Is it Biblical to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart? Trevin Wax

 

The Southern Baptist blogosphere has erupted in conversation on whether it’s proper to use phrases like “asking Jesus into your heart,” “accepting Christ,” or methods like the “sinner’s prayer” when sharing the gospel. Like many online conversations, this one has tended to generate more heat than light, and I get the feeling that good folks on both sides of this issue may be talking past one another.

This discussion over methods and terms has been bubbling under the surface for a good while now. A younger generation of pastors look out at the state of evangelicalism and are rightly concerned that many people with cultural Christianity in their background cling to assurance they are saved despite an overwhelming lack of evidence of genuine conversion. It’s no surprise that some pastors are blaming the methods and terms that became prevalent in the previous generation. That’s why we hear a pastor like David Platt consider a phrase like “asking Jesus into your heart” to be “dangerous” and “damning.”

The response to this critique has been to trot out the biblical and historical precedent for using such terminology. That’s not hard. The idea of “receiving Christ” is all over the New Testament. It is certainly a part of the good news that we are not only in Christ, but that Christ is in us. Pastor Steve Gaines’ rebuttal to David Platt, for example, focused on the biblical preponderance of such language and how it offers a full-orbed view of what takes place when a sinner places faith in Jesus Christ.

A Global Perspective

The first time I questioned the legitimacy of expressions like “ask Jesus into your heart” was when I was a student in Romania. Several Romanian pastors challenged the use of such terminology. They considered it to be another example of the American tendency to water down the nature of true repentance, and they recommended the use of such phrases only if fully explained. They saw these expressions as distinctively “American” and worried that they did not give sufficient weight to the idea of surrendering one’s life to King Jesus in repentance and faith.

Though some in the Southern Baptist Convention want to make this a debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, a broader perspective shows that this is part of an ongoing conversation between Christians in the U.S. and Christians in other parts of the world. The pastors I knew who had concerns with this language were not Calvinistic at all. Still, they were afraid of creating false converts and offering them false assurance. It ought to at least give us pause that many Christians in other parts of the world are uncomfortable with this terminology.

The Real Issue is False Assurance

At the end of the day, the conversation about “the sinner’s prayer” and “asking Jesus into your heart” is not really about the legitimacy of such methods or the biblical justification for using expressions like “having a personal relationship with Christ” or “receiving Jesus.” I believe that properly understood and explained, any of these methods and terms can be used, to good effect. And I bet David Platt would have no problem at all with the careful way that Steve Gaines explains what it means to “receive Jesus.”

The real issue comes down to finding our assurance in these methods and phrases. False assurance is when a pastor says, either explicitly or implicitly, “as long as you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into your heart at some point in time, you’re safe.” It’s the kind of false assurance that doesn’t take into account a Christian’s fruitfulness (as Jesus commanded us to) and tries to convince tares they are wheat. The debate is not really about the usefulness of a sinner’s prayer, but the grounding of one’s assurance in a particular moment in time where one felt remorse for sin, regardless if true repentance was present or later evidenced.

Growing up in independent Baptist circles, I recall how much emphasis was placed on the moment of conversion. Revival speakers would come into town and scare us as teenagers, telling us, “If you don’t remember the when, the where, the how, and the who of when you got saved, you’re probably not. So come down and get it settled today!” Multiple baptisms were good for the evangelist’s PR and dozens of teens getting re-baptized made the church feel good (“Look what God is doing in our young people!”).

Despite the hype, I never got re-baptized. I couldn’t articulate all the reasons why this was wrong, but I knew something wasn’t right. It felt like the shenanigans of these revival speakers put way too much emphasis on a moment in time and not on a life of fruitful faith.

True Conversion

This conversation about our methods and terminology in evangelism is an important one. I just hope that people who share a lot of the same concerns will understand the common ground they have and not impute mistakes to one another.

To my young pastor friends, we are often more apt to express concern about the precision of evangelistic language than we are to celebrate the passion of evangelistic outreach. Let’s not impute the excesses of revivalism to everyone who uses terms that are familiar within that stream of evangelicalism.

To my older pastor friends, please don’t assume that those who critique shallow evangelism are necessarily criticizing you or your ministry. And don’t think that young guys are gun-shy when it comes to evangelism, afraid to call people to personal faith and repentance, or have a problem with a moment of conversion.

Again, the issue is one of false assurance. No pastor wants to stand before God and find he offered false assurance to someone who showed no signs of genuine repentance and faith. We all ought to tremble at the thought.

Meanwhile, is it biblical to ask Jesus into your heart? Absolutely. We ought to say more than this when we evangelize, and our main focus ought to be on the biblical terminology of repentance and faith, but surely it is proper to speak of receiving Jesus.

Let’s just make sure we explain our terms and phrases so that the nature of true repentance and saving faith is communicated clearly, boldly, and graciously. I hope that’s something all of us can agree on.

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Dr. Allman: I learned two things from Lord of the Rings. First, you can choose an adventure but you can’t choose what it will cost. Second, an adventure looks like a catastrophe in the middle of it.

THE CHRISTIAN PILGRIM OR “THE TRUE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE A JOURNEY TOWARDS HEAVEN” by Jonathan Edwards

And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country  of their own. (Hebrews 11:13, 14)  The apostle is here setting forth the excellencies of the grace at faith, by the glorious effects and happy issue of it in the saints of the Old Testament. He had spoken in the preceding part of the chapter particularly, of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. Having enumerated those instances, he takes notice that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers…”   — In these words the apostle seems to have a more particular respect to Abraham and Sarah, and their kindred, who came with them from Haran, and from Ur of the Chaldees, as appears by the 15th verse, where the apostle says, “and truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”  Two things may be observed here: 

1. What these saints confessed of themselves–  that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.   Thus we have a particular account concerning Abraham, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.” And it seems to have been the general sense of the patriarchs, by what Jacob says to Pharaoh. “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you, as all my fathers were.” 

2. The inference that the apostle draws from hence–  that they sought another country as their home. “For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country.” In confessing that they were strangers, they plainly declared that this is not their country, that this is not the place where they are at home. And in confessing themselves to be pilgrims, they declared plainly that this is not their settled abode; but that they have respect to some other country, which they seek, and to which they are traveling. 

SECTION 1 That this life ought to be so spent by us, as to be only a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven. HERE I would observe– 

1. That we ought not to rest in the world and its enjoyments, but should desire heaven. We should “seek first the kingdom of God.” We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness–  to be with God, and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbors, and are generally beloved where known, yet we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy, and use them, with no other view but readily to leave them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.  A traveler is not in a habit to rest in what he meets with, however comfortable and pleasing, on the road. If he passes through pleasant places, flowery meadows, or shady groves; he does not take up his contentment in these things, but only takes a transient view of them as he goes alone. He is not enticed by fine appearances to put off the thought of proceeding. No, but his journey’s end is in his mind. If he meets with comfortable accommodations at an inn, he entertains no thoughts of settling there. He considers that these things are not his own, that he is but a stranger, and when he has refreshed himself, or tarried for a night, he is for going forward. And it is pleasant to him to think that so much of the way is gone.  So should we desire heaven more than the comforts and enjoyments of this life. The apostle mentions it as an encouraging, comfortable consideration to Christians, that they draw nearer their happiness. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”  Our hearts ought to be loose to these things, as that of a man on a journey; that we may as cheerfully part with them, whenever God calls.  But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passes away.”  These things are only lent to us for a little while, to serve a present turn; but we should set our hearts on heaven, as our inheritance for ever. 

2. We ought to seek heaven, by traveling in the way that leads there. This is the way of holiness. We should choose and desire to travel there in this way and in no other; and part with all those carnal appetites which, as weights, will tend to hinder us. “Let us Lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us.” However pleasant the gratification of any appetite may be, we must lay it aside, if it be a hindrance, or a stumbling-block in the way to heaven.  We should travel on in the way of obedience to all God’s commands, even the difficult as well as the easy- denying all our sinful inclinations and interests. The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel up hill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh. We should follow Christ- the path he traveled was the right way to heaven. We should take up our cross and follow him, in meekness and lowliness of heart; in obedience and charity, diligence to do good, and patience under afflictions. The way to heaven is a heavenly life- an imitation of those who are in heaven, in their holy enjoyments, loving, adoring, serving, and praising God and the Lamb. Even if we could go to heaven with the gratification of our lusts, we should prefer a way of holiness and conformity and the spiritual self-denying rules of the gospel. 

3. We should travel on in this way in a laborious manner.    Long journeys are attended with toil and fatigue especially if through a wilderness. Persons in such a case expect no other than to suffer hardships and weariness.  So we should travel in this way of holiness, improving our time and strength, to surmount the difficulties and obstacles that are in the way. The land we have to travel through, is a wilderness- there are many mountains, rocks, and rough places that we must go over, and therefore there is a necessity that we should lay out our strength. 

4. Our whole lives ought to be spent in traveling this road.   We ought to begin early. This should he the first concern, when persons become capable of acting. When they first set out in the world, they should set out on this journey.  And we ought to travel on with diligence. It ought to be the work of every day. We should often think of our journey’s end, and make it our daily work to travel on in the way that leads to it.  He who is on a journey, is often thinking of the destined place, and it is his daily care and business to get along, and to improve his time to get towards his journey’s end. Thus should heaven be continually in our thoughts, and the immediate entrance or passage to it, namely death, should be present with us. We ought to persevere in this way as long as we live.  “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Though the road be difficult and toilsome, we must hold out with patience, and be content to endure hardships. Though the journey be long, yet we must not stop short; but hold on until we arrive at the place we seek. Nor should we be discouraged with the length and difficulties of the way, as the children of Israel were, and be for turning back again.  All our thought and design should be to press forward until we arrive. 

5. We ought to be continually growing in holiness, and in that respect coming nearer and nearer to heaven.    We should be endeavoring to come nearer to heaven, in being more heavenly- becoming more and more like the inhabitants of heaven, in respect of holiness and conformity to God; and the knowledge of God and Christ, in clear views of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the excellency of divine things, as we come nearer to the beatific vision.  We should labor to be continually growing in divine love — that this may be an increasing flame in our hearts, until they ascend wholly in this flame — in obedience and a heavenly life; that we may do the will of God on earth as the angels do in heaven; in comfort and spiritual joy; in sensible communion with God and Jesus Christ our path should be as “the shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day.”  We ought to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness- after an increase in righteousness. “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” The perfection of heaven should be our mark. “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 

6. All other concerns of life ought to be entirely subordinate to this. When a man is on a journey, all the steps he takes are subordinated to the aim of getting to his journey’s end. And if he carries money or provisions with him, it is to supply him in his journey. So we ought wholly to subordinate all our other business, and all our temporal enjoyments, to this affair of traveling to heaven. When any thing we have becomes a clog and hindrance to us, we should abandon it immediately. The use of our worldly enjoyments and possessions, should be with such a view, and in such a manner, as to further us in our way heavenward. Thus we should eat, and drink, and clothe ourselves, and improve the conversation and enjoyment of friends. And whatever business we are setting about, whatever design we are engaging in, we should inquire with ourselves, whether this business or undertaking will forward us in our way to heaven? And if not, we should quit our design.

SECTION 2 Why the Christian’s life is a journey, or pilgrimage? 

1. THIS world is not our abiding place. Our continuance here is but very short. Man’s days on the earth are as a shadow. It was never designed by God that this world should be our home. Neither did God give us these temporal accommodations for that end. If God has given us ample estates, and children or other pleasant friends, it is with no such design, that we should be furnished here, as for a settled abode; but with a design that we should use them for the present, and then leave them in a very little time. When we are called to any secular business, or charged with the care of a family, if we employ our lives to any other purpose, than as a journey toward heaven, all our labor will be lost. If we spend our lives in the pursuit of a temporal happiness; as riches or sensual pleasures; credit and esteem from men; delight in our children, and the prospect of seeing them well brought up, and well settled, etc.   All these things will be of little significancy to us. Death will blow up all our hopes, and will put an end to these enjoyments. “The places that have known us, will know us no more” and “the eye that has seen us, shall see us no more.” We must be taken away forever from all those things; and it is uncertain when: it may be soon after we are put into the possession of them. And then, where will be all our worldly employments and enjoyments, when we are laid in the silent grave? 

2. The future world was designed to be our settled and everlasting abode. There it was intended that we should be fixed; and there alone is a lasting habitation, and a lasting inheritance. The present state is short and transitory; but our state in the next world is everlasting. And as we arrive there at first, so we must be without change. Our state in the future world, therefore, being eternal, is of so much greater importance than our state here, that all our concerns in this world should be wholly subordinated to it. 

3. Heaven is that place alone where our highest end, and highest good, is to be obtained. God has made us for himself. “Of him, and through him, and to him are all things.” Therefore, then do we attain to our highest end, when we are brought to God: but that is by being brought to heaven; for that is God’s throne, the place of his special presence. There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this present world, a very imperfect knowledge of him in the midst of much darkness; a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of estrangement. Here we can serve and glorify God but in a very imperfect manner; our service being mingled with sin, which dishonors God.   But when we get to heaven, (if ever that be) we shall be brought to a perfect union with God, and have more clear views of him. There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remaining sin, for “we shall see him as he is.” There we shall serve God perfectly; and glorify him in an exalted manner, even to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature. Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God; our hearts will be pure and holy offerings, presented in a flame of divine love.  God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.  To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.   Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a Journey Towards Heaven, as it be comes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness? 

4. Our present state, and all that belongs to it, is designed by him that made all things, to be wholly subservient to the next world. This world was made for a place of preparation for another. Man’s mortal life was given him, that he might be prepared for his fixed state. And all that God has here given us, is given to this purpose. The sun shines, and the rain falls upon us and the earth yields her increase to us for this end.  Civil, ecclesiastical, and family affairs, and all our personal concerns, are designed and ordered in subordination to the future world, by the maker and disposer of all things. To this therefore they ought to be subordinated by us.

SECTION 3 Instruction afforded by the consideration, that life is a journey, or pilgrimage, towards heaven. 

1. THIS doctrine may teach us moderation in our mourning for the loss of such dear friends, who, while they lived, improved their lives to right purposes.  If they lived a holy life, then their lives were a journey towards heaven. And why should we be immoderate in mourning, when they are got to their journey’s end? Death, though it appears to us with a frightful aspect, is to them a great blessing. Their end is happy, and better than their beginning. “The day of their death is better to them than the day of their birth.” While they lived, they desired heaven, and chose it above this world, or any of its enjoyments. For this they earnestly longed, and why should we grieve that they have obtained it?  Now they have arrived at their Father’s house. They have a thousand times more comfort, now they have arrived home, than they did in their journey. In this present world they underwent much labor and toil, it was a wilderness they passed through. There were many difficulties in the way; mountains and rough places. It was laborious and fatiguing to travel the road; and they had many wearisome days and nights. But now they have got to their everlasting rest. “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” They look back upon the difficulties, and sorrows, and dangers of life, rejoicing that they have surmounted them all.  We are ready to look upon death as their calamity, and to mourn, that those who were so dear to us, should be in the dark grave; that they are there transformed to corruption and worms, taken away from their dear children and enjoyments, etc. as though they were in awful circumstances. But this is owing to our infirmity– they are in a happy condition, inconceivably blessed. They do not mourn, but rejoice with exceeding joy: their mouths are filled with joyful songs, and they drink at rivers of pleasure. They find no mixture of grief, that they have changed their earthly enjoyments, and the company of mortals, for heaven. Their life here on earth, though in the best circumstances, was attended with much that was adverse and afflictive. But now there is an end to all adversity. “They shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”  It is true, we shall see them no more in this world, yet we ought to consider that we are traveling towards he same peace, and why should we break our hearts that they have gotten there before us! We are following after them, and hope, as soon as we get to our journey’s end, to be with them again, in better circumstances. A degree of mourning for near relations when deceased, is not inconsistent with Christianity, but very agreeable to it, for as long as we are flesh and blood, we have animal propensities and affections. But we have just reason that our mourning should be mingled with joy. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others that have no hope:” -that they should not sorrow as the heathen, who had no knowledge of a future happiness. This appears by the following verse, “for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him.” 

2. If our lives ought to be only a journey towards heaven; how ill do they improve their lives, that spend them in traveling towards hell!   Some men spend their whole lives, from their infancy to their dying day, in going down the broad way to destruction. They not only draw nearer to hell as to time, but they every day grow more ripe for destruction, they are more assimilated to the inhabitants of the infernal world. While others press forward in the strait and narrow way to life, and laboriously travel up the hill toward Zion, against the inclinations and tendency of the flesh; these run with a swift foot down to eternal death– This is the employment of every duty, with all wicked men; and the whole day is spent in it. As soon as ever they awake in the morning, they set out anew in the way to hell, and spend every waking moment in it. They begin in early days. “The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” They hold on it with perseverance. Many of them who live to be old, are never weary in it; though they live to be a hundred years old, they will not cease traveling in the way to hell, until they arrive there. And all the concerns of life are subordinated to this employment.   A wicked man is a servant of sin, his powers and faculties are employed in the service of sin, and in fitness for hell. And all his possessions are so used by him as to be subservient to the same purpose. Men spend their time in treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. Thus do all unclean persons, who live in lascivious practices in secret; all malicious persons; all profane persons, that neglect the duties of religion. Thus do all unjust people; and those who are fraudulent and oppressive in their dealings. Thus do all backbiters and revilers, all covetous persons, that set their hearts chiefly on the riches of this world. Thus do tavern-haunters, and frequenters of evil company; and many other kinds that might be mentioned.   Thus the bulk of mankind are hastening on in the broad way to destruction; which is, as it were, filled up with the multitude that are going in it with one accord. And they are every day going into hell in this broad way by thousands. Multitudes are continually flowing down into the great lake of fire and brimstone, as some mighty river constantly empties its water into the ocean. 

3. Hence when persons are converted, they do but begin their work, and set out in the way they have to go.   They never until then, do anything at that work in which their whole lives ought to be spent. Persons before conversion never take a step that way. Then does a man first set out on his journey, when he is brought home to Christ; and so far is he from having done his work, that his care and labor in his Christian work and business is then but begun, in which he must spend the remaining part of his life.  Those persons do ill, who when they are converted, and have obtained a hope of their being in a good condition, do not strive as earnestly as they did before, while they were under awakenings. They ought, henceforward, as long as they live, to be as earnest and laborious, as watchful and careful, as ever; yes, they should increase more and more. It is no just excuse, that now they have obtained conversion. Should not we be as diligent that we may serve and glorify God, as that we ourselves may be happy? And if we have obtained grace, yet we ought to strive as much that we may obtain the other degrees that are before, as we did to obtain that small degree that is behind. The apostle tells us, that he forgot what was behind, and reached forth towards what was before.  Yes, those who are converted, have now a further reason to strive for grace; for they have seen something of its excellency. A man who has once tasted the blessings of Canaan, has more reason to press towards it, than he had before. And they who are converted, should strive to “make their calling and election sure.” All those who are converted are not sure of it; and those who are sure, do not know that they shall be always so, and still seeking and serving God with the utmost diligence, is the way to have assurance, and to have it maintained.

SECTION 4 An exhortation, so to spend the present life, that it may only  be a journey towards heaven. Labor to obtain such a disposition of mind that you may choose heaven for your inheritance and home; and may earnestly long for it, and be willing to change this world, and all its enjoyments, for heaven. Labor to have your heart taken up so much about heaven, and heavenly enjoyments, as that you may rejoice when God calls you to leave your best earthly friends and comforts for heaven, there to enjoy God and Christ.  Be persuaded to travel in the way that leads to heaven–  in holiness, self-denial, mortification, obedience to all the commands of God, following Christ’s example, in a way of a heavenly life, or imitation of the saints and angels in heaven. Let it be your daily work, from morning until night, and hold out in it to the end, let nothing stop or discourage you or turn you aside from this road. And let all other concerns be subordinated to this.  Consider the reasons that have been mentioned why you should thus spend your life; that this world is not your abiding place, that the future world is to be your everlasting abode; and that the enjoyments and concerns of this world are given entirely in subordination to the next world.     And consider further for motive– 

1. How worthy is heaven, that your life should be wholly spent as a journey towards it.  To what better purpose can you spend your life, whether you respect your duty or your interest? What better end can you propose to your Journey, than to obtain heaven? You are placed in this world, with a choice given you, that you may travel which way you please; and one way leads to heaven. Now, can you direct your course better than this way? All men have some aim or other in living. Some mainly seek worldly things; they spend their days in such pursuits. But is not heaven, where is fullness of joy forever, much more worthy to be sought by you? How can you better employ your strength, use your means, and spend your days, than in traveling the road that leads to the everlasting enjoyment of God; to his glorious presence; to the new Jerusalem to the heavenly mount Zion; where all your desires will be filled, and no danger of ever losing your happiness?  No man is at home in this present world, whether he choose heaven or not; here he is but a transient person. Where can you choose your home better than in heaven? 

2. This is the way to have death comfortable to us.  To spend our lives so as to be only a journeying towards heaven, is the way to be free from bondage, and to have the prospect and forethought of death comfortable. Does the traveler think of his journey’s end with fear and terror?  Is it terrible to him to think that he has almost got to his journey’s end? Were the children of Israel sorry, after forty years travel in the wilderness, when they had almost got to Canaan? This is the way to be able to part with the world without grief. Does it grieve the traveler when he has got home, to leave his staff and load of provisions that he had to sustain him by the way? 

3. No more of your life will be pleasant to think of when you come to die, than has been spent after this manner.  If you have spent none of your life this way, your whole life will be terrible to you to think of, unless you die under some great delusion. You will see then, that all of your life that has been spent otherwise, is lost. You will then see the vanity of all other aims that you may have proposed to yourself. The thought of what you here possessed and enjoyed, will not be pleasant to you, unless you can think also that you have subordinated them to this purpose. 

4. Consider that those who are willing thus to spend their lives as a journey towards heaven, may have heaven.  Heaven, however high and glorious, is attainable for such poor worthless creatures as we are. We may attain that glorious region which is the habitation of angels- yes, the dwelling-place of the Son of God; and where is the glorious presence of the great Jehovah. And we may have it freely, without money and without price- if we are but willing to travel the road that leads to it, and bend our course that way as long as we live, we may and shall have heaven for our eternal resting place. 

5. Let it be considered, that if our lives be not a journey towards heaven, they will be a journey to hell.  All mankind, after they have been here a short while, go to either of the two great receptacles of all that depart out of this world–  the one is heaven, where a small number, in comparison, travel; and the other is hell where the bulk of mankind throng. And one or the other of these must be the outcome of our course in this world.

SECTION 5 I shall conclude by giving a few directions: 

1. Labor to get a sense of the vanity of this world on account of the little satisfaction that is to be enjoyed here; its short continuance, and unserviceableness when we most stand in need of help-  on a deathbed. All men, that live any considerable time in the world, might see enough to convince them of its vanity, if they would but consider.  Be persuaded  therefore to exercise consideration, when you see and hear, from time to time, of the death of others. Labor to turn your thoughts this way. See the vanity of the world in such a glass. 

2. Labor to be much acquainted with heaven.  If you are not acquainted with it, you will not be likely to spend your life as a journey there. You will not be sensible of its worth, nor will you long for it. Unless you are much conversant in your mind with a better good, it will be exceeding difficult to you to have your hearts loose from these things, and to use them only in subordination to something else, and be ready to part with them for the sake of that better good.  Labor therefore to obtain a realizing sense of a heavenly world- to get a firm belief of its reality,  and to be very much conversant with it in your thoughts. 

3. Seek heaven only by Jesus Christ.   Christ tells us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life. He tells us that he is the door of the sheep. “I am the door, by me if any man enter in he shall be saved; and go in and out and find pasture.” If we therefore would improve our lives as a journey towards heaven, we must seek it by him, and not by our own righteousness; as expecting to obtain it only for his sake, looking to him, having our dependence on him, who has procured it for us by his merit. And expect strength to walk in holiness, the way that leads to heaven, only from him. 

4. Let Christians help one another in going this journey.   There are many ways whereby Christians might greatly forward one another in their way to heaven, as by religious conference, etc.  Wherefore let them be exhorted to go this journey as it were in company, conversing together, and assisting one another. Company is very desirable in a journey, but in none so much as this.  Let them go united and not fall out by the way, which would be to hinder one another; but use all means they can to help each other up the hill.  This would insure a more successful traveling, and a more joyful meeting at their Father’s house in glory.

He will sustain us so that we may carry it!

(J.R. Miller, “Help for the Day”)

“Cast your burden on the LORD–and He shall sustain you” Psalm 55:22 

The promise is not that the Lord will remove the load we cast upon Him, nor that He will carry it for us–but that He will sustain us so that we may carry it! 

He does not free us from duty–but He strengthens us for it. 

He does not deliver us from conflict–but He enables us to overcome. 

He does not withhold or withdraw trial from us–but He helps us in trial to be submissive and victorious, and makes it a blessing to us. 

He does not mitigate the hardness or severity of our circumstances, taking away the difficult elements, removing the thorns, making life easy for us–but He puts Divine grace into our hearts, so that we can live sweetly in all the hard, adverse circumstances!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness!” 2 Corinthians 12:9 

Contemplating God’s greatness!

From Spurgeon’s sermon, “Fear Not”

Lift up your eyes, behold the heavens, the work of God’s
fingers– behold the sun guided in his daily march;
go forth at midnight, and behold the heavens;
consider the stars and the moon; look upon these works of
God’s hands, and if you be men of sense, and your souls are
attuned to the high music of the spheres, you will say,
“What is man that you are mindful of him?”

My God! when I survey the boundless fields of ether,
and see those ponderous orbs rolling therein,
when I consider how vast are your dominions-
so wide that an angel’s wing might flap to all eternity
and never reach a boundary- I marvel that you
should look on insects so obscure as man.

I am so little that I shrink into nothingness when I behold the
Almightiness of Jehovah- so little, that the difference between the
molecule and man dwindles into nothing, when compared with
the infinite chasm between God and man.

Let your mind rove upon the great doctrines of the Godhead;
consider the existence of God from before the foundations
of the world; behold Him who is, and was, and is to come,
the Almighty.

Let your soul comprehend as much as it can of the Infinite,
and grasp as much as possible of the Eternal,
and I am sure if you have minds at all, they will shrink with awe.

The tall archangel bows himself before his Master’s throne,
and we shall cast ourselves into the lowest dust when we feel
what base nothings, what insignificant specks we are when
compared with our all-adorable Creator.

Labor, O soul, to know your nothingness, and learn it by
contemplating God’s greatness.

Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan

Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan

by John Newton

(The following is Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan—written just after the commencement of the second century)

It is a rule, sir, which I inviolably observe, to refer myself to you in all my doubts; for who is more capable of removing my scruples, or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials concerning those who profess Christianity, I am unacquainted not only with the nature of their crimes, or the measure of their punishment—but how far it is proper to enter into an examination concerning them. Whether, therefore, any difference is usually made with respect to the ages of the guilty, or no distinction is to be observed between the young and the adult; whether repentance entitles them to a pardon; or, if a man has been once a Christian, whether it avails nothing to desist from his error; whether the profession of Christianity, unattended with any criminal act, or only the crimes themselves, inherent in the profession, are punishable—in all these points I am greatly doubtful.

In the mean while, the method I have observed towards those who have been brought before me as Christians, is this—I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed, I repeated the question twice again, adding threats at the same time; when, if they still persevered, I ordered them to be immediately punished; for I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction.

There were others also brought before me, possessed with the same Christian profession—but, being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried there. But this crime spreading, while it was actually under prosecution!

An information was presented to me, without any name subscribed, containing a charge against several people, who, upon examination, denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated, after me, an invocation to the gods; and offered religious rites, with wine and frankincense, before your statue, (which for the purpose I had ordered to be brought) and even reviled the name of Christ. I thought proper, therefore, to discharge these.

Some among those who were accused by a witness in person, at first confessed themselves Christians—but immediately after denied it. And others owned indeed that they had been of that number formerly—but had now forsaken their error. They all worshiped your statue, and the images of the gods, throwing out imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ. They affirmed, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on Sundays, before it was light, and addressed themselves in a form of prayer to Christ, as to some God; binding themselves by a solemn oath—not for the purposes of any wicked design—and never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery; never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust, when they should be called upon to deliver it up. After which, it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to eat in common a harmless meal.

After receiving this account, I judged it so much the more necessary to endeavor to extort the real truth, by putting two female slaves to the torture, who were said to attend their religious functions; but I could discover nothing more than an absurd and excessive superstition.

I thought proper, therefore, to adjourn all further proceedings in this affair, in order to consult with you—for it appears to be a matter highly deserving your consideration; more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions, having already extended, and being still likely to extend, to people, of all ranks and ages, and even of both sexes. For this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only—but has spread its infection among the country villages! Nevertheless, it still seems possible to remedy this evil, and restrain its progress.

The heathen temples, at least, which were almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and their sacred rituals, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for the victims, which, for some time past, have met with but few purchasers.

From hence it is easy to imagine, what numbers might be reclaimed from this error—if a pardon were granted to those who shall repent.

REMARKS (by John Newton)

Several remarks easily offer from a perusal of this valuable monument of ecclesiastical antiquity, which I consider as affording us one of the most authentic testimonials of the natural tendency of genuine Christianity, and likewise a striking display of the unreasonableness and malignancy of the spirit by which it was then opposed, and by which it always will be opposed, (so far as the providence of God, and the circumstances of the times will permit it to act,) while the state of the world and of human nature continue as they are.

1. It appears, that the number of those who professed the Christian name, when Pliny was proconsul of Pontus and Bythynia, and particularly within the extent of his government, was very great; so great, that the heathen temples had been almost left desolate, and their sacrifices sunk into neglect. Pliny thought that such a general defection from the old religion rendered severities and punishments justifiable, and even necessary—yet, on the other hand, being a person of humanity, he was shocked and grieved when he reflected on the multitudes who were affected by such prosecutions, without distinction of rank, age, or gender.

Considering the many disadvantages to which the Christians had been exposed, especially under the reigns of Nero and Domitian, their great increase at the time of Pliny’s writing, (which, at the latest, could be but a few years after the commencement of the second century,) evidently proved, that the propagation and maintenance of the gospel is no way dependent upon the rank, titles, or acquired abilities of those who profess it—for, numerous as the Christians were, they were of so little note and esteem in the world, that Pliny, who was a scholar, a philosopher, and a gentleman, a curious inquirer into everything that was thought worthy of being known—was wholly unacquainted with the Christians, until his office obliged him to procure some information concerning them. He had an extensive acquaintance in Rome, having been many years in public life, and the Christians were very numerous there; but he appears only to have known that there was such a people; and that they were a deluded and contemptible people, who deserved all that they suffered, for their obstinacy. The very name of Christian was then odious and reproachful; and when, in succeeding ages, it became general and fashionable, other disgraceful epithets were substituted to stigmatize the faithful servants of God, and to point them out to the scorn or rage of the world.

2. Multitudes, who had been willing to be thought Christians in a time of peace, renounced their profession when they could no longer maintain it without the hazard of their lives. The terms of safety were to pray to the heathen gods, to offer wine and incense to the statue of the emperor, and to blaspheme Christ—which, Pliny was rightly informed, no true Christian could be prevailed on to comply with. Yet, in fact, when the persecution was sharp, so many yielded, that the cause seemed visibly to decline. The heathen temples, which had been almost forsaken, were again frequented, the rituals revived, and the demand for victims greatly increased. It is plain, therefore, that there were, even in those primitive times, many superficial Christians, destitute of that saving faith and love which are necessary to perseverance, in the face of dangers and death.

Of course, it is no new thing for men to desert the profession of the truth, to which they have formerly appeared to be attached; through thefear of man, or the love of the world. These are the stony-ground hearers; and our Lord has assured us, that such would be found, wherever his gospel should be preached. But there were others, who, having experienced this gospel to be the power of God unto salvation, were faithful witnesses, and could neither be intimidated nor flattered into a compliance with evil.

It is the same at this day—for, though we are mercifully exempted from the terror of penal laws—yet the temptations arising from worldly interest, and the prevalence and force of evil customs, will sooner or later be too hard for all professors who have not received that faith which is of the operation of God, which, by communicating a sense of the constraining love of Christ—is alone able to purify the heart from selfish and sinful principles, and to overcome the world with all its allurements and threatenings!

3. We have, in this epistle, an honorable testimony to the conduct and practice of the Christians in Pliny’s time. Though the information of enemies and apostates was admitted, and even sought for, and those who were inclined to speak in their favor, were put to the torture—we see, that in the declaration of this heathen Pliny—that nothing is laid to their charge which was in any degree deserving of just blame. Though their meetings were accounted an offence against the state, they are acquitted of any criminal transactions. On the contrary, it is said, that they bound themselves by the strictest obligations against the commission of immorality, and to the faithful discharge of family duties. An engagement of this kind, among any other people, Pliny would have approved and admired. But the nature of their religiousworship, which he censures as a dangerous and immoderate superstition, he thought sufficiently criminal in itself, notwithstanding its influence upon their conduct was confessedly commendable.

To such inconsistencies are the wisest men reduced, who have the least degree of frankness in their opposition to the people of Christ. While they ignorantly condemn their principles, they are compelled to bear witness in favor of their general deportment which is formed upon those principles; and which, experience shows, no other principles can uniformly produce. It is true, the Christians were often unjustly charged with the greatest immoralities—but not by people of reputation and judgment like Pliny, who were careful to inquire into the truth of what they related.

At present, we who know what foul aspersions are propagated against the despised professors of the gospel—do not think it necessary to attempt a formal refutation of them; because, as we fear the authors of such slanders are incorrigible, so we are persuaded with regard to others, that there are very few people (however they may mistake our sentiments) so ignorant or credulous, as seriously to think them worthy of credit.

4. The object of divine worship, in their assemblies, was the Lord Jesus Christ. Every Sunday, they met early in the morning to sing hymns to his praise; not in commemoration of a mortal benefactor or lawgiver—but as to God; acknowledging, by this practice, their firm persuasion of that great mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, and that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. That they met before it was light, was most probably to avoid the notice and fury of their persecutors. The enemies of Christ may put those who know and love him to many difficulties and inconveniences; but they cannot wholly prevent them from assembling in his name, unless they confine them in prisons or chains! The reason is, they honor him as God, and are assured that he is present where two or three are met in his name, at all times and in all places. Their dependence for support, direction, and deliverance, is entirely upon him. And when they worship him according to his will, he manifests himself unto them as he does not unto the world. This they believe, experience, and profess—and the hardships they will submit to, rather than be deprived of such opportunities, is a proof that they are not disappointed in their expectations from him; especially if it is considered, that there have been few ages in which a succession of his people have not been pressed with the like trials for adhering to him.

But no power or policy could ever effectually prevent meetings to honor and serve him, among those who were fully persuaded that he is their God and their Savior. Bishop Bonner, in Queen Mary’s reign, who was better versed in the arts of persecution than in the history of the church, mistook these Christians, whom Pliny describes, for heretics, and charged Philpot with being altogether like them; a charge which the good man received as a great honor.

5. The severity with which the persecution was carried on under Trajan, appears from the doubt proposed by Pliny, whether he was at liberty to make any allowance in particular cases—or must punish all alike who were guilty of bearing the Christian name, without paying the least regard to gender, age, rank, or circumstance. Though desirous to show lenity—he did not think himself authorized to reject the most invidious or private accusations; nor even to accept of a recantation, without the emperor’s express warrant. It is plain that he considered the mitigations he proposed, as a deviation from the ordinary course of proceeding against them.

History scarcely affords an instance of such undistinguished rage exerted against any people, upon any occasion, except against those who have been punished for righteousness’ sake, though they indeed have often been exposed to similar treatment, both from heathens, and professed Christians. In cases of sedition, or even rebellion against civil government, though many perhaps suffer, the greater number usually obtain mercy. The devouring sword of war seldom preys upon the defenseless, upon tender youth, or hoary old age, or women. Some bounds are set by the feelings of humanity, to the carnage of a field of battle—but when the native enmity of the heart, against those of whom the world is not worthy, is permitted to act without restraint—it acknowledges no distinctions, it feels no compassion—but, like the insatiable fire, consumes whatever it can reach!

If there are some exceptions, a few people of gentle natural dispositions, who are unwilling to shed blood, and rather express their dislike by a contemptuous pity—this is chiefly to be ascribed to the power of God over the heart of man; and he sometimes makes use of these to check the violence of the others. Such a one was Pliny; he had no esteem for the Christians, he despised them as deluded enthusiasts, and he was angry with them for what he deemed their obstinacy—yet the greatness of their sufferings, and the number of the sufferers, gave him some concern, and made him interpose in their favor, so far as to prevent them from being industriously sought out, or punished without witnesses or proof.

6. The chief or only crime of the Christians, in the judgment of Pliny, was, their steadiness in maintaining a cause which the emperor did not approve, and continuing their Christian assemblies after they had been prohibited by his edict—for this audacity and presumption, he counted them deserving of the heaviest punishment, however blameless they were in other respects.

It must be allowed, that, as the edicts of the Roman emperors had at that time the force of law—that the profession of Christianity, when forbidden by those edicts, was illegal, and, if the penalties they suffered were prescribed by the edict, and they were tried and condemned under the same forms as were usually observed in other criminal processes, they suffered according to law.

Thus it appeared to Pliny; and though, in his private capacity, he might pity the offenders—yet, as a governor and a judge, he thought it his duty to give sentence according to the rule prescribed to him.

At this distance of time, and while we keep in view that the persecutors were heathens, we can readily plead in behalf of the Christians. The obstinacy they were charged with, was no other than a commendable regard to the superior authority of God. In all things not inconsistent with their duty to their supreme Lord—they were peaceable and obedient subjects to the emperor. But, to agree to the worship of idols, to burn incense to the statue of a man, to abjure the name of Jesus who had redeemed them from hell, or willfully to neglect his commands—these things they could not do without sin—and therefore they choose to suffer.

We approve their determination, and admire their constancy. But a question naturally arises upon this subject, namely, Whether God is theLord of the conscience under a heathen government only? Or whether any man, or set of men, who own the Christian name, can have a better right than Trajan had, to compel men to act contrary to the light of their minds, or to punish them for a refusal?

As true Christians have always, by the influence of his grace, extorted from the more sober part of their adversaries, a confession in favor of their moral and peaceable conduct, they have been usually proceeded against, upon the principle which influenced Pliny—not so much for the singularity of their religious tenets and usages, which are pretended to be so weak and absurd as to excite contempt rather than anger; but for their pertinacity in persisting to maintain them, contrary to the laws and injunctions which have been contrived for their suppression.

There have been men, in most ages of the church, whose ambition and thirst of power have been gratified by thus tyrannizing over the consciences of their fellow-creatures, or (if they could not prevail over conscience) over their liberty, fortunes, and lives; and they have, by flattery or misrepresentation, had but too much success in engaging the authority of the government to support their evil designs. How many instances might we quote, from the history of kings and rulers, who in other respects have sought the welfare of their people, who—yet being misled to esteem it as a branch of their prerogative, to dictate in what manner God shall be worshiped, and what points shall be received as articles of faith—have crowded the annals of their reigns with misery, in the calamities which their ill-judged measures have brought upon their subjects.

uniformity of modes in religion has been enforced, as though it were the most desirable object of government; though it may be proved, that to prescribe, under the severest penalties, a uniformity of rituals, would hardly be more unreasonable in itself, or more injurious to the peace and rights of society. Sometimes the servants of God have been traduced as people hostile to the government, because they cannot adopt or approve such institutions as are directly subversive of the faith and obedience they owe to the Lord! Thus the prophet was charged by Amaziah, the high-priest of Bethel, “Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to King Jeroboam: Amos is hatching a plot against you right here on your very doorstep! What he is saying is intolerable. It will lead to rebellion all across the land!” Amos 7:10.

At other times, new laws have been enacted, purposely to ensnare or distress them. Thus, when the enemies of Daniel were convinced that they could find no crime against him, except concerning the law of his God; by flattering the pride of Darius, they obtained a decree, which, according to their expectation, gave Daniel up into their power as a criminal against the state. May we be duly thankful to God, and to the government under which we live, for the valuable privilege of religious liberty, and that we can worship him according to the light of our consciences, and assemble together in His name where and when we please, none being permitted to persecute us!

Quote

Oh, how pleasan…

Oh, how pleasant to lean upon an almighty arm, and to commit ourselves without anxiety to the guidance of infinite wisdom and love! -John Newton

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!” Deuteronomy 33:27

“This God is our God for ever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death!” Psalm 48:14

Psalm 130:5-6: Waiting

Verse 5. I wait for the LORD, etc. We pronounce this a most blessed posture of the believer. It runs counter to everything that is natural, and, therefore, it is all the more a supernatural grace of the gracious soul. In the first place it is the posture of faith. Here is the gracious soul hanging in faith upon God in Christ Jesus; upon the veracity of God to fulfil his promise, upon the power of God to help him in difficulty, upon the wisdom of God to counsel him in perplexity, upon the love of God to shield him in danger, upon the omniscience of God to guide him with his eye, and upon the omnipresence of God to cheer him with his presence, at all times and in all places, his sun and shield. Oh, have faith in God.

It is also a prayerful posture. The soul waiting for God, is the soul waiting upon God. The Lord often shuts us up to this waiting for his interposition on our behalf, that he may keep us waiting and watching at the foot of his cross, in earnest, believing, importunate prayer. Oh, it is the waiting for the Lord that keeps the soul waiting upon the Lord!

It is also the posture of a patient waiting for the Lord. There is not a more God honouring grace of the Christian character than patience—a patient waiting on and for the Lord. It is that Christian grace, the fruit of the Spirit, which will enable you to bear with dignity, calmness, and submission the afflictive dealings of your Heavenly Father, the rebuke of the world, and the wounding of the saints.

It is the posture of rest. A soul waiting for the Lord is a soul resting in the Lord. Waiting and resting! Wearied with traversing in vain the wide circle of human expedients; coming to the end of all your own wisdom, strength, and resources; your uneasy, jaded spirit is brought into this resting posture of waiting on, and waiting for, the Lord; and thus folds its drooping wings upon the very bosom of God. Oh, how real and instant is the rest found in Jesus! Reposing in him, however profound the depth of the soul, however dark the clouds that drape it, or surging the waters that overwhelm it, all is sunshine and serenity within.—Condensed from “Soul Depths and Soul Heights”, by Octavius Winslow, 1874.

Verse 5. I wait for the LORD. Waiting is a great part of life’s discipline, and therefore God often exercises the grace of waiting. Waiting has four purposes. It practises the patience of faith. It gives time for preparation for the coming gift. It makes the blessing the sweeter when it arrives. And it shows the sovereignty of God,—to give just when and just as he pleases. It may be difficult to define exactly what the Psalmist had in his mind when he said, “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” It may have been the Messiah, whose coming was a thing close at hand to the mind of the ancient Jews, just as the Second Advent is to us. It may have been some special interposition of Divine Providence. But more probably, looking at the place which it occupies, and at the whole tenor of the Psalm, and its line of thought, “The Lord” he waited for so intently was that full sense of safety, peace, and love which God’s felt presence gives, and which is, indeed, nothing else but the coming of the Lord most sensibly and palpably into an anxious and longing heart. The picture of the waiting man is a striking one. It is as of one on the ridge of a journey, looking onward on his way, standing on tiptoe, and therefore needing something to lean on, and to support him“I wait for the Lord”,—spiritually, with my deepest thoughts—in the very centre of my being—“I wait for the Lordmy soul doth wait.” And I rest, I stay myself on what thou, O Lord, hast said. “My soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” In all your waitings remember two things: Let it not be so much the event which you wait for, as the Lord of the event; the Lord in the event. And take care that you have a promise underneath you,—”In his word do I hope”,—else “waiting” will be too much for you, and after all it may be in vain.James Vaughan.

Verse 5. I wait…I hope. Waiting and hoping ever attend the same thing. No man will wait at all for that which he hath no hope of, and he who hath hope will wait always. He gives not over waiting, till he gives over hoping. The object of hope is some future good, but the act of hoping is at present good, and that is present pay to bear our charges in waiting. The word implies both a patient waiting and a hopeful trusting. So Christ expounds it (Mt 12:21), rendering that of the prophet (Isa 42:1-4), “The isles shall wait for his law”, thus, “In his name shall the Gentiles trust.”—Joseph Caryl.

Verses 5-6. In these two verses he doth four times make mention of his hope, and attendance upon God and his word, to let us see how sure a hold we should take on God, and with how many temptations our faith is assaulted, when we can see no reason thereof. Nothing will bear us up but hope. Spero meliora. What encourages husbandmen and mariners against the surges and waves of the sea, and evil weather, but hope of better times? What comforteth a sick man in time of sickness, but hope of health? or a poor man in his distress, but hope of riches? or a prisoner, but hope of liberty? or a banished man, but hope to come home? All these hopes may fail, as oftentimes wanting a warrant. Albeit a physician may encourage a sick man by his fair words, yet he cannot give him an assurance of his recovery, for his health depends on God: friends and courtiers may promise poor men relief, but all men are liars; only God is faithful who hath promised. Therefore let us fix our faith on God, and our hope in God; for he will stand by his promise. No man hath hoped in him in vain, neither was ever any disappointed of his hope.—Archibald Symson.

Verses 5, 7. Faith doth ultimately centre in the Deity. God himself in his glorious nature, is the ultimate object where unto our faith is resolved. The promise, simply considered, is not the object of trust, but God in the promise; and from the consideration of that we ascend to the Deity, and cast our anchor there. “Hope in the word” is the first act, but succeeded by hoping in the Lord: “In his word do I hope”: that is not all; but, “Let Israel hope in the Lord.” That is the ultimate object of faith, wherein the essence of our happiness consists, and that is God. God himself is the true and full portion of the soul.—Stephen Charnock, 1628-1680.

Verse 6. My soul waiteth for the LORD. And now, my soul, what do I live for but only to wait upon God, and to wait for God? To wait upon him, to do him service, to wait for him, to be enabled to do him better service; to wait upon him, as being Lord of all; and to wait for him, as being the rewarder of all; to wait upon him whose service is better than any other command, and to wait for him whose expectation is better than any other possession. Let others, therefore, wait upon the world, wait for the world; I, O God, will wait upon thee, for thee, seeing I find more true contentment in this waiting than all the world can give me in enjoying; for how can I doubt of receiving reward by my waiting for thee when my waiting for thee is itself the reward of my waiting upon thee? And therefore my soul waiteth; for if my soul did not wait, what were my waiting worth no more than I were worth myself, if I had not a soul; but my soul puts a life into my waiting, and makes it become a living sacrifice. Alas, my frail body is very unfit to make a waiter: it rather needs to be waited upon itself: it must have so much resting, so often leave to be excused from waiting, that if God should have no other waiters than bodies, he would be left oftentimes to wait upon himself; but my soul isDivinoe particula auroe a portion of the Divine breath, endued with all qualities fit for a waiter; and hath it not received its abilities, O God, from thee?] And therefore my soul waiteth, and is so intent in the service that it waits “more than they that watch for the morning.”Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 6. Hammond thus renders the verse:—”My soul hasteneth to the Lord from the guards in the morning, the guards in the morning.”

Verse 6. More than they that watch for the morning. Look, as the weary sentinel that is wet and stiff with cold and the dews of the night, or as the porters that watched in the Temple, the Levites, were waiting for the daylight, so “more than they that watch for the morning” was he waiting for some glimpse of God’s favour. Though he do not presently ease us of our smart or gratify our desires, yet we are to wait upon God. In time we shall have a good answer. God’s delays are not denials. Day will come at length, though the weary sentinel or watchman counts it long first; so God will come at length; he will not be at our beck. We have deserved nothing, but must wait for him in the diligent use of means; as Benhadad’s servants watched for the word “brother”, or anything of kindness to drop from the king of Israel.—Thomas Manton.

Verse 6. More than they that watch for the morning. How many in the hallowed precincts of the Temple turned with anxious eye to the east, for the first red streak over Moab’s mountains that gave intimation of approaching day; yet it was not for deliverance they waited, but for the accustomed hour when the morning sacrifice could be offered, and the soul be relieved of its gratitude in the hymn of thanksgiving, and of the burden of its sorrows and sins by prayer, and could draw that strength from renewed intercourse with heaven, that would enable it in this world to breathe the spirit and engage in the beneficent and holy deeds of a better.—Robert Nisbet.

Verse 6. I say, more than they that watch for the morning, for must there not be a proportion between the cause and effect? If my cause of watching be more than theirs, should not my watching be more than theirs? They that watch for the morning have good cause, no doubt, to watch for it, that it may bring them the light of day; but have not I more cause to watch, who wait for the light that lighteth every one that comes into the world? They that watch for the morning wait but for the rising of the sun to free them from darkness, that hinders their sight; but I wait for the rising of the Sun of righteousness to dispel the horrors of darkness that affright my soul. They watch for the morning that they may have light to walk by; but I wait for the Dayspring from on High to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. But though there may be question made of the intentness of our watching, yet of the extensiveness there can be none, for they that watch for the morning watch at most but a piece of the night; but I have watched whole days and whole nights, and may I not then justly say, I wait more than they that watch for the morning?—Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 6. Holy men like Simeon, and devout priests like Zacharias, there were, amidst this seething people, who, brooding, longing, waiting, chanted to themselves day by day the words of the Psalmist, “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” As lovers that watch for the appointed coming, and start at the quivering of a leaf, the flight of a bird, or the humming of a bee, and grow weary of the tense strain, so did the Jews watch for their Deliverer. It is one of the most piteous sights of history, especially when we reflect that he came,—and they knew him not.—Henry Ward Beechef, in his “Life of Jesus the Christ.”

Verse 6. Watch. We do injustice to that good and happy word, “watch”, when we take it as watching against; against a danger; against a coming evil. It will bear that interpretation; but it is a far higher, and better, and more filial thing to watch for a coming good than to watch against an approaching evil. So, “watching for”, we send up our arrows of prayer, and then look trustingly to see where they are coming down again. So, “watching for”, we listen, in silence, for the familiar voice we love. So, “watching for”, we expect the Bridegroom! Take care, that as one always standing on the eve,—not of danger, but of happiness,—your “watch” be the “watch” of love, and confidence, and cheerful hope.—James Vaughan.

Verse 6. In the year 1830, on the night preceding the first of August, the day the slaves in our West Indian Colonies were to come into possession of the freedom promised them, many of them, we are told, never went to bed at all. Thousands, and tens of thousands of them, assembled in their places of worship, engaging in devotional duties, and singing praises to God, waiting for the first streak of the light of the morning of that day on which they were to be made free. Some of their number were sent to the hills, from which they might obtain the first view of the coming day, and, by a signal, intimate to their brethren down in the valley the dawn of the day that was to make them men, and no longer, as they had hitherto been, mere goods and chattels,—men with souls that God had created to live forever. How eagerly must these men have watched for the morning!—T. W. Aveling, in “The Biblical Museum,” 1872.

Psalm 130:1

Verse 1. Out of the depths have I cried.

Up from the deeps, O God, I cry to thee!
Hear my soul’s prayer, hear thou her litany,
O thou who sayest, “Come, wanderer, home to me.”
Up from the deeps of sorrow, wherein lie
Dark secrets veil’d from earth’s unpitying eye,
My prayers, like star crown’d angels, Godward fly.
From the calm bosom when in quiet hour
God’s Holy Spirit reigns with largest power,
Then shall each thought in prayer’s white blossom flower.
Not from life’s shallows, where the waters sleep,
A dull, low marsh where stagnant vapours creep,
But ocean voiced, deep calling unto deep.
As he of old, King David, call’d to thee,
As cries the heart of poor humanity,
“Clamavi, Domine, exaudi me!”—C. S. Fenner.

Verse 1. But when he crieth from the deep, he riseth from the deep, and his very cry suffereth him not to be long at the bottom.—Augustine.