Faithfulness is a Branch of Holiness

Robert Traill (Stedfast Adherence to the Profession of our Faith), Works 3:68:

Rosa sp.181Holiness is a name of God hateful to all sinners, and very awful to believers. When the purity, the spotlessness of his holiness is seen, what sad reflections usually does it occasion? But thou art holy: But I am a worm, says the Psalmist, and no man, Ps. 22:3, and 6. When God’s holiness was proclaimed before Isaiah, Woe is me, says he, for I am undone, chap. 6:5. Can there be any encouragement for faith from God’s holiness? A great many Christians’ main fear arises from his holiness. Now I am to show you, that the name of his holiness is a great consideration for strengthening faith. Faithfulness, if I may so call it, is a piece of holiness; faithfulness is a branch of holiness, so that as God cannot do any thing that is evil, so he cannot break his word. Then he swears by his holiness; as if he would say, “Take me for no holy God, if ever I fall short of my word of promise.”



Men Will Allow God To Be Everywhere Except On His Throne

Spurgeon, Divine Sovereignty:

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.

There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of his own hands—the throne of God, and his right to sit upon that throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on his throne.

They will allow him to be in his workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean;

but when God ascends his throne, his creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and his right to do as he wills with his own, to dispose of his creatures as he thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on his throne is not the God they love.

They love him anywhere better than they do when he sits with his sceptre in his hand and his crown upon his head.”

Source:, Comment 2

Man Would Make Himself The Rule Of God

Stephen Charnock (Works, Vol. 1, pp. 216-219):

Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship, provided he will walk by our rule. “This commits a riot upon his nature, To think him to be what we ourselves ‘would have him, and wish him to be’ (Psalm 50:21), we would amplify his mercy and contract his justice; we would have his power enlarged to supply our wants, and straitened when it goes about to revenge our crimes; we would have him wise to defeat our enemies, but not to disappoint our unworthy projects; we would have him all eye to regard our indigence, and blind not to discern our guilt; we would have him true to his promises, regardless of his precepts, and false to his threatenings; we would new mint the nature of God according to our models, and shape a God according to our own fancies, as he made us at first according to his own image;” instead of obeying him, we would have him obey us; instead of owning and admiring his perfections, we would have him strip himself of his infinite excellency, and clothe himself with a nature agreeable to our own. This is not only to set up self as the law of God, but to make our own imaginations the model of the nature of God.

Corrupted man takes a pleasure to accuse or suspect the actions of God: we would not have him act conveniently to his nature; but act what doth gratify us, and abstain from what distastes us. Man is never well but when he is impeaching one or other perfection of God’s nature, and undermining his glory, as if all his attributes must stand indicted at the bar of our purblind reason: this weed shoots up in the exercise of grace. Peter intended the refusal of our Saviour s washing his feet, as an act of humility, but Christ understands it to be a prescribing a law to himself, a correcting his love (John 13:8, 9).

This is evidenced . . . . In disapproving the methods of God’s government of the world. If the counsels of Heaven roll not about according to their schemes, instead of adoring the unsearchable depths of his judgments, they call him to the bar, and accuse him, because they are not fitted to their narrow vessels, as if a nut-shell could contain an ocean. As corrupt reason esteems the highest truths foolishness, so it counts the most righteous ways unequal. Thus we commence a suit against God., as though he had not acted righteously and wisely, but must give an account of his proceedings at our tribunal. This is to make ourselves God’s superiors, and resume to instruct him better in the government of the world; as though God hindered himself and the world, in not making us of his privy council, and not ordering his affairs according to the contrivances of our dim understandings.

Is not this manifest in our immoderate complaints of God’s dealings with his church, as though there were a coldness in God’s affections to his church, and a glowing heat towards it only in us? Hence are those importunate desires for things which are not established by any promise, as though we would overrule and over persuade God to comply with our humor. We have an ambition to be God’s tutors and direct him in his counsels: “Who hath been his counsellor?” saith the apostle. Who ought not to be his counsellor? saith corrupt nature. Men will find fault with God in what he suffers to be done according to their own minds, when they feel the bitter fruit of it. When Cain had killed his brother, and his conscience racked him, how saucily and discontentedly doth he answer God! (Gen. 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since thou dost own thyself the rector of the world, thou shouldst have preserved his person from my fury; since thou dost accept his sacrifice before my offering, preservation was due as well as acceptance. If this temper be found on earth, no wonder it is lodged in hell. That deplorable person under the sensible stroke of God’s sovereign justice, would oppose his nay to God’s will (Luke 16:30): “And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent.” He would presume to prescribe more effectual means than Moses and the prophets, to inform men of the danger they incurred by their sensuality. David was displeased, it is said (2 Sam. 6:8), when the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah, not with Uzzah, who was the object of his pity, but with God, who was the inflicter of that punishment.

When any of our friends have been struck with a rod, against our sentiments and wishes, have not our hearts been apt to swell in complaints against God, as though he disregarded the goodness of such a person, did not see with our eyes, and measure him by our esteem of him? as if he should have asked our counsel, before he had resolved, and managed himself according, to our will, rather than his own. If he be patient to the wicked, we are apt to tax his holiness, and accuse him as an enemy to his own law. If he inflict severity upon the righteous, we are ready to suspect his goodness, and charge him to be an enemy to his affectionate creature. If he spare the Nimrods of the world, we are ready to ask, “Where is the God of judgment?” If he afflict the pillars of the earth, we are ready to question, where is the God of mercy? It is impossible, since the depraved nature of man, and the various interests and passions in the world, that infinite power and wisdom can act righteously for the good of the universe, but he will shake some corrupt interest or other upon the earth; so various are the inclinations of men, and such a weather-**** judgment hath every man in himself, that the divine method he applauds this day, upon a change of his interest, he will cavil at the next. It is impossible for the just orders of God to please the same person many weeks, scarce many minutes together. God must cease to be God, or to be holy, if he should manage the concerns of the world according to the fancies of men.

How unreasonable is it thus to impose laws upon God! Must God revoke his own orders? govern according to the dictates of his creature? Must God, who hath only power and wisdom to sway the sceptre, become the obedient subject of every man’s humor, and manage everything to serve the design of a simple creature? This is not to be God, but to set the creature in his throne: though this be not formally done, yet that it is interpretatively and practically done, is every hour’s experience.

Is God The Author Of Sin?

This raises the perennial theological and philosophical issue of the relationship of God to evil. If God is sovereign, does this mean that He is the author of sin? And if God is sovereign, does this not make our decision-making a fiction and not a reality? And does this not also imply that the universe is like a computer, carrying out the pre-programming of a sovereign software specialist with no real liberty of its own? To all three questions, the Westminster Confession of Faith responded with a negative: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (3.1)…

Read more:

Angels Grow In Knowledge

Stephen Charnock (Works, Vol. 1, p. 71):

[Angels] engage in this work for the church with delight; they act as God’s ministers in his providence with a unanimous consent: Ezek, 1.9, “Their wings were joined one to another;” so that they perform their office with the same swiftness, and with the same affection, without emulation to go one before another, which makes many actions succeed ill among men; but they go hand in hand. They do it with affection, both in respect of the kind disposition of their natures, and as they are fellow-members of the same body, for they are parts of the church and of the heavenly Jerusalem: Heb.12.22, “Ye are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the firstbom,” and therefore act out of affection to that which is a part of their body, as well as out of obedience to their head. They do it in respect of their own improvement too, and increase of their knowledge (which is the desire of all intellectual creatures); for they complete their understandings by the sight of the methods of infinite wisdom in the perfecting his gracious designs. And it is God’s intent that they should grow in the knowledge of his great mystery by their employment: Eph. 3.10, “To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” By the gracious works of God towards the church, and in the behalf of it, for the security and growth of the church, and in the executions of those decrees which as instruments they are employed in; for I do not understand how it can be meant of the knowledge of Christ, for that they know more than the church below can acquaint them with: for without question they have a clear insight into the offices of Christ, who is the head, and whom they are ordered to worship. They understand the aim of his death and resurrection, and can better explain the dark predictions of Scripture, than purblind man can. But by observing the methods which God uses in the accomplishment of them, they become more intelligent, and commence masters of knowledge in a higher degree, which it is probable is one reason of their joy, when they see God’s infinite wisdom and grace in the conversion of a sinner; without affection to them, and their employment about them, they could not rejoice so much. And their rejoicing in their first bringing in to God, argues their joy in all their employments which concerns their welfare.​

Source:, Comment 1

The Absolute Purity and Perfection of God’s Nature

Hugh Binning, Works, p. 302:

Here is represented to us the absolute purity and perfection of God’s nature, – “God is light, and in him is no darkness.” Besides the purity of the light of knowledge, there is a purity of the beauty of holiness. The glorious light of God’s virtue, and power, and wisdom, is communicated to all the creatures. There is an universal extent of his influence towards the good and bad, as the sun shines on both, and yet there is no spot nor stain upon his holiness or righteousness, from all his intermingling with the creatures, the worst and basest creatures. All his works are holy and righteous, even his works in unholy and unrighteous men. He draws no defilement from the basest of the creatures, nor yet from the sinfulness of it. He can be intimately present and conjoined in working, in virtue and power, in care and providence with the dirt and mire of the streets, with the beasts of the field, and yet that is no stain upon his honour or credit, as men would suppose it to be, no more than it is a dishonour to the sun to shine on the dunghill. In a word, there is no mixture of ignorance, darkness, impurity, or iniquity in him, not the least shadow of change or turning, not the least seed of imperfection. In regard of him, the moon is not clean, and the sun is spotted. In respect of his holiness, angels may be charged with folly.


Tokens of the Divine Displeasure

I recently read a fascinating book entitled “Tokens of the Divine Displeasure: In the Late Conflagrations of New York and Other Judgments” by James R. Willson, D.D. (available on Google books here). In this book, the author sets out to prove a thesis I was taught to mock in public school: namely, the idea that the calamities that happen in cities and nations are not the product of mere chance but rather evidences of divine displeasure on God’s part toward regional and national sins. This does not mean that every individual in a region is necessarily guilty of provoking God, however, for often the innocent have to suffer along with the guilty when divine displeasure is manifested. As evidence in support of his thesis, the author argues that the calamities befalling New York in his time relate directly to that state’s particular provocations against God. Below is a summary of the cause-effect relationship drawn.

The Initial Provocations – Refusal to Acknowledge the God of Heaven and Mocking His Religion

In January 1832, a motion was made to abolish prayer in the New York State Legislature, for which clergy were paid a combined total of $750 annually. Arguments in favor of the motion were that many legislators did not believe in prayer, the legislators did not comport themselves in a respectful manner while prayer was being offered, the constitution excluded religion from politics, legislative prayer violated the separation of church and state, the constitution forbade favoring Christianity over other religions, etc. Willson writes,

All these reasonings, if they may be honored with that name, were mingled with malevolent insinuations and attacks on the religion of Jesus, as fanaticism, and unworthy of the countenance of liberal and enlightened men (p 4).

The motion failed. However, efforts to abolish legislative prayer continued, coupled with efforts to abolish all laws “respecting the sanctification of the Lord’s day.” A committee formed to study the issue recommended abolishing legislative prayer but did not touch on the question of the Lord’s day. Willson writes,

This had been expected from the complexion of the committee, and was probably intended, when they were appointed. The christian religion was treated with scorn and derision in the report, and its votaries represented as misguided fanatics (p 5).

In January 1833, the motion to abolish legislative prayer was put forward again and once more failed, although the number of declared non-Christians voting for the motion had increased. Even so, after all but one of the ministers called to the chaplaincy refused the office for various reasons, the law authorizing the clergy pay was then rescinded. From that time forward, the practice of prayer ceased in the New York legislature. Willson describes the situation this way:

Thus is exhibited the painful spectacle, of a people greatly prospered in the bounty of Heaven – a people who have the oracles of the living God in nearly every family – a people among whom there are thousands of christian churches ; such a people proclaiming by their representatives, in the face of the nations, that they do not and will not look to the God of Heaven for his favour or protection as a commonwealth. What christian, nay, what pagan nation has ever done a deed like this? (p 6)

In addition to the above, in 1832, the Dutch Reformed Church had petitioned both the President of the United States of America and the Governor of New York to proclaim a fast day since “the land was threatened with an alarming visitation of God” (p 6). Both politicians refused for the same reasons given in the original motion to the New York Legislature, although New York later did proclaim a day of fasting after being visited with the following calamities.

The First Calamity – The Long Winter

1. The winter of 1831-1832 was exceptionally long and harsh. The devastation to New York’s farming industry alone was about $25,000,000.

Further Provocation – Lack of Discernment and Repentance

The people generally did not view the devastating winter as a judgment from God. In short, their hearts were hardened. Further calamities followed.

Further Calamities – Weather, War, and Pestilence

2. Massive spring flooding in 1832 destroyed farms, bridges, and villages, grinding travel, trade, etc. to a halt.

3. Native Americans attacked several western settlements, killing many and destroying property. Survivors had to flee for their lives.

4. Rumblings from the South hinted at a coming civil war.

5. Cholera broke out mainly in New York State.

A Further Provocation – Continuing Lack of Repentance

When the cholera subsided, the people still refused to acknowledge the God of heaven.

A Further Calamity – Pestilence Again

6. In late June 1832, cholera broke out in New York City.

Even Further Provocation – Deliberate Refusal to Acknowledge God

At this point, on July 2-3, 1832, a motion was put before the City of Albany, New York, to proclaim a day of fasting to God. It was never voted on. Willson writes:

The corporation sat to a late hour engaged in the discussion, until the mover perceiving that there was a majority opposed to the measure, many even making it the subject of profane banter, did not press it on a vote (p 9).

Even Further Calamities – Pestilence and Economic Devastation

7. On July 3, 1832, cholera broke out again. Two people died.

8. On July 4, 1832, Independence Day festivities were all but cancelled. Instead, the largest church in the city was overflowing with people. No new case of cholera broke out.

9. On July 5, 1832, cholera broke out again and spread beyond New York state. Thousands of people began dying each week. Of all the States, New York was the hardest hit. Thousands of its citizens died and its economy took a loss of at least $15,000,000.

Yet More Provocation – Continual Refusal to Repent and Turn to God

Still the people hardened their hearts. They responded just as Americans did after September 11, 2001: “the bricks have fallen down; we will rebuild with hewn stone.” In addition, there was a presidential election and “Faction raged with unprecedented violence.”

Yet More Calamity – Pestilence Spreads

10. In the summer of 1833, cholera spread to the southern and western states.

Continued Provocations – Spreading Unrepentance and Continued Support for Slavery

The southern and western states did not engage in any widespread repentance for their sins, the chief of which in the south was slavery. Since slavery had continued on for years without being abolished, and since northerners were tired of waiting for that abolishment to come, a number of Anti-Slavery Societies were started in the north in the summer of 1833.

In May 1834, when attempts were made to celebrate an anti-slavery society’s anniversary, pro-slavery riots broke out in New York City. The anti-slavery societies doubled down and increased their efforts at having slavery abolished.

In May 1835, the Anti-Slavery society held its annual meeting with no open opposition. However, supporters of slavery were increasingly alarmed at the growing opposition to their practice.

Not long after the meeting, a mob of pro-slavery supporters attacked the mail and destroyed numerous anti-slavery documents being send to the south. The Postmaster General of the United States refused to intervene and essentially gave carte-blache to the pro-slavery protesters. The Postmaster of Charleston, South Carolina, then asked the Postmaster of New York not to convey any more anti-slavery documents through the postal service. The New York Postmaster complied.

Continued Calamity – Devastating Fire

11. On August 12, 1835, just after the New York Postmaster’s decision, a severe fire broke out in New York City, decimating an entire city block that mainly consisted of bookstores and printing presses. Willson notes the great irony of this judgment:

“Such a destruction of literature by fire, never before occurred in the city. The newspaper press had generally been active in the incitement of the mobs – it had apologized for oppression, it was a great source of revenue to the post office department ; and it suffered very severely in this conflagration. About forty buildings, in the heart of the city, the greater part of them sumptuous edifices, were laid to ruins, and the destruction of property amounted to about one million of dollars. The arguments and remonstrances of the friends of human liberty had been met, not with sober reasoning, but with the outcry of “ incendiary !” “incendiary !” and divine Providence sent on the city a real burning, which destroyed in a few hours the fruits of many years of painful industry (p 14).

Even More Provocations – Lack of Discernment and Obstinate Support for Slavery

The people did not realize they were under the heavy hand of God’s judgment.

The south began to threaten the union. The wealthy of the north united behind the south and expressed sympathy and support for its circumstances. In a situation reminiscent of today’s college campuses, Willson notes that “these slavery, sympathetic meetings were followed up by mobs and riots to put down by open violence all discussion” (p 15). At least 30 people were killed in the riots, which were neither restrained nor contained by law enforcement.

In November 1835, a pro-slavery mob twice shut down an anti-slavery meeting in Utica under threats of violence. The meeting had to be moved 20 miles away for its completion. Here Willson makes a chilling observation: “Mobs in all countries have preceded persecution… It has been and doubtless is the intention of many that persecution by the civil arm, shall become the sequel of the doings of the mobs in this land” (page 16). Both northerners and southerners called on government officials to oppress those opposed to their respective positions.

Then the President of the United States spoke out in favor of slavery and denounced the abolition movement. He went so far as to call on legislators to make it illegal to send anti-slavery documents through the mail in the south. His comments essentially promoted the outlawing of any anti-slavery sentiment altogether.

Willson comments on this situation with a lengthy discourse on the sinfulness of slavery, which is summarized here. Concerning how this situation was a provocation to God, clinging to the practice of slavery in the south was especially egregious before God because slavery is a sin, slavery was being practised in a supposedly free nation, the nation had been abundantly blessed by God, the nation had ample access to God’s teachings on slavery, the nation claimed that all men were born free and equal, the slaves had never wronged their owners or deserved to be made slaves, and the practice had gone on for many generations.

Even More Calamity – Massive Fire in New York

12. On December 16-17, 1835, New York City suffered a massive fire. The fire devastated the financial and business districts of the city and destroyed a post office. It also consumed a Dutch Reformed Church and many mansions. At least $20,000,000 damage was caused.

The Reason for the Severer Judgment: The People’s Sins and National Transgressions

Ministers of the time identified the people’s sins as being greed, misimprovement of Gospel ordinances, inordinate sensual indulgence, pursuit of the lusts of the flesh and eye and the pride of life. To this list, Willson adds countenancing continued oppression in the land. New York City was the centre of slavery promotion, mob violence, national commerce, literature, and intelligence.

Of the calamity, Willson writes

A great calamity, crippling for a time her energies, ought not to be viewed merely as a visitation of Heaven for the personal sins of her citizens, but as a judgment of God upon the land for flagrant national transgression. As the judgment has been inflicted before the world, the sin which it chastises, is likely to have been committed in sight of the universe (p 34)…

The dispensation is known and felt by all to be awfully severe ; and the judgment has fallen on those chiefly who had the most intimate connections with southern merchants and planters, and who on that account had been most forward in their apologies for the oppression of their coloured population (p 37-38).

Further judgments were already on the horizon if the American people did not repent and change their ways. In 1836, these included the Indian War and the possibility of war with Mexico. It should be noted that 25 years after this book was published, the American Civil War broke out in 1861.

The lesson to be learned:

“[N]ational calamities are sent to punish national sins…. It is the award of the common conscience of all nations that God punishes with visible judgments, flagrant sins” (p 39).

“It is great transgressions, publicly committed and persevered in after remonstrance, that bring on a land judgments, which arrest the attention of all, whether they ascribe them to the finger of God or not (p 40).