Problems, laments and warnings

Problems, laments and warnings

Problems, laments and warnings
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.

For Jeremiah the tragedy of Jerusalem being destroyed was that nobody had listened to the warnings God had given. He cannot escape the sense that this devastation was something his people had brought on themselves, and that God was right to be angry. In his commentary on Lamentations, David Dickson reminds us that we too need to share God’s view of our sins as churches and communities. In the following updated extract from his commentary on Lamentations 3, Dickson draws attention to the fittingness of God’s responses to our behaviours. If we have not listened to Him, and treated His message with contempt, it is not at all incongruous if He does not listen to us, and lets us be treated with contempt. Will we register the warning in time and honour Him as He deserves?

In the first few chapters of Lamentations, we have heard a pitiful lamentation from the prophet, a man exercised with troubles all his days. He preached in grief of heart to this people for the space of fifty years. When they were in a good condition, he requested them to be reconciled to God. They scorned and mocked him, and set light by his words, yet he fought on with them year by year, telling them that the Lord’s judgments were at hand.

And now when the judgment which he foretold was come, it breaks his heart to see so many thousands of them cut off by famine, sword, and pestilence, and to the pitiful state of those who were left alive, carried captive, and made slaves to pagans.

So all his days were spent in sorrow, and he wrote this book of Lamentations to stir up those who would come after, to mourn with him, and to make it known to the church in subsequent ages that sorrow would be at their heart, and that similar judgment would overtake them, unless by laying to heart they would prevent it.

God does not hear their prayers

‘Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through’ (Lam. 3:44). Jeremiah laments that God would not hear their prayer, but had drawn a curtain over heaven, and hid His gracious face. They prayed for God’s help and assistance, deliverance from trouble, and especially from the hand of their enemy, yet God did not hear them, and permitted them to be in the hand of their enemies. Although they were the people God had chosen for Himself, and had a house among them for the God of heaven, and were populous, large, strong, wealthy, yet the Lord lets it all be sacked, burnt, demolished, by profane soldiers, the majority killed and the rest taken captive.

But in our times, we don’t think of this. It’s as if God’s judgments are dead and He does not send any trouble for sin. Therefore, just as God carried out all hat the prophet warned the people about, so we may certainly expect similar judgments to overtake us, for we are guilty of following the same way as they did, and despising mercy as much as they did.

God will not hear every prayer, especially not prayers for judgments to be removed, when they are made too late, after people have refused the offer of mercy and refused to turn.

If God is not able to avenge contempt of the gospel, then don’t turn to Him now. But if He is a righteous God, He will not fail to reckon with you, for your abuse of mercy as much as for your faults.

But although God did not hear their prayers, yet the prophet prayed on in the name of the church. Although God rejects prayers, yet we should pray on! Although He will not hear belated prayers to stop temporal judgments, yet He will not refuse prayer for the removal of sin or for graces to the soul. Supposing Noah, Job and Daniel would pray for removing temporal trouble, they would not be heard (Ezekiel 14:14). But you could be the most unworthy and wretched person there has ever been, and if you pray for removing sin, you cannot fail to be heard. God grants relief for the soul when there is none for the body.

They are treated with contempt

‘Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people’ (Lam. 3:45). Here Jeremiah laments that God had made them contemptible, like what is swept out of a house and thrown on the dunghill. Although these were the most honourable people under heaven, yet a nice looking Jew, man or woman, would not have fetched the price of a horse or a cow. Nobody would even buy them as slaves except for the most servile work.

But Jeremiah says it is God who has done this. ‘Thou hast made us …’ This is how the Lord gives a rejoinder to people for the contempt and disparagement they gave to His prophet, His Word, and His ordinances. He makes His own saints to be disparagingly thought of. As people regard God’s ordinances, let them expect to be regarded themselves.

You who let the Bible lie mouldering on the window ledge, you who content yourself with turning up to church without caring how much you profit by coming, but go home jesting at the Word and the preacher, be sure that God will despise you as you despised Him. If a temporal despising does not humble people in this life, they will be sure of a great despising in the day when God shall say, ‘Depart from me …’ The Lord shall say, ‘I rose early and late and sent my servants to pray and to preach to you and to offer reconciliation to you, but you rejected my offer and my word. I came and taught you from house to house, but you would not be taught. Therefore, go your way from me to the pit prepared for you. You and I shall never meet again.’ These people drew as near to God as any, but you see how for despising the offer of grace they are made as contemptible as any.

God is also just now, as He was then, and can do no less now in justice to us than He did to them, seeing we have given His Word and His messengers as great contempt as they did.

The Lord’s people are more honourable than any when the Lord is for them, but of all people they are the most contemptible when they defile their own glory by their sins, and procure at God’s hand exposure to shame. When someone makes a sincere profession they are most honourable, but when that same person belies their profession and defiles it by a lewd life, then they are most contemptible of anyone. Nothing is clearer among us than a torch or a candle, but nothing smells worse when it is put out. A professing Christian is beautiful when his holy life shines before the world, but he is the most stinking creature when he brings his profession to an end.

You who are professing Christians, be careful to keep your garments clean. Enjoy your place, your dignity, your honour, for you are called to be the sons of God, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, citizens of the new Jerusalem and of the congregation of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. But if you dishonour God by an evil life, you will be made more vile than the basest servant. If the spouse of Christ defiles His bed in following her own desires and affections, what wonder if she is made more contemptible than anyone else under heaven?



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Is there any hope of peace in the Middle East?

Is there any hope of peace in the Middle East?

Is there any hope of peace in the Middle East?
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.

Songs written thousands of years ago take on renewed relevance as we respond to the recent outbreak of vicious hatred in the Middle East. Psalm 87 was written in a time of despondency as the sheer scale of the necessary rebuilding effort sank in, complicated by the hostility of the surrounding enemies and the weakened condition of the people. However, in his commentary on this psalm, David Dickson identifies reasons to take comfort and be encouraged even in the midst of this grim situation. People from Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon as well as Israel will be spiritually reborn into the family of the covenant Lord, bringing them into a position of the highest honour as well as eternal safety, and displaying the Lord’s wonderful love and power. The promise that He will do this in His own time gives us hope for solid peace eventually.

When God loosed the captivity of the Jews by Cyrus, few of them returned from Babylon. The work of repairing church and state, temple and city had few to assist it. Their enemies were many, they were straitened with poverty and famine, and the hearts and hands of the godly were weakened. They were on the point of fainting, and despairing of church or state ever flourishing any more amongst them.

Psalm 87 was fitted to bring comfort in such a time. It leads the Lord’s people to live by faith, and to keep on going in the work of building the Lord’s house and repairing the city, looking to God the builder of His church and the maintainer of His people. Here are six comforts to the Lord’s people from Psalm 87.

The solid foundation God has already laid

The first comfort of the afflicted Jews, troubled over how the building of God’s temple was being hindered, was that God had by His decree and promise already made the mountains of Sion and Moriah the place of His rest amongst His people. “His foundation is in the holy mountains” (v.1). They would remain till the Messiah would come, for He would fulfil these types, and they would be preserved for His sake until He would come. It is the Messiah who is the only solid rock on which the church is built.

When the builders of the Lord’s church are few and weak, His people need to be comforted against their fears and doubts, and the way to get comfort in such a situation is to look by faith to God as the builder of His own house. God has laid the foundations on a solid basis, so that every believer who trusts in Him will be like Mount Sion, which cannot be moved.

God’s love and goodwill

God had chosen Sion above all other places to be His rest, and loved to dwell there rather than anywhere else. The dignity of any place, person or society does not come from anything in them, but from the Lord’s choice and free love. “The Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (v.2). The love of the Lord to His chosen church is a solid ground of assurance that she will continue.

The prophesies about the church

Comfort also comes from the prophecies which have been made about the church, and the promises God has given her in figurative terms. The church is the place where the Lord reigns, rules, and resides. It is “the city of God” (v.3). And the privileges of the church are very “glorious” (v.3). The glory of kings, crowns and diadems is nothing to them, but at most physical and temporal shadows of what is spiritually and everlastingly bestowed on the church.

Although glorious things are bestowed on the church, it’s not so much the things that have already been done, as the things that are yet to come, which make the church blessed. It’s not having them now, but hope — not sight, but faith — which makes the church blessed. And the Scriptures are a sufficient right to us for all the blessings which are to come. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (v.3).

The multitude of friends and converts

The Lord’s people should look less at the multitude of their enemies at the present time, and more at the multitude of friends and converts they will have in the future.

It is a great comfort that the church’s chief enemies will be converted to the faith and will count it their greatest honour to be so.

It is among the troubles of the church that she has so many enemies, and enemies as powerful as the Egyptians and Babylonians. In verse 4 the psalmist mentions Egypt (under the poetic name ‘Rahab’), Babylon, Palestine, Tyre and Ethiopia as the most eminent oppressors of the church of all the nations.

Yet God is able to turn her chiefest enemies into converts. He has done this various times already, and He will yet do it more. The enemies which are not converted, the Lord can handle. He showed this with Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon. When the psalmist mentions them, it is to the edification of the church, both in terms of what God had done to those nations in justice, and what He would do to them in mercy, or other enemies like them.

For the church to have her enemies made converts, is equally for the church’s glory and comfort and for the honour of the erstwhile enemies. Supposing they were as powerful as could be in the world, now they are citizens of the city of God. “I will make mention of them, that this man was born there,” that is, in the city of God (v.4–5).

Whatever honour people have in the world, it is not to be compared with the honour of regeneration, and being born citizens of the church. Whatever contempt the members of the church suffer from the world, is made up by the honour of being born in the church. “Of Sion it shall be said, This and that man were born in her” (v.5).

There is no reason to fear that the church will be ruined, or that from age to age she will not be a mother to and a receiver of converts. “For the Highest Himself shall establish her.”

The interest which God takes in each of His people

God takes notice of all the regenerate, no less particularly than if their names were all written up in a book one by one. “The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people …” (v.6). Accordingly, a time will come when He will manifest the fact that He has enrolled them. He will manifest it partly to themselves, by witnessing to them that they are His children. Partly to the world, by sustaining them in their trials and troubles. And partly by a full display of them, confessing their names before men and angels at the great day. “When he writeth up the people,” that is, in His own time, when He sees it fit to manifest His respect for His own.

Converts from among the nations will be reckoned up among the converts from the Lord’s people the Jews. “The Lord shall count that this man was born there,” that is, whatsoever kind of person it may be, who is converted out of any country, tongue or language, shall be counted a member of the church of Israel.

The spiritual joys which are ahead for the Lord’s people

The Lord’s people should not be troubled with the contempt under which they lie at present, but look to the glory and estimation which God shall put on the church and her children in His own time. They should not be troubled with their current grief, but look to the spiritual joy, and its causes, which the Lord provides to His people.

God furnishes (and will furnish) to His church spiritual joy, and the everlasting springs, fountains and causes of joy. As the church is subject to her own griefs in the world, so also is she sure of abundant consolations to be had and laid up in store for her. These are expressed here in the terms of types appointed in Israel’s festivals. “As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there” (v.7).

The causes of the joy of the saints are everlasting, comparable to wells and springs of living water. “All my springs shall be in thee” (v.7). The saints, having had their senses exercised, are able to confirm the truth of the promises by their own experience. Especially, they will confess that there is no joy or comfort, no gift nor grace, no refreshment or happiness, worthy of the name, expect what they have by church privileges and the communion of the saints. “All my springs are in thee,” says the psalmist, speaking either to the church or to God dwelling in His church.



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How violence brings down God’s vengeance

How violence brings down God’s vengeance

How violence brings down God’s vengeance
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.

With careful planning, preparation and funding, Hamas suddenly stormed into Israel on 7th October. Local defences were overwhelmed and civilians were attacked and murdered with appalling savagery. Virulent anti-Jewish hatred has motivated Hamas from its inception and its name is a byword for violence. In many of the Psalms the writer wrestles with the threat and sometimes the experience of violent attacks. In Psalm 7, the psalmist David is both a fore-runner of his greater son and Lord, Jesus the Messiah, and an example of the Lord’s people suffering oppression. The number of believers in Jesus in Israel has increased from about 24 believers in 1948, to about a thousand more now. David’s response to harsh oppression remains exemplary for the Lord’s people in Israel and elsewhere. In the following extract from his commentary on Psalm 7, the commentator David Dickson explains the psalmist’s appeal to God. Faced with devious and blood-thirsty oppressors, the psalmist knows to turn to God for help. Because he is in a reconciled relationship with the Lord he can rely on the Saviour to step in and set things to rights.

God’s people are sometimes falsely accused

In the opening verses of Psalm 7, David flees to God to be delivered from the blood-thirsty tongues of those who maliciously spoke falsehoods against him. He was slandered (by Cush, a flattering courtier) as a traitor and rebel against the lawful authorities. “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust. Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me, lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver” (v.1–2). If God does not interpose Himself to defend His servants, there is nothing to be expected from enraged wicked enemies but merciless and beastly cruelty.

Although being innocent of such accusations does not exempt you from being unjustly slandered, yet it equips you with a good conscience, and much more boldness with God in the specific situation. If you are conscious of having injured your neighbour, your own conscience will be against you in the very time when you encounter a greater injustice done against you. Then you will be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of God against yourself. “O Lord my God, if there be iniquity in my hands, if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me, let the enemy persecute my soul and take it …” (v.3–5).

God’s people sometimes have violent enemies

David prays that God would judge between him and his enemies. The Lord may, for the trial and exercise of His children, seem to sit still for a time, when people are about to oppress them. Yet in due time He will manifest Himself to be no idle spectator of wrong, but a just defender of the oppressed and avenger of the injured. He will arise in anger and lift up Himself (v.6).

When our enemies are desperately malicious, and nothing can mitigate their fury, let the consideration of God’s justice mitigate our passions. For He will arise in anger against them. There is no less just zeal in God to defend His own oppressed people, than there is malice in the wicked to wrong them. God’s rising in anger is here put in contrast to “the rage of the enemies.”

Although judgment against the oppressor may not be carried out at the first opportunity, yet God in His Word has passed sentence against them, and in His providence He has prepared means and instruments for it to be carried out in due time. He shall awake to execute the judgment which He has commanded, or given order for (v.6).

When the Lord arises to judge His enemies, then the Lord’s people will draw near to Him warmly, and “compass Him about” (v.7). Of course, in calling for justice on the wicked enemies of God’s people, we should not be motivated by personal interest, or desire of revenge, but by desire for God’s glory and the edification of His people. It is “for their sakes” that David prays (v.7) that the Lord would “return on high” to His judgment seat.

Being a child of God allows you to appeal to God’s justice

The principles of religion are things we should have solidly digested, for we may make use of them in our spiritual exercises, and then we may readily put them to use as need requires, so as to strengthen our faith and prayer to God. When David had settled his faith on the doctrine that God does in general judge and execute justice in favour of His people (v.8), he then applies it to his own particular circumstances, saying, “Judge me, O Lord” (v.8).

Once you have made peace with God about all your sins on the terms of grace and mercy, through the sacrifice of the Mediator, then you may, looking at oppressing enemies, in a particular situation of conflict, appeal to God’s justice to resolve the controversy. That is what David does here when he says, “Judge me according to my righteousness, O Lord, and my integrity that is in me” (v.8).

When a situation has been lying before God for a long time, and the controversy between the godly and their persecutors remains unresolved, the godly may put in a plea for God to pass the decree and execute the sentence. “O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just, for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins” (v.9).

Violence brings down God’s vengeance

From verse 10 we have the answer to David’s prayer, or at least the assurance that he will be delivered and that judgments will meet his enemies. On the back of this David give thanks to God. From this we see that the fruit of faith joined with a good conscience is access to God in prayer, confidence, peace and tranquillity of mind, mitigation of trouble, and protection and deliverance.

When victory is granted to faith, after wrestling with darkness, it is as satisfactory to the soul of the godly as if all that the believer hopes for has already been perfected. David is now ready to say, “My defence is of God, who saves the upright in heart” (v.10).

Whatever we think in the time of temptation, neither justice against the wicked nor mercy towards the godly is idle. God’s Word and works speak mercy to the one and wrath to the other, every day. All things are working for good the one, and for damage to the other, continually. For “God judgeth the righteous, and is angry with the wicked, every day” (v.11).

One reason why God delays the execution of His judgments on the wicked is to lead them to repentance. Here, God has whetted his sword to strike, if the wicked do not turn (v.12). If repentance does not intervene, the destruction of the wicked is inevitable. “If he turn not, the instruments of death are prepared, and the arrows directed against the persecutors” (v.13).

God’s enemies cannot ultimately prosper

The sinner is put to hard work when he tries to serve the devil and his own corrupt affections. “He travails” as if with child, he “digs a pit,” one of the hardest pieces of work for slaves. But once the wicked has conceived mischief, he cannot rest till he puts his purpose into action, and puts into effect his sinful thoughts (v.14).

The adversaries of God’s people shall have no profit of all their labour, but shall be met with disappointment. “He bringeth forth falsehood” (v.14), and the evil which is most contrary to his hope and intention shall befall him. “He is fallen in the ditch which he made, and his mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (v15–16), just like a stone thrown up towards the sky falling back down on the head of the one who threw it.

We can praise God in the hardest experiences

In verse 17, the final verse of the psalm, David promises praise, and indeed praise is how he closes his song. So the outcome of even the hardest experiences of the godly brings comfort to their souls and praise to God.

When faith is consciously satisfied and settled in assurance of what God has promised, it will be glad and give thanks for what is still to come, just as if it was already in possession.

Whoever is opposed to the godly, be they never so powerful and never so violent, and their position in the world as high as can be, yet faith may set to its seal that God shall show Himself to be a righteous judge in power and authority above the highest oppressing powers on earth. “I will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high,” says David (v.17).




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Celebrating the enthronement of King Jesus

Celebrating the enthronement of King Jesus

Celebrating the enthronement of King Jesus
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.

Saturday 6th June saw the coronation of Charles III as King of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, in a ceremony which included anointment, public acclamation and enthronement. These core components of the ceremony can be traced over a thousand years for English kings, and stretch back further still in our heritage to the coronation of King Solomon. A prominent theme in the coronation service is that the King of kings is the Lord Jesus Christ, whom all monarchs are called to reflect, and to whom all must give account. In the Bible, several psalms are written to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ when He is enthroned as king over all. In the following updated extract, David Dickson comments on the kingdom of Christ from Psalm 97.

A kingdom full of joy, majesty and righteousness

The psalmist proclaims Christ king among the Gentiles, and commends His kingdom to them as full of joy, full of majesty, and full of righteousness.

Besides the sovereignty which God has over all people, He has a special kingdom, in which He reigns by the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The Lord reigneth!” (verse 1) The coming of this kingdom makes available comfort against all grief from sin or misery, and gives true reasons for joy and full blessedness. “Let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad” (verse 1).

However insignificant Christ’s kingdom may seem to the world, yet it is full of heavenly majesty. The glory of Christ’s kingdom is unsearchable, and hidden from the eyes of the world, who are unable to perceive the things of God unless He reveals Himself to them and opens their understanding. “Clouds and darkness are round about him” (verse 2).

Christ’s kingdom gives no liberty to sin. It is altogether for “righteousness and judgment” (verse 2). There, righteousness is taught to sinners, and sinners are made righteous, and kept in the way of righteousness, and rewarded according to their righteousness.

A kingdom that vanquishes its enemies

After the psalmist has set out how comforting Christ is to His subjects, he shows how terrible He is to His enemies. Even though the kingdom of Christ is a kingdom for righteousness, and a fountain of joy to all who receive Him, yet He does not lack enemies. When He gave the law at Sinai, “fire went before him.” But more, not less, wrath attends those who despise the gospel, and Christ will consume all His adversaries. “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (verse 3), however many there are, and however completely they surround His little flock.

There is no match between Christ and His adversaries. “His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (verse 4–5). However great monarchs they may be, they cannot stand before His presence. Eventually, His judgments on the enemies of the church, and His blessings on the church, shall be so evident that onlookers will be forced to acknowledge God in them. “All the people shall see his glory” (verse 6). Those who serve graven images are reckoned as enemies to God and to Christ (verse 7). God will not have the worship that people want to give Him by serving or worshipping Him in, at, or before images. He wants to be served is by a direct and immediate worship, without the mediation or intervening of anything which may intercept His worship. “Worship him!” (verse 7)

A kingdom to be glad in

All true worshippers can take comfort. God’s wrath against idolaters is certain, and they have clear evidence of Christ’s supremacy over all created things.

Whether you think of the church collectively as “Zion” the mother, or in her particular branches, “the daughters of Judah” (verse 8), they have the same reasons for joy, and the same source of up-building – by God’s word and works of judgment. The manifestation of the gospel of Christ is the exaltation of God, and the manifestation of His excellency. As we grieve when it is dishonoured, so we should have joy when its glory is displayed. The joy of all the saints is, “for thou, Lord, art high above all the earth, thou art exalted far above all gods” (verse 9).

A kingdom to be holy in

Believers, the true worshippers of God, are here referred to as “ye that love the Lord” (verse 10). The love of God must be joined with, and manifested by, the pursuit of a holy life. We must not only abstain from, but hate and abhor, what is sinful.

Perhaps hating evil and loving God will readily make you subject to malice and persecution from the wicked, yet the godly will have their souls saved. Eventually they will be fully delivered from the harm which Satan and the wicked intend to bring on the godly for their godliness. The Lord “preserveth the souls of his saints: he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked” (verse 10).

The complete fruit of their righteousness will not be in their possession immediately however. It is like something “sown” (verse 11), and it takes time for the corn that is sown to spring up and come to a ripe harvest. Yet the Lord sees the heart. If by faith in Christ we have purified our hearts to the unfeigned pursuit of holiness, we are righteous in God’s sight, even if we have many infirmities, and even if we have periods of grief and interruption of joy. Yet eventually there will be a full harvest of gladness. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (verse 11).

A kingdom to thankfully confess in

Whatever our condition in life is, we are exhorted, “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (verse 12). Whatever tribulation the faithful may have in the world, there are reasons for joy in the Lord, and they should make conscience of this commandment to rejoice in the Lord.

Whatever can be taken from the godly, their right and part in Christ can never be taken from them, and so there is reason to give thanks for this gift for ever. “Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness,” or, “Confess to the remembrance of his holiness” (verse 12). That is, acknowledge to His glory the benefit which you have by being a subject of this king. Whatever work or word of Christ brings us to remember His name, it should also bring us to consider and remember His holiness, the untainted glory of all His attributes – wisdom, justice, goodness, power, mercy, truth, etc – and the untainted glory of His word, works and purchase to us.

Image source: Royal Collection Trust 



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The cold comfort of a changeable God

The cold comfort of a changeable God

The cold comfort of a changeable God
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.

Unlike us, there is nothing precarious about God’s existence. He has life in Himself and He is altogether perfect. He never changes, either for better or worse or to adapt to changing circumstances. So when a recent survey has shown that almost half of evangelicals in the US say ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Does God change?’ it raises questions about how solid someone’s faith is if they are not relying on the unchangeable God – and how lively their hope for the future can be. With our circumstances continually in flux and fears often threatening to overwhelm us, the comfort and hope that comes from the constancy of God cannot be underestimated. Faith in the unchanging and unchangeable God was what sustained one overwhelmed and fearful believer in Psalm 102. In the following updated extract, David Dickson points out the various weighty reasons for the believer’s distress yet balances them against the eternity, omnipotence, and immutability of the Lord.

The church needs comfort

Psalm 102 is consistent with the time when the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. About the end of the captivity, when the seventy years were now nearly expired, the weight of the misery of God’s people, and the mockery of the heathen, and the people’s longings for delivery, greatly afflicted the prophet and so he pours out this prayer.

It is no strange thing for the dear children of God to be under heavy affliction. They may be afflicted, and even overwhelmed. Yet the way for an afflicted and overwhelmed Christian to have relief, comfort and deliverance is, “to pour out his soul before the Lord.”

From the opening of the prayer we learn that a soul who is seeking relief and comfort in God, may both confidently pray for, and certainly expect a hearing and acceptance of their prayer. “Hear my prayer, O God. Let my cry come unto thee” (verse 1). Indeed the Lord permits His children to speak to Him in their own babbling forms of speech, even though the terms they use are not really fitting for His spiritual, invisible, and incomprehensible majesty (such as, “Hear me,” “hide not thy face,” “incline thine ear to me,” etc.) (verse 2).

The causes of the prophet’s grief are three. First, the church was experiencing the reproach and cruelty of the enemy (verse 8). Second, he had the sense that God’s anger was apparent in his situation (verse 9–10). Third, his comparison between the prosperity of the church in the past, and the adversity of the church in the present, made the present situation all the heavier (verse 9–10).

He sadly reflects that the consequence of this is likely to be that he and the church would be cut off without comfort or hope of deliverance. The church as a whole, or the scattered parts of it, may be almost disappearing, and utterly decaying under long-continued trouble: “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass” (verse 11).

The Lord remains constant till the end of time

But from verse 12, the prophet strives to comfort himself in the hope of grace to be shown to the church. “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever …”

His first source of comfort is that God has purposed to perpetuate the remembrance of Himself to all generations, and He endures for ever to see it done.

There is therefore ground of hope to believers, even in the saddest condition of the church; for although believers are mortal, yet God (in whom their life is hid), is eternal. “Thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever.”

God wants His name to be known in all generations, and wants to have people making use of His word and ordinances in order to preserve the memory of His attributes, works and will. This is why the church must continue from age to age.

The Lord’s constancy will bring changes for the better

In verse 13 the prophet reasons from God’s unchangeableness to conclude that the condition of the church will change from worse to better. This is good reasoning. “Thou shalt endure for ever,” he says, and therefore, “thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion” (verse 13).

We can even aim for and be encouraged by the expectation that there will be an enlargement of the knowledge and fear of God among those who do not yet know Him. The psalmist is looking forward in verse 15 to the heathen coming to fear the Lord. The Lord has a time when He is pleased to arise, to restore His afflicted people to comfort, and to restore religion to its own beauty, even in a way that makes kings fear and tremble when they see how God cares for His own despised people.

God will have glory in in restoring His church: “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory” (verse 16). Whatever instruments the Lord uses for this, He wants Himself to be seen to be the builder. As the glory of the Lord is obscured when His church is scattered, so when He sets up His own ordinances again, His glory is displayed. The connection between God’s glory and the salvation of His church is a reason for comfort and hope. However badly the church may be demolished, yet it shall be restored and repaired again.

The Lord’s constancy guarantees that the church will never be consumed

The prophet sorrowed on the personal level because he looked likely to die of grief for the church, and on another level because the church looked likely to perish in their captivity, and not go on to the hoped-for coming of the Messiah, and the conversion of the heathen, which was necessary for the perpetuation of Christ’s church to the end of the world.

In the history of Israel, it did sometimes seem that they were being stopped from going on in their journey to the coming of Christ. The tribe of Judah got so weak that it appeared there was no possibility it would last, or make any progress. There was the fear that if Judah was cut off, and Israel was abolished, then the Messiah who was supposed to be coming from them would never appear. This was the terrible fear with which the prophet is wrestling here (verse 24).

Against this fear and temptation the prophet (in the name of the church) is wrestling in prayer. He strengthens his faith by various arguments taken from God’s (which is to say, Christ’s) eternity, omnipotence, and immutability (see Hebrews 1:11–12).

Whatever difficulty faith is brought into, faith goes and deals directly with God. “God is the doer of what is done,” the believer says, and so he deals with God by prayer for relief. When it appears that we are going to perish, this should not hinder us from praying, but rather it should sharpen us in our duty. When God’s promises and God’s providences seem to disagree, we may appeal to and argue from the covenant, and not displease God by so doing.

The Lord’s constancy is the believer’s consolation

The eternity of Christ is the consolation of the believer in his mortality; and the eternity of Christ as God is the pledge that the believer will be preserved, and that all God’s promises will be performed.

The immutability of God is a notable comfort to His afflicted people because, since He is not changed, therefore they shall not be consumed. “Heaven and earth shall perish, but thou shalt endure” (verse 26); “thou art the same” (verse 27).

The prayer concludes with the prophet’s victory over the fear and temptation, expressed in a solid assurance of the perpetuity of the church from one generation to another, founded on those attributes of Christ (eternity, omnipotence, and immutability). So those who are sorry for the affliction of the church shall have consolation from God, and a gracious answer to their prayer, as the experience of the prophet teaches us.

The perpetuity of the church may be solidly concluded from the unchangeableness and eternity of God. Whatsoever change may befall the visible church before the world, yet before God she is fixed and stable, like a house built on a rock.



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Blessings, boundaries and the church

Blessings, boundaries and the church

Blessings, boundaries and the church
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 Church of England recently voted in favour of allowing blessings for same-sex couples although with assurances that the church’s doctrine of marriage will not change. To many this seems incoherent, and it exposes a lack of clarity on the boundaries between what is and is not acceptable in the realm of sexuality and marriage. In the New Testament model, the church and the world are on different sides of a clear line of demarcation and the church has no need to feel pressurised into adopting the agenda and mores of the world. In the early days of the church of Corinth the pressure was real and the church in some significant ways capitulated to societal expectations. The boundary markers in these ways collapsed and the apostle Paul needed to write more than once to reinstate them. Particularly in the area of sexual ethics the divergence needed to be crystallised between how the surrounding culture regarded people’s behaviour, and how Jesus’ apostles expected the church to react. Immorality of any kind, including same-sex relationships, is not something for the church to bless, but to help people avoid. As David Dickson’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians draws out in the following updated extract, Paul teaches both that sexual immorality has no place within the church, and that forgiveness is available.

Indifference to sexual purity is a pagan attitude

Like the other Gentiles, the Corinthians regarded sexual immorality as a “thing indifferent,” neither right nor wrong in itself. But in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul rejects this point of view. Anticipating and forestalling that their excuse would be, “All indifferent things are lawful for us now that we are Christians!” Paul makes several counter-points.

Firstly, in verse 12, he qualifies their major assumption, “All indifferent things are lawful!” by limiting it to “lawful as far as they are beneficial,” i.e., helpful, and, “lawful as long as our sinful desires do not win the mastery over us,” for by the intemperate use of our liberty we can sin even in the use of indifferent things.

Then in verse 13 he also challenges their secondary assumption, that fornication is something indifferent. He says in effect, “Granting that food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, there is a big difference between food and fornication!” It is lawful to eat any kind of food, because God has ordained food to be a natural good. Yet we have to reckon with the fact that God will destroy both food and the stomach, at least as far as its current functions are concerned. So for the sake of our stomach we must not endanger our eternal salvation, or the salvation of others, by eating in a way that causes others to stumble. However, the big difference is that sexual immorality is never lawful. It is simply a sin, and to be avoided.

The body is simply not made for immorality – it is not in any way comparable to how food is ordained for the stomach and vice versa. The body is ordained to be a member of Christ our Lord, who is ordained to be the head, to govern the whole body, so that it would be kept holy. In fact, in the resurrection our bodies will be raised as glorious bodies, just as the body of Christ was raised. Therefore they ought not to be defiled with fornication.

Paul goes on to refer to what should have been an obvious, known fact about marriage: the two become one flesh. The members of Christ are not to be made by fornication the members of a prostitute (verses 15-16). For “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (verse 17). Believers are members of Christ, because they are united to Him by faith, and are one mystical body with Christ – one spiritual body, or one spirit with Christ.

Paul then provides an exhortation. “Flee fornication!” (verse 18). Returning to his argument, he draws a comparison with other sins. Other sins misuse something or other that is external to the body, but sexual immorality abuses its own body, and for that matter dishonours the body more than any other sin (verse 18).

Especially considering that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, they ought not to be polluted with sexual immorality. Additionally, believers are not their own – they have been purchased with the blood of Christ. They must therefore take heed that they do not defile themselves with immorality, but rather by a holy way of life both in body and soul they should endeavour to glorify God their Redeemer, whose they are.

Sexual impurity has no place in the church

Towards the end of chapter 4, Paul has been warning the church of Corinth that formal church censures would come their way if they continued in their schismatic and divisive ways. Lest they should think these are empty words, he tells them at the start of chapter 5 that they must excommunicate a certain individual who had committed a certain type of sexual sin. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Paul here reprimands the church because they ought long ago to have grieved for this great offence, and excommunicated the wicked person from fellowship, instead of excusing his fault by minimising it, or making a joke of it, or glorying in it as if they were impressed with what he had done.

One reason for excommunicating this individual is because he was defiled by heinous wickedness. Even the Gentiles would not so much as speak of this sin without detestation.

Paul recognises that as a church, they have the power to excommunicate a wicked person like this. But now he adds his additional apostolic authority to the situation. “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 6:3-5).

“Truly,” he is saying, “you have my opinion and authority concerning that wicked person. Therefore, when you are gathered together, be fortified by this letter, which comes with apostolic authority, and by the authority of Christ, in whose name the censures of the church should be given, and excommunicate this wicked person.”

Paul uses the expression, “Deliver him to Satan,” because when anyone’s outward status is that they have been rejected and cast out of the church, and excommunicated from the privilege of the fellowship of the saints, then as far as their outward status is concerned, they are declared to belong instead to the kingdom, slavery, and power of Satan. To be a citizen of the kingdom of God (that is, the church) even outwardly, is a greater honour than to reign outside of the church. To be excommunicated is to lose your reputation and honour and dignity, and be reckoned as belonging to the subjects of the devil.

Having said this, the actual purpose of excommunication is to be a means of repentance and salvation. Truly by the censure of excommunication the pride of the flesh should be mortified, and the new creature will be saved in the day of judgment.

Impurity is a contagion

Paul continues in verse 6, “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” The risk was that the whole church would be infected and polluted by the contagion of so great a wickedness, just as a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. That is why they needed to excommunicate the wicked person. Continuing with the metaphor, Paul says that the Christian church must be purged from things which bring reproach on Christ and cause others to stumble – and the hearts of Christians must be purged from all the corruption of their old nature – with at least the same diligence as the houses of the Jews were purged from literal leaven before the Passover. Doing this would have the beneficial effect “that ye may be a new lump,” a new and holy society, new creatures really and indeed (verse 7).

The church should be a place where holiness flourishes

Confirming his argument, Paul explains that the thing signified in the Passover – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – commits Christians to have a care that holiness would flourish in us and in the church. Putting away malice and wickedness both from ourselves and from the church will mean that we can worship and serve the Lord cheerfully and in a holy way, in sincerity and truth. We cannot live in a holy and righteous way (as the meaning of the feast of the Passover lamb requires of us) unless the leaven of our past life and our wicked practices are purged away out of us and out of the house of God, and unless we endeavour to keep sincerity and truth in us and in the church.

The church should not judge the world, but itself

Paul wraps up his argument by referring to a previous letter he had written to the church of Corinth, in which he had told them not to have fellowship with fornicators (verse 9). By consequence they should have understood that fornicators were to be excommunicated from the church, and much more so those who committed incest.

Of course, this gives them no excuse for thinking that this instruction about immoral persons referred only to those who were in the world, or outside of the church. That would have been to command something impossible, because they must necessarily either live amongst such wicked persons or else go out of the world (verse 10). They lived in Corinth, after all, where the majority remained pagans. Paul clarifies that he means they must not keep fellowship with anyone who claims to be a Christian, or a brother, who commits sexual immorality. That brother is to be excommunicated, if after the church has convinced him of his sin he remains wicked and impenitent (verse 11).

Neither the apostle nor the church had the right to impose church censures on those who were outside the church. Those outside the church are left to the judgment of God. But the conclusion they ought to have drawn from this is that judging members of the church certainly is part of the church’s work – this power does belong to the church. That is why their responsibility was to put away or excommunicate that wicked person from among them.



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The heavenly wisdom of a soft answer

The heavenly wisdom of a soft answer

The heavenly wisdom of a soft answer
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.

In Prince Harry’s recent memoir we can see the effect of the insatiable voyeuristic appetite for celebrity gossip. We no doubt feel sympathy for those whose lives are picked over endlessly by commentators who seem to say what they like with little fear of contradiction. Perhaps we have all felt the impulse sometimes to tell our own side of the story, take control of the narrative, speak our own truth. There are more wise and less wise ways of doing this. Laying bare your heart does not necessarily lead to acceptance and respect, it can sometimes give more fodder for ridicule. Worse, telling your story may involve you in making accusations against other people. Now you have also shredded other people’s reputations. So the drama rolls on and the prospects of reconciliation fade further away. And it’s all words! The consequences of our words can sometimes be enormous, as the apostle James pointed out long ago. In the following updated extract, David Dickson explains James’s insistence on the need to bridle our tongues. It is impossible without God’s grace, yet the counterintuitive act of responding with meekness when we are provoked is the way of heavenly wisdom and it leads to peace and righteousness. Christians should strive by God’s grace to be people of integrity – like a fountain which sends out one consistent stream of water, not alternating between the pure and the defiled – and so show who really is in control in their hearts.

James chapter 3 contains two pieces of advice. The first is for governing the tongue (verses 1–13), and the second is to do with the meek wisdom which assuages the evils of the tongue, and avoids strifes and contentions (verses 14–18).

Control your tongue and you control your whole self

James tells us to bridle the tongue, that is, to hold back from invective, and rigid rehearsals of other people’s vices or infirmities. “Be not many masters,” he says (verse 1), i.e., do not arrogate to yourselves the authority of a master over others, and too much liberty to carp at things (as many do), but instead bridle your tongues.

One reason for this is because those who unjustly censure others will suffer heavier judgement from the God who avenges injuries (verse 1). Also, seeing we all have many failings (“in many things we offend all,” verse 2), it is better for us to deal more diligently with the infirmities of others, not to arrogate the authority of judging without a calling, or to be unjust in judging.

Anyone who knows how to govern their tongue shows the sign of being “perfect,” someone who can moderate all their actions (verse 2). Anyone who cannot moderately rule their tongue, but in all things carps at other people’s behaviour, has the sign of being a hypocrite.

If you are guiding the horse’s bridle, you have control of the horse; and if you have your hand on the rudder, you are steering the ship. Even so, if you have your tongue under control, you rein in your whole body, and keep your outward actions in check (verse 3–5).

Great care is needed in governing the tongue, because of how gloriously it can boast. It can on both sides perform much good – in speaking the truth, in constancy, in letting things slide, in courtesy, and so on – and it can do much evil, in lies, reproaches, calumnies and so on (verse 5).

Let fly with words and you stir up a world of evil

As a small fire can kindle and devour may things, so the tongue, unless it is appeased and bridled, can stir up a world of evils, and create infinite sins (verse 5–6). Although it is a small part, it is nevertheless a part of the body, which means it can involve all the other members of the body in what it does. It can defile the whole body with wickednesses, and with its wickedness set on fire the wheel of all our natural faculties.

When the tongue is ready to serve the devil in this way, there is some affinity between the evil tongue and hell (verse 6). From the devil the tongue can send out enough flames of lies, slanders and quarrellings to burn the whole world.

There is no kind of animals, but may be tamed by human reason or skill, and experience teaches that some of all kinds have been tamed (verse 7). But the tongue can be tamed by no human reason or art. It is an unquiet and an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, by which it is ready to bring, and does bring, deadly mischiefs to others (verse 8). Therefore you must by God’s supernatural grace diligently endeavour to bridle the tongue.

Be honest in your words and you show you have supernatural grace

The tongue is mutable, deceitful, crafty. One minute it makes itself out to be very good, blessing God, the next minute it openly shows its real nature, by cursing other people (and indirectly God, according to whose likeness people are made). This it does from the same mouth, sometimes sending forth blessing, sometimes cursing (verse 9). But this is absurd and monstrous, and must in no wise be tolerated by those who belong to Christ (verse 10).

James then uses four similes – a fountain, a fig-tree, a vine, and the sea (verse 11–12) – arguing from these natural impossibilities to expose this irrational incoherence in our practice. It is simply not natural that sweet and bitter water should flow from the same channel of the fountain, or that a fig-tree should bring forth grapes, and a vine figs, or that the same sea should yield both salt water and sweet. So reason will not allow us to think that it is the tongue of someone who is regenerated, which, although sometimes it blesses, yet being unbridled, it otherwise curses – for a bad tree does not bear good fruits.

This is why it is so important for the regenerate to follow the simplicity of holiness in speech, and to endeavour to bridle their tongues.

Wisdom consists in avoiding contention

In the second part of the chapter, James gives another piece of advice. He exhorts us to wisdom joined with meekness, which is the remedy for the evils and jealousies of the tongue. If anyone is going to show themselves a prudent Christian, they ought to show it in innocence and meekness.

Laying aside meekness, and instead cherishing contradictory vices in the heart, such as jealousy and contention, is no matter of glorying, but rather of shame (verse 14). Indeed, it is effectively lying against the truth – falsely boasting yourself to be spiritually wise (or, Christians) but in fact showing yourself to be wicked. This is why we must make an effort to strive after the wisdom of meekness.

Wisdom does not lead to vengefulness

The wisdom of contention, envying, revenging of personal attacks, is not the wisdom which descends from heaven, from God. Instead it is earthly, sensual and devilish (verse 15). Its origins are in fallen nature and the devil. Where there is not wisdom with meekness, but envy and contention, there tumults, seditions, and every wickedness reigns (verse 16). These are more reasons to pursue the wisdom of meekness.

Wisdom makes peace and is peaceable

In verse 17, James gives eight characteristics of heavenly wisdom, the wisdom which is joined with meekness. (1) It is pure and chaste, i.e., it holds fast truth and holiness, lest it be in any way polluted. (2) It is peaceable, avoiding contentions. (3) It endeavours after equity. (4) It easily gives place to right reason. (5) It is full of mercy towards those who err and sin. (6) It is full of good fruits, omitting nothing of those things which are fitting in those who are good and pious. (7) It does not enquire suspiciously into the blemishes of others. (8) It is without hypocrisy, with which chiefly carnal wisdom is delighted. All these are reasons why we ought to endeavour after wisdom joined with meekness.

Those who endeavour after this wisdom joined with meekness, simultaneously endeavour to make peace, or to be peaceable themselves (verse 18). They are in peace. They work righteousness, or increase their holiness. They sow to themselves for time to come, and for life eternal, so that they may reap the fruit of righteousness in due time.


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Six things to pray for in the new year

Six things to pray for in the new year

Six things to pray for in the new year
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.

As a new year opens, what will the future hold? What are we justified to hope for, and what is realistic to work towards? In the prayer of Moses the man of God, we get an insight into what a bright and desirable prospect would look like for a believer and the church collectively, and what we can legitimately throw our energies into striving for with the Lord’s help and blessing. Time seems to be passing so quickly and there are so many things that cause grief even at times when we are conditioned to take an optimistic view. In this light David Dickson comments on the six things Moses prays for in Psalm 90 in the following updated extract.

1. Wisdom for eternity

In the concluding part of Psalm 90, Moses prays for six things in response to the short and sorrowful life of the Lord’s people. The first petition is for wisdom to provide in time for the remedy of sin and everlasting misery, before this short and uncertain life ends. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (verse 12).

Although our life is both short and uncertain as to how soon it may end, yet our tendency is to look on its indefiniteness as if this meant its duration will be infinite and our years innumerable. When Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days,” it implies some acknowledgement of this.

It is easy for us to calculate how many of our days are already past, and easy to consider how few there are to come by the course of nature (or God’s ordinary providence), yet this lesson must be taught by God before we can make any profitable use of it. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”

The only remedy for sin, and the wrath of God, and the misery of mortal humans for sin, is the wisdom which is taught by God in the Scripture, i.e., that sinners should seek reconciliation with God through the sacrifice and obedience of Christ, and keep friendship with God by the power of His spirit.

The right use of the things we see manifested in our lives of sin and wrath and judgments is to deal with God by prayer, not only that He would inform us of our danger and duty, not only that He would reveal to our minds the mystery of grace and reconciliation, but also that He would effectually move our will, heart and affections by faith which worketh by love, so that we would make application of the remedy for ourselves. “So that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

2. Comfort from God

The second petition is that God would not only remove the evidences of His displeasure against His people, but that He would also now at length show Himself to be reconciled by changing His dealings with them in a course of comfort. “Return (O Lord), how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants” (verse 13).

Although the Lord does not go away from His people (He always remains with the in one or another gracious working) yet in terms of His comforting presence He may turn away until His people request Him to return.

When the Lord does withdraw His comforting presence from His people, however short a time it may be, it sems a long time to us in this short life. “Return, O Lord, how long?”

Although the Lord does not change His affections or repent like a man, yet He can change His dealings, like a father who commiserates his child’s affliction, and tries to cherish and comfort him after disciplining him.

“Let it repent thee concerning thy servants.” Although we are very slight servants, and sorely smitten for our disobedience, yet we should not cast away our calling, nor act as if our relationship with God has been dissolved. Instead we should cling to Him in any way we can. Here they still call themselves His servants.

3. Spiritual refreshment

The third petition is for some spiritual comfort and refreshment to their souls, which would keep them in good heart and in hope of eternal salvation. “O satisfy us early with thy mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad in our days” (verse 14).

When a soul is conscious of God’s wrath, he or she has as great a hunger for spiritual comfort as a famished man has for food. “O satisfy us!” The renewed confirmation of God’s mercy, pardoning sin and giving us a clear sight of our reconciliation, is able to comfort us in our greatest sorrow. “O satisfy us with thy mercy!”

As physical hunger cannot tolerate delay, so neither can a sense of God’s wrath, or the desire for favourable acceptance long endure the absence of consolation. After a night of trouble they earnestly expect a morning of comfort. “Satisfy us early!”

A poor hungry soul, lying under a sense of wrath, knows it will be happy for ever if only it can find again what it felt before – one sweet fill of God’s mercy made known to it. “Then we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

However great our trouble, and however long it lasts, the renewed sense of God’s reconciliation to us seasons and sweetens all our trouble, recompenses all our losses, and makes our situation in this short and miserable life very comfortable. “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil” (verse 15).

4. God’s work to grow

The fourth petition is that God would continue the work of building and enlarging His own church, and of glorifying Himself in their sight, and in the sight of their posterity from generation to generation. “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children” (verse 16).

The building, purging, enlarging and propagating of the church, and the manifesting of God’s care for it, is the Lord’s own proper work. He will not give it up. Although He may hide His activity for a time, yet He is still at work, and His people should pray for and may expect the manifestation of it.

As it is the glory of the Lord to manifest His grace and mercy to His people, or the visible church, so correspondingly it is the desire of the Lord’s people to have Him glorified, no less than to have themselves preserved or comforted.

The church in every age should have a care that their posterity would participate in the same merciful work of God which they have themselves experienced, and that their children would profit by how their predecessors were corrected.

5. The beauty of the Lord

The fifth petition is that God would beautify His people. He beautifies them with His holy ordinances, with order and unity and peace, with a holy lifestyle, and with the evidences that He is dwelling among them as His own covenanted people, proper subjects of His kingdom, and those who belong to His own family.

God is the glory of His people – their beauty and ornamentation is in Him. This is how they are made honourable in the sight of all nations, as the bride is made beautiful by her clothing and ornaments. This is how His people should think of Him, and value Him, and love Him. They should remember Him and seek their beauty in Him.

The time when the beauty of the Lord is on His people, and seen to be on them, is when they are behaving like His covenanted people – when they are walking in faith and obedience before Him, and is showing Himself to be their covenanted God, protecting and blessing them.

6. A blessing on what we do for God

The sixth petition is that God would bless the endeavours of His people for promoting God’s work among them, and for transmitting His ordinances and truth to their posterity. “Establish thou the work of our hands” (verse 17).

If we pray for the Lord’s work to progress in His church, we must resolve not to be idle, but to commit ourselves to endeavour, in our places and callings, according to our ability, to promote His work, just as His servants and instruments should be doing.

When we do go about building the Lord’s church and promoting Christianity, we must acknowledge that the success of our labours depends only on God, who must be entreated for the blessing.

Our work is so mixed and defiled with imperfections and sins that God would only be just if He withdrew Himself from it. We must therefore all the more earnestly deal with Him to keep His own hand on His work, and keep our hands in it.


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Four comforts as time passes

Four comforts as time passes

Four comforts as time passes
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.

As humans we are constrained by time. The passing of one year to the next is something entirely out of our control – all we can do is mark dates and recognise milestones. The only constant from one generation to the next is God. He is outside of time, because time is something that He created. The amazing thing is that as He stands outside of time and remains entirely unaffected by the passing of moments and millennia, He has chosen to make Himself a safe haven for sinful creatures vulnerable to change and decay. This thought was a tremendous comfort to Moses, the man of God, in his prayer to God in Psalm 90. David Dickson in this updated extract identifies the four sources of comfort that Moses draws from God’s unchangingness and unchangeableness for sinners who are reconciled to Him, especially when they may be wrestling with the swift passage of time and difficulties and sorrows in life.

It is sin that has procured the shortness and the miseries of this life, as Moses lamentably sets out before the Lord, who is full of pity. But his prayer opens with a fourfold comfort for the church against temporal troubles and this world’s miseries.

1. The Lord’s kindness to His people in all ages

The first comfort is drawn from the Lord’s kindness to His people in all ages. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1)

When we pray therefore, we must lay hold on the offer of God’s kindness according to the covenant of grace, and look on God as gracious to us in Christ. Moses here, and others elsewhere, when they come as supplicants in prayer they begin with renewed acts and expressions of faith.

God’s people in any given place and age are one body with God’s people in all ages preceding and following. They may lay claim to all the privileges of God’s people before them. Here the church in Moses’ time joins itself with all the Lord’s people in former times, for the use of succeeding ages which were yet to come. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.”

The Lord’s people are strangers in the earth, partly because they have no certain residence in this world, and partly because they have such a poor reception among the people of the world, but especially because at heart, in their affections, they are pilgrims in this world. However, this does not mean they lack a resting place. They have a dwelling in heaven, that is, God Himself, in whom they dwell by faith. They find in Him rest, and food, and protection, and comfort. In fact, in His heart they have had a lodging “in all generations.”

The troubles and miseries of this life make the godly to search out what participation they have in God, and another life. What pinches them on earth makes them seek their abundance in heaven.

2. The decree of the eternal covenant

The second comfort of the believer against the miseries of this short life is taken by Moses from the decree of their election and the eternal covenant of their redemption, settled in the purpose and counsel of the blessed Trinity for their advantage. In this covenant it was agreed before the world existed that the Word to be incarnate would be the Saviour of the elect. Moses says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (verse 2).

Here the asserting of the eternity of God is with reference to His own chosen people. To say, “Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations, and Thou art God from everlasting to everlasting,” is effectively to say, “Thou art from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God in purpose and affection toward us Thy people, and so Thou art our God from everlasting in regard of Thy eternal purpose of love electing us, and in regard of appointing redemption for us by the Redeemer.”

When we discern God’s goodwill to us in time, we may arise to God’s goodwill to us before time. From the grace showed to us in time, we may conclude that grace and goodwill were purposed toward us and ordained for us before time. This is what the psalmist is teaching us. When he has said, “From generation to generation, thou hast been our dwelling place,” that is, “in all time past Thou hast been our God,” he subjoins, “Before the mountains were brought forth … Thou art God,” that is, “the same God unchangeably in Thy purpose and love toward us before time, from everlasting.”

Also, from special love shown to us in time, we may conclude not only that His love has been toward us not only before time from everlasting, but also that it shall continue towards us in time to come for ever. “Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” he says, that is, “the same strong God, immutable in Thy purpose and love toward us first and last.” Indeed faith cannot fix itself till by the warrant of God’s Word and feeling of His gracious working in us in time, it joins God’s work of grace and His purpose of grace together.

This is why the apostle Paul leads the believer in Christ to election in Christ before the world was, and to predestination to adoption by Jesus Christ according to His good pleasure before the world was (Ephesians 1:1, 3, 4, 5). Similarly in 2 Timothy he leads us to a completed covenant before the world was made, between God the Father and God the Son, according to which all conditions required of the Redeemer are settled, and all the elect, all the redeemed, are delivered over to the Son, the Word to be incarnate, the intended Redeemer, and all saving grace is given over into Christ’s hand, for the sake of the elect, to be let out to them in due time: “Grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

The nature of God which is to be one and the same, unchangeable from everlasting to everlasting, is the solid ground for faith to reason things out in this manner.

The knowledge of God’s eternal goodwill to us is a sufficient cordial to soften and sweeten all our grief and affliction in this life. The very reason why this doctrine is prefixed to what follows in the psalm about temporal miseries, is to comfort the Lord’s people against all the troubles of this life.

3. The resurrection of the dead

A third comfort Moses mentions is from the resurrection of the dead. “Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men” (verse 3).

Although God puts into effect the decree which has appointed all men once to die, yet He has also appointed a resurrection, by which He will powerfully recall and make to return from death all Adam’s posterity. “Thou turnest man to destruction,” and so all must die, “and sayest, Return, ye children of men,” and so all must rise again.

It costs the Lord but a word to make the dead rise again, or to make those that are destroyed to return again. “Thou sayest.” His word has already gone out about the resurrection, and it is altogether operative. It will prove fully effectual at length.

4. The shortness of time until the resurrection

The fourth comfort is drawn from the shortness of the time between anyone’s death and their return from the dead in the resurrection. Perhaps someone might object that it is a long time since the resurrection was promise, till the time that it will be really accomplished.

But although it may seem a long time between a person’s death and their resurrection, yet before God it is only a short time. For that matter it is nothing in comparison with eternity. “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (verse 4).

Unless we reckon time as God reckons it, we cannot but be weary and think it long, and wonder at the delay in the performing of His promises, and so fall into temptation and unbelief.



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How to achieve authenticity

How to achieve authenticity

How to achieve authenticity
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.

Authenticity is highly prized in our culture, both in society and in the church. Nobody wants to be fake, everyone wants to be true to themselves. The difficulty is discerning what our true inner selves are really like. We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but lurking inside the deepest core of our being is something unpleasant. We don’t want that to be expressed to the world. More than being true to our real selves as sinners, what we need is truth in our inner selves. Certainly what God desires is for us to have truth in the inward parts, in our innermost being. God Himself is true through and through. Correspondingly, the Bible, His Word is true and reliable, and He transforms His people so that they have real integrity in their deepest places of their hearts. In this updated extract, David Dickson shows that when our hearts are open to being searched and shaped by God’s Word, we become more and more true to Him. Then our renewed selves become really worth expressing honestly and consistently to others.

The hidden intentions of our hearts matter

The writer of Hebrews has just reminded his readers of the warning that was given to the people of Israel, that unbelief would prevent them from obtaining the blessed rest that God promises His people. Now, lest any should shrug off this warning, as something that expired with those to whom it was first spoken (or else cloak their sins and their intention to defect from the faith when the time seems right), he lets them know the power of the Word, and the power of God who they are dealing with. “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

We must therefore carefully study the use, extent and nature of God’s Word, lest through misunderstanding it or being ignorant of it, we might misapply or misinterpret it.

God’s living Word strikes a chord deep in our hearts 

The first attribute of the Word is that it is “quick,” or living, alive. It does not die when those to whom it was first directed die, but it endures, speaking on with the same authority, to all who hear it, in all times after. The Word is not a dead letter, which expired in previous ages. It is the same to us as it was before to others – fit for working, and working the work for which it is sent, whether for convincing or converting the hearer, always.

God’s powerful Word makes changes deep in our hearts 

Again, the Word is “powerful.” It is not only fit to work, but active and operative in effect. It actually binds the conscience to obedience, or judgement, whatever opposition the sinner may make. If the hearer believes it, it sets working immediately to clear his mind, rectify his will, reform his life, and to bring about his good and safety. If a hearer does not believe it, again it sets to work, there and then binding him guilty to judgement, and augmenting his natural blindness, and his heart’s hardness, bringing on some degree of the deserved punishment on him (although of course it does not do this of its own nature, but rather by the disposition of the object on which it is working). So, the Word does not lack its own effect, whenever it is preached. Always it either helps or harms the hearer, according as the hearer yields to it or rejects or neglects it. We therefore do well to observe what sort of work it does on us personally (seeing it must have some effect), so that we may be framed to the better by it.

God’s Word reaches the deepest core of our being

Another property of the Word is that “it is sharper than any two-edged sword.” It pierces speedily through a brow of brass, and a dissembling countenance, and a lying mouth. It thrusts itself, without any resistance, into the conscience of the most obstinate, with a secret blow, and makes that obstinate one guilty in his own heart.

Preachers should therefore not think their labour is lost, when they are engaging with obstinate sinners. The stroke is given at the hearing of the Word, and it will be found uncured after. On the other hand, dissemblers should not please themselves with good appearances, as if the Word did not touch them. Rather, they should give glory to God, at the time when they are pricked at the heart. For if they carry on ignoring the wound they have received from this sword, the wound shall prove deadly.

The Word also “pierces even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit.” The most secret devices and plots of the mind or spirit, and the most hidden affections of the heart or soul towards any forbidden evil, this Word will find out. It can even divide asunder the soul and the spirit, the heart and the mind, and tell the man how his soul or heart cleaves to that sin, and how his mind plots pretences to hide the evil of it from himself and from others, even in those sins which have not broken out, but lie concealed in the mind, like the marrow in the bones. And it can put a difference betwixt the purposes of the heart and the thoughts, how to contrive the scheme, and how to disguise the behaviour. Or those ways how the sinner beguiles himself, and seeks to conceal things from the eyes of others, the Word deciphers, and distinguishes all the things which self-deceiving sophistry wants to keep tangled up.

Clearly then, secret purposes fall under the jurisdiction of the Word, as well as practices performed. And pretences and excuses will not put off the challenge of the Word. Nothing remains then except for us to give ourselves up to the governance of the Word, fleeing from what it forbids, and following what it commands.

God Himself sees who we really are

Finally, to confirm the power of the Word, the writer brings in the nature of God whose Word it is. He sets up the sinner’s secret thoughts in the sight of the all-seeing God, with whom the sinner has to do. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

God is the one with whom the hearer of the Word has to do, the one with whom he has his reckoning to make – not the preacher. God himself joins with His Word, and gives it that searching, and discovering and piercing power.

God’s omniscience, and all-seeing sight, should make us look to our inward disposition. This is how this, and other similar exhortations and warnings, shall have better effect and fruit in us.



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Why reading the Bible leads to conversion

Why reading the Bible leads to conversion

Why reading the Bible leads to conversion
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.

In the right hands, the Bible is a powerful tool for bringing sinners to salvation. When the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive the truth, reading the Bible leads to conversion. A recent UK study which investigated the key influences that led to people coming to faith in Jesus has found that one of the biggest influences, second only to growing up in a Christian family, was reading the Bible. In fact, for younger people (aged 18-24) Bible reading is the single biggest influence in bringing people to follow Jesus. As the authors of the study comment, this should encourage us to keep making the Bible as available and accessible as we can. The Bible is designed and provided by God to teach us the truths about Jesus that we need to know for salvation, and the Spirit makes the preaching and even the reading of the Word effectual in conversion. In the following updated extract, David Dickson reflects further on the beautiful characteristics of God’s Word. These are set out in Psalm 19, which opens by showing how God’s works of creation and providence give us true and important but limited information about God’s greatness. The Psalm dwells on the characteristics of God’s special revelation, the Bible, which make it necessary and sufficient for conversion.

Psalm 19 is a sweet contemplation of the glory of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness shining in the works of creation (v. 1-6), and of the glory of His holiness and rich grace shining through his Word and ordinances in His church (v. 7-10).

God’s glory is displayed in creation and providence

Although the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord, yet any portion of it will absorb your meditation when you begin to think of it. Here, the psalmist focuses his meditations on the heavens, and the alternation between day and night, and the light of the sun. The invisible things of God, even His eternal power and Godhead, and His glorious attributes of wisdom, goodness, and majesty, are to be seen in the works of creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work” (v1).

Yet, although His glory is shown to all, yet it is only the child of God, who has been illuminated by God, who can observe it. In substance the heavens declare that they are not their own maker, but that they are made by one, infinite, incomprehensible, omnipotent, everlasting, good, kind and glorious God. And the “firmament” (which I take is the region of the air, and the place of the stars) declares how skillfully and intricately God can adorn the work of His hands, and how powerfully He can put abundant glory on the creature, even though it has nothing in itself to make it glorious.

The message of creation and providence is plain

Next, the psalmist listens and hears what day and night speak. All that they say, he calls “knowledge” (v2). The day tells us that we live in time, that our days are numbered, that our days go away quickly, that time is precious, and cannot return when it is gone, and that as long as it lasts, it allows us to view the works of the Lord as we go about our own necessary labours. The night says that in ourselves we are weak, and cannot endure long toiling in labour; that as some little short rest is necessary to the labourer, so it is prepared for him, that he may lie under a curtain, and sleep a while, and so be fitted for more work; that he may now quietly review what he has been doing, and may commune with his heart and be still; and that if he does not do what he has to do in time, “the night cometh when no man can work.”

There is no people nor country, but the speech of these created things speaks convincingly enough to them to make them inexcusable. Even if not everyone learns wisdom by them, yet the “voice” of the works of creation and providence is heard everywhere in some measure: their line and direction has gone out “through all the earth” (verse 3-4).

For salvation we need the Bible

The next part of the psalmist’s contemplation is concerning the glory of the Lord declared in His Word and Scripture. This light is more necessary for our blessedness than the sun’s light is for our bodies. So the psalmist extols this point of God’s glory (far above what shines in the work of creation) from the perfection, efficacy, infallibility, and various other properties of it.

The Bible tells us all we need for salvation

The doctrine of life and salvation is set down to us in God’s Word, as a “law” to us, and a rule of faith and obedience. It does not need to be decked with human traditions; it is sufficient in itself, and lacks nothing necessary to salvation. “The law of the Lord is perfect.”

No doctrine, no word, other than this divine truth set down in Scripture, is able to reveal either man’s sin and misery, or the remedy and relief from it. No doctrine other than this alone can effectually humble a soul, and convert it to God, or make a soul aware of what loss it sustains by sin, and restore it to a better condition than was lost by sin. It is the property of God’s law to “convert souls” (v7).

The Bible is reliable

Anyone who hearkens to this Word can be satisfied about what is the Lord’s mind and will in all matters of religion, i.e., everything to do with God’s service and our salvation. It is after all “the testimony of the Lord” (v7), where He sets out His will about what He approves and what He disallows. We understand it rightly when it is compared with itself, one part with another, and using other means that God has appointed. Then we may rely safely on it and it will not disappoint us. “The testimony of the Lord is sure” (v7).

The Bible is accessible

Although there are many deep mysteries in God’s Word, which may stretch the greatest intellects, yet for the points necessary for the salvation of every soul, it is so plain and clear that it may be understood by persons of very ordinary intellectual abilities, and it may make those who are otherwise dull of understanding to be “wise to salvation,” for it is a testimony that “makes wise the simple” (v7).

The Bible gives us reasons to rejoice

Nothing is commanded by God in His Word apart from what the illuminated soul must subscribe to, as equitable in itself, and profitable to us. “For the statutes of the Lord are right” (v8). Equally, consenting to and following the Lord’s directions given to us in His Word is a sure means of getting comfort and joy in our conscience, “for the statutes of the Lord rejoice the heart” (v8).

The Bible illuminates us

“The commandment of the Lord is pure,” (v8), meaning that there is no mixture of error, no dross nor refuse, no deceit in the Lord’s word.

Also it enlightens or “illuminates the eyes” (v8). By the Word of God we may clearly see ourselves blind and naked, and wretched and miserable, and also by the Word, by coming into the grace and mercy offered in Christ, we may see ourselves entered on the only safe way of salvation. By the Word of God we may see every thing in its own true colours, seeing virtue to be virtue, and vice to be vice and vanity.

The Bible deserves our obedience

The way of worshipping, fearing, and serving God, set down in His Word, is holy, and in substance the same in all generations, and always unalterable by man for ever (v9).

The doctrines set down in the Word of God are all decrees of the almighty law-giver, issued from His own court with authority uncontrollable. All of them are true and worthy to be obeyed, for “the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” (v9).

The Bible is infinitely enriching

The Word of God is able to enrich you more than all the riches in the world, because it is able to bring you to an everlasting kingdom. God’s judgments, being able to determine all necessary truths and controversies about saving truth, are “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (v10). There is more sweet comfort and true pleasure to be found in the Lord’s Word than in any pleasant thing in this world. They are “sweeter than the honey and the honeycomb” (v10).

The Bible is endlessly rewarding

David adds this commendation of God’s Word from his own experience, “Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (v11).

As the Word of God is able to make you wise to salvation, so it is also able to make you wise in the way you live, not only to avoid sin, but also inconveniences as well. It warns you away from the snares you might fall into through imprudence.

When we have said all we can to commend the Word of God, we are unable to say it all. We have to conclude with some generality, because the benefits that come from observing the Lord’s statutes and commands surpass our reach. David can only conclude, “In keeping of them there is great reward” (v11).



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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.

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