Kellswater RP Church welcomes their new Minister

Ballymena Times
Published: 13:40 Updated: 17:39 Friday 25 September 2009

KELLSWATER Reformed Presbyterian Church is a congregation with a long and proud history having been established way back in 1760.

They are now looking forward to an equally exciting future under their new Pastor, Rev. John Coates.

The 42-year-old was born on the Shore Road area of Belfast but considers Glengormley to be his hometown and is a past pupil of the secondary school there.

Looking back, John is deeply thankful for the influence of his Christian grandmother who faithfully read the scriptures to him when he was a child and taught him about his need to be saved.

Young John also attended Sunday school at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church. However, when he reached his teenage years, John wrongly decided that worldly things were more interesting. He particularly remembers God Word speaking into his conscience as a 15-year-old but put this to the back of his mind, foolishly promising, ‘ I’ll get saved some day.’

But it would be another 15 years before John would surrender his life to Christ His Saviour.

Taking up the story, Rev. Coates said: “By this stage I was married and had settled down a wee bit. A friend of ours invited me and my wife to go to a Pentecostal Church on the Shore Road. We went along and the Pastor preached the Gospel and we found ourselves repenting of our sins and in tears seeking the Lord”.

John continued: “I knew from that moment, having wasted 30 years of selfishly living for myself that I wanted to spend the rest of my life sharing the good news that Jesus saves.”

For the next eight years, John, Janet and their young daughter, Aimee found a spiritual home at Ballycriagy Congregational Church where the preaching ministry of Ballymena man, Rev. Tom Shaw, made a big impression on them. A spell in the Faith Mission in Co Laois ended when the Coates’ returned to Glengormley to become members of a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in north Belfast. And there under the ministry of the Rev Robert Beckett John entered theological training as student for the E.P.C ministry at the Reformed Presbyterian College at Knockbracken.

However during his third year of study, John became convinced of some distinctive principles of the Reformed Presbyterian church and made the difficult decision of completing his studies as a Reformed Presbyterian or ‘covenanter’ as they are sometimes referred to.

After graduating from college in May 2008, John spent time with various RP congregations in Ballyclare, Carrickfergus and Lisburn before receiving the ‘call’ to Kellswater.

Talking about what he would like to see happen there, the incoming Minister said: “I want to see the people of the Church growing in their knowledge of God and in all holiness. I want to see us pressing on towards the mark together.”

Remarkably, with Kells village having doubled in size over the last 15 years, John is also looking forward to reaching out with his congregation with the gospel message.

He looks forward to having fellowship with the other ministers in the area and who knows, perhaps seeing God moving mightily again as in 1859.

In his spare time, he likes to go out for walks with Janet and enjoys reading and keeping an eye on the fortunes of Manchester United and Crusaders FC. But he stresses that it’s only a glance for there is much work to be done and the labourers are few.

Entering Paradise: The Origin of Luther’s Doctrine

Entering Paradise: The Origin of Luther’s Doctrine

It is impossible to talk about Luther’s doctrine of justification without also talking about Luther’s experience of justification. It is never the doctrine which comes first but the experience and enjoyment of the blessings of God. This was especially and remarkably true in the case of Luther. His doctrine of justification was the fruit of his coming by grace and by faith to know his own justification before God.

He tells the story of his own spiritual pilgrimage:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through its gates.1

This means, too, that the Reformation did not really begin with the posting of his 95 Theses, but with the reformation of Luther’s own life; with a great and gracious work of God in Luther’s own soul. It did not begin with a protest against abuses in the church, but with a God-given and biblical answer to Luther’s own desperate question, “What must I do to be saved?” So it is always.

  1. Helmut Lehmann, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 1959-1967), vol. 34, pp. 336, 337, “Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings.” Many of the quotations from Luther’s works were gleaned from Robin A. Leaver, Luther on Justification (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 1975).

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (2)

Not Fishing in Front of the Net: The Importance of Luther’s Doctrine

As a result of his own experience Luther believed that the doctrine of justification was fundamental. It was for him “the sum of all Christian doctrine,” the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. He considered the teaching of this doctrine of far greater importance than reform of practice and ritual in the church, and insisted that the reform in other areas would follow if the doctrine were brought home to the hearts of God’s people:

We … beg and exhort you most earnestly not to deal first with changes in ritual, which are dangerous, but to deal with them later. You should deal first with the center of our teaching and fix in the people’s minds what they must know about our justification; that it is an extrinsic (external) righteousness—indeed it is Christ’s—given to us through faith which comes by grace to those who are first terrified by the law and who, struck by the consciousness of their sins, ardently seek for redemption…. Adequate reform of ungodly rites will come of itself, however, as soon as the fundamentals of our teaching, having been successfully communicated, have taken root in devout hearts. These devout people will at once recognize what a great abomination and blasphemy that papistic idol is, namely, the mass and other abuses of the sacrament, so that it will not be necessary to fish in front of the net, that is, first to tear down the ritual before the righteousness of faith is understood.2

Reformation often fails because those who seek it do not remember that reformation of doctrine is first and fundamental, especially of such doctrines as these. They cry against abuses but show little or no interest in the doctrines of the church, and are even willing to see those doctrines compromised and cast aside, as the doctrine of justification has been by many evan-gelicals.3 Luther was right. Reformation of doctrine will bring reformation of life, but attacking various abuses will not bring reformation at all, but will be as vain as the kind of fishing Luther describes.

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (3)

The Sweet Exchange: Luther’s Understanding of Justification

At the heart of Luther’s understanding of justification lies the “sweet exchange.” He explains it thus:

Therefore … learn Christ and Him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not, and have given to me what I was not.”4

That exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness, Luther understood to be by imputation. Our sins are charged to Christ and His righteousness charged to our account. Thus He was made sin for us and we were made righteousness in Him (I Cor. 5:21), the blessed result being that Christ is treated as Sinner in our place, and we treated as Righteous for His sake. Luther rejected the Romish teaching that righteousness is infused or planted in us and that on account of the resultant change of life we are justified. That, of course, is just another kind of work righteousness.

According to Luther, righteousness is given as gift, then to those who are in fact still sinners, and the one who receives that gift of righteousness is not yet cured of his sin. He is, when justified, at the same time both sinner and righteous (simul iustus et peccator):

We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at one and the same time.5

Luther, therefore, often referred to this righteousness by which we are justified as an “alien” righteousness, a righteousness which comes from beyond this world, and which is unattainable by any human effort or merit. It is not only the righteousness of Christ, but of God in Christ. God gives us His own righteousness and Christ is the bringer of it, exchanging it for our sins, a sweet exchange indeed.

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (4)

The Wedding Ring of Faith: Passive Justification

The exchange of our sins for Christ’s perfect righteousness, according to Luther, takes place through faith:

By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all. Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel; for his righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, his life stronger than the death, his salvation more invincible than hell. Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom. So he takes to himself a glorious bride, “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” cf. Eph. 5:26-27

of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way he marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2:19-20 says.6

According to Luther, that faith by which we are justified is entirely a work of God, and in no sense a work of man. By way of emphasizing this he often described justifying faith as passive:

For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness, that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.7

By the use of the word “passive,” however, Luther did not mean that justifying faith is without any activity at all. He did not deny that faith is believing and trusting, resting and relying upon Christ. Nevertheless, he believed that faith was first and foremost union with Christ, the marriage of Christ and the believer by which they become one flesh, the union through which the sins of the believer are actually transferred to Christ and the righteousness of Christ given to the believer.8

His emphasis continues to serve as a necessary antidote to the current teaching that makes faith another work. He was much nearer the truth than those who deny gracious justification by speaking of faith as a decision of man’s own will or by suggesting that faith is man’s response to a well-meant “offer” of salvation in the gospel. Of this Luther would have nothing:

For faith is a divine work which God demands of us; but at the same time He Himself must implant it in us, for we cannot believe by ourselves.9

  1. Luther’s Works, vol. 31, pp. 351, 352, “The Freedom of a Christian.”
  2. Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 9, “The Argument of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.”
  3. By the use of the word “passive” Luther also meant that the faith which unites us to Christ unites us to His suffering (the words “passive” and “passion” are related). Thus, too, justifying faith is far from inactive in that it shares, through union with Christ, in Christ’s suffering. That suffering, according to Luther, included not only sharing in Christ’s reproach and persecution, but in the agony of dying to sin and being killed by the law.
  4. Luther’s Works, vol. 23, p. 23, “Sermon on John 6:28, 29.”

R. Hanko

Psalm 14:1: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

Stephen Hawking’s last book says, ‘There is no God and no afterlife’

Stephen Hawking’s warning that genetically altered superhumans could wipe out the rest of us doesn’t mention a likely characteristic of the future elite

Stephen Hawking famously wrote in ‘A Brief History of Time’ that a theory of the universe would allow people to know ‘the mind of God’.

But he later said the quote was misinterpreted, and the physicist’s last book left no doubt about his position on God and the afterlife.

In Brief Answers To The Big Questions, published this week, Hawking answers questions including ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘Is there a God?’

Hawking died this year aged 76.

Hawking said, ‘We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God.

 ‘No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking.

‘There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust. But there is a sense we live on, in our influence, and in the genes we pass to our children.’

He previously spoke out against belief in the afterlife, saying, ‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.

‘There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’

His famous quote from A Brief History of Time about ‘knowing the mind of God’ was often misinterpreted, he said.

In an interview, he said, ‘What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God. Which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.’

Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with r amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, aged 21, and given only a few years to live.

But Hawking defied the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years, pursuing a brilliant career that stunned doctors.

He said, ‘I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.’

Yahoo News

The Lord’s Day: “A beachhead for the transformation of our whole lives.” – M. Horton



The Lord’s Day is not another treadmill, but a day of resting from our works as we bask in his marvelous provision for our salvation and temporal needs (Heb 4:1-5). After all, ‘the earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof’ (Ps 24:1). On this holy day, we rest in God’s care for our temporal welfare. But even more than that, we rest in him alone for everlasting life. It is the opportunity to receive a kingdom rather than to build one; to be beneficiaries rather than benefactors; to be heirs rather than employees; to be on the receiving end once again of ‘the Son of Man [who] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt 20:28). We can be still and know that Yahweh is God (Ps 46:10.

This rest is not a cessation from all activity, however. It’s joining our Lord in his conquest over death and hell, receiving and dispensing the spoils of his victory. It’s opening the windows to the beams radiating from the age to come, where Christ reigns in grace, anticipating together that day when he returns in glory. Filled with the intensity of such sovereign grace, the Lord’s Day becomes a beachhead for the transformation of our whole lives, so that every day is warmed by its light.

‘God rested on the seventh day from all his works’ (Heb 4:4). Yet Israel, like Adam, failed the test and therefore forfeited the Sabbath rest. As Paul says in Romans 10, ironically, Israel pursued it by works but didn’t attain it, while those who didn’t pursue it by works but received it by faith did attain it. Unlike all of the high priests of the old covenant, ‘we have a great high priest who passed who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God’ (Heb 4:14). Taking his throne at the Father’s right hand, he has claimed it as our throne together with him in everlasting glory. ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need (4:16).

So again there is another ‘today’: the space in history to enter the everlasting Sabbath day with God by resting from our works because Christ has fulfilled all of our daily labors on our behalf. He calls us not to toil for that rest by our guarding, subduing, and keeping, but simply to enter his rest through faith behind the conquering King.

Taken from chapter ten, “Stop Dreaming and Love Your Neighbor,” (and its section “Entering God’s Rest”) of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), pp.199-200.     

Michael Scott Horton (born May 11, 1964) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California since 1998, Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation(MR) magazine, and President and host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast, The White Horse Inn. Both Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio broadcast are now entities under the umbrella of White Horse Media, whose offices are located on the campus of Westminster Seminary California.

Taken from: The Three R’s Blog

His Heart Trusts in Her by Steven J. Lawson

Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor, or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.

Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her. Click to read full article

The Lord Is My Shepherd; I Shall Not Want


Feature Article
By Sinclair Ferguson

The Lord Is My Shepherd; I Shall Not Want

It was many years before I could say, “I love Psalm 23.” I can still see the cover of my child’s storybook version. There stands David, ruby cheeks and curly hair, shepherd’s crook beside him, spotless sheep nearby. He was the model child—everything I was not. This perfect boy condemned me.
It took more than twenty years and some major sorrows before the key turned in the lock. That boy did not write this psalm. The David of Psalm 23 needed soul restoration (v. 3): he had visited “the valley of the shadow of death”; he faced “evil” (v. 4); he had enemies (v. 5). This was a well-tested believer speaking from long experience with God. His confidence about the future was based on experiences in the past.
But David was not staking everything simply on his own experience. He is not the first person in the Bible to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” He was simply applying to himself something he had learned from Jacob.  Read full article


“What do you think of the Christ?” In guiding the Jerusalem leaders to contemplate this question of eternal weight, Jesus turned to the authority of what is written “in the book of Psalms,” specifically Psalm 110 (Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:40– 44), and asked a question childlike in both simplicity and profundity, the answer to which plunges one into the unfathomable wonder of the incarnation of God: How could David refer to his son as Lord? This probing question was but the application of what Jesus would later declare, that He Himself is the object of all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, summarizing their threefold division in Luke 24:44 as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” with the Psalms standing as the summary representative of the Writings. Read the full article: Jesus and the Psalms

Thomas Manton


Verse 25. – “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.”

DOCTRINE. – That God’s children may have such great afflictions brought upon them, that their souls may even cleave to the dust.

    These afflictions may respect their inward or outward condition.

  1. Their inward condition; and so through grief and terrors of conscience they are ready to drop into the grave. That trouble of mind is a usual exercise of God’s people, see Heman’s complaint, Psalm lxxxviii. From verse 3 to the end of verse 7. “My soul is full of trouble, and my live draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit. I am as a man that hath no strength, free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more, and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deep. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.” Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak: I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient time, &c.” (Psalm lxxvii. 1, &c.).By the sense of God’s wrath he was even wounded to death; and the sore running upon him would admit of no plaster. Yea the remembrance of God was a trouble to him: “I remembered God, and was troubled.” What a heavy word was that! Soul-troubles are the most pressing troubles; a child of God is as a lost man in such a condition. 
  2. In respect of the heavy weight of outward pressures. Thus David fasted, and lay by all night upon the earth in his child’s sickness: “David therefore besought God for the child: and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him to raise him up from the earth; but he would not: neither did he eat bread with them” (2 Sam. xii. 16, 17). And when he was driven from his place by Absalom, and was in danger of his life every moment (which some interpreters think to be the case intended in the text) when he went up Mount of Olives bare foot, going and weeping: “And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and he went barefoot, and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up weeping as they went” (2 Sam. xv. 30). 

    Now the reasons of this are these: –
    1. To correct them for past sins. This was the cause of David’s trouble, and this puts a sting into all miseries. God’s children smart under their sins here in this world, as well as others: “Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner” (Prov. xi. 31). Recompensed in the earth, that is, punished for his sins. Compare with it, 1 Peter iv. 18: “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” God punisheth here, that he may spare for ever. He giveth some remembrance of the evil, and corrects his people, not to complete their justification, or to make more satisfaction for God’s justice, than Christ hath made; yet to promote their sanctification, that is, to make sin bitter to them, and to vindicate the glory of God, that he is not partial.

    USE 1. – Let us bless God that we are not put to such great trials. How gentle is our exercise compared with David’s case! We are weak, and God will not overburden us. There is a great deal of the wisdom and love of God seen in the measure of the cross, and in the nature and kind of it. We have no cause to say belly cleaveth to the dust, or that we are pressed above measure. God giveth us only a gentle remembrance. If brought upon our knees, we are not brought upon our faces. 

  1. To humble them, and bring them low in the midst of their great enjoyments, therefore he casts them down even to the dust; because we cannot keep our hearts low, therefore God maketh our condition low. This was Paul’s case: “And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also the consolation: for we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble, which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. i. 7, 9). That is, not build too securely on their own sufficiencies.
  2. To try their graces, which are never tried to the life, till we be near the point of death. The sincerity of our estate, and the strength of faith, is not discovered upon the throne so much as in the dust, if we can depend upon God in the hardest condition.
  3. To waken the spirit of prayer: “Out of the depths have I cried unto to thee, O Lord” (Psalm cxxx. 1). Affliction puts an edge upon our desires. They that are flat and careless at other times, are oftenest then with God.
  4. To show the more of his glory, and the riches of his goodness in their recovery: “Thou which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth: thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side” (Psalm lxxi. 20, 21). By the greater humiliation, God prepareth us for the greater blessings. As there are multitudes of troubles to humble and try the saints; so his mercies do not come alone, but with great plenty.

    USE: II – If this should be our case, do not count it strange. It is a usual exercise of God’s people; let us therefore not be offended, but approve God’s holy and wise dispensation. If there be great troubles, there have been great sins, or there will be great comforts, or for the present there are great graces. As such a dispensation is a correction, there is reason to approve it. If you be hid in the dust, have not you laid Gods honour in the dust, and trampled his laws under foot? As it is a trial, you have cause to approve it: for it is but meet that when God hath planted grace in the heart, he should prove the strength of it. Therefore if you be kept so long in your heavy condition that you seem dead; yet if you have faith to keep you alive, and patience be exercised, it is for your greater good: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. v. 3). And so affliction is an exercise for your benefit and spiritual improvement. The husbandman when he teareth and render the ground up with the plough, it is to make it more fruitful; the longer the metal is in the fire, the more pure it cometh forth; nay, sometimes you have your outward comforts with advantage after troubles: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before: and the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.”(Job xlii. 10, 12). Oh when we are fitted to enjoy comforts, we shall have them plenty enough.

    DOCTRINE II. – That in such great and heavy troubles we should deal with God for help.

    In the dust David calleth to God for quickening. The reasons of this, why in great troubles we should go to God for help, are, first, from the inconvenience of any other course. (1.) If the godly should smother their grief, and not go to God with it, their sorrow were able to choak them. It is no small case that we have a God to go to, to whom we may freely open our minds. Prayer hath a pacative virtue; as, Hannah “prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore;” and mark the event, “the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad,” &c. (1 Sam. i. 18). An oven stopped up, is the hotter within; but vent and utterance giveth ease to the heart, if it be merely by way of complaint to a friend, without expectation of relief; much more to go to God, and lay open our case before him. (2.) To seek our comfort elsewhere from earthly things, it is a vain and evil course. 1st, It is vain; for God is the party with whom we have to do. In many troubles the creatures may be instruments of our wo; but the principle party is God. Strike in with him, and you stop the mischief at the head: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. xvi. 7). In other troubles God hath a more immediate hand, as sickness and terrors of conscience; our business then lieth not with the creatures in sickness, not with physicians first, but with God. In troubles of spirit we are not to quench our thirst at the nearest ditch, but to run to the fountain of living water; not to take up with ordinary comforts, that is an attempt to break prison, and to get out of troubles before God letteth us out. He is our party then, whoever be the instrument. 2ndly, It is evil that we refuse to come before God when he whippeth us into his presence, and beateth us to the throne of grace: “All this evil is come upon us, yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth” (Dan. ix. 13). When men are ready to dies, and will not so much as confer with the physician, they are either stupid or desperate. Afflictions summon us into his presence. God sendeth a tempest after us, as after Jonah. Now that trouble which chaseth us to God, is so far a sanctified troubled. Second, The hope of relief from God, who alone can and will help us: “He putteth his mouth in the dust: if so be there may be hope” (Lam. iii. 29).  Now this hope is from God’s power and will.

(1.) His power. God can quicken us when we are as good as dead, because he is the wee-spring of life and comfort. Other things give us life, but only as water scaldeth when it is the instrument of heat; but God alone can help us. God is the great quickener: “That I might trust in him that raised the dead:” and, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (2.) His will. When we are humble and teachable in our affections, 1st, It is some hope if we have nothing to bring before God but our grief and misery; for he is pitiful. A beggar will uncover his sore to move your bowels; for so many times all the reason that a poor, pitiful, afflicted person can bring for himself is lamenting his case to God, how discouraged he is, and apt to faint, as David represents his case: “My soul cleaveth to the dust;” and elsewhere: “But I am poor and sorrowful; let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high” (Psalm lxix. 29). Justice seeketh a fit object, but mercy a fit occasion. 2ndly, It is a greater ground of hope when we are humbled under God’s hand, and have a due sense of our condition, that is, are convinced of our emptiness, weakness, nothingness, or emptied of self-conceit and carnal confidence: “For the Lord shall judge this people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left” (Deut. xxxii. 36). God’s judgments are to break our carnal dependencies. 3rdly, Still hope increaseth, when we acknowledge his justice and wisdom in all our troubles: “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they than accept of the punishment of their iniquity” (Lev. xxvi. 41); kiss the rod wherewith they are corrected, be glad it is no worse, and see that all this cometh from a just and wise God. 4thly, There is further hope, when we can cast ourselves upon his faithfulness and omnipotency, in the face of all discouragements. Christ’s question to the man long possessed was: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark ix. 23). God’s power is exercised, when glorified by faith and dependence. 5thly, When we submit to what may be most for his glory. Carnal prayers, though never so earnest, fail when we are too earnest upon our private end, and the means which we fancy: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake” (Psalm cxv. 1).

    USE – In deep calamities run to God, lay forth your case feelingly and with submission to the justice of his providence, trusting to his power, and submitting to his wisdom, without obtruding your model upon God, but leaving him to his own course; and this is the way to speed. Take heed,-

  1. Of a stupid carelessness under the rod; it is a time of seeking after God, a summons to the creature to come before him. Now if we think to sport away our trouble without looking after God’s comforts, it is a desperate security: “They have belied the Lord, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine” (Jer. v. 12).
  2. Take heed to despondency. The throne of grace is set up on purpose for such a time: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. iv. 6). “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 1. 15). Open your case before the Lord.
  3. Take heed of pitching too much upon outward things, either as to the time or way of deliverance. Lust is vehement; but the more you seek, the more comfortable will be the issue: “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Sion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm li. 18).

  Secondly, We come now to David’s supplication or petition thereupon; where observe, – 

First, The request itself, “Quicken thou me.”

    That God’s children need often go to God for quickening, because they often lie under deadness of heart; and therefore should desire God who is the fountain of grace, to emit; and send forth his influence.

    They need this quickening.
    (1.) By reason of their constant weakness,
    (2.) Their frequent indispositions and distempers of soul.

    1st, Their constant weakness in this world.
1. By reason of their inclination to sin.
2. The imperfection of their motions towards that which is good.

    (1.) By reason of their inclination to sin. Carnal concupiscence draweth us aside from God, to sensual objects, James i. 14; a man is “drawn away of his own lust.” There is a strong bias of corruption drawing us from Christ to present things: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. xii. 1). There is a carnal affection, or corrupt inclination, which carrieth us out inordinately to things lawful, or too often to things unlawful; this hangeth as a weight, retarding us in all our heavenly flights and motions. The love and care of the world, which is apt to press down the soul, and doth twine about us, and insinuate with us; the Apostle calleth it a law in his members (Rom. vii. 23); a warning to us, how when the flesh draweth us off so strongly one way, to implore the divine grace to draw us more strongly to the other.

(2.) Because of the imperfection of their motions to that which is good, though there be a purpose, bent of heart, and inclination that way. Our gyves are still about us; we feel the old maim. Grace is like a spark in wet wood that needs continued blowing.

     Secondly, The next circumstance is the argument, “according to thy word;” Chrysostom saith, “Quicken thou me to live according to thy word: but it is not a word of command, but a word of promise.” Mark here, –

1. He doth not say, Secundum meritum meum, but, secundum verbum tuum; the hope, or that help which we expect from God, is founded upon his word; there is our security, in his promises, not in our deservings:  Promittendo se fecit debitorem, &c.

2. When there was so little Scripture written, yet David could find out a word for his support: Alas! In our troubles and afflictions, no promise occurreth to mind. As in outward things, many that have less, live better than those that have abundance; so here, now Scripture is so large, we are less diligent, and therefore, though we have so many promises, we are apt to faint, we have not a word to bear us up.

3. This word did not help him, till he had lain under the heavy condition, that he seemed dead. Many, when they have a promise, think presently to enjoy the comfort of it. No, there, is waiting and striving first necessary. We never relish the comfort of the promises, till the creatures have spent their allowance, and we have been exercised. God will keep his word, and yet we must expect to be tried.

4. In this his dead condition, faith in God’s word kept him alive. When we have least feeling, and there is nothing left us, the word will support us: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. vi. 19, 20).

5. One good way to get comfort, is to plead the promise to God in prayer, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine, show him his hand writing; God is tender of his word. These arguings in prayer, are not to work upon God, but ourselves.

    USE. – Well then, let us thus deal with God, looking to him in the sense of our weakness, praying often to God for quickening, as David doth in the text. God keepeth grace in his own hands, and dispenseth it at his pleasure, that he may often hear from us, and that we may renew our dependence upon him; it is pleasing to him when we desire him to renew his work, and bring forth the actings of grace in their vigour and lustre. And let us acknowledge Divine grace, if there be strong actings of faith and love towards God. He is to be owned in his work.

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Charles Bridges Psalm 119

Psalm 119:24
“Thy Testimonies also are my delight, and my counsellors”

What is the counsel of God that speaks directly to myself

Let me then inquire-

If I am an awakened sinner, it warns me to turn from sin. (Pr. 1:24-31; Ezek. 33:11)

It invites me to the only Saviour (Isa. 55:1; Jn. 7:37)

If I am a professor, slumbering in the form of godliness, it shows me my real condition (Rev. 3:17)

It instructs me in the all sufficiency of Christ (Rev. 3:18)

It cautions me of the danger of hypocrisy (Lu. 12:1)

Still do I need my Fathers counsel to recover me from perpetual backsliding (Jer. 3:12, 13)

It excites me to increased watchfulness (1 Thess. 5:6; Rev. 3:2)

And strengthen my confidence in the fullness of his grace (Isa. 26:4)

Also in the faithfulness of his love (Heb. 12:5, 6)

Forever will I praise His name, who hath given me counsel Ps. 16:7, He shall be my teacher He shall give me to understand that I might keep and observe to do and keep His Statues with my whole heart to the end (Ps. 119:33-34)

He shall be my guide and Counsellor, and afterwards (Ps. 73:24)

Charles Bridges

Press to Contniue

Spiritual Gifts: What they Are and Why they Matter

The movement called the New Calvinism has been around for quite a long time now, but still hasn’t solved one of its most basic questions: Do the miraculous or revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to the present time or have they ceased (positions that are generally labeled “continuationism” and “cessationism” respectively)? And is there room within the movement for people who hold to opposite positions? At the beginning of 2018 I suggested this would be one of the themes of the year and I continue to believe this will prove to be the case. My cause is helped by Tom Schreiner’s new defense of cessationism, Spiritual Gifts: What they Are and Why they Matter  Click to read full article