Archive for the ‘sovereignty’ Category

Thomas Brooks, The Strength Of Christ Illustrated In The Weakness Of His People.
Two Sermons Preached on a Sacramental occasion at Galashiels, July 31, and August 1, 1731.
2 Cor. xii. 9. For my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Of sinful natural weakness; not that he brought them under such weakness, but he suffers them to lie under it. There are remains of the corruption of nature in them all, which makes them a company of poor groaning weaklings, Rom. vii. 24. Grace has got in indeed, but corruption is not yet quite got out. The Canaanites are left in the land, and they are not able to clear the land of them. And this corruption of nature hath a strong bias, in each of them, to some particular evil, according to their various tempers and circumstances, "the sin that easily besets them," Heb. xii. 1.

Why the Lord leaves sin in the regenerate? Why though they pant, long, and breathe after perfection, yet they cannot reach it; though they would buy their freedom from sin with ten thousand worlds if they had them, and the bondage of a body of sin cleaving to them makes them long for cold death, to set them free, yet they must wrestle on with it? See what may satisfy. It is that the power of Christ may be illustrated in your weakness; therefore it is that the "wheels of his chariot tarry."

This bids us,

1st, Stoop to the dispensation, and not quarrel; and after he has thus far discovered to us the design of it, to crucify all our hows and whys on the matter; and that both with respect to our spiritual and bodily weaknesses.

2dly, Resolutely to keep up the struggle, to get forward in the way the Lord calls us. What though we be weak? the works of the Christian life are not to be laid aside, but we are to stretch out the withered hand, that his strength may be perfected in our weakness.

Whoso thus struggle resolutely, and yet stoop humbly to the dispensation, shew their concern for his honour, insomuch that they are pleased his strength should be displayed in their weakness. Thus honouring him here, he will honour them in the other world.


Thomas Boston, The Christian Weak, Yet Strong.
2 Cor. xii. 10, For when I am weak, then am I strong.

You will get enough of strength in Christ, if you take this way to it, living and going out of yourselves, under a sense of utter weakness, to the Lord Christ, as the head of strengthening influences. If you ask, What is that? I answer. It is the soul’s discerning an utter inability in itself for any spiritually good action, but withal believing that God has treasured up sufficient strength in the Mediator, to be communicated to those that are his, and therefore embracing a full Christ for all, as held forth in the everlasting covenant; and then venturing on duties, watching against temptations, and taking up the cross, upon the faith and credit of the promises of the covenant, trusting that they shall be made out to him; which trust may be weaker or stronger, but according to the strength of it, so is the income of strength to the soul. In this way the weak go from strength to strength. Thus shall you be helped to go through the most difficult duties acceptably, though not perfectly, to stand against the strongest temptations, to mortify the most powerful lusts, and to bear the heaviest crosses. This has made Christians attain to an eminent pitch of holiness, joyfully to embrace a prison, banishment, a gibbet, a fire, and the most cruel torments enemies could invent. The more you are emptied of yourselves, placing confidence in the Lord, the more will you be strengthened with might in the inner man; and when you shall be perfectly unselfed, if we may so express ourselves, so that there shall be no more of it to marr the communication betwixt Christ and you, then you shall be perfectly holy, and set above the reach of all evil; but because we are not properly divested of self-confidence in this world, therefore we do not arrive here at perfect strength. But all the saints, however, will give their testimony, that "when they are weak, then they are strong." Amen.


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… there were many Jews in Israel who were called wise men, but the star did not appear to any of them; rather it shone only on Gentile eyes, and led a chosen company from the ends of the earth to bow at Immanuel’s feet. Sovereignty in these cases clothed itself in the robes of mercy. It was a great mercy that regarded the low estate of the shepherds, and it was a far reaching mercy which gathered from lands which lay in darkness a company of men and allowed them to see God’s wonderful and blessed Savior.

Source: Spurgeon, The Wise Men, the Star, and the Savior


This is a great inducement to us to repent. There is nothing like the consideration of divine grace to break the heart, both for sin and from sin. That is evangelical repentance, that flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and the hopes of pardon and forgiveness through him.

Source: Henry, ‘Matthew 3’


… the temptations which befall us are not accidental, or regulated by the will of Satan, without God’s permission; but that the Spirit of God presides over our contests as an exercise of our faith. This will aid us in cherishing the assured hope, that God, who is the supreme judge and disposer of the combat,  will not be unmindful of us, but will fortify us against those distresses, which he sees that we are unable to meet.

Source: Calvin, Matthew 4

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When God decrees that I be permitted to do some sinful action, he does so without coerision and for his own glory and with an interest in my ultimate good.

When I voluntarily act out what is within my heart, in opposition to God’s glory and to my own harm, then what I do is sin.

God does not sin in his decree but I sin in my act.

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God can and often does make wicked men instruments to serve his own purposes, even contrary to their own intentions; for he has them not only in a chain, to restrain them from doing the mischief they would, but in a bridle, to lead them to do the service they would not.

source: Matthew Henry

… it is also a shame for a believer to be “afraid of evil tidings,” since the Lord, with whom he is one, alone ruleth all things, “and doth whatsoever pleaseth him in heaven and earth.”

source: William Guthrie

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Psalm 76:10
Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt

The devil blows the fire and melts the iron, and then the Lord fashions it for his own purposes. Let men and devils rage as they may, they cannot do otherwise than subserve the divine purposes.

source: Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Commentary on Psalm 76:10

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It was the enraptured Rutherford who could shout in the midst of serious and painful trials, "Praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace."

The hammer is a useful tool, but the nail, if it had feeling and intelligence, could present another side of the story. For the nail knows the hammer only as an opponent, a brutal, merciless enemy who lives to pound it into submission, to beat it down out of sight and clinch it into place. That is the nail’s view of the hammer, and it is accurate except for one thing: The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman. Let the nail but remember that the hammer is held by the workman and all resentment toward it will disappear. The carpenter decides whose head shall be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating. That is his sovereign right. When the nail has surrendered to the will of the workman and has gotten a little glimpse of his benign plans for its future it will yield to the hammer without complaint.

The file is more painful still, for its business is to bite into the soft metal, scraping and eating away the edges till it has shaped the metal to its will. Yet the file has, in truth, no real will in the matter, but serves another master as the metal also does. It is the master and not the file that decides how much shall be eaten away, what shape the metal shall take, and how long the painful filing shall continue. Let the metal accept the will of the master and it will not try to dictate when or how it shall be filed.

As for the furnace, it is the worst of all. Ruthless and savage, it leaps at every combustible thing that enters it and never relaxes its fury till it has reduced it all to shapeless ashes. All that refuses to burn is melted to a mass of helpless matter, without will or purpose of its own. When everything is melted that will melt and all is burned that will burn, then and not till then the furnace calms down and rests from its destructive fury.

With all this known to him, how could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace? The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshiped the Lord who heated the furnace for the everlasting blessing of His children. He had felt the hammer till its rough beatings no longer hurt; he had endured the file till he had come actually to enjoy its bitings; he had walked with God in the furnace so long that it had become as his natural habitat. That does not overstate the facts. His letters reveal as much.

Such doctrine as this does not find much sympathy among Christians in these soft and carnal days. …

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

* Samuel Rutherford (1600? – 1661) was a Puritan Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author, and was was one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his Letters. The quote above comes from a letter to Robert Gordon of Knockbrex dated 1st January 1637 and titled ‘Benefit of Affliction’ .

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Calvinism is not first and foremost a theological system but rather a precise "gloriously God-centred and heart-engaging system of theology"

The formative principle of Calvinism is not what so many imagine – the doctrine of predestination – but the glory of the Lord God Almighty! So, the fundamental question posed in Calvinism is not “How can I be saved?”, but “How shall God be glorified?”

source: http://www.cambridgepres.org.uk/res/calvinism.html

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When we ordain sinful actions to occur (proceeding from ourselves), we do so opposing the glory of God and so we are morally culpable for our sin.

When God ordains sinful actions to occur (proceeding from responsible agents), he does so for the advancement of his glory and so in this way he does not sin.


Joseph’s brothers sinned when they sold him to be a slave in Egypt – they rejected God’s purpose for Joseph.

God did not sin when he ordained Joseph’s brothers to sell Joseph as a slave because he was not acting in opposition to his glory but rather advancing his glory by using human moral failure (the brothers’ sin) and weakness  (Joseph in prison) as the means to save his people from death.

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John Flavel provides an example of how God’s providence might ordain suffering as a means of preserving his people from sin and temptation.

Basil was sorely grieved with an inveterate headache; he earnestly prayed it might be removed; God removed it. No sooner was he freed of this clog, but he felt the inordinate motions of lust, which made him pray for his headache again.

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