Finding Answers for the Crookedness of Life

Excerpt taken from “The Crook in the Lot”
Written by Thomas Boston
Adapted and modernized for the young reader
 crooked-path
“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?” —Ecclesiastes 7:13.
 

A just view of our afflictions is altogether necessary for proper Christian deportment under them…

…and this view can only be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for it is the “Light of the World” alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and consequently, crooked designs becoming the Divine perfections. When they are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of our afflictions, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances.
 

It is under this view that Solomon, in the preceding part of Ecclesiastes 7, advances several paradoxes, which are surprising determinations in favor of certain things, that, to the eye of sense, looking gloomy and hideous, are therefore generally reputed out of order, and shocking. For he pronounces the day of one’s death to be better than the day of his birth; namely, the day of the death of one, who, having become the friend of God through faith, has led a life to the honor of God, and service of his generation, and in this way raised to himself the good and savvy name better than precious ointment.

 

In like manner, he pronounces the house of mourning to be preferable to the house of feasting, sorrow to laughter, and a wise man’s rebuke to a fool’s song. As for that, even though the latter is indeed the more pleasant, yet the former is the more profitable. And observing with concern, how men are in danger, not only from the world’s frowns and ill-usage, for oppression can make a wise man mad, but also from its smiles and caresses, which is a gift destroying the heart. Therefore, since whatever way it goes there is danger, he pronounces the end of every worldly thing better than the beginning of it. And from the whole he justly infers, that it is better to be humble and patient, than proud and impatient under afflicting dispensation; since, in the former case, we wisely submit to what is really best; in the latter, we fight against it. And he dissuades from being angry with our lot, because of the adversity found in it. He cautions against making odious comparisons of former and present times, by which point he is insinuating against undue reflections on the providence of God: and, against that querulous and fretful disposition. Here he first prescribes a general remedy, namely, holy wisdom, as that which enables us to make the best of everything, and even gives life in the most killing of circumstances; and then he offers a particular remedy, consisting in a due application of that wisdom, towards taking a just view of the case: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?”
 
In which words are proposed,
 
1. The remedy itself;
2. The suitableness of it.
 
1. The remedy itself, is a wise eyeing of the hand of God on all we find hard to bear on us: “Consider the work of God,” namely, His providence in the crooked, rough, and disagreeable parts of your afflictions, the crosses you find in it. For you see very well the cross itself. Yes, you turn it over and over in your mind and leisurely view it on all sides. You look to the primary cause of it, and also to the other secondary cause of it, and so you find yourself in a fret. But, would that you would be quieted and satisfied in the matter, lifting up your eyes towards heaven, seeing the doing of God in it, the operation of His hand. Look at that, and consider it well; eye the first look at the crookedness in your lot; but behold, how it is the work of God, how is it His doing?
 
2. Such a view of the crookedness of our afflictions is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them: “For who can make that straight which God has made crooked?” As to the crookedness in your life, God has made it; and he will continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even things out, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: for it will not change no matter what you do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is the proper means at once to silence and to satisfy man, and so to bring him to a dutiful submission to his Maker and Governor, no matter the crookedness and afflictions in his life.
 

The Consolation of the Righteous, and the Disconsolation of the Wicked in, THE RESURRECTION

Taken and adapted from “Human Nature in its Fourfold State”
Written by, Thomas Boston

resurrection-

“Marvel not at this—for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear his voice—and shall come forth; those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”      –John 5:28-29
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These words are part of the defense which our Lord Jesus Christ makes for himself…

…when persecuted by the Jews, for curing the impotent man and ordering him to carry away his bed on the Sabbath; and for vindicating his conduct, when accused by them of having thereby profaned that day. On this occasion he professes himself not only the Lord of the Sabbath, but also Lord of life and death; declaring, in the words of the text, the resurrection of the dead to be brought to pass by his power. This he introduces with these words, as with a solemn preface, “Marvel not at this,”—at this strange discourse of mine—do not wonder to hear me, whose appearance is so very base in your eyes; for the day is coming, in which the dead shall be raised by my power.

Observe in this text,

  1. The doctrine of the resurrection asserted, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” The dead bodies, which are reduced to dust, shall revive, and evidence life by hearing and moving.
  2. The author of it—Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” verse 27. The dead shall hear his voice, and be raised thereby.
  3. The number that shall be raised, “All that are in the graves,” that is, all the dead bodies of men, howsoever differently disposed of, in different kinds of graves; or all the dead, good and bad. They are not all buried in graves, properly so called—some are burnt to ashes; some drowned, and buried in the bellies of fish; yes, some devoured by man-eaters, called cannibals; but, wherever the matter or substance of which the body was composed is to be found, thence they shall come forth.
  4. The great distinction that shall be made between the godly and the wicked—they shall indeed both rise again in the resurrection. None of the godly shall be missing; though, perhaps, they either had no burial, or a very obscure one; and all the wicked shall come forth; their vaulted tombs shall hold them no longer than the voice is uttered. But the former have a joyful resurrection to life, while the latter have a dreadful resurrection to damnation.
  5. The set time of this great event—there is an hour, or certain fixed period of time, appointed of God for it. We are not told when that hour will be, but that it is coming; for this, among other reasons, that we may always be ready. Doctrine.

There shall be a resurrection of the dead. In discoursing of this subject, I shall—

I. Show the certainty of the resurrection.
II. I shall inquire into the nature of it.
III. And, Lastly, make some practical improvement of the whole.

I. In showing the CERTAINTY of the resurrection, I shall evince,

  1. That God can raise the dead.
  2. That he will do it; which are the two grounds or topics laid down by Christ himself, when disputing with the Sadducees, Matt. 22:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, you do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

Seeing God is almighty, surely he can raise the dead. We have instances of this powerful work of God, both in the Old and New Testament. The son of the widow in Sarepta was raised from the dead, 1 Kings 17:22; the Shunammite’s son, 2 Kings 4:35; and the man “cast into the sepulcher of Elisha,” chapter 13:21. In which we may observe a gradation, the second of these miraculous events being more illustrious than the first, and the third than the second. The first of these persons was raised when he was but newly dead; the prophet Elijah, who raised him being present at his decease. The second, when he had lain dead a considerable time; namely, while his mother traveled from Shunem, to mount Carmel, reckoned about the distance of sixteen miles, and returned from thence to her house, with Elisha, who raised him. The last, not until they were burying him, and the corpse was cast into the prophet’s grave. In like manner, in the New Testament, Jairus’s daughter, Mark 5:41, and Dorcas, Acts 9:40, were both raised to life, when lately dead; the widow’s son in Nain, when they were carrying him out to bury him, Luke 12:11-15; and Lazarus, when putrid in the grave, John 11:39, 44.

Can men make curious glasses out of ashes, reduce flowers into ashes, and raise them again out of these ashes, restoring them to their former beauty? And cannot the great Creator, who made all things of nothing, raise man’s body, after it is reduced into the dust? If it be objected, “How can men’s bodies be raised up again, after they are reduced to dust, and the ashes of many generations are mingled together?” Scripture and reason furnish the answer, “With men it is impossible, but not with God.” It is absurd for men to deny that God can do a thing, because they see not how it may be done. How small a portion do we know of his ways! How absolutely incapable are we of conceiving distinctly of the extent of almighty power, and much more of comprehending its actings, and method of procedure! I question not, but many illiterate men are as great unbelievers as to many chemical experiments, as some learned men are to the doctrine of the resurrection—and as these last are ready to deride the former, so, “the Lord will have them in derision.”

What a mystery was it to the Indians, that the Europeans could, by a piece of paper, converse together at the distance of some hundreds of miles! How much were they astonished to see them, with their guns, produce as it were thunder and lightning in a moment, and at pleasure kill men afar off! Shall some men do such things as are wonders in the eyes of others because they cannot comprehend them, and shall men confine the infinite power of God within the narrow boundaries of their own shallow capacities, in a matter no ways contrary to reason! An inferior nature has but a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior. Brutes do not conceive of the actings of reason in men; and men have but imperfect notions of the power of angels— how low and inadequate a conception, then, must a finite nature have of the power of that which is infinite! Though we cannot conceive how God acts, yet we ought to believe he can do above what we can think or conceive.

Therefore, let the bodies of men be laid in the grave; let them rot there, and be reduced into the most minute particles—or let them be burnt, and the ashes cast into rivers, or thrown up into the air, to be scattered by the wind—let the dust of a thousand generations be mingled, and the steams of the dead bodies wander to and fro in the air—let birds or wild beasts eat the bodies, or the fish of the sea devour them, so that the parts of human bodies, thus destroyed, pass into substantial parts of birds, beasts or fish; or, what is more that let man-eaters, who themselves must die and rise again, devour human bodies, and let others devour them again, and then let our modern Sadducees propose the questions in these cases, as the ancient Sadducees did in the case of the woman who had been married to seven husbands successively, Matt. 22:28. We answer, as our blessed Lord and Savior did, ver. 29, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” We believe God to be omniscient and omnipotent; infinite in knowledge and in power—and hence, agreeably to the dictates of reason, we conclude the possibility of the resurrection, even in the cases supposed.

Material things may change their forms and shapes, may be reduced to the principles of which they are formed—but they are not annihilated, or reduced to nothing; nor can they be so, by any created power. God is omniscient, his understanding is infinite; therefore he knows all things; what they were at any time, what they are, and where they are to be found. Though the countryman, who comes into the apothecary’s shop, cannot find out the drug he wants; yet the apothecary himself knows what he has in his shop, whence it came, and where it is to be found. And, in a mixture of many different seeds, the expert gardener can distinguish between each of them. Why then may not Omniscience distinguish between dust and dust? Can he, who knows all things to perfection, be liable to any mistake about his own creatures? Whoever believes an infinite understanding, must needs own, that no mass of dust is so jumbled together, but God perfectly comprehends, and infallibly knows, how the most minute particle, and every one of them is to be matched.

II. shall inquire into the NATURE of the resurrection, showing,

1. Who shall be raised.
2. What shall be raised.
3. How the dead shall be raised.

  1. WHO shall be raised? Our text tells us who they are; namely “all that are in the graves,” that is, all mankind who are dead. As for those people who are found alive at the second coming of Christ, they shall not die, and soon after be raised again; but such a change shall suddenly pass upon them as shall be to them instead of dying and rising again; so that their bodies shall become like lo those bodies which are raised out of their graves, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Hence those who are to be judged at the great day, are distinguished into living and dead, Acts 10:42. All the dead shall arise, whether godly or wicked, just or unjust, Acts 24:15, old or young; the whole race of mankind, even those who never saw the sun, but died in their mother’s womb—Rev. 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.” The sea and earth shall give up their dead without reserve, none shall be kept back.
  2. WHAT shall be raised? The bodies of mankind. A man is said to die, when the soul is separated from the body, “and returns onto God who gave it,” Eccl. 12:7. But it is the body only which is laid in the grave, and can be properly said to be raised—therefore the resurrection, strictly speaking, applies to the body only. Moreover, it is the same body that dies, which shall rise again. At the resurrection, men shall not appear with other bodies, as to substance, than those which they now have, and which are laid down in the grave; but with the self-same bodies, endowed with other qualities. The very notion of a resurrection implies this, since nothing can be said to rise again, but that which falls.
  3. HOW shall the dead be raised? The same Jesus, who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, shall, at the last day, to the conviction of all, be declared both Lord and Christ—appearing as Judge of the world, attended with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7, “He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,” 1 Thess. 4:16, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and those who are alive, changed,” 1 Cor. 15:52. Whether this shout, voice, and trumpet, denote some audible voice, or only the workings of Divine power, for the raising of the dead, and other dreadful purposes of that day, though the former seems probable, I will not positively determine. There is no question but this coming of the Judge of the world will be in greater majesty and terror than we can conceive—yet that dreadful grandeur, majesty, and state, which was displayed at the giving of the law, namely, thunders heard, lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount seen, the Lord descending in fire, the whole mount quaking greatly, and the voice of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod. 19:16-19, may help us to form a becoming thought of it. However, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard all the world over; it shall reach to the depths of the sea, and of the earth. At this loud alarm, bones shall come together, bone to his bone—the scattered dust of all the dead shall be gathered together, dust to his dust; “neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk everyone in his path;” and, meeting together again, shall make up that very same body which crumbled into dust in the grave. At the same alarming voice shall every soul come again into its own body, never more to be separated. The dead can stay no longer in their graves, but must bid an eternal farewell to their long homes—they hear His voice, and must come forth, and receive their final sentence.

Now as there is a great difference between the godly and the wicked, in their life, and in their death; so will there be also in their resurrection.

The godly shall be raised out of their graves, by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, the blessed bond of their union with him, Rom. 8:11, “He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwells in you.” Jesus Christ arose from the dead, as the “first-fruits of those who slept,” 1 Cor. 15:20, So those who are Christ’s shall follow at his coming, ver. 23. The mystical head having got above the waters of death, he cannot but bring forth the members after him, in due time.

They shall come forth with inexpressible joy; for then shall that passage of Scripture, which, in its immediate scope, respected the Babylonish captivity, be fully accomplished in its most extensive meaning, Isa. 26:19, “Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust.” As a bride adorned for her husband, goes forth of her bedchamber unto the marriage—so shall the saints go forth of their graves, unto the marriage of the Lamb. Joseph had a joyful coming out from the prison, Daniel from the lion’s den, and Jonah from the whale’s belly—yet these are but faint representations of the saint’s coming forth from the grave, at the resurrection. Then shall they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in highest strains; death being quite swallowed up in victory. They had, while in this life, sometimes sung, by faith the triumphant song over death and the grave, “O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?” But then they sing the same, from sight and sense; the black band of doubts and fears, which frequently disturbed them, and disturbed their minds, is forever dispersed and driven away.

May we not suppose the soul and body of every saint, as in mutual embraces, to rejoice in each other, and triumph in their happy meeting again; and the BODY to address the soul thus—”O my soul, have we got together again, after so long a separation! Are you come back to your old habitation, never more to remove! O joyful meeting! How unlike is our present state to what our case was, when a separation was made between us at death! Now is our mourning turned into joy; the light and gladness sown before, are now sprung up; and there is a perpetual spring in Immanuel’s land. Blessed be the day in which I was united to you; whose chief care was to get Christ in us the hope of glory, and to make me a temple for his Holy Spirit. O blessed soul, which in the time of our pilgrimage, kept your eye to the land then afar off, but now near at hand! You took me into secret places, and there made me to bow these knees before the Lord, that I might bear a part in our humiliation before him—and now is the time that I am lifted up. You did employ this tongue in confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, which henceforth shall be employed in praising for evermore. You made these sometimes weeping eyes, sow that seed of tears, which is now sprung up in joy that shall never end. I was happily beat down by you, and kept in subjection, while others pampered their flesh, and made their bellies their gods, to their own destruction—but now I gloriously arise, to take my place in the mansions of glory, while they are dragged out of their graves to be cast into fiery flames. Now, my soul, you shall complain no more of a sick and pained body; you shall be no more clogged with weak and weary flesh; I shall now keep pace with you in the praises of our God for evermore.”

And may not the SOUL say—“O happy day in which I return to dwell in that blessed body, which was, and is, and will be forever, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit! Now I shall be eternally knit to you—the silver cord shall never be loosed more—death shall never make another separation between us. Arise then, my body, and come away! And let these eyes, which were used to weep over my sins, behold with joy the face of our glorious Redeemer; lo! This is our God, and we have waited for him. Let these ears, which were used to hear the word of life in the temple below, come and hear the hallelujahs in the temple above. Let these feet, that carried me to the congregation of saints on earth, take their place among those in heaven. And let this tongue, which confessed Christ before men, and used to be still dropping something to his commendation, join the choir of the upper house, in his praises for evermore. You shall fast no more, but keep an everlasting feast; you shall weep no more, neither shall your countenance be overclouded; but you shall shine forever, as a star in the skies. We took part together in the fight; come, let us go together to receive and wear the crown.”

But on the other hand, the WICKED shall be raised by the power of Christ, as a just Judge, who is to render vengeance to his enemies. The same divine power which shut up their souls in hell, and kept their bodies in the grave, as in a prison, shall bring them forth, that soul and body together may receive the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation, and be shut up together in the prison of hell.

They shall come forth from their graves with unspeakable horror and consternation. They shall be dragged forth, as so many malefactors out of a dungeon, to be led to execution crying to the mountains and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb. Fearful was the cry in Egypt, that night on which the destroying angel went through, and slew their first-born. Dreadful were the shouts, at the earth opening her mouth, and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram, and all that appertained to them. What hideous crying then must there be, when at the sound of the last trumpet, the earth and sea shall open their mouths, and cast forth all the wicked world, delivering them up to the dreadful Judge! How will they cry, roar, and tear themselves! How will the jovial companions weep and howl, and curse one another! How will the earth be filled with their doleful shrieks and lamentations, while they are pulled out like sheep for the slaughter!

They who, while they lived in this world, were profane, debauchees, covetous worldlings, or formal hypocrites, shall then, in anguish of mind, wring their hands, beat their breasts, and bitterly lament their case, roaring forth their complaints, and calling themselves beasts, fools, and madmen, for having acted so mad a part in this life, in not believing what they then heard. They were driven away in their wickedness at death—and now all their sins rise with them; and, like so many serpents, twist themselves about their wretched souls, and bodies too, which have a frightful meeting, after a long separation.

Then we may suppose the miserable BODY thus to accost the soul—“Have you again found me, O mine enemy, my worst enemy, savage soul, more cruel than a thousand tigers. Cursed be the day that ever we met. O that I had remained a lifeless lump, rotted in the womb of my mother, and had never received sense, life, and motion! O that I had rather been the body of a toad, or serpent, than your body; for then had I lain still, and had not seen this terrible day. If I was to be necessarily yours, O that I had been your donkey, or one of your dogs, rather than your body; for then would you have taken more true care of me than you did! O cruel kindness! Have you thus hugged me to death, thus nourished me to the slaughter? Is this the effect of your tenderness for me? Is this what I am to reap of your pains and concern about me? What do riches and pleasures avail now, when this fearful reckoning is come! Of which you had fair warning? O cruel grave! Why did you not close your mouth upon me forever? Why did you not hold fast your prisoner? Why have you shaken me out, while I lay still and was at rest? Cursed soul, wherefore did you not abide in your place, wrapped up in flames of fire? Wherefore are you come back, to take me also down to the bars of the pit? You made me an instrument of unrighteousness; and now I must be thrown into the fire. This tongue was by you employed in mocking at religion, cursing, swearing, lying, backbiting, and boasting; and withheld from glorifying God—and now it must not have so much as a drop of water to cool it in the flames! You withdrew mine ears from hearing the sermons which gave warning of this day. You found ways and means to stop them from attending to seasonable exhortations, admonitions, and reproofs. But why did you not stop them from hearing the sound of this dreadful trumpet? Why do you not rove and fly away on the wings of imagination, thereby, as it were, transporting me during these frightful transactions; as you were used to do, when I was set down at sermons, communions, prayers, and godly conferences; that I might now have as little sense of the one, as I formerly had of the other? But ah! I must burn forever, for your love to your lusts, your profanity, your sensuality, your unbelief, and hypocrisy.”

But may not the SOUL answer—“Wretched and vile carcass! I am now driven back into you. O that you had lain forever in your grave! Had I not torment enough before? Must I be knit to you again, that, being joined together as two dry sticks for the fire, the wrath of God may burn us up? It was by caring for you, that I lost myself. It was your appetites, and the gratifying of your senses, which ruined me. How often was I ensnared by your ears! How often betrayed by your eyes! It was to spare you, that I neglected opportunities of making peace with God, loitered away Sabbaths, lived in the neglect of prayer; went to the house of mirth, rather than to the house of mourning; and that I chose to deny Christ, and forsake his cause and interest in the world; and so am fallen a sacrifice to your cursed ease. When at any time my conscience began to awake, and I was setting myself to think of my sins, and the misery which I have felt since we parted, and now feel, it was you that diverted me from these thoughts, and drew me off to make provision for you. O wretched flesh! By your silken cords of fleshly lusts, I was drawn to destruction, in defiance of my light and conscience—but now they are turned into iron chains, with which I am to be held under wrath for evermore. Ah wretched profits! Ah cursed pleasures! For which I must lie forever in utter darkness!”

But no complaints will then avail. O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

As to the qualities with which the bodies of the SAINTS shall be endowed at the resurrection, the apostle tells us, they shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

  1. The bodies of the saints shall be raised INCORRUPTIBLE. They are now, as the bodies of others, a mass of corruption, full of the seeds of diseases and death; and, when dead, become so offensive, even to their dearest friends, that they must be buried out of their sight, and cast into the grave, where they are to rot, and be consumed—yes, loathsome sores and diseases make some of them very unsightly, even while alive. But, at the resurrection, they leave all the seeds of corruption behind them in the grave; and rise incorruptible, incapable of the least indisposition, sickness, or sore, and much more, of dying. External violences and inward causes of pain, shall forever cease—they shall feel it no more—yes, they shall have an everlasting youth and vigor, being no more subject to the decays which age produced in this life.
  2. They shall be GLORIOUS bodies; not only beautiful, lovely, and well proportioned, but full of splendor and brightness. The most beautiful face, and best proportioned body, that now appears in the world, is not to be named in comparison with the body of the lowest saint at the resurrection; for “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun,” Matt. 13:43. If there was a dazzling glory on Moses’ face, when he came down from the mount; and if Stephen’s face was “as it had been the face of an angel,” when he stood before the council; how much more shall the faces of the saints be beautiful and glorious, full of sweet agreeable majesty, when they have put off all corruption, and shine as the sun! But observe, this beauty of the saints is not restricted to their faces, but diffuses itself through their whole bodies—for the whole body is raised in glory, and shall be fashioned like unto their Lord and Savior’s glorious body, in whose transfiguration, not only did his face shine as the sun, but his clothing also was white as the light, Matt. 17:2. Whatever defects or deformities the bodies of the saints had when laid in the grave, occasioned by accidents in life, or arising from secret causes in their formation in the womb, they shall rise out of the grave free of all these. But suppose the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars or prints of the wounds and bruises which some of the saints received while on earth, for his sake, should remain in their bodies after the resurrection; the same as the print of the nails remained in the Lord Jesus’ body after his resurrection—these marks will rather be badges of distinction, and add to their glory, than detract from their beauty. But however that be, surely Isaac’s eyes shall not then be dim, nor will Jacob halt—Leah shall not be tender-eyed, nor Mephibosheth lame of his legs. For as the goldsmith melts down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mold, bringing it forth with a new luster; so shall the vile body, which lay dissolved in the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely proportion.
  3. They shall be POWERFUL and strong bodies. The strongest men on earth, being frail and mortal, may justly be reckoned weak and feeble; for their strength, however great, is quickly worn out and consumed. Many of the saints now have weaker bodies than others; but “the feeble among them,” to allude to Zechariah 12:8, at that day shall be “as David, and the house of David shall be as God.” A grave divine says, that one shall be stronger at the resurrection than a hundred, yes, than thousands are now. Certainly great, and vastly great, must the strength of glorified bodies be; for they shall bear up under an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The mortal body is not at all adapted to such a state. Do transports of joy occasion death, as well as excessive grief, and can it bear up under a weight of glory? Can it exist in union with a soul filled with heaven’s rapture? Surely not. The mortal body would sink under that load, and such fullness of joy would make the earthen pitcher to fly all in pieces.

The Scripture has plainly told us, “That flesh and blood,” namely, in their present frail state, though it were the flesh and blood of a giant, “cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 15:50. How strong must the bodily eyes be, which, to the soul’s eternal comfort, shall behold the dazzling glory and splendor of the New Jerusalem; and steadfastly look at the transcendent glory and brightness of the man Christ, the Lamb, who is the light of that city, the inhabitants whereof shall shine as the sun! The Lord of heaven does now in mercy “hold back the face of his throne, and spreads his clouds upon it;” that mortals may not be confounded with the rays of glory which shine forth from it, Job 26:9. But then the veil shall be removed, and they made able to behold it, to their unspeakable joy. How strong must their bodies be, who shall not rest night nor day, but be, without intermission, forever employed in the heavenly temple, to sing and proclaim the praises of God without weariness, which is a weakness incident to the frail mortal, but not to the glorified body!

  1. They shall be SPIRITUAL bodies. Not that they shall be changed into spirits, but they shall be spiritual as to their spirit-like qualities and endowments. The body shall be absolutely subservient to the soul, subject to it, and influenced by it, and therefore no more a clog to its activity, nor the animal appetites a snare to it. There will be no need to beat it down, nor to drag it to the service of God. The soul, in this life is so much influenced by the body, that, in Scripture style, it is said to be carnal; but then the body shall be spiritual, readily serving the soul in the business of heaven, and in that only, as if it had no more relation to earth than a spirit. It will have no further need of the now necessary supports of life, namely, food, and clothing, and the like. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” Rev. 7:16. “For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Then shall the saints be strong without food or drink, warm without clothes, ever in perfect health without medicine, and ever fresh and vigorous, though they shall never sleep, but serve him night and day in his temple, Rev. 7:15. They will need none of these things, any more than spirits do. They will be nimble and active as spirits, and of a most refined constitution. The body, that is now lumpish and heavy, shall then be most sprightly. No such thing as melancholy shall be found to make the heart heavy, and the spirits flag and sink. I shall not further dip into this matter— the day will declare it.

As to the qualities of the bodies of the WICKED at the resurrection, I find the Scripture speaks but little of them. Whatever they may need, they shall not get a drop of water to cool their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. Whatever may be said of their weakness, it is certain they will be continued forever in life, that they may be ever dying; they shall bear up, however unwillingly under the load of God’s wrath, and shall not faint away under it. “The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever. And they have no rest day nor night.” Surely they shall not partake of the glory and beauty of the saints. All their glory dies with them, and shall never rise again. Daniel tells us, they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, chap. 12:2. Shame follows sin, as the shadow follows the body.

But the wicked in this world walk in the dark, and often under a disguise— nevertheless, when the Judge comes in flaming fire at the last day, they will be brought to the light; their mask will be taken off, and the shame of their nakedness will clearly appear to themselves and others, and fill their faces with confusion. Their shame will be too deep for blushes—all faces shall gather blackness at that day, when they shall go forth from their graves, as malefactors out of their prisons to execution—for their resurrection is the resurrection of damnation. The greatest beauties, who now pride themselves in their loveliness of body, not regarding their deformed souls, will then appear with a ghastly countenance, a grim and death-like visage. Their looks will be frightful, and they will be horrible spectacles, coming forth from their graves, like infernal furies out of the pit.

They shall rise also to everlasting contempt. They shall then be the most contemptible creatures, filled with contempt from God, as vessels of dishonor, whatever honorable employments they had in this world; and filled also with contempt from men. They will be most despicable in the eyes of the saints; even of those saints who gave them honor here, either for their high station, the gifts of God in them, or because they were of the same human nature with themselves. But then their bodies shall be as so many loathsome carcasses, which they shall go forth and look upon with abhorrence; yes, “They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh,” Isaiah 66:24. The word here rendered “an abhorring,” is the same which in the other text is rendered “contempt,” and Isaiah and Daniel point at one and the same thing, namely, the loathsomeness of the wicked at the resurrection. They will be loathsome in the eyes of one another. The unclean wretches were never so lovely to each other, and then they will be loathsome; dear companions in sin will then abhor each other; and the great and honorable men who were wicked, shall be no more regarded by their wicked subjects, their servants, their slaves, than the mire in the streets.

Use I. Of COMFORT to the people of God. The doctrine of the resurrection is a spring of consolation and joy unto you. Think on it, O believers, when you are in the house of mourning, for the loss of your godly relations or friends, “That you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope;” for you will meet again, 1 Thess. 4:13, 14. They are but laid down to rest in their beds for a little while, Isa. 57:2; but in the morning of the resurrection they will awake again, and come forth out of their graves. The vessel of honor was but coarse, it had much alloy of base metal in it; it was too weak, too dim and inglorious, for the upper house, whatever luster it had in the lower one. It was cracked, it was polluted; and therefore it must be melted down, to be refined and fashioned more gloriously. Do but wait a while, and you shall see it come forth out of the furnace of earth, vying with the stars in brightness; no, as the sun when he goes forth in his might. Have you laid your infant children in the grave? You will see them again. Your God calls himself “the God of your seed;” which, according to our Savior’s exposition, secures the glorious resurrection of the body. Therefore, let the covenant you embraced for yourselves and your babes now in the dust, comfort your heart, in the joyful expectation, that by virtue thereof, they shall be raised up in glory—and that as being no more infants of days, but brought to a full and perfect stature, as generally supposed.

Be not discouraged by reason of a weak and sickly body—there is a day coming, when you shall be entirely whole. At the resurrection, Timothy shall be no more liable to his often infirmities; his body, that was weak and sickly, even in youth, shall be raised in power. Lazarus shall healthy and sound, his body being raised incorruptible. Although perhaps, your weakness will not allow you now to go one furlong to meet the Lord in public ordinances, yet the day comes, when your body shall be no more a clog to you, but you shall “meet the Lord in the air,” 1 Thess. 4:17. It will be with the saints coming up from the grave, as with the Israelites when they came out of Egypt—”There was not one feeble person among their tribes.”

Have you an unlovely or deformed body? There is a glory within, which will then set all right without, according to all the desire of your heart. It shall rise a glorious, beautiful, handsome, and well-proportioned body. Its unloveliness or deformities may go with it to the grave, but they shall not come back with it. O that those, who are now so desirous to be beautiful and handsome, would not be too hasty to effect it with their foolish and sinful arts, but wait and study the heavenly art of beautifying the body, by endeavoring now to become all glorious within, with the graces of God’s Spirit! This would at length make them admirable and everlasting beauties. You must indeed, O believer, grapple with death, and shall get the first fall—but you shall rise again, and come off victorious at last. You must go down to the grave; but, though it be your long home, it will not be your everlasting home. You will not hear the voice of your friends there; but you shall hear the voice of Christ there. You may be carried there with mourning, but you shall come up from it rejoicing. Your friends, indeed, will leave you there, but your God will not. What God said to Jacob, concerning his going down to Egypt, Gen. 46:3, 4, he says to you, on your going down to the grave, “Fear not to go down—I will go down with you—and I will also surely bring you up again.” O solid comfort! O glorious hopes! “Therefore comfort” yourselves, and “one another with these words,” 1 Thess. 4:18.

Use 2. Of TERROR to all unregenerate men. You who are yet in your natural state, look at this view of the eternal state; and consider what will be your part in it, if you be not in time brought into a state of grace. Think, O sinner, on that day when the trumpet shall sound, at the voice of which the bars of the pit shall be broken asunder, the doors of the grave shall fly open, the devouring depths of the sea shall throw up their dead, the earth cast forth hers; and death everywhere, in the excess of astonishment, shall let go its prisoners; and your wretched soul and body shall be re-united, to be summoned before the tribunal of God. Then, if you had a thousand worlds at your disposal, you would gladly give them all away, on condition that you might lie still in your grave, with the hundredth part of that ease, with which you have sometimes lain at home on the Lord’s day; or, if that cannot be obtained, that you might be but a spectator of the transactions of that day; as you have been at some solemn occasions, and rich gospel feasts; or, if even that is not to be purchased, that a mountain or a rock might fall on you, and cover you from the face of the Lamb.

Ah! How are men infatuated, thus to trifle away their precious time of life, in almost as little concern about death, as if they were like the beasts that perish! Some will be telling where their corpse must be laid; while yet they have not seriously considered, whether their graves shall be their beds, where they shall awake with joy, in the morning of the resurrection; or their prisons, out of which they shall be brought to receive the fearful sentence. Remember, now is your seed-time; and as yon sow, so shall you reap. God’s seed-time begins at death; and at the resurrection, the bodies of the wicked, that were sown “full of sins, that lie down with them in the dust,” Job 20:11, shall spring up again—sinful, wretched, and vile.

Your bodies, which are now instruments of sin, the Lord will lay aside for fire, at death, and bring them forth for the fire, at the resurrection. That body, which is now employed in God’s service, but is abused by uncleanness and lasciviousness, will then be brought forth in all its vileness, thenceforth to lodge with unclean spirits. The body of the drunkard shall then stagger, by reason of the wine of the wrath of God poured out to him, and poured into him, without mixture. Those who now please themselves in their reveling, will reel to and fro and another rate, when, instead of their songs and music, they shall hear the sound of the last trumpet. Many weary their bodies for worldly gain, who will be loath to distress them for the benefit of their souls; by labor, unreasonably hard, they will quite unfit themselves for the service of God; and, when they have done, will reckon it a very good reason for shifting duty, that they are already tired out with other business; but that day comes, when they will be made to abide a yet greater distress. Many will go several miles for food and clothing, who will not go half the way for the good of their immortal souls; many will be sickly and unable on the Lord’s Day, who will be tolerably well all the rest of the week.

But when that trumpet sounds, the dead shall find their feet, and none shall be missing in that congregation.

When the bodies of the saints shine as the sun; frightful will the looks of their persecutors be. Fearful will their condition be, who shut up the saints in nasty prisons, stigmatized, burnt them to ashes, hanged them, and stuck up their heads and hands in public places, to frighten others from the way of righteousness, which they suffered for. Many faces, now fair, will then gather blackness. They shall be no more admired and caressed for that beauty, which has a worm at the root, that will cause it to issue in loathsomeness and deformity. Ah! What is that beauty, under which there lurks a monstrous, deformed, and graceless heart? What, but a sorry paint, a slight varnish; which will leave the body so much the more ugly, before that flaming fire, in which the Judge shall be “revealed from heaven, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel?” 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. They shall be stripped of all their ornaments, and not have a rag to cover their nakedness—their carcasses shall be an abhorrence to all flesh, and serve as a foil to set off the beauty and glory of the righteous, and make it appear the brighter.

Now is the time to secure, for yourselves, a part in the resurrection of the just—which if you would do, unite with Jesus Christ by faith, rising spiritually from sin, and glorifying God with your bodies. He is the “resurrection and the life,” John 11:25. If your bodies be members of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, they shall certainly arise in glory. Get into this ark now, and you shall come forth with joy into the new world. Rise from your sins; cast away these grave-clothes, putting off your former lusts. How can anyone imagine, that those who continue dead while they live, shall come forth, at the last day, unto the resurrection of life? But that will be the privilege of all those who, having first consecrated their souls and bodies to the Lord by faith, do glorify him with their bodies, as well as their souls; living and acting to him, and for him, yes, and suffering for him too, when he calls them to it.

Earnest Soul Searchings on the Cost of Being a Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 7.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man-Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

the-red-canoe-stefan-kuhn

How can you believe, that receive honor one of another, –and seek not the honor that comes from God only? A grain of faith will cure this lightness of the head and heart.

Consider, 0 my soul, your own vileness? What are you but a poor lump of clay, as to your body, that will soon return to the dust, and be a sweet morsel for the worms that now you tramples upon! Hast you not seen how loathsome the body is many times in life, by filthy boils and other noisome diseases, and after death what an ugly aspect it has? Forget not the sight that you saw once in the churchyard of Dunse, how a body, perhaps sometime beautiful, was like thin mortar, but much more vile and abominable.

The time will come that you will be such yourself. But what are you as to your heart, but a vile, base, and ugly thing, so many filthy idols to be found there, like a swarm of the worst of vermin? Are you not as a cage full of unclean birds! What do you think of yourself. What unbelief saw you there, what baseness of every kind? And what day goes over you, but you see still something in you to humble you? And what are you that God has employed in this work? Those that were sometime your fellows are mean and despised; and will you for all this seek your own glory? Woe unto you if you do so.

Consider, That “Him that honors God, God will honor; but he that despises him, shall be lightly esteemed.” Have respect, O my soul, with Moses, to the recompense of reward, and beware of preferring your own to the interest of Christ, lest you be classed among those that seek their own, and not the things of Christ.

Consider also what Christ has done for you. Forget not his goodness, his undeserved goodness to such a base wretch as you are. Let love to him predominate in you, and you shall then be helped to sacrifice all to his glory.

Christ had the good of men’s souls in his eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost; he came to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel. So he sent out the apostle to open the eyes of the blind, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Follow Christ in this, O my soul, that you mayst be a fisher of men. When you study your sermons, let the good of souls be before you; when you preach let this be your design, to endeavor to recover lost sheep, to get some brands plucked out of the burning; to get some converted, and brought in to your Master. Let that be much in your mind, and be concerned for that, whatever doctrine you preach. Consider, O my soul, for this effect, What the design of the gospel is. What is it but this? This is the finis operis; and if it be not the finis operandis, it is very lamentable. It is the everlasting gospel that Christ has made manifest, declaring the will of God concerning the salvation of man.

Consider wherefore God did send you out. Was it to win a livelihood to yourself? Woe to them that count gain godliness; that will make the gospel merely subservient to their temporal wants. Rather would I perish for want than win bread that way. Well then, was it not to get you mighty labor to gain souls to Christ? Yea, it was. Have a care then that you be not like some that go to a place, being sent thither by their master, but forget their errand, when they come there, and trifle away their time in vanity and fooleries.

Consider the worth of souls. If you remember that, you can not but have an eye to their good. The soul is a precious thing: which appears if you consider,

(1.) Its noble endowments adorned with understanding, capable to know the highest object; will to choose the same; affections to pursue after it, to love God, hate sin, in a word, to glorify God here, and to enjoy him here and hereafter.
(2.) It must live or die for ever. It shall either enjoy God through all the ages of eternity, or remain in endless torments for evermore.
(3.) No worldly gain can counterbalance the loss of it. “What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
(4.) It cost Christ his precious blood ere it could be redeemed. It behoved him to bear the Father’s wrath, that the elect should have borne through all eternity; and no less would redeem it. So that the redemption of the soul is indeed precious.
(5.) Christ courts the soul. He stands at the door, and knocks, to get in. The devil courts it with his baits and allurements. And will you, O my soul, be unconcerned for the good of that which is so much courted by Christ and the devil both? Be ashamed to stand as an unconcerned spectator, lest you show yourself none of the Bridegroom’s friends.

Consider the hazard that souls are in. Oh! alas, the most part are going on in the high way to destruction, and that blind-folded. Endeavor then to draw off the veil. They are as brands in the fire: will you then be so cruel as not to be concerned to pluck them out? If so, you shall burn with them, world without end, in the fire of God’s vengeance, and the furnace of his wrath, that shall be seven times more hot for unconcerned preachers than others.

Consider what a sad case you yourself was in, when Christ concerned himself for your good. You were going on in the way to hell as blind as a mole; at last Christ opened thine eyes, and let you see your hazard, by a preacher (worthy Mr. H. Erskine) that was none of the unconcerned Gallios, who spared neither his body, his credit, nor reputation, to gain you, and the like of you. And will you preach unconcerned for others? I should abhor myself as the vilest monster, in so doing. Lord, my soul rises at it when I think on it. My soul hates, and loathes that way of preaching: but without you, I can do nothing. Lord, rather strike me dumb, than suffer me to preach unconcerned for the good of souls; for if dumb, I should murder neither my own soul, nor those of others.

Consider that unconcernedness for the good of souls in preaching, argues,

(1.) A dead lifeless heart, a loveless soul, with respect to Christ. If you have any life or love to Christ, dare you be unconcerned in this matter? Nay, sure, he that has life will move; and he that hath love, will be concerned for the propagating of Christ’s kingdom.
(2.) Unbelief of the threatenings of 
God especially. For if you believe that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God, you can not preach to them as if you were telling a tale. If you believe that they must depart into everlasting fire, your heart will not be so frozen as to be unconcerned for them. The sight of it by faith will thaw your frozen heart.
(3.) A stupid heart, and so a hateful frame. Who would not abhor a watchman that saw the enemy coming on, if he should bid them only in the general provide to resist their enemies, or should tell them that the enemy were coming on, so unconcernedly as they might see he cared not whether they should live or perish? And what a hateful stupidity is it in a preacher of the gospel to be unconcerned for souls, when they are in such hazard ?

The devil shames such preachers.

He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and they, set to keep souls, creep about like a snail. He is in earnest when he tempts; but such are unconcerned whether people hear, or forbear to hear their invitations, reproofs, etc. Yea, how concerned are the devil’s ministers that agent his business for him ? They will compass sea and land to gain one proselyte. And shall the preachers of the gospel be unconcerned?

If it be so that you be unconcerned for the good of souls, it seems you came not in by the door, but have broken over the wall, and are but a thief and a robber, John 10:1, compared with verse 12, “He that is a hireling, sees the wolf coming, flees, and leaves the sheep, and the wolf catches them.” Verse 15, “The hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and cares not for the sheep.” O my soul, if at any time you find your heart unconcerned in not having the good of souls before you, remember this.

Lastly, you can not expect God’s help, if you forget your errand. Have you not known and experienced, that these two, God’s help in preaching, and a concernedness for the good of souls, have gone with you pari passu?

O my soul, then endeavor to be much in following of Christ this way, setting the good of souls before thine eyes; and if you do so, you mayst be a fisher of men, though you know it not.

Solemn Reflections on the Honor of the Master Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 6.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man-Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

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Wherein is Christ to be followed…

…what are those things in him that I must imitate him in? What was the copy that he did cast, which I must write after, in order to my being a fisher of men? What he did by divine power is inimitable ; I am not called to follow him, in converting sinners by my own power ; to work miracles for the confirmation of the doctrine that I preach, etc. But there are some things wherein he is imitable, and must be followed by preachers, if they would expect to be made fishers of men.

First. Christ took not on him the work of preaching the gospel without a call, Is. 61: 1, “For (says he) the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” In this he must be followed by those that would be catchers of men.

He was sent by the Father to preach the gospel; he went not to the work without his Father’s commission. Men must have a call to this work, Heb. 5: 4. They that run unsent, that take on the work without a call from God, cannot expect to do good to a people, Rom. 10:14, Jer. 23. I sent them not, therefore they shall not profit this people. Tell me then, O my soul, whether thou hast thus followed Christ or not? Have you a call from God to this work of the preaching of the gospel? Or have thou run unsent?

In answer to this, I must consider that there is a twofold call, an extraordinary and an ordinary call. The first of these I was not to seek, nor may I pretend to it. The question then is, whether I had an ordinary call from God or not to preach the gospel?

There are these four things in an ordinary call which do make it up.

1. Knowledge of the doctrine of the Christian religion above that of ordinary professors, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. This I endeavored to get by study, and prayer unto the Lord; and did attain to it in some measure, though far below the pitch that I would be at. My knowledge was lawfully tried by the church, and they were satisfied.

2. Aptness to teach, some dexterity of communicating unto others that knowledge, 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:2. This was also tried by the church, and they were satisfied. This hath been acknowledged by others whom I have taught; and God has given me some measure of it, however small.

3. A will some way ready to take on the work of preaching the gospel, 1 Peter 5:2. This I had, for anything I know, since ever the Lord dealt with my soul, unless it was in a time of distress.

4. The call of the church, which I had without any motion from myself, not only to enter on trials, but, being approved, to preach the gospel as a probationer for the ministry; which does say, that what I have done in this work, I have not done without a call from God in an ordinary way, and that I have not run unsent.

Secondly, Christ designed his Father’s glory in the work. It was not honor, applause, and credit from men that he sought, but purely the Father’s glory. Men that design not this, cannot be useful to the church, if it be not per accidens. This all actions are to level at; it is that which in all things should be designed as the ultimate end.

Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Thou see then that thou, O my soul, must follow Christ in this, if thou wouldst be a fisher of men. Lift up thy heart to this noble end, and in all, especially in thy preaching of the gospel, keep this before thine eyes. Beware of seeking thy own glory by reaching. Look not after popular applause; if thou do, thou hast thy reward (Matthew 6:2), look for no more. O my soul, invert not the order, Song of Solomon 6:12, “Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” Have a care of taking a thousand to thyself, and giving God only two hundred. Let his honor be before thine eyes; trample on thy own credit and reputation, and sacrifice it, if need be, to God’s honor. And to help thee to this, consider,

1. That all thou hast is given thee of God. What hast thou that thou hast not received? What an unreasonable thing is it then not to use for his glory what he gives thee; yea, what ingratitude is it? and do thou not hate the character of an ungrateful person? Ingratum si dixeris, omnia dixeris.

2. Consider that what thou hast is a talent given thee by thy great Master to improve till he comes again. If thou improve it for him, then thou shalt get thy reward. If thou wilt make thy own gain thereby, and what thou should improve for him, thou improve for thyself, what canst thou look for then but that God shall take thy talent from thee, and command to cast thee as an unprofitable and unfaithful servant into utter darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth? God has given some great talents; if they improve them for vain-glory to themselves to gain the popular applause, or the Hosannas of the learned, and so sacrifice all to their own net; what a sad meeting will such have at the great day with Christ?

What master would endure that servant, to whom he has given money where with to buy a suit of good clothes to his master, if he should take that money, and buy therewith a suit to himself, which his master should have had? How can it be thought that God will suffer to go unpunished such a preacher as he has given a talent of gifts to, if he shall use these merely to gain a stipend or applause to himself therewith, not respecting the glory of his Master? Woe to thee, O my soul, if thou take this path wherein destroyers of men’s souls and of their own go.

3. Consider that the applause of the world is nothing worth. It is hard to be gotten; for readily the applause of the unlearned is given to him whom the learned despise, and the learned applaud him whom the common people care not for. And when it is received, what have you? A vain empty puff of wind. They think much of thee, thou think much of yourself, and in the meantime God thinks nothing of thee. Remember, O my soul, what Christ said to the Pharisees, Luke 16:15, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God know your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.” Let this scare thee from seeking thyself.

4. Consider, that seeking thy own glory is a dreadful and abominable thing.

(1.)  In that thou then put thyself in God’s room. His glory should be that which thou should aim at, but then thy base self must be sacrificed too. O tremble at this, O my soul, and split not on this rock, otherwise thou shalt be dashed in pieces.

(2.)  In that it is the most gross dissembling with God that can be. Thou pretend to preach Christ to a people; but seeking thy own glory, thou preach yourself, and not him. Thou pretend to be commending Christ and the ways of God to souls, and yet in the meantime thou commend thyself. Will Christ sit with such a mocking of him? O my soul, beware of it; look not for it, but for his glory. Who would not take it for a base affront, to send a servant or a friend to court a woman for him, if he should court her for himself? And will not Christ be avenged on self-preaching ministers much more ?

(3.)  In that it is base treachery and cruelty to the souls of hearers, when a man seeks to please their fancy more than to gain their souls, to get people to approve him more than to get them to approve themselves to God. This is a soul-murdering way, and it is dear-bought applause that is won by the blood of souls. O my soul, beware of this. Let them call thee what they will ; but seek thou God’s glory and their good.

 

Learning From the Master Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 5.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

Fisherman.-Marion-McNay.-Oil-on-cardboard.-1950

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…”   –Psalm 92: 12-14

 Growth and motion is an evidence of life…

I move forward towards heaven, my affections are going out after Christ, and endeavoring to make progress in a Christian walk. I think I discern a growth of these graces in me.

1.   Of knowledge and acquaintance with Christ, 2 Peter 3:18. I am more acquainted with Christ and his ways than before. Though I have not such up takings of Christ as I ought to have, yet I have more than I have had in this respect sometimes before.

2.   A growth of love. If my heart deceive me not, I have found love to Christ within this month more lively and vigorous than before, my soul more affected with his absence from ordinances than ever.

3.   A growth of faith. I can, I think, trust God more now than before. I have had more experience of his goodness and knowledge of his name; and therefore think I can cast my burden on the Lord better than before. But it is easy swimming when the head is held up. Lord, increase my faith. I believe, Lord, help mine unbelief.

4.   A growth of watchfulness. I have felt the sad effects of unwatchfulness over my heart in times past. I feel the good of watchfulness now; my soul is habitually more watchful than before; neither dare I give such liberty to my heart as sometimes I gave. Yet for all this the Lord may well complain of me, that he is broken with my wanton heart. But, Lord, you knows it is also breaking to myself that it is so. The Lord seal these things to me.

5.   A growth of contempt of the world, which, blessed, be God, is on the increase with me.

Following Christ implies a knowledge of the way that Christ took.

No man can follow the example of another as such, unless he know what way he lived. So neither can any man follow Christ with respect to the catching of men in particular, unless he know Christ’s way of catching souls, that is, so far as it may be followed by us. Acquaint then thyself, O my soul, with the history of the gospel wherein this appears, and take special notice of these things, that you may follow Christ. What a sad case must they be in that are not acquainted with this!

Following Christ supposes sense of weakness, and the need of a guide.

A man that knows a way, and can do well enough without a guide, needs not follow another. And surely the want of this is the reason why many run before Christ, and go farther than his example ever called them; and others take a way altogether different from Christ’s way, which is the product of their own conceited hearts and airy heads. But you, O my soul, acknowledge thyself as a child in these matters that cannot go unless it be led; as a stranger in a desert place that cannot keep the right way without a guide.

Acknowledge and be affected with thine own weakness and emptiness, which you may well be persuaded of. And for this end reflect seriously,

1.   On the word, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Who is sufficient for these things? No man is of himself sufficient; even the greatest of men come short of sufficiency. This may make thee then to be affected with insufficiency, who are so far below these men, as shrubs are below the tall cedars; and yet they cannot teach it of themselves.

2.   Consider the weight of the work, even of preaching, which is all that you hast to do now. It is the concern of souls. By the foolishness of preaching it pleases the Lord to save them that believe, and as you thought yesterday [Jan. 22, 1699], before you went to the pulpit, it may seal the salvation of some, and the damnation of others. To preach in the Spirit, in the power and demonstration thereof, is no easy matter. Thy pitiful gifts will not fit thee for this.

3.   Reflect on what you are when God is pleased to desert you; how then you tug and row, but it will not do, either in studying or delivering sermons. I think you hast had as much of this as may teach thee to beware of taking thy burden on thy own soul, but to cast it on the Lord.

4.   Consider what a small portion you know of God, when you are at your best, and when you are in thy meridian, yet how low are you? And how far short you are of what you should be at. Lastly, consider that though you had gifts like an angel, yet you canst not convert a soul unless Christ be with thee to do the work. Therefore acknowledge thyself a weak creature, insufficient for the work ; and go not out in thy own strength, but in the name of the Lord; and so although you be but as a stripling, you may be helped to cast down the great Goliaths that defy the armies of the living God.

Following Christ implies a renouncing of our own wisdom.

Our own wisdom must not be the guide that we must follow, Matthew 16: 24. Paul would not preach with wisdom of words, 1 Corinthians 1:17; he did not follow the rules of carnal wisdom. Therefore, O my soul, renounce thine own wisdom. Seek the wisdom that is from above; seek to preach the words of the living God, and not thine own.

Since you was most set to renounce your wisdom, and prayed most that you might not preach that which might be the product of you own wisdom and natural reason, but that which might be given thee of the Holy Ghost, you have found that God hath signally countenanced thee. Take not the way of natural wisdom, follow not the rules of carnal wisdom. Its language will always be, ‘Master, spare thyself; have a care of thy credit and reputation among men.’ If you speak freely, they will call thee a railer, and thy preaching reflections; every parish will scare at thee as a monster of men, and one that would preach them all to hell; and so you shalt not be settled. For great and important men, that have a great influence in a parish, will never like thee. They will say that that way of preaching is not the way to gain people; that startles them at the very first. You may bring them on by little and little, by being somewhat smooth, at least at the first: for this generation is not able to abide such doctrine as that you preach.

But hear you and follow the rules of the wisdom that is from above: for the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God; that which is in high esteem among men, is nothing in the sight of God. The wisdom that is from above will tell thee, that you must be denied to thy credit and reputation, etc., Matthew 16: 24; Luke 14:26. It will tell thee, Let them call thee what they will, that you must cry aloud, and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, etc., Isaiah 43: 1. It will tell thee, that God has appointed the bounds of men’s habitation, Acts 17: 26. It will tell thee, that not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, etc., 1 Corinthians 1:29. Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, you shalt speak God’s words unto them, Ezekiel 2: 7. It will shew thee rules quite contrary to those of carnal wisdom.

The Path of the Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 4.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

the-fisherman

O my soul, the way for me to be a fisher of men, is to follow Christ.

What it is to follow thee, O Lord, shew me; and Lord, help me to do it. Here two things are to be considered.

I. What following Christ supposes and implies.
II. Wherein Christ is to be followed.

I. What following Christ supposes and implies.

 Firsts. It presupposes life. A dead man cannot follow any person; a dead preacher cannot follow Christ; there must be a principle of life, spiritual life in him, or else he is nothing. Therefore have I said and maintained, that a man cannot be a minister inforo Dei, though he may inforo ecclesice, without grace in his heart. This is a spiritual following of Christ; and therefore presupposes a spiritual and heavenly principle. Tell me then, O my soul, what state art thou in? Thou was once dead, that is sure, Eph. 2: 1, dead in trespasses and sins. Art thou raised out of thy grave? Have you got a part in the first resurrection? Has Christ breathed on thy dead and dry bones? Or art thou yet void of spiritual life? Are thou rotting way in thine iniquity? What do you say thou to this? If thou be yet dead, thy case is lamentable; but if thou be alive, what signs of life are there to be seen in thee? I have my own doubts of this, because of the prevailing of corruption: therefore I will see what I can say to this.

  1. A man that hath the Spirit hath life, Rom. 8: 2, 9; but I think I have the Spirit: ergo, I have life. That I have the Spirit, I conclude from these grounds following.
    1. I have light that at sometime I had not. See John 14: 26, “The Comforter” shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” I see now otherwise than sometimes I saw. Once was I blind, but now I see, though I see but men as trees. Once was I darkness, but now am I light (though weak) in the Lord. This light makes me see,
      1. My former darkness, is the sad and miserable state that once I was in,  ignorant of God, Christ, and religion, save going to the church, and keeping from banning and swearing, etc., which I was restrained from, from a child. This makes me see my present darkness, 1 Cor. 13:12. How little a portion do I know of thee, O God? My knowledge is but as the twilight.
      2. It lets me see my heart-sins, my imperfections and shortcomings in the best of my duties; so that God might damn me for them. The hypocrites say, “Why have we fasted, and thou seest not?” etc., Isa. 58: 3. It lets me see the wandering of my heart in duty and out of duty, yea, the sinfulness of the first risings of lust in mine heart, Rom. 7, and is still discovering the baseness of my heart unto me, so that I am forced to think and say, that at the best I am unclean, unclean.
      3. It makes me to see Christ as precious (1 Pet. 2: 7), altogether lovely, the chief among ten thousand, preferable to all the world; for whom, if my heart deceive me not (Lord, thou knowest), I would undergo the loss of that which I most esteem in the world. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that I desire besides thee.” For indeed, “My heart and flesh faints and fails; but thou art the strength of my heart; O Lord, –Psalm 73: 25, 26.
      4. It lets me see my need of him; so that nothing else but Christ, I am persuaded, can help me. When I have done what I can, I am but an unprofitable servant. If I should do a thousand times more than I do, I count all but loss and dung or the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. My soul cries out for thee, O God, and follows hard after thee.
      5. The knowledge that I have of Christ, makes me trust in him in some measure, Psalm 9:10; though alas! My evil heart of unbelief creates a great deal of difficulty in that to me. I find him a present help in the time of trouble; therefore I endeavor to cast my burden upon him. I know him to be a good Master, and therefore I lean on him for help for his own work. I know his grace is sufficient for me; therefore, in temptation and trials, I endeavor to lift up my soul to him.
    2. I feel help in duty from the Spirit. I know not what I should pray for; but the Spirit helps my infirmities, Rom. 8: 26. Many times I have gone to prayer very dead, and have come away with life; I have gone with a drooping and fainting heart, and come away rejoicing; with a heart closed, and have come away with a heart enlarged, and have felt enlargement both as to words and affections; and this hath made me both thankful and more vile in mine own eyes, that God should have done so with the like of me, 1 Chron. 29: 14.
  2. He that hath sense and feeling hath life; but I have sense and feeling; ergo, I have life, Eph. 4: 19. My sins are a burden to me (Matthew 11: 28), Lord, thou knows my omissions and commissions, the sins of my thoughts and of my life, the sins of my youth, etc., and above all, that which is my daily trouble, is an evil, backsliding, and base heart, which I find deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. 17: 9. This body of sin and death makes me to groan, and long to be rid of it, Rom7: 24. And what a load it was to me this day, God knows. I feel God’s presence, which makes me to rejoice sometimes; at other times again I feel his absence. Thou, O Lord, hides thy face, and I am troubled, Psalm 30: 7. His smiles are sweet as honey from the comb, and his frowns are bitter as death to my soul.
  3. He in whom there is heat hath life; but I have a heat in my soul; ergo, I have life. I find a threefold flame, though weak, in my heart.
    1. A flame of love to Christ, Rom. 5: 5. My soul loves him above all; and I have felt my love to Christ more vigorous within this short while, than for a considerable time before. Lord, put fuel to this flame. I have a love to his truths that I know, what God reveals to me of his word, Psalm 119: 19. I find sometimes his word sweeter to me than honey from the comb, Psalm 19: 10. It comforts and supports me. I cannot but love it; it stirs me up, and quickens my soul when dead. I love his commands, though striking against my corruptions, Rom. 7:22. I love the promises, as sweet cordials to a fainting soul, as life from the dead to one trodden under foot by the apprehensions of wrath, or the prevailing of corruption. I love his threatening as most just; my soul heartily approves them. If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema, maranatha. The least part of truth, that God makes known to me, I love; and, by grace, would endeavor to adhere to. I love those in whom the image of God does appear; though otherwise mean and contemptible, my heart warms towards them, 1 John 3: 14. I love his work, and am glad when it thrives (Romans 1: 8), though alas! There is little ground for such gladness now. I love his ordinances (Psalm. 84: 1) and what bears his stamp ; though all this be but weak, I love his glory, that he should be glorified, come of me what will.
    2.  I find in my heart a flame of desires, Matthew 6: 6.
      1. After the righteousness of Christ. My soul earnestly desires to be stripped naked of my own righteousness, which is as rags, and to be clothed and adorned with the robe of his righteousness. This wedding garment my soul affects; so shall I be found without spot, when the Master of the feast comes in to see the guests. My soul is satisfied, and acquiesces in justification by an imputed righteousness, though, alas! My base heart would fain have a home-spun garment of its own sometimes.
      2. After communion with him, Psalm 42: 1. When I want it, my soul though sometimes careless, yet, at other times, cries out, O that I knew where I might find him! I have found much sweetness, in communion with God, especially at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer and meditation, hearing the word, faithfully and seriously preached, and in preaching it myself, when the candle of the Lord shines on my tabernacle; then was it a sweet exercise to my soul. I endeavor to keep it up when I have it, by watching over my heart, and sending up ejaculations to God. When I want it, I cry to him for it, though, alas! I have been a long time very careless. Sometimes my soul longs for the day, when my minority shall be over-past, and I be entered heir to the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away ; to be quit of this evil world ; to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is best of all ; especially at three times,
        1. When I get more than ordinarily near God, when my soul is satisfied as with marrow and fat, when my heart is ennobled, and tramples on the world.
        2. When I am wrestling and groaning under the body of sin and death, the evil heart: then pleased would I be there, where Satan cannot tempt, and sin cannot enter; yea, when I have been much forsaken, at least as to comfort, Diary, Aug. 2, 1696, where is the most eminent instance of it.
        3. When I preach, and see that the gospel hath not success, but people are unconcerned, and go on in their abominations.
      3. I find in my heart some heat of zeal for God, which vents itself,
        1. By endeavoring to be active for God in my station. So when I was endeavoring to do something for God, though, alas! It did some of them no good. Before I entered on trials, one main motive was to have opportunity to give a testimony against sin, and to see if I could be an instrument to reclaim any soul from their wicked way. This I have, as the Lord enabled me, done, since I was a preacher, testifying against sin freely and plainly, and as earnestly as I could, by grace assisting me, though in weakness. And, Lord, thou knowest that my great desire is to catch men, and to get for that end my whole furniture from thee, laying aside my own wisdom. And if I could do this, how satisfying would it be to my soul, that desires to do good to others, though I myself should perish? Therefore do I not spare this weak body, and therefore have I desired never to be idle, but to go unsent for sometimes. Yet my conscience tells me of much slackness in this point, when I have been in private with people, and have not reproved them as I ought, when they offended, being much plagued with want of freedom in private converse. This I have in the Lord’s strength resolved against, and have somewhat now amended it.
        2. It vents itself in indignation against sin in myself and others. Many times have I thought on that of the apostle, Yea, what revenge! When I have been overcome by a temptation, being content as it were to be revenged on myself, and as it were content to subscribe a sentence of damnation against myself, and so to justify the Lord in his just proceedings against me. And, Lord, do not I hate those that hate thee I am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? The reproaches cast on thee, have fallen on me, Psalm. 59: 9. And my heart rises and is grieved, when I see transgressors, that they keep not thy law.
        3. It vents itself in grieving for those things that I cannot help. Lord, thou knowest how weighty the sins of this land have been unto me, how they have laid and do lie somewhat heavy on me ; and at this time in particular, the laxness of many in joining with the people of these abominations, the unfaithfulness of some professors, the lack of zeal for God in not making a more narrow search for the accursed thing in our camp, now when God’s wrath is going out violently against us, and not making an acknowledgment of sins and renewing our national vows, according as our progenitors did, many as it were thinking shame of the covenant, of whom the Church of Scotland may be ashamed.

The Heart of the Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 3.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.

Charles_Napier_Hemy_-_The_Fisherman_1888

Ministers are fishers by office…

…they are catchers of the souls of men, “sent to open the eyes of the blind, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,”

Preachers of the gospel are fishers, and their work and that of fishers agree in several things.

  1. The design and work of fishers is to catch fish. This is the work that preachers of the gospel have taken in hand, even to endeavor to bring souls to Christ. Their design in their work should be the same. Tell me, O my soul, what is thy design in preaching? For what end do you lay the net in the water, is it to show thy gifts, and to gain the applause of men? Oh, no! Lord, you know my gifts are very small; and had I not some other thing than them to lean to, I would never gone to a pulpit. I confess, that, for as small as they are, the devil and my corruptions do sometimes present them to me in a magnifying glass, and so would blow me up with wind. But, Lord, you know it is my work to repel these, motions.
  1. The fisherman’s work is hard work; they are exposed to much cold in the water. So is the minister’s work.
  1. A storm that will frighten others, they will venture on, that they may not lose their fish. So should preachers of the gospel do also.
  1. Fishers catch fish with a net. So preachers have a net to catch souls with. This is the everlasting gospel, the word of peace and reconciliation, wherewith sinners are caught. It is compared to a net wherewith fishers catch fish,
    1. Because it is spread out, ready to catch all that will come into it, Isaiah 45:1, ” Ho, every one that thirst, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.” God excludes none from the benefits of the gospel that will not exclude themselves; it is free to all.
    2. Because as fish are taken unexpectedly by the net, so are sinners by the gospel. Zaccheus was little thinking on salvation from Christ when he went to the tree. Paul was not thinking on a sweet meeting with Christ, whom he persecuted, when he was going post-haste on the devil’s errand; but the man is caught unexpectedly. Little were you thinking, O my soul, on Christ, heaven, or thyself, when you went to hear a preaching, when Christ first dealt with thee; there you got an unexpected cast.
    3. As fish sometimes come near and touch the net, and yet draw back; so many souls are somewhat affected at the hearing of the gospel, and yet remain in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. So Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, but yet the poor man was not caught. Wonder not then, O my soul, you see some affected in the time of preaching; and yet when they are away again, all is worn off.
    4. Some fish that have not been taken fast hold enough by the net, struggle and get out again. So some souls have their convictions, and may seem to be caught; but yet, alas! They stifle all their convictions, stay in the place of the breaking forth; their goodness is like the morning cloud, and as the early dew that soon passes away. Wherefore, O my soul, if ever you be taken up with exercised consciences, have a care that you do not apply the cure before the wound be deep enough. Take all means to understand whether the soul be content to take Christ on his own terms or not. Alas! Many this way, by having the wound scurfed over, are rather killed than cured.
    5. All that are taken in the net do make some struggling to get free. Even so everyone whom the Lord deals with by his Word and Spirit, make some kind of resistance before they are thoroughly caught. And this you also know, O my soul, how you wouldst have been content to have been out of the net. Oh! The wickedness of the heart of man by nature! Opposite is it, and an enemy to all that may be for its eternal welfare. There is indeed a power in our will to resist, yea, and such a power as cannot but be exercised by the will of man, which can do nothing but resist, till the overcoming power of God, the gratia victrix, come and make the unwilling heart willing, Phil. 2:13.
    6. Yet this struggling will not do with those which the net has fast enough. So neither will the resistance do that is made by an elect soul, whom God intends to catch, John 6: 37. All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me. Indeed, God does not convert men to himself against their will, he does not force the soul to receive Christ; but he conquers the will, and it becomes obedient. He that was unwilling before, is then willing. O the power of grace! When God speaks, then men shall hear; then is it that the dead hear the voice of the Son of Man, and they that hear do live.
    7. In a net are many meshes in which the fish are caught. Such are the invitations made to sinners in the gospel, the sweet promises made to them that will come to Christ; these are the meshes wherewith the soul is caught. This then is gospel-preaching, thus to spread out the net of the gospel, wherein are so many meshes of various invitations and promises, to which if the fish do come, they are caught.” But yet,
    8. Let the net be lifted up with the water, and so not fit for taking fish, and the fish slight it, and pass under it; there are some pieces of lead put to it, to hold it right in the water, that it may be before them as they come. So l invitations and promises of the gospel be slighted, there must be used some legal terrors and law threatenings to drive the fish into the net. Thou see then that both law and gospel are to be preached, the law as a small portion of the gospel-net, which makes it effectual; the law being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
    9. The meshes must not be over-wide, or the fish run through. So neither must thy doctrine be general, without particular application, l you be no fisher of men. Indeed men may be the better pleased, when you preach doctrine so as wicked men may run out-through and in-through it, than when you make it so as to take hold of them: but be not a servant of men.
    10. Neither must they be too neat and fine, and curiously wrought, or they hold out the fish. So have a care, O my soul, of striving to make by wit any fine and curious discourse, which thy hearers cannot understand. 
  1. Fishermen observe in what places they should cast their nets, and where they may expect fish. So do you, O my soul, observe where you might catch lost souls. There are two pools wherein the net should be set.
    1. In the public assemblies of the Lord’s people. There it was that Lydia’s heart was opened. The pool of ordinances sometimes is made healing water to souls pining away in their iniquity.
    2. In private conference. Many times the Lord is pleased to bless this for the good of souls. Some have found it so. But more of these things afterwards, when I come to following Christ.
  1. Lastly, Fishers may toil long, and yet catch nothing; but they do not therefore lay aside their work. So may preachers preach long, and yet not catch any soul, Isa. 49:4, and 53:1; but they are not to give over for all that. O my soul, here you art checked for thy behavior at some times under the absence of Christ from ordinances, when you hast been ready to wish you had never taken it in hand. This was my sin: the good Lord pardon it. It becomes me better to lie low under God’s hand, and to inquire into the causes of his withdrawing his presence from me and from ordinances, and yet to hold on in duty till he be pleased to lay me by. Have a care of that, O my soul, and let not such thoughts and wishes possess thee again. Forget not how God made thee to read this thy sin, in thy punishment, Diary, Nov. 13, 1698. Hold on, O my soul, and give not way to these discouragements. Thou know not but Christ may come and teach thee to let down the net at the right side of the ship, and you may yet be a fisher of men. Trust God you shalt yet praise him for the help of his countenance as you hast done, and perhaps for some souls that you may be yet honored to catch.

And thus I have briefly considered these things. But the main question that I would have resolved is, how may I come by this art? What way I shall take to be a fisher of men? How I may arrange and set the net, that it may bring in souls to God?