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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

"O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever."
Psalm 107:1

May our Lord richly bless you with thankful hearts today and always, for He truly is a good God, rich in mercy and grace towards undeserving men. God bless!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hard Questions

In today's reading, the queen of Sheba visited with Solomon and asked hard questions. There was no dodging, no back-peddling or avoidance on the part of Solomon. She came out pleased to the point that the half could not be told. Oh, that we could be equipped with a measure of what Solomon had! Brethren, James tells us that God gives wisdom to all who ask and upbraids not. Dig, hide His word, meditate, and prepare yourself for the hard questions. They will come eventually.

Grace to you,


Friday, October 26, 2007

On Prayer

Of William C. Burns, another fellow-soldier, it is said, “His whole life was literally a life of prayer, and his whole ministry a series of battles fought at the mercy seat.” Very early in his ministerial course he gave it as his judgment that, “The great fundamental error, as far as I can see, in the economy of the Christian life, which many, and alas! I for one commit, is that of having too few and too short periods of solemn retirement with our gracious Father and His adorable Son, Jesus Christ.” From this opinion he never swerved. He spent his days and sometimes nights “before the Lord,” and sighed, “Oh, for a day every week to spend entirely in the secret of His presence.” For weeks before the Kilsyth Awakening, as his brother informs us, “he was full of prayer: he seemed to care for nothing but to pray. In the daytime, alone, or with others, it was his chief delight, and in the night watches he might be heard praying aloud.” And the Lord, whom he sought, came to His temple suddenly. “Whoever is diligent in public prayers, and yet negligent in private, it is much to be feared he rather seeks to approve himself to men than to God” (--The Whole Duty of Man).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Neglecting of our own Harvest Fields

There is much said today about missions and the churches great responsibility to support missions. And yet, while every church should be actively involved in supporting foreign missions, there remains a great neglecting of our own “harvest fields” which lie before us.
Many churches, while boasting of their great efforts to reach the lost in foreign fields, neglect the great harvest which lies before their own church doors.
Across America churches are spending 1,000’s, if not 10,000’s, of dollars a year to visit and support foreign missionaries, while neglecting their own “white fields” which lie before them.
They boast of their missionaries endeavors to seek the lost and train men for the ministry, yet put forth so little effort in their own fields to reach those same goals.
And while I fully support the biblical idea of supporting foreign missionaries (being a former missionary myself), I believe that there is an ever increasing negligence towards those “plenteous fields” which lie before our own church doors.
Satisfied with their “financial support” of foreign fields and the “fruits” which come from their missionaries efforts, many churches content themselves with little or no effort in their own fields, as if the neglecting of their own fields is made up by the “efforts of their missionaries”.
While our missionaries “labor” in their fields to seek the lost and train men for the ministry, we content ourselves with passing out a few Gospel tracts and the putting of a few sermons on the internet.
We boast of our missionaries fervent efforts as though they were our own, and fervently encourage believers to give more money for their great efforts, yet we do not stress the great need for such laboring in our own fields. More later…..

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Joy- Part 3

"The joy of the LORD is your strength." (Neh 8)

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psa 16:11)

Oh Beloved, notice the "mighty fortress" which surrounds this place of joy and gladness, the believer's "refuge in the day of affliction"! "In His PRESENCE is fullness of joy!" "At Thy right hand there are PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE!" This is rejoicing's "haven of rest"!

His "presence" assures our fainting hearts of "joy's fullness": and "His right hand secures our pleasures for EVERMORE!" Oh, dearly beloved! Do you know of such a haven? Has not the Captain of your salvation safely guided you often through troubled seas into this blessed and glorious haven of rest? Of course He has, and He will continue to do so.

Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart,
Draw me, my Savior—so precious Thou art!
Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast.
Shelter me safe in that "Haven of Rest."
Shelter me safe in that "Haven of Rest."

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
(Psa 107:23-30)

The storms and the waves, they may "rise and fall", yet never forget, they must still obey the Master's call. And though we might often reel to and fro, staggering like a drunkard and at wit's end, one simple cry and all the winds must die. That place where once the storm winds blew and the waves raged, has now been conquered by a stillness greater than the storm and more powerful than the raging seas. For this great stillness fills the soul with a great calm and quietness, as they lead us to that desired haven of rest!

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
(Psa 5:11)

"It is our duty and our privilege to rejoice in God and to rejoice in Him always; at all times, in all conditions, even when we suffer for Him, or are afflicted by Him. We must not think the worse of Him or of His ways for the hardships we meet with in His service. There is enough in God to furnish us with matter of joy in the worst circumstances on earth. Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it. If good men have not a continual feast, it is their own fault."
(Matthew Henry)

Pastor Audey Shepard

Joy--Part 2

"Rejoice in the Lord always."

These words might appear to some as "very strange" coming from a man who was imprisoned and facing possible martyrdom; but, the truth of the matter is, these words not only best describe the very life of the Apostle Paul, but they also best describe the very essence of true Christianity!

Yet, one might ask, "How is such a thing possible for the believer?" To "rejoice always", when as believers we are confronted so often with heavy trials, fightings from within and from without, and burdened with a sense of our own sins and infirmities, not to mention our own shortcomings and failures? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to all those questions, and more.

"Rejoice in the Lord always."

You see, our rejoicing is not to be found in anything of ourselves, nor in the circumstances we might be facing, be they pleasant or discomforting. This rejoicing, of which the Apostle speaks, is a rejoicing found "outside of ourselves", not to be dictated by our circumstances, nor governed by our situations. It's not dependent upon any merit of our own, nor can it be quenched by our most fiery trials. It's far above Satan's devices and more powerful than all principalities and powers.

For this "rejoicing" is "in the Lord." There, where no power in heaven or on earth can destroy or weaken its influence. Being "in the Lord," it possesses a sovereign and effectual power on all those who are themselves "in Him." "Ye are complete in Him." (Col. 2:10)

If then the believer is "complete in Him", then surely such "rejoicing in the Lord, and that always" is a portion of his inheritance. A vital and essential part of true Christianity, and an undeniable evidence of our truly being "in Christ."

The first thing which "in the Lord" implies is that the source, or origin, of this rejoicing is not found in any outward circumstances, situations or conditions in which we might find ourselves, but solely "in the Lord." That is, being in the Lord, this "rejoicing" is far beyond those powers and influences of trying and difficult circumstances and situations which might otherwise threaten such rejoicing. For the source of this "rejoicing" is found in Him "who is head of all principalities and powers, and who is gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him". (1 Pet.3:22)

"All things are subject to Him", meaning that nothing nor anybody, be they men, angels or demons can withstand or dictate to Him what He does and how He does it. They all being "subject to Him." And while this "rejoicing is in Him", the originator, author and sustainer of such rejoicing, it is secure against all and every situation and circumstance of life which might appear to threaten or thwart its powerful influence.

Pastor Audey Shepard

Joy--Part 1

"Rejoice in the Lord always."
(Philippians 4:4)

We have recorded in these words of the Apostle Paul a most blessed and glorious truth which should greatly excite and warm the heart of every true believer. Writing from prison and facing possible martyrdom, the apostle Paul encourages the believers at Philippi to not only "rejoice in the Lord", but to "rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS."

That is, in every situation and circumstance of life; be it during very difficult and trying times, or when we are experiencing some of the greatest blessings in our life, regardless of our outward situation or circumstances, the believer is exhorted to maintain a spirit of rejoicing.

This does not mean that there is no place for sadness or sorrow of heart in this present life. For the Preacher declares in Ecc 3:4 that "there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance". Yet, for the true believer even such times of weeping and mourning are tempered by God's grace to increase and strengthen our "rejoicing in the Lord."

"Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better."
(Ecc 7:3)

For the true believer, even sorrow is part of "all things working together for the good to them that love God", and in the hands of God's infinite mercy and grace, an important and vital ingredient for enriching our joy in the Lord.

Like the law, though it cannot bring salvation, yet like a schoolmaster, it leads us to Christ; so too, sorrow, though contrary to joy, leads the believer to know and realize wherein true joy and happiness lie!

Pastor Audey Shepard

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Love of Christ

"The Love of Christ constraineth us."
(2Cor 5:14)

Dear friends,
What is it, that would compel the true believer to live a life so contrary to this present world? A life characterized by self-denial and cross bearing; where afflictions and trials play a vital role in their joy and happiness?

A life where "loving your enemies and praying for those who despitefully use you and persecute you", best testify to your truly being a child of God? A life, where "denying this world's pleasures and lusts are demanded, and being hated for Christ's sake is promised? A life where the "loss of all things gained are counted but dung and loss, that we might win Christ"?

The answer to all these great questions can be summed up in these most blessed and precious words of the Apostle Paul. Words which work mightily, and almost mystically, in the hearts and minds of every true believer!

"The Love of Christ constraineth us." (2Cor 5:14)

"Tis happiness below, to encounter many a cross,
But the Savior's power to know, sanctifying every loss;
Trials must and will befall, but with humble faith to see,

"Satan's sifting of Peter" was designed to "try his faith." Yet it was "one glance from Christ" and the remembrance of His words that he would deny Him, which pierced Peter's heart and caused him to "weep bitterly", thus ushering in a greater awareness of Christ's unchanging and eternal love! Satan's sifting would, in the hands of God's grace, prove to sift Peter's heart of all self-confidence, while revealing the greatest of Christ's unchanging love.

"Paul's thorn in the flesh", which he considered to be very grievous and a great hindrance, was made by God's all-sufficient grace, a thorn he now cherished and warmly embraced.

"Moses" would not have all the riches and pleasures of Canaan, if the "presence of God" went not up with them.

And "David" found nothing in heaven or upon earth itself that he desired more than Christ!

What is it then, that would compel a believer to choose such a life? To be willing and ready, to deny the whole world and himself, and face such great persecution and hatred?...."The love of Christ constraineth (arrests, compels, motivates) us." (2 Cor 5:14)

I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,

Hail, sovereign love that first began,
The scheme to rescue fallen man;
Hail matchless free eternal grace,
That gave my soul a hiding place.

Against the God who rules the sky,
I fought with hand uplifted high,
Despised the mention of His grace,
Too proud to seek a hiding place.

Enwrapped in thick Egyptian night,
And fond of darkness more than light,
Madly I ran the sinful race,
Secure without a hiding place.

But thus th' eternal counsel ran,
"Almighty Love, arrest that man!"
I felt the arrows of distress,
And found I had no hiding place.

Indignant justice stood in view,
To Sinai's fiery mount I flew,
But Justice cried with frowning face,
"This mountain is no hiding place!"

Ere long a heavenly voice I heard,
And Mercy's angel form appeared.
Who led me on with gentle pace,
To Jesus Christ, my hiding place.

On Him Almighty vengeance fell,
That must have sunk a world to hell;
He bore it for a chosen race,
And thus became their hiding place.

Should storms of sevenfold vengeance roll,
And shake this earth from pole to pole;
No flaming bolt could daunt my face,
For Jesus is my hiding place.

A few more rolling suns at most,
Shall land me safe on Heaven's coast.
There I shall sing the song of grace,
To Jesus Christ, my hiding place.

Bro. Audey Shepard

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Light Afflictions--A Thought Worthy of Meditation

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
(2Co 4:17-18)

In one of the most amazing statements ever made by the Apostle Paul,we find a divine and blessed truth which should greatly comfort and encourage the most afflicted and troubled believer. A blessed truth reserved for those who have truly been born again by the Spirit of God and thereby brought into a special and intimate relationship with Christ: A blessed relationship, whereby even "afflictions" contribute or work to keep our hearts and affections on those things which are eternal.

If "the law" was our "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ, then it is by such "afflictions" that our hearts and affections are kept from wandering from His side. Such a work Paul would describe as "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory". That it is by such "working of afflictions" that our hearts and minds should be "kept on those things that are eternal" proves not only our proneness to "wander from the God we love", but also the unchangeable love, mercy and faithfulness of our God.

Oh Lord! How is it, that we can be so unthankful and ungrateful, while Your love and mercy abideth so faithful! That after receiving such a great and unmerited salvation, our hearts, without such workings of afflictions, are still prone to consider those things "that are temporal"! And if these "light afflictions worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory", then why do we find ourselves constantly complaining of such "blessed afflictions", as though they are "unjust, undeserved and unfair"! Should not our hearts then, though suffering under manifold temptations", rejoice and give thanks to Your great faithfulness, mercy and love!"

O Lord! Help us to know more personally the blessedness of such "workings of afflictions". And should such afflictions confront us, may we learn to "embrace them" as ambassadors of mercy and grace to guide our wandering hearts and affections back to Him, who is the "lover of our soul". Help us, that we might always consider such afflictions to be but "light", while they "work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory". And Lord, should our hearts begin to wander from the God we love, may these ambassadors of love, seek us, and draw us back to the fold of Your mercy and grace!

It is often by such afflictions, that our hearts are truly set in tune to "sing His grace". Oh blessed afflictions, which are but light, may they "work in us such exceeding and eternal weight of glory", until we meet Him face to face!

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I'll sing Thy sovereign grace;

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our Purpose

We will be keeping this blog updated as often as possible with encouraging, edifying posts, as well as posting relevant church news. Our hope is to be glorifying and honoring to God in our feeble attempts to encourage and bless all who come here. To the Lord be all the glory and praise for ever and ever. Amen

A Humble Exhortation

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."(Pro 28:13)

These words of Solomon, like that of Christ, have "no form or comeliness" that the world should desire them; but for the true believer, who has received a divine work of grace within his heart,these words offer great comfort and hope. For though they speak of "sin" and its terrible consequences, yet, they promise "deliverance" from that which once "enslaved the believer"and kept him in "bondage".

For though it is true that "there is no condemnation, to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit" (Rom 8:1), yet, the work of "mortification of sin" is ever needed if the believer is to be "a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim2:21). Therefore, these words of Solomon offer the true believer great comfort and hope in this great work of mortification.

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper". For the true believer, though he struggles against "sin in his members", knows that in "covering, or concealing" his sins there is no real deliverance or conquering of such sins. For grace imparted has taught him that God, "who desires truth in the inward parts", would have the believer humbly acknowledge and confess such sins, if he is to receive "mercy and deliverance from his sins".

Man, like Adam who sought to hide himself from the presence of God, would seek to "hide his sins from God" by "covering them" with excuses or by casting blame on others. The sinner refuses to "acknowledge and confess" his own guilt", but will always seek to condone or excuse his sinful actions before God. Yet, the true believer is taught by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, that "humble confession and admission of guilt" is the only way by which he shall receive "mercy".

"But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy". This is the divine chariot upon which true mercy rides and by which mercy is freely received. And while the sinner rejects and denies to humbly confess and forsake his sins, they being so desirable and attractive to him; the believer on the other hand, has through grace imparted,come to "loath and abhor" those sins for which Christ Himself suffered and died to deliver him from! He therefore, does not "shun or avoid" such confession, but welcomes and embraces such confession which opens the door for mercy to be received.

"Silence" rather than "confession" torments the believer's heart and mind, making him of all men most miserable.

When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. (Psalm 32:3-4)

Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.(Psalm 28:1)

Unrepentant sin for the believer works like a "pestilent sore" eating away at his joy, peace and hope, until in great despair he "cries out to God". This too, beloved, is an act of unmerited mercy and grace. For should God leave the believer alone, he too, would be so hardened by sin, that "confession and repentance" would never be desired.

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness" (Lam 3: 22-23).

Therefore, when overcome by sin, the true believer embraces such "confession and acknowledgement" of his own guilt and sin, not desiring to "hide, cover or excuse" any guilt or sin, but longing to have such sin and guilt exposed, that true and thorough confession might be exercised.

"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah." (Psalm 32:5)

And yet, even in our humble confession and acknowledgement of sin, we sense a great need of divine assistance. For be our confession ever so humble, or ever so sincere, knowing the deceitfulness of our own hearts and the greatness of sins deceptive power, we desire God, "Who knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21), "to search and know our hearts; to try us and to know our thoughts; to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting" (Psalm139:23-24).

This humble truth has ever been known and confessed by God's people down through the ages…

"Since I repented last time another matter has given me great sorrow,which is, that if I rigorously scrutinize the best of what I now do,I discover sin. New sin is mixed with my best. For this cause, I cannot but conclude, that in spite of own self-conceited and imaginative I am towards myself and my work, even if my past is without blemish, the sins which I commit in one day are enough to put me in hell- IF IT IS NOT BECAUSE OF SUCH A GREAT SAVIOR, WHO CAN SAVE SUCH A SINNER LIKE ME!" (John Bunyan)

"In all the duties which we fulfill there are corruptions mingled in them. Should Jesus Christ accept us according to our works after we have repented, our works would surely condemn us; for never can we offer a prayer as perfect as the moral law of God demands. I do not know how you think, but I can say, I cannot pray, I can only sin; I cannot preach to you or to other people, I can only sin; I am forced to confess, even my repentance needs to be repented of, even my tears need to be washed in the precious blood of my Redeemer. Our best works are but the refinest sins!" (George Whitefield)

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."(Pro 28:13)

"Confess and forsake", herein lies the believer's goal in the confessing of his sins. For he knows that confession alone is not sufficient of itself in the "mortifying of his sins", but longs that such humble confession would lead to a true "forsaking of such sins".

For the hypocrite, a mere formal or superficial confession of sins is sufficient, for he confesses without a desire to forsake! Yet, it is the "forsaking of sins" which proves the "genuineness and sincerity"of our confession of sins! For "true confession of sins, coupled with a great desire to forsake such sins", opens the door for mercy to be received!

O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. (Hos 14:1-2)

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves,and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2Ch 7:14)

Oh may God grant us all much mercy and grace in humbly confessing our sins, with the desire to "forsake such sins". For then, we shall surely receive mercy and be healed; so will we render the "calves of our lips."

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.(Psa 69:30-32)

Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive,
Let a repenting rebel live:
Are not Thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in Thee?
My crimes are great, but not surpass
The power and glory of Thy grace:
Great God, Thy nature hath no bound,
So let Thy pardoning love be found.
O wash my soul from every sin,
And make my guilty conscience clean;
Here on my heart the burden lies,
And past offenses pain my eyes.
My lips with shame my sins confess
Against Thy law, against Thy grace:
Lord, should Thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemned, but Thou art clear.
Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce Thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.
Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hovering round Thy Word,
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair.
(Isaac Watts)

Pastor Audey Shepard

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The danger of Schism

Dear friends,
It has always greatly burdened my heart to see the many sad and terrible divisions which exist today amongst God's people. Divisions which have not only greatly hindered the testimony of God's church in this present world, but also the measure of success in our preaching of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Seven years ago the Lord led me to a book called "Irenicum" by Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646). After reading through it the first time, being greatly moved by its deep and yet rich truths concerning divisions and the sorrows and dangers they create amongst God's people, I proceeded to read it a second time.
I was so moved by it's solid scriptural truths I felt led to begin our blog with a short portion of this book. Yet, like all other books, this is merely a book. Not divinely inspired, nor to be considered in any way equal with God's most Holy Word. Yet, it contents are strongly scriptural and therefore profitable for us all. May these words humble, encourage and excite you also, to seek such unity amongst God's people.
Pastor Audey Shepard

"Healing the divisions amongst God’s people"
Jeremiah Burroughs(1599-1646)

Chapter 27: The evil of divisions: they hinder much good
Eusebius reports that Constantine was more troubled with the dissensions of the church than with all the wars in his dominions that he took them so to heart that he could not sleep quietly because of them. Yea, although he had a spirit full of heroic valour, yet the dissensions of the church were such evils to him as to cause him to cry and sob. Thus he wrote in an epistle to Alexander and Arius; “Let me enjoy the days in peace and the nights without molestation, that the pleasure which rises out of the pure light of concord and quiet life may henceforth inviolably be conserved. If it otherwise happens, it behooves us to sob and sigh and to share many a salt tear”.What heart that has any tenderness in it bleeds not when it senses those sore and dreadful heart-divisions that are among us! The evil there is in them is beyond what tongue or pen can express. Take a view of it under these three headings:
1. The good they hinder;2. The sin they cause;3. The misery they bring.

In this chapter, let us expound the first of these three, with several observations.
First, the quiet, comfort and sweetness of our spirits are hindered by divisions. They put the spirit out of tune. Men who heretofore have had sweet spirits full of ingenuity, since they have interested themselves in these divisions have lost their sweetness; their ingenuity is gone. When the bee stings, she leaves her sting behind her and never gathers honey more. Men, by stinging one another, do not lose their stings, but they lose their honey. They are never likely to have that sweetness in their hearts that heretofore they had. Shall I lose my sweetness, says the fig tree, and go to be promoted over the trees? Why do you not reason thus with your spirit: Shall I lose my sweetness in contending to get my will to be above others? God forbid.There was a time that both I myself and others found much sweetness in the temper of spirit. There was nothing but peaceableness, quiet, calmness, and contentedness in it; and how comfortable was such a temper of spirit! I thought when my spirit was in that sweet frame, that all things were sweet to me. But since I have been involved in quarrels and contentions, it has been far otherwise with me. Proverbs 15:4 “Perverseness in the tongue causes a breach in the spirit”. Contentions cause much perverseness in men’s tongues, and this causes a breach in their spirits. Your contending costs you dearly. Though it was in nothing else, yet the loss of this sweetness of spirit makes it very costly to you. All the wrong that you would have endured if you had not contended would not have been so great an evil to you as this one thing is. There is nothing more contrary to ingenuity than quarrelsomeness. It is reported that when Melanchthon was to die he gave this speech, and Strigelius at his death said the same: “I desire to depart this life for two causes: first, that I may enjoy the desired sight of the Son of God and the church in heaven, and, second, that I may be delivered from the fierce and implacable hatred of divines.” There was much disputing, contending, and quarrelling in those times which were so tedious to the spirits of these good men that it made them the more willing to die that they might be where their souls should be at rest.
That saint of God, old Mr. (John) Dod, never loved to meddle with controversies. He gave the reason that he found his heart the worse when he did. Men seldom come away from hot disputes or any other contentions but their spirits are altered for the worse. They find it so, and others find it in them. If a man has been contending, his wife, children, and servants find that he comes not home with the same spirit that he went out with.

Second, divisions hinder the freedom of a man’s spirit, which a wise man sets a high price upon. The strength of many men’s spirits is spent in contentions; they have no control of them for anything else. When a man is once engaged in a contest, he knows not how to get off. Contention is a great snare to a man. He wishes he had never meddled with it; he is weary of it, but knows not how to come off fairly.I have read of Francis the first, king of France, consulting with his captains how to lead his army over the Alps into Italy, whether this way or that way. Amarill, his fool, sprang out of a corner where he sat unseen and bade them rather take care which way they should bring their army out of Italy and back home again. It is easy for one to interest himself in quarrels, but the difficulty is to be disengaged from them once you are in.

Third, divisions hinder the good of the body. Many men, contending with their brethren, are so full of stomach that they have no stomach; they cannot sleep. Men lie tossing up and down a great part of the night, sometimes whole nights, musing, plotting and contriving how they may make their party good, what advantages they may get over those they contend with. Have the thoughts about the breach sin has made between God and your soul broken your sleep as much as the thoughts of breaches between you and your neighbours and brethren? We read in Deuteronomy 34:7 that Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were not dim, nor his natural force abated. Some give this reason for such a wonderful preservation of his health and strength, the meekness of his spirit. God witnessed of him, in Numbers 12:3, that he was the meekest man upon the face of the earth. That good old man Mr. Dod came very near Moses in his strength and his meekness.

Fourth, these quarrels hinder men’s judgments. If the water is muddy, we cannot see what lies at the bottom. These dissentions disturb the medium of our sight. You cannot weigh gold in the middle of blustering winds. You cannot consider and give a judgment upon truth unless the heart is calm. Gregory Nazianzen had this similitude: “The earth is fixed to men whose brains and eyes are sound, but to those who have vertigo in their heads it seems to turn around.” So we are deceived in our apprehensions of things; we have not the same judgment of things when we love and when we do not love.

Fifth, divisions hinder the sweetness of Christian converse and communion. You know your communion with the saints was wont to be far sweeter than now it is. You are wont to have your hearts spring at the sight of one another. Seneca said that the very sight of a good man delights. The sight of a godly man was wont to delight us otherwise than now it does. You look one upon another now sourly, with lowering countenance, and you withdraw from one another. Your comforts were wont to be double, triple, sevenfold, a hundredfold, according to that society of saints you conversed with.One godly man accounted it the joy of his heart that he had anything that he could communicate to another godly man; and the other had the like joy that he had anything to communicate to him. Thus the comfort was multiplied. But now your comforts are bare. Oh, the sweetness, the suitableness there was wont to be in the spirits of Christians! Shall I say suitableness? It was a blessed oneness of heart. They did, as it were, exchange one with another every day. Their souls closely clasped with and cleaved one to another. Oh, how they loved to open their hearts one to another! What delight there was in pouring forth their spirits one into another! What cheerfulness was there wont to be in their meeting! They ate their bread together with singleness of heart and joy, praising the Lord.

There were no such merry meetings in the world as the meetings of the saints were wont to be. They parted from one another with their souls bound up one in another. Their hearts were warmed, enlarged, resolved, and strengthened in God’s ways. But now they cannot meet together but they fall a jarring, contending one with another, and part with spirits estranged, soured, and embittered against one another. Their hearts are weakened and more unsettled in the things of God than before. Heretofore, when they were absent one from another, the remembrance one of another was joyful. But these days seem to be gone.Where is there that opening of secrets one to another as formerly? Everyone is afraid of each other. What sweet visits were there wont to be? What bearing one another’s burdens? What heart encouraging letters? It was with the saints as in Tertullian’s time: Christians called each other brethren and were ready to die for one another. But now they are burdens to one another’s spirits; they bring evils one upon another. Those who heretofore were forward professors, whose society was only among the saints, now can suit well enough with those who are carnal. They close with them; their converse is mostly among them. Oh, Lord, what fire is it that is kindled amongst us! The nature of fire is to gather things of a like nature together, and separate things that are different. But our fire does quite the contrary: it separates things that are homogeneous and joins things heterogeneous. Surely this is no other than the fire of Hell.

Sixth, divisions hinder our time. Abundance of time is spent about our divisions, which we are not able to give account to God for. When men are engaged in contentions, they will pursue them night and day, whatsoever business is neglected, and to be sure these are not. Yea, the choice of our time that was wont to be spent in meditation, reading, and prayer is now spent in contending and wrangling. Those retired times when we were wont to converse with God are now spent in the workings of our thoughts about divisions. And when we go out, then a great part of our time is taken up in going first to this body and then to another, to help forward and foment matter of division. Of all the time of man’s life, the time that is spent in disputing and quarrelling is the worst; and the happy it would be for many that it might not be reckoned among the days, weeks, or months of their lives.

Seventh, divisions hinder our prayers. “If two or three agree together touching anything they shall ask, and it shall be done for them by my Father”, said Christ in Matthew 18:19. 1 Timothy 2:8 “I will that men pray, lifting up their hands without wrath”. When Daniel was in a crisis, he went to his companions and desired them to lift up prayers to God for him (Daniel 2:17). There was a secret agreement between them. Hence their stock and trade in prayer went in common, but divisions exceedingly hinder prayer, either one with another or one for another. In 1 Peter 3:7, the apostle gave rules for a peaceable, loving life between man and wife: the woman must be meek, and the man must live with his wife as a man of knowledge. And they must walk together as heirs of life. Why so? That your prayers may not be hindered. Private contentions in families are great hindrances of family prayers. So our public divisions and contentions are the great hindrances of the prayers of Christians in a more public way. How were they wont to pour forth their hearts in prayer together? Then their hearts closed, but now it is otherwise. Men do not walk now together as the heirs of life; therefore their prayers are hindered. God accepts not our gift if we offer it when our hearts are at a distance from our brethren. When breaches continue, and we are not reconciled, you know Christ requires us to leave our gift at the altar till reconciliation is made. It is the Spirit of God in the saints that is the spirit of prayer. God’s Spirit is a dove-like, meek, quiet, and peaceable spirit.

Eight, they hinder the use of our gifts. When vessels are soured with vinegar, they spoil liquor that is poured into them; they make it good for nothing. Many men have excellent gifts, but they are in such sour, vinegary spirits that they are of little or no use in the church and commonwealth.
(1) In these times of division, many men exercise their gifts and parts in little or nothing else but in matters of division. Do you think that God has given you such parts for no other end but this?
(2) They have no hearts to impart to their brethren their gifts in counselling, admonishing, strengthening, or comforting. No, their hearts are estranged from them; they care not to have anything to do with them. But do you think that you are so much your own men that you may keep in or employ your talents as you please? Are you not the stewards of Christ? Are your talents not given to you for the edification of your brethren as well as for the good to yourselves? Can this satisfy your consciences? Such a one differs from you; he has angered you, and therefore, though you have opportunity of being useful to him, you refuse it as if it were at your liberty to apply your abilities for good or not. Certainly, this is not according to the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:7: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal”.
(3) If you make use of your gifts for the good of others, yet dissensions between you will hinder their profit. You are not likely to do any good by them. Unless they are carried on by the oil of love, they will not soak into men's hearts. When did you ever know a wrangling, contentious minister (though his gifts were never so excellent) to do good among his people? And what comfort can a man have in his life if he is laid aside by God as a useless man?
(4) These divisions cause men to make the gifts of others useless to them selves, whereas God puts opportunity into men's hands to get much good by those excellent gifts their brethren have. Yet if there is any difference between them, either they will not acknowledge the gifts of God in them or else they have no mind to receive from them that good they might have, because their hearts are not with them.

Ninth, divisions hinder our graces. How little of God and Christ, how little spiritualness appears in professors of religion since these rents and divisions have been amongst us, in comparison to what in former times appeared. "As the members of the body" said Augustine, "are not quickened unless they are joined, so even the members of Christ do not receive of the quickening virtue of Christ unless they are joined. Here is the reason for deadness, coldness, emptiness, barrenness, and the vanity of your spirits: you are not joined. Oh, where are the heavenly Christians who were wont to be - those humble, holy, gracious souls who lived by faith, who were able to deny themselves? Their whole lives were nothing but a continual exercise of self-denial; they were not only patient, but joyful under afflictions. Where are those watchful Christians who walked closely with God, who enjoyed such spiritual communion with Him as made their faces shine in their holy, heavenly conversations? Where are those tender, broken-hearted Christians who were wont to be, who lived upon the Word, to whom the Word was more sweet than honey and the honeycomb?

Our divisions hinder the breaking forth of the lustre, the shine of religion in its beauty and glory! The fire of our contentions raises such a smoke that it smothers us; it takes away our comeliness; it makes us look black. No amiableness appears in the way of religion to convince men of the Excellency of them. Scratched faces, rent and torn garments, we account a shame to us. We are distracted, divided spirits, rendering and tearing one another, and separated from one another in our divided ways, Oh, how uncomely it renders us, and that profession of religion that we take upon us! The Turks were wont to wonder much at our English men for pinking and cutting their clothes, counting them little better than madmen for making holes in whole clothes, which in time of itself would tear too soon. The cuts, rents, and slashes that are in our spirit, in our divisions at this day, are much more uncomely, and may justly render us foolish and mad in the eyes of all who behold us.
Our divisions hinder our strength. If you untwist a cable, how weak is it in the several parts of it! A threefold cord is not easily broken, but a single one is. Divide a strong current into several rivulets and how shallow and weak will the curse of the water be! The act of Plutarch attributed to the king of Scythia, Scilurus, toward his sons, has been very famous to set how divisions cause weakness wherever they are. He said he had eighty sons, and when he was near death he caused a bundle of arrows to be brought and given them one by one, bidding each of them to break it. They all answered that it was impossible for any man to do it. Then he caused the arrows to be taken out one by one, and bade one of his sons break them; this any of them could easily do. Upon this he spoke to his sons thus: "If ye agree together, ye shall abide strong and unconquerable. But if ye divide yourselves, contending one with another, ye will be weak and easily overcome."
Divisions hinder our doing good in public. That which concerns many must be done by many. But how can two, much less many, walk together if they are not agreed? That which one does, the other seeks to undo. Now although God can turn whatsoever is contrary to His work to the furtherance of it, yet man cannot do so. When God would hinder the work of building Babel, He came down and confounded their tongues so that they could not join together in it. Thus, when the Devil would hinder the work of Jerusalem, he knew no way more likely than by dividing the hearts of those who were employed, if he could, that thereby he might bring confusion.
Divisions hinder our own ends. None are more crossed in their ends and designs than contentious people. We have not the mutual benefits of one another’s estates, houses, the many ways of accommodation, and the help for one another as heretofore we wont to have. Now every man shifts for himself. Scarcely any man who knew what the heartiness of friendship meant enjoys those outward accommodations as he was wont.
Divisions hinder the blessing of God (Psalm 133). The Psalmist, commending the love of brethren, concluded; "there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." There! That is, where the love of brethren is there is a blessing, a blessing commanded by God. It comes with power, and this no less than life, and this life forevermore. "God dwells in Salem, said Luther, "not in Babylon - where there is peace, not where there is confusion."
Last, yea, they hinder all good. They are like the torrid zone: nothing can prosper under it. When the dog-star rises no plants thrive as in other times. When a fire is kindled in a town, the bells ring backward. When fires of contention are kindled in places, all things go awkwardly. There is little joy in anything.
Thus you see how great evil there is in our divisions, in respect of what good we lose by them. Now, then, consider whether it is possible that any gain we can get by them can recompense this loss. Can anything gotten by them justify the cost? But if it could be supposed that our loss may be recompensed, yet I am sure nothing can countervail the evil there is in them, in respect of the sinfulness of them.