How can we expect things to get better?

How can we expect things to get better?

How can we expect things to get better?

With election season ongoing in the UK and the USA, it provides opportunity to analyse the state of the nation and decide whose vision for the future we prefer. An honest evaluation from the perspective of God’s law can only conclude that over the past few decades, society and leaders have conspired together to encourage each other to abandon God’s ways. The result has not been greater human flourishing but more disregard for the vulnerable and the resurgence of various forms of oppression through for example the cost of living crisis, widening access to abortion, carelessness about predatory men gaining access to children and women, and failures in social care disadvantaging the elderly and those with disabilities. Can anything much be salvaged from the wreckage, though, if we are not on God’s side and while God withholds His approval? The prophet Micah brought urgent warnings from the Lord for rulers in particular. George Hutcheson discusses Micah’s words in the following updated extract from his commentary. Although God certainly holds each individual responsible for their own sins, Micah also insists that the ruling classes are themselves accountable to God for how they (mis)use their power in the nation. This holds equally true for those seeking to remain in power and those seeking to win the election. When rulers become oppressors and turn a blind eye to the miseries of the poor, there is something fitting about God refusing to help them in their own time of need.

In the opening two chapters of his prophecy, Micah has faithfully exposed the sins of the body of this people, and denounced God’s judgments because of sin. Now in chapter 3 he comes more particularly to reprove the rulers of both church and state, especially in Judah, and to threaten them with the consequences of their sins.

He does this firstly by distinct groupings, in relation to their own particular punishments. The princes, who ought to know right and wrong, and walk accordingly, were yet the most perverse and inhumane in oppression (Micah 3:1–3). Micah warns them that in their time of difficulty they shall not be acknowledged by God (v. 4). The false prophets, who deluded the people, and preached in whatever way would be most subservient to their base ends (v.5), are threatened with such confusion as would make them ashamed of their trade (v.6–7), whereas Micah, a faithful man, would faithfully persist in his duty (v.8).

He also deals with the rulers conjointly, in relation to the judgement which by their sin they had procured to come on the church of God. The rulers perverted justice (v.9), and built the holy city with goods taken by oppression (v.10). Generally, both rulers in the state and teachers in the church were corrupted with bribes, and love for gain, and yet would presumptuously rely on God (v.11). He therefore warns that for their sake Sion would be laid desolate (v.12).

The ruling class should know the law

“Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel, is it not for you to know judgement?” (v.1) Micah challenges the rulers in peace and war, for affected ignorance of the law of God. He lays the basis for showing how aggravated their wickedness was, in that they should be concerned to be even better acquainted than others with the will of God in the matter of justice and equity. Although they ought to be exemplary in their knowledge and obedience, (knowledge including consequent affection and practice), in their practice they proved that they either were ignorant of the law, or else they despised it.

When a land in general is culpable of defecting from God’s ways, rulers in church and state have their own eminent guilt in it. This is implied in the general theme of what Micah says, as, having reproved the whole body of the people, he now comes to challenge the rulers in an especial manner. “Hear, O heads of Jacob.”

Micah’s practice shows us that faithful ministers ought not only to inveigh against sin in general, or the sin of the common people only, but they ought in particular to reprehend the sins of every rank, even of rulers. Those of greatest eminency are bound to hear God speaking by His messengers, and to receive what messages are sent to them, as being under the law just as others are.

As rulers especially are unwilling to be brought to an account for their ways by the ministry of the Word, so ministers are bound to omit no point of discretion, and tender persuasiveness, which would be consistent with their fidelity and zeal against sin, and which may be instrumental to make the word take, and not be stumbled at. We can see this from Micah’s way of entreaty, “Hear, I pray you,” which indicates both that the rulers were averse to hearing, and that Micah tenderly reached out in order that they would hear.

Beside the general obligation lying on all (especially within the visible church) to know and obey the will of God, it is especially incumbent on rulers and great ones among the Lord’s people to do so. By reason of their education, means, encouragements, leisure, offices, etc., they are enabled with advantages, and bound to know more than others, and to put their knowledge into practice, in order that they may be examples to others.

However opposed people may be to the challenges of ministers in the matter of affected ignorance, or wilful neglect of known duties, yet these excuses will not satisfy their own consciences, when they are seriously put to it. That’s why Micah confronts them with a question which they could not deny. “Is it not for you to know judgement?”

Their knowledge should be put into practice

The Lord does not reckon that people know anything, when the truth they know has no place in their heart, and they make no endeavours to put it into practice. That’s how Micah explains that they “do not know judgment” — it was that they “hated the good” (v.2), and oppressed the people (v.2–3).

The Lord notices chiefly the disposition and affection of people’s hearts towards good or evil. It is a desperate condition, when not only your practice is out of course, but your affections also are alienated from God and inclined to evil. “You hate the good, and love the evil.”

Whatever oppressors may claim to be the cause of their cruelty toward those they oppress (e.g., they stood in need, and needed to live of their own, etc.), yet the Lord sees it to flow from their perverse and corrupt affections. That’s why He says of oppressors, “Ye hate the good, and love the evil.”

God sees it when they oppress the people

In opposition to what the rulers ought to be, Micah sets forth their disposition and practice. They abhorred what was good, and loved what was evil. They oppressed and undid the Lord’s people so cruelly, by taking away the very means of their subsistence and livelihood, that it was as if they had flayed their skin from off them, eaten their flesh, and broken their bones to boil them for meat, the way butchers and cooks do with animals for food (v.2–3).

The greatest perversity is usually found in those who ought, and may, and will not, or neglect to make use of such means as might promote piety and justice. All this perversity is in “the heads of Jacob,” who had means and opportunity to set them doing otherwise.

Oppression is, in God’s account, inhumane butchery, and murder, in a degree far above simple slaughter, while the oppressed pine away for want, and the oppressors (like barbarians, or wild beasts) eat that which is the very life and flesh of the poor.

However, although magistrates and great ones think themselves to be above all law, yet they have no right to oppress a people (especially if they are God’s people) and deal with them simply as they wish. Rather, they are accountable for how they have treated them. Here they are challenged by God for how they are oppressing His people. The oppressed — or others — perhaps do not dare to challenge them for their injurious dealings, yet there is a God who will lay it to their charge.

God will disown them in their time of crisis

The sentence which will be particularly passed on them is by way of retaliation. As they had oppressed the poor and turned a deaf ear to their cries, so they will meet with judgment without mercy or compassion. God will not pay attention to them, even if (out of a sense of their trouble) they seek Him.

For it says, “Then shall they cry unto the Lord” (v.4). They will be forced to seek God, whom they otherwise disregarded. Even the greatest, and those who most wickedly forget God, shall at one time or other be conscious of God’s reverence, and will send their errand His way. Natural (unspiritual) people may make some show of seeking God in trouble — not in faith, or out of love, but out of sense of trouble. The general calamities which were previously threatened, or their own particular corrections for their sin, press down on them, and “then shall they cry.”However, it is righteous with God not to heed this crying of the wicked in their trouble, because of their previous wickedness and ongoing unsoundness, and in particularly, so that He may recompense them for not hearkening to the cry of the poor who they had oppressed. “They shall cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them.”

“He will hide his face from them at that time” of trouble. It is extreme misery to be deserted totally by God in trouble, and to lack His favour and sense of reconciliation, which would support them in any extremity.

“He will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.” Although God sometimes in a sense hides His face from His own children, in order to test their faith, His intention, when He disregards the wicked in trouble, is so that wickedness would be seen and lamented as the cause of it.

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What to do in a minority

What to do in a minority

What to do in a minority

Today’s church finds itself not only exiled from places of prominent usefulness, but also under attack from multiple sources. At the same time, it is itself beset with many vulnerabilities. Low levels of commitment and spirituality within its members and leaders, coupled with inarticulateness in proclaiming the gospel message, mean that the church is ill equipped for the pressures and assaults of an increasingly aggressive secular society. Although unlike Covenanting times, when the threat of armed physical violence was real, there remain ways in which our situation today echoes David’s experience in Psalm 86, where he describes many strong enemies assembling against his small forces and poised to destroy him. “O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul …” (Psalm 86:14). In a sermon on this prayer of David’s, the blind Edinburgh preacher Archibald Skeldie brings God’s perspective to bear. In the following updated excerpt, Skeldie discusses the significance of the numerousness of David’s enemies in God’s sight, before offering suggestions as to how to respond as a threatened minority.

David says that his enemies “assemble themselves together.” He mentions their “assembling” for two reasons.

The numerousness of enemies is no match for God’s power

First, for the glory of God’s power. The weaker the defending side, and the stronger the assailing force, the more obvious is the power of one who defends the weaker against the stronger. The power of God Almighty is manifested, when His saints and servants are brought to such extremity that they can neither help themselves, nor find help from others, against their many and mighty persecutors. He who manifested His power in Paul’s weakness in the hour of temptation, declares His power by protecting His saints in time of persecution. As one commentator says, “The Lord will not deny His safeguard to His saints while they are straited with necessity.” Instead He graciously helps them.

Remarkable is the example of Hezekiah and his people. The army of the Assyrians was known to be great, Hezekiah was conscious of his weakness, and that weakness was not unknown to his enemy, who told him that he had neither riders for horses, nor counsel for war. The power of God who protected Hezekiah was manifested, not only in promising him security, but likewise in actually ensuring his safety in the destruction of his enemy. Hezekiah, so weak in the sight of Sennacherib, seemed foolish in holding out a walled city against him. He would have judged him mad, if he had ventured to come in open field against him. Yet the power of God was magnified, whose bridle was always in Sennacherib’s lips, so that he could not go beyond His permission, just like a horse can only go where his rider wishes. The church of God complains in the 83rd Psalm of the confederacy of many enemies, who not only sought the ruin of God’s people, saying, “Let us root out Israel from being a nation,” but broke out in pride against the Lord Himself, saying, “Let us take for our possession the mansions of God.” The church requests their destruction by humble prayer so that God would be magnified in His glorious power.

The numerousness of enemies is an opportunity to trust God more fully

The second reason for David to mention the “assembling” of his enemies is to declare his trust and confidence in God. The multitude of his enemies is so far from chasing him away from God, that it maketh him run all the more to God, by earnest prayer and settled confidence. As by His power He is able to protect him, so by His mercy He will compass him (Psalm 32:10).

David well knew how powerfully this argument would prevail with God, that the one who is pursued by many enemies, and trusts in God, should be protected by the power and mercy of God. Basic humanity will teach people not to betray but rather to protect to the utmost of their power those who commit their lives to their care. Much more will the tender mercy of our gracious Lord move Him graciously to protect all those who “put their trust under the shadow of his wings.”

How to respond to being outnumbered by enemies

Various things are set out in Scripture for us to take note of.

Every one of God’s people should well observe what unique experiences they have had of God’s favourable protection. What makes David unafraid of the multitude of his enemies is when he considers how he has previously been delivered from the fury and rage of his enemies. Basil summarises David’s position in a similar psalm (Psalm 27), “Because I have received so great experience and proof of divine help, then, albeit twice or thrice so many press to overwhelm me, yet being guarded by this hope, I will withstand all those evils with invincible courage.”

The Lord Himself exhorts His people to trust in Him, with a promise of security and safety. “Trust in the Lord, and ye shall be established; believe his prophets, and ye shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).

Don’t be deceived by appearances. If we look at the experience of His saints, it may justly be said, “None of them that trust in him, shall be desolate,” because those who trusted in Him were always delivered: “Our fathers that trusted in him were not ashamed.” We must not withdraw our confidence from God, when we see no appearance of help at the hands of men! Instead we should all the more rely on Him, with trust and confidence. He usually sends His relief when there is least appearance of it.

Mutual enemies can agree in opposition against God. Although the enemies of David were proud, and their pride and ambition caused them dissensions and strife amongst themselves, yet they can combine themselves to be David’s persecutors. It is the nature of proud men, so far as they are proud, to presume on their own worth, and think all others contemptible. They presume on their own wisdom, so they think nothing done well other than their own words and works, or else what somehow or other takes their fancy. They are so concerned about their own honour and wealth that they care nothing if others are brought to ruin and disgrace. It is a wonder then that they can assemble with others for one united purpose! Yet we see that though Pilate and Herod were mutual enemies, they can be friends when Christ is to be crucified. Though there is mutual hatred betwixt the Pharisees and Sadduces, they can conspire together when Christ is persecuted. The proud persecutors of the saints of God are set to work by Satan for one end, to destroy the kingdom of Christ, even though those who have a hand in the business all have their own worldly, devilish and other motivations, ambition, cruelty, and covetousness.

How to act in view of imminent threat

When the Covenanters of Britain and Ireland hear of the assembling of enemies from various quarters, there are three things which they should earnestly lay to heart.

Carefully strive to keep peace amongst yourselves

First, Covenanters should labour to be of one mind in the essentials of religion, and in the service and worship of God. They should mutually defend one another, according to thair Covenant. They should remove from themselves all excuses which may hinder them from advancing the cause of Christ — none who has power should claim to be weak, nor should those who have wealth claim poverty, but every zealous Christian should count it his honour and happines that God has furnished him with ability, and by His providence offered him opportunity, to honour Christ and advance His kingdom.

Christians are called to peace, in one body. They should let the peace of God rule in their hearts at all times, but especially when their peace is troubled by cruel persecutors. Abraham thought it not time to argue with Lot, when they were in the land of the Amorites. The Athenians and Thebanes had their mutual jealousies, yet they packed up all their dissensions when they were invaded by Philip, King of Macedonia, the enemy of the liberty of all Greece. This is especially important when you remember that usually distraction is a dolorous omen of destruction. Union makes strength, but division brings weakness. If we are true to ourselves, and keep that peace which we have sworn in our Covenant, and which is required of the disciples of Christ, we will have less need to worry about all the enemies of the cause of Christ.

Do what you can to hinder enemies assembling

Secondly, when the people of the Lord hear of their enemies assembling, they should labour as much as in them lies, to hinder them coming together. It was wise of the Romans to fight with the army of Hasdrubal before the army of Hannibal. It is a great deal safer to deal with the individual parts of an army than the complete body. In the time of Edward I of England, one of the Scottish noblemen, with 8,000 of our people, vanquished in one day 30,000 of the English, who were divided into three bands. It would have been more difficult, if they had all been joined together.

Humbly entreat the Lord to be here to help

Thirdly, when we hear of the assembling of various people from various quarters, our humble prayer should be to the Lord, “That he would be present in the assembly of his saints,” that so they would be protected and defended against the assemblies of their cruel enemies. “If God be one our side, who is against us?” Abijam was more encouraged that God was with his people than he was afraid of the huge number of Jeroboam’s army against his people.

But while we entreat the Lord by prayer, we must look well to two things.

For one thing, we should not be excessively afraid, or fainthearted, when we are fewer in number, seeing it makes no difference to the Lord to vanquish by few or by many. There are frequent passages to this effect in the Book of Judges, and in the Books of the Kings.

The other thing is, even if in God’s providence our numbers are greater, yet we must not lean on the strength of man, but to the help and assistance of God. Neither the greatness of number, nor the goodness of the cause for which they fight, will make people prevail aginst their enemies if they have greater confidence in their own strength than in the help of God. I actually think that when Jehosaphat was threatened by his enemies, he could have raised a greater army than all the kings who were his enemies, and yet he says, “Lord, we know not what to do, but our eyes are towards thee.” “Chariots and horses may run to the battle, but the Lord of hosts giveth victory.” If we find access to God by prayer, then any time we are threatened by our enemies, we may expect His protection and deliverance, according to David’s observation, “When I cry, then mine enemies shall be turned back; this I know, for God is for me.”

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Accurately valuing God’s ordinances

Accurately valuing God’s ordinances

Accurately valuing God’s ordinances

God has provided many ordinances as means for Him to show us His grace, including preaching, prayer, Christian fellowship, etc. The New Testament also has two special ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s supper, known to the Covenanters and others as sacraments to distinguish them among the other ordinances. These are the Lord’s gifts to His people to help us in our faith along the way, and the spiritual significance of participating in these particular ordinances is immense. The spiritualness of both baptism and the Lord’s supper can, however, mean that we distort their importance, either overlooking their value altogether, or investing far too much in them. While we do not want to ungratefully undervalue their significance, neither do we want to superstitiously exaggerate them. In the following brief updated excerpt, James Durham guides us between these extremes.

Giving excessive respect

We place too much weight on the sacraments if we think that they are absolutely necessary in order to salvation — or if we imagine that they confer grace by themselves (just when people partake of the outward elements of water, bread, wine, without faith) — or if we rest on simply the outward receiving of the elements, as if that made us in some way acceptable to God.

Sometimes, people superstitiously and blindly prefer the sacraments to all the other ordinances, so that they disparage the others. They will go for a long time neglecting preaching and praying, but they simply must have baptism and communion.

It is also excessive when we prefer the outward ordinance to Christ and the thing signified by the ordinance. For example, if we are more interested in the baptism of water then the baptism of the Spirit, or more interested in the external communion than the inward. Then, anything of heaven that is to be found in the ordinances is left neglected, and people are more upset about going without the sacrament once, than about missing Christ often and long.

We should also beware of coming and going from ordinances while neglecting Him who gives the blessing, yet thinking that all is well enough, seeing we were present at the ordinance.

Too much is made of the sacraments when people travel a great distance in order to partake of a sacrament when this means they are unable to fulfil necessary moral duties called for at that time. Likewise when people place more value on the sacraments than on works of mercy and charity, or dote on the sacraments to the neglect of such works.

It is also too much esteem when the sacraments are accounted so holy that they may not be administered where Christ permits, or as if they are somehow spoiled when they are not administered in some “consecrated” place.

Finally, also excessive is adding to Christ’s institution, in the way of administration, as if what He has appointed (because it is common and ordinary), is base, and too low for them.

Giving too little respect

On the other hand, the sacraments get too little esteem when people use them as bare and empty signs, without respect to their due ends.

They are disrespected when God is not reverenced in them as He ought to be according to His command, when we are going about such holy and solemn pieces of worship. Also when people can carnally, and without preparation and observation, treat them as common things.

Too little respect is shown in the failure to admire and bless God’s grace and goodness in stooping down in them to us, the failure to ponder and study them, failing to delight in them, and being careless as to whether we have them or go without them.

Likewise, corrupting the Lord’s institution in our manner of going about a sacrament, either adding to it, or diminishing from it, or changing it, as if this is something that humans had the right to do.

We do not value the sacraments highly enough when we have little zeal to keep them pure, as well as when we neglect them on those occasions where we needed to make more of an effort to get them.

It is disrespectful when we account them better when administered by one minister rather than another, or we think the less of them when they are administered by certain men (who are also lawful ministers) — as if men added any worth to the ordinance of God. Also when we assume that their efficacy depends on the one who administers them, or the grace of those who participate alongside them.

We give the sacraments too little respect when we never actually lay weight on any of them, or draw comfort from them. When we don’t wish and pray for others to get good from them. When we are unafraid that they are used wrongly by multitudes of those who partake of them, and rather than endeavouring to improve the situation, we are content for them to be made available to all indifferently. Also when we have little zeal against the errors that wrong them.

Finally, people show insufficient respect when they are not afraid that they might break the commitments and engagements they made in the sacraments.

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The energetic activity of waiting

The energetic activity of waiting

The energetic activity of waiting

All our safety and wellbeing depends on keeping close to the Lord. Yet our sinful hearts keep drifting away from Him, to our own cost as well as His dishonour. When we then come to our senses and realise He is far away and we are in a desperate place without Him, what can we do? In the following updated extract, William Guthrie’s advice to helpless, sin-stricken people is not to give in to a passive, lethargic, despairing kind of inactivity, but to “wait” on the Lord by rejecting unsafe alternatives and by persisting in the expectation of grace from Him.

While Isaiah speaks for himself, he speaks for all the godly, when he says, “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him” (Isaiah 8:17). In these words you have the duty of the people of God: to wait on the Lord until He pleads their cause, and executes judgment for them.

One of the doctrines we can deduce from this verse is that when people are shaken out of their self-confidence, it is their duty then to wait on God.

Reasons why we should wait on God

We are to wait on God for several reasons.

  • Because we are commanded to. “Wait on the Lord” is often commanded in Scripture.
  • Because of the promise that is annexed to waiting. “Those that wait upon the Lord shall never be ashamed.”
  • Because it is the most acquiescent and composed posture one can possibly be in. In an evil time, “it is good to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
  • Because it has always been the work and practice of the people of God, even in the days of old. Says the Psalmist, “My soul waits for the Lord, more than they that do watch for the morning.”
  • Because it always has a joyful outcome. “Lo! this is our God! we have waited for him, we will rejoice in him!”

But so that you may better know when it is your duty to wait on the Lord, I shall in the next place show you three things. Firstly, what precedes, or goes before, waiting on the Lord. Secondly, what it means to wait. And thirdly, what follows a right waiting on the Lord.

Things that come before waiting

[In order to wait on the Lord, these things should be firmly fixed in our hearts.]

It really is our duty. The duty itself is fully set out in this chapter. “Say not, ‘A confederacy!’ with them to whom this people shall say, ‘A confederacy’;” that is, “Do not let their words make you afraid.” “But only sanctify the Lord in your hearts;” that is, be only afraid of offending Him.

There is a promise held out to those who make Him their fear. “He shall be for a sanctuary unto them.”

A threatening is pronounced against those who fall away from Him. There is a threatening pronounced against the common multitude who decline and join with the times. “He will be for a stone of stumbling unto them.” It is only a promise held out to those who walk aright, while it is a threatening against those who go wrong and comply in an evil time.

What does waiting on the Lord mean?

Exclusively on God

Waiting on God means that the heart terminates on Him, with an expectation fixed only on God for help, and on none else. “My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him.” That is, “Wait on God, and on no other.” Similar is that word, “Help us, Lord, for vain is the help of man.”

Pre-eminently on God

Waiting on God also signifies that your expectation is more on God Himself than on any created means. God can give you means, but if you don’t get Himself, it doesn’t matter what else you might get. He may send back your means for a plague to you and not for your good. Therefore plead with Him, and be blunt with Him, and say, “Go with us, Lord, or else carry us not up hence.” So I say, you should plead more for God’s presence than any other means under heaven.

Whatever it costs

Waiting on God means submitting to the seasons of deliverance from your present condition, and to the ordering of it and all that concerns you, while under the trial.

For as long as it takes

Wait on God means resolving to remain at the duty of waiting, until He shows you what else you should do. For waiting on God is still your duty while you are in the dark, and can use no other means for your relief.

What follows after waiting

These things follow after waiting, and are clear from the text.

Stigma. You must resolve to be “for signs and wonders in Israel.” If ever you resolve to be someone who waits on God, you must resolve to be mocked, reproached, banished, imprisoned, and every other way persecuted for Christ.

Pressures. A great many temptations follow when you wait on God.

Isolation. There will be few left to preach the gospel or to consult with in that dark time. He says, “Go to the law, and to the testimony.” You must then make use of your Bibles instead of your ministers.

Eventual vindication. The manifest vengeance of God shall be on those who turn aside. That will be the lot of those who oppose the work and people of God.

The implications for us

Have you been given your work and duty in a dark time? Then go to God. Don’t plead ignorance, saying, “What shall we do?” Instead, I say, wait on the Lord, and judge yourselves happy, that the thing which is your duty cannot take from you by enemies (though they may take your life from you).

Face temptations squarely. Before temptation comes, be resolved that they will not cause you to turn aside. Make the effort to be clear in your understanding as to the honesty and justness of the cause, and for that end be well acquainted with the Scripture, and there see what is your duty.

To conclude, believe this, that God’s wrath abides on those who turn aside from Him. All that they previously took pleasure in shall forsake them, or shall be embittered to them, in the day when those who waited shall enjoy what they waited for.

 

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What makes the Christian ministry special?

What makes the Christian ministry special?

What makes the Christian ministry special?

All of Christ’s people are called to be His witnesses, and speak His truth into the situations and relationships they find themselves in. There is one body, and each member its own place and usefulness. Yet not all are called to be preachers or hold the office of minister in Christ’s church. John Brown of Wamphray explains the distinctiveness of the Christian ministry in the following updated extract. After showing that it is not unspiritual to value the forms and order of Christ’s church, he points to a large number of Scripture references which demonstrate that some but not all are called to be ministers. It is when people follow the Scripture pattern in preference to the promptings of their own spirits that God the Holy Spirit is genuinely honoured and will add His blessing.

Church order is more than empty formalism

[Our opponents in this controversy are prone to] accuse us of adhering to externals, devised by human wisdom, because we cleave to the rules and methods and orders prescribed by Christ to be followed in His house. On the other hand, they see themselves as the ones who follow the Spirit and are led by His direct help and influence.

The problem is that they end up accusing the Holy Spirit of leading them in a method and order that is not prescribed in the Word, but is only the invention of their own brains, blasphemously attributed to the leading of the Spirit of God. There is no basis to imagine that the Spirit of God will lead anyone in courses opposite to, and reflecting on, what Christ has instituted, because He is the Spirit of Christ, and sent by Him from the Father, with the work of testifying to Him, and not working at cross-purposes to Him, or trampling on what He has appointed.

Although there are differences of opinion about the order to be observed in the house of God, there is no warrant for our opponents to reject all order. They seem to want to bring in the confusion of Babel instead of the beautiful and edifying order which Christ, the supreme head and king of the Church, has appointed, and signally blessed, for His own glory and for promoting the good and edification of His subjects.

According to our opponents, it was not the mind of Christ “that Christians should establish the shadows and form of officers, without the power, efficacy and Spirit of Christ.” However, the power, efficacy and Spirit of Christ, is not in Christian’s power to establish (the Spirit bloweth where He listeth; John 3:8). I am not familiar with the Spirit which can be established by men — it is not the Spirit of God who is so under their power that He can be established by them as they please.

Also, although we are not trying to make a case for shadows and forms, yet we acknowledge (and desire to observe) the ordinances which Christ has appointed to continue in His Church, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–13), even to “the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). We have no ground to think that all these offices and officers were appointed only for that time and age, seeing the work is of the same necessity now as it was then. It is true, there was a special piece of work called for then; i.e., the founding and settling of gospel churches, and of gospel order and ordinances, and special, extraordinary officers were called, qualified and empowered then, which are not now necessary.

Now that the foundation has been laid, no is more required but a continual building on that foundation, for which, ordinary officers, and a standing ordinary ministry, are sufficient and necessary, in order that the ordinances of perpetual use may be administered, according to Christ’s appointment, for the constant edification of the Church. When the Church is denuded of her officers and watchers, she becomes easier prey for these grievous wolves who now enter in, not sparing the flock, and speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them.

The Christian ministry is a distinct office

Our opponents argue that there were no distinct office-bearers, particular individual persons, separated and set apart for the work of the ministry in the days of the apostles. However, the opposite is true. There were apostles, there were evangelists, and there were the other ordinary officers ordained and settled in the churches. See Acts 6:1–6; Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 12: 28–30; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1; Phil 4:3; Phil 2: 25; Col. 4:7, 12, 17; 1 Thess. 5:12–14; 1 Tim. 3:1–15; 1 Tim. 4:14–16. 1 Tim 5: 17, 22; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:1–2; Tit. 1:5–9; Heb. 13:7, 17; Jam. 5:14; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2; Rev. 3.

Declaring that there is no such thing as office-bearers established in the house of God, distinct from other church members, destroys the whole order of the ministry. It contradicts what is taught in Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12; Acts 15:4, 6; Acts 21:18; 2 Cor. 5:18–19. It contradicts what is evident in the titles, or particular designations which are given to individual persons set over others in the New Testament, such as “pastors” (Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:20; Acts 20:28), “doctors” (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), “stewards” (1 Cor. 4:1; Tit. 1:7), “preachers” (Rom. 10:14), “overseers” (Acts 20:18; 1 Pet. 4:15; 1 Pet. 5:2), “angels” (Rev. 1:20, etc), “stars” (Rev. 1:18), “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:19–20), “such as are set over others” (Heb. 13:17); and “rulers” (1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17).

The same thing is also evident from:

  • the special work given to them, not only included in the fore-mentioned titles, but expressly mentioned, such as preaching the gospel, administration of sacraments, care of the poor, exercise of discipline, etc. (see Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 9:16–17; 10:16; Rom. 12:6–8; 2 Cor. 12:15; 1 Tim. 4:13–16; 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:25; 4:2; Acts 6:2, 4).
  • the duties required of others, in reference to them (1 Thess. 5:12; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17).
  •  the qualifications required in them (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:2–6; Tit. 1:5–9).
  •  the orders given about examining and ordaining them (Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3:10; 5:11–12).
  •  the special commands and injunctions laid upon them, to mind their work aright (1 Tim. 3:5. 1 Pet. 5:2, 3. 1 Tim. 4:14, 15, 16. Act. 6:2, 4. 2 Tim. 4:2. & 2:25. 1 Cor 9:16, 17 2 Cor. 12:15. Heb. 13:17).
  •  the promises of God’s presence and assistance in the discharge of this work (Matt. 28:20; Rev. 1:1).
  •  God’s approbation of them in it (Matt. 16:19; John 20:23; Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 1 Thess. 4:8).
  • In this way, the work which God has committed specifically to these officers, is made common.

The Spirit is a God of order and uses ordinary means

Some even go as far as to say that everyone, according as his own spirit (falsely called the Spirit of God) moves him, may take on this work (although for the sake of order they may allow something like a call from the people). But the Lord has restricted this work, ordinarily, to specific officers. Any encroachment is expressly prohibited (e.g., Rom. 12:3, 6, 7, 8; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Cor. 7:20; 1 Thess. 4:11).

That God is free to call whom He will, we know; but He has told us by His servant Paul, that He will not call women to this public ministry. Seeing He has appointed an ordinary and settled way whereby persons are to enter into this work, we have no warrant to think that those who do not come in by the door that He has set open, but creep in at windows, or suchlike unlawful ways, are called of the Lord. Rather, they run unsent, in contempt of God and His established order.

Some argue that anyone who is moved by the Spirit may instruct, teach, and exhort, when the saints are gathered together. This does not refer to private admonishing and exhorting, but the teaching which is ministerial, and is to have ministerial authority, when given by persons clothed with the authority of the ministerial office. This work is unique to the office, and ought to be performed only by those who are clothed with the office.

Also, in ordinary cases, God moves no one to violate the order established in His own house. Because of this order which Christ has established, we judge that all those persons who suppose themselves moved by the Spirit to teach publicly in the assemblies of the saints, are moved by their own spirit, and not by the Spirit of God, who is a God of order, and not the author of confusion; or rather by the spirit of Satan, in contempt of Christ’s order.

It is small wonder that their brethren, who are under the power of the same delusion, receive them, hearken to them and honour them. Yet this is more a confirmation of their delusion, than an argument evincing the lawfulness of their way.

Some argue that it is wrong to exclude from the ministry those who are not educated for it. But why does it offend them, that men put effort into being instructed and qualified for this work? Why does it offend them that only those who are qualified should be admitted into the office? It seems that the work of the ministry is a light business with them, and may be carried out by those who have no learning or qualifications. But the Lord qualified His apostles by teaching them for several years, as well as by extraordinary infusion of knowledge. Are we supposed to wait for such miracles now? Experience tells us that the Lord does not work in this way now, so why are they offended when we use ordinary means to attain knowledge? The work of the ministry is something that will take up the whole man, and his whole time, if he is faithful and diligent.

 

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How preaching is necessary for conversion

How preaching is necessary for conversion

How preaching is necessary for conversion

Not even the Word of God will convert souls unless the Holy Spirit blesses it. Does this mean that preaching is pointless? Absolutely not, says Samuel Rutherford. Interacting with writers in his own time, Rutherford concludes emphatically that preaching the Word is necessary for people to be converted. As seen in the following updated and abridged excerpt, Rutherford is clear on the one hand that the Word is only an instrument, and also on the other hand that it is a real instrument. The Word — read and especially preached — is God’s chosen method of winning souls to Himself.

Preaching the Word is necessary as an instrument

The Word preached is the instrument of the Holy Spirit in our conversion, not the author of it, or its “efficient cause.”

The Word (written or preached) is a created thing, not the formal object of our faith. It is not the objectum quod [the object which] but the objectum quo [the object by which], the intervening means or medium of our faith. The Word, like all instruments, must be elevated above its nature, to bring about more than a “letter” impression of Christ believed in.

The writing, speaking, and conveying of Christ to the soul in the preached Word may be human and by the letter, but the thing signified by the Word, Christ, is divinely supernatural, and the way of it being conveyed to the soul, in regard of the higher operation of the Spirit (above the actings and motions of the letter), is divine, heavenly, supernatural.

The action of the Holy Ghost, in begetting faith, is “immediate.” The Word only prepares and informs the external man, but the Spirit cometh after, and, in another action, distinct from the Word, infuses faith. Then the Spirit of regeneration is not said to work with the Word, but there is a more common operation of God, which begets literal knowledge, or some higher illumination. Also, the Spirit works with the Word, so as in one and the same act, the Spirit opens the heart to hear and receive what is carried along in the letter of the Word, and so the Spirit works mediately, not immediately.

In the infusion of the new heart, and the habit of the grace of God, we are merely passively acted on, and put forth no cooperation with God, any more than a dead person cooperates to bring itself to life (Eph. 2:1–2), or the withered ground cooperates to receive the rain (Isa. 44:3–4). Though the Word goes before the Spirit’s work, and the Word may be preached during the time while the Spirit is working, yet the act of infusing the new heart is a real action by God, received by us by no subordinate activity of the mind, or act of the will. In this formal act of infusion, what the Word does, other than by way of disposing or preparing, I must profess my ignorance, although it is certainly true that “faith cometh by hearing,” and, in the very meantime whilst Peter was still speaking, “the Holy Ghost fell on them which heard the Word” (Acts 10:44).

Then if we take conversion in the sense of the humbling self-despairing of a sinner and all preparatory acts, going before the infused life of Christ, and in the first operations flowing from this infused life, the Word is an instrument of conversion. But I cannot see how it is an active or moral instrument when the soul is undergoing the Lord’s act of infusion of the life of Christ, unless you call it a passive instrument, because it does not persuade the soul to receive the new life, nor is the soul, being merely passive, an apprehending, knowing, choosing, or consenting faculty. This is an act of omnipotency, the Lord pouring in a new heart. The Word is the instrument as far as the Spirit works in us the same habit of new life, and the same Spirit of grace and supplication that is promised in the Word (Isa. 44:3–4; Zech. 12:10; Eze. 36:26–27), and the same Spirit that the Scripture says Christ purchased by His merits (John 1:16–18; John 12:32; Rev. 1:5; Heb. 10:19–22).

So we conclude that the Word preached is the means which instrumentally concurs with the Spirit for the begetting of faith. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:14–17). It is clear that he is speaking of the external Word because in v. 14–16 he is speaking of the word that a sent preacher carries, also called the glad tidings that messengers on the mountains bring (v.15), and a “report” which they all hear even if they do not all believe (v.16).

Preaching the Word is a powerful instrument

The Word preached, of itself, is not a dead letter, as some call it. Paul does call the law a “dead letter,” but that is because, while it teaches what we should do, it does not promise the Spirit of grace to obey, as the gospel does. As Augustine says, the law makes us know sin, but not eschew it. But the gospel is not a dead letter of itself (even though the letter of it is void of the Spirit), except incidentally, in the same sense that it is the savour of death unto death, and a rock of offence — i.e., to those that stumble at the Word.

The gospel, in its letter and in its literal sense, offers a way or means of reconciliation to those who believe. But the law, as the law, in no sense can either offer or give life. Rather, seeing that all have sinned, the proper use of the law, to all under the law, is to give out a sentence of condemnation, in the literal sense of it. If the law leads anyone to Christ, that is done by a higher Spirit than that which speaks in the letter of the law. It’s true, it’s the same infinite Spirit, the Lord, who speaks in all Scripture, but in the law He says nothing but, “Either perfectly do all or die eternally.” But in the law He condemns and convinces, in order that we may flee to the Surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22).

In this sense, law and gospel called the Word of God, is not a dead letter in itself, for, “the law of the Lord converteth the soul, etc.” (Psa. 19:7); “the gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). The Word externally preached has power in itself to destroy, and, when it is accompanied by the Spirit, it has power to convert, and so is an instrument of the Spirit both ways.

The Lord uses preachers of the Word

The Lord has made and sanctified a ministry, and ministers, to be fathers of the second birth and instruments to save themselves and others (1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Tim. 4:16). “Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, and read of all men. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2–3) (see also 1 Thess. 2:19–20).

Some have argued that the Word by which Christ saves us is not the Word outside us, but the Word within us. So, for them, the preaching of the gospel is not the Word by which souls are converted, and faith does not come from outward hearing as an instrument. Their argument runs like this. “The Word outwardly preached can never convert the soul, because it is only a mere sound, therefore it is not an instrument of conversion; it’s only the Word within us that matters.” But I utterly deny the consequence. Put a pen to paper a thousand times, and it will never write, unless the hand of a writer draws the characters. Will we then conclude that, ergo, the pen is not an instrument of writing? It doesn’t follow! It’s an unjust consequence, and destroys all ordinances, natural and spiritual. The only thing that follows is, “Ergo, the Word without us is not a principal cause of conversion, it can do nothing except the Spirit empowers and animates and co-works with the Word.”

Furthermore, whereas they argue that the preached word is merely a sound and a letter, I answer that it is not an ordinary sound, like you get from reading the odes of Horatius or the epistles of Seneca. In itself, it is a sound filled with majesty — power — heaven. Every word is pregnant with grace and life. Even if you separate the Word from the Spirit, in the style, conveyance, method of it there is still so much divinity, majesty, holiness, life, and gravity that it betrays its origin to be heaven and its author to be God. Some might call it a “dead letter,” referring to the paper and ink and printed characters, but that’s not how to think of it. The words connote and involve the things they signify, the precious promises, and what the Lord calls “the great things” of His law. In this sense they are not dead letters, but the instrument, chariot, and means of conveying Christ and the Spirit to the heart.

Of course the Word doesn’t work without the Spirit. No instrument, no tool, no hammer, no axe can build a house without the mason and carpenter moving them. But it doesn’t follow that they are not instruments at all! All that follows is, “God does not work faith by the preached Word alone, but by the omnipotency of grace going along with it.” Although the preached Word, in its sound, is physical, literal, bodily, yet in its power, majesty, and the things it signifies, it is spiritual, lively, heavenly.

The Word must be preached to everyone

Those who argue against the instrumentality of the preached Word end up also arguing that the gospel shouldn’t be preached to anyone except those who already have the Word and Spirit in their hearts (because, they say, these are the only ones who can receive it by faith). In effect, they take away the Word, ministry, ordinances, preaching, and dismiss them as mere delusions. They are arguing that there is no need of Scripture, preaching, sacraments, hearing of or doing any duties to each other.

But you see how false it is that the gospel is not to be preached to any but to those that are converted. It is contrary to Christ’s express commands to His apostles, “Go teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20). Likewise Paul preached to the obstinate Jews (Acts 13) and to the scoffing Athenians (Acts 17).

 

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Why we should pray about everything and hide nothing

Why we should pray about everything and hide nothing

Why we should pray about everything and hide nothing

Even when we are aware of needing God’s help in many areas of life, we can still be reluctant to pray. We think it’s too much to ask, perhaps — or maybe it’s too insignificant to mention in prayer. But Obadiah Sedgwick, a member of the Westminster Assembly, urges us in the folloiwng updated extract to pray about everything, and hold nothing back. The reasons he gives are all in the prayer-hearing God and His overflowing compassion.

“All prayer,” extends itself not only to all the kinds and forms of praying, but also to all the matters or things for which we pray.

Five reasons to pray about everything

God can hear every request as well as any individual request. He can hear a multiplied request as well as a single request. He doesn’t take things in, or observe things, by discourse, where one notion may be an impediment to grasping another. By reason of His omniscience, all things are equally simultaneously present to Him.

Indeed, God can grant many and great requests, as easily as the single and smallest petition. The greatest gift comes as freely and readily out of His hand as the most common mercy — even Jesus Christ, and pardon of many sins, are the same price as our daily bread. Though by comparison with the latter, the former gifts of a much more elevated nature and dignity, yet in respect of the fountain of them, all of them come from the freeness of His goodness and love.

Christ, by whom we are to put up all our requests (for He is our advocate and intercessor) is as ready and able to plead many and great requests, as well as a few and inferior ones. As He is our mighty Redeemer, so He is our mighty intercessor. And His blood is as efficacious and meritorious for many sins as for some.

This is the reason why God has made manifold promises. We may put up many and great requests all at once. The promises are called “the wells of salvation,” and “the breasts of consolation.” Now living wells afford a plenty, as well as a scanting measure of water. And the child may move from breast to breast, and draw enough from either, if one alone will not serve. If one promise does not cover all your needs, yet all of them do, and as God graciously comprehends all our supplies in all of His promises, so He has propounded them all to us, so that we would then there urge Him for the supply of all our necessities.

Lastly, God is rich in mercy, and plenteous in compassion. His mercies are often referred to as manifold mercies, and His goodness is called an abundant goodness, and His redemption a plenteous redemption, and His kindness a great kindness. Now mercy is a ready inclination to pity and help, and multitudes of mercies are like a compounded, and doubled, and redoubled opening up of God’s tenderness to do a sinner good.

Why we should hide nothing from God

You should conceal not even one of your distresses from God. The heart and life of man are full of sin, and just as full of need. There is not any branch of the soul, nor limb of the body, nor turning of the life, but is replenished with some necessity or other. You have a mind which still needs to be enlightned, a judgment which still needs to be captivated, a heart which still needs to be converted and humbled. How many sinful commissions there are which need to be bewailed, and how many particular and vile inclinations yet need to be subdued! Besides all this, every grace which you have (and there are manifold graces in a holy soul), every one of them is in exigence, and needs more spiritual filling, both for its habit, and acts, and degrees. Indeed, all our duties are only lame-handed motions, which need more strengthning, or like mixed rivers, which should run more clearly.

In this case what should we do? to whom should we go? should we divide the principles of our helps, and go for some to God, and for the most to created things? O in no wise! for all our help is only in Him, who alone can help all!

Or should we branch out our helps, and present them as a beggar does his needs, one day mentioning one need, and some distance of time later, bring up another? O no! Come with all, and with all at once, to God, who is as able, and as willing, for many sinners, as well as for one sinner — and for many sins in one person, as well as for one in any. As they did with the impotent and sick man, they brought all of him, bed and all, and laid him before Christ, so should we bring body and soul, and every distress of either, and present the whole bulk before the Lord at once, root and branches, for a manifold supply. We should press Him for manifold mercies, for abundant strength, for God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we are able to ask or think (Eph. 3).

Beloved, as your own unworthiness should not put you off from being a petitioner at the throne of grace, so the variety of your necessities should not discourage you from commencing your appeals at the throne of rich mercies. There is reason in God which will hearten us, and there is reason in ourselves to crave as earnestly and as simmultaneously for all our helps as for some. You equally need the pardon of this sin, as whatever else it may be, and mercy is as ready and able for both, as for either.

And if that corruption was more subdued, and yet this remained altogether untouched, you would have just as many, and more forcible, doubts about your situation from this discrepancy, and the inequality of the victory. Wherefore, as Abraham in his petition for the people of Sodom and Gommorrah took up request upon request, descending from high to low, from many to few, so should we in our requests ascend from one sin to more, from more to many, from many to all. You know that confession of sins should not only be particular, but universal; and our sorrow for sin should respect the kinds of sin as well as the particular acts? Well, all of this signals that there is an ampleness of grants, so much mercy and supply corresponding to the required latitude of confessions and sorrow.

Certainly it’s true that some one sin may (for some special reason, either of some guilt, or present insolency) be more insisted on then another, just as one clause in the plea may be urged more then another. Yet it should not be to the exception of the rest. “O that sin, Lord, by which I have dishonoured Thee so much, and yet which rages so much, pardon it, subdue it, out with it — and not only that, but sins like them, and not only them, but all my sins, blot them out, cleanse me from them!”

 

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Five things to do when everyone else despises Christ

Five things to do when everyone else despises Christ

Five things to do when everyone else despises Christ

Although it remains a fact of history that after Christ died He rose again, yet at some times more than others, the wider relevance of this fact seems non-existent. For all the interest people take in Him, He might as well still be buried in the grave. His followers have little influence and little prestige, and He and they are more or less dismissed with a sneer everywhere. In times like this, what can Christ’s followers do? The Covenanting minister Michael Bruce gave five pieces of advice to hearers in his day. Observing the behaviour of the women in Matthew 28 over the period while Christ was in the grave, Bruce identifies five activities that believers can keep busy with, when Christ and His cause are at their most beleaguered.

When the world has done their worst to Christ, and can do no more to Him, still the people of God always have work to do with Him. You can see in this chapter that Christ is dead and buried, and left alone, and yet for all that, there are some poor women who haven’t quite given up on Him. These poor people will not quit with Him.

So there is a huge difference between Christians looking at a buried Christ, and the world looking at Him. The world sees no beauty in Him, but Christ is always beautiful to the believer, whatever the world might do to Him.

In fact, poor redeemed sinners will always be following Him, whatever condition He is in. These women have a work to do with Christ when the world have done their worst with Him.

There are five pieces of work we have to do with Christ when the world has done their worst with Him.

Keep love burning

Keep love burning in our hearts to Him. O friends, is there any love to a buried Christ among you? You see how love was still burning in these women’s hearts always. Remember this piece of work you have to do, to keep much love in your heart to Him. When curates, malignants, magistrates, prelates and backslidden clergymen have done their worst to Him, you must love Him as much as ever you did.

Keep company with Him

Keep company with Him. As soon as the sabbath is over, these women run away to keep a dead and buried Christ company. If you spend time with Christ in a day like this, surely you will not keep company with those who betray Him.

Do what you can for Him

Whatever seems to be Christ’s need at the moment, you must labour to meet it. Although there was a mistake in these poor women, yet they were right in the main thing. Christ’s broken body seemed to be them to be in need of embalming, so they prepared spices for that, although the mistake was that they did not believe He would rise again so soon. Still, there was something about Him that looked to them like something He needed, so they prepared a supply for that.

O how our blessed Lord Jesus in His members needs someone to speak a word for Him these days! But He cannot get a hearing! Some people will do nothing but swear and forswear, and play fast and loose with Him. He comes to some and asks a lend of their houses and lands a year or two, but they will not grant it. He comes to some and seeks a horse and saddle, but they will not give that. The disciples did not let Him go without a horse when He called for one, nor yet a saddle, even if the saddle was just that they spread their garments on it. But nobody takes an interest in the needs of Christ in His members these days, either to identify a need or supply it.

Refuse to take offence at Him

Guard against being offended at Him. This was the thing He wanted from His disciples. “Blessed are they that shall not be offended in me.” All He desires from you is that you would not be offended at Him. Supposing He meets you with a violent death, do not be offended at Him. If for a long time He lets some enemy or other always have the upper hand over you, this is a piece of the work He calls for from your hands when His back is against the wall.

Love His despised people

Do not let any of His suffering followers have less of a place in your heart on account of them backing their Master and getting suffering for their pains. “Am I naked? Then clothe Me,” He said, “and I give you this encouragement, that whatever you do for one of these suffering little ones, you do it to Me.”

O friends, are you done with Christ just because the people of the world are done with Him? It’s a black mark against professing Christians, that just because Christ is buried, they think they have nothing more to do with Him! It’s a black mark against our clergymen, that when Christ is buried, there’s almost never one of them who asks how He lies. O Christians, have you really nothing more to do with Him when the most of the world has done with Him? There is never less interest in Christ than when His back is to the wall, and O but you are ashamed people who do not take an interest in Him now, when He seems to be in His grave.

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What is our honest reaction to the gospel?

What is our honest reaction to the gospel?

What is our honest reaction to the gospel?

Hearing about what Jesus did on the cross forces a confrontation. When the gospel of God meets our sinful hearts, what is our honest reaction? There can only be acceptance or rejection, and there is both sin and terrible danger in sidestepping the demands of the gospel even for the time being. John Welch of Irongray, reaching the end of a sermon on Isaiah 53, insisted that his hearers faced up to their response to the news of Christ crucified. As the following updated extract shows, his questions, posed in the consciousness of God’s presence, are very pointed. Will we prefer our sins to salvation? Or will we entrust ourselves to the Saviour?

Now I come to ask what you have to say to the gospel. What do you say to it? Do you have something to say against what I have been telling you? Do you have something to say against what Christ suffered? or against what He did after He suffered, when He said, “Thrust in your hands into my side, and be not faithless, but believing?” Or will you be like Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!” Friends, what will you do? Tell me what you think of all that has been said of a suffering Christ today. What effect does it now have on you? And what effect will it have afterwards? Will you leave this place without closing with Jesus Christ? What do you say to it? Do you have any objections?

“Yes,” says someone, “I have three objections that hinder me.”

I have too many doubts

“I have many doubts in my heart, so that I dare not presume to come to Christ.”

But why do you not dare?

“I have been such a great sinner.”

I tell you then, sinners, in the name of the Lord, you who have these fears and doubts, come on, and do not let that hinder you. Instead let it put you to make all the more use of the Lord. Come away to Him. Though your sins were as scarlet and as crimson, ye shall be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). You have God’s command for it, and you have God’s warrant for it, and you have God’s revelation, and these are His revealed duties that He bids you do. Be serious in going about what is revealed in the Word of God to be your duty (and that is all that the gospel calls for), and unite with Jesus Christ.

Or are you saying, “I would love to go to Jesus, but I’m afraid of breaking up with Him again.” Only resolve in Christ’s strength, and He will keep you, and all the devils in hell shall not get you to break off. “But I have made so many promises, and I have broken them all, and I fear that I will do so again.” I say, you must resolve again in Christ’s strength, and as His hand lays the foundation, He shall finish the work. “Turn again unto me,” saith the LORD, “and I will heal your backslidings.”

I can’t do it

Someone is saying, though, “I can’t. You tell us to embrace Him, but we cannot. It’s as impossible for us as to touch the sky. We can’t even begin.”

What did the Lord say to the poor man who had the withered hand? He told him to stretch it out. “I cannot,” he would say, but yet what does the Lord say? “Stretch out thy hand” (Luke 6:10).

I tell you in His name, make an attempt, and show your goodwill, and He will help you to do it. If only you would give it a try, and just say, “Lord, I believe with the faith that I have, and as far as I can, I believe — Lord, help my unbelief.”

It’s a strange thing, friends, that you won’t even try. The man in Luke 6 might have said, “What’s the point of me stretching out my withered hand? I know I can’t.” But yet Christ tells him to stretch it out as he can, and He makes his attempt effectual. You who say you cannot do so much as to make an attempt, just make the attempt, and God will make these attempts effectual, and you will find Him.

Therefore, if you don’t dare to venture, or think you cannot get a grip of Him, yet will you give Him a look? “Look unto me all ye ends of the earth, and be saved, for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). This is all that He requires — that you would give Him a look.

I don’t want to

Are there any other objections? “I don’t want to.”

That is the truth of the matter. “I don’t want to part with the world; I don’t want to serve Him; I don’t want to obey His commands. I am not resolved to do that yet. I don’t want to leave the world that I’ve got so much advantage in. No, no, I don’t want to come to Him, say what you will.”

Woe is me, that is a terrible thing. You don’t want to have Him? Let ministers say what they will, you don’t want Him? What’s the reason for that? He is able to declare of Himself that it is not His fault that you are unwilling.

“O,” you say, “He is a hard master, there is no living with Him. I won’t get my idols entertained in His service. I couldn’t cope with it. I can’t part with my lusts, and with my sin. If you want the plain truth of it, I don’t think there has ever been a man or a woman that ever had a happy day serving Him, and therefore I have to go my own way at my own risk. Whatever comes on the back of it, I must sin, and I must not miss out on my opportunities in the world.”

Well, friends, I say there is much more advantage to be had in coming to Christ.

But this is your opportunity

Friends, we have encountered a strange piece of providence. I had planned to have preached elsewhere today, but against my own expectation I have been brought here again.

So it’s by chance that we are here today, and I have been presenting to you a bloodied, wounded, bruised Christ. He is all crushed with the wrath of God. He was forced to cry, “What shall I do? My soul is sorrowful, even unto death, and what shall I do?” This wounded Christ has purchased salvation to sinners, and has sent me here this day as His ambassador to make offer of Him. Have I made any impression on you? I have come in His name and I may not leave you like a knotless thread, a pointless waste of time.

It is in His name that we come here, and I summon and charge you all — as you will answer before the great God, and as you would want to be found of Him in peace, and as you would want one day to look Him in the face, and not call the hills and mountains to fall on you — I summon you to embrace Him!

I charge you by the love of Jesus Christ that put Him to suffer all those things. I charge you by the torments of hell that surely shall follow on those who disobey. I charge you by the love of Him who was dead and is now alive, and lives for evermore. I charge you by Him who has the keys of hell and death, and the keys of heaven.

Come and tell me what you plan to do. Or are you resolved to live as you have done? Do you live prayerless and godless? Will you leave off that? Are you drunkards? Will you leave off that? What are you going to do? Do you swear? Will you keep swearing more?

Are you repenting? Or have you decided to live a while longer in your sins? Will you continue in these things, and keep your idols, and your corruptions? Have you resolved to do that, or this? Will you come today and give up everything to the Lord, and embrace this suffering Christ, before His wrath comes upon you? Have ye drawn back? Will you draw back more? Or will you come to Him?

How will you respond?

What do you say to it? I offer Him to you. I lay the offer at every individual’s door, and to every individual’s conscience, and I command and charge you to come and embrace Him, and I desire the Lord God of heaven that He would confirm this.

Now what do you say to it, you who have had so many preachings preached to you? I beseech you, give an answer. Come and take Him, and embrace Him today. For you cannot tell if you will ever have the offer again. I cannot tell if I will ever have the opportunity to speak to you again. What do you think, is it for nothing that we come out to preach, when we are at such high risk, and when we are seen as traitors and rebels in every one of these meetings? It’s not a small business, this. God calls us to be serious, and not to trifle. Therefore, men and women, will you come and close with Him?

Dear, beloved friends, will you let Christ’s death and sufferings persuade you to take Christ’s offer? I long for you to come to Him, for your own life and salvation. I press it on you, and as He is offered, so take Him. Dear friends, give your answer! Say it to Him — it’s not me that wants your answer. Say something to the Lord, for as the Lord lives, you must say something, yea or nay. As you don’t want God to speak in wrath to you, friends, say that you will be the Lord’s! Say that you will enter into an everlasting covenant with Him, never to be forgotten! Or as the Lord lives, these trees, and this water, and that brae, and the earth that you sit on shall be a witness against you eternally, and this tent, and I, and these clouds above your heads.

Therefore now, come, and take the offer, and tell God that from this day forward you resolve to be for Him. Old men, and young men, will you close with Him? Young bairns, the youngest of you all, will you close with Him? Say, “Lord, I would be content to close with Him.” Will you say this, old women and young women? Answer God, who is bidding you come to Him. Say with good David, “Thou art my God and my king … Thou hast made with me an everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure.”

I would gladly fall down on my bare knees in front of you if that would get you to say the thing. O friends, give an answer! Say what Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” and say with David, “O God, thou art my God,” and say with the church in Jeremiah 50:5, “Come, let us enter ourselves into an everlasting covenant with God …”

We must leave you, friends, and yet how can we think of leaving till you come to Him? Take heed what you are doing. Go to Him, and close with Him.

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Six features of an attentive minister

Six features of an attentive minister

Six features of an attentive minister

The work of the ministry requires constant care and attention. Yet there are plenty reasons why a pastor might lose heart in the work of the ministry, since discouragements are many, and personal corruptions are active. The Covenanting minister William Veitch (1640–1722) was aware of these burdens. He identified Archippus as a minister who seems to have flagged and even become lazy in the work. Paul sends Archippus a brief word of exhortation in his letter to the Colossians: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). Veitch, speaking as a minister to fellow ministers, deduces that great attentiveness is required in ministers if they are to carry out their ministerial responsibilities rightly. In the following updated extract, Veitch gives six features of the attentiveness which Paul urged Archippus to show in his work.

Wisdom

The first thing necessary to enable a minister take heed to his ministry is wisdom and knowledge, not only in the doctrinal but also the practical part of religion. I think both of these are needful to make a minister “apt to teach,” or else his ministry will be more art-work than heart-work. The ministers of Christ must be men of knowledge, for they are watchmen, and watchmen must have eyes in their head. They are to point out to the people their way, their danger, and their duty. If they are blind, what hurt comes to the church! “The leaders of this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed” (Isaiah 9:16).

Ignorance causes error, and error destruction. That is why the apostle said to the elders of Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost made you overseers, to feed them,” i.e., with knowledge and understanding, so that they may be soundly principled and right in the faith. The reason is, “for grievous wolves will enter in among you, speaking perverse things to corrupt your people, and to draw disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).

Ministers should be like the creatures around Christ’s throne, full of eyes within and without, before and behind. Within, looking to the frame and constitution of their own hearts. Without, to the duties they ought to perform and the snares and dangers they must beware of in following their duty. Before them to God, for counsel and direction. Behind them, to the flocks which they lead. “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge,” says Malachi, and so every minister is (as it were) the treasurer of the place where he is. If ministers lack this treasury of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, they will not be able to distinguish rightly between truth and error, sin and duty. They cannot instruct the ignorant, resolve doubts, quiet the troubled conscience, feed the hungry, and comfort the discouraged. Let Antichrist have blind and ignorant watchmen: our Lord Jesus Christ should have ministers who are thoroughly furnished for every good work.

Diligence

For a minister to discharge his office rightly, he needs painstaking diligence. Knowledge must flow into action . Ministers are called “angels,” and angels are not only full of eyes, but also full of hands and wings (Eze. 1:5). Therefore, “they rest not day nor night” (Rev. 4:8). They know much, therefore they act much.

The heathen could tell us that unpractical knowledge signifies nothing. The Egyptians painted a tongue with a hand under it, to show that knowledge was good when practiced. The blessing is not promised to the bare knowledge of commanded duties, but to the practice of them. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them” (John 13:17). “Blessed are they that do his commandments , that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates unto the city” (Rev. 22:14). Ministers are spiritual harvesters, and the crop is very precious. If it is lost by our sloth, we will pay dear for it.

Faithfulness

How much we need to take heed that we do our ministerial work faithfully! Faithfulness is a proportioning of our obedience to the command, or being impartial in all the ministrations of the house of God. See what a charge the Apostle Paul gives Timothy. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing of partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). We see that the one who is partial cannot be faithful. An unfaithful minister is perfidious both to God and man. It says in Zephaniah 3:4, “their prophets are light and treacherous persons,” and “treacherous persons” means prevaricating persons who violate the trust due to God and the people alike. It is the highest treachery that can be, to be false to God and rob Him of people’s souls. What is recorded in Ezekiel 3:20 is worthy of our attention. “Because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, but his blood shall I require at thine hand.” If a minister may perish for not warning sinners, much more for encouraging them to sin, by corrupt doctrine, and a lewd life, for if there is death in an omission, much more must it be things that are positively evil.

Let me add one word more on this point. A faithful minister must be a fearless minister. He must not be afraid of the faces of men, when he is to deliver the truths of God. Four times in one verse, the Lord forbids the prophet to fear: “Son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briars and thorns be with thee , and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house” (Eze. 2:6).

Prudence

If we are to “take heed to our ministry,” we also need prudence. This is necessary to direct us in the dexterous management of all the parts of our work, and especially as to the methods by which, and the times in which our work may be done to the best advantage. Of all the parts of our ministerial work, none requires more prudence in order to handle it rightly than reproof, i.e., to do it so as it may be accepted as a kindness by the person reproved, and as an excellent oil that will not break the head, as the Psalmist expresses it (Ps. 141:5). For while faithfulness and wisdom ponder the necessity of the duty, prudence considers the fittest time, and the best manner of application with respect to the person. See in 2 Samuel 12 the prudence and dexterity with which Nathan prepared David in the parable, from verse 1 to verse 6, before he comes to touch him in the quick with “Thou art the man!” in verse 7.

Earnestness

We must be sincere and serious (Eccles. 9:10). It is not likely that we will seriously press gospel truths and holiness home on others, until we know the sweetness and good of them ourselves. The apostle tells us that sincerity in our work and walk will be no small ground of our rejoicing, when our consciences within, and observers without, can testify that we endeavoured sincerely and carefully to manage this trust committed to us (2 Cor. 1:12).

Ministers need to take heed to this, since their work has to do with spiritual things, and so they are more apt to be deceived by hypocrisies creeping in both to their hearts and their duties. Many a time the frequency of these duties almost takes away the fervency of them. Ministers should therefore often think of what Paul said, to keep themselves diligent at their work, “Lest when I preach the gospel to others, I myself be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

Perseverance

This “take heed” includes constancy and perseverance. We must not imagine we can do this work by fits and starts, nor be like these foolish Galatians, who began in the spirit, and ended in the flesh. We must not put our hand to the plough and look back, for you know what Christ says of those who do so, “They are not fit for the kingdom of God.” They are not fit for managing His kingdom aright in this world, and if they don’t do that, they may have reason to fear being shut out of His kingdom in the next world.

 

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How to be guided by conscience

How to be guided by conscience

How to be guided by conscience

Following our conscience is the right thing to do when our conscience is well-informed and characterised by the integrity that comes from being purged by the blood of Christ. We want neither a stupefied or seared conscience on one hand, nor a doubting, over-scrupulous conscience on the other hand. As Samuel Annesley shows in the following updated extract from his sermon on conscience, the sense of sin and the receiving of forgiveness need to be in the right balance. Then we will be equipped to navigate through life in a consistently Christian way.

How to get a reliable conscience

1. Get your conscience awakened from its natural lethargy.
2. Preserve your conscience tender from being seared.
3. Rectify its errors as you would get cure of blindness.
4. Resolve its doubts as you would a claim to your lands.
5. Break from your scruples as you would from thieves on the road.
6. Lay your head in Christ’s bosom to cure your trembling.

How to keep a reliable conscience

And then for the integrity and quiet of your conscience, observe these proposals, as meticulously as you would a doctor’s prescription in a tedious sickness.

1. Avoid sinning as you would a train of gunpowder.
2. Be as quick in your repentance as in the cure of a pleurisy.
3. Live under the felt presence of the jealous God.
4. Examine your heart, as princes sift out treason.
5. Pray for the grace you need, as starving persons cry for food.
6. Let every action be like an arrow shot at a mark.
7. Think of God as a wise physician.
8. Be as vile in your own esteem as you are in the eyes of the most hypercritical enemy.
9. Live on Christ, as the child in the womb lives on the mother.
10. Love God (as near as possibly you can) as God loves you.

Landmarks to use on the journey

But you may find these rules, even though I have condensed them, to be too many, and too long to be always remembered. So, to ensure that you will not be overburdened with things which should never be forgotten, I shall commend to you some directions, which may be to your souls in your pilgrimage towards heaven, as ship provisions in a sea voyage — generally sufficient, when others cannot be had.

Plainly practise these reminders of direction in all your conscientious walking.

Consult duty, not events

There’s nothing in the world for us to do, but to mind our duty. Curious speculations, that do not tend towards holiness, are one thing: but misgivings based on predictions of what may or will happen to you when you do your duty, may be reckoned among your grosser iniquities. To venture to sin in order to avoid danger, is to sink the ship for fear of pirates, and must be reckoned amongst your greatest follies, your worst of sins.

Some argue, in effect, “This way of duty will probably bring down some people’s displeasure on me, and therefore to prevent that, I’ll take the course which will certainly bring down God’s displeasure.” Is not their reason dangerously distempered? Unquestionably their conscience is. Besides, by-ways will not lead you to the place you aim at.

On the contrary, keep your consciences from being violated, and you cannot be miserable. How calm and quiet, as well as holy and heavenly, would our lives be, if we had only learnt this single lesson, to care about nothing but to know and do our duty, and to leave all effects, consequences and events to God!

The truth is, it is a daring boldness for silly dust to prescribe to infinite wisdom, and to let go our work, to meddle with God’s. He has managed the concernments of the world, and of every individual person in it, without giving occasion to any one to complain, for more than the past five thousand years, and does He now need advice from you? Therefore let it be your only business to mind your duty.

Aye, but how shall I know my duty? Take a second reminder.

The advice you would give to someone else, take yourself

The worst kinds of people are apt enough to lay such burdens on other folk’s shoulders, that if they would take them on their own, they would be rare Christians indeed. The outcry made by those who revile godliness, when they nitpick and dissect the misdeeds of Christians! Even they expect that those who make a profession of religion should be blameless beyond exception; and even they scorn those who fall away at all from their professed strictness. On the other side, those who are holy expect that even graceless persons should bear reproof, receive instruction, and change the course of their lives.

In middle cases, then, between these extremes, what exactness will serious Christians require from themselves, where the bias of their own corruptions does not misguide them? David was twice surprised to pass sentence against himself by parables in the abstract, where he did not realise he was implicated himself.

Where this rule is too short, add a third.

Do nothing on which you cannot pray for a blessing

Where prayer does not lead, repentance must follow. It is a desperate venture to sin on hopes of repentance. Every action of a Christian that is good, is sanctified by the Word and prayer. It is unseemly for a Christian to do anything, however trivial, that he can’t pray over. If Christians only but bestow a serious exclamatory prayer on every action, they would find that such prayers would cut off all things sinful, demur all things doubtful, and encourage all things lawful. Therefore do nothing but what you can preface with prayer.

But these rules are all defective, so I’ll close with an example that’s infinitely above defects.

Think, speak, and do what you are persuaded Christ Himself would do in your situation, if He were on the earth

The heathen kept in their view the best examples they had, and therefore let us follow the best of ours. There are many remarkable examples in Scripture, but I propose neither great nor small, but the King of Saints. It is better for a Christian to be an example, than to follow one. But by imitating Christ, you will come as near as possible to the best, for your fellowship shall be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit of holiness, the only one who can teach you what it is to abide in Christ, who was, and is, and ever will be our absolute copy.

O Christians! How Christ prayed, and redeemed time for prayer! How Christ preached, out of whose mouth proceeded nothing but gracious words, so that His enemies could not but admire Him! How little Christ valued the world, when He renounced it Himself and taught us to renounce it too! What time Christ spent in conversation, when He made the hearts of those who He happened to fall into company with burn within them! How Christ went up and down doing good to man, and always those things that were pleasing to God!

Four last reminders

Beloved, to summarise, I commend to you these four reminders, to be so many scarlet threads on every finger of your right hand, so that you would never put your hand to any action, but these reminders would be in your eye.

1. Mind duty.
2. What’s another’s duty in your situation, is yours.
3. When you can’t say, “The blessing of the Lord be on it,” do not meddle with it.
4. But above all, as you would never renounce your name as a Christian, never forget to look to Christ. Whatever treatment you meet with from the profane world, remember Christ your Exemplar, and follow His steps. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”

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Facing death with clarity and anticipation

Facing death with clarity and anticipation

Facing death with clarity and anticipation

People’s priorities change as they move through different stages of their life. What sort of things weigh most heavily when we are forced to think most seriously about death? Betrayed after years on the run, now severely wounded and on death row, John Nisbet of Hardhill (c.1627–1685) wanted his friends to know that he was facing his end with a clear sense of God’s love for him — so much so that he could hardly wait to get to meet Him face to face. Nisbet dictated his testimony from prison, shortly before he was executed at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. As the following abridgement shows, he is full of thankfulness to the God of all grace for introducing him to His saving truth and granting him firm commitment to it, as well as full of concern for the holiness and integrity of the Christian friends he leaves behind.

Reasons for writing

I have always thought that to live for Christ, and die for Christ, is a sufficient testimony for truth; yet now when I am within a few hours of eternity, to prevent mistakes, to satisfy my dear friends, and let them know how it is with me, and to let the world know what I die witnessing for, and testifying against, I judge it proper to leave a few lines behind me.

The Lord’s superabundant goodness

As for myself, it pleased the Lord Jehovah, of his superabundant goodness and infinite mercy, powerfully to determine my heart to close with and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is made offer of in the everlasting gospel, for my king, priest, and prophet.

The Scripture has been to me from my youth the living oracles of His divine and sacred lips. When I was crying, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ and saying, ‘How shall I know the way of the Lord, that I may walk therein?’ then His Word was a light to my feet and a lamp to my path, exhorting me, ‘Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price …’ (Isaiah 55:1–8). When I was grappling with sin, Satan, and the world, and my own wicked and deceitful heart, the enemies of my salvation, His words were as props and pillars to me. It is by Him that I have fought the good fight, that I have finished my course, and that I have kept the faith. It is by Him shining in His Word that I know all my manifold sins and transgressions are freely pardoned, and that I have a just right and title to what is expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:30.

No room left to doubt

So that now, the guilt and condemning power of sin being fully pardoned by a judicial act of God’s free and sovereign grace, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially applied and witnessed to by the Holy Spirit, on and to my spirit, there is no room left me to doubt any more of my being freely justified by Him, of my being in union with Him, and in a state of grace. Nor of the power, dominion, and filth of sin, original and actual, being subdued, taken off, and washed away by the virtue of the Spirit of sanctification, or of being created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, and being sanctified throughout in soul, body, and spirit, and made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light by Him who loved me, and gave Himself to the death for me, and redeemed me by power and price.

Longing to go to Jesus

Now, being in such a case of communion with Him, I am pained till I be freed of the remains of a body of sin and death, till I be freed of the world and all things therein, and also of this natural life, and be possessed of Himself, and with Himself, in His eternal inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away, a place which He hath provided for all whom He hath chosen, all whom He hath called, for all whom He hath justified, for all whom He hath sanctified. O to be there, where I shall sin no more, neither feel any more of the withdrawings of His Spirit’s presence, and light of His glorious countenance, but shall be ever with Him, see Him as He is, and serve Him for ever and ever.

Appeal to Christian friends

Now, my dear friends in Christ, it is the unquestionable and indispensable duty of all who have any love to God, to His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, to the thriving of His kingdom, to their own soul’s salvation, and to the following generation, to act a close, constant and needy dependence on the Lord Jehovah’s all-sufficiency, for light, for counsel, for direction, for strength and ability, to make conscience in bearing testimony for Him, for His persecuted truth, work, and interest, in these lands.

O that in this all could act a faithful part for Him who has done so much for poor wretched us! When we were lying, dying, and rotting in our blood-red sins, He passed by us with His love and life-giving visit, saying to us, ‘Live, live!’

And on the other hand, to witness faithfully, constantly, and conscientiously against all that the enemies have done, or are doing, towards overthrowing the glorious work of Reformation, and banishing Christ out of these lands by robbing Him of His crown rights (for He, and He alone, is head of His own church), and by burning the Covenants, and persecuting His gospel ministers and members. Even though ministers and members may be turning their backs on Christ and His cross, reproaching and casting dirt on you and the testimony of the day, yet do not let this weaken your hands, stumble or discourage you from going on in the strength of the Lord your God, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and witness a good confession for Him and His cause, resisting unto blood, striving against sin.

Leaving and adhering

But, my generation-work being done with my time, I go to Him who loved me, and washed me from all my sins — to Him who has counted me worthy to suffer for His name. If only I had many lives to lay down for Him, and much blood to seal His noble and honourable cause with! — He who graciously pitied me, and has now given me the full assurance of being a member of His church triumphant, the new Jerusalem, the city of the living God!

I die adhering to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the undoubted Word of God, an unerring rule of faith and manners, and a firm foundation for principle and practice in the ways of godliness and true holiness. And the Confession of Fatih, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, as agreeable to them and safely founded on them. Likewise the Sum of Saving Knowledge, and the Directory for Church Government, in her doctrine, worship and discipline. I confess all the attained-to pieces of reformation in the Church of Scotland, particularly between the years 1638 and 1649, the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, the Acknowledgement of Sins and Engagement to Duties.

Last request

It is my last request and my soul’s desire that, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, you would set apart much time, and mourn, and afflict your souls for your original sin, heart plagues, sins of persons and families, sins of kings and kingdoms, and for all the dreadful apostacies, hateful compromises, and sinful sidings of ministers and people with the enemies of God and godliness. Mourn that there is not more faithfulness and zeal for the cause of God amongst His people.

My dear friends, give up your contentions and censuring one of another. Sympathise with and love one another, for this is His commandment. Keep up your sweet fellowship meetings. What is proposed for continuing a testimony for truth and against defections, let it be done with Scripture light for direction, and with zeal tempered with knowledge, and with the spirit of meekness accompanied with patience and humility. Be always ready to give a reason of your faith, and be much denied to the world, to yourselves, and to your natural life, and when God in His providence calls you to lay it down for Him, do it cheerfully, and embrace the cross of your sweet Lord Jesus with open arms, for He will not send any on a warfare on their own charges.

Don’t take fright at His sweet, lovely and desirable cross. Because of the wounds I received when I was captured, I have not been able to lift up or lay down my head without someone helping me, but yet I have never been in a better place in all my life. He has not challenged me for a single thing since I came to prison, small or great, but on the contrary, He has so wonderfully shined on me with the sense of His redeeming, strengthening, assisting, supporting, through-bearing, pardoning and reconciling love, grace, and mercy, that my soul longs to be freed from bodily infirmities and earthly organs, so that I may flee to His royal palace, the heavenly habitation of my God, where I am sure of a getting a crown put on my head, and a palm in my hand, and a new song in my mouth, so that I may bless, praise, magnify and extol Him for what He has done to me, and for me.

So I bid farewell to all my dear fellow-sufferers. Farewell, my children. Pursue holiness in all your ways, and praise the Lord for what He has done for me, and tell all my Christian friends to praise Him for this too! Farewell, sweet Bible, and wanderings, and contendings for the truth! Welcome, death. Welcome, the city of my death, where I shall see Him, and be enabled to serve Him eternally with full freedom! Welcome, blessed company of angels and spirits of just men made perfect! But, above all, welcome, welcome, welcome, our glorious and only God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Into Thy hands I commit my spirit, for Thou art worthy. Amen.

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