An Address To The Sons And Daughters Of The Lord God Almighty
May grace, mercy, and peace, be with you, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this day of great profession, when there are many “itching ears,” and heaps of teachers who never had a divine warrant for their employment; when natural talents and the charms of eloquence are intended to supersede the use of spiritual gifts, and the power of the blessed Spirit; when the congregations of the dead are large, numerous, and wealthy, and the folds of Christ are generally small, lean, and lank; when truth is a libel; when the doctrines of grace are accounted blasphemous, and the work of the Spirit is deemed enthusiasm; when Religion walks out in her silver slippers in sun-shiny weather: at a time when a man is hardly accounted worthy of a place in civil society, unless he belong to some religious fraternity; when the bulk of professors, though divided, and subdivided, into numerous sects, are so blended in their doctrine and spirit that they appear as a self-moving mass, using their united power and influence to remove the ancient landmarks, and to render contemptible the Lord’s poor and afflicted people; let every lover of truth say, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughter of my people.” O my companions in tribulation! Do we not feel ready to unite, as the heart and voice of one man, in a mournful address to Israel’s God, saying, “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness, and of thy glory; where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies towards us? are they restrained? Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not, thou, O Lord! art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting. O Lord! why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our hearts from thy fear? Return for thy servant’s sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while; our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. We are thine: thou never bearest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.” The Arminians, and the Modern Calvinists, frequently say, “Look at our numbers and respectability, when compared with the few who profess your doctrine.” Our answer is this;—admitting the smallness of our number, and the largeness of theirs, the unpleasant contrast will by no means prove them to be right; because, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” It is no good sign of the solidity of an argument when the sayings of Christ have to be reversed to support it. I am ashamed to see men go about to prove the soundness of their creed, and the superiority of their profession, by their worldly respectability and numerical strength. I repeat it (with the Bible in my hands), I blush for their conduct in this matter. Besides, the argument proves too much for them. As (in christendom) the Papists are the most wealthy and numerous, the benefit of this fallacious reasoning must be theirs. Would not our opponents reject such a mode of reasoning if used against themselves! Then why do they use it against us? Is it not because it serves to keep their classes and bands together! If that word in Matt 7:14, were reversed, we might quail under it. This alteration would suit these men to a hair’s breadth. Therefore, my tried brethren, be not discouraged at the comparative smallness of our number; “Yet many are called, but few are chosen.” And as for worldly respectability, the true church of God has seldom been overloaded with it. Hear St. Paul’s affectionate appeal to the church at Corinth: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty,” &c. This is ours. We can bless God for every line of it. No cap ever fitted a head better, than this passage doth that people now vilely traduced as Antinomians.
I sincerely rejoice that when all Israel are gathered together, there will be a goodly number, a vast multitude. Whenever I have seen a man of genius, rank, wealth, or influence embrace the truth of God, cordially support it, and live a life of holy obedience, it has afforded me real pleasure. I acknowledge, however, that poor and rich are but relative terms.
To The Babes And Weaklings
Now to the babes and weaklings in Zion I would say a few words. Be not deceived by outside appearances, look well to your goings, and ponder the path of your feet. Do not set up for judges or critics, but as new born babes receive the sincere milk of the word. In the choice of a ministry, pay some deference to the judgment of aged Christians, especially of those of them who are more savoury. You know, if little children were left to the choice of their own food, they would soon make themselves sick. In all your ways endeavour to acknowledge God; in difficulties pray to him for direction, and lean not to your own understanding. I recommend to you not to take notes of the discourse when you are under the word, but sit and hear, and pray to the Holy Spirit to write his truth upon your hearts. His is the best hand-writing, and he is the best remembrancer. Mind most especially the affairs of your own soul, lest you should have to say with the church, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.” Flee youthful lust; shun the company of trifling professors; endeavour to think twice before you speak once; and be it your daily concern to be sensibly folded in the Saviour’s arms; and may the Friend of sinners bless and prosper you.
To The Young And Growing Believer
I write unto you, young men, with feelings of true affection. “Love not the world, neither the things of the world.” You are learning doctrine. The day of your espousals to Christ is over, and the trial of faith is just coming upon you. Should the roaring lion come against you, beloved, think it not strange at the fiery trial which is to try you. When the powers of darkness assail, fly from them to your Redeemer’s feet, and entreat Jesus to rebuke your adversary. Are you called to bear the yoke of affliction? You cannot do so at a better time. “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.” You will find it better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of mirth. Has the Lord begun to show you a little of the badness of your hearts? That experience is very trying, and, through mercy, very profitable. If, in your feelings, you get inwardly worse, I must say, it is all the better, you will thereby learn your own weakness, and the power of Christ. You are to be strong in the grace, not that is in you, but that is in Christ Jesus. Pray to be made sound in the faith. What think you of the doctrines of grace! In humble dependence on the Spirit’s teaching, search the Scriptures; be careful to receive no doctrines or notions that agree not with the written word. Pray to the Lord to bless you with a teachable spirit. Do not prostrate your understanding before any master or father upon the earth. When you are led to discover that the doctrines of grace are true, receive them in God’s name, and modestly, but firmly, avow them. If men (in derision) call them “high doctrines!” you will have the pleasure of seeing that they are no higher than the written word. If others call them “dry doctrines!” entreat the Lord Jesus to wet them for you by the influences of his Spirit. It is written, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew.” If men say these doctrines lead to licentiousness, watch the effects the experience of them produces upon your own conduct. Take no man’s word in this matter. Prove them for yourselves. If I were sure this was my last hour, I would say that the doctrine of free, eternal, distinguishing grace powerfully promotes true holiness. Our blessed Redeemer prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” When you have fully received the form of sound words, use it as a sieve. Try what you hear in this sieve. Whatever bears the twofold test of doctrine and experience is wheat; it is the bread of life. Feed thereon and grow. Whatever will not bear that twofold test is chaff; throw it out to the fowls. If in your hearing, a minister make a common practice of exhorting the unconverted to believe, repent, pray, turn to God, &c., ask yourselves if in your unconverted state you could have done any of these things? I think you will then see you are at the sign of the “Labour in Vain,” where they try to wash the black moor white. Or if he say that “Christ died for all mankind,” or that “all men may be saved if they will,” when, upon due examination and prayer, you are led to see these to be erroneous sentiments, hurl them upon the dung hill. You are in the land of famine. How can you think to satisfy yourselves with these husks? If the preaching of Moses’ law to the believers makes you a raw back, and leaves you an empty belly, is it not high time to look out for a minister that preaches the word? You will find that that testimony which minutely describes your frames, feelings, and soul exercises, is at once the most savoury, comfortable, safe, and profitable, to Zion’s young men. The true Gospel is a creature-abasing, Christ-exalting word, that separates the precious from the vile; a word that contains sound doctrine, insists upon sound experience, and requires sound practice. Such a testimony, possessing a rich vein of genuine experience, is, in my opinion, one that, with God’s blessing, will do the true believer good. Any man who delivers such a testimony, whose life is blameless, should be received as a minister of the Spirit, let men call him what they will. You who sit under such a ministry, be thankful; yours is no mean or common privilege. Endeavour, by the grace of God, to be much in prayer, and carefully watch over your own conscience, conversation, and conduct. Keep the society of the godly. Examine the New Testament, and see if there are not two standing ordinances—the believer’s baptism by immersion in water, and the Lord’s supper. Is it not your duty and privilege to attend to these ordinances? If you have an opportunity, give yourselves up without delay to the brethren, and cheerfully acknowledge your blessed Lord, in the order and ordinances of his house. The Lord enable you to walk worthy of your high vocation, and confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless at the coming of our blessed Lord.
To The Fathers And Mothers In Christ
I beg leave to say a little to the fathers in Christ Jesus. You well know that the pilgrim’s path generally lies up the hill. You have passed through many scenes and vicissitudes, which you do not wish to pass through again. There are times in which you are well satisfied with the way in which your covenant God has led you. To you this vain world can turn up nothing new; you begin to grow tired of it; for now the lighting down of a grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. The days of your pilgrimage have been “few and evil.” You begin now to want to go home, and find everlasting rest. O what have you not experienced, my brethren, from the allurements, the frowns, or the cares of the world; from the bold temptations of the enemy, as well as from the treachery, corruption, and wanderings of your own hearts! What have you not felt from the chastening hand of God, and from the men of the world; from nominal professors, and even from Sarah’s own children! Yet, how kindly has your heavenly Father watched over you, and preserved you in all your troubles. Though you have sometimes been ready to say, “All these things are against me,” those were only fainting fits, from which you were relieved by some heart-cheering cordial, administered by the hand of your heavenly Father. However, if your path has lain through much tribulation, you have had many and great consolations. Your souls have now and then been filled as full of comfort and peace as you could hold. Methinks I see you leaning upon your staff from very age, and uttering this holy ejaculation, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!” When your frames and feelings have been most uncomfortable, how often have you ventured upon the finished work of Christ: when a few gleams of the blessed sunshine of God’s glory have broken in upon your souls, you have been sweetly melted down with love and gratitude to your divine Benefactor. My venerable fathers, none can debase the creature too much, or exalt Christ too highly, for your hearing. You love the doctrines of grace, and relish nothing more than strong cordials extracted from them by the Spirit of God. You have long since learned to receive, and inwardly digest, God’s precious body of divinity; the form of sound words. You delight in a testimony full of Christ, power, and savour. Sometimes the blessed Spirit has let down the covenant of grace into your souls, which has lifted you up above your troubles, and you have blessed the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. God has taught you both law and gospel, and you cannot bear another Jesus, or hear another gospel. The ordinances of Christ are sometimes delightful, and his precepts sweet unto you. You cannot but love a searching testimony that gets into your consciences, and you even prefer reproofs and rebukes to a lukewarm state. You greatly prize the teachings and the unction of the Holy Spirit Sanctified tribulation occasionally brings down in you the pride, legality, lusts, and abominations of your hearts; and the comforts of everlasting love keep you from sinking into despondency. Thus your souls are ballasted, and your frames are balanced. The power and grace of Christ alone keep your feet from falling, and your eyes from tears; and you know it well. My brethren, may you live and die like the holy martyr, who, “at his burning,” cried, “None but Christ! none but Christ!”
To The Gospel Ministers
Will my brethren in the ministry allow me to say a few words to them? You are neither legal men, nor letter-men. Poor as I am, I do not call either the taskmasters of Egypt, or the clouds without water, my brethren. If men of great natural gifts could content themselves to remain out of the ministry until they received a divine commission to enter it, some of the poor of God’s flock would like it better. But these men must and will do their work. In Paul’s time there were false apostles, and deceitful workers. Satan did then, and does now, transform himself into an angel of light. Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John, have, in their several epistles, borne a strong testimony against such deceitful workers. The real servants of God can truly say, necessity is laid upon them. They have been sifted as wheat; they preach the truth of God, as far as they know it, and depend upon the teachings of the blessed Spirit to furnish them for their work. They endeavour to set before their flocks a godly example, although their names are by mere nominal professors, cast out as evil. Precious hearts! God has set you where David set Uriah, in the forefront of the hottest part of the battle. You are a spectacle to God, to angels, and to men; being accounted the filth, the scum, and the offscouring of all things unto this day. You have been cradled between two mountain billows upon the stormy main of much tribulation: I need not tell you, however, that you have not had one affliction too many, or too heavy. Were it possible for us all to meet together and compare notes, we should, I have no doubt, be surprised at the similarity which would appear in our trials and ministerial exercises. Do you not think this is the darkest night that ever came upon the church of God? Is there not an alarming deficiency in the life and power of religion? Is it not a hard matter to keep the thrashing floors clean? What madness there is amongst general professors! And, alas! what deadness there is amongst the lovers of truth!
“Send help, O Lord! we pray,
And thy own gospel bless;
For godly men decay,
And faithful pastors cease;
The righteous are removed home,
And scorners rise up in their room.”
Yet what a mercy it is that there is no new thing under the sun. We know that, ere time began, our heavenly Father foresaw and appointed the present state of things, and made suitable provision against it. What a mercy it is that, in the worst of times, God will have his own elect, and will not leave himself without a witness!—Although Zion is afflicted with wave upon wave, she is more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. Though she is somewhat down now, the everlasting arms are underneath her. Even this state of things is the most direct way to exalt the declarative glory of God—to establish the praise and the fame of him whose we are, and whom we serve. We have many little streams of consolation, all flowing from the Immortal Fountain, being assured of the truth of the following things. When our covenant God has sufficiently tried Zion, she shall come forth as gold; and the worse things get, according to appearances, the nearer she is to deliverance. At this time, she has watchmen set upon her walls, who are not permitted to hold their peace, day nor night. Low as things are, there are many quickened souls, and not a few who sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in Jerusalem. In many places, through the goodness of God, the light of the gospel shines clearly. However uncomfortable our estate is, we are in good hands.—“Glorious things are spoken of the city of our God.” Whatever changes take place, our God knows no change. What a mercy it is that we are favoured to love the church, and pray for her! The shadows of the evening are stretched out, yet at evening tide it shall be light. The prosperity and the safety of the Lord’s people are not grounded upon human may-bes, ought-to-bes, or should-bes, but upon his own firm word: “I will and they shall.” Although Satan is now bringing out his master plot against the church, the train is laid that shall blow it up. If the hosts of the Assyrians have encompassed the beloved city, and we are ready to cry, “Alas, Master, how shall we do?” let us lift up our eyes and see the horses, and the chariots of fire, by which we are surrounded, and exultingly say, “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
“Our God is above men, devils, and sin;
My Jesus’s love the battle shall win;
So terribly glorious his coming shall be,
His arm all-victorious, shall conquer for me.”
To All The Citizens Of Zion
Dearly beloved brethren, may the Lord strengthen us, and may we, by grace, “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” The Lord make us faithful unto death.
May we not be too tame! The Lord help us to wield the two-edged sword of the blessed Spirit, to hew error into pieces, as Samuel did Agag. I live in hopes that we shall not die in the shell. It is much too soon to go into winter quarters, when the foe is so numerous in the field. The enemies have consulted together with one consent, the tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites, of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, and the Philistines, with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them; they have holpen the children of Lot. They have raised the war-cry against God’s heritage; their motto seems to be, “Union is strength.” Let ours be, the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. We wish not to hurt our worst enemies in their persons or estates. We are not for calling fire down from heaven to consume them. We disallow all carnal weapons;—the only weapon of offence that we would use is the sword of the Spirit. Like a certain Spanish general, Velasco, may we draw our swords, fling away the scabbards, wrap each man his standard round his arm, and fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil; giving no quarter to pernicious errors, until our eyeballs close in death. It is not enough to preach the truth in a direct sense, and leave abounding errors alone. That method is like sowing or planting a garden over, but leaving all the weeds in. Or it is like building a new house on the top of an old one. What if they say, we are men of a bad spirit? They do not know a bad spirit from a good one; they are no judges. It is well for Elijah and John the Baptist that they are not here. Were Elijah here, I believe in my conscience, Ahab and Jezebel would either have his head off or he must run for it; and were the sturdy Baptist here, I should be afraid that some romping miss would dance his head off. Now in the Scriptures, the most honourable mention is made of these two men; the former was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire, and horses of fire; the latter received from the Master of the house such a character as we should individually covet. He was a “burning and a shining light.”
May we sensibly live in the sweet presence, and die in the gracious arms, of Christ, who is our adored and most adorable Prince.
Now, my dear brethren, “unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy; to the only wise God, our Saviour; be glory, and majesty, dominion, and power, both now, and ever, Amen.”
Edward Blackstock (1791-1852) was a Particular Baptist preacher. He nurtured high views of sovereign grace, but subscribed to an open communion table. He served as pastor for the churches meeting at (1) Market-Drayton, Shropshire; (2) Potton, Wolverhampton; (3) Gower Street, London; (4) Salem Chapel, Fitzroy Square.