Category Archives: Banner of Truth

“Read, study, reflect, and write” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Many—probably most—of these chapters were written in the context of busy pastoral ministry, either in Scotland or in the United States—preaching, teaching, pastoral visiting, personal meetings, crises in the lives of individuals and sometimes the whole church, administrative responsibilities, and the wide and wonderful variety of activities that make up the average ministers life.

And since virtually all the essays were written by request, their writing has been squeezed into, or out of, an occasional hiatus in the sheer busy-ness of ministry life and the constant preparation involved in preaching anywhere between three and six times in the week.

So, at some point in the writing of almost all these chapters I have heard an inner voice ask, ‘Whatever possessed you to agree to do this?’ Yet, however far short these various pieces fall, in each case the preparation of them did me good, enlarged my understanding a little, and fed into the day-to-day work of pastoral ministry.

I hope, therefore, that these pages will encourage other ministers to allow themselves to be stretched a little beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation. There is no doubt that the wider reflection, reading, study and stretching involved can only strengthen and enrich long-term ministry.

Such stretching produces growth. Sometimes ministers can ‘waste’ the privileged time they have by studying only in relation to their next sermon. This does produce some growth, of course; but perhaps not growth that is constantly putting down deeper roots and producing richer fruit.

Preachers need to be reading and studying more widely, and reflecting theologically if that is to be the case. For only then will our ongoing ministry be deepened and enriched.

Thus, in one sense at least, the undergirding message of these diverse chapters is: if you are a preacher, accept invitations or create opportunities to study, speak, or write on subjects outside of your usual diet of preparation.

Yes, you may find yourself under a little pressure; but pressure can produce diamonds! You will grow personally as a result, and, God-willing, Paul’s exhortation will be fulfilled in your ministry:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have… Practise these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

It can be an unnerving question to ask oneself, ‘Has anyone in the congregation ever thought, far less said, about me, ‘He is making progress’?”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), xii-xiii.

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“The fruit of the enjoyment of an infinite and eternal God” by Stephen Charnock

“The enjoyment of God will be as fresh and glorious after many ages, as it was at first. God is eternal, and eternity knows no change. There will then be the fullest possession without any decay in the object enjoyed.

There can be nothing past, nothing future. Time neither adds to it, nor detracts from it. That infinite fulness of perfection which flourisheth in Him now, will flourish eternally, without any discoloring of it in the least, by those innumerable ages that shall run to eternity, much less any despoiling Him of them: ‘He is the same in His endless duration’ (Psalm 102:27).

As God is, so will the eternity of Him be, without succession, without division. The fulness of joy will be always present, without past to be thought of with regret for being gone, without future to be expected with tormenting desires.

When we enjoy God, we enjoy Him in His eternity without any flux: an entire possession of all together, without the passing away of pleasures that may be wished to return, or expectation of future joys which might be desired to hasten.

Time is fluid, but eternity is stable. And after many ages, the joys will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites.

When the glory of the Lord shall rise upon you, it shall be so far from ever setting, that after millions of years are expired, as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the sun, in the light of whose countenance you shall live, shall be as bright as at the first appearance.

He will be so far from ceasing to flow, that He will flow as strong, as full, as at the first communication of Himself in glory to the creature.

God, therefore, as sitting upon His throne of grace, and acting according to His covenant, is always vigorous and flourishing, a pure act of life, sparkling new and fresh rays of life and light to the creature, flourishing with a perpetual spring, and contenting the most capacious desire, forming your interest, pleasure, and satisfaction, with an infinite variety, without any change or succession.

He will have variety to increase delights, and eternity to perpetuate them. This will be the fruit of the enjoyment of an infinite and eternal God: He is not a cistern, but a fountain, wherein water is always living.”

–Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, in The Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2010), 364-365.

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“Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother” by Charles Spurgeon

“Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children.

I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother. Neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the young heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring.

A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of ‘mother’ is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother.

Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me.

How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent. Others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me.

How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, ‘Oh, that my son might live before Thee!’

Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory,—that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities.

And her smiles have never faded from my recollection,—the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good things in me towards the Lord God of Israel.

My mother said to me, one day, ‘Ah, Charles! I often prayed to the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.’

I could not resist the temptation to reply, ‘Ah, mother! The Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceedingly abundantly above what you asked or thought.'”

–Charles Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Volume 1, The Early Years (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1898/1962), 44-45.

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“This is my joy and crown of rejoicing: to be able to say that God is mine” by Thomas Brooks

“There is in God an immense fulness, an ocean of goodness, and an overplus of all that graciousness, sweetness, and kindness that is to be found in all other things or creatures.

As Noah had a copy of every kind of creature in that famous library of the ark, out of which all were reprinted to the world, so he that hath God for his portion hath the original copy of all blessings, out of which all may easily be renewed.

All the good-linesses and all the glories of all the creatures are eminently and perfectly to be enjoyed in God. God is an universal excellency.

All the particular excellencies that are scattered up and down among angels, men, and all other creatures, are virtually and transcendently in Him. He hath them all in His own being (Eph. 1:3).

All creatures in heaven and earth have but their particular excellencies, but God hath in Himself the very quintessence of all excellencies.

The creatures have but drops of that sea, that ocean, that is in God. They have but their parts of that power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, loveliness, desirableness, sweetness, graciousness, beauty, and glory that is in God.

One hath this part, and another hath that. One hath this particular excellency, and another hath that. But the whole of all these parts and excellencies are to be found only in God.

There is none but that God that is an universal good, that can truly say, ‘All power, all wisdom, all strength, all knowledge, all goodness, all sweetness, all beauty, all glory, all excellency, dwells in Me.’

He that can truly say this, is a god, and he that cannot is no god. There is no angel in heaven, nor saint on earth, that hath the whole of any one of those excellencies that are in God.

Nay, all the angels in heaven, and all the saints on earth, have not among them the whole of any one of those glorious excellencies and perfections that be in God. All the excellencies that are scattered up and down in the creatures, are united into one excellency in God.

But there is not one excellency in God that is fully scattered up and down among all the creatures. There is a glorious union of all excellencies in God, and only in God.

Now this God, that is such an universal good, and that hath all excellencies dwelling in Himself, He says to the believer, ‘I am thine, and all that I have.’ Our propriety reacheth to all that God is, and to all that God hath (Jer. 32:38-42).

God is not parted, nor divided, nor distributed among His people, as earthly portions are divided among children in the family, so as one believer hath one part of God, and another believer hath another part of God, and a third another part of God.

Oh no! But every believer hath the whole God wholly, he hath all of God for His portion. God is not a believer’s portion in a limited sense, nor in a comparative sense, but in an absolute sense.

God Himself is theirs, and He is wholly theirs, and He is only theirs, and He is always theirs.

As Christ looks upon the Father, and saith, ‘All thine is mine, and mine is thine,’ (1 Cor. 3:23, Joh. 17:10), that may a saint say, looking upon God as His portion.

He may truly say, ‘O Lord, Thou art mine, and all that Thou hast. And I am Thine, and all that I have.’

A saint may look upon God and say, ‘O Lord, not only Thy gifts but Thy graces are mine, to adorn me and enrich me. And not only Thy mercies and Thy good things are mine to comfort me, and encourage me, but also Thou Thyself art mine. And this is my joy and crown of rejoicing.’

To be able to say that God is mine is more than if I were able to say that ten thousand worlds, yea, and as many heavens, are mine. For it is God alone that is the sparkling diamond in the ring of glory.

Heaven would be but a low thing without God, saith Augustine.

And Bernard had rather enjoy Christ in a chimney-corner, than to be in heaven without Him.

And Luther had rather be in hell with Christ, than in heaven without Him.

It is God alone that makes heaven to be heaven.”

–Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 24–25.

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“He is the sun of their souls” by John Newton

“The Lord, by His Spirit, manifests and confirms His love to His people. For this purpose He meets them at His throne of grace, and in His ordinances.

There He makes Himself known unto them, as He does not unto the world. There He causes His goodness to pass before them, and opens, applies, and seals to them, His exceeding great and precious promises, and He gives them the Spirit of adoption, whereby, unworthy as they are, they are enabled to cry ‘Abba, Father.’

He causes them to understand that great love wherewith He has loved them, in redeeming them by price and by power, washing them from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, recovering them from the dominion of Satan, and preparing for them an everlasting kingdom, where they shall see His face, and rejoice in His glory.

The knowledge of this, His love to them, produces a return of love from them to Him. They adore Him, and admire Him. They make an unreserved surrender of their hearts to Him. They view Him and delight in Him, as their God, their Saviour, and their portion.

They account His favour better than life. He is the sun of their souls: if He is pleased to shine upon them, all is well, and they are not greatly careful about other things.

But if He hides His face, the smiles of the whole creation can afford them no solid comfort.

They esteem one day or hour spent in the delightful contemplation of His glorious excellencies, and in the expression of their desires towards Him, better than a thousand. And when their love is most fervent, they are ashamed that it is so faint, and chide and bemoan themselves that they can love Him no more.

This often makes them long to depart, willing to leave their dearest earthly comforts, that they may see Him as He is, without a veil or cloud.

For they know that then, and not till then, they shall love Him as they ought.”

–John Newton, The Works of the John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (vol. 1; London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 309–310.

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“God is a friend you cannot lose” by Thomas Watson

“Are you mourning someone close to you? Look up to heaven and draw comfort from there; your best kindred are above.

‘When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up,’ (Psalm 27:10).

God will be with you in the hour of death: ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me,’ (Psalm 23:4).

Other friends you cannot keep. God is a friend you cannot lose.

He will be your guide in life, your hope in death, and your reward after death.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 121.

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“Christ is more full of goodness than the sun is full of light” by Thomas Watson

“Christ has not only a few drops, or rays, but is more full of goodness than the sun if full of light. He has the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9).”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 48.

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