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Thomas Brooks reflects on humility:
“Labor to be clothed with humility. Humility makes a man peaceable among brethren, fruitful in well-doing, cheerful in suffering, and constant in holy walking (1 Pet. 5:5). Humility fits for the highest services we owe to Christ, and yet will not neglect the lowest service to the [most ordinary] saint (John 13:5) . . . Humility can weep over other men’s weaknessses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the [lowliest] condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men’s prosperous condition (1 Thess 1:2,3). Humility honors those that are strong in grace and puts two hands under those that are weak in grace (Eph. 3:8). . . Ah! were Christians more humble, there would be less fire and more love among them than now is.”
– Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 209-11.
When we pray to grow in every grace, the Lord hears and answers, but not in the way we might imagine, much less want. John Newton’s poem is full of personal experience and pastoral wisdom. God grants what we need most, and, in the end, we are satisfied.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, his face.
’Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds,* and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in me.
* On gourds: see Jonah 4 in the King James Version.
Before you speak ill of others, consider Charles Simeon’s wise counsel:
“The longer I live, the more I feel the importance of adhering to the rules which I have laid down for myself in relation to such matters.
“1st To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others.
“2nd To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it.
“3rd Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.
“4th Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed towards others.
“5th Always to believe, that if the other side were heard a very different account would be given of the matter.
“I consider love as wealth; and as I would resist a man who should come to rob my house so would I a man who would weaken my regard for any human being.”
Source: Hugh Evan Hopkins, Charles Simeon of Cambridge (Eerdmans, 1977), 134.
“We should bear in mind, that the honour of God is greatly affected by our conduct; and that our fellow-creatures also may either be ‘won by our good conversation,’ or be eternally ruined by our misconduct. We should, from these considerations, take especial care never to lay a stumbling-block in the way of others; but so to walk, that we may be able to say unto all around us, ‘Whatsoever ye have seen and heard in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.’”
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
John Calvin comments:
From this we may gather a brief definition of true Christianity – that it is a faith that is lively and full of vigour, so that it spares no labour, when assistance is to be given to one’s neighbors, but, on the contrary, all the pious employ themselves diligently in offices of love, and lay out their efforts in them, so that, intent upon the hope of the manifestation of Christ, they despise everything else, and, armed with patience, they rise superior to the wearisomeness of length of time, as well as to all the temptations of the world.”
– John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Vol. 21 Translated by John Pringle. 1851 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 239.
“If you see the grace of God working in your life, and if you recognize material blessings that have come your way as a consequence, do not forget to thank Him. It is sad when there is nothing for which we feel grateful to God, but it is serious when there is something and we fail to show gratitude, and it is tragic when we are so busy asking for more that we forget to thank Him for what we have received.”
– William Still, Letters of William Still (Banner of Truth, 1984), pp. 34-35