The Golden Rule

If you’d like to stir the pot, tell folks that the “Golden Rule” doesn’t apply to everyone.

If you’d really like to stir the pot, say the same thing about the entire sermon encompassing the Golden Rule (Matthew 5-7, the “Sermon on the Mount”).

Lest one think my dispensational convictions have carried me too far, listen to another, who was definitely not a dispensationalist:

The fact is that the ethics of the discourse, taken by itself, will not work at all. The Golden Rule furnishes an example. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is that rule a rule of universal application, will it really solve all the problems of society? A little experience shows that such is not the case. Help a drunkard to get rid of his evil habit, and you will soon come to distrust the modern interpretation of the Golden rule. The trouble is that the drunkard’s companions apply the rule only too well; They do unto him exactly what they would have him do unto them—by buying him a drink. The Golden Rule becomes a powerful obstacle in the way of moral advance. But the trouble does not lie in the rule itself; it lies in the modern interpretation of the rule. The error consists in supposing that the Golden Rule, with the rest of the sermon on the Mount, is addressed to the whole world. As a matter of fact the whole discourse is expressly addressed to Jesus’ disciples; and from them the great world outside is distinguished in the plainest possible way. The persons to whom the Golden rule is addressed are persons in whom a great change has been wrought—a change which fits them for entrance into the Kingdom of God. Such persons will have pure desires; they, and they only, can safely do unto others as they would have others do unto them, for the things that they would have others do unto them are high and pure (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 37–38).

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Mesopotamia

Not that Mesopotamia, but the Ohio Mesopotamia, called “Mespo” for short. 🙂

Last night I took my family for ice cream to Ohio’s oldest general store, End of the Commons. They have great sugar-free butter pecan ice cream! Afterward we wandered the area a bit.

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We made our way to the cemetery across the street from the store, and saw a number of interesting head stones. I liked this one–

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There was a cool old barn too–

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A fine summer evening, for which we praise the Lord.

The Effect of Unbelief in Ministers

autumn-2182010_640In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar challenges us in the Lord’s service:

Thus did they preach and thus did they hear in those days of terror and death. Men were in earnest then, both in speaking and hearing. There was no coldness, no languor, no studied oratory. Truly they preached as dying men to dying men. But the question is, Should it ever be otherwise? Should there ever be less fervor in preaching or less eagerness in hearing than there was then? True, life was a little shorter then, but that was all. Death and its issues are still the same. Eternity is still the same. The soul is still the same. Only one small element was thrown in then which does not always exist to such an extent; namely, the increased shortness of life. But that was all the difference.

Why then should our preaching be less fervent, our appeals less affectionate, our importunity less urgent? We are a few steps farther from the shore of eternity; that is all. Time may be a little stronger than it was then, yet only a very little. Its everlasting issues are still as momentous, as unchangeable. Surely it is our unbelief that makes the difference! It is unbelief that makes ministers so cold in their preaching, so slothful in visiting, and so remiss in all their sacred duties. It is unbelief that chills the life and straitens the heart. It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step “that awful place the pulpit,” to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.

Preach as a Dying Man to Dying Men

cemetery-2894142_640In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in the Lord’s service:

Many of our readers have seen, we doubt not, a small volume of Vincent, the non-conformist minister, respecting the great plague and fire in London. Its title is “God’s Terrible Voice in the City.” In it there is a description of the manner in which the faithful ministers who remained amid the danger discharged their solemn duties to the dying inhabitants, and of the manner in which the terror-stricken multitudes hung with breathless eagerness upon their lips, to drink in salvation ere the dreaded pestilence had swept them away to the tomb. Churches were flung open, but the pulpits were silent, for there was none to occupy them; the hirelings had fled.

Then did God’s faithful band of persecuted ones come forth from their hiding-places to fill the forsaken pulpits. Then did they stand up in the midst of the dying and the dead, to proclaim eternal life to men who were expecting death before the morrow. They preached in season and out of season. Weekday or Sunday was the same to them. The hour might be canonical or uncanonical, it mattered not; they did not stand upon nice points of ecclesiastical regularity or irregularity; they lifted up their voices like trumpets, and spared not. Every sermon might be their last. Graves were lying open around them; life seemed now not merely a handbreadth but a hairbreadth; death was nearer now than ever; eternity stood out in all its vast reality; souls were felt to be precious; opportunities were no longer to be trifled away; every hour possessed a value beyond the wealth of kingdoms; the world was now a passing, vanishing shadow, and man’s days on earth had been cut down from threescore years and ten into the twinkling of an eye!

Oh, how they preached! No polished periods, no learned arguments, no labored paragraphs, chilled their appeals or rendered their discourses unintelligible. No fear of man, no love of popular applause, no ever-scrupulous dread of strong expressions, no fear of excitement or enthusiasm, prevented them from pouring out the whole fervor of their hearts, that yearned with tenderness unutterable over dying souls.

“Old Time;” says Vincent, “seemed to stand at the head of the pulpit with his great scythe, saying with a hoarse voice, ‘Work while it is called today: at night I will mow thee down.’ Grim Death seemed to stand at the side of the pulpit, with its sharp arrow, saying, ‘Do thou shoot God’s arrows, and I will shoot mine.’ The grave seemed to lie open at the foot of the pulpit, with dust in her bosom, saying:—

‘Louden thy cry—To God, To men,
And now fulfill thy trust;
Here thou must lie—mouth stopped, breath gone,
And silent in the dust.’

“Ministers now had awakening calls to seriousness and fervor in their ministerial work, to preach on the side and brink of the pit into which thousands were tumbling. There was such a vast concourse of people in the churches where these ministers were to be found that they could not many times come near the pulpit doors for the press, but were forced to climb over the pews to them; and such a face was seen in the assemblies as seldom was seen before in London; such eager looks, such open ears, such greedy attention, as if every word would be eaten which dropped from the mouths of the ministers.”

Labor On Until the End

In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in the Lord’s service:

“When do you intend to stop?” was the question once put by a friend to Rowland Hill. “Not till we have carried all before us,” was the prompt reply. Such is our answer too. The fields are vast, the grain whitens, the harvest waves; and through grace we shall go forth with our sickles, never to rest till we shall lie down where the Lamb himself shall lead us, by the living fountains of waters, where God shall wipe off the sweat of toil from our weary foreheads and dry up all the tears of earth from our weeping eyes. Some of us are young and fresh; many days may yet be, in the providence of God, before us. These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.

Go, labor on; spend, and be spent,
thy joy to do the Father’s will;
it is the way the Master went;
should not the servant tread it still?

Go, labor on; ’tis not for naught;
thine earthly loss is heav’nly gain;
men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
the Master praises–what are men?

Go labor on; enough while here
if He shall praise thee, if He deign
thy willing heart to mark and cheer;
no toil for Him shall be in vain.

Go, labor on while it is day;
the world’s dark night is hast’ning on.
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.

Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray;
be wise the erring soul to win;
go forth into the world’s highway,
compel the wand’rer to come in.

Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice;
for toil comes rest, for exile home;
soon shall you hear the Bridegroom’s voice,
the midnight cry, “Behold, I come.”

Horatius Bonar

Labor with Zeal and Love in the Lord’s Harvest Field

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In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in light of our sins and failures:

In the fifth and sixth centuries, Gildas and Salvian arose to alarm and arouse a careless church and a formal ministry. In the sixteenth, such was the task which devolved on the Reformers. In the seventeenth, Baxter, among others, took a prominent part in stimulating the languid piety and dormant energies of his fellow ministers. In the eighteenth, God raised up some choice and noble men to awaken the church and lead the way to a higher and bolder career of ministerial duty. The present century stands no less in need of some such stimulating influence. We have experienced many symptoms of life, but still the mass is not quickened. We require some new Baxter to arouse us by his voice and his example. It is melancholy to see the amount of ministerial languor and inefficiency that still overspreads our land. How long, O Lord, how long! The infusion of new life into the ministry ought to be the object of more direct and special effort, as well as of more united and fervent prayer. The prayers of Christians ought to be more largely directed to the students, the preachers, the ministers of the Christian church. It is a living ministry that our country needs; and without such a ministry it cannot long expect to escape the judgments of God. We need men that will spend and be spent—that will labor and pray—that will watch and weep for souls.

In the life of Myconius, the friend of Luther, as given by Melchior Adam, we have the following beautiful and striking account of an event which proved the turning point in his history and led him to devote his energies to the cause of Christ.

The first night that he entered the monastery, intending to become a monk, he dreamed; and it seemed as if he was ranging a vast wilderness alone. Suddenly a guide appeared and led him onwards to a most lovely vale, watered by a pleasant stream of which he was not permitted to taste, and then to a marble fountain of pure water. He tried to kneel and drink, when, lo! a crucified Savior stood forth to view, from whose wounds gushed the copious stream. In a moment his guide flung him into the fountain. His mouth met the flowing wounds and he drank most sweetly, never to thirst again!

No sooner was he refreshed himself than he was led away by his guide to be taught what great things he was yet to do for the crucified One whose precious wounds had poured the living water into his soul. He came to a wide stretching plain covered with waving grain. His guide ordered him to reap. He excused himself by saying that he was wholly unskilled in such labor. “What you know not you shall learn,” was the reply.

They came nearer, and he saw a solitary reaper toiling at the sickle with such prodigious effort as if he were determined to reap the whole field himself. The guide ordered him to join this laborer, and seizing a sickle, showed him how to proceed. Again, the guide led him to a hill. He surveyed the vast plain beneath him, and, wondering, asked how long it would take to reap such a field with so few laborers? “Before winter the last sickle must be thrust in,” replied his guide. “Proceed with all your might. The Lord of the harvest will send more reapers soon.” Wearied with his labor, Myconius rested for a little. Again the crucified One was at his side, wasted and marred in form. The guide laid his hand on Myconius, saying: “You must be conformed to Him.”

With these words the dreamer awoke. But he awoke to a life of zeal and love. He found the Savior for his own soul, and he went forth to preach of Him to others. He took his place by the side of that noble reaper, Martin Luther. He was stimulated by his example, and toiled with him in the vast field till laborers arose on every side and the harvest was reaped before the winter came. The lesson to us is, thrust in your sickles. The fields are white, and they are wide in compass; the laborers are few, but there are some devoted ones toiling there already. In other years we have seen Whitefield and Hill putting forth their enormous efforts, as if they would reap the whole field alone. Let us join ourselves to such men, and the Lord of the harvest will not leave us to toil alone.

Revival in the Ministry

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In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in light of our sins and failures:

“Take heed unto thyself,”—1 Timothy 4:16.

It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

So thought a minister in the seventeenth century; for, after lamenting the evils both of his life and his ministry, he thus resolves to set about their renewal:

  1. In imitation of Christ and His apostles, and to get good done, I purpose to rise timely every morning. (Job 1:5; 2 Chronicles 36:15)
  2. To prepare as soon as I am up some work to be done, and how and when to do it; to engage my heart to it, 1 Timothy 4:7; and at even to call myself to account and to mourn over my failings.
  3. To spend a sufficient portion of time every day in prayer, reading, meditating, spiritual exercises: morning, midday , evening, and ere I go to bed.
  4. Once in the month, either the end or middle of it, I keep a day of humiliation for the public condition, for the Lord’s people and their sad condition, for raising up the work and people of God.
  5. I spend, besides this, one day for my own private condition, in fighting against spiritual evils and to get my heart more holy, or to get some special exercise accomplished, once in six months.
  6. I spend once every week four hours over and above my daily portion in private, for some special causes relating either to myself or others.
  7. To spend some time on Saturday, towards night, for preparation for the Lord’s Day.
  8. To spend six or seven days together, once a year, when most convenient, wholly and only on spiritual accounts.

Such was the way in which he set about personal and ministerial revival. Let us take an example from him. If he needed it much, we need it more.

The Spirit Dishonored and Christ’s Mind Absent

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Having considered the many and numerous failures in serving the Lord, in his Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar identifies the thirteenth and fourteenth of 14 specific sins that we must confess, that of dishonoring the Spirit and being without the mind of Christ:

We have not honored the Spirit of God. It may be that in words we have recognized His agency, but we have not kept this continually before our eyes, and the eyes of the people. We have not given Him the glory that is due unto His name. We have not sought His teaching, “His anointing”—the “unction from the Holy One, whereby ye know all things.” Neither in the study of the Word nor the preaching of it to others have we duly acknowledged His office as the Enlightener of the understanding, the Revealer of the truth, the Testifier and Glorifier of Christ. We have grieved Him by the dishonor done to His person as the third person of the glorious Trinity; and we have grieved Him by the slight put upon His office as the teacher, the convincer, the comforter, the sanctifier. Hence He has almost departed from us, and left us to reap the fruit of our own perversity and unbelief. Besides, we have grieved Him by our inconsistent walk, by our want of circumspection, by our worldly-mindedness, by our unholiness, by our prayerlessness, by our unfaithfulness, by our want of solemnity, by a life and conversation so little in conformity with the character of a disciple or the office of ambassador.

An old Scottish minister thus writes concerning himself: “I find a want of the Spirit—of the power and demonstration of the Spirit—in praying, speaking, and exhorting; that whereby men are mainly convinced, and whereby they are a terror and a wonder unto others, so as they stand in awe of them; that glory and majesty whereby respect and reverence are procured; that whereby Christ’s sermons were differenced from those of the Scribes and Pharisees; which I judge to be the beams of God’s majesty and of the Spirit of holiness breaking out and shining through His people. But my foul garments are on! Woe is me? The crown of glory and majesty is fallen off my head; my words are weak and carnal, not mighty; whereby contempt is bred. No remedy for this but humility, self-loathing and a striving to maintain fellowship with God.”

We have had little of the mind of Christ. We have come far short of the example of the apostles, much more of Christ; we are far behind the servants, much farther behind the Master. We have had little of the grace, the compassion, the meekness, the lowliness, the love of God’s eternal Son. His weeping over Jerusalem is a feeling in which we have but little heartfelt sympathy. His “seeking of the lost” is little imitated by us. His unwearied “teaching of the multitudes” we shrink from as too much for flesh and blood. His days of fasting, His nights of watchfulness and prayer, are not fully realized as models for us to copy. His counting not His life dear unto Him that He might glorify the Father and finish the work given Him to do, is but little remembered by us as the principle on which we are to act. Yet surely we are to follow His steps; the servant is to walk where his Master has led the way; the under shepherd is to be what the Chief Shepherd was. We must not seek rest or ease in a world where He whom we love had none.

We Have not Been Men of Prayer

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Having considered the many and numerous failures in serving the Lord, in his Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar identifies the twelfth of 14 specific sins that we must confess, that of being flippant, self-centered, and proud:

We have not been men of prayer. The spirit of prayer has slumbered amongst us. The closet has been too little frequented and delighted in. We have allowed business, study or active labor to interfere with our closet-hours. And the feverish atmosphere in which both the church and nation are enveloped has found its way into our closet, disturbing the sweet calm of its blessed solitude. Sleep, company, idle visiting, foolish talking and jesting, idle reading, unprofitable occupations, engross time that might have been redeemed for prayer.

Why is there so little anxiety to get time to pray? Why is there so little forethought in the laying out of time and employments so as to secure a large portion of each day for prayer? Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much bustle and business, yet so little prayer? Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God? Why so little being alone, so little thirsting of the soul for the calm, sweet hours of unbroken solitude, when God and His child hold fellowship together as if they could never part? It is the want of these solitary hours that not only injures our own growth in grace but makes us such unprofitable members of the church of Christ , and that renders our lives useless.

In order to grow in grace, we must be much alone. It is not in society—even Christian society—that the soul grows most rapidly and vigorously. In one single quiet hour of prayer it will often make more progress than in days of company with others. It is in the desert that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest. So with the soul. It is when none but God is nigh; when His presence alone, like the desert air in which there is mingled no noxious breath of man, surrounds and pervades the soul; it is then that the eye gets the clearest, simplest view of eternal certainties; it is then that the soul gathers in wondrous refreshment and power and energy.

And so it is also in this way that we become truly useful to others. It is when coming out fresh from communion with God that we go forth to do His work successfully. It is in the closet that we get our vessels so filled with blessing, that, when we come forth, we cannot contain it to ourselves but must, as by a blessed necessity, pour it out whithersoever we go.

“We have not stood continually upon our watchtower in the daytime, nor have we been set in our ward whole nights.” Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth,” has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.

We Have Not Preached as We Should Nor Honored God’s Word

grand-canyon-1246248_640Having considered the many and numerous failures in serving the Lord, in his Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar identifies the tenth and eleventh of 14 specific sins that we must confess, that of note preaching as we should nor honoring God’s Word:

We have not fully preached a free gospel. We have been afraid of making it too free, lest men should be led into licentiousness; as if it were possible to preach too free a gospel, or as if its freeness could lead men into sin. It is only a free gospel that can bring peace, and it is only a free gospel that can make men holy. Luther’s preaching was summed up in these two points—“that we are justified by faith alone, and that we must be assured that we are justified”; and it was this that he urged his brother Brentius to preach; and it was by such free, full, bold preaching of the glorious gospel, untrammeled by works, merits, terms, conditions, and unclouded by the fancied humility of doubts, fears, uncertainties, that such blessed success accompanied his labors. Let us go and do likewise. Allied to this is the necessity of insisting on the sinner’s immediate turning to God, and demanding in the Master’s name the sinner’s immediate surrender of heart to Christ. Strange that sudden conversions should be so much disliked by some ministers. They are the most scriptural of all conversions.

We have not duly studied and honored the Word of God. We have given a greater prominence to man’s writings, man’s opinions, man’s systems in our studies than to the WORD. We have drunk more out of human cisterns than divine. We have held more communion with man than God. Hence the mold and fashion of our spirits, our lives, our words, have been derived more from man than God. We must study the Bible more. We must steep our souls in it. We must not only lay it up within us, but transfuse it through the whole texture of the soul.