Full of Evil and Murderous Thoughts

JR Miller once said, “The religious rulers carried their pious scruples even to the palace of Pilate. Amazingly, they had no scruples about their wicked treatment of an innocent man—but they were scrupulously conscientious about matters of mere ceremonial requirement! They would not set their feet on the Gentile’s floor—for that would have defiled them! Yet meanwhile their hearts were full of evil and murderous thoughts and resolves!

There will always be people who are most punctilious in their religious rituals—but who in practical life, are little better than heathen!

We should learn well, that God is grieved more by our bitter feelings, our lack of love, our hate and envy—than He is with little omissions in religious ceremonies and formalities. “

I Hate Square Pews and Bad Music

In “The Outlook” by JC Ryle he said, “The worst cloud which I see in our Church’s outlook, is the widespread disposition to regard religious externalism, as a substitute for vital soul-saving Christianity.

When I speak of externalism, let me explain what I mean. We all know that the external part of religion has received a large amount of new attention during the last forty years. All over the land it has become the fashion to restore churches, to get rid of old square pews, to improve the singing and music, to have a well-adorned choir, to decorate the church-building in a most elaborate style, and, in one word, to adorn, beautify, and improve the whole exterior of Church Christianity. Do I say there is anything sinful in all this? Nothing of the kind! I abhor everything like slovenliness in the ceremonials of worship. I dislike square pews, and bad music, and bad singing as much as anyone! But I do say, that I fear an external improvement often takes place in a church—without the slightest corresponding increase of godliness in the worshipers! No doubt there is a far more show of religion in our Churches—but it is very doubtful whether there is more vital Christianity, more presence of the Holy Spirit, more heart and conscience work, in the private lives and the homes of our people. I fear that in hundreds of cases, men have rested content with having secured a handsome church and a ‘bright and hearty service,’ and have forgotten that what God looks at—is the hearts of the worshipers, and the quantity of grace to be found among them.

This is a very delicate subject, and I would be sorry to be misunderstood, or to give pain to anyone in handling it. But I am obliged to say plainly, that I fail to see that all the external improvement of the last forty years, is accompanied by any corresponding growth of practical holiness! There is no decrease in the total idolatry of recreations, or the extravagant expenditure of money, or self-indulgence of all kinds. On the contrary, there is far less repentance, faith, holiness, Bible-reading, and family religion! If this state of things is not a most unhealthy symptom in the condition of a Church, I know not what is!

We may depend upon it—that knowledge of Christ, obedience to Christ, and the fruits of the Spirit—are the only tests by which God weighs and measures any Church. If these are absent, He cares nothing for beautiful buildings, fine singing, and a pompous ceremonial. These are ‘leaves,’ and He desires to see not leaves only, but ‘fruit’. The tree of the Church of England perhaps never had so many leaves on it, as it has just now. I wish there was a corresponding quantity of fruit!

We must never forget that the Temple service at Jerusalem in the day of our Lord’s crucifixion was the most perfect ceremonial that ever was—whether for singing, order, vestments, or general magnificence and beauty. Yet we all know that at this very time, the Jewish Church was thoroughly rotten at heart, and after forty years was swept away! Who can doubt that the little upper chamber, where the apostles met on the day of our Lord’s ascension, was far more beautiful in God’s sight, than the beautiful temple which our Master Himself called ‘a den of thieves’? I heartily wish that we would remember this, more than we appear to do. The disposition to make an idol of externals, and to sacrifice the inside of religion to the outside, is, in my judgment, the darkest cloud on our ecclesiastical horizon! Of this we may be quite certain—that God will never bless a Church which is content with such a low standard of practical piety. “

A Spiritual Playpen

In the twenty-first century, we are obsessed with self-satisfaction and getting our desires met. Hence, any teaching that invades our lifestyle and tells us we must alter or discard out old habits, is usually consigned to the junk pile. In so thinking and doing, the church has been transformed into a spiritual playpen where the crying babies must be appeased with what makes them feel good.

The Evangelical world is abuzz with terms like “purpose driven church” or “seeker friendly church”. What these terms really amount to is one thing: compromise.

The goal of churches should not be to see how much like the world they can be, so as to make worldly people feel comfortable. Rather, the churches should be so unlike the world, so alien to the world, that the disillusioned unbeliever will be drawn to them.

-Joseph Bianchi

Lamb With a Wolf’s Head

It is matter of surprise and regret, that many people
seem to think that Christianity has nothing to do with
character! And that provided they are free from gross
sins, and have lively feelings in devotional exercises,
they may be as petulant, irritable, and implacable as
they please! This is a dreadful error, and has done
great mischief to the cause of God!

A sour, ill-natured Christian, is like a lamb with a
wolf’s head! Or like a dove with a vulture’s beak!

If there be any one word which above all others should
describe a Christian’s character, it is that which represents
his divine Father; and as it is said, that ‘God is love’, so
should it be also affirmed, that a Christian is love–love
embodied, an incarnation of love! His words, his conduct,
his very looks–should be so many expressions of love!

-John Angell James

Providence of Atoms

Charles Spurgeon once said, “God’s Providence not only extends to mankind in general, and to the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, and the innumerable fish in the sea—but also to every atom of matter in the universe!”

Worthless Worms

Great God! how infinite art thou!
            What worthless worms are we!
        Let the whole race of creatures bow,
            And pay their praise to thee! -Isaac Watts

Scandalous Breach Prevented

Many a scandalous breach would be prevented, if we were more ready to practice the rule of “between you and him alone.” Happy would it be for the Church and the world, if this portion of our Lord’s teaching was more carefully studied and obeyed. Differences and divisions there will be, so long as the world stands. But how many of them would be extinguished at once, if the course recommended in these verses [Matthew 18:15-17] was tried. – JC Ryle