10 November, 2008

Fellowship with God in Affliction - Andrew Bonar and Samuel Rutherford

"I see plainly that fellowship with God is not means to an end, but is to be the end itself. I am not to use it as a preparation for study or for Sabbath labour; but as my chiefest end, the likest thing to heaven." Andrew Bonar - Friday, 21st of July, 1843.

Not all have the same manner of temptation mentioned above by Andrew Bonar in his Diary. He of course is specifically discussing the difficulty faced by ministers when tempted to meet with God solely to prepare sermons, etc. Nonetheless, I am quite sure that we all struggle with perceiving the glories, blessedness and beauty of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ.

Why get up early, block off time in the day or stay up late at night in order to meet with God? Undoubtedly there are many true answers to this: we see it exemplified in Scripture, it is how we grow in our enjoyment of the blessings of Christ, etc. However, when engaged in such times of devotional fellowship with God, does such a thought as that mentioned by Rev. Bonar cross our minds? Do we realize that this is the end or goal?

It is often the case that those afflicted by God's sovereign hand, find more delights and satisfaction in Christ than previous to such times. Rev. Bonar himself had recently lost his intimate friend and co-labourer, Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Moreover he and many other ministers had recently experienced the Disruption from the Church of Scotland. Perhaps it is that we, having had much by the way of ease and abundance, will soon learn the glories of fellowship with God. There is a need among God's people throughout the world and especially in our homeland to learn the glories, the beauties and the ultimate joy of fellowship with Christ. Did Christ truly satisfy all those who claim him as Savior, I am sure that much of what passes today as worship and church activities would utterly vanish. For, if Christ truly satisfied, there would be no desire for these childish games that often pass for piety and religion.

I am convinced that the more and more we lose our satisfaction with Christ, the more we will continue to see a rise of ceremonies amongst so-called Reformed Churches . Why should it be any different? The very ceremonies we see returning to these denominations and congregations have a foundation in the Old Covenant, which, in their original context, witnessed of a Christ to come. The more we lose our satisfaction and delight in our Lord, the more we will rest upon ceremonies, liturgies and a whole host of replacements.

What is the answer to such issues before us today? It is simply, but painfully, to find an earnest delight in our present and reigning Lord. The more that true, simple and experiential fellowship is shared with Jesus, the less attractive all of these replacements will become.

Samuel Rutherford, writing from Aberdeen as an exile from his ministerial charge, learned the glories of fellowship with Christ. "Oh, if my soul might but lie within the smell of his love, suppose I could get no more but the smell of it! Oh, but it is long to that day when I shall have a free world of Christ's love! O what a sight to be up in heaven, in that fair orchard of the new paradise, and to see and smell and touch and kiss that fair field-flower, that ever-green Tree of Life! His bare shadow were enough for me. A sight of him would be the earnest of heaven to me...Christ, Christ, nothing but Christ can cool our love's burning langour. O thirsty love! wilt thou set Christ, the well of life, to thy head, and drink thy fill? Drink and spare not; drink love and be drunken with Christ! Nay, alas! the distance betwixt us and Christ is a death. O, if we were clasped in [each] other's arms! We should never twin [separate] again, except heaven twinned and sundered us; and that cannot be."

May the Lord grant us such desires for Jesus Christ.

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