That bitter root, indwelling sin!

By John Newton:

The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!

Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.

That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”

John Newton, April 1772

Faith is a plant that can grow in the shade

How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance…. shall we say their faith went away in the departure of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as often as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assurance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face; if that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can “walk in darkness, and yet trust in the name of the Lord.”

—William Gurnall

Evening Collect

O LORD, raise up  thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

http://www.reformedanglican.us/collects-evening

The Lord’s Prayer

O, God, who has become our Father through Christ. We give thanks that you have taught us to pray and promised us that you will much less deny us what we ask in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things.  Teach us not to think of your heavenly majesty in an earthly manner, and to expect from your almighty power all things we need for body and soul. Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you, and sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works, in which shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised. 

By your Word and Spirit, govern us that more and more we would submit to you. Grant that your Church would be preserved and increased here on earth. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you, and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of your kingdom comes, wherein you shall be all in all.

Assist us that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good. Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.

For the sake of Christ’s blood,do not impute to us, wretched sinners; any of our transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us, as we also find this evidence of your grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour.

In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us. Therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.

All this we ask knowing that as our King, having power over all things, You are both willing and able to give us all that is good, and because your holy name will be forever glorified. We confess and take comfort that you have much more certainly heard our prayer than we feel in our hearts that we desire this of you. Amen.

-Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, LD 46-52

Heart-work is hard work indeed

“Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and careless spirit, will cost no great difficulties; but to set yourself before the Lord, and to tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him: this will cost you something.

repentance-before-god

To attain ease and dexterity of language in prayer and to be able to put your meaning into appropriate and fitting expressions is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin while you are actually confessing it; melted with free grace even while you are blessing God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled through the awareness of God’s infinite holiness, and to keep your heart in this state not only in, but after these duties, will surely cost you some groans and travailing pain of soul.”– JOHN FLAVEL

 

This is something I certainly struggle with. Yes I can confess my sins, but do I really give thought to what I have done? I’ve sinned against an infinitely holy God. More than that I’ve dishonoured the one who died for me, who loved me before I even knew his name, who made a covenant with me and promised me eternal life. Yet the words all too often ring hollow on my lips, “forgive us our debts.” My debt is infinite and yet it seems I can’t even utter a heartfelt prayer. Surely this is what John Donne meant when he wrote ‘My heart was broken to think it would not break.’

How humbling it is to realize that my prayers do not merit me anything in God’s sight. That God hears my prayers is yet another gift of grace.

Thanks be to God that he has given us an intercessor, that the Spirit would perfect our prayers!

 

My faith doth lay its hand

On that dear head of thine,

While, like a penitent, I stand

And there confess my sin.

Hope Even in our Hopelessness

 

Life can really suck sometimes. Maybe you’ve lost your job, fallen ill, lost a friend or loved one. Perhaps you’re like me and struggle with a variety of mental illnesses. Sometimes it feels like the world is crashing down around us, life is falling apart and there’s no-one to turn to. It can be hard to find comfort in a time like that, but there is comfort and there is hope. In Psalm 27:10 David writes,”Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” When you feel that no-one wants to hear what you need to say, when your friends desert you and you fall into despair, remember that our Lord still receives you.

Charles Spurgeon likely suffered from depression and he wrote about his struggles frequently. He also addressed the topic in his sermons, here is an excerpt from one such sermon.

Charles H. Spurgeon


“We see here, dear brethren, in being told to remember Jesus that there is hope even in our hopelessness. When are things most hopeless in a man? Why, when he is dead. Do you know what it is to come down to that, so far as your inward weakness is concerned? I do. At times it seems to me that all my joy is buried like a dead thing, and all my present usefulness and all my hope of being useful in the future are coffined and laid underground like a corpse. In the anguish of my spirit, and the desolation of my heart, I could count it better to die than to live. You say it should not be so. I grant you it should not be so, but so it is. Many things happen within the minds of poor mortals which should not happen; if we had more courage and more faith they would not happen. Ay, but when we go down, down, down, is it not a blessed thing that Jesus Christ of the seed of David died, and was raised from the dead? If I sink right down among the dead men yet will I hold to this blessed hope, that as Jesus rose again from the dead, so also shall my joy, my usefulness, my hope, my spirit rise. “Thou, which hast showed us great and sore troubles shalt quicken us again, and bring us up from the lowest depths of the earth.”

This donncasting and slaying is good for us. We take a deal of killing, and it is by being killed that we live. Many a man will never live till his proud self is slain. O proud Pharisee, if you are to live among those whom God accepts, you will have to come to the slaughterhouse and be cut in pieces as well as killed. “This is dreadful work,” saith one, “this dividing of joints and marrow, this spiritual dismemberment and destruction.” Assuredly it is painful, and yet it were a grievous loss to be denied it.

Alas, how many are so good and excellent, and strong and wise, and clever, and all that, that they cannot agree to be saved by grace through faith. If they could be reduced to less than nothing it would be the finest thing that ever happened to them. Remember what Solomon said might be done with the fool, and yet it would not answer–he was to be brayed in a mortar among wheat with a pestle,-pretty hard dealing that, and yet his folly would not depart from him. Not by that process alone, but through some such method, the Holy Spirit brings men away from their folly. Under his killing operations this may be their comfort that, if Jesus Christ rose literally from the dead (not from sickness, but from death), and lives again, even so will his people.

Did you ever get, where Bunyan pictures Christian as getting, right under the old dragon’s foot? He is very heavy, and presses the very breath out of a fellow when he makes him his footstool. Poor Christian day there with the dragon’s foot on his breast. but he was just able to stretch out his hand and lay hold on his sword, which, by a good providence, lay within his reach. Then he gave Apollyon a deadly thrust, which made him spread his dragon wings and fly away. The poor crushed and broken pilgrim, as he gave the stab to his foe, cried, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy; though I fall, yet shall I rise again.” Brother, do you the same. You that are near despair, let this be the strength that nerves your arm and steels your heart. ” Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to Paul’s gospel.”

[from The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, Sermon no. 1,653.]Excerpt found on puritansermons.com

God Of My Salvation

darknessI walk along this broken road
Through a valley dark and alone
There's no companion, no hope to hold
No fire to warm my weary bones
As I call, unheard, for help.

The darkness surrounds, encompasses me
Until even the stars are blotted out
I have no lantern by which to see
My head and heart now drown with doubt
As I call, unheard, for help.

Held captive by these mountains of fear
Like a thousand swords against my neck
While my cries fall upon deaf ears
And towards me no-one takes a step
As I call, unheard, for help.

The friends with whom I used to laugh
Now ignore my hurt and pain.
My life to them is merely chaff
Though love for me they once did feign
As I call, unheard, for help.

As his hand for me now extends
I've given up, prepared for Death
Will Darkness remain my closest friend?
And yet I struggle, gasping for breath
As I call, unheard, for help.

Is this the end for which I long?
If you heard my cry, would you comply,
Or would this in your ears be wrong
If I pray, 'Lord, just let me die,'?
As I call, unheard, for help.

My other prayers you've turned aside
So I have but rocks for my stomach
Now in this downward spiral I slide
And in silence await that last trumpet
As I call, unheard, for help.

Will your Light of Hope not pierce this depression?
How long must my life around me crumble?
Eternal God of my salvation,
To the grave will I now stumble?
As I call, unheard, for help.

I cry out, 'How long?' from within this darkness
Since you hold in your bottle my every tear
Arise and breath life into this carcass
O, LORD, my God who save me, hear
As I call to you for help.