Reformation Scotland

Three Things to Realise from the Transfiguration

Let us consider the transfiguration not only as it relates to the work of the mediator, but in reference to what Christ intended to achieve by it.
To Show His Disciples a Glimpse of His Glory in Heaven
Christ intended to show His disciples a glimpse of His glory in heaven, and particularly the glory of His person in his coming the second time to judgment. Prior to this He had promised that they would see His glory before they tasted death.
The glory of Christ at His second coming shall be great. “He shall come in the glory of His Father.” Not only will He be glorious in regard of His train and His throne, but in His person.
Theologians give some reasons for this transcendent glory. One is because His coming to judgment is the height of His exaltation. That’s why it says in the Creed, “… from thence shall He come to judge …” as the last step of His exaltation. The highest step of His exaltation must be full of glory.
Another reason is that it is fitting that those by whom He was despised and rejected should see Him as eminently glorious. At the Great Day that they are most afraid of His face. “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of the Lamb,” is their cry to the hills and mountains — not so much to be hidden from hell, as from His face.
The third reason is for the comfort of His people. They have forsaken all for Him, and the wisdom of their choice will be commended (in the judgment of their enemies) by this, when He shall appear in the brightness of His Father’s glory.
All this should stir us up to look on Christ as one who is in transcendent glory now (as well as that He will be seen to be so at His second coming). This is advantageous in several ways.

It guards us against stumbling when we encounter all the ignominious reproaches that attend us when we follow Him here. He was, and His followers still are, a sight for passers-by to wag their heads at. Yet, above, He is the temple, the light, and the admiration of all who behold Him.
It allows us to discern that not only our nature but our persons are advanced in Him as the second Adam, and the one head of all believers. By Him they are all represented. However despicable they may be in themselves, yet they are glorious in Him.
It reminds us to be humble. Though we are warranted to come with boldness to His throne of grace, yet still we are to remember His glory, and what a vast inequality there is between us and Him, seeing we are base and polluted, and He is the glorious Lord.
It will make us love and long for Him to come. Though many still cast His cords from them and despise His yoke, yet He shall then be exalted even by His enemies, who shall tremble at the sight of His transcendent glory.

To Give His Disciples a View of the Glory of the Saints’ Bodies
The second aim which Christ had in mind in the transfiguration was to give us a view of the glory which the bodies of His saints (who will be conformed to His image) shall have in heaven from His transfiguration. Not only shall their souls partake of excellent glory, but their bodies shall be changed, and made like His glorious body.
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How Church Discipline Can Lead to Better Spiritual Health

The gift of governing (if we can call it that) reveals itself especially in the right managing of discipline in reference to the various different temperaments and characters which church leaders have to do with. For as in physical diseases the same cure is not appropriate for the same disease in all constitutions and times, and as ministers in their preaching are to apply the same things in different ways for different audiences, so this cure of discipline is not to be applied equally to all persons, not even to those who are have created the same stumbling block. For what would scarcely humble one may crush another, and what might edify one might be a cause for stumbling to someone else who has a different temperament and personality.
Therefore, we suppose there is no peremptory determining of rules for cases here. Rather, how you proceed in the application of rules is necessarily to be left to the prudence and conscientiousness of ministers and elders according to the particular, real-life case they are dealing with, in all the details of its actual circumstances. Yet we may lay down some general principles.
The Goals of Church Discipline
All disciplinary procedures which the church follows with people who have caused stumbling must be done with respect to the ends and goals for which Christ appointed church discipline and so as to achieve these selfsame goals. This, I suppose, cannot be denied, for the means must be suited to its end.
Now the ends or goals of the censures administered in church discipline are:
1. To vindicate the honor of Jesus Christ, as this is what suffers when a member of Christ’s church goes astray.
2. To preserve the authority of Christ’s ordinances and to chasten disobedience to Christ’s authority. This is why church discipline is called the punishment that was inflicted (2 Cor. 2:6), and it is said to revenge all disobedience (2 Cor. 10:6), because it is appointed as a kind of ecclesiastical whip to maintain Christ’s authority in His house and so to identify those who are unruly in it (2 Thess. 3:6–14).
3. For the good of the person who is being disciplined. As it says in 1 Corinthians 5:5, church discipline is intended for the destruction of the flesh so that the spirit may be saved. By this discipline, admonitions, reproofs, and indeed threatenings may have the more weight to bring the person to humility and to stir them up and constrain them at least to a more orderly walk in the church, as the apostle says in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14.
4. For the good of the church. Church discipline should prevent the leaven of profanity from spreading, and it should teach others to fear. This reason is given in 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, and so on, and 1 Timothy 5:20.
When we speak of the end or goal of investigation and censure in church courts, we are referring to all these but especially to the more public and general ends, yet without neglecting the edification of the individual undergoing church discipline. Therefore, in disciplinary procedures, particular and special respect should be had to the manner which will most successfully achieve these ends.

What to Do When the Lord Seems Absent

Sometimes the Lord Seems to Hide His Face
In Isaiah 8:17–18 there is both the sad situation of the church of God (“He hideth His face from the house of Israel”) and also the duty of the people of God (“Wait upon the Lord that hideth His face”).
Saying that the Lord is “hiding His face” is a way of showing how the Lord seems to stand aloof from noticing the situation of His people. “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
It also includes how He refrains His Spirit from the ordinances, or withholds His influences from them, so that the Word of the Lord does not have that kindly effect and operative power on the heart as it previously had. Instead your hearts are hardened from His fear.
He also refrains the spirit of prayer. “There is none that calleth upon thy name; that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (Isaiah 64:7). We do not have a heart to pray.
The Lord also keeps His mind hidden from His people. He doing strange things, but His people do not understand what He is doing. I confess that when the Lord conceals His mind in the public ordinances, it is the saddest of all these ways of the Lord hiding His face from His people.
How We Should Respond When the Lord Hides His Face
In a situation when the Lord hides His face from His people, they should search and try their ways, and turn unto the Lord. This is dismissed as a commonplace truth, yet it is a good old truth. Many look for vain things to be done as their duty, but what we must do is to acknowledge our sins, and the evil of our own ways.
The Lord’s people should also justify Him in all that He does, and judge themselves to be guilty. Lay aside your ornaments, then, and lie in the dust. It is not a time now to dress up in a gaudy manner, but to sit in sackcloth and be humble before Him.

Seven Ways to Identify Superstition

When it is Excessive
The basic way in which the vice of superstition is opposite to religion is that superstition goes to excess. The great theologian Zanchi said, “If you add something to what which Christ established, or if you follow something added by others, [e.g.,] if you add other sacraments …, or other sacrifices … or if you add rites to the ceremonies of some sacrament, all those are rightly called by the name ‘superstition’.” Superstition is done “beyond what is established” [by Christ]. It is something used in God’s worship on no basis other than human appointment.
When it is Misdirected
Superstition gives worship either to whom it does not owe it, or not in the way in which it owes it. A ceremony is superstitious, even if it gives worship to God, when it is done inordinately, or when the worship is performed otherwise than it should be. For example, God is worshipped by baptism, but there is a problem with baptisms administered in private, because (as pointed out in the Leiden Synopsis) baptism is a supplement to public ministry, not to private exhortation. Similarly, the Church Fathers of the fourth century regarded the private administration of the Lord’s Supper as something “inordinate” in the same sense.
When it is not Edifying
Some things have no necessary or profitable use in the church, and cannot be used without being superstitious. It was according to this rubric that the Waldenses and Albigenses taught against the exorcisms, breathings, crossings, salt, spittle, unction, chrism, etc., used in baptism. As these were neither necessary nor requisite in the administration of baptism, they occasioned error and superstition, rather than edification to salvation.
When it Displaces Necessary Duties
A ceremony is superstitious when it is not only used in God’s worship unnecessarily and unprofitably, but in fact it hinders other necessary duties.

The Knowledge the Christian Needs

True Knowledge of God is Essential
The words of the apostle give the designation of a true Christian to be the knowledge of God, and the character of his knowledge to be obedience to his commands.
“Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” Here, in a narrow circle, we have all the work and business of a Christian. The Christian’s direct and principal duty is to know God, and keep his commands. These are not two distinct duties, but make up one complete work of Christianity, which consists in conformity to God.
Then the reflex and secondary duty of a Christian, which makes much for his comfort, is to know that he knows God. To “know God and keep his commands” is a thing of indispensable necessity to the being of a Christian, and to “know that we know him” is of great concernment to the comfort and well-being of a Christian.
True Knowledge of God is Hard for Sinners to Find
Knowledge is a thing so natural to the human spirit that the desire for knowledge is restless and insatiable. But this is the curse of man’s curiosity at first, in seeking after unnecessary knowledge, when he was happy enough already. For that wretched aim, we are to this day deprived of the knowledge which Adam once had, which was the ornament of his nature and the repast of his soul. The track of it is so obscured and perplexed, the footsteps of it are so indiscernible, and the way of it is like a bird in the air, or a ship in the sea, leaving us few helps to find it out, that the majority of people lose themselves in seeking to find it. In all their inquiries and searchings, at length nothing is found out remarkable, but the increase of sorrow, and the exposure of ignorance.
“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” The more people seek her, the more ignorance they find — the further they pursue, they see themselves at the further distance. That’s how it is in things that are obvious to our senses, and how much more is our darkness increased in spiritual and invisible things! For God himself should be the first and principal object of the soul, and his glorious light should first strike into our hearts. But of God, Job testifies, “How little a portion is known of him!” In natural things, we have one veil of darkness in our minds to hinder us, but when it comes to knowing about God, we have a twofold darkness to break through — the darkness of ignorance in us, and “the darkness of too much light” in him. God’s glorious majesty is all out of proportion to our low spirits.
Pride is the daughter of ignorance. “He that thinketh he knoweth anything knoweth nothing as he ought to know,” saith the apostle (1 Cor. 8:2.) For he who does not know his own ignorance, however much he knows, is the greatest ignorant.
It is a manifest evidence that people have only a superficial grasp of things, and have never broken the shell or drawn aside the veil of their own weakness and ignorance, when they do not apprehend deeply the unsearchableness of God and his mysteries, but think they have mastered them because they have made a system of theology, or set out some conclusions of faith and can debate them against adversaries, or because they have a model of theology, as of other sciences, in their mind.
True Knowledge of God Kindles Both Love and Hatred
My beloved, holy Job attained to the deepest and fullest speculation of God, when he concluded, “Because I see thee, I abhor myself.” As Paul says, “If any man love God he is known of God, and so knows God” (1 Cor. 8:3).
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Finding Our Way Through the Labyrinth of Providence

My very worthy and dear brother,
I received your letter, and had no time to answer you as I’d have liked. I thank the Lord who upholds you in all your trials and temptations. It is good for you to be kept in exercise, otherwise I would suspect that all was not well with you. God is faithful, as you find by experience, and will not test you above your strength. Courage, dear brother. All is in love, all works together for the best. You must be hewn and hammered down, and dressed, and prepared, before you are a “living stone” fit for His building!
God’s Way of Working
And if He is minded to make you fit to help repair the ruins of His house, you must still expect other kinds of blows than you have felt so far. You must feel your own weakness so that you may be humbled and cast down before Him, and so that you may pity poor weak ones who are borne down with infirmities. And when you are laid low, and made vile in your own eyes, then He will raise you up, and refresh you with some glimpses of His favourable countenance, so that you may be able to comfort others with the consolations with which you have been comforted by Him. This you know by some experience (blessed be God), and as strength and grace increase, look for stronger trials, fightings without and fears within, the devil and his instruments against you, and your Lord hiding His face, and deep and almost overwhelming troubles and terrors.
Yet out of all this misery, He is working some gracious work of mercy for the glory of His great name, the salvation and sanctification of your own soul, and the comfort of His distressed children here or there, or both, as pleases Him.
Our Way of Persevering
Take heart, then, and prepare for the battle. Put on the whole armour of God. Though you are weak, you have a strong Captain, whose power is made perfect in weakness, and whose grace is sufficient for you. What you lack in yourself you have in Him, for He is given to you by God to be your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, your treasure and your treasurer, who keeps everything in store for you.

A Lifeline for an Anxious Conscience

How we ought to commend the bargain of free grace! and to hold out the excellency of the blood of sprinkling! This should also mightily encourage the believer to step forward.
The Excellence of Christ’s Blood
It produces such noble effects
Noble and notable effects come by it, i.e., all the great things contained in the promises – pardon of sin, grace to subdue sin, friendship and peace with God, fellowship with Him, conformity to Him, the hope of heaven and glory, the sweet serenity, tranquillity and peace of the conscience. The blood of Christ is a “hiding place from the wind and rain, and a covert from the storm,” just like “the shadow of a great rock in the midst of a weary land.” When the soul sorely beaten with a storm of accusations and apprehensions of wrath comes under the shadow and shelter of this blood, the soul presently finds ease and repose. What shall I say? what can I say? words here may be swallowed up! From the blood of Christ proceeds all the glorious privileges of the people of God – possessed and expected, in hand and in hope.
It procures these things for sinners
The blood of Christ has procured these things to sinners – to those who had an unclean and polluted conscience. Who is it, may I ask, that may draw near to God with full assurance of faith? Not those who never had an evil conscience, but those who do have an evil conscience, that flee to Christ’s blood, and get their conscience sprinkled with it. Those who had their consciences defiled with dead works, who come to the blood, get their consciences purged from dead works.
It is Christ Himself who provides these blessings
The excellency and efficacy of the blood of sprinkling shines forth in the tenderness of the person who applies the remedy to such a loathsome sickness. This disease is utterly incurable if the attempt is made by any hand other than Christ’s. “Having (says the apostle) such an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near.” The physician is Jesus Christ Himself. His blood is the cure, and He is also the one who applies the cure, and O! how very tender, dexterous and sympathizing He is! He even excels in such cures to admiration. He is a high priest who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens. He is holy and harmless Himself, He loves these qualities, and He is able and willing to work them in those who come to Him. And such a high priest became us. He is “one that hath compassion on the ignorant, and such as are out of the way; who was in all points tempted as we, yet without sin,” so that from His own experience He may the more kindly and strongly sympathize with His people, and succour them in all their temptations. He is a high priest who is “touched with the feeling of their infirmities.” The aching of the least finger or toe in His mystical body throbs up, as it were, to His very heart.
It is so freely applied
The excellency and efficacy of the blood is made apparent in the exceeding great freeness of how He applies the cure. No more is required but to come and receive it – to come, however unclean, and be sprinkled with His blood – to confess the debt of guilt, and get the certificate that it has been paid off, by virtue of how He has paid it. If there is any pollution in the conscience, any challenge, or sore, whatever it may be, He supplies the remedy and cure freely and frankly.
The Urgent Necessity of Christ’s Blood
If the blood of sprinkling is so virtuous and efficacious, for one thing, it gives an encouragement to the guilty to flee to this blood. For another thing, it shows the necessity of making use of it. This is a very pressing and vehemently urgent necessity.
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Martha and the Resurrection

Grief is Complex, Even in Believers
Martha was a good woman, and conscious of her loss as much as Mary was. She gets first word of Christ’s approach, and goes to meet Him, while Mary knew nothing of this, and stayed indoors.
Among those who are truly gracious, some are more tender and spiritual then others. Some are more affected with griefs, and more broken under them, than others. This may teach the godly, and especially weak and tender hearted ones, not to measure every one by themselves, for those who have real good, may have really different dispositions.
Whatever comfort or sympathy people meet with from friends in their trouble, yet comfort from Christ is also needed. Martha and Mary had comforters, yet Martha went and met Jesus, when she heard of His coming, to welcome Him as a needed guest.
However, when Martha meets Jesus, she challenges Him with her regrets that He had not come sooner and prevented her brother from dying. This weakness and infirmity broke out of her, and got a headstart of her better side. When we are in straits, we should treat with suspicion the emotions which burst out of us first of all (Psalm 116:11 & 31:22). So though we cannot justify the impassioned outbursts of the saints, yet we ought not to examine them too narrowly or censure them, because they are really only a violent temptation which tramples on grace only temporarily. After her first outburst, Martha settles a little, and corrects it with a profession of her faith that Christ, if He wished, could yet put everything right.
So, alongside her faith, Martha had her own dissatisfaction with how Christ had acted. Yet her faith prevails to the extent that she does not stay away from Him, but goes to Him. Unbelief is never deadly, as long as it does not keep you from coming to Christ. Whatever complaints you may have about Christ’s dealings, yet faith is still the conqueror, as long as you pour out all these complaints into Christ’s own bosom.
Jesus Brings Comfort Gently
“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again” (verse 23). He replies to her meekly. Passing over her infirmity, He comforts her with the promise that her brother would rise again.
Great are the consolations which God has laid up for His afflicted people, and He will do great things for them. It is a satisfactory and proper consolation against the death of these we love, to believe in a resurrection, in which they shall rise again. This is what Christ uses to comfort her.
Christ puts this promise only in general terms, “Thy brother shall rise again,” not mentioning the time when it would be. Even though He was going to raise her brother presently, yet simply the promise of a general resurrection is itself full of comfort (1 Thess. 4:13–14, etc.). We have no reason to stumble when we have no warrant to expect the same particular favour as Martha received, because Christ propounds this comfort in these general terms.
In Martha’s own case, Christ put it this way, partly to exercise her faith, and to let her and us see, in practice, how far short our expectations may be of what Christ will actually do for His people. She looked for the resurrection at the last day, but He was going to raise her brother almost the next minute. Partly also, He let her consolation come in bit by bit into her narrow-mouthed vessel.
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How the Happiness of Heaven Can Make Us Happy Here

Those who are in heaven have come out of great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). But the means of surviving to reach heaven is not their own innocence (for they needed washing), nor their own sufferings or works (for what made them white was “the blood of the Lamb”). It was by taking themselves only to Christ’s satisfaction that they attained this righteousness and the blessedness of heaven. Christ’s red blood can make blood-guilty souls white, it has such excellent virtue. While the rest of the world were worshipping idols, or following self-righteousness, these folk fled to Jesus Christ for refuge, and by His righteousness and satisfaction alone they are made white, pardoned of sin, and brought to heaven.
Their happiness in heaven is set out in these circumstances, or steps.
A Happy Place
They are “before the throne of God” and “in His temple” (verse 15). They begin to be in this place in His Church on earth, by fellowship in His ordinances. But their position there is completed in heaven this is completed, when they are presented before God’s throne in glory.
A Happy Activity
Their service and work, and the uninterruptedness of it, are happy. “They serve Him night and day” (verse 15), and have their place among the angels that stand by (Zechariah 3), freed from selfishness and the body of death. They are not doing this service by fits and starts, but constantly, like the priests who took turns to spend night and day in the temple (Psalm 134:1). This is a special part of their happiness – that the enmity which is in them now against the service of God, is then taken away, and their delight in His service is not marred. What a privilege they have! They need no priest, nor any intervening means to help them serve. What constancy they have! There is no intermission in their service, no whoring from God, but they do the will of God cheerfully and delightsomely.
A Happy Company
A third step of their happy condition is that they enjoy God’s company. “He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” (verse 15). They are not at a distance from God, nor is He at a distance from them. He makes Himself familiarly known to them, and there is no intermission of their sense and joy in His presence. They do not have communion with God on and off, but He shall constantly and fully manifest Himself as dwelling in the same house with them, and they are in His company for ever.
A Happy Freedom
Another step of their happiness is that they have freedom from all crosses and natural defects and infirmities, and attacks from others. There is neither hunger nor thirst, nor scorching heat of the sun. That means no persecution, if we take it figuratively (as Matthew 13), or if we take it literally, no disturbance of the air or bad weather or anything hurtful to the body. Not only are there no sinful defects in heaven – there are no sinless defects either. Hunger, cold, weariness – there is nothing of that sort in heaven, nothing to temper their happiness or impair their blessedness, not the least upset from their natural infirmity internally, nor anything externally by annoyance of even the weather.

Can You by Searching Find Out God?

God is the Unbeginning Alpha and the Unending Omega
This is properly to be, and only this deserves the name of being – that which never was nothing, and never shall be nothing, which may always say, “I am.”
Man is, but look a little backward, and he was not, you shall find his beginning: and step a little forward, and he shall not be, you shall find his end. But God is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.
But who can retire so far backward as to apprehend a beginning, or go such a leap forward as to conceive an end in a being who is the beginning and end of all things, but without all beginning and end? Whose understanding does it not confound? We cannot imagine a being, but we must first conceive it as nothing and in some instant receiving its being. Therefore, canst thou by searching find out God?
A man’s imagination may extend to suppose to itself as many thousands of years before the beginning of time as have been so far. Then let all the angels and people of all generations from the beginning be employed in nothing but calculating this. And then suppose a product to be made of all their individual sums of years. It would be vast and unspeakable, but yet your imagination could reach further. You could multiply that great sum as often into itself as there are units in it. Now, when you have done all this, you are never a whit nearer the days of the Ancient of Days. Suppose then this was the only activity of humans and angels throughout all eternity, all this marvellous arithmetic would not amount to the least shadow of the countenance of Him who is from everlasting. All that huge product of all the multiplications of humans and angels has no proportion to that never beginning and never ending duration.
Our Lives are Fleetingly Brief
But O, where shall a soul find itself here? It is enclosed between infiniteness before and infiniteness behind, between two everlastings. Whichever way it turns, there is no outgoing, whichever way it looks, it must lose itself in an infiniteness round about it.
Though we vainly please ourselves in the number of our years, and the extent of our life, yet the truth is, we are still only losing as much of our being and time as passes. First we lose our childhood, then we lose our adulthood, and then we leave our old age behind us also, and there is no more before us.
But though days and years are in a continual flux about Him, and they carry us down with their force, yet He abides the same for ever. He is the beginning without any beginning, the end without an end, there is nothing past to him, and nothing to come. He is all, before all, after all, and in all. He beholds out of the exalted and supereminent tower of eternity all the successions and changes of the creatures, and there is no succession, no change in His knowledge, as in ours. He is never driven to any consultation on any emergent or incident. He is in one mind, and who can turn Him?
The Being of God is Beyond Us
Now, canst thou by searching find out God? If mortal creatures cannot attain the measure of what is finite, O then, what can a creature do, what can a creature know, about Him who is infinite, and the maker of all these things? You cannot compass the sea and land, and how then can you comprehend Him who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? (Isa. 40:10).
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