God is Still a Consuming Fire

God is Still a Consuming Fire

God is Still a Consuming Fire
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.
25 Jan, 2019

Many people are ready to embrace the idea that God is love, if they themselves can define what that means. Perhaps they want it to mean that God affirms them no matter who they are and what they do. Or that God is there for us when we need Him. It fits in well with a therapeutic culture that focuses everything on the self. But it doesn’t fit with the biblical view of God as transcendent and glorious in holiness. It is true that God is love and He is good but God is also holy. He is a God of both mercy and justice. He is described as a consuming fire in the New Testament as well as the Old.

​What does this mean? In both Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29 it speaks of God’s holiness, justice and jealousy for His worship. We ought to worship Him with a deep, spiritual sense of His holiness and greatness. We need grace to approach His worship in the right way. The particular grace mentioned is fear, a spiritual awe and reverence. As is clear in both Deuteronomy 4 and Hebrews 12, this also includes a loving carefulness in relation to God’s worship. We must confine ourselves to the ways He has appointed for us to worship Him (Deuteronomy 4:2; Leviticus 10:1-3; Exodus 20:5). Taking Hebrews 12:29 seriously means recognising both that God is still a consuming fire and that this still requires of us the same reverence and fear.

Robert Traill notes that the Bible frequently says that true religion begins with and is summed up by the fear of God. In this updated extract he draws out the implications of Hebrews 12:29. In the first place he deals with common objections to the idea of fearing God.

 

1. Should We Really Fear God?

There are various false objections against this precious and necessary grace.

(a) Isn’t God All Mercy and Goodness?

The first carries away thousands to destruction; it is the idea that God is all mercy and goodness. It is true that His mercy and goodness are infinite; yet, so is His justice. We will not stop to show why this is mistaken or discuss it further. It is enough that the Holy Spirit declares the awesome majesty of God, in this figurative expression “our God is a consuming fire”.

(b) Isn’t This Just an Old Testament Idea?

Some think that the New Testament does not require the fear and dread of God in the way that the Old Testament did. They draw a contrast between law and love and punishment and mercy. The apostle clearly corrects this mistake in Hebrews 12:18-29. He both compares and identifies the differences between the two eras.  In verse 28 he concludes that all the love and mercy revealed in the gospel must produce worship with fear. He supports this in verse 29.

(c) Doesn’t Salvation Remove Fear?

Others acknowledge that God is still holy and just in Himself. Yet they say that when we are saved and in Christ all such dread and fear is removed. Salvation requires nothing but love, and delight, and familiarity. The Holy Spirit corrects this mistake by declaring, that even “our God,” our covenanted God, is a “consuming fire.” As consuming fire is a dreadful thing, so when God is described in this way we are to take account of His dreadful nature and majesty.

(d) Isn’t this Legalistic?

Some are ready to object that serving God with fear is inconsistent with the boldness in approaching God that His people are privileged to have. Deep heart-reverence and holy awe is not legalistic or the opposite of faith and love. Serving God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear because He is a consuming fire does not imply unbelieving fear.

Sometimes is difficult to be filled with joy and holy fear together; this is due to our weakness. But this does not mean that the two graces are opposed to each other. Sometimes we are indeed called to exercise either reverence or love more than the other. A despondent soul should meditate more on the mercy and love of God to stir itself to faith and love. But a backslidden believer should meditate on God’s holiness, majesty and hatred of sin to stir themselves up to repentance and returning to God. 

 

2. God is a Consuming Fire in Himself

(a) There is an infinite distance between Him and us and every soul that truly considers this must be filled with dread. No one can see God and live.

(b) God is holy in His nature (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Only God is holy (Revelation 15:4). He is of purer eyes than that He can behold iniquity. How then can a sinner not fear?

(c) God is just. He sits on His throne judging right (Psalm 9:4). We are breakers of His law from the womb to the grave. How dreadful is this attribute of God!

(d) God is infinitely faithful and irresistibly powerful in exercising justice. No creature can either by subtlety or strength escape His hand.

 

3. God is a Consuming Fire in His Works

The way that God orders and maintains all creation, and how He accomplishes all His purposes according to His wise decrees should make us tremble. Heaven and hell are fearful things, and should awaken our hearts to greater fear.

Yet how much of His fearful glory is to be seen in His church and ordinances. He is terrible out of His holy places (Psalm 68:35; Genesis 28:17). In His ordinances this consuming fire draws near to us and we to him, though with offers of mercy and salvation. Yet to those who abuse them there is a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. In prayer, we speak to Him. What fear Abraham, Moses and Jacob express in prayer!

 

4. God is a Consuming Fire in Covenant

Even God in covenant with His own is to be feared (Deuteronomy 28:58). Why is this?

(a) Because they know Him, and none can know Him without fearing Him. It is natural to have a holy fear when God is revealed to us (Job 37:24). Lack of fear shows lack of knowledge.

(b) Because He is still the same God. It is true that His justice satisfied in Christ will never break out against them to destroy them. They can consider all the attributes of God (even the most terrifying) with comfort and delight. Yet all those things in Him which produce fear and reverence are still in our covenanted God.

(c) Because we still have unholiness within us. It is true that there is a change in the state of believers in justification and adoption. A change in their natures has begun through sanctification; yet still they are creatures. And there is still much unholiness in their hearts and lives. All sin in itself is equally hateful to God and contrary to His holy nature. They are still under His holy law and bound to obey it not as the way to life but as a rule of life. They will still be chastised for disobedience.

(d) Because we have experience of being chastised. This was so eminently with David, (Psalm 51:5). The saints fear God’s goodness, love, pardoning and healing mercy (Hosea 3:5, Psalm 130:4).

 

5. We Should Serve Our God with Fear

(a) In Our Lives

Careful walking with God, keeping a watch over the heart and edifying conversation are only theoretical to most Christians. This comes from an ignorance of Him with whom we have to do? How rarely does the power of religion shine in the lives of Christians.

(b) In Our Worship

When many come to pray, they rush into it irreverently as though they were coming to talk to someone just like themselves. How rarely are hearts deeply impressed with the sense of the majesty of the one whom they address. Many listen to sermons as if the purpose was to weigh up the gifts of the speaker or to get more brain-knowledge. Few take heed how they hear. Few come to get a message delivered to them from the living God, and tremble at the Word.  This is due to the lack of a proper fear of God. Many approach the Lord’s Table without proper preparation and so eat unworthily. They do not consider that it is one of the most solemn approaches that the Lord makes to us, and that we make to Him. We would prepare far differently if we feared to take His name in vain in that ordinance.

(c) In Our Hearts

Are you careful to maintain constant communion with God. Do you live as though you were in His sight? Do you take His law for your rule in all your ways? Is godliness no more than being outwardly respectable and attending church? This is a serious mistake. What do you with the convictions of your conscience? Do you quench them or consider them? What do you give your affections to throughout the day? What do you think about first in the morning and last at night? Is it God? How can the fear of God be in us?

 

Conclusion

We must seek to know God more and have deeper views of His majesty. We need to maintain our sense of both His holiness and love together without losing either. Let us meditate on Him more and pray that He will manifest more of His glory to us. This will help stir up this holy fear and reverence within us.

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The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China
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.
12 Dec, 2018

China detained Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church and more than 100 of the church’s members in a raid at the end of 2018. Wang Yi has vocally resisted the Chinese government requirement for all churches to be registered with the government and come under their regulations or be shut down. The purpose is to make sinicise or make all religion conform to the government ideology. Resistance to this is essential for Wang Yi. He  has written: “I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience. In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement”.

​Wang Yi wrote in his defence before he was imprisoned: “I firmly believe that the Bible has not given any branch of any government the authority to run the church or to interfere with the faith of Christians. Therefore, the Bible demands that I, through peaceable means, in meek resistance and active forbearance, filled with joy, resist all administrative policies and legal measures that oppress the church and interfere with the faith of Christians”.

These arguments remind us of the principles for which the Covenanters suffered in Scotland and which may yet be needed in more countries than China. The following is from James Stewart’s classic book Naphtali, or, The wrestlings of the Church of Scotland for the kingdom of Christ (1667).

Christ is Head over His Church

Jesus Christ Himself and not the civil government is the author and fountain of Church power and government. The apostle tells us, that Christ and not the civil government is Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22 and 5:13). He not only spiritually communicates inward grace to the members, but
governmental power and direction for the outward regulation of the whole body. How then can the civil government be Head of the Church, or supreme governor in all ecclesiastical matters? Must the Church have two Heads, or a Head above a Head? Let Christ be still Head of the Church. And as such. You will find Him, and not the civil government instituting all Church ordinances for:

  • administration of the Word and Sacraments (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23);
  • excommunication and absolution (Matthew 18:17-18) and all other acts of government and discipline.

You will find Him and not the civil government instituting Church offices. He gave (Ephesians 4:11) and set in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28) apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers etc. And who will dare alter by adding or diminishing? You will find Him and not the civil government authorising these officers to exercise the various acts of the power of order and jurisdiction (Matthew 28:19).  You will find Him and not the civil government equipping these Church officers, with gifts and graces for their work. None go on their own expenses. Can any civil government breathe the Holy Spirit as Christ did on His apostles (John 20:22)? In His name (not the name of the state) they must perform all Church acts. They must assemble (Matthew 18:20); baptise (Matthew 28:19); excommunicate (1 Corinthians 5:4); and do all in His name.

Christ, not the state makes laws absolutely and primarily obliging the Church and Church officers. He is therefore called the lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12). He, and not the civil government will call Church rulers to their final account.  They must give an account (Hebrews 13:17) to their judge who gave them their commission (Isaiah 33:22).

they are His servants and therefore should not be pleasers of man

In recognition of all this, the apostle Paul acknowledges that the Lord Jesus, and not the civil government gives ministerial power and authority (2 Corinthians 10:8 and 2 Corinthians 13:10). And because of this, they are called the ministers of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1) and Ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) not for the state.  They are His servants and therefore should not be pleasers of man nor of the government (Galatians 1:10).

Thus, Church power and government are distinct from civil government. Jesus Christ and not the state is the author and fountain of that government. Therefore, it evidently follows that it is not subordinate to the civil government.

Find out more about Covenanters and read other articles featuring his work.

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REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

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Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope

Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope

Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope
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.
23 Aug, 2018

Hope is essential. But hope is not a gut reaction, mere wishful thinking or putting a positive spin on events that seem negative. Hope and optimism are positive about the future but for different reasons. Abraham had a spiritual hope that was certain, when a hope that is of the flesh would have evaporated. Abraham “against hope believed in hope” based on God’s promise (Romans 4:18). The secular idea of hope involves people planning ways to achieve their chosen goal. But Abraham couldn’t do this. Optimism ignores negative circumstances but hope takes full account of it. Hope has a reason to depend on God working out the future, that reason is His promise.

It’s been said that we “can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”. Hope is the oxygen of life. John Nevay (d. 1672) observes that “it is as necessary as breath: we cannot live or work without it”. Nevay was minister of Newmilns in Ayrshire. Along with hundreds of other ministers he was forced out of his charge by the government in 1662. Never was also cited before the Privy Council and then banished from the kingdom for refusing to own Charles II as head over the Church. He went on to minister to Scots exiles in Rotterdam, Holland. Even there, Charles’ government used their influence to try to get him expelled from Holland along with other Scottish ministers.

 

1. What is Hope?

Hope is a certain and patient expectation of things not seen which are from God and promised by Him (Romans 8:24). Hope, like faith, looks to the promise (Galatians 5:5). Whatever may appear to the contrary, it hopes against hope (Romans 4:18).

Hope rides out all storms. It is the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast. Its object is God in Christ (Jeremiah 4:8; 1 Timothy 1:1). Its operation is an earnest and patient expectation (Philippians 1:20; Romans 8:25). Its means of strength are the promise and Christ (Acts 26:6; Colossians 1:27). Its effects are establishing and quieting the soul (Psalm 42:5,11). It also purifies the heart (1 John 3:3).

 

2. What Makes Hope Attractive?

(a) It is an excellent grace. Scripture commends hope as good (2 Thessalonians 2:16); better (Hebrews 7:19); blessed (Titus 2:13); living (1 Peter 1:3); sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19). It is a sure possession of things not seen.

(b) It is focussed on excellent things. It is focussed on God Himself (Psalm 33:22); His mercy (Psalm 147:11); God’s Word, especially the promises (Psalm 130:4). It is also focussed on Christ and the gospel (Colossians 1:23).

 

3. How Does Hope Help Us?

(a) It Helps When No Other Grace Can. When God has withdrawn His presence, David can still hope in God and praise Him (Psalm 42).

(b) It Helps Us Joy and Delight in God. There is a rejoicing in hope (Romans 12:12 and Hebrews 3:6).

(c) It Helps Us Be Encouraged. It does not disappoint or put us to shame (Romans 5:5).

(d) It Helps Us Have Courage and Strength in God’s Work. The knowledge that labouring in the Lord’s work is not in vain is the knowledge of hope, which gives steadfastness (1 Corinthians 15:58).

(e) It Helps us Have Patience. There is a patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Patience makes us rest quietly on God (Psalm 37:7).

(f) It Helps Us Endure All Spiritual Warfare. It is the helmet of salvation which guards and raises the head (Ephesians 6:17).

(g) It Helps Us Find Help in God. Hope makes us take refuge in God. Hope and help in God go together (Psalm 146:5).

(h) It Helps Us Hope for Heaven. Salvation and eternal life come to us by the hope of salvation and eternal life (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It is the hope laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:5).

(i)It Helps Us in Life and Death. We can see the excellence and blessedness of this hope when we consider the misery of those who live and die without it. To be without God is to be without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12).

 

3. Where Does Hope Come From?

(a) It Comes From God. David credits God for his hope (Psalm 22:9).

(b) It Comes From God by Grace. Hope is from and through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16). That which is of grace is by the promise (Romans 4:16; Titus 1:2). Our God is the God of Hope because He is the giver of Hope (Romans 15:13). Hope is amongst the gifts of the Holy Spirit (compare l Corinthians 12:31 with 13:13).

(c) It Comes From Christ. Christ is our Hope and the Author of Hope as well as Faith (Galatians 5:5; Hebrews 12:2). Christ was raised from the dead and exalted that we might have hope (1 Peter 1:21).

(d) It Comes From the Gospel. The gospel as the grace of God brings a better hope (Hebrews 7:19; Titus 2:11).

 

4. What Distinguishes True Hope?

(a) It Looks to God Alone. God alone is our hope and portion (Lamentations 3:24).

(b) It Trusts in Christ Alone. It places no confidence in the flesh but rejoices in
Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:3). Its expectation is only in free mercy.

(c) It is Certain. It leans on the undoubted truths of God revealed in the Scriptures. These bring comforts and are the grounds for the Christian’s hope (Romans 15:4). It is true that the believer’s hope may be shaken (as anchors often are) but the result is that it is fastening more securely than before.

(d) It Keeps the Soul Close to the Truth. This is so even during great opposition by others (Psalm 119:23, 81-82, 161; Isaiah 8:17).

(e) It Expels Vain Hopes. It presents the things it hopes for as so great that it makes all other hopes seem an empty thing. It purges the heart from all its love and desire for vain hopes.

(f) It Revives the Soul. It revives the soul with fresh strength in God when other things fail (Psalm 73:26).

(g) It is Lasting. It is sober and hopes to the end (1 Peter 1:13). Thus, the righteous has hope in his death (Proverbs 14:32).

(h) It Arises from Spiritual Experience. A rooted and well-grounded hope is the daughter of many different spiritual experiences (Romans 5:4).

Read more from Covenanters

FURTHER READING

Nevay’s 52 sermons on the Covenant of Grace are well summarised by Edwin Nisbet Moore in the book Our Covenant Heritage: the Covenanters’ Struggle for Unity in Truth. It also summarises a memoir of the Covenanter James Nisbet of Hardhill and draws lessons from the historical experiences for today. For more information and to purchase see here.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

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Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

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Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

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Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

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This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements

The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements

The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements
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.
25 May, 2018

Many things around us seem to conspire to bring us down to the depths of discouragement. We can see plainly that things are not as they ought to be. Perhaps we look for fruit from our patient efforts to sow seed with others and it doesn’t appear even promising. So we become weary in well-doing. Ministers are easily tempted to discouragement in the midst of their labours. It’s also not difficult to become discouraged due to things within, especially our spiritual state and progress. How do we get out of being sucked into the spiral of despair? The only all-sufficient source of help is in divine grace.

John Welwood (1649-1678) suffered much though he was only in his twenties. The following extract is from one of the many letters he wrote during his trials and persecution. He was moving from place to place all over Scotland, preaching as he could. (More information about his life can be found at the end of this article). He was an especially powerful preacher and his sermons were said to have “a fiery earnestness”.

 

1. Nothing Should Discourage a Christian

I know nothing that should discourage a Christian. There is not one discouragement in all the Word of God, but His encouragements are many. But through our folly and unbelief we lose the comfort of them.

 

2. Our Guilt and Ignorance Should Not Discourage Us

Should guilt discourage us? He has made Him “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God through him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ says to the Father that if the Christian owes anything to Him, “put it on my account”. “The blood of sprinkling speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

Should wrath discourage us? He has “redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Should our ignorance discourage us? Though we are as beasts before Him, yet he is continually with us and leads us like a flock. Our safety lies not in our wisdom and leading, but in His. Though we are foolish, our pilot is skilful and careful.

Does a body of sin and death discourage us? Indeed we have reason to cry out, “O wretched ones that we are!” “Who shall deliver us from it?” (Romans 7:24 and 8:2) It deadens us and deceives us, inclining little to what is good but a lot to what is bad. It makes us disinclined and slow to do our duty, and puts us out of the right condition for it. And if we say, we will be wise, yet it is far from us. Yet His grace is sufficient for us.

 

3. Sufficient Grace for These Discouragements

Our safety does not depend on grace within us, but grace outside us. If He would leave us to ourselves for only a day, how far wrong we would go. He has given us this promise, that his grace shall be sufficient for us. It is by this grace that we stand. It is by this that “we are made more than conquerors” in all the assaults and temptations that come from without, from Satan and from the world. It is He who keeps us from temptations and delivers from evil.

We should not therefore be discouraged by a body of sin and all the enemies that join with it. We should “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”. He is with us as a mighty One.

 

4. Our Poor Growth in Grace Should Not Discourage Us

Does our small growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ discourage us? That is indeed our great complaint “our leanness, our leanness”. It is fitting that folk grow downwards in low thoughts of themselves, for He dwells with the humble.

The more folk have of grace, the more they see of corruption. The more they have of faith, the more they see of unbelief. It is fitting that folk have such workings within them, to keep them watching and wrestling. What an evil condition we find ourselves in when we have no such work to do. Besides, many times we make an idol of grace and prize it more than the Lord Jesus as the author of it. He may say unto us, Am not I worth more to you than however much grace? The God of all grace is ours. The fountain is ours; we are complete in Him.

 

5. Sufficient Grace is in Christ Not Us

It is fitter that He has our treasure than we should have it ourselves. We would desire to have all at one everything we need for the whole journey. This is still the aim of our hearts, and we would have a stock of grace within us so we would not be beholden to Christ for continual supply. We think it a poor life to live like beggars and to be like minors that must have a tutor.

We think that what is in our hand is surer than what is in Christ’s hand. But Adam had his stock in his own hand and he soon played the bankrupt. Though we had as much grace as possible we would undermine ourselves if His grace were not keeping us each day and moment. It is not our grace and worthiness that commends us to God, only the righteousness of Christ. We are obliged to God for the grace we get, not He to us. If He will keep us with little in hand, we ought to be content and not fall out with him because he will not fill oure purses with money, since we have access unto the treasure house.

 

6. Our Lack of God’s Felt Presence Should Not Discourage Us

Does God’s withdrawing discourage us? Sometimes there may be many fogs and clouds in our world below when all is fair weather above. Though our feelings say that His love changes there is “no variablness, nor shadow of turning” with Him. He loves us when He hides His face as well as when He smiles. He has many wise and holy purposes in all the afflictions we meet with. They are to be ballast for us. One would think it strange to see sand bags being cast into a ship but it is necessary for the ship would be blown over without this. We would go wrong if we lacked the ballast of affliction. Our hearts are ready to become unwatchful in a fair day. Afifictions give us the experience of God’s power, love, wisdom, and faithfulness in bearing us up under them, ordering them for our advantage and delivering us out of them.

 

John Welwood

After hiding in Moray and Fife and other parts of the country, Welwood was banished to Perth in 1679. Sadly he only survived in Perth for three months before contracting an illness and dying at the age of thirty. During his short time there he continued to preach, mostly to families who would come to visit him in the place where he was staying.

On his death bed he said that such was his assurance that he had no more doubt of being in Christ “than if I were in heaven already”. At another time he said: “Although I have been for some weeks without sensible [felt], comforting presence, yet I have not the least doubt of my interest [salvation] in Christ”.  

The morning he died, when he observed the light of day, he said: “Now eternal light, and no more night and darkness to me”. His gravestone had the following inscription: “A follower of the Lamb through many tribulations”.

Read more from Covenanters

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How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

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How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

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The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

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How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ
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.
15 Mar, 2018

​In a world constantly seeking the retreating mirage of satisfaction in the things of this life we need to know where to find true spiritual satisfaction. Samuel Rutherford said that seeking such satisfaction in this world is like digging into cold ice expecting to discover warm fire. Spiritual satisfaction is in Christ and what He has done alone. As Calvin put it: “The whole of God is found in him, so that he who is not satisfied with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God.” Not to be satisfied with Christ involves “detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection”. They are “ungrateful” who “seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ”. It is vital therefore to rest in this satisfaction. How can we assure ourselves that we are those who are only satisfied in Christ?

This is a question that Thomas Hog of Kiltearn (1628–1692) sought to answer for the benefit of others. He does not give an exhaustive but rather a helpful and suggestive answer. The eleven observations he makes are worth pondering further and comparing with Scripture and our own experience. Hog was imprisoned several times including on the Bass Rock. Here he had some time for prayerful reflection as he suffered for Christ. These points have been transcribed from a manuscript in the National Library of Scotland with a little updating of the language.

 

Marks of those who, being lost in themselves, are fit for the consolations of Christ

1. They will acknowledge and not extenuate sin.

2. No earthly comforts can satisfy.

3. Searching sermons are most acceptable and searching Scripture texts are most sweet.

4. No creature can satisfy (no not even an angel) until Christ Himself comes.

5. They all think that they themselves are the chief of sinners.

6. They would take peace with God without all external comfort, indeed they would take Christ with all external crosses and troubles.

7. The least relationship to Christ and benefit from Him will be more sweet and acceptable than to be in any relation but His.

8. The least appearance of opening a door of mercy humbles and melts the heart more than any other thing.

9. They do not doubt Christ’s power, but because of their unworthiness as to whether He will have mercy.

10. All earthly contempt and crosses [trials] are thought light and easily borne. The saddest afflictions are thought nothing in comparison of their [formerly] lost condition.

11. They will not be content with peace without grace, with justification without sanctification.

 

About Thomas Hog of Kiltearn

Hog was a Highlander who also ministered in Ross-shire. Forced to leave his congregation in 1662, he moved to Auldearn near Nairn, where he continued to minister in private. In 1668 he was  imprisoned for some time for preaching at “illegal meetings” or conventicles.

After his release he continued to preach but was arrested in 1677 and imprisoned in the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast which was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. When he sought release due to his poor health Archbishop Sharp had him put in the lowest and worst dungeon in the place. Yet his health recovered in these circumstances.

After a later release he had further periods of imprisonment until he was banished from Scotland in 1684. In 1691 he was able to return to the parish of Kiltearn but only for one year. He was buried underneath the threshold of the church door. He also requested the following inscription: ‘This stone shall bear witness against the parishioners of Kiltearn if they bring an ungodly minister in here.’

Read more from Covenanters

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Praying for the Conversion of the Jews

Praying for the Conversion of the Jews

Praying for the Conversion of the Jews
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
13 Mar, 2018

They were on a Scottish hillside in fear of government troops arresting or killing those at this “illegal” worship service. Why would the young preacher pause his sermon and begin to pray for the restoration of the Jews?

It was 11 July 1680, a Lord’s Day. The government was hunting Richard Cameron, just 32 years of age, across the moors and hills of Scotland. His crime was that he would not submit to the government total control of the Church. To worship in secret was considered rebellion and there was a high price on his head.

Within eleven days he would suffer a bloody death at the hands of soldiers. Was he aware of that? Yes, to some extent, he was. He had spent the previous day in prayer and meditation and told one lady gloomily “my carcass shall dung the wilderness, and that within a fortnight”.

Now he was ready to preach to the gathered people on the border of Lanarkshire and Dumfries-shire. It was a powerful sermon on John 5:40, one of his favourite texts. Nearly fifty years later, it remained fresh in the memory of those that heard it. There was much emotion for both preacher and congregation. During the sermon Cameron was overcome and “fell in such a rap of calm weeping, and the greater part of that multitude, that there was scarce a dry cheek to be seen among them”. This obliged Cameron to pause and pray. He “continued long praying for the Jews restoration and ingrafting again” amongst other things.

 

1. The Background

Why would the young preacher pause his sermon and begin to pray for the restoration of the Jews? It was not in fact so unusual. The Church of Scotland had a guide to worship called a Directory for the Public Worship of God. The section on Public Prayer before Sermon advised that prayer be made “for the conversion of the Jews”. Besides the Shorter Catechism they also had the Larger Catechism, which, amongst other things, expounded the Lord’s Prayer. In relation to the petition “Thy Kingdom come” it said:

We pray that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in… that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming

These documents were produced by the Westminster Assembly, which was attended by Scottish representatives. All of these, George Gillespie, Alexander Henderson and Samuel Rutherford referred to the future conversion of the Jews in their preaching. Many of Rutherford’s famous letters contain desires for the restoration of the Jews.  There are a large number of these prayers but we can only consider a few.  In 1631, for instance, he wrote:

I have been this time bypast thinking much of the incoming of the kirk [church] of the Jews. Pray for them. When they were in their Lord’s house, at their Father’s elbow, they were longing for the incoming of their little sister, the kirk of the Gentiles…. (Song 8.8). Let us give them a meeting… That were a glad day to see us and them both sit down to one table, and Christ at the head of the table. Then would our Lord come shortly with his fair guard to hold His great court.

It was a theme that Rutherford was going to return to again and again in his sermons, letters and other writings. He writes with rapture about what he was looking for by faith: “I shall be glad to be a witness, to behold the kingdoms of the world become Christ’s. I could stay out of heaven many years to see that victorious triumphing Lord act that prophesied part of his soul-conquering love, in taking into his kingdom the greater sister, that kirk of the Jews, who sometime courted our Well-beloved for her little sister (Song 8.8); to behold him set up as an ensign and banner of love, to the ends of the world”.

The Jews must “renew their old love with their first Husband, Christ our Lord! They are booked in God’s word, as a bride contracted unto Jesus! Oh for a sight, in this flesh of mine, of the prophesied marriage between Christ and them!” Rutherford was drawing from passages such as Zechariah 8:23: “There is a day when ten men shall take hold, out of all nations, of the skirt of a Jew, saying, We will go with you; we have heard that God is with you.”

 

2. The Biblical Basis

Which other passages of Scripture gave ground for this hope? There is a hint in the following:  “O to see the sight, next to Christ’s Coming in the clouds, the most joyful! Our elder brethren the Jews and Christ fall upon one another’s necks and kiss each other! They have been long asunder; they will be kind to one another when they meet. O day! O longed-for and lovely day-dawn! O sweet Jesus, let me see that sight which will be as life from the dead, Thee and Thy ancient people in mutual embraces.”

Rutherford is echoing Romans 11:15, that the restoration of the Jews would be as “life from the dead”. The Scottish minister and commentator James Durham considered Romans 11 to be undeniably clear on this point.

they shall be brought to a visible Church-state. Not only in particular persons here and there in congregations; but that multitudes, yea, the whole body of them shall be brought, in a common way with the Gentiles, to profess Christ, which cannot be denied, as Romans 11 is clear and that will be enough to satisfy us

Another minister, John Brown of Wamphray produced a commentary on Romans in 1666 that expands further on Romans 11:15:

If the casting away of them, that is, if the slinging away of the Jews, and casting them out of the Church, be the reconciling of the world, that is, be the occasion whereby the gospel should be preached to the Gentile world, that thereby they might be reconciled unto God, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? Will there not be joyful days through the world, and among the Gentiles, when they shall be received into favour again? Will it not be like the resurrection from the dead, when Jew and Gentile shall both enjoy the same felicity and happiness? Seeing out of the dead state of the Jews, when cast without doors, God brought life to the Gentiles, will he not much more do so out of their enlivened estate? Will it not be to the Gentiles as the resurrection from the dead?

The Jews were to be grafted in once more because God had not forgotten his covenant and promises. “Though now the people of the Jews are at a low pass, because of their unbelief, and contempt of the gospel; yet the covenant made with their fore-fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” is not forgotten by God, but is in force; and by virtue thereof, they have some room in God’s affection yet: They are beloved for the father’s sake”.

As David Dickson, another commentator put it: “The Church of the Jews is the mother-church, whereof Abraham and the godly Jews yea and Christ himself were Members; The Church of the Jews is the Olive-tree, whereunto all the converts of the Gentiles are ingrafted, gathered, and made one people with Abraham and the faithful among the Jews”.

 

3. What about the Land?

James Durham also addressed the question of whether the Jews would be restored to the land they had once occupied. He did not wish to be absolute about it but pointed to Scripture passages and promises that seemed to indicate that this would be so such as Ezekiel 37:20-21, Amos 9:11-15 and others. If Paul spoke of them being grafted in as they were broken off it seemed to suggest some national state. He also took into view the promise of the land and the fact that in God’s providence the Jews were still a distinct people even though scattered amongst the nations. Another commentator George Hutcheson also considered it possible for the Jews to return to their homeland in the last days.

David Dickson was slightly more cautious when commenting on Psalm 69:35. This verse shows that God will always “maintain his Church, his Sion and his Judah”. We can find “special evidence of this care among the Jews” no matter how far “they may at some times be from all appearance of his respect to them”. The promise in this verse expressly uses the name of Judah, “He will build the Cities of Judah”. “What outward testimonies of Gods respect to the Jews for Christ’s sake shall be given unto them, after the destruction of their cities…we must leave it to God, to be in due time by his own works interpreted, and to be made out according to what here is said; that the cities of Judah shall be built, that they may dwell there and have it, (i.e. the promised land,) in possession”.

 

Conclusion

Overhearing the prayers of the Covenanters ought to inspire us to pray and long for this great event. “Oh, what a heavenly heaven were it to see them come in”, said Rutherford. John Brown of Wamphray observes that we can draw great encouragement from this teaching. God is “unchangeable in mercy and power” and so “it is not impossible that the Jews shall be recovered, because the Gentiles who were once as evil as they are now, were recovered”. “Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy” (Romans 11:30-31). We should never despair of anyone being converted.

Read more from Covenanters

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Spiritual Rest During Outward Trouble

Spiritual Rest During Outward Trouble

Spiritual Rest During Outward Trouble
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.
22 Sep, 2017

We can’t escape troubles in this world. Whether it is the heartache of suffering and loss or the storm of calamity and opposition; it touches us in different ways. The brokenness of this world leaves its mark on us. It may be so deep an anguish and trouble that we cannot put words on it. Christ told us that in this world we would have “tribulation”, but in the same breath He directs us to find peace in Himself (John 16:33). This is genuinely possible, despite all that is going on around us.

Hugh MacKail (1640/41–1666) was going into the ministry when the storm of opposition was rising. He was scarcely twenty-one when he took the opportunity to preach on the last occasion before the faithful ministers of Scotland were deposed. It was a spiritual and attractive sermon but he did not avoid reference to the times however. MacKail boldly observed that “the people of God had been persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the state, and a Judas in the church”. Everyone believed this was a reference to the main rulers in the land and the next day soldiers were sent to arrest him. He managed to escape and the next four years of his life were spent in hiding. The following brief clip explains more about this.

MacKail returned to Scotland at the time of the Pentland rising in 1666. While he joined the march for some time he was forced to withdraw due to ill health.  On his way home, he was arrested and imprisoned. He was interrogated under torture, his leg was so badly mangled from this that he could not walk or stand. He was sentenced to be executed but endured all these things cheerfully.

He prayed on the scaffold before ascending the ladder, and then said that every rung of the ladder brought him “a degree nearer heaven”. His composure was another fearless sermon in itself. It made a powerful impression on all who witnessed it. His last words were:

Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit.”

Let’s take a closer look at MacKail’s sermon which caused all the controversy. It does not seem to have been reprinted in the past 300 or so years. It was on Song of Solomon 1:7 and spoke much of the spiritual rest that God’s people have in the midst of troubles. The following is extracted from that sermon in updated language.

 

There is Rest in Christ Even in the Midst of the Hottest Trials 

Where he makes the “flocks to rest at noon”, there is not only feeding for their necessity but also a comfortable rest for their satisfaction. The ground of a believer’s satisfaction is beyond the reach of earthly troubles. Whatever commotion may arise ,it cannot touch their foundation. Believers are compared to a house built upon a rock (Matthew 7:24). In Proverbs 10:25 we read that “the righteous is an everlasting foundation.” He is compared to a tree in Psalm 1:2,3 and his root shall never be moved.

Outward advantages are only like beautiful pictures or other adornments of a house, which may be blurred or removed without affecting the building. They are like fair-feathered birds chirping melodiously upon the top of a tree, which may suddenly fly away without any disadvantage.The solid adornment of the image of God cannot be defaced by any outward event. It is rather rendered even more illustrious and clear by tribulation. The fiery furnace did not hinder the three children from praising the Lord. Nothing can hinder their obedience to God’s command, and one great command is “rejoice evermore.” There are four things involved in this rest that the followers of Christ enjoy in this time of tribulation:

 

1. Rest from Sin

All the force and fury of temptations cannot constrain them to sin against the Lord. Though a messenger of Satan should buffet them, yet there is a grace sufficient for them (2 Corinthians 12:7 – 9). I believe the malice and fury and craftiness of the devil transcends the malice, fury and craft of human enemies. Though he used his utmost endeavour to try to make Job to curse God and die, yet patience eventually triumphs over temptation. Affliction is the Lord’s furnace where the more they are tried they more purified they come forth. In Job 36:8–10, we read that affliction reveals to the righteous their sin.

The conclusion of a believing soul under affliction is, if God punishes me this sharply for sins that I have already committed against Him, will I not receive greater if I revolt further? This is the conclusion of Ezra (Ezra 9: 6, 7, 13, 14). So, afflictions disengage a believer from sin. It is a dreadful thing to be uncorrectable despite judgements,. If we consider the solemn consequences in Pharaoh’s case, it should bring all such to fear God’s judgements (Psalm 119:120).

 

2. Rest through Peace with God

This peace is through Jesus Christ. This is a shadow from the scorching sun, under which a reconciled believer may sit and the Lord’s fruit be sweet to his taste. No worm can come at the root of this gourd to make it wither. Enemies may do much to secure enemies for the people of God among men on earth, but they can never cause them to have enemies in heaven.

The Lord will not be bribed by their gifts, for all the beasts of the field are His, and the cattle on a thousand hills. He will not be allured by their pleasures, for at His right hand there is fullness of joy and rivers of pleasures forevermore. He will not be deceived by their craftiness, nor constrained by their power to side with them against His people, for He is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who ever hardened themselves against Him and prospered? How unreasonable it is then to turn aside from Him by the flocks of his companions. The whole world cannot make God your enemy when you follow Him in turning aside from them. But if you follow the world and forsake Him, he can make all the world your enemies or destroy you and the world both.

 

3. Rest through Peace of Conscience

This peace passes all understanding and is a continual feast. Better that every creature sets itself in array against a man, than that his sins set themselves in order before him. Better one handful with quietness then both hands full of vexation of spirit. Better to be scorched in the hottest furnace of tribulation, than to have the heart and soul burned up with the unquenchable flames of a self-tormenting conscience. Blessed therefore is that man, even in the midst of outward misery, who retains a good conscience. This cannot be reached by any weapons of devils or men.

O, that these foes, whose hearts are perpetually in the house of mirth, would consider their latter end. The beginning of a sinner’s day may be sweet but their end is bitter as wormwood. Men may hoodwink their conscience all the days of their life, but O, how dreadful is it when death begins to draw the veil and represent things as they are in themselves. I think I hear the screeches and howling of a damned spirit in prison when I read the woeful expressions of an evil conscience in Proverbs 5:11–13.  There we are warned away from sin, lest we “mourn at the last”  when flesh and body are consumed and we say “how have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” When a man through heat of persecution is drawn to turn aside from God he runs out of a spark into a flame. God then becomes your enemy and at last you will become an enemy to yourself.

 

4. Hope of Eternal Rest

There is a rest for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9). The sure hopes of this rest will not only render all tribulation tolerable, but even desirable. They are but light and momentary. They work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Both the good and evil of the world vanish from view for that soul that has its eye fixed upon the recompense of reward. Christ’s promise that he would be with him in paradise that day (Luke 23:43) made the penitent thief’s cross preferable to all the crowns of the world. The hope of this rest is a helmet of salvation, keeping the head from being wounded. Enjoying this rest places a believer beyond the reach of all tribulation.

Heaven resembles the court of Ahasuerus–none may go there clothed in sackcloth. The Church is beneath the sun here and therefore prone to being scorched but there she is above the sun. The sun shall not light on her, nor any heat (Revelation 7:16). This is the motive the Lord Himself uses to urge steadfastness in Revelation 2:10; “a crown of life” for those who are “faithful unto death”.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Covenanters

Go forward best. Look back first.

Watch the mini documentary series that  opens up a compelling, yet often ignored, chapter in Scottish history to reveal some surprising lessons for the future.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Are Christians in the West Really Being Persecuted?

Are Christians in the West Really Being Persecuted?

Are Christians in the West Really Being Persecuted?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
8 Sep, 2017

The Christian religion is certainly the most persecuted worldwide. But some people feel that, despite growing hostility to Christian values, it is going too far to speak about persecution in the West. Others speak of an evangelical persecution complex. We tend to associate it with physical violence but persecution actually extends to thought control. If it is impossible to be in a particular job with certain biblical convictions (even unexpressed) then those beliefs are certainly being persecuted. When we turn to Scripture, it is in fact clear that all Christians should expect persecution to some degree.

Christ says, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).  The context of this verse shows that such persecution arises from contempt for the teaching of faithful and godly ministers. A media culture that attacks and ridicules every area of Christian values is one that is constantly both excluding and targeting the Christian conscience. The secular inquisition seems relentless.

Recently a Middle Eastern underground house church leader was quoted as follows: “Persecution is easier to understand when it’s physical: torture, death, imprisonment…American persecution is like an advanced stage of cancer; it eats away at you, yet you cannot feel it. This is the worst kind of persecution.” It echoes what Francis Schaeffer once said: “I believe that pluralistic secularism, in the long run, is a more deadly poison than straightforward persecution.”

Scripture also says “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). As David Dickson comments, “it is the common lot, not only of pastors, but of all Christians, to suffer afflictions and persecutions for the gospel’s sake”. If they are living godly in Christ Jesus, Christians in the west are experiencing some form of persecution and should expect it. Persecution of various kinds has been the normative experience of the Church down through the ages. Perhaps we need to dwell on these considerations a great deal more than we do. If persecution increases in the future, will we have a theology of suffering for Christ (as it were) that will sustain us? In the following video clip we have an example of when believers suddenly needed to put their theology of suffering for Christ into practice. 

 

Robert MacWard (1633–1687) knew what it was to suffer for Christ. In 1661, in the midst of preaching he solemnly protested against the way in which Charles II’s government were forcibly overturning the Second Reformation. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tolbooth on a charge of treason. He was sentenced to be banished and spent the remainder of his life ministering in Holland. He wrote and published books to strengthen those suffering in Scotland, including Samuel Rutherford’s letters. One of these was called The Poor Man’s Cup of Cold Water ministered to the Saints and Sufferers for Christ in Scotland, who are amid the Scorching Flames of the Fiery Trial; it was printed in 1676. MacWard was speaking to people who were suffering in the extreme. MacWard speaks of their “huntings, harassings, and hidings”. Those who attended the conventicles faced heavy fines, exile, slavery and even imprisonment. Ultimately summary execution was used against them with abandon. MacWard earnestly encouraged them that God could be very near to them they were forced to “lie as among the pots, and are black with the smoke of that fiery furnace, heated seven times beyond what you or your fathers have found, or could have feared”.  The following updated extract speaks about suffering for Christ being something that the faithful Christian cannot avoid. A Christian was forced to choose “he must either go with the drove of those who depart from the living God” or stand out in adhering to God and departing from “these workers of iniquity…[and] opposing their Christ-opposing courses” despite their fury.

 

1. We Cannot Avoid Suffering for Christ

The true reason why there is so little of real Christianity to be found among Christians, is that we do not consider that Christianity is the soul shaped by the blessed mould of non-conformity to the world and conformity to Christ. Bearing His blessed name does not only mean association with Him, it also obliges us to be conformed to Him. Without this we will not have benefit from Him and can never make it apparent that we share the anointing that bearing this blessed name implies.  Few who profess Christianity strive to know the excellency of this condition – its special comforts and duties – and how closely these are connected.

You are not of the world. Since there is so great a change made in your condition and in your conduct in contrast with the world do not think these fiery trials strange. You must go through such until you get through the world. He who does not look on suffering as his daily work, has not received Christ Jesus aright. Whosoever would be the disciple of Christ must take up his cross daily and follow Him. This cross must be what Christ chooses and is pleased to lay on us. The cross is the necessary concomitant of a Christian. Sharp conflict must take place before the conqueror’s crown is obtained. We must expect to meet with such fiery trials as will consume our darling idols into ashes for some means must be used to removed our right eye and right hand that have made us offend. We must and may expect to meet with the saddest trouble and the most intolerable sharp trials from an unexpected source and direction. The people and things which should give the people of God most comfort often prove the source of the calamities they endure and the means by which they are afflicted.

We still think there is a way (because we desire it and often make a way where God has not) to evade these hard sayings, shun these heavy things and yet come to heaven. We imagine it is possible to pass through the world with the world’s good will and be religious too. But this is to be wise above what is written. The devil must first cease to lie, murder and way-lay those that are going to heaven. The enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, must first be abolished, or changed into perfect amity (which shall never be). All this would need to happen before the day could dawn that the traveller to heaven did not need to reckon on meeting with trouble in the way.

 

2. The World Hates Godliness

The wicked have such complete hatred for God that they hate His image in His children.  They do not like but rather hate even the (so-called) godliness of a hypocrite. They do so, not because of the evil that lies below the surface, but because of the good that appears outwardly. There is a light in the Christian’s life who walks as a child of light, which exposes the blemishes of the profane world around him. This light also has a heat which scorches and troubles their conscience. This is why they cannot endure them but take every opportunity to deal with them as if they are come to torment them before the time by their shining and burning. This ought to fortify us in being resolved to prepare for the worse the world can do.  This must be so, for all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

 

3. Persecution Must Increase as Apostasy Increases

It is madness to think otherwise, since our time is a time of defection and shameful apostasy and this has always been found to be a time of hot persecution. The practice of apostates has always been to hate as hell those that stand fast in owning the cause of God which they have relinquished. They treat them like the worst of men. A man who resolves to keep his conscience void of offence towards God must take his life in his hands. He must be ready to part with it when his lot is to live in a time and place where those who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience are in power.

Apostasy is the special sin of devils. Satan is the great apostate who hates all that set their faces heaven-ward and are servants of God. They seek God and that blessedness from which he for his apostasy is everlastingly banished. Anyone whom Satan draws away from the ways of the Lord into the guilt of apostasy are by him driven into the same sin of hatred. They persecute those who hold on their way, adhere to the precious truths they have forsaken and are followers of God as dear children. This should alarm everyone into watchfulness against the very first and smallest degrees of defection from the good old ways of God.

 

4. Watch Against the Least Defection

It is dangerous for someone (though mainly sound) to slip from one degree of their zeal and integrity (even merely omitting to stand up for defence of the gospel when assaulted by enemies). They can quickly slide, before they are aware, into censuring and despising fellow believers who will not do the same. Such frequently become more active and industrious to draw others away than to strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die in a time of decline.

The enemies of God have not yet finished and therefore you are best to prepare for new assaults and make provision against the evil day. Blessed are those, who in this dismal day, will not be offended in Christ, but will endure to the end. Expect the worst that violence and enmity armed with power and enflamed with revenge can make you suffer. If we have such foresight and preparation we will not be amazed or taken off guard when we meet with what we were expecting.

 

5. Hold Out and Hold On

Hold out and hold on in firm resolution, even though it comes to resisting unto blood after you are robbed and spoiled of your goods. There is nothing in all these fires and waters, dangers and deaths you have to pass through which can make a soul that knows in whom they have believed go back from his master and walk no more with him. When Christ asked whether the disciples would also leave Him they answered with fervent resolve. They could not for He had the words of eternal life (John 6:68). No matter who else would leave, they were forever tied to continue with Him. Eternal life which is in Christ, is to be had by abiding with Him. We must forsake all in following Christ, and be willing to be forsaken of all.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Covenanters

Go forward best. Look back first.

Watch the mini documentary series that  opens up a compelling, yet often ignored, chapter in Scottish history to reveal some surprising lessons for the future.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer

How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer

How We Can Have Holy Boldness in Prayer
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.
26 May, 2017

Frequently distracted, pressured for time or feeling prayerless: it may be that private prayer sometimes feels like an uphill struggle. Anything else seems easier. Few activities are more humbling. Yet what privilege could be greater than to have constant access to the throne room of heaven? We have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19). What will help us to express ourselves in true holy boldness?

Christopher Love in his series of sermons on holy importunity in prayer gives some helpful counsel.

 

1. Get True Fear Towards God

Possess your heart with a lawful fear of Almighty God. This was the ground of David’s appeal in Psalm 5:3 and 7. You will find this holy fear at the bottom of it. David came to this duty with a strong sense of God’s greatness and dreadfulness. If we would serve God acceptably, we must do it with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28). It was said concerning Luther: “that he prayed with so much confidence as if he had been speaking with his friend and yet with great reverence, as one that considered the great distance between God and himself”. Someone who is fearless of God will quickly be careless in prayer (Job 15:4). Someone that casts off the fear of God soon ceases to pray to God. He that fears God most will certainly pray to God best.

 

2. Meditate on God

Collect your thoughts by holy meditation before coming to this weighty duty of prayer to God. We find meditation and prayer put together in Psalm 5:1-2. David’s prayer is ushered in with meditation. The same word in the Hebrew means both to meditate and to pray. Isaac went out into the fields to meditate, or as others translate it -to pray (Genesis 24:63). It is likely he meditated first then prayed. Be much in meditation, if you would have your hearts much enlarged in prayer.

(a) Meditate on the One into whose presence you come, what a glorious God He is, before whom you are to appear.

(b) Meditate on the name by which you are to come and pray, by whom you must have access to the throne of grace.

(c) Meditate on the main mercies you lack, and are to beg. Meditate on what grace you need strengthened, what lusts you need quelled, what doubts you need satisfied, what sins you need pardoned, in a word, what blessings you need God to bestow on you. Meditating on these things must stir up our affections in prayer.

 

3. Avoid Distractions

Recall your thoughts from worldly and distracting cares when you come to prayer. The apostle exhorts the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:35 to free themselves from and rid their hands of the cares of the world so that they may attend upon the Lord without distraction. The cares of the world will eat out that good that is in the hearts of men. They will rob a man of that freedom and enlargement that otherwise he might have in prayer. You must labour to free your selves from these encumbrances. You must do as Abraham did, when he went to sacrifice, he left his servants and cattle at the bottom of the hill. So when you go to offer to God the sacrifices of prayer, you must get above the impediments and distractions of this present life.

 

4. Watch the Heart

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). There is a watching to prayer, and a watching in praying. A watching to prayer is, when a man watches his heart and sees that he does not omit duties. There are four enemies that you must watch against in prayer.

(a) Watch against drowsiness of body. This is a great impediment of prayer, and we have great need to watch against it.

(b) Watch against a deadness and dullness of spirit and a flat and low condition, this is a great hindrance of importunity.

(c) Watch against the suggestions of Satan. Satan is always ready to assault you, he watches to disturb and molest you in your prayers. You need watch in order to counteract him.

(d) Watch against secular distractions.

 

5. Stir Up Your Affections

If you would get this holy importunity, you must labour to stir up all your affections when you come to pray. This was David’s practice (Psalm 103:1). See how he musters together all the faculties of his soul. He calls up all his strength, all that he is or can do to set forth the name of God. Peter exhorts those to whom he writes, to gird up the loins of their minds (1 Peter 1:13). A Christian going towards heaven is compared to a man going on a journey.  He girds up his clothes so that nothing may hinder him in his journey.

It is also what a master says to a servant (Luke 17:8). God is our master, we are His servants and we are to do His work while we are in the world. Let us gird up our loins, let us gather our affections together so that we are more fit for and more vigorous in the work. An ungirt mind is not fit for prayer. Many pray but do not give attention to prayer. Many pray, as if they did not pray. If we will truly pray we must give attention to it, we must stir up all within us, to call upon the name of the Lord.

 

6. Store Up Material for Prayer

If you would get this holy importunity you must store your hearts full of material when you go to prayer. It is emptiness of spirit that causes deadness of heart.

 

7. Bemoan the Deadness of Your Heart

Bemoan your deadness and dullness of heart. This was the course David took (Psalm 38:9). God loves to hear His people bemoaning themselves (Jeremiah 31:18-19). God loves to hear His people mourning over, and bewailing their wants and weaknesses. Bewail your dullness. Without this holy importunity, prayer is like a messenger without legs, as an arrow without feathers, an advocate without a tongue. Bemoan your lack of importunity.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Covenanters

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?

Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?

Can Unanswered Prayer be a Blessing?
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.
12 May, 2017

It seems so obvious to us that our prayers should be answered. They are things we long for and about which we are burdened. Surely they are good things and would bring glory to God. Why doesn’t God answer? Such questions put faith and patience to the test especially when we reach the point of desperation. There is a deep mystery here that may be very painful. But we must also recognise that there may be a purpose of mercy when our desires are not fulfilled.

There are some especially helpful insights in a series of sermons preached by Christopher Love on refusing to give up in prayer. Christopher Love (1618-1651) was born in Cardiff, Wales. He was converted at the age of 15 and later became a puritan minister in London. He held firmly to the engagements of the Solemn League and Covenant and was arrested together with other puritans such as Thomas Watson on a charge of treason. It was alleged that they were plotting to bring Charles II to the throne. After being imprisoned he was executed under Cromwell’s government on 22 August 1651. His speech before execution and his final letters to his wife are especially moving.

 

What God Looks for in Your Prayers

Love observes that Luke 11:8 speaks of the request in the parable being answered not because of the state of friendship but because of the importunity. He notes that sometimes it is not enough that we are reconciled to God and are His friends for certain requests to be answered. We must keep going and not give up. Yet, even when we persevere in prayer – we may not experience the fulfilment. Not only this but prayer must be engaged in by a person in a right relationship with God, in a right way and manner and with a right end in view. God does not say that he will hear our prayers no matter how we pray. This would make us careless.

God requires that prayer is done with feeling, fervency, faith, fear, and reverence. It must be done in a right manner.

There are five things that God requires of us in accepting your prayers.

  1. Your heart must be prepared (Psalm 10:17)
  2. Sin must be removed (Job 11:13-15)
  3. Your affections must be raised (Psalm 25:1)
  4. Your mind must be fixed and not distracted (1 Corinthians 7:35)
  5. Your desires must be enlarged after God (Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 81:10)

 

When Does God Refuse to Answer Your Prayers?

1. When you indulge sin

Indulging and approving sin in your heart provokes God so that He will not give an answer to your prayers (Psalm 66:18).

2. Asking for things for sinful reasons

We must not seek for mercies from God which we will make fuel for our sin (James 4:3; Matthew 20:21).

3. Asking for things you will not use in the right way

Perhaps God sees that enlarged gifts would make you proud. In Genesis 26:1-2 God denied Isaac from going to Egypt during a famine but in Genesis 46:3 He commands Jacob to go there. Isaac was weaker and would have fallen into the sins of the land. But now Jacob is stronger in grace and would resist their idolatrous ways and not be guilty of their sins.  If God denies you something, say to yourself, “this denial is in mercy, for He did not think me fit for it”. This would silence all the murmurings of our hearts against God.

4. Asking for things in a cold and careless way

God promises to be found, if we seek Him with our whole heart. But if we are regardless ourselves how can we expect that God will regard us?

 

 

When Can it be a Blessing for God Refuse to Answer Your Prayers?

God does not hear the prayers of the wicked but denies them in wrath. He only denies His people’s prayers in mercy. This is so in the following situations:

1. If it is something sinful in itself

God will not always give His people what they pray for but what is best for them. If God gave His people all they ask for, they would be undone. It is mercy to deny a mad man a sword, for he would cut his own throat with it or to deny a child a knife, for he would cut his fingers with it. In Luke 5:8 Peter says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. If Christ had granted Peter his request, he would have been undone forever.  This denial was in mercy.

2. If it would cause us to sin

A man may ask God for wealth but God sees that having wealth would make him proud. Such denial is mercy.

3. If He gives something better in exchange

Moses desired to go into the land of Canaan but it was better to him to go to the heavenly Canaan.  God therefore took him there. The apostles asked Christ to tell them when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. He would not not tell them but gave them a greater mercy, He gave them the Holy Spirit. David prayed for the life of his child but God took away the illegitimate child and gave him Solomon. As Bernard of Clairvaux says, God will either give us what we ask or what He knows to be better for us.

4. If He intends to increase your desire for it

God may deny us in order to increase your desires and affections in prayer and make you more eager in pursuing mercy. God often denies what we seek for not because He is unwilling to listen but to see how your heart will be drawn out towards Him in prayer. He wants to make you more vehement and importunate in your desires.

You find this in the woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:22). Jesus Christ takes no notice of her; He answers her not a word (verse 23). That is discouragement. One would have thought she would desist, but she prayed again, and the disciples besought Him to send her away. That is another discouragement, which would have knocked off many; but she continues her request still. Jesus Christ Himself answers her, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” That is a third discouragement; and yet that does not cool her affections, but she comes afresh to Christ, and worships Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” She found yet another repulse, and that worse than the former (Matthew 15:26). Christ calls her a dog but she takes encouragement even from this discouraging answer. She was resolved not to give up till she got what she came for. The denials and discouragements God’s people meet with make their desires stronger and their affections to burn hotter.

God was angry with the prayers of His people (Psalm 80:4) so that they might be more fervent. Anselm says that God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no intention to give but so that our desires may be kindled. This gives Him a reason to give more plentifully.

5. If He sees that we have an excessive desire for it

It may be merciful for God to deny us something in mercy if we set our heart on it too much. If we love it too much in asking we will be excessive in having. Rachel was better to lack children than to desire them with an impetuous desire and rash words (Genesis 30:1). She had a child and died in child-bed. God turns mercies desired too passionately into curses and snares to us, or else takes them away from us.

 

Other Considerations

1. God gets glory even by denying your prayers.

It is better that God should be glorified than that we have what we ask for when we want it (John 11:3-4 and 40).

2. If you do not listen to God’s commands, no wonder if He does not listen to your prayers.

It may be God has been calling you to repent and believe for many years – to be reformed, to forsake the evil of your doings, yet you have not heeded His call. Is it not just for God to let you call and He not hear you? (Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13).

3. If you ask coldly.

Do you think God will listen to that prayer which you yourself do not listen to? Do you think God will accept a prayer in which your yourself do not know what you are saying?

4. Perhaps God has given a blessing that you do not acknowledge.

God may have answered your prayers, yet you have not taken any notice of it (Job 9:16-17).

5. Perhaps you are not ready for the answer.

God is always ready to give an answer to our prayers but we are not always ready to receive the answer. God may deny us so that we open our mouths wider (Psalm 81:10).

6. God’s people may wait long for an answer.

It was fifteen years from the time of God’s promise of a child to Abraham until it was accomplished. Zachariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child and while God heard their cries and prayers He did not answer until they were old. So it is often for the Church (Lamentations 3:8 and 44; Habakkuk 1:2).

7. Sometimes God is angry with His people’s prayers.

God may not only defer or deny an answer but even be angry at some times and in some situations with His people’s prayers (Psalm 80:4; Job 30:20-21).

8. God may accept you and listen to your prayers but not grant your request.

In one sense this was even true of Christ in praying for the cup to pass from Him (Matthew 26:39) yet He was heard in that which He prayed (Hebrews 5:7). Moses was a godly man and prayed to see the promised land and go over Jordan to possess it. But God was angry with him and commanded him to pray no more (Deuteronomy 3:23-26).

9. God may give you something better.

Abraham prayed that Ishmael might live before God. God did not hear his prayer as Abraham desired but gave him Isaac and the covenant which was a greater mercy.

10. God may deny your request because to grant it would be a token of wrath.

This would be so if someone asks for something sinful in itself, or that which would be an unavoidable cause of sin or for sinful reasons.

11. God may answer someone else’s prayers for you even if He does not answer your own.

This is a great comfort to every poor weak Christian in the world – they have a stock of prayers going for them to the throne of grace. God forbade Job’s three friends to pray but told Job to pray for them (Job 42:8-9).

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Covenanters

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With 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.
28 Feb, 2017

This, for Archibald Johnston, was the best way of describing the 28 February 1638 – the day that the National Covenant was renewed. Ultimately, it would be signed by the whole nation. Politically, it was Europe’s first revolution. Ecclesiastically, it was Scotland’s Second Reformation. Johnston, a lawyer, was one of two men who were responsible for drawing up the Covenant. In the context of protests against the King’s Prayer Book, the Covenant enabled those protesting to unite together.

The Covenant called for adherence to the official doctrines confessed by the nation as confirmed by Acts of Parliament. It rejected “innovations” in religion and pledged defence of “the true worship of God”. The protesters re-subscribed the 1596 Confession of Faith. Although they professed loyalty to the king and denied that they were guilty of treason, Charles I condemned them, threatening arrest. Yet within days it had been signed by the people of Edinburgh and copies were then sent to the rest of the country for other people to sign in their thousands. Within weeks it had been subscribed by the Lowlands of Scotland, including almost all the nobles.  

It was a moving experience as the historian William Hetherington describes:

The intense emotions of many Scot Presbyterians that day became irrepressible. Some wept aloud; some burst into a shout of exultation; some, after their names, added the words unto death

Johnston recorded the following in his diary:

Wednesday, 28 February 1638, that glorious marriage day of the kingdom with God…The noblemen having appointed the body of the gentry to meet at two in the Greyfriars Kirk to hear copies of it read and to answer objections, I proposed and resolved to have the principal ready in parchment…[that]…it might be presently subscribed…after a divine prayer most fit for the time and present purpose made by Mr Alexander Henderson, the Covenant was subscribed first by the noblemen and barons all that night till 8 at night. On Thursday morning I had…four principal copies in parchment. At nine it was subscribed by all the ministry; at two hours by the burghs. (Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston).

The National Covenant begins as follows with a moving expression of faith and personal commitment. Scripture, the gospel and Reformed doctrine are resolutely defended:

We all, and every one of us underwritten, do protest, that after long and due examination of our own consciences in matters of true and false religion, we are now thoroughly resolved of the truth, by the word and spirit of God; and therefore we believe with our hearts, confess with our mouths, subscribe with our hands, and constantly affirm before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Christian faith and religion, pleasing God, and bringing salvation to man, which now is by the mercy of God revealed to the world by the preaching of the blessed evangel, and received, believed, and defended by many and sundry notable kirks and realms…

The concluding words display courage and a commitment to personal reformation as key to the whole endeavour:

Neither do we fear the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination or what else our adversaries from their craft and malice would put upon us, seeing what we do is so well warranted, and ariseth from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and posterity.

And because we cannot look for a blessing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profession and subscription, we join such a life and conversation as beseemeth Christians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promise, for ourselves, our followers, and all other under us, both in public, in our particular families and personal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of Christian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man; and that this our union and conjunction may be observed without violation we call the living God, the searcher of our hearts to witness, who knoweth this to be our sincere desire and unfeigned resolution, as we shall answer to Jesus Christ in the great day, and under the pain of God’s everlasting wrath, and of infamy, and of loss of all honour and respect in this world; most humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with a happy success, that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of God, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all.

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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.

FURTHER READING

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REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

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REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

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