How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer

How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer

How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

Frequently distracted, pressured for time or feeling prayerless: it may be that private prayer sometimes feels like an uphill struggle. Anything else seems easier. Few activities are more humbling. Yet what privilege could be greater than to have constant access to the throne room of heaven? We have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19). What will help us to express ourselves in true holy boldness?

Christopher Love in his series of sermons on holy importunity in prayer gives some helpful counsel.

 

1. Get True Fear Towards God

Possess your heart with a lawful fear of Almighty God. This was the ground of David’s appeal in Psalm 5:3 and 7. You will find this holy fear at the bottom of it. David came to this duty with a strong sense of God’s greatness and dreadfulness. If we would serve God acceptably, we must do it with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28). It was said concerning Luther: “that he prayed with so much confidence as if he had been speaking with his friend and yet with great reverence, as one that considered the great distance between God and himself”. Someone who is fearless of God will quickly be careless in prayer (Job 15:4). Someone that casts off the fear of God soon ceases to pray to God. He that fears God most will certainly pray to God best.

 

2. Meditate on God

Collect your thoughts by holy meditation before coming to this weighty duty of prayer to God. We find meditation and prayer put together in Psalm 5:1-2. David’s prayer is ushered in with meditation. The same word in the Hebrew means both to meditate and to pray. Isaac went out into the fields to meditate, or as others translate it -to pray (Genesis 24:63). It is likely he meditated first then prayed. Be much in meditation, if you would have your hearts much enlarged in prayer.

(a) Meditate on the One into whose presence you come, what a glorious God He is, before whom you are to appear.

(b) Meditate on the name by which you are to come and pray, by whom you must have access to the throne of grace.

(c) Meditate on the main mercies you lack, and are to beg. Meditate on what grace you need strengthened, what lusts you need quelled, what doubts you need satisfied, what sins you need pardoned, in a word, what blessings you need God to bestow on you. Meditating on these things must stir up our affections in prayer.

 

3. Avoid Distractions

Recall your thoughts from worldly and distracting cares when you come to prayer. The apostle exhorts the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:35 to free themselves from and rid their hands of the cares of the world so that they may attend upon the Lord without distraction. The cares of the world will eat out that good that is in the hearts of men. They will rob a man of that freedom and enlargement that otherwise he might have in prayer. You must labour to free your selves from these encumbrances. You must do as Abraham did, when he went to sacrifice, he left his servants and cattle at the bottom of the hill. So when you go to offer to God the sacrifices of prayer, you must get above the impediments and distractions of this present life.

 

4. Watch the Heart

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). There is a watching to prayer, and a watching in praying. A watching to prayer is, when a man watches his heart and sees that he does not omit duties. There are four enemies that you must watch against in prayer.

(a) Watch against drowsiness of body. This is a great impediment of prayer, and we have great need to watch against it.

(b) Watch against a deadness and dullness of spirit and a flat and low condition, this is a great hindrance of importunity.

(c) Watch against the suggestions of Satan. Satan is always ready to assault you, he watches to disturb and molest you in your prayers. You need watch in order to counteract him.

(d) Watch against secular distractions.

 

5. Stir Up Your Affections

If you would get this holy importunity, you must labour to stir up all your affections when you come to pray. This was David’s practice (Psalm 103:1). See how he musters together all the faculties of his soul. He calls up all his strength, all that he is or can do to set forth the name of God. Peter exhorts those to whom he writes, to gird up the loins of their minds (1 Peter 1:13). A Christian going towards heaven is compared to a man going on a journey.  He girds up his clothes so that nothing may hinder him in his journey.

It is also what a master says to a servant (Luke 17:8). God is our master, we are His servants and we are to do His work while we are in the world. Let us gird up our loins, let us gather our affections together so that we are more fit for and more vigorous in the work. An ungirt mind is not fit for prayer. Many pray but do not give attention to prayer. Many pray, as if they did not pray. If we will truly pray we must give attention to it, we must stir up all within us, to call upon the name of the Lord.

 

6. Store Up Material for Prayer

If you would get this holy importunity you must store your hearts full of material when you go to prayer. It is emptiness of spirit that causes deadness of heart.

 

7. Bemoan the Deadness of Your Heart

Bemoan your deadness and dullness of heart. This was the course David took (Psalm 38:9). God loves to hear His people bemoaning themselves (Jeremiah 31:18-19). God loves to hear His people mourning over, and bewailing their wants and weaknesses. Bewail your dullness. Without this holy importunity, prayer is like a messenger without legs, as an arrow without feathers, an advocate without a tongue. Bemoan your lack of importunity.

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Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?

Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?

Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

It seems so obvious to us that our prayers should be answered. They are things we long for and about which we are burdened. Surely they are good things and would bring glory to God. Why doesn’t God answer? Such questions put faith and patience to the test especially when we reach the point of desperation. There is a deep mystery here that may be very painful. But we must also recognise that there may be a purpose of mercy when our desires are not fulfilled.

There are some especially helpful insights in a series of sermons preached by Christopher Love on refusing to give up in prayer. Christopher Love (1618-1651) was born in Cardiff, Wales. He was converted at the age of 15 and later became a puritan minister in London. He held firmly to the engagements of the Solemn League and Covenant and was arrested together with other puritans such as Thomas Watson on a charge of treason. It was alleged that they were plotting to bring Charles II to the throne. After being imprisoned he was executed under Cromwell’s government on 22 August 1651. His speech before execution and his final letters to his wife are especially moving.

 

What God Looks for in Your Prayers

Love observes that Luke 11:8 speaks of the request in the parable being answered not because of the state of friendship but because of the importunity. He notes that sometimes it is not enough that we are reconciled to God and are His friends for certain requests to be answered. We must keep going and not give up. Yet, even when we persevere in prayer – we may not experience the fulfilment. Not only this but prayer must be engaged in by a person in a right relationship with God, in a right way and manner and with a right end in view. God does not say that he will hear our prayers no matter how we pray. This would make us careless.

God requires that prayer is done with feeling, fervency, faith, fear, and reverence. It must be done in a right manner.

There are five things that God requires of us in accepting your prayers.

  1. Your heart must be prepared (Psalm 10:17)
  2. Sin must be removed (Job 11:13-15)
  3. Your affections must be raised (Psalm 25:1)
  4. Your mind must be fixed and not distracted (1 Corinthians 7:35)
  5. Your desires must be enlarged after God (Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 81:10)

 

When Does God Refuse to Answer Your Prayers?

1. When you indulge sin

Indulging and approving sin in your heart provokes God so that He will not give an answer to your prayers (Psalm 66:18).

2. Asking for things for sinful reasons

We must not seek for mercies from God which we will make fuel for our sin (James 4:3; Matthew 20:21).

3. Asking for things you will not use in the right way

Perhaps God sees that enlarged gifts would make you proud. In Genesis 26:1-2 God denied Isaac from going to Egypt during a famine but in Genesis 46:3 He commands Jacob to go there. Isaac was weaker and would have fallen into the sins of the land. But now Jacob is stronger in grace and would resist their idolatrous ways and not be guilty of their sins.  If God denies you something, say to yourself, “this denial is in mercy, for He did not think me fit for it”. This would silence all the murmurings of our hearts against God.

4. Asking for things in a cold and careless way

God promises to be found, if we seek Him with our whole heart. But if we are regardless ourselves how can we expect that God will regard us?

 

 

When Can it be a Blessing for God Refuse to Answer Your Prayers?

God does not hear the prayers of the wicked but denies them in wrath. He only denies His people’s prayers in mercy. This is so in the following situations:

1. If it is something sinful in itself

God will not always give His people what they pray for but what is best for them. If God gave His people all they ask for, they would be undone. It is mercy to deny a mad man a sword, for he would cut his own throat with it or to deny a child a knife, for he would cut his fingers with it. In Luke 5:8 Peter says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. If Christ had granted Peter his request, he would have been undone forever.  This denial was in mercy.

2. If it would cause us to sin

A man may ask God for wealth but God sees that having wealth would make him proud. Such denial is mercy.

3. If He gives something better in exchange

Moses desired to go into the land of Canaan but it was better to him to go to the heavenly Canaan.  God therefore took him there. The apostles asked Christ to tell them when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. He would not not tell them but gave them a greater mercy, He gave them the Holy Spirit. David prayed for the life of his child but God took away the illegitimate child and gave him Solomon. As Bernard of Clairvaux says, God will either give us what we ask or what He knows to be better for us.

4. If He intends to increase your desire for it

God may deny us in order to increase your desires and affections in prayer and make you more eager in pursuing mercy. God often denies what we seek for not because He is unwilling to listen but to see how your heart will be drawn out towards Him in prayer. He wants to make you more vehement and importunate in your desires.

You find this in the woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:22). Jesus Christ takes no notice of her; He answers her not a word (verse 23). That is discouragement. One would have thought she would desist, but she prayed again, and the disciples besought Him to send her away. That is another discouragement, which would have knocked off many; but she continues her request still. Jesus Christ Himself answers her, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” That is a third discouragement; and yet that does not cool her affections, but she comes afresh to Christ, and worships Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” She found yet another repulse, and that worse than the former (Matthew 15:26). Christ calls her a dog but she takes encouragement even from this discouraging answer. She was resolved not to give up till she got what she came for. The denials and discouragements God’s people meet with make their desires stronger and their affections to burn hotter.

God was angry with the prayers of His people (Psalm 80:4) so that they might be more fervent. Anselm says that God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no intention to give but so that our desires may be kindled. This gives Him a reason to give more plentifully.

5. If He sees that we have an excessive desire for it

It may be merciful for God to deny us something in mercy if we set our heart on it too much. If we love it too much in asking we will be excessive in having. Rachel was better to lack children than to desire them with an impetuous desire and rash words (Genesis 30:1). She had a child and died in child-bed. God turns mercies desired too passionately into curses and snares to us, or else takes them away from us.

 

Other Considerations

1. God gets glory even by denying your prayers.

It is better that God should be glorified than that we have what we ask for when we want it (John 11:3-4 and 40).

2. If you do not listen to God’s commands, no wonder if He does not listen to your prayers.

It may be God has been calling you to repent and believe for many years – to be reformed, to forsake the evil of your doings, yet you have not heeded His call. Is it not just for God to let you call and He not hear you? (Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13).

3. If you ask coldly.

Do you think God will listen to that prayer which you yourself do not listen to? Do you think God will accept a prayer in which your yourself do not know what you are saying?

4. Perhaps God has given a blessing that you do not acknowledge.

God may have answered your prayers, yet you have not taken any notice of it (Job 9:16-17).

5. Perhaps you are not ready for the answer.

God is always ready to give an answer to our prayers but we are not always ready to receive the answer. God may deny us so that we open our mouths wider (Psalm 81:10).

6. God’s people may wait long for an answer.

It was fifteen years from the time of God’s promise of a child to Abraham until it was accomplished. Zachariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child and while God heard their cries and prayers He did not answer until they were old. So it is often for the Church (Lamentations 3:8 and 44; Habakkuk 1:2).

7. Sometimes God is angry with His people’s prayers.

God may not only defer or deny an answer but even be angry at some times and in some situations with His people’s prayers (Psalm 80:4; Job 30:20-21).

8. God may accept you and listen to your prayers but not grant your request.

In one sense this was even true of Christ in praying for the cup to pass from Him (Matthew 26:39) yet He was heard in that which He prayed (Hebrews 5:7). Moses was a godly man and prayed to see the promised land and go over Jordan to possess it. But God was angry with him and commanded him to pray no more (Deuteronomy 3:23-26).

9. God may give you something better.

Abraham prayed that Ishmael might live before God. God did not hear his prayer as Abraham desired but gave him Isaac and the covenant which was a greater mercy.

10. God may deny your request because to grant it would be a token of wrath.

This would be so if someone asks for something sinful in itself, or that which would be an unavoidable cause of sin or for sinful reasons.

11. God may answer someone else’s prayers for you even if He does not answer your own.

This is a great comfort to every poor weak Christian in the world – they have a stock of prayers going for them to the throne of grace. God forbade Job’s three friends to pray but told Job to pray for them (Job 42:8-9).

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The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

This, for Archibald Johnston, was the best way of describing the 28 February 1638 – the day that the National Covenant was renewed. Ultimately, it would be signed by the whole nation. Politically, it was Europe’s first revolution. Ecclesiastically, it was Scotland’s Second Reformation. Johnston, a lawyer, was one of two men who were responsible for drawing up the Covenant. In the context of protests against the King’s Prayer Book, the Covenant enabled those protesting to unite together.

The Covenant called for adherence to the official doctrines confessed by the nation as confirmed by Acts of Parliament. It rejected “innovations” in religion and pledged defence of “the true worship of God”. The protesters re-subscribed the 1596 Confession of Faith. Although they professed loyalty to the king and denied that they were guilty of treason, Charles I condemned them, threatening arrest. Yet within days it had been signed by the people of Edinburgh and copies were then sent to the rest of the country for other people to sign in their thousands. Within weeks it had been subscribed by the Lowlands of Scotland, including almost all the nobles.  

It was a moving experience as the historian William Hetherington describes:

The intense emotions of many Scot Presbyterians that day became irrepressible. Some wept aloud; some burst into a shout of exultation; some, after their names, added the words unto death

Johnston recorded the following in his diary:

Wednesday, 28 February 1638, that glorious marriage day of the kingdom with God…The noblemen having appointed the body of the gentry to meet at two in the Greyfriars Kirk to hear copies of it read and to answer objections, I proposed and resolved to have the principal ready in parchment…[that]…it might be presently subscribed…after a divine prayer most fit for the time and present purpose made by Mr Alexander Henderson, the Covenant was subscribed first by the noblemen and barons all that night till 8 at night. On Thursday morning I had…four principal copies in parchment. At nine it was subscribed by all the ministry; at two hours by the burghs. (Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston).

The National Covenant begins as follows with a moving expression of faith and personal commitment. Scripture, the gospel and Reformed doctrine are resolutely defended:

We all, and every one of us underwritten, do protest, that after long and due examination of our own consciences in matters of true and false religion, we are now thoroughly resolved of the truth, by the word and spirit of God; and therefore we believe with our hearts, confess with our mouths, subscribe with our hands, and constantly affirm before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Christian faith and religion, pleasing God, and bringing salvation to man, which now is by the mercy of God revealed to the world by the preaching of the blessed evangel, and received, believed, and defended by many and sundry notable kirks and realms…

The concluding words display courage and a commitment to personal reformation as key to the whole endeavour:

Neither do we fear the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination or what else our adversaries from their craft and malice would put upon us, seeing what we do is so well warranted, and ariseth from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and posterity.

And because we cannot look for a blessing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profession and subscription, we join such a life and conversation as beseemeth Christians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promise, for ourselves, our followers, and all other under us, both in public, in our particular families and personal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of Christian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man; and that this our union and conjunction may be observed without violation we call the living God, the searcher of our hearts to witness, who knoweth this to be our sincere desire and unfeigned resolution, as we shall answer to Jesus Christ in the great day, and under the pain of God’s everlasting wrath, and of infamy, and of loss of all honour and respect in this world; most humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with a happy success, that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of God, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all.

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When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

There may be times when your heart aches with sorrow in particular circumstances. A new turn of events now makes it to throb with grief. It may come through mourning for loss or dealing with affliction and trials. Perhaps other perplexing and painful events in providence leave you in numb speechlessness. One wave follows another. Sometimes the future outlook looks bleaker still for Church and nation. Such experiences are well known to God and the Scriptures contain the strengthening words we need.

Jeremiah 45 contains a message from God directly to Baruch who was seeking to serve Him faithfully. He knew Baruch’s thoughts and pain; Baruch was saying to himself that the Lord had “added grief to” his “sorrow”. He was saying: “I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest”.  Besides all the present sorrows and afflictions with the prophet Jeremiah in prison and Baruch in hiding more judgment was coming with more sorrow.

This chapter is expounded by the Covenanter minister Michael Bruce (1635 – 1693). Bruce well knew what affliction was. After only a few years as pastor of Killinchy in Northern Ireland he was, along with hundreds of other ministers, ejected from the Church by the government. He continued to preach in barns and woods, usually at night, and then to larger crowds in the fields. He was forced to flee to Scotland to avoid capture where he continued to preach in the fields. He was wounded when captured in 1668 and then sentenced to be exiled to Tangier, Morocco. While imprisoned in London he continued to preach. His sentence was changed to a place of exile that he preferred and he chose Killinchy. He was able to preach here but also travelled to Scotland to preach in the fields. He was “of extraordinary zeal for the glory of God and the good of souls; much given to meditation and secret prayer: a thundering, broken-hearted, and most affecting preacher”.

 

1. When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

It is as if the Lord had said to Baruch, “I know your condition well enough, you are a poor man, lying under many burdens. New ones are now added to your former burdens. You were lying under former sorrows, and now new sorrow is come to you. You are full of heaviness and grief. I know your situation you are likely to faint under trouble. I know you are a poor, weary one who finds no rest. Therefore go Jeremiah, and tell Baruch that this is his situation.

This shows us that the people of God may meet with griefs and many old griefs, yet their circumstances may mean they meet with many new griefs on the back of the old ones. They have new sorrows on the back of old sorrows. If this is your experience do not resent it because this has been the lot of God’s people in former times. This great and godly man Baruch had new griefs added to his former sorrows. Do not take umbrage, though the Lord deals so with you, either in your own particular situation or concerning the work and people of God in general. The Church of God had enough sorrow before, yet God has added new griefs to our former sorrows and is daily adding them. Still I say, we may not resent this. What if God should do to us as to Baruch and God’s people at that time, what could we do but submit to His will?

Those people had enough sorrows from their rulers etc. Jeremiah and Baruch had enough sorrows: Baruch was in hiding and Jeremiah in prison, expecting death.  There was enough outward sorrow whatever inward, spiritual comfort and approval from God they had in being faithful to Him, yet the Lord adds new sorrow to their sorrow. A terrible toll would be taken on their nation and Church. If God would do so for our iniquities, we most justly deserve it at His hand. Our iniquities have separated between Him and us. When we add iniquity to iniquity then He must add grief to our sorrows. Therefore, if it should please the Lord to do so, whether in your particular situation or the land or Church’s condition, you must not resent it. God is just and He has righteous reasons why He should do so to us and more also.

 

2. Grief Added to Your Sorrow by God

Sorrow and grief do not come from chance and fortune but are all from God. The Church acknowledges this in Lamentations 3:32 make it the basis of her hope in God. “Though he cause grief yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his tender mercies”. She saw that He had caused all her grief and sorrow and therefore she promises to herself a blessed release from her present trouble and affliction.  It is a great benefit to see that the Lord is the cause of all our griefs (Amos 3:6).

I will tell you why folk should see that the Lord is the cause of all cases of misery. He brings it about, none of these things could come about without Him: not even the vilest persecutor. It is the Lord that causes all grief and sorrow, and if you saw God in all that troubles you, it would quiet you. When you see God as the cause of all your grief, it will cause you to cease from murmuring at the agents of your grief. When folk do not see God as the cause of their grief, they fret at evildoers. But to fret at them is altogether unlawful (Psalm 37:1). When folk see God as the cause of their grief, it makes them search into the reason why He contends with them. But when folk do not see God as the cause of all their sorrow and grief, they only recognise enemies not themselves. If they see the Lord’s hand in all their sorrows and grief, it would make them sit down quietly under all their griefs and sorrows. They would say with Eli, “lt is the Lord, let him do what seems good in his sight” and with Hezekiah, “Good is the word of the Lord”.

A sight of God in all your sorrow and grief raises your soul to hope for a release, as the Church in Lamentations 3:32. The Church says (in effect), “I know that God is the cause of my grief and sorrow, I am sure of help and relief, and if I am sure that He causes my grief, then I am sure that He will have compassion. If I am sure that it is He then I am sure that I am in the hands of a tender-hearted corrector, for I know that the Lord will have compassion, for He has multitudes of mercies. He will have compassion not according to my condition but according to the multitude of His mercies”. Now, some of you may be complaining that he has added grief to your sorrow in your public, private and family concerns. But do you know who has done it?

 

3. How to Respond When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

Baruch says, “I fainted in my sighing, and find no rest”.  There is nothing that troubles the people of God, or makes their condition to be sad but He knows and notices it. Why? Because He has done it. O how sweet, when the Christian can say, my God knows it and He notices it. He knows what I am doing and what my situation is. He knows how I am and how I conduct myself under it.

Is it not great comfort to the child when it knows that the tenderhearted mother knows its condition? It is great comfort to an afflicted friend to have their sympathising friend know their condition. It is great comfort to the afflicted when anybody notices their condition. Would it not be a great encouragement to us in all our griefs added to our sorrows that our God knows them and notices them? Let that bear up your hearts, O believers, both for your own particular sorrows and those of the Church. He knows all your fainting, sighing and wearying; He notices it all. The Lord says to Moses “I have seen the affliction of my people Israel, and I am come down to deliver them”.

God knows all of the behaviour of His people in all their various circumstances. He knows how they conduct themselves, whether mournfully or otherwise. He knows what they are saying, whether they are speaking submissive or complaining language. Since God therefore knows, take heed how you conduct yourselves, for sometimes extreme sorrows will make folk lose sight of God. When they lose sight of Him, they think He does not see them and so they will rave in expressions and not know what they say. But God knows how every one of you conducts yourself under your griefs and sorrows; He knows what every one of you says. Take good heed to your conduct while under the cross therefore, lest you provoke the Lord to lengthen out your affliction longer than He intended to.

 

Conclusion

Bruce’s exposition of Scripture gives a different perspective on our situation and sorrow. It takes seriously the reality and depth of the grief. Yet, he shows that rather than leading us to despair, grief upon sorrow should reassure us that God is working in our experience for a purpose. This offers true and lasting hope to the downcast which superficial self-help slogans never can. The One who has brought the sorrow will give the strength to endure it and be transformed by it, as was Paul’s experience (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). As John Flavel put it, writing about the mystery of providence:

it is the duty of believers to observe all the performances of God’s providence for them, especially when they are in difficulties.

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10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

What are we to do with grace? That question ought to be more prominent in our thinking than it often is. Perhaps we think of receiving and possessing grace more than making use of it. Grace sets a sinner free – but free to do what? Sadly, many use that freedom in order to serve the sinful nature (1 Peter 2:16). Grace makes the sinner free to be a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:18). We must not, of course, turn grace into works and depend on our own endeavours. But idleness and carelessness are certainly not God’s purpose. We are meant to be busy and active with grace to the glory of God and the eternal good of ourselves and others.

John Kid (d. 1679) was a field preacher who emphasised making best use of grace. In one sermon he stresses that God has given a stock of grace for us to use. “Exercise your faith, and exercise your hope. It is not for yourself only you have got it: it is given you to benefit others; make the countryside the better for it. O trade with it”.   Frequently hunted down for preaching “illegally”, his ministry was to last only a few years. Kid was executed in 1679 together with another preacher, John King. In his last days he suffered through extreme methods of torture that mangled one of his legs. The last words of his written testimony are significant, especially as he acknowledges that he was in such pain that it was difficult to compose anything or speak publicly on the scaffold.

I am a most miserable sinner, in regard of my original and actual transgressions. I must confess they are more in number than the hairs of my head. They are gone up above my head, and are past numbering, I cannot but say as Jacob said, I am less than the least of all God’s mercies, yet I must declare to the exalting of His free grace that, to me who am the least of all saints is this grace made known, and that by a strong hand, and I dare not but say He has loved me, and washed me in His own blood from all iniquities, and well is it for me this day, that ever I heard or read that faithful saying, that Jesus Christ, came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

His sermons dwell on grace to a great extent and so it is significant that he also said:

I am the most unworthiest that ever opened his mouth to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ in the gospel… I did preach Christ and the gospel in several places of this nation; for which I bless Him (as I can), that ever such a poor obscure person as I am, have been thus privileged by Him, for making mention of His grace as I was able.

It is a long yet edifying testimony but the final words are especially relevant to the subject of grace and its widest benefit.

The Lord is my light and life, my joy, my song, and my salvation; the God of His chosen be my mercy this day, and the enriching comforts of the Holy Ghost keep up and carry me fair through, to the glory of His grace, to the edification of His people, and my own eternal advantage. Amen.

The following points are extracted and updated from a sermon preached on Galatians 5:1 in July 1678.

 

1. Make Best Use of Faith

Make your calling and election sure. Pray and pray in faith, and yet know that prayer will not save you. Many good words will not save you nor do what is necessary.

 

2. Make Best Use of Hope

Make best use of your hope and pray more and more so that your hope is not marred. When Christians do not make best use of their hope it hinders them from seeing their privileges. Many do not care whether Christ stays with, or goes from Scotland. They are not troubled about it: hope is greatly decayed.

 

3. Make Best Use of Heavenly-mindedness

This grace is greatly decayed amongst us. It was not so when God began with you. It was so with you that the tears would have been seen to trickle down your cheeks. Then opportunities were taken for prayer and what was spoken was for God. But now this is laid aside in great measure laid by. We speak now of our own worldly things: we think our own thoughts. And since it is so, what wonder is it that the Lord disclaim us? We do not walk with God, nor are right in heart with Him.

Are we then a thriving land or people? It is not evident that our practice differs little from the practice of wicked men on His holy day? His day is not made best use of and no wonder you do not experience your privileges. Are you looking within the suburbs of heaven? Are you reading and praying with your hearts engaged? O what a desirable thing is it to have your hearts in heaven: to
be heavenly as God is, to see Him face to face, and to see Him as He is.

Remember that a holy God is taking notice of you: how you speak and hear. Resolve to walk in a more holy way and say: “This will be my work in future”. Are you not ashamed that a poor lass or lad has made more progress and profited more in Christianity in one year, than you have done in twenty (some of you in thirty) years? Oh, that it should be so and yet not laid to heart by you.

 

4. Make Best Use of Humility

We do not make progress in humility but all mind our own things like Baruch (Jeremiah 45:5). Yet it was not a fitting time to seek after these things. It is a more fitting time to endeavour after abasement and humility – this is more suitable to the times. The humble man that abases himself to the dust, is the man with whom the Lord delights to dwell. He dwells with the humble and contrite in heart; the man that is taken up with God and heaven.

 

5. Make Best Use of Sincerity

We exhort you to be sincere as with the apostle Paul to the Philippians. He desires that they “may be sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ (Philippians 1:10). A godly man in our land who was one in a thousand [thought to be William Guthrie] once said that he had been studying sincerity for many years, yet he acknowledged he did not know what it was. A sincere man is making best use of his privileges in the right way. It would be good if we were conscious of not making best use of them: but what can we expect from God, while we do not make best use of them. Try and search your own selves, and be not reprobate (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Be acquainted with God, abide nearer to Him, know more of His matters, and be ready every moment to be in God’s matters. The soul that abides near God, will be constantly examining itself; it will constantly be laying hold on God by faith. Each moment he will allow no beloved except Jesus Christ. Abide near Him, that the power of His death and virtue of His resurrection may come, and enable you to make best use of your privileges. Let sin, every lust and abomination that makes you unlike Him be put to death. Seek to have sin slain so that you may live, die, and rise again, as He did. Nothing will satisfy such a soul except more of God’s ordinances. Prayer and preaching will be empty, if Christ is not there. You should cry out, “O to be like Him!” Those that are in closest fellowship with Him, enjoy their privileges and are nourished by the ordinances. Nothing please such a soul except that.

 

6. Make Best Use of Stability

What are you to stand for? What is it to go on in the strength of God the Lord? Folk these days are given to flinch in many things. When a steadfast man stands or keeps his ground, however, the more trials and difficulties he meets with, the more he grows. They do not put him not one step back but he prevails over them. Thus, he improves his steadfastness. Mark your ground before, or else a trial or temptation will soon cast you on your backs. It did so with David and Peter. Improve your steadfastness still more when many are going off both to right and left-hand extremes. Improve stability so that you will not turn from the right way of the Lord.

 

7. Make Best Use of Single-mindedness

If we would be justified and sanctified, we must be single-minded. We must be like Joshua who said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:13). Although the rest go on
following a bad course, serving their own lusts and the world, yet (he says) I and my family have resolved to serve the Lord. One or another will prove stable in their resolutions, when another turns aside. Many in Joshua’s days went wrong when he kept the right way.  The times in which our lot is cast call for single-mindedness. Noah walked with God, and it is said that was “a perfect man in his generation”. Enoch walked with God; and it is said, “he was not because God took him.”

 

8. Make Best Use of Self-Examination

Try yourselves. We have taken an easy way now, we are not exercised in this duty. Men and women have abandoned it and it is now many years since it was rightly practised. You must examine
your state and see: whether you are in the faith or not, whether you are following hard after God or not.  Try whether you are in a thriving condition, following the Lord and advancing in Christianity. See if you are putting sin and corruption to death. Lay yourselves in God’s balance. Deal with yourself impartially as before God. The grace of self-examination has become very rare
in these days. We exhort you to weigh yourselves before God.  There are many may have the root of the matter in them, and yet things are not right between God and them. Exercising grace will keep things right but merely possessing grace will not keep you right if you are not assisted by exercising it.

 

9. Make Best Use of Self-denial

Jesus Christ Himself taught the lesson, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). What things do you deny yourselves in? He that
will not deny himself for Christ cannot be His disciple.

 

10. Make Best Use of Dependence

Let your souls depend on God. Though the mountains were removed and cast into the midst of the sea and though the fig tree should not blossom, yet truly we will  trust in the Lord, and joy in the God of our salvation who rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth. Will you wait, and wait on? Do you believe that God has power and that the God of Jacob will be your refuge? Dependence on God will make the Christian suffer the loss of all things. Say, the Lord is on my side, I shall not be moved. He is my strength and my saving health — my rock and strong tower. I trust in Him, and therefore I shall stand fast, and not fall. Depend on God, that He may clear up your sky a little. Depend on God with your souls, and that will make you make best use of all that happens in providence. Fix yourselves on God. Take Him as He has offered Himself in the promises of the gospel.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

There is a very readable biography of John King together with his co-martyr John Kid. This was recently authored by Maurice Grant. It is warmly commended and available from the Scottish Reformation Society for £5.95.

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What Does Revival Transform?

What Does Revival Transform?

What Does Revival Transform?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

Many people pray and long for revival. But what do we mean by it? Perhaps this is assumed to be rather obvious. It is a special outpouring of God’s blessing when His people are spiritually renewed and many others are converted. Revival includes this but it is in fact much more besides. In its totality, it is a deepening and strengthening of God’s whole work not just in the lives of individuals. But what do we mean by God’s whole work?

John King (d. 1679) answers this vital question in a sermon on Habbakkuk 3:2 about God reviving His work. He observes that there are times when God’s work may be near ruin but not quite ruined. The church and people of God may not only be near ruin but may experience much deadness on their spirits. This may be true and yet we may not have a true sense of it. All of us need to pray for reviving. This condition may continue for years, or a considerable time. This is why Habbakkuk prays for revival “in the midst of the years” i.e. during the Jews’ long exile in Babylon.

King was preaching in times of great persecution. This is the only sermon that survives of the many that he preached in the fields. It was preached in 1678 in the district near to Loch Lomond. He had a powerful voice that could easily carry for a quarter of a mile. Frequently hunted down and imprisoned for preaching “illegally”, King was executed in 1679 together with another minister, John Kid. The last words of his written testimony are significant. “The Lord visit Scotland with more and more faithful pastors, and send a reviving day unto the people of God…Farewell all creature comforts, welcome everlasting life, everlasting glory, welcome everlasting love, everlasting praise; bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me”.

In applying his text, King says that we must be greatly taken up with God’s work and its need for reviving. Sadly, many pray for revival without a sense of our woeful lack of obedience to God. The Bible makes it clear that we cannot expect to enjoy God’s blessing if we are willfully disobedient to Him. This relationship between obedience and God’s blessing is important to understand. King focusses on our role, are we willing to fulfil our responsibility in relation to the work that we are looking for God to revive? What is the responsibility we must discharge in relation to God’s work? He identifies the following areas.

 

1. Gathering the Church of God

Gathering a Church to Himself is God’s Work. He calls His Church “the work of mine hands” (Isaiah 19:25). This may give deep conviction to many, since you have cared very little about this work. What care have you taken about it? If we were all brought to give our answer, what would we say? It is true, we are not called to have greater care than our responsibilities reach. I fear, ministers have not been taken as much care concerning His Church as we ought. This is lamentable.

This belongs to you and every one of you, in your particular position of responsibility. “What can we do?” they say, “…nothing”. Have you been sent into the world to do nothing? You should both do and be able to do. Although you may not be a prominent member of the body, you may be useful in your position. Although you are not the hand or the head, yet you may be a finger or toe.

We should all take care concerning the Church of God. But what should we do in reference to the Church? Contribute all you can do or have for the Church in your capacity. If you can do no more, will you pray for the Church which is God’s work and concern. Pray that He would advance His own work and take care of His own Church. Are we not in a capacity to do more, and to act and do for the Church? Now who does that? We are all at ease and the work of God is laid aside. But says the Spirit of God in Isaiah 45:11 “Concerning the works of my hands command ye me”.

 

2. Reforming and Building the Church of God

Reforming and building God’s house comes to a stop and is hindered. See to it then. In Nehemiah 3, this was one of God’s works in which they were to engage. They were to reform and build the house of God that the Babylonians had destroyed. That is one of His works and we should all endeavour to do it. Some are not in a capacity to do this but labour to do all that you can. We once had a well-ordered Church; but what is it now? What have we done for to build up His work?

In Haggai 2 they lacked the silver and gold and had many enemies. So they neglected building the house of God and built their own houses. He reproves them for it in Haggai 1:4 that God’s house was lying waste. Have many not done the same nowadays? This house is lying in ashes. This is lamentable indeed; we have not been careful in rebuilding and restoring the house of God. Let everyone’s conscience tell him or her about this. 

 

3. The Preaching of the Gospel

We should take care about this.  We should all (as it were) hold fast our hands around this. Were it not for some, we do not know where the preaching of the gospel would go. You should promote the preaching of the gospel. It is one of His works: it is His great work. It concerns our eternal happiness: and will it not increase our grief if we are found careless about it?

 

4. The Worship of God

Worship is called the work of God (Nehemiah 10:33). Nehemiah was careful about these things. O that there were many Nehemiahs in our day, to pray for the work and worship of God. We cannot tell what we have done for the worship of the house of God. We have taken little trouble about the house of God and for His worship. No care is taken to get it set up in our families. There is little concern amongst us to see to the whole work of God.

 

5. The Work of Grace

The work of grace in your heart and mine is God’s work. How little care there is about that. It is called the work of grace (1 Corinthians 15). What care have you taken about it: how to get it or keep it when gotten? Our blessed Lord Himself says “This is the work of God” (John 6:29), believing in Him. Get faith in exercise. O if we had faith to lay hold on His promises we might stand on our feet despite all that our enemies could do to us. But we lack faith and that takes us off our feet.  The disciples lacked faith to believe that He was able to bring them through this world, and yet He was able to set food before them (Luke 22:35).  Do not lack faith in His ability to carry you through; many have gone wrong in these days because of this.

 

Conclusion

These are His works; therefore we should give attention to them. Especially to have the gospel preached and promoted, to have the house of God built and things in His house rectified. These things tend greatly to the glory of God. What blessing there will be when all these things go well. If we do not do so we will be reckoned for His dishonour, not for His glory.

Contribute much to the edification of His saints and the good of souls, to have the gospel preached and the Word hid in your hearts, to have the house of God rebuilt, His work revived and things brought to purity and the due order. Is there not great good in all this?  Where will you get good, if it is not in this? Nowhere else.

These are the means of saving as well as edifying souls. Will you not therefore give attention to them? You take care for yourself in the needs of your body and in worldly things, so you should. But the work of God should be the great work. This is your first work, but we bring it in last.

May this not be a rebuke and challenge to many a conscience? Must this not be a fore regret? How we should lament it, considering how little we have done for the reformation and rebuilding of His house and the reviving of His work and worship. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion”, who are not concerned about the work of God. How can those who lay themselves aside and are lifeless escape this curse when they might have been useful for the work of God? How can such think to be free from that woe?

It is His work, His house: therefore, you should do all you can to build and rebuild it. Do all the service to him you can. This will entitle you to the promise in Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice with her all ye that mourn for, and be glad with her all ye that love her”. When the work of God shall be restored and revived, they shall be comforted and you shall have a share in it with them.

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In The Scandal of Stumbling Blocks, James Durham helps us to consider this vital issue deeply by defining the nature of stumbling as well as showing its serious consequences. He looks in considerable detail at different kinds of stumbling and identifies the ways that people can stumble and be stumbled. Durham provides practical advice for avoiding and preventing offense.

Now edited in modern English, Durham’s classic treatment on considerate Christianity can be used to edify a new generation.

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The Antidote to Discouragement

The Antidote to Discouragement

The Antidote to Discouragement
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

Many things may seem to conspire easily to cast us down. Discouragement is a temptation that robs us of our blessings and spiritual strength. How can we rise above our fears and concerns? The great danger is when discouragement dissuades us from prayer and makes God seem distant. God is the source of life, strength and hope and we are truly debilitated when not consciously trusting Him. When David was in the worst of circumstances – distressed, having lost everything and his life in danger – he encouraged himself in God (1 Samuel 30:6). This is the antidote to discouragement. But how do we apply it?

John Dickson (c.1629-1700) preached a sermon on this verse that gives valuable counsel. It is important to remember that it was preached by one suffering persecution to those suffering persecution. The distress they faced was not only hardship but also potentially losing everything, being imprisoned and executed.

Dickson was minister of Rutherglen. Almost as soon as Charles II came to the throne he was imprisoned for “seditious” sermons against the government. When he was removed from his charge by the government he continued his work by preaching in the fields, mostly at night. Hunted by government troops, he was eventually arrested in 1680. He was sentenced to imprisonment on the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. Yet, he also experienced spiritual blessing in fellowship with Christ in this dismal place. In fact he wrote various letters full of spiritual joy from prison.

The following is extracted and updated from Dickson’s sermon, which was preached at Little Govan in 1675. Dickson says that “God is the best foundation of encouragement for the people of God in time of distress. ‘God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in the time of trouble: we will not fear though the earth be removed’ (Psalm 46:1). I will not be afraid. Why? Because the Lord is the sure shelter of His church and people”. He gives three main helps for the discouraged to encourage themselves in God:

 

1. Look to God’s Gracious Dealings

O Christian, you must cast your back on your former and past experiences. Think on the way the Lord communicated His kindness and love to you, or think of His power exerted to advance your journey heavenward.

David encounters growing enemies and adversaries, namely Goliath who defies the armies of the living God. The armies of the living God are ready to faint for fear of him. David comes and ventures a strange attempt in order to condemn the adversaries and raise up his own spirit. What does he do? He says, “I will venture”. “O”, says the king of Israel, “you are but a stripling, what can you do?” “But”, says David, “I will venture, O king. I was feeding my father’s flock: and there came a lion and a bear; and I slew them both. And the Lord that delivered me out of the paws of the lion and the mouth of the bear, will also deliver me out of the hands of this uncircumcised Philistine”. This former experience was a declaration of the Lord’s regard for him. “Upon that”, he says, “I will venture my blood for him”.

Afterwards, he challenges Goliath. He said unto David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves?” And he cursed him by his god and said he you give him flesh to be meat to the beasts of the earth etc.  “But” says David, “hear me one word. You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the living God, whose armies you have defied”. He came in the strength of an old experience.

So, in a distressed condition, when the people of God are brought very low, they may yet insure themselves, and venture on difficulties by recapitulating former experiences. “There was once a day when Christ met with my soul and I was once obliged to say: ‘The Lord is my God’.  I will now venture, my life and all I have on that, if the Lord calls me to do that”. “I was once at such and such a communion, and His loving kindness broke in on my soul so greatly that I did not care for anything”. Reflect on that old experience. Look back to the one whom you have avouched to be your God in the past. Why may He not be your God now also?

 

2. Look to God

The people of God ought to relieve their spirits in distress in these days by casting their eyes on Him instead of all relations. He is your father, husband, elder brother and best friend. He is the sympathiser with His people in all their afflictions. What a privilege to be related in this way to the king of saints and the glory of the Church! Not only this but old experiences show that He is your own God. Take Him therefore in all the relations in which He is given to your soul. This will give great encouragements against all distress.

David greatly encouraged himself with a consideration of these relations, when he says: “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).  He encourages himself in this to bless and magnify the Lord.

 

3. Look to God’s Attributes

A view of the Lord in His divine attributes may help to hold up your soul, O believer. He is mighty to save, and to save you in all your distresses and complex difficulties. He is also infinite in counsel and can set your foot on a rock and establish your way before you. You cannot tell what will become of your own condition or the affairs of the Church of Christ.  Cast it all on an infinite God.  He sits at the helm of affairs, and steers the rudder and so points the ship wherever she is to go.

Even though we were overclouded with the greatest number of discouragements, yet God is the Lord.  Psalm 97 and Psalm 99 both begin: “The Lord reigneth”. They speak of the earth rejoicing, the people trembling and God’s hand lifted up. If you consider His attributes in the right way you will see His mercy in them. He pities those that fear Him as a father pities his children (Psalm 103:13).  Do you think He will put more on them than they are able to bear? He may lay troubles and trials on them but what does that matter? This is His way with the Church. What follows such trials? He relieves His people and delivers Jacob “out of all his troubles”. O, if we were rightly fortified against the distress of these times the children of God might have a pleasant life at this time. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” Let Him then give His kindness to His people and secure their right for them. It is God that justifies me you may say.

You are happy, O believers that a right to benefit from such a powerful and wise God. He is one that guides His own with His everlasting arms around them. As the walls are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord encompasses His Church. He that neither slumbers nor sleeps watches over her. I’ll tell you, that your faintness of spirit arises from your lack of faith.  “O ye of little faith, how long shall I be with you?” “When the centurion came to me”, says the Saviour about the condition of his servant, “I bade him go home, his servant would be healed. He did so, and found him whole at the set hour. But now, you doubt of my power and abilities. How long will you be without faith? If you had faith but as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea and it shall be done”. This seems to be the worst disaster that many Christians meet with – they will not venture their soul’s case on Him. Ye of little faith, why do you doubt?

Some Christians will venture their soul’s salvation on Him, but do not have confidence in Him concerning His Church and cause in the world. But do you not think He has an equal interest in both? Has he not promised to build the walls of his Jerusalem, and to put on the top stone with shouting, saying  “Grace, grace unto it?” There are no grounds to doubt that Antichrist and all his anti-Christian crew shall yet be brought under the feet of the living God. And all these anti-Christian doctrines now taught and applauded by men, shall yet be trodden under foot.

He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). He shall tread under His feet the nations, piercing unto their very heart with the soles of His feet, driving them to pieces, as a potsherd is broken to shivers. If you were acquainted with Him aright, you would have faith in this. Though we are under a cloud for a time by the present discouragements, what does that matter? We cannot mistrust the Lord, who has promised that He shall reign in spite of all His enemies.

There are glorious days coming O Christians when that which concerns Himself shall be accomplished. The days are coming when these poor despised people that are now weeping, sighing, sobbing, and disheartened shall be raised up. Poor mean-spirited folk with no faith in God think that religion consists entirely in sighing and drooping. But this does not matter; it is the responsibility of the people of God to look up to the captain of their salvation, who through suffering was made perfect. He has promised to do all things for you that have this sure benefit in Him.

David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Follow this example, and all shall be well.

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What is True Waiting on God?

What is True Waiting on God?

What is True Waiting on God?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

When you are in a hurry, waiting seems impossible. At such times anxiety and frustration can easily take over. We have to wait but the question is: how should we wait?  Many Christians find that they may wait long in prayer before they seem to have an answer. At one time they are tempted to impatience and then to hopelessness. But true waiting is not passive paralysis; it exercises our faith and patience in persevering prayer. This is how David could emphasise that “truly” his soul was waiting on God (Psalm 62:1). What is involved in this spiritual discipline?

Zachary Boyd (1585–1653) explains something of this in a sermon on Psalm 62:1 called “The Godly Man’s Confidence”. There is an updated extract below. Boyd was minister of the Barony Parish, Glasgow. Well-known as a poet, he contributed around a tenth of the content of the Scottish Psalter (1650). He was rector and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Glasgow. He faced Cromwell’s army with bravery when they invaded Scotland and proceeded to Glasgow. He had a high view of the calling of a minister “they who do this work as they should, must with earnest prayers, painstaking reading, and serious meditation empty their veins of blood till paleness…be printed upon their face”. He left a large number of sermons which are especially encouraging for tried and tempted believers, such as the following:

observe well O man what I say…While you are tempted to think that the Lord has cast you off…I can assure you that you have Him even now, and shall have Him also forever

What is True Waiting on God?

It means to abide patiently in hope of help from God. In the godly, this waiting is accompanied with vehement and continual looking to God for assistance. They seek to be delivered either from felt present evil or from feared future evil. It is helpful to consider the characteristics of those who wait wisely on anything must:

  1. Consider what they wait for to be well worth the wait;
  2. Love what they wait for;
  3. Be conscious of lacking what they wait for;
  4. Hope to find what they lack in the one on whom they wait;
  5. Wait constantly;
  6. Keep their eye on the one on whom they wait.

1. God is Well Worth the Wait

The soul that waits on God is wise because He is not only worthy but worthiness itself. When all things fail us, God will not. The Psalmist said that his “flesh and heart” failed but the Lord “is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). This is the One who, if we wait on Him, will first guide us by His counsel and afterward will bring us to glory.

2. Wait on God with Love

There must be love in the heart of those that wait on God. Unless a man loves God, he cannot wait on God (1 John 4:8). A man cannot live where he does not love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), not only because He loves us more than we can love Him, but also because He is most worthy to be loved.

It is well with the man who (fainting in his spirit with such strong love) can say with the spouse: “stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love (Song of Songs 2:5). Moses so loved Him that, for His glory, he desired to be scraped out of the book of life (Exodus 32:32). St Paul was greatly inflamed with such a love to Christ that if any loved Him not, his wish was that he should be “anathema maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). If a man does not love God primarily for Himself, he will not wait on God.

Many waited on Christ because He gave them loaves (John 6:26). This is like a dog that will wait on a stranger that has a bone in his hand, not for himself but for the bone. Many wait on God’s benefits, but few wait on Himself. “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6). But how few are those that seek God for Himself and ask with the psalmist that the Lord lift up the light of His countenance on them. If like the dog, many get the bone of some benefit out of God’s hand, they know Him not more than if He were a stranger only now come into the world. There is no waiting on where there is no love. Man is wearied to wait on that which he does not love.

Most of us may easily know that we do not love God by our waiting. How drowsy we are to wait on God until He has spoken to us for only an hour? How wearied we are to speak to God in prayer for only a quarter of an hour. We can wait on worldly business the whole day and discourse with men from morning till evening. But who can wait so long either to hear God speaking by preaching to us or to speak to Him in prayer? It is easy to say that our soul waits on God. But how few can say “Truly” my soul waits on God (Psalm 62:1)?

3. Wait on God with a Sense of Your Need

Those who wait on God must have a sense of their own needs. A Laodicean soul filled with self-conceit cannot wait on the Lord (Revelation 3:14-17). As long as a man sings the requiem to his soul that he has no need of anything, he waits on himself (Revelation 3:17). But as soon as he has seen his own blindness, misery and nakedness by virtue of God’s eye-salve, he is fit for waiting on God. A man must first renounce himself and all that is within him before he can be able to cleave to God.

4. Wait on God with Assurance that He can Supply Your Need

Those who truly wait on God must be assured that they will find in God that which they lack. This is faith. “To whom shall we go?” said Peter to Christ: He had “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). St Peter would wait on Christ alone because he saw that He had words such as no man had the like. If men could taste and see how good the Lord is, they would cleave to Him (Psalm 34:8). They would cleave to Him even though He would desire them to go from Him. Just as Ruth did to Naomi when she desired Ruth and Orpah to return to their country. Scripture calls Ruth “steadfastly minded” (Ruth 1:18).

5. Wait on God Constantly

There must be constancy and continuance in waiting on God. God will not be served by fits and starts. He that perseveres to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13). The wicked (like the deceitful Israelites) seem for a time to be bowed like a bow to received the string of the Lord’s law into the nock of their heart [a nock is the groove at either end of a bow for holding the bowstring]. But immediately they bend back from such an inclination. The prophet said they “turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow” (Psalm 78:57). Those who turn back and aside cannot be said to wait on God. Courtiers will wait constantly on kings for that which is not worth waiting for. But few will wait on God. If God makes no immediate answer to King Saul by Urim or Thummim, he must run to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7). Nature dislikes grace: they are disposed to be contrary to one another.

Grace is willing to wait on God, but nature makes haste. Ungodly Saul could not wait until Samuel came but, as he said, “I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12). In the same way, a wicked man cannot wait on the Lord’s leisure.

6. Wait on God with Your Eye on Him

Last of all, a good waiter is always to have an eye on the one on whom they wait. The psalmist says: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2). David said “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). That is, to the force of men who dwelt in the hill country of Canaan. But immediately he corrects himself that his help comes “from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). He would say, I will wait on God, my eyes shall no more be lifted to the hills but to Him “which made heaven and earth”.

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True Rest in a Restless World

True Rest in a Restless World

True Rest in a Restless World
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

The hectic lifestyles of the 21st Century make little room for any rest. Even the home is rarely a haven of repose – families struggle to meet their schedule of activities. Sleep deficit is a real challenge as is winding down away from work. The world itself seems to be in constant flux, hurrying on to the next new thing.  Samuel Rutherford gives an evocative description of this: “kingdoms, cities, are on the wheel of changes, up, and down. Mankind runs, and the disease of body-trouble, and soul-trouble on them. They are motion-sick, going on their feet, and kings cannot have beds to rest in.” The restlessness of life this side of eternity may be a necessary reminder that this world cannot offer permanence and true rest. True rest is, of course, spiritual rest. This is a far greater need than mere physical and mental rest – though these are blessings from God. True spiritual rest can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Scottish minister (now virtually forgotten) who was a contemporary of Samuel Rutherford expounds this true rest. Adam Kae (or Kay) ministered at Borgue in Galloway. He is said to have been the only minister in Scotland who warned against the miseries which would come on Scotland if Charles II was made king. He was later imprisoned in Edinburgh for refusing to cease preaching when  ordered by the government after being forcibly ejected from his pulpit along with hundreds of other ministers. The following is extracted and updated from Kae’s sermon on Song of Solomon 2:3. He notes that Christ is often described in Scripture as providing a shadow of rest for His people (see Psalm 57:1; Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 25:4). Kae says that:

(until we come to Christ for rest we will be like) Noah’s dove. She could get no rest for the sole of her foot till she came into the ark again. So we will never get rest, nor be truly well and happy till we come and sit down under Christ’s shadow. But when we come to Him, we shall be well.  O then, do not delay, come and sit down under Christ’s shadow!

 

1. What is True Rest?

Christ is a shadow of rest and a retiring place to all that come to Him and sit down under His shadow. They get true rest in Him (Matthew 11:28). When a believer comes to Christ, he finds rest for his soul from these things:

  1. The Guilt of Sin. This defiles the conscience and makes it, when awakened, to terrify and condemn the soul. At such times, Christ is a rest to the soul and says: “Soul since you have come to me, as to a rest, I will give you rest. Son or Daughter be of good cheer, for I will give you rest from the guilt of your sin”.
  2. The Punishment of Sin. This is all the evils that should come on the soul because of sin, both in this life and that which is to come. When God is pursuing the soul with both temporal and spiritual punishments, the soul flees to Christ for rest. Christ then says to the soul, “since you have come to me as to a rest, there is no condemnation for you. “There is therefore now no Condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
  3. The Dominion and Tyranny of Sin. This rests on the soul when sin is tyrannising in the soul. The soul then goes to Christ and says:“Alas, sin will undo me! Alas, sin will be my ruin! Alas sin will have my life!” Then Christ comes to the soul and says: “Since you have come to me, you will find rest. I will free you from the tyranny of sin. Sin will not undo you, it will not ruin you  nor your life.
  4. The Filthiness of Sin. The soul cries out: “not only am I pursued with the guilt of sin, with the punishment of sin and with the dominion and tyranny of sin; but I am also pursued with the filthiness of my sins. I am so filthy with sin, that I dare not look God in the face, I dare not look the saints in the face, and I dare not look myself in the face”.  Then Christ comes to the soul, and says: “Soul if you really have come to me, I will wash you and cleanse you from all your sins, and then you will have rest”.

If you would have rest from these four things that are pursuing you night and day, go to Christ. Sit down under His shadow, and He will give you rest.

 

2. True Rest despite Trouble and Affliction

Christ is a shadow for defence and protection in times of trouble and affliction. If you will come to Him and sit down under His shadow, He will be a defence and protection to you. He will especially protect you in these three ways.

  1. Protection from Trouble. Sometimes He will protect, defend and keep you altogether free from the calamities that He brings on others. They will not hurt your souls (see Psalm 91:7).
  2. Protection in Trouble. Sometimes He will be a defence and protection to you in, and under your trouble, as in Isaiah 43:2. That is, although you are cast into deep waters and a hot furnace of afflictions, yet I will be present with you, and defend you so, that you will neither drown nor burn.
  3. Protection out of All Troubles. Christ is always a sure defence and protection to believers at last by delivering them out of all their troubles (Psalm 34:19).

Therefore if you would have Christ to be a shadow of defence and protection to you, come to Him, and sit down under His Shadow and He will not disappoint you.

 

3. True Rest brings Delight

Jesus Christ is a shadow for delight and pleasure to believers. The spouse therefore says here: “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste”.  The soul that comes to Christ and sits down under His shadow, finds Christ comforting it at all times; but especially at these four times.

  1. Its Greatest and Deepest Humiliation. When the soul is cast down under the consciousness of sin and the wrath of God due to it for sin. At such times the soul is, as it were sun-burnt with the wrath of God and deeply humbled for iniquity. Then Christ comes to the soul, and says: “since you have come to me, and I have found you humbled for your sin, I will have pity on you. I will give you rest when you come to me with a humbled and broken heart for sin. I will comfort you and not forsake you (Isaiah 41:17).
  2. Its Greatest Temptations. When the soul is sorely assaulted by Satan and its own heart, tempted to sin, unbelief and doubting, then Christ comes to the soul and says for its encouragement and strengthening that He will “give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone” (Revelation 2:17).
  3. Its Greatest Desertion. When Christ hides His face, the soul misses Christ and cannot find Him. When desertion is at its darkest and the soul runs to and fro like Noah’s dove seeking rest but cannot find it, Christ comes to the soul. He says: “you have been seeking Me and now I have come to you”. Then the soul will say: “I found him…I held him, and would not let him go” (Song 3:4).
  4. Its Saddest and Sorest Outward Afflictions. He sustains them in troubles, losses, and crosses as He did with the three children in the fire (Daniel 3:24-25) and Daniel in the lion’s den, (Daniel 6:22).

 

Conclusions

  1. Our Great Need. All God’s people have very great need to come to Christ and to sit down under His shadow. Would you have Christ to be a shadow of rest to retire to, a shadow of defence and a shadow of delight and pleasure? Come and shelter yourselves under His shadow. “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28).  Say this yourself, “it is good for me to draw near to Christ, and to sit under His shadow”.
  2. Christ Invites Us. It lets us see that Christ is most willing and well-pleased that we come to Him. He therefore invites and commands us to come and sit down under His shadow as in Isaiah 26:20 and Matthew 11:28. O! Come then, and sit down under His shadow; for I say, you are both invited and commanded to come, and if you come, He will give you rest.
  3. Safety and Security. It lets us see that all those who have come to Christ and are sitting under His shadow are safe and secure. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10) That is, the Lord Himself is instead of a strong tower and the soul that is fled to him, and is sitting under his Shadow, is so safe, that he may defy the Devil, and all his Instruments, and say with the Apostle, Rom. 8.31, If God be for us, who can be against us? So when Satan comes, he may say, I defy thee black-mouth’d Satan, my Shadow will save me; for he is betwixt me and thee.
  4. Misery Without this Rest. This lets us see the miserable and lamentable condition of all those who have not come to Christ, and sat down under his shadow.
    • They lack Christ as a shadow and rest to them from the guilt of sin;
    • They lack Christ as a shadow of defence to them from the punishment of sin;
    • They lack Christ as a shadow to them from the dominion of sin; and
    • They lack Christ as a shadow to them from the filthiness of sin.

    In the evil time they have none to protect them. In the time of their deepest humiliation, sorest temptations, darkest desertions and saddest afflictions, they lack Christ to comfort them.

  5. The Only Rest. This lets us see that since Jesus Christ is and will be a shadow to all that will come and sit down under His shadow. We will never be well till we come and sit down under His shadow; for until then we will be like Noah’s dove. She could get no rest for the sole of her foot till she came into the ark again. So we will never get rest, nor be truly well and happy till we come and sit down under Christ’s shadow. But when we come to Him, we shall be well.  O then, do not delay, come and sit down under Christ’s shadow!
  6. Never Leave this Rest. This lets us see that all have come and sat down under Christ’s Shadow should strive to keep Him and keep under His shadow. Therefore, do not leave Him, do not turn your backs on Him. Do not provoke Him to remove His Shadow from you. But let your desire,with the Spouse, be as in Song of Solomon 2:17: “Until the day break and the shadows flee away, turn my Beloved”.  This is as if she had said: “Lord I have chosen thee for my Husband, therefore I desire thee to abide with me and keep me under thy shadow”.  So any of you that have professed Christ, do not turn not your back on Him but keep under His shadow.

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Where Can Your Soul Thirst Be Satisfied?

Where Can Your Soul Thirst Be Satisfied?

Where Can Your Soul Thirst Be Satisfied?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

In an empty and dry world, your soul is certainly thirsty. The world knows how to create thirst but not how to satisfy the thirst of the soul. Only God can satisfy this thirst. The soul that has tasted that the Lord is gracious has a constant desire for the presence of God. The puritan  Thomas Shepard put it this way: “There is in true grace an infinite circle; a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more.”

Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross (c.1578-c.1640) was one of the godliest women of her time in Scotland. Alexander Hume, minister of Logie described her as “a lady chosen of God to be one of his saints”. She was “oft sighing and weeping through the conscience of sin”. She was also the first woman in Scotland to have her writing published. John Livingstone wrote of her:

Of all that ever I saw, she was most unwearied in religious exercises; and the more she attained access to God therein, she hungered the more.

Here was someone always thirsting for God. Not after mere knowledge about God but God Himself. Samuel Rutherford (who corresponded with Lady Culross) identified this as a sign of true grace.

In all the means of the worship of God, whether you have the use of them or lack the use of them, seek ever God rather than the means, whether it be in preaching, praying, hearing, reading etc. Strive to be in at God Himself. And this is the difference between an hypocrite and a true seeker of God, for the hypocrite  seeks after the means, and no more. That is enough for him if he hear the word, and get the communion, …But the true seeker of God learns to miss Him in the means of His service, and he thinks he has not things well at that time, when he finds not Himself; and, therefore, let us remember that praying, preaching, praising, reading, hearing, even all the means, they are as chariots and torches to carry us to God.

John Livingstone is well known as the preacher at the revival at the Kirk of Shotts in June 1630 when 500 were converted under one sermon. There had been services associated with the Lord’s Supper during the days preceding that Monday thanksgiving sermon. The nights were spent in prayer together, particularly the night before Monday dawned. Lady Culross was at the centre of this:

a great many Christians in a large room, where her bed was; and in the morning all going apart for their private devotion, she went into the bed, and drew the curtains, that she might set herself to prayer. William Rigg of Athernie coming into the room, and hearing her have great motion upon her, although she spoke not out, he desired her to speak out, saying that there was none in the room but him and her woman, as at that time there was no other. She did so, and the door being opened, the room filled full. She continued in prayer, with wonderful assistance, for large three hours’ time.

She wrote to give great encouragement to those who suffered for faithfulness to God. These included William Rigg, John Welsh of Ayr and Andrew Melville. When Rigg was imprisoned in Blackness Castle her encouragement was “that the darkness of Blackness was not the blackness of darkness.” She was similarly witty to John Livingstone in his trials. “You must be hewn and hammered down, and dressed and prepared before you be a living stone fit for his building. And if he be minded to make you meet to help to repair the ruins of his house, you must look for other manner of strokes than you have yet felt”.

Melville expressed her desires in poetry.  Alexander Hume of Logie (a poet himself) commended the spirituality of her compositions: “I doubt not but it is the gift of God in you”. One of her most famous poems was published in 1603 is called Ane Godlie Dreame. This popular poem was like an early Scottish Pilgrim’s Progress. In her dream she is taken safely over spiritual dangers represented as high mountains, vast deserts, great waters and wild woods. Ultimately the dazzling sight of the celestial city meets her eyes.

Recently much more of Melville’s poetry has been discovered in manuscript and edited by Jamie Reid Baxter under the title Poems of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross (Solsequium, 2010). One of them is the following heartfelt prayer which is a meditation on the opening verses of Psalm 42. It is similar to those by the Reformer James Melville. In it she expresses her desire for God’s presence. Great poetic skill is used to express her spiritual desires with melodious but direct language. The speaker seems out of breath and in haste. [The following is only the first 70 lines of the 285 lines of this poem. The spelling and some Scots words have been updated].

 

Meditation on Psalm 42

As hearts full fant [very weakened]
doth breathe and pant
for running rivers clear
oppressed with woe
I sigh also
for thee my God most dear.
My heart doth burst,
my soul doth thirst
for thee the well of life.
When shall I see
thy majesty
and leave this vale of strife?

This vale of tears,
this vale of fears,
this vale of dangers deep,
this vale of woe
wherein my foe
doth catch me whilst I sleep.
This vale of care
and sighing sare [sore]
wherein my soul does burn.
This vale so dry
wherein I cry,
until the springs return.

O lovely spring
my soul doth sing
to think upon thy glore [glory].
This barren hell
wherein I dwell
doth dry me up full sore.
The soul is brunt [burnt]
that once was wont
to taste thy heav’nly dew.
O turn again
and ease my pain,
O God my God most true.

I grant my guilt
has almost spilt
thy goodly gifts of grace.
I must confess
my wickedness
thy image doth deface.
My soul within
is full of sin
that weighs me down full sore.
But come convert
this stubborn heart.
Then shall I sin no more.

My loving Lord
to hear accord
thy captive’s careful cry.
Look on thy Lamb,
whose child I am,
His blood is never dry.
Thy majesty
first formed me
and when I fully fell,
that Prince of Glore
did me restore,
and vanquish death and hell.

Let not thine ire
consume like fire
the work that thou hast wrought.
Since I am thine
why wilt thou tyne [lose]
the soul so dearly bought.
Thou choosed me
and I not thee
before the world began.
Thy thoughts are sure
and shall endure,
thou changest not as man.

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Why is God Angry with Our Nations?

Why is God Angry with Our Nations?

Why is God Angry with Our Nations?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

These are unprecedented times, at least in living memory. Every area of national life is being disrupted and reduced. It will not be the same for quite some time. Everyone is asking how we respond to this. No one asks why it has happened. As with many nations, we are on a course of determined rebellion against God’s Word. This is the root of our national sins. Does God judge nations for national sins? Yes, the predicted destruction of Judea in AD 70 gives clear and solemn evidence (Luke 19:41-44). There are also many Old Testament examples such as Nineveh. One aspect of God’s wrath being revealed is when He gives people up to gross sins and a reprobate mind (Romans 1:18 and 24-32). Such spiritual judgements are worse than those on the economy, health and stability of a country. Is God judging our nation in this way, and if so why? This may sound like a bleak message, but there is hope if we give serious heed.

During some periods in the past, it seems that God’s people were more sensitive to national judgements for national sins. February 1645 was one such period when the Church of Scotland decided to issue a solemn warning and call to repentance to be read in every parish.  Plague was also beginning to afflict the cities of Scotland, causing the deaths of thousands. Famine was advancing. They believed these things were the voice of God’s sovereign providence speaking to them. “God is writing bitter things against this land in great [large] letters”. There were many enemies to the cause of God, both open and secret. This especially included some of those in the highest places of government. There was deep division and conflict within the nation; the battles of the civil war appeared to be going against those that were faithful.

It was a bittersweet time. They also had reasons for thanksgiving that God was prospering the work of reforming the Church throughout the British Isles. They rejoiced “that our Lord Jesus Christ is no loser, but a conqueror”. His ordinances were being established and His cause prevailing in the Church. The “work of purging and building his temple” was going forward not backward. Yet they knew by experience that the work of reformation could not move forward if repentance was being neglected.

Despite all these hopeful signs there was still “heavy judgement” and they needed to discern why. God was showing to everyone in the land, whether high or low, their exceeding sinfulness.  Every congregation, every family and every individual had a duty to “examine their own hearts and ways and to mourn for congregational, domestic and personal sins”.  “Cursed shall they be who have added fuel to the fire, and now bring no water to extinguish it; who had a great hand in the provocation, and bear no part in the humiliation. Let every one commune with his own conscience, and repent of his, even his wickedness, and say ‘What have I done?’

The General Assembly were mainly concerned, however, with national sins. They gave priority to sins in spiritual things as those that provoke God most. Perhaps we think of national sins as the gross sins that prevail and are celebrated in the land. We should also discern national sin when political rulers legislate against the Word of God. Yet many national sins come much nearer to home.

1. Our Neglect of Faithful Service

  • contempt, neglect, and disesteem of the glorious gospel;
  • unbelief, unfruitfulness, lukewarmness, formality and hardness of heart under all the means of grace;
  • not receiving Christ in our hearts, nor seeking to know Him, and glorify Him in all His offices;
  • the power of godliness is hated and mocked by many and too much neglected;
  • not seeking to avoid speaking our own words and finding our own pleasure on the Lord’s Day;
  • not engaging in holy and edifying conversation on the Lord’s Day and at other times;
  • not instructing, admonishing, comforting and rebuking one another when God’s Providence calls us to do so;
  • lack of family worship and instruction in the truth;
  • there are those among the ministers who have strengthened the hearts and hands of the godless more than the godly. They have not taken heed to the ministry which they have received of the Lord to fulfill it.

2. Our Neglect of Real Reformation

The nations of Britain had united together in a Solemn League and Covenant with God to pursue real personal reformation. They were breaking the Covenant in failing to follow this out in their personal lives just as much as if they neglected Church reformation. They said “our covenant is broken by the neglect of real reformation of ourselves and others under our authority. “Let everyone ask his own heart what lust is mortified in him, or what change wrought in his life since, more than before the covenant?”

They also lamented that there was still too much gross sin abounding. This included: “swearing, cursing, profaning the Lord’s Day, fornication and other uncleanness”. There was also drunkenness, injustice, lying, oppression, murmuring, repining and other sorts of godlessness.

3. Our Neglect of Thankfulness

The Covenanters acknowledged that they had “not glorified God” in proportion to the great things that He had done for them. Rather than making best use of all His merciful dealings with them they had in measure forsook God. “We have not walked worthy of His love.” “And this great unthankfulness filled up our cup”.

4. Our Presumptuous Approach

Despite this great guilt they had acted presumptuously. They undertook weighty matters such as going into battle “without repentance, and making our peace with God, like the children of Israel, who trusting in the goodness of their cause were concerned with nothing more than: ‘Which of us shall go up first?'” Perhaps we today are also quicker to take up the weapons of lobbying and protest without first humbling ourselves before God.

5. Our Right Response

Ministers were faithfully to exhort and admonish concerning these duties as they had opportunity. The appropriate response was for the nation to humble themselves in relation to their national sins. There should also be “repentance, faith, amendment of life and fervent prayer”.

To clothe ourselves with our shame as with a garment, to justify God’s righteous judgements, to acknowledge our iniquity, to make our supplication to our judge, and to seek His face, that He may pardon our sin, and heal our land…We do not mourn as they that have no hope, but we will bear the indignation of the Lord, because we have sinned against Him, until He plead our cause and execute judgement for us.

6. Our Only Hope

The General Assembly concluded their solemn warning with a message of hope. “Deliverance and good success shall follow those who with purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord, and whose hearts are upright toward His glory”. They were persuaded that God had lifted up their enemies so that their fall would be all the greater “and that He may cast them down into desolation for ever”.

We have many national sins that did not prevail in the past as they do now. There is widespread blindness to our state which is in itself a judgement. Another token of God’s anger with our nation is in giving us rulers that are aggressively pursuing a deeper and faster course of rebellion. A greater work of personal and family reformation is needed as well as Church and national reformation. It would be easy to despair but the same infinite source of encouragement is available. They encouraged themselves in God and therefore strengthened their hands to seek His glory. The final motto issued by the Assembly reflects a true spirit of repentance and reformation.

Arise, and let us be doing. The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Scotland’s Judgements

Scotland’s Judgements is a sombre warning against national sins before a holy God. Drawn from a letter written by Andrew Gray on his deathbed, it speaks plainly about the way in which such sins provoke God. These solemn laments do not forget God’s mercy. Yet they must make us to tremble for 21st century Scotland’s national sins at a time when they are abounding and increasing. It is relevant, however, to any nation in similar circumstances.

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Martin Luther’s Role in the Second Reformation

Martin Luther’s Role in the Second Reformation

Martin Luther’s Role in the Second Reformation
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.

31 October 1517 was when Luther nailed up his 95 theses. He died about 100 years before the Second Reformation in Scotland and the rest of Britain. How could he possibly have a role in it? Further, Luther’s convictions on the Lord’s Supper, church order and worship weren’t those established by the Second Reformation.

Looking back from the time of the Second Reformation in Scotland, John Row wrote warmly of Luther. He said that “the Lord, by his Word and Spirit, taught him more and more grounds of true religion, which he set out to the view of the world”. The point is that Luther sought to recover biblical Christianity. He did so by an appeal to the supreme authority of Scripture. In the Second Reformation in Scotland, we see the culmination of this outworking. Luther said to the Emperor: “I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God”. This was a vital principle. God alone is Lord of the conscience and Scripture is the only rule in matters of faith and practice. The men of the Second Reformation were willing to assert this resolutely in the face of the tyranny of absolute monarchy.

It was this principle that the Westminster Assembly were committed to working out fully. An article on this site explains a little more of this.

The Second Reformation applied the principles of God’s Word to both Church and Nation. Scotland flourished under God’s blessing as a consequence. One could say that it was biblical Christianity come into its own – its natural outworking. You can read some more here about why we need the biblical accuracy of the Second Reformation in our day. There are 7 reasons why we need to learn from it. You can also read more about the principles of the Second Reformation here.

Scotland’s Greatest Revival

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What insights might you learn from understanding the seven key points why the Second Reformation period was not only a national movement of reform in the Church and Nation but also the greatest period of revival in our country’s history?  What if the key to the future is knowing the past?

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