A WORD TO THE SAINTS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
BY A FAITHFUL AMBASSADOR IN BONDS FOR THE GOSPEL DIVERS YEARS
CAMBRIDGE CASTLE 27TH DECEMBER 1667
TO THE FAITHFUL BRETHREN IN CHRIST IN LONDON
WISHETH GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR FATHER, AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Being before the throne of grace in the morning yesterday, seeking God’s face, the word of God came with power to my soul, with respect to the Church of God here and all the Israel of God with us in the land: Ezra 9. 7. “Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hands of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.” Which has been now our case for about seven years, but that in part only; for how marvellously has our God, through this time of our affliction and confusion of face, stayed the rough winds and storms of persecution, by one or other wonderful and remarkably wise and gracious work of His providence and administration of things in the world. But as if that were not enough for us, a sinful people of His, mark what our gracious God speaks by His providence and works to us at this time, in this word verses 8-9. “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up
the house of God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.”
Having had many thoughts touching this word of God, and the grace of God towards us. His people, therein declared for the help of our faith: I found upon further consideration that it may be you, my dearly beloved brethren in Christ, both the prisoners of the Lord with you, and all the rest, that are in an especial manner concerned in this word; and that forasmuch as this grace has been now for some time past given you from the Lord, since the fearful judgements of God by plague and fire broke out on you. I say, grace has been shewed you from the Lord, to enjoy greater liberties than your brethren. Again our God hath brought you to see somewhat of the glory of the solemn assemblies, for which you that are mourners have been sorrowful. Our God has in some measure been gathering you, and bringing you again, the ministers of God, and others, to the places of concourse. God has opened a wide door to some of you, which our God make yet more and more effectual; for which things we your brethren, I hope many of us in the country, in prisons, and others, have and do rejoice, in blessings by Jesus Christ.
I thank our God I have at some times on the Lord’s Days especially, been at liberty in my soul; being present in spirit with you somewhat in your solemn assemblies, rejoicing with you in this mercy brought to you by so wonderful a hand of our God.
Now observe the language the Holy Ghost here uses to set out this thing.
“Now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God.” Mark that word “grace”, and that “from the Lord our God.” It is the language of Ezra, by faith laying hold of the everlasting covenant of grace, on the behalf of God’s own people. Under the Law God spake so to His people. Lev. 2. 13. “And every oblation of thy meat offering shall thou season with salt; neither shall thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shall offer salt.” And so up and down in the Word we find the holy men of God in their prayers and preaching, and in their spiritual offerings, offering salt, even the salt of the covenant of their God, as Ezra here, “Grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God;” whose covenant is this, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people, saith the Lord.”
Now I desire that you and we may, by faith wrought by the Spirit of grace, savour more the grace of this gracious dispensation of our God and Father; “Grace hath been shewed us from the Lord our God in it”. There is in it especial savour of grace; grace flowing from the covenant of grace, where our God is making known to the elect, called heirs of promise, the immutability and unchangeableness of His counsels and eternal purposes of grace. Liberty and reviving in bondage, given as a fruit of grace, and given with the grace and
shinings of God’s face is a mercy indeed; such as the world have not, they know not what it is.
Now my brethren you know that the grace of the covenant of grace was made known graciously in the first Testament. But now in the new and better Testament, whereof our Lord Christ is the Mediator, the Son of God Himself, grace is more abundantly made known by Jesus Christ; the great design of the Gospel of God being the manifestation of the glory of the only begotten Son of God, His Beloved in whom He is well pleased, and so the love also with which God has loved His elect, who are by the Father given to Jesus Christ, of whom the Lord Christ thus speaks, John 17. “That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.”
Now the God of all grace, pour out richly on you and us at this season, through our Lord Jesus, the Spirit of grace and supplication, that He may fill our hearts with the faith and sweet savour of this grace of God, shewed to God’s people at this time.
I was glad to observe of late, what is said of holy Mr. Rutherford, one who faithfully testified and defended, in his generation, the doctrine of the Gospel of the grace of God. It is said that when the Lord at the beginning of these times* took him to Himself, on his death-bed he had on his heart in some especial manner a desire that all the saints might instantly wrestle with God for the pouring out of the Spirit of grace and supplications, according to the promise, Zech. 12. 10. Thus shall great godly sorrow, working repentance never to be repented of, be given to the House of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem, both Jews and Gentiles in the last days, who shall wail over Christ, whom they have pierced, even all the kindreds of the earth, even so Amen. Thus our backslidings from our God, and our breaches amongst ourselves shall be healed, as it is said by the prophet Jeremiah, Chapter 50. “In those days and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together,” (amongst whom there had been much bitter and lasting strifes, for ages and generations) they shall come, “going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying. Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.”
Holy brethren, let our hearts, desires, and prayers be instant with the Lord still, that this grace shewed us from our God may teach us to deny those worldly lusts, and covetings, and ungodliness, for which our God hath thus wasted us. That we may be more taught now by the grace of God that brings salvation, the grace by which we are saved; that which the Holy Ghost calls the grace of God that is
saving, or that brings salvation. “By grace,” says the same Apostle again, “are ye saved” (Eph. 2). And also by this grace of God, in giving us this reviving, we are to “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
But I pray let us return again to the Word of God. “Now for a little space grace hath been given us from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a little reviving in our bondage.”
Observe this word “little”; and weigh it well: it is here twice repeated. And therein our God as by a watch-word, speaks to you in London, and to us all, for I am prone to hope that this grace may yet reach further to you and to your brethren than yet it hath done. This grace given he speaks of, is but for a “little space,” and to give us a “little reviving in our bondage”. I have not been alone persuaded of it from sundry weighty grounds taken from the Word of God, that the fiery trial that waits yet for us is not over. Yet are the ways of our God in the deep, and He often repents Him graciously of the evil He threatens; and so others, I judge, ought not to speak peremptorily in these secret things which belong to God. But I have often thought that word of God is for us, in Jer. 9. After the Prophet had cried out against the great sins of God’s own children, verse 7 says thus, “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts. Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?” But now as the Lord speaks by another prophet, “And because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” I am prone to think and believe, that grace is now given us in this little space and a little reviving from our bondage that is come, and may be yet coming, for this very end, that Israel may be prepared to meet God in that fiery trial that may yet be, viz. the hour of darkness before the downfall and judgment of the whore, which also hasteth greatly. When God shall avenge the blood of His servants at her hand, after which there shall be heard as the voice of many waters (viz. peoples and kindreds) saying, “Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth,” as says the Apostle John, Rev. 19. Then God will hasten the coming in of that fulness of the Gentiles, which shall be before the Jews be converted, “For blindness”, says the Apostle Paul “in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved.” And the fulness of the Jews (Rom. 11.) shall be also the riches of the Gentiles, as was their fall and diminishing. Then “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” And after this spreading of the Kingdom of God, the grain of mustard seed, to which the Lord Christ compares His kingdom, shall be grown; and that “least of all seeds” shall become the greatest among herbs, and become a tree, so that the birds of the
air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
After this shall come, as it is written, the time of the dead, that they should be judged; and God shall give rewards to His servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear His name, small and great; and He shall destroy them that corrupt the earth. Till which time of the resurrection of the dead and of the eternal judgment, I thank God I dare not, I do not look for any personal appearing of Christ. “Unto them, says the Apostle “that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Dangerous and contrary to Scripture it is, to expect any end to be put to the ministration of the Spirit, the Comforter, in this world, before the end of it. He is now come; now Jesus, the other Comforter, is gone away. And now He, the Spirit on earth, continues to bear witness with the water and with the blood; For these three bear witness, says the Apostle John, on earth, and they agree in one. I say, dangerous it is to suppose a coming of the Son of man in person that either shall put an end to the administration of the Lord the Spirit here in the Church (see 1 Tim. 6. 14. and 1 Cor. 11. 26), or that shall put an end to it before that moment the Apostle Paul speaks of, when “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible”, and the harvest comes which Christ calls the end of the world. How unsafe either of these assertions be, let those that fear God judge, viz. the children to whom it is given to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom.
Now, dearly beloved brethren, let us mind what now lies before us; and whatever our hand finds to do in this little space of reviving from bondage, let us do it with all our might; for I am prone to think the night comes again wherein little work will be done.
Now I shall conclude in the name of our Lord Christ, earnestly admonishing you to redeem this season of grace.
Let the ministers of God, the dressers of Christ’s vineyard, that have by Jesus Christ prevailed for the fig tree, that it should not be cut down but be let alone this year also; let us, brethren, call to mind our vows and promises in the days of our wrestlings; how that if God would trust us again with a harvest season, that we would be more faithful and laborious. So in the parable, says the dresser of the vineyard, “Lord let it alone this year also, till I dig about it, and dung it;” which was a kind of promise to God: as it” he should say, “Ah Lord! Let it alone, and how will I labour and dig about it; and dung it.” And then let all the saints, and also the land. mind what follows:
“and if it bear fruit, well (well indeed!); and if not,” says the vinedresser, who before prayed for it, “then after that thou shall cut it down” and there will be then no remedy.
Now to the end we may wisely improve this gracious space of reviving from our bondage that is by grace given us, I beseech you, as a worker together with the Lord and His ministers, that you receive
not this grace of God in vain. Let us mourn for all the past grace that we have received in vain, and watch how we receive, and learn by his grace that has been shewed us from the Lord. To Him let our eyes be, beyond all instruments; let us, I say, learn holiness and godliness. And that we may herein be furthered, consider for what ends our God may vouchsafe us this breathing space. Call to mind what I said partly before, that our Father seeing how backslidden, how lukewarm we are, how unaccustomed to His yoke and cross; and how averse we have shewed ourselves to bear them, how ready to walk after the carnal imaginations of our own hearts; He will give us a little reviving in our bondage to further the reviving of our souls by faith and sound repentance and recovering. Thereby our first love nay be restored and we may be put into heart for the storm that is coming; for it will put all that is within us to the test. If the righteous herein shall be scarcely saved, where then shall the ungodly and sinners appear, even, when this judgment shall again begin at the louse of God?
Beware of false mistaken prophets that say the bitterness of death in these things is over, lest you find at last they bite with the teeth, though you now love to hear them cry to you, peace, peace. There has been too much of this daubing with untempered mortar already. The Lord spare us. Here is more than two years and an half, twice told, passed over us, since our affliction began:** and yet I think we hardly judge the witnesses are yet risen. And how many then aIready have been found false witnesses, that have presumed far and much about set times; see you to it.
In this season, cry out in the spirit every one, “O spare me that I may recover strength, before the evil day come!” How loud doth God call in that word to us, in the words of the prophet, Jer. 12. “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” The race with the horsemen, and the swelling of Jordan are yet, I judge, to come: and now a season is given you to prepare for them, improve it. With dread call to mind how many have in these nations, by as it were the very looking out of tribulation, not only been found fainting too much, which God’s own must mourn for; but they have been tired outright, and are turned apostates, perjured, covenant-breakers, profane, and superstitious, and that after enlightenings.
Furthermore, brethren, to the end you may husband and improve this little space aright, mark in the text for what ends there mentioned it is given to us, as to them of old; and let us see to it, that we do not forget or overlook them, and trifle about them. “Now for a little space, says he, grace hath been given us from the Lord our
God, to leave us a remnant to escape.” Call to mind the time when not so long since you lay in fears in your beds night by night, because of the fury of the papists, as if they were ready to destroy. And where is the fury of those enemies? How does God at present say to the floods of the ungodly. Stand still? “The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor his bread should fail.”
Again, read on. This is to “give us a nail in his holy place;” and it is repeated, verse 9. “To give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.” Let all of us now see to it, that (Ezekiel 22. 8) we despise not, as formerly, God’s holy things; and that we yield ourselves unto the Lord, and enter into His sanctuary, which He hath sanctified for ever (Hag. 1. 2, 3,4. etc); and according to our light and in our places, mind the building of His house, and mourn over the spiritual desolations thereof. Sion in this sense, is a wilderness in too many places, and amongst too many of us. And then this is added, “That our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage”. Which lightening of eyes, ah that it may also touch the eyes of our understanding, that through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the eyes of our understanding may be opened, and our faith in the Lord Jesus increased. So that when fiery trials such as the primitive and the latter churches also have seen, shall come; we may then, both rich and poor, be like the wise merchant, “Who, when he had found the pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” And that we may do this also with joy, and full choice of heart:
hating father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters; yea, our own lives also, taking up the cross, and following Christ like disciples indeed, beloved and taught of God, according to the promise of the New Covenant. Amen.
Remember, I beseech you, still in prayer my bonds. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
*i.e. The great persecution initiated following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Samuel Rutherford died March 29, 1661.
** Since the ejectment of August 24, 1662.