Sunday, February 03, 2008

The World’s Verdict of Christ and His Followers; Or, The Truly Devout Ridiculed and Reproached by the Profane

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
(Isa 8:18)

This morning we had several children in our family who were sick. Therefore we were unable to fellowship with other believers in our Church fellowship. I took this opportunity to read excerpts from one of Ralph Erskine’s sermons. This sermon is highly relevant to today and describes, almost to a T, what many of God’s people are facing from other professing Christians. Read these words, and be encouraged that we are not the first generation who faced persecution for standing up for the truths of scripture. This sermon was delivered by Ralph Erskine in his own church at Dunfermline, December 16, 1772. Remember that date as you read, for this could very well have been written in 2008. What I am recording here is the very last page out of about 11 pages of sermon. He ends with a question and an answer. Imagine the fire in which it was delivered, and I believe it will be an encouragement for you as well. The base text for this sermon is given above.

“What help, in order to bear reproach for Christ, will you offer us?”

A man that would bear reproach for Christ, must be a Christian indeed, a believer indeed; otherwise he will never bear his reproach aright. It is he and the children whom the Lord hath given him, that are signs and wonders: if you be not among his children, you cannot be a zealous sufferer for him. Yea, a man that would bear reproach for Christ, needs to be, not only a believer, but a strong believer, having much Christian courage, that he may bear a hiss, as well as a hymn; I mean, a hiss of reproach and disdain, as well as a hymn of applause and commendation: to bear this, requires the armor of patience and spiritual courage, for marching through the world’s contempt and hazard, being looked upon as a monster, and made the scorn of fools: and all this requires the strength of faith; “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb. xii. 2. And , in the following words, we are called to “consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds; for we have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. It requires much zeal for God, and love to him. Alas, who can say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?” It requires a good cause and a good conscience: if a man be firmly persuaded of the goodness of the cause, it will help him to bear reproach; while he doth not suffer as an evil doer, though he be reproached as such: and a good conscience is an encouraging thing in this warfare; also, “having a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ,” 1 Pet. iii. 16. iv. 15. In a word, it requires constant dependance upon the Captain of salvation, who was “made perfect through sufferings.”

Finally, Let us all consider and remember, that the cause of Christ will be a prevailing cause in the issue, however it be reproached in the world. There is a schism, a rent, and division in the world, Sirs, ever since the fall of Adam; a battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels; but Michael and his angels, Christ and his children, will carry the day; and contradicted truths will be effectually cleared and vindicated; if never fully here, yet the day of the Lord will be the valley of decision, when the great cause of true religion will be decided, and the serpent’s head broken so as that he shall never hiss nor spit his venom any more.

It is now a day of reproach, a day to be lamented, for the bitter calumny that takes place therein; yea, I may call heaven and earth to witness, whether ever gospel preachers and professors suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue than in the apostate age, wherein, if some ministers fall foul upon the sins and errors of the times, the very naming thereof is enough to offend, though yet the nation be sinking under the weight thereof. Never was a gospel ministry more contemptible than in our day. Satan has used many instruments, and most of them have had their effect, to bring the dispensers of gospel ordinances into contempt; and it is still more lamentable, that many have had a sinful hand in bringing their own ministry under a reproach, and laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the success of the gospel, and marring the edification of souls, by sad compliances with the public defections of the day and errors of the age.

It is a day wherein the gospel of Christ is contemned. The time has been when some have thought it worth crossing the seas to enjoy the everlasting gospel: but now, that it has become plenty and cheap, many are loath to cross the streets to hear it upon a week-day, unless they have some other errand, perhaps to compliment a neighbor with their presence at a baptism or a marriage. How much are we souring upon the gospel, and loathing the honey-comb!

It is also a day wherein some of the friends of Christ are openly bantered, and lampooned, and gazed upon as signs and wonders; and wherein many sacred truths are publically defamed and ridiculed; and heart-enemies to revealed religion and to the gospel in its purity, in the mean time taking occasion utterly to run down the gospel. What am I saying? In the name of the great God I defy all the powers of earth and hell to run it down: they may sooner run down the flowing tide or the sun rising in its strength than run down the least of the dictates of eternal truth; “Not one jot or tittle thereof shall fall to the ground.” Dagon shall fall before the ark; and the rod of Aaron shall swallow up the gods of the magicians.

It is likewise a day wherein providence is shaking both church and state; and particularly the ark must needs shake, when they who carry it are stricken with axes and hammers, and many are knocking at all the four corners of it at once, namely, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, to get it broken to pieces, while open enemies, (viz: cursed Popery and abjured Prelacy,) are making inroads upon all corners of the land, in the public view of the church: she, in the mean time, unthoughtful of her danger, seems to be doing nothing, but, by intestine broils, cutting off her right hand with her left.

In a word, it is a day wherein that word seems to be made out, that there “shall be scoffers, walking after their own lusts:” drunkards, whoremongers, atheists, blasphemers, debauchees, and profane scoffers of the age, now have their day: it is now their hour, and the power of darkness. This is matter of lamentation. But, however, God will have his day ere long: and it will be a glorious day when Christ will appear, in all the glory and grandeur of the upper world, to the everlasting terror and confusion of all his adversaries, and to the eternal joy and honour of all his friends, who, though now they are for signs and wonders, by way of reproach, will then be for signs and wonders by the way of renown; when Christ will present them blameless unto his Father, saying, “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me,” ‘who, as they have suffered with me in my reproach in time, must now reign with me in my glory through eternity.’

O sirs, let us seek, above all things, to be on Christ’s side, on the side of truth now, and on the right hand road to heaven, whatever rubs we may meet with by the way, so as we may come to be on the right hand of the throne in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God.

May the Lord bless what hath been said: and to his name be praise.

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