Monthly Archives: November 2010

Biblical Friendship


Fantastic Sermon from Sonship Ministries:

http://sonshipministries.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/biblical-freindship.mp3

A wonderful article on Biblical Friendship from Joseph E.  O ‘Day.

A look at what makes a real friend

Having friends and being friends are two very different things.

At the end of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence the Angel leaves George Bailey a copy of Mark Twain’s adventure story, Tom Sawyer. Surrounded by scores of friends singing in celebration of Christmas, George smilingly opens the front cover, and we see what Clarence has wisely written: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

Friendship experiences are universal. Many of us have known the satisfaction, security and benefits of good friendships. We have also known people who we thought were friends, only to have them betray us, hurt us or disappoint us. And if we were brutally honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that at sometime in our lives, we too have betrayed, hurt or disappointed our friends.

We all have our own ideas about friendship. Children usually think of friends as those with whom they play or have fun. Teens often define their friends as the kids they cruise around with on a Friday night or whoever is available to do things with. Others consider their friends to be the people they know. But maybe a real friend is something more: perhaps it’s one who is willing to do things for you even if it’s inconvenient, someone who will stick up for you, someone who really cares.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about friendship, especially in Proverbs. But its perspective is different from what we might think. Our preoccupation is usually with having friends. The Bible’s focus is on being a friend. This subtle shift of simple participles creates an antithetical view of staggering proportions. The difference in perspective is paramount, and the implications are life-changing.

When I’m concerned with having friends, my focus is on myself and my own needs. But when my desire is to be a friend, I’m thinking about other people—I’m caring more about others than I do about myself. The simple and ironic truth is that those who want to have friends must first be a friend to others. Those who are true friends to others will never lack for friends. True, many people will never reciprocate with friendship in return, but many others will. The wounds will be many, but so, too, will be the rewards.

Unfortunately, our society has watered down the concept of friendship so much that many people have never had a true friend and therefore do not know what it means to be a true friend. In his book Making Friends and Making Them Count (IVP®), Em Griffin calls friendship an art. More than ever before, we each need to learn, or relearn, the art of being a true friend. This is the perspective we must bring to bear on our lives, and we can find this perspective in the Bible: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV).

A frequent element of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, and we see such a device used in this verse. The first line makes a general observation which is qualified, explained or expanded by the second line. We learn several things from this verse. First, a friend is someone who continues to love, and to show that love, whatever the circumstances. Second, a friend is born for adversity—not his or her adversity, but yours. In other words, the true test of a friend is whether or not he or she is there for you in the bad times, the tough times. Third, a friend is like a brother—short of death, you can never get rid of him.

WHAT REAL FRIENDS ARE

A true friend is someone who helps you when the need is very great, jumping willingly into the fray, possibly suffering harm, just out of love and friendship. In this respect, a true friend may prove more dependable than a real brother. Blood is supposed to be thicker than water, but many of us have experienced siblings who would rather not be bothered with our problems. Some of us have found friends to compose a much better family than the one into which we were born. Such is the teaching of Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)—“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” But wait . . . Proverbs has more to say:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.

Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father. . . .

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:6, 9–10, 17, NIV).

It’s easy to remember those movies or books where the main character is fooled both by the kindness of an enemy and the effrontery of a friend. This is the whole plot of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Lear’s two older daughters tell him how much they love and honor him, when in reality they despise him. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter refuses to boast of her love for him, so he believes her to be a disloyal and unfaithful daughter. Therefore, he divides his kingdom between the older daughters but throws out the youngest. Later, the two older daughters betray him, depose him and put out his eyes. It is then that he realizes his folly and who it is who really loves him.

Sometimes friends can fool us, too, just like King Lear’s youngest daughter. For they are the ones who care enough to hurt our feelings if it means we will be better off for it. After all, who is going to tell you that your breath smells like a dog’s except your best friend or your worst enemy?

friendship isn’t easy

Sometimes it’s tough to be a friend. But a real friend does not shy away from the abrasiveness that comes from rubbing iron against iron, as the proverb describes it. Though it may grate on our nerves, we have to take a risk and hope that our friend of today will still be our friend tomorrow.

Jesus shows us the ultimate commitment of friendship when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Have you ever risked your life for a friend? Are you enough of a friend to anyone that you would dare to risk injury or death for them? These are hard questions, but such questions are the ultimate measure of friendship. Jesus met the test; he went the distance for his friends.

Another person who went the distance for his friend was Jonathan. His friendship with David is one of the most outstanding and moving stories in all of Scripture, perhaps in all of literature. We are introduced to Jonathan’s great friendship to David in 1 Samuel 19. In that chapter the jealous king Saul issues the order to kill David. But Jonathan defies the order. Not only this, he finds David and warns him of Saul’s plot. This puts Jonathan into a position of family disloyalty, but he manages to convince Saul to countermand his order.

In chapter 20 we find out that Jonathan loves David “as he loved himself.” He risks his very life to be David’s friend, because when Saul finds out that Jonathan would be happy to let David become king, he tries to kill Jonathan with a spear, just as he frequently did with David. Jonathan’s commitment to David was such that he defied and betrayed his own father. In Hebrew culture, this was unthinkable. Jonathan was faced with a tragic choice: to remain a faithful son to his treacherous and ungodly father and thus ensure David’s death, or to remain a faithful friend to David, the “man after God’s own heart,” and thus end the reign of his own family. It was a hard decision, but he chose the latter.

Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. . . . Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever’” (1 Samuel 20:34–35, 41–42, NIV).

Later, when Jonathan was killed in battle with the Philistines, David lamented his passing: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (2 Samuel 1:26, NIV).

Few are the people blessed enough to know a committed friendship such as Jonathan’s. David calls Jonathan his brother, reminiscent of the verses from Proverbs. Jonathan was closer to David than a brother. He was closer than a wife. Such analogies speak deeply of commitment, for the fundamental bond between brother and brother, or husband and wife, is commitment. Commitment is the word that unlocks the real meaning of friendship.

tough love

David wrote a psalm which describes the person who loves both God and his neighbor. It also speaks pointedly of friendship. Psalm 15 summarizes the characteristics of the true friend.

Friends “speak the truth from their heart [and] do not slander with their tongue.”

Friends “do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors.”

Friends “stand by their oath even to their hurt.”

Friends “do not lend money at interest.”

Friendship is love expressed in acceptance and commitment. It is acceptance of another person and commitment to another person regardless of the consequences. Friendship is not a flippant relationship. It is consistent and unfailing love. It is being there when you’re needed and making no excuses. To be a true friend is to be a person someone can count on.

Joseph E. O’Day is Marketing Editor at Trinity International University and an elder in his church. Besides numerous articles, he has written Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts (IVP) and Imperial Guard, a science fiction novel available online at http://www.amazon.com.

©2001

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Do nothing Rashly


God has been dealing with me lately about slowing down.

I have spent the past few years doing way too much, much too quickly.  I have learned that I say and do so much more in a Christlike manner if I take life much more slowly, actually taking the time to see the meaning in little things, slowing down to actually notice the people God has put in my path and being very aware of my impact on them with my words, my tone and my heart motive.  Sadly, the time it takes for a thought to travel from my brain to my mouth sometimes seems like a millisecond…and I am utterly dependent on God to change that.  He has been faithful to correct me and lead me into the truth in His word, and also to words of wisdom from the Saints of Old.  This blessed me so much today! Thank you Lord Jesus, your word truly is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

“Do Nothing Rashly”

J. R. Miller, 1902

“You ought to be quiet—and to do nothing rashly!” Acts 19:36

The town clerk was wise when he urged the people of Ephesus to do nothing rashly. He told them they might do injustice to the men concerning whom the disturbance had arisen. He said there was a right way to proceed; if the men had done anything wrong, the courts were open, and it would be easy to have them tried and convicted. Rashness, he assured them, might bring upon themselves serious trouble!

This was good advice that day—and it is good for us all today. Most of us are inclined, at times at least—to act rashly. We are readily carried off by excitement or by feeling, and we do things then, which cost us no end of trouble before we are through with them.

There are many rash words spoken. People get angry, and in anger the tongue is too often like a runaway horse. The driver has lost control; and the horse rushes along the street, perhaps trampling down children, perhaps dashing the vehicle to pieces, and injuring the unfortunate driver himself. A runaway tongue may do even more serious harm—than a runaway horse. It may speak words which will hurt lives irreparably, and it may do incalculable injury to the speaker himself. Rash words hurt tender hearts. They alienate friends. They start suspicion concerning good people, and blast reputations. What cruel things are rash words! “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise!” Proverbs 10:19. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

How much better it would be if we all learned never to speak hastily! It were good to be slow of speech in a way; for then we would not talk rashly—we would take time to think before speaking. We were never sorry for not saying the hot word that flew to our lips, when we were excited. It would have been bitter, unloving and ungentle! It could have done no good. It would have wrought only pain and harm. It would have dishonored our Master, for it would have been an exhibition of un-Christlikeness.

Jesus never spoke a hasty word. He kept silent under insult, pain, reproach, and sorest injury—not sullen silence—but silence sweet with patient, peaceful love. We are never sorry for following this perfect example, and restraining the cutting words. But we are sorry always, when we have spoken hastily. If we had taken a little time to think—we would not have made the sharp retort which has done so much harm!

There are other rash words besides those spoken in hot temper. There are people who never wait to hear all of a story—before they express an opinion. Their judgments are only half-formed, for they wait for but half the information they need to form a fair opinion. They jump to a conclusion, when they have only a part of the facts before them. As a consequence, they are often wrong, and not infrequently do serious injustice to others whom they condemn on only one-sided evidence. We have no right to form an opinion in which the character or interest of another is concerned, until we have gone patiently and conscientiously over all the facts—so as to be able to judge fairly. Hastily formed judgments of others—are most likely to be unjust judgments.

There are those also who make rash decisions, and enter into rash engagements. They are carried off by their emotions, and in their excitement give promises which afterward they find themselves unable to keep. Failures in business and losses of money—result ofttimes from rash investing; men are deceived by illusory prospects, and rush into schemes which prove unprofitable. Many people make like mistakes in choosing friends. Young men are charmed by a pretty face or a pleasant manner, and fall in love only to find by and by what silly fools they were! A great many broken engagements and many unhappy marriages would have been averted—if there had been more deliberation at the beginning!

Many people have a reputation for not regarding their promises. Those who know them, put but little dependence upon their word, for it is broken as frequently as it is kept. Sometimes the trouble lies in a lack of conscience on the subject—men seem to think that it is not wrong to break a promise, to fail in an engagement, or to disregard a pledge. Sometimes, however, it is because they make promises rashly, not considering whether they can keep them or not. A truly honorable man never breaks his lightest word—but he never gives his word without having first thought through the matter carefully.

Even in religion, Jesus teaches that men should count the cost before they make their decision—not that there can be any doubt regarding their duty—but because great harm results from beginning to follow Christ, and then giving up and turning back. It is better not to vow—than to vow and not pay. It is better not to profess to follow Christ—than, having made the profession, to fail in keeping it, and to go back again into the world!

Thus in many different departments of life, mischiefs are wrought by rashness. People do not take time to think; and then they do foolish and reckless things, which bring them into trouble, and do incalculable harm to others. We should train ourselves to greater deliberateness in speech and act. We should get such mastery over ourselves, that our tongue shall never betray us by any unadvised word, and that neither appetite nor passion shall ever lead us to do anything we shall be sorry afterward for doing.

It is a safe rule to do nothing in excitement. If one speaks sharply or bitterly to us, we would better not give any rejoinder for some hours, until there has been time for the bitterness to pass away. If we receive a letter which contains something that hurts us, we would better lay it aside, not answering it at once. Then, after we have written our reply, it would be well if we laid that away at least over night, and read it again before sending it. When young people begin to imagine that they are in love—they had better place a firm hand on their feelings, and put a bridle on their tongue, waiting a reasonable time before they make any declaration or confession. Nothing will suffer by delay, and perhaps there will be one less folly committed—if time is taken to think over the matter before saying anything.

If some new project is proposed, with its glowing visions of success and wealth, and young men are tempted to embark at once in the splendid enterprise, perhaps putting all their money into it—they had better wait. They had better be sure that it is not a mere bubble which will burst tomorrow. “Nothing ventured, nothing won.” May be a wise enough maxim in some lines; but often it is very foolish motto. At least, before the venture is made, it should be known, of a reasonable certainty, that the project is not a mere visionary one, nor a fraudulent scheme to get the money from credulous investors.

We may well write town clerks’ bit of sage counsel down among our maxims for self-government, “You ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.” We shall never be sorry afterward for thinking twice—before we speak, for counting the cost—before entering upon any new course, for sleeping over stings and injuries—before saying or doing anything in answer, or for carefully considering any business scheme presented to us—before putting money into it. It will save us from much regret, loss, and sorrow, always to remember to do nothing rashly. “You ought to be quiet—and to do nothing rashly!”

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THE TENDER SOLICITUDE


(John MacDuff, “The Words of Jesus”)

“The very hairs of your head are all numbered!” Matthew 10:30

What a promise is this! All that befalls you, to the very numbering of your hairs — is known to God! Nothing can happen by accident or chance. Nothing can elude His inspection. The fall of the forest leaf — the fluttering of the insect — the waving of the angel’s wing — the annihilation of a world — all are equally noted by Him! Man speaks of great things and small things — but God knows no such distinction.

How especially comforting to think of this tender solicitude with reference to His own covenant people — that He metes out all  their joys — and all their sorrows! Every sweet — and every bitter — is ordained by Him. Even “wearisome nights” are “appointed.” Not a pang I feel, not a tear I shed — but is known to Him. What are called “dark dealings,” are the ordinations of undeviating faithfulness. Man may err — his ways are often crooked; “but as for God — His way is perfect!” He puts my tears into His bottle. Every moment His everlasting arms are underneath and around me. He keeps me “as the apple of His eye.” He “bears” me as a man bears his own son!

Do I look to the FUTURE? Is there much of uncertainty and mystery hanging over it? It may be, much foreboding of evil. Trust Him! All is marked out for me. Dangers will be averted; bewildering mazes will show themselves to be interlaced and interweaved with mercy. “He keeps the feet of His saints.” Not a hair of their head will be touched.

He leads sometimes darkly, sometimes sorrowfully; most frequently by cross and circuitous ways, which we ourselves would not have chosen; but always wisely, always tenderly. With all its mazy windings and turnings, its roughness and ruggedness — the believer’s is not only a right way — but the right way — the best which covenant love and wisdom could select.

“Nothing,” says Jeremy Taylor, “does so establish the mind amid the rollings and turbulence of present things — as both a look above them and a look beyond them; above them — to the steady and loving hand by which they are ruled; and beyond them — to the sweet and beautiful end to which, by that hand, they will be brought.” “The Great Counselor,” says Thomas Brooks, “puts clouds and darkness round about Him, bidding us follow at His beck through the cloud, promising an eternal and uninterrupted sunshine on the other side.” On that “other side” we shall see how every apparent rough blast has been hastening our boats nearer the desired haven.

Well may I commit the keeping of my soul to Jesus in well-doing — as unto a faithful Creator. He gave Himself for me. This transcendent pledge of love — is the guarantee for the bestowment of every other needed blessing. Oh, blessed thought! my sorrows are numbered — by the Man of Sorrows; my tears are counted — by Him who shed first His tears, and then His blood for me! He will impose no needless burden, and exact no unnecessary sacrifice. There was no unnecessary drop in the cup of His own sufferings; neither will there be in that of His people. “Though He slays me — yet will I trust in Him!” “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

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The doctrines of election and final perseverance: by John Newton


I have recently learned that when trying to explain the Doctrines of Grace to people of differing opinion they often take a firm stance  and say that “they heed no doctrine of man” or they want to follow “scripture only”. When trying to find the words to explain that in reading God’s word you will find these same teachings,  that they go back much further than “Some Man” named Calvin, I came across this letter written by John Newton. He sums up everything I wanted to say and more….and I have also included a wonderful Sermon by Jeff Arthur Sr. on the same subject.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1122102050400

John Newton’s Letters

The doctrines of election and final perseverance

Dear Sir,
Your letter breathes the spirit of a Christian, though you say you are not a Calvinist. I would have still confined myself, in my letters, to the great truths in which we are agreed, if you had not invited me to touch upon the points wherein we differ. If you were insistent in your present sentiments, I would not think it my duty to debate with you: in that case, we might contend as much for victory as for truth. But as you profess yourself an inquirer, and are desirous of forming your judgment agreeably to the word of God, without being influenced by the authority of names and parties, I willingly embrace the occasion you offer me.

You say, that though you are not prejudiced against the doctrines of election and perseverance of the saints, they appear to you attended with such difficulties, that you cannot yet heartily and fully assent to them. May the Lord the Spirit, whose office it is to guide his people into all truth, dictate to my pen, and accompany what I shall write with his blessing. It is not my intention to prove and illustrate these doctrines at large, or to encounter the various objections that have been raised against them. So much has been done in this way already, that I could only repeat what has been said to greater advantage by others. Nor need I refer you to the books which have been professedly written upon this argument. In a letter to a friend, I shall not aim at the exactness of a disputant, but only offer a few unpremeditated hints, in the same manner as if I had the pleasure of personally conversing with you.

Permit me to remind you, in the first place, of that important aphorism, John 3:27, (which seems to speak strongly in favor, of the doctrines in question): “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from Heaven.” If you should accede to my opinions upon my persuasion only, you would be little benefited by the exchange. The Lord alone can give us the true, vital, comfortable, and useful knowledge of his own truths. We may become wise in notions, and so far masters of a system, or scheme of doctrine, as to be able to argue, object, and fight, in favor of our own hypothesis, by dint of application, and natural abilities; but we rightly understand what we say, and whereof we affirm, no farther than we have a spiritual perception of it wrought in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not, therefore, by noisy disputation, but by humble waiting upon God in prayer, and a careful perusal of his holy word, that we are to expect a satisfactory, experimental, and efficacious knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. I am persuaded that you are seeking in this way: if so, I am confident you shall not seek in vain. The Lord teaches effectually, though for the most part gradually. The path of the just is compared to the light, which is very faint at the early dawn, but shines more and more to the perfect day.

If you sincerely seek the Lord’s direction by prayer, you will of course make use of his appointed means of information, and search the Scriptures. Give me leave to offer you the following advises, while you are reading and comparing spiritual things with spiritual. First, Not to lay too great stress upon a few detached texts, but seek for that sense which is most agreeable to the general strain of the Scripture. The infallible word of God must, doubtless, be consistent with itself: if it does not appear so to us, the obscurity and seeming inconsistency must be charged to the remaining darkness and ignorance of our minds. As many locks, whose wards differ, are opened with equal ease by one master-key; so there is a certain comprehensive view of scriptural truth, which opens hard places, solves objections, and happily reconciles, illustrates, and harmonizes many texts, which to those who have not this master-key, frequently styled the analogy of faith, appear little less than contradictory to each other. When you obtain this key, you will be sure that you have the right sense.

Again: You will do well to consult experience as you go along. For though this is not to be depended upon in the first instance, but must itself be subjected to the rule of the written word, yet it is a good subordinate help. Consider which sense is most agreeable to what passes within you and around you, and which best answers to the dealings of God with yourself, and to what you can observe of his dealings with others.

Farther: When you are led (as I think you will be, if you are not already) to view the Calvinist doctrines in a favorable light, be not afraid of embracing them, because there may be perhaps some objections which, for lack of a full possession of the key I mentioned, you are not able to clear up; but consider if there are not as strong or stronger objections against the other side. We are poor weak creatures; and the clearing up of every difficulty is not what we are immediately called to, but rather to seek that light which may strengthen and feed our souls.

Lastly: Compare the tendency of different opinions. This is an excellent rule, if we can fairly apply it. Whatever is from God, has a sure tendency to ascribe glory to him, to exclude boasting from the creature, to promote the love and practice of holiness, and increase our dependence upon his grace and faithfulness. The Calvinists have no reason to be afraid of resting the merits of their cause upon this issue; notwithstanding the unjust misrepresentations which have been often made of their principles, and the ungenerous treatment of those who would charge the miscarriages of a few individuals, as the necessary consequence of embracing those principles.

But I must check myself, or I shall finish my letter before I properly begin my subject. You have objections to the doctrine of election. You will however agree with me, that Scripture does speak of it, and that in very strong and express terms, particularly Paul. I have met with some sincere people, as I believe, who have told me, they could not bear to read his 9th chapter to the Romans, but always passed it over: so that their prejudices against election prejudiced them against a part of the Scripture likewise. But why so, unless because the dreaded doctrine is maintained too plainly to be evaded? But you will say, that some writers and preachers attempt to put an easier sense upon the Apostle’s words. Let us judge then, as I lately proposed, from experience.

Admitting, what I am sure you will admit, the total depravity of human nature, how can we account for the conversion of a soul to God, unless we likewise admit an election of grace? The work must begin somewhere. Either the sinner first seeks the Lord, or the Lord first seeks the sinner. The former is impossible, if by nature we are dead in trespasses and sins; if the god of this world has blinded our eyes, and maintains the possession of our hearts; and if our carnal minds, so far from being disposed to seek God, are enmity against him.

Let me appeal to yourself. I think you know yourself too well to say, that you either sought or loved the Lord first: perhaps you are conscious, that for a season, and so far as in you lay, you even resisted his call; and must have perished, if he had not made you willing in the day of his power, and saved you in defiance of yourself. In your own case, you acknowledge that he began with you; and it must be the case universally with all who are called, if the whole race of mankind are by nature enemies to God. Then, farther, there must be an election, unless all are called. But we are assured that the broad road, which is thronged with the greatest multitudes, leads to destruction. Were not you and I in this road? Were we any better than those who continue in it still? What has made us differ from our former selves? Grace! What has made us differ from those who are now as we once were? Grace! Then this grace, by the very terms, must be differencing, or distinguishing grace; that is, in other words, electing grace.

And to suppose that God would make this election or choice only at the time of our calling, is not only unscriptural, but contrary to the dictates of reason, and the ideas we have of the Divine perfections, particularly those of omniscience and immutability. Those who believe there is any power in man by nature, whereby he can turn to God, may contend for a conditional election upon the foresight of faith and obedience: but while others dispute, let you and I admire, for we know that the Lord foresaw us (as we were) in a state utterly incapable either of believing or obeying, unless he was pleased to work in us to will and to do according to his own good pleasure.

As to final perseverance, whatever judgment we form of it in a doctrinal view, unless we ourselves do so persevere, our profession of religion will be utterly vain; for only “those who endure to the end shall be saved.” It would seem that whoever believes this, and is duly apprised of his own weakness, the number and strength of his spiritual enemies, and the difficulties and dangers arising from his situation in this evil world, will at least be desirous to have (if possible) some security that his labor and expectation shall not be in vain. To be at an uncertainty in a point of so great importance; to have nothing to trust to for our continuance in well-doing, but our own feeble efforts, our partial diligence and shortsighted care; must surely be distressing, if we rightly consider how unable we are in ourselves to withstand the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil, which are combined against our peace.

In this view I would expect, that the opposers of this doctrine, if thoroughly sensible of their state and situation, upon a supposition, that they should be able to prove it unscriptural and false, would weep over their victory, and be sorry that a sentiment, so apparently suited to encourage and animate our hope, should not be founded in truth. It is not to be wondered at, that this doctrine, which gives to the Lord the glory due to his name, and provides so effectually for the comfort of his people, should be opposed and traduced by men of corrupt hearts. But it may well seem strange, that those who feel their need of it, and cannot be comfortable without it, should be afraid or unwilling to receive it. Yet many a child of light is walking in darkness upon this account. Either they are staggered by the sentiments of those whom they think wiser than themselves, or stumbled by the falls of professors who were once advocates for this doctrine, or perplexed because they cannot rightly understand those passages of Scripture which seem to speak a different language. But, as light and knowledge increase, these difficulties are lessened. The Lord claims the honor; and he engages for the accomplishment of a complete salvation, that no power shall pluck his people out of his hand, or separate them from his love.

Their perseverance in grace, besides being asserted by many express promises, may be proved with the fullest evidence from the unchangeableness of God, the intercession of Christ, the union which exists between him and his people, and from the principle of spiritual life he has implanted in their hearts, which in its own nature is connected with everlasting life; for grace is the seed of glory. I have not room to enlarge on these particulars, but refer you to the following texts, from which various strong and invincible arguments might be drawn for their confirmation: Luke 14:28-30, compared with Phi. 1:6; Heb. 7:25, with Rom. 8:34-39; John 14:19, with John 15:1-2; John 4:14. Upon these grounds, my friend, why may not you, who have fled for refuge to the hope set before you, and committed your soul to Jesus, rejoice in his salvation; and say, “While Christ is the foundation, root, head, and husband of his people, while the word of God is Yes and Amen, while the counsels of God are unchangeable, while we have a Mediator and High Priest before the throne, while the Holy Spirit is willing and able to bear witness to the truths of the Gospel, while God is wiser than men, and stronger than Satan—so long the believer in Jesus is and shall be safe? Heaven and earth must pass away; but the promise, the oath, the blood, on which my soul relies, affords me a security which can never fail.”

As the doctrines of election and perseverance are comfortable, so they cut off all pretense of boasting and self-dependence when they are truly received in the heart, and therefore tend to exalt the Savior. Of course they stain the pride of all human glory, and leave us nothing to glory in but the Lord. The more we are convinced of our utter depravity and inability from first to last, the more excellent will Jesus appear. The whole may give the physician a good word, but the sick alone know how to prize him. And here I cannot but remark a difference between those who have nothing to trust to but free grace, and those who ascribe a little at least to some good disposition and ability in man. We assent to whatever they enforce from the word of God on the subject of sanctification. We acknowledge its importance, its excellency, its beauty; but we could wish they would join more with us in exalting the Redeemer’s name. Their experience seems to lead them to talk of themselves, of the change that is wrought in them, and the much that depends upon their own watchfulness and striving. We likewise would be thankful if we could perceive a change wrought in us by the power of grace; we desire to be found watching likewise. But when our hopes are most alive, it is less from a view of the imperfect beginnings of grace in our hearts, than from an apprehension of him who is our all in all. His person, his love, his sufferings, his intercession, his compassion, his fullness, and his faithfulness—these are our delightful themes, which leave us little leisure, when in our best frames, to speak of ourselves. How do our hearts soften, and our eyes melt, when we feel some liberty in thinking and speaking of him! For we had no help in time past, nor can have any in time to some, but from him alone.

If any people have contributed a mite to their own salvation, it was more than we could do. If any were obedient and faithful to the first calls and impressions of his Spirit, it was not our case. If any were prepared to receive him beforehand, we know that we were in a state of alienation from him. We needed sovereign, irresistible grace to save us, or we would be lost forever! If there are any who have a power of their own, we must confess ourselves poorer than they are. We cannot watch, unless he watches with us; we cannot strive, unless he strives with us; we cannot stand one moment, unless he holds us up; and we believe we must perish after all, unless his faithfulness is engaged to keep us. But this we trust he will do, not for our righteousness, but for his own name’s sake, and because, having loved us with an everlasting love, he has been pleased in loving kindness to draw us to himself, and to be found by us when we sought him not.

Can you think, dear Sir, that a person who lives under the influence of these sentiments, will desire to continue in sin because grace abounds? No! you are too candid an observer of men and manners, to believe the calumnies which are propagated against us. It is true, there are too many false and empty professors among us; but are there none among those who hold the opposite sentiments? And I would observe, that the objection drawn from the miscarriages of reputed Calvinists is quite beside the purpose. We maintain, that no doctrines or means can change the heart, or produce a gracious conversation, without the efficacious power of Almighty grace: therefore, if it is found to be so in fact, it should not be charged against our doctrine, but rather admitted as a proof and confirmation of it. We confess, that we fall sadly short in everything, and have reason to be ashamed and amazed that we are so faintly influenced by such animating principles; yet, upon the whole, our consciences bear us witness, and we hope we may declare it both to the church and to the world without just fear of contradiction, that the doctrines of grace are doctrines according to godliness.


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Ignorance and Salvation


True and false Salvation ( Sermon link by Pastor Jeff Arthur Elizabeth Baptist Church.)

The most notorious false prophet in the world is the vain hope, which men take up for their salvation. It prophesies peace, pardon, and heaven as the portion of one who was never God’s heir. But the day is coming, and soon, when this false prophet will be confounded. Then the hypocrite will confess he never had any real hope for salvation except an idol of his own imagination; and the religious man will throw off his profession, by which he deceived himself, and appear naked in his sinfulness. It is enough to make us carefully search our own hearts and find out what our hope is built upon.

Now hope of the right kind is well grounded. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). All Christians, no matter how weak, have grounded their hearts in Scripture for the hope they profess. What entitles you to inherit God’s kingdom without a promise from Him? If someone should say that your house and land was his, would you give him your property just because he demanded it? Yet many hope to be saved who can give no better reason than this.

Just as a saint conquers fear by asking his soul why it is disquieted, a similar question can throw the bold sinner from his prancing hopes. “What reason do you find in the whole Bible for you to hope for salvation, when you live in the ignorance of God?” Certainly his soul would be as speechless as the man without the wedding garment was at Christ’s question. This is why some dare not let themselves think about salvation—they know this thought would make a disturbance in their conscience that will not be stilled quickly. Or if they do ask, it would be like Pilate, who asked Christ what was truth but had no intention of waiting for His answer.

—William Gurnall

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Everlasting Hope


But what is all human hope, as to its nature and object, but a phantom and a dream as the foam on the crest of the billow, the shadow on the mountain’s brow- unsubstantial and fleeting? Yet, how does the soul cling to it! How do men, looking only to the things that are seen and temporal, cling to human hopes, pursuing a bubble, building upon a shadow, grasping the wind! How unreal, unsatisfying, and evanescent the hope that rests in the creature, that is built on the world, that clings to wealth and honor and life! All for a while looks true and bright- hope investing the present and painting the future with its most gorgeous and attractive hues. But, adversity comes, and reverse comes, and sickness comes, and death comes, and eternity comes, and then the sky is darkened, and the flowers droop, and the music is hushed, and all human hopes one by one grow dim and expire as the day fades into evening, and the evening deepens into night. Oh the folly of building the hope of happiness below God, out of Christ, and this side of Heaven! Chase no longer the phantom, the dream, the shadow of human hope, of earth-born good; but, acquaint your self with God, seek Christ, and fix your thoughts, your affections, your whole being, upon the world of stern and solemn reality towards which time is rapidly speeding you. “This is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”

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Contentment


I was so blessed to get to hear this wonderful Sermon in person at my Church this past Sunday. No matter who you are in your walk with Jesus Christ there comes a point when we all need a little primer on contentment and being thankful with what we have and where we are right now. I truly believe if we really learn to walk this life out content with our circumstances, no matter what they are we have found a rare jewel indeed.

I also included a great article on the same subject of Contentment right below the link to the sermon. I hope it blesses and encourages someone today as much as it did me.

Contentment: Shawn Davis

Can We Learn to Be Contented?

J. R. Miller

Someone has said that if men were to be saved by contentment, instead of by faith in Christ, most people would be lost. Yet contentment is possible. There was one man at least who said, and said it very honestly, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therein to be content.” His words have special value, too, when we remember in what circumstances they were written. They were dated in a prison, when the writer was wearing a chain. It is easy enough to say such things in the summer days of prosperity—but to say them amid trials and adversities, requires a real experience of victorious living.

But just what did Paul mean when he said, “I am content”? The original word, scholars tell us, contains a fine sense which does not come out into the English translation. It means self-sufficing. Paul, as a Christian man, had in himself all that he needed to give him tranquility and peace. Therefore he was not dependent upon any external circumstances. Wherever he went, there was in himself a competence, a fountain of supply, a self-sufficing. This is the true secret of Christian contentment wherever it is found. We cannot keep sickness, pain, sorrow, and misfortune away from our lives—yet as Christians we are meant to live in any experience in unbroken peace, in sweet restfulness of soul.

How may this unbroken contentment be obtained? Paul’s description of his own life, gives us a hint as to the way he reached it. He says, “I have learned to be content.” It is no small comfort to us common people, to get this from such a man. It tells us that even with him, it was not always thus; that at first he probably chafed amid discomforts, and had to “learn” to be contented in trial. It did not come naturally to him, any more than it does to the rest of us, to have peace in the heart, in time of external strife. Nor did this beautiful way of living come to him at once as a divine gift when he became a Christian. He was not miraculously helped to acquire contentment. It was not a special power granted to him as an apostle.

He tells us plainly in his old age, that he has “learned” it. This means that he was not always able to say, “I am content in any state.” This was an attainment of his later years, and he reached it by struggle and by discipline, by learning in the school of Christ, just as all of us have to learn it if we ever do, and as any of us may learn it if we will.

Surely everyone who desires to grow into spiritual beauty, should seek to learn this lesson. Discontent is a miserable fault. It grieves God, for it springs from a lack of faith in him. It destroys one’s own heart-peace; discontented people are always unhappy. It disfigures beauty of character. It sours the temper, ruffles the calm of sweet life, and tarnishes the loveliness of the spirit. It even works out through the flesh, and spoils the beauty of the fairest face. To have a transfigured face, one must have heaven in one’s heart. Just in proportion as the lesson is learned, are the features brightened by the outshining of the indwelling peace. Besides all this, discontent casts shadows on the lives of others. One discontented person in a family, often makes a whole household wretched. If not for our own sake, then, we ought at least for the sake of our friends to learn to be contented. We have no right to cast shadows on other lives.

But how can we learn contentment? One step toward it is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships. No earthly lot is perfect. No mortal in this world, ever yet found a set of circumstances without some drawback. Sometimes it lies in our power to remove the discomfort. Much of our hardship is of our own making. Much of it would require but a little energy on our own part to cure. We surely are very foolish if we live on amid ills and frets, day after day, which we might change for comforts if we would. All removable troubles we ought, therefore, to remove. But there are trials which we cannot change into pleasures, burdens which we cannot lay off, crosses which we must continue to carry, and “thorns in the flesh” which must remain with their rankling. When we have such trials, why should we not sweetly accept them as part of God’s best way with us? Discontent never made a rough path smoother, a heavy burden lighter, a bitter cup less bitter, a dark way brighter, a sorrow less sore. It only makes matters worse. One who accepts with patience what he cannot change, has learned the secret of victorious living.

Another part of the lesson is that we moderate our desires. Paul says, “If we have food and clothing—we will be content with these.” 1 Timothy 6:8. Very much of our discontent arises from envy of those who seem to be more favored than ourselves. Many people lose most of the comfort out of their own lot, in coveting the finer things some neighbor has. Yet if they knew the whole story of the life they envy for its greater prosperity, they probably would not exchange for it their own lowlier life, with its homelier circumstances. Or if they could make the exchange, it is not likely they would find half so much real happiness in the other position, as they had enjoyed in their own. Contentment does not dwell so often in palaces—as in the homes of the humble. The tall peaks rise higher and are more conspicuous—but the winds smite them more fiercely than they do the quiet vales. And surely the lot in life which God makes for us—is always the very best that could be made for us for the time being. The cause of our discontent is not in our circumstances; if it were, a change might cure it. It is in ourselves; and, wherever we go, we shall carry it with us.

Envious desires for other people’s places which seem finer than ours, prevent our getting the best blessing and good out of our own. Trying to grasp the things which are beyond our reach, we leave unseen, unappreciated, untouched, and despised, the many sweet bits of happiness which lie close about us. Someone says: “Stretching out his hand to catch the stars, man forgets the flowers at his feet, so beautiful, so fragrant, so multitudinous, and so various.” A fine secret of contentment lies in finding and extracting all the pleasure we can get from the things we have, while we enter no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams. In whatever state we are, we may therein find enough for our need.

If we would learn the lesson of contentment, we must train ourselves to live for the higher things. One of the ancient wise men, having heard that a storm had destroyed his merchant ships, thus sweeping away all his fortune, said: “It is just as well, for now I can give up my mind more fully to study.” He had other and higher sources of enjoyment, than his merchandise, and felt the loss of his ships no more than manhood feels the loss of childhood’s toys. He was but a heathen philosopher; we are Christians. He had only his studies to occupy his thought when his property was gone; and we have all the blessed things of God’s love. No earthly misfortune can touch the wealth a Christian holds in the divine promises and hopes.

Just in the measure, therefore, in which we learn to live for spiritual and eternal realities—do we find contentment amid earth’s trials and losses. If we live to please God, to build up Christlike character in ourselves, and to lay up treasure in heaven—we shall not depend for happiness on the way things go with us here on earth, nor on the measure of temporal goods we have. The lower desires are crowded out by the higher. We can do without childhood’s toys when we have manhood’s better possessions; we need this world less as we get more of God and heaven into our hearts.

This was the secret of the contentment of the old prisoner whose immortal word is so well worth considering. He was content in any trial, because earth meant so little and Christ meant so much to him. He did not need the things he did not have; he was not made poor by the things he had lost; he was not vexed by the sufferings he had to endure, because the sources of his life were in heaven, and could not be touched by earthly experiences of pain or loss.

These are hints of the way we may learn in whatever state we are therein to be content. Surely the lesson is worth learning. One year of sweet content, amid earth’s troublous scenes, is better than a lifetime of vexed, restless discontent. The lesson can be learned, too, by anyone who truly is Christ’s disciple, for did not the Master say: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you”?

The artist painted life as a dark, storm-swept sea filled with wrecks. Then out on the wild sea-waves, he made a rock to arise, in a cleft of which, high up, amid herbage and flowers, he painted a dove sitting quietly on her nest. It is a picture of Christian peace in the midst of this world’s strifes and storms. In the cleft of the rock is the home of content.

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The Rainbow in the Clouds by John MacDuff


A few days ago my Niece and I were talking about God’s promises and the gift of the beautiful Rainbow to us to signify that there will be no judgement on the Earth in the form of Water. We were talking about how this very loving, beautiful symbol of God’s Mercy has been perverted by the Gay Pride movement. Tonight I wanted to share a glorious writing that brings honor and praise to our Heavenly Father and explains this symbol of his Love.

The Rainbow in the Clouds by John MacDuff

“When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds”  Genesis 9:14

1. SOVEREIGNTY
“The Lord Reigns.” Psalm 93:1
No rainbow of promise in the “dark and cloudy day” shines more radiantly than this. God, my God, the God who gave Jesus, orders all events, and overrules all for my good! “When I,” says He, “send clouds over the earth.” He has no wish to conceal the hand which shadows for a time earth’s brightest prospects. It is He alike who “brings the cloud”, who brings us into it, and in mercy leads us through it! His kingdom rules over all. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” He puts the burden on, and keeps it on, and at His own time will remove it!
Beware of brooding over second causes. It is the worst form of atheism! When our most fondly cherished gourds are smitten; our fairest flowers lie withered in our bosom; this is the silencer of all reflections– “The Lord prepared the worm!” When the temple of the soul is smitten with lightning, and its pillars rent: “The Lord is in His holy temple!” Accident, chance, fate, destiny, have no place in the Christian’s creed. He is no unpiloted vessel left to the mercy of the storm. “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters!” There is but one explanation of all that befalls him: “I will be dumb, I will open not my mouth, because You did it.”
Death seems to the human spectator, the most capricious and severe of all events. But not so. The keys of death and Hades are in the hands of this same reigning God! Look at the parable of the fig-tree. Its prolonged existence, or its doom as a cumberer, forms matter of conversation in heaven; the axe cannot be laid at its root until God gives the warrant! How much more will this be the case regarding every “Tree of Righteousness, the planting of the Lord?” It will be watched over by Him, “Lest anyone hurt it.” Every trembling fiber He will care for; and if made early to succumb to the inevitable stroke, “Who knows not in all these things, that the hand of the Lord has wrought this.” Be it mine to merge my own will in His; not to cavil at His ways, or to seek to have one jot or tittle of His will altered; but to lie passive in His hands; to take the bitter as well as the sweet, knowing that the bitter cup is mingled by One who loves me too well to add one ingredient that might have been spared!
Who can wonder that the sweet Psalmist of Israel should seek, as he sees it spanning the lower heavens, to fix the arrested gaze of a whole world on the softened tints of this Rainbow of Comfort, “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice.”

2. A LOVING PURPOSE
“The Lord has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” Psalm 35:27
What is “prosperity?” Is it threads of life weaved into a bright outcome? a full cup? ample riches? worldly applause? an unbroken circle? No, these are often a snare; received without gratitude; dimming the soul to its nobler destinies. Often spiritually it rather means God taking us by the hand into the lowly Valleys of Humiliation; leading us as He did his servant Job of old; out of his sheep, oxen, camels, health, wealth, children; in order that we may be brought before Him in the dust, and say, “Blessed be His holy name!”
Yes! The very reverse of what is known in the world as Prosperity (generally) forms the background on which the Rainbow of Promise is seen. God smiles on us through these rainbows and teardrops of sorrows! He loves us too well. He has too great an interest in our spiritual welfare to permit us to live on in what is misnamed “Prosperity.” When He sees duties languidly performed, or coldly neglected; the heart deadened, and love to Himself congealed by the absorbing power of the present world, He puts a thorn in our nest to drive us to the wing, and prevent our being grovelers forever!
I may not be able now to understand the mystery of these dealings. I may be asking through the tears, “Why this unkind arrest on my earthly happiness? Why so premature a lopping of my boughs of promise? Such a speedy withering of my most cherished gourd?” The answer is plain. It is your soul’s prosperity He has in view. Believe it, your true Ebenezers will yet be raised close by your Zarephaths (the place of furnace).
His afflictions are no arbitrary appointments. There is righteous necessity in all He does. As He lays His chastening hand upon you, and leads you by ways you know not, and which you never would have chosen. He whispers the gentle accents in your ear, “Beloved I wish above all things that you would prosper, and be in health.”
Rest in the quiet consciousness that all is well. Murmur at nothing which brings you nearer His own loving Presence. Be thankful for your very cares, because you can confidently cast them all upon Him. He has your temporal and eternal “prosperity” too much at heart to appoint one superfluous pang, one needless stroke. Commit therefore, all that concerns you to His keeping, and leave it there.

3. THE SAFE REFUGE
“A man shall be a shelter from the wind; and a refuge from the storm; like streams of water in the desert; and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” Isaiah 32:2
“A man!” This first word forms the key to the precious verse, It is “The man Christ Jesus!” And when and where is He thus revealed to His people as their hiding place and shelter? It is, as with Elijah of old, in the whirlwind and the storm! Amid the world’s bright sunshine, in the tranquil skies, uninterrupted prosperity, they seek Him not! But when the clouds begin to gather, and the sun is swept from the firmament; when they have learned the insecurity of all earthly refuges, then the prayer ascends, “My heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” The Earthquake, the Tempest, the Fire, and then “the still small voice!” Sorrowing believer, you have indeed a Sure Refuge; a Strong Tower which cannot be shaken! The world has its refuges too. But they cannot stand the day of trial. The wind passes over them and they are gone! But the louder the hurricane, the more will it endear to you the abiding Shelter; the deeper in the clefts of this ROCK, the safer you are.
A Man! Delight often to dwell on the humanity of Jesus; you have a brother on the throne! a “living Kinsman,” one who “knows your frame,” and who, by the exquisite sympathies of His exalted human nature, can gauge, as none other can, the depths of your sorrow.
An earthly friend comes to you in trial, he has never known bereavement, and therefore can not enter into your woe. Another comes; he has been again and again in the furnace; his heart has been touched tenderly as your own; he can feelingly sympathize with you. It is so with Jesus. As man, He has passed through every experience of suffering. He has Himself known the storm from which He offers you shelter. He is the ROCK, yet “a Man!” “Mighty to save;” yet mighty to compassionate! “Emmanuel, God with us!” He is like the rainbow in the material heavens, which, while its summit is in the clouds, each base of its arc rests on earth; or like the oak which, while it can wrestle with the tempest, yet invites the most feeble bird to fold its wing on its branches!
Mourner! Go sit under your “Beloved’s shadow with great delight.” Hide in His wounded side! The hand which pierced you is ordering your trials; He who roused the storm is the hiding place from it; and as you journey on, gloomy clouds mustering around you, let this bright rainbow of comfort ever arrest your drooping eye; “For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way… since He Himself has gone through suffering and temptation, He is able to help us when we are being tempted.”

4. THE REASON FOR CHASTISEMENT
“Whom the Lord loves He chastens.” Hebrews 12:6
What! God loves me when He is discharging His quiver upon me! emptying me from vessel to vessel! causing the sun of my earthly joys to set in clouds? Yes! O afflicted, tossed with tempest; He chastens you because He loves you! This trial comes from His own tender, loving hand; His own tender, unchanging heart!
Are you laid on a sickbed; are sorrowful months and wearisome nights appointed unto you? Let this be the pillow on which your aching head reclines. It is because He loves me!
Is it bereavement that has swept your heart and desolated your dwelling? He appointed that chamber of death, because He loves you! As it is the suffering child of the family which claims a mother’s deepest affections and most tender solicitude, so have you at this moment embarked on your side the most tender love and solicitude of a heavenly Father. He loved you into this sorrow, and will love you through it. There is nothing capricious in His dealings. LOVE is the reason of all He does. There is no drop of wrath in that cup you are called to drink. “I do believe,” says one, “He has purchased these afflictions for us, as well as everything else. Blessed be His name, it is part of His covenant to visit us with the rod.” What says our adorable Lord himself? The words were spoken, not when He was on earth, a sojourner in a sorrowing world, but when enthroned amid the glories of heaven. “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” (Revelation 3:19)
Believer! rejoice in the thought that the rod, the chastening rod, is in the hands of the living, loving Savior, who died for you! Tribulation is the King’s Highway and yet that highway is paved with love. As some flowers before shedding their fragrance require to be crushed, so does your God think it suitable to bruise you. As some birds are said to sing their sweetest notes when the thorn pierces their bosom, so does He appoint affliction to lacerate, that you may be driven to the wing, singing, in your upward soaring, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed!”
Be it ours to say, “Lord, I will love You not only despite Your rod, but because of your rod.” I will rush into the very arms that are chastening me!

5. IMMUTABILITY
“I the Lord change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6
The Unchangeableness of God. What an anchor for a storm tossed sea! “Change is our portion here!” Scenes are altering. Joys are fading. Friends! some of them are removed at a distance; others have gone to their ‘long home’. Who, amid these checkered experiences, does not sigh for something permanent, stable, enduring? The vessel has again and again slipped its earthly moorings. We long for some secure and sheltered harbor.
“I change not!” Heart and flesh may faint; yes, do faint and fail but there is an unfainting, unfailing, unvarying God. All the changes in the world around cannot affect Him. Our own fitfulness cannot alter Him. When we are depressed, downcast, fluctuating, our treacherous hearts turning aside “like a broken bow,” He is without one “shadow of turning.” “God who cannot lie,” is the superscription on His eternal throne; and inscribed on all His dealings.
“I change not!” Precious name! It forms a blessed guarantee that nothing can befall me but what is for my good. I cannot doubt His faithfulness. I dare not arraign the rectitude of His dispensations. It is covenant love which is now darkening my earthly horizon. This hour He is the same as when He “spared not His own Son!” Oh, instead of wondering at my trials, let me rather wonder that He has borne with me so long. It is of the Lord’s unchanging mercies that I am not consumed. Had He been man, changeful, vacillating, as myself, long before now would He have spurned me away, and consigned me to the doom of the cumberer. But, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” He is without any variableness.

6. DIVINE SYMPATHY
“I know their sorrows.” Exodus 3:7
Man cannot say so. There are many sensitive fibers in the soul the best and most tender human sympathy cannot touch. But the Prince of Sufferers, He who led the way in the path of sorrow, “knows our frame.” When crushing bereavement lies like ice on the heart, when the dearest earthly friend cannot enter into the peculiarities of our grief, Jesus can, Jesus does! He who once bore my sins also carried my sorrows.
That eye, now on the throne, was once dim with weeping! I can think in all my afflictions, “He was afflicted,” in all my tears, “Jesus wept.”
“I know their sorrows!” He may seem at times thus to forget and forsake us; leaving us to utter the plaintive cry, “Has God forgotten to be gracious,” when all the while He is bending over us in the most tender love. He often allows our needs to attain their extremity, that He may stretch forth His succoring hand, and reveal the plenitude of His Grace! “The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.”
And “knowing” our sorrows, is a guarantee that none will be sent but what He sees to be needful. “I will not,” says He, “make a full end of you, but I will correct you in measure.” (Jer. 30:11) All He sends is precisely meted out; wisely apportioned. There is nothing accidental or fortuitous; no unneeded thorn; no superfluous pang. He “puts our tears in a bottle.” (Psalm 61:8) Each one is counted, drop by drop, tear by tear, they are sacred things among the treasures of God! Suffering believer, the iron may have entered deeply into your soul; yet rejoice! Great is your honor; you are partaker with Christ in His sufferings. Jesus a sorrowing, sympathizing Jesus, “knows” your aching pangs and burning tears, and He will “come down to deliver you!”

7. A GRACIOUS CONDITION
“If need be.” 1 Peter 1:6
What a blessed motto and superscription over the dark lintels of sorrow! “If need be!” Every sharp arrow from the quiver of God is feathered with it! Write it, child of affliction, over every trial your God sees fit to send! If He calls you down from the sunny mountain heights to the dark glades, hear Him saying, “There is a need be.” If He has dashed the cup of prosperity from your lips, curtailed your creature comforts, diminished your “basket and your store,” hear Him saying, “There is a need be.” If He has ploughed and furrowed your soul with severe bereavement; extinguished light after light in your dwelling; hear Him therefore stilling the tumult of your grief “there is a need be.” Yes! believe it, there is some profound reason for your trial, which at present may be indiscernible. No furnace will be hotter than He sees to be needed.
Sometimes indeed, His teachings are mysterious. We can with difficulty spell out the letters, “God is love!” We can see no “bright light,” in “our cloud.” It is all mystery; not one break is there in the sky! No! “Hear what God the Lord speaks.” “If need be.”
He does not long leave His people alone, if He sees the chariot wheels dragging heavily. He will take His own means to sever them from an absorbing love of the world; to pursue them out of self; and dislodge usurping clay idols that may have vaulted on the throne which He alone may occupy. Before your present trial He may have seen your love waxing cold, or your influence for good lessening. As the sun puts out the fire, the sun of earthly prosperity may have been extinguishing the fires of your soul. You may have been shining less brightly for Christ, effecting some guilty compromise with an insinuating and seductive world. He has appointed the very discipline and dealing needful; nothing less could have done!
Be still, and know that He is God! That “need be,” remember, is in the hands of Infinite Love, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Power. Trust Him in little things as well as great things, in trifles as well as emergencies.
Seek to have unquestioning faith. Though other paths, doubtless, would have been selected by you had the choice been in your hands, be it yours to listen to His voice at every turn in the road, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” We may not be able to understand it now, but one day we shall come to find, that AFFLICTION is one of God’s blessed angels; a ministering spirit, “sent forth to minister to those who are heirs of salvation.” Lovelier, indeed, to the eye, is the azure blue; the fleecy summer vapors, or gold and vermilion of western sunsets. But what would become of the earth if no dark clouds from time to time hung over it; distilling their treasures, reviving and refreshing its drooping vegetable tribes?
Is it otherwise with the soul? No. The cloud of sorrow is needed. Its every raindrop has an inner meaning of LOVE! If, even now, afflicted one, these clouds are gathering, and the tempest sighing, lift up your eye to the divine scroll gleaming in the darkened heavens, and remember that He who has put the Rainbow of promise there, saw also a “need be” for the cloud on which it rests!

8. PRESENCE AND REST
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Moses asked to be shown “the way.” Here is the answer: The way is not shown; but better than this, God says, “Trust Me, I will go with you!” Afflicted one! hear the voice addressing you from the cloudy pillar. It is a wilderness promise which “the God of Jeshurun” speaks to His spiritual Israel still. He who led His people of old “like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron,” will manifest towards you the same Shepherd love. The way may be very different from what we could have wished; what we would have chosen. But the choice is in better hands. He had His own wise and righteous ends in every devious turning in it.
Who can look back on the past leadings of God without gratitude and thankfulness? When His sheep have been conducted to the rougher parts of the wilderness, He, their Shepherd, has “gone before them. When their fleece was torn, and footsore and weary, He has borne them in His arms. His presence has lightened every cross and sweetened every care. Let us trust Him for an unknown and checkered future. Other companionships we cherished may have failed us, but One who is better than the best, goes before us in His gracious pillar cloud. With Him for our portion, take what He will away, we must be happy; we can rise above the loss of the earthly gift, in the consciousness of the nobler possession and heritage we enjoy in the Great Bestower. He may have seen fit to level clay idols, that He, the All Satisfying might reign paramount and supreme. He may have seen to take earthly “presences” away, to give us to breathe more earnestly the prayer “If YOUR presence go not with us, carry us not hence.” He will not allow us to rear havens on earth, and to write upon them, “This is my rest.” No- ‘tenting time’ here; resting time yonder! But “Fear not,” He seems to say “You are not left without a friend or without solace on the way Pilgrim in a pilgrim land! ‘My presence shall go with you.’ In all your dark and cloudy days; in your hours of faintness and depression; in sadness; in life and in death! And when the journey is ended, the Pillar needed no more, ‘I will give you rest’.”
The pledge of Grace will be followed with the fruition of Glory!

9. THE GIVER AND THE TAKER
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job1:21
Noble posture this; to kneel and to adore! To see no hand but ONE! Sabeans; Fire; Whirlwind; Sword; are all overlooked. The Patriarch recognizes alone “The Lord” who gave and “The Lord” who has taken. What is the cause of so much depression, needless sorrow, ungospel murmuring in our hours of trial? It was what Rutherford calls “our looking to the confused rollings of the wheels of second causes;” a refusal to rise to “the height of the great argument,” and confidently to say, “The will of the Lord be done!” a refusal to hear His voice; His own loving voice, mingling with the accents of the rudest storm; “It is I!” “Is there evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it?” Is there a bitter drop in the cup, and the Lord has not mingled it? He loves His people too well to intrust their interest to any other. We are but clay in the hand of the Potter; vessels in the hand of the Refiner of silver. He metes out our portion. He appoints the bounds of our habitation. “The Lord God prepared the gourd.” “The Lord God prepared the worm.” He is the Author alike of mercies and sorrows, of comforts and crosses. He breathes into our nostrils the breath of life; and it is at His summons the spirit returns “to the God who gave it!”
Oh, that we would seek to regard our own lives and the lives of those dear to us as a loan. God, as the Great Proprietor, Who, when He sees fit, can revoke the grant or curtail the lease He gave! All mercies by Him bestowed; by Him continued; by Him withheld.
And how often does He take away, that He may Himself enter the vacuum of the heart and fill it with His own ineffable presence and love! No loss can compensate for the lack of Him, but He can compensate for all losses. Let us trust His love and faithfulness as a taking as well as a giving God. Often are Sense and Sight tempted to say, “Not so, Lord!” But Faith, resting on the promise, can exult in this Rainbow spanning the darkest cloud, “Even so, Father, for it seems good in your sight!”

10. DELIVERANCE IN TROUBLE
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.” Psalm 50:15
How varied are our days of trouble! Sickness, with its hours of restlessness and languor. Bereavement, with its rifled treasures and aching hearts. Loss of substance; the curtailment or forfeiture of worldly possessions; riches taking to themselves wings and fleeing away; or, severer than all, the wounds from friends; abused confidence; withered affections; hopes scattered like the leaves of autumn!
But “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Tried one! He leaves not your defenseless head unsheltered in the storm. “Call upon Me!” He invites you into the pavilion of His presence! Better the bitter Marah waters with His healing, than the purest fountain of the world, and no God! Better the hottest furnace flames with one there “like the Son of God,” than that the dross should be allowed to accumulate, and the soul left to cleave to the dust! He, “the purifier of silver,” is seated by these flames, tempering their fury! Yes, He gives the special promise, “I will deliver you.” It may not be the deliverance we expect; the deliverance we have prayed for; the deliverance we could have wished. But shall not the most severe trial be well worth enduring, if this be the result of His chastening love; “You will glorify Me.” “Glorify Him!” How? By a simple unreasoning faith; by meek, lowly, unmurmuring acquiescence in His dealing; these dealings endearing the Savior and His grace more than ever to our hearts.
The day of trouble led His saints in all ages to glorify Him. David never could have written his touching Psalms, nor Paul his precious epistles, had not God cast them both into the crucible. To be teachers of the Church of the future, they had to graduate in the school of affliction. If He is appointing similar discipline, let it be our endeavor to glorify Him by active obedience, as well as passive resignation; not abandoning ourselves to selfish, moody, sentimental grief; but rather going forth on our great mission; our work and warfare; with a vaster estimate of the value of time, and the grandeur of existence. “Give glory to the Lord your God before He cause darkness; and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains; and, while you look for light, He turned it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness!”

11. PITYING LOVE
“Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13
“Abba, Father!” is a Gospel word. A father bending over the sick bed of his weak or dying child; a mother pressing, in tender solitude, an infant sufferer to her bosom. These are the earthly pictures of God. “As a father pities.” “As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you!”
When tempted in our season of overwhelming sorrow to say, “Never has there been so dark a cloud, never a heart so stripped and desolate as mine,” let this thought hush every murmur, “It is your Father’s good pleasure!” The love and pity of the most tender parent is but a dim shadow compared to the pitying love of God. If your heavenly Father’s smile has for a moment been exchanged for the chastening rod; be assured there is some deep necessity for the altered discipline. If there be unutterable yearnings in the soul of the earthly parent as the lancet is applied to the body of his child; infinitely more is it so with your covenant God as He subjects you to those deep wounds of heart! Finite wisdom has no place in His ordinations. An earthly father may err; is ever erring; but “as for God His way is perfect.” This is the explanation of His every dealing: “Your heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things!”
Trust His heart when you cannot trace His ways. Do not try to penetrate the cloud which “He brings over the earth,” and to look through it. Keep your eye steadily fixed on the rainbow. The mystery is God’s, the promise is yours. Seek that the end of all His dispensations may be to make you more confiding. Without one misgiving commit your way to Him. He says regarding each child of His covenant family, what He said of Ephraim of old (and never more so than in a season of suffering) “I do earnestly remember him still.” While now bending your head like a bulrush; your heart breaking with sorrow; remember His pitying eye is upon you. Be it yours, even through blinding tears, to say, “Even so Father!”

12. THE BLESSED HOPE
“That blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Titus 2:1
What a bright rainbow for a stormed-wreathed sky! Hope is a joyous emotion! Poetry sings of it; music warbles its lofty aspirations; but alas! how often does it weave fantastic visions then vanish! “In the morning” the flowers of life are flourishing and growing up; “in the evening” a mysterious blight comes; they lie withered garlands at our feet! The longing apparitions of the whole life seem realized; one wave of calamity overtakes us, and washes all away!
But, there is one “blessed hope” beyond the possibility of blight or decay; “The hope of the glory of God,” the “Hope which makes not ashamed;” “the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior!”
If we long on earth for the return of an absent friend or brother, separated from us for a season, by intervening oceans or continent; if we count the weeks or months until we welcome him back again to the parental home, how should the Christian long for the return of the “Brother of brothers,” the Friend of friends: “I will come again,” is His own gracious promise, “To receive you unto Myself!” Oh happy day! when He shall be “glorified in His saints;” when His people will suffer no more, and sin no more. No more couches of sickness, or aching hearts; or fevered brows; no more opened graves, or bitter tears; and, better than all, no more guilty estrangements and traitorous unholy hearts! It will be the bridal day of the soul. The body slumbering in the dust will be reunited a glorified body to a redeemed spirit. The grave shall be forever spoiled; death swallowed up in eternal victory. “So shall we be forever with the Lord.”
Reader, do you “love His appearing?” Are you looking with eager expectant attitude of those who are “looking for, and hastening unto the coming of God.” “Yet a little while, and He that shall come, will come!” If you are a child of the covenant, having conscious filial nearness to the Throne of grace, you need not dread the Throne of glory! True, He is the “great God,” but He is “our Savior.” It is a “Kinsman Redeemer” who is ordained to “judge the world in righteousness.” Yes! turn your eye oftener towards this bright Rainbow spanning a glorious future; for remember, it is “to them who look for Him,” that He shall “appear the second time without sin unto salvation!”

13. A GRACIOUS REMOVAL
“The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace! They shall rest in their beds.” Isaiah 57:1-3
How this thought reconciles to earth’s saddest separations! The early (what we are apt to think the too early) graves of our “loved and lost,” have saved them from much sorrow, much suffering, much sin! Who can tell what may have been brooding in a dark horizon? The fairest vessel; the life freighted with the greatest promise; might have been made shipwreck on this world”s treacherous sea. My God knows what is best. If He plucked His lily soon, it was to save it some rough blast. If He early folded His lamb, it was to save it having its fleece soiled with earthly corruption. If the port of glory was soon entered, it was because He foresaw the threatening tempests that screened from our limited vision; “So He brought them to the haven where they would be!”
Yes! the quiet haven! The storms of life are over! That shore is undisturbed by one murmuring wave. “He shall enter into peace!” the rest which “remains!” Did the ransomed dead, at the hour of their departure, sink into blank oblivion; inherit everlasting silence, sad indeed would be the pangs of separation. But, “weep not, she is not dead, but sleeps.” Yes! weep not! She is not dead but lives! At the very moment earth’s tears are falling, the spirit is sunning in the realms of everlasting day, safely housed, safely home! The body “rests in its bed.” The grave is its couch of repose! We bid it the long “good night” in the joyful expectancy of a glorious reunion at the waking time of immortality; the “morning without clouds,” whose “sun shall no more go down.”
Child of sorrow! mourning over the withdrawal of some beloved object of earthly affection. Dry your tears. An early death has been an early crown! The tie sundered here links you to the throne of God. You have a brother, sister, a child in heaven! You are the relatives of a ransomed saint! We are proud when we hear of our friends being “advanced” in this world. What are the world’s noblest promotions in comparison with that of the believer at death, when he graduates from grace to glory? When he exchanges the pilgrim warfare for eternal rest?
Often, in your hours of sadness, contrast the certainty of present bliss, with the possibilities of a suffering, sorrowing, sinning future; the joys in possession, with the evils which might have been in life. You may now, like the Shunnamite of old, be gazing with tearful eye on some withered blossom, but when the question is put, “Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?” in the elevating confidence that they have “entered into peace,” and are “resting in their beds,” be it yours joyfully to answer, “It is well.”

14. UNVEILED MYSTERIES
“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7
Much is baffling and perplexing to us in God’s present dealings. “What!” we are often ready to exclaim, “could not the cup have been less bitter; the trial less severe; the road less dreary?” “Hush your misgivings,” says a gracious God; “arraign not the rectitude of My dispensations. You shall yet see all revealed and made bright in the mirror of eternity!”
“What I am doing” -it is all my doing, my appointment. You have partial view of these dealings; they are seen by the eye of sense through a dim and distorted medium. You can see nothing but plans crossed, and gourds laid low, and “beautiful rods” broken. But I see the end from the beginning. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
“Later you will understand!” Wait for the “later” revelation! An earthly father puzzles not the ear of infancy with hard sayings and involved problems. He waits for the manhood of being and then unfolds all. So it is with God! We are now in our infancy; children lisping in earthly infancy a knowledge of His ways. We shall learn the “deep things of God.” in the manhood of eternity! Christ now often shows himself only “behind the lattice,” a glimpse and He is gone! But the day is coming when we shall “see Him as He is!” when every dark hieroglyphic in the Roll of Providence will be interpreted and expounded! It is unfair to criticize the half finished picture; to censure or condemn the half developed plan. God’s plans are here in embryo. “We see,” says Rutherford, “the broken links in the chain of His providence. Let the Molder work his own clay in whatever frame He pleases.” But a flood of light will break upon us from the sapphire throne; “In your light, O God! we shall see light.” The “need be,” muffled as a secret now, will be confided to us then, and become luminous with love.
Perhaps we may not have to wait until eternity for the realization of this promise. We may experience its fulfillment here. We not infrequently find, even in this present world, mysterious dispensations issuing in unlooked for blessings. Jacob would never have seen Joseph had he not parted with Benjamin. Often would the believer never would have seen the true Joseph had he not been called on to part with his best beloved! His language at the time is that of the patriarch “I am indeed bereaved!” “All these things are against me!” But the things he imagined to be so adverse, have proved the means of leading him to see the heavenly king “in His beauty” before he dies. Much is sent to “humble us and to prove us.” It may not do us good now, but it is promised to do so “at our latter end.”
I shall not dictate to my God what His way should be. The patient does not dictate to the physician. He does not reject and refuse the prescription because it is nauseous; he knows it is for his good, and takes it on trust. It is for faith to repose in whatever God appoints. Let me not wrong His love or dishonor His faithfulness by supposing that there is one needless or redundant drop in the cup which His loving wisdom has mingled. “Now we know in part, but THEN shall we know even as also we are known!”

15. THE CHOOSING PLACE
“I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10
The Furnace of Affliction! It is God’s meeting place with His people. “I have chosen you,” says He, “in the furnace of affliction. I will keep you there, until the purifying process is complete; and if need be, in a ‘chariot of fire’ I will carry you to heaven!” Some fires are for destruction, but this is for purification. He, the Refiner, is sitting by the furnace regulating the flames, tempering the heat; not the least filing of the gold but what is precious to Him! The bush is burning with fire, but He is in the middle of it; a living God in a bush; a living Savior in the furnace! And has this not been the method of His dealing with His faithful people in every age. First, trial; then blessing. First, difficulties; then, deliverances. Egyptian plagues– darkness, brick kilns, the Red Sea, forty years of desert privations; then Canaan! First, the burning fiery furnace; then the vision of “one like the Son of God!” Or, as with Elijah on Carmel, the answer is first by fire, and then by rain. First, the fiery trial, then the gentle descent of the Spirit’s influences, coming down like “rain upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth.”
Believer! be it yours to ask, “are my trials sanctified?” Are they making me holier, purer, better, more meek, more gentle, more heavenly minded, more Savior like? Seek to “glorify God in the fires.” Patience is a grace which the angels cannot manifest. It is a flower of earth; it blooms not in Paradise; it requires tribulation for its exercise; it is nurtured only amid wind, and hail, and storm. By patient, unmurmuring submission, remember, you, a poor sinner, can thus magnify God in a way the loftiest angelic natures cannot do! He is taking you to the inner chambers of His covenant faithfulness. His design is to purge away your dross, to bring you forth from the furnace reflecting His own image, and fitted for glory! Those intended for great usefulness are much in the refining pot. “His children,” says Romaine, “have found suffering times happy times. They never have such nearness to their Father, such holy freedom with Him, and such heavenly refreshment with Him, as under the cross!” Beloved! “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you . . . but rejoice!”

16. MOURNING ENDED
“The days of your mourning shall be ended.” Isaiah 9:20
The believer has “mourning days.” The place of his sojourn is a valley of tears. Adam went weeping from his paradise, we go weeping on the way to ours. But, pilgrim of grief! your tears are numbered. A few more aching sighs; a few more gloomy clouds; and the eternal sun shall burst on you, whose radiance shall never more be obscured! Life may be to you one long “Valley of Baca” a protracted scene of “weeping!” but soon shall you hear the sweet chimes wafted from the towers of the new Jerusalem, “Enter in to the joy of your Lord!” “The Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces!”
“The days of your mourning!” It is a consoling thought that all these days are appointed; meted out; numbered. “Unto you it is given,” says the apostle, “to suffer!” Yes! and if you are a child of the covenant, your mourning days are days of special privilege, intended to be fraught with blessing. To the unbeliever, they are pledges of everlasting woe; to the believer, they are preludes and precursors of eternal glory! Affliction to the one is the cloud without the Rainbow, to the other, it is the cloud radiant and lustrous with gospel promise and gospel hope!
Reader! are you now one of the many members of the family of sorrow? Be comforted! Soon the long night-watch will be over; pain, sickness, weakness, weariness. Soon the windows of the soul will be no more darkened. Soon you shall have nothing to be delivered from, your present losses and crosses will turn into eternal gains, the dews of the night weeping, (nature’s tear-drops) will come to sparkle like beautiful gems in the morning of immortality! Soon the Master’s footsteps will be heard, saying, “The days of your mourning are ended,” and you shall take off your sackcloth, and be girded with gladness.
Up to that moment, your life may have been one long DAY of mourning! but once past the golden portals, and the eye can be dim no more; the very fountain of weeping will be dried! The period of your mourning is counted by DAYS of your eternal rejoicing by eras and cycles! “Why are you then cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? hope in God!” I will gaze through my tears on this celestial rainbow, and sing this “song in the night,” which the God, Who is to wipe my tears away, has put into my lips: “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away!”

17. THE ABIDING FRIEND
“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
No human friend can say so. The closest and dearest of earthly links may be broken, yes! have been broken. Distance may part, time estrange, and the grave separate. Loving earthly looks may only greet you now in mute smiles from the portrait on the wall. But here is an unfainting, unvarying, unfailing Friend. Sorrowing one! amid the wreck of earthly joys which you may be even bewailing, here is a message sent from your God, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you!” Your gourd has withered, but He who gave it you remains! Surrender yourself to His disposal. He wishes to show you His present sufficiency for your happiness. As often your heart in silence and sadness weaves its plaintive lament, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not!” think of Him who has promised to set “the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6) and to “give unto them a name and a place better than of sons or of daughters!” Alone! you are not alone! Turn in self-oblivion to Jesus. It is not, it cannot be “night,” if He, “the Sun of your soul,” be ever near! In the morning, He comes with the earliest beam that visits your chamber. When the curtains of night close around you, He, to whom “the darkness and the light are both alike,” is at your side! In the stillness of night, when in your wakeful moments, the visions of the departed flit before you like shadows on the wall, He, the sleepless Shepherd of Israel, is tending your couch, and whispering in your ear, “Fear not, for I am with you!”
Your experience may be that of Paul, “All forsook me!” But, like him, also, you will doubtless, be able to add in the extremity of your sorrow, “Nevertheless, The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me!” He can compensate by His own loving presence, for every earthly loss. Without the consciousness of His friendship and love, the smallest trial will crush you. With Him in your trial, supporting and sustaining you under it, (yes, coming in the place of those you mourn), you will have an infinite and inexhaustible portion, in the place of a finite and mutable one. Many a cloud is there without a Rainbow in Nature; but never in Grace. Every sorrow has its corresponding and counterpart Comfort. “In the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart, your comforts have refreshed my soul” (Psalm 94:19). If in the midnight of your grief your earthly sun appears to have set forever, an inner, but not less real sunshine, lights up your stricken heart. The stream of life may have been poisoned at its source, but blessed be His name if it has driven you to say, “All my springs are in YOU!” “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore will I hope in Him!”

18. UNWILLING DISCIPLINE
“He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33
In our seasons of trial, when under some inscrutable dispensation, how apt is the murmuring thought to rise in our hearts; “All these things are against me!” Might not this overwhelming blow have been spared? Might not this dark cloud which has shadowed my heart and my home with sadness, have been averted? Might not the accompaniments of my trial have been less severe, “Surely the Lord has forgotten to be gracious.” No, these afflictions are errands of mercy in disguise! “He afflicts not willingly.” There is nothing capricious or arbitrary about your God’s dealings. Unutterable tenderness is the character of all His allotments! The world may wound by unkindness; trusted friends may become treacherous; a brother may speak with unnecessary harshness and severity; but the Lord is “abundant in goodness and in truth.” He appoints no needless pang. When he appears like Joseph to “speak roughly,” there are gentle undertones of love. The stern accents are assumed, because He has precious lessons that could not otherwise have been taught!
Ah! be assured there is some deep necessity in all He does. In our calendars of sorrow, we may put this luminous mark against every trying hour, “It was needed!” Some unfruitful branch in the tree required pruning. Some wheat required to be cast overboard to lighten the ship and avert further disaster. Mourning one! He might have dealt far otherwise with you! He might have cut you down as a fruitless, worthless cumberer! He might have abandoned you to drift, disowned and unpiloted on the rocks of destruction. Joined to your idols, He might have left you “alone” to settle on your lees, and forfeit your eternal bliss! But He loved you better. It was kindness, which blighted your fairest blossoms, and hedged up your way with thorns. “Without this hedge of thorns,” says Baxter, “on the right hand and on the left, we would hardly be able to keep the way to heaven.”
We, in our blind unbelief, may speak of trials we imagine might have been spared, chastisements that are unnecessarily severe. But the day is coming when every step of the Lord’s procedure will be vindicated; when we shall own and recognize each separate experience of sorrow to have been an unspeakably precious and important period in the history of the soul. Yes! child of God. The messenger of affliction has an olive-branch in one hand, a love-token plucked from the bowers of paradise; and in the other, a chalice mingled by One too loving and gracious to insert one needless ingredient of sorrow! Remember, every drop of wrath in that cup was exhausted by a surety-Savior. In taking it into your hand, be it yours to extract support and consolation from what so mightily sustained a greater Sufferer in a more awful hour, “This cup which YOU give me to drink, shall I not drink it?”

19. DEATH VANQUISHED
“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Rev. 1:18
An enthroned Savior speaks! “I am the Living One”. Others have passed away, but I ever live, and ever love! I am now living! A personal Savior; “Christ your life!” Are you stooping over some treasured house of clay which the whirlwind has made a mass of ruins? I roused the whirlwind from its chamber. I appointed the startling dispensation. I ordered the shroud, and prepared the grave! Let not “accident,” “chance,” or “fate,” enter into the vocabulary of your sorrow. I am the Lord of death as well as of life. I have the keys of “Hell and of the grave” suspended at my belt. The tomb is never unlocked but by Me. Let others talk of the might of the King of Terrors. He has no might but by my permission.
More than this, mourning one! I was “DEAD.” I myself once entered that gloomy portico! I sanctified and consecrated it by my presence! I was a tenant of the tomb. This now glorified body was once laid by human hands in a borrowed grave! Can you dread to walk the Valley trodden by your Lord?; to encounter the “last enemy,” which He fought and conquered. Death! It has been converted by Him into a “parenthesis in endless life.”
“I am He that was DEAD”; “I Am He who lives.” What more could the Christian desire than this twofold assurance? On the Day of Atonement of old, the blood was sprinkled alike on the mercy seat; the voice of blood arose from the floor below, and the mercy seat above. So it is with the voice of our Elder Brother’s blood. It cried first from earth beneath and now from Heaven. His dying love, is now ever living, imperishable and immutable as His own being!
As the Rainbow in the material firmament can never cease to appear, so long as the present laws of nature continue, and there is a sun in the heavens; so the Rainbow of the Everlasting Covenant, and all its blessings, can only fail when Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, ceases to shine, and ceases to be! With such a Rainbow over-arching the future, one limb resting amid the cloud-lands of life, the other melting its hues into the deeper shadows of the Valley of Death, “I will fear no evil, for You, O SAVIOR GOD, are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

20. THE GREATEST GIFT
“Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us all things?” Romans 8:32
These are amazing words! God; the Infinite, God; identifying Himself (so to speak) with the experiences of human sorrow; silencing every murmur with the unanswerable argument “I spared not my own Son. I gave my greatest gift for you; will you not cheerfully surrender your best to Me? Can you refuse after this unspeakable gift of My love, to trust Me in lesser things? The greater gift may surely well be a pledge for the bestowment of all needed subordinate good!”
He promised to give “all things”; these “all things” are in His hand. They will be selected and allotted by His loving wisdom; crosses as well as comforts; sorrows and tears, as well as smiles and joys. Mourning one, this very trial which now dims your eye, is one of these “all things.” Trust His faithfulness. He would as soon wound the Son of His love as wound you!
“Won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us all things?” There is a “blessed impossibility,” after the bestowment of the Gift of Gifts, that He will inflict one unnecessary trial, or withhold one needed benefit. Think of His love when He offered His Isaac on the altar. It is the same at this hour infinite and immutable. Yes! We may well be reconciled, even to the denial of earthly blessedness, because ordered by Him who gave Jesus! Lying meekly in the arms of His mercy, be it ours to say in filial confidence, “Lord, anything with Your love; anything but Your frown!”
“All things.” The whole range of human needs and necessities is known to Him. The care He invites me to cast upon Him is “all my care”; the need “all my need!” This is His own special promise. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) He will give me nothing and deny me nothing, but what is for my good. Let me not question the appointments of infinite wisdom. Let me not wound Him by one dishonoring doubt. Let me lean upon Him in little things as well as in great things. After the pledge of His love in Jesus, nothing can come wrong that comes from His hands! If tempted at times to harbor some unkind misgivings, let the sight of the cross dispel it. Looking to the Rainbow in the cloud gleaming with the words, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me!” be it mine to say:
Lord, though You bend my spirit low,
Love only will I see;
The very hand that strikes the blow,
Was wounded once for me.

21. SLEEPING AND WAKING
“Those also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14
Or, as these words have been rendered: “Those who are laid asleep in Jesus.” We bid an earthly friend “Good night” in the pleasing expectation of meeting next morning. The saints are “laid asleep” in the grave of Jesus, in the sure and certain hope of meeting Him in the morning of immortality!
Child of God! weep not for those who have “departed to be with Christ.” It is with them “far better.” Do not think of them “gone.” That is a word taken from the vocabulary of death, and which, it is to be feared, is often employed with many in the heathen sense of annihilation. Seek not “the living among the dead.” Think rather that the last sigh was scarce over on earth, when the song was begun in Heaven! The Spirit winged its arrow-like flight among ministering seraphim. Hear that voice stealing down in the soft whisper of Heaven’s music, and saying, “if you loved me you would rejoice, because I said, I go unto my Father!”
The body, the casket of this immortal jewel– the soul, is left for a season to the dishonors of the tomb. But it is only for a brief “night-watch.” That dust is precious, because redeemed. Body as well as soul was purchased by the life-blood of Emmanuel. Angels guard these slumbering ashes; and the day is coming when God shall “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other.” Oh, if there be “joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” what shall be the joy of those blessed beings over the myriads of rising dead, hastening at their summons to their crowns and thrones!
Christian mourner! “Your brother shall rise again.” Wish him not back amid the storms of the wilderness. Be thankful rather that the wheat is no longer out in the tempest and rain; but safely garnered, eternally housed. Would you, if you could, weep that blessed one back from glory? Would you ask him to unlearn Heaven’s language and be once more involved in the dust of battle? No, rather “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Death is not an eternal sleep. “Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Jesus is now whispering in your ear the glorious secret hidden from ages and generations, and which was left to Him, as “the Abolisher of Death,” to disclose: “Your dead shall live; together with My dead body shall they arise.” He is pointing you onward to that hour of jubilee, when the summons shall be addressed to all His sleeping saints: “Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust!”
Oh happy day! when I shall see my Savior God in all the glories of His exalted Humanity; and with Him, the once “loved and lost,” now the loved and glorified, never to be lost again! “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with you.” Not one shall be wanting. In concert with those whose tongues are now silent on earth, we shall then unite in the lofty anthem, sung by the ingathered Church triumphant, “O death, where is your sting! O grave, where is your victory! Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

22. INVISIBLE HARMONIES
“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are  called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
We are apt to, “limit the Holy One of Israel”, and to say, “Some things have worked together for our good.” God says, “All things!” Joys, sorrows, crosses, prosperity, health, sickness; the gourd bestowed, and the gourd withered; the cup full, and the cup emptied; the lingering sick-bed, the early grave! Often, indeed, would sight and sense lead us to doubt the reality of the promise. We can see, in many things, scarce a dim reflection of His love. Useful lives taken; blossoms permanently plucked; spiritual props removed; benevolent schemes blown up. But the apostle does not say, “We see,” but “We know.” It is the province of faith to trust God in the dark. The uninitiated and undiscerning can not understand or explain the revolutions and dependencies of the varied wheels in a complicated machine; but they have confidence in the wisdom of the Engineer, that all is designed to “work out” some great useful end. Be it ours to write over the mysterious dealing, “This also comes from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.” Let us “be still and know that He is God.” “We have a wonderful advertisement of a Physician from the Spirit of Truth,” says one, “who heals all your diseases. He requires but one thing, to take all He has prescribed, bitter as well as sweet!” He will yet vindicate His own rectitude and faithfulness in our trials; our own souls will be made better for them; He himself will be glorified in them. “Doubt not my love,” He seems to say, “the day is coming when you shall have all mysteries explained, all secrets unraveled, and this very trial demonstrated to be one of the ‘all things’ working together for your good. Men see not the bright light in the clouds, “but it shall come to pass that at EVENING TIME it shall be light!”

23. THE UNCHANGING NAME
“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
All is changing here. Life is a kaleidoscope, made of shifting forms; new scenes, new tastes, new feelings, new associations; and alternation of cloud and sunshine, tempest and calm. Its joys are like the airy bubbles on the stream, tinted with sunlight; we touch them; they are gone! We have to tell of vacant seats in our sanctuaries; vacant seats at our home-hearths; the music of well known voices hushed. Often just when we imagine we have at last obtained a stable footing, the scaffolding gives way, the props on which for a life time we had been leaning fails, and we feel ourselves out amid the pitiless storm.
But is there nothing stable amid all this mutability? Nothing secure and abiding amid these fleeting shadows? Yes! Jesus is without any variableness. Nineteen hundred years have rolled by since He left our world. The world has changed, but He is to this hour the same. We can follow Him through all His wondrous pilgrimage of love on earth. We can behold Penitence crouching at His feet, and sent away forgiven. Sorrow tracking His footsteps with tears, and sent away with her tears dried and her wounded spirit healed. Pain and sickness pleading with pallid lip and wasted feature; and Disease, at His omnipotent mandate, taking wings to itself and fleeing away! And He who is now on the heavenly throne is “that same Jesus.” His ascension glories have not altered His changeless heart, or alienated His affections. In Him we have a Rock which the billows of adversity cannot shake. The spent fury of the chafing waves may reach us; no more; and this only endearing the security and value of the abiding Refuge!
How often does God rouse the storm to drive us from all creature confidences, to the stable One! How often does He poison and pollute the stream to lead us to seek the everlasting Fountainhead! “We may have lost much; but if we have found You, O blessed Jesus, we possess infinitely more than we have forfeited. We can glory in the persuasion that nothing can ever separate us from Your love.”
A look may alienate us from our best earthly friends; an unintentional word may estrange, the grave must sunder. But “the Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” What You have been “yesterday”; yes, from everlasting ages; You are to this day, and You shall be forever and ever! We can look to the rainbow of your promises and behold all of them in You “yes and amen!” You are addressing us from your throne in glory; that throne spoken of in Revelation as encircled with “the rainbow of emerald” (the emblem of perpetuity), and saying, “Fear not, I am He that lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forever more!” “Because I live, you shall live also!”

24. STRENGTH FOR THE DAY
“As your days so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 23:25
Believer! have you not felt it so? Have you not found plants distilling balm, growing beside sorrow’s path? supports vouchsafed, which were undreamed of until the dreaded cloud had burst, and the day of trial had come? Trouble not yourself regarding an unknown and veiled future; but cast all your cares on God. “Our sandals,” says a saint now in glory, “are a proof against the roughest path.” He whose name is “the God of all grace” is better than His word. He will be found equal to all the emergencies of His people; enough for each moment and each hour as they come. He never takes us to the bitter Marah streams, but He reveals also the hidden branch. Paul was hurled down from the third heavens to endure the smarting of the “thorn”, but he rises like a giant from his fall, exulting in the sustaining grace of an “all-sufficient God.”
The beautiful peculiarity in this promise is, that God proportions His grace to the nature and season of the trial. He does not give an ‘advance  supply of grace’, but when the needed season and exigency comes, then the appropriate strength and support are imparted. He does not send the rainbow before the cloud, but when the cloud appears, the rainbow is seen in it! He gives sustaining grace for a trying day, and dying grace for a dying day.
Reader! do not morbidly brood on the future. Live on the promise! When tomorrow comes with its trials, Jesus will come with tomorrow and with its trials too. Present grace is enough for present necessity. Trust God for the future. We honor Him, not by anticipating trial, but by confiding in His faithfulness, and crediting His assurances, that no temptation will He send greater than we are able to bear. Even if you should see fresh storm-clouds returning after the rain, be ready to say, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me!” Insufficient you are of yourself for any trial, but “your sufficiency is of God.” The promise is not “Your grace,” but “My grace is sufficient.” Oh, trust His all-sufficiency in all things. Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord will provide.” See written over every trying hour of the future, “So shall your strength be!”

25. THE GRAVE SPOILED
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be your plagues. O grave, I will be your destruction.” Hosea 13:14
Christian! the grave is lit with Emmanuel’s love. The darkest of all clouds, that which rests over the land of Hades, has the brightest rainbow in it. These gloomy portals are not to hold your loved and lost ones forever. The land of forgetfulness, where your buried treasures lie, is not a winter of unbroken darkness and desolation. A glorious spring time of revival is promised, when the mortal shall put on immortality, and the corruptible shall be clothed with incorruption.
The resurrection of the body! It is the climax of the work of Jesus; its culminating glory. Paul represents a longing Church as “waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body.” It was the pre-eminent theme of his preaching; “He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.” It was the loved article in his creed, which engrossed his holiest aspirations, “If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.” It was the grand solace he addressed to other mourners. It is not when speaking of the immediate bliss of the departed spirit at the hour of death, but it is when dwelling on the “last trump”; the dead “rising incorruptible,” and “caught up,” in their resurrection bodies, “to meet the Lord,” that he says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Blessed day; the Easter of creation! the dawn of the Sabbatic morn! the Jubilee of a triumphant Church! Christian mourner! go not to the grave to weep there. Every particle of that moldering dust is redeemed by the oblation of Calvary; and the great Abolisher of death is only awaiting the ingathering of the elect to give the commission to His archangels regarding all His saints, which He gave of old regarding one, “Loose him and let him go!” And who can paint the glory of these resurrection bodies, reunited to their companion spirits, fashioned like their Lord’s? Every sense, every faculty, purified, sublimated, overflowing with holiness; emulous with ardor in His service; eager to execute His will; retaining it may be, the personal identities of earth, the old features worn in the “nether valley.” The Lamb, in the midst of the throne, “leading” them and “feeding” them; climbing along with them, steep by steep, in the path of life, and saying at each ascending step in the endless progression, “I will show you greater things than these!” Meanwhile He has Himself risen as the pledge of this resurrection of all His people. The Great Sheaf has been waved before the throne as the Pledge of the mighty harvest. “Christ the First Fruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming.” “Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection!”

26. EVERLASTING LOVE
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn  you!” Jeremiah 31:3
Believer! are you tempted now to doubt His love? Are His footsteps lost amid the night shadows through which He is now conducting you? Remember He had His eye upon you before the birth of time; yes, from all eternity! What appears to you now some sudden capricious exercise of His power or sovereignty, is determination and decree of “everlasting love.” “I have loved you,” He seems to say, “suffering one, into this affliction; I will love you through it; and when My designs regarding you are complete, I will show you that the love which is ‘from everlasting is, to everlasting!'”
Child of God if there is a ripple now agitating the surface of the stream, trace it up to this fountain-head of love. God is faithful. He cannot deny Himself. If some dark clouds are now intercepting those gracious beams, He must have some wise end to subserve.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will bring you back. In a moment of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth and destroy its life, so now I swear that I will never again pour out my anger on you. For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you. Isaiah 54:7-10
God sets His rainbow in the dark sky; and as if it were not enough that His people should look upon it and take comfort in its many and varied promises; He himself graciously becomes a party in gazing on the covenant pledge, “And the rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I shall look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant!” (Genesis 9:16) He puts himself (so to speak) in mind of His own everlasting love! In His saint’s dark and cloudy day, when they imagine that their eyes are alone resting on the tokens of covenant faithfulness, the eye of a covenant keeping God is resting upon them too. “I will look upon my own promises,” He seems to say. “They shall be memorials to Myself of my purposes of unchanging mercy.” Nor is this love merely a general indiscriminate affection. The verse speaks of each individual member of the Covenant family, “I have loved you!” “O my Father”, says Madam Guyon, “it seems to me sometimes as if You did forget every other being in order to think only of my faithless and ungrateful heart.”
Let us seek to view our trials as so many cords of loving-kindness, by which our God is seeking to draw us, yes, and will draw us nearer Himself. Who knows what mercy may be bound up in what may seem to us dark and mysterious dispensations? We are apt to misname and misinterpret His ways. We call His dealings severe trials. He calls them “loving-kindness.” Drooping saint! let your eyes rest on the rainbow over-arching the throne of God, spanning from eternity to eternity; and read for your comfort the gracious declaration, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him.”

27. INVIOLABLE ATTACHMENT
“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
Close is the tie which binds brother to brother; the companions of infancy, sharers of one another’s joys and sorrows; cast in the same human mold; having engraved on their heart of hearts, the same hallowed associations of life’s early morning.
But the time for separation at last comes. The birds must leave the parent’s nest, and try their pinions beyond their native valley. The world’s call to work and warfare is imperious. The old homestead, like a dismembered vessel, is broken to pieces; and the inmates, like the vessel’s planks, are strewn far apart on life’s ocean. The world’s duties sever some; unhappy estrangements at times, may sever others; death, at some time, must sever all.
But there is One whose friendship and love, circumstances cannot estrange, distance cannot affect, and death cannot destroy. The kindest of earth’s relatives may say to us regarding this true Elder Brother, as Boaz said to Ruth, “It is true that I am your near kinsman, however there is a kinsman nearer than I.” He is brother, yes more than a brother; Friend, Counselor, Portion Physician, Shepherd, all combined! Happy for us, when the old avenues of comfort are closed up, to hear Him, whose faithfulness is unimpeachable, saying, “I will not fail you or forsake you!” Happy for us when the old moorings give way, to have one safe Anchorage, that cannot be removed or shaken. “I shall now go to sleep,” said a remarkable saint, who, driven about with storm and tempest, at last found the safe Shelter, “I shall now go to sleep on the Rock of Ages!”
Tried believer! He has never failed you and never will. With Him are no altered tones, no fitful affections. The reed may be shaken, but the Rock remains immutable. He is Himself the true “rainbow in the cloud.” The promises of scripture, like the varied hues in the natural rainbow, are manifold. But all these promises are “In Him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Yes, and it is in the “cloudy day” that this Divine encircling rainbow most gloriously appears. Never would we have known Christ as the “Brother, born for adversity,” unless by adversity. It is trial that unfolds and develops His infinite worth and preciousness. When the love of earthly friends is buried in the grave, the love of the Heavenly Friend shines forth more tenderly than ever. As Jonathan of old, wandering faint and weary in the woods, found honey distilling from a tree and was revived by eating it; so, faint and weary one; wandering among the tangled thickets, the deep glades of affliction, seat yourself under your “Beloved’s Shadow with great delight,” and let His “fruit be pleasant to your taste!” This “Tree of Life” distills a balm for every broken, wounded, bleeding heart; every faint and downcast spirit. Yes, Jesus will make, in this the hour of your loneliness and sorrow, His own life giving, life sustaining words and promises, “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Though now exalted on the throne, “inhabiting the praises of eternity,” He still manifests the Brother’s heart and the Brother’s tenderness. “He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

28. THE SUPPORTING PRESENCE
“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2
What a diversity of afflictions in this trial world! “Waters,” “rivers,” “floods,” “flames,” “fires!” The Christian is here forewarned that he will encounter these in some one of their innumerable phases; whether it be loss of health, loss of wealth, loss of friends, baffled schemes, or blighted hopes.
But, blessed thought; these trials have their limits. The floods will not “overflow,” the fires will not “burn,” the flames will not “consume.” God will “stay His rough wind in the day of His East wind.” He will say, “Thus far shall you go, and no farther.”
And, better still, Jesus will be in all these trials, and prove sufficient for them all. We shall hear in the midst “of the great fight of afflictions” the sound of our Master’s footsteps. He Himself has passed through these flames, braved these floods, and bowed His guiltless head to these storms. He comes to us as He did to His disciples in the very midst of the tempest, and says, “Fear not, it is I, do not be afraid.”
Believer! what is your experience? Is it not that of the triumphant Israelites? “They went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in Him” (Ps 66:6) “The Flood!” the very scene of your trial, you were able to march boldly through it, unappalled by the threatening waves; yes, with your lips vocal with praise! How this moral heroism, this strange “rejoicing?” It was because the God of the Pillar-cloud was at your side. Your rejoicing was “in Him.” He made you “more than conqueror.” You may have many adversaries ranged against you: “Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword.” But there is ONE in the midst of fires and flames and floods mightier than all; and with Him at your side, you can boldly utter the challenge to the heights above and the depths beneath, “Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?” “Oh, Sirs!” says Thomas Brooks, “there is in a crucified Jesus something proportionable to all the difficulties, needs, necessities, and trials of His poor people.”

29. FELLOW-FEELING
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
“Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Ezekiel 1:28
What an elevating truth. The Sympathy of the God-man-Mediator (the true Rainbow in the cloud), JESUS in our sorrows! What a source of exalted joy to the stripped and desolate heart! What a green pasture to lie down upon, amid the windy storm and tempest, or in the dark and cloudy day!
The sympathy of man is cheering and comforting; but “thus far shall you go, and no farther.” It is finite, limited, often selfish. There are nameless and numberless sorrows on earth, beyond the reach of all human alleviation.
The sympathy of Jesus is alone exalted, pure, infinite, removed from all taint of selfishness. He has Himself passed through every experience of woe. There are no depths of sorrow or anguish into which I can be plunged, but His everlasting arms are lower still. He has been called, “The great sympathetic nerve of His Church, over which the afflictions, and oppressions, and sufferings of His people continually pass.” Child of Sorrow! a human heart beats on the Throne! and He has your name written on that heart. He cares for you as if none other claimed His regard. As the Great High Priest, He walks in the midst of his Temple lamps (His golden candlesticks,) replenishing them, at times, with oil; trimming them, if need be; but all in order that they may burn with a steadier and purer luster.
He was “tempted in every way.” Blessed assurance! I never can know the Sorrow into which the “Man of Sorrow” can not enter. Ah rather, in the midst of earth’s most lacerating trials, let me listen to the unanswerable challenge from the lips of a suffering Savior, “Was there ever any sorrow like unto my sorrow?” Yet He refused not to drink the cup of wrath! He shrunk not back from the appointed cross! “He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem;” and even when He hung upon the bitter tree, He refused the vinegar that would have assuaged the rage of thirst and mitigated physical suffering. Are we tempted at times to murmur under God’s afflicting hand? “Think about all He endured when sinful people did such terrible things to Him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:3. Shall we hesitate to bear any trial our Lord and Master sees meet to lay upon us, when we think of the infinitely weightier Cross He so meekly and uncomplainingly carried for us?
Afflicted one! Have your eye on this radiant Rainbow in your cloud of Sorrow! You may, like the disciples on the Transfiguration mount, “fear to enter the cloud,” but hear the voice issuing from it, “This is my Beloved Son, hear Him.”
Jesus speaks through these clouds! He tells us our cares are His cares; our sorrows His sorrows. He has some wise and gracious end in every mysterious chastisement. His language is, “Hear the rod and He who has appointed it” (Micah 6:9). He has too kind and loving a heart to cause us one needless or superfluous pang.
Oh that we may indeed hear the voice out of the cloud, and seek that the trials He sends in love may be greatly sanctified. Let us not dream that affliction of itself is a pathway to Heaven. Clouds do not form the material rainbow. These glorious hues come from the sunbeams alone. Without the latter, we could discern nothing but blackened heavens and dismal rain torrents.
It is not because those clad in “white robes” had “come out of great tribulation” that they were enjoying the beatific Presence; but because they had “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation. 7:14). We have only reason to glory in affliction when it has been the means of bringing us nearer the Savior, and leading us to the opened Fountain.
Jesus! my only hope you art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart;
Oh! could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into Eternity!

30. A SPEEDY COMING
“Yet a little while, and He shall come and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:37
“A little while,” and the unquiet dream of life will be over, and the “morning without clouds” shall dawn. A few more tossings on life’s tempestuous sea, and the peaceful haven shall be entered. A few more night-watches, and the Lord of love will be seen standing on the heavenly shore, as once He did on the shores of an earthly lake, with an eternal banquet of love prepared for His “children.” Yes! “He comes!” that is the Church’s “blessed hope.” It is the voice and presence of her “Beloved” which will turn “the shadow of death into morning.” The dead; the ransomed dead; shall “hear His voice and come forth;” those “asleep in Jesus” God is to “bring with Him.” His final invitation is not, “Go, you blessed, to some bright paradise of angels prepared elsewhere for you;” but “Come share my bliss; be partakers in My crown,” “Enter into the joy of your Lord!” Paul’s heaven was described in two words: “With Christ.” John’s heaven was made up of two elements: of likeness to Jesus, and fellowship with Jesus. “We shall be like Him,” “we shall see Him as He is.” In his sublime apocalyptic visions, when “the door was opened in heaven,” the first object which attracts his arrested gaze is, “One who sat upon the throne” around whom was “a rainbow like unto an emerald.” (Revelation 4:2,3)
Our happiness will not be complete until we are ushered into the full vision and fruition of Jesus. We are nourished in this far off land from “the King’s country,” but we shall not be satisfied until we see the King Himself. Jacob received full wagon loads from Joseph, but he could not rest until he had seen Joseph with his own eyes; when he did so, the aged man’s spirit “revived.” We receive manifold pledges of covenant mercy from the true Joseph, in this “house of our pilgrimage” but we long to “behold His face in righteousness.” We shall only be “satisfied” when we “awake in His likeness!”
“Come! Lord Jesus, come quickly!” “He will not tarry!” Each sun, as it sets, is bringing us nearer the joyful consummation. Time is hastening with gigantic footstep, to the advent throne. The sackcloth attire of a now burdened creation will soon be exchanged for the full robe of light and beauty which is to deck a “Sabbath world.”
Happy day! when “the Rainbow,” in a nobler sense, “shall be seen in the cloud;” not the Rainbow of Promise, but He in whom all the promises blend and center; “Behold, He comes with clouds!” Seek ever to be in an attitude of watchfulness. Like the mother of Sisera, let faith be straining its ear for the whir of the chariot wheels; that when the cry shall be heard; “Behold, it is He!” we may be able joyfully to respond, “Yes! this is our God, we have waited for Him!” “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, He will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” Luke 12:37.

31. ETERNAL JOY
“Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness.” Isaiah 35:10
Believer! leave your “Rainbow in the cloud” behind you; and with your eye on the “Rainbow round about the throne” (Revelation 4:3), think of the glad return of God’s ransomed ones to Zion; every tear drop dried, every pang forgotten!
Once wanderers “in the wilderness, in a solitary way,” prisoners “bound with affliction and iron,” mariners struggling in a tempest (Psalms 112:4, 10, 23); mark the termination of their checkered history. God is not only represented as succoring their fainting souls, shivering in pieces their chains, and enabling them to buffet the angry surges; but He leads the pilgrims to “a city of habitation.” He rescues the captives from “darkness and shadow of death.” He brings the storm-tossed seamen to their “desired haven,” and puts the “everlasting song” into the lips of all, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalms 112:7, 14, 30)
Sorrowing one! tossed on life’s stormy sea, soon will that peaceful haven be yours. From the sunlit shores of glory, each and all of your trials will be seen to be special proofs of your Heavenly Father’s faithfulness, circled with a halo of love! You may now be going forth “weeping,” bearing your precious seed, but you shall “doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you.”
As some seeds require to be soaked in water before they germinate, so is immortal seed often here soaked in tears. But, “those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Though “weeping may endure for the night, joy comes in the morning!” “You are,” says Rutherford, “upon the entry of Heaven’s harvest; the losses that I write of are but summer showers, and The Sun of the new Jerusalem shall quickly dry them up.” The “song of the night” shall then blend with the song of the skies, and inner, glorious meanings will be disclosed to sight, which are now hidden from the eye of faith! “Sorrow and sighing shall forever flee away!” “No sickness, no sorrow, no pain,” said an aged saint now entered on these glorious realities; “but this is only your negative. What, O God! must be your positive?” “Songs,” “everlasting joy,” “joy and gladness.” It will be song upon song, joy upon joy, gladness upon gladness! These songs of Heaven will be “songs of degrees.” The ransomed will be ever graduating in bliss, mounting “from glory to glory,” each song suggesting the keynote of a louder and loftier one.
Reader! are you mourning the loss of those who “are not,” the music of whose voices is hushed for the forever of time, and who have left you to travel companionless and alone the wilderness journey? A few more fears, a few more tears, and you shall meet them in the day-break of glory! No, more; they have but anticipated you in an earlier crown. If they have left you behind for a little season to continue your night-song; think with bounding heart of that eternal day, when, looking back on the clouds floating in the far distance in the nether valley, you shall be able to join in the anthem said to be sung by the twenty-four elders as they gaze on the throne encircled by the “RAINBOW OF EMERALD,” for “they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Revelation 4:3, 8)

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A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism


Listen Here: A Scriptural Critique on Infant Baptism

A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism

by
John MacArthur
Copyright 1998

All Rights Reserved

A couple of weeks ago I gave a message on the issue of baptism and when I introduced that I was going to do that, I said that I wanted to give a follow-up message on the issue of infant baptism and I’m going to do that this morning. Now, I confess that this may seem a little more like a theological class lecture; you may feel like you’ve just enrolled at the Master’s Seminary—that’s O.K. I warn you in the back rows there, who may tend to wander anyway, because you’re so far away—hang in there. This is really, I think, a provocative, and important, and far-reaching issue to deal with.

Let me explain for some of you who might not understand. There is a widespread belief in the Church that babies are to be baptized. And so, soon after their birth, they are taken to the church whether it’s a Roman Catholic church, or whether it’s a Presbyterian church, or whether it’s a Reformed church, or a Lutheran church, an Anglican church, an Episcopalian church…They are taken to the church and they are sprinkled with water on the head—a little bit of water is dripped on their head and that constitutes their “Christian” baptism. This is very widespread. This is all over the world, in fact. This is the influence of the post-reformation European church and it has spread wherever that influence has gone.

Now, the result of this is that you have baptized non-Christians all over the world. They were baptized as infants with what they believe was a Christian baptism and an initiation into the church—and an initiation into salvation. Yet, they are not Christians; they have never come to personal confession of faith in Christ and so they were baptized but they’re non-Christians. On the other hand, you have the same group of people who are actually not baptized at all because that baptism is not New Testament baptism. So, they are baptized non-Christians who have never really been baptized at all, in the true sense.

It is also true that many people are—particularly in that movement—many people do come to true faith in Christ. They may start by being baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or Reformed church, or Anglican, or Episcopalian church, or whatever church it is that does infant baptism…they are baptized as a child, they do come to true faith in Jesus Christ, but are never baptized by immersion because the church teaches that that is not appropriate. In fact, after the Reformation, if somebody was rebaptized, who was baptized as an infant, they were labeled an “Anabaptist” and persecuted.

It was not uncommon for that persecution to reach a fever pitch so that after the Reformation, you had Protestant people who believed in infant baptism persecuting people who believed in believers’ baptism. It became a serious issue, even to the point where some people who believed in adult immersion after confession of faith in Christ and were rebaptized, were killed. So, this was a heated issue. We can be glad it isn’t quite that furious today, but it is still an issue of immense importance in the church, because as I said, you have baptized non-Christians and unbaptized Christians. In both cases you have a problem, a serious problem.

We have, certainly, the present largest unbaptized population of professing Christians ever. That unbaptized population would be made up of people who were baptized as infants and don’t feel they need to be baptized; therefore, they are really unbaptized in the true way. All those other people who are hearing the gospel today through television and radio and in the sort of “seeker-friendly” churches where baptism is not practiced. So, you have this massive population of unbaptized professing Christians everywhere.

Now, few things in the New Testament are more unmistakable than the issue of baptism. It’s just plain and simple. Jesus said, “Go and preach the gospel and baptize.” Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.” It couldn’t be much more clearly expressed than that. Even so, we have wide-spread noncompliance to this issue.

Now, this is of great importance to me, because I feel that as a Christian preacher, as a Christian pastor, as a shepherd of God’s flock, as somebody who’s responsible to the Lord for ministry, I need to preserve what is precious to the Lord, right?…in the church.

Now, there are only two ordinances the Lord gave us—just two. He gave us baptism and the Lord’s Table. And He said, “Just do these two things. They are symbols.” Baptism, as we know, is a symbol depicting the death of an individual in Christ, the burial, and resurrection in the newness of life. The Lord’s Table is a symbol of the cross—both the body of Jesus Christ, symbolized in the bread, and the blood of Christ, symbolized in the cup and we are enjoined to carry those out in the church.

This is important to me because it’s part of the stewardship of responsibility that I have to discharge before the Lord. It grieves me that there are some churches, like the Quakers’ church and the Friends’ church, that will not practice communion. It also grieves me that there are many, many churches—many of them—thousands upon thousands of them—tens of thousands of them all over the world, that will not properly practice Christian baptism in spite of what the New Testament says. This is a matter of obedience—this is a matter of honor to the Lord and it’s of great importance to me.

Some years ago I was invited to be the president of a great educational institution here in our country and as I was contemplating whether I wanted to leave the pastorate, here at Grace Church, some years ago and go do this, the thing that stuck in my mind most was if I was there, I wouldn’t be able to discharge my calling from the Lord to lead the church. It struck me, and I said this to the people at the time, “I can’t do this because I need to lead the people of God in the ordinances that the Lord has commanded us, because I believe he’s given me to the church. How am I going to baptize people and how am I going to lead them to the Lord’s Table in that environment?” This is always been very important to me because the Lord didn’t give us that much that we would get confused about it and He wants us to carry the responsibility out.

Baptism is critically important and I went into that two weeks ago. Baptism is critically important. It is to be understood and it is to be practiced. Standing in the way of that understanding is a huge barrier and that huge barrier is infant baptism. As I said, most of the mass evangelized TV/Radio stadium converts are left to themselves and maybe never even hear about baptism. They don’t have any accountability for baptism; not under any church authority…but, in addition to them, you have this huge crowd of millions of people who believe in infant baptism. That too, confuses the issue greatly and acts as a barrier to a true understanding of baptism and to obedience to that understanding.

It’s not a minor matter—it has never been a minor matter. As I said, during the time of the Reformation, people were called heretics if they were baptized in a New Testament way, by those who were infant baptizers. They were persecuted and, as I said, in some cases, executed.

Now, as years have gone on, we’ve gotten kind of comfortable and just sort of said, “Well, they believe in infant baptism and we don’t, and they’re our brothers and sisters,” and that’s true, and it’s certainly not a reason to call them non-Christians, and it’s certainly not right to call them heretics, and it’s certainly not appropriate to not have fellowship with them, but it is right to truly understand what Scripture says, so that they can come into obedience and compliance with the Word of God. Time has come, after all these years since the Reformation, to strip off these remnants of Catholicism that never got dealt with during the Reformation and have been perpetuated, and return to the simple New Testament design—and I want to address that with you this morning.

Now, there are five reasons why I reject infant baptism. I’m telling you folks, I can’t get all that I want to say out this morning so you’re only going to get, I hope, the best of what’s here. But, these are very important points.

1. Point number one, and this ought to end the argument: infant baptism is not in Scripture.

Infant baptism is not in Scripture, and against that statement, there is no evidence—there is no refuting of that statement. Scripture nowhere advocates infant baptism. It nowhere mentions infant baptism. It doesn’t exist in the Bible; there is no example of it, there is no comment on it, it’s not there. It is therefore impossible to prove that infant baptism is valid, from the New Testament. It’s impossible to support it from the New Testament or for that matter, from the Old Testament.

A German theologian, Schleiermacher, wrote, “All traces of infant baptism which have been asserted to be found in the New Testament, must first be inserted there.” He’s right. The host of German and front rank “Theologs” and scholars of the Church of England—the Church of England, the Anglican Church, which believes in infant baptism—a host of their scholars have united to affirm not only the absence of infant baptism from the New Testament, but from apostolic and post-apostolic times. It isn’t in the New Testament and it didn’t exist in the earliest church. They believe it arose around the 2nd or 3rd century.

A Lutheran professor, Kurt Aland, after intensive study of infant baptism, says, “There is no definite proof of the practice until after the 3rd century,” and he says, “This cannot be contested.” A Catholic professor of theology, Hegerbocker (sp.), writes, “This controversy has shown that it is not possible to bring in absolute proof of infant baptism by basing one’s argument on the Bible.” Good. B.B. Warfield, who is no mean theologian, was an astute and really a great, great theologian who, again, influenced my life in my seminary days…B.B. Warfield affirmed—he was, by the way, an advocate of infant baptism—but, he affirmed the absence of infant baptism from the Bible.

Among the Calvinists—among the Reformed people—there is a very important principle which many of them like to use. It’s called the “regulative principle” and it says this, “If Scripture doesn’t command it, it is forbidden.” Now, if they would just stick with that, they would be all right. If Scripture doesn’t command it, it cannot be introduced into the church as normative. The theme of the Reformation, of course, “sola fide,” “sola gratia,” “sola Christus“—that is faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone—also, “sola scriptura,” Scripture alone. The theme, the great byword of the Reformation was “Scripture only, Scripture only, Scripture, Scripture, Scripture.” And yet, if you go to Scripture, you cannot find one single solitary word about infant baptism—it’s not in the Bible.

It still is defended, however, amazingly, and still practiced as if it was Biblical. It’s really amazing. I can understand how people within the Protestant church can disagree about an interpretation of Scripture…I really find it very hard for myself to understand how they can argue about something that isn’t in the Bible, as over-against what is. It’s one thing to say, “Well, I understand that passage this way and you understand it that way…I understand that doctrine this way and you understand it that way,”—it’s another thing to say, “I believe what’s in the Bible,” and, “I don’t. I believe what’s outside the Bible.” That’s a completely different issue, but that, in fact, is what we have.

Now, I would expect Roman Catholicism to engage in that practice because Roman Catholicism has two sources of authority. On the one hand, they have the Bible; on the other hand—and it’s as empty as my right hand—they have tradition. You see where the weight is. But, in the Catholic system, there is what is called “tradition.” It is known as “tradition” or the “magisterium.” It is the accumulation of materials outside the Bible that bear equal authority with the Scripture. Now, we’re not surprised then, that the Roman Catholic system—because they believe that the Catholic Church is the unique recipient of post-Biblical revelation—that is to say, God has given His Word to the church beyond the Bible and, therefore, it carries equal weight with Scripture. We’re not surprised that a system that believes there is extra-Biblical material that has equal weight with Scripture, would come up with infant baptism and make it an absolute in their system…not surprising.

In fact, the Roman Catholic Church asserts, that it is, the only recipient of revelation beyond the Bible…not only is it the only recipient of revelation, but it is the only and infallible interpreter of all revelation, both traditional and Biblical. So, when we know that Roman Catholics baptize babies, that fits into their magisterium, but when you come to Reformation people who say, “Scripture, only Scripture, only…” and they had a Reformation and they basically dumped tradition and they dumped the magisterium and they said, “It’s the Bible! It’s the Bible! It’s the Bible!” how come they hung onto infant baptism? It’s not there. It’s a relic of Popery.

Now, we would understand the church history would be Rome’s hermeneutic—”hermeneutic” is word that has to do with an interpretation—we would understand that history can interpret the Bible for Rome, but history can’t interpret the Bible for us. It doesn’t matter to a Bible interpreter what history has done, what some counsel said, what some Pope said; it doesn’t matter what some visionary said—the way you interpret Scripture is not by something outside of it, but by what is in it, right? The Bible is it’s own interpreter. Use normal historical, grammatical interpretation—you take the words as they are, you interpret the Scripture with the Scripture…you don’t need tradition…you don’t need the magisterium of some religious system.

Church history can be Rome’s hermeneutic. In other words, they interpret the Bible from their tradition. But, it has never been the hermeneutic of the Reformed. It has never been our hermeneutic to say, “Well, I don’t know what that means so let me consult some Pope.” The Jews did that in the Old Testament. They say, “Well, we’re not sure what this means so let’s ask Rabbi so-and-so.” If you don’t know what the Bible means, you don’t go to somebody who has infallible revelation as to it’s meaning; you dig into the text to discern it. God does not interpret Scripture through history. God does not interpret Scripture through tradition, through rights or ceremonies or doctrines that are true simply because some religious system says they’re true. Only an honest interpretation of Scripture in which you exegete the text itself can yield the meaning of that Scripture. Reading traditional history back into the Bible is not a legitimate way to interpret it. History is no hermeneutic.

Now, it is also true that Scripture—they will bring this up—they’ll say this, “Yes, it’s not in the Bible, but it’s also true that Scripture no where forbids infant baptism. Now, if I can get into debate and we’re going to debate that point, I think I can win. You’re telling me that it’s O.K. because it’s not there? It should be an ordinance of the church because it’s not there? Do you realize how much is not there? You could make an ordinance out of everything that’s not there! I mean, just use your imagination and figure out where that could go.

That’s nothing—that’s nothing but an argument from silence which is no argument at all. It provides no basis for acceptance, certainly no basis for a mandate for infant baptism as some kind of ubiquitous, divinely-ordained ordinance that all children of believers or all children of church members ought to engage in. The fact that it is not there proves absolutely nothing—expect it proves that it’s not valid. It certainly doesn’t prove anything on it’s behalf. To justify that sprinkling of babies should be done because it’s not forbidden in Scripture is to standardize what’s not in the Bible as if it were standard, for the church. It’s to imprint with divine authority something that men invent—to open the way to any ritual, any ceremony, any teaching, any anything that isn’t forbidden specifically in Scripture.

In fact, at the time of the Reformation. . .we all associate Martin Luther, you know, the monk who saw the truth of the gospel by faith and grace and confronted the Roman Catholic Church—went up one day and you know, nailed his thesis to on the door of Wittenberg there. . .the 1500’s and this was a big moment. He was calling the church to take a good, hard look at, of course, selling indulgences—they were telling people that you could get forgiveness of your sins if you paid enough money to the church. You could buy an indulgence and, in other words, you could buy forgiveness. He didn’t like that and we don’t blame him for that. Then, he went from there to understanding justification by faith.

Martin Luther said the only way you’re redeemed is through faith and grace, and we all understand that and that’s what gave birth to the Reformation. And Luther went so far as to say that it has to come out of the Bible. Luther really fought the Catholic system. Let me quote what he said. “The church needs to rid itself of all false glories that torture Scripture by inserting personal ideas into the Scripture which lend to it their own sense. No!” he said. “Scripture! Scripture! Scripture! For me, constrain, press, compel me with God’s Word!” That’s Martin Luther.

Martin Luther—he wasn’t just some stumbling, bumbling, local monk—he was a brilliant doctor of theology. Martin Luther was one of the brightest theologians in the entire Catholic Church at the time. He was saying, “It’s Scripture, Scripture, Scripture!” for him. Well, there is nothing in the Scripture about infant baptism. In a minute, I’ll tell you what happened to Luther in the transition from what he just said to, eventually, capitulating to do infant baptisms.

Another thing the baby-baptizers use for support is they try to go to Matthew 18, where Jesus said in verse 3, “Except you become as a little child, you can’t enter the kingdom.” Well, that’s not talking about babies; that’s talking about believers. You have to become like a little child to get into the kingdom. What does that mean? Well, if you’re going to come into God’s kingdom, you don’t come with the record of all your great achievements. You haven’t got any—a little child has no achievements, right? A little child has accomplished nothing, done nothing. They are not productive; have you noticed? They don’t do anything. They just have to have things done to them all the time. They don’t achieve anything, accomplish anything…they don’t make any contribution at all except just the sheer joy of their presence.

That’s what the Lord is saying: you come into the kingdom without any achievements, without any accomplishments, without any curriculum vita, without having achieved anything or accomplished anything…you come in naked and bare and stripped and needy. That’s how you come.

He’s talking to the religious leaders and he’s talking to the disciples and saying, “Don’t expect that somehow all the stuff you’ve achieved is going to get you into the kingdom. Remember the apostle Paul, Philippians 3, “You know I was of the circumcision, circumcised the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the people of Israel,” you know, “zealous as to the law”…went through the whole deal and he said at the end: it’s manure. Right? It’s manure; I can’t bring that list of achievements. That’s all Jesus is saying.

In Matthew 19 and Mark 10, you remember Jesus said to disciples, “Let the little children come to me”…remember the little children came to him? That’s another Scripture they like to use and it says, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t forbid them for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus gathered up the little children, there in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 (both record it), and He blessed them. Well, in the first place, how could that advocate infant baptism—He didn’t baptize them. That’s no evidence of anything about baptism…He just picked up some little children and said, “God has a special care for these little ones who are too young to either reject the truth or accept the truth…God has a special care for them,” and He pulled them into His arms and He demonstrated that special care by blessing them.

They weren’t, necessarily, the children of believing parents—we don’t even know who their parents were! For all we know, some of them could have been Gentile kids and they might have been uncircumcised pagans. The idea that you baptize all these infants of believing parents or of church member parents, based upon that Scripture, is just beyond connection. Jesus didn’t baptize them. Jesus didn’t cause them to be baptized. He didn’t suggest that they be baptized. He didn’t say anything about their parents, whether they were believing or non-believing parents. All He said was, by what He did, “Children are precious to God; He takes care of them; He blesses them.” That’s all.

Then, the people who believe in infant baptisms, try to advocate it, from two books: Acts and I Corinthians. In Acts and I Corinthians, you have five mentions of a household—and they say, “Well, in a household you must have babies and it says that households were baptized; therefore, babies were baptized.” Well, certainly that’s an inference. It doesn’t say that. There’s never an incident of a baby being baptized in any of those households—it never identifies them. “Households” simply mean—could mean “family, could mean “servants” who were a part of that household.

They suggest that some babies were baptized in those households as an act of solidarity. The father, they say, served as a surrogate for the faith of the children. Surrogate faith? What is that? You mean I can believe, and my child is saved by my faith? That’s not what the New Testament teaches. That’s a severe challenge to individual salvation as well as an insertion into the text because no babies are ever mentioned and no babies are ever mentioned being baptized. Look at these five, I’ll just run them by quickly:

1. Cornelius’ house—Acts 10. The gospel was preached by Peter, Cornelius heard it…it says, “They all heard the Word…they believed it…the Spirit fell…they were all baptized.” All heard, all believed, the Spirit came on all, they were all baptized.

2. In the jailer’s house—Acts 16 is the next one…Philippian jailer. Paul, you remember, gave him the gospel, it says, “All heard the gospel…all were baptized.”

3. Chapter 18, it was in the house of Crispus, “All believed…all were baptized.”

The other two occur in I Corinthians. The other two are the account of Lydia and Stephanas—Lydia is in the book of Acts.

4. But, in the case of Lydia, it’s the same thing. We must understand the same thing must have occurred—they heard, they believed, they were baptized.

5. Stephanas: They heard, they believed, they were baptized.

I mean, it’s all basically the same pattern. They all hear the gospel, they all believe, they all receive the Spirit, they all are baptized. That excludes infants because infants can’t hear and believe. The “household” then is defined—it is defined as “those capable of hearing, understanding, believing.” That’s the definition of the “household.”

In Stephanas’ household, which is in I Corinthians, chapter 1, “All who were baptized,” it says, “All who were baptized were devoted to the ministry of the saints.” Babies can’t be devoted to the ministry of the saints. It says, “All who were baptized were helping in the spiritual work of the church.” It’s impossible for infants.

In the case of Lydia, in Acts, “her heart was opened when she heard the gospel. The gospel was preached and her heart was opened,” it says. So, we understood she heard the gospel, she believed…others must have heard the gospel, their hearts were opened, and they believed and they were baptized. By the way, to assume there were children in the house is maybe stretching it since, apparently, she had no husband. She, apparently, was a single person.

In John 4, in verse 53, it says about a nobleman—you know, whom Jesus talked with and He healed his son—it says about that man, “He himself believed and his whole household.” They all believed. Household belief, then household baptism. Where there is no faith, there is no baptism.

In Acts 2:38—let me show you this. Turn in your Bible for a minute to Acts 2:38. Here is another Scripture which they use to defend infant baptism. Acts 2:38—Peter is closing the sermon on the day of Pentecost and he says, in verse 38, “Repent…let each of you be baptized!” So, we see the sequence: repent, be baptized. “And, you’ll receive forgiveness and you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…” Then, in verse 39, “For the promise,” he says, “is for you and your”—what?—”children.” “Oh,” they say. “See, the promise here for the children. This is an important Scripture.” “Repent and be baptized and the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” Now, they see “your children” as an allusion to the baptism of children. And, of course, that’s a stretch. There’s nothing about baptism of children here whatsoever.

Well, what is being said here? Do you understand what’s being said? He’s talking to some Jews, O.K.? And, there gathered around him…it’s the day of Pentecost and they’re in the city of Jerusalem…and he said, “Look. I’m saying to you, ‘Repent, come to faith in Christ, be baptized in His name…you’ll receive the forgiveness of your sins, you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and this promise is not only for you, but it’s for your children.”

Now, how obvious is that? What is he saying? He’s saying, “This isn’t isolated to the crowd today—this is for anybody who comes into the future.” Right? This is for your children, and your children’s children, and your children’s children’s children…He’s simply saying this promise goes on and on and on, and for all who are far off, it’s for Gentiles too. So he’s saying, “For your children, Jews in the future, and for Gentiles as well in the future.” Anybody who repents of sin, anybody who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who receives the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit—that promise is fulfilled to anybody whether they’re Jew or Gentile.

That’s all he’s saying here. There’s nothing about babies here. The children he’s speaking about are the offspring of crowd there. This is for all future generations to be called to the same salvation promises and the same salvation blessings.

Now, one other Scripture they use is I Corinthians 7 and I’ll show you this one and then I’ll make some more general comments. I Corinthians, chapter 7, verses 12-14, is another Scripture they like to use. Again, it doesn’t say anything about baptism at all, none of them do, but this is where they have to go if they’re going to try to find a Biblical foundation.

Now, he’s talking to people in various marital situations here and in verse 12, he says, “Look, this is something I’m going to say to you; it’s not a direct quote of Jesus—it’s still inspired and it’s from God—but it’s not directly quoted from Jesus.” He’s been saying some things that come right out of the instruction of Jesus, but he says, “I’m saying this. This isn’t quoting the Lord here, but here’s the principle. If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever”—OK, you’ve got an unconverted wife; your wife’s not a Christian and she wants to live with you. She doesn’t want to separate. She’s not a Christian; she doesn’t believe, but she wants to be with you—”then, you shouldn’t send her away.” You shouldn’t send her away. That means divorce; that’s the word for divorce in the Greek. “Don’t divorce her.”

You see, the idea was: Christians were coming to Christ and they were saying, “Wow! You know, I don’t want to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever,” he just got through saying that in chapter 6, you know, and you don’t want to be connected up with anybody who’s sinful…so maybe you’re married to an unbeliever and you don’t want to continue that relationship, you want to marry a Christian…Well, look. If that unbeliever wants to stay, you keep that marriage together. The next verse says, in the reverse, if the woman has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, don’t send him away. So, stay in that marriage even though you have an unconverted spouse.

Why? Verse 14, “The unbelieving husband is sanctified,” what does that mean? “Set apart,” set apart to what? To blessing. What happens to that unbeliever is, by being married to a believer, he gets the spillover of God’s work in your life. He gets the spillover of God’s blessing. God is so kind and God is so gracious! For the sake of that unbeliever, God would like him to just hang around so he could enjoy the blessings that God pours out on you.

And, then he winds it up at the end of verse 14 and says the same is true with children. If you separate, then you’ve got a problem of the children. Otherwise, your children are unclean, but now they are holy. The word means “separate.” What happens is you’ve separated your children from blessing. If you keep that home together, even with an unconverted husband or an unconverted wife, the blessing that God pours on the believer is going to spill on the husband or wife and it’s going to spill on the children.

It doesn’t mean that the child is a believer. It doesn’t mean the child is in the covenant community. It doesn’t mean the child should…where’s baptism? It isn’t here! A very simple principle: it’s good to keep a marriage together if an unbeliever is willing to stay there, because then blessing will come down on that unbeliever and down on those children. Who knows, but what that blessing could lead them to faith. No mention of baptism; absolutely none. Just don’t get separated and divorced if it’s not necessary, so that unbelievers and children can enjoy the spillover of God’s blessing on the believer in that marriage.

Well, the full counsel of God is either expressly set forth in Scripture—listen carefully—it’s either expressly set forth in Scripture or it can be necessarily, compellingly, and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. I’ll say that again. The full counsel of God is either expressly set forth in Scripture or can be necessarily, compellingly, and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. In other words, it’s either there explicitly or it’s there implicitly and you can easily draw it out, like the doctrine of the Trinity, for example. But, this issue of infant baptism just isn’t there in any way, shape, or form and it is not necessarily, compellingly, and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. It’s just not there.

2. The second reason is really the other side of the issue. I don’t believe in infant baptism because infant baptism is not Christian baptism.

What is in the Bible is Christian baptism. I already dealt with this two weeks ago; I’m just going to comment on it briefly. Christian baptism is this: somebody believes as an adult, they repent of their sin, they confess Jesus as Lord, they acknowledge Him as Savior, they are saved, then they are baptized. That is New Testament Christian baptism. It’s definitive. It’s meaning is clear. It’s mode is inescapable. The word “bapto,” “baptizo,” means “to immerse” or “submerge.” Every single time it is used in the book of Acts, it is talking about the immersion of a believer. Even John Calvin said, “The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse’ and it is certain that immersion,” he says, “was the practice of the early church.” Of course, that’s what the word means.

They had a different word for sprinkle, it was the word “rhantizo.” This ordinance was very clearly designed by God. When a person believes, here’s a public way to confess their faith: put them down in the water and bring them out. Why? Because it’s a symbol of their death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. Remember, we went through that two weeks ago. It is a picture, an object lesson, a symbol, a visual analogy of a spiritual truth. Clearly unmistakable.

The only distinctive—if you were to go through everything to the core of the Christian faith, it would be this: I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Right? That’s it. I’m in Christ. It’s a great doctrine of imputation—my sins imputed to Him, His righteousness imputed to me. God treats Him as if He lived my life and He died on the cross bearing my sins. God treats me as if I lived His life; God sees me perfectly righteous and takes me into His glorious heaven. It’s that I’m in Christ and Christ is in me. I was buried with Him in baptism, Romans 6 says, and I have risen to walk in newness of life. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live.” Galatians 3:27, “We were baptized into Christ.” Colossians 2:12 and 13, same thing.

Baptism pictures the fact that, by the divine power of God, when you come to faith in Christ, you’re joined with Christ and you die in Him. Your old life dies at the cross with Him and you rise in His resurrection to walk in newness of life. That is symbolized in immersion very obviously. We are literally immersed into Christ—into his death, into his burial, and into his resurrection and now we are joined with Him in one life.

That’s why the Bible can say, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them,” because baptizing was synonymous with evangelizing, synonymous with saving faith. They were inseparable—one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Baptism became, really, the expression—the word used to define salvation…they were inseparable. We know what New Testament baptism is; it’s a person repenting, believing, embracing Christ—spiritually they, therefore, are united with Christ and that is symbolized as they go down into the water and rise. Their old life dies and they rise in newness of life with Christ. I think the Church needs to get back into this understanding of baptism. The fact that the church doesn’t do this is tragic. It needs to be restored. I’m going to give you some reasons why it needs to be restored.

One, in our day an open, public, solemn confession of the crucified risen Lord is necessary. All who experience the reality of the power of the risen Savior should give this public testimony to His glory.

Secondly, by Biblical baptism in the New Testament manner, believers give a witness also to careful obedience to Scripture in which nothing can be treated as unimportant. We say, when we are baptized, “Yes. The Bible says it and I’m doing it.” Therefore, you tell people you’re not only joined with Christ, but you are obedient to Him.

Thirdly, by Biblical baptism believers testify—this is crucial—to a redeemed church. I’ll say more about that later. By Biblical baptism, believers testify to a redeemed church. The point there, just as a hint, is you’ve got all kinds of people who were infant baptized, who, at the time of their infant baptism, were supposedly ushered into the church. They have nothing to do with the church now, what are they? They’re a part of an unredeemed church, confused by infant baptism.

Fourthly, by Biblical baptism, believers give fundamental rejection of all human regulations through which, clear Biblical teaching has been obscured or curtailed or supplemented. Baptism becomes an apologetic for the truth and a denunciation for error.

Number five, by Biblical baptism the church signifies a public renunciation of the nominal and mass Christianity of our day. We make it real and personal in believer’s baptism.

Finally, in Biblical baptism the church calls for the reintroduction and practice of Biblical New Testament church order and discipline.

Those are reasons why its so very important. The great commission makes it very, very clear—for Jesus the order was very clear. You preach the gospel, they believe, they’re baptized, and they obey. That’s it.

Do you know, in 1955, the Anglican Church—which baptizes babies—the Anglican Church did a study on baptism. This is what it says—1955 report, “Every expression in the New Testament concerning the rights of baptism assumes that the convert receives them with living faith and a renunciation of his old former life.” That’s right! “It is clear,” it says, “that the New Testament doctrine of baptism is established with reference to the baptism of adults.” Adults with living faith—that’s New Testament baptism.

Where in the world does this infant thing come from then? It’s not in the Bible; Christian baptism is in the Bible and it’s very clear what it is. It’s the immersion of people who have believed as adults.

3. Third point, why I reject infant baptism: it is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision.

Now don’t get too carried away here; this isn’t going to be as complicated as you think. Infant baptism is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision. Now, let me give you the bottom line. Infant baptism says this. This is the theology of it: the old covenant sign was a baby circumcised. That introduced them into the covenant. So, we need a parallel. The parallel sign is baby baptism. That’s in the new covenant; that introduces them into the new covenant. Sounds good. In the old covenant, they had a circumcision which introduced them into the covenant community. In the new covenant, we have the baby baptism which introduces the infant into the covenant community. That’s the logic.

You know what? Those two things just don’t go together ever in the Bible. It’s a nice thought; just isn’t Biblical. Scripture never makes that connection. There’s not a verse they could point to. There’s not a passage they could point to, either by explicit terms or by implicit. There’s not one place in the Bible where baptism is ever connected to circumcision, period…no place.

So, any connection is purely manufactured. So, without Scriptural support, without Scriptural connection, they infer that baby baptism is the new covenant equivalent of old covenant circumcision. Now, let me make a very simple few statements so you’ll understand just exactly what the difference is.

It’s true. In the Old Testament, little boys, on the eighth day after their birth, were circumcised. Girls weren’t so that poses a real problem in paralleling the new covenant since girls can come into the new covenant too. But, little boys were circumcised the eighth day. Now, that introduced them—listen carefully—that introduced them into an earthly, temporal community of people. That introduced them into the nation Israel, as it were. It was physical and it was temporal. That’s what it was.

In the new covenant, there is no “physical” community. We don’t have a nation; we don’t have a land. We aren’t a duly constituted people, ruled over…We don’t an order of priests. We don’t have a king. We are a spiritual community. There’s a big, big difference. Circumcision was the sign of ethnic identity. It was the physical participation in the temporal features of the Abrahamic covenant. Listen carefully: it didn’t have any spiritual implications at all. None! Because most of the people who were circumcised—the vast majority of Israelites who were circumcised, went to hell. You understand that? They rejected the true and living God; they worshipped idols. Right? That’s the history of Israel. In the present, most of the Jewish people, who are circumcised, will perish without the knowledge of God. In the future, two-thirds, it says, of the nation Israel, will be purged out and be judged eternally by God and He’ll save a third and bring them into His kingdom. The vast majority of Jews will perish without the knowledge of God.

Not all Israel is Israel. What did God say? Circumcise your—hearts. You see, the spiritual promises and realities that God offered Israel didn’t come to them by any right or ceremony or ritual. All circumcision did was mark them out as a part of the nation Israel. They entered into the physical participation, the ethnic identity, the temporal features of the nation Israel that was under blessing, promised by God to Abraham. It was an earthly blessing, not salvation. That’s why Paul said, “I was circumcised the eighth day and that’s manure. That did nothing for me savingly; I was on my way to hell and I had been circumcised,” Philippians 3.

A person born in Israel of Abrahamic seed was physically related to temporal, external privileges; nothing more. Now you come into the New Testament—the new covenant—this is dramatically different. There is no physical participation. There is no temporal, earthly feature attached to this—we don’t have a land, we don’t have a place. Under the old administration, the Abrahamic covenant during the Mosaic era, you entered the earthly, natural, covenantal community by birth, and by circumcision you took the sign of that people. But, there was a small remnant in Israel that really believed, wasn’t there? They entered into the special, spiritual blessings.

But, in the new covenant, there are only those who believe, there are only those who have come by repentance and faith. This is not the same at all. There is absolutely no connection. All in the new covenant are believers. All in the new covenant know God. Now, if the early church thought that baptism was a replacement—baby baptism was a replacement for circumcision—why isn’t that in the New Testament?

And then, why did the Judaizers who were going around telling everybody they had to be circumcised, why didn’t Paul say to them, “Hey, you guys, that’s over; baptism has taken it’s place. We don’t circumcise babies, we baptize them.” He could have put an end to the Judaizing deal with just one comment. Now, why would they go into the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15 and had this big, long debate about what do we do about the circumcision…what do we do? Why didn’t somebody just get up and say, “Oh…no, no. That’s out and baby baptism has taken its place.” That’s never said. Nobody ever says that.

The Abrahamic covenant had a unique feature: circumcision. All that meant was you identified with the nation of Israel. Circumcision had a second benefit: it was physically beneficial. Up until very modern times, Jewish women had the lowest rate of cervical cancer of any people in the world because circumcision does help prevent the passing on of certain diseases. God knew that that would be a preservative in His people and He wanted to preserve His people Israel because of His ultimate purpose for them. Also, it was a sign of how desperately they needed to be cleansed on the inside…it’s symbolic of that. But, the point was it just introduced you into the nation; it didn’t save you. There is no parallel to this in the New Testament. There is nothing that sort of ushers you into some earthly group. There’s just the believers and they’re all in the new covenant.

You see, Jeremiah 31:34—Jeremiah in 31, is talking about the new covenant. Listen to what he says; here’s the character of the new covenant, they are very different from Israel under the old. Here’s what he says; this is the most salient feature of the new covenant. Here it is—Jeremiah 31:34, “They shall all know Me.” That’s the difference. Under the old covenant, they didn’t all know God. They didn’t know Him. Remember when Jesus came, He said, “If you knew My Father, you’d know Me,” didn’t He? “You don’t know My Father, you don’t know Me.”

In the new covenant, they all know God. You’re not even in the new covenant unless you know God and the only way to know God is through Christ. That means that all those who are members of the new covenant community know God savingly. Membership in the new covenant is limited to those who have been saved. Jeremiah is making a dramatic statement here. He’s saying, “I know under the old covenant there were lots of folks who had the sign of the covenant, there were lots of folks in the covenant community who didn’t know God. But, in the new covenant, everybody in it is going to know God. That’s distinctive. That’s conclusive. Circumcision was never a spiritual sign of anything. Baptism is a spiritual sign of true inclusion in new covenant salvation by grace through faith.

4. Well, let me give you a fourth reason. I reject infant baptism because infant baptism is not consistent with the nature of the church.

I hinted at this earlier. Infant baptism is not consistent with the nature of the church. This opens up proverbially Pandora’s box. There is so much chaos at this point, it begs discussion.

It’s just impossible to solve the problem unless you go back to rejecting infant baptism. Here’s what I mean. You have, for example, in the Roman Catholic Church, millions and millions and millions of people who were baptized. At their baptism, it was stated that this baptism ushered them into the kingdom of heaven.

Are they part of the church? Is the church responsible for these people? Are we responsible to shepherd these people who don’t believe? The vast majority of those people obviously have no knowledge of God, no knowledge of Jesus Christ. Millions of them have no connection to the church whatsoever. They go about living their lives…are they a part of the church? Are we responsible to shepherd these people? Should we discipline them?

You see, what happens is pedo-baptism destroys the redeemed church idea. It just completely assaults the idea that this is a redeemed community of people who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ. Now you’ve got something that’s so vast, that’s so ubiquitous [universal] that it’s impossible even to define, let alone deal with. It confuses the visible church with the invisible church and such confusion is not helpful. If people, when they’re baptized as babies whether it’s in an Anglican church or an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian church or a Lutheran church or whatever it is, if that includes them in salvation in the kingdom of God and in the church and they go on to live dissolute lives of sin and just carry on just like the pagans that they are, are they really a part of the church? What in the world is the church then? Is the church not redeemed?

You see, infant baptism perpetuates the same thing it did in Israel. You had a whole bunch of circumcised kids who didn’t know God. Now, we have a whole bunch of baptized babies who don’t know God either. If we’re going to carry that over, we get the same result. The true church, however, unlike Israel—Israel was a nation of people, earthly people—the true church is a nation of believers. Whether somebody was baptized as a baby, whether they were confirmed at the age of 12 or not, if they don’t know God personally through faith in Jesus Christ, they do not belong to the Redeemed church.

There’s this huge confusion about: what is the church? Infant baptism just totally throws this into chaos because the world is full of these baby-baptized adults who range anywhere from the hypocritically religious through the indifferent, to the blasphemous. They’re not in the church; they can’t be included in the church and if infant baptism saved them, then salvation doesn’t change anybody.

You say, well why is it in there then? Let me give it to you. Infant baptism is a holdover from absolutist state church systems in Europe. I’ll give you a little history here. Here’s what happened. Catholicism reigns till the 1500’s. . . 1500’s comes the Reformation. Catholicism built it’s power this way: back in the 4th century, Constantine takes over (325 AD); he makes Christianity the state religion and starts to persecute the people who aren’t Christians—this is kind of a switch. It feels good for the Christians for a while, but pretty soon it’s serious.

He decides that the greatest way to have power over the people is to have religious power over the people, so he makes Christianity the State Religion of Holy Roman Empire—starts calling it the Holy Roman Empire from about 325 AD on. Then he determines that we have to include everybody within the purview of the Roman system. Everybody in their vast world kingdom has to be included under this great power so we’ve got to baptize everybody and that’s where infant baptism is introduced (in about the 3rd century or 4th century).

In comes infant baptism. Infant baptism serves the power of the government very well because now everybody is automatically in the kingdom of heaven, which is the same as the government. Everybody is now in the church; therefore, the government has power over them all. It creates national solidarity. It allows the church and government to be one, the church and the military to be one, the church and the body of politic to be one…and so they can use the big club of God on everybody’s head.

So, now God is ruling through the Roman Empire…everybody’s a baptized convert, everybody’s a baptized part of this thing, and you get this massive monolithic, great kingdom that perpetuates itself for a thousand years. You know, that’s remarkable. The great Babylonian kingdom, the first world empire, lasted two hundred…the Medo-Persian lasted two hundred. These world kingdoms…then the Greek kingdom came along—the third world came—it lasted two hundred. But, the Roman system lasted a thousand years! Actually more than a thousand years and they did it because they had this monolithic religious structure, and infant baptism was the key to it because everybody was baptized into the system; therefore, God was their authority as wielded to the power of the system, and the Roman church took that power.

So, what happens is the Reformation comes…now, all of a sudden, the Protestants pull out and they’re these little, sort-of weak groups of Christian people and they feel over-powered. The Reformation starts to gain some momentum, gain some ground…larger numbers of people join in the Reformation and they want some power. How are they going to get it? How are they going to unify their people? How are they going to have a state that has the power that can counteract the Roman state. You have a state, a government, that’s Catholic, like France—what’s Germany going to do to stand against France? They don’t have the solidarity, so they decide, “Well, we’ll have a state church here and we’ll baptize everybody as infants.” So, you have a Reformation state church developed so that it has the political clout and the solidarity internally to stand against the power of France, which is Roman Catholic.

That’s how they began to work that infant baptism: because of it’s political power. It’s a holdover from absolutist state powers. The absolute church system, national sovereign church power, and with it came, by necessity, the persecution of people who didn’t buy it. The people who didn’t buy it said, “We don’t believe it. We don’t believe the Bible teaches infant baptism. We reject that! We believe in believer’s baptism,” and they called them Anabaptists and they persecuted them.

The state church denied the right of conscience to the individual and to the community, denied the right of freedom, the right of thought. The government was going to control everything to create the solidarity that would give them a base of power to stand militarily and politically against the Catholic states. So, you had state Christendom: Catholic state Christendom, Old Protestant, Lutheran, Reformed, State Christendom.

Now, at the beginning, Luther had a lofty idealism. He was against it. He contended for a Christianity of churches that would embrace freedom—Christianity of churches that would renounce force and live only by the Word and the Spirit, he said. He said that the Scripture is the only standard for all issues of personal life. We’re going to stand with the Scripture. Luther says this, “I say that God wants no compulsory service. I say it a hundred thousand times: God wants no compulsory service. No one can or ought to be compelled to believe. But, a soul of man is an eternal thing above all that is temporal; therefore, only by an eternal Word, must it be governed and grasped.”

Boy, he’s right on, isn’t he? Just the Word…Just the Word. Neither the Pope, nor a bishop, nor any other man has a right to decree a single syllable concerning a Christian man, apart from his consent. All that comes in the spirit of tyranny and you know what? That was right. Luther was right. By 1527, he caved in and he turned back to the state church and he allowed for infant baptism and the state church. And the state church grew into great power and buried the true church and the Reformation began to disappear.

There was no real building of New Testament churches because they were persecuted. They were seen as non-Conformists, as they were called in England. They were threatening the state church. Infant baptism, you see, saved the state church and served them well, as it had the Roman Catholic Church because it initiated everybody into that solidarity and allowed them to wield the God-club over everyone. They even did battle against each other; sometimes Protestants against Protestants. The state church was a great tree, far-reaching with its branches, but rotten to the core and fruitless and intolerant of the true church.

So, in Europe today, true Christianity is very, very, very small. It was buried, not only under Catholicism, in say, France, but just completely buried under Protestantism is Martin Luther’s own country of Germany. That’s why they developed infant baptism, not because it’s in the New Testament. It is a relic of Popery drawn in to serve the Protestant churches politically. The state church and the Biblical Christianity are and always will be completely opposed to each other. The true church is not of this world and doesn’t incorporate the unconverted.

I’ll tell you, one of the strategies that Hitler had—I told you this in the past—Hitler knew the power of bringing everybody under the state church, so he, literally, swallowed up the state church of Germany. Adolf Hitler did and it capitulated completely to him and anybody who didn’t capitulate was put into prison and executed. Guys like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood for the true church against the state church, went to a concentration camp and eventually was executed in a concentration camp. That’s a Protestant church environment that Hitler, literally, took over and used for his own power. That’s how apostate that system had become and any true surviving Christian in the midst of that was fuel for the fires in the furnaces of Hitler’s concentration camps.

There is no connection, no divine connection, between the true church and any state power. “The true church,” Jesus said, “is not of this world,” and it doesn’t incorporate the unconverted. Infant baptism serves the state church well; it horribly confuses the true church. Neither Luther nor even Melanchthon, two great reformers, opposed the assault on the Anabaptists and others who rejected the national church. They even said that anybody who rebaptizes is infested with heresy—that’s what was said in those days. A Strasbourg reformer, a Matthias Zell, said, “He who confesses Christ as his own Lord and Savior shall, in spite of anything else, share our table and I will also share with him in heaven.” He was right and he was going against the grain.

Infant baptism, mass communion, which you see in the Roman church and in some Protestant environments…infant baptism and mass communion efface the contrast between the believer and the unbeliever, between the church and the world. So, we have to reject those kinds of things. As the nature of the church became corrupted, so the ordinance of baptism became corrupted. Well, I think you get the point.

5. One last point and I’ll let you go. Infant baptism is not consistent with the gospel.

It’s not consistent with the gospel. Maybe this is the most important point of all. You say, “What in the world happens when a baby is baptized?” Shall I read you the Heidelberg Catechism? This is a great German catechism that defines the meaning of infant baptism. This is what it says, “Yes, for they,” speaking of children, “as well as the old people appertain [relate] to the covenant of God and His church and in the blood of Christ, the redemption from sins and the Holy Spirit who works faith and its promise not less than to the older.” So, they’re really saying in the Heidelberg Catechism that children enter the covenant of God, His church, receive the benefit of the blood of Christ, the redemption from sin, the Holy Spirit, and faith.

“Therefore, shall they also though baptism, as the sign of the covenant, be incorporated into the Christian church, be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as in the Old Testament took place by circumcision, in the place of which, in the New Testament, baptism is appointed.” See that connection? That illegitimate connection? But, they’re actually saying they’re in the church.

And they go further than that. Luther finally affirmed, because he said salvation is by faith…they say, “Well, how can a baby be saved if he doesn’t have faith?” So, Luther finally affirmed the infant does have faith. He does have faith. He said, “Children are to be baptized. They must be able to believe; they must have faith.” Luther said, “It’s not the vicarious [substituted] faith of the godparents or the church”—he rejected that. “It is the children themselves who believe,” Luther said. Someone says, “How is that possible?” “The Holy Spirit helps them to believe,” he says. “The Holy Spirit comes to the child in the holy baptism. By this bath of regeneration, He is richly poured out upon us.” This is a bath of regeneration in which the Holy Spirit comes and gives faith to an infant? Some even call it “unconscious faith.” Some call it “surrogate faith.”

In any case, it is not what the gospel is about, which is personal faith, right? The great mark of the Reformation was salvation by faith alone accompanied by personal repentance! A baby can’t do that. A baby doesn’t have any faith. A baby doesn’t have any part in baptism. It’s no different than circumcision; a baby didn’t have any part in circumcision. In fact, if you’d asked him, he’d probably vote against it. Baptizing a baby has no spiritual meaning to that baby. They got into a confounded viewpoint that somehow faith, and grace, and salvation, and regeneration, and entrance into the church is all dumped into that little baby at the point of which water’s dumped on his head. It has nothing to do with the gospel of faith. That’s why we have to call it into question.

I wrote down 25 quotes or so out of reformers that answered the question, “What happens at a baby baptism. “Baptism,” one of them says, “declares the inward regenerated operation of the Holy Spirit.” Wow. “It signifies the regeneration ministry of the Holy Spirit.” “Infant children of believers are rightful heirs of the covenant.” “It is the witness and attestation to their salvation.” This produced all kinds of confusion as the doctrine of justification by faith. Only a person old enough to understand can believe. Right?

Well, there’s more, but I think you get the message. Let’s pray.


Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Our websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986

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