How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship?

How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship?

READING GROUP

How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship?

JOHN OWEN

Download the Reading Group Guide for

Rules for Walking in Fellowship – John Owen

What are some practical biblical steps we can all take to increase loving fellowship in our congregations?

Rules for Walking in Fellowship gives you 22 guidelines for biblical church life.  This book will help you identify and understand key biblical passages about fellowship. Its concise counsel will also motivate you to want to live out these principles. 

You will learn how to:

  • foster true gospel fellowship
  • better support your pastor
  • have better relationships with fellow church members

1. SPIRITUAL SUPPORT FOR YOUR PASTOR

Your pastor watches over your soul, but you have responsibilities to him too. When the church gathers for worship, you should be there too. You need to be diligent in listening to and living out the Word of God that he preaches. You should also follow the example of his life, as far as he follows Christ. He needs your prayerful support, respect and encouragement. His authority comes from Christ and so you should also submit to it as long as it does not go beyond Scripture. 

2. PRACTICAL SUPPORT FOR YOUR PASTOR

It is only fair and right that your pastor should have the financial support he needs for his family and in order to do his work. It also shows appreciation for the spiritual benefit we receive. Your pastor will also come under attack spiritually and from others. He will often suffer because of the truth. You must stand with him in his trials.

3. LOVING ONE ANOTHER

Love is the essential dimension of all the duties of fellowship; it is expressed in them all. It is based on the love that Christ Himself displays to the Church. Nothing makes the faith more attractive to others than mutual, intense and affectionate love among Christ’s followers. You should take an interest in every one of your fellow members since you belong to the same family. It would be wrong to look down or ignore any of them. Any spiritual gift or role that makes us different from them is not due to ourselves; it is freely and graciously given by Christ. Love will also make us patient towards each other and bear with one another’s faults. When we think of how patient and forgiving Christ has been towards us, we should be ready to bear with His people. 

4. PRAYING FOR THE CHURCH

Every believer has a role in faithfully praying every day for the church to be built up and blessed by God. You need to pray for those with whom you are in fellowship. Pray earnestly for those who are going through a time of affliction. Just like the body feels the pain that any part experiences, you need to express sympathy with other members of Christ’s body. 

5. STANDING BY THE CHURCH

The church never lacks enemies and trials, you must stand with it and for it, no matter what.  Those who persecute the Church are persecuting Christ. False teachers distort Christ’s Word. You need to be on your guard against constant temptations to turn back or turn away. Otherwise it will be easy for you to find excuses in a time of testing under the influence of fear of others. 

6. MAINTAINING UNITY

No duty is urged more strongly or more often than unity. It is based on love. You need to seek the welfare of fellow church members. Division and contention is not appropriate for those who are brothers. You must watch out for those who seek to cause divisions through false teaching and practices.

7. SPIRITUAL CONVERSATION

Don’t waste precious opportunities for speaking about Christ with others and things that will build them up spiritually. You can help others grow in love and knowledge. We only have so much time together, avoid being drawn into trivial conversation.

8. PRACTICAL HELP

You need to show practical love by watching out for the needs of fellow church members. You can bear their burdens and help them in their time of need. They need your support in their distress and affliction; this may be your time, counsel, sympathy or your financial help.

9. BEING ACCOUNTABLE

You are your brother’s keeper. You need to watch out for them with tender concern in case they are tempted to go astray. If they are in danger of this, you need to warn them lovingly. This does not mean prying into people’s lives in order to catch them out. Love does not do that, but neither does it leave people to be damaged by sin. Things may ultimately need to be handled through formal church discipline. Yet you need to take this responsibility seriously and lovingly in the hope that it will not reach that stage.

10. HOLY LIVING

Holiness is a gospel issue. When those outside the church see how we live it should make them honour and not despise the gospel. Holiness shows the reality of Christian profession and builds up the church.  Many do not like the principle of being separate from the sinful practices of the world. But God does command us to be separate in this way for His glory and our spiritual good. Those who will not separate from the world and false ways of worship God has not commanded actually separate themselves from Christ.

SUMMARY CONCLUSION 

This book shows us how to increase loving fellowship by taking seriously our biblical responsibilities to our pastor and fellow church members.  

It all flows from and is an expression of loving one another. That is where we must begin in putting these things into practice. Most problems in congregations arise from and are increased by focussing on ourselves and a lack of love for others. Rather than focus on what we are getting out of church, how can we love others? Many people think of that sentimentally but it is a love for their spiritual good above all. What a difference it would make if we let this influence everything we do and say in the life of the church. 

 

JOHN OWEN (1646-1683) was an English Puritan who served as vice-chancellor of Oxford University and pastor of congregations in Coggeshall and London.  His works have been reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust.

“Everything Owen wrote is worth reading, but some of his books are more accessible than others. This little practical treatise is a great way to meet a great Christian mind as it deals with the most basic elements of the Christian’s life in his church. I have loved reading Owen for nearly thirty years now and return to him again and again, never without profit.  Enjoy this book. And learn from it.”

CARL R. TRUEMAN

 

“A manual on church fellowship which to this day is unsurpassed

W. H. GOOLD

 

Owen’s work continues to stand the test of time [especially] in a day of confusion about church membership and the responsibilities it entails

DAVID WHITLA

 

BOOK OFFER

We can offer discounts and grants for bulk purchase of this book that will make it easier to get started in reading it together. Get in touch to tell us how many you need together with your circumstances and where you are running a reading group. 

FURTHER READING

Read more books on the Recommended Book List

The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path

It is essential to know whether we are on the right path. If we are mistaken about it, the more we do and the swifter we move, the more distant we will be from it.

How to Share The Faith With Your Child

Sharing our faith with our children involves more than we might think. It involves not just what we say but how we say it within the whole context of raising a child.

How Christ Reforms His Church

Scripture tells us how Christ reforms His Church. It is not an easy thing; but it is essential and we need it constantly.

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2019

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2019

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2019
Matthew Vogan

There never seems to be any shortage of books being published. Thankfully some among them are genuinely excellent. It’s common at this time of year to look back at the best books of the year. It can be a useful exercise. Here are the best books published during 2019 from Second Reformation authors. 

Naturally, we could highlight more than one or two Reformation Scotland resources but we will look at what others have produced instead.

1. Be Reconciled With God

These 12 rare sermons have not been printed for almost 300 years. But they still communicate the fervour of a young preacher who made the deepest possible impact within the two years of ministry he had. They are packed with both simple and profound thought communicated with almost tangible passion and highly recommended. There are sermons with evangelistic appeal as well as those that reach the hearts of believers with a uniquely penetrating power. 

They display an unusual spiritual maturity in handling the matters of eternity and how  things ought to go with our souls.

We have obtained the following special discounts exclusively for Reformation Scotland readers.

UK Customers: Buy it for £24.95 £14.36 using the code ref.scot2019.

North America: Buy it for $30 $15 using the code BERECONCILED50OFF.

2. The Sum of Saving Knowledge 

 ‘The work which I think first of all wrought a saving change in me. How gladly would I renew the reading of it, if that change might be carried on to perfection’ – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

This book offers is a clear brief statement of key truths that relate to salvation followed by a rich and warm practical application of them. Every professing Christian, whether possessing or lacking assurance, and all ministers should know the key points of saving knowledge, and they should know where to turn for such instruction. Anyone may benefit from The Sum of Saving Knowledge. Ministers will find it helps them better declare the fulness of salvation. 

 Too often people in all kinds of churches assume that professing Christians have a firmer and clearer grasp on such truths than they really do. The Sum is a sure guide in relation to the matters of salvation, and anyone can return to it regularly with great benefit. To grow in both appreciation and appropriation of it is to grow in ‘the life and marrow of religion’. 

The Sum of Saving Knowledge is frequently overlooked because it has been included in editions of the Westminster Confession. It stands on its own here with an extensive introduction and is highly recommended.  

3. Hope during desperate times

We live in desperate times—in moral and in other concerns. Things are also collapsing in on themselves spiritually in terms of widespread decline in what the professing Church believes and the standards by which it lives. But William Guthrie shows that our problem is not just living in a time of destruction, but self-destruction. We may be concerned about moral deterioration in society, but also need to see ourselves as personally implicated. Where can we find hope? It is only in that God is able to help those who have destroyed themselves. As Guthrie puts it: ‘the Church of God in her lowest condition may warrantably look and wait for help from God’.

This book provides encouragement despite being realistic about the times in which we live. It’s spiritual counsel remains as relevant today as ever in our own challenging context. 

 

4. Advancing Christian Unity 

In John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of the church. Yet today, we tend to accept disunity as inevitable. In this book, Anthony Burgess calls us to addresses the spiritual and visible unity that Jesus desires for His people. 

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

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

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

 

5. Preparing for eternity

‘make timely preparation for death and judgment’ – Alexander Nisbet

The signs of bodily decline in ourselves and others are a call to young and old to prepare for eternity. There may be sudden degeneration through severe illness or gradual deterioration. It reminds us that the best time to prepare for our long home is now when we have a measure of strength and health.

This is a book for young and old, whether in good or poor health. We must prepare for eternity and we cannot put this off until we think it is imminent. We cannot guarantee that we will have the ability to do this in the time of sickness or old age. Ecclesiastes 12 urges this wise instruction through striking pictures of physical decline. Alexander Nisbet draws out the way in which this spiritual wisdom applies urgently to each one of us.

Intended as a brief exposition for the ordinary reader. Nisbet prepared his exposition of Ecclesiastes for publication during his final years.

Stop Press! The Covenanters

This has literally just been published. Subtitled ‘A History of the Church in Scotland from 1540 to 1690’ this is the classic and definitive history of the period. It comes in two large volumes of painstaking research but the story is told in an accessible way. It is accurate and carefully weighed history not mere hero worship. If you are looking for something to progress to having read other shorter books giving an overview of the period these volumes are a must have.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2018

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2018

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2018
Matthew Vogan

It’s common at this time of year to look back at the best books of the year. Lists and reviews of books can certainly be helpful. Here are the best books published during the year that mined the riches of the Second Reformation.

1. EXPOSITION OF JOB (JAMES DURHAM)

 

“It is certain to be good, for Durham is always admirable.”— Charles Spurgeon.

The book of Job can be difficult to follow but Durham provides the flow of the debate and a succinct summary of the arguments. It is also helpfully applied. Durham’s work is compact, with a few pages of exposition and comment, closing with a few pages of practical observations. This makes the work perfectly suitable for private and family devotions.

This newly revised edition has been carefully compared again to the original and corrected and updated.

Purchase in the USA – Purchase in the UK

2. SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (NEIL M ROSS)

 

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), renowned as “the saint of the Covenant”, was one of the greatest men that Scotland ever saw, whether considered as a preacher, theologian, devotional writer or political theorist. His memory of Samuel Rutherford will be ever fragrant in the minds of all who savour the spirituality of his letters. Rutherford’s fruitful ministry in Anwoth was cut short by being banished to Aberdeen where he wrote many of his famous letters. His teaching at St Andrews and his published writings bore a vital spiritual and theological influence on many. He was untiring in defended the principles of the Scottish Church. We continue to benefit today from his faithful contribution to the work of the Westminster Assembly. The purpose of this present work is to place the main facts of Rutherford’s life in a convenient form before the modern reader. In particular, it highlights his significance as a theologian, an aspect that is sometimes neglected. Rutherford was able to combine doctrine and devotion in an elevated way that is all too rare in our own day.

Purchase here.

3. NEW SERMON BY GEORGE GILLESPIE

 

The Confessional Presbyterian Journal for 2018 contains the discovery and transcription of a surviving portion of a sermon preached by George Gillespie at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in March of 1648. The notes are incomplete on a sermon preached on  Psalm 2:10–12. Only two Gillespie sermons are known to have survived, so even a portion of another is a significant find, let alone one preached at that crucial time, and on top of that, with the last verses of Psalm 2 as the text.

The journal is also contains a large article on the Covenanter Alexander Shields.

Purchase in USA – Purchase in UK

4. EXPOSITION OF TEN COMMANDMENTS (JAMES DURHAM)

 

John Owen commended this book as essential guidance for “our walking before God in all duties of obedience” marked by wisdom and deep experience. Durham provides in-depth treatments of the second, third, and fourth commandments which make this exposition especially valuable. This new edition has been carefully collated and checked against the first and early editions and the text corrected and notations considerably augmented.

“Whatever Durham has written is very precious. He has the pen of a ready writer, and indites good matter.” — Charles Spurgeon.

Purchase in North America – Purchase in the UK.

5. SCOTTISH COVENANTERS (JG VOS)

 

This has already been reviewed on this site in the following article.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

The Scottish Covenanters (Book Review)

The Scottish Covenanters (Book Review)

The Scottish Covenanters (Book Review)
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
5 Sep, 2018

“If you only read one book on the Covenanters this should be the one. Not only does Vos provide an insightful, readable and enjoyable account but he sets it in proper context taking us from the Reformation in 1560 through the Revolution period”. This commendation on the back cover is not mere exaggerated advertising, this book is probably the most concise yet thorough and readable introduction to the history of the Scottish Covenanters. Without wasting words Vos covers the important personalities, events, and issues necessary for understanding the importance and place of the Covenanters in the history of the church.

The first two chapters cover the period of the Reformation in 1560 up until 1637 and two further chapters cover the period up to 1660. The benefit of the narrative presented is that it does not become overloaded with commentary. The reflections that are offered are usually of value. For instance:

The modern notion that while doctrine should be Scriptural, worship and organization are matters of indifference to be arranged according to expediency or human preference was entirely foreign to the Westminster Assembly and the Church of Scotland of the period of the Second Reformation. Great stress was placed on the importance of Scriptural forms of worship and organization. Probably the Church of Scotland has suffered more than any branch of the Christian Church through the ages on account of insistence upon a pure and Scriptural form of organization (p.65)

This was the sort of resolve that was behind David Dickson’s reply to Cromwell’s soldiers that invaded the Church’s General Assembly in 1653. They asked him as moderator whether the Assembly was convened on the authority of Charles II or Cromwell. Dickson said, “we sit here by the authority of Jesus Christ and by the law of this land” (p.78).

Vos covers the period of persecution 1660-1688 highlighting the key events and personalities. His focus is on witness-bearing and so the various public declarations are given specific focus. The controversy surrounding the indulgences is carefully explained and issues such as the lawfulness of armed self-defence are discussed in a helpful way. Ultimately the brutal executions, imprisonment and fines would be brought to an end. Vos makes the important observation:

Years before the nation as a whole the Covenanters anticipated the inevitable revolution which came in 1688…They had appealed to the nation; they had appealed to God himself; and they awaited the outcome with grim determination not to yield or compromise, come what might. They stood for the rights of God, and endured as seeing Him who is invisible.(p.148-9)

…in a few short years, the Covenanters’ rejection of tyrannical rulers became the nation’s rejection, and what had been called treason and rebellion, became the deliberate act of the nation, in the Revolution of 1688 (p132)

Chapters added to the close of the book on the sole headship of Christ over the Church and the continuing obligation of the Covenants help to highlight the ongoing relevance of the struggle narrated in the book.

Dr. J.G. Vos (1903-1983) was a noted minister, missionary and professor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. He edited an influential periodical called the Blue Banner Faith and Life. This complete overview of Covenanter history was originally a thesis and first published in 1940. This edition has been re-typeset and typographical errors have been corrected. The index has also been expanded.

Not everything in this book is going to attract widespread agreement. As Andrew Quigley notes in the endorsement on the back cover “many may not agree wholeheartedly with the…position…presented in the third part of the book”. Vos devotes a chapter to assessing the Revolution Settlement in a way that is altogether negative. Ultimately the majority of Covenanters decided that despite the defects they were not obliged to sin in joining with the Church of Scotland at the Revolution. Vos spends time narrating the next few centuries of the history of those who did not join. Eventually they formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

This book will be useful for reference for those who wish to be informed or inform others about this period of Church history. As Andrew Quigley mentions, it “breathes life into one of, if not the most disturbing and exhilarating periods in Scottish Church history”.

The Scottish Covenanters: Their Origins, History and Distinctive Doctrines by J. G. Vos (Blue Banner Productions, 2018, 256pp)

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Lex Rex

Lex Rex

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK’S MAIN ARGUMENT (60 SECONDS)

22 Aug, 2018

Our ideas of political power and its limitations were significantly shaped by Reformed writers like Samuel Rutherford and his book, Lex, Rex (The Law and the King) The book is a hammer blow against state claims for absolute power and so they had it publicly burned. We live in times when politics is polarising to an extraordinary degree. In many democratic countries there is a drift towards autocracy. On the other hand some want to take us into an anarchy where valued liberties and principles are discarded. What are the lessons we can learn today?

In his book (which develops the Reformation teaching about civil government), Rutherford asks some fundamental questions concerning civil government.

 

  • What is the purpose of government? The glory of God and the wellbeing of the people in both outward and spiritual terms.
  • Who or what brings government into being? It is brought into being by God and the people by means of a contract or covenant.
  • What is the nature of government? Government involves declaring, applying and enforcing the law.
  • What are the limits on government? Government cannot go beyond God’s law and command what is contrary to it or abuse the people.

He draws the answers out of the Bible using passages like Deuteronomy 17 and 1 Timothy 2:2. There are more principles than you might think in Scripture and it is necessary to handle them carefully. Ultimately civil government is from God, for His glory and limited by His law, but the power is given through the people for whose wellbeing it is to be exercised.

Rutherford’s discussions of these principles help us with a more detailed understanding of the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 23) on the matter of Civil Government. “God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers”. “Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake; and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.”

 
Romans 13 tells us that “the powers that be are ordained of God”. But does this mean that their power and authority is unlimited so that whatever they command is right simply because they command it? Rutherford denies that Scripture supports such a view which can lead to totalitarian tyranny. Instead he says that although government derives its authority from God as the ultimate source, this power is limited in two ways.

 

It is limited by divine law and subordinate to it. The government is not above the law. “There is no lawful power to do evil”. Romans 13 tells us that the purpose of civil government is to be a terror to evil doers and an encouragement to those who do well (according to God’s law). Lawless governments are going beyond their power and authority and are not acting as the ministers of God when they command something contrary to the law of God. Such laws may be disobeyed and if necessary resisted because only God is lord of the conscience.

 

 

It is also limited by the people through whom power is lent unto rulers as subordinate to the people (see the article What is Political Sovereignty?). “No title could be given to any man to make him king, but only the people’s election”. Rutherford shows from the Old Testament how the consent and choice of the people was essential in making a ruler. Power is only lent to rulers and it can be recovered if they prove to abuse it and use it tyrannically.

 

It is important to have different levels of representatives involved in government and not just one sole ruler. These representatives can help to recover power when it is abused by the key ruler. It provides for checks and balances to ensure accountability. None of this means that people should rebel at the least abuse of power or matter with which they are displeased. They should suffer long before they take the step of revolution in self-defence and use all lawful and non-violent means of redress in the meantime. When they resist they do not resist the office but the person who occupies the office who has exceeded the limits of the power of that office.

The Piety of Samuel Rutherford

A VISIT TO THE PASTOR’S STUDY

William Shisko interviews Matthew Vogan of Reformation Scotland and Pastor Jim Campbell, a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The program gives you an introduction to the life and times of Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century Scottish pastor (who would serve as one of the Scottish representatives to the Westminster Assembly.

God and Government

A VISIT TO THE PASTOR’S STUDY

William Shisko interviews Matthew Vogan of Reformation Scotland and nd Dr. David Innes, professor of Political Science at the King’s College in Manhattan about Samuel Rutherford’s 1644 volume LEX REX and how it applies to the current political situation in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 1661) was one of the foremost Scottish theologians and apologists for Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century, playing a major role in formulating the Westminster Standards at the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his many devotional letters and Lex, Rex–his seminal work on political sovereignty.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Samuel Rutherford blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

7 Types of People Who Prize Rutherford’s Letters

7 Types of People Who Prize Rutherford’s Letters

7 Types of People Who Prize Rutherford’s Letters
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
28 Feb, 2018

Why are some people so enraptured by Samuel Rutherford’s Letters? It is said of Robert Murray M’Cheyne that “the Letters of Samuel Rutherford were often in his hand”. C.H. Spurgeon said they were “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men”. Richard Baxter said that apart from the Bible “such a book as Mr. Rutherford’s Letters the world never saw the like”.  There are spiritual riches in them that only seem to increase in value. But what are they?

 The first editor of the Letters, Robert McWard says that they contain “many volumes wrapped up together in a few words”. They are like “a great soul shut up in a little body”. Much of the true substance of “real religion” is “enclosed in every line”. He drew attention to the highs and lows of spiritual experience that they contain. They witness to times of either the felt presence of Christ or the felt absence.  

The later editor, Andrew Bonar says that these letters will always be precious to:

 

1. All Who Mourn Over Sin

All who are sensible [conscious] of their own, and the Church’s decay and corruptions. The wound and the cure are therein so fully opened out: self is exposed, especially spiritual self. He will tell you, “There is as much need to watch over grace, as to watch over sin.” He will show you God in Christ, to fill up the place usurped by self. The subtleties of sin, idols, snares, temptations, self-deceptions, are dragged into view from time to time. And what is better still, the cords of Christ are twined round the roots of these bitter plants, that they may be plucked up.

Nor is it otherwise in regard to corruption in public, and in the Church. We do not mean merely the open corruption of error, but also the secret “grey hairs” of decay. Hear him cry, “There is universal deadness on all that fear God. O where are the sometime quickening breathings and influences from heaven that have refreshed His hidden ones!” And then he laments, in the name of the saints, “We are half satisfied with our witheredness; nor have we as much of his strain who doth eight times breathe out that suit [request] (Psalm 119), Quicken me!” “We live far from the well, and complain but dryly of our dryness.”

 

2. All Who Delight in Christ’s Righteousness

All who delight in the Surety’s imputed righteousness. If thoroughly aware of the body of sin in ourselves we cannot but feel that we need a person in our stead — the person of the God-man in the room of our guilty person. “To us a Son is given;” not salvation only, but a Saviour. “He gave Himself for us”.

These letters are ever leading us to the Surety and His righteousness. The eye never gets time to rest long on anything apart from Him and His righteousness. We are shown the deluge-waters undried up, in order to lead us into the ark again: “I had fainted, had not want and penury chased me to the storehouse of all.”

 

3. All Who Rejoice in the Gospel of Free Grace

Lord Kenmure having said to him, “Sin causeth me to be jealous of His love to such a man as I have been,” he replied, “Be jealous of yourself, my Lord, but not of Jesus Christ,” In his Trial and Triumph of Faith he remarks, “As holy walking is a duty coming from us, it is no ground of true peace. Believers often seek in themselves what they should seek in Christ.” It is to the like effect he says in one of his letters, “Your heart is not the compass that Christ saileth by,” — turning away his friend from looking inward, to look upon the heart of Jesus. And this is his meaning, when he thus lays the whole burden of salvation on the Lord, and leaves nothing for us but acceptance, “Take ease to thyself, and let Him bear all”. Then, pointing us to the risen Saviour as our pledge of complete redemption, “Faith may dance, because Christ singeth;” “Faith apprehendeth pardon but never payeth a penny for it.”

On his death-bed he said to his friends, “I disclaim all that ever God made me will or do, and I look upon it as defiled and imperfect.” And so in his Letters he will admit of no addition, or intermixture of other things, ”The Gospel is like a small hair that hath no breadth, and will not cleave in two.” He exhorts to Assurance as being the way to be humbled very low before God: “Complaining is but a humble backbiting and traducing of Christ’s new work in the soul.” “Make meikle [much] of assurance, for it
keepeth your anchor fixed.” He warns us, in his Trial and Triumph of Faith not to be too desirous of keen awakenings to chase us to Christ. Let Christ tutor me as he thinketh good. He has seven eyes; I have but one, and that too dim.” In a similar strain he writes:

“The law shall never be my doomster, by Christ’s grace; I shall find a sure enough doom in the Gospel to humble and cast me down. There cannot be a more humble soul than a believer. It is no pride in a drowning man to catch hold of a rock“.

How much truth there is here! Naaman never was humble in any degree, until he felt himself completely healed of his scaly leprosy; but truly he was humbled and humble then. And what one word is there that suggests so many humbling thoughts as that word “grace“.

 

4. All Who Seek to Grow in Holiness

The Holy Spirit delights to show us the glorious Godhead, in the face of Jesus. And this is a very frequent theme in these Letters. “Take Christ for sanctification, as well as justification,” is often his theme. And in him we see a man who seems to have fought for holiness as unceasingly and as eagerly as other men seek for pardon and peace. In him “Holiness to the Lord” seems written on every affection of the heart, and on every fresh-springing thought.

Fellowship with the living God is a distinguishing feature in the holiness given by the Holy Spirit; we get “access by one Spirit to the Father through Him.” Rutherford could sometimes say, ”I have been so near Him that I have said, ‘I take instruments [legal testimony] that this is the Lord.'” And he could from experience declare, “I dare avouch, the saints know not the length and largeness of the sweet Earnest, and of the sweet green sheaves before the harvest, that might be had on this side of the water, if we should take more pains [effort]”.”I am every way in your case, as hard-hearted and dead as any man, but yet I speak to Christ through my sleep.” All this is from the pen of a man who was a metaphysician, a controversialist, a leader in the church, and learned in ancient and scholastic lore. Why are there not such gracious, as well as great men now?

 

5. All Afflicted Ones

Here he had the very “tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that was weary.” And with what tender sympathy does he speak, leading the mourner so gently to the heart of Jesus! He knew the heart of a stranger, for he had been a stranger. “Let no man after me slander Christ for His cross.” Yes, says he, His most loved are often His most tried: “The lintel-stone and pillars of His New Jerusalem suSer more knocks of God’s hammer and tools than the common side- wall stones.” Even as to reproach and calumny, he declares,” I love Christ’s worst reproaches.”

It was to Hugh M’Kail, uncle of the youthful martyr, that he penned the words, “Some have written me that I am possibly too joyful of the cross; but my joy overleapeth the cross — it is bounded and terminated on Christ.” And there it was he found a well of comfort never dry.

 

6. All Who Love the Person of Christ

We have too often been satisfied with speculative truth and abstract doctrine. On the one hand, the orthodox have too often rested in the statements of our Catechisms and Confessions; and, on the other, the “Election-doubters” (as Bunyan would have called them) have pressed their favourite dogma, that Christ died for all men, as if mere assent to a proposition could save the soul. Rutherford places the truth before us in a more accurate, and also more savoury way, full of life and warmth. The Person of Him who gave Himself for His church is held up in all its attractiveness. With him, it is ever the Person as much as the work done ; or rather, never the one apart from the other. like Paul, he would fain know Him, as well as the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

Once, when Lord Kenmure asked him, “What will Christ be like when He cometh?” his reply was, “All lovely“. And this is everywhere the favourite theme with him. At times he tells of His love. “His love surroundeth and surchargeth me.” “If His love was not in heaven, I should be unwilling to go thither.” Often he checks his pen to tell of Christ Himself,  “Welcome, welcome, sweet, sweet cross of Christ;” — then correcting his language, “Welcome, fair, lovely, royal King, with Thine own cross”  ” if I could doat as much upon Himself as I do upon His love.” “I fear I make more of His love than of Himself“. How startling yet how true, is this remark, “I see that in communion with Christ we may make more gods than one,” — meaning that we may be tempted to make the enjoyment itself our god. It was his habitual aim to pass through privileges, joys, even fellowship, to God Himself: “I have casten this work upon Christ, to get me Himself“. “I would be farther in upon Christ than at His joys; in, where love and mercy lodgeth, beside His heart.” “He who sitteth on the throne is His lone [alone] a sufficient heaven.” “Sure I am He is the far best half of heaven.”

In a word, such was his soul’s view of the living Person, that he writes, “Holiness is not Christ, nor the blossoms and flowers of the tree of life, nor the tree itself.” “He had found out the true fountain-head, and would direct all Zion’s travellers thither. And let a man try this; let the Holy Spirit lead a man to this Person; — and surely his experience will be, “None ever came up dry from David’s well.”

 

7. All who love the Hope of Christ’s Appearing

The more we love the Person of Christ, the more ought we to love hat blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God our Saviour; and the more we cherish both feelings, the holier shall we become. Rutherford abounds in aspirations for that day; he is one who “looks for and hastens unto the coming of the day of God!” While in exile at Aberdeen in 1637, he writes, “O when will we meet! O how long is it to the dawning of the marriage day! sweet Jesus, take wide steps! my Lord, come over mountains at one stride! O my Beloved, flee as a roe or young hart upon the mountains of separation.”

Now and then he utters the expression of an intense desire for the restoration of Israel to their Lord, and the fulness of the Gentiles; but far oftener his desires go forth to his Lord Himself. “O fairest among the sons of men, why stayest Thou so long away? heavens, move fast! O time, run, run, and hasten the marriage day!” To Lady Kenmure his words are, “The Lord hath told you what you should be doing till He come. ‘Wait and hasten’, saith Peter, ‘for the coming of the Lord.’ Sigh and long for the dawning of that morning, and the breaking of that day, of the coming of the Son of Man, when the shadows shall flee away. Wait with the wearied night-watch for the breaking of the eastern sky.” Those saints who feel most keenly the world’s enmity, and the Church’s imperfection, are those who will most fervently love their Lord’s appearing. It was thus with Daniel on the banks of Ulai, and with John in Patmos; and Samuel Rutherford’s most intense aspirations for that day are breathed out in Aberdeen.

His description of himself on one occasion is, “A man often borne down and hungry, and waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb.” He is now gone to the “mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense;” and there he no doubt still wonders at the unopened, unsearchable treasures of Christ. But O for his insatiable desires Christward! for ten such men in Scotland to stand in the gap! — men who all day long find nothing but Christ to rest in, whose very sleep is a pursuing after Christ in dreams, and who intensely desire to “awake with His likeness.”

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

"Every day we may see some new thing in Christ" (Samuel Rutherford).

It has been frequently observed that there are 365 Letters by Samuel Rutherford. That makes it possible to read one each day of the year. This book provides brief thoughts for each day of the year, selected from the "most remarkable series of devotional letters that the literature of the Reformed Church can show" (Principal John Macleod).

Here is spiritual counsel and insight to give you renewed strength for each day. Each day presents a distinct opportunity to glorify God since "as many suns as God maketh to rise upon you, ye have as many new lives" (Samuel Rutherford).

This book, Daily Thoughts from Samuel Rutherford, is highly recommended.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2017

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2017

Top 5 Second Reformation Books of 2017
Matthew Vogan

2017 was the year of Reformation with the 500th anniversary. There were no shortage of books about that. It’s common at this time of year to look back at the best books of the year. They can be useful lists and reviews. Here are the best books published during the year that mined the riches of the Second Reformation. 

Naturally, we could highlight more than one or two Reformation Scotland resources but we will look at what others have produced instead.

1. Conversations with a Dying Man

Sadly, we all have to deal with situations of terminal illness. In Conversations with a Dying Man we listen over the shoulder of Samuel Rutherford while he counsels a young nobleman on his deathbed. It is thought-provoking and soul-stirring extended account of one man whose conscience had been hardened but later became inflamed with guilt. Aged only 35, John Gordon must now come to terms not only with terminal illness but also a burden of guilt.

In these conversations, Samuel Rutherford lovingly and faithfully administers the conviction and comfort the young nobleman needs. True peace and assurance are carefully distinguished from false hope. It is valuable for all of us but especially those nearing eternity and those who seek to give them spiritual help.

Rutherford must have many conversations with him in order to bring him to true repentance. Sometimes he must rebuke him as well as administer comfort. His faithful pastoral care brings the conscience of John Gordon from despair to joy unspeakable. He died “sweetly and holily, and his end was peace”.

2. God’s Ambassadors

The Westminster Assembly didn’t just produce documents it actively reformed the ministry in England. This is the story of how they went about this practically. How did they seek to improve and reform preaching? This book also shows how they approached preaching and biblical interpretation in their own practice.  These may well be the most valuable parts of the book. There are chapters on training and ordination. Christ-centred preaching and exegesis is also ably demonstrated.

This is an important and far-reaching study of the reforms achieved by the Westminster Assembly with much to teach ministers today. It is written by the man who knows most about the Westminster Assembly and its work.

God’s Ambassadors: The Westminster Assembly and the Reformation of the English Pulpit, 1643-1653 by Chad VanDixhoorn

3. Daily Thoughts from Samuel Rutherford

“Every day we may see some new thing in Christ” (Samuel Rutherford).

It has been frequently observed that there are 365 Letters by Samuel Rutherford. That makes it possible to read one each day of the year. This book provides brief thoughts for each day of the year, selected from the “most remarkable series of devotional letters that the literature of the Reformed Church can show” (Principal John Macleod).

Here is spiritual counsel and insight to give you renewed strength for each day. Each day presents a distinct opportunity to glorify God since “as many suns as God maketh to rise upon you, ye have as many new lives” (Samuel Rutherford).

This new book is highly recommended and you can purchase it here.

4. Ruling Elders and Deacons

It would be hard to find a more thorough or gracious treatment of this vital subject. It is dangerous to any Church to have ministers who are not called and qualified for their office. We must be equally concerned to have worthy men as elders and deacons. Zeal for the Lord’s honour and the gospel, love to souls and fear of the Lord’s judgment will make this a priority.

James Guthrie is concerned that many elders and deacons are neither aware of their duty nor conscientious in doing it. This book provides a straightforward explanation of the purpose and duties of these offices. There are various encouragements as well as crisp clarity and searching requirements. You can purchase it here.

5. Collected Sermons of James Durham

Which preacher from the Second Reformation would Spurgeon most like to have listened to? James Durham; a careful expositor with searching application and a winsome manner. You cannot go back to those times any more than Spurgeon, but if you want the next best thing you should obtain these volumes.

One volume contains 72 sermons on Isaiah 53 drawing out very fully the gospel of Christ crucified. The other volume collects a wide range of sermons, some which have not been published and others which have not been reprinted for centuries. This volume contains “The Blessedness of the Death of Those That Die in the Lord,” “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” (Communion sermons), “Heaven upon Earth” (on conscience), “The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness,” and “The Great Corruption of Subtle Self,” as well as miscellaneous other sermons.

Collected Sermons of James Durham, 2 volumes

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Christ Died for the Church’s Spiritual Independence

Christ Died for the Church’s Spiritual Independence

Christ Died for the Church’s Spiritual Independence
George Gillespie (1613 – 1648) ministered in Fife and Edinburgh and was one of the main Scottish theologians at the Westminster Assembly. He wrote several important publications in support of Presbyterian church government.
14 Aug, 2017

This cause and truth (that Jesus Christ is a king, and has a kingdom and government in His church distinct from the kingdom of the world and civil government) has this commendation and character above all other truths, that Christ himself suffered to the death for it, and sealed it with his blood.

 

For it may be observed, from the story of His passion, that this was the only point of His accusation which was confessed and avouched by himself (John 18:33,36,37; Luke 23:3), was most aggravated, prosecuted, and driven home by the Jews (Luke 23:2; John 19:12,15), was prevalent with Pilate as the cause of condemning him to die, (John 19:12-13), and was mentioned also in the superscription upon his cross (John 19:19) .

 

George Gillespie in the Preface to Aaron’s Rod Blossoming.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Were the Covenanters Puritans?

Were the Covenanters Puritans?

Were the Covenanters Puritans?
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
1 Jun, 2017

The Covenanters shared certain principles with the English Puritans. There was an emphasis on the supreme authority of the Word of God in matters of worship and practice as well as doctrine. They shared a commitment to deepening the work of Reformation that brought them together in the Westminster Assembly. Their writings manifest the same spiritual maturity and true fear of God and preaching saturated with the Scriptures. They focus upon eternity, warfare against sin, family religion and practical godliness. Would it not be natural to think of the Covenanters as Scottish Puritans?

The short answer is: no, this would not be accurate. There are various reasons for this.

1. Puritanism is an imprecise term

Puritanism is notoriously difficult for scholars to define in terms of when the movement began and ended, what its main principles were and who can be given this label. It is not therefore a useful way of understanding the Covenanters and their principles. It is not helpful to think of New England as virtually identical to Scotland at this time.

Puritans could have different doctrinal views or positions on church government. The term Covenanter, by contrast is much more definite since it speaks of Covenanted Reformation and is clear in terms of church government, worship and doctrine.

The term Puritan does not indicate allegiance to a particular form of church government. Covenanters were, however, very committed to Presbyterian church government and suffered enormously in defending it. To call the Covenanters Puritans sets aside the importance that they placed on Presbyterian principles. It may well say far more about modern indifference to matters of church government than it does about the Scottish Church in the seventeenth century.

2. Puritanism was a short-lived term in Scotland

The term Puritan was never especially used in Scotland before 1618, whereas it was used in England from 1564. This was when changes were brought into the worship of the Church of Scotland to bring it in line with the Church of England. Those who resisted the changes were defending the status quo rather than seeking to change it.The Puritans in England were conversely trying to change the status quo to match the practice in Scotland. There was similarity in what they were defending but. Presbyterians were nicknamed Puritan by the Church authorities in order to smear their reputation. The name fell out of use after 1638 in Scotland because that is when the bishops and their supporters fell from power.

The Covenanter movement in Scotland was different to English Puritanism in its purpose. The Reformation under John Knox had not been a half-way compromise but rather something that Puritans admired. The Covenanters were resisting change away from the original position of the Church rather than trying to effect change. The Puritans, however, aimed to purify the half-reformed Church of England from its Roman Catholic practices. This is a significant difference.

3. Puritanism was rejected in Scotland as a term of abuse

Of course it was a term of abuse in England too at first. Yet the English Puritans came to accept it. Robert Bolton spoke of ‘Puritan’ as “the honourable nickname of the best and holiest men”. John Geree celebrated it in The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Non-Conformist (1646).

Samuel Rutherford, however, only used the word in reference to it as a term of abuse applied by the enemies of the Presbyterians (see Letters 11, 59 and 262). In one sermon he refers to those who are afraid of being nicknamed Puritans. This does not mean, however, that they welcomed it. George Gillespie objected to the fact that “they make godly and zealous Christians to be mocked and nick named Puritans except they can swallow the camel of conformity”. He makes the point that this was the term applied to an ancient heresy.

Our consciences bear us witness how without all reason we are branded with the name of those ancient heretics from whose opinions and manners O how far are we. And as for ourselves notwithstanding all this we shrink not to be reproached for the cause of Christ. We know the old Waldenses before us were also named by their adversaries Cathares or Puritans and that without cause hath this name been given both to them and us. But we are most sorry that such as are walking humbly with their God seeking eagerly after the means of grace and salvation and making good conscience of all their ways should be made odious and that piety, humility, repentance, zeal, conscience etc should be mocked and all by occasion of the ceremonies.

Conclusion

It may not seem a weighty point, but it is best nevertheless to avoid the growing mistake of referring to the Covenanters as either Puritans or Scottish Puritans. Let us instead, appreciate the distinctive difference.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

When Books Were Executed in Scotland

When Books Were Executed in Scotland

When Books Were Executed in Scotland
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
24 Nov, 2016

If books are executed for their dangerous ideas, then the Stuarts must have felt threatened by the ideas of the Second Reformation in Scotland. Most of the key books and documents of the time were condemned by these kings to be burnt publicly by the hangman. It was an exercise in the power of the sword over the power of the pen. Perhaps it is not surprising that the first recorded book burning in history was by a king seeking to destroy the words of Scripture (Jeremiah 36:27).

Many books and documents were ‘executed’ at this time. It was a sinister threat to the author and all who would promote the ideas of the book. It was not a long journey for the Restoration regime to make from executing the Covenants to executing the Covenanters. Perhaps it was a desperate attempt to destroy ideas but of course it only attracted more readers for a book. As one writer has observed poetically: “books have souls as well as men, which survive their martyrdom, and are not burnt but crowned by the flames that encircle them”.

 

1. Defending the Liberty of the Church

One of the early books to be burnt was George Gillespie’s argument against the Anglican ceremonies being imposed on the Scottish Church. George Gillespie was young and exceptionally gifted. He explained the reasons in a forthright book. He said that these ceremonies in worship had their origin in Roman Catholic worship not Scripture. He argued they were not necessary, useful or lawful. And neither was their imposition merely unimportant.

The book he published was called A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies obtruded upon the Church of Scotland. It was published anonymously in Holland due to the persecution of dissent. It appeared at exactly the right time – the summer of 1637 -in the midst of protest and uproar due to the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer.

We could think of this as a war between two books. Which would succeed – Gillespie or the Bishops? Although the Book of Common Prayer had the repressive force of government behind it, Gillespie’s book had the power and authority of God’s Word. In October 1637 the Privy Council ordered that all copies of Gillespie’s book to be collected and burnt by the public hangman. It was a last desperate attempt but too late. Gillespie’s book was never answered.

 

2. Defending the Liberty of the People

Our ideas of political power and its limitations were significantly shaped by Reformed writers. Such principles helped the Covenanters to resist autocratic rule. They remain relevant today. Samuel Rutherford published a key statement of these principles in Lex, Rex (The Law and the King). This book is a hammer blow against state claims for absolute power.

When it was published Charles I said that it would scarcely get an answer. It contained such a powerful argument that Charles II ordered it to be burnt by the hangman. Rutherford was charged with treason, dismissed from his post and placed under house arrest. He only escaped execution through being seriously ill. Rutherford said that “he would willingly die on the scaffold for that book with a good conscience.”  Why would he risk so much for a complex book about political government? Experience under the Stuart regime showed that absolute power was an intoxicating notion that did not value either liberties or mens’ lives. More than this, the king was set himself up with a divine authority in place of the authority of Scripture, and this had to be resisted.

 

3. Defending the Liberty of Both

The National Covenant (1638) and the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) were solemn oaths that obliged those who swore to defend such liberties. It is not surprising that these Covenants were publicly burnt, even though they pledged loyalty to the king. Futhermore, Charles II himself had sworn to them together with his government. One pamphlet responded to the covenant breaking and burning. It was called The Phoenix, or the Solemn League and Covenant (1661). The idea was that the covenant like the phoenix would rise from its ashes.

When dying men left a public written testimony behind them, it could be burned publicly. This was the case with the minister James Wood in 1664. It was only an attempt to clear himself from slanderous rumours that he had forsaken presbyterian principles.

James Guthrie’s pamphlet The Causes of the Lord’s Wrath against Scotland (1653) was a frank acknowledgement of the nation’s departure from its former principles. Its reflections on the king were considered treasonable, however. Anyone found possessing it could be charged with treason. The book was of course burnt publicly by the hangman. It would be used as evidence in the trial which condemned Guthrie for execution. This was a clear instance of a book’s execution leading to capital punishment for the author.

The Covenanters sought to defend themselves in print. There were books such as John Brown of Wamphray’s Apologetic Relation (1679) or James Stewart’s Naphtali, or, The wrestlings of the Church of Scotland (1667). These protests against repression and government brutality were burned publicly. The Lanark, Rutherglen and Sanquhar Declarations were all burnt also, together with the Queensferry Paper.

 

Conclusion

Clearly, these were powerful books. They remain powerful. While they speak to their own time in various ways, there are important principles with biblical authority that we may draw from them. If these principles are lost then we are in danger of losing true civil and religious liberty. After all the attempts to destroy such ideas, our generation must not condemn them through mere apathy. We have a duty to the present and past to grasp and maintain principles for which others risked or gave their lives.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

What is True Waiting on God?

What is True Waiting on God?

What is True Waiting on God?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
7 Oct, 2016

When you are in a hurry, waiting seems impossible. At such times anxiety and frustration can easily take over. We have to wait but the question is: how should we wait?  Many Christians find that they may wait long in prayer before they seem to have an answer. At one time they are tempted to impatience and then to hopelessness. But true waiting is not passive paralysis; it exercises our faith and patience in persevering prayer. This is how David could emphasise that “truly” his soul was waiting on God (Psalm 62:1). What is involved in this spiritual discipline?

Zachary Boyd (1585–1653) explains something of this in a sermon on Psalm 62:1 called “The Godly Man’s Confidence”. There is an updated extract below. Boyd was minister of the Barony Parish, Glasgow. Well-known as a poet, he contributed around a tenth of the content of the Scottish Psalter (1650). He was rector and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Glasgow. He faced Cromwell’s army with bravery when they invaded Scotland and proceeded to Glasgow. He had a high view of the calling of a minister “they who do this work as they should, must with earnest prayers, painstaking reading, and serious meditation empty their veins of blood till paleness…be printed upon their face”. He left a large number of sermons which are especially encouraging for tried and tempted believers, such as the following:

observe well O man what I say…While you are tempted to think that the Lord has cast you off…I can assure you that you have Him even now, and shall have Him also forever

What is True Waiting on God?

It means to abide patiently in hope of help from God. In the godly, this waiting is accompanied with vehement and continual looking to God for assistance. They seek to be delivered either from felt present evil or from feared future evil. It is helpful to consider the characteristics of those who wait wisely on anything must:

  1. Consider what they wait for to be well worth the wait;
  2. Love what they wait for;
  3. Be conscious of lacking what they wait for;
  4. Hope to find what they lack in the one on whom they wait;
  5. Wait constantly;
  6. Keep their eye on the one on whom they wait.

1. God is Well Worth the Wait

The soul that waits on God is wise because He is not only worthy but worthiness itself. When all things fail us, God will not. The Psalmist said that his “flesh and heart” failed but the Lord “is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). This is the One who, if we wait on Him, will first guide us by His counsel and afterward will bring us to glory.

2. Wait on God with Love

There must be love in the heart of those that wait on God. Unless a man loves God, he cannot wait on God (1 John 4:8). A man cannot live where he does not love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), not only because He loves us more than we can love Him, but also because He is most worthy to be loved.

It is well with the man who (fainting in his spirit with such strong love) can say with the spouse: “stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love (Song of Songs 2:5). Moses so loved Him that, for His glory, he desired to be scraped out of the book of life (Exodus 32:32). St Paul was greatly inflamed with such a love to Christ that if any loved Him not, his wish was that he should be “anathema maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). If a man does not love God primarily for Himself, he will not wait on God.

Many waited on Christ because He gave them loaves (John 6:26). This is like a dog that will wait on a stranger that has a bone in his hand, not for himself but for the bone. Many wait on God’s benefits, but few wait on Himself. “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6). But how few are those that seek God for Himself and ask with the psalmist that the Lord lift up the light of His countenance on them. If like the dog, many get the bone of some benefit out of God’s hand, they know Him not more than if He were a stranger only now come into the world. There is no waiting on where there is no love. Man is wearied to wait on that which he does not love.

Most of us may easily know that we do not love God by our waiting. How drowsy we are to wait on God until He has spoken to us for only an hour? How wearied we are to speak to God in prayer for only a quarter of an hour. We can wait on worldly business the whole day and discourse with men from morning till evening. But who can wait so long either to hear God speaking by preaching to us or to speak to Him in prayer? It is easy to say that our soul waits on God. But how few can say “Truly” my soul waits on God (Psalm 62:1)?

3. Wait on God with a Sense Your Need

Those who wait on God must have a sense of their own needs. A Laodicean soul filled with self-conceit cannot wait on the Lord (Revelation 3:14-17). As long as a man sings the requiem to his soul that he has no need of anything, he waits on himself (Revelation 3:17). But as soon as he has seen his own blindness, misery and nakedness by virtue of God’s eye-salve, he is fit for waiting on God. A man must first renounce himself and all that is within him before he can be able to cleave to God.

4. Wait on God with Assurance that He can Supply Your Need

Those who truly wait on God must be assured that they will find in God that which they lack. This is faith. “To whom shall we go?” said Peter to Christ: He had “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). St Peter would wait on Christ alone because he saw that He had words such as no man had the like. If men could taste and see how good the Lord is, they would cleave to Him (Psalm 34:8). They would cleave to Him even though He would desire them to go from Him. Just as Ruth did to Naomi when she desired Ruth and Orpah to return to their country. Scripture calls Ruth “steadfastly minded” (Ruth 1:18).

5. Wait on God Constantly

There must be constancy and continuance in waiting on God. God will not be served by fits and starts. He that perseveres to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13). The wicked (like the deceitful Israelites) seem for a time to be bowed like a bow to received the string of the Lord’s law into the nock of their heart [a nock is the groove at either end of a bow for holding the bowstring]. But immediately they bend back from such an inclination. The prophet said they “turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow” (Psalm 78:57). Those who turn back and aside cannot be said to wait on God. Courtiers will wait constantly on kings for that which is not worth waiting for. But few will wait on God. If God makes no immediate answer to King Saul by Urim or Thummim, he must run to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7). Nature dislikes grace: they are disposed to be contrary to one another.

Grace is willing to wait on God, but nature makes haste. Ungodly Saul could not wait until Samuel came but, as he said, “I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12). In the same way, a wicked man cannot wait on the Lord’s leisure.

6. Wait on God with Your Eye on Him

Last of all, a good waiter is always to have an eye on the one on whom they wait. The psalmist says: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2). David said “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). That is, to the force of men who dwelt in the hill country of Canaan. But immediately he corrects himself that his help comes “from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). He would say, I will wait on God, my eyes shall no more be lifted to the hills but to Him “which made heaven and earth”.

SPECIAL OFFER

Selected Sermons of Zachary Boyd ed. David Atkinson (336pp, hdbk, Scottish Text Society) includes 19 sermons from the 1620s and 1630s with historical footnotes. The sermons are, however, in the original 17th century spelling. Those who are not daunted by this discover rich examples of faithful preaching during this time. The book is relatively rare and is available from James Dickson Books for £9.95 (RRP £30). There is a very special offer of free worldwide shipping available to readers of this blog post using the coupon code RST16. Purchase here (enter the code after adding the book to the cart). Email info [at] jamesdicksonbooks.com if you experience any difficulties.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Covenanters blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

How to Get Hold of Covenanter Bible Commentaries

How to Get Hold of Covenanter Bible Commentaries

How to Get Hold of Covenanter Bible Commentaries
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
6 Jul, 2016

A previous article outlined 7 Reasons You Should Study the Bible with the Covenanters. Their bible commentaries are practical, pastoral, simple, concise, clear, contextual and popular. They were highly esteemed by Charles Spurgeon in his Commenting and Commentaries. Some of these books are out of print but is still possible to purchase existing stock or second hand. It is also possible to get facsimiles of the originals through Amazon but they may be difficult to read.

The Ten Commandments

James Durham – A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments (Naphtali Press, 2002). This volume is out of print but existing stock may be available from UK bookshops or via Naphtali Press’ print-on-demand service on Lulu.com.

In particular instances, cases relating to daily practice are so distinctly proposed, stated and determined, as that the whole is a complete Christian directory in our walking before God in all duties of obedience. Let the pious reader single out any one duty or head of duties to make his trial upon, and, if I greatly mistake not, he will discern with what wisdom, and from what deep experience, his plain directions are managed, and do proceed – John Owen

Job

James Durham – Lectures on the Book of Job (Naphtali Press, 2003).

It is certain to be good, for Durham is always admirable…Whatever Durham has written is very precious. He has the pen of a ready writer, and indites good matter – Spurgeon

George Hutcheson – An Exposition of the Book of Job Available as a facsimile.

Whenever the student sees a commentary by Hutcheson let him buy it, for we know of no author who is more thoroughly helpful to the minister of the Word. He distills the text, and gives his readers the quintessence, ready for use – Spurgeon

Psalms

David Dickson – Psalms Vol. 1 (1-50), Vol. 2 (51-100), Vol. 3 (101-150) (Banner of Truth, 1959 – in print).

A rich volume, dropping fatness. Invaluable to the preacher. Having read and re-read it, we can speak of its holy savour and suggestiveness. We commend it with much fervour – Spurgeon

Song of Songs

James Durham – Song of Solomon (Banner of Truth). Out of print but available secondhand.

Durham is always good, and he is at his best upon the Canticles. He gives us the essence of the good matter. For practical use this work is perhaps more valuable than any other Key to the Song – Spurgeon

Ecclesiastes

Alexander Nisbet – Ecclesiastes. Available as a facsimile.

One of those solid works which learned Scotch divines of the seventeenth century have left us in considerable numbers. In our judgment it is as heavy as it is weighty – Spurgeon

Isaiah 53

James Durham, The Marrow of the Gospel in seventy-two Sermons on the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah (Naphtali Press and RHB). May be obtained from UK bookshops or here.

This is marrow indeed. We need say no more: Durham is a prince among spiritual expositors – Spurgeon

The Minor Prophets

George Hutcheson, The Minor Prophets (Sovereign Grace Publishers). Note that the Sovereign Grace Publishers reprint only contains six of the minor prophets.

Get it. Hutcheson is always rich. He resembles Dickson – Spurgeon

Matthew

David Dickson – Matthew (Banner of Truth) out of print but available secondhand. Electronic version available on kindle or facsimile.

A perfect gem. The work is, to men of our school, more suggestive of sermons than almost any other we have met with – Spurgeon

John

George Hutcheson – John (Banner of Truth and Sovereign Grace Publishers)

Excellent; beyond all praise. It is a full-stored treasury of sound theology, holy thought, and marrowy doctrine – Spurgeon

All of the Epistles

David Dickson – All the Epistles: Romans-Jude.

Dickson is a writer after our own heart. For preachers he is a great ally. There is nothing brilliant or profound; but everything is clear and well arranged, and the unction runs down like the oil from Aaron’s head. In this volume the observations are brief – Spurgeon

Romans

John Brown of Wamphray – Romans (Amazon facsimile)

By a Calvinist of the old school. Heavy, perhaps; but precious – Spurgeon

Galatians – Thessalonians

James Fergusson – Galatians – 2 Thessalonians (Sovereign Grace Publishers).

He who possesses this work is rich. The author handles his matter in the same manner as Hutcheson and Dickson, and he is of their class–a grand, gracious, savory divine – Spurgeon

This was published by the Banner of Truth together with the following but is now out of print.

Hebrews

David Dickson – A Short Explanation of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Solid Ground Christian Books). This is a different commentary than the commentary on Hebrews in his commentary on all the epistles.

We need say no more than–get it, and you will find abundance of suggestions for profitable trains of thought – Spurgeon

1 & 2 Peter

Alexander Nisbet – 1 & 2 Peter (Banner of Truth)

A judicious and gracious Scotch commentary, after the style of Dickson and Hutcheson – Spurgeon

Revelation

James Durham – Commentary Upon the Book of Revelation (Old Paths). Out of print but stock may be obtained from UK bookshops or buy facsimile.

After all that has been written, it would not be easy to find a more sensible and instructive work than this old-fashioned exposition…the mystery of the gospel fills it with sweet savour – Spurgeon

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.