A MEDITATION (2)*
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains, but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Ps. 68.6.
(3) The chains which may bind God’s children.
Chains of fear, fear of man. This may affect us all at times, but happy are we if we truly fear the Lord. The Lord Jesus solemnly declared, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10.28).
Although we do not know what we may yet see, this “chain”, in its outward aspect, is not so heavy on us in Britain at the present time as it was on our forefathers at the time of the Reformation, nor during the Stuart persecutions in which it has been calculated that eight thousand godly people died in prison. There was no remission in those days! One man went to visit a widow whose husband had just died and read and prayed with her. Someone shouted “Conventicle” and the man was harried to prison to remain there indefinitely. Under the iniquitous Conventicle Act it was a criminal offence to hold a service anywhere other than in the parish church. Our prayers ascend to the Lord for Christians in Russia today who are suffering for their faith.
In its inward aspect there is a more subtle fear of man which may act as a chain among believers. Some do not openly profess their love for the Lord Jesus because of others in their family circle or household, thus denying the Lord “the glory due unto His name” [Ps. 29). Some have declared on their deathbed their sorrow that they have not been baptized, though they have realized that baptism IS not essential to salvation.
Chains of fear, the fear of death. I heard of a lady in my youth ‘who through fear of death was all her lifetime subject to bondage”, causing herself much sorrow. Yet although the enemy of souls was
allowed to torment her for so many years, I heard she made a blessed end.
Chains of ignorance (natural). We should pray for others to be brought in to the worship of God, and where the Lord answers this prayer there may be those naturally ignorant of the Word of God. Given a willingness to learn and given a faithful teacher this chain can be broken.
Chains of ignorance (spiritual). This is more subtle and takes many forms. Spiritual leaders may be fettered by this chain. Following the enthronement of the present Bishop of Durham, whose notorious remarks about religion and the Word of God would have disqualified him from office not so many years ago, the Archbishop of York stated that the lightning which struck York Minster just thirty-nine hours after the Bishop of Durham had been “consecrated” was not God’s rebuke, neither to him, nor to the unfaithful bishop! A writer to The Times corrected the archbishop, asking “Do we really have an archbishop who needs lessons in elementary theology?” At the end of 1986 the same archbishop, upset at the number of speakers in the Church of England Synod who almost defeated the ARCIC proposals for union with Rome, critize those speakers who had quoted the Bible, and implied that no one could understand the Bible unless he had been to a theological college! We are assured by God that the Holy Spirit is the divine Teacher of those who fear Him and seek His teaching, according to the Lord’s gracious promise (Luke 11.13).
William Tyndale’s answer, to the Romish priest who said that where the Church’s teaching differed from the Bible we must believe the Church, is well known but bears repeating: “If God spares my life, I will make the boy that drives the plough know more of the Scriptures than thou dost”. The learned Dr. Owen, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in the Commonwealth period told Charles II he would willingly renounce all his learning if he could save the grace of the humble John Bunyan! Ignorance of Holy Scripture is a spiritual “chain” holding fast its prisoners. They need our prayers.
The present Archbishop of Canterbury who stated in Synod that people who “darkly purvey the myth” that the Church of Rome was still a menace were greatly mistaken. If they spoke to R.C. friends they would find that Rome had changed! This impertinence is inexcusable in a high ecclesiastic, as he, above others, should know that the teaching of Rome comes from the papal throne and Roman Catholics must believe what the Pope tells them! The recent utterance of the Pope on the Virgin Mary shows amazing and apparently incurable ignorance of the teaching of the Bible, and reveals that Rome has no intention of forsaking any of its heresies.
Chains of spiritual ignorance may affect all. Dr. J. Douglas Adam, a Presbyterian minister, told a striking story of the late Professor Huxley. “A friend of mine”, said Dr. Adam, “was acting on a Royal Commission of which Professor Huxley was a member, and one Sunday he and the great scientist were staying in a little country town. ‘I suppose you are going to church’, said Huxley. ‘Yes’, said my friend. ‘What if, instead, you stayed at home and talked to me of religion’. ‘No’, was the reply, ‘for I am not clever enough to refute your arguments’. ‘But what if you simply told me your own experience of what religion has done for you?’ My friend did not go to church that morning; he stayed at home and told Huxley the story of all that Christ had been to him; and presently there were tears in the eyes of the great agnostic as he said, ‘I would give my right hand if I could believe that, but I can’t.'” Such a chain of spiritual ignorance can be removed only by the Holy Spirit.
Chains of our own righteousness. All the time we think we have righteousness of our own we shall not earnestly seek the righteousness of Christ for our soul’s salvation. Unless we are delivered from this chain, with which we are imprisoned, we shall be lost for ever. Hence the need earnestly to consider the Lord’s words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6.33).
Chains of unworthy silence. We cannot speak of Christ!
Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend,
On Whom my hopes of heaven depend?
No, when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.
May the Lord so bless us in our meditating that we must “speak well of Him” or else the very stones would cry out. Some people cannot or will not speak of Christ although they are regular in attending Christian meetings and give every appearance of being believers. They are spiritually dumb. It is one thing to fear presumption in claiming too great a blessing for one’s self, but that does not excuse us from saying something about Christ Who has done so much for us; can we not say to another pilgrim in the way to Heaven, “He blessed me there”? or, with the Psalmist, “I was brought low and He helped me”? We may not be able to say much and we may “talk with our feet”. It is bondage for a Christian to feel unable to obey the Lord’s command to give to everyone that asks a reason for the hope that is in us. It is the same bondage not to speak at all, even to fellow-travellers to the heavenly Kingdom. In his Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan wrote of Christian visiting the House Beautiful where all the talk at the table was about the Lord of the Hill and what He had done. We may not always reach such a high standard, but are we always dumb in speaking of our best Friend?
Shall angels sing the honours of His name,
And sinners saved by grace silent remain!
Good God forbid! inflame us with thy love,
And set our grovelling minds on things above.
We must also remember the solemn word of the Lord Jesus “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mat. 10.32,3). Mr. Dickens, a former pastor at Rotherfield, was blessed in his soul when a young man, but some friend said, “It is not real”. The dear man cried unto the Lord “Let me have the blessing again, Lord, whether it was real or not”! It is a sad thing when believers are so unconcerned that they go year after year and say nothing, even to fellow Christians, of what their Christ has done for them! “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Ps. 107.2).
Chains of a complaining or murmuring spirit. This can be a very real chain to the people of God, sometimes without their realizing it. It is also contagious, and if the Lord leaves us for a season we may complain “with blessings in our hands”. We do well to remember the Lord’s dealings with Israel of old. When they came out of Egypt they were kept out of the promised land for thirty-eight years “until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them. For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destory them . . .” (Deut. 2.14, 15). Asaph also fell under this temptation, and was bound with this Â•chain” until he “went into the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73.17).
Have you no words? ah! think again;
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be
Hear what the Lord has done for Me!
Then it would be true indeed, “He bringeth out those which are sound with chains”. May the Lord give us the spirit of the Psalmist when he prayed “That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 144.14, 15).
Chains of natural family ties. The Lord Jesus said, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mat. 10.36-37). This needs careful consideration as to ourselves. We must love our families and also to love the Lord’s family, some of whom may not be easy to love. But do we put the LORD first? Do we desire to love Him more than anyone else and to serve Him better? He will not be second in our heart’s affections. May we be enabled to say with William Cowper Â–
Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made thee mourn,
And drove thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
Chains of prejudice. This is a strong “chain” in the hands of the evil one and strengthened by our own sins. It can only be broken by the Lord when He comes by His Spirit and dispels the darkness. An example is the case of the apostle Peter, where his prejudice against the Gentiles was so great that when he was bidden to rise, kill and eat, he said, “Not so. Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again, the second time. What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Act 10.14, 15). The chain of prejudice was broken by the Lord’s teaching, and Peter received the centurion, Cornelius, humbly and graciously. There are all sorts of prejudices; the word implies pre-judgment. They are so common as to be inexcusable when rightly viewed in the light of the Word. They are in fact a rebellion against the divinely-inspired Word, “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 4.5). Some believers are prejudiced against believer’s baptism but there have been remarkable instances where this chain has been broken and the believer has been baptized, having the answer of a good conscience before the Lord.
To be continued.
* Continued from Vol. 11, p.66.