Are young people turning to prayer more?

Are young people turning to prayer more?

Are young people turning to prayer more?

With worries about war, food shortages and the cost of living following the anxious times of the pandemic, how are people coping? A recent survey of UK adults found that more younger adults pray compared to older adults. Follow up reporting suggests that across a range of cultural and religious backgrounds, younger people are open to exploring spiritual things. Yet there may be a perception that prayer is a spiritual activity that can be whatever you make it. Prayer can sometimes be valued simply for the groundedness the ritual gives us, or the comfort that comes from voicing our fears and wishes. There is an inbuilt human longing for connection with something and someone beyond ourselves, which can really only be fulfilled by knowing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit, and receiving the everlasting salvation He gives. Guidance as to what this looks like comes from what the apostle Paul shared about his prayer life, for example when he told the believers at Ephesus how he was praying for them. In the following updated extract, James Fergusson gleans some pointers about true prayer to the true God from what Paul says.

Who Paul prayed to

In Ephesians 1:17, the apostle gives a short summary of his prayer to God for the Ephesian believers.

First, Paul refers to God the Father (to whom he is praying) as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Father of glory”. The Father is in His own nature infinitely glorious, the fountain of the whole Godhead and all the divine attributes in the Son and the Holy Ghost. All glory is due to Him from created beings.

What Paul prayed for his friends

Paul then mentions what he sought from God for the Ephesian believers. This was “wisdom,” or a further increase of the saving knowledge of God which the Holy Spirit gives, together with a clearer insight into the Scripture where the same Spirit reveals these truths. This “wisdom” mainly consists in the saving, believing, and operative “knowledge of him,” i.e., of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wants the Holy Spirit to remove the natural blindness of their understandings and to bestow a clear discerning of the things of God.

We should have definite things to pray for

We should not necessarily restrict ourselves to a set form of words when we pray. Yet we should have set purposes worked out, and a definite point to aim at, when we pray, so that we would be able to give an account of what we are praying for, whether that is for ourselves or for others.

We must pray to the true God

Our prayers should be directed to God only. No one else knows us, or the secrets of our hearts. Anyone or anything else is unfit to receive our prayers.

Also when we draw near to God in prayer (whether for ourselves or others), we should do so with confidence and reverence – for these are not mutually exclusive. We should think about God, and express what we are thinking about Him, in a way that will most strengthen our faith and most strike our hearts with reverence towards Him. To strengthen his faith, Paul refers to God as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and to bring his heart into deep reverence he calls him “the Father of glory,” or “glorious Father.”

We should pray out of faith in Christ

In order to have access to God with boldness through Christ, it is necessary to renew the act of faith which applies and appropriates Christ to ourselves. Then, being made one with Christ, we will be seen by the Father as clothed with Christ’s righteousness. This is the way that God will accept both our persons and our imperfect prayers – that is, through Christ. Paul here appropriates Christ to himself as his own, calling Him “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is necessary also that when we embrace Christ in this way, we do not divide Him into parts, but take to ourselves the fullness of all the perfections which are in Him. This is an evidence of our sincerity in embracing Him, but additionally, nothing less than the whole Christ is necessary to cover all our imperfections, bear us up under all our discouragements, and help us in all the infirmities which beleaguer us in our approaches to God. He is our “Lord,” full of power and sovereignty for our good. He is “Jesus,” a Saviour, who saves sinners. He is “Christ,” anointed by the Father to do this very work.

We should pray reverently

In Ephesians 3:14-15 Paul begins another prayer for the believers at Ephesus. Again he sends his prayer to “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” denoting both the Father’s relation to Jesus Christ and His relation to His church, His “family,” who take their name from Him.

The expression Paul uses here, “I bow my knees,” denotes the humble, reverent spirit of his heart in prayer. We are not restricted to any specific posture in prayer, yet our outward posture can both express something of our reverent inward spirit, and remind us what we are doing when we pray. We should draw near to God with deep reverence for His majesty, coupled with very low thoughts of ourselves, because of our unworthiness.

Deep reverence is entirely consistent with faith and confidence in approaching God as a reconciled Father. Both reverence and confidence ought to be joined together in prayer, and indeed, when they are sincere, they mutually reinforce each other, so that the more we put our trust in Him, the more our hearts will fear and adore Him.

We should think more about God than about ourselves

In making our approaches to God for anything, especially salvation, it is most necessary that we lift our eyes above anything that is ours (whether our good or our evil), and fasten them by faith on the inexhaustible fountain of mercy and power in God. He is not only willing (from His mercy) but also able (from His omnipotence) to give us whatever we ask that is in accordance with His will. He will grant it “according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 3:16).

We should have our priorities right

We must not neglect our outward and physical needs, yet the spiritual state of our immortal souls is what we must care about most. Paul prays in verse 16 for their “inner man,” for if things go well with the “inner man,” our outward concerns will trouble us the less. Ministers especially should pray mainly about the inward and spiritual state of their flock.

We should open our hearts for the best answers to prayer

Paul prays, “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (v17-19).

The love of God in Christ to lost sinners is so large, so free, and in every way so wonderful. But our hearts are so narrow, and His ways of showing His love are so unexpected and strange to us, that even though it is revealed in the gospel, God Himself is the only one who can make us see it and grasp it. Paul prays to God for the people at Ephesus that God would let them comprehend and understand it.

The answer to Paul’s prayer will give us stability in times of trouble

As trees cannot long stand against the blasts of boisterous winds, unless their roots are deeply fastened in some good ground – and as houses cannot long remain firm and strong, unless they are built on some sure foundation – neither can we hold out for any space of time against temptations unless we are undergirded and supported by some strong foundation. That stability and constancy comes from the faith of God’s love. If we are not “rooted and grounded” in the love of Christ, we are like trees without a root and a house without a foundation. The only sure foundation for our souls is the unchangeable and free love of God in Christ revealed in the gospel and grasped by faith. No conceit of our own righteousness, or courage or resolutions will do.

The breadth of Christ’s love extends to all ages of history and all sorts of people. Its length reaches from eternity to eternity. Its depth stoops down to the lowest depths of sin and misery and pulls sinners out of there. Its height reaches up to heavenly joys and happiness, and carries sinners up to there. It is called “the love of Christ,” not to exclude the love of the Father or Holy Spirit, but because the love of the whole Trinity is conveyed to lost sinners through Christ and His merit. It passes created understanding to know it.

We must not content ourselves with a superficial view of God’s free love in Christ. Instead, take the most accurate inspection of it in all its dimensions, and endeavour at least to know it as far as you can. Our delight in it and the comfort we get from it is constrained by the narrowness of our thoughts and the shallowness of our insights about God’s love in Christ. The love of God in Christ, and the love of Christ to lost sinners, is so rich and unsearchable, so matchless and unparalleled, so vast, boundless and, well, infinite, that in the end the most we can say is that it “passeth knowledge.” How much this should stir us up to seek it!

Our prayers should take confidence from who God is

Paul towards the end of his prayer refers to God again, this time as “Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think…” (verse 20). Thinking of God in this way, Paul is so sure that God would answer that he is breaking out into thanksgiving already, as if everything he had asked for was already granted. “To him be glory!” (verse 21).

God is not only able to bestow more things and greater things than we can express, but also to bestow these greater things in a large and abundant measure. The conceptions we have of God when we pray to Him should be things that will furnish our hearts with reasons to have confidence in Him and the fact that He will hear us.

Especially we should stabilise our hearts in the faith of God’s omnipotence and power to grant what we ask. This is one of the best supports for prayer, seeing it is beyond all doubt that God will do whatever He is able to grant our petitions if we are seeking things which He has promised (1 John 5:14).

 

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Something worth hoping for

Something worth hoping for

Something worth hoping for

Laying a loved one’s body to rest in the grave brings to mind all sorts of contrasts and a sense of inescapable change. Reflecting on the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth, so much that was familiar is no longer here, and we are reminded that however gilded anyone’s life here has been, they still encountered difficulties and sorrows of one form or another. So is that the end, or are things any better in the afterlife? The burial service of the Church of England commits the deceased’s body to the grave, “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Who can legitimately take comfort from this “hope,” and what are we “hoping” for anyway? In the following updated extract, Alexander Nisbet reflects on the words of the apostle Peter in his first letter to distressed believers. To encourage and motivate them Peter tells them, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for His people.”

Not death and despair, but life and hope

When we are regenerated it is “unto a lively hope” (verse 3). Before the Lord makes this powerful change in sinner, we are altogether without any true or well-grounded hope of a better life than this. But those who have been born again – given a new life and new nature from the Lord in regeneration – they have been given with it this grace of hope. This is what allows them to keep up their hearts in expectation of all that the Lord has promised.

If we have been born again, we have a “lively” hope – a hope that enlivens us to use all the means to attain what we hope for, and to keep ourselves free from everything inconsistent with being born to such great hopes. And the basis for this hope is “the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (verse 3). What keeps our hope alive is that after Christ died for us, He rose again as a conqueror. His resurrection is a testimony that He has fully discharged all our debt, and a guarantee that we will rise with Him and share with Him in the possession of all that He has purchased in our name.

Not uncertainty and futility, but a guaranteed inheritance

All who have been born again have a matchless inheritance to look for at the end of their lives. It is both excellent in itself and guaranteed to them.

What are its excellences? One is that nothing in itself is going to allow it to decay. A second is that nothing from outside it can stain its beauty. And the third is that it will remain to all eternity in all its glory. It is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away” (verse 4). All of these are sweetened by the fact that it is safely kept in store for them, in a place beyond all hazard. Its is “reserved in heaven for you” (verse 4).

So if you want to keep your heart in a praising disposition, and if you want to be steady and cheerful in adhering to the truth of Christ notwithstanding sufferings, then you must have your hearts absorbed with considering the excellence of the portion which is coming to you beyond time. In this way you will pay less attention to the afflictions that come by the way, and you will despise the pleasures of sin, and you will be able to stomach all the difficulties involved in holiness.

Not a thing, but a person

And what is this inheritance anyway? It is nothing else but the Lord Himself blessed for ever, enjoyed by His people to all eternity. He is called “the inheritance” of His people (Psalm 16:5-6). He is “incorruptible” (Romans 1:23). He is “undefiled” (Hebrews 7:26). He “fadeth not away” (Psalm 102:27).

Not earned, but a family inheritance

This heavenly inheritance does not come to the regenerate by their own purchase or procurement, but by virtue of their sonship. They are made sons as soon as they are united to Christ (John 1:12). This has been purchased for them (Ephesians 1:14), and He has left it to them in legacy (John 17:24). He lives for ever to be the executor of His own testament (Hebrews 7:25). So far from being merited from any of them, it falls to them by lot – it comes by heirship, left in legacy.

This blessed state is made very sure and certain for the regenerate. From eternity it has been decreed by judicial sentence to come to them (Matthew 25:34). In time it has been secured to them by the promise of the faithful God (John 6:40). And even now it is possessed for them in their name by their surety and covenant head (Hebrews 6:19-20). It is “reserved in heaven for them.”

Not yet fully in possession, but ready to be revealed

As the inheritance of the regenerate is kept in heaven for them, so they are “kept by the power of God” for it (verse 5). The power of God in making them persevere works principally by giving them faith to rest on His word (the word of Him who is faithful and able to save to the uttermost), and keeping this faith in life and exercise, providing it with necessary supplies. The power of God keeps believers “through faith.”

Because it is not yet apparent to the saints what a blessed inheritance is coming to them. The reason why they do not now have their inheritance in full possession is not because it is not ready for them (for it is purposed for them, Matthew 25:44, and brought to them, Ephesians 1:14, and possessed by Christ in their name, John 14:2) but because they are not ready for it.

Indeed, they will not be ready until the full number of the elect are brought in (Revelation 6:11), and every one of them brought to their full stature in grace (Ephesians 4:13). Both these things can be furthered by the prayers and endeavours of those who long to be in heaven.

But the particular time when they shall be put in possession of their heavenly inheritance is fixed. The marriage day between Christ and His bride is fixed, and it will take place at the time that is fittest and happiest for them. The day cannot be far off now, for these days of ours are the “last times” (verse 5). The bodies of the saints who are alive now will not have to sleep long in the dust.

Not heaviness, but great rejoicing

Sad-hearted sufferers the regenerate may sometimes be. But Peter provokes them to more spiritual joy and praise, noting that already they are rejoicing from considering their beautiful inheritance and their other spiritual privileges, and exhorting them to continue in it. “Wherein ye do (or, do ye) greatly rejoice” (verse 6).

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How can we honour God in our promises?

How can we honour God in our promises?

How can we honour God in our promises?

Queen Elizabeth was noticeable for the seriousness with which she made and kept her vows, including personal pledges to her people and the official coronation oath. Being true to your word seems to be an increasingly rare characteristic both in private life and public office. It adds an extra dimension to a commitment if you promise to do it while calling God Himself to witness what you are saying. It is not simply a form of words intended to make it more impressive. It actually invites God to judge what you do against what you have said. Some oaths are sworn calling God to help us in carrying out what we have promised. This is a way of honouring God, by acknowledging our need of His help. In the following updated extract, Francis Taylor, a member of the Westminster Assembly, explains the seriousness of making a vow and the importance of remembering to keep it.

Making a vow is a serious thing

God is deeply offended with those who do not perform not their vows. This is apparent from Ecclesiastes 5, where we are told that anyone who makes a vow must not defer the payment of it. Those who do defer to pay their vows are called fools, and God has no pleasure in them (verse 4). It says too, “It is better not to vow at all, than not to pay” (verse 5), and then calls it “sin” in plain terms (verse 6). God refuses to have this covered up as if it was just a mistake, “Neither say thou … that it was an error” (verse 6) In fact we are told expressly that God is angry at this (verse 6) and we are in danger that He will destroy the work of our hands (verse 6).

One reason why God takes this so seriously is because God is a great king, and will not be dallied with by His subjects. But also, His name is “dreadful among the heathen,” and therefore must not be dishonoured by His own people.

God keeps covenant faithfully Himself. He will ever be mindful of His covenant (Psalm 111:5). God’s covenant is called an everlasting covenant (2 Chronicles 13:5). “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head” (Ezekiel 17:19).

There is a kind of perjury in failing to perform our vows. I do not say that oaths, vows, and covenants are identical in every detail, but certainly they are closely related. “I have sworn,” says the psalmist, “and I will perform it” (Psalm 119:106), and was not that oath a vow? God is called to bear witness of the covenant between Laban and Jacob, and the heap of stones they made was also a witness, yet with a great deal of difference. The heap of stones was a witness that remained as a token of the covenant. But God is properly called to witness, as one who heard all their words, and could testify the truth to consciences on both sides, and by bringing judgements on whichever side might break it. “He that vows and pays not, is a perjured person,” said Bernard. Especially in things that we ought to do anyway, this perjury makes our sin greater than if we had never vowed them.

We may forget our vows, but God does not

God will eventually stir up the memories of His servants, and put them in mind of their vows.

He may do this by troubles, calamities, fear of wars, etc. Or, if they are not so intelligent as to understand His meaning by these blows, He will open their ears, and tell them in His word.

This is what He did to Jacob, in Genesis 35:1: “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” He tells him his fault, but very gently. He does not accuse him of perjury, nor call him a vow-breaker. Indeed, He does not so much as mention his vow, but only insinuates it. This was so that Jacob would see that God was not trying to shame him, but to amend him.

We must not look for direct revelations now, but God often meets with us in the ministry of His Word. In the preaching He makes us see faults in ourselves which we little dreamed of, including covenant-breaking among the rest. Many wicked men marvel to hear God’s ministers call out their secret faults, as if they could actually see their hearts, but good men, I hope, will learn more than they marvel.

God has good reasons for reminding us of our vows

God’s name and honour suffers in our forgetfulness. Vows are made for the honour of God. But if they are not performed, God is not honoured by them, but the opposite – He is dishonoured, and for that matter He is being slighted by His own people.

But also, God desires and delights in the good of His people. The psalmist sings, “Let the Lord be magnified, who hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant!” God knows that our forgetfulness and unthankfulness are barriers which prevent us from getting much good, and things which bring many judgments on us. To prevent this, God will remind us of our vows and covenants.

God must come first in our vows

When we perform our vows, God looks for His part first.

In Genesis 35, God does not tell Jacob to go and make the best he can of the situation for himself in this troublous time. He does not even tell him to go and negotiate with the Shechemites to restore their goods to them. Instead He tells him to go and build an altar to God. Jacob accordingly goes about it.

This is the method of God’s commandments – the first table contains duties to God, the second, to ourselves and our neighbours.

This is the method of our prayers – our Saviour teaches us first to pray for the honour of God’s name, kingdom and will, before we pray for our daily bread, pardon of sins, or power against temptations.

This is the method of most of our creeds and confessions – we first profess what we believe concerning God, and then concerning ourselves.

It is also the method of our Covenant – the preface looks first at the glory of God and the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and then at our own privileges; and the two first articles refer to religion, and the following ones to our liberties.

God must come first because God is more worthy to be regarded then ourselves. Love to God is called the first and great commandment. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but ourselves and our neighbours in a lower degree of love. From God we have all that we have here, or hope for hereafter.

And God must come first because that is our care, properly speaking, to honour God. It is God’s care to provide for our souls and bodies. Obviously we may use means for the good of our souls and bodies, looking for a blessing from God – just not in the first place. Our prime care must be for God’s glory. When a master enters into covenant with a servant, he expects that the servant will take care of his work, and leave the care of provisions to his master. God expects likewise from us. First obedience to God, then faith in God.

How to live in the light of our vows

Mourn

We should mourn, among our other sins, our sluggishness, in not remembering things like this which concern our own safety. I am afraid, lest like Jerusalem, we “know not the things that belong to our peace.” Our forgotten vows should fetch sighs from our hearts, and tears from our eyes. I doubt not but every one of us, even the greatest and the best, may find something in ourselves that hinders the reformation we have vowed, if we would only look closely into our own souls. The Lord show it to us, whatever it may be, and give us grace to repent of it.

Meditate

We should think often of our vows and covenants. The reason why people, especially good people, neglect to carry out what they have vowed is because they do not think of it often and seriously. God often called on the Israelites in the wilderness to remember the things they had seen, and not to forget the great things God had done for them. Surely, we need to call often on our own souls, to think of the vows we have made to Almighty God. We would be loath that God should forget His covenant to us (for our enemies would then soon swallow us up), but why do we then forget our part of the covenant?

Be single-minded

We should impute any continuance of our troubles to our neglect of our covenant. Very few have mended themselves as they vowed, fewer their families, and fewest of all have endeavoured to amend things in the public sphere according to the trust reposed in them. Something of ourselves is sought after by most, even in the very work of reformation. Our plough goes along with God’s; we look for a share of honour in the work, and do not act with a single eye out of love and respect to God. And hence come many hindrances to the great work of personal, family and public reformation.

Praise

We should praise God that He will not let us perish by neglecting to honour Him by performance of our vows. He knows that our forgetfulness and unthankfulness would ruin us, so He reminds us of our vows to preserve us. Indeed, let us praise God that by His ministers He admonishes us about them so that we would perform them, and prevent further troubles.

Go further

If you are in a position of authority, my petition to you is that you would begin with a particular and personal reformation, and end with a general and public reformation. Count piety your greatest ornament. The higher your position in state, let the beams of your piety shine the brighter! You owe the most to God, and you must do the most for God. God has entrusted you with the greatest talents, and He expects the greatest account from you. Esteem honour without piety, as you would a body without wisdom, or a house without a foundation.

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A throne that lasts for ever

A throne that lasts for ever

A throne that lasts for ever

Queen Elizabeth was a constant in the lives of so many of us, a reassuring continuity in a rapidly changing world. She has been referred to as the rock on which Britain was built. Many have spoken of their unexpected surprise at her death, saying it was as if they had somehow thought she was going to carry on for ever. Her self-sacrifice was exemplary and her devotion to duty inspirational.

Yet if she was a rock, she still needed her own rock. She was conscious from before she was Queen that her life could be long or short. And although she acted with royal dignity, she was content to live frugally and took an interest in the ordinary people she met. As we reflect with thankfulness on her life of service, our thoughts cannot but turn to the king of kings and the ultimate prince of peace. King Jesus shows that the greatest are not diminished by hard work and self-sacrificial service. But more importantly, Jesus Christ personally invites people into His kingdom, not only bestowing the legal rights and privileges of a citizen of heaven but also naturalising every citizen so that each is prepared in the heart and from the heart to live with Him in glory for ever. Their biggest problem is sin, and this is exactly the problem He actively solves on their behalf and in their lives. This servant king laid down His life for His people and as a consequence He lives for ever to reign in their interests.

A figurehead, a rallying point, a monarch may usefully be in today’s United Kingdom, and their rule seems to work best when they are conscious that their authority depends on popular consent. By contrast, Jesus Christ wields unlimited power unabashed, conquering their sin and vanquishing the reign of death. In the following updated extract, David Dickson reflects further on the kind of king that Jesus Christ is, based on Hebrews 1:8-12.

A king with an everlasting throne

In order to show the glory, majesty and grandeur of the Lord Jesus Christ, a quotation is brought in from Psalm 45. “Unto the Son he [the Father] saith, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever…’” (Hebrews 1:8). Christ is God, and so He is fit to reconcile us to God, and able and all-sufficient to accomplish our salvation – a rock to lean on. Christ is also a king enthroned – not only over the world, but in a gracious manner, over the church. That is why His church has direction and protection from Him. And as He has a throne for ever and ever, so His kingdom, the church, will endure for ever and ever.

A king who rules in righteousness

King Jesus has a sceptre to rule with, signifying His power and authority over both His subjects and His enemies. His sceptre is “a sceptre of righteousness,” because He cannot abuse His power to do wrong to anyone. He will do right to all. He leads His subjects to the righteousness of faith (to justify them before God) and the righteousness of life (to adorn them before others). “He loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.”

A king who has been anointed to the work

“Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (verse 9). Christ’s God has anointed him. Christ is God Himself, and in regards to the office He holds in His humanity, He is also under God. Also God is “His God” by covenant.

He has been anointed with the oil of gladness. This refers to the Holy Spirit, who brings joy to him and to all His subjects. Christ conveys to them “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” His covenanted people are anointed along with Him, yet they receive the Spirit by measure. Christ is anointed “above” them – the Spirit is not given to Him by measure, but to dwell bodily, or substantially, so that of His fullness we may all receive grace for grace.

In fact, the reason why He has been anointed is “because he loved righteousness.” The righteousness of Christ is the procuring and meritorious cause of this joy to Him and His subjects.

A king who reigns for ever

Another testimony about King Jesus is given in verses 10-12, in a quotation drawn from Psalm 102. In that Psalm He is expressly called Jehovah, God in essence, the same God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. He “laid the foundation of the earth, etc.,” and by consequence, He can create in us a right spirit, and make sons of us wicked sinners.

The heavens and earth will not continue. “The heavens … shall perish, … wax old … be changed” (verses 11-12). Yet Christ remains. “Thou remainest … thou art the same … thy years shall not fail.” He is eternal. Our mediator cannot be missing, cannot die. He is constant and immutable. He cannot change His purpose of love to His people, whatever changes may happen to them.

This is the rock of our comfort, when we look to our own frailty and changeableness.

Image source: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/her-majesty-the-queens-90th-birthday-prime-ministers-humble-address

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Is the law for the righteous?

Is the law for the righteous?

Is the law for the righteous?

Because of the various ways we are out of harmony with the law of God, something in us always chafes when we encounter God’s law. Sometimes people respond to God’s law as if it’s a challenge – they feel they would be able to keep it adequately, if they just try harder. Other people respond to God’s law as if it is irrelevant – they assume that because they cannot keep it, therefore they don’t have to keep it. In this updated extract from his commentary on 1 Timothy, the Puritan Anthony Burgess mainly tackles this second type of response. Burgess refers to Paul’s paradoxical statements about how the law is not made for the righteous, yet only the righteous can use the law rightly. What did Paul mean when he said that the law was not made for believers? What relationship does God’s law have to the believer? What is the role of love in the believer’s attempt to live to God’s glory?

In verses 8 and 9 of 1 Timothy 1, Paul joins together two things which seem to be contradictory. Augustine put the conundrum like this. “If the law is good when used lawfully, and none but the righteous can use it lawfully, how then is it not made for the righteous?” According to Augustine, when Paul writes like this, he is provoking the reader to find out the answer to this puzzle. Using these words, “we know” and “knowing,” Paul implies what understanding all Christians ought to have in the nature of the law.

What law does he here speak of? Some have understood it as the ceremonial law. Because of Christ’s death the ceremonial law was to be abolished, and all the ceremonies of the law were convictions of sins, and hand-writings against those who used them. But this cannot be what Paul intends, for circumcision was commanded to Abraham, a righteous man (and likewise to all the godly under the Old Testament), and the persons who are contrasted with the righteous are those who transgress the moral law. Instead we may understand it of the moral law generally.

What kind of person is “righteous”?

We must not interpret the “righteous man” as someone who is absolutely righteous, but one who is righteous as to effort and as to desire. The people of God are called righteous because of the righteousness that is in them, although they are not justified by it.

Even secular writers say this much of the righteous man – he does what is righteous for love of righteousness, not for fear of punishment. Aristotle says that a righteous man would be good even supposing there was no law. Seneca and Plato said similar things. Their sayings are not altogether true, yet they have some kind of truth in them. Some of the Church Fathers said similar things. Chrysostom speaking in hyperbole said, “A righteous man does not need the law, no, not teaching or admonishing …” It is like a musician, who has his art within him – he scorns to go to look at the rules. But of course this is a hyperbolic way of speaking. What godly man does not need the Word as a light? Who does not need it as a goad? Of course in heaven the godly will not need the law, but then again they will not need the gospel, or the whole Word of God.

How do the righteous relate to the law?

There are three interpretations which come very near one another, and all help to make clear what the apostle means.

1. The law is not a burden to the righteous

Some learned men lay an emphasis on the word “made.” They take Paul’s words to mean, “The law is not made to the godly as a burden, they have a love and a delight in it; it’s not like a whip to them.” The wicked wish there was no law. They say, “I wish this was not a sin!” The righteous man is more in the law then under it.

Of course this is to be understood as far as he is righteous, for in another sense the things of God are many times a burden to a godly man. Yet let us not think the works of the law [done by the godly] are in conflict with the works of the Spirit, grace and gospel. The same actions are the works of the law in respect of the object, and the works of the Spirit in respect of the efficient.

2. The law has no power to curse the righteous

The second interpretation is of the damnatory and cursing part of the law. Then the meaning would be, “The law is not made to the believer so as he should abide under the cursing and condemning power of it.” In this sense the Scriptures frequently deny that believers are under the law. It’s true that the godly deserve the curse and condemnation of the law, but they are not under the actual curse and condemnation. Note too that it does not follow that there is no law [to the believer], because it does not curse [the believer]. The law is not there to curse or condemn the righteous.

3. The law was given to expose the unrighteous

The third interpretation is, “the law was not made because of the righteous, but unrighteous.” If Adam had continued in innocence, there would not have been such solemn declaration of Moses’s law, for it would have been engraved on their hearts. Although God gave Adam a positive law, in order to test his obedience and so that he could show his homage, yet He did not give him the moral law by outward prescript (though it was given to him in another sense). This interpretation renders Paul’s phrase like the proverb, “Good laws arise from evil manners.” Or as the Roman politician Tacitus said, “Excellent laws are made because of other men’s delinquencies.” Certainly laws, in their restraining and changing power on people’s lives, are not for those who are already holy, but those who need to be made holy.

The righteous delight in the law

These three interpretations come very much to the same thing. There are also some parallel places of Scripture, such as Galatians 5:23 and Romans 13:3. These expressions show that that the godly, so far as they are regenerate, delight in the law of God, and it is not a terror to them.

We cannot literally say that because the godly have an ingenuous free spirit to do what is good, they do not need the law to direct or regulate them. Then it would follow as well that they did not need Scripture as a whole, or that they did not need the gospel that calls them to believe, because there is faith in their heart! Chrysostom, who spoke so hyperbolically about the law, speaks just as highly about the Scriptures themselves. “We ought to have the Word of God so engraven in our hearts that there should be no need of Scripture!”

The law directs the righteous

There are two things which make it apparent that the law must needs have a directive, regulating, and informing power over the godly.

We need the law to direct us how to live to God’s glory

We cannot, for example, discern the true worship of God from superstition and idolatry except by the first and second commandment. It is true, many places in Scripture speak against false worship, but to let us know when it is a false worship, the second commandment is a special director. How do the orthodox prove that images are unlawful? how do they prove that setting up any part or means of worship which the Lord hath not commanded is unlawful? Only by the second commandment. Certainly it is the lack of exact knowledge in the breadth of this commandment that has brought in all idolatry and superstition. The decalogue is not only Moses’s ten commandments, but it’s Christ’s ten commandments – and the apostles’ ten commandments as well as Christ’s.

We need the law to discern our own sinfulness

We must compare the depth of the law and the depth of our sin together. There is a great deal more spiritual excellency and holiness commanded in the law of God, the decalogue, than we can attain. That is why we must study it and delve into it more and more. “Open mine eyes, that I may understand the wonderful things of thy law,” David prayed, though he was already godly, and his eyes were in a great measure already opened by the Spirit of God. And as there is a depth in the law, so there is a depth in our sin. There is a great deal more filth in us than we can or do discover. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret sins” (Psalm 19). When there is such a world of filth in my carnal heart, what need there is of the spiritual and holy law, to make me see myself so polluted and abominable! The godly grow partly by discovering the pride, the deadness, the filth in their soul that they never thought of.

How the righteous use the law

The practical use that we are to make of this Scripture is to pray and labour for such a free, heavenly heart that the law of God and all its precepts would not be a terror to us, but sweetness and delight. “Oh how I love thy law!” David cries. He could not express it! And again, “My soul breaketh in the longing after thy judgements.” In another place, he and Job value God’s law more than their necessary food. You do not drag a hungry or thirsty man to his bread and water! We ought to have such filial and child-like affections to God and His will that we would love and delight in His commandments, because they are His.

There is this difference between a spontaneous motion and a coerced motion: the spontaneous is done for its own sake; the coerced comes from an external principle, without the person helping it forward at all. Well, do not let praying, believing, loving God, be coerced out of you. Where faith works by love, all duties will be relished, for faith working by love overcomes all difficulties. Pray therefore that the love of God would be shed abroad in your heart.

And consider these two final things.

When the law was laid on Christ to die and suffer for you, it was not a burden or a terror to him. Think with yourself then, “If Christ had been as unwilling to die for me, as I am to pray to him, to be patient, to be holy – what would have become of my soul?” But if Christ said, to be a mediator for you, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God, thy law is within mine heart,” how much the more should you show willingness in anything thou might do for him! You do not have as much to part with for him, as he had to for you. What is your life and wealth, compared to the glory of his God-head, which he laid aside for a while?

Sinners love lusts for lusts’ sake – they love the world because of the world. Now evil is not so much evil, as good is good. Sin is not so much sin, as God is God, and Christ is Christ. If therefore a profane man, because of his carnal heart, can love his sin, although it costs him hell, because of the sweetness in it, will not the godly heart love the things of God, because of the excellency in them?

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Faith and fear

Faith and fear

Faith and fear

David had many reasons to be afraid. More than once in his life, he was stalked and hunted and had to run for his life. Still today, many believers across the world live under constant harassment and persecution from those who hate them and their Lord. Where there is less fear of physical attack believers can still feel threatened by an atmosphere of hostility to Christian teachings and fearful of consequences for their jobs and social standing if they articulate biblical principles too freely. What can sustain God’s people in such fear-inducing situations? In the following updated extract, David Dickson traces David’s faith in his urgent prayer of Psalm 56. Faith expands our horizons so that, beyond the very palpable fears, we see the almightiness, goodness and faithfulness of our Saviour God. Having faith doesn’t mean we don’t feel afraid, but focusing on God by faith fortifies us so that we do not need to be sunk by our fears.

From the title of Psalm 56 and its opening verses we see that when David fled from one enemy, Saul, it was only to fall into the hands of another enemy. “The Philistines took him in Gath.” Then all men and all means failed him, and he saw no one but wolves and lions, ready to devour him. Bloodthirsty persecutors followed hard in pursuit of him without intermission, like dogs after their prey. “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.” If there was one ringleader there was a multitude running with them. “Many are they that fight against me.”

Yet faith gets the victory over fear. In verses 3-4, David’s faith gets the victory by setting God’s Word against all difficulties, whether within or without him. As a consequence, David defies what man can do to him.

Faith does not eliminate fear

Although the godly are not so brave in their trials as not to feel their own infirmity, or not to be afraid, yet they are kept from fainting in their fear, by faith in God. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Also, although faith does not always exercise itself, yet when fear assaults the most, then faith in God manifests its force most evidently; for then especially by directing the person’s eye towards God, it settles a troubled mind, strengthens weak courage, and relieves the oppressed heart.

Faith fights with fear

Faith becomes valiant in fight. It may begin like a coward, and stagger in the first conflict, yet it grows brave, and pulls its adversaries underfoot. “In God I have put my trust, I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

Then, when faith prevails, fear ceases, and all the opposition of enemies is despised. “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

Faith sees beyond the situation

The best hold that faith can have of God is to take Him by His Word, whatever His dispensation in providence seems to be. This will give satisfaction at length. To say, “In God I will praise his Word,” is as much as to say, “Even supposing He withholds comfort and deliverance from me, so that I cannot find what I want, yet let me have His Word, and I will give Him the glory of all His attributes.”

Faith anticipates the eventual deliverance

By verses 9-11, David is confident of routing all his enemies by prayer, and confident enough to defy all mortals by faith in God’s Word.

Laying out our cares and fears before God in prayer is a way to get a satisfactory deliverance by faith, even before the actual literal deliverance comes. “When I cry unto thee, then all mine enemies turn back.”

Faith fixes on God

If someone is reconciled to God, then when they pray to God in a good cause, they may be assured that God will own their quarrel, and give them the victory. David says, “This I know because God is for me.”

The special attribute of God which faith meets with, and which allows it to attain to rest and contentment in God, is His truth and fidelity in His promises. “In God I will praise his word.” Even if there is no sign of the promise being fulfilled, yet God’s Word is sure enough to fix upon.

Faith keeps growing

The grounds of faith are the more sweet and satisfactory, the more they are examined and looked at and compared with their effects. David is not content to say just the once, “In God I will praise his Word,” but with comfort and confidence he renews this commendation of God’s Word (verse 4, and twice in verse 10), as well as the benefit he has by it. “I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (verse 4 and verse 10)

Our faith in God gets a reward from God

As it is necessary for our justification to believe in God, so is it necessary for our consolation to observe that we have believed. When we can do this, then we may promise to ourselves all the blessedness which belongs to the believer. For when we thus resolutely set our seal to God’s truth, believing, and asserting our believing, then He sets His seal to our faith, in comforting and relieving us.

Faith gives thanks

The psalm concludes with David, having now obtained deliverance by faith, obliging himself to thankfulness. He wishes to be preserved by God and enabled by God for the very purpose of giving God praise (verses 12-13).

As God puts the duty of glorifying Him on the supplicant, when He promises delivery to him, so may the supplicant put the obligation of glorifying God on himself, when he is praying for delivery out of his trouble. David says, “Thy vows are upon me, O God, I will render praises to thee.” An honest heart is no less desirous to perform the duty of praise to God after delivery, than he was ready to make his vow and promise before his delivery.

As deep dangers serve to uncover our weakness and our need of God’s help, so a well-seen danger makes clear the greatness of the deliverance. In turn, the greatness of the deliverance deciphers the wisdom, power and goodness of God to us, and of our obligation to Him. “I will render praises unto thee, for thou hast delivered my soul from death.”

Faith fortifies itself for the future

The right use of past dangers and deliverances is to prepare for new dangers and difficulties (for when one danger is past, this does not mean that all perils have past!). In so doing we renounce our own wisdom and strength as insufficient to preserve us from ruin either of soul or body, we give up ourselves to God’s guiding and preservation, and to depend on God, and we stedfastly hope to be directed and preserved by Him. All this is included in David’s words, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, wilt thou not preserve my feet from falling?”

What we intend in our desires to have deliverances and benefits from God should be that we may spend our life, and the gifts bestowed on us, sincerely in the service of God, for the edification of His people. “Wilt thou not preserve my feet from falling? that I may walk before God in the light of the living.”

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Eight reasons to pray every day

Eight reasons to pray every day

Eight reasons to pray every day

Taking some time each day to pray is a familiar expectation for Christians. Jesus actually gave His disciples something to pray for “this day”. What are some of the reasons why He might have done this? Thomas Manton gives some suggestions in the following updated extract.

When Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for our daily bread, He teaches us at least two things. One, that we are permitted to pray for temporal things as well as spiritual things. And two, that we are to do this every day.

What is the reason Christ says, “Give us this day”?

1. Every day God wants to hear from us

It is not, “Give us this month, or year,” but “this day,” because every day God wants to hear from us. God does not want to have us too long out of His company, but by frequent interactions He wants us to be acquainted and familiar with Him. This is required, that you should not let a day pass over your head but God must hear from you. Your patent lasts only for a day; you have a lease from God of your comforts and mercies, but it expires unless you renew it again by prayer. It is very different from the heart of God’s children, to be contented to come to the mercy-seat only once a year! The Lord wants us to come every day to the throne of grace.

2. Every day there should be family prayer

All who eat their food together are to come, and say to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It is not, “Give me,” but “Give us.” Therefore you see how little of love and fear of God is there, where, week after week, they do not call on God’s name.

3. Every day makes way for our thankfulness

Our mercies do not flow from God all at once, but some today, and some tomorrow, and we take them day by day. All together, they are too heavy for us to wield and manage. “Who daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). Our mercies come in greater number and a greater measure than we are able to acknowledge, make use of, or be thankful for. Therefore, this is the burden of gracious hearts, that mercies come so thick and fast we cannot be thankful enough for them, but to help us, God distributes them by parcels. He loads us daily, some today, some tomorrow, and every day, so that we would not forget God, but would have a new reason to praise him.

4. Every day we can renew our dependence on God

There is no day but we stand in need of the Lord’s blessing, of sanctification, of comfort, and that they would not be a snare, so every day there is still need of new strength, new grace, and new supplies.

5. We can take every day as it comes

We pray, “Give us this day,” so that we may not burden ourselves with overmuch thoughtfulness, and so that we might not solicitously cark for tomorrow. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34). Every day affords business, trouble, care and burden enough; we need not anticipate and pre-occupy the cares of the next day. God does not want to have us overborne with solicitude, but to look no further than this day.

6. Every day avoids excess

Christ is teaching us that worldly things should be sought in a moderate proportion. If we have sufficient for a day, for the present need, we would not be grasping at too much. Ships lightly laden will pass through the sea, but when we take too great a burden, the ship will easily sink with every storm. We have sore troubles to pass through in the world, and when we are overburdened with present things we have more snares and temptations.

7. Every day reminds us of our life’s uncertainty

“Say not, This and this I will do to-day or to-morrow: What is your life? it is but a vapour” (James 4:13). Someone was once invited to dinner the next day, and replied, “For these many years I have not had a tomorrow,” meaning that he was providing every day for his last day. We do not know whether we have another day, but we are apt to sing lullabies to our souls, and say, “Soul, take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many years” (Luke 12:19). We are sottishly complacent, and dream of many years, whereas God tells us only of today.

8. Every day awakens us to heavenly things

When we seek bread for the present life, then give us “this day.” “But now come to me,” says Christ, “and I will give you bread that shall nourish you ‘to eternal life,’ bread that endures for ever.” “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27). There is food that will endure for ever, but for the present we beg only for this day. As Peter says, we have “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). That is an eternal state, but this earthly state is only short and of a small continuance.

You see what need you have to go to God, that He will most plentifully provide for you.

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Why do we work?

Why do we work?

Why do we work?

In a culture where leisure time and relaxation are so very highly prized, it can be difficult for us to realise that idleness is a sin. And if our church culture perhaps prioritises spirituality over practicalities, we may hesitate to recognise the importance of sheer hard work. The apostle Paul navigates both these issues with his words to the Thessalonians, disapproving of idleness and highlighting the necessity and value of work. It may not sound very spiritual but preachers today should still include these notes in their preaching, for God’s honour and the church’s reputation and indeed the wellbeing of any who are lazy.

Idleness is a sin

Paul reminds the believers at Thessaloniki, “We commanded you that if any man would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). In saying so he condemns both the sin of idleness and their neglect of censuring that sin, because this was not only contrary to his example but also to his doctrine. He had commanded, and by apostolic authority enacted for a standing law, that anyone (who otherwise had strength and opportunity) refused to work, he should not eat. To “work” is to employ either one’s body or mind, or both, in some honest labour, for promoting one way or other the good of mankind. “He should not eat” means that he should not be borne with or maintained among Christians, but constrained to betake himself to some honest employment.

The Lord’s ministers should press on people, not only religious duties but also painstakingness and diligence in some particular calling. Likewise it is the duty of the Lord’s people, and of every one in their station, to give obedience to such lawful commands of Christ’s ministers.

Additionally, everyone should be concerned that the church’s charitable funds should be distributed wisely. This is especially the case for those who are entrusted with these monies, so that, to the best of their knowledge, they do not use it to furnish fuel to the lusts of any, or feed them in sinful idleness, or any other way misapply it to those who are not due objects of it. Paul’s command is given to all, and chiefly to the officers of the church, that they do not employ either their own charity or the church’s, to maintain idle vagabonds and wilful loiterers.

However, there are always some who do not work, not because they don’t want to, but either because they are not able to work, or although they are able and gladly would, yet they cannot get employment. It is the Lord’s allowance that such people, as far as possible, should be maintained on the charity of others, especially if they have nothing of their own by which to maintain themselves.

Idleness means the wrong sort of busyness

The “disorderly” ones in Thessaloniki, of whom the apostle had heard, have two features which seem to contradict each other, and yet are highly consistent, and in fact usually co-occur. They “do nothing at all,” he says in verse 11, i.e., in the things which they ought to do, and to which they have a calling, and yet they are “busybodies,” only too diligent about things which do not belong to them.

It is actually part of a minister’s responsibility, prudently to seek to know what fruits the gospel he preaches is bringing forth among the people of his charge. He should know what sins are most prevalent with them, and what virtues are exercised by them, in order to be the more enabled for speaking pertinently to them.

There have always been some in the church who take on a name for profession (and so possibly come to have some respect among the godly), yet, under a pretext of giving themselves to more than ordinary devotion, they abandon all care about a particular calling, and live hand-idle, to the hurt of those on whom they lived, and to the reproach of the gospel.

The mind cannot be wholly idle, but must be employed in something or other – if not in doing what is good and profitable, then of necessity in what is evil, useless or hurtful. Usually no one is more busy in other people’s matters than those who neglect their own.

Idleness is something we must give up

So, speaking to those who were guilty of walking disorderly, Paul both peremptorily commands them, and most affectionately exhorts them (verse 12).

In the name and authority of Christ the Lord, he commands them (1) to work, and so to quit idleness; (2) to work with quietness, that is, containing themselves within the boundaries of their calling, without creating trouble, either to themselves or others. From this would follow (3) that they should eat their own bread, gotten by their own labours, and not given them in alms, or in return for nothing.

Yet so great a tyrant is custom in any sin, and especially a custom of lazy ease and idleness, that once someone is habituated to it at all, they are only with very great difficulty driven from it. It takes both a command and an exhortation from Paul.

Some sins grow so common that either through the moral guilt in them or the civil inconveniences which follow them (or both), they portend no less than apparent ruin to the whole church. Then especially the Lord’s ministers should direct the utmost energy of their endeavours to suppress these sins, and to reclaim the Lord’s people from committing them. In Thessaloniki this sin of idleness threatened to dissipate the church, both morally, considering the great guilt that was in it, and civilly, considering how poor this church in all probability was. That is why the apostle is so fervent and serious about suppressing it and stirring up the whole church to take notice of it.

Yet God is so merciful that He does not wholly cease to have anything to do with sinners, as if they were desperate cases, after one or more rejections. He gives them many renewed opportunities, because some He intends to gain (John 4:7, 10, 13, 16, 21, 26) and some to make more inexcusable (Matthew 11:21–22). Although those idle people had received several admonitions with no effect, yet Paul, in Christ’s name and authority and by warrant from Him, again commands and exhorts them that they must work with quietness.

Correspondingly this should be a minister’s way of dealing with even most obstinate sinners, in order to win them back. The minister must make known that he does not think of them as wholly void of all sense of God and goodness, and must at least gently hint that he still has better thoughts of them. By doing so he will, if it is at all possible, enliven any dying principle of conscience, any sense of heaven or hell, any sense of right or wrong, and any awe of God which may yet be lurking in them. The reason why Paul exhorts them “by our Lord Jesus Christ” is to show that he did not think they had cast off all respect to Him.

Being busy means less trouble

The more someone is occupied with their own employments, the less leisure they will have to meddle with the affairs of others. Consequently, they will create less trouble either to themselves or to those who live alongside them. “Working your own work” is conjoined with “quietness” and quiet abstinence from meddling with or troubling others.

We also deduce that the Lord has established property rights from the way that Paul speaks of “their own bread,” that is, what they have a proper right to. (See also Ephesians 4:28) Beside the other ways of attaining right and property – that is, by inheritance (Gen. 15:4), gift (1 Sam. 9:9), contract or bargain (Ruth 4:9), this is one. Whatever someone purchases by their lawful industry and effort is properly their own, and may be employed by that person for their own good and necessary use with God’s allowance.

The Lord ordinarily blesses people’s conscientious diligence in their lawful callings with a sufficient measure of success that they may have something with which to sustain themselves, and be kept from being burdensome to others.

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How one woman met Jesus

How one woman met Jesus

How one woman met Jesus

Most Christians want to share their faith with their non-Christians friends. Yet for a variety of reasons this is often easier said than done. We have a case study in how Jesus spoke to the woman he met at Jacob’s well. In the following updated extract, George Hutcheson picks out several striking aspects of how Jesus interacted with her to win her soul to Himself for salvation. As we observe His heart and His words we should be able to find guidance for how we can and should introduce Him to the people we meet too.

In John 4, John records what Christ did and the success He had on His way to Galilee, in bringing a soul to Himself. While He was sitting by the well, a woman of Samaria came to draw water. They had a conversation, in which He led her from one thing to another, till she came to know Him to be the Messiah.

Jesus comes close to sinners

Providence may be intending much mercy to those who are unworthy of it, and who have little thought of it. This woman, who was guilty of vile sins, came to fetch water, and no thought of anything else. Yet providence brought her to meet the Saviour of sinners, and at a time when He was actually feeling weary and thirsty. In this way He was an appropriate Lord to deal with such an unfeeling woman.

Christ is a Lord who will not be stopped by any impediment, but will overcome everything, to reconcile sinners to Himself. He doesn’t even keep a distance from Samaritans, not even a lewd woman among them. He counts it His glory to win someone so unlikely to Himself.

Jesus introduces Himself to those who do not know Him

When Christ spoke to her, He lets her see how much she mistook her own mercy (verse 10). If she had known Him, she would not only not have refused His request, but would have instead requested something from Him, and He would have given her better and living water (by which we are to understand the Spirit of God, and the graces of the Spirit acted by Him, John 7:38-39). Christ’s meekness passes over a lot of frowardness, which He finds in His own in the time of their conversion. By His goodness He overcomes their badness.

Ignorance of Christ, and what He has (and is ready) to give, is a major reason why sinners treat Him so badly. “If only you knew!” Christ says. He is known rightly and savingly when He and all He has are looked on as freely gifted to the world by the Father (as well as by Himself) and made theirs by offer to be embraced. This is why He is named “the gift of God.”

It greatly adds to Christ’s reputation that He is the one who makes the effort to come to sinners, and He pre-empts them by making offers of Himself. And when Christ is rightly known, as offered to the world for the salvation of lost sinners, it will beget a thirst for Him. It gets souls seeking for Him by prayer to supply their thirst, and they cannot stay away from Him. They see Him seeking sinners, to give something – salvation! – to them, more than to receive anything from them.

This woman, rather than refusing Him a drink of water, should have asked for water from Him! Christ has better things to give sinners, then anything He can ask from them, or anything they can offer Him. The well of life is in Christ’s hand, to dispense it as He wishes. Instead of her water, He has living water to give her.

Christ, who makes offer of grace before we seek it, will not refuse it to those who ask it. Nor do our past sins hinder us from being accepted by Him when we come to seek grace from Him. Even to this wicked woman He says, “If you had asked, He would have given you living water.”

Jesus persists against misunderstandings and disbelief

When the woman replies, she argues against Christ’s offer, alleging that this water either had to come out of the well – which was impossible, seeing the well was deep, and he had nothing to draw with – or this water had to come out of a better well, which would mean Christ was making Himself out to be better than Jacob (verse 11).

When we are unconverted we can’t help taking up spiritual things in a carnal way. People are not able to discern grace till they have it. This woman understood Christ as if he were speaking of elementary water.

We are also naturally enemies to our own good. Far from preparing ourselves for conversion, we are prone to dispute against our own happiness, and deceive ourselves, just like this woman reasoning against this living water because, in her judgement, it was impossible to be had or given.

We are also naturally so addicted to our own carnal sense, that we will believe nothing revealed by Christ further then we can see a reason or outward appearance for it. This woman decided it was impossible that Christ could have living water, seeing He could not draw it out of that well, nor could He show her a better well.

Jesus highlights the excellence of what He gives

But Christ does not carp at her contradicting and carnal spirit (verses 13-14). Instead He points out the excellency of his offer, so far above what she gloried in. The water she spoke so much of could not give any abiding satisfaction, even to the body, but His living water would have enduring and enlivening effects and satisfaction until it is completed in glory.

The water of life is something which Christ purchased, yet it comes to us, who cannot buy it, as His free gift. His offer includes a promise of giving it to everyone who will receive it in the due order, without respect of persons.

And the Spirit of Christ and His grace in believers is not a stream or a pond that may run dry, but a well, and a springing well, of inexhaustible fullness, virtue and refreshment. Nor is it the kind of well which may rot and make water taste bad. Instead it is a springing well, always fresh, always watering all around. The Spirit and grace of Christ flows out in all the behaviour of those who receive it, making them fruitful. They never stop doing good things (the more they do, there is still more coming to hand to do) and they are active and vigorous in what they do. Their graces flow out also on others, for their good and edification, according to the place and the calling God has given them.

Jesus exposes what is wrong in her life

When the woman next responds, she expresses a desire to have this water, but for her own ends (verse 15). The barriers of ignorance and wickedness even in the elect, hindering them from Christ, are not easily overcome. Whether she spoke by way of derision, or whether instead Christ’s spiritual preaching had shown her something desirable in these things (as may happen even in natural minds) yet she took them up but in a natural way, and accordingly her desire is only carnal.

So Christ, having prevailed so little by his offer and commendation of free grace, now exposes her misery to her. By this she is at length, and by degrees, brought to know Him. He tells her to call her husband, and when she denied she had a husband, He commends her frankness, and lets her see that He knew her the wickedness of her life (verses 16-18).

We know little and care little about grace as long as we do not know our misery. So where the offer of mercy does not persuade, Christ will expose their misery to His own people. When His first offers had no success, He pierces into this woman’s heart.

Still, Christ is very meek and tender, even in exposing people’s misery and need of salvation, as long as they are not incorrigible. He prefers they should judge and accuse themselves, so that He may deal tenderly with them. He so mildly tells her to fetch her husband, in order to draw a confession out of her own mouth.

Jesus is sensitive in convicting of sin

It is not every sin which the unconverted are guilty of which they are at first capable of being convicted about. Not every sin is odious to everyone in every condition. There are some sins which only grace, and much grace, and grace in exercise, will see to be sinful. Although this woman was guilty of many other sins, yet Christ picks out only this sin of gross immorality, as something which would be seen best by her.

Additionally, it is not every sight of sin that will convict the sinner, but Christ must drive it home on the conscience, and reveal it as marked by His all-searching eye, before it will have any effect. The woman knew her own situation, but without any sense of why it mattered – not until Christ pierced through to her heart, and let her see that He knew her.

Yet Christ will commend a small good under a lot of dross. He treats a true acknowledgement, even of a heinous crime, as something commendable. That is why He makes so much of her confession, “Thou hast well said! Thou saidest truly.”

Jesus often takes things slowly

Now the woman comes to think He may be a prophet. So when Christ exposes sin, and makes the sinner to be touched with it, this breeds more respect and higher estimation of Him.

Yet the work of illumination in the elect may have weak beginnings at the first, and what appear to be very high thoughts of Christ may come far short of His worth. For her to perceive Him a prophet was a huge step for her, yet it was far beneath what He was (and what she realised about Him later).

The Lord may see it fit to awaken and convert a great sinner very gently at first. In this way He shows His abundant tender mercy, so that they will not be deterred from coming to put their trust in Him, Especially, He does not want those who live at a great distance from ordinances and the society of God’s people to be overcharged with difficulties which they cannot get through alone.

Jesus reveals Himself to those who want to know Him

As they continue speaking, the woman is reminded that she has heard that the Messiah is coming. Christ then assures her that He is that same person!

Some knowledge of the mysteries of religion may be found among those who otherwise are very far lost.

Christ is not far off from any who have a high estimation of Him, and a desire for Him, however great the distance seems to be to themselves. To this woman, He says, “I am he!”

Christ not only came into the world, but was pleased to converse with the vilest of sinners to do them good. “I am he that speaketh unto thee, a lewd woman, and a scoffer.”

This shows us also His great compassion towards needy sinners. He will reveal Himself to them, when He lets others lie in darkness. He forbade His disciples to make Him known, and refused to answer many captious and tempting questions from the Jews about who He was, yet He did not conceal himself from this Samaritan, now convinced of her need of Him.

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Can anything make me happy?

Can anything make me happy?

Can anything make me happy?

According to a recent study, one of the questions that plays most on the minds of younger adults is, “What will make me happy?” Happiness for many people is very fleeting and usually just out of reach. Whether we seek it in impressive achievements, extravagant experiences, or just the simple things of life, lasting and life-impacting happiness eludes the majority. So maybe happiness is being sought in the wrong places? In this updated extract, Alexander Nisbet draws on the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to turn conventional thinking on its head. Real happiness is possible, but possibly where you least expect it.

The purpose of the Spirit of God by Solomon the Preacher in Ecclesiastes is to point out to miserable fallen sinners the way to recover our lost happiness. He first aims to convince us where it cannot be found, and so he sets out the proposition, “All is vanity.” By this is meant that all created things, and all human endeavours about them, are insufficient for yielding any true contentment. As the word signifies, it is all “nothing,” or “empty” as far as any virtue towards making us happy.

The good things in life cannot make us happy

This expression, “All is vanity,” is not to be understood of any thing that God has made in respect of its existence as such, since all things considered in that way are “very good” (Gen. 1:13). Nor is it to be understood of the right use and enjoyment of created things, i.e., using them in such a way that we are led by them to our Maker, and engaged to fear and obey him, for in this way all things are holy and good to those who use them (Titus 1:15; 1 Timothy 4:4). Neither yet does it refer to anyone’s lawful diligence and efforts in their lawful calling and employment, as if that was vain (1 Timothy 5:8).

Instead, “all is vanity” is to be understood firstly of all created delights, such as riches, honours, worldly pleasures, and particularly as they are abused and subjected to vanity when we seek our chief good from them, and place our happiness in them, while at the same time neglecting the question of reconciliation with God, and of living in his fear and in obedience to him. This is what Solomon recommends to us as the only way to true happiness (Ecclesiastes 12:23).

And “all is vanity” is to be understood of all the efforts a person can make by virtue of any human power or skill to make themselves happy, or contented, whether in the contemplation of created things or the enjoyment of them. All things of this nature Solomon proclaims to be “vain” in this sense, unable to give us anything but disappointment, and that in the most extreme degree (for this Hebrew form of speech, “vanity of vanities,” expresses the superlative degree).

It takes a lot to convince us of this

And to help this truth make the deeper impression, Solomon propounds it by way of exclamation. “All is vanity!” It is as if he is wondering at – and pitying – the madness of poor humanity, so ravished with glimpses of happiness in what is really only a vapour (as the word translated vanity can also mean).

This same truth he repeats frequently, to show not only the certainty of it (Gen. 40:32) but also people’s unwillingness to consider it (Jer. 22:29), and the difficulty of believing it John 5:2, 4; 6:37). It shows also how deeply he himself is affected with the folly and vanity of his former sinful ways, now that he is penitent, and how extremely he now detests them (Gal. 1:8-9). And because when people hear such teaching, they often treat it as only another human opinion, and so esteem it as only vain words.

This language of the Old Testament is the same in substance with that of the New. For example, “Doubtless I count all things loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:8). So transported are all of us naturally with the thought of happiness in earthly things (Jer. 2:24), and therefore so unwilling to hear of anything to the contrary (Zech. 7:11), that someone like Solomon who wants to convince people of the vanity of these things and of the folly of their way in seeking happiness in them, has to go to the effort of finding the most attractively persuasive way of appealing to their hearers. They have to be very instant and frequent in inculcating on their hearers the baseness and vanity of their idols and their sinful ways, and to lead up their minds to God, the one who is higher than themselves, in whose name they speak.

These words flow from the sense of penitent Solomon’s heart, marvelling his own madness in seeking happiness in such vain things as he had done during the time of his estrangement from God, weighted with grief for his so doing, and earnestly desirous to reclaim other perishing sinners from such vain ways. He longs to allure them to come and taste of the sweetness in fellowship with God which he now enjoys.

Counter-intuitively, religion will make us happy

Throughout Ecclesiastes 2 and 3, Solomon is working towards the point that the highest happiness attainable in this life is a cheerful and ready following of the duties of religion toward God, and righteousness towards others, even in all the vicissitudes of our lives.

This is the best we are capable of enjoying in time. And seeing we must once leave, and not return again (after death) to see or to enjoy these outward things, it is therefore our wisdom to use all our outward comforts as encouragements to give willing and cheerful obedience to God (Eccles 3:22).

From all this it is evident that we are not to seek or expect true happiness in any outward enjoyments, but in the favour of God through Christ Jesus, and following our duty in obedience to the command of God. Subservient to this, we are obliged to pursue a silent and conscientious submission to and contentment with all the various providences that pass over us in the world.

The way to achieve happiness

At the end of Ecclesiastes 12, Solomon urges us to take heed of the truth of God’s words. In studying the Scriptures we should not aim only to get comfort, but mainly to receive clear information and warning of our sin and danger, the true remedy for our sin, and the way to attain to this remedy. This is the main use to be made of the book of Ecclesiastes, and consequently of the rest of Scripture.

By nature people are so transported with a desire of vain glory, especially what they imagine they get by their own wisdom (John 11:12) that while they have time or strength, they will never make an end of seeking out many inventions by which they think to attain to their imaginary happiness. After they have written one book to show how wise they are in discovering the way to happiness, they will begin another. Yet so empty are all created things, and so futile are all the ways that people interact with them, that till people betake themselves to the new and living way to happiness which the Scripture reveals, they will meet with nothing but endless labour and continual disappointment, without any true settling or quietness to their minds.

The pursuit of saving knowledge may prove wearisome to the flesh, partly by reason of our slowness to learn, and unacquaintance with the grounds of consolation and confidence of success, and partly because the Lord intends that the wearying of the flesh in this way should be a means of promoting mortification and of diverting the heart away from sinful delights. Nevertheless the pursuit of saving knowledge is sweet in itself, and it is the very rest and refreshment of the soul. Indeed, it is health to the spirit, and marrow to the bones. In comparison with it all other studies are exhausting and wearisome even to the flesh.

Happiness springs from having the right attitude to God

Solomon concludes, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This is our main task, a compendium of all that God requires and works in His own people, and what they should be wholly taken up with all their life-time, as they desire to be truly happy here and hereafter.

Anyone who wants to see good days and live in the light of the Lord’s countenance must learn to be in the fear of God all the day long, entertaining the faith of His greatness and goodness, so that they may be kept from these things which impede their fellowship with Him, which is what their happiness consists in. For, when Solomon sums up his directions for attaining to true happiness, after proving that it is impossible to be found in earthly things, and only to be had in fellowship with God reconciled in Christ, he gives this as one of the two principal parts of that summary, “Fear God.”

And our true happiness is only to be found in keeping of the commands of God. We cannot expect a sweet meeting with God (Isa. 64:5) nor the comforting manifestations of His love (John 14.21:23), except in that way. This is the other part of the summary of Solomon’s directions for attaining to the true happiness which consists in communion with God: “Keep his commandments.”

The fear of the Lord is the root and principle of all right obedience to him, without which we cannot act acceptably in any commanded duty. This is why Solomon presses us to the fear of God in order to have acceptable obedience. And where the fear of God is in the heart, care to keep His commands will also be manifested in the practice. That fear will evidence itself by some endeavour after a suitable walking according to His commands. Keeping the commandments as urged on us here may be looked on as the evidence and fruit of the fear of God.

Contrasting views of the way to happiness

Those who seek their happiness in this earth look on the study of the fear of the Lord and obedience to the Lord as no part of their business in order to attain what they imagine is happiness, but rather an impediment in the way to it (Mal. 3:14). Yet this same blessed study is the great end for which man was made, and the only study that is worthy of having anyone’s spirit wholly exercised about it, so as all their other studies are subordinate to it.

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How to bring more Bible truths into focus

How to bring more Bible truths into focus

How to bring more Bible truths into focus

Once we have got to grips with the basics of biblical teaching, it sometimes happens that further truths snap into focus when previously they were unknown or unclear to us. Even when, compared to the foundational truths, these truths are less significant and less necessary, yet once the Lord has shown them to us, there is a moral responsibility to keep hold of them and confess them and teach them. But not everyone sees the same things with the same degree of clarity. How then should we interact with people whose views of these truths are more blurry and misty than they could be? In the following updated extract, James Fergusson explains that, rather than allowing these truths to remain fuzzy around the edges, there is an appropriate way to bring others along on their journey to where they too can have the benefits of seeing these truths with the same clear focus.

In Philippians 3:15-16, Paul exhorts believers to follow his example – even believers who had made (or seemed to themselves to have made) the furthest progress – and to be of the same mind with him in the details he has just mentioned in the previous part of the chapter. Some of them had been seduced by the false apostles, and were of a contrary mind in some things, but he gives them ground of hope that God, who had brought them to the knowledge of the gospel, would reclaim them from their error, and show them the danger of it (v. 15). At the same time, he exhorts them to unity and orderly walking, according to the rule of Scripture, in the things in which they remained harmonious, keeping mutual love, and holding off from making any further divisions than there were already.

What kind of perfection can we reach?

Although no one can attain to absolute perfection in holiness, yet as there are different degrees in grace, so there is diversity of growth among Christians. Some are but weak, infirm, and babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1-2). Others have come to greater ripeness, are endued with a larger measure of grace, and are confirmed by much experience. These, in comparison with the former, are here called “perfect.”

The greatest perfection attainable in this life is to renounce all confidence in ourselves, to rely wholly on Christ, and, from the sense of our own imperfection in grace, to be constantly aspiring to a greater measure of grace. This is what Paul prescribes to the choicest Christians to be exercised in when he says, “Let those that are perfect be thus minded.”

What was Paul’s example?

As examples are of more force than bare precepts, Paul draws an argument from his own practice. “Let us…” That is, being conscious of small progress, and of a great distance yet before us, let us press forward. That’s how he was minded, as he showed in verse 14 (“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”), and that’s the mind he wants the Philippian believers to have too.

How should we treat people who only have a shaky grasp of the truth?

There are usually some within the visible church who, because their understanding is misted over with error, do not come up to give thorough assent to all divine truths.

We are to deal more tenderly with some of those who are be-misted with error than with others. For example, we are to keep charity towards them, and express our charity for them in the expectation that God who has begun to enlighten them in other things would also show them the truths that are yet unknown to them. Also, we are to wait for them patiently. The severe exercise of church discipline is not something to resort to, at least until some appropriate period of time has elapsed – enough time for them, with God’s blessing on their own endeavours and other people’s work with them, to attain the knowledge of these truths (or, enough time for their lack of knowledge to be otherwise inexcusable).

Yet this tenderness is not the way we are to treat every individual who errs from the truth. For one thing, tenderness is not for those who seduce others into error, but for those who are seduced.

Secondly, tenderness is only for those who are seduced in less necessary truths, not fundamental truths, which are absolutely necessary. Their error lies only in some circumstantial truths, relative to the greater ones which the apostle assumes they have already grasped.

Thirdly, assuming their error is only in what we might call inferior truths, they also must not be so devoted to their own opinions that their desire to propagate them leads them to split the church and make schisms. Rather, they are to walk in a joint and orderly practice with others in the things on which they agree, not creating strife and division (whether in affections or practice) about those things in which they differ. This may be taken as a condition of the tenderness and forbearance they are to be shown, and a condition of God revealing things to them further. It is only “if we walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing.”

So on one hand there is no ground here for a boundless toleration of all heretics, sects, or seducers of others. On the other hand, there is no basis for tolerating even all who are seduced into error, but only those whose behaviour evidences them to be concerned for both truth and peace.

How can we expect God to act?

It is only God who can reveal truth to those who are overtaken with error. He does this by giving His blessing on the ordinary means of grace, when they are made use of for that purpose. So there are promising grounds of hope that He will indeed do this to some, namely, those to whom He has already revealed many soul-saving truths, and who are endeavouring, by their orderly walking according to those truths, to edify both themselves and others. Paul’s hope is that God will reveal even this to them – not by any direct revelation, or any other way without the Word, but by His blessing on the Word preached and their own endeavours (Isa. 8:20). He has revealed much to them already, and at the same time He subjoins the condition, “whereunto we have attained, let us walk,” i.e., unitedly and orderly, as soldiers keeping rank, without disturbing one another.

How can we expect the church to act?

The church of Christ ought not to be, on every difference of opinion, rent into schisms and factions, setting up one church against another, or counteracting each other’s work so as to undervalue and suppress one another. Rather, unity and orderly practice according to an uncontroverted rule, so far as is possible, is to be kept, notwithstanding differences in opinion. This is what the apostle exhorts us to, “Let us walk by the same rule.”

When divided opinions in a church lead to divided practices, further division and tearing apart necessarily follows, both in opinion and affections. When Paul exhorts us to joint practice, he adds that we are to “mind the same thing.” That is, “Let us keep unity, both of affections and opinions, in those things on which we still agree,” implying this is not possible without joint practice.

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What happens when you die?

What happens when you die?

What happens when you die?

It’s coming to all of us. Young or old, whether we’re in the prime of life or feeling a bit past it, eventually our lives here will come to an end. And then what? A recent survey of attitudes to Jesus in the UK found that across all age groups, one of the big questions people have is, “What happens when you die?” The options are stark but we all need to confront reality. Death is not the end, because our souls will all live on. But what kind of existence will it be? And what can we do about it before we come to die? Alexander Nisbet sets out the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes in the following updated extract.

Dying means going to our long home

As King Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes 12:5, we are all going to “our long home,” or as the original is, to “the house of eternity,” meaning the state where the soul will be eternally, without any further change.

It is our wisdom therefore, before this time comes, to make sure that we are reconciled to God in Christ. That will provide some suitable consolation for our souls, while our bodies will be [laid in the dust].

Therefore, while we are fit and healthy, we should employ our strength well, to make sure we are at peace with Him who is most high, so that He will not be a terror to us in the evil day (Jer. 17:17). If we have faith, then things that may present themselves as terrifying to others, will be no cause of fear to us.

Some people think that the best they will ever get is in this present life, and they promise to themselves that they will enjoy things on earth perpetually. Yet they shall find themselves after a little while miserably disappointed. They shall find that this is not their home. It would be wiser for them instead to look on their mansions here as short-stay residences, and to think of themselves as strangers and pilgrims, that so they would give all diligence to ensure they will have everlasting habitations.

After death there is no change of the state of souls as to their misery or the blessedness. They must remain for ever either with Satan in his prison, or with Christ in His Father’s house.

Death affects both soul and body

Solomon summarises our future state after death, making reference to both body and soul, the two principal parts of which we are made up: “Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccles. 12:7).

The body, Solomon calls “dust,” because it was formed out of the dust (Gen. 2:7). When the body is separated from the soul, it is the most vile and loathsome piece of dust of all. He says it “returns to the dust,” because it is ordinarily buried in the earth, to remain there till the resurrection, and because it is in effect the same substance as the dust of the earth.

The more noble part is the soul, here called the “spirit” because it is immaterial, and because of its resemblance to God, the Father of spirits. The soul “returns to him who gave it.” This does not mean only the souls of the godly, but rather it is the common state of the souls of all humans after death. Every soul is said to return to God, because in the very moment of its separation from the body, it must appear before God as the supreme judge, for Him to settle our eternal state. This will be done according to the state of the soul at death. Surely then we will timeously make our peace with God, so that He will receive our souls favourably at death, and so that we may lay down our bodies in the dust in hope of a glorious resurrection.

From this we see that although our bodies have some beauty and majesty imprinted on them while the soul resides in them and activates them, yet in themselves our bodies are only dust, and when the soul is separated from them they will look like very loathsome clay. The thought of this should keep us from being proud of our bodily strength or our physical looks (Jer. 9:23). It should also make us admire the Lord for condescending to have anything to do with such dust (Gen. 28:27), and for His marvellous skill and power in framing so beautiful a piece of work as our bodies just out of dust (Psa. 139:24). But especially it should make us admire Him for taking so frail a being as a human body into a personal union with the deity (Psalm 8:4). Yet we can also make use of this fact as a ground of confidence that we can obtain pity and help from Him to frail dust (Psa. 103:14). It should also make us careful to get the ornament of His grace, which makes base dust truly beautiful (1 Pet. 3:4), and it should make us long for the time wherein Christ shall change our vile bodies, and make them like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).

Unlike our souls, our bodies do not go to the state they will be in eternally. Instead, as they were at the first taken out of the earth, so they must go back there for a time, while we believingly await the resurrection.

Unlike our bodies, our souls do not die, or decay away. Instead they subsist after their separation from the body. This fact alone should make us careful to see to the eternal well-being of our souls.

As our souls came to us as God’s free gift, so, when our souls go out of the body, they will appear before Him. He will throw the spirits of the wicked into the lake that flames with fire and brimstone, and He will bind up the spirits of the godly as his jewels in the bundle of life.

After death comes the judgment

Solomon finally says, “God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

The last judgment is both certain and exact. At this time, both our more open and visible actions, and our more secret plots, and closest contrivances, of whatever sort, good or bad, shall be brought forth to be sentenced, either to reward or punishment, according to their nature. If we desire to be truly happy here and hereafter, we must leave off the pursuit of earthly vanities and sinful delights, and apply ourselves to this blessed thing, to “fear God and keep his commandments, which is the whole duty of man.”

So exact will the last judgement be, that no action or purpose shall escape the cognisance and sentence of the judge in that day. People’s public sins will then be published to all, and their secret sins, even the sins of their hearts, which they had altogether hid from the eyes of the world (and which they tried all along their life to hide from their own consciences, neglecting to confront them and mourn for them) will then be laid open.

The very best actions of the godly, considered in themselves, cannot abide the trial of God’s judgement by reason of the sinfulness mixed in with them. Yet considered as they are perfumed with Christ’s merits, and made perfect by him, they shall be brought forth to judgement to receive the reward of grace which the righteous judge shall give in that day.

All people’s evil actions, which they now refuse to look in order to mourn for them, and make use of the blood of Christ for cleansing them, shall in that great day be set out clearly and made patent, to their shame and terror. They will receive for them deserved wrath to the utmost. They should consider this when they are tempted to sin, and when, complacent and impenitent, they make light of the wickedness they have done.

This last solemn action, the last judgement, will be in a sense between time and eternity. It deserves our most frequent and serious consideration. Otherwise we will never get our hearts properly alienated from pursuing perishing vanities and sinful delights, as if these were our chief good. Nor will we be properly committed to pursuing true godliness. It should be much in the thoughts of the Lord’s people, who should live in such a way as that they may daily desire to see this day. “Even so come Lord Jesus.”

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