Why the gracious heart is still with God

Taken and adapted from, The Saint’s Spiritual Delight, and a Christian on the Mount
Written by Thomas Watson, (1620 – 1686).

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There are five reasons why a gracious heart is still with God:

1.     From the nature of grace. Grace carries the soul up towards God. Grace is like fire; it is the nature of fire to ascend. You that lie groveling on the earth, feeding like the serpent on dust, or like eels wrapping yourselves in the mud and slime of the world, if you had that new and holy principle of grace infused, your souls would spark upwards, you would “mount up to heaven like eagles,” Isaiah 40:31. If you had the sharp eye of faith to see Christ, you would soon have the swift wing of desire to fly to him.

2.     From the magnetic power of God’s Spirit. The Spirit has not only a soul-purifying, but a soul-elevating power. As the sun exhales and draws the vapors up from the earth, so the Spirit draws the heart up to God; “The Spirit lifted me up,” Ezekiel 3:14. Though there is grace in the heart which would still be mounting upward, yet there is much corruption to pull us down. A Christian in this life is both checked and spurred; grace spurs him forward in his way to heaven, and then corruption checks him. Now, here the Spirit comes in and draws the heart up to God — which is as mighty a power as if you saw a millstone drawn up into the sun

3.     Because God is the center of the soul; and where should the heart ever be but at its center? While the heart is on the earth it shakes and trembles — like the needle in a compass — till it turns to God. God is the proper orb where the soul fixes. A Christian rests in God as the bee rests in the hive, and the bird rests in the nest. “Return to your rest, O my soul,” Psalm 116:7. Noah’s dove was never well till it was in the ark. The ark was a type of Christ.

4.     Because of those dear relations the soul has to God. There are all the terms of consanguinity. God is our Father, John 20:17, and where should the child be but with its father? He is our husband, Isaiah 54:5, and where should the wife be but with her husband? He is our friend, John 15:15; now friends desire to be still together. God is our rock, 2Sam: 22.2; where should Christ’s doves be but in the clefts of this blessed rock? God is the saint’s treasure, and “where their treasure is, there will their hearts be also.” Mat 6:21

5.     Because of those rare excellencies which are in God.

(1.) FULLNESS. Everyone desires to be at a full fountain. “For it pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell,” Col. 1:19.

Observe, Christ is not only said to be fullness in the concrete, but fullness in the abstract; indeed, in him is all fullness. A vessel may be full of water, but that is not all fullness: it is not full of wine; a chest may be full of silver, but that is not all fullness: it is not full of pearl: but in Christ is all fullness. He is bread to strengthen, John 6:48, wine to comfort, John 15:1, and gold to enrich, Rev. 3:18. He is all, and in all, Col. 3:11.

Thus there is a variety of fullness in the Lord Jesus. O Christian, what is it you need? Do you want quickening grace? Christ is the prince of life, Acts 3:15. Do you want healing grace? Christ has made a medicine of his own body to cure you, Isaiah 53:5. Do you want cleansing grace? There is the bath of his blood to wash you: “The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sin,” 1John 1:7. Do not have the poets tell us of their Aonia and Kastalia, fountains in which they supposed their nymphs had washed; for these waters distilled out of Christ’s side are infinitely more pure. Pliny says that the watercourses of Rome are the world’s wonder. Oh, if he had known these sacred water-courses in Christ’s blood, how he would have been stricken with admiration! And do you wonder that the soul is still with Christ, when there is all fullness in him?

No, but that all is not all. The apostle goes further. It pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell. To note the duration of this fullness; it is not transient, but immanent. This fullness is not in Christ like water in the pipe or spout: the spout may be full of water, but it does not continue there; water does not dwell in the spout. But this fullness is in Christ, as light is in the sun; it dwells there. Christ’s fullness is a never-failing fullness: what more can be said? Indeed, but the apostle carries it yet higher. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead; if Christ had all the fullness of the creation, the treasures of the earth, the holiness of the angels, this still could not satisfy the soul. In him there is the fullness of the Godhead: the riches of the Deity are in him. And the communication of this blessed fullness, Eph. 3:19, so far as there is a capacity to receive it, is what satisfies the soul and fills it brim-full. If there is such a plenitude and fullness in God, then no wonder a gracious heart desires to be still with God.

(2.) SWEETNESS. God is love, 1John 4:8. Everyone desires to be with those from whom they receive the most love. The Lord often makes himself known to the soul in an ordinance, as he did to the disciples in the breaking of bread [on the road to Emmaus], Luke 24:35. He manifests himself in the comforts of his Spirit, which are so sweet and ravishing, that they surpass all understanding, Gal. 5:22.  And do you wonder that the soul is so strongly carried after God? Truly if the soul is still with God, to speak with reverence, it is owing to God. He gives those jewels and bracelets, those love-tokens, so that the soul cannot help but desire to be still with God.

Use 1. To show us an art of how to be in heaven before our time; namely, by being still with God. A good Christian begins his heaven here; grace translates him into the paradise of God. Elijah left his mantle behind, but he was taken up in a fiery chariot; so it is with a saint: the mantle of the flesh is left behind, but his soul is carried up in a fiery chariot of love.

Use 2. For reproof; and this consists of two branches.  It reproves those who are never with God; they live without God in the world, Eph. 2:12. It is the characteristic mark of a wicked man that God is not in all his thoughts, Psalm 10:4.

He never thinks of God, unless it is with horror and amazement, as the prisoner thinks of the judge and the courts; and here two sorts of sinners are indicted:

(1.) Those who are still with their sins. A child of God, though sin is with him, yet he is not with sin; his will is against sin; “That which I do, I do not allow,” Rom. 7:15. He would gladly shake this viper into the fire. He forsakes sin, but sin will not forsake him; so that although sin is with him, yet he is not with sin. But a wicked man and sin are together, like two lovers mutually solacing and embracing. A wicked man is “a worker of iniquity,” Luke 13:27, like a workman that follows his trade in his shop.

(2.) Those who are still with the world. It is considered almost a miracle to find a diamond in a vein of gold; and it is just as great a miracle to find Christ, that precious stone, in an earthly heart. The world is men’s Diana: “they mind earthly things,” Phil. 3:19. Like the ostrich, which cannot fly high (though she has wings) because her body is so heavy, most men are so weighed down with thick clay (Hab. 2:6) that they cannot soar aloft; they are like Saul, hidden among the stuff, 1Sam. 10:22; or like Sisera, who had his head nailed to the earth, Judges 4:21 — so their hearts are nailed to the earth. Absalom’s beauty stole away the hearts of Israel from their king, 2Sam. 15:6; and the world’s bewitching beauty steals men’s hearts away from God. It is sad when the husband sends his wife a jewel, and she falls so in love with the jewel that she forgets her husband. An estate should be a load-stone to draw men nearer to God; but it is often a mill-stone to sink them to hell.

There can be a moderate use of these things, but there is danger in excess use. The bee may suck a little honey from the leaf, but put it in a barrel of honey, and it dies. Christians must stave off the world, so that it does not get into their hearts, Psalm 62:10. Water is useful to the ship, and helps it sail better to the haven. But if water gets into the ship, if it is not pumped out at the leak, it drowns the ship. So too, riches are useful and convenient for our passage; we sail more comfortably with them through the troubles of this world. But if water gets into the ship — if the love of riches gets into the heart — then we are drowned by them, 1Tim. 6:9.

(3) It reproves those who are seldom with God. They are sometimes with God, but not still with God. The shell-fish, as naturalists observe, has so little life in it, and moves so slowly, that it is hard to determine if it lives a vegetative or a sensitive life. The same may be said of many Christians: their motion heaven-ward is so slow and inconstant, that we can hardly know if the life of grace is in them or not; they are seldom with God. “You have left your first love, Rev. 2:4. Many professors have almost lost their acquaintance with God. There was a time when they could weep at a sermon; but now these wells are stopped up. There was a time when they were tender about sin — the least hair of it would make their eye weep; the least sin would afflict their conscience — now they can digest this poison. There was a time when they trembled at the threatenings of the word; now, with the leviathan, they can “laugh at the shaking of a spear,” Job 41:29. There was a time when they “called the Sabbath a delight,” Isaiah 58:13, the queen of days. How they waited with joy for the rising of the Sun of Righteousness on that day! What pantings of their soul after God! What a mounting up of affections! But now the case is altered.

“What a weariness it is to serve the Lord!” Mal. 1:13. There was a time when they delighted in the word (indeed it is a mirror that mends the eyes of those who look into it); now they have laid it aside; they seldom look in this mirror. There was a time when they could offer up strong cries in prayer, Heb. 5:7. But now the wings of prayer are dipped; they come like cold suitors to God, with their petitions cooling between their lips, as if they would teach God to deny. Oh why have you quit your communion with God?! “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they have gone far from me?” Jer. 2:5. Let Christians lay this sadly to heart: “Remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do your first works,” Rev. 2:5. You are in a spiritual lethargy: O never leave till your hearts are wound up to such a heavenly frame as David had here: “When I awake, I am still with You.” And that brings me to the next.

Use 3. The third use is exhortation. To persuade all those who profess they are Christians, to imitate this blessed pattern in the text: “be still with God.” You will never go to heaven when you die, unless you begin heaven here. The church in the Revelation has a crown of stars on her head, and the moon under her feet, Rev. 12:1. Christ is not to be found in the furrows, but on the pinnacle. Now, so that you may get your hearts loosened from these things below, and be still with God, I will propound only two arguments.

The first argument is to consider how unworthy it is for a Christian to have his heart set upon the world.

(1.) It is unworthy of his SOUL. The soul is dignified with honor. It is a noble coin that has a divine impress stamped on it; it is capable of communion with God and angels.

Now, it is too far below a man to spend the affections and operations of this heaven-born soul on worthless things. It is as if one were to embroider sackcloth with gold, or set a diamond in clay.

(2.) It is unworthy of his PROFESSION. “Do you seek great things for yourself?” Jer. 45:5. What! Baruch! You who are a godly man! A Levite! Oh how sordid is it for someone who has his hope in heaven, to have his heart set upon the earth! It is as if a king were to leave his throne to follow the plough; or as if a man were to leave a gold-mine to dig in a gravel-pit. The lapwing has a crown on her head, and yet it feeds on dung. This is a fit emblem for those who have a crown of profession shining on their head, and yet feed with eagerness on these things below. Christians should deny themselves, but not undervalue themselves; they should be humble, but not base. If Alexander would not exercise at the Olympics because it was too far below him (kings do not usually run races), shall those then who are the holy seed, the heirs of glory, disparage themselves by too eager a pursuit after these contemptible things?

The second argument to persuade us to be still with God, is to consider what a rare and excellent life this is; which will appear in four particulars.

(1.) To be still with God is the most NOBLE life. It is as much above the life of reason, as reason is above the life of a plant. The true Christian is like a star in the highest orb: he looks no lower than a crown; grace puts high thoughts, princely affections, and a kind of heavenly ambition into the soul. Grace raises a Christian above himself; it makes him like Caleb, a man of another spirit, Numbers 14:24. He lives in the altitudes; his thoughts are lodged among angels and the “spirits of just men made perfect.” Hebrews 12:23 And so, is this not the most noble life — to be still with God? The academics compare the soul of man to a fowl mounting up with her wings in the air: thus with the wings of grace, the soul flies aloft, and takes a prospect of heaven.

(2.) To be still with God is the most SATISFYING life; nothing else will be so. “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full,” Ecclesiastes 1:7. Let all the golden streams of worldly delights run into the heart of man, yet the heart is not full. Strain out the quintessence of the creature, and it turns to froth, “Vanity of vanities,” Ecclesiastes 1:2. But in God there is sweet satisfaction and contentment. My soul will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, Psalm 63:5. Here is a hive of sweetness, a mirror of beauty, a magazine of riches; here is the river of pleasure where the soul bathes with infinite delight, Psalm 36:8. And this river has a fountain at the bottom, “For with you is the fountain of life,” ver. 9. And is this not most satisfactory? It is a wise observation of Picus Mirandula, that in the creation of the world, God gave the water to the fish, the earth to the beasts, the air to the fowls. Afterward, He made man in his own image, so that man might say, “Lord, there is nothing on earth to be desired besides You;” what can satisfy my soul, but to be still with You?

(3.) To be still with God is the most COMFORTABLE life. What sweet harmony and music is in such a soul! The bird, the higher it takes flight, the sweeter it sings: so the higher the soul is raised above the world, the sweeter joy it has. How the heart is inflamed in prayer! How is it ravished in holy meditation! What joy and peace there are in believing! Rom. 15:13. And these joys are those honey-streams which flow out of the rock Christ.

Tell me, is it not comfortable to be in heaven? The one who is still with God, carries heaven about him: he has those prelibations and tastes of God’s love, which are the beginnings of heaven, Rom. 8:23.  So sweet is this kind of life, that it can drip sweetness into the troubles and disquiets of the world, such that we are scarcely sensible of them. It can turn the prison into a paradise; the furnace into a festival; it can sweeten death. A soul elevated by grace can rejoice to think of dying: death will but cut the string, and the soul — that bird of paradise — will fly away and be at rest.

(4.) To be still with God is the most DURABLE life. The life of sense will fail; we must shortly bid farewell to all our outward comforts; these blossoms will drop off. We read of a “sea of glass mingled with fire,” Rev. 15:2. Bullinger, and other learned expositors, understand “sea of glass” to mean the world. Indeed it is a fit emblem for it. The world is a sea, and it is seldom calm; and it is a sea of glass, slippery; and this glass is mingled with fire, to show that it is of a perishable and consuming nature. Riches take wings, and relations take wings; but for you — who by the wings of grace are still soaring aloft — this life shall never have an end; it is the beginning of an eternal life; happiness is but the cream of holiness. You that are still with God, shall ever be with the Lord, 1Thess. 4:17. You shall see God in all His embroidered robes of majesty. “We shall see him as he is,” 1John 3:2. And this sight will be ravishing, and full of glory. O then, is this not the best kind of life? He who is still with God when he awakes, shall ever be with the Lord when he goes to sleep at death.

Question: But how shall I arrive at this blessed frame of heart, to be still with God?

Answer 1. Get a right judgment. It is a great matter to have the judgment set right.

Get a right judgment of sin, and you will never be with sin; get a right judgment of God, and you will be still with him. In God are combined all excellences. How sweet is his love! How satisfying is his presence! But as the painter drew a veil over Agamemnon’s face, because the greatness of his grief for his daughter Iphigenia could not be expressed, so when I speak of the glorious perfections in God, I must draw a veil; neither pen nor pencil can set them forth in their orient luster; the angels here must be silent.

Answer 2. If you would be still with God, then watch over your hearts every day; lock up your hearts with God every morning, and give him the key. Otherwise the heart will be stealing out to vanity. Lord, says Bernard, there is nothing more flitting than my heart. Keep watch and ward there. Christians, look to your hearts especially after an ordinance — when you have been with God in duty, then expect a temptation. Physicians say that the body must be more carefully looked after when it comes out of a hot bath, for the pores being open, it is in more danger of catching cold: after your spiritual bathing in an ordinance, when you have been at a sermon or a sacrament, then take heed that you do not catch cold.

Answer 3. Beware of being remiss in duty. When you begin to slacken the reins, and abate your former heat and vigor in religion, a deadness steals insensibly upon the heart, and by degrees a sad estrangement between God and the soul arises. And, brethren, how hard a work you will find it to get your hearts up again, once they are down! A weighty stone that has been rolled up to the top of a steep hill, and then falls down to the bottom — how hard it is to get it up again!

O take heed of a dull, lazy temper in God’s service: we are bid to be “fervent in spirit,” Rom. 12:11. The Athenians inquiring at the oracle of Apollo, why their plagues continued so long, the oracle answered them, they must double their sacrifices: those who would hold constant communion with God, must double their devotion; they must be much in prayer, and mighty in prayer. We read that the coals were to be put to the incense, Lev. 16:13. Incense was a type of prayer, and putting the coals to the incense was to show that the heart of a Christian ought to be inflamed in holy services. Nothing is more dangerous than a plodding formality.

Answer 4. If you would be still with God, then be much in the communion of saints. Many Christians live as if this article were blotted out of their creed. How one saint whets and sharpens another! Just as vain company cools good affections, so by being in the communion of saints, we are warmed and quickened. Be often among the spices, and you will smell of them. These directions being observed, we shall be able to keep our acquaintance with God, and may arrive at this blessed frame, as here David had: “When I awake, I am still with You.”

Fired with Love …to GOD

Taken and adapted from, The Godly Man’s Picture
Written by, Thomas Watson, (1620 – 1686).

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“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.”
–Psalm 116:1

A godly man is fired with LOVE to God.

Faith and love are the two hinges on which all religion turns. A true saint is carried in that chariot, “the midst whereof is paved with love” (Song 3:10). As faith enlivens, so love sweetens every duty. The sun mellows the fruit, so love mellows the services of religion, and gives them a better relish. A godly man is sick with love: “Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:16). “Though, dear Savior, I denied you—yet it was for lack of strength, not for lack of love.” God is the fountain and quintessence of goodness. His beauty and sweetness lay constraints of love upon a gracious heart. God is the saint’s portion (Psalm 119:57). And what more loved than a portion? “I would hate my own soul,” says Augustine, “if I found it not loving God.” A godly man loves God and therefore delights to be in his presence; he loves God and therefore takes comfort in nothing without him. ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” (Song of Solomon 3:3).

The pious soul loves God and therefore thirsts for him. The more he has of God, the more still he desires. A sip of the wine of the Spirit whets the appetite for more. The soul loves God and therefore rejoices to think “of his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). He loves him and therefore longs to be with him. Christ was in Paul’s heart, and Paul would be in Christ’s bosom (Phil. 1:23). When the soul is once like God, it would gladly be with God. A gracious heart cries out, “O that I had wings, that I might fly away, and be with my love, Christ!” The bird desires to be out of the cage, though it is hung with pearl.

Such is the love a gracious soul has to God, that many waters cannot quench it. He loves a frowning God.

A godly man loves God, though he is reduced to straits. A mother and her nine-year-old child were about to die of hunger. The child looked at its mother and said, “Mother, do you think God will starve us?” “No, child,” said the mother, “he will not.” The child replied, “But if he does, we must love him, and serve him.”

Let us test our godliness by this touchstone: Do we love God? Is he our treasure and center? Can we, with David, call God our “joy”, yes, our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4)? Do we delight in drawing near to him, and “come before his presence with singing”? (Psalm 100:2) Do we love him for his beauty more than his jewels? Do we love him, when he seems not to love us?

If this be the sign of a godly man, how few will be found in the number! Where is the man whose heart is dilated in love to God? Many court him—but few love him. People are for the most part eaten up with self-love; they love their ease, their worldly profit, their lusts—but they do not have a drop of love to God. If they loved God, would they be so willing to be rid of him? “They say unto God, Depart from us” (Job 21:14). If they loved God, would they tear his name by their oaths? Does he who shoots his father in the heart, love him? Though they worship God, they do not love him; they are like the soldiers who bowed the knee to Christ, and mocked him (Matt. 27:29). He whose heart is a grave in which the love of God is buried, deserves to have that curse written upon his tombstone, “Let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22).

A soul devoid of divine love is a temper which best suits damned spirits. 

Andrew Melville: The Thorn in the King’s Side. Part One. Appearance before King James VI. and the Council, A.D. 1583

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In the beginning of February…

…Mr. Andrew Melville was thereby summoned to appear before the king and council within less than three days. This was to answer to such things as were to be laid to his charge concerning certain speeches uttered by him from the pulpit, seditious and treasonable. Mr. Andrew appeared, accompanied with some of his scholars and friends, among whom was Mr. Robert Bruce; and I, being in Angus, escorting my mother-in-law to her husband, had gone away a day before his summoning, but I made diligence, and came to Edinburgh the day of his second appearance. The which day, he declined the judicature of the king and council, being accused upon no civil crime or transgression, but upon his doctrine uttered from the pulpit.

When the king and Captain James, who was then made Great Chancellor came in, they did so with what seemed to be the roarings of lions and messages of death. These dire tidings were so hot that all the council and courts of the palace were filled with fear, noise, and rumors. However, through it all, Mr. Andrew never flinching nor dashed a whit, but with magnanimous courage, a mighty force of spirit, and an abundance of evidence of reason and language, plainly told the king and council that they presumed over-boldly in a constituted estate of a Christian Kirk, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, by passing by and disdaining the prophets, pastors, and doctors of the Kirk, and to take upon themselves to judge the doctrine and control the ambassadors and messengers of a King and council greater than they, and far above them.

“And that, ye may see your weakness, oversight, and rashness, in taking upon you that which ye neither ought nor can do (then loosing a little Hebrew Bible from his belt, and clanking it down on the board, before the king and chancellor), there is,” says he, “my instructions and warrant; let me see which of you can judge thereon, or control me therein, that I have passed beyond my injunctions.” The chancellor opening the book, finds it Hebrew, and puts it in the king’s hand, saying, “Sir, he scorns your majesty and council.” “No, my lord,” says Mr. Andrew, “I scorn not; but with all earnestness, zeal, and gravity, I stand for the cause of Jesus Christ and his Kirk.”

Many times put they him out, and called him in again, sometimes dealing with menacings, and sometimes with fair words, to break him, but he grew more and more in wisdom, strength, and courage, howbeit none was suffered to come in with him; and when he came out, had scarcely leisure to draw his end, much less to take any advice with his friends and brethren. In end, they proceed; admit an accuser, whose name lives in ignominy of “William Stewart, the Accuser.” This man was a pensioner of the Prior of St. Andrews; who conceived the articles of accusation; and took the deposition of a number of witnesses summoned from St. Andrews, especially his greatest dislikers.

But Mr. Andrew ever adhering to his statements, and at all times, as occasion served, telling them his mind mightily about the truth and weight of the cause of Christ and his Church, and wrongs done thereunto, which he would be avenged of some day. And when they had done all, little or nothing to prove their purpose, the court decreed that Mr. Andrew, for his unreverent behavior, which he displayed before his majesty and council, should be put in ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, to await the king’s will.

In the meantime, Mr. Andrew’s brethren and friends were informed, by those who knew that certain plots were laid, that there was no good will to Mr. Andrew; and that if he were ever held, he would not be loosed again, unless it were for the scaffold. This made him to keep him quiet a night and a day, during the which time I traveled amongst the councilors. Many gave me fair words, and said there was no danger; but our best friends read a sentence written on the wall. We understood, further, that the decree of the council had been altered, and that the prison appointed was to be Blackness—a foul hole, kept by Captain James’ men. So, while we were all in great and heavy anxiety and as of most doleful doubtfulness as to the will of the counsel, and thinking it a hard and sore matter to bereave the schools and Kirk of Scotland of such a light and leader, we pondered about what means and time might mitigate the king and procure his liberty.

We knew that there were other plots which were being laid by the church’s enemies, and we could see the violent form of Captain James’ government, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to jeopardize the life of such a man which might be reserved for a better time; all of this I say, was discussed in this doubtful debate among ourselves. And no one in his own heart, knowing well whereto to incline. But then Mr. Andrew himself comes out in public, resolute and cheerful, and bade us all be of good courage, for God had resolved him of the best, and he was assured would be with him. So we go to dinner, in Mr. James Lawson’s house, who with all his guests were exceedingly heavy-hearted, and oftentimes could not contain, but mixed their tears with their drink. Only Mr. Andrew ate, drank, and chatted as merrily and free-minded as at any time, and more; and (according to his continual form at dinner and in all company) took occasion of good conference, and discourse pertinent for the time and state of matters, to his own wonderful encouragement and our great comfort, interlacing always some merry interludes, and drinking to his captain and ward-fellows, bidding us make us ready to follow.

So, after dinner, he gave it out, ‘and none knew otherwise but a very few, that he would obey the charge and enter into ward, if the king commanded, and God so directed him. Whereupon the macer gets access; gives him the charge, with his warrant to enter into the Castle of Blackness within twenty-four hours; the which he receives reverently; but within an hour or two, his brother Roger and he slip out at the port side by side, and lodge that night where God had prepared, and within four-and-twenty hours entered into Berwick, in place of Blackness. Certain of Captain James’ horsemen had immediately before rode out at the same port to attend upon him, and convey him to Blackness, there for once to make him sure.—Melville’s Diary.

End of Part One

Taken and adapted from, Select Extracts for the Young
Published for the Free Church of Scotland

Of the Backslider’s Return to Christ. And How the Returning Backslider is a Great Blessing…

Taken and adapted from, Christ a Complete Savior
Written by, John Bunyan.

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There are two things remarkable in the returning of a backslider to God by Christ.

1. The first is, he gives a second testimony to the truth of all things spoken of before.
2. He also gives a second testimony of the necessity of coming to God by Christ.

1. The returning again of the backslider gives a second testimony to the truth of man’s state being by nature miserable, of the vanity of this world, of the severity of the law, certainty of death, and terribleness of judgment to come.

His first coming told them so, but his second coming tells them so with a double confirmation of the truth. It is so, saith his first coming. Oh! it is so, saith his second. The backsliding of a Christian comes through the overmuch persuading of Satan and lust, that the man was mistaken, and that there was no such horror in the things from which he fled, nor so much good in the things to which he hasted. Turn again, fool, says the devil, turn again to thy former course; I wonder what frenzy it was that drove thee to thy heels, and that made thee leave so much good behind thee, as other men find in the lusts of the flesh and the good of the world. As for the law, and death, and an imagination of the day of judgment, they are but mere scarecrows, set up by politic heads, to keep the ignorant in subjection. Well, says the backslider, I will go back again and see; so, fool as he is, he goes back, and has all things ready to entertain him; his conscience sleeps, the world smiles, flesh is sweet, carnal company compliments him, and all that can be got is presented to this backslider to accommodate him. But, behold, he doth again begin to see his own nakedness, and he perceives that the law is whetting his axe. As for the world, he perceives it is a bubble; he also smells the smell of brimstone, for God hath scattered it upon his tabernacle, and it begins to burn within him. (Job 18:15) Oh! saith he, I am deluded; oh! I am ensnared. My first sight of things was true. I see it is so again. Now he begins to be for flying again to his first refuge; O God, saith he, I am undone, I have turned from thy truth to lies! I believed them such at first, and find them such at last. Have mercy upon me, O God!

This, I say, is a testimony, a second testimony, by the same man, as to the miserable state of man, the severity of the law, the emptiness of the world, the certainty of death, and the terribleness of judgment. This man hath seen it, and seen it again.

A returning backslider is a great blessing…

I mean intended to be so, to two sorts of men—

1. To the elect uncalled. 2. To the elect that are called, and that at present stand their ground. The uncalled are made to hear him, and consider; the called are made to hear him, and are afraid of falling. Behold, therefore, the mystery of God’s wisdom, and how willing he is that spectators should be warned and made take heed. Yea, he will permit that some of his own shall fall into the fire, to convince the world that hell is hot, and to warn their brethren to take heed that they slip not with their feet. I have often said in my heart that this was the cause why God suffered so many of the believing Jews to fall; to wit, that the Gentiles might take heed. (Rom 11:21) O, brethren! saith the backslider that is returned, did you see how I left my God? did you see how I turned again to those vanities from which some time before I fell? O! I was deluded, I was bewitched, I was deceived; for I found all things from which I fled at first still worse by far when I went to them the second time. Do not backslide. Oh! do not backslide the first ground of your departing from them was good; never tempt God a second time.

2. And as he gives us a second testimony, that the world and himself are so as at first he believed they were, so by this his returning he testifies that God and Christ are the same, and much more than ever he believed at first they were. This man has made a proof before and a proof after conviction of the evil of the one and good of the other. This man has made a proof by feeling and seeing, and that before and after grace received. This man God has set up to be a witness; this man is two men, has the testimony of two men, must serve in the place of two men. He knows what it is to be fetched from a state of nature by grace; but this all Christians know as well as he. Ay, but he knows what it is to be fetched from the world, from the devil, and hell, the second time; and that but few professors know, for few that fall away return to do again. (Heb 6:4–8) Ay, but this man is come again, wherefore there is news in his mouth, sad news, dreadful news, and news that is to make the standing saint to take heed lest he fall. The returning backslider, therefore, is a rare man, a man of worth and intelligence, a man to whom the men of the world should flock, and of whom they should learn to fear the Lord God. He also is a man of whom the saints should receive both caution, counsel, and strength in their present standing; and they should, by his harms, learn to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling. (1 Cor 10:6–13, Isa 51:11–13, Luke 22:32)

This man has the second time also had a proof of God’s goodness in his Christ unto him, a proof which the standing Christian has not—I would not tempt him that stands to fall; but the good that a returning backslider has received at God’s hands, and at the hand of Christ, is a double good, he has been converted twice, fetched from the world, and from the devil, and from himself twice; oh, grace! and has been made to know the stability of God’s covenant, the unchangeableness of God’s mind, the sure and lasting truth of his promise in Christ, and of the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, over and over.

The manner of a backslider’s return…

….Or the manner of this man’s coming to God by Christ I shall also speak a word or two. He comes as the newly-awakened sinner comes, and that from the same motives and the knowledge of things as he hath over and above (which he had as good have been without), that which the newly-awakened sinner has not; to wit, the guilt of his backsliding, which is a guilt of a worse complexion, of a deeper dye, and of a heavier nature than is any guilt else in the world. He is also attended with fears and doubts that arise from other reasons and considerations than do the doubts and fears of the newly-awakened man; doubts builded upon the vileness of his backsliding. He has also more dreadful scriptures to consider of, and they will look more wishfully in his face, yea, and will also make him take notice of their grim physiognomy, than has the newly-awakened man. Besides, as a punishment of his backsliding, God seems to withdraw the sweet influences of his Spirit, and as if he would not suffer him to pray, nor to repent any more, (Psa 51:11), as if he would now take all away from him, and leave him to those lusts and idols that he left his God to follow. Swarms of his new rogueries shall haunt him in every place, and that not only in the guilt, but in the filth and pollution of them. (Prov 14:14) None know the things that haunt a backslider’s mind, his new sins are all turned talking devils, threatening devils, roaring devils, within him. Besides, he doubts of the truth of his first conversion, consequently he has it lying upon him as a strong suspicion that there was nothing of truth in all his first experience; and this also adds lead to his heels, and makes him come, as to sense and feeling, more heavy and with the greater difficulty to God by Christ. As faithfulness of other men kills him, he cannot see an honest, humble, holy, faithful servant of God, but he is pierced and wounded at the heart. Ay, says he within himself, that man fears God, that man hath faithfully followed God, that man, like the elect angels, has kept his place; but I am fallen from my station like a devil. That man honoureth God, edifieth the saints, convinceth the world, and condemneth them, and is become heir of the righteousness which is by faith. But I have dishonoured God, stumbled and grieved saints, made the world blaspheme, and, for aught I know, been the cause of the damnation of many! These are the things, I say, together with many more of the same kind, that come with him; yea, they will come with him, yea, and will stare him in the face, will tell him of his baseness, and laugh him to scorn, all the way that he is coming to God by Christ—I know what I say!—and this makes his coming to God by Christ hard and difficult to him. Besides, he thinks saints will be aware of him, will be shy of him, will be afraid to trust him, yea, will tell his Father of him, and make intercession against him, as Elias did against Israel, (Rom 11:2), or as the men did that were fellow-servants with him that took his brother by the throat. (Matt 18:31) Shame covereth his face all the way he comes; he doth not know what to do; the God he is returning to, is the God that he has slighted, the God before whom he has preferred the vilest lust; and he knows God knows it, and has before him all his ways. The man that has been a backslider, and is returning to God, can tell strange stories, and yet such as are very true. No man was in the whale’s belly, and came out again alive, but backsliding and returning Jonah; consequently, no man could tell how he was there, what he felt there, what he saw there, and what workings of heart he had when he was there, so well as he.

Has God found you? Is He leading you? Instructing you? Then leave to him to choose your path in life!

Taken from, “Words of Comfort to the Christian Pilgrim”
Written by, John MacDuff, 1818-1895.

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“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”
–Deuteronomy 32:10

Thus Moses describes God’s care of ancient Israel…

…How accurate the description! In the land of Egypt–groaning under oppressive slavery, and writhing under the lash of heartless taskmasters–God found His chosen people. And, when His eye of love was fixed upon them, He “led them about,” from the Red Sea shore to the Promised Land–sometimes along a straight, sometimes a circuitous path–and all the while “He instructed them” by many a providential dealing, and many a token of loving-kindness. He instructed them–by mercies, by warnings, by judgments, by frequent interpositions of His power, and, by remarkable proofs of His determination to bless the obedient, and to punish the transgressor.

Yes, “He kept them as the apple of His eye”–He shielded them in the hour of peril–He manifested Himself strong in their behalf–He placed around them the broad shield of omnipotence, until at length He brought them to the goodly land promised to their fathers.

Christian! see the emblem of yourself in Israel. Where did God find you? He found you in a “desert land.” Yes, earth with all its loveliness and beauty is a desert place, until the sinner has been found by God. There is much, it is true, to attract the eye and to gratify the sense, but fair and lovely though it be, in a moral and spiritual view it is “a desert land.” The soul can find in it no sustenance–no refuge; and, as in a “waste howling wilderness,” it is surrounded, on every side, by dangers, and exposed to countless perils. But, oh! it is a blessed thing to know, that God seeks out, and finds the wanderer, in the desert; and, when He has found him, “He leads him,” not always by a direct path, to the promised land, but by a circuitous route, and in the right way, to “a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”

Has God permitted you to encounter the sharp stroke of affliction? Has He taken from you the earthly prop, upon which you were used to lean all too fondly? Remember! God is leading you about. These unexpected trials–these heart-rending bereavements–are just so many turnings in your pilgrimage. No thorn has been scattered on your path, but what is common to the one family of God. “This honor have all the saints.” The Shepherd is leading you, as all the flock are led, with a skillful hand, and in the right way. It is yours to stand, if He bids you, or to follow, if He leads.

And, O Christian! is it well you don’t know the future path, along which God is leading you. How disheartened would Israel have been, had they known the long and weary pilgrimage which was before them–the need, and suffering, and privation of their forty years travel! Even so would it be with you, if you could look into the dark and mysterious future, and see the rough and stony places in life’s path–the thorns and briars in the hills of difficulty–if you could mark, how often and how painfully you were to be wounded and stricken–if you could gaze on those grassy mounds, which will yet cover the ashes of the loved and cherished, and behold yourself, at the close of life’s journey, it may be, a worn and weary pilgrim, tottering on the verge of the grave, feeble and exhausted, with the perils you have encountered. Oh! it is better far to leave all to God–

“Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

Although, in leading His people, “God gives no account of any of His matters,” yet, if we put ourselves confidingly into His hands, the longer He leads us, the more we shall be inclined to trust Him. It is even thus He “instructs us”–instructs us in His love, and faithfulness, and goodness; He instructs us in our own weakness and His all-sufficiency–our impotence and His omnipotence–our corruption and His grace–our own frailty and His steadfastness–our unbelief and His unwavering faithfulness to His word.

And, mark the believer’s security, “He keeps him as the apple of His eye.” Such is God’s watchful guardianship over His saints–such His unceasing vigilance. Yes! humble, unknown, obscure believer, dwelling in a lowly cottage, in some sequestered glen, far removed from the hum of human voice or occupation, if only you can say of God, that He is your reconciled Father in Christ, you are more to be envied than princes of the earth, for you are in possession of a blessedness, such as no monarch can bestow, no wealth can purchase, no earthly power procure. Be sure that God, even your God, does not, for a solitary instant, forget or overlook you; your most trivial actions are not without interest in His sight–not a hair falls to the ground without your Father; He orders all things, for the sake of His own great name, and for the discipline of your soul, to prepare you for the glories and the blessings of eternity.

Christian! God has found you–God is leading you–God is instructing you–oh, then, leave to Him to choose your path in life! Rest, calmly and unhesitatingly, upon the sure word, “kept by the mighty power of God,” and, the nearer you come to the land of your inheritance, the stronger will grow the conviction that God is faithful to all His promises. As He carries you, securely, over the rough and stony places of life’s journey, you will sing of “mercy and of judgment;” and, when descending the brink of the dark waters of Jordan, which divide Canaan from the wilderness, you will take up the language of the Psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

And oh! thrice-animating prospect! As you stand upon the cloudless summits of the heavenly Zion, welcomed by angelic bands, greeted with the loud hosannas of the redeemed, methinks this will prove the theme of your song, “He found me in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led me about, He instructed me, He kept me as the apple of His eye.”

“Oh God! who has sent Your own Son into the world to seek and save the lost, and who has prepared for those who love You, such good things as pass man’s understanding; pour into my heart such love towards You, that, loving You above all things, I may obtain Your promises of guidance and strength in this world, and of joy and happiness at Your right hand in the world to come.”

“Oh! for that bright and happy land
Where, far amid the blest,
The wicked cease from troubling, and
The weary are at rest.
“Where friends are never parted,
Once met around Your throne;
And none are broken-hearted,
Since all, with You, are one!
“Yet oh! until then, watch o’er us keep,
While far from You away;
And soothe us, Lord, often as we weep,
And hear us when we pray.”
–J. S. Monsell

PATRICK SIMSON AND KING JAMES

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There were brave men in the pulpits of Scotland five hundreds of years ago…

…Among these was the good pastor, Patrick Simson, who, when uttering words for God, respected not the persons of men. He did not fail even to let the king know the mind of the Lord regarding his conduct, as the following incident will show. Upon Tuesday, the 8th of February, 1572, Edinburgh was thrown into a state of excitement and lamentation by the news that a cruel murder had been committed, on the preceding night, upon the Earl of Murray in his own place at Donny bristle, by the Earl of Huntly. It seems that the Earl of Huntly had left the court of King James VI. and set fire to Donny bristle House, so that the Earl of Murray was forced to come out to see it, and being discovered, he was killed, and, as history says, “cruelly demained” –beheaded, and the Sheriff of Moray was likewise killed. The king went forth to hunting that morning as if nothing had occurred, and, hunting about Inverleith and Wardie, he saw the fire, which had not died out, but was not moved at the sight.

Aware of being popularly suspected of having been privy to the horrid deed, he sent for four of five of the ministers, and desired that they would “clear his part before the people.” But the ministers said, if he was innocent, then the king should arrest Huntly, and try him for the deed.

This, however, he would not do. A few days after the murder, Mr. Patrick Simson preached before James VI at Stirling, and took for his text the words, ” –The Lord said lo Cain, where is Abel thy brother? –Gen. 4: 9. In the course of his sermon the minister said to the king, –“Sir, I assure you, in God’s name, the Lord will ask you, ‘Where is the Erie of Moray, thy brother?’”

This startled the king, and he replied, before all the convocation, –“Mr. Patrick, my chamber door was never stalked upon by you; ye might have told me anything you thought in secret.” He replied, “Sir, the scandal is public.”

After the service was over he was sent for, and went up to the Castle to meet His Majesty with the Bible under his “ockster,” affirming that the “bulk” would plead for him. The brave minister of Christ was privileged to preach before the same king six years after this, and he lost none of his influence, but gained it by being faithful even to those who were high in position, and to the one man in the realm who wore a crown and wielded the Scepter.

Written by, William Adamson