Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hut summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. – G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)


On Remembering to Keep the Lord’s Day

The word “remember” is set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment partly because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the Commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion, and partly because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restrains our natural liberty in things at other times lawful, that it comes but once in seven days and many worldly businesses come between and, too often, take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it or to sanctify it, and that Satan, with his instruments, much labors to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety. – Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 127.

From the Psalms

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire.  My ears You have opened.  Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.  Then I said, “Behold, I come.  In the scroll of the book it is written of me.  I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.”  (Psalm 40.6-8, NKJV)

The Scriptures Unveil God

The Scriptures are not man’s guesses about the mystery of God nor are they the conclusions that men have drawn from certain data at their disposal.  On the contrary, they are the unveiling of the mystery of God by God Himself, God’s gracious revelation of Himself to ignorant and sinful men.  Far from being a stage, even the last stage, on man’s quest for the well at the world’s end, the Bible is the place where God comes from above and beyond the world to show Himself to His people.

From: Portrait of Calvin by T. H. L. Parker (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1954), p. 51.

On the Correct Attitude to Poverty

Balance this with [verses] 2 and 16.  You may be called to forgo wealth.  You must certainly rate it below honesty.  But don’t affect to despise it.  Don’t embrace poverty out of laziness or romanticism.  (For further harsh facts to face, see [Proverbs] 14.20; 18.23; 19.7; 22.7.)

From: The Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary by Derek Kidner; The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), p. 87.  Comment on Proverbs 10.15.

Opening Genesis

Even though men maliciously try to obscure God’s glory, it is certain they cannot open their eyes and look in any direction without seeing evidence that leads to knowledge of Him, knowledge which they flee and would like to bury completely, if they could.  God shows Himself everywhere and provides indications of His majesty, of His power, of His righteousness, of His goodness, and everything which can lead us to Him.  That is also why Paul, in the fourteenth chapter of Acts, says that God cannot leave Himself without witness (Acts 14.17), for all things created do not have their source in themselves.  It is as if God were enlightening us to draw us to Himself and make us aware that He is the fountain and origin of all things, that everything depends on Him, and that everything is founded on and sustained by His power.  Hence, the world, from its heights to its depths, is like a mirror to compel us to contemplate God, who is, by nature and in essence, invisible.  Paul says the same thing in the first chapter of Romans, that the things we perceive with our eyes show us that there is one God (Romans 1.20), although He is, in Himself, incomprehensible unless we understand Him in His works.  At least, we are responsible, and we will be inexcusable if we remain locked in our ignorance. – John Calvin (1509-1564), his opening paragraph to a sermon on Genesis 1.1-2 preached in St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, September 4, 1559.  Calvin was 50 when he began preaching through Genesis.

From: Sermons on Genesis, Chapters 1.1-11.4 by John Calvin; translated from the French by Rob Roy McGregor (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), pp. 1-2.

John Calvin’s Character

Firm as the mountains of his country, he stood unmoved amid the storms that beat around him.  He lifted his soul, undaunted, above those mists which, to all others, shrouded the future in terrific gloom and, exercising a faith strong in the promises of God, could behold, afar off, the triumphs of the cause.  As the twelve apostles when, left to themselves, fled like frightened sheep at the approach of danger, when endued with power from on high, were made bold as lions, so did the perfect love of Christ’s truth and cause cast out all fear from the bosom of Calvin.  Even in point of courage, therefore, he was not inferior to the very chiefest of Reformers.  But, in learning, in sound and correct judgment, in prudence and moderation, in sagacity and penetration, in system and order, in cultivation and refinement of manners, in the depth and power of his intellect Calvin shone forth amid the splendid galaxy of illustrious Reformers, a star of the first magnitude and brightest luster.

From: Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin by Thomas Smyth; 2nd edition (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), pp. 19-20.  First published ca. 1846.

A Spiritual Letter

April 29, 1776

My Dear Miss Mary Barham,

I thank you for your last, and I rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to you.  To be drawn by love, exempted from those distressing terrors and temptations which some are beset with, to be favored with the ordinances and means of grace and connected with those, and with those only, who are disposed and qualified to assist and encourage you in seeking the Savior, these are peculiar privileges, which all concur in your case.  He loves you, He deals gently with you, He provides well for you and accompanies every outward privilege with His blessing, and I trust He will lead you on from strength to strength and show you still greater things than you have yet seen.  Those whom He teaches are always increasing in knowledge, both of themselves and of Him.  The heart is deep and, like Ezekiel’s vision, presents so many chambers of imagery, one within another, that it requires time to get a considerable acquaintance with it, and we shall never know it thoroughly.

It is now more than twenty-eight years since the Lord began to open mine to my own view and, from that time to this, almost every day has discovered to me something which, till then, was unobserved.  And the further I go, the more I seem convinced that I have entered but a little way.  A person who travels in some parts of Derbyshire may easily be satisfied that the country is cavernous.  But, how large, how deep, how numerous the caverns may be which are hidden from us by the surface of the ground and what is contained in them, are questions which our nicest inquirers cannot fully answer.  Thus, I judge of my heart that it is very deep and dark, and full of evil.  But, as to particulars, I know not one of a thousand.

And, if our own hearts are beyond our comprehension, how much more incomprehensible is the heart of Jesus!  If sin abounds in us, grace and love superabound in Him.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth.  His love has a height and depth and length and breadth that passes all knowledge, and His riches of grace are unsearchable riches (Ephesians 3.18-19).  All that we have received or can receive from Him or know of Him in this life, compared with what He is in Himself or what He has for us, is but as a drop of a bucket compared with the ocean or a single ray of light in respect of the sun.  The waters of the sanctuary flow to us, at first, almost upon a level, ankle deep, so graciously does our Lord condescend to our weakness.  But they rise as we advance and constrain us to cry out, with the apostle, “Oh, the depth!”  We find before us, as Dr. Watts beautifully expresses it, “a sea of love and grace unknown/without a bottom or a shore.”

Oh, the excellence of the knowledge of Christ!  It will be growing upon us through time, yea, I believe, through eternity.  What an astonishing and what a cheering thought that this high and lofty One should unite Himself to our nature, that so, in a way worthy of His adorable perfections, He might, by His Spirit, unite us to Himself!  Could such a thought have arisen in our hearts without the warrant of His Word (but it is a thought which no created mind was capable of conceiving till He revealed it), it would have been presumption and blasphemy.  But, now He has made it known, it is the foundation of our hope and an inexhaustible spring of life and joy.  Well may we say: “Lord, what is man, that You should thus visit Him!”

I am, etc.

Letter: John Newton to Mary Barham (April 29, 1776)

From: The Works of John Newton: Volume One; reprint (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015), pp. 468-469.  From an edition first published in London in 1839.

From the Psalms

Lord, make me to know my end and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths and my age is as nothing before You.  Certainly, every man, at his best, is but vapor.  (Selah)  Surely, every man walks about like a shadow.  Surely, they busy themselves in vain.  He heaps up riches and does not know who will gather them.  (Psalm 39.4-6, NKJV)