Experiential Religion

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me…  and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him…

If a man love Me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

John 14:21,23

“…I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…”

Gal. 2:20

“And David was greatly distressed…  but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

1 Sam. 30:6

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Archibald Alexander
Religious Experience, ‘Preface’

“There are two kinds of religious knowledge, which, though intimately connected as cause and effect, may nevertheless be distinguished.  These are

[1] the knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and
[2] the impression which that truth makes on the human mind when rightly apprehended.

The first may be compared to the inscription or image on a seal; the other to the impression made by the seal on the wax.  When that impression is clearly and distinctly made, we can understand, by contemplating it, the true inscription on the seal more satisfactorily, than by a direct view of the seal itself.  Thus it is found that nothing tends more to confirm and elucidate the truths contained in the word, than an inward experience of their efficacy on the heart…

If genuine religious experience is nothing but the impression of divine truth on the mind, by the energy of the Holy Spirit, then it is evident that a knowledge of the truth is essential to genuine piety… “

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Order of Contents

What is Experiential & Experimental Religion?

Experiential Religion                       Resisting the Spirit
Sermons                                               Fighting Sinfulness
.                                                               Spiritual Warfare
Seeking the Lord                                Spiritual Declension
Salvation                                              Affliction
Sin                                                          Bereavement

Repentance                                          Death
Faith
.                                                               Devotional
A Godly Heart   
                                 How to Read the Bible
The Christian Life                              The Life of Christ
Growing in Grace                               Bible Commentaries
Christian Character                           Song of Solomon
Holiness & Practical Religion         Systematic Theology

Pleasantness of a Godly Life           Confessions & Catechisms
Our Affections                                     Sandemanianism
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Prayer                                                    Psalm Singing
Meditation                                            Lord’s Supper
Spending the Day with God             The Lord’s Day
Self-Examination                                Pastoral Ministry
Assurance
.                                                                Novel
Godly Conferencing                            History
Evangelism                                            Biography
Marriage                                                 Autobiography
Parenting 
                                              Diaries
.                                                                 Letters
.                                                                 Poetry
.                                                                 Quotes & Proverbs

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What is Experiential & Experimental Religion?

When one believes upon the Gospel of Jesus, they are given new life (Jn. 5:24) and are become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).  This God-infused spiritual change affects all of the believer’s person, mind, will and affections, and all of their experience.  Jonathan Edwards wrote:

“A gracious experience arises from operations and influences which are spiritual, from an inward principle which is divine, a communication of God, a participation of the divine nature [2 Pet. 1:4]: Christ living in the heart, the Holy Spirit dwelling there in union with the faculties of the soul as an internal principle, exerting his own proper nature in the exercise of those faculties.  Now it is no wonder that that which is divine is powerful and effectual, for it has omnipotence on its side.”

Thus all of that which we go through in life in its various seasons, circumstances and experiences as we live before the Face of God, becomes sanctified and beneficial to our faith and precious to the saint.  The Lord’s ways with us are beautiful.  He deals with each of us personally throughout our lives and has a different way for every one of his beloved people (Jn. 21:19-22; compare Jn. 20:16-17 with 20:26-28).

Experiential Religion deeply values the experiential aspect of the Scriptures and the Christian faith.

Experimental Religion is an idea close thereto, and is often used synonymously with it.  We are called in Scripture to try, to prove, and to experiment by a close practical working with, and an acquiantace of, God’s promises to find out for ourselves whether they be true or not, to see if God will uphold them if we throw our trust upon them:

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” – Ps. 34:8

“…prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing…” – Mal. 3:10

“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Mt. 7:7

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” – Jn. 7:17

Experiential and experimental religion is not a fine accessory appendage to Christianity that one might come to with years, or one that can safely be taken or left aside; it is the very fundamentals of Christ’s religion.  Christ opened his public ministry not with lectures on systematic theology, but with the experiential Beatitudes (Mt. 5):

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled….

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

These are promises, Friend.  Purify your hearts using the invaluable resources on this webpage, and you shall see God and have a closer intimacy with Him than before.  Try Christ at his Word and see if He will not show you even greater manifestations of Himself (Jn. 14:21).

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Experiential Religion Today

Experiential religion today has fallen on hard times.  Many Christians rest upon their Christian worldview, of being knowledgeable about, and even having convictions of, the Christian faith.  But do they savor and relish the things of God to the enlivening of their soul in fellowship with Him?  How often and for how long?  Does one’s doctrine stifle spiritual experience, or fuel it?

There are many reformed churches that are reformed in their doctrine, in church government, are confessional and are reformed in their ethical practice, and yet remain unreformed according to the Word of God in experiential faith and living.  It ought not to be; and in the classical era of puritanism of foregone days, reformed Christianity was widely and naturally married to experiential godly living.

Many conservative, Bible believing and reformed churches are much about expository preaching from the text with a Christ centered focus and making pertinent practical applications to the hearers, yet sadly something vital remains missing.  The thing lacking in most sermons today is: worship, worship in living communion with God that stirs the soul. To find out what you are missing, pick up:

Rutherford, Samuel – Communion Sermons  Buy

Durham, James – The Unsearchable Riches of Christ  Buy  Excerpts

In addition to all of this, strangely enough, there are prominent reformed, Christian teachers and churches that are actually hostile to experiential religion.  There certainly are imbalances, unbounded excesses and idiosyncrasies to stay away from in some people’s misuse of the subjective aspects of the Christian faith (which things may be rightly criticized), and so we must be on guard against these things and moderate them.  Yet, for those who still throw out the subjective, experiential aspects of religion as they are casting away its abuses:  such persons have nothing to say; ignore them.

In order to become more familiar with Scriptural, Christian experience and to share with brothers and sisters in Christ who are of the same mind, acquaint yourself with churches and denominations that are committed to it, including:

The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), which has churches in the U.S.
The Presbyterian Reformed Church
The Free Reformed Churches of North America
Heritage Reformed Congregations
and others

Experiential religion is not an end in itself; it will turn into a broken idol if it is made so.  But experiential religion is a necessary means to the final, inexhaustible end of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.  May we do so with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength.

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Richard Baxter

“Can you truly say, that you have so far taken the everlasting enjoyment of God for your happiness, that it has the most of your heart, of your love, desire, and care; and that you are resolved, by the strength of Divine grace, to let go all that you have in the world, rather than hazard it; and that it is your daily, and your principal business to seek it?

Can you truly say, that though you have your failings and sins, yet your main care, and the bent of your whole life, is to please God, and to enjoy Him forever; and that you give the world God’s leavings, as it were, and not God the world’s leavings; and that your worldly business is but as a traveler’s seeking for provision in his journey, and heaven is the place that you take for your home?”

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Thanks to Andrew Myers for many of the quotes below.


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On Experiential Religion

Richard Baxter

“The way to have the firmest belief of the Christian faith is to draw near and taste and try it, and lay bare the heart to receive the impression of it; and then, by the sense of its admirable effects, we shall known that which bare speculation could not discover…  The melody of music is better known by hearing it than by reports of it, and the sweetness of meat is known better by tasting than by hearsay…”

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Articles

Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) – Experience of the Truth  5 paragraphs

Isbell, Sherman – Recovering Experimental Religion  13 pp.

Isbell is a retired minister in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

Young, William – ‘What is Experimental Religion?’   6 paragrpahs

Young is a late minister of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America.

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Books

Alexander, Archibald – Thoughts on Religious Experience  1841  320 pp.  Reprinted by the Banner of Truth

This is the classic on the subject.  Alexander was the first professor of old Princeton Seminary.

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” – Ps. 119:59

Plumer, William – Vital Godliness: a Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety  1864  615 pp.

Plumer was an American, Southern Presbyterian.

Ch. 1:

“He who has never exercised faith, repentance, love, humility, hope, and joy, cannot be profited by his theories and speculations on these subjects.  All knowledge which is unfelt and inoperative puffs up the mind and hardens the heart.  It is better to have the workings of gracious affections than to be able to define them, or to speak ever so learnedly respecting them.  The great use of a large part of divine truth is rightly to affect our minds and hearts, and so to control our practice.

…In many cases ministers preach a low experience.  The consequence is painful laxity in religious practice…”

See the choice quotes by Baxter, Owen, Newton and others on pp. 9-12.

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John Owen

“Experience is the food of all grace, which it grows and thrives upon.  Every taste that faith obtains of divine love and grace, or how gracious the Lord is, adds to its measure and stature.  Two things therefore must briefly be declared:

1. That the experience of the reality, excellency, power and efficacy of the things that are believed, is an effectual means of increasing faith and love.
2. That it is the Holy Ghost which gives us this experience.”

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Experiential Sermons

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan
Colloquia Peripatetica, p. 166

“Some persons preach only doctrine; that makes people all head, which is a monster.  Some preach only experience; that makes the people all heart, which is a monster too.  Others preach only practice; that makes people all hands and feet, which is likewise a monster.  But if you preach doctrine and experience and practice, by the blessing of God, you will have head, and heart, and hands, and feet–a perfect man in Christ Jesus.”

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Individual Sermons

Gray, Andrew – Sermons 3-5  on Job 23:3 ‘Oh! that I knew where I might find Him!’  in Eleven Communion Sermons in Works, p. 415 ff.

Gray was one of the bright, shining covenanters that died young.

Appleton, Nathaniel – ‘Some Unregenerate Persons not so far from the Kingdom of God as Others, in a Sermon from Mark 12:34’  1763  33 pp.

Appleton (1693–1784) was an American congregationalist minister.

‘He said unto him, ‘Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” – Mk. 12:34

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Books of Sermons

Rutherford, Samuel – Communion Sermons  Buy

Various – Sermons in Times of Persecution in Scotland  from the 1660’s-1680’s  260 pp.  including material by W. Guthrie, M. Bruce, J. Welwood, R. Cameron, D. Cargill, A. Peden, A. Shields, J. Livingstone, J. Welch & J. Guthrie

Griffin, Edward – Life and Sermons, vol. 1, 2  †1837

Griffin was a reformed congregationalist minister in Connecticut.

Banner of Truth:

“Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837) ministered in the remarkable era which, for forty years from 1792, saw a succession of powerful revivals in the north-east of the United States.  At at a time when thousands were being added to the Kingdom of God, ‘Probably the labors of no preacher were blessed to the conversion of more souls than were his’ says Dr. Hopkins…

…Men–‘awed by the majesty of a present God’–are in the background.  Here is no record of the production of converts by means of ‘revivalism’, but the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which (as Griffin says of Newark) ‘deluged the whole place’, with no means used save ‘clear and earnest presentation of Divine truth, and believing persevering prayer’.

Griffin’s sermons, even without the deep emotion which so accompanied their delivery, are fine examples of the simple, arresting and heart-searching preaching which was so used of God.”

Sermons, Not Before Published, on Various Practical Subjects  1844  330 pp.

Excellent.  These sermons are not included in the 2 volumes above.

Elias, John – The Experimental Knowledge of Christ and Additional Sermons of John Elias (1774-1841)  Buy  2006  164 pp.

Elias (1774-1841) was Welsh, Calvinistic Methodist itinerant preacher and leader.

“Here you will find a feast of biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical food that shows how great preachers in ages past proclaimed the whole counsel of God over a period of time while remaining faithful in expounding individual texts in accord with their major themes.  These sermons, which richly expound nearly every major doctrine of grace, are as relevant and helpful as when they were first written…  Read them slowly and prayerfully, and, with the Spirit’s blessing, you will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” – Joel Beeke

Free Church of Scotland ministers – The Free Church Pulpit, vol. 1, 2, 3  1848

Ker, John – Sermons, vol. 1, 2  1872

Ker (1819–1886) was a minister and professor in the United Presbyterian Church in Scotland.  Glance over the sermons titles and Scripture texts and ponder them for a moment.  Ker’s spiritual and experiential insight into the nuances of Scripture (which are usually passed over), was brilliant.

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William Pemble

“Wherefore remember henceforth that a sermon is but half heard, that is only heard from the preacher’s mouth. The greatest part is yet behind to be performed by thyself at home.

Go home then, think of it as thou art in the way, think of it when thou art in thine house: take time to recall things to mind, do it with thy family, do it with thyself; in thy closet, upon thy bed, say such a sin was reproved today, am I, have been guilty of it? Such a duty was urged upon me, have I such a grace? Such a rule was prescribed me, do I follow it or not? If men would be persuaded to make trial of this course, thus to digest what they hear, they would find (as others have done) a plentiful increase of saving knowledge in a short time, whereas now they thrive not a jot, by their daily hearing many years together.”


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Seeking the Lord

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found…”
Isa. 55:6

“And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.”
2 Chron. 12:14
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Sermons

Semple, Gabriel – ‘Seek ye the Lord while He may be found.’  on Isa. 55:6

Preached at the fugitive field-meetings of the Scottish covenanters during the Killing Times of the 1680’s.

Rosebro, J.W. – ‘Seeking the Lord’  on Isa. 55:6  1896  in Southern Presbyterian Pulpit: a Collection of Sermons, pp. 118-127

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“Come to Him, come again, come closer.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Salvation & Looking to Christ

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan
Colloquia Peripatetica, p. 156

“Hyper-Calvinism is all house and no door; Arminianism is all door and no house.”

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Articles

Durham, James – ‘Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations’ & ‘The Best Wares at the Lowest Rates’ in The Unsearchable Riches of Christ  Buy  pp. 43-79 & 136-160  Here are excerpts.

Bonar, Horatius – How Shall Man Be Right with God?  17 paragraphs

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Books

Flavel, John – Christ Knocking at the Door of the Sinners’ Hearts, or the Solemn Entreaty of the Saviour and his Gospel in the Day of Mercy  1689  400 pp.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” – Rev. 3:20

Ambrose, Isaac – Looking unto Jesus, as Carrying on the Great Work of Man’s Salvation, or A View of the Everlasting Gospel  Buy  d. 1664  Table of Contents

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” – Heb. 12:2

Winslow, Octavius – Experimental and Practical Views of the Atonement  1838  250 pp.

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“By God’s grace we do not give ourselves to Christ and receive Him; but receive Him and give ourselves to Him.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Sin & Confessing Sin

Sin

Reynolds, Edward – The Sinfulness of Sin  †1676  252 pp.  in Works, 1.102-354 

Plumer, William – ‘Sin is Horrible’  1869  13 pp.  in Earnest Hours, pp. 127-140

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Confessing Sin

Causes of the Lord’s Wrath Against Scotland  1653

This is the most searching and thorough confession of sin ever expunged from a national church over its land.  It will break your heart.  

For ministers:  See your mirror and confess your own sins with A Humble Acknowledgment of the Sins of the Ministry of Scotland Let the purification of excoriating your soul-decay produce the deep-seated cleansing that brings life.

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Repentance

Thomas Brooks

‘Repentance is the vomit of the soul.’

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Welch, John – ‘On Repentance’ Sermons 3-10 on Rev. 2  †1622  in 48 Select Sermons  PoD

Colquhoun, John

A View of Evangelical Repentance from the Sacred Records  Buy  1825

‘The Difference Between True and Counterfeit Repentance’  8 points in 37 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

‘A Word to the Impenitent’  7 points in 10 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

‘The Fruits and Evidences of True Repentance’  10 points in 14 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

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Faith

“The blood of Christ…  having met the demands of justice in God… meets the demands of justice in the awakened conscience.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Articles

Machen, J. Gresham – ‘Faith Born of Need’  in What is Faith?

“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, ‘Will ye also go away?’  Then Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.'” – Jn. 6:67-68

Pike, Samuel – ‘Distinguishing Faith and Feelings’  1755  from Religious Cases of Conscience

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Books

Rutherford, Samuel – The Trial and Triumph of Faith  †1661  405 pp.

“…and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” – 1 John 5:4

Colquhoun, John – A View of Saving Faith from Sacred Records   Buy  1824

Colquhoun was a Church of Scotland minister and one of the last of the tradition of the Marrow Men.


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Cultivating a Godly Heart

Willem Teellinck

“I observe more and more that our spirit overwhelms all our affairs; that all our concerns are to us according to the state of our spirit and heart.  Many complain of the difficulty of their calling, or of the grievousness of their condition or standing in life; but all that is of little or no import.  What matters to us primarily is the heart: were that right we would turn all vocations and all stations in life which in themselves are not sinful into material for greater virtue. For as a hot fire makes all things fervent, so a good heart turns to good all things which of their own nature are not evil.”

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Books

Heywood, Oliver – Heart Treasure  1666  420 pp.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Mt 6:21

Flavel, John – Keeping the Heart  105 pp.

“My son, give Me thine heart…” – Prov. 23:26

Owen, John – The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded  235 pp.  in Works, vol. 7, p. 262 ff.

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“Christ hath come, and run away to heaven with my heart and my love, so that neither heart nor love is mine.”

Samuel Rutherford

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The Experiential Christian Life

Heinrich Heppe
1879

“The Christian who has come to a living faith in God and Christ by the Spirit of God and through the gospel, knows himself to be transferred by faith into a living communion with Christ.  The believer then comes here on earth to the place where he or she can say with the apostle, (Gal. 2:20) ‘…I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’”

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1600’s Articles & Books

James Fraser of Brea

Trusting God  46 pp.

“Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.” – Ps. 62:8

Hungering and Thirsting after Christ  34 pp.

Fraser was a late Scottish covenanter who was imprisoned in the dungeons of the Bass Rock and Blackness Castle.

Gray, Andrew – Loving Christ and Fleeing Temptation  Buy  See also his works online (which are not complete)

Swinnock, George – Christian Man’s Calling, vol. 1, 2, 3

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1700’s Articles & Book

Pike, Samuel

‘Discerning Providential Guidance’  1755  32 paragraphs  from Religious Cases of Conscience

‘Spiritual Injury from the Undue Pursuit of the Affairs of this Life’  1755  11 paragraphs

Edwards, Jonathan – Charity and Its Fruits: Christian Love as Manifested in the Heart and Life  380 pp.

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1800’s Books

Alexander, Archibald – Practical Truths  Buy  1857  414 pp.

Alexander is very skillful at making short simple illustrations come alive with profound spiritual truth that moves the soul.  This is a collection of numerous shorter pieces, many of which were tracts.

Duncan, John ‘Rabbi’ – Pulpit and Communion Table  Buy 

Duncan was a minister and professor in the Free Church of Scotland.

Martin, Hugh – Simon Peter  Buy  167 pp.

Martin (1822-85) was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.  This work is a classic.

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Contemporary

Roberts, Maurice

The Thought of God  Buy  1994  242 pp.

Roberts is now a retired minister in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) was was written for and worked with the Banner of Truth through much of his life.

The Christian’s High Calling  Buy  2000  240 pp.

Great God of Wonders  Buy  2000  231 pp.

“These writings, originally published in the Banner of Truth magazine, provide thought-provoking, spiritually invigorating, practical and warmly biblical reading.” – the bookflap

Posts about Christian Experience  at the blog Holdfast by Matthew Vogan, including many rich puritan quotes and reflections

Vogan is a published author and an elder in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

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Willem Teellinck

“For as a hot fire makes all things fervent, so a good heart turns to good all things which of their own nature are not evil.”

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Growing in Grace

William Bates

“It is the perfection of holiness to do what God loves, and to love what God does.”

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1600’s Books

Rutherford, Samuel – Influences of the Life of Grace  1659  438 pp.

Flavel, John – The Method of Grace in the Holy Spirit’s Applying to the Souls of Men the Eternal Redemption Contrived by the Father and Accomplished by the Son  1691  560 pp.

“…yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire…” – 2 Sam. 23:5

Burgess, Anthony – Spiritual Refining  1652  696 pp.

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Contemporary Book

Beeke, Joel – Overcoming the World: the Grace to Win the Daily Battle  Buy

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Christian Character

William S. Plumer
Vital Godliness, p. 568

“This is the secret of a life of usefulness. He who is faithful in the least, is the man whose virtue will not fail him on great occasions.”

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Articles

Murray, John – ‘The Fear of God’  22 paragraphs  from Principles of Conduct

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” – Prov. 1:7

Isbell, Sherman – The Temperate Life  2001  23 paragraphs 

“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . temperance.”  Gal. 5:22-23  Isbell mines gems from past worthies for insights on how to live a spirit-filled, temperate life.  Highly commended.

Guthrie, William – ‘A Sermon on Sympathy’  †1665  in Select Biographies, p. 67 ff.

Pike, Samuel & Hayward, Samuel – ‘The Character of an Honest Man’  1755  one paragraph  from The Spiritual Companion, or the Professing Christian Tried at the Bar of God’s Word

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Video

Wilkerson, Anguish – ‘A Call to Anguish’  7 min.

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Book

Henry, Matthew – A Meek and Quiet Spirit  †1714  175 pp.

“Whose adorning…  let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – 1 Peter 3:4

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Richard Sibbes

“It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labor to give no offence, and the other to labour to take none.”

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Piety, Holiness and Practical Religion

“I would, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot eject the evil, and what does it do but cover it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl

Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, long-suffering, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which else had harmed us. I would desire to keep ready for my fellow Christians, a bath of silver, in which I could electroplate all their mistakes into occasions for love.

As the dripping well covers with its own deposit all that is placed within its drip, so would love cover all within its range with love, thus turning even curses into blessings. Oh that we had such love that it would cover all, and conceal all, so far as it is right and just that it should be covered and concealed.”

Charles Spurgeon
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Articles

Alexander, A.A. – Vital Piety  1843  15 paragraphs

Plumer, William – ‘Rites Vain Compared with Hearty Piety towards God and Genuine Kindness Towards Man’  in Earnest Hours, pp. 256 ff.

Griffin, Edward – ‘Love to Our Neighbor’  in Life and Sermons, vol. 2, p. 253 ff.

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Books

Various Puritans – Puritan Sermons: The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Buy  1659-1689  See also the various supplements to volume 1 at The Great Christian Library.

This 6 volume set of puritan sermons was given over a 30 year period in the late 1600’s on weekday mornings by puritan ministers near London.  The ministers were assigned a practical question of the Christian life to address, and proceed to delve into it in detail.  This is some of best practical divinity there is.

 Here is a table of contents to all of the volumes.  The set is well worth your $180, being less than the weekly food budget of many people. 

Ryle, J.C.

Practical Religion  1882  500 pp.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” – 1 Thess. 4:3 

George Herbert:

“Be useful where thou livest, that they may
Both want and wish thy pleasing presence still.
Kindness, good parts, great places are the way
To compass this.  Find out men’s wants and will,
And meet them there.  All worldly joys go less
To the one joy of doing kindnesses.”

Holiness  200 pp.

“That He would grant unto us, that we…  might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.” – Lk. 1:74-75

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A warning about selfish Christianity:

“It may assume the form of deepest experimentalism, but it is the experience of a heart whose feelings are knit and contracted and withering in itself.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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The Pleasantness of a Godly Life

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup…  The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”
Ps. 16:5-6
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Henry, Matthew – The Pleasantness of a Religious Life  †1714  167 pp.

“A life spent in the service of God, and in communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that any one can live in this world.” — Matthew Henry’s dying words

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On Our Affections

Jonathan Edwards

“A gracious experience arises from operations and influences which are spiritual, from an inward principle which is divine, a communication of God, a participation of the divine nature [2 Pet. 1:4]: Christ living in the heart, the Holy Spirit dwelling there in union with the faculties of the soul as an internal principle, exerting his own proper nature in the exercise of those faculties.  Now it is no wonder that that which is divine is powerful and effectual, for it has omnipotence on its side.”

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Article

Owen, John – The Things of This World  43 paragraphs

Archibald Alexander was accustomed to say that one should read this work once a year.

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” – 1 John 2:17

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Book

Edwards, Jonathan – A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections  †1758  415 pp.


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Prayer

Richard Sibbes

“Our life is nothing but as it were a web woven with interminglings of wants and favours, crosses and blessings, standings and fallings, combat and victory, therefore there should be a perpetual intercourse of praying and praising in our hearts. There is always a ground of communion with God in one of these kinds, till we come to that condition wherein all wants shall be supplied, where indeed is only matter of praise.” 

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The Best Help for Experiential Prayer

Henry, Matthew – Method for Prayer  1714  590 pp.

Grow in your closeness to our holy God in prayer immediately.  This is the best book there is in learning how to pray well, with feeling, in scriptural form, balance and appropriateness.  The whole book is composed of extended prayers, using scripture language.  Flip anywhere inside it and start praying.

‘If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.’  – 1 Pet. 4:11

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Prayers

Swinnock, George  †1673

‘A Good Wish about Religious Duties in General’  in Works, vol. 1, pp. 104-5
‘A Good Wish about Prayer’  in Works, vol. 1, pp. 137-140
‘A Good Wish about the Word’  in Works, vol. 1, pp. 170-171
‘A Good Wish about the Lord’s Supper’  in Works 1:218-222
‘A Good Wish about the Lord’s Day’  in Works 1:255-258
‘A Good Wish to the Lord’s Day’  in Works 1:258-60
‘A Good Wish about Natural Actions’  in Works 1:285-88
‘A Good Wish about Particular Callings’   in Works 1:316-19
‘A Good Wish about the Calling of a Minister’  in Works 1:319-29
‘A Good Wish about the Government of a Family’  in Works 1:356-62
‘A Good Wish about the Duty of a Parent’  in Works 1:428-37
‘A Good Wish to the Duties of a Son or Daughter in Relation to their Father and Mother’  in Works 1:458-464
‘A Good Wish of a Christian Couple’  in Works 1:481-87
‘A Good Wish about a Husband’s Duty’  in Works 1:497-502
‘A Good Wish about the Duties of a Wife’  in Works 1:522-28
‘A Good Wish about the Master’s Duties’  in Works 2:22-29
‘A Good Wish about the Duty of a Servant’  in Works 2:42-45
‘A Good Wish of a Christian in Prosperity’  in Works 2:74-82
‘A Good Wish of a Christian in Adversity’  in Works 2:140-161
‘A Good Wish of a Christian in Relation to his Dealings with All Men’  in Works 2:220-37
‘A Good Wish of a Christian about the Choice of his Companions’  in Works 2:267-279
‘A Good Wish Concerning a Christian’s Carriage in Evil Company’  in Works 2:315-330
‘A Good Wish about a Christian’s Carriage in Good Company’  in Works 2:377-403
‘A Good Wish about the Exercising Ourselves to Godliness in Solitude’  in Works 2:454-85
‘A Good Wish about the Christian’s Carriage on a Weekday from Morning to Night’  in Works 2:510-25
‘A Good Wish about the Visitation of the Sick’  in Works, 3:24-37
‘A Good Wish about the Christian’s Exercising Himself to Godliness on a Dying Bed’  in Works, 3:69-89

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Articles

Guild, William – Preparation to Prayer, Of Thanksgiving, Of Oblation (offering ourself and our service to God), Of Petition in Prayer

Guild was a Scottish covenanter.

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Books

1600’s

Heywood, Oliver – Closet-Prayer, a Christian Duty, or, a Treatise upon Mt. 6:6 tending to prove that Worship of God in Secret is the Indispensible Duty of all Christians  1687  128 pp.  in Works, vol. 3, pp. 1-128

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” – Mt. 6:6

Brown of Wamphray, John – A Treatise Concerning Prayer and the Answer of Prayer  Buy  310 pp.

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1900’s

M’Intyre, David – The Hidden Life of Prayer  1913  †1938  Review 

This work is a classic.  McIntyre (1859-1938) was initially a Free Church of Scotland minister.

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On Meditation

Nathanael Ranew

“No Christians are warmer at heart, and livelier in holy services, than those who meditate most; but never expect the one without the other. Keep this fountain open and still running; this is the water to drive the mill, the wind that moves the sails, the spring in the watch that carries all the wheels, and keeps them going; I speak as to what is to be done on our part, otherwise God does all in all.”

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Articles

Swinnock, George – ‘Frequent Meditation of the Day of Judgment’  in The Christian Man’s Calling in Works, 3:131-140

Pike, Samuel – ‘How to Perform Serious Meditation’  1755  17 paragraphs

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Webpage

Meditation – ReformedBooksOnline

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Thomas Brooks

“It is not hasty reading–but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey–but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most–but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

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Spending the Day with God

“…on Thee do I wait all the day.”
Ps. 25:4

Richard Baxter

“I have more to do with God than with all the world; yea, more and greater business with Him in one day than with all the world in all my life.”
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Henry, Matthew

‘How to Begin Every Day with God’  42 pp.

‘How to Spend Every Day with God’  41 pp.

‘How to Close the Day with God’  44 pp.

Griffin, Edward – ‘Enoch Walked with God’  in Life and Sermons, vol. 2, p. 191 ff.

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Self-Examination

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.  Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

2 Cor. 13:5

“For every look at self take ten looks at Christ.”
Robert Murray M’Cheyne

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Articles

Swinnock, George – ‘A Daily Examination of our Hearts’  8 pp.  in The Christian Man’s Calling in Works, 3:140-148

Baxter, Richard – ‘6 Ways to Know if You Love Yourself More than God’  10 paragraphs

Erskine, Ralph – ‘8 Questions We Should Not Ask’  10 paragraphs

Chalmers, Thomas – Self-Examination  15 paragraphs

“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.” – Ps. 26:2

Winslow, Octavius – ‘The Fruitless and the Fruitful Professor’  in Personal Declension, pp. 252-293

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Book

Mead, Matthew – The Almost Christian Discovered, or the False Professor Tried and Cast  215 pp.

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“We would not shun the truth, the most searching and most dreadful of the truths of God.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Assurance

“Follow my advice, study the power of religion: it is the power of religion, and not a name, that will give the comfort I find.”

Thomas Halyburton

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Guthrie, William – The Christian’s Great Interest  Buy  †1665  255 pp.  Reprinted by the Banner of Truth

Fear not: while puritans such as Thomas Hooker in New England thundered against hardened hypocrites (rightly, as the town churches were filled with them), Guthrie handles the reader gently and winsomely in ‘a most homely and plain style’, not crushing the bruised reed but building up even the smallest babe in Christ to know how to attain an assurance of salvation, even ‘Heaven on earth’.  

Thomas Chalmers, one of the fathers of the later Free Church of Scotland, who wrote an Introductory Essay to the work, said that ‘while it guides, it purifies,’ and that it ‘is the best book I ever read’.  Be not fooled, though the book is sweetly simple, John Owen said of Guthrie and his work, ‘That author I take to have been one of the greatest divines that ever wrote… I have written several folios [there are 23 volumes in Owen’s Works], but there is more divinity in it than in them all.’   

Colquhoun, John – A Treatise of Spiritual Comfort  Buy  1822  444 pp.


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Godly Conferencing

Jonathan Mitchell

“If you have a friend with whom you might now and then spend a little time, in conferring together, in opening your hearts, and presenting your unutterable groanings before God, it would be of excellent use: Such an one would greatly strengthen, bestead, and further you in your way to heaven.”

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Website

Spiritual Conferencing – ReformedBooksOnline

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Evangelism

Books

Alleine, Joseph – An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners  †1668  160 pp.

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” – Isa. 58:1

Boston, Thomas – The Art of Man-Fishing  105 pp.

A classic.  The work is particularly directed to ministers, as ministers, contrary to current practice, are, according to Scripture, supposed to be the chief evangelists.

Beeke, Joel – Puritan Evangelism  Buy  78 pp.  Here is an excerpt.

The best and most Biblical modern work on how to speak of the Lord and the Gospel to others in a way that brings God’s Word home to the heart.

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Marriage

1600’s

Dod, John & Cleaver, Robert – ‘Duties of Husband and Wife’  1603  20 paragraphs

Some of the best marital advice there is, from a standard English Puritan treatment of the ten commandments.

Anonymous – An Antidote Against Discord Between Man and Wife  Buy  1685  154 pp.

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Contemporary

McCurley, Robert – Biblical Marriage  2010  55 pp.  being notes to 4 linked hour-long audio messages 

Rev. McCurley is a minister in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

Here are blueprints for a godly and spiritually fulfilling marriage, from a seasoned pastor.  These warm audio messages and notes are filled with Biblical wisdom, to guide you into the richest blessings of the Lord.  They are helpful for premarital counseling and any stage in marriage, whether one needs an encouraging check-up, or a wholesale turn around.   

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Parenting

Abraham Van De Velde

“All parents, fathers, mothers, must take care that they are a good example to their children and families, that they express God’s holy truth in their lives.  Godly examples are like the soul of the doctrine to children.  Are parents desirous for their children to be religious, love God’s Word, pray much to the Lord, be humble, sober, friendly, modest, righteous; let the parents be a good example, for therewith God’s truth will be pressed into their hearts.”

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Articles

Lawrence, Edward – Parents’ Groans Over their Unsaved Children  Buy  1681  43 pp.

Heart-wrenching.  There is much ado today in Christian circles about child-raising and methods of discipline which yet misses the heart of the matter.  Do we spiritually wrestle with our children’s hearts, and that before the Lord, to bring them safe to Christ?

Anonymous – ‘To One who is Deficient in Parental Vigilance and Control’  1855  6 pp.  in Monitory Letters to Church Members, p. 138 ff.

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Book

Beeke, Joel – Parenting by God’s Promises  Buy  314 pp.

By far and away the best longer, contemporary, spiritual and exegetical treatment of godly parenting and wisdom in raising children.

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Thomas Manton
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‘Epistle to the Reader’
to the Westminster Confession
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“Would parents but begin betimes, and labor to affect the hearts of their children with the great matters of everlasting life, and to acquaint them with the substance of the doctrine of Christ, and, when they find in them the knowledge and love of Christ, would bring them then to the pastors of the Church to be tried, confirmed, and admitted to the further privileges of the Church, what happy, well ordered Churches might we have!”


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Resisting the Spirit

Chapters

Dyke, Jeremiah – Of Quenching and Not Quenching of the Spirit’  1640, on 1 Thess. 5:19, ‘Quench not the Spirit,’ in his Diverse Select Sermons on Several Texts, pp. 1-150

Pike, Samuel – ‘Discovering Why the Spirit is Grieved’  1755  23 paragraphs

Griffin, Edward – ‘Quench not the Spirit’  in Life and Sermons, vol. 1, p. 503 ff.

Winslow, Octavius – ‘On Grieving the Spirit’  in Personal Declension, pp. 218-251

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Fighting our Sinfulness

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Rom. 8:13
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Article

Black, David – The Deceitfulness of the Heart  1808  24 paragraphs

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Short Book

Owen, John – Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers  86 pp.  in Works, vol. 6

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Spiritual Warfare

“Ye will not get leave to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross.”

Samuel Rutherford

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Books

Brooks, Thomas – Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices  545 pp.

Gurnall, William – The Christian in Complete Armour, or a Treatise on the Saints’ War with the Devil  †1679  840 pp. on Eph. 6:11-18

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Spiritual Declension & Recovery

Articles

Reynolds, Edward

‘Meditations on the Fall and Rising of Peter’  23 pp.  in Works, 4.9-32

‘The Misery of a Deserted People’  †1676  25 pp.  in Works, 5.205-230

‘Yea, wo also to them when I depart from them.’ – Hosea 9:12

Hayward, Samuel – ‘Renewal after a Time of Spiritual Dullness’  1755  18 paragraphs  from ed. Samuel Pike, Religious Cases of Conscience

Griffin, Edward – ‘The Fruitless Fig Tree’  in Life and Sermons, vol. 1, p. 423 ff.

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Book

Winslow, Octavius – Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul  1841  203 pp.

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“Those that can part with Christ are no Christians.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Contentment Under Affliction

2 Samuel 7:14

“I shall be his father, and he will be my son; if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: Nevertheless, my mercy shall not depart away from him.”

John Flavel
Keeping the Heart

“Though God hath reserved to himself a liberty of afflicting his people, yet he hath tied up his own hands by promise never to take away his loving-kindness from them.

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Books

Boston, Thomas – The Crook in the Lot  180 pp.

“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which He hath made crooked?” – Eccl. 7:13

Willison, John – The Afflicted Man’s Companion  †1750  350 pp.

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John Newton

“Experience is the Lord’s School, and they who are taught by Him usually learn by the mistakes they make that they have no wisdom, and by the slips and falls they meet with that they have no strength.”

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Bereavement

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted…”

Isa. 61:1; Lk. 4:18

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Cuyler, Theodore – God’s Light on Dark Clouds  1882  185 pp.  reprinted by Banner of Truth

Cuyler (1822–1909) was a leading conservative American, Northern presbyterian and graduate of old Princeton Seminary.

“To the desponding and the bereaved, these words of sympathy and cheer are lovingly inscribed.”

Palmer, Benjamin – The Broken Home: or Lessons in Sorrow  1890  165 pp.

Palmer (1818–1902) was a leading Southern presbyterian minister and orator.  He was intimately acquainted with being bereaved of loved ones, having had to bury four of his five children and his wife before writing this book.

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“One year’s time of heaven shall swallow up all sorrows, even beyond all comparison.”

Samuel Rutherford

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Death

“For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.”

Job 30:23

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Boston, Thomas – ‘Death’  19 paragraphs  being excerpts from The Fourfold State


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Devotional

Thomas Watson

“First, I beseech you, keep your constant hours every day with God.  The godly man is a man set apart, Ps. 3, not only because God hath set him apart by election, but because he hath set himself apart by devotion.  Give God the Aurorae filiam [daughter of the morning].  Begin the day with God, visit God in the morning before you make any other visit; wind up your hearts towards heaven in the morning, and they will go better all the day after!

Oh turn your closets into temples; read the scriptures. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us; these will make you wise unto salvation: the scripture is both a glass to shew you your spots, and a laver to wash them away; besiege heaven every day with your prayer, thus perfume your houses, and keep a constant intercourse with heaven.”

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Devotionals

Thomas, I.D.E. – Puritan Daily Devotional Chronicles  Buy

This is, in the webmaster’s opinion, the best devotional there is!  Consists of a short, one page, puritan quote about a verse of Scripture for every day of the year.

Spurgeon, Charles

Morning by Morning, or Daily Readings for the Family or Closet  1866  420 pp.

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” – Ps. 55:17

Evening by Evening, or Readings at Eventide for the Family or Closet  1866  420 pp.

“The conclusion of every day should put us in mind of the conclusion of all our days.” — Matthew Henry

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Article

Durham, Margaret – ‘Epistle Dedicatory’  On communion with Christ

Margaret was the wife of James Durham.  

This introductory epistle to her husband’s commentary on the Song of Songs is much more spiritually full and edifying (savoring of a rich, experiential acquaintance with the deep truths of Christ’s Word) than even the preface to the reader to the same work by the justly renowned scholar, John Owen.  

These excerpts will take you into the soul-ravishing embraces of your heavenly Husband where you will find that his kisses are better than the choicest wine (Song 1:2).

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John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

“The character of God’s inspired Word and the work of God’s Spirit in the souls of renewed men are in perfect unison.  ‘Every word of God is pure.’ ‘The fear of the Lord is clean.'”

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How to Read the Bible & Hear Preaching

Cotton Mather
Manuductio ad Ministerium (1726)

“My Advice to you is, that it be your practice, to read the sacred Scriptures in the Porismatic Way [to draw out corollaries]; or, with a labor to observe and educe, the doctrines of godliness, which this inexhaustible Store House of Truth, will yield unto them that are seeking after it.  Make a pause upon every verse, and see what lessons of piety are to be learnt from every clause.  Turn the lessons into prayers, and send up the prayers unto the God, who is now teaching of you.”

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Articles

Beeke, Joel – ‘Reading and Hearing the Word in a Puritan Way’  1996  6 pp.

“I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” – Job 23:12

Pink, A.W. – Profiting from the Word  1930-32  36 pp.

Shepard, Thomas – ‘Ineffectual Hearing of the Word’  †1649  21 pp.  in Works, vol. 3, pp. 363-384

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J.C. Ryle

“No man was ever sorry that he served the Lord.  No man ever said at the end of his days, “I have read my Bible too much, I have thought of God too much, I have prayed too much, I have been too concerned about my soul.’”

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Life of Christ

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

“Oh, it were well for us when we read Scripture to think of the eye of Christ and our eyes meeting on the Scripture.”

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Books

Hall, Joseph – Contemplations on the Historical Passages of the Old and New Testaments  d. 1656  630 pp.

Hall was an influential reformed Anglican bishop.  These devotional and practical contemplations savor of deep spirituality and are very insightful.  One of a kind and one of the best.

***  ‘Need I commend Bishop Hall’s Contemplations to your affectionate attention?  What wit!  What sound sense!  What concealed learning!  His style is as pithy and witty as that of Thomas Fuller, and it has a sacred unction about it to which Fuller has no pretension.’  ‘The work can be readily procured; but if its price were raised in proportion to its real value, it would become one of the most costly books extant.’ – Spurgeon

Reynolds, Edward – The Life of Christ  †1676  68 pp.  in Works, 1.354-422

Martin, Hugh – The Shadow of Calvary  on the last days of Jesus, reprinted by the Banner of Truth

Martin was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

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John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

“It’s Christ in the Bible that makes the Bible a glorious Bible.”

“The supreme excellency of these Scriptures is that they testify of Christ.”

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Whole Bible Commentaries

“Search, scrutinize, ransack the Scriptures.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Henry, Matthew – Commentary on the Whole Bible  d. 1714  Henry died after completing the commentary through Acts.  For a list of the contributors after that, see here.

Henry was a reformed puritan.  Here is a thoughtful and helpful Preface to the commentary by Archibald Alexander (1828, 8 pages), the first professor at old Princeton Seminary.  While abridged versions of anything are not usually recommended, this Concise Version of Matthew Henry’s Commentary is very suitable for children, family reading-aloud, and for those who just want to make it through the Bible a bit quicker.

Rev. Derek Thomas:  ‘George Whitefield read this commentary four times on his knees.  It cost, then, a quarter of an average working man’s annual salary!’ 

Hawker, Robert – Poor Man’s Commentary on the Bible  d. 1827

Hawker (1753–1827) was a reformed Anglican.

**  ‘Full of devotion and sweetness.’  ‘Gentlemen, if you want something full of marrow and fatness, cheering to your own hearts by way of comment, and likely to help you in giving to your hearers rich expositions, but Dr. Hawker’s Poor man’s Commentary.  Dr. Hawker was the very least of commentators in the matter of criticism; he had no critical capacity, and no ability whatever as an interpreter of the letter; but he sees Jesus, and that is a sacred gift which is most precious whether the owner be a critic or no.

It is to be confessed that he occasionally sees Jesus where Jesus is not legitimately to be seen.  He allows his reason to be mastered by his affections, which, vice as it is, is not the worst fault in the world.  There is always such a savor of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dr. Hawker that you cannot read him without profit.  He has the peculiar idea that Christ is in every Psalm, and this often leads him totally astray, because he attributes expressions to the Savior which really shock the holy mind to imagine our Lord’s using. 

However, not as a substantial dish, but as a condiment, place the Plymouth vicar’s work on the table.  His writing is all sugar, and you will known how to use it, not devouring it in lumps, but using it to flavor other things.’ – Spurgeon

Bonar, Horatius – Light and Truth, vols. 1 (OT), 2 (Gospels), 3 (Acts-2 Cor), 4 (Gal-Jude), 5 (Rev)  d. 1889

Bonar (1808-1889) was an influential Scot and brother to Andrew Bonar.  The contents of the volumes are: (1) Old Tetament, (2) The Gospels, (3) Acts-2 Corinthians, (4) Galatians – Jude, (5) Revelation.  

***  ‘One volume is rather short space in which to bring out the light and truth of the Old Testament.  If Dr. Bonar required four volumes for the New, we wish he had felt the same need for the Old.  The passages selected are popularly expounded, but the thought is not deep.  The volumes will be more prized by the ordinary reader than by the minister.’ – Spurgeon

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The Song of Solomon

Robert Murray McCheyne

“There is no book of the Bible which affords a better test of the depth of a man’s Christianity than the Song of Solomon.

(1) If a man’s religion be all in his head, – a well-set form of doctrines, built like mason-work, stone above stone,- but exercising no influence upon his heart, this book cannot but offend him; for there are no stiff statements of doctrine here upon which his heartless religion may be built.

(2) Or, if a man’s religion be all his fancy – if, like Pliable from Pilgrim’s Progress, he be taken with the outward beauty of Christianity – if, like the seed sown upon the rocky ground, his religion is fixed only in the surface faculties of the mind, while the heart remains rock and unmoved; though he will relish this book more than the first man, still there is a mysterious breathing of intimate affection in it, which cannot but stumble and offend him.

(3) But if a man’s religion be heart religion – if he hath not only doctrines in his head, but love to Jesus in his heart – if he hath not only heard and read of the Lord Jesus, but hath felt his need of Him, and been brought to cleave unto Him, as the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely, then this book will be inestimably precious to his soul; for it contains the tenderest breathings of the believer’s heart toward the Saviour, and the tendereth breathings of the Saviour’s heart again toward the believer.”

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Commentaries on the Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon in Poetry

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Systematic Theology

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan
on Jonathan Edwards:

“His experience was all doctrine, and his doctrine was all experience.”

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Article

Martin, Al – The Practical Implications of Calvinism  Buy  14 pp.

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Books

Why read dry systematic theologies when these works below will inflame your soul to a greater experiential acquaintance with the Lord your God?

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Beginner

Flavel, John – An Exposition of the Assembly’s Catechism  PoD  1688  232 pp.

Colquhoun, John – Sermons, Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects  Buy  1836  229 pp.

Colquhoun was an evangelical minister in the Church of Scotland who wrote in the tradition of the Marrow Men.

Including sermons on: the Incarnation, Christ as his Father’s Servant, the Suretiship of Christ, Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, Union with Christ, Justification, Sanctification, and Salvation from Sin.

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Intermediate

Calvin, John – Institutes of the Christian Religion, vols. 1, 2, 3  Buy  1559 translated by Henry Beveridge.  Other translations are available.

Watson, Thomas – A Body of Practical Divinity  Buy  d. 1686  790 pp.  Lectures on the Shorter Catechism

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Advanced

A’Brakel, Wilhelmus – The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4  Buy  1700, translated by Bartel Elshout

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John Milton 

“The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.”

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Reformed Confessions & Catechisms on Experiential Religion

The Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism was written to give comfort to Christians who were in peril for their lives.

“1.  What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…”

The Westminster Confession

Ch. 12 – Of Adoption
Ch. 13 – Of Sanctification
Ch. 14 – Of Saving Faith
Ch. 15 – Of Repentance unto Life
Ch. 17 – Of the Perseverance of the Saints
Ch. 18 – Of Assurance of Grace and of Salvation

Gebbie, Douglas – The Experimental Religion of the Westminster Standards  22 paragraphs

Gebbie is a minister in the Presbyterian Reformed Church in America.

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Sandemanianism

Named after the Scottish Robert Sandeman (†1771), one tenet of this distinctive system was defining faith as only (1) comprehension and (2) assent, leaving out the vital aspect of (3) trust, making faith to be no more than a historic faith and nominalism.

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan of the old Free Church of Scotland came out of this influence.  Gordon Clark was a late, contemporary proponent of it.  Many Christians are practical Sandemanians though they know not the name of it.

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Fuller, Andrew – Strictures on Sandemanianism in 12 Letters to a Friend  1811  250 pp.  See especially Letters 3-8, pp. 45-175

Westminster Confession – Ch. 14.2 – ‘Of Saving Faith’

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Psalm Singing

Charles Spurgeon

“More and more is the conviction forced upon my heart that every man must traverse the territory of the Psalms himself if he would know what a goodly land they are. They flow with milk and honey, but not to strangers; they are only fertile to lovers of their hills and vales. None but the Holy Spirit can give a man the key to the Treasury of David; and even he gives it rather to experience than to study. Happy he who for himself knows the secret of the Psalms.”

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Articles

Roberts, Francis – ‘Directions for the Right Singing of Scripture Psalms’  1675  12 pp.  being pp. 128-131 of his larger The Key of the Bible: Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures.  This is an updated and easier to read edition than the original.

Roberts (1609–1675) was an influential puritan who wrote a very large introduction to the Bible, from which this work is taken.  Roberts gives 8 very helpful directions on how to sing the psalms with the most spiritual profit.  Print out these directions as a pamphlet to help fellow saints be encouraged in the Lord.

Murray, David – ‘Therapeutic Praise’  14 paragraphs

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Henry Cooke
Preface to The True Psalmody, 1883

“The most celebrated hymns of uninspired men were, like Job’s friends, ‘miserable comforters’, when compared with the experience of Christ, in the days of humiliation of which the Book of Psalms is the true prophetic picture.”

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The Lord’s Supper

Puritan meditations before the Lord’s Supper are some of the most moving Christian writings that have ever been penned.

“This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
1 Cor. 11:25

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A Prayer

Swinnock, George – A Good Wish about the Lord’s Supper  in Works 1:218-222

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Meditations

Willison, John

Meditations before Partaking, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 283 ff.

Sacramental Meditations and Advices grounded upon Scripture Texts proper for Communicants to prepare their hearts, excite their affections, quicken their graces and enliven their devotions on Sacramental Occasions, being 32 meditations and 14 advices, in Works, 3:201 ff.

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Table Addresses

Gray, Andrew –Four Table Addresses‘  in The Works of Andrew Gray, p 560 ff.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” – 1 Cor. 10:16

Rutherford, Samuel – An Exhortation at a Communion to a Scot’s Congregation in London, this was reprinted in Rutherford’s Fourteen Communion Sermons as Sermon 12, p. 278 ff.

Welch, John  †1684

Table 5, in A Collection of Lectures and Sermons preached upon Several Subjects, mostly in the time of Persecution, p. 545

Welch was a Scottish covenanter.

Table 6, in A Collection of Lectures and Sermons preached upon Several Subjects, mostly in the time of Persecution, p. 548

M’Cheyne, Robert Murray – III. Table Service, in Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, ed. Bonar, p. 427

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Edward Taylor
‘Sacramental Meditation: One’
†1729
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“What love is this of thine, that cannot be 
In thine infinity, O Lord, confined, 
Unless it in thy very Person see, 
Infinity, and finity conjoined? 
What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfied 
Married our manhood, making it its Bride?

Oh, matchless love! filling Heaven to the brim! 
O’er running it: all running o’er beside 
This world!  Nay overflowing Hell; wherein 
For thine elect, there rose a mighty tide! 
That there our veins might through thy Person bleed, 
To quench those flames, that else would on us feed.

Oh! that thy love might overflow my heart! 
To fire the same with love: for love I would. 
But oh! my straightened breast! my lifeless spark! 
My fireless flame!  What chilly love, and cold? 
In measure small! In manner chilly!  See. 
Lord blow the coal: thy love inflame in me.”

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The Lord’s Day

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…”
Rev. 1:10
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George Swinnock

“[The true Christian] is one that of all seasons has the highest respect for the Lord’s day, as having experimentally found that to be the day of his greatest spiritual feasts.

He needs no priest, as the Jews had to sound a trumpet the day before, and give notice of the ensuing Sabbath, for he longs for it more than lovers for the day of their wedding, and the whole week to him is but a preparation for the heavenly works of that honorable day.  He empties his heart overnight of those ill humors which may be contracted by the world’s coarse fare, that he may have the better appetite to those dainties which shall be set before him on that day.

In it he cheerfully meditates on God’s works, and carefully attends on God’s Word.  He works the work of him that sent him into the world all the day long, and wishes the day longer for the duty’s sake. He esteems every part of this golden season precious, and does gather up the fragments of it, that nothing be lost.

At the night of this market-day for his soul, he calls himself to a reckoning what he hath got, how much he hath gained, and counts it an ill day if he be not more informed in his judgment, or reformed in his affections, and more conformed in his conversation to his Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Prayers for the Lord’s Day

Swinnock, George

‘A Good Wish about the Lord’s Day’  in Works 1:255-258
‘A Good Wish to the Lord’s Day’  in Works 1:258-60

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How to Savor the Lord on the Lord’s Day, Book

Willison, John – A Treatise on the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day  †1750  460 pp.

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Table of Contents:

Preface  iii
Introduction  15

1 – Concerning the Morality of the Sabbath  17
.          Concerning the Divine Appointment of the Lord’s Day  39
.                Some objections Answered  63
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2 – Concerning the Sanctification of the Sabbath  66
.          The Negative Sanctification: the Holy Rest Requisite  67
.          The Positive Sanctification of the Sabbath:  93
.                      1. The Frame of Spirit  93
.                      2. The Holy Duties Requisite  97
.                                 Public Duties  97
.                                 Private Duties  97
.                                       Family Worship  102
.                                       Family Catechizing & Instruction  113
.                                       Godly Conference  115
.                                 Secret Duties  118
.                                       Meditation on Divine Subjects  123
.                                       Self-Examination  136
.                      3. The Special Order, Method & Manner of Duties  139
.                                 Our Preparation for the Sabbath  139
.                                 The Duties of the Sabbath  144
.                                        Of Self-Searching  155
.                                        Concerning Going to Church  159
.                                        Concerning the Public Worship  164
.                                        Concerning Between Sermons  271
.                                        Concerning the Afternoon Worship  174
.                                        Concerning our Behavior after Worship  177
.                                        Family Duties on the Sabbath Night  184
.                                        Secret Duties at the Close of the Day  191
.                                        Our Carriage after the Sabbath is over  196
.                      4. The Particular Sins whereby the Sabbath is profaned  197
.                                Sins of Omission  197
.                                Sins of Commission  203
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An Exhortation to Sanctify the Lord’s Day  231
Appendix – 6 Meditations for the Sabbath  242
A Fair & Impartial Historical Testimony    267-414

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The Pastoral Ministry

Articles

Jennings, John – Two Discourses: the First, Of Preaching Christ; the Second, Of Particular and Experimental Preaching  TCP  d. 1723  80 pp.

Jennings (c.1687-1723) was a reformed, English, Independent/presbyterian, dissenting minister.  His most well-known student was Philip Doddridge.  

Beeke, Joel – Ten Commandments for Pastors  2015  10 paragraphs

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Book

Baxter, Richard – The Reformed Pastor  565 pp.

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The Best Preaching Advice

John Livingstone  1603-1672

Remarks on Preaching and Praying in Public by John Livingstone’, in Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies, vol. 1, pp. 287-8

It is most probable that no gift, no pains a man takes to fit himself for preaching, shall ever do good to the people or himself, except a man labor to have and keep his heart in a spiritual condition before God, depending on Him always for furniture and the blessing.  Earnest faith and prayer, a single aim at the glory of God, and good of people, a sanctified heart and carriage, shall avail much for right preaching.

There is sometime somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to the matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is, or from whence it comes, but with a sweet violence, it pierces into the heart and affections, and comes immediately from the Lord.  But if there be any way to attain to any such thing, it is by a heavenly disposition of the speaker…

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Alexander Whyte  †1921

Bunyan Characters (Third Series), Ch. 19, ‘Mr. Wet-Eyes’, pp. 157-158

Spiritual preaching; real face to face, inward, verifiable, experimental, spiritual preaching; preaching to a heart in the agony of its sanctification; preaching to men whose whole life is given over to making them a new heart — that kind of preaching is scarcely ever heard in our day.

There is great intellectual ability in the pulpit of our day, great scholarship, great eloquence, and great earnestness, but spiritual preaching, preaching to the spirit — ‘wet-eyed’ preaching — is a lost art.


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Novel

Bunyan, John – Pilgrim’s Progress  †1688  160 pp.

This has deservedly been one of the most popular books the world over, next to the Bible.  Find out why.  

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims…” – 1 Peter 2:11

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History

Murray, Iain – Revival and Revivalism  Buy

Murray’s work is a modern classic.  Murray traces the history of revival in America through the 1700’s and early 1800’s, carefully distinguishing, from the best writers of that time, the difference between spurious revivalism and true revival infused with Biblical spirituality.

“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” – Ps. 85:6

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Biography

“…Of whom the world was not worthy”

Heb. 11:38

Thomas Watson

“…Get books into your houses, when you have not the spring [of the Scriptures] near to you, then get water into your cisterns: so when you have not that wholesome preaching that you desire, good books are cisterns that hold the water of life in them to refresh you.  When David’s natural heat was taken away, they covered him with warm clothes, 1 Kings 1.  So when you find a chillness upon your souls, and that your former heat begins to abate, ply yourselves with warm clothes, get those good books that may acquaint you with such truths as may warm and affect your hearts.”

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Piper, John

The Hidden Smile of God: the Fruit of Affliction in the Live of John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd  Buy

The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin  Buy

The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and Wilbur Wilberforce  Buy

A Camaraderie of Confidence: the Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Muller and Hudson Taylor  Buy

Contending for our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen  Buy

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ: the Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Paton  Buy

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Autobiography

Halyburton, Thomas – Memoirs of the Rev. Thomas Halyburton  380 pp.  written by himself

“Halyburton’s Memoirs have been considered by competent judges, for more than a century, as one of the best specimens of religious biography extant.  As an exhibition of Christian experience, simple, unaffected, scriptural, and richly instructive, we know not that we could mention a work, of the same extent, more adapted to be useful…  It is worthy of a place in every family.” – Samuel Miller & Charles Hodge

“There is no production of the kind, in which the exercises of the human heart, both before and after regeneration, are so distinctly described as in the…  biography of Rev. Thomas Halyburton.” – Archibald Alexander

Boston, Thomas – Memoirs of the Life, Times, and Writings of Thomas Boston  510 pp.  written by himself

Model yourself after Boston.

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Diaries

Whyte, Alexander – Thomas Shepard: Pilgrim Father and Founder of Harvard: his Spiritual Experience and Experimental Preaching  Buy  1909  252 pp.

“When I first read Alexander Whyte’s book on Thomas Shepard some thirty years ago, I was frequently moved to tears.  Whyte selects a number of individual experiential statements from Shepard’s writings and meditates on them in a most moving manner, persuading the reader of the heinousness of sin, the depravity of our heart, and the richness and glory of Christ Jesus.

This is one of the most spiritual books I have ever read.  It is convicting, humbling, uplifting, and enlarging all at once, moving the soul near to God through Word-centered, Spirit-empowered truth.  Read one chapter an evening. Meditate on it; pray over it. Let it penetrate your inmost being.” – Joel Beeke

ed. Bonar, Andrew – Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne  1892  675 pp.

Both M’Cheyne and Bonar were Free Church of Scotland ministers.

Edwards, Jonathan – The Life of David Brainerd, Missionary to the Indians, chiefly taken from his own Diary and other Private Writings  with a very experiential Preface by Horatius Bonar

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Letters

Rutherford, Samuel – Letters  Buy

‘When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.’ — Charles Spurgeon

Apart from the Bible, ‘such a book as Mr. Rutherford’s Letters the world never saw the like.’ — Richard Baxter

‘The letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form.  Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry…’  ‘…a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.’ – Andrew Thomson

Newton, John – Letters  385 pp.

“John Newton has long been a favorite.  His writings on experimental religion contributed much to the revival of piety in the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth centuries.” – William Plumer

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Poetry

Anonymous – Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, Written in the Manner of a Paraphrase upon the 51st Psalm of David  1560  This was appended to the printing of John Calvin’s sermons on Isa. 38.

Poetry – Reformed Books Online

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Quotes and Proverbs

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Prov. 25:11

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Rutherford, Samuel – The Loveliness of Christ  †1661  50 pp.

These are short excerpts from Rutherford’s Letters, selected and originally published in 1910.

Dod, John & Philip Henry – Gleanings of Heavenly Wisdom: or, the Sayings of John Dod & Philip Henry  61 pp.

Philip Henry – ‘A Miscellaneous Collection of some of his sayings, observations, counsels and comforts, out of his sermons, letters and discourses’  by his son, Matthew Henry, 29 pp., in Matthew’s biography of Philip Henry

Henry, Matthew – Gems of Matthew Henry  144 pp.

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“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord!”

1 Sam. 2:1

“Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”

John 5:4-5

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Related Pages

Christian Living                        Growing Old

Personal Godliness                   Evangelism

Meditation                                   What Does Keeping the Lord’s Day Entail?

Self-Examination                       Recreation

Affliction                                      Psalm Singing

Prayer                                             Family Worship

Fasting                                           Neo-Calvinism

Ladies                                             Poetry

Sanctification                               Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Spiritual Conferencing              Worship