“Help Heavenward” Chapter 8: Self Communion

Help Heavenward

Chapter 8: Self Communion

“…Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still”—Psalm 4:4

It will be acknowledged by every spiritual and reflecting mind that the tendencies of the age are not the most favourable to the calm, solemn, holy duty of self-communion. We are fallen upon times of great religious, as well as worldly activity and excitement. So strong and rushing, indeed, is the tide, that there exists a fearful and fatal liability in those who profess to walk with God, as did Noah and Enoch, to neglect entirely one of the most essential and effectual helps heavenward—the due, faithful, and constant examination of the spiritual state and condition of their own hearts. To the consideration of this vitally-important subject—a subject so intimately entwined with our progress in the divine life—let us now address ourselves. The Divine precept is emphatic—“Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still;” or, as it is rendered in another and a beautiful version of the Psalms, “Commune with your own heart in your chamber, and be still?”—The Book of Common Prayer. Both renderings are good, but perhaps the latter conveys more distinctly and impressively the idea of retirement for self-communion. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers,” is the invitation of God to His Church. Like to this is the Saviour’s exhortation—“When thou prayest, enter into thy closet.”
Continue reading

The Octavius Winslow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 7)

This glorious little chapter opens before us with the call from Winslow to search our hearts to see how we so often can be consumed with our cares and woes that we more times than not forget to look unto Jesus for our sweet relief.

But do you not, beloved reader, need to be put in constant remembrance of this divine secret of rest amidst toil, of repose amidst disquietude, of soothing amidst corroding cares, and of confidence and hope in the midst of change and depression? Bewildered and oppressed by the multitude of anxious thoughts within you, is there not a danger of being so absorbed by the care as to overlook the Caretaker? to forget the heart’s ease in the overwhelming of the heart’s anxiety? Verily we think so.

Although it may be easily stated that this inward looking to self may be contributed to our self-reliance, pride, and our own ability to cope with the issues that so easily press in around us, I think it may be more properly stated that it is in these moments that we just simply forget who we are in Christ and that in our feeble state we need constant reminding to lift up our heads to the Author and Perfector of our faith… no matter how weak that faith may presently be.

The cares of this life enter deeply into the carefulness of which the Lord seeks to lighten us. In proportion to the spiritual tone of the mind, and the closeness of the heart’s converse with God and heavenly realities, will be the tenderness of the believer to the chafing and pressure of temporal cares. The more heavenly we grow, the more acutely sensitive do we become to the encroachment and influence of earth and earthly things.

Such a blessed mark of God’s children, yet such a troublesome mark at the same time. When the regenerated soul and mind grows all the more acutely sensitive to the heavenly call with which it has been set to does the world and its troubles begin to bombard the believers mind as cannon fire to a ships hull. So earnestly do we now yearn and strive for heavenly thought and likeness, yet the sharp contrast of the world’s fallen state seems to becloud our souls to make us feel the remaining chains this worlds still holds us by. It becomes all too easy to sit and stew in our woe and discomfort and ultimately to forget that we are to still keep looking ahead of our current positions unto Jesus and where He now waits for us.

Then, there often presses upon the heart the anxiety to know the path of duty in which we should walk. This is no small care to the child of God. We are often brought to a stand-still, and are, as it were, at our wits’ end. Two paths, intersecting each other, diverging to the right and to the left, confront us, and we are perplexed to know which one we should take.

I think that this particular care can become overwhelmingly burdensome especially to babes in Christ who have not yet blossomed into the flowering maturity of being able to rest in the assurance that God is always working all things for our good and that He is worthy to be trusted in making our paths straight and sure. We live in a world and in a time where we want instant answers and resolutions to all of our problems and questions. To be able to wait on the Lord is indeed a grace much needed in our day!

But there are greater cares than these—the spiritual cares of the soul—which often press heavily upon the heart. You are anxious to know that you have an interest in Christ’s redeeming love,—that your name is written among the living in Jerusalem,—that your sins are pardoned,—that your person is adopted, accepted, saved,—and that after death you will reign with Jesus for ever. You are anxious, too, that your Christian walk should be obedient, perceptive, believing; that you should be more heavenly-minded, growing in knowledge, and grace, and divine conformity to the will of God and the image of Jesus. Ah! these are cares before which all others vanish into insignificance!

He who travailed in sorrow for your salvation is personally, tenderly cognizant of the anxious, the profoundly anxious, desire of your soul that there may not rest the shadow of a shade of doubt and uncertainty upon the fact of its everlasting safety. You are not alone in this soul-exercise. Jesus is with you. The travel of your heart after him, the panting of your spirit for His salvation, the longing of your soul for an assured interest in His love,—your tears, your sighs, your desires, your prayers, your watchings,—awaken in the heart of your Saviour the deepest, tenderest response.

I think we tend to view Jesus at many times like He is sort of just “out there” and that He would not be able to understand the soul sufferings we often go through. We could not be more wrong about that! We have a High Priest who is able to understand our weakness and concerns as He himself once walked in these paths at one time. He does indeed know the frailty of our faith at times and waits at all times for us to turn from our anxious ways and turn to Him for security and comfort in times of trouble.

But you will ask, How is this transfer of care to be made? In the directions which we suggest we would give prominence to the exercise of unquestioning faith. Here there must be a taking God at His word.

Will you, then, wound Him with your doubts, dishonour Him by your unbelief, and force from under you, buffeting, as you are, amidst the waves, this divine, sustaining plank—faith in the word and promise of the only true and living God?

The life blood which we believers now live upon is our faith. It is the muscle which is able to move mountains! And like any muscle, it must be exercised (tried) to become stronger. The word of God is the weight bench in which that muscle may now be built up and strengthened. To read the promises in the holy scriptures is one thing, but it is quite another to grab hold of them and to “lift them” again and again to strengthen our faith and thus increase our confidence and trust in Christ all the more. Doubts and anxiety begin to become more and more faint the more we exercise our faith in the gymnasium of the word of the Lord!

Not less potent is prayer as a mean of transferring care to God. God often sends the care to rouse us to call upon Him. We want an errand, and He sends a trial; we want an impulse, and He sends a sorrow; we want earnestness and importunity, and He sends the heavy and the continuous stroke—all His waves breaking over us. Prayer is the safety valve of the soul. The heart would break, the spirit would sink, despair would fold its dark shroud around us, but for the privilege of access to God through Christ.

The most obvious means of care transfer is that of prayer, yet, it is so often overlooked. While the trusting of a promise in the believers bosom is a much more secretive and discrete function, prayer requires the laying aside of all earthly duty and business and focusing our hearts care solely with our God. It is indeed true that we may send silent prayers to the Lord all throughout our day when the need arises, but nothing can replace prayer done in that special secret place in which the believers soul may become unhitched from this wilderness trial and may be brought into full communicative communion with our Lord who cares for us completely. Oh precious hour of prayer!

Winslow then concludes this chapter with a few observations of caution to his readers.

Do not anticipate care. By anticipating care, and thus antedating your future, you grieve the Spirit of God, wound your own peace, and unfit yourself for present duty and trial.

Sit not brooding over your state, deploring its existence, and lamenting your want of more faith, and grace, and love. Arise, responsive to the precept, and cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain both you and it. This inordinate absorption within yourself will bring to you no relief, no heart’s ease, and no nourishment to faith. One uplifted glance—one sight of Jesus—one believing touch of the promise of God, will bring more repose to your anxious spirit, more succor to your burdened mind, than a lifetime of self-absorption.

I love practical advice. And this is for sure good counsel from an experienced believer. To fret and worry for tomorrows provision is not only disobedience to a direct command of the Lord, but it only fuels the fire of anxiety within and fosters unbelief in the soul. You are so much important to Him than sparrows or blades of grass. You are bought with his Sons precious blood and He will not forsake the one whom He has applied the sacred blood upon! Trust Him for today. Trust Him for tomorrow. Trust Him for all!

Lastly, keep yourself from morbid naval gazing. This is an area in which I personally struggle mightily and have at times almost become paralyzed by my failures, shortcomings, and recurring sins. It is indeed healthy to examine oneself to test our spiritual condition and progress, but it must be tempered with a constant looking to the alien righteousness that is not of ourselves that is ultimately the substance which God now looks upon for our justification before Him!

Next Week

Please read Chapter 8: Self Communion which will be due on March 14!

 

 

A New Octavius Winslow Biography? Maybe.

I wanted to kindly ask the readers of the blog to please consider praying for a project that I am considering.

When I first established this site and drew up my “mission statement”, one of the goals was to write as detailed of a biography as possible on Octavius. Back then, I knew absolutely nothing on the man and there was just as much on the internet available. With a lot of hard work and many invested hours and headaches, the site has blossomed considerably and the online presence of Winslow has increased drastically. Of which I am so thankful to God for!

With so many new believers becoming turned onto his works, I am at a point now where I think it may, it may, just be possible to write that biography.

Realistically speaking, it would be no substantial book. A rough calculation shows it might at most be a 100 page book…if that. But with the timing of the new found public interest, my contact with a direct descendant of Octavius who has done tremendous work in searching out her family history, the encouragement of my ever supportive wife Rhoda, and the encouragement of the paper written by Tanner Turely entitled “THE EXPERIMENTAL HOMILETIC OF OCTAVIUS WINSLOW: APPLYING DOCTRINE TO LIFE” has found me in a place where I now see that if this biography is ever going to happen, it would probably be now and with me writing it.

So….what am I getting at?

I would covet your prayers at this time from you that the Lord would drive it home for me to set out on this project. That it would both become crystal clear to me that this project is indeed for me to set out on and that He would give me the grace, knowledge, and strength to write it.

Truthfully speaking, I am scared to death and am ill equipped to write it. I am not a writer (I’m a dog groomer) and have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to even begin contemplating how to start a biography! But, with that being said, I know God likes to use weak vessels to do great and impossible things with.

Much appreciated!

Soli Deo Gloria

“Help Heavenward” Chapter 6: Trial, A Help Heavenward

Help Heavenward

Chapter 6: Trial, A Help Heavenward

“That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” -Acts 14:22

There are few things in the spiritual history of the child of God more really helpful heavenward than sanctified trial. He treads no path in which he finds aids more favorable to advancement in the divine life, circumstances which more contribute to the development and completeness of Christian character,—the teaching, the quickening, the purifying,—than the path of hallowed sorrow—sorrow which a covenant God has sent, which grace sanctifies, and which knits the heart to Christ. The atmosphere is not more purified by the electric storm, nor the earth more fructified by the descending rain, than is the regenerate soul advanced in its highest interests by the afflictive dealings in God’s government of His saints. “Sweet are the uses of adversity” to an heir of heaven. Its form may appear “ugly and venomous”—for “no chastening for the present seemeth joyous but grievous;” but nevertheless it “bears a precious jewel in its head”—for “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Affliction is to the believer what the wing is to the lark, and what the eye is to the eagle,—the means by which the soul mounts in praise heavenward, gazing closely and steadily upon the glorious Sun of righteousness. Chastening seals our sonship, sorrow disciplines the heart, affliction propels the soul onward. We should have a more vivid conception of the power of affliction as an ingredient of holiness if we kept more constantly in remembrance the fact that all the afflictive, trying dispensations of the believer are covenant dispensations—that they are not of the same character nor do they produce the same results as in the ungodly. They are among the “sure mercies of David.” In the case of the unregenerate, all afflictions are a part and parcel of the curse, and work naturally against their good; but in the case of the regenerate, they are, in virtue of the covenant of grace, transformed into blessings, and work spiritually for their good. Just as the mountain stream, coursing its way, meets some sanative mineral by which it becomes endowed with a healing property, so afflictions, passing through the covenant, change their character, derive a sanctifying property, and thus become a healing medicine to the soul.

Continue reading

The Octavius Winlsow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 5)

Brief Note: I apologize for not getting this posted on Monday. I had some doctors appointments to attend to along with a school party for our youngest daughter and by the time I settled in last night I was just too tired to complete this post. So here she is!

The believer is composed of two natures essentially different, incessantly antagonistic, and eternally irreconcilable. Nothing can be more diametrically opposed in their character and actings than the divine and the human, the renewed and the unrenewed nature that is in the believer. A partaker of the new and divine nature through grace, and thus a child of God and an heir of heaven, he still is imprisoned and fettered by the old and fallen nature from which there is no release until the Master comes and calls for him. Now these two and opposite natures must be in perpetual hostility the one to the other.

Winslow begins the chapter by plainly laying out the well trodden paradox of countless saints before us that has led so many to the deeps of many a gloomy abyss in their earthly pilgrimage. That is to say, the burdensome war within the regenerated soul that is between the new and unrenewed nature. We cry and pant for holiness and conformity to our Lord, yet we find in ourselves the troublesome sins that so often entangle and ensnare us and rob us of our joy. How we wish just to be done with them that we might run harder and faster after Christ!

Reader! thou art spiritually a slave or a freeman—which? A slave to an unregenerate nature, a slave of the world, a slave of Satan, a slave of self, a servant of sin,—or, one whose fetters Christ has wrenched, whose soul Christ has set free.

But the child of God, a freeman though he is, a partaker of the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free, may have but a contracted and imperfect view of this liberty, may still walk in much bondage of spirit, reforge for himself fetters which Christ had broken, and return to those beggarly elements from which Christ had set him free.

How few look fully into God’s face as their Father? How few pray in the spirit of adoption? How few rejoice in the sense of pardoned sin, and possess the peace which flows from the justified state procured by the blood and righteousness of our Emmanuel?

How often do we “reforge” the shackles of self-righteousness that we may earn God’s acceptance and love! So fickle we are that we would so easily turn a blind eye to the sheer perfection of Calvary’s cross to look upon the broken cisterns of our own encampment that we might be set aright before our God!

What a loosening of our bonds is real conversion!

When the Spirit’s seal of adoption is impressed upon the heart, there is a loosening of the bonds of legality in which so many of God’s children are held.

Why have you not joy and peace and hope in believing? Simply because, unsuspected by yourself, you are putting your own work in the place of Christ’s work. Oh that you may be led to cast yourself more entirely upon the atoning sacrifice of Jesus!—to believe that God looks not at a single work you do as justifying you in His sight, but that He looks only to the divine, sacrificial, flawless, perfect work of His beloved Son! Oh, come and rest where God rests, in the Crucified One!

It can be said and is indeed true that when a soul flees to Christ and takes hold of the fountain of life that pours forth from the blood of the Lamb that the bonds of sin are loosed and the sinner is now justified in the eyes of God, but as I mentioned prior, we are a pitiful and fickle flock. We so easily wander from the streams of living water to gaze at our own righteousness in the pools of our own stagnant pride. We say, “Yes, God has saved me, but…”. We so often want to take away the garment He has provided to put in its place the weakness of the fig leaf of our own choosing for covering. God have mercy on us for such an insidious and manic notion that we should for one moment consider Calvary’s sacrifice is not sufficient to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! May the gospel be burned into our hearts and minds! As Winslow states, “Let your life be a daily exercise of faith in the atoning, sin-pardoning blood of Jesus touching the guilt and power of sin, and with David, you shall gratefully exclaim, “Thou hast loosed my bonds.”

The Lord also looses the bonds of those of His people who are “bound in fetters and are holden in cords of affliction.”

When we take a legal, and not a gospel view of affliction,—view it as the punishment of the slave, and not as the chastening of the child,—as judicial and not parental, we are brought into bondage. Oh, is it not enough that we are bound in fetters and are holden in cords of affliction, that we should add to these bonds those of unfilial submission, secret rebellion, restiveness, and repining? Oh, how we lose the soothing and the comfort, the succour and the liberty in deep and sore trial, by not tracing it all up to a Father’s hand, a Saviour’s love, the arrangement and provision of the covenant of grace.

To view our burdens and trials as that of a Fatherly disgust or frowning is absolutely wrong says Winslow. In Jesus, we stand in Him complete and in complete favor and love. The Father no longer punishes us or has ill feelings toward us as we once did apart from the Savior’s blood, but He now brings these trials that we may grow in maturity and faith to become strong believers who stand on a firm and sure foundation. We are now freed from the fetters of this former bondage and ought now to look upon our sufferings as “loosened bonds” to draw us closer to our Savior. This is indeed mature Christian behavior!

The Lord loosens our bonds when we walk in evangelical obedience. Nothing contributes more to the enlargement of the soul in the ways of the Lord than a profound and practical reverence for the authority and teaching of Christ.

Many are wearily dragging along their pilgrimage the bonds of doubt and fear, simply because of willful disobedience to the Divine precepts and positive commands of their Lord and Master. They walk not in the liberty of the child, because they walk not in the precept of the disciple.

To be the Lord’s servant, is to be the Lord’s freeman; for Christ’s service is perfect freedom. It is a service growing out of freedom, and it is a freedom found in service. O Lord, I am Thy servant! Thou hast freed me from the bonds of sin and Satan, and now my highest honour, and my dearest delight, and my most perfect freedom is, in serving Thee!

Yet again Winslow writes with such refreshing clarity and focus to make often confusing items so plain and lovely! Obedience to Christ ought not be that of a burdensome drudgery or of a slavish, melancholic nature. We have been freed by the Lord of Glory and are now at peace with His wrath in Jesus! We do not have to serve this Lord because He is a mean or unjust tyrant. He is a good, merciful, kind, and long-suffering Father who has given us all things! Ought we now serve Him with a joyful heart and a thankful tongue? Yes! Of course we should! We are loosed from the bonds of our former sin filled selves to serve this King whom we now adore and worship with glad tidings and a praise filled heart. He ought to be no burden to us now. If He is, then you must revisit the gospel once again and stare long and hard at the Lamb on the tree who died in your stead! God forgive us for thinking of you as a burdensome task master!

Are you, beloved, all your lifetime in bondage through the fear of death? Alas! how this impedes your happy, joyful progress heavenward! But Jesus can loosen, and virtually has loosened, these bonds. He reminds you that you are to contemplate not death, but His personal and glorious COMING; but that if your thoughts will wander from this bright and blessed hope to the more gloomy and repulsive object of your departure to Him, you are to remember that He has vanquished death, and has passed through the grave as your Substitute, your Surety, your Head; that He has extracted the venom of the one, and has irradiated the gloom of the other; and that you have no sting to apprehend, and no shadows to dread, because He has passed that way before you. Moreover, He has pledged His most loving and most faithful word that when you tread the valley, solitary and alone as you must be, you shall fear no evil, for that He, your risen, living Lord and Saviour, will be with you. Lo! I am with you always!

Oh blessed thought of not only the oldest of saints but the youngest as well! He has burst the bonds of death over you believer! When you close your eyes and breathe your last breath, death shall have no power over you, for you belong to the One who has power over death and who has passed it’s dark gates before you to now await you by the Father’s side. Let us meditate richly and robustly on this though all our days! Death has no power over our souls for we lay securely in the hands of He who rose again!

You complain of bondage in prayer. Never, perhaps, are you so sensible of the chafing of the fetters as when you retire from the presence of man into the solemn presence of God. Oh, could you but then be free! Could you but pour out an unfettered heart, moved, prompted, and enlarged by God’s free Spirit, how happy would you be! But no. You cannot pray. You have no wants, no desires, no emotions: thoughts seem stifled in their birth, words freeze upon your lips, and you rise from your knees as one whose devotions have been but as the chattering of the swallow. But why are you thus fettered? Are not these bonds your own creating? Are you not endeavouring to excite and rouse your own feelings, rather than seeking the influence of the Holy Spirit? Are you not relying upon your own intellectual efforts, instead of seeking to offer to God the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit? Are you not bending your eye within and upon yourself, rather than looking from off and out of self, simply and only to Jesus? Do you not come with the self-sufficient spirit of the Pharisee, rather than in the self-condemning spirit of the publican!

Who of you does not reside in the chains of this bondage may I ask? I know for sure I do! I am so thankful Winslow touched on this area because it is an area of such weakness and frailty in my own pilgrimage, as I am most certain it is in yours. How often we lay shackles on ourselves of self righteous prayer! We pray to be heard of ourselves so often! We rise after prayer with such a proud heart saying how well we prayed or are impressed with how long we prayed. How foolish and fickle we are indeed! We lay in bondage and know it not. May we be released this instant from such feeble notions and set free into the heavens to soar with the Holy Spirit in prayer before the throne of our Master.

Conclusion:

I think Winslow would have us to see in this beautiful chapter that we often place ourselves into bondage when Jesus would have us to be free. I would even argue that the above mentioned areas of bondage that we so often find ourselves slipping into are the exact areas we ought to focus our attention on to receive the most joy and fulfillment in our Christian walk. When we take the attention and gaze off of us and place it on Him, our bondage breaker, we will truly be free indeed!

Next Week:

Please read Chapter 6: Trial, A Help Heavenward that will be due on Monday the 21!

The Octavius Winslow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2: Progressive Meetness For Heaven

Winslow begins this chapter by “planting his feet upon one of the lowest rungs of the ladder” of the christian life, that is, to understand that while we are justified once and for all in the sight of God and are made right with Him by the blood of His Son, there is to be yet much waring and ground taking yet to come in the life of a believer. As he states:

[W]hile it was a land of rest and affluence, it was yet a scene of perpetual invasion and conflict, demanding on their part the watchful eye and the furbished weapon. Now the God who planted them in the promised land could as easily have exterminated their foes; not so—but, for reasons which His wisdom would dictate, and which His goodness would justify, He permitted the inhabitants to continue in possession, until, by a process gradual and progressive, Canaan should be decimated of its idolatrous population, and His own people should go up into its length and breadth, and fully possess the land which the Lord their God gave them. “By little and little I will drive them out from before you.” How strikingly are the two cognate yet distinct doctrines of the glorious gospel—justification and sanctification—illustrated here;—the planting the children of Israel in Canaan illustrates the present justification of the Church of God; their protracted conquest of the land illustrates the gradual subjugation of the believer’s sinfulness to the supremacy of holiness, or, in other words, his progressive meetness for heaven.

Or in other words, though we take rest in the Canaan land of our present redemption, we must still fight and wage war against the enemies yet remaining in the land (the world, the flesh, and the devil) until we finally reach the glorious shores of our heavenly Zion. Winslow refers to this war as our “progressive meetness for heaven“.

He thus leads us into a chapter which encapsulates his burden for his readers that he discusses time and time again:

Is not this a picture of our spiritual state? How much interposes between us and our spiritual possessions! What keeps us from the “abundant entrance” into the kingdom of grace, but our ever-present and ever-sleepless enemy, unbelief? What prevents a more full and cordial acceptance of the righteousness of Christ, but a constant dealing with our own unrighteousness? What keeps us from enjoying more of heaven upon earth, but the too absorbing influence of the world? What causes us to live so far below the privilege of our high vocation—bedwarfs our Christianity, lowers our profession, shades the lustre and impairs the vigour of our holy religion—but the depravity, the corruption, the sin, that dwelleth in us? These are the spiritual Canaanites which prevent our going up to possess the good land in its length and breadth. What an evidence this, that, though our Lord Jesus has put us into a state of present and complete acceptance, we have not as yet attained unto a state of perfect and future holiness—the Canaanites still dwell in the land! We are called to “fight the good fight of faith.” Not only do we war with flesh and blood, but we “wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

This is the foundation and bedrock of all experimental Calvinism. Yes, we affirm the good doctrine of our justification by faith alone, but have we now begun to explore this precious land of our inheritance? He is now our Father and Master and all is made right between us! Are we now, as His children, exploring the wonderous beauties of the land, tasting the grapes of the vineyard and basking in the cool shade of its mighty oaks? Are we claiming by faith the full depth, height, length, and width of all that is ours in Christ? Full pardon! Full acceptance! Full adoption as brothers and dear children! Have we now begun to plumb the depths of who we now are in Jesus?

As he says:

Oh, how much of the good land remains yet to be possessed! Truly, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Well might the grateful Psalmist exclaim, and each believer in Jesus respond, “O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!”

But lest we become overwhelmed with what lies ahead of our paths, he drives home the fact that it is God who will “drive the enemies out from our lands“. Blessed mystery! Though we hold our swords in hand, it is our King who gives force and sway to our blows! He will drive them out…He will do this! Rest in this glorious promise weary and weakened saints!

Moving on, Winslow goes on to remind us that our position in this holy contest is “both aggressive and defensive“. We are to wage war against our indwelling sin, the lures of this world, and our enemy the devil himself. Or as John Piper has so eloquently stated, “Christianity has a mean streak about it”. We are to put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11) and work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) in the strength the Lord provides. We are to take no prisoners in this field of battle. The sin yet remaining in the land must be driven out at all cost (Mat. 5:29)!

Kill it! Subdue it! Destroy it!

To finish the chapter, as he is so often prone to do, he “takes flight” with the reader. He begins to write almost as if he’s forgotten he is yet tethered to this earth and begins to soar into the heavens with such tender and comforting Godward thoughts that almost seem entrancing! The reader is caught up with him as speaks on such beautiful heavenly notions and thoughts that to stop reading is almost as if to come crashing back to earth! The ability of Winslow to transport us away from our current bondage in this earthly wilderness and to sweep us away to the very doorstep of our heavenly Canaan is a true gift to the body of Christ indeed. Upon reading, one can almost sense the gentle breezes of that far off shore we all so often long for.

Conclusion

The manner in which Winslow mastered heavenly words and thought is rivaled by very few of his contemporaries such as Charles Spurgeon. But where he most excels is in his ability to take one particular heavenly theme and to hold it up like a diamond into to the sunlight of the word of God that the seemingly limitless facets of these subjects may shine forth in all of their resplendent glory and beauty to give hope and nourishment for weakened and weary saints.

There are few who match him.

Next Week

Please read Chapter 3: The Burdened Gently Led By Christ to be due on Jan 31!

The Octavius Winslow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1: The Ransomed Returning Home

If you have never read Winslow, this opening chapter will give you a wonderful sense of the skill and depth in which he presents Christ and the christian life to his readers. He over and over again uses the theme of pilgrimage and the christian as a sojourner here in the world that he might drive home the precious fact that no matter what difficulties or trial we may be currently facing, we are indeed on our way to a time and place where suffering and wrongs will be made right and where we will enjoy our Lord forever more. The opening few paragraphs are classic Winslow:

The children of God are on their way to the Father’s house. As spiritual voyagers they are homeward-bound. Heaven is the place at which they will as certainly arrive as that Christ Himself is there. Already the expectant of glory binds the “wave sheaf” to his believing bosom. Faith is the spiritual spy of the soul. It travels far into the promised land, gathers the ripe clusters—the evidences and earnests of its reality and richness—and, returning, bears with it these, the “first-fruits” of the coming vintage. “My soul hath desired the first ripe fruits:” and he who has in his soul the “first-fruits of the Spirit, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body,” knows something in his experience of heaven upon earth. Ah! many a glimpse and gleam of the heavenly land dawns upon the Christian in the darkness of his dungeon, in the loneliness of his exile, in the cloistered stillness of his suffering chamber. Such was the rapture of a departing saint: “The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ear, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approached, and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze at the excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm”—Payson. Thus, long ere the believer reaches the celestial city, the evidences of its existence and fertility float past his barque, as manifestly as did the tokens of a new world the vessel which bore Columbus to its shores. The relation of present grace to future glory is close and indissoluble. It is that of the seed to the flower—of the morning twilight to meridian day. Grace is the germ of glory; glory is the highest perfection of grace. Grace is glory militant; glory is grace triumphant. Thus the believer has two heavens to enjoy—a present heaven experienced in the love of God in his heart, and a future heaven in the fulness of joy that is at Christ’s right hand, and the pleasures that are for evermore. We wish not at this stage of our work to introduce the dark background of the picture, and yet we cannot withhold the passing remark, that as heaven has its foretastes of happiness, its prelibations of glory, its dayspring from on high in the heart of the regenerate, so has hell its dark forebodings, its certain approaches, in the soul of many of the unregenerate—some shadows of the “outer darkness” that will enshroud the lost for ever. Reader, is it heaven or hell of which you have in your experience the earnest? One drop of hell, one beam of heaven, can fill the soul with either!

I will try to refrain myself from quoting entire paragraphs to help keep these posts short and manageable, but these opening paragraphs were just too wonderful to pass up.

And yet, though journeying homeward, we are but slow voyagers. Our barque often slumbers upon its shadow, as if anchored motionless in the still, calm waters within the haven, instead of cleaving the mighty billows, and speeding its way in full sail for the everlasting kingdom. Alas! how few there are who have an “abundant entrance” into the kingdom of grace below. They are, at best, but hangers upon the door of the ark; but borderers upon the land that freely flows with the fulness of a full Christ. Like Israel of old they “possess not their possessions.” There is much of the good land they have never explored.

This short excerpt states the essential thesis for the rest of the book. That is, presenting Christ to the reader in such a manner that he or she might share in the experimental faith that Winslow so cherished. He wanted the believers faith to be not merely that of head knowledge and fact understanding, but he wanted the believers faith to be set aflame in his bosom that he might truly come to know and rest in the Redeemer’s love for them. It is most ardent desire to take the weakened believer by the hand and to help him reach out to touch the garment of Christ that they may partake of the adopting love He has crowned His children with.

Many times throughout his writings he reaches out to the reader by using the phrase “beloved reader“. Though it may seem an inconsequential few words, one can almost sense his pastoral heart as speaks almost as a close friend or a brother sitting directly in front of us. He understands the tenderness and frailty of the redeemed soul that is so easily prone to doubting and worrying. You can almost imagine him gently lifting up the downcast chin to wipe away tears of fear and trouble.

At the onset of the book, he gives a tremendous primer on the saints good standing before God through the mediatorial work of Christ on his behalf. Winslow will always sift every issue through the filter of Christ’s cross. By building this rock solid foundation of our Surety at the onset, he is providing “cross colored glasses” by which the reader will be able to view all of his difficulties during his christian pilgrimage.

Oh yes! we shall return! We shall return from our first departure from our Father, from our exile from Paradise, from the strange land into which we were driven, from all our heart and household idols, from all our treacherous departures and base backslidings, from all our secret and open conflicts, from all our veiled and visible sorrows, from all that taints and wounds and shades us now. Every wanderer shall return, the lamb that strayed from the Shepherd’s side, the sheep that broke from the fold, the child that forsook the Father’s home, all, all shall return, “kept by the power of God,” secured by the everlasting covenant, restored and brought back by the unchanging love and faithfulness of the ever-living Head and enthroned High Priest within the veil. All shall return.

In the above excerpt, we see a bit of Winslow’s writing technique that he frequently uses to drive home a point. I often refer to him as “King of the Comma”. If he has a particular thought that he is tremendously passionate about that the reader simply must understand, he will use repetitive commas to cram into one sentence as much explanation and illustration as possible so that the simplest of readers will be able to fully grasp the thought he is intending to drive home. It is almost like a hammer pounding and pounding on a nail until it is driven home through the dense wood of a man’s heart until it finally holds fast in the soul, binding knowledge and experimental truth as one.

Now that I have mentioned this method he employs, you will probably notice more often.

And whither shall we return? “To Zion.” That Zion which John saw and described:—“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” And still the Lamb is the central object, whatever the apocalyptic vision John beheld. Jesus is ever in the midst of His churches—His golden candlesticks—standing up in His divine majesty, and in His invincible strength, for the children of His people. Around Him cluster His ransomed ones, all sealed in their foreheads—open, and manifest, and visible to all—with the new name which adoption gives, whereby they cry “Abba, Father.” Then, there is the music with which the ransomed of the Lord shall return to Zion—“with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads.” The songs of the believer are often mingled with sighs and groans in this vale of tears; it is a blended song we sing, of “mercy and of judgment.” But no, harsh discordant notes will mar this new-born anthem. We shall sweep no strings that jar, and touch no chords that respond not to the diapason note of glory. Joy, now sadly interrupted, will then wreath our brow as a diadem. Chanting music, crowned with joy, we shall take our places with the sealed of God on Mount Zion. “Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” What expressive and joyous words are these! Sorrow without and sighing within, make up much of our chequered experience here on earth. What a blended history is ours! We commence our day with a heart freshly tuned, breathing its morning hymn of praise so sweetly; but ere the sun that rose so brightly is set, what shadows have deepened around our soul! and we lay an aching head upon our pillow, thankful that the blood of sprinkling cleanseth from all sin. But from the heaven to which we are going, all sorrow and sighing will for ever have passed. The shadows will have dissolved, sin will be effaced, sighing will cease, sorrow will be turned into “fulness of joy,” and heaven will be resplendent with undimmed and unfading glory, and resound with a new and endless song.

Finally, Winslow ends the chapter with the glorious thought of our coming resurrection and homecoming to our heavenly Zion. What a way to end the opening of this book! He reminds the reader yet again that this place is not our home and that though we are led into the valley here on earth, there will come a day when these bodies will rise again and put on incorruptible to live forever with our King. The genius of Winslow is to constantly remind us of not only who we are in Christ, but to punctuate our blessed state with the coming glory that we have yet to realize!

Winslow is a hope builder. He is a true soul medic. He knows full well that most of God’s children are prone to despair and utter humiliation of spirit. He knows how fragile our souls can be and always knows the best medicine to give…that is the promises of God’s word and a tender rebuke that the saint in Christ may regain his sound footing on the Rock that is higher than ourselves.

Conclusion

Well, that’s chapter one. I have never done this sort of thing before, so I probably sound a bit long-winded. I hope you guys will bear with me as I learn to be a proper group host.

In the comments below, it’s your turn to add what you have gleaned from this chapter. What jumped out at you the most? Any quotes that really stand out? What do you think so far?

Next Week

Please read Chapter 2: Progressive Meetness for Heaven for Jan. 17!

Help Heavenward Chapter 1 Audio

Recently I discovered a you tube user who has been making quite a bit of Winslow videos as of late and I asked him if he wouldn’t mind recording the first chapter of Help Heavenward for us.

He was glad to oblige and and made it available for everyone to use in mp3 format.

It runs about a half hour long and is about 28M in size…for those of you who are interested to know.

Thanks to reformedman for serving us!

“Help Heavenward” Chapter 1: The Ransomed Returning Home

Today marks the first day of our first chapter assignment in our Winslow reading group where we will be reading through Help Heavenward together. I hope everyone is excited as me! I just can’t wait for you guys to dig into my favorite Winslow book with me that you may be built up in your faith and encouraged in your pilgrimage.

To help make it a bit more convenient for some folks who will be reading along with us in our reading
group, I’ll be posting each chapter here in the normal blog feed so it will be updated in their email inbox or feed reader.

So let’s get going and we’ll meet back here on Monday to discuss what we have read so far!

Help Heavenward

Chapter 1: The Ransomed Returning
Home

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs,
and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and
gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee
away”—Isa. 35:10.

The children of God are on their way to the Father’s house. As spiritual voyagers they are homeward-bound. Heaven is the place at which they will as certainly arrive as that Christ Himself is there. Already the expectant of glory binds the “wave sheaf” to his believing bosom. Faith is the spiritual spy of the soul. It travels far into the promised land, gathers the ripe clusters—the evidences and earnests of its reality and richness—and, returning, bears with it these, the “first-fruits” of the coming vintage. “My soul hath desired the first ripe fruits:” and he who has in his soul the “first-fruits of the Spirit, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body,” knows something in his experience of heaven upon earth. Ah! many a glimpse and gleam of the heavenly land dawns upon the Christian in the darkness of his dungeon, in the loneliness of his exile, in the cloistered stillness of his suffering chamber. Such was the rapture of a departing saint: “The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ear, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approached, and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze at the excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm”—Payson. Thus, long ere the believer reaches the celestial city, the evidences of its existence and fertility float past his barque, as manifestly as did the tokens of a new world the vessel which bore Columbus to its shores. The relation of present grace to future glory is close and indissoluble. It is that of the seed to the flower—of the morning twilight to meridian day. Grace is the germ of glory; glory is the highest perfection of grace. Grace is glory militant; glory is grace triumphant. Thus the believer has two heavens to enjoy—a present heaven experienced in the love of God in his heart, and a future heaven in the fulness of joy that is at Christ’s right hand, and the pleasures that are for evermore. We wish not at this stage of our work to introduce the dark background of the picture, and yet we cannot withhold the passing remark, that as heaven has its foretastes of happiness, its prelibations of glory, its dayspring from on high in the heart of the regenerate, so has hell its dark forebodings, its certain approaches, in the soul of many of the unregenerate—some shadows of the “outer darkness” that will enshroud the lost for ever. Reader, is it heaven or hell of which you have in your experience the earnest? One drop of hell, one beam of heaven, can fill the soul with either!

Continue reading

Reading Winslow Together

I had the notion to ask the readers of the blog wether or not they might be interested in doing what Tim Challies has done with his Reading the Classics Together and doing that here with a Winslow book.

If enough of you would be interested in joining with me to read a chapter a week followed by some brief discussion time here on the blog, I’ll make it happen. I have a number in my head as to how many it would take to make this happen, so if you are interested, please leave a comment below.

I was considering reading through Help Heavenward as our first book if enough folks would like to do so. It can be purchased here, read online for free here, or downloaded for free in your favorite e-reader format here.

This book is the one book I always recommend to people who are just discovering Winslow and want to get a good taste of his writings.

So if you might be interested, drop me a comment and we’ll see what happens!