. . . but to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2
When the Puritans came to the Massachusetts Bay in 1630 under the leadership of John Winthrop, they came humbly, expectantly, seeking earnestly to fear and honour God, to forge out of this new land a city on a hill. They established Harvard by 1638 for the purpose of training men for the gospel ministry. They had mighty preachers in their early years, men like John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Increase Mather, and Cotton Mather. They had lived peacefully with the Indian tribes in southern New England for forty years, but they soon began to have problems with Metacomet, the Chief of the Algonquian nation. They referred to Metacomet as King Philip and by 1675 the king of the Algonquians was sending his warriors on killing rampages in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Per capita this brief war was the bloodiest in American history. By the time the English settlers had Metacomet’s head on a plate, thousands of men, women, and children were dead. At least six towns in Connecticut were totally wiped out. Some thirty years earlier Thomas Hooker had sent one hundred men from Hartford to attack the Pequots who had been killing people from Lyme up to Wethersfield, CT., but this was far worse. As the settlers fought back many of their ministers were appalled at the violence and bloodthirstiness they saw in the civilized, Puritan settlers. They were no better than the heathen savages. In fact one of the ministers wrote this at the time: ‘We are a people in extreme danger of perishing in our own sins and under God’s judgments. All ordinary means of promoting moral reformation have failed, causing us to ask ourselves whether our degeneracy and apostasy may not prove to be perpetual.’
This sad reality drove the people to repent, to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, to tremble at the word of God. This is what Isaiah is after as he calls the nation of Israel to repent and turn from idolatry to faith in the true and living God, Yahweh. He is the great and mighty One, the God of covenantal mercies, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Exod. 34:6-7).
What happened as these Puritans prayed in repentance? By 1735 the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon the preaching of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, MA. At least fifteen were converted weekly from January to June. Some thought that perhaps all had been converted in the city. At the same time in England and Wales, God saved three men within two months of each other – George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and Daniel Rowland – who all became mighty instruments of revival in their day. Vast hoards of people heard these men and were saved. This brought a mighty societal impact in England, Scotland, Wales, and the American Colonies which averted the ravages of the godless French Revolution of 1789 that gave us Robespierre and the guillotine. Could it be that the humiliation through which the Puritans went in 1675 was the catalyst to drive them to seek God earnestly, which eventually brought the Great Awakening some sixty years later?
My brethren, should we not confess how vile, wicked, and perverse we are as a nation? We rightfully grieve the three thousand who died on September 11, 2001 in the Twin Towers in Manhattan, but let us not forget that three thousand die every day from abortion in the U.S. The owner of the largest abortion mill in Florida has said that young women from evangelical churches in his city are his major clients. Evangelicals talk of the sanctity of heterosexual marriage in condemning same sex marriages, but our divorce rate is as high, if not higher, than secular people in our culture. There are apparently PCA elders who are members of the Aryan nation movement. I am told that the vast majority of young men making application to a particular ministry as full time workers are addicted to pornography. The words of Jesus to the church at Sardis are true of the evangelical church today: ‘We have a name that we are alive but we are dead’ (Rev. 3:1). Can we not agree, therefore, that our ordinary means of promoting moral reformation has failed! Business as usual is not working. We have never had more money, more preachers, more education, more planning than today, but we continue to lose ground. Should we not ask ourselves if we too are perpetually in a state of degeneracy and apostasy?
What, then, must we do? We must gain a humble and contrite spirit. But how? We cannot merely work ourselves up into a spiritual frenzy. We must, as Isaiah does in Isaiah 66, begin with God. Heaven is Yahweh’s throne. He is transcendent and clothed with splendour and majesty. Indeed he is able to say, ‘I am God and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating calamity. I am the Lord who does all of these’ (Isa. 45:6-7). He is majestic, sovereign, holy, all powerful. Should we not tremble before the One who holds our very eternal souls in his hands? But the earth is also his footstool. God is immanent. He stoops to our weakness. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways. Even before there is a word on your tongue, the Lord knows it all. Even before you make request of your Father, he hears you. Thus you can pour out your heart to him. He is a refuge for you. You can call upon him in a day of trouble and he will deliver you so that you may glorify him. Get a fresh and experiential glimpse of God’s transcendence and immanence. Then ask the Holy Spirit to show you your sin, especially the sins of pride, unbelief, and rebellion.
My brethren, we are in danger of perishing as a church and nation. Without revival we are doomed. How so? Obviously I cannot predict the specifics of our doom, but it does not take much imagination to see how this may play out in the years ahead. As has happened in the Middle East, North Africa, and increasingly so in Western Europe, we could find ourselves under the dominion of Islam. We could become a third rate military and economic power and thus be more and more vulnerable to invasion by jihad. We could very well face an economic meltdown unlike anything in our history. What would happen if we had twenty-five percent unemployment? Can you imagine the rioting in the streets that could result? If we face a continued downgrade morally with the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, then your children and grandchildren twenty years from now could be fired for putting forth the traditional and biblical view of marriage. Think of the hoopla over Chick-fil-A’s mild support of biblical marriage!
What are we doing? How can we continue as we are? Where is the intolerable burden? Are we not as Nero, fiddling while Rome burns? Do you not think we deserve wrath and indignation due to our contentiousness, due to our disobedience, and neglect of God’s law (Rom. 2:9-11)? What else can we do? Where else can we go? Should we not humble ourselves and seek God earnestly for his mercy and grace?
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading Spurgeon 15 December 2020
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, a village in the county of Essex in the east of England, on 19 June, 1834. He went to be with Christ from Mentone, France, on the evening of Sunday 31 January, 1892. During his lifetime he became perhaps the greatest preacher in the English-speaking world, of his […]
Living in the World 6 November 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * LIVING in the world. How are Christians to live in the world? The question can be answered in many ways. The topic is potentially vast in scope — that becomes more […]