What if the Coronavirus Comes to Your Home?

What if the Coronavirus Comes to Your Home?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Look for God’s Promises

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

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

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

2. Look for God’s Purposes

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

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

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

3. Look to God’s Covenant

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

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

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Having Nothing, Yet Possessing Everything?

Having Nothing, Yet Possessing Everything?

Having Nothing, Yet Possessing Everything?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
21 Feb, 2020

We’re a culture with an obsession for possession; getting and having more things. In fact, it would collapse if everyone only obtained what they needed rather than what they wanted. You can have it all in terms of material goods and success yet still feel so empty that life doesn’t seem worth living. It’s possible to possess everything and have nothing from this point of view. But there is another perspective from which “having nothing and yet possessing all things” is a good and desirable thing. In fact, the very words of this paradox come from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:10. All things are ours if we are Christ’s. And if we have Christ, we cannot have anything better and we will not lack anything we truly need. Jeremiah has the same experience. He is destitute and experiences intense sorrows and affliction. But his hope is “the Lord is my portion” (Lamentations 3:24). Since this is true, he possesses all things, even though he has nothing.

In Lamentations Jeremiah pours out his heart and sorrowful prayers before the Lord. He descends in grief so deeply that he seems to come to the very bottom. Here he is tempted to despair of relief from his misery (Lamentations 3:15-19). Yet at this very point of desperation it is as though God takes him up and draws him towards very different thoughts (Lamentations 3:20-24). He finds hope in the mercy of God. Yet it has taken great wrestling to reach this point. David experienced similar wrestling (Psalm 42:5; Psalm 13:1).

Faith is the means by which they overcome (cf. 1 John 5:4). Even though God may seem to deny us or be silent to us we must not let Him go but still wrestle to receive the blessing [cf. Genesis 32:24–26). For if we leave Him, where else can we go or what can we do without Him? He is near to all that call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). As David Dickson observes, by wrestling Jeremiah obtains hope and gets his head above the water. He is like a drowning man who engages all his energy in swimming until he can catch hold of something to pull him out. Then he can regain his breath and rest (Psalm 116:3–4).

In wrestling, faith gains the victory; it cannot be overcome and fail (Luke 22:32). It shows us that there is hope in the deepest darkness. Jeremiah is able to come to the point of saying, “The Lord is my portion” (Lamentations 3:24). He goes from despair to hope, from emptiness to fulness and from having nothing to possessing everything. In this updated extract, David Dickson comments on what this means. First of all, he shows the way he comes to possess all things in God, by faith and hope in His mercy.

1. From Having Nothing to Possessing Everything

The prophet draws nearer to God but let us notice the steps that bring him closer. He says he recalls the Lord’s mercy to mind and therefore has hope. He says that it is of His mercy that he is not consumed. Then he turns himself to God and praises His great faithfulness. Now at last, he draws nearer to God and pulls Him in his arms, and says, “the Lord is my portion.” Here are the steps of a soul drawing near to God. In unbelief his back is turned to God but when a soul begins to believe or think upon God, it has hope. Having meditated a while on His nature, it turns and speaks to Him. At last it embraces Him and says, “the Lord is my portion.”

When thoughts of God come into your mind in your perplexity always keep going until you get God in your arms. Follow on till you possess Him in your heart as your portion. Do not leave Him till you get access to Him. Hold Him so tightly that you can say, “my beloved is mine and I am his” (Song 2:16). Lay hold on Him, never to let Him go again (Song. 3:4). Do not be content merely to speak of Him and to Him without embracing Him for He is near in Christ. Embrace Him by faith, hold Him in love. Faith brings Him down and love is shed abroad in your heart (Romans 5:5). He will refresh your heart and make you fight against your enemies, wrestle and run the way of His commands with delight, even though before you could not pray (Psalm 119:32).

The hardest struggles have the greatest deliverances and the dark night of trouble has a clear day of comfort. Therefore, when you come into trouble, wrestle and be sure that release will come. Jeremiah who was earlier calling God a lion or a bear and an archer shooting arrows at him, now calls God His portion. Should not you do likewise? Wrestle and you will find victory.

2. What Having Nothing, Yet Possessing Everything Means

“The Lord is my portion.” What is it to have God for one’s portion? Just as in outward things we may get an allowance of wages for our needs as the portion we wait for and make use of, so it is in the church of God. There is a variety of professing believers and servants and everyone has their portion. Someone’s portion is what they work and labour for. Many only give outward service to God for a reward in this world, as those who give want to be seen of others (Matthew 6:2). Yet some follow Christ for Himself and every one of them gets their portion, reward, or allowance they seek. If any are disappointed, it is because they have chosen something other than God for their portion.

Jeremiah here chooses God for his portion and lays hold on Him. He is now stripped naked of all the comforts of his fifty years preaching. All his days he was a man acquainted with grief and sorrow and seems to have lost all his labour. When the church was cut off, sorrow and anguish seized on him. He felt many tokens of God’s anger and being unable to endure these heavy weights, he flees to God. He pulls Him in his arms and says, “the Lord is my portion”. He is resolved that here he will live and die. Even if he can find no ease from his current trouble, having God would make up for the lack of fellowship with the saints.

This is what his “soul” says, it is no mere verbal profession. Many would say that God was their portion. They say they love God above all things and that they would rather enjoy His presence and favour than anything else besides. But their life actually tells us that they have made the world, riches, pleasure, success etc., their portion. These are the things they engage themselves most to acquire and maintain. But Jeremiah takes God as his witness that He is the only thing he would most gladly have (Psalm 73:25). Jeremiah says it with the soul, while others said it with the mouth.

3. How Possessing Everything Makes Up for Having Nothing

Jeremiah makes the fact of God being his portion, equivalent to all his troubles and losses. There is no ease in trouble until God is taken for the easing of all trouble. He can make up all for all we lose and lack and counterbalance all evils. Until God is taken hold of to make up for all loss, nothing is able to give ease or contentment. Whatever a soul may need, laying hold of God will make up for it all (Psalm 4:6).

If we can in our souls give up all things, endure all things with God, and be content to have anything done to us (as long as we have God)–trials will not overcome us. Such a person possesses more than anything they can lose. Anything they can suffer is compensated to them. People usually wish contentment in all things, but God will sometimes withhold what we want so that we may seek Himself and be content to lack all other things.

Make God your portion. Nothing else but Him will do you good ultimately. He is always near when all other things fail.

4. The World Does Not Know What Possessing Everything Means

By saying the Lord is his portion he testifies that he has something unique that the world does not have. Here we see the difference between God’s children and others. God’s children seek their happiness in God and have Him for their portion. Others seek their happiness in some other thing and have some worldly thing for their portion. But those who seek something other than God for their portion cannot glory in Him. Those that have God for their portion glory in the fact that God is theirs and they are His. It is not possible to have God and something else for our portion at the same time. God reckons the person who makes God his portion, as His child (Genesis 15:1).

Many are inclined to have God as well as something else they want such as riches and honour, but if they do not get these, they leave Him. Even the godly want ease, peace and prosperity as well as Christ but the Lord sometimes strips them naked of all these comforts. He brings on them those things which their soul hates. This is so that in being loaded with troubles they may come to Him to get ease. If they delay to come to Him, His hand is still heavy on them till they come to Him and He becomes to them all in all.

Have you made God for your portion? Do not be surprised if He has withdrawn other things from you so that you find sweetness in Himself alone. Be content with Him and He will be better to you than all that you can want. He will uphold you under all troubles.

When nothing earthly can be relied on you will know what it is to have God for your portion (Psalm 142:5). Seek to have your needs supplied in Him, whatever it is that you lack in this world. Take God for all and take Him not only for outward needs but for lack of knowledge, strength and other spiritual graces, that God may be all unto you. And when you are stripped naked of all things, remember that these things are pulled out of your arms so that you may be filled with better things and may adhere more firmly to God in Christ.

The outward does not please God unless the inward goes along with it. Profession is empty unless the heart directs the mouth. Seek to profess not in word only but also in heart, and so lay hold on God with determination and make Him your portion.

5. How Possessing Everything Brings Hope

Because God is Jeremiah’s portion he has hope that his misery will come to an end. Although those who have God for their portion may be without comfort in heaven and earth they can still hope that all will be well with them. For when someone has taken hold of God with all they are, they will overcome all opposition. If you have resolved to keep God for your portion and to leave all other things rather than leave Him, you may have hope to overcome every trouble and in Him to obtain all you can desire.

The updated extract in this blog post is from a series of sermons David Dickson preached around 1628. They have never been published before but are due for release by Naphtali Press & Reformation Heritage Books in the coming months (DV). 

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Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
1 Jun, 2019

Happiness research and the science of happiness has apparent growing influence. Behavioral scientist Paul Dolan hit the headlines with controversial pronouncements on whether family and happiness go together. He defines and measures happiness in terms of “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time”. He says this is “the final arbiter of the rightness of what you do” not “moral judgements based on ill-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong”. It’s no great surprise since in a fallen world feeling good is frequently divorced from doing good. Temptation seeks to maximise “the pleasures of sin” which last only for “a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But true happiness is both objective and moral because it is God-centred. This is what makes it so hard to find; we look for it in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

Everyone seeks happiness. But true and objective happiness can only be found in God not subjective pleasure divorced from God. Our purpose is to glorify God in all things and He is also to be our highest enjoyment. Older writers thought a lot about this subject. Thomas Watson says, “It is not every good that makes man blessed, but it must be the supreme good, and that is God”. William Ames also sums up the objective and moral nature of happiness particularly well. “What chiefly and finally ought to be striven for is not happiness which has to do with our own pleasure, but goodness which looks to God’s glory”.

This is obvious when we consider the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 He pronounces many conditions to be happy which are not connected with the sort of pleasure and purpose most people seek. Those 8 rules of happiness go entirely against the grain. In John 13:15-17 Christ is explaining the example He has given in washing the disciples feet. He teaches them about true humility and love in serving one another. The very succinct promise contained in John 13:17 makes obedience fundamental to true happiness. He makes it clear that He is not content with a bare speculative knowledge about humble obedience.  We must “know these things” or be sufficiently informed of our duty in relation to them. But we are only blessed and “happy” if we “do them”. True happiness is hard to find because we look for it in the wrong way. Humbling ourselves and putting what we know into practice is hard. George Hutcheson draws out the implications of John 13:17 in the following updated extract.

 

1. Ignorance is Not Bliss

Christ does not approve of blind ignorance in His people, whatever their practice or life may be. He requires them to base their practice on sound and solid knowledge of His will.  He requires that they know these things, and then do them. People can remain very slow to understand when much effort has been taken to instill knowledge of our duty. This may be through weakness or carelessness or being influenced by sinful inclination and earthly mindedness.

Christ’s emphasis on “if” you know these things, presupposes that knowledge must go before practice. But it may also imply some doubt as to whether they were capable of understanding this teaching. They were so carried away with earthly dreams of the Messiah’s kingdom that they could not understand clear predictions of His sufferings (Luke 18:31-34). It would be no wonder if their sinful rivalry also hid this teaching (about humility and mutual service) from themselves.

 

2. Knowledge Alone Will Not Lead to Happiness

The Lord does not approves of those who are content with mere knowledge and speculation in matters of religion. It is His will that when we know our duty, we put it into practice. Our practice then proves the sincerity and soundness of our knowledge. If we know these things and do them then we prove that we really do know them (see James 1:22-25).

In particular, the Lord requires the practice of humility. This is the test of whether we are genuine. It is not what mere knowledge we have of this teaching–though it may be appealing to contemplate it. The test is how we put it into practice in particular demanding situations. This is because it is more distasteful and trying to do this compared with merely contemplating the truth. Christ requires that practice follows on from knowledge in this particular matter.

This teaching about humility and mutual accommodation is very comprehensive. It contains many duties in itself which are required in a variety of situations and demanding circumstances.· Therefore Christ speak of what is understood by washing one another’s feet (John 13:14) as things (plural). We must know these things, and do them.

 

3. Obedience and Humility Contain Happiness

Although our obedience and practice deserves nothing, it still contains a blessing in itself. It is the way to such rich blessedness, that it compensate for all loss and disadvantage. This is Christ’s encouragement, we are happy if we do these things.

Although the humble person who accommodates themselves to serve others might seem to lose much in the world by doing so; blessedness makes up any loss. Attaining the practice of humility is blessedness in itself. It hides a person from many storms and much discontentment that sweep others away. It is said that we are happy if we do these things.

 

4. Lack of Obedience Leads to Misery

Proud people are so far from blessedness, that they are under a curse; especially if they know their duty and will not do it. This statement necessarily implies the opposite reality. If you know these things and do not do them, you are not blessed but cursed because it is a sinful omission (see James 4:17; Psalm 119:21).

 

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ turns many of our ideas about happiness upside down. Happiness lies more in seeking to please God and others than in pursuing moments of pleasure for ourselves. There is a simplicity in His teaching; it is not so much hard to grasp as hard to practice. The great challenge to us is whether we are prepared to humble and deny ourselves to follow His counsel.

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How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
26 Apr, 2019

In a sinful world it’s natural to be discontented with the way that things isn’t it? What’s wrong with wanting things to be better and how they ought to be? But discontentment is more often focussed on our personal circumstances and what we think we deserve. People can get a wrong idea of contentment as though it is pretending that things are not as they are. But this isn’t true contentment. Being spiritually content involves a full view of what is worst in our situation but still submitting to God’s will in it. Why? Because we are able to compare present realities with greater realities in the eternal purpose of God for us. Discontentment is far easier than contentment, that’s why we need to be armed against it.

As Andrew Gray notes, the apostle Paul calls contentment in all kinds of circumstances a secret (literally, a mystery) which is not easily attained (Philippians 4:11). Previously we have considered why You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness. We also need to know how to deal with discontentment when it arises and even seek to prevent it from rising.

1. What is Contentment?

The whole of time that has been, is or will yet be is only a single moment in comparison to eternity. What is our life, but a small part of that moment? Why then should someone anxiously complain about spending a part of a moment in enduring the most anxious and sad things that can befall them? What poor advantage is gained by discontentment and sorrow? It only renders a person more miserable. Heavenly-mindedness and contentment live and die together; they are two sweet companions, that always go together and cannot be divided.

Content literally means all-sufficient.  Thus the words may be attractively rendered in this way, “I have learned in every state…to be all-sufficient.  Proverbs 14:14  speaks in a similar way of how a godly man shall be satisfied from himself. There is a well-spring of everlasting consolation within the Christian, which makes them endure every anxious condition. “I have learned”, indicates the difficulty of attaining this mystery of divine contentment. Paul was once ignorant of this but now through the understanding and wisdom of God, he has full knowledge of it. “In every state”, indicates that no condition could put him wrong.

Contentment is a sweet and composed frame of spirit in relation to every anxious condition and circumstance we encounter. This grace and duty of contentment includes a holy delight and sweet serenity and calmness of spirit in every condition, even trials (James 1:2; Romans 5:3). It is clear that the Christian is required to be content (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5; James 4:7).

2. What Damage Results from Discontentment?

(a) It makes us unfit for spiritual activities

It is impossible for a Christian to praise or pray. Praise requires a composed frame of spirit (Psalm 58:7). In 1 Timothy 2:8 it is said that right prayer should be without wrath, not having any murmurings in the heart. Discontentment cuts off three ingredients of prayer: love, fervency, and faith. A discontented Christian cannot be burning with love but rather jealousy. Neither can a Christian exercise faith, because he has taken up so bad an opinion of God, that he cannot rest his confidence nor hope in Him. When people are poring over their present condition so much, they can be fervent about nothing except that being changed. It is certain, that nothing cuts the neck of prayer so much as discontent.

(b) It makes us open to temptation

Discontentment makes us altogether unable to resist temptations. It is impossible for a Christian to be a put sin to death when discontentment is being exercised. Prevailing sin, pride and all other lusts get great victory over such a person. A Christian may lose more by one hour’s discontentment under trials, than he can regain in many months. It is no wonder that temptations prevail because such a person is off their guard and their strength is gone.

(c) It makes us hardened

Discontentment results in lack of tenderness of spirit. Nothing cuts off spiritual sensitivity so much as discontentment. A discontented Christian does not act from the fear or love of the Almighty–the two great principles of tenderness of spirit. When they examined themselves they will find that anxiety and bitterness of spirit have made their hearts to die as a stone within them.

(d) It makes us undervalue God’s mercies

When a Christian meets with that which contradicts his preferences, he loses his esteem of everything previously bestowed on him. Jacob undervalues what he has in this way (Genesis 42:36). Nothing makes a Christian disrespect the most precious and excellent things of God more than discontent.

 

3. How Can We Overcome Discontentment?

(a) Through self-examination

Discontent comes from not exercising self-examination much. We are to be still and examine ourselves (Psalm 4:4). It is the best way to get submission and contentment in any condition. Self-examination has great influence on contentment because it considers accurately our own imperfections. Instead of complaining, we ask why should we complain (Lamentations 3:39)? Self-examination helps us understand the intention behind chastisement and its benefit. It helps us to submit patiently and adore the unsearchable wisdom of God towards us rather than fret against it (Proverbs 19:3).

(b) Through resolve

If we are resolved to bear and submit to any and every trial it has great benefit. When we are chastened we bless God because it is not worse with us. Afflictions often take us by surprise and so we faint in the day of adversity and prove our strength to be small (Proverbs 24:10).

(c) Through heavenly-mindedness

Paul had courage and constancy in affliction because he looked to the things that are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16 compared with verse 18). Drown the thoughts of your present misery in those precious depths of eternity. Behold so much in heaven that it might infinitely console and make up for all your losses here.

(d) Through looking to God

If we looked to God’s sovereignty and purpose in the trials we face we would be ashamed to dispute and murmur as much as we do. We would rather submit to Him (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 39:9; Isaiah 39:8). Do we dare to debate with the Almighty or force the supreme and absolute One to account for His ways?

(d) Through considering the brevity of time

Serious thoughts of the brevity of our life and of time will deal with discontentment. If someone knew they would only endure trials for an hour, or for ten days they might patiently submit. But it is not long before the small period of time between eternity past and eternity future will be swallowed up and there will be nothing but eternity.

(e) Through humility

Pride is the great predominant evil which brings contention (Proverbs 13:10). It is only by pride that we contend with God concerning His dealings with us. It is impossible for a Christian who is not humble to be content. Pride is one of the greatest opposites of being content in any condition.

 

Conclusion

Discontent involves murmuring and complaining against God. This prevents believing trust in God. It also prevents us benefiting from trials. Rather than being sanctified by them and sin being removed, discontentment only increases sin. We can overcome the spirit of discontentment as we focus faith on God and eternal realities. Contentment is learned through a painful and gradual process of experience and through dependence on God and His grace.

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You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
20 Jul, 2018

We all long for a genuinely peaceful satisfaction in life. Yet in our society of conspicuous consumption, discontent and wanting more and better seem to be valued more. Lifestyle gurus know this and they urge people to be content with who they are and what they have whilst still striving for their goals. Think positively they say, practice gratitude (to no one in particular) be proud of what you have achieved. But this isn’t real contentment because it depends on ourselves and our feelings. It’s a temporary and often imagined state. We need something that transcends not only our immediate circumstances but also ourselves and this brief changeable life. We were not made to live for ourselves or the things of time. We were made for God and for eternity. That’s why we will never be truly content without godliness.

This is what the Apostle Paul says. People make the great mistake of “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5). Some think that personal gain is highest achievement of this life. Even in spiritual things as well as the things of this life we can be entirely focussed on personal gain. They are using spiritual things to advance self. We can think that we are advancing in godliness but actually the whole activity is all about ourselves. Paul says that we need to know that gain is not godliness but rather “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). These two things go together and cannot be separated. Godliness is profitable for all things both in this life and the life which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). James Durham explains these points further in a series of sermons from which the following is extracted and updated.

 

1. What is True Contentment?

It leaves a person in quietness, calmness and composure of mind. They are so satisfied with God’s dealings that they think whatever they experience is best.

(a) It Involves Moderate Desires

Our inclinations, desires and plans in relation to ourselves and all the things of this world are moderated. This is the opposite of all inordinate desires for a change in our present lot. It keeps us from seeking “great things” for ourselves (Jeremiah 45:5). One who wants to be rich (1 Timothy 6:9) is the opposite of one who is content. This is because covetousness and contentment are opposed to each other (Hebrew 13:5).

Contentment is silent reverence for God’s way towards us. It restrains us from pressing inordinately after what we have or are able to acquire lawfully. Honest lawful labour is of course not opposed to contentment. We follow our calling as our duty rather than mainly to further our advantage or gain.

(b) It Involves Calm Submission to God’s Providence

It is opposed to fretful anxiety (Philippians 4:6 and Matthew 6:25). We are to follow the duties of our calling without being vexed or anxious about their success.

(c) It Involves Reverent Adoration of God’s Provision

Whether God provides little or much we are to be content with the things that we have (1 Timothy 6:8 and Hebrews 13:5).

(d) It Involves Tranquility of Mind Which Is Satisfied With God’s Dealings

Not only does it not fret against God’s dealings, it gives positive assent to them as being well satisfied with them. It is a sweetly serene frame of soul that makes a Christian say with the apostle, “I have all, I abound, I am full” (see Philippians 4:11-12 and 18; 2 Corinthians 6:8-10). Paul had as much contentment whether he had less or more of the things of the world.

 

2. How is Godliness Gain?

(a) It Extends to All Kinds of People

Its gain extends to individuals of every sex, age, rank, class, calling position and relationship.

(b) It Extends to All Kinds of Conditions

It is profitable in prosperity and in lack, making us always content in every condition. It is soundness to the bones in health and has an inward life and cheerfulness. In sickness and death it is eminently profitable. Its great gain and advantage beautifully blossom forth then, when all earthly comforts wither.

(c) It Extends to All Kinds of Activities

It is profitable in worship and the duties of our ordinary callings (Psalm 1:3).

(d) It Extends to This Life and Eternity

It has outward gain (so far as is fitting for themselves and those of their company). It always has inward gain through their secret converse with and walk before God (1 Timothy 4:8).

 

3. Why is There no Contentment Without Godliness?

If we look through the Scriptures, we will always find that it is the godly man that is the contented man. Godly Paul learned this great lesson and was taught this divine art. You can see from Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 6:3-4 how he arrived at this height. He could say “having nothing, yet possessing all things”. This is because contentment does not consist in the things we possess but in the right frame of mind. There is nothing that can put and keep us in such a right frame of mind except godliness.

(a) Godliness Shows Us the Emptiness of All Creature-Comforts

It sobers our spirit in pursuing creature-comforts saying to us to be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:9). It limits our desires and intentions that we may be content even though we do not have many thousands or this or that among the fine things in the world.

(b) Godliness Moderates Our Affections in Using the Things of This World

It keeps us from being anxious in seeking and pursuing after the things of the world. It makes us quiet and satisfied in using and enjoying them. Without contentment through godliness a person is both vexed and perplexed in seeking and enjoying without satisfaction. This is because they seek and expect more from these things than they find.

But the godly man weeps as though he did not weep, rejoices as though he did not rejoice. He buys as though he did not possess and uses this world without abusing it (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Godliness is the living water spoken of by our Lord (John 4:13) which when someone drinks they do not thirst again. It quenches those disquieting, gasping desires after the things of the world which all naturally have.

(c) Godliness Sets Our Affections on More Excellent Things

It takes our affections off these things and sets them on another more noble, excellent and durable object which alone can satisfy. There is no true contentment nor solid soul-satisfaction to be had except in God and looking to Him aright. Godliness takes us away from the empty and broken cisterns that can hold no water and leads us to the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2).

It makes us consider that the Lord has a holy sovereign hand in everything and teaches us to be quiet and content. It teaches us to pray, praise, believe, rest on God and trust in Him for deliverances from all difficulties. Now and then the godly have some sweet manifestations of God to their soul. These mightily and marvellously outlast the impressions that the lack of outward things make on their spirits (see Psalm 4:6-7). It is impossible for the mind to be quiet and content without having some satisfying object effectually offered to it. Only godliness does this. Even heaven could not make us content unless we had godliness (if it were possible for someone to be there without it). This is because without it the mind would not be adapted to the place.

(d) Godliness Gives Us Access to All the Promises

Access to all the exceeding great and precious promises makes us content. “Godliness” (says the apostle) “is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7). Suppose a godly man in difficulty to get his dinner or supper and how to get his family provided for and sustained. When the children begin to weep for bread in beginning to hunger, he has a sweet word of promise to support his mind. God has said that He will never leave nor forsake him in Hebrews 13:5-6. This verse contains five negatives in the original language to maximise assurance.

The words that follow are: “we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me”. Godliness looks to what God has said and no one except the godly can say that God has said such things to them. The promise is in some ways as meaningful and satisfying (perhaps more) as if they had the rhing itself in their hand. They can say boldly “the Lord is my helper” and “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and so quiet and content themselves. There is no condition the godly may be in without a promise for it.

Godliness gives access and right to the promise. Exercising godliness gives the promise (as it were) a new and fresh lustre. The godly rest satisfied in the promise and neither having nor not having disturb their peace and contentment. They know that if necessary this pain and sickness and this affliction or other will be removed and this or that need supplied. If it continues it will be for their best. This is in accordance with Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose”. What more is needed? The godly may take hold of the promise boldly, no one else has the right to do this. Godliness does not meri the promise but God has made it the way by which we receive it. If you love and desire contentment, love godliness and exercise yourselves to it in a serious way.

(e) Godliness Helps Us Put Sin to Death

Lack of contentment of mind arises from some sin within which has not been put to death, as James tells us (James 4:1). Where godliness is in exercise, it keeps down and subdues pride and restrains lust. When corruption is ready to rise and fretting, impatience and discontent break out, godliness makes us say with Eli “It is the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:18). It makes us dare not give way to our corruption. The great thing that disquiets us is always something that is sinful. Godliness prevents or restrains that which leads to discontentment. It helps put sin to death and keep the mind calm.

 

4. Why is Contentment Necessary for Making Progress in Godliness?

The Holy Spirit joins these two things together to show that one helps and advances the other. A defect in either one is obstructive to the other. Those who are not exercised to godliness cannot have true contentment. Those who do not have contentment cannot advance in godliness. Will or can someone who is discontent pray effectually? It is impossible. It mars his liberty and boldness in prayer.

The discontented man cannot praise because praise flows from a satisfied mind and he lacks this. The discontented man cannot properly read, listen to sermons, or meditate because his mind is confused. Discontentment weakens the mind and makes us disinclined to and indisposed for godly exercise.

 

Conclusion

Look on and accept these two things as motives and helps to each other. Let them go hand in hand together. Neither of them will go alone, they must go together. Will I not then strive for contentment with my lot, whatever it may be? Will I not more than ever love and prize the connection between contement and godliness? Will I not through grace believe more thoroughly this great truth, that godliness with contentment is great gain? Let it stand as an eternal and unchangeable verity. Let it stand like a great and immovable rock in the midst of the sea against which the waves of the world’s contradictory, false and foolish notions beat and break themselves.

Special Offer on James Durham’s Collected Sermons

Durham’s sermons on The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness are included in a volume of his collected sermons. These have been published recently and are highly recommended. In an early sermon CH Spurgeon said, “If I had lived in his [Durham’s] time, I should never, I think, have wanted to hear any other preacher; I would have sat, both by night and day, to receive the sweet droppings of his honeyed lips” There are 61 sermons in this attractively produced volume and it runs to nearly 1,000 pages.  The usual price is £29.95 which already represents a discount but a further 10% is possible when purchasing using a code unique for readers of this blog. This makes the price £26.95 and the code is RST 18 when purchasing from James Dickson Books at this link.

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Who is Truly Blessed?

Who is Truly Blessed?

Who is Truly Blessed?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
17 Mar, 2017

It is not so long since “blessed” was nearly a good word gone bad in popular speak. It was more than a cliché for many with no great spiritual interest to announce on social media that they were #blessed. It was smug bragging about success thinly disguised as humility.  It gave the message that outward prosperity is true blessing. Perhaps people do feel as blessed as their Facebook status declares but have they understood that spiritual blessings are paramount (Matthew 5:3–5)? In reality there is no true blessing without godliness.

David Dickson draws this clear teaching from Psalm 1. This Psalm teaches that no ungodly person is blessed, only the godly (verses 1-2). This is proved by three reasons. The first is because God blesses the godly even in this life (and in every state of life) with grace to produce good works that profitable to themselves and others (verse 3). But all that the wicked do for making themselves happy, shall be blasted and found to be mere vanity (verse 4).

 

1. Only the Godly are Blessed

1. Blessedness is possible. Although sin and misery abound: blessedness may still be attained. God here pronounces some to be blessed.
2. Blessedness is only possible in God’s way. This psalm divides all men (within and without the visible church) into godly men (that seek to be blessed in God’s way) and ungodly men (who seek blessedness – but not in God’s way). They are all ranked in this way here.
3. Blessedness is defined by God alone. Only God can define who is blessed since He is the only one that can make someone blessed. He here pronounces the godly to be the blessed.
4. Blessedness and ungodly counsel cannot go together. The ungodly think themselves very wise in following the counsel of their own heart and of others like themselves so that they may be blessed. But this is not the way of the blessed man, he does not walk in “the counsel of the ungodly”.
5. Blessedness and sin will not go together. The ungodly obstinately continue in their course of sinning, but the blessed man (if he is overtaken in some sin) does not defend his sin, nor persist in it. He does not stand in “the way of sinners”.
6. Blessedness and irreligion cannot go together. The ungodly may go as far as to mock godliness as mere folly and scorn admonitions and reproofs. Yet the blessed man never hardens his heart so as to mock piety in others or instruction offered. He does not sit in “the seat of the scornful”.
7. Blessedness comes through Scripture’s counsel. The blessed man makes the Word of God in holy Scripture his counsellor concerning the remedy of sin and misery. This is the rule by which he walks until his blessedness is perfected. Scripture to him is a law for the obedience of faith which is fenced with supreme authority. It is “the law of the Lord”.
8. Blessedness comes through profiting from the Word. To the extent that a man is godly and blessed, he makes the Word of God the way of growing in communion with God through the Messiah, Christ. He makes the Word the matter of his chief delight and contentment. His “delight is in the law of the Lord”.
9. Blessedness comes from meditating on the Word. To the extent that a man delights in the law of the Lord, he studies in it on all occasions. He meditates in God’s law “day and night”.

 

2. Only the Godly are Blessed with Grace to Produce Good Works

The godly are blessed with grace to bring forth good works that are profitable to themselves and others in every condition of life.

1. The blessing of increased grace. To the extent that a man pursues holy communion with God by delighting and meditating in His Word, he will be fixed and furnished with the influence of grace from Christ. This will maintain spiritual life within him. “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water”.
2. The blessing of fruitfulness. The man that makes the Word of God his delight will be made fruitful in every good work, as opportunity is offered. He will be like a tree bringing forth fruit in due season.
3. The blessing of perseverance. This man shall be enabled to bear out a holy profession of his faith in, and obedience to God, in adversity, as well as in prosperity. “His leaf also shall not wither”.
4. The blessing of God’s favour. Whatever duty or service to God this man sets about, will not lack the help and acceptance nor success from God. Whatever he does will “prosper”.
5. These blessings do not belong to the ungodly. The ungodly man is destitute of all spiritual life (no matter what he may seem to be before the world) and a stranger to the fellowship of God’s grace. He is unfit for every good work and ready under great temptation to abandon his counterfeit profession of religion. He is cursed in all that he does because he is the opposite of what the blessed godly man is here said to be. “The ungodly are not so”.
6. The “blessings” of the ungodly are unreal. Whatever appearance of godliness, temporal prosperity, or hope of happiness the ungodly seem to have, it will be found only counterfeit. It will not stand him in good stead at all in his greatest need. The ungodly are like “the chaff” which the wind blows away.

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The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
27 Jan, 2017

This is the most rare and excellent jewel and the richest treasure ever yet heard of. It surpasses our capacity and understanding more than anything. If we had it, we would be guarded and kept by it in our hearts and minds. We would be guarded against all the fears and discouragements that encompass our souls like many enemies. Of all things, this is the very thing of which we have greatest need at such a time as this. It is the thing that can keep us best in all troubles. This treasure is a unique God-given peace that passes “all understanding”.

This is how Alexander Henderson describes the peace of God in a sermon on Philippians 4:6-7. While we may gain a full knowledge of the world with our intellect and understanding, we cannot do so with this peace of God, for it passes all understanding. If we get this peace of God, it will be a strong guard against all our enemies, both outward and inward. We have all this through Jesus Christ.

1. What Robs Us Of the Richest Treasure?

Henderson observes that Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we may obtain this peace. First, Paul tells us what we should not do: be anxious or “careful”. Anxiety is forbidden. He also makes clear what we should do, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. Finally, we have the promise the result of this (if we do it in the right way) will be that this all-surpassing peace of God will “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

Henderson makes it clear that when anxiety robs us of this richest treasure when we fail to commit the outcome of all events to the Lord. This doesn’t mean we should be careless about everything. We should rest in doing our duty. We must make careful plans and think carefully about what we ought to do. Yet we must not to be overwhelmed with worries and cares about the outcome of events. Rather, we must let our requests be made known to God by supplications with thanksgiving. When we do this, we may be secure, having this peace of God through Jesus Christ.

Henderson indicates that some of the main worries that concern us are regarding our nation: what will become of it? Others are concerned for their families and livelihoods. We may also have personal concerns for our own spiritual wellbeing.

2. What Helps Us Gain the Richest Treasure?

Prayer is also commanded. The best way for us to unburden ourselves of our anxiety about the success of anything and to commit the matter to God is to pray to God and join thanksgiving with prayer. Those who cannot unburden their anxieties on God are most unhappy.

(a) Pray

When God is beginning to do anything about which you ought to have concern then He is calling you to pray to Him and cast the burden off ourselves onto Himself. If we could learn to do so it would bring comfort. It is a pitiful thing to see men worn out in sorrow and in the depths of affliction and not to know so much as that there is a God to pray to, or that He is thus calling them to pray to Him. The natural man has no mind at all to pray; but the child of God should not do so.

Let us learn always to come to God and to make Him our resting-place. Let us always lift up our faces toward heaven to Him; for He is our King, our Lord, and our Husband. If we cast our care upon Him, He will care for us. Indeed, He must care for us if we rely on Him, for He is obliged to do so.

Surely, when we do not know what course to take or what to do but we see everything to be against us, then let us send up that winged messenger of prayer to heaven. It will not fail to bring help to us.

(b) Pray with Thanksgiving

There are three ways in which thanksgiving must be joined with prayer.

1. Thanksgiving for favours in the past. Everyone knows they are bound to thank Him for these. Otherwise it is evidence that we are altogether unfit and unprepared for prayer.

2. Thanksgiving for favours in the present. He who sets himself to pray in the Spirit, before
he has finished praying will find reasons for thanksgiving to God for some favour received at that time received. David begins many Psalms with many heavy and sad complaints but he ends many of them with joy, praises, and thanksgiving to God. This was not for things received in the past but for something received by him at that time.  Thanksgiving for present favour shows that our prayers are not mere lip-labour.

3. Thanksgiving for favours in the future. We should at least promise thanksgiving to Him for the benefits that we are to receive. If not it is evidence that our prayers are nothing else but hypocrisy.

Therefore, if you are praying to God for good success in your own particular concerns (including in the matter of your salvation or benefiting from the means of grace) or are praying for a blessing on Church and nation, let it still be joined with thanksgiving.

(c) Pray in Everything

Before, he said “be careful for nothing.” Now, he says, ” In everything let your requests be made known to God.” One is contrary to the other; one speaks of nothing, the other of everything. One is of the same extent as the other. Christ will have us to be concerned about the smallest thing but to know that it is He principally who cares for it, for us. He will have us show our care by praying to Him for it. If it is a great matter that you stand in need of, then recommend the matter to God, and resolve that you will wait on Him for the success. I will only do the duty that the Lord requires of me, indeed, I will not leave off doing my duty until it is done, even in the smallest matters.

Luther would never have achieved the Reformation he did, if he had not laid this foundation. He uttered speeches to that same purpose. Some thought that they were uttered rashly and unadvisedly, but he spoke them in confidence and boldly. On one occasion he said: ‘The Pope will sooner be converted, and turn from his ways than I will quit this’.

If you are troubled about the success of small matters, consider that God is directly calling on you to recommend the matter to Him by prayer. Do your duty in it, and recommend the success of it to God. Thus you will find the peace of God possessing your soul.

O if we knew this, what a communion there is between God and the Christian soul! They cry to him, ‘Abba, father, my father’. The child will not cry more to the father or mother than when it wants to have anything from them or when anything troubles them. We should see a continual necessity laid on us of elevating our souls to God in prayer.

(d) Pray, Making Your Requests Known to God

We cannot inform Him any better concerning our condition than He knows already. Neither can we move Him to grant us anything which he did not intend to give us before. But Scripture speaks about God in this way because the Lord has ordained us to use this means of prayer as though we were to inform Him of our case, or move Him to grant anything to us. We should be as diligent in prayer as if it were so. God’s promise and decree that He will do us good should not discourage but rather encourage us to pray.

Some object that if the Lord has resolved to do anything He will do it whether I pray to Him or not. That is true, so He will. But when we see the Lord working for us, we must go out and meet Him. If He has ordained any good thing for you, He will likely stir you up to cry to Him for it.

3. Can We Estimate the Value of the Richest Treasure?

This peace of God transcends the ability of the mind, judgment and understanding of all men to comprehend it. It is the most excellent thing possible. None can trouble those with whom the Lord is at peace. We may say that we will have peace, but unless the Lord grant it unto us, we will not get it ; and therefore we may not trust in man, nor in the arm of flesh, to get peace by them; but we must only trust in God for it.

The natural man knows nothing at all of this peace. If you speak about this peace, faith (the mother of this peace) and joy (its companion), it is a foreign language to him. He cannot conceive of what it means. This peace also passes the understanding of the regenerate man and the child of God even after his new birth. He comprehends something of this peace and it brings him to consider what it is, but yet he cannot tell what it is, for all that.

When a man comes to the sea, he knows that what he sees it is the sea even though he cannot see the whole sea from the one side to the other. This is like God Himself, it may be seen that He is great, glorious, wise, powerful etc. but none can tell how much He has of every one of these attributes. When the child of God gets any measure of this peace, he cannot imagine what he has got of it, it is so far beyond his expectation. No one understands this peace of God, not even those who have it.

They cannot express it, but they know well enough when they have this peace. If you ask anyone what bodily health is, perhaps he cannot tell you what it is or how great a benefit it is. He knows well enough when he lacks it, however, and then he knows its worth best. It is the same with the peace of God in the soul.

Peace of Conscience

There is also a peace that comes through the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. We get this also through Jesus Christ. There is a peace also when all the powers of our soul are in harmony to serve God. We have this through Jesus Christ also. We must therefore first of all be partakers of Christ, and then we will assuredly be partakers of this peace.

Something of this peace is to be had even here in this life. Seek after it and never content or at rest until you get it in some good measure. If this peace had not begun in your soul, still seek after it through Christ and you will find that it comes in to take possession of your souls.

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How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble

How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble

How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble
Richard Cameron (1647-1680) was a famous Covenanter preacher during the times of persecution, preaching to thousands at religious meetings in the fields, known as conventicles. He was killed by government dragoons at Airds Moss, Ayrshire and his supporters went on to form the Cameronian Regiment.
1 Jul, 2016

​Calm confidence during a storm of outward troubles is true strength. Many think it is virtually impossible. Yet by grace, Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11). We live in a culture of discontent. People have their hearts tied to things in this world and when the world is thrown into turmoil so are their hearts. It is not outward troubles themselves that disquiet our heart. The root cause is within not without. How do we get our hearts settled and fixed so that they can be calm during times of trouble?

Richard Cameron (1647-1680) addressed this in his last sermon before he died. The outward troubles that he and his fellow Covenanters faced were intense. Many were anxious or cast down. Persecution was fierce against those who would not conform to the government take-over of the Church in Scotland. Faithfulness meant suffering through fines, imprisonment, banishment and execution. What text of Scripture could Cameron choose as a motto to leave with the afflicted remnant?

It was brief but contained profound depths: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Many are the mysteries that are contained and wrapped up in the shortest sentences of Scripture”, he said. These brief words forbid us from being disquieted and murmuring against providence – “Be still”. These words also command us to have a fixed and composed heart: “know that I am God”. We are to do this because God is still God and worthy of all our confidence.

 

1. Why We Lack Inward Calm During Outward Troubles

(a) Love of the world

This makes us fear that we will lose all our possessions. But if we can say with Paul, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14) then we learn the lesson “I have learned in whatsoever state I am…to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

(b) Fear of men

We may have much love to Christ and faith.  Yet, if the fear of men prevails over the fear of God we will be greatly cast down during times of outward troubles.  The fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

(c) Lack of acquaintance with God

Looking to God and seeing His hand in all our troubles would greatly help to still our minds in every difficulty (Job 22:21).

(d) Unbelief

When the disciples were tossed in the sea their minds were as much troubled as the waves. This was because they were of little faith.

(e) Impatience

“Some folk’s minds will be in a strange hurry”. They have an excessive, impatient desire to see God fulfil His promises.

 

2. Why We Must Not Lack Inward Calm During Outward Troubles

(a) It does no good

“What can you profit yourselves, or the Church of Christ either, by your sinful carefulness or by your unbelieving anxiety?” We must not be disquieted about worldly things. David rebukes his soul for being cast down and disquieted within him (Psalm 42:5).

(b) It Involves quarrelling with and murmuring against God

“Be still,” that is, “Beware of murmuring against Me,” says the Lord.

(c) Fretting because of evil doers is foolish

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). Beware of envying the wicked, though everything appears to prosper with them. “Be still,” says God, “for I sit in heaven and am laughing at them all the while.”

(d) Because God is God still

He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. We need to have high and honourable thoughts of Him. How often our thoughts about Him change!

 

3. What Inward Calm Involves

(a) A fixed mind and heart

Our mind and heart is to be fixed on God (Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 112:7).

(b) A composed spirit

This too requires submission to God.

(c) Past, present and future submission to God and His ways

He that has submission has need of much patience. We should not limit or set bonds to Him, but let Him take His own way in granting that which is most upon our spirits, and fulfilling the desires of our hearts.

submission…will make the soul triumph and rejoice in persecution, famines, and in every trial and tribulation whatsoever.

 

4. How We Can Have Inward Calm At All Times

(a) Stand in Awe of God

Strive to have much of the awe and dread of God on your spirits. “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,” and then follows the promise, “And he shall be for a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13). O that you would set the Lord always before you! If we looked to the greatness, sovereignty and power of God, and could say, “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge,” we would have a composed spirit.  If you are against God He will be against you also.

(b) Beware of sinning or complying with anything sinful

“Stand in awe, and sin not…and be still” (Psalm 4:4). The man that has a good conscience has a good bed to sleep on, were it in a bog, moor, or mountain in the open field exposed to wind and weather. But there is no getting free from a guilty conscience. An evil conscience is never without fears. Many folk venture on sin to get outward peace and quiet, but by getting that they forfeit inward peace and tranquillity of mind.   It is true when in providence a man with a composed heart is cast here and there, he thinks that this will ruin him. But when the confusion is past, and he is come to himself, he finds himself better or at least as well as he was before.

(c) Commune with your heart

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). A man that is not talking or communing with himself, either concerning his state or condition, cannot be right.

We must begin and commune with our heart concerning ourselves, and then about the providences of God, and say, “Does this dispensation come from God?” Then, says the soul, “Will God hurt me or do me wrong? No”. If a providential dispensation comes on us before we commune with our hearts, it will be ready to cast us on our backs. But let us trace it back to its first appearance, and examine our hearts about it, and hold our grip, that we may get to the end. Though it seems terrible, yet it may be of great advantage  to our soul, and so there may be great calm in the mind all the time.

(d) Strive to have faith in exercise at all times

The least faith in exercise has more strength than thousands of men and armies!… If you have any, use the little you have, and you may get more, and this will tend much to establish and compose your heart in an evil time.

 

Conclusion

This inward calm is of great benefit. “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7). If our heart is fixed on God “evil tidings” will not move us completely.  We must still look to God for assistance and direction as to how to respond to providence. Yet a pleasant life during such outward troubles is possible with this fixedness of heart. It helps us to praise God and pray to him aright. This sermon is of great value and worth reading through entirely. Cameron expresses the brightest hopes for the future of the Church in Scotland. He also anticipated the end of persecution eight years later. His final words in preaching before he died three days afterwards are well worth weighing:

be patiently waiting on God, and…beware of grudging, murmuring, despondency, fearfulness and disquiet of mind.

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