Train with this thought continually before your eyes—that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.
Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will
depend on you.
This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, “How will this affect their souls?”
Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness — to do this is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but one world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy, — that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul.
A true Christian must be no slave to fashion, if he would train his child for heaven. He must not be content to do things merely because they are the custom of the world; to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is usual; to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads them; to let them form habits of a doubtful tendency, merely because they are the habits of the day. He must train with an eye to his children’s souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange. What if it is? The time is short, — the fashion of this world passeth away. He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth, — for God, rather than for man, — he is the parent that will be called wise at last.
See this post for an introduction to this series and links to obtaining a copy of
J. C. Ryle’s full booklet, Duties of Parents.
Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends upon you.
Grace is the strongest of all principles. See what a revolution grace effects when it comes into the heart of an old sinner, — how it overturns the strongholds of Satan, — how it casts down mountains, fills up valleys, — makes crooked things straight, — and new creates the whole man. Truly nothing is impossible to grace. Nature, too, is very strong. See how it struggles against the things of the kingdom of God, — how it fights against every attempt to be more holy, — how it keeps up an unceasing warfare within us to the last hour of life. Nature indeed is strong.
But after nature and grace, undoubtedly, there is nothing more powerful than education. Early habits (if I may so speak) are everything with us, under God. We are made what we are by training. Our character takes the form of that mould into which our first years are cast.
We depend, in a vast measure, on those who bring us up. We get from them a colour, a taste, a bias which cling to us more or less all our lives. We catch the language of our nurses and mothers, and learn to speak it almost insensibly, and unquestionably we catch something of their manners, ways, and mind at the same time. Time only will show, I suspect, how much we all owe to early impressions, and how many things in us may be traced up to seeds sown in the days of our very infancy, by those who were about us. A very learned Englishman,
Mr. Locke, has gone so far as to say: “That of all the men we meet with, nine parts out of ten are what they are, good or bad, useful or not, according to their education.”
And all this is one of God’s merciful arrangements. He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. See that the opportunity be not neglected, and thrown away. Once let slip, it is gone for ever. Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen, — that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam’s fashion, — they would like them to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life. They desire much, and have nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.
I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and that He never laid a command on man which He would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We have only to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.
See this post for an introduction to this series and links to obtaining a copy of
J. C. Ryle’s full booklet, Duties of Parents.
Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience. I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.
Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, — these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, — these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart. Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who are not more easy to draw than to drive. There is that in all our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience. We are like young horses in the hand of a breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and by and by you may guide them with thread; use them roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before you get the mastery of them at all.
Now children’s minds are cast in much the same mold as our own. Sternness and severity of manner chill them and throw them back. It shuts up their hearts, and you will weary yourself to find the door. But let them only see that you have an affectionate feeling towards them, — that you are really desirous to make them happy, and do them good, — that if you punish them, it is intended for their profit, and that, like the pelican, you would give your heart’s blood to nourish their souls; let them see this, I say, and they will soon be all your own. But they must be wooed with kindness, if their attention is ever to be won. And surely reason itself might teach us this lesson. Children are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need patient and considerate treatment. We must handle them delicately, like frail machines, lest by rough fingering we do more harm than good. They are like young plants, and need gentle watering, — often, but little at a time.
We must not expect all things at once. We must remember what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear. Their minds are like a lump of metal — not to be forged and made useful at once, but only by a succession of little blows. Their understandings are like narrow-necked vessels: we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually, or much of it will be spilled and lost. “Line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” must be our rule. The whetstone does its work slowly, but frequent rubbing will bring the scythe to a fine edge. Truly there is need of patience in training a child, but without it nothing can be done.
Nothing will compensate for the absence of this tenderness and love. A minister may speak the truth as it is in Jesus, clearly, forcibly, unanswerably; but if he does not speak it in love, few souls will be won. Just so you must set before your children their duty, — command, threaten, punish, reason, —but if affection be wanting in your treatment, your labor will be all in vain.
Love is one grand secret of successful training. Anger and harshness may frighten, but they will not persuade the child that you are right; and if he sees you often out of temper, you will soon cease to have his respect. A father who speaks to his son as Saul did to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:30), need not expect to retain his influence over that son’s mind.
Try hard to keep up a hold on your child’s affections. It is a dangerous thing to make your children afraid of you. Anything is almost better than reserve and constraint between your child and yourself; and this will come in with fear. Fear puts an end to openness of manner; — fear leads to concealment;— fear sows the seed of much hypocrisy, and leads to many a lie. There is a mine of truth in the Apostle’s words to the Colossians: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Let not the advice it contains be overlooked.
See this post for an introduction to this series and links to obtaining a copy of J. C. Ryle’s full booklet, Duties of Parents.
First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.
Remember children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong. The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be,— tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish he may be any of these things or not,—it is all uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart. It is natural to us to do wrong. “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15). “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15). Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds. If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him, judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak and blind; but for pity’s sake, give him not up to his own wayward tastes and inclinations. It must not be his likings and wishes that are consulted. He knows not yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.
If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further. Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.
See this post for an introduction to this series and links to obtaining a copy of J. C. Ryle’s full booklet, Duties of Parents.
For fathers’ day this year every man in our church received a copy of J. C. Ryle’s excellent booklet, Duties of Parents (you can purchase a copy here or get a free PDF here). I encouraged the men to do the following–
- Read it entirely through in one sitting
- Read one of Ryle’s “hints” every day until you are thoroughly conversant with his point
- As you read, write down specific changes you need to make in your life and home
- Read one or more “hints” with your wife every day
- Give a copy to your older children and have them read it so they will learn how to be godly parents
Here is the introduction; I will post 2-3 of the hints each day throughout the day. During our afternoon service of July 6 we will take time to hear testimonies from reading it.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”— Prov 22:6.
I suppose that most professing Christians are acquainted with the text at the head of this page. The sound of it is probably familiar to your ears, like an old tune. It is likely you have heard it, or read it, talked of it, or quoted it, many a time. Is it not so?
But, after all, how little is the substance of this text regarded! The doctrine it contains appears scarcely known, the duty it puts before us seems fearfully seldom practiced. Reader, do I not speak the truth? It cannot be said that the subject is a new one. The world is old, and we have the experience of nearly six thousand years to help us. We live in days when there is a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools rising on all sides. We are told of new systems, and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up to man’s estate, they do not walk with God. Now how shall we account for this state of things? The plain truth is, the Lord’s commandment in our text is not regarded; and therefore the Lord’s promise in our text is not fulfilled.
Reader, these things may well give rise to great searchings of heart. Suffer then a word of exhortation from a minister, about the right training of children. Believe me, the subject is one that should come home to every conscience, and make every one ask himself the question, “Am I in this matter doing what I can?”
It is a subject that concerns almost all. There is hardly a household that it does not touch. Parents, nurses, teachers, godfathers, godmothers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, — all have an interest in it. Few can be found, I think, who might not influence some parent in the management of his family, or affect the training of some child by suggestion or advice. All of us, I suspect, can do something here, either directly or indirectly, and I wish to stir up all to bear this in remembrance.
It is a subject, too, on which all concerned are in great danger of coming short of their duty. This is preeminently a point in which men can see the faults of their neighbors more clearly than their own. They will often bring up their children in the very path which they have denounced to their friends as unsafe. They will see motes in other men’s families, and overlook beams in their own. They will be quick sighted as eagles in detecting mistakes abroad, and yet blind as bats to fatal errors which are daily going on at home. They will be wise about their brother’s house, but foolish about their own flesh and blood. Here, if anywhere, we have need to suspect our own judgment. This, too, you will do well to bear in mind.
Come now, and let me place before you a few hints about right training. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost bless them, and make them words in season to you all. Reject them not because they are blunt and simple; despise them not because they contain nothing new. Be very sure, if you would train children for heaven, they are hints that ought not to be lightly set aside.
1. Prologue, 1:1–8
1) Superscription, 1–3
Verse 1a gives the epistle’s theme, “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Revelation” here refers to truths man does not and cannot know until God reveals them (Rom 16:25–26). These truths come from the Father, to Jesus Christ, and then through an angel to John. The truths Jesus gives “must soon take place” (Dan 2:28), meaning there is nothing remaining to be fulfilled before these events take place—imminency.
John tells us in v. 2 that “he saw” these things, referring to prophetic visions. God will bless those who hear and obey this Word, strengthening their faith in their present circumstances and giving assurance of eternal life. “The time is near” stress the urgency and imminency of the events of this prophecy.
2) Introduction, 4–8
These verses focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The writer and readers are addressed and greeted (v. 4–5a). The Father is eternal and sovereign (v. 4b). The Spirit knows all things (v. 4c). The Son is true and trustworthy, preeminent over all, the Messiah (v. 5a).
Jesus is praised because through him sinners are forgiven (v. 5b), made heirs of his coming millennial kingdom (v. 6a), and have direct access to the Father (v. 6b).
Jesus deserves everlasting rule and authority (v. 7, quoting Dan 7:13; Zech 12:10). He is sovereign and all–powerful (“Alpha and Omega,” Creator and end of everything) and eternal (v. 8b).
2. The Revelation of Jesus Christ Concerning the Things Which Are, 1:9–3:22
Here Jesus gives his message to the circumstances and spiritual needs of the seven churches.
1) John’s Vision of Christ, 1:9–20
- The Setting of the Vision, 9–11
Like the recipients John was persecuted for his faith (“tribulation”) and was a co–heir of Christ’s coming kingdom and eternal salvation (v. 9a). He was imprisoned on the island of Patmos for preaching (v. 9b).
One Sunday the Holy Spirit caused John to see this vision(“in the spirit,” v. 10; cf. 2 Pet 1:20–21) and instructed him to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches (v. 11). The “book” wasn’t like our books—John wrote on papyrus sewn together and rolled on a spindle.
- The Description of Christ, 12–16
John saw “one like a son of man,” a title describing the Messiah from Daniel 7:13–14 (cf. Mark 13:26). The “lampstands” refer to the churches(v. 20). John saw Jesus wearing a robe, similar to that of OT priests, and also describing Jesus as judge (cf. Ezek 9:2; Zech 3;4; Dan 7:9–14).
The various aspects of Jesus’ glorious appearance (vv. 14–16) are interpreted different ways. Unless the Bible specifically defines them, we don’t know for sure what their significance is. Because of this, it is best not to worry about that unless the nearer or larger contexts tell us.
This description of Jesus is just like OT visible appearances of God (theophany, Ezek 1:13, 27; Dan 7:9; 10:5–6). This shows that Jesus is fully God.
The “seven stars” (v. 16) refer to the angels of the seven churches (v. 20). The sword emphasizes his absolute authority(cf. Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12). Everyone must heed what Jesus says “or else.” 🙂
- The Commands Given to John, 17–20
Though John is at first frightened, Jesus encourages him using titles that stress his power and authority (vv. 17–18).
As “the first and the last” Jesus is both God and King because he is creator, ruler, and goal of creation. By holding “the keys of death and of Hades” (v. 18) Jesus has absolute, final authority over eternal life and punishment. If you heed Jesus’ words, you have eternal life. If you reject his words, you will suffer eternal punishment.
Jesus interprets the symbols so that we can understand what he told John (v. 20). The “stars” are in Jesus’ right hand because he has control over them. The “lampstands” bear the light of God’s truth. Jesus is among the churches with full knowledge of their condition and spiritual needs.
Click here for a PDF of the following–
These questions will help you prepare for next Sunday afternoon’s lesson which will be an introduction to the Book of Revelation—authorship, recipients, place and date of writing, literature, and the book’s interpretation.
Read Revelation chapter 1, and from that chapter answer questions 1–4.
1. What can you learn about the author?
2. What can you learn about who this book was written to?
3. Where was the author when he wrote this book?
4. What kind of literature is this book (hint: verse 11)?
5. Why was this book written?
6. If you have a copy of Charles Ryrie’s commentary on Revelation, read pages 7–12.
A young woman addressed me by letter as follows: “My design in this communication, is to inform you what the Lord hath done for my soul. At the time of my first serious impressions, I was sixteen years old, and had, to that time, lived a careless, stupid life; a stranger to God and Christ, and to things sacred and divine. I thought I was not very bad, as I refrained from stealing, lying, swearing, and other open violations of God’s law; not considering that he looks at the heart. I thought I was too young to attend much to religion, and I considered it a sad and melancholy thing, fit for none but those who were just about to leave the world. I depended much on the doctrine of election, as I had perverted it. If I am to be saved, I shall be saved, let me do what I will; and if I am to be lost, I shall be lost, let me do what I will. Here I rested, secure in my sinful neglect of God and his Son Jesus Christ. And I fear that many who are older and wiser than I, rest on the same sandy foundation. I had a great taste for reading, but I read those books only which served to poison my mind, and lead it from God and serious things. When the awakening appeared among us, and one and another of my companions were inquiring what they should do to be saved? I resolved to go on as I was, let the consequences be what they would. I lived from home, and hearing that my aged parents and two of my sisters were under great concern of mind, I could not forbear sighing and saying to myself, are they all fools? I shall never enjoy another moment’s comfort with them as long as I live. It appeared to me that I would not feel as they for the whole world.
“The first serious impression on my mind, was while reading these lines in the ‘Young Child’s Pious Resolutions’—
‘ ‘Tis time to seek to God, and pray
For what I want for every day ;
I have a precious soul to save,
And I a mortal body have.’
I had hitherto thought that there would be time enough for me to attend to religion when I was old; but these words came with such power that I could not rest without seeking an interest in Christ immediately, I was greatly concerned about myself, and felt that I must do something; but what to do, I knew not. I could not pray, and never had prayed in my whole life. I dared not repeat the Lord’s prayer, because I thought it was made for his disciples, and not for me. I resolved that no one should know my feelings, but soon my distress poured in upon me like a flood, and I could not forbear crying to the Savior for mercy. I attended meeting the next Sabbath, expecting to find some relief, when these awful words were the subject of discourse, ‘It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.’ My sins rose in order before me. I was struck dumb before God while these words sounded in my ears, and the sermon described my awful case. Instead of finding comfort, I went home with a heavy heart. I soon began to doubt whether the Bible was the word of God. I thought it might possibly be a forgery, and earnestly hoped it was. I hated the Bible, because it contained my condemnation. I felt that God was partial in showing mercy to others and not to me. The enmity of my heart rose against him; and indeed, I wished there was no God. I attempted to cast the blame upon him, and justify myself; but still could not be satisfied, I longed to be spoken out of existence, for the more I understood of the divine character, the more I hated it; and I could not endure the thought that the Lord reigned, and that all things were at his disposal. When I heard of some who had obtained comfort, and had not been so long in distress as I had, my heart boiled within me. I thought I could not live long in this distress, and that God would not suffer such a wicked wretch to live ; and even death appeared desirable, though it should make me eternally miserable; because while living, I thought I was preparing for a more aggravated punishment. While walking, I sometimes imagined that the earth would open and swallow me up; and that I hung over the bottomless pit by nothing but the brittle thread of life. I slept but little, for if I went to sleep, I was afraid I should awake in hell.
“In this unhappy state of mind I continued from September, 1799, to March, 1800, when I was taken dangerously sick, and for some days deprived of reason. When my reason returned, I supposed I must soon die; but how different were my feelings now from what they had formerly been! God appeared to me perfectly just and righteous in all his dealings with me. It appeared to be right and reasonable that I should love such a holy being. I felt more composed and tranquil than ever before; and I could say with the man restored to sight, ‘whereas I was blind, now I see.’ I saw such a beauty and loveliness in God, and the things which I before hated, that I seemed to be in a new world, where everything spoke the glory of God. He appeared to be so holy, righteous and good in all his works and dispensations, that I could freely submit myself to him, and say with Job, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ When I recovered so as to wait on God in his house, I enjoyed more delight in one day, than in all the balls and vain amusements which I had attended in my life. God and his services have ever since appeared glorious to me, and that I may glorify him in life, death, and eternity. My hope depends solely on the rich, free, and sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
A young married woman gives the following account:
“Near the close of September, 1799, while I enjoyed a comfortable state of health, a religious meeting was attended at our house. I found myself somewhat impressed with a sense of sin, and thought that I wished to be a Christian. A day or two after this meeting my health rapidly declined. I was soon dangerously ill, and to appearance, on the borders of the grave. My great concern was to recover my health, and my hope rested on the physician, and not on Christ. My situation grew more and more alarming, and my friends viewed me as near the end of life. I was in some measure alarmed, and much feared that if I should die, I should be eternally miserable. I endeavored to satisfy myself by reflecting that I was not so guilty as others. Except when people were talking to me of faith, repentance and the new-birth, I always doubted whether the justice of a holy God would send me to hell for the few crimes which I had committed. Alas, how little did I know of the evil nature of sin, and of my own criminality before God ! And all this while I was viewed by others as on the borders of eternity. Indeed, sir, your conversation, at the time of your visits, and the conversation of other religious people, was never sufficient to drive me wholly from this refuge. Neither your prayers, nor the apparent near approach of death, ever excited in my mind any degree of anxious concern for my soul. The idea of leaving my husband and children, appeared the most distressing. But I chose not to hear the subject mentioned, and endeavored to keep it from my mind as much as possible. A beneficent God at length interposed in my behalf, rebuked my painful disorder, and restored me to my family as one ransomed from the grave. But I was as stupid under the mercies of God, as I had been before under his chastening hand. Nothing could make my heart submit. I was stupid when brought to the brink of the grave, with an eternity of woe before me; and I was stupid when marvelously restored to health. The world, with all its delusive charms, now presented itself to my view. As soon as I was able to ride out, I visited an elder brother, who conversed with me freely on my situation, and the mercies which I had received. I observed to him that I really wished to become religious, but I was certain that it was not in my power. He replied, that it was impossible for him to tell for what purpose my life had been so remarkably preserved; but that from my apparent stupidity, there was great reason to fear that it was, that I might have an opportunity of filling up the measure of my iniquities. The idea struck me, and seemed the voice of warning from God to me to answer for my ingratitude. The sins of my past life rose, and were set in order before me. I soon found that I had abused all the mercies of God, that there was a holy law which I had transgressed, and that I was under its just, though awful curse. I rested but little the following night, and my distress continued for several days. I was again about to go back; but the following Sabbath I attended meeting, when a thank-offering was presented for my recovery. Here my conviction and distress revived, and continued through the week.
The next Sabbath I heard a sermon from these words, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.’ The sermon was applicable, as I thought, to my case, and seemed to be addressed to me in particular. My convictions increased, until I found myself hanging over the pit of everlasting woe, destitute of the least merit, and wounded by reflection on a whole life spent in rebellion against God. Although I was convinced that I had hitherto been kept in existence by the forbearance of God, yet now it appeared to me that I so richly deserved his wrath and curse, that I had nothing else to expect. With these views I again attended meeting, and found the same broken law flaming against me, and bringing my iniquity before my face. I returned home, took my Bible and retired; and while perusing the sacred pages, this thought arose in my mind, ‘Jesus has died for sinners.’ It filled my heart with joy, and although in my agony of mind, I had not very clear views of Christ as Mediator, yet the idea was now sweet and refreshing to my weary and heavy laden soul. After a few weeks, I found myself, as I believed, willing to come to the feet of Jesus, and lie low in the dust before him. My comfort was all built on Christ as the foundation; and I think he then appeared, and still appears lovely as he is in himself, and will be so forever, whatever becomes of me. During my convictions, I had many heart-risings against God and the doctrines of grace; but when this enmity was slain by the Holy Spirit, in a way which I know not, God appeared just and righteous; Christ the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely; and the doctrines of grace the sweet food of my soul, the manna from heaven. Indeed, sir, I have been such an ungrateful, blind, and stupid sinner, that I am sure there can be no hope in my case, unless there is a remnant according to the election of grace. My attainments are so far short of what I should suppose would be in a real Christian, that I am especially at times, doubtful whether I shall ever obtain a seat at the right hand of Christ. But if this should ever be, I shall be less than the least of all saints, and must forever disclaim any merit in myself; lay my crown at the feet of Immanuel, and ascribe all to his meritorious righteousness. Let the praise and the glory be forever to his electing love, to rich, free and sovereign grace.’’
The following cases will exhibit a general view of the exercises of those who have been subjects of the work. I give the account nearly in their own words, that they may speak for themselves, and testify what God has done for their souls.
A man aged fifty-five, gave me the following account. “I had little or no religious instruction till about the age of twenty-one; and except a few seasons of conviction, which were soon gone, my youth, and indeed my life, has been spent in stupidity. I was persuaded that I must, and that I could do something of myself, but continually put it off for a more convenient season, and lived without hope and without God in the world. I was much opposed to the doctrine of grace, and I wanted to ask ministers and others, whether they were really Christians according to their scheme of justification by faith alone. I offered my children in baptism because it was fashionable, and supposed I had so far done my duty. After some thought upon the doctrines of religion, I concluded that if the doctrine of election was true, I was not to blame.
“Here I settled down at ease, and was in this situation when the religious attention began. I had a curiosity to hear and see, but felt no uncommon concern until I heard a sermon from these words, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ The word was set home with power, and my sins appeared as a thick cloud. I determined to submit myself to God, and thought I did ; yet I felt unaccountably distressed. I thought I had done enough, but found no relief from the agony of my mind. My sinfulness appeared greater than I could before have believed. It lay upon me as an insupportable burden, until the anguish of my mind impelled me to cry out for mercy. One day being alone in the fields, I could not restrain my feelings, but for some time on my bended knees, cried aloud, ‘Lord, have mercy on me I Lord, have mercy on me!’ I had hitherto neglected family prayer; but now I resolved to begin the next Sabbath morning. The time came, but I could not pray. My distress was soon increased by reflection on this text, ‘No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven.’ The word came with power; and I said, ‘Woe is me, for I don’t pray in my family.’ In the evening I attempted. I had many trials—some of them, perhaps, uncommon, and not profitable to relate. Still I was determined to be saved by the law. My heart rose against Gospel doctrines, especially the doctrine of election, which I hated. Yet I could find no rest in the law. That I had broken the law was manifest. This scripture was directly against me—‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.’ I could scarcely eat, drink, or sleep. I concluded there was no mercy for me, and that I was approaching the gates of despair. All this time, I was seeking salvation by works of the law. One morning I felt better, and enjoyed a serenity of mind for which I could not account. I was soon engaged in contemplation on this text—‘For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.’ My mind immediately explained it thus: whosoever will save his life by resting on his own works of law, shall lose it; but whosoever will renounce all dependence on himself, and trust alone to grace in Christ, shall find it. In a moment, the fabric which I had so long and so obstinately endeavored to rear, tumbled to pieces. I wondered at the ignorance and folly of all my former attempts, and that I should mistake essentially in so plain a case.
“The difficulty was soon removed by this text—‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ My mind dwelt upon these and other passages as upon a rich treasure newly found. I seemed really to come from darkness to light. The words I had often read; but there now appeared in them a heavenly beauty which I had never known before. I felt a desire to glorify God, who had contrived such an excellent scheme of salvation, and revealed it so plainly to man. I found that the Bible had been to me a sealed book, and that with all my gettings, I had never got a true understanding of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. The whole scheme of gospel doctrines, especially election and divine sovereignty, which before made my heart rise up in enmity against God, now appeared glorious and lovely doctrines. I saw that all which I had done to obtain salvation was wholly selfish; that I was totally depraved, and that unless the doctrine of election was true, there could be no hope in my case. I perceived that all my opposition to the doctrines of grace originated in pride, because I was not willing that God should work in me to will and to do of his good pleasure. I now rejoiced that he did do it, and yet I found myself in the unimpaired possession of moral freedom. I thought before that I was right, and that God was wrong; but now I felt that God was right, and that I was wrong; and that my former scheme of salvation by works of the law, if it could be true, was not desirable, because unspeakably less beautiful than that by sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. I felt no desire to hear preaching about works, unless a clear distinction was made between duty and merit. I thought little of myself, or of the danger of future punishment. God was all-glorious and the Savior the chiefest among ten thousand for his own sake. Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this time, a brand plucked out the fire. In myself, I am a poor, miserable, guilty creature; and if I am ever saved, it will manifestly be all of God. ‘Not unto me, but unto God, through Christ, be all the glory forever.’”
To be continued next week…
Proverbs contrasting righteousness (wisdom) and wickedness (foolishness).
- Why is verse 28 true?
Proverbs contrasting righteousness (wisdom) and wickedness (foolishness).
- Review what wisdom is (see comment at 3:19–20) and Solomon’s teaching about these proverbs (summaries of chapters 1–9).
- “Head” (v. 6) refers to the individual—a figure of speech where a part of the body represents the whole person.