In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian goes through trials, temptations, and triumphs on his pilgrimage in a fallen world to the Celestial City. Sin makes this world a dry and weary land. I’m reminded through Pastor Rob McCurley’s sermon recently, that although the road to the Heavenly City is always an ascent (Psalm 24:3), the Lord Jesus Christ is a place of Shelter. He is a large Rock that is higher than us (Psalm 61:2) in the wilderness, casting a shadow and providing coolness from the blistering heat of the sun. He is the Shade upon which I may take refuge. Anything else is a tree of broken branches with no leaves, leaving us exposed. Christ is the cool, clear Water which I may drink to the satisfaction of my parched soul. He is the Shelter from the storm of affliction and rain.
In a gathering I attended, each person was to answer this question for fun: if you were to be like one particular thing, what would that be and why?
I was unsure what to answer, and thus glad that my turn came almost toward the end. After pondering, I finally answered that I wish to be like salt. Salt has certain characteristic traits found in the kind of person I wish to become. And ever since that gathering, I have been able to learn more of the other uses of salt.
First, salt causes a thirst. I’d like my conversation to cause others to thirst for God. I wish to help others realize their need for the Living Water—Jesus Christ. I’m reminded that Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14) Some try to quench their “thirst” by turning to alcohol, money, drugs, fame, etc., though it only lasts for a season. Therefore, I need to continually remind myself never to “water down” (compromise) my message, so that it may not lose its “saltiness” and impact.
Secondly, salt seasons food, enhances flavor, and makes things taste better. Matthew 5:13 says, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” When I cook without it, the dish tastes bland and appeals less to the appetite. The Bible tells us, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6) Growing up when I read this verse, I didn’t know what it means. However, I’ve since learned that when I share a message of God’s love to others or answer questions about my faith, I want to uncompromisingly communicate the Christian faith in a way that is palatable—that is, in a reasonable, judicious, and winsome way. My conversation should be “seasoned with salt,” that it not only causes others to thirst for more of God, but also makes an otherwise bland conversation come alive when possible.
Thirdly, salt is a preservative. It can be used as a means to preserve food from spoiling. By absorbing water from foods, salt makes the environment too dry for bacteria or mold to grow. Salting is one of the ways to preserve fish, for example. I hope my conversation can be used as a “preservative” to encourage others during discouragement or trial, and thus to persevere in “running the race” of life.
Fourthly, salt can also be used to melt snow. This is why some people pour salt over the snow on their driveway. I wish to be able to help others in the ways of the Lord, so that He may soften their cold stony hearts and mold them to His will.
I have much to learn and am in a lifelong process of learning to be the “salt of the earth.” Meanwhile, though, I don’t think I would look at salt in the same way again.
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, 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 and 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 very 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 lovely cover, it likewise has solid and beautiful contents. The series of letters had been lovingly written by the author to his younger sister after both of their parents passed away, to provide her practical guidance and wisdom for life. Though first published in 1839, much of the advice therein are timeless and relevant for Christian ladies today as when originally published because they 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:
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 disagree with many of Lewis’ theological beliefs (and would not recommend his writings to new believers due to some serious errors), I think he is a literary genius with some insight of how people think. 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. A picture of beautiful scenery tells us of the creative handiwork of its Creator in real life to His glory. However, rather than using art as a means to point to 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 love not be in the telling about my Savior, but in my Savior Jesus Christ Himself, who is altogether lovely.
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.
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, Vol. 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, Vol. 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, Vol. 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, Vol. 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 been hearing the phrase “New Year Resolutions” uttered 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:
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.
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) in 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 nor 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 eternal Bridegroom—the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.
This evening, came across Jonathan Edwards’ account of his early years and testimony of his faith in Christ. He reminds me of the infinite riches and beauty of God’s grace and mercy with such eloquence, that I wanted to take notes for future reminder:
“My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountain over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, ‘Infinite upon infinite … Infinite upon infinite!’ When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth.” —Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative”
I can relate. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know that we are not alone.” It’s immensely encouraging to read of great theologians or heroes of the faith writing with such transparency about the reality of human frailties and struggles in their own spiritual pilgrimage, because I could then perhaps learn something of their perseverance and growth in the Christian life by God’s grace.