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Old Dogs

Category Articles
Date December 27, 2021

Perhaps you have been disappointed and distressed by tales in the past year of men, often prominent men, who have departed from the faith. Some have drifted from the truth, others have given themselves to particular sins, several have adopted crass fads and carnal fashions. In some cases, you were sadly unsurprised. In others, you knew nothing but shock and distress. Christian and secular news media seem to delight in dwelling upon such failures and miseries. Christians are left wondering, perhaps, who they can trust, and even whether anything is real.

So let me tell you about some old dogs. They don’t know any new tricks, and they seem happily disinclined to learn them. It has been my privilege in the last few months to hear these old dogs bark. All of them are in their sixties, seventies and eighties. One or two of them you might know, most of them you have probably never heard of. All of them are more or less retired from formal pastoral ministry; each of them continues to serve as he is able. There they are, and there they have stood.

One preached heaven with all the earnestness of a man newly converted, but speaking of the excellence of the world to come with the insight of a man who has contemplated his own advancing years. He preached as a man closer to the borders of eternity than his congregation.

One pleaded with sinners with a winsomeness and a directness that I have rarely heard, taken up with the glory of the Mediator whom he has so long served, professing privately that he wants to preach the gospel in a way that he thinks he failed to do in his younger years.

One declared the holiness of the Lord with sober joy, full of wonder that such a God should manifest himself in mercy to sinners like us, and urging those who heard to consider the privileges of knowing the salvation that is revealed in the Christ.

One spoke of the folly of sin, and the horror of sinful men coming face to face with an offended God, and of the sufferings of a Saviour who drank the cup of divine wrath to its very dregs so that sinners like us might be spared the condemnation we deserve. His warnings were abrupt, his pleadings plain.

One spoke with whipcrack clarity of the centrality of Christ and the glory of his gospel, calling us to die to self in the service of Christ with a humble intensity that penetrated the souls of those present.

One laboured to make us see something of the goodness and glory of Christ as it is portrayed across the whole Scriptures, calling us to rejoice over the multiplied goodnesses of God toward us as creatures and as sinners and as sons.

Most of these men preached through pain and weariness. Several of them are suffering from particular afflictions, typical of their age and stage of life. Some of them were suffering as they spoke. Several of them bear the scars of Christ, the wounds of disappointments, betrayals and rejections picked up over a lifetime of faithful service. Each of them has stories of wonderful grace to recount, the testimonies of divine favour scattered over decades. All of them are still preaching the same gospel which they preached when they began. The old dogs still bark, and they still have bite.

I know why we sometimes bemoan the lack of younger preachers and mourn the grievous disappointments of the present day. Let us not forget the faithful older ministers. If we look across a landscape scarred by uprooted trees, fear about skies dotted with dry clouds, shudder at raging seas with waves foaming with shame, and grieve over the wandering stars that fade into darkness, let us not forget the faithfulness of God to and through his trusty servants. These faithful men were young once; now they are old, but they have not forgotten God, nor has he forgotten them. You may not know—may never know, on this earth—the men whom I have heard, but I hope you have your own such memories and experiences. Such men are monuments of divine mercy, tokens of heavenly favour to the church, and blessed reminders that God does not change and his kingdom does not fail. Do not, then, despair; do not lose hope. These men are who and what they are because the Lord has saved them, kept them, sent them, and used them. Grizzled they may be, but faithful they remain. There’s life in God’s old dogs yet, and they can still set the tone for the young pups.

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    Perhaps you have been disappointed and distressed by tales in the past year of men, often prominent men, who have departed from the faith. Some have drifted from the truth, others have given themselves to particular sins, several have adopted crass fads and carnal fashions. In some cases, you were sadly unsurprised. In others, you […]

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