Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
5 Apr, 2019

Events, strategies, commitments, principles. Everything seems to be subject to change in human affairs, especially politics. An even more changeable future seems inevitable as uncertainty increases. It’s a world of tumultuous, relentless and constant change. Technological, social and moral change in particular, seem to be speeding up. Things we never expected to see are now considered normal. Some change is deeply troubling and other change is good. All this makes us less confident and optimistic in predicting the future. But there is no real reason to fear if we are connected to the unchanging reality of the eternal God.

Hugh Binning points out that the most profound thing that we can say about God is also the simplest. “The Lord gives a definition of Himself”. It is short and we may not think it says much—”I AM” (Exodus 3:14). When people seek to exalt themselves they want to be described in grand and majestic ways to flatter themselves. But there is more majesty in this simple title “I AM” than in all others. This is spiritually discerned.

To compare God with others and say that He is best gives too great significance to the things which we use for comparison. Thus, the Lord calls Himself “I AM”, meaning “I am as if nothing else were”. Not, “I am the highest, the best and most glorious that is”. This assumes other things have some being and glory that is worth taking account of. Rather it is “I am, and there is none else; I am alone”. Nothing else can say, “I am, I live, and there is nothing else”. Everything else is dependent on God. Thus, nothing besides God, can say, “I am”. All things are only borrowed drops of this self-sufficient fountain. If anything comes between the stream and the fountain it is cut off and dried up.

See the profound mystery of God’s absolute self-sufficient perfection enfolded in these three letters, I AM. If you ask what is God? There is nothing better than this, “I AM,” or, He that is. If I would say He is the almighty, the only wise, the most perfect, the most glorious, it is all contained in this, “I am that I am”. He is all those perfections simply, absolutely, and solely.

 

1. Our God is Eternally Unchanging

He never was nothing and never will be nothing and may always say, “I am.”  God is eternally unchanging (Psalm 90:2). Now this is properly to be; and this only deserves the name of being. All the generations past; where are they now? They were, but they are not. And we then were not, and now are; for we have come in their place and in a little time, which of us can say, “I am.” No, we “fly away as a dream” (Job 20:8). We “are like a tale that is told,” (Psalm 90:9) that makes a noise in the present and then it is past. Within a few years this generation will pass, and no one will make mention of us. Our place will not know us, no more than we do now remember those who have been before (Psalm 103:16).

Christ said of John the Baptist, “he was a burning and shining light” (John 5:35); “he was,” but now he is not. But Christ may always say, “I am the light and life of men” (see John 1:4). Man is; but look backwards a little, and he was not; you will find his origin. Go forwards a little and he will not be, you will find his end. But God is “Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). Who can find the beginning and end in such a being who is the beginning and end of all things, yet without all beginning and end? The soul is enclosed between infiniteness before and infiniteness behind. It is between two everlastings; whichever way it turns, there is no way out. Whichever way it looks, it must lose itself in an infiniteness round about it.

We change in our days and are not today what we were yesterday. But “he is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Every day we are dying, some part of our life is taken away. We leave one more day behind us, it is gone and cannot be recovered. Though we vainly please ourselves in the number of our years and the extent of our life, the truth is that we are losing much of our being and time as it passes. First, we lose our childhood, then we lose our adulthood. Then we leave our old age behind us also and there is no more before us.

But when God moves all things, He remains immoveable. Though days and years are in a continual flux and motion around Him and they carry us down with their force yet He abides the same forever. Even the earth and heavens that are established so sure grow old but He is the same, and “his years have no end” (Psalm 102:26-27). He is the beginning without any beginning; the end without an end: there is nothing past to Him, and nothing to come. He is all, before all, after all, and in all. He beholds all the changes of the creatures out of eternity. There is no change in His knowledge, as there is in ours (Acts 15:18). He can declare the end before the beginning; for He knows the end of all things, before He gives them beginning. He is never driven to make consultations in any emergency as the wisest of men are, who could not foresee all events. “He is in one mind”; He had it from everlasting and “who can turn Him?” (Job 23:13).

 

2. Our Response to the Unchanging God

Job’s response to knowing God as He is was to humble himself and repent (Job 42:5-6).  Here is the true knowledge of God’s majesty, which uncovers within you a mystery of iniquity. Here is the knowledge of God indeed, which abases all things besides God, not only in opinion but in affection. It attracts and unites your soul to God, and draws it from yourself and all created things. This is a right revelation of divine purity and glory, that stains the pride of all glory. True knowledge empties a soul of itself and humbles a soul in itself, that it may be full of God. He that thinks he knows any thing, knows nothing as he ought to know.

This then is the first evidence of the saving knowledge of God. It removes all grounds for empty confidence so that a soul cannot trust in itself. The purpose of this is that a soul may trust in God and depend on Him in all things. For this purpose the Lord has called Himself by many names in Scripture which correspond to our various needs and difficulties. This is so that He might make known to us how all-sufficient He is, so that we may turn our eyes and hearts towards Him. This was the purpose of this name, I AM; that Moses might have support for his faith (Exodus 3:14). “I AM;” I, who give all things a being, will give a being to my promise. I will make Pharaoh listen and the people obey.

What is there that this name of God will not answer? It is a creating name—a name that can bring all things out of nothing by a word. If He is what He is, then He can make what He wishes from us. It is a name that brings us comfort (Isaiah 41:12). If we believed this how we would submit to His blessed will. If we believed this would we not make Him our dwelling-place?  Would we not be assured of our own stability and the stability of His church because of His unchangeable eternity? (Psalm 89:1; Psalm 102:27-28). How can we think of such a fountain-Being without acknowledging ourselves to be shadows of His goodness? We owe to Him what we are, and so must dedicate ourselves to His glory. How can we consider such a self-Being, independent and creating Goodness without a desire to cleave to Him and confidence to trust in Him? This is to know Him.

 

3. Ourselves Compared to the Unchanging God

When we think on His unchangeableness let us consider our own vanity. Our glory and perfection is like a summer flower, or like a vapour ascending for a little time, our best estate is altogether vanity. Our plans are soon broken off and made of no effect, our resolutions change. This is mortality, we are not always the same. To be one thing now and then another thing is a characteristic of sinful and wretched man. Therefore let us “cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22).  Do not trust in princes who will die, far less in ourselves who are less than the least of men (Psalm 146:3). Let us put our trust in God who does not change and we will not be consumed (Malachi 3:6).

We will never be ashamed of any hope we have in Him. There is nothing else you trust in which will not, without doubt disappoint you. Whatever you hear or know of God is vain and empty, unless it descends into the heart to shape it with fear and love to Him. It must extend into the outward actions and conform it to obedience. Otherwise when you “know God” you “do not glorify Him as God” and that knowledge will be worse to you than ignorance. It will only harden you and ultimately be your solemn accuser and witness (Romans 1: 21-24). The true knowledge of Jesus Christ is never unfruitful. The things that spring from its root are humility, self-abasing confidence in God, patience in tribulations, meekness in provocations, temperance and sobriety in lawful things (2 Peter 1:5-8).

 

Conclusion

It is a source of wonder as well as comfort to contemplate a God whose being, plans and promises never change. This should draw us to God again and again. He can keep our hearts steadfast. Whatever else and whoever else may change, let us seek to have an unwavering devotion, obedience and love to Him by His grace.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Hugh Binning

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.

What We Lose By Living in Denial About Death

What We Lose By Living in Denial About Death

What We Lose By Living in Denial About Death
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
5 Oct, 2018

In western culture there aren’t many taboo subjects that no one wants to speak about. But the silence is deafening in relation to death. A ComRes survey from 2014 found that eight in ten in the UK are uncomfortable talking about death. It seems as if we want to convince ourselves that death doesn’t exist, even though it is a central part of human experience. There is a natural human fear of death but our culture has taken it to the extreme of a paranoid phobia. It would be unlikely if this has not influenced the Church in some way. Is this the reason many funerals are more about the significance of life than death? Perhaps we are in denial about death too. Perhaps we’re not living in the light of eternity nor ready to think about the full significance of death unless we’re forced to. When we consider Scripture on this subject, we find that we can gain particular benefits from thinking about death.

We’re so influenced by our culture that we are repulsed by thinking about death as morbid. Yet isn’t it rare for us to to travel somewhere on a long journey and make little preparation for it? Wouldn’t we be thinking a good deal about our destination and what we need to make the journey? We may never make those trips for all we know but we do know that the journey of death to eternity is certain to happen.

James Durham points out that those who have been most holy have been most frequent in the thoughts and meditation of death. David prays “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4). Moses says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Numbering our days is serious thinking about and meditating on approaching death. Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, speaks at His transfiguration about his “decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” Although there was something special in His death, speaking about it and preparing for it are an example for us. Solomon commends meditating on death (Ecclesiastes 7:2 and 11: 8, 9 and chapter 12).

What do we mean by meditating on death? It is of course thinking about it from a spiritual point of view. It is certain to happen yet the time and circumstances are uncertain. We need to reflect on what it is to die in the Lord rather die in sin. We also need to dwell on what will happen after death: it is the perfection of joy or the extremity of sorrow forever.

We lose a great deal by living in denial about death and refusing to dwell much on it. The following are all the benefits gained when we consider death seriously, but of course they are lost if we do not meditate on death. They are all drawn from a sermon by James Durham on: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13).

 

The Benefits of Meditating on Death

Meditation on death is so frequently spoken about in Scripture and so profitable to believers.

 

1. It Helps Us Engage with Eternal Realities

It is impossible to know and believe aright how great a task and work (and happiness) it is to die well  without meditating on it. If we take only a glance at it by the by and do not consider seriously what is at the back of death, it will shock us when it comes. The person who has been acquainting themselves with death beforehand can speak of it boldly and with wisdom.

 

2. It Helps Us Esteem Christ More

There is nothing that more readily heightens the estimation of God and Christ than the thoughts of death. The thoughts of death brings us closer and nearer to His bar of judgment. It makes them look on Him as judge. Then they consider their helplessness and vileness on the one hand and the greatness of the majesty of God on the other.

How sublimely David and Job speak about God! In one word they talk about the grave and in the other word highly ex∣alt the majesty and greatness of God. Meditation on death brings very near to us the thought of what God is and of what we are.  It shows us beforehand how He will be found at and after death and what we will be then.

 

3. It Helps Us Edify Others More

Meditation on death would make Christians walk lovingly and edifyingly with others. They would be loather to do wrong, more patient when they suffered wrongs, and more ready to forgive and forget wrongs.  Half an hour’s conversation together with the impression of the solemnity of death on us would (through God’s blessing) edify and profit us mutually more than many meeting many days without it.

 

4. It Helps Us Advance Spiritually

(a) It Enlightens Our Understanding

It stays the mind, it diverts us from vain things. Men are seldom or never in a more sober and in a better frame than when they are seriously apprehensive of death. The thoughts of death make a man wise and discreet. Without these thoughts we will rather wound our conscience than our reputation. Moses joins together, thinking on death and applying of the heart to wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

(b) It Restrains Our Affections

When Solomon is speaking to the young man who will not be held back by any restraints he uses irony. He invites him to rejoice and laugh on but urges him to remember that for all these things he will come to judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Meditating on death and judgment would make people look on frothy hilarity as vanity, folly, and madness. These thoughts are especially suitable in prosperity and during youth when there is a light attitude to eternal things. Meditating on death is a remarkable bridle to such lightness.

(c) It Helps Us Put Sin to Death

Meditating on death makes a person care litle for the world, riches, pleasures, and honour. It puts to death three things which are the worlds trinity: pride, covetousness and fleshly lusts.

  • It mortifies pride. We see this with David, who says, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4). Job says to corruption it is his father and to the worms, they are his sisters (Job 17:14). It makes us say, I am dust and to dust I will return.
  • It mortifies covetousness. Meditating on death takes the heart from the things of the world, and gives us other thoughts to think on. Many are forced to say when death approaches that they have hampered themselves with the world and it has beguiled them.
  • It mortifies fleshly pleasures. What can vain fleshly lusts do for those that are dying? However merry they may be now, these thoughts tell them that they must appear in a short time before God in judgment. If this is not a bridle to these lusts, I do not know what will be a bridle.

(d) It Helps Us Advance in Spiritual Activities

It stirs up to be diligent in all duties and engage in them seriously. One sermon or prayer after serious meditation on death would have more weight and benefit than many others without it. It humbles us and encourages sel-examination. It advances the fear of God and brings the soul to stand in awe of Him before whom it is to appear shortly. It advances repentance and prayer (Job 41:25).

Even the heathen sailors in the ship with Jonah prepared themselves for death by repentance, prayer, and offering sacrifices. If meditation on death makes godless men outwardly religious how much more should it make believers serious and spiritual? If God gives them time and seriousness at dying, their prayers will then be more effectual and fervent at that time than before.

(e) It Helps Us Handle Trials

It is exceedingly profitable in producing gracious submission to adverse providence. What anxious care will someone take who has been meditating on death when he loses property?  He knows death will put an end to all these things.

(f) It Helps Us Prepare for Death 

Solomon describes sickness and old age in Ecclesiastes 12 to make the young prepare for death before it comes. If there were no other advantages from meditating on death, not being unprepared for it is no small one. In some way this also mitigates the bitterness of death. It is not so terrible to those who have been thinking seriously on it as it is to others who have never done this. No wonder  many are terrified or stupefied at death, since they never learned the lesson of dying before it came on them.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

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.

Preparing for the Inevitable

Preparing for the Inevitable

Preparing for the Inevitable
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
23 Feb, 2018

What’s the most important thing we can learn from Billy Graham’s passing? “Billy Graham tackled the topic of death often and with surprising frankness”. This is how the Washington Post began one of the more unusual reflections on his passing. Quite an unusual theme for a secular newspaper. “When Graham preached, he said that death was, of course, inevitable”. How do we prepare for the inevitable? First, he said, “accept the fact that you will die.” Second, “make arrangements.” Third, “make provision for those you are leaving behind”. And finally, “make an appointment with God.” Whatever else might be said about Billy Graham nothing was more important than how he approached this. He faced this reality with all seriousness. To do so depends on treating life itself with all seriousness too. “Each of us is given the exact same amount of seconds, minutes and hours per day as anyone else. The difference is how we redeem [them]”.

Graham got this from the Shorter Catechism that he memorised perfectly as a boy. It begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”. “My mother did just that”, he wrote. While Graham may not have held onto the whole of the Catechism, he certainly held onto this amongst other points. We can expand much further on these thoughts in relation to preparing for the inevitable. James Durham has some vital considerations in relation to what it means to prepare for eternity.

 

Three Essentials

(a) Flee to Christ

Flee to Christ by faith and make peace with God through Him.

(b) Make your Calling and Election Sure

We must endeavour to make our calling and election sure by well doing. Although our justification before God does not depend on this, much of our comfort and confidence does depend on it.  It is no doubt our duty to labour to make it sure.

(c) Live in Holiness

There must be a holy walk. we may have a good conscience at Christ’s appearing though this. There can never be boldness and confidence where there is a stinging conscience within and accusations for sinning against light.

 

1. Live with Faith in Eternal Realities

Seek to establish yourselves in believing the general truths that concern your death. Be established and confirmed in faith concerning death, judgment and eternity – for your eternal good or ill. Do not have a mere general conviction that these things are true. Apply them specifically to yourself by meditation. You will die and after death you will come to the Judgement and be eternally happy or miserable.

One of the great evils that encourages Atheism is people living as if they were never to die

Solid belief about death, judgement and eternity is thus a foundation for living well. Those who do not lay this foundation can never live well. They must consider how conscience will accuse them at death and how they can deal with this now. They need to see what trials and temptations they will have then and how to guard against them.

Endeavour to draw death and judgement near to you,, meditate closely upon them. Suppose death were approaching you this very night. Consider whether you would be ready to appear before God’s tribunal to be judged. Thinking more about this would help us, through God’s blessing, to put sin to death and have little to do when death comes.

But the truth is, most never think on death seriously. They do not desire any other life than the present, they shun thoughts of death. How few hours are taken to think upon it? Suppose you were to come before a human court with a matter that greatly concerned you in the world. Would you not think about it again and again beforehand? Yet even the most momentuous of such matters are but trifles compared to this great matter of how you will die and appear before the great God and His Judgement seat.

 

2. Live in Gospel Duties

There are particular du∣ties that have a special influence on preparing for deat.

(a) Self-examination

Do you think it possible to die with comfort if you are not acquainted with the state of your spiritual affairs? If you do not endeavour to have your accounts with God reckoned up? Neglect of this is a great plague. That which makes death so terrible to many is having lived thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years without having ever endeavoured to reckon their accounts with God, let alone have them cleared.

(b) Repentance

Repentance is a rare thing even among Christians in these days. It is a special duty related to dying in Christ. When we see ourselves wrong in anything (many may be easily found in self-examination) we must not leave it there. We must be earnest with God until are conscious of forgiveness, this cannot be had until repentance is exercised. Repentance and faith always go together.

Repentance makes the heart tender and removes the accusations that make death terrifying. It is also a great enemy to complacency, presumption and pride. It keeps the heart melting and pouring itself out before God. The lack of repentance in our day is obvious in the coldness of our worship and in the worldliness of our walk. Those who desire to die in the Lord must exercise this grace and duty. There is nothing more requisite then a penitent heart when we are to meet with Christ at death.

(c) Putting Sin to Death

This is a painful but profitable duty. Be crucified to the world, die to your lusts and carnal delights. Pull up the roots of sin and kill its activities. Weed it out of the heart. Put to death envy, anger, pride,  inordinate desires etc.  Seek to have your affections heavenly which prepares us for dying in the Lord.

(d) Moderation

“Let your moderation be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5). Many are so glued to the things of this world and delights and pleasures which are lawful in themselves, that they are entangled and fettered with them and made  unfit for dying. They do not use them in moderation. Inordinate love for children, friends, lands, houses, farms and the married wife unfits them for dying. We must gird up the loins of our mind and be sober (1 Peter 1:13). Those who do not use lawful pleasures in moderation are like those with long garments which trip them up and impede them in walking and work. When our affections hang loose and drag on the earth and the things that are in it and the mind wanders after these things, the man cannot be busy at his main work. He cannot make progress in his journey to heaven.

Moderation fits a man for his work and makes the way easy. It makes him content with his house and whatever is his condition and lot in the world. It does not allow his affections to be entangled with them, it makes him use this world as not abusing it (1 Corinthians 7). Our blessed Lord Jesus powerfully dissuades us from giving ourselves too much to the things of this life (Luke 21:34). This makes us as indisposed for death and judgement as overeating or drunkenness make us indisposed in general.

 

3. Live with Thoughts of Death

Those who desire to die in the Lord should carry the thoughts of death along with them. They should be as if every day and moment were their last. They should be as if they were just now to appear before God and as if they were indifferent (in a holy way) what hour or moment He would call them.  God has not let us know the precise time of our life here. Some have observed that in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 that there is a time for everything, a time to be born, a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to weep but there is none for living. No one can say I must or I shall live until tomorrow. Do now what you would be found doing when death comes.

Some may ask if it is possible always to have these things in mind. But it is like doing everything to the glory of God, it is not to be understood as if we could actually keep it in mind in everything we do. Our minds are only finite and are therefore unable to keep many things in mind or different things at the same time.

 

4. Live with Adversity

Those who desire to die in the Lord should not seek after a pampered life but learn to submit to difficulties and troubles. We should neither go out of our way to seek such things nor to avoid them. Solomon says that it is better to be in the house of mourning than in the house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2). This is because few living in prosperity are content and disposed to die and adversity works best to loosen our grips from the world. It is hard to be glutted with the things of the world and live in a prosperous and plentiful condition and not be drawn away from spiritual things.

 

5. Live but Die Daily

Paul could say “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).  This is not just to do with his daily dangers but his seeking to anticipate death, in dying while he was living and before death came. This involves:

(a) a conviction that death is certain

(b) considering the continual potential for dying;

(c) preparing for and being in continual readiness to die; and

(d) anticipating what it will be like to die before death comes.

We must consider how we will answer death’s call. Every day we should be doing what we would want to be found doing when death comes. We should endeavour to have all things in order

When praying in the morning we should be ready as if we were never again to go out into the world. When we lie down at night it should be as if we might not rise againe in the morning. When we speak or act we should speak and act like those who do not have a long time to live.

 

6. Live According to Conscience Echoing Scripture

Put into practice what your own conscience according to the Scriptures show is necessary for making and keeping your peace with God. Ordinarily, this is one of the main accusations of conscience that meets people at death, that they have have not put into many things they were convinced of. They have evaded, delayed and put off opportunities for duties. They have not reformed the faults they were convinced of.

Do whatever your hand finds to do with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Be serious and diligent in  doing without delay what you know to be right.  Do not neglect this as a thing of little concern. Death is the door to heaven and death is at the door. Living well is the way to dying well. If you would live and die in the Lord, give weight to these directions and practice them in the strength of God’s own grace.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

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.

Challenging the Deceits of our Youth-Obsessed Culture

Challenging the Deceits of our Youth-Obsessed Culture

Challenging the Deceits of our Youth-Obsessed Culture
Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) was a Covenanting minister and Bible expositor in and around Irvine in Ayrshire. He was ordained in 1646 and was removed from his church in 1662 for refusing to comply with the re-establishment of Episcopacy.
4 Aug, 2017

It’s not just that our culture only seems to celebrate youth as successful – it makes it everything. Deep down there is a desperate fear of ageing, losing our material pleasures…and of death. We live in a culture that wants to keep us in a state of perpetual adolescence. That way we will be more impulsive and self-focussed and therefore buy more. Social media (misused) often seems to feed the desire to be the centre of attention. Frequently it promotes immature use of language, reason, truth claims and emotion. Scripture makes a clear distinction between being childlike and childish. Do we know what that is?

Our culture doesn’t want to “put away childish things”: it wants to carry on speaking and reasoning in a childish way. This is of course the opposite of what the Apostle Paul says should happen (1 Corinthians 13:11). There are indeed spiritual characteristics similar to being childlike (Matthew 18:1-4). Yet these are quite different to childishness. One passage in Ecclesiastes speaks directly to the young in relation to matters of eternity and ultimate significance. Given that our culture keeps us from advancing beyond adolescence, it is a very appropriate message for us to hear.

There is an irony in Ecclesiastes 11:9 when it calls on the “young man” to “rejoice” in his “youth” and let his heart bring him hear in the days of youth. Walk according to the ways of your heart and as seems good in your own eyes, he says. It as though he says “follow your dreams and desires…but” and then introduces an unexpected and shocking warning. “Know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement”. As Alexander Nisbet says, Solomon is applying his exhortations about preparing for death and eternity to the young because they are most prone to put these thoughts off. They are most bent on their earthly pleasures and so he labours to stop them in their violent pursuit of them.

He is not encouraging them in their sinful pleasures but using a kind of holy scorn that mocks their carnal merriment.  He is speaking to those who rejoice in their foolish youthful lusts and provoke each other not to deny themselves any possible satisfaction in them. They make their own desires the rule of their lifestyle and so justly deserve to be given up by God to their own heart’s lusts. They think that they will “remove sorrow” by their sinful pleasures but they are only increasing grief and wrath for themselves. They must “put away evil” from their “flesh” and forsake these sinful pleasures. At the end he warns them that “childhood and youth are vanity” (verse 10). Of course this can only be done by grace through faith in Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Here is a resounding (albeit sobering) message challenging the deceits of our youth-obsessed culture.

1. If We Give Ourselves to Sinful Pleasure, God May Leave Us to it

Those who give themselves up to their sinful pleasures may justly fear that God will also give them up to follow their own way to their eternal ruin. If they scorn His efforts and often mock His messengers, He will ultimately mock them and scorn the scorners. This holy irony is intended to produce fears in their hearts, lest God give them up utterly to themselves.

2. By Nature We Want to be Unrestrained in Sin

Where God’s powerful renewing grace has not visited hearts, they will not only take pleasure in sin but provoke themselves to more and more wickedness. If their conscience suggests reluctance they will spur their hearts over its belly. They will withhold themselves from nothing which gives immediate satisfaction. It does not matter how dishonourable to God and destructive to their soul’s peace and happiness it may be. This ironic speech expresses what a bold sinner’s heart says to himself.

3. Great Earthly Pleasures Banish Thoughts of Eternity

When people have abundant earthly pleasures and are capable of enjoying their sweetness, they are in danger of banishing all serious thoughts of death and the last Judgement. But they do need to be reminded of this, as this verse warns.

4. Considering the Day of Judgement Restrains Sin

Serious and believing consideration of the Great Day of Judgement, is a special means to abate our eagerness in pursuing carnal pleasures.  Ministers ought therefore to be frequently and seriously stirring people up to consider it. The Spirit of God finds this to be a most appropriate bridle in the jaws of brazen youth, to restrain it from excess in carnal pleasures.

5. We Will Not Avoid Judgement

There will be no avoiding appearing at the Judgement Seat of Christ. Everyone must appear not matter how unwilling they may be. God will bring us “into judgement”.

6. Our Desires will be Judged as Well as Our Actions

The last Judgement will be so exact that not even the least sinful motion of wicked men’s hearts will pass without notice and deserved punishment. Everyone must not only give an account there of the gross sins they have committed, but also how they have inwardly encouraged their hearts to follow these sins. In speaking of young men cheering their hearts in their wicked ways, and in the sight of their eyes, he says that “for all these things” God will bring them into judgement.

7. Delighting in Youthful Lusts only Increases Sorrow

Deluded sinners dream that delighting in their lusts and banishing the thoughts of future judgement to come is the best way to remove sorrow from their hearts. The truth is, however, that by doing so, they are contracting sorrow and heaviness. They are depriving themselves of their true spiritual comfort and joy. They provoke the Lord to wrath against them. They are drinking down that sweet poison that will shortly  bring much sorrow to their heart (unless they vomit it again by sincere confession). He speaks to someone who in verse 9, cheers his own heart in his sin and banishes thoughts of judgement. The same person in verse 10 is said to have much sorrow of heart, i.e. much guilt which will end in sorrow. He also gives great cause for divine wrath against him. The word translated sorrow means this also, and this is why he is exhorted to remove sorrow from his heart.

8. Sorrow and Sin Cannot be Separated

“Flesh” here indicates the corrupt nature of man (often called flesh in Scripture) that incites to sin as well as the outward body that puts these desires into action and accomplishes them.  Putting to death and forsaking such evils may seem to them the most unpleasant and painful activity in the world. Yet they are in effect the only way to remove sorrow, and consequently bring true joy and peace into the soul. Putting away evil from the heart is the way to achieve removing sorrow from the heart.

9. The Sinful Delights of Youth Will Soon Vanish

The sinful delights of youth are transitory; those hot furious motions of passion, lust etc. will soon vanish. Considering this fact should move us more promptly to put sin to death and leave our lust before our lusts leave us.  For “childhood and youth are vanity”. The vanity spoken of primarily the transitory nature of soon vanishing of youthful pleasures. This is used as an argument for repentance.

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

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.

Have We Become Tourists Rather than Pilgrims?

Have We Become Tourists Rather than Pilgrims?

Have We Become Tourists Rather than Pilgrims?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
23 Jun, 2017

Not all journeys are the same. Tourists are focussed on their surroundings; pilgrims are fixed on their destination. Tourists want to capture as much as possible of what they see; pilgrims mark their progress towards an unseen destination. How do we respond to this world? Are we so comfortable and satisfied in it that we could better be described as tourists than pilgrims in relation to this world? Or half pilgrim, half tourist? Not all pilgrims are the same. Some are simply pleasing themselves under cover of religion. What is it to live as true pilgrims in this world?

Scripture must of course be our guide. 1 Peter 1:17 speaks about pilgrims who have a careful walk that is afraid of offending God. 1 Peter 2:11-12 speaks of keeping ourselves apart from the prevailing sins of the world we pass through so that we have a testimony that speaks to others. Is your life a pilgrim’s protest against the course of this world? Hebrews 11 outlines brief biographies of true pilgrims; particularly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (11:8-16). David Dickson draws out various concise lessons for us in this updated extract.

 

1. True Pilgrims Walk by Faith

By faith Abraham obeyed God’s call and left his native country (v8). This teaches us that:

  • Faith in God will cause a man to leave his country, parents and every dearest thing if God calls him to.
  • Faith esteems God’s promises better than present possessions. It is content to leave the one for the other.
  • Faith is content with a general promise from God of that which is better. It is willing to obey even if it is blind as to how God will fulfil His promise.
  • Faith is willing to obey as soon as it sees authorisation from God.

 

2. True Pilgrims Will Forego Anything

Abraham sojourned in Canaan living in tents (v9). This teaches us that:

  • Faith can for a while submit to being a stranger even from that to which it has best right to in this world.
  • When faith is certain of a heavenly inheritance, it can be content with a small portion of earthly things.
  • Someone who sojourns amongst idolaters should be sure that God has called them to be there.  If they must be amongst such, they ought to behave as strangers and sojourners.
  • Even where we still have that which we have best right to on earth, we ought to have a pilgrim’s mind.

 

3. True Pilgrims Seek Heaven as their Permanent Home

It was the hope of a settled dwelling place with God, in the company of the saints in heaven that prompted Abraham to live as a sojourner on earth (v10). This teaches us that:

  • Heaven is a settled, spacious, and safe dwelling place. All places here are but moveable tents.
  • The patriarchs under the Law looked for entry into their eternal rest in the kingdom of heaven, after the end of their pilgrimage here.
  • The hope of heaven is able to make a man content with pilgrim’s fare and lodgings in the present.

 

4. True Pilgrims Persevere in Faith

These pilgrims died in faith not having obtained the promises (v13). This teaches us that:

  • Faith is not commendable unless we persevere in it until our death.
  • Even though we do not see a promise made to the Church or ourselves fulfilled in our time, we may go to death with assurance that it will be fulfilled.
  • Those who would die in faith must live in faith.
  • Though these pilgrims did not receive the Promises, yet they saw them afar off and were fully persuaded of them and embraced them.
  • Although faith does not possess the promise, yet it comes to behold a time of possession coming and is persuaded that the promise will be obtained
  • Faith embraces the promise: the original word implies greeting them in a friendly way. It is the sort of greeting that friends give one another while drawing near to embrace one another after a long time of separation.

 

5. True Pilgrims Openly Profess to be Pilgrims 

They confessed in their lifetime that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We only read this of Jacob when he appeared before Pharaoh but the mind of one of the faithful in the main matters, makes evident what is the mind of the rest. This teaches us that:

  1. True believers must profess their faith before all, even before the idolaters they live amongst.
  2. Those who know heaven to be their own home, reckon this world a strange or foreign country.

 

6. True Pilgrims Seek a Better Country

The apostle infers from their profession that they were strangers (v14-16) the following things: (a) they desired a country for their home; (b) this must have been either their own earthly country, or a better country; (c) it cannot have been their own earthly home country because they might have returned to it if they wished; (d) they therefore desired a better country; (e) if it was a better country, then it must have been a heavenly country. In other words, they desired heaven itself for their country. This teaches us:

  • To read Scripture so as to not only observe what is spoken, but also what is implied as a consequence (inference).
  • That which is implied by what someone has said plainly declares the mind of the speaker. This is not an obscure deduction, as those who deride this method of interpretation call it. The apostle says that those who say they are strangers plainly declare that they seek a country.
  • It is lawful to proceed in drawing one consequence after another until we find out the full mind of the author as long as the deduction is evident and follows sound reason, as it does here.
  • The apostle has proved here that the patriarchs sought heaven for their country; because they sought a better than any on earth.
  • The apostle knew no place for departed souls better than earth, except heaven alone. If there had been any other place, such as some imagine, his reasoning would not have been solid.
  • The patriarchs, after the end of their pilgrimage here on earth, went home to heaven.

Heaven was prepared for the patriarchs, and the rest of God’s saints before they ended their pilgrimage on earth. To put them into hell or any other place must not be a teaching from heaven. [Dickson is referring to the false Roman Catholic teaching that believers who died before Christ went to limbus patrum – a state of limbo for the fathers].

 

7. True Pilgrims are Honoured by God

Since they counted themselves strangers until they came home to heaven, God is not ashamed to be called their God (v16). This teaches us that:

  • God will honour those that honour Him.
  • God will avow Himself to be the portion of those who renounce the world for His sake.
  • The Lord will even abase Himself in order to exalt and honour those who honour Him
  • When the Lord has done thus, He considers it no dishonour to Himself to do anything that may honour His servants.
  • God prepared a city for them (which the apostle previously called heaven, or the heavenly country).
Find out more about David Dickson and read other articles featuring his work.

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

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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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Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

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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.

7 Benefits of Measuring Your One Brief Life

7 Benefits of Measuring Your One Brief Life

7 Benefits of Measuring Your One Brief Life
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
16 Dec, 2016

​In a 24/7 world, time is a precious commodity. We live our lives by the clock, assessing how much time we have till the next item on the schedule. It’s a 24/7 world because to many, this life and this world is all that matters. Time is short but there is an eternal world to come. This makes time precious in an altogether different way. True wisdom compels us to measure our lives for our enduring benefit.

As Moses shows, our lives are so short they can be compared to a single day (Psalm 90:6). Jacob lived longer than the oldest person now alive but he assessed his years as “few and evil” (Genesis 47:9). Andrew Gray gives valuable counsel on the benefit of measuring our days in order to know the brevity of time. He says that it would be desirable that “the thoughts of it were deeply engraven on our hearts, as with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond”. Thus, “they might rise with us in the morning and lie down with us at night, and be continually with us”.  It would be “a spur in our side” reminding us of what concerns our soul’s everlasting benefit. It is worth noting that Andrew Gray died very young, at the age of only 22 years. The following is an updated extract from one of his sermons.

 

1. Measuring Our Life Brings Heavenly-mindedness

It is clear that “we have here no continuing city”. What should this produce?  “Therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:14-15).  Considering the brevity of our life is good for the very same reason, to remind us of eternity. Since it is so, we should  set our affections and desires on things that are above. We should set our whole hearts on that glorious and precious pearl of our crown that shines so bright: when “we shall meet Christ in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). O long for that day and let your hearts covet more the excellent things that are above in heaven.

 

2. Measuring Our Life Makes Us Moderate in the Pleasures of this Life

It will cause great sobriety and moderation in pursuit after the worldly pleasures and delights of this present life. This is clear from that command given 1 Thessalonians 5:8, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation”. If the thoughts of the brevity of our life were engraven on our hearts, why then should we vex ourselves with the torturing cares of this life, which does not profit us at all? O why do we weary ourselves in the fire, which is but vexation of spirit and surely vanity? O Christians, let  your moderation in the pursuit of the things in this world be made known to all men. For behold! The Lord is at hand, to take vengeance and revenge on the wicked, with furious rebukes of flaming fire, and eternal excommunication from the righteous Judge.

 

3. Measuring Our Life Makes Us Serious and Diligent in Duties

It makes us diligent and watchful in going towards that blessed rest that is prepared for all the redeemed of the Lord. Our blessed Lord Jesus reasoned, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4) Then, O Christians, while it is called today, stir up yourselves for working out the work of your salvation. We do not know how suddenly the shadows of that everlasting evening may be stretched out over us and we receive that summons from God to remove from here and be gone. Are you not afraid lest you be banished? Lest the night approach before your work is perfected? I am afraid that many will still not have begun that great work of their soul’s salvation when death summons them to appear before God’s terrible tribunal and judgment-seat.

Be afraid and stand in awe, lest the night is hard by and at hand. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die,” say the Epicureans. They make use of this argument to stir up delight in fulfilling their lusts; but let us be watchful and diligent for we do not know but it may be tomorrow that we must die.

Take more time to consider the things that are before you than the things that are behind. Think more on what is before than what is past: “press forward toward the mark, for the prize of the high-calling of God, in Christ Jesus”.

 

4. Measuring Our Life Makes Us Understand Why We Were Created

Adam was created according to the most blessed and glorious image of God. But having a woeful and cursed design to be as God and like Him, fell from that blessed condition and all his posterity in him. He made us and himself subject to God’s wrath and eternal indignation for evermore. But blessed be God eternally that He has found out that new and living way by which we may escape that curse on all mankind for sin.

 

5. Measuring Our Life is a Great Help to Put Idols to Death

Thoughts of the brevity of our life and appointed time would put to death the following great idols which have us so much under their power:

(a) It helps put to death the idol of false trust. This is when we trust in anything more than in God. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man” in whom there is no help (Psalm 146:3).
(b) It helps put to death the idol of false love. This is when we love anything more than God. We are to cease from man “whose breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22).
(c) It helps put to death the idol of false fear. This is when we fear anything more than God. Particularly when we are “afraid of a man that shall die and of the son of man which shall be made as grass?” ( Isaiah 51:12)

 

6. Measuring Our Life Creates Wonder at the Love of Christ

One who measures their life may attain to a holy admiration and divine astonishment at the condescending love of Jesus Christ. “Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). What a wonder it is to see God delighting Himself in the dust of His feet. God makes those who dwell in the dust an object of His love! Surely this is a mystery which we cannot comprehend.

 

7. Measuring Our Life Makes Us Compassionate

God makes use of the brevity of our live to provoke Him to have compassion and mercy. Surely this is God’s way and we must wonder at it rather than inquire and debate why it is so. This is clear from Psalm 78:38-39: “But being full of compassion, he forgave their iniquities, and turned away his anger; for he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”

 

Conclusion

Gray notes that God has appointed our time and numbered our days (Job 14:14-16). God has done all things well. The brevity and shortness of our life declares the great love and matchless delight that God has to sinners. He is longing for the day when all the redeemed of the Lord shall be with Him, to remain there forever to enjoy all delights and all soul-pleasures. Long for that day, but be submissive to God’s will. Those who have made use of their life to enjoy communion and fellowship with God will rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

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

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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.