Why Reformation in Africa is a Key Priority

Why Reformation in Africa is a Key Priority

Why Reformation in Africa is a Key Priority
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
13 Jul, 2021

Africa’s population growth is exponential, it is doubling every thirty years and expected to surpass 2 billion by 2038. By 2060, six of the world’s ten largest Christian countries will be in Africa. Of course, the question is, what sort of Christian will that be? In 1910 there were 2 million identifying as Christians in Africa, today there are 650 million but 200 million of these are evangelicals. There are many opportunities for biblical truth but there are also many challenges. Scripture indeed holds out specific hope and promise for those labouring to bring greater reformation to Africa.

We are well aware of many challenges such as extreme poverty, conflict, corruption and disease among other challenges. There is also great spiritual poverty. Less than 20 percent of evangelical pastors have received seminary training and biblical illiteracy and heresy wreak havoc. In some places Christians face persecution from Islamist extremist groups. These challenges are also opportunities and Scripture offers great encouragement in seeking to meet them with the truth of God’s Word. One particular passage is Zephaniah 3:9-10. This speaks of how God will make pure doctrine, worship and profession spread to many people both Jews and Gentiles in New Testament times. They will combine together in serving Him and helping one another in His obedience (v9). This unity and common profession is described as “a pure language” (see Isaiah 19:18). The Lord promises that He will gather them from the furthest parts of the world to seek Him and offer service to Him (v10). This promise is accomplished, partly in His gathering together in Christ His people dispersed throughout the world and its remotest corners (see John 11:52). The regions beyond Ethiopia are especially mentioned. These peoples will be included among the rest in a time of great blessing. George Hutcheson comments further on these verses in a way that is helpful for us.

1. The Lord Will Gather His Church in Africa

It is cause for praise to God and of encouragement to the godly that however it goes with nations, God will not lack a Church. He may gather it from among pagan Gentiles and those of whom there is little apparent hope. He will get many people, even from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.

2. The Lord Will Reform His Church in Africa

Purity of doctrine, worship and profession is the glory of a gospel Church. It is a glorious work of God to make it so and keep it so. The Lord says, “I will turn to the people a pure language” or pure doctrine and profession instead of their idolatrous and blasphemous imaginations and ways.

3. The Lord Will Reform His Church in Africa Thoroughly

Purity of doctrine, worship and profession do not consist in a lawless liberty or a toleration to think or say whatever people want to. Rather it is conjoined with and carried on by a united uniformity. This is the rich fruit and recompense of much trouble, so it is to be expected in the Lord’s time and measure. After much trouble (v8) they shall have a pure language, they will serve Him with one consent (literally shoulder) even in that pure language (see Jeremiah 32:39; Zechariah 14:9).

Unanimity in the matters of God and the free access of Jew and Gentile to serve God is a great mercy of the kingdom of Christ. When those who seek God are of one heart and all put their hands to help one another without obstructing or lying idle it is a sign of thriving in serving God. This is also included in the promise as a great blessing and a means of much good, “they shall serve him with one consent.”

The true marks of a converted and spiritual people are being much in calling on God, making use of Him in all things, and giving up themselves entirely to be His servants. To testify their subjection and thankfulness they put their hands to His service as far as they are called to do so. They will do everything as service to Him and bring their worship, themselves, or others, as they are able to offer them up to Him. They described here in this way “they all call on the name of the Lord”, when they get the pure language, they are suppliants, they serve Him, and bring His offering.

4. The Lord Will Reform His Church in Africa in His Time

The Lord will not lose any of His elect, however far they are scattered throughout the world. He will recover His own, when their condition shows they are afar off and driven into exile, without hope or probability of return. The Lord will in due time seek after and recover His ancient people, now for a scattered long time. This will lead to a reviving of His service in the world. For “from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, he will seek the daughter of his dispersed, and cause them to come”. At this time there will be suppliants and offerings brought and serving Him with one consent.

Conclusion

Reformation in Africa should be a key priority for our prayers and endeavours. There are many church and mission endeavours that can be prayerfully supported, among them Reforming Africa Ministries, The Liberia Project and The Gambia Partnership.

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How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation

How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation

How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
24 Jun, 2021

To reform is to be shaped by the Word of God into God’s own pattern and design. We need that individually and corporately. We need Christ to rule in our hearts and in His own kingdom. We also want to see Christ’s kingdom extended and grow in stability and purity. In a time of confusion, we need the clarity that comes from the Word. In a time of apostasy, it is far easier to decline and fragment than it is to reform. Ultimately reforming is the work of God’s grace and Spirit. But that only increases our responsibility to pray for it and to search God’s Word to see how we need to change personally and collectively.

Christ has given us a prayer for reformation which is as extensive as possible while also being as brief as possible (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). Simply to pray that His kingdom would come, is to desire that it would come in as many places as possible and in as many ways as possible. The Larger Catechism Q191 indicates something of this fulness.

In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

When John Calvin wrote a defence and manifesto of church reformation, he focussed on four main topics which he called the soul and body of the church. The soul of the church is worship and salvation. The body is the sacraments and church government. Any errors had to be removed and a right understanding and practice, according to the Word of God, put in place (see The Necessity of Reforming the Church).

These four topics are at the heart of what it means to pray for reformation. The kingdom comes when the gospel is declared and the external means of establishing this kingdom are in place through mission. These are the ordinances Christ requires, including the Word, sacraments and government or discipline. But even when they are established there can be a temptation to diminish or corrupt them in many ways. And even if this is not the case we need the blessing of the Holy Spirit to make them effectual so that the church is inwardly and spiritually changed and not just outwardly. Indeed, it is a prayer we all need every day, personally as well as collectively.

Henry Scudder (a member of the Westminster Assembly) indicated the same perspective in expounding this part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that “the Holy Spirit of God would effectually accompany the outward means of gathering, and building up the elect, to the enlightening and translating them from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear son. And that they may increase in knowledge and every good grace, according to the mighty working of his glorious power; that the Word, sacraments, and discipline, the weapons of this warfare, may be mighty through God to pull down strongholds, and cast down imaginations and high things which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, and may bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.

Christ’s kingdom comes the more the means of establishing it increase, especially where the Word of the kingdom is proclaimed (Matthew 12:28; 13:19; Mark 4:15). The more that heart obedience is given and grace increases, the more this kingdom comes (Romans 6:17; Matthew 13:18). The following updated extract is drawn from James Ussher’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer which influenced the Larger Catechism.

1. How is this a Prayer for Reformation?

We pray that:

  • God may reign in our hearts, not sin;
  • the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ both by the inward working of his Spirit, and also by the outward means may be enlarged daily, until it is perfected at the coming of Christ to judgement;
  • the kingdom of sin and Satan being more and more abolished (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13) Christ may now reign in our hearts by grace (Colossians 3:15-16) and we with Him for ever in glory (2 Timothy 2:12);
  • Christ’s government in the Church may be here in this world enlarged;
  • it would please God to gather His elect out of every part of the world.

2. How is this a Prayer for Personal Reformation?

We pray that God would give His Holy Spirit, as the chief and principal means by which our Saviour Christ gathers and rules His Church, conveying His spirit of knowledge and good inclinations into His people. Consequently, we also pray against the influences and temptations of Satan, and of our own flesh.

We are like poor captives who are always creeping up to the prison door and labouring to loose their bolts. Out of a sorrowful felt sense of the spiritual bondage we are in to Satan and sin, we pray that the kingdom of Christ may come and be advanced in every one of our hearts in justice, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). That the Lord by His Word and spirit would rule in the hearts and lives of His Saints (Colossians 3:15-16). Thus, as kings unto God, we may subdue within us all those opinions or affections that rise up and rebel against God.

That it would please God every day more and more to increase the holy gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit in the hearts of those whom He has already called effectually.

3. How is this a Prayer for Church Reformation?

We pray concerning the means by which the Spirit is conveyed; namely, the Word (and the ways it is declared), the sacraments and church discipline.

(a) Word. We pray that as it is the sceptre of Christ’s kingdom (Mark 1:13), the rod and standard of His power (Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 11: 4, 10; Isaiah 44:4, 10) and the Word of the kingdom (Mark 1:13; Matthew 13) it may have
free access everywhere (2 Thessalonians 3:1). That it may be gloriously lifted up and advanced and have sole pre-eminence so that everything that does not agree with it and all traditions and inventions of men may be rejected.

(b) Sacraments. We pray that, as they are the seals of God’s promises and the whole Covenant of grace, they may be both administered and received in the purity and sincerity which is according to His Word, and that all false sacraments rejected.

(c) Church discipline. Our desire is that not only private persons but the whole Church may be ruled by the line of God’s Word. Thus, well doers may be advanced and evil doers censured and corrected, according to the degree of their fault. Also that any tyranny of conscience would be taken away.

We also pray that God would supply His Church with all such office-bearers as He approves. That being endowed with special gifts, they may be both able and willing to carry out their responsibilities diligently and faithfully. That God would gather His elect by raising up faithful and diligent ministers in every part of the world. That all unfaithful and negligent ministers would be
removed (Isaiah 56:10-11) and that faithful and able watchmen may be set over the flock of Christ (Matthew 9:38).  That with sufficient help and protection etc. the Word of God may be freely preached everywhere (2 Thessalonians 3:1). That it would please God, with the blessing of his spirit, to accompany the word, so that it may be of power to convert those that belong unto him.

4. How is this a Prayer for Increasing Church Reformation?

We pray that where these things are only begun, they may be perfected.  That every Church may be polished and garnished, that Sion may appear in her perfect beauty. We pray that the Jews may be called and so many of the Gentiles as belong to Christ, and the enemies of the kingdom may be either converted or confounded.

We desire that the eyes of all, especially governments, would be opened to see the true beauty of pure religion, and of the spouse of Christ (Isaiah 60:3).
We pray that God would banish and root out of His Church all those things which may hinder the advance of His kingdom in the hearts of those that belong to Him.

Finally, we pray that God would finish the kingdom of grace, calling His elect (Romans 9:27), confirming those who stand (2 Thessalonians 2:17), raising the fallen (James 5:15-16), comforting the afflicted (Isaiah 61:3) and hastening the kingdom of glory.

Conclusion

What is the best way to make it our own and not simply think about praying for reformation but actually engage in it? Do we care enough about these concerns to make them the subject of earnest and constant prayer? How can we summarise this expansive prayer for reformation so that we can do this? One way is simply to use the Larger Catechism Q191 as a guide. Another option is to use a slightly fuller summary, drawn from similar thoughts expressed by John Ball (a member of the Westminster Assembly).

(a) Mission. Pray that God would plant His Church inwardly and outwardly in places where it is not established. Pray also that God would send forth His word to those in darkness and powerfully accompany it by His Spirit. That He would give them pastors according to His own heart to feed them with knowledge and understanding. That He would establish His own ordinances, and establish a holy order amongst His people, linking them together in mutual love and holy profession of the faith.

(b) Church Reformation. Pray that God would supply existing Churches with what is lacking and mercifully continue and increase what good they enjoy. Pray also that He would preserve purity of doctrine, as well as the Word being preached purely and freely, with power and authority. We pray for faithful seminaries that train those who will preach the Word.

Our prayer is that the sacraments may be administered purely according to the institution of Christ, that the house of God may be governed according to the heavenly form for governing that kingdom. We pray that comely order may be observed among the saints, each with all diligence, patience, meekness and zeal, doing the duties of their sphere.

We pray that the censures of the Church may be rightly carried out so that the good may be encouraged, the evil shamed and brought to repentance or else cut off from the communion – all to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ Jesus.

Again, we ask that God would supply His Church with office-bearers who might both govern and assist according to His will. We ask for men supplied with wisdom and grace to discharge their duties. Those who have blameless lives and will be examples to their flocks in good works, whose hearts are set on the building of God’s kingdom.

(c) Spiritual Transformation. Pray that the Holy Spirit would work effectually by His outward ordinances, for the building up of those already called and the effectual calling of those who are not. The powerful work of the Spirit in everyone’s soul and conscience is the most evident demonstration of the glorious presence of God. The mighty and wonderful works of the Holy Spirit include: pricking some in the heart, humbling others at the sight of their vileness, converting, quickening, comforting, revealing the thoughts, inflaming with burning zeal, assuring the heart of the truth received. All this is an infallible witness of the most gracious presence of Christ amongst us.

(d) Personal Reformation. We pray also that the graces and fruit of the Spirit may plentifully grow and increase. Our prayer also is that God would bless His people with inward and outward peace and prosperity, that being freed from clashes, contentions, and external persecutions, they may walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit and mutually edify each other in their most holy faith.
We pray that they may live together in love, being of one mind and one judgment, yielding free and willing subjection to the sovereignty of Christ Jesus, accepting the service and labour of His faithful messengers and walking in holiness without offence.

The image of the Reformation wall in Geneva depicts John Knox preaching reformation before the court of Mary Queen of Scots. It also displays the Geneva Bible rendering of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. The photographer was Rokus Cornelis, more details here.

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The Church has a Debt Problem

The Church has a Debt Problem

The Church has a Debt Problem
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.
8 Jun, 2021

Problem debt in society is only increasing in our culture. Future generations will also incur significant national debt as a consequence of current decisions. When we think of the church having a debt problem it is something other than financial. In spiritual terms, we owe a debt of glory and love to God. We owe a debt of truth to others in testifying to grace and the revealed will of God. This is something required of us as individuals as well as a body. We owe it to everyone now and in the future, indeed if we fail to do it properly now it will affect coming generations. We need to present this to them in the most faithful, winsome and compelling way we can. That is a debt of vast consequence, and have we even maintained the minimum payments on it? Ignoring this debt will not make it go away, in fact, it will only increase.

If you have a debt problem the advice is sound and clear. First, make a list of all you owe; second, list them in order of importance and third, start to work out how you can pay them off. Although it is different, the same advice is sound for the spiritual debt we are thinking of. Robert Fleming explains more in this updated extract about what this spiritual debt involves and how we are to pay it.

1. We Owe a Testimony to the Gospel

It is clear, that those who believe and receive the testimony of Jesus Christ, set their seal to it to certify that He is true. They subscribe (as it were) to the truth and doctrine of the gospel (John 3:33). There is a special debt on each Christian to bear witness that God is true. Those who have an assurance of grace confirmed to them owe a special debt to the truth and faithfulness of their God (often confirmed to them) to give Him the glory of His faithfulness (Psalm 89:1).

2. We Owe a Testimony in Our Lives

It is also clear that manifesting the power of godliness and the virtues of He who has called them is required through the whole course of a Christian’s life as a living and visible witness to these things.

3. We Owe a Testimony to Others

The converted person with their new discovery of the truth on first entering the Christian life is like someone who has come into another world. They have a special call and advantage for engaging in such a duty. They can commend by testimony to others what God has so marvellously commended to their own soul? They lack no opportunity to let the world know and wonder at such a change. Though once they were blind, now they see. They know assuredly that the truth is the power of God to salvation, not just through the report and testimony of others since now they see it with their own eyes. Their duty after being converted is to strengthen their brethren (Luke 22:32).

4. We Owe a Testimony from Experience

When a Christian has received a new seal of the faithfulness of God they have a new debt to give a good report and witness to the truth especially if they have harmed it in any way by fearful doubts and fainting from it. Their testimony will have the special benefit of confirming others in the way of the Lord because their formers fears were so obvious. Hezekiah after such a remarkable fall and fainting testifies in this way (Isaiah 38:15) as does David (Psalm 31:22).

5. We Owe a Testimony When the Truth is Attacked

There is a debt to the least truth of Scripture owed by those who profess it. This is especially so in a time of suffering when they have a special opportunity to witness to it and confess it by adhering closely to it. Some have a more special call and greater opportunity to do this than others. But sealing and confirming the truth is like a great public treasure store and the least Christian does not lack an opportunity to cast into it their mite. When we see atheism abounding public and the truth and faithfulness of God are challenged, this calls loudly to the godly person to attest it by some more obvious testimony than at other times. When it is the lot of a Christian to be amongst a generation of mockers, they will not lack opportunity and a special call to own the truth by a Christianly weighty and prudent witness. They are obliged to seal the truth even though no one else will. It is a call when the faithfulness of his God so often proved in their experience is brought into question by others. To David, this was like a sword that thrust him through, and he could not bear it when they said unto him, “Where is your God?”

6. We Owe a Testimony After Trials

After a time of remarkable trial, when the Christian comes safe to land after a storm, there is a new debt to bear witness to such a new manifestation of the truth and faithfulness of God. They make known the benefit received by the affliction and by their testimony may endear the way of the Lord to others. Job, after a long-continued storm of being afflicted, comes at the end to pay his debt to the truth by his seal and testimony (Job 42:5). Many after the storm can testify to the help of the Lord (Isaiah 48:21).

A Christian’s experience of the faithfulness of God is a special trust and debt owed to the truth, a talent put in their hand to manage (Psalm 66:16). This practice would greatly enrich Christian fellowship (Malachi 3:16) in mutual joy and establishment in the truth in a time when the benefit of serving the Lord is in question. We should not be hindered from it because others do it with an empty show and counterfeit.

When we have experience manifold trials and troubles we must let others who observe us know that we are satisfied with God and can rest securely on His Word when we have no resting place elsewhere. The apostle pays his debt in testifying that he is “persecuted, yet not forsaken; cast down, yet not destroyed” and saying “having nothing, I possess all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

7. We Owe a Testimony in Death

This Christian is specially called to this duty at the close of their days. Then they must pay this debt by commending the way of the Lord and confirming others in it. Would it not be an excellent appendix to the last will and testament of a dying Christian to seal with their last breath the faithfulness of God. Their words carry more weight then than at other times. They can witness that through the various steps of their life they know that God is true and has helped them until now. It is the last service of a dying Christian to their generation, to deliver to them the truth received and often proved. This is an excellent legacy to bequeath to others.

8. We Owe a Testimony to God’s Faithfulness

Christian wisdom can direct us on how to testify as we have an opportunity in our present circumstances. But is certain that each Christian is a witness on behalf of the faithfulness of God, to attest that God is true. There is an implicit seal by believing, but something more explicit is called for in times when the reality of godliness is so explicitly assailed as fanaticism. Throughout Scripture, believers are concerned to maintain a remembrance of the faithfulness of God and convey a lasting testimony to it (1 Samuel 7:12). No mercy is so small that God’s faithfulness is not engraved on it (Genesis 32:10).

9. We Owe a Testimony in Suffering

When the Christian is called to suffer for a particular truth they are also called to confess the faithfulness of God. They bear witness to the world that they are not ashamed of the cross of Christ because they know whom they have believed (even though others may choose sin, rather than affliction and so make God a liar).

10. We Owe Future Generations Clear Truth

There is a public debt on the Church in every generation to seal the truth to the ages to come and witness to the faithfulness of God. Scripture is clear on this and explicitly prophecies that it will happen (Psalm 145:4-6). One generation after another should seal the truth to another and thus carry forward a witness to it. Each time has some special debt to pay to posterity arising from a new addition to the great and remarkable works of the Lord. The greater the things witnessed by His works for the Church in one age more than another, the greater the debt. The Church must record and transmit the works of the Lord and the memory of His goodness to future times.
This is even more so when we live in times in which many seek to shake and unsettle people as to this great foundation. It would be desirable if the records of every age as they concern the Church, were clearer in recording a history of the verification of the truth and the way in which Scripture has been notably confirmed. In this way, one age would declare its faithfulness to the next, an excellent service if it is done carefully and wisely.

11. We Owe Future Generations Pure Truth

The Church owes posterity a debt to transmit the truth purely without damaging it. The oracles of God are committed to the Church and she is responsible for this in every generation. The truth of God has been more sharply assaulted with the greatest opposition and this makes this debt the greater. In every age, there are some to testify to the truth and each Christian is bound to do so. But no private activity can make up for a public witness. The enemy is not private but public and so a more solemn, authoritative and united testimony is then called for by the Church. This witness will be of benefit to the generations to come to see how their fathers held out and wrestled to keep their ground in defence of the gospel. It is like setting up another barrier to guard against a further breach when the enemy comes in like a flood. The confessions of the Church in every age in giving public testimony to the truth, although followed by clear danger and suffering have been more effectual in conserving the truth than all disputes. They overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:7).

12. We Owe Future Generations the Whole Truth

The Church also has a special debt to posterity to contend for the truth once delivered to the saints (which cannot be altered during this period before the second coming). This is not only true concerning more fundamental matters, we cannot profess such a zeal to these as makes us indifferent to other concerns of the truth. Can a piece of truth held forth in the Scripture be of such low value, to warrant abandoning or surrendering it if brought in question? One line of the truth is of more inestimable worth than the crowns and sceptres of all the monarchs of the earth. God who declares heaven and earth should fall before one tittle of his word perish gives it a different value. Can those be faithful in greater things who are not in those which are little? It is all too clearly seen, how a small surrender makes a great breach. Truths which are comparatively small may be great in their own time when they are the word of Christ’s patience. The lesser its value is with many, the greater testimony required by a Christian’s adherence to it. The truths of God declared in Scripture are so closely connected together that one part cannot be attacked without special harm to the whole. Every corruption of the truth aims at the very soul of religion.

13. We Owe Future Generations True Godliness

The Church has a debt to transmit truth and godliness to posterity not in a bare form only, but in with its life and power. Throughout a large part of the reformed Church the truth once shone brightly with much glory and warmth in many places. The truth and worship of God may still indeed be professed there, but the power and spirituality of it is a strange and unknown thing. We might ask whether the influences of the Holy Spirit are experienced there. Is there such a thing as real fellowship and converse with God in public and private worship?
There is great cause to fear that the shadow and form will soon be gone when the power of it is so great a mystery. The tide seems to have gone back so far with little expectation of its return. Only the faithfulness of God gives us hope for the Church of Christ. Fervent prayer in the most dark and dismal times of the Church’s condition has brought marvellous help in extremity. The least of the saints have an opportunity in this way to do great service to the whole Church and to seek to recover the power of godliness now so far gone.

Conclusion

Prayer is essential to seek wisdom to identify the opportunity and manner in which we ought to testify to God’s truth. We also need wisdom to see any ways in which we are passing by the opportunity to give clear witness on the Lord’s behalf. Although we may never meet them, we owe future generations in Christ’s Church a debt to convey to them as much as we possibly can of the truth and reality of the faith. That is a very large debt but there is sufficient grace in God to meet its demands. 

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What We Give and Receive in Gathering Together

What We Give and Receive in Gathering Together

What We Give and Receive in Gathering Together
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
1 Jun, 2021

What are some of the unique blessings of gathering together for worship? What have we missed when it was not available? It is not simply a matter of what we have not received personally. Our responsibility is to give just as much as receive. Primarily we give worship to God and also receive spiritual blessings. The Lord’s people are also meant to strengthen one another as one body, we are not meant to “go it alone”. One coal taken out of the fire cannot preserve its heat like those that are together in the fire. We need each other and there are many mutual duties we owe to one another as we gather for worship more publicly and fellowship more privately.

Much has been written recently about the importance of gathering together physically, there are many aspects to consider. One of these is our mutual duty, giving and receiving from one another. There is a lot more involved in coming together than simply occupying the same location as individuals. We are able to consider one another and edify one another in provoking each other to love and good works as we obey the command to gather (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are required to be helpful and a support to each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). 

Gathering together also strengthens us in a time of difficulty, darkness and discouragement. We read of this in Malachi 3:16-17 and of God’s special approval, reward and promise. As John Brown of Wamphray asks, “would not this encourage Christians to meet together? What will do it, if this will not do it?”

As John Brown also observes gathering together for worship has often brought rich spiritual blessings in the experience of believers. When the Holy Spirit blesses such gatherings in this way they receive “life and quickening grace” and have often “found their souls revived and their hearts enlarged, their eyes enlightened, their drooping spirits encouraged, their feeble knees lifted up, their doubts answered and cleared, and their souls lifted up in the ways of the Lord, and strengthened to turn the battle to the gate and to stand against corruption”.

John Brown goes on to speak of some general comprehensive “one another” duties required of Christians, which will necessarily require their meeting together or show it to be necessary.

  • They are commanded frequently to love one another (John 13:34 and 15:12 & 17; Romans 13:8;1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:11 and 4:7 & 12; John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:12). Just as love in other communities necessarily effects frequent assembling together, Christian love draws Christians together for the ends and purposes which love spurs them to do to each to other.
  • They must be kindly affectioned one toward another (Romans 12:10) as parents to their children. Is it not an ordinary thing to see parents and children together?
  • They must be of one mind and of one mouth (Romans 15:5-6; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:27 and 2:2, 10; 1 Peter 3:8). And how is this possible unless they meet together to communicate their minds to each other and to pray to God for light in any point of difference?

Gathering together therefore helps to nourish union, standing fast in one Spirit, striving together for the faith of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). No doubt we can encourage one another by engaging together in the same worship but these duties also require an individual interest in each other. In the following updated extract John Brown of Wamphray focuses on twelve “one another” duties emphasised in the New Testament need us to come together and interact with each other.

1. Giving and Receiving Encouragement to Love and Good Works

They must consider one another so provoke unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24). And this will necessarily imply their familiarity with other and assembling together frequently to provoke to love and good works.

2. Giving and Receiving Exhortations

They must exhort one another (Hebrews 10:25 and Hebrews 3:13). Can this be done if they cannot confer together and assemble for this purpose?

3. Giving and Receiving Comfort

They must comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11). They must meet together and speak together for this purpose and pray that God would bless the means and press home the words of comfort.

4. Giving and Receiving Edification

They must edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And is it possible for them to do this duty and live as strangers to one another? This duty of edifying one another is a very comprehensive thing. It necessarily implies the saints assembling frequently together so that one may be helpful, strengthening and encouraging to another.

5. Giving and Receiving Instruction

They must admonish one another (Romans 15:13). This means to press or urge a thing on the mind of another and so instruct them aright as children are instructed. This requires that they must often be together for this purpose.

6. Giving and Receiving in Singing Praise

They must teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16) and can this be done unless they assemble together?

7. Giving and Receiving Practically

They must be kind (literally useful or profitable) one to another (Ephesians 4:32) and this requires that they must not be strangers to each other.

8. Giving and Receiving in Serving One Another

They must serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). That is, they should in love spend themselves for one another for their spiritual advantage and does this not require assembling together?

9. Giving and Receiving in Accepting One Another

They must receive one another (Romans 15:7). that is, receive with affection and embrace, one another: And must they then be frightened of the company of one another? And not rather receive other into their intimate fellowship?

10. Giving and Receiving in Submission

They must be subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5). Everyone should be ready to give, and to take reproofs to and from one another as well as to do service to each other as we are called to. This requires that they must not live as strangers to each other.

11. Giving and Receiving in Prayer for Each Other

They must confess their sins to one another and pray for another (James 5:16).

12. Giving and Receiving in Spiritual Gifts

They must minister their gifts to one another (1 Peter 4:10).

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship? It summarises a brief book that presents updated guidance from John Owen. It helps us answer the question: 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 and have better relationships with fellow church members.

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What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?

What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?

What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
20 May, 2021

Church and state are clearly distinct, but their roles and relationship have not been without controversy down through the years. It is easier to state the distinction sometimes than to apply it. It has often proved to be a thorny and complicated issue. Understandably many people like to avoid dealing with that but failing to think clearly about it has often produced practical problems when situations arise. Ultimately, it is about the glory and the authority of Christ. As Head of the Church, He has provided clear principles to apply so that it can advance His glory in the world.

In this updated extract, some of the members of the Westminster Assembly explain from Scripture how Christ preserves His own authority in His Church. As Mediator, He has given spiritual authority those who exercise government within the church. But He had given no spiritual power at all to civil government or secular institutions in their civil function. It is still necessary to apply these principles in specific contexts but it is vitally important that we establish the core truths from Scripture as to what authority civil rulers have in the spiritual matters of the church, whether preaching and teaching, what we believe, how we worship or decisions about church matters.

1. Christ Never Gave Civil Rulers Any Authority in Church Matters

Whatever proper power of church government Christ gives to any is somewhere to be found in the Old or New Testament. This is because (a) The Scriptures are a perfect rule for all church affairs (2 Timothy 3:16-17). (b) There are places in Scripture where Christ commits authority to His own church officers (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10 etc). But nowhere in all the Old or New Testament does Christ give such power of church government to civil rulers.

2. Christ Only Gave Authority in Church Matters to Church Rulers

Civil rulers as such do not have any office within the church and therefore cannot have authority within the church. It is to church rulers that Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” with the actions that belong to that (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:21-23) well as authority for edification of the church (2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10). But no civil ruler as a civil ruler is any of those whom Christ has given office within the church. Civil rulers are never counted in the catalogue, list, or roll of Christ’s church officers in Scripture (Ephesians 4:10-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28, etc.; Romans 12:6–8).

When Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He makes no mention at all of civil government directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, as the recipient of them (se Matthew 16:19 and 18:18; John 20:21–23 with Matthew 18:18–20).

In Christ’s giving the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He makes explicit mention of officers belonging to the church, which are really and essentially different from the civil ruler, i.e. Peter in the name of all the rest (Matthew 16:18–19), and of the rest of the apostles receiving the keys with him (Matthew 18:18). All the disciples except Thomas were together when He gave them the same commission in other words (John 20:20–24; Matthew 28:18–20). Now, if Christ had given the keys or any power in relation to them to civil government in so far as it is civil government He must have given them solely to civil government for how could His apostles being officers in the church be really distinct from the civil ruler in that case?

Jesus Christ in giving the “keys of the kingdom,” did not give one sort, act, part or piece of the keys, but the whole power of the keys, all the sorts and acts belonging to them together. Therefore, it is said, “I give the keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23). It is not merely a “key” that is given here but all the “keys” given at once, i.e.., key of doctrine and the key of discipline; or the key of order, and the key of jurisdiction—not only binding or retaining, but loosing or absolving of sins, i.e.., all acts together conferred with the “keys.” Now, if Christ gave the keys to the civil ruler, then He gave them all the sorts of keys and all acts. If so, civil government may as well preach the Word and dispense the sacraments, as exercise government. (Christ joined them all together in the same commission, and by what authority are they disjoined?). And if that were so, what need would there be of pastors, teachers, etc., in the church? Let the civil ruler do it all.

If we take church government more broadly as containing doctrine, worship, and discipline, it is the whole power of the “keys.” It is not simply discipline otherwise, it would have been said “key,” not “keys”; church government, therefore, is at least part of the power of the “keys.” The word “key,” denotes a stewardly authority (Isaiah 22:22) which includes governing, ordering, and ruling the household, as well as feeding it (see Luke 12:41–49).

3. Civil Government and Church Government are Essentially Different

Church and State are distinct societies.

  • The society of the church is only Christ’s, and not the civil ruler’s. It is His “house,” His “spouse,” His “body,” etc.; and Christ has no vicar under Him.
  • The officers of the church are Christ’s officers, not the civil ruler’s (1 Corinthians 4:1). Christ gave them (Ephesians 4:8–11); God set them in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28).
  • These officers in the church are both elected and ordained by the church, without authority from the civil ruler, by virtue of Christ’s ordinance, and in His name. Thus, the apostles appointed officers: “Whom we may appoint” (Acts 6:3–4). The power of ordination and mission is in the hands of Christ’s officers (cf. Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14 with Acts 13:1–4).
  • The church and the various governing bodies within it do not meet as civil courts for civil acts of government (as making civil statutes, inflicting civil punishments, etc.), but as spiritual assemblies for spiritual acts of government and discipline: such as preaching, baptizing, receiving the Lord’s Supper, prayer, admonition of the disorderly, etc.

4. Civil Government and Church Government are Mutually coordinate not subordinate

Subordinate powers are of the same kind; coordinate powers are of distinct kinds. Now, the fact that the power of the church is coordinate with, and not directly and properly subordinate to the civil power, may be evidenced as follows:

(a) The officers of Christ, as officers, are not subject to the civil power. The apostles and pastors may preach and cast out against the will of the civil ruler, and yet not truly offend civil government; thus, in doing the duty they have directly received from God, they must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19–20). And the apostles and pastors must exercise their office (having received a command from Christ) without attending the command or consent of the civil ruler for the same; as in casting out the incestuous person (1 Corinthians 5:5), telling the church (Matthew 18:17), rejecting a heretic (Titus 3:10).

(b) Any acts of power that civil government cannot do or do not belong within their God given authority rare are not subordinate to it. Thus, the kings of Israel could not burn incense (2 Chronicles 26:18–19). Likewise, none have the power of the “keys,” except those whom Christ has commissioned to go “into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19). But Christ did not speak this to civil rulers, only those that are “sent” (Romans 10:14). So those that are church governors are placed by Christ in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28).

(c) The officers of the church can pass church censure on the officers of the state (as individuals not in their office). Officers of the state can inflict civil punishment on the officers of the church, (as individuals not as officers in the church). The church rulers may admonish, excommunicate, etc., the officers of the state, as members of the church, and the officers of the state may punish the officers of the church, as the members of the state.

(d) Those that are not sent by civil government as their deputies are not subordinate in their mission to civil power. But the ministers are not sent as the deputies of civil government but are “set over the flock” by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). They are likewise the “ministry of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2); they are “over you in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:12); and exercise their jurisdiction in His name (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).

(e) If the last appeal in purely ecclesiastical matters is not to civil power, then there is no subordination; but the last appeal properly so taken is not to civil authority. It appears from these considerations:

  • Nothing is appealable to the magistrate, but what is under the power of the sword; but admonition, excommunication, etc., are not under the power of the sword. They are neither matters of dominion nor coercion.
  • If it were so, then it follows that having the sword gives a ruler power to the keys.
  • Then it follows that the officers of the kingdom of heaven are to be judged as such by the officers of the kingdom of this world as such, and then there is no difference between the things of Caesar and the things of God.

(f) The church of Antioch sent to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2). And the synod there, without the authority of civil government, came together (v6) and resolved the controversy with their authority (vv28-29). And we read, the “spirits of the prophets, are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32)—not to the civil government as prophets. So we must “seek knowledge at the priest’s lips,” not at the civil ruler’s (Malachi 2:7). And we read that the people came to the priests in hard controversies, but never that the priests went to the civil power (Deuteronomy 17:8–10).

(g) It makes civil government Christ’s vicar, and so Christ to have a visible head on earth, and the civil ruler is an ecclesiastico-civil pope, and so there would be as many visible heads of Christ’s church as there are civil rulers.
h) Civil and church powers are both directly received from divine authority: one from God the Father, as Creator, the other from Jesus Christ, as Mediator.

CONCLUSION

It is clear from this brief biblical survey that Christ has given His Church distinct and exclusive authority in its own matters. We need wisdom, grace and courage to apply these matters and maintain Christ’s glory and authority.

This has been extracted from a pastoral book on church government called Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici: The Divine Right of Church Government which has recently been republished.

Further Help

To explore these principles further, you may find it helpful to read the article Church Government is All About Christ. Many people neglect or treat church government with contempt. But that is a great mistake because (according to Scripture) it is essentially all about Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Build Back Better for Whom?

Build Back Better for Whom?

Build Back Better for Whom?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
29 Apr, 2021

The slogan “build back better” has been commandeered on both sides of the Atlantic to describe the aspirations for post-Covid recovery. Others have used it to advocate for the changes they want to see. So they ask who are we building back better for? Who will benefit? What will change for everyone? The church has also been hit by the recent crisis and surely it too must consider how to build back up again. Is there a better way? Should we simply reset to where we were before? And if we are going to build back better (in other words reformation), who will that be for?

The prophet Haggai ministered to a people who were having to build things up again after wholescale disaster had visited them. Homes, economy, infrastructure all had to be restored after the seventy years exile. The temple too had been destroyed and while they had laid the foundation for it, political interference had brought further work to a standstill. Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord reproves their comfortable negligence (1:2-4). He exhorts them to consider their condition seriously and God’s chastisements (1: 5-6 and 9-11), This is so that they will be stirred up to set about the work of the temple, in which God would show Himself gracious towards them (1:7-8). This results in ready obedience and great encouragement from the Lord (1:12-15).

In Haggai 1:7–8 they are particularly exhorted to consider their ways as the first aspect of obedience. They must examine and confess their negligence and preferring their own interests to God’s. Having done this, they are to engage in the work of building the temple. He gives them the encouragement that the Lord would take pleasure in it be glorified in it. They were building for Him and His glory, that is the great purpose of the church and its activity. George Hutcheson reflects on these verses in the following updated extract.

1. Reformation begins with self-examination

Self-examination is a duty to which we are naturally averse. It is a duty which is not often done with any good outcome unless through conviction of conscience we own ourselves guilty of what the Word of God convicts us of. This is necessary for a right reformation of what has been misused. Therefore, it is pressed again and again: “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5 and 7).

2. Reformation begins with conviction

The Lord does not approve of amending faults without seriously laying to heart our former disorderly conduct. Tender convictions will not die out nor let the convicted sinner alone until this results in fruits of outward obedience. For these two are joined together: “Consider your ways” and “Go up to the mountain, and bring wood” (Haggai 1:7–8).

3. Reformation is everyone’s concern

It is the will of God that His people should be especially careful as they are careful to have to have their own souls and everyone within their charge in a right way, so especially the public work and service of God which concerns set on foot and kept up. For this was in part the meaning and use of this ceremonial temple, to be a place for God’s public worship, concerning which all are commanded: “Go up to the mountain, bring wood and build the house” (Haggai 1:8).

4. Reformation brings God’s blessing

God evidences His presence among a people by setting up His tabernacle and public worship among them and making them active in advancing it. Where this is the case, it is a pledge that He will not loathe them but make His presence known by gracious acts. He will manifest evidences of His glory there, accept their service as glory given to Him, and give them frequent reasons for glorifying Him. For, “Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified” (Haggai 1:8).

5. Reformation delights the Lord

It may be a great encouragement to the Church to do service, that the all-sufficient Lord should condescend to accept any service they can do or own. He will take pleasure in them and it, for so the Lord encourages them. “Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it.” That is, your service shall be owned; I will dwell in that which you build (1 Chronicles 29:14; 1 Kings 8:27)

Conclusion

We have an opportunity to stop and to consider. Are we doing the right things in the right way according to what God requires? Are we doing them for His glory or do we have a more man-centred perspective? We need to build on the solid foundation of God’s Word and be ready to do all that He requires however much it may cut across our own interests.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

George Hutcheson’s exposition of the prophecy of Haggai has recently been republished. Exhortations, promises and encouragements graciously abound in this small book and are specially directed to a weary and complacent remnant. George Hutcheson helps us to meditate on and apply the rich spiritual instruction of this part of God’s Word to our profit.

It is warmly commended and available for £5.70.

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Contending for the Truth Lovingly

Contending for the Truth Lovingly

Contending for the Truth Lovingly
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.
13 Apr, 2021

We are not to be doctrinally indifferent and anaemic but neither are we to match false or unloving ways of maintaining the truth (Ephesians 4:14-15). True love rejoices in the truth, but it does not rejoice in the sin of anger and bitterness (1 Corinthians 13:6). It is essential to contend for the whole truth (Acts 20:27) but if we lose love in our valiant defence we have lost too much (Revelation 2:2-4). We show our intense love for the truth and for the souls of others when we maintain what is right with compassion. We need constant reminders of this sadly and the following words by the field preacher John Blackadder show that it was even needed during times of persecution.

That holy and necessary duty of faithfully and zealously bearing testimony to the truth and ways of God, and against error and sinful courses, is such a duty as needs to be managed with as much solidity, circumspection, fear, and trembling, as any I know. For the truth is greatly concerned in this, especially when we have to contend with such (of whom several are and otherwise have been) eminent and pious. The conduct of some who are pious and well-meaning has in various things more irritated and stirred up strife than edified. The church in former times has and will have, so long as she is the church militant, many imperfections. In such times of trial she has had, and readily will have, some that, either out of ignorance, carelessness, or worse, go to extremes and excesses on the right as well as the left hand. There is great need, in our days also, to take heed that the way of God and that which is our good, is not evil spoken of.

– John Blackadder

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Christ is Still Overruling All Things for His Church

Christ is Still Overruling All Things for His Church

Christ is Still Overruling All Things for His Church
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
9 Jan, 2021

It is easy to be cast down in relation to the difficulties and trials that Christ’s Church faces. Yet Christ is over and above every event and circumstance. There is nothing that is beyond His foreknowledge or decree. He has a special overruling providence concerning all things that concern His Church. No one holds it dearer than He does and this brings unique comfort and encouragement. One particular part of Scripture can help us appreciate this in a deeper way, let us consider it together.

In Revelation 5:1-7 the apostle John sees in a vision a scroll in the right hand of the One that sits on the throne. It is sealed with seven seals and evidently contains the purpose and secret counsel of God concerning His people. Yet no one in heaven or earth is found worthy to open the scroll and reveal the secrets which cause John to weep. But his tears are short-lived. Christ who is the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David can do what no one else is able to do.

The scroll is full in being written on the both sides, it is complete and there is no room for any further decrees to be added. There are no new and unexpected occurrences, all is known beforehand. As James Durham observes this shows “the absoluteness, determinateness and particularness of God’s decrees in all events that concern the Church: which with Him are, as it were, written in a sealed book.”

It is sealed with seven seals so that it is not discernible to anyone else. Here are His decrees concerning the special events that will befall His gospel Church. It also shows that Christ has access to “His Father’s secrets” and without Him there is no access to this knowledge. Yet He reveals as much to the Church “as is useful for her”. No wonder John weeps when it is not opened. Yet he is comforted by one of the Lord’s people, represented by one of the elders before the throne. James Durham in the following updated extract provides much comfort and encouragement in applying this part of Scripture.

1. Christ’s Overruling All Things for His Church Comforts Our Sorrows

(a) The strongest of God’s servants may have great fits of heaviness and weeping and mistake His dealings. They may be ready to count things to be much more desperate than they are.

(b) The Lord deals tenderly with His people’s heaviness, even when it is due to weakness and mistakes.

(c) The Lord’s comforts are applied in a timely way and often they are they nearest and most refreshing when people think things most desperate.

(d) Christ may make use of anyone to comfort another. When the strong are overmastered with heaviness, He can stir up weak believers to give comfort to them.

(e) Weak believers may sometimes be more comforted in making us of Christ’s offices and in exercising faith on Him, than great teachers. Sometimes those teachers may have many disappointments in seeking to exercise their light, abilities and reason to satisfy themselves in things that are difficult to understand. They will have a sorrowful heaviness so long as the Mediator is not made use of. But the simple spiritually tender believer, that looks to Him first of all for answering all difficulties, may have much peace and cheerfulness.

2. Christ’s Overruling All Things for His Church Strengthens Our Faith

The Lord has a special overruling providence over all things that concern His Church. There is nothing that happens which is new to Him, but it is what He has determined and written down, as it were, before the beginning of the world. This is a great consolation to His Church. No enemy can rise up against her, no heresy can break out among her members and no event can encounter her that was not fully determined by the Lord before the beginning of the world.

This Lamb is placed in the midst of the throne. He is a partaker of the same glory, dominion and authority with the Father as He is God. He is admitted to His right Hand and to a glory and majesty far above every name that is in heaven and in earth, as He is Mediator (Revelation 3:21). He is in the midst of the four beasts or living creatures and the twenty four elders. This does not just show that He has a dignity and glory beyond them, it also shows His presence in the Church.

He is on the same throne with the Father to make His people more bold in their approaches to God by Him. They never lack a friend always present in that court. He is also said to be standing, in part to declare His readiness to carry out what may tend towards His people’s edification and consolation. As a painstaking shepherd, He stands to feed the flock (Micah 5:4).

He is also said to have seven horns and seven eyes, the seven Spirits of God sent into all the earth. This cannot be any created thing. The Lamb’s power or horns must be omnipotent, so His eye must be Omniscient. And that which goes through all the earth must be Omnipresent.

Conclusion

We need to look to Christ above events, including our interpretation of them and our fears about them. We need to see that He is ruling all things for His glory and for the good of the Church. His Church is the apple of His eye and He will protect it. He will still rebuke and chasten her because He loves her but it is all part of a sure purpose for His glory. This does not take away our duty and responsibility. Neither does it mean we should not seek to understand events. Rather, it means we should not allow our sorrows and fears about events present or future to rob us of the fullest view that faith can take of Christ in His glorious all-powerful majesty.

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How Christ Reforms His Church

How Christ Reforms His Church

How Christ Reforms His Church
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
30 Oct, 2020

It’s good to appreciate the history of the Reformation and what it recovered. But we would be mistaken in thinking this is merely a past event. The best way to appreciate what it achieved is by being committed to reformation in the present. Reformation means making the Word of God the only rule and principle in matters of religion. Wherever this is not faithfully applied in principle and practice, the Church needs reforming. At the Reformation, John Calvin explained that there were two great areas in which the Church needed reforming. Firstly, “the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly…the source from which salvation is to be obtained”. He emphasised the importance of worship because it is the goal of salvation. This is also one of Christ’s key priorities in reforming His Church. It includes the spirit in which we offer that worship as well as what we offer. 

The Reformations under Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat and Josiah were marked by a return to biblical worship and a zeal against idolatry. These biblical histories also show us the challenges of such a work. Calvin was well aware of the difficulty of involved in this work of reformation. “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word”. Yet it is ultimately a work that Christ undertakes for His own glory in using those who serve Him in this. Christ must be as a refiner’s fire to purge the Church’s dross (Malachi 3:2). He purges His people, His public worship and ministers so that their worship may be pure and acceptable, all things being restored to their integrity (Malachi 3:3-4). In this updated extract, George Hutcheson helps us to understand how this prophecy of Christ applies today, even to the purest of churches. Reading it should bring us to pray that Christ will do this work, however hard it may be.  

1. Christ’s Reforming is Very Trying

Christ’s coming to His Church in the ministry of His gospel and to carry on a reformation, makes such a time prove very winnowing. “Who may abide? who shall stand?” (Malachi 3:2). It is a trying time and therefore it is hard to endure, so that it is a wonder to see any get through it. It is no wonder when we consider the many hypocrites in his Church, and the great hypocrisy and dross of His saints which He cannot endure.

Great vicissitudes and shakings often accompany a time of reformation; many errors and delusions usually prevail then. The ministry of the gospel is effective in exposing sin but if people do not amend their ways, they become worse. The respectable become godless, the formalists become careless, and the ungodly become rebellious. How speedily may a people under the gospel fill up the measure of their sin and become ripe for many judgments. It is for these reasons that Christ’s coming is declared to be such a terrifying day; “Who may abide? who shall stand?”

2. Christ’s Reforming Removes the Church’s Dross

There is not only much unsoundness in Christ’s Church but it is also difficult to discern until Christ exposes it. It is then seen to cleave so closely that it is difficult to remove. No less than “a refiner’s fire, and fuller’s soap”, can either reveal or remove this dross in the metal and filth in the cloth. Only Christ’s fan can reveal the chaff and take it away. Christ has sufficient power to purge His Church and reach the dross. He is so zealous that He will not spare at all. He will either consume everything together or separate the dross. For “He is as a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap”.

3. Christ’s Reforming is Needed by the Purest Church

The purest Church of Christ is so ready to contract pollution within time, that purging is necessary. God’s chose people who are not to be destroyed need purging because they have much dross. However hot the furnace may be it is their comfort and purging that He intends. He is a refiner to His Church and He will purify it.

4. Christ’s Reforming is for the Church’s Good

Christ’s purging His Church, by His Word, Spirit and rod, speaks of His love and a purpose of much good. He sits at it as a task on which His heart is set. He “purifies as gold and silver”; precious metals refined for honourable use. Thus, the godly must submit to His way of purging in its duration, even though He sits at it as a work that is not soon finished. They must submit to the degree of purging as silver and gold in the fire, knowing that He sits at the furnace. He will make it apparent that His refining is not with silver in relation to the heat and extremity of the trial (Isaiah 48:10).

5. Christ’s Reforming Purifies THE CHURCH’S Worship

Pure ordinances and “an offering in righteousness” (according to the rule of Jesus Christ and through His righteousness) are a special mercy for Christ’s Church. The mercy is completed when it is joined with personal reformation; when there are purified Levites and “an offering in righteousness”. It is personal renewal and reconciliation that enables people to engage in pure service; right service must begin there. “He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer an offering in righteousness”.

We are not to please ourselves as to what we do in service to God unless He has declared He will accept it. Thus, the only way of acceptable worship is through Christ. When He takes any in His hand and brings them out of their polluted condition, He makes them and their service (in itself abominable) well-pleasing through Him. When He comes and purifies His people, “then shall the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord”.

6. Christ’s Reforming Purifies THE CHURCH’s Ministers

Christ’s coming under the gospel does not tend towards the destruction of a ministry, though indeed they often need to be purged. “He shall purify the sons of Levi”. A holy ministry is a special blessing to the Church for keeping ordinances pure and promoting purity among people, especially a pure and acceptable way of worship. When the sons of Levi are purified, they offer in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem are pleasant to the Lord’.

7. Christ’s Reforming Restores the Church

Christ is the restorer of all things by His coming in the flesh and by His death and gospel. He is the substance of all that is excellent to those that close in with Him by faith. To be “pleasant as in the days of old, and as in former years”, means not only that their service will be acceptable as of old when most godly men offered. It also implies that all the remarkable evidences of favour manifested toward them and wondered at in their fathers’ days as the free reward of their service, will really be given to the godly in and by Christ.

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Church Government is All About Christ

Church Government is All About Christ

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

The general distrust of institutions and authority within society affects the church and its government. So does an individualism that sees nothing in it of personal benefit for us. It’s not hard to see why church government is out of fashion and treated with contempt. Many see it as something barely necessary for what’s really important. But church government is not about some kind of detached institutionalism, it’s all about the authority and the ministry of Christ. And its purpose is, in fact, our edification and growth in the Christian life. ​In another article we can look at how it edifies us, but here we want to focus on how church government is truly Christ-centred.

In this updated extract, some of the members of the Westminster Assembly explain from Scripture how church government is indeed all about Christ as Mediator. People can abuse it and get it wrong, but if we treat the whole matter with contempt because of that we are in danger of mistreating Christ’s own authority in His Church. When we fail to see this there is a danger that mere men get the place and authority that is reserved for Christ alone.

As Scripture is the rule of church government, so Christ is the sole root and fountain from which it originally flows. Jesus Christ our Mediator has all authority and power in heaven and in earth for the government of His church committed unto him from God the Father. This is clearly evident from the following.

1. Christ Has Been Given the Government of His Church

Plain testimonies of Scripture declare that the government of the church is laid upon His shoulder, to which end the Father has invested Him with all authority and power. “The government shall be upon his shoulder,” etc. (Isaiah 9:6-7). “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” etc. (Matthew 28:18–19). “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). All things, including all authority and judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22, 27; John 3:35). He has the key of David to open and no man can shut (Revelation 3:7). “God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”. He has put all things under his feet, and given Him to be “the head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:20–23).

2. Christ Has Been Given the Titles of Government of His Church

Eminent princely titles are attributed to Jesus Christ our Mediator with authority, power, rule, and government in reference to His church. A Governor which “shall feed” (or rule) “my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6). “That great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). “That Shepherd and Bishop of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25). “One is your Master, Christ (Matthew 23:8, 10); “Christ as a son over his own house” (Hebrews 3:6). “The head of the body, the church” (Colossians. 1:18; Ephesians 5:23). “Head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22). “To us…but one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6), “made of God both Lord and Christ” (Acts 23:6); “Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36); God’s king set on His “holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6); “David their king” (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23 and 37:24; Hosea 3:5); “King of kings” (Revelation 19:16).

3. Christ Fulfils the Work of Government of His Church

Certain fundamental acts of power and supreme authority in the government of the Church are especially ascribed to Jesus Christ our Mediator, as appropriate to Him alone above all creatures. These include the following.

(a) Giving laws to His Church

“The law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2); gave commandments to the apostles (Acts 1:2); “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12); “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver” (or statute maker), “the Lord is our king” (Isaiah 33:22).

(b) Instituting ordinances for His Church to be edified

These include:

  • preaching the Word (Matthew 10:7; 1 Cor. 1:17; Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15);
  • administering the sacraments: Baptism (John 1:33 with Matthew 3:13 and
    28:18–19) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20, 23, etc.; Matthew 26:26, etc.; Mark 14:22,
    etc.; Luke 22:19–20);
  • administering censures (Matthew 16:19 with 18:15–18, etc.).

(c) Ordaining and appointing those officers who are to administer His ordinances in His Church

“He gave gifts to men … and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:7–11. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Acts 20:28).

(d) Administering Christ’s Ordinances in Christ’s Name

Christ’s ordinances are not administered in the name of civil governors, ministers, churches, councils, etc., but in Christ’s own name. The apostles spoke and taught “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:17–18); “Whatsoever you ask in my name” (John 14:13–14; 16:23); “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son” (Matthew 28:18–19); “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5); “In the name … with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan” (1 Cor. 5:4[–5]). Assemblies of the church are to be in Christ’s name. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name” (Matthew 18:20).

This has been extracted from a pastoral book on church government called Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici: The Divine Right of Church Government which has recently been republished.

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Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity

Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity

Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
15 Oct, 2020

In this postmodern age, there is a desperate need for churches to state unequivocally what they believe the Bible teaches. We live in a truth-starved post-truth world. The Church is the one place where truth should be true – true for everyone not just for you. It should be counter-cultural rather than blending in with the norm. If we give the impression that truth is changeable, elastic and customised to our needs we are robbing our culture of what it needs. We fail to be salt and light and a city set on a hill. It’s possible to do this by omission, simply failing to articulate and teach the truth clearly and unambiguously. We can still believe the truth and have it written down somewhere. Yet by not actively holding it forth but giving all our emphasis to the practical, we don’t display a full-orbed love for the truth. But this is a biblical priority as well as an urgent necessity as we will find it out in this article.

In 2 Timothy 1:13 Paul instructs us to “hold fast the form of sound words”, he even tells us how to do this (“in faith and love”). As Carl Trueman points out, the word for form or pattern “describes a model, form, or standard that is intended to function as a trustworthy or reliable guide.” It is not simply the content of the message but the actual form of words the particular precise vocabulary by which the truth is defined. We have benefited from vocabulary over the years that help us define the truth, words such as trinity and infallibility. Thomas Case was a member of the Westminster Assembly who spent many years helping define the truth in precise language. In this updated extract he shows why comprehensively loving and embracing the truth means comprehensively defining it.

1. The Importance of a Comprehensive statement of truth

In the Greek “form” means a frame of words or things, methodically arranged. Just as printers set and compose their “types” or letters, in a table. By “words” we are to understand “doctrine, evangelical truths, the principles of the Christian religion.” They are called “sound words,” from their intrinsic nature when they are purely taught without mixture. They are then the principles of religion in their purity and simplicity; the truth and nothing but the truth.

Timothy heard this from Paul, probably a collection of some principal points of religion, which the apostle had methodically summarised and either preached in Timothy’s hearing or drawn up in writing. It was committed to Timothy as a trust and treasure, not only for his own help and direction in preaching, but to transmit to others. It was for the use and benefit of succeeding generations in the church of Christ. In the next verse it is called “that good thing which was committed” to Timothy (verse 14; 1 Timothy 6:20). He was to commit this form of sound words to faithful men who would be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

To hold fast means both to have and to hold. He must have this form of sound words and also hold it fast. He must not swerve from it in the course of his ministry; but tenaciously adhere to it. He must no allow it to be corrupted by men who believe error. He must not part with it for anything but stand by it, and own it, against all opposition and persecution of any kind. The word “keep” in the next verse explains it. Keep the form of sound words as in safe custody, as under lock and key. The purpose of having is keeping, and the purpose of keeping is using. We cannot use, unless we keep ; and we cannot keep, unless we have.

It is of great use and advantage therefore both for ministers and individual Christians to have the main, fundamental truths of the gospel collected and summarised into certain forms of words. Such forms are very carefully and faithfully to be kept. Faith and love are, as it were, the two hands by which we may “hold fast” gospel truth.

2. The Benefit of a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

(a) It beautifies the truth

Every truth single is very precious, and indeed of infinite value, as purchased with, and ratified in, the blood of Christ ; but to see the truths of the gospel linked together in their proper union, is very glorious. In the creation of the world, it is said of every single day’s work, “God saw that it was good”. But when the whole structure of heaven and earth was set together into one entire fabric and creation, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Thus gospel-truths have a rare beauty in their variety and uniformity when seen together. They are no less glorious and admirable than heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, in all their order and ornament.

(b) It helps the understanding

As a constellation of stars gives greater light, so it is in the understanding. A constellation of gospel-principles shining together into the understanding, fills it with distinct and excellent knowledge. It “gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). One truth irradiates and expounds another.

We know redemption by Jesus Christ aright, when we know the guilt and power of sin, and man’s total inability to save himself from either. We know salvation aright, when we know it in the extent and power of all Christ’s offices: king, priest, and prophet. Saving us from the reign of sin as a king, from our ignorance and blindness as a prophet and from hell and wrath as a priest.

(c) It helps the memory

It is easier to remember things when they are summarised in a more orderly way. The reason why people do not generally remember more of the sermons they hear, is for lack of catechising. Order is the very glue of memory.

(d) It defends against error

People would not be so easily drawn into heresy, if they were acquainted with how the chain of gospel-doctrines interconnects. When a chain of pearls is broken, a single jewel is easily lost; divine truths mutually preserve one another.

(e) It helps us grow in grace

Lack of distinct knowledge in the mysteries of religion is a great obstruction to growth in grace. The great cause of the believing Hebrews lack of proficiency was their defect in the foundation, the “first principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:12). “Unskilfulness in the word of righteousness” made them mere “babes in grace.” (Hebrews 5:12)

3. Holding Fast a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

(a) Ministers

Ministers are to “hold fast this form of sound words;” for they are God’s witnesses to the present age, and trustees for the future (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:20). They are to keep it, by catechising and instilling these principles into the hearts of young ones. They also keep it by assiduous preaching. They explain and apply these principles and maintain the remembrance of them in the church. God has appointed pastors and teachers to explain and apply the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:2). They do this by solid explanation without novel content and expressions; strange words make way for strange doctrines. They also counter false teaching (Philippians 1:17; Titus 1:9).

(b) Believers

Christians of all kinds are to hold fast the form of sound words in their understanding, memory, practice, and in contending for the truth.

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In the Understanding.
Every Christian should have a firm basis of sound doctrine; not only some scraps and fragments of knowledge, but a distinct and clear delineation of gospel-truth. This will mean that they may know things, not merely randomly, but in an orderly way; how they depend on and relate to one another. Too often Christians are content with warm affections without knowledge. So they are like a blind horse, full of energy, but always stumbling. Or they may be content with loose notions, without seeing the truths of God in an orderly and accurate way. They are never stable and rooted in the faith. Christians should seek to have the “riches of the full assurance of understanding” in the mysteries of godliness. (Colossians 2:2)

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In the Memory.
Christians are also to remember the form of sound words. The Spirit of Christ Jesus is given, not only to “teach us all things,” but to “bring all things to our remembrance: ” (John 14:26). Scripture is written to maintain old truths in our memory (2 Peter 3:1; Philippians 3:1). We are slow to understand and believe and apt to forget so we must take extra effort to retain these things (Hebrews 2:1; 2 John 8).

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In Practice.
We are also to hold fast the form of sound words in practice. To live the truths which we know, is the best way to hold them fast. Unholy Christians live against the faith, whilst heretical Christians dispute against the faith. Whilst others live error, you must live the truth; whilst others deny the gospel, you must live the gospel (Colossians 2:6; 1:10.) Without this, a man forsakes the truth, while he professes it (Titus 1:16).

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words To Others.
“Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:16; see Matthew 5:14) like a lighthouse in the dark. It is a blessed thing, when the lives of Christians are practical models of gospel truths, walking Bibles (1 Peter 2:9)

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words By Contending for It.
Contend for and publicly own the truth, whatever it costs you. By the flames of the martyrs, future generations were able to see the truths of the gospel more clearly.

4. Believing a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

Faith gives reality to spiritual things. Knowledge gives lustre, but faith gives being; knowledge irradiates, but faith makes real. Knowledge gives light, but faith adds life and power (2 Timothy 1:12). Faith obtains strength from Jesus Christ, to do, to suffer, to live, to die for Jesus Christ, and the truths which He has purchased and ratified by his own blood. Faith “can do all things through Christ” and His strength (Philippians 4:13). The verse says hold fast “in faith and love” and “in Christ Jesus”. Jesus Christ is a fountain of strength and that strength is drawn out by faith (Psalm 71:16).

5. Loving a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

If you desire to hold fast the truth, love it. Those who did not receive the love of the truth were ready to believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:10 and 11-12). Receive the truth in the power of the truth, in the impressions of the truth on your hearts, in the love of the truth. Love the truth, even when the truth does not seem to love you, when it is against your interests.

CONCLUSION

We live in a frozen age, in which men have learned to hold fast everything (possessions, superstitions, errors). Everything except the truth. No doubt this is true as much now as when Thomas Case made that observation. He spent much time along with others to produce in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms a form of sound words that was accurate to Scripture. They did the heavy lifting. But unless we take up a form of sound words and make use of it, we will not hold it fast for ourselves or for others. Transmitting the truth to future generations requires holding it fast in order to hold it for them. We have produced two volumes Our Faith and Bible Truth Explored to make it as simple as possible to hold fast the form of sound words today in the current generation.

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Is Church Government Worth Suffering For?

Is Church Government Worth Suffering For?

Is Church Government Worth Suffering For?
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.
15 Oct, 2020

Few people want to hear about church government today, let alone suffer for it. Of all principles and truths it is perhaps one that people are least likely to want to suffer for. They may even think that Scripture doesn’t really require anything very clear about how the church should be ordered. They just think of it as a kind of administration and that there are many ways of “doing church”. We need to consider the matter more carefully, however. To be punished for resisting state control over the church would be to suffer for church government, for instance. Is that worth suffering for? Perhaps, at face value, this issue seems very remote from Christ and the main things. But it does in fact concern us with Christ Himself.

Thousands of Covenanters suffered torture, banishment, imprisonment, loss of goods and execution. Why? For liberty? Yes, in an indirect sense. Certainly for Christ but in relation to a specific matter. The reason they suffered these things was their steadfastness on a matter of church government. George Gillespie was one of many who had in earlier decades suffered for church government. Many had suffered more than he, including imprisonment and loss of possessions. In this updated extract, Gillespie shows that the question of whether the state should control the church is not a side issue. It concerns the glory and authority of Christ Himself. This was the key controversy he was seeking to help resolve.

Christ Himself Suffered for Church Government

This controversy highly concerns Jesus Christ Himself in His glory, royal prerogative, and kingdom which He has and exercises as Mediator and Head of His Church. The crown of Jesus Christ or any part, privilege, or piece of that must be a noble and excellent subject. This truth that Jesus Christ is a king, and has a kingdom and government in His Church, distinct from the kingdoms of this world and from the civil government, has a commendation above all other truths. Christ Himself suffered to the death for it and sealed this truth with His blood.

For it may be observed from the story of His passion, this was the only point of His accusation which He Himself confessed and owned. It was aggravated, prosecuted, and driven home most by the Jews and prevailed most with Pilate as the cause for condemning Him to die. It was mentioned also in the superscription or sign written on His cross. Although in reference to God and providing satisfaction to divine justice for our sins, His death was a price of redemption, yet in reference to men who did persecute, accuse, and condemn Him, His death was a martyr’s testimony to seal such a truth.

This kingly office of Jesus Christ (as well as His prophetic office) is not only administered and exercised inwardly and invisibly by the working of His Spirit in the souls of particular individuals. It is also exercised outwardly and visibly in the Church, as a visible body politic, in which He has appointed His own officers, ambassadors, courts, laws, ordinances and censures. All these are to be administered ministerially in His own name as the only king and head of the Church.

Herod and Pilate (like many princes, potentates, and states) looked on this with so much fear and jealousy, as another government co-ordinate with civil government. But what was dark on their side has been light on the other side to those servants of Jesus Christ who have stood, contended, and sometimes suffered much for the ordinance of Church government and discipline which they looked on as a part of Christ’s kingdom. John Welsh (of Ayr, my countryman of precious memory) suffered much for the same truth and was ready to seal it with his blood.

It is indeed no new thing for the most faithful ministers of Jesus Christ to be reproached and accused of being guilty of Treason. This was not only the lot of David Calderwood, Welsh and those that suffered with him but of John Knox before them. Likewise many martyrs, confessors and the apostles themselves. Yet (if we will judge righteous judgement, and weigh things in a just balance) we do not rob the government of that which is their’s, by giving to Christ that which is Christ’s.

We desire to hold up the honour and greatness, power and authority of government against all that despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. We hold that it is proper for kings, princes and governors to be called lords over their subjects over whom they exercise civil government.  But only Christ may be called Lord and Master in the spiritual government of the Church. All bear office in it ought not to usurp dominion, nor be called lords, but only ministers, disciples and servants. We acknowledge and affirm that civil Government in empires, kingdoms, dominions, and cities is ordained by God for His own glory and for the great good of mankind. Any who are enemies to civil government are enemies to mankind and the revealed will of God. Such persons as are placed in authority are to be be loved, honoured, feared, and held in the greatest respect and esteem because they are the lieutenants of God, in whose seat God Himself sits and judges.

The Lord guide you and all His people in ways of truth and peace, holiness and righteousness. The Lord grant that this controversy may (I trust it shall) have a happy end to the glory of God, to the embracing and exalting of Jesus Christ in His kingly office, to the ordering of His house according to His own will, to keeping the ordinances pure, to the advancing of holiness, and shaming of profaneness. And finally to the peace, quiet, wellbeing, comfort, and happiness of the churches of Christ.

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