Wednesday, December 28, 2011

questions we should not ask#8

We are not to ask such a question as that: “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?” (Matt. 8. 29). This is the language of the devil; and yet such devilish hearts are among us that say the same thing. Some say it more closely and hiddenly under the shadow of humility: What have I to do with Christ, that am so unworthy of Him? What have I to do with His blood, His righteousness and merit, His Spirit, His promise, His grace, His fulness? Is it for the like of me? Have I any concern or interest therein? Yes, you have to do with all these, and you are called to make use of them, unless you will rank yourselves with the devils to whom they were never preached.
Again, some say it more grossly and profanely: What have we to do with Christ? What have we to do with His ordinances? What have we to do with His sacraments? What have we to do with His Sabbaths? What have we to do with so many sermons? We are wearied to the heart with them, and we care not a fig for these things. “What a weariness is it?” “Take a carnal man,” says one, “tie him to a post, and you may kill him with praying and preaching.” We are not so foolish as to trouble ourselves about these things. What have we to do with them? Lord, pity such creatures, for they are as like the devil as they can look. “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?”

- Ralph Erskine

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

swift to its close ebbs out life's little day: meditations for the shortest day

22 December is the shortest day in 2011, when the hours of sunlight are fewest and the sun follows its lowest arc through the sky.  Our life is but a brief day, the briefest of days. Time is short and eternity is very long. Each day represents a life in miniature and the opportunities of that life in miniature. The shortest day perhaps best represents our brief sojourn here.

"Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth." John 12:35

"Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise."
—Thomas Watson

"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." John 9:4

"Our life is our day, in which it concerns us to do the work of the day. We must be busy, and not waste day-time; it will be time to rest when our day is done, for it is but a day. The approach of death should quicken us to improve all our opportunities of doing and getting good. What good we have an opportunity to do, we should do quickly. And he that will never do a good work till there is nothing to be objected against, will leave many a good work for ever undone, Ec 11:4."
—Matthew Henry

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." - Eccl. 9:10

"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Psalm 97:11

"A good man must be like the sun; not like Hezekiah's sun that went backward, nor like Joshua's sun that stood still; but like David's sun, that as a bridegroom comes out of his chamber, and as a champion rejoiceth to run his race. Only herein is the difference, that when he comes to his high noon, he declineth not".
—Joseph Hall

"For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding". 1 Chronicles 29:15

"LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them". Psalm 39:4-6

"among the many things that a Christian should know, he should know this main and advantageous thing, the brevity of his life, and of his appointed time upon the earth. O study to know this more... We conceive this handbreadth is the breadth of one of our hands; it is one of the measures we carry about with us; it is the breadth of four fingers, which relates to these four times of man’s life, his infancy, his youth, his mid-age, and his old age; or it may relate to these four times, his morning, fore-noon, mid-day, and his evening, all of which but amounts to one day... the distinct knowledge of our time that we have upon the earth is a strong encouragement to us for the bearing of the cross and afflicting dispensations that we meet with, with much patience and submission unto God....the brevity and shortness of our life speaks the great love and matchless delight that God has to sinners. He is longing for the day when all the redeemed of the Lord shall be with Him, there to remain for ever and ever to enjoy all delights, and all manner of soul-pleasures. O when shall that day come, when we shall be brought out from this earthly tabernacle of clay, and shall enter our possessions in that blessed tabernacle not made with hands? 0 long for that day, And yet we should be submissive unto God’s dispensation and good pleasure, and we should not challenge Him for the brevity and shortness of our lifetime here".
—Andrew Gray

Friday, December 16, 2011

a surreal moment...

...on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme this morning (just prior to the 8am news). The discussion involved Ian McEwan and Dennis McShane lauding the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens. Reference was made of course to the latter's atheism and maverick streak. One of the above then proceeded to quote rather forcefully from a children's Sunday school chorus:

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm, and
Dare to make it known.

I suppose I shouldn't have been so taken aback, as it has featured strongly with some left wing writers. George Orwell went for the full quotation in his essay "The Prevention of Literature" and Tony Benn used it for the title of his autobiography, revealing how hard it is for such people to get away from their heritage. Perhaps Hitchens, himself would have welcomed it. Does it not seem ironic, however, if you know anything of what Daniel stood for?

And the blasphemy that Christopher Hitchens trademarked was nothing to stand for and in one sense not much to stand against. The New Atheism has often seemed much like the Emperor's New Clothes. I was quite taken aback by the lack of substance in his arguments when he debated his brother on the existence of God. He relied simply upon a rhetoric of vitriolic wit.

Daniel's position was altogether different. 'The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits' (Dan. 11:32).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Questions we should not ask #7

We are not to ask such a question as that: “Who will shew us any good?” though there be many that say so (Psa. 4. 6). This is the question of the covetous worldling, and which Christ cautions His disciples against: “Say not, What shall we eat and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? Be careful for nothing; but cast all your care upon Him, who careth for you.” But if you will fill your hearts with anxious cares and covetous questions to that purpose, “Who will shew us any good?” then see what answer you will make to that question
that Christ asks you: “What shall a man profit, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
-Ralph Erskine