How Does Faith Justify?

How Does Faith Justify?

How Does Faith Justify?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
20 Oct, 2017

The Scriptural truth of justification by faith alone is the teaching most closely associated with Martin Luther. It was a radical change from the idea that justification would only take place in the future on the day of judgement. Even more radical was the truth that it was by faith alone and not faith formed by acts of charity that would merit eternal life. Luther saw that Scripture teaches that we are not justified by any work that we do but solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21; 4:4-5). No wonder he wrote: “One cannot go soft or give way on this article, for then heaven and earth would fall”.

He also wrote that justification is “the most delightful” doctrine. But he added, that there were “few…who have thought it through well and who teach it aright”. About 150 years later it still needed correct teaching and thinking. John Brown of Wamphray wrote The Life of Justification Opened in order to clarify the doctrine against those who were introducing error. This problem remains today. One of the areas that Brown discusses is how faith justifies:

Faith is looking to Christ, as the stung Israelite in the wilderness looked to the brazen serpent (John 3:14,-15). Faith is saying ‘In the Lord have I righteousness’ (Isaiah 45:24). It is the believer putting on the Lord Jesus, that he may be found in Him and clothed with His righteousness (Philippians 3:9). It is receiving Christ (John 1:12) and receiving the atonement in Him and through Him (Romans 5:11) together with abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). It is therefore called ‘believing on His name’ (John 1:12; 6:29; 7:35; 17:20; Acts 16:31; 19:25). Because faith has laid hold on this righteousness of Christ, this righteousness is called the ‘righteousness of faith’ (Romans 4:11) and the ‘righteousness which is of faith’ (Romans 9:30). It is that, ‘which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Philippians 3:9). Justifying faith is receiving Christ and His righteousness. It takes the man out of himself so that he may find and partake of that all-sufficient righteousness of Christ. Thus he may stand before God with confidence and expect pardon and acceptance. To say that faith is itself the gospel-righteousness on which they may lean and expect justification would be to destroy the essential work of justifying faith.

Brown emphasises that believers are not justified on account of their faith, as if that constituted their “gospel-righteousness”. Rather they are only justified on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith as a mere instrument or means of receiving it. He continues:

Faith, in this matter, is as the eye of the soul, that does not look to itself but looks out to another. All who would live the life of justification must take themselves to Jesus Christ, lean on Him and His righteousness. They must be clothed with the robe of His righteousness alone and found in Christ alone. This is the only basis on which they must think of standing before God, having on Christ’s righteousness which God imputes to believers, and which they receive by faith, in order that they may have justification.

 

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from John Brown of Wamphray

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How Far Should Reformation Go?

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How True Faith Rejoices in Christ, Even in Trials

How True Faith Rejoices in Christ, Even in Trials

How True Faith Rejoices in Christ, Even in Trials
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.
11 Aug, 2017

Trials do more than cast a shadow, they often bring us into periods of darkness. It seems that, as Rutherford says, Christ’s purpose is to have joy and sorrow equal sharers in the life of His people.  As though “each of them should have a share of our days, as the night and the day are kindly partners and halfers of time”. To some it may seem that they have more sorrow than joy. Rutherford says that even though “sorrow be the greediest halfer of our days here, I know joy’s day shall dawn, and do more than recompense all our sad hours”. In the midst of trials and darkness the light of joy is sown for the righteous (Psalm 97:11). Faith brings Christ near and His presence floods the dark room of sorrow with the light of joy.

This is expressed in 1 Peter chapter 1: it is possible to “greatly rejoice” even though we “are in heaviness”  through the trial of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). We should not forget that the Christian has spiritual trials and afflictions that every bit as real and troubling as their outward trials. Of course they may, and frequently do, come together. We can even have joy during such trials. Those to whom Peter was writing had never seen Christ in the flesh, but by faith they loved Him. They could “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). This is a remarkable joy, even in the midst of trials, its nature and extent cannot be fully expressed. It is the beginning of the joy that glorified spirits have in heaven. The following updated extract comes from Alexander Nisbet’s reflections on these words in 1 Peter 1:8.

1. Where There is Faith in Christ, There Will be Love to Him

True faith in Jesus Christ always has love to Him flowing from it. This will make the soul hate everything it knows to be contrary to His nature and will (Psalm 97.10). It will constrain the soul to endeavour everything it knows will please and honour Him (2 Corinthians 5:4). In this verse love to Christ is the effect of faith that has been proved genuine by trials.

2. This Brings Joy, Even in the Worst Trials

Faith which has love to Christ flowing from it will bring much joy into the soul of the believer even under sore trials. They may have sore heaviness of spirit as a result of these trials. Faith is the grace which secures the soul’s chief good (Song of Solomon 2:16). It lets the soul see clearly through present afflictions to a certain and blessed deliverance (2 Corinthians 4:18). Love to Christ is also a clear proof of the love of God to us (John 16:27).  True faith not only has love to Christ flowing from it but also produces joy.

3. Faith Makes Christ Real and Present

They who heartily embrace Christ offered to them in the Word by faith, will love Him and rejoice in Him as though they had seen him and conversed with him bodily. True faith makes the thing it lays hold of spiritually present to the soul (Hebrews 11:1). Thus suffering believers are commended in that they loved and rejoiced in Jesus Christ though they had never seen him as the apostle had i.e. in the flesh.

4.  We are to Consider Ourselves as Joyful Even When we Struggle

Many true lovers of Jesus Christ have now and then a good measure of spiritual joy in Him, but they do not consider and appreciate this as they ought. They do not, therefore, persevere so cheerfully in their trials as they otherwise would. The Spirit of the Lord directs the apostle to lead suffering Christians to reflect on themselves as those who did love Christ and rejoice in Him. This implies that they needed this pointed out to them. It also indicates that if they considered themselves to be such, they would be greatly encouraged to cheerful perseverance under their sufferings.

5. Christ Notices our Trials and Will Reward Them

Christ takes great notice of any difficulty a believer experiences in exercising any grace. This will be to the great benefit of the believer when Christ and he meet. The difficulty that these sufferers experienced in exercising their love and faith is twice expressed, implying that the fewer conscious helps faith has (besides the Word) the more highly it is esteemed by Jesus Christ. So much the more also it will “be found to praise and honour and glory” (1 Peter 1:7) at His appearance.

6. Inexpressible Joy is not Impossible Amidst Trials

It is not impossible for a child of God to rejoice in the midst of many trials and discouragements. Even though they may have nothing that can give them comfort except the Word of the Lord. They may have their heart now and then filled with such a joy as can hardly be kept within doors. It may be such a joy that no tongue nor words can sufficiently express. By faith the believer lays hold of God as his father in Christ. He views by faith his spiritual privileges, such as the certainty of his perseverance and the excellence of his reward. The apostle affirms that these suffering and sad-hearted exiles rejoiced in believing. The word used means the kind of joy that breaks out in outward expressions, yet it cannot be sufficiently expressed – it is “joy unspeakable”.

7. Lively Faith Experiences Foretastes of Glory

Lively exercise of faith will sometimes give the soul some foretastes of the first fruits of glory. It may, for instance, experience that sweetness in communion with God which those in glory live on. The believer may have in his heart the well-grounded assurance of the ultimate full possession of this (Romans 5:2, 8:38). This will enable the soul humbly to glory over all possible difficulties, while it takes hold of that power which is committed to carrying it through (1 Peter 1:5). Thus, the apostle affirms the joy which flows from believing, to be “full of glory”.

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

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 to Do with Your Anxiety

What to Do with Your Anxiety

What to Do with Your Anxiety
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.
16 Jun, 2017

The viral conversation #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike is still going. It arose from fears due to a delayed response to a text message. “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious, there’s something wrong with you”, says the originator Sarah Fader. We live in an age of anxiety. Every generation has its anxieties, but we have taken it to a new level. Generalised anxiety disorder (something different from depression) is common. Some say it is at epidemic level. The psychologist Jean Twenge observes that the average anxiety level of a Western teenager today is at a level that would have denoted a clinical anxiety disorder in the 1950s. A culture of self-obsession has not helped. But anxiety is neither to be trivialised nor valorised. It is very real in different levels and degrees and some situations require medical help. Yet it is also in part a spiritual issue. Self-help, mind tricks and “mindfulness” cannot treat it: these only mask the symptoms. The Bible has much to say about anxiety that is vital.

It is easy to repeat verses like 1 Peter 5:7 without insight into what it is to cast our cares and anxieties on the Lord. Alexander Nisbet has some helpful counsel on what this means. In general, he says, it teaches that believers should faith commit everything to the Lord in faith. They should commit their need to be sustained in fulfilling their duty, the outcome of their actions and their anxiety about these to the Lord. The Lord’s loving providence does not permit Him to neglect them, or any of their concerns. There is no anxiety He cannot bear for us and therefore no anxiety that we must hold onto and keep to ourselves.

1. Believers Are Subject to Anxiety

The Lord’s children are subject to much sinful anxiety in following their duty. This is apparent when they are hindered from their duty. This happens when they look more to their own weakness and the difficulties in the way of duty than to the sufficiency promised by the One that calls them to the duty (Exodus 3:11). It also evident when they are discouraged in their duty and filled with apprehension about probable hazards in the way of duty (Isaiah 51:12-13). The Spirit of the Lord wants to make them aware of this sin, since He finds it necessary to exhort them thus to cast all our care on Him.

2. Anxiety is Sinful When it Makes Us Unable to Do Our Duty to God

It is most commendable when Christians are concerned about discharging their duty aright and avoiding anything that may provoke the Lord in their way of going about it. This must stir them up to great diligence and making use of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 7:11). They may be concerned about the way they go about their duty or its success and outcome. Yet if such concern distracts their heart in duty and incapacitates them for it, it is sinful. It is to be shaken off by all that would discharge their duty acceptably. This is why the apostle directs us here to cast all our care on Him.

3. Prayer Frees Us from Anxiety

Prayer is the way to be liberated from anxiety and heart-dividing anxieties which indispose us for duty. Through prayer, we must commit to the Lord the success and outcome of our duty together with our being able to fulfil it (Philippians 4:6). We must commit them to Him by faith (Proverbs 16:3). This is how the Spirit of the Lord directs us to be free from sinful anxiety: to cast all our care on Him.

4. No Matter How Small, All Anxiety Must Be Cast on the Lord

The Lord allows His children to cast all their anxieties on Him. They may be about their souls and matters of highest concern or about their bodies and lesser matters. It does not matter how small the thing is about which their heart becomes anxious: He allows them to commit it to Him. He knows that a very small matter is ready to occasion much vexation of spirit to His own (Jonah 4:8). This is why He directs them to cast all their care on Him.

5. We Are Commanded to Cast Our Anxiety on the Lord

Believers have the privilege of unburdening themselves of their distrustful heart-dividing anxieties by casting them over on the Lord. Not only this, it is also the very great desire of our God that we should not sink under the insupportable burden of our own needless cares and fears. It is His authoritative command that we put these off ourselves and on Him. His people may not disobey this unless they wish to incur His displeasure and destroy themselves. This has the force of a command “Casting all your care upon him”.

6. Trusting God Relieves Anxiety about Outcomes

We cannot discharge any duty aright so long as we do not trust the Lord in our managing of it and for its outcome and success. We cannot do our duty aright while the heart is distracted with unbelieving anxiety about this. Trusting God with these is the best way to make speed in every duty. Having exhorted in previous verses in relation to duties toward their overseers, one another, and to God, Peter now introduces something to help attain all these. It is something without which none of them could be attained: cast all your care on the Lord.

7. Pride Holds onto Anxiety; Humility Casts It on the Lord

Unbelieving anxiety makes Christians break themselves with the burden of these anxieties which God requires us to cast on Himself. This is one of the greatest signs of pride there is in the world. Trusting God with the weight of these in following our duty is a prime evidence of true humility. This is a special way for the Lord’s people to prove themselves to be humbled under God’s mighty hand and without this they cannot but declare their pride. The way the words are constructed and their connection with the previous version imply this: “Humble yourselves…Casting all your care upon him” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

8. The Lord Cares for Your Wellbeing as Much as You Do

The Lord is altogether free from things such as anxiety and sorrow that are in us (Numbers 23:19). Yet those of His people that cast their care on Him will find no less proof of His love (keeping them from danger as far as necessary and providing everything they need) than if He were as careful for their wellbeing as they can be for themselves. Considering this should liberate their hearts from their distrustful anxieties. His care is asserted as a reason to enforce the direction to cast all their care on Him.

9. Keeping Anxiety to Ourselves Is Distrust of God’s Fatherly Providence

The Lord’s people must not take the weight of their concerns on themselves. They must not have their hearts distracted with anxiety about managing duties and their outcome. So long as they do this they do not believe the fatherly providence of God watching over them for their good. Such faith could not but banish their anxieties. This is implied in connecting God’s fatherly care as a reason for the direction to cast all our care on Him.

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.

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?

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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.

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences
Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 1661) was one of the foremost Scottish theologians and apologists for Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century, playing a major role in formulating the Westminster Standards at the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his many devotional letters and Lex, Rex–his seminal work on political sovereignty.
10 Mar, 2017

Dark Providences are those events that not only cast a deep shadow but seem inexplicable. They seem to overwhelm us and turn our thoughts upside down in bewilderment. We are lost in trying to find out a purpose in them (Psalm 77:19). “When providences are dark it is difficult to read them” (John J Murray). If they are difficult to comprehend, how much more challenging is it to submit to God’s will that it should be so?  It may seem virtually impossible. Perhaps God does not even seem to be near (Job 23:8-10). Yet it may be that in the confused noise of such dark trials we can discover more of what it is to trust an infinite God through submission. The darkness then becomes to us “the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Samuel Rutherford looks at the best response to the darkest providence: Christ submitting to the Father’s will in accepting the cup of suffering. The time of Christ’s soul trouble in the Garden of Gethsemane has much to teach us. We must learn to say with Him: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is an updated extract from his book Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself.

We must also bear in mind what Rutherford said elsewhere, that “the Providence of God has two sides; one black and sad, another white and joyful”. “Christ scourged; Christ in a condition, that He cannot command a cup of water; Christ dying, shamed, forsaken, is black: but Christ, in that same work redeeming the captives of hell, opening to sinners forfeited paradise, that is fair and white…Joseph, weeping in the prison for no fault, is foul and sad; but Joseph brought out to reign as half a king, to keep alive the Church of God in great famine, is joyful and glorious”.

1. Submission Looks to God’s Will as Ultimate

Submission must be grounded on looking higher to the will of God, this is what Christ did. Every wheel in a great mechanism moves according to the motion of the highest and first wheel that moves all the rest. Rivers regulate the flow of lesser brooks by their motion.  The principle of motions and ways in all mortals begins at the highest mover, the just and wise will of God. All must say, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”.

2. Submission Looks to God’s Will as Holy and Wise

Submission in adverse providence must look to the Lord’s wise and holy will as Christ did. David said that Shimei cursed him because the Lord had bidden him do it. Job acknowledged that the Lord had taken away and said: “Blessed be the name of the Lord”. Anyone can say “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when He gives. Most men look to second causes but never rise up to God as the first Mover.

3. Submission Approves of God’s Will being Done

Hezekiah said “good is the word of the Lord” (Isaiah 39:8). It was hard, all in his house would be caried away to Babylon and his sons would be captives. Yet the will of the Lord was good and just, even when the thing willed and decreed of God was bad for him.

4. Submission Will Not Hinder God from Doing what He Thinks Good

Christ will not hinder God from doing what He thinks good. Murmuring is a stone in God’s way. Murmuring is an anti-providence, a little God, setting itself against the true God that causes everything in His wisdom. The murmurer does what he can to stop up God’s way. Old Eli, when he heard sad news, says, “It is the Lord, let him do (I will not hinder Him from doing) what is good in his eyes” (1 Samuel 3:18).  Christ says that He came to do God’s will (Psalm 40:7).

5. Submission Does Not Abolish Our Own Will

Christ did not give away His natural will; rather He submitted in the act of willing. He kept for Himself a submitted will. It is not intended that our will be abolished in hard providences, but that it submits.  We must not quarrel with Justice. Lamentations 3:28-29 gives many sweet signs of a broken will: (a) solitary sadness; (b) silence, the soul not daring to quarrel with God; (c) stooping to the dust, and putting clay in the mouth, for fear it speaks against God’s dispensation (see Job 40:4-5); (d) willingly accepting blows on the cheeks and reproach (Micah 7:9) the man like a well-nurtured child kisses God’s rod. Only a bad soldier follows his captain sighing and weeping. Faith sings at tears and rejoices under hope in the day of adversity.

6. Submission is Our Happiness

It’s the child’s happiness that the wise father’s will is his rule and not his own. Our own will is our hell (Ezekiel 18:31): Christ’s will is heaven. Christ thinks it is best that His Father’s will should stand and His own human will be repealed. “For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3). All God’s works of providence are as good as his works of creation. If God would direct my way to heaven through fire, tortures, blood, poverty – though He should trail me through hell – He cannot err in leading (though I may err in following).

7. Submission Prescribes Nothing Except that God’s Will be Done

Christ prescribes no way to His Father but in general “The Lord’s will be done on me” (He says).  “Be what it may, if it is the will of my Father so be it. Welcome black cross, welcome pale death, welcome curses, and all the curses of God that the just law could lay on all my children (and they are a fair number), welcome wrath of God, welcome shame and the cold grave”. The submission of faith subscribes a blank sheet of paper, let the Lord write on it what He pleases. “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him”, said Job (Job 13:15). To resign ourselves without exception to Christ is a rare grace of God, and not of ordinary capacity.

8. Submission Takes God’s Revealed Will for Our Rule

In submitting His will Christ makes the prophecies and the revealed gospel His rule. He is willing to be ruled by God’s revealed will in His duty. He is willing that the Lord’s will stand for a law  in His suffered. He willingly submits and will in no way quarrel with everlasting decrees. To be ruled by the one is holiness; to submit to the other is patience. Patience is higher than any ordinary grace in being willing to adore and reverence something more and higher than the commanding, promising, and threatening will of God. It was a grace which was a most eminent in Christ the Lamb of God, dumb, meek and silent before His shearers. The meekest in earth and in heaven, He only never resisted the revealed will of God, but never had any thought, motion or any hint of a desire in Him against the secret, eternal decree and counsel of God.

9. Submission Subjects Natural Reason to God’s Will

Christ submits natural reason with which His natural will might seem to plead under the Lord’s feet. It seems strange: God has many sons but none like Christ. He was an only Son, He never had a brother by eternal generation. He was the only heir of the house, but there never was a son so afflicted as He. It seems against all reason. But Christ says the Father’s will must be done. It’s against submission to put absolute questions on the Lord. We love to have God account for His providence to us and that our reason is the final court of appeal in the ways of the Lord. Though we do not see why, yet there is a cause why He does all He does. Reason is an essential ingredient in all His actions.

10. Submission Acknowledges God’s Infinite Wisdom

The Lord takes many different ways at once in providence. In this very act [Christ’s suffering] He redeems the world, judges Satan, satisfies the law and justice, glorifies Christ, destroys sin, fulfils His own eternal will and counsel. There is a manifold wisdom in Providence as in the work of redemption. In every work that God does He leaves wonder behind Him. None can come after the Almighty, and say, “I could have done better than He”. It is natural to blame God in His working, but impossible to mend His work.

11. Submission is Not Loss but Gain

Christ is no loser by losing His will for the Lord’s; rather His will is fulfilled in that which he feared (Hebrews 5:7). Submitting to providence brings us a hundred fold in this life (Matthew 19:29). He is able to do above (more than abundantly above) all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). I can ask heaven and He can give more than heaven and above heaven. I can think of Christ, but He can give above the Christ that I can think of, because I cannot comprehend infinite Jesus Christ.

12. Submission Reverences a Higher Providence

Christ is not intent and heart-bent on freedom from death and this black and sad hour but He reverences a higher providence, that Gods will be done. Thus, we are also to look to providence and  not stumble at outward strokes in sad occurrences (Job 9:22; Ezekiel 21:3).

13. Submission Approves God’s Will as Good Even When Things are Worst

Christ declares that even when matters are worst, there is good will for Him in God’s will being done. Christ says (as it were), “I have (God knows) a heavy soul, my strength is dried up like a potsherd. This cup tastes of hell and fiery indignation, the sight of it would kill a man. Yet I’ll drink it. The good and just will of my Father be done. Here I stand, I go no further. To stand still, silence our tumultuous thoughts (since we have a body of sin) and be satisfied with the will of the Lord, is safest. The friends of Paul heard what he must suffer and urged him but “when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14). To cease and say nothing more when we see the Lord declare His mind to us is grace. A holy heart will not go one hair’s breadth beyond the Lord’s revealed will.

14. Submission Even Accepts God’s Felt Absence

Christ submits His will to the will of God in soul-desertions: so should we. Christ’s love to His Father is not jealous against the Lord’s dealings in relation to the influences of heaven on His soul. He is willing to lay his soul-comforts in the free-will of His Father. In this He judges the Lord’s will, better than His own will. We have too many complaints against the reality of Christ’s love when He hides Himself.  We are covetous and soul-thirsty after our own will in the matter of soul-manifestations. We idolise spiritual comfort and would gladly have a Christ of created grace rather than Christ, or His grace. When we are thirsting for Christ, it is His comforts, the rings, jewels and bracelets the Bridegroom gives that we seek after, rather than Himself. We desire a never-interrupted  sense of God’s presence, whereas Christ submitted to go without it for a time when He saw this was God’s will. Though we do not and cannot always have an edge of actual hunger, yet we can be submissive to going without, when we see that this is His will.

Find out more about Samuel Rutherford 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.

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“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.

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

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words

The Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words

The Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words
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.
10 Feb, 2017

Summarising a book of more than 780, 000 words is a colossal challenge. Especially when it is a book infinitely more important than any other. Perhaps it is impossible to do that meaningfully in two words. But to summarise the main teachings of the Bible is entirely different from condensing its entire contents. It is not a high level overview to provide general knowledge but a set of keys to unlock its personal application. Just two words can take us a long way into a practical and devotional engagement with the Scriptures.

One of the questions in the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms most passed over is “What do the scriptures principally teach?” The answer seems as simple and straightforward as the question. “The scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man”. Yet this simple statement undergirds the whole teaching and structure of the Catechisms, because it undergirds thee whole teaching of Scripture. The first part of the Catechisms deal with what we are to believe and the second part with what we are to do, or obedience to God’s revealed will.

Two words: faith and obedience. As we shall see, Hugh Binning preferred to speak of faith and love (as long as the latter was understood to include obedience). He drew this from the proof text used by the Catechisms: Hold fast the form of sound words…in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13). Once we have grasped this it can transform our practical engagement with Scripture.  These are the glasses through which we must read the Word as we ask the questions: What does God want me to believe and what does God require me to do? 

Scriptures certainly teaches that it contains “great things” of principal importance (Hosea 8:12). It is clear that faith in what God has revealed is one such thing  (John 3:33).  Another is obedience (Micah 6:8; John 17:17; 1 John 2:3-5). It also reveals a close relationship between faith and obedience; they depend on each other (Titus 1:1; 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:3). Faith must work by love (Galatians 5:6). The truth is truly believed when it is acted on and obeyed (John 3:21; 7:17; Romans 16:25-26). Truly depending on God’s Word will always be expressed in action. The Catechisms put faith first because it is most important and no obedience is pleasing or acceptable to God without it (Hebrews 11:6; Proverbs 2:1 and 5). Loving obedience is the evidence and outcome of faith. The following is an updated extract from Hugh Binning’s exposition of the Shorter Catechism.

 

1. Two Words

All divine truths may be reduced to these two headings: faith and love; what we ought to believe and what we ought to do. This is everything the Scriptures teach and this is everything we have to learn. What do we have to know except what God has revealed of Himself to us? What do we have to do except what He commands us? In a word, what do we have to learn in this world except to believe in Christ, love Him and so live unto Him? This is the duty of man, the dignity of man and the way to eternal life.

Here is the business then: to have our souls reconciled to Him so as to take away the enmity within us; and as He is satisfied with His Son, to so satisfy ourselves with Him and be as well-pleased in his redemption and purchase as the Father is. Then you believe in Him indeed. Now if this were accomplished, what more do we have to do but to love Him and to live unto Him?

Have you found in Scripture and believed with the heart what man once was and what he now is; how God once appeared to man and how He now manifests himself in the gospel? You now have no more to do except to search in the same Scriptures what you ought to be from now on. You who are restored in Christ must ask: “What manner of persons ought we to be?” The Scriptures will also give you that “form of sound words” which may not only teach you to believe in Him, but to love Him and obey His commands.

The law that before condemned you is now put in your hands by Christ to guide and conduct you in the way. It teaches you how to live from now on to His glory (Titus 2:12). Here is the rule of your conduct summed up: piety towards God, equity towards men and sobriety towards ourselves. This is self-denial, world-denial and lust-denial; to give up the world and our own lusts and have no more to do with them from now on. We must give them up in our affections not for a time, not in part but entirely and forever. We must give ourselves up to Him, to live unto Him and to live in Him.

 

2. Faith and Love Together

We do not have to distinguish faith and love too carefully. It is certain that love is in and from faith. It is in the very bosom of it, because faith is a soul-embracing of Christ. Faith is choosing Him for its portion and then having considered this goodly portion (what He is and has done for us) the soul loves Him still more and is impatient to be so distant from Him. We find them conjoined in Scripture and they are one in the heart. As they are joined in the word, so our heart should be a “living epistle”. Faith and love are two words but one thing under different conceptions. They are the outgoings of the soul to Christ for life – the breathings of the soul after Him, for more of Him, when it has once tasted how good He is.

Faith is not speculation or a wandering idea of truth.  It is not the truth not captivated in the mind but dwelling in the heart and getting possession of the whole man. A man and his will are one, but this is not so with a man and his mind. He may perceive the truth about many things that he does not love. But whatever a man loves, he becomes (in a way) united with.

When divine truth gains entry to the heart of a person and becomes one with their will and affections, it quickly commands the practice of the whole man. He that received “the truth in love” is found to walk in the truth. Many captivate truth in their understanding; they hold or detain it in unrighteousness but because it has no freedom to descend into the heart and possess that garrison, it cannot command the whole person.

Yet it is better to be truth’s captive than to captivate truth. It is better “to have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” (Romans 6:17). This blessed captivity to truth is indeed freedom, for truth makes free (John 8:32). Give it freedom to command you and it will indeed deliver you from all strange lords. You will obey it from the heart when it is indeed in the heart.

When the truths of God (whether promises, threatenings, or commands) are impressed on the heart, you will find them expressed in conduct. Faith is not empty assent to the truth but receiving it “in love”. When the truth is received in love, it begins to work by love (Galatians 5:6). Obedience proceeding from love to God flows from faith in God, and that shows the true and living nature of that faith.

 

3. Love is Obedience

Love is the sum of the law and its fulfillment. The truth is the most effective, sweet and pleasant principle of obedience. The love of Christ constrains us to live to Him and not to ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). If Christ has gained someone’s love, the whole train of the soul’s faculties and operations will follow.

If someone loves Christ, they will certainly be careful to please Him. No matter how much they may obey, there is no pleasure unless it is done out of love. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. Love devotes and consecrates all that is in a man to the pleasure of the one he loves. It constrains us to live to Him, not ourselves. Its joy and delight is in Him, and therefore all is given up to Him.

Just as it is certain that if you love much you will do much, so it is certain that little proceeding from a principle of love is accepted in place of much. Thus, our poor maimed and limping obedience is called “the fulfilling of the law”. He is well-pleased with it, because love is not pleased with it. Love thinks nothing too much, everything too little. His love therefore thinks anything from us to be much, since love would give more. He accepts that which is given; the lover’s mite cast into the treasury is more than ten times as much as outward obedience from another person.

I know of no more effectual way to increase love to Jesus Christ than to believe His love. Christ Jesus is “the author and finisher” both of faith and love; and “we love him, because he first loved us”. What Christ is, and what He has done for sinners will above all other things prevail most to engage the soul to Him.

 

4. Sound Words

We shall conclude with that exhortation: “Hold fast the form of sound words”. You have this doctrine of faith and love given to you which may be able to save your souls. Then, I beseech you, hold them fast, salvation is in them. They are “sound words” and wholesome words; words of life, spirit and life as well as words of truth. You cannot hold it fast unless you have it within you; and it is within you indeed when it is in your heart. The form of it must be engraved on the very soul in love.

These sound words must be engraved on the heart or else you will never hold them. They may be easily snatched out of the mouth and hand by temptation, unless they are enclosed and laid up in the secret of the heart, as Mary did. The truth must hold you fast, or you cannot hold it fast; it must captivate you, and bind you with the golden chains of affection (which is the only true freedom) or you will certainly let it go. You must not only have the truth received by love into your heart, but you must also “hold fast the form of sound words”.

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.

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

10 Ways to Best Make Use of Free Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Make Best Use of Faith

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

 

2. Make Best Use of Hope

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

 

3. Make Best Use of Heavenly-mindedness

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

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

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

 

4. Make Best Use of Humility

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

 

5. Make Best Use of Sincerity

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

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

 

6. Make Best Use of Stability

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

 

7. Make Best Use of Single-mindedness

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

 

8. Make Best Use of Self-Examination

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

 

9. Make Best Use of Self-denial

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

 

10. Make Best Use of Dependence

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

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Covenanters

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

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

Order from membership@scottishreformationsociety.org

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 Antidote to Discouragement

The Antidote to Discouragement

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Look to God’s Gracious Dealings

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

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

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

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

 

2. Look to God

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

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

 

3. Look to God’s Attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

An Entire Life of Repentance

An Entire Life of Repentance

An Entire Life of Repentance
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
28 Oct, 2016

The very first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses was: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance”. They begin, continue and end their life of faith here on earth with repentance. “The just shall live by faith” and repentance is the tear in the eye of faith. Luther was emphasising Christ’s own message in preaching the gospel. Part of its purpose was to call sinners to a life of repentance.

Luther’s reference to the words of Christ is interesting. It involved appealing to the original Greek as meaning repent rather than the Latin “do penance”. The Greek New Testament had been printed in 1516, the year before Luther posted the 95 theses. His explanation of the 95 theses demonstrates this.

the Greek word metanoeite itself…means ‘repent’: and could be translated more exactly by the Latin trasmentamini, which means ‘assume another mind and feeling, recover one’s senses, make transition from one state of mind to another, have a change of spirit’; so that those who hitherto have been aware of earthly matters may now know the spiritual, as the Apostle (Paul) says in Romans 12:2, ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’. By this recovery of one’s senses it happens that the sinner has a change of heart and hates his sin.

Luther is pointing to the inward disposition, not merely outward actions (though he did not deny the need for these).  He goes on to say in the second thesis: “This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy”. He explains his statement about an entire life of repentance in the following way:

We pray throughout our whole life and we must pray ‘forgive is our debts’ [Matthews 6:12]; therefore, we repent throughout our whole life and are displeased with ourselves, unless anyone may be so foolish as to think he must only pretend to pray for the forgiveness of debts.

David Dickson shows how Christ’s preaching in Matthew 4:17 echoes the message of John the Baptist. John was now in prison but Christ continued his message. “Christ had preached before in the time of John’s freedom, and made more disciples than he (John 3:26), but now he begins in this countryside, and shows himself more powerful than before”. He notes the following points:

  1. When Christ’s gospel is opposed and His servants persecuted, He can let forth his light and power so much the more, and can supply the lack of instruments. Therefore it is said: “From that time he began to preach”.
  2. Christ’s doctrine and the doctrine of his faithful servants is all one in substance. The sum of John Baptist’s preaching and Christ’s is all one. Both preached in substance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
  3. When the gospel comes, it finds men under the tyranny of Satan. The offer to bring them into the kingdom of God implies this.

In his comments on John the Baptist’s preaching (Matthew 3:2), Dickson further draws out the message of repentance.  The aim of John’s preaching was to move men to repent, because the kingdom of God’s grace offered in the gospel, was now ready to receive the penitent.

 

1. Repentance restores men to their right minds

The gospel finds men mad and out of their right minds in an evil way. When it is sent unto them they are men who must return to their right minds. The original meaning of the word “Repent” implies this.

 

2. Repentance is the aim of gospel preaching

The aim of the preaching of the gospel is to persuade men to repentance. “Repent” is John’s main purpose.

 

3. Repentance and the kingdom of heaven

The grace of God offered in the gospel is in effect the kingdom of heaven, for it opens the way unto it, and enters the man not only into the right, but also into the begun possession of the kingdom of heaven.

 

4. Repentance and God’s offer

There can be no greater allurement to move a man to change his evil way and turn to God than the offer made to the penitent. This is the offer of the kingdom of grace and glory through Christ and this is the motive which John uses: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near”.

 

5. Repentance is brought about by the gospel

The ability and activity of repenting are both brought about by the preaching and power of the gospel. John is sent to preach this doctrine in order to bring these about, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.

 

Conclusion

Luther was echoing Christ’s message and rediscovering something of the fulness of the gospel and gospel living. That message continues to be necessary. We need daily, personal, sincere repentance in the spirit of the gospel. Repentance that lays hold of the mercy of God in Christ. The kingdom of heaven is mark by repentance.

It was an appropriate message to signal the start of a Reformation. Reformation is not about merely making outward changes to the way that we do things. We need heart reformation and personal reformation in our lives. Then we also need to see families, Churches and the nation reformed according to the Bible.

Reformation and repentance both involve change. Repentance is not only about  sorrow for sin. It means turning from it and being transformed in our lives by the renewing of our minds. We need this constantly both as individuals and Churches.

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

RELATED ARTICLE

Read Christ’s Refining Fire of Reformation and Your Spiritual Life. This shows the real nature of spiritual reformation. Outward change is not enough. There must be deep inward refining.

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.

Am I a Christian?

Am I a Christian?

Am I a Christian?
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
30 Sep, 2016

Some people never ask this question, it doesn’t really occur to them. Others feel they never should ask it, though the inclination exists. Still others never get beyond only asking themselves this question. They don’t get to an answer that satisfies. Contrary to the opinions of many, it is both biblical and helpful to ask this question (2 Corinthians 13:5). But only if we arrive at biblical answers.

One person who asked themselves this question carefully in various ways was James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698). In fact he addresses 20 different doubts he has about his spiritual state. They are along the lines of: “If I really am a Christian then why do/don’t I…?” He also answers each concern fully to his satisfaction. After this, he gives 27 evidences of true conversion in the soul. It is extremely helpful to read the careful, spiritual way in which Fraser handles these problems. The questions and answers were recently published by the Banner of Truth in a pocket book called Am I a Christian? There is a special offer for this valuable book at the bottom of this post.

Fraser came from the Black Isle, Ross-shire and was ordained during the times of persecution. He refused to appear before the Privy Council when to answer for “illegal” preaching. Eventually captured he was sentenced to imprisonment on 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. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. He was imprisoned at a later period in Blackness Castle but survived the times of persecution. His autobiography gives an interesting account of his life and spiritual experience. The questions and answers were written down in it for his own benefit.

Some of Fraser’s questions and answers are included in an updated form below.

 

1. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not have More Compassion for the Unconverted?

I lack compassion and a deep apprehension for the lamentable condition of the souls of my unconverted relations and my ignorant, godless, nominal, neighbours . Does it not lie heavy on my spirit? Do I therefore believe a hell or heaven or that the ignorant or unconverted shall go to hell?

Answer:

(a) I confess there is great lack of compassion, faith, and seriousness in this and that there is great deadness. “Lord help it”.   We believe, love and prophesy in part only (1 Corinthians 13:9).

(b) I mourn over this and this deadness is loathsome and hateful to me.

(c) I am helped through occasional views of their condition to have my sorrow stirred and to be earnest with the Lord for them. I also pour out tears and sighs of grief for them and find my compassion stirred in a felt way.

 

2. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not have More Delight in Spiritual Duties?

There is a constant indisposition of spirit to all kinds of duties. There is unwillingness to enter into them. I am wearied and without heart in them and glad when they are finished. Thus, I fear there is not a new nature which delights in the Law of God.

Answer:

(a) There is an unregenerate part in every believer, which is continually opposite to that which is good as well as a regenerate part. This unwillingness comes from the unregenerate part, in which no good thing dwells (Romans 7:8).  It should not make us question our state any more than whether a body of death exists (Romans 7:24).

(b) I find something in me that mourns under this. There is something which esteems, approves, and sees a glory and delight in the law of the Lord (Romans 7:22). “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41)

(c) I am not so much wearied of the duty (which I love) therefore but rather of my own evil heart in the duty. A loving son who has a sore foot is willing to run his father’s errand and glad to be employed, yet the sore foot makes the journey a burden; there is a thorn in the flesh. An unsound heart’s opposition is to the duty itself; hypocrites do not love every duty.

 

3. If I Really am a Christian, Why Do I not see more Spiritual Growth?

I do not seem to grow, see rapid growth or advance in the work of grace, things just seem always to be the same.

Answer:

(a) There may be growth in grace that does not always appear in an obvious way. It grows as a seed of corn, and a man knows not how (Mark 4:27). It comes “not with observation” (Luke 17:20).

(b) Despite remaining evils, I find a remarkable growth; not in the size of grace but in its nature and purity. There is not so much of it but it is better now. I do things more with the gospel in view that I did before and with purer aims. I grow downward even if not upward.

(c) I have found growth in faith, love, patience, humility. There is growth in dying to the world, myself, self-righteousness and living unto God. This is so even if there is no growth in what I have resolved.

(d) It is expedient, if no necessary to pull down a certain kind of righteousness. Thus a man will find himself worse than before until the righteousness of God is set up.

 

4. If I Really am a Christian, Why am I full of Spiritual Pride?

My spiritual pride streams through all my actions – even my most spiritual. I find that I resolve to be holy so as to get esteem, not so much from men but from conscience. I mourn for sin as a weakness, and as contrary to my design and resolutions. Although I find that my duties are not sufficient to save me and I must flee to another, yet my heart secretly wishes that it were otherwise and life was possible through my own works. This makes me secretly desire and endeavour to do something on earth that might be a part of my crown in heaven. I found myself despising the glory revealed in heaven if freely given and not merited in any way. This makes me question whether I was ever dead to the law or not.

Answer:

(a) I satisfy myself with this. Just as I find a spirit of self and pride acting, so I find a spirit of humility loathing myself for my pride. I also find a secret contentment in breaking my resolutions even when they were good, because in this way self was debased and the counsel of the Lord made to stand. Indeed, I find “I rejoice in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I love heaven better, because it is the purchase of Christ’s blood and the fruit of free grace.

(b) “Self will be in every action. This body of death will manifest itself thus, as well as any other way” (Thomas Shepherd).

 

5. If I Really am a Christian, Why am I so Spiritually Unstable?

I find such instability in my heart and ways, such uneven steps between the Lord and my idols, that I fear my whole heart is not come to the Lord; I am not His alone. O for a single heart, a united heart, a wedded heart! But, mine is divided between the Lord and idols. Sometimes I delight in the Lord and sometimes in my idols and worldly contentment. “They served the Lord, and they served their idols” (2 Kings 17:33).

Answer:

(a) No man ever closed so fully with Christ or had such wedded love without being inclined to idols because of the unregenerate part. Our union of faith and love is imperfect as well as any other grace; the unregenerate carnal part cries still out for its lovers. In heaven our affections shall be wholly for the Lord.

(b) The renewed part is for the Lord wholly and only and does not consent to what the flesh does. It is led captive, sighs under the bondage and cries out against its own whoring heart. The name is taken from the better part. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:20). Unrenewed men are content to divide their affections but they neither loathe nor abhor them- selves.

(c) I find the Lord’s work growing stronger and stronger in my soul.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Fraser of Brea

Special Offer: Buy Your Own Copy of Am I A Christian?

Fraser’s book is published by the Banner of Truth in their Pocket Puritans series. It is 81 pages and in small format that can fit into most pockets. A special 10% offer is available from James Dickson Books (usual price £2.95 – RRP £3.25). This special discount is available to readers of this blog post using the coupon code RST16. Purchase here (enter the code after adding the book to the cart). Email info [at] jamesdicksonbooks.com if you experience any difficulties.

The book contains a biographical note as well as the selection from the “Memoirs” of James Fraser of Brea.

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.