The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 6

Regeneration, Repentance and Reformation

Final Thoughts on the Pilgrims, the Trip and the Mayflower Compact

Mayflower_Compact2As we discussed in earlier sections, the Pilgrims of American Thanksgiving yore, were Christians who had serious theological differences with the established churches in Europe and England. The Pilgrims called themselves Separatists, and for good reason. The Separatists believed the State Church and much of the Protestant movement were, in fact, violating vital biblical foundations and therefore, not truly Christian. The established state churches  as well as certain other protestant groups were becoming corrupt and oppressive. So, the Separatists fled from England to Holland in the early 1600s, they did so with dreams of a better, peaceful life. But God did not let their dreams pan out. Eventually the Separatists realized that things were not going to work out in Holland, and the political climate could end up actually being much worse.  

So the decision was then made to migrate to North America where…

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The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 4

Regeneration, Repentance and Reformation

The humble, grateful spirit attendant to those celebrations was expressed in such statements as this by Theodore Roosevelt:

No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.”

shoppers-look-over-items-on-sale-at-a-macys-store-in-new-york-november-23-2012-black-friday-the-day-following-the-thanksgiving-day-holiday-has-traditionally-been-the-busiest-shopping-day-in-the-united-statesHowever, in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day up one week earlier than had been tradition, to appease merchants who wanted more time to feed the growing pre-Christmas consumer frenzy. Folding to congressional pressure two years later, Roosevelt signed a resolution returning Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November, as Congress in 1941 permanently set the fourth Thursday of each November as our national day of Thanksgiving.

13212055Roosevelt’s inclination to subsume Thanksgiving for commercial interests foretold much of the secular inversion of “thanksgiving” to come. In autumns we now exist amid…

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The Essential Planks of Christianity, Part One: The Confession of Sin.

Written by J. C. Ryle
Edited for thought, sense and space

repent.
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“If we confess our sins,

He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

–1 John 1:9.
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DO YOU CONFESS YOUR SINS?

The question is at all times deeply important. Among the foundation-stones of saving religion few deserve more serious attention than confession of sins. But there are occasions when circumstances give a particular importance to particular doctrines in religion. The assaults of enemies sometimes make it needful to exhibit some special truth with special distinctness. The plausible assertion of some error sometimes requires to be met by more than ordinary carefulness in showing the thing as it is,’ in the Word. A doctrine may perhaps be in the rear-rank to-day, and to-morrow may be thrust forward by the force of events into the very front of the battle. This is the case at the present time with the subject of confession. Many years have passed away since men thought and talked so much as they do now about the confession of sins.

The highest saints are not too high to need confession. The lowest sinners are not too low to be reached by God’s requirement.

From Kings in their palaces, to poor men in their cottages,—preachers and hearers,—teachers and scholars—landlords and tenants,—masters and servants,—all, all are alike summoned in the Bible to confession. None are so moral and respectable that they need not confess that they have sinned. All are sinners in thought, word, and deed, and all are commanded to acknowledge their transgressions. Every knee ought to bow, and every tongue ought to confess to God. Behold, saith the Lord, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned (Jer. 2:35). If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (l John 1:8).

Without confession of sin and our sinfulness there is no salvation.

The love of God towards sinners is infinite. The readiness of Christ to receive sinners is unbounded. The blood of Christ can cleanse away all sin. But we must plead guilty before God can declare us innocent. We must acknowledge that we surrender at discretion before we can be pardoned and let go free. Sins that are known and not confessed, are sins that are not forgiven. They are yet upon us, and daily sinking us nearer to hell. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13).

Without confession there is no inward peace.

Our conscience will never be at rest so long as it feels the burden of unacknowledged transgression. It is a load of which man must get rid if he means to be really happy. Unacknowledged transgression is a worm eating at the root of all comfort. It is a blight on joy and mirth.

Therefore, there are two points to which I purpose to direct your attention:

First, Who are they that ought to confess sins?

All men and women in the world are all born in sin and children of wrath. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Before God all are guilty. There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not. There is not a child of Adam that ought not to confess sin. (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 3:23; Eccles. 7:20).

There is no exception to this rule. It does not apply only to murderers, and felons, and the inmates of prisons. It applies to all ranks, and classes, and orders of mankind.

Some people are too proud to acknowledge themselves sinners. Like the Pharisee of old, they flatter themselves they are not as other men. They do not get drunk, like some; or swear, like others; or live profligate lives like others. They are moral and respectable! They perform the duties of their station! They attend church regularly! They are kind to the poor! What more would you have? If they are not good people and going to heaven, who can be saved? But as to habitual confession of sin, they do not see that they need it. It is all very well for wicked people, but not for them. Of course when sin is not really felt, sin will never be confessed.

Some people are too indolent and slothful to take any step in religion so decided as confession. Their Christianity consists in meaning, and hoping, and intending, and resolving. They do not positively object to anything that they hear upon spiritual subjects. They can even approve of the Gospel. They hope one day to repent, and believe, and be converted, and become thorough Christians, and go to heaven after death. But they never get beyond hoping. They never come to the point of making a business of religion. Of course they never confess sin.

In one or other of these ways thousands of persons on every side are ruining their souls. In one point they are all agreed. They may sometimes call themselves sinners in a vague, general way, but they have no real sense, or sight, or understanding of sin. Its guilt, and vileness, and wickedness, and consequences, are utterly hid from their eyes. And the result, in each case, it is one and the same. They know nothing practically of confession of sins. The heart of man is never really easy until he has unburdened himself before God, and obtained pardon and absolution. When I kept silence, says David, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32: 3-5). Confession of sin is absolutely necessary to salvation. It is also a habit which is an essential part of the Christian life.

Some people have no thought or feeling about their sins.

The subject is one which hardly crosses their minds. They rise in the morning and go to bed at night. They eat, and drink, and sleep, and work, and get money, and spend money, as if they had no souls at all. They live on as if this world was the only thing worth thinking of. They leave religion to parsons and old men and women. Their consciences seem asleep, if not dead. Of course they never confess.

What is my first and foremost wish for your soul, if you are yet unconverted? I can wish you nothing better than thorough self-knowledge. I should like the veil to be taken from your heart. I should like you to see yourself as you really are in the sight of God. Ignorance of self and sin is the root of all mischief to the soul. There is hardly a religious error or a false doctrine that may not be traced up to it. For want of seeing sin, men do not value salvation. Once let a man get a sight of his own heart, and be will begin to cry, God be merciful to me a sinner!

Friend, if you have learned to feel and acknowledge your sinfulness, you have great reason to thank God. It is a real symptom of health in the inward man. It is a mighty token for good. To know your spiritual disease is one step towards a cure. To feel bad and wicked and hell-deserving, is the first beginning of being really good. Once more I say, you have great reason to thank God.

If you have also learned to feel and confess sin, you may well thank God and take courage. Where did those feelings you find come from? Who told you that you were a guilty sinner? What moved you to begin acknowledging your transgressions? How was it that you first found that your sin is a burden, and made you longed to be set free from it? These feelings do not come from man’s natural heart. The devil does not teach such lessons. The schools of this world have no power to impart them. Reader, these feelings come down from above. They are the precious gift of God the Holy Ghost. It is His special office to convince of sin. Rejoice, I say again, and be exceeding glad. The man who has really learned to feel and confess his sins, has learned that which millions never learn, and for want of which millions die in their sins, and are lost to all eternity.

Second. To whom ought confession of sin to be made?

I enter on this branch of the subject with sorrowful feelings. I approach it as a sailor would approach some rock on which many gallant ships have made shipwreck. I cannot forget that I have arrived at a point on which millions of so-called Christians have erred greatly, and millions are erring at the present day. But I dare not keep back anything that is Scriptural, for fear of giving offence. The errors of millions must not prevent a minister of the Gospel speaking the truth. If multitudes are hewing out broken cisterns that can hold no water, it becomes the more needful to point out the true fountain. If countless souls are turning aside from the right way, it becomes the more important to show clearly to whom confession ought to be made.

Sin, to speak generally, ought to be confessed to God. He it is whom we have chiefly offended. His are the laws which we have broken. To him all men and women will one day give account. His displeasure is that which sinners have principally to fear. This is what David felt: Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight (Psalm 51: 4). This is what David practised: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord (Psalm 32: 5). This is what Joshua advised Achan to do: My son, give glory to God, and make confession to Him (Joshua 7:19). The Jews were right when they said, Who can forgive sins but God only? (Mark 2: 7).

But must we leave the matter here? Can vile sinners like us ever dare to confess our sins to a holy God? Will not the thought of his infinite purity shut our mouths and make us afraid? Must not the remembrance of His holiness make us afraid? Is it not written of God, that He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity? (Hab. 1:13). Is it not said, that He hates all workers of iniquity? (Psalm 5:5). Did He not say to Moses, There shalt no man see My face and live? (Exodus 33: 20). Did not Israel say of old, Let not God speak with us, lest we die? (Exodus 20:19). Did not Daniel say, How can the servant of this my Lord talk with this my Lord? (Dan. 10: 17). Did not Job say, When I consider, I am afraid of Him? (Job 23: 15). Did not Isaiah say, Woe is me, for I am undone; . . . for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts? (Isaiah 6: 5). Does not Elihu say, Shall it be told Him that I speak? If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up (Job 37: 20).

These are serious questions. They are questions which must and will occur to thoughtful minds. There are many who know what Luther meant when he said. I dare not have anything to do with an absolute God. But I thank God, they are questions to which the Gospel supplies a full and satisfactory answer. The Gospel reveals One who is exactly suited to the wants of souls which desire to confess sin.

What I am saying is that sin ought to be confessed to God in Christ. I say that sin ought specially to be confessed to God manifest in the flesh,—to Christ Jesus the Lord,—to that Jesus who came into the world to save sinners,—to that Jesus who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, and now lives at the right hand of God to intercede for all who come to God by Him. He that desires to confess sin, should apply direct to Christ.

Christ is a great High Priest. Let that truth sink down into our hearts, and never be forgotten. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father for that very purpose. It is His peculiar office to receive and hear, and pardon and absolve sinners. It is His place to receive confessions and to grant plenary absolutions. It is written in Scripture, Thou art a priest for ever. We have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens. Having an High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith (Heb. 4:14; 6:20; 10:21-22).

Christ is a High Priest of Almighty power.

There is no sin that He cannot pardon, and no sinner that he cannot absolve. He is very God of very God. He is over all, God blessed for ever. He says Himself, I and My Father are one. He has all power in heaven and in earth. He has power on earth to forgive sins. He has complete authority to say to the chief of sinners, Thy sins are forgiven. Go in peace. He has the keys of death and hell. When He opens, no man can shut. (Rom. 9:5; John 10:30; Matt. 28:18; Matt, 9:6; Luke 7:48 50; Rev.1:18; 3:7).

Christ is a High Priest of infinite willingness to receive confession of sin.

He invites all who feel their guilt to come to Him for relief. Come unto Me, He says, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. When the penitent thief cried to Him on the cross, He at once absolved him fully, and gave him an answer of peace (Matt. 11:28; John 7:37).

Christ is a High Priest of perfect knowledge.

He knows exactly the whole history of all who confess to Him. From Him no secrets are hid. He never errs in judgment. He makes no mistakes. It is written that He is of quick understanding. He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears (Isaiah 11:3). He can discern the difference between the hypocritical professor who is full of words, and the broken-hearted sinner who can scarce stammer out his confession. People may deceive ministers by good words and fair speeches, but they will never deceive Christ.

Christ is a High Priest of matchless tenderness.

He will not afflict willingly, or grieve any soul that comes to Him. He will handle delicately every wound that is exposed to Him. He will deal tenderly even with the vilest sinners, as He did with the Samaritan woman. Confidence reposed in Him is never abused. Secrets confided to Him are completely safe. Of Him it is right.

The man who turns away from Christ to confess to saints and angels is a deluded robber of his own soul. He is following a shadow, and forsaking the substance. He is rejecting the bread of life, and trying to satisfy his spiritual hunger with sand.

Christ is a High Priest who can sympathise with all that confess to Him.

He knows the heart of a man by experience, for He had a body like our own, and was made in the likeness of man. We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). To Him the words can most truly be applied, which Elihu applied to himself, Behold, I am according to thy wish in God’s stead; I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee (Job 33:6, 7).

Beware of ever losing sight of Christ’s priestly office.

Glory in His atoning death. Honour Him as your substitute and surety on the cross. Follow Him as your Shepherd. Hear His voice as your Prophet. Obey Him as your King. But in all your thoughts about Christ, let it be often before your mind that He alone is your High Priest, and that He has deputed His priestly office to no order of men in the world.3 This is the office of Christ, which Satan labours above all to obscure. It is the neglect of this office which leads to every kind of error. It is the remembrance of this office which is the best safeguard against the plausible teaching of the Church of Rome. Once right about this office you will never greatly err in the matter of the confession of sin. You will know to whom confession ought to be made; and to know that rightly is no slight thing.

And now, reader, I shall give you one simple warning. You will have to confess your sins one day, whether you will want to or not.

When the great white throne is set, and the books are opened, your sins will at last be exposed before the whole world. The secrets of all hearts will be revealed. You will have to acknowledge your transgressions before the eyes of an assembled world, and an innumerable company of angels. Your confession at last will be most public; and, worst of all, your confession will be too late.

If you have neglected confession of sin in times past, and are ashamed of your neglect. I invite you in my Master’s name to begin the habit of confession without delay.

Go this very day to the throne of grace, and speak to the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, about your soul. Pour out your heart before Him. Keep nothing back from Him. Acknowledge your iniquities to Him, and entreat Him to cleanse them away. Say to Him, in David’s words, For Thy name’s sake pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Cry to Him as the publican did in the parable, God be merciful to me a sinner (Psalm 25:11; 41:9 Luke 18:13).

Let me ask you something personal…

Are you afraid to do this? Do you feel unworthy and unfit to begin? I do entreat you to resist such feelings, and to begin without delay. There are glorious Bible examples to encourage you. There are rich Bible promises to lure you on. In all the volume of Scripture there are no passages so encouraging as those which are about confession of sin. if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1: 9). If any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light (Job 33:27). Father, said the prodigal son, I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight, and am no mote worthy to be called Thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry (Luke 15:21-23). Arise, dear reader, and call upon God.

If Christ had never died for sinners, there might be some excuse for doubting.

But Christ having suffered for sin, there is nothing that need keep you back. Only acknowledge your iniquity, and cast yourself wholly at God’s mercy in Christ, and life, eternal life, shall be your own. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow: thought they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah i. 18). But O reader, begin, begin to confess without delay. This very day BEGIN TO CONFESS YOUR SIN.

Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 34: A Psalm of Communion, of Christian Heroes, and of the Ages

 

Psalm 34

Lent DevotionalThe 34th Psalm is mentioned by Cyril, A.D. 340, and also by Jerome, as being usually sung by the Church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion.
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It is appropriate throughout for Communion with some of the parts especially so, and it contains the passage which the Evangelist John (19:36) applies to our Lord, ‘He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.’

Error had begun in different ways to creep into the Christian Church, but the memorials of the bread and wine were parted among all, and the thanksgiving of the communion had not passed into the sacrifice of the mass. The efficacy of atonement is ascribed only to the personal work of Christ himself, and such expressions as these occur: ‘It is by Jesus Christ we bring this sacrifice of praise in thy name, and in the name of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. O Lord, we render thanks to thee by thy well -beloved Son Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent in the last times to be our Savior and Redeemer, the Messenger of thy Counsel. It is by him, the Word who comes forth from thee, that thou hast done all.’

It may be seen how well this spirit agrees with the burst of gratitude in the opening of the psalm, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad,’ Sometimes there was added the fervent aspiration of the 42nd Psalm, ‘As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God.’

It was the love of youth burning all the brighter that it was borne heavenwards by winds of persecution.

Verse 10. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:  but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good Thing,’ were the last words written by Columba after he had spent a long life of incessant Christian labor, part of which was given to the transcription of copies of the Psalms and Gospels. Columba’ s figure in the history of the British Church is the most clear and noble from the entrance of Christianity to the Reformation, with the exception of Bede and Wycliffe; and he surpassed both of these in the missionary ardor he felt and infused into his followers. His position in Scotland is a singular one. He stands among the stormy Hebrides, like one of their lonely lighthouses, upheld by a mighty arm of rock, to cast a sudden gleam over the waters, and draw it back again into the night.

But like theirs, too, the light appears, hidden, but not quenched…

…or, still more, it is flashed from point to point as time moves on. Placed as he and his disciples were on the known limits of the western world, their zeal turned eastward, and sought a field among the Celtic and Gothic tribes to the very center of Europe. The endless knot “the peculiar signet mark of Scottish art” is found carved in stone, graven in gold and silver, inscribed on illuminated parchment, and tells at Wurtzburg, at St. Gall, at Eatisbon, that the foot of the Columban missionary has pressed the heathen soil with the message of the faith.

Columba died on the morning of the Lord’s day, June 9, A.D. 597, in his beloved lona.

‘There sleep the saintly dead,
Whom from their island home
The Baptist’s hermit spirit led
O’er moss and moor to roam.
Where, soft as spring-tide dew,
Their gracious speech was heard,
Wild tribes whom Caesar never knew
Bowed captive to the Word.’

The narrative Adamnan gives of his closing hours, of his farewell words with his sorrow-stricken disciples, of his parting with his faithful old horse, which put its head on its master’s breast as if aware of the event, reveals the deep tenderness and humanity of his nature.

When the biographer has lingered lovingly on the little incidents that preceded the death, he continues: ‘After these words he descended the hill, and, having returned to the monastery, sat in his hut transcribing the Psalter; and coming to that verse of the 34th Psalm, where it is written, “They that seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good,” “Here,” said he, “at the end of the page I must stop, and what follows let Baithen write.” The last verse he had written was very applicable to the saint who was about to depart, and to whom eternal good shall never be wanting; while the one that follows is equally applicable to the father who succeeded him, the instructor of his spiritual children, “Come, ye children, and hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” And indeed he succeeded, as recommended by him, both in writing the words, and in teaching his disciples.’

Far away from Columba in time, and yet with the same simple faith, two men sang a part of this psalm at the place of execution in Edinburgh, 1679. They were Andrew Sword and John Clyde, countrymen from Galloway, who were condemned for having been at Bothwell, and in penalty for the death of Arch Bishop Sharp, though neither of them had ever seen him.

“The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.’  

–Verse 19

‘God hath not promised,’ said one of them, ‘to keep us from trouble, but to be with us in it, and what needs more? ‘I bless the Lord for keeping of me to this very hour; for little would I have thought a twelve month since that the Lord would have taken a poor plowman lad, and have honored me so highly as to have made me first appear for him, and then to keep me straight, and now hath kept me to this very hour to lay down my life for him.

At the ladder foot, he said to his brother, ‘Weep not for me, brother, but weep for yourself and the poor land; and make him sure for yourself, and he shall be better to you than ten brethren.’

It was surely fire from God’s own heaven which breathed this soul into the mold of a Scottish plowman.

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Written by John Ker, D. D.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography”.

Meet Colomba, a very important early Irish Christian Missionary and part of your Christian heritage: Columba (Irish: Colm Cille, ‘church dove’; 7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the Patron Saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Christian saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Columba reportedly studied under some of Ireland’s most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 he and his twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll in Kintyre before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Christianity among the northern Pictish kingdoms who were pagan. He remained active in Irish politics, though he spent most of the remainder of his life in Scotland. Three surviving early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to him.

The Great Futility Chase: Of Works, and the True Exaltation of Man.

Edited and adapted from, “The Sincere Convert and the Sound Believer,” 
Written by Tomas Shepard. 

images (1)“We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities,
like the wind, take us away.” 

–Isaiah 64:6 ESV

Therefore behold the insufficiency of all duties to save us…

First. Consider, your best duties are tainted, poisoned, and mingled with some sin, and therefore are most odious in the eyes of a holy God, (nakedly and barely considered in themselves,) for, if the best actions of God’s people be filthy, as they come from them, then, to be sure, all wicked men’s actions are much more filthy and polluted with sin; but the first is true—”All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” for as the fountain is so is the stream; but the fountain of all good actions (that is, the heart) is mingled partly with sin, partly with grace; therefore every action participates of some sin, which sins are daggers at God’s heart, even when a man is praying and begging for his life; therefore there is no hope to be saved by duties.

Secondly. Suppose you could perform them without sin; yet you could not continue in doing so. (Is. 40:6,) “All flesh and the glory thereof is but grass.” So your best actions would soon wither if they were not perfect; and if you cannot persevere in performing all duties perfectly, you are forever undone, though you should do so for a time, live like an angel, shine like a sun, and, at your last gasp, have but an idle thought, commit the least sin, that one rock will sink you down even in the harbour, though never so richly laden. One sin, like a penknife at the heart, will stab you; one sin, like a little burning twig in the thatch, will burn you; one act of treason will hang you, though you has lived never so devoutly before, (Ezek. 18:24;) for it is a crooked life when all the parts of the line of your life be not straight before Almighty God.

Thirdly. Suppose you should persevere; yet it is clear you have sinned grievously already; and do you think your obedience for the time to come can satisfy the Lord for all those previous obligations, for all those sins past? Can a man that pays his rent honestly every year satisfy hereby for the old rent not paid in twenty years? All your obedience is a new debt, which can not satisfy for debts past. Indeed, men may forgive wrong and debts, because they be but finite; but the least sin is an infinite evil, and therefore God must be satisfied for it. Men may remit debts, and yet remain men; but the Lord having said, “The soul that sins shall die,” and his truth being himself, he can not remain God, if he forgive it without satisfaction. Therefore duties are but rotten crutches for a soul to rest upon.

But to what end should we use any duties? Can not a man be saved by his good prayers, nor sorrows, nor repentings? Why should we pray any more then? Let us cast off all duties, if all are to no purpose to save us; it is as good to play for nothing as to work for nothing.

Though your good duties cannot save you, yet your bad works will damn you.

You are, therefore, not to cast off the duties, but the resting in these duties. You are not to cast them away, but to cast them down at the feet of Jesus Christ, as they did their crowns, (Rev. 4:10,11,) saying, If there be any good or graces in these duties, it is yours, Lord; for it is the prince’s favor that exalts a man, not his own gifts: they came from his good pleasure.

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Taken and adapted from, “The Sincere Convert and the Sound Believer”
Written by Tomas Shepard
Stephen and Andrew Young Publishers, 1812, pp. 148-150.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Shepard (November 5, 1605 – August 25, 1649) was an American Puritan minister and a significant figure in early colonial New England.Shepard was born in Towcester, Northamptonshire. His devout mother died when he was four and he lived a difficult life under his stepmother. His father died when he reached ten, at which point he lived with his grandparents and later an older brother, whom he held in high and grateful regard. A schoolmaster ignited in him a scholarly interest, which ultimately led to entry into Emmanuel College in Cambridge University at the age of fifteen. He accounts in his autobiography that he lived a dissatisfied and dissolute life, which led him to pray out in a nearby field, at which point he underwent the beginnings of a conversion experience.

Thomas Shepard (November 5, 1605 – August 25, 1649) was an American Puritan minister and a significant figure in early colonial New England. In 1627 he became assistant schoolmaster at Earls Colne Grammar School in Earls Colne, Essex. He became a minister whose sermons and Puritan ways drew the ire of Church of England Archbishop William Laud, and he was forbidden to preach. Following the death of his eldest son, he left England in 1635 with wife and younger son on a difficult voyage for Massachusetts in colonial America where he became minister of one of the leading churches in the colonies, the First Church in Cambridge, Congregational UCC, Massachusetts and also of Harvard University, then a very new school charged with training men for the Christian ministry in the Puritan colonies of New England. From 1637 to 1638, during the Antinomian Controversy, he sat with the other colonial ministers during both the civil and church trials of Anne Hutchinson, and was a very vocal critic of hers during the latter. His wife died shortly after his arrival in New England, as did his second wife and other children, though he framed these experiences, if not without difficulty, into the perspective of his theology.

Shepard died of quinsy, a Peritonsillar abscess, which is a complication of tonsillitis at the age of 44.

Providence: Your Father is not Asleep!

Written by Obadiah Sedgwick,  London, 1658.

A1Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore;  you are of more value than many sparrows. 

–Matthew 10:29-31 (ESV)

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Nothing can befall you without a providence… 

Your Father is not idle, he is not asleep, he doesn’t forget you nor your condition.   He does regard you, watch over you, and will order in a wise and gracious sweetness, every occurrence for his glory and your good.   Not the least thing shall befall you but he will direct and order it.

What do you think of those silly birds which fly up and down which none takes notice of with any singular eye?  One man hunts, and another man for his pleasure kills, yet not one of them falls to the ground but your Father orders it so and permits it to be so as it doesn’t come by an idle chance but by his working providence.  

Do you think that any evil, that any thing, shall befall you and your Father not take notice of it and the ordering and governing of it?  No, if God has an eye for the birds, be confident that he has a singular care for you.  Not only the great moments of your life and death are ordered by him but even the hairs of your head are numbered and he knows them all and he looks to them all.  If to them, much more to your person, safety, and preservation.  God did not make the world and so leave it to it’s own inclinations, ways, and ends.  He follows the work of creation with the working influence of continual providence.  He still looks upon it and is dealing in it and therefore says Paul in Acts 17:28, “In him we live, and move, and have our being”.

There is no created thing whatsoever over which God does not extend a providence, Psalm 113:6.  He beholds the things both in heaven and in earth.  2 Chronicles 16:9, the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.  The most excellent creatures are sustained by it and the most contemptible are not neglected.  Not only the angels in heaven, but the poor men who are cast upon the dunghill.  Not only the glorious stars, but the lowest piles of grass and the lilies.  Not only that immortal soul of man, but the very hairs of his head are under a providence. 

Providence is co-extensive with creation and therefore it is as large as heaven and earth.  Providence is co-extensive with divine knowledge but known unto God are all his works, Acts 15:3.   Every thing is kept in an order and harmony.   Although to us there may be some confusions, yet to God there is no disorder but all things wheel about and meet in those ends which he has intended and unto which he directs them.  There is not any one creature, not any one action of the creature, not any one change about the creature, not any one occurrence, not any one issue and event of any one action, but is under the powerful eye of divine providence.

 Excerpts modified and adapted from, “The Doctrine of Providence” appended to “The Shepherd of Israel”
Written by Obadiah Sedgwick,  London: 1658.

A Prayer with Power

pcotw_crossO Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible…

…order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me, nor prove obstacles to the progress of Thy cause. Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall, no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments. May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own. Permit me not to labour at work which Thou wilt not bless, that I may serve thee without disgrace or debt.

Let me dwell in Thy most secret place under thy shadow, where is safe impenetrable protection from the arrow that flieth by day, the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the strife of tongues, the malice of ill-will, the hurt of unkind talk, the snares of company, the perils of youth, the temptations of middle life, the mournings of old age, the fear of death.

I am entirely dependent upon Thee for support, counsel, consolation. Uphold me by Thy free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work Thou givest me to do. Strengthen me by Thy Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life.

All my jewels I give to the shadow of the safety that is in Thee—my name anew in Christ, my body, soul, talents, character, my success, wife, children, friends, work, my present, my future, my end. Take them, they are Thine, and I am thine, now and for ever.

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Posted in Puritan Prayers