Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Kingdom


Matthew 19:24 -And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 21:31- Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

Mark 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

Mark 4:30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

Mark 10:14-15 – But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. Mark 10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

Mark 12:34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 8:1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,

Luke 8:10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

Luke 9:2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

Luke 9:11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.

Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Luke 10:9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Luke 11:20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

Luke 13:18-24 Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 17:20-21 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 18:24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Acts 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

Galatians 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

2 Thessalonians 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

Below are a few more verses found in the Gospel according to Luke. I want to add them. These do not include the actual words Kingdom of God, but in my humble opinion the reference is clearly there.

Luke chapter 3: 21-22,

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased..

And chapter 4: 14-21,

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of
sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.

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Oh, That I May Never Loiter On My Heavenly Journey!


 

David Brainerd was born on April 20, 1718 in Haddam, Connecticut. That year John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards turned 14. Benjamin Franklin turned 12 and George Whitefield 3. The Great Awakening was just over the horizon and Brainerd would live through both waves of it in the mid thirties and early forties, then die of tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards’ house at the age of 29 on October 9, 1747.Brainerd’s father Hezekiah was a Connecticut legislator and died when David was nine year’s old. Judging by my own son’s attachment to me over the years, I think that might be the hardest year of all to lose father. He had been a rigorous Puritan with strong views of authority and strictness at home; and he pursued a very earnest devotion that included days of private fasting to promote spiritual welfare (see note 1).

Brainerd was the sixth child and third son born to Hezekiah and Dorothy. After him came three more children. Dorothy had brought one little boy from a previous marriage, and so there were twelve of them in the home —but not for long. Five years after his father died at the age of 46, his mother died when he was 14.

It seems that there was an unusual strain of weakness and depression in the family. Not only did the parents die early, David’s brother Nehemiah died at 32, his brother Israel died at 23, his sister Jerusha died at 34, and he died at 29. In 1865 a descendant, Thomas Brainerd (in a biography of John Brainerd), said, “In the whole Brainerd family for two hundred years there has been a tendency to a morbid depression, akin to hypochondria (p. 64).”

So on top of having an austere father, and suffering the loss of both parents as a sensitive child, he probably inherited some kind of tendency of depression. Whatever the cause, he suffered from the blackest dejection off and on throughout his short life. He says at the very beginning of his diary, “I was, I think, from my youth something sober and inclined rather to melancholy than the other extreme (p. 101).”

When his mother died he moved across the Connecticut River to East Haddam to live with his married sister, Jerusha. He described his religion during these years as very careful and serious, but having no true grace. When he turned 19 he inherited a farm and moved for a year a few miles west to Durham to try his hand at farming. But his heart was not in it. He longed for “a liberal education.” (p. 103) In fact Brainerd was a contemplative and a scholar from head to toe. If he hadn’t been expelled from Yale, he may well have pursued a teaching or pastoral ministry instead of becoming a missionary to the Indians.

After a year on the farm he came back to East Haddam and began to prepare himself to enter Yale. This was the summer of 1738. He was twenty years old. During the year on the farm he had made a commitment to God to enter the ministry. But still he was not converted. He read the Bible through twice that year and began to see more clearly that all his religion was legalistic and simply based on his own efforts. He had great quarreling with God within his soul. He rebelled against original sin and against the strictness of the divine law and against the sovereignty of God. He quarreled with the fact that there was nothing he could do in his own strength to commend himself to God (pp. 113-124).

He came to see that “all my good frames were but self-righteousness, not bottomed on a desire for the glory of God” (p. 103) “There was no more goodness in my praying than there would be in my paddling with my hands in the water … because (my prayers) were not performed from any love or regard to God … I never once prayed for the glory of God.” (p. 134) “I never once intended his honor and glory … I had never once acted for God in all my devotions … I used to charge them with sin … (because) of wanderings and vain thoughts …; and not because I never had any regard in them to the glory of God (p. 136).”

But then the miracle happened, the day of his new birth. Half an hour before sunset at the age of 21 he was in a lonely place trying to pray.

As I was walking in a dark thick grave, “unspeakable glory” seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul … It was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God; such as I never had before, nor anything that I had the least remembrance of it. So that I stood still and wondered and admired … I had now no particular apprehension of any one person of the Trinity, either the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but it appeared to be divine glory and splendor that I then beheld. And my soul “rejoiced wit joy unspeakable” to see such a God, such a glorious divine being, and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all forever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, the loveliness and the greatness and other perfections of God that I was even swallowed up in him, at least to that degree that I had no thought, as I remember at first, about my own salvation or scarce that there was such a creature as I.

Thus the Lord, I trust, brought me to a hearty desire to exalt him, to set him on the throne and to “seek first his Kingdom,” i.e. principally and ultimately to aim at his honor and glory as the King and sovereign of the universe, which is the foundation of the religion of Jesus … I felt myself in a new world (pp. 138-140).”

It was the Lord’s Day, July 12, 1739. He was 21 years old. Two months later he entered Yale to prepare for the ministry. It was a hard beginning. There was hazing by the upperclassmen, little spirituality, difficult studies, and he got measles and had to go home for several weeks during that first year.

The next year he was sent home because he was so sick he was spitting blood. So even at this early age he already had the tuberculosis he would die of seven years later. The amazing thing may not be that he died so early and accomplished so little, but that, being as sick as he ws, he lived as long as he did and accomplished so much.

When he came back to Yale in November, 1740, the spiritual climate was radically changed. George Whitefield had been there, and now many students were very serious about their faith, which suited Brainerd well. In fact tensions were emerging between the awakened students and the less excited faculty and staff. In 1741 pastor-evangelists, Gilbert Tennent, Ebenezer Pemberton, and James Davenport fanned the flames of discontent among the students with their fiery preaching.

Jonathan Edwards was invited to preach the commencement address in 1741 in the hopes that he would pour a little water on the fire and stand up for the faculty against the enthusiasm of the students. Some faculty had even been criticized as being unconverted. Edwards preached a sermon called “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God,” and totally disappointed the faculty and staff. He argued that the work going on in the awakening of those days, and specifically among the students, was a real spiritual work in spite of the excesses.

That very morning it had been voted by the college trustees that “If any student of this College shall directly or indirectly say, that the Rector, either of the Trustees or tutors are hypocrites, carnal or unconverted men, he shall for the first offence make a public confession in he hall, and for the second offence be expelled (p. 41).” Edwards was clearly more sympathetic with the students than the college was. He even went so far as to say in his commencement address that afternoon, “It is no evidence that a work is not the work of God, if many that are subjects of it … are guilty of (so) great forwardness to censure others as unconverted (p. 42).”

Brainerd was in the crowd as Edwards spoke. One can’t help but wonder whether Edwards later felt some responsibility for what happened to Brainerd the next term. He was at the top of his class academically but was summarily expelled in early 1742 during his third year. He was overheard to say that one of the tutors, Chauncey Whittelsey, “has no more grace than a chair” and that he wondered why the Rector “did not drop down dead” for fining students for their evangelical zeal (pp. 42, 155).

This expulsion wounded Brainerd very deeply. He tried again and again in the next several years to make things right. Numerous people came to his aid, but all to no avail. God had another plan for Brainerd. Instead of a quiet six years in the pastorate or lecture hall followed by death and little historical significance at all, God meant to drive him into the wilderness that he might suffer for His sake and make an incalculable impact on the history of missions.

Before the way was cut off for him to the pastorate, Brainerd had no thought of being a missionary to the Indians. But now he had to rethink his whole life. There was a law, recently passed, that no established minister could be installed in Connecticut who had not graduated from Harvard, Yale or a European University (p. 52). So Brainerd felt cut off from his life calling.

There is a tremendous lesson here. God is at work for the glory of his name and the good of his church even when the good intentions of his servants fail—even when that failing is owing to sin or carelessness. One careless word, spoken in haste , and Brainerd’s life seemed to fall apart before his eyes. But God knew better, and Brainerd came to accept it. In fact, I am tempted to speculate whether the modern missionary movement, that was so repeatedly inspired by Brainerd’s missionary life, would have happened if David Brainerd had not been expelled from Yale and cut off from his hopes to serve God in the pastorate!

In the summer of 1742 a group of ministers sympathetic to the Great Awakening (called New Lights) licensed Brainerd to preach. Jonathan Dickinson, the leading Presbyterian in New Jersey, took an interest in Brainerd and tried to get him reinstated in Yale. When that failed the suggestion was made that Brainerd become a missionary to the Indians under the sponsorship of the Commissioners of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Dickinson was one of those Commissioners. On November 25, 1742 Brainerd was examined for his fitness for the work and appointed as a missionary to the Indians. (p. 188)

He spent the winter serving a church on Long Island so that he could enter the wilderness in the spring. His first assignment was to the Housatonic Indians at Kaunaumeek about 20 miles northwest of Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Edwards would eventually serve as a missionary to the Indians. He arrived April 1, 1743 and preached for one year, using an interpreter and trying to learn the language from John Sergeant, the veteran missionary at Stockbridge (p. 228). He was able to start a school for Indian children and translate some of the Psalms (p. 61).

Then came a reassignment to go to the Indians along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. So on May 1, 1744 he left Kaunaumeek and settled in the Forks of the Delaware, northeast of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At the end of the month he rode to Newark, N.J. to be examined by the Newark Presbytery and was ordained on June 11, 1744 (pp. 251-252).

Brainerd preached to the Indians at the Forks of the Delaware for one year. But on June 19, 1745 he made his first preaching tour to the Indians at Crossweeksung, New Jersey. This was the place where God moved in amazing power and brought awakening and blessing to the Indians. Within a year there were 130 persons in his growing assembly of believers (p. 376). The whole Christian community moved from Crossweeksung to Cranberry in May 1746 to have their own land and village. Brainerd stayed with these Indians until he was too sick to minister, and in November 1746 he left Cranberry to spend four months trying to recuperate in Elizabethtown at the house of Jonathan Dickinson.

On March 20, 1747 David Brainerd made one last visit to his Indian friends and then rode to the house of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts, arriving May 28, 1747. He made one trip to Boston during the summer and then returned and died of tuberculosis in Edwards’ house October 9, 1747.

It was a short life: twenty-nine years, five months and nineteen days. Only eight of those years as a believer, and only four of those as a missionary. Why has Brainerd’s life made the impact that it has? One obvious reason is that Jonathan Edwards took the Diaries and published them as a Life of Brainerd in 1749. But why has this book never been out of print? Why did John Wesley say, “Let every preacher read carefully over the ‘Life of Brainerd (p. 3)'”? Why was it written of Henry Martyn that “perusing the life of David Brainerd, his soul was filled with a holy emulation of that extraordinary man; and after deep consideration and fervent prayer, he was at length fixed in a resolution to imitate his example”? (see note 2) Why did William Carey regard Edwards’ Life of Brainerd as a sacred text? Why did Robert Morrison and Robert McCheyne of Scotland and John Mills of America and Frederick Schwartz of Germany and David Livingston of England and Andrew Murray of South Africa and Jim Elliot of modern America look upon Brainerd with a kind of awe and draw power from him the way they and countless others did (p. 4)?

Gideon Hawley, another missionary protégé of Jonathan Edwards spoke for hundreds when he wrote about his struggles as a missionary in 1753, “I need, greatly need something more than humane (=human or natural) to support me. I read my Bible and Mr. Brainerd’s Life, the only books I brought with me, and from them have a little support (p. 3).”

Why has this life had such an impact? Or perhaps I should just pose a more modest and manageable question: Why does it have such an impact on me? How has it helped me to press on in the ministry and to strive for holiness and divine power and fruitfulness in my life?

The answer for me is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.

To illustrate this we will look first at Brainerd’s struggles, then at how he responded to them and finally at how God used him with all his weaknesses.

His Struggles

Brainerd struggled with almost constant sickness.

He had to drop out of college for some weeks because he had begun to cough up blood in 1740. In May of 1744 he wrote, “Rode several hours in the rain through the howling wilderness, although I was so disordered in body that little or nothing but blood came from me (p. 247).”

Now and again he would write something like, “In the afternoon my pain increased exceedingly; and was obliged to betake myself to bed … Was sometimes almost bereaved of the exercise of my reason by the extremity of pain.” (p. 253) In August of 1746 he wrote, “Having lain in cold sweat all night, I coughed much bloody matter this morning, and was under great disorder of body, and not a little melancholy.” (p. 420) In September he wrote, “Exercised with a violent cough and a considerable fever; had no appetite to any kind of food; and frequently brought up what I ate, as soon as it was down; and oftentimes had little rest in my bed, by reason of pains in my breast and back: was able, however, to rode over to my people, about two miles, every day, and take some care of those who were then at work upon a small house for me to reside in amongst the Indians (p. 430).”

In May of 1747 at Jonathan Edwards’ house the doctors told him that he had incurable consumption and did not have long to live. (p. 447) In the last couple of months of his life the suffering was incredible. September 24: “In the greatest distress that ever I endured having an uncommon kind of hiccough; which either strangled me or threw me into a straining to vomit.” (p. 469) Edwards comments that in the week before he died, “He told me it was impossible for any to conceive of the distress he felt in his breast. He manifested much concern lest he should dishonor God by impatience under his extreme agony; which was such that he said the thought of enduring it one minute longer was almost insupportable.” And the night before he died he said to those around him that it was another thing to die than people imagined (pp. 475-476).

What strikes the reader of these diaries is not just the severity of Brainerd’s suffering in the days before antibiotics and pain killers, but especially how relentless the sickness was. It was almost always there. And yet he pressed on with his work.

Brainerd struggled with relentlessly recurring depression.

Brainerd came to understand more fully from his own experience the difference between spiritual desertion and the disease of melancholy. So his later judgments about his own spiritual condition are probably more careful than the earlier ones. But however one assesses his psychological condition, he was tormented again and again with the blackest discouragements. And the marvel is that he survived and kept going at all.

Brainerd said eh had been this way from his youth (p. 101). But he said that there was a difference between the depression he suffered before and after his conversion. After his conversion there seemed to be a rock of electing love under him that would catch him, so that in his darkest times he could still affirm the truth and goodness of God, even though he couldn’t sense it for a season (pp. 93, 141, 165, 278).

But it was bad enough nevertheless. Often his distress was owing to the hatred of his own remaining sinfulness. Thursday, November 4, 1742. “Tis distressing to feel in my soul that hell of corruption which still remains in me.” (p. 185) Sometimes this sense of unworthiness was so intense that he felt cut off from the presence of God. January 23, 1743. “Scarce ever felt myself so unfit to exist, as now: I saw I was not worthy of a place among the Indians, where I am going … None knows, but those that feel it, what the soul endures that is sensibly shut out from the presence of God: Alas, ’tis more bitter than death (pp. 195-6)!”

He often called his depression an kind of death. I counted at least 22 places in the Diary where he longed for death as a freedom from his misery. For example, Sunday, February 3, 1745. “My soul remember ‘the wormwood and the gall’ (I might almost say hell) of Friday last; and I was greatly afraid I should be obliged again to drink of that ‘cup of trembling’, which was inconceivably more bitter than death, and made me long for the grave more, unspeakably more, than for hid treasures.” (p. 285) sunday, December 16, 1744. “Was so overwhelmed with dejection that I knew not how to live: I longed for death exceedingly: My soul was ‘sunk in deep waters,’ and ‘the floods’ were ready to ‘drown me’: I was so much oppressed that my soul was in a kind of horror (p. 278).”

It caused him compounded misery that his mental distress hindered his ministry and his devotion. Wednesday, March 9, 1743. “Rode 16 miles to Montauk, and had some inward sweetness on the road, but something of flatness and deadness after I came there and had seen the Indians: I withdrew and endeavored to pray, but found myself awfully deserted and left, and had an afflicting sense of my vileness and meanness.” (p. 199) At times he was simply immobilized by the distresses and couldn’t function anymore. Tuesday, September 2, 1746. “Was scarce ever more confounded with a sense of my own unfruitfulness and unfitness of my work, than now. Oh, what a dead, heartless, barren, unprofitable wretch did I now see myself to be! My spirits were so low, and my bodily strength so wasted, that I could do nothing at all. At length, being much overdone, lay down on a buffalo skin; but sweat much of the whole night (pp. 423f.).”

It is simply amazing how often Brainerd pressed on with the practical necessities of his work in the face of these waves of discouragement. This has no doubt endeared him to many a missionary who know first hand the kinds of pain he endured.

Brainerd struggled with loneliness.

He tells of having to endure the profane talk of two strangers one night in April, 1743 and says, “Oh, I longed that some dear Christian knew my distress (p. 204)!” A month later he says, “Most of the talk I hear is either Highland Scotch or Indian. I have no fellow Christian to whom I might unbosom myself and lay open my spiritual sorrows, and with whom I might take sweet counsel in conversation about heavenly things, and join in social prayer.” (p. 207) This misery made him sometimes shrink back from going off on another venture. Tuesday, May 8, 1744. “My hear sometimes was ready to sink with the thoughts of my work, and going alone in the wilderness, I knew not where (p. 248).”

In December, 1745 he wrote a letter to his friend Eleazar Wheelock and said, “I doubt not by that time you have read my journal through you’ll be more sensible of the need I stand in of a companion in travel than ever you was before (p. 584).” But he didn’t just want any kind of person of course. He wanted a soul companion. Many of us can empathize with him when he says, “There are many with whom I can talk about religion: but alas, I find few with whom I can talk religion itself: But, blessed be the Lord, there are some that love to feed on the kernel rather than the shell (p. 292).”

But Brainerd was alone in his ministry to the end. The last 19 weeks of his life Jerusha Edwards, Jonathan Edwards’ 17 year old daughter, was his nurse and many speculate that there was deep love between them. But in the wilderness and in the ministry he was alone, and could only pour out his soul to God. And God bore him and kept him going.

Brainerd struggled with immense external hardships.

He describes his first mission station at Kaunaumeek in May, 1743: “I live poorly with regard to the comforts of life: most of my diet consists of boiled corn, hasty pudding, etc. I lodge on a bundle of straw, and my labor is hard and extremely difficult; and I have little experience of success to comfort me.” (p. 207) In August he says, “In this weak state of body, (I) was not a little distressed for want of suitable food. Had no bread, nor could I get any. I am forced to go or send ten or fifteen miles for all the bread I eat; and sometimes ’tis moldy and sour before I eat it, if I get any considerable quantity … But through divine goodness I had some Indian meal, of which I made little cakes and fried them. Yet felt contented with my circumstances, and sweetly resigned to God (pp. 213-214).”

He says that he was frequently lost in the woods and was exposed to cold and hunger (p. 222). he speaks of his horse being stolen or being poisoned or breaking a leg (pp. 294, 339). He tells about how the smoke from a fireplace would often make the room intolerable to his lungs and he would have to go out into the cold to get his breath, and then could not sleep through the night (p. 422).

But the struggle with external hardships, as great as they were, was not his worst struggle. He had an amazing resignation and even rest it seems in many of these circumstances. He knew where they fit in his Biblical approach to life:

Such fatigues and hardship as these serve to wean me more from the earth; and, I trust, will make heaven the sweeter. Formerly, when I was thus exposed to cold, rain, etc., I was ready to please myself with the thoughts of enjoying a comfortable house, a warm fire, and other outward comforts; but now these have less place in my heart (through the grace of God) and my eye is more to God for comfort. In this world I expect tribulation; and it does not now, as formerly, appear strange to me; I don’t in such seasons of difficulty flatter myself that it will be better hereafter; but rather think how much worse it might be; how much greater trials others of God’s children have endured; and how much greater are yet perhaps reserved for me. Blessed be God that he makes (=is) the comfort to me, under my sharpest trials; and scarce ever lets these thoughts be attended with terror or melancholy; but they are attended frequently with great joy (p. 274).”

So in spite of the terrible external hardships that Brainerd knew, he pressed on and even flourished under these tribulations that led to the kingdom.

Brainerd struggled with a bleak outlook on nature.

We will forgive him for this quickly because none of us has suffered physically what he suffered or endured the hardships he did in the wilderness. It is hard to relish the beauty of a rose when you are coughing up blood.

But we have to see this as pat of Brainerd’s struggle because an eye for beauty instead of bleakness might have lightened some of his load. Edwards extolled Brainerd for not being a person of “warm imagination (p. 93).” This was a virtue for Edwards because it meant that Brainerd was free from what he called religious “enthusiasm”—the intensity of religious emotion based on sudden impressions and sights in the imagination rather than on spiritual apprehension of God’s moral perfections. So Edwards applauded Brainerd for not having “strong and lively images formed in his imagination (p. 93).”

But there is a costly downside to an unimaginative mind. In Brainerd’s case it meant that he seemed to see nothing in nature but a “howling wilderness” and a bleak enemy. There was nothing in his diaries like the transports of Jonathan Edwards as he walked in the woods and saw images of divine glory and echoes of God’s excellence everywhere. Norman Pettit is basically right it seems to me when he says, “Where Edwards saw mountains and waste places as the setting for divine disclosure, Brainerd saw only a ‘howling desert.’ Where Edwards would take spiritual delight ‘in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees,’ Brainerd never mentioned natural beauty. In contrast to Edwards’ joy in summer is Brainerd’s fear of winter.” (p. 23) Brainerd never mentioned an attractive landscape or sunset. He did at one place say he had discovered the need for diversions in his labor for the sake of maximizing his usefulness. (p. 292) But he never once described such a diversion or any impact on him that it had.

It is a sad thing that Brainerd was blinded (perhaps by his suffering) to one of God’s antidotes to depression. Spurgeon described this as well as anyone:

To sit long in one posture, pouring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog … Nature outside his window is calling him to health and beckoning him to joy. He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of the birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. (see note 3)

I say we will forgive Brainerd quickly for not drawing strength and refreshment from God’s gallery of joy, because his suffering made it so hard for him to see. But we must make every effort not to succumb with him here. Spurgeon and Edwards are the models for us on ministerial uses of nature. And, of course, an even greater authority said, “Consider the lilies.”

Brainerd struggled to love the Indians.

If love is known by sacrifice, then Brainerd loved. But if it is also known by heartfelt compassion then Brainerd struggled to love more than he did. Sometimes he was melted with love. September 18, 1742. “Felt some compassion for souls, and mourned I had no more. I feel much more kindness, meekness, gentleness and love towards all mankind, than ever (p. 181).” December 26, 1742. “Felt much sweetness and tenderness in prayer, especially my whole soul seemed to love my worst enemies, and was enabled to pray for those that are strangers and enemies to God with a great degree of softness and pathetic fervor (p. 193).” Tuesday, July 2, 1745. “Felt my heat drawn out after God in prayer, almost all the forenoon; especially while riding. And in the evening, could not help crying to God for those poor Indians; and after I went to bed my heart continued to go out to God for them, till I dropped asleep. Oh, ‘Blessed be God that I may pray (p. 302)!'”

But other times he seemed empty of affection or compassion for their souls. He expresses guilt that he should preach to immortal souls with no more ardency and so little desire for their salvation. (p. 235) His compassion could simply go flat. November 2, 1744. “About noon, rode up to the Indians; and while going, could feel no desires for them, and even dreaded to say anything to ’em (p. 272).”

So Brainerd struggled with the rise and fall of love in his own heart. He loved, but longed to love so much more.

Brainerd struggled to stay true to his calling.

Even though Brainerd’s expulsion from Yale initially hindered his entering the pastorate, and turned him to consider the missionary career, the missionary call he felt from the Lord in this was not abandoned when other opportunities for the pastorate finally did come along. There were several opportunities for him to have a much easier life in the settled life of the parish minister.

The church at Millington, near his hometown of Haddam, called him in March of 1744, and he describes the call as a great care and burden. He turned it down and prayed that the Lord would send laborers to his vineyard. (p. 244) The church at East Hampton on Long Island called him too. Jonathan Edwards called this “the fairest, pleasantest town on the whole island, and one of its largest and most wealthy parishes.” Brainerd wrote on Thursday, April 5, “Resolved to go on still with the Indian affair, if divine providence permitted; although before felt some inclination to go to East Hampton, where I was solicited to go.” (p. 245)

There were other opportunities too. But each time the struggle was resolved with this sense of burden and call: “(I) could have no freedom in the thought of any other circumstances or business in life: All my desire was the conversion of the heathen, and all my hope was in God: God does not suffer me to please or comfort myself with hopes of seeing friends, returning to my dear acquaintance, and enjoying worldly comforts.” (p. 263) So the struggle was obviously there, but he was held to his post by a readiness to suffer and a passion to see the kingdom of Christ spread among the Indians.

Brainerd’s Passion to Press on for God’s Kingdom

I think the reason Brainerd’s life has such powerful effects on people is that in spite of all his struggles he never gave up his faith or his ministry. He was consumed with a passion to finish his race and honor his Master and spread the kingdom and advance in personal holiness. It was this unswerving allegiance to the cause of Christ that makes the bleakness of his life glow with glory so that we can understand Henry Martyn when he wrote, as a student in Cambridge in 1802, “I long to be like him (p. 4)!”

Brainerd called his passion for more holiness and more usefulness a kind of “pleasing pain.” “When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable; … Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God … Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey (p. 186)!”

He was gripped with by the apostolic admonition: “Redeem the time for the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) He embodied the counsel: “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we shall reap if we do not faint.” (Gal. 6:9) He strove to be, as Paul says, “abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).”

April 17, 1747. “O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God. To God the giver of these refreshments, be glory forever and ever; Amen.” (p. 246) February 21, 1746. “My soul was refreshed and comforted, and I could not but bless God, who had enabled me in some good measure to be faithful in the day past. Oh, how sweet it is to be spent and worn out for God!” (p. 366)

Among all the means that Brainerd used for pursuing greater and greater holiness and usefulness prayer and fasting stand out above all. We read of him spending whole days in prayer (p. 172), and sometimes setting aside six times in the day to pray, (p. 280), and sometimes seeking out a family or friend to pray with. He prayed for his own sanctification. He prayed for the conversion and purity of his Indians. He prayed for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ around the world and especially in America. Sometimes the spirit of prayer would hold him so deeply that he could scarcely stop.

Once, visiting in a home with friends, he got alone to pray: “I continued wrestling with God in prayer for my dear little flock here; and more especially for the Indians elsewhere; as well as for dear friends in one place and another; till it was bed time and I feared I should hinder the family, etc. But oh, with what reluctancy did I find myself obliged to consume time in sleep!” (p. 402)

And along with prayer, Brainerd pursued holiness and usefuleness with fasting. Again and again in his Diary he tells of days spent in fasting. He fasted for guidance when he was perplexed about the next steps of his ministry. And he fasted simply with the deep hope of making greater advances in his own spiritual depth and his usefulness in bringing life to the Indians. When he was dying in Edwards’ house he urged young ministers who came to see him to engage in frequent days of private prayer and fasting because of how useful it was. (p. 473)

Edwards himself said, “Among all the many days he spent in secret fasting and prayer and that he gives an account of in his diary, there is scarce an instance of one but what was either attended or soon followed with apparent success and a remarkable blessing in special incomes and consolations of God’s Spirit; and very often before the day was ended.” (p. 531)

Along with prayer and fasting, Brainerd bought up the time with study and mingled all three of these together. December 20, 1745. “I spent much of the day in writing; but was enabled to intermix prayer with my studies.” (p. 280) January 7, 1744. “Spent this day in seriousness, with steadfast resolutions for God and a life of mortification. Studied closely, till I felt my bodily strength fail.” (p. 234) December 20, 1742. “Spent this day in prayer, reading and writing; and enjoyed some assistance, especially in correcting some thoughts on a certain subject.” (p. 192)

He was constantly writing and thinking about theological things. That’s why we have the Diaries and Journal! But there was more. We read frequently things like, “Was most of the day employed in writing on a divine subject. Was frequent in prayer.” (p. 240) “I spent most of the time in writing on a sweet divine subject.” (p. 284) “Was engaged in writing again almost the whole day.” (p. 287) “Rose early and wrote by candlelight some considerable time; spent most of the day in writing.” (p. 344) “Towards night, enjoyed some of the clearest thoughts on a divine subject … that ever I remember to have had upon any subject whatsoever; and spent two or three hours in writing them.” (p. 359)

Brainerd’s life is one long agonizing strain to “redeem the time” and “not grow weary in well doing” and “abound in the work of the Lord.” And what makes his life so powerful is that he pressed on in this passion under the immense struggles and hardships that he did.

The Effect of Brainerd’s Life

First, I would mention the effect on Jonathan Edwards, the great pastor and theologian of Northampton. Edwards’ bears his own testimony:

I would conclude my observations on the merciful circumstances of Mr. Brainerd’s death without acknowledging with thankfulness the gracious dispensation of Providence to me and my family in so ordering that he … should be cast hither to my house, in his last sickness, and should die here: So that we had opportunity for much acquaintance and conversation with him, and to show him kindness in such circumstances, and to see his dying behavior, to hear his dying speeches, to receive his dying counsels, and to have the benefit of his dying prayers.” (p. 541)

Edwards said this even though he must have known it probably cost him the life of his daughter to have Brainerd in his house with that terrible disease. Jerusha had tended Brainerd as a nurse for the last 19 weeks of his life, and four months after he died she died of the same affliction. so Edwards really meant what he said, that it was a “gracious dispensation of Providence” that Brainerd came to his house to die.

As a result of the immense impact of Brainerd’s devotion on Jonathan Edwards, Edwards wrote in the next two years the Life of Brainerd, which has been reprinted more often than any of his other books. And through this Life the impact of Brainerd on the church has been incalculable, because beyond all the famous missionaries who tell us that they have been sustained and inspired by Brainerd’s Life how many countless other unknown faithful servants must there be who found strength to press on from Brainerd’s testimony!

A lesser known effect of Brainerd’s life, and one that owes far more to the gracious Providence of God than to any intention on Brainerd’s part was the founding of Princeton College and Dartmouth College. Jonathan Dickinson and Aaron Burr, who were Princeton’s first leaders and among its founders took direct interest in Brainerd’s case at Yale and were extremely upset that the school would not readmit him. This event brought to a head the dissatisfaction that the New York and New Jersey Presbyterian Synods had with Yale and crystallized the resolve to found their own school. The College of New Jersey (later, Princeton) was chartered in October, 1746. Dickinson was made the first president and when the classes began in his house in May of 1747 in Elizabethtown Brainerd was there trying to recover in his last months, and so he is considered to be the first student enrolled. David Field and Archibald Alexander and others testify that in a real sense “Princeton college was founded because of Brainerd’s expulsion from Yale.” (p. 55)

Another surprising effect of Brainerd’s life is the inspiration he provided for the founding of Dartmouth College by Eleazer Wheelock. Brainerd felt a failure among the Iroquois Indians on the Susquehanna. He labored among them for a year or so and then moved on. But his Diary of the time kindled the commitment of Wheelock to go to the Iroquois of Connecticut. And inspired by Brainerd’s example in teaching the Indians he founded in 1748 a school for Indians and whites at Lebanon. Later it was moved to Hannover, New Hampshire where Wheelock founded Dartmouth College.

In 1740 Yale and Harvard and William and Mary were the only Colonial colleges, and they were not sympathetic to the Evangelical piety of the Great Awakening. But the tide of Awakening brought in a zeal for education as well as piety and the Presbyterians founded Princeton, the Baptists founded Brown, the Dutch Reformed founded Rutgers, and the Congregationalists founded Dartmouth. It is remarkable that David Brainerd must be reckoned as an essential motivational component in the founding of two of those schools. If he was a somewhat frustrated scholar, thinking and writing by candlelight in the wilderness, his vision for evangelical higher education had a greater fulfillment probably than if he had given his life to that cause instead of to the missionary passion that he felt.

I close by stating that the most awesome effect of Brainerd’s ministry is the same as the most awesome effect of every pastor’s ministry. There are a few Indians—perhaps several hundreds—who owe their everlasting life to the direct love and ministry of David Brainerd. Some of their individual stories would make another lecture—a very inspiring one. Who can describe the value of one soul transferred from the kingdom of darkness, and from the weeping and gnashing of teeth, to the kingdom of God’s dear Son! If we live 29 years or if we live 99 years, would not any hardships be worth the saving of one person from the eternal torments of hell for the everlasting enjoyment of the glory of God?

My last word must be the same as Edwards’. I thank God for the ministry of David Brainerd in my own life. From a journal that seems weak and worldly compared to Brainerd’s I quote.

June 28, 1986.

This after noon Tom and Julie (Steller) and I drove to Northampton. We found the gravestone of David Brainerd, a dark stone slab the size of the grave top and a smaller white marble inset with these words:
Sacred to the memory of the Rev.
David Brainerd. A faithful and
laborious missionary to the
Stockbridge, Delaware and Susquehanna
Tribes of Indians who
died in this town. October 10, 1747
AE 32 (see note 4)
Tom and Julie (and Ruth and Hannah) and I took hands and stood around the grave and prayed to thank God for Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards and to dedicate ourselves to their work and their God. It was a memorable, and I hope, powerful and lasting moment.

January 31, 1990 | by John Piper

Notes:

1. The Life of David Brainerd, ed. Norman Pettit, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 7, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 33. All page numbers in the text refer to this volume which contains not only Edwards’ edition of Brainerd’s Diaries, but also some journal extracts and an extensive introduction by Dr. Pettit and related correspondence.
2. “Brainerd, David,” in Religious Encyclopaedia, Vol. 1, ed. Philip Schaff, (New York: the Christian literature Company, 1888), p. 320.
3. Lectures to My Students, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 158.
4. Both these facts are inaccurate: he died October 9 at the age of 29.

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Blessed are the Peacemakers


March 9, 1986 | by John Piper | Scripture: Matthew 5:9 |

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

With each beatitude another nail is driven into a coffin. Inside the coffin lies the corpse of a false understanding of salvation. The false understanding said that a person can be saved without being changed. Or: that a person can inherit eternal life even if his attitudes and actions are like the attitudes and actions of unbelievers.

The Cry of the Beatitudes: Get a New Heart

One after the other the beatitudes tell us that the blessings of eternity will be given only to those who have become new creatures. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

If we don’t obtain mercy, we receive judgment. If we don’t see God, we are not in heaven. If we aren’t called the sons of God, we are outside the family. In other words these are all descriptions of final salvation. And it is promised only to the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Therefore the beatitudes are like long spikes holding down the lid of the coffin on the false teaching which says that if you just believe in Jesus you will go to heaven whether or not you are merciful or pure in heart or a peacemaker. In fact, from beginning to end the Sermon on the Mount cries out, “Get yourself a new heart! Become a new person! The river of judgment is at the door!” You recall the words of verse 20: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

And at the very end of the sermon in 7:26f. the Lord calls out over the crowds, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” In other words, a life of disobedience to the beatitudes and to the Sermon on the Mount will not stand in the judgment no matter what we believe!

Not Optional Suggestions but the Path to Heaven

I have been convicted this past week that I have probably not treated this dimension of the beatitudes with as much earnestness and seriousness as I should, and that the care that I have for your eternal good has not shown itself as genuinely as it must. My conscience was pricked in reading an old book by Horatius Bonar to pastors in which he said,

Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. (Words to Winners of Souls, p. 55)

So I want to impress upon your consciences this morning with as much earnestness as I can that in the beatitudes Jesus is not making optional suggestions, and this sermon is not a series of suggestions on how to make the world better. On the contrary, Jesus is describing the pathway to heaven, and this sermon is a message from God to urge you to get on that pathway and stay on that pathway so that you can be called sons of God at the last judgment.

That is what is at stake this morning. If you are on the narrow path which leads to life, my purpose is to help you stay on it. And if you are still in the broad way that leads to destruction, my purpose is to direct you to the path of life.

How to Become Sons of God

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,” he does not tell us how to become a son of God. He simply says that sons of God are in fact peacemakers. People who are peacemakers will be recognized as the sons of God at the judgment and they will be called what they are and welcomed into the Father’s house.

To see how to become sons of God we can look, for example, at John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26. John 1:12 says, “To all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And Galatians 3:26 says, “For in Christ we are all sons of God through faith.” In other words, we become sons of God by trusting in Christ for our forgiveness and hope.

Sons of God Have the Character of Their Father

What Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:9 is that people who have become sons of God have the character of their heavenly Father. And we know from Scripture that their heavenly Father is a “God of peace” (Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). We know that heaven is a world of peace (Luke 19:38). And most important of all, we know that God is a peacemaker!

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). He made peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20). In other words, even though by nature we are rebels against God and have committed high treason and are worthy to be eternally court-marshaled and hanged by the neck until dead, nevertheless God has sacrificed his own Son and now declares amnesty free and clear to any who will lay down their arms of independence and come home to faith.

God is a peace-loving God, and a peacemaking God. The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is God’s strategy to bring about a just and lasting peace between rebel man and himself, and then between man and man. Therefore, God’s children are that way, too. They have the character of their Father. What he loves they love. What he pursues they pursue. You can know his children by whether they are willing to make sacrifices for peace the way God did.

By the sovereign work of God’s grace rebel human beings are born again, and brought from rebellion to faith, and made into children of God. We were given a new nature, after the image of our heavenly Father (1 John 3:9). If he is a peacemaker, then his children, who have his nature, will be peacemakers too.

The Spirit of God Is the Spirit of Peace

Or to put it another way, as Paul says in Galatians 4:6, “Since we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” And therefore, as he says in Romans 8:14, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” And being led by the Spirit always includes bearing the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is peace!

So you see why it must be so, that the children of God must be peacemakers. It is by the Spirit of God that we are made children of God, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace. If we are not peacemakers, we don’t have the Spirit of Christ.

So we do not earn or merit the privilege to be called sons of God. Instead we owe our new birth to the sovereign grace of God (John 1:13). We owe our faith to the impulses of the new birth (1 John 5:1). We receive the Holy Spirit by the exercise of this faith (Galatians 3:2). The fruit of this Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). And those who bear the fruit of peace are the sons of God.

Our whole salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace—therein lies our hope and joy and freedom. But our final salvation is not unconditional, we must be peacemakers—therein lies our earnestness and the great seriousness with which we must deal with these beatitudes, and seek the grace of God in our lives.

Now let’s look at . . .

What It Means to Be a Peacemaker

The promise of sonship in the second half of the Matthew 5:9 points us to Matthew 5:43–45 for our main insight. Both of these texts describe how we can show ourselves to be sons of God.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Notice verse 45, ” . . . so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The thought is the same as in Matthew 5:9. There, we must be peacemakers to be called sons of God. Here, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us if we would be sons of God.

So probably Jesus thinks of peacemaking as all the acts of love by which we try to overcome the enmity between us and other people. And if we ask for specifics, he gives two examples.

Two Examples

The first thing he mentions is prayer (verse 44): Pray for those who persecute you. Pray what? The next chapter tells us. In Matthew 6:9–10 Jesus says, “Pray like this.” Pray that you and your enemy would hallow God’s name. Pray that God’s kingdom be acknowledged in your life and his life. Pray that you and he would do God’s will the way the angels do it in heaven. In other words, pray for conversion and sanctification. The basis of peace is purity. Pray for yours and pray for his, that there might be peace.

Then in Matthew 5:47 Jesus gives the other specific example of peacemaking-love in this text: “If you salute (or greet) only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?” In other words, if there is a rupture in one of your relationships, or if there is someone who opposes you, don’t nurse that grudge. Don’t feed the animosity by ignoring and avoiding that person. That is the natural thing to do—just cross the street so that you don’t have to greet them. But that is not the impulse of the Spirit of a peacemaking God, who sacrificed his Son to reconcile us to himself and to each other.

Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people. It does not want the animosity to remain. It wants reconciliation. It wants harmony. And so it tries to show what may be the only courtesy the enemy will tolerate, namely, a greeting. The peacemaker looks the enemy right in the eye and says, “Good morning, John.” And he says it with a longing for peace in his heart, not with a phony gloss of politeness to cover his anger.

Not the Same as Peace-Achieving

So we pray and we take whatever practical initiatives we can to make peace beginning with something as simple as a greeting. But we do not always succeed. And I want to make sure you don’t equate peacemaking with peace-achieving. A peacemaker longs for peace, and works for peace, and sacrifices for peace. But the attainment of peace may not come.

Romans 12:18 is very important at this point. There Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” That is the goal of a peacemaker: “If possible, so far as it depends on you . . . ” Don’t let the rupture in the relationship be your fault.

A Tough Question: Peace and Truth?

Ah, but that raises a tough question: Is it your fault when the stand that you take is causing the division? If you have alienated someone and brought down their anger upon your head because you have done or said what is right, have you ceased to be a peacemaker?

Not necessarily. Paul said, “If it is possible . . . live at peace.” He thus admits that there will be times that standing for the truth will make it impossible. For example, he says to the Corinthians (in 11:18–19), “I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Now he would not have said that, if the genuine Christians should have compromised the truth in order to prevent divisions at all cost. It was precisely because some of the Christians were genuine—genuine peacemakers—that some of the divisions existed. (Also see 1 Corinthians 7:15.)

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34,

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.

In other words, you must love peace and work for peace. You must pray for your enemies, and do good to them, and greet them, and long for the barriers between you to be overcome. But you must never abandon your allegiance to me and my word, no matter how much animosity it brings down on your head. You are not guilty; you are not in the wrong if your life of obedience and your message of love and truth elicit hostility from some and affirmation from others.

Purity the Basis for Peace

Perhaps it’s just this warning that Jesus wants to sound when the very next beatitude says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” In other words, righteousness must not be compromised in order to make peace with your persecutors. When Jesus pronounces a blessing on you for being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, he clearly subordinates the goal of peace to the goal of righteousness.

In James 3:17 it says “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” First pure, then peaceable, not the other way around. And that is the order we have in the beatitudes also (in verses 8 and 9): First, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” then, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Purity takes precedence over peace. Purity is the basis of biblical peace. Purity may not be compromised in order to make peace.

Why Focus on the Individual Dimensions?

Now I want to close by dealing with one more question that a message like this would raise for some people today. Why, in view of the world situation, does this message on peacemaking confine itself to the personal dimensions of prayer and greetings and individual reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

Before we answer that question, let’s ask another one. Was Jesus unaware that the iron hand of the Roman Empire rested on the tiny land of the Jews without their consent? Was he aware that Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at a Passover celebration? Was he aware that the Roman soldiers could conscript any Jew they chose to carry their baggage? Was he aware that Pilate had his soldiers bludgeon a crowd of Jews protesting his stealing from the temple treasury? Was he aware that Pilate massacred Jews on the temple ground and mixed their blood with their sacrifices they were offering?

When Jesus spoke of enemies, why did he confine himself to prayer and personal greetings and blessings and individual deeds of generosity and kindness? Why didn’t he talk about the issues of national humiliation, and Roman oppression, and political corruption, and the unbridled militarism of his day? Was he utterly out of touch with the big issues of his day?

Social Injustices as Demands for Personal Repentance

No. There is another explanation for why he preaches the way he does. In Luke 13:1–5 some people confronted Jesus with one of Pilate’s atrocities. Here’s the way he responded:

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

He took a major social outrage of injustice and turned it into a demand for personal, individual repentance. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish!” That’s what he always did. Why did he do this? Because for Jesus the eternal destiny of a human soul is a weightier matter, a bigger issue, than the temporal destiny of a nation.

If you come to Jesus with a question about the justice of taxes to Tiberias Caesar, he will turn it into a personal command aimed right at your own heart: “You give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15–21).

If you come to Jesus with a complaint about the injustice of your brother who will not divide the inheritance with you, he will turn it into a warning to your own conscience, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you? . . . Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13–15).

The Truly Weighty Matter in the World Today

Now let’s go back to the question. Why does a message on peacemaking from the Sermon on the Mount focus on the individual issues of prayer and greetings and personal reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

The answer is no, because the point of these personal issues in the Sermon on the Mount is to make crystal clear that every individual within the hearing of my voice must become a new creature if you are to have eternal life. You must have a new heart. Without a merciful, pure, peacemaking heart you cannot be called a son of God at the judgment day. And that is the truly weighty matter in the world today. Is the Son of Man confined in his views of the world, is he out of touch with the real issues of life because he regards the eternal salvation of your soul as a weightier matter than the temporal destiny of any nation on earth?

Blessed are you peacemakers who pray for your enemies and greet your opponents with love and sacrifice like your heavenly Father for the reconciliation of people to God and to each other, for you will be called sons of God and inherit eternal life in the kingdom of your Father.

March 9, 1986 | by John Piper | Scripture: Matthew 5:9 |

Matthew 5:9

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If you are not as wicked as others.


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From “The unsearchable riches of Christ” by Thomas Brooks.

If you are not as wicked as others.

“By the grace of God I am what I am!” 1 Corin. 15:10

Whatever evil you behold in other men’s practices,realize that you have the same evil in your own nature.

There is the seed of all sins,of the vilest and worst of sins—in the best of men. When you see a drunkard—you may see the seed of that sin in your own nature. When you see an immoral man—you may see the seeds of immorality in your own nature. If you are not as wicked as others—it is not because of the goodness of your nature—but from the riches of God’s grace!

Remember this—there is not a worse nature in hell than that which is in you,and it would manifest itself accordingly—if the Lord did not restrain it!

There was one who was a long time tempted to three horrid sins: to be drunk,to lie with his mother,and to murder his father. Being a long time followed with these horrid temptations,at last he thought to get rid of them,by yielding to what he judged the least, and that was to be drunk; but when he was drunk,he did both lie with his mother and murdered his father.

Why,such a hellish nature is in every soul that breathes! And did God leave men to act according to their natures, all men would be incarnate devils,and this world a total hell. In your nature you have that that would lead you . . . with the Pharisees—to oppose Christ; and with Judas—to betray Christ; and with Pilate—to condemn Christ; and with the soldiers—to crucify Christ.

Oh,what a monster,what a devil you would be—should God but leave you to act suitable to that sinful and woeful nature of yours!

“By the grace of God I am what I am!” 1 Corin. 15:10

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Love of the Brethren.


John Newton’s Letters
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Love to the brethren

Dear Sir,

The Apostle having said, “Marvel not, my brethren,if the world hates you ” , immediately subjoins
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” By the manner of his expression, he sufficiently intimates, that the lack of this love is so universal,until the Lord plants it in the heart, that if we possess it, we may thereby be sure he has given us of his Spirit, and delivered us from condemnation. But as the heart is deceitful, and people may be awfully mistaken in the judgment they form of themselves, we have need to be very sure that we rightly understand what it is to love the brethren, before we draw the Apostle’s conclusion from it, and admit it as an evidence in our own favor, that we have passed from death unto life. Let me invite you, reader, to attend with me a little to this subject.

There are some COUNTERFEITS of this love to the brethren, which it is to be feared have often been mistaken for it, and have led people to think themselves something, when indeed they were nothing. For instance:

1. There is a natural love of the brethren. People may sincerely love their relations, friends, and benefactors, who are of the brethren, and yet be utter strangers to the spiritual love the Apostle speaks of. So Orpah had a great affection for Naomi, though it was not strong enough to make her willing with Ruth to leave her native country,and her idol-gods. Natural affection can go no farther than to a personal attachment; and those who thus love the brethren, and upon no better ground, are often disgusted with those things in them,

which the real brethren chiefly love one another.

2. There is likewise a love of convenience. The Lord’s people are gentle, peaceful,benevolent,swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. They are desirous of adorning the doctrine of God their Savior, and approving themselves followers of him who pleased not himself, but spent his life in doing good to others. Upon this account,those who are full of themselves, and love to have their own way,may like their company, because they find more compliances and less opposition from them, than from such as themselves. For a while Laban loved Jacob; he found him diligent and trustworthy, and perceived that the Lord had prospered him upon Jacob’s account; but when he saw that Jacob flourished, and apprehended he was likely to do without him, his love was soon at an end; for it was only founded in self-interest.

3. A party-love is also common. The objects of this are those who are of the same sentiment, worship in the same way, or are attached to the same minister. Those who are united in such narrow and separate associations, may express warm affections, without giving any proof of true Christian love; for upon such grounds as these, not only professed Christians, but Jews and Turks, may be said to love one another: though it must be allowed, that, believers being renewed but in part, the love which they bear to the brethren is too often debased and alloyed by a mixture of selfish affections.

The principle of true love to the brethren,is the love of God—that love which produces obedience: 1Jo. 5:2; “By this we know that we love the children of God, if we love God, and keep his commandments.” When people are free to form their connections and friendships, the ground of their communion is in a sameness of inclination. Christian love is spiritual. The children of God, who therefore stand in the relation of brethren to each other, though they have too many unhappy differences in points of smaller importance, agree in the supreme love they bear to their heavenly Father, and to Jesus their Savior; of course they agree in disliking and avoiding sin,which is contrary to the will and command of the God whom they love and worship. Upon these accounts they love another, they are like-minded; and they live in a world where the bulk of mankind are against them, have no regard to their Beloved, and live in the sinful practices which his grace has taught them to hate. Their situation, therefore, increases their affection to each other. They are washed by the same blood, supplied by the same grace,opposed by the same enemies, and have the same heaven in view: therefore they love one another with a pure heart fervently.

The properties of this love, where its exercise is not greatly impeded by ignorance and bigotry,are such as prove its heavenly original. It extends to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, cannot be confined within the pale of a denomination, nor restrained to those with whom it is more immediately connected. It is gentle, and not easily provoked; hopes the best, makes allowances for infirmities, and is easily entreated. It is kind and compassionate; and this not in words only, but sympathizes with the afflicted, and relieves the indigent, according to its ability; and as it primarily respects the image of Christ in its objects, it feels a more peculiar attachment to those whom it judges to be the most spiritual,though without undervaluing or despising the weakest attainments in the true grace of the Gospel.

They are happy who thus love the brethren They have passed from death unto life; and may plead this gracious disposition, though not before the Lord as the ground of their hope, yet against Satan,when he would tempt them to question their right to the promises.

But, alas! as I before hinted,the exercise of this love, when it really is implanted, is greatly obstructed through the remaining depravity which cleaves to believers. We cannot be too watchful against those tempers which weaken the proper effects of brotherly love, and thereby have a tendency to darken the evidence of our having passed from death unto life.

We live in a day when the love of many (of whom we would hope the best) is at least grown very cold. The effects of a narrow,a suspicious, a censorious, and a selfish spirit, are but too evident among professors of the Gospel. If I were to insist at large upon the offenses of this kind which abound among us, I would seem almost reduced to the necessity, either of retracting what I have advanced,or of maintaining that a great part (if not the greatest part) of those who profess to know the Lord, are deceiving themselves with a form of godliness,destitute of the power: for though they may abound in knowledge and gifts, and have much to say upon the subject of Christian experience, they appear to lack the great, the inimitable, the indispensable criterion of true Christianity, a love to the brethren; without which,all other seeming advantages and attainments are of no avail. How is this disagreeable dilemma to be avoided?

I believe those who are most under the influence of Divine love, will join with me in lamenting their deficiency. It is well that we are not under the law, but under grace; for on whatever point we try ourselves by the standard of the sanctuary,we shall find reason to say, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord.” There is an amazing and humbling difference between the conviction we have of the beauty and excellence of Divine truths, and our actual experience of their power ruling in our hearts. In our happiest hours, when we are most affected with the love of Jesus, we feel our love fervent towards his people. We wish it were always so; but we are poor inconsistent creatures, and find we can do nothing as we ought, but only as we are enabled by his grace. But we trust we do not allow ourselves in what is wrong; and, notwithstanding we may in particular instances be misled by ignorance and prejudice, we do in our hearts love the brethren,account them the excellent of the earth,and desire to have our lot and portion with them in time and in eternity. We know that the love we bear them is for his sake; and when we consider his interest in them,and our obligations to him, we are ashamed and grieved that we love them no better.

If we could not conscientiously say thus much,we should have just reason to question our sincerity, and the safety of our state; for the Scriptures cannot be broken,nor can the grace of God fail of producing in some degree its proper fruits. Our Savior,before whom we must shortly appear as our judge, has made love the characteristic of his disciples; and without some evidence that this is the prevailing disposition of our hearts, we could find little comfort in calling him God. Let not this be accounted legality, as if our dependence was upon something in ourselves. The question is not concerning the method of acceptance with God, but concerning the fruits or tokens of an accepted state. The most eminent of these, by our Lord’s express declaration, is brotherly love. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,if you love one another.”

No words can be plainer; and the consequence is equally plain, however hard it may bear upon any

, that, though they could speak with the tongues of angels, had the knowledge of all mysteries, a power of working miracles, and a zeal prompting them to give their bodies to be burned in defense of the truth; yet if they love not the brethren, they are but as sounding brass or tinkling cymbals: they may make a great noise in the church and in the world; they may be wise and able men,as the words are now frequently understood; they may pray or preach with great fluency; but in the sight of God their faith is dead,and their religion is vain.

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