14 Rules for the Christian Life

14 Rules for the Christian Life

14 Rules for the Christian Life
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
14 Aug, 2020

Life needs order rather than chaos; this is what attracted the millions who embraced Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. The rules Peterson presents do not, of course, arise from Scripture, grace in Christ and love to God. But their popularity revealed a widespread acknowledgement that life needs direction and structure; even a degree of self-denial. We have a degree of natural resistance against the idea of rules, even though we need them for order and safety. Perhaps it seems strange, therefore to speak of rules concerning the Christian life. Yet this is what the apostle Paul does (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). They do not earn salvation but rather help us make spiritual progress. Scripture gives key principles and guidelines for healthy Christian living and progress and we need to give careful consideration to them.

James Fraser of Brea drew together some practical guidelines from Scripture for making progress in the Christian life. In no way are they meant as rules for earning salvation. Neither do they direct us to depend on our own resources and efforts. Fraser exalted Christ in his preaching as the only One who can save, keep and give spiritual strength to the soul. He had come in his own experience “to live in and to depend wholly on Christ for strength, justification, and comfort”.

But he discerned also that we need to walk wisely in the most God-glorifying way possible. He, therefore, gives the following rules to help us make progress in the Christian life. The Lord’s people walk by rules (he says); their life is fittingly compared to a race (Hebrews 12:1). I have therefore thought on some general rules to be observed as the foundation of all true religion.

1. Always Remember Your Highest Happiness

Strive to know and find out in what a person’s chief happiness consists and have an objective to follow. Until a person pursues the right purpose, they can never have the right activity and progress. Fix your heart in believing this: the enjoyment of God in Christ is your happiness. Make your heart to embrace and accept this. Sadly, most of us walk randomly, like beasts, without a purpose. This is the foundation of everything, that it is eternal life to know God and Jesus whom He has sent (John 17:3).

2. Always Have a Firm Resolution

It will contribute greatly to our progress in the way to be armed with a strong and deliberate resolution to walk in God’s ways (Psalm 119:106). It will determine our course. Consider and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of religion, and then thoroughly determine and bind yourself with the strongest engagements. Be affirmative, not indecisive.

3. Always Have the Right View of God

Strive to have and keep right, sound, orthodox, and charitable thoughts of God. Fix a lovely impression of God in your heart, such as Exodus 34:6-7. Fix your faith in God’s attributes—study this most as it is eternal life to know God (John 17:3). How will we call on God whom we have not known (Romans 10:14)? Any worship that is not directed to the true God is superstitious and unprofitable.

4. Always Seek to Do Your Duty

Always be in your duty. Runners must keep in the way. Never be idle. As there is an end, so there is a way. Never stop and stand still (Job 17:9). Lay this foundation, always be in duty; never leave it, whatever it is. You are to be always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). We lose much by idleness. We are engaged in so great a work that we must not allow ourselves to grow cold in it. Our interruptions do us much harm. Little by little at last becomes a lot and makes good progress.

5. Always Be Guided by Scripture

Walk by faith and not by your own impressions. Make the Scriptures your rule: think, love, judge, and do according to this. Examine all things. Just as a person has an end and a way in travelling so they have a rule to direct them. This is the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 5:7; Deuteronomy 4:1-2 and 6:1-2). Reject all other guides but this.

6. Always Trust God

Always believe and never despair. Keep your heart up. Whatever comes do not lose your confidence. Never sink by discouragement, hope always steadfastly to the end. “Trust in Him at all times” (Psalm 62:8).  Hold fast your confidence steadfast to the end (Hebrews 3:6). There is never any grounds for despair—the grounds for faith always remains. Therefore, never lose your hope (Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 26:4).

7. Always Live Near the Lord

Always live near the Lord. This is expressed in Scripture by walking with God and setting Him always at our right hand. Let your heart, thoughts, and affections always retain some impressions of His presence; fear always. Keep yourselves in the love of God. If you have departed from Him, return again; if you have returned, keep with Him. Everything good is with God, and everything not good comes from His absence and distance. “Woe also to them when I depart from them!” (Hosea 9:12). By all means, do not lose your guide; He is “all things,” life, light, strength, and health. You cannot be without this, wait on Him continually (Hosea 12:6; Psalm 16:8; Genesis 17:1) You can do nothing without Him (John 15:4-6). It is good for you to draw near to God (Psalm 73:28). 

8. Always Submit to God in Humility

Always be humble; never murmur. Always be abased in your own eyes. Always justify the Lord. Submit to all of His dealings in Providence. Never let your spirit be embittered or angered. Walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). 

9. Always Be Self-Controlled

Keep your spirit sober and in health. If you are sick and diseased you cannot travel. Do not be drunk with the “cares of this world,” (Luke 12:45). Do not be lifted up with pride or passion. Those whose spirit is lifted up within them are not right. Keep your spirit in an equal balance; “be sober” (1 Peter 5:8). Do not allow your passions to run to excess. Be sober in weeping, rejoicing, speaking, doing, fearing (Philippians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 7:30). Always be unshaken in having mastery over yourself.

10. Always Beware of Excess

Strive to avoid excess in food, drink, sleep, and recreation. Shun excess because it leaves us spiritually indisposed. The classical philosophers called being moderate the groundwork and foundation of all virtue (2 Peter 1:5-6; Proverbs 23:20). Runners must observe a careful diet and be restrained (1 Corinthians 9:25). Carousing is forbidden (Luke 21:34).

11. Always Beware of Worldly-Mindedness

Beware of worldly-mindedness and being too much engaged in the world (2 Timothy 2:4). Have as little commotion in the world as you can. Do not take charge of any more than you can master. If trapped, flee as a bird out of the snare and put your house in order. You must especially put the world out of your heart.  No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

12. Always Be Watchful

Be watchful. Beware of a spirit of slumber,  always stand on guard. “Watch in all things,” as the apostle commanded Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5).  Always be suspicious of danger (Proverbs 28:14). Never become secure or careless. Remember your adversary is still busy and his snares are continually set. “Be vigilant” therefore (1 Peter 5:8). Always keep your eyes open. Look at and ponder everything. Do not be rash or hasty.

13. Always Use the Means of Grace Diligently

Be diligent in the means of grace, both in public and private; e.g. in listening to sermons, meditation, Christian conversation, spontaneous prayer, reading.  You must especially be diligent in private prayer, a person cannot be a Christian without this. You cannot work or labour unless you eat (Proverbs 10:4).

14. Always View Sin as the Greatest Evil

Look on sin as the greatest evil, and as something that is never to be done. Whatever you do, shun sin and shun temptations to evil, as well as evil itself.

Conclusion

These guidelines are succinct and contain much wisdom and reflection on Scripture and Christian experience. They show an understanding of key helps and hindrances in making spiritual progress. We will do well to keep them uppermost in our thinking as we seek to live out the gospel and devotion to Christ. 

 

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Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?

Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?

Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
13 Jul, 2018

We can have the right doctrine of holiness; one that takes it as seriously as Scripture does. But in relation to its practical outworking and in our assumptions concerning it, we may have got it wrong. No doubt there could be many ways in which we could do this. We may fall into the error that we can contribute something, that there is a place for our personal merit. Or perhaps we subtly divorce holiness from happiness and find ourselves in a constant conflict between the two. This is a serious mistake because holiness is the only way to true happiness. If we secretly equate happiness with sinful pleasure or our own will rather than God’s, we have gone badly wrong.  We can only look at a few ways in which we may be inclined to get holiness wrong.

James Fraser of Brea takes an honest look at himself, searching into his motives and attitudes. The discovery is startling, while he values holiness he has certain attitudes that are hindering his progress. The evil one is insinuating false notions that confuse and divert. The following are only a few of the many things that Fraser identifies. Of course free unmerited grace must always be in view.

 

1. Thinking Repentance is Only Inward

In thinking that the essence of true repentance consists in contrition for sin more than in turning in heart and practice from it. When I have not found myself in a mourning, sorrowful spirit but limited in my affections, I have not turned from sin. I was still taken up with trying to sorrow for it, thinking there was no true repentance without this. When I have mourned I depended on this, thinking it was sufficient. But repentance mostly consists in turning to God, mourning is only the manner of this act of turning (Joel 2:12; Isaiah 58:6; Proverbs 21:3).

I have neglected the outward practice of repentance under the pretence that the Lord requires the heart. But we should serve the Lord both in body and in spirit. It is true, we should not rest in the outward, or mainly look to that but should look to the heart mostly; yet the outward act should not be neglected.

 

2. Wallowing in Self Pity

After falls and slips, Satan has sought to keep me astonished and confused by what I have done. In this way I was kept from getting up to my feet and going forward. Those who fall when they are running in a race lose much time and are far behind while they think about what to do. The best way is to get up, consider our ways, mourn, seek pardon, and then go to work. This is how it was with Joshua, God told him to get up and do his work rather than lie on his face (Joshua 7:10). When David sinned, he immediately goes to repentance: “I have sinned, yet now, Lord, forgive.”

 

3. Emphasising Holiness But Not Practising it

It is wrong to neglect to obedience in dependence on grace by resting in a resolve to do and it and mere thoughts of how good it is. Either I thought this was enough or else through complacency have not expected difficulty in practice. Yet those who know, approve and teach God’s requirements to other while neglecting it themselves, “say and do not” (Romans 2:13-14, 18; Matthew 7:21; Jeremiah 2:19- 20). Thus my thoughts delighting in obedience have not been so much to practise as to delight the understanding in dwelling on such subjects.

 

4. Rebranding Sin

Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, by gilding vices with the lustre and appearance of virtue, under spiritual pretences. I have been tempted to carelessness and excess under the pretence of avoiding unthankfulness and not using Christian liberty. I have neglected to have the heart rightly affected with the evil of sin, because repentance consists more in turning from sin than in sorrow for it. I have avoided prayer when not in the right spirit in case I make the easy yoke of Christ a grievous burden. Sin has prevailed in these ways and when it has overcome it appeared in its own clothing. The grace of God may be turned into lasciviousness (2 Corinthians 11:14; Romans 6:1). We have been “called to liberty” but we are not to use this to give opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13).

 

5. A Legalistic Spirit

There is nothing does me more damage than a legalistic spirit or spirit of bondage. Satan presses duties in a violent way, presenting God as a hard master and an austere judge. He presents God as one that commands and requires duties in the way that tyrannical rulers make laws to entrap the subjects. He makes it seem as though God is urging hard duties and putting new wine into old bottles with the greatest threats and no promise of help. I am urged to obey hastily without being given time to breathe and extreme perfection is required or else it will not be accepted at all.  Finding the Lord’s yoke so hard, I have either cast it off or sometimes engaged in it disheartened. Nothing has influenced me worse than this. Talents have been slighted because God was viewed as a hard master. The Lord has not been served because our yoke is not made light. There is aversion and lack of love to God due to sinful fear (1 John 4:18).

 

6. Trying to Establish Our Own Righteousness

Satan and my own heart have held me fast for a long time in the snare of seeking to establish my own righteousness. When my heart has been in a good condition, with a felt sense of what I lack and desiring to obey it has resolved to use specific means to obtain this. I have found Satan deceiving me in this by making me love these duties, means, graces and obtaining them because it is the produce of my own desire and resolve. Thus, they have been my own (as it were) and my choice. I have despised other means because they were not my own choice. I have therefore been grieved when favour come in a different way and valued such mercy less. When I have fallen into sins I resolve to avoid I have grieved more because my resolutions have been broken and my will thwarted than because God has been wronged or my soul endangered. Thus God has been provoked to break down these resolutions and cast down the tower that reached to heaven (Proverbs 19:3; Romans 10:3; Mark 14:37; Isaiah 10:7; Psalm 58:3).

 

7. Thinking Holiness is All About Hardship

When difficult duties have been urged such as mourning, fasting, diligence etc. I have been brought to think that the purpose of the command was mostly to bring hardship on myself. I obeyed more often for this reason than to obey God’s command. It was like pagans who cut themselves or Roman Catholics who whip themselves and it did me harm. It engendered hard thoughts of God and made me do duties in a spiritless way and without spiritual benefit because I only sought hardship for myself.

 

8. Not Avoiding “Little Sins”

I have not avoided “little” evils, fearing that this would be like tithing “anise and cumin” (Matthew 23:23).

 

9. Focussing On Outward Sins Rather than Inward Corruption

In striving against the outward acts of sin I have not been considering the inward corruption of the heart. I have been “making clean the outside” but neglecting to cleanse it within; cutting the branches, and sparing the root (Matthew 23:25-26). I have not profited in holiness because the fountain has not been cleansed.

 

10. Depending on Our Own Strength

Going on in duties in my own strength without looking for divine assistance, has done me great harm. When I have gone on in confidence of my own strength the Lord has chastened me for my presumption, as it was with Peter. When duties have been difficult I have become discouraged because I was relying on and looking to my own strength.

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12 Ways to Tame the Tongue

12 Ways to Tame the Tongue

12 Ways to Tame the Tongue
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
1 Feb, 2018

The headlines are ever full of the consequences of reckless words. Someone has said, texted or tweeted something that now comes back to bite them. Politicians are forced to eat their words with profuse apologies. Others are shamed for past opinions. The tongue is certainly the most dangerous part of our body. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Words can make or break lives, relationships and churches. The line  between information, gossip and slander is easily crossed. No-one can tame the tongue–except God, by His grace.  

James Fraser of Brea has some concise, helpful rules for seeking to tame the tongue by God’s grace. He says, I have found by Scripture and experience how much it concerns us to watch our tongues. It is the thing by which we may do most bad or good to others. It influences the whole body. Religion is most evident in bridling our tongue (James 1:26). These are some rules I have set myself in the use of speech and words.

 

1. Speak No Sin

Speak nothing sinful. For example avoid lying, swearing, cursing, scolding and backbiting. Avoid saying anything that may dishonour God or wrong your neighbour (Psalm 34:13).

 

2. Speak to Edify

Do not speak idle words that do not profit or edify. These includes frothy words, foolish talking and jesting. Rather let your words be seasoned with grace, as with salt (Ephesians 5:4; Matthew 12:36).

 

3. Speak Sparingly

Do not speak much; be sparing in discourse. Be “slow to speak” (James 1:19).  There is sin “in the multitude of words” (Proverbs 10:19).

 

4. Speak with Restraint

Speak soberly both in what you say and how you say it. It is said about the prostitute that “she is loud and clamorous” (Proverbs 7:11).  Some are said to “speak great swelling words” (Jude 16). This is contrary to Christ whose voice was not heard “in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). A meek, quiet spirit is calm in words. Speaking in a loud, violent, earnest way is evidence of a proud, disordered and unmortified heart.

 

5. Speak Without Haste

Do not speak rashly or hastily. Do not be impetuous in speaking. Take due consideration before you speak. Do not come out with everything you think of. The heart of the righteous thinks carefully before answering (Proverbs 15:28).

 

6. Speak Reverently

Speak with weighty seriousness, reverently and gravely especially in religious conversation. Christ spoke “as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). What we say and how we say it, should reveal that we “have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Do not be superficial or careless.

 

7. Speak in Faith

“I believed, and therefore have I spoken” (2 Corinthians 4:13; Psalm 116:10). It is wrong to speak of things which we neither know nor believe. Uncertainties are not fit material to speak about: we should declare “that which we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3).

 

8. Speak Prayerfully

In speaking, it would be good to be looking up in prayer to God in heart saying “O Lord, pardon” as though we had spoken amiss. When you are called to speak pray, “O Lord, open my mouth, and help me to know what to say and give a word in season”. Seek a blessing, “Lord, bless what I am to say to my neighbour”. This is what Nehemiah did (Nehemiah 2:4).

 

9. Speaking Wisely

Speak wisely and in a way pertinent to the time, people and intended purpose. This is called “speaking words in season.” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16).

 

10. Speak in Fear

It would be good to always have a bridle in the mouth so that no word could get out without permission (Psalm 39:1). It was bad to say “Our lips are our own, who is Lord over us?” (Psalm 12:4). As there is eating without fear, so there is speaking without fear.

 

11. Speak with Kindness

Do not let your neighbour’s faults be the subject of your talk, even though it may be true. We are not to backbite with our tongue (Psalm 15:3). Show your neighbour himself his faults, not others.

 

12. Speak Without Self-Praise

Do not speak of yourself or your own worth. Let someone else do it, not your own mouth, either directly or indirectly (Proverbs 27:2).  Let your actions (rather than your lips) praise you. A proud heart hunts for the esteem of others by speaking about its own actions.

(I have added these last two, because professing Christians usually go wrong in these).

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14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances

14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances

14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
6 Oct, 2017

We need to lay aside every weight that hinders us in running the spiritual race. Previously, we considered what things help our spiritual progress. It is just as important to identify what holds us back, otherwise we will not make best use of the helps.

These are personal observations from James Fraser of Brea and reflect his own experience. It is helpful to learn from those that have been many years in the Christian life making particular effort in exercising themselves to godliness. Perhaps some of Fraser’s observations are surprising or disturbing to us – they will certainly make us think. We need to engage in our own self-examination to consider our own ways.

 

1. A legalistic spirit

Satan sometimes urges me violently and boastingly to engage in duties in my own strength, overdriving me with thunder and lightening and laying more upon me than I am able to bear. This is like putting new wine in old bottles, seeking such and such duties, and so much, exacting them by weight and measure. It weakens my hands, irritates me and makes me do nothing, seeing I cannot get what is urged done. It makes me act slavishly (Genesis 33:13; Romans 7:11; Hebrews 10:12-13; Luke 19:21).

 

2. Unspiritual company

The company of carnal, unregenerate people, and graceless, nominal professing Christians has been a hindrance. This has been especially the case if I have been familiar with them, living close to them, or have not challenged or instructed them. When near, they have dispersed their poison and infection and turned my heart carnal. It is like some diseases that are not contracted unless you come near those that have them (1 Corinthians 15:33).

 

3. Godly company with no spiritual benefit

When it has not been used to best spiritual advantage, I have even found godly company damaging, drawing away my heart from God and rendering it carnal. If we have not sought the Lord  through mutual prayer and have had no spiritual conversation or I have stayed too long with them. Hardening takes place when we are not exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13).

 

4. Careless talk

I have had my spirit turned out of frame, and quite distempered by loud, violent, hasty and much talk even in good things. I have found “the talking of the lips tend to penury” (Proverbs 14:23) and a breach made in the spirit by perverse speaking (James 3:5-6; Proverbs 17:27; Matthew 15:8).

 

5. Being out and about too much

I have found going away from home and being in public too much to be damaging. These have been like the devil’s market-days. Let me prepare, pray and watch as much as I will, this still happens. My spirit has been put out of a spiritual condition, especially if I have gone out without great necessity. Going here and there is good for neither soul nor body.

 

6. Overindulging

I have found excess in the use of food, drink, and other recreations, very prejudicial, and to be the ordinary inlet of many evils. This makes the body is not in the right condition and the spirit utterly indisposed to any good exercise (Luke 21:34; Proverbs 25:27 and 23:20-21).

 

7. Carelessness about devotions

Omitting private duties or doing them in a careless way. This includes duties such as prayer, self-examination, meditation, and reading (Matthew 26:41; Proverbs 23:21).

 

8. Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer

Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer when conversing with others; for this is the fountain of waters that drops from heaven, and makes the heart fruitful (Matthew 26:41).

 

9. Vain thoughts

Vain thoughts in the morning, when riding, and in private spiritual exercises. Even though they are not bad thoughts, I have found these to put my spirit wrong as much as anything and to make me utterly unfit for duty (Jeremiah 4:14).

 

10. Not keeping the heart

Unwatchfulness and not keeping the heart while in the world. Not being “in the fear of God all the day long,” not keeping guard, or neglecting the continual oversight of my heart, tongue, and actions, but growing careless. I have found that when my heart is unwatched it runs away and engages in sins and temptations. There are many disorders in a city while there is no government  and this is the state of my heart at such times (Matthew 26:41). This has done extreme evil; through this I lose in public what I gain in private.

 

11. Unbelieving discouragements

Unbelieving discouragements arising from feeling of what I lack, sins and trials. These have weakened my hands (1 Samuel 12:20; Lamentations 1:9; Jeremiah 2:28; Hebrews 12:12-13). It was when Peter started to be afraid that he began to sink.

 

12. Being Too Absorbed in Temporal Things

Being highly engaged in outward affairs and business and eagerly pursuing them. These have distracted me and made me utterly unable to serve God (Luke 10:4 and 21:34).

 

13. Pride

Pride and thinking much of myself, self-boasting of myself, seeking the praise of men and seeking to exalt myself by being careful in duties. Seeking to share the glory with Christ in the matter of salvation. This has made the Lord reject me many times, withdrawing me from my resolution to “hide pride”. This made the Jews not obtain righteousness, because they sought it “as it were by the works of the law” (Romans 9:31-32).

 

14. Slothfulness

Slothfulness in sleeping too long and trifling away the time (especially in company) has “clothed me with rags”.

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27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress

27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress

27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
29 Sep, 2017

No doubt none of us are where we would be or even perhaps should be spiritually. That was certainly Paul’s confession (Philippians 3:12-13). We need to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18) not just have it. But how do we go from merely desiring to make progress to actually getting moving? What can help us along the way? Sometimes it’s not always the things that we would expect. When experiences make us more humble we may go forward more discerning and less self-reliant. Maturing in patience as we grow slowly is also steady progress.

James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) endured imprisonment on the Bass Rock for “illegal” preaching. This very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. He was also imprisoned at a later period in Blackness Castle but survived the times of persecution. During many varied experiences the Lord taught him greatly.

Fraser records the things, through the Lord’s blessing, did him good spiritually. He says: “I cannot deny but the Lord has shown me kindness and done me good, and that a little one has become a great nation”. Although “I am poor and needy,” yet the Lord remembers me (Psalm 40:17). Despite the fact that “I came over this Jordan with my staff,” now I am by the Lord’s blessing, “become two bands” (Genesis 32:10). I have thought it fitting to declare the things which in my experience, through the  Lord’s blessing, I have found to be most helpful in furthering me in the ways of holiness, peace and fellowship with God. And I have found these twenty-seven things especially blessed for doing me good.

 

1. The Company of Believers

When they have been full in communicating their condition, believers have encouraged me and eased my griefs. By their godly life I have been provoked to good works. I have been kept in life, recovered out of decline, enlightened and edified by them (Ecclesiastes 4:4, 9-10, n; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Hebrews 10:24, 25). Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

 

2. Observing Providence

I have found great profit by observing the Lord’s providences and searching into God’s purpose in good or bad events. This has made me see much love in things, freed my understanding from confusion and made me know my duty (Micah 7:9; Hosea 14:9; Psalm 107:43; Jeremiah 8:7; Genesis 25:22; Exodus 3:3-4).

 

3. Meditating on God

I have found that meditating on God’s attributes has done me much good: especially His love, power, sovereignty, and holiness (Job 22:21; John 17:3). By this means I have been conformed to His image, and my love, fear, and faith have been produced and increased (Psalm 9:10; Ephesians 3:18-19).

 

4. Meditating on the Gospel

I have found great good by long and serious study of the covenant of grace. I have pondered its nature, freedom, fulness and unchangeableness and how faith secures its blessings. Meditating on the gospel, gospel promises, offers, and invitations has strengthened and sanctified me. It has given me more knowledge of Christ and His ways than anything else that I exercised myself in. I have found it indeed the “ministrations of life,” (Galatians 3:2: Hebrews 11; Romans 1:16-17).

 

5. Solitude

Sometimes the Lord has confined me at home in not calling me elsewhere. Ordinarily this has been a gathering time and I have never ordinarily been better than when alone. Solitude has done me good, Proverbs 18:1; Numbers 6:2-3; Hosea 2:14). God has often visited me in a solitary wilderness.

 

6. Outward Afflictions

I have found outward afflictions and hard measures from the world doing me good, humbling my soul, mortifying me to the world. They have made Christ and His consolations sweet, whom I did not care much for before. I found it good to bear the yoke in my youth. I have learned dependence on God and have had much experience of His love supporting me under afflictions, sanctifying them to me, and delivering me out of them, (Lamentations 3:27; Psalm 94:12; Hebrews 12:11; Psalm 119:67, 71; Proverbs 29:15; Hosea 5:15).

 

7. Waiting on God

I have found quietness in spirit, moderation and calmness in speaking, and advisedness doing me good; and while I have waited on God in silence, His spirit has breathed (Isaiah 7:4 and 9:15; Exodus 14:13; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Philippians 4:7; Lamentations 3:26; 1 Peter 5:7).

 

8. Private Devotions

I have found much good by the diligent practice of private duties, such as prayer, meditation, reading, self-examination, and such like. I have thereby been strengthened, quickened, and drawn near to God; they have been as food and drink (Matthew 6:6; Luke 22:46; Psalm 1:2-3; Job 8:5; Proverbs 18:1).

 

9. Fasting

I have found extraordinary duties (e.g. fasting) and making best use of other opportunities over and above the morning and evening sacrifice [devotions], do me much good. Much of the Lord’s mind has been revealed by these (Daniel 10:12) and strong lusts have received a dead stroke. I have been consciously comforted at these occasions. After long sickness, these have given me health (Psalm 126:6; Jeremiah 1: 5-6; Isaiah 58:7-8; Mark 9:29).

 

10. Hearing Faithful Preaching

I have found the Lord kind to me since I stopped hearing the sermons of the conformists [i.e. the ministers that conformed to the state domination of the Church]. Since that day the scales have been falling from my eyes. While I was listening to those ministers I was still kept in bondage (2 Corinthians 6:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

 

11. Others Praying for Me

I have found much good from and by the prayers of others; for since I made use of some for that purpose, I have found much good. I have observed, that those of us who seek the benefit of other’s prayers were the most thriving Christians and those who neglect this decay and wither (Job 42:8; James 5:16; Ephesians 6:19; Romans 15:30; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

 

12. Seeking the Spiritual Good of Others

I have found very much good by doing good to others, by instructing, exhorting, and teaching them, and praying for them, especially poor ignorant people. At the very time I have been speaking to them, a glorious light shined on my soul, and made me apprehend those things I have been declaring to them more clearly. When full of confusions and sorrows going about this duty, my heart has been lightened and my talents improved (Isaiah 32:20; Ecclesiastes 11:1; Proverbs 11:25).

 

13. Understanding True Christian Liberty Properly

I have found the serious consideration of true Christian liberty, and of the easiness of Christ’s yoke, and Christ’s love in commands, in opposition to a slavish spirit and scrupulous fearful conscience, do me very much good, and make my heart engage in the service of God (1 Kings 12:4; Luke 1:74; Romans 7:1, 4, 6, and 6:14; Nehemiah 9:35; Deuteronomy 28:48). Likewise, making use of considerations against discouragements (1 Samuel 12:19-20).

 

14. Meditating on Baptism

I have found much profit and strength by considering baptism and what it seals. Scruples and difficult have been cleared up and removed by this. Assurance has been strengthened and I have been emboldened to draw near to God (Romans 6:1-12).

 

15. Reading Spiritual Books

The Lord has blessed to me the reading of practical writings. By this means my heart has been put into a good condition and received much strength and light. The writers most blessed to me have been Isaac Ambrose, Thomas Goodwin, Andrew  Gray and especially Samuel Rutherford. I have been blessed most of all by Thomas Shepherd of New England’s works. The Lord has made him the ”interpreter, one of a thousand” to me. Under Christ I have been more obliged to his writings than to any other means for wakening, strengthening, and enlightening my soul. The Lord made him a well of water to me in all my wilderness difficulties.

 

16. Thinking the Best of God’s Dealings

I have found it good to put a good construction on the Lord’s ways, when they have been outwardly very sad (Exodus 20:19).

 

17. Commending God to Others

I have found much good by speaking to the praise and commendation of God. When many times not so affectionately, yet sincerely out of the sense of duty, I have begun to praise Him to others, I have found my tongue to have affected my heart (James 3:2; Psalm 105:3 and 145:5-6). The Lord has rewarded me consciously for this.

 

18. Inward Trials

I have found much good by sore and long inward trials, being “poured from vessel to vessel,” changing and being changed, lifted up, and cast down.  The greatest way of being settled is by these. “By these” (Hezekiah says) “shall men live” (Isaiah 38:16). These humbled me, kept me awake, and ever crying to the Lord. They have given me much experience of the Lord’s kindness, and acquainted me with the exercise of saints in Scripture (James 1:2).

 

19. Overcoming Difficulties

The Lord has uniquely owned me in resisting strong temptations, engaging with difficult duties, and slaying inward indisposition. Also in loss and contempt from the world outwardly. The fruit of this has been very great. Such fruit has included praying under indisposition, reproving acquaintances and forsaking ways and thoughts very pleasing to the flesh (Jeremiah 2:1-2; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 2:7; Matthew 5:10 and 16:24).

 

20. Humble Submission

I have found much good by studying and exercising the duty of humility and submission (James 4:7). Duties are easy to a humble spirit. It eases the soul of disquiet and makes burdens easy. “Hell is not hell to a humble soul” (Thomas Shepherd). I have always found help when humbled.

 

21. Meditating on the Lord’s Dealings with Me

Seriously meditating on the Lord’s dealings with me as to soul and body and calling to mind His manifold mercies has done me very much good. It has cleared my case, confirmed my soul concerning God’s love, and my interest in Him, and made me love Him. What good writing in this journal has done me! What previously hidden wells of water my eyes have been opened to see! (Psalm 107:4 and 18: 1-2). Scarcely anything has done me more good.

 

22. Making Vows to God

Making and renewing vows to and covenants with God (although weakly engaged in and performed) has produced life and kind thoughts of God. It has been a means to recover me out of spiritual decline and keep me from further backsliding (Deuteronomy 29:12-13).

 

23. Meditating on the Main Things

Meditation on the most common general truths has done me good e.g. death, heaven, judgment, sin, God’s being and providence, man’s fall, and Christ’s death, etc.

 

24. Not Delaying Duties

Speedily going about duties without trifling or delaying. A duty done in time is worth twice as much as delayed duty.

 

25. Writing on Doctrine

By writing on points of doctrine e.g. Scripture, God’s attributes, Christian duties, sermons, experiences etc. These have kept my heart like fresh water.

 

26. Self-examination

Serious and deliberate self-examination has greatly helped to establish me. I have been testing myself, looking at the qualifications of saints and hypocrites in Scripture and their sins and failings. I have studied the nature of true saving grace and the difference (according to Scripture) between false and true grace.

 

27. Avoiding Unnecessary Temporal Concerns

I have found much good by being kept from too much temporal or secular business. For various reasons I did not have this at the beginning of my Christian life. Although my concerns called for diligence,  I do not regret this because it meant that my heart was wholly taken up with my soul’s condition and not diverted from this (Proverbs 18:1).

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14 Reasons to be Thankful

14 Reasons to be Thankful

14 Reasons to be Thankful
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
28 Jul, 2017

Pop psychology counsels us to focus on reasons to be happy that help us to feel good about ourselves.  It is a fleeting and often glib exercise. True thankfulness is very different. It is not motivational life-coaching but acknowledging our utter dependence on God. It magnifies God (Psalm 69:30) as a crucial part of God-centred living. This is why Scripture frequently commands us to be thankful, no matter what our circumstances may be (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

When James Fraser of Brea came to reflect on his life it was important to take a wide view of the general mercies of God.  Resting and being thankful in God’s goodness to us is a very biblical activity (Psalm 77:11). Fraser came up with 14 different personal reasons to be thankful to God, perhaps not at all fit with your experience but many will. Many of these reasons relate to his spiritual condition not just outward mercies – the prosperity of our souls is the first priority (3 John 1:2). Here is an updated extract.

 

1. My Health

I find reason to bless the Lord for continued health.

 

2. My Education

I have reason to bless the Lord for the mercy of good education. Wherever He cast my lot, I was given  means that worked for my good. I did not see many examples of those who were wild. The Lord used those whom I was with to take some effort for good with me. Though this did not convert me, yet it helped prepare me for it.

 

3. Not Leaving Me in False Hopes

The Lord drove me out of all my false places of rest and refuges of lies. If I had continued in them, I would have perished forever. What a mercy that the Lord revealed to me my condition, the vanity of trusting in duties, my own inability to save myself and the distance and enmity between God and my soul!

 

4. Sparing Me

The Lord has borne with much from me: surely more than from any other. How often did I provoke Him to send me to my place! He spared me notwithstanding my blasphemy, my sabbath-breaking and openly breaking my vows. Despite my sinning against light, backsliding, cursing even in a lie, profanity, mocking in duties, intractableness He spared me. Who has or could have borne with so much as the Lord? Should I not therefore love Him? They “love much, because much is forgiven.”

 

5. Persevering with Me

Oh, the great effort and cost the Lord has taken concerning me! What efforts:

  • in my first education
  • in conversion
  • after conversion
  • in recovering out of backsliding
  • by afflictions, trials and convictions, mercies of all sorts and waterings public and private

What a constant suitor He has been for my heart! What day has there been in which there has not been some message or other? Surely He is in very good earnest with me. He has followed me constantly without interruption.

 

6. Giving Me Grace

In bestowing saving grace on my soul; washing me from nature, sin, Satan and hell:

  • renewing His image on my soul;
  • enlightening mine eyes, quickening my dead soul, changing me completely, giving me rest
  • admitting me to fellowship with Himself;
  • entering in a covenant with me;
  • taking me from my sinful ways and courses, and conforming me to His ways, in heart, speech, and practice;
  • making an inward, blessed, true, and universal change (differing from hypocrites and worldly professing Christians).

 

7. Healing My Backsliding

In recovering me out of a backslidden condition, after carelessness, complacence and departing from God, until I had ruined myself again. I was, as it were, “twice dead” and when I was at the last gasp, He pitied me, recovered me, engaged me in His service. He kept me through His power and goodness (notwithstanding many oppositions) until I at last recovered. He set me on a “rock higher than I.” O what cost and expense He went to in my recovery! He would not let me die at a distance from Him, but by afflictions and sore trials called me home to Him.

 

8. Bringing Me through the Wilderness

Mercies in a wilderness condition. When I was but weak, He condescended to my weakness. Though
He was “the high and lofty One,” how He bore my behaviour, my murmurings, my faintings, my lustings, my impatience, my dulness, my deadness, my unbelief. He never left me for all these things, but was ever with me. He supplied all my needs and many a time revived my fainting soul. He carried me as an eagle her young ones and there was “no strange god with Him” at all.  He never left me until He brought me to a large and fruitful land. O the care He had of me in the great wilderness, preserving me and carrying me through. This was a wonderful mercy!

 

9. Giving Me Talents

I am obliged unto the Lord for talents. He did not create me void of understanding but gave me some capacity to be of service to Him. He has instructed me in the wonderful things of His law, made me know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. And what shall I say? My natural abilities were very greatly helped and advanced by grace. Through His “precepts I have attained to understanding.”

 

10. Keeping Me from Apostasy

I acknowledge with all thankfulness the great mercy of God in keeping me on His side in this evil day. I have been preserved in this general apostasy. I have been rallied to His side, under His standard, against the dragon making war in heaven against the Lamb. How many have been destroyed by profanity, error, vanity, formality, sloth, and worldliness, or else rendered useless? He has kept me from the destroying pestilence. He has kept me in life and privileged me through grace to be a clear witness for Him against the dragon and the tendencies of these times. He has enabled me to do some little thing, at least to show my good-will.

 

11. Upholding Me

By upholding me with his visitations,” innumerable times. “Restoring my soul” to life, preserving “my feet from falling, and mine eyes from tears.” O the many loving refreshing visitations I had from Him when under deadness, confusion, distraction, sorrow, depression! He has been as the clear shining sun after the rain. These have been the means by which I have been kept in life; these are His favours, in these days of famine feeding me and keeping me in life.

 

12. Delivering Me

Many times He has delivered me out of hell itself; when the sorrows of death compassed me about, when
overpowered with despair, He brought me out of the great and terrible pit.  When all other means and friends failed, and neither could nor would help, the Lord Himself stepped in. He calmed all these terrible storms, when I could not bear them any longer. Neither was I ever in any extremity from which He did not help me, even out of great and sore troubles.

 

13. Mercy in My Afflictions

Surely He has afflicted me “in faithfulness”. It is a mercy (a covenant mercy) to be under His discipline. He has supported me in all my afflictions. When I have been a sign, a wonder, and a terror to all friends and acquaintances. When I have been left by friends and relations, and ungratefully used by them, then did “the Lord take me up,”. He gave me shelter and food and drink “that the world knew not of;” and what shall I say? By His own hand, I was “at last delivered me out of them all,” at least out of the most pressing. He has delivered me from all dangers, fears, snares and sorrows.

 

14. Special Favour to Me

All these are magnified by these circumstances:
(a) That the Lord has visited me with special love, right-hand blessings, grace, Christ, and sanctification.

(b) The Lord Himself is eminently seen in them. He lets no one do me good except Himself, especially in great deliverances. the Lord brings about everything in a wonderful way.

(c) I see them all stamped with free grace, and the motto on them is: “Not for your sakes, but for My name’s sake, and because of the Lord Jesus.” I see them all proceeding from the free grace and love of Christ Jesus.

(d) He has singled me out of all my tribe and kindred, and passed by them all and chosen me for Himself.

(e) The Lord is seen universally in all these things. He does all things most excellently for me; not in one or two things, but in everything. He has “wrought all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12)

(f) The Lord is constant in His kindness; it is not by fits and starts. He loves those whom He loves to the end. His love is a constant love, He “never takes away His lovingkindness.”

(g) The Lord sanctifies me by all His mercies and draws me nearer to Himself. I am brought to know more of God by them. My heart is  warmed in love and affection towards Him by the remembrance of these. Experience of these brings me to come to Him, depend on Him and engage in thankfulness.

(h) They are to such a wild, miserable, sinful individual as I, who has abused His grace and mercy, and daily grieve Him. I am less than the least of all His mercies; this increases the mercy. What am I, that the Lord should visit me?

(i) When favours are so few in a day of indignation, famine and confusions (when all are generally crying out “my leanness”) these are great indeed.

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Principles for Making Every Day the Best it Can Be

Principles for Making Every Day the Best it Can Be

Principles for Making Every Day the Best it Can Be
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
2 Jun, 2017

Conventional inspirational wisdom tells us rather vaguely to “make each day count”. Personal productivity advice induces anxiety about using our time effectively. But we can’t do something effectively that in itself is not worth doing or is actually harmful. We must be doing the right things out of the right motives and principles with a right end in view. “Redeeming the time” is a biblical requirement. When we get our spiritual priorities right, the rest of our activities fall into their proper place.

James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) in his autobiography gives an interesting account of his life and spiritual experience. It includes many valuable spiritual reflections. He tells us, for instance about, “rules I daily follow in my daily walk: or, some special rules for ordering my own particular conduct”. The rules are included in an updated form below. They are unique to Fraser in some aspects and set a high standard for ministers let alone other Christians whose time may be much more limited. The first five rules are applicable to every day, the following five deal with every week, month and year.

This was a subject on which many others wrote including Samuel Rutherford (Letter 159). There were classic books such as that by the Westminster divine Henry Scudder called The Christian’s Daily Walk. Other writers including William Perkins, Robert Bolton, Richard Baxter had much to say on the subject. Each day is an opportunity to glorify God to our utmost and though we may feel we have come far short at the end of a day, Rutherford’s counsel is worth heeding.

What ye do amiss in your life to-day, ye may amend it tomorrow; for as many suns as God maketh to arise upon you, ye have as many new lives

Fraser came from the Black Isle, Ross-shire and was ordained during the times of persecution. He refused to appear before the Privy Council when to answer for “illegal” preaching in the fields. Eventually captured he was sentenced to imprisonment on the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast which was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. He was imprisoned at a later period in Blackness Castle but survived the times of persecution.

During his time of imprisonment he wrote a controversial book on the atonement but it should be remembered that he never himself published these views. Men like Thomas Boston held Fraser of Brea in high regard and spoke affectionately of him.

 

1. Rise in Good Time

In imitation of Christ and His apostles and to get good done, I purpose to rise timely every morning (Job 1:5; 2 Chronicles 36:15).

 

2. Plan the Day’s Work from the Start

To propose, when I am up, some work to be done, or the work of the day, and how and when to do it, and to engage my heart to do it (1 Timothy 4:7), and even call myself to account and mourn for failings.

 

3. Set Aside Times for Private Devotion

To spend a competent portion of time every day in prayer, reading, meditating, spiritual exercises, morning, midday, evening and before I go to bed.

 

4. Glorify God and Pursue Holiness Every Day

My ordinary and extraordinary works, which I strive to finish every day are:

  • to mortify sin,
  • to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord,
  • to glorify God,
  • to instruct others and do them good,
  • to attend on and walk closely with the Lord.

This I propose every day to myself to do and finish, and in the evening examine myself on my progress and diligence. This is my work and exercise.

 

5. Never Drop Your Guard Spiritually

To be always on my guard, in a watchful, fearing frame of mind.

 

6. Prepare for the Lord’s Day

To spend some time on Saturday evening for preparation for the Sabbath.

 

7. Set Aside Extra Time Every Week for Prayer

Once every week I spend four hours over and above my daily portion in private for some special causes relating either to myself or others, relating either to temporal or civil affairs.

 

8. Set Aside a Day Every Month for Being Humbled Before God for Others

Once in the month either at the end or in the middle of it, I keep a day to humble myself before God in relation to public affairs, the Lord’s people and their sad condition, for the work and people of God to be raised up.

 

9. Set Aside a Day Every Six Weeks for Being Humbled Before God for Oneself

Besides this once every six weeks, I spend one day of humbling myself for my own private condition, seeking conflict with spiritual evils, to get my heart more holy, or to get some special exercise completed.

 

10. Setting Aside Time Every Year for Spiritual Accounts

To spend six or seven days together once in a year, when I have greatest convenience, wholly and only on
spiritual accounts.

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Am I a Christian?

Am I a Christian?

Am I a Christian?
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
30 Sep, 2016

Some people never ask this question, it doesn’t really occur to them. Others feel they never should ask it, though the inclination exists. Still others never get beyond only asking themselves this question. They don’t get to an answer that satisfies. Contrary to the opinions of many, it is both biblical and helpful to ask this question (2 Corinthians 13:5). But only if we arrive at biblical answers.

One person who asked themselves this question carefully in various ways was James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698). In fact he addresses 20 different doubts he has about his spiritual state. They are along the lines of: “If I really am a Christian then why do/don’t I…?” He also answers each concern fully to his satisfaction. After this, he gives 27 evidences of true conversion in the soul. It is extremely helpful to read the careful, spiritual way in which Fraser handles these problems. The questions and answers were recently published by the Banner of Truth in a pocket book called Am I a Christian? There is a special offer for this valuable book at the bottom of this post.

Fraser came from the Black Isle, Ross-shire and was ordained during the times of persecution. He refused to appear before the Privy Council when to answer for “illegal” preaching. Eventually captured he was sentenced to imprisonment on the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast which was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. He was imprisoned at a later period in Blackness Castle but survived the times of persecution. His autobiography gives an interesting account of his life and spiritual experience. The questions and answers were written down in it for his own benefit.

Some of Fraser’s questions and answers are included in an updated form below.

 

1. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not have More Compassion for the Unconverted?

I lack compassion and a deep apprehension for the lamentable condition of the souls of my unconverted relations and my ignorant, godless, nominal, neighbours . Does it not lie heavy on my spirit? Do I therefore believe a hell or heaven or that the ignorant or unconverted shall go to hell?

Answer:

(a) I confess there is great lack of compassion, faith, and seriousness in this and that there is great deadness. “Lord help it”.   We believe, love and prophesy in part only (1 Corinthians 13:9).

(b) I mourn over this and this deadness is loathsome and hateful to me.

(c) I am helped through occasional views of their condition to have my sorrow stirred and to be earnest with the Lord for them. I also pour out tears and sighs of grief for them and find my compassion stirred in a felt way.

 

2. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not have More Delight in Spiritual Duties?

There is a constant indisposition of spirit to all kinds of duties. There is unwillingness to enter into them. I am wearied and without heart in them and glad when they are finished. Thus, I fear there is not a new nature which delights in the Law of God.

Answer:

(a) There is an unregenerate part in every believer, which is continually opposite to that which is good as well as a regenerate part. This unwillingness comes from the unregenerate part, in which no good thing dwells (Romans 7:8).  It should not make us question our state any more than whether a body of death exists (Romans 7:24).

(b) I find something in me that mourns under this. There is something which esteems, approves, and sees a glory and delight in the law of the Lord (Romans 7:22). “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41)

(c) I am not so much wearied of the duty (which I love) therefore but rather of my own evil heart in the duty. A loving son who has a sore foot is willing to run his father’s errand and glad to be employed, yet the sore foot makes the journey a burden; there is a thorn in the flesh. An unsound heart’s opposition is to the duty itself; hypocrites do not love every duty.

 

3. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not see more Spiritual Growth?

I do not seem to grow, see rapid growth or advance in the work of grace, things just seem always to be the same.

Answer:

(a) There may be growth in grace that does not always appear in an obvious way. It grows as a seed of corn, and a man knows not how (Mark 4:27). It comes “not with observation” (Luke 17:20).

(b) Despite remaining evils, I find a remarkable growth; not in the size of grace but in its nature and purity. There is not so much of it but it is better now. I do things more with the gospel in view that I did before and with purer aims. I grow downward even if not upward.

(c) I have found growth in faith, love, patience, humility. There is growth in dying to the world, myself, self-righteousness and living unto God. This is so even if there is no growth in what I have resolved.

(d) It is expedient, if no necessary to pull down a certain kind of righteousness. Thus a man will find himself worse than before until the righteousness of God is set up.

 

4. If I Really am a Christian, Why am I full of Spiritual Pride?

My spiritual pride streams through all my actions – even my most spiritual. I find that I resolve to be holy so as to get esteem, not so much from men but from conscience. I mourn for sin as a weakness, and as contrary to my design and resolutions. Although I find that my duties are not sufficient to save me and I must flee to another, yet my heart secretly wishes that it were otherwise and life was possible through my own works. This makes me secretly desire and endeavour to do something on earth that might be a part of my crown in heaven. I found myself despising the glory revealed in heaven if freely given and not merited in any way. This makes me question whether I was ever dead to the law or not.

Answer:

(a) I satisfy myself with this. Just as I find a spirit of self and pride acting, so I find a spirit of humility loathing myself for my pride. I also find a secret contentment in breaking my resolutions even when they were good, because in this way self was debased and the counsel of the Lord made to stand. Indeed, I find “I rejoice in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I love heaven better, because it is the purchase of Christ’s blood and the fruit of free grace.

(b) “Self will be in every action. This body of death will manifest itself thus, as well as any other way” (Thomas Shepherd).

 

5. If I Really am a Christian, Why am I so Spiritually Unstable?

I find such instability in my heart and ways, such uneven steps between the Lord and my idols, that I fear my whole heart is not come to the Lord; I am not His alone. O for a single heart, a united heart, a wedded heart! But, mine is divided between the Lord and idols. Sometimes I delight in the Lord and sometimes in my idols and worldly contentment. “They served the Lord, and they served their idols” (2 Kings 17:33).

Answer:

(a) No man ever closed so fully with Christ or had such wedded love without being inclined to idols because of the unregenerate part. Our union of faith and love is imperfect as well as any other grace; the unregenerate carnal part cries still out for its lovers. In heaven our affections shall be wholly for the Lord.

(b) The renewed part is for the Lord wholly and only and does not consent to what the flesh does. It is led captive, sighs under the bondage and cries out against its own whoring heart. The name is taken from the better part. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:20). Unrenewed men are content to divide their affections but they neither loathe nor abhor them- selves.

(c) I find the Lord’s work growing stronger and stronger in my soul.

Special Offer: Buy Your Own Copy of Am I A Christian?

Fraser’s book is published by the Banner of Truth in their Pocket Puritans series. It is 81 pages and in small format that can fit into most pockets. A special 10% offer is available from James Dickson Books (usual price £2.95 – RRP £3.25). This special discount is available to readers of this blog post using the coupon code RST16. Purchase here (enter the code after adding the book to the cart). Email info [at] jamesdicksonbooks.com if you experience any difficulties.

The book contains a biographical note as well as the selection from the “Memoirs” of James Fraser of Brea.

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