Sin Drowned the Old World…

Sin drowned the old world – and burnt Sodom.

-Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin

By water or fire, it destroys.

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First a Fox and then a Lion

Sin first tempts—and then damns! It is first a fox—and then a lion! Sin does to a man—as Jael did to Sisera. First she brought the milk and butter to Sisera—then she pounded the tent peg through his head! Judges 5:26. Sin first brings us pleasures which delight and charm the senses—and then comes with its hammer and nail! Sin does to the sinner, as Absalom did to Amnon. When his heart was merry with wine—then he killed him, 2 Samuel 13:28. Sin’s last act is always tragic!

Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin

Sweet, then bitter; alluring, then destroying; enticing, then striking.

“When the devil finds a person sleeping, he enters. But when Christ finds him sleeping…”

Sin brings one low in desertion. This is a deep abyss indeed. Psalm 88:6, “You have laid me in the lowest pit.” Desertion is a short hell. Song of Solomon 5:6, “My beloved has withdrawn himself and was gone.” Christ knocked—but the spouse was loath to rise off her bed of sloth and open to Him immediately. When the devil finds a person sleeping—he enters. But when Christ finds him sleeping—He is gone. And if this Sun of righteousness withdraws His golden beams from the soul, darkness follows.

-Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin

The Puritans (like Thomas Watson) and their ilk were not shy of bringing up passages from Song of Solomon such as the one quoted above and applying them to the Christian life. Octavius Winslow gives us another example:

I sleep, but my heart waketh.’ Here was the existence of the Divine life in the soul, and yet that life was on the decline. She knew that she had fallen into a careless and slumbering state, that the work of grace in her soul was decaying, that the spirit of slumber had come over her; but the awful feature was, she was content to be so. She heard her Beloved knock: but, so enamoured was she with her state of drowsiness, she gave no heed to it – she opened not to him…A believer may fall into a drowsy sate of soul, not so profound as to be entirely lost to the voice of his Beloved speaking by conscience, by the word, and by providences: and yet so far may his grace have decayed, so cold may his love have grown, and so hardening may have been this declension, he shall be content that this should be his state (Personal Declension and the Revival of Religion in the Soul, pp. 21-22).

By the way, I couldn’t recommend Winslow’s book more highly. It is one of my favorites.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was fond of saying that the fact that the Holy Spirit is likened to a dove points to his gentleness and propensity to be grieved and quenched. When he is grieved he withdraws. That is not to say that he withdraws in such a way as to remove himself wholly from the believer’s life. Rather, it is to say that he exercises less influence and offers less consolation and aid.

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And Christ says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). In the Context of Revelation 3, this was an offer/promise to believers.

The spiritual sleeper, the one who hesitates to answer the door of Christ’s calling, leaves himself vulnerable to Satan. That is Watson’s point. Jesus will not force himself on you. Satan is another story. So get up and answer the door.

I say all of this as a Calvinist of course. I am not saying that God’s effectual call can ever be resisted. It cannot. The point is that the believer who becomes a spiritual sluggard is asking for trouble.

Let’s say you’re married. Your wife is hinting that she needs some time with you. She has her ways of doing this. You should have learned them over the years. Maybe you should have read the Love Languages book. If you are not sensitive to her overtures and subtle pleadings, then your relationship is not going to flourish.

And so, be sensitive to Christ’s knockings. Don’t let sin and sloth put you in such a frame that you are blinded and vulnerable to Satan.

Make Your Soul a Library of Christ

Someone told me an interesting story the other day that goes like this: Someone came into my place of work distressed (I was not present at the time). The man was noticeably crying. He asked a clerk if she had a Bible. He said he was in desperate need of one at the moment. She happened to have a Gideon New Testament, with Psalms and Proverbs (I don’t call them Bibles) tucked away in her desk, and so she gave it to him.

Fast forward a few hours to that evening as I am reading Thomas Watson’s book, The Bible and the Closet. Watson observes that some people only want to read the Bible when they are sad and in need of encouragement. He writes,

…When they are sad, they bring forth the Scripture as their harp to drive away the evil spirit…

The lesson is simple: the music needs to be playing all the time. He mentions the phrase of Jerome concerning Cecilia, that she “had by much reading of the Word, made her heart the Library of Christ…” He continues,

Were the Scriptures confined to the original tongues, many would plead excuse for not reading; but when the sword of the Spirit is unsheathed, and the Word is made plain to us by being translated, what should hinder us from a diligent search into these holy mysteries?

Feast on the Scriptures now before the famine comes. Let your mind be formed through much reading of the Scripture that it may be the Library of Christ. Be determined, as Spurgeon says, to ‘bleed Bibline’:

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.

Take Every Word as Spoken to Yourselves

Learn to apply the Scripture; take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: God means my sins; when it presseth any duty, God intends me in this. Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves.

-Thomas Watson, The Bible and the Closet (get it as an ebook or for Kindle for free HERE).

This little book by Watson is a gem (as is everything I’ve read by him). Watson also calls the Bible “the library of the Holy Ghost” and “the field in which Christ, the pearl of price, is hid.”

As for the present quote, the point is simple – everything about sin in the Scriptures should lead us to a ‘You are that man’ moment. But everything about Christ’s gospel and the grace of God should be applied down deep into the heart as well. Always bring it home.

Meek Love

It’s been a busy week that has included trying to come up with a Sunday School lesson on ‘he descended into hell’ from the Apostles’ Creed. I haven’t had time to write much outside of that and sermon work. But as I meditated on 1 Corinthians 13:4 tonight, thinking about the meekness of love (suffering long and being kind), I found my mind going back to two quotes that are worth sharing. The first is Thomas Watson’s description of meekness:

Meekness is a grace whereby we are enabled by the Spirit of God to moderate our angry passions…First, meekness consists in the bearing of injuries…The second branch of meekness is in forgiving injuries…The third branch of meekness is in recompensing good for evil… (Thomas Watson, An Exposition of Mat. 5:1-12).

And I thought of C.S. Lewis’s challenge to us in The Four Loves:

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

And so the blessed Spirit continues 1 Corinthians 13, and men like Watson and Lewis, to rip up my heart and put it back together as they point me to the Lord Jesus Christ, the meek One, who bids us, in the words of Watson, not to learn of him how to perform miracles, but how to be meek.

Be Mindful of the Grave…and of the Empty Grave

We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.

-Thomas Watson (see HERE), quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury, p. 246.

Watson points two two great truths in one beautiful sentence: 1) We are not promised another day and 2) we are promised eternity. Or you could put it this way: We do not know what tomorrow brings, but nonetheless we know the future. We therefore should number our days and count on eternity – be mindful of the shortness of life, and of everlasting life.

We should improve the time while being mindful of the time of improvement. Make much of the time, knowing that eternity looms on the horizon.

Be mindful of the tomb and of the empty tomb.

  • James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
  • Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
  • 2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 ¶ Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

 

Faith’s Greater Son

[Faith] is the means of our spiritual livelihood and subsistence: All other graces like birds in the nest depend upon what faith brings them.

– John Flavel, The Method of Grace, etc, p. 133

A while back I noted (HERE) Henry Scougal’s description of faith as the trunk of a tree stretching out into the life-giving soil that is Jesus Christ. The other graces are branches that reach heavenward toward God and outward toward man. The nutrition, in this analogy, comes from faith’s contact with Christ.

Flavel’s analogy sees faith as a mother-bird feeding her nestlings. Without the spiritual provision of faith, uniting us to Christ, all other graces remain unfed.

If faith is so vital, then, if all else depends on faith, how can the Apostle Paul say that love is greater than faith?:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Because, as Jesus is David’s greater Son, so love is faith’s greater son. Without David, there is no Jesus. His genealogy would be completely different. Yet Jesus is greater than David. And so, without faith there would be no true love. But love is greater. This is the case because, as Thomas Watson puts it,

Other graces make us like Christ, faith makes us members of Christ (A Body of Practical Divinity, p. 126).

It all starts with faith, which stretches out to the soil for nutrition and life. But without love, we will never be able to say that we are like our Savior. And believing in Christ, while essential, is not the ultimate goal – the ultimate goal is being like him. Do not read me wrong here. Faith is essential even to being like him. It is necessary at every step along the way, for faith, like a mother-bird, feeds love. But she is feeding one that is greater than herself.

This also means that it is right to say that sanctification is spurred on as we continually look to our justification. Looking to our justification, using our analogy, is like looking to our mother for food. That is, we look by faith to Christ crucified to find strength to love.

Note: I originally found both quotes in a book I highly, and I mean highly, recommend: A Puritan Golden Treasury, which, as of my writing this, is available for a penny (yes 1 measly cent, plus shipping) on Amazon!