Thursday, August 17, 2017

David's Digest: My Heart Is Good

"My heart is good!"

Have you said that, or heard that said? I believe we all think it to some degree, and certainly want to believe it.

But what does the Bible say?

Gen. 6:5 - "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Gen. 8:21 - "And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done."

Jer. 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

Rom. 3:10-12 - "10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."

Rom. 8:7 - "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

Mark 10:18 - "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God."

Ezek. 36:26 - "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

The heart of fallen man by nature is a heart of stone, a dead heart, a desperately wicked heart, is enmity against God, not subject or able to be subject to the law of God, with no desire to seek for God and no good in it. Only some One good can bring goodness to it, and that is the good God, removing the dead heart and giving a lively heart. It is His act of putting His goodness there.

And even if you are truly a Christian, you recognize and lament the evil that is still within you.

Prov. 20:9 - "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"

From Puritan John Gill's commentary:

Who can say, I have made my heart clean
The heart of man is naturally unclean, the mind, conscience, understanding, will, and affections; there is no part clean, all are defiled with sin; and though there is such a thing as a pure or clean heart, yet not as made so by men; it is God that has made the heart, that can only make it clean, or create a clean heart in men; it is not to be done by themselves, or by anything that they can do; it is done only by the grace of God, and blood of Christ: God has promised to do it, and he does it; and to him, and to him only, is it to be ascribed;

I am pure from my sin?
the sin of nature or of action: such indeed who are washed from their sins in the blood of Christ; whose sins are all pardoned for his sake, and who are justified from all things by his righteousness; they are pure from sin, none is to be seen in them, or found upon them in a legal sense: they are all fair and comely, and without fault in the sight of God; their iniquities are caused to pass from them; and they are clothed with fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints: but then none are pure from indwelling sin, nor from the commission of sin; no man can say this, any more than the former; if he does, he is an ignorant man, and does not know the plague of his heart; and he is a vain pharisaical man; yea, a man that does not speak the truth, nor is the truth in him, (1 John 1:8)

And Prov. 28:26 - "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."

Dr. Gill again:

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool
Since the thoughts and imaginations of the thoughts of the heart are only evil, and that continually; they are vain and vague, sinful and corrupt; the affections are inordinate, the conscience defiled, the understanding darkened, and the will perverse; there is no good thing in it, nor any that comes out of it, but all the reverse; it is deceitful and desperately wicked: he must be a fool, and not know the plague of his heart, that trusts in it; and even for a good man to be self-confident, and trust to the sincerity of his heart, as Peter did, or to the good frame of the heart, as many do, is acting a foolish part; and especially such are fools as the Scribes and Pharisees, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others, when a man's best righteousness is impure and imperfect, and cannot justify him in the sight of God; it is moreover a weak and foolish part in men to trust to the wisdom and counsel of their heart, to lean to their own understanding, even it, things natural and civil, and not to ask wisdom of God, or take the advice of men, and especially it, things religious and sacred; see (Proverbs 3:5 Proverbs 3:6)

but whoso walketh wisely
as he does who walks according to the rule of the divine word; who makes the testimonies of the Lord his counsellors; who consults with his sacred writings, and follows the directions of them; who walks as he has Christ for his pattern and example, and makes the Spirit of God his guide, and walks after him, and not after the flesh; who walks with wise men, and takes their advice in all matters of moment, not trusting to his own wisdom and knowledge; who walks as becomes the Gospel of Christ, and in all the ordinances of it; who walks inoffensively to all men, and so in wisdom towards them that are without, and in love to them who are within; who walks circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time

he shall be delivered
he shall be delivered from the snares of his own deceitful heart, which he will not trust; and from the temptations of Satan; and from all afflictions and troubles he meets with in the way; and from a final and total falling away; and from eternal death and destruction: "he shall be saved", as some versions render it, even with an everlasting salvation. The Targum is, "he shall be protected from evil."

Finally, here is a warning I believe we should consider from Puritan Thomas Manton from his 2nd sermon on Mark 3:5, which you can read in full here:

4. None are so confident of the goodness of their hearts, as those that have an hard heart: for the more any spiritual disease increaseth upon us, the less it is felt. There is hope whilst there is some complaining of sin, that there is some tenderness left.

The hardest heart must needs be the most confident, because they use no recollection and reflection upon themselves; Jer. 8:6, 'No man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?' What am I, what have I done? Yea they slight their danger, take up every vain pretence and allegation to maintain their carnal peace and quiet: Deut. 29:19-20, 'And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will yet spare him, &c.'

Broken-hearted christians are sensible of the holiness of God, and what an hard matter it is to hold communion with him, and observe their own weakness and unworthiness; and therefore they complain of the badness of their hearts, that there is no greater bent towards God, and are always suspicious of their spiritual condition.

May God grant us an understanding of our carnal hearts and His holiness, may we humbly recognize from Whom any goodness in our hearts we might have comes, and may we diligently seek it from Him!

-- David

Monday, August 7, 2017

Garden - Summer 2017

This is our first garden update for 2017, although we actually did plant a Spring garden...

In times past, I've tried to plant regardless of how well set up the environment was -- "Oh, it doesn't really matter how the soil is...just put the seed in the ground!" Well, as I've found out, and I'm sure anyone reading this who has successfully done gardening realizes, that doesn't work, and is of course not biblical (the soil must be good to bring forth fruit -- see (Matt 13:1-23).

Anyway, I thought this year, I'm going to dig out any of our clay soil and put in compost, and then plant...even though our seeds are really old. Well, as I found out once again, and those reading this who have done gardening know, old seeds don't work either.


Out of the maybe 150 or more (at a guess) seeds I planted, here is the one plant that grew, a broccoli I believe:

Spring 2017 Broccoli

I believe now! :) And we are thankful for this one plant. May God prepare the soil of our hearts by His Spirit and plant His gospel and law in it so it will bring forth much fruit, and we will be obedient to Him!

Following that, and waiting until the ground warmed up, the plan was to plant okra, which works well out here. I dug out holes, filled with compost as needed, and used seeds given to us by a gracious person...from this year! :)

Well, not that we're entitled to anything, or that God is under obligation to grow anything, or that these things happen without Him gifting them, in His graces, He has caused them to grow, and start to bring forth the edibles!

Spring 2017 Okra Plants

Spring 2017 Okra Fruit

Here's a hopeful okra. Beautiful, not only visually, but in the potential of fruit coming from it (like even the lowest of Christians, because they have the image of Christ stamped on them)...

Spring 2017 Okra Flower

Also, in our other garden area, Mr. Bunker graciously gave us some sweet potato cuttings. After, I put the root ends under the mulch against the ground and then covering them with the mulch that was there, I found I really needed to water them well, but once doing that, the vines really started to take off, and here is how they are now:

Spring 2017 Sweet Potato Vines

Finally, Mr. Stonger also graciously gave us a goji berry bush and a couple of blackberry cuttings, which have been doing well...

The goji berry bush put out quite a few berries earlier in the year, but once heat hit it, it lost a lot of its leaves, so I started watering it a lot, and it has come back nicely, thanks to God.

Spring 2017 Goji Berry Bush

There's even a berry there now, and some purple flowers growing:

Spring 2017 Goji Berry & Flowers

And here are the blackberry plants. I had to put them in tomato plant cones to give them some support. Also earlier in the year we got a couple of blackberries, which were yummy!

Spring 2017 Blackberry Plants

As always, we are very grateful to the Lord for His provisions, and the understanding about Him we can gain through being involved in His creation and studying His word!

-- David

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hogs, Hogs on the Range - Update III & Bye to Ardy

The Lord has graciously allowed us to continue putting up new pig fencing sections, around our pig pen area, and in extending the expansion area!

But first, after introducing Ardy to Penelope back in October 2016, it was time to move him along to the processor, as I figured if she hasn't become pregnant by now, she probably just isn't going to be.

And so, here's a final video of that day, including extreme close up! He was a big boy! :)

We thank the Lord for the provisions of Ardy!

Going back to the fencing...

In our last pig expansion area update, we had put in place cinder block and cattle panel fence sections, which have really worked out great. And then, in our last pig update, we had started on re-doing the fencing of the pig pen area.

Well, here is a video update of the pig pen area and a new extended area on the expansion. I also demo how it is to move around the fence sections with just one person:

Eventually, we need to enclose the entire pen area, and Lord willing, I'll be able to continue on that over time.

As always, we are grateful to God for continued ideas and improvements on the homestead, and the strength and resources to be able to further things!

-- David

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Orange Day 2017 - The 12th

As in years past, in honor of our Protestant heritage against the antichrist Roman Catholic Church, last evening we gathered to remember "The 12th," an Orange Day celebration commemorating William of Orange's stand against the Roman Catholics on July 12, 1690, where he defeated their forces at the Battle of the Boyne (see the "Antichrist" section on our "Soul Info" page regarding our belief that the Pope and Roman Catholic Church are the Antichrist and religious system of Antichrist).

This year, we did a reading on this, and recorded the video:

We believe the prophecies of Revelation in the Bible have been rolling out over the Church age since Christ left (this is called the Historicist method of eschatology). In the video, Mr. Stonger mentioned Robert Flemming's short book called "The Rise & Fall of the Papacy", which takes the reader through that unfolding of Revelation over the centuries. I would highly recommend it, and you can get a copy at Amazon.

As always, we thank the Lord for granting His word to be given in our language, the spread of that word, and all of the means of grace from Reformation and Puritan writers He has granted! May we use them diligently, and we pray He grants us His graces through them!

-- David

Thursday, July 6, 2017

David's Digest: Sin and The Christian

It seems to me often when people believe they are saved, even if they realize they are a sinner, they lose perspective of sin and their relation to it, almost that their sin in their life generally has mystically disappeared. In fact, we were told one time at a church I attended in the past to not look at ourselves as sinners saved by grace, as we now have a new identity and should look at ourselves that way.

While when someone is saved their sins are washed away from a penal perspective, and they are removed out from under the eternal wrath of God (ie. they are not held as guilty due eternal punishment), it's not actually like they never sinned, and it's not like they don't continue to sin throughout their lives. A saved person still carries with him the carnal man, the corrupt nature, and while they have a new nature as well, the sin nature continues, with its same traits and same evil efforts and desires, although dethroned as ruler, but at war now with the new man.

Rom 8:7 - "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

We continue to carry this carnal man with us during our time here in this life, and this is what Paul laments during his ministry:

Rom 7:24 - "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

Here is what Puritan John Gill says from what Paul desired to be delivered:
from the load of sin, and burden of corruption, under which he groaned, and still bespeaks him a regenerate man; for not of outward calamities, but of indwelling sin is he all along speaking in the context: wherefore it is better by "this body of death" to understand what he in (Romans 6:6) calls "the body of sin"; that mass of corruption that lodged in him, which is called "a body", because of its fleshly carnal nature; because of its manner of operation, it exerts itself by the members of the body; and because it consists of various parts and members, as a body does; and "a body of death", because it makes men liable to death: it was that which the apostle says "slew" him, and which itself is to a regenerate man, as a dead carcass, stinking and loathsome; and is to him like that punishment Mezentius inflicted on criminals, by fastening a living body to a putrid carcass: and it is emphatically called the body of "this death", referring to the captivity of his mind, to the law of sin, which was as death unto him

While reading Puritan Thomas Manton, in his sermons on Genesis 24:63, in Sermon VII, he wrote something I thought most excellently laid out the perspective a Christian should continue to have for sin, and you can read the full sermon here:
4. None are exempted from bewailing the evil of sin. Though the children of God shall never feel it, nor have the dregs of God's displeasure wrung out to them for it, yet they must bewail the evil that there is in sin. The death and merit of Christ doth not change the nature of sin, nor put less evil into it, why should we look upon it with a different eye after conversion than we did before? Sin is still damning in its own merit and nature, and it is still the violation of an holy righteous law, and an affront to the holy God, and an inconvenience to the precious soul. Sin is the same as it was before, though the person be not the same. Nay, the children of God are not altogether exempted from the effects of sin neither, it is a disease, though not a death, and who would not groan under the heat of a burning fever, though he be assured of life?

God hath still a bridle upon you to keep the soul in awe. And though the godly can never lose their right in the covenant, that doth remain, yet they may lose the fruition of it, and this is enough to make a child of God mourn: Notwithstanding all the privileges of grace, you may be branded, though not executed; and though the Lord hath made them vessels of mercy, yet he doth not use and employ them as vessels of honour, but they are set aside as useless vessels.

Sin will still be inconvenient, it will bring disgrace to religion, and discomfort to your souls, and furnish the triumphs of hell, and make Satan rejoice, and eclipse the light of God's countenance; and who can brook the loss of God's favour, and of intimate communion with him without sadness, and bemoaning his case? I may ask you that question, Job xv. 11, 'Are the consolations of God small with thee?' Do you make so little reckoning of those rich comforts of the Holy Ghost?

Though you cannot be damned, for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ, Rom. viii. 1., yet your pilgrimage may be made very uncomfortable; and he that prizeth communion with God, would not lose the comfort of it for the least moment.

Besides, if there were no inconvenience, yet love is motive enough to a gracious person? Where is your love? Christians! You sin against mercy, the warm beams of mercy should melt the heart, Ezek. xxxvi. 31, 'Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loath your selves in your own sight for your iniquities, and for all your abominations.' As long as there is love in the heart, you can never want [lack] an argument to represent the odiousness of sin. Put the matter in a temporal case; it would be ill reasoning for an heir to say, I know my father will not disinherit me, therefore I do not care how I offend him. Where is your love to God, if you do not hate sin? Psa. xcvii. 10, 'Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.'

Though your right in the covenant be safe, yet you should still have the evil of your own doings in remembrance.

May these things be on the forefront of our remembrance, may it keep us humble and in awe of divine grace and mercy, may it elevate the perfectly righteous Lord Jesus Christ, and may God grant us a hatred of sin because it's an affront to the One we love!

-- David

Monday, June 26, 2017

Providence's Perpetuation Provisions: 4th & 5th Chick Hatchings of 2017

The Lord recently graciously granted another two hatchings for 2017, the 4th and 5th!

This first group is a little interesting: there were a couple of mama hens sitting on eggs in the barn, and one day I walked in, and heard little chick sounds, and behind the dog kennel there were two chicks and the two mothers walking around. Oh boy...gotta round them up before William our cat sees them! So, I caught the two chicks and picked one of the moms and put them in the summer kitchen. And then if I remember correctly, I think something was wrong with that mom -- she was being hurtful or something to the chicks and so I went and got the other mom and swapped them out. And things worked better with her.

Then, the first mama went back to sitting on eggs and a couple of days later, there was a chick sound under her! But, I didn't want to set her aside with just one chick if possible, so I took this third one and put it with the first two, hoping the mama wouldn't reject it, and she didn't, and so here are the three she's been taking care of:

Fourth Chick Hatching of 2017

And then, I put the other mama and the rest of the eggs she was sitting on in the barn in the mini chicken tractor, and then she hatched out two more!

Fifth Chick Hatching of 2017

And here is a video of both groups:

As always, we are very thankful to God for providing these offspring and provisions!

-- David

Monday, June 5, 2017

A House - Update XLVIII - Kitchen/Great Room Cabinets, Kitchen Island Carts, Pantry Shelves & Cook Book Shelf

It's been some time since our last house update, but since then, the Lord has granted we be able to collect great room and kitchen storage items, to be able to continue to move in and function more completely in the house.

Here are a couple of great room cabinets:

Great Room Cabinets

And with a stow away catching a nap: :)

Mimi in Great Room Storage Cabinet

And the kitchen cabinets:

Kitchen Cabinets

And with Sue's grandmother's china, which is very special to her!

Grandmother's China Dishes in Kitchen Cabinet

These are a couple of kitchen island carts:

Kitchen Island Cart

Kitchen Island Cart

And then some more pantry shelves:

More Pantry Shelves

And finally, a little cook book shelf I put on top of the paper towel holder:

Cook Book Shelf

As always, we are very thankful to God to be able to continue on the house and for these provisions! We always pray this place will be a house of worship to Him, for the gathering of His people, and where He might glorify Himself!

-- David

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Providence's Perpetuation Provisions: 2017's First Three Chick Hatchings

Spring time generally means new life time, and the Lord has graciously granted our first three hatchings of chickens this year!

This is group #1, 9 hatched and 9 still going!

First Chicks of 2017

And this is group #2 in the mini chicken tractor, 7 hatched here and all still healthy!

Second Chicks of 2017

And this is group #3. This was a more interesting one, in that, the first mommy sat a whole brooding cycle and nothing hatched out. And so, we put under her another dozen eggs. She made it two weeks (out of the three-week cycle), became unbroody, and chicken-scratched her eggs all over. Well, we got her out of there and put on the eggs another broody hen we had, and she's the one that finished them out. She hatched out 4 in total, but sadly the 4th little tiny one I think got stepped on as it looked like its little belly was opened up. Even more sadly for me was when I got out to bury it, after me closing its eyes, it opened them -- oh no! It was still alive, gasping ever so slightly for air. But I figured it was too far injured and gone, so I decided I should give it the coup de gras (act of grace). It's still always difficult for me to take the life of a gift from God that we try very hard to take care of. It's apparently part of animal husbandry though at times.

But, the other 3 are still doing well!

Third Chicks of 2017

And here is a video of all 3 groups:

As always, we are thankful to God that He grants the chicken flock to continue in this perpetuating manner. May they be used for His glory and the benefit of His Church!

-- David

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Community Singing - May 2017

Last Lord's Day we gathered together to record our next set of Psalms from the psalter we use! We thank the Lord for this continued opportunity, and to be able to sing prayers and praises to Him!

(If you would like to save any of the files locally to your computer, you can right click on Download and click Save As in the popup menu.)

Psalms 54A-59B

Previous Psalms singings:

Psalms 50A-53

Psalms 1A-12B (minus 4B)

Psalms 4B & 13-18L

Psalms 19A-22E

Psalms 22F-24C

Psalms 25A-27F

Psalms 28A-31G

Psalms 32A-34D

Psalms 35A-37F

Psalms 38B-40F

Psalms 41A-44F

Psalms 45A-49C

We pray the Lord glorify Himself through these, and through us always in whatever way He desires!

-- David

Monday, May 8, 2017

Goodbye Augie

We introduced Augie our gander late in 2011 when we paired him up with Gigi our goose after Gary died. He was named after the divine Augustine (Au-goose-tine). :)

Sadly, they were never able to make goslings, and even more sad now, this past week, Augie died. He had been struggling with his legs for some time; I had been trying to give him joint supplements in case that helped, and we're not sure exactly what happened, but after several days of more labored breathing last week, he was gone.

Here is a video of him and Gigi from way back:

Goodbye Augie...

Augie Grave

We will miss and think fondly of you!

Augie Our Gander

We thank the Lord for allowing us this time with him! And maybe He will grant Gigi another mate...

-- David

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Providence's Perennial Provisions: Re-Id: Curly Dock to Prickly Lettuce

Well, since our blog post on curly dock, a humanly-edible weed, we've discovered that it appears what I thought was curly dock is actually prickly lettuce, a species of wild lettuce. So, it was actually more "lettuce" than I thought. :) I originally went with curly dock because when I did an internet search for weeds that look like lettuce, that came up and wild lettuce didn't that I saw; and also because in the Texas weed book we have, curly dock was the closest match. Thankfully it ends up being an edible too. :O

At any rate, to me they do look similar, but the lettuce we have growing fits closer to the prickly lettuce description. Here is the Texas Foraging site on prickly lettuce. It has vitamin A & B, and minerals, and apparently doesn't have the oxalic acid problem, although it says if you eat too much it can upset your stomach.

From what I've experienced, their taste varies -- sometimes a little bitter, sometimes not at all. But it all goes well in a salad!

Here are some more pictures, that look much more like this type of wild lettuce:

Prickly Lettuce Plant

Prickly Lettuce Leaf Showing Pricklies

As I'm eating them raw, to get rid of the little pricklies, I just run my finger down the leaf spine, and that pretty much takes them out.

As before, we are grateful to the Lord for granting this provision directly off the land!

-- David

Thursday, April 20, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 8 - Going from Strength to Strength

This is Part 8 of a series of writings from Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. This part comes from his sermon on Psalm 84:7. While this is a different sermon than the original discussed in the first six parts, as with the last part, I came across this one and thought it was relevant to the topic of how difficult is the path to salvation. This is the final planned part of this series.

These sections below are only part of the sermon, so I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as the whole sermon is beneficial, and you can find it here:

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness
Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness
Part 5 - Why This Is Important
Part 6 - How to Use This Information
Part 7 - Living for Worthless Shadows

From Thomas Manton:

Psalm 84:7 - "They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God."


2. As it is a duty.

Use 1: It showeth the folly of them who count an earnest pursuance of eternal life to be more than needs, and that a little holiness will serve the turn. Oh no! A christian should always be growing and always improving, still pressing nearer and nearer towards the mark, going on from strength to strength. There is no nimium [too much] in holiness; you cannot have too much holiness, or too much of the love of God, nor of the fear of God, nor of faith in him.

There are many that come near and never enter: Luke xiii. 24, 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' Certainly he that knoweth what was lost in Adam, and must be recovered in Christ, cannot think he can do enough or too much.

How hard a matter is it to keep what we have! Such is the vanity, lightness, and inconstancy of our hearts in good, and so furious are the assaults of sundry temptations, and so great is our impotency to resist them; our proneness to turn from the ways of God so great; so strong, subtle and assiduous are our spiritual adversaries; so many are these difficulties, discouragements, diversions, and hindrances which we have to wrestle with and overcome in the way to heaven, that it concerneth us to give all diligence to advance in our christian course.

Once more, there is so much promised, that certainly a man knoweth not what christianity meaneth if he striveth not to be more holy. So exact is our rule, and strict, so holy is our God, so great are our obligations from all the means and providences of God, that such a vain [useless] conceit cannot possess the soul of a serious christian.

Use 2: It reproveth those who, if they have gotten such a measure of grace, whereby they think they may be assured they are in a state of grace, they never look further, but set up their rest, and think hereafter Christ will make them perfect when they die. Consider—

1. They hazard their claim of sincerity that do not aim at perfection; for where there is true grace, there will be a desire of the greatest perfection; as a small seed will seek to grow up into a tree. He that is truly good will be growing from good to better, and so is best at last; the more his light and love is increased, the more he is troubled about the relics of sin, and grieved at his heart that he can serve God no more perfectly.

2. All promises are accomplished by degrees; and so far as we hope for anything, we will be endeavouring it: 1 John iii. 3, 'Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.'

3. According to the degrees of grace so will our glory be. The vessel is filled according to its capacity. They that are growing here have more in heaven. He that improved ten talents hath a reward proportionable, and so he that improved five, Matt. xxv. As our measures of grace are, so will our measures of glory be, all according to their size and receptivity. As there are degrees of punishments in hell, so of rewards in heaven. He that loved God more on earth has more of his love in heaven.

Use 3: It showeth the miserable estate of them that do not go strength to strength, but from weakness to weakness; that waste their strength by sin, that are fallen back, and have lost the savouriness of their spirits, and their delight in communion with God, and grow more careless and neglectful of holy things, weak in faith, impatient under the cross, formal in holy duties; their heart is not watched, their tongue is not bridled, their conversation is more vain [useless], they wax worse and worse. Oh! take heed of such a declining estate. When men fall from their first love: Rev. ii. 4, 'I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.' First faith: 1 Tim. v .12, 'Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.' Or first obedience: 2 Chron. xvii. 3, 'The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David.' David in his later time fell into scandalous crimes.

Use 4: Is to persuade you to go on from strength to strength. It is the gift of God's free grace, and the work of the Spirit: Eph. iii. 16, 'That he would grant you to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.' By maintaining and actuating grace, notwithstanding all difficulties.

May the Lord grant us a desire to be more like Him in His holiness; that He grant us to daily grow in His graces and never grow slack; to be troubled about the relics of sin and grieved we cannot serve Him better; may we continuously pray for these things; and may He see us through to the end in His faith, with patience and thankfulness, through all the difficulties of being saved!

-- David

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Providence's Perennial Provisions: Curly Dock

Please see our update regarding re-identifying these plants as prickly lettuce. While curly dock is close, it appears what we are showing below is much closer to being prickly lettuce.

Since we desire to live more under God's direct provision for food, it's important to us to see if there are any things growing here on the land natively that are humanly edible.

Well, at the beginning of Spring, I was in the garden and noticed something that to me looked an awful lot like lettuce. With land perennials on the mind, I thought that I should really try to discover if this was something we could eat.

After going through our Texas weed book and not finding anything obvious, I started searching the internet looking for perennial lettuces or something like that, and then looked at images in the search. Eventually I came across a web page from Foraging Texas that had a picture that looked very much like our plants -- curly dock!

And with some further study, I've come to believe that indeed what we have is curly dock or some other very close relative of it!

How wonderfully great is that?! Free, native lettuce growing!

Apparently it has vitamins A & C, and the roots can be medicinal too! And the seeds can be eaten! The only thing is the leaves are apparently much like spinach with oxalic acid, which is especially of concern to those who get kidney stones.

Here are some pictures of the plants:

Perennial Prickly Lettuce of 2017

Another Perennial Prickly Lettuce of 2017

And just how much is growing in our gardens:

Garden 1 Full of Prickly Lettuce Plants

Garden 2 Full of Prickly Lettuce Plants

And these are a couple of other links to some information about docks, eating them, and their nutrition:

How exciting! At least to me. :) They don't taste too badly raw, but go very nicely in a salad! We plan to see if we can lacto-ferment some as well, for longer-term storage.

We are very grateful to the Lord in His mercies and graces for granting this perennial provision, and we pray He might continue to show us other things available on the land that He has graciously provided!

-- David

Friday, April 7, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 7 - Living for Worthless Shadows

This is Part 7 of a series of writings from Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. This part comes from his sermon on 2 Cor. 4:18. While this is a different sermon than the original discussed in the first six parts, I came across this one and thought it was relevant to the topic of how difficult is the path to salvation.

These sections below are only part of the sermon, so I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as the whole sermon is beneficial, and you can find it here:

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness
Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness
Part 5 - Why This Is Important
Part 6 - How to Use This Information

From Thomas Manton:

2 Cor. 4:18 - "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

3. To negligent and sensual worldlings, who wholly busy themselves about the matters of this life, and are hurried hither and thither: Ps. xxxix. 6, 'Surely every man walketh in a vain show; they are disquieted in vain.' Our life is but a picture, image, shadow, or dream of life; it vanisheth in a trice. All must be suddenly parted with here, all the riches and honours; and yet we cark and labour and turmoil to get these transitory things, as if they would continue with us to all eternity, and had some durable satisfaction in them. Present pleasures and profits cloud our minds, and till we can get this veil drawn aside, this cloud scattered, we do not discern our mistake. Oh, consider who "would redeem the short pleasure of a dream with the torment of many days!

Our days upon earth are as a shadow, and yet this shadow do we cleave to instead of the substance, and though earthly things be short in their continuance, and uncomfortable in their end, yet these take up our life, and love, and care, and thoughts. Just as those that want children take pleasure in keeping little dogs and cats, so do they embrace the shadow for the substance, vainglory for eternal glory, a little pelf for the true riches, a little paltry business for the great work and end of our lives; and when all is done, it is but a spider's web, Job viii. 14. The trust of the carnal man shall be but as the spider's web. As the spider out of his own bowels weaveth a web to catch flies, and frameth it with a great deal of art, but it is gone with the turn of the besom [a broom made of twigs tied around a stick], so is the fruit of all their plots, and cares, and labours, and running up and down, when in the meantime we are unmindful of eternity.

Oh, when will these distracting worldlings find a time for God and everlasting happiness? Childhood is not serious enough, youth must take their pleasure, manly age is too full of business, and old age is too feeble.

4. It reproveth God's children, who are too lazy, and have not that life and seriousness in a spiritual business which they have in an earthly. If eternity be your aim, why are you so dead and dull in a course of holiness? The apostle biddeth Timothy to follow after holiness: 'To fight the good fight, to lay hold on eternal life,' 1 Tim. vi. 12; implying if the one were his aim, he would do the other.

If we press towards the mark, why are we so frozen and cold in our zeal for God, so inclinable to every motion of sin, so easily overcome by temptations? Alas! making eternal things our scope is but a notion, unless we provide forthwith with greater care, exactness, and diligence. There should be a suitableness and proportion between the exactness of our conversation [behavior] and the greatness of our hopes: 1 Thes. ii. 12, 'Walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.' That worthiness is the worthiness of condignity [as if our reward for works was heaven], congruity [appropriateness], and condecency [the decency of living a holy life].

But alas! do we labour as for eternity? so follow after righteousness, so fight the good fight of faith, so despise the world, deny ourselves, run through all straits, triumph over all difficulties, mortify and subdue our own carnal inclinations? Alas! we are so bold in sinning, so cold in holy things, and do so little exercise ourselves unto godliness, as if we had no such great matters in view and chase; and carry it so as if our hopes were only in this world, and not as if the eternal God had promised these eternal things to us. Surely if our belief of them were stronger we should be other persons than we are, in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter iii. 11.

May the Lord grant us a desire and help to spend our time, instead of building our treasures of earthly, worthless shadows, following after righteousness, fighting the good fight of faith, despising the world, denying ourselves, running through all straits, triumphing over all difficulties, and mortifying and subduing our own carnal inclinations!

Stay tuned for part 8, if the Lord wills!

-- David

Friday, March 31, 2017

TreeBNB - A Swarm Welcome to the Honeybee Haven

Last week I was walking near the barn and noticed a brown patch in one of our pear trees. My first thought was that they were some dried up leaves, but that didn't make sense because that tree had really fully leafed out this year. And then I thought...I wonder...

And sure was a swarm of bees! Wow! So, I thought I'd record the moment...

Here are some pictures:

Bee Swarm

Bee Swarm Closer

Bee Swarm Closer, Different View

And here's a video. At one point, one of the girlies bounced off the camera and started buzzing around me...I got a little worried she was going to tell her friends, but thankfully things stayed calm! :)

I had expected them to move on quickly, but they were there for several days.

With what has been happening to bee populations around the world, we're always thankful for the bees we have or see, and we pray that God might grant these bees to have found a nice and safe new home, do lots of pollinating, and continue to replicate and make more hives!

-- David

Thursday, March 23, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 6 - How to Use This Information

This is Part 6 of Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26.

I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:;view=fulltext

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness
Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness
Part 5 - Why This Is Important

From Thomas Manton:

Mark 10:26 - "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?"

Use 1. This shows us the reason of that presumption which is so common. We used to say that despair kills thousands, but presumption its ten thousands. What's the reason that many presume? O the difficulties of salvation are not well weighed. True hope is a middle thing between presumption and despair. ... Hope considers its object as hard, for that which is easy to come by is as if it were already enjoyed; a man cannot be said to hope for that which he may have with the turn of his hand. Well then, it considers the good to come as difficult, to awaken diligence and serious endeavours; but then it considers it as possible, for otherwise we are really discouraged from looking after it; for why should we look after that which is impossible? Paul's mariners gave over working when all hope that they should be saved was taken away, Acts 27.20.

But now presumption leaves out the difficulty, and reflects only upon the possibility: some may be saved, surely God will not damn all his creatures, therefore I shall be saved: but suppose the contrary, few are saved, then what shall become of me?

On the other side, despair reflects only upon the difficulty, and leaves out the possibility: O it is hard, it is impossible with men, therefore they give it over! I shall make no work of it, saith despair. Now the scripture that would breed and nourish in us a true hope, doth all along lay forth the difficulty, to prevent slightness of spirit, and yet represents the possibility to prevent despair: the difficulties to quicken our endeavours, and the possibility to encourage men to hope for the grace of God.

Use 2. It presseth us to mortify our addictedness to present things. O Christians! If you could overcome the world, you pluck out the root of all temptations, and then the commandments of God would not be grievous, John 5:3-4, 'For this is the victory whereby we overcome the world, even our faith'. The world is the great let [preventer] which hinders us from keeping the command, from being so exact, punctual, and sincere with God: overcome the world, and the work will be easy.

Take heed of pleasing the flesh, or letting the world have too great an interest in your hearts; let it not seem a great thing in your eye. Until your hearts are drawn off from present things, and you are wholly baptized into that spirit that suits with the world to come, to make that your main care and desire, you will never prosper in heavens way, until your thoughts be loosened from the world, and you are carried out more to heaven and heavenly things. Consider, why should you be addicted to present things? You that are strangers and not inhabitants, your happiness lies not here; if our hopes were only in this life, we were of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. 15.19. We are but probationers for heaven: our conversation [behavior] should be in heaven, Phil. 3.20.

Use 3. To fortify us against the difficulties in the way of salvation. You must be at some pains and labour, John 6:27, 'Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat that endureth unto everlasting life': do not slacken your endeavours. To quicken you, consider

(1.) If you love your salvation, you will be at some cost about it. It is a sign you make no reckoning of heaven, and have no great sense of things to come, when you grudge your pains; it is a sign you slight it, when you are so slow in the pursuit of it, Phil. 3.14, 'I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus'. O did you value heaven, or had you any esteem of heavenly things, you would not think much of a little pains, of striving with God in prayer, of wrestling, and denying your lusts [desires], to bring your hearts to a readiness and cheerfulness in the service of the ever-living God. No trade in the world you can drive on by idleness. Who ever prospered in any course of living, if he followed it with a slack hand? We cannot think to have those great invisible things of the Lord's kingdom, and his glory, if you will do nothing for it.

(2.) There is difficulty both in the way to heaven and hell. Lusts are ravenous things, and cannot be fed or kept without much self-denial: you must deny yourselves either for God or the devil: you must deny your comforts, and your estate. Men will venture much for their lusts, and for their sensuality [pleasing to the human senses], there must be a great deal of charge to feed this humour, to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh.

Worldliness wastes the spirits, racks the brain: for ambition, how many hazards do men run for their greatness in the world? How many men sacrifice their lives upon the point of honour, for revenge, and for a little vain glory? Now if a man will take pains to go to hell, shall he not take pains to go to heaven? When men will be at such costs for lusts, as to deny conscience, and slight many of the comforts of the present world for lusts sake, shall we take no pains, and exercise no self-denial for heaven?

(3.) If we be at a little labour, it will not be in vain in the Lord, 1 Cor. 15:58, 'Be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord': whether you consider your vales or wages, your labour is not in vain. Your vales: Christ's servants have a great deal of comfort and sweetness, Prov. 3:17, 'Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace': and for the world to come, there is a full and sure reward, therefore do not stick at a little pains; though it be difficult, yet remember it is for salvation.

Use 4. Let us look to our own selves, how is it with us? Are we in the way to hell or heaven? Let us look to our own standing, do we leave the boat to the stream? Do we give up our selves to the sway of our corrupt and carnal affections? Or else do we row against the stream and current of flesh and blood? It is no easy matter to be saved.

I do not ask now what will become of those that never minded salvation; that never busied their thoughts about it; but even in effect say, Let them take heaven that list [will]: but I ask, what will become of those slothful perfunctory Christians that count a little slight and formal religion enough, which is without any life, alacrity and power? Will this do the deed? Such will fall short of heaven.

May God grant us a true desire for Him, to be with Christ forever, and the desire and strength to busy ourselves in the ways of holiness!

Stay tuned for part 7, if the Lord wills!

-- David

Thursday, March 16, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 5 - Why This Is Important

This is Part 5 of Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26.

I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:;view=fulltext

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness
Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness

From Thomas Manton:

Mark 10:26 - "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?"

III. This difficulty must be sufficiently understood, and seriously thought of by us. And here

(1.) Negatively. We should so reflect upon the difficulty,

1. Not to murmur against God because heaven is not to be had upon cheaper terms, and his ways lie so cross to our desires. Take heed of this; as if he were envious, and had not a good respect for the happiness of his creature. It is but reasonable that we should labour for heaven as we do for all other things that are good and excellent: that which costs nothing is worth nothing. Besides, there are so many corruptions to be mortified, duties to be performed, and trials to be endured, that the faith of the elect may be found to the more praise and honour', 1 Pet. 1.7. and therefore all the pains, and shame, and loss, and trouble, is but necessary. This is an ill use and end, to murmur against God, and repine against his sovereignty and dominion over the creature; and yet this is the use that many make of it.

2. Not that we should despair, or wholly despond, ... When men hear how hard it is to go to heaven, they throw off all in a despondency, they shall never bring their heart to this work. But we should not despair, and think it altogether impossible; there cannot be a pursuit of that which is impossible; past cure, (they say) past care. Many their affections are so strongly set upon carnal things, and they are so inveigled with the comforts of the world, and the pleasures of the flesh, that they are discouraged, and so think it impossible to do otherwise than they do. O no, that's not the use of it, ... God would have the fallen creature to despair of himself indeed; with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible; as in the next verse.

(2.) Positive: Why should these difficulties be thought of, and laid to heart? To what end?

1. To prevent slightness of spirit: there is not a greater bane to religion, nor a greater judgment lights upon a creature, than a vain frothy slight heart, and therefore to prevent this, and that we may in good earnest mind the things of our eternal peace, it is good to understand sufficiently the difficulty of it. A slight heart thinks it no such great matter to get to heaven, there is no such danger of missing it as men talk of; though they be not so religious as preachers would have them, nor so strict in conscience as to abstain from every smaller matter; yet through the grace of God they shall do well enough; hell is made for the devil and devilish men, and outrageous sinners; if they live fairly, and do as their neighbours do, they shall do well enough, though they do not pine and whine over their sins, or busy their brains about clearing up their interest in God; though they be not so nice and scrupulous, and take God's word too strictly, they shall do well enough for all that. Christians, these conceits, with which most men are leavened, are the bane, and eat out the heart of all religion.

It is no such easy matter to go to heaven as the world imagines; a cold faint wish will never bring us thither, nor a desire to enjoy it when we can live here no longer: no, there must be watching, and labouring, and striving, this must be your great business and employment ... O! whatever is neglected, this business must be looked after day after day, namely, in what posture we are for the enjoyment of the blessed God,

Now it is necessary men should be sensible of the difficulty of being saved, to quicken their endeavours, and to bring them out of this slight frame of heart, which is so natural to us; they think there needs not so much ado, that we make the way straiter than God hath made it, they will not believe it is half so hard as it is: we see how great is our sloth and negligence; now if after he hath told us it is as hard as to go through the eye of a needle, what would we do if all were easy? Think of the difficulty to prevent this slight heart.

2. To keep us in a due dependence upon, and an admiration of grace, God would have us sensible of the difficulty. What carnal hearts have we? How hard a matter is it to guide and govern them in the fear of God, that we may keep up an admiration of the power of God that is perfected in our weakness. ... This awakeneth our prayers for special grace from day to day, and maketh us to look up to God for new supplies, because we find it is not in our selves; 'The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps', Jer. 10:23. 'We are not sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our selves, but our sufficiency is of God', 2 Cor. 3:5.

3. That we may be forearmed with resolutions. They that take a walk for recreation do not prepare for all weathers, as they that resolve upon a journey; or they that go to sea for pleasure, if they see a storm coming, easily go to shore again, but they that go for business resolve upon all hazards, to finish their voyage. Now that we may resolve to make a thorough work of Christianity, and to hold on our way in Christ's strength notwithstanding all difficulty, our Lord would have us to sit down and count the charges, Luk. 14:28, to consider what it will cost us to go to heaven; not to discourage us, but to provoke us to put on the more resolution, lest we tire when we find more difficulty than we did expect, and that we may resolve to hold on with God whatever it cost us.

May we trust God as sovereign Lord; may we pray for His graces to seek Him with all our hearts, bodies and souls; and we pray He grant us His graces to persevere to the end!

Stay tuned for part 6, if the Lord wills!

-- David

Thursday, March 9, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness

This is Part 4 of Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26.

I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:;view=fulltext

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness

From Thomas Manton:

Mark 10:26 - "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?"

II. Wherein lies the difficulty of salvation?

(3.) Let us now consider the great efficacy and power which this inclination to temporal things hath upon us, and then you will see it is very difficult for us to enter into heaven.

1. This inclination and addictedness to present things weakens our sense of the world to come, and then our reward hath no influence upon us to move us and encourage us to serve God. Whilst the world bears bulk in our eye, heavenly things are of small, or of no value with us. Satan blinds us as the god of this world, 2 Cor. 4:4, that is, by the love of the world ... so, as we cannot have a true sight and persuasion of the truth and worth of things to come. ... heaven is as a matter of nothing, in comparison of present things: as in a prospective glass, look at one end of it, it greatens the object, at the other end it lessens the object. Thus when we look upon things to come through the glass of our own passions, and carnal affections, they are nothing, they have no force nor power to move us. ... the world and the profits of it are real and substantial, but heavenly things are shadows, dreams, matters of conceit and mere imagination. And therefore since this addictedness to temporal things hath such force upon us, to hinder the sight of the world to come, it must needs be difficult to us to be saved.

2. This addictedness to present delights and pleasures, makes us impatient of the restraints of religion. Our natural desires carry us to those things which religion forbids: we cannot endure to be bridled, and kept from forbidden fruit, but we have all an appetite after it, ... And Rom. 8:7, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be'. ... A man wholly given up to present satisfactions, cannot endure the yokes and fetters religion would lay upon him, he would be a free creature, and live as he list. Indeed it is to be a captive creature, but this he accounts his liberty and freedom.

3. It maketh those duties seem irksome and unnecessary, which are necessary as the way to salvation. Look into the book of God, and you will find we are called upon to strive to enter into heaven, and required to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. 2:12, with all holy solicitude, with all lively diligence, to be still employed in this work; to strive to enter in at the strait gate: Luke 13:24. To walk worthy of God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory, 1 Thes. 2:12. Now they that are addicted to ease, pleasure, and sensual delights, cannot endure to be held to this work; they do either openly refuse this work, or delay it, which is the more modest denial, or else are cold in it.

Some profane persons cast off all care of duty, as if religion were but a point of policy, heaven but a dream, and hell but a false fire, the Gospel but a fable to busy men's heads with, and so resolve to please the flesh, and never trouble themselves about uncertain futurities.

Many thus live in defiance of God and Christianity, or else they delay to a more convenient season, they have no mind to the work; ... lust [desire] must have present satisfaction, but Christ comes always out of season. When Christ makes an offer of heaven to their souls, hereafter they will be glad to hear of him, but now he comes before the time. ... When the heart cannot keep out light and conviction of our duty, it seeks to keep off care, and so by making fair promises for the future, we elude the importunity of present conviction.

Or else a heart addicted to present satisfaction is very cold in religion, for the heart that is diverted by other pursuits, cannot make religion its work, but only minds it by the by: the world, that is their business, but religion that is put in the place of a recreation, and they mind earthly things; Phil. 3:19; their heads and hearts are full of the world, so that they have no room for God: their time, thoughts, discourses, are wholly swallowed up of present things, and complying with their present lusts [desires].

4. This addictedness to present satisfactions, will make us shrink at the trials God exerciseth us with, before we go to heaven: Acts 14:22. Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God. All good things are hard to come by, and God will shew that heaven is worth something. When men have cheap thoughts of it, God will enhance the price of heaven. There must be striving and suffering before we get thither. The howling wilderness was the ready way to Canaan. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering. We should else [Or otherwise we will] neither esteem the cross of Christ, nor long for heaven. But present ease, present safety, present wealth, doth wonderfully enchant us, to have good days here, and a quiet life without any trouble. If we could compound with God for this world and heaven too, then we should like it: but now while we are so wholly inclined and addicted to present things, it must needs be a difficult thing to hear of trials and crosses that we must endure.

May God remove this desire for the things of this world, the things comfortable to the senses, and grant us a vision and desire wholly past them, through faith, for Him and the things of Him!

Stay tuned for part 5, if the Lord wills!

-- David

Thursday, March 2, 2017

David's Digest: It's Not Easy Being Saved, Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness

This is Part 3 of Puritan Thomas Manton's excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26.

I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:;view=fulltext

And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved

From Thomas Manton:

Mark 10:26 - "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?"

II. Wherein lies the difficulty of salvation?

The reason of doubting is this: because God's terms, upon which heaven is offered, are gentle and sweet, ... the Law which God hath given us is holy, just, and good, becoming a God to give, and a creature to receive. ... Therefore how is it so difficult, especially since there is so much strength given, habitual strength, ... and there is so much actual strength. ... And therefore since the way is so good, his yoke so easy, and there is so much strength given, and since the encouragements are so many, both from the work, and from the wages.

From the work itself; 'Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace', Prov. 3:7. There is a great deal of peace, comfort, and sweetness in walking with God.

And then for the wages, 'God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him', Heb. 11:6.

Well then, (to sum up all) these things concur, since the way is plain, the helps many, the promises full and sure; why is it so difficult to go to heaven?

I answer: The fault is not in God, but in our own selves, in our own hearts, in our addictedness to temporal satisfactions: and therefore when God calls us off from the interests and concernments of the present world, wholly to look after the interests and concernments of the world to come, the disposition of our flesh, or carnal nature, and the course of God's institutions will not suit. And this must needs be a very great difficulty, not easily removed: because, (1.) It is natural to us. (2.) It is increased by custom. (3.) It hath a powerful efficacy upon us to hinder us from walking in the ways of God, that are so sweet and pleasant.

(1.) This is natural to us, to be led by sense, or to be addicted to present things. There are three sorts of beings in the world:
  1. Angels that are pure spirits without flesh, these were made for heaven, and not earth
  2. There are brute creatures, that are flesh without immortal souls, these were made for earth, and not heaven
  3. And there is man, a middle nature between both these, that hath a fleshly substance, and an immortal soul, made partly for heaven, and partly for earth, as partaking of both; he hath a body that was made out of the dust, and so fitted to live in this world; and he hath a soul that came down from the superior world [from God when created], and must return thither again.

Now these two things must be regarded, according to the dignity of the parts of which man consisteth, his earthly part, and his heavenly part. The soul being the better part, the perfection and happiness of it should chiefly be looked after; the good of the soul is the enjoyment of the ever blessed God, this should be our main work and business, and the good of the body should be looked after in an inferior and subordinate manner. The good of the body is meat, drink, wealth, honour; these things are to be looked after in our passage to heaven. ... Man was made for earth in his passage and way to heaven, but his home and happiness is in heaven, where he is to enjoy the blessed God, among his holy angels, and those blessed creatures that dwell above, in the region of spirits. This was the end for which man was created, and while man continued innocent, he had a heart inclined and disposed towards God as his chiefest good; he sought the good of his soul, and was to love him, and fear him, and serve him, and depend upon him as the fountain of his happiness.

But by the fall man was drawn off from God to the creature, to seek his happiness there. ... Not only Adam in his own person, but all his posterity are turned from God to the creature. Now man in his pure naturals, is inclined to the creature, which conduceth to the satisfaction of the earthly part, and not to God, wherein the happiness of his soul lies. This will be evident to you, if you consider, that though the soul be created by God, yet it is created destitute of grace, or original righteousness; and being destitute of the image of God, or original righteousness, it doth only accommodate itself to the interests of the body, and seek the happiness of the body: for where there is not a principle to carry us higher, it can only close with things present, and known, such as are the pleasures of the body, and the interests of the bodily life, and so forgets God, and what concerns the enjoyment of him. And so it is said, Rom. 8:5, 'They that are after the flesh, do mind (or favour) the things of the flesh, and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit'.

And thence proceeds all our mindlessness of God, and averseness to him; our unruly and inordinate appetites of temporal things, and the confusion, weakness, and disorder that is seen in the life of man, and all his operations and faculties. ... He is sharp-sighted in all things that concern the present world, but cannot see things to come; and until the Lord make a gracious change upon him, he sees nothing of the worth of salvation, or of a need of Christ, and making any serious preparation for eternity.

Hence comes that averseness of will to what is truly good, that he cannot endure to hear of it, ... and while the soul is so, it hath such a bent and proneness to that which is evil, or what concerns our interest in the world.

Hence it is that in the course of our lives we take up with the interests of the present world, and make no provision for a better life.

Well then, by a natural constitution, we are utterly at a loss, the soul being destitute of a principle that should carry it to look after spiritual things, as its great scope and interest, it wholly purveys and caters for bodily pleasures, and the honours and profits of the present life: here lieth the great difficulty in the way of salvation.

(2.) This addictedness to present things is increased by our converse in the world: so that besides natural inclination, there is inveterate custom, whereby this inclination to carnal satisfactions, such as riches, pleasures, ease, safety, and sensual [of the senses] delights, is strengthened and deeply engraved in us.

The first years of a man's life are merely governed by sense, and the pleasures of the flesh are born and bred up with us, by which means we come to be stiff, and settled in a carnal frame. Custom is another nature, and therefore the more we are accustomed to delight in any course of life, we are weaned from it with the greater difficulty: ... Every act disposeth the soul to the habit, and after the habit or custom is produced, every new deliberate act adds a stiffness of bent, or sway unto the faculty, wherein the custom is seated: so that by degrees we grow into an obstinacy and strength of will in a carnal course, which is called hardness of heart, or a heart of stone in scripture.

A man is ensnared by his customs, whatever they be; for an addictedness in the general to carnal satisfactions, brings a slavery upon us [like being addicted to something]. ... Men by the tyranny of custom, become so impotent to resist their lusts [desires], that the satisfaction thereof becomes their very element, out of which they cannot live: it is their Eden, and their heaven, their very paradise, though at length indeed they find it to be their hell.

And of all evil customs, covetousness or worldliness is most dangerous, because it is of more credit, and of less infamy in the world; and besides, it doth multiply its acts most, and works incessantly.

Now while worldly men's hearts are so deeply dyed with such desires, as carrieth them out to such things, they are hardly saved.

Well then, here is another reason of the difficulty, that our lusts are born and bred with us from our infancy, and can plead prescription; and religion cometh afterwards, and findeth us biased and prepossessed with other inclinations, which by reason of long use cannot easily be broken and shaken off.

May God grant us His graces and a desire against and breaking away from the ways of the world!

Stay tuned for part 4, if the Lord wills!

-- David