This evening I found an old essay in my laptop which I had written for an English class when I was a student at university. It was on the role of stay-at-home mothers. I smile as I re-read this essay, wondering what really went through my professor’s mind when she read it. I also cringe because of the amateurish writing style and grammar. Though not the best writing, I wanted to post it here anyway, in honor of my own mother, who has poured much of herself and love into her family, and for all that she is.
While browsing the internet recently, I came across an article that caught my eye, stating that the work of a stay-at-home mother is valued at approximately $140,000 per year. This induced me to consider the issues of stay-at-home motherhood and its role in modern American society. Of course, we could never place a price tag on a mother’s labor of love, because such is priceless; nevertheless, I found the article intriguing. While reading, I pondered the important role of stay-at-home mothers but not from their perspective, rather from the perspective of a daughter. I believe it is one of the most important and noblest vocations. One may ask what qualifies me to write on this subject. While I have never been a mother before, and am unable to share motherhood experiences, I can, however, speak of the impact and importance of full-time motherhood as it pertains to my perspective.
Regrettably, it seems that many people in general frown upon this role. The stay-at-home mom is often greatly undervalued, underappreciated, and sometimes even scorned in our day. In many instances, a woman working outside the home is seen to be a form of validation for her. In contrast, a woman who is “merely” a stay-at-home mom might be seen as something less than accomplished. The caricature of the “barefoot and pregnant woman in the kitchen” does not typically attain. I would argue, however, that being a full-time mother is a legitimate “career” in its own right. Not only is it legitimate calling, but a noble one which ought to be celebrated and not denigrated, for she has the important role of raising and influencing the hearts and minds of the next generation.
Personally, I can speak from my own experience of the great degree to which my mother inspires me. By her self-sacrifice in pouring out her time and energy into her family, I have been a blessed recipient of much care that I may not have otherwise received. In my earliest years of growing up, I had the comfort and peace of knowing that she took the time to watch and care for me. Each day I came home from school, she was always available there to answer my funny little questions, kiss my hurt better, and teach me right values. She instructed me much, whether it be lessons of academic nature or lessons in life. Had she been employed outside the home, her time would have been much divided with that additional full-time job, and thus I would not have gleaned as much of the benefits in the home as I have. My mother has spent many years of her life being a stay-at-home mom, but not at the expense of also being a teacher, family accountant, chef, nurse, counselor, mediator, confidant, and best home manager I know.
Her role as a stay-at-home mother allowed her to further pour her time into making our house a home. Taking care of one’s home and family is more than merely going through the motions. The labor of love—a mother’s love—makes the difference, and one for which no one can pay; it is priceless. It is one ingredient that turns a house into a home. Growing up, I’ve wondered why my mom’s cooking tasted better than mine, although I have attempted to replicate them. Her dedication and labor of love made the difference. The meals she prepared are cooked with a mother’s warmth, stirred with a mother’s patience, seasoned with an extra pinch of hearty love, and served generously with affection. I echo Cheryl Mendelson’s words in her encyclopedic A-Z homemaking how-to’s, Home Comforts:
“[W]hat a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent, anyway). Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home. Of course, this did not always turn out well. A controlling woman might make her home suffocating. A perfectionist’s home might be chilly and forbidding. But it is more illuminating to think about what happened when things went right. Then her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and the pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air. She lived her life not only through her own body but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made.”
The benefits which I have received over the years from my mother’s presence at home are countless and incomprehensible. There may be no one else who is able to do a better job being paid to do something which a mother willingly does for free.
Furthermore, the job of a stay-at-home mother is no less important than any other work outside the home. As one woman with years of corporate work experience shares:
“I am in my early thirties, single, a corporate officer, and executive. I serve on three boards of directors, one a national organization. With all my customer contacts, employee supervision, and peer contact, my total influence doesn’t constitute a drop in the bucket to what a wife and mother contributes to society. She directly affects the mental outlook of her husband and children. She has the power to make her home heaven or hell. That’s what I call woman power.”
Noting all I’ve said above, however, I understand there are demands of our current culture. I am not blind to the fact that many would desire to stay at home but cannot due to circumstances beyond their control. Their plight is noted and their efforts to “make ends meet” are both laudable and often necessary. This is not to say that they are unable to have a strong and lasting influence in the home at all. With diligent planning and efforts, I have known such mothers who are actively involved in their children’s lives. Nevertheless, there are several options which a mother may take to reduce hindrances. For example, throughout the years my parents eliminated unnecessary spending and lived a frugal lifestyle in order to live within a one-income household. Instead of eating out often, we enjoyed fresh homemade meals at home. We drove used vehicles rather than new ones. In addition, my mom did not have any expenses which would have incurred had she a job outside the home, such as for transportation, day care, or fancy work clothes.
In the final outcome of things, for me the blessing of having a stay-at-home mother who was able to devote her time fully to our family far surpassed the riches of materials which money could obtain. Because of the value and importance of the mother’s role in the family, whenever financially or otherwise possible, it would be encouraged for a mother to take up the all-too-neglected role of “stay-at-home mom.” And the payoff prove to be much more valuable than $140,000 a year.
I read Out of the Tiger’s Mouth, a biography of the late Reformed theologian Dr. Charles H. Chao, several years ago and came across something I wrote of it again just this week. Being of Chinese ethnicity, I was so intrigued to learn more about his life, as he was among the first to ever translate and publish Reformed and Puritan literature into the Chinese language. Having Chinese-speaking family members, I was very excited that such works are made accessible.
This book shares the story of Dr. Chao’s geographical journey from the East to the West, as well as his spiritual pilgrimage from his Christian conversion in China to his ordination as a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).
Despite persecution from Chinese Communists, Dr. Chao narrowly escaped from prison and death. On one occasion, he (along with other unarmed men) was rounded up by Chinese Communists, to march as a living shield in front of Communist soldiers while they attack the Nationalist soldiers. In His providence, the Lord provided a way for him to hide and flee for his life.
I also learn of the Lord’s providence in crossing Dr. Chao’s path with that of other theologians who were influential in shaping his theological persuasions, such as Dr. Loraine Boettner and the Rev. J. G. Vos. He was profoundly influenced by the teaching of Dr. Vos, when Dr. Vos and family went to China as missionaries. In the words of Dr. Boettner, Dr. Chao was “a man of God—with untiring devotion.”
Another interesting part was how he and Dr. Samuel Boyle co-founded the Reformation Translation Fellowship, which translates and distributes literature consistent with Reformed theological perspective into Chinese, in Mainland China. (Some of the works are available via CrtsBooks.net).
The Lord called Dr. Chao home in 2010 at the age of 94. In reading his life story, I’m reminded and encouraged by God’s faithfulness and sovereignty in using Dr. Chao as a vessel to proclaim the good news of His sovereign grace in the midst of life-threatening events, trials, and persecution of communist China; and in how He used him to minister to Chinese-speaking people through sound literature.
I love antiquarian books. Not only do they physically last well for posterity hundreds of years later, they also were made beautifully (e.g. with golden engraving, decoration, etc.). Books used to be a testament of things valued.
I’m ecstatic to have found and to own an antiquarian copy of Letters to a Sister by Harvey Newcomb published in 1851 in excellent condition. I like the smell of its old pages as I turn them. Another joy of owning an antiquarian book is the surprise of finding treasures in between pages. For example, I’ve found an old note written in beautiful penmanship, and really old leaves in between other pages. Of course, I’d like to believe these actually survived from back in 1800′s!
This is one case where one may judge a book by its cover. Besides its sturdy and beautiful cover, it likewise has solid and beautiful contents–being originally written as a series of letters by a caring older brother (the author) to his younger sister after both of their parents passed away, to help her in spiritual walk. Though first published in 1839, much of the advice are timeless and relevant for Christian ladies today as when originally published, because much of the wisdom therein transcend the passage of time.
It provides practical directions for Christian ladies in cultivating intellectual, social, moral, and religious areas of life, including prayer, improvement of time, charity, Scripture reading & study, overcoming temptation, conduct & attitude in public worship, meditation, bodily health, mental cultivation and reading, Christian activity & duties, sound doctrine, dress, social and relative duties (to church, family, friends, etc.), submission, contentment, and self-examination. I also like how the table of contents divides each chapter into sub-headings of topics for quick reference.
In the words of C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, my prayer is that God by His grace would keep me from this:
Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower–become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.
Though I do not agree with many of Lewis’ theological beliefs, I think he is a literary genius who has a deep insight of the human nature. The setting of the above excerpt is Lewis telling a story about a conversation between an angel and a famous artist who has just died. The angel tells this artist of the stunning beauty of heaven, to convince him to enter in. The artist grew excited, imagining the beautiful paintings that he will make of what is in heaven. However, he became angry upon learning that, once he enters heaven, there is no more need for him to paint; in heaven, he gets to simply enjoy the real thing. He protested that, as a painter, art itself is an end. The angel replies, “Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there [during your earthly life], but they are also dangerous stimulants.”
Each good thing in this world points us to, and tells us of, its Maker. Painting of a beautiful scenery tells us of the creative handiwork of its Creator in real life to His praise. Rather than using art as a means to remind us of the Master Artist, the artist in the story elevates art (and perhaps his artistic abilities and reputation) as an end. The story reminds me that this danger of idolatry applies not only to poetry and music and art, but also to religious activities and theological conversations.
May the object of my affection lie not in the telling about my Savior, but in my Savior Himself Who is altogether lovely. May my writing of Him not be an end in itself, but (by His grace) a reflection of love for Him.
Moreover, the enjoyment of good things in this world (not only materials, but also my family and loved ones) are but shadows of the real thing. As Jonathan Edwards wrote in The Christian Pilgrim:
The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. . . . Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?
“I feel as if God had, by giving the Sabbath, given fifty-two springs in every year.” –Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“It is a desperate hazard . . . to be weary of one sabbath here, and yet presume upon the expectation of an eternity which shall be nothing else but sabbath.” –Edward Reynolds
“When the falling dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move swiftly on. God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in love. The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word. The Sabbath is a friend to religion; it files off the rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker.” –Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, pp. 94-95
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” –Exodus 20:8-11
“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” –Isaiah 58:13-14
“It hath been truly and justly observed, that our whole Religion fares according to our Sabbaths, that poor Sabbaths make poor Christians, and that a strictness in our Sabbaths inspires a Vigour into all our other duties.” –Cotton Mather
“A well-spent Sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. For this reason we wish our Sabbaths to be wholly given to God. We love to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God. How many may know from this that they will never be in heaven! A straw on the surface can tell which way the stream is flowing. Do you abhor a holy Sabbath? Is it a kind of hell to you to be with those who are strict in keeping the Lord’s day? The writer of these lines once felt as you do. You are restless and uneasy. You say, “Behold what a weariness is it” ”When will the Sabbath be gone, that we may sell corn?” Ah! soon, very soon, and you will be in hell. Hell is the only place for you. Heaven is one long, never-ending, holy Sabbath-day. There are no Sabbaths in hell.” –Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“Of all time Sabbath-time is the most precious and valuable; it being the time God has allotted and set apart for himself, and upon the improvement whereof the glory of God and salvation of our souls depend in a most peculiar manner; it being the day of special access to God, and of free commerce and correspondence between heaven and earth. It is heaven’s weekly market day, or God’s deal-day to the poor and needy; the day of access to God’s presence-chamber.” –John Willison
“The spirituality of the Lord’s Day is another cardinal feature of Reformed piety. While the beauty of the Christian understanding of the Lord’s Day has often been obscured by a sort of Sabbatarian legalism, there is something very profound about the biblical sign of the eighth day, the first day of the New Creation (John 20:1, 19, and 26). It was Jesus himself who reinterpreted the old Sabbath and established the Lord’s Day by meeting with his disciples for worship on the first day of the week (John 20:19 and 26). A few years ago I discovered a work of John Willison, minister in Dundee, Scotland, with the title “Treatise concerning the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day.” From this work I began to sense the spiritual vitality of the observance of the Lord’s Day as our spiritual ancestors understood it. Willison was obviously much more concerned with what one should do on the Lord’s Day than what one should not do. It was a day blessed with a benediction of peace and rest and quiet. It was a day devoted to prayer and works of charity.” –Hughes Oliphant Old
“Make the Sabbath the Market-Day for thy Soul: Lose not one Hour, but be either praying, conferring, or meditating: Think not thy own Thoughts: Let every Day have its Duties: Turn the Sermon heard into Matter of Prayer, Instruction into Petition, Reproof into Confession, Consolation into Thanksgiving: Think much of the Sermon heard, and make something of it all the Week long.” –John Dod
“The happiness of heaven is the constant keeping of the Sabbath. Heaven is called a Sabbath, to make those who have Sabbaths long for heaven, and those who long for heaven love Sabbaths.” –Philip Henry
“The Sabbath is the Market-day of the Soul, the Cream of Time.” –Thomas Watson
“Make the Lord’s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer. Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt thou not afford him one?” –John Bunyan (Dying Sayings)
“A corruption of morals usually follows a profanation of the Sabbath.” –Sir William Blackstone
“The sabbath day, is a season for meditation. This should be the temper of every christian to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. On that day when our Saviour did arise from the earth, our souls should ascend to heaven.” –William Bates
“Money gained on Sabbath-day is a loss, I dare to say. No blessing can come with that which comes to us, on the devil’s back, by our willful disobedience of God’s law. The loss of health by neglect of rest, and the loss of soul by neglect of hearing the gospel, soon turn all seeming profit into real loss.” –Charles Spurgeon
“A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content and strength for the toils of the morrow; but a Sabbath profaned, what’er may be gained, is a certain forerunner of sorrow.” (From an 1874 hymn)
Cursed is that gain, cursed is that recreation, cursed is that health, which is gained by criminal encroachments on this sacred day [the Lord's Day]. –Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“O what a blessing is Sunday, interposed between the waves of worldly business like the divine path of the Israelites through the sea.” –Samuel Wilberforce
“Give the world one-half of Sunday and you will soon find that religion has no strong hold on the other half.” –Sir Walter Scott
“Let a man lay the foundation of having no Sabbath and I am never surprised if he finished with the top-stone of no God.” –J. C. Ryle, Anglican bishop of Liverpool
“I have found by a strict and diligent observation, that a due observance of the duties of the Lord’s day hath ever had joined to it a blessing upon the rest of my time, and the week that hath been so begun hath been blessed and prosperous to me; and on the other side, when I have been negligent of the duties of this day, the rest of the week hath been unsuccessful and unhappy to my own secular employments the week following. This I write, not lightly or inconsiderately, but upon long and sound observation and experience.” –Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale
At two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, August 22, 1651, the great Puritan minister Christopher Love ascended the platform of the scaffold at Tower Hill, London. He was accompanied by fellow ministers, Thomas Manton, Simeon Ashe, and Edmund Calamy. His life was to be cut short at 33 years of age due to alleged involvement with a plan to raise money for the restoration of the monarchy, a charge Love denied. Believing that his death would glorify God, these were among his last words: “I do more good by my death than by my life, and glorify God more in my dying upon a scaffold than if I had died of a disease upon my bed.”
Prior to his execution, Love prayed for his accusers, for the Church, for England and Scotland to be one, and for the friend who was to be executed after him.
I found his submission to the will of God and prayer so inspiring:
“Most glorious and eternal Majesty, Thou art righteous and holy in all thou dost to the sons of men, though thou hast suffered men to condemn Thy servant, Thy servant will not condemn Thee. He justifies Thee though Thou cuttest him off in the midst of his days and in the midst of his ministry, blessing thy glorious name, that though he be taken away from the land of the living, yet he is not blotted out of the Book of the Living. Father, mine hour is come. This Thy poor creature can say without vanity and falsehood. He hath desired to glorify Thee on earth; glorify Thou now him in heaven. He hath desired to bring the souls of other men to heaven; let his soul be brought to heaven.
“O Thou blessed God, whom thy creature hath served, who hath made thee his hope and his confidence from his youth, forsake him not now while he is drawing near to Thee. Now he is in the valley of the shadow of death, Lord, be Thou life to him. Smile Thou upon him while men frown upon him. Lord, Thou hast settled this persuasion in his heart that as soon as ever the blow is given to divide his head from his body he shall be united to his Head in heaven. Blessed be God that Thy servant dies in these hopes. Blessed be God that Thou hast filled the soul of Thy servant with joy and peace in believing.
“O Lord, think upon that poor brother of mine, who is a companion in tribulation with me, who is this day to lose his life as well as I. O fill him full with the Holy Ghost when he is to give up the ghost! Lord, strengthen our hearts that we may give up the ghost with joy and not with grief.
“We entreat Thee, O Lord, think upon Thy poor churches. O that England might live in Thy sight! And O that London might be a faithful city to Thee! That righteousness might be among them, that peace and plenty might be within her walls and prosperity within their habitations. Lord, heal the breaches of these nations; make England and Scotland as one staff in the Lord’s hand, that Ephraim may not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim, but that both may fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines. O that men of the Protestant religion, engaged in the same cause and covenant, might not delight to spill each other’s blood, but might engage against the common adversaries of our religion and liberty! God, show mercy to all that fear Thee. The Lord think upon our covenant-keeping brethren of the Kingdom of Scotland; keep them faithful to Thee, and let not them that have invaded them overspread their whole land. Prevent the shedding of more Christian blood if it seems good in Thine eyes.
“God show mercy to Thy poor servant who is now giving up the ghost. O blessed Jesus, apply Thy blood not only for my justification unto life, but also for my comfort, for the quieting of my soul so I may be in the joys of heaven before I come to the possession of heaven! Hear the prayers of all Thy people that have been made for Thy servant, and though Thou hast denied prayer as to that particular request concerning my life, yet let herein the fruit of prayer be seen, that Thou wilt bear up my heart against the fear of death. God show mercy to all that fear Him, and show mercy to all who have engaged for the life of Thy servant. Let them have mercy at the day of their appearing before Jesus Christ. Preserve Thou a godly ministry in this nation, and restore a goodly magistracy, and cause yet good days to be the heritage of Thy people for the Lord’s sake.
“Now, Lord, into Thy hands Thy servant commits his spirit; and though he may not with Stephen see the heavens open, yet let him have the heavens open. And though he may not see upon a scaffold the Son of God standing at the right hand of God, yet let him come to the glorious body of Jesus Christ and this hour have an intellectual sight of the glorious body of his Saviour. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and, Lord Jesus, stand by me, Thy dying servant who hath endeavoured in his lifetime to stand for Thee. Lord, hear, pardon all infirmities, wash away his iniquities by the blood of Christ, wipe off reproaches from his name, wipe off guilt from his person and receive him pure and spotless and blameless before Thee in love. And all this we beg for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.”
Christopher Love knew how to live well, and to die well. He was another servant of Christ of whom the world was not worthy. As his dear wife Mary said of him, “He lived too much in heaven to live long on earth.”
Christopher Love’s prayer is excerpted from Don Kistler’s A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love.
A “First Day Morning” prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. May this be my prayer also for the Lord’s Day tomorrow:
We commune with thee every day,
but week days are worldly days,
and secular concerns reduce heavenly impressions.
We bless thee therefore for the day sacred to our souls
when we can wait upon thee and be refreshed;
We thank thee for the institutions of religion
by use of which we draw near to thee and thou to us;
We rejoice in another Lord’s Day
when we call off our minds from the cares of the world
and attend upon thee without distraction;
Let our retirement be devout,
our conversation edifying,
our reading pious,
our hearing profitable,
that our souls may be quickened and elevated.
We are going to the house of prayer,
pour upon us the spirit of grace and supplication;
We are going to the house of praise,
awaken in us every grateful and cheerful emotion;
We are going to the house of instruction,
give testimony to the Word preached,
and glorify it in the hearts of all who hear;
may it enlighten the ignorant,
awaken the careless, reclaim the wandering,
establish the weak, comfort the feeble-minded,
make ready a people for their Lord.
Be a sanctuary to all who cannot come,
Forget not those who never come,
And do thou bestow upon us
benevolence towards our dependants,
forgiveness towards our enemies,
peaceableness towards our neighbours,
openness towards our fellow-Christians.
I love the Puritans, lists (of all kinds), and pithy quotations. So it was only natural to combine these three favorite things together from my reading.
This list is a great encouragement to mortify sin daily, yet at the same time reminds me of how I’ve fallen woefully short of God’s standard in my daily battle against sin. But thanks be to God for His mercy and Christ’s imputed righteousness, that I (who is inherently unrighteous) may approach His throne of grace by faith and be declared positionally “righteous” on the basis of Christ’s perfect merits.
- The great wisdom and security of the soul in dealing with indwelling sin is to put a violent stop unto its beginnings, its first motions and actings. Venture all on the first attempt. Die rather than yield one step unto it. –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: “The Nature of Indwelling Sin in Believers”
- Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death. –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 3
- The belief that God is everywhere should persuade us to sin nowhere. –Richard Steele, A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in Worship
- The Christian’s armour decays two ways: either by violent battery, when the Christian is overcome by temptation to sin; or else by neglecting to furbish and scour it with the use of those means which are as oil to keep it clean and bright. –William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour
- When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”
- We must be exercising [mortification of sin] every day, and in every duty. Sin will not die, unless it be constantly weakened. Spare it, and it will heal its wounds, and recover its strength. –John Owen
- A great motive to provoke you to the mortifying of your darling sins … consider, that the conquest and effectual mortifying of one bosom sin, will yield a Christian more glorious joy, comfort, and peace, than ever he hath found in the gratifying and committing of all other sins. The pleasure and sweetness that follows victory over sin is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness that is in the gratifying of sin. –Thomas Brooks
- The indulgence of one sin opens the door to further sins. The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted. –John Owen
- When sin is your burden, Christ will be your delight. –Thomas Watson
- There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us. –Richard Sibbes
- If the guilt of sin is so great that nothing can satisfy it but the blood of Jesus; and the filth of sin is so great that nothing can fetch out the stain thereof but the blood of Jesus, how great, how heinous, how sinful must the evil of sin be. –William Bridge
- The way to avoid temptation is not always to apply a salve directly pertinent to the temptation; but turn off your mind and your thoughts to some other good object, and by that time your mind is settled upon other objects, you will be easily able to meet with the temptation. –William Bridge
- A regenerate person abhors sin not only for the curse but for the contagion. He hates this serpent not only for its sting but for its poison. He hates sin not only for hell but as hell. –Thomas Watson
- Sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! how few are there that tremble at it, that keep at a distance from it! –Thomas Brooks
- Take heed of secret sins. They will undo thee if loved and maintained: one moth may spoil the garment; one leak drown the ship; a penknife stab can kill a man as well as a sword; so one sin may damn the soul; nay, there is more danger of a secret sin causing the miscarrying of the soul than open profaneness, because not so obvious to the reproofs of the world. –Jeremiah Burroughs
- The Christian soldier must avoid two evils—he must not faint or yield in the time of fight, and after a victory he must not wax insolent and secure. When he has overcome, he is so to behave himself as though he were presently again to be assaulted. For Satan’s temptations, like the waves of the sea, do follow one in the neck of the other. –George Downame
- The wisdom of God is seen in this, that the sins of men shall carry on God’s work; yet that He should have no hand in their sin. The Lord permits sin, but doth not approve it. He hath a hand in the action in which sin is, but not in the sin of the action. –Thomas Watson
- The pleasure of sin is soon gone, but the sting remains. –Thomas Watson
- Go where you will serve best and sin the least. –Richard Baxter
- If you wish to stand firm in the midst of suffering, forewarn yourself of this fact: Temptation is never stronger than when relief seems to dress itself in the very sin that Satan is suggesting. –William Gurnall
- Do you mortify [sin]? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. –John Owen
- And the longer you delay, the more your sin gets strength and rooting. If you cannot bend a twig, how will you be able to bend it when it is a tree? –Richard Baxter
- By delay of repentance, sin strengthens, and the heart hardens. The longer ice freezeth, the harder it is to be broken. –Thomas Watson
- The wicked do but weep for their sins past, but the godly purpose to sin no more. –Henry Smith
- If an unregenerate man should leave off sin under fear of death or hell, it would not be out of hatred to sin, but out of the fear of the punishment, as the bird is kept from the bait by the scarecrow. –Thomas Manton
- It is an old saying, Repentance is never too late; but it is a true saying, Repentance is never too soon. –Henry Smith
- The bird is easily killed in the egg, but when once hatched and fledged, we may kill it when we can catch it. A frequent reckoning with ourselves will pluck sin up before it is rooted in the soul. –George Swinnock
- If you yield to Satan in the least, he will carry you further and further, till he has left you under a stupefied or terrified conscience: stupefied, till thou hast lost all thy tenderness. A stone at the top of a hill, when it begins to roll down, ceases not till it comes to the bottom. Thou thinkest it is but yielding a little, and so by degrees are carried on, till thou hast sinned away all thy profession, and all principles of conscience, by the secret witchery of his temptations. –Thomas Manton
- Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before. –John Owen
- Our great Pattern hath showed us what our deportment ought to be in all suggestions and temptations. When the devil showed Him “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them,” to tempt Him withal, He did not stand and look upon them, viewing their glory, and pondering their empire … but instantly, without stay, He cries, “Get thee hence, Satan.” Meet thy temptation in its entrance with thoughts of faith concerning Christ on the cross; this will make it sink before thee. Entertain no parley, no dispute with it, if thou wouldst not enter into it. –John Owen
- Satan gives Adam [a fruit], and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose. –Richard Sibbes
- The mighty streams of the evil thoughts of men will admit of no bounds or dams to put a stop unto them. There are but two ways of relief from them, the one respecting their moral evil, the other their natural abundance. The first is by throwing salt into the spring, as Elisha cured the waters of Jericho—that is, to get the heart and mind seasoned with grace. … The other is, to turn their streams into new channels, putting new aims and ends upon them, fixing them on new objects: so shall we abound in spiritual thoughts; for abound in thoughts we shall, whether we will or not. –John Owen
- The devil desires to winnow Peter, not Judas. The more faithful servants of God we be, the more doth Satan bruise us with the flail, or grate us with the fan. The thief does not break into an empty cottage, but into some furnished house or full granary, where the fatness of the booty is a fitness to his desires. The unclean spirit finds no rest in an atheist, usurer, drunkard, swearer, etc. He knows a canker has overrun their consciences already; and that they are as sure as temptation can make them. What need he tempt them that tempt themselves? –Thomas Adams
- Satan doth not tempt God’s children because they have sin in them, but because they have grace in them. Had they no grace, the devil would not disturb them. … Though to be tempted is a trouble, yet to think why you are tempted is a comfort. –Thomas Watson
- None can better discover Satan’s sleights and policies, than those who have been long in the fencing-school of temptation. –Thomas Watson
- Such a man as opposes nothing to the seduction of sin and lust in his heart but fear of shame among men or hell from God, is sufficiently resolved to do the sin if there were no punishment attending it. –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”
- Satan tempts to sin gradually. As the husbandman digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart: he is at first more modest. –Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm
- Satan doth sow most of his seed of temptation in hearts that lie fallow. When he sees persons unemployed, he will find work for them to do. –Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm
- Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. –Jonathan Edwards, Resolutions
- More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison. Gross sins affright, but how many take a surfeit and die, in using lawful things inordinately. Recreation is lawful, eating and drinking are lawful, but many offend by excess, and their table is a snare. Relations are lawful, but how often does Satan tempt to overlove! How often is the wife and child laid in God’s room. Excess makes things lawful become sinful. –Thomas Watson
- A sin is two sins when it is defended. –Henry Smith
- Secret sins are more dangerous to the person in some respects than open sins. For a man doth, by his art of sinning, deprive himself of the help of his sinfulness. Like him who will carry his wound covered, or who bleeds inwardly, help comes not in because the danger is not decried nor known. If a man’s sin breaks out there is a minister at hand, a friend near, and others to reprove, to warn, to direct; but when he is the artificer of his lusts, he bars himself of all public remedy. –Obadiah Sedgwick
- It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw kindles a block of wood. –Thomas Manton
- God had but one Son without corruption, but he had none without temptation. Such is Satan’s enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations. None so well-beloved as Christ; none so much tempted as he. –Thomas Brooks
- If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: “God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.” When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage. –John Owen
- The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance; he that will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit. –Thomas Brooks
- In the strength of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit, set roundly upon the mortifying of every lust. Oh, hug none, indulge none, but resolvedly set upon the ruin of all! One leak in a ship will sink it; one wound strikes Goliath dead as well as three-and-twenty did Caesar; one Delilah may do Samson as much spite and mischief as all the Philistines; one broken wheel spoils all the whole clock; one vein bleeding will let out all the vitals as well as more; one fly will spoil a whole box of ointment; one bitter herb all the pottage. … Ah, Christian! dost thou not know what a world of mischief one unmortified lust may do? and therefore let nothing satisfy thee but the blood of all thy lusts. –Thomas Brooks, The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod
- Though He leaves us for a time, yet doth He not forsake us for ever, no more than a nurse doth the weakling child. She maketh use of one fall to keep the child from many, and God doth make use of our sinning to make us see how prone we are to sin, and so prevent us for the future. –John Lightfoot
As the new year approaches, I’ve heard the words “New Year Resolution” mentioned in recent days. The best list of Resolutions I’ve ever read was written almost 300 years ago by the great preacher/author/theologian Jonathan Edwards when he was around 20 years of age. His was a list of 70 Resolutions or ”purpose statements” that will have guided the rest of his life.
I like the practicality of his list and its transparency to the reality of the human nature and frailties. It permeates every area of life–the use of time, eating and drinking, conversations, relationships with family & others, prayer, etc. (I Cor. 10:31)
Some of my favorites among his list:
1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.
12. Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.
24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.
37. Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself;—also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
46. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
54. Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57. Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.
58. Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
60. Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.
63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.
64. Resolved, When I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered,” of which the apostle speaks, and those “breathings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.
69. Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723
The printable version which grouped the list of Resolutions into several subheadings.
It is inspiring to hear or read of godly women in the faith, including those from centuries past. One such woman in my reading is Mary Love, the wife of the great 17th century Puritan preacher Christopher Love.
Christopher Love’s life was cut short at the age of 33 when he was executed (beheaded) on August 22, 1651, for alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell, then the Lord Protector of England. His wife was eight months pregnant with their fifth child, the third to live, at the time of his execution.
Love used the scaffold as a final pulpit to preach his last sermon and pray for his accusers. These were among his last words: “There is but two steps between me and glory. It is but lying down upon the block that I shall ascend upon a throne. I am exchanging a pulpit for a scaffold and a scaffold for a throne. I am exchanging a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels, to carry me to Abraham’s bosom.”
What was Mary’s response in the weeks approaching her husband’s execution? We can see a glimpse of her heart and faith through a letter she wrote to her husband. It is hard to read her letter with a dry eye:
July 14, 1651
My Dear Heart,
Before I write a word further, I beseech thee think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.” Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.
O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.
I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory.
Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother. Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory.
Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.
My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it. When thou art putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am putting on my wedding garments to go to be everlastingly married to my Redeemer.”
When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life. When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.
And when thou layest down thy precious head to receive thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven.
And though it may seem something bitter, that by hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.
Let us comfort one another with these sayings. Be comforted, my dear heart. It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and where the wicked shall cease from troubling. Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night.
My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee. I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.
Farewell, my dear, I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.
Mary’s letter challenges my thoughts about the kind of love prevalent in today’s culture. Her love for her husband was not a selfish or idolatrous love that elevated him above God, but a love firmly rooted in the One Who first loved us and Who dealt the heaviest stroke of all upon His only begotten Son Whom He loves (so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but receive eternal life). Instead of focusing upon her great loss, Mary directed her focus (and her husband’s) upon their first Love and ultimate Bridegroom – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.