Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

Love the Church

William Montague DykeQ. What are the special privileges of the visible church?

A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation; and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

In the spirit of the Commonwealth Day tomorrow we shall commence with a truly wondrous British story. William Montague Dyke was the son of one of the most prosperous baronets of England. As such he was reared in cultivated and noble society.  In 1887 however he became stone blind at the mere age of ten. Composing himself to this new state in life William became devoted to his studies. Without the sundry of distractions which encumbered his peers William gained a temperament which solely cultivated itself in the pleasures of the mind. With this temperament he gained early entrance into Cambridge, and during his studies he encountered the daughter of a high-ranking British naval officer, Miss Cave. Although William was blind his love for Miss Cave was indeed not. Tenderly observing the more delicate and sweeter frames of Miss Cane’s voice, words, and air William courted her hand in marriage. He chose to satisfy himself with what he saw of Miss Cane in his mind more passionately than to behold her in the flesh. As one biographer wrote, “William Montague Dyke had lived in darkness, studied in darkness, won high university honours in darkness. He had met his affinity in darkness, learned to lover her in darkness, wooed her in darkness.” As wonderful as this is, the story does not end here. Two weeks before their wedding William submitted himself to an experimental treatment to restore his sight. The surgery was completed and William’s face was left wrapped in bandages which were to be removed on October 12, the day of his wedding to Miss Cave. No one new whether or not the treatment would actually work, but nonetheless William requested his father to remove the bandages from his face the moment his wife-to-be walked up the isle and only at that point. The day arrived and the wedding ceremonies commenced with many an august and prestigious gentry, cabinet ministers, bishops, and professors in attendance for what was to be the marriage of the decade between the children of England’s wealthiest baron and  Britain’s highest military officer.  Nobly dressed at the alter stood William, patiently awaiting his betrothed, his face still bundled in cloth. Finally, with the soft tone of the Wedding March, Miss Cave was led by her white haired father, the prestigious admiral, down the isle. William’s father began to carefully remove the bandages from his son’s eyes. He continued to unravel the bandages as the bride walked up the isle until finally, when William’s face was fully uncovered his bride stood before him. The hushed congregation of England’s finest watched intently as the blind William and bride now stood face to face. William’s exhilarated words echoed throughout the cathedral braking the silence, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!” He could see her. 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass darkly: but then shall we see face to face.” Upon the anniversary of our local church, Grace Haven Reformed Brethren, I find the impossible task before me of endeavouring to explaining something of that “Great Secret… concerning Christ, and concerning the Church.” I find myself a blind man speaking to blind men of the beauty of Christ’s bride. But I know that when Christ comes for his bride and removes the scales from my eyes, the veil from our face, we too shall cry dear brother and sister, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!” And yet it is still my duty today to assist us in in just that, imagining the beauty of Christ and the glory of his bride. I want William’s exclamation to be the cry of our own hearts today.

THE VISIBLE CHURCH

The first and natural inquiry should be what is the church? Is it a social club? An association? Society of individuals? A cultural convention? Ultimately we know from Scripture that the church is the bride of Christ. This means she is the whole number of God’s elect, the entire assembly of saints throughout all ages and all territories under the headship of Christ. As Hebrews nobly states she is, “The assembly and congregation of the first born, which are written in heaven.” This is the church spiritual and invisible, the church only now as God sees it. Wayne Grudem defines, “The church is the community of all true believers for all time.” However the church as we see it is commonly termed as the “Church visible.” That is the professors of true religion under the Gospel, believers of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and professing members of the family of God. The church is thusly both universal (Catholic) and local. What then are the true distinguishing marks of the local, visible church. Can two Christians meeting at Tim Hortons reading the Bible be rightly identified as a local “church” or is there something more to the institution? The great puritan John Owen defined the characteristics of the professing visible church as follows. “I intend such a church in general as avowing authority from Christ (1.) For the ministerial preaching of the word; (2.) Administration of the sacraments; (3.) For the exercise of evangelical discipline; and (4.) To give a public testimony against the devil and the world, not contradicting their profession with any corrupt principles or practices inconsistent with it.” Summarily, the purity of Grace Haven as a local, visible church is measured by her Scriptural teaching, her right exercise of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord Supper, her true practice of church discipline, together with Grace Haven’s militant and holy evangelical witness in the world. The more pure she be in these four areas the more “visible” Grace Haven will be as a church. Owen’s fourth point is the most easily missed in circles such as our own and can diminish our sight of her “visibility.” We may have doctrinally pure, faithfully expositional, hermeneutically accurate preaching but not be a pure church. We may faithfully and repeatedly administer the Eucharist and Baptism but still remain a false church. We may even practice church discipline and yet all the while Grace Haven may not be a “visible” church. We may rehearse all of these church principles and practices and yet if we do not give a public testimony and if we do not confront the world we are not a true, visible church. In this sense, there is no such thing as an “invisible” “visible” church. Owen continues, “For the church, as visible, is a society gathered and erected to express and declare the holiness of Christ, and the power of his grace in his person and doctrine; and where this is not done, no church is of any advantage unto the interests of his glory in this world. The preservation, therefore, of holiness in them, whereof the discipline mentioned is an effectual means, is as necessary and of the same importance with the preservation of their being.” The visible church is visible in her proclamation. She is visible in her profession. She is visible in her practice. So we must ask ourselves “Are we ministering from the Word?” “Is Grace Haven administering the sacraments?” “Are we exercising church discipline?” And especially, “How are we, as a church, confronting culture around us with our uniformity of right doctrine preached and duties practiced?” The visible church must be just that “visible”, noticeable, and salient. We become more visible, noticeable, and salient as we cultivate purity and holiness in these four regards.

PRIVILEGE OF CHRIST’S SPECIAL CARE

Do you have a high view of Grace Haven? Dear Christian, what is your comprehension of how special Christ’s care for us is and what a privilege we have? John Calvin wrote, “If we do not prefer the church toward all other objects of our interest we are unworthy of being counted among her members.” Why should we so highly esteem and regard the church? Perhaps the best view in Scripture of the privilege of Christ’s special care and protection is seen in Matthew 16:18. “Upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Why love the church? Because Christ says it is “My church”! Grace Haven is a personal possession belonging to Christ and this is what establishes her value. It is not my church, nor is it our church, it is not even the prime minister’s church, it is Christ the King’s church! He is her head. Surgeon wrote of this special love, “Christ loves His church specially… something special and particular – and it stands quite alone and all by itself. Having chosen because of His love, He loves because of His choice, and that love is a peculiar, special, remarkable, pre-eminent love such as He bestows upon no one else of all the human race!” We are to love the church like nothing else, because Christ loves Grace Haven like nothing else. Furthermore, it is His church because God gifted her to Christ as we read in Christ’s prayer from the Last Supper, “I have declared thy Name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee.” It is His church because she was promised to Christ. “For I am jealous over you, with godly jealousy: for I have prepared you for one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” We are his betrothed. It is His church because she was purchased by him. The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was the dowry price for her. “Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from you vain conversation, received by the traditions of the fathers, But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb undefiled, and without spot.”

FAMILY IDOLATRY

Again, how are your affections toward the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? But not just do you lover her, but do you love her enough? Scott Brown acutely observes, “We have trained our affections to love other things greatly and love the essential things lightly.” These misplaced affections lead to idolatry. Idolatry is where we forsake what God has commanded us to do because our affections are toward that which God has not commanded us to do. In a community such as ours, family integration can lead to family idolatry. Joel Beeke correctly states, “As precious and intimate our own personal immediate family is, it is only but an interm arrangement. But our Church family life however is for all eternity.” Family integration does not mean that the church is made or done or subservient to the family. Jeff Pollard provides us with examples of such family idolatry.

  1. Family members we have not seen for a long time come for a visit on the Lord’s Day. So rather than worshiping God on the Lord’s Day with the brethren, which God has commanded us to do, we stay home to visit, which the Lord has not commanded us to do.
  2. Our children have a gift for music, sports, or some other academic pursuit. A public event takes place in line with that gift and we come back so late from that event, which God has not commanded us to do,  that we are tired and do not attend the Church on the Sabbath, which God has commanded us to do.
  3. A new family arrives at Church but we regard ourselves as not outgoing, introspective, or introverted and so we don’t open our home to hospitality, which God has commanded us to do, in order that we may preserve our family comfort zone, which God has not commanded us to do.
  4. We have a busy week ahead or behind us and we feel need to rest and instead of gathering with the Saints, which God has commanded us to do, we take the day off from religious observance, which God has not commanded us to do.
  5. We see another church body which can meet some of our personal wants that we do not feel are being met at our local church. So we at times reserve  contributing to the fellowship of the brethren at our local church, which God has commanded us to do, to entertain ourselves by consuming the fruits of another assembly thereby robbing both, which God has not commanded us to do.

John Owen emphasizes, “The celebration of the ordinances of sacred worship appointed by Christ, and the participation of his institutions for their edification, is not a matter of accident… but is to be an act in them of choice and voluntary obedience unto the commands of Christ. By some this duty is more expressly attended unto than by others, and by some it is totally neglected; for neither… do they consider what is their duty unto the Lord Christ therein, nor what is most meet for their own edification. They go on in these things with others, according to the customs of the times and places wherein they live, confounding their civil and spiritual relations. And these we cannot but judge to walk irregularly, through ignorance, mistakes, or prejudices. Neither will they in their least secular concernments behave themselves with so much regardlessness or negligence…But a liberty of this nature, regulated by the gospel, to be exercised in and about the great concernments of men’s souls, is by many denied and by most neglected.” If Owen warned this in the height of the Puritan era how much more ought it concern us in ours? Now these situations instanced outside of Church are not necessarily evil, and do not mistake this for there never being a situation that permits missing Church. We need only to strongly and critically re-evaluate when it is lawful and necessary to do so. In view of Christ’s supreme love for his bride ought not we also have a supreme love for her? Do we love her lightly and love other things greatly? What do you greatly love more than the church? What do you greatly love more than Grace Haven? It had better not be your programs, events, conferences, work, leisure, or even your family. “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” A family integrated church does not mean a church that is integrated around the family, but rather families that are integrated around the church. Anything less is not family integration,  but family idolatry. I say this not to abandon our programs, events, conferences, work, leisure, or family but to place them rightly in relation to the bride of Christ. When we commit family idolatry don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you only defraud yourself, but also your family and our brethren, and Christ. When Saul was persecuting the church the Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” Christ didn’t say “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou the church” but “Why persecutes thou me?”! Because Christ so closely and personally identifies himself with the church, when we persecute the church, Christ regards it as persecuting Himself. So may the Lord not have just cause to say to me or any of us by name “Josiah, Josiah why neglectest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why criticizest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why skippest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why fault-findest thou me?” Weariness with the Lord’s day is weariness with the Lord. Weariness with the church is weariness with Christ. John Calvin states, “He cannot have God for his Father who refuses to have the Church for his mother.”

CARE & GOVERNMENT

“Upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Both the head and the foundation of the church is Christ. The pure church expresses this foundation in its confession of faith as the Apostles did a few verses prior to Christ’s pronouncement to Peter. “Thou art that Christ, the son of the living God.” This confession of faith is the cornerstone of the church, the objective reality  upon which we rest, and the foundation upon which Christ privileges us with special care and government of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies. Take note of it. “I will build.” “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners: but citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom all the building coupled together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are built together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit.” Grace Haven as the local, visible expression of the invisible church, is Christ’s workmanship. Firstly, Christ’s workmanship promises the triumph of his bride. “And the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Hell cannot resist the faith of the church. Calvin observes, “Against all the powers of Satan the firmness of the church will prove to be invincible, because the truth of God, on which the faith of the Church rests, will ever remain unshaken.” 1 John 5:4, “This is that victory that hath overcome this world even our faith.” Contrary to popular illustration, the picture given in Matthew 16 is not Hell attacking the refuge of the church, but rather the church storming the gates of Hell. Gates by nature are not offensive instruments of war, they are defensive. Gates cannot attack, but only be attacked. Furthermore in Scripture the term “Gate” commonly notes place or jurisdiction of power, authority, counsels, and social designs. Additionally, one can observe the plurality of the term “Gates” here in Matthew 16. Summarily, what is being declared is that all the powers of hell, the many counsels of hell, and the multiple social designs of Satan cannot resist the onslaught of Christ’s one militant church. Secondly, Christ’s workmanship promises the eternal establishment of his bride. “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious. Ye also as lively stones, be made a spiritual house, an holy Priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Christ hewed us as living stones from the very quarries of hell, redeemed us into his kingdom, and there is refining and shaping us into the edifice of his bride. Thirdly, Christ’s workmanship promises the reward for his bride. “That he might sanctify it, and cleanse it by the washing of water through the word, That he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blame.” Surgeon praises, “He loved her, not so much for what she is, but what He makes her as the object of His love. He loves her not for what comes to Him from her, or with her, but for what He is able to bestow upon her! His is the strongest love that ever was, for He has loved unseemliness till He has changed it into beauty! He has loved the sinner till He has made him a saint. He has loved the foul and filthy till He has washed them with water by the Word of God and presented them to Himself without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. We love because of loveliness apprehended and perceived, but Christ loved because He would impart His own loveliness to the object of His choice.” This is the tender care and sovereign government of Christ over his bride, over us, over Grace Haven.

COMMUNION OF SAINTS

Do you enjoy the communion of saints which you have here? Samuel Rutherford said this of his local church, “The great Master Gardener planted me here whereby his grace in this part of the vineyard I grow and here I will abide until the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” If there were to be a theme verse for our assembly for me it would be 1 Peter 4:9. “Be ye harbours one to another.” The term “harbour” or “haven”, as it is in our name, denotes a wondrous picture of the communion of saints. Just as a haven is defined by its easy, strategic, accessibility so too the church is to be open to all they whom have need of her. We say with Christ, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you.” Just as the quality of the harbour can be identified from ships at sea by the stillness of its waters, so too the world can identify a church by the fervent love harboured within her. Just as a suitable harbour is as wide as it is deep, allowing sundry and diverse ships to drive themselves deeply into her refuge so too the church is sufficient to all sorts and sizes of individuals who come to her. “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me: and him that cometh to me, I cast not away.” A harbour is also a temporary, albeit habitual, resting point. She is large enough to rest a ship from its work, but too small for the ships work to be done. A ship cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by remaining anchored at the harbour, and it must venture out into the perils of the sea. However, a ship also cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by venturing in the perils of the sea without taking repeated refuge in a haven. The haven will help the ship to do its work, but will not do the work of the ship. So too the church is to be a habitual anchorage point, “Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves.” Furthermore the church also is sufficient to hep the Christian for his needs. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bossom, and shall guide them with the young.” So too do Christians venture out from the church in the the perils of the world, “As thou didst send me into the world, so have I sent them into the world.”  The final characteristic of a haven as a caricature the church would be the strategic importance of her. A harbour is not just a place of dockage, but also that of trade, making it of economic and national importance. However enemy ships can just as easily enter the haven to take her as the trade ships which do so routinely. Hence it is that the Apostle Peter immediately exhorts, “Be ye harbours one to another, without grudging.” Grudging literally means, “To hold or harbour with malicious disposition.” The church can either harbour “fervent love among you” or she can harbour a malicious disposition. John Owen therefore exhorts, “Unto this catholic church we owe all Christian love, and are obliged to exercise all the effects of it, both towards the whole and every particular member, as we have advantage and occasion. And not only so, but it is our duty to live in constant communion with it.” 

OFFERS OF GRACE

“As good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” Offers of grace are made by Christ. “The conjunctions of all the members into one body, their mutual usefulness unto one another, the edification of the whole, with its increase, the due exercise of love (which things contain the whole nature and the utmost ends of all church-communion), do depend merely and solely upon, and flow from, the relation that the members have to the Head, and their union with him.” John Owen. We can only dispose the manifold grace of God to others as we have received the nourishment of that grace from our union with the Head. Grace Haven will only be as graceful as you or I are full of grace. Grace Haven is holy only as her members are holy. Remember the haven is a place of trade as well as dockage and shelter. A harbour will be esteemed only by both safe waters and safe business in mutual commerce. So too do Christians in the haven of the church increase their grace by “ministering the same one to another, as good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” Hear Spurgeon’s words, “You are a steward and if a steward should receive his lord’s goods, and keep them for himself he would be an unfaithful steward. Child of God, see to it that you faithfully discharge your responsibility as one of the “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Heed the directives of the Apostle Peter to do so. “If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God ministereth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is praise and dominion forever, and ever, Amen.” First it is optional, “If any man speak”, “If any man minister.” Second it is invitational, “let him speak” “let him do it.” Third it is directive, “Let him speak as the words of God.” Fourth it is unconditional, “Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” Fifth it is purposeful, “That God in all things may be glorified.” So old and young men, I with the Apostle Peter encourage you in the spirit of harbouring fervent love to choose the option, receive the invitation, take the direction, be ok that it is unconditional and rejoice in the purpose. As you love Grace Haven, you will be a good disposer to her. Can you say with William, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!”?

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The Lord’s Day

Sabbath Rest

To begin with a puritan prayer on the Lord’s Day.

“This is thy day,

the heavenly ordinance of rest,

the open door of worship,

the record of Jesus’ resurrection,

the seal of the sabbath to come,

the day when saints militant and triumphant unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,

that here free favour reigns;

that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;

that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest

and find thee ready to hear,

waiting to be gracious,

inviting me to pour out my needs,

encouraging my desires,

promising to give more than I ask or think.

But while I bless thee, shame and confusion are mine:

I remember my past misuse of sacred things,

my irreverent worship,

my base ingratitude,

my cold, dull praise.

Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,

and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;

May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;

Flood my mind with peace

beyond understanding;

may my meditations be sweet,

my acts of worship life, liberty, joy, 

my drink the streams that flow

from thy throne, 

my food the precious Word,

my defence the shield of faith,

and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.


I being with that great puritan Jonathan Edwards, “Let us be thankful for the institution of the Christian Sabbath.”

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within they gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.

The Sabbath is a pattern of one day in seven as a holy rest oriented to God. The Sabbath provides us with meaningful work and meaningful rest. David Palison stated, “To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image forth the One who made you. To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image for the One who saved you.” The Sabbath is the principle of freedom under God and of liberty under law, in that it summons us to obedience to the ordinance of rest. Rest, which delivers us from ourselves and from our work. The Lord of the Sabbath’s accomplishment of our redemption binds and enjoins us to the observance of the weekly Sabbath which prefigures our eternal Sabbath. Our rest  is witness to our confidence in the redemption of Christ through faith alone and not by works.

THE DECALOGUE

The Sabbath Rest is not only a creation ordinance but is also to be found in the Fourth Commandment as the culmination of the previous three commandments. Morecraft observes, “The Sabbath is a day of rest and delight in the Lord, corresponding to the first commandment. It is a day consecrated to the worship of God according to His Word, corresponding to the second commandment. And it is to be filled with works of worship, necessity and mercy in the name of Christ to the glory of God, corresponding to the third commandment.” In addition to being the consummation of the right exercise of the previous three commandments it also aids the Christian in keeping the remainder of the Commandments. Hence, the Fourth Commandment is “found in the bosom of the ten commandments, which are supreme, life-embracing, verbal foundational principles of God’s revealed will for the human race.” The significance of Sabbath Rest to the Christian lies not only in its commandment but its example by God. Divine example is as valid and instructive a guide to duty as express Divine command. As Morecraft writes, “We keep the Sabbath on the first day of the week for the same reason Adam kept the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week: the example of God.” To clarify the previous statement, the morality of the Sabbath is not affected by changing the day from the Adamic and Mosaic practice of Saturday to the Christian practice of Sunday. Robert Shaw observes, “The morality of the Sabbath is not affected by the change of the day. The substance of the institution consists in the separation of the seventh portion of our time to the immediate worship of God… It is not said, ‘Remembert the seventh day;’ but ‘Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy.’ Neither is it said, ‘God blessed the seventh day;’ but ‘God blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.” So dear Christian, know that this is a personal command of God to each of us individually. “Thou” not “ye.” “Let it be considered” reminds Edwards, “… when God challenges of us one day in seven, he challenges his own. He doth not exceed his right.” Our Lord commands and commends it to his own children in Christ. Furthermore he has bestowed it as a personal gift. “Moreover, I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.” It is a duty, but not a burdensome one, no more than it is a duty to nourish bodies with mammon, how much more our souls with Christ? Christian we may be assured that God observes his own institutions. He will not permit them to be attended without blessing as they are a means of grace to the believer. God has given to us a hallowed day to pursue His blessings, which most assuredly will be found in abundance by those who are diligent towards the observation of it. God’s blessing is never an empty one, and He has both blessed and hallowed this day, how much more ought we?

MAN’S REST VS GOD’S REST

History has record of the men who have sought this same rest, but sought it outside God, such as Stalin. According to Stalin, “If God exists, He must have ordained slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. He must want humanity to suffer, as the monks were always telling me. Then there would be no hope for the toiling masses to free themselves from their oppressors. But when I learned that there is no God, I knew that humanity could fight its way to freedom.” Consequentially, in the course of Stalin’s quest for the true sabbath, man’s true rest, he enslaved more men than any other tyrant in all history and had more men killed than any other man in all history. Stalin, like all men who attempt to enter heaven on their own terms, placed himself instead in hell. Contrary to a puritanical priggishness, the Sabbath is not a day of inactivity or idleness for man, because it certainly was not so for God. When God rested on the seventh day of the creation week, yes, he ceased from the work of creation, but began the works of providence and redemption. The work of the Sabbath is contrasted to the work of the prior six days labour. It must have a specific character of rest in worship. Men, how clearly is the sort of character being produced in your homes? The Sabbath is to be engaged and filled with works of worship. The Westminster Longer Catechism states, “The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.” Do you make the Sabbath your delight? Jonathan Edwards praised, “The Christian Sabbath is one of the most previous enjoyments of the visible church. Christ showed his love to his church in instituting it; and it become s the chistian church to be thankful to her Lord for it. The very name of this day, the Lord’s day, or Jesus’ day, should endear it to Christians, as it intimates the special relation it has to Christ, and also the design of it, which is the commemoration of our dear Saviour, and his love to his church in redeeming it.” While the New Testament clearly practices and urges the pattern of weekly worship, the sabbath is fundamentally a day of rest, (Not exclusively a day of worship.) This rest is a soteriological reality and symbol. Sabbath rest is a salvific reality of our redemption, liberation, and wholeness of life in God’s work. Sabbath rest is also a salvific symbol of our total confidence in God as our redeemer as we cease from our own labors. Calvin gave it beautifully when he wrote in his “Catechism of the Churches of Geneva”, “We keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own work in us.” Summarily, the essence of the sabbath is our rest in Christ, and our growth in the knowledge of that salvation by His grace. “There remainieth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, hath also ceased form his own works, as God did from his. Let us study therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the example of disobedience.” It is well worth our while to improve this day and enter into this rest. Edwards exhorts, “This should be a powerful motive with us to the observation of the Sabbath. It should be our study above all things to honour and glorify God. It should be the great thing with all that bear the name of Christians, to honour their great God and King… If it be your inquiry, if it be your desire, to honour God; by this subject you are directed to one way whereby you may do much in that way, by honouring the Sabbath, and showing a careful and strict observance of it.”

SABBATH WORK

It would be a terrible mistake to confuse the Sabbath rest with idleness. The former brings God’s blessing and the latter his curse. The Sabbath rest is a picture of our eternal one in heaven, where we may be sure to be employed in spiritual and heavenly exercises. Isaiah 58:13-14 clearly lays out the duties of the Christian towards the Sabbath. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy will on mine Holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight to consecrate it, as glorious to the Lord, and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor seeking thine own will, nor speaking a vain word, Then shall thou delight in the Lord, and I will cause thee to mount upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Edward J. Young interpreted the fourth commandment positively in this way, “Thou shalt take exquisite delight, not just in the Sabbath but in the Lord of the Sabbath.” How well we delight in the Sabbath is a powerful barometer of our real delight in the actual Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath keepers are covenant keepers that will enjoy the benefits of the covenant of God. “Feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father” is covenantal language and the metaphor is clear: to eat the heritage of our spiritual fathers realized and administered to us by Christ is to receive and enjoy the nourishment, strength, and vitality within.  Do you find your Sabbath’s to be nourishing? Are you especially promoting the exercise of religion not only in yourself but also in others; to be assisting them for their spiritual good? Are you partaking in the benefits of the Covenant of Grace? In the right exercise of the Sabbath we find delight and our subsistence that we may truly live. When we rightly exercise the Sabbath we draw from the Divine Rest, the glory of God revealed in his special act of creation. We draw from the Covenantal Rest of the eternal bond believers have with God in Christ. We draw from the Redemptive Rest, being delivered from the bondage and slavery of sin by virtue of Christ’s atonement. We draw from that Spiritual Rest, which is our new life in Christ indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Finally, we partake in our Eternal Rest that will be consummated in our Lord’s second coming. “For the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name continue. And from month to month, and from Sabbath to Sabbath shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” Heaven is one massive, infinite, glorious Sabbath which we will partake of as believers in Christ. Yet here on earth we have an opportunity to experience something of that ineffable glory weekly. Will you pass it by?

SIX & ONE

“The sabbath presupposes work, work fulfilling God’s creation mandate and performed under God’s law, and the sabbath is the joyful rest from the exercise of this godly dominion. On the sabbath, a man rejoices that the earth is the Lords, and all the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1). In that confidence man rests, and in that joy he surveys the work of his hands, knowing that his labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)” R.J. Rushdoony. As Meredith Kline wrote in his work, “Treaty of the Great King”, “The sabbatic cycle of covenant life symbolizes the consummation principle characteristic of divine action. God works, accomplishes his purpose and, rejoicing, rests.”  The human life is a copy of the Divine life, to work and to rest. Life finds purpose in the sabbath, in that the sabbath makes labor meaningful and purposive. It does so by annexing to work, joyful consummation. Our six days of labor finds its fulfillment in the day of rest, and similarly, our day of rest finds its meaning in the preceding six days of labor. The relationship between the sabbath and work is one which brings all things into harmonious relationship to God and in universal dedication to Him. Examine then, the quality of your work and rest and observe how it can be improved upon. Sabbath rest and your six days work are not strictly isolated or without consequence upon each other. “In keeping the Sabbath holy” remarks Morecraft, “we are rewarding the week by weekly enjoyment of God’s promises and the benefits of being in His love and covenant; and with victory after victory, dominion, revival and reformation over the earth, week by week as we move through history towards God’s final goal for us.” How well are you diligently administrating your duties in those six days of labour so you can rest on the Sabbath day?

FORSAKING FELLOWSHIP

“Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves, as the manner of some is: but let us exhort one another, and that so much the more, because ye see that the day draweth near.” The Christian assembly has priority for the Christian on the Sabbath. No better a preacher than Charles Spurgeon could impress this as commendably. “God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful… This should lead each separate believer to identify himself with the church of God; where the Lord reveals His love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found. Our own dwellings are very dear to us, but we must not prefer them to the assemblies of the saints.” Christians, we must not be weary of well doing in this. That which is the business of the Sabbath is the greatest business of our lives, that of religion. To be weary in Sabbath observance is to stay at home or worse, go to church so you can go home. It is to regard the public worship of God as boring, to be neglectful of its sanctity, to be indifferent or callously unconcerned to its remembrance, to abandon physically or emotionally the fellowship of the brethren. How can one, who claims the name of Christ, be weary of Him and His love? Morecraft cautions, “Weariness of the Lord’s day is weariness with the Lord; and this is a sign of the most dangerous of all conditions: hardness of heart.” “Take heed brethren, lest any time there be in any of you an evil heart, and unfaithful, to depart from the living God… And to whom swear he that they should not enter his rest, but unto them that obeyed not.?” Hebrews 3:12,18. Sabbath breakers are covenant breakers. We are covenant breakers when we heed the opposite of Isaiah’s words by “doing thy will on my Holy day, and call the Sabbath a bore to deconsecrate it, as miserable to the Lord, and shalt dishonour him, doing thine own ways, seeking thine own will, speaking a vain word.” “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the poor… Saying, When will the new month be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, and make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger.” There are consequences to being a covenant breaker beyond just depriving yourself of joy and rest in Christ. “Moreover I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me… and my Sabbaths have they greatly polluted: then I thought to pour out mine indignation upon them… But I had respect to my name.” Ezekiel 20:12-14.

SPECIAL DUTY TOWARDS PARENTS

The Fourth Commandment is orientated towards parents. “Nor thy sons, nor thy daughters.” Patriarchs have a special duty before God to take great pains in seeing their family and children keep the Sabbath holy. Q. 118 in the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors? A.: The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.” Convicting words towards parents. Do you hinder your own from delighting in the Sabbath because you are entangled in your own employments at the time? Do you children recognize the significance of the Sabbath rest and the gathering of believers in the local church? Do you example delighting in the Sabbath? Do you lead them into the true Sabbath rest?

CONCLUSION

“The pattern of the sabbath is in the past, from the sabbath of creation. The entrance into the sabbath is also in the past; for Israel, it was the redemption from Egypt; for the church, it is in the resurrection. The fulfillment of the sabbath is in the new creation. The sabbath is a present rest, based on past events, with a future reference and fulfillment.” R. J. Rushdoony. More craft gives 4 helpful exhortations toward rightly exercising the true Sabbath.

  1. Get a good grasp on the Sabbath laws and promises of the Bible. Delight in the Christian Sabbath, and keep it faithfully with all your heart, for many false teachers profess to teach the truth, with appealing systems (2 Tim. 4:3, 4), who would rob you of the glory and rest of the weekly Christian Sabbath.
  2. Train your children by word and example to delight in the Lord’s Day and in the Lord of the Sabbath all the days of their lives.
  3. Be sure that Satan will seek to make your observance of the Sabbath less consistent than your doctrine of the Sabbath. Resist him to the death and he will flee from you.
  4. Believe the glorious promises of Isaiah 66:22–44, Ezekiel 20:12 and Exodus 31:12–18. Live, work, witness, worship, pray, and rest in their light.

““For the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name continue. And from month to month, and from Sabbath to Sabbath shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.”

“Moreover, I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.”

Thou Shalt

Hue and Cry

[From message delivered to Grace Haven Reformed Brethren on 01/25/15]

Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

INTRODUCTION

In light of recent events I am compelled to address the subject of the maintenance and preservation of godly life and order. Such life and order is being every increasingly assaulted upon in very real, physical ways. As Christians who practice Biblical marriage, family, children, education, and social life we each face evil and unfriendly foes. These foes are escalating in number, kind, position, and threat. We must not be found to be deprived of perception and judgment to such dangers. Have you been sufficiently watchful so as to identify the current or potential foes you face? Christians can often be as ignorant of their liberties as their duties to defend them. Lord William Blackstone, that great jurist of the English Common Law, caveated the danger of such heedlessness, “Liberties [are] more generally talked of, than thoroughly understood; and yet highly necessary to be perfectly known and considered by every man of rank and property, lest his ignorance of the points whereon it is founded should hurry him into faction and licentiousness on the one hand, or pusillanimous indifference and criminal submission on the other.” In other terms, our liberties are not just hip and cool slogans to be twaddled about, they are each of our inviolate birthright to be seriously considered. When we are negligent to enjoy entire our birthright of right and liberties we will live without restraint, being pernicious to ourselves or others. How many Christians do you know who understand their liberties and duties as Christian citizens? Furthermore, if we are derelict to vindicate our birthright in the face of tyranny or anarchy we will truckle like a caitiff to unjust restraints to our liberties from the merciless hands of the wicked. Are you free of ignorance as to your several duties to the defence and maintenance of your liberties?  What courses are available to the preservation of your birthright when it is being violated? What are the grounds for utilizing each of these courses? What are the restrictions and jurisdictions of these several administrations of defence? What is the application of just force? Summarily, when is it a sin for the Christian to turn the other cheek?

THE ‘THOU SHALT’ OF ‘THOU SHALT NOT’

The primary and foundational commandment in Scripture to direct the Christian as to the unjust and just resistance to evil may be found in the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Upon first observation we quite obviously notice the negative aspect of this commandment, that is, the “thou shalt not” facet of it. However, as with every commandment in Scripture there remains a positive expression. The reformer, John Calvin, acutely observed this positive detail. “God… prescribes that every one should study faithfully to defend the life of his neighbour, and practically to declare that it is dear to him… the words expressly set forth that our neighbours are to be loved. It is unquestionable, then, that of those whom God there commands to be loved, He here commends their lives to our care.” This is to say, it is not merely enough for one to simply not murder the life of their neighbour and thereby fulfill the sixth commandment. One must positively defend the life of their neighbour to accomplish the requirements of the sixth commandment. Calvin continues, “There are, consequently, two parts in the Commandment, first, that we should not vex, or oppress, or be at enmity with any; and, secondly, that we should not only live at peace with men, without exciting quarrels, but also should aid, as far as we can, the miserable who are unjustly oppressed, and should endeavour to resist the wicked, lest they should injure men as they list.” Churches in Canada have by and large missed this crucial secondary feature of the commandment. From the early methodists, quakers, mennonites, and other Christians who pioneered this nation the principle of nonresistance has long been sustained and touted from the chapel rostrum. Celebrating, on the basis of the sixth commandment not to mention, the good man as one who piously beats swords into  plowshares. Historian and theologian, R.J. Rushdoony remarked of such priggishness, “To limit obedience, and to test character, merely by the negative factor is dangerous.” Namely, when we abide by only the negative law and neglect the positive it leads too often to the belief that the good man is the coward who would not dare to even assail a child, “but who is incapable of any discharging of his duties. Too often the church has equated these cowards with righteous men and advanced cowardly snivelers, whose weapons are those of back-biting and tale-bearing, to positions of authority.” So on the other hand Calvin exhorts, “We are required faithfully to do what in us lies to defend the life of our neighbour; to promote whatever tends to his tranquility, to be vigilant in warding off harm, and, when danger comes, to assist in removing it.” True obedience to the sixth commandment is therefore not passive, but incredibly active. How are you actively exercising the requirements of the sixth commandment? If you neighbour is under the threat of unjust violence what do you do? What means are to be employed in vigilantly warding off harm and removing danger?

ACTIVE LOVE

The proper understanding of the sixth commandment in the English Common Law and the fathers of our constitution recognized the duties of every one with regards to the sixth commandment. Historically, this expressed itself in such civil laws as the famous Hue and Cry, and secondly in the police powers of private persons, commonly known as Citizen’s Arrest. Regarding the Common Law process of pursuing, when the victim or witness of a felony raised the Hue and Cry by horn or voice, both officers and private men were responsible to instantaneously seek and arrest the perpetrator upon pain of fine or imprisonment. As to citizen’s arrest, Lord Blackstone writes, “Any private person that is present when any felony is committed, is bound by the law to arrest the felon; on pain of fine and imprisonment, if he escapes through the negligence of the standers by.” These Common Law and Canadian Constitution practices were outworkings of a right understanding of the duties relating to the sixth commandment. Both the government and citizens of Canada have by and large forgotten the duties of the private citizen to sustain the public peace and defend the life of others. On the subject of citizen’s arrest the Canadian Department of Justice warns, “Unlike a police officer, private citizens are neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain public peace.”  As was mentioned in the beginning by Lord Blackstone, when the citizenry neglect the right exercise and enjoyment of their liberties they surrender those liberties to the determining of the offenders. Proverbs 29:2 “When the wicked rule the people groan.” How often have you heard authorities advise the citizenry to quietly acquiesce to the demands of criminals who confront them, to capitulate to their instructions, or to evade at all costs confronting them? These statements and advisements are a radical departure from the historical principles which governed the practice of justice and peace. Proverbs 24:11-12 reads, “Deliver them that are drawn to death, and wilt thou not preserve them that are led to be slain? If thou say, Behold, we knew not of it: he that pondereth the hearts, doth not he understand it? and he that kept thy soul, knoweth he it not? will he not also recompense every man according to his works?” God therefore always holds he innocent bystander as an accomplice to the crime if he does not stand up or intercede in the ways that he needs to. Geoffrey Botkin writes, “The greatest commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. This love is active and not passive. We may be sinning if we do not actively rise up and love our neighbour. However we often think ‘we are not going to get involved.’” Christians are charged, they are tasked, to discipleship and confrontation. “They that forsake the Law, praise the wicked: but they that keep the Law, set themselves against them.” As such, we confront evil and the wicked every day of our lives and disciple people away from it. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” How are you setting yourself and your families against the wicked? Is righteousness in authority in your home? Do you see rejoicing in your family from the authority of righteousness or hear groaning from the rule of wickedness?

JURISTICTION OF CONFRONTATION

Now, the Hue and Cry and Citizen’s arrest are obviously not to be confused with vigilantism. It is not to be denied that the citizen’s powers and jurisdictions with regards to preserving and maintaining public peace are indeed greatly limited. When the Christian citizen intervenes to the defence of the life of his neighbour he is still bound as a citizen, not a vigilante. Blackstone clarifies, “No man should take up arms, but with a view to defend his country and its laws: he puts not off the citizen when he enters the camp [army]; but it is because he is a citizen, and would wish to continue so, that he makes himself for a while a soldier.” So you too, dear Christian, when you would be vigilant in warding off harm and removing danger from you neighbour, you are not given carte blanche, for you are still bound as a Christian and as a Christian citizen. Reversely, you do not enter the conflict because you wish to be a vigilante, but rather because you are a Christian and a Christian citizen and you wish to remain so and for your neighbour also. So, when rightly exercised, the Christian citizen’s responsibility towards defence and arrest is limited but not absolved in its entirely. Contrarily, the impression in the citizen of their personal exemption from defence and arrest have had grievous results in society. Many a crime, both great and small, could have been alleviated in some part by the citizen rightly exercising their rights within their limited sphere of jurisdiction. So as Chris Kyle said, “Despite what your mamma told you, violence does solve problems.” But the Christian is concerned with solving problems even beyond grave circumstances of felony which they might face. Rushdoony writes, “The police power and the duty of the person involves a common defence of godly order. Law and order are the responsibilities of all good men without exception. Injuries to our fellow men, or to our enemies, which are not subject to civil or criminal action, are still our responsibilities. Our police power involves action against back-biting and tale-bearing. It also requires that we, in love of our neighbour, have regard for his property as well as his reputation, to avoid injury to it.” From the outset, do you teach your children their police power and the duties of the Hue and Cry? “We desire you, brethren, admonish them that are out of order: comfort the feebleminded: bear with the weak: be patient toward all men.” To be watchful of injustice and attentive to the appeals of those in unjust oppression? “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all the children of destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and judge the afflicted, and the poor.” How will you defend your neighbour and society? Rushdoony writes, “If it is a crime to alter property landmarks and to defraud a neighbour of his land, how much greater a crime to alter social landmarks, the Biblical foundations of law and society, and thereby bring about the death of that social order? If it is a crime to rob banks, then surely it is a crime to rob and murder a social order.”

THE OPPRESSED

Are you aware of those who are being oppressed? Is your family practicing John Calvin’s admonition and studying faithfully how to defend the life of the oppressed? Has your family worked out how you can practically declare that they are dear to you? Pastor, Joe Morecraft, compiled a brief list from Scripture which can help us identify those which are in need of such attention from our lives and homes.

  1. Covenant people should not oppress each other. “Oppress not ye therefore any man his neighbour, but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord you God.” Lev 25:17 Do you teach your children to not oppress one another? Have you examined how you can promote unity in the local church?
  2. Covenant people should not oppress labourers. “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is needy and poor, neither of thy brethren nor the stranger that is in thy land within thy gates.” How diligent are you in the workplace to assist the spiritual or physical needs therein?
  3. Covenant people should vindicate the oppressed. What does Psalm 10:18 look like in your home? “To judge the fatherless and poor, the earthly man cause to fear no more.”
  4. Are you a covenant family that prays for deliverance from oppression? “From the wicked that oppress me, from mine enemies, which compass me round about for my soul.”
  5. Covenant people should not oppress the afflicted. “Rob not the poor, because he is poor, neither oppress the afflicted in judgment.” How do your children handle responsibility and authority over others?
  6. God condemns merchants that oppress. Hoseah 12:7. How do your children treat money?
  7. Covenant people do not oppress widows or the fatherless. “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor, and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”

In summary, how are you actively defending the life of widows and orphans, neighbours, strangers, the needy and defenceless, employees, the aged, and the afflicted?

THE OPPRESSORS

Upon reviewing those that are oppressed, we now turn our consideration to those that oppress. I believe today the two forces of evil which resist us are tyranny and anarchy. Tyranny, as Botkin defines, “Is the cruel and oppressive rule of government.” Anarchy on the other hand is a greater sin, the “state of disorder due to the absence or non recognition of authority.” Anarchy in the homes will only produce anarchy in society. It has been said, “Every generation is a new flood of barbarians to be civilized.” How well is your family doing at this? Rushdoony observes the rise of anarchy and crime with the following, “Judges are often too lenient and juries also. But the problem is much greater than that. All we have to do is look at most families and their treatment of their children. Their laxity, their inability to enforce discipline and you have a key to the dimensions of the problem. Parents who are lax with their children create a society which is generally lax in coping with problems. The problem in other words begins with us.” So who are some of the enemies that you are facing now or will face in the future. Geoffrey Botkin provides us with a much relevant catalog.

  1. Personal enemies: As was stated, you as Christians are called not to engage culture, but to confront it. You will make enemies doing this and may face possible persecution from them. Are you attentive to this danger? Are you being “Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.”? Most importantly are you willing and ready to overcome their evil with good? There is however another grievous danger in this. Christians can begin to reckon the degree of their honour and piety based upon a personal tally of how many personal enemies and people they proverbially tick-off by their righteousness. In the vanity of their minds they pride themselves by how oft they are ridiculed and elevate the consideration of themselves with each rejection they experience. They begin to scorn the sinner as much as the sinner scorns them in return. What goodness is there in this? Paul exhorts us to “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.” How is only returning scorn for scorn, pride for pride, rejection for rejection, overcoming evil with goodness? Receive rejection with a sober mind, study to discern any impediments you may be contributing to the sinner’s peace and joy in Christ, examine whether or not your message is received as the good news it actually is. Discover whether or not you are overcoming evil with goodness.
  2. Bullies: Both young and old will confront bullies in life. What will be your policy and practice when you come face to face with a bully? How will you adjudicate the power and authority of Christ in you?
  3. Bureaucrats: As families who practice Biblical marriage, caring for orphans, babies, and education you will at some point be confronted by the tyranny of the state. Have you prepared yourself for such confrontation? Will you refuse to truckle to their demands? Will you come to the aid of a fellow family who encounters this type of enemy? How will you use the laws and constitution?
  4. Thieves & Criminals: In Canada our justice system has abandoned the Biblical principles of restitution for the humanist practice of penitentiary and probationary rehabilitation. This humanist system is very diligent to protect the rights of the individual… so long as the individual has committed a crime. As such crime is a profitable and growing enterprise. Are you prepared to raise or respond to a Hue and Cry. Will you intervene in your capacity as a Christian Citizen to uphold peace and justice? If you were one of the over a dozen innocent bystanders who fled from the unimpeded attack of the recent Parliamentry shooter what would you have done?
  5. Gangs & Mobs. Will you truckle to them? Have you considered that those who have followed the erroneous, non-Biblical policy of surrendering without resistance to such oppressors have only surrendered their lives. Such individuals by their appalling ineptitude and inability virtually assist in their own murders and enable murderers to continue a lifestyle of murder. Are you of nonresistance or resistance?
  6. Tyrannical magistrates. How will you face those what would by compulsive tyranny and oppression act in opposition to your free enjoyment of personal security, liberty, and property? Have you studied your duties to defend your birthright? Have you charted the free course of constitution, administration, offices, and courts to preserve them from violation? Are you even aware of what policies are being introduced to potentially conspire and coerce against you?
  7. Islam & ISIS. Will you confront this abomination? The question isn’t is Islam the most violent religion in the world, but how is Islam the most violent religion in the world. Have you considered that the Islamic State has commanded the over 1,053,945 muslims in Canada, the fastest growing religion in Canada, the religion that is expected to triple over the next 20 years, to literally and brutally kill you? National Post commentator Rex Murphy commentated, “When will the world take the jihadists at their word? Is there any doubt whatsoever that ISIS – which is currently slaughtering Christians, beheading its opponents, purging ‘non-believers’ and storming about Iraq and Syria with the cry ‘Convert or Die’ – is not fanatically, ruthlessly and irredeemably rooted in religious extremism? What, in any god’s name, does the first “I” in ISIS stand for.” How will you confront Muslims in Regina who by and large do not want to do or think anything serious about the death-culture that incubates them. How will you correct western culture’s perception of them?

CONCLUSION

Ultimately will you truckle to any of these enemies. John Calvin writes of those leaders and men who have. “Those that have been in reputation of wisdom and honour and fall form their excellency, this troubles the fountains by grieving some and corrupts the springs by infecting others and emboldening them to do likewise. For the righteous to be oppressed, pressed down upon by the violence or subtlety of evil men, to be displaced and thrust into obscurity, this is the troubling of the fountains and corruption of the very foundations of government. For the righteous to be cowardly to truckle to the wicked to be afraid of opposing his wickedness and basely to yield to him, this is a reflection upon religion and discouragement to good men and strengthening to  the hands of sinners and their sins and sows like a troubled fountain and a corrupt spring.” As Geoffrey Botkin states, we rather need Christians who wake up every day with this thought, “Today is the day that I advance the Lord’s Kingdom. And today may be the day that I have to defend the innocent from terrible risk and dangers and threats.” Does your family think in this regard? Are you training your children who will in all probability face these enemies in the future under even more complex moral situations than you do now? So parents, teach the law as service to God. Teach what God says about the oppressed, justice, resistance, thieves, bureaucrats, tyranny, anarchy, jihadists, bullies, and law. Model self-control under law by continually defaulting to what is lawful. It is our Christian citizenry that compels us to act and limits our actions, not vigilanteism. Restrain your hand and extend the sword of justice when it is within your power and jurisdiction to do so. Recognize that in most every instance it is the responsibility of the civil magistrate. Maintain peace with the application of just violence with the sword of justice. To Conclude with the Westminster Larger Catechism, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in the case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life… The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.”

Thoughts on Suicide

SuicideThe famous Scottish atheistic philosopher, David Hume, wrote in favor of suicide. He said, “When I fall upon my own sword, I receive my death equally from the hands of the Deity, as if it had proceeded from a lion, a precipice, or a fever.”

William Plumer thoroughly refuted him:

If this sentence has any meaning, it is that the wilful, deliberate taking of our own lives is the same as dying by the providence of God, when he permits us to fall under the influence of pestilence, or of wild beasts. And if that is true, then we are no more criminal for killing a man than we are for seeing him die of fever.

The whole argument in favour of suicide goes on the supposition of the truth of the principles which are clearly false. 1, That man has the right to dispose of his own life; whereas none but the Author of our existence can lawfully do so; 2, That we are competent judges of the question whether we have lived long enough or not; whereas a large proportion of mankind have been very useful after they supposed they could do no more good; 3, That we owe no obligations to parents, or children, or others, who may be dependent upon our exertions; whereas we may entail upon them untold miseries by taking our own lives; 4, that God has not legislated on the subject; whereas the sixth commandment clearly forbids it; 5, that salvation is not an object worth seeking, whereas it is the only thing claiming our supreme attention; 6, That it is heroic to sink under distress or play the coward in suffering wrong; whereas a large part of the best moral lessons, taught by example, has been delivered to mankind in the depths of affliction.

The Covenant of Life

Dominion ManQ. 20 (Q. 12 in the Shorter Catechism): What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created? 

A.: The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. 

INTRODUCTION

It is my impossible task today to give complete justice to and glorification of God’s providence. Despite my utter inability to fulfill such demands, I hope give at least some inspiration today with the Words of God on his most holy, wise, and powerful special acts of providence towards us. Providence, as I concluded with my last message, should imbue us with an awareness of our independent worth in the eyes of God. True understanding of Providence, an understanding which bridges the gap of the acknowledgments of our mind with the affections of our heart, will demystify and clarify the purposes God has summoned us toward. Providence will both encourage and edify the disposition of our mind and the deportment of our actions in the Christian life. The Christian therefore ought to always recall God’s providential acts, that they might preserve themselves from the grumbling and murmuring spirit we read of in Exodus of the forgetful nation of Israel. Providence gives us mastery over that melancholic angst which, if not fought, would otherwise keep us laid up in the slough of despond. So today we review the first and a foremost special act of God’s providence, The Covenant of Life. God gloriously revealed this gracious act with our first father and representative, Adam in Genesis 2. Within this first covenant, God establishes five institutions which are central to the development of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

INSTITUTION OF PROPERTY

The first institution established by God was that of private-property. “Placing him in paradise… putting the creatures under his domain.” Christians today, influenced by neoplatonic dualism, have often mistakenly disowned the material as a “fleshly” form of bondage to the spiritual man. This is far from the original intent of God who by his exclusive and active role in creating all things physical imbued within them His signature of worth, beauty, and significance. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is; the world and they that dwell therein.” God’s first special act of providence was to establish physical property, together with its commodities, provisions and fruits, flora and fauna, as the instrument man would utilize to fulfill the Covenant of Life. Property was given as the infrastructure of Christendom, the implement of dominion, and the milieu for the accomplishment of the Covenant. “Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over everything that crept and moveth on the earth.” We read also “The heavens, even the heavens are the Lord’s: but he hath given the earth to the sons of men.” Ps. 115:16.

INSTITUTION OF WORK

The second institution of God by his decree and example in the Covenant of Life was work.   “Appointing him to dress it.” Work in a much neglected sense, is God-like. Because God directed this precedent by His own working in the acts of creation and providence. Furthermore distinguished by his subsequent rest from work. In addition to being instituted by way of precedent, it is also established by way of command to, “dress it, and keep it.” In this sense we must be earthly minded to be of any heavenly good. We were created as stewards of creation, trustee’s of God’s property, representative servants of our master. Contrary to popular opinion, work, specifically physical labour, is a blessing instituted in the pre-fall garden and not a curse of the post-fall. We deceive ourselves when we consider the mundane, physical labor of a “blue-collar” job to be far beneath the grand and glorious enterprise of the dominion mandate. Contrarily, the dominion mandate, the garden of Eden, and the Covenant of Life, ascribe nobility and dignity to the accomplishments of the manual labourer, the blue-collar worker, and the average layman. There is no greater substantiation to the principle of the dignity of manual work than in God’s own selection for Adam’s vocation, namely, agriculture. Of all the vocations, callings, tasks, and accomplishments which God could easily ask of Adam, the prevailing, pertinent, and positive venture He required was that which is the most elementary, laborious, and average to our human experience. Consider just for a moment the unbelievable precedent the Creator of the Universe established in appointing the representative of humanity to the position of field labourer. Consider for a moment the incalculable worth and preeminence that manual labor has been endowed with by such a decree. Then rejoice and look at your own callous hands, and reconsider just how much pride and joy you have every right to claim in your glorious vocation. The whole tenor of Scripture, with its examples, its hero’s, and its exhortations are not given to the aristocratic, the fortuned, the noble, the mighty, but given to the lunchpail worker. God has and does build economies, nations, Christ’s own family line, Christ’s own vocation, and societies from that same manly labor, that intelligent labor, and that independent labor of our forefather Adam. Manual work is dominion work. E.C. Wines notes the effect of the centrality of manual, agricultural labour in Hebrew society, “It is the nurse of the human rase… It is the nurse of health, industry, temperance, cheerfulness and frugality; of simple manners and pure morals; of patriotism and domestic virtues; and, above all, of that sturdy independence, without which a man is not a man, but a mere slave… In a word, this great business, the cultivation of the earth, lies, so far as any branch of human industry can be said to lie, at the foundation of all that is important and valuable in civil society.” Thus it is by work, productivity, procreativity, and dominion that the totality of a man’s life reflects the likeness of God’s ultimate work, creation, and sovereignty.

INSTITUTION OF PATRIARCHY

“Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” The institution of dominion work was inherited by the institution of the godly patriarch to which all the men here today are a part of, and at some point us sons as well. We have received, or will receive, a noble and high calling. By nature we all have this dominion passion, this dominion orientation. But if you are as myself, you wonder how being just an average layman in the church and a lunchpail worker in society can amount to anything in the scope of the dominion mandate. This doubt is only reinforced when we hear of great, historic men in the church and in nations who changed the course of history for the glory of God and are are only left with a profound sense of smallness, maybe emptiness or even futility in our own lives. Unfortunately, men have been confused about the inherent worth of their calling in life by the Roman Catholic influence of dualism. Where the sacred and the secular are placed in opposition one to another and you are left either with selecting a sacred vocation in life or a secular vocation in life. Furthermore we are wrongly informed that in order to be a part of the dominion work our professions have to be validated by the appropriate authorities. We have to be validated by the church bishopric if we are to pursue a sacred vocation. Or we have to be validated by the government bureaucracy of schooling institutions to rightly pursue a secular calling. This marginalizes a vast majority of Christian men with neither church or state validation and who know not whether to pursue a secular or sacred calling. Who are now discouraged from labouring in the church and in the nation due to this artificial distinction. The great doctrine from the Reformation of the priesthood of all believers shattered these myths. We can now boldly declare because of the priesthood of all believers that all men, noble or peasantry, are peers in Christ. All men can join the dominion work and serve God and serve him honourably in their professions. The success of the institution of patriarchal manhood pivots upon the right understanding of the institution of dominion work. Dominion men conduct dominion work in primarily four areas as Geoffrey Botkin acutely observes. Firstly, dominion men are family men. They are managers either their inherited or personally pioneered family estates of physical and spiritual capital for their future multi-generational succession to enlarge upon. Dominion men are also churchmen of militant, Kingdom oriented local churches. None are devoid of responsibility within the church as they are either to be officers in it or bold supporters of her officers through prayer and active service. Dominion men are thirdly statesmen who start in their community. They are nation builders who reconstruct godly order in their communities starting in the home, to the church, to the community, to the community of nations. Dominion men, lastly, are businessmen. Stewarding and enlarging every physical and spiritual asset which makes the dominion work possible. They are business resource developers and service providers to a free economy. The average man who seeks first the Kingdom simultaneously in these four areas will advance the dominion of Christ. These spheres are small and limited but they are monumental in transforming nations. Greatness does not constitute a dominion man, rather a dominion man is what constitutes true greatness.

INSTITUTION OF THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILY

The centrality of the patriarchal, multi-generational family within the dominion work is a theological fact with an eschatological framework. “Be fruitful and multiply.” In God’s Kingdom the first shall be last and the last shall be first. First in God’s dream-job list, and last in human consideration, is manual labour. Similarly, first in God’s government authority, and last in human tendency, is the family unit. Church, state, and self-government are indeed additional establishments in Scripture, but none so central as the basic family unit. God bestowed the high calling of the dominion mandate and bequeathed property with its social power and material provision to Adam and his family. By way of precedent, God has thus established the family and its future succeeding generations, not the church or state, as the primary institution responsible for the work of dominion. This established the family in two areas. Firstly it established the family, not individuals or social classes, as the basic unit of social government. As dominion labouring families our first and foremost mandate is a family government of holiness. Without holiness we cannot accomplish our covenant job. Similarly, without pursuing our covenant job, holiness cannot be fulfilled in our families. Dominion thus means holiness, and holiness in return means dominion. The dominion family is a holy family, you cannot have one without the other. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you.”  Secondly, the family was also not only established as the centre of government, but as the centre of industry, the basic economic unit. Family estate provided the family with power to govern society in holiness and provided the family with material provisions to invest in dominion. Wealth and gain were to be cultivated from the land and retained in the family estate and improved upon by succeeding family generations. This God designed centralization of power and property in the family is the highest safeguard to tyranny and the greatest asset to the dominion work. The average family who is seeking first the Kingdom in the areas of family holiness and family estate and family enterprise can and will extend the crown rights of King Jesus. Godly families command the future as they command the children, estate, enterprises, inheritance, welfare, and education in their homes. Our families may be little things but they are colossal in transforming nations. It was not to aristocratic associations, nor to political societies, nor to corporate boards, nor even to church elders that was given the trusteeship of God’s earthly property or the responsibility of building a godly society on earth, it was the family. We will lead empty houses and abandoned estates and dwindling generations if we fail to recapture this responsibility. It will require us critically rethinking all areas of life and thought from this perspective. Geoffrey Botkin so beautifully stated, “The home is the incubator of Christendom, the engine of renewal and reformation, the centre of dominion and warfare, a powerhouse of discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.”  When parents are shortsighted in this, and forget the centrality of the family in God’s society, the duties of the family in godly work and generational fruitfulness, and the future of the family in rebuilding culture we rob our children of purpose, our communities from blessing, ourselves from joy, and God from glory.

INSTITUTION OF FEMININITY & MARRIAGE

“And ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself.” Another institution of God’s special providence is the marriage between the patriarch and his help-meet. “It is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” The very reason for the establishment of this institution and the foremost quality of it has been forgotten in the main. Marriage and femininity were founded upon the exact same objective as patriarchy and that is namely, work. Marriage was created for work. Femininity was designed for work. As much as Adam, our representative patriarch, received the noble calling of dominion labor, so too was Eve’s high calling to help assist him to this very end. Contrary to our Jane-Austen-like perception of femininity, Eve was not created just as a decorative ornament of beauty in the garden, nor as an idle accessory to Adam’s lifestyle, nor as an adornment of life accomplishment for Adam. In our day where the greatness of femininity is evaluated based upon how greatly removed a woman is from manual labour it is difficult to recognize that God’s design for femininity was the very manual labour which it so despises today. Inour culture, depictions of the great-age-of-femininity during the Victorian period in shows such as Road to Avonlea, Pride & Prejudice,  Mr. Selfridge, or Dowton Abbey present to us a state of womanhood that was characterized by being objects of delicacy, household ornaments of daintiness, practically useless, economically burdensome, and humorously unhelpful to a man’s work. Sure, we celebrate the notion that they were stay-at-home mothers and daughters but we are completely oblivious to their absolutely deplorable way of living, or better stated lack of living, in the home. Historian Frank Dawes writes of femininity in the Victorian era, “Women of the Victorian and Edwardian middle classes regarded a life of complete idleness as being essential to maintaining their position in life. If they put a piece of coal on the fire, lifted a duster or answered a doorbell, they were ‘letting their husbands down.’ Or worse, depriving a needy person of employment. So, during the Great Age of Servants, a whole class of women was reared that was incapable of performing even the simplest domestic services for itself. These gentle mistresses never had to make a pot of tea, wash a cup, darn a sock, post a letter, or even brush their own hair.” Obviously we do not live to such a extreme degree, but nonetheless we can have a misguided tendency to be attracted and even aspire to such an idealized feminine deportment. We may even begin to despise or devalue our own manual work in the family, home, and estate. We may begin to instead hold our past-times as more woman-like than our times of productivity. In the Biblical Hebrew society where femininity was defined by its industriousness and gain, fathers received monetary payment for their daughter’s hands in marriage from the suitor. This was a fair and understandable recognition of a daughter’s economic profitability in the family unit and just compensation for taking her away. This Biblical principle was foisted on its petard during the Victorian era where fathers now had to pay suitors to take their daughter’s hands in marriage. The moral of the story is this, when women are of no economic value because they do not participate in the dominion work of the family you can’t even give them away, literally. In Biblical femininity there is no distinction between stay-at-home and work or between the home and the workplace. Because in the family economy work and the workplace is within the home. By home I mean more than the walls of a residence, I mean within the family enterprise whenever that work may be conducted geographically. As you may begin to see, all of these institutions created as a special act of God’s providence are homogeneously tied together. The institution of marriage and femininity was created as an integral advantage to the institution of patriarchy, the fruit of which is the institution of the multi-generational family to whom was given the institution of property that the institution of dominion work could be fulfilled. If femininity is segregated or isolated from the institution of work or the institution of the family or any of the other institutions, or vice versa, the covenant falls apart and these institutions are destroyed.

PRESENT STATUS OF THE COVENANT OF LIFE

While a covenant by nature is eternal, there are elements obviously of this covenant which have changed as we are all well aware of. Firstly, the human race is no longer on probation. Our  first father and representative Adam broke the “Condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge” by   eating “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.” However there are elements an institutions of this covenant which remain and our binding upon us today. Obviously marriage, patriarchy, property, family, and dominion work were not abrogated by the fall. Furthermore that intimate communion with God which our forefather Adam experienced still remains for those who live in terms of the Covenant of Life. As a matter of fact the terms of the Covenant of Life are still in existence to this day of “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” The pledge of this covenant, the tree of life, also still exists awaiting the covenant keepers. But as we are all painfully aware, we broke the covenant and destroyed the institutions in Adam. While the pledge, the blessings, and the benefits of the covenant remain we cannot attain to them for our transgressions and the transgressions of our First Adam. However, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by that obedience of that one, shall many also be made righteous.” God executed yet another special act of providence in the representative, mediator of Jesus Christ to restore us from the position of covenant-breakers to covenant-keepers. Once again we are re-established in the work of godly dominion. Once again we have the responsibility to resume the mandate given to Adam to subdue the earth to the glory of God. At the Lord’s Table today let us remember our restoration to covenant keeping, our receiving the benefits of the covenant, our duty to restore the institutions of the covenant, and how Christ has won this for us to His glory.

To be Roman

Romance

Romance is a misapplied notion, but one society holds dear. We evaluate our lives, relationships, and even dining-out based upon how romantic they are. Put in summary, a good book, a true relationship, a fulfilled life is one that is a truly romantic. I have heard it said that the term romance literally and historically means, “To be Roman.” Considering what it means to be Roman we visualize a gallant soldier crowned with glory riding back from a victorious battle and swooping up a fair lady to his side while at full gallop. Much similar to medieval tales of heroic nights in shining armour, which is the common substance of our Disney fairy tales after all. Thus, romance could be summarized as a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with the exceptional actions and identity of another.

Naturally, the actions and identity of which we speak are no ordinary actions or identity, they are Roman! They are awe-some, they are out-standing, they are extra-ordinary, they are wonder-full in relative comparison to our own menial, quotidian lives. To perform such actions, to own such an identity in life is romanish, it is literally, romantic. Now you see the truth of the matter. To be Roman, to be romanish, to be romantic is to execute great feats toward the accomplishment of a great end. It is to live almost surreal, almost a fictional life. But that is just the point, it is fictional. Fictional in the sense of what we believe true greatness to be.

Don’t mistake me, we are to celebrate and be attracted to great actions, great identities, and great ends. Our mistake is in construing what true greatness actually is. True greatness is not the romanish of a Roman, but the Christlikeness of Christ reflected in a man or woman, or portrayed in a book, or our exemplified in life. This is a radical difference. It requires a radical change in our expectations and desires. I admit it is easy to be attracted to the romanish, the romantic. It is exciting and exceptional. It makes for unforgettable tales and stories. But, it is a much more difficult thing to be attracted to the Christlikeness of Christ.

The acts of Christ and in some sense the end of Christ is no glamorous thing. To many it is boring, average, and ordinary. It is a daily,  quite, routine life of humility, meekness, mourning, and unenviable service moment by moment. Make no mistake, the Kingdom of Christ is far removed from what you will find in the Kingdom of Rome. Christ’s Kingdom is for the meek. Rome’s kingdom is for the proud. Christ’s Kingdom is to serve. Rome’s kingdom is to be served. Christ’s Kingdom is dominion. Rome’s kingdom is domination. Christ’s Kingdom is for the last. Rome’s kingdom is for the first. Christ’s Kingdom is God’s glory. Rome’s kingdom is man’s glory.

Christians have fostered a misplaced adoration for the romanish that is found in the kingdom of Rome, because they view their lives in the kingdom of Christ as somewhat boring and want to escape into that particularly heightened quality of feeling that arises within them over the exceptional actions and identity of the romanish, or the romantic. But the Christian life is not boring, it is challenging. It is far more challenging to execute the acts of Christ because Christ’s great end is a hundred times more difficult, a thousand times more strenuous than what we read and see in the romanish romance.

Why do we do this idolatrous escapism? We all know that Christ’s kingdom is truly great so why are we instead overly attracted to the kingdom of Rome? Because we are following our feelings. Remember once more the definition, a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with he exceptional actions and identity of another. We all want that emotional high, whether it be from a relationship, book, meal, or personal endeavour. Yet it is hard to get excited about seeing Christ presented in any of those things. It is easier to be attracted to some romanish qualities in another person or thing over and above their Christlike attributes.

So the answer to the romantic conditioning of Walt Disney, and pagan fairy tales, and medieval folklore is no. No, I will not follow my heart inconsequently. No, I will not follow my feelings unconditionally. No I will not be a romanish romantic but Christlike as Christ. Rather I will treasure, adore, and consider first and foremost that which is Christ. Then you will notice the particular Christlikeness in another and then your heart will follow and your feeling in turn. For instance, we as Christians establish the greatness of actions by how they reflect God’s glory, not man’s. “And have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that they which speak evil of you as evil doers, may by your good works which they shall see, glorify God in the day visitation.” We as Christians establish our affections not on the romanish but, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are worthy love, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things.” We as Christians establish even our greatest earthly attraction towards another in marriage on the same grounds that Christ has established his attraction towards his Church! “That he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blame.” 

The Christian’s calling to “lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness, and honesty.” To live righteously, to love their wives, to honour their parents, to disciple their children, to shepherd their churches, to confront culture is no piddly-piffle. It is God’s chosen means to multi-generational faithfulness, cultural reconstruction, church edification, nation building, and Christ glorifying. These average men and women, boys and girls, are God’s greatest assets in bringing about his greatest work, which is, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Do not escape to the romanish of the Kingdom of Rome, but seek first the Christlikeness of the Kingdom of God with pluck and aplomb. Go forth and serve your King.

Antidotes to Melancholy

Angst

Q. What are God’s works of providence?

A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures, and all their actions.

PROVIDENCE & JOY

The foregoing doctrinal thesis is a fundamental understanding of Christendom. One which we at Grace Haven are more than familiar with. Acknowledging simply, that providence is the collation of the Divine Provision and the Divine Government of God exercised in His righteousness, wisdom, and omnipotence. It is a necessary doctrine due to the doctrine of Creation (Which the Catechism most wisely explained in the question and answer before). Creation and Providence are intimate doctrines of an inseparable relationship to be preserved to the utmost degree. Just as all creatures were called into being by the creative act of God in Creation, so they instantaneously fall under the sovereignty of God in Providence. This is antithetical to modern man’s philosophy. They are incompatible, and when held in error are egregious. No philosophical idea is religiously neutral. No idea is without consequence. Thus, philosophy and theology answer the same questions, but in different manners. If we were to imagine an atheistic catechism on the question of teleology or meaning we could read thus. Existentialism believes all creatures and all their actions are governed by free will. Nihilism believes all creatures and all their actions are governed by meaninglessness. Platonism – by social engineers. Rationalism – by science. Pragmatism – by the polls. Socialism – by total equality. Environmentalism – by nature. Evolutionism – by chance. These  are all summarily anthropocentric ideas of meaninglessness and purposelessness. Such philosophies are exhibited in the Oxford and Cambridge comedians of Monty Python’s film, “The Meaning of Life.” In the film the meaning of life is dramatically alluded to but never discovered. Contrarily, life is portrayed in the film as absurd and meaninglessness due to the total absence of a discovered purpose. Such abandonment of teleology ought to leave us the audience with an intense emotion of apprehension and anxiety. To overcome this anxiety, Monty Python induces in the audience amusement and comedy, which is nothing less than artificial joy. Neil Postman was absolutely correct when he wrote we a-muse (literally, not-think) ourselves to death. Only a sick and twisted world can come to the most sobering conclusion that there is no meaning and laugh at it. The resulting emotion of anxiety from existential thought was so widely and strongly felt 19th century society that it was given its own word. The term given to depict something of the inner turmoil which terrorized the minds of adherents to existential philosophy was “Angst.” The social ill still persists to this day on a massive scale, just we now call it “mental illness.” Indeed everything and anything outside God’s control leaves man in Edvard Munch’s “infinite scream passing through nature.” Whereas the true realization of providence produces eternal joy in the heart of the believer, an ultimate denial of providence and acceptance in its stead of chaotic chance produces only angst.

ORTHODOXY & ORTHOPRAXY

Therefore, doctrine of Providence may be applied to combat despondency and depression in our lives. It mercifully provides a promised future, not a meaningless chaos. It relieves us of the angst that the philosophies of man will helplessly leave us in. Despondency is fought by preaching the truth of God’s providence to ourselves concerning God and his promised future. Providence is a not just a profound truth, but a profound reality. Morecraft explained this possibility as follows, “In theory it is easy to understand the premise of all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, but to get this into our blood-streams is another matter. It is one of the most difficult tasks of the practicing Christian. It involves not only believing in God but believing God.” In other words, just shelving this doctrine in your orthodoxy does not permit you to “Pass Go and Collect $200.” It must also affect our orthopraxy. True orthodoxy results in right orthopraxy. Orthodoxy is concerned with believing what is true where Orthopraxy is concerned with doing what is correct. Simply interpreted, what you believe will affect what you do. To have one without the other is hypocrisy and potentially heresy. The great scholastic Robert Burton wrote, “By ignorance we know not things necessary, by error we know them falsely. Ignorance is a privation (Omission), error a positive act (Commission). From ignorance comes vice, from error heresy.”  Without applying the orthodox doctrine of Providence to our orthopraxy, whether through ignorance or error, we will still experience that inner angst. However, if we do apply it the result is a glorious doxology.

DOXOLOGY

The glorious result of true orthodoxy subjoined with right orthopraxy is doxology, that is, praise to God. Piper expounds upon this notably, “There is a deep release and a relief that comes when we find a way of seeing and saying some precious or stunning reality that comes a little closer to closing the breach between what we’ve glimpsed with our mind and what we’ve grasped with our heart.” No matter the intentness of your listening, length of your notes, or eloquence of my speech can the joy of God’s providence be unleashed in our lives. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, requested through prayer, when the heart embraces the true doctrine in the mind. So my prayer today is that God would be pleased to move from an intellectual acceptance of believing in God to a wholehearted embracement of the foundational Scripture to the doctrine of God’s providence. “Also we know that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose.” Romans 8:28

BLACK DOG

As stated earlier it is not a difficulty to believe  Providence in Romans 8:28. (There have been many a quixotic and romantic sermon done upon it.) But the Providence of God in Romans 8:28 is a lifetime struggle to believe in and take joy from. The realities of our lives, feelings, and emotions seem so very far from the idealism of the mind. Our lives are so riddled with problems and burdens to carry. We are encumbered with thoughts pensive upon sin in and all around us. Life is ultimately too much work for too little a result, a vanity and futility at best. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What remaineth unto man in all his travail, which he suffereth under the sun?” Such at least is the pattern of my own thoughts and while I adhere to Question 11 of the Westminster Catechism I still experience that angst of the unbeliever. As I am aware, this spiritual depression has proven itself to be the predominant sin and battle in my Christian life. Martin Lloyd Jones prophetically wrote, “I have no hesitation in asserting again that one of the reasons why the Christian Church counts for so little in the modern world is that so many Christians are in this condition [of spiritual depression]… The greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church… Unhappy Christians are to say the least, a poor recommendation of the Christian faith.” Lloyd Jones’ assessment has been a painful indictment even in my own life. Countless times family, friends, coworkers, even complete strangers have remarked on my melancholy attitude and countenance. I am not alone in such depression and by far not the furthest overwhelmed. Such spiritual hero’s as the missionary David Brainerd, preacher Charles Spurgeon, and hymn writer William Cowper experienced ineffable suffering under depression. Try as these powerful Christians might, they could not shake throughout their lives their angst. Missionary to the North American Indians, David Brainerd, journaled, “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 pressed that my soul was in a kind of horror.” Spurgeon wrote of it, “Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness… the iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.”  Winston Churchill throughout his life referenced personal depression as his “black dog.” It is said that his capacity to rally those who felt overwhelmed by the Nazi threat was built after his sixty years of personal adversity with his black dog and acquaintance with the darkness of horror. In 1621, Oxford Scholar, Robert Burton wrote his encyclopedic monograph on clinical depression called, “The Anatomy of Melancholy.” It was and is an exhaustive and heavy theological, medical, and philosophical compendium on the subject. His reasoning for writing such a work was, “I write of melancholy by being busy to avoid melancholy.” Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, Richard Baxter, preached extensively on depression “Lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”  Lloyd Jones noted, “Some of the greatest saints are introverts; the extrovert is generally a more superficial person. In the natural realm there is the type of person who is always analyzing himself, analyzing everything he does. The danger for such people is to become “morbid.” Introspective individuals seem to be highly centred on themselves.” So if you find yourself experiencing something of the same, you are by no means the only soul followed by this “Black dog.”

ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY

As a matter of fact, if you as a Christian have not or are not now experiencing depression be sure that you shall in good time. This black dog attacks without discrimination, mercy, or end. Some of you have a mind that is habitually troubled and disquieted. Some of you may know personally a fellow brother or sister in Christ that sees nothing but matters of fear and trouble and all that they hear or do only feeds it. Because they are constantly accused by what they read and learn they cant find delight in anything. Richard Baxter further described depression’s syndrome with, “Fearful dreams trouble them when they sleep, and distracted thoughts do keep them long walking; it offends them to see another laugh, or be merry; they think that every beggars case is happier than theirs; they will hardly believe that any one else is in their case they have no pleasure in relations, friends, estate, or anything..” Men like William Cowper and John Bunyan struggled with the apprehension of God having forsaken them and that their day of grace was past or mind’s were haunted with deprived and blasphemous suggestions. “In a word” finished Baxter, “fears, and troubles, and almost despair, are the constant temper of their minds.” Probably the most fearful reality of this depression is that in many cases those suffering, cannot be consoled nor say anything against those that attempt to convince them of the sincerity of their faith in God. Encourage them as you may, it relieves them of not of the slightest degree of their trouble. “Quiet them a hundred times, and their fears a hundred times return.” “Thy life shall hang before thee, and thou shalt fear both night and day, and shalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were evening, and at the evening thou shalt say, Would God it were morning, for the fear of thine heart, which thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes, which thou shalt see.” Deuteronomy 28:67. And so it seems to the poor Christian that “all things work together for their worst.”

UNBELIEF

The causes of despondency are as complex and numerous as their syndromes. Depression is never a simple thing. It can be as much spiritual as physical. Lloyd Jones clarified, “You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit.” Psalm 73:26 reads, “My flesh faileth and mine heart also…” Both Burton and Baxter go to great lengths in their respective monographs to address the physical causation and reliefs of melancholy. Says Burton, “Now the instrumental causes of these our infirmities, are as diverse as the infirmities themselves; stars, heavens, elements, &c. And all those creatures which God hath made, are armed against sinners. They were indeed once good in themselves, and that they are now many of them pernicious unto us, is not in their nature, but our corruption, which hath caused it.” There is no simple or single cause of despondency, however it is safe to say there is an ultimate one. Unbelief. Unbelief in God. Unbelief in His providence, His justification, His expiation, His imputation, His grace and such like is the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression. A believer may experience grave depression and it is only unbelief that would let it take its course without resistance. But is it a sin to helplessly  feel depressed? John Piper clarifies this quandary, “The first shockwaves of the blast of despondency are not the sin. The sin is not turning on the air-raid siren, and not heading for the bomb shelters, and not deploying the antiaircraft weapons. If Satan drops a bomb on your peace, and you don’t make ready for war, people are going to wonder whose side you’re on.” So when the believer experiences a spirit of melancholy, however anatomized, they must wage war on it by activating their belief. It is not a sin to feel that sickening rush of depression come suddenly upon you, or to struggle months on end in its clutches, yet it is a sin to not give up a fight at the least. It is not a sin to be as Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “afflicted on every side, yet we are not in distress: we are in doubt, but yet we despair not.” When we permit without resistance for our situations, condition, feelings, or emotion to control us we are implying a lack of belief in God’s Providence. Lloyd Jones warned, “A Christian should never, like the worldly person, be depressed, agitated, alarmed, frantic, not knowing what to do.” God’s abundant grace still remains to take up that which we did not. The Christian is not impervious to pressure and suffering, its only that the Christian is the one who can rise above such things. Christianity is not a monastical repression of feelings. The more Christian you are does not mean the greater absence of feelings you will experience. On the other hand, the further your walk with Christ the more feelings you will experience, both good and bad. As one poet wrote,

“Ah my dear angry Lord,

Since thou dost love, yet strike;

Cast down, yet help afford;

Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;

I will bewail, approve:

And all my swore-sweet dayes

I will lament, and love.”

So the Christian is always engulfed in feelings. Overall, as stated earlier, when we believe in the Providence of God in our own lives to “work all things together for the best” will we experience victory over angst. In angst, the imagination runs wild and we spend ourselves in a mad dream chasing and arguing imaginations all the while depriving ourselves of the joy of the Lord.  “Peace, peace, there is no peace.” But, we may assure ourselves that we can and shall be revived by God if applied. “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Ps 19:7He restoreth my soul.”  Ps 23:3 “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is the fullness of joy: and at they right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Ps 16:11 “Joy cometh in the mourning.” Ps 30:5. The difficulty is not in intellectually accepting Question 11 of the Catechism, nor agreeing with the testimony of Scripture, but in applying it as a weapon against our depression or helping others apply it in their own struggles.

SOLILOQUIZE

Martin Luther wrote, “Preach the gospel to yourself every day because everyday you forget it.” There is a radical method herein and it is “Soliloquy.” Soliloquy is the act of speaking one’s thoughts when by oneself. It is a notable pattern in the Psalms to read soliloquy phrases as Psalm 42:5, “Why art thou cast down, my soul, and unquiet within me?” Lloyd Jones acutely observed, “Notice the psalmist addresses himself – “he talks to himself,” and herein he discovers the cure.” It is mainly when our feelings and emotions and perception control our lives that we succumb to  depression and melancholy. Our emotions are as Delilah’s pleading to Samson.  They are importunate upon us with their wailing words continually, and vex us, and our souls are pained unto death. The psalmist recognized the main issue of spiritual depression is that we permit our “self” to do the talking instead of “talking to ourself.” Lloyd Jones goes on to describe this inner soliloquy, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that we ‘listen to ourselves’ instead of ‘talking to ourselves.’ David, in effect, says, ‘Self, listen for a moment to what I have to say – why are you so cast down?’ The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself, question yourself, and preach to yourself – you must remind yourself who God is, and what God has done, and what God has promised to do – this is the essence of the treatment in a nutshell. We must understand that this ‘self’ of ours – this other man within us has got to be handled; do not listen to him! turn on him! speak to him! remind him of what you know! So rather than listening to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you – you must take control!” When depression hits, someone is doing the talking. Someone is doing the convincing. The question is who is? When your eyes open in the morning and stare at the ceiling who is reintroducing you to all your problems? When you read your bank statement who is reciting all your failings in your head? When you read your Bible who is reminding you of all your guilt? When you fellowship who is saying how unworthy you are to receive? Who is instilling unbelief in your soul? Be as the soliloquizing psalmist and preach to yourself everyday the providence of God, because everyday you forget God’s providence.

WHAT TO SAY?

You must preach Christ to yourself. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness” not happiness. “Seek for happiness” says Lloyd Jones, “and you will never find it; seek righteousness and you will discover you are happy!” Preach so that you may have an understanding of justification, not sanctification. Piper cautions, “Confusing justification and sanctification will kill joy.” See with John Bunyan that “Thy righteousness is in heaven… I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he lacks my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it is was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today, and forever.” Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” A common issue in spiritual depression is a sense of our own unworthiness. Preach to yourself the difference of the kingdom of God to the kingdoms of men. “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Leave off your bargaining spirit and remember “I am who I am by the grace of God.” Lloyd Jones encourages, “Do not keep a record or an account of your work! Give up being a bookkeeper… Leave the bookkeeping to Him and to His grace. Let Him keep the accounts. The truth is, there is nothing so gracious as God’s method of accountancy. Be prepared for surprises in this Kingdom. The truth is, you never know what is going to happen! The last shall be first! What a complete reversal of our materialistic outlook – everything in God’s kingdom is upside down!” Preach to yourself James 1:2, “Count it exceeding joy, when ye fall into divers tentations.” Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given for Christ, that not only ye should believe in him, but also suffer for his sake.” John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have affliction, but be of good comfort: I have overcome the world.” Acts 14:22 “We must through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of God.”

HAVE FAITH

Christian faith is a very concrete, logical, and intelligent act. Christian faith is never blind.

“Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain;

God is his own interpreter,

And he will make it plain.”

Faith is by nature an act or action, and must be manually started and put into operation. Faith is not a feeling. Faith is not “feeling assured” or “feeling at peace.” Feelings are fleeting, moment to moment and cannot be faith itself. “Faith is perpetual unbelief kept quiet” is has been defined. Faith does not oblige or intreat the temptation, it rejects it without deliberation. How it does so is far from blind, but incredibly logical and intelligent. The foundation of true, logical, intelligent faith is naturally the truth, God’s Scripture. Baxter wrote, “Hold to God’s word, the sacred Bible, written by the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost… It is not divine faith if it rest not on divine revelation, nor is it divine obedience which is not given by divine government or command.” Faith rejects just as naturally the temptation’s lie as it naturally affirms the truth. Faith considers, agrees, and logically thinks through all that we know to be true and then applies the truth against the onslaught of lies. 1 John 5:4, “This is that victory that overcomes this world even our faith.” Faith is a immune system to the soul, a logical algorithm which carefully calculates all the statements of our temptations and puts them into antithesis with all the propositions of Scripture and concludes the temptations to be logically invalid. The key is to only consider and preach to yourself God’s providential plan. “Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” The moment you pensively consider and permit your self to do the talking you loose ground. As with the Apostle Peter, the moment you take your eyes of Christ and start “focusing on those things that are in juxtaposition to faith” such as the billowing waves, the temptation gives birth to sin and you sink. So the cure to spiritual depression is knowledge of Christ and we hear that in Scripture and we receive Scripture by faith. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage, to fear again” “He that hath begun this good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” “Now not him that is able to keep you that ye fall not, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with joy, That is, to God only wise, our Saviour be glory, and majesty, and dominion, and power, both now and forever, Amen.” Faith refuses to be tyrannized by circumstances, reactionary on an extreme level, or dependant upon conditions we desire to control. Burton wrote, “the actions of the will are belle and nolle, to will and nil.” Faith wills contentment and nils anxiety. Faith even refuses to “Just suck it up” and repress emotion from the conscious mind to the subconscious. Faith also does not mean we will “feel better” or that our situation will “change.” Paul learned by faith to be content in all situations not controlling of all situations. Lloyd Jones summed it up as follows, “Conditions are always changing, therefore I must not be dependent upon them. What matters supremely is my soul and my relationship with God. God is concerned about me, and nothing happens to me apart for His approving it. God’s will and God’s way are a great mystery, and whatever He permits is for my good. Every situation in life is the unfolding of some manifestation of God’s love and goodness. I must regard circumstances and conditions as a part of God’s perfecting my soul. Whatever my conditions may be at the present moment, they are only temporary.” Summarily, don’t just believe in Question 11, believe God’s providence.

MEANS OF GRACE

Give thanks in all things. Richard Baxter in a message on melancholy instructed, “Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can. You have not the power of your comforts: but have you no power of your tongues?… Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving with the mouth started up thankfulness in the heart.” Now you may say that to your weak and weary soul all of this speaking, faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in the battle against the depression of your mind sounds exhausting. Well, you are absolutely correct. Exercising the very practical methods and means of waging war on despondency will deplete you of almost everything, but it is more exhausting not to resist and remain in your disquieted state. It is more devastating to listen to yourself to you than for you to address your self. Baxter stressed that, “A delight in God and goodness, and a joyful, praising frame of soul, from the belief of the love of God through Christ, is far more to be desired than grief and tears, which do but sweep away some dirt, that love, joy, and thankfulness may enter, which are the true evangelical, Christian temper, and likest to the heavenly state.” Behold in this, the example of Christ in Gethsemane who took with himself his close disciples. So too, use with thankfulness the help of men. For others, be not unwilling to support those suffering in such wise. “There is no wasted work in loving those without light” says Piper. Again to the despondent, do not be alone. Burton wrote of solitude, “When I would solace myself with a fool, I reflect upon myself, and there I have him.” Baxter encouraged, “Though lawyers, as such, have none of the legislative power, you need their help to understand the use of the law aright. And though no men have power to make laws for the church universal, yet men must be our teachers to understand and use the laws of God.” Refuse the confusion and despondency of man’s anthropocentric philosophies. Refuse to confuse. “Never set a doubtful opinion” said Baxter, “against a certain truth or duty; reduce not things certain to things uncertain.” Faithfully serve Christ as far as you have attained remembering that “I am who I am by the grace of God.” Never stop learning the truth of God to preach to yourself. Continue as Christ’s scholars in learning more and more. Remember the difference between justification and sanctification. Remember, “It is not by some extraordinary act, good or bad, that we may be sure what state the soul is in, but by the predominant bent, and drift, and tenor of the heart and life.” Forget not also to pray,

“When all things seem against us,

To drive us to despair,

We know one gate is open

One ear will hear our prayer.”

CONCLUSION

William Cowper, a dear Christian sustained through his life by the his Christian brother John Newton was immersed in depression for all his days. He wrote the following hymn:

“God moves in a mysterious way 

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.

Of never failing skill

He treasures up his bright designs

And works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.”

To end with Baxter, “Digest these truths, and they will cure you.”

Samson The Greatest Type of Christ

Samson

[ The following is an unedited, unabridged post by C.J. taken from a thread on http://www.sermonindex.net. ]

Sampson: The Greatest Type of Christ in the Old Testament.

It goes without saying, that of the handful of people that are listed in Hebrews 11, there is none as controversial as that of Samson. Most messages that I’ve heard on him leave the impression that this man was a failure, a failure that just happened to straighten out in the very end. As a matter of fact, it was a challenge to find anything among the moderns of a positive nature, for most writers had little good to say of him, and many went so far as to imply that it was a mistake that he was even mentioned in the ‘Faith chapter’ at all, because of what they see as three grievous sins in his life.

SAMSON’S 3 MISTAKES WHICH RUINED HIS LIFE…

1) Dishonered his parents (by marrying the woman from Timnath).

2) Defiled his person by eating the wrong meal (honey from the lion carcass).

3) Defended his pride.

Not very flattering words. It seems that the consensus among the majority is that Samson was a failure and somehow managed to slip into Hebrews 11 by the skin of his teeth. But it was God that placed Samson among the giants of faith, listing him by name no less, and with God there are no mistakes. So why the controversy?

I think the answer lies in the fact that although we acknowledge with our lips that our right standing before God comes through faith, we sometimes inwardly hold on to the Old Covenant way, which is the way of works. This is why I believe God’s view of Samson is so different from many men that hold such a negative view of Samson. God understands us and sees us how we are.

WHY SAMSON IS IN THE HALL OF FAITH

It seems necessary to show that he truly does belong in Hebrews 11, and also call into question the harsh judgements made by many on his life. I hope to do this in showing two basic points.

  1. SAMSON IS ONE OF THE GREATEST OLD TESTAMENT TYPES OF CHRIST: For it goes without saying, that if he is found as a clear picture or type of Christ, then the only conclusion that could be drawn, is that he would have to be a great man of faith, for God would not picture his Son through a faithless failure.
  2. SAMSON WALKED THROUGH THIS LIFE WITH INCREDIBLE FAITH: Not just in the last couple hours as many claim. Now the word is faith, not law. Hebrews 11 doesn’t list the men that had the cleanest records (for otherwise David may have been excluded), nor the ones that played it safe and protected their reputations among men the best (for then the Pharisees would have been found here). Hebrews 11 is not nicknamed the ‘Hall of Law Keeping’. It lists those that were sure of the unseen, who believed in God’s promises, who had their praise from God and not men. (Rom 2:29)

SAMSON IS ONE OF THE GREATEST O.T TYPES OF CHRIST:

Background and Introduction:

Samson was from the tribe of Dan and was the last of Israel’s judges, most likely in direct fulfillment the prophecy, “Dan shall judge his people” from Genesis 49:16. It is important to note that the days of the judges are listed as the darkest days of Israel’s history, a condition that makes the faith of Samson shine all the brighter, for it was a terrible time to be given the task of leading this nation. It was in this time when Israel was being oppressed by the cruel Philistines for the wickedness that they themselves had committed, that God ordained Samson, before his birth, to begin the deliverance of his people, (for David would finish it some years later). Samson’s life and calling are very unusual and even appear odd at times, so it is important to see that Samson was set apart by God not so much to imitate, but rather to see a picture of the coming Savior. Consider one commentator’s words …..

“…but the truth is Samson himself was a riddle, a paradox of a man, who did that which was really great and good, by that which was seemingly weak and evil, because he was designed not to be a pattern to us (who must walk by rule, not example), but a type of him who, though he knew no sin, was made sin for us, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh that he might condemn and destroy sin in the flesh.”

Now because my time is far too short to include all the aspects of Samson himself and his life, let’s look at some of the events in which God used Samson to be a type or foreshadow of Jesus Christ and the great faith he had to walk this incredibly difficult road of deliverer of Israel.

1. THE CALLING OF SAMSON (Chapter 13:1-5)

  • -Samson was chosen before he was born to begin Israel’s deliverance… The only man who shared this in common with the Lord. “For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son… and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (13:5)
  • -Samson’s mother was barren. As was Isaac’s, Jacob’s, John’s, and Samuel’s. Type of the virgin birth. “And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.” (13:2)
  • -Samson’s birth was announced to his mother by the ‘angel of the LORD‘, as was the Jesus’ by an angel to Mary. In Sampson’s case this was most likely Jesus Christ preincarnate, “And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (13:18) “And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” (13:22)
  • -The meaning of his name. It means ‘Sun’. Surely he would be a type of the Son and surely he would be a light shining in a very dark time. “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings….” (Mal 4:2)
  • -He is called to be a deliverer, to begin the deliverance of Israel from their enemies. “He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (13:5) Samson will be a type of Christ in that Christ is the deliverer of His people and “bear the government on his shoulders” (Is 9:6).
  • -He is called to be a nazarite for life, “For the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.” (13:7) He is the first one mentioned in the Bible, and the only lifelong nazarite who gets his commission from God himself, like Christ. Samson was told by his parents that God had called him to be separated unto God from common society for life as a Nazarite, and he believed them, and he believed God. That is faith. So we begin to see from the very start that Samson was different, set apart by God to be used for his purposes. His entry into the world was proclaimed from heaven itself. The favor of God was upon the Danite, from the time before his conception. We must see these things to understand not only the man, but more importantly the special call on his life, and the special grace of God upon him to sustain him during the most incredible demands that any man has ever had to endure. The parallels between his birth and the birth of our Lord are incomparable and undeniable as a type of Christ.

2. SAMSON TAKES A GENTILE BRIDE. (Chapter 14)

  • – The Spirit of the Lord had already, scripture says, began to move Samson at times,“And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times” (13:25). Given his calling, we can assume the Spirit moved him at times to reveal the daring, courage and most likely the strength (which God never promised at any time) that he would need to strike out against the Philistines.
  • -“And Sampson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Tinmath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman of Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her fro me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that t was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the philistines: for at the time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” Here Samson asks his father for a gentile bride. While it was not very popular with his parents, Samson respects their authority and involves them. Though debated, this marriage does not appear to be forbidden as the Phillistines were not mentioned in (Deut 7:1-4).
  • -Sampson thus types Christ who sought a gentile bride. Sampson sought her not because of beauty (“Is not her younger sister fairer than she?” [15:2]), but because of his love for her as Christ has also done for us.
  • -In doing so Samson, as Christ did, made Israel jealous, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3)
  • -Samson furthermore, shows incredible faith in pursuing that which was of God, but what men couldn’t understand. As we will see, he sought praise from God over men, even mother and father. This is the first act of Israel’s deliverance in his his taking a gentile bride (interesting parallel with the church) and we see Samson walking in faith according to the will of God. “But his father and his mother knew not that t was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the philistines: for at the time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” (14:4)

3. DESTROYS THE LION IN THE VINEYARD. (14:5-6)

  • -”Then went Samson down… and came to the vineyards of Timnath...” (14:5) Here is a especially possible testing of his faith and obedience because he was a nazarite. (Given the extreme length of the vow, it is noteworthy that though alone here in a vineyard, he abstains. What an incredible obedience to parents and God and more so a faith in God!) Here is the type: Christ in the wilderness.-”And behold, a young lion roared against him.” (14:5) This is not a cub, but a creature in it’s prime and most fierce state. Here we see the Spirit of the Lord comes ‘mightily’ upon Samson to destroy the beast with his bare hands as though he was a kid. Samson’s faith and guidance from God will take him into some of the most dangerous places and situations that any man has ever come across, yet God was always faithful and his grace was Samson’s strength. As we look at the many times in which the ‘Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson‘, consider if it would be consistent with the rest of the Old Testament for God to do this if at the time Samson was acting contrary to God’s will and in selfish, faithless acts of sin?
  • -Samson’s killing of the lion could be a picture of Satan attacking Christ, “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent himm as he would have rent a kid.” (14:5) Through Jesus’ victory over Satan, He destroyed Satan and defeated death, thus the sweetness of the Gospel and the resurrection came from, or out of, Satan’s defeat, “And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.” (14:8). This passage also illustrates well that that in the conflict between the Lord and Satan, Satan is no match, but like a small goat against a mighty warrior.
  • -Samson’s faith is shown as he takes on the lion with nothing in his hand, “And he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand.” (14:6). The power of the Spirit of God is displayed as well as the faith of Samson in all his conquests, for not once in his life does he ever use a man-made weapon of war, though he accomplishes the greatest single-handed victories ever had by any man. “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD.” (Zech 4:6)
  • -Only a man of faith, one that knew the source of his strength was from God, and not himself, could have this kind of humility that he told no one of what he did, not even his parents who were but a little ways away. “But he told not his father or his mother what he had done.” (14:6) I think most young men wouldn’t mind letting their dad know they had just ripped a lion apart with their bare hands, but Samson said nothing.

4. THE WEDDING FEAST (14:8-20)

  • -Samson comes to prepare the wedding feast as Christ the bridegroom prepares the wedding feast His mostly gentile bride, the church., “And Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.” (14:10)
  • -Samson comes speaking ‘dark sayings‘ or parables, “I will now put forth a riddle unto you…” (14:12) Similarly, Psalm 78:2 prophesied that the Lord would open his, “mouth in a parable” and utter, “dark sayings of old” as he began his ministry that the Father gave him to do. “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matt 13:10)
  • -So, after much pressure, Samson reveals the riddle of the honey in the lion to his gentile bride. “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him.” (14:17) Just as Christ took aside his disciples and privately shared the meaning of his parables. The honey out of the lion appears to be a picture of the gospel as already mentioned.
  • -Samson’s bride tells the meaning of the riddle to her friends, “And she told the riddle to the children of her people.” (14:17) who in turn receive new garments from Samson. Here the spreading of the gospel is typed, as the church, or bride of Christ shares the truth of Salvation and those that hear it with understanding receive new garments, which always picture salvation.
  • -Samson then leaves his bride in the care of a companion and goes back up to his father’s house until the time of the harvest. “And he went up to his father’s house...”  Here is another amazing parallel to the events of Christ and the church, as the bride was left in the care of Holy Spirit, “But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.” (14:20) While Christ went up to his Father’s house, and will return in what He called the time of the harvest “But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife” (15:1).
  • -Samson shows as an incredible type of Christ here, foreshadowing events in such detail as none others do in the Old Testament concerning the Lords marriage to the gentile church, all the while walking alone amongst those hostile to him as he fulfills the will of God. Has Samson acted in total sin and faithlessness, or does God have him move in peculiar ways for His own purposes?

5. SAMSON STRIKES OUT AGAINST ISRAEL’S ENEMIES AS THE GOD-APPOINTED DELIVERER (15:1-8)

  • – In response to the ill treatment he received from his father in law, Samson uses this as an opportunity strike out against the Philistines, as the Lord had purposed back in Chapter 14:4. “And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the PHilistines, though I do them a displeasure.” (15:3)
  • -Samson catches 300 foxes that he ties tail to tail on fire, then sends them out in this dry harvest time to destroy the Philistines crops. This man of faith fears not the consequence of such radical action, for who would be foolish enough not to expect immediate retribution from the oppressing and cruel Philistines once this act was carried out? Who of us would run to the chance to strike out against the churches enemies, in any fashion, with this magnitude as a lone instigator and aggressor? Keep in mind that these actions were in no way a personal vendetta, but rather the obedient response to God’s call on his life from birth to deliver Israel and act as a one man military.
  • -After the Philistines respond by burning his wife and father-in-law, Samson responds with a most amazing statement, that ‘Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.‘ (15:7) Are there many men who compare to Samson when it comes to faith? God had told him that he would begin Israel’s deliverance, and see how this man exercises the most incredible faith and zeal as he continues to pursue his enemies as the public judge of Israel! Not only does he declare another single-handed war is about to commence with the Philistines, but has the faith in God’s power to let them know that after he “smites them hip and thigh with a great slaughter” (15:8), that he will cease his vengeance for the death of his wife! It is surreal, the faith that Samson exercised as Israel’s lone deliverer.

6. ISRAEL’S BETRAYAL OF SAMSON. SAMSON’S SAVING OF ISRAEL.

  • -Here is found, in my opinion, one of the strongest acts of faith that Samson put forth of all. When we stop for a moment and consider the incredible grandeur of the type of Christ and the events of Christ’s life that are pictured here, mingled with the atrocious treatment of the Jews against him, it makes one marvel at the enduring faith of Samson, and we can say in agreement with Hebrews 11:38 that of a surety, ‘the world was not worthy of servants such as these‘.
  • -Now we find Samson is resting in the cave of Etam, probably assured that the Philistines would come for him, now that he had slaughtered many of them in an open, lop-sided war. Just as Christ had nowhere to lay his head, we never see Samson in a home, but instead always on the move as the Spirit of God led him. He may have done this even for the safety of the Jews. But as we see, it is not the Philistines that take Samson initially, but his own people.
  • -3,000 men of Judah (the strong tribe symbolized by the lion) approach Samson. Though they are gathered in this great multitude in the presence of their fearless, God-appointed deliverer, yet they come to bind him and hand him over to their enemies. “And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines” (15:12) Even in the presence of one such as Samson who has proved both willing and able to begin their deliverance, they would have nothing of the sort. Yet Samson is unshaken in faith or zeal, though all those around him have abandoned him.
  • -The picture of Christ is incredibly clear and vivid….Joh 1:11 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” In removing Samson they promise to not kill Samson themselves, but hand him over to those that will do it with far more malice and cruelty, so was Jesus rejected by his own and handed over to the gentiles to be tortured and crucified. “And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand.” (15:12-13)
  • -So they bind Samson, their kinsmen and God-sent deliverer, and take him to the Philistines. Consider yet again the great faith and meekness seen here in this Judge, for though it would have been as nothing to destroy those that came to bind him, he meekly submits and allows them to carry him away ‘as a lamb to the slaughter‘, without so much as a complaint, or a skirmish. What a picture of Christ in the garden, who’s very words leveled the Roman soldiers to the ground, yet meekly let those that were so much weaker, carry him away to be tortured and killed.
  • -When the Philistines see him they ‘shouted against him‘. Think of what this would do to most men’s spirit: you’ve just been taken by your own people and carried bound to a thousand screaming Philistines who want nothing but your slow, painful death. You’ve no weapon. You’re all alone. You’ve nothing but the God-given mandate to deliver the people that don’t want to be saved. But ‘where the Spirit is there is Liberty‘, and Samson’s cords that bound him fell as though they were burnt flax, for the Spirit of the Lord came ‘mightily upon him‘ . “And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.” (15:14) As three thousand from the tribe of Judah watch fearfully or run away, Samson reaches down and picks up a jawbone and with it slays a thousand men single-handedly. “And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.” (15:15) Have we seen a picture like this in the entire Old Testament that speaks so strong that salvation is of the Lord, whose strength and might and fury none can withstand? Who better than Samson shows the wrath that Christ will bring against his enemies?
  • – The fact that Samson was ever once in the very least, aided by a single person or weapon in the carrying out Israel’s deliverance is the greatest foreshadowing of the coming Lion of Judah and of his incomparable faith in God. (The Lord never used a conventional weapon, nor will He at His second coming) He stood completely alone in the midst of his own people. “And Sampson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.” (15:16)

7. THE MIDDLE 20 YEARS ARE MISSING

  • -Just like the account of the Lord’s life, there is no record of the prime of Samson’s life, other than that he judged his people, and in both cases it is approximately 20 years.

8. DELILAH’S BETRAYAL OF SAMSON

  • -As Samson was betrayed by Delilah for silver, so was Christ betrayed by a supposed friend for silver as well. “And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.” (16:5) It is incredible to see the similarities between Samson and Jesus as they allow one they know to be a deceiver and betrayer such close proximity and fellowship. It is noteworthy that while Samson is scorned for faithlessness and sin, consider the astonishing cruelty that surrounded Samson in every recorded event of his life, by the Philistines as well as his own people. No wonder the account says that Samson’s “soul was vexed unto death” (16:16) as it said the same of Christ in the garden.

9. SAMSON AS HE TYPES THE LORD AND THE CROSS

  • -“And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” (16:3) Why in the world did Samson do this? For it is considered by many the single greatest act of strength ever carried out by a man. The gates, bar and all, would have been too much for any who has ever lived, and yet he carried them possibly 20 miles through sandy ground to the top of a hill overlooking Hebron. And why is this feat of all feats dropped between vs 2 and 4 for no explained reason?
  • -I believe that this is a picture of Jesus and the cross. The Philistines thought they had Samson trapped in Gaza, ”And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city” (16:2) but rather he comes down at midnight and rips the city gates right off, and carries them to the top of a hill outside the city. This can’t be coincidental, for it is the exact same thing our Lord did with His cross. He put it on His shoulders, and carried it outside the city to the top of a hill. -John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…” So it is here, that Samson carries this great door and places it on the top of the hill outside the city. They thought this city of Gaza could contain him. But just as Gaza could not hold Samson, in essence so it is with the Lord. Death and hell could not hold him. He took the cross, or this great gate and carried it to the top of a hill where the great entrance to heaven could be seen. We need to see Christ carrying the cross as mighty Samson carrying the gate. Not week and feeble, but full of strength and power.
  • -The last event is Samson’s greatest moment as a deliverer of his people. As you know, Samson was called by God to be a nazarite for his entire life. He was never to cut his hair. When Delilah betrayed him and his hair was cut, we read that the Spirit of God departed from him for a time. He lost his strength, had his eyes put out, was mocked and abused at the hands of his captors while they made sport of him. Then they brought him out to be a spectacle for all of them to see as they praised their god Dagon for the victory. Can you see Satan at this party laughing and stirring the people against the Lord’s anointed? It was at this time that the Philistines led Samson out in sight of all, and placed him between the two pillars. It was here that Samson asked God to strengthen him one last time. Samson believed in the Lord. It takes more faith to humbly come to God after great defeat, especially that of our own sins, than at any other, but he believed that God was the rewarder of those that diligently seek him, that he was the ‘God of all grace‘, and so he was.
  • -Again, the type of Christ that Samson is here is hard to miss. Without being able to see, Samson is mocked and scorned by the Philistines. “And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64)
  • -Christ willingly came to die as a man, he meekly put himself at the mercy of men that hated him. Samson lost his strength because the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him when his hair was cut, when he sinned by going against the separation of purity in the Nazarite vow. “And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.” (16:20) But the Spirit of God departed from Christ at the cross as he was made sin in our place, where he felt weakness and separation from the Father, after so long being separated unto the Father, so that he could be a high priest that understood the feeling of our infirmities, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
  • -God heard Samson and gave him the strength to overcome his enemies, and as it returned, with outstretched arms, Samson laid down his life, just as Jesus would do at the cross. “And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” (16:30) Consider the words of Jesus in John 10:18 concerning His life “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

And this is why no man could ever be a perfect picture of the Lord, for only he was without sin, only he had life within himself and of himself. But Samson helps us see the coming Deliverer, for with him there is no self pity, complaint or even asking God why he was given this lifelong burden to bear. From the beginning he was separated unto God to be a nazarite, a deliverer of God’s people and a judge over them. Not one complaint, not one instance of shrinking back though always alone in his calling. And here at his death is no exception. Consider his request, ‘God give me strength to finish what you gave me to do’. With head bowed and filled with strength, he feels the pillars with outstretched arms, and though blind without his eyes, I think that of all the men of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, probably Samson, more than any other, was looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith.Now…… one last thing that I didn’t mention about the Nazarites and their vows that I found of interest. In Numbers 6, we read that at the end of the time of their vow, when the time of this special separation unto God was complete, they were to do two things; first they were to have their heads shaved. And second, they were to offer up to God a sacrifice. Now, if anyone knew the demands of the Nazarite vow, it would be Samson. Look at the sacrifice that Samson offered up unto God from between the pillars.

  • He was the first Nazarite mentioned in the bible.
  • He was the only lifelong Nazarite ordained by God from before his birth.
  • He was the only Nazarite who offered up himself, as a sacrifice to God, with outstretched arms, to complete his vow and his calling.
  • He was the only one…. , except for Jesus.

C.J.

The Righteousness of Lot

Righteous Lot

A DEFENCE OF LOT

The North American church almost has this masochistic routine of slamming every hero and patriarch in the Bible. We rob the narrative of its teleology, its design and purpose, and subjoin our own personal “moral of the story.” We interpose our own modern conventions into their period of history. We permit our own modern presuppositions to determine the narratives. We quixotically circumvent uncomfortable realities that will collide with our modern piousness. We monitor, censure, diminish, belittle, deviate, and romanticize narratives in the name of Sunday School. We vilify Biblical men to placate the feminists who sing “A mighty Goddess is our Forte”. We turn Abraham into a fearful liar, Samson into a harlot philanderer, Jacob into a manipulator and thief, Rehab into a lying prostitute, Moses into an impatient megalomaniac, Isaac into a cowardly liar, Noah into a drunk, and the one with the biggest rap sheet is Lot. Lot is a pusillanimous caitiff, an incestuous father,  a tardy sluggard, a sybaritic, fleshly, avaricious, and supercilious fiend! In other words, Lot is the worst of the whole lot of Biblical patriarchs.  All of these men have suffered from the hands of lazy pastors, picturesque Sunday School teachers, raging feminists, and legalists. Biblical patriarchs and hero’s have been turned into miserable failures and some villains. We have deprived all of these narratives and men of the victory, valour, and virtue they were intended to inspire in God’s people. We, however, have been watchful of not conceding to such misinterpretation and manipulation, but have actively endeavoured to reclaim the glory of God displayed in their providential lives and acts. Today we endeavour to reclaim and give a defence of Lot.

“And turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them and overthrew them, and made them an ensamble unto them that after should live ungodly, And delivered just Lot vexed with the uncleanly conversation of the wicked: For he being righteous, and dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. The Lord knoweth to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment under punishment.”

2 Peter 2:6-9

WORST OF THE LOT

Perhaps one of the most difficult of accounts in Scripture to reconcile is that of Peter’s approbation of Lot as a just and righteous man. Today Lot is scapegoated as a passive, pusillanimous, licentious, incestuous, blackguard. How is it then, that firstly God should account him as righteous and save him from judgment, and secondly how the Apostle Peter could give laudation to his righteousness? I have come to recognize that we as Christians are often given to building moralistic boxes which dimensions are determined by our cultural perspective as New Covenant, Western Civilization Christian’s, rather than by Scriptural objectivity. This is not to say in the least that Western Civilization is antithetical to Scriptural objectivity, yet only to recognize the clarity and the authority of the latter supersedes the former. I would propose that with close observation of the context and passages of Genesis 19, we are able to come to the same conclusion as the Apostle Peter did.  All without romanticizing, idealizing, and simulating the life of Lot. After all, if we do not share the selfsame illation from this sufficient, special revelation of Lot in Scripture, it is we, not Peter, who are at fault on both a homiletical and hermeneutic capacity. The approach to be given to Genesis 19 is a humble request of adoration to God. Praying for our right understanding of this passage I would restate the reformers of the 1559 Geneva Bible, “O Gracious God and most merciful Father, which hast vouchsafed us the rich and precious jewel of thy holy word, assist us with thy spirit, that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to thine own Image, to build us up, and edify us into the perfect building of thy Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

A PRELIM OF LOT

Firstly, we do well to make note of the fact that Lot acted in a significant amount of faith in following his younger uncle, Abraham, to the promise Land. Just as Abraham trusted in God, so Lot had fealty to Abraham and his holy calling. Lot as the patriarch of his father’s estate had significantly increased assets, possessions, family, and servants under his responsibility than Abraham had. Lot endured substantially far more risk in uprooting the whole of his estate than would have Abraham. Together, as brethren, Lot and Abraham traveled across deserts, through mountains, and endured famine and persecution in Egypt.  None of which Lot was obligated toward. From this alone, one cannot doubt Lot’s considerable belief in the promise of God, the calling of Abraham, and his own place in God’s purpose. From this preliminary observation we see that God had just as special a calling for righteous Lot in Sodom as he had for Abraham in Canaan.

UNTO SODOM

An oft repeated critique of Lot was the fact he had chosen before and above Abraham to settle his herds and family in “the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent unto Sodom.”  Lot is accused firstly of a haughty pretence to select his land before Abraham. Contrarily to our modern presuppositions, Abraham was in fact obligated to give to Lot the first selection of the land to be taken, because Lot was the oldest son of Abraham’s eldest brother, Haran. Lot, in those days, thus had the right of succession by which the whole estate of Abraham’s father and Lot’s grandfather, Terah, was passed onto. In addition to receiving the majority of assets and belongings of his grandfather’s estate, Lot would have been responsible for both the assets and family of his father’s estate. In some respects Lot would have been responsible for Abraham himself. Furthermore, Lot is estimated to have been 20-40 years older than Abraham, which would have made him about 114 around the time of their parting. Abraham honoured Lot’s position as the older family patriarch and protector in giving Lot the first choice. The second impeachment against Lot is that the grounds for his choosing Sodom was from an inordinate inclination toward the sinfulness of Sodom. However, the Apostle Peter makes it more than clear that Lot was only vexed “from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” Still and all, when we observe the context of Abraham and Lot’s parting we see the pressing demand of both their ever bountiful estates, Lot’s equitable position to select first and foremost, and his realistic selection of a superior and beneficial property. “So when Lot lifted up his eyes, he saw that all the plain of Jordan was watered everywhere (for before The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gamorrah it was as the garden of The Lord like the land of Egypt, as thou goest unto Zoar.)”

ONE AND THE SAME

To establish our observation of Lot having that special fealty and belief as Abraham, Scripture gives a parallel account of Lot receiving the Angels in Chapter 19. The manner of both Abraham and Lot’s reception of these angels registers with us their their active awareness of the presence of God, their amenability to worship the beauty of holiness, their acknowledgment of their servitude, and their amiable hospitality to their lords. Firstly, they were actively aware of God’s presence. Speaking of Abraham, “And he lifted up his eyes, and looked” of Lot, “and Lot saw them.” When the angels and the Lord appeared unto Abraham, he was resting during the afternoon of the day as was customary. However, Lot was sitting at the gate in the evening. Often, it is said that Lot had garnered a position of power and importance in that wicked city, which was signified in him sitting at the gate as was the customary capacity of such officials. However, righteous Lot sat by the gate at evening. After the business of the day was done and everyone had departed, Lot sat at the gates of Sodom at dusk. This is far from ordinary and customary for officials. Why Lot would be far from hearth and home at this late time of day, at the outskirts of the city is largely unknown. Was he expecting the angels, was he their to protect sojourners and strangers entering in at that dangerous hour? This is but speculation. However it does confirm in addition to verse 9, that Lot had not entered into a position of power and affluence in the city as some would indict him of. (Even if Lot was in a position of power, this is still no fault on his part as all Christians should endeavour to actively reform their cities.) Second, is both their amenable response of worship. Speaking of Abraham, “And when he saw them he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the ground”, and of Lot, “and rose up to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the ground.” This is a remarkable quality of these two Biblical patriarchs. Holy men who from an acute awareness and familiarity with the presence of God could recognize his holiness at any time and in any place, and furthermore spontaneously react in a fitting manner of worship due to God. God need not have told them they were standing on holy ground, they sensed it from the outset. It is an interesting pattern, as far as I am aware in Scripture, that all God’s prophets and patriarchs and them only, were at some point in life met or preceded before birth by angels or divine revelations that prepared them. Lot is certainly no disruption in this design of God. It could have been very easy for Lot to miss the angels and not immediately recognize their holiness in such an odd place for holy men to be, at such an odd time, and in the darkness of the evening. But righteous Lot had an acute awareness to God’s aseity. The third quality is their acknowledgment of servitude. Speaking of Abraham, “And he said, Lord.” and speaking of Lot, “And he said, See my lords.” Of the two, Lot had received the highest position of authority, yet he too bows before God’s men and addresses them as both his earthly and heavenly lords. It could also be said, that of the two, Lot had a special sense of the presence of God. For he had only the two angels to discern, and not the Lord himself with two angels accompanying as was Abraham’s case. The fourth excellence of these men was their hospitality to God’s men. Speaking of Abraham, “Let a little water, I pray you, be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may comfort your hearts, afterward ye shall go your ways: for therefore are ye come to your servant.”, and of Lot, “I pray you turn in now into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early and go your ways.” Once again however, Lot receives double the difficulty than that of Abraham. Initially, Lot is refused and tested by these men of God, but righteous Lot “pressed upon them earnestly, and they turned in to him, and came to his house, and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.” “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much, if it be fervent.” We may observe the character of both these men. Lot acted just as Abraham did, and even went the extra mile to do so in several instances. The righteousness of Abraham and the righteousness of Lot were one and the same towards God’s angels.

SACRIFICE OF WORSHIP

The sacrifices of Lot for the holiness of God were in no wise symbolic rituals, but very real offerings in very real situations. As one theologian wrote, “It is difficult for us in our normative and regular sphere of life to recognize ourselves with the utter extremity, and extraordinary situation and action of Lot. There is little point of continuity for us to find comprehension and relation.” Lot first has sacrificed his position as patriarch and leader in bowing down to these men as his earthly and heavenly lords. “Cast down yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Lot secondly sacrificed his home in bringing them in and readily making for them a feast. “And they turned in to him, and came to his house, and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.” Lot and Abraham both underwent great expense in lavishly catering to their visitors and waiting on them as a servant would have. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have received Angels into their houses unawares.” This was no mere meal, but an oblation, a sacrifice of worship which was received by the angels.

LOT’S SHOES

The third sacrifice of Lot I would argue to be the greatest of all his sacrifices, because it was verily his own life. “But before they went to bed, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom compassed the house round about, from the young even to the old, all the people from all quarters. Who crying unto Lot said to him, Where are the men, which came to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. Then Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him.” Firstly we ought to observe the severity of the situation in which Lot had become enveloped. Verse 8 makes it obvious that all the men of the city, young and old, from every quadrant and quarter, of every age and demographic, were both represented and present in the crime to be perpetrated agains the angels of God. As one commentator wrote, “Truly the city was thoroughly and utterly depraved from wall to wall.” In addition, these depraved men had “compassed the house round about.” There was no way of escape for Lot, his family, or his guests. Furthermore, the offenders openly requested lude acts without shame or denial. There was no possibility of misinterpretation, no avenue of escape, no avoidance of the situation. Far from the common labelling of Lot as a miserable caitiff, Lot went out of his house to confront these men and stare them down in the white of the eye. Such an act could surely have only been realized by Lot at that time as suicidal. Lot did not do as a coward would have done and cower inside, or waver at the door, or question the safety of the deed, or capitulate to their request. Rather Lot, as that same true follower to the calling of God we first saw in this lecture, stepped out in faith as the leader and chalcenterous man he was for his high standard of righteousness. He, without hesitation or deliberation, went out, and “shut the door after him.” For Lot there was no turning back, no acquiescence to their request, no diminishing of his high standard, and all without defence to the violence of his offenders. Lot was willing to face the open rage of men who would give no hesitation to do unspeakable acts, who had no limitation to their moral conscience, who had no shame in their doings. Few men would have done as Lot did and confront their assailants, never mind shut the way of escape behind them. When Lot shut that door he became both a martyr and protector. Lot is the example of a righteous, masculine, patriarchal protector if there ever was one. Scripture is remarkably clear in this account to each seemingly unmindful detail so as to give us an adequate defence of the extreme actions of the extremely righteous man in the face of extreme situations which are completely extraordinary to us in our normative and regular spheres of life. It is a fearful thing to even contemplate walking in Lot’s shoes out the door, facing these violent men, and sealing your only way of escape and their only way of entrance behind you. This is the picture of a mediator such as Christ is.

PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Lot was furthermore a preacher of righteousness under the unction of holiness. “I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly.” Lot addressed their actions specifically and forthrightly. Lot refused to romanticize, refused to evade, and refused to waver in the front of their most populous and pressing opinion. Few preachers are willing to walk out the doors of their church, shut the door behind them, and directly face the onslaught of a radically perverse sexual culture to protect the brethren of God inside as Lot would. Lot not only addressed their action as wicked, but furthermore referred to them as brethren. Lot was not in Sodom to partake in the “conversation of the wicked”, he was present to minister to them as a preacher of righteousness. If he had been unrighteous then his oppressors would give no railing against him. Just as Lot was vexed with their unrighteousness so was Sodom vexed with Lot because of his righteousness. “Marvel not my brethren, though this world hate you.” “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” The following passage makes it plain that Sodom hated Lot, “Then they said, Away hence: and they said, He is come alone as a stranger, and shall he judge and rule? We will now deal worse with thee than with them. So they pressed sore upon Lot himself, and came to break the door.” Lot is referred to as a lone stranger just as God’s people are to be a holy people to God. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should whew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

GENESIS 19 & JUDGES 19

We have now seen Lot sacrifice to these angels without question or qualification his position, his worship, himself, and now we will see his same willingness to sacrifice his family as Abraham later had. “Behold now, I have two daughters, which have not known man: them will I bring out now unto you, and do them as seemeth you good: only unto these men do nothing: for therefore are they come under the shadow of my roof.”  Never has Christ’s call to leave father and mother, brother and sister for His sake ever been so radically displayed. Before I pass judgment on the means Lot used, I would give us a few considerations of praise toward the defence of his guests. We must comprehend something of the righteousness of his actions in proportion to the holiness of God’s angels under his protection. We have to understand they were worth Lot’s sacrifices and it would have been cowardly and ludicrous for Lot to go to the extent he had for anyone less than the holy angels of God. Moreover, up to the point of sacrificing his family, Lot had sacrificed everything else he possibly could. It was a means of last resort. Summarily, this was a situation of extremity on every site. Extremely wicked men without the door and extremely righteous men within the door and Lot was the mediator between the two where only extreme sacrifices would do. Few men would have even made it as far as Lot has in this passage or executed their duties with such equity. Now then, Scripture is silent in this passage as to judging the events, but does later provide for us judgement in a much similar case from Judges 19. There is a principle in Biblical hermeneutics that states we are to interpret Scripture with Scripture. On this ground, I would argue that the hermeneutical key to Genesis 19 is Judges 19. In Judges 19 & 20 we read of a similar patterned account with uncannily common wording and sequence of events. To brutally summarize, an old man saw a young man and his concubine wayfaring into the city to visit the Ark of God. The old man invited them into his house and when they washed their feet and had a feast the men of the city surrounded the house and smote the door demanding the young man to come out of the house that they might know him. The old man and master of the house went out and refused them, but offered his own virgin daughter and the man’s concubine to them. The men of the city would not hearken to the master of the house and so the young man brought out his concubine to them. She was abused all night and died at the threshold of the house. That excellent prophet, Samuel recounts the following of the event, Judges 19:30, “And all that saw it, said, There was no such thing done or seen since the time of the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt unto this day: consider the matter, consult and give sentence.”. Even the prophet Samuel could only cognize, “Consider the matter, consult and give sentence.” I fear that the church of our day gives sentence without consideration and consultation as that fine prophet commends. After much consideration all of Israel went up against the wicked city that had done the deed and the tribe who protected that city. Three times Israel prayed to God if their judgement was just, and three times the Lord the lord confirmed their judgment. In other words, the judgment was not given against the one who offered the concubine or daughters, but to the abusers of them. The two scenarios are remarkably similar in nature. However, Lot’s is still far more extreme. He was not protecting a couple who were off to visit the Ark of the Covenant, he was protecting angels. He was not surrounded by his own people, but by the most notorious, infamous wretches the Bible has to mention. Never once was Lot or the master of the house passed in judgement. Rather Scripture is clear to state that the judgment was given to the city’s that perpetuated the dipravity. Gibeah in Judges 19 had guaranteed their destruction just as Sodom in Genesis 19 had by that same act. [In addition, some site the controversial fact that prior to Moses in Leviticus 19 there was no prohibition against giving daughters as harlots when every man did what was right in his own eyes.] So, in light of Genesis 19, Judges 19, and Leviticus 19 “Consider the matter, judge and give sentence.” 

EXTRA-ORDINARY

Now am saying that it is hypothetically permissible for us to give our own daughters over to such depravity in our own time and place? Absolutely not. Am I saying that Lot’s righteousness was being tested in his own doing so? Yes. Does this contradict my former statement? No. How so? Because the Apostle Peter states it was done for “our ensamble.” The Apostle Paul too clarified this reasoning for the remarkable accounts of the Old Testament in that they were “For examples, and were written to admonish us upon whom the ends of the world are come.” They are extra-ordinary, super-natural scenarios and ought not to be judged or evaluated as ordinary, natural occurrences. You and I will never entertain angels in our house, in Sodom, and have the most depraved, blackguardly men known to history pressing against the front door. This is extra-ordinary, super-natural so it can be “an ensamble.” They were done not to show the supposed unrighteousness of Lot, but the very real unrighteousness of Sodom, Gomorra, and Gibeah. “And made them an ensamble unto them that after should live ungodly.” For our example God was extraordinary, supernaturally testing the righteousness of Lot  and confirming the depravity of Sodom. It was an example not to show that Lot was wicked but oppositely, “For he being righteous, and dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. The Lord knoweth to deliver the godly out of temptation.”

LOT’S FAITH & LOVE

What is interesting to note is that while Lot, the righteous mediator, was confronting the extremely wicked men without the door the extremely righteous men within the door were not standing idly by. Only until Lot had sacrificed everything, his position, his worship, his house, and finally his family did they pulled him in and shut the door. Only after Lot had been tested so that there was no sacrifice he was not willing to make did God’s men act.  They could have acted much sooner and prevented much of the crescendoing extremity, but they did not. God had himself provided Lot with a means of deliverance as He would do for Abraham and Isaac. As one commentator wrote, “It is unbelievable firstly that the angels waited so long in delivering Lot while Lot was trying desperately to deliver them, and secondly how even though the wicked men of Sodom were struck with blindness they still sought the door to the point of exhaustion.” Thus, both the righteousness of Lot and the wickedness of Sodom was then and there proven by God. At that point Sodom had sealed their judgment and Lot’s faith was accounted to him as righteousness just as Abraham’s act of faith was later.

GOD’S MEDIATOR

“And when the morning arose, the Angels hasted Lot, saying, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be destroyed in the punishment of the city. And as he prolonged the time, the men caught both him and his wife, and his two daughters by the hands (the Lord being merciful unto him) and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” While there are many who accuse Lot of acting tardily toward obeying God’s commands, Scripture contrarily portrays Lot immediately, and unequivocally offering his worship, position, life, and family in defence of God’s righteous standard. There was no place Lot was unwilling to go, no promise he was unable to believe, no service he was unwilling to perform, no sacrifice he was not willing to give, and no saving he was unwilling to do. It is moronic to say that the fact the angels had to physically force Lot outside the city was due to a disbelief, or cowardace, or unrighteous love of the city on his part, when just the night prior the angels had to force Lot inside the house due to his radical faith, profound courage, and righteous standard. Lot was only prolonging his stay in the city in the same sense that he prolonged the restraint of the violent men of the city as both were acts of sacrificial salvation. The former to save angels, the latter to save his family and brethren. “Then Lot went out and spake unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters, and said, Arise, get you out of this place: for the Lord will destroy the city, but he seemed to his sons-in-law, as though he had mocked.” This is the language of a man struck by urgency and belief for the love of his friends and enemies, not of tardiness and doubt from a callous heart. “Greater love than this hath no man, when any man bestoweth his life for his friends.” Never-mind his mocking enemies as Lot was so willing to do. Here again is righteous Lot, the faithful mediator. The Lot of this day was the same Lot as the day before, a mediator between God and men.

HUMBLE REQUEST

“And when they had brought them out, the Angel said, Escape for thy life: look not behind thee, neither tarry thou in all the plain: escape into the mountain, lest thou be destroyed. And Lot said unto them, Not so, I pray thee, my Lord. Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life: I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil take me, and I die. See now this city hereby to flee unto, which is a little one: Oh let me escape thither: is it not a little one, and my soul shall live?” Once again Lot’s accusers blindly blame him for entreating the Angels, while just a chapter earlier Abraham took the liberty to entreat God himself. We fail to realize there is no sin in this. Lot did not deliberately disobey their command and flee into the city without permission, nor did Lot even demand this option, rather he simply, and humbly requested it. How can we still be questioning Lot’s perseverance and faith at this point when He has given everything. Such a request is only reasonable for a man who has undergone such trials. May we have mercy as God had mercy on Lot. Only after the Angels rescued him by hindering his martyrdom did Lot take care for his life thereafter that he may be able to take care of his family’s in return. The fact his request was accepted verifies there was no sin in it. “Then he said unto him, Behold, I have received thy request also concerning this thing, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Hast thee, save thee there: for I can do nothing till thou come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun did rise upon the earth, when ot entered into Zoar.” It is almost needless to point out that Lot’s supposed “tardiness” was not a matter of days, but of mere moments. As the sun had only just risen by the time the events listed in verse 15 to 23 had transpired. (Nor could one say Lot would have disobeyed had his request been denied as he eventually took shelter in the mountains as the destruction continued anyways.) As Rushdoony writes, “Before we condemn Lot, let us remember that in like circumstances, few men would do better.”

LOT’S DAUGHTERS’ FAITH

Prior to Moses there was no law against incest. It had obviously been practiced since Adam and his descendants. Abraham himself married his half-sister. As Rushdoony clarifies, “When God through Moses forbad incest and required the death penalty for most instances of it, it was, first, a radical break with accepted worlwide practice, and second, established a roadblock to genetic damage which was to appear only many centuries later, as inbreeding began to become more prone to concentrate defective genes.” It is quite clear that Lot’s daughters viewed their action as good as the names given to the offspring indicate pride in their deed. Moab means “From my father,” and Ben-ammi, “Son of my kinsman.” However, it is clear that Lot would not have approved of the deed, hence the necessity of his unwitting inebriation. The fact Lot “perceived it not” indicates they drugged him unawares. The very fact of its happening could only be motivated out of a feeling to save the human race from extinction and Lot’s family line. In the face of the unprecedented destruction they had fled first to the Zoar, then to the mountains as the destruction continued, and then to a cave as the destruction did not cease. “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, And overthrew those cities and that grew upon the earth.” The scope of the destruction would have relatively appeared to Lot and his daughters as astronomical. Even Abraham, a full two days walking distance from the cities could witness its destruction. “And looking toward Sodom and Gamorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, behold, he saw the smoke of the land mounting up as the smoke of a furnace.” Thus Lot’s daughters are not depraved, but are however defective in their desperate deeds. Rushdoony adds, “Something more must be said about Lot’s daughters. They left Sodom with their father, and chose not to return with their mother.” Their city abandoned them, their betrothed husbands abandoned them, even their mother abandoned them, but the daughters followed Lot. However they too still failed by making their father drunk and fornicating, although it is humanly understandable. “Depraved” writes Rushdoony, “they were not; sinners, they were. They were not unbelievers, and in a critical situation, they had acted on faith, but their faith was a defective one.”

CONCLUSION

“And delivered just Lot vexed with the uncleanly conversation of the wicked: For he being righteous, and dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. The Lord knoweth to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment under punishment.” Having dispelled the misapplications of the text, the misappropriations of the situation, and the misunderstanding of the times, maybe we can now view Lot as “a righteous soul from day to day.” Even through the days explained in Genesis 19. Lot was courageous in defending the angels of God. Lot was righteous in worshiping God. Lot was humble in serving God’s men. Lot was missional in being a preacher of righteousness to Sodom. Lot was faithful in believing the purpose of God. Lot was a leader to the end, brought down by everyone about him. His city, his in-laws, his wife, and even his daughters. May we stand here in some sense of awe and encouragement from this Biblical patriarch. No one to this time has done or seen any such thing as Lot had righteously persevered through in just a few days.

“Consider the matter, consult and give sentence.”

Eating is Believing

“Now in this that I declare, I praise you not, that ye come together, not with profit but with hurt. For first of all, when ye come together in the Church, I hear that there are dimensions among you: and I believe it to the true in some part. For there must be heresies even among you, that they which are approved among you, might be known. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For every man when they should d eat, taketh his own supper afore, and one is hungry, and another is drunken. Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which I also have delivered unto you, to wit, That the Lord Jesus in the night when he was betrayed, took bread. And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do ye in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Let every man therefore examine himself, and so let them eat of this bread, and drink of this cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, because he discerneth not the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak, and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, because we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye are come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man be hungry, let him eat at home, that ye come not together unto condemnation…” 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

TABLE OF MY GOD

It was 1553. An infamous Libertine named Barthelier was forbidden to eat the Lord’s Supper in a local church in Geneva. The pastor of the local congregation refusing Barthelier had stated emphatically, “I… took an oath that I had resolved to meet death than profane so shamefully the Holy Supper of the Lord… My ministry is abandoned if I suffer the authority of the Consistory to be trampled upon, and extend the Supper of Christ to open scoffers… I should rather die a hundred times than subject Christ to such could mockery.” Despite such a stern indictment, Barthelier and his compatriots attended this pastor’s church one Sabbath day, intent on eating the Lord’s Supper by means of violence. The pastor had finished his sermon and was preparing to give the Lord’s Table to his congregation when without warning their was a clamourous march pushing towards the communion table. The pastor recognized these armed assailants flouncing towards him as the Libertines led by Barthelier. The pastor fearlessly hurled himself in front of the table to protect the sacramental vessels from this sacrilege. With outstretched arms he rang out in a powerful cry, “These hands you may crush, these arms you may lop off, my life you may take, my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned, and dishonor the table of my God.” Stunned in silence by this astounding display of holiness, the Libertines ceased their advance. One of the witnesses wrote of this encounter, “After this the sacred ordinance was celebrated with a profound silence, and under solemn awe in all present, as if the Deity Himself had been visible among them.” The pastor from this remarkable account was none other than John Calvin.

The New Testament sacrament of the Lord’s Supper instituted by the Lord Jesus in the night he was betrayed as a memorial to his death and return is a central and defining practice to the universal Church throughout all ages and likewise to our congregation. Maybe this unbelievable account of John Calvin might instil in us a newfound respect for this ordinance and help us as we consider it in today’s lecture.

THE EUCHARIST

The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.” Westminster Larger Catechism

The Lords Supper is one of two sacraments of the New Testament next to baptism. As with both sacraments, it was ordained by the Lord Jesus. For only God alone can make a thing that is common to be holy. Christ ordained the Lord’s Supper on the night he was betrayed. Each sacrament of the New Testament is a metonym, where a name of the visible object is given to the thing signified. For instance, the bread is the body of Christ, the wine is the blood, the dove is the Holy Spirit, the burning bush is God, the rock in the desert from which the water flowed was Christ. So it is that the sacraments are a kind of metonym, an outward sign of God’s inward work. Calvin writes, “Since, however, this mystery of Christ’s secret union with the devout is by nature incomprehensible, he shows its figure and image in visible signs best adapted to our small capacity. Indeed by guarantees and tokens he makes it as certain for us as if we had seen in it with our own eyes. For this very familiar comparison penetrates into even the dullest minds: just as bread and wine sustain physical life, so are souls fed by Christ.” Particular to the Lord’s Supper as Calvin notes, is the outward signs of the giving and receiving the bread and wine and eating and drinking them in a solemn, holy manner. The bread simply signifies the broken body of the Lord Jesus, crucified on the cross of calvary. The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ shed upon the cross. Each action within the practice of the Lord’s supper is too symbolic in nature. In receiving the Lord’s Supper we signify our unconditional acceptance of Christ as offered to us in the Gospel. By eating what we have just received we signify the satisfaction and nourishment of our souls in Christ by faith. Jesus’ intent in instituting the Lord’s Supper for his bride, the Church, was too set a memorial of his death and ultimately his return. Each of the New Testament sacraments are thus covenantal and furthermore a continuation of the Old Testament sacraments of circumcision and the passover. The Lord’s Supper is a sign and seal of the new covenant of grace which God has made and fulfilled to us. Finally, as a sign of the covenant of grace, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is only to be both ministered and received worthily by the local Church, the whole local Church, and the universal Church.  One theologian observed, “The Supper is no personal affair between the individual believer and Christ. It is the covenant meal, the congregational meal, par excellence… the Supper is the foundation and criterion for the unity of the church as the new people of God… baptism as entrance to and incorporation into the body and the supper as the unity of the body repeatedly received and manifested afresh in eating one bread.” In addition, contrary to heresies of the Lord’s Supper outside the protestant Church, the sacrament is not for our salvation, but rather our sanctification. There are two types of sacrifice in the Scriptures. The first is a sacrifice made for sin and the second a sacrifice of divine worship and thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice of expiation, to atone for our guilt before God and appease his wrath. Or as Spurgeon said of the Lord’s Supper, “Remember religion does not begin with ordinances… It is not a converting ordinance, nor a saving ordinance; it is an establishing ordinance and a comforting ordinance for those who are saved.” Rather, it is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Calvin wrote, “The Lord’s supper cannot be without a sacrifice of this kind, in which, while we proclaim his death and give thanks, we do nothing but offer a sacrifice of praise.” This is why it is called the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving” or “grateful.”

THE MANNER OF GRAMMAR

This short summary of the doctrine and practice of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would be rather easily received by the layman in today’s Church. However what obstacle remains to the layman is how he or she is to receive this covenantal sign lest they partake, “unworthily.”  Albert Barnes recognized this spiritual quandary the layman wrestles with. “Unworthily – Perhaps there is no expression in the Bible that has given more trouble to weak and feeble Christians than this.” Says Barnes, “It is certain that there is no one that has operated to deter so many from the communion; or that is so often made use of as an excuse for not making a profession of religion. The excuse is, ‘I am unworthy to partake of this holy ordinance. I shall only expose myself to condemnation. I must therefore wait until I become more worthy, and better prepared to celebrate it.’  It is important, therefore, that there should be a correct understanding of this passage.” I concur very much with Barnes having myself struggled with such doubt and uneasiness in myself. There are antinomians, arminians, and legalists today who at each moment of the Lord’s Supper foist unbearable and unmeetable standards upon their congregations. They withhold their congregation from receiving the nourishment of the table on uncertain and unscriptural grounds. God’s poor layman is racked with an ill conscience and hindered from presenting himself at the Lord’s holy table. God’s table, the Eucharist, meant as a time of victory, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Christ is turned into a slough of sorrow. The laymen is told that if he is not living in holiness, if he is not at peace with the brethren, if he is living in known sin, or if he has secret sin that he is then unworthy and thus eats and drinks judgment to himself. It is sadly a common thing in modern churches that the communion service sermon turns more into a stern warning against taking communion than a victorious invitation to receive it. Laymen are more encouraged to abstain then they are to partake. Some tables are closed so as to keep the sacraments from hands not yet determined “worthy” by the Church authorities. The standards dictated by the ministers to their congregation for being “worthy” of receiving the table are so rank it is no wonder that most churches only have the supper half a dozen times or even once a year. However these legalists read Paul’s passage in Corinthians too isolated and far too fast. Read again verse 27. “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily…” Morecraft observes, “Paul does not speak of the worthy eater, for no one is worthy to come to this Table, but of ‘worthy eating,.’” The English Standard Version makes this critical distinction quite plainly, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” This text is so often misapplied to mean “whoever unworthy drinks,” not “whoever drinks unworthily” as the text actually states. There is a mind-blowing distinction. Paul is not concerned with the state of the individual partaking, but the manner in which the individual partakes. Albert Barnes on this point notes, “Most persons interpret it as if it were ‘unworthy,’ and not ‘unworthily,’ and seem to suppose that it refers to their personal qualifications, to their ‘unfitness’ to partake of it, rather than to the manner in which it is done. It is to be remembered, therefore, that the word used here is an ‘adverb,’ and not an ‘adjective,’ and has reference to the manner of observing the ordinance, and not to their personal qualifications or fitness.” Barnes makes an astute, simple point. As many of you know, in the English language, when you take an adjective (Which is a word that describes the state of a person, place, or thing) and ad the simple suffix, “ly” to it you make it an adverb (Which is a word that describes a verb or action.) Thus “unworthy” when combined with the suffix “ly” no longer describes in this passage the state of the individual partaking but describes the state of the manner in which they partake. So dear Christian, who is tormented with the infirmity of their soul and hindered by it in receiving the Lord’s Supper, let me now encourage you by firstly discouraging you further. You’re right, you will never be worthy of approaching the table of the Lord. You are unworthy to receive the token of the new covenant of grace. You are unworthy of receiving the nourishment it provides to your soul. You are unworthy to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the Eucharist. You may never partake of this ordinance in a worthy state. Never. You are unworthy of being called a follower of Christ. You are unworthy of fellowshiping with his bride. But, dear Christian, take heart, it does not mean that you may not receive this ordinance. You may receive it, if you receive it in a proper manner, not a proper state, in a worthy manner, not a worthy state, in a right manner, not a right state. Because there is no such possibility as a right state before the Lord’s table. “Therefore” writes Calvin, “Although we feel to be imperfect, and our conscience not so pure that it does not accuse of many vices, that ought not to hinder us from presenting ourselves at the Lord’s holy table.” Still, you may say, “Well I shall wait an pray till God brings me into a better state.” But what makes you think that if you are unfit to receive the table now that you are somehow able to pray to God then. Listen to reminder from Calvin, “He who would exempt himself from receiving the Supper on account of unworthiness must hold himself unfit to pray to God.” Calvin goes on to encourage the troubled layman, “I mean not to force consciences which are tormented with certain scruples which suggest themselves… Only I wish to show that no one ought long to rest satisfied with abstaining on the ground of unworthiness, seeing that in so doing he deprives himself of the communion of the Church, in which all our well-being consists. Let him rather contend against all the impediments which he devil throws in his way, and not be excluded from so great a benefit, and from all the graces consequent thereupon.”  As a matter of fact, coming to the table with a sense of unworthiness is the best manner and disposition to come to Christ’s Table in and receive the benefits of the covenant of grace.  Read the grammar, its not about the state, its about the manner.

UNWORTHILY

So what does it mean to partake in an unworthy manner? In the context of 1 Corinthians 11 we may determine that such ill manners may include firstly the irregular practice of the Lord’s Supper as many congregations today could be faulted for. “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” As one historian wrote of those who are absent from the Lord’s Table, “Shall they undervalue, by a wilful neglect, an ordinance which he settled immediately before his death, and disregard the dying command of that friend who laid down his life for them.” We are to regularly partake in the Lord’s Table. “This do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” Acts 2:42, “And they continued in the Apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship and breaking of bread, and prayers.” For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come.” As stated before, many churches could be faulted for neglecting the Lord’s table. This mostly due to the fact that the standards for receiving it are Romish and impossible for the majority of layman to meet and thus partake on a regular basis. The second reason many churches could be faulted for neglecting the Lord’s table is the fact that their table is closed. These churches while esteeming themselves as merely being cautious of preserving the table from those whom come unworthily are nonetheless guilty for not keeping the examination Paul requires to “themselves” and not of others. A third reason is this mysterious notion that it is a neutral decision for the layman to abstain from the Lord’s table. You will always receive something from the Lord’s table. Either a blessing or a curse from the Holy Spirit who is present in it. Choosing to opt out and abstain however, is not a neutral choice. As stated before communion is a congregational covenantal meal. In abstaining, one does not “Show the Lord’s death till he come”, one refuses himself the benefits of the covenant of grace, and refuses the family of God from unity in the one bread and body of our saviour. It is thus a detrimental act of disbelief. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Secondly, it is the unholy observance of the Lord’s Table where it is as indistinguishable from the common table that is unworthy eating. “For every man when they should eat, taketh his own supper afore, and one is hungry, and another is drunken. Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not?” The observance of the Lord’s supper is to be conducted in an orderly manner, a separate and holy manner, as a religious ordinance ought. Albert Barnes stated that, “Such ignorance can hardly be supposed to prevail now in those lands which are illuminated by Christian truth.” Perhaps he was speaking facetiously, but otherwise I’m afraid I have not so much faith in mankind as he. We must be vigilant in maintaining a composure of order, a countenance of sobriety, a conversation of respect when we are before the Lord’s table. God has made the bread and the wine holy, it is no ordinary meal and must not be treated or considered as such. We must not treat this sacred ordinance as a trivial formality, believe ourselves to be worthy and walk in where angels fear to tread. “Put off thy shoes from thy feet,” Spurgeon said of partaking in the Lord’s Supper, “for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Rush not in to the sacred place, but come with that gracious timorousness—nay, rather, with that holy boldness which becomes a sinner who has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and is robed in his spotless righteousness.” Thus “unworthy eating” is as Morecaft observed, “not timid and doubtful eating, it is careless and profane eating.” Calvin had no kind words for those who indulge in such a manner of eating, “Men of this sort who, without any spark of faith, without any zeal of love, rush like swine to take the Lord’s Supper [and] do not discern the Lord’s body.” Thirdly, it is unworthy eating when it is done out of mockery and ignorance of the meaning of the sacred ordinance. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, because he discerneth not the Lord’s body.” “Do ye in remembrance of me.” We think again of the encounter Calvin had with the libertarians of his city and hear his cry against such, “These hands you may crush, these arms you may lop off, my life you may take, my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned, and dishonour the table of my God!”  If you know not the gospel, if you cannot discern the meaning of the bread and the wine, if you refuse the covenant of grace, then take not this sacrament. It is on these grounds that Paul exhorted the Corinthians and likewise reminds us to “therefore examine himself.” While we are to make our calling and election sure, before the Lord’s table we are specifically admonished to examine the attitude, disposition, and manner in which we approach the Lord’s table and determine whether or not it is becoming of receiving it or not. We are not called to “therefore examine the one sitting beside you taking communion.” Even Jesus offered communion to Judas. We are not being admonished to imagine our souls meeting a state of prerequisite righteousness or not to receive the Eucharist. This would be unworthy eating itself.

EATING WORTHILY

So then what does it mean to eat worthily? The purpose of the Eucharist is as Paul wrote, “Show the Lord’s death till he come.” Calvin observed this to mean, “That we should by confession of our mouth declare what our faith recognizes in the Sacrament: that the death of Christ is our life.” As we partake in the Lord’s Table we are actively remembering and resting in Jesus’ act that sealed the covenant of grace God has brought us into. We are thus participating afresh in the benefits of this covenant. Hence, Reformed Christianity can speak of the Lord’s Supper as the Eucharist, a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Furthermore we are doing it as a body, a congregation, a fellowship of brethren, sons and daughters of God together in the covenant of grace. All of these blessings and benefits of worthily receiving the Lord’s Table are taken by faith. Augustine beautifully wrote, “A person cannot carry away form this sacrament more than he can collect in the vessel of faith.” This again is the metonym nature of the sacrament. The flesh and blood of Christ cannot be seen, but through the eye of faith, or received, by the mouth of faith, or grasped, but by the hand of faith. Again this foundational qualification to “worthily eating” goes directly in the face of “worthy eaters.” It is received solely by faith, not works and not by performance. As we receive the visible metonym of the bread and wine by the mouth of the physical, so we receive the blessings and benefits of the covenant of grace in the body and blood of Christ through the mouth of the soul to our nourishment. “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…. Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whosoever eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him. As that living father hath sent me, so live I by the Father, and he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers have eaten Manna, and are dead. He that eateth of this bread, shall live forever.” Weak and weary sinner, troubled layman, lay hold of the vessel of faith and receive the nourishment from the Lord’s supper which your soul so desperately needs. Why prolong your starvation? Let your soul receive in the Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving. Christ is present at the table by His Holy Spirit to bless those whom come and receive by that humble and contrite faith. To eat Christ is to believe in Christ and to receive Him as he offers Himself to us. Eating is believing.

The Lord’s Supper from the Puritan book of prayer, “Valley of Vision”

God of all good,

I bless thee for the means of grace;

teach me to see in them thy loving purposes

and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;

and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,

I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,

and hide myself beneath his righteousness;

When I hear his tender invitation

and see his wondrous grace,

I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy Spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.

While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,

may I ponder why he died, and hear him say

‘I gave my life to purchase yours,

presented myself an offering to expiate

your sin,

shed my blood to blot out your guilt,

opened my side to make you clean,

endured your curses to set you free,

bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice’

O may I rightly grasp the breadth and length 

of this design,

draw near, obey, extend the hand,

take the bread, receive the cup,

eat and drink, testify before all men

that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,

reverence and love, receive my Lord,

to be my life, strength, nourishment,

joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,

boundless grace, infinite compassion, 

agony, cross, redemption,

and receive assurance of pardon, adoption,

life, glory.

As the outward elements nourish my body,

so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate

my soul,

until that day when I hunger and thirst

no more,

and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.