John Collins, “Earnestly Contend for the Faith” Part 2

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Collins lays down  series of rules for his congregation, that they may not swerve or fail in the faith. The first rule is discussed here.

The second rule give my Collins is

Be very well rooted and established in the right that has been delivered to you.

When the roots do not go down deep, one can easily be swayed. “There are many Christians that, through their own itching ears and the heaping up of teachers to themselves, have never been root or established in the truth.”

One without depth, cannot distinguish. Without a true “sight” of Christ, one will follow after existing affections and ideas. Christianity entails an entire renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2). Collins expresses it thus, “You must not only hear the things of God, but see them; the first will but blind you, or best leave you in great uncertainty; the last will settle you.”  There must be  renovation of one’s heart.

This will require effort — and an effort which begins by beseeching the Lord to be the teacher, “In order to have a heart established through grace, get the Lord himself by prayer to teach you every truth. What Jesus Christ teaches once is everlastingly taught; no word is abiding, but what the Lord Jesus himself teaches.”

Here we see the great duty and burden of the church. The duty of the gathered people is to create disciples: those who are rooted and grounded in the truth. The truth must shape thought, affections and action. It is the duty of leaders to lead others in the way of truth (Heb. 13:7) and then to give an account for such leadership (Heb. 13:17). The new Christian will easily wonder if left utterly alone. The church is given to bring about this depth of life.

Yes, every individual Christian has the duty to learn the things of God, to study, prayer, mediate, serve, et cetera. But God did not give his Word to be lived in isolation but in communion. This depth takes place among the gathered people of God.

What must you know of the author?

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There is a debate within literature study as to whether one must know about the author or not in order to make sense of the text. Here in the first essay in the Spectator, Addison places the question a bit differently: rather than speaking of “meaning” he writes of “pleasure”:

I have observed, that a Reader seldom peruses a Book with Pleasure ’till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or a fair Man, of a mild or cholerick Disposition, Married or a Batchelor, with other Particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right Understanding of an Author. To gratify this Curiosity, which is so natural to a Reader, I design this Paper, and my next, as Prefatory Discourses to my following Writings, and shall give some Account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this Work. As the chief trouble of Compiling, Digesting, and Correcting will fall to my Share, I must do myself the Justice to open the Work with my own History.

That places the question of reading on a very different foundation: is this something in which you can take pleasure?

The Spiritual Chymist, Mediation LVII, Upon the Bible

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From William Spurstowe, The Spiritual Chymist, 1666.

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(A detail from the Gutenberg Bible)

Upon the Bible

Quintillian [a Roman rhetorician who lived 1 century AD] who makes it a question why unlearned men in discourse seem oft times more free and copious than learned gives as the answer, That the one without either care or choice express whatsoever their present thoughts suggest to them. When the other are both careful what to say, and to dispose also their conceptions in due manner and order. 

If anything make this subject difficult to my meditation, it is not want but plenty which is so great; as that I must, like Bezaleel and Aholiab [the master craftsmen for the Tabernacle, who told Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” Exodus 36:5 (ESV)] be forced to lay aside much of that costly stuff which present itself to me.

And what to refuse or what to take in is no easy matter to resolve. It will, I am sensible, require and deserve also more exactness in choosing what to say, and what not to say, concerning its worth and excellency, and how to digest what is spoken that what is meet [fitting] for any to assume unto himself. 

I shall therefore account that I have attained my end, if I can but so employ my thoughts as to increase my veneration of this Book of God, which none can ever too much study or too highly prize; and with which to be well acquainted is not only the chief of duties but the best of delights and pleasures. What would be our condition in this world if we had not this blessed Book among us, would it not be like Adam’s which driven out of the Paradise and debarred from the Tree of Life?

Would it not be darker than Earth without the Sun? If the world were fuller of books than the heaven is of stars, and this only wanting [if there books and no Bible], there would no certain way and rule to Salvation. But if this alone were extant, it would enlighten the eyes and make wise the simple and guide their feet in paths of life.

True it is that for many years God made known himself by visions, dreams, oracles to persons of noted holiness that they might teach and instruct others. But it was while the church of God was of small growth and extent and the persons to whom God’s messages were concredited of unquestioned authority with the present age. 

But afterward the Lord spake to his church both by word and writing , the useful for revealing divine truths; and the other for recording of them, that when the canon was once completed all might appeal until ti, and none take liberty in going divine oracles to himself or of obtruding [forcing]  his fancies upon others.

And were there no other use of this Book of God than this, that it should be the standard for trial of all doctrines, it were to be highly prized for its worth; without which [without the Bible] the minds of men would be in a continual distraction through the multitude of enthusiasts that would be pretending commissions from heaven; none  knowing what to believe in point of faith or what to do in point of obedience or whereby to difference the good and evil spirit from each other. [1 John 4:1]

But this single benefit (though it can never enough be thankfully acknowledged to Go by us) is but as a clutter to the vintage, or as an ear of corn to the harvest, in respect of those things many blessings may be reaped from it. 

Does not Paul ascribe unto it a universal influence into the welfare of believers, when he enumerates so many noble ends for which all Scriptures is profitable? What is it that makes man wise to salvation? Is it not the Scripture? What is that instructs any in righteousness and makes him perfect and thoroughly furnished unto all good works? Is it not the Scripture? 

Is not this the only book by which God we come to understand the heart of God to us, and learn also the knowledge of our own hearts? Both which as they are the breasts of mysteries; so they are of all knowledge the best and fill the soul with more satisfaction than the most exact discovery of all created beings whatsoever.

What if a man could, like Solomon, speak of trees from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the Hyssop that grows in the wall; and of beasts, fowls, and fishes; and yet were wholly ignorant of his own heart, would not the light that is inhume be darkness? 

Or what if a man could resolve all those posing questions in which the Schoolman [university philosophers] have busied themselves concerning angels, and yet know nothing of the God of Angels; would he not become as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal? [1 Cor. 13:1] 

Is the knowledge of these things the great end for which our understanding was given us? Or is it any further desirable or profitable than as it conduces to the knowledge of God? Does the rectitude of our actions, and the holiness of them, flow from the knowledge we have of any creature or from the knowledge of God? Is not his will the rule, and his glory the end of all that we do? And should we ever come to know what the good and acceptable will of God is but by his revealing it unto us? Which he has done most clearly in this blessed Book of his, the Scripture of Truth.

That which commends this Book and rendered it worthy of all acceptation is the rich discoveries it makes to us concerning so excellent a being as God, whom it acquaints us with in his nature, perfections, counsels and designs, in relation to the Eternal Salvation of man. It contains not anything that is mean or trivial; the matters in it are all of no less glory for any to behold than of weighty importance for all to know.

Do we not read in it with what majesty God gave forth his Sacred Law, when thunders, lightnings, dark clouds and burnings were used as heralds in the promulgation of it? And yet may we not again see the hidings of his power in the wonderful condescension of his goodness? How he does entreat, woo, and importune those whom he could with a frown or breath easily destroy; and pursue with the bowels [inner most being] of mercy, such whom eh might in justice leave and cast off forever? 

Are there in it precepts of exact purity that are as diamonds without flaws, and as fine gold without dross? 

In all other books, they are as the most current coins, that must have their alloys of baser metals. But in this [Book, the Bible] they [the things stated therein] resemble the author who is light in which there is no darkness [1 John 1:5]; and a sun in which there are no spots. 

Are there not in it promises of infinite value as well as goodness in which rewards are given not of debt, but of grace; and so such who have cause to be ashamed of their duties as well as their sins? Are there not in premonitions [here, foreshadows] of great faithfulness in which God fully declares to men what the issues of sin will be? 

And proclaims a Judgment to come in which the Judge will be impartial and the sentence most severe against the least offenses, as well as against the greatest. What is it that may teach us to serve God with cheerfulness; to trust him with confidence; to adhere to him with resolution in difficulties; to submit to his will with patience in the greatest extremities; that we may not be abundantly furnished with from this book. 

It alone is a perfect library, in which are presented those deep mysteries of the Gospel that Angels study and look into both with delight and wonder, being more desirous to pry into them then of perfect ability to understand them. They are such, that had they not been revealed could not have been known; and being revealed, can yet never be fully comprehended by any. 

Was it ever hear, that he was the Maker of all thing was made of a woman? That the Ancient of Days was not an hour old? That Eternal Life being to live? That he, to whose nature incomprehensibility does belong, should be enclosed in the narrow limits of the womb? Where can we read but in this Book that he who perfectly hates sin should condescend to take upon the similitude of sinful flesh? That he, who was the person injured by sin, should willingly be the sacrifice to expiate the guilt of it; and to die instead of sinners? 

Are not these such mysteries as are utter impossibility to reason? 

And at which, like Sarah, it laughs; rather than, with Abraham, entertain them with an holy reverence and joy when made known? Reason is busy in looking after demonstrations, and enquires how this can be and then scorns what it cannot fathom: 

But faith rests itself in the Revelations of God, and adores as a mystery what he discovers. Yea, it makes these mysteries, not only objects of its highest adoration, but the grounds of its sure comfort and confidence. From whence is it, that faith searches its security against sin, Satan, Death and Hell? 

That he who is their sacrifice through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God to purge their conscience from dead works to serve the Living God? [Heb. 9:14] That he who is their Advocate did raise himself form the dead and ascended into the highest heavens to make everlasting intercessions for them? 

Can then any depreciate this Book, or abate the least iota of that awful esteem which upon all accounts is due unto it and guiltless? Or can any neglect this Book as unworthy of their reading which God has thought worthy of his writings, without putting an affront upon God himself, whose image it bears as well as declares his commands? 

And yet I tremble to think how many anti-Scripturists there be, who have let fall both from their lips and pens such bold scorns as if Satan flood at their right hand to inspire them. It was open blasphemy and worthy that anti-Christian crew of Trent, to affirm That though the Scripture were not, yet a body of saving Divinity might be made out of the Divinity of the School. 

The profaneness of politician shall make his name to rot in perpetual stench, who never read the Bible but once, and said, it was the time he ever spent. And yet what are the fruits of his studies, but such as Gullies styles Scholica Nugalia, a few trifling commentaries and criticisms. 

More I could readily name of the same stamp that have presumed impiously to scoff at the revelations of God, as others at his providence, but who can take pleasure to rake in a dunghill that may enjoy the fragrance of Paradise. I shall therefore turn my thoughts from them, and, as having nothing to cast over their wickedness shall call my blood into my face and spread it as a vail in blushing for them, that should have blushed and been ashamed for themselves. 

But though the Word of God ceases not to be a reproach to them, yet I shall bind it as a crown unto me.

Though they reject the counsel of God against themselves, yet I shall make its testimonies my delight, and the men of my counsel, and shall make the prayers of the Psalmist to be my daily prayer, that God would open my eyes, that I may behold wonders that are contained in his law. [Psalm 119:18]

That Octopus on Your Plate Came From Outer Space

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Evidence of the role of extraterrestrial viruses in affecting terrestrial evolution has recently been plausibly implied in the gene and transcriptome sequencing of Cephalopods. The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens (Albertin et al., 2015). Octopus belongs to the coleoid sub-class of molluscs (Cephalopods) that have an evolutionary history that stretches back over 500 million years, although Cephalopod phylogenetics is highly inconsistent and confusing (see Carlini et al., 2000; Strugnell et al., 2005, 2006, 2007; Bergmann et al., 2006). Cephalopods are also very diverse, with the behaviourally complex coleoids, (Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopus) presumably arising under a pure terrestrial evolutionary model from the more primitive nautiloids. However the genetic divergence of Octopus from its ancestral coleoid sub-class is very great, akin to the extreme features seen across many genera and species noted in Eldridge-Gould punctuated equilibria patterns (below). Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible bodies, instantaneous camouflage via the ability to switch colour and shape are just a few of the striking features that appear suddenly on the evolutionary scene. The transformative genes leading from the consensus ancestral Nautilus (e.g. Nautilus pompilius) to the common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) to Squid (Loligo vulgaris) to the common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris, Fig. 5) are not easily to be found in any pre-existing life form – it is plausible then to suggest they seem to be borrowed from a far distant “future” in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large. Such an extraterrestrial origin as an explanation of emergence of course runs counter to the prevailing dominant paradigm.

In plainer English: The Octopus is so very sophisticated that it could not have evolved: therefore, it came from space.

 

John Collins, “Earnestly Contend for the Faith”, Part 1

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John Collins, one of the Puritans who became unable to preach at the Great Ejectment (1662), delivered this sermon on Jude 3, “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” In that sermon he sets out the rule

Bring all doctrines that offered you to believe and all the practices that are put upon you to practice to the test of the Scriptures, to the Word of God. Try them there, whether they are to be retained or to be rejected. You will thus discover what is right and what is wrong; and you have on the best part of your armor by which you contend against error.

This rule sets a duty upon the Christian “in the pew”. One is not to blindly follow leadership, nor accept every doctrine or practice merely because it is delivered. Someone might ask, but what about “unity”. There is political unity and there is unity in Christ. The unity of the Spirit will be completely consistent with the Scripture. A unity founded upon something is not Christian unity and a Christian has no duty to preserve such unity (to take extreme examples as illustrations, the Nazis and Maoists have some serious “unity”; but it is a monstrous, evil unity. Criminals robbing a bank have unity. Unity is neither good nor bad except for the basis of the unity.)

He states the rule simply, “All that is written you must believe, and you must believe nothing but what is written.

How then would someone try to take me off from the basis for the unity of Spirit?  First, someone might say, “This is the practice of the ‘Church’.” As if the “Church” was an independent basis for the communication of God’s revelation. He then draws out the point:

No sober man will go against reason. No Christian will go against the Scripture; and no peaceable-minded man will go against the church. But then the church must shine by a Scripture-light. If that be a rule, it must be ruled by the Scripture. The church’s power is in not authoritative, as to give laws against the laws of Christ; it only ministerial. We believe the Scripture for itself, and not because of the church; we receive the Scripture by the church. Therefore, when we set up the name of a church, let us see whether that church walks in the way of Christ, whether she is his spouse or no, whether she acts according to his institutions, whether they bring his light, yea or no; then submit. For it is not what a church practices but what it is warranted to practice; not what it holds for truth, but what it is warranted to hold for truth.

This can be very deceptive — it is not the fact that the church professes such a thing: a group called a ‘church’ may profess and do all sorts of things. The Christian ‘church’ has done and professed all sorts of things that have no warrant in Scripture (and which are rejected by other Christian ‘churches’. The Scripture is only warrant for the Church’s doctrine and practice.

He then states two more deceptions. One is the claim, that this is the way our ‘fathers’ worshipped. This tack is not so prevalent in the West now, because we can easily move about.

The final one is actually a means which is very common in our culture, “this is the way the people now do it.” This is not only a matter of what other ‘churches’ profess or do — although such is an argument. We have gone a step further than Collins’ time, because now the church will take on believes and practices based upon the opinion of those who are not even claiming to be Christian.

(From Sermons of the Great Ejectment, Banner of Truth. An excellent volume; get it.)

The Kind of Preaching People Want

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Published under the title, The Salvation of Souls, Richard A. Bailey and Gregory A. Wills, edited nine sermons of Jonathan Edwards on Christian ministry. One of the sermons entitled, “The Kind of Preaching People Want” considers the text:

Micah 2:11 (ESV)

11          If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,

saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”

he would be the preacher for this people!

From this text, Edwards notes that this is the sort of preaching which will attract people (I one time heard John MacArthur say, you can gather a lot goats in one place and that doesn’t make them sheep). He posits this doctrine:

If the business of ministers was to further the gratification of men’s lusts, they would be much better received by many than they are now.

He then gives a series of examples of how such preaching would sound. And in reading this, it often seems as if Edwards was looking into the “church” of the country which was coming into being while he lived (he died prior to the Revolution):

If ministers were sent to tell people that they might gratify their lusts without danger; if they were sent to them that it was lawful for them to gratify their lusts …..

He then proceeds to set out a series of desires: drunkenness, sexual immorality, abusive business dealings, revenge. Or rather than openly claim such things were no sins — they were of little importance.

Or perhaps rather than deny that sin would merit hell; what if the minister presented:

Christ only in one of his offices and not in others; if they were to preach Christ only  in his priestly office and as a savior from the punishment of sin, and not also in his kingly office as a savior from the power and dominion of sin, and that being a King and a Lord to rule in us and over us, they would by many be much better received than they are now.

Edwards then proceeds through other potential faults in a minister — all designed to lead men to believe that Christ saved us to indulge in sin and be rewarded with a future of sinful pleasures. But these first two fault seems particularly to mark the broader so-called “evangelical” ministry in North America: preachers who lessen the severity of sin; and who, in the name of “grace” and “love” speak as if Christ would overlook — or even delight in sin.

Think of the bitter, often even slanderous speech, which marks social media. Or the envy and covetousness of our culture — not to mention intoxication and sexual immorality. Congregations are falling over themselves to accommodate the sexual revolution (as Al Mohler terms it) in the name of love. A well-known supposed evangelical writes a book which advocates a universal salvation in the name of “love”.

Edwards’ warning, which must have sounded bizarre to even the unbelievers in his congregation (remember, everyone went to church in Edwards’ day), seems to have been taken up as a how-to by the public Christian church.

What then must we do with this observation? Edwards first provides questions of self-examination. How do you receive true preaching of the Scripture? When the Word is rightly proclaimed, do you listen attentively? When your sin is reproved, do you receive and repent — or do you ignore it, or chafe?

What do you do if a preacher speaks smooth words which encourage your sins? Or if it is not a preacher, what if a friend or neighbor speaks in a way that encourages your lusts? Do you receive it eagerly? Do you find entertainment from “an impure story or a lascivious song?”

There is then reproof:

What horrid contempt you cast on God and Christ and heaven, in that you should prefer the gratification of your vile lusts before them, that you would be more pleased and entertained and give better attention to hear that by which your lusts might be gratified than that by which you may obtain an interest in Christ, in his precious blood and glorious benefits, and may have God for your portion; that to have all the glories and perfections of God and a Redeemer set before you is not so pleasing and entertaining to you as to hear of the objects of a carnal appetite; that worldly profit or sensual pleasures or the gratifications of your envy revenge is better to you than heaven.

Then as a final matter, Edwards ends with what it is to be a preacher who rightly brings the Word:

But how grievous may it be well be, when a minster does his utmost to see a congregation seeming to be regardless of what he says, and many of them sleeping a great part of the time, and other plainly manifesting a careless, regardless spirit. With what a complaint may such ministers that have been so treated rise up on the day of judgment before their Master that sent them and set them to work, declaring what pains they took and how they labored to their utmost to speak so as to influence and affect their minds and yet how regardless they were of the message they delivered.

This sermon at length and the entire book is well worth your time. The book is well edited. Each sermon is prefaced by an introduction that sets the time and place. The sermons are marked with notes which help explain the text. Very highly recommended.

 

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LVI, Upon Going Up an High Mountain (Part 2)

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But I fear that while I propound the difficulties which are great, as well as many, intending thereby to shake only the pillars of those men’s confidence who consider neither the length of the way, nor the hardness of the task by which salvation is attained; that I may dishearten others, who, after all their travel and labor complain that they have striven much and gained little; and the their hopes of laying hold on Eternal Life do rather languish than increase, doubting that the journey is much too lon for their short life to finish. Gladly therefore I would like up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees that they might be animated in the way and not despair of the end.

Now how can this be better done than by giving such signs and evidence that will best service to manifest their motion and proficiency ; the not discerning of which is the ground of those fears of theirs spending their strength in vain and their laboring for naught. And is not this more readily perceived by looking downward at those objects that are below, than by looking upwards to the heavens which will after all climbing to them seem to be still at the like distance as they were at first.

Suppose that a man after hard labor and toil in reaching the top of some high and steep cliff, should conclude that he had wearied himself to no purpose, in the gaining of a delightful prospect because the sun appears to be at the same distance and also of equal bigness as when he was at the bottom of it; or that the starts seem still to be bus as so many twinkling watch lights without the least increase of their dimensions or variation of their figure: Might he not be easily refuted by bidding him to look down to those plains from whence he had ascended and behold what narrow scantlings and proportions those stately buildings and towers were shrunk and contacted, whose greatness as well as beauty he erewhile so much admired?

And may I not with the like facility answer and resolve the discouraged Christian who calls into question the truth of his heavenly progress, because all those glorious objects which his faith eyes and soul desires to draw nigh unto seem still to be as remote from him as at his first setting out, by wishing him to consider whether he cannot say that though heavenly objects do not increase in their magnitude or luster by the approach that he makes to them, that yet all earthly objects do sensibly lose theirs by the distance that he is gone from them? 

And if he can but so do, surely he has no cause of despairing to obtain heaven who has traveled so far on the way as to lose well near the sight of Earth. If once his faith has raised him to that height as to make the glory of the world disappear and to be as a thing of naught, it will quickly land him in heaven where his fears of miscarrying as well as his lassitude in working will be swallowed up in an everlasting rest. And he that did once believe more than he saw, shall forever see far more than he could have ever believed. 

Lord, therefore do you

Who gives power to the faith, 

And to them that have no might,

Increase strength to me

Who wait upon thee; 

Renew my strength

That I may mount up with wings as an eagle

And may run and not be weary

And walk and not faint,

Until come to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills

And behold thy face in glory.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LVI, Upon Going Up an High Mountain (Part 1)

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William Spurstowe, London, 1666

MEDITATION LVI

Upon Going Up an High Mountain

Lord, who shall dwell in the mountain of thy holiness? [Ps 15:1]

was a question made by the prophet David, but the answer returned unto to it was by the Spirit of God, who can give the best character of all those who shall be received into Claritatis Consortium, a fellowship of glory and bliss, as Tertullian expresses it.

The situation of the place, the quality of the persons do both speak it to be a work of difficulty, and discover also the ground of the paucity of the travelers in whose hearts and ways and ascension are that seek to God.

Most men of the world, like Abraham’s servants, stay below at the foot of the hill, while he and his son to up to worship [Gen. 22:5]; or choose, like Ahimaaz to run the way of the plain, than with Cushi, the way that was craggy and mountainous. [2 Sam. 18:23].

But few there be that see under what a necessity they lie of obtaining of heaven, and of dwelling in the Mountain of God’s Holiness, or understand the comfort that a continued progress in this journey yields to those to whom salvation is nearer than when they first believed. Can it therefore be amiss to evince those who are yet to make the first step toward their own happiness, what timely diligence they had need to use, [so] that in the end they may not fall short of it? And to encourage those that are on their way, that they may go from strength to strength till they appear before God in Zion.

And how may I better do either than by showing to one the great distance in which they stand from heaven; and to the other, the good proficiency they have made which is oft times as indiscernible to themselves as the swift motion of the ship is to them that are in it.  There being no complaint  more frequent in the mouths of saints than that they have got no further than what many years since stye judged themselves to have attained unto.

The natural man’s distance is far greater to heaven than he think of, so that he cannot [as] easily step into heaven as he presumed. He is not born near its confines or borders,; but in the very extremity of remoteness to it. The distance is not only  distance of place but of disproportion and unlikeness, whereby he is wholly unmeet [unfit] for it. Yea there is in him not only dissimilitude but a formal contrariety and opposition against heaven which must be destroyed and taken away before he can come thither.

He is darkness, and heaven is an inheritance of light. [Col. 1:12] He is a sink of filthiness, and heaven is a place of purity; he is wholly carnal, and the happiness of heaven is spiritual. And what fellowship (says the Apostle [Paul]) hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light unto darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? [2 Cor. 6:14-15]

Can it rationally be thought an easy task to subdue this contrariety and to make flesh and blood meet to inherit heaven? [1 Cor. 15:50]? Does not the straitness [narrowness, difficulty] of the way and the height of its ascent require a putting off, and a casting away every sin that hinders from running the Christian race, and ascending the holy hill? [Heb. 12:1; Ps. 15:1] 

Is it not necessary that the opposition and difficulty extending itself over the whole man that an answerable change should be made in every part? 

I have read that it is affirmed by artists that though gladness and grief be opposite in nature, yet they are such neighbors and consigners in art that the least touch of the pencil will translate a crying into laughing face. But such is not the opposition between sin and grace, as to admit so facile a cage in the turning of a sinner into a saint. It is not effected by a small touch upon the face, but by a powerful work upon the heart; yea, upon the whole soul.

Does not the Scripture set it forth by a New Birth [John 3:3], by a New Creation [2 Cor. 5:17], which are all of mutations the greatest and fully evince the vast distance that is between every natural man and salvation? Deceive not yourselves therefore O ye loose professors [someone merely claiming salvation], nor ye fond [foolish] and presumptuous moralists who are apt to think that the shadows of your duties and civilities will extend themselves to the top of this holy mountain; and who when you read of the young man who answered Christ discreetly that he was not far from the kingdom of heaven [Mark 12:34], judge yourselves both in knowledge and practice of equals and that you do not want [lack] many steps of entering that blessed Canaan of rest and glory. For what will proximities or degrees of nearness avail if the end [of] it not be attained? 

Exaltations towards heaven, if they lift not into heaven, serve only to make the downfall the greater; and no man stumbles more dangerously than he who is upon the brown of a high mountain in respect of ruin? It is not then a ground for any to slack their place or intermit their diligence in heaven’s way upon the confidence that they have not far to go But rather to intend their care and pains that they lose not those things which they have wrought, but that they may receive a full reward. And this let me say, if apprehended nearness work not such effects, it is a dream, not a reality; a presumption, rather than a progress, and will have as sad an issue as the happiness of that poor fisherman who sleeping in the sides of a rock dreamed that he was a king; then leaping up suddenly for joy, found himself broken and rent in the bottom of it.

It wasn’t billions of years

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I like mysteries:

Hubble Deep Field in Infrared

“How this assembly of galaxies got so big, so fast is a mystery,” Tim Miller, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the papers, said in the statement. “It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect. This discovery provides a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build enormous galaxy clusters.”

“We want something inherent in ourselves to comfort and encourage us”

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These sermons on Hosea by Samuel Eyles Pierce, published in 1822 are remarkable for their encouragement gospel grace. Here is a bit from the first sermon on Hosea 14:1, “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” The sermon ends as follows:

It is very delightful to go over the Scriptures in a way of believing, and consider how they most exactly suit all our cases. You and I, men and brethren, need the grace and mercy recorded in them, in our own persons and cases. We are the subjects of sin, and each of us have our personal and particular plague sores and maladies.

We all need continual light and instruction, how to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, immediately and particularly with our guilt, and that even whilst it is upon our consciences; yet we find an averseness so to act, thereby making more of sin than we do of Christ; and because it makes a great alteration within us, and upon our minds, we conceive it must also on Christ’s.

We cannot think it right to go with a fresh contraction of sin and guilt immediately to the Lord Jesus; but are for praying it away, and getting into a better frame.

We want something inherent in ourselves to comfort and encourage us, notwithstanding the apostle says, If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.

And the Lord in our text says to us, as truly as he did to his people of old, Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. There are seasons, and cases, in which we never needed Christ more, and it may seem to us never so much: let us improve the same by going immediately and directly, in the exercise of faith on the blood and righteousness of Jesus, to Him, and that with all we are and all we have done.

This is the only way for us to be brought into an actual intercourse with Christ, when we are oppressed with our spiritual maladies. Let not the consideration of any thing we have done, or may feel, or be chargeable with, keep us one single moment from Christ. If we cannot say more than Lord save, or I perish, let us be thankful to be enabled thus to cry.

Samuel Eyles Pierce, An Exposition on the Fourteenth Chapter of the Prophet Hosea (London: L. Nichols, 1822), 19–20.