A throne that lasts for ever

A throne that lasts for ever

A throne that lasts for ever
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

Queen Elizabeth was a constant in the lives of so many of us, a reassuring continuity in a rapidly changing world. She has been referred to as the rock on which Britain was built. Many have spoken of their unexpected surprise at her death, saying it was as if they had somehow thought she was going to carry on for ever. Her self-sacrifice was exemplary and her devotion to duty inspirational.

Yet if she was a rock, she still needed her own rock. She was conscious from before she was Queen that her life could be long or short. And although she acted with royal dignity, she was content to live frugally and took an interest in the ordinary people she met. As we reflect with thankfulness on her life of service, our thoughts cannot but turn to the king of kings and the ultimate prince of peace. King Jesus shows that the greatest are not diminished by hard work and self-sacrificial service. But more importantly, Jesus Christ personally invites people into His kingdom, not only bestowing the legal rights and privileges of a citizen of heaven but also naturalising every citizen so that each is prepared in the heart and from the heart to live with Him in glory for ever. Their biggest problem is sin, and this is exactly the problem He actively solves on their behalf and in their lives. This servant king laid down His life for His people and as a consequence He lives for ever to reign in their interests.

A figurehead, a rallying point, a monarch may usefully be in today’s United Kingdom, and their rule seems to work best when they are conscious that their authority depends on popular consent. By contrast, Jesus Christ wields unlimited power unabashed, conquering their sin and vanquishing the reign of death. In the following updated extract, David Dickson reflects further on the kind of king that Jesus Christ is, based on Hebrews 1:8-12.

A king with an everlasting throne

In order to show the glory, majesty and grandeur of the Lord Jesus Christ, a quotation is brought in from Psalm 45. “Unto the Son he [the Father] saith, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever…’” (Hebrews 1:8). Christ is God, and so He is fit to reconcile us to God, and able and all-sufficient to accomplish our salvation – a rock to lean on. Christ is also a king enthroned – not only over the world, but in a gracious manner, over the church. That is why His church has direction and protection from Him. And as He has a throne for ever and ever, so His kingdom, the church, will endure for ever and ever.

A king who rules in righteousness

King Jesus has a sceptre to rule with, signifying His power and authority over both His subjects and His enemies. His sceptre is “a sceptre of righteousness,” because He cannot abuse His power to do wrong to anyone. He will do right to all. He leads His subjects to the righteousness of faith (to justify them before God) and the righteousness of life (to adorn them before others). “He loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.”

A king who has been anointed to the work

“Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (verse 9). Christ’s God has anointed him. Christ is God Himself, and in regards to the office He holds in His humanity, He is also under God. Also God is “His God” by covenant.

He has been anointed with the oil of gladness. This refers to the Holy Spirit, who brings joy to him and to all His subjects. Christ conveys to them “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” His covenanted people are anointed along with Him, yet they receive the Spirit by measure. Christ is anointed “above” them – the Spirit is not given to Him by measure, but to dwell bodily, or substantially, so that of His fullness we may all receive grace for grace.

In fact, the reason why He has been anointed is “because he loved righteousness.” The righteousness of Christ is the procuring and meritorious cause of this joy to Him and His subjects.

A king who reigns for ever

Another testimony about King Jesus is given in verses 10-12, in a quotation drawn from Psalm 102. In that Psalm He is expressly called Jehovah, God in essence, the same God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. He “laid the foundation of the earth, etc.,” and by consequence, He can create in us a right spirit, and make sons of us wicked sinners.

The heavens and earth will not continue. “The heavens … shall perish, … wax old … be changed” (verses 11-12). Yet Christ remains. “Thou remainest … thou art the same … thy years shall not fail.” He is eternal. Our mediator cannot be missing, cannot die. He is constant and immutable. He cannot change His purpose of love to His people, whatever changes may happen to them.

This is the rock of our comfort, when we look to our own frailty and changeableness.

Image source: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/her-majesty-the-queens-90th-birthday-prime-ministers-humble-address

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Faith and fear

Faith and fear

Faith and fear
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

David had many reasons to be afraid. More than once in his life, he was stalked and hunted and had to run for his life. Still today, many believers across the world live under constant harassment and persecution from those who hate them and their Lord. Where there is less fear of physical attack believers can still feel threatened by an atmosphere of hostility to Christian teachings and fearful of consequences for their jobs and social standing if they articulate biblical principles too freely. What can sustain God’s people in such fear-inducing situations? In the following updated extract, David Dickson traces David’s faith in his urgent prayer of Psalm 56. Faith expands our horizons so that, beyond the very palpable fears, we see the almightiness, goodness and faithfulness of our Saviour God. Having faith doesn’t mean we don’t feel afraid, but focusing on God by faith fortifies us so that we do not need to be sunk by our fears.

From the title of Psalm 56 and its opening verses we see that when David fled from one enemy, Saul, it was only to fall into the hands of another enemy. “The Philistines took him in Gath.” Then all men and all means failed him, and he saw no one but wolves and lions, ready to devour him. Bloodthirsty persecutors followed hard in pursuit of him without intermission, like dogs after their prey. “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.” If there was one ringleader there was a multitude running with them. “Many are they that fight against me.”

Yet faith gets the victory over fear. In verses 3-4, David’s faith gets the victory by setting God’s Word against all difficulties, whether within or without him. As a consequence, David defies what man can do to him.

Faith does not eliminate fear

Although the godly are not so brave in their trials as not to feel their own infirmity, or not to be afraid, yet they are kept from fainting in their fear, by faith in God. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Also, although faith does not always exercise itself, yet when fear assaults the most, then faith in God manifests its force most evidently; for then especially by directing the person’s eye towards God, it settles a troubled mind, strengthens weak courage, and relieves the oppressed heart.

Faith fights with fear

Faith becomes valiant in fight. It may begin like a coward, and stagger in the first conflict, yet it grows brave, and pulls its adversaries underfoot. “In God I have put my trust, I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

Then, when faith prevails, fear ceases, and all the opposition of enemies is despised. “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

Faith sees beyond the situation

The best hold that faith can have of God is to take Him by His Word, whatever His dispensation in providence seems to be. This will give satisfaction at length. To say, “In God I will praise his Word,” is as much as to say, “Even supposing He withholds comfort and deliverance from me, so that I cannot find what I want, yet let me have His Word, and I will give Him the glory of all His attributes.”

Faith anticipates the eventual deliverance

By verses 9-11, David is confident of routing all his enemies by prayer, and confident enough to defy all mortals by faith in God’s Word.

Laying out our cares and fears before God in prayer is a way to get a satisfactory deliverance by faith, even before the actual literal deliverance comes. “When I cry unto thee, then all mine enemies turn back.”

Faith fixes on God

If someone is reconciled to God, then when they pray to God in a good cause, they may be assured that God will own their quarrel, and give them the victory. David says, “This I know because God is for me.”

The special attribute of God which faith meets with, and which allows it to attain to rest and contentment in God, is His truth and fidelity in His promises. “In God I will praise his word.” Even if there is no sign of the promise being fulfilled, yet God’s Word is sure enough to fix upon.

Faith keeps growing

The grounds of faith are the more sweet and satisfactory, the more they are examined and looked at and compared with their effects. David is not content to say just the once, “In God I will praise his Word,” but with comfort and confidence he renews this commendation of God’s Word (verse 4, and twice in verse 10), as well as the benefit he has by it. “I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (verse 4 and verse 10)

Our faith in God gets a reward from God

As it is necessary for our justification to believe in God, so is it necessary for our consolation to observe that we have believed. When we can do this, then we may promise to ourselves all the blessedness which belongs to the believer. For when we thus resolutely set our seal to God’s truth, believing, and asserting our believing, then He sets His seal to our faith, in comforting and relieving us.

Faith gives thanks

The psalm concludes with David, having now obtained deliverance by faith, obliging himself to thankfulness. He wishes to be preserved by God and enabled by God for the very purpose of giving God praise (verses 12-13).

As God puts the duty of glorifying Him on the supplicant, when He promises delivery to him, so may the supplicant put the obligation of glorifying God on himself, when he is praying for delivery out of his trouble. David says, “Thy vows are upon me, O God, I will render praises to thee.” An honest heart is no less desirous to perform the duty of praise to God after delivery, than he was ready to make his vow and promise before his delivery.

As deep dangers serve to uncover our weakness and our need of God’s help, so a well-seen danger makes clear the greatness of the deliverance. In turn, the greatness of the deliverance deciphers the wisdom, power and goodness of God to us, and of our obligation to Him. “I will render praises unto thee, for thou hast delivered my soul from death.”

Faith fortifies itself for the future

The right use of past dangers and deliverances is to prepare for new dangers and difficulties (for when one danger is past, this does not mean that all perils have past!). In so doing we renounce our own wisdom and strength as insufficient to preserve us from ruin either of soul or body, we give up ourselves to God’s guiding and preservation, and to depend on God, and we stedfastly hope to be directed and preserved by Him. All this is included in David’s words, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, wilt thou not preserve my feet from falling?”

What we intend in our desires to have deliverances and benefits from God should be that we may spend our life, and the gifts bestowed on us, sincerely in the service of God, for the edification of His people. “Wilt thou not preserve my feet from falling? that I may walk before God in the light of the living.”

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It Is Possible To Love Your Enemy In Polarised Times

It Is Possible To Love Your Enemy In Polarised Times

It Is Possible To Love Your Enemy In Polarised Times
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

We live in increasingly polarised times. Divisions along political, ethnic and generational lines are becoming more and more entrenched. Sometimes we find ourselves picking a side and adopting an attitude of hostility against those on the other side. Or you say something unwittingly and find yourself the target of fierce opposition. Polarisation creates not just a division but attitudes of disgust and hatred against those on the other side of the divide. We huddle with those who are similar to us avoid engaging with alternatives or complexity. We imagine that “they” are our enemies and to a greater or lesser extent treat them as such.

Not every kind of division is problematic, of course. The solution to polarisation is not to sink all our differences in an ambiguous fudge, because as Christians we owe total loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, even in polarised times, there is a distinctively Christian way of interacting with those who are different from us and even those who regard us as enemies. We have to love our enemies! The following updated extract from David Dickson provides us with five motivations to put this counter-cultural command from the Lord Jesus into practice. 

The commandment to “love our neighbour” is seriously distorted if it is understood as requiring love only toward our family, friends and acquaintances, and especially if it is taken to mean that it is lawful to hate anyone who is our enemy. Our Lord vindicates the commandment from this false exposition.

Out of obedience to God, as well as pity to perishing souls, we must have love, even to those who are our personal enemies. That is what Christ has commanded in Matthew 5, saying, “Love your enemies.”

Love to our enemies must be demonstrable to God. We prove our love to our enemies by pleading with God to give them mercy, contrary to what they deserve. This is why Christ says, “Bless them, pray for them.” This is a task to exercise our obedience, and to prove our sincerity.

To persuade us to obey this commandment, our Lord gives us five motives.

1. Loving our enemies shows that we are the children of God

Loving our enemies makes it apparent to others (and to our own hearts also) that we are the children of God, who extends his generosity to give his gifts to his evil and unjust enemies.

By imitating of the generosity of God, we shall grow more and more like him, and we shall make it more and more apparent that we are being renewed into the image of God. “Love your enemies, … that ye may be the children of your Father” (Matthew 5:45).

We should not lightly overlook the common favours which God bestows, such as the benefit of the sun, and rain, but we must observe the goodness of God towards us, in making his sun to rise, and his rain to fall, on the unjust.

2. Loving our enemies will get God’s reward

Unless your love extends itself to your enemies, in the obedience of God, you can expect no reward from him.

If we refuse to love our enemies, this only shows that the love we bestow on our friends it itself no acceptable service to God, for, “if ye love them only which love you, what reward have ye to expect?” (verse 46) If we love only to be loved, we serve self only, and not God; and where there is no service, there is no reward.

3. Loving our enemies is more than the unregenerate can do

The vilest and most odious sinners in the world equal you, if you love only those who love you, and do not also love your enemies. To stop at the measure of love which a wicked man may attain to, is nothing that God esteems. “If you love only your friends, do not even the publicans the same?” (verse 46)

4. Loving our enemies is distinctively Christian

As Christians, there must be more in you than the civility, courtesy, and humanity which prompts you to give expressions of love to your friends. Compared to those who are not renewed by regeneration, Christians should be doing more. Why? Because we are born of God, equipped with His Spirit, and committed to God with special obligation. We must therefore behave accordingly. “What do ye more than others?” (verse 47) We must make it a matter of conscience to love our enemies.

5. Loving our enemies is not too much to aspire to

God’s children must aim at perfection in all graces, including having perfect love, love which extends to their enemies. “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (verse 48).

Of course Christians cannot fully attain perfection in this life, yet they are called to perfection. As Christians – those whose Father is perfect – we must aim at it, to come more and more near to it. God only is the pattern of perfection we must set before our eyes. He displays himself to us in His Word, and in His Son Jesus Christ, the express image of his person, to be imitated by us.

Conclusion

Let us then follow the pattern set by our Father in heaven, who is perfect. He sends His sunshine and His rain indiscriminately on the righteous and the unrighteous. Let us grow more into the likeness of our Elder Brother, Christ. He calls us to something unexpectedly different from what our unregenerate instinct would dictate, something that requires His supernatural help to do. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you.” Loving only those who love us back is only basic human decency. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter in our heavenly family, we can and should do much more than this.

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A prayer for renewal

A prayer for renewal

A prayer for renewal
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

Although there are plenty reasons to be thankful when we look at the church, it is also easy to identify difficulties and problems. The church seems to be to sinking increasingly into irrelevance and embarrassment. When we analyse carefully, we have to recognise much sin and failure in the church too. It is not just a question of credibility and acceptance in wider society, it sometimes seems that the Lord is holding back from sending his own believing people the blessings we might normally expect. Yet this is not unique to our generation. The prophet Jeremiah mourned a similar situation in the church in his times. In this updated extract from David Dickson’s commentary on Lamentations, we can borrow Jeremiah’s words of prayer to the Lord for help, and turn others of Jeremiah’s words into material for prayer. Repentance and renewal are things we can ask the Lord to gift the church in our own context.

Pray that the church would live up to its spiritual status as victors in Christ over sin

Jeremiah refers to the Lord’s people’s “crown” (Lamentations 5:16). The crown was their exclusive privileges in church and state, which they had beyond other people on the earth. God’s people are a royal people beyond all nations. All others are drudges to their own lusts, but God’s people are kings and conquerors, triumphing over principalities and powers, the world, and their own lusts and passions.

Use your spiritual privileges then, and be a crowned king over all that opposes you. Otherwise the royal crown will be taken off your head and you will be made an outcast. “The crown is fallen from our head” (verse 16). Of all men the most contemptible are you whom God would lift up and yet you are determined to make yourself base. Therefore, enjoy your kingship over sin, Satan, the world and your own lusts, in order that one day a crown of perfect gold may be set on your head.

Pray for a true sense of sin

The Lord’s people in Jeremiah’s time said, “Woe unto us, for we have sinned” (verse 16). Here they acknowledge that sin was the cause of all their misery and disgrace. Sin is the cause of all the trouble that comes on us. It defaces all our privileges and makes a people the tail and not the head (Deut. 28:44). If it was not for sin, God’s people would not need to lose their blessedness with anything.

The church cries, “Woe to us that we have sinned,” and not, “Woe unto us that we are miserable.” Sin is a greater evil than any misery, if only we were conscious of it, for we may blame ourselves and our sins for all our misery and for the feeling of our misery. Misery should turn all our grief against sin. If you tend to cry, “Woe is me because of my affliction,” learn to say instead, “Woe is me because of my sin.” Be more sorry for sin than for the judgment it has drawn down on you.

Pray for an appropriate dread of the consequences of our personal and collective sin

“For this our heart is faint,” they say (verse 17). The reason for their grief and faintness of heart is both that God’s temple, which was the place of their comfort, is laid low and desolate and waste, and also that they were the ones who had moved God to cast it down. Now it has become a den for foxes and other wild animals. It shows that people’s sins not only draw wrath on themselves but also on the church and commonwealth of which they are members. So, in order not to bring a plague on church and state, put away sin.

Pray for a sympathetic attitude for the troubled church

Their grief is “because of Zion” (verse 18). We should be more grieved for the church drawn on by sin than for any other cause. The church’s grief should go nearer our heart than our own. If we lay God’s glory to heart, we will be more grieved for the evils that have come upon the church than anything that can happen to ourselves.

Pray that in our sympathy we would take God’s side against our own sin

“Zion is desolate, the foxes walk upon it” (verse 18). This is not to be understood of crafty, wily men, but of wild animals who are now haunting it. It is righteous with God to make his abused temple a den for wild animals.

Pray to be able to find hope in who God is

Then the prophet takes heart, and refreshes himself a little in the midst of his grief with the consideration that the Lord remains forever. “Thou, O Lord, remainest forever” (verse 19). Although Zion, the temple and all are gone, and the commonwealth is decayed, yet he says, “the Lord remains forever,” to right all wrongs and to take amends of all oppressors. The Lord can yet set in order all things that are currently in disarray.

From the fact that after a long time’s lamentation he takes a view of God’s goodness, mercy and unchangeableness, lest he should be swallowed up of too much despair and sorrow, we see that even if the church provokes God to change her state from prosperity to adversity, yet the Lord remains still unchangeable, and as kind and loving to those who seek unto Him as ever He was. Change in the church does not mean any change in God. He remains the same, both when He plagues sinners and when he pities them. “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6).

The fact that the prophet takes comfort from God’s unchangeableness and hopes for deliverance, shows that God’s unchangeableness is a basis of hope for the restoration of the church, and a basis of hope that the church shall be changed from this bad condition to a better one. If you feel a change in yourself between better and worse, let it send you to God who is unchangeable, and you shall find help.

The unchangeableness of God is also a reason to believe that the church shall remain stable. Although He may correct the church, yet He will still raise up a new generation to serve Him. He may fleece His sheep, but He will not flay them. From age to age He shall have a kirk as Himself, enduring forever.

Pray for sensitivity to the presence or absence of the Lord

They ask the Lord, “Wherefore dost thou forget us forever?” (verse 20) How could they say this seeing the captivity was newly begun, or only getting started? Because the Lord’s wrath began twelve years before the city was taken, and before there was a great decay in the kingdom of Israel. Many heavy plagues were looking likely to come on them. Their sun was going down and the Lord was looking likely to flit from them. So in regard of the long continuance of the Lord’s wrath, and the apparent likelihood that he would depart, they ask why God forsakes them. God has taken a long goodnight of them, and this makes them think that He has forsaken them forever.

When a people have long provoked God and He has withdrawn, they are in danger of being left even further. When people do not return to God, either by benefits or by rods, it is righteous that He goes further away. We see also that when He departs a little, we have reason to fear that He will depart further. Therefore let us turn unto God in time.

Another reason why they said that God had forsaken them is because when you are in trouble, even a short time seems long. When God forsakes, a short time feels like a lifetime. Supposing the times of trouble were never so short, yet we cannot help feeling it long if God withdraws. Therefore, when you think the time long, draw near to God, so that under the trouble He may give peace and joy. If your affliction is wearisome to you, strive against this feeling and resolve to bear it patiently.

When the prophet pours out the matter to God, and tells Him that he thinks He has forsaken them, it shows that when we think that God has forsaken us we may tell Him and pray Him to help us. If we lament the ill which has made Him withdraw, He may return again.

Pray to God to return and show His lovingkindness as before

When God’s people are driven away from God, they may pray to be brought back from their exile, and they may pray that God would return and show His former loving kindness. “Turn us unto thee, and we shall be turned” (verse 21).

They pray, “Renew our days as of old,” as if to say, “We were thy people of old, but now we are shut out from thee. In great mercy turn us, O Lord, out of this misery, and let us enjoy and rejoice in the joy, peace, favour and prosperity which we used to have.”

Our turning from God is the cause of God’s turning from us. The first to leave is always the sinner, not God. So do not leave God, lest He leave you next. “While ye are with me,” says the Lord, “I am with you, but when ye forsake me, I will forsake you” (cf. 2 Chron. 15:2).

Although we can turn ourselves away from God, we cannot turn ourselves home again. Both our first conversion and our subsequent conversions are from God – our first coming out of nature to God is from God, and when our affection cools, it is God who brings us back again. Therefore, let God have the praise of all.

If they had been turned in their person and affections to God, it would have been easy to turn their prosperity. So, if anyone wants the tokens of God’s anger to be taken away, and themselves turned to God, and His loving countenance shown, let them turn from their sin. “Renew our days as of old.” Their prayer was not lacking in a basis for being restored to their former estate, for the fact that they had previously been in a good state gave good grounds to look to be restored after repentance. When God gives repentance to an afflicted church or person, He can make things as good as ever they were before. God can repair all the church’s ruins and wash the dirt off her face and rub away her shame. So if we have had good days in the past, let us pray for them to be restored.

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You Need to Value the Covenant of Grace

You Need to Value the Covenant of Grace

You Need to Value the Covenant of Grace
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

We know that saving grace brings us into a relationship with God. But what is the nature of that relationship? We don’t understand that properly until we grasp the significance of covenant, a word and idea that carries forward the progress of God’s purposes of grace in the gospel and salvation. Covenant is the way that God relates to His people and makes promises to them. It helps us understand the full depth and riches of what God has planned and provided for His people.

David Dickson explains more of the rich blessing of the Covenant of Grace in this updated extract.

1. The Covenant of Grace Runs Through Scripture

Immediately after the breaking of the covenant of works by Adam, it pleased the Lord to lay that new ground of a new covenant of grace in His Son, in that promise in the garden. The seed of the woman shall tread down the serpent (Genesis 3:15). And God renews the promise in form of a formal covenant to Abraham and his seed which is Christ, and all the faithful through Him (Genesis 17:7). The same covenant is repeated in the person of David and his seed (2 Samuel 7:14-15).

This is more fully explained Psalm 89:3-4. Where the Lord swears to the throne and kingdom of Christ who was to come from David unto all generations, and under the type of David and his successors, and his children, that is, all those that believe in Christ:

  • protection and defence against all evil;
  • provision of strength for every good employment;
  • freedom from the voluntary slavery of sin;
  • turning of everything to our good;
  • fighting for us, against our foes;
  • giving us all the good things that He promises to us;
  • to forgive us our sins;
  • to make us partakers of His eternal kingdom:
  • faith itself and the spirit of adoption, whereby we may call God, “Abba Father”. And
  • last of all, which of all is most wonderful, although the devil had so far prevailed as to make them forsake the law of God, and neglect the commandments, and transgress the statutes and ordinances; yet if you return to the Lord your God, and lay hold on the covenant, you may well be plagued with worldly judgments for your correction, but you shall not be excluded from the mercy of God, and His loving kindness. “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” (Psalm 89:30-32). But observe that which follows: “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (Psalm 89:33-34), etc. O the wonderful love and goodness of our God in His Son Christ towards poor sinners! who, although we change every moment, He never changes.

This is the new covenant which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did preach, and sealed with His blood, and left in legacy to us, under the broad seal of His own sacrament. For the last cup that ever He drank, He took the cup and giving thanks, He gave it to His disciples, saying, “Drink ye all of it: For this is my blood of the new covenant, or new testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). This is the covenant in which all the promises of grace are contained both in the Old and New Testament; for this cause it is called, the New Covenant of promises.

2. The Blessings of the covenant of grace

The excellence of it shall appear in considering its properties.
(a) It is a new covenant, for that it makes us free from the covenant of works; yea now under the gospel twice, because it makes us free from the ceremonies of Moses’ law, with which the children of God were burdened before the coming of Christ (Hebrews 7:22).

(b) It is a complete covenant of all mercies and graces in abundance (Isaiah 55:1 and Isaiah 44:3). For what spiritual graces you stand in need of, you shall find it promised here. Faith, repentance, remission of sins, sanctification, the spirit of prayer, knowledge, the fear of God; and in a word, all is promised here.

(c) It is a free covenant, wherein (i) all is freely gifted, without money or price on our part; (ii) The most miserable and unworthy sinner that desires to be reconciled to God, is not excluded from it; but the poorest and most needy, hungry, thirsty and beggarly souls are most welcome to have it. (iii) Whatsoever it craves of you who lay hold on His covenant (Isaiah 56:1-2), it also promises to you e.g. faith, repentance, sanctification, etc. . “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4).

(d) It is a sure covenant and firm, because it is not grounded upon anything that is in us, or can be in us, but upon the free love of the unchangeable God, and the truth of God’s Word and the oath of God, who has sworn to keep it “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (Psalm 89:34-35 and Genesis 17:7). It has Christ Jesus for the Mediator of it. “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15). And likewise, He is the preacher of it. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1). The witness of it, “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, etc.” (Isaiah 55:4). The surety and guarantor of it (Hebrews 7:22). And the sealer of it by His blood unto His Father (Hebrews 9:14), and His sacrament, and Holy Spirit to us (1 Corinthians 11:25).

(e) It is an everlasting covenant enduring forever in the Lord’s part, which of all the rest is most comforting: For howsoever our part of the covenant be broken from time to time by our manifold transgressions. Yet the Lord keeps His part whole, and does not take away His loving kindness from us, but gives us liberty to renew our part of the covenant by daily repentance; and to come to that fountain that is opened up in the house of David for sin and uncleanness, that we may wash and be made clean (Zechariah 13:1). “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” (Isaiah 55:3). “I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Genesis 17:19). “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” (Jeremiah 32:40 and Ezekiel 16:60).

If this covenant pleases you well and your heart receives it, both to be saved and sanctified by it, and you are content to enter into this covenant with the Lord, of purpose to pursue the promises of sanctification no less than the promises of justification and salvation: In a word, if you say with your heart to the Lord, “Lord, I embrace the offer of Christ Jesus and all His graces, Lord I embrace this gracious covenant offered unto us all in the gospel, that I may be sanctified and saved by it,” and will follow unto it by the Lord’s grace, believing in His goodness and truth; then blessed are you, and more and more blessed will you be daily.

The Lord Himself  called them blessed that lay hold on the covenant (Isaiah 56:2, 4-7), whether you be rich, poor, man, woman, were you never so great a stranger from God, and has no grace in your own estimation, were you like a dry tree empty of all sap, that is void of all goodness and grace in yourself, you shall get a place within God’s house, and an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56:3-4, 9). You shall be joyful in the Lord’s house of prayer, and your sacrifice and service shall be accepted of the Lord (Isaiah 56:7).

3. Make Use of the covenant of Grace

It remains only to make use of the covenant in all your life, that you may live the life of faith, and Christ may live in you: and out of Christ, by virtue of his promises, you may draw every grace which your soul desires.

And to this end, look what necessary grace you would have. Search to see if there is a promise for it in the Scriptures, in which the main parts of this covenant are written. Labour to believe humbly the promise when you has found it, and in that measure of faith which the Lord bestows upon you, present your supplication in the name of Jesus for that necessary promised grace which you would have, patiently pursuing your request from day to day, till God satisfy you, which He will not fail to do in His own time. Only believe, and you shall see the glory of God; for faithful is He who has said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9-10) For if men who are evil, can give gifts to their children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13). He that has given his Son to death for us, will He not with Him us all things also? (Romans 8:32). 

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7 Reasons Cross Bearing Must Not Be Shirked

7 Reasons Cross Bearing Must Not Be Shirked

7 Reasons Cross Bearing Must Not Be Shirked
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

Christ’s call to deny ourselves and bear the cross is hard for us to hear. Especially in a culture where a great deal of emphasis is placed on the self and being comfortable. Yet the Saviour makes it an essential part of discipleship, indeed the call to cross bearing is repeated five times in Christ’s teachings (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27). We want to limit self-denial to denying ourselves this or that thing, while safely preserving the rest of what we enjoy. But the inconvenient truth is that it does not merely mean denying ourselves things, it means denying self. Bearing our cross does not mean any kind of hardship or inconvenience we have to bear in life. Our blind self-love does not want it but taking up the cross means willingly enduring any and every kind of shame and loss for the sake of Christ if it is necessary. It is the ultimate test. By nature, we want to shirk rather than embrace dying to self, but it is unavoidable. Here are seven compelling reasons that Christ gives us not to avoid the cross.

Cross bearing is not just the test of discipleship but of piety too. It enters deeply into our Christian experience. John Calvin points this out, that it stirs our hope beyond this world, trains us in patience and obedience and chastens our pride. David Dickson opens up the fuller implications of Christ’s call in Matthew 16:24-28. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of His own resolution to suffer the shameful death of the cross and exhorts His disciples not to be ashamed of suffering for His sake. If we are not resolved to suffer for Christ we cannot be His disciples. This is hard.

Dickson acknowledges that self-love controls us, we want to be well esteemed in this world. “A man’s own self is a bundle of all sort of idols which we must either renounce and be content to have them mortified, or else we cannot follow Christ”. Cross bearing helps us advance in self-denial and the Lord gives His own a cross that they are to bear suited to their own needs and condition. This cross must not make then forsake following Christ; but rather draw nearer to Christ and follow Him. The cross forces them to deny themselves by taking from us and giving to us what we would not otherwise accept. Self-denial bows the back to willingly take up and bear the cross. In the following updated extract he explains the seven reasons Christ gives in this passage to dissuade us from avoiding bearing the cross.

1. Seeking to Save Your Life is the Very Way to Lose it

Avoiding the cross to save your life is the very way to lose your life, therefore resolve to bear the cross. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it”. 1. The love of this temporal life makes people deny Christ. Christ will, therefore, have us to be resolved about this life. Whoever will save their life by denying Christ, is a great fool. They lose that eternally which they seek to save for a time, by avoiding Christ’s cross. “Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it” (Matthew 16:25).

2. Resolving to Lose Your Life is the Very Way to Save It

To resolve to lose your life for Christ’s sake is the way to keep it; therefore, resolve to bear the cross. Our greatest wisdom is to be resolved to lose life and all rather than deny Christ or any point of His truth. Those who make least account of their life and of all things belonging to it, in comparison to serving and confessing Christ, is a wise person. In effect, they gain forever that which they risk temporally for Christ. “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

3. Denying Christ to Gain the Whole World Means Losing Everything

Those that refuse to bear Christ’s cross in the hope of gaining by it will be disappointed. They will lose their own soul and so gain nothing though they seem to gain a world. Resolve therefore to bear Christ’s cross.
It is a severe temptation when the cause of Christ cannot be maintained without bearing the cross yet hope of worldly gain is offered if anyone will stop supporting Christ’s cause. Christ’s question in answer to the temptation implies this. What does a person gain in this situation? Those who refuse to maintain Christ’s cause out of fear of losing or in hope of gaining some earthly thing lose more than they can gain even though it were a kingdom. They lose their soul and what profit do they have even if they gain the whole world and lose that? (Matthew 16:26).

4. Abandoning Christ is Abandoning the Only Redemption of Your Soul

Nothing on earth can redeem the soul of those who have abandoned Christ for fear of the cross or hope of gain. Therefore, resolve to bear Christ’s cross rather than deny Him. If any deny Him there is no ransom for a soul other than in Christ. “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Foreseeing our irreparable loss if we deny Christ is a special means to strengthen us against the fear of bearing the cross for Christ’s cause. We should say to ourselves, “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

5. Although Despised Now, Christ Will Ultimately Be Glorious

Though Christ may seem poor and demeaned in that His followers are made to bear His cross, yet He will be found the glorious Son of God who is worthy to be suffered for. Therefore let no one think of Christ’s cross with shame. “The Son of man shall come in the glory of the Father” (Matthew 16:27).

6. Your Cross Bearing Will Be Assessed at the Final Judgment

The fruit of bearing Christ’s cross or of refusing it will be seen at the day of judgment when He shall be judge. He will reward the backslider with deserved judgment and crown the grace of suffering for His sake with the reward of life. The fruit of everyone’s works, whether good or evil, will be found at the second coming of our Lord. “He shall reward every man according to his works”.

7. You May See Christ’s Glory in His Church on Earth

Christ promises a view of the glory of His kingdom. He will reveal to them as much as may encourage them and all His other followers to endure any cross for Him. Therefore, they should be resolved to bear the cross. He gave a little view of His glory shortly after this at the transfiguration. But this was not the main fulfilment. His coming in the power of His kingdom was made more evident after His resurrection. He declared Himself Lord and King in establishing His church with all her officers where He pleased, in subduing Jews and Gentiles to Himself by the power of His Word and Spirit, in separating His church and people from the world. This Kingly power was seen most evidently by those of the apostles who lived longest. His coming in the power of the gospel is a guarantee and evidence of His future coming to judgment in the glory of his Father.

Whoever gets a right view of the glory of Christ’s power in converting souls as well as establishing and governing His church with all His ordinances will not refuse to bear his cross. This promise is made to encourage the disciples to bear the cross.
Christ’s power and grace manifested in the conversion of souls and setting up of the Church in the days of the apostles is a demonstration of Christ’s kingly power and an evidence of His future coming to judgment. He said that some present would “not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).

Conclusion

A final thought from John Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms. The more we come under the influence of that portion of Scripture, the more we will have of the spirit of self-denial and cross-bearing and manifest true discipleship.
“Although the Psalms are replete with all the precepts which serve to frame our life to every part of holiness, piety, and righteousness, yet they will principally teach and train us to bear the cross. And the bearing of the cross is a genuine proof of our obedience, since by doing this, we renounce the guidance of our own affections and submit ourselves entirely to God, leaving Him to govern us, and to dispose of our life according to His will, so that the afflictions which are the bitterest and most severe to our nature, become sweet to us, because they proceed from Him.”

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A Psalm for Ukraine’s Christians

A Psalm for Ukraine’s Christians

A Psalm for Ukraine’s Christians
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

The invasion of Ukraine has shocked many and brought heartbreaking devastation into the lives of countless innocent civilians. At a time of fear and confusion, with dreadful forces moving in ruthlessly, where can stability and a sense of peace be found? Where can the believers there look as they face their world torn apart? There is encouragement in Psalm 46 for Christians in Ukraine, as indeed for our brothers and sisters in Syria and other war-torn parts. This encouragement goes hand in hand with (and informs) the practical help we offer. We do what we can to help because we are confident that the Lord is their-and-our refuge and strength. If we struggle to know how best to pray for them, we can make use of the words of this psalm.

From the 17th century, David Dickson’s comments on Psalm 46 speaks to the current situation to point out that even when tragedy and appalling injustices come into the experience of the Christian church, the Lord is our refuge. He is always acting one way or another in the interests of His people and always ensuring that His people suffer no eternal harm.

Perhaps too when people are alarmed at the thought of potential nuclear conflict there is much that can be drawn from the psalm. The psalmist can say that even though the earth was removed, and the mountains sunk into the sea they need not fear. Even supposing the whole framework of the world was changed, and the whole work of creation was either dissolved or confounded, yet faith finds a foothold in God Himself (v2). In the following updated extract, Dickson applies the Psalm to the severe troubles that may afflict Christians in this world.

1. God is our refuge

From the knowledge that God has defended His church in the past, the Lord’s people can strengthen themselves in the faith of God’s word concerning His care for His people. On this basis they guard their hearts against the fear of all possible trouble in time coming (verses 1-3).

Even if the church was destitute of all human strength within herself, and forsaken, and even pursued by all kings and princes, yet she has God for a hiding place, and for providing what is sufficient for her subsistence. “God is our refuge and strength.”

Although the Lord will not exempt His people from trouble, yet He will be near them in trouble. When they discover their weakness, then He will help them, and will not delay His help too long. He will give help in time of need effectually; for God is to His people “a very present help in trouble.”

Nothing can guard the heart of God’s people against the terror of possible or imminent troubles, other than faith in God. When the Lord’s people have fixed their faith on Him, they draw this conclusion, “Therefore will we not fear.”

The touchstone of confidence in God is the terror of apparent trouble. A fixed faith looks on the greatest dangers and troubles that can be imagined, with resolution to adhere to God and to whatever truth persecutors oppose, whatever may come. “We will not fear, though the earth be removed.”

2. God is our helper

The church looks on the Lord’s word and ordinances joined with the blessing of His Spirit among them, as a sufficient consolation against whatsoever trouble can be imagined.

Trouble without comfort may fall on those who do not know God, yet believers within the church can have no trouble in which they may not find consolation and joy to uphold them against all causes of sorrow (v4). The consolations which God provides within the church are not like the consolations which the world can offer, which are in all respects insufficient to overcome trouble. Like a river of refreshing water, the consolations of God are abundant, constantly running, ready at hand, able to make us effectual conquerors over trouble, and able to make us rejoice in the Lord in the midst of trouble (v4).

God will never forsake His people who seek Him, but where they are following His ordinances in any measure of sincerity, there will He be. “God is in the midst of her.” As the consolation of the church depends on God’s settled residence in it, so also does the church’s stability, and its continuance from generation to generation. “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved” (v5).

God’s presence among His people will not exempt them from trouble, but it does exempt them from perdition in trouble. He will not spare the bush from burning, but from being consumed. “For God shall help her” (v5). The Lord may not appear at the point of time when we would like, yet He shall come and help in the time of need most timeously or “right early” (v5).

3. God is with us

The psalmist refers to an experience when God took steps to deal with the enemies of the church, at a time when in great confluence and power they made assault against her.

It is no small indignation which the world holds against the Lord’s kingdom, His people, and work among them, nor is it any slight power from which the church is in danger of suffering hardship. Rather, the church must expect to encounter fury in its height, and force in its farthest extent. “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved” (v6).

It is not the worldly power of the Lord’s people which can sustain the assault of their raging enemies. Rather, God Himself must take her side against her oppressors. And that is what the Lord does. He steps in for His people. “He uttered his voice.” It does not cost the Lord much to dispatch the enemies of His people. Let Him but say the word, and they are gone. As snow before the sun, or fat dropped into the fire, they are consumed. “He uttered his voice, the earth melted.”

Any experience of the Lord working for His church is enough to confirm the faith of His people that He is perpetually present in His church to assist His people in their difficulties. “The Lord of hosts is with us.” Whatever the Lord is, in wisdom, power, and other attributes, the church may apply that to herself, and may be sure to have the fruit of it as her need requires. If hosts of heathen and huge armies of whole kingdoms come up against His church, yet still we may be sure that God, the Lord of Armies, will stand up against them, and for His church. “The Lord of hosts is with us” (v7).

The covenant of God made with the church in former ages is good enough security to the church in subsequent times, for obtaining whatsoever benefit His covenant includes. “The God of Jacob is our refuge” (v7). The rights which belong to the church corporately, are just as good a security for the use of every particular believer as if they were made out personally to every member by name. Wise citizens reckon as belonging to them whatever they can claim by their town charter, no less than their own private possessions. Likewise, whatsoever the believer can claim by virtue of the great charter made to the church, he should reckon it as sure to be his as if his own name had been specified in the promises. Because God is undoubtedly the God of Jacob, and the refuge of His children, therefore He must undoubtedly be the God and the refuge of those who are members of that city and family.

4. God is working

When God does works of wonder in favour of His church, perhaps the majority do not even recognise that it is the Lord’s doing. Such is their indifference, ingratitude, unbelief and perverseness, that either they think very little of His work, or they ascribe the praise to the instruments God has used, or some other thing besides God. This is why there needs to be a call to set people to their duty, “Come and behold the works of the Lord” (v8).

When God enters into judgment with the enemies of His people, He pours out on them astonishing calamities. What they intended to do to His people, He does to them (v8). When it seems good to the Lord, He can give peace universally to His church, and a breathing space from the trouble of outward enemies. He makes “wars to cease to the ends of the earth.” (v9).

Long preparations for war, and building up stores of arms and ammunition, may well have been made against God’s church with great labour and expense. Yet the Lord can soon make short work of them. He can make them completely useless when he pleases; breaking the bow, cutting the spear and burning the chariot (v9).

At a time like this, people’s passions are raised, and their minds are in tumult, busy with many things and distracted from what is most necessary. They can hardly understand what they are doing or what their duty is. Therefore it is good for them from time to time to gather in their straying thoughts, and silence their agitation, and humbly compose themselves to observe whatever God requires of them. “Be still, and know that I am God.”

It is better to be wise and acknowledge the Lord by the words of His instruction, than to learn it by doleful experience and danger of destruction. Nothing is more effective for the Lord’s people as a way of quieting their minds against the fear of trouble and persecution, than to settle their faith about God’s taking care of His people and of His own cause, and about His mind declared against His and their enemies. “Be still, and know that I am God” (v10).

The Lord will lose nothing by the opposition of his enemies. He will not fail to enlarge His glory, the more people go about to suppress it. He will make inroads on His adversaries’ lands, and make them know Himself to be God, if not by their conversion, then by their confusion and destruction. “I will” (He says) “be exalted among the heathen.”

Even in the church, little notice is sometimes taken of the majesty of God, and outside the church He is always disregarded. Nevertheless, He will see to His own glory, not only in the church, but also among the enemies of the church – and not only among those who have actually invaded His people, but also among those far and near who have taken no notice either of Him or of His people. “I will be exalted in the earth” (v10).

Whatever manifestation of God’s power is made in the world by His judgements against His enemies who do not know Him, yet He is always exercising His power for His church, and not against her. “The Lord of hosts is with us”. The church of God need not care how many are against them, seeing they have more for them then can be against them, namely, God, and all creation at His command. “The Lord of hosts is with us” (v11).

The strength of the church stands in renouncing her own, and fleeing into God’s strength, and not in opposing their enemy by strong hand, but by falling back on God. “The God of Jacob is our refuge” (v11).

We need to make God the basis of our confidence, and our communion with God the basis of our comfort. God is sufficient for us against every evil, and God is sufficient to us for supplying every good. We need to fix and settle the grounds of our faith, by more often subscribing this truth, and more often avowing it. “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge”, is repeated.

 

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7 Reasons for Triumphant Praise

7 Reasons for Triumphant Praise

7 Reasons for Triumphant Praise
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

There are all kinds of issues and thoughts surrounding singing in church. People are ever ready with to express their personal opinions and tastes. It is easy to find the reasons for praise in the things that please us. But praise is not a way of building up an atmosphere nor is it something we are to spectate rather than join. It is not primarily about connecting us together (though of course it does that in spiritual terms). What matters is the God who is being praised. We are to find our reasons and focus for praise in Him. The command to sing praise to the Lord is one of the most frequently repeated in Scripture. It is not something we can take or leave. It is a powerful way to express our obedience to God as well as our devotion to Him. God inhabits the praises of His people and Christ leads it (Psalm 22:2 and Hebrews 2:12). If we consider even a few of the reasons for triumphant praise it surely ought to fill our hearts as well as our voices.

Praise is a special means of glorifying God (Psalm 50:23) and so it is frequently commanded. In the space of just two verses, we are commanded five times to sing praise to God (Psalm 47:6-7). But one of these is to sing praise with the understanding (v7 see 1 Corinthians 14:15). The whole psalm helps us to do this by giving reasons for joyful praise. In the psalms God gives us not just many commands to sing praise but also reasons for it and not only that but the very words to use. Using the same kind of ascension language as Psalm 68:18 it also points to a time of a gospel kingdom rather than simply the Jewish people praising God. It reveals a future king, clearly the Messiah who would subdue the nations and have everything under His rule (Ephesians 1:22).

David Dickson describes this psalm as a “prophecy of the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom, and of the conjunction of Jews and Gentiles in one body under Christ their Head and Lord”. It is an exhortation to “Jews and Gentiles, joyfully to praise the God and Saviour of His people Jesus Christ” whom the Psalmist sees “ascended into heaven triumphantly after the full payment made of the price of redemption”. Christ is gathering His redeemed people, Jews and Gentiles, out of all nations. The benefits of His kingdom belong to more nations than one “for in Him the redeemed in al the nations of the earth are blessed” (Psalm 47:1).

It is a matter of chief joy when the kingdom of Christ comes to anyone because it means deliverance from “sin, Satan, and misery”. He has conquered these enemies and also brings “sure mercies of righteousness, peace, and joy” with eternal life. The Gentiles are commanded “to clap their hands and shout, and to shout with the voice of triumph”. They are to “shout to God, the triumpher, who in all this Psalm is the Redeemer Christ” “distinctly to be praised for His work of victorious redemption of sinners”. Thus it says “shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1). In the following updated extract Dickson goes on to show the reasons that this psalm gives us for praise. “None can praise God, or praise Christ sincerely, who do not understand the reasons for which they should praise” so it follow that praising with the understanding stirs up the affections also.

1. Christ is Sovereign Over All the Earth

The first reason for joyful praising of Christ is taken from His sovereign majesty over all the world (Psalm 47:2). The Redeemer, the victorious triumpher is the Lord: very God, essentially Jehovah, the Lord most high. Christ has the right and just title to erect a church in what country and kingdom He pleases without asking the permission of any. He is able to set up the profession of His name and the practice of all His ordinances in doctrine, worship, and church government. “He is a great king over all the earth.”

2. Christ’s Kingdom is Increasing

The second reason for joyful praising of Christ is taken from the increase of His own kingdom, and the exalting of all His subjects above the rest of the world (Psalm 47:3). The true church of Christ may from age to age promise herself new additions and their enemies being brought under their feet. If may not please the Lord to convert or bring down the enemies of the church at the time we would wish. Yet He will not fail to make His own people victorious over their opposition, power, and persecution, and more than conquerors in this respect.

3. Christ is Providing for His People

The third reason of Christs praise is taken from the care He has for the welfare of His people (v4). Just as the earthly Canaan was provide for the inheritance of His people, so He will provide for the sustaining of all His people in all ages, both bodily and spiritual. He is most loving and more wise to choose what is good for us, than we ourselves are. He will exercise His wisdom and love in choosing our inheritance and not leave it to us. The main part of the inheritance of Christ’s subjects is no earthly thing, but His very best blessing as was given to Jacob above Esau, “the excellency of Jacob.”

4. Christ Has Triumphed Over His Enemies

The fourth reason of Christs praise is taken from His glorious triumphing over all His enemies and ours when He ascended to heaven (v5). Christ being very God, descended in humbling Himself to take on Him the form of a servant, and when He had perfected the work of redemption ascended in our nature, still the very same person which descended (Ephesians 4:9).

The ark of the covenant, the type of Christ, ascended up to Zion, and God’s presence in it after the victory over the chief enemies of the church. So Christ after His victory over his chief enemies on the cross, ascended triumphantly into heaven.

5. Christ is Our King

Christ is praised particularly for His work of redemption and because of His special nearness to His people (Psalm 47:6-7). Although the Lord shows His glory in the works of creation and providence; yet in the work of redemption, conversion and salvation of souls His glory is manifested far more. Praise, praise, praise, and the fourth time praise is called for here.

Believers in Jesus Christ see reasons of praising joyfully the glorious Godhead of Jesus Christ and singing praises to Him as God again and again. They consider how He humbled Himself to assume our nature, paid the ransom for us and was victorious over all our enemies in our name. And also in considering how He ascended in our nature with the shout of the victory, and sound of the triumphant trumpet they cannot but praise.

It was said to the Jews in this Psalm “sing praises to our king” and in this song all may join with those Jews who have embraced Jesus for their king. He took His human nature from them and was born a Jew. Yet Christ also extends His kingdom over all the earth, not only His overall power as God but in His special grace gathering subjects out of all parts of the world: “God is the King of all the earth.”

6. Christ is Gathering His Kingdom from All Nations

The sixth reason of Christ’s praise is taken from His maintaining among the Gentiles, for gathering the redeemed out of all languages (v8). He reigns among them as king of saints, and author of holiness. We must in all the promises, works and praises of Christ still remember that as He is now very man, so is He also eternally God. No one can praise Him with understanding as the redeemer and perfecter of what is spoken of Him in Scripture unless they acknowledge Him to be God. Christ is therefore called God eight times in this Psalm and actions that only God can do are attributed to Him. Twice He is called Jehovah, and in this verse twice called God reigning over the heathen.

Holiness is the summation of Christ’s kingdom. His work is to teach, prescribe and command holiness; to take away sin, and powerfully to apply and work holiness in His own redeemed ones. He continues in governing His people till He has made each and every one of the redeemed perfectly holy. His throne is especially called “the throne of his holiness.”

7. Christ is Able to Convert the Most Powerful

The seventh reason of Christ’s praise is taken from His converting the great people of the earth such as kings and princes (v9). He brings them to the obedience of the faith and into union with the true church. It is often the case that not many rich, noble, or powerful are called. Yet God for His own glory is from time to time bringing some of them in. When it may glorify His name, He will bring them in and perfect what is promised and prophesied here. “The princes of the people are gathered together.” Christ gets the praise in converting people in that His omnipotence makes them willing subjects, yet also with the hearty consent of the will on the part of those converted.

The church of the Jews is the mother-church, of which Abraham and the godly Jews and even Christ Himself were members. The church of the Jews is the olive-tree into which all the converts of the Gentiles are ingrafted, gathered, and made one people with Abraham and the faithful among the Jews. “The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham.” There must be a union of Jews and Gentiles in one visible Christian Church because it is promised and prophesied here that it shall be so.

Conclusion

David Dickson points out that when we have said all we can in praise of Christ we have to acknowledge that we cannot fully express His glory as it deserves. We must rest content with this: that Christ is and shall be very highly glorified. He concludes this from the way in which Psalm 47 closes. After all the reasons have been mentioned for praising Christ it is necessary to conclude with this, “He is greatly exalted.”

A line of praise is worth a leaf [page] of prayer, an hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning
– John Livingstone

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How Will We Help Generation Z Keep the Faith?

How Will We Help Generation Z Keep the Faith?

How Will We Help Generation Z Keep the Faith?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

Generation Z (aged 9 to 24) is the least religious, most post-Christian generation. Even many of them who have a religious affiliation report that they are not committed to it. Yet this does not mean a lack of interest in faith and spirituality. According to some UK surveys, they are more open and positive about faith than older generations, though spiritually illiterate. They are living in a different world, with different pressures and different rules. It is a confused generation growing up in secular age, a rapidly changing culture where what matters most is the individual and their feelings. What matters to this generation are authenticity, diversity, fluidity, inclusion and activism – how do we reach them with the truth? How are we to train our children not just to survive but to serve their generation?

Generation Z have grown up with the internet in their pocket, saturated with information but starving for truth. As a generation, they seem to want to be protected and insulated from ideas that make them uncomfortable or “unsafe”. There are real challenges in raising children in a generation that seems completely disconnected from Christian truth and values, as well as difficulty in reaching that very generation. We need to prepare young people for the world around them rather than a world that no longer exists. They need more than mere church attendance, they need to know what they should believe and why.  It can be intensely hard to be “the only one” who stands apart amid such trends.

We have to take seriously what it means to pass on the faith, fully and intact to the rising generation. The key sphere for this is one that many young people in Gen Z profess to value a huge positive influence. They value relationships, not just with friends but also with their family. In a 2017 Youth for Christ Survey, 82% of young people said that making their family proud was their number one priority, and 73% who believed in God said their family was the main influence on their faith. In a generation that knows the fragility of families and pressures on them more than ever, they need families where living and believing the faith are central.

The beginning of Psalm 78 speaks of the need to pass the faith from one generation to another. God has given us His Word for this purpose (v1 and 4). There may be ancient things that are mysterious in it and foreign to contemporary thinking (v2), yet we are to know, understand it as well as to praise God for it (v3-4). He has given it to us to believe and obey (v5-6), we are also to show the next generation how to do this (v7) and avoid all examples of disobedience and backsliding (v8). This is shown from the example of Israel (using the name of Ephraim, the most mighty and numerous tribe). They were deserted by God in battle because their confidence was in their own resources and strength rather than believing in God. They disregarded the covenant they had entered into with God, disobeyed His commands and did not make use of the works He had done (v9-11). The resources they depended on could become useless to them; God could take away their wisdom, courage, strength, and success in chastising them. In the following updated extract, David Dickson shows what it means to pass on the faith to another generation.

1. We Must Give Them Scripture Truth

Those are worthy of the name of fathers in the Church who transmit to posterity the truth of God contained in Scripture, such as is here prescribed in this Psalm. This is the only infallible sort of tradition, which delivers to posterity what God delivered to the prophets or their predecessors by Scripture.

The godly in every age ought to have the same care to transmit the Word of truth to their posterity, which their ancestors had to transmit it to them. Thought ought to pay the debt they owe to their faithful ancestors to succeeding generations; they will not hide them from their children.

The Word of the Lord has true antiquity; divine doctrine is no new doctrine, it is “of old.” And for this reason should we hear it attentively and believingly. Although the Word of the Lord is a mystery and “dark sayings” to the unbelieving multitude of the world, yet it is understood, received and believed by the true members of the Church from age to age. The prophet, speaking of himself and the godly in his time, says that their parables and dark sayings are those “which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” Although the Word of the Lord is plain to the attentive believer, to the inattentive unbeliever it is a hidden mystery. For this reason, we need to hear attentively and believingly.

2. We Must Show Them the Glory of God

The subject matter of sound and saving doctrine is to declare the glory of God in His attributes and wonderful works for His people (v4).

3. We Must Teach Them to Obey God’s Word

One of the greatest mercies that can be bestowed on a people is to give the Holy Scriptures to them and to reveal to them the way of salvation as well as the way of serving God that He requires. This is put in the first place here: “for he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel” (v5).
God’s words and ordinances appointed in Scripture are witnesses for Him of His wisdom, power, holiness, mercy, and justice and against those as do not make use of them. They are a fixed rule for our faith and obedience; therefore, it is said, “He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel” (v5).

The Scriptures were not only appointed for a rule to those to whom they were first directed. They were also for use by the Church in all ages following. Everyone must strive to understand and obey these themselves. They must also teach their children and those for whom they have a responsibility to understand and obey them. God gave this testimony and law that “they should make them known to their children, that the generation to come might know them” who would “arise, and declare them to their children” (v6).

4. We Must Teach Them to Trust God

The purpose of revealing and teaching God’s Word is to bring about and increase faith in God as well as dependence on Him. The Word was to be declared to their children “that they might set their hope in God” (v7).

5. We Must Teach Them to Remember God

The way to foster faith and hope in God is to observe, consider and keep in a sanctified memory, how God has already confirmed His Word by His works. Such are evidences and pledges of His power and purpose to perform what He has said. Therefore the duty of not forgetting His works is combined with the duty of setting their hope in God. This implies that if His works were forgotten, His Word would not be believed and faith and hope in God would not remain constantly fixed on God (v7).

6. We Must Teach Them to Honour God’s Commands

The faith and hope which God desires His people to have fixed on Him are such as may produce obedience to His precepts. He, therefore, adds keeping God’s commandments to hoping in God and not forgetting His works. This, therefore, is the summary of true religion:

  • to have faith in God on the terms of grace offered to us through a Redeemer;
  • to hope for and expect the accomplishment of all His promises;
  • to foster our faith and hope by considering what He has done for His people; and
  • to commit ourselves to keep His commandments uprightly.

7. We Must Teach Them to Avoid Disobedience

The example of fathers is not to be followed except in the ways they have followed the Lord. Where their conduct does not conform to God’s Word we must not be like them. He says therefore that they must follow God’s Word that they “might not be as their fathers … stubborn.”

The natural inclination of corrupt mankind is to go on in our sinful course obstinately no matter how much God forbids us. We go contrary to His commands and flatly to refuse to obey Him. If at any time we seem to serve Him while we remain unreconciled to Him, we do it out of corrupt principles and for corrupt ends. Where this is the case, whatever we oblige ourselves to do by covenant we do it as double-hearted persons, dealing deceitfully and turning back from it. This was the case with the unregenerate Israelites: “A stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.”

Nothing can take us from this natural course and sinful inclination unless faith and hope in God and obedience to His commands are begun and maintained in us by the Word of God. The connection between these duties mentioned previously and this example teaches us this.

The Lord will have His people heed His reproofs obediently and not reject His yoke. They must meekly submit to His government and not rebel. They must strive for real affection towards God and steadfastness in His covenant. We are taught this by the way these carnal Israelites are condemned for the faults to the contrary.

The cause of general calamities coming on God’s people is to be found in their sins which have provoked the Lord against them. God will convict them by judgements when they will not be convicted otherwise. The Israelites “turned back in the day of battle.” Why? They did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in His law.

The sanctified and thankful remembrance of God’s dealings with His people is the way to keep our hearts in love, faith and obedience to God. Thus, to let His works (especially those that are remarkable and wonderful) slide out of our memory and affections is the source of defection from God. It is the cause of falling into carnal ways and confidences, it brings God’s judgments on us.

Conclusion

We need both to teach the rising generation and to give them an example of faithful obedience. If they see us putting our trust in people or resources and disregarding God’s Word and works, they will detect hypocrisy. We need to have confidence in the Word of God rather than clever techniques. Also, if they see the church turning back rather than facing the battles of our day, they will wonder about the reality of our convictions. Generation Z has unique challenges on top of those faced by those growing up in previous eras. If we do not equip our youth for them with the Word we have received – we will fail them, the future of the Church and ultimately the Lord Himself.

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Bible Truth Explored provides a helpful resource in seeking to teach and explain the faith to young people.

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Learning From God’s Care for the Unborn

Learning From God’s Care for the Unborn

Learning From God’s Care for the Unborn
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

During the time when we were making every effort to protect the lives of the vulnerable in society, greater numbers than ever of the most vulnerable perished. It was not any accident but entirely intentional. Abortion rates have only increased in the UK during the past year. In Scotland, more than twice as many lives were lost to abortion during 2020 as Covid or excess deaths. It is a heart-breaking reality that ought to grieve us. Worldwide, one in four pregnancies (25%) ends in abortion. Thankfully, a proposed amendment by one MP to decriminalise abortion entirely was withdrawn this week. It would have allowed abortion for any and every reason or none. We need to remind ourselves of how God reveals His care for the unborn to increase our concern for them.

David praises God’s care for him in the womb in Psalm 139:13-17.  We are helped to meditate on this in the following updated extract from David Dickson.  Dickson shows how David wonders at God’s exact knowledge of and power in relation to him. He formed him in the womb in an amazing way.

1. An All-Knowing and All-Powerful Care

God made us in the womb, and we live and move, and subsist by His power. It is impossible therefore for God not to know our words, works, thoughts and everything so that He has us always in His sight and under His power.

2. A Constant Care

The knowledge of God and His management of the creature is not like a man’s, who sets himself for a while on this object and then turns off to another object. God’s knowledge and management are a settled possession of His own workmanship. He does this by constantly beholding and settled regulating His work, by constantly maintaining and judging the most secret motion of a person’s spirit.

3. A Protective Care

The Lord in framing our bodies in our mother’s womb covered His tender work with His mighty power as with a shield from all troubles.

4. An Amazing Care

The right sight of God’s workmanship in our very bodies will force us to praise God’s unspeakable wisdom. David praises God because he is fearfully made. When God is seen in His glory in anything, His majesty becomes terrible to the beholder, His glory is so bright. We are “fearfully made.” When we do not consider Lord’s rare works aright they seem very common, so when His common works are thoroughly considered, they become very wonderful, “I am wonderfully made.“ The right sight of any one of God’s works gives light on all His works and shows them all to be wondrous or marvellous.

5. A Thought-Provoking Care

It is profitable for our soul when God’s work in our bodies is well grasped through careful consideration. As the Lord acquaints us with His works, we should observe them well, and bear witness to what we observe for His glory. David does this by saying that his soul knows these things “right well.”

6. An Intricate Care

God knows what He is making in His framing of our bodies. Neither darkness nor the distance of heaven from earth, nor any other impediment hinders Him in working. Making a person’s body of so many bones, arteries, veins, sinews etc. is a most intricate piece of work.

7. A Comprehensive Care

God sees things before they are made, and His purpose to make has no less clarity of knowledge of the thing to be made, than when it has been made. God in His decree to do, knows the thing to be done, as fully as when it is done. The Lord’s decrees concerning things to be done are so clear, so determinate, so certain as if the description and history of the thing were written in a book has something that had already happened. David uses the comparison of a written book to show the nature of God’s decrees.

8. A Precious Care

Rare wisdom can be learned from God’s decrees and works. The efforts that anyone takes to search them out is well recompensed with pleasure and profit, as David’s experience teaches us. He finds all God’s thoughts towards him to be precious. We should study this wisdom until we find it to be sweet, and then lay it up like a precious jewel in our mind when we have found it. All God’s revealed decrees are the substance of a believer’s comfort and joy, however harsh they seem to the unbeliever and unregenerate person. David says they are “precious to me.” The innumerable particular aspects of God’s purpose and decrees which are fulfilled daily towards His own children come to light from time to time. David says, “How great is the sum of them? if I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.”

Conclusion

We ought to be humbled by the Lord’s minute care for us from the very beginning of our existence until now. If God has exercised such care towards us in our unborn state, how great ought to be our concern and care for those that are unborn in their most vulnerable condition. It ought to grieve us that any should perish wilfully. Scripture tells us to open our “mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction” (Proverbs 31:8). Our wonder at God’s care for us ought to be a motivation to do what we can for such. It should also provide us with reasons to open our mouths in prayer on behalf of the unborn.

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12 Ways We See Christ’s Infinite Wisdom

12 Ways We See Christ’s Infinite Wisdom

12 Ways We See Christ’s Infinite Wisdom
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

We think we are superior in knowledge and values to previous generations but often our values are upside down. We value what is new, instant, youthful, tangible, technological and dismiss the converse. There may be much knowledge and intelligence, but wisdom transcends this. If wisdom is pursuing the best things in the best way, where best is defined by God, then it is in short supply today. Ultimately the one who completely knows how the best goals can be achieved in the best way is God “the only wise God” Himself. He has infinite wisdom. This is not just seen in creation and providence but especially in redemption (Ephesians 3:10). In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). No one knows more or knows better how to apply that knowledge for the good of His own people. We may be tempted to question how things are with ourselves and around us, but infinite wisdom is ordering all things for us.

Christ is fully equipped and qualified to do all that He has purposed for His people. There is nothing required for the work which He does not have. David Dickson imagines a poor soul asking, “Christ may be able to do all I need; but is He willing to employ His wisdom and strength for me?” He answers that Christ not only has wisdom and strength, but He will deal prudently. He foresees all the impediments in His way, anything that could mar the work of salvation. There is no wound His soldiers get that He has no cure for. There is no adversary He does not know how to defeat. In a word, everything from eternity to eternity is managed prudently. Dickson is expounding and applying Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently” and in the course of doing this he brings out the way in which Christ applies His wisdom. There are twelve ways this is identified in the following updated extract (Dickson’s fifteen ways have been summarised into twelve).

1. Christ Deals With God’s Justice Wisely

The justice of God must lose nothing, before we are reconciled or get heaven, a just God must be satisfied. Our prudent Lord answers, “If these people cannot get to heaven until justice is satisfied, behold I am come to satisfy it.” And yet the Lord’s mercy will have as great a place as it pleases; for He deals so prudently that He makes mercy and justice kiss each other. Mercy runs like a river, and justice is satisfied — is not that prudent dealing?

2. Christ Deals With God’s Law Wisely

The law says, “I will take satisfaction from Christ for past sins; but what obedience will I have for the future? Will those whom Christ has redeemed, be permitted to break me in the future?” Prudent Christ answers, “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Before the law could only get punishment for its being broken, now, it gets full obedience by Christ. Christ did not come to abolish but to fulfil the law; He came only to abolish the cursing part of it, but to establish the obeying part of it. Here is prudent dealing.

3. Christ Conquers Satan Wisely

In comes Satan the jailer and death with him; he flies at Christ to get Him overthrown. But prudent Christ destroyed him who had the power of death by the means of death. He overcomes him who had the power of death, and says, he will be the death of death.

So death lies down in the grave and all his own die and lie down with him. Satan thinks to have Christ held in this way. But He could not be held by the sorrows of death. He rises and breaks an opening with Him through death. Like Samson, He takes away the gates and bars of death and has left death neither door nor lock to hold us in. Here is prudence.

4. Christ Enters the World Wisely

See His prudent dealing in His coming into the world. He comes not with pomp or show, but in a humble way. He was meek and lowly, riding on an ass’s colt. Though He was a great king, yet often He went on foot. When He rode, it was on such a low beast, that any might have stood beside Him, and presented their petition in His ear, as He rode.

5. Christ Sends Out His Gospel Wisely

See His prudent dealing in sending His gospel forth to bring home souls. He does not use thunder and fire but poor, weak men with His word in their mouth. By this means, the rod of Zion, He casts down proud hearts and allures others. He puts His heavenly treasure in earthen vessels and lets them carry it and takes the glory to Himself. He puts the sceptre of His kingdom in these weak men’s mouths.

6. Christ Deals with Rulers Wisely

He gives kings no reason to envy His kingdom. He gives his ministers neither crowns nor lands, but only seeks that the workman gets his wages. Is this not great prudence, He does not trouble the kings and nobles of the land with His kingdom on earth. All His office-bearers must be everyone’s servant, “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22). His kingdom is not of this world, but a spiritual kingdom.

7. Christ Declares His Sovereignty Wisely

He deals so prudently, that the mouth of the reprobate shall be stopped, and have no just argument against their condemnation. He either sends His gospel to them and so invites them to repentance. Or He makes them know His goodness by fruitful seasons, summer and winter, and use of all His good creatures. If they will not make use of these, will be found to have in themselves the cause of their own damnation.

He makes the elect abandon their sins and come in, that they may be vessels of honour. He declares His doctrines in such a way that none who desire to quit their sins and come to Him will find a mark of reprobation in themselves. However filthy they are, if they come, He will cleanse them. His doctrine is so wise, that it will hurt none who seek to come to Him only those who will not quit their sins.

8. Christ Deals with His People’s Pride Wisely

The elect are made to see their sinfulness, needs and unworthiness that they may have His sufferings in high estimation, as their main refuge.

9. Christ Comforts His People Wisely

He deals prudently in urging all to believe, and yet He reserves the right to bestow comfort. He urges them to believe and yet keeps back the comfort of believing till they vomit out their sins. He deals prudently in calling His children to peace, joy, and comfort, and yet give them heavy burdens and afflictions lest they go to excess. In this way, He comforts their souls while making sure also to have their flesh mortified. If He lifts them up in Himself, He puts them as low as possible in themselves. He does not let them sink into trouble for lack of comfort, nor let them disregard Him due to lack of affliction. He fills them with comfort and makes them shed tears for affliction.

10. Christ Justifies Sinners Wisely

Christ exercises great prudence to make a sinner righteous, yet that righteousness is not in themselves, neither does it depend on their own keeping. In His prudent dealing, He sends forth ministers to preach, and dispense heavenly mysteries, and yet keeps the seal in His own hand. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). Thus, none may depend on the minister for the blessing. Christ has great prudence to forgive sin, and yet still keep us crying, “Lord, forgive us our sins!”

11. Christ Feeds His People Wisely

He continues to feed with the food that endures to eternal life and yet still keeps us hungering for it. He holds our mouths to the well and yet we are still thirsty.

12. Christ Exalts His People Wisely

He exalts His own above principalities, powers and afflictions, yet lays them exceedingly low with a sight and sense of their sins. He heartily and warmly comforts and refreshes them, making their bed in their sickness, and yet keeping them humble, so that the better He is to them the humbler they are. He quietly and shrewdly slides consolations into their hearts when no one knows, His voice is not heard in the streets. He keeps a covered table with rich delicacies in the souls of His own, and none know of it, for strangers do not meddle with their joy.

Conclusion

I have told you only of part of Christ’s prudent and wise dealing. But it is a deep which cannot be fathomed, for even the angels stoop down, to learn His wisdom and prudence. They wonder at the wisdom of the cross:

  • that by death, so many should be brought to life;
  • by His shame, there should come so much glory;
  • by abasing Him down to the death, so many should be brought to heaven;
  • by His becoming cursed, so many should be blessed.

This wisdom and prudence cannot be fully told, therefore I leave it, as a thing that cannot be grasped. But make use of it. When the work of Christ is not as you would have it, then believe deeper wisdom in it than you can see. His wise and prudent dealing gives to everyone’s condition as their situation requires.
If He has trouble with a distorted piece of wood full of knots, He drives a hard wedge; or if He deals with one that is stubborn, He takes a baton. If there is one whose root is fastened in the earth, He takes a sharp knife to cut these roots. He comforts a heavy heart. If gives a weighty burden it is not too heavy. He lifts us up, but not too high. Everything is done in wisdom, due time, measure, manner, and might.

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Clinging to God in our Mental Distress

Clinging to God in our Mental Distress

Clinging to God in our Mental Distress
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.

Whether or not we call it a secondary or parallel pandemic, there is no doubt that there has been an upsurge in mental health issues during the past year. Some fear it will have a long-term impact, especially on younger age groups. It is a silent issue at the best of times, it is easier to ask about physical than mental health. We all know people who have trials in this area to a greater or lesser extent and Christians are not immune. It can be difficult to distinguish between spiritual and mental trials and the impact they have on each other. Medical and other assistance is of course often needed but with whatever the case we must bring our situation before God. Scripture shows us how to go to God for comfort and strength in such afflictions. It does not give us glib platitudes; it plumbs the depth of mental distress to lift up the troubled and cast down.

The bleakest lament from a distressed condition is found in Psalm 88. As David Dickson notes, this is the experience of a ‘wise and holy man…under the heaviest condition of a wounded spirit of any that we read of.’ Heman the Ezrahite was one of the four wisest men in all of Israel (1 Kings 4:31) yet here he prays for comfort in wrestling by faith and pouring out his soul to God. It is the heaviest possible condition we can imagine for a believer. He does not seem to find the comfort he seeks, yet he clings to God. This deep trouble of a wounded spirit is recorded here for our understanding and spiritual benefit. Perhaps our situation or that experienced by others is equally bleak or less so. Or perhaps meditating on this psalm can help prepare us for future affliction. C H Spurgeon was perhaps reflecting on this psalm when he said the following:

The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.

Those who find their assurance of God’s love and comfort is clouded by their experience in their heavy affliction can still find comfort here. As David Dickson remarks, ‘those who flee to God for reconciliation and consolation through Christ, have no reason to suspect themselves, that they are not esteemed of and loved as dear children, because they feel so much of God’s wrath.’ Here is a saint who has drunk as deeply of that cup of sorrow as any who will read this Psalm. ‘Yet here is one so much loved and honoured of God’ that he is used in writing Scripture ‘and a pattern of faith and patience unto others.’ He could still call him the God of his salvation. Dickson draws further help and comfort in this updated and abridged extract.

1. Clinging to God by Grace

He fastens his faith and resolution to pray constantly to God until he receives and answer. Those have fled to God for grace and have received the offered reconciliation in the Messiah have entered into covenant with God for their everlasting salvation. They ought to stand fast in holding onto this covenant, however hard their condition may be.

When a believer has laid hold on eternal life, they may by the same right ask and expect comfort in and deliverance out of every trouble. Heman does this here (v1-2). God can love a person and keep praying in faith for a long time without an answer to comfort them. Yet this is all in love, wise love.

There is a difference between the lamentation of the worldly man and the believer. The worldly person sighs and cries, to whom they know not. But the godly present their lamentations to God. We must pray to God again and again patiently, until we know it is answered.

2. Clinging to God in increasing Troubles

There are nine deepening troubles that add to each other in misery.
(a) His soul is full of troubles, so full it can hold no more. Soul troubles are the most pressing troubles (v3)
(b) The sorrows of the mind are able to waste away the body, which cannot but shrink and pine away when the soul is sick with anguish (v3)
(c) His soul’s condition seems desperate like those that go down to the pit. Whatever strength of soul or body a person is soon emptied when God puts them in distress. Without fresh supplies they are as those that have no strength (v4). I am as a man that hath no strength.
(d) He is like the living among the dead, no longer fit for any duty of the living. The believer may sometimes be so burdened with trouble of spirit, that they can neither think, nor speak, nor go about any duty of the living for a time (v5).
(e) He is like someone killed violently, thrust out of the world suddenly with a deadly wound. A soul dear to God may experience such a condition (v5)
(f) He is deprived of the comforts of life and is it were left under the power of death. The believer may sometimes lose sight of the everlasting promise and seem to be rejected by God (v5).
(g) He seems to be deprived of all light of consolation, in the gulf of desperation without deliverance. The believer may feel themselves to be in such a condition, the lowest pit. Whatever trouble we are in, or however great danger we seem to be in, the believer’s wisdom is still to look to God. This may add to grief and fear, yet it prepares the way for the remedy and keeps the believer on the right terms with God.
(h) He has the felt wrath of God pursuing him, overtaking him, lying heavy on him, tossing him with new fears and assaults. These are like the waves of the sea when they come one after another, and endlessly dash on what they find in their way. Such may be the case of a beloved soul in its own felt sense (v7).
(i) He is deprived of all comfort, even any consolation from his friends or fellowship of the godly and wise (v8).

3. Clinging to God in Faith

He wrestles in prayer using four reasons to strengthen his faith and hope of being comforted.
(a) He earnestly seeks comfort only in God with tears (v9).
(b) He must not perish without an answer to his prayer to edify others and glorify God’s name (v10-12)
(c) He is resolved not to cease praying (v13)
(d) He cannot be cast off from God even though His face is hidden (v14)

4. Clinging to God in Grief

The psalmist presents his misery before the Lord, persuaded that he must experience the Lord’s compassion in due time, although he has been afflicted since his youth (v15). When we have tried all means for receiving comfort from God, it is safest for us to lay our grief before God, until He is pleased to show pity.

5. Clinging to God in Fear

The weight of present troubles, is accompanied with the fear of worse to come. Some of God’s children are more tried in their consciences than others. Some souls may experience this all their days. Severe trials may sometimes make faith stagger with doubting, and perplex our reason so that we are like someone that is beside themselves. But although the godly experience doubt, they are not driven to despair; they may be cast down, but they are not destroyed. The terrors of God in the plural number are upon him, that is, frequent terrors, and multiplied terrors (v16-17). They are compared to waters enclosing someone before they are aware.

6. Clinging to God in Isolation

There is no one who is compassionate toward him (v8 and 18). There was none to pity him, none to counsel or comfort him, none to whom he might impart his mind fully for ease. His old friends, and such as loved him before failed him and forsook him. He must sit solitary in darkness. Such a heavy and comfortless condition may be the lot of a beloved child of God.

The fact that he ends the psalm without any comfort for the time being does not make this psalm any less comforting than any other psalm. It shows that he was being supported for the time being even though it was without comfort. He had comfort given to him afterwards since he was able to turn this sad complaint into a song both for himself and for the Church.

This teaches us that seeing God can sustain a soul by secretly supporting faith, though without a felt sense of comfort. This may be even under the heaviest and most grievous felt sense of wrath. A believer in God must therefore lay hold on God’s goodness, promise and covenant. They must continue to trust in the Lord even though He seems to slay them (see Job 13:15). The example of Heman the Ezrahite here teaches us this.

Conclusion

If we have never experienced the deep emotional and mental distress of Heman the Ezrahite we have great reason to be thankful. If we have known these depths, we are not alone. It is a great blessing that the Bible records such anguish to show us how to express ourselves in the midst of it. The Holy Spirit as the Comforter is able to draw near and apply the Word to the deep griefs of the mind. We need the same compassion for those who are going through dark valleys in their own experience

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