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Quotes for a Dry Season

I decided to begin an ongoing collection of quintessentially astute and prudent quotations from my reading. My aspiration is for the list to be eclectic and frequently updated.

The sharpest point of the two-edged sword is not death but life; and against self-righteous souls this latter ought to be more used than the former. For such souls can hear us tell of the open gates of hell and the unquenchable fire far more unconcernedly than of the gates of heaven wide-open for their immediate return. When we preach that the glad-tidings were intended to impart immediate assurance of eternal life to every sinner that believes them, we strike deeper upon the proud enmity of the world to God, than when we show the eternal curse and the second death. (Memoir of the Rev. R. M. M’Cheyne, p. 42)

The image of God in man, is a mind rightly knowing the nature, will, and works of God; a will freely obeying God; and a correspondence of all the inclinations, desires, and actions, with the divine will; in a word, it is the spiritual and immortal nature of the soul, and the purity and integrity of the whole man; a perfect blessedness and joy, together with the dignity and majesty of man, in which he excels and rules over all other creatures. (Ursinus: The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 30)

The devil often tempts me to think upon good people, but I tell him it is Christ I want. (James Laing, quoted in Robert Murray McCheyne: “Another Lily Gathered”)

The men around the grave could not give life to dead Lazarus, but they could roll back the stone. Now Jesus was about to use his divine power in awaking the dead, but he would not take away the stone….

Have any of you an unconverted friend for whom you pray? You know it is only Christ that can give him life — it is only Christ that can call him forth; yet you can roll away the stone — you can use the means; you can bring your friend under the faithful preaching of the Gospel. Speak to him — write to him. “Take ye away the stone.” (Robert Murray McCheyne: “Bethany,” Part VI)

There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it…. (Lord Acton, quoted in John W. Robbins: Ecclesiastical Megalomania, p. 111)

In addition to being the world’s oldest, largest, most powerful and most influential politico-ecclesiastical institution, the Roman Church-State may also be the world’s wealthiest. Certainly, considered merely as a church, it is the world’s wealthiest institution; only the assets of a handful of civil governments might surpass its massive wealth. It is very difficult to ascertain the assets of the Roman Church-State; the organization does not report its holdings to anyone, including its members…. According to Canon Law, the control of all property of the Roman Church-State belongs to the pope, its supreme emperor. That property includes tens of thousands of buildings; millions of acres of land; tons of gold, silver, and precious stones; art collections; rare documents; and millions of shares in business corporations throughout the globe. (John W. Robbins: Ecclesiastical Megalomania, p. 9-10)

[W]hoever engages in prayer should apply to it his faculties and efforts, and not, as commonly happens, be distracted by wandering thoughts. For nothing is more contrary to reverence for God than the levity that marks an excess of frivolity utterly devoid of awe. In this matter, the harder we find concentration to be, the more strenuously we ought to labor after it. For no one is so intent on praying that he does not feel many irrelevant thoughts stealing upon him, which either break the course of prayer or delay it by some winding bypath. But here let us recall how unworthy it is, when God admits us to intimate conversation, to abuse his great kindness by mixing sacred and profane; but just as if the discourse were between us and an ordinary man, amidst our prayers we neglect him and flit about hither and thither.

Let us therefore realize that the only persons who duly and properly gird themselves to pray are those who are so moved by God’s majesty that freed from earthly cares and affections they come to it. — Calvin’s Institutes III.XX.5

Sin, therefore, according to the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun. (Charles Hodge: Theology, p. 436)

Do you know the Christ of the Gospels? Or have you fallen into the trap to which Christians (especially, perhaps, Reformed Christians) who love doctrine and systematic theology are sometimes susceptible (unlike John Calvin, it should be said): fascination with dogmatic formula at the expense of love for the Savior’s person? (Sinclair B. Ferguson: In Christ Alone, p. 67)

According to the Bible, and according to the dictates of our own nature, of reason as well as of conscience, God is a spirit, and being a spirit is of necessity a person; a Being who can say I, and to whom we can say Thou. (Charles Hodge:  Theology, p. 380)

[T]he events, imagery, and language of the Old Testament are like a shadow cast backward into history by Christ, the Light of the World. The dwelling of God in the wilderness tabernacle foreshadowed the presence of the Word incarnate as the final temple. It is in Him alone that we finally see God’s glory. (Sinclair B. Ferguson: In Christ Alone, p. 13)

… each man will bear and swallow the discomforts, vexations, weariness, and anxieties in his way of life, when he has been persuaded that the burden was laid upon him by God. From this will arise also a singular consolation: that no task will be so sordid and bass, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight. — Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion Book III, Chapter X (McNeill, p. 725)

There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the kingdom. — John Murray: Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 145.

The first recorded deviation from the law of monogamy is the case of Lamech. ‘ And Lamech took unto him two wives’ (Genesis 4:19). The context suggests, to say the least, that the taking of two wives is coordinate with the other two vices which appear so conspicuously in this case. It is admittedly difficult to determine precisely the import of the song of his two wives. But we have a confession of murder in any case, and there is also either boastful insolence, or murderous vindictiveness, or presumptuous arrogance. And we can scarcely suppress the inference that the reference to Lamech’s digamy is for the purpose of intimating to us that his departure from monogamy goes hand in hand with these other vices and is intended to carry an indirect indictment of its wrong. As we shall see presently, the desecration of marriage is complementary to the vice of violence and oppression. (John Murray: Principles of Conduct, pp. 45-46)

Equality is not a fact of God’s providence, and it is not a rule to be practiced in the order he has instituted; diversity is a fact to be recognized and the rule to be followed. Liberty itself must take account of inequality. Unequal distribution of wealth is indigenous to the order God has established and to their natures with which he has endowed us. (John Murray: Principles of Conduct, pp. 92)

Significantly, modernism’s characteristic message is the social gospel and social action. Modernism is the statist theology of contemporary man. Its gospel, its good news, is that the state has an answer to all man’s problems. Whether it be a burden of body or soul, poverty, cultural deprivation, mental health, disease, ignorance, family problems, and all things else, the state has a program and a plan of salvation. The United Nations Charter, in its Preamble, also reflects this hope: “we the peoples of the United Nations determined to save….” The U.N. is “determined to save,” and its goal is a world “without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” in its social order. The goal of politics today is messianic: its purpose is paradise regained, a perfect world order by means of law and technology. Man’s problem is not seen as sin but as a backward environment which science can correct. Statist theology sees all problems answered by statist actions; the goal of all men of goodwill must therefore be social legislation. More power must be given to the state in order to realize the city of man. — Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order, p. 75-76

Lord, teach me to be always speaking as dying to dying. — Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir

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