Thursday, March 12, 2020

THE CHOLERA YEAR IN LONDON - And the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020...

Here is some prudence from the Prince of Preachers on how to navigate an epidemic pastorally.  This extended quotation is taken from C.H Spurgeon Autobiography, Volume 1. Pages 272-274.
In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. At first, I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions, but soon I became weary in body, and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.
I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when, as God would have it, my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker's window in the Great Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore, in a good bold handwriting, these words:
"Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling."

The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own; I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying, in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The Providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window, I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvellous power I adore the Lord my God.

[In a pamphlet entitled, "The Best Refuge in Times of Trouble", published about the time of Spurgeon's "home-going", Mr. W. Ford, of 19H, Peabody Buildings, Orchard Street, Westminster, wrote:
"In the year 1854, the first year of Mr. Spurgeon in London, cholera raged in the locality of his church, and the neighbourhood where he resided. The parochial authorities were very thoughtful for the poor, and caused bills to be placed at the corners of the streets headed CHOLERA--in large type--informing the public where advice and medicines would be supplied gratis. At that time, I lived in the Great Dover Road, and Mr. Spurgeon lived a little further towards Greenwich, in Virginia Terrace. Seeing the bills above-named at every turning, I was forcibly impressed that they were very much calculated to terrify the people With the concurrence of a friend, I procured one, and wrote in the centre these words: 'Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.' This bill I placed in my shop-window, hundreds read it, and I am not aware of one jeer or improper remark--so subdued and solemnized were the people by the awful visitation. Among the readers of the bill, was Mr. Spurgeon."]

During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying. I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow. One Monday morning, I was awakened, about three o'clock, by a sharp ring of the door-bell. I was urged, without delay, to visit a house not very far from London Bridge. I went; and up two pairs of stairs I was shown into a room, the only occupants of which were a nurse and a dying man. "Oh, sir!" exclaimed the nurse, as I entered, "about half-an-hour ago, Mr. So- and-so begged me to send for you." "What does he want," I asked. "He is dying, sir," she replied. I said, "Yes, I see that he is; what sort of a man was he?" The nurse answered, "He came home from Brighten, last night, sir; he had been out all day. I looked for a Bible, sir, but there is not one in the house . I hope you have brought one with you." "Oh" I said, "a Bible would be of no use to him now. If he could understand me, I could tell him the way of salvation in the very words of Scripture." I stood by his side, and spoke to him, but he gave me no answer. I spoke again, but the only consciousness he had was a foreboding of terror, mingled with the stupor of approaching death. Soon, even that was gone, for sense had fled, and I stood there, a few minutes, sighing with the poor woman who had watched over him, and altogether hopeless about his soul. Gazing at his face, I perceived that he was dead, and that his soul had departed.

That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips. There I stood, unable to help him. Promptly as I had responded to his call, what could I do but look at his corpse, and mourn over a lost soul? He had, when in health, wickedly refused Christ, yet in his death-agony he had superstitiously sent for me. Too late, he sighed for the ministry of reconciliation, and sought to enter in at the closed door, but he was not able. There was no space left him then for repentance, for he had wasted the opportunities which God had long granted to him. I went home, and was soon called away again; that time, to see a young woman. She also was in the last extremity, but it was a fair, fair sight. She was singing--though she knew she was dying--and talking to those round about her, telling her brothers and sisters to follow her to Heaven, bidding good-bye to her father, and all the while smiling as if it had been her marriage day. She was happy and blessed. I never saw more conspicuously in my life, than I did that morning, the difference there is between one who feareth God and one who feareth Him not.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Quotes from the Life and Ministry of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

These are quotations from a Foundations Class I taught at Grace Fellowship Church on March 08, 2020. 

"Oh, to have Brainerd's heart for perfect holiness - to be holy as God is holy - pure as Christ is pure - perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect."

“It is a good thing to be shown much of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of your heart, provided it lead you to the Lord Jesus, that He may pardon and subdue it.”

“Now do not look so long and so harassingly at your own heart and feelings.  What will you find there but the bite of the serpent?... Look to Christ… Look to Him and live. You need no preparation, you need no endeavours, you need no duties, you need no strivings, you only need to look and live… Do not take up your time so much with studying your own heart as with studying Christ’s heart.  ‘For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!’” 

“Only believe. Give unlimited credit to our God.”

“I sometimes think that a great blessing may come to my people in my absence.  Often God does not bless us when we are in the midst of our labours, lest we shall say, ‘My hand and my eloquence have done it.’  He removes us into silence, and then pours ‘down a blessing so that there is no room to receive it;’ so that all that see it cry out, ‘It is the Lord!’  This was the way in the South Sea Islands. May it really be so with my dear people!”

1. The Gospel, properly applied, is the only way to deal with our sin.

“I often pray, ‘Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made.’”

“I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of present happiness, I shall do the most for God’s glory and the good of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ’s blood…”

“I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ.  I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do no good to go – as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe – and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. John argues the opposite way – ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father;’ Jeremiah 3:1 and a thousand other scriptures are against it. I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is God’s way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way.”

2. The Gospel, properly applied, is a wrecking ball to pride.

“A minister will make a poor saviour in the day of wrath.  It is not knowing a minister or loving one or hearing one… that will save.  You need to have your hand on the head of the Lamb for yourselves… I fear I will need to be a swift witness against many of my people in the day of the Lord, that they looked to me, and not to Christ, when I preached to them.”

“I really believed that my Master had called me home, and that I would sleep beneath the dark green cypresses of Bouja till the Lord shall come… and my most earnest prayer was for my dear flock, that God would give them a pastor after his own heart.”

3. The Gospel, properly applied, will make God more important than sleep.

“Do everything in earnest; if it is worth doing, then do it with all your might. Above all, keep much in the presence of God. Never see the face of man till you have seen His face who is our life, our all.”

"Rose early to seek God and found Him whom my soul loves. Who would not rise early to meet such company?”

“I must first see the face of God before I take on any duty.”

“We must be drinking the living water from the smitten rock or we cannot speak of its refreshing power.”

“It is not great talents that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

4. The Gospel, properly applied, will make you pray.

“No person can be a child of God without living in secret prayer; and no community of Christians can be in a lively condition without unity in prayer.”

“What would my people do if I were not to pray?”

“If you do not pray, God will probably lay you aside from your ministry, as He did me, to teach you to pray.”

“I have been often brought very low, but it has been always good for me…”

“When I was laid aside from the ministry, I felt it was to teach me the need of prayer for my people. I used often to say, Now God is teaching me the use of prayer…”

“Pray to be taught to pray.  Do not be content with old forms that flow from the lips only. Most Christians have need to cast their formal prayers away, to be taught to cry, Abba.”

“Alas, we do not weary God now with our wrestlings, but with our sins.”

"If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me."

5. The Gospel, properly applied, will make all people precious in your sight — even the least of these.

“Think this, little children, you are the pride of your mother’s heart, but have gone astray from the womb, speaking lies. Little children who are fond of your plays, but are not fond of coming to Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour of little children, the sword will come on you also.”

“It is high time you seek the Lord. The longest lifetime is short enough… Oh, if you had to stand as often as I have beside the dying bed of little children – to see their wild looks and outstretched hands, and to hear their dying cries – you would see how needful it is fly to Christ now. It may be your turn next.  Are you prepared to die?  Have you fled for refuge to Jesus? Have you found forgiveness?”

“The greatest want in the religion of children is generally sense of sin…; we are so often deceived by promising appearances in childhood.”

"Use a few spare half-hours in seeking after the lambs on the weekdays."

6. The Gospel, properly applied, will make you an evangelist, or at least cause you to do the work of one.

“Do not be satisfied without conversion.”

“What has the world done for you, that you love it so much? Did the world die for you? Will the world blot out your sins or change your heart? Will the world carry you to heaven? No, no!  You may go back to the world if you please, but it can only destroy your poor soul… Have you not lived long enough in pleasure? Come and try the pleasures of Christ – forgiveness and a new heart. I have not been at a dance or any worldly amusement for many years, and yet I believe I have had more pleasure in a single day than you have had all your life.  In what? You will say. In feeling that God loves me – that Christ has washed me – and feeling that I shall be in heaven when the wicked are cast into hell. ‘A day in thy courts is better than a thousand [elsewhere]’ (Psalm 84:10)… If you die without Christ, you cannot come back to be converted and die a believer – you have but once to die. Oh, pray that you may find Christ before death finds you!”

"The world will say you are an innocent and harmless girl; do not believe them. The world is a liar. Pray to see yourself exactly as God sees you…"
"Every wave of trouble has been wafting you to the sunny shores of a sinless eternity.  Only believe.  Give unlimited credit to our God.”

“If our neighbour’s house were on fire, would we not cry aloud and use every exertion… Oh, shall we be less earnest to save their never-dying souls, than we would be to save their bodies?”

7. The Gospel, properly applied, will make a good pastor

 “I see a man cannot be a faithful minster until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake, until he gives up striving to attract people to himself and seeks only to attract them to Christ.”

“Few people know the deep wells of anxiety in the bosom of a faithful pastor.”

“But oh, study universal holiness of life! Your whole usefulness depends on this. Your sermon on Sabbath lasts but an hour or two, – your life preaches all the week.  Remember, ministers are standard-bearers. Satan aims his fiery darts at them. If he can only make you a covetous minister, or lover of pleasure, or a lover of praise, or a lover of good eating, then he has ruined your ministry forever. ‘Ah! Let him preach on fifty years, he will never do me any harm.’ Dear brother, cast yourself at the feet of Christ, implore His Spirit to make you a holy man. ‘Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine.’”

“See how Paul laid out his strength in confirming the disciples. Be a helper of their joy. Do not rest till you get them to live under the pure, holy rules of the gospel.”