“Watch Ye, Stand Fast in the Faith,
Quit You Like Men, Be Strong”

Written by Steven Black on 10/05/2016. Posted in Articles

(1 Cor. 16:13)

by John Gill

We ought to be watchful. This concerns not only Ministers of the Word, whose special business it is to watch over themselves and others, to take heed to themselves, and to their doctrine, and to take care of the flock, over which they are placed as overseers, and see to it, that they are fed with wholesome food and are not infected with false doctrine; but this is incumbent on members of Churches also; what is here exhorted to belongs to them, as our Lord said to His disciples; what I say unto you I say unto all, watch (Mark 13:37); against sin and the prevailing vices of the age, Satan and his temptations, false teachers and their pernicious doctrines. We live in ensnaring times, and therefore ought to be on our watch and guard; times of great profaneness and immorality, in which not only the men of the world, but professors of religion, give themselves great liberties and indulge to a vain conversation; and the more wicked the times are, the more cautious should we be, that we are not drawn aside by ill examples; and the more so, as they are set by such that profess the same name we do. Satan is very busy in laying snares in the way of a professing people, in using all devices, and wiles, and stratagems, to decoy them from the paths of truth and righteousness; wherefore we ought to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41): false teachers are everywhere lying in wait to deceive, and therefore we ought to guard against them, and be careful that our minds are not corrupted by them, from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3); and that we are not carried away with the error of the wicked (2 Pet. 3:17).

Stand fast in the faith; in the grace of faith, and in the doctrine of it, and in the profession of both: do not depart from the faith of the Gospel, though you live in times that others do; and have lived to see the times foretold, that some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits (1 Tim. 4:1); but in these departing times let it be your honour to stand fast without wavering; be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel (Col. 1:23); from the Gospel itself, and that hope which it gives of salvation by Jesus Christ, and eternal life through Him; stand fast in one spirit: let your whole soul and spirit be in the Gospel, and be zealously affected to it, and be united in your endeavours to promote it; striving together for the faith of it against the common enemy; earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints (Phil. 1:27; Jude v.3); which is attempted to be wrested out of your hands and is in great danger of being so. Let none of those things move you from your close adherence to it, which are objected to it, or you meet with on account of your profession of it. Abide by it, though the greater number of men is against it, and those the rich, the wise, and learned; and though it may be charged with novelty and licentiousness and attended with reproach and persecution.

Quit you like men; play the man; behave like men of courage and valour; be valiant for the truth upon the earth (Jer. 9:3); do as the guard about Solomon’s bed did; let every man have his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night (Song. 3:8): it is a night-season with you already and it will be darker still; you will hear the noise of the enemy, be not terrified at it; guard against the fears that may seize and surprise you; fight the Lord’s battles manfully; if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11: 3). What indeed will they have to work or build upon, or even stand on, when the foundation of all faith, hope, peace, and joy is removed? But then they should not look on as idle and unconcerned spectators of these things; what can the righteous do? They should build up as fast as the others pull down; do as Nehemiah and his people did, work with one hand and hold a weapon with the other (Neh. 4:17); a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.

Be strong; not in yourselves, but in the Lord, and in the power of His might, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; go to Him for strength under every trial and exercise, to carry you through every service and suffering for His Name’s sake; and to oppose every enemy, and to maintain your ground against them. Go not forth in your own strength, but depend on Him, and His grace, which is sufficient for you; encourage yourselves in the Lord your God; let not your spirits sink, your hearts fail, and be discouraged; but take heart, be of good courage; consider you are engaged in a good cause, fight under the great Captain of your salvation: you may be sure of victory in the end and that the issue will be a crown of life and righteousness: wait on the Lord; in the way of His appointments, which is your duty, with patient submission to His will, until the time of your deliverance and salvation comes, and He will strengthen thine heart (Psalm 27:14); fortify your minds against fear and danger.

Excerpt from Sermons and Tracts, Vol. 1, pgs. 78-9,82-4, by John Gill.
Old Paths Gospel Press, Choteau, Montana, USA.
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FRUITFULNESS

Written by Steven Black on 20/04/2016. Posted in Articles

By: J. C. Philpot

And what fruit?   Why, fruit of three kinds: fruit in the heart, fruit in the lip and fruit in the life. 

I  Let us see what these fruits are that he brings forth in the heart, or rather, that the Lord brings forth in him.

    1. There is, first, the fruit of faith. This is the only man who really believes in Jesus; who believes the Gospel to be glad tidings to perishing sinners; and who believes in and accepts the doctrines of grace as sweet and suitable to his soul. This is the only man who really believes in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His blood, in His glorious righteousness, in His dying love, as sweet and suitable. And why does he believe it? Because it has been revealed in a measure to his soul. Another may have heard it and received it gladly; but there has been no special discovery or manifestation of the gospel to his heart with Divine power. His head may be stuffed with doctrines; but there is no faith in his heart; no real coming unto, trusting in, or hanging upon the Lord Jesus Christ. There may be abundance of false confidence and presumption, but no real looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ out of the depths of a broken heart; no calling upon His Name; no seeing Him by the eye of faith; nor casting all his soul upon Him as able to save to the uttermost.
    2. Again, He will bring forth the fruit of hope; or rather, God will bring it forth in him. The light shining into his soul making his evidences clear, bringing sweet manifestations of the love of God into his heart, applying His precious promises, and shedding abroad His favour – all these things, experimentally felt within, give him Gospel hope, “an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entering into that within the veil.” Others have no such hope. Their hope is the hope of the hypocrite that shall perish, the spider’s web spun out of his own fleshly bowels and vain hope; not a good hope through grace, anchoring in the blood, love and obedience of Jesus.
    3. And he brings forth the fruits of love. There are times and seasons when he can say, “Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.” He loves the Lord Jesus Christ; he loves the truth as it is in Jesus; he loves the people of God; he loves the work of grace wherever he sees that work manifest; and he feels a sweet union with the tried and tempted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    4. He brings forth also true humility. He has had a sight of himself; he knows what is in man and abhors himself. His heart is humbled by and before God.
    5. He brings forth, or rather the Lord brings forth in him, the fruit of repentance. He sees what he is as a sinner and truly repents. He brings forth the fruit of godly sorrow; for seeing what his sins have cost the Lord Jesus Christ, he mourns over them with a repentance not to be repented of.
    6. He brings forth spiritual-mindedness. In the place of a carnal embracing of mere doctrines, his affections are fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and simplicity of heart. And this produces that spiritual-mindedness which is life and peace and delights in Heavenly things.

II       He not only brings forth these things in his heart, or rather, God brings them forth in him; but he brings them forth in his lip. When he speaks of the things of God, he speaks of them with real feeling, with real love in his soul and real grace in his breast; his heart teaching his mouth. If he be a Minister, he will speak with power; he will not deliver truth in a hardened, presumptuous, unfeeling manner; but having life and feeling in his soul, and an inward experience of the things of God, what he speaks will be uttered with unction, dew, savour and power. It will reach the heart, melt the spirit and bring forth life and feeling in the hearers.

And if he be a hearer, a private character, he will also bring forth fruit with his lips. His speech will be seasoned with salt. There will be a life and power in his conversation when he comes into the company of the people of God; the hearts of others will unite and melt as it were into his and find sweet union and mutual communion.

III       Nay more, he brings forth fruit in his life. He is not a drunkard nor an adulterer. When hidden and covered by darkness, he knows that when no human eye sees him, God sees him. He will not be a slave to sin; God will deliver him. Sin shall not have dominion over him; he may be entangled from time to time in secret lusts that work in him, but he will beseech God to subdue them and bring him out of every snare.

He will sigh and cry to be delivered from sin in all its shapes and forms. He will not be a covetous, a proud, a worldly-minded, an oppressive man. If a master, he will not oppress his servant; if a servant, he will be sincere and upright towards his master. He will not be an unkind, cruel husband at home. Before his friends, his wife, his children, he will be the same – a Christian at home, as well as a Christian abroad. Thus he will bring forth fruit in his life as well as in his lip.

If there be no fruit in his life, depend upon it, there is no fruit in his heart; if there be no fruit in his heart, depend upon it, there will be no fruit in his life. Very few professors will bear following home; very few whose lives and conversation will bear looking into; very few who are not slaves, more or less, to some sin – drunkenness, pride, uncleanness, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, tricks in business, or some deceitful practices. The children of God will indeed be tempted, entangled and hampered, yea, fearfully hampered by sin in their soul’s feelings.

But He, who has made their hearts inwardly honest, will make their lives outwardly honest. God, who has implanted His precious grace in their soul, causes the Word to take root in the heart and makes them to bring forth fruit, some a hundred fold (these indeed are rare), some sixty fold and some thirty fold. But if they bring forth no fruit whatever; if there be no fruit in their heart, lip or life, where shall we place them? If the preacher stand in God’s counsel, he will be as God’s mouth. I might have amused, entertained or deceived you and said, “If you believe the doctrines of grace you are Christians.” But I dare not say so; I should not be standing up in God’s name, nor be doing the work of a Minister uprightly, if I were to do so; my conscience, I hope, would not let me thus flatter and deceive you.

Then, where are the fruits? We profess to be Christians, profess to be children of God; but where are the fruits? Where are the fruits inwardly? Where are the fruits outwardly? If we have no fruits inwardly, no fruits outwardly, we may call ourselves what we please, but we shall not be what the Lord calls fruitful children, “trees of His right hand planting.”
                                                                  

From: Sin and Salvation – Selections from J. C. Philpot
Edited by B. A. Ramsbottom

FRUITFULNESS

TRUST

Written by Steven Black on 16/04/2016. Posted in Articles

How do we trust in the Lord? We cannot trust in Him till we know Him. Do I trust a man I do not know? It would not do in this metropolis. I must know a man to trust him. So it is spiritually. We must know the Lord deserves our trust before we can put our trust in Him; we must have proved His faithfulness before we can fully rest in Him. In a word, trust implies this: though we cannot see the object of our trust, yet we rely on him from the knowledge we have of his faithfulness. It is like the wife, who has implicit confidence in her husband: he is away from her, but her confidence in his faithfulness fails not. It is the confidence of the child in his parent, at school and separated by many miles. It is the trust of friends divided by distance. Trust does not require sight; it relies upon the object trusted in, from what we knew of him, though present sight and present experience be denied.

The nature of faith is to trust in the dark, when all appearances are against it, to trust that a calm will come, though a storm be overhead; to trust that God will appear, though nothing but evil be felt. There is something filial in this, something heavenly, spiritual. Not the bold presumption of the daring or the despairing fears of the desponding, but something beyond both the one and the other, equally remote from the rashness of presumption and the horror of despair. There is a mingling of holy affection connected with this trust, springing out of a reception of past favours, insuring favours to come and all linked with a simple hanging upon the Lord, because He is what He is. There is a looking to and relying upon the Lord, because we have felt Him to be the Lord, and because we have no other refuge.

J.Irons

TRUST

TAKING AND MAKING TIME FOR GOD

Written by Steven Black on 28/03/2016. Posted in Articles

By: Greg Hinnant

From a tract published by: Evangelical Tract Distributors, P.O. Box 146, Edmonton,
AB,Canada T5J 2G9 – www.evangelicaltract.com

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts
unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Time is a very precious and perishable commodity. With mercy toward none and impatience toward all, it steadily slips away, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Even while we take the time to consider this subject, our lives, like a mist, are gradually vanishing from the earthly scene. “…for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

The psalmist had this truth in mind when he prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. To “number our days” is to highly value and wisely use the time God has allotted us.

If we want our lives to count for God, we must get to know Him. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3. To know God, we must seek Him. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6. To seek Him, we must spend time with Him. “And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him…” (Mark 3:14, 13-15, 19b; cf. Exodus 24:12-13, 18). And to spend time with God, we must take time from other interests – and now. Life is extremely short. There is simply no time to waste.

In ‘The Root of the Righteous’, A. W. Tozer writes:

“Probably the most widespread and persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no farther along than when they first believed?”

He concludes that the most probable cause of this “retarded spiritual progress” is “failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.” Then he adds:

“Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent in the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him… We may as well accept it: there is no short cut to sanctity… A thousand distractions would woo us away from thoughts of God, but if we are wise we will sternly put them from us and make room for the King and take time to entertain Him. Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”

In this “instant age” we tend to look for shorter, easier ways of doing everything. But there is no way to obtain instant spiritual reality. Christian maturity is available only on a “pay as you go” basis; if we don’t pay the price we don’t go on to know God. We cannot press buttons and have God suddenly created in us a wonderful, well-rounded knowledge of Himself.

Abraham could not. It took him many years of seeking, trusting, waiting, and obeying to fully know the God who called him. And so it was with Joseph, Moses and David. Even Jesus did not mature in a moment. Over a period of thirty years, He spent many long hours in private communion with His Heavenly Father. Then He went forth to minister, “full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. The Heavenly Father is looking for disciples who are as their Lord, who love Him enough to spend time with Him.

Are we being honest with God about how we use our time? In ‘Workman of God’, Oswald Chambers writes:

Peter said to Ananias, ‘Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.’ Acts 5:4. Christian worker, how much time are you giving to prayer, to reading your Bible? ‘Oh, I am giving all the time I can.’ Be careful that you are not lying to the Holy Ghost. Pentecostal lying begins in this way, dragging down the intense holiness of God which keeps a man right with God in every detail of his life. Let us examine ourselves the next time we say, ‘ I have no time,’ or, ‘I give all the time I can to the study of God’s Word, I give all the time I can to praying.’ God grant we may be put on the alert on these lines that we may not be found lying to the Holy Ghost. May these words come with warning and with scrutiny and bring our souls face to face with God.”

Let us consider some simple human facts common to us all. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18. Truly, “there is… a time to every purpose under the Heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. We take time to eat, sleep and work. We take time for education, entertainment, recreation, and relaxation. We take time to visit with family and friends. We take time to examine, buy and sell the material goods we need to live in this world. We take time for births, deaths and marriages. We take time for special events and national and religious holidays. We take time for church and social activities. But amid all this careful allocation of time, where does God come in? Where is our time for Him? “Come unto Me…” Matthew 11:28-30. How unreasonable it is to take time for everything but God and yet expect to know Him so closely that we possess the faith of Abraham, the wisdom of Joseph, the devotion of David, the insight of Daniel and the love of Paul? God must wonder about us!

“…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2; cf. Romans 13:11-14). If we are ever going to spend time with God, now is the time to do so. If we are ever going to master the Bible, now is the time to do so. If we are ever going to “Pray without ceasing”, I Thessalonians 5:17, now is the time to do so. If we are ever going to become “approved unto God”, II Timothy 2:15 and “disciples indeed”, John 8:31, now is the time to give ourselves “wholly” to the process of becoming “Till I come… give thyself wholly…” I Timothy 4:13-15. Spiritual procrastination – putting off God’s plans while we pursue our plans – is a great enemy. It hinders our spiritual growth so effectively that the Devil doesn’t even have to oppose us! He rests while we self-destruct by wasting our precious time.

Some believers have plenty of free time, but refuse to take any of it for God. Their spare time is zealously committed to good things, the good things that are ever the enemy of the best. Worldly busywork usurps spiritual activity. Temporal things crowd out eternal interests. Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word,” Luke 10:39, but these distracted saints, as Martha, hustle about encumbering themselves with activities, activities and more activities from dawn to dusk. They have forgotten the exhortation of II Timothy 2:4, “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.”

Other saints have very little extra time. The demands of job, family and church consume almost all of their waking moments. Yet, strangely, some of these hear and answer the call to seek the Lord. How do they do it? Where do they find the time to abide with Jesus in the “secret place”? They don’t; they make it. Because they take Matthew 6:33 seriously and literally – “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” – they prayerfully re-arrange their daily schedules to make time for Him.

Jesus taught that the man who makes good use of what he has will be given more. “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance…,” Matthew 25:29, 14-30. And the man who does not use what he has will lose it. “…but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29; cf. Luke 19:24-26).

Apply this to our use of time, we discover a miraculous law of God: God gives time to the man who uses his time for Him. If we use our free time for fellowship with the Lord, He will work providentially in our circumstances to give us more free time… time that we may then use to seek Him further. ”…and he shall have abundance…” When He sees us taking or making time to spend with Him in His Word and prayer, He is so pleased that He moves to create new openings in our schedules. Why? Because He can trust us to use that time to “apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. But He does not do so for the man who consistently misuses his extra time. Rather, he finds “even that which he hath” is eventually “taken away.”

Are we willing to take, or if need be, make time to seek the Lord? It will mean re-arranging, re-scheduling and re-ordering our days and nights. Our lifestyle will be turned upside-down. New, spiritual priorities will have to be established. As knowing God becomes our new chief interest, many formerly important interests will be permanently relegated to second place. Beloved, we have made God wait too long. Now other things – “all these things… the Gentiles seek,” Matthew 6:32 – must wait.

If you have free time for God, take it. If you don’t make it. And now! Only then can you “follow after” to fully know your Lord and fulfil your spiritual destiny. “That I may know Him… I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:10-12.

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WAITING UPON GOD

Written by Steven Black on 28/03/2016. Posted in Articles

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

(Isaiah 40:31)

The promises of God are all ‘yea’ and ‘amen’ in a precious Jesus; and revealed to the new-born soul by the Spirit of all truth, who takes up His ‘abode’ in that new creature for the very purpose of making manifest Christ formed in that heart, the hope of glory. And the first evidence is a cry unto the Lord for mercy, under the conviction of sin. And, however long or short a time it may be that the soul is in that condition – according to the sovereign pleasure of an all-wise Father – yet, sooner or later, that cry will be answered by the ‘Word which is spirit and life,’ in drawing it to a glorious Mediator, and also opening the sensible sinner’s ears to hear that all is accomplished by that ever-precious Redeemer; and begetting an earnest longing to know if his sins were laid upon Him, who hath blotted out the transgressions of His people with His own most precious blood; having first fulfilled God’s most holy and righteous law; yea, magnified it and made it honourable!

The next work of God the Holy Ghost is to open the eyes to behold glorious things in that ‘law of loving-kindness,’ grace and truth by Jesus Christ. The ‘eyes of the understanding’ being enlightened, this (new) creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God – ‘because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Rom. 8:19, 21). The heart is also opened to receive Him as the whole of salvation; this being the work of faith with power – faith which worketh by love (or Christ), because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. Now, then, to come to the gracious declaration: ‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’ (or change, margin). From hearing, by the ear of faith, and seeing, by the eye of faith, they are now enabled to receive (or believe) with their whole (or new) heart, unto righteousness; according to another sweet promise: ‘They shall go from strength to strength.’ And that is not all: ‘everyone shall appear in Zion’; by living faith shall know that they are in the ‘city’ of the living God; and shall come with everlasting songs. One of these is, ‘In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.’ Another, ‘Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength, and my song; He also is become my salvation.’

And the dear Lord, who is so gracious to make known His delight in listening to the voice of His spouse, further strengthens her by saying (and ‘where the word of a King is, there is power’) – ‘Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isa. 12:6). ‘They shall mount up with wings as eagles.’ Who is there that could frustrate the purpose of God, and say this cannot be? It would be presumption, when the Almighty Jehovah hath declared that they shall do so, under the constraining influence of His omnipotent power! Their faith shall follow Christ at the right hand of the Majesty of Heaven, in His resurrection glory, as the God-man Mediator, and that, as ‘He is, so are we in this present evil world.’ ‘And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places (mark) in Christ Jesus’ (Eph:2:6). ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Heb. 11:1). ‘Let the peace of God rule in your hearts unto which ye are called in one hope of your calling.’ And this hope is ‘as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entereth into that within the vail, whither our Forerunner is for us entered.’ Blessed mounting up this with the strength of eagles’ wings, soaring in the beams of the ‘Sun of Righteousness’!

‘They shall run, and not be weary.’ This enlargement of heart will cause them, as the Psalmist expresseth it, ‘to run in the way of His commandments.’ And what are His commandments? ‘That we should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another’ (1 John 3:23). Souls brought into this position are enabled to run from everything pertaining to the old state and standing in Adam into that ‘strong tower,’ the ‘name of the Lord,’ and are safe – because no man-slayer can enter there:

‘Shelter’d in love’s eternal arms
He dreads no threatening foe,
Beyond the reach of sin’s alarms,
The source of mortal woe.’ (Kent)

The last sentence of this most gracious cluster of promises is, ‘They shall walk, and not faint,’ which is, indeed, a crowning point to all. Walking implies continued progression, not running and stopping; no, but they run into Him and then they walk with Him; follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth – walk with God as their reconciled Father in Him. It is related of Enoch that he walked with God; and had this testimony – that he pleased Him, because he walked in faith with a precious Saviour. He saw the day afar off, like Abraham, and rejoiced in it. No fainting here; oh no! ‘The righteous shall hold on his way,’ and he that hath clean hands (of faith) shall wax stronger and stronger. ‘Let the weak say I am strong.’ The weak shall be as David, and the house of David as God. And in this day of Gospel grace, it shall be said to Jerusalem, ‘Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack’ (Zeph. 3:16). Truly all that hath been stated and quoted is all carried on in the New Jerusalem, which is from above, and the mother of us all; and in Mount Zion, where deliverance alone can be – and is – obtained; and a revelation of the mind and will of God in Christ Jesus to all the chosen family, who are quickened into life union with their glorious Head and Husband.

The question may now be put, seeing these things are so, how is it that comparatively few of the Lord’s people live under an abiding sense of these blessed privileges? A passage at this juncture strikes the mind of the writer, ‘Your sins and iniquities have separated between you and your God’ (i.e. in communion). There is so much conformity to the world in all things, which brings the soul into darkness; and then a listening to an evil heart of unbelief, aided by carnal reasoning, and mightily increased by the suggestions of the great enemy to godliness. All these, as a cloud of locust, conceal the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ from view; and then no wonder doubts and fears prevail. But, oh! the tender compassion of our God; though we believe not, yet He abideth faithful. He correcteth in love and infinite wisdom and, when He hath brought down our ‘hearts with labour’ into the dust of self-abasement, He causes us to hear His voice and says: ‘Return unto me, O ye backsliding children, for I am married unto you.’

Also, there are many kept in a state of bondage, through sitting under a ministry that does not tend to lead them out of it. As in the days of the Apostles, so now, there are many instructors, but not many ‘fathers in Christ.’ Yet will the Lord hold up His people by His word; but they lose much of the comfort of being established upon the Rock of Ages, and come short of glorifying a Triune Jehovah by their life, walk and conversation, crucifying the flesh with all its affections and lusts; and nothing doth this so effectually as having an experimental understanding of the love of God in our hearts. The dear Apostle Paul saith, under the power of the Holy Ghost, that this one thing he did, ‘forgetting those things that are behind’ (his state by nature), he reached ‘forth unto those things that are before; pressing toward the mark for the prize’ of his high calling of God in Christ.
‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh (by faith) will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written’ (Rev. 2:17). ‘Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors’ (Prov. 8:34). ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him’ (Psa. 62:5). ‘The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute’ (Prov. 12:24).

May these few lines, in the hand of God the Holy Ghost, be blessed to the stirring up of the pure minds of His own to a greater diligence in suing out by faith their inheritance; and not rest as the two tribes and halt short of the promised land, but enter in by faith, and sing victory through the blood of the Lamb! And, when the spirit returns to God, who gave it, and the body descends to the dust, from thence to be raised in incorruption, then shall both take up the song throughout the countless ages of eternity.

A Brand Plucked out of the Fire

FREE WILL

Written by Steven Black on 06/03/2016. Posted in Articles

By W. S. Craig (1867 – 1920)

THE WILL, choice and desire practically mean the same thing. Men act freely in choosing that which is agreeable with their nature, love and desires; but they do not thus act freely with that which is not agreeable, for it is contrary to their real choice. They may be, and very often are, prevented from possessing their choice, but not from willing or desiring it. But the Arminian belief that the will is self-determining and that man can of himself change his will is a very great error. In nature’s night men act freely in committing sin, but because they are willingly in love with it and as willingly bound with its chain, and are willingly haters of God, they have no power or ability or real willingness in and of themselves to reverse all this.

They may, and often do, claim to make such a choice; but as this can only be an empty profession, what is it but hypocrisy? For without the blessed Spirit’s work of grace in the heart, no-one can make a genuine profession of religion. And it is very wrong to urge anyone who has not had this heart-change to make such a profession, for of all things surely this is the worst place to practise deception. But when the gracious Lord is pleased to take away the hard and stony heart and give a tender heart of flesh, and shed abroad His love therein, then this regenerated person freely loves God, and can then freely and truly choose to make profession of His service. For when he is painfully made aware of the awful plague of his heart, he then will freely hate sin instead of loving it as before. And such awakened sinners should certainly always be encouraged and comforted; and it is wrong not to do so.

But man positively cannot of himself reverse his desire, change his heart, and prepare himself for God’s service. And all men are quite powerless to aid each other in this line, for “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34, 35).

I am positive that the above is true. But, sad to say, in this proud age of popular profession, free-will is so often perverted and “run up to seed,” and an acquired head-knowledge is generally substituted for the necessary Spirit-given heart-work. The devils plainly possessed quite an intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ. (See Luke 4:34, 41). Historical knowledge alone puffeth up; but God’s grace in the human heart humbleth.

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Loved of my God, for Him again,
With love intense I’s burn;
Chosen of thee, ere time began,
I choose thee in return.
(Augustus Toplady)

“A peculiar people”

Written by Steven Black on 06/03/2016. Posted in Articles

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10).

In reading this particular portion of Scripture, I began to ponder the concept of being identified as a “PECULIAR” people, or person. If I was brought before a jury made up of various folks from every profession and description, could they find ENOUGH evidence “without reasonable doubt” to judge me as being a PECULIAR person?

The word “Peculiar” is defined as: different from the usual or normal. I am convinced that one that has been called of God out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and been translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, is going to be identified as a PECULIAR person. If any man be in Christ he is a NEW creature (II Cor.5:17) and this NEW creature is not of the norm; they have been ushered into the Kingdom of God by the supernatural operation of God’s sovereign, ever-ruling grace. These people which I am referencing are identified as Strangers, Pilgrims, and Sojourners as well in this time world. They are marching to a DIFFERENT drumbeat; they hear the voice of the Good Shepherd that the worldling knows nothing of. They have been given the ears to hear the Gospel of their salvation, whereas the worldling is deaf under depravities’ curse. These Peculiar people have been given eyes to see by the miraculous vehicle of the faith of Christ, this glorious Saviour that bled and died on Calvary’s tree on their behalf.

Yea, beloved professor of such blessed hope, are you seen by the unregenerate people that you meander about daily as one that is PECULIAR? Can you laugh at the immoral jokes of the natural man’s humour as others? Does the vulgar God-dishonouring language of the majority become an offence to your ears? Are you vexed with the wickedness of this sin-dominated society?

If these things are not offensive to you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then one ought to question what has been made PECULIAR in your nature since you have been called to believe? I did once ask myself these very questions and am convinced that there is a part of me that hates sin and the influence of its wickedness. There was a time when I loved sin and walked after it with a rebellious heart against those things that resembled God. There was no fear of God before my eyes and my ears were deaf to the Gospel trumpet. But, when grace came in its mighty power, it arrested me; it slew me prostrate before the Almighty, to whom I was introduced. Sin was revealed as a vile poison to me and I begged for forgiveness as repentance was granted to this wretched sinner. Faith had brought its perfect work, causing me to believe Jesus Christ was who the Scriptures say He is, and that God is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

I became PECULIAR through this supernatural experience, never to be the same. This was an experience that occurred 42 years ago in this man’s heart and soul. I stand amazed day by day that I continue to believe in this Christ of whom I have not seen with the physical eye, yet embrace Him as my beloved Saviour!! I often question, how could this be, that one such as me could believe in this supernatural Gospel GOOD NEWS?

I conclude it was ALL by grace that this poor sinner was made to lay hold on such spiritual experience. It is ALL by grace that I was sought, and ALL by grace that I persevere, and it shall be ALL by grace that I arrive at that immortal place which God has prepared for them that love Him. Oh! to be PECULIAR is my heart’s desire, to be seen as STRANGE before a sin-cursed society, and be made to feel as a PILGRIM and SOJOURNER seeking another country whose builder and maker is God, the Almighty!!

O to Christ how great a debtor this poor needy sinner has been made to be……

Grace, grace, free and sovereign grace is my plea, for ONLY grace could rescue one like me.

Pastor Donald E. Martin, Sr.
Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church
Florida, U.S.A.

 

What should be the attitude of the Christian in a declining Church?

Written by Steven Black on 03/02/2016. Posted in Articles

What should be the attitude of the Christian
in a declining Church?

By Michael Hobbis,
CW Committee Member

2 Timothy 3 – 4: 5

Since this is a message for Christians, we may now pass briefly over some preliminaries, as it is assumed that certain truths are self-evident.

    1. That we live in an age of unparalleled wickedness in its extent and blatant ungodliness – I say unparalleled – since the speed of modern day communications means that sin in all its horrid forms, is now global and highly contagious.
    2. That the professing Church is in a state of decline – no honest man, Christian or non-Christian, can deny. I recall at the inception of the Anglican Archbishop, Justin Welby, a columnist in a secular newspaper wrote to the effect – somewhat facetiously – that it was a relief that we now had one who actually believed in God.

The false religion of New Evangelicalism has pervaded most, if not all, of local churches in one form or another. Even some reformed believers now have a very relaxed view of the Christian Lord’s Day (the N.T. Sabbath) and the moral law of God, as expressed in the Ten Commandments. They speak of liberty and doing whatever they wish on this day of holy rest, while they themselves prove by disobedience that they are the servants of corruption.

In my attendance at the Christian Resources Exhibition, while representing Christian Watch, to walk among the stands is akin to a walk in Pilgrim’s Vanity Fair, such is the worldliness and abounding impiety of the corrupt forms of Christianity displayed, with no sense of irony, or any fear of God before the eyes of most.

Horrific accounts of sinful acts in the world and in the professing Church are now so common, as to have almost lost their ability to shock.

What are we to do?
We live in dangerous times, troubling times, yet in times in which all true believers are required by God to be faithful, and even excel (Dan. 11:32). But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overcome you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness (1 Thess. 5:4/5). However, to walk in the light, we must have a right attitude in response towards these times in which Divine providence has placed us.

We may find what this attitude is to be, always and only, in the Holy Oracles of God.

Firstly, we may say fundamentally, it is to recognise with sadness and self-loathing our own part in these things. We each bear our own responsibility in Adam as our representative, and the sad Biblical history of the human race declares that in rebellion against God and in our departing from Him, we have not only brought upon ourselves misery and judgement, but have sinned against infinite Goodness. If we are true Christians, we also have the aggravated sense of sorrow in that we crucified the Lord of Glory by our sin, and were complicit in His death.

Many today are like the proverbial ‘disgusted lady of Tunbridge Wells’, declaring loudly against homosexuality, abortion and the sexualisation of children. So too, many often quote that Scripture from Ezekiel 9:4 that the Lord has an especial regard for those who sigh and cry for the abomination of the times. However, this is surely not to be a crying and sighing at the abominations in our midst, but rather as the Scripture says: for these things. They have been done in our day, and if we are the sons of Adam, we share in the responsibility for them.

Consequently, we are to be much in prayer, for prayer and true repentance go together. We repent unto God, and not like Judas, unto ourselves. As Hezekiah, we should spread these things before the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus told us to watch and pray, particularly in these end times (Mark 13:33). To watch without praying is presumption; to pray without watching is laziness. Therefore, the second attitude to cultivate is watchfulness. Repentance joins with prayer, and prayer to watching. Indeed the exhortation to Timothy in our text (2 Timothy 4:5) is to watch. This exhortation follows the many warnings given in the preceding chapter concerning the last days: of perilous times; a false form of godliness; of evil men and seducers becoming worse and worse in each succeeding generation; a turning away from sound doctrine. Such times are dangerous times and we are to be watchful.

The contagion of sin
As John Owen remarked in his treatise ‘Perilous Times’ – sin is infectious. You and I may be infected, yet oblivious to our danger. We know that some diseases like Creutzfeldt – Jakob disease (similar to BSE) have long and hidden incubation periods. Consider how the plague of sin in the world may have infected you, yet you know it not. Jesus told us that the last days would be declining days in the Church, because iniquity would abound in the world (Matt. 24:12). Therefore, in declining times particularly, it is better to be far removed from the fashions of this world as is consistent with true godliness.

The New Evangelicals, who would have all the pleasures of this life, together with the security of forgiveness and Heaven, consider not that the weight of their worldliness alone will sink them beneath the waves as they try to cross Jordan to the Celestial City.

The next advice to Timothy in 4:5 is to endure. The children of Issachar were blessed with the strength to endure the burden of the day (Gen. 49:14); and true Christians, to whom all the promises belong in Christ Jesus, shall receive from Him strength to endure equal to the day.

They are also called here to be active and make full proof of their calling in Christ. Some may have more opportunities than others, but the parable of the talents applies not just to Timothy, but to all the Lord’s people. How tender that precious saying of Jesus – She hath done what she could (Mark 14:8).

To stand firm in times of the declining Church is a miracle of God’s grace, and our prayer with the Psalmist should be: O let me not wander from thy commandments (Ps.119:10).

It is the words of the Saviour that we are told to hold fast unto; so that our house may rest upon solid foundations and withstand the flood-tide of sin and iniquity that is increasingly coming upon the face of the earth. What else are we to hold fast to? That which is good (1 Thess. 5:21) – to a form of sound words (2 Tim 1:13) – our profession (Heb. 10:23) – and whatever light and attainments we have been given (Rev. 2:25 and Rev. 3:11).

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable
Finally, brethren; whatsoever things are true – honest – just – pure – lovely – of good report – virtuous – praiseworthy – think on these things (see Phil.4:8).

Why do I mention this last? Because we are to be pure and holy in thought. There are those believers and organisations today who are very concerned for the moral degradation, which is found in homosexuality, child sexualisation and other abuses. Consequently, they feel it incumbent upon themselves to display graphic images and descriptions on websites and in emails of homosexual acts, and other sexual perversions; all in the cause of righteousness!

When Paul the Apostle declared in his day by the Holy Ghost that it was a shame even to speak of such practices (Eph. 5:12); he meant exactly that. Do not speak of them.

Christians should have a God-given sense of propriety and they know what is acceptable, and what is not (Prov. 10:32). So let us always cultivate that attitude which hates sin and loves holiness, and be like those who wait with one eye upon the horizon for His coming, and so purify themselves, even as He is pure, by this fervent hope. For we shall be like Him when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2 /3).

AFFLICTION AND GLORY

Written by Steven Black on 13/01/2016. Posted in Articles

By A.W. Pink (1886 – 1952)

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory” 2 Corinthians 4:17.

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These words supply us with a reason why we should not faint under trials nor be overwhelmed by them. They teach us to look at the trials of time in the light of eternity. They affirm that the present buffetings of the Christian exercise a beneficent effect on the inner man. If these truths were firmly grasped by faith they would mitigate much of the bitterness of our sorrows. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” This verse sets forth a striking and glorious antithesis, as it contrasts our future state with our present. Here there is “affliction,” there “glory.” Here there is a “light affliction,” there a “weight of glory.” In our affliction there is both levity and brevity; it is a light affliction, and it is but for a moment; in our future glory there is solidity and eternity! To discover the preciousness of this contrast let us consider, separately, each member, but in the reverse order of mention.

  1. “A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It is a significant thing that the Hebrew word for “glory”, kabod, also means “weight.” When weight is added to the value of gold or precious stones this increases their worth. Heaven’s happiness cannot be told out in the words of earth; figurative expressions are best calculated to convey some imperfect views to us. Here in our text one term is piled up on top of another. That which awaits the believer is “glory,” and when we say that a thing is glorious we have reached the limits of human language to express that which is excellent and perfect. But the “glory” awaiting us is weighted, yea, it is “far more exceeding” weighty than anything terrestrial and temporal; its value defies computation; its transcendent excellency is beyond verbal description. Moreover, this wondrous glory awaiting us is not evanescent and temporal, but Divine and eternal; for “eternal” it could not be unless it were Divine. The great and blessed God is going to give us that which is worthy of Himself, yea, that which is like Himself, infinite and everlasting.
  2. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment.”

(a) “Affliction” is the common lot of human existence; “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). This is part of the entail of sin. It is not meet that a fallen creature should be perfectly happy in his sins. Nor are the children of God exempted: “Through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). By a hard and rugged road does God lead us to glory and immortality.

(b) Our affliction is “light.” Afflictions are not light in themselves for oft-times they are heavy and grievous; but they are light comparatively! They are light when compared with what we really deserve. They are light when compared with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. But perhaps their real lightness is best seen by comparing them with the weight of glory which is awaiting us. As said the same apostle in another place, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

(c) “Which is but for a moment.” Should our afflictions continue throughout a whole lifetime, and that life be equal in duration to Methuselah’s, yet is it momentary if compared with the eternity which is before us. At most, our affliction is but for this present life, which is as a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. O that God would enable us to examine our trials in their true perspective.

  1. Note now the connection between the two. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The present is influencing the future. It is not for us to reason and philosophise about this, but to take God at His Word and believe it. Experience, feelings, observation of others, may seem to deny this fact. Oft-times afflictions appear only to sour us and make us more rebellious and discontented. But let it be remembered that afflictions are not sent by God for the purpose of purifying the flesh: they are designed for the benefit of the “new man.” Moreover, afflictions help to prepare us for the glory hereafter. Affliction draws away our heart from the love of the world; it makes us long more for the time when we shall be translated from this scene of sin and sorrow; it will enable us to appreciate (by way of contrast) the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.

Here then is what faith is invited to do: to place in one scale the present affliction; in the other, the eternal glory. Are they worthy to be compared? No, indeed. One second of glory will more than counterbalance a whole lifetime of suffering. What are years of toil, of sickness, of battling against poverty, of persecution, yea, of a martyr’s death, when weighed over against the pleasures at God’s right hand, which are for evermore! One breath of Paradise will extinguish all the adverse winds of earth. One day in the Father’s House will more than counterbalance the years we have spent in this dreary wilderness. May God grant unto us that faith which will enable us to anticipatively lay hold of the future and live in the present enjoyment of it.

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Warnings to an Ungodly Nation

Written by Ambrose Burgin on 13/01/2016. Posted in Articles

WARNINGS TO AN UNGODLY NATION

From John Flavel (1628 – 1691)

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As Paul had many clear premonitions and fore-notices of the sufferings that should befall him at Jerusalem, that he might not be surprised by them when they came, so it is usual with God (though not in such an immediate and extraordinary a manner) to admonish the world, and especially His own people of great trials and sufferings before hand (Amos 3:7). “Surely the Lord will do nothing, but He revealeth His secrets unto His servants the prophets.”

Thus, when He was about to bring the flood upon the world, He gave one hundred and twenty years warning of it before it came (Gen. 6:3), and when He was to destroy Sodom, He saith (Gen. 18:17), “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” And the like discovery He made about the same judgment to Lot (Gen. 19:12–14). So when the captivity of the Jews was nigh at hand, the people had many forewarnings of it; God forewarned them by the prophets (Ezek. 3:17), “Hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me.” And when the time drew nigh to execute the judgment determined upon Jerusalem and the temple, how plainly did Christ foretell them of it! (Luke 19:43, 44)! “Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee.”

And when the storm was just ready to fall, their own historian (Josephus) tells us, a voice was heard in the temple, saying, Migremus hinc (Let us go hence). “Which voice Tacitus also mentions in his annals, affirming it to be more than a human voice, telling them God was departing, and that it was accompanied with a rushing noise, as of persons going out. These were extraordinary warnings.” The like signs have been given to divers other nations, by dreadful eclipses of the heavenly bodies, portentous comets, earthquakes, and other signs of judgment.

Now, though we have no ground to expect such extraordinary warnings, yet we have the most apparent and certain signs of approaching calamities; after which, if they surprise us, the fault must lie in our own inexcusable negligence; for we have a standing rule to govern ourselves in this matter, and that is this:

When the same sins are found in one nation, which have brought down the wrath of God upon another nation, it is an evident sign of judgment at the door; for God is unchangeable, just and holy, and will not favour that in one people which He hath punished in another, nor bless that in one age which He hath cursed in another.

Upon this very ground it was that the apostle warned the Corinthians by the example of the Israelites, whose sins had ruined them in the wilderness (I Cor. 10:6): “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust afer evil things, as they also lusted.” As if he should say, look upon those dead bodies which are, as it were, cast up upon the Scripture-shore for a warning to you. Follow not the same course, lest you meet with the same curse; if you tread the same paths, expect the same punishment. God is as righteous now as He was then: He hates and will punish sin in you as much as He did in them.

Let us therefore consider what those provocations were that hastened the wrath of God upon His own Israel, a people that were nigh and dear unto Him: a people upon whom He spent as much of the riches of His patience as upon any people in the world, that so we may reckon whereabouts we are at this day, and what is like to be the lot of this sinful and provoking generation; and we shall find, by the consent of all the prophets, that these sins were the immediate forerunners and proper causes of their overthrow.

  1. The great corruption of God’s worship among them kindled His wrath and hastened their ruin (Psa. 106: 39–42). “Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.” They that will not bear the golden yoke of Christ shall be galled with the iron yoke of men. Nothing more provokes the anger of God than the adulterating of His worship; a man will bear a thousand infirmities in the wife of his bosom, but unfaithfulness in the marriage-covenant breaks his heart. After the manner of men, so abused and grieved, the Lord expresseth Himself (Ezek. 6:9), “I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from Me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols.” Men cannot invent a surer and speedier way to their own ruin than to bring their own inventions into God’s worship.

  2. Incorrigible obstinacy and impenitency, under gentler strokes and lesser judgments, make way for utter ruin and desolation (Amos 4: 6-12). Scarcity, mildews, pestilence and sword had been tried upon them, but without effect; for the remnant that escaped those judgments (although plucked as so many brands out of the fire, in which their fellow sinners perished) were not reformed by those gentler and moderated judgments.

  3. Stupidity and senselessness of God’s hand, and the tokens of His anger, were provoking causes and forerunners of their national desolation; they neither saw the hand of God when it was lifted up, nor humbled themselves under it when it was laid on. The hand of God is then said to be lifted up when the providences of God prepare and posture themselves for our affliction; when the clouds of judgment gather over our heads, and grow blacker and blacker, as theirs did upon them, and do upon us at this day, but they took no notice of it (Isa. 26:11): “Lord, when Thy hand is lifted up, they will not see”; and (which is the height of stupidity) they all remained senseless and regardless, when the hand of God was laid upon them (Isa. 42:24, 25): “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His law. Therefore He hath poured upon him (them) the fury of His anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.”

    O prodigious sottishness! It was not some small drops of God’s anger, but the fury of His anger; not some lighter skirmish of His judgments with them, but the strength of battle. It was not some particular stroke upon single persons or families, but it set him on fire round about, a general conflagration; yet all this would not awaken them.

  4. The persecution of God’s faithful ministers and people was another sin that procured, and a sign that foretold the destruction of their nation (2 Chron. 36:15,16); “And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.” There were also a number of upright souls among them, who desired to worship God according to His own prescription; but a snare was laid for them in Mizpah, and a net spread for them upon Tabor (Hos. 5:1), and this hastened judgment towards them. Mizpah and Tabor were places lying in the way betwixt Samaria and Jerusalem, where the true worship of God was; and in those places spies were sent by the priests to observe and inform against them; so that it became very hazardous to attend the pure and incorrupt worship of God, which quickly hastened on their ruin.

  5. The removal of godly and useful men by death, in more than ordinary haste, was to them a sign of desolation at hand (Isa. 57:1); “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” In this case God acts towards His people as the husbandman in a gathering harvest doth by his corn; he hurries it with a shuffling haste into the barn when he sees a storm coming; or as a careful father with his sons that are abroad at school, who sends his horses to fetch them home speedily, when he hears the plague is begun in the place. Upon this ground the prophet Micah bewails himself (Micah 7:1); “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the first-ripe fruit.” Alas! alas! What miserable days are at hand! What miseries must I expect to see! The pleasant clusters (i.e. the societies of the saints) are gathered away by the hand of death; there are but few that remain, here and there a single saint, like grapes after the vintage is done, two or three upon the utmost branches.

  6. The general decay of the life and power of godliness among them that were left foreboded destruction at the door: this is both a provoking sin, and a forerunning sign of national calamity (Hos. 4:18): “Their drink is sour” – a metaphor lively expressing the deadness and formality of the people in the worship of God. It was like sour or dead drink, which hath lost its spirit and relish, and is become flat. Such were their duties; no spiritual life, affection or savour in them. They heard as if they heard not, and prayed as if they prayed not; the ordinances of God were to them as the ordinances of men, of which the apostle saith, that they perish in the using.

  7. To conclude: Mutual animosities, jars and divisions were to them manifest symptoms of national calamities and desolations: for then Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim (Isa. 11:13, Hos. 9:7); “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.”

When such symptoms of God’s indignation do appear upon any people, the Lord by them, as by so many glaring meteors and blazing comets, forewarns the world that His judgments are near, even at the door. These signs all men ought to observe and behold with trembling.

If you ask, Why doth God usually give such warnings of His indignation before it comes? The reasons are:

  1. To prevent the execution
  2. To make them more tolerable
  3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable

First, Warning is given with design to prevent the execution of judgments (Amos 4:12): “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel”; i.e. Prepare thyself to meet Me in the way of My judgments by humiliation and intercession to prevent the execution. And what else was the design of God in sending Jonah to the great city Nineveh but to excite them to repentance for the prevention of their ruin. This Jonah knew to be the Lord’s meaning, how positive soever the words of his commission were; and therefore he declined the message to secure his credit, knowing that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compassion over them, and free grace would make him appear as a liar; for so we must expound his words (Jonah 4:2); “Was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.” Yea, Lord, I knew beforehand it would come to this. Thou sendest me positively to denounce Thy judgments to Nineveh, meantime desiring nothing more than the execution of them might be prevented by their repentance. And thus Thy mercy hath exposed my reputation, in saving them from destruction.

Secondly, God forewarns His people of judgments to make them more tolerable when they come. Expected evils are nothing so heavy as those that come by surprise; for look, as the expectation of a mercy makes it less sweet, our thoughts having anticipated and sucked out much of the sweetness beforehand, so the expectation of judgments before they befall us make them less bitter and burdensome than else they would be, the soul having inured and accustomed itself to them by frequent thoughts, and prepared and made ready itself to entertain them. To prevent the disciples’ surprise and offence at those days of persecution that were coming upon them, Christ foretold them, and gave the fair warning beforehand.

Thirdly, He forewarns His people of approaching dangers to leave the incorrigible wholly inexcusable, that those who have no sense of sin, nor care to prevent ruin, might have no cloak for their folly when judgments overtake them, “What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?” (Jer. 13:21). As if He should say, “What plea or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings and timely premonitions? Thou canst not say I have surprised thee, or that you wast ruined before thou was warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.”

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