SPIRITUAL DECLENSION

Written by Steven Black on 17/08/2018. Posted in Articles

Solemn words by J. C. Philpot in 1853 – based upon Joel 1

Where in our day, with all this material prosperity, is real religion and vital godliness, which are the evidence of grace? Does it flourish? Is the church, the Lamb’s wife, growing in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do ministers preach with power and savour? Is God deeply feared, are His promises firmly believed, are His precepts carefully obeyed and His ordinances highly prized. Is His Word dearly loved, His honour and glory earnestly sought? Are those who profess the truth humble, prayerful, watchful and spiritually minded? Are they walking as living witnesses for God and testifying to an ungodly world that they are children and servants of the Most High? Is the line of separation between the church and the world clear and distinct? And does she shine forth, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners”(S of S 6:10)?

Who can say it is so? Who can say of the church that she is flourishing and that her prosperity runs parallel with that of the world? We may rather take up Joel’s lament in verses 10 – 12 of the chapter we read, “The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted; the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl O ye vine dressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree even all the trees of the field are withered”.

No one who knows what grace is and what grace does, can help seeing that Zion’s sky is much beclouded at the present time, that the life of God is at a low ebb and that the blessings and consolations of the Holy Spirit are much restrained. Go where you will, the same complaints reach our ears. Churches are much rent and divided, a party spirit widely prevails, spiritual coldness and deadness benumb those who once seemed full of life and feeling. When the children of God meet there is little real spiritual conversation. Worldly subjects, the mere trifles of the day, be it the weather, the markets, the crops, politics and gossip, all thrust out the things God. When religion is talked of it is often at a distance; spiritual experience is lost in a cloud of generalities.

Where is love and union amidst the strife of tongues? What are the feelings of the tender hearted, the meek and quiet ones, those newly called by grace, the young members of our churches, the exercised part of the flock, the doubting and fearing ones, I say, what are their feelings when they see those, who by their age and experience, should be fathers and mothers in Israel, spiritually cold and dead in conversation and buried in carnality. When Churches are made up of discordant materials, strife and disunion will usually exist. How can the stormy petrel and the timid dove dwell in the same nest? The dove cannot scream on the crest of the boiling wave, as does the petrel, and gather up its fishy prey from between the heaving billows, revelling in wind and storm. Nor can the petrel lodge in the calm nest of the dove, cooing out its lamentations, because of the absence of its beloved. Let us examine ourselves. Amen.

SPIRITUAL DECLENSION

The Middle Years

Written by Steven Black on 27/07/2018. Posted in Articles

O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years.

HABAKKUK 3:2

The middle of anything is generally its weakest point, and middle years are years of particular danger. More and more, society has turned its attention to the problems people face in their middle years. The work of God faces its own peculiar difficulties in its middle years, and Habakkuk was led to pray that it might be revived at that time. The trouble with the middle years is that zeal tends to diminish while worldliness creeps in. Prosperity can lead to complacency, and God’s people lose the vision of a world perishing in sin.
Habakkuk shows us that the work is still God’s in the midst of the years. He prays, “Revive thy work in the midst of the years.” Because the work is still God’s, it demands the same level of faithfulness as at the beginning. Many people support the work when it is in its exciting initial stages and then lie back and become discouraged when it settles down.
What God’s work needs in the middle years is revival. The word for “revive” is often translated quicken in the Old Testament. To quicken is to bring to life, and God can bring His work to life just when it seems to have lost its way and become powerless. No one could have anticipated the mighty revival that God sent to Europe in the sixteenth century. Men like Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, and Farel were raised up, and they led great multitudes to Christ.
In the midst of the years we stand in need of revival. Unless it comes, our strength will ooze from us, and we will be like Samson when shorn of his locks. All we can say to God is, “O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years.”

Rev. Gordon Ferguson
From: Eagles’ Wings, Daily Devotions

There is no hope for true prayer and intercession
for revival unless we realise that there is a need.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Longing for Revival

Written by Steven Black on 15/05/2018. Posted in Articles

“Where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of?”

Judges 6:13

Christians should never despise the day of small things. We tend to look for the extraordinary and discount the ordinary, but this is wrong. God’s ordinary dealings in and through His people are worthy of our deepest gratitude. People saved here and there through the normal ministry of the church are just as truly saved as those saved in revival, and their salvation is just as much a miracle of grace.

Yet we cannot be indifferent to the need for revival. We have read in Scripture and in church history of the great outpourings of the Holy Spirit. We have thrilled at the record of the powerful revelation of the majesty of God, causing men to fall under great conviction of sin and to cry for mercy through Christ. As we have read, we have yearned to see the working of His Spirit. We are grateful for every token of the Lord’s presence as we worship and serve, but we long to see greater things than we have yet seen. Where are the mighty works of grace our fathers have described?

It is tragic that all that most Christians today know about revival is what they have read. It is not the knowledge of experience. What is being touted in some circles as a great movement of spiritual renewal is mostly a manufactured phenomenon and is largely divorced from the solid preaching and the awesome sense of the majesty of God that mark true revivals. Crusades and crowd psychology are no substitute for a real movement of the Holy Spirit in the fulness of His power.

Where are God’s mighty works? We do not see revival today. But we may see it. The Lord is sovereign in dispensing His grace, but we have every reason to pray that He will send us a true revival. Each of us can personally enter into the experience of being filled with His Spirit, which is revival on an individual scale. Let us cry for such a reviving. Then may the Lord enlarge it to touch multitudes.

By: Alan Cairns

From Eagles’ Wings

Daily Devotional Meditations

A Watchword for All Who Profess
and Call Themselves Christians

Written by Steven Black on 16/03/2018. Posted in Articles

by JOSEPH IRONS

“Beware of men.” (Matthew 10:17)

This is the caution which the Son of God gave to His disciples, when He ministered among them on earth, and the Holy Ghost caused it to be penned, that the true Church of God might use it as a watchword to the end of time; and never since this caution dropped from the lips of Jesus, has it been needed than now; for men seem to vie with the prince of darkness who shall most effectually oppose the kingdom of Christ and the spiritual interests of His blood-bought family.

“Beware of men!” – Not merely of profane men, open infidels; but little caution is necessary respecting them, because “the show of their countenance does witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom – they hide it not;” (Isa. 3:9) but the men who assume the profession of Christianity, without possessing its vital principle, are the men of whom the Saviour’s watchword is, “Beware!” – The men who put on the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof – whose carnal minds and carnal interests have always warred against the pure truth of God, and perverted the whole plan of salvation by lying fables and human traditions, seducing the souls of millions to utter destruction.

This baneful poison produced the monster Popery in the days of Constantine, when carnal men professed to be Christians, because the emperor professed to be such, and thrust themselves into priestly office, blending priestly power with political power, until superstition and tyranny supplanted Christianity, and exercised a despotic sway over mankind; proudly dictating to every man’s conscience, plundering his property, degrading his existence, and pretending to power over his eternal destiny; so that priestcraft sat like an infernal incubus ever the entire population of Christendom, and spread its darkness, horror, and death over this favored land, with tortures and cruelties perfectly satanic.

That awful night was chased away by the glorious Reformation, and the principles of liberty have had a shining day; but who does not see the evening shades gathering around us again, threatening midnight darkness with tempestuous horror? Intellectual pride vaunts itself against the light of revelation; superstition is trampling upon the simplicity of the gospel; and error, of every name and form, is at war with the truth.

There is now scarcely a city or town in England but in which there are men sprung up in the office of priest (some Papist, some Puseyite,) who are using all their efforts to bring back those dark days and those degrading superstitions which dishonor God, foster the pride of man, and delude millions of souls fatally; and hence the importance of our Saviour’s watchword, “Beware of men!” – For these men are doing more mischief than devils could do without them.

“Beware of men” who boast of apostolical succession, which they cannot prove, and who are no more like the apostles of our Lord, either in doctrine or character, than sin is like holiness, or Satan like God. See what monstrous opinions they broach, such as baptismal regeneration, which rejects the ministry of the Holy Ghost; priestly absolution, which insults and virtually denies Christ; ecclesiastical authority, which sets at nought the word and the decrees of God the Father, and thus genders Atheism, by denying all the Persons of the Godhead. Can they be honest, when they know that there is not a word in all the New Testament to sanction the existence of an official human priesthood, Christ only being the Priest of the Gospel Church after the order of Melchisedec? Can they be honest in their boasted reference to the fathers, when they know that the usurpation of ecclesiastical power, and the right of one Christian minister to exercise authority over others, were never allowed in the churches for 300 years after Christ’s ascension to glory?

“Beware of men!” Such as our dear Redeemer has described, “who desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; which devour widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers.” (Luke 20:46) And again, the same Divine Teacher says, they outwardly appear righteous before men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity; therefore He denounces them as serpents and a generation of vipers, who shall not escape the damnation of hell. (Matt. 23:28-33) Indeed, whoever would see a full-length portrait of Puseyism, has only to read the whole of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. It has enslaved the finest minds; it has prostrated the brightest genius; it has sugared the most virulent poison; and sainted the most reprobate enemies to vital godliness; in fact, it has outdone Popery itself in deception.

The tradition of apostolic succession is a religious hoax: the existence of an official human priesthood is a rejection of Christ and a return to Judaism; the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a barefaced falsehood; and all pretensions to priestly absolution are blasphemy. Yet men who hold these hideous notions, arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to teach their fellow-men, saying with lying words, as did the false teachers in Jeremiah’s day, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these;” (Jer. 7:4) or, in modern language, “The Church, the Church, the Church,” is the enthusiastic cry of those who possess not one feature of the Church of Christ as described in Holy Scripture, and as exhibited in the early ages. The Church of Christ is a spiritual body.

“Beware of men!” Those very men who now seek to do by “all who profess and call themselves Christians,” as the spider does by the fly; first bind the wings and legs of our liberty with an invisible web; and then suck our blood by persecution, as in days of yore. Oh! Search the Scriptures, and learn from thence what the true Church of God is, and do not suffer a carnal priesthood to blind your eyes, enslave your consciences, and ruin your souls. See how they toil for human patronage; mark their thirst for worldly honors; watch their abuse of ecclesiastical power; weigh the mock sanctity of their long prayers; and then say if these are the marks of apostolic descendants, or the characteristics of Christ’s ministers. Rather, are they not the features of Baal’s priests – the broad marks of Antichrist?

“Beware of men!” Even of those who pass for evangelical men; for every grade of error is to be found among them. Even while I am writing this paper, my soul is distressed with the awful perversions of the word of God which surround me, and which are advocated by men of renown; one drowning the doctrine of regeneration in the baptismal font; another substituting the credence of carnal reason for the faith of God’s elect, and another denying the Son of God; while the great bulk of so-called evangelical preachers try to dethrone Christ, and to enthrone proud free-will as absolute sovereign.

“Beware of men!” For even those whose views are, in the main, scriptural, seem to determined to bite and devour one another through jealousy, that they make each other offenders for a word, and put more stress upon the shibboleth of a party than upon the fundamental doctrines of the gospel; drinking into the spirit which our Lord reproved in His disciples, when they said, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followed not us!” Oh! These are awful signs of the times, when even the real disciples of Christ have exchanged brotherly love for party-spirit and jealousy; all seeking their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ’s. (Phil. 2:21)

What, then, it may be asked, is real religion? I answer, it is altogether supernatural. It originates in the love of God the Father to His whole Church, His chosen family, which is scattered all over the world. It is intrusted to God the Son, in positive responsibility by an everlasting covenant, for the redemption of their persons with His own blood, and their eternal salvation in His own righteousness imputed to them. It is communicated to them by the regenerating and quickening operations of the Holy Ghost creating in them a new and holy life, capable of enjoying God. This new and holy life consists of all the graces of Holy Spirit, and becomes manifest by their actings upon Christ; Faith trusts Him and claims Him: Hope aspires after Him, and waits for Him; Love cleaves to Him and honors Him, rejecting all that is unlike Him.

Reader, is this your religion? If so, heaven is secure. If not, when you die you will descend to eternal despair, though loaded with all the forms of Pharisees – all the traditions of Rome – and all the mock sanctity of Oxford.

Arise, O Lord, and plead thine own cause, prays His willing servant in the cause of truth.

A Watchword for All Who Profess
and Call Themselves Christians

THE SIN-BEARER

Written by Steven Black on 05/03/2018. Posted in Articles

“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25

This wonderful passage is a part of Peter’s address to servants; and in his day nearly all servants were slaves. Peter begins at the 18th verse:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

If we are in a lowly condition of life, we shall find our best comfort in thinking of the lowly Saviour bearing our sins in all patience and submission. If we are called to suffer, as servants often were in the Roman times, we shall be solaced by a vision of our Lord buffeted, scourged and crucified, yet silent in the majesty of His endurance. If these sufferings were entirely undeserved, and we are grossly slandered, we shall be comforted by remembering Him who did no sin and in whose lips was found no guile. Our Lord Jesus is Head of the Guild of Sufferers: He did well and suffered for it but took it patiently. Our support under the cross, which we are appointed to bear, is only to be found in Him “who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”

We ourselves now know by experience that there is no place for comfort like the cross. It is a tree stripped of all foliage and apparently dead; yet we sit under its shadow with great delight, and its fruit is sweet unto our taste. Truly, in this case, ‘like cures like’. By the suffering of our Lord Jesus, our suffering is made light. The servant is comforted since Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant; the sufferer is cheered “because Christ also suffered for us;” and the slandered one is strengthened because Jesus also was reviled.

‘Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth
Should touch the heart with softer power
For comfort than an angel’s mirth?
That to the cross the mourner’s eye should turn
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?’

Let us, as we hope to pass through the tribulations of this world, stand fast by the cross; for if that be gone, the lone-star is quenched whose light cheers the downtrodden, shines on the injured and brings light to the oppressed. If we lose the cross – if we miss the substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have lost all.

Extract from ‘Communion Meditations and Addresses’

By: C. H. Spurgeon

Fight the good fight of faith – Part 3

Written by Steven Black on 15/12/2017. Posted in Articles

(I Timothy 6:12)

By: J. C. Ryle Extract from ‘A Call to Holiness’, chapter 4 ‘The Fight’
(Part 1 reminded us that true Christianity is ‘a fight’ against the flesh, the world and the Devil. Part 2 explained how Christians are to fight and Part 3 shows that it is a “good fight”.)

“Good” is a curious word to apply to any warfare. All worldly war is more or less evil. No doubt it is an absolute necessity in many cases – to procure the liberty of nations, to prevent the weak from being trampled down by the strong – but still it is an evil. It entails an awful amount of bloodshed and suffering. It hurries into eternity myriads who are completely unprepared for their change. It calls forth the worst passions of man. It causes enormous waste and destruction of property. It fills peaceful homes with mourning widows and orphans. It spreads far and wide poverty, taxation and national distress. It disarranges all the order of society. It interrupts the work of the Gospel and the growth of Christian Missions. In short, war is an immense and incalculable evil and every praying man should cry night and day, “Give peace in our time.” And yet there is one warfare which is emphatically “good” and one fight in which there is no evil. That warfare is the Christian warfare. That fight is the fight of the soul.

Now what are the reasons why the Christian fight is a “good fight”? What are the points in which his warfare is superior to the warfare of this world? Let me examine this matter and open it out in order. I dare not pass the subject and leave it unnoticed. I want no one to begin the life of a Christian soldier without counting the cost. I would not keep back from anyone that if he would be holy and see the Lord he must fight and that the Christian fight, though spiritual, is real and severe. It needs courage, boldness and perseverance. But I want my readers to know that there is abundant encouragement to begin the battle. The Scripture does not call the Christian fight “a good fight” without reason and cause. Let me try to show what I mean.

(a) The Christian fight is good because it is fought under the best of generals. The Leader and Commander of all believers is our Divine Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ – a Saviour of perfect wisdom, infinite love and almighty power. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory. He never makes any useless movement, never errs in judgment, never commits any mistake. His eye is on all His followers, from the greatest of them even to the least. The humblest servant in His army is not forgotten. The weakest and most sickly is cared for, remembered and kept unto salvation. The souls whom He has purchased and redeemed with His own blood are far too precious to be wasted and thrown away. Surely this is good!

(b) The Christian’s fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Weak as each believer is in himself, the Holy Spirit dwells in him and his body is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges and is never alone. God the Holy Ghost daily teaches, leads, guides and directs him. God the Father guards him by His almighty power. God the Son intercedes for him every moment, like Moses on the Mount, while he is fighting in the valley below. A threefold cord like this can never be broken! His daily provisions and supplies never fail. His commissariat is never defective. His bread and his water are sure. Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits. Surely this is good!

(c) The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises. To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises – all Yea and Amen in Christ – promises sure to be fulfilled, because made by One who cannot lie and has power as well as will to keep His word. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” – “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” – “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” – “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” – “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” – “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” – “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”- “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:14; Rom. 16:20; Phil. 1:6; Isa. 43:2; John 10:28; John 6:37; Heb. 13:5; Rom. 8:38). Words like these are worth their weight in gold! Who does not know that promises of coming aid have cheered the defenders of besieged cities, like Lucknow, and raised them above their natural strength? Have we never heard that the promise of “help before night” had much to say to the mighty victory of Waterloo? Yet all such promises are as nothing compared to the rich treasure of believers, the eternal promises of God. Surely this is good!

(d) This Christian’s fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results. No doubt it is a war in which there are tremendous struggles, agonising conflicts, wounds, bruises, watchings, fastings and fatigue, but still every believer, without exception, is more than conqueror “through Him that loved us” (Rom 8:37). No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield. No mourning will ever need to be put on and no tears to be shed for either Private or Officer in the army of Christ. The muster roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning. The English Guards marched out of London to the Crimean campaign a magnificent body of men; but many of the gallant fellows laid their bones in a foreign grave and never saw London again. Far different shall be the arrival of the Christian army in “The city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Not one shall be found lacking. The words of our great Captain shall be found true: “Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none” (John 18:9). Surely this is good!

(e) The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it. All other wars have a bad, lowering and demoralising tendency. They call forth the worst passions of the human mind. They harden the conscience and sap the foundation of religion and morality. The Christian warfare alone tends to call forth the best things that are left in man. It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above. The old, the sick, the dying, are never known to repent of fighting Christ’s battles against sin, the world and the Devil. Their only regret is that they did not begin to service Christ long before. The experience of that eminent saint, Philip Henry, does not stand alone. In his last days he said to his family, “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.” Surely this is good!

(f) The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world. All other wars have a devastating, ravaging and injurious effect. The march of an army though a land is an awful scourge to the inhabitants. Wherever it does it impoverishes, wastes and invariably does harm. Injury to persons, property, feelings and morals invariably accompanies it. Far different are the effects produced by Christian soldiers. Wherever they live they are a blessing. They raise the standard of religion and morality. They invariably check the progress of drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, profligacy and dishonesty. Even their enemies are obliged to respect them. Go where you please, you will rarely find that barracks and garrisons do good to the neighbourhood. But go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!

(g) Finally, the Christian’s fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it. Who can tell the wages that Christ will pay to all His faithful people? Who can estimate the good things that our Divine Captain has laid up for those who confess Him before men? A grateful country can give to her successful warriors medals, Victoria Crosses, pensions, peerages, honour and titles, but it can give nothing that will last and endure for ever, nothing that can be carried beyond the grave. Places like Blenheim and Strathfieldsay can only be enjoyed for a few years. The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the King of Terrors. Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world and the Devil. He may get little praise of man while he lives and go down to the grave with little honour; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring. He shall have “a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4). Surely this is good!

Let us settle it in our minds that the Christian fight is a good fight – really good, emphatically good. We see only part of it as yet. We see the struggle, but not the end; we see the campaign, but not the reward; we see the cross, but not the crown. We see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but we see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the Kingdom of glory prepared for them. These things are yet to be revealed. Let us not judge by appearances. There are more good things about the Christian warfare than we see.

And now let me conclude my whole subject with a few words of practical application. Our lot is cast in times when the world seems thinking of little else but battles and fighting. The iron is entering into the soul of more than one nation and the mirth of many a fair district is clean gone. Surely in times like these a Minister may fairly call on men to remember their spiritual warfare. Let me say a few parting words about the great fight of the soul.

(1.) It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure. If that be your case, take care. Your sowing will lead to a crop of bitter disappointment. Unless you mind what you are about, your latter end will be to lie down in sorrow.

Thousands have trodden the path you are pursuing and have awoken too late to find it end in misery and eternal ruin. They have fought hard for wealth and honour and office and promotion and turned their backs on God and Christ and Heaven and the world to come. And what has their end been? Often, far too often, they have found out that their whole life has been a grand mistake. They have tasted by bitter experience the feelings of the dying Statesman who cried aloud in his last hours, “The battle is fought: the battle is fought: but the victory is not won.”

For your own happiness’ sake resolve this day to seek to join the Lord’s side. Shake off your past carelessness and unbelief. Come out from the ways of a thoughtless, unreasoning world.

Think what the children of this world will often do for liberty, without any religious principle. Remember how Greeks, and Romans, and Swiss, and Tyrolese, have endured the loss of all things, even life itself, rather than bend their necks to a foreign yoke. Let their example provoke you to emulation. If men can do so much for a corruptible crown, how much more should you do for one which is incorruptible!

Fear not to enlist under Christ’s banner. The great Captain of your salvation rejects none that come to Him. None who repent and believe are too bad to be enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s army. All who come to Him by faith are admitted, clothed, armed, trained and finally led on to complete victory.

Fear not to go on fighting, if you once enlist. The more thorough and whole-hearted you are as a soldier, the more comfortable will you find your warfare. No doubt you will often meet with trouble, fatigue and hard fighting, before your warfare is accomplished. But let none of these things move you. Greater is He that is for you than all they that be against you. Everlasting liberty or everlasting captivity are the alternatives before you. Choose liberty and fight to the last.

(2.) It maybe you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already. If that be your case, accept a parting word of advice and encouragement from a fellow-soldier. Let me speak to myself as well as to you. Let us stir up our minds by way of remembrance. There are some things which we cannot remember too well.

Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God and never lay it aside till we die. Not a single piece of the armour can be dispensed with. The girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of hope – each and all are needful. Not a single day can we dispense with any part of this armour. Well says an old veteran in Christ, who died many years ago, “In Heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory, but here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” (Gurnall’s Christian Armour)

Let us remember the solemn words of an inspired warrior, who went to his rest 1800 years ago: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). May we never forget that saying!

Let us remember that some have seemed good soldiers for a little season and talked loudly of what they would do and yet turned back disgracefully in the day of battle. Let us never forget Balaam, Judas, Demas and Lot’s wife. Whatever we are and, however weak, let us be real, genuine, true and sincere.

Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us morning, noon and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the Prince of this world. Having such a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Heb. 4:14).

Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting and come off more than conquerors though Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we. Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us is the One who never changes. He is “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” Then let us cast doubts and fears away. Let us “follow them who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” and are waiting for us to join them (Heb. 7:25; 6:12).

Finally, let us remember that the time is short and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. A few more battles and the last trumpet shall sound and the Prince of Peace shall come to reign on a renewed earth. A few more struggles and conflicts and then we shall bid an eternal goodbye to warfare and to sin, to sorrow and to death. Then let us fight on to the last and never surrender. Thus saith the Captain of our salvation – “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be His God, and He shall be my Son.” (Rev 21:7).

May we never forget that without fighting there can be no holiness while we live and no crown of glory when we die!

Slightly Abbreviated

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Fight the good fight of faith – Part 3

Fight the good fight of faith – Part 2

Written by Steven Black on 06/11/2017. Posted in Articles

(I Timothy 6:12)- Part 2

By: J. C. Ryle
Extract from ‘A Call to Holiness’, chapter 4 ‘The Fight’

(Part 1 reminded us that true Christianity is ‘a fight’ against the flesh, the world and the Devil. Part 2 shows how Christians are to fight.)

True Christianity is the fight of faith
In this respect, the Christian warfare is utterly unlike the conflicts of this world.It does not depend on the strong arm, the quick eye, or the swift foot. It is not waged with carnal weapons, but with spiritual. Faith is the hinge on which victory turns. Success depends entirely on believing.
A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary
foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason – he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first; it looks very pretty at a distance; but the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion, unless he believes something. Even those who profess to hold the miserable and uncomfortable views of the Deists are obliged to confess that they believe something. With all their bitter sneers against dogmatic theology and Christian credulity, as they call it, they themselves have a kind of faith.
As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No-one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the Devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. What they are he may hardly know, and may certainly not be able to define or write down; but there they are and, consciously or unconsciously, they form the roots of his religion. Wherever you see a man, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, wrestling manfully with sin and trying to overcome it, you will be sure there are certain great principles which that man believes. The poet who wrote the famous lines

“For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,

He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right”

was a clever man, but a poor divine. There is no such thing as right living without faith and believing.
A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work and office is the life, heart and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him and appears in Heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. He sees Jesus and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.
He sees his own many sins – his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy Devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair; but he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathising Saviour – His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood – and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on with a full confidence that he will prove “more than conqueror through Him that loved him” (Rom. 8:37).
Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.
It must never be forgotten that faith admits of degrees. All men do not believe alike and even the same person has his ebbs and flows of faith and believes more heartily at one time than another. According to the degree of his faith the Christian fights well or ill, wins victories, or suffers occasional repulses, comes off triumphant or loses a battle. He that has most faith will always be the happiest and most comfortable soldier. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and continual protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. It is the “shield of faith” which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. It is the man who can say “I kn ow whom I have believed” – who can say in time of suffering, “I am not ashamed.” He who wrote those glowing words “we faint not” – “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – was the man who wrote with the same pen “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It is the man who said, “I live by the faith of the Son of God,” who said in the same Epistle, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” It is the man who said, “to me to live is Christ” who said, in the same Epistle, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” “I can do all things through Christ.” The more faith the more victory! The more faith the more inward peace! (Eph. 6:16; 2 Tim.1:12; 2 Cor. 4:17,18; Gal 2:20; 6:14; Phil. 1:21; 4:11,13)
I think it impossible to over-rate the value and importance of faith. Well may the Apostle Peter call it “precious” (2 Pet. 1:1). Time would fail me if I tried to recount a hundredth part of the victories which by faith Christian soldiers have obtained.
Let us take down our Bibles and read with attention the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let us mark the long list of worthies whose names are thus recorded, from Abel down to Moses, even before Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and brought life and immortality into the full light of the Gospel. Let us note well what battles they won against the world, the flesh and the Devil – and then let us remember that believing did it all. These men looked forward to the promised Messiah. They saw Him that is invisible. “By faith the elders obtained a good report” (Heb. 11:2-27).
Let us turn to the pages of early Church history. Let us see how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen Emperors. For centuries, there were never wanting men like Polycarp and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines and prisons and torture and fire and sword were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.
Let us examine the story of the Protestant Reformation. Let us study the lives of its leading champions – Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Let us mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.
Let us consider the men who have made the greatest marks in Church history in the last hundred years. Let us observe how men like Wesley, and Whitfield, and Venn, and Romaine, stood alone in their day and generation and revived English religion in the face of opposition from men high in office and in the face of slander, ridicule and persecution from nine-tenths of professing Christians in our land. Let us observe how men like William Wilberforce, and Havelock, and Hedley Vicars, have witnessed for Christ in the most difficult positions and displayed a banner for Christ even at the regimental mess-table, or on the floor of the House of Commons. Let us mark how these noble witnesses never flinched to the end and won the respect even of their worst adversaries; and then let us remember that believing in an unseen Christ is the key to all their characters. By faith they lived and walked and stood and overcame.
Would anyone live the life of a Christian soldier? Let him pray for faith. It is the gift of God; and a gift which those who ask shall never ask for in vain. You must believe before you do. If men do nothing in religion, it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward Heaven.
Would anyone fight the fight of a Christian soldier successfully and prosperously? Let him pray for a continual increase of faith. Let him abide in Christ, get closer to Christ, tighten his hold on Christ every day that he lives. Let his daily prayer be that of the disciples – “Lord increase my faith” (Luke 17:5). Watch jealously over your faith, if you have any. It is the citadel of the Christian character, on which the safety of the whole fortress depends. It is the point which Satan loves to assail. All lies at his mercy if faith is overthrown. Here, if we love life, we must especially stand on our guard.

What Is Your Life?

Written by Steven Black on 05/11/2017. Posted in Articles

What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 4:14

These words are most frequently used to warn sinners of the urgent necessity for them to get right with God. They certainly should make every careless soul think of the brevity of life, the certainty of death, and the solemnity of eternity. If you come to this day still in your sins, you should stop and consider this word from God. You know the gospel. You know you should call upon the Lord to have mercy upon you. You know that tomorrow it may be too late for you to call. Call upon Him today and you will find that He will have mercy and will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7).
Yet James originally directed these words to Christians. They had become very careless about spiritual things. They were consumed with the here and now, this life with its pleasures and profits. They took time for granted and made their plans as if they wore certain to be around for a long time.
Is that not how all too many of us live? We need to take James’s rebuke seriously and personally. We need to grasp again some basic facts. First, our hold on life is very tenuous. Second, at best our life will be brief. Third, in this brief life what matters is not where we have travelled or what we have gained, but how we have responded to the will of God.
In the light of these things, how does your life measure up? What is your life? What motivates it? What has it accomplished? ‘The Lord asks the questions, and He will have honest answers.

Rev Alan Cairns
(From ‘Eagles’ Wings’– Daily Devotions)

The business of our lives is not to
please ourselves but to please God.

Matthew Henry

Revival in Nineveh

Written by Steven Black on 11/09/2017. Posted in Articles

So the people of Nineveh believed God.                     Jonah 3:5

The ancient city of Nineveh was the scene of an amazing revival in the ninth century B.C. This vast city, which had a huge population, was so full of sin that God said its wickedness had come up before Him. The Ninevites were so evil they almost seem to have compelled God to take notice of them. And yet there was revival in Nineveh—Nineveh, of all places!

Now, if God could send revival to Nineveh, He can surely send it to the place where we live and work. Some people are far too pessimistic. They are so taken up with the end-time apostasy that they would feel somewhat let down if God were to send a spiritual awakening. Let us not be like that! Christians should be positive in their outlook; they should be looking for a harvest of souls. The man who hid his talent in the earth did so because he thought his lord was a mean man who could hardly be pleased. Christ is not mean. He died to save a vast multitude, and He will have that multitude with Him in heaven, out of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Rev. 7:9).

The revival in Nineveh affected all classes of society, all age groups, and all types of people. It led to a thorough reformation of the lives and manners of the people. The Ninevites turned from their sin to God, and God looked down from heaven approvingly and blessed them.

As we read of what happened in Nineveh, we should long to see revival in our district. The devil has been blinding our neighbours and friends for far too long. Let us pray for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God.

Rev Gordon Ferguson
(From ‘Eagles’ Wings’– Daily Devotions)

We cannot organise a revival but we can set
our sails to catch the wind from heaven when
God chooses to blow upon His people once again.

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN

The Cross of Christ

Written by Steven Black on 21/08/2017. Posted in Articles

By: J. C. Ryle
(1816 – 1900)

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First published as a ‘Helmingham Series’ Tract in Helmingham, Suffolk

What do you think about the cross of Christ? The question may be one that you consider of little importance: but it deeply concerns the everlasting welfare of your soul.

Eighteen hundred years ago, there was a man who said that he “gloried” in the cross of Christ. He was one who turned the world upside down by the doctrines he preached. He was one who did more to establish Christianity than any man that ever lived. Yet what does he tell the Galatians? – “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Reader, the “cross of Christ” must needs be an important subject, when an inspired Apostle can speak of it in this way. Let me try to show you what the expression means. Once know what the cross of Christ means and then you may be able, by God’s help, to see the importance of it to your soul.

The cross in the Bible sometimes means that wooden cross on which the Lord Jesus was nailed and put to death on Mount Calvary. This is what the Apostle Paul had in his mind’s eye when he told the Philippians that Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). This is not the cross in which Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood. I have no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix as profane, blasphemous and idolatrous.

The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion’s sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word, when He says, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38). This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well. He carried it patiently; but he is not speaking of it here.

But the cross also means in some places the doctrine that Christ died for sinners upon the cross – the atonement that He made for sinners, by His suffering for them on the cross – the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up, when He gave His own body to be crucified. In short, these words “the cross” stand for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Cor: 1:18). This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross.” He simply meant, “I glory in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul.”

Reader, Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul’s soul. He did not think of what he had done himself and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done and Christ had suffered – of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ, the finished work of Christ. In this he did glory. This was the sun of his soul.

This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart’s blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling sinners that Jesus Christ had loved them and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). He – a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee – had been washed in Christ’s blood: he could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his Epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ – how they run over with ‘thoughts that breathe and words that burn’ about Christ’s dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject; he enlarges on it constantly; he returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much about the cross.

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). What made him so strong to labour? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavouring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the meat and drink of his soul.

And, reader, you may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ – the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners – is the centre truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and the temple – all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honoured in the vision of Heaven before we close the book of Revelation. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Even in the midst of Heavenly glory we catch a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the Hey that interprets their meaning – curious and wonderful, but of no real use.

Reader, mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a Heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from Hell.

Reader, mark what I say again. You may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head knowledge. You may know who He was, and where He was born and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies and His ordinances. You may know how He lived and how He suffered and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience – unless you know and feel within that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins – unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did upon the cross – unless this be the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ’s Name will never save you. You must know His cross and His blood, or else you will die in your sins.

Reader, as long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross. You live in times when the warning is sadly needful. Beware, I say again, of a religion without the cross.

There are hundreds of places of worship in this day, in which there is almost everything except the cross. There is carved oak and sculptured stone; there is stained glass and brilliant paintings; there are solemn services and a constant round of ordinances; but the real cross of Christ is not there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed in the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up and salvation by faith in Him is not freely proclaimed. And hence all is wrong. Reader, beware of such places of worship. They are not apostolical. They would not have satisfied Paul.

There are thousands of religious books published in our times, in which there is everything except the cross. They are full of directions about sacraments and praises of the Church; they abound in exhortations about holy living and rules for the attainment of perfection; they have plenty of fonts and crosses, both inside and outside, but the real cross of Christ is left out. The Saviour and His dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And hence they are worse than useless. Reader, beware of such books. They are not apostolical. They would never have satisfied Paul.

Reader, Paul gloried in nothing but the cross. Strive to be like him. Set Jesus crucified fully before the eyes of your soul. Listen not to any teaching which would interpose anything between you and Him. Do not fall into the old Galatian error. Think not that anyone in this day is a better guide than the Apostles. Do not be ashamed of the old paths in which men walked who were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Let not the vague talk of men who speak great swelling words about Catholicity and the Church and the Ministry, disturb your peace and make you loose your hands from the cross. Churches, Ministers and sacraments are all useful in their way, but they are not Christ crucified. Do not give Christ’s honour to another. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Reader, I lay these thoughts before your mind. What you think now about the cross of Christ I cannot tell; but I can wish you nothing better than this – that you may be able to say with the Apostle Paul, before you die or meet the Lord,

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Amen.

The Cross of Christ