Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Watson’

Close up of antique love letter on parchment

Here are twenty thought-provoking motives for loving God from the 17th-century Puritan, Thomas Watson, in his little volume All Things for Good.  He writes:  This is meant to persuade all who bear the name of Christian to become lovers of God.  All the strength in men or angels cannot make the heart love God… it is only the almighty and invincible power of the Spirit of God [which] can infuse [this] love into the soul.

To excite and inflame our desires after it, here are Watson’s twenty motives for loving God as prescribed:

  1. Without love for God, all our religion is vain for it is not how much we do, but how much we love. To do duty without love is not sacrifice, but penance.
  2. Love is the most noble and excellent grace; by it we resemble God, who is love. Believing and obeying do not make us like God, but by love we grow like Him (1 John 4:16).  Love is a grace which most delights in God.  Love is the incense which makes all our services fragrant and acceptable to God.
  3. Is that unreasonable which God requires? It is but our love.  If He should ask our estate or the fruit of our bodies, could we deny Him?  But He asks only our love.  Is this a hard request?  Was there ever any debt so easily paid as this?  Love is no burden.  Is it any labor for the bride to love her husband?  No; it is delightful.
  4. God is the most adequate and complete object of our love. All the excellences that lie scattered in the creatures are united in Him.  He is wisdom, beauty, love; yea, the very essence of goodness.   There is nothing in God can cause a loathing.  The more we enjoy of him, the more we are ravished with delight.
  5. Love facilitates religion. Love makes duty a pleasure.  He that loves God is never weary of telling it; never weary of serving him.
  6. God desires our love. We have lost our beauty and stained our blood, yet the King of Heaven is a suitor to us!  What is there in our love that God should seek it?  What is God the better for our love?  He does not need it – He is infinitely blessed in Himself, yet He seeks it.
  7. He deserves our love for how He has loved us! What a miracle of love is it that God should love us when there was nothing lovely in us.  We had something in us to provoke fury, but nothing to excite love.  What love, passing understanding, was it to give Christ to us!  That Christ should die for sinners!  God has set all the angels in heaven wondering at this love.
    Oh the living love of a dying Savior!  I think I hear him say to us, “Reach hither your hands.  Put them into my side.  Feel my bleeding heart.  See if I do not love you.  And will you not bestow your love upon me?  Will you love the world more than me?  Did the world appease the wrath of God for you?”
  8. Love to God is the best self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved and He is sure to dwell with God in heaven that has God dwelling in his heart.  He that does not love God, does not love himself.
  9. Love to God evidences sincerity. Loving God evidences that God has the heart, and if the heart be his, that will command all the rest.
  10. By our love to God, we may conclude God’s love to us. “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  Do you love God? Then you may be sure of God’s love to you.  Our love is nothing but the reflection of God’s love.
  11. If you do not love God, you will love something else, either the world or sin; and are those worthy of your love? Is it not better to love God than these?  It is better to love God than the world as appears in the following particulars.

a.  Worldly things will not satisfy. You may as well satisfy your body with air.  If the globe of the world were yours, it would not fill your soul.  And will you set your love on that which will never give you contentment?  When I awake out of the sleep of death, and shall have some of the rays and beams of God’s glory put upon me, I shall then be satisfied with his likeness (“When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness” – Psalm 17:15).

b.  Worldly things cannot remove trouble of mind. King Saul, being perplexed in mind, all his crown jewels could not comfort him (I Sam. 28:15).  But if you love God, He can give you peace when nothing else can; He can turn the “shadow of death into the morning” (Amos 5:8).   He can apply Christ’s blood to refresh your soul.

c.  If you love the world, you love that which may keep you out of heaven. Prosperity, to many, is like the sail to the boat which quickly overturns it; so that by loving the world, you love that which will endanger you.  But if you love God, there is no fear of losing heaven.  He will be a Rock to hide you, but not to hurt you.

d.  You may love worldly things, but they cannot love you in return. You love gold and silver, but your gold cannot love you in return.  But if you love God, He will love you in return.  God will not be behindhand in love to us: for our drop, we shall receive an ocean.

e.  When you love the world, you love that which is worse than yourselves. As Christ speaks in another sense of the fowls of the air, “Are ye not much better than they?” (Mttw 6:26).  So I say of worldly things, Are ye not much better than they?  You love a fair house, a beautiful picture; are you not much better than they?  But if you love God, you place your love on the most noble and sublime object; you love that which is better than yourselves.  God is better than the soul, better than angels, better than heaven.

f.  You may love the world and have hatred for your love. Thus it is with all sublunary things:  we love them and they prove nettles to sting.  We meet with nothing but disappointment.  God may chastise, but He cannot hate.  Every believer is part of Christ and God can as well hate Christ as hate a believer.

g.  You may over-love the creature. You may love wine too much, and silver too much, but you cannot love God too much.  If it were possible to exceed, excess here were a virtue; but it is our sin that we cannot love God enough.

h.  You may love worldly things, and they die and leave you. Riches take wings, relations drop away.  But if you love God, He is “a portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

i.  If it is better to love God than the world, surely also it better to love God than sin. What is there in sin that any should love it?   Sin is a debt.  “Forgive us our debts” (Mttw 6:12).  It is a debt which binds over to the wrath of God; why should we love sin?  Does any man love to be in debt?  Sin is a disease.   And will you love sin?  Will any man hug a disease?  Will he love his plague-sores?  Sin is a pollution.  The apostle calls it “filthiness” (James 1:21).  It is compared to leprosy and to poison of asps.  God’s heart rises against sinners.  “My soul loathed them” (Zech. 11:8).  What is in sin to be loved?  Shall we love deformity? Sin is an enemy.  It has four stings – shame, guilt, horror, death.  Will a man love that which seeks his death?  Surely then it is better to love God than sin.  God will save you, sin will damn you.

12.  The relation we stand in to God calls for love. “Thy Maker is thy husband” (Is. 54:5).  And shall a wife not love her husband?  He is full of tenderness: His spouse is to him as the apple of his eye.  He rejoices over her, as the bridegroom over the bride (Is. 62:5).  He loves the believer as He loves Christ (John 17:26).  Either we must love God or we give ground of suspicion that we are not yet united to Him.

13.  Love is the most abiding grace. This will stay with us when other graces take their farewell.  In heaven, we shall need no repentance; we shall not need patience; we shall need no faith (Heb. 11:1).  Faith is the staff we walk with in this life.  “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7).  But we shall leave this staff at heaven’s door and only love shall enter.  How should we strive to excel in this grace, which alone shall live with us in heaven, and shall accompany us to the marriage-supper of the Lamb!

14.  Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart. The flower of love kills the weed of sin; though sin does not die perfectly, yet it dies daily.  How should we labor for that grace which is the only corrosive to destroy sin!

15.  Love to God is an excellent means for growth of grace. “But grow in grace” (2 Pet. 3:18).  Love is like watering of the root which makes the tree grow.  This grace of love would nurse and cherish all the graces.

16.  There is a great benefit which will accrue to us if we love God. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).  God has promised a crown of life to them that love Him (Js 1:12).  It is a crown that fades not away (1 Pet. 5:4).  Thus God would draw us to Him by rewards.

17.  Love to God is armor against error. Why are men given up to strong delusions?  Because “they receive not the love of truth” (2 Thes. 2:10-11).  The more we love God, the more we hate those heterodox opinions that would draw us off from God into libertinism.

18.  If we love God, we have all winds blowing for us; everything in the world shall conspire for our good. We know not what fiery trials we may meet with, but to them that love God all things shall work for good.  Those things which work against them shall work for them; their cross shall make way for a crown.

19.  Want of love to God is the ground of apostasy. That soldier, who has no love to his commander, when he sees an opportunity, will leave him and run over to the enemy’s side. He who has no love in his heart to God, you may set him down for an apostate.

20.  Love is the only thing in which we can retaliate with God. There is nothing in which we can answer God again, but love.  We must not give Him word for word, but we must give Him Love for love.


Question:  What shall we do to love God?


1) Study God.  Take a view of his superlative excellences, his holiness, and his incomprehensible goodness.

2) Labor for an interest in God.

3) Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love him.  Surely God will not deny it.  Cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee.  It is my grief; I can love Thee no more.  Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!” Surely this prayer pleases the Lord and He will pour of his Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.


Love influences the graces, it excites the affections,
it makes us grieve for sin, it makes us cheerful in God;
it is like oil to the wheels; it quickens us in God’s service.
How careful then should we be to keep alive or love for God!

– – – – –

Watson, Thomas. “An Exhortation to Love God.” All Things for Good. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986. 88 -103. Print.

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

– – – – – –

Surely Romans 8:28 is one of the most oft-quoted passages by both the child of God and the merely religious.  Despite the naturalist’s contention that our lives are just a running collection of chance and matter, most sense deep down (perhaps at the birth of one’s child or perhaps at the death of a great person) that there is purpose in our lives and in the fabric of the universe.  We lay hold of this verse in our trust that there is a God and He is working out his plan for this world… and for my life… according to his all-knowing time table and according to his all-good nature.

However, upon a second look, we see that the great promise of Romans 8:28 has at least two per-requisites before one might claim it for himself.  First of all, this promise is only for those who love God (see previous post).  Secondly, this promise is only for those who are called.  Thomas Watson in All Things for Good points out that although love is first mentioned in this verse, it is not first wrought.  Instead, firstly, we must be called of God before we can love God.  “Calling is made the middle link (Rom. 8:30) between predestination and glorification; and if we have this middle link fast, we are sure of the two other ends of the chain.”

A.  (p. 104) There are six things observable about calling:

1.  (p. 104) A distinction about calling.

a.  There is an outward calling. This is God’s blessed tender of grace in the gospel, his parleying with sinners when He invites them to come in and accept of mercy.  This external call is insufficient to salvation, yet sufficient to leave men without excuse. “Many are called, but few chosen” (Mt. 20:16).

b.  There is an inward calling.  God wonderfully overpowers the heart and draws the will to embrace Christ.  This is, as Augustine said, an effectual call.  God, by the outward call, blows a trumpet in the ear; but by the inward call, He opens the heart as He did the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14).  The outward call may bring men to a profession of Christ; but the inward call brings them to a possession of Christ.  The outward call curbs a sinner, the inward call changes him.

2.  (p.105) Our deplorable condition before we are called.

a.  We are in a state of vassalage – at the command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver.

b.  We are in a state of darkness (Eph.5:8). A man in the dark is full of fear, he trembles every step he takes.

c.  We are in a state of impotency. No strength to resist a temptation or grapple with a corruption.  Nay, there is not only impotency, but obstinacy (“Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost”, Acts. 7:51.)   Besides indisposition to do good, there is actual opposition to it.

d.  We are in a state of pollution – the heart is the devil’s forge where the sparks of lust fly.

e.  We are in a state of damnation. We are born under a curse.  The wrath of God abideth on us (John 3:36).

This is our condition before God is pleased by a merciful call to bring us near to Himself and free us from that misery in which we were before engulfed.

3. (p.106) The means of our effectual call.  The usual means which the Lord uses in calling us is not by raptures and revelations, but is:

a.  By his Word. The voice of the Word is God’s call to us.  When the Word calls from sin it is as if we heard a voice from heaven.

b.  By his Spirit. This is the loud call.  The ministers of God are only the pipes and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them that effectually changes the heart.  So it is not the seed of the Word that will effectually convert, unless the Spirit puts forth his sweet influence.  God’s Spirit is to be implored that He would put forth his powerful voice and awaken us out of the grave of unbelief.

4.  (p. 106) The method God uses in calling of sinners.

The Lord does not tie himself to a particular way or use the same order with all.  Such as have had godly parents and have sat under the warm sunshine of religious education often do not know how or when they were called.  The Lord did secretly and gradually instill grace into their hearts as the dew falls unnoticed on drops.  They know by the heavenly effects that they are called, but the time or manner they know not.

Others are more stubborn and knotty sinners.  God uses more wedges of the law to break their hearts; He deeply humbles them and shows them they are damned without Christ.  Then having ploughed up the fallow ground of their hearts by humiliation, He sows the seed of consolation.  He presents Christ and mercy to them and draws their wills, not only to accept Christ, but passionately to desire and faithfully to rest upon Him.  This call, though it is more visible than the other, is not more real.  God’s method in calling sinners may vary, but the effect is still the same.

5. (p. 107) The properties of this effectual calling.

a.  It is a sweet call.  The freedom of the will is not taken away, but the stubbornness of it is conquered.  (“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” Ps. 110:3.)

b.  It is a holy call.  “Who has called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9).  This call of God calls men out of their sins; by it they are consecrated and set apart for God.  They who are effectually called are separated from sin and consecrated to God’s service.  Holiness is the badge and livery of God’s people.  Let not any man say he is called of God that lives in sin.  Let not the merely moral person say he is effectually called.  What is civility without sanctity?  It is but a dead carcass strewed with flowers.

c.  It is an irresistible call.  When God calls a man by his grace, he cannot but come.  When He says, “Let there be light,” there was light, and when He says, “let there be faith,” it shall be so.  If God will call a man, nothing shall lie in the way to hinder – difficulties shall be untied, the powers of hell shall disband.  “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom 9:19).

d.  It is a high call.  “I press on toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil. 3:14).  It is a high calling because we are called to high exercises of religion – to die to sin, to be crucified to the world, to live by faith, to have fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:3).  It is a high calling because we are called to high privileges, to justification and adoption, to be made co-heirs with Christ.

e.  It is a gracious call… free grace. That God should call some and not others; some taken and others left; one called who is of a more rugged, morose disposition, another of sharper intellect, of a sweeter temper, rejected… here is free grace.  That the poor should be rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom (Js 2:5), and the nobles and great ones of the world for the most part rejected… this is free and rich grace.  “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Mt. 11:26).  That under the same sermon one should be effectually wrought upon, another no more moved than a dead man with the sound of music; that one should hear the Spirit’s voice in the Word, another not hear it… behold, here is distinguishing grace!

f.  It is a glorious call.  “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory” (1 Pet. 5:10).  God calls us first to virtue and then to glory.  God would have us part with nothing for him but that which will damn us if we keep it.

g.  It is a rare call.  Few are savingly called.  “Few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14).  Few, not collectively, but comparatively.  Many have the light brought to them, but few have their eyes anointed to see that light.  And in those climates where the Sun of Righteousness does shine, there are many who received the light of the truth without the love of it.  There are many formalists, but few believers.  There is something looks like faith which is not.  The hypocrite’s faith will break with the hammer of persecution.  Most men shape their religion according to the fashion of the times.

h.  It is an unchangeable call.  When God calls a man, He does not repent of it.  This is the blessedness of a saint – his condition admits of no alteration.  God’s call is founded upon his decree and his decree is immutable.  Acts of grace cannot be reversed.

6. (p.112) The end of our effectual calling is the honor of God – “That we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12).

The Lord will have some in all ages who shall oppose the corruptions of the times, bear witness to his truths, and convert sinners from the error of their ways.  They who have been monuments of God’s mercies will be trumpets of his praise.

These considerations show us the necessity of effectual calling.  Without it, there is no going to heaven.  We must be “made meet for the inheritance” (Col. 1:12).  What gives this meetness, but effectual calling?  The high calling is not a thing arbitrary or indifferent, but as needful as salvation.  It is called a creation (Col 3:10) and a man can no more convert himself than a dead man can raise himself.

Objection:  Some say the will of natural man is not dead, but asleep, and God by persuasion does only awaken us and then the will can obey God’s call and move of itself to its own conversion (Armenianism).

Answer:  Every man is by sin bound in fetters (“I perceive that thou art in the bond of iniquity,” Acts 8:23).  It is insufficient to persuade a man in fetters to go.  There must be a breaking of his fetters and setting him free before he can walk.  So it is with natural man – he is fettered with corruption.  Now the Lord by his converting grace must not only file off his fetters, but give him legs to run too or he can never obtain salvation (Reformed theology).

– – – – – –

B.  (p. 113) An exhortation to make your calling sure.

“Give diligence to make your calling sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).  This is the great business of our lives – to get sound evidences of our effectual calling.  Do not rest in baptism. Do not be content that Christ has been preached to you.  Do not satisfy yourselves with an empty profession.  But labor to evidence to your souls that you are called of God.

1.  (p. 114) Consider how sad your case is if you are not effectually called:

a. If you are not effectually called, you are strangers to God. “At that time ye were without Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12).  If you are strangers, what language can you expect from God but this, “I know you not!”

b. If you are not effectually called, you are enemies. You are heirs to all the plagues written in the book of God.  Though your resist the commands of the law, you cannot flee from the curses of the law.

Question:  Is there any hope of my being called?  I have been a great sinner.

Answer: Great sinners have been called (ex: Paul).  God loves to display his free grace to sinners.  Therefore be not discouraged.  You see a golden cord let down from heaven for poor trembling souls to lay hold upon.

Question:  How shall I know I am effectually called?

Answer:  He who is savingly called is called out of himself; not only out of sinful self, but out of his righteous self as well.  “Not having mine own righteousness” (Phil. 3:9).  He whose heart God has touched by his Spirit lays down the idol of self-righteousness at Christ’s feet.  He uses morality and duties of piety, but does not trust to them.  This self-renunciation is, as Augustine says, the first step to saving faith.

2.  (p.115) He who is effectually called has a visible change wrought.  He is altered from what he was before.  His body is the same, but not his mind… he is another spirit. “And such were some of you; but ye are sanctified, but yea re justified” (1 Cor. 6:11). Grace changes the heart in three ways:

a.  There is a change wrought in the understanding. The first work of God in the creation of the world was light… so it is in the new  “Whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).  He sees such evil in sin and excellency in the ways of God as he never saw before.  Indeed, this light which the blessed Spirit brings may well be called a marvelous light.  “That ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).  It is a marvelous light in six respects:

(1)  It is marvelous light in that it is strangely conveyed – from above, from the Sun of Righteousness himself.

(2)  It is marvelous in its effect. This light does that which no other light can – it makes a man perceive himself to be blind.

(3)  It is marvelous light because it is more penetrating. Other light may shine upon the face; this light shines into the heart and enlightens the conscience (2 Cor. 4:6).

(4)  It is marvelous light because it sets those who have it a marveling. They marvel at themselves, how they could be contented to be so long without it.  They marvel that their eyes should be opened and not others.  They marvel that though they hated and opposed this light, yet it should shine in the firmament of their sols.  This is what the saints will stand wondering at to all eternity.

(5)  It is marvelous light because it quickens. It makes alive those who “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  Therefore, it is called the “light of life” (John 8:12).

(6)  It is marvelous light because it is the beginning of everlasting light. The light of grace is the morning-star which ushers in the sunlight of glory.

Can you say that this marvelous light of the Spirit has dawned upon you when you were enveloped in ignorance and did neither know God nor yourself – suddenly a light from heaven shined round about you?

b.  There is a change wrought in the will. The will, which before opposed Christ, now embraces Him. The regenerate will answer to every call of God as the echo answers to the voice. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).  The will now becomes a volunteer; it enlists itself under the Captain of Salvation.

c.  There is a change in the conduct. He who is called of God walks directly contrary to what he did before.  He walked before n envy and malice, now he walks in love; before he walked in pride, now in humility.  Truly, natural men must have a gracious change while they live or a cursed change when they die.

(1)  He who is effectually called of God esteems this call as the highest blessing.  A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings than a baby can value a diamond necklace.  He who is enlightened by the Spirit counts holiness his best heraldry and looks upon his effectual calling as his preferment.

(2)  He who is effectually called of God is called out of the world.  It is a “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).  Godly man, though his body be from the earth, the sparkling of his affections is from heaven.  His heat is drawn into the upper region, as high as Christ.  He not only casts off every wicked work, but every earthly weight.  He is not a worm, but an eagle.

(3)  He who is effectually called is diligent in his ordinary (earthly) calling.  Religion does not seal warrants to idleness.  Christians must not be slothful.  A slothful person becomes a prey to every temptation.  He who is called of God, as he works for heaven, so he works in his trade.

– – – – –

Watson, Thomas. “Effectual Calling.” All Things for Good. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986. 104-118. Print.

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“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

– – – – –

I live in a part of the country that has not so honestly come to terms with its rejection of Christ’s rule in the lives of many of its people, not so honestly as perhaps many on the coasts did years and years ago.  Many here, out of tradition or sentimentality, claim an alliance, if not with Christ himself, at least with a local church or sometimes just the mere title “Christian” (like when asked to fill out a form, etc.).  They have some past echo or rhythm or tie to the Christian faith, but in reality, there aren’t too many ties that bind anymore and they live like practical atheists.

Forgive me my bluntness.  I used to think that I was a “glass half empty” person until someone told me they see me more as a realist.  That sounds a lot better to me, so I claim that title when I wish to relate sobering observations without coming off depressingly down… right?

As mentioned before, I’ve been making my way through the Puritan Thomas Watson’s book All Things for Good.  Many will recognize his title as taken from Romans 8:28 (above).  In this relatively short book (127 pp), Watson breaks down the verse and exhaustively examines each phrase.

Thomas Watson set out to comfort his readers by assuring them that “nothing hurts the godly; that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good.”  The snag, though, is that “all things work together for good to them that love God.”  It appears this promise is not for all humanity, but those who bear a love to God.  To help his readers examine themselves in this regard, Watson puts forth fourteen signs or fruits of love to God by which we might impartially test ourselves.

In our weakness, these fruits may bear imperfections.  They may be a bit bruised.  However according to Watson, the test is not in their perfection, but in their appearing and steady growth since they are not native to the natural man, but born of the Spirit: “Happy are they who can find these fruits, so foreign to their natures, growing in their souls.”

– – – – –

The Tests of Love to God (chapter five)


A.  The first fruit of love to God is the musing of the mind upon God.

He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object.  He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God.  A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts.

B.  The next fruit of love to God is desire of communion.

“My heart and flesh crieth out for the living God (Ps. 84:2) – King David breathes after God and in a holy pathos of desire, cries out for the living God.  By this, let us examine our love to God.  Do we desire intimacy of communion with God?  Lovers cannot be long away from each other.  Those who have a holy affection toward God can bear the want of anything but his presence – they can do without health and friends and without a full table, but they cannot be happy without God.  Sinners shun acquaintance with God.  They count his presence a burden and are these lovers of God?  Does that woman love her husband who cannot endure to be in his presence?

C.  Another fruit of love to God is grief.

Where there is love to God, there is a grieving for our sins of unkindness against Him.  Oh! That I should abuse the love of so dear a Savior!  Did not my Lord suffer enough upon the cross, but must I make him suffer more?  Shall I give him more gall and vinegar to drink?  How have I grieved his Spirit, trampled upon His royal command, slighted His blood!   By this let us test our love to God.  Do we shed the tears of godly sorrow?  Do we grieve for our unkindness against God, our abuse of his mercy, our non-improvement of talents (Mt. 25:14-30)?

D.  Another fruit of love to God is magnanimity.

Love is valorous, it turns cowardice into courage.  He that loves God will stand up in his cause and be an advocate for him.  “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).  Does he love God that can hear his blessed truths spoken against and be silent?  He who loves his friend will stand up for him and vindicate him when he is reproached.  Love animates a Christian; it fires his heart with zeal and steels it with courage.

E.  The fifth fruit of love to God is sensitiveness.

If we love God our hearts ache for the dishonor done to God by wicked men.  To see, not only the banks of religion, but morality, broken down and a flood of wickedness coming in, to see God’s Sabbaths profaned, his oaths violated, his name dishonored; if there be any love to God in us, we shall lay these things to heart.  Did men love God, they would grieve to see his glory suffer and religion itself become a martyr.

F.  The sixth fruit of love to God is hatred against sin.

He that loves God will have nothing to do with sin unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God’s honor, but his being.  The love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together.  He who has any secret sin in his heart allowed, is as far from loving God as heaven and earth are distant, one from the other.

G.  Another fruit of love to God is crucifixion.

A lover of God is dead to the world, to its honors and pleasures.  “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).  Love to God swallows up all other love so when a man’s heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are the set things below!  What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it!  Only the devil makes us look upon it through a magnifying glass.  The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception.

H.  The next fruit of love to God is fear.  In the godly, love and fear do kiss each other.  There is a double fear arises from love.

  1. A fear of displeasing arises from our love to God. The more we love God, the more fearful we are of grieving his Spirit, making one shake and tremble and not dare willingly to offend God.  “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
  2. A fear mixed with jealousy arises from our love to God. He that loves God is full of fear lest it should go ill with the church, lest God should go from his people.  The presence of God in his ordinances is the beauty and strength of a nation.  So long as God’s presence is with a people, so long they are safe; but the soul inflamed with love to God fears lest the visible tokens of God’s presence should be removed.  Let us test our love to God by this – many fear lest peace and trading go, but not lest God and his gospel go.  If the Sun of righteousness remove out of our horizon, what can follow but darkness?

I.  If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves.

  1. We love God’s Word – the sweetness of it, above honey, and the value of it, above gold (Ps. 119: 103, 72). Well may we love the Word; it is the lode-star that directs us to heaven, it is the field in which the Pearl is hid.
  2. We love God’s day. “If thou call the Sabbath a delight” (Is. 58:13).  The house of God is the palace of the great King; on the Sabbath God shows himself there through the lattice.  If we love God we prize his day above all other days.  All the week would be dark if it were not for this day; on this day manna falls double.  Now, if ever, heaven-gate stands open and God comes down in a golden shower.  How does a gracious heart prize that day which was made on purpose to enjoy God in!
  3. We love God’s laws which check our sinful excesses. The heart would be ready to run wild in sin if it had not some blessed restraints put upon it by the law of God – the law of repentance, the law of self-denial.  Many say they love God but they hate his laws; they pretend to love Christ as a Savior, but hate him as a King.  He were a strange king that should rule without laws.
  4. We love God’s image shining in the saints. “He that loves Him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1).  To love a saint as he is a saint, this is a sign of love to God in the communion of the saints.  Do they love God who hate them that are like God? If we love a saint for his saintship, as having something of God in him, then we love him in these four cases:

a.  We love a saint though he be poor. Though a saint be in rags, we love him because there is something of Christ in him.

b.  We love a saint though he has many personal failing. There is no perfection here.  A saint is like a fair face with a scar; we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scare in it.  You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?

c.  We love the saints though in some lesser things they differ from us. Perhaps another Christian has not so much light as you and that may make him err in some things, will you presently un-saint him because he cannot come up to your light?

d.  We love the saints though they are persecuted. Those marks were like the soldier’s scars, honorable.  We must love a saint as well in chains as in scarlet.  If we love Christ, we love his persecuted members.

J.  Another blessed sign of love to God is to entertain good thoughts of God.

“Love thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5).  He that loves God has a good opinion of God.  Though He afflicts sharply, the soul takes all well – this severe dispensation is either to mortify some corruption or to exercise some grace.  How good is God that will not let me alone in my sins, but smites my body to save my soul!

K.  Another fruit of love to God is obedience.

“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21).  If we love God, we shall obey him in those things which cross flesh and blood – in things difficult and in things dangerous.

  1. We shall obey him in things difficult. One difficult obedience is mortifying sin.  There are some sins which are not only near to us as the garment, but dear to us as the eye.  If we love God, we shall set ourselves against these, both in purpose and practice.  Another difficult obedience is in forgiving our enemies.  This is hard; it is crossing the stream.  We are apt to forget kindnesses and remember injuries, but if we love God, we shall pass by offenses.  When we seriously consider how many talents God has forgiven us (Mt. 25:14-30), how many affronts and provocations He has put up with at our hands, this makes us endeavor rather to bury an injury than to retaliate it.
  2. We shall obey him in things dangerous. When God calls us to suffer for him, we shall obey.  It is true that every Christian is not a martyr, but he has the spirit of martyrdom in him.  He says as Paul, “I am ready not only to be bound, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).  He has a disposition of mind to suffer if God call.  If love to their country will make men suffer, much more should love to Christ.  By this, let us test our love to God.  Have we the spirit of martyrdom?  Many will not forego the least comfort or undergo the least cross for his sake, yet how did divine affection carry the early saints above the love of life and the fear of death (ex: Stephen’s stoning, Luke, hung on an olive tree, and Peter, crucified with his head downwards)!  These divine heroes were willing to suffer rather than by their cowardice to make the name of God suffer.

L.  He who loves God will endeavor to make him appear glorious in the eyes of others.

If we love God, we shall spread abroad his excellences that so we may raise his fame and esteem and may induce others to fall in love with him.

M.  Another fruit of love to God is to long for Christ’s appearing.

“Henceforth, there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me,
and not for me only, but for them also which love Christ’s appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

His appearing now is very comforting, when He appears for us as an Advocate (Heb. 9:24).  But his second appearing will be infinitely more so, when He shall appear for us as our Husband!  Such as love Christ are joyful to think of his coming in the clouds.  They shall then be delivered from all their sins and fears; they shall be acquitted before men and angels; and shall be forever translated into the paradise of God.

N.  For the sake of love to God, we will stoop to the meanest offices.

Love is a humble grace and will creep upon its hands; it will stoop and submit to anything whereby it may be serviceable to Christ.  If we love God, we shall not think any work too mean for us, by which we may be helpful to Christ’s members.  Love is not squeamish; it will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints’ wounds.

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“Is He – quite safe?

“Safe?  Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.
But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I lived many, many years as a regenerated Christian without understanding or embracing the sovereignty of God in all things.  I thought I believed that God was sovereign, but when put to the test in the arena of salvation or the evil found in the world, I delicately tried to distance God from those things.  But the Holy Spirit slowly but surely has unveiled my eyes to see his glory in his sovereignty over all things.

Recently, I feel that God is using a mix of resources to impress upon me that not only is God sovereign in all things, but that he uses his sovereignty to bring me, his child, only good.  Reading John Piper‘s Desiring God was a first exposure, but more recently, a couple Puritan authors have been preaching to me:  Jeremiah Burroughs in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and Thomas Watson in All Things for Good.

Both books are distinct in their content, but they overlap as they disciple me to consider that my entire life is in God’s care and all of that care is good. When we murmur, complain or covet, we essentially accuse God, as another author has put it, of “a failure to reign well over the events of our lives.”  Burroughs presses the point by identifying a murmuring, fretting spirit as an “inflammation of the heart” and claims it “a greater evil than any affliction” we incur.  To this argument, he makes much of God’s responses to the complaining Israelites of the Exodus.  Both authors affirm – all of God’s plans for me (the easy and the hard) are working for my good.

Watson bases his book on the familiar Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He would remind us, though, that this promise is “children’s bread; it belongs only to them that love God.”  The “despisers and haters of God have no lot or part in this privilege.”

So, if the promise of Romans 8:28 is one on which the child of God can depend, what does this mean for us?  I’m glad you asked, because Thomas Watson has an answer for you.

[Caveat – the Puritans, it would seem, were much more direct and un-nuanced than we are today.  They also used certain words a bit differently than we do.  Though, I do not disagree with Watson, I might have found a more delicate way to say a few of these things.]

Ten inferences that can be made by the proposition
that all things work for the good of the saints?


1.  There is a providence which governs our lives. Things do not work of themselves, but God sets them working for good. “His kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19).  There are three parts to providence:   God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events.  That which is by some called chance is nothing else but the result of providence.

2.  Every child of God finds himself in a happy condition when all things work for his good, the “best and worst” things (i.e. the easy and the hard things). What a blessed condition is that of a true believer!  When he dies he goes to God, and while he lives, everything shall do him good – even affliction, which does what the Word many times will not, it “opens the ear to discipline “ (Job 36:10) and also yields the sweet fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11).

3.  There is an encouragement here to become godly when all things work for our good. No man did ever come off a loser by his acquaintance with God.

4.  The condition of the “wicked” (i.e. the unregenerate) is miserable. To them, good things work for hurt until they yield their sins to the effective work of Christ on the cross.

a.  Temporal good things work for hurt to the wicked. Riches and prosperity are not benefits but snares.  Pride and luxury are the twins of prosperity which lead the wicked to forsake God.  The common mercies wicked men have are not lodestones to draw them nearer to God, but millstones to sink them deeper in hell (1 Tim. 6:9).

b.  Spiritual good things work for hurt to the wicked:

(1)   The ministers of God work for their hurt.  The same breath in the ministry that blow a godly man to heaven, blow a profane sinner to hell.  Wicked men are worse for preaching.  Sinners grow more resolved in sin; let God say what He will, they will do what they wish.  The word preached is not healing, but hardening.  And how dreadful is this for me to be sunk to hell with sermons!

(2)   Prayer works for their hurt.  “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Pr. 15:8).  A wicked man is in a great strait:  if he prays not, he sins; if he prays, he sins.  His duties (of prayer) are tainted with atheism, fly-blown with hypocrisy; God abhors them.

(3)   The Lord’s Supper works for their hurt.  Profane persons feast with their sins; yet will come to feast at the Lord’s Table.  This is to provoke God.  To a sinner there is death in the cup; he “eats and drinks his own damnation” (1 Cor. 11:29).

(4)   Christ Himself works for hurt as He is a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Pet. 2:8). Instead of believing in him, they are offended by him.  Sinners stumble at a Savior and pluck death from the tree of life.  The blood of Christ, though to some it is a medicine, to others it is condemnation.

5.  The wisdom of God is revealed as He makes the worst things imaginable turn to the good of the saints. He enriches by impoverishing; He causes the augmentation of grace by the diminution of an estate.  When creature comforts go further from us, it is that Christ may come nearer to us.  He frequently makes use of unjust men to do that which is just.  He made use of the high-priest’s malice and Judas’ treason to redeem the world.  There is never a providence of God, but has either a mercy or a wonder in it.

6.  We have little cause to be discontented at outward trials and emergencies. There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience.  They are ready either to faint through unbelief or to fret through impatience.  Discontent is an ungrateful sin because we have more mercies than afflictions, and it is an irrational sin because afflictions work for good.

7.  The Scripture “God is good to Israel” (Ps. 73:1) is fulfilled for us included in the promises of Abraham (Romans 9:6-8). When we look upon adverse providences we may be ready to call in question the love of God and to say that He deals hardly with his people.  But, oh no, yet God is good to Israel because He makes all things work for good.  He works out sin and works in grace, is not this good? Let us always justify God; when our outward condition is ever so bad, let us say, “Yet God is good.”

8.  The saints have cause to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. Why so?  Because God makes everything work for our good.  Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanked him when He took away because he knew God would work good out of it.  “The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint – a true saint can be thankful in adversity.

9.  Think, if the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things work for us, namely Christ and heaven?! We may comfort one another with these thoughts:  If the cross has so much good in it, what has the crown which we await?  If God’s blow and stroke work for good, what shall the smiles of his face do?  If temptations and sufferings have matter of joy in them, what shall glory have?  If God’s chastening mercies are so great, what will his crowing mercies be?

10.  If God makes all things to turn to our good, consider how right it is that we should make all things tend to his glory. “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  Consider all that God has done for our good:  He has dignified mankind by uniting our nature with the Godhead; He has laid a plan for our salvation; Christ has died for us; He has bestowed upon us his Spirit; He has enriched us with covenant blessings; He seeks our good and makes everything work for our good.  Shall we not seek his glory?

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fire II

Last night (and into the wee hours of this morning) Dana and I attended Secret Church 2016.  David Platt stressed the eternal urgency of our gospel message.  He called our attention to two realities – (1) heaven is a glorious reality for everyone who believes the gospel (Philippians 3:20-21); and (2) hell is a dreadful reality for everyone who does not believe the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 14:11).  As Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “The coming of the Kingdom is not good news for sinners. It is good news for sinners who repent.”

Thus it is in hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh! who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart… The torments of hell abide for ever… If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain of this sand, it would be a long time ere that vast heap of sand were emptied; yet, if after all that time the damned may come out of hell, there were some hope; but this word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.

~ Thomas Watson, Puritan minister


There will be no end to this exquisite, horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see along forever a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul. And you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages in wrestling with this Almighty, merciless vengeance. And then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains… How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh! that you would consider it, whether you be young or old!

~ Jonathan Edwards, Colonial minister and theologian.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, 1741.


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