Thursday, February 26, 2009

"THE DEAD ARE RAISED"

"The dead are raised up."
Matthew 11:5

The
"dead"
are those who by nature are dead in sin. These dead are raised up when life from God visits their souls. They are raised up to faith in Jesus, raised up to hope in his name, raised up to a sense of his dying love to their souls, raised up from doubt and fear, raised up from the depths of despondency, to look unto him and be saved.

What a mercy it is that the Lord of life and glory still puts forth the same power in the hearts of his people, that he once put forth in their bodies, and that he raises them up from their state of death and deadness!


Do we not often feel so dead, as though we had not a particle of the grace of God?

So dead, that it seems scarcely possible to have a sensation of spiritual life again?

So dead, that we almost fear whether the power of God was ever felt in our hearts?

Now, the Lord raises up life and feeling in our souls, by putting forth the same power that called Lazarus out of the tomb. And every lifting up of the heart towards him, every panting desire to know him, and the power of his resurrection, every breathing of tender affection, every sigh, cry, and groan, yea, every feeling, however short, however transient, Godward, is a proof that the Lord of life and glory is still putting forth his power in the hearts of his people.

"WATCHMEN UPON THY WALLS"


"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence."
(Isaiah 62:6)

The prophet begins this chapter with much zeal to show the Lord's peculiar care over his afflicted people. "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isaiah 62:1) and he even declares that we Gentiles shall be partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and shall really see and understand the glory of the Lord's rich grace and mercy. Old things shall pass away, the old formal worship denying the power. You shall be called by a new name, no more a servant, but a son, and this the Lord, the Holy Spirit will witness in our hearts and write it there. It shall prove an everlasting name that neither men nor devils shall cut off, because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 62:2)

This glorious work of God is so delightful to himself. For he says he delights in all who hope in his mercy, that they are said to be a crown of glory, and a royal diadem of beauty in the hand of the Lord. Surely what safety all this denotes, and yet in trouble how hard we find it to believe.

It is further added, "Thou shall no more be termed Forsaken," (Isaiah 62:4) that is, the Lord will never more leave thee, never, never forsake thee, because his delight is in thee. "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." (Isaiah 62:5) This is the reason why he sets watchmen to guard this his rich treasure night and day. All this is for the sake of his church and people who are often found in a very low place, although the security of all nations depends upon the few scattered sheep of Christ.

The Lord shows us in this text the means he chooses for the perfection of his people, is a faithful ministry. "I have set watchmen upon thy walls."

Their business is to be like their Master, neither to slumber, nor sleep. We conceive that what is meant by never holding their peace, is unceasingly to seek the welfare of the people, in private prayer, and every way promoting the welfare of God's people, as faithful servants of Jesus Christ. "Ye that make mention of the LORD," of his having done any thing for you, "keep not silence," but declare it in simplicity to the afflicted, that they may be encouraged to hope for the same.

Put on the whole armour of God, and make it manifest you are a good soldier of Jesus Christ, [that ye may] be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, (Ephesians 6:10-20) who watches every opportunity to destroy all profiting, by pride, prejudice, contention, or in whatever way he can enter. His is sure to give a faithful ministry no rest, therefore it follows immediately after the text, that God's people must never give the Lord rest, but by unceasing prayers call upon the Lord to establish them that they may be a praise in the earth; and not a disgrace in turning aside to folly on all occasions. "And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." (Isaiah 62:7)

It is a sad sign of an hypocritical professor, when instead of growing in knowledge and understanding there is a turning aside to some foolishness that brings on darkness, and a sad reproach upon the righteous cause of God. These have no regard to the house of God, nor any feeling sense of the Lord's coming or going. To these his absence is just as good as anything else. There is no feeling sense of God's wrath against their sin, nor any fear of the destruction that awaits them for it. Some of these show a wish to retain their outward profession of religion, but are not aware that when the foundation is so removed, the outward building must of necessity fall sooner or later.

A faithful watchman will sound the alarm. offence is often taken at it, like a poor man who had turned aside, and being reproved for it, he said he would have no more of this. He was watched for many years and often tried to return, but the Lord took him at his word. He could find no place of repentance, and at length died. Indeed he never had any more hope or help from the Lord. And in that state he finished his course.

For men to go off from the foundation and slightly to esteem the Rock of Ages, is a sad token that their ears have never been opened to hear the report of the faithful watchmen, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus," (1 Corinthians 3:11) and, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner," (Acts 4:11) again, "Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded." (1 Peter 2:6)

How precious and safe this foundation is to a self-despairing soul that comes with the deepest fear and sorrow, and finds he is no longer confounded. [The] hope of eternal life springs up and he cannot keep silence, they can but declare, "Oh how great is thy goodness," (Psalm 31:19) and how great is his beauty.

O my friends, turn to this stronghold. The Lord is more ready to hear and to help than we are to pray. It is said, sin eats out the strength of the church of God. If allowed, it proves a distemper that presently ruins the vitals, and such will find what Saul found when he inquired of the Lord. "The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." (1 Samuel 8:6) This is to show how God resents an untender walk.

Where men will not regard a faithful ministry it is a sign that the Lord is not with them, let their outward deportment be what it may. The beauty and strength of a people consists in preserving that tender union one with another, and with Christ as the living Head. If it pleases God to give his blessing, his presence, and to prosper his cause in any place, it will be displayed by the arm of his strength carrying on the work through all opposition. And he who has begun this will manifestly carry it on to the horrible confusion of all opposers and untender professors. (Philippians 1:6)

The Lord declares in this chapter from whence the text is taken, he will take care that the enemies shall not eat that for which the children have laboured. He adds, only mind you go through the gates of life, because many make a fair show in the flesh, and go so near to it, that you cannot discern but that they go through although they stop short and never enter.

God searches the hearts of these vain professors and when they finish their course, they will find they have nothing to rest upon. While those whom the Lord has emptied from vessel unto vessel, (Jeremiah 48:11) and put them in Ezekiel's pot for their scum to be burnt off, (Ezekiel 24:11) these know what it is to be in the stripping room. These come empty, void and waste, and make their way through the gate and find a sweet and heavenly welcome. All stumbling blocks are moved out of the way, and there is nothing heard but what the Lord proclaims to the end of the world. "Say ye to (this poor and afflicted son and) the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him." (Isaiah 62:11)

This is what these faithful watchmen must proclaim upon the walls of spiritual Jerusalem. They must never hold their peace, but always insist upon declaring these happy truths to a poor and afflicted people, and assure them, they are the city that shall never be forsaken, redeemed of the Lord, sought out of the world. (Isaiah 62:12)

"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15:16) therefore take heed you make manifest my choice, by bringing forth much fruit. He will take care to feed his flock like a Shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom of everlasting love. (Isaiah 40:11)

Though we are subject to many changes, yet the Lord declares he will make us a praise in the earth. Some may now be ready to say they are far enough from that, and yet they are mourning before God because of their desolate condition. The faithful watchman will show the tender pity of our Good Shepherd to such; for it is written, "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known?" I have set watchmen to declare it! "Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding." (Isa. 40:27-28) Thou canst never search his understanding.

He never faints, he it was that made thee to feel thou art one of those ends of the earth, of no value to anybody, but he has marked thee for his own. He chose these waste corners, and when he sees men brought to such a pass, [such are] sure of a welcome meeting. And while they are ready to faint, they are more delighted when he comes and pours forth the oil, and the wine.

This is said to increase their spiritual strength, and removes all faintness. With this they mount up, and see something of the glory of Christ's love and mercy and run sweetly and swiftly to every appointed ordinance to have all their tokens renewed. (Isaiah 40:31) You will not see them coming in late and mocking God with such rude indifference, but you will see a very tender regard to every step taken, that we may not be a stumbling block to any of Christ's poor flock. This sweet persuasion of the Lord's returning love, will leave no corner of the heart for either self or the world, or any created vanities. This is the day in which it is said the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of those who are divinely united to this branch will be excellent and comely. The faithful watchman will declare all this is the true effect of that washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, (Titus 3:5) that there is much filthiness to be purged away and nothing can accomplish this but the Lord sitting as the Refiner, burning off those various things in the hearts of his people which mar his work. (Malachi 3:2-3) The Lord is said in Ezekiel chapter 33 to set watchmen over the House of Israel, that must give the people warning as he directs. They must first hear the word from the Lord, and warn them faithfully according to that.

In another place it is said, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits," (Isaiah 30:10) that we may not be so much found fault with, but sew pillows under our arm holes. (Ezekiel 13:18)

But the Lord says, "I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly." (Ezekiel 13:20)

This is the special fruit of God's distinguishing grace, given and known to God's children and none else, as it is mentioned particularly in the 106th Psalm. "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest to thy people: O visit me with thy salvation." (Psalm 106:4)

This is the especial, discriminating and electing love of God particularly flowing from his eternal purpose of mercy to those whom he designs to adopt into his family. This is the first cause wherefore the faithful watchman sows the seed, and this is also the cause why it springs up and bears fruit unto eternal life.

All the comforts and privileges that the children of God know on this side of heaven, and in heaven, proceed from the Father's everlasting love to us in Christ Jesus. Whatever grace the Lord bestows upon us, it is eternal life begun. All divine grace is everlasting. This is what the faithful watchman must declare upon the walls of Zion, that all the inhabitants and citizens may know the privileges and immunities that belong to them. And in all their trials, poverty or distress of any kind, they may come boldly to obtain relief and to believe that the King of this heavenly country will never cast them off.

David tried this in his distress. He waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined his ear, and heard his cry, and brought him out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set his feet upon the Rock of Ages, and ordered his goings. It is this that puts a new song into our mouths, even praise unto our God, (Psalm 40:1-4) and we can but say, "Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." (Psalm 40:5)

Therefore the watchman will declare openly, "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified," (Psalm 40:16) and,

Let him have all the glory of this great salvation now and for ever. Amen!

By James Bourne

SPIRITUAL LIBERTY


"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream."
(Psalm 126:1)

This then is the word we must first look at; it implies something we have to expect and wait for, when will this good thing be done for us, this turning of our captivity?

Now many think this "turning" means getting clean out, as they say, so as to never get bound again; but it need not denote only anything so fully as that. For any little softening of the heart leading us to the Lord, and to wait for him when we begin to discern that the distress and misery we feel and which works such death in our souls is the Lord's discovery to us of the evil of our hearts, and causing us to fall down under it in self-abasement and abhorrence before him; this is such a measure of the turning of our captivity which those who feel it would not part with for all the world. Do not call these things little; you will before long perceive that they are exceedingly great, and that they will have no end. The kindling of the love of God in your heart, and faith and hope in him, may be damped, but will never die. "Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing..." (Psalm 126:2) when the Lord turned again our captivity--spiritual laughter and spiritual singing. "...Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them." (Psalm 126:2) This is what is sometimes said of God's people by the world. Afterwards the church say it among themselves: "The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south." (Psalm 126:3-4) Our captivity comes from the cold cutting rebukes of the law, signified by the north; and these streams from the south are the softening, melting showers of the Holy Spirit. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." (Psalm 126:5)

What is sowing in tears?

It is not laughing with the world about nothing, but mourning to God under a sense of godly sorrow and repentance. It is described in Jeremiah, "Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither."

And how shall they come?

"With weeping."

This is sowing in tears, is it not?

"I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters," different waters naturally suit different comforts God will apply to the various cases of his people. "For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn." (Jeremiah 31:8-9)

Ephraim is each individual of this people. The firstborn in a great family is always more honoured and set by, but here all God's children are called the firstborn. Some of you have a good inheritance, but you must look to it that you loose not the privileges that belong to you; do not let them lie buried in a napkin or hid under a bushel. "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:6) These sheaves are the ripe fruit brought to perfection. There is first the tender bud, then the blossom, then the ripe fruit. These budding hopes upon your spirit shall be brought to perfection. God will not leave his work half done. What he begins he will finish. The Apostle says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) And when all this is done then you will be "like them that dream." David says, "I will extol thee, my God, O King; I will bless thy name for ever and ever." Now he could not do this if he did not feel he had cause. He tells the cause afterwards, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised." (Psalm 145:1,3) He is great but we are little. All greatness belongs to him, and all littleness to us. The Psalmist says the same thing again, "Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite." (Psalm 147:5) He knows everything and understands the end from the beginning. We know nothing and can do nothing, but what he gives up power to know and do.

Afterwards David speaks of the works of the Lord, and what he will do for his people. "He lifteth up the meek."

Who are these meek?

Those whose spirits are brought down under his mighty hand, and with their mouths in the dust to say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have, sinned against him." (Micah 7:9)

"He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his soul shall see the light." (Job 33:27-28)

Thus "he raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people." (Psalm 113:7-8) But he casteth the wicked down, to the ground. But, say you, I am not wicked. Stay awhile. There are but two parties in the world: those whose hearts, are brought down in self-abasement before God under a deep sense of their painful lost condition, and those who know nothing of this work. If you know nothing of it, you are the wicked whom he will cast down. My friends, this is a work little known in the professing world; few there are, who "rend their hearts and not their garments," (Joel 2:13) none but those whom the Spirit of God has made sensible of the sin of their nature and their actual transgressions. The Psalmist says, "Who covereth the heavens with clouds." Now these clouds denote many gloomy desponding thoughts which arise in the hearts of those sensible sinners, a feeling of their great misery and wretchedness; and these are the clouds which are to "prepare the rain upon the earth to make the grass to grow upon the mountains," as the following words speak. (Psalm 147:8) This is the Lord's way. We shall not have the fruits of love and joy spring forth in our hearts, this is, a sense of peace and reconciliation with God, without a discovery of our sinfullness.

It says, "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man," that is, the fleshly confidence we have of our own does not please him. He brings all that down and only "taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." (Psalm 147:10-11) These give him all the glory of their salvation, feeling their abject need in themselves, and utter sinfullness. Such glorify him by receiving out of his fullness those riches which he has treasured up the corn of Egypt; in this he was a type of Christ in whom are hid "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

"One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts...They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness." (Psalm 145:4,7)

My friends, I often think if you got more of the savour of this blessed work in your hearts, you would praise the Lord more. Now lay this to heart. For if I am set here by God to be a minister, my word will come against you another day if you do not profit. Do not say, he means me, but say, "God means me; and so you will find it serious."

"The Lord, is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works."
(Psalm 145:8-9)

Moses, too, makes this longsuffering mercy and goodness of the Lord his plea for asking for the pardon of the rebellious people. And it is particularly to be noticed what the Lord says, "I have pardoned, but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with my glory." (Numbers 14:20-21)

This means that though he pardons, he will show that he will not be mocked; he will show the evil and bitterness of sin. "He will take vengeance of our inventions." (Psalm 99:8) He means that we should greatly stand in awe here, and fear and reverence his holy name. How was Hezekiah made to feel this bitterness of sin, and to stand in awe of God, before he felt the pardon of his sin! "Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered me from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." (Isaiah 38:17)

How we see that the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm; yet is he "slow to anger." The whirlwind is when the wind blows from all quarters at once and produces a bewildering storm in our hearts, and clouds of despondency and gloom overwhelm us. If these are sanctified to us, then these clouds are the "dust of his feet." How often I have seen the dust of a carriage coming and heard the sound, long before I saw the carriage itself. This is it, then, these gloomy feelings, if there is spiritual mourning over sin in them, bespeak his approach. I am sure that when the heart begins to sigh and to groan before God, as it was with Job (though perhaps you are hardly sensible it is after the Lord you sigh,) "Oh that I knew where I might find him," (Job 23:3) then that is the dust of his feet, and he will be found of you.

It is said, "The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him," (Nahum 1:5-6) that is, our rocky hearts.

There may be terrible work to accomplish this, but "the Lord is...a stronghold in the day of trouble." (Nahum 1:7) and he is strong enough to sustain us under trouble, for the day of trouble may be long and very tedious, and to our feelings as if it would never end. But the Lord is a stronghold through all, keep to that; and he knoweth them that trust in him. Do not listen to that "wicked counsellor" which imagineth evil against the Lord. (Nahum 1:11) He will whisper unbelieving thoughts in your heart against the Lord. Lay this to heart and pray for grace to resist all the evil and to overcome as David did. He says, "By thee have I run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall." (Psalm 18:29)

What is the troop that David means here?

It is unbelief, pride, enmity, and all the multitude of evils together; these make this wall of separation he speaks of between God and him. But when God girds him with strength for the war, he can leap over this high wall.

The only way we can prevail is by confession and the prayer of faith. "Lord, I cannot pray," says one, "I have no light, no understanding. Lord, have mercy upon me." In this confession of weakness we shall find God girding us with strength, for his strength is made perfect in weakness. May the Lord in mercy instruct our souls in the knowledge of salvation, and load us in his ways that we may go "from strength to strength," and in the end be made more than conquerors through Christ. Then with David shall we be able to sing a song of praise unto him: "I will extol thee, my God, O King; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever." (Psalm 145:1-2) Amen.

By James Bourne

RECEIVING AND WALKING


"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him."
(Colossians 2:6)

To walk in Christ as we received him is to retain the sense of our need of him, as when we felt the Day Spring from on high first visited us, and the terrors of the Lord made us afraid. O how plainly and feelingly did we then feel the need of a Saviour. Then we hastened, we fled from the wrath to come. Hell seemed close to us, and law and justice seemed ready to push us in. How sweet was the news of pardon then! How sweet a promise, when we could believe the Holy Spirit applied it to us personally. There was no halving it then, we felt we needed a whole Saviour, a Prophet to teach, a Priest to atone, and a King to reign. Christ Jesus was gladly received as such with all the heart.

How is it we walk not so with Christ now?

Surely because we have lost our first love, and the powerful impression of our wants we once had; hence comes that indifference towards Christ and his appointed means. A spiritual appetite is wanting where the heavenly manna is loathed as light bread.

To walk with Christ is to be sensible of his worth with that same fervor of Spirit as when we first received him. O the love of our espousals, how precious was the dear Lord Jesus to us then! When we first viewed him bearing our sins, conquering our rebellion, opening the eyes of our understanding, healing our consciences. We felt our access to the Father was through him, and all our peace and joy was in him. At that time (if asked) we used to declare he was altogether lovely. "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord." (Psalm 84:2)

Watch this point, if you grow cool and indifferent in your attendance on the ministry, you may rest assured this springs from a back-sliding heart. If you walk with Christ, it must be manifest by keeping up communion with him, with the same feeling and desire as when you first received him, and often sought him with many tears. And [there was] seldom any attendance on the appointed means but his comforting presence was found. Creature comforts withered and none but Jesus, a loving God could refresh and satisfy your soul.

How is it now that we cannot find our way to a throne of grace, unless driven by affliction? We then could not live without his presence. And when we felt that, we could trust to him to supply all our temporal wants. Watch and be sober, and notice the very first beginning of declension. Let it at once be brought with much confession and prayer and [do] not suffer that which is lame to be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. labour to feed upon the truths you hear, to be established in the experimental knowledge of them. Religion lies not in talking of Christ, but in the walking in him, therefore be very watchful of inward decays, dread the universal, general profession of the day. Seek to keep your conscience blameless, by continually coming to the Fountain open for sin, and not resting without the sealing of the Spirit to you adoption. Seek to keep up much tenderness of the honour of God.

If these things are kept alive, the soul must be often refreshed with the water of life. Hold fast the pure Word, be very jealous of error of all sorts. Seek to maintain the character of a true church according to the Word of God, where it is called "the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15) Christ has left his truths as a trust to his people, and it is our mercy to keep them with faithfulness and prayer. A lukewarm spirit will make them too general, and this is the beginning of the ruin of all churches. First goes the zeal, simplicity and purity, and then goes their being.

Hold fast the truths of God, they are the treasure and glory of his people. Keep close to the Scriptures, and search them diligently with prayer, and seriously consider what is written in Revelation 2:2, "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." Let us seek for clear work; Peter says we believe and are sure thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (John 6:69)

Mind that our fellowship brings about what Paul writes about to the Colossians. He speaks of being knit together in love, unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. (Colossians 2:19) These sweet and heavenly truths will lead us to order our steps by his Word, and we shall find, while we walk in the tender enjoyment of these things, the discipline and good outward walk will also be observed as the real true fruits of such soul establishing truths. These will feed the household [of faith] and let your life recommend Christ as a Sanctuary for the afflicted; a Treasure that will enrich the poor in spirit; an Advocate to plead their cause however disheartened they may feel in coming to him; an inexhaustible Fountain of mercy and pardon, comfort and glory. "I am the bread of life." (John 6:35)

Suffer none to deny the sovereignty of God, in his eternal election of his people, and their final perseverance. In the experimental knowledge of these truths lies much of our stability. It is worthy [of] our attention, that which is worth having is worth owning, therefore let us always keep in mind the means which God has appointed for the nourishment and building up his people in saving knowledge. Remember carefully to maintain that doctrine that lays us low at the feet of the Saviour, and exalts his free grace. Strive for the faith once delivered to the saints that our souls may be fed, and not merely the head furnished with dry notions. Be sure your example be stronger than your words.

If we be of God's family, we are often distressed with temptations of all sorts, and have need of exhortation, instruction, caution and consolation; let us be an example to one another; let us by much prayer guard against the fear of man and applause. If you feel your need of the presence of the Beloved, let that be seen by earnest cries, for where he is not, there is no sense of pardon. It will not do to say with the church in the Song [of Solomon]: "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not." (Song of Solomon 3:1) Such sort of seeking is not likely to find. It is as if she would wait till he came; but she found that would not do, therefore she says, "I will arise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth." (Song of Solomon 3:2) This is making use of the means, and she found him and held him. She would not let him go.

Thus we see the necessity of diligence in the use of means as appointed of God, to convey the blessings God designs to give. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (Psalm 62:5) Those who watch for the morning, do not only desire it, but expect it and know assuredly that it will come. None can set forth their walking with Christ more than they who stand upon the watchtower to see what the Lord will say unto them and what they shall answer when they are reproved. (Habakkuk 2:1) There may be much weakness felt, but the Lord has promised to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, and to say unto them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not, behold your God will come. (Isaiah 35:3-4) Do not forget that your walking with Christ will be attended with much sensible weakness, but the Lord will counteract this with seasons of hope and expectation. "Your heart shall live that seek God." (Psalm 69:32) Only let us always remember all our times are in God's hands, our times of trouble; times of peace; of darkness; and of light, so that we must learn patiently to wait and quietly hope for his salvation.

This waiting often proves very painful in our walking with Christ. We meet with so much opposition, so many difficulties, perplexities, and much darkness by which we sometimes feel the heart become sick, and the spirit sinks and we are ready to faint. David says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord," (Psalm 27:13) therefore he adds, "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

And the Apostle adds, "For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9) The Apostle tells us to consider this, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds. They who walk with Christ, will never finally faint. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)

Some will say they know many who have fainted. True! It was because they neither walked with Christ, nor waited for him. These are sure to lie down in disappointment. No soul ever miscarried who walked with Christ, and waited for him. Rest assured, they who walk with Christ here, shall have eternal happiness hereafter. Heart and flesh may fail, but David says, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." (Psalm 73:26) It is the continued and renewed tokens of this, which keeps the soul alive in all adversity, and in the worst of times it is said to be good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)

Even when sorely cast down and depressed, Jeremiah says, I will call to mind that there is forgiveness with God for distressed souls and therefore will I quietly wait and hope. But, alas, such is the degeneracy of professors of the gospel in this our day, they scarcely know the fundamental doctrines, the main pillars of our Reformation. The doctrine of God's eternal election; the efficacy of free grace in the regeneration and conversion of sinners; (Titus 3:5) justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ; (Galatians 2:16) and the final perseverance of the saints. Our forefathers put no doubt upon these establishing truths.

Let us consider what our Lord says, he that is not walking with me, is contrary to me in all things. Let the whole of our profession and lives contend for the true faith, and remember in this contention, we not only contend for our own salvation, but also for the honour of God. God's Holy Spirit does neither teach nor lead to uncertainties in matters of faith. The more he is pleased to enlighten us, the more we understand the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. There was a time when the children of God could redeem an hour in the week for either godly conversation or public worship, but now we scarcely can give the Lord the full time we profess to give him on the Lord's Day.

What can be said of families professing godliness to be prayerless?

This denotes a sad weariness and cannot be called walking with Christ.

May the Lord cause us all to lay these dreadful backslidings to heart. And if we have ever known anything aright, call to mind the godly simplicity with which we first received Christ.

To him be all the glory. Amen.

By James Bourne

Sunday, February 22, 2009

THE DA VINCI CODE


In just three years since its publication in 2003, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code became one of the most widely read books of all time. As of April 2006, it had been translated into 44 different languages, selling approximately 40 million copies and earning Brown more than £200 million. On 19 May, 2006, The Da Vinci Code film, produced by Sony Pictures, directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, hit cinema screens all around the world. However, it’s anti-Christian plot has created controversy.

The last page before the book’s prologue begins with the word "Fact" and states, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." Moreover, Dan Brown speaks of his historical research in preparing to write this book. He claims, "The Da Vinci Code describes history as I have come to see it through many years of travel, research, reading, interviews [and] exploration." Repeatedly in The Da Vinci Code, Sir Leigh Teabing, a British royal historian, and Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, assert that their various claims are supported by "historical evidence … [which] is substantial," so that they are "a matter of historical record" according to "religious historians." Sir Leigh Teabing states, however, "almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false." Moreover, The Da Vinci Code portrays the doctrine, history and worship of Christ’s church as based on politically motivated lies. The book’s blasphemy is absolutely essential to its plot.

According The Da Vinci Code, Jesus Christ proclaimed the "sacred feminine" or "goddess worship." Yet witness the vehement opposition of the Old and New Testaments to all idols, including Ashtoreth, the queen of heaven, Diana of the Ephesians and the goddesses of Greece and Rome. All gods or goddesses are an abomination to Jehovah (Deuteronomy 7:25-26) and He curses those who promote or worship them (Deuteronomy 11:28).

The first commandment declares,
"Thou shalt have no other gods [or goddesses] before me" (Exodus 20:3).

One wonders how Christ could have survived for over three years of public ministry—on hills, by the Sea of Tiberias, in synagogues, in the temple, etc. (John 18:20)—preaching a message of goddess worship in Galilee and Judea to first century Jews!

Certainly it would have been very easy at His trial before the Jewish religious leaders to prove Him guilty of a capital offence. Old Testament law required the death penalty for those who preached other gods or goddesses (Deutereonomy 13:6-11).


Strangely, The Da Vinci Code states that Jesus is "the prophesied Messiah," yet the anointed One promised in the Old Testament was God’s special prophet, like Moses, who opposed all forms of idolatry (Deutereonomy 18:9-22; Acts 3:22-23).

In The Da Vinci Code, Jesus married Mary Magdalene (a descendant of King Saul!) and fathered a daughter, Sarah, from whom sprang the Merovingians, a medieval French royal dynasty, and ultimately Sophie Neveu, the book’s heroine. Christ intended Mary Magdalene to be the head of His church. The sacred feminine, Mary Magdalene—her bones and secret documents—is the Holy Grail!

In support of this world of virtual reality, The Da Vinci Code contains numerous, gross, historical blunders concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi, the New Testament canon, the early church, Constantine, the Council of Nicea, the Lord’s Day, the origin of the word "heretic," etc.

Instead of the four biblical gospel accounts, The Da Vinci Code would substitute the Gnostic gospels which are fragmentary, much later, pseudonymous (no one believes that Mary Magdalene, Philip or Thomas wrote the "gospels" attributed to them), largely disinterested in events in Christ’s life, and often bizarre (e.g., "every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven;" Gospel of Thomas 114).

The Gnostics were dualists, believing the spirit to be good and matter to be evil. The world was created by the demiurge, a derivative and evil god. For most Gnostics, Jesus only seemed to be human (the heresy of Docetism; I John 4:1-3). The heavenly Christ did not suffer on the cross; His earthly substitute was crucified. Salvation lies in secret knowledge (Greek: gnosis) providing the elite with passwords enabling them to ascend past the planets.

Even Tom Hanks, Harvard professor Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code movie, admits, "… the story we tell is loaded with all sorts of hooey and … nonsense." Similarly, Tim Robey, after watching the two and a half hours of The Da Vinci Code film, wrote in The Daily Telegraph of "the plot’s sheer volume of mulish nonsense."

Solomon declares,
"The simple believeth every word"
(Proverbs 14:15).

Don’t be deceived into thinking that The Da Vinci Code is "fiction based on fact." Scripture warns against departing from the truth and being
"turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:4). Anti-Christian conspiracy theories, and the religious controversies they spawn, sell books and fill cinemas but The Da Vinci Code ought not prejudice one against the incarnate, crucified and reigning Christ of the Bible.

By Angus Stewart

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GIVEN OVER TO A REPROBATE MIND


Romans 1:28
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.


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In my explanation of verses 24 and 25 I compared the way and development of sin to a smooth and slippery road upon which the sinner slides down to destruction. He is forced down by a power which the apostle described as the revelation of the wrath of God.

God is the doom of the sinner.

For this same reason we may compare the development of sin as described in these last verses of Romans 1 to an organic growth. Sin can never stop. It must continue to work until it has corrupted every relation of life. This is not due only to an inherent power of sin. But it is also due to the fact that God works in sin. God is not the power of corruption. But God is the power that is able to cause the sinner to corrupt himself unto the very end. God works in sin, causing the sinner to go down from corruption to corruption and to destroy himself.

The beginning was that man did not want to glorify and thank God. By that beginning man stands opposed to the ever present and ever living God. The ever present and ever living God stands over against that sinner who will not glorify and thank Him, in His wrath. This wrath pushes the sinner down.

The apostle mentions three stages in this awful process. In the first place, the sinner becomes a religious fool, so that he bows down before an image made like unto corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things. When man refuses to glorify and thank God, the first downward step is always that man becomes a religious fool, bowing down before an image. It makes no difference whether he carves this image in wood or stone, as the heathen did, or whether he carves it in his mind, as do the modernists of today.

The second stage, the apostle pictures in verses 24-27. God gave them over, the apostle says, to the stage that makes them lower than the beast.


If a man wants to worship the beast, why should he not become lower than the beast which he worships?

But wrath does not stop with this one sin. Sin does not stop. It goes on until it bears fruit in every relation of life, so that the third stage is that God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.

What this means is described in the following verses. When God gives the sinner over to a reprobate mind, three things happen. In the first place, this sinner becomes filled with all manner of unrighteousness, such as fornication, wickedness, covetousness, and maliciousness. Being so filled with unrighteousness, he becomes filled with all vices, such as envy, murder, deceit, and malignity. The final result is that he begins to act. When God gives men over to a reprobate mind, they become whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, etc.


Is there any hope?

What shall we do in such a world?

Shall we build up institutions of education?


With these institutions of education the world goes to hell.

Shall we reform this world?


With this reformation the world goes to hell.

Shall we have federations?


Men who slide down, when they federate, slide down together.

No, we shall say,
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation."

The Meaning


The mind is man's moral judgment. It is that faculty of man by which he is able to distinguish between good and evil. It is that faculty of man by which he can distinguish between the truth and the lie, between righteousness and unrighteousness. Not only does the mind distinguish, but also it is that faculty that counsels the will. We might say that the mind is our moral attorney. It tells us what we should do and what we should not do. This is the function of the mind.

Now the text speaks of a reprobate mind. The original uses a word meaning a mind "not approved." It refers to a mind that has been put to the test and has failed. It is a mind that has been condemned and rejected. It is a mind that does not function properly. The proper function of the mind would be to distinguish between what is good and what is evil. Having distinguished between what is good and what is evil, it is the function of the mind to persuade the will to determine that which is good. The function of the mind is not only to distinguish between good and evil. But the mind is also to persuade the will to determine what is according to the will of God.

A reprobate mind functions perversely. Suppose that one must give testimony in a certain case. A reprobate mind distinguishes between what is the truth and what is the lie concerning this case. But at the same time this mind compiles all kinds of lies and persuades the will to tell that which is the lie. That is a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is a mind that distinguishes between good and evil, but persuades one to determine that which is evil. Of this mind the apostle is speaking.

To this reprobate mind, God gave man over. This "giving over" is not meant in a passive sense. The word does not mean, "to let go." God cannot let things go. A God who lets things go, we do not fear. But the word means that God takes the sinner and delivers him up to corruption, or, to change the figure, pushes him down from corruption to corruption.

God is the doom of the sinner.

When the text says that God gave man over to a reprobate mind, that is, when God gave him over to such moral judgment, the meaning is not that God made his judgment corrupt. His judgment is already corrupt. The mind is already corrupt, when man refuses to glorify and thank God. It is already the judgment of a reprobate mind that changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image of corruptible man and of beasts. God had already given him over, when he fell into all kinds of bestiality.

But the text means that God gave man over to bear the fruit of sin to its fullest extent in every relation of life. There is a working of God in man's soul, in his mind, in his will, in his desires. This working is a working of wrath.

God works in this mind in wrath.


In what way?

He causes this mind to bear all the possible fruits of sin.

What are the possible fruits of sin?


The next verse tells us. God gave man over to a reprobate mind. The result is that he begins to bear every possible fruit of corruption, so that he becomes filled with every possible unrighteousness. He does not become totally corrupt. He was totally corrupt. But he bears every possible fruit of unrighteousness.

When God influences the thistle, it bears fruit. When God influences the good tree, it brings forth good fruit. When He influences the corrupt tree, it brings forth corrupt fruit. When God influences the sinner, he becomes filled with every form of unrighteousness.


What is this?


The text says: fornication; wickedness; covetousness, that is, greed of every kind; and maliciousness, that is, the desire to do someone wrong.

When he has borne this fruit in its general motives, man bears still more fruit. He becomes full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity. Under the influence of God's wrath, the reprobate mind bears fruit.

So it was with the world of Rome. So it is with the world of today.


If we scratch off a little of the varnish, what do we find?

We find these things. These things are boiling at the fountain heads of the world.

The Result

What is the result?


This is expressed in verse 28. Man does things that are unseemly. The inner motives bear fruit in actions. The man that is full of envy, etc., begins to act. What does He do? He does things that are unseemly. Notice that the text says that this is the intended result. God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do things which are not convenient. This is God's purpose. This is the purpose of His anger. The purpose of God is not to hold the sinner back. The purpose is that the sinner become manifest in all his folly and corruption. If this is to become manifest, the sinner must do things. God will not let the sinner rest until he does things, in order that he may become ripe for judgment and that it may become manifest that God only is good.

They do things that are unseemly, that is, things that do not fit, the apostle says. The emphasis of the text is that these things do not fit with the way God rules things. If put my hand in the fire, God keeps right on working in that fire. The result is that I burn my hand. So God causes man to do things that do not fit with the way He rules things.

What these things are, the apostle mentions in verse 29 and the following verses. Whisperers, the apostle says, that is, people who secretly talk about you; back-biters, that is, wagging of the tongue when you are not present; haters of God, literally in the original, hated of God; despiteful; proud; boasters; inventors of evil things, that is, inventors of things to do evil with; disobedient to parents, that is, setting aside all authority; without understanding; covenant breakers, that is, unfaithful in any relation of life; without natural affection, so that the woman can murder the child of her womb.

This is the result. This was the case in the Roman world. These sins came forth out of that one sin. These sins lie at the bottom of the woe of the world of today. It is these sins that destroy the home, that destroy society, that destroy the world.


What shall we do?

I will go a step farther. These sins are in your heart and in my heart. I do not mean to say that every one of these sins is in the heart of every individual. But all these sins are in the hearts of men in general, so that the one manifests this sin, and the other another sin. These sins are in your heart and in mine.

This is the doom of the sinful world.

God forces it down from corruption and into destruction, into hell.


The Reason

Why does God do this?


The text explains it. "Even as," the apostle says. Even as is the sin, so is the punishment.

"Even as."

Even as what?

What was the sin?


The sin was that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. That is, they did not want to keep the true knowledge of God in their mind.

They knew God. But they did not want to keep this knowledge of God in their mind. The original uses a strong expression. The original means: they did not think God worthy to keep in mind. They knew God. They considered whether they would keep God in mind. They came to the conclusion that God was not fit to keep in mind.


Why?

Did they not know any better?

Was it an error on their part?


No, but they wanted to live in unrighteousness. It was not an intellectual error. It was a moral question. They did not want to keep God in mind.

Even as they did not see fit to keep God in mind, so God gave them over to an unfit mind, to do things that are unfit.


Why?

Because it must become manifest that he who does not think God fit to keep in mind must run to destruction.

What shall we do?


Nothing. Not if we want to reform the world.

What shall we do?


We shall conclude that it is hopeless. It is the wrath of God that is at the bottom of it all. It is the wrath of God that is at the bottom even of war, of the present confusion of the world, and of the depression.

What shall we do?

Shall we call a prayer day?


This is folly. Away with all that is of man! From the point of view of man, it is hopeless.

Why?

Because it is the wrath of God that takes hold of man and pulls him down into hell. Let us confess that it is hopeless.

What shall we do?

We shall say: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation."

For what do we need?


We need righteousness; we need holiness; we need a power to snatch us away from the wrath of God. The gospel is a revelation of the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus.

This gospel is a power. It is not an offer. But it is a power. It is a power taking man out of the power of sin and lifting him up into the glory of everlasting life.

Hopeless, from the point of view of man, and of the world!

Full of hope in the cross of Calvary!

The righteous shall live by faith.

By Herman Hoeksema

DELIVERED TO CORRUPTION


Romans 1:24
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Romans 1:25
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


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Introduction


I can best express the main thought of this part of Romans 1, in its connection,by saying that sin is very successful and prospers in all that it wills, even unto the end. The reason for this prospering of sin is the wrath of God. The wrath of God prospers sin so that it reaches its purpose. From a spiritual point of view, the sinner does what he pleases. However, sin prospers more than the sinner originally planned.

Let me use a figure. Suppose there is a steep, icy road that ends in a precipice. A man sets his feet on that steep, icy road.


What will happen?

He will go on. He will be prosperous in his slide down that road.

Can he stop?

No, he must go on.

Why?

You say, because of the law of gravitation. That is, perhaps, correct.

But what is the law of gravitation?

It is the unchangeable operation of God in things. God pulls that man down.

Will God stop because a man puts his feet on that slippery road?

No, God does not change.

What must happen if that man is to stop halfway, or rather, if he is to go up that steep road instead of down?

You say, a wonder. That is a fitting illustration of my text, in its connection.

The slippery road is the process of sin. The man that puts his feet on that road is the sinner, indeed, the whole world. On that slippery road the whole world moves by nature. The power that pulls the world down is the unchangeable operation of the wrath of God. The wrath of God pulls man down from sin to sin, until he reaches the precipice. The only power that will not only cause man to stop, but also cause him to go up, is the gospel. This is why the gospel is the power unto salvation. This is why the apostle is not ashamed of this gospel.

The wrath of God is revealed, the apostle had said. When the apostle says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, he does not mean to say that God in heaven is angry. But he means to say that there is an effectual operation of wrath in the world. This wrath is present, it is around us, it besets us on every side, it works. In the face of the operation of this wrath, men hold the truth under in unrighteousness. The truth is that God is God, that He is glorious, and that He must be praised and thanked. Men hold this truth under in unrighteousness. They want to be unrighteous. Therefore, they hold the truth under in unrighteousness. As soon as they do, wrath is revealed.


How?


In the first place, in that their hearts were darkened, so that they became religiously foolish. This is the punishment of their wanting to do unrighteousness. Man held the truth under in unrighteousness, and God made them so foolish that they made themselves gods like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Having made these images, they go on, and their hearts become more darkened, until finally they believe that these images which they have made actually are God.

This is always the case. Some people, for example, will find all kinds of excuses for not sending their children to the Christian school. They know better. They know that they should send them to the Christian school. But they seek all kinds of excuses. Once having started on this road, they must go on until they finally believe their own excuses.

So it is here. Man said, "I do not want to serve and glorify God." He held the truth under in unrighteousness. God said, "Go ahead." Then man made images. He knew these images were not God. But God darkened his heart. Man was carried on until finally he believed that these sticks and stones were actually God. This is the course of sin. The next step is moral corruption. This is the inevitable result. A man is like his god. If he makes himself a god, he becomes like the god which he makes. The reason is that wrath pulls him down. God brings His people into heaven. He also brings the wicked into hell.

This is my text.
"Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever."

Let me call your attention to this development of sin and to the only power that can save man from continuing on this road of sin, until he falls into destruction.


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The Meaning


The text says that God gave them up to uncleanness.

What does this mean?

All sin is uncleanness. But if we read the rest of this chapter, we will see that the apostle means something specific. What the apostle means with uncleanness is that moral state of heart and mind in which man corrupts himself sexually. Moral dirt is what the apostle has in mind. By this uncleanness, the apostle means that God gave them over to such a condition of the heart and will and mind and desires that they delight in sexual filth. The effect is that they dishonor their own bodies between themselves.

What the apostle means by this he explains when he says that this moral corruption is such that men lusted after men, and women after women. It began with corruption in the spirit; it ends with corruption in the body. This is heathendom. This is civilized Rome. This is reality. This is still the case.

Our text is an explanation of many things that we see around us. It is striking that the world that departs from God gives rise to all manner of uncleanness. Many of our movies would be out of business if it were not for the sexual filth shown in them.


What is the reason for the sexually explicit pictures everywhere?

Why must even ordinary ads contain unchastity?

Unclean minds make unclean things. But remember, the text explains it as a manifestation of the wrath of God. The wrath of God brings men to hell. The wrath of God brings the world to destruction.

Mark well, the text says that God gave them over. People have tried to explain away the force of this word. They have even found in this chapter a classic proof for common grace. They say that God's giving man over to uncleanness does not mean that God pushes man into sin. This, they say, would be contrary to God's holiness. They say that it rather means that God simply abandoned them. He simply let them go. He let them go as I let go my handkerchief, so that it falls. God first held man back on the road of sin. This is called the restraint of sin. Then God let man go. He stepped out of man's way so that He did not hold him back anymore. Man then slipped down on the road of sin.

This is not so.


Did you ever see the law of gravitation stop anyone from going down?

Romans 1 teaches that the wrath of God pulls man down. The word used in the original does not mean "to let go." It rather means "to push down," "to deliver up." It is the same word that is used for delivering a prisoner into prison. You do not deliver a prisoner into prison by letting him go and letting him walk into prison of his own accord. The same word is used for the deliverance of Christ into the hands of wicked men.

In this same way God delivers men unto sin. He does so in His wrath. The wrath of God is revealed; it operates in the world. The effect is that men become religiously foolish and morally corrupt.

The text teaches, therefore, that God punishes sin with more sin. The road of the world is sin, wrath, more sin, and more wrath.


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The Manner

How does God do this?

How does He do this without becoming the author of sin?

How is it possible?

How must it be explained that the wrath of God, which is the reaction of His holiness, brings the sinner deeper into sin?


The text says that God does it through the lust of men's hearts. God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.

The heart is the center of man's life from a spiritual point of view. Out of the heart are the issues of life. All our thinking, our willing, our desiring issues forth from the heart. As the heart is, so is the man, spiritually, morally, ethically.

Now there is nothing wrong in the fact that the heart desires. The heart is made to desire. This is the purpose of the heart. But the normal desire of the heart, apart from sin, is that it desires after God. It desires to be pleasing to Him, to serve Him, to glorify Him. This was the normal desire of the heart. But those desires become lusts as soon as this heart turns away from God. Then the heart fastens itself on other objects, apart from God. It says, "I will no more serve God."


Upon what does the desire of the heart fasten itself, if not on God?


It fastens itself upon the creature instead of upon the Creator. It seeks things, and it seeks to press these things into the service of unrighteousness. This is lust. There are many lusts in the world: lust of money, lust of honor, lust of position, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. The lust of money is that we press it into the service of unrighteousness. This is why we have depression.

Now what does God do?


He works upon these lusts by His anger. He does not let them go. He works in them. He works in everything. The purpose of God working in these lusts is to bring man as low as possible. Man says to a cow, "Thou art my god." God says, "I will see to it that you fall as far below that god which you made as a worshiper ought to be below his god." Thus man comes to fall below the beast. He does things a beast will never do.

God does it! God says to the sinful world two things. He says, "I will take your heart and guide you in the direction that will bring you lower than the beast that you serve." He says also, "I will lead you to destruction."


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The Motive

Why?


The final reason is expressed in the words, "Who is blessed forever. Amen." The meaning, in the first place, is that God is only good. In the second place, being the only good, He is the only blessed one. He is the only blessed one as the triune God. In the third place, as the infinite good, He wills to become manifest as the one apart from whom there is no blessedness. There may never be anything in which God does not become manifest as the blessed one.

There are two ways in which God becomes manifest as the only blessed one. He becomes manifest as the blessed one in them that fear Him by blessing them. But with that same unchangeable will to become manifest as the blessed one, He assumes an attitude over against the wicked. The result is that God manifests His wrath by making them unspeakably wretched. Antithetically, it becomes manifest that God is blessed forever. Joy and glory are a testimony that God is blessed forever. Wretchedness and misery testify antithetically that God is blessed forever. There are but two powers operating in history.

The wrath of God is revealed when men serve the creature more than the Creator. This does not mean that they serve the Creator too, but that they serve the creature more. No, the meaning is that they serve the creature instead of the Creator. They change the truth of God into a lie. And God pushes man down until it becomes manifest that sin is sin.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. This is the positive thought. I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation. It is a power on the slippery road on which wrath pushes man down and on which all find themselves.


How can man be saved?

By means of instruction?

This is impossible. Salvation is not a matter of education. Man wants unrighteousness.

What will stop him?

Shall we give him an example?


There is no example. The whole world is on that path. No, there must be a power that can change that wrath into uplifting love. This power we have in the gospel. The gospel is a power. It is a power to lift man up.

Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is a power of God unto salvation...

The righteous shall live by faith.

John 3:16

....whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

By Herman Hoeksema

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "MARRIAGE, THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH" - BY DAVID ENGELSMA


"Marriage, The Mystery of Christ and the Church" written By David Engelsma is an excellent book and the author of this website recommends this book as a must have in order to defend the wonder biblical truth of marriage and what God's word has to say on this most important matter.

The first review appeared in the "Protestant Reformed Theological Journal" in April 2001. The review was written by Arie denHartog. The second review was written By Martyn McGeown of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena Northern Ireland.
We give credit and thanks to these men for allowing the reader to have a foretaste of what the book is all about.

We live in a day where the wonderful God given gift of marriage is abused and distorted by not only the world but also by those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ.

This wonderful book can be ordered from the USA
HERE, and if you live in the United Kingdom it can be ordered HERE.


DESCRIPTION

The newly revised and significantly expanded edition of Professor Engelsma's book on marriage is now available. Its predecessor went through four separate printings, and the new book has already generated considerable interest, even beyond the Reformed community.

Retained in this new edition is the development of the rich meaning of Christian marriage in light of the apostle Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5 that marriage is the great mystery of Christ and the church. With a vigorously Scriptural approach, the author shows what this implies for such timeless—but timely!—matters as the relationship of husband and wife; sex; children; divorce; and mixed marriage. The book concludes with a spirited defence of an unbreakable marriage bond.

Revision of content to the original edition includes a different interpretation of I Corinthians 7:10-11, which sheds light on the right understanding of the controversial "exception clause" in Matthew 19:9.The book is significantly expanded by the addition of a second section consisting of the history of the church's doctrine of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Working with the writings of the church fathers, the Reformers, and contemporary Protestant theologians, as well as with various studies on marriage and divorce, Professor Engelsma traces the fatal departure of the Reformers from the doctrine of marriage held by the early church. He demonstrates that this departure has led inevitably to the marital chaos that devastates Reformed and evangelical Christianity. In the light of this fascinating history, the book calls especially the churches of the Reformation back to their Christian tradition by upholding the biblical gospel of marriage.

Intended to give godly, biblical, practical instruction to believers and their children concerning their behaviour in the fundamental ordinance of human life, the book also utters a vehement protest against the compromise and corruption of marriage by the churches and their theologians in our day. Helpful indexes of names mentioned and Scriptures cited in the text were prepared for the new edition.


Review by Arie denHartog:

This book is the second edition of a previously published one by the same title. We are thankful for the effort which Professor Engelsma put forth to publish this second edition. This edition is a major expansion of the first one. Its expansion is mainly a part two section on the history of the church regarding its position on marriage and divorce and remarriage. We will comment on each of the two sections of this excellent book.

The first section of this book is essentially the same as the first edition. The chapters of this section are printed copies of the sermons Engelsma preached during his years of being pastor of the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois. I have personally used this book as a pastor for pre-marriage counseling many times in connection with marriage ceremonies I have been asked to perform. Over the years this has given me deep appreciation for Engelsma's book. The chief point of excellence of this book is that it is based on careful and incisive biblical exegesis. Such exegesis gives any sermon its real power and decisive authority. This is reflected in the book. Over the years I have, by the grace of God, learned more and more the truth that there is no better marriage counseling manual than the Scriptures. The Bible has much to say about marriage because of the great importance of marriage in God's purpose and for His church. The reason why Engelsma's book is so helpful is because it clearly, forcefully, and decisively states what God's Word says concerning marriage. This book is not a discussion of humanistic psychology on marriage. It is not even a book of human wisdom with the addition of teaching of Scripture interspersed. Engelsma does not dwell on the results of surveys taken to come to certain conclusions about how we should live in marriage. The church does not need that. God's people do not need that. To begin marriage truly in the Lord, God's people need the plain, simple, and sound teaching of the Word of God for their marriages.

Engelsma writes as a pastor. His book is a collection of sermons. There is a great advantage to this. The author does not present abstract teaching. He speaks as a pastor to the heart and life of the people of God, members of the church. Engelsma them gives biblical counsel concerning the tremendously important subjects relating to marriage.

The main contention of the book is the author's firm conviction that according to the Word of God marriage is a lifelong, unbreakable bond of love and faithfulness between husband and wife. This bond was established by God Himself and therefore cannot be broken by man. God alone can dissolve this bond by death. It is this beautiful and wonderful aspect of marriage that according to Scripture especially makes Christian marriage a reflection of the faithful covenant love of Christ for His church.

The inescapable and necessary consequence of this position is that adultery is a grievous sin not only against one's marriage partner but also against God. Putting away one's partner is forbidden by the Word of God except in the case of fornication. Separation between husband and wife is allowed by God in the case of fornication on the part of one of the partners in marriage. But fornication, though a grievous and evil act of man against the covenant of marriage, does not dissolve the marriage covenant made essentially by God Himself. Only God can and does break the bond of marriage through the death of one of the partners.

A further consequence of this position is that all remarriage of divorced persons is forbidden by the Word of God. Remarriage of the guilty party in the case of fornication is clearly adultery. It involves the guilty party in a life of continual adultery with a man or woman with whom the party is not married in the eyes of God, in spite of the fact that he or she might have gone through a ceremony sanctioned by the law of the land. The church must call those in such a life to repentance, for this is the only way of forgiveness and receiving the mercy of God. This is true for this sin, as it is for all sin.

Engelsma shows by his typical incisive exegesis of the extremely crucial passage found in Matthew 19, that it is the teaching of God's Word that also the innocent party, when there is "divorce" because of adultery, is forbidden by the Word of God to marry again. The reason why the innocent party is forbidden by the Word of God to marry again is clearly because in the sight of God the original marriage is still intact.

This latter teaching of the Word of God is a hard teaching. The Lord Himself recognized that. The disciples to whom the Lord explained this truth of God found it to be a hard teaching. Every minister of the Word of God who is solemnly obligated to maintain the teaching of the Word of God on marriage will at times in his ministry learn how very hard this teaching is, especially when he deals pastorally with truly innocent parties in the tragedy of the break up of a marriage. This tragedy is made even far more grievous when one of the partners in marriage is unfaithful to his or her partner through the vile and treacherous sin of fornication and adultery.

The first comment that must be made in regard to the hardness of this teaching is this, that it is the clear and simple truth of the Word of God. The second comment is that as difficult as this teaching may be, especially to those who suffer as innocent parties as a result of the evil treachery of sin in marriage when there is a divorce, this is nevertheless the good Word of God for marriage. It is the good Word of God for marriage because it was given to guard, protect, and preserve the marriages of God's people from the untold suffering and anguish that results from the corruption of marriage by the evil of men. There is mercy from God for those who faithfully maintain His Word in a very difficult circumstance in life.

Finally, in this regard, it is the contention of Engelsma in this book, and we wholeheartedly agree, that marriage is a beautiful reflection of the love and faithfulness of Christ for His church exactly on the point that marriage is according to God's ordination a lifelong, unbreakable bond of faithfulness and love between husband and wife. We thank Professor Engelsma for his extensive, bold, and courageous efforts in defending the teaching of the Word of God also in the publication of the second edition of his book.

The teaching of the Word of God on marriage is contradicted, opposed, and even hated in our modern-day world, not only by the so called outside world, but also by much of the modern-day church. Our age is one of lawlessness on marriage. Our age is one of abounding adultery and immoral lust, and shameless debauchery. Engelsma has a whole chapter in this book about this tragic reality of our times. Many churches are more and more becoming silent on the condemnation of adultery and the condemnation of divorce. This is so obvious that no one can deny it. The consequences of the refusal of the church to uphold the Word of God concerning marriage are so great that it is no exaggeration to say that this evil is one of the chief factors that has led to the ruin of many churches and of many homes and families.

As one surveys the history of the church, one comes across much compromise on the teaching of God's Word on marriage, sometimes even by otherwise stalwarts of the faith. The Reformed churches, tracing their history, do not have a tradition that was always faithful to maintain the Word of God on marriage. Engelsma demonstrates this in the second section of the new edition of this book. The second section of the book is an excellent survey of the teaching of the church in history in explaining and defending God's Word concerning marriage. Many interesting points are made in this section from church history that are well worth reading about in this book.

Several conclusions are made from this historical survey. Though many indeed compromised God's Word on the subject of marriage in the history of the church, nevertheless, from the time of the early church fathers, God has raised up faithful witnesses to His Word in His church through all ages. The author of this book has great appreciation for the testimony of church history, something which is entirely proper for a Reformed believer. Even given this appreciation however, the final stand of the church must be on the infallible and unchanging authority of the Word of God. The historical survey given in this book shows how compromise on the teaching of the Word of God on marriage has again and again led to lawlessness in the church world regarding marriage. This lawlessness has led to the great tragedy of the prevalence of divorce in the church and even of the silence of the church on the gross sin of adultery.

Our prayer is that this book may be of help to many pastors and people of God to uphold the important truth of the Word of God regarding marriage so that there might be still be many marriages in the church of the Lord that truly reflect the beauty of the Lord's love and faithfulness to His church.





Review by Martyn McGeown:

This book, a Christian manual on marriage, is immensely practical because it is deeply theological: practice is based on doctrine; doctrine governs practice.

Why is the husband called to rule his wife in love?

Why is the wife called to submit to and obey her husband?

Why is divorce forbidden except for adultery?

Why is remarriage forbidden absolutely while the original spouse lives?

If a person believes and understands Christ's loving rule over His Church and the unbreakable covenant He has made with her these questions are readily answered.

David J. Engelsma, Professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament at the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Michigan (USA), defends without compromise the unbreakable bond of marriage. Section One deals with various aspects of the doctrinal and practical outworking of marriage. Section Two deals with the history of the Church's Doctrine of Marriage, covering the early church, the Reformation period and today (aptly termed "Contemporary Lawlessness"). Fastening his colours firmly to the mast of God’s Word, Engelsma sets the standard for the whole work: "It must be God’s word that is proclaimed. We may not bring man’s wisdom on marital matters to the church … for as regards marriage also, the wisdom of men is foolishness with God" (p. 14). Especially practical and challenging are the treatment of the duties of husbands and wives (ch. 3-4).

Concerning husbands, he admonishes them to avoid the sins of masculine independency and male tyranny. Rather the calling for a husband is to "dwell with his wife ... be understanding towards his wife, and ... bless his wife" (p. 39) and "The basic calling is not 'rule your wife' as if you were a dictator, but the calling is 'love her' because you are her husband" (p. 43).

Concerning wives, he emphasizes their need to be submissive, warns against rebellion to the husband's headship, and a over-idealistic romantic notion of marriage (This is a book of realism! Marriage is a blessing, but it also brings cares with it). Feminists in and outside the church may vehemently oppose Engelsma's exhortation to wives: ‘The wife is under the husband's authority. She is not a ruling head, but an obeying body. She is this whether she likes it or not, whether she lives that way or not. The calling of the Christian woman as wife is ..... not so much that you call your husband 'honey' or 'sweetheart' but that you call him ''lord"' (p. 59), and ‘The young wives must learn this love. This is an arduous spiritual activity, for the husband, although a Christian will soon prove himself to be no 'prince charming' but a very weak and sinful man whom it is not always easy to love’ (p. 63) but who can deny that this is indeed the teaching of God’s Word?

Especially interesting is the historical Section Two. Engelsma contrasts the strong opposition of the early Church Fathers to remarriage with the weaker position of the Reformers (Luther’s advice to Phillip of Hesse to commit bigamy rather than divorce, the approval by Calvin of the remarriage of Caracciolo after he left his Roman Catholic wife in Italy to go to Geneva) and their successors. While terming the Reformers’ doctrine of divorce as "the scandal of the Reformation" (p. 127), Engelsma commends the early Church which "faced and rejected all the arguments, pleas, charges, evasions and absurdities that are used today to fill the churches with adulterous marriages" (p. 198).

The final chapter is a scathing attack on the miserable doctrine and sinful practice of the church world today. Divorce in evangelicalism is now possible for every cause. However, Engelsma maintains, "in a world of sin and death there are many evils that may trouble marriage: insanity, paralysis, not only husbands who itch for divorce, but also brawling wives who are miserable to live with. But none of these evils is ground for divorce" (p. 106). Some pastors counsel their members to divorce with the advice, "Christ would not want you to suffer in such a difficult marriage." To such pastors Engelsma delivers the following admonition: "Every pastor has had the feeling at some point in his difficult ministry to the married that a marriage should be broken up because of 'irreconciliable differences' between the husband and the wife. But woe to him if he gives such counsel! For the counsel of Christ is, 'Be reconciled with regard to your irreconciliable difference.' The rule of Christ is separation is forbidden" (p. 113). To continue the litany of transgressions against the marriage covenant by today's church, Engelsma exposes the remarriage after divorce approved of in many evangelical and even Reformed churches. It is now possible to "commit adultery with the wife of a fellow member, divorce his own wife, marry the object of his lust, leave the church for a time, and the seek readmission to the church expressing 'repentance'" (p. 219). Engelsma exposes this sham repentance of remarried church members in bold terms: "Note well what this lawlessness means ... after 30 years of marriage, a man may fall in love with an alluring young lady, divorce his wife, abandon his children, marry the beauteous secretary, repent, be forgiven by the church, carry on with his new wife, and sit down at the Lord's Table with orthodox Presbyterians" (p. 216), and he describes their antinomian attitudes thus: "I am sorry now that I stole my brother's wife, and that I left my own poor wife, but I intend to enjoy my brother's wife as long as I live (or until I find someone else I prefer)" (p. 220).

The Church needs to heed this. Marriage is being attacked in society like never before. May the married use this to seek God's blessings in the marriages, may the divorced seek grace from the Lord to live a single life, may the singles seek the Lord for a godly spouse and may all the members of the Church earnestly pray for the marriages in the church, than they may indeed reflect the mystery of Christ and His Church!



Here is what others have said about this book:

"This is one of those books that you wish you could put into the hands of every married couple and those contemplating marriage ... If the contents of this book were put into practice, society would become more stable and broken homes would be few and far between"
(The Gospel Witness).

"... one of the finest among such books flowing off the presses ... The book [has] a theological depth and seriousness often lacking in non-Reformed books on this subject"
(Reformed Herald).

"A book that says many biblical things about sex, children, family, the mystery of marriage. Recommended for laypersons and preachers alike"
(The Reformed Journal).

"This book does faithfully reflect the teachings of God's Word of marriage"
(The Banner).

"A pastor, husband, and father speaks of marriage and its relationships in terms that few want to hear today—even in the church"
(Moody).