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  • Is Christian Nationalism Biblical?

    Is Christian Nationalism Biblical?

    While we have seen a more recent call to “Christian Nationalism” (CN will be used to denote “Christian Nationalism” here after), this doctrine and variants of it are nothing new on the scene of the Christian Church. The fact is, recent calls to “CN,” in the hopes of restoring the declining culture of the West, is not seated in thorough biblical doctrine but is a result of a mix of reactionism and philosophical systems applied to Scripture.

    It may seem as though the statements made in the previous paragraph are harsh, but when we consider the historical development of “CN” and what the Church actually is under the New Covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed to us through Scripture, it very well may be that my choice of words above are not harsh enough. The fact is, if at any point we develop doctrine that is not step-in-step with what God has revealed to us through His Son, we are in sin and repentance is needed.

    When I was a child, “CN” was a doctrine that plagued the church in the west. It was often said by many preachers in the U.S. that our nation was a “Christian” nation and we needed to see more decisions for Christ if our nation were to maintain its status as a nation of God. This ideology stemmed largely from hardline dispensationalism which regarded certain nations in our current dispensation as “Christian.” In fact, the claim that the U.S. is  “Christian” was deeply connected to our support of the Israeli state. The question posed by the Particular Baptists of my youth was, “Where in Scripture do we find this taught?”

    It may surprise you to know that “CN” is not new on the scene of Christianity. In fact, it is an ideology that traces its roots all the way back to the Roman Empire. More specifically, Emperor Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity as a political attempt to unite a fractured empire and the subsequent nationalization of “Christianity” over the next 100 years is when/where “CN” finds its origin among the gentiles. The Roman Catholic “church” gained its overarching religious and political authority throughout the world as a result of “CN” because baptism became a requirement for citizenship in the “new” Rome. And so, “CN” became the standard for the next 1000 years not because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, but because of forced conversions to a religious system ruled by power hungry pastors, bishops, and the office of the pope (an office that became the replacement for the Roman Emperor).

    In the very early church, recorded for us in New Testament Scripture, we find a form of “CN” battled against by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Known as the Judaizers, this group of converted Jews sought to make Gentile converts obedient to certain aspects of Mosaic laws and customs. They were seeking to restore the Jewish state to greatness under Christ Jesus and obedience to the law of Moses. Their basic message was that faith and works were required for redemption from sin’s curse and to be included among the chosen people of God, the Hebrew state. However the apostolic writers of the New Testament understood that something altogether different was being done in and through Christ Jesus. This was a primary motivator for the apostle Paul to pen the epistle to the Galatians by the leading of the Holy Spirit. In no uncertain terms, Paul denounces what was being taught by the Judaizers throughout the letter to the Galatian church. Consider the following:

    “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:15-21)

    The covenant that God made with Moses and the nation of Israel possessed within it the condition of obedience or suffer the just judgment of God against them for their disobedience. While the Mosaic Covenant pointed to the promised Seed and was used by God to ensure the line from Abraham to Christ, it was not itself the covenant of grace. The law of Moses was given to Israel by God specifically, as a national people. This is important when considering what the Judaizers were seeking to do and the arguments of the apostles against their error. The fundamental difference between Judaizer ideologies and the doctrine of Christ and His apostles is that the people of God were no longer bound by “CN” ideologies akin to a Mosaic national people, but by the risen living King who rules His redeemed on earth regardless of national boundaries. Going further, where national Israel was required to obey God at every point in order to maintain their possession of the land they had been promised, which they failed in multiple times, the people of God under Christ are maintained under the Covenant of Grace in and through the obedience of Christ Jesus:

    “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord swear and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” (Hebrews 7:19-22)

    Fast-forward to the time of the Reformation. While very few reformed leaning people know or care to study church history before the Reformation, the fact remains that from the apostles to the time of Luther and Calvin, there were churches peppered throughout the known world who were neither Roman Catholic nor “Christian Nationalists.” While known by various names throughout history, the Waldensians are probably the most well known group today as they existed in Europe during the reformation of Luther and Calvin. In fact some of the men known as the “Reformers” wrote about them: 

    “THEODORE BEZA called the Waldenses the offspring of the purest part of the Ancient Christian Church, because they have been miraculously preserved from the errors and ignorance which Satan hath hatched in these latter times.”

    Perrin, Jean. History of the Ancient Christians: From AD 33 to the Reformation (p. 47). Brogden’s Books. Kindle Edition.

    Initially, those churches in Europe that had remained outside of Rome sought to align themselves with what was happening during the time of the Reformation, until it was realized by them that the Reformers were seeking a religious movement connected to the civil magistrate. In other words, men like Calvin and Luther wanted a marriage between the Church and the civil government. While the reformers were doing great things in soteriological doctrine (the doctrine of salvation), ultimately the Waldenses and groups like them in Europe distanced themselves from the Reformers as a result of the reformers’ “Christian Nationalism.”

    Most Reformed men I have spoken to do not understand that there were two fronts  against which the reformers battled. The first front was against the church of Rome and the second front was against what they referred to as “radicals.” These radicals were made up of Waldenses and others outside of Rome who understood that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and pushed back against a state sponsored church:

    “It has been said of late that Luther was faced with a dilemma, the dilemma of wanting both a confessional Church based on personal faith and a regional Church including all in a given locality. It was this dilemma that gave rise to the Second Front. This dilemma was a cruel one. He who thinks of the Church as a community of experiential believers is bound to oppose him who thinks of it as a fellowship embracing all in a given territory; he who operates with the concept of the Church as a Society embracing all in a given geographic area must of necessity look askance at him who restricts the Church to the believing ones. The two views cannot be combined; one cancels out the other. In the one view the Church is Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, which consists of believing folk and of them solely; in the other view the Church is Corpus Christianum, the body of a “christened” society.””

    Verduin, Leornard. Reformers and Their Stepchildren (pp. 8-9). Brogden’s Books. Kindle Edition.

    What does this all mean for us? The doctrine of “Christian Nationalism” is nothing new on the scene of Christendom. The plain fact is that from the first lie believed by our first parents in the garden to this very day, we want to be in control of our own destinies. This desire for control extends to our desires for government. However good or bad  a civil government may be, our Christian hope must not be tied to our own temporal experience in a cursed world. The civil magistrate has no place in the garden of God! The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is made up of the citizens of His kingdom which He has purchased to Himself by His blood. This truth must affect our view of the world around us, as it is by this truth that we live as pilgrims in a foreign land.

    Was Christ wrong? Do we know better? Does He need our help to establish His kingdom on earth? At every point these questions are answered by Scripture in the negative.

    “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

    “If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:28-34)

    “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

    If “Christian Nationalism” is a biblical New Testament doctrine, why did the Lord and His apostles constantly and consistently speak of the kingdom of Heaven? It seems to me that the only way one might be able to defend “CN,” is if one conflates the Mosaic Covenant and the Covenant of Grace. In practicum, “CN” doctrine must possess various aspects of its historic development beginning with the Judaizers who were condemned by the apostolic writers, the Constantinian shift of Rome that gave the world Roman Catholicism, and the civil doctrine of the Reformers who bore the marks of their previous Roman doctrinal heritage within their systematic theologies.

  • Strangers and Pilgrims

    A fundamental question that every person on this earth is seeking an answer to this: Where do I belong? Where is my home? Where do I fit in? This is one reason why the LGBT movement gained so much popularity in such a short amount of time; it provided a “home” to multitudes of young people who, in their rebellion, were and are seeking out ways to “fit in” with their sinful desires. This is one reason why racism exists: groups such as the KKK and BLM provide a “home” for those who are seeking to “fit in” somewhere; and because of our sinful nature, hating a common foe typically draws men together. Yet Christians are not immune to this wondering, are we? All you have to do is search the phrase “the earth is not our home” and you will see tons of results of differing viewpoints on the matter. This question is not merely an exercise in academics; it has real, practical implications for us as we live out our lives. So, the question which I would like to pursue in this little article is, Where do we belong as Christians?

    The only way for us to answer this question is by turning to Scripture. And when we do so, we must leave behind the preconceived notions that we have. A big mistake that far too many people make is approaching the Bible to justify an opinion that they already have; what we should do instead is read the Scripture for what it says, and allow the Word of God to shape and mold and change us. The heart of the question before us really gets into the meaning of the new creation. What is our nature after conversion? What is the nature of the glorified body? The apostle Paul gives us a very interesting insight into this topic in 1 Cor. 15. In verse 47 he wrote, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” So there is this contrast between Adam and our Lord Jesus Christ: Adam was earthy, the Lord Jesus is from heaven. In verse 48 he continues, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” This is a fascinating verse, because it shows us that one day we shall be as our Lord Jesus Christ: heavenly. Just as we partook of the image of Adam, so in the glorified state shall we be transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the change that he goes on to describe in verses 51-57. Thus, in the glorified state, the final state in which we live the eternal life, we will not be earthy, but heavenly.

    What does Paul mean here when he says that Adam was “earthy?” The answer to that question is all the way back in Genesis. In verse 23 of chapter 3, we read these interesting words, “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” Did you notice the fact that Adam was not made in the garden of Eden? In verse 8 of chapter 2 we read, “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” What is the garden of Eden? What makes it so special? It was the place where the LORD God walked in the cool of the day: “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). So, we find that Adam was not made in the place where God dwelt, but he was put there after his creation; one of the curses of the fall was being cast out of the presence of God and sent back to the ground from which he was taken. We contrast this with what we find of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Paul calls “the Lord from heaven.” In John 1:1, the apostle writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We know that this Word, the Logos of God, was made flesh and dwelt among us (verse 14), and that this Word of God is the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 15-18). So, what we see is the Lord Jesus coming from his place, the presence of God, to the earth; in other words, it is the opposite of what we find of Adam. Adam was from earth and put into the presence of God; the Lord Jesus is from the presence of God and came to tabernacle among us.

    So what does all of this mean for us? If we are going to be fully conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord from heaven, then that means in our glorified state we will not be earthy, but heavenly. This is an amazing reality. It means that we have to look forward to more than this physical reality, more than the temporal realities, more than the things of this earth that are passing away. It means we look forward to an eternal communion with the Triune God directly in his presence without any hindrance or separation or distance. This is why Peter describes us as “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11). This is why considering ourselves as “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth is a mark of faith: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Nor is this some mystical way of interpreting New Testament Scripture; we find this truth even in the Old Testament: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me” (Ps. 119:18-19; see also Gen. 23:4; 1 Chron. 29:15; and Ex. 22:21).

    There are many who would attack this truth with vitriolic language and pithy tweets; one of the most common replies to this position is something like, “I guess that means we do not care about what is going on in the culture.” Of course, that is what we call a straw man argument. Just because we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth does not mean that we stick our heads in the sand; it means that our hope is not bound up on this earth. In fact, as strangers and pilgrims, we are to pray for and seek out the peace of the place wherein we dwell as strangers; such was the Lord’s instruction to Israel during the Babylonian Captivity: “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jer. 29:7). Yet even as we do so, we know that our hope is not in some future transformation of this present world. This present world will come to an end, and a new one will be made: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). One day, there will be a new heaven and new earth, and this is what we mean by our future hope. Heaven is not some mystical floating cloud city; heaven is shorthand for the presence of God. In this present evil age, though the believer has communion with the Triune God, that communion is like looking through a foggy mirror. It is not always clear and sharp and defined. We get moments and glimpses of that communion, but the fullness of it comes in the glorified state, in the new heavens and the new earth.

    So how then should we live? What bearing does this have on us here in time and space? One of the more obvious answers, I think, is that we need to be faithfully warning the lost about the future state. The new heavens and the new earth will be a place wherein only righteousness dwells. The unrighteous, those who have not repented of their sin and placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, will not dwell in the presence of God. They will be cast out into the outer darkness, the lake of fire, the place of God’s everlasting judgment. If we are to live out the command to seek the peace of the city wherein we dwell now, we must warn men to repent and believe before they face the judgment of God. Another answer is that we need to stop worrying. Of course, that is easier said than done, is it not? But if this present world is not going to last, if we are looking forward to that land of perfection across the Jordan of death, then why would we have anxiety about this present world? The Lord God is working all things to his end, his purpose; let us trust in his wisdom and his omnipotence and his goodness. And the last answer that I will give here is that we need to be an obedient people. We have been given commands concerning how we are to live in this present world as strangers and pilgrims, and they are summed up as loving the Lord our God with our totality and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is our command, this is our commission, this is our task as new creations awaiting the consummation of all things. So, as we look forward to our future hope, let us live today in the light of that future hope by pursuing lives of holiness and righteousness, following after the model of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • A Husband’s Prayer

    George Swinnock (1627–1673)

    I pray that my love to my wife may be like Christ’s to His church, as well in its goodness as in its greatness; I mean, that my chiefest endeavor may be that she may be sanctified and cleansed and at last be presented to the blessed and beautiful bridegroom, a gracious and glorious spouse without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

    Oh, how industriously did my Redeemer endeavor His church’s renovation and sanctity! How affectionately doth He beseech her to be holy! How fervently doth He beg of His Father to make her holy! How willingly did He broach His heart and pour out His blood to wash her from her unholiness! How plentifully doth He pour down His Spirit to work her to holiness! His birth was that she might be born again, and born holy; His life was to set her a copy of holiness; His death was to purchase for her a new stock of holiness. He gave Himself for her that He might redeem her from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. His precepts, His prayers, His tears, His blood, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His intercession are all for her holiness and purity. His name is called Jesus because He saves His people, not in, but from, their sins and unholiness. He doth not think Himself [complete] until His body [the church] be in heaven.

    O my soul, when wilt thou imitate this lovely, lively pattern, and work hard in thy petitions to God, and woo hard in thy persuasions to thy wife that she may be pure! Doth not thine heart ache to think that the object of thy dearest love and favor should be the object of God’s greatest hatred and fury? that the companion of thy youth, who hath lain in thy bosom, whom thou hast so often embraced, should be a companion of frightful devils and lie in the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever? Canst thou see thy wife posting in the way of perdition, hastening to hell, and never warn her of her danger, or ask her why she doth so? Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Ah, where [is thy heart]?

    Lord, since Thou hast called me to be the head, help me to guide and direct, to see and speak, both to Thy Majesty in humble supplications, and to her in hearty and serious expostulations, that I may be ministerially what Thy Son is meritoriously—the savior of my body. I have found a costly feast in my Father’s family; the house is not so full but still there is room. There is nothing lacking but comers and company, and shall I suffer one so near me to starve for lack of knowledge where it is to be had? Oh, let Thy goodness to me cause me to persuade, and let Thy goodness to her enable me to prevail that she may taste and see that Thou art gracious!

    I wish that I may naturally give the honey of sweetness and love, yet when provoked by sin against God, the sting of reproof that I may bear with my wife in all things save wickedness. If I nourish her natural diseases, I kill her body. If I cherish her spiritual distempers,I damn her soul. And shall I, through cursed fondness, flatter her into the unquenchable fire? Lord, cause me not only to wink at her weaknesses and to hide them from the world’s eye, but also to observe any wickedness she shall be guilty of and to set it so in order before her eyes that Thou mayest cast it behind Thy back. Yea, Lord, help me to hearken to all her holy counsels and to hear Thee speaking by her, as well as to desire her to hearken to me; but let me never submit to any wicked advice, lest Thou judge me at last, as Thou didst Adam at first, for hearkening to the voice of my wife.

    I wish that I may not [be] as some husbands, who dwell with their wives as brutes, understanding nothing in marriage but the meaning of carnal desires and the language of lust, yet deal worse with the wives of their bosoms than with their beasts and deny them what is convenient for their outward wellbeing; but that both my person and portion may be for her comfort in health, for her cordial in sickness, and employed upon all occasions, though not for the pampering of her pride or nourishment of any sin, yet in a moderate way for her service.

    When my God gave Himself to my soul, He gave me all He had also and thought nothing too much for me. And shall I, who have not spared myself from her, think everything too good for her? If she brought a portion, what is become of it? Was it laid out to purchase her misery and poverty? If she did not, yet she is my wife, and both nature and Scripture command me to allow her answerable to my wealth and her [needs]. Oh, that I might be as Elkanah to Hannah, better to her than ten sons, than all relations. Lord, whilst I live, make me so loving and industrious that rather myself than my wife may lack. Let her body never want food and raiment, nor her soul the gospel feast, or the robes of Thy Son’s righteousness. And when I die, whomsoever I neglect, if by Thy providence I am able, let me make for her a comfortable provision that when I am happy in heaven, my other half may not, through my unworthiness, be miserable on earth. If it be Thy pleasure that I shall die poor—for my portion, through infinite grace, is not in this life—then let it please Thy Majesty to grant me this mercy: that I may leave my fatherless children with Thee and bid my widow trust in Thee. Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak further on her behalf. In what need soever I shall leave this world, let me leave my wife the poor, or rather the rich, Levite’s portion, that though she hath no part or inheritance here below, (Num 18:20), yet Thou Thyself mayest be the portion of her cup and the lot of her inheritance. Oh, then the lines will fall to her in pleasant places, and she will have a goodly heritage.

    Behold, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Do Thou so adorn me with grace, suitable to this relation as a bridegroom is decked with ornaments, that when I cease to be a husband, I may know what it is to be the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Hos 2:19), not as I do in this imperfect condition, where Thou hast only betrothed me unto Thyself in righteousness and judgment, and in lovingkindness and in mercy, and so whilst I am present in the body I am absent from the Lord; but in the highest degree, in that place where Thou wilt marry me to Thyself forever. Kiss me with the sweetest kisses of Thy lips, lodge me all night between Thy breasts, where is the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the true bridegroom and the voice of the true bride; where is the voice of them that say and sing, “Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (Jer 33:11). Amen.

    From The Works of George Swinnock, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol, James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1868), 497-502, in the public domain.

  • Why Advocate for the Received Text?

    The following is the contribution to “Why I Preach from the Recieved Text: An Anthology of Essays by Reformed Ministers” by Joshua White

    As a Reformed Baptist Pastor, I am often asked the question, “Why do you advocate for and use translations based on the Received Text?” To be certain, I fully understand why the question is being asked. One only has to do a cursory search on the subject of textual criticism to find a great many dear and committed saints of God who not only do not hold to this position but reject it outright. While there seems to be a resurgence of Pastors and church leaders in the West who have begun to advocate for the Received Text, our numbers pale in comparison to the academically-backed opinions on the subject today.

    Having been brought up in a conservative Pastor’s home and raised in a Baptist church that held to the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, the King James Version of the Bible was used in personal, family, and corporate worship. As a child we were required to memorize Scripture from the aforementioned translation of Scripture. I was introduced to the arguments against modern translations at a young age, and never found myself questioning the veracity of such arguments.

    One might think that my background lent itself to the position I now hold regarding the traditional text of Scripture. However, as happens in the lives of most young men, when faced with alternative reasoning, assumptions, and arguments from that which we have always held to be true, early in ministry I found myself having doubts about the text I had revered for so long.

    Most of the challenges I faced at that time regarded the Greek text of the New Testament. My first “battle” came as a graduate student working on my ministerial degree. I was quickly and often faced with the question of why it was that I used an antiquated translation based upon an imperfect, even corrupt Greek text. Being the “odd man out,” I began to wonder if the many different translations that had come out since the time of my youth had something that the translation I was using did not. Going further, I wondered, “Did the curators of the Critical Text have something more, even better than the translators of yesteryear? If it were true that the Greek text from which my translation came had been added to and corrupted, then how could I have confidence in a translation from it?”

    My second “battle” came after I was sent out by my church in Texas to help in the planting and constitution of the Reformed Baptist Church of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Very early on, it was decided that only translations from the Received Text of Scripture would be used from the pulpit. Within a couple of years, however, there was an effort made to abrogate any idea that the Received Text is anything but subpar in light of modern discoveries and the Critical Text that has come to us as a result.

    These two “battles” convinced me that the subject of textual criticism is not simply a conflict of ideas, but comes with very practical ramifications. This conviction was only bolstered by my study of the subject at hand. The curators of the Critical Text would have us believe that the church did not have the Word of God in hand with the same clarity we now have in modern critical editions. However, this claim seems to be a little more than suspect. Since the Critical Text was brought to the world stage in the 1880s, the curators of this text have made some very bold statements concerning the Scriptures that were available to and used by the people of the Lord Jesus Christ in personal, family, and corporate worship throughout history.

    Those familiar with the subject are acquainted with Bruce Metzger. One cannot enter the halls of religious academia without encountering his voluminous work on the Greek texts of Scripture. Many conservative Christians, however, do not know or understand that Metzger held that every copy of the scriptures that came before the discovery of the manuscripts used to compile the Critical Text were, in fact, corrupt: “It was the corrupt Byzantine form of text that provided the basis for almost all translations of the New Testament into the modern languages down to the nineteenth century” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Corrected Edition, xxiii).

    For those who uphold the Word of God as the sole authority for all faith and practice, this statement by a leading authority on modern textual criticism should cause some concern.

    If we look to what was written by another leading curator of the Critical Text in the twentieth century, we have even greater cause for concern: “If the catholic (general) epistles were really written by the apostles whose names they bear and by people who were closest to Jesus, then the real question arises: was there really a Jesus? Can Jesus really have lived, if the writings of his closest companions are filled with so little of his reality? The catholic epistles, for example, have so little in them of the reality of the historical Jesus and his power, that it suffices for James, for example, to mention only Christ’s name in passing… When we observe this—assuming that the writings about which we are speaking really come from their alleged authors—it almost then appears as if Jesus were a mere phantom and that the real theological power lay not with him, but with the apostles and with the earthly church” (Kurt Aland, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, 106).

    The quote above does not specifically mention textual criticism, but it most certainly questions the authority of the Word of God. This comes from a man whose name is prominently attached to the modern Critical Text (the Nestle-Aland edition), which is the basis of popular translations such as the English Standard Version. Ultimately, the paradigm that was used by Aland in the quote above reflects the mindset of those who composed the modern Critical Text. When I discovered this, I became convinced that a significant shift had taken place in the doctrine of scripture, which had also affected the entire evangelical world. No longer was it the church serving as the proper curator of holy writ, but this task had been subcontracted out to those who were unorthodox.

    What the curators of the Critical Text advocate is a separation of faith from textual criticism and the treatment of the text of Scripture as any other work of antiquity. They then apply arbitrary rules such as, “the shortest readings are the best readings,” or “the oldest manuscript is the best manuscript.” In contrast to this, however, we find that the Word of God is self-authenticating, and that God has made promises concerning the veracity of his Word and its tenacity. In other words, the canon of Scripture is not like any other book in the world. This realization alarmed me, but it also led me to understand that the Critical Text and all subsequent translations from it are fruit from a poisonous tree, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). By not separating faith from textual criticism, the issue was made simpler for me. This led me to ask, “What does the Word of God say about this issue?” This question was then followed up with another, “Has this battle been fought before within the church?”

    What Does God Say About This issue?

    He has much to say! How often it is in Scripture that we find the prophets of old affirming that it was indeed the Spirit of God who spoke to them and guided their messages to the people. David’s last official word to his kingdom began with, “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). We see the very same thing in the major writing prophets of Israel when Isaiah writes as he testifies of God’s message concerning the coming Redeemer, “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16). Of course, there are many other scriptures that make this point.

    As the Word of God continued to be revealed, we find that apostolic doctrine further affirmed as true what the prophets of old had written. Peter expressed this very clearly when he wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). Paul further explains that within the revealed Word of God through the writers of the Old Testament, the hope that we have in Christ Jesus is made clear, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). What Paul wrote to the Roman church concerning the hope we find in Scripture is precisely what was expressed in Psalm 102:18, “This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.”

    The plain truth is, that if the curators of the modern Critical Text that were quoted above are correct, then Paul could not have said to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). According to modern textual criticism, Christians during the first eighteen hundred years of church history were simply following the errant grammatical expressions of various scribes.

    Has This Battle Been Fought Before?

    Yes! These doctrinal battles are nothing new to the church. Certainly, there is nothing new under the sun. Many godly men of the past have also fought this good fight.

    One such man was a pious Scottish Pastor named Samuel Rutherford, who lived during the seventeenth century. While writing of the early Christian martyrs, he explained that they trusted in the faithful copies of the immediately inspired Word of God and therefore did not forfeit their lives for “mere conjectures and opinions” or something as vain as “the faith of men’s fallible skill in grammar, printing and writing” (A Free Disputation, 334).

    Another worthy opponent of the idea that the Word of God is corrupted and has a need for restoration, was John Owen. As a seventeenth century English nonconformist church leader and theologian, he too wrote in defense of Scripture:

    It can, then, with no colour of probability be asserted (which yet I find some learned men too free in granting), namely, that there hath the same fate attended the Scripture in its transcription as hath done other books. Let me say without offence, this imagination, asserted on deliberation, seems to me to border on atheism. Surely the promise of God for the preservation of his word, with his love and care of his church, of whose faith and obedience that word of his is the only rule, requires other thoughts at our hands (Collected Works, Vol. 16, 173-174).

    Both Samuel Rutherford and John Owen addressed the very issue that the church is facing today. With such company as men like these, and with the overwhelming internal evidence of Scripture itself, it became apparent to me that while those who advocate for the Received Text of Scripture are in the minority in our day and age, we must take great care not to be swayed into a paradigm that seeks the restoration of something that has been kept pure by the singular care and providence of God.

    As a Minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, I can study, counsel, and preach with confidence that I am expounding the very Word of God revealed to his people for his glory. I can also encourage the people under my pastoral care to use the scriptures for personal, family, and corporate worship with every confidence that it is the preserved Word of God to them. This is a confidence that the Critical Text advocate cannot offer. To those who believe that God has providentially preserved his Word, the question of the veracity and tenacity of Scripture has been asked and answered. God has spoken!

  • The Christian and the World

    I. C. Herendeen

    Love not the world…the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. —1 John 2:15, 17

    Be not conformed to this world.—Romans 12:2

    Come out from among them, and be ye separate.—2 Corinthians 6:17

    The Christian is plagued by three great, powerful and subtle enemies—“the world, the flesh, and the devil.” They are terrible foes which must be overcome if we are to be saved. However, at this time we will consider but one of these enemies which Scripture warns us not to be “conformed” unto, namely “the world.” It is not easy to give a clear definition, but we would, with another, describe it as both “a society and a system.” “As a society, it is composed of ‘the world of the ungodly’ (2Pe 2:5), of ‘men of the world which have their portion in this life’ (Psa 17:14). It is composed only of unregenerate humanity, the Lord having delivered all His people from ‘this present evil world’ (Gal 1:4). Though still in it, the Christian is no longer of it. As a system, it is under the dominion of Satan who is its ‘prince’ (John 12:31), who regulates its policies and its politics.” He is its “god” (2Co 4:4), directing its religions. Ephesians 2:2 tells us, the unregenerate “walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

    Considered morally, the world is synonymous with the kingdom of Satan (Mat 12:26), or the unregenerate part of humanity. It is fallen human nature acting under the influence of the devil. “The spirit of the world is hostile to godliness, dominated by carnal ambition, pride, avarice, self-pleasing and sensuous desires and interests. Its opinions are false, its aims selfish, its pleasures sinful, its influence thoroughly corrupt, its honors an empty bauble” (something showy, but worthless). The world is the sphere of rebellion againstGod; it is away from God and in opposition to Him. Unregenerate persons think only of this world’s ways and things to the neglect of “the world to come.” They are always thinking more of earth than of heaven, more of time than eternity, more of the body than of pleasing God. Both the religious and profane world are under the control of Satan in their ways, habits, customs, tastes, practices and aims, and in these things are a great and subtle enemy of our souls. Every one who is a true Christian and determined to please the Lord will be in earnest in renouncing these things, and will earnestly seek to order his life by God’s standard, the Holy Scriptures.

    The world surrounds us. We have it exhibited on every hand day in and day out. For example, the very immodest and lustful way in which women dress; wearing that which Holy Writ strictly forbids (see Deu 22:5; 1Ti 2:9) to their shame. Dear friend, if you really love the Lord, see to it that you are not guilty of such forbidden practices. Remember. God’s stern command is “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2), to its wicked ways, customs, or fashions. Believers ought to live in marked contrast from it; we ought rather to be “conformable unto His [Christ’s] death” (Phi 3:10). Instead of being conformed unto this world we ought to be more and more separated from the world (2Co 6:16-18). Its ungodly ways ought to be abhorrent to us, and especially those of the unregenerate professing religious world which “hates” our blessed Savior (John 15:25), and which “put him to an open shame” (Heb 6:6).

    The world seeks to gratify its lusts with no thought of, nor concern for, God’s will or glory; hence, we must tread the path of separation from it in obedience to Him. It is God’s purpose that His people, all His people, should detach their affections and interests completely from the things of this visible and corruptible and perishing order, and “set them upon things above” (Song 3:2). But as things are now it is hard to detect any line of demarcation between the Christian and the world. As so many deport themselves, it is most difficult if not impossible to distinguish “him that believeth” from him that “believeth not.” It was never contemplated that the Lord’s people should make themselves at home here, for their “citizenship is in heaven” (Phi 3:20). God separated Abraham from his people, and “righteous Lot” and his household from the inhabitants of the plain. He carefully separated Israel from the nations, setting them apart by peculiar laws and customs. And in this age He commands His Church to “have no fellowship” with unbelievers, or be “unequally yoked” with them.

    In the light of this, what about us? Are we taking a definite stand in this matter? If we are not, why not? Will the Lord accept any of our excuses? He has given us our marching orders when He said we are to “go forth unto Himwithout the camp, bearing [not seeking to avoid] His reproach” (Heb 13:13). Do we think we can mix in our lives the things of this wicked world, and not sin? Impossible! Sin is a serious matter. The very Son of God suffered and died to put it away, yet great numbers posing as Christians are taking an active and prominent part in the world’s merry-making and mad scramble after its pleasures, wealth and temporal benefits! In a matter so solemn can we, dare we, afford pretense and trifling! If we really believe these things then let us live and act as though we believe them, and really be what we profess to be. If we do not believe them, then let us quit the miserable pretense of being followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, members of His body. In other words, let us quit being hypocrites and take our Christian profession seriously. He who seeks God must be prepared to make a full surrender of all worldly prospects, pleasures and benefits, and give himself wholly to God. We must be willing to give Him all the affections of our hearts, for His command is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Mat 22:37). The world from which the Christian is to detach himself “lieth in the evil one” (1Jo 5:19).

    It is a sad fact but there are two kinds of “Christians”—the converted and the unconverted, “possessors and professors.” The professors are overcome by the love of the world, the cares of the world, the business of the world, the money of the world, the pleasures of the world, the desire to go along with the world, and, alas, the desire to be like the world.

    Of course, with all their worldliness, they must be religious and pretend to piety. “They make no objection to any article of belief of the Christian faith, nor do they deliberately choose evil and openly rebel against God. No, for with all their worldliness they hope to get to heaven at last. They think it only proper that they should have a religion of some sort, though they are not too particular what it is, just so long as they are religious. But they cannot and do not intend to give up their idols. Religion is very popular with them, just so long as it does not interfere with their worldly desires and ambitions… Just so long as they can have their religion and world, too.”

    When our Lord commanded through Paul to “Come out from among them,” He did not mean that the Christian must give up all his worldly callings, his trade, his profession, his business, if lawful and according to the Word of God, for then he “must needs go out of the world” (1Co 5:10). He did not forbid any should be bankers, farmers, or lawyers, for example. God expects His people not to be idle, but busy “working with his hands the thing that is good” (Eph 4:28). “If any man will not work neither shall he eat” (2Th 3:10). We are not to give up any lawful work, but “do with our might whatsoever our hands find to do” (Ecc9:10), being careful to carry our testimony with us into our business, conducting it in “the fear of the Lord” and to “the glory of God.” Neither are we to stand aloof from all intercourse with unconverted people, and refuse their society entirely. Our Lord and His disciples did not; they went to the marriage feast and sat at the Pharisee’s table.

    Christians are not to be odd, eccentric and strange in their dress, ways of behavior, conduct, or voice. Such things attract notice but are most objectionable, unnatural, and ought to be carefully avoided. To wear clothes of such a color, for instance, or made in such a fashion as that you will be a public spectacle and the object of comment is wrong and dishonoring to the Lord. You may be sure that our Lord and His apostles and their companions dressed and acted as befitted their place and rank in life. It was the Pharisees who “made broad their phylacteries, and enlarged the borders of their garments.” Why?—“To be seen of men” (Mat 23:5). True sanctity (saintliness, holiness, purity) is one thing, and sanctimoniousness (pretended piety, religious hypocrisy) is another.

    As Christians, we must beware of being swallowed up and absorbed in the affairs of this world. Whatever we be, banker, farmer, or lawyer, we will, of course, strive to do our duty and to do it well. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Col 3:23). But we must take care that we do not permit our work to come between us and Christ. If we find that our temporal affairs are interfering with our Bible reading, prayer and meditation, and encroaching on our Sundays so that we do not have time for the Lord as we ought, we will choose being less rich and prosperous in this world rather than that our souls should not prosper. This may require real self-denial, but it is the way of true separation from the world. We are to be “temperate in all things” (1Co 9:25), even in things lawful. Anything that takes up too much of our time and attention so that we do not have sufficient time for the things of the Lord is to be eschewed. We are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mat 6:33).

    We are also commanded to “redeem the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16). This means that we are to buy up our opportunities and invest them for eternity. Every moment of free time is to be used to the best advantage and not in idleness or other ways to no profit for the time to come. The divine fiat is, “Give attendance to reading” (1Ti 4:13). This commandment is to be obeyed, not ignored. We should make ourselves very familiar with the Word, and also “hide” it in our hearts (Psa 119:11). For this we should set apart a portion of each day for reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures. In addition, we should read with diligence and care for good books on the Bible written by accredited authors whom God has gifted to be teachers of His flock. If we plead lack of time then let us see that we make time, for we always have time for what we really want to do. Paul wrote Timothy requesting him: “…when thou comest, bring… the books, and especially the parchments” (2Ti 4:13).

    Of course it is no easy thing to “come out from” the world. It requires a constant struggle and exertion, incessant conflict and self-denial. To come decidedly out from the ways of the world and be unmistakably separate requires a real determination. But if our heart is right, everything else will be right in time. We should set before our minds every day as grand realities, which they are, the matter of our soul’s eternal welfare: God, Christ, heaven, hell, death, judgment to come and eternity. Let us remind ourselves that what we do not see is just as real as what we do see, and ten thousand times more important. Armed with this faith we will regard this world as a mere shadow compared with the reality of “the world to come.” We will disdain its praise or blame, its enmity or rewards. Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of Egypt” and so “he forsook Egypt;” for “he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb 11:26). Dear friends, “the time is short,” “the end of all things is at hand,” the shadows are lengthening, the sun has nearly gone down. “The night cometh when no man can work” (Joh 9:4). The judgment will soon be set and “the books opened.” Are you ready for the great Judgment Day? Let us awake and “come out from the world” while “it is called today.” In a little while the things as we now see them will have passed away—no more “eating and drinking, feasting and frolicking, making and getting gain” (see Jam 4:13). If these are the things our hearts have been set upon and we have pursued so ardently, what will we do when all have passed away forever? How could we ever think of being happy in heaven, a place of holiness and where worldliness has no place whatever!

    O friends, consider these things more seriously than you have ever done before. Awake while there is yet time and “set your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2). Persevere in your separation from the world and be a most decided Christian. You will never regret having lived too holy and too separated a life.

  • Self-Examination: A Short Directory

    Thomas Wilcox (1621-1687)

    Directory for the great, necessary, and advantageous duty of self-examination, whereby a serious Christian may every evening examine himself.

    Questions relating to religious exercises

    1. Have I had any sensible communion with God in the exercise?
    2. Have I not neglected my private nor my family duties?
    3. Have I not omitted reading the Word of God?
    4. Have I not omitted holy meditations 1) concerning the Word preached, 2) concerning God, 3) concerning Christ, 4) concerning sin, 5) concerning Scriptures—the Word of God, 6) providences—the works of God, 7) about my duties, 8) about death, 9) about the Last Judgment, 10) about hell, 11) about heaven?
    5. Have I not been careless and formal in prayer, either private in the closet or in family prayer, and performed the same out of custom, and not out of love and affection to the duty?
    6. Have I not been careless and superficial in reading the Word, but serious and zealous to pray for a blessing, for increase of life and light by that duty?
    7. Have I not for haste in worldly business cut my prayers short or lain upon my bed for idleness, when I should have been upon my knees?
    8. Have I after duty gone upon my watch tower to look out and watch for a blessing and the fruits of my duties?

    Questions relating to sins and temptations

    1. Have I guarded against and feared temptations, or have I heedlessly rushed among them?
    2. What temptations have I this day striven against and conquered?
    3. Have I this day done nothing against or contrary to my knowledge, or have I not sinned with full purpose and resolution?
    4. Do I not knowingly live in a course of sin, whether of omission or commission?
    5. Have I carefully kept myself from my iniquity, or have I again relapsed into it?
    6. Have I given any man any occasion of offense or been offended unjustly by any this day?
    7. Does not sin lie light upon my heart, so that the gospel and grace and the promises are less sweet and precious to me?
    8. When I fell into any sin, did I seriously without delay rise again by repentance and neither palliated nor extenuated my sin?

    Questions relating to the thoughts of the heart

    1. Have I kept my heart in a serious spiritual and holy frame, so to be ready at all times for the exercise of holy duties, and so have gone from one duty to another?
    2. Have I had the Lord always before my eyes, and especially have my thoughts been of Him when I awaked?
    3. Hath eternity made any impressions on my heart, and have I set death and judgment with the consequences thereof before my eyes?
    4. Have I made conscience of vain, idle, and wandering thoughts and guarded against them?
    5. Have I been serious and frequent in holy and heavenly spontaneous prayers all day and so walked with God in all my affairs?
    6. Have I endeavored, when private and solitary, to order and govern my thoughts holily?

    Questions relating to silence and the use of the tongue

    1. Have I bridled my tongue from vain, unnecessary, angry, and perverse words?
    2. Have I not spoken evil of any man behind his back? Or did the Lord call me by discovering of the wickedness of another to advance and further my neighbor’s interest?
    3. Have I with reverence used the name and Word of God and spoken thereof to the edification of others and myself at home or abroad at my rising up and lying down?
    4. Have I spoken when I should have been silent?
    5. Have I been silent when the Lord called me to speak for His glory and the edification of others?
    6. Have I always spoken the truth and not something made of lies or half lies?

    Questions relating to our behavior among others

    1. Have I behaved myself as a Christian ought to do in reference to superiors and inferiors, juniors and seniors, and my equals?
    2. Have I not neglected some duties to them to whom I have particular relation? Or have I done nothing contrary to my duty to such, but duly and truly discharged them?
    3. Have I (being a father or mother) taken care first for the souls, and then for the bodies, of my children and wrought for them?
    4. Have I (being a child) honored my father and mother? Have I loved them, been obedient [to them,] and thankful for them?
    5. Have I (being a husband) been careful for the soul and body of my wife and loved her?
    6. Have I (being a wife) loved, honored, and obeyed my husband and heartily cared for his and the family’s good?
    7. Have I (being a ruler in either church or state) been conscientious to do the duties of my place?
    8. Have I (being a subject in the state and a member in the church) carried myself as becomes a Christian towards the magistrate and the minister, highly respecting them, being subject and obedient to them?

    Questions relating to the exercise of the principal gifts and graces

    1. Have I lived by faith, depending constantly upon the promises and on Christ for help, strength, success, and acceptance with God?
    2. Have I with all diligence endeavored to express my love to God, to men, and to my enemies themselves this day?
    3. Have I denied myself this day and curbed my passions and affections in all occurrences and so behaved myself as one that denies himself?
    4. Have I been humble and in all things eschewed and striven against pride and high-mindedness?
    5. Have I walked the whole day in the fear of the Lord, whether in company or alone, in divine worship and service, or in worldly affairs, always guarding against sin?
    6. Have I eschewed or shunned sinful anger and carried myself meekly before God and men?
    7. Have I been content with my state and condition, in which the Lord by His providence hath set me?
    8. Have I been patient, not murmuring or [complaining] (when I met with difficulties and oppressions) against God and men?
    9. Have I in all things expressed and declared my uprightness and honesty and shunned and striven against all deceit and hypocrisy?
    10. Have I been heavenly-minded and delighted myself in God and striven against earthly-mindedness.

    Questions relating to our time and opportunities

    1. Have I this day redeemed time for the good of my soul, as esteeming it precious?
    2. Have I not slept too long and more than was necessary, to that my exercises in private or in the family must be shortened or some necessary or profitable work omitted?
    3. Have I not misspent my time with idle, unnecessary, and fruitless discourse, or with unnecessary and unreasonable reflections?
    4. Have I not fed many idle and vain imaginations and thoughts, which time might have been improved to the advantage of my soul?
    5. Have I redeemed time from all those long and unnecessary visits or from long and tedious meals?
    6. Have I not lost time with too much and long discourse about worldly things or by doing more about them than was necessary?
    7. Have I diligently improved my time this day for God and for my eternal salvation, striving to take heaven by violence?
    8. Have I constantly observed every opportunity to the good of my soul, either to my instruction or reproof or to excite to more diligence?

    From A Short Directory for the Great, Necessary, and Advantageous Duty of Self-examination; in the public domain.

  • Heal Rather than Deepen Divisions

    by James Durham (1622-1658)

    Introduction

    by Matthew Vogan

    We live in a time of deepening and widening divisions, and the church of Jesus Christ is not exempt. Churches are vulnerable to fractures from doctrinal and practical disagreements, misunderstandings, and sin. Christians’ deeply held concerns become the occasion for many potential and actual divisions. Especially when the world at large is experiencing major disruption, anxieties, distance, fatigue, and uncertainty easily facilitate misunderstanding and mistrust among the brethren. Beyond this, highly polarized and political differences can separate people once united on almost every other issue. Many pressing issues currently impact church life, and they often prove divisive. What can you and I do, not only to avoid deepening divisions, but also to start to heal them?

    Probably no one has written more on this subject than James Durham—certainly there has never been anything wiser and weightier. He takes the issue as seriously as possible, and is very realistic about the difficulties involved. Yet he brings biblical counsel to bear on a truly difficult area. He points out that divisions are not easily healed, even among the best (Pro 18:19). It is easy to deepen divisions by the way we contend for what we believe to be right and by putting labels on those with whom we disagree. What language do we use about those with whom we disagree? Is it dismissive disrespect that harms their reputation? Or do we still seek to have others think respectfully about them? Here are some things that deepen divisions, according to Durham:

    • Heat and contention. Division engenders heatedness, strife, and contention, and, in this way, makes people carnal (1Co 3:3).
    • Alienation. Division breeds alienation in affection and separates the fellowship even of those who have been most intimate.
    • Jealousy and suspicion. Division breeds jealousy and suspicion about one another’s actions and intentions.
    • Harsh language. Division leads to harsh expressions and reflections on each other.
    • Personal attacks. Divisions can reach the point where people do not spare to publish even personal attacks on each other.
    • Abuse of church discipline. Division has sometimes been followed with discipline as extreme as deposition and excommunication.

    Durham’s book, A Treatise Concerning Scandal, maintains that division is a great evil—indeed that no greater evil can befall a church. At one point, Durham seeks to tackle the following perplexing question: What should an orthodox church do when it is divided in itself in what we may call some circumstantial truths or in contrary practices and actions, when still agreeing in the fundamentals of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, and having mutual esteem for one another’s integrity? What are they called to do for healing that division? Durham gives his answer in the following abridged and updated extract. Healing division according to Durham is not about ignoring problems and hoping they will go away by refusing to discuss the differences. Neither is it about one side having to concede to the other. It requires mutual concessions and genuine reconciliation. The following are the considerations we need to address before we start to implement the principles or practical solutions and methods that will heal division.

    1. Recognize the dreadful plague of division.

    All, especially ministers, should have a deep impression of how terrible the plague of division is. If we thought of God as angry at a church and at ministers in a time of division, it is likely that people would be in a better condition to speak concerning healing.

    Some time should be bestowed on this, therefore, to let this consideration sink down in the soul, so that the Lord’s hand in it is recognized. The many sad consequences of division should be brought before the mind, and the heart should be seriously affected and humbled with this—just as if sword, pestilence, or fire were threatened. Indeed, it is as if the Lord were spitting in ministers’ faces, rubbing shame on them, and threatening to:

    • make them despicable,
    • blast the ordinances in their hands,
    • bring to nothing their authority among the people,
    • remove the hedges of the visible church to let in boars and wolves to spoil the vines and destroy the flock,
    • and, in a word, to remove His candlestick.

    Ministers, or other persons who are involved in the division, do not only have to look to human opponents who are angry with them. They also have to look to the Lord as their opponent, for it is the Lord’s anger that has divided them. Failing to register this makes people more foolishly confident under the judgment. Rather, seeing it is a plague, even those who suppose themselves innocent as to the immediate origin of the division ought to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God on account of this plague, just as they would with other plagues.

    2. Recognize division as a fearful snare.

    People should also view division as a snare. How many temptations accompany divisions—especially for ministers! How many afflictions, crosses, and reproaches come on the back of them. Might it not make a minister tremble to think that now, due to the division, there is a snare and trial in everything (besides all his former difficulties and troubles).

    In every sermon that he preaches, the temptation is that his own affection will steal in to make him hotter and more vehement against those who oppose him in the current controversy than he ordinarily is in things which more directly concern the glory of God. The snare is that he will make his ministry despicable before others if someone might provoke him by contradicting him. Even supposing no one would contradict him, he is in danger of laying less weight on what is edifying, because it is spoken by someone who differs from him on the controversial points.

    When he sits in any meeting of a church court, there is a temptation waiting in the least hint of the controversy, to discompose everything and make the meetings burdensome and stumbling-blocks to edification.

    Because of division, almost all conversation becomes disheartening and comfortless. The most intimate brother is either suspicious or suspected. All constructions put on people’s sincerity in anything comes to be based on their interests. There is a failing of sympathy among brethren.

    May not these considerations, and many such like, make ministers circumspect, so that they would be slow to speak what may foment division, and wary in approaching these snares. Alas, in times of division, many people act with more confidence and liberty, and with less sensitivity, in speaking, acting, and attributing motives, than at other times. Yet if people were impressed with the fear of sinning due to divisions, they would be much more disposed to speak of union.

    3. Recognize personal responsibility.

    Ministers and others should take time in secret before the Lord to take a sober view of their own spiritual condition and see if they have kept their own vineyard. They should examine things such as these:

    • How have I prized union with the Lord? Have I striven to be in Christ, and to abide in Him? Have I striven to keep myself in the love of God?
    • Is there any ground of quarrel in current trends or bygone practice, that might provoke the Lord to smite us in general?
    • Have I been an accessory in any way to bring in this evil of division, for example by negligence and unfaithfulness, imprudence, heat, passion, tenaciousness, addictedness to personalities and too much reluctance to displease them, prejudice against others, uncharitableness to others, or the like?

    This should include a view of both the sins that procure division and the evils which create a breeding ground for it and increase it. It also requires impartiality and thoroughness. For it is preposterous for someone to begin removing differences when they do not know how it stands with themselves.

    4. Recognize failures in repentance before God.

    Once they have taken stock, there should be repentance appropriate to what is found, in special humbling and secret prayer to God. This should be not only for themselves and for their own condition but for the whole church. In particular, for healing the division so that by healing the breach God would spare His people and not allow His inheritance to be a reproach. It is no little furtherance to union to have people in a spiritual and mortified condition. For we are sure that even if it does not remove the difference, it will moderate the division to a great degree and restrain the carnality that usually accompanies it. It will also dispose people to be more impartial to hear what may lead further towards unity.

    5. Do what you can to recommend unity.

    People should not stop here, but should seriously endeavor by speaking, writing, and imploring, to commend union to those who differ. Indeed, even those who differ should commend union to those who differ from them! We see the apostles do this frequently in the New Testament, not only in general to churches, but also to persons who are particularly entreated by name (Phi 4:2).

    People should encourage others with whom they agree, to be conciliatory, and should seriously entreat them. When they go to extremes, they should rebuke them for the good of the church. This is often very effective. Often also, those who are most prominent in a difference will be hotter and carry things further than others of the same opinions will allow. Those who are less involved in the controversy ought not to be silent in this case.

    6. Make unity the priority.

    Serious and single-minded thoughts of union should be proposed, and union should be purposely driven at as the great duty, so that endeavors would not principally tend to strengthen one side, or to let anyone exonerate themselves, or get advantage over others, but to make one out of them both. Therefore, when one means or opportunity fails, another should be attempted. Neither should they be weary in this, although it often proves a most wearisome business.

    7. Act with sensitivity and respect.

    All this should be attempted with sensitivity and respect to people’s persons, actions, and qualifications. For often when division occurs, people are alienated from each other in their affections, which then disposes them to put bad constructions both on their opinions and their actions. Indeed, this is often the sticking point, that people’s affections are not satisfied with one another, and that prevents them from trusting each other.

    We see in Scripture that commending love, as well as honoring and preferring others above ourselves, is ordinarily subjoined to the exhortations to union, or reproofs for division (Phi 2:1-8; Eph 4:1-3; Mat 18). This giving of respect should be manifested in ways like this.

    • Being respectful when mentioning them and their concerns, whether in word or writing, especially those who are most eminent among them.
    • Putting good constructions on their aims, intentions, and sincerity, even in such actions as are displeasing.
    • Refraining from loading their opinions and actions with plain absurdities and high aggravations, especially in public. That only tends to make them odious, and it stands in the way of a future good understanding, when one has represented another as so absurd and hateful a person.
    • Abstaining from all personal derogatory remarks, as well as slighting answers, disdainful words and greetings, and such like. Instead, there should be love, familiarity, and tenderness. If there has been any reflection or bitterness which has occasioned misunderstanding, and even if it has been unjustly understood, there should be willingness to back down to remove it. I have heard of a worthy person who had been led away in an hour of temptation. Many of his former friends disapproved of him, which only led him to defend what he had done and resent them for losing respect for him. It almost ended up in a division. But then he encountered one who, although he was most opposed to his present way, nevertheless, as lovingly and familiarly as ever, embraced him, and did not mention anything about it. It is said that his heart melted instantly in conviction over his former opposition. In this way any further drift toward a division was prevented, when he saw that he still had a place in the affections of the most eminent of those he differed from.
    • Expressions of mutual confidence in one another. Mutual confidence should be expressed, not only regarding the persons, but also the ministry, of those they differ from, endeavoring to strengthen and confirm it.
    • Supportiveness towards them and confidence that they are trustworthy and fit to hold leadership positions in the church. This is a way of not only engaging with a particular person, but all who have the different opinion or practice, and it demonstrates confidence in them notwithstanding the difference. But the contrary is disobliging and irritating to all, because it proposes that all who follow that opinion or practice are unworthy of office-bearing or trust, which is hard for anyone to stomach. And in a way, it forces them in their state of division to endeavor some other way of holding office, and to increase their reservations about those who manage matters with so much favoritism (in their esteem at least). It occasions those who disagree to believe that their opponents prefer the strengthening of a side over the edification of the church. Of course, any opposing party cannot but see it this way, since they believe their own integrity in the main work.
    • Mutual visits and fellowship, both in everyday things and specifically Christian fellowship. If this has been happening already, it should be increased even more. For if people have some confidence that others love their persons, respect them as ministers, and have a high esteem of them as Christians, they will be easily induced to trust the others in these ways also.
    • Treating pejorative terms as unacceptable. If anyone uses bitter terms or casts aspersions in debates (as even good men are too ready to give themselves liberty in debate to exceed in this), they should be careful to avoid them in such fellowship visits and meetings.

    8. Stir each other up in the things that matter.

    In their own practice, in their teaching, and in other ways, ministers should stir up others to the practice and life of religion. We constantly find the Apostle Paul, coupled with his exhortations to union, urging them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. And in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, when he exhorts ministers to stay away from foolish and jangling questions, strifes, and contentions, the remedy is stated either previously or subsequently, that they should press the believers to be zealous of good works, and careful to maintain them (Ti 3:8-9); and that they would follow after love, righteousness, faith, and peace “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2Ti 2:22-23).

    This is very effective in dealing with disunity, because when either ministers or church members are exercised and taken up with these things, there is little opportunity for other things! Then also they discern the necessity of union the more, and are the more disposed for it themselves, and others are the more easily induced to unite with them. Besides, it is never in the practice and life of religion that the godly and orthodox differ, but differences arise when they are diverted away from these. That is why much heat in particular differences so often carries with it a decay and lukewarmness in more practical things, while on the contrary, zeal in these essential things ordinarily allays and mitigates heat and fervor in the other.

    9. Appeal to God.

    There should be solemn appeals to God for directing and guiding in the way to this end. For He is the God of peace and ought to be acknowledged in removing the great evil of division. Hence the apostle subjoins prayers for peace to his exhortations to peace (Rom 15:1-7). Indeed, we are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (church peace; Psa 122:6) no less than civil peace.

    It may be that the neglect of these appeals to God is the reason why those who love the welfare of Zion and are sound, godly, and peaceable continue to be divided and cannot find any means of healing the division. Perhaps (a) this inability to find healing will demonstrate to us the necessity of the Lord’s intervening, (b) so that we would purposely appeal to the Lord for this peace, and also (c) so that we would not underestimate the seriousness of division, whether by:

    • failing to recognize it as a rod (seeing it is God with Whom they have to do);
    • being content to live with it without seeking to have it removed by Him, just as we would plead with Him for the removal of any temporal plague; or
    • fruitlessly expecting a blessing on the gospel in the absence of peace.
  • The Consuming Darkness of Depression

    Like most people who are living through this modern-day Epidemic I have had my bouts with depression. As believers, we are not immune to the effects of darkness around us, and yes even in us at times. It is during these times we tend to withdraw into those devices that we see as safe havens, those proverbial escapes that we withdraw into. Unfortunately, these safe places are usually idols that tend to lead us into sinful behavior. Recently, I have struggled with the darkness of depression and have withdrawn into old, but familiar places of asylum to hide, or as Pastor Joshua would call it, “my old foxhole,” (a military term meaning a place to shelter from the enemy). This has led me to some of the old idols and sin that I have struggled with in the past. The old man makes himself known all the more during these times of depression. I become mentally, physically, and spiritually defeated; given over to the sinfulness of my own wicked heart. Being a pastor does not make me immune to the darkness of depression or the sin that haunts me within its dark grasp.

    This said, there are many who suffer from the darkness of depression, and many have asked how one overcomes or escapes the darkness that it surrounds them in. The first step to answering that question is simply by admitting you’re struggling with it. This may seem elementary, but I assure you that it is most important. The reason is when we admit we are struggling or lost in the darkness that depression drapes us; then, we will stop denying it and understand we are not okay. This realization will help us to stop depending on our own strength and cause us to look outside of ourselves to find the help we need. This is what one theologian said concerning our inability to overcome sinfulness and darkness:

    “Let, then, thy soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these: “I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of naught, (Nothing). Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour (Support), and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God.” (John Owen, The Mortification of Sin)

    John Owen shares with us that we need to come to an understanding with ourselves that we are weak and cannot excel in the matter of depression and the corruption of our own sinfulness. By faith we must stand on this truth, that victory over the darkness of depression and sin cannot be won by our own efforts or ability. It is the lie of depression and sin that there is no help, and we are all alone. That we are to overcome this on our own.

    I have purposely linked depression with sinfulness in this article for two reasons. The first, is that depression is from the fall, and it is a very real and powerful enemy of fallen man. It usually stems from a conviction of poor self-worth. I am not lovable, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I cannot cope with it all, or I’m not capable. The list goes on and on, always destroying the person from the inside of their own mind. The power behind depression is a loss of purpose and identity. The purpose is who we are and what we were created for. As Scripture teaches us the purpose of man is to glorify God (Isa. 43:7; 1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11). The world tells us that our value and purpose comes from it; that who we are comes from how we perceive ourselves through the lens that our joy, hope, love, peace, and happiness are govern by the life in which we live in the moment. The lie is that we can find meaning in a life outside of our created purpose. We look to a fallen world to give us the thing we all so desperately desire and need: love. We want meaning and a fulfilled life. The only problem is we are looking to a broken cistern to provide the water of life. The world is as broken as we are, due to sin. Therefore, cannot give us meaning to life, or life itself.

    This leads to the second reason. Depression causes us to look to this world and eventually sin for the answer to or freedom from the darkness. Believers tend to struggle with the old man of the flesh, the most during these times of the dark night of the soul. We begin to find comfort again in those familiar hiding places I wrote about earlier. Those safe havens, however, are normally familiar indwelt sin that we have wrestled with in times past. Sin never comes as your enemy, but always as the friend who only wants to comfort or bring some sort of relief from your troubles. A familiar friend that is quick to ensnare you in its lies, only to slowly kill you. When you battle depression, it becomes a friend who will lead you down a dangerous path of selfishness. It ultimately leads you to a self-dependence and when you can no longer cope with your life in the perception of the world you look through with then it brings death.

    Now that we understand that depression is the fruit of sinfulness and fallen humanity, we ask the question, what then can I do to be free of this darkness? It begins as we said, with admitting that we cannot overcome this by ourselves and therefore we need to look outside of ourselves to begin the healing process. Where we look is tied back into a right understanding of who we are and the purpose for our life. The theologian John Owen instructs us in this truth by pointing us back to Christ when he writes,

    “On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes, and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy. He can make the dry parched ground of my soul to become a pool and my thirsty barren heart as springs of water. Yes, he can make this habitation of dragons this heart which is so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations to be a place of bounty and fruitfulness unto Himself.” (John Owen, The Mortification of Sin)

    John Owen reveals it is only in Christ that we can find the freedom from the grip of depression. His understanding of this truth is founded on scripture. If we are created for Christ then it is logical to assume that our worth, peace, joy, and love comes from Him. Scripture confirms this to be the truth.

    ” You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

    Scripture teaches us that it is Christ who is life and our fullness of joy. The reason for this is that we were created for Him. This is what I meant by returning to the purpose and our meaning of life. The question we now want to ask is how then do I look to Christ? What are the steps I need to take to focus on Him and finally be free from this darkness? Scripture teaches us how to do just that and one place is found in the book of Psalms. In chapter seventy-seven of book three we find our answer. In the first two verses we read,

    ” I cried out to God with my voice—To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing. My soul refused to be comforted.”

    The first step to focus on Christ is to cry out to God without ceasing and know that He hears you. Refuse to be comforted until He stills your heart from your fear and anxiety. Seek the Lord in the time of your darkness. Cry out to your heavenly Father. Even in your darkest night Satan Himself cannot hinder your prayers. No matter how much sin you feel you committed and how guilty you are, He will hear you and you are forgiven by the blood of the cross. We need to cry out to our heavenly Father. In praying, we come in agreement that we are unable to live without Him and that He is our only hope. By praying we show our dependence and faith in Him. By crying out to the One Who is Sovereign over all things we acknowledge Him as God. This is what the psalmist was portraying through his prayer in Psalm seventy-seven. He sought the Lord without ceasing and refused to be comforted until the Lord answered.

    The second step is to remind yourself of His works and praise His name for them. Read to the psalmist’s words found in (Vv. 10-12).

    ” And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work And talk of Your deeds.”

    We need to praise God and sing of His glory and proclaim His majesty. Yes, I know it can be hard during times of deep depression to muster praise or even speak of the Lord. Remember, depression is the flesh trying to convince you that you’re on your own and life has no meaning. It is a product of the fall and the fruit of sin. I am reminded of an old adage, “Garbage in and garbage out.” There is truth to this saying that relates to our struggle. The more we shut down and turn from God to self-pity the more we look to sin and those harbors of escape. If you cannot muster praise and worship, then surround yourself with it. Read scripture, listen to sermons, talk to brothers and sisters in Christ; listen to music that praises God for who He is and what he has done. The Psalmist reminded himself of the works of God and meditated on them. We too need to meditate on the promises of scripture and praise God for all that He has done.

    The third step is to remind yourself constantly of the gospel. This is what the author of our text did.

    ” Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” (vv.13-15).

    The key to reminding yourself of the gospel is to separate yourself from the world and its influence and remind yourself of who you are in relation to God. That the world and all its hurt, pain, misery, and darkness does not define your life or give you purpose. You are Christ’s and you do not belong to this world because you are His child. The apostle Peter says we are aliens to this world. Travelers passing through seeking out the coming Kingdom of God (1Peter 1:1-7). As believers the world should hold no sway over us because of the treasure to come. This is the importance of the gospel: it focuses us back on Christ. We have died to self and our life is now in Him. We are forgiven and there is no condemnation to the believer (Rom. 8:1). We are loved perfectly, and nothing can separate us from the love of God (John 10:27-30). We no longer belong to this world because we long for the next. Your life is in Christ, and this leads us to the final step, live for the coming of our King. The apostle Paul teaches us not to get caught up in the world or its trappings but look to the coming of our Savior.

    ” For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).

    It is when we take our eyes off of Jesus that we become overwhelmed with this world. Remember the lesson of the apostle Peter when He saw the Lord Jesus walking on the water (Matt. 14:22-33). Peter was able to walk on the water toward Jesus until the fear of the strong wind caused him to doubt and to be afraid. The moment he gave into his fear he began to drown. Yet, remember when he cried out in fear to Jesus while he was sinking? Christ Immediately saved Him. It is easy to be afraid of drowning in the darkness of this day and age, to worry and have anxiety. The fear of being alone or unloved can cripple a person but to the believer there is hope and truth. The truth is we are loved by Christ, and the hope we have is that He will never abandon us. No, we have a Savior who loves us and created us for Him and His glory. To live forever with Him and looking forward to the day when there is no more pain, sickness, or death (Rev. 21:4). Instead of looking to the world, all you have to do is look to Jesus, and you too can find the light of Christ that comes from the morning after the dark night of depression. Remember the words of the LORD spoken through the prophet Isaiah,

    ” Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isa. 55:1-3).

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. I pray you look to Jesus and rest in His love for you. May God keep and bless you and may His grace sustain you.

  • The Key to Biblical Knowledge

    Christ in All the Scriptures

    Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

    He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”—Luke 24:27

    The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had a most profitable journey. Their companion and teacher was the best of tutors. The interpreter [was] one of a thousand “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). The Lord Jesus condescended to become a preacher of the gospel, and He was not ashamed to exercise His calling before an audience of two persons; neither does He now refuse to become the teacher of even one. Let us court the company of so excellent an instructor, for until He is made unto us wisdom we shall never be wise unto salvation.

    This unrivalled tutor used as His class book the best of books. Although able to reveal fresh truth, He preferred to expound the old. He knew by His omniscience what was the most instructive way of teaching; and by turning at once to Moses and the prophets, He showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but meditation upon the Word of God. The readiest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge is to dig in this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea. When Jesus Himself sought to enrich others, He wrought in the quarry of Holy Scripture.

    The favored pair were led to consider the best of subjects, for Jesus spake of Jesus and expounded the things concerning Himself. Here the diamond cut the diamond, and what could be more admirable? The Master of the House unlocked His own doors, conducted the guests to His table, and placed His own dainties upon it. He Who hid the treasure in the field Himself guided the searchers to it. Our Lord would naturally discourse upon the sweetest of topics, and He could find none sweeter than His own person and work.

    With an eye to these, we should always search the Word. O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!

    Search the scriptures…they are they which testify of me.”—John 5:3.

    From Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896); in the public domain.

    The Key to Bible Knowledge

    J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

    And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”—Luke 24:27

    Let us mark [in this verse] how full the Old Testament is of Christ. We are told that our Lord began “at Moses and all the prophets, [and] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

    How shall we explain these words? In what way did our Lord show “things concerning himself” in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King of Whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, Whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman Who was to bruise the serpent’s head—the true seed in Whom all nations were to be blessed, the true Shiloh to Whom the people were to be gathered, the true scapegoat, the true brazen serpent, the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed, [and] the true High Priest of Whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things—or something like them, we need not doubt—were some of the things that our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.

    Let it be a settled principle in our minds in reading the Bible that Christ is the central sum of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key to Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.

    From Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 500-501; in the public domain.

  • The Cure for Despondency

    The following is from A.W. Pink

    “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?”—Psalm 42:5

    When the Psalmist gave utterance to these words, his spirit was dejected and his heart was heavy within him. In the checkered career of David there was not a little which was calculated to sadden and depress: the cruel persecutions of Saul, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains, the treachery of his trusted friend Ahitophel, the perfidy of Absalom, and the remembrance of his own sins, were enough to overwhelm the stoutest. And David was a man of like passions with us: he was not always upon the mountain-top of joy, but sometimes spent seasons in the slough of despond and the gorge of gloom.

    But David did not give way to despair, nor succomb to his sorrows. He did not lie down like a stricken beast and do nought but fill the air with his howlings. No, he acted like a rational creature, and like a man, looked his troubles squarely in the face. But he did more; he made diligent inquiry, he challenged himself, he sought to discover the cause of his despondency: he asked, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” He desired to know the reason for such depression. This is often the first step toward recovery from dejection of spirit. Repining and murmuring get us nowhere. Fretting and wringing our hands bring no relief either temporally or spiritually. There needs to be self-interrogation, self-examination, self-condemnation.

    “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” We need to seriously take ourselves to task. We need to fearlessly face a few plain questions. What is the good of giving way to despair? What possible gain can it bring me? To sit and sulk is not “redeeming the time” (Eph 5:16). To mope and mourn will not mend matters. Then let each despondent one call his soul to account, and inquire what adequate cause could be assigned for peevishness and fretting. “We may have great cause to mourn for sin, and to pray against prevailing impiety: but our great dejection, even under the severest outward afflictions or inward trials, springs from unbelief and a rebellious will: we should therefore strive and pray against it” (Thomas Scott).

    “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” Cannot you discover the real answer without asking counsel from others? Is it not true that, deep down in your heart, you already know, or at least suspect, the root of your present trouble? Are you “cast down” because of distressing circumstances which your own folly has brought you into? Then acknowledge with the Psalmist, “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (119:75). Is it because of some sin, some course of self-will, some sowing to the flesh, that you are now of the flesh reaping corruption? Then confess the same to God and plead the promise found in Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Or are you grieved because Providence has not smiled upon you so sweetly as it has on some of your neighbors? Then heed that injuction, “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 37:1).

    Perhaps the cases suggested above do not exactly fit that of some of our readers. Not a few may say, “My soul is cast down and my heart is heavy because my finances are at so low an ebb, and the outlook is so dark.” That is indeed a painful trial, and one which mere nature often sinks under. But, dear friend, there is a cure for despondency even when so occasioned. He who declares “the cattle upon a thousand hills are Mine,” still lives and reigns! Cannot He who fed two million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years minister to you and your family? Cannot He who sustained Elijah in the time of famine keep you from starving? “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you. O ye of little faith!” (Matt 6:30).

    Returning to our opening text, let us observe how that David not only succumbed not to his sorrows, interrogated his soul, and rebuked his unbelief, but he also preached to himself: “Hope thou in God!” Ah, that is what the despondent needs to do: nothing else will bring real relief to the heart. The immediate outlook may be dark, but the Divine promises are bright. The creature may fail you, but the Creator will not, if you truly put your trust in Him. The world may be at its wits’ end, but the Christian needs not be so. There is One who is “a very present help in trouble” (Psa 46:1), and He never deserts those who really make Him their refuge. The writer has proved this, many, many a time, and so may the reader. The fact is that present conditions afford a grand opportunity for learning the sufficiency of Divine grace. Faith cannot be exercised when everything needed is at hand to sight.

    “Hope thou in God.” In His mercy: You have sinned, sinned grievously in the past, and now you are receiving your just deserts. True, but if you will penitently confess your sins, there is abundant mercy with the Lord to blot them all out (Isa 55:7). In his power: Every door may be shut against you, every channel of help be closed fast; but nothing is too hard for the Almighty! In His faithfulness : Men may have deceived you, broken their promises, and now desert you in the hour of need; but He who cannot lie is to be depended upon—O doubt not His promises. In His love: “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

    “For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Such is ever the blessed assurance of those who truly hope in God. They know that, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psa 34:19). God has told them that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psa 30:5). So Christian reader, when the fiery trial has done its work, and your bonds are burned off (Dan 3:25), you will thank Him for the trials which are now so unpleasant. Then hopefully anticipate the future. Count upon God, and He will not fail you.

    Let each Christian reader who is not now passing through deep waters join with the writer in fervent prayer to God, that He will graciously sanctify the “present distress” unto the spiritual good of His own people, and mercifully supply their temporal needs.

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