Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part 4. “The Spirit of a Holy Silence”

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

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A holy, a prudent silence under affliction does not exclude and shut out a sense and feeling of our afflictions…

Psalm 39:9, though he ‘was silent, and laid his hand upon his mouth,’ yet he was very sensible of his affliction—verses 10, 11, ‘Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth—each man is but a breath.’ He is sensible of his pain as well as of his sin; and having prayed off his sin in the former verses, he labors here to pray off his pain.

Diseases, aches, sicknesses, pains—they are all the daughters of sin, and he who is not sensible of them as the births and products of sin, does but add to his sin and provoke the Lord to add to his sufferings, Isaiah 26:9-11. No man shall ever be charged by God for feeling his burden, if he neither frets nor faints under it. Grace does not destroy nature—but rather perfects it. Grace is of a noble offspring; it neither turns men into stocks nor to stoics. The more grace, the more sensible of the tokens, frowns, blows, and lashes—of a displeased Father. Though Calvin, under his greatest pains, was never heard to mutter nor murmur, yet he was heard often to say ‘How long, Lord, how long?’ A pious commander being shot in battle, when the wound was searched, and the bullet cut out, some standing by, pitying his pain, he replied, Though I groan, yet I bless God I do not grumble. God allows his people to groan, though not to grumble. It is a God-provoking sin to lie stupid and senseless under the afflicting hand of God. God will heat that man’s furnace of affliction sevenfold hotter, who is in the furnace but feels it not.

“Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them—but they did not take it to heart.” Isaiah 42:24-25. Stupidity lays a man open to the greatest fury and severity.

The physician, when he finds that the potion which he has given his patient will not work, he seconds it with one more violent one; and if that will not work, he gives another yet more violent one. If a gentle plaster will not serve, then the surgeon applies that which is more corroding; and if that will not do, then he makes use of his knife! So when the Lord afflicts, and men feel it not; when he strikes and they grieve not; when he wounds them, and they awake not—then the furnace is made hotter than ever; then his fury burns, then he lays on irons upon irons, bolt upon bolt, and chain upon chain, until he has made their lives a hell. Afflictions are the saints’ medicines; and where do you read in all the Scripture that ever any of the saints drunk of these medicines, and were not sensible of it.

A holy, a prudent, silence does not shut out prayer for deliverance out of our afflictions. Though the psalmist lays his hand upon his mouth in the text, yet he prays for deliverance—”Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.” Psalm 39:10-13. ‘Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.’ James 5:13. ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble—I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ Psalm 50:15

Times of affliction, by God’s own injunction, are special times of supplication. David’s heart was more often out of tune than his harp; but then he prays and presently cries, ‘Return to your rest O my soul.’ Jonah prays in the whale’s belly, and Daniel prays when among the lions, and Job prays when on the ash-heap, and Jeremiah prays when in the dungeon. Yes, the heathen mariners, as stout as they were, when in a storm, they cry every man to his god, Jonah 1:5, 6. To call upon God, especially in times of distress and trouble, is a lesson that the very light and law of nature teaches. The Persian messenger, though a heathen, says thus—’When the Grecian forces hotly pursued our army, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then—but beginning to thaw, when a hundred to one we had all died for it, with my eyes I saw many of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God, every one upon his knees, and devoutly praying that the ice might hold until they got over.’ And shall blind heathen nature do more than grace? If the time of affliction be not a time of supplication, I know not what is.

There are two kinds of antidotes against all the troubles and afflictions of this life, that is, prayer and patience—the one hot, the other cold—the one quenching, the other quickening. Chrysostom understood this well enough when he cried out—Oh! says he, it is more bitter than death to be robbed of prayer; and thereupon observes that Daniel chose rather to run the hazard of his life, than to lose his prayer. Well! This is the second thing. A holy silence does not exclude prayer; but,

A holy, a prudent silence does not exclude men’s being kindly affected and afflicted with their sins, as the meritorious cause of all their sorrows and sufferings, Lam. 3:39, 40, ‘Why does a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sin? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.’ Job 40:4, 6, ‘Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken—but I will not answer; yes, thrice—but I proceed no further.’ Micah 7:9, ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned.’ In all our sorrows we should read our sins! When God’s hand is upon our backs, our hands should be upon our sins.

It was a good saying of one, ‘I hide not my sins—but I show them. I wipe them not away—but I sprinkle them; I do not excuse them—but accuse them. The beginning of my salvation is the knowledge of my transgression.’ When some told Prince Henry, that darling of mankind, that the sins of the people brought that affliction on him, “Oh no!” said he, “I have sins enough of my own to cause that.” ‘I have sinned,’ says David, ‘but what have these poor sheep done?’ 2 Sam. 24:17. When a Christian is under the afflicting hand of God, he may well say, ‘I may thank this proud heart of mine, this worldly heart, this froward heart, this formal heart, this dull heart, this backsliding heart, this self-seeking heart of mine—for this cup is so bitter, this pain so grievous, this loss so great, this disease so desperate, this wound so incurable! It is my own self, my own sin—which has caused these floods of sorrows to break in upon me! But,

A holy, a prudent silence does not exclude the teaching and instructing of others, when we are afflicted. The words of the afflicted stick close; they many times work strongly, powerfully, strangely savingly, upon the souls and consciences of others. Many of Paul’s epistles were written to the churches when he was in prison, that is, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon; he begot Onesimus in his bonds, Philemon verse 10. And many of the brethren in the Lord waxed bold and confident by his bonds, and were confirmed, and made partakers of grace by his ministry, when he was in bonds, Philip. 1:7, 13, 14.

As the words of dying people do many times stick and work gloriously, so many times do the words of afflicted people work very nobly and efficaciously. I have read of one Adrianus, who, seeing the martyrs suffer such grievous things for the cause of Christ, he asked what that was which enabled them to suffer such things? and one of them named that 1 Cor. 2:9, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.’ This word was like apples of gold in pictures of silver, Prov. 25:11, for it made hint not only a convert—but a martyr too. And this was the means of Justin Martyr’s conversion, as himself confesses.

Doubtless, many have been made happy by the words of the afflicted. The tongue of the afflicted has been to many as choice silver. The words of the afflicted many times are both pleasing and profitable; they tickle the ear, and they win upon the heart; they slide insensibly into the hearers’ souls, and work efficaciously upon the hearers’ hearts—Eccles. 10:12, ‘The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.’ Jerome reads it, “the words of the mouth of a wise man are grace.” They minister grace to others, and they win grace and favor from others. Gracious lips make gracious hearts; gracious words are a grace, an ornament to the speaker, and they are a comfort, a delight, and an advantage to the hearer.

Now, the words of a wise man’s mouth are never more gracious, than when he is most afflicted and distressed. Now, you shall find most worth and weight in his words; now his lips, like the spouse’s, are like a thread of scarlet; they are red with talking much of a crucified Christ; and they are thin like a thread—not swelled with vain and unprofitable discourses. Now his mouth speaks of wisdom, and his tongue talks judgment, for the law of the Lord is in his heart, Psalm 37:30. Now his lips drop as honey-combs, Cant. 4:1l; now his tongue is a tree of life, whose leaves are medicinal, Prov. 12:18. As the silver trumpets sounded most joy to the Jews in the day of their gladness, so the mouth of a wise man, like a silver trumpet, sounds most joy and advantage to others in the days of his sadness, Num. 10:10.

The heathen man could say—’when a wise man speaks, he opens the rich treasure and the wardrobe of his mind’; so may I say, ‘when an afflicted saint speaks, Oh the pearls, and the treasures that he scatters!’ 

A holy, a prudent silence does not exclude moderate mourning or weeping under the afflicting hand of God. Isaiah 38:3, ‘And Hezekiah wept sore’, or, as the Hebrew has it, ‘wept with great weeping.’ But was not the Lord displeased with him for his great weeping? No! ver. 5, ‘I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears—behold, I will add unto your days fifteen years.’ God had as well a bottle for his tears—as a bag for his sins, Psalm 56:8. There is no water so sweet as the saints’ tears, when they do not overflow the banks of moderation. Tears are not mutes; they have a voice, and their oratory is of great prevalence with the almighty God. Therefore, the weeping prophet calls out for tears—Lam. 2:18, ‘Let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief; let not the apple of your eye cease;’ or, as the Hebrew has it, ‘Let not the daughter of your eye be silent.’ That which we call the pupil or apple of the eye, the Hebrews call the daughter of the eye, because it is as dear and tender to a man as an only daughter; and because therein appears the likeness of a little daughter. Upon which words, says Bellarmine—’cry aloud—not with your tongue—but with your eyes; not with your words—but with your tears; for that is the prayer that makes the most forcible entry into the ears of the great God of heaven.’

When God strikes, he looks that we should tremble; when his hand is lifted high, he looks that our hearts should stoop low; when he has the rod in his hand, he looks that we should have tears in our eyes, as you may see by comparing of these Scriptures together, Psalm 55:2, 38:6, Job 30:26-32. Says the Greek poet—’the better any are—they are more inclining to weeping, especially under affliction.’ As you may see in David, whose tears, instead of gems, were the common ornaments of his bed; as Jonathan, Job, Ezra, Daniel, etc. How, says one, shall God wipe away my tears in heaven, if I shed none on earth? And how shall I reap in joy, if I sow not in tears? I was born with tears, and I shall die with tears—and why then should I live without them in this valley of tears?

There is as well a time to weep, as there is a time to laugh; and a time to mourn, as well as a time to dance, Eccles. 3:4. The mourning garment among the Jews was the black garment, and the black garment was the mourning garment—Psalm 43:2, ‘Why do you go mourning?’ The Hebrew word signifies ‘black’. Why go you in black? Sometimes Christians must put off their gay ornaments, and put on their black—their mourning garments, Exod. 33:3-6. But,

A gracious, a prudent silence does not exclude sighing, groaning, or roaring under afflictions. A man may sigh, and groan and roar under the hand of God, and yet be silent. It is not sighing—but muttering; it is not groaning—but grumbling; it is not roaring—but murmuring—which is opposite to a holy silence—Exod. 2:23, ‘And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage.’ Job 3:24, ‘For my sighing comes before I eat.’ His sighing, like bad weather, came unsent for and unsought—so Psalm 38:9, ‘Lord, all my desire is before you; and no groaning is not hid from you.’ Psalm 102:5, ‘By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my skin.’ Job 3:24, ‘And my roarings are poured out like the waters.’ Psalm 38:8, ‘I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disturbance of my heart.’ Psalm 22:1, ‘My, God! my God! why have you forsaken me? why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my roaring?’ Psalm 32:3, ‘When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roarings all the day long.’ He roars—but does not rage; he roars—but does not repine.

When a man is in extremity, nature prompts him to roar, and the law of grace is not against it. And though sighing, roaring, groaning, cannot deliver a man out of his misery, yet they do give some ease to a man under his misery. When Solon wept for his son’s death, one said to him, Weeping will not help. He answered, ‘Alas! I weep, because weeping will not help.’ So a Christian many times sighs, because sighing will not help; and he groans, because groaning will not help; and he roars, because roaring will not help. Sometimes the sorrows of the saints are so great, that all tears are dried up, and they can get no ease by weeping; and therefore for a little ease they fall a-sighing and a-groaning. And this may be done, and yet the heart may be quiet and silent before the Lord. Peter wept and sobbed, and yet was silent. Sometimes the sighs and groans of a saint do in some manner, tell that which his tongue can in no manner utter. But,

A holy, a prudent silence, does not exclude nor shut out the use of any just or lawful means, whereby people may be delivered out of their afflictions. God would not have his people so in love with their afflictions, as not to use such righteous means as may deliver them out of their afflictions. Mat. 10:23, ‘But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another.’ Acts 12:5, When Peter was in prison, the saints thronged together to pray, as the original has it, and they were so instant and earnest with God in prayer, they did so beseech and besiege the Lord, they did so beg and bounce at heaven-gate, that God could have no rest, until, by many miracles of power and mercy, he had returned Peter as a bosom-favor to them. “After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him—but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.” Acts 9:23-25

The blood of the saints is precious in God’s eye, and it should not be vile in their own eyes. When providence opens a door of escape, there is no reason why the saints should set themselves as marks for their enemies to shoot at. 2 Thess. 3:1, 2, The apostles desired the brethren ‘to pray for them, that they may be delivered from absurd and wicked men; for all men have not faith.’ It is a mercy worth a seeking, to be delivered out of the hands of wicked, villainous, and troublesome men.

Afflictions are evil in themselves, and we may desire and endeavor to be delivered from them, James 5:14, 15, Isaiah 38:18-21. Both inward and outward means are to be used for our own preservation. Had not Noah built an ark, he would have been swept away with the flood, though he had been with Nimrod and his gang on the tower of Babel, which was raised to the height of some 2000 feet. Though we may not trust in means; yet we may and ought to use the means. In the use of them, eye that God that can only bless them, and you do your work. As the pilot that guides the ship has his hand upon the rudder, and his eye on the star that directs him at the same time; so when your hand is upon the means, let your eye be upon your God, and deliverance will come. We may neglect God as well by neglecting of means, as by trusting in means. It is best to use them, and in the use of them, to live above them. Augustine tells of a man, that being fallen into a pit, one passing by falls to questioning of him, as to how he got into the pit. Oh! said the poor man, ask me not how I came in—but help me and tell me how I may come out! The application is easy.

But, a holy, a prudent silence, does not exclude a just and sober complaining against the authors, contrivers, abettors, or instruments of our afflictions. 2 Tim. 4:14, ‘Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.’ This Alexander is conceived by some to be that Alexander that is mentioned, Acts 19:33, who stood so close to Paul at Ephesus, that he ran the hazard of losing his life by appearing on his side. Yet if glorious professors come to be furious persecutors, Christians may complain—2 Cor. 11:24, ‘Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes.’ They inflict, says Maimonides, no more than forty stripes, though he be as strong as Samson—but if he be weak, they abate of that number. They scourged Paul with the greatest severity, in making him suffer so often the utmost extremity of the Jewish law, when as those who were weak had their punishment mitigated—ver. 25, ‘Thrice was I beaten with rods,’ that is, by the Romans, whose custom it was to beat the guilty with rods.

If Pharaoh makes Israel groan—Israel may make his complaint against Pharaoh to the Keeper of Israel, Exod. 2. If the proud and blasphemous king of Assyria shall come with his mighty army to destroy the people of the Lord—Hezekiah may spread his letter of blasphemy before the Lord. Isaiah 37:14-21. It was the saying of Socrates, that every man in this life had need of a faithful friend and a bitter enemy; the one to advise him, and the other to make him look about him; and this Hezekiah found by experience.

Though Joseph’s bow abode in strength, and the arm of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Yet Joseph may say, that the archers, (or the arrow-masters, as the Hebrew has it,) have severely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. Gen. 49:23, 24. And so David sadly complained of Doeg. Yes, Christ himself, who was the most perfect pattern for silence under sorest trials, complains against Judas, Pilate, and the rest of his persecutors, Psalm 69:20, 30, etc. Yes, though God will make his people’s enemies to be the workmen that shall fit them and square them for his building; to be goldsmiths to add pearls to their crown; to be rods to beat off their dust; to be scullions to scour off their rust; to be fire to purge away their dross; and water to cleanse away their filthiness, fleshliness, and earthliness; yet may they point at them, and pour out their complaints to God against them, Psalm 132:2-18. This truth I might make good by over a hundred texts of Scripture; but it is time to come to the reasons of the point.

Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part 3. “What is a Prudent, a Gracious, and a Holy Silence?”

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

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What does a prudent, a gracious, a holy silence include?  It includes and takes in these eight things:

First, It includes a sight of God, and an acknowledgment of God as the author of all the afflictions which come upon us. And this you have plain in the text—’I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!’ The psalmist looks through secondary causes to the first cause, and so sits mute before the Lord. There is no sickness so little—but God has a finger in it; though it be but the aching of the little finger. So the Lord, who is the chief agent and mover in all actions, and who has the greatest hand in all our afflictions, is more to be eyed and owned than any inferior or subordinate causes whatever.

So Job, he beheld God in all—Job 1:21, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.’ Had he not seen God in the affliction, he would have cried out—Oh these wretched Chaldeans, they have plundered and spoiled me; these wicked Sabeans, they have robbed and wronged me! Job discerns God’s commission in the Chaldeans’ and the Sabeans’ hands, and then lays his own hand upon his mouth. So Aaron, beholding the hand of God in the untimely death of his two sons, holds his peace, Lev. 10:3. The sight of God in this sad stroke is a bridle both to his mind and mouth, he neither mutters nor murmurs. So Joseph saw the hand of God in his brethren’s selling of him into Egypt, Gen. 14:8, and that silences him.

Men who don’t see God in an affliction, are easily cast into a feverish fit, they will quickly be in a flame, and when their passions are up, and their hearts on fire, they will begin to be saucy, and make no bones of telling God to his teeth, that they do well to be angry, Jonah 4:8, 9. Such as will not acknowledge God to be the author of all their afflictions, will be ready enough to fall in with that mad principle of the Manichees, who maintained the devil to be the author of all calamities; as if there could be any evil of affliction in the city, and the Lord have no hand in it, Amos 3:6. Such as can see the ordering hand of God in all their afflictions, will, with David, lay their hands upon their mouths, when the rod of God is upon their backs, 2 Sam. 16:11, 12. If God’s hand be not seen in the affliction, the heart will do nothing but fret and rage under affliction.

Secondly, It includes and takes in some holy, gracious apprehensions of the majesty, sovereignty, authority, and presence of that God under whose acting hand we are—Habakkuk 2:20, ‘But the Lord is in his holy temple—let all the earth be silent’, or as the Hebrew reads it, ‘Be silent, all the earth, before his face.’ When God would have all the people of the earth to be hushed, quiet, and silent before him, he would have them to behold him in his temple, where he sits in state, in majesty, and glory—Zeph. 1, ‘Hold your peace at the presence of the Lord God.’ Chat not, murmur not, repine not, quarrel not; stand mute, be silent, lay your hand on your mouth, when his hand is upon your back, who is all eye to see, as well as all hand to punish. As the eyes of a well-drawn picture are fastened on you which way soever you turn, so are the eyes of the Lord; and therefore you have cause to stand mute before him.

Thus Aaron had an eye to the sovereignty of God, and that silences him. And Job had an eye upon the majesty of God, and that stills him. And Eli had an eye upon the authority and presence of God, and that quiets him. A man never comes to humble himself, nor to be silent under the hand of God, until he comes to see the hand of God to be a mighty hand—1 Pet. 5:6, ‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.’ When men look upon the hand of God as a weak hand, a feeble hand, a low hand, a mean hand—their hearts rise against his hand. ‘ Who is the Lord,’ says Pharaoh, ‘that I should obey his voice?’ Exod. 5:2. And until Pharaoh came to see the hand of God, as a mighty hand, and to feel it as a mighty hand, he would not let Israel go.

When Tiribazus, a noble Persian, was arrested, at first he drew out his sword and defended himself; but when they charged him in the king’s name, and informed him that they came from the king, and were commanded to bring him to the king, he yielded willingly. So when afflictions arrest us, we shall murmur and grumble, and struggle, and strive even to the death, before we shall yield to that God that strikes, until we come to see his majesty and authority, until we come to see him as the king of kings, and Lord of lords, Isaiah 26:11, 12. It is such a sight of God as this, that makes the heart to stoop under his almighty hand, Rev. 1:5. The Thracians being ignorant of the dignity and majesty of God; when it thundered and lightened, used to express their madness and folly in shooting their arrows against heaven! As a sight of his grace cheers the soul, so a sight of his greatness and glory silences the soul.

Thirdly, A gracious, a prudent silence, takes in a holy quietness and calmness of mind and spirit, under the afflicting hand of God. A gracious silence shuts out all inward heats, murmurings, frettings, quarrelings, wranglings, and boilings of heart—Psalm 62:1, ‘Truly my soul keeps silence unto God, or is silent or still;’ that is, my soul is quiet and submissive to God; all murmurings and repinings, passions and turbulent affections, being allayed, tamed, and subdued. This also is clear in the text; and in the former instances of Aaron, Eli, and Job. They saw that it was a Father that put those bitter cups in their hands, and love that laid those heavy crosses upon their shoulders, and grace that put those yokes about their necks; and this caused much quietness and calmness in their spirits.

Marius bit in his pain when the surgeon cut off his leg. Some men, when God cuts off this mercy and that mercy from them, they bite in their pain—they hide and conceal their grief and trouble; but could you but look into their hearts, you will find all in an uproar, all out of order, all in a flame; and however they may seem to be cold without, yet they are all in a hot burning fever within. Such a feverish fit David was once in, Psalm 39:3. But certainly a holy silence allays all tumults in the mind, and makes a man ‘in patience to possess his own soul,’ which, next to his possession of God, is the choicest and sweetest possession in all the world, Luke 21:19.

The law of silence is as well upon that man’s heart and mind as it is upon his tongue, who is truly and divinely silent under the rebuking hand of God. As tongue-service abstracted from heart-service, is no service in the account of God; so tongue-silence abstracted from heart-silence, is no silence in the esteem of God. A man is then graciously silent when all is quiet within and without, Isa 29:13, Mat. 15:8, 9.

Terpander, a harpist and a poet, was one that, by the sweetness of his verse and music, could allay the tumultuous motions of men’s minds, as David by his harp did Saul’s. When God’s people are under the rod, he makes by his Spirit and word such sweet music in their souls as allays all tumultuous motions, passions, and perturbations, Psalm 94:17-19, Psalm 119:49, 50, so that they sit, Noah-like, quiet and still; and in peace possess their own souls.

Fourthly, A prudent, a holy silence, takes in an humble, justifying, clearing and acquitting of God of all blame, rigor and injustice, in all the afflictions he brings upon us; Psalm 51:4, ‘That you may be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge,’ that is, when you correct. God’s judging his people is God’s correcting or chastening of his people—1 Cor. 11:32, ‘When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord.’ David’s great care, when he was under the afflicting hand of God, was to clear the Lord of injustice. ‘Ah! Lord, says he, there is not the least show, spot, stain, blemish, or mixture of injustice, in all the afflictions you have brought upon me; I desire to take shame to myself, and to set to my seal, that the Lord is righteous, and that there is no injustice, no cruelty, nor no extremity in all that the Lord has brought upon me.’ And so in that Psalm 119:75, 137, he sweetly and readily subscribes unto the righteousness of God in those sharp and smart afflictions which God exercised him with. ‘I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me. Righteous are you, O Lord, and righteous are your judgments.’

God’s afflictions are always just; he never afflicts but in faithfulness. His will is the rule of justice; and therefore a gracious soul dares not cavil nor question his proceedings. The afflicted soul knows that a righteous God can do nothing but that which is righteous; it knows that God is uncontrollable, and therefore the afflicted man puts his mouth in the dust, and keeps silence before him. Who dare say, ‘Why have You done so?’ 2 Sam. 16:10.

The Turks, when they are cruelly lashed, are compelled to return to the judge who commanded it, to kiss his hand, give him thanks, and pay the officer who whipped them—and so clear the judge and officer of injustice. Silently to kiss the rod, and the hand that whips with it—is the noblest way of clearing the Lord of all injustice.

The Babylonish captivity was the sorest, the heaviest affliction that ever God inflicted upon any people under heaven; witness that 1 Sam. 12:and Dan. 9:12, etc. Yet under those great afflictions, wisdom is justified of her children—Neh. 9:33, ‘You are just in all that is brought upon us, for you have done right—but we have done wickedly!’ Lam. 1:18, ‘The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against him.’ A holy silence shines in nothing more than in an humble justifying and clearing of God from all that which a corrupt heart is apt enough to charge God with, in the day of affliction. God, in that he is good, can give nothing, nor do nothing—but that which is good. “Others do evil frequently; God can never do evil,” says Luther.

Fifthly, A holy silence takes in gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions about the outcome of those afflictions which are upon us. “It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:27-33. In this choice scripture you may observe these FIVE SOUL-STILLING CONCLUSIONS.

(1.) First, and that more generally, That afflictions shall work for their good ver. 27, ‘It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.’ A gracious soul secretly concludes—as stars shine brightest in the night, so God will make my soul shine and glisten like gold, while I am in this furnace, and when I come out of the furnace of affliction—Job 23:10, ‘He knows the way that I take; and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold!’ ‘It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.’ Psalm 119:71.

Surely, as the tasting of honey did open Jonathan’s eyes, so this cross, this affliction, shall open my eyes. By this stroke I shall come to have a clearer sight of my sins and of myself, and a fuller sight of my God, Job 33:27, 28; 40:4, 5; 13:1-7.

Surely this affliction shall proceed in the purging away of my dross, Isaiah 1:25.

Surely as ploughing of the ground kills the weeds, and harrowing breaks hard clods; so these afflictions shall kill my sins, and soften my heart, Hosea 5:15, 6:1-3.

Surely as the plaster draws out the infectious core; so the afflictions which are upon me shall draw out the core of pride, the core of self-love, the core of envy, the core of earthliness, the core of formality, the core of hypocrisy, Psalm 119:67, 71.

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will crucify my heart more and more to the world, and the world to my heart, Gal. 6:14; Psalm 131:1-3.

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will keep pride from my soul, Job 33:14-21.

Surely these afflictions are but the Lord’s pruning-knives, by which he will bleed my sins, and prune my heart, and make it more fertile and fruitful; they are but the Lord’s portion, by which he will clear me, and rid me of those spiritual diseases and maladies, which are most deadly and dangerous to my soul!

Affliction is such a potion, as will carry away all soul-diseases, better than all other remedies, Zech. 13:8, 9.

Surely these shall increase my spiritual experiences, Rom. 5:3, 4.

Surely by these I shall be made more partaker of God’s holiness, Heb. 12:10. As black soap makes white clothes, so does sharp afflictions make holy hearts.

Surely by these God will communicate more of himself unto me, Hosea 2:14.

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will draw out my heart more and more to seek him, Isaiah 36:16. Tatianus told the heathen Greeks, that when they were sick, then they would send for their gods to be with them, as Aganmemnon did at the siege of Troy, send for his ten counselors. Hosea 5:15, ‘In their afflictions they will seek me early,’ or as the Hebrew has it, ‘they will morning me;’ in times of affliction, Christians will industriously, speedily, early seek unto the Lord.

Surely by these trials and troubles, the Lord will fix my soul more than ever upon the great concernments of the eternal world, John 14:1-3; Rom. 8:17, 18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18.

Surely by these afflictions the Lord will work in me more tenderness and compassion towards those who are afflicted, Heb. 10:34, 13:3. The Romans punished one that was seen looking out at his window with a crown of roses on his head, in a time of public calamity.

Surely these afflictions are but God’s love-tokens. Rev. 3:19, ‘As many as I love—I rebuke and chasten.’ Seneca persuaded his friend Polybius to bear his affliction quietly, because he was the emperor’s favorite, telling him, that it was not lawful for him to complain while Caesar was his friend. So says the holy Christian—’O my soul! be quiet, be still; all is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favor. I see honey upon the top of every twig, I see the rod is but a rosemary branch, I have sugar with my gall, and wine with my wormwood; therefore be silent, O my soul!’ And this general conclusion, that all should be for good, had this blessed eject upon the church—Lam. 3:28, ‘He sits alone, and keeps silence, because he has borne it upon him.’

Afflictions abase the carnal attractions of the world, which might entice us. Affliction abates the lustiness of the flesh within, which might else ensnare us! And it abates the spirit in its quarrel against the flesh and the world; by all which it proves a mighty advantage unto us.

(2.) Secondly, Afflictions shall keep them humble and low—Lam. 3:29, ‘He puts his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.’ Some say, that these words are an allusion to the manner of those that, having been conquered and subdued, lay their necks down at the conqueror’s feet to be trampled upon, and so lick up the dust that is under the conqueror’s feet. Others looked upon the words as an allusion to poor petitioners, who cast themselves down at princes’ feet, that they may draw forth their pity and compassion towards them. As I have read of Aristippus, who fell on the ground before Dionysius, and kissed his feet, when he presented a petition to him; and being asked the reason, answered—he has his ears in his feet. Take it which way you will, it holds forth this to us, That holy hearts will be humble under the afflicting hand of God. When God’s rod is upon their backs, their mouths shall be in the dust. A good heart will lie lowest, when the hand of God is lifted highest, Job 13:1-7; Acts 9:1-8.

(3.) Thirdly, The third soul-quieting conclusion you have in Lam. 3:31, ‘For the Lord will not cast off forever;’ the rod shall not always lie upon the back of the righteous. ‘In the evening—sudden terror! Before morning—it is gone!’ Isaiah 17:13. As Athanasius said to his friends, when they came to bewail his misery and banishment—’it is but a little cloud—and it will quickly be gone.’ There are none of God’s afflicted ones, that have not their intermissions and respites; yes, so small a while does the hand of the Lord rest upon his people, that Luther cannot get diminutives enough to extenuate it; for he calls it a very little little cross that we bear—Isaiah 26:20, ‘Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors behind you—hide yourself as it were for a little moment (or for a little space, a little while), until the indignation is over-pass.’ The indignation does not pass—but over-pass. The sharpness, shortness, and suddenness of the saints’ afflictions, is set forth by the travail of a woman, John 16:21, which is sharp, short, and sudden.

4.) Fourthly, The fourth soul-silencing conclusion you have in Lamentations 3:32 ‘But though he causes grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.‘ ‘In wrath God remembers mercy,’ Hab. 3:2. ‘Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning,’ Psalm 30:5. Their mourning shall last but until morning. God will turn their winter’s night into a summer’s day, their sighing into singing, their grief into gladness, their mourning into music, their bitter into sweet, their wilderness into a paradise. The life of a Christian is filled up with interchanges of sickness and health, weakness and strength, want and wealth, disgrace and honor, crosses and comforts, miseries and mercies, joys and sorrows, mirth and mourning. All honey would harm us; all wormwood would undo us—a composition of both is the best way in the world to keep our souls in a healthy constitution. It is best and most for the health of the soul that the warm south wind of mercy, and the cold north wind of adversity—do both blow upon it. And though every wind that blows, shall blow good to the saints, yet certainly their sins die most, and their graces thrive best, when they are under the frigid, drying, nipping north wind of calamity, as well as under the warm, nourishing south wind of mercy and prosperity.

(5) Fifthly, The fifth soul-quieting conclusion you have in Lament. 3:33, ‘For He does not afflict willingly (or as the Hebrew has it, ‘from his heart’), ‘nor grieve the children of men.’ Christians conclude that God’s heart was not in their afflictions, though his hand was. He takes no delight to afflict his children; it goes against his heart. It is a grief to him to be grievous to them, a pain to him to be punishing of them, a sorrow to him to be striking them. He has no will, no desire, no inclination, no disposition, to that work of afflicting of his people; and therefore he calls it ‘his strange work,’ Isaiah 28:21. Mercy and punishment—they flow from God, as the honey and the sting from the bee. The bee yields honey of her own nature—but she does not sting but when she is provoked. God takes delight in showing of mercy, Micah 7:18; he takes no pleasure in giving his people up to adversity, Hosea 11:8. Mercy and kindness flows from him freely, naturally; he is never severe, never harsh; he never stings, he never terrifies us—but when he is sadly provoked by us. God’s hand sometimes may lie very hard upon his people, when his heart, his affections, at those very times may be yearning towards his people, Jer. 31:18-20.

No man can tell how the heart of God stands—by his hand. God’s hand of mercy may be open to those against whom his heart is set—as you see in the rich poor fool, in the Gospel. And his hand of severity may lie hard upon those on whom he has set his heart—as you may see in Job and Lazarus. And thus you see those gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions about afflictions, that a holy, a prudent silence does include.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalms 37:7

Sixthly, A holy, a prudent silence includes and takes in a strict charge, a solemn, command, that conscience lays upon the soul to be quiet and still. Psalm 37:7, ‘Rest in the Lord, (or as the Hebrew has it, ‘be silent to the Lord’), ‘and wait patiently for him.’ I charge you, O my soul—not to mutter, nor to murmur; I command you, O my soul, to be dumb and silent under the afflicting hand of God. As Christ laid a charge, a command, upon the boisterous winds and the roaring raging seas—Mat. 8:26, ‘Be still; and there was a great calm,’—so conscience lays a charge upon the soul to be quiet and still—Psalm 27:14, ‘Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart—wait, I say, on the Lord.’ Peace, O my soul! be still, leave your muttering, leave your murmuring, leave your complaining, leave your chafing, and vexing—and lay your hand upon your mouth, and be silent. Conscience allays and stills all the tumults and uproars that are in the soul, by such like reasonings as the clerk of Ephesus stilled that uproar—Acts 19:40, ‘For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.’ O my soul! be quiet, be silent, else you will one day be called in question for all those inward mutterings, uproars, and passions that are in you, seeing no sufficient cause can be produced why you should murmur, quarrel, or wrangle—under the righteous hand of God.

Seventhly, A holy, a prudent silence includes a surrendering, a resigning of ourselves to God, while we are under his afflicting hand. The silent soul gives himself up to God. The secret language of the soul is this—’Lord, here am I; do with me what you please, write upon me as you please—I give up myself to be at your disposal.’

There was a good woman, who, when she was sick, being asked whether she were willing to live or die, answered, ‘Whichever God pleases.’ But, said one that stood by, ‘If God would refer it to you, which would you choose?’ ‘Truly,’ said she, ‘if God would refer it to me, I would even refer it right back to him again.’ This was a soul worth gold.

‘Well,’ says a gracious soul, ‘The ambitious man gives himself up to his honors—but I give up myself unto God. The voluptuous man gives himself up to his pleasures—but I give up myself to God. The covetous man gives himself up to his bags of money—but I give up myself to God. The wanton man gives himself up to his lust—but I give up myself to God. The drunkard gives himself up to his cups—but I give up myself to God. The papist gives up himself to his idols—but I give myself to God. The Turk gives up himself to his Mahomet—but I give up myself to God. The heretic gives up himself to his heretical opinions—but I give up myself to God. Lord! lay what burden you will upon me, only let your everlasting arms be under me!

Lord! lay what burden you will upon me, only let your everlasting arms be under me. Strike, Lord, strike, and spare not, for I am lain down in your will, I have learned to say amen to your amen; you have a greater interest in me than I have in myself, and therefore I give up myself unto you, and am willing to be at your disposal, and am ready to receive whatever impression you shall stamp upon me. O blessed Lord! have you not again and again said unto me, as once the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, ‘I am yours, and all that I have is yours,’ 1 Kings 20:4.

God says, “I am yours, O soul! to save you! My mercy is yours to pardon you! My blood is yours to cleanse you! My merits are yours to justify you! My righteousness is yours to clothe you! My Spirit is yours to lead you! My grace is yours to enrich you! My glory is yours to reward you!” And therefore, says a gracious soul, “I cannot but make a resignation of myself unto you. Lord! here I am, do with me as seems good in your own eyes. I know the best way to have my own will, is to resign up myself to your will, and to say amen to your amen.”

I have read of a gentleman, who, meeting with a shepherd in a misty morning, asked him what weather it would be? ‘It will be,’ says the shepherd, ‘that weather which pleases me.’ And being courteously requested to express his meaning, replied, ‘Sir, it shall be whatever weather pleases God; and whatever weather pleases God—pleases me.’ When a Christian’s will is molded into the will of God, he is sure to have his will. 

Eighthly and lastly, A holy, a prudent silence, takes in a patient waiting upon the Lord under our afflictions until deliverance comes—Psalm 11:1-3; Psalm 62:5, ‘My soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from him;’ Lam. 3:26, ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly (or as the Hebrew has it, ‘silently’) wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ The farmer patiently waits for the precious fruits of the earth, the mariner patiently waits for wind and tide, the watchman patiently waits for the dawning of the day; and so does the silent soul in the night of adversity, patiently wait for the dawning of the day of mercy, James 5:7, 8. The mercies of God are not described as being swift—but the sure mercies; and therefore a gracious soul waits patiently for them. And thus you see what a gracious, a prudent silence does include.

Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part 2. “The Sevenfold Silence”

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

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“I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!”
–Psalm 39:9

Question:  What is the silence meant, here in this verse?
I Answer: There is a sevenfold silence.

First, There is a STOICAL silence. The stoics of old thought it altogether below a man that has reason or understanding either to rejoice in any good, or to mourn for any evil; but this stoical silence is such a sinful insensibleness as is very provoking to a holy God, Isaiah 26:10,11. God will make the most insensible sinner sensible either of his hand here on earth—or of his wrath in hell. It is a heathenish and a horrid sin to be without natural affections, Rom. 1:31. And of this sin Quintus Maximus seems to be foully guilty who, when he heard that his mother and wife, whom he dearly loved, were slain by the fall of a house, and that his younger son, a brave, hopeful young man, died at the same time in Umbria, he never changed his countenance—but went on with the affairs of the commonwealth as if no such calamity had befallen him. This carriage of his spoke out more stupidity than patience, Job 25:13. Certainly if the loss of a child in the house be no more to you than the loss of a chick in the yard—your heart is base and sordid, and you may well expect some sore awakening judgment. This age is full of such monsters, who think it below the greatness and magnanimity of their spirits to be moved, affected, or afflicted with any afflictions which befall them. I know none so ripe and ready for hell as these. Such stupidity is a curse that many a man lies under. But this stoical silence, which is but a sinful sullenness, is not the silence here meant.

Secondly, There is a POLITIC silence. Many are silent out of policy. Should they not be silent, they should lay themselves more open either to the rage and fury of men, or else to the plots and designs of men—to prevent which they are silent, and will lay their hands upon their mouths, that others might not lay their hands upon their estates, lives, or liberties—’And Saul also went home to Gibeah, and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? and they despised him, and brought him no presents; but he held his peace,’ or was as though he had been deaf, 1 Sam. 10:26, 27. This new king being but newly entered upon his kingly government, and observing his condition to be but base and low, his friends but few, and his enemies many and potent, sons of Belial, that is, men without yoke, as the word signifies, men that were desperately wicked, that were marked out for hell, that were even incarnate devils, who would neither submit to reason nor religion, nor be governed by the laws of nature nor of nations, nor yet by the laws of God—now this young prince, to prevent sedition and rebellion, blood and destruction, prudently and politically chooses rather to lay his hand upon his mouth than to take a wolf by the ear or a lion by the beard—he turns a deaf ear to all they say, his unsettled condition requiring silence. But this is not the silence the proposition speaks of.

Thirdly, There it’s a FOOLISH silence. Some fools there be that can neither do well nor speak well; and because they cannot word it neither as they would nor as they should, they are so wise as to be mute—Prov. 17:28, ‘Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.’ As he cannot be wise that speaks much, so he cannot be known for a fool that says nothing. There are many wise fools in the world, who, by holding their tongues, gain the credit and honor of being discreet men. He who does not uncover his lack of wisdom by foolish babbling, is accounted wise, though be may be otherwise. Silence is so rare a virtue, where wisdom does regulate it, that it is accounted a virtue where folly does impose it. Silence was so highly honored among the old Romans, that they erected altars to it. That man shall pass for a man of understanding, who so far understands himself as to hold his tongue. For though it be a great misery to be a fool, yet it is a greater that a man cannot be a fool but he must needs show it. But this foolish silence is not the silence here meant.

Fourthly, There is a SULLEN silence. Many, to gratify a humor, a lust, are sullenly silent; these are troubled with a dumb devil, which was the worst devil of all the devils you read of in the Scripture, Mark 9:17-28.  Certainly there is a generation among us, who, when they are under the afflicting hand of God, have no mouths to plead with God, no lips to praise God, nor no tongues to justify God. These are possessed with a dumb devil; and this dumb devil had possessed Ahab for a time—1 Kings 21:4, ‘And Ahab came into his house, heavy and displeased, and laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.’ Ahab’s ambitious humor, his covetous humor, being crossed, he is resolved to starve himself, and to die of the sullens. A sullen silence is both a sin and a punishment. No devil frets and vexes, wears and wastes the spirits of a man, like this dumb devil—like this sullen silence. I cannot speak so favorably of a sullen silence, for that wrongs many at once, God and Christ, bodies and soul. But this is not the silence here meant.

Fifthly, There is a FORCED silence. Many are silent per force. He who is under the power of his enemy, though he suffers many hard things, yet he is silent under his sufferings, because he knows he is liable to worse; he who has taken away his liberty, may take away his life; he who has taken away his money, may take off his head; he who has cut him in the foot, may cut him in the throat if he will not be still and quiet—and this works silence per force. So, when many are under the afflicting hand of God, conscience tells them that now they are under the hand of an enemy, and the power of that God whom they have dishonored, whose Son they have crucified, whose Spirit they have grieved, whose righteous laws they have transgressed, whose ordinances they have despised, and whose people they have abused and opposed; and that he who has taken away one child, may take away every child; and he who has taken away the wife, might have taken away the husband; and he who has taken away some part of the estate, might have taken away all the estate; and that he who has inflicted some distempers upon the body, might have cast both body and soul into hell-fire forever; and he who has shut him up in his chamber, may shut him out of heaven at pleasure. The thoughts and sense of these things makes many a sinner silent under the hand of God; but this is but a forced silence!

And such was the silence of Philip the Second, king of Spain, who, when his invincible Armada, that had been three years a-fitting, was lost, he gave command that all over Spain they should give thanks to God, that it was no more grievous. As the cudgel forces the dog to be quiet and still, and the rod forces the child to be silent and mute, so the apprehensions of what God has done, and of what God may do, forces many a soul to be silent, Jer. 3:10, 1 Kings 14:5-18. But this is not the silence here meant—a forced silence is no silence in the eye of God.

Sixthly, There is a DESPAIRING silence. A despairing soul is a terror to himself; he has a hell in his heart, and horror in his conscience. He looks upwards, and there he beholds God frowning; he looks inwards, and there he finds conscience accusing and condemning of him; he looks on the one side of him, and there he hears all his sins crying out—We are yours, and we will follow you; we will go to the grave with you, we will go to judgment with you, and from judgment we will go to hell with you; he looks on the other side of him, and there he sees infernal fiends in fearful shapes, amazing and terrifying of him, and waiting to receive his despairing soul as soon as she shall take her leave of his wretched body; he looks above him, and there he sees the gates of heaven shut against him; he looks beneath him, and there he sees hell gaping for him; and under these sad sights, he is full of secret conclusions against his own soul. There is mercy for others, says the despairing soul—but none for me; grace and favor for others—but none for me; pardon and peace for others—but none for me; blessedness and happiness for others—but none for me—there is no help, there is no help, none! Jer. 2:25, 18:12.

This seems to be his case who died with this desperate saying in his mouth—farewell, life and hope together. Now, under these dismal apprehensions and sad conclusions about its present and future condition, the despairing soul sits silent, being filled with amazement and astonishment—Psalm 77:1, ‘I am so troubled that I cannot speak.’ But this is not the silence here meant. But,

Seventhly and lastly, There is a PRUDENT silence, a HOLY, a GRACIOUS silence; a silence that springs from prudent principles, from holy principles, and from gracious causes and considerations; and this is the silence here meant. And this I shall fully discover in my answers to the second question, which is this:

What does a prudent, a gracious, a holy silence include?

We will look at this in the next post of this series.

How Shall I Go To God?  Or, When Luther Found His Rest

Written by, Horatius Bonar, D.D. 
Published by, Religious Tract Society 1888

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It is with our sins that we go to God…

….for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own. This is one of the lessons that we are so slow to learn; yet without learning this we cannot take one right step in that which we call a religious life. 

It was in some such way as the above that Luther found his way into the peace and liberty of Christ. The story of his deliverance is an instructive one, as showing how the stumbling-blocks of self-righteousness are removed by the full exhibition of the gospel in its freeness, as the good news of God’s love to the unloving and unlovable, the good news of pardon to the sinner, without merit and without money, the good news of PEACE WITH GOD, solely through the propitiation of Him who hath made peace by the blood of His cross. 

One of Luther’s earliest difficulties was that he must get repentance wrought within himself; and having accomplished this, he was to carry this repentance as a peace-offering or recommendation to God. If this repentance could not be presented as a positive recommendation, at least it could be urged as a plea in mitigation of punishment. “How can I dare believe in the favor of God,” he said, “so long as there is in me no real conversion? I must be changed before He can receive me.” 

He is answered that the “conversion,” or “repentance,” of which he is so desirous, can never take place so long as he regards God as a stern and unloving Judge. It is the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance, (Rom. 2:4) and without the recognition of this “goodness” there can be no softening of heart. An impenitent sinner is one who is despising the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering. 

Luther’s aged counselor tells him plainly that he must be done with penances and mortifications, and all such self-righteous preparations for securing or purchasing the Divine favor. That voice, Luther tells us touchingly, seemed to come to him from heaven: “All true repentance begins with the knowledge of the forgiving love of God.” 

As he listens light breaks in, and an unknown joy fills him. Nothing between him and God! Nothing between him and pardon! No preliminary goodness, or preparatory feeling! He learns the Apostle’s lesson, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6); God “justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). All the evil that is in him cannot hinder this justification; and all the goodness (if such there be) that is in him cannot assist in obtaining it. He must be received as a sinner, or not at all. The pardon that is proffered recognizes only his guilt; and the salvation provided in the cross of Christ regards him simply as lost. 

But the sense of guilt is too deep to be easily quieted.

Fear comes back again, and he goes once more to his aged adviser, crying, “Oh, my sin, my sin!” as if the message of forgiveness which he had so lately received was too good news to be true, and as if sins like his could not be so easily and so simply forgiven. 

“What! would you be only a pretended sinner, and therefore need only a pretended Saviour?” 

So spake his venerable friend, and then added, solemnly, “Know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of great and real sinners, who are deserving of nothing but utter condemnation.” 

“But is not God sovereign in His electing love?” said Luther; “Perhaps I may not be one of His chosen.” 

“Look to the wounds of Christ,” was the answer, “and learn there God’s gracious mind to the children of men. In Christ we read the name of God, and learn what He is, and how He loves; the Son is the revealer of the Father; and the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” 

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” said Luther to a friend one day, when tossing on a sick bed; “but what is that to me?” 

“Ah,” said his friend, “does not that include your own sins? You believe in the forgiveness of David’s sins, and of Peter’s sins, why not of your own? The forgiveness is for you as much as for David or Peter.” 

Thus Luther found rest. The gospel, thus believed, brought liberty and peace. He knew that he was forgiven because God had said that forgiveness was the immediate and sure possession of all who believed the good news. 

In the settlement of the great question between the sinner and God, there was to be no bargaining and no price of any kind. The basis of settlement was laid eighteen hundred years ago; and the mighty transaction on the cross did all that was needed as a price. “It is finished,” is God’s message to the sons of men in their inquiry, “What shall we do to be saved?” This completed transaction supersedes all man’s efforts to justify himself, or to assist God in justifying him. We see Christ crucified, and God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses; and this non-imputation is the result solely of what was done upon the cross, where the transference of the sinner’s guilt to the Divine surety was once and for ever accomplished. It is of that transaction that the gospel brings us the “good news,” and whosoever believeth it becomes partaker of all the benefits which that transaction secured. 

“But am I not to be indebted to the Holy Spirit’s work in my soul?” 

“Undoubtedly; for what hope can there be for you without the Almighty Spirit, who quickeneth the dead?” 

“If so, then ought I not to wait for His impulses, and having got them, may I not present the feelings which He has wrought in me as reasons why I should be justified?” 

“No, in no wise. You are not justified by the Spirit’s work, but by Christ’s alone; nor are the motions of the Spirit in you the grounds of your confidence, or the reasons for your expecting pardon from the Judge of all. The Spirit works in you, not to prepare you for being justified, or to make you fit for the favor of God, but to bring you to the cross, just as you are. For the cross is the only place where God deals in mercy with the transgressor.” 

It is at the cross that we meet God in peace and receive His favor.

There we find not only the blood that washes, but the righteousness which clothes and beautifies, so that henceforth we are treated by God as if our own unrighteousness had passed away, and the righteousness of His own Son were actually ours. 

This is what the apostle calls “imputed” righteousness (Romans 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 24), or righteousness so reckoned to us by God as that we are entitled to all the blessings which that righteousness can obtain for us. Righteousness got up by ourselves, or put into us by another, we call infused, or imparted, or inherent righteousness; but righteousness belonging to another reckoned to us by God as if it were our own, we call imputed righteousness. It is of this that the apostle speaks when he says, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27). Thus Christ represents us: and God deals with us as represented by Him. Righteousness within will follow necessarily and inseparably; but we are not to wait in order to get it before going to God for the righteousness of His only begotten Son. 

Imputed righteousness must come first. You cannot have the righteousness within till you have the righteousness without; and to make your own righteousness the price which you give to God for that of His Son, is to dishonor Christ, and to deny His cross. The Spirit’s work is not to make us holy, in order that we may be pardoned, but to show us the cross, where the pardon is to be found by the unholy; so that having found the pardon there, we may begin the life of holiness to which we are called. 

That which God presents to the sinner is an immediate pardon, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” but by the great work of righteousness finished for us by the Substitute. Our qualification for obtaining that righteousness is that we are unrighteous, just as the sick man’s qualification for the physician is that he is sick. 

Of a previous goodness, preparatory to pardon, the gospel says nothing.

Of a preliminary state of religious feeling as a necessary introduction to the grace of God, the apostles never spoke. Fears, troubles, self-questionings, bitter cries for mercy, forebodings of judgment, and resolutions of amendment, may, in point of time, have preceded the sinner’s reception of the good news; but they did not constitute his fitness, nor make up his qualification. He would have been quite as welcome without them. They did not make the pardon more complete, more gracious, or more free. The sinner’s wants were all his arguments:—“God be merciful to me a sinner.” He needed salvation, and he went to God for it, and got it just because he needed it, and because God delights in the poor and needy. He needed pardon, and he went to God for it, and obtained it without merit or money. “When he had NOTHING TO PAY, God frankly forgave.” It was the having nothing to pay that drew out the frank forgiveness. 

Ah, this is grace. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us!” He loved us, even when we were dead in sins. He loved us, not because we were rich in goodness, but because He was “rich in mercy”; not because we were worthy of His favor, but because He delighted in loving-kindness. His welcome to us comes from His own graciousness, not from our lovableness. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Christ invites the weary! It is this weariness that fits you for Him, and Him for you. Here is the weariness, there is the resting-place! They are side by side. Do you say, “That resting-place is not for me?” What! Is it not for the weary? Do you say, “But I cannot make use of it?” What! Do you mean to say, “I am so weary that I cannot sit down?” If you had said, “I am so weary that I cannot stand, nor walk, nor climb,” one could understand you. But to say, “I am so weary that I cannot sit down,” is simple folly, or something worse, for you are making a merit and a work of your sitting down; you seem to think that to sit down is to do some great thing which will require a long and prodigious effort. 

Let us listen then to the gracious words of the Lord: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). Thou wouldest have asked, and He would have given! That is all. How real, how true, how free; yet how simple! Or let us listen to the voice of the servant in the person of Luther. “Oh, my dear brother, learn to know Christ and Him crucified. Learn to sing a new song; to despair of previous work, and to cry to Him, Lord Jesus, Thou art my righteousness, and I am Thy sin. 

Thou hast taken on Thee what was mine, and given to me what is Thine. What I was, Thou becamest, that I might be what I was not. Christ dwells only with sinners. Meditate often on this love of Christ, and you will taste its sweetness.” Yes; pardon, peace, life, are all of them gifts, Divine gifts, brought down from heaven by the Son of God, presented personally to each needy sinner by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are not to be bought, but received; as men receive the sunshine, complete and sure and free. They are not to be earned or deserved by exertions or sufferings, or prayers or tears; but accepted at once as the purchase of the labors and sufferings of the great Substitute. They are not to be waited for, but taken on the spot without hesitation or distrust, as men take the loving gift of a generous friend. They are not to be claimed on the ground of fitness or goodness, but of need and unworthiness, of poverty and emptiness. 

Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part One.

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

Sorrow a

“I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for  You are the one who has done this!”
–Psalm 39:9 

“The Lord is in his Holy Temple—let all the earth keep silence before him.”
–Habakkuk 2.20.

To all afflicted and distressed, dissatisfied, disturbed, and agitated Christians throughout the world.

Dear hearts,

The choicest saints are ‘born to troubles as the sparks fly upwards’, Job 5:7. ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all.’ Psalm 34:19. If they were many, and not troubles, then, as it is in the proverb, the more the merrier; or if they were troubles and not many, then the fewer the better. But God, who is infinite in wisdom and matchless in goodness, has ordered troubles, yes, many troubles to come trooping in upon us on every side. As our mercies—so our crosses seldom come single; they usually come treading one upon the heels of another; they are like April showers, no sooner is one over but another comes. And yet, Christians, it is mercy, it is rich mercy, that every affliction is not an execution, that every correction is not a damnation. The higher the waters rise, the nearer Noah’s ark was lifted up to heaven; the more your afflictions are increased, the more your heart shall be raised heavenward.

Luther could not understand some Psalms until he was afflicted; the Christ-cross is no letter in the book, and yet, says he, it has taught one more than all the letters in the book. Afflictions are a golden key by which the Lord opens the rich treasure of his word to his people’s souls; and this in some measure, through grace, my soul has experienced. When Samson had found honey, he gave some to his father and mother to eat, Judges 14:9, 10; some honey I have found in my following text; and therefore I may not, I cannot be such a churl as not to give them some of my honey to taste, who have drunk deep of my gall and wormwood.

Augustine observes on that, Psalms 66:16, ‘Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul.’ ‘He does not call them’, says he, ‘to acquaint them with speculations, how wide the earth is, how far the heavens are stretched out, what the number of the stars is, or what is the course of the sun; but come and I will tell you the wonders of his grace, the faithfulness of his promises, the riches of his mercy to my soul’. Gracious experiences are to be communicated. ‘We learn—that we may teach’—is a proverb among the Rabbis. And I do therefore ‘lay in and lay up,’ says the heathen, that I may draw forth again and lay out for the good of many. When God has dealt bountifully with us, others should reap some noble good by us. The family, the town, the city, the country, where a man lives, should fare the better for his faring well. Our mercies and experiences should be as a running spring at our doors, which is not only for our own use—but also for our neighbors’, yes, and for strangers too.

Few men, if any, have iron memories. How soon is a sermon preached forgotten, when a sermon written remains! Augustine writing to Volusian, says, ‘That which is written is always at hand to be read, when the reader is at leisure.’ Men do not easily forget their own names, nor their father’s house, nor the wife of their bosom, nor the fruit of their loins, nor to eat their daily bread; and yet, ah! how easily do they forget that word of grace, that should be dearer to them than all! Most men’s memories, especially in the great concernments of their souls, are like a sieve, where the good grain and fine flour goes through—but the light chaff and coarse bran remain behind; or like a strainer, where the sweet liquor is strained out—but the dregs left behind; or like a grate that lets the pure water run away—but if there be any straws, sticks, mud, or filth, that it holds, as it were, with iron hands. Most men’s memories are very treacherous, especially in good things; few men’s memories are a holy ark, a heavenly storehouse for their souls, and therefore they stand in the more need. But,

Its marvelous suitableness and usefulness under these great turns and changes that have passed upon us. As every wise husbandman observes the fittest seasons to sow his seed—some he sows in the autumn and some in the spring of the year, some in a dry season and some in a wet, some in a moist clay and some in a sandy dry ground, Isaiah 28:25; so every spiritual husbandman must observe the fittest times to sow his spiritual seed in. He has heavenly seed by him for all occasions and seasons, for spring and fall; for all grounds, heads, and hearts. 

The friendship of most men in these days is like Jonah’s gourd, now very promising and flourishing, and quickly fading and withering; it is like some plants in the water, which have broad leaves on the surface of the water—but scarce any root at all; their friendship is like melons, cold within, hot without; their expressions are high—but their affections are low; they speak much—but do little. As drums, and trumpets, and flags in a battle make a great noise and a fine show—but do nothing; so these friends will compliment highly and handsomely, speak plausibly, and promise lustily, and yet have neither a hand nor heart to do anything cordially or faithfully. From such friends it is a mercy to be delivered, and therefore king Antigonus was used to pray to God that he would protect him from his friends; and when one of his council asked him why he prayed so, he returned this answer, Every man will shun and defend himself against his professed enemies—but from our professed or pretended friends, of whom few are faithful, none can safe-guard himself—but has need of protection from heaven.

First, Read and look up for a blessing—‘Paul may plant, and Apollos may water,’ but all will be to no purpose, except ‘the Lord gives the increase,’ 1 Cor. 3:6, 7. God must do the deed, when all is done, or else all that is done will do you no good. If you would have this work successful and effectual, you must look off from man—and look up to God, who alone can make it a blessing to you. As without a blessing from heaven, your clothes cannot warm you, nor your food nourish you, nor medicine cure you, nor friends comfort you, Micah 6:14; so without a blessing from heaven, without the precious breathings and influences of the Spirit, what here is written will do you no good, it will not turn to your account in the day of Christ; therefore cast an eye heavenwards, Haggai 1:6.

It is Seneca’s observation, that the husbandmen in Egypt never look up to heaven for rain in the time of drought—but look after the overflowing of the banks of Nile, as the only cause of their plenty. Ah, how many are there in these days, who, when they go to read a book, never look up, never look after the rain of God’s blessing—but only look to the river Nile; they only look to the wit, the learning, the arts, the parts, the eloquence, etc., of the author, they never look so high as heaven; and hence it comes to pass, that though these read much, yet they profit little.

He who would read to profit must read and meditate. Meditation is the food of your souls, it is the very stomach and natural heat whereby spiritual truths are digested. A man shall as soon live without his heart, as he shall be able to get good by what he reads, without meditation. Prayer, says Bernard, without meditation, is dry and formal; and reading without meditation is useless and unprofitable. He who would be a wise, a prudent, and an able experienced statesman, must not hastily ramble and run over many cities, countries, customs, laws, and manners of people, without serious musing and pondering upon such things as may make him an expert statesman; so he who would get good by reading, that would complete his knowledge, and perfect his experience in spiritual things, must not slightly and hastily ramble and run over this book or that—but ponder upon what he reads, as Mary pondered the saying of the angel in her heart.

Lord! says Augustine, the more I meditate on you, the sweeter you are to me; so the more you shall meditate on the following matter, the sweeter it will be to you. They usually thrive best who meditate most. Meditation is a soul-fattening duty; it is a grace-strengthening duty, it is a duty-crowning duty. Meditation is the nurse of prayer. Jerome calls it his paradise; Basil calls it the treasury where all the graces are locked up; Theophylact calls it the very gate and portal by which we enter into glory; and Aristotle, though a heathen, places felicity in the contemplation of the mind. You may read much and hear much—yet without meditation you will never be excellent, you still never be eminent Christians.

Read, and test what you read; take nothing upon trust—but all upon trial, as those ‘noble Bereans’ did, Acts 17:to, 11. You will try and count and weigh gold, though it be handed to you by your fathers; and so should you all those heavenly truths that are handed to you by your spiritual fathers. I hope upon trial you will find nothing—but what will hold weight in the balance of the sanctuary; and though all be not gold that glitters, yet I judge that you will find nothing here to blister, that will not be found upon trial to be true gold.

Read and do, read and practice what you read, or else all your reading will do you no good. He who has a good book in his hand—but not a lesson of it in his heart or life, is like that donkey that carries burdens, and feeds upon thistles. In divine account, a man knows no more than be does. Profession without practice will but make a man twice told a child of darkness. To speak well is to sound like a cymbal—but to do well is to act like an angel [Isidore]. He who practices what he reads and understands, God will help him to understand what he understands not. There is no fear of knowing too much, though there is much fear in practicing too little; the most doing man, shall be the most knowing man; the mightiest man in practice, will in the end prove the mightiest man in Scripture, John 7:16, 17, Psalm 119:98-100. Theory is the guide of practice, and practice is the life of theory.

Salvian relates how the heathen did reproach some Christians, who by their lewd lives made the gospel of Christ to be a reproach. ‘Where,’ said they, ‘is that good law which they believe? Where are those rules of godliness which they learn? They read the holy gospel, and yet are unclean; they read the apostles’ writings, and yet live in drunkenness; they follow Christ, and yet disobey Christ; they profess a holy law, and yet lead impure lives.’ Ah! how may many preachers take up sad complaints against many readers in these days! They read our works, and yet in their lives they deny our works; they praise our works, and yet in their lives they reproach our works; they cry up our labors in their discourses, and yet they cry them down in their practices—yet I hope better things of you into whose hands this treatise shall fall. The Samaritan woman did not fill her pitcher with water, that she might talk of it—but that she might use it, John 4:7; and Rachel did not desire the mandrakes to hold in her hand—but that she might thereby be the more apt to bring forth, Gen. 30:15.

The application is easy. But, read and apply. Reading is but the drawing of the bow, application is the hitting of the bulls-eye. The choicest truths will no further profit you than they are applied by you. It would be as good not to read, as not to apply what you read. No man attains to health by reading books on health—but by the practical application of their remedies. All the reading in the world will never make for the health of your souls—except you apply what you read. The true reason why many read so much and profit so little—is because they do not apply and bring home what they read to their own souls.

Read and pray. He who makes not conscience of praying over what he reads, will find little sweetness or profit in his reading. No man makes such earnings of his reading, as he who prays over what he reads. Luther professes that he profited more in the knowledge of the Scriptures by prayer, in a short space, than by study in a longer. As John by weeping got the sealed book open, so certainly men would gain much more than they do by reading good men’s works, if they would but pray more over what they read! Ah, Christians! pray before you read, and pray after you read, that all may be blessed and sanctified to you; when you have done reading, usually close up thus—So let me live, so let me die, that I may live eternally. 

And when you are in the mount for yourselves, bear him upon your hearts, who is willing to ‘spend and be spend’ for your sakes, for your souls, 2 Cor. 12:15. Oh! pray for me, that I may more and more be under the rich influences and glorious pourings out of the Spirit; that I may ‘be an able minister of the New Testament—not of the letter—but of the Spirit,’ 2 Cor. 3:6; that I may always find an everlasting spring and an overflowing fountain within me, which may always make me faithful, constant, and abundant in the work of the Lord; and that I may live daily under those inward teachings of the Spirit, which may enable me to speak from the heart to the heart, from the conscience to the conscience, and from experience to experience; that I may be a ‘burning and a shining light,’ that everlasting arms may be still under me; that while I live, I may be serviceable to his glory and his people’s good; that no discouragements may discourage one in my work; and that when my work is done, I may give up my account with joy and not with grief. I shall follow these poor labors with my weak prayers, that they may contribute much to your internal and eternal welfare.

Your soul’s servant in our dearest Lord,

Thomas Brooks.

Holy Raiment of One’s Own Weaving

Taken and adapted from, “The Work of the Holy Spirit” Pg. 451.
Written by, Abraham Kuyper

“I dwell in the high and holy places.”

–Isaiah 57:15.

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Holiness inheres in man’s being…

There is external holiness, such as that of the Levitical order, effected by washing or sprinkling with sacrificial blood; or official holiness, denoting separation for divine service, in which sense the prophets and apostles are called holy, and church-members are called holy and beloved. But these have nothing to do with the sanctification now under discussion.

Sanctification as a gift of grace refers to a man’s personal holiness. As the divine holiness is God’s exaltation above, and angry recoil from all impurity and defilement, so is human holiness man’s essential disposition by which spontaneously he loves purity and hates the unclean. Victory over temptation after a long and painful conflict, in which our feet had well-nigh slipped, is not holiness.

Holiness signifies a disposition, an inherent quality, or, by another manner of speaking, a tint or shade adopted by the soul, so that the heart’s evil manifestations and Satan’s wicked whisperings fill us with positive horror. As the musically trained ear is painfully affected by a dissonance as it vibrates along the shuddering auditory nerve, while the unmusical ear never perceives the offense against the purity of tone, so is the difference between the sanctified and the unsanctified. Whatever the world’s moral dissonances may be, they fail to affect the ungodly, who even praise the music; but they distress the saint whose soul delights in the harmony of holy concord.

This holy or unholy disposition includes our entire inward being: it inheres in mind, conscience, understanding, will, feelings, and inclinations. Evil and impure speech affords pleasure or pain to all these.

Yet this is not the final token of being holy or unholy. Something more is required. Do not many of the unregenerate shudder at much that is evil, and delight in much that is good? Sympathy for the good may be called holiness only when it possesses this essential feature, that it wills the good for God’s sake alone.

God alone is holy. There is no holiness but that which descends from Him, the Fountain of all good, hence of all holiness.

Mere human holiness is a counterfeit, an attack upon God’s honor of being the sole and only Fountain of all good. It is the creature’s effort to be equal with God, and as such essential sin. Nay, man’s holiness must be the divinely implanted disposition, stirring his entire being to love what God loves, not from his own taste, but for His Name’s sake.

Being planned after the divine image, Adam and Eve possessed this holiness; hence discord between them and their Maker was impossible. Their holiness was not in germ merely, but complete, for everything in them was in perfect accord with God. And the redeemed in heaven are holy; in death they are severed completely from the internal source of sin; they are essentially in full and warm sympathy with the divine holiness, whose every feature, attracts them.

But the sinner has lost this holiness. It is his misery that every expression of his being is naturally in collision with the will of God; whose holiness does not attract, but repels him. And mere regeneration does not sanctify his inclination and disposition; nor is it able of itself to germinate the holy disposition. But it requires the Holy Spirit’s additional and very peculiar act, whereby the disposition of the regenerated and converted sinner is brought gradually into harmony with the divine will; and this is the gracious gift of sanctification.

But this does not imply that a man who dies immediately after conversion enters heaven without sanctification. This would be a very comfortless doctrine, and would unintentionally encourage Antinomianism. God’s child entering heaven is completely sanctified; not in this life, but after it.

According to Scripture there is in heaven a difference between the spirits of the redeemed; they do not resemble each other as do two drops of water. In the parable of the talents Christ teaches clearly that in heaven there is a difference in the distribution of talents. He who denies this robs himself of the positive promise that “the Father who seeth in secret shall reward openly.” (Matt. vi.4, 6, 18) The heavenly state which we preach is not based upon the principles of the French Revolution; on the contrary, in the assembly of just men made perfect we shall never ascend to the rank of apostle or prophet, probably not even to that of martyr. Nevertheless there is in heaven no saint whose sanctification is incomplete. In this respect all are alike.

But there will be room for development. The complete sanctification of my personality, body and soul, does not imply that my holy disposition is now in actual contact with all the fulness of the divine holiness. On the contrary, as I ascend from glory to glory, I shall find in the infinite depths of the divine Being the eternal object of richest delight in ever-increasing measure. In this respect the redeemed in heaven are like Adam and Eve in Paradise, who, tho perfectly holy, were destined to enter more fully into the life of the divine love by endless development.

It should therefore be thoroughly understood that at the moment of their entering heaven the sanctification of the redeemed lacks nothing. Nevertheless their sanctification will receive fullest completion when, risen from the grave, in the glory of the resurrection-body, they enter the Kingdom of Glory after the day of judgment. Until that hour they are in a state of separation from the body, resting in peace; awaiting the coming of the Lord.

Since sanctification includes body and soul, exhaustive treatment requires that we call attention to this point. Not as tho this intermediate state were sinful, a sort of purgatory; for the Scripture teaches clearly that in death we are separated from the body. The fact that the body remains impure until the day of glorification does not affect the holy state of the departed saint. Being freed from the body, he is no more affected by it. And when, in the notable day of the Lord, the body shall be restored to him; it shall be perfectly holy, pure, and glorified.

That which belongs to Jesus enters heaven perfectly holy. The slightest lack would indicate something internally sinful; would annihilate the glorious confession that death is a dying to all sin, as well as the positive declaration of Scripture; that nothing that defiles shall enter the gates of the city. Hence it is the unalterable rule of sanctification that every redeemed soul entering heaven is perfectly sanctified.

This applies to the infant who being regenerated in the cradle is carried thence to the grave, in whom, therefore, conscious exercise of holiness is out of the question; and to every converted person who dies suddenly; and to the man who, hardened all his life, in his dying hour repents before God, and departs one of the redeemed of the Lord.

The supporters of the ordinary Arminian doctrine consider this representation impossible. They believe that sanctification is an effect of the saint’s own exertion, exercise, and conflict. It is like a beautiful garment of fine linen, very desirable, but it must be of one’s own weaving. This labor is begun immediately after the saint’s conversion. The loom is set up, and he begins to weave. He continues his spiritual labor with but few interruptions. The piece of linen gradually increases under his hand, and assumes form and shape. If not cut down in early life, he expects to finish it even before the hour of his departure.

The pulpit must oppose this theory, which comes, not from Arminius’s books, but from man’s wicked heart. For it is not only very comfortless, but also wicked. It is comfortless: for, if true, then all our precious little ones who died in the cradle are lost, for they could not put one stitch in this raiment of their glory; comfortless: for if the saint should happen to be behindhand with his weaving, or be taken away in the midst of his days before he could half finish it, he would surely be lost. Nor is it less comfortless for him whose death-bed conversion is utterly useless, for it came too late for the weaving of this garment of sanctification.

And it is also wicked: for then Christ is no sufficient Savior. He may effect our justification and open the gates of Paradise, but the weaving of our own wedding-garments He lays upon us, without insuring us sufficient time to finish them. Yea, wicked indeed is it; for this makes the weaving of the fine linen our work, sanctification man’s achievement, and God is no longer the only Author of our salvation. Then it is no grace, and man’s own work is again on its feet.

In thus subverting the very foundation of holy things; thoughtless Ethical theologians ought to consider the destruction they bring upon Christ’s Church. Our fathers never believed this doctrine, and always opposed it. “There is no Gospel in it,” they said. It is the concision of the Covenant of Grace; laying upon God’s saints the fear and distress of the Covenant of Works.

In Loving Memory of Robert Rollock, God’s Man for Scotland

Taken and adapted from the preface of, “The Selected Works of Robert Rollock” Vol. 1,
Written by William Gunn, reprinted in 1849.

Robert_Rollock (2)Let us, in imagination, transport ourselves to the New Church of old Edinburgh, on some Sabbath morning, in the year 1596.

Let us enter with the citizens, worthy burgesses, their devout dames and daughters, the thronging students, full of the pride of young scholarship, but grave withal, and not a little checked by the presence of those over whose spiritual interests they may be called to preside. Besides, there is Master Charteris, and there are his colleagues, and many eyes are on those who are hereafter to preach the gospel to an earnest age. Early as the hour is, not a few of the barons are there, and the judges of the land. The Court is at Holyrood—the King has marked Rollock with his confidential friendship—and, though the devout man has no scruple in denouncing sin in high places, he has never been known to become personally minatory. It is known that his fame is in other lands besides his own. And he is at the head of the University, by which much good has been done, and more is expected, for Edinburgh and for Scotland.

One or two old men are there, who, when mere boys, saw the fires lighted at the Rood of Greenside, and the intrepid Straiton expiate with his life the crime of adhering to Scripture truth.

Many changes have they seen, regencies, reigns, riots, foreign troops beleaguering their city, murder rampant in the very palace, one sovereign treacherously slain, another deposed, a prisoner, and a victim—but never has that fearful sight left their eyes or their heart; and, under its influence they have assisted like men to overthrow a crazy superstition, the foundation of which was already destroyed by the death-blaze of many a funeral pile. There are some younger, but still old men, who date their reformed creed from the barbarous death of Walter Milne, that devout man of “decrepit age.” The smoke of his execution had been wafted to the furthest parts of Scotland. And not many months after his death, when the Queen Regent was dining in Alexander Carpenter’s house, betwixt the bows, these very men had helped to “hand the head of St Giles to the causey,” and had shouted, “Fy on thee, young St Giles, thy father would not have been so rude.”

Years and greater knowledge have cooled their blood, but confirmed their faith. Most of them have heard the trumpet tones of Knox, that son of thunder; nay, some of them formed part of the deputation, which, when his intrepid spirit refused to yield before the hostile Hamilton’s and their murderous designs, besought him, for their sakes, to leave the town, and seek safety elsewhere. Fierce enough times they had all seen, and fierce times they lived in, as we would deem them, but they were calm when compared with the storms that had nursed the hardy plant of the Scottish Kirk.

The Popish Lords are a subject of constant dread: and, familiarly known as King James is to them all, sooth to tell, a little contempt for his want of firmness, and strong doubts of his sincerity, temper their confidence in his oft expressed zeal for the Church that has neither Pasch nor Yule. Some of the sterner spirits too, look on Rollock as too yielding. But even they attribute this to his love of peace, and his scholarly habits. And they deny neither the holiness of his life, the purity of his doctrine, nor the genuine worth of his preaching. It is remembered by them that he has often spoken out boldly enough against the encouragement given by the King to the enemies of the true faith, and that on one occasion lately, this otherwise a mild and meek man, while lecturing upon the release of Barabbas, he prayed God to give the King a remission for all the remissions he had given to murderers.

It is likewise known, that whatever be the intention of the Court regarding the institution of Episcopacy, he has published to the world in his worthy commentary upon the Epistle to the Ephesians, a work highly commended by the most famous theologians among them, that the office of bishops, as they are lords over their brethren, is to be condemned, where, also, he proves pastors and bishops to be both one. And, so in their love of the man, the more ardent spirits are willing to forgive what they deem a too easy spirit of compliance.

Let us now attend not to the hearers, but to the preacher.

He is now only in his forty-second year, but is evidently worn out with labor. He looks on his audience with kindliest affection, and with gentle voice gives out as his text, John 3:6.” That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that that is born of the Spirit is spirit.” With great simplicity and clearness he shews the occasion on which these words were uttered, and discriminates between the manner of the new birth, and its nature,—the latter being the subject of the discourse. He then examines, point by point, the flesh and the generation thereof; the Spirit and regeneration.

On the first, he explains the nature of original sin, and how it has corrupted body and soul, the understanding, the will, the affections, and the natural powers and faculties; and this corruption is common to all. “The root and seed of all mischief under the sun is compacted in every man and woman.” And with manly, sound, practical, and stirring teaching, our fathers were edified some two centuries and a half ago.

A fine picture this of the godly man who strives with anxiety to make the doctrine rise clearly from the text, exactly corresponds with his own language, “Learne the wordis, for all the doctrine rysis of the wordis.” His habit is carefully to examine the occasion which gave rise to the words that furnish the subject for his comments; he then investigates the train of thought pursued in the passage. This he does without any shew of learning, or any critical analysis of the original. There is no parade of scholastic erudition, and his examination is simple and clear. He tacitly gives the result of his study, but the unlearned hearer would never notice the process.

After Rollock has thus displayed the plain meaning of each portion of his text, he applies it doctrinally and practically to his hearers. In this part of his teaching, he uses much simplicity, earnestness, and plainness, applying himself to the consciousness and the consciences of his hearers, speaking strongly, but withal affectionately. Error he generally puts down by preaching the truth. The Papistical doctrines he does combat, but briefly. Here, too, there is a marked difference between his sermons and his academic reflections. In the latter he is learned, argumentative, and scholastic; in the latter he uses the authority of his office, and announces the truth without controversy. The plainness of his manner sometimes approaches to familiarity, which, in the Scottish service, is pleasing from its quaintness. And every sermon abounds with instances and illustrations.

The skillful teacher is evident throughout. The brief sentences —the attention kept up by questions skillfully interposed—the variety of manner in the blending of comment, application, remonstrance, denunciation, and consolation—and, here and there, unconscious dashes from the Professor’s chair, seem characteristic of the man. A practiced speaker, in whose mind there arises a stray thought connected with, but not part of, his main idea, dashes it off in a word or two, and resumes the principal topic, neither losing the happy suggestion, on the one hand, nor, by dwelling too long on it, drawing away attention from the main subject of the discourse. This, indeed, constitutes one of the great charms of his ready eloquence; that he seems for the moment not to be addressing us, but merely thinking aloud. There is much of this in these sermons.

Rollock seems to refer in his sermons with as much censure as his gentle nature will admit to the conduct of the citizens, in first bringing their ministers into trouble, and then pusillanimously abandoning them. His hearers will not fail, not only to be edified by the sound doctrine and simple eloquence of these sermons, but discern in them instructive marks for the times in which they were delivered. Violence, bloodshed, practical atheism, sensuality, the corruption of the courts of law, excite the preacher’s indignation, and call forth his rebuke. These appear in his sermons, but only in a more chastened form, and with the same undaunted fearlessness of the royal displeasure which marked his brethren.

Rollock also gives a lively view of the good old times in Edinburgh, when have had a king in the midst of us, and neither he nor his people were sparing of intercourse, familiar enough, with one another. “Thou wilt run out and in, hither and thither to get a word of the king. And why not, if so the necessity require? But strive to get a word out of the mouth of Jesus.”

On the day that had been appointed for the assembling of the students who had determined to commence the philosophical course of studies, a great multitude presented themselves.  For the news that a University had been opened at Edinburgh, and many young men flocked not only from the city itself, but also from the neighboring country; all of whom Rollock trained with the greatest assiduity in acquiring a pure Latin style, up till the day appointed for the entrance examination. The most of those who were found on examination unfit to enter on a course of philosophy, were entrusted to the care of Duncan Nairn, a man of great learning and elegance of manners, that he might train them to a more accurate knowledge of the classics for the following year. But Rollock, at the very threshold of their studies, combined discipline and instruction; and as the greater part of the students had been rendered disorderly by the loose discipline of the ordinary schools, he restrained them by the application of severity— which was tempered, however, by his innate mildness of temper; and he so blended with severity and mildness the first principles of religion, that their young and tender minds imbibed imperceptibly at his hands the enlivening dews of piety. For this purpose, on each Saturday, after having exercised his students till noon in disputations, in the afternoon he read aloud Beza’s Quaestiones, of which, besides, he published a short analysis to assist the memory of the students. And on Sundays, from seven in the morning till half-past eight, when they went to hear sermon, he exercised them regularly in this work; and when they had returned from the afternoon discourse, after they had repeated the sermons which they had heard in church, he demanded the proofs. In short, he omitted nothing which could impress the youthful mind with the knowledge and the fear of God. These labors of his were crowned by God with abundant success.

When the four years of the philosophical curriculum were expired, after a careful examination of the students individually, he bestowed on them the degree of Master of Arts; but first he exhorted them, with the greatest solemnity, regarding the duties that devolved on them. He reminded them with how much diligence and solicitude he had watched over their welfare,— with what seriousness he had always prepared their minds for that other life which is immortal,—that life to which he had brought them to direct all the thoughts of this present fleeting existence, all their studies, even those of polite literature, all their actions; how seriously he had endeavored that each day they should more and more be possessed of some feeling of that life, in order that, allured by the foretaste of future bliss and glory, they might sighing await the fullness of joy, even the adoption and redemption of their body. He commended to them, at the same time, the arts, the sciences, and the employments appertaining to this world, and demanded of them that they should immediately enter on some fixed line of life, which should be praiseworthy and honorable, and in which they might advance the interests of either the Church or the State. But so that they should always remember the advice of Paul, and because the time to come is short, that they should use this world as not abusing it; in which, he told them, that Paul has permitted attention to all things appertaining to this life, but only in such a manner, that while they are engaged in them, they should have their citizenship in the heavens; in other words, that while their bodies were exercised about earthly things their affections should be above, earnestly beholding God, his will and glory, and looking for the coming thence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who shall transform our vile bodies to be like unto his own glorious body. He protested that he had always regarded as worthy of abhorrence that profane and godless race which looked to themselves rather than to God—a race to whose destruction all the blessings of this life will turn. And lastly, he concluded his discourse with a serious exhortation to piety and holiness of life, and to perseverance in that true and pure religion, the truths of which they had learned, and in which they had been brought up from their childhood.

After the dismissal of this first class, having married Helen Baron, a lady of choice worth, he renounced Philosophy, and devoted himself entirely to the study of the sacred writings, to which he had ever turned his attention from his earliest years: and Philip Hislop, a young man of probity and learning being appointed to take charge of the next class in his stead, he confined himself to the control of the whole University, in which he neglected nothing that might tend to its advantage.

His devoted industry in the discharge of this duty calls for universal admiration. For it was his habit frequently to visit each class, to examine into the industry of each individual, and his progress in his studies; if any disputes or disturbances had arisen, quickly and prudently to settle them, to rouse all to a persevering discharge of duty, and daily to assemble the whole University in the Hall, and in person to conduct the public devotions. Each week he selected a day, on which to the whole assembled students, he explained some text of Scripture, whence he drew forth salutary advices, entreaties, and threatenings, not darkened with a cloud of words, but from the weight and serious importance of the sentiments, efficacious in softening the minds of the young, and training them to the attainment of perfect holiness. Such was the efficacy of these preachings that they kept the students to their duty more successfully than any severer discipline would have done. When the lecture was over, he next began to ascertain from the censors appointed to mark down the faults of individuals in their classes, those whom they had noted as delinquents during that week. The students so reported he rebuked with the greatest tact; he placed before their eyes the anger of God, and struck terror into their souls from the fear of disgrace; and by these means he succeeded in bringing them to repentance and amendment of life better than if he had inflicted a thousand stripes. For, in many cases, where neither the words of others, nor blows could have occasioned grief or weeping, the youths were so daunted, shaken, and overwhelmed by the thunders of the divine wrath wrath which he plied them, and with the gentle promises of the gospel with which he soothed them, that sighs and sobs, and sometimes even floods of tears burst from them. He had this distinguishing characteristic, that whether he placed before them the promises of the gospel, or sternly threatened them with the judgments of God, he so insinuated himself into the minds of even the most profligate youth—and such he had sometimes under his care—even although his indignation had glowed most fiercely against him, that he roused warm feelings of affection, and led him voluntarily from error to the path of duty, not so much from fear as from love. It was also his habit each week, or as occasion offered, to assemble the Regents, that at their meetings they might consult and consider, whether any reformation or amendment of the system could be effected. Hence the University acquired a settled state, increasing in purity of discipline, in attention to study, and in completeness of system.

While Rollock devoted his attention to these important matters, which might fully occupy and give abundant employment to a man of the utmost activity, there was imposed on him the additional necessity of undertaking a charge in the city ministry, on the following occasion. The whole city, by the common consent of the Presbytery and the Council, as well as by the advice of Rollock, had been divided into eight districts, resembling parishes; over each parish there required to be placed a minister to take charge of it. The ministers of the city at that time were men of a great reputation indeed, and most watchful and faithful in the discharge of their duty, but they were not numerous enough to supply so many parishes. The eyes of all, accordingly, were turned to Rollock, and he was besought to undertake the pastoral office; they earnestly plead with him to consent himself to undertake the office of the ministry, and the charge of one of the parishes, in order to promote a work so sacred and so necessary as the parochial division; for he was held in the highest esteem and affection by all, both high and low. This esteem and affection were secured by his unfeigned candor in all his transactions, and his remarkable humility, which added a singular grace to his other gifts; for, although he stood almost alone in high endowments, yet, in his own opinion, he was inferior to all.

He had, indeed, formed the fixed resolution of remaining in retirement, and of confining himself to the walls of the University, free from all public employments, in order that he might have the greater freedom to attend exclusively to its interests; yet, contrary to his purpose, he was dragged out to take a share in most public matters, in which he conducted himself with rare and sanctified wisdom. Matters, which from the headlong zeal of the people had been thrown into great confusion, were, by his well-timed and prudent management, reduced into order. It is rare to find prudence accompanying zeal, nor is zeal always the attendant of prudence; yet He who distributes His gifts at his sovereign pleasure had bestowed on Rollock both singularly combined, the salutary effects of which were experienced both by the Church and the State of Scotland.

During the last two years of his life, he was so weighed down with public cares that his constitution, otherwise by no means strong, began to give way, for he was excruciatingly pained with stone, and he was enfeebled by the weakness of his stomach; and yet it was the will of God that during this very time, which was one of the greatest perplexity in public matters, he should rescue the State while on the brink of ruin.

As far as we can conjecture by human reason, had he not brought speedy help to the Church in its hour of need, it would have been engulfed in a sea of miseries; for, in consequence of an inconsiderate rising of the common people in arms, the rage of the King and the nobles, who had by this time left Edinburgh and gone to Linlithgow, had risen to the greatest fury, and, in consequence, both Church and State were exposed to a great and twofold danger. The dismal and mournful state of things at that time presented a melancholy and fearful aspect. After many had in vain exerted their utmost efforts to settle these tumults, at last there shone forth like a star of tranquil safety, the holy prudence of Rollock, seasoned with piety, modesty, humility; which seized such hold on the royal breast, that the royal resolves against the people of Edinburgh, previously bent on harsh measures, and that, in the belief of many, beyond the reach of reconciliation, were mitigated, and Church and State were rescued from the flames of destruction. But although Rollock’s reputation increased in consequence of delivering the Church from its then melancholy condition, I pass over the particulars of these proceedings, lest I should be led into writing a lengthened history of that time, and should make a longer digression than accords with my more immediate object.

Immediately after the public affairs had been quietly settled by Rollock’s constant watchfulness and unwearied labors, there followed the General Assembly at Dundee, which the King thought fit to honor with his presence. Rollock was unanimously chosen Moderator of the Assembly. In it, the acts which had been passed at the Assembly of Perth held immediately before, and which appeared to be rather harsh, received a milder interpretation. The King demanded that the Assembly should appoint some individuals to watch on behalf of the Church, that she should receive no injury.

A vote is immediately passed to this effect, that there should be named men distinguished for piety and prudence, to whom this duty should be committed. Of these Rollock was one. Their duties were limited, both with regard to time, and to the manner and the principle of their discharging them; and it was resolved that they should render to the subsequent Assembly an account of the manner in which they had discharged their functions. This commission strenuously exert themselves, by well-considered measures, and patient industry, to repair, and gradually to restore the Church, miserably shattered by the tumult already mentioned.

In the end of the winter of 1598, he had been prevented by the increasing severity of his disease from stirring out of doors. William Scott, bound to him by the dearest ties of friendship, invites him to remove to his house, that, if possible, by the enjoyment of a more temperate and a purer atmosphere, he might recover his health—an invitation of which he availed himself. At first he was a little better, in consequence of the change of air; but immediately thereafter, the disease recurring with redoubled violence confined him to his bed. When he perceived his breath failing him, and that he was drawing near the gates of death, experiencing a heavenly delight, he imparted intense pleasure to the minds of all who visited him by his sweet conversation, which bore evident marks of its divine source. But this joy was interrupted by universal bursts of lamentation, when they thought of a man of his great usefulness being cut off before he had reached the flower of his life—when they considered that the Church was about to be deprived of a father, and the State of the pillar of its safety, and that no one would be left to quiet the tumults in the Church, to reconcile to an offended prince his subjects, or restore the Church to his favor. He arranges his private affairs with his wonted prudence; then he earnestly commends to the care of his friends, particularly to William Scott, of whose remarkable trustworthiness and affection he had already had many proofs, his wife, then with child for the first time, after their marriage had subsisted for eleven years without offspring. Patrick Galloway and David Lindsay having come to see him, he solemnly declared his affection to his prince, which had ever been deep-seated in his heart, and declared that he would die in the same sentiments. He then demands of them to go to the King, and to exhort him to tread till his last breath, with unwavering steps, the path of religion, which he had hitherto pursued with unfaltering course, never to be led astray from it, either by any hope of extending the regal power, or by the crafty artifices of designing men, and to feel and speak of the ministers of the gospel with that reverence which was their due. “For that the ministry of Christ, however humble and mean in human estimation, was glorious in the sight of God; that although ministers were the filth and off-scouring of the world, yet thereafter they would shine forth with transcendent glory.”

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Here is a quick synopsis of Robert Rollock, a wonderful Christian and part of our Christian heritage: Robert Rollock (c. 1555 – 8 February 1599) was the first regent and first principal of the University of Edinburgh.

He was the son of David Rollock of Powis, near Stirling. He received his early education at the school of Stirling from Thomas Buchanan, a nephew of George Buchanan, and, after graduating from the University of St Andrews in 1577, became a regent there in 1580. In 1583 he was appointed by the Edinburgh town council sole regent of the towns college (Academia Jacobi Sexti, afterwards the University of Edinburgh), and three years later he received from the same source the title of principal, or first master, and was engaged in lecturing on philosophy.

When the staff of the young college was increased by the appointment of additional regents, he assumed with consent of the presbytery the office of professor of theology. From 1587 he also preached regularly in the East Kirk every Sunday at 7 am, and in 1596 he accepted one of the eight ministerial charges of the city. He took a prominent part in the somewhat troubled church politics of the day, and distinguished himself by gentleness and tact, as well as ability. He was appointed on several occasions to committees of presbytery and assembly on pressing ecclesiastical business. He was elected moderator of the General Assembly held at Dundee in May 1597. In 1598 he was translated to the parish church of the Upper Tolbooth, Edinburgh, and immediately thereafter to that of the Grey Friars (then known as the Magdalen Church). He died in Edinburgh on the 8th of February 1599.

Rollock wrote Commentaries on the Epistles to the Ephesians (1590) and Thessalonians (1598) and Hebrews (1605), the book of Daniel (1591), the Gospel of St John (1599) and some of the Psalms (1598); an analysis of the Epistle to the Romans (1594), and Galatians (1602); also Questions and Answers on the Covenant of God (1596), and a Treatise on Effectual Calling (1597).

Soon after his death eleven Sermons (Certaine Sermons upon Several Places of the Epistles of Paul, 1599) were published from notes taken by his students. His Select Works were edited by W Gunn for the Wodrow Society (1844-1849).

A Life by George Robertson and Henry Charteris was reprinted by the Bannatyne Club in 1826. See also the introduction to the Select Works, and Sir Alexander Grant’s History of the University of Edinburgh.