Monday, 11 August 2014

Ragged Theology Publications - A Mission of Mercy

I'm delighted that 'A Mission of Mercy - the Life and Legacy of Dr Guthrie' is now out.  It is the combination of a series of articles in the Free Church Record in 2013 as well as some additional material particularly around Guthrie's leadership in the temperance movement.  The booklet has copies of two beautiful paintings of Guthrie by James Edgar and Sir George Harvey.  The first is entitled a 'Mission of Mercy' and the second is of Guthrie fly fishing with his children on Lochlee which was a favourite holiday destination for the Guthrie family.  There is a small cost of £2 per booklet to recover costs and orders can be sent to

Alternatively you can download the book via kindle

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Willing Saviour

'His son indeed does not go up and down heaven weeping, wringing his hands, and, to the amazement of silent angels, crying, Would God I had died for man!  A more amazing spectacle is here.  He turns his back on heaven;  he leaves the bosom and happy fellowship of his Father, he bares his own innocent love never to be fathomed, he dies that accursed tree, "the just for the unjust, that we might be saved!"

The Gospel in Ezekiel, Dr Thomas Guthrie

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Guthrie and the Gospel in Ezekiel

Despite it's rich gleanings, the book of Ezekiel is often an unread book by many Christians.  A bit like the book of Revelation or the book of Daniel, the book of Ezekiel is allegorical and apocalyptic so needs to be interpreted with great care.  Many of us perhaps feel it is impenetrable for anyone who is not a preacher or theologian. 

Given his status as one of the best and most accessible preachers in Scotland it is little wonder that Thomas Guthrie's 'Gospel in Ezekiel', first published in 1855, went on to be a best seller.  The book opened the darkness of Ezekiel to a new audience hungry for the warm and winsome style in which Guthrie communicated truth through preaching or writing. 

Normally you can pick up a second hand copy of the Gospel in Ezekiel on ABE Books here but I am delighted to hear that my friends at GLH Publishing are working on an e-book version so keep an eye out for it here.  I am so grateful to Michael Pate from GLH for all the work he has done to convert Guthrie's books into e-books so a new generation can read Guthrie for themselves.  You can download other Guthrie books here and here.

The Late Starter
Despite his legacy as a popular writer, it wasn't until 25 years into his ministry that Thomas Guthrie approached writing with a degree of intentionality.  Prior to the publication of the Gospel in Ezekiel in 1855, Guthrie had written two major booklets both on the Original Ragged School.  His first publication was entitled 'A Plea for Ragged Schools' which first came out in 1847 with subsequent versions in 1849 and 1860.  The three booklets were all eventually published in one book with extensive appendices.  Guthrie's 'pleas' proved to be a huge success and Guthrie describes them 'as a spark amongst combustibles.'  They were the means in  God's hand to launch the ragged schools from a small provincial enterprise into an organised and structured movement. Clearly Guthrie had a gift not just as an orator but also as a writer.

When the Gospel in Ezekiel came out, Guthrie has been a parish minister in Arbirlot for 7 years and had been in Edinburgh for eighteen years.  When he came to Edinburgh in 1837, he had started out as assistant to John Sym in Old Greyfriars before planting the new St John's Church and was now at the height of his career as senior minister at Free St John's.  Due to Guthrie's fragile health, Rev William Hanna (son in law of Thomas Chalmers) had been appointed as an assistant to Guthrie in 1850.   There was clearly a congenial and warm relationship between the two preachers because Guthrie dedicated the Gospel in Ezekiel to Hanna;

To you, my dear Sir, I dedicate these Discourses - the substance of which was preached to our Congregation - not so much as an expression of my high admiration of the genius and talents which you have consecrated the cause of our common Lord, as a mark of the warm affection which I cherish for you, and of the kind, cordial, and most happy intercourse, which we have enjoyed since our union as colleagues and pastors of the same flock (Edinburgh, December 1855).

The Pattern and Contents of the Book
The Gospel in Ezekiel is a series of twenty two chapters all based on Ezekiel 36 v 16 - 37.  While some of Guthrie's writing appears to the modern reader as rather flowery, the sermons can only be described as majestic.   Guthrie seeks to follow the gospel narrative working his way from; the messenger, the defiler, man sinning, man suffering, God's positive justice, God's motive in salvation, man an object of divine mercy, God glorified in redemption, the wisdom and holiness of God illustrated in salvation, the benefits flowing from redemption, man justified, man justified through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, man converted, the heart of stone, the new heart, the renovator, the new life, the blessedness of the saints, the security of the believer, and the nature, necessity and power of prayer.

Despite becoming a prolific writer until his death in 1873, Guthrie was probably best know for his volume on Ezekiel. In their Memoir of their father David and Charles Guthrie make mention that by 1875 the Gospel in Ezekiel had sold over 40,000 copies.  This is a remarkable figure given the subject and length of the book.  But as always it was the content and the author that it made it such a best seller.  Here is a taster of some of the content from the title entitled The Messenger.  Guthrie is proving that God has entrusted gospel treasures to earthen vessels and drives home the point that he is not just referring to ministers;

I am anxious that you should understand that the honours which I have spoken of are not reserved for pulpits.  The youth who, finding rest and refreshment in Christian labours, teaches a Sabbath class; the mother with her children grouped around her, sweet solemnity sitting on her face, and an open Bible resting on her knee; the friend who deals faithfully with another's soul; any man who kindly takes a poor sinner by the hand, and offering to guide, and urging him to go to the Saviour, says "Come with us and we will do you good;" "arise, for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good;" "these are ministers of the Gospel, and not less than its ordained pastors are fellow-labourers with God.

Its Effects
There was plenty of evidence that the Lord used the Gospel in Ezekiel to great spiritual good.  An officer in the army wrote from a distant outpost in 1864; 'about eighteen months ago a friend directed me to where I would find your 'Gospel in Ezekiel.'  I may say, any hope of eternal happiness (and I trust my hope is well founded) is derived under God from it.  Although I have never had the pleasure of seeing or hearing you, I can scarcely restrain a strong feeling of looking upon you in the light of a father in the gospel.' 

There were other stories, particularly of the effect of his sermons in India.  A Dr Lowe mentions how while he was a missionary in India he usually gave the local catechists and evangelists an hour each Thursday to help them prepare a sermon for the coming Sunday.  One week he didn't have the time to prepare and gave them the headings and vivid illustrations of a Guthrie sermon.  The sermon was preached to around 60 congregations the following Sunday and caused a great stir.  The local preachers asked for Dr Lowe to read the sermons to them weekly and they were adapted for their local congregations.  So the 'Gospel in Ezekiel,' 'The Way to Life' and 'Speaking to the Heart' were used regularly across the Neyoor district in India.  Apparently when told, Guthrie raised his hands and said to Dr Lowe 'My dear sir, I thank God for such tidings.  I rejoice to know in some measure I have helped to tell the sons and daughters of India the story of the cross.'

Guthrie's writings went on to have a huge impact in America, and his books were translated into French and Dutch.  His sons quote a remark in their Memoirs of their father that D.L. moody once said that 'I owe more to the writings of your father than to those of any other man.'

In many ways Guthrie was an accidental writer.  He was almost forced into writing when he wrote his first 'Plea for Ragged School.'  It is hard to believe but Guthrie came back from the printer in 1847 believing that he had made a fool of himself.  However, he went on to become one of the most popular Christian writers of his day and extended the reach of his pulpit to a worldwide audience.  In the Gospel in Ezekiel he showed that the gospel of Jesus Christ is as richly portrayed in the Old Testament as it is in the New, albeit in types and shadows.  Ezekiel was looking way beyond the Babylonian captivity of Israel to a greater and more permanent kingdom.  He is also pointing to better and fuller redemption.  As David Murray has recently shown so well in latest book, when we study the bible in the light of the incarnation of Christ we can indeed see 'Jesus on Every Page.'

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A father worth imitating

Me, no 1 son and my dad: looking sprightly at 80
Parenting and fatherhood is without doubt the biggest challenge I have ever faced.  I blogged about it last year on Fathers Day which you can read here.  Kirsteen and I have been leading a parenting course at church over the last few weeks which has been great but there is also a lot of wincing as I think back to some of the things I've said and done as a dad.  Thankfully kids have short memories and are very forgiving when their dad messes up.  It has been useful to discuss the foundation of the family but I have particularly found the discussions around the 5 love languages really helpful: affirming words, affectionate touch, 1:1 time, thoughtful presents and kind actions.  All common sense but when I think of my daily routine I am ashamed how little I practice it sometimes.  There is a good website called The 5 Love Languages which you can view here.   I haven't read Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell's book yet but certainly intend to.  The experience of meeting with other parents to discuss these issues on the Parenting Course, and some of the challenges we face has been a huge help to Kirsteen and I and chance to re-evaluate our parenting.
Given the challenges we all face as Christian fathers I'm always on the look out for helpful articles like the one on Desiring God Ministries blog called 'A father worth intimating' which you can read here. It is about James Paton the father of John G Paton who went out to the New Hebrides to minister to cannibals.  It talks of James Paton's faithfulness in little things.  As the article says we can all become spiritually fatigued as fathers.  We need to be inspired by examples such as James Paton.  The article finishes by saying 'The noble task of fatherhood is fraught with temptations. And one of the greatest temptations is that our good efforts go without avail. With shortsighted vision, we fathers can be tempted to give up.'  If you want to read the inspirational life of John G Paton, John Piper has written a book called 'John G Paton - You Will Be Eaten By Cannibals!'

The temptation to give up or become mediocre in our parenting is something that can face us all.  James Paton reminds us that very often God is achieving much more that we think as we struggle through our lives.  I was really encouraged recently by a sermon I heard by Joel Beeke on Caleb.  You can listen to it here
Caleb gave the minority report along with Joshua in Numbers 13 and the people wanted to stone him.  Rather than crumbling under pressure Caleb remained firm and we read that he entered into the Promised Land with his children (Numbers 14 v 24).  He endured the scorn of others but remained faithful to the Lord.  Not only was the Lord faithful to him but also to his family.  This is a great encouragement to us that our God is a God of covenant and is faithful to us and to our children. 
Fatherhood is a huge calling.  Thankfully we are not asked to do it without some great examples and a Heavenly Father who is the ultimate example of patience, longsuffering and love.  While I may not always be a great father at least I can point my boys a perfect heavenly father who will never let them down.  Surely he is a father worth imitating.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Leicester Conference - some reflections after 52 years

As a young student in the early 1990's I enjoyed attending the Leicester Youth Conference organised by the Banner of Truth Trust.  I was an Office Junior (tea boy) at the Banner in 1989 and 1990 so managed to get involved in the conference bookstall.  Fresh out of Oban I couldn't believe the size of the conference.  While I believe I was already a Christian by the mid 1980's the Leicester Conference was a huge help to me spiritually.

In particular, the 1991 conference was a real spiritual milestone for me with Rev Ted Donnally speaking on Nehemiah and Rev Alun McNabb on the 'Epidemic of Spurious Conversions.'  For the first time, it hit me powerfully that despite a Christian upbringing and profession, it was possible to deceive ourselves that we are Christians when in fact we are still not saved.  Perhaps the best recent example of this I read was in Leviticus 10 where Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed for offering 'strange fire' before the Lord.  As Dr Michael Barrett says in a recent article 'Nadab and Abihu stand as warning to all who think that pedigree or religion are viable alternatives to God's exclusive way' The Banner of Sovereign Grace and Truth, March 2014.

Most of the Banner talks can be ordered from here.
This year, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I am heading back to Leicester with my oldest son James.  I have been asked to help out with the bookshop like I used to all those years ago.  James is looking forward to hearing Euan Murray who he has met on several occasions.

What is perhaps most amazing is that my dad started attending the Leicester Minister Conference in 1962.  Three generations at Leicester is quite an achievement!  I was chatting to my dad recently about that first conference.    W J Grier opened the Conference with ‘Preaching and the Present Age’ and closed it with ‘The Preacher and Prayer.’ Iain Murray dealt with ‘Preaching in England in the Past’.  Professor Murray gave three addresses on ‘Preaching and 1) Scripture 2) Sanctification 3) Judgment’. The Rev Kenneth Macrae gave two addresses ‘Teaching Essential to Evangelical Preaching’ and ‘The Danger of Compromise in Preaching.’

Back in Stornoway after the 1962 Conference the Rev Kenneth Macrae addressing his people on ‘The Present Prospects of the Reformed Faith’, reported that he had seen in England ‘a little cloud like a man’s hand’ (I Kings 18.44). Reflecting on the Conference he wrote to a friend:

‘The earnestness and spiritual unity of those young fellows who gathered at Leicester was for me a real tonic and encouraged me greatly. So far, the movement towards the Reformed Faith may be weak and largely unorganised, but that there is such a movement cannot be questioned, and in it, by God’s grace, there are tremendous possibilities. Worm Jacob may yet thresh the mountains. May the Lord grant it so!’
My father wrote an article for the Free Church (Continuing) Witness several years ago giving a potted history of the Banner and the conference now in its fifty second year.  For those of us used to Banner books and take for granted the accessibility of reformed books, it is a fascinating insight into the last 50 years;
"The story begins in England with the Rev Iain Murray and the issuing of a magazine called The Banner of Truth in Oxford in 1955. This lead on to the formation in 1957 of a Trust which through its reprinting of Reformed classics was to play a major part in the re-discovery of the Reformed Faith in England. Mr Murray was by then the assistant to Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel, London where these doctrines had been preached with increasing power since 1939.

Meanwhile in the USA an exile Scot, Professor John Murray, was teaching the Reformed Faith in all its fullness at Westminster Theological Seminary. He was conscious of the need for a recovery of the doctrines of grace on both sides of the Atlantic. At that time he was scarcely known in the UK but invitations to speak at meetings in England coincided with the re-awakening of Calvinistic truth. The first announcement of the work which the Banner of Truth Trust planned to do expressed indebtedness to three men - Dr Lloyd-Jones, Rev W J Grier and Professor John Murray. Through his identification with the Banner work Professor Murray developed a much closer connection with the situation in England and gave further momentum to the recovery of Reformed truth.

Among Professor Murray’s chief concerns was for the restoration of true preaching. One who shared this view was the Rev J Marcellus Kik, a trustee of Westminster Seminary. This subject was discussed with Mr Kik when he was present in London in 1961. As a result he carried back to Professor Murray in Philadelphia a proposal that a conference should be held for ministers the following year in the UK, concentrating specifically on the need for a renewal of preaching.

Other men were consulted about this and among them was the Rev W J Grier in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Mr Grier had made a courageous stand against Modernism in the Presbyterian Church in Ulster and subsequently founded the Irish Evangelical Church (now the Evangelical Presbyterian Church). He had set up the Evangelical Bookshop, which even before the advent of the Banner was supplying to readers in the UK good Reformed books imported from the USA. His Church had strong links with the Free Church of Scotland, sharing in the training of students and missionary work.

The fourth strand in the development was the interest of the Rev Kenneth Macrae, minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Stornoway in the Outer Hebridies, the largest Presbyterian congregation in the UK. He was conscious of the drift that was taking place in Scotland and even within his own denomination. He longed and prayed for a recovery of truth and godliness and believed that ‘the tide will turn’. The advent of the Banner of Truth magazine in 1955 was an encouragement to him and he personally ordered quantities of between 150 and 200 copies. It was with the prospect of helping this work that he accepted the invitation to speak at the 1962 Conference. Although then in his 79th year he made the long journey from the Isle of Lewis to undertake what was his first and last preaching engagements in England. As well as speaking at Leicester he took the Communion services in the Free Church of Scotland congregation in London and preached for Iain Murray at Grove Chapel.

It was in this way that the Lord in his goodness brought men from different countries and Reformed traditions together to apply themselves to the restoration of preaching. A location was found through the good offices of the Rev Sidney Lawrence at College Hall on the campus of Leicester University.  Dr Lloyd- Jones was not present in 1962 but spoke in the Conferences of 1964 and 1965.

Among the 40 men who attended about 30 were ministers in pastoral charges. The majority were from England but there were 12 from Scotland and 3 from Northern Ireland. Wales was not represented. Most of the Scots were from the Free Church of Scotland and men, like Mr Macrae, who rejoiced to see this new movement - Rev Alasdair Johnston, Dumbarton, Rev James Morrison, North Uist,  Rev Donald Mackay, Watten, Mr Donald Macinnes, Inverness (who later became a probationer in the Free Church but died shortly after) and four Edinburgh men who had recently embraced the doctrines of grace. There were two ministers belonging to the Church of Scotland. I was privileged to be Secretary of the Conference and duly relieved men of the princely sum of £3, which was the cost of attending. If your travel expenses amounted to more than £1 you could claim help!"

Thanks to dad for his reflections!  I will post a full account of my return to Leicester over the next few weeks.  I might even get some reflections from no. 1 son on his first Leicester Youth Conference.





Tuesday, 11 March 2014

God's Institution of the Family

Ragged Theology is delighted to publish Dr Guthrie's Moderatorial Address from 1862 on Amazon.  Many thanks (again) to Michael Pate from GLH Publishing. 

There are few subjects more important today than 'God's Institution of the Family'. 

Click on the link to the address here.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Guthrie's First Sermon - Jonah 1 v 6 (13th Feb 1825)

This sermon has been kindly typed out from me by Christine Maciver and appears as written in the first appendix of Thomas Guthrie's Autobiography and Memoirs (1874).  Although he mentions three points in his sermon outline he only records the first and third point!
Marked by Mr Guthrie “My first Sermon as a Preacher.  Preached at Dun, 13 February 1825.”
Jonah 1:6 – What meanest thou, O sleeper?  arise, call upon thy God.
            In the Old Testament writings, we apprehend, there are frequently hid, under the mere detail of natural events, many of those grand and important doctrines which are peculiar to the Christian religion; and we believe also that it was on this account that many of them are detailed at such length; while to appearance they seem only to affect the worldly prospects of one individual, or the Jewish nation at large. 
            In the sojourn of the Hebrews, for instance, in the wilderness of Arabia, we see in that mere fact a most apt illustration of a Christian’s life; and in their at last gaining the promised land, after many a wandering, we see a figurative representation of that rest which remaineth for the people of God.   In the raising of the brazen serpent amidst the expiring Israelites, and in the command to look upon it and they should be delivered from the calamity which God had sent upon them for their sins, we surely see something more than a mere historical event which only affected them.  In the elevation of that serpent we see the elevation of Christ on the cross; and in the command given to the Israelites we see a command given to a diseased world to look unto him, and they shall be saved.  Deprive these events of that application, and you rob them of the very point which renders them so interesting to us; for what would it be for us to know that Abraham raised his hand against the life of his only son, unless we saw in Isaac, bound, a trembling victim, to the altar, our Saviour nailed to the cross of Calvary, and exclaiming in the hiding of his Father’s countenance, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
            In like manner, it appears to us that from the most interesting points in the history of Jonah, we may draw many a fact materially affecting us as spiritual beings. and discover in it no faint representation of the deplorable condition in which we are found by the Gospel.  Did Jonah disobey the command of God?  So have we, not only in Adam our federal head, but also in the daily sins with which we stand chargeable.  Did Jonah flee from the presence of the Lord?  So have we, in forsaking him, the fountain of living waters, and hewing out for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.  Was Jonah, in consequence, exposed to imminent danger?  So are we in danger of the wrath that is to come, and is never to end.  Was he wakened to a sense of his danger in a ship, where he little dreamed of the extremity of his peril?  So the Gospel raises its warning voice, and proclaims to each living one of us, “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God.”
            We proceed to show then:
1.            That all men are by nature in a state of danger.
2.            The necessity that springs from this, that they should arise and call upon their God.
3.            What they should call for from God.
  1. That all men are by nature in a state of danger
Were we to judge of the truth or falsehood of this statement by observations upon the conduct (not upon the professions) of mankind, we would be very apt to believe it to be false.  Men, indeed, in their approaches to God, either in private or in public prayer, confess that their souls are in danger of the coming wrath; but, as if the whole was a piece of solemn mockery, this acknowledgment is made with far more indifference than a man would show upon the loss of the merest trifle in his worldly concerns.
      How many sleepless nights and how many anxious days, how many hours of sorrow, and how many seasons of unwearied exertions will that man pass who has discovered that he is in danger of falling back in worldly matters; and with what earnest expectation will he watch for, and with what joy will he hail every favourable turn in the tide of business, until he has regained a sure and steady footing!  But if the soul of man is really in danger, do we meet it with any such marks of intense feeling of alarm on that account?  No.  Or do we witness in the body of mankind any such anxious earnestness to be delivered from the impending danger?  No.  If such danger does exist, strange to tell, there is nothing in the world occupies men less.  They are more afraid of losing a pound or a penny than their souls!  One man is occupied in business, and so completely do its cares take possession of his heart, that not a corner is left for the concerns of his soul.  From day to day, with undivided attention, he plys his busy task; ‘tis his first thought in the morning, ‘tis his last thought at night; it will hardly admit time for a hurried prayer, if prayer is said at all; and even while apparently engaged in the solemn duties of the Sabbath, his heart is in pursuit of many a worldly scheme – as if one day in the week was too much time to spend on the eternal interests of his soul.
      Now, though we do not affirm – far be it from us to affirm any such thing – that all men have equally lost sight of the welfare of their souls in their keen pursuit after earthly enjoyment, let that enjoyment be what it may, - still, we can appeal to every mind, without fear of contradiction, if the great body of mankind do not appear to live just as if their welfare through eternity was a matter too sure to be questioned; and just as if, therefore, their well-being in time was the only remaining object of their care.  But notwithstanding that our conduct in general gives very little proof of our apprehension of danger, we find most unquestionable authority that the curse of a broken law has gone forth against us, and that the punishment of a broken law awaits the closing of the day of God’s forbearance.
      He who stands charged by his conscience with the guilt of one single sin, stands exposed to the curse of an offended law.  He who hath offended in one point, is guilty of all.  Do not then entertain the delusion which is too apt to gain an easy admission into our hearts, “Have I been such a sinner as to expose me to danger?” but recollect that it rather is, “Have I been a sinner at all?”  So averse are we to believe that there is nothing before us but a fearful looking for of judgment, so humbling is it to the human pride, so contrary to all our notions of human dignity and human worth, and so pregnant with every feeling that is calculated to disturb the false peace of our slumbers – that, rather than submit to endure all the horrors of a sense of danger, and all the degradation of such a humbling doctrine, we will institute some favourable comparison between ourselves and others – forget our own sins and increase the guilt of theirs, magnify their defiance and lessen our own; and then, in the full belief that, though danger greatly hangs over them, it cannot surely have the same threatening aspect to us, thank God, like the Pharisee of old, that we are not as the publicans and sinners. 
      But we appeal to yourselves if it would not be a most strange and a most unwarrantable ground of confidence in a robber to believe, because he was not a murderer, that therefore he had nothing to fear; to waste his days in idle amusement, instead of applying through every channel for the exercise of mercy; and to make his cell a scene of thoughtless and of wanton riot, instead of solemn and serious reflection, just because he was not chargeable with the guilt of a fellow criminal by staining his hands with human blood.  If, then, such a mode of reasoning would be false and absolutely ruinous in the case of a criminal who has trampled upon  human laws, how much more certainly fatal will it be in the case of us who have despised the counsel and defied the power of God?
      Until the words of the sentence are passed by an earthly judge, absurd as it may be to entertain it, still a feeble gleam of hope may be seen in the darkness of a criminal’s prospects.  It is possible that the evidence against him, though apparently decisive, may still fail in some important particular; it is possible that some means of escape may be tried with success before the day of his doom arrives; and it is still further possible that though both of these grounds of confidence prove false, still the compassion or the weakness of his judge may plead or act so strangely in his favour that he may gain a full and honourable acquittal.  But to us, as offending criminals against a Divine law, there are no such favourable possibilities.  It is not possible that the proof against us can be deficient, for if one sin – instead of ten thousand which we must all acknowledge – be brought home to your conviction, then the curse falls upon us, as those who have not continued in “all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 
      Neither is it possible that any door of escape can be opened to us, though we were to wander in search of it through boundless space; for where can we go from God’s Spirit, or whither flee from his presence?  Does death require, think you, the slow hand of disease to effect his purpose?  Does he require slowly and gradually to undermine the foundations of our life, or may not he rather get possession of it by an unexpected assault?  Might not the inhabitants before the flood have purposed the same thing when the waters overwhelmed them in universal destruction?  Might not the dwellers in Sodom and Gomorrah have made an equally fine resolution when the heavens rained fire and brimstone on their devoted heads?  Might not Korah and his ungodly company have been engaged in forming some such purpose when the earth clave asunder, and closed over them forever?  Might not every sinner have satisfied the demands of his conscience by a similar purpose, who has, still, been hurried from the scenes of business or of pleasure, without time even for a prayer for mercy, into the solemn presence of an unbending Judge?  But even though accident were not to sweep us to another world, ill-prepared to give in our account, still any resolutions of death-bed reformation cannot do away with the necessity that lies on us to awake at present, and call upon our God.
      If we believe that the last hours we spend on earth are the best fitted to prepare for heaven, surely gross darkness has come upon us.  That soldier, we apprehend, would have very little prospect of success, who deferred to buckle on his armour till the blows were falling upon him.  That sailor, we apprehend, would have very little prospect of escape who, though the storm was seen from afar, still refused to seek some place of refuge until it came roaring and raging on in all the horrors of its destruction.  And certainly we do apprehend that he who defers his escape from the dangers of the coming wrath until the hand of death shall be laid upon him, stakes his immortal spirit upon a less probable circumstance than any but a madman would stake the merest trifle of his worldly goods.  Death is a scene, not of preparation, but of conflict – a solemn and a fearful conflict in the hour and with the powers of darkness.  And oh! if the Christian who has long struggled with his spiritual adversaries, who has long wielded the sword of the spirit, who has long known how to use the shield of faith – if this well-tried and veteran soldier be hardly able to withstand in that evil day, how can success attend upon him who has newly enlisted under the Christian banner, and been all his lifetime a slave of sin?
      We do appeal to yourselves if that is a fit time to escape from the wrath to come, when the poor, expiring sinner is hardly able to lift his head under the load of his sickness, or when he is tossing in agony, or when he is buried in a lethargy so profound that no answer is given to the questions of affection and friendship, or when, in the ravings of a wandering mind, his loud and unearthly laugh startles the silence of the chamber of death?  If, then, you feel any interest for the welfare of your soul through eternity; if you feel any desire to meet God, not clothed in the terrors of an offended lawgiver, but welcoming you with the love of a reconciled Father; if you feel any anxiety to escape the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is never quenched, and to possess the glory that fadeth not, and the inheritance that is never corrupted, repose no longer in your fatal slumbers – awake and call upon your God with all the earnestness of those who know not but this very night their souls may be required of them.
3. What should be sought or called for from God
      The nature of the danger under which we lie decidedly shows that the main object we have to seek must be to escape from eternal wrath; and he who has reflected at all upon the character of God, or the means by which we have brought ourselves into this dangerous condition, ought to know that there is no way of escape but by the pardon of our sins.
      The only difficulty, then, we apprehend, is concerning the means by which this pardon is to be obtained; or the only question is, are we to arise and call upon God for the pardon of our sins, solely and exclusively upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness, or also upon some fancied virtue in our own obedience?  Now, far be it from us to take upon ourselves to judge of any man’s obedience, that being a matter which rests between him and his God; but still, upon the authority of Scripture, we are warranted to assert that a man’s own obedience or his own righteousness is nothing better than filthy rags, that by it he cannot be justified before God, and that, therefore, he who trusts to it leans upon a broken reed.  Were the robe of Christ’s righteousness too narrow to cover us, then we might be excused for putting on filthy rags; were His merits too inconsiderable to justify us before God, then we might not be so much to blame for adding our own works, poor, and wretched, and unprofitable as they have been; and were His rod and His staff not able to support us, even in the valley of the shadow of death, it would be something like a pleasing delusion to believe that we would be the better of a broken reed.  But, persuaded as we are that the righteousness of Christ is the only robe of salvation which will ensure our acceptance with God, persuaded as we are that His merits are so vast that no demerit can be too great which they will not atone for, and persuaded as we are that His rod and His staff are able to console a more disconsolate sinner than ever yet man has been, we hold that he who goes about to seek any other means of escape than this sows the wind and shall reap the whirlwind.
      We are indeed sensible that there is something very pleasing in the idea that, as it was by our own deeds that we fell, so by them we shall also rise; that there is something very flattering to our own vanity in the notion that we have obtained an occasion for boasting; and that, therefore, in calling upon you to seek salvation from the hand of another, we have to contend with the natural pride of a depraved heart.  But why give heed to the very suggestions which first brought ruin upon our race?  Why stand upon such idle fancies when the salvation of your immortal spirit is at stake?
      If your eyes are then opened to the storm of divine wrath which, like a black lowering cloud, is about to pour its thunders on your devoted head; if you feel yourself naked, defenceless, and unprepared to brave its fury – seek, we beseech you, the righteousness of Jesus Christ as a covert from the storm and a shelter from the tempest.  If you feel yourself to be a traveller in a barren and cheerless desert, where no cloud of mercy interposes to shade you from the sun of God’s anger, where your vigour is dried up, and your strength is withered away before it, where your hopes begin to decay and your spirit is sunken within you – seek, we beseech you, the righteousness of Christ as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.  If you feel yourself tossed on the billows of despair, and, looking around for some signal of hope, your eye meets nothing but a troubled heaven and a raging sea, and your ear hears nothing but thunder’s echoes and the rushing of mighty waters that threaten your destruction, and now you begin to think that the next wave will send your feeble bark to the bottom – then seek, we beseech you, the righteousness of Christ as an anchor of hope within the vail.
      There is no aspect, in fact, in which your danger can be viewed in which the righteousness of Christ does not appear fit for your deliverance.  Are you under the bondage of sin?  The price of your redemption was paid on Calvary.  Is there a handwriting against you?  It was nailed with your sins to a Saviour’s cross.  From the crown of the head to the soles of the feet are you wounds and bruises and putrefying sores?  There is a balm in Gilead and a Physician there.  Are you defiled with sin and loathsome in your iniquity?  There is a fountain opened in Israel for sin and for all uncleanness.
      Seek, then, the righteousness of Christ as it consists of that perfect obedience by which He made honourable a dishonoured law, and of that full suffering by which He satisfied the unsatisfied demands of Divine justice; seek it (as ruined) by that faith which is the gift of God; seek it as the groundwork of every blessing which will perfect you in holiness, and prepare you for heaven.  For, if you have sought this best of all blessings with success, you are not only delivered from a fearful looking for of judgment, but you are warranted to make incessant application at the throne of God for grace to help you in every time of need; not only are you delivered from the danger of eternal death, but you are authorised to call upon God for means of escaping from those wiles of the devil in which he would hold you for a season in spiritual death.
      We know, indeed, that upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness our spiritual enemies are driven from the citadel of our heart; but still we know that, like an enemy unwilling to give up the conquests they had won, they look about and watch every opportunity to make an inroad upon the Christian’s peace.  Assailed as he is thus on the one hand by Satan and his emissaries, and on the other by the still lingering depravity of a once deeply depraved heart, if left to himself his life would be one continued scene of conflict and defeat; and hence, therefore, if we would not dishonour the Christian cause, and bring disgrace upon the Christian name – if we would not crucify our Lord afresh, and again expose him to an open shame – if we would give no occasion for an unholy shout of triumph from the dark and deadly host that is encamped against us – and if we would stand triumphant against that terrible array, defying all the power and hatred of hell – we must do all this by seeking and obtaining aid of the Holy Spirit.
      Though we may feel, by the power of a full assurance of faith, that the glories of the new Jerusalem cannot fail of being ours, still the path that leads to them is one of no common difficulty and no common danger.  The man of the world may pass the time of his sojourn here without once feeling an internal struggle, without once smarting under the sting of an accusing conscience, and without once being awakened from his dream of pleasure till he awake to find that he had dreamed of peace and now no peace is to be found: but you who have chosen the Christian course have chosen a life of no ruinous and inglorious ease; your path is beset with the wiles of the devil, your feet are surrounded by his snares, and you are continually exposed to his open assaults.  Slumber not, therefore, for this is an enemy’s country; repose not, therefore, for this is not the place of your rest; watch for your souls, watch for the cause, and for the honour of your God; and, as you mingle in the spiritual conflict, cry mightily unto the Lord, that the power of His Spirit would rest upon you, that His grace would be made sufficient for you, and His strength be perfected in your weakness.