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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Folly of Ignorance

How often do we act or fail to act with no understanding? Undoubtedly, there are many who follow a path all their lives while in total ignorance of where it really leads. Such is the fate of the ungodly. The following is from the pen of John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

[S]ome are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know where they are, until they come into hell. . . . There it is that they come to themselves, that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed. Thus it fares with some men that they scarce know where they are, till they lift up their eyes in hell. . . .

Truly thus, it is to be feared, it is with many poor souls, they are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience (1 Tim 4:2), that they are very ignorant of their state; and when death comes it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly, and so they are hurried away, and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes. . . .

Indeed this is too much known by woeful and daily experience; sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live, O how senseless, how seared in their consciences are they! They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a Savior; speak to them of their condition, and the state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no souls to regard. . . . Ah, poor souls! Though they may go away here like a lamb, as the world says, yet, if you could but follow them a little, to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared, you should hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell. . . .

Now, by this one thing doth the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy; when, alas! it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly, was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their consciences; yea, dead before in sins and trespasses. For, had they had but some awakenings on their death-beds, as some have had, they would have made the entire town to ring of their doleful condition; but because they are seared and ignorant, and so depart quietly, therefore the world takes heart. . . . But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus now, while they live in the world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go unto the same place; ‘and lifted up their eyes in hell.’ (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

That Which Waits

We should all be fearful for the many poor souls who are so senseless and hard, that they are almost totally ignorant of the state of their souls. When death comes they are hurried away, and do not know what is happening until they are swallowed by hell. John Bunyan continues our education in this matter:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

And thou that art wanton, and dost make but a mock at the servants of the Lord, when they tell thee of the torments of hell, thou wilt find that when thou departest out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet thee in thy journey thither; and will, with its hellish crew, give thee such a sad salutation that thou wilt not forget it to all eternity. When that scripture comes to be fulfilled on thy soul, in Isaiah 14:9, 10, ‘Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they,’ that is, that are in hell, shall say, ‘Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?’ O sometimes when I have had but thoughts of going to hell, and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in thither, it hath stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from thence, than to slight it, and make a mock at it. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

[A]ll the ungodly that live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they depart this life, do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable, where Christ said, He ‘died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ As the tree falls, so it shall be, whether it be to heaven or hell (Eccl 11:3). And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’ Even so the devil in the like manner may say unto thy soul, To-morrow shalt thou be with me in hell. See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell; from the grippings of death, to the everlasting torments of hell. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Ah friends! If you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls; if you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. O what will it profit thy soul to have pleasure in this life, and torments in hell? (Mark 8:36). Thou hadst better part with all thy sins, and pleasures, and companions, or whatsoever thou delights in, than to have soul and body to be cast into hell. O then do not now neglect our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou drop down to hell (Heb 2:3). Consider, would it not wound thee to thine heart to come upon thy death-bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the comforts of his glorious Spirit: to have, first, the sight of an ill-spent life, thy sins flying in thy face, thy conscience uttering itself with thunder-claps against thee, the thoughts of God terrifying of thee, death with his merciless paw seizing upon thee, the devils standing ready to scramble for thy soul, and hell enlarging herself, and ready to swallow thee up; and an eternity of misery and torment attending upon thee, from which there will be no release. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

The Departure Of The Ungodly

There are many who would mock God’s servants when they speak of the torments of hell. However, after this life, you who are mockers now – will face that hell and wonder how you could have taken the warnings so lightly. John Bunyan (1628-1688) writes this:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Verse 23 – The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

The former verse speaks only of the departure of the ungodly out of this life, together with the glorious conduct that the godly have into the kingdom of their Father. Now our Lord doth show, in this verse, partly what doth and shall befall to the reprobate after this life is ended, where he saith, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ That is, the ungodly, after they depart this life, do lift up their eyes in hell.

From these words may be observed these things, First. That there is a hell for souls to be tormented in, when this life is ended. Mark, after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Second. That all that are ungodly, and do live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they die, they go into hell: he died and was buried; ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Third. That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know well where they are till they come into hell; and that I gather from these words, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ He was asleep before, but hell makes him lift up his eyes.

As I said before, it is evident that there is a hell for souls, yea, and bodies too, to be tormented in after they depart this life, as is clear, first, because the Lord Jesus Christ, that cannot lie, did say that after the sinner was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’

Now if it be objected that by hell is here meant the grave, that I plainly deny: Because there the body is not sensible of torment or ease; but in that hell into which the spirits of the damned depart, they are sensible of torment, and would very willingly be freed from it, to enjoy ease, which they are sensible of the want of; as is clearly discovered in this parable, ‘Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.’ It is not meant the grave, but some other place, because the bodies, so long as they lie there, are not capable of lifting up their eyes, to see the glorious condition of the children of God, as the souls of the damned do. ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ It cannot be the grave, for then it must follow that the soul was buried there with the body, which cannot stand with such a dead state as is here mentioned; for he saith, ‘The rich man died’; that is, his soul was separated from his body. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

If it be again objected that there is no hell but in this life; that I do also deny, as I said before: after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ And let me tell thee, O soul, whoever thou art, that if thou close not in savingly with the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on what he hath done and is doing in his own person for sinners, thou wilt find such a hell after this life is ended, that thou wilt not get out of again for ever and ever. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

George Whitefield: The Care Of The Soul

In the words of George Whitefield (1714 – 1770):

It was the amiable character of our blessed Redeemer, that “he went about doing good,” this great motive, which animated all his actions, brought him to the house of his friend Lazarus, at Bethany, and directed his behavior there. Though it was a season of recess from public labor, our Lord brought the sentiments and the pious cares of a preacher of righteousness into the parlor of a friend; and there his doctrine dropped as the rain, and distilled as the dew, as the little happy circle that were then surrounding him. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, with great delight made one amongst them; she seated herself at the feet of Jesus, in the posture of an humble disciple; and we have a great deal of reason to believe, that Martha, his other sister, would gladly have been with her there; but domestic cares pressed hard upon her, and “she was cumbered with much serving,” being, perhaps, too solicitous to prepare a sumptuous entertainment for her heavenly master and the train that attended him. Happy are they, who in a crowd of business do not lose something of the spirituality of their minds, and of the composure and sweetness of their tempers. This good woman comes to our Lord with too impatient a complaint; insinuating some little reflection, not only on Mary, but on himself too. “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she help me.” Our Lord, willing to take all opportunities of suggesting useful thoughts, answers her in these words, of which the text is a part, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary, has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Alas, Martha! The concerns of the soul are of so much greater importance than those of the body, that I cannot blame your sister on this occasion: I rather recommend her to your imitation, and caution you, and all my other friends, to be much on your guard, that in the midst of your worldly cares, you do not lose sight of what much better deserves your attention.

Unspeakable Glory

It is very great honor and distinction to die a Christian; for the ungodly this is not so. The ungodly die and are carried from their homes to the grave. The ungodly are buried, hid in the dust, and come to nothing there. John Bunyan explains:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

David had the comfort of this, and speaks it forth for the comfort of his brethren (Psa 34:7), saying, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.’ Mark, the angel of the Lord encampeth round about his children, to deliver them. From what? From their enemies, of which the devil is not the least. This is an excellent comfort at any time, to have the holy angels of God to attend a poor man or woman; but especially it is comfortable in the time of distress, at the time of death, when the devils beset the soul with all the power that hell can afford them. But now it may be, that the glorious angels of God do not appear at the first, to the view of the soul; nay, rather hell stands before it, and the devils ready, as if they would carry it thither. But this is the comfort, the angels do always appear at the last, and will not fail the soul, but will carry it safe into Abraham’s bosom. Ah friends, consider, here is an ungodly man upon his death- bed, and he hath none to speak for him, none to speak comfort unto him; but it is not so with the children of God, for they have the Spirit to comfort them. Here is the ungodly, and they have no Christ to pray for their safe conduct to glory; but the saints have an intercessor (John 17:9). Here is the world, when they die, they have none of the angels of God to attend upon them; but the saints have their company. In a word, the unconverted person, when he dieth, he sinks into the bottomless pit; but the saints, when they die, do ascend with, and by the angels, into Abraham’s bosom, or into unspeakable glory (Luke 23:43).

Again, it is said, that the rich man when he died was buried or put into the earth; but when the beggar died, he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The one is a very excellent style, where he saith he was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: it denotes the excellent condition of the saints of God, as I said before; and not only so, but also the preciousness of the death of the saints in the eyes of the Lord (Psa 116:15). That after-generations may see how precious in the sight of the Lord the death of his saints is, when he saith they are carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

What Advantage Have The Godly?

The experience of dying is not something that most people look forward to. Does the Christian have any advantage over the sinner during this final act of our lives? John Bunyan (1628-1688) writes:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

But it may be objected, if the godly do die as well as the wicked, and if the saints must appear before the judgment seat as well as the sinners, then what advantage have the godly more than the ungodly, and how can the saints be in a better condition than the wicked?

Read the 22d verse over again, and you will find a marvelous difference between them, as much as is between heaven and hell, everlasting joy and everlasting torments; for you find, that when the beggar died, which represents the godly, he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, or into everlasting joy (Psa 1). But the ungodly are not so, but are hurried by the devils into the bottomless pit, drawn away in their wickedness (Prov 14:32), for he saith, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ When the ungodly do die, their misery begins, for then appear the devils, like so many lions, waiting every moment till the soul depart from the body. Sometimes they are very visible to the dying party, but sometimes more invisible; but always this is certain, they never miss of the soul if it do die out of the Lord Jesus Christ; but do hale it away to the prison, as I said before, there to be tormented and reserved until that great and general day of judgment, at which day they must, body and soul, receive a final sentence from the righteous Judge, and from that time be shut out from the presence of God into everlasting woe and distress. But the godly, when the time of their departure is at hand, then also are the angels of the Lord at hand; yea, they are ready waiting upon the soul to conduct it safe into Abraham’s bosom. I do not say but the devils are ofttimes very busy doubtless, and attending the saints in their sickness: ay, and no question but they would willingly deprive the soul of glory. But here is the comfort, as the devils come from hell to devour the soul, if it be possible, at its departure, so the angels of the Lord come from heaven, to watch over and conduct the soul, in spite of the devil, safe into Abraham’s bosom.

Robert Murray McCheyne: Do Not Doubt His Love

In the words of Robert Murray McCheyne:

God’s children should not doubt His love when He afflicts. Christ loved Lazarus peculiarly, and yet He afflicted Him very sore. A surgeon never bends his eye so tenderly upon his patient, as when he is putting in the lancet, or probing the wound to the very bottom. And so with Christ – He bends His eye most tenderly over His own at the time He is afflicting them… A goldsmith when he casts gold into the furnace looks after it. (“Comfort in Sorrow”)

The Careless Life

The ordinary worldly man does not really and seriously think on death, and the judgment that will follow. We would all do well to remember, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. . . . (Hebrews 9:27 ESV) John Bunyan (1628-1688) adds more to this line of reasoning:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Now if this one truth, that men must die and depart this world, and either enter into joy or else into prison, to be reserved to the day of judgment, were believed, we should not have so many wantons walk up and down the streets as there do, at least it would put a mighty check to their filthy carriages, so that they would not, could not walk so basely and sinfully as they do. Belshazzar, notwithstanding he was so far from the fear of God as he was, yet when he did but see that God was offended and threatened him for his wickedness, it made him hang down his head and knock his knees together (Dan 5:5,6). If you read the verses before you will find he was careless, and satisfying his lusts in drinking and playing the wanton with his concubines. But so soon as he did perceive the finger of a hand-writing, ‘then,’ saith the scripture, ‘the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.’ And when Paul told Felix of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, it makes him tremble. And let me tell thee, soul, whosoever thou art, that if thou didst but verily believe that thou must die and come into the judgment, it would make thee turn over a new leaf. But this is the misery, the devil doth labor by all means as to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart, as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows, if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins, and so from closing with Jesus Christ; as Job saith, ‘Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.’ Which makes them say to God; ‘Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways’ (Job 21:14). Because there is no fear of death and judgment to come, therefore they do put off God and his ways, and spend their days in their sins, and in a moment, that is, before they are aware, go down to the grave (Job 21:17). And thus it fared also with the man spoken of in Luke 12:20. The man, instead of thinking of death, he thought how he might make his barns bigger. But, in the midst of his business in the world, he lost his soul before he was aware, supposing that death had been many years off. But God said unto him, ‘Thou fool,’ thou troublest thyself about things of this life, thou puttest off the thoughts of departing this world, when this night thy soul shall be taken from thee; or, this night, they, that is, the devil, will fetch away thy soul from thee. And here it comes to pass, men’s not being exercised with the thoughts of departing this life, that they are, so unexpectedly to themselves and their neighbors, taken away from the pleasures and profits, yea, and all the enjoyments they busy themselves withal while they live in this world. And hence it is again, that you have some in your towns and cities that are so suddenly taken away, some from haunting the ale- houses, others from haunting the whore-houses, others from playing and gaming, others from the cares and covetous desires after this world, unlooked for as by themselves or their companions. Hence it is also that men do so wonder at such tidings as this.

There is such a one dead, such a one is departed; it is because they do so little consider both the transitoriness [transitory nature] of themselves and their neighbors. For had they but their thoughts well exercised about the shortness of this life, and the danger that will befall such as do miss of the Lord Jesus Christ, it would make them more wary and sober, and spend more time in the service of God, and be more delighted and diligent in inquiring after the Lord Jesus, who is the deliverer ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Thess 1:10). (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

The Christian Against A World Of Darkness

John Bunyan

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)

Since there are people who hate Christ and true Christianity, did you never suspect there would be people who hate you as well? John .Bunyan (1628-1688) points out this truth below:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Verse 21: ‘And he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: the dogs came also and licked his sores.’

By these words our Lord Jesus doth show us the frame of a Christian’s heart, and also the heart and carriage of worldly men towards the saints of the Lord. The Christian’s heart is held forth by this, that anything will content him while he is on this side glory. And ‘he desired to be fed with the crumbs’; the dogs’ meat, anything. I say a Christian will be content with anything, if he have but to keep life and soul together; as we used to say, he is content, he is satisfied; he hath learned–if he hath learned to be a Christian–to be content with anything; as Paul saith, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content’ (Phil 4:11). He learns in all conditions to study to love God, to walk with God, to give up himself to God; and if the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table will but satisfy nature and give him bodily strength, that thereby he may be the more able to walk in the way of God, he is contented. And he ‘desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.’ But mark, he had them not; you do not find that he had so much as a crumb, or a scrap allowed unto him. No, then the dogs will be beguiled, THAT must be preserved for the dogs. From whence observe that the ungodly world do love their dogs better than the children of God. You will say that is strange. It is so indeed, yet it is true, as will be clearly manifested; as, for instance, how many pounds do some men spend in a year on their dogs, when in the meanwhile the poor saints of God may starve for hunger? They will build houses for their dogs, when the saints must be glad to wander, and lodge in dens and caves of the earth (Heb 11:38). And if they be in any of their houses for the hire thereof, they will warn them out or eject them, or pull down the house over their heads, rather than not rid themselves of such tenants. Again, some men cannot go half a mile from home but they must have dogs at their heels, but they can very willingly go half a score miles without the society of a Christian. Nay, if when they are busy with their dogs they should chance to meet a Christian, they would willingly shift him if they could. They will go on the other side the hedge or the way rather than they will have any society with him; and if at any time a child of God should come into a house where there are but two or three ungodly wretches, they do commonly wish either themselves or the saint out of doors; and why so? Because they cannot down with the society of a Christian; though if there come in at the same time a dog, or a drunken swearing wretch, which is worse than a dog, they will make him welcome; he shall sit down with them and partake of their dainties. And now tell me, you that love your sins and your pleasures, had you not rather keep company with a drunkard, a swearer, a strumpet, a thief, nay, a dog, than with an honest-hearted Christian? If you say no, what means your sour carriage to the people of God? Why do you look on them as if you would eat them up? Yet at the very same time if you can but meet your dog, or a drunken companion, you can fawn upon them, take acquaintance with them, to the tavern or ale house with them, if it be two or three times in a week. But if the saints of God meet together, pray together, and labor to edify one another, you will stay till doomsday before you will look into the house where they are. Ah! friends, when all comes to all, you will be found to love drunkards, strumpets, dogs, anything, nay, to serve the devil, rather than to have loving and friendly society with the saints of God. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

The End Of The Wicked

All men will someday die; including Christians and the wicked. Will it be Satan who comes and snatches your soul on some dark night or will angels come and escort you to heaven? Whichever category you may be in, you have probably given little thought to the condition of your soul when you are cast out of your mortal frame. John .Bunyan (1628-1688) warns us against carelessness in the article below:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Verse 22 – ‘And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.’

The former verses do briefly hold forth the carriage of the ungodly in this life toward the saints. Now this verse doth hold forth the departure, both of the godly and ungodly, out of this life.

Where he said, ‘And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried – into Abraham’s bosom,’ and ‘the rich man also died’;–the beggar died, that represents the godly; and the rich man died, that represents the ungodly. From whence observe, neither godly nor ungodly must live always without a change, either by death or judgment; the good man died and the bad man died. That scripture doth also back this truth, that good and bad must die, marvelous well, where it is said, ‘And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb 9:27).

Mark, he doth not say it is so that men by chance may die; which might beget, in the hearts of the ungodly especially, some hope to escape the bitterness of it. But he saith it is a thing most certain, it is appointed; mark, ‘it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ God hath decreed it, that since men have fallen from that happy estate that God at the first did set them in, they shall die (Rom 6:23). Now when it is said the beggar died and the rich man died, part of the meaning is they ceased to be any more in this world; I say partly the meaning, but not altogether . . . for when ungodly men and women die there is that to come after death that will be very terrible to them, namely, to be carried by the angels of darkness from their death-beds to hell, there to be reserved to the judgment of the great day, when both body and soul shall meet and be united together again, and made capable to undergo the uttermost vengeance of the Almighty to all eternity. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

Who Are The Ungodly?

 

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (1628-1688) had very little schooling. He followed his father in the tinker’s trade, and he served in the parliamentary army from 1644 to 1647. In 1655, Bunyan became a deacon and began preaching, with marked success from the start. In 1658 he was indicted for preaching without a license. In November of 1660, he was taken to the county jail in Silver Street, Bedford, and there confined (with the exception of a few weeks in 1666) for 12 years until January 1672. Bunyan afterward became pastor of the Bedford church. In March of 1675 he was again imprisoned for preaching publicly without a license, this time being held in the Bedford town jail. In just six months this time he was freed and he was not bothered again by the authorities. Here are some excerpts from his personal thoughts on the ungodly:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Methinks to see how the great ones of the world will go strutting up and down the streets sometimes, it makes me wonder. Surely they look upon themselves to be the only happy men; but it is because they judge according to outward appearance; they look upon themselves to be the only blessed men, when the Lord knows the generality are left out of that blessed condition. ‘Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called’ (1 Cor 1:26). . . .

I might here enlarge very much, but I shall not; only thus much I shall say to you that have much of this world, Have a care that you have not your portion in this world. . . .

And friend, thou that seeks after this world, and desires riches, let me ask this question; wouldst thou be content that God should put thee off with a portion in this life? Wouldst thou be glad to be kept out of heaven with a back well clothed, and a belly well filled with the dainties of this world? Wouldst thou be glad to have all thy good things in thy lifetime, to have thy heaven to last no longer than while thou dost live in this world? Wouldst thou be willing to be deprived of eternal happiness and felicity? If you say no, then have a care of the world and thy sins. . . .

These two men here spoken of, as I said, do hold forth to us that state of the godly and ungodly; the beggar holds forth the godly, and the rich man the ungodly. . . .

But why are the ungodly held forth under the notion of a rich man? 1. Because Christ would not have them look too high, as I said before, but that those who have riches should have a care that they be not all their portion (James 1:10- 12; 1 Tim 6:17). 2. Because rich men are most liable to the devil’s temptations; are most ready to be puffed up with pride, stoutness, cares of this world, in which things they spend most of their time in lusts, drunkenness, wantonness, idleness, together with the other works of the flesh; for which things sake, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Col 3:6). . . .

And again, had not God given such a discovery of the sad condition of those that are for the most part rich men, we should have had men concluded absolutely that the rich are the blessed men. Nay, albeit the Lord himself doth so evidently declare that the rich ones of the world are, for the most part, in the saddest condition, yet they, through unbelief, or else presumption, do harden themselves, and seek for the glory of this world as though the Lord Jesus Christ did not mean as he said, or else that he will say more than shall assuredly come to pass; but let them know that the Lord hath a time to fulfill that he had a time to declare, for the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).

But again, the Lord by this word doth not mean those are ungodly who are rich in the world, and no other, for then must all those that are poor, yet graceless and vain men, be saved and delivered from eternal vengeance, which would be contrary to the Word of God, which saith that together with the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, there are bondmen or servants, and slaves, that cry out at the appearance of the Almighty God, and his Son Jesus Christ, to judgment (Rev 6:15).

So that though Christ doth say, ‘There was a certain rich man,’ yet you must understand he means all the ungodly, rich or poor. Nay, if you will not understand it so now, you shall be made to understand it to be so meant at the day of Christ’s second coming, when all that are ungodly shall stand at the left hand of Christ, with pale faces and guilty consciences, with the vials of the Almighty’s wrath ready to be poured out upon them. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

John Bunyan On The Rich Man And Lazarus

John Bunyan

From the writings of John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

This Scripture was not spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to show you the state of two single persons only, as some, through ignorance of the drift of Christ in his parables, do dream; but to show you the state of the godly and ungodly to the world’s end; as is clear to him that is of an understanding heart. For he spoke them to the end that after generations should take notice thereof, and fear, lest they also fell into the same condition. Now in my discourse upon these words I shall not be tedious; but as briefly as I may, I shall pass through the several verses, and lay you down some of the several truths contained therein. And the Lord grant that they may be profitable, and of great advantage to those that read them, or hear them read. . . . [Verses 19 – 21)

If these verses had been spoken by Jesus Christ, and no more, all the world would have gone near to have cast a wrong interpretation on them. I say, if Jesus had said only thus much, ‘There was a certain rich man’ which ‘fared sumptuously daily, and a certain beggar laid at his gate full of sores’; the world would have made this conclusion of them–the rich man was the happy man; for, at the first view, it doth represent such a thing; but take all together, that is, read the whole parable, and you shall find that there is no man in a worse condition than he. . . .

Again, if a man would judge of men according to outward appearance, he shall ofttimes take his mark amiss. Here is a man to outward appearance appears the only blessed man, better by half than the beggar, inasmuch as he is rich, the beggar poor; he is well clothed, but peradventure the beggar is naked; he hath good food, but the beggar would be glad of dog’s meat. ‘And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.’ The rich man fares well every day, but the beggar must be glad of a bit when he can get it. O! who would not be in the rich man’s state? A wealthy man, sorts of new suits and dainty dishes every day; enough to make one who minds nothing but his belly, and his back, and his lusts, to say, O that I were in that man’s condition! O that I had about me as that man has! Then I should live a life indeed; then should I have heart’s-ease good store; then I should live pleasantly, and might say to my soul, ‘Soul,’ be of good cheer, ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ (Luke 12:19). Thou hast everything plenty, and art in a most blessed condition.

I say, this might be, aye, and is, the conclusion with them that judge according to outward appearance. But if the whole parable be well considered, you will see (Luke 16:15), that which is had in high estimation with men is an abomination in the sight of God. And again (John 16:20- 22), that condition, that is the saddest condition, according to outward appearance, is ofttimes the most excellent; for the beggar had ten thousand degrees the best of it, though, to outward appearance, his state was the saddest; from whence we shall observe thus much:–1. That those who judge according to outward appearance, do for the most part judge amiss (John 7:24). 2. That they who look upon their outward enjoyments to be token of God’s special grace unto them, are also deceived (Rev 3:17). For as it is here in the parable, a man of wealth and a child of the devil may make but one person; or a man may have abundance of outward enjoyments, and yet be carried by the devils into eternal burnings (Luke 12:20). But this is the trap in which the devil hath caught many thousands of poor souls, namely, by getting them to judge according to outward appearance, or according to God’s outward blessings.

Do but ask a poor, carnal, covetous wretch, how we should know a man to be in a happy state, and he will answer those that God blesseth, and giveth abundance of this world unto; when, for the most part, they are they that are the cursed men. Alas! poor men, they are so ignorant as to think that because a man is increased in outward things, and that by a small stock, therefore God doth love that man with a special love, or else he would never do so much for him, never bless him so, and prosper the work of his hands. Ah! poor soul, it is the rich man that goes to hell. And ‘the rich man died,’ and in hell, mark, ‘in hell he lift up his eyes,’ &c. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

No Salvation Without A New Birth

How difficult it is for us to accept that there is nothing the natural man can do to save himself. If he was told, “Think one good thought, and for it you shall go to heaven!” he could not think it to satisfy a Holy God. God must first raise him from the stink of sin, as He did Lazarus from the grave. He may do the works of a moral man—but to do the works of a man quickened and enlightened by God, is quite beyond his power as a natural man. Bishop J. C. Ryle helps us to understand:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

“If we be still our old selves, no changelings at all, the same man that we came into the world, without mortification of our corruptions, without addition of grace and sanctification, surely we must seek us another Father, we are not yet the sons of God.”—Hall, 1652.

“If you have anything less than regeneration, believe me, you can never see heaven. There is no hope of heaven until then—until you are born again.”Usher‘s Sermons.

Take it home, every man or woman that reads this paper, take it home to your own conscience, and look at it well. Some time or other, between the cradle and the grave, all who would be saved must be made alive. The words which good old Berridge had engraved on his tombstone are faithful and true, “Reader! are you born again? Remember! no salvation without a new birth.”

See now what an amazing gulf there is between the Christian in name and form—and the Christian in deed and truth. It is not the difference of one being a little better, and the other a little worse than his neighbor—it is the difference between a state of life and a state of death. The smallest blade of grass that grows upon a Highland mountain is a more noble object than the fairest wax flower that was ever formed; for it has that which no science of man can impart—has life. The most splendid marble statue in Greece or Italy is nothing by the side of the poor sickly child that crawls over the cottage floor; for with all its beauty it is dead. And the weakest member of the family of Christ is far higher and more precious in God’s eyes than the most gifted man of the world. The one lives unto God, and shall live forever—the other, with all his intellect, is still dead in sins.

Oh, you that have passed from death to life, you have reason indeed to be thankful! Remember what you once were by nature—dead. Think what you are now by grace—alive. Look at the dry bones thrown up from the graves. Such were you; and who has made you to differ? Go and fall low before the footstool of your God. Bless Him for His grace, His free distinguishing grace. Say to Him often, “Who am I, Lord that you have brought me hitherto? Why me? Why have you been merciful unto me?” (“Alive or Dead?”)

A Pastor’s Confessions

The following article is composed of excerpts from “A Pastor’s Secret Heart” published by The Banner of Truth Magazine, no. 235, April 1983. I think that it is good for those of us who are laypeople in the church to consider the reality and difficulty of a minister’s life. Toward this end, I suggest you read and consider the following article very carefully:

Our experience of the pastoral ministry stretches back to an ordination in the late fifties, and during the ensuing years we have fed and shepherded three congregations. . . .

In the sweep of these years since ordination, that is, from youth to our middle years, we can see two categories of experience, the bad and the good. Perhaps most of us, in our more public thoughts, are accustomed to concentrate upon the good and we give much emphasis to the privilege of our calling (of which none should be in doubt). But it is possible that, by taking stock of the bad, by facing it honestly, we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the good. . . .

For us, at least, these are more difficult days than were those of the late fifties. Partly this derives from our youth being gone, because many will make allowances for a young man where none is made for the pastor with grey at his temples, and with heavy eyes. The most obdurate listener will entertain some hope that the youthful preacher will ‘change’, whereas no such hope will shield the same preacher in his later years from the barbs of those hard hearers. (We would here thank God for the love and understanding of those many Christian people, who, with courtesy and encouragement, have warmed even to our most immature utterances!)

But these are also more difficult days than former ones because of developments in society itself. Respect for authority generally, and respect for the ministerial office in particular, is much reduced. Individualism and self-assertiveness now rage without control. The very concept of the declarative communication of truth is demeaned: participation in the quest for ‘consensus’ has much diminished the preaching office. Together with this, we have seen a growing passion for excitement among professing believers. This poor, crude generation appears to know nothing, and to care nothing, for the testimony of the church’s experience through the ages. . . .

The cult of youth enters upon our present experience with desolating power. We recall from our childhood an awe of those who were old in the faith. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendor of the old’ [Prov 20.29]. Today, however, our western world has gone far to rob old men of their splendor. Even the middle-aged must often give way to youth as we have witnessed when serving as moderator in vacancy committees. We have sat in despair as believers have stipulated that they shall look only for a man under thirty years of age, or certainly no where beyond his early thirties. Indeed, we must frankly confess to a spirit of outrage at the assumption that men in their forties, with both vigor of mind and body enriched by years of pastoral care, are now dismissed as vessels no longer fit for noble use. . . .

We believe that these three ingredients of the present times, namely, diminished respect for authority, increased passion for excitement, and the cult of youth, have given rise to the existence and employment of wrong criteria among the churches in their search for pastoral care. The danger may be described, in general terms, as looking for ‘instant’ personality — ‘cooked and tinned’ and needing but to be opened and served — for glamour, for youth. . . .

We may speak from sore experience, and say that a confrontation with moral problems will prove to be rocks upon which many ministries break. We know what it is to weep with and for the fallen, while seeking to counsel them in the way of life and with nothing but compassion and love for them in one’s heart. But we also know how wrathful a flock can be, if their pastor should dare to enter upon such matters. . . .

The pilgrim went from his Valley of Humiliation into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our path has gone in much the same way. We believe that, as greed rends the world, so vanity too often rends the church. Congregation upon congregation is dominated by a few powerful personalities who love their prominence, and who brook no interference. We do not depreciate powerful personalities, per se. Nor do we forget that the church has been greatly blessed, in every age, by those whom God gifted with leadership qualities. Such men are needed today in every congregation. It seems to us, however, that the church is blighted by the influence of those who love their power more than they love the Lord. To such people there is an impossibility about the apostolic command, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ [Eph 5.21]. . . .

We cannot deny the weight of this suffering. Our resolve at times grows weary. We break-down and cry in our study where no one sees. We learn a certain slowness in our trusting of others: some prove false, and their evangelical statements are exceedingly hollow. But of others we may suggest that their hold upon the truth is so slight, their sympathy with the Biblical emphasis is so superficial, their openness to the poor values of this crazed world is so wide, that, while they declare themselves to be profited under our ministry today, we dread lest some turn of events shall quickly disrupt their loyalty. The night-watches do tend to close our mind upon these sorry things; sleeplessness is our frequent portion during the darkness, and weariness is our frequent portion through the day. Loneliness is the salient feature of our path. . . .

We confess that, at times, we feel that the dullness and beast-like passivity in the people, as if they were so many cows placidly gazing at one from the other side of the hedge, derives from too much television-viewing. In fact, we suspect that our people do sometimes ‘switch’ to another ‘channel’ as they sit before us. Certainly at the heart of our human need is the inability to stir anyone until Christ’s loud voice says, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ [John 11.43]. We have seen this throughout our work. It has dominated our thinking, until, night and day, we cry to the Lord that he will graciously bless our hearers.

Supernatural Salvation

Left to himself, a man will serve sin and delight in the servitude. He will never leave behind the pleasures that enslave him. Our salvation will never come by way of self-salvation. Stephen Charnock explains why:

The insufficiency of nature to such a work as conversion is – shows that men may not fall down and idolize their own wit and power. A change from acts of sin to moral duties may be done by a natural strength and the power of natural conscience: for the very same motives which led to sin, as education, interest, profit, may, upon a change of circumstances, guide men to an outward morality; but a change to the contrary grace is supernatural.

Two things are certain in nature. (1.) Natural inclinations never change, but by some superior virtue. A loadstone will not cease to draw iron, while that attractive quality remains in it. The wolf can never love the lamb, nor the lamb the wolf; nothing but must act suitably to its nature. Water cannot but moisten, fire cannot but burn. So likewise the corrupt nature of man being possessed with an invincible contrariety and enmity to God, will never suffer him to comply with God. And the inclinations of a sinner to sin being more strengthened by the frequency of sinful acts, have as great a power over him, and as natural to him, as any qualities are to natural agents: and being stronger than any sympathies in the world, cannot by a man’s own power, or the power of any other nature equal to it, be turned into a contrary channel.

(2.) Nothing can act beyond its own principle and nature. Nothing in the world can raise itself to a higher rank of being than that which nature has placed it in; a spark cannot make itself a star, though it mount a little up to heaven; nor a plant endue itself with sense, nor a beast adorn itself with reason; nor a man make himself an angel. Thorns cannot bring forth grapes, nor do thistles produce figs because such fruits are above the nature of those plants. So neither can our corrupt nature bring forth grace, which is a fruit above it. Effectus non excedit virtutem suae causae [the effect cannot exceed the power of its cause]: grace is more excellent than nature, therefore cannot be the fruit of nature. It is Christ’s conclusion, “How can you, being evil, speak good things?” Matt. 12:33, 34. Not so much as the buds and blossoms of words, much less the fruit of actions. They can no more change their natures, than a viper can do away with his poison. Now though this I have said be true, yet there is nothing man does more affect in the world than self-sufficiency, and an independence from any other power but his own. This attitude is as much riveted in his nature, as any other false principle whatsoever. For man does derive it from his first parents, as the prime legacy bequeathed to his nature: for it was the first thing uncovered in man at his fall; he would be as God, independent from him. Now God, to cross this principle, allows his elect, like Lazarus, to lie in the grave till they stink, that there may be no excuse to ascribe their resurrection to their own power. If a putrefied rotten carcass should be brought to life, it could never be thought that it inspired itself with that active principle. God lets men run on so far in sin, that they do unman themselves, that he may proclaim to all the world, that we are unable to do anything of ourselves towards our recovery, without a superior principle. (Extract from: “The Chief of Sinners Saved”)

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