Some catch-up snippets.


The truth is that there is no “norm” in God’s work. He calls some to white harvests and notable “success.” He calls others to faithful labor with little or no visible reward. Still others live in a day of cold, hard hearts, in which the lack of faithfulness of God’s people can only result in disaster for the church, unless God graciously sends revival. Sometimes he chooses not to send revival, and a church dies. In the short term, even if not in the long term, the possibility is real that church history may indeed be a record of tragedy—of missed opportunities, of fatal choices, of conclusive and irrevocable defeats. We may need to learn how to lament and weep before the Lord and recognize our sins and those of our fellow Christians that have caused God to depart from our midst. In the midst of the pain of our lamentation, however, our confidence may yet be placed in God’s faithfulness. As Lamentations 3:22–24 puts it:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 251–252.

You may be written down and registered among God’s people; you may be reckoned in the number of the saints; you may sit for years under the sound of the Gospel; you may use holy forms, and even come to the Lord’s table at regular seasons;—and still, with all this, unless sin be hateful, and Christ precious, and your heart a temple of the Holy Ghost, you will prove in the end no better than a lost soul. A holy calling will never save an unholy man.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 61.

The saddest road to hell is that which runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the midst of warnings and invitations.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 66.

Many of you are so like true Christians, that the difference can hardly be seen. You are no opposers of true religion. You have no objection to the preaching of the Gospel, and often take pains to hear it. You can enjoy the company of believers, and appear to take pleasure in their conversation and experience. You can even talk of the things of God as if you valued them. All this you can do.

And yet there is nothing real about your religion,—no real witnessing against sin,—no real separation from the world,—no peculiarity,—no warfare. You can wear Christ’s uniform in the time of peace, but, like the tribe of Reuben, you are wanting in the day of battle. Times of trouble prove that you were never really on the Rock. Times of sickness and danger bring out the rottenness of your foundations. Times of temptation and persecution discover the emptiness of your professions. There is no dependence to be placed upon you.—Christians in the company of Christians, you are worldly in the company of the worldly. One week I shall find you reading spiritual books, as if you were all for eternity,—another I shall hear of your mixing in some earthly folly, as if you only thought of time. And so you go on, beating about in sight land, but never seeming to make up your mind to come into harbor; showing plainly that you have an idea of the way of life, but not decided enough to act upon your knowledge.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 69–70.

No man ever came back from the narrow way, and reported that he was sorry for his choice.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 78.

I believe there never were so many lukewarm saints as there are now;—there never was a time in which a low and carnal standard of Christian behavior so much prevailed;—there never were so many babes in grace in the family of God,—so many who seem to sit still, and live on old experience,—so many who appear to have need of nothing, and to be neither hungering nor thirsting after righteousness, as at the present time. I write this with all sorrow. It may be too painful to please some. But I ask you, as in God’s sight, is it not true?[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 82.

Let us reckon it a painful thing to go to heaven alone,—let us endeavor, as far as we can, to take companions with us. Let us no longer be silent witnesses and muffled bells. Let us warn, and beseech, and invite, and rebuke, and advise, and testify of Christ, on the right hand and on the left, according as we have opportunity,—saying to men, “Come with us, and we will do you good,—the light is sweet, come and walk in the light of the Lord.”[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 98–99.

John Corrie identifies the following trends as typical of postmodern culture:

It is a culture characterized by freedom of choice in which we are invited to “pick’n’mix” our own philosophy of life. Furthermore … it is hedonistic and materialistic; it generates a breakdown of respect for authority, confusion on moral absolutes and a fierce individualism which destroys community values. It is a culture in search of meaning, significance and purpose, since it breaks down any unified sense of reality, creating anonymity and atomization.

Ezekiel has some hard words for such a generation that has institutionalized and glorified rebellion under the banner of “choice.” It summons a people who think that the world revolves around themselves to a Copernican change in their thought: We are called to accept the truth that the world rather revolves around God.[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 266–267.

We are surrounded by a generation of seekers, who assume that God can be found whenever and wherever they choose to seek him. For them, “seeking” is another word for “shopping.”[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 268.

Two simple presuppositions govern [Richard] Baxter’s view of the ministry: (1) every flock should have their own pastor (one or more), and every pastor his own flock; and (2) flocks must be no greater regularly and ordinarily than we are capable of overseeing or taking heed of. “God will not lay upon us natural impossibilities. He will not bind men to leap up to the moon, to touch the stars, to number the sands of the sea.… Will God require one bishop to take charge of a whole county, or of so many parishes or thousands of souls, as he is not able to know or to oversee? Then woe to poor prelates! This were to impose on them a natural or unavoidable necessity of being damned.… O happy Church of Christ, were the labourers but able and faithful, and proportioned in number to the number of souls!”[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 250–251.

The pastor must be addicted to pleasing God, and making Him the center of all his actions, living to Him as his God and happiness.[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 251.

“He that delighteth not in holiness, hateth not iniquity, loveth not the unity and purity of the Church, abhorreth not discord and divisions, and taketh not pleasure in the communion of saints and the public worship of God with His people, is not fit to be a pastor of a church.”[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 251.

If we did but study half as much to affect and amend our hearts, as we do our hearers, it would not be with many of us as it is! We do little for their humiliation, but I fear it is much less that some of us do for our own. Too many do somewhat for other men’s souls, while they seem to forget that they have any of their own to regard.…[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 253–254.

[Richard Baxter on Church unity] He labors to convince his brethren of the sinfulness of schism—in themselves, and in their congregations. They must demonstrate their hatred of division by joining together with their true brethren whenever this is possible, doing as much of God’s work as they can in unanimity and concord: and when they become conscious of schismatic influences at work in their congregations they must seize every opportunity of a moderate, gentle opposing of the errors, remembering that it is easier to chide a sectary in the pulpit, and to subscribe a testimony against him, than to play the skillful physician for his cure.[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 265.

We must learn to difference well between certainties and uncertainties, necessaries and unnecessaries, catholic verities and private opinions; and to lay the stress of the Church’s peace upon the former and not upon the latter.[1]

[1] J. A. Caiger, “Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 266.

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