CrossReads Book Blast for Robin Merrill

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The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss

By Robin Merrill

About the Book:

In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.


robin 12 web (2)Robin Merrill is the author of several books, including The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss (30 Devotions), two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press, and five Scholastic Book Fair books.

Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Cafe Review, Ledge Magazine, Margie, Pearl, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Stolen Island Review. Three of her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She is a 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston.

Robin is also a performance/slam poet who has competed at the national level. She has her MFA from Stonecoast and frequently leads creative writing workshops for writers of all levels.

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How To: Creating Chapters by SUZANNE D. WILLIAMS

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Suzanne Williams

There are different methods of creating book chapters. Some authors write the entire story then go back and break things up. Others outline the story in advance and so know exactly where the chapters end. Frankly, I can’t do either one. The latter because I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, the former because I have discovered the best way to keep a reader’s interest and have them eager to begin the next section or chapter comes through a little planning.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m not an outliner, so that’s not the type of planning I’m talking about. I only make general notes on the direction a story’s taking. I usually place these between brackets and highlight them. This way they stand out and I know to come back to that spot. Instead, I’m talking about writing the story by chapters.

Each chapter I write has a general structure:

First line hook
Point of view change
Scene climax cut-off

I love a good first line hook –

“Boys are gross. I should know.”

“There were enough cops per square inch in that place that she ought to be frightened, except this time she hadn’t done anything.”

“Timothy Cooper, with his sandy-colored hair and sparkling blue eyes, was an absolute dream.”

A well-crafted first line peaks the readers interest, makes them want to know why the speaker said what they did and what happens next. The above examples are all from Chapter 1. However, this same idea is true of every succeeding chapter or, even, minor scene changes. You’ve gotten them this far in your story, don’t stop using hooks just because it’s Chapter 12.

“He kissed like a man, not a machine, his breath warm and moist, his lips salty, his tongue confident, curling alongside hers.”

That line comes in Chapter 2, Scene 3. By approaching each scene as if it were the start of the book, I’ve found I write much better. I reassess who is speaking; I learn whose point of view this scene is in; and I figured out what my goal is for the next one thousand words. Then, before I write one line, I ALWAYS ask myself how I want the scene to end. Thinking larger, I ask the same about the chapter ending.

This doesn’t mean I know every word. I don’t. But it does mean I’m conscious of where the reader will be emotionally at that moment in time. When they get to the final paragraph of that chapter or scene, what will they expect the characters to do or say? Often, this is my chance to throw a wrench into the works.

You know what I mean. That spot where you toss your hands up in frustration because you didn’t see that coming. I love writing those. They guarantee the reader will flip the page. HOWEVER, they aren’t always possible or needed. Sometimes it’s better to end on a low note. Too many will make the storyline jumpy. But DON’T limit yourself to just one. There is in the entire storyline, of course, only one climactic moment. But there are dozens of small ones as you go along. Use one as a chapter ending.

“But, in a split second, the earth turned upside down, and he was flung against the roof and back down onto the dash in a crunch of metal and glass.”

That’s an example of an action ending. The reader will naturally want to know if he survives the crash. Here’s a more subtle one from the same story:

“Sedona rose and glanced toward the kitchen. ‘I know where I keep the chocolate.’”

Using dialogue, I cut the previous conversation off abrupt, giving just enough detail the reader is satisfied but not so much they’re through with the story.

This is, in general, how I write. Now, every author is different. What works for me might not work for you. But writing by chapters helps me craft a much better book. It also causes me to think harder. I’m not blissfully slapping words down on the page, but they have a defined purpose. It also keeps me from getting lost, and that’s easy to do when you’re writing off the cuff.

Finally, it helps me sense the end. Getting to the end of a story you’ve been working on for however long is a really sweet moment. Getting there and knowing you don’t have to go back and fix anything is even sweeter. There is always editing to be done, but ask anyone who’s edited for me and they’ll tell you there’s very little needed. That makes me pretty happy. It means I’ve done my job well.

After all, writing a book is much more than coming up with the story itself. There’s marketing to consider, and graphics, and grammar, and sentence structure. Writing requires knowledge, and the more I take the time to learn, the better a writer I’ll become. It also requires responsibility. I am responsible for the impression others have of my work. Only I can craft chapters that make the reader want to come back.


A Kiss in September

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Suzanne Williams
Best-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.

To learn more about what she’s doing and check out her extensive catalogue of stories, visit or link with her on Facebook at



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Reflections: Would God Endorse My Books? by Tina Webb

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Tina Webb

“If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

The guest speaker at my church last week declared these words from the stage. Then he asked if our lives so conformed to Biblical principle, so reflected Jesus Christ, so yielded to the Spirit which dwells in us, that people could see the reality of God through our lives.

Wow. Will I ever be able to say, “If you see me- the way I live, the words I speak, the way I treat others, will you see the reality of God?” Will I ever be that conformed to His image? I sure do hope so! I’ve given Him permission to take me there, ‘cause I sure cannot do it myself.

As I meditated on these questions, I remembered a post I wrote on my own blog called: Bad Words and Good Words. I wrote: “Writers everywhere know that we have the power to influence minds. The question is do we influence minds for good or for evil?”

I’ve had this discussion around musicians and songwriters. Many don’t want the label “Christian artist” because of the restrictions they believe it puts on them. They’d rather just be artists who happen to be Christian and allow their art form, in this case music, to have no lyrical or genre limitations.

Personally, the reminders that I am to follow Christ, abide in His Word, and be salt and light challenged me to consider all the aspects of my life, even my creativity. I cannot compartmentalize my personal life from my vocational life as a writer. Therefore His light must shine through my books. I want to be able to say, “If you read my books, you read books God would have written.”

Some may wince at this statement, but consider this: The Bible has all sorts of stories with all sorts of ratings. However, they all have one thing in common- they reflect the opinion of God on a subject. Consider the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. Paragraphs in this poetic book would make some of you blush. There are underlying meanings to certain passages that would be given an R rating
according to our standards today. Are the passages ungodly? Certainly not. They reflect God’s opinion on intimacy within the bounds of marriage between the man, the Beloved and his wife, the Shulamite. The book also reflects how the Church as the Bride of Christ ravishes and delights the heart of Jesus Christ.

Consider the story of Moses and Pharaoh. The plagues that came upon Egypt may seem like a horror film to some. The Old Testament is full of graphic stories of murder, rape, and incest. These situations are generally referenced as opposed to being described in visual detail, and they all do one thing: reflect the opinion of God that the evil are punished and those that follow Him are blessed.

The New Testament has stories which reference sorcerers, thieves and prostitutes. I use the word “reference” on purpose. Since God does not detail certain subjects in His word for the purpose of visualization, my opinion is that neither should I. This one thing I know about how God wrote the Bible. Each of these New Testament stories shows the power of God to defeat His enemies or the grace of God to save the repentant soul.

I want people to see the reality of God in my life and through my books. Here is a song that echos that desire: Fellow writers, give me your two cents.

July 11

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Parker J. Cole

I have learned a lot since I began hosting my show a year ago. The opportunity to speak to dozens of Christian writers from all faith walks has been an enriching and rewarding experience. A plethora of ideas loom in the minds of these great writers and their execution of their craft in the form of various stories remains an aspect of writing I have come to appreciate more and more.

Yet, in my experience, I have come against backlash from Christian authors and readers alike. The backlash stems from preconceived answers to this question: “What is appropriate for Christian fiction?”

The answer varies based on who you talk to; which is part of the problem.

Everyone has a different idea of what is construed as appropriate Christian fiction. According to a website that contains some rules, the following are some guidelines. Please note that the rules below are for inspirational romance; however, I think this applies to other genres, as well.

“There should be no explicit sex in these stories, and a minimum of sensuality and sexual desire. Both humor and drama have a place in these books; foul language, swearing and scenes containing violence do not. Though the stories may take place in urban environments, hanging out in bar settings, drinking alcohol or becoming involved in sexual situations is not appropriate for Christian characters. …Though the heroine can be conflicted about being “cool” or finding her place in the contemporary secular world while maintaining her Christian values, her behavior cannot stray from acceptable Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) norms. The stories may not include alcohol consumption by Christian characters, dancing, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, hero and heroine remaining overnight together alone, Halloween celebrations or magic or the mention of intimate body parts. Lying is also problematical in the CBA market and characters who are Christian should not lie or deceive others. Possibly there could be exceptional circumstances (matters of life and death), but this has to be okayed….”

As far as I know, Christians are not saints that do not just struggle with sin but they sin. It’s not as if they are sanctified people who experience sin on an occasional basis. This is part of the conflict within us. The apostle Paul stated it clearly in Romans 7:21-24: So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The apostle Paul understood this conflict within us very well. He considered himself to be the chief of sinners. (1st Timothy 1:15) yet knew that grace was greater than sin (Romans 5:20).

Please understand that I am not saying Christians should engage in these behaviors. Not by any means. Yet, when it comes to writing our fictional stories, we should use characters that are real with real problems. Why, because Christians in the real world deal with these issues.

Recently in a discussion thread of one of my Facebook groups, a fellow colleague was contemplating utilizing a character, a teenager who had premarital sex and became pregnant. One author/reader made the statement they would not read the book if it has that type of character. When probed, the commentator stated they knew this happened in the real world. When they read a Christian book, they want to escape the world.

If books are just for entertainment, then yes. I can concur with their sentiment. Some readers prefer to escape from the real world. Yet, as a Christian author who writes Christian fiction, I would suggest that our books are a form of ministry. To reach the nonbeliever as well as the believer.

I have been told that my book, Many Strange Women, is too sensual. I’ve been told it’s not sensual enough. At the end of the day, I can’t win. There are sex scenes in one author’s book, who I spoke with. That author made it clear it was something that needed to be done. Whereas I cannot agree with this stance (after all, explaining the act is little more than just catering to the flesh, deliberately); the author did not tout the book as Christian fiction but fiction that has subtle Christian elements.

That opens up another can of worms, doesn’t it? Not to mention speculative fiction that deals with multiverses, werewolves, magic, vampires, ghosts, spiritual warfare, zombies, aliens, elves, fairies, and a host of things that don’t fit in what we consider ‘Christian’.

So, how should a reader and author answer the question, “What is appropriate for Christian fiction?”

For the writer I suggest this:

Pray about what you are going to write about. God answers your prayers and gives you the vision.
Determine who your audience is. Some Christians prefer certain types of book to others. If your work is sweet and inspirational, see what these readers are interested in and gear your work in a similar fashion
As a caveat to #2, at the same time, write the story that is in your heart. No one knows it better than you.

For the reader, I suggest this:

Understand that Christian writers come from all faith walks and experiences. Their works will reflect that.
Christian writers use various plot devices to reach a wider sect of people. Writing about zombies does not necessarily mean they believe in zombies.
Don’t be afraid to read a new Christian author’s work. After all, you may just find a new author’s work enjoyable! And what can be more appropriate than that?

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Gems from Pastor Jim by Jim Hughes

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Jim Hughes

Ps. 19:9b-11 The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them.

Let’s think about this for a moment. The Psalmist is declaring that the laws of the Lord are fair, which would suggest that he personally found them to be so. As we discover all the laws God gave to His people, it would seem to be too much. There were so many of them and many of them required a lot from His people. Yet, the Psalmist is suggesting that none of them are unreasonable and unnecessary. God is not unreasonable or too demanding. It is possible to obey the Lord in all things. It’s just a matter of whether or not we have the heart to do it.

It is believed that King David wrote most of the Psalms. Remember, David was caught in the act of adultery and murder. He had personally disobeyed God’s laws. He knew the guilt and shame of his behavior. Yet, he was able to declare that God’s laws are true, fair, and more desirable than anything else on earth. Our personal behavior doesn’t invalidate the truth of God’s Word.

The laws of the Lord are more desirable than the finest gold on earth; they are sweeter than the best honey found on earth. Instead of looking at God’s Word as cumbersome and restrictive, we need to look at it as a wondrous gift from God. We need to be thankful that God loves us and has given us the way in which we can have fellowship with Him and find our way home to Him. The Word of God is given for our benefit and it is the best thing we will ever find on earth for our souls.

The laws of the Lord are a warning to us. They make it very clear what we must do in order to be found pleasing and acceptable to God and what it is like for us when we aren’t. God does not leave us confused about this. There is a huge price to pay when we ignore His Word and choose not to obey Him. We have no one to blame but ourselves when we suffer the consequences of our sins.

There is a great reward for those who choose to obey God. We are rewarded here with joy and peace that can only be found in Christ. We are rewarded with a clear understanding of who we are in Christ. We are rewarded with the knowledge that God is with us and will help us through whatever we face in life. And, the greatest reward of all is that we will be rewarded with eternal life with Him when we die.

C Through Marriage
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Up a Tree By Allison Kohn

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Allison Kohn
There was an old black bear rug hanging on the wall in the basement. When the children asked where it came from and why it was there the old folks said, “That’s the bear Rob killed with a 22”. Now even a child knows you can’t kill a bear with a 22”; but if the children begged long enough the old folks would finally tell them this story:
Rob was out hunting feline predators with his 22” rifle one day. He had killed a few dozen and was feeling pretty good when he heard a low growl and turned around to see a big black bear lumbering toward him.
Rob was tall and lanky and most of his muscle power was in his head so he turned around and ran as fast as he could. The bear ran fast too and soon rob could hear padded feet right on his heal, and feel the bears foul breath on the back of his neck. That’s when Rob exercised some of the muscle between his ears and climbed the nearest tree as fast as he could.
Bears climb trees too, but they can’t climb as fast as a skinny boy so Rob was a little ahead of the bear as they climbed the tree together.
The bear climbed and Rob climbed until there was nowhere else to climb. Not wanting to be the bear’s supper, rob took the butt of the 22” rifle and hit the bear as hard as he could between the eyes.
The bear lost his grip and his consciousness at the same time. Rob ran down the tree as fast as he could, put the barrel of the rifle between the bear’s eyes and pulled the trigger before the beast had a chance to wake up – even more determined to have a boy meal. Rob had done the impossible.
As a winner in the race “Can’t” and “Impossible” are two words that aren’t in your working vocabulary. Trials aren’t crosses to bear, but stepping stones to victory. You are responsible to God to master your environment; and equipped by your Creator, in that you reflect his image, for bringing biblical solutions to your problems. Each trial is a blessed opportunity to learn some strengthening truth about God – and take a step into your re-creation into the image of your Creator.
Put your hand firmly into the hand of your God and, in his strength, gladly accept the responsibility of mastering the events of your life by following the instructions laid out in the GPS to spiritual maturity and the abundant life – the Word of God.

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Character Interview With Jonathan of The Baron’s Ring by Mary C. Findley

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The Baron's Ring

Character interview with Jonathan of The Baron’s Ring

Q: What is your relationship to Prince Tristan of Parangor?

A: I came to the capital city to be a squire to the prince. I was supposed to help him learn swordplay and warcraft. However, he preferred books and study, while I became accomplished enough at what we were both supposed to be learning to be offered the

position of captain of the king’s guard.

Q: So Tristan was a weakling or a coward, in your opinion?

A: Not at all. He was a good man, with a real heart for serving the people of the kingdom, and the knowledge to do it well.

Q: But he wasn’t destined to be king, was he? Dunstan, his older brother, inherited the throne.

A: Dunstan! That drunken, illiterate bully! He is Tristan’s curse. I told him he should leave Parangor. It’s time he stopped trying to hide what a horrible King Dunstan will be. He certainly won’t change what Dunstan is.

Q: Where would Tristan go? What can he do? Doesn’t he have a responsibility to help his kingdom, especially if his brother will be a bad king?

A: There are two things Tristan will never succeed in doing – One is beat anyone in a swordfight, and the other is make his brother into a good king.

Q: It still sounds to me like Prince Tristan is weak. Otherwise he would overthrow his brother and take the throne himself. Lord Michnal, you were the advisor to the late king. What do you have to say about this?

A: It’s not as if Dunstan is a criminal. He hasn’t broken any laws. Tristan has no cause to do anything but, as he says, try to spare the people what he can. But I have also counseled him to leave. He is only torturing himself staying here.

Q: Gladring, you are Master of Horse. Prince Tristan spends a good deal of time at the stables. Have you been able to counsel him about how to save the kingdom?

A: I let him come and chop wood for the forge. I don’t know that I counsel him so much as let him blow off some steam and have time to think. I have given the bully Dunstan a hiding now and then, though. I wish it had helped make him a better man. Too much

his father’s favorite, that one is, and bully to boot.

Q: So the answer is that Prince Tristan should just leave the kingdom? Do any of you think he will? Jonathan? What say you?

A: As long as Tristan lives in Dunstan’s shadow and lets him beat and bully him and do all the real work of being king, he will never learn anything. But Tristan will never leave of his own will. His heart is too good and unselfish to abandon his people. God will have

to rip him away from Parangor somehow. Rip him away, and give him no chance to return. Because he will try to come back. God may have some lessons to teach Tristan. I hope he can learn them somewhere away from here.

The Baron’s Ring

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You Can Make A Difference by Natalie Buske Thomas

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Natalie Buske Thomas
In my heart of hearts I’ve always been an artist. I was also a hard worker and a student of Scripture. I won a Bible from my church when I was five years old for memorizing Psalm 23. I was an AWANA scholar and attended scholarship camp three years running. As a teen I attended Youth Congress in Washington, D.C. where a young Michael W. Smith performed. The theme was “You Can Make a Difference” and I came away from that conference believing that indeed, I could make a difference. What I hadn’t yet figured out was how.
The summer of the conference was the week of my 16th birthday. It was also the summer that my father was dying from cancer. He was just thirty-seven years old. My best friend’s church was sending youth to the conference in Washington, D.C. One of the youth had suddenly come down with something and his family wanted to donate his trip to anyone who could go. It was last minute, quite. My family didn’t have much money, but the conference was all paid for. Washington, D.C. was far from our home in Warsaw, Indiana. And yes, it meant spending my birthday away from home – a birthday that would have been nearly ignored if I had stayed home. Could I go? Please?
That conference changed my life. Our youth chaperone helped the girls plan a surprise birthday party for me. I have never forgotten how good that felt! Yes, I knew that the incentive for showing me such love and kindness was because they knew that my father was dying, and that made this experience all the more special. Most of them barely knew me, but they had compassion for a skinny young girl who was living through a season of sadness. When the ugliness of the world gets me down, I can remember my surprise 16th birthday limo ride, and my moonlit journey to the Lincoln Memorial, the cake in the hotel room, and the looks on the girls’ faces when they saw how delighted I was by the kind acts that they had performed for a girl they barely knew.
And yet, it would take over twenty-five years for me to begin to understand how I could “Make a Difference”. What difference could my writing make? There were already so many writers out there, and I was a nobody from nowhere. How could I make a difference with my art? Again, there were so many artists. What did I have to contribute that would make a difference?
I focused on making a difference as a wife and mother. I still wrote, worked, and challenged my brain, but how my artistic talent fit into God’s plan for me was as muddy as ever. Meanwhile, my kids were growing up. My son was now sixteen, the same age that I was when I attended the life-changing conference. And, wow, did he look a lot like my dad! And suddenly, it all came together. I knew what my purpose was. It was in front of me all along! I was to do as I had done naturally when I was a little girl – I was to write and do my art together! Why had I insisted that these were two separate careers?
My book “Grandpa Smiles” is about loss, and faith that the boy (my son) will see his grandpa (my dad) again one day. Every illustration is one of my original oil paintings. It is a healing and beautiful celebration of love that lives forever, and the hope that we’ll see our loved ones again one day soon. It is encouragement to meanwhile live our lives fully and joyfully. This book is a way that I can make a difference.
Grandpa Smiles
And you can make a difference too! Don’t worry if you haven’t yet found your purpose, have patience. Work hard at what you’ve been given to do. The answers will come to you at the right time. I want to wrap up with article with a thank you to all who work with young people. You never know when your influence will plant a seed that won’t fully blossom until twenty-five or more years have passed! And yet, the seed has been planted in a heart yearning for love, kindness, and encouragement.
Thriving in a Hateful World
Natalie Buske Thomas
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CrossReads Book Blast: A Nation Under Judgment by Richard Capriola

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A Nation Under Judgment
By Richard Capriola

About the Book:

A Nation Under Judgment defines wisdom as “the ability to see things from God’s point of view.” It reviews our nations social polices, including hunger, poverty, the environment, marriage, homelessness as well as others, from a Scriptural point of view. It empowers readers to consider if our nation is moving away from being One Nation Under God.


Rick Photo JpegRichard Capriola spent many years as a hospital chaplain. He completed four years of Clinical Pastoral Education in preparation for becoming a chaplain. In addition to his pastoral care experience, he has served as a ministry outreach leader for a Midwestern church and has been a mental health counselor at both a regional crisis center and psychiatric hospital.

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Words of Wisdom from Charles Haddon Spurgeon for July 14 Morning

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I am posting the Morning devotional for the current day from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotionals. If you would like to have your own copy of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotionals for your eBook reader click on the image:

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Words of Wisdom from Charles Haddon Spurgeon for July 14 Morning

“If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” – Exodus 20:25

God’s altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour’s work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man’s chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in him alone.

Many professors may take warning from this morning’s text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.
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