This passage should not be thought a hard saying, for it stands in the Bible; but, because it stands in the Bible, and forms a part of the rule by which the characters and states of all men will be finally determined, there is reason to fear that it will be found a hard saying at last, by too many who name the name of Christ. A few thoughts upon this important subject, “the government of the tongue” can never be unseasonable.
It is not the restraint of the heart, which the apostle requires. He knew that, though it is our duty to watch against the first rising motions of evil within, and to be humbled for them—that it is not in our power wholly to prevent them. But he supposes that the grace of God in a true believer will check the evils of the heart, and prevent them from breaking out by the tongue.
Nor is the restraint of the tongue to be taken so strictly, as if a true believer was never liable to speak unadvisedly. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; and Peter not only denied his Lord—but denied him with oaths and execrations. I allow that it is possible for the best of men, in an unguarded hour, and through the pressure of some sudden and violent temptation or provocation, may occasionally act or speak unsuitably to their habitual gracious character. But I think the apostle must mean thus much at least, that, when saving grace is in the heart—it will so regulate and control the tongue, that it shall not customarily sin; and that, without some evidence of such a regulation, we are not bound to acknowledge any man to be a Christian, however splendid his profession may be in other respects. Nay, I think we may further say of this test, what the magicians of Egypt acknowledged upon another occasion, “This is the finger of God!” This is, perhaps, the only outward mark of a believer, which the hypocrite cannot imitate. In many things he may seem to be religious; in some, perhaps, he may appear to go beyond the real Christian; but, because his heart is unchanged—he cannot bridle his tongue.
The man who seems, and who desires to be thought religious, may have many qualifications to support his claim, which may be valuable and commendable in themselves, and yet are of no avail to the possessor, if he bridles not his tongue. He may have much religious knowledge; I mean, of such knowledge as may be acquired in the use of ordinary means. He may have a warm zeal, and may contend earnestly (in his way) for the faith once delivered to the saints. He may be able to talk well on spiritual subjects, to pray with freedom and fervency. Yes, he may even be a preacher, and conduct himself to the satisfaction of sincere Christians. Or he may be a fair trader, a good neighbor, a kind master, an affectionate husband or parent, be free from gross vices, and attend constantly upon the ordinances. Will not such a man seem to himself, and probably be esteemed by others—to be religious? Yet if, with all these good properties, he does not bridle his tongue—he may be said to lack the one thing needful. He deceives his own heart! His religion is vain!
But what are we to understand by bridling the tongue? The expression, I think, will be sufficiently explained by considering how the grace of God will necessarily influence and govern the tongues of those who partake of it, in what they say when they are led to speak of God, of themselves, and of or to their fellow-creatures.
Having seen a glimpse of the holiness and majesty, the glory and the grace, of the great God with whom they have to do—their hearts are impressed with reverence, and therefore there is a sobriety and decorum in their language. They cannot speak lightly of God, or of his ways. One would suppose that no person, who even but seems to be religious, can directly and expressly profane his glorious name. But there is a careless and flippant manner of speaking of the great God, which is very disgusting and very suspicious. Likewise, the hearts of believers teach their mouths to speak honorably of God under all their afflictions and crosses, acknowledging the wisdom and the mercy of his dispensations; and, if an impatient word escapes them, it grieves and humbles them, as quite unfitting their situation as His creatures, and especially as sinful creatures, who have always reason to acknowledge, that it is of the Lord’s mercy, that they are not wholly consumed.
When they speak of themselves, their tongues are bridled, and restrained from boasting. They speak as befits poor, unworthy creatures—because they feel themselves to be such. In what they say, either of their comforts or of their sorrows, sincerity dictates a simplicity which cannot be easily counterfeited. While they, whose tongues are not thus bridled, often betray themselves by a lack of sincerity, even when they are lamenting their sinfulness, and the vileness of their hearts.
In what they say of or to others, the tongues of believers are bridled by a heart felt regard to truth, love and purity.
Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will be bridled by the law of TRUTH. It is grievous to see how nearly and readily some professors of religion will venture upon the borders of a lie; either to defend their own conduct, to avoid some inconvenience, to procure a supposed advantage, or sometimes merely to embellish a story. Admitting the possibility of a sincere person being surprised into the declaration of a lie—yet, where instances of this kind are frequent, I hardly know a fouler blot in profession, or which can give a more just warrant to fear that such professors know nothing aright either of God or themselves. The Lord is a God of truth; and he teaches his servants to hate and abhor lying, and to speak the truth from their hearts. I may add likewise, with regard to promises—that, though the law of the land requires, on many occasions, oaths and bonds to secure their performance, that person, whose word may not be safely depended upon without either bond or oath, scarcely deserves the name of a Christian!
Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will be likewise bridled by the law of LOVE. If we love our neighbor, can we lightly speak evil of him, magnify his failings, or use provoking or insulting language? Love thinks no evil—but bears, hopes and endures. Love acts by the golden rule, to “Do unto others—what you would like them to do unto you.” Those who are under the influence of Christian love, will be gentle and compassionate, disposed to make the most favorable allowances, and of course their tongues will be restrained from the language of malevolence, harsh censure, and slander—which are as familiar to us as our mother tongue, until we are made partakers of the grace of God.
The tongue is also bridled by a regard to PURITY, agreeable to the precepts, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 4:29, 5:4. Grace has taught believers to hate these things; how then can their tongues speak of them? There are false professors, indeed, who can suit their language to their company. When with the people of God—they call talk very seriously. But at other times, they are well pleased to join in vain, frothy, and evil conversation. But this double-mindedness is of itself sufficient to discredit all their pretenses to a pious character.
Upon the whole, though perfection is not to be expected, though true believers may, on some occasions, speak rashly, and have great cause for humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer, with respect to the government of their tongues; yet I think the Scripture, and particularly the apostle James, in the passage I have mentioned, authorizes this conclusion. That, if the tongue is frequently without a bridle; if it may be observed, that a person often speaks lightly of God and of divine things, proudly of himself, harshly of his fellow-creatures; if it can be truly affirmed, that he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer, or a jester—then, whatever other good qualities he may seem to possess—his speech betrays him! He deceives himself, his religion is vain. Let us think of these things, and entreat the Lord to cast the salt of his grace into the fountain of our hearts, that the streams of our conversation may be wholesome.