What is the Purpose of Life?

What is the Purpose of Life?

What is the Purpose of Life?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
8 Mar, 2019

Why did God make me? What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? These are important questions that most people ask at some point in their lives. The Shorter Catechism dives in at the deep end by tackling this fundamental issue in the very first question. “What is man’s chief end?” is basically asking, “What is the point of our existence?”

This article is a chapter from the book “Bible Truth Explored” by Murdo A N Macleod.

 

No special purpose?

Many people think that we have no special purpose in life. They think everyone can choose their own goals in life, because there is no more to life than enjoying ourselves and getting the most out of our time here. What a poor, selfish attitude that is! Jesus told us about a man who said to himself, “eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Because that was his sole purpose in life, God called him a fool. The Catechism tells us that we do have a purpose, or an “end,” a goal or aim in life.

 

Many special purposes?

Many people also think that there are many special purposes for living. They include to work and look after our families, education, science and development, and of course recreation. While all these are important in their own place, none of them is our chief end. We have one “chief” purpose, one supreme aim. Our “chief end” is our foremost special purpose, the whole point of our existence.

What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

 

To glorify God

Our chief end has two aspects. The first aspect is “to glorify God.” Does this mean that we have to try and make God more glorious than He already is? No. We cannot add to God’s glory. It is already perfect. It can neither be increased nor reduced.

“We have one ‘chief’ purpose, one supreme aim.”

However, there can be variation in how God’s creatures display His glory. Think of the sun. We cannot make the sun shine brighter, but clouds sometimes hide or block the sun’s brightness. We cannot make God any more glorious than He is. But our sins are like clouds, which hide or overshadow God’s reputation. Our sins make the world a darker place and obscure God’s honour.

To “glorify God” is not to add to His glory but to live in such a way as honours Him and declares His gloriousness to all who see and hear us. It is to live a life of obedience to God, not hiding His glory behinds clouds of disobedience.

Our duty is to do everything to the glory of God. Our lives are not divided into parts, one part about spiritual matters and the other part worldly concerns. It is not a case of having one part of our lives obeying God and another driven by a desire to please and glorify ourselves. Whether at home or work, study or leisure, our whole lives are to be focused on glorifying God.

 

To enjoy God

The other aspect of our chief end is “to enjoy God forever.” Enjoying God means being pleased and delighted with who God is, finding Him to be the one source of our deepest satisfaction and pleasure. This enjoyment is a consequence of glorifying God, although it should not be our main motivation for glorifying God. We should glorify God because God is so glorious, not because of the pleasure we may consequently experience. When we think of how we enjoy God, we can think both of enjoying Him in this world and of enjoying Him in the world to come.

 

Enjoying God in this world

The Christian enjoys the presence of God. This is because God has restored a friendly relationship between Him and them. Instead of being afraid of God and antagonistic towards Him, the Christian finds pleasure and satisfaction in the presence of God.

The Christian enjoys pleasing God. Instead of making it their priority to please themselves, or keep other people happy, the Christian enjoys thinking about God and how they can serve Him and glorify Him best with their lives and talents.

The Christian enjoys activities in which they meet with God. Instead of being most happy when God is pushed to the back of their minds and feels very far away, the Christian enjoys every opportunity to spend time with God. These opportunities include reading the Bible, praying, and church services on the Lord’s Day.

 

Enjoying God in the world to come

The Christian’s enjoyment will last “forever” because God is everlasting. The enjoyment of God which the believer has in this world is only a little foretaste of what they will enjoy in eternity. In heaven, they will be able to completely and continually glorify and enjoy God.

Our chief end is something that should absorb our attention and energy. It should never be far from our thoughts that the main reason for our existence is to glorify and enjoy God. When we are more concerned about our own glory, and find our pleasures in other things, we show that we are not fit for our main purpose and our priorities are all wrong. We should take Paul’s advice: “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Westminster Assembly

explore truth

Based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this book helps us to see how Bible truths fit together, relate to and depend on each other so that we can learn, live and love the Truth.

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.

Thinking the Best Thoughts

Thinking the Best Thoughts

Thinking the Best Thoughts
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
8 Feb, 2019

Recent research concludes that “taking time to think kind thoughts about yourself and loved ones has psychological and physical benefits”. The study set out to discover why this could lead to higher levels of wellbeing and better mental health. Participants were given an audio tape that either encouraged them to think positively or negatively. There was a positive physical benefit for those in the first group. Yet the most important thing is not merely our physical but our spiritual wellbeing. We can think thoughts that make us feel good. But the most important question is: are they true? Only what is true and right will lead to spiritual wellbeing. What sort of things should we think about? The Bible of course, has the answer.

The Bible does tell us that we ought to think kind thoughts but that is not enough in itself. Rather, it begins by emphasising that they must be true. Philippians 4:8 tells us we must think about things that are virtuous, just, pure and lovely. We also ought to think on things that are praiseworthy, of good report and that commend others for the right things. It’s an attractive list but how do we go about putting it into practice? In the following updated extract James Fergusson reflects on what this means for us. He shows that Paul’s concern is that the Christians in Philippi would make the truth and the Christian faith attractive to the non-Christians around them by the way in which they lived. They had to be careful in such a society not to be drawn away with things that were impure, dishonest

 

1. Think About How You Live

Think on these things means literally (in Greek) to search out something diligently, by comparing one thing with another like accountants. Christians have a duty to think about how they live, especially when they live among those who hate religion and seek every opportunity to speak evil of it. They must set themselves to search, find out and draw up accounts of what means and conduct may adorn religion most and make it lovely unto others. This is how they are to conduct themselves in all things.

 

2. Think About Everything True

Christians are not to be so scrupulous that they reject things which are in themselves true and good. Even though they are professed and practised by those who are otherwise extremely bad. He exhorts them to think on and imitate everything true and honest, even among the heathen.

 

3. Think About Nothing But the Truth

Christians have a duty to discern truth from error, rejecting the latter and adhering to the former (Ephesians 4:14-15). They are to speak nothing but truth in their ordinary communication (Ephesians 4:25). They are to do what they promise to do (Psalm 15:4). Thus, they are to think on whatever things are true.

 

4. Think About Things that Are Honourable

Christians have a duty to live in a way that by the whole tendency of their conduct they may gain respect from others for themselves and their profession. Their whole life must be characterised by nothing but gravity. They must be far from vulgarity, superficiality and vanity in their clothing, words, actions and all their behaviour (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Paul exhorts them to consider those things that are honest (or grave, dignified or honourable as it is in the original Greek).

 

5. Think About Things that Are Just

Christians ought to consider (and do accordingly) things that are just. This means whatever we are bound to do to others what we owe:

  • to God or man (Matthew 22:21);
  • by the law of nature (1 Timothy 5:8);
  • by national law (Ruth 3:13)
  • by our position of responsibility (Nehemiah 6:11);
  • by agreement e.g. a sum of money or an amount of grain (Colossians 4:1);
  • by the rules of prudence, equity or charity (Colossians 4:1);
  • by respect, fear or honour (Romans 13:7);
  • by goodwill (Romans 13:8).

It may be something additional to these so that none are defrauded of that which is their own. Paul directs them to think on the things that are just.

 

6. Think About Things that Are Pure

Christians who seek to adorn the gospel must strive for purity and chastity in every part of their conduct. They must be far from anything in words or action which may tend to obscenity or any bitter root of uncleanness within (Ephesians 4:29). Paul exhorts them to think on the things that are pure or chaste.

 

7. Think About Things that Are Lovely

Christians are not, however, to venture into things that are sinful to please those whom they live among (2 Peter 2:7-8). Yet they are bound (so far as they can with a good conscience) to make themselves and their profession commendable, even to wicked men. They do this by their lovely, amiable and accommodating conduct (Titus 3:2-3). Paul directs them to think on those things that are lovely.

 

8. Think About Things that Are of Good Report

Christians are not to hunt after the applause of others (Galatians 1:10). Yet, they are to live in such a way that they may be spoken well of deservedly, lest others speak evil of the gospel because of them. They do good to others according to their ability and responsibilities. They avoid everything which may tend to make their names stink and be repugnant to others (1 Peter 2:2). Thus, he commands them to think on things that are of good report.

 

9. Think About Things that Are of Praiseworthy

A Christian cannot immediately embrace everything that is well reported of. Nor seek everything that may gain praise for themselves among those with whom they live (Luke 16:15). Unless something is virtuous in itself and truly worthy of praise, they are to reject and abhor it. Even though it is praised by others as much as possible. Paul exhorts them to think on those things which are of good report: but with this caution, if there be any virtue or praise in them.

 

Conclusion

What we focus our minds on matters a great deal not just physically, but spiritually and morally. It matters not just for us but for those around us and above all it matters to God.  Just like the participants in the research, what we listen to matters and has an influence on us. The voices that we listen to in society, the media and around us can influence us too much. We need to take care that we are not listening to instructions that are negative and harmful in a spiritual and moral sense. Discernment is able to take whatever things may be true and virtuous and leave the rest. We have to be intentional about our minds and habits so as to live in the way most glorifying to God and that makes the gospel most attractive to others.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Fergusson

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.

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?
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.
27 Jul, 2018

Increasingly, there is a subtle tendency to sidestep difficult and inconvenient issues by saying we cannot be certain about them. Of course, being non-dogmatic is thought to be a virtue in our culture. Yet it’s one thing to acknowledge a defect in our own understanding, it’s another thing to claim that for everyone else. Open questions and matters indifferent seem to have increased at the expense of the practical authority of Scripture. Sometimes muddying the waters means people feel free to take up a definite alternative position. For instance, where professing evangelicals want to support something like same-sex marriage. If they can make the Biblical passages seem unclear then they feel justified in their position. But where do such claims end in relation to God’s revealed will? What indeed are we saying about God’s ability to give us clear teaching?

Of course some parts of the Bible need more careful study than others to understand them in the right way. But this is different to saying that they cannot be understood. There can also be doubts and difficulties that we must work through but that is something different to making doubt an essential aspect of our belief. It is different to the idea that the Church must progress (claiming the leading of the Spirit) to believe things that are flatly contradictory to Scripture and to how former generations understood Scripture. One former evangelical has recently written a book called The Sin of Certainty to champion the conviction that striving for certainty is destructive. One may well ask how “certain” the author is about that conviction itself.

This idea of virtuous uncertainty is not in fact a biblical idea. God has given us “excellent things in counsels and knowledge” to make us “know the certainty of the words of truth” (Proverbs 22:21). “All Scripture…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We are meant to be able to handle it skillfully and in the right way (2 Timothy 2:15). We are not meant to “be tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Our love abounds through knowledge not through ignorance (Philippians 1:9). Even in things indifferent “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

These issues are not in fact new. Samuel Rutherford had to counter a rising skepticism and we can learn a lot from the principles he draws from Scripture. He gives particular focus to the idea that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we believe what is necessary to be saved.

1. We Can be Certain About Things that are Not Fundamental

We believe with certainty of faith, many things which are not fundamental. For example we are not to be “ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Many (we may suppose) are in glory that died ignorant of this and without believing or. Or at least they died without any certainty of faith on this point: that with God time has no coexistence of duration whether long and short. Yet Peter asserts that it is to be believed with certainty of faith.

The Holy Spirit tells us of many historical matters in Hebrews 11. We believe these by certainty of divine faith but they are not fundamental. If we do not believe all that Paul and the rest of the apostles have written and Moses and the prophets have said we must take them to be false witnesses in saying, preaching and writing what is not true. Paul says so (1 Corinthians 15:15).

The apostles say, “we are witnesses of these things” (Acts 5:32). Now these things refer not only to Christ’s death and resurrection but also to points that are not fundamental. They include identifying the instruments of His death (verse 30; Acts 4:10 and Acts 3:26). The apostles and the Holy Spirit were witnesses of the truth of both fundamental and non-fundamental things (Acts 1:8). Christ said they were “my witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). These things are identified in verse 44, “all things that must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me”. This includes the sacrifices, types, and particular ceremonies that were shadows of Christ.

2. We Are to Examine the Truth to Gain Certainty

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) means prove and search our the true meaning of divine truths. Having thus proved and believed, hold the truth. It does not mean believe it for a day and yield to the complete contrary tomorrow, and then find and yield to yet another contrary principle the day after. If this was so the Holy Spirit would be commanding doubting, doubting till we lose faith and find it again and lose it again in a circle.

If this was the case, then the Bereans (Acts 17:11) must examine their own examining and their own doubtings and believing, and so on to infinity. It would be as though when they find Christ to be in Paul’s teaching and Moses and the Prophets, yet they must still examine and doubt. As though they should only believe the teaching of the prophets, apostles, and the Holy Spirit with reserve, waiting until they ‘receive’ new and contrary understanding from the Holy Spirit.

This is to teach us to be carried about with every wind of doctrine. Believing the truth of Scripture (whether in fundamental or non-fundamental things), however, is to believe a truth, because the Lord (cannot lie or speak untruth) says so.

3. We Ought to Pray For Certainty

We should pray “Lord enlighten my eyes” but this is not a prayer for conjectural, fluctuating and changeable understanding. Such a prayer for new light, is not that the Holy Spirit would teach us to believe truths and falsehoods in a circle. Instead it is a prayer that God:

  • Would give the Spirit of revelation to see gospel truths with a clear revelation of faith;
  • That He would be pleased to cause the light by which we see the same ancient gospel truths to shine more fully, with a larger measure of heavenly evidence.
  • That our understanding may so grow that we see new deductions, consequences, and heavenly new, fresh conclusions from the former truths of God.

Skeptical faith desires God to give us a contrary new light so that we would believe things to be true which were formerly believed to contradictory to the Word of God. This would turn light into night darkness, the truth into a lie, and make the Spirit of truth the father of lies.

4. The Apostles Encourage Certainty

The apostles never urge us to know any truth of God with a reserve. The apostles and the Holy Spirit in them, urge us to know assuredly that Jesus is Christ the Lord. They exhort us to be rooted and established in the faith (Colossians 2:7). They urge us to be fully persuaded of everything both fundamental and historical concerning Christ. Luke wanted Theophilus to “know the certainty” of the “things most surely believed among us” (Luke 1:1, 4).In Hebrews 5:12-13 the apostle exhorts us to believe many points concerning Christ beyond the first principles of the oracles of God. He exhorts them to progress to maturity (Hebrews 6:1). 

5. The Word of God is Able to Give Us Certainty

The principle of uncertainty implies the Word of God is obscurity and dark, not able to instruct us in all truths. It makes a blasphemous charge against the Holy Spirit, as if He had written the Scriptures with the intention that we would have no assured and fixed knowledge. It would leave us not with faith but a mere probable opinion, a conjectural, dubious apprehension of truths, with a reserve to believe the contrary. This would be as though the Lord’s purpose was to make us all skeptics and die doubting.

The apostles command us to believe and be comforted in believing the truths which they themselves believed as Christians and as fellow citizens with us. Are we going to say that the apostles also believed with reserve? That would be blasphemous.

6. We Must Serve God with Believing Conviction

All our practice must be in faith, i.e. with a persuasion that what we do is according to the revealed will of God. If it is otherwise we sin (Romans 14:23) and are condemned in all we do. But if faith with reserve must be the rule of our practice, we can do nothing in faith.

Conclusion

Today we face those who claim to be “progressive Christians”. They tell us that inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers and we should explore the truth rather than declare it. They seem very uncertain about what God’s Word says but very certain about what human opinion (especially science) maintains. They are ready to say that we can’t be sure that the Bible condemns same-sex marriage but move quickly to say that we can be sure that it is ok. They tell us that we shouldn’t judge others. But that in itself is to pass moral judgement on our conduct. Christ says it is necessary for reconciliation to point out what others have done wrong (Matthew 18:15). The tide of uncertainty is influencing some evangelicals in subtle ways and we need to recognise this so as to resist it.

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.

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.

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

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

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

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

 

1. What is True Contentment?

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

(a) It Involves Moderate Desires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. How is Godliness Gain?

(a) It Extends to All Kinds of People

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

(b) It Extends to All Kinds of Conditions

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

(c) It Extends to All Kinds of Activities

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

(d) It Extends to This Life and Eternity

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

 

3. Why is There no Contentment Without Godliness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) Godliness Sets Our Affections on More Excellent Things

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

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

(d) Godliness Gives Us Access to All the Promises

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

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

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

(e) Godliness Helps Us Put Sin to Death

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

 

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

Special Offer on James Durham’s Collected Sermons

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

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.

Bible Verses Have Consequences

Bible Verses Have Consequences

Bible Verses Have Consequences
George Gillespie (1613 – 1648) ministered in Fife and Edinburgh and was one of the main Scottish theologians at the Westminster Assembly. He wrote several important publications in support of Presbyterian church government.
15 Jun, 2018

Ideas have consequences. Those consequences may be traced in history, culture and the lives of individuals.  How we think and what we assume shapes our view of the world and life in it. Consciously or unconsciously, people live under the influence of ideas formulated by others. To think biblically we need to know how to handle God’s Word. For the Bible to have a consequential influence on our faith and life we must know how to apply the implications of what we read. By consequences we don’t just mean practical influence. Consequences are also truths that necessarily follow from verses of Scripture even if they are not explicitly stated in them. We actually need to know how to arrive at these in practically applying Scripture in our lives. Coming to understand the Bible’s teaching in this way is something that we all do. It’s also the way in which Christ Himself used Scripture. But it needs some explaining, so let’s consider it further.

It may seem technical but it is a matter of daily importance for us all as to how we read the Bible and put into practice. It’s easiest of course to explain a Bible truth by just giving one or more proof texts. It’s always clearest when we can find a verse that clearly states, commands, forbids or by example approves something. But there can be important truths where this is not possible. For instance, what the Bible teaches about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is one person who is truly God and truly man. Yet these two whole natures are distinct and not mixed together. We will not find a Bible verse that states all of this. Instead we have to draw together the teaching of various Bible passages in order to find the truth that necessarily follows from them.

In this we are not imposing something on the Bible that isn’t there. Instead, we are drawing out the meaning that is truly contained but not explicitly stated in the text. We are only making explicit what the Bible has made implicit. We need this in order to understand what the Bible teaches about what we should believe and what God requires of us. For instance, if someone wanted to believe that matter is eternal we would show them how Genesis 1:1 teaches that it had a beginning and only God is eternal.

This is how the Lord Jesus used Scripture in Matthew 22:29-32. Christ’s charge against the Sadducees is not that they reject the express statement of Scripture but rather the necessary inference from Exodus 3:6 (cf. 3:1-10,12). In John 10:34 he quotes from Psalm 82:6 to draw an inference from a passage that does not expressly state His point. Another example is in Matthew 19:4,5 where Christ, quoting from Genesis 2:24, is being questioned on the matter of divorce. The text says nothing about divorce but Christ is drawing out a necessary inference concerning it. Other examples can be given such as Matthew 12:3-4 and John 7:23. It is also the way in which the apostles interpreted Scripture (Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:35-37; Acts 17:2-3; 1 Corinthians 15:27 and 45; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14. The Westminster Confession of Faith refers to this method of using Scripture when it says:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture

The consequences inferred from Scripture must be legitimately drawn from Scripture. Comparing with the rest of Scripture helps to prove this. They must not be forced and arbitrary but something that follows logically. They must sufficiently and strongly prove the conclusion to be necessary. George Gillespie was one of those who helped compose this statement in the Westminster Confession. He points to the examples found in Scripture (as seen above), But he also explains further what is and (importantly) what is not meant by  necessary consequence.

 

1. Necessary Inferences from Scripture May be Disputed

Good and necessary consequences from Scripture are not just conclusions that no one will dispute. If we embraced this principle of indisputable consequences, we would have to renounce many necessary truths which the Reformed Churches hold against the Arians, Anti-Trinitarians, Socinians, and Roman Catholics. This is because the consequences and arguments taken from Scripture to prove them are not accepted as good by the opponents.

 

2. Necessary Inferences from Scripture Are Not Trusting in Reason

We do not assert that human reason drawing a consequence from Scripture can be the grounds of our belief or conscience. The argument is made by human reason. But the consequence or conclusion itself is not believed nor embraced by the strength of reason. Rather it is because it is the truth and will of God.

 

3. Necessary Inferences from Scripture Use Sanctified Reason

There is a distinction between corrupt and renewed reason. It is not the same as natural reason arguing in divine things from natural and unregenerate principles, experience and the like. This is reason captivated and subdued to obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). It judges divine things not by human but by divine rules and Scriptural principles no matter how opposed they may be to the wisdom of the flesh. Only sanctified reason will be convinced and satisfied with consequences and conclusions drawn from Scripture in things which concern the glory of God and spiritual matters.

 

4. Necessary Inferences from Scripture Differ from Good Inferences

The consequences drawn from Scripture are of two sorts. Some are necessary, strong and certain. Others are good consequences and prove something is consistent with Scripture although another thing may be also proved to be consistent with the Scripture in the same or another passage. These good inferences have very great use in a wide variety of things but for the present I speak of necessary consequences.

 

5. Necessary Inferences from Scripture Demonstrate the Bible’s Sufficiency

If we say that necessary consequences from Scripture cannot prove something to be required by God, we are inconsistent with the infinite wisdom of God. God is infinitely wise, and it would be blasphemous to maintain that anything can be drawn by a certain and necessary consequence from His holy Word which is not His will. This would make the only wise God as foolish man who cannot foresee all the things which will follow from his words. We must therefore maintain that it is the mind of God when something necessary follows from the Word of God.

 

6. Necessary Inferences from Scripture Avoid Absurdity

Various other great absurdities would result from denying necessary inferences from Scripture.  How can it be proved that women may partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper unless we prove it by necessary consequence from Scripture? How can it be proved that this or that Church is a true church and its ministry a true ministry, and the baptism administered true baptism? No explicit Scripture will prove it, but necessary consequence will. How will this or that individual believer believe from Scripture that the Covenant of Grace and its promises belong to him in particular? Will Scripture prove this otherwise than by necessary consequence? Necessary consequence from Scripture will prove all this, but explicit Bible verses will not.  Fasting and thanksgiving on this or that occasion is similar, God calls us to these duties and it is His will that we perform them. But this cannot be proved from Scripture except by necessary consequences.

 

Conclusion

Many Christians are good at working out what the words of Scripture mean but not always what they require of us. Sermons can also do more explaining than applying sometimes.  If we want to understand and defend the whole counsel of God we need to be able to draw necessary inferences from Scripture. We cannot have a right understanding of what the Church should believe, how it should worship and be ordered without necessary inference. Neither can we understand how we are to live to the glory of God without searching the whole of Scripture and comparing its various parts.

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

FURTHER READING

By Good and Necessary Consequence by Ryan M McGraw (Reformation Heritage Books) is a helpful guide in this area. McGraw begins this work by noting the biblical foundation of the principle. He shows how it was used by some writers from the past. He also deals with the most significant objections to this principle. He treats the need for ‘necessary consequence’ in four major areas of theology, and concludes with certain practical applications that impact the Christian life and Church. More information here.

REFORMING YOURSELF

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

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

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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

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.

Why Lies Spread Faster than the Truth

Why Lies Spread Faster than the Truth

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

False news travels six times faster than the truth according to a new scientific study. It’s 70% more likely to be retweeted. The study analyses 126,000 false stories tweeted by roughly three million people more than 4.5 million times. We’re aware of fake news and robots that generate it online. It seems that the robots are not responsible for the speed at which fake news travels – we are. What is it in human nature that is drawn to sharing falsehood?

It should be of great concern to us. The author of the study, Professor Aral makes a striking comment. “Some notion of truth is central to the proper functioning of nearly every realm of human endeavor. If we allow the world to be consumed by falsity, we are inviting catastrophe”. Of course the trend of post-modern thought has been to claim that truth is relative, not absolute. This undermines a concern for truth, even the facts because it is claimed that such truth claims are an exercise of power and privilege.

A biblical perspective gives us, however, a clear basis for distinguishing truth and lies. The study laments the effects of fake news: “False news can drive the misallocation of resources during terror attacks and natural disasters, the misalignment of business investments, and misinformed elections”. While these are important, it is also a matter of moral and eternal significance. The concern about the speed at which lies travel is of course not new.

If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’ (C H Spurgeon)

It is not a unique feature of social media; we have the same tendency to want to share certain news more than others. Apparently false stories have greater novelty and produce greater surprise and disgust. It is just as true when we get news by word of mouth, text or email. These driving forces make people spring to a quick judgment about what they have heard and often want to share it. David, for instance was too hasty in accepting Ziba’s lie about Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 16). There may be many “spiritual” factors that cloud our judgment and make us rush to characterise another believer and their words or actions.

There are many reasons why this may be so. Fundamentally the problem is not so much with the mouth as with the heart. The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Matthew 12:34). The following are some of the ways we rush to judgment in heart as outlined by James Durham. It comes from his exposition of the ninth commandment which forbids false witness. They are some of the reasons as to why lies travel faster than the truth.

 

1. Rushing into Suspicious Judgment

Suspecting others unjustly is called “evil surmising” in 1 Timothy 6:4 or as it is in the original Greek “evil suspicion”. This is when people are suspected of some evil without grounds for it, as Potiphar suspected Joseph. It is jealousy when this suspicion is mixed with fear of something that we love or value being endangered. Thus Herod was jealous when Christ was born, as were the neighbouring kings when Jerusalem was being built. There is, I grant, a right suspicion; e.g. that which Solomon had concerning Adonijah (1 Kings 1 and 2). Yet Gedaliah failed, in not crediting Johannans information anent Ishmael’s conspiracy against his life (Jeremiah 40).

 

2. Rushing into Unjust Judgment

We may be guilty of rash judging and concluding unjustly concerning someone’s state. This was what Job’s friends did. We may judge unjustly of someone’s actions, as Eli did with Hannah in saying that she was drunk, because of her lips moving. We may judge unjustly of someone’s objectives. The Corinthians did this with Paul when he took wages; they said it was covetousness. When he did not take wages from them they said it was lack of love (see Romans 14:4 and 2 Corinthians 11:41 following).

 

3. Rushing into Hasty Judgment

By hasty judging we pass a verdict too soon in our mind from some apparent evidence. We might draw conclusions about what we assume to be in the heart though it is not in the outward behaviour. This is merely to judge hastily and before the time (Matthew 7:1).

 

4. Rushing into Judgment on Weak Grounds

There is light judging, basing our conclusions on arguments or other means that will not support them. The Barbarians suspected Paul to be a murderer when they saw the viper on his hand (Acts 25:4). King Ahasuerus trusted Haman’s slander concerning the Jews too quickly.

 

5. Rushing into Presumptuous Judgment

The ninth commandment may be broken in our hearts when we are constantly suspicious of our neighbour failing. We act contrary to Matthew 18:15 when we are not willing to be satisfied but rather base our judgment on what we presume to be probable.

 

Conclusion

We ought to be thankful that there is mercy for such sins of the heart that rise all too easily. How much we need truth and a love of the truth in the inward part. There is grace for this from the One who is full of grace and truth. Durham also observes that the ninth commandment requires us to preserve and promote the truth. It advances honest, simple and straightforward attitudes and behaviour among people. We should have a sincere and cordial loving regard to the repute and good name of one another. We ought to take delight and joyful satisfaction in this as well as having a suitable love to and care for our own good name. These principles will restrain the rapid judgment that is ready to accept a false report concerning someone else whether they are in the public eye or in our circle of acquaintance.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

REFORMING YOURSELF

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

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

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

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

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

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

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

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

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

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

How Far Should Reformation Go?

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

How Does Faith Help Love?

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

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

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

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

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

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

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

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

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

A Family Day…of Worship

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

What’s Missing from Your Home?

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

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

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

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

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

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

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

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

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

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

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

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

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

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

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

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

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

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

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

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

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

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

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

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

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

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

Overcoming Spiritual Information Overload

Overcoming Spiritual Information Overload

Overcoming Spiritual Information Overload
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.
24 Nov, 2017

Sometimes it’s called infobesity. Constantly force fed hundreds of messages through all kinds of media, we are unable to digest information. Even if we could digest it, would it nourish our life and soul? We are drowning in information but starved for wisdom. Information overload paralyses our ability to think, make decisions and identify priorities. It’s a spiritual issue of course. What if all the information we consume makes us less able to “receive with meekness the engrafted word”? Everyone has an opinion to share online and they multiply exponentially. Even in the best things this can become spiritual information overload as we seek to stay afloat in the torrent of new material.

This is not a new problem. Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns “of making many books there is no end”. The technologies may have increased but the problem is the same: words being endlessly multiplied. When we understand these words in their context we can see that he is contrasting these things to “the words of the wise” (v11). We are to be “admonished” he says, and instructed by the words of the wise. The word “admonished” means enlightened or informed.  The key truth to grasp is that it is possible to go astray in seeking wisdom (as we see in the earliest chapters of Ecclesiastes). We need to be careful and cautious so that we do not mistake the true way to true happiness.

The danger of inertia due to information overload is a spiritual problem. Bewilderment and distraction concerning all the opinions swirling around us are also spiritually damaging. Many opinions only muddy the waters as opposed to creating clarity. We need the discernment to identify “the words of the wise” that agree with Scripture and those that do not. If we are looking for “words of the wise” that will feed our souls it is helpful to mine the riches of the spiritual wisdom of the past. If we turn to writers saturated in Scripture we will find that they draw us closer to the book of books, the Scriptures.

Alexander Nisbet comments on these words from Ecclesiastes. He identifies the words of the wise with every message of any sent minister of Christ. They come from “one Shepherd” (v11). There is a  key warning to be drawn about many books being endlessly made. If we are not satisfied with the admonitions of this book (and the rest of Scripture) we will become vain in our imaginations. Everyone will imagine a new and nearer way to happiness. Out of their boundless desire for vain glory they will make no end of their enquiries. Rather, they will spend the best of their time and strength to vent their own ideas. They will devote themselves to commending their vain imaginations about the way to true happiness and refuting others.  Many of the most intelligent have done this in many written volumes.

Thus, it is clear that this verse does not condemn writing or studying other books besides the Scriptures as long as they agree with it. It is a warning against those books that oppose Scripture, in so far as they pretend to point out a way to happiness contrary to what the Bible teaches. Our souls can never have true rest or quietness until we embrace the truths declared in this book. These truths are like nails fastened by the masters of assemblies. They fix and establish the hearts of those that receive them concerning this main question: where their true happiness can be found.

When the verse goes on to say that “much study is a weariness to the flesh” it is speaking of every study opposed to the study of the truth commended in this book. Anyone who applies themselves to any other study to attain true happiness may well weary his flesh. They will do no more good to themselves than this, weary the body. They will bring no true profit or satisfaction to their soul. Every child of wisdom must apply themselves to make use of these truths.

Nisbet applies this verse by showing how we must isolate the Bible and biblical teaching from everything else and approach them in a unique way. This helps us to avoid spiritual information overload.

 

1. We need to Value Scripture as Enough in Itself

Scripture is perfect compared with all other writings in the world. Every part of Scripture contains a perfect rule of faith and practice. No other writings besides or contrary to it are necessary to supply any deficiency. Solomon here assumes that though only a small part of Holy Scripture had been delivered to the Church at that time, it was still enough. What he and others before him had written was enough to admonish about duty and warn of dangers in attaining true happiness. This is why he says “by these, my son, be admonished”.

 

2. We need to be Admonished by Scripture

In studying Scripture we should not only aim at our comfort. Our main concern should be to receive clear information and warning about our sin and peril, the only true remedy to deal with this and how to attain it. This is one main use to be made of this book, and thus, the rest of Scripture, “by these…be admonished”.

 

3. We need to Approach Scripture as Children

Some of those who hear the gospel may be strong men compared to others who are but babes (1 John 2:13-14). All should come to Scripture as children to hear the Lord’s mind with meekness. They must come in submission to the reproofs and warnings of the Word. They must also come with love to their teachers in Scripture, desiring the sincere milk of the Word from them. Ministers should also exercise tender fatherly affection toward the people with whom they deal. Solomon therefore speaks to every hearer as a son, “by these, my son, be admonished”.

 

4. We need to be Warned About False Wisdom

There are those who will never make an end of seeking out many inventions to attain their imaginary happiness. They are so carried away with their desire for vain glory ( Job 11:12) that while they have time or strength they will begin one book after they have written another. They seek to show themselves wise in discovering the way to happiness. Yet it is so empty that until they take the new and living way to happiness which the Scripture reveals, they will meet with nothing but endless labour and continual disappointment. They will never have any true rest or quietness for their minds. Thus, Solomon says concerning such writings that ignore the Scripture’s way to happiness. “of making many books there is no end”.

 

5. We will Find Rest and Sweetness in Studying the Truth

Studying saving knowledge may prove wearisome to the flesh. This is due to our being slow to understand, lacking confidence of being successful and acquaintance with the basis for receiving comfort. It is also partly because the Lord intends the flesh to be wearied in that study in order to divert the heart from sinful delights. Such study is in fact, sweet in itself. It is the very rest and refreshment of the soul, it is health to the spirit and marrow to the bones. In comparison to this,  all other studies are wearisome to the flesh. This study must be rest and sweetness, it is only concerning other studies that Solomon says, “much study is a weariness to the flesh”.

 

 

Conclusion

Spiritual information overload leaves us with inertia, indigestion, frustration and confusion. When we submit to Scripture and the words of the wise, we will have clarity about how God wants us to glorify Him. We will also be warned about our urgent priorities and find true spiritual rest and sweetness in the truth. May the Lord help us draw such benefit from Scripture that we are able to discern the words of the wise that will only increase our understanding of and love for God’s Word.

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.

The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path

The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path

What is worth knowing unless we know our purpose in this life and how to achieve it? Most people walk through life with random aimlessness because they do not consider either. The apostle Paul speaks of this as walking “in the vanity of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). They simply pursue their own gratification or glorification. Their purposes and plans vary according to their inclinations or circumstances. Some seek to gratify pride by honour, others to satisfy their lust by pleasure. Then there are those who feed their covetousness with wealth. If everyone was seeking true happiness they would all pursue the same goal by the same means. It is essential to know whether we are on the right path.

Hugh Binning makes these observations in directing us to the truth. He notes that those who are not in the right way find that the faster they seem to move toward their goal, the further they go from it. Wandering from the right way only takes them further away from true happiness. Therefore it concerns us all most deeply to be acquainted with the true path of blessedness. If we are mistaken about it, the more we do and the swifter we move, the more distant we will be from it.

1. It is Easy to be Mistaken About the Right Path

There is even greater necessity because there are so many by-paths that lead to destruction. Not by-paths indeed but highways, beaten paths, that the multitude walk in. They never question it, nor can endure being challenged as to whether they are going wrong. In other journeys, men keep to the highway and are afraid of any secret by-way, in case it leads them wrong. In this case the highway leads wrong (far wrong), to hell.

This is the meaning of Christ’s instruction not to walk not in the broad way where many walk, for it leads to destruction. You must be persuaded that the course of this world—the way of most—is dangerous, is damnable. O consider where this way will lead you, before you go further. Do not think it foolish to stand still now and examine it when you have gone on so long in their company. Stand and consider!

Do not be ignorant like mere animals that know nothing else except to follow the herd. They do no follow where they ought to go, but where most go. You have rational souls within you; therefore I beseech you, do not be moulded according to custom and example, that is to be like brute beasts. Walk according to some inward knowledge and reason. Withdraw from the multitude and ask God earnestly: “What is the way?” God will teach those that fear Him the way that he should choose (Psalm 25:12).

2. We Need the Right Guide for the Right Path

The way to this blessed end is very narrow, very difficult. You must have a guide in it—you must have a lamp and a light in it—else you cannot but go wrong. The principles of reason within us are too dark and dim; they will never lead us through the pits and snares in the way. These shined so brightly in Adam that he needed no light or voice outside of him; but sin has extinguished this greatly. Nothing remains but a little spark under the ashes of much corruption. This is insufficient in itself and most often blinded and darkened by lusts. No matter how much reason is refined (as with the classical heathen philosophers) it is only the blind leading the blind and both must fall into the ditch.

Our goal is high and divine—to glorify God and to enjoy Him. Reason can no more steadfastly behold that glorious goal and move towards it, than our weak eyes can behold the sun. Our eyes can look downward on the earth but not upward to the heavens. We have some remnant of reason in us with poor limited ability for matters of little moment like the things of this life. If we look upward to the glory of God, or eternal happiness, our eyes are dazzled, our reason confounded and we cannot steadfastly behold it (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:13-14).

3. The Only True Guide for the Right Path

For this reason the Lord has given us the Scriptures as “a lamp to our feet” and a guide to our way. They are like a candle or light shining in a dark place “until the day dawn” (2 Peter 1:19). These are “able to make us wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). Although there is much light in the Scriptures to guide men’s way to God’s glory and their own happiness, yet it will all be to little purpose if the eyes of our understanding are darkened and blinded.

Even if you surround a man with daylight he cannot see unless he opens his eyes. The Scriptures are a clear sun of life and righteousness, but the blind soul surrounded with that light is none the wiser. He thinks the lamp of the Word does not shine because he does not see and has his own dungeon within. Therefore the Spirit of God must open the eyes of the blind, and enlighten the eyes of the understanding, that the soul may see wonderful things in God’s law (Psalm 119:5, 18).

Conclusion

Let this be established in your hearts as the foundation of all true religion, that the Scriptures are the Word of the eternal God. They contain a perfect and exact rule for glorifying God and the way to enjoy Him. They can make you perfect for every good work. As you love your own souls, acquaint yourselves with them.

Hold fast what you have received, and “contend earnestly” for it. Add nothing to it and diminish nothing from it. Let this lamp shine till the day dawn, till the morning of the resurrection and walk in the light of it. Do not kindle any other sparks otherwise you lie down in the grave in sorrow, and rise in sorrow. Take the Word of God as the only rule, and the perfect rule.

It is a rule for all your actions, secular and religious. All must be done to His glory and His word teaches us how to attain to that. Do not let your imaginations, others example, the preaching of men, the decisions of Church courts be your rule, except in so far as you find them agreeing with the perfect rule of God’s Holy Word. All other rules are but like publications and intimations of the rule itself. Decisions of Church courts are only like the herald proclaiming the king’s statute and law: if they varies in anything from His intention, they are not valid and binding. Take the Scriptures for the rule of your walk or else you will wander, the Scriptures are a ruling rule. If you are not acquainted with them, you must follow the opinions or examples of other men, and what if they lead you unto destruction?

Further Reading

The following articles by Hugh Binning develop these principles further: Why are We Here? and Can Reading Really Save Your Life?

Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?
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.
31 Mar, 2017

Many struggle to get a satisfactory answer to such a simple question. Some have concluded that there is no such final answer and the meaning we seek cannot be found. If the ultimate reality is only matter shaped by random blind chance then seeking meaning is a pointless exercise. But an infinite personal God guarantees meaning and a satisfactory answer to this question.

Hugh Binning taught philosophy at Glasgow University as well as being a minister. He was therefore well-qualified to answer this question. The following is an updated extract from one of his lectures. It focuses on the first question of the Shorter Catechism “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. This is a simple but very profound answer to the question “Why are we here?”

 

1. What Is Most Important for Us to Know?

All that we are required to know may be summarised under these two headings: (a) our purpose and (b) how we must attain that purpose. All we are required to do is to achieve that purpose by any means.

This is the first priority in all arts and every business and is especially necessary in Christianity too. It is the first cause of all human actions and the first principle of all deliberate activity. Unless you are going to walk randomly – not knowing where you are going or what you are doing – you must first establish and fix your intention. “What is the great purpose for which I have been created and sent into the world?” If you do not ask this and settle it aright, you will do nothing or else nothing purposefully or that which is even worse, you will do that which will undo you. Establishing this one thing in the wrong way certainly makes most of our activities either completely unprofitable or destructive and harmful.

Since this point has first place in the catechism, it ought to be laid to heart first of all and pondered as the one thing necessary. “One thing is needful”  says Christ, (Luke 10:42). If any thing is most necessary of all this is it. O that you would consider it according to its necessity and weight!

 

2. What Is Our Chief Purpose?

There are two Scripture verses which deal with the ultimate and chief purpose of man, which is glorifying God by all our actions, words and thoughts (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31). In these we have the following important matters:

  • God’s glory is the purpose of our being.
  • God’s glory should be the purpose of our doing.
  • The basis for both of these. Since both being and doing are from God, they ought therefore to be both for him. He is the first cause of both and therefore he ought to be the ultimate purpose of both. “Of him, and through him…are all things”. All things are for Him and therefore all things should be done to Him.

 

3. Why is God our Ultimate Purpose?

God is altogether independent and self-sufficient. This is His royal prerogative in which He infinitely transcends all created perfection. He is of Himself and for Himself. He is from no other and for no other: “of him, and for him…are all things” (Romans 11:36).

He is the fountain-source. You ought to follow the streams up to this and then rest because you can go no further. Even the most perfect creature is limited and imperfect: it is from another and for another. Its source is in the fountain of God’s immense power and goodness and it must run towards that again until it empties all its faculties and excellencies into that same sea of goodness.

Dependence is essential to a created being — dependence on that infinite, independent Being for their first cause and ultimate purpose. This principle is engraved in the very nature of man. It is as certain and evident that man is made for God’s glory and for no other purpose as that he is from God’s power and no other cause. “That which may be known” of man’s chief purpose, “is manifest in them”‘ so that all are “without excuse”. It is evident unless men violate their own conscience and put out their own eye as the Gentiles in Romans 1:19.

God’s being is independent – there is no more suitable name than the one He gives Himself, “I am that I am”. This implies a boundless, ineffable, absolute and transcendent being. It is the glorious perfection of His nature that He does “all things for himself” (Proverbs 16:4). He does them for His own name and His glory is as dear to Him as Himself. “I am the Lord, that is my name, and [therefore] my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11).

 

4. Why is Our Ultimate Purpose Not in Ourselves?

For a man to seek his own glory or search into it “is not glory” (Proverbs 25.27) but rather a man’s shame. Self-seeking in creatures is an unnatural thing. It is as absurd and unfit for a creature to seek its own glory, as to attribute its own being to its own agency. Will the thing formed say to the potter that he has not made it? That would be ridiculous. Will the thing formed say that it is made for itself? That would be equally ridiculous. Self-denial is the beauty of a creature and therefore humility is an ornament and clothing (1 Peter 5:5). Honour upholds the humble spirit (Proverbs 29:23).

 

5. Why is it Not Wrong for God to Seek His Own Glory?

But God’s self-seeking and seeking His own glory is His eminent excellence. It is indeed His glory because He is and there is none else. There is nothing besides Him except that which has issued from His incomprehensible fullness. There is thefore all the reason in the world that as He is the beginning so He should be the end of all things (Revelation 1:8). Seeking His own glory is not prejudicial to the creature’s good but in glorifying Himself, He is most beneficial to His own creatures.

Ambition in man robs and spoils  what is excellent in others for itself  and then boasts itself in these borrowed feathers! But our blessed Lord is doing most for our benefit when He does all for His own glory. He does not need to go outside of Himself to seek perfection but manifests what He is in Himself  and communicates from Himself to us. O blessed self-seeking that gave us a being and wellbeing; that gains no advantage by it but gives advantage! He has the honour of all but we have the benefit of all.

God has made all things for Himself and especially man for His own glory to display the glory and excellence of His power, goodness, holiness, justice, and mercy in Him. It is not only most reasonable therefore that man should do all things to the glory of God but it is his beauty and perfection. This is the greatest possible accession to his existence—to glorify God by that existence. We are not our own, therefore we ought not to live to ourselves but to God to whom we belong.

 

6. What is it to Glorify God?

Is it any advantage to the Almighty that we are righteous? No indeed! Here is the vast difference between God’s glorifying and sanctifying us, and our glorifying and sanctifying Him. God’s glorifying is creative — ours only declarative. He makes us such, we do no more but declare Him to be such. This then is the work that man was created for, to be a witness of God’s glory and give testimony to its manifestation in God’s ways of power, justice, mercy and truth.

To glorify God is to conceive of Him and meditate on His name in our souls until they receive the impression of His glorious name. We are then to express this in our words and actions, commending Him and obeying Him. Our souls should be like wax bearing the seal of His glorious attributes of justice, power, goodness, holiness, and mercy. As water reflects the beams of the sun back again, so our spirits should receive the sweet, warming beams of His love and glorious excellency and then reflect them towards His Majesty, with the desires and affections of our souls. All our thoughts of Him and all our affections towards Him should declare there is none like Him or besides Him.

A soul will glorify God when love so unites it to God and makes it one spirit with Him. His glory becomes our honour and becomes the principle of all our inward affections and outward actions. It is not always possible to have express particular thoughts of God and His glory in every action and meditation. For the most part, however, it ought to be so.

If souls were accustomed to meditating on God it would become their very nature  and be delightful. Even though we may not always have an express intention towards God’s glory we ought always to maintain a spirit that may be construed to proceed from intending God’s glory.

 

7. How does Redemption Restore our Ultimate Purpose?

“All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That glory is the reason for man being in the world and he has come short of it. O strange shortcoming! Short of all that he was ordained for!  But behold! the goodness of the Lord and his kindness and love has “appeared toward man. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” “through Jesus Christ” (Titus 3:4-6). Our Lord Jesus, by whom and for whom all things were created  would not let this excellent workmanship perish and He therefore goes about the work of redemption.

This is a second creation with greater labour and glory than the first. This is the purpose of His second creation, as it was of the first: “We are his workmanship created to good works in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10).  He has made us again and paid a price for us and so we are twice bound not to be our own but His, and so to glorify him in our bodies and spirits (1 Corinthians 6:20).  We once came short of our goal —God’s glory and our happiness; but it is attainable again. We lost both but both are found in Christ. Awake then and stir up your spirits, otherwise it will be double condemnation (when we have the offer of being restored our former blessed condition) to love our present misery better.

 

8. When Will We Begin to Ask This Question?

Ask yourself “Why am I here? Why have I come into the world?” If you do not ask this what will you answer when God asks you when you appear before his judgement seat? You have been sent into the world only for this business to serve the Lord. If you answer truthfully  (as you will have to —you cannot lie then) you must say, “Lord, I spent my time in serving my own lusts. I was taken up with other business etc”. Imagine if an ambassador reported to his government on his negotiations: “I was busy at cards and dice. I spent my money and wore my clothes”. Though you think your ploughing and borrowing and trading and reaping very necessary, yet certainly these are but as trifles and toys compared to the main business.

O what a dreadful account will souls give! They come here for no purpose but to serve their bodies and senses, to be slaves to all the creatures which were once put under man’s feet. Now man is under the feet of all and he has put himself under them.  You seek these created things as if you were created for them and not they for you. You seek yourselves as if you came from yourselves and not from God. You were not made for that purpose nor yet redeemed either to serve yourselves or other creatures but that other creatures might serve you and you might serve God (Luke 1:74-75). And this is really the best way to serve ourselves and to save ourselves—to serve God. Self-seeking is self-destroying; self-denying is self-saving, soul-saving. He that seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life shall find it, and he that denies himself and follows Christ, is His disciple (Luke 9:23-24).

When will you sit down and be truly earnest about this business? ‘It is lamentable only to begin to learn to live when you must die! You will be  almost out of the world before you ask “Why did I come into the world?” This is the most lamentable thing of all —many souls end their life before they begin to live. For what is our life but a living death as long as we do not live to God, and do not live in relation to the great end of our life and being,—the glory of God? It would be better, says Christ, that such “had never been born”.  It concerns you who are created again in Jesus Christ most of all to ask, “Why have I been made? And why am I redeemed? For what purpose?” It is certainly so that you may glorify your heavenly Father, (Matthew 5:16; Psalm 56:13). And you will glorify Him if you bring forth much fruit, and continue in His love, (John 15:8-9). Therefore abide in Him by faith that you may honour Him and bring forth fruit (John 5:23; 15:4).

Here is the summary of how to glorify God. Receive salvation from Him freely, righteousness and eternal life. This is placing your seal of approval on God’s truth and grace and mercy. Whoever counts the Son worthy to be a Saviour to them and places their seal of approval on Him whom God the Father has sent and sealed also honours the Father. He that honours the Father will be honoured “for them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30) says the Lord. “He that serves me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:26).

God is the delight of such a soul and such a soul is God’s delight. That soul sets God in a high place, in a throne in its heart. God sets that soul in a heavenly place with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). He comes down to sit with us and dwells in us from off His throne of majesty (Isaiah 66:1-2 and 57:15).

FURTHER READING

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What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

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How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

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The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

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

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

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How Far Should Reformation Go?

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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

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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.

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A Family Day…of Worship

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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?

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No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

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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?

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The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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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.

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Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?

Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?

Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
9 Dec, 2016

It’s the word on everyone’s lips all of a sudden. “Post-truth” means “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.  It is not just an issue in politics; fake news is part of the problem too. No doubt gut feeling informs opinion more than many care to admit. Yet, when any opinion is cynically viewed as mere manipulative advertising in another dress – the world is undoubtedly in trouble. It is a question of trust and reality and therefore threatens the fabric of society. Where can we still find truth?

A post-truth indicates a step beyond the idea that everyone has their own truth to the notion that truth is irrelevant. In many ways it is a natural step for those who believe that the ultimate reality is random chance. If we truly arrive at a point in our culture where information serves only to reinforce what we feel it would be especially solemn. When the Bible speaks of such trends it calls them “strong delusion” in those who “received not the love of the truth” because they “had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Of course this highlights that what we now call “post-truth” has always had currency.

For Christians, there is a danger that we become subtly influenced by a post-truth outlook. What does this look like? It means that our lifestyle is dictated by what feels best and our worship determined by our taste. Our message and convictions may be more influenced by how they make us feel, or the response of other people.

It’s time to remind ourselves that objective and absolute truth matters. Jesus said that He Himself was the Truth and that God’s Word is Truth (John 14:6; John 17:17). Truth has its source and guarantee in God. Truth is far bigger and more complex than many appreciate.

We still need to confront those to whom truth is an inconvenient irrelevance with reality. In many ways this is what took place when the Lord Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate (John 18). As has been observed by others, Pilate himself was on trial. He dismisses any reference to the truth with “What is truth?” and walks away without requiring an answer (John 18:38). George Hutcheson comments on Christ’s example in opposing a “post-truth” mindset with steadfast declaration of the truth. This is an updated extract from his commentary on the gospel of John.

 

1. Christ Came into the World to Bear Witness to the Truth

Christ’s office at this time was, in part, to preach truth and avow it. He came to prove himself a king by making it successful and to confirm it by His suffering. More particularly, He came into the world to bear witness to the truth that He was a king and so He published the decree of Psalm 2:6- 7 and avowed it to death.

Everyone is sent into the world and employed by God for some purpose and service. They should bear this much in mind and labour to be faithful in their employment and trust despite all threats. Christ, as man and Mediator looks to the purpose for which He was born and the reason for which He “came into the world” (to “bear witness unto the truth”). He will here avow it in spite of all threats, even before Pilate.

 

2. Everyone that is of the Truth Hears Christ’s Voice

Christ prevents an objection against the truth of His doctrine and witness on the grounds that it is not well received. Only a few may receive His teaching in general or the truth that He is a king. He makes it clear that the fewness of those who receive it does not make the truth void. All who are of the truth (or born of God, begotten by the word of truth) and who love the truth and do not delight in lies will hear Him and embrace His doctrine and testimony.

 

3. Truth Must be Boldly Maintained

Truth ought to be boldly maintained and avowed when we are called to this. It does not matter however absurd it may seem to be in itself and how unpleasant it seems to others. Christ answers that Pilate says that He is a king, rightly gathering it from His words. This is a bold confession in what it asserts; yet modest in the way it is expressed. He does not respond with boasting and later makes it clarifies that He did this out of conscience and duty. He showed that courage and modesty must go together with owning the truth.

 

4. Persecution Presents an Opportunity for the Truth

By persecution the Lord gives His servants an opportunity to publish truth and make it known to the greatest of men. Possibly these men would not otherwise ever hear so much of it as is then spoken in their own hearing. Through Christ’s suffering Pilate comes to hear His teaching, especially concerning His kingdom. Besides this also, the very sufferings of Christians invite men to inquire after the doctrine for which they suffer, which probably otherwise they would not have taken any notice of (Philippians 1:12-13).

 

5. All Who Profess Christ Must Witness to the Truth

All professors of religion must bear witness to the truth or give a testimony to its worth. Partly, they do this by openly avowing it and suffering for it when called to do so in times of peril. Partly, they do this in their ordinary conduct by declaring truth in their personal capacities. This is done by subjecting their life, thoughts and reasonings to it. They magnify the truth in the face of their trials and discouragements. If we neglect this we will never prove resolute in suffering for the truth.

They are also bound especially to bear witness to the kingdom of Christ. Christ Himself is the great Captain of these witnesses. He is the great preacher of truth, whose powerful sceptre as a King is the word of truth. He stands for maintaining the truth and particularly this truth, that he is a King over his own Church, to order its affairs thereof. Christ sealed this and all the truths of God by His blood. He declares this to be one of His great purposes and works in the world –  to “bear witness unto the truth”. He gives an example to all others in their personal capacities and an encouragement to all who follow His pattern. They have such a champion of truth, who still maintains it, though He does not come into the world in person any more, nor suffer any more.

 

6. The Truth is Still the Truth No Matter How Many Reject It

Although most of the world has little regard for Christ’s doctrine, it is still the very truth itself. All the lovers and friends of truth will own it. Those who do otherwise, expose their own estrangement from truth, and are indeed delighters in lies.

 

7. Suffering for the Truth is Foolish to the World

Pilate disdainfully enquires, “What is truth?” but abruptly breaks off the conversation with Christ. This teaches us that Christ and his followers may often seem great fools in their sufferings, as suffering for things of no moment in the esteem of men. The Lord often brings the godly to suffer for a very small hair and point of truth. Worldly men account it great folly for men to suffer for any divine truth. Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” implies this. He advances it, not so much to get a satisfactory answer (seeing he went out not waiting for an answer) but as testifying that he looked on truth (and particularly the truth that Christ now avowed) as a very trivial thing on which to endanger so much.

 

8. Pride is a Barrier to Seeking the Truth

A person’s own thinking and knowledge are such a great idol for them that they can hardly bear to be considered ignorant or esteem any truth to be excellent with which they are not acquainted. This also seems to have occasioned Pilate’s disdainful question, to which he will not stay for an answer. He could not endure to hear truth commended of which he and “the wise Romans” lacked knowledge (as he could gather from Christ’s last words).

 

9. God Can Use Those Who Despise the Truth for His Own Glory

The Lord can make use of, not only men’s natural conscience [Pilate’s natural conscience was convinced of Christ’s innocence] but even their atheistic disposition and contempt of truth and religion. He can do this, when it pleases Him, to bring about the good of those who suffer for the truth. He can make such men vindicate the innocence of those who suffer for God’s truth. In this way He teaches us to look much to Him since He can make use of everything as He pleases. It was Pilate’s contempt of what Christ preached of His kingdom and truth (in the beginning of the verse), which combines with his natural conscience to make him think nothing of the accusation and absolve Him of guilt. Paul was released due to the same reasons (Acts 18:12, 16).

 

Conclusion

Hutcheson draws many striking lessons from this passage to show that we must and can testify to the truth, even when it is dismissed and disdained. It is particularly noteworthy that God can even make use of such an attitude to truth for His own glory and to achieve His own purposes. The more that we see others despise the truth, the more we should embrace Christ as the truth. As Hutcheson comments on John 14:6:

Christ also is the truth, not only essentially in Himself and as the One from whom all truth comes, but more especially He is the truth as a way to His people, and a true way…in opposition to all the delusions and vanities of the world by which men think to attain happiness. These all draw people away from Christ, the true way, and they will prove a lie and not the truth.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from George Hutcheson

REFORMING YOURSELF

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

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

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

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

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

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

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

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

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

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

How Far Should Reformation Go?

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

How Does Faith Help Love?

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

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

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

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

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

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

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

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

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

A Family Day…of Worship

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

What’s Missing from Your Home?

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

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

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

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

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

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

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

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

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

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

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

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

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

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

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

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

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

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

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

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

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

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

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

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

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

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

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

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

Are You Spiritually Authentic?

Are You Spiritually Authentic?

Are You Spiritually Authentic?
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
5 Nov, 2016

​We’re told that young people in their 20s and 30s crave authenticity. They have grown up with the empty exaggerated promises of advertising. Over-polished superficiality doesn’t impress much. Authenticity and trustworthiness are certainly important values to recover. The danger, however, is that we judge what is genuine simply by what “feels” real to us. Spiritual authenticity is defined by God in His Word. Above all, what matters is that we personally are spiritually real.

​Sadly a defective idea of spiritual authenticity has become a trend in some parts of evangelicalism. It has a focus towards others and features a false openness. It means being vulnerable and admitting your failings to the extent of wallowing in them. Making the acknowledgement of imperfection an excuse for continuing in sin. So much so that some writers have questioned whether such “authentic” confessions are really a way of avoiding the demands of holiness.

True spiritual authenticity is focussed on God. Andrew Gray describes spiritual authenticity as the grace of “sincerity”. He preached a sermon on the description of Nathanael: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). Christ, who spoke these words, is the judge of spiritual authenticity. Gray begins his sermon by posing the question as to whether there were any in the congregation to whom Christ could give this “precious testimony”. Professing Christians pursue many spiritual things more than this particular grace. “There is more true and unspotted religion in one grain of sincerity – it is of more worth and value – than if you would pray half of your time and weep the other half”. The following is abridged and extracted in updated language from Andrew Gray’s sermon.

 

What is Spiritual Authenticity?

  1. Our practice conforms to our profession. Usually, we profess more than we practice (Matthew 23:5). Most of us come very short not only of what we ought to be, but also of what we seem to be.
  2. We are as much exercised in spiritual duties on our own as in company. Many commend Christ to others. Yet if the walls of their houses could speak, they would testify that they do not watch in prayer. They “love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). They do not love to pray much in private.
  3. Our hearts conform to our words. Our blessed Lord Jesus was commended for having no guile in His mouth and His spirit. He spoke nothing with His mouth that was not in His heart.
  4. We act for the glory of God as well as out of faith and love.

In short, Christian sincerity is a sweet agreement between our profession and practice, our heart and our walk and our walk and our hope. Every Christian grace can be counterfeited by a hypocrite. Whatever we do, have or can have, is empty and pointless without this precious and excellent grace of sincerity. Sincerity is to other graces what the sun is to the planets. They cannot be seen without it.

The Christian has his greatest peace from this grace of sincerity when passing through death to his everlasting rest and home. All our duties will then pass away as a cloud.   Sincerity is the way to best resemble God. Is not God sometimes in Scripture called the God of truth? All your other graces will not thrive if they do not grow out of the ground of sincerity.

 

The Benefits of Spiritual Authenticity

1. It Best Prepares You for Assurance

It is because you are not sincere that you debate with yourself about your assurance of salvation and have so much jangling unbelief. The grace of sincerity best capacitates a Christian to receive intimation of peace.  The sincere Christian knows best how to make use of assurance and peace of conscience.

2. It Enables You to Wrestle Against Sin

It engages the Christian to wrestle against predominant sins. There is no grace that enables a Christian more to put predominant sins to death. “I was also upright before him and I kept myself from mine iniquity” (Psalm 18:23). There is an emphasis in these words. Christians may engrave this title on their iniquity: “It is mine”. While iniquity is still living and Christians are under it, while it is not yet put to death,  Christ does not have much access to the soul, and has only the corner of the Christian’s heart.

3. It is the Best Evidence that Your Sins have been Forgiven

David says in Psalm 32:2 that the evidence of one who iniquity is forgiven is that there is no guile in his mouth.

4. It Brings You Most Victory Over Sin

It enables a Christian to put his besetting sins to death. What is the blessedness of such Christians? “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord”. Their blessedness is that they hate every false way and their feet do not turn from the commandments of the Lord. I am persuaded that the little we exercise sincerity is the reason we do not succeed in putting sin to death. Is it not often your aim in prayer merely to quiet your conscience? Why do you seek to put sin to death? Is it not to obtain peace and be free of outward offence against the generation of the just? Such motives are due to lack of the grace of sincerity.

5. It Makes You Receive All God’s Promises

God manifests His faithfulness most to those who exercise sincerity most. God is upright with those that walk uprightly (Psalm 18:26). That uprightness consists of faithfulness most of all. “The Lord God is a sun and shield…no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). This promise is to those that walk uprightly and delight in God’s law with their whole hearts.

6. It Best Prepares You for Fellowship with God

“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73:1). Who are those that receive divine influences from heaven? Those that are sincere.

7. It Enables You to Persevere to the End

The sincere Christian will endure to the end of their fight and spiritual warfare without the least spot and blemish on their walk. Solomon says: “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely” (Proverbs 10:9).

8. It Enables You to Enjoy Christ’s Presence

It is impossible to make best use of Christ’s presence without this precious and noble grace of sincerity. The Christian is to make best use of experiencing Christ’s presence as strengthening towards heaven and putting sin to death. This is not possible without sincerity.  “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright” (Proverbs 10:29). We are certain that all the ways of mercy and grace give strength to the Christian that is sincere. Lack of sincerity prevents Christians from making best use of their spiritual blessings.

Conclusion

Gray acknowledges that there are difficulties in the way of spiritual authenticity. It requires diligence, humility and a constant focus on the being and glory of God. We read of “hypocrisies” in the plural in 1 Peter 2:1. This is because it may be in any and all of a Christian’s actions. Before we condemn ourselves altogether, he makes a distinction between having hypocrisy to some extent in our actions and being a hypocrite. The excellent nature of the grace of sincerity should provoke our desires and affections after it. It is like a precious and excellent garment with which we can be robed so that it is clear to both God and man that we are an “Israelite indeed in whom is no guile”.

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

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Preventing the Dangers of Straying from the Truth

Preventing the Dangers of Straying from the Truth

Preventing the Dangers of Straying from the Truth
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
9 Sep, 2016

Sometimes it seems like the only heresy today is the idea of heresy itself. In other words a culture of hyper-toleration tones down our language. There is a reluctance to bring absolute truth and falsehood in to sharp definition. Reluctance to point out to individuals where they are going astray is another aspect of this influence. We don’t want to interfere – especially if we think the error won’t endanger their salvation. Perhaps we don’t know how or trust ourselves to do it in the right way. Yet the Bible is full of warnings about straying from the truth. It expects us to be concerned for those who are in error.

Sometimes error may seem to be in a small matter yet on closer consideration it actually endangers the gospel itself. A good example of this is in Galatians 2:14-15. Paul must confront Peter because he is declining to eat with the Gentile believers. To a modern mind this must seem strange. Peter is a godly, respected preacher and this is just a matter of eating practices. Surely it is indifferent? Why would Paul withstand Peter to the face publicly? Paul says it was because Peter was not walking “uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. The word uprightly means “with straight foot”: in other words walking astray. Peter’s practice was affecting truth and damaging the gospel. He was implying that to be saved the Gentiles needed to observe the ceremonial law of Old Testament Israel. This was adding our works to what Christ has done.

Even an apostle can be swept along with others in going seriously astray. This also shows the close connection between what we practice and what we believe. In expounding Galatians 2:14-15, James Fergusson makes some important points about how we are to deal with error. The following is updated extract from his comments.

 

1. We Must Not be Influenced by Numbers

The large numbers of those who swerve from the truth should not make the truth any less lovely to us.  Neither should it blunt the edge of our opposition to error. Even though truth should be deserted by everyone except one person alone it is worthy of being owned, stood up for and defended by that one person. Even if this is against all who oppose it. Peter, the other Jews and Barnabas all “dissembled”, and draw back from the truth. Yet Paul stands for the truth alone.

 

2. We Must be Careful in Our Opinions and Practice

It is the duty of all professing Christians to ensure that their opinions and practice agree well with the sincere truth of God in the gospel. They must maintain nothing which is even indirectly contrary to it and practise nothing which may discredit it. When they draw back or do not walk with a straight foot in either of those, they are blameworthy.

Peter and the rest are reproved for the fault of not walking uprightly (or with a straight foot) according to the truth of the Gospel. Their practice and opinion about whether it was lawful to please the Jews in this matter was wrong. It contradicted and discredited (indirectly at least) the great gospel-truth about the ceremonial law having been done away with.

 

3. Ministers Must be Wise in Reproving Error

When many are guilty of one and the same sin, the minister of Jesus Christ ought to reprove wisely and without partiality. The weight of the reproof must be applied in proportion to how they have engaged in the sin. Since Peter’s example had enticed all the rest to sin, Paul directs the reproof to him by name  before the rest. This was so that they might also be reproved themselves (indirectly at least) for following this bad example.

 

4. Public Sins Must be Rebuked Publicly

Private sins, which are not yet a public scandal to many, should be rebuked in private (Matthew 18:15). But, public sins should receive public rebukes so that, by this means, the public scandal may be removed. Others will also be frightened away from taking encouragement from such sins to act similarly (1 Timothy 5:20). Thus, because Peter sinned publicly before all, Paul reproved Peter before them all.

 

5. Ministers must Practice what they Preach

It is absurd for a minister to give himself liberty to practice the same things that he condemns in others. It cannot be justified either to God or man. This is what happens if he acts contrary to what either his teaching or example at other times constrains him to do. This clear from Paul’s question to Peter which assumed that Peter did not usually act in this way. It is as if he had said that Peter could neither justify it to God or man.

 

6. Church Rulers must not Compel Believers in Indifferent Things

It is no small sin for rulers to bind where the Lord has left us free. This happens in urging those under their authority to observe as necessary something which is by its own nature indifferent. The exception to this is in those situations in which the Lord indicates that it is necessary due to particular circumstances e.g.  stumbling others (Acts 15:28, 29) and despising others (1 Corinthians 14:40).

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Fergusson

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.