I don't often go in for the personal achievement stuff on this blog, but I've just finished Stephen Charnock's "Existence and Attributes of God."
In case you're not familiar, this is a mamoth 1100 page discussion by a Puritan preacher on God's attributes. He lived in England from 1628, through the Civil War, the plague, the Great Fire of London (in which he lost his entire library- argghh!) and died in 1680.
I've read other puritan writings, but not much. But this was the first big work I've read.
Started September 2004
Finished March 2005
Aimed to read 10 pages a day for 5 days a week
Wow! Jerry Bridges speaks of this as being one of the most inluential books he has read. I would have to agree. There have been times reading this when I have been struck by my sinfulness, and the myriad of ways I fail. But the overwhelming impression from this book, and from preaching this series on God's attributes is this, I cant wait to go to Heaven and be in the presence of this most wondrous being.
It appeared to affect Charnock in that way to an even greater degree. William Symington writes in the introduction:
"The intense interest which he was observed to take in the subjects of which he treated, was regarded as an indication that he was nearly approaching that state in which he was to be 'filled with all the fulness of God'. Not unfrequently was he heard to give utterance to a longing desire for that region for which he gave evidence of being so well prepared. These circumstances were, naturally enough, looked upon as proofs that his mighty mind, though yet on earth, had begun to 'put off its mortality' and was fast ripening for the paradise of God."
Reading Charnock hasn't been easy though. Some bits are like chewing concrete. But there is much gold buried in the concrete. The digging is worth it. I think that setting a goal of 10 pages per day was good to get me through the good, but sometimes reading the 10 pages became the goal, rather than reading what Charnock was saying.
I'd like to read it again, but more slowly, and dwell on certain passages more.
Ahh well, volume one (of 16) John Owen's works is next on the list.
Some Favourite Quotes
"Whatever God is, he is infinitely so: he is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness, infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above the excellencies of creatures: as easy to be known that he is, as impossible to be comprehended what he is. Conceive of him as excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit without parts; great without quantity; perfect without quality; everywhere without place: powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling the beauty of all creatures, than the light in the sun, pure and unviolated, exceeds the splendor of the sun dispersed and divided through a cloudy and misty air: and when you have risen to the highest, conceive him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit, and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever conception comes into your minds, say, 'This is not God; God is more than this.'" - p200
The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm, that hath breathed but a few minutes in the world. Since eternity cannot be comprehended in time, it is not to be judged by a creature of time. - p295
The strongest man is but compacted dust - p303
"While the gardener commands his servant to shake the tree, he intends to fasten its roots, and settle it firmer in its place; and is this an ill-will to the plant?" - v2p313
"But when we give the reins to the motions of our hearts, and suffer them to run at random without a curb, it is an evidence we are not concerned for their falling under the notice of the eye of God; and it argues a very weak belief of this perfection, or scarce any belief at all. Who can think any man's heart, possessed with a sense of this infinite excellency, that suffers his mind, in his meditations on God, to wander into every sty, and be picking up stones upon a dunghill?" - p482
"We see the gardener pulling up some delightful flowers by the roots, digging up the earth, overwhelming it with dune; and ignorant person would imagine him wild, out of his wits, and charge him with spoiling his garden: but when the spring is arrived, the spectator will acknowledge his skill in his former operations." - p606
Our worship of God
"It is against the majesty of God when we have not awful (awe-filled) thoughts of that great majesty to whom we address… It is a contempt of the majesty of a prince if, whilst he is speaking to us, we listen not to him with reverence and attention, but turn our backs to him, to play with one of his hounds, or to talk with a beggar; or while to speak to him, to rake in a dunghill… as if a grand mutineer, instead of numbly begging the pardon of his offended prince, should present his petition not only scribbled and blotted, but besmeared with some loathsome excrement." - p263
"The holiness of God is injured by our unprepared for address to him, when like swine, we come into the presence of God with all our mire reeking and steaming upon us. A holy God requires a holy worship; and if our best duties, having filth in every part, as performed by us, are unmet for God, how much more unsuitable are dead and dirty duties to a living and immense holiness!" - v2p176
"There is as little proportion between the holiness of the Divine Majesty, and that of the most righteous creature, as there is between a nearness of a person that stands upon a mountain, to the sun, and of him that beholds him in a vale; one is nearer than the other, but it is an advantage not to be boasted of, in regard of the vast distance that is between the sun and the elevated spectator." - v2p193