What teaches us the preciousness of the Creator?

A little while ago, I started a new periodic series called “Going beyond inspirational gobbledygook.” Much of what’s offered to us as inspirational quotes (and much of what we see shared on social media) is little more than sub-biblical nonsense (or worse), so I wanted something for the rest of us—something that encourages us personally, but also truly inspires others in the gospel.

While occasionally, these will be original quotes, often they will come from saints older and wiser than me. Today’s  comes from Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, “Order and Argument in Prayer”:

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And just for fun, here’s some additional context for this quote:

My brethren, nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. When you have been pierced through and through with the sentence, “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,” then will you suck unutterable sweetness from the divine assurance, “Blessed is he that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where you found no honey, but many sharp stings, you will rejoice in him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

Got a quote you’d like to see in this series? Let me know in the comments!

Take away the foundation and lose everything

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There are certain statements that are trigger warnings for me—at least, when I see them made by a Christian writer, speaker or pastor. References to 1 Corinthians’ famous “everything is permissible” statements (but only because I almost always see them used in the exact opposite way Paul meant them). Nearly any time someone says Jesus doesn’t judge, so we shouldn’t either (again, because, it’s used in almost the opposite way it’s meant in Scripture). And when someone calls the Bible something like a “different kind of center,” or a people group’s collective and growing understanding of God, or some other such thing… oh boy.

When those kinds of statements come up, I usually know where the author or speaker is going, and it’s always to a bad place. Why? Because they’ve lost their footing, having abandoned the foundation of the Bible’s authority: its nature as “God-breathed,” or inspired.

Herman Bavinck understood this all too well, living through the rise of late 19th and early 20th century liberalism. And he knew exactly where it would lead:

There is in fact only one ground on which the authority of Scripture can be based, and that is its inspiration. When that goes, also the authority of Scripture is gone and done with. In that case, it is merely a body of human writings, which as such cannot rightfully assert any claim to be a norm for our faith and conduct. And along with Scripture—for the Protestant—all authority in religion collapses. All subsequent attempts to recover some kind of authority—say, in the person of Christ, in the church, in religious experience, in the intellect or conscience—end in disappointment. They only prove that no religion can exist without authority. Religion is essentially different from science. It has a certainty of its own, not one that is based on insight but one that consists in faith and trust. And this religious faith and trust can rest only in God and in his word. In religion a human witness and human trust is insufficient; here we need a witness from God to which we can abandon ourselves in life and in death. “Our heart is restless until it rests in Thee, O Lord!” (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 463)

This is something we’ve got to get. The arguments we’ve seen re-emerge over the last 20 years or so, the positions put forward by the likes of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell,1 and the like, are little more than the recycling of 19th century (and earlier) arguments by those who’ve attempted to revere the Bible in a sense, while undercutting the foundation of its reverence. We want to treat the Bible as having some sort of limited authority. And yet, unless we take seriously the foundation of its authority—that is, unless we truly embrace its inspired nature in its fullest sense—we’re only going to be disappointed. And worse, if we persist down this road, we’ll be lost in utter darkness.

Our Lord and God, our brother and friend

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.


Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Photo via Lightstock)

When you love the world, you abuse it

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We should not love the world because we can neither have nor enjoy its pleasures long. It may be that they will leave us, but if not, we must leave them. And the stronger affections we have toward anything, the more bitter the affliction when we leave it. Strong affections bring great afflictions to men and women. In Luke 12:19-20, we see how short a man’s time is. The fool there had built up a great estate: “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: Then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” We have many such fools in the world who store up much here, thinking they shall live long and be at ease. As some used to say, “Well, when I have made such a fortune, then I will give up the sea and live at ease.” But before that comes, “You fool, this night you are taken away from it in the midst of your pursuit of it.” So we cannot enjoy the things of this world. Therefore, seeing the time is short, as the apostle said, use the world, so as not to abuse it. Use the world you may, but do not love it, for then you abuse it. Use the world for your necessities, to further your journey to heaven, to further your accounts before God. But do not abuse it, do not love it. The time is short.

William Greenhill, Stop Loving the World, 61

Praise Him for everything!

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If you want to know Him, if you want to know His smile, if you want to know something about this living realization that God is your God and that He has loved you “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), that you are His child and that He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5)—if you want this living witness of the Spirit, this ultimate assurance that is given through the love shed abroad in our hearts, going upward and back to Him in praise, worship, adoration, and thanksgiving, then begin to praise God for what you have.

Praise Him for everything—for the gifts of life and health and strength. Many people are ill and laid aside and cannot attend a place of worship. Do we thank God for our health and strength, our faculties, for all these gifts that He showers upon us so constantly and so freely? Thank God! David, of course, keeps on repeating this: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name … my mouth will praise thee with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:3–5). And on he goes, even down to the last verse where he says, “The king shall rejoice in God.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God, 135-136


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Your goodness is no increase to God’s wealth

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If it were possible to make men clearly understand that justification is not in the least degree by their own works, how easy would it be to comfort them! but herein lies the greatest of all difficulties. Man cannot be taught that his goodness is no increase to God’s wealth, and his sin no diminution of divine riches; he will for ever be imagining that some little presents must be offered, and that mercy never can be the gratuitous bounty of Heaven. Even the miserable creature who has learned his own bankruptcy and beggary, while assured that he cannot bring anything, yet trembles to come naked and as he is. He knows he cannot do anything, but he can scarcely credit the promise which seems too good to be true—“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Yea, when he cannot deny the evidence of his own eyes, because the kind word stares him in the face, he will turn away from its glories under the sad supposition that they are intended for all men save himself. The air, the stream, the fruit, the joys and luxuries of life, he takes freely, nor ever asks whether these were not intended for a special people; but at the upper springs he stands fearing to dip his pitcher, lest the flowing flood should refuse to enter it because the vessel was too earthy to be fit to contain such pure and precious water: conscious that in Christ is all his help, it yet appears too great a presumption even to touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment. Nor is it easy to persuade the mourning penitent that sin is no barrier to grace, but that “where sin aboundeth, grace did much more abound;” and only the spirit of God can make the man who knows himself as nothing at all, receive Jesus as his all in all. When the Lord has set his heart on a man, it is not a great difficulty that will move him from his purpose of salvation, and therefore “he devises means that His banished be not expelled from him.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

The only man who truly comes to Christ

Decisions

No man truly comes to Christ unless he flies to Him as his only refuge and hope, his only way of escape from the accusations of conscience and the condemnation of God’s holy law. Nothing else is satisfactory. If a man says that having thought about the matter and having considered all sides he has on the whole decided for Christ, and if he has done so without any emotion or feeling, I cannot regard him as a man who has been regenerated. The convicted sinner no more ‘decides’ for Christ than the poor drowning man ‘decides’ to take hold of that rope that is thrown to him and suddenly provides him with the only means of escape.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers

Oh, to be so meek!

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If a man is truly meek, he yields himself up to all the influences of the Spirit of God. You know that, if you see a cork out in the river, if there be but a tiny ripple, it moves; if there is only a breath of wind, it goes up and down at once. But if some great ship is lying there, it does not stir, it keeps quite still. I daresay you think, “I want to be just as responsive to the divine will as that cork upon the surface of the stream is to every movement of the water. I wish to be as the feather that is wafted by the breath of God whichever way he pleases. Oh, that he did but will anything, and that I did it at once! Oh, that he did but speak, ay, oh, that before he spoke, I might catch the very glance of his eye, and do what he desires!” His promise is, “I will guide thee with mine eye;” and he says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Oh, to be so meek as to feel at once the motion of the Spirit of God upon the soul, and to yield oneself to it, as the plastic clay that can be moulded into any shape by the potter’s fingers! The Lord make us such, for these are the people whom he will beautify with his salvation!

Charles Spurgeon, “Beautiful for Ever”

Loving the world is a waste of time

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Would any man lay out gold and silver for straws, stubble, chips, butterflies, and such things as these? Those who love the world are worth more than the world, and they give that for the world which is better than the world. The best things of the world are riches, learning, and gifts. But our souls are better than all these, better than the whole word. “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The whole world is not worth one soul; one soul is worth a million worlds. Now in laying out our time, strengths, understandings, and souls for the world and the things of the world, what expenses have we paid? We give too much for the world. The world is not worthy of our affections, understandings, strengths, and hearts. Therefore, see what the prophet said in Isaiah 55:2. He comes there with a vehement complaint. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?” It is not bread when you get it. It is not anything that will satisfy or in any way bring an advantage to your souls. And you spend “your labour for that which satisfieth not.” So we are at too great a cost and at too great an expense when we love the world. We labor to get the world and buy it at so dear a rate.

William Greenhill, Stop Loving the World (24-25)

How cruel unbelief is

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It is one of the strange things in the dealings of Jesus, that even when we arrive at this state of entire spiritual destitution, we do not always become at once the objects of his justifying grace. Long seasons frequently intervene between our knowledge of our ruin, our hearing of a deliverer, and the application of that deliverer’s hand. The Lord’s own called ones frequently turn their eyes to the hills, and find no help coming therefrom; yea, they wish to look unto him, but they are so blinded that they cannot discern him as their hope and consolation. This is not, as some would rashly conclude, because he is not the Saviour for such as they are. Far otherwise. Unbelief crieth out, “Ah! my vileness disqualifies me for Christ, and my exceeding sinfulness shuts out his love?” How foully doth unbelief lie when it thus slandereth the tender heart of Jesus! how inhumanly cruel it is when it thus takes the cup of salvation from the only lips which have a right to drink thereof! We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. Honesty, morality, and goodness, are commended not so much as the marks of godliness, as the life of it; and men are told that as they sow, so they shall reap, without the absolutely necessary caveat that salvation is not of man, neither by man, and that grace cometh not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. Not thus spake our ancient preachers when in all its fullness they declared—

“Not the righteous, not the righteous—
Sinners, Jesus came to save.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour

Comfort for the persecuted

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…the persecutor is in God’s hands. He cannot do more than God lets him, and if God permits him to annoy, you may cheerfully bear it. Next, remember, if you keep your conscience clear it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale. Rough answers outside need not trouble you while within there is the answer of a good conscience towards God. Injure your conscience and you lose that consolation; preserve it from evil and you must be happy. Remember that by patiently enduring and persevering you will have fellowship with the grandest spirits that ever lived. You cannot be a martyr and wear the blood-red crown in these days, but you can at least suffer as far as you are called to do: grace enabling you, you may have a share in the martyr’s honors. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Remember, too, that if you have extraordinary troubles Jesus will be doubly near to you. This is the greatest comfort of all, for in all your afflictions he is afflicted. You will find his presence in the ordinances to be very delightful. Those stolen waters which he gives you in secret fellowship are very choice, those morsels which you get by stealth, how sweet they are! The old covenantors said they never worshipped God with so much joy as in the glens and among the hills when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them. The living is very refreshing to the Lord’s hunted harts. His bosom is very soft and warm for those who are rejected of all men for his sake. He has a marvellous way of unveiling his face to those whose faces are covered with shame because of their love to him. Oh, be content, dear friends, to watch with your Lord.

Charles Spurgeon, A Word For the Persecuted

Fame does not care for the humble

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[Fame] loves the rough granite peaks that defy the storm-cloud: she does not care for the more humble stone in the valley, on which the weary traveller resteth; she wants something bold and prominent; something that courts popularity; something that stands out before the world. She does not care for those who retreat in shade. Hence it is, my brethren, that the blessed Jesus, our adorable Master, has escaped fame. No one says much about Jesus, except his followers. We do not find his name written amongst the great and mighty men; though, in truth, he is the greatest, mightiest, holiest, purest, and best of men that ever lived; but because he was “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and was emphatically the man whose kingdom is not of this world; because he had nothing of the rough about him, but was all love; because his words were softer than butter, his utterances more gentle in their flow than oil; because never man spake so gently as this man; therefore he is neglected and forgotten. He did not come to be a conqueror with his sword, nor a Mohammed with his fiery eloquence; but he came to speak with a “still small voice,” that melteth the rocky heart; that bindeth up the broken in spirit, and that continually saith, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden;” “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Jesus Christ was all gentleness; and this is why he has not been extolled amongst men as otherwise he would have been.

C.H. Spurgeon, Sweet Comfort for Feeble Saints

Unbelief commits nothing to God

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Unbelief leaves our dearest interests and concerns in our own hands. It commits nothing to God. Consequently, it fills the heart with distracting fears when imminent danger threatens us. If this is your case, you will be surrounded with terror whenever you are surrounded with danger and trouble. Believers have this advantage: they have committed by faith all that is precious and valuable to them in God’s hands. They have committed the keeping of their souls (1 Peter 4:19) and all their eternal concerns (2 Tim. 1:14) to Him. Because these things are in safe hands, they are not distracted with fears about matters of less value. They entrust these to God and enjoy the peace and quietness of a resigned soul (Prov. 163). But as for you, you keep your life, liberty, and soul (which is infinitely greater than these other things) in your own hands in the day of trouble. You do not know what to do with them or how to dispose of them.

Oh, these are the dreadful frights in which unbelief leaves people! It is a foundation of fears and distractions. Indeed, it cannot but distract and bewilder carnal people, in whom it reigns in full strength. Sad experience shows us what fear (the remains and relics of unbelief) produces in the best people.w ho are not fully free from it. If the relics of unbelief can darken and cloud their evidences, if it can draw such sad and frightful conclusions in their hearts (despite all the contrary experience of their lives), what unrelieved terrors must it produce in those who are under its full strength and dominion!

John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, 38-39


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The shield is cast away

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A trembling life destroys the spiritual comforts that flow from God’s promises. It also destroys our experience of the promises—the sweetest pleasures we have in this world. As no creature-comfort is pleasant, so no promise is sweet to the person living in bondage to fear. When the terrors of death are great, the comforts of the Almighty are small. In the written Word, there are all sorts of refreshing, strengthening, and heart-reviving promises. By His care and wisdom, God prepared these for our relief in days of darkness and trouble. There are promises of support under the heaviest burdens and pressures: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yeah, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10). This promise is made to make the trembling soul shout with the joy of men in harvest, or men who divide the spoil. There are also promises of protection (Isa. 27:2–3; 33:2). In times of danger, these lead to God’s almighty power, placing us under the wings of His care. There are promises of moderation. They enable us to bear the day of sharp affliction ( Isa. 27:8; 1 Cor. 10:3). There are promises of deliverance. If our enemies’ malice brings us into trouble, God’s mercy will assuredly bring us out (Pss. 91:14–15; 125:3). There are promises to bless and sanctify our troubles for our good; our troubles not only cease to be hurtful, but they become exceedingly beneficial (Isa. 27:9; Rom. 8:28). These are the most comforting promises of all.

Our tender Father provides all these promises for the day of fear and trouble. Because He knows our weakness and how our fear makes us doubt our security, He engages His wisdom, power, care, faithfulness, and unchangeableness for the performance of His promises (Isa. 27:2–3; 43:1–2; 1 Cor. 10:13; 16:9; 2 Peter 2:9). In the midst of such sealed promises, how cheerful should we be in the worst of times! We should say as David, “Wherefore should I fear in the day in of evil?” (Ps. 49:5a). Let those who have no God to whom they can turn, no promise upon which they can rely, fear int eh day of evil. I have no cause to do so. Yet our fear beats us away from the most comfortable refuge in the promises. We are so scared that we ignore them and fail to draw encouragement, resolution, and courage from them. In this way, the shields of the mighty are cast away.

John Flavel, Triumphing over Sinful Fear, 59-60


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