Tag Archives: Peace

Slavery! (That Was Then, Not Now)

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I was preaching a short time ago in the city of Nottingham in England, here in the United Kingdom. A man who obviously disagreed with the Bible but had a more than usual knowledge of the Scriptures questioned me. He finished by saying, “I suppose then you agree with slavery as well,” quoting a verse in Exodus chapter twenty one. When I replied that I didn’t have a problem with it he just stomped off in anger. End of conversation. This, of course, is a common problem when preaching on the streets, people ask questions but they don’t always want or wait for the answers. The question of slavery has not gone away. You are, without doubt, more likely to be questioned about this issue when preaching in North America. But wherever it is asked, the question needs to be addressed, historically and biblically. But, the answer is most certainly not, “that was then, not now.” For that often is the answer given by Christians to the issue. Oh, that was the Old Testament, but we’re in the New Testament now, so the practice of slavery is repealed. It is not. That just ain’t the honest to goodness truth. It is dealt with in both Testaments of the Bible. Abraham had slaves, the Mosaic law instructs slave owners and slaves how to conduct themselves in such conditions and the New Testament deals with it too (See the book of Philemon). The Apostle Paul’s writings deal with the behaviour of both slaves and masters. We will return to the Bible in due course. But let’s begin for our purposes here with the African slave business.

The African Slave Trade:
It goes back to the early 1500’s. The slaves themselves were taken captive by their own fellow Africans. They were then shipped to the coast where they would be sold on to the white slave traders. But rest assured were it not for their fellow Africans firstly enslaving their own countrymen, there would have been no slave trade out of Africa. Where were these slaves taken to? Thirty-six percent went to Brazil. Fifty-eight percent went to a mixture of France, Spain and Britain. The remaining six percent went to North America. To both the North and Southern states. What is interesting is, that the state of Virginia was crying out to Congress and to the British Parliament for an end to the evil of slave trading, thirty years before Massachusetts had even begun to think about the issue and before civil war had broken out. Alas, their pleas fell on deaf ears. But we have to ask the question, why did it end in civil war, with the death of four hundred and thirty thousand Americans? Well, it would be down to those whom the Southern states would have referred to as the ‘Infidel Abolitionists.’ They were the problem, the cause of the civil war. Absolute abolition was not the answer. Think about this for a moment. Just supposing an edict had been passed by the President or Congress, and there was an absolute and immediate end to slavery, finito. Where would those many slaves go? Return them to Africa? Which part? How would they survive? Many of them were American born. Or just let them loose? How would they have survived, found employment, the necessities of life even? But then another question must be asked and answered. Why did the Northern state’s war against their fellow countrymen over the issue of slavery, or was there something else, a more deep-seated problem than that?

The Seed of the Woman versus The Seed of the Serpent:
By around the year, 1805, Harvard University had been captured by the Unitarians. A deep and widespread apostasy had set in. When it came to the 1860’s the intellectual leadership in the North had thoroughly departed from the word of God. I think, from personal experience that apostasy remains, in the Northeast. The South meanwhile was still predominantly Christian. It was the old war against the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, that old antithesis established by God himself way back in the day (Genesis 3:15f). The war between the world and the church, the saints and the sinners. That the Northern states should come against the Southern states can be explained in no other way. Why was the North fighting their own countrymen whilst during the Civil War they were heavily dependent on trade with France, Spain, Britain and Brazil, countries that were heavily committed to and involved in the African slave trade. Why did they not go to war against them too? Then, of course, it must be noted that the North had their fair share of slaves too. The word hypocrisy comes to mind. Not, of course, to forget that Abraham Lincoln himself was a self-confessed white supremest.

Reformation & not War:
That the American Civil War was a judgment of God is indeed unquestionable. But who you ask was being judged, the South or the North? The short answer is both. The march of Sherman from Atlanta to Savannah was, without doubt, the judgment of God on the Southern states for their harsh treatment of their slaves. They had their Bibles, and they used their Bibles to defend the practice of slave ownership. But the problem with having Bibles is, that it makes you more culpable, better we don’t have them than not obey them. The South, by and large, but not altogether, did not obey God’s clear instructions as to how they should have treated their slaves. That is, with respect, kindness, compassion, and mercy. Now let’s be clear many God-fearing, Christian men did so treat their slaves. The caricature presented by the leftwing media today, including Hollywood on slavery, will just not do, it does give you a clear and fair picture. The destruction of the Southern General Robert Lee’s statue recently and what lay behind that action defamed him. General Lee was a Christian, an officer and a gentleman and fine soldier at that, magnanimous even in defeat. Why do you think the North wanted him to command their armies?  But, the North was also being judged, for its apostasy. The Pilgrim Fathers who brought and planted the seeds of the gospel in New England had long gone. Decline and a forsaking of the covenant of God had taken place. The Bible makes it very clear, “now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1). Otherwise, “but it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15). The Northern apostasy led inevitably to the judgment of God. It is an interesting footnote, that in the midst of the Civil War, an amazing revival broke out amongst the Confederate, Southern troops. So if a war wasn’t the answer what was? Well, for starters the ‘Infidel Abolitionists’ should have been silenced altogether. The answer lay in the Scriptures that the North had forsaken and the South still clung to. Reformation with the Scriptures as the basis was the answer. In the mid-eighteenth century, godly men were calling for this reform. “Arthur Dibbs; Joseph Ottenghi; Noble Jones; William Stephens; George Whitfield and Samuel Davies, among others, accepted slavery as neither sinful nor necessarily impolitic, but they also insisted that it must be brought up to the standards of humanity described as Scriptural or Abrahamic or Christian…Whitfield darkly suggested that the slaves would be morally justified if they rose in rebellion…Davies preached in Virginia during the mid-1750’s with a strong emphasis on God’s stern punishment of those who did not repent of their sins. Specifically, Davies invoked God’s wrath against those who were treating their slaves inhumanely” (Prof E.D. Genovese). These godly men who cried out for reform got no encouragement from the “immediate abolitionists,” instead all they got was denunciation. If in North America, it had been dealt with in this way, both political and ecclesiastical reform, it wouldn’t be the problem that it is today.

So Back to the Bible:
The Old Testament law is very clear as to how slave owners and slaves are to conduct themselves. Also, we must not forget that in the Bible God is addressing a fallen humanity, a world that is ruined by man’s sin, and not some imaginary utopia. In that world of sin, until the renewal of all things, the heavens and the earth, there will always be evil of one kind or another. But rest assured God has declared war on sin, it is going down, it is going to be judged. The Son of God has been appointed that task and that day has been set, “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Until then slavery of one kind or another will always be a problem. Back in the Old Testament era, slavery was a safety net for the poor. It was limited, freedom was always in sight. Some would argue, yes, but, when a man was due to be set free he could go but if he goes his family must remain, that is, if he has one. But ask yourself the question, what is kinder? To let the man go and take his family with him with not a hope of being able to provide for them? Or to leave them with the master who under God’s instruction has compassion, care for and treats them as God commands him? For some people who were utterly destitute, perhaps up to their eyeballs in debt, with no way of providing for themselves and or their families it was an opportunity for them, and escape route. For some an opportunity to learn how to provide for themselves. He or she would perhaps learn a new set of skills equipping them for their future freedom. But the Divine law was very clear concerning the contracts of employment, how both owners and slaves were to conduct themselves, and the punishments for disobedience, i.e., harsh treatment. Perhaps some corporations today, such Amazon, could do with reading those terms, as to how to treat their slaves.

Moving into the New Testament it is no different, the terms are clearly expounded by the Apostle Paul. There were in those early church times millions of slaves within the Roman Empire. If you know anything about Roman rule then you will know how they would have dealt with any revolt against their form of slavery. They would have ruthlessly and mercilessly crushed it. Therefore, those masters and slaves alike are instructed as to how to conduct themselves within their new-found spiritual freedom as Christians. For the Apostles to have created an attitude of anarchy would have led to even more rebellion, and even a breakdown of the social order. No, the biblical answer in both Testaments is the fair treatment of slaves, with kindness and compassion, leading to reform and restoration and the hope of future freedom. But it was that element of kindness and compassion that was absent in a lot of cases, not all, in the Southern states, and for that God judged them. The evil was not the slavery itself, it was the man-stealing, kidnapping, and the slave trading that went with it that is condemned by God, and it was this that was condemned even by the state of Virginia long before Massachusetts woke up to the issue. Imagine a scenario with me for a moment. You’re a Christian man of wealth and influence, and it’s 1860, you’re in the place where slaves are being sold, say, in South Carolina, or some other Southern state. There is a man for sale, but he is not wanted, so what would have happened to him? This. He would have been shipped out to either Haiti or Brazil where he would have been treated much worse than in a Nazi death camp. So you’ve got the power, the money, you can use this man, give him employment and a future. Under God’s instruction, you can make him feel human again, feed and clothe him, perhaps even evangelise him, in kindness turn him into a trophy of grace, a child of God. Or, you could just stiffen your neck, walk away saying, “not my problem, don’t agree with slavery anyway, should be abolished” and that, knowing what will happen to him next? Which, I ask you, is the kindest, most loving course of action for you to take?

Slavery Today:
So is slavery done with now, completely abolished? I mean apart from my cynical dig at how Amazon treat their employees? No, it isn’t. For the last three to four years I have been ministering in Ukraine during the summer. A couple of years ago I happened upon a society in Ternopil who was seeking to make people aware of the number of people, mostly young women, who were being abducted in Eastern Europe and transported where ever they could be sold on to. No prizes for guessing what for. The figures for just Ukraine alone were over a hundred thousand, and that’s just one Eastern European country. Sadly it wasn’t a Christian society that was engaged in this excellent endeavour. After all should not we be engaged in seeking the Reformation of society as well? Working towards a realistic end of slavery wherever and by whoever? By bringing the word of God to bear upon every echelon of the society of which we are a part? Reformation is our aim, not rebellion. According to God’s law, as recorded in the Old Testament, kidnapping comes with the death penalty. “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 24:87). Many Americans in both the North and the South should have been faced with this indictment by both the State and the Church. Many Southern Christians should have been excommunicated from their churches because of their treatment of their slaves. Sin is an evil that is yet rampant and as long as there is sin there will be slavery, with men treating their fellowmen in the harshest and degrading ways. But it will be met with God’s judgment, his fierce judgment, every time, either sooner or later.

There is though an even worse kind of slavery, and that is the slavery that we are all of us born into. The slavery to sin. And the only Person who can liberate us from that bondage, break the chains and set us free, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to die for slaves and slave owners, he came for sinners, he came to set them free from the law of sin and death. “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin…So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:34, 36). Without Jesus Christ, we are all of us slave born and in need of God’s redemption through his Son. It is only in Christ that we can look forward with hope to God’s promised future, with him forever, in the new heaven and the new earth, where there shall be no slavery because there will be no sin.

So, Christian man or woman, when someone says to you that the Bible sanctions slavery, please, please, please do not answer, “that was then not now.” Rather say, yes it does, so what’s your point?

# For further & helpful reading on this subject:
Prof Eugene D Genovese “A Consuming Fire” & Pastor Doug Wilson “Black and Tan.”

(James R Hamilton, December 2017)
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Justification & Reformation!

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“I, therefore, confess that all our righteousness, by which we are acceptable to God, and in which alone we ought wholly to rest, consists in the remission of sins which he purchased for us, by washing us in his own blood, and through that one sacrifice by which he appeased the wrath of God that had been provoked against us. And I hold the pride of those intolerable who attribute to themselves one particle of merit, in which one particle of the hope of salvation can reside.

Meanwhile, however, I acknowledge that Jesus Christ not only justifies us by covering all our faults and sins but also sanctifies us by his Spirit, so that the two things (the free forgiveness of sins and reformation to a holy life) cannot be dissevered and separated from each other. Yet since until such time as we quit the world, much impurity, and very many vices remain in us, (to which it is owning that whatever good works we perform by the agency of the Holy Spirit, have some taint adhering to them,) we must always betake ourselves to that free righteousness, flowing from the obedience which Jesus Christ performed in our name, seeing that it is in his name we are accepted, and God does not impute our sins to us.

I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention faith alone in the question, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to the only cause of justification (Galatians 5:6; Romans 3:22). It is, therefore, faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone” (John Calvin).

(James R Hamilton, October 2017)
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Letter to ALL Ministers!

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Robert Annan was an evangelist who roamed the streets of Dundee in Scotland back in 1834-1867. He was converted from a life of drunkenness and complete debauchery. He became the Lord’s and was used  very much in winning many souls to Christ as result of his street preaching and personal ministry to poor lost souls. He wrote this letter to a Minister who needed correction for his unfaithfulness in the service of men’s souls.

Dear Friend in Jesus,

I hope you will not be offended at me for writing you this note. Every since I left — I have been troubled about you and the people over whom God has made you overseer, as I do think few of them have tasted that the Lord is gracious. You may think otherwise; but dear friend, before God I would say, “You will have to preach the gospel more faithfully.” I do think you flatter your people. I have heard you say. “If there are any unconverted ones here,” as if your people were all true Christians; whereas, had you said, “If there are any Christians here,” it would have been a great deal nearer the mark. I know the people, and few of them can give a practical reason of their hope for eternity, although they can give you the theory of it. For instance, there is John — and his wife, and —, and your Deacon —, and old —, and Mrs C —, who is hardening her neck, and many more whom I know.
I have read the works of those men who have been most used of God in the salvation of souls, and I cannot find an “if” in their sermons where you put it. I heard a man of God, much blessed in the awakening of sinners, say, “I am determined, God helping me, that no unworthy communicant shall sit down at the Lord’s table here, unless they are amongst those who would, if possible, deceive the very elect” – very black hypocrites these.
Dr John Love of Glasgow points out the error of Ministers that I speak of. You will find no such way of speaking in McCheyne’s sermons. Whitfield, Wesley, Bunyan, Baxter and many living preachers, owned of God above others, never preached as if the people were all converted. I do hope you will clear yourself of the blood of souls, and make a distinction between the clean and the unclean, as God has done by the Apostles and Prophets. It is fearful to think that sinners are flattered into hell by their Ministers. God help you to clear yourself of that great sin. Oh to realise more and more the dreadful eternity to which sinners are going! Friend, friend, I ask you to think of your poor flock, lest some of them should rise and curse your ministry on the great day. Get your soul filled with compassion for sinners. Get your own soul steeped in the love of God, and get the burden of other souls laid upon you, and I am sure you won’t flatter sinners as I have heard you do. Read Jeremiah 6:14; Isaiah 22:4; 56:10-11; Galatians 4:19; Acts 20:31. Faithful preaching would empty your church of Pharisees but would fill it with living Christians. May God greatly bless yu.

I am yours in Jesus,
Robert Annan.

(James R Hamilton, October 2017)
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“My dear Christian friends, do not be afraid to graciously write in these terms to Ministers whom you know to be being unfaithful in their oversight of the perishing souls of men” (The Street Preacher).

So You Want to be a Street Preacher?

Conversion & Calling :

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I’ve been a street preacher for thirty-six of my thirty-eight years as a Christian. In coming to Christ I was broken, in great distress, I called upon his name and he rescued me. From the very beginning, I had an all-consuming desire to tell others of what Jesus had done for me and to speak to others of this phenomenal message of the Bible. But how to do it was my big question. I was in what could only be described as a very respectable, middle-class church, whose teaching was somewhat superficial (aren’t they all), not to mention theologically Arminian. The church’s views on street preaching were extremely discouraging also. I began to study on my own, via distance learning courses with the Bible Training Institute in my native city of Glasgow, in Scotland. I studied doctrine, coming to see the Calvinist system as being thoroughly biblical. I studied church history seeing a heritage of men who didn’t just sit behind a pulpit desk but took the gospel to the people on the street. The more I learned the hungrier I became and the more I was consumed with a burning desire to take the gospel to the streets. I was denounced from the pulpit by one of the church’s elders for my preaching on the street. But I was not in any way daunted. In fact, the more that came against me the more determined I was to persist. I knew from Scripture, from my studies of history and preaching itself, that this was what was needed. And I had the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit that this was the way for me. I was preaching on the street in Stafford town on one occasion with one or two other church members present. As I opened my mouth to speak, though naturally very shy and timid, I became very conscious of the energy of the Holy Spirit deeply influencing my preaching; I was enabled to explain the gospel very boldly and clearly as never before. I came away from that experience knowing that this was my calling.

Desire & Development:

So why am I telling you all this? Well, if you’re going to be a street preacher there are some things you need to be certain of before you begin. First, that you are a Christian. That you have been reborn of the Spirit of God, that your entire being has been radically altered by the supernatural power of Almighty God. Second, if you have a desire to preach the word of God, you will have a desire to study and learn the word of God. If this is of no interest to you, then forget it, you are not called to preach God’s word. You may not have the best church, the best teachers in the world, but you will find a way to overcome and to learn, to equip yourself. To be as well grounded in the truth of God’s word as you possibly can is a necessity if you are to make it known to others. Are you articulate? I mean can you give clear, simple directions as to how a person might get from A to B? If you have trouble doing that, how then will you be able to direct a sinner to the cross? If God sets someone to the doing of something, whatever it be, and there is a desire to obey, there will be opposition. And that opposition will come from the most unlikely sources, sometimes. In undertaking a street ministry you are about to step out into Satan’s territory, and he is one mean piece of work. What if the opposition comes from within? From family, church or fellow believers? The same principles apply to this as do for discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). You need to know you are of God, that you have God’s calling, and you need his grace to begin and to persevere. Or you will make yourself a laughing stock. I had to wait nearly five years before my course was vindicated by the Lord. Eventually, I had to leave my first church, not because they didn’t like what I was doing, but because they turned in an unacceptable ecumenical direction. My new church, along with Minister and officers immediately recognised my gift and calling and I was sent by that church to minister God’s word.

Exhortation or Exposition?

I say to minister God’s word because that is the recognised task of the preacher. There is a difference between exhorting and preaching. Sometimes an exhorter becomes a preacher. The gift of preaching is a charismatic gift sovereignly dispensed by the Holy Spirit as he wills. It is the ability to open up the word of God, to explain its meaning clearly and to expose to the minds of the hearers the divine counsel. And, of course, to challenge and apply that revealed truth also. I see and hear some men on the streets and they are not preachers, expounders of God’s word, but exhorters. Exhorting people to believe the gospel. They speak about the gospel, Bible doctrines and so on, and they give reasons to people as to why they should believe the good news about Jesus Christ. This is fine as far as it goes, but it’s not preaching. It is quite legitimate for a man to witness to his faith in such a way and people have doubtless come to faith through such exhortation. This exhortation was done a lot in Wales in back in the days of revival. Men realised they were not preachers but they realised they could do something and so they would go out amongst the public exhorting people to believe and be saved. And many did. But preaching is a God-given ability to break open the word of God. The preacher doesn’t simply give people random thoughts that come into his mind as to why his hearers ought to believe. The preacher takes a text of scripture, it may be a phrase, a verse, or portion of the Bible, explain and apply it to those who will hear. But in terms of working on the street, it is different than from behind a pulpit desk, though the work is still the same. In a church situation the preacher has the time and leisure to read the word of God and in his preaching build up arguments, explain the minutia of his passage. No such leisure is given the street preacher. But, nonetheless, he takes time to prepare just the same. He will find a short evangelistic or pithy phrase or verse of scripture and he will open it up and apply it as he goes. But all he says is packed full of gospel truth because he doesn’t have a static congregation. He may have someone for just a few minutes, but they will go away with saving truth nonetheless. Let me give you an example. “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It is short you see, and it summarises the gospel, and he can he repeat it over and over, using it as a hammer to break the rock of sinful hearts. And he expounds it as he goes along. What is the gospel? Number one: it’s about a Person, Christ. Number two: what did he do? He died. Number three: Who for? The ungodly. You see there is order, he is not just giving people his random thoughts, what comes into his mind. It is the word of God people’s minds are being exposed to. And it is that alone which God has promised to use and bless, and nothing else, the faithful preaching of his word. Now a man may start off as an exhorter, perhaps that is all he can do, he does his best. Well and good. But who knows, perhaps along the way God will bestow upon him the gift to preach. He can pray, as surely he must, and he can ask God for the gift to preach his word. But do keep in mind that there is a difference between the two, exhortation and exposition. The next time you hear a street preacher, stop, and listen, and ask yourself the question, what is he doing? Is he simply exhorting people, or is he expounding the text of scripture? Sadly, and I hear not a few men on the streets who ought not to be there exhorting even. This is one of the reasons that the task has a bad reputation. The price of freedom, it’s not always as tidy as we would like it to be. Alas, here lies the importance of a man being sent by his church, this way it is not he himself who judges whether he has the God-given gift and ability to be on the street, either exhorting or preaching. But God’s people, the church.

Stymied or Sent?

This leads me to my next point. The sending, how shall they preach unless they have been sent (Romans 10:15)? There is a biblical principle here that is undeniable, and that I agree with wholeheartedly. But, there are exceptions, always. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. It may be sometimes a church lacks discernment, (of which there are very many in these days of decline and apostasy in the West). Perhaps a man could be failed to be recognised and given the encouragement and support he ought to have, because of church politics. Believe me, these things and worse happen in churches, and reformed ones too. If you think not, hang around a bit. Or maybe because the Minister is afraid of his position? Or maybe he just does not like you. All these things I have seen, do believe me. Maybe the man himself needs to be made aware of his gift and calling that is evident to all except him. Then there may arise the issue of readiness, he is not ready yet. He needs at least two theological degrees and ten years to get them. I was reading a newspaper article a short while ago about a very talented soccer player. He was transferred to a very important team, never to be seen again for a long time. What had happened to this talent was the basis of this newspaper article? The answer given was they had over-coached him, ruined him. My point is you can go on and on learning (and you must), but never do anything with what you are learning. The theological course I took back in the day was started by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in South Wales. There was no certificates, degrees at the finish. The idea was simply to produce preachers, that’s all. I had already started preaching before commencing the course. All the faculty members insisted that the studies, the essays required must in no way hinder my preaching. That was the thing they wanted me doing more than anything else, preaching. If God’s called you to preach that’s what you should be doing. The coaching can be done in the background. Too much learning can make you useless on the street, maybe even turn you into a cerebral turkey, or a professional student, instead of a street preacher. You can quote Hebrew and Greek in a church building but it won’t get you nowhere on the street. Drug addicts, drunkards and other ne’er-do-wells normally don’t understand English, never mind Hebrew and Greek. My own Minister, church officers and the faculty members of the College were a great strength, encouragement and support to me. Alas, not all street preachers enjoy that same support, very few. There are times a man has to do what a man has to do, as John Wayne once said. There are times when a man has to walk alone.

One thing that does need to be kept in mind is that before there were reformed pastors, there were street preachers. In Great Britain at least. If we go back to John Wycliffe’s days, who contested then with the official clergy that they alone were not the church of God, but the congregation, the just, those for whom Christ shed his blood. He held tenaciously to the free and immediate access of believers to the grace of God in Christ; to the general priesthood of all believers. It was as a result of this that like-minded believers gathered and preachers were sent out from county to county and town to town, preaching, not just in churches, but also in churchyards, marketplaces and public thoroughfares. They contended with great emphasis that for the ministry of preaching, the Divine call and commission are perfectly sufficient; that the true installation of the preacher is that by God himself. I believe that heaven will testify of many who are there because of a wandering preacher who was never commissioned or laid hands on by men, but most certainly by God. And whose preaching God has owned in ways that this generation of preachers knows nothing of. I think it can be safely argued that without these fourteenth-century street preachers the Reformation of the sixteenth-century would not have been possible. Wycliffe was persecuted, some the street preachers were burned, but they could not extinguish the life created by this movement. So I call upon despisers of street preachers to think again, modify your attitudes, show some respect. One more thing, Dr Martyn Llod-Jones during his ministry strongly advocated that evangelism should be done solely by and through the local church. I don’t altogether disagree. But, I think that he was taken far, far too literally. And the result has been twofold. One, where are all the back street town and city Mission Halls and such that used to feed the Reformed churches? They are no more. And two, sadly, evangelism is not being done by and through the local churches. Not to the extent it once was, in this sadly sin-blighted land, where lawlessness increases by the day; religious apostasy abounds; the unrequited blood of unborn infants; the explosion of a degraded and perverted human sexuality, that in the United Kingdom cries out for and provokes the judgment of the Almighty. How any Christian in their right mind can hinder in any way the gospel preaching of a sincere and serious brother, defies reason.

Christ & Him Crucified:

There are only two classes of people in this world, from God’s perspective, the saved and the perishing. And there is but only one means God has appointed to save the perishing, the preaching of the cross. It was while at the above College, one of the faculty members, asked our class one day how we saw our calling to preach. He went around the class one by one. They all without exception, like parrots, squawked, “to teach the flock and build up the saints.” It didn’t go very far when the said professor stopped them, “wrong”, he said, “you are all wrong!” “The salvation of souls, that is what should be at the front of your minds every time that you preach.” “Every sermon ought to be evangelistic” (Dr M. Lloyd-Jones). You can do no greater hurt to your hearers than to allow the cowardly or despisers of the cross to deflect you from this. Your calling is not to please men, win their applause, to please their ears or sing them a song, you are called to save men’s perishing souls. If you are not convinced that men are dead, not a little bit, but totally dead in their sins. If you are not convinced to the depth of your being that the only way these perishing sinners can be made alive is but by the Holy Spirit empowered; God-ordained means; the preaching of the cross; you will never convert a flea. In a word, you must preach Christ. You must be convinced in your own mind that preaching alone is God’s ordained method (1Corinthians 1:22). Your calling is not to engage in social work, but to preach. In University campus, in the marketplace, wherever men are gathered, to preach and to preach Christ. There are those in religious, and yes, even Christian circles who today disdain preaching very much. At best they think it to be a secondary, even irrelevant activity. The liberals, the snowflakes, you will encounter them all. They will tell you of the world’s needs, the earthquake zones, the starving, the storm lashed regions where the needs are so great. “You should be helping those people,” they will tell you, “not preaching.” Preaching is the church’s, your primary task, preaching that saves men’s souls from eternal damnation, something much worse than any storm, earthquake or disaster imaginable. It is preaching that brings new and everlasting life to men’s souls, nothing else. If you are not convinced of that, do not begin until you are.

Fruit & Faithfulness:

The question will be asked of you sooner or later, what fruit have you seen in this ministry? Is this the best way of doing this? Why don’t you just tell them that God loves them? You need to build friendships with them they will tell you. You shouldn’t judge people. And so on it goes on, and on, and on. I was once asked by a young lady while I was preaching, why I was doing what I was doing. I thought that that was obvious, but apparently not. We don’t do this was her reply, we give them doughnuts, we do treasure hunts. Yes, she was serious. She was her church’s mission leader even. This is what we’ve come to, liberalism in the church gone nuts. So how do you gauge your effectiveness, fruitfulness in terms of your calling? That’s not as easy, or as black and white as some would perhaps assume it to be. Souls saved, professions of faith made? If someone were to tell me tomorrow that they had professed faith in Christ as a result of my preaching yesterday, I would be happy, encouraged, but not too much. If someone were to tell me tomorrow that they had come to faith as a result of my preaching ten years ago, and that they are still going on with and serving the Lord. Then, I would be rejoicing, jumping up and down with the angels in heaven. But if your ministry is a peripatetic ministry, i.e., a travelling preacher, and there is room for such a calling in the New Testament. Trust me on this you will never be loved and accepted by the reformed church as such until God removes the blindness from their eyes to see it. But if that is your calling then mostly you will be sowing seed, you may return after many days and find it has borne some fruit. You might not. There are times when God lifts the curtain and gives a peek behind the scenes to see what he is doing, for our encouragement. But rest assured you’re in this for the long haul, it can be a long, long, hard road, with many disappointments and hardships along the way.

The prophet Isaiah was called in a time of appalling declension in Israel. But his ministry was fruitful. The fruit? Utter devastation and dereliction, the nation ending up in exile (Isaiah 6:9ff). The people were to hear and see, he was to lift up, cry aloud against their transgressions (Isaiah 58:1). It was to be a message of sin, warning, and judgment to come. Not an easy, comfortable commission. You’re not going to change your nation or the world either. The Prophet’s preaching God assured him would harden the majority by the operations of his wrath. That’s what you are faced with in the West today. The message is not one of grace and love for all. But the word is to be preached promiscuously, sharply to all who hear whatever their response may be. And for many, the more they understand you the more they will set all their God-given powers against the Almighty and his Son Jesus Christ. Just like Pharaoh of old, “who is the Lord that I should serve him?” Of course, it didn’t deter Isaiah, but then he was called. Does this put you off, discourage you? Then maybe you’re not called? I’m just being realistic, you need to know what you’re getting into before you begin. In every generation, everywhere, God has his remnant, his chosen, his elect, and we comfort ourselves in this, that they will be saved. I do not have to drive myself into the ground seeking to produce fruit, I have only to be faithful to my calling and to God’s precious word. I was encouraged by an elderly man many years ago. He related this to me. A youngster, sixteen years of age, was invited by a friend’s family to a gospel service in England. This preacher expounded the text “if any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1Corinthians 16:22). The youngster left that service apparently unmoved, untouched. He moved with his family to Canada sometime later, enjoyed a successful farming career, and a good number of years retirement. In his early eighties, the Holy Spirit in mighty power brought that text back to him in saving power in his own living room, breaking, convicting and converting him. The point is, you might not see the fruit of your ministry in this life. You’re called to be faithful, that’s all. There’s always a difficulty in bringing the model of the Great Awakening to our own situation. They had revival we are faced with decline. So the ‘success’ rate needs to be seriously tempered. This work we’re called to has always been and I think always will be difficult. For churches, presbyteries and Ministers love to eulogise the Whitfield’s and the Wesley’s very much, quote them abundantly but don’t you dare to seek to emulate those whom they eulogise. They won’t want to know you (they only love the dead ones). Or, perhaps, if you strike gold, God sovereignly granting you a vein of gospel success, success, that is, in their terms, then they will excuse you, love you, embrace you and even give you a warm smile. Then you will be the best thing since sliced bread. But until we will continue to be the Cinderella’s of the church. That’s another reason I tell young men who have an inclination to preach on the streets that they must be prepared to stand alone against all comers, sometimes, sadly, very sadly, even their own churches. If you can’t do that, then don’t even begin.

Caring & Cautiousness:

If and as you engage in a street ministry you will get the opportunity, doubtless, of encouraging other believers. You’ll come across poor souls that have been damaged by church experiences and won’t return for love nor money. Seek to bind up their wounds, point and draw them to Christ the great healer. Don’t scold. You’ll come across back-sliders who find it so hard to return to the Father’s house. Encourage them. You’ll come across some of the poorest, damaged souls who will come at you not so much asking for help, but screaming abuse at you. It’s only as you respond with the soft answer that they begin to melt and then the tears come and the sorrows come pouring out. Minister Christ to them. The street work is a great work, there is nothing like it, believe me, I still love it after all these years. Then you will come across others, men and women with the same burden for souls as you yourself. You may be given the opportunity to counsel them in the best way forward, though for them not necessarily the same as for you. Perhaps as your gift and ability develop you will be given opportunities to preach in other churches, besides your own. Your business there is to encourage, not to scold or correct, that’s their Pastor’s job, not yours. There are other forms of evangelism besides street preaching. Some are called to plant churches. There too you may find some usefulness, in encouraging those engaged in such a work. Or perhaps even given the chance of instigating someone to start such an endeavour. But having done so you would have a responsibility to return often to encourage and strengthen those involved. Whatever the ministry be it is always about edifying, building up. You live and minister in a world of broken, ruined souls who have already been abused by many others, the work on the street is an opportunity to present them with a ministry that truly presents them with hope, the only hope, Christ. There will be times when you’ll be judged as harsh. Well, you must examine yourself. A minister once said to me that when we’re criticised, and not for the best intentions, there will always be a grain of truth in it. Don’t just ignore it. But in preaching for conviction of sin we’re always going to be open to such charges, it is inevitable.

In caring for others you will need to be cautious also. The dangers are many, and there is a Devil, and he is still busy. And you’re on his territory. If he can bring you down he will. Never, never get yourself alone with the opposite sex other than your own spouse. The number of men who have fallen in this area, the path of redemptive history is littered with them. Even other peoples children, not on your own, there are some very evil children, believe me. Your enemy, the Devil, is an expert sportsman, he knows his prey, how to bait the hook, set the trap. He knows your weakness, he has been at his business a long, long time. He has studied human nature. He knows what you’re made of. So you need to pay heed to the Saviour’s words, “watch and pray.” You need day by day the full armour of God. You need to put it on on your knees. You need protection from unreasonable and wicked men, ungodly powers and authorities. Every day and every preaching situation is different and the enemy comes in different route every time. One of the most dangerous times is after a great success or victory. Immediately your guard is down. Then he comes in like a lightning bolt to take you down. Be caring but be cautious.

Stipend or Support:

I guess something should be said about the street preacher’s keep. This also is a difficult issue. If you live in the United Kingdom you could well starve to death. However, it fairs somewhat better for the brethren across the pond. The American Christians do seem to have a bigger heart for street ministry. I have no real experience of other countries so I cannot comment on them. If you’re not supported financially by your own church then usually a tent-making ministry is the next best option. You could, of course, take employment with a para-church missionary society, but that has a lot of tensions, towing their party line to keep their supporters on board etc. Also, there is not much room for a preacher who has serious reformed convictions. I only know of one brother in this line of work in these parts who is fully supported by his church. This is exceptional. Financial giving for frontline evangelism is at an all-time low in the British Isles. I myself have over the years had to take employment to make ends meet for short periods of time. I have noticed that some brothers appeal for support through social media outlets. How this works for them in practice I’m not sure. Then there are some who frown upon such practices. But in fairness, if people are not made aware of a Christian worker’s genuine need how will they know that there is an opportunity to give. How many would testify, “if I’d only known, I would’ve gladly given.” So you have to go with your own conscience on that one. I think though that when others are supporting you, whether a church, or individuals, and whether it’s regular or one-off giving, that puts a responsibility on you to be a very good steward of that support. To use it carefully, wisely and well. For this lack of support for street ministry to be rectified there would need to be an outbreak of revival I think. The frozen love of Christians melted to tears of sorrow for a world of ruined sinners. Sadly, they think it’s only at such times that God is actually working. The tendency is to be dismayed and therefore somewhat blinded to the reality of God actually working just as much in the years of decline. For he is as much responsible for the one as he is for the other. But the street preacher mustn’t let himself be dismayed by this state of affairs. This simply casts him upon the Lord all the more. This will grow his faith to look to the Lord to provide a way for him. I myself have been quite staggered at the ways in which he has provided for me myself. In times of doubt, I have to keep reminding myself of those former experiences and rebuke myself.

Privilege & Pride:

There has always been and I think still is today an awful pride and selfishness in the church. Paul addresses this in the New Testament, speaking to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:26-31). He speaks of the seriousness and urgency of the gospel ministry over against the squabbling selfishness and pride of the Corinthian Christians. He could do so today in many places. He reminds them that they were just ordinary people, nothing special, not nobles, not high-fliers. You see whatever your station is, your gifts are, everything you’ve got, except your sin, is from God. So what place is there for pride (1Corinthians 6:9ff)? What have you got that you didn’t receive? So if God uses you in any capacity at all you need to remind yourself that it was God’s doing not yours and the glory is his too, not yours. It’s this attitude alone that will keep you in a place of usefulness. Your place in Christ? Who put you there? God did. He gave you light, life and liberty, he called you. If you don’t keep yourself beneath the shadow of the cross day by day you will end up spiritually useless. In the light of that cross let it pour utter contempt on all your pride. “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection” (S. Townsend).

There is much hardness and bitterness that can enter the soul of the street preacher as a result of the rejection that he encounters. But this must be dealt with in the same way as any pride that would creep in, nailing it to the cross. There will be fellow preachers who will reject you, Pastors who ought to know better will look down their theological noses at you. There will be others of your own fraternity who will criticise you (normally behind your back), and even disown you perhaps. You may incur trouble with the authorities, be arrested, arraigned and jailed for preaching the gospel. Other Christians will disown you, they will say it was your own foolish fault. If ever a church needed serious suffering it’s the church in the West today, for that’s the only thing that will purge the church of her self-righteous respectability and bring God’s true people together, and show just exactly how small she really is, a tiny flock. But in the meantime, you must continue on in your course doing what God has called you to do. If God is for you who can be against you? So go to it, and let all the rest go to heaven.

(James R Hamilton, October 2017)
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About the Rainbow!

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The way, the truth and the life!

Since time immemorial words and symbols have been hijacked, abused and misused. For instance, the word gay used to mean happy, alas, that is no longer the case. Words are important, but so too are symbols and especially biblical ones. Take the rainbow for example. “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:13-17). And in the apocalypse, we are told a rainbow adorns the throne of God, “and around the throne was a rainbow” (Revelation 4:3). God’s rainbow is connected to his covenant of grace.

WHEN IS A RAINBOW NOT A RAINBOW?
When it’s an LGBTQ flag. The rainbow symbol appears, however, to have been hijacked. By the LGBTQ movement. LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer, and is used to designate the sexual or gender identities of a particular community. The symbol of this community is referred to as the rainbow flag. Now, if I presented you with an American flag, and especially if you were a native of that country, that had only forty-nine stars on it would you say that it was still an American flag? I didn’t think so. Now some Christians talk about taking the rainbow back from the LGBTQ community, but they have no need to worry, the symbol of LGBTQ is something short of the real deal, it doesn’t depict the rainbow at all. The LGBTQ symbol has only six colours, God’s rainbow has seven colours. Now words and symbols are important as stated but so too are numbers, especially so when it comes to the Bible’s apocalyptic literature as we shall see in due course.

THE SIX-FOLD LGBTQ FLAG SYMBOLISES DEVIANCE:
The number six in biblical apocalyptic language is the number for man without God, fallen man (Romans 3:23). It’s the number of man having deviated from the path of God, gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Man is born a deviant (and not just sexually) and remains alienated from God and his covenant until he is regenerated (John 3:5), and brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13).

The six-fold flag symbolises incompleteness, the number of completeness being seven. The incompleteness is of course man “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). It depicts all that man seeks to build in this world, the kingdom of man without God. This also is a deviance, for God did not make man for man’s sake but for God and to glorify and enjoy God forever. Man without God will never be complete.

The number six tripled, i.e., 666, that infamous number over which believer and unbeliever often ponder the meaning of, is simply the completeness of fallen man’s apostasy. When will the end be the question is often asked? When the cup of mankind’s iniquity is full. When sinful men can no longer think up ways of sinning against their Maker when man’s apostasy is complete the sword of justice will fall in all the fullness of God’s furious wrath.

Further, the six-fold flag identifies with the Beast (Revelation 13:1). Instead of identifying with God and his covenant people they stand beneath another banner. To fly a flag has to do with identification. If I fly an American flag or British flag from my house top, I am identifying myself with either of those countries. If I fly the six-fold LGBTQ from my house top who am I identifying with? The Beast, the Antichrist, Satan’s end-time agent on earth. As opposed to identifying with God in Christ I would be choosing to identify myself with the deceitful, deviant character of Satan himself. For he is the arch-deviant.

Further, the number of seals, six in all, in the apocalypse depict the completeness of judgment upon an apostate, deviant humanity. So although the six-fold flag of the LGBTQ community trumpets their own agenda of sexual deviance, whether they are aware of it or not, and I think it not accidental, their six-fold symbol signifies something much much deeper. An entrenched wicked deviation and rebellion against Almighty God that will be faced with the fury of God’s justice.

GOD’S SEVEN-FOLD RAINBOW:
First, it harks back to a time of severe judgment on a then apostate world. The judgment of the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. It is to be noted that the Lord Jesus Christ himself warns us that as it was back then, in Noah’s day, so it would be when returned, “just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). So when we see God’s rainbow during or following a shower of rain it is a poignant reminder that God once judged humanity’s wickedness, and will do so again.

It is also a reminder to us that God is in control of all events that take place in his created world. There are no accidents. There is not a sparrow falls to the ground without Divine permission (Matthew 10:29). God’s holy displeasure is being revealed today in many circumstances that are brushed aside as just being natural. His wrath is being revealed (Romans 1:18). Where? In major incidents storms, earthquakes etc., but also in human affairs and behaviour, all such as God gives men and women over to as a consequence of their suppression of the truth in unrighteousness.

For each and every judgment recorded in Scripture, whether major or minor, it is a foretaste of the big one to come. The final judgment at the end of the age. When the cup of iniquity is filled up. Then it will be seen by all creation that God was right and man’s deviant way was wrong. God’s judgment will be vindicated, he will be seen to be absolutely just and justified in judging his deviant creatures.

GOD’S SEVEN-FOLD RAINBOW HERALDS GRACE:
I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). The rainbow that God has installed in his creation is a declaration of his covenant of grace, that he is conciliatory, when he sees the rainbow he will remember his covenant affirmed with Noah.

The seven-fold colours of God’s rainbow are significant also. The number seven in biblical apocalyptic numerics signifies completeness in terms of God’s covenantal dealings with his elect. In God’s covenant of grace, everything is provided for his believing children. If I might put it like this, when God calls a person into a covenant relationship with himself, he throws a package into his lap. It contains all the gifts needed, regeneration, repentance, faith, justification, sanctification and glorification, a complete package. It takes him from his deviant life and restores him to God in Christ. It’s a complete salvation.

God’s rainbow appears as though it reaches down from heaven. For this is the origin of grace and mercy, it is from God. Man’s religion is a religion of works, man seeking to reach up to God by his own efforts. God in his covenant grace reaches down to man in his Son Jesus accomplishing what man cannot do for himself.

Lastly, God’s rainbow appears as though it unites heaven and earth. This is, of course, God’s purpose in redemption, “through Christ to reconcile all things to himself” (Colossians 1:20). All this will be the completed, the finished article, and all accomplished by the blood of the cross. Heaven and earth will be as one.

So you see, don’t you. The symbol is important, very much. And it is important that the symbol is the correct one, God’s seven-coloured rainbow is God’s symbol. Not the six-coloured filthy rag of the LGBTQ community, the symbol of man’s deviance from God, sexually and every which other way, totally debased.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them” (Romans 1:24-32).

So God’s rainbow is a reminder to all flesh of man’s deceit and its consequent judgment. But also the alluring symbol and call of grace to be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus. It is designed as all the works of God are, to lead men to repentance through the unchangeable riches of his grace, causing men to be reborn, renewed, restored from the path of deviance, and from the filthy rags of his own righteousness to the glory of God.

(© James R Hamilton, October 2017)
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The Glorious Light of the Gospel!

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The way, the truth and the life!

“There is no way more likely to drive the gospel away from us than to spurn and oppose it, and its proclaimers. Unless the Lord prevents it this will bring even greater confusion and drive out the good news about Jesus Christ. If you would rather see gospel preachers in prison than in pulpit or soapbox, be warned, God will give you worse in their place. “Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Better you lose the light of the sun than the light of the gospel”

(© James R Hamilton, August 2017)
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