Saturday, September 5, 2009

Be Not Too Quick To Bury The Church

I came across two similar quotes from a couple of my favorite Puritans which resonated with me as I consider how darkness seems to be overspread across the church, and many faithful saints wonder where they can worship God purely, and hear the true gospel preached. Thankfully, we have the promises of God that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the church (Matt. 16.18); we have the witness of history that when times are dark, God is nevertheless able to bring about a time of Reformation; and we have such encouraging words as these to consider even in our own day. Having such promises, such a witness, and such encouragements, God grant that the saints, by His grace, will not give up, but will trust that He who first planted the church will never let her be overwhelmed by her enemies but will bring her to glory in the end.

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour; A Treatise of the Saints' War Against the Devil: Wherein a Discovery is made of that grand Enemy of God and his People, in his Policies, Power, Seat of his Empire, Wickedness, and chief design he hath against the Saints. A Magazine Opened, From whence the Christian is furnished with Spiritual Arms for the Battle, helped on with his Armour, and taught the use of his Weapon: together with the happy issue of the whole War. (1662-1665), Vol. 1, pp. 110-111 (The Christian in Complete Armour, 1983 Banner of Truth ed.):

Behold therefore thy God at work, and promise thyself that what he is about, is an excellent piece. None can drive him from his work. The pilot is beaten from the helm, and can do little in a storm, but lets the ship go adrift. The architect cannot work, when night draws the curtain, yea, is driven off the scaffold with a storm of rain. Such workmen are the wisest counsellors and mightest princes on earth. A pinch may come, when it is as vain to say, Help, O king; as, Help, O beggar. Man's wisdom may be levelled with folly, but God id never interrupted. All the plots of hell and commotions on earth, have not so much as shaken God's hand, to spoil one letter or line that he hath been drawing. The mysteriousness of his providence may hang a curtain before his work, that we cannot see what he is doing, but when darkness is about him, righteousness is the seat of his throne for ever. O, where is our faith, sirs? Let God be wise, and all men and devils fools. What though thou seest a Babel more likely to go up, than a Babylon to be pulled down; yet believe God is making his secret approaches, and will clap his ladders on a sudden to the walls thereof. Suppose truth were a prisoner with Joseph, and error the courtier, to have its head lift up by the favour of the times; yet dost [thou] not remember that the way to truth's preferment lies through the prison? Yea, what though the church were like Jonah in the whale's belly, swallowed up to the eye of reason by the fury of men, yet dost [thou] not remember [that] the whale had not power to digest the prophet? O be not too quick to bury the church before she be dead. Stay while Christ tries his skill before you give it over; bring Christ by your prayers to its grave, to speak a resurrection word. Admirable hath the saints' faith been in such straits; as Joseph's, who pawned his bones that God would visit his brethren, willing them to lay him where he believed they should be brought; Jeremiah purchaseth a field of his uncle, and pays down the money for it, and this when the Chaldean army [was] quartered about Jerusalem, ready to take the city, and [to] carry him with the rest into Babylon. And all this by God's appoint­ment, Jer. 32:6-8, that he might show the Jews by this, how undoubtedly he, in that sad juncture of time, did believe the performance of the promise for their return out of captivity. Indeed God counts him­self exceedingly disparaged in the thoughts of his people, though at the lowest ebb of his church's affairs, if his naked word, and the single bond of his promise, will not be taken as sufficient security to their faith for its deliverance.

John Flavel, A Saint Indeed: or, The Great Work of a Christian Opened and Pressed; from Prov. 4. 23: Being a seasonable and proper expedient for the recovery of the much decayed power of godliness, among the professors of these times (1673, later reissued as A Treatise on Keeping the Heart; or simply, Keeping the Heart), p. 72 (Keeping the Heart, 2007 Cosimo ed.):

Direction 5. Believe that how low soever the church be plunged under the waters of adversity, it shall assuredly rise again. Fear not; for as sure as Christ arose the third day, notwithstanding the seal and watch set upon him, so sure the church shall arise out of all her troubles, and lift up her victorious head over all her enemies. There is no fear of ruining that people that thrive by their losses, and multiply by being diminished. Be not too quick to bury the church before she is dead! Stay till Christ hath tried his skill before you give her up for lost. The bush may be all in a flame, but shall never be consumed; and that because of the good-will of Him that dwelleth in it.

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