Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Sunday, July 31, 2016

God rules all

John Newton's Letters

February, 1774
Dear sir,
"I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Psalm 135:5-6. God rules all! And though He is concealed by a veil of second causes from common eyes, so that they can perceive only the means, instruments, and contingencies by which he works, and therefore think He does nothing; yet, in reality, He does all, according to His own counsel and pleasure, in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.
Who can enumerate all the beings and events, which are incessantly before His eye, adjusted by His wisdom, dependent on His will, and regulated by His power! If we consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars which He has ordained; if we call in the assistance of astronomers to help us in forming a conception of the number, distances, magnitudes, and motions of the heavenly bodies—the more we search, the more we shall be confirmed, that these are but a small portion of His ways! But He calls them all by their names, upholds them by His power, and without His continual energy upholding them—they would rush into confusion, or sink into nothing!
If we speak of intelligences, He is the life, the joy, the sun of all that are capable of happiness. Whatever may be signified by the thrones, principalities, and powers in the world of light, they are all dependent upon his power, and obedient to his command. It is equally true of angels as of men, that without him they can do nothing. The powers of darkness are likewise under his subjection and control. Though but little is said of them in Scripture, we read enough to assure us that their number must be immensely great, and that their strength, subtlety, and malice are such as we may tremble to think of them as our enemies, and probably should—but for our strangeinsensibility to whatever does not fall under the cognizance of our outward senses. But he holds them all in a chain, so that they can do or attempt nothing but by his permission; and whatever he permits them to do has its appointed subservience in accomplishing his designs.
To come nearer home, and to speak of what seems more suited to our scanty apprehensions—still we may be lost in wonder. Before this blessed and only Potentate, all the nations of the earth are but as the dust upon the balance, and the small drop of a bucket, and might be thought (if compared with the immensity of his works) scarcely worthy of his notice! Yet here he presides, pervades, provides, protects, and rules. In him his creatures live, move, and have their being. From him is their food and preservation. The eyes of all are upon him—what he gives they gather, and can gather no more! And at his word they sink into the dust! There is not a worm which crawls upon the ground, or a flower which grows in the pathless wilderness, or a shell upon the sea-shore—but bears the impress of his wisdom, power, and goodness.
With respect to men, he reigns with uncontrolled dominion over every kingdom, family, and individual. Here we may be astonished at his wisdom in employing free agents, the greater part of whom are his enemies, to accomplish his purposes! But, however reluctant, they all serve him. His patience likewise is wonderful. Multitudes, yes, nearly our whole species, spend the life and strength which he affords them, and abuse all the bounties he heaps upon them—in the ways of sin! His commands are disregarded, his name blasphemed, his mercy disdained, his power defied—yet still he spares! It is an eminent part of his government, to restrain the depravity of human nature, and in various ways to check its effects, which, if left to itself, without his providential control, would presently make earth the very image of hell—for the vilest men are not allowed to perpetrate a thousandth part of the evil which their hearts would prompt them to. The earth, though lying in the wicked one, is filled with the goodness of the Lord. He preserves man and beast, sustains the young lion in the forest, feeds the birds of the air, which have neither storehouse or barn, and adorns the insects and the flowers of the field with a beauty and elegance beyond all that can be found in the courts of kings!
Still more wonderful, is Christ's administration in His kingdom of grace! He is present with all His creatures—but in a special manner with His own people. Each of these are monuments of a more illustrious display of power, than that which spread abroad the heavens like a curtain, and laid the foundations of the earth. For He finds them all in a state of rebellion and enmity—and makes them His willing people! From the moment that He reveals is love to them—He espouses their cause, and takes all their concerns into His own hands. He is near and attentive to every one of them—as if there was only that one!
This high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, before whom the angels veil their faces—condescends to hold communion with those whom men despise. He passes by the kings and the princes, to manifest Himself to an humble soul in a mud-walled cottage! He comforts them when in trouble, strengthens them when weak, makes their beds in sickness, revives them when fainting, upholds them when falling, and so seasonably and effectually manages for them, that, though they are persecuted and tempted, though their enemies are many and mighty—nothing is able to separate them from His love!
And all this he does alone. All the abilities, powers, and instincts, which are found among creatures, are emanations from his fullness. All changes, successes, disappointments—all that is memorable in the annals of history, all the rising and falls of empires, all the turns in human life—take place according to his plan. In vain men contrive and combine to accomplish their own counsels, unless they are parts of his counsel likewise! The efforts of their utmost strength and wisdom are crossed and reversed, by the feeblest and most unthought-of circumstances. But when he has a work to accomplish, and his time has come, however inadequate and weak the means he employs may seem to a carnal eye—the success is infallibly secured. For all things serve him, and are in his hands as clay in the hands of the potter. Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty! just and true are your ways, O King of saints!
This is the God whom we adore! This is he who invites us to lean upon his almighty arm, and promises to guide us with his unerring eye! He says to all of his children, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble—I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty—you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression—you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3.
Therefore, while in the path of duty, and following his call, we may cheerfully pass on, regardless of apparent difficulties; for the Lord, whose we are, and who has taught us make his glory our highest end, will go before us, and at his word crooked things become straight, light shines out of darkness, and mountains sink into plains! Faith may and must be exercised; experience must and will confirm what his word declares, that the heart is deceitful, and that man in his best estate is vanity! But his promises to those who fear him, shall be confirmed likewise, and they shall find him, in all situations, to be our sun, shield, and exceeding great reward.
I have lost another of my people; a mother in our Israel; a person of much experience, eminent grace, wisdom, and usefulness. She walked with God forty years. She was one of the Lord's poor; but her poverty was decent, sanctified, and honorable. She lived respected, and her death is considered as a public loss. It is a great loss to me: I shall miss her advice and example, by which I have been often edified and animated. But Jesus still lives. Almost her last words were, "The Lord is my portion, says my soul."

The sweet is gone and the bitter remains

(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)

As to be blessed by God is the greatest blessing--so to be cursed by God is the sorest curse!

"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ--let him be Anathema! Maranatha." 1 Corinthians 16:22

To be accursed when the Lord shall come, will be to be cursed with a dreadful curse--so dreadful, as will make your joints to tremble, your knees to knock together, your faces gather paleness--for you will be cursed by God Himself!

Men will not be persuaded to love the Lord Jesus--but will . . .
love their cups,
and their lusts,
and their profits,
and their pleasures
--better than Christ.

They love their sin--and not Christ!
They love the world--and not Christ!

Oh you non-lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ! When the Lord comes, you shall be cursed in all you are!

You shall be cursed in your BODY, and all the parts thereof:
cursed shall be your eyes--which were as windows to let vanity into your heart;
cursed shall be your ears--which hearkened to the enticements of sinners, but not to the commands and calls of God;
cursed shall be your hands and feet--which acted wickedly, and carried you on in ways of sin.

You shall be cursed in your in your SOUL, and in all the powers and faculties thereof!
Cursed shall be your understanding--which was never enlightened with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Cursed shall your will be--which never made choice of Jesus for your Savior and your Lord.
Cursed shall your conscience be--which did not effectually stir you up to look after, and to hasten to, Jesus Christ.
Cursed shall be all your affections--which were set upon the world and sin, which should have been placed upon Christ.
Those desires which ran out after vanity, which should have been upon the wing in moving after Christ--were cursed desires.
Those delights which were fetched from the creature, and from sinful objects--were cursed delights.
That hatred which you had to Christ and His ways, which should have risen against sin--was cursed hatred.

Thus where the love of Christ does not rule in the heart, sin is spread all over--so then the sinner shall be cursed all over.

To be Anathema shall be to be cursed with a bitter curse, without any ingredient of the least blessing to allay or mitigate the bitterness of it. Then he shall have . . .
sorrow--without joy,
mourning--without mirth,
darkness--without light,
pain--without ease,
misery--without mercy,
all evil--without the least good, and
all this without end, and therefore without hope!

This cup of cursing, because it shall be so pure without mixture--shall be so exceedingly bitter, so inconceivably bitter! "He will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever! They have no rest day and night!" Revelation 14:10-11

This bitter curse, at the coming of Christ, shall embitter your thoughts, your soul, your very being--and make you cry out, "Oh this is a bitter place! This is a bitter state! This is a bitter condition--exceedingly bitter! My loving of the world and sin was not so sweet--as this is bitter; that seemed to me once as sweet as honey--but this is more bitter than gall!

But here is my woe, which makes it still more bitter: The sweet is gone--and the bitter remains! The sweet will never return--and the bitter will never be gone! I once put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter--but now I cannot! Oh! I never thought the sweet delight I took in what I loved, would have brought upon me this bitter curse, or me to these bitter torments!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Let us not sleep

"But woe to the Church when its watchmen sleep. The cry of the people of God in such an hour is, “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? Arise; cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?”. As great storms are approaching our world, it is not the roar of war on the billows of His judgment that shall awake Him out of sleep, but the cries or prayers of His people. This is what brought Him down in other days. “I have heard the groanings of my people who are in Egypt. I have seen their affliction and I am come down to save them.”God will have a cause in the world to the end of time, but He has often removed His candlestick out of places which had been highly favoured of Him and transferred it to other places and lands. Why? For the misuse of privilege and the neglect of spiritual duties.
The very sins for which God, in His fierce anger, destroyed peoples and nations in the past are rearing their ugly heads in our midst and are being condoned and sanctioned by our government, by many godless men and by some of our so-called Church leaders. This should be one of our deepest sorrows, spiritual concern before God."
From Murdoch Campbell's sermon 'let us not sleep'

The Bride's Prayer

by Murdoch Campbell, M.A.

Awake, O north wind: and come thou south; blow upon my garden that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat of his pleasant fruits. I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” (Songs. Ch. 4:16 and Ch. 5:1)
There are seasons in the life of God’s people when their souls cleave to the dust, and when the shadow of spiritual decline may lie heavily over their spirits. At such times they seek “a little reviving in their bondage,” and, in the words of the Psalm, they ask the Lord to quicken them according to His word. And when the Lord draws near to them, and breathes upon them with the warm breath of His mouth, not only are their own hearts revived but their prayers also ascend to God that He might visit all His people with a time of refreshing and with a day of His power. This, we think, is the way the Church prays here. “Blow upon my garden.” Then she goes on to plead that He would visit His own garden everywhere and that both His gracious presence and the fruits of the Spirit might rejoice and encourage His waiting people everywhere. In making a comment on these words let us consider:
I. The Prayer and its Plea
This prayer, we believe, is for the awakening power of the Holy Spirit. Under this figure the Spirit of God, in His saving operations, is often brought before us in the written Word. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” When God’s prophet stood helpless before the valley of dry bones God commanded him to pray for the living breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.” It was as “a rushing mighty wind” that He descended on the Church on the day of Pentecost. So mighty was His power on that day that the holy repercussions of the Spirit’s descent are still felt in this world, and shall be to the end of time.
The immediate situation which moved the Church to utter this prayer was her awareness of the spiritual decay which had spread over God’s vineyard everywhere. In the words of the prophet death had come up into her windows and had entered her palaces. In his own day Isaiah speaks of the ominous stillness, the dark symptom of spiritual death, which everywhere prevailed. “There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to lay hold upon Thee”. Spiritual silence and sleep always go together. It is when we sleep that Satan, “the boar out of the forest” plays havoc with God’s vine. It is then that the enemy sows his tares in the field. The Church knew that when the enemy, through the neglect of those who should keep watch upon the walls of Zion, came in like a flood only the Spirit of the Lord could arrest his power. Therefore she prays, “Awake, O north wind and come thou south.”
In the presence of such a state of decline the Church is aware of her own helplessness. There is so much that men can do. They can initiate unspiritual, and often unscriptural, movements within the visible Church, but it is not by might or by power on the part of man that God’s cause is rescued and revived but by His Spirit. The question was asked of old “By whom shall Jacob arise for he is small?” “Lord thou knowest.” The prophet could see the Church in his own day drawing, as it were, its last breath, and only by a miracle of divine power could Jacob arise again. By proclaiming the word of the Lord the prophet Ezekiel brought all the dry bones of the house of Israel together. They even assumed the appearance and order of life, but as yet there was no breath in them. There was much stir and noise. There was a form of godliness, but no power at all. Only when the prophet, at God’s command, prophesied unto the breath did they arise to newness of life. When, conscious of his helplessness, he combined his pleading with earnest supplication did the miracle of a spiritual resurrection happen. It is comparatively easy to assemble men and women together, to assume a religious complexion and to create noise and stir in the religious world; but without the Spirit it can avail, little or nothing.
There was something else of which the Church was aware. She knew that only the Holy Spirit could give its proper exercise to the grace which lodges within the souls of believers. The Holy Spirit is given to God’s people as the Spirit of grace and of supplication. But there are seasons when they are at ease in Zion, and when they “rest on their lees.” But “woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” Her earnest prayer, therefore, was that with the coming of the wind “the spices” of grace in the hearts of God’s people might flow forth in continual prayer to God that “in a day of small things” He might arise and plead His own Cause.
It is encouraging to observe how in other days the prayers and conscious helplessness of the Church coincided with mighty displays of God’s power. It was often when the Church was on her knees that her Lord went forth in His chariots of salvation and His right hand performed “terrible things”. Look at her in Egypt under sentence of death. But she was not silent. “I have surely seen,” said the Lord to Moses, “the afflictions of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry ... and I am come down to deliver them.” Their sighs went before their songs — their night of weeping preceded their morning of joy. The wind which dried up the sea before her was the evidence of His saving power. He came in answer to her prayers. Her deliverance out of the bondage of Babylon answered to the same pattern. There they sat and wept as they thought of Zion in her desolation. There they wrestled with God that He might pluck His hand from His bosom and save them. Then it happened. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion we were like them who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter.”
Look also at what happened in Europe during the midnight darkness of the papal age. Throughout those long years of spiritual decay and death God’s “hidden ones” were crying to Him to visit His own desolate vineyard with a day of power, Then the wind began to blow, driving before it the idolatries, superstitions and blasphemies of the papal system which had for so long ensnared and defiled the nations of Europe. God’s vineyard was again revived and purified. The Church of the Reformation — the perfect counterpart of the apostolic Church — was born, never to die.
Do we not at this hour live in “a day of small things”? But with all its terrors, lawlessness and apostacy the Lord has still many people in the world whose prayer is that His Kingdom might come and His cause be uplifted. We believe that the day will come when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Many today have this same prayer on their lips and in their heart — “Awake O north wind and come thou south.” And what is the promise? “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute and not despise their prayer.”
In this prayer there is a just recognition that a true awakening is accompanied by both sorrow and joy. The north wind, we believe, is typical of the Spirit’s work in convincing men of their sin. “When He is come He will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” He brings the sinner to the bar of God’s Word where he sees that he is without God and without hope in the world. There also he sees that all his righteousnesses are as filthy rags and that at the bar of His just judgment he cannot but bow his head and plead guilty before Him. He also looks to Him whom he has pierced, and mourns. He mourns over the fact that he hated Him without a cause. When this strong wind blows through our souls we are left with nothing but our sin and its shame.
There have sometimes been so-called “revivals” from which this godly sorrow was absent, and too often they bore no lasting fruit. There are those who, like Bunyan’s Pliable, receive the word with a false joy only to return to their old haunts and environment. But true believers have their seasons of sorrow before their time of love and their hour of deliverance. Before their Bethel comes their Bochim. We agree that there are different degrees of this in the experience of God’s people but repentance unto life is a saving grace and can never be divorced from grief over sin. Let me give an illustration of this. One of the most genuine revivals that ever took place in our land had this wholesome characteristic. On one occasion over seven thousand people gathered in a small picturesque Highland valley to hear the Gospel. At the end of the day, and as the last Psalm was being sung, only the preacher and the two leaders of the praise were able to sing. What had happened to the rest? God’s Spirit like a mighty wind had swept over them. Arrows from the King’s bow had pierced through many hearts. God had convinced them that they were sinners under wrath. Apart from their weeping they were silent. But the warm south wind of His grace, love and forgiveness soon brought them into a state of joy. They were given a new summer and a new song.
The Church herself could tell the story of that hour when she passed from death to life. “My beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up my love, my fair one and come away; for the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come.” The winter of sin, with its snell north wind, had given place to a new and everlasting summer. The warm wind of His love now wafted through her soul.
You notice that there was another great reason why the Church prayed for the reviving breath of the Spirit. It was that Christ’s presence might be known and felt within His own vineyard or Church. “Let my beloved come into His garden.” The power of the Spirit and the presence of the Lord always go together. There may be many choice flowers in the garden; but it is Christ the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys, who gives grace and fragrance to His own vineyard.
“That I thy power may behold,
and brightness of thy face,”
was the prayer of one who knew that without God’s presence in His own Church there could be only weakness and darkness. The greatest chastisement that the Lord can bring upon us in this life is to withdraw His presence from His Church, or, in the wider sphere, to become a stranger in the land. It is true that the believer may have, like Moses on the Mount, a personal enjoyment of God’s presence while He may become a stranger within the visible Church. Do we mourn, then, over His absence in those places of which it could be said in other days that “the Lord was there”? The Church had that measure of spiritual discernment which enabled her to differentiate between His presence in the means of grace and the means of grace without His presence. Her cry: “Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?” is the proof of this. In our worship we may be satisfied with ourselves and with one another while He may be absent. But it is His presence among us that lends solemnity and sweetness to the public means of grace. It is through His presence and power that the dead are raised and that sinners are converted unto Him.
Once I was present at a prayer meeting in a certain church. God truly was among us. After the benediction was pronounced a good woman present gently asked the presiding minister if we could still tarry there. But we had to part, for here we have but the tabernacle of a wayfaring man. Do we know what this means? Have we truly the spiritual discernment to know when He is present in, or is absent from, His garden. A few years ago a certain lady visited the North of Scotland. During her sojourn there she worshipped in a number of congregations where sound scriptural preaching was proclaimed from each pulpit. But she entered one church, and as soon as she sat in the pew she could say, “the Lord is in this place”. It was this that endeared that place to her soul in after days. It was to her a season of heaven on earth.
Let us plead with Him that He might once again visit those parts of His vineyard where He is now a stranger. When we read, for example, of other days in places like our native Highlands, where men like Dr John Macdonald, Mr Hector MacPhail, “Big” John MacRae, Dr John Kennedy, Alexander Stewart, and many others, once reaped such a great harvest, we can only pray:
“To these long desolations Thy feet lift, do not tarry.”
Without His power and presence among us the vineyard and the fruitful field may become dry parched land. O, then let us seek to discover and disown those sins which have grieved His Spirit and alienated His gracious presence from our midst.
Now you will notice that after such gracious visitations the Church is not ashamed to ask her Lord to come into His own garden. She has ample fare to set before Him. “Let Him eat of His pleasant fruits.” These words mean that where the Spirit is present His fruits are to be seen in the lives of those whom He blesses and among whom He works. This is what satisfies, or is pleasing to, the Lord. The fruits of the Spirit cannot be concealed in the lives of those who bear them. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance — against such there is no law.” To this end Christ has chosen and ordained all his people. “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” The Church is God’s vineyard or garden, and each believer is His planting. His people are the subjects of His care, love and interest. “What could have been done more for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” Do these spiritual fruits show themselves in our lives? How ought we to bow our heads in God’s presence as we see our own barrenness and spiritual dilatoriness. This grief was in the heart of the Church when she said: “They have made me a keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.” We who are Christian ministers, Christian elders and witnesses are all professedly interested in the preservation, purity and increase of God’s cause. And yet through our neglect and prayerlessness our own lives, our own homes, our own congregations, may fall under the shadow of spiritual decline. Is it not so? Are our lives pleasing to God? He conies for fruit, but we have little to show. This truly is often the grief of the gracious soul. But while we mourn over our own leanness and the low state of His cause we hope and long for the day when, through the outpouring of God’s Spirit, the wilderness shall again blossom as the rose.
We mentioned some of the fruits of the Spirit which show themselves in the true Christian life, but there are others also. Our Lord Himself spoke of other spiritual fruits which His people bear. Where does he begin? “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” If this cluster of blessings is found in our lives then the Lord is with us and dwells in our heart as in a garden. “With this man will I dwell, even with him who is of a poor and a contrite heart and who trembles at My Word.” O, dear friends, do we not long for the day when our garden shall be His entirely, or when our souls shall be for ever delivered from all that is of self and of sin? But consider now:
II. The Lord’s Answer to Her Prayer: “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.”
As she would provide Him with the pleasant fruits of His own Spirit, He comes to her laden with blessings. Christ never visits His Church or the soul of the believer empty-handed. He comes to furnish our table. And if the gifts are precious, the presence of the Giver is what lends sweetness to each one. The blessings mentioned here are the choice fare of the heavenly Canaan. The fulness which He communicates to His Church resides in Himself. Here we have the sincere milk of the Word, the wine of His love, the honeycomb of His promises. These all carry the pure aroma of Heaven. In the written Word we have the ecstatic testimonies of those who had tasted of these blessings. “Thy words were found and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” “More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” “Thy love is better than wine.” “O, taste and see that the Lord is good.” These indeed are enjoyments, the nature of which it is impossible to describe. Only by personal participation in them can we know their unspeakable sweetness.
We once heard a story of a boy who lived a primitive life in a heathen land. The missionary working among the tribe presented this lad one day with some sweets. He had never seen or tasted such things before. He ran home and told the others about what he had in his hand and in his mouth! They plied him with questions, but he had no words which could describe his enjoyment. At last he said: “Here, you must taste it yourselves.”
This enjoyment of the Church was “under the tongue” or in her heart while she was still on her pilgrimage journey. She had in this world of time the earnest of good things to come. And if our blessings here are mixed with many bitter herbs these only increase our longings for that full and eternal enjoyment of God which awaits us at the table above where all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes.
If the Giver and His gifts are so desirable so is His welcome to partake of His feast. “Eat, O friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved.” He who supplies all our needs and who has in Himself an infinite fulness of grace and truth would have us eat abundantly. Sometimes the public means of grace may be destitute of the spiritual nourishment we require. We cry with David — “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” But when, like David’s mighty men, our graces are in exercise, we often break through every barrier and overcome the sins which would deprive us of the needed blessing. When prayer, faith and patience do their perfect work, the Lord extends the royal sceptre of His promise to our souls. “What is thy request and what is thy desire?” We are led into his banqueting house where we say with the Psalmist — “A day in thy courts is better than a thousand.”
In these days when we see not our signs, our only hope is to plead with God that He might once again stir up His strength and send His Spirit both to arrest the flood of evil and to revive us in the midst of the years. In such a day our silence is our greatest sin. If we open our mouth wide in holy longings, He, on His side, will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing so that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And if we fail in our duty let us remember what is written — “I shall yet be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” May the Lord give us the grace to continue instant in prayer.

The only Gospel

No news can suit a ruined race
 But sov’reign, free, eternal grace: 
No other Gospel can impart 
Joy, peace, and comfort to the heart. 

The only Gospel we can own 
Sets Jesus Christ upon His throne; 
Proclaims salvation full and free, 
Obtained on Calvary’s rugged tree. 

Joseph Irons

Read where I cast my first anchor

(John Knox, November 24th 1572) 

“Go! Said the old reformer to his wife, as he lay a-dying, and the words were his last, “go, read where I cast my first anchor!” She needed no more explicit instructions, for he had told her the story again and again. It is Richard Bannantyne, Knox’s serving-man, who has placed the scene on record. “On November 24, 1572,” he says, “John Knox departed this life to his eternal rest. Early in the afternoon he said ‘Now, for the last time, I commend my spirit, soul, and body’ (pointing upon his three fingers) ‘into thy hands, O Lord!’ Thereafter, about five o’clock he said to his wife, ‘Go, read where I cast my first anchor!’ She did not need to be told, and so, she read the seventeenth of John’s evangel.” Let us listen as she reads it! “Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou has given Him; and this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.”

 Here was a strange and striking contract! “Eternal life! Life eternal!” says the Book. Now listen to the laboured breathing from the bed! The bed speaks of death; the Book speaks of Life Everlasting! “Life!” The dying man starts as the great candences fall upon his ears. “This is life eternal that they might know Thee!” “Life Eternal!” “It was there,” he declares with his last breath, “it was there that I cast my first anchor.” How was that first anchor cast? I have tried to piece the records together. Paul never forgot the day on which he saw Stephen stoned; John Knox never forgot the day on which he saw George Wishart burned. Wishart was a man “of such grace” – so Knox himself tells us – “as before him was never heard in this realm.” In 1546, however he was convicted of heresy and burned at the foot of the Castle Wynd, opposite the Castle Gate. When he came near to the fire, Knox tells us, he sat down upon his knees, and repeated aloud some of the most touching petitions from the Psalms. As a sign of forgiveness, he kissed the executioner on the cheek, saying, “Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee. My harte do thine office.” The faggots were kindled, and the leaping flames bore the soul of Wishart truimphantly skywards.

And there, a few yards off, stands Knox! Have a good look at him! He is a man “rather under middle height, with broad shoulders, swarthy face, black hair, and a beard of the same colour a span and a half long. He has heavy eyebrows, eyes deeply sunk, cheekbones prominent and cheeks ruddy. The mouth is large, the lips full, especially the upper one. The whole aspect of the man is not unpleasing; and, in moments of emotion, it is invested with an air of dignity and majesty.” Knox could never shake from his sensitive mind the tragic yet triumphant scene near the Castle Gate; and when, many years afterwards, he himself turned aside to die, he repeated with closed eyes the prayers that he had heard George Wishart offer under the shadow of the stake.

 Was it then, I wonder that John Knox turned sadly homeward and read to himself the great High-priestly prayer in “the seventeenth of John’s evangel?” Was it on that memorable night that he caught a glimpse of the place which all the redeemed hold in the heart of the Redeemer? Was it on that melancholy evening that there broke upon him the revelation of a love that enfolded not only his martyred friend and himself, but the faithful of every time and of every clime? Was it then that his heart was opened to the magic and the music of those tremendous words: “Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him; and this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Was it then? I cannot say for certain. I only know that we never meet with Knox in Scottish story until after the martyrdom of Wishart; and I know that by the events of that sad and tragic day, all his soul was stirred within him. But, although I do not know for certain that the anchor was first cast then, I know that it was first cast there. “Go!” he said, with the huskiness of death upon his speech, “read where I cast my first anchor!” And his wife read to him the stately sentences I have just rewritten.

Fierce as were the storms that beat upon Knox during the great historic years that followed, that anchor bravely held. To say nothing of his experiences at court and the powerful efforts to coax or to cow him into submission, think of those twelve years of exile, eighteen months of which were spent on the French galleys.

 We catch two furtive glances of him. The galley in which he is chained makes a cruise round the Scottish coasts. It passes so near to the fair fields of Fyfe that Knox can distinctly see the spires of St. Andrews. At the moment, Knox was so ill that his life was despaired of; and the taunting vision might well have broken his spirit altogether. But the anchor held; the anchor held! “Ah!” exclaimed Knox raising himself on his elbow, “I see the steeple of that place where God first in public opened my mouth to His glory; and I am fuly persuaded, how weak soever I now appear, that I shall not depart this life till that my tongue shall glorify His godly name in the same place.”

Again, as Carlyle tells, “a priest one day presented to the galley-slaves an image of the Virgin Mother, requiring that they, the blasphemous heretics, should do it reverence. ‘Mother? Mother of God?’” said Knox, when the turn came to him, “’This is no Mother of God; this is a piece of painted wood! She is better for swimming, I think, than for being worshipped!’ and he flung the thing into the river.” Knox had cast his anchor in the seventeenth of John’s evangel. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee!” And since he himself had found life eternal in the personal friendship of a Personal Saviour, it was intolerable to him that others should gaze with superstitious eyes on a ‘bit of painted wood!’ The thing fell into the river with a splash. It was a rude jest, but an expressive one. All the Reformation was summed up in it. Eternal life was not to be found in such things. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee.” That, says Knox, is where I cast my first anchor; and, through all the storms and stress of those baffling and eventful years, that anchor held!

Nor was there any parting of the cable or dragging of the anchor at the last. Richard Bannatyne, sitting beside his honoured master’s deathbed, heard a long, long sigh. A singular fancy overtook him. “Now, sir,” he said, “the time to end your battle is come. Remember those comfortable promises of our Saviour Jesus Christ which you have so often shown to us. And it may be that, when your eyes are blind, and your ears deaf to every other sight and sound, you will be able to recognise my voice. I shall bend over you and ask if you have still the hope of glory. Will you promise that, if you are able to give me some signal, you will do so?” The sick man promised, and, soon after, this is what happened:

  Grim in his deep death-anguish the stern old champion lay
 And the locks upon his pillow were floating thin and grey, 
 And, visionless and voiceless, with quick and labouring breath, 
 He waited for his exit through life’s dark portal, Death. 

 “Hast thou the hope of glory?” They bowed to catch the thrill 
 That through some languid token might be responsive still,
 Nor watched they long nor waited for some obscure reply, 
 He raised a clay-cold finger, and pointed to the sky.

 So the death-angel found him, what time his bow he bent,
 To give the struggling spirit a sweet enfranchisement. 
 So the death-angel left him, what time earth’s bounds were riven,
 The cold, stark, stiffening finger still pointing up to heaven.” 

“He had a sore fight of an existance,” says Carlyle, “wrestling with Popes and Principalities; in defeat, contention, life-long struggle; rowing as a galley-slave, wandering as an exile. A sore fight: but he won it! ‘Have you hope?’ they asked him in his last moment, when he could not longer speak. He lifted his finger, pointed upward, and so died!”

 (Adapted from F.W. Boreham)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lord, what is man?

A ‘must read’ by John Newton

We hear much in the present day of the dignity of human nature. And it is allowed that man was an excellent creature as he came out of the hands of God; but if we consider this question with a view to fallen man, as depraved by sin, how can we but join with the Psalmist in wonder that the great God should make any account of him?
Fallen as man is from his state of original happiness and holiness, his natural faculties and abilities afford sufficient evidence that the hand that made him is divine. He is capable of great things. His understanding, will, affections, imagination and memory are noble and amazing powers. But view him in a moral light, as an intelligent being, incessantly dependent upon God, accountable to Him, and appointed by Him to a state of existence in an unchangeable world; considered in this relation, man is a monster, a vile, base, stupid, obstinate, and mischievous creature; no words can fully describe him.
Man, with all his boasted understanding and attainments, is a fool: so long as he is destitute of the saving grace of God, his conduct, as to his most important concernments, is more absurd and inconsistent than that of the meanest idiot; with respect to his affections and pursuits, he is degraded far below the beasts; and for malignity and wickedness of his will, can be compared to nothing so properly as the devil.
The question here is not concerning this or that man, a Nero or a Heriogabolus, but concerning human nature, the whole race of mankind, the few excepted who are born of God. There is indeed a difference among men, but it is owing to the restraints of Divine Providence, without which earth would be the very image of hell. A wolf or a lion, while chained, cannot do so much mischief as if they were loose, but the nature is the same in the whole species. Education and interest, fear and shame, human laws, and the secret power of God over the mind, combine to form many characters that are externally decent and respectable; and even the most abandoned are under a restraint which prevents them from manifesting a thousandth part of the wickedness which is in their hearts. But the heart itself is universally deceitful, and desperately wicked.
Man is a fool. He can indeed measure the earth and almost count the stars; he abounds in arts and inventions in science and policy; and shall he then be called a fool? The ancient heathens, the inhabitants of Egypt, Greece and Rome, were eminent for this kind of wisdom. They are to this day studied as models by those who aim to excel in history, poetry, painting, architecture, and other exertions of human genius, which are suited to polish the manners without improving the heart. But their most admired philosophers, legislators, logicians, orators, and artists, were as destitute as idiots or infants of that knowledge which alone deserves the name of true wisdom.
Professing themselves to be wise they became fools (Rom.1:22). Ignorant and regardless of God, yet conscious of their own weakness, and of their dependence upon a power above their own, and stimulated by a principle of inward fear, of which they knew neither the origin nor right application, they worshiped the creature instead of the Creator, yea, placed their trust in stocks and stones, in the works of men’s hands, in non-entities and chimeras. An acquaintance with their mythology, or religious fables passes with us, for a considerable branch of learning, because it is drawn from ancient books, written in languages not known to the vulgar; but in point of certainty of truth, we might receive as much satisfaction from a collection of dreams, or from the ravings of lunatics. If, therefore, we admit these admired sages as a tolerable specimen of mankind, must we not confess that man, in his best estate, while uninstructed by the Spirit of God is a fool? But are we wiser than they? Not in the least, till the grace of God makes us so. Our superior advantages only show our folly in a more striking light.
Why do we account any persons foolish? A fool has no sound judgment; he is governed wholly by appearances, and would prefer a fine coat to the writings of a large estate. He pays no regard to consequences. Fools have sometimes hurt or killed their best friends, and thought they did no harm. A fool cannot reason, therefore arguments are lost upon him. At one time, if tied with a straw, he dares not stir; at another time, perhaps, he can hardly be persuaded to move, though the house were on fire. Are these the characteristics of a fool? Then there is no fool like the sinner, who prefers the toys of earth to the happiness of heaven, who is held in bondage by the customs of the world, and is more afraid of the breath of man, than the wrath of God.
Again, Man in his natural state is a beast, yea below the beasts that perish. In two things he strongly resembles them; in looking no higher than to sensual gratification, and in that selfishness of spirit which prompts him to propose himself and his own interest as his proper and highest end. But in many respects he sinks sadly beneath them. Unnatural lusts, and the want of natural affection toward their offspring , are abominations not to be found among the brute creation. What shall we say of mothers destroying their children with their own hands, or of the horrid act of self-murder! Men are worse than beasts likewise, in their obstinacy; they will not be warned. If a beast escapes from a trap he will be cautious how he goes near it again, and in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird. But man, though he be often reproved, hardens his neck; he rushes upon his ruin with his eyes open, and can defy God to his face, and dare damnation.
Once more, let us observe how man resembles the devil. There are spiritual sins and these, in their height the scripture teaches us to judge of Satan’s character. Every feature in this description is strong in man; so then what the Lord said to the Jews is of general application, “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” Man resembles Satan in pride; this stupid, weak creature values himself upon his wisdom, power, and virtue, and will talk of being saved by his good works; though if he can, Satan himself need not despair. He resembles him in malice. and this diabolical disposition often proceeds to murder., and would daily if the Lord did not restrain it. He derives from Satan the hateful spirit of envy. He is often tormented beyond expression, by beholding the prosperity of his neighbors; and proportionally pleased with their calamities, though he gains no other advantage from them than the gratification of this rancorous principle. He bares the image, likewise, of Satan in his cruelty. This evil is bound up, even in the heart of a child.
A disposition to take pleasure in giving pain to others appears very early. Children, if left to themselves, soon feel a gratification in torturing insects and animals. What misery does the wanton cruelty of men inflict upon cocks, dogs, bulls, bears, and other creatures, which they seem to think were formed for no other end than to feast their savage spirits with their torments! If we form our judgment of men, when they seem most pleased, and have neither anger nor resentment to plead in their excuse, it is too evident, even in the nature of their amusements, whose they are and whom they serve; and they are the worst of enemies to each other.
Think of the horrors of war, the rage of duelists, of the murders and assassinations with which the world is filled, and then say, “Lord, what is man!” Further if deceit and treachery belong to Satan’s character, then surely man resembles him. Is not the universal observation, and complaint of all ages, an affecting comment upon the prophet’s words, “Trust ye not in a friend, put not confidence in a guide, keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom, for they hunt every man his brother with a net.” How many at this moment have cause to say with David, “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” Again, like Satan, men are eager in tempting others to sin; not content to damn themselves, they employ all their arts and influence to draw as many as they can with them into the same destruction.
Lastly, in direct opposition to God and goodness, in contemptuous enmity to the Gospel of His grace, and a bitter persecuting spirit to those who profess it, Satan himself can hardly exceed them. Herein, indeed they are his agents and willing servants; and because the blessed God himself is out of their reach, they labor to show their despite to him in the persons of His people.
I have drawn but a sketch, a few outlines of the picture of fallen man. To give an exact copy of him, to charge every feature with it’s full aggravation of horror, and to paint him as he is, would be impossible. Enough has been observed to illustrate the propriety of the exclamation, “Lord, what is man!” Perhaps some of my readers may deny or extenuate the charge, and may plead that I have not been describing mankind but some of the most abandoned of the species, who hardly deserve the name of “men”. But I have already provided against this exception. It is human nature I describe; and the vilest and most profligate individuals can not sin beyond the powers and limits of that nature which they possess in common with the more mild and moderate.
Though there may be a difference in the fruitfulness of trees, yet the production of one apple, decides the nature of the tree upon which it grew, as certainly as if it had produced a thousand: so in the present case, should it be allowed that these enormities cannot be found in all persons, it would be a sufficient confirmation of what I advanced, if they can be found in any; unless it could be likewise proved, that those who appeared more wicked than others, were of a different species from the rest. But I need not make this concession; they must be insensible indeed who do not feel something within them so very contrary to our common notions of goodness, as would perhaps make them rather submit to be banished from human society, than to be compelled to be bona fide to disclose their fellow-creatures every thought and desire which arises in their hearts.
The nature of fallen man agrees to the description the apostle has given us of his boasted wisdom: it is earthly, sensual, devilish. I have attempted some general delineation of it in the preceding letter; but the height of its malignity cannot be properly estimated, unless we consider its actings with respect to the light of the Gospel. The Jews were extremely wicked at the time of our Lord’s appearance upon earth; yet he said of them, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin;” that is, as the light and power of his ministry deprived them of all excuse for continuing in sin, so it proved the occasion of showing their wickedness in the most aggravated manner; and all their other sins were but faint proofs of the true state of their hearts, if compared with the discovery they made of themselves, by their pertinacious opposition to Him.
In this sense, what the apostle has observed of the law of Moses, may be applied to the Gospel of Christ: it entered, that sin might abound. If we would estimate the utmost exertions of human depravity, and the strongest effects it is capable of producing, we must select our instances from the conduct of those to whom the Gospel is known. The Indians, who roast their enemies alive, give sufficient proof that man is barbarous to his own kind; which may likewise be easily demonstrated without going so far from home; but the preaching of the Gospel discovers the enmity of the heart against God, in ways and degrees of which unenlightened savages and heathens are not capable.
By the Gospel, I now mean not merely the doctrine of salvation as it lies in the holy Scripture, but that public and authoritative dispensation of this doctrine, which the Lord Jesus Christ has committed to his true ministers; who having been themselves, by the power of his grace, brought out of darkness into marvelous light, are by his Holy Spirit qualified and sent forth to declare to their fellow-sinners what they have seen, and felt, and tasted, of the word of life. Their commission is, to exalt the Lord alone, to stain the pride of all human glory. They are to set forth the evil and demerit of sin, the strictness, spirituality, and sanction of the law of God, the total apostasy of mankind; and from these premises to demonstrate the utter impossibility of a sinner’s escaping condemnation by any works or endeavors of his own; and then to proclaim a full and free salvation from sin and wrath, by faith in the name, blood, obedience, and mediation of God manifest in the flesh; together with a denunciation of eternal misery to all who shall finally reject the testimony which God has given of his Son.
Though these several branches of the will of God respecting sinners, and other truths in connection with them, are plainly revealed and repeatedly inculcated in the Bible; and though the Bible is to be found in almost every house, yet we see, in fact, it is a sealed book, little read, little understood, and therefore but little regarded, except in those places which the Lord is pleased to favour with ministers who can confirm them from their own experience, and who, by a sense of his constraining love, and the worth of souls, are animated to make the faithful discharge of their ministry the one great business of their lives: who aim not to possess the wealth, but to promote the welfare of their hearers; are equally regardless of the frowns or smiles of the world; and count not their lives dear, so that they may be wise and successful in winning souls to Christ.
When the Gospel, in this sense of the word, first comes to a place, though the people are going on in sin, they may be said to sin ignorantly; they have not yet been warned of their danger. Some are drinking down iniquity like water; others more soberly burying themselves alive in the cares and business of the world; others find a little time for what they call religious duties, which they persevere in, though they are utter strangers to the nature or the pleasure of spiritual worship; partly, as thereby they think to bargain with God and to make amends for such sins as they do not choose to relinquish; and partly because it gratifies their pride, and affords them (as they think) some ground for saying, “God, I thank thee I am not as other men.”
The Preached Gospel declares the vanity and danger of these several ways which sinners choose to walk in. It declares, and demonstrates, that, different as they appear from each other, they are equally remote from the path of safety and peace, and all tend to the same point, the destruction of those who persist in them. At the same time it provides against that despair into which men would be otherwise plunged, when convinced of their sins, by revealing the immense love of God, the glory and grace of Christ, and inviting all to come to him, that they may obtain pardon, life, and happiness.
In a word, it shows the pit of hell under men’s feet, and opens the gate and points out the way to heaven. Let us now briefly observe the effects it produces in those who do not receive it as the power of God unto salvation. These effects are various, as tempers and circumstances vary; but they may all lead us to adopt the Psalmist’s exclamation, “Lord, what is man !”
Many who have heard the Gospel once or a few times, will hear it no more; it awakens their scorn, their hatred and rage. They pour contempt upon the wisdom of God, despise his goodness, defy his power; and their very looks express the spirit of the rebellious Jews, who told the prophet Jeremiah to his face, “As to the word which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken to thee at all.” The ministers who preach it, are accounted men that turn the world upside down; and the people who receive it, fools or hypocrites. The word of the Lord is a burden to them, and they hate it with a perfect hatred. How strongly is the disposition of the natural heart manifested, by the confusion which often takes place in families, where the Lord is pleased to awaken one or two in a house, while the rest remain in their sins!
To profess, or even to be suspected of, an attachment to the Gospel of Christ, is frequently considered and treated as the worst of crimes, sufficient to cancel the strongest obligations of relation or friendship. Parents, upon such a provocation, will hate their children, and children ridicule their parents: many find, agreeable to our Lord’s declaration, that from the time a sense of his love engaged their hearts to love him again, their worst foes have been those of their own household; and that they who expressed the greatest love and tenderness for them before their conversion, can now hardly bear to see them.
The bulk of a people will perhaps continue to hear, at least now and then; and to those who do, the Spirit of God usually, at one time or other, bears testimony to the truth: their consciences are struck, and for a season they believe and tremble. But what is the consequence? No man who has taken poison seeks more earnestly or speedily for an antidote, than those do for something to stifle and smother their convictions. They run to company, to drink, to anything, for relief against the unwelcome intrusion of serious thoughts; and when they succeed, and recover their former indifference, they rejoice as if they had escaped some great danger. The next step is, to ridicule their own convictions; and next to that, if they see any of their acquaintance under the like impressions, to use every art, and strain every nerve, that they may render them as obstinate as themselves. For this purpose, they watch as a fowler for the bird, flatter or revile, tempt or threaten; and if they can prevail, and are the occasion of “hardening any in their sins” they rejoice and triumph as if they accounted it their interest and their glory to ruin the souls of their fellow creatures.
By frequent hearing, they receive more light. They are compelled to know, whether they will or not, that the wrath of God hangs over the children of disobedience. They carry a sting in their consciences, and at times feel themselves most miserable, and cannot but wish they had never been born, or that they had been dogs or toads, rather than rational creatures. Yet they harden themselves still more. They affect to be happy and at ease and force themselves to wear a smile when anguish preys upon their hearts. They blaspheme the way of truth, watch for the faults of professors, and with a malicious joy publish and aggravate them. They see perhaps how the wicked die, but are not alarmed; they see the righteous die, but are not moved. Neither providences nor ordinances, mercies nor judgments, can stop them, for they are determined to go on and perish with their eyes open, rather than submit to the Gospel.
But they do not always openly reject the Gospel-truths. Some who profess to approve and receive them, do thereby discover the evils of the heart of man, if possible, in a yet stronger light. They make Christ the minister of sin, and turn his grace into licentiousness. Like Judas, they say, Hail, Master ! and betray him. This is the highest pitch of iniquity. They pervert all the doctrines of the Gospel. From election they draw an excuse for continuing in their evil ways; and contend for salvation without works, because they love not obedience. They extol the righteousness of Christ, but hold it in opposition to personal holiness. In a word, because they hear that God is good, they determine to persist in evil. “Lord, what is man!”
Thus willful and impenitent sinners go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. The word which they despise becomes to them a savor of death unto death. They take different courses, but all are traveling down to the pit; and, unless sovereign mercy interpose, will soon sink to rise no more. The final event is usually twofold. Many, after they have been more or less shaken by the word, settle in formality. If hearing would supply the place of faith, love, and obedience, they would do well; but by degrees they become sermon-proof: the truths which once struck them lose their power by being often heard; and thus multitudes live and die in darkness, though the light has long shone around them.
Others are more openly given up to a reprobate mind. Contempt of the Gospel makes Infidels, Deists, and Atheists. They are filled with a spirit of delusion to believe a lie. These are scoffers, walking after their own lusts; for where the principles of religion are given up, the conduct will be vile and abominable. Such persons sport themselves with their own deceivings, and strongly prove the truth of the Gospel while they dispute against it. We often find that people of this cast have formerly been the subjects of strong convictions; but when the evil spirit has seemed to depart for a season, and returns again, the last state of that person is worse than the first.
It is not improbable that some of my readers may meet with their own characters under one or other of the views I have given of the desperate wickedness of the heart, in its actings against the truth. May the Spirit of God constrain them to read with attention Your case is dangerous, but I would hope not utterly desperate—Jesus is mighty to save. His grace can pardon the most aggravated offences, and subdue the most inveterate habits of sin.

The Gospel you have hitherto slighted, resisted, or opposed, is still the power of God unto salvation. The blood of Jesus, upon which you have hitherto trampled, speaks better things than the blood of Abel, and is of virtue to cleanse those whose sins are scarlet and crimson, and to make them white as snow. As yet you are spared; but it is high time to stop, to throw down your arms of rebellion, and humble yourselves at his feet. If you do, you may yet escape; but if not, know assuredly that wrath is coming upon you to the uttermost; and you will shortly find, to your unspeakable dismay, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Faith of Abraham

There is one aspect of Abraham's faith in his God that seems to get less attention that it should. When Abraham was instructed by God to offer his son, his only son, as a burnt offering unto God there was no hesitation, no wavering, no questioning, just simple, unabashed obedience. The detailed accounting of this is found in Genesis 22. God said to him, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." [The parallels to Christ abound throughout this story and of special interest for now is the fact that Moriah was later found to be at Jerusalem (2 Chron. 3:1) and is the location of Solomon's Temple.] Abraham made the necessary preparations and left his home with Isaac the next morning. Never did he question how all this was going to work out given the fact of the promise God had made to him that his descendants would inherit the land promised to him. Perhaps he wondered how he could sacrifice his son, Isaac, and still be the father of a multitude with no other heir acceptable to God. How often do we try to figure out how God will answer our prayers, what will be the source of our needs being met, or the resolution of a difficult situation, and so on. We can guess 'til we're blue in the face and never figure it out and yet in the back of our mind---perhaps this should be in the front of our mind---we remember that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, Eph. 3:20. So it seems was the case with Abraham as he tried to resolve the dilemma he thought he faced. But it was no dilemma to God, as He knew precisely what He was doing. Abraham seemed to have the solution as we see in Heb. 11:17-19 in that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead---another display of unfettered faith on the part of Abraham---but God, in His righteousness, had another plan, He would not allow his faithful servant, Abraham, to sacrifice his only son Isaac. [This is where the parallel to Christ stops, as the Father did sacrifice His Son, His only Son on the cross for the sins of the elect, and this with the full consent of His willing Son (John 10:17 & 18) as foreshadowed by Isaac as he lay totally submissive to his father, Abraham, on the alter made for the sacrifice.] In Genesis 22:6-14 we find the perfect mix of love, obedience, and faith. We see Abraham loving his Father more than his son by his unquestioned and unwavering obedience and knowing that God would still make good on His promise to him; Isaac in similar mode of complete trust and submission toward his father (did not Jesus exhibit perfected trust and submission?); and the Father in His everlasting mercy stopped Abraham in mid-stroke and provided a ram in the place of Isaac---a more perfect picture of the substitutionary atonement provided by the Father through Christ for us is not possible to imagine!

As the urgency grows to be pleasing to the Father in these last days remember the great cloud of witnesses that have lived and walked with God before us. Lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees and make your path straight to the Lord Jesus. Watch and pray---we shall see His Face soon enough!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Are "Discernment Ministries" Biblical?

The simple, quick answer is NO.

Many try to pass themselves off as a "discernment ministry" (DM) and yet we find zero biblical call to this end. Instead of preaching the Gospel, they have taken it upon themselves (called themselves) to be a "watchman" which is another, less demanding title for a prophet. Being a 'watchman' leaves the door open for this 'watcher' to be wrong in his assessment or predictions concerning a person, group, or organization, whereas a real prophet must be correct 100% of the time. A subtle difference indeed, but one that shows the true heart and intent to be that of deceit for personal gain and not the ultimate end of glorifying the Lord Jesus.

There are many characteristics that DMs have in common. One of these is that it is hard (impossible?) to find any articles or posts that actually teach and preach the Gospel of the Christ. What little is found is laced with false doctrine that changes the Gospel into another gospel---which is no Gospel at all. If a DM seldom or never has anything to say that exalts Christ exclusively, never is able to muster teaching on some aspect of the Gospel it may be because there is nothing in their heart to draw upon---"As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

Money is usually in the forefront with "donate" or "give" tabs placed in strategic, even multiple spots on their website. This shows two things: there is a love of money that generates the desire for it from the "service" rendered and it shows the ego is in play as the money received is some sort of validation of their "ministry." They do not realize that if what they are doing is really from God that He will supply their need (not grant their lust). Matt. 6:24-34.

Next we find a list of favorite targets to be 'exposed' while there is a corresponding list of Golden Boy/Golden Girl "teachers" that are absolutely taboo and untouchable. When the acceptable targets and the untouchables intersect (and they nearly always do) there is never any mention of this so as to hide the evils of the ones protected. Such complicity will be judged by the Judge.

Then there is the claim to be in possession of the Gift of Discernment. Whether this is plainly stated or tacitly inferred is immaterial. They have the 'gift,' they are the 'watchman' so how dare anyone question their statements or their (self-granted) authority? To do so will be rewarded with an invitation to never speak to them again, never comment on their blog again, and certainly say nothing of your concerns to others. All of this comes in the form of a veiled threat, with some not so veiled. The actual Gift of Discernment is defined in 1 Cor. 12:10 as "discerning of spirits" and who can do this today? This Gift seems to have gone away as early as John's last days as he writes in 1 John 4:1-5 that we are to "test the spirits" not just 'know' whether they are of God or not. John details the specifics of this 'test' and know that there is only one correct answer---a positive yes. The writer of Hebrews further elaborates that discernment comes from ingesting the 'solid food' of the Gospel with the senses being exercised (multiple tests) to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14). Today, discernment is learned as set forth in the aforementioned verses, it is not acquired by some form of osmosis or mystic knowledge as some would have us believe.

Then there are the "rules for commenting" that are usually twisted to evict the undesirables. Often, this is nothing more than an excuse to exonerate the blog owner in their blatant bully tactics employed against those who do not conform. Again, "how dare you question me?!?"

Nearly every Book of the New Testament (Philemon?) contains multiple warnings about false prophets and their doctrines. It is a most necessary endeavor to expose these charlatans and the fraud they perpetrate on the Body of Christ. No where do we find that the teaching/preaching of the Gospel is neglected (some to the point of exclusion) even when names were being named. Rather, the Gospel was evident before, during and after the exposing of the evil ones and this should tell us the primary importance of the real call from God for all of us which is to preach the Gospel.

It may be possible to get so caught up in 'discerning' that we find ourselves doing as the Ephesians did as they "left their first love" (Rev. 2:4). The folks in Pergamos were first praised by the Lord Jesus then scolded by Him as they gave way to the doctrine of Balaam, the putting of stumbling blocks before their brethren, the allowing for the teaching of false doctrines. [Do we get so caught up chasing one thing that others slip by our notice? A common tactic of the wicked one.] Rev. 2:12-17. Do we allow for the modern day Jezebels (Golden Girls) to run free while playing games with those on the approved target list? The consequences are dire as spelled out in Rev. 2:18-29.

It is one thing to warn others of the dangers of the multitude of false prophets of our day---a necessary endeavor. It is quite another to show favoritism in the neglect of obvious evidence when the one exposed is found on the 'favored sons' lists. For a God who does show partiality this is an abomination in His sight, one that will not go unpunished. May the Lord open our eyes to deceit so prevalent in today's DMs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eliminating the Doctrine of God

1. Preaching the Character of God.

“And when he was gone forth into the way there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God.” (Mark chapter 10 verses 17 and 18)

What would your reflex be to such a circumstance? Here is an outstanding fellow begging to know how he can get to heaven! This is the evangelist’s dream! Wouldn’t you open your Bible and ask him essential questions? “Do you believe that you are a sinner? Do you believe that Christ died for sinners? Will you accept Jesus as your personal Saviour? Pray this prayer after me …” He would answer in the affirmative to each question with very little instruction. Just show him the usual verses. This rich man was ripe for our evangelism. Our enquiry rooms would have elicited his “decision” in a few moments, and given him assurance of eternal life besides. He would be added to the statistic sheet and his conversion reported across the world.

Aren’t you a little disappointed to see Jesus handling this tender soul so roughly? How could our Lord use such obviously poor tactics with a sinner? He began with a rebuke, went on to talk about the Ten Commandments (of all things!), demanded immense sacrifice as a condition of having eternal life, and allowed the “fish” to get away! Didn’t He know how to lead a soul to Himself? If you are surprised, surely you are the one who doesn’t understand evangelism. Look again.

 Jesus’ rebuke.
 Jesus addressed his first response, not to the ruler’s question, but to the incidental greeting given to Him. The young man called Jesus “Good Master.” But our Lord refused to accept the compliment. The inquirer was only aware that Jesus was a great teacher. He was ignorant that he was speaking to the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Saviour took this opportunity to say in effect, “The goodness of any creature (and such only you take me to be) is not worthy to be named or taken notice of. It is God alone who is originally and essentially good.” Jesus was rebuking the man for having a readiness to flatter men but little reverence towards God. At the outset of the discussion He wished to honour God and stir a respect for His holy character. So He seized upon the seeker’s salutation as an occasion for intruction. Jesus began His message of evangelism by solemnly fixing attention on God’s infinite holiness or goodness.

 Jesus’ motive.
 Our Lord was motivated in His conversation by love and compassion for the covetous youth. Verse 21 states explicitly that Jesus had a conscious love for the man as He talked with him. However, concern for the nobleman’s soul was not the supreme motive that moved Christ to witness to this sinner. Running even deeper within His breast was a love of God. Though induced by a desire to save men, Christ was primarily motivated by a longing to glorify His Father. You cannot carefully read the Gospels and fail to see that our Lord’s chief aim in every act was to do the will of His Father and to make His glory known to men.

 Jesus’ message. 
Such motivation and determination will display itself in the evangelist’s message. The questioner in this passage had centred attention upon his own need (of finding a way to inherit eternal life). Jesus, however, turned the primary focus of the interview upon God and His glory. 

Much of modern preaching is anaemic, with the life-blood of God’s nature absent from the message. Evangelists centre their message upon man. Man has sinned and missed a great blessing. If man wants to retreive his great loss he must act thus and so. But the gospel of Christ is very different. It begins with God and His glory. It tells men that they have offended a Holy God, who will by no means pass by sin. It reminds sinners that the only hope of salvation is to be found in the grace and power of this same God. Christ’s gospel sends men to beg pardon of the Holy One. 

This does not mean that preaching about the character of God is isolated from seeking the salvation of a sinner. Preaching on the attributes is essential to the conversion of a man. Without a knowledge of God, a sinner does not know whom he has offended, who threatens him with destruction, or who is able to save him. Apart from some clear apprehensions of God, there can be no personal approach to God, and “personal Saviour” becomes a hollow phrase.

 Jesus lifted the egocentric eyes of the wealthy ruler to One whose holiness caused Isaiah to cry, “Woe is me, for I am undone.” Is that a secondary part of the gospel? If you think so, you don’t understand the first things of the faith. The rich youth had come running because he understood that he might not inherit eternal life. But he didn’t understand why. Whom had he offended? There was no remorse for having offended a Holy God. He was prepared to talk of religion; but he was ignorant of God. He was anxious to ask for the joys of salvation; but he could not confess as David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned; and done this evil in thy sight.” He was not acquainted with the Lord. 

Although the inquirer was a Jew, and probably devout, Jesus did not assume that he knew who God was. He needed catechizing on the attributes of God. Evangelists today are making the dreadful misculculation that sinners know who God is. The sad truth is that our age knows less then the Jews of our Lord’s day. Nevertheless, evangelicals plunge right in with “five things God wants you to know.” They all centre upon the man’s eternal fortunes and utterly ignore the question, “Who is God?” 

Men today will readily use the name of God as would the rich man. But it is disastrous to assume that men are speaking of the same person as we are. When we say “God” we mean “Creator.” When our contemporaries say “God” they are often speaking of the one who has little to do with the world we see. When we say “God” we mean “One who is Sovereign in creation, providence, and in the redemption of His creature, man.” When sinners say “God” they usually refer to one who has committed himself to honouring the sovereign will of man at any cost to himself. Above all, when we say “God” we speak of One who has unflinching holiness, “Who will by no means clear the guilty.” Sinners frequently think of God as flexible so that He will by no means punish wonderful man. 

“How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?” is a pertinent question for today’s evangelist. Sinners must know him upon whom they are to call to be saved. Eliminating the doctrine of God from evangelism is no innocent shift in emphasis but is cutting the heart out of our message. 

From “Today’s Gospel – Authentic or Syntehtic?” by Pastor Walter Chantry.