What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All

What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All

What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
3 Jul, 2020

Should expressing your non-threatening view be prosecuted for “stirring up hatred” simply because others found it insulting? This is the controversy surrounding the Hate Crime Bill making its way through the Scottish Parliament. For instance, the author J K Rowling’s recent reasoned opinions on gender have been called “hate” by prominent politicians. Should she be in danger of up to 7 years in prison for expressing them? Some have noted how this legislation abolishes blasphemy at the same time as establishing new blasphemy laws. In fact, you only need to possess objectionable material with a view to passing it on. Criminal law must punish hate crime, but it already does. These proposals are about prohibiting certain views rather than protecting from actual harm. Many are concerned that biblical views may be prosecuted under such laws. Who defines hate speech? Such debates should prompt us to understand from Scripture what real hate speech is and how to avoid it. In fact, we need this for all our personal interactions.

We need to avoid any contempt for others in expressing our view. Too often anger and contempt are revealed as words boil over in social media debates. Leaving aside the matter of when hate speech is a crime, we need to consider how hate speech is a sin.

As the Lord Jesus Christ taught, the sixth commandment is not simply about committing murder, it also reaches to our thoughts and words (Matthew 5:22). The words of the commandment simply mention the highest degree of the sin, but all degrees are forbidden. Sinful and rash anger and contempt are also condemned.

As David Dickson points out, Christ expounds this commandment to forbid “rash anger and every evil motion against our neighbour’s person no less than it forbids murder”. Christ warns us that the least degree of this sin will be judged. As Dickson says, this should drive us to “the rich ransom of Christ’s blood and largeness of his grace” for refuge.

As the Larger Catechism points out therefore, the sixth commandment forbids all “sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passion…provoking words…quarrelling”. It also requires “charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour”. It is possible to communicate the truth in this way. Love does not seek to work or speak evil against our neighbour (Romans 13:10; 1 Peter 3:9-11). This should characterise our relations within the church of God to a still higher degree (Colossians 3:12-13; 1 John 3:15; Ephesians 4:31).

We ought also to think about how we can sin by omission in our speech with destructive consequences to others. James Durham points out that sinful silence in not restraining people from sin (Ezekiel 3:18) or not reproving sin has this effect (Leviticus 19:6). When heresy and false teaching goes unchecked for instance, it destroys souls which is more serious still.

We can also reprove or restrain people in such a weak way that it has no effect. This is what happened with Eli and his sons, he did not reprove and restrain them with a holy severity (1 Samuel 2:22,25 and 1 Samuel 3:13).

One of the books that influenced the Larger Catechism was A Body of Divinity by James Ussher. The following updated extract is drawn from his treatment of the sixth commandment. He shows how the commandment requires us to speak to our neighbour kindly and use courteous and friendly speech towards them (Ephesians 4:32). In the Old Testament such friendly speech is often literally spoken of as “speaking to the heart” (Ruth 2:13).

1. Bitter and Angry Words are Hate Speech

Bitter and angry words or speech uttered in wrath or using evil or vile terms (Matthew 5:22) are condemned by this commandment.

2. Mocking Words are Hate Speech

Mocking in general is sinful (Psalm 22:7-8; John 19:3). Mockery of a disability (Leviticus 19:14) or especially mocking others for godly behaviour (2 Samuel 6:20) are condemned. Sometimes, however, God’s children may use mocking in a godly manner as Elijah did to the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:27).

3. Slanderous Words are Hate Speech

Speaking evil of someone, even although the matter is not in itself false is still wrong if it is not done with a right purpose or in a right manner and at the right time. False accusations are also condemned (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:5).

4. Abusive Words are Hate Speech

Brawling and angry shouting are sinful (Titus 3:9; Ephesians 4:31). Threatening, insulting and provocative speech is also condemned (1 Peter 3:9; 2 Samuel 16:5,7; 2 Kings 2:23-24;1 Corinthians 5:11 Psalm 57:4 Psalm 52:2 Psalm 64:3-4 Ps 140:3)

5. Harsh Words are Hate Speech

Spiteful, disdainful and harsh words are sinful, especially when they are uttered contemptuously (Proverbs 12:8; Proverbs 15:1).

5. Complaining Words are Hate Speech

When we complain about one another and grumble with malice (James 5:9).

Application

According to Paul’s counsel we should see that edifying words rather than “corrupt communication” are found in our mouths (Ephesians 4:29. Our speech should be always seasoned with the saltiness of grace so that we know how to answer every one in the right way (Colossians 4:6). If meat is not sprinkled with salt, it will smell. It will be so with those who do not have their hearts seasoned with the word of truth.

If we are not careful the words proceeding from our mouths will be angry, wrathful, and loathsome speech against our brother. Scripture compares such words to juniper coals which burn most fiercely (Psalm 120:4) or to a sword or razor cutting most sharply (Proverbs 12:18; Psalm 52:2). James therefore says that the tongue is an unruly evil, set on fire by hell (James 3:6, 8). We ought therefore to govern our tongues by the Word of God and beware of vile speech.

Conclusion

The things summarised here are all too commonly heard in our culture. It is easy to become used to them and even to think that certain ways of speaking are justified if we are defending the truth. Righteous anger is a truly rare thing. None of us are free from the contagion of using words tainted or motivated by malice but we must flee from this as from every other sin. As we consider it carefully it should, as David Dickson says, drive us to “the rich ransom of Christ’s blood and largeness of his grace” for cleansing.

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article Keep Calm in an Age of Anger. Our culture is getting angrier, about a lot of things. It’s the dominant emotion in western societies on a daily basis. How much of this is righteous anger? And how can we resist sinful anger? We need to know. James Fergusson directs us to Scriptural teaching.

 

 

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8 Encouragements in Difficult Times

8 Encouragements in Difficult Times

8 Encouragements in Difficult Times
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
30 Apr, 2020

From financial struggles and other anxieties and fears in the midst of uncertainty to quarantine fatigue, this is a crisis with many added difficulties. And it affects those worst who struggle with some of these things at the best of times. Then there are the deep spiritual burdens as we seek to understand and respond in a sanctified way. We hear the mantra “Everything will be all right”. All kinds of strategies are recommended. But at best they merely distract from rather than engage with our concerns. Sometimes it seems that the coronavirus has changed everything. But there are some things that are still the same because they are enduring, unchanging and unshakable. We can find solid encouragement in the midst of difficult circumstances.

People feel the need to share messages of encouragement at this time. One man in Barcelona is even projecting messages of encouragement on the facade of a building every day. Many take their encouragement from the strength and resilience of others. We are certainly to be thankful for the selfless sacrifice and dedication of many individuals. There are many mercies received in the midst of trying circumstances. We trust also that there are some who are being brought to consider eternal realities more. We can be thankful that God is in various ways restraining open sin and humbling the pride of those who neglect and reject Him. Where, however, can we find the greatest messages of encouragement?

Edmund Calamy, preaching before the House of Lords in 1643 in a time of war needed to find encouragements for the leaders of Parliament. They were engaged in formal thanksgiving for the thwarting of an armed uprising against Parliament. But Calamy went much higher than the people and events around them in seeking encouragements. They were facing a war and the current crisis has often been compared to a battle. In this updated extract, he gives us an enduring example of where we should look for encouragements in difficult times.

1. YOU HAVE AN ENCOURAGING GOD

I think I hear God say to you as He does to Joshua “Be strong and of a good courage…strong and very courageous”. He promised that He would be with him everywhere he went (Joshua 1:6-7, 9). Joshua encouraged the people of Israel the Lord was with them and they should not therefore fear their enemies no matter how great they were (Numbers 14:7 see also Exodus 14:13-14). The God whose cause you manage is infinite in power, wisdom and goodness, He has not brought us into depths to drown us, but to wash away our spiritual filthiness. It is not to destroy us, but to manifest His power in our deliverance. He will deliver us by weak means, and by contrary means. He will strike straight strokes with crooked sticks; as He made the treachery of Joseph’s brethren to be a means to advance Joseph, and the falseness of Judas to be a way to save all His elect children.

2. YOU HAVE ENCOURAGING PROMISES

Here are six promises like six pillars to undergird our spirits from falling into discouragements. Cast yourselves into the bosom of these promises. (Exodus 23:22-23; Leviticus 26:6-8; Deuteronomy 28:7; 1 Samuel 25:28; Isaiah 41: 10-17; Isaiah 54:17). The last promise belongs to all God’s people, because it is said to be the heritage of the servants of the Lord.

3. YOU HAVE ENCOURAGING EXAMPLES

We cannot be in a lower condition than Jonah was when he was in the whale’s belly. It was like a living grave. Yet God commanded the whale to deliver him safe ashore. We cannot be in a worse condition than Jeremiah was when he was in the dungeon. He sank in the mire so deep that thirty men could hardly lift him up. We cannot be in a worse condition than Peter was when he was ready to sink, or than Moses when put in an ark of bull-rushes. Or than the children of Israel in Babylon, who were like dry bones in the grave, so that Ezekiel himself could not tell whether they could live. Or as Peter when put in prison by Herod.

Yet God sent an Ethiopian to deliver Jeremiah. Jesus Christ reached out His hand to keep Peter from sinking. God sent Pharaoh’s daughter to preserve Moses. He sent Cyrus to deliver Israel out of Babylon. And He sent his angel to deliver Peter out of prison. Indeed, Peter himself did not believe it any more than the Church that was praying for him. God sent them an answer to their prayers, while they were praying, but they did not believe it.

God has often done so for us. Comfort one another with these examples and take this home for your everlasting consolation. God never permits his children to meet with a huge unmovable difficulty such as the stone before the door of the sepulchre without sending some angel or other to move it away.

4. YOU HAVE AN ENCOURAGING CAPTAIN

Jesus Christ came into the world, when the Jews were in the saddest condition, in the depth of slavery (for the sceptre was departed from Judah) and in the depth of divisions, for they had so many different sects, as they could hardly tell what religion they were of. In this sad condition Shiloh came. Let us implore Jesus Christ to come to our nation in this low condition and to bring peace with Him.

Christ descended into the lowest parts of the earth for our sakes, and whose love is a depth that cannot be fathomed (Ephesians 3:17-18). The depths of our misery call on the depth of His love and mercy, that God for Christ sake would pardon our abyss of sins both personal and national, and bring us out of our abyss of miseries, both personal and national.

5. YOU HAVE ENCOURAGING COMPANY

You have the Lord of Hosts to accompany you and God’s people.

6. YOU HAVE ENCOURAGING WEAPONS

These weapons are prayers, tears, fasting and humbling ourselves. Ambrose encouraged Augustine’s mother that a son for whom so many tears were shed could not be lost. So I say, and I hope prove to be a true prophet, that a nation for whom so many prayers and tears are made shall not be destroyed. God never yet destroyed a nation where there were many of his children praying, fasting, and humbling
themselves.

7. YOU HAVE THE ENCOURAGING PROVIDENCE OF GOD

The great and wise God, who is our Father, has from all eternity decreed what the outcome of these troubles will be. There is nothing done in the lower house of parliament upon earth, but what is decreed in the higher house of parliament in heaven.

All the lesser wheels are ordered and overruled by the upper wheels. There is a story about a young man at sea in a mighty tempest. When all the passengers were at their wits end for fear, he was only cheerful.  When he was asked the reason, he answered that the pilot of the ship was his father, and he knew his father would care for him. Our heavenly Father is our pilot, He sits at the stern and though the ship of the kingdom is ready to sink, be of good comfort our pilot will care for us. Are not five sparrows (says Christ) sold for two farthings and not one of them is forgotten before God? One sparrow is not worth half a farthing. You will not have half a farthing’s worth of harm more than God has from all eternity decreed.

It is no great matter (in Christ’s opinion) to have the body killed. The body is only the cabinet, the jewel is the soul. And if the jewel will be safe in heaven, it does not greatly matter to have the cabinet broken.

8. YOU HAVE ENCOURAGING EXPERIENCES

It is observable that when Moses went up to the mount to pray, he took the rod of God in his hand. The reason is because by that rod God had previously done wonderful things for His people. The very sight of that rod encouraged Moses to trust in God from the experience of His former goodness. Let us never go to our prayers without carrying the rod of God in our hand and heart. I mean the solemn and serious contemplation of God’s former wonderful goodness. Let us say with the apostle, “Notwithstanding the LORD stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the LORD shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:17-18).

CONCLUSION

Here are many encouragements to continue in prayer and not give up. We need to search out the promises that can properly be used in prayer on behalf of Church and nation. We need to cry out of the depths to the Lord. As Calamy says the depths of our misery need to “call on the depth of His love and mercy, that God for Christ sake would pardon our abyss of sins both personal and national, and bring us out of our abyss of miseries, both personal and national”.

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Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning

Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning

Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
22 Apr, 2020

Over recent weeks rainbows have been appearing all around the world. It was first started in Italy and Spain as a sign of hope and solidarity, and has spread to other countries. Children have been encouraged to paint rainbows and put them in their windows. They can then follow “The Rainbow Trail” as they go out on walks. The purpose is to hold out bright hope in the darkest of times. It is very welcome to see rainbows better connected with their original meaning rather than made a political symbol of an unbiblical lifestyle. There is much more to the rainbow, however, than a general symbol of hope in stormy times. God made it for a purpose and gave it a particular significance. It has a lot to teach us when we reflect carefully on its meaning as given in Scripture.

The rainbow is not just mentioned in Genesis 9 after the flood, it is also in the symbolic visions of Christ in Ezekiel and Revelation. William Greenhill draws out the fuller significance of the rainbow as it appears in the vision given to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28. There is a description of that brightness or glory surround the One that sat on the throne (v26-27). When we compare it with a similar description in Revelation 4:3, it seems clear that this is a vision of Christ Himself. He Himself is glorious, robed with the brightness of glory and has a brightness surrounding Him that resembled the bow in the cloud, or as we call it the rainbow. The following is an updated extract. Perhaps there is much that we can encourage ourselves with here as we apply it to our present circumstances.

1. The Rainbow Speaks of God’s Faithfulness

The first mention of the rainbow is in the ninth chapter of Genesis (Genesis 9:13). Here God puts a double honour on it: (a) He says it is His, “my bow”; and (b) He makes it a token of the covenant between Him and the earth.

The rainbow is meant to remind us of the great flood that drowned the world, and to assure us that God will never do so again (Genesis 9:14-15). When we see the bow therefore in the heavens, we should: (a) be led to consider divine justice against the iniquities of the world, which He punished most severely, so as to destroy all people. (b) to remember the rich mercy of God to our forefathers and ourselves. He has bound Himself to us by covenant. This bow is the sign of that promise that He will never destroy the world again in that way.

2. The Rainbow Speaks of God’s Glory

The brightness that Ezekiel saw seems to surround the whole throne and person of Christ. We read in Revelation 4:3, where Christ is on the throne, that there is a rainbow round about it. This suggests that the rainbow mentioned here was also round about the throne.

God’s glory is always greatly evident in creation but when the rainbow is in the cloud something is added which is not to be neglected. God has added something glorious with various glorious colours in it. It is beautiful and attracts the eye at that moment more than all the other glory of the skies.

(a) God’s glory in creation

The glory of God shines in the heavens. The rainbow, as you know, has its origin and being from the beams of the sun. Although it is glorious, yet it is a borrowed glory. Thus, it teaches us that the glory in all created things is from another, from Christ. By Him kings reign. He gives gifts to the sons of men. He enlightens every man that comes into the world (see Proverbs 8:15; Psalm 107:8; John 1:9).

(b) God’s glory in providence

It speaks also of the glory and beauty of Divine Providence in its various dealings with the wicked and the godly, (as in the flood). It punishes one and rewards the other. When this is done there is so much glory in it that angels and men are deeply affected by it.

3. The Rainbow Speaks of Mercy

It is a token of mercy and favour. It is a bow without arrows and the back of it points towards the heavens and ends downward. Thus, it is a sign of mercy. When someone shoots arrows, he holds the back away from him (but here it is not directed towards the earth but rather upwards).

Scripture shows how it is a sign of grace and mercy. In Isaiah 54:8-10 the covenant made with Noah is applied to the covenant of grace made in Christ. In Revelation the rainbow is also a sign of grace. Christ sits on the throne with a rainbow round about it (Revelation 4:3). This shows that the throne of Christ is surrounded with mercy.

In Revelation 10:1 Christ is presented in a vision, crowned with the rainbow. There He is presented as a messenger of grace and peace. He is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and His crown is the rainbow, an emblem of peace (Genesis 9:13-14). The rainbow has a variety of colours and is all glorious. Thus, it can appropriately represent the mercies of Christ which are various and glorious.
This symbol therefore signifies grace and mercy offered to those that were godly or who would repent of their wickedness. The glory of His justice formed into a bow is a token of mercy.

4. The Rainbow Speaks of Grace in Christ

Mercy and grace come to us through the human nature of Christ. In Ezekiel’s vision the brightness and the beams that make the bow come out from Him and surround Him (v26-27). When the Word was made flesh, glory and grace emanated (John 1:10 and 14). That was the most glorious rainbow that ever was or shall be in the world. He was not merely a sign of peace but is Himself our peace (Ephesians 2:14) because by His blood we are brought near.

5. The Rainbow Speaks of Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

The Lord Jesus Christ in wrath remembers mercy, He mingles mercy with judgment. He sits as Judge upon the throne, pronouncing His sentence against a sinful kingdom, executing the vengeance written against sinners. Yet here He is surrounded with the rainbow. This was to show the people of Ezekiel’s time that He would not utterly destroy the Jews, a remnant would be spared. When the great flood was drowning the world Noah and his family were saved; there was mercy in the midst of judgment. Here is a Judge with a rainbow over His head, to assure the godly they would not perish in this flood of wrath being poured out on the Jews at this time.

When Christ sits in judgment with the rainbow round about him, the godly may know that they will not perish by the wrath of God. If the glory of His majesty, stateliness of his throne, terror of His
justice and the greatness of His power ever discourage us, we must look at the rainbow round about Him and remember His throne is surrounded with mercy.

It was said of the Jews in the past that when they saw the rainbow, they went out to confess their sins but would not look at the rainbow itself. Confession of sin, or indeed any other duty, will do us no good unless we look at the rainbow, the mercy of Christ. Justice and mercy surround the throne of Christ. There was brightness round about, and the rainbow was round about. Go to Christ’s throne, there is nothing but justice there for the sinner unless they are repentant and believing, yet if they are such, there is then nothing but mercy there for them.

There was a storm at this time yet in it there was also a rainbow for the prophet and godly to look at. It is “the bow in the cloud in the day of rain.” God rains snares, fire and brimstone, and horrible tempest on the wicked but even then the rainbow is in the cloud and the righteous should look for it and look at it. They should remember the covenant and its mercy. Is the present time not a rainy and stormy time, is this great Prince not angry with the kings and kingdoms of the earth ? Does He not frown, chide and smite in many places? Let us look at the rainbow now and know that if a deluge of wrath comes on the world, yet God’s Noahs will be safe in the ark. The righteous will be hidden, Christ will manifest mercy to them.

John says that it was when he was in the Spirit that he saw the throne and the rainbow (Revelation 4:2). Let us be in the Spirit and look with eyes of faith, we shall see the throne and He that sits on it with the rainbow round about Him. Even though kingdoms are swamped by floods of errors, superstition, and ungodliness, even though they are drowned in troubles and blood we will still be able to see God and Christ with love and mercy towards us.

Conclusion

When we consider the original meaning of this symbol in Scripture it is bright with even greater, more enduring and more certain hope than most people appreciate. The rainbow reminds us of God’s faithfulness and mercy, and it reveals much to us of His grace in Christ. Though the skies may be dark in many ways under present troubles yet there is a bright expectation of God’s mercy and faithfulness being fulfilled towards His people. He is working for His glory and the good of His people. He refines them in their faith during times of affliction. There are also many ways in which those who do not believe are no doubt being brought into contact with God’s Word and gospel. They have this mercy of God in Christ and an eternal hope revealed to them. God reigns and we may see by faith a rainbow of mercy surrounding His throne.

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Private Prayer is the Christian’s Strongest Refuge in Trouble

Private Prayer is the Christian’s Strongest Refuge in Trouble

Private Prayer is the Christian’s Strongest Refuge in Trouble
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
6 Apr, 2020

It’s a time for constant, earnest prayer. There are special promises for calling on God in a time of trouble (Psalm 50:15). We are being given plenty of opportunity for secret prayer by being confined to our houses. We can “enter into our closet” and enter the strongest refuge we have through private prayer. It is through private prayer that we strengthen our faith in the Lord Himself who is the ultimate refuge.

Thomas Brooks wrotes about how essential and urgent private prayer was at the time of the plague in London. He wrote a whole book The Secret Key to Heaven to encourage this. Here is an updated excerpt from one section.

In times of great trouble and trials, in times of great afflictions and persecutions, private prayer is the Christian’s food and drink. It is their chief city of refuge or shelter and hiding place in a stormy day. When the saints have been driven by violent persecutions into holes and caves, dens, deserts and howling wildernesses, private prayer has been their food and drink. Under Christ it has been their only refuge.

When Esau came forth with hostile intentions against Jacob, secret prayer was Jacob’s refuge (Genesis 32:6-9, 11). He recalls God’s promises, they must be prayed over in private. When Jacob and all that was near and dear to him, were in eminent danger of being cut off by Esau and the men of blood that were with him, he takes himself to private prayer as his only city of refuge against the rage and malice of the mighty.

When Jeremiah was in a solitary and loathsome dungeon, private prayer was his food and drink, it was his only city of refuge (Jeremiah 33:1-3). God encourages him by private prayer, to seek for further revelations of those choice and unique favours, which He purposed to confer on His people in future times.

When Manasseh was in chains, in his enemies’ country, when he was stripped of all his princely glory and led captive into Babylon, he takes himself to private prayer as his only City of refuge (2 Chronicles 33:11-13). By this means he prevails with God for his restoration to his crown and kingdom.

Private prayer is a city of refuge that no power nor politics, no craft nor cruelty, no violence nor force is ever able to overcome. Though the joint prayers of the people of God together were often obstructed and hindered in the times of the ten persecutions (of the early Church), yet they were never able to obstruct or hinder secret prayer.

When men and devils have done their worst, every Christian will be able to maintain his private trade with heaven. Private prayer will shelter a chri∣stian against all the national, domestic, and personal storms and tempests, that may threaten him.

When a man is lying upon a sick bed alone, or when a man is in prison alone, or when a man is left on the dunghil alone like Job. Or when a man is like John banished for the testimony of Jesus into this or that Island alone, private prayer will be his food and drink, his shelter and hiding place, his heaven. When all other trades fail, this trade of private prayer will hold good.

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Many Christians ‘do not clearly nor fully understand the necessity, excellency, and usefulness of this subject’. In this short (18 page) booklet, Thomas Brooks shows why private prayer is the urgent need of our souls, families, churches and nation. Usually available for £1 hard copies can be posted within the UK to those who are committed to reading and acting on it. An electronic version is also available for readers from other countries.

“The power of religion and godliness lives, thrives or dies, as closet prayer lives, thrives or dies. Godliness never rises to a higher pitch than when men keep closest to their closets”.

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What if the Coronavirus Comes to Your Home?

What if the Coronavirus Comes to Your Home?

What if the Coronavirus Comes to Your Home?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
6 Mar, 2020

It’s hard to avoid being at least unsettled by the constant focus on Coronavirus and its progress. It has been estimated that 40-70% of the world’s population will contract the virus this year. Whether or not they do, the impact in many other ways is likely to be significant. Suddenly, even praying for our daily bread can seem a far more immediate concern. We should, of course be concerned to preserve the life and health of ourselves and others carefully and lawfully. This is part of what the sixth commandment requires. What should be our response in a climate of panic and alarm when we don’t know what the future may hold? Perhaps we are inclined to shrug it off as hype and exaggeration. But neither panic nor carelessness are the right response. How do we express a confident trust in God’s sovereign care in a way that is not merely glib?

Christians have been in similar situations before. It is important to recognise that Coronavirus is nothing like as devastating as the plague. We can still learn, however, from how Christians responded to it. Jeremiah Burroughs was one of the members of the Westminster Assembly. He lived through various outbreaks of the plague. In 1625 41,313 died in London and between 1640 and 1646 there were 11,000 deaths. During those years he preached a series of sermons from Philippians 4:11 on the subject of attaining contentment. He speaks of how contentment is possible, even in times of prevailing plague panic. These sermons were later published and have been valued by many as the book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

What did he mean by contentment? “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Such contentment is active trust not a frozen fatalistic resignation. It does not mean mere passivity, we can use means in a way that follows God’s providence. The key matter is to submit to God’s will in such a way that “our wills are melted into the will of God”. “One drop of the sweetness of heaven is enough to take away all the sourness and bitterness of all the afflictions in the world”. He said that “a murmuring spirit is a greater evil than any affliction, whatever the affliction”.

Burroughs identifies the plague as the saddest affliction of all. When it visited your home it meant almost certainly that the family would all be taken. What could possibly make up for so great an affliction? Burroughs tells us in this updated extract that God’s Covenant and its promises are enough in such circumstances.

1. Look for God’s Promises

There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise or other in the Scripture to help him in that condition. Contentment goes out to the promises and can fetch from the promise that which will supply its needs. This is the most real thing in the world to a gracious heart. When they find a lack of contentment they go to the promise and the covenant. They plead the promises that God has made.

I will only mention one situation that is the saddest affliction of all; the plague visiting the home. In other afflictions they might have their friends and other things to comfort them. But in this they cannot have their friends come to them or other comforts because of the plague. Psalm 91:10 is a promise regarding the plague and also Psalm 91:5-6. It is a portion of Scripture for those in danger of the plague. But you will say “this is a promise that the plague shall not come near to them”. But notice that it also speaks of no evil coming on them, in other words the evil of it shall not come near you.

But you will say, “It does come to many godly people, and how can they make use of this portion of Scripture. It is rather a Scripture that would trouble them, because it is a promise that it will not come near them and yet it has. What good is there in such a promise?” You are under the protection of God more than others. But you also have this comfort, that the evil of it shall be taken from you. If God will make use of this affliction for other purposes, He will do it in such a way as He will make it up to you in some other way. Perhaps you have given your children something, but afterwards you need it back. So you say, “I will make it up to you some other way”. Your child does not think that your love is any whit less to them. So it is when God by His promise gives you His protection yet something happens. It is only as if a father should say, “I gave you that indeed, but let me have it and I will make it up to you some other way that will be as good”. God says “let me have your health and liberty, and life, and it shall be made up to you some other way”.

2. Look for God’s Purposes

When the plague comes to those that have such a promise, it is for some special and notable reason. God requires them to search and examine His purpose in a special way. There is so much to be learned in the promise that God has made concerning this particular evil that the people of God they may come to calm their hearts in this affliction. They can say “I read in this Psalm that God has made a promise to His people to deliver them from the plague. Yet I find it has come. It may be I have not made use of my faith in this promise before now. If God brings afflictions on me, yet God will make it up some other way. God made a promise to deliver me or at least to deliver me from all the evil of it.

Now if this thing does afflict me and yet I have a promise from God, certainly the evil of it is taken away. This promise tells me that if it does happen to me it is for some notable purpose. God has the use of my life and intends to bring about His glory some way that I do not know of. If He comes in fatherly chastisement, I will be satisfied. So a Christian heart by reasoning out of the Word, comes to satisfy their soul in the midst of the hand of God being so heavily on them and being in such a distressed condition as that.

Ungodly hearts do not find the same healing power in the Word to heal their worries and troubles of spirit. But when those that are godly come to the Word they find a plaster for all their wounds. So they come to have ease and contentment in such conditions that are very grievous and miserable to others.

3. Look to God’s Covenant

In 2 Samuel 23:5 David says that although he does not find his house to be as in every way as he would wish he has contentment. It is in the face that God has made with him an everlasting covenant. This is what helps everything. I am not so with God, nor is my house and family as I hoped it might be with God. Perhaps there is this or that affliction on my house. Suppose you would have the plague come into your house, and your house is not safe. You do not have that outward comfort in your house as formerly you had. But can you read this portion of Scripture and say the following?

“Although my house is not so blessed with health as other people’s houses are. Although my house is not so, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant. I am still one in covenant with God. The Lord has made an everlasting covenant with me. As for things in this world, I see they are but momentary, they are not everlasting. I see that in a family when all was well only a week ago, everything is down now and the plague has swept away a great many of them. The rest are left in sadness and mourning. We see there is no rest in the things of this world, yet the Lord has made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things. I find disorder in my heart and in my family; but the everlasting covenant is ordered in all things. Yes and that is sure. There is nothing sure in these earthly things. I can be sure of nothing here, especially in these times”.

We know that we can be sure of little that we have. Who can be sure of what they possess? Some have lived well and comfortably, all was well, yet within a day or two all was taken away. There is no sureness in the things of this world. But the covenant is sure. Notice what follows, “this is all my salvation”. Why David do you not want salvation from your enemies and outward dangers, from pestilence and plague? The frame of his spirit is quietened, as if he said “if that salvation comes, well and good, I shall praise God for it, but what I have in the Covenant, that’s my salvation, I look on that as enough”. “This is all my salvation, and all my desire”. Why David is there not something else you want besides this covenant? “No”, he says, “it is all involved in this”. Surely those who have all they desire must live contented lives. This holy man says, “this is all my desire”. Even if God does not make my house to grow, I have all my desires.

Thus you see how a godly heart finds contentment in the covenant. Many of you speak of the covenant of God, and of the covenant of grace, but have you found it so effectual for your souls? Have you sucked this sweetness from the covenant and contentment to your hearts in your sad conditions? It is a special sign of true grace in any soul, that when any affliction comes to them they naturally go to the covenant. Just like a child goes to their mother or father as soon as it is in danger. So as soon as a gracious heart is in any trouble or affliction their new nature carries them immediately to the covenant. There they find ease and rest. If you find your heart running to the covenant, it is an excellent sign of the reality of grace.

Conclusion

Burroughs points us to the promises of God in times of trouble. There are various promises for the heart to find contentment in times of affliction such as Isaiah 43:2, Isaiah 54:17 and Joshua 1:5 (Hebrews 13:5 shows this applies to us as well as Joshua). Burroughs says that every time a godly person reads the Scriptures and encounters a promise, they ought to put their hand on it and say “this is a part of my heritage, it’s mine, and I am to live upon it”. This will make you to be contented. Other promises include Psalm 34:10, Psalm 37:6. Isaiah 58:10. We have to learn this lesson of contentment, as Paul did (Philippians 4:1) and we can only do it by grace. Burroughs says, “the Lord teach you thoroughly by His Spirit these lessons of contentment”. Here are some vital counsel for helping to quieten our hearts and strengthen our faith in troublous and uncertain times.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is a classic book by Jeremiah Burroughs. Showing how Christ teaches contentment, he also defines and describes it. Besides explaining how to attain contentment, Burroughs also deals with the sin of murmuring. 

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Resolution is a Way of Life

Resolution is a Way of Life

Resolution is a Way of Life
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
1 Jan, 2020

Everywhere people are resolving to make a positive change in their lives. They plan to get rid of something they don’t want or achieve something desirable. Whether or not these are successful is a matter of debate. Resolution is, however, a far deeper and more spiritual matter than these lifestyle changes. A spirit of God-centred resolution should govern the way that we live. This is a boldness of faith that arises from the nature of the gospel and God Himself. Whatever else we may resolve let’s make sure we have this spirit of resolution.

Put simply, this spirit is an unconquerable resolution to be for God. This is how Andrew Perne (member of the Westminster Assembly) describes it. It means being resolved to stick unwaveringly to God and His ways no matter what others do or what happens as a consequence. He says that this is what makes the heart to be in heavenly tune and the right key, pleasing and acceptable to God.

This spirit of gospel courage looks beyond all dangers, difficulties, and opposition. Such a person may lose their body by the way, but their spirit will continue after God. They are like David’s three mighty men who broke through the camp of the Philistines to fetch their king water (2 Samuel 23:16).

God was well pleased with this kind of spirit in Caleb. He had another spirit, resolute and valiant not cowardly and feeble spirit as the other spies (Numbers 14:24). The same spirit was in the three who faced the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:16). Moses had this spirit too (Hebrews 11:27) as did Joshua who was prepared to serve the Lord whatever others would do (Joshua 24:15). How do we obtain such a spirit? Andrew Perne helps us find biblical answers to that question.

1. God-centred Resolution Comes from Conviction

Such resolution comes from a thorough and full conviction of soul that we have followed the right ways of God. Paul was thoroughly convinced and unwaveringly resolved for the gospel in this way. He desires this for the Galatians also, they must be committed to this gospel no matter what anyone preached even if an apostle or angel (Galatians 1:8).

A supernatural light must convince the soul and make the ways of God unquestionable. Paul did not therefore preach with the enticing words of human wisdom but in the Spirit and with power (2 Corinthians 1:4-5). This was so that their faith might stand in the power of God. When faith is based on such grounds, on such a powerful conviction of the Spirit, all the World cannot turn us from it. This steadfast, unconquerable resolution proceeds from a powerful and thorough conviction of the truth of God and His ways.

2. God-centred Resolution Comes from Fear

This resolution understands clear the danger of forsaking the ways of God. Fear and danger give rise to courage and resolution. When someone perceives that their greatest danger is falling into the hands of God they see that to sin against God is the worst thing possible. Moses did not fear the king of Egypt because he persevered seeing one who (though invisible) was greater and more to be feared (Hebrews 11:27). Daniel’s three friends feared a hotter furnace if they would worship the golden image. When someone considers hell the worst of prisons and everlasting destruction the king of terrors awaiting those who forsake God and His ways, it makes them resolute for God.

3. God-centred Resolution Comes from Hope

Hope of gain and honour makes people bold and puts courage and resolution into them. God’s children have hope too which exceedingly strengthens their resolutions. They hope for the crown of righteousness, the weight of glory, the kingdom prepared from the beginning of the world. These were Paul’s hopes, these are and were ours. They will sustain us in all our sufferings. God promised to be Abraham’s exceeding great reward (Genesis 15:1). He would be paid and not lose. When we realise that God has the resources to provide the reward, we can trust God for everything. This will make us valiant and resolute for the ways of God.

4. God-centred Resolution Comes from Love

Love makes us resolute and want to please God. Love looks beyond all dangers and difficulties, it weakens all opposition and strengthens itself. It makes the soul consider anything feasible. The nature of your resolution will reveal to you what you are and whom you love (Ruth 1:14). Ruth’s love and resolution was total (Ruth 1:16).

5. God-centred Resolution Comes from Experience

The soul that has tasted of the sweetness, comfort, peace, and joy of the ways of God is resolute for them (Psalm 119:103). Because of this the psalmist vows and resolves to keep them (Psalm 119:106). The soul cleaves to that which offers most pleasure: for pleasure is the food of the soul. The body can live as well without food, as the soul can without pleasure. When the soul has tasted how transcendently sweet God’s ways and Word are: what sweet hopes, what blessed peace, what joy unspeakable and glorious is produced. The soul seeks its rest here. 

Many think those who engage themselves to the cause of God “too far” to be far from wisdom. They can see their sufferings, but not their refreshings. They do not see the peace, love, joy, and unspeakable comfort which the saints of God have in the ways of God. If others could experience from God these heats of heart and hints of love and mercy, they would be ready not only to do the same as believers but to suffer with them.

Conclusion

You need to get, keep and increase this spirit of resolution within you. Be courageous and undaunted for your God. Look past all dangers, do not be terrified in anything by your adversaries. Do not think death too great a danger to cope with for God and His truth. Your God and your religion are the best things you have. They are the highest and greatest things. Better to lose all than lose our God and His truth. We must therefore ask for the old paths and walk in them to find rest to our souls (Jeremiah 6:16). All God’s ways are pleasantness and peace (Proverbs 3:17).

You have resolution and courage and why should God and His cause not have it? God has the most right to it. Can you be resolute for the world and worldly things and have no spirit for God? With what steadfastness and immovable resolution did our Saviour Christ go through the work of our redemption. Be as resolute for God as He is for you.

Much more than new resolutions we need a new spirit with which to face the challenges of this coming year undaunted in our resolution to be entirely for God.

Note: Andrew Perne (1596–1654) lived a life of resolute faith. The memorial at the Church he served in Wilby, Northamptonshire testifies to this.  He was “a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, a zealous owner ever of God’s cause in perilous times, a powerful and successful preacher of the gospel”. The above updated extract comes from one of the many sermons he preached to Parliament in the 1640s.

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Learning to Pronounce the Psalms

Learning to Pronounce the Psalms

Learning to Pronounce the Psalms
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
31 Dec, 2019

Curiously, ‘how to pronounce Psalm’ was in the Top 4 most Googled terms this year in the UK. Sadly, the reason for this was not a renewed interest in Scripture, it was the name of a baby born to a celebrity couple. It reveals, of course, the extent of biblical illiteracy in the land. But when we turn to the Church, we may know the pronunciation of the word but how much are the psalms pronounced in our services? Are they heard? Do they have a pronounced role? The clear, repeated biblical instruction “sing psalms” is quietly ignored. What do we lose by this and how can we learn to pronounce them better?

When we learn to pronounce the Psalms in sung praise to God we are making use of words that God’s people have cherished for this purpose for 3,000 years. Not just this, they are the Word of God. These are Gods own songs (1 Chronicles 25:7; 2 Chronicles 29:27; Psalm 137:4). 

The command to sing psalms is not just in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 105:2) it is in the New Testament also (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15; James 5:13). Christ sang them with his disciples (Matthew 26:30). Paul and Silas praised God with psalms in prison (Acts 16:25). The Psalms are the book of the Old Testament most quoted by the apostles. Thomas Ford expands on this important point in the following updated extracts.

1. Learning to Pronounce the Psalms in Song 

We may and must read the psalms but why not sing also? It is more useful and helps to more sweetness in meditation. Singing will affect us more than reading, as praying with the voice (audibly) affects us more when we pray. Lifting up the voice is a great help to enlarge the heart when it is well affected.

You read these psalms, and you think you read them with profit, and why may you not sing them with profit? Sing with sweet meditation on the content, for your admonition, comfort and instruction. We read the history of the Bible for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. What God did then He does now, the people of God are as they were then. They have the same afflictions and temptations, are in the same conditions, hated and persecuted in the world, and have the same experience of God’s goodness. All Scripture concerns us as much as it concerned the people of God in those times. Every Christian that has wisdom and grace may use them for the edification of their own souls.

 

2. Learning to Pronounce the Psalms Together 

Colossians 3:16 mentions speaking to yourselves and teaching one another out of the psalms. David’s psalms are a choice part of Scripture, and Christians may and must teach one another out of them, as well as out of other Scriptures, since they are all written for our learning, (Romans 15:4). Christians in singing psalms together, should teach and admonish one another, and speak to one another for mutual edifying as they do by joining in prayer, or similar duties. So when Paul and Silas sang together (Acts 16:25) they spoke to themselves for their mutual encouragement and comfort. When Christians sing a psalm together it is an excellent way of speaking to themselves and one another.

3. Learning to Pronounce the Fulness of the Psalms

It is true that the Psalms were written at a particular time and relate to the needs of God’s people then. Yet this is the same with the rest of Scripture. It relates just as much to us now as it did to the people of God when first written. In Hezekiah’s time, the Levites were to praise God with the words of David (2 Chronicles 29:30). This shows that the Psalms were to be used by God’s people in praise after the time that they were written. This would include all kinds of circumstances.

What circumstances do God’s people have now, have ever had or can have for which David’s Psalms are not suitable? They are better than any songs composed by an ordinary poetic gift. What glorious things are spoken of Christ’s Kingdom and His great work of redemption! Who can admire and adore the infinite perfections of God in better phrases and words than the Holy Spirit has given us in David’s Psalms? Where can we find more heavenly meditations to refresh our spirits or prepare them for spiritual duties? If we want to magnify the power, wisdom and goodness of God for any mercy we receive–how can we do it better than in the words of David? If we do not find them suitable, the fault is our own.

William Perkins said that the Psalms remain relevant because the faith of believers in the Church in all ages is always one and the same. All who lay hold of God’s promises are like each other in grace. Their meditations, inclinations, affections, desires, spiritual needs in enduring trials are the same. Their moral duties to God and man are the same. The same Psalms are equally suitable for the Church in these days. When they are sung they yield the same benefit for the Church in these days as when they were written.

If we reject David’s Psalms because they were written for God’s people in the past must we not discard the rest of Scripture for the same reason? There is no condition in which the people of God either are or can be that the Holy Spirit could not foresee. He has prepared and recorded Scripture Psalms suitable for it. When these Psalms are sung with new hearts by God’s people in new circumstances they will always be new songs. Someone has said that words of eternal truth are ever new and never old. Daily and hourly mercies are new mercies to renewed hearts (Lamentations 3:23). When they praise the Lord for those mercies, there’s a new song of praise put into their mouths. God has provided us with Psalms, songs made by His own Spirit for this purpose. Surely it is shameful ignorance and irreverence if we fail to make use of them.

 

4. Learning to Pronounce Christ in the Psalms

How can you better admire and adore the attributes and perfections of God and His Christ than in singing David’s Psalms? Do you wish to admire the work of God in exalting Jesus Christ to be a Prince and a Saviour? Sing Psalms 8, 95, 96, 97, 98 and 99. Do Christ’s sufferings and their saving benefits belong to you? You can sing Psalm 22 (see Matthew 27:35, 39, 43, 46).

What a vivid description of Christ’s death and resurrection we have in Psalm 16 (see Acts 2:25-28)! In singing that Psalm Christians rejoice with triumph in the glorious conquest of Christ over death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55). Psalm 21 helps us admire the glory of Christ’s kingdom which is great through God’s salvation. The passages in David’s Psalms that relate to his rule and government point forward to the kingdom of Christ.

In Psalm 45, we can behold the King (Jesus Christ) in His beauty. We also see the Church, His royal bride beautifully adorned with the perfections which He has bestowed. Most glorious things are spoken of Christ and the Church. Thus, Christians may sing that Psalm in holy rejoicing and thanksgiving.

 

5. Learning to Pronounce Our Experience in the Psalms

Do you experience God’s support, supply, protection and direction? Then you may sing the 23rd psalm along with many others. Should we not admire the power, wisdom, and goodness of God in the works of creation and providence? Why should we not sing the first part of the 19th psalm and the whole of the 104th psalm? Do you have any affection to the Word of God due to your experience of its power on your soul? Why should you not sing the latter part of the 19th psalm and any part of the 119th psalm? Are you conscious of sin and wrath due to it? Sing the 6th and 38th psalms.

 

The Songs the Holy Spirit Wants You to Sing

This leaflet is an updated extract from Thomas Ford on this subject. The songs that the Holy Spirit commands us to sing are Psalms (Psalm 105:2; James 5:13). These are His songs (1 Chronicles 25:7; 2 Chronicles 29:27; Psalm 137:4).

You can download a free PDF of the leaflet or order hard copies here.

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When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?

When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?

When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
7 Nov, 2019

Atheists like Richard Dawkins have come round to the idea that getting rid of Christianity is a bad idea. It would “give people a license to do really bad things”. In other words, secularism fails to provide a coherent moral framework for good and evil. Douglas Murray recently admitted that the idea of human rights cannot long survive being cut off from its Christian roots. Western society has been living on the inheritance of a Christian heritage but now the capital is running out. This is what Murray describes in his book The Strange Death of Europe. These benefits derive not just from Christian influence but from the gospel itself. The Bible warns that when a people send the gospel into exile, it will not be long before their own exile follows.

Thomas Brooks drew attention to this at a time when he along with thousands of other gospel preachers were being silenced by the state. He asks the question: “When the gospel goes from a people, what goes?” He also helps us to go beyond the bleak reality of answering that question. He highlights both encouragements and challenges that arise from this. It should make the gospel even more valuable to us. We also need courage and zeal to proclaim the gospel faithfully in the face of opposition.

1. PROSPERITY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

In the northern kingdom of Israel, they were without the law and the true God. They had no teaching priests, only Jeroboam’s false priests (compare 2 Chronicles 15:3 with 2 Chronicles 13:9). The following verses go on to show that there was no peace in the nation but rather disorder, destruction and adversity (2 Chronicles 15:5 and 6).

2. SAFETY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the Ark was taken away, their strength and safety was gone (2 Chronicles 15:6). When the Jews rejected the gospel, the Romans came and took away both their place and nation. About forty years after Christ’s crucifixion, Titus and Vespasian took away the Jews’ city. They had cried, if we do not deal with this man [Jesus] the Romans will take away our nation (John 11:48). But to do so was the quickest way to bring the Romans on them.

3. CIVIL LIBERTY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the Jews slighted the gospel and turned their backs on it, they quickly became bond slaves to the Romans.

4. NATIONAL HONOUR GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, the honour, glory, splendour and beauty of a nation go. It is the gospel that is the honour and beauty of a nation. When that goes, all the glory goes. When the Ark was taken away, the glory was departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:22). When a people exchange the true worship of God for things that do not profit (the traditions of men) they abandon their glory (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

What is it that lifts up one nation above another, but the gospel? Our nation has been lifted up to heaven above all nations of the earth because of it.

5. TRUE HAPPINESS GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go. The gospel is the means appointed by God to bring souls to acquaintance with Christ, to acceptance of Christ, to a claim to Christ, to assurance that He is theirs and they are His. Now when this goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go.

6. GOD’S SPECIAL PRESENCE GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, the spiritual presence of God goes, for that always goes with the gospel. There is a general presence of God which the Psalmist speaks of (Psalm 139:7-8). This presence of God reaches from heaven to hell; in that sense God is included in no place, nor excluded out of any place. But what is the benefit of this general presence when the gospel goes? When it goes, the special presence of God goes.

THE GOSPEL HAS NOT GONE YET

(a) The Gospel cannot be taken out of our hearts.

It is in the understanding, affections and consciences of sinners as well as saints. It has got so deep a root in the hearts of many thousands that it is beyond the power of hell to pull it out.

(b) The Gospel still has preachers.

There are many of God’s servants in this nation to preach the everlasting gospel. They would be glad to preach it on the hardest terms. They will keep God and a good conscience to preach it freely as the apostles did. God has deposited this treasure for a purpose.

(c) The Gospel has not been destroyed.

All previous attempts to destroy the gospel have been ineffective. They have only helped the gospel to advance, flourish and spread.

(d) The Gospel does not go till a people reject it.

God never takes the gospel away from a people until the body of that people have thrust the everlasting gospel away from them. Although God’s messengers were abused, He continued to provide the Jews with the everlasting gospel until they thrust it away from them (2 Chronicles 36:15-23; Jeremiah 25:1-14 and Acts 13:45-47).

(e) The Gospel is promised to the children of believers.

Will God not fulfil His engagements to them (Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 112:2)?

THE GOSPEL MUST BE PERSONAL

(a) Make sure of your salvation.

Make it your great business, your work, your heaven to make your claim to salvation in Christ sure and secure. This is not an age or hour for someone to be between fears and hopes, to be between doubting and believing. Do not depend on outward practices or privileges. Make Christ and Scripture the only foundation for your souls and faith to build on (1 Corinthians 3:11; Isaiah 28:16).

(b) Rejoice in the Gospel.

Rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11). Rejoice that God has done your souls good by the everlasting gospel. Rejoice that He did not leave you until He brought you to accept it and to commit your souls to Christ. Rejoice that you have had the everlasting gospel in so much light, purity, power and glory as you had had. Rejoice in the riches of grace that has brought it to you in such a way. But weep that you have provoked God to take away the gospel and that you have not made best use of it

THE GOSPEL FACES OPPOSITION

Brooks also addresses the issue of why there is such opposition to the gospel that people want rid of it. People hate plain, powerful and faithful preaching of the gospel. This is because it shows up the nature of their lives. They hate the light and do not want to come towards it because their sinful actions and lifestyle will be exposed (John 3:20). Sinners also hate the gospel because their sin is restrained where the gospel shines in power and glory.

The gospel also requires things that sinners consider too hard. They must abandon darling sins to live according to it. This is hard for them even to hear (John 6:60).

The effect of the gospel is different. It softens one and hardens another sitting right beside them. It wins one and enrages the other. It is like the sun which has different effects on the things on which it shines (living things flourish, corrupt things increase in corruption).

Opposition to the gospel ultimately comes from Satan himself. He knows that the tendency of the gospel is to shake his kingdom. Thus, he and those of his kingdom do all they can to oppose and show their hatred against the everlasting gospel. This makes them to be in such a rage against the gospel.

CONCLUSION

This brings an implicit challenge to us. Is the gospel we proclaim faithful enough to stir up inevitable opposition? Or have we toned down the aspects that stir up such antagonism? Are we in danger of helping those who want rid of the gospel because we do not present it fully? Have we prized the gospel or just taken it for granted? Is it so personal for us that we rejoice in it and live in the light of it?

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The Beauty of Christian Unity in a World of Division

The Beauty of Christian Unity in a World of Division

The Beauty of Christian Unity in a World of Division
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
18 Oct, 2019

Living in a western culture that is ever polarising in terms of values, ideas and political views, we get used to division. The sheer multitude of diverse contributions seems to highlight the absence of unity. Divisive rhetoric is the norm in a cacophony of voices and opinions. Christian values are frequently attacked with uncompromising hatred. Reconciliation and harmony seem unthinkable as well as unattainable. The fault lines can sometimes seem so deep that they are compared to a kind of civil war. The Church can also be the battleground of polarising notions and methods. Where we might most expect to see unity, we see division. How can we display the attractiveness of true unity in a world that is more divided than ever?

Anthony Burgess ministered in just such a period of division. He became involved in a project to unite the whole of the British Isles in the same doctrinal standards and church order. It was a unity that prioritised the truth. Besides the Westminster Assembly, he engaged in important defence of vital doctrines such as justification, original sin and the moral law.

In expounding John chapter 17 Burgess emphasises both the spiritual and visible unity that should exist within the Church. It is not a man-made unity that compromises the whole counsel of God. Burgess deals realistically and honestly with the divisions that exist amongst Christ’s people and the reasons for them. He does not accept that lack of unity is inevitable but boldly calls it what it is according to Scripture: sin.

Burgess gives practical counsel in this area in demonstrating the spirit that Christians ought to have one to another. He will not allow us simply to show regret and concern but do nothing about the divisions of the Church. We are under the strongest obligations, not only to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ (Psalm 122:6) but also to do what we can. In the following extract from his sermons on John 17 he shows the attractiveness of unity.

UNITY IS SPIRITUALLY HELPFUL

Unity is necessary, because by this means a serviceable and beneficial helping one another in spiritual things is preserved. The people of God are compared to living stones built up together. While the stones keep in the building, they support one another, but if they are removed, it falls down. They are compared to members in the body. While they are joined together, there is a mutual ministration to each other, but when divided from the body, no part can receive any nourishment.

So it is here. While the people of God are in union, oh the wonderful help they are to one another! They provoke one another to good works and they stir up one another’s graces. But take these coals away from one another, and then the fire goes out!

And this may be the reason why our Savior does not mention the sanctification and holiness of believers, but their unity, because unity is a special means of preserving and increasing holiness. ‘Two are better than one,’ because of heat and of help, says the wise man (Ecclesiastes 4:10). So it is in this work of grace, two are better than one to warm one another. How greatly your zeal might help against another’s lukewarmness, and your faith against another’s diffidence! If it is so great a sin to see your brother in temporal need, and not relieve him, how much more is it a sin to see him in spiritual need, and fail to help him? He is to be restored (Galatians 6:1). Put this bone in joint again.

Experience tells us that where there are divisions and discord, there is no love, no compassion, no watching over one another. If this unity were established, a man would then strive for the growth of grace in others, as in himself. And therefore, observe that the power of godliness greatly abates when differences arise. There is not that heavenly communion, nor hearty concurrence in the ways of holiness, nor that mutual help of one another, as at other times.

UNITY SANCTIFIES

Unity amongst the godly is so necessary that God many times permits sad and heavy persecutions to befall them. This is so that their discords and divisions may be removed, and they may be more endeared to one another. Times of prosperity in the church produced the greatest heresies and schisms, but the times of bloody persecution made the godly more united. Thus, the martyrs, some of them in Queen Mary’s days, bewailed their differences and the contests they formerly had with one another, but prison and persecution made them highly prize one another. Joseph’s brethren in their plenty envied and fell out with one another, but in their distress they were glad to cleave together.

If sheep are scattered one from another, when a sudden storm arises, it makes them all huddle together. It may be that although just now the godly are so censorious, so shy, so strange to one another, God may in time work so that they will be glad to enjoy one another, glad to have communion with each other. One godly man’s company may then be worth more to you than the gold of Ophir.

If love and godliness do not unite you, take heed lest God sends some out-ward trouble and affliction to put you together. If you do not embrace one another willingly, He may bind you in His chains together. His promise to Judah and Israel, of making the two sticks one, was after the cruel enmity and opposition which had been amongst them.

UNITY STRENGTHENS

Unity confirms and establishes the church. The old rule is that strength united is stronger. Sunbeams united together send out greater heat. It is union in an army, in a nation, in any society, that preserves it. As a wise man said, public societies are immortal, if they do not kill themselves by division. Our Savior confirmed this, when He said, ‘No kingdom divided against itself can stand’ (Matthew 12:25). He brings this in as an argument to show that He did not cast out devils by the help of devils, but by the Spirit of God. Thus, if the people of God cast out error and profaneness by God’s Spirit, then they will not entertain error and profaneness themselves; for this would be to set a kingdom at variance within itself. The old rule is, ‘Divide and conquer.’

It was a unique providence that Christ’s bones should not be broken, to demonstrate by this (some say) that though Christ died, yet He did not lose His strength. We must justly fear that God has some heavy scourge on the godly when they are first divided. If their bones are broken, their strength is weakened, but their evil and misery will not stop there.

Thus, it is a very foolish and weak thing in the godly to continue in their divisions. Do they not have mighty and numberless enemies? Does not the whole world hate them? Is not the world as wolves to the godly, who are as sheep? Now if not only the wolf and the fox, but also one sheep shall devour another, must not this bring utter ruin? The apostle Paul speaks fully of this danger (Galatians 5:15). Observe the notable expression, ‘biting and devouring one another.’ How unnatural this is to sheep! It is dogs that do this! And further, by this means you will consume one another. What the devils of hell, and all your wicked adversaries could not do, you will do to one another. Do not look not on your differences as mere sins, but as heavy omens of God’s wrath. When the veil in the temple rent in pieces, this was a presage of the destruction of the temple.

UNITY IS BEAUTIFUL

Unity is a most comely and beautiful thing to see. It is a ravishing thing to behold such a harmony amongst the godly! Therefore, its completeness will be in heaven. There those many thousands will all have one heart and one tongue to praise God. There will be no difference. One shall not have one way of seeing God, and another, another way. There will be no censuring, such as using reproachful terms one against another. Now the nearer the people of God come to this on earth, the more similar they are to glorified saints in heaven, and to those innumerable companies of angels that do God’s will. The angels have no jarring and contests, one angel is not of one opinion, and another of another. We ought to do God’s will as the angels do it, not only in respect of zeal and purity, but unity also.

One of the Songs of Degrees is entirely in praise of unity (Psalm 133). Unity is compared to the precious ointment that was to be composed so carefully that no one was permitted to presume to make similar oil. It was only to be poured on the high priest. The psalmist also compares unity to the fruitful and pleasant dew on the mountains. The whole psalm is remarkable:

(a) Unity is for us to ‘behold’. The psalm begins with ‘behold’ to draw others to admire it. As if to say, ‘You have seen by bitter experience what disputes and differences produce, now look at this!’
(b) ‘It is good and pleasant.’ Profit and pleasure win everyone. By this we can see our aversion to such unity, that we need those low arguments to draw us. The psalmist does not say it is just, holy and acceptable to God, but simply that it is good and pleasant.
(c) It is ‘for brethren.’ He does not say men but rather ‘brethren’, because sinful discord is apt to creep in amongst them.
(d) It is ‘together.’ He does not speak togetherness of location but of soul. The sweetness of this unity is represented by the oil that was poured on Aaron and then ran down. It must be a peace grounded on Christ our Head and High Priest, which then should diffuse itself to others. Its profitableness is described by the dew. It is from heaven and so sanctifies the barren ground. This concord is God’s gift only and if received it wonderfully blesses the church.

Who would not have rejoiced to live in the days when all believers were of one heart and one soul? What a comfort it would have been, to hear no grudging or repining at one another! But the devil (that envious one) quickly sowed tares amongst them. Ulcers and sores appeared on that body, which once was as beautiful as Absalom’s body. So the apostles urge so greatly that all things should be done in charity, that they fulfill the royal law by loving, that they do not even grudge one another. This unity and peace is so glorious that the apostle makes it a goal. ‘Study (or be ambitious) to be quiet’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11). There is a great deal of carnal and worldly ambition after things that are fading and transitory. Here is godly and spiritual ambition, to be a peacemaker. To be a peace-preserver is the greatest glory God puts on us.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

This article has been drawn from the new book Advancing Christian Unity by Anthony Burgess. It is lightly edited and in the Puritan Treasures for Today series. Burgess speaks of how union and communion with Christ and His people are “the life and comfort of believers.” Giving careful consideration of what Christian unity should look like, Burgess excels at uncovering common causes of division and promoting means to advance unity among God’s people.

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How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
13 Sep, 2019

​More than a few churches lament that commitment is in short supply. It often seems to be the same people who are involved in most things. Thankfully it’s not always the norm. There may be many reasons why people are on the fringes of church life. But there are those who prefer to sit on the sidelines. They are ready with excuses about how busy they are and the amount of things that take up their time. It’s true that the pace of modern life presents challenges in meeting the demands of work and family life. No church should expect burnout. But God has given us sufficient time to meet our responsibilities. Are we merely including church alongside a number of other personal interests and hobbies?

​The apostle Paul lamented the same trend in his own time. Everyone, he said was seeking their own things and interests, not Christ’s (Philippians 2:21). “But”, you say, “church isn’t the same as Christ’s interests”. What does he mean by the interests and things of Christ? He is speaking about their service of faith, holding forth the word of life, serving in the gospel and caring for those in the church and serving one another as part of the work of Christ (Philippians 2:3-4, 16, 17, 20, 22 and 30). Edmund Calamy lamented the same half-committed Christians in his time too. In this updated extract, he explains further how the things of Christ are the things of the Church and how we can know if we are putting Christ’s interests first.

1. Why are the things of Christ’s Church the things of Christ?

  • Because Christ is the husband of the Church, and the things of the wife are the things of her husband.
  • Because Christ has purchased them for us by His death
  • Because of the great love that Christ has to His Church. It is so great that the Church’s interests are His interests, and her injuries His injuries (Acts 9:4).

Those who neglect the things of the Church therefore, neglect the things of Christ.

2. What are the things of Christ?

In general, they are nothing else except the preservation and propagation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They involve building up the Church of Christ in truth, purity and unity. But more particularly, the things of Christ are:

  • Christ’s pure worship in Christ’s way
  • Christ’s gospel and its precious truths
  • Christ’s Church governed according to the pattern of Scripture
  • Christ’s day
  • Christ’s godly ambassadors
  • Christ’s Church reformed when corrupted in doctrine, worship and government

3. How do I know if I’m putting my own interests first?

(a) If we seek our own interests and do not care about Christ’s

This is when a Christian seeks their own interests and does not care at all what becomes of Jesus Christ and His cause. They make themselves the principle, rule and purpose of all they do: acting from self as a principle, by self as a rule, for self as a purpose. The people of Meroz were self-seekers in this way and therefore the Israelites were commanded to curse them (Judges 5:23).

(b) If we seek our own interests before Christ’s

This is when a Christian seeks the things of Christ as well as their own, but seek their own things before the things of Christ. They seek their own things first but the things of Christ afterwards. The prophet Haggai complains of the same situation (Haggai 1:2-5, 9-11).

(c) If we seek our own interests more than Christ’s

This is when we seek our own things first, not only before, but more than the things of Christ in terms of what they value and esteem in their love and affection. It is when we prize our own profit and advantage and love our own praise and glory more than the profit, praise and honour of Christ and His gospel. The Gadarenes preferred their pigs before Christ. Those in the parable made light of the call of Christ and preferred their business before Christ and His gospel (Matthew 21:3). Demas forsook Paul and embraced the present world. The Pharisees loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God (John 12:43).

(d) If we seek our own interests when we seek Christ’s

We may seek our own things in seeking the things of Christ. Jehu pretended a great deal of zeal for the Lord of Hosts. But it was only pretended, his zeal was to secure the kingdom for himself. Balaam pretended that if he was offered a house full of gold and silver he would not go beyond the commandment of God. But he loved the wages of iniquity and desired that Balak offered him.

(e) If we seek our own interests when they conflict with Christ’s

When our own interests are in competition with or in opposition to the things of Christ which do we choose? What if we must either part with possessions, liberty, and life, or with Christ and a good conscience? If we choose to part with Christ and a good conscience, rather than liberty, possessions or life, it is sinful self-seeking. The young man in the gospels who forsook Christ rather than part with his great possessions was like this.

(f) If we seek the interests of our body rather than our soul

This is when we bestow all our time, strength, concerns and endeavours in providing for our body which is perishing while we neglect to provide for our eternal soul. It is when we lay up all our treasure on earth, but have no treasure laid up in heaven. It is when we are anxious to live comfortably in this world, but strangely neglect to be concerned about living happily in the other world.

4. How do I know if I’m putting Christ’s interests first?

(a) If you seek them first, best and most

Does seeking your own things take up your time first, best, and most? Are the things of Christ the one thing necessary to which you give your energies or are they only given a little left over time? Does seeking your own things make you neglect the things of Christ or seek after them negligently? If so, it is a sign that you over-value and over-esteem your own things, and undervalue and love the things of Christ. If you pursue the things of Christ first and most, you are putting His interests first.

(b) If you mourn more for the afflictions of Christ’s cause

If you mourn more for personal miseries than for the distress of Zion it is a sign you mind your own things more than the things of Christ.  This frame of spirit is opposite to the true spirit of Ezra, Nehemiah, David, Daniel and Jeremiah who were more afflicted with the miseries of the Church than with their own. If you mourn more for Church desolations than personal miseries, you are putting Christ’s interests first.

(c) If you have courage for Christ and His cause

If seeking your own things takes away your courage for Christ and His cause. If the more you have of the world, the less you stand for Christ and His gospel. If the more honour you have in the world it makes you more fearful. If preserving your own things makes you betray the things of Christ by sinful silence or cowardice, it is a sign you prefer your interests to Christ’s. But if the more wealth you have, the more courageous you are for God, and are glad to have something to lose for Christ’s cause, you are putting Christ’s interests first.

(d) If you are prepared to defend Christ and His cause

If seeking your own things makes you seek out excuses to hinder you from defending Christ, it is a sign of self-seeking. The times in which we live are very sinful and dangerous: the truths and ministry of Christ are trampled underfoot, religion and reformation are neglected. God is calling you to defend His truths and His ministers and ordinances.

Conclusion

It’s easy for the cares and concerns of this world to take over (Luke 21:34). It’s possible to become so involved in things that are not sinful in nature, but still get in the way of commitment to Christ and His cause. If we do allow this, it is to our own spiritual detriment as well as that of the church. As Calamy has shown, the relationship between Christ and the Church is so close (as husband and wife, head and body, king and subjects) that their interests are the same.  Christians may, and ought, to seek their own things in a secondary way to the things of Christ (1 Timothy 5:8). But they must not seek their own things in opposition to the things of Christ. Timothy (Philippians 2:20) was willing to deny himself and exert himself for the church at Philippi. We need to learn from this zeal in correctly aligning our priorities.

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How Do I Know What God Commands?

How Do I Know What God Commands?

How Do I Know What God Commands?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
14 Jun, 2019

When you look around you see so many different strands of Christianity and churches. You might have asked the question–”why?” It’s not just because of historical factors–ultimately it’s because there are different answers to the question of authority. What does God require from all Churches and Christians? What has God’s authority as opposed to the authority of mere human beings?

This is of course a huge question but let’s explore it in the most straightforward way we can. The Bible specifically tells us that we will be able to discern what the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is (Romans 12:2). Something has divine authority if it is commanded by any law of God or something that is equivalent to a divine law. Some of the London ministers at the time of the Westminster Assembly produced a book (Jus Divinum or The Divine Right of Church Government) which deals with this question. The following is an updated summary of various chapters in that book. There are five different levels of divine authority; they go from a lower level to the highest level.

 

1. Natural Knowledge

Before the Fall the natural knowledge man possessed was perfect in corresponding with the divine law of God’s image within (Genesis 1:26-27). Even after the Fall with the effects of sin in our nature we do have some sense naturally in our conscience and understanding of what God wants. He has put that knowledge there or it is evident from what He has created around us. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-2). Food and weather declare the goodness and the wisdom of God (Acts 14:17). Paul makes it clear to the Athenians that God has been made known to them (Acts 17:27-28). Paul speaks about how this revelation of God’s “invisible Godhead” and attributes leaves people “without excuse” (Romans 1:18-21). They “knew God” but did not act in accordance with this knowledge. The law was also written in their hearts in some measure (Romans 2:12, 14-15). Sometimes Paul even makes an appeal to what nature teaches us when he is speaking to Christians (1 Corinthians 5:1; 11:13-15; 14:7-11, 34-35). In inspiring Scripture the Holy Spirit therefore condemns or commends certain things in relation to natural knowledge. Anything contradictory to natural knowledge in matters of religion is therefore condemned by divine authority and vice versa.

 

2. Bible Examples

There are obligatory examples in Scripture which God’s people are required to follow and imitate. The Holy Spirit has recorded and affirmed such examples for believers to imitate. This is clearer and more specific than natural knowledge. There are many examples in Scripture that we are not obliged to imitate. They are recorded for another purpose. We can conclude that Christ anything to be done that He makes known to His Church and people through an obligatory Bible example.

Christ’s humility in washing the disciples’ feet is intentionally affirmed as an obligatory example. It binds both the disciples and us to do the very meanest service to one another in love and humility (John 13:4ff, 13-15). Christ’s suffering innocently and patiently is an example for all Christians to imitate (1 Peter 2:21-23). Christians are to be generous as Christ was even if it makes them poorer (2 Corinthians 8:9). There are also others ways we follow Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2; 4:32; 1 John 2:6).

The examples of others are for us to follow (1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 6:12; 13:7; James 5:10). The book of Acts for instance is a whole book of examples meant to guide us in relation to the Church. The apostles are frequently said to be those we are to imitate (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 11:1; Philippians 4:9). Certain examples are clearly commanded (3 John 11). These commands clearly prove that many Bible examples are obligatory for us to imitate. When God condemns or commends anything it is virtually the same as requiring or forbidding it.

We have to think through what is essential to the action and what are the circumstances surrounding it. We have to look at what was unique and what is of a moral and abiding nature. In general we can say that if the example of those who are godly and approved in Scripture does not go against the principles and commands of Scripture we should follow it. Here are some principles to guide us:
(a) if an example is commanded or approved we must follow it;
(b) if an example is of a moral nature we must follow it;
(c) if an example is said to be a pattern for us or is the common practice in Scripture we must follow it;
(d) if an example is done by someone in their capacity as a believer (as opposed to fulfilling a particular function) we must follow it; and
(e) if an example is related to extraordinary gifts and calling we must only follow it if we have the same extraordinary gifts and calling.

 

3. God’s Approval

When God approves something it is equivalent to Him commanding it. God cannot approve of something that is against His will. And vice versa, He forbids things by disapproving of them, showing that they are against His will and unlawful. God approves or forbids things in different ways.

(a) Commending or Condemning

God commended Josiah for his zeal in Reformation (1 Kings 23:25). The Angel of the Church of Ephesus is commended for not bearing with those who are evil and hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:2-6). Christ approved the Angel of the Church in Pergamus for not denying the faith when faced with danger and persecution (Revelation 2:13). That becomes a rule for all pastors and churches. God commending is divine commanding. The same churches are also reproved for their failings (Revelation 2:4, 14-15,20; 3:15). The Church of Corinth are condemned for their division and disorder (1 Corinthians 11:17).

(b) Promising or Warning

Christ makes promises to His people (Mark 10:29-30; Matthew 16:19;18-18-20; 20;23; 28:18-20 and John 20:23). He also warns and threatens His people for leaving their first love, tolerating false teaching and lukewarmness (Revelation 2:4-5, 14-15, 20-23; 3:15-16). These teach us what to do and what to avoid.

(c) Rewarding or Chastising

God rewards faithfulness (Exodus 1:17-21; 1 Timothy 5:17). He chastises disobedience (1 Samuel 13:12-14; 2 Samuel 6:6-7; 2 Chronicles 26:16). The Corinthians were chastised for abusing the Lord’s Supper as a divine warning to all Churches in the future to avoid partaking of communion unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:30).

 

4. God’s Actions

Anything God has done in or for the Church of God is of divine authority. For instance, God rested on the seventh day and sanctified and blessed it (Genesis 2:2-3). That action is taken to be significant in instituting the sabbath. The Lord’s Day under the New Testament was instituted by Christ (changing the seventh day to the first day). Christ rose on the first day of the week, He appeared to the disciples on that day and sent the Holy Spirit on that day. These actions (together with the practice of the apostles: Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) have authority in setting apart that day. Likewise the whole ceremonial law is fulfilled by Christ’s death when He cried “It is finished” (John 19:30; Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:14-15).

 

5. God’s Commands

Whatever is commanded or forbidden by God in His Word is either a duty or a sin. We can divide these commands into explicit and implicit.

(a) Explicit

Some of these are obvious such as the Ten Commandments or commandments of Christ (e.g. Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24). Commands that God gives through the inspired apostles are also of authority (1 Corinthians 7:12,25,40; 14:37). Whatever is explicitly commanded by God in plain and evident terms is of divine authority without any controversy. But we do have to consider the nature of the thing commanded and the Lord’s purpose in commanding. Some commands are moral and abiding e.g. honouring father and mother. Other commands are temporary like the ceremonial and civil law for Israel under the Old Testament. Likewise there are things commanded that have a special temporary relevance but can still be binding on us in terms of their principle. Acts 15 forbids the Gentiles from stumbling fellow believers who were Jewish in relation to certain practices. There may be aspects of this that were temporary but the principle of not stumbling others certainly remains. Others are unique to particular situations, like the Israelites “borrowing” gold from the Egyptians (Exodus 11:2).

(b) Implicit

Even the Ten Commandments imply more than the words in themselves state. The commandments that forbid sin also require us to do opposite duties and vice versa. Christ explains the sixth commandment in this way (Matthew 5:21-27,43). It is not only outward actions that are forbidden but also inward actions (Matthew 5:21-22). The same is true in relation to adultery, lustful looks and thoughts are forbidden (Matthew 5:27-30).  Everything implied in a commandment has divine authority.

Implicit commands also include the many things that are clearly deduced from explicit commands. Do ministers have an explicit command to baptise? No, but it is deduced from the command to the apostles and the promise that Christ will be with them always to the end of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).  So we have to draw out the logical consequences of what is commanded in Scripture. No one says that just because we do not have any examples or commands for women to receive the Lord’s Supper they cannot. We infer from the example of whole families engaging in the Passover (Exodus 14) and the fact that male and female are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Paul proves that minsters are to have financial support from the command concerning the ox treading corn and the support for priests (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

 

Conclusion

This survey of establishing what God commands gives us the tools we need. God’s complete will concerning all things that are necessary for his own glory, our salvation, faith and life, is either explicitly stated in Scripture or can be derived from it in a valid way. There are differences within applying this. The Bible limits us to deriving our doctrine and worship from itself alone. If it’s not commanded it’s forbidden. On the other hand there are many commandments and principles in the Bible that teach us God’s will for our lives that are to be applied in the detail of everyday life. By it’s very nature this is much more expansive and requires much wisdom.

We are not to be unwise or foolish but to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). We have a natural tendency not to want to do the hard work of searching out God’s will in Scripture. We also have a sinful tendency to want to limit God’s authority on our lives and activities – even in the life of the Church. The reality is that we are able to experience liberty when we seek God’s commandments (Psalm 119:145).

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How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?

How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?

How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
7 Jun, 2019

It is right to express our deep gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom in World War II. We owe so much to that generation. There is little public recognition today, however, of the debt we owe to God. Many prayers were offered 75 years ago for this deliverance and in God’s great kindness they were answered. King George VI’s VE Day speech began “Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance”. It ended, “In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause into the hand of God and he has been our strength and shield. Let us thank him for his mercies and in this hour of victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance that same strong hand”. Yet we have to ask ourselves how our nations have made use of this deliverance. Did we use the freedom to honour or dishonour God? Have we been thankful to God? What is true thankfulness?

We ought also to reflect on the many other reasons we have personally and corporately for being thankful to God. How has it left an abiding impact on our lives and hearts? Thomas Case speaks movingly in describing what he calls the “pure, holy, spiritual, active grace and duty of thankfulness”. True thankfulness to God does not “put him off with a few empty, formal compliments instead of the real, spiritual, and vital duty which he expects and deserves” from us. True spiritual thankfulness is a grace which comes down from heaven and ascends back to heaven.

 

1. True Thankfulness Exalts God

We exalt God (Psalm 30:1) and calls on others to help (Psalm 34:3). True spiritual thankfulness wants God to be more exalted and man less.

 

2. True Thankfulness is Prayerful

Truth thankfulness rises towards heaven and God in holy prayer (Psalm 116:13 and 17). We do not give up praying when God has put an end to our troubles (Job 27:10).  With the truly thankful prayer leads deliverance and deliverance leads to prayer. It is love not mere necessity that makes him pray. Love to prayer and love to the God of prayer.

 

3. True Thankfulness Shows Love to God

Love draws the heart out in great love to God (Psalm 18:1). This was David’s song in the day that the Lord had delivered him from the hands of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. The saints express this love in these three ways:

(a) Seeking to know God more  (Exodus 33:18). Moses had seen much of the wonders of God. Now his love is fired with desire to see and know the God of these wonders.

(b) Seeking to enjoy God more (Psalm 86:10-11). The Psalmist seeks to know the way to God to enjoy more communion with God. A thankful heart will only be content with God Himself, not merely the things of God.

(c) Seeking to glory in God more (Psalm 48:3-7, 12-13). The Church concludes that Psalm of rejoicing for victory with this as the greatest triumph “This God is our God for ever and ever (Psalm 48:14). The God that has done all these wonders is my God. She does not glory so much in the victories God had given her, as in belonging to the God of those victories.

 

4. Truth Thankfulness Requires Self-denial

Self-denial for God’s sake (Ezra 9:13-14). There is more thankfulness in one act of self-denial than in twenty days of thanksgiving.

 

5. True Thankfulness Fulfils our Vows

“What shall I render?” David says (Psalm 116:12). “I will pay my vows” (Psalm 116:14 and 18). This is as right a response as any for all the mercies of God to His people, whether national or personal, whether victories or supplies. All of these are God making good His covenant to them. We must pay our vows to God (Psalm 56:12).

 

6. True Thankfulness Trusts God

If God delivers a thankful heart it will trust Him another time (Exodus 14:31). A people or person cannot honour God more than by trusting Him. Abraham was strong in faith giving glory to God (Romans 4:20).

 

7. True Thankfulness is Life Changing

Thankfulness makes us order our life to God’s glory (Psalm 50:23). The main work of thanksgiving is the ordering of our lives (literally in Hebrew, disposing our way aright). Thankful lips do well, but thankful lives do better. A day of thanksgiving is something, but a life of thanksgiving is everything.

 

8. True Thankfulness Desires Others to Praise God

A thankful heart is filled with enlarged desires that others, that all would be thankful. The holy psalmist cries out to all that receive mercies, that they would respond with praise to God (Psalm 107:31). He observes how much people receive from God and how little they give back to God. He is troubled by this. He cries out like someone in pain and grief. He is not willing that God should lose anything by any of the wonders He does. Surely this a high expression of thankfulness, when the heart labours with holy desires for the whole world to give glory to God (see the whole of Psalm 148). A gracious heart does not think it enough to praise God alone; even though it would praise God supposing were there none in heaven or earth to keep it company.

 

9. True Thankfulness Speaks of God’s Works

A thankful heart delights to speak of the wonderful works of God (Psalm 145:5, 10-12).  The Church praises God’s great goodness, mercies and the multitude of His lovingkindnesses (Isaiah 63:7). The saints not only stir up one another to speak of His praises but seek to preserve the memory of His wonderful works to all generations (Psalm 145:4-7; Psalm 78:2-5).

 

10. True Thankfulness Longs for Heaven

Since gracious spirits adorned with thankfulness can only live a short while to praise God on earth, and since their generations will not continue forever to do this work–they long for heaven. There in the presence of God their praises will be perfected. Here they are feeble, weary, full of natural and sinful weakness There they will be vigourous, active, pure and perfect without change or end to all eternity (Revelation 8:4).  Thankfulness is a pure flame of a restless motion, always mounting upward until it comes to heaven. There it will sing everlasting hallelujahs to Him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb. There it will observe a day of thanksgiving that will never have an evening.

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