Is the Church Going to Drown?

Is the Church Going to Drown?

Is the Church Going to Drown?
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.
28 Apr, 2017

The recent facts of the Scottish Church Census are stark. Some call it a crisis. It observes steep decline in attendance. Mainly ageing congregations are mostly led by ageing ministers. Some may query the definition of church and make qualifications and caveats about statistics. Yet it still makes sombre reading and seems to measure a deluge of secularisation making further tidal advances. How far will it go? What will things look like in 10 years time? When we quantify things in spiritual rather than numerical decline there may be even greater cause for concern. But we need to take God’s perspective rather than merely heed the statistician.

It is just such a perspective that we get in Psalm 93. As David Dickson observes, it is a Psalm for the comfort of God’s people against the multitude and power of their enemies. Their enemies often seem likely to overflow, devour and drown the Church. Yet the Church has its defence, comfort and victory in the Lord of glory. We are to draw comfort from praising God. He is the great governor of the world, unchangeable and eternal constantly guiding the world by His power and wisdom (verses 1-2).

The opposition of the of the enemies of the Church is compared to the growing flood or the raging sea (verse 3). Yet the Psalmist declares the glory and might of God in opposition to their power (verses 4-5).  These truths are applied, showing how we ought to respond if we desire such comfort in believing (verse 5).

 

The Church’s Fears

The Church fears that she is likely to be overflowed as with a deluge by a multitude of powerful enemies. She bemoans these to God in verse 3.

1. They are Real Fears

It is no surprise to see the world rising up tumultuously to overthrow the Church like a deluge coming on them to drown and devour everything. It is no surprise to hear enemies threatening destruction to the Church like the noise of flood waters coming down the mountains after rain, from which there is no escape. The floods have lifted up their voice and their waves.

2. The Best Way to Deal with Such Fears

The best way to counter threatenings and fears is with God. We must lay them before the Lord that He may answer them. This is what the Psalmist does here, saying “the floods have lifted up, O Lord”.

 

God is Mightier than All that the Church Fears

The Psalmist contrasts the power of God with the boasting, malice and power of the enemies. God’s power is far above that of the Church’s enemies. He is more mighty in defending the Church than the enemy is in opposing it.

1. Only Heavenly Help and Comfort will Calm Our Fears

Only heavenly help and comfort from above is able to calm our fears here below in times of persecution and fear of  enemies. “The Lord on high” (verse 4) is contrasted with the roaring of the floods and waters dashing against the Church.

2. God is More Powerful than the Church’s Enemies

We can neither glorify God nor comfort ourselves against the power of the Church’s enemies unless we exalt the Lord’s power above them all: “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters”.

3. God is Above All that We Fear

The Lord is above everything that terrifies us. He is able to restrain them as He pleases and by His power terrify those that terrify His Church: “The Lord is mightier than the noise of many waters” and “the mighty waves of the sea”.

 

Conclusion

The Psalmist also applies these truths concerning the Lord’s power and good will to defend His Church. Since the Word of the Lord is sure and true in itself, we should acknowledge it to be sure.  We should set our seal to it, as the Psalmist does here in saying that God’s “testimonies are very sure”. Another application is that if we wish to have the benefit of the protection promised here we must strive to be holy.

1. Scripture Testifies to Itself

Whatever is said in Scripture needs no external proof. It is God’s declaration and whatever it declares is true. His promises are therefore referred to here as His testimonies.

2. Scripture Will Never Deceive Us

No one can ever be deceived in believing the truth of the Scriptures or the Lord’s testimony within it.  When we have God’s Word our minds can rest at peace, because His “testimonies are very sure”.

3. The Lord’s Presence is the Church’s Greatest Blessing

The strength and happiness of the Lord’s people is that they are the Lord’s habitation and place of residence. God’s Church and people are dedicated and consecrated to Him, His holy house. The temple was only a type and shadow of this.

4. God will be Sanctified by All that Draw Near Him

Any who desired to enjoy the preservation and privileges promised to the Church must strive after holiness. This is also the duty of the members of the Church, holiness becomes this House.

5. These Duties and Blessings Belong to the Church in All Ages

The dignity, duty and privileges of God’s people are perpetual. Consecration, holy affections and conduct and and the removal of sin and misery in particular do not belong unto any time or age. Rather, they are for all that strive to be approved of God, protected and made blessed by God in all times and ages, in all places and company, all the days of their life. Holiness is becoming to God’s House for ever.

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When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
3 Feb, 2017

There may be times when your heart aches with sorrow in particular circumstances. A new turn of events now makes it to throb with grief. It may come through mourning for loss or dealing with affliction and trials. Perhaps other perplexing and painful events in providence leave you in numb speechlessness. One wave follows another. Sometimes the future outlook looks bleaker still for Church and nation. Such experiences are well known to God and the Scriptures contain the strengthening words we need.

Jeremiah 45 contains a message from God directly to Baruch who was seeking to serve Him faithfully. He knew Baruch’s thoughts and pain; Baruch was saying to himself that the Lord had “added grief to” his “sorrow”. He was saying: “I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest”.  Besides all the present sorrows and afflictions with the prophet Jeremiah in prison and Baruch in hiding more judgment was coming with more sorrow.

This chapter is expounded by the Covenanter minister Michael Bruce (1635 – 1693). Bruce well knew what affliction was. After only a few years as pastor of Killinchy in Northern Ireland he was, along with hundreds of other ministers, ejected from the Church by the government. He continued to preach in barns and woods, usually at night, and then to larger crowds in the fields. He was forced to flee to Scotland to avoid capture where he continued to preach in the fields. He was wounded when captured in 1668 and then sentenced to be exiled to Tangier, Morocco. While imprisoned in London he continued to preach. His sentence was changed to a place of exile that he preferred and he chose Killinchy. He was able to preach here but also travelled to Scotland to preach in the fields. He was “of extraordinary zeal for the glory of God and the good of souls; much given to meditation and secret prayer: a thundering, broken-hearted, and most affecting preacher”.

 

1. When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

It is as if the Lord had said to Baruch, “I know your condition well enough, you are a poor man, lying under many burdens. New ones are now added to your former burdens. You were lying under former sorrows, and now new sorrow is come to you. You are full of heaviness and grief. I know your situation you are likely to faint under trouble. I know you are a poor, weary one who finds no rest. Therefore go Jeremiah, and tell Baruch that this is his situation.

This shows us that the people of God may meet with griefs and many old griefs, yet their circumstances may mean they meet with many new griefs on the back of the old ones. They have new sorrows on the back of old sorrows. If this is your experience do not resent it because this has been the lot of God’s people in former times. This great and godly man Baruch had new griefs added to his former sorrows. Do not take umbrage, though the Lord deals so with you, either in your own particular situation or concerning the work and people of God in general. The Church of God had enough sorrow before, yet God has added new griefs to our former sorrows and is daily adding them. Still I say, we may not resent this. What if God should do to us as to Baruch and God’s people at that time, what could we do but submit to His will?

Those people had enough sorrows from their rulers etc. Jeremiah and Baruch had enough sorrows: Baruch was in hiding and Jeremiah in prison, expecting death.  There was enough outward sorrow whatever inward, spiritual comfort and approval from God they had in being faithful to Him, yet the Lord adds new sorrow to their sorrow. A terrible toll would be taken on their nation and Church. If God would do so for our iniquities, we most justly deserve it at His hand. Our iniquities have separated between Him and us. When we add iniquity to iniquity then He must add grief to our sorrows. Therefore, if it should please the Lord to do so, whether in your particular situation or the land or Church’s condition, you must not resent it. God is just and He has righteous reasons why He should do so to us and more also.

 

2. Grief Added to Your Sorrow by God

Sorrow and grief do not come from chance and fortune but are all from God. The Church acknowledges this in Lamentations 3:32 make it the basis of her hope in God. “Though he cause grief yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his tender mercies”. She saw that He had caused all her grief and sorrow and therefore she promises to herself a blessed release from her present trouble and affliction.  It is a great benefit to see that the Lord is the cause of all our griefs (Amos 3:6).

I will tell you why folk should see that the Lord is the cause of all cases of misery. He brings it about, none of these things could come about without Him: not even the vilest persecutor. It is the Lord that causes all grief and sorrow, and if you saw God in all that troubles you, it would quiet you. When you see God as the cause of all your grief, it will cause you to cease from murmuring at the agents of your grief. When folk do not see God as the cause of their grief, they fret at evildoers. But to fret at them is altogether unlawful (Psalm 37:1). When folk see God as the cause of their grief, it makes them search into the reason why He contends with them. But when folk do not see God as the cause of all their sorrow and grief, they only recognise enemies not themselves. If they see the Lord’s hand in all their sorrows and grief, it would make them sit down quietly under all their griefs and sorrows. They would say with Eli, “lt is the Lord, let him do what seems good in his sight” and with Hezekiah, “Good is the word of the Lord”.

A sight of God in all your sorrow and grief raises your soul to hope for a release, as the Church in Lamentations 3:32. The Church says (in effect), “I know that God is the cause of my grief and sorrow, I am sure of help and relief, and if I am sure that He causes my grief, then I am sure that He will have compassion. If I am sure that it is He then I am sure that I am in the hands of a tender-hearted corrector, for I know that the Lord will have compassion, for He has multitudes of mercies. He will have compassion not according to my condition but according to the multitude of His mercies”. Now, some of you may be complaining that he has added grief to your sorrow in your public, private and family concerns. But do you know who has done it?

 

3. How to Respond When Grief is Added to Your Sorrow

Baruch says, “I fainted in my sighing, and find no rest”.  There is nothing that troubles the people of God, or makes their condition to be sad but He knows and notices it. Why? Because He has done it. O how sweet, when the Christian can say, my God knows it and He notices it. He knows what I am doing and what my situation is. He knows how I am and how I conduct myself under it.

Is it not great comfort to the child when it knows that the tenderhearted mother knows its condition? It is great comfort to an afflicted friend to have their sympathising friend know their condition. It is great comfort to the afflicted when anybody notices their condition. Would it not be a great encouragement to us in all our griefs added to our sorrows that our God knows them and notices them? Let that bear up your hearts, O believers, both for your own particular sorrows and those of the Church. He knows all your fainting, sighing and wearying; He notices it all. The Lord says to Moses “I have seen the affliction of my people Israel, and I am come down to deliver them”.

God knows all of the behaviour of His people in all their various circumstances. He knows how they conduct themselves, whether mournfully or otherwise. He knows what they are saying, whether they are speaking submissive or complaining language. Since God therefore knows, take heed how you conduct yourselves, for sometimes extreme sorrows will make folk lose sight of God. When they lose sight of Him, they think He does not see them and so they will rave in expressions and not know what they say. But God knows how every one of you conducts yourself under your griefs and sorrows; He knows what every one of you says. Take good heed to your conduct while under the cross therefore, lest you provoke the Lord to lengthen out your affliction longer than He intended to.

 

Conclusion

Bruce’s exposition of Scripture gives a different perspective on our situation and sorrow. It takes seriously the reality and depth of the grief. Yet, he shows that rather than leading us to despair, grief upon sorrow should reassure us that God is working in our experience for a purpose. This offers true and lasting hope to the downcast which superficial self-help slogans never can. The One who has brought the sorrow will give the strength to endure it and be transformed by it, as was Paul’s experience (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). As John Flavel put it, writing about the mystery of providence:

it is the duty of believers to observe all the performances of God’s providence for them, especially when they are in difficulties.

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10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
6 Jan, 2017

What are we to do with grace? That question ought to be more prominent in our thinking than it often is. Perhaps we think of receiving and possessing grace more than making use of it. Grace sets a sinner free – but free to do what? Sadly, many use that freedom in order to serve the sinful nature (1 Peter 2:16). Grace makes the sinner free to be a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:18). We must not, of course, turn grace into works and depend on our own endeavours. But idleness and carelessness are certainly not God’s purpose. We are meant to be busy and active with grace to the glory of God and the eternal good of ourselves and others.

John Kid (d. 1679) was a field preacher who emphasised making best use of grace. In one sermon he stresses that God has given a stock of grace for us to use. “Exercise your faith, and exercise your hope. It is not for yourself only you have got it: it is given you to benefit others; make the countryside the better for it. O trade with it”.   Frequently hunted down for preaching “illegally”, his ministry was to last only a few years. Kid was executed in 1679 together with another preacher, John King. In his last days he suffered through extreme methods of torture that mangled one of his legs. The last words of his written testimony are significant, especially as he acknowledges that he was in such pain that it was difficult to compose anything or speak publicly on the scaffold.

I am a most miserable sinner, in regard of my original and actual transgressions. I must confess they are more in number than the hairs of my head. They are gone up above my head, and are past numbering, I cannot but say as Jacob said, I am less than the least of all God’s mercies, yet I must declare to the exalting of His free grace that, to me who am the least of all saints is this grace made known, and that by a strong hand, and I dare not but say He has loved me, and washed me in His own blood from all iniquities, and well is it for me this day, that ever I heard or read that faithful saying, that Jesus Christ, came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

His sermons dwell on grace to a great extent and so it is significant that he also said:

I am the most unworthiest that ever opened his mouth to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ in the gospel… I did preach Christ and the gospel in several places of this nation; for which I bless Him (as I can), that ever such a poor obscure person as I am, have been thus privileged by Him, for making mention of His grace as I was able.

It is a long yet edifying testimony but the final words are especially relevant to the subject of grace and its widest benefit.

The Lord is my light and life, my joy, my song, and my salvation; the God of His chosen be my mercy this day, and the enriching comforts of the Holy Ghost keep up and carry me fair through, to the glory of His grace, to the edification of His people, and my own eternal advantage. Amen.

The following points are extracted and updated from a sermon preached on Galatians 5:1 in July 1678.

 

1. Make Best Use of Faith

Make your calling and election sure. Pray and pray in faith, and yet know that prayer will not save you. Many good words will not save you nor do what is necessary.

 

2. Make Best Use of Hope

Make best use of your hope and pray more and more so that your hope is not marred. When Christians do not make best use of their hope it hinders them from seeing their privileges. Many do not care whether Christ stays with, or goes from Scotland. They are not troubled about it: hope is greatly decayed.

 

3. Make Best Use of Heavenly-mindedness

This grace is greatly decayed amongst us. It was not so when God began with you. It was so with you that the tears would have been seen to trickle down your cheeks. Then opportunities were taken for prayer and what was spoken was for God. But now this is laid aside in great measure laid by. We speak now of our own worldly things: we think our own thoughts. And since it is so, what wonder is it that the Lord disclaim us? We do not walk with God, nor are right in heart with Him.

Are we then a thriving land or people? It is not evident that our practice differs little from the practice of wicked men on His holy day? His day is not made best use of and no wonder you do not experience your privileges. Are you looking within the suburbs of heaven? Are you reading and praying with your hearts engaged? O what a desirable thing is it to have your hearts in heaven: to
be heavenly as God is, to see Him face to face, and to see Him as He is.

Remember that a holy God is taking notice of you: how you speak and hear. Resolve to walk in a more holy way and say: “This will be my work in future”. Are you not ashamed that a poor lass or lad has made more progress and profited more in Christianity in one year, than you have done in twenty (some of you in thirty) years? Oh, that it should be so and yet not laid to heart by you.

 

4. Make Best Use of Humility

We do not make progress in humility but all mind our own things like Baruch (Jeremiah 45:5). Yet it was not a fitting time to seek after these things. It is a more fitting time to endeavour after abasement and humility – this is more suitable to the times. The humble man that abases himself to the dust, is the man with whom the Lord delights to dwell. He dwells with the humble and contrite in heart; the man that is taken up with God and heaven.

 

5. Make Best Use of Sincerity

We exhort you to be sincere as with the apostle Paul to the Philippians. He desires that they “may be sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ (Philippians 1:10). A godly man in our land who was one in a thousand [thought to be William Guthrie] once said that he had been studying sincerity for many years, yet he acknowledged he did not know what it was. A sincere man is making best use of his privileges in the right way. It would be good if we were conscious of not making best use of them: but what can we expect from God, while we do not make best use of them. Try and search your own selves, and be not reprobate (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Be acquainted with God, abide nearer to Him, know more of His matters, and be ready every moment to be in God’s matters. The soul that abides near God, will be constantly examining itself; it will constantly be laying hold on God by faith. Each moment he will allow no beloved except Jesus Christ. Abide near Him, that the power of His death and virtue of His resurrection may come, and enable you to make best use of your privileges. Let sin, every lust and abomination that makes you unlike Him be put to death. Seek to have sin slain so that you may live, die, and rise again, as He did. Nothing will satisfy such a soul except more of God’s ordinances. Prayer and preaching will be empty, if Christ is not there. You should cry out, “O to be like Him!” Those that are in closest fellowship with Him, enjoy their privileges and are nourished by the ordinances. Nothing please such a soul except that.

 

6. Make Best Use of Stability

What are you to stand for? What is it to go on in the strength of God the Lord? Folk these days are given to flinch in many things. When a steadfast man stands or keeps his ground, however, the more trials and difficulties he meets with, the more he grows. They do not put him not one step back but he prevails over them. Thus, he improves his steadfastness. Mark your ground before, or else a trial or temptation will soon cast you on your backs. It did so with David and Peter. Improve your steadfastness still more when many are going off both to right and left-hand extremes. Improve stability so that you will not turn from the right way of the Lord.

 

7. Make Best Use of Single-mindedness

If we would be justified and sanctified, we must be single-minded. We must be like Joshua who said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:13). Although the rest go on
following a bad course, serving their own lusts and the world, yet (he says) I and my family have resolved to serve the Lord. One or another will prove stable in their resolutions, when another turns aside. Many in Joshua’s days went wrong when he kept the right way.  The times in which our lot is cast call for single-mindedness. Noah walked with God, and it is said that was “a perfect man in his generation”. Enoch walked with God; and it is said, “he was not because God took him.”

 

8. Make Best Use of Self-Examination

Try yourselves. We have taken an easy way now, we are not exercised in this duty. Men and women have abandoned it and it is now many years since it was rightly practised. You must examine
your state and see: whether you are in the faith or not, whether you are following hard after God or not.  Try whether you are in a thriving condition, following the Lord and advancing in Christianity. See if you are putting sin and corruption to death. Lay yourselves in God’s balance. Deal with yourself impartially as before God. The grace of self-examination has become very rare
in these days. We exhort you to weigh yourselves before God.  There are many may have the root of the matter in them, and yet things are not right between God and them. Exercising grace will keep things right but merely possessing grace will not keep you right if you are not assisted by exercising it.

 

9. Make Best Use of Self-denial

Jesus Christ Himself taught the lesson, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). What things do you deny yourselves in? He that
will not deny himself for Christ cannot be His disciple.

 

10. Make Best Use of Dependence

Let your souls depend on God. Though the mountains were removed and cast into the midst of the sea and though the fig tree should not blossom, yet truly we will  trust in the Lord, and joy in the God of our salvation who rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth. Will you wait, and wait on? Do you believe that God has power and that the God of Jacob will be your refuge? Dependence on God will make the Christian suffer the loss of all things. Say, the Lord is on my side, I shall not be moved. He is my strength and my saving health — my rock and strong tower. I trust in Him, and therefore I shall stand fast, and not fall. Depend on God, that He may clear up your sky a little. Depend on God with your souls, and that will make you make best use of all that happens in providence. Fix yourselves on God. Take Him as He has offered Himself in the promises of the gospel.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

There is a very readable biography of John King together with his co-martyr John Kid. This was recently authored by Maurice Grant. It is warmly commended and available from the Scottish Reformation Society for £5.95.

Order from membership@scottishreformationsociety.org

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The Antidote to Discouragement

The Antidote to Discouragement

The Antidote to Discouragement
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
18 Nov, 2016

Many things may seem to conspire easily to cast us down. Discouragement is a temptation that robs us of our blessings and spiritual strength. How can we rise above our fears and concerns? The great danger is when discouragement dissuades us from prayer and makes God seem distant. God is the source of life, strength and hope and we are truly debilitated when not consciously trusting Him. When David was in the worst of circumstances – distressed, having lost everything and his life in danger – he encouraged himself in God (1 Samuel 30:6). This is the antidote to discouragement. But how do we apply it?

John Dickson (c.1629-1700) preached a sermon on this verse that gives valuable counsel. It is important to remember that it was preached by one suffering persecution to those suffering persecution. The distress they faced was not only hardship but also potentially losing everything, being imprisoned and executed.

Dickson was minister of Rutherglen. Almost as soon as Charles II came to the throne he was imprisoned for “seditious” sermons against the government. When he was removed from his charge by the government he continued his work by preaching in the fields, mostly at night. Hunted by government troops, he was eventually arrested in 1680. He was sentenced to imprisonment on the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. Yet, he also experienced spiritual blessing in fellowship with Christ in this dismal place. In fact he wrote various letters full of spiritual joy from prison.

The following is extracted and updated from Dickson’s sermon, which was preached at Little Govan in 1675. Dickson says that “God is the best foundation of encouragement for the people of God in time of distress. ‘God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in the time of trouble: we will not fear though the earth be removed’ (Psalm 46:1). I will not be afraid. Why? Because the Lord is the sure shelter of His church and people”. He gives three main helps for the discouraged to encourage themselves in God:

 

1. Look to God’s Gracious Dealings

O Christian, you must cast your back on your former and past experiences. Think on the way the Lord communicated His kindness and love to you, or think of His power exerted to advance your journey heavenward.

David encounters growing enemies and adversaries, namely Goliath who defies the armies of the living God. The armies of the living God are ready to faint for fear of him. David comes and ventures a strange attempt in order to condemn the adversaries and raise up his own spirit. What does he do? He says, “I will venture”. “O”, says the king of Israel, “you are but a stripling, what can you do?” “But”, says David, “I will venture, O king. I was feeding my father’s flock: and there came a lion and a bear; and I slew them both. And the Lord that delivered me out of the paws of the lion and the mouth of the bear, will also deliver me out of the hands of this uncircumcised Philistine”. This former experience was a declaration of the Lord’s regard for him. “Upon that”, he says, “I will venture my blood for him”.

Afterwards, he challenges Goliath. He said unto David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves?” And he cursed him by his god and said he you give him flesh to be meat to the beasts of the earth etc.  “But” says David, “hear me one word. You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the living God, whose armies you have defied”. He came in the strength of an old experience.

So, in a distressed condition, when the people of God are brought very low, they may yet insure themselves, and venture on difficulties by recapitulating former experiences. “There was once a day when Christ met with my soul and I was once obliged to say: ‘The Lord is my God’.  I will now venture, my life and all I have on that, if the Lord calls me to do that”. “I was once at such and such a communion, and His loving kindness broke in on my soul so greatly that I did not care for anything”. Reflect on that old experience. Look back to the one whom you have avouched to be your God in the past. Why may He not be your God now also?

 

2. Look to God

The people of God ought to relieve their spirits in distress in these days by casting their eyes on Him instead of all relations. He is your father, husband, elder brother and best friend. He is the sympathiser with His people in all their afflictions. What a privilege to be related in this way to the king of saints and the glory of the Church! Not only this but old experiences show that He is your own God. Take Him therefore in all the relations in which He is given to your soul. This will give great encouragements against all distress.

David greatly encouraged himself with a consideration of these relations, when he says: “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).  He encourages himself in this to bless and magnify the Lord.

 

3. Look to God’s Attributes

A view of the Lord in His divine attributes may help to hold up your soul, O believer. He is mighty to save, and to save you in all your distresses and complex difficulties. He is also infinite in counsel and can set your foot on a rock and establish your way before you. You cannot tell what will become of your own condition or the affairs of the Church of Christ.  Cast it all on an infinite God.  He sits at the helm of affairs, and steers the rudder and so points the ship wherever she is to go.

Even though we were overclouded with the greatest number of discouragements, yet God is the Lord.  Psalm 97 and Psalm 99 both begin: “The Lord reigneth”. They speak of the earth rejoicing, the people trembling and God’s hand lifted up. If you consider His attributes in the right way you will see His mercy in them. He pities those that fear Him as a father pities his children (Psalm 103:13).  Do you think He will put more on them than they are able to bear? He may lay troubles and trials on them but what does that matter? This is His way with the Church. What follows such trials? He relieves His people and delivers Jacob “out of all his troubles”. O, if we were rightly fortified against the distress of these times the children of God might have a pleasant life at this time. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” Let Him then give His kindness to His people and secure their right for them. It is God that justifies me you may say.

You are happy, O believers that a right to benefit from such a powerful and wise God. He is one that guides His own with His everlasting arms around them. As the walls are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord encompasses His Church. He that neither slumbers nor sleeps watches over her. I’ll tell you, that your faintness of spirit arises from your lack of faith.  “O ye of little faith, how long shall I be with you?” “When the centurion came to me”, says the Saviour about the condition of his servant, “I bade him go home, his servant would be healed. He did so, and found him whole at the set hour. But now, you doubt of my power and abilities. How long will you be without faith? If you had faith but as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea and it shall be done”. This seems to be the worst disaster that many Christians meet with – they will not venture their soul’s case on Him. Ye of little faith, why do you doubt?

Some Christians will venture their soul’s salvation on Him, but do not have confidence in Him concerning His Church and cause in the world. But do you not think He has an equal interest in both? Has he not promised to build the walls of his Jerusalem, and to put on the top stone with shouting, saying  “Grace, grace unto it?” There are no grounds to doubt that Antichrist and all his anti-Christian crew shall yet be brought under the feet of the living God. And all these anti-Christian doctrines now taught and applauded by men, shall yet be trodden under foot.

He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). He shall tread under His feet the nations, piercing unto their very heart with the soles of His feet, driving them to pieces, as a potsherd is broken to shivers. If you were acquainted with Him aright, you would have faith in this. Though we are under a cloud for a time by the present discouragements, what does that matter? We cannot mistrust the Lord, who has promised that He shall reign in spite of all His enemies.

There are glorious days coming O Christians when that which concerns Himself shall be accomplished. The days are coming when these poor despised people that are now weeping, sighing, sobbing, and disheartened shall be raised up. Poor mean-spirited folk with no faith in God think that religion consists entirely in sighing and drooping. But this does not matter; it is the responsibility of the people of God to look up to the captain of their salvation, who through suffering was made perfect. He has promised to do all things for you that have this sure benefit in Him.

David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Follow this example, and all shall be well.

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What is True Waiting on God?

What is True Waiting on God?

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

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

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

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

What is True Waiting on God?

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

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

1. God is Well Worth the Wait

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

2. Wait on God with Love

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

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

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

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

3. Wait on God with a Sense Your Need

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

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

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

5. Wait on God Constantly

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

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

6. Wait on God with Your Eye on Him

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

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Your Labour in the Gospel is Not in Vain

Your Labour in the Gospel is Not in Vain

Your Labour in the Gospel is Not in Vain
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.
24 Jul, 2015

Although we live in a comparatively barren generation spiritually, there may be opportunities of ripeness that we should seize. George Hutcheson says:

Ministers should not neglect such opportunities since they will not regain them easily.  He compares the condition of such people to fields already white to harvest.  They cannot neglect such a season without great damage and loss of grain.

White to Harvest is a free e-booklet by George Hutcheson that opens up John 4:35-38. He shows how a people may be ripe for the gospel. It is an updated extract from Hutcheson’s commentary on the Gospel of John. It contains much helpful instruction for those who desire to see the gospel flourish.

Even though we may see little success from gospel labours we can be encouraged that they may produce a spiritual harvest in the future.

The Lord sees fit in His deep wisdom not to let all His servants have either the same difficulties or success in their calling.  He lets some have hard work in preparing ground for Christ and sowing the precious seed. Yet these leave this world before any remarkable fruit of that work appears.  He may let others see very rich fruits from their labours in their own time. Thus, the prophets were sowers and the apostles reapers.  One laboured with little visible success the other brought in many, sometimes even with one sermon.

Those who labour faithfully in the Lord’s work may not experience much visible success. Yet they are neither disapproved of nor useless but are doing useful service in their generation.  They are working to help others who will reap the fruit of their labours. The prophets were sowers and the apostles entered into their labours and reaped the fruit of their sowing.

Christ said that the apostles were sent to reap where they had not laboured. Other men had laboured and they now entered into their labours (see John 4:37-38). This is how we must view the heritage of the Second Reformation. We do not need to engage in the hard toil of creating the foundations of reformation, we can simply make use of them in our own day. We have richly spiritual writings from men that have laboured in word and doctrine that we can also enjoy. If this is so the duty that lies on us in our generation is to seek fruit from this as far as we can. We also labour for a harvest to His glory, whether or not it is brought in during our time in this world.

White to Harvest

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White to Harvest by George Hutcheson opens up the way in which a people may be ripe for the gospel. He explains and applies the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in from John 4:35-38. It is of particular relevance to those who labour to see souls brought to Christ. It will also benefit all who desire the gospel to flourish. Ministers labour in comparatively barren times today but there is encouragement here that their work is not in vain. It is an updated extract from George Hutcheson’s highly regarded Commentary on the Gospel of John.

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The Future Transformation of the World

The Future Transformation of the World

The Future Transformation of the World
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.
3 Jul, 2015

Psalm 22 ends with a prophecy of the increased glory of the kingdom of Christ in this world. It will encompass “all ends of the earth” (v27). A previous post looked at these words. In his Commentary on the Psalms, David Dickson comments upon verses 29-31 also showing the full extent of this transformation.

1. Kings, rulers, and magistrates will have no reason to be jealous of Christ’s kingdom and His governing nations. Those who embrace Jesus Christ retain their places, honours, riches, and all the lawful benefits of their welfare in this world (or “fatness”).  They will also partake of the delicacies of the Lord’s house. They will satisfy their souls so much that they will esteem His gospel their most choice feast. They will bless God for His consolations. This is promised to all Christ’s true subjects who are in high place. “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship”.

 

2. The highest condition in this world will not be hindered by obeying Christ but rather helped for the benefit of the true believer. Believers will find relief even if they are in the lowest condition in which they can possibly be on earth. They will also find comfort and that Jesus Christ makes up for all that they lack.  They will  fall down and worship their rich and bountiful Lord. “All that go down to the dust shall bow before Him”.

 

3. Whoever will not come to Christ to be saved by Him will perish. Those that come to Him must have their salvation maintained by Him. For “none can keep alive his own soul”.  This is the proper work of Jesus who is the only Saviour.

 

4. Not every individual in every nation and kingdom will be converted to Christ. Yet so many people  from all ranks and all nations will be converted that it will make Christ’s power and sovereignty evident. He is able to conquer subjects to himself as He pleases. He will have enough to continue His kingdom and a succession of His worshippers from one generation to another. For “a seed shall serve Him, it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation”. He will take little account of the rest, i.e. such as He does not convert.

 

5. There may seem to be little evidence from age to age of these prophecies and promises being fulfilled. Yet the promise and prophecy of Christ’s kingdom being multiplied will be fulfilled. Those who will receive the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness by faith in Him will come. They will declare this righteousness which is by faith. They will declare God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises to another generation. “Unto a people that shall be born”.

 

6. God’s glory is manifested by the whole work of redemption. It is also manifested in converting souls, comforting souls and spreading the doctrine of righteousness. From age to age this will be declared to be the work of God Himself. He does this work by the people and means that He uses. They will declare to their children and successors that God has done this. That is that He has done all that is spoken of here or elsewhere in His Word. “They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this”.

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Is the Future of Christ’s Kingdom Bright?

Is the Future of Christ’s Kingdom Bright?

Is the Future of Christ’s Kingdom Bright?
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.
19 Jun, 2015

…As bright as the promises of God. That was the response given by Adoniram Judson. These promises are found throughout  Scripture, particularly in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 22 ends with a prophecy of the increased glory of the kingdom of Christ in this world. It will encompass “all ends of the earth” (v27). The extent of their conversion is very fully described. They will remember, turn to Christ, serve Him and worship before Him. In his Commentary on the Psalms, David Dickson expands upon these words and captures for us a glimpse of that latter day glory. The following is extracted and updated from that book. He shows that the natural state of man by the Fall is living in forgetfulness of God, but that grace awakens the soul in conversion to remember its Creator.

These are special prophecies about Christ’s kingdom being enlarged.

1. The Gentiles would be called after Christ’s resurrection. This was agreed and spoken of long before it happened. It has been fulfilled but not in as full a measure as expected in the future. In order for these words to be entirely fulfilled it must happen that all the ends of the world remember and turn to the Lord.

2. As long as men continue in an unconverted state they do not know what they are doing. They are like men sleeping or distracted. They do not even make use of the basic principles of truth and the invisible things of God which can be learned from the light of common reason and created things. Yet, when the light of Christ’s gospel shines into their heart they are made to remember and turn to the Lord.

3. Those who are converted make God the object of their worship, they embrace his ordinances and subject themselves to his laws and discipline. They worship before Him, become subjects to Him because He has powerfully subdued them to Himself.  “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is governor among the nations”.

 

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