“Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
What of the man tempted to despair? When a man after the breach of conscience by some grievous sin, is plunged into this gulf, that he thinks verily hell is prepared for him, and he must needs be damned. What remedy now in such a case? Answer: Some think the only way is to propound unto him, the grounds of universal grace,; as that, because he is a man, Christ died for him, for Christ died for all. But this is slender comfort, for the despairing conscience will thus reply, God indeed has done his part, but I refused God’s grace when it was offered. Therefore another way of comfort must be sought, which is, by proving unto him out of God’s word, that he is within the covenant, and that the promises of grace and life do belong unto him. For the effecting whereof, one main ground is here propounded; to wit, that though a want all righteousness, yet if he truly hunger after it, he is blessed. And the right applying of this ground is this: search must be made, whether the party thus despairing, has in him any spark of true grace, or no. And this will be known by these two demands: first, whether he dislikes his sins because they are sins; secondly, whether he truly desires to be reconciled unto God, to repent and believe in Christ. Now if his conscience tells him, that these things be in him indeed, then he is brought within the compass of this blessedness here pronounced by Christ, and has title to this promise, that he shall be satisfied. For he that is grieved for his sin, because thereby he has offended God, and withal has an earnest desire of mercy and grace, to repent and believe, is truly blessed. And therefore it may be said unto him, seeing you find in heart this grief for sin, and desire of grace, you are blessed and shall be satisfied. Thus may the distressed soul receive comfort; but as for them that live in sin, here is no comfort, for they have no true dislike of sin, no purpose or desire to repent thereof.
Consider also the benefits of taking up with the pleasing of God.
1. The pleasing of him is your happiness itself; the matter of pure, and full, and constant comfort, which you may have continually at hand, and no man can take from you. Get this and you have the end of man; nothing can be added to it, but the perfection of the same, which is heaven itself.
2. What abundance of disappointments and vexations will you escape, which tear the very hearts of man-pleasers, and fill their lives with unprofitable sorrows!
3. It will guide and order your cares, and desires, and thoughts, and labours to their right and proper end, and prevent the perverting of them, and spending them in sin and vanity on the creature.
4. It will make your lives not only to be divine but this divine life to be sweet and easy, while you set light by human censures which would create you prejudice and difficulties. When others glory in wit, and wealth, and strength, you would glory in this, that you know the Lord, Jeremiah 9. 23-24.
5. As God is above man, thy heart and life are highly ennobled by having so much respect to God, and rejecting inordinate respect to man: this is indeed to walk with God.
6. The sum of all graces is contained in this sincere desire to please thy God, and contentedness in this so far as thou findest it attained. Here is faith, and humility, and love, and, holy desire, and trust and the fear of God joined together. You “sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and make him your fear, and dread, and sanctuary,” Isaiah 8. 13-14.
7. If human approbation be good for you and worth your having, this is the best way to it; for God hath the disposal of it. “If a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,” Proverbs 16.7. God does this by appeasing their wrath, or restraining them from intended evil, or doing us good by that which they intend for hurt.
Signs of Living to Please God
See therefore that you live upon God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and will suffice you: which you may discover by these signs.
1. You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth please and displease God.
2. You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God than men.
3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
4. You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.
5. You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will not slight them: when they tell you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.
6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.
7. Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God’s judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.
The subject matter to be preached is here called “the word of God.” Although that which is spoken by ministers is only the sound of a man’s voice, yet that which true ministers of God preach in exercising their ministerial function is the word of God. Thus it is said of the apostles, “They spoke the word of God,” Acts 4:31, and it is said of the people of Antioch, that “almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God,” Acts 13:44.
That which ministers do or ought to preach is called the word of God in four respects.
1. In regard to the primary author of it, which is God. God did immediately inspire extraordinary ministers and thereby informed them in his will. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” 2 Peter 1:21. Therefore they would commonly use these introductory phrases, “The word of the Lord,” Hosea 1:1; “Thus says the Lord,” Isa 7:7; and an apostle says, “I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you,” 1 Cor. 11:23. As for ordinary ministers, they have God’s word written and left upon record for their use, “For all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” 2 Tim. 3:16. They therefore that ground what they preach upon the Scripture, and deliver nothing but what is agreeable to it, preach the word of God.
2. In regard to the subject-matter which they preach, which is the will of God; as the apostle exhorts, to “understand what the will of the Lord is,” Eph. 5:17, and to “prove what is that good, that acceptable, and perfect will of God,” Rom. 12:2.
3. In regard to the purpose of preaching, which is the glory of God, and making known “the manifold wisdom of God,” Eph. 3:10.
4. In regard to the mighty effect and power of it, for preaching God’s word is “the power of God unto salvation, Rom. 1:16. Preaching the word of God is “mighty through God to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:4,5. For “the word of God is quick and powerful,” etc., Heb. 4:12.
So close ought ministers to hold to God’s word in their preaching, that they should not dare to swerve away from it in anything. The apostle pronounces a curse against him, whosoever he is, that shall preach any other word, Gal. 1:8,9.
Therefore we have just cause to avoid such teachers as preach contrary to this doctrine, Rom. 16:17, 2 John 10. The whole body of Roman Catholicism is to be rejected for this reason. So are the manifold errors and heresies which have been broached in former ages, and in this our age. The feigning of new light and immediate inspiration in these days is a mere pretence.
The Right Hearing of Preaching
by this subject matter of preaching the word of God, we may receive a good direction to observe two caveats enjoined by Christ concerning hearing:
The first is concerning the matter which we hear, “Take heed what you hear,” Mark 4:24. We must hear nothing with approval except what we know to be the word of God. We must, therefore, be well acquainted with the Scriptures ourselves, and by them test the things which we hear, whether they are the word of God or not, as the men of Berea did, Acts 17:11.
The second caveat is concerning the manner of hearing, “Take heed how you hear,” Luke 18:18. That which we know to be grounded upon the Scriptures we must receive, “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thess. 2:13. We must with reverence attend to it; we must in our hearts believe, and we must in our lives obey it.
Preach the Pure Word
It is God’s word that does convert, quicken, comfort, and build up, or, on the other side, wound and beat down. What is the reason that there was so great an alteration made by the ministry of Christ and his disciples, by the apostles and others after them, indeed, by Luther, and other ministers of reformed churches? They did not preach traditions of elders like the scribes, nor men’s inventions like the Roman Catholics do. They preached the pure word of God. The more purely God’s word is preached, the more deeply it pierces and the more kindly it works.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost?” (Luke 14:28)
Ponder, my soul, over this very striking image of your Lord’s, concerning the divine life. The picture of a builder is most aptly chosen; for the Christian builder is building for eternity. And the figure of a warrior, which our Lord also joins to it, is no less so, for the battle is for life, and that life is eternal. Have you counted the cost? Have you entered upon the work? Is the foundation-stone, which God hath laid in Zion, the rock on which you are building?
Pause and examine. Be the cost what it may; the loss of earthly friends; the parting with every worldly pursuit; the scorn, contempt, and derision of all mankind; indeed, the loss of life itself: if these come in the way of competition, are you ready to give them all up?-When you have answered these inquiries, go on, and see that your foundation be really fixed on Christ.
If so, it must have been previously sought for, by digging deep into the natural state in which you were born. Jesus must have been first determined to be most essentially necessary, and most essentially precious, before the spiritual building of the soul was made to rest upon him. And, when found, unless the whole of the building rests entirely upon him, it will, as a column out of its centre, still totter. Oh! it is blessed to make Christ the all in all of the spiritual temple; blessed to make him the first in point of order; blessed to make him the first in point of strength, to support and bear the weight of the whole building; blessed to make him the grand cement, to unite and keep together, in one harmonious proportion and regularity, every part of the building; and blessed to bring forth the top-stone of the building, by his strength and glory, crying, “Grace, grace unto it.”
Precious Jesus! May it be found that I have so sat down, counted the cost, and formed my whole plan, in your strength, and to your praise; that whatever oppositions, like the Tobiahs and Sanballats of old, I may meet within the work, I may feel the sweetness and encouragement of that blessed Scripture, and exult with the prophet: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain!” Zech 4:7
Popery having brought various innovations into the Church, and overspread the Christian world with darkness and superstition, some few, who plainly perceived the pernicious tendency of such errors, determined to show the light of the Gospel in its real purity, and to disperse those clouds which artful priests had raised about it, in order to blind the people, and obscure its real brightness.
The principal among these was Berengarius, who, about the year 1000, boldly preached Gospel truths, according to their primitive purity. Many, from conviction, assented to his doctrine, and were, on that account, called Berengarians. To Berengarius succeeded Peer Bruis, who preached at Toulouse, under the protection of an earl, named Hildephonsus; and the whole tenets of the reformers, with the reasons of their separation from the Church of Rome, were published in a book written by Bruis, under the title of “Antichrist.”
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the reformed was very great, and the probability of its increasing alarmed the pope, who wrote to several princes to banish them from their dominions, and employed many learned men to write against their doctrines.
In A.D. 1147, because of Henry of Toulouse, deemed their most eminent preacher, they were called Henericians; and as they would not admit of any proofs relative to religion, but what could be deduced from the Scriptures themselves, the popish party gave them the name of apostolics. At length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent for his piety and learning, became a strenuous opposer of popery; and from him, the reformed, at that time, received the appellation of Waldenses or Waldoys.
Pope Alexander III being informed by the bishop of Lyons of these transactions, excommunicated Waldo and his adherents, and commanded the bishop to exterminate them, if possible, from the face of the earth; hence began the papal persecutions against the Waldenses.
The proceedings of Waldo and the reformed occasioned the first rise of the inquisitors; for Pope Innocent III authorized certain monks as inquisitors, to inquire for, and deliver over, the reformed to the secular power. The process was short, as an accusation was deemed adequate to guilt, and a candid trial was never granted to the accused.
The pope, finding that these cruel means had not the intended effect, sent several learned monks to preach among the Waldenses, and to endeavour to argue them out of their opinions. Among these monks was one Dominic, who appeared extremely zealous in the cause of popery. This Dominic instituted an order, which, from him, was called the order of Dominican friars; and the members of this order have ever since been the principal inquisitors in the various inquisitions in the world. The power of the inquisitors was unlimited; they proceeded against whom they pleased, without any consideration of age, sex, or rank. Let the accusers be ever so infamous, the accusation was deemed valid; and even anonymous pieces of information, sent by letter, were thought sufficient evidence. To be rich was a crime equal to heresy; therefore many who had money were accused of heresy, or of being favorers of heretics, that they might be obliged to pay for their opinions. The dearest friends or nearest kindred could not, without danger, serve anyone who was imprisoned on account of religion. To convey to those who were confined, a little straw, or give them a cup of water, was called favouring of the heretics, and they were prosecuted accordingly. No lawyer dared to plead for his own brother, and their malice even extended beyond the grave; hence the bones of many were dug up and burnt, as examples to the living. If a man on his deathbed was accused of being a follower of Waldo, his estates were confiscated, and the heir to them defrauded of his inheritance; and some were sent to the Holy Land, while the Dominicans took possession of their houses and properties, and, when the owners returned, would often pretend not to know them. These persecutions were continued for several centuries under different popes and other great dignitaries of the Catholic Church.
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.
The history of redemption is often called a drama. This here is the original soundtrack. The first three verses are about God and his glory. The next verses, four to twelve are about what he has done. The king’s very own words condemn him (v9). He was God-defiant, self-centred, note the repetition of the word ‘I’ in verse nine. He was the one who ended up destroyed, everlastingly. And so God’s people sing triumphantly of the divine perfection in his administration of justice. Take note will you, that it was God’s work, he drowned them in the sea (v4-5). It wasn’t natural causes as some liberal scholars would have us believe. Neither was it human causes, it was a divine act of judgment. But before you accuse God of being harsh remember this was a man who was spoken to by God, who saw the mighty, miraculous works of God. This was the man who was responsible for the harsh, oppressive, unjust treatment of the Hebrews. This was the man commanded the Hebrew children to be drowned, was it not fitting that God should drown him? A pretty fair transaction don’t you think? In Egypt, the natural order was deified. They worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, the river Nile, the entirety of creation but not the Creator. It was the natural order that became Pharaoh’s death. The nation that embraces false religion is a nation facing death. This was a ruler and nation that stood in defiance of God (v6-9). The majesty of God was violated. The original language here expresses that of a demolition job, God brought down the entire structure of the nation of Egypt. There was nothing but dust and rubble left. God had pledged to his people freedom and the promised land. Pharaoh in his defiance dared to say no. We must understand how black this sin is, it is a great evil. Every sin is, but to stand in deliberate, conscious defiance of the Almighty when he is clearly speaking to you and demonstrating his mighty power, is to invite serious trouble, very serious trouble. This Pharaoh did, and this Pharaoh got.
The wrath of God against the ungodly is a constant state of mind, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). It’s not a case of God getting uptight, flying into a rage and lashing out. That’s how we sinners operate. No, it is a constant, even attitude of holy displeasure that hangs over the ungodly. The only thing that will remove that wrath is the all atoning blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ (John 1:29), nothing else. This holy displeasure was displayed here in the Red Sea in this act of justice upon the Egyptian forces, and the same wrath hangs over natural born sinners today. This is an act of divine vengeance, retributive justice (v10-12. And we, as Christians, ought not to be making excuses for God’s justice nor denying it. Lest he deny us (Matthew 10:33). The evil is displayed as strong, but God simply blew upon it (v10). This should be a great comfort to the believer, especially in times of much evil. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). For many Christians in our day, their God is way too small, their Jesus is too nice. Believe me, he is good, always, but he is not always nice. And our God is strong, mighty, almighty to deliver his people in the day of evil, and he will deliver. He is majestic (v11). His holiness is an awesome concept, “and one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3-5)! For those who believe in his Son, have experienced his lovingkindness, who love him, his character inspires awe, fear i.e., deep respect, worship, and trust. Worship him, the Triune God today, fall down before him, love and adore him!