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Newest Puritan Paperback: Smooth Stones from Ancient Brooks

Introducing

THE NEWEST PURITAN PAPERBACK

 

Smooth Stones REVISEDSmooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks

Selections from the Writings of

Thomas Brooks

by C.H. Spurgeon

 

“As a writer, Brooks scatters stars with both his hands: he hath dust of gold; in his storehouse are all manner of precious stones.”  So wrote C.H. Spurgeon in his Preface to this book.  He counted Thomas Brooks among his favourite Puritan authors, and it is not hard to see why.  Brooks’ popularity lies both in his subjects – practical truths, central to the Christian life – and in the manner of his presentation.  He is ever direct, urgent, fervent, full of Scripture, and able to choose words which make his sentences stick in one’s mind.
This book is a collection of sentences, illustrations, and quaint sayings from this renowned Puritan.  Gathered by Spurgeon out of the 6 volume set of Brooks’ Works, it remains an excellent introduction to both the man and his writings.
Selections from the Writings of Thomas Brooks
by C.H. Spurgeon
978-1-84871-1136 … 204 pages … $11.00 (U.S.); £5.75 (U.K.)
Enjoy These Selections from
Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks:
“Sin is bad in the eye, worse in the tongue, worse still in the heart, but worst of all in the life.”
“O how strong is grace!  How victorious over sin, how dead to the world, how alive to Christ, how fit to live, and how prepared to die, might many a Christian have become had they been more frequent, serious, and conscientious in the discharge of closet duties!”
“There is no time yours but the present time, no day yours but the present day; therefore, do not please and feed yourselves with hopes of time to come; that you will repent, but not yet; and lay hold on mercy, but not yet; and give yourselves up to the Lord next week, next month, or next year; for that God who has promised you mercy and favour upon the day of your return, has not promised to prolong your lives till that day comes.”
“There is no such way to attain to greater measures of grace, as for a man to live up to that little grace he has.”
“A sincere heart weeps and laments bitterly over those secret and inward corruptions, which others will scarcely acknowledge to be sins.”
“A murmurer is an ungodly man: he is an ungodlike man; no man on earth more unlike to God than the murmurer; and therefore no wonder if, when Christ comes to execute judgment, he deals severely and terribly with him.  Let him make what profession he will of godliness; yet if murmuring keeps the throne in his heart, Christ will deal with him at last as with ungodly sinners.”
“I think that oftentimes men charge that upon the devil which ought to be charged upon their own hearts.”
“A lazy Christian will always want four things — comfort, content, confidence, and assurance.  Assurance and joy are choice donatives that Christ gives to laborious Christians only.  The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts.”
“True repentance is a gift that is from above; and if the Lord does not give it, man will eternally perish for the want ot it.”

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Banner of Truth Sale 50% off “Slightly Damaged Books”

I just received this email and figured I would pass it along to you!  The sale is only available by making a phone call.

Slightly Damaged Books Sale
Ever-So-Slightly-Damaged Banner of Truth Books
50% OFF!

Sadly, we have a growing inventory of “Ever-So-Slightly (and we mean it!) Damaged Books” … in some cases no more damaged than any book that’s been looked at on a bookstore shelf, but such that we cannot sell them at list price.

These are not available on our web site, only by calling our U.S. office:
(717) 249-5747 or (800) 263-8085.  Therefore only available with the U.S. and Canada.

As you might imagine, quantities are limited.  The ones we have the MOST of are listed below.  Call and ask if you are also interested in any others.

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“The Beatitudes,” by Thomas Watson – Paperback – List Price: $16.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $8.00

“Biblical Theology,” by Geerhardus Vos – Paperback – List Price: $20.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $10.00

“Charity and Its Fruits,” by Jonathan Edwards – Paperback – List Price: $19.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $9.50

“Christian in Complete Armour,” by William Gurnall – Clothbound – List Price: $48.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $24.00

“Discovering God’s Will,” by Sinclair Ferguson – Paperback – List Price: $8.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $4.00

“Divine Challenge,” by John Byl – Paperback – List Price: $15.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $7.50

“Doctrine of God,” by Herman Bavinck – Clothbound – List Price: $36.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $18.00

“Evangelistic Sermons,” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Paperback – List Price: $17.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $8.50

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“Guide to the Puritans,” by Robert Martin – Paperback – List Price: $25.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $12.50

“Heirs Together of Life,” by Charles & Norma Ellis – Paperback – List Price: $12.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $6.00

“Jonathan Edwards on Knowing Christ,” by Jonathan Edwards – Paperback – List Price: $12.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $6.00

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“My God is True: Lessons Learned Along Cancer’s Dark Road,” by Paul Wolfe – Paperback – List Price: $15.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $7.50

“New Testament Commentaries, vol. 1, Romans to Ephesians,” by Geoffrey Wilson – Paperback – List Price: $20.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $10.00

“Pastor in Prayer,” by C.H. Spurgeon – Clothbound – List Price: $17.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $8.50

“Practical Religion,” by J.C. Ryle – Paperback – List Price: $16.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $8.00

“Reformation of the Church,” by Iain H. Murray – Paperback – List Price: $17.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $8.50

“Religious Affections,” by Jonathan Edwards – Paperback – List Price: $19.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $9.50

“Select Sermons of George Whitefield,” by George Whitefield – Paperback – List Price: $10.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $5.00

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“Works of John Bunyan – volume 3,” by John Bunyan – Clothbound – List Price: $40.00; Slightly Damaged Price: $20.00

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Free Book from Banner of Truth (with order)

Selections from Wise CounselSelections from Wise Counsel
John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland, Jr.
Edited by Grant Gordon

“Some books are for tasting regularly, not reading through once.  One such book is Wise Counsel.  Newton was the former slave-trader turned pastor, and the author of Amazing Grace. The flavour of his ministry is such that frequent tastes are better than rare gulps.”

John Piper, Senior Pastor

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

“I hope this brief taster will serve as an enticing introduction to Wise Counsel.  The letters are remarkable, not least because it appears the two men were so different – background, age, ecclesiology, politics – and these differences provide fuel for a fertile and insightful correspondence which yields up pearls of wisdom for life and Christian ministry.

Grant Gordon’s excellent editorial comments root each letter in the particular situation in which it was written – personal,  national, international.  So here is insight into marriage, guidance, death, mourning, politics, war, pastoral skills, preaching, unity, dealing with criticism and avoiding controversy.

Banner of Truth has done us all a great service by producing a beautifully presented collection of timeless treasure.  So, enjoy this taster – and I hope it whets your appetite for much more.”

Adrian Reynolds, Director of Ministry

The Proclamation Trust

For a limited time only, now through March 14, 2011, Banner of Truth is pleased to provide a complimentary copy of the pocket-sized book, Selections from Wise Counsel.  While most widely known for the hymn, Amazing Grace, it has often been said that the letters that Newton wrote form his greatest gift to the church!  In this pocket-sized, Selections from Wise Counsel, we’ve included:

— An Overview of the Letters

— The Earlier Years of Newton and Ryland

— Letter One

— Letter Five

— Letter Twenty-Eight

Visit us soon at www.banneroftruth.org, place whatever order you’d like, and we will automatically include this book, Selections from Wise Counsel, with our compliments.  Quantities are limited; order soon.

TO PLACE AN ORDER, VISIT OUR WEB SITE:

www.banneroftruth.org

With orders placed before March 14th, we will add one complimentary copy of

Selections from Wise Counsel. Enjoy!

Ignatius of Antioch by Sinlcair B. Ferguson

Ferguson, Sinclair B. Ignatius of Antioch: The Man Who Faced Lions. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010. 42 pp.  $14.00.  Purchase at Westminster for $9.80.

Introduction/Summary

Sinclair Ferguson is well known in Reformed circles. He is a noted author and speaker and is now working toward helping parents pour a solid foundation of early church history through the children’s series, Heroes of the Faith.

Ignatius of Antioch traces the life of the saint of old who stood against the Roman Empire because of his faith in Christ. We learn that Ignatius was born when the Apostle John was still alive thus creating a continuity through church history from Christ on down to the present day. Perhaps what will be most impactful to the children is the truth that he stood before lions and though he was not saved as Daniel was, he never did renounce his faith in Christ. Here, the child learns that Jesus keeps his promises even in death.

At the end of this short little book, as with the rest of the books in the series, Ferguson offers a one page bio that helps to summarize the book. He includes a helpful timeline that spells out, I believe, the titles forthcoming in the series. The last word of exhortation from the author concerns itself with the use of the word heroes and the child’s propensity to have heroes.

Review

I appreciated the way Ferguson treated the death of Ignatius. He never explicitly states that the lions ate him or killed him; rather, he allows the thought to hang there for the child to grasp on his own. Again, the artistic qualities of the book come to the fore as the child is enraptured by the colorful drawings as well as the story line. It is most helpful to see that while Daniel and the Lions Den had a favorable ending, the truth found in Daniel 3:17-18 still holds true. Ignatius is an example of that faith.

Recommendation

Um…get this book. Your children will be amazed that Christians faced lions and were not saved miraculously. They will be surprised to know that faith that leads to death is real. If the Lord is willing, their definition of heroes will begin to change and this is not a bad thing at all.

Majesty in Misery, 3 Vol. by C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon, Charles H. Majesty in Misery: 3 Volumes.  Edinburgh:  Banner of Truth, 2005.  983 pp.  Each book sells for $24.00.  Each book can be purchased for $16.80 at Westminster Books.

Introduction

Does C.H. Spurgeon really need an introduction?  If so, he lived from 1834-1892 in England.  He has been called the Prince of Preachers and has the largest volume of writings extant today by any one author due to the publication of his Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit which is a publication featuring all of his sermons.  There are numerous quality websites not the least of which is the Spurgeon Archive run by Phillip R. Johnson.

Summary

The Majesty in Misery series is a collection of Spurgeon’s sermons brought together to speak to one topic–the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  The first volume looks at the Garden of Gethsemane and consists of 19 sermons.  Judgment Hall, the second volume, looks at the time from Jesus’ arrest to his taking up his cross on the road to Calvary.  Over the course of another 19 sermons, the reader will be brought to tears reading how the Christ submitted himself to the authority of man for a time so that we may have Life.

The final volume of the three part series is entitled Calvary’s Mournful Mountain. This time there are 25 sermons included making this the largest though perhaps most important volume of the three.  As you read these messages, you will see why Spurgeon loved Christ so much and why Spurgeon’s congregation (and listeners) grew to love Christ in like manner.

Review

Though the language is a bit different from what we regularly use in the United States, the messages in each will prove edifying to the soul.  The joy of reading (and “sitting under” the teaching) one of the greatest pastors to ever grace a pulpit is both a challenge and payoff.  There is no arguing that the Lord used Spurgeon mightily.  After reading these 3 volumes, you will understand why.

I greatly appreciated having the sermons from throughout Spurgeon’s service as a minister brought together in one location on one specific topic–the Passion of Jesus Christ.  Each sermon is also cross-referenced with the numbering system that has come to define most of Spurgeon’s sermons.

Recommendation

While picking up a 3 volume set of books is not feasible for many, I would highly recommend picking up a book at a time and make reading Spurgeon one of your goals in 2011.  If I could choose one volume to recommend, I would offer volume 3 as that is the most profound of the three and will certainly cause much rejoicing at what it cost God to save for Himself a people…those who call on the name of Jesus.

Book Alert: A Way To Pray by Matthew Henry (edited by O. Palmer Robertson)

You can purchase the larger work as well as the Pocket Puritan Sampler here.

Banner of Truth

Another New Release
from The Banner of Truth

A Way to PrayA Way to Pray
by Matthew Henry (edited & revised by O. Palmer Robertson)

Most evangelical Christians know of Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, but few are as familiar with his A Method for Prayer, with Scripture Expressions Proper to be Used under Each Head (1710).  This work consists almost entirely of Scripture, arranged under various headings, to help Christians to pray in harmony with the truth of God, revealed in his Word.  First published three hundred years ago, it has been revised and updated by O. Palmer Robertson to allow the language of prayer to be expressed in today’s idiom.  It is sent out in the confidence that God will continue to honour his own Word, as it is redirected back to him in the form of heartfelt prayer.

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

by O. Palmer Robertson

Prayer in this form is nothing more and nothing less than what the old Puritans called ‘pleading the promises’.  God has made promises to his people.  His people respond by redirecting those promises to the Lord in the form of prayer.  How could a God who is faithful to his word fail to answer prayers of this kind?  He has promised.  He will honour that promise.  If Christians would join together and form their prayers with the maturity and insight provided by Scripture itself, the impact on the world could not be measured.”

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Appreciation

Introduction

How to Read this Book

1: Praise

2: Confession

3: Petition

4: Thanksgiving

5: Intercession

6: Prayers for Particular Occasions

7: Concluding Our Prayers

8: The Lord’s Prayer Expanded

9: Shorter Forms of Prayer

A Short Summary of Prayer Topics

An Expanded Summary of Prayer Topics

Subject Index

————————————————————————————–

A WAY TO PRAY:

A Biblical Method for Enriching Your Prayer Life and Language by Shaping Your Words with Scripture

by Matthew Henry

ISBN: 978-1-84871-087-0

440 pages, Clothbound

List Price: $24.00 (U.S. currency)

When Christians Suffer by Thomas Case

Case, Thomas. Edited by Richard Rushing. When Christians Suffer. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009. 128 pp. $6.95. Purchase at Westminster Books for $4.20.

Introduction

These Pocket Puritans are not new to readers here at Christian Book Notes. Thomas Case, however, might be. Thomas Case (1598-1682) experience suffering first hand during the “dark days of the gospel in England.” He was imprisoned in 1651 for a short time for speaking against the Independents and was ejected in 1662 for Nonconformity. He published two major works during his life, A Treatise of Afflictions from which this short work is extracted and A Prospect of Heaven.

Summary/Review

Forged in the midst of persecution, Thomas Case explains the value and importance of suffering for the sake of Christ. He offers twenty lessons learned in affliction in the first part while looking at the nature of divine teaching found in persecution. The final three sections instructs the reader to seek God during these dark times. His exhortation is basically do not avoid affliction for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, embrace it and know that God is worthy of whatever may befall you in this life.

To review the works of an age gone by is a difficult task. Nonetheless, what is perhaps the best feature of any of the Puritans and their writings are that they are not written in an “ivory tower” so to speak. They wrote from a deep knowledge of the divine and even a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures. They sought to apply what they learned in every day living rather than offer a three point sermon and an application with an invitation to respond to the message.

Recommendation

Thomas Case writes of suffering through the lens of having suffered. Not like many think suffering is today. Getting made fun of and laughed at for being “conservative” or a member of a particular denomination is not being persecuted for one’s faith. Case explains that this persecution is serious and real and it is because of the preaching of and believing in the gospel that one is afflicted for the sake of Christ. If that is why you are being persecuted, Case offers a sweet balm to the soul.

Pick up a copy of When Christians Suffer and the rest of the Pocket Puritans to edify and nourish your soul at Westminster Books.

Book Spotlight – Voices from the Past

Book Title: Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings
Author : Richard Rushing
Price: $ 28.00
Purchase at Westminster Books: $19.60
ISBN#: 9781848710481
Binding: Clothbound
Page Count: 428

Description: Over the past fifty years there has been a great resurgence of interest in the writings of the Puritans. The reading of their works has brought great benefit to the people of God in many lands. Christians from many different backgrounds and cultures owe a great debt of gratitude to those faithful pastors and preachers who continue to speak through their writings even though they have long since entered into their heavenly reward. The Puritans really knew how to teach and apply God’s Word in the Spirit’s power!

Richard Rushing has compiled this book of daily devotional readings from his favourite Puritan authors because of the great help he has gained from their Works. ‘How thrilling it has been for me to read the Puritans on the glory and attributes of God, divine providence, fellowship with God, holiness of life and the mortification of indwelling sin, heavenly mindedness, prayer, evangelistic zeal, and trust in the Lord during times of affliction. At every turn these truths are eloquently taught, faithfully applied, and kindly offered as the subject of sweet spiritual meditation.’

This book is sent forth with the prayer that it will open a door to the vast stores of treasure to be found in the writings of the Puritans and that it will stimulate further exploration of this rich spiritual inheritance.

Family Reading from Banner of Truth

This week’s family reading from Banner of Truth is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  You can check out my reviews on no less than five of John Bunyan’s titles.

THE PILGRIMS PROGRESS: In the Similitude of a Dream

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept, I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, What shall I do?

In this plight therefore he went home, and refrained himself as long as he could, that his wife and children should not perceive his distress; but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased: Wherefore at length he brake his mind to his wife and children; and thus he began to talk to them: O my dear Wife, said he, and you the Children of my bowels, I your dear friend am in myself undone, by reason of a Burden that lieth hard upon me: moreover, I am for certain informed, that this our City will be burned with fire from Heaven; in which fearful overthrow, both myself, with thee my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruin, except (the which yet I see not) some Way of escape may be found, whereby we may be delivered. At this his relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought that some frenzy distemper had got into his head; therefore it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all haste they got him to bed: But the night was as troublesome to him as the day; wherefore, instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did; he told them worse and worse; he also set to talking to them again, but they began to be hardened; they also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him: Sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him: Wherefore he began to retire himself to his Chamber, to pray for and pity them; and also to condole his own misery: He would also walk solitarily in the fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying; and thus for some days he spent his time.

Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his Book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, What shall I do to be saved?

I saw also that he looked this way, and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because (as I perceived) he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a Man named Evangelist coming to him, and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry?

He answered, Sir, I perceive by the Book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to Judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.

Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils? The man answered, Because, I fear that this Burden that is upon my back, will sink me lower than the grave; and I shall fall into Tophet. And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to Prison, I am not fit to go to Judgment, and from thence to Execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.

Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, Why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a Parchment Roll, and there was written within, Fly from the Wrath to come.

The Man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket Gate? The man said, No: Then said the other, Do you see yonder Shining Light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that Light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the Gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. So I saw in my dream that the Man began to run: Now he had not run far from his own door, but his Wife and Children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the Man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, Life! Life! Eternal Life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the Plain.

The Neighbours also came out to see him run, and as he ran some mocked, others threatened, and some cried after him to return; Now among those that did so, there were two that were resolv’d to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate, and the name of the other Pliable. Now by this time the Man was got a good distance from them; but however, they were resolved to pursue him, which they did, and in a little time they overtook him. Then said the Man, Neighbours, Wherefore are you come? They said, To persuade you to go back with us; but he said, That can by no means be: You dwell (said he) in the City of Destruction, (the place also where I was born) I see it to be so: And dying there, sooner or later, you will sink lower than the grave, into a place that burns with Fire and Brimstone: Be content, good neighbours, and go along with me.

What, said Obstinate, and leave our Friends and our Comforts behind us!

Yes, said Christian, (for that was his name) because that all which you shall forsake, is not worthy to be compared with a little of that, that I am seeking to enjoy; and if you will go along with me, and hold it, you shall fare as I myself; for there where I go, is enough and to spare; come away and prove my words.

Obst. What are the things you seek, since you leave all the World to find them?

Chr. I seek an Inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away: And it is laid up in Heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my Book.

Obst. Tush, said Obstinate, away with your book; will you go back with us, or no?

Chr. No, not I, said the other; because I have laid my hand to the Plough.

Obst. Come then, neighbour Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him; There is a Company of these craz’d-headed coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a Reason.

Pli. Then said Pliable, Don’t revile; if what the good Christian says, is true, the things he looks after are better than ours; my heart inclines to go with my Neighbour.

Obst. What! more Fools still? Be ruled by me, and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back and be wise.

Chr. Nay, but do thou come with me, neighbour Pliable; there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more Glories besides; if you believe not me, read here in this Book, and for the truth of what is express’d therein, behold all is confirmed by the Blood of him that made it.

Pli. Well, neighbour Obstinate, (said Pliable) I begin to come to a point, I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my Lot with him; but, my good companion, do you know the way to this desired place?

Chr. I am directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little Gate that is before us, where we shall receive instructions about the Way.

Pli. Come then, good neighbour, let us be going. Then they went both together.

Obst. And I will go back to my place, said Obstinate: I will be no companion of such misled fantastical fellows.

Now I saw in my dream, that when Obstinate was gone back, Christian and Pliable went talking over the plain; and thus they began their discourse.

Chr. Come, neighbour Pliable, how do you do? I am glad you are persuaded to go along with me; and had even Obstinate himself but felt what I have felt of the Powers and Terrors of what is yet unseen, he would not thus lightly have given us the back.

Pli. Come, neighbour Christian, since there are none but us two here, tell me now further, what the things are? and how to be enjoyed, whither we are going?

Chr. I can better conceive of them with my Mind, than speak of them with my Tongue: But yet since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my Book.

Pli. And do you think that the words of your Book are certainly true?

Chr. Yes verily, for it was made by him that cannot lye.

Pli. Well said, what things are they?

Chr. There is an endless Kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting Life to be given us, that we may inhabit that Kingdom for ever.

Pli. Well said; and what else?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Purchase this classic edition of this classic tale, to learn the rest of Christian’s answer to Pliable’s question, “What else?” Travel along on their journey through the very miry Slough that was in the midst of the plain and on to the Wicket Gate. You, and your children or grandchildren, will treasure this edition for years to come (AND the time that you might spend reading it to them!).

Our Great God and Savior by Eric J. Alexander

Below is an excerpt from Our Great God and Savior recently released by the Banner of Truth.  You can purchase the book from Westminster books.

Eric Alexander’s great concern in this series of studies is that Christians should know how rich they are in their gracious God and Saviour, and in his perfect work of salvation.  Each study brings out a fresh aspect of this theme, as we contemplate in turn the character of God, the salvation of God, and the church of God.  In words which the author quotes from the works of the Puritan Stephen Charnock: ‘If rich men delight to sum up their vast revenues, to read over their rentals, to look upon their hoards, how much more should the people of God please themselves in seeing how rich they are in having an immensely full and all-sufficient God as their inheritance.’  These warm and pastorally-directed studies will provide satisfying food for the hearts and minds of Christian readers everywhere.
CHAPTER 1 – THE GREATNESS OF GOD
There is no greater theme we could ever consider than ‘The nature of the God of the Bible’.  God himself has instructed us to prize such study above everything else in life:
‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight’, declares the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24).
That is our concern in this study – not only to ponder together the glories of the character of God, but more than that, to come to know him in a deeper way.
One of the greatest works on the existence and attributes of God was written by the great Puritan Stephen Charnock some three hundred years ago.  It was published posthumously by his literary trustees.  When they were commending this work to the Christian public these men wrote:
A mere contemplation of the divine excellences may afford much pleasure to any man who loves to exercise his reason.  But if that be so, what incomparable sweetness ought believers to find in viewing and considering now these perfections which they will more fully behold hereafter, seeing what manner of God – in whom they have a covenant interest – how wise and powerful, how great, good and holy he is.  Indeed, if rich men delight to sum up their vast revenues, to read over their rentals, to look upon their hoards, how much more should the people of God please themselves in seeing how rich they are in having an immensely full and all-sufficient God as their inheritance.
That is what we are to do together: behold the enormous wealth that is ours in the glory of the God who has come to us in Jesus Christ.
MAGNIFYING THE LORD TOGETHER
First we must consider the greatness of God.  Or if you prefer to think of it in another way in which Scripture introduces us to it, we are concerned here ‘to magnify the Lord together’.  The Psalmist invites his fellows: ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together’ (Psa. 34:3, KJV).
What happens when we magnify something?  We do not actually increase its size.  When we magnify something we make its true nature clearer and more obvious to ourselves.  That is what the psalmist means when he speaks of magnifying the name of God.  He is saying that we are to make God more apparent to ourselves and others, and thus to develop a fuller awareness of the greatness and glory of his nature.
Psalm 145 issues a warning to all who would engage in this exercise: ‘Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom’ (verse 3).  We will find, therefore that, even when we have contemplated the nature and character of God, we have only come to the edges of his ways.  We are always goign to be like little kindergarten children in the honours class of a university.  Indeed, even when we see him face to face in glory, we will still never fully comprehend all the glory and greatness of God’s character.
There are two corollaries of this truth that we need constantly to have in mind.
First, we are absolutely dependent for all our knowledge of God on revelation.  Unless God reveals himself to us, we can know nothing of him.  But God does reveal himself.  That is a glorious reality.  God has made himself known in creation, in his Son and in Holy Scripture.  Scripture tells us what to think about creation and how to understand the life and work of Jesus.  So for our understanding of God, we are absolutely dependent upon, and need to be submitted to, Scripture.
Second, we are equally dependent upon the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  He must illumine the written revelation in our understanding so that with confidence, not in the wisdom of men but in God himself, we may discover something of his glory.
‘THE LORD HAS SPOKEN’
We turn therefore, in this first chapter, to Isaiah 40.  The fortieth chapter of Isaiah is a watershed of the prophecy.  Isaiah is looking beyond his own time, some 150 to 200 years further on, to the desolate days when Israel was to be scattered, its temple destroyed, and the very cream of the nation taken captive.

What God reveals to Isaiah is that when the people are in this moribund condition, and the cause of God appears to be languishing, what is most needed is a fresh revelation of who God is in his true character. A new vision of God is, therefore, what Isaiah concentrates on.

God tells Isaiah to encourage Jerusalem and give her hope.  The focus of that hope lies in the revelation of God’s character.  Thus

a voice is heard calling out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’ (Isa. 40:3). The apex of the promise that the Lord himself is coming is reached in verse 5: ‘The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.’

That promise was fulfilled in the deliverance of God’s people from the captivity of the Babylonian Exile. But the fulfilment was not exhausted then. It was ultimately fulfilled in a greater sense in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose forerunner, John the Baptist, quoted these very words, saying, ‘I am the voice crying in the wilderness’ ( John 1:23). Yet there is an even greater fulfilment of these words that still awaits us. For the glory of the Lord, which all mankind will see together, will come at that final revelation of glory when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the end of the age. Then the ultimate glory of God will be manifested and every eye shall see it – in the face of Jesus.

But here the prophet says: ‘Here is your God! See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him’ (Isa. 40:9-10).

The rest of this chapter is composed of prophetic insight into the incomparable greatness of this most sovereign Lord. The people to whom Isaiah is writing are a people who at the time envisaged would be in bondage; they would be in despair. They would have known the distress caused by being oppressed by their enemies. But God brings them this vision of himself as the cure for these burdens. As Professor John N. Oswalt puts it in his commentary on Isaiah: ‘The prophet seems to be saying that if humanity could ever glimpse the true picture of God’s greatness and glory, their problems would be on their way to being solved.’

I believe that is true of our generation. There is nothing that the church of Jesus Christ needs more in our day than this fresh revelation – an eye-opener – of the glory, majesty and wonder of God.  Isaiah displays the greatness of God in this passage by relating four elements:

1. God’s uniqueness within the creation (verse 12)

2. God’s independence from the creation (verses 13-14)

3. God’s supremacy above the creation (verses 15-20), and

4. God’s sovereignty over the creation (verses 21-24).

UNIQUENESS WITHIN THE CREATION

In verses 12-14 the prophet asks five unanswerable questions to establish the absolute uniqueness of God within, and the independence of God from, the created order. The first two deal with his uniqueness.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? (verse 12).

These questions relate to the measuring of creation, and they display God as both infinitely transcendent above his creation and unique within it. They are challenges to man in his littleness – to stop viewing God as though he were a person like ourselves.

That is one of the tendencies that often develops as we think about God in his personal nature. You may remember how the psalmist records God’s complaint about this in Psalm 50:21. The people had lost their vision of God’s greatness, and God says, ‘You thought I was altogether like you.’ This is why Isaiah asks, ‘Who else holds the oceans in his hand to measure them?’ This is what God does! ‘Who else measures the heavens as a handbreadth or the soil of the earth in his basket, or holds the mountains in his scales to weigh them?’

Can you picture what Isaiah is saying of God? Can you think of God taking the mountains – Everest and the Eiger, for example – putting them in a balance and holding them to see which is heavier? Or again, can you think of the Lord God putting his hand on the heavens and measuring it with just a span? Isaiah asks, ‘Who else has done this?’

Isaiah is trying to teach us about God’s immensity. Is this not precisely what we have lost in so much of our thinking? It is one reason we need a new emphasis on the doctrine of God as Creator. This is how the men and women of the Bible enlarged their faith and fed it. They came into the presence of God, and then, like Jeremiah, they prayed: ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you’ ( Jer. 32:17). Similarly, in Acts 4, in equally difficult circumstances the apostles prayed, ‘Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them’ (verse 24).

What is it that persuaded them of the glory and greatness of God? It was the doctrine of creation.

Somebody once commented to me, ‘Historically evangelicals have been strong on the doctrine of redemption and weak on the doctrine of creation.’ I think that is true. But in Isaiah God is using this argument (from the nature of God’s work as Creator) to persuade his people to trust him (as their Redeemer). Notice how he says: ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?’ (verse 21). Then he expounds to them how he created the heavens and the earth.

A. W. Pink is right when he says, ‘The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun.’ We need to grasp that the God of Scripture is a God who holds the mountains in a balance and spans the universe with his hand. We get things in proper perspective when we see the uniqueness of God in creation.