The Sympathy of Christ – A Quote from J C Ryle

Today I read J C Ryle on John 11:30-37. In commenting on the Lord Jesus weeping at the grave of Lazarus he writes:

“It shows us, above all, that the Saviour in whom believers trust is a most tender and feeling Saviour. He is one who can be touched with sympathy for our infirmities. When we turn to him in the hour of trouble, and pour out our hearts before him, he knows what we go through, and can pity. And he is One who never changes. Though he now sits at God’s right hand in heaven, his heart is still the same that it was upon earth. We have an Advocate with the Father, who, when he was upon earth, could weep.”

J C Ryle Expository Thoughts on John Volume 2 Banner of Truth Trust 2020 p.197)

G B Macdonald

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The Pharisee and the Publican

In Luke 18:9-14 we read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Both these men went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, and the publican prayed. But it is the publican who went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee. His prayer was “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

In his work on The Pharisee and the Publican, John Bunyan writes concerning the Pharisee and the warning his example provides:

“For the Pharisee was not only a man that justified himself before men, but one that justified himself before God. And what was the cause of his so justifying himself before God; but that vain confidence that he had in himself and his works, which were both a cheat and a lie to himself.” (The Works of John Bunyan vol. 2 p. 227)

“So then that he that trusteth to his own righteousness, does it of unbelief of the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ to save him.” (The Works of John Bunyan vol. 2 p. 230)

And Bunyan writes of the Publican and his example:

“But again, the Publican by his confession, showeth a piece of the highest wisdom that a mortal man can show; because by so doing, he engageth as well as imploreth the grace and mercy of God to save him. You see by the text he imploreth it; and now I will shew you that he engageth it, and makes himself a sharer in it. ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.’ Pr. xxviii. 13. And again, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Jn. i. 9. [He engageth it]. In the promise of pardon, He shall find mercy; he shall have his sins forgiven.” (The Works of John Bunyan vol.2 p. 261)

G B Macdonald

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An Interesting Quote from John Owen – the Kingdom of Christ and the Jews

“There is not any promise anywhere of raising up a kingdom unto the Lord Christ in this world but it is either expressed, or clearly intimated, that the beginning of it must be with the Jews.” (A Puritan Golden Treasury, page 157, by I. D. E. Thomas: Banner of Truth Trust)

G B Macdonald

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Thanksgiving – A Quote from Thomas Watson

“See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication, yet little in gratulation. The apostle says, ‘In everything give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5.18). Why so, Because God makes everything work for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well; we thank any man that does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? God loves a thankful Christian.”

(All Things for Good by Thomas Watson, published by Banner of Truth Trust).

G B Macdonald

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The Victorious Death of Christ

In Luke 23:43-46 we read of the death of Christ at Calvary and some of the significant events that took place at and around that time. In these verses we read the following:

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Here we have the Promise of Victory. Jesus made this promise. He did not make it to a great king or prince of the earth, nor even to Peter or one of the apostles, but to the dying thief. A sinner who had lived very wickedly, and was now, as he himself admitted, receiving the due reward of his deeds, along with his fellow malefactor. The Saviour had a clear view that through His death this sinner would have life everlasting. That poor and wretched man, by the grace of God, looked by faith to Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He believed in Him as the King of the Jews, God’s appointed Messiah. As J C Ryle notes, ‘In his confession of sin he discovered repentance toward God. In his petition he discovered faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.’ What a promise was given him! He would be in paradise. As has been often observed, this man was in three states in one day – the state of nature, the state of grace and the state of glory. In this promise we also perceive the Saviour as being conscious of the victory He was accomplishing at Calvary as the Saviour of sinners.

Here we also have the Sign of Victory. The veil of the temple was rent in two. This sign was given by God in connection with the death of Christ. Given the significance of the temple, and this veil in particular, it was a wonderful sign! It signaled that it is only through Christ and His death that life and peace can be had with God. In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read: ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Here we have the Voice of Victory. The voice is that of Christ crucified. He dies in triumph. ‘And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.‘ As Matthew Henry notes, ‘When he complained of being forsaken, he cried, Eli, Eli, My God, my God; but, to show that that dreadful agony of his soul was now over, he here calls God Father, Christ made use of these words in a sense peculiar to himself as Mediator.’ He died in peace and would soon rise again, for that was a promise, noted (for example in Luke 18:31-33) He had made and would not break. How assured we should be that none who trust in Christ crucified shall be lost.

May you look by faith to Jesus Christ, whose promise in John 6:37 stands true and sure:

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

G B Macdonald

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John Owen on Grace and the Lord Jesus Christ

In ‘Communion with God,’ a Puritan Paperback, published by Banner of Truth Trust, the following quotation from John Owen is of interest:

“Grace is everywhere in Scripture ascribed to Jesus as his chief characteristic. He dwelt among us, ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). All who were before Christ were but symbols and representatives of grace. Only by Christ did grace come in truth and reality. ‘Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). ‘And of his fulness have we all received and grace for grace’ (John 1:16). That is, we have communion with Christ in grace. We receive from Jesus all manner of grace whatever. In grace, then, we have fellowship with Jesus.”

“In the apostolic blessing, grace is also ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor 13:14). Paul is so delighted with this that he makes it his motto (II Thess. 3:17,18). Paul makes these two – ‘Grace be with you’ and ‘The Lord Jesus be with you’ – equivalent expressions. Grace, then, is that which we are to receive from him. That grace which is revealed in the gospel is that grace by which we have fellowship with Jesus Christ. Christ is the headstone in the building of the temple of God, to whom ‘grace, grace’ is to be shouted (Zech. 4:7).”

[Quotation from Communion with God (Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law) Banner of Truth Trust 1991 p.45]

G B Macdonald

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Simon Peter’s Confession of Christ in Matthew 16:16

Recently, we looked in a morning sermon at Simon Peter’s Confession of Christ. He made this in the region of Caesarea Philippi, a rather obscure city and corner of the land, when compared with Jerusalem, where the Temple stood. So, it is in this world of sin, and often in places of obscurity, that believers in Christ join with Simon Peter in his expression of faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Matthew Henry has a helpful commentary on this incident, I might quote a little of what he says:

‘Peter’s answer is short, but it is full, and true, and to the purpose; Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the conclusion of the whole matter. The people called him a Prophet, that Prophet (John vi. 14); but the disciples own him to be the Christ, the anointed One. It was a great thing to believe this concerning one whose outward appearance was so contrary to the general idea the Jews had of the Messiah. He called himself the Son of Man; but they owned him to be the Son of the living God.’ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume p.84 Marshall, Morgan and Scott 1973 imprint)

May we then, as Matthew Henry notes, be calling upon Him, saying “Lord Jesus, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And may we be doing so, seeking the forgiveness of our sins through Him, who suffered and died at Calvary and rose again from the dead – even as He said he would.

As Peter states elsewhere of the Lord Jesus Christ – in Acts 4:12 – speaking when filled with the Holy Ghost:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

G B Macdonald

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Christ’s Intercession – A Quote from Thomas Watson

In All Things for Good (First published in 1663 as ‘A Divine Cordial’) Thomas Watson takes as his text, the well known and well loved portion in Romans 8:28

‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’

He notes in chapter 1 that: The Best Things Work for the Good of the Godly. Among such things as work for their good is the intercession of Christ in heaven. Note what he writes:


Christ’s Intercession works for good.

Christ is in heaven, as Aaron with his golden plate upon his forehead, and his precious incense; and He prays for all believers as well as He did for the apostles. ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for all them that shall believe on me’ (John 17:20). When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him; and He prays for three things. First, that the saints may be kept from sin (John 17:15). ‘I pray that thou wouldest keep them from the evil.’ We live in the world as in a pest-house; Christ prays that His saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times. Second, for His people’s progress in holiness. ‘Sanctify them’ (John 17:17). Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be anointed with fresh oil. Third, for their glorification: ‘Father, I will that those which thou hast given me, be with me where I am’ (John 17:24). Christ is not content till the saints are in His arms. This prayer, which He made on earth, is the copy and pattern of His prayer in heaven. What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This works for good.

G B Macdonald

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The Blessing of Drawing Near to God

In Psalm 73:28 the Psalmist Asaph makes the simple but precious statement, ‘But it is good for me to draw near to God…

He places his experience of drawing near to God in contrast to those of whom he writes in verse 27, ‘For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.’

Note first – His drawing near to God. What a wonder it is that any poor sinner, such as he was by nature and practice, could so write, ‘But it is good for me to draw near to God’. When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, they sought to hide from God, not draw near to God by of way seeking communion with God. As sinners, we cannot draw near to God, without drawing near to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one Mediator between God and men, as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5 ‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus‘. But, when a sinner, by the work of the Holy Spirit, is enabled to draw near to God, in and through Christ Jesus, there is a precious reality to such communion. In Hebrews chapter 7 the apostle points to the blessedness of the Christian gospel, when he writes in verse 19: ‘For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.‘ Later, in the same chapter, he writes of Christ, ‘Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.’

The Psalmist counted his drawing near to God a blessing. It was good for him to draw near to God. So too, it is good for us to draw near to God, through Christ. It is good for our soul. What greater good can there be, than to draw near to God in a way of pardon and acceptance? To draw near in prayer and praise. To draw near and receive comfort and strength for the Christian life through the word of God and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. We read, for example, in Philippians 4:6-7 words that are rich in consolation: ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’

May we too be able to say with Asaph, through faith in Christ – ‘But it is good for me to draw near to God…

G B Macdonald

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A Prayer for the Success of the Gospel among the Nations

In the short and well loved Psalm 67, we have prayer offered and blessings anticipated.

Appropriately, the prayer begins with a desire for mercy – “God be merciful unto us…” In our approaches to God, we should bear in mind that it is mercy we need. Mercy from first to last. The writer W. S. Plumer, in his extensive commentary of the Psalms, notes:

‘We shall have need to pray for mercy as long as we live, v.1. No child of God can go to a communion table, or leave this world with more fitting words on his lips than these: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We need mercy at every step. We shall need it to the last.’ (W S Plumer Studies in the Book of Psalms p.657 Banner of Truth)

Following on from mercy in verse 1, God’s blessing is sought and God’s favour. Then comes a desire for the blessings to be extended to others in verse 2, indeed, to whole nations of people. And what is it that is the true blessing of any individual or nation? It is the power and blessing of Christ in the gospel. The good news of a Saviour, who died and rose again and whose gospel is to be proclaimed among the nations.

So the prayer is: “That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.” And, in verse 4 – “O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.”

Note the refrain in verses 3 and 5 – “Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.”

And they shall praise God, when the gospel spreads and succeeds among the nations. This blessing is expected, as verses 6 and 7 show, “Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”

As Plumer notes, “Surely good times are coming. So the prophets declare; so the prayers of saints for centuries lead us to expect.” (W S Plumer Studies in the Book of Psalms p.658 Banner of Truth)

May we be encouraged by the words of this precious psalm, to pray that the Lord would bless many souls through the gospel of His grace in 2022 – in all the nations of the world.

G B Macdonald

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Lazarus’ Fellowship with Jesus at the Table

In John chapter 11 we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It was a mighty and impressive miracle. It was one of the signs that the Christ had come. In John chapter 12 we read that Lazarus was one who sat at the table for a meal with Jesus and others. Having been raised to life he was a witness for Christ. One thinks of the Lord’s people who have the privilege of sitting at the Lord’s Table. They too bear witness to the power of Jesus their Saviour. It is His table and they enjoy fellowship with Him and one another.

On the Sabbath evening of our Communion, I was encouraged to read in C H Spurgeon’s daily readings, the following entry for 21st November:


“Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.”
John 12:2

He is to be envied. It was well to be Martha and serve, but better to be Lazarus and commune. There are times for each purpose, and each is comely in its season, but none of the trees of the garden yield such clusters as the vine of fellowship. To sit with Jesus, to hear his words, to mark his acts, and receive his smiles, was such a favour as must have made Lazarus as happy as the angels. When it has been our happy lot to feast with our Beloved in his banqueting-hall, we would not have given half a sigh for all the kingdoms of the world, if so much breath could have bought them.

He is to be imitated. It would have been a strange thing if Lazarus had not been at the table where Jesus was, for he had been dead, and Jesus had raised him. For the risen one to be absent when the Lord who gave him life was at his house, would have been ungrateful indeed. We too were once dead, yea, and like Lazarus stinking in the grave of sin; Jesus raised us, and by his life we live–can we be content to live at a distance from him? Do we omit to remember him at his table, where he deigns to feast with his brethren? Oh, this is cruel! It behoves us to repent, and do as he has bidden us, for his least wish should be law to us. To have lived without constant intercourse with one of whom the Jews said, “Behold how he loved him,” would have been disgraceful to Lazarus; is it excusable in us whom Jesus has loved with an everlasting love? To have been cold to him who wept over his lifeless corpse, would have argued great brutishness in Lazarus. What does it argue in us over whom the Saviour has not only wept, but bled? Come, brethren, who read this portion, let us return unto our heavenly Bridegroom, and ask for his Spirit that we may be on terms of closer intimacy with him, and henceforth sit at the table with him.

What a blessing it was for Lazarus to have sat with Jesus Christ his Lord. May we truly appreciate the blessing the Lord’s people have when they join with their fellow believers in seeking to remember the Saviour and His death.

G B Macdonald

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Thomas Watson on Christ’s Intercession

Seeking to answer the question: “What does Christ in the work of intercession?” Thomas Watson gives three points by way of reply:

Firstly, “He presents the merit of his blood to his Father, and, in the virtue of that price paid, pleads for mercy. The high priest was herein a lively type of Christ. Aaron was to do four things. Kill the beasts. Enter with the blood into the holy of holies. Sprinkle the mercy-seat with the blood. Kindle the incense, and with the smoke of it cause a cloud to arise over the mercy-seat; and thus atonement was made. Lev xvi 11-16. Christ our high priest exactly answered to this type. He was offered up in sacrifice, which answers to the priest’s killing the bullock; and he is gone up into heaven, which answers to the priest’s going into the holy of holies; and he spreads his blood before his Father which answers to the priest’s sprinkling the blood upon the mercy-seat; and he prays to his Father, that for his blood’s sake, he would be propitious to sinners, which answers to the cloud of incense going up; and through his intercessions God is pacified, which answers to the priest’s making atonement.”

Secondly, “Christ by his intercession answers all bills of indictment brought in against the elect. Do what they can, sin, and then Satan, accuses believers to God, and conscience accuses them to themselves; but Christ, by his intercession, answers all these accusations. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? it is Christ that maketh intercession for us.’ Rom viii 33, 34. When Esculus was accused for some impiety, his brother stood up for him, and showed the magistrates how he had lost his hand in the service of the state, and so obtained his pardon: thus, when Satan accuses the saints, or when the justice of God lays anything to their charge, Christ shows his own wounds, and by virtue of his bloody sufferings answers all the demands and challenges of the law, and counterworks Satan’s accusations.”

Thirdly, “Christ, by his intercession, calls for acquittance. Lord, he says, let the sinner be absolved from guilt; and in this sense he is called an advocate. 1 John ii 1. He requires that the sinner be set free in the court. An advocate differs much from an orator; an orator uses rhetoric to persuade and entreat the judge to show mercy to another; but an advocate tells the judge what is law. Thus Christ appears in heaven as an advocate, he represents what is law. When God’s justice opens the debt-book, Christ opens the law-book. Lord, says he, thou art a just God, and wilt not be pacified without blood; lo, here the blood is shed, therefore in justice give me a discharge for these distressed creatures. The law being satisfied, the sinner should be acquitted. Upon Christ’s plea, God sets his hand to the sinner’s pardon.”

(A Body of Divinity: Thomas Watson, p.179,180 Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1978)

G B Macdonald

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Behold the Lamb of God! – John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus

In John chapter 1 we read several wonderful titles given to the Lord Jesus or to taken by Him. He is ‘the Word’, He is ‘the true Light’, He ‘the Christ’, he is ‘the Son of God’ and He is ‘the Son of man’. We also read that he is ‘the Lamb of God’.

It was John the Baptist who called Jesus, “the Lamb of God.” In verses 35-37 we read the following:

“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”

Here is a Person we must consider. That Person is the Jesus. We read that it was when looking upon Jesus as he walked that John said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” It was a bold declaration. John was deeply impressed by the Lord Jesus. He was the forerunner of Christ and the friend of the Bridegroom who could not but rejoice in the Bridegroom.

There are many important figures set forth in the Bible that we are to consider. We are to consider Adam. His place and position as the first man, his fall, and God’s dealings with him. We are to consider Abraham, God’s sovereign mercy towards him, God’s covenant dealings with him and his faith in God’s promise. We are to consider David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the great things he did but also his faults and failings. But above all we must consider Jesus. Even John the Baptist himself, godly man though he was, was not the Christ, for as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5 ‘…there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;’

Here is a work we must contemplate. The work of the atonement. The language John uses is instructive. It is the language of sacrifice and substitution. The disciples of John would be well enough versed with the Old Testament history. Perhaps you are too?

In Genesis 3 we read of God clothing Adam and Eve with skins. The skins were provided by the death of the animals whose they were. A covering was provided by God. In Genesis 4 we read of Abel and his offering. His offering was accepted whilst Cain’s was rejected. Abel offered by faith and his a offering was of blood, Cain’s was bloodless. The Passover in Egypt teaches us that, without shedding of blood there was no safety for the firstborn from the destroying angel. The whole system of Tabernacle and Temple worship was sacrificial. Isaiah 53 presents two major themes that point to Jesus as the suffering Saviour and the substitute who died in the room of others. ‘…and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). Take away the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus and there is no gospel of salvation from sin.

Here is an example we must follow. The two disciples of John, who heard him speak, followed Jesus. They followed Him on the ground of this witness. We too can hear John testify, for we can read these words, “Behold the Lamb of God.” We, as New Testament readers and hearers, know that this same Jesus, died on the cross and rose again. Our response should be that of faith in Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. If you read this message and you are not a believer in Christ, what are you trusting in to get to heaven? Will your own works save you? Do you not have need of Jesus? May you be enabled to cry to Jesus as another did, “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.”

G B Macdonald

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Christ’s Priestly Office – The Intercession of Christ

In seeking to answer the question What does Christ in the work of intercession? Thomas Watson begins thus:

‘He presents the merit of his blood to his Father, and, in virtue of that price paid, pleads for mercy. The high priest was herein a lively type of Christ. Aaron was to do four things. Kill the beasts. Enter with the blood into the holy of holies. Sprinkle the mercy-seat with blood. Kindle the incense, and with the smoke of it cause a cloud to arise over the mercy-seat; and thus atonement was made. Lev xvi 11-16. Christ our high-priest exactly answered to this type. He was offered up in sacrifice, which answers to the priest’s killing the bullock; and he is gone up into heaven, which answers to the priest’s sprinkling the blood upon the mercy-seat; and he prays to his Father, that for his blood’s sake, he would be propitious to sinners, which answers to the cloud of incense going up; and through his intercessions God is pacified, which answers to the priest’s making atonement.’ (A Body of Divinity – Banner of Truth 1978 p.179)

‘But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.’ (Hebrews 7:24-25)

G B Macdonald

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Thomas Watson on Providences and Promises

In his helpful book A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson has the following interesting point to make on the relation between God’s Providences and Promises:

‘God is to be trusted when his providences seem to run contrary to his promises. God promised to give David the crown, to make him king; but providence ran contrary to his promise. David was pursued by Saul, and was in danger of his life, but all this while it was David’s duty to trust God. Pray observe, that the Lord by cross providences often brings to pass his promise. God promised Paul the lives of all that were with him in the ship; but the providence of God seemed to run quite contrary to his promise, for the winds blew, the ship split and broke in pieces. Thus God fulfilled his promise; upon the broken pieces of the ship they all came safe to shore. Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to promises.‘ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, Banner of Truth Trust, 1978 p.123)

G B Macdonald

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Rev John Newton on Prayer and Searching the Scriptures

In a sermon on John 5:39 “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John Newton notes four things essential to searching the scriptures aright – Sincerity, Diligence, Humility and Prayer. On the importance of prayer, he notes the following:

“Prayer is indeed the best half of our business while on earth, and that which gives spirit and efficacy to all the rest. Prayer is not only our immediate duty, but the highest dignity, the richest privilege we are capable of receiving on this side eternity; and the neglect of it implies the deepest guilt, and includes the heaviest punishment. A stranger to prayer, is equally a stranger to God and happiness, “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,” James i. Are any of you, my friends, unacquainted with prayer? Then are you without God in the world, without a guide in prosperity, without resource in distress, without true comfort in life, and, while you continue so, without hope in death. But especially, you are utterly unqualified to “search the Scripture.” There is a veil upon the mind and heart of every man (as the Apostle assures us 2 Cor. iii.), so that he can neither see nor embrace heavenly truths, till this impediment is removed: the means of this is prayer. Therefore David says, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things our of thy law,” Ps. cxix. He knew there were wonderful things contained in the law, but confesses himself incapable of discerning them till the Lord should interpose. This he has promised to do in behalf of all who call upon him. But those who seek not assistance from God can find it no where else: for “every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights,” James i., who hath said, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” (The Works of John Newton Vol.2 p.328-329 Banner of Truth Trust)

G B Macdonald

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The City of God

In Psalm 46:4 we read of ‘the city of God’.

4. ‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.’

A city in this world is a place where people dwell. It has form and function. Ideally, it will be well provisioned and a safe place to live. In the Psalmist’s day a city would be surrounded by walls for defence.

The Existence of the City of God

We may think of the Church of Christ as the city of God. In Psalm 46 the city of God (probably a reference to Jerusalem) has a river which supplies it with water and the tabernacle of worship. In the visible church we have spiritual water. Spiritual refreshment for the believer. The work of the Holy Spirit, conveying spiritual blessings to the people of God. As the Bible commentator Matthew Henry notes, ‘God’s word and ordinances are rivers and streams with which God makes his saints glad in cloudy and dark days.’

In the church of Christ the worship of God is conducted week by week. It is a holy city, that is in the world but is not of the world.

The Endurance of the City of God

How shall such a city endure? Surely it will be assaulted but we have the assurance that it shall endure. ‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved, God shall help her and that right early.’ In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” God is in the midst of her. Jesus is the Son of God, He is divine. At Calvary, Jesus died in the midst of the malefactors. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared in the midst of His disciples – the assembled Church.

The One who dwells in the midst shall give help. He shall help her and that right early. The darkest hour is before the dawn. At the turning of day, light will come. So it was at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. When Jesus met his assembled disciples on the evening of that first Lord’s Day, he declared to them, “Peace be unto you” The first word to the Church gathered together was a message of peace from the Saviour Himself.

‘God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.’

G B Macdonald

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The Last Promise in Matthew’s Gospel

At the close of Matthew’s gospel, we have a final promise from Christ to His disciples. It forms part of the Great Commission and was designed to comfort and encourage them in view the great work He was giving them, to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments.

Matthew Henry makes some encouraging comments on the words, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

He writes:

‘They shall have his constant presence; Always – all days, every day. “I will be with you on sabbath days and week days, fair days and foul days, winter days and summer days.” There is no day, no hour of the day, in which our Lord Jesus is not present with his churches and with his ministers; if there were, that day, that hour, they were undone. Since his resurrection he had appeared to them now and then, once a week it may be, and scarcely that. But he assures them that they shall have his spiritual presence continued to them without intermission. Wherever we are the word of Christ is nigh us, even in our mouth, and the Spirit of Christ nigh us, even in our hearts.’

What an encouraging promise comes at the end of Matthew’s gospel. The abiding presence of Christ.

G B Macdonald

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The Blessing of Confidence in God

In commenting on Psalm 37, Matthew Henry notes, ‘This psalm is a sermon, and an excellent useful sermon it is…’ David was the Spirit-inspired writer of the great majority of the Psalms. He was one who prayed to God, praised God but also one who sought to teach others about God.

In this psalm, David teaches.

In verses 3-7 he teaches the people of God that they are to trust in the LORD, delight in Him, commit their way unto Him and rest in Him. In all these actions we recognise the grace of faith, which is to be prominent in the life of the believer.

‘Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.’ (Psalm 37:3-7)

Note the promises attached to such actions of faith. Promises that speak of the blessing attached to the exercise of faith in God in every situation.

Matthew Henry notes, ‘The life of religion lies much in a believing reliance on God, his favour, his providence, his promise, his grace, and a diligent care to serve him and our generation, according to his will.’

G B Macdonald

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David – Joyful in Midst of Trouble

At the final prayer meeting for 2020 we looked at Psalm 35:9

“And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.”

These are the words of David, a man beloved of God. In much of Psalm 35 David is calling upon God and praying for the help of the Most High. Clearly, he is passing through a time of trouble. Many enemies are set against him. Yet, in the midst of trouble, David can still reflect upon the joy he has in the LORD. Whatever else may be happening in his life, he has a God to go to and a salvation to rejoice in. This is also the case with the Christian.

2020 may have been a difficult year for you, but if you are a child of God and your hope and confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ you have reason for joy.

The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi – ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.’ (Philippians 4:4).

G B Macdonald

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A Quote from John Owen on the Lord’s Supper

In volume 9 of the Banner of Truth Trust series of the Works of John Owen, some sacramental discourses are included towards the end of the volume. These provide some precious thoughts and memorable quotations. The following quotation reminds us of the link between the Lord’s Supper and the Passover.

‘And here is also a representation made unto us of that satisfaction the soul of Christ received in the fruit of his travail, having appointed it in a particular manner to be done in remembrance of him. No man will appoint a remembrance of that which he doth not delight in. When Job had no more delight in his life, he desired that the time of his birth might never be remembered. When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, whereby he exalted his glory, he appointed a passover, and said, “It is a day greatly to be remembered.” Because the people had a great deliverance, and God received great glory and great satisfaction; therefore it was greatly to be remembered.” Because the people had a great deliverance, and God received great glory and great satisfaction; therefore it was greatly to be remembered. We are to celebrate this ordinance in remembrance of Christ; and therefore there is a representation of that satisfaction which Jesus Christ did receive in the travail of his soul: so that he never repented him of one groan, of one sigh, of one tear, of one prayer, of one wrestling with the wrath of God. It is matter of rejoicing, and to be remembered; and do you rejoice in the remembrance of it.’ (Owen volume 9 page 578 Banner of Truth Trust).

Jesus charged his disciples to remember His death till He come. Without His death there would be no gospel. When we are privileged to remember His death, we remember the death of Him who rose again. A sin-atoning death. A soul-saving death. As He said Himself:

“I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

G B Macdonald

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Water to Wine – Jesus’ First Miracle in Cana of Galilee

In John 2:11 we read ‘This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.’

How interesting to read that the Saviour began to work miracles, which were signs of His being the Son of God, and true and only Messiah, in Cana of Galilee. This was an obscure corner of the Promised Land. Yet even here there was a very important event – a marriage. However at this marriage there was a difficulty which threatened the joy of the occasion – they had no more wine. Wine was symbolic of rest and joy and was an important feature in a Jewish wedding. It was sad to think that, when Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the feast there should be anything to mar the occasion.

The Saviour’s command must have seemed strange. To fill the waterpots with water and yet bear out from them to the governor of the feast. However, the servants were obedient to His voice, as they had been told, ‘Whatsoever he saith to you, do it.’ The water was changed to wine – yea – the best of wine, as judged by the governor of the feast. This was a miracle and sign of the divine power of Jesus.

One wonderful result was upon the disciples. We read that they ‘believed on him.’ They would, of course, see many more mighty works done by the their Master to further confirm and strengthen their faith. Interestingly, Matthew Henry comments, ‘The beginning of Moses’ miracles was turning water into blood, the beginning of Christ’s miracles was turning water into wine, which intimates the difference between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ.’

The divine power and goodness of the Lord Jesus shone clearly in this miracle. If the disciples had their faith confirmed in the Messiah at this time, should we not consider how all the miracles bear witness to the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God and the Christ?

Note how this miracle can confirm faith in Christ as able to meet our unexpected needs. They had not anticipated not having enough wine but Jesus met the need in a timely way. So the Lord’s people may trust that, as C H Spurgeon notes, ‘Between here and heaven you will meet with a great many unlikely events; but they will not be surprises to him. He has clear foresight: when the trial comes he will provide…’

This miracle has a good message for God’s people to think on in these times.

G B Macdonald

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From Sorrow to Joy

In the ministry of Christ, we read of many miracles worked by the Saviour. Few perhaps, are so touching as the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead.

In Luke 8:54-55 we read, ‘And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.’

The house of mourning was turned to a house of rejoicing.

It was with a heavy heart and an anxious mind that the ruler of the synagogue first sought for Jesus. Interestingly, we read earlier in Luke chapter 8 of the Gadarenes who brought Jesus to depart from their country. Solemnly: He did so. This is sobering to think upon. When we remember how many by their words and deeds have no desire Jesus should come to, far less, remain in their land. What a good thing it is to read of Jairus, who met him on the other side of the lake and besought him to come to his house. He did so most earnestly, being burdened with concern for his loved one. May we also desire greatly the communion and help of Christ. Saying with the two on the way to Emmaus, ‘Abide with us…’

The Saviour most willingly accompanied Jairus to his house. Providence seemed to hinder the journey and must have alarmed Jairus as the crowd impeded speedy progress. But all was for holy and wise purposes. The woman with the issue of blood, who exercised faith in Jesus, was healed. She confessed how and this must have been for the encouragement of Jairus. Jesus, further spoke to him to steady his faith when the dread news arrived that his daughter was dead. When Jesus came to the house of mourning, he dismissed the mockers and without delay performed the miracle by His divine power. The actions that followed agreed with his touch and words – the maid arose.

The house of mourning was turned at that instant to a house of joy. But before joy took hold, there was astonishment. Much like the disciples themselves on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus stilled the storm. We read of that incident earlier in this same chapter of God’s word. “What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.” Might we not say, “What manner of man is this! For he commanded the dead one to arise and she did so.”

There is a day coming ‘when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.’ (John 5:25)

Are you ready of that day?

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”

In John 6:37 the the Lord Jesus Christ declares: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

G B Macdonald


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Daniel’s Prayer

In Daniel chapter 9 we read the account of an extensive prayer offered by Daniel to God. Let us notice three things: 1. The man who offered this prayer. 2. The prayer he offered. 3. The answer given.

Daniel is a man in the Bible who is strongly associated with prayer. He was a praying man. Such may not be said of every man, though given we all live in God’s creation and are accountable to him, all should be praying persons. It is clear from scripture that Daniel – one of the captive Jews in Babylon and latterly Persia – was man of great gifts and talents. Doubtless the wisdom of the man and his rise to power in two great world empires, was in the providence of God. How sad to think of people in positions of power being so unlike godly Daniel. Surely, of all people, such as have great power and responsibility ought to be people who pray. In the present Coronavirus trouble, how good it would be if our rulers would humble themselves before God as Daniel did.

This, humbling himself before God comes out as a striking theme of Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9. Note that he set his face to pray. He did not rush to pray but considered well the God to whom he addressed himself. Here is a lesson for us. If we think upon what the Bible tells us about God, we might be the more encouraged in our life of prayer. Yea, even the heavens declare the glory of God and so we are surrounded by that which reveals the glory of the God we call upon, whether by day or night. As we can see from chapter 9, Daniel’s prayer has much of confession of sin. Is confession of sin a feature of our prayers to God? The sinner who seeks to come before God in prayer, should be struck with a need to confess his sin and ask for mercy through Christ. Note that Daniel feels his sin is a part of the sin of the whole nation. Take verse 5 as an example, We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments…’ As well as confession of sin, there is in Daniel’s prayer, a seeking the favour of God for Jerusalem and His covenant people. For example in verses 18 and 19:

“O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”

It was as Daniel was praying that God gave him an answer. The angel Gabriel was sent with a message of peace and assurance of the coming of the Messiah. The praying man is called one ‘greatly beloved.’ So too the Christian, confessing sin and seeking pardon, mercy and blessing in and through Christ Jesus. Gabriel reveals wonderful things concerning the Messiah – which of course find their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, we need only turn to Luke chapter 1 to find the same Gabriel appearing to Zacharias in the Temple at Jerusalem and Mary in Nazareth. The incarnation of the Messiah is announced by the same angel to Mary who spoke with Daniel about the coming Messiah!

So there is great encouragement for us to address ourselves to God in prayer, seeking the seriousness, confession of sin and earnest supplication for mercy shown by Daniel in his prayer.

G B Macdonald

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The Ark and the Altar

The Flood in the days of Noah was a world changing event. It is also an event recorded in Holy Scripture. We know what the world was like before the Flood so we can appreciate why the Flood came. In Genesis chapter 6 we read that God was displeased with mankind. Violence and wickedness covered the earth. There was a flood of sin before there was a flood of divine judgment. We read that God looked upon the earth and saw the corruption of man very clearly.

‘And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’ (Genesis 6:12-13)

God promised judgment and judgment came. However, in great mercy God spared Noah and his family. Noah was given instructions on the divinely appointed means of escape he was to build. This ark would preserve him and his family from the impeding judgment. It is precious to consider that it did. The ark was a place of safety amid the rising flood that destroyed all mankind outside of it. The ark is a remarkable type of Christ. All who are found in Christ by faith are saved from the wrath to come. Jesus says in John 14:6 “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

When Noah came out of the ark he did something deeply instructive. He built an altar unto the LORD. Upon this altar he offered sacrifice to God. It is a touching scene. Surely all mankind were present at this service of worship. All 8 souls would have witnessed this offering. It was a giving of thanks for the preservation of life as well as a seeking of mercy from God for the future in a new and changed world. God accepted Noah’s offering as head of his house. When we find sacrificial offering accepted by God in the Old Testament we are to think of the Lord Jesus Christ and His offering at Calvary. By His death poor and needy sinners are saved, even a number that no man can number.

It becomes us, if we have been spared amidst the ravages of Covid 19, to return and give thanks to God. We have entered in some sense into a new world, things may not be the same as they were in many things. In Hebrews 13:15 we read of one way in which we may give thanks to God and acknowledge His greatness and our dependence on Him and that is by the sacrifice of praise. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.How thankful Noah was for sparing mercy and how thankful and humbled we should be likewise.

G B Macdonald



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Teach us to Number our Days

In Psalm 90:12 Moses the man of God writes, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Moses was a man who lived long enough to see much evidence of death. He stood beside the Red Sea with his fellow Israelites and saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians upon the sea shore. He witnessed the death of multitudes of the children of Israel in the wilderness during their weary wanderings.

Here is a lesson we are to learn – “teach us” The lesson is “to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”. We must learn that we shall not live here always. Surely the great numbers passing from time to eternity as a result of Covid 19, teach us man is mortal. Even a virus may take his life away. And this is but one of many ways in which our time on this earth may be brought to an end. Even when our days are lengthened, we may number them. We should take stock of our days in relation the 70 years suggested by Moses in v.10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten”, as the allotted span. Some fall far short of it, some meet it, a few exceed it and even then if 80 years (fourscore), it is grief and labour.

Here is the evidence of our having learned the lesson – “that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” If, by God’s grace, we take stock of the brevity of life in this world and apply our hearts to wisdom this is a great mercy. And what is the great wisdom we must lay hold of and apply our hearts unto? Surely it is to seek to have peace with God before death overtakes us. Given the uncertainty of life here, the seeking of salvation through faith in Christ is most urgent!

The little phrase “So teach us…” indicates to us that we need God to teach us in such a way as the lesson may be learned. Even Moses felt his need of this prayer. Even he needed to learn the lesson.

Covid 19 has laid many in the grave.

Is this your prayer?

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he the cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31)

G B Macdonald


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The Brazen Serpent

In recent months, with the pandemic of Covid 19, the world has been alerted to the vital work of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. There is a wide admiration for their work. God graciously provides help to the needy and for medical care we must give thanks, above all, to the One who has created us and is sustaining us in life.

In John 3:14 we read these words of Jesus – And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

In order to find the incident of healing that the Saviour refers to, we must turn to Numbers chapter 21. There we read of the sin of Israel. We also read of the judgment God brought upon them, and the deliverance He granted.

A provision was made in the wilderness. The Israelites had sinned against God in murmuring against God and Moses, His servant. God sent fiery serpents among the people which bit the people and a number died. Others bitten had the sentence of death in them. God graciously answered the prayer of Moses for the people and instructed His servant to fashion a serpent of brass and set it on a pole. The divine assurance was given that any who would look upon it would live. Many did so and lived.

So too, Jesus indicates, a provision is made in the gospel. We have sinned. But God has made provision of a Saviour – His own dear Son. The Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection is set forth in the gospel and we are to look by faith and live. Just as the brazen serpent in the wilderness was an object of faith, appointed by God, so too Jesus Christ, is appointed by God as that One mediator between God and men. If we look, we shall live.

The promise is clear, ‘whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ If the sinful, stricken Israelite looked to God’s appointed means of deliverance and healing, he would live. Whether physically near to that object, or distant from it. May we get grace to look to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, that we might live. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22).

G B Macdonald





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Sydney Communion – March 2020

At our recent communion here in Sydney, we had the privilege of the ministry of Rev C J Hembd from our Gisborne congregation in New Zealand. I am grateful to him for his assistance.

On Thursday morning, we looked at the notable case of Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9. He was one who was going on in great sin, persecuting the Church of Christ. We considered the journey he took and why he took it. Sadly, he thought that he did God service, even when he was actually greatly dishonouring the Lord by persecuting His people. But Jesus Christ, the risen and exalted Saviour, met with him and turned him from this ruinous course. As a result of this meeting, Saul was a profoundly changed man. So we were reminded that we all need to have personal dealings with Christ for He only can save us from our sins.

On Thursday evening, Psalm 43:2 was brought before our attention as a congregation by Rev Hembd. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.’ The Enemy, the Question, and the Petition, were the three heads of the sermon. A world that crucified Christ, will be inclined to persecute His people, except so far as it may be restrained by God. But the great enemy of the Christian is sin. The believer may question whether God has cast him off, so great is his struggle at times against sin, ‘For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…’ (Galatians 5:17). Surely the believer should pray for the leading and guidance of God, as David did in the text preached upon.

On Friday morning, we were encouraged in the duty of self-examination. The case of David in 2 Samuel 23:5 was cited. Firstly, his confession, that his house was not so with God as he might have wished. David was conscious of sin and fault in himself and in his family. Nevertheless, David had confidence, secondly, that in spite of this, God had made with him ‘…an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure…’. Everything necessary for his salvation was provided by God. So too with the Christian. The chain of blessings in Romans 8 was referred to as applicable to the Lord’s people, Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

On Friday evening, a fellowship meeting was held and the portion meditated upon was from Exodus 15:2 The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.’ This is part of the song of Moses and the children of Israel, which they sang at the Red Sea, when they recognised the deliverance God had given them from Pharaoh and his hosts, who had been utterly destroyed. Marks of grace were identified in those who, by God’s grace, have been saved from wrath through Christ.

On Saturday, by way of preparation, we looked at Luke 10:38-42 where we meet with Martha and her sister Mary, who were disciples of Jesus. The actions of Martha and Mary as disciples were considered and the verdict of Jesus was noted, in which he commended Mary. Application was made to the will of Christ expressed to His disciples in respect to the Lord’s Supper – “This do in remembrance of me.” It is their duty and privilege to obey.

On the Sabbath morning, the congregation was directed to Luke 24:25-27 where we read of the two on the way to Emmaus. The minister noted that this was an unusual sermon in that it was preached to but two people, on a journey, and for a time the preacher was a stranger to them. The exhortation to believe all that the prophets had spoken was stressed in the first place. We are to appreciate that the Old Testament prophets had prophesied of the sufferings of Christ. Secondly, the minister showed how very necessary these sufferings were. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement was highlighted. Then, in the third place, we were to consider the sufferings themselves.  Jesus began at Moses and all the prophets and showed them these things. Having the New Testament as well as the Old, we can see how the Old Testament prophesies were fulfilled. Jesus did suffer for the sins of His people. And he secured redemption for them as the Lamb of God.

Following the fencing of the Table, the Lord’s Supper was held again in the congregation. We should be thankful as a congregation for the remembrance of the death of Christ once more in our midst.

On the evening of the Lord’s Day, our attention was drawn to the rebellious speech of Pharaoh king of Egypt. In Exodus 5:1-2 we read of his refusal to let Israel go from serving him. This rebellion against God was a ruinous one for ultimately he was drowned at the Red Sea, whilst still determined to rebel against the will of God. His example serves for a sober warning to us as gospel hearers.

On Monday evening, Rev Hembd preached from Nehemiah 10:28-29 and spoke of the revival, regression and renewal seen in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. One detects that when God grants a gracious resolution to His people this is a good sign of His quickening influence.

So we pray that the Lord may be pleased to follow the preaching of His word and the remembrance of the death of Christ with His blessing.

G B Macdonald



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Divine Protection – David’s Comfort

In Psalm 3 we have an example of a structure and layout of poetry which is common in the Psalms of David. That structure is framed by David’s experience. Here, as elsewhere, David begins the psalm in deep distress. He calls upon God in the exercise of faith. God graciously strengthens His servant, so that by the end of the psalm, David is saying, ‘Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.’

In this psalm we are reliably informed, by the divinely inspired title, as to the psalmist and the time it was written and the experience to which it refers. So we see from the title that it is, ‘A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.’ Thus, we date this from the latter part of David’s life. He has already experience many trials and much of God’s goodness in delivering him out of trouble.

Many years before, he felled the giant Goliath, in a great act of faith and dependence upon God. He has been delivered from the cruel hand of King Saul. But now he is in deep distress, his own son, whom he has so much indulged, has turned against him and raised many in rebellion against their lawful king.

What does David do in such a trial? He makes his complaint to the LORD. He spreads his concerns before God, as Hezekiah after him would the wicked threats of Sennacherib. This is a good example to us. Too often we make complaint to man. Or we fall into a murmuring spirit. But David, for his part, was honest before the Most High and refers his concerns to the Court on high.

One thing that especially seemed to trouble David was the fact that many were saying, “There is no help for him in God.” Matthew Henry in his commentary on this psalm, make a helpful point regarding God’s people. He writes, ‘A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing of help in God; you cannot vex him with any thing so much as if you offer to persuade him that there is no help for him in God.’

Mercifully, is enabled to exercise faith in the Most High. In verse 3 he writes, ‘But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.’ This is strong confidence in the divine care and protection of God. Doubtless he cried to God in this time of trouble in his life. Matthew Henry again notes, ‘Care and grief do us good and no hurt when they set us praying, and engage us, not only to speak to God, but to cry to him, as those that are in earnest.’

He even sleeps and wakes, and in so doing, acknowledges the hand of the LORD ‘…for the LORD sustained me.’ (v.5) He is so strengthen as to declare that he is not afraid of ten thousands of people. Indeed, at this times it seems that almost all Israel were against him and for Absalom. ‘A cheerful resignation to God is the way to obtain a cheerful satisfaction in God’ writes Matthew Henry.

In his trouble, David knew whom to turn to. He had the confidence of faith in God. When a man stands in need of warmth and goes to the fire he does so (as Thomas Watson notes) not doubting that it shall warm him. So the child of God is to go to the Father of mercy with strong assurance of being heard.

So David, in the finish, is brought to admit that salvation belongs to the LORD and His blessing is upon His people, of which David, was one. Ultimately, David was delivered, even from so sad and dreadful a trial as this.

G B Macdonald



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The Power of Prayer

There are many encouragements to pray from the examples set before us in the Bible. One leading example is that of Elijah, or Elias, as he is called in James 5:17-18. There we read the following:

‘Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.’

Here we may note two things. First, the man who prayed and second, the power of his prayer.

Firstly, it was Elias who prayed. An Old Testament saint. A prophet of God. As we may see from his life, in the matters recorded in Scripture, he was one whom God cared for. In time of famine the LORD provided for him, be it by the brook Cherith or via the hospitality of the poor widow woman. We may be ready to say, no wonder the prayers of so godly a man, so singular a figure, were heard. But how is he set forth in the passage above? ‘Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are…’ he was a man, subject to becoming discouraged and at times afraid. Thomas Manton comments: “Well then, God’s children, that travail under the burden of infirmities, may take comfort; such conflicts are not inconsistent with faith and piety: other believers are thus exercised, none ever went to heaven but there was some work for his ‘faith and patience’ (Manton on The General Epistle of James p.467 Banner of Truth Trust)

Secondly, note the power of his prayer. He prayed earnestly. He prayed from the heart. His petitions were sincere. Here, he is an example to us. By God’s grace he prayed earnestly and such prayers were heard. Prayer closed and opened heaven to rain in his case. What a mighty power! Matthew Henry writes, “This instance of the extraordinary efficacy of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”

So, in regard to the devastating bush fires in Australia, may we be strengthened in faith to pray for rain, which is so badly needed. In verse 16 we read, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And Manton makes a good point in writing, “Prayer is a good remedy in the most desperate cases, and when you are lost to all other hopes, you are not lost to the hopes of prayer.” (Manton on The General Epistle of James p.471).

So too, in the New Year, and New Decade, may we be given grace to pray to the Hearer of prayer, through the Mediator Jesus Christ, having confidence of being heard in the matters we bring before Him, through Christ.

As the Saviour said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

G B Macdonald




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Paul’s Prayer for Believers in Ephesus

A number of Paul’s epistles are to Christians living in cities. Believers in Ephesus were surrounded by those who worshiped idols and persons of various cultures and religions. These Christians had need to be prayed for, and Paul was not unmindful of them. In chapter 1 of Ephesians the apostle includes a prayer for these believers in Christ.

Interestingly, in verses 15 and 16 we read of some graces they had which drew out a spirit of prayer in the heart of the apostle for them. “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints. Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…” He had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love to all the saints. Matthew Henry writes, ‘One inducement to pray for them was the good account he had of them, of their faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints. Faith in Christ and love to the saints, will be attended with all other graces.’ When we hear of those who have faith in the Lord Jesus we should give thanks, for it is the Holy Spirit who grants this grace. When we hear of those who bear a good witness by way of their love to all the saints this should encourage us to pray for such.

But what did he pray for? Surely they had already attained much in having faith and love, what more could be needed? Matthew Henry observes, ‘Now what is it that Paul prays for in behalf of the Ephesians? Not that they might be freed from persecution; nor that they might possess the riches, honours, or pleasures of the world; but the great thing he prays for is the illumination of their understandings, and that their knowledge might increase and abound: he means it of a practical and experimental knowledge.’

This increase in knowledge is most needful, even among the most sanctified of the Lord’s people here on earth. John Calvin notes, ‘The knowledge of the godly is never so pure but that some bleariness troubles their eyes and obscurity hinders them.’ (J Calvin – Commentary on Ephesians). Much of the comfort of the gospel is in our understanding being enlightened, to embrace the promises and doctrines of the gospel of Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture. As Matthew Henry comments, ‘The graces and comforts of the Spirit are communicated to the soul by the enlightening of the understanding.’

May we be among those that have faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints and who are granted that enlightening of our understanding to be further blessed, through the working of the Spirit of God.

G B Macdonald


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“Is any thing too hard for the LORD?”

“Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” this was the question posed to Abraham and, in virtue of her questioning, surely to Sarah too, in Genesis 18:14.

The LORD had promised repeatedly that Abraham should have a son. He had just before promised again that the child of promise would be by Sarah. The LORD was going to show that He was faithful to His promise – Sarah would have a son, and did – Isaac.

But before Sarah conceived, her faith in the divine promise must needs be strengthened. She had, through long and painful experience of childlessness, come to see that, without the divine blessing, there could be no son. She was now, according to the flesh, past childbearing age. She recognised this, as did Abraham. However, God purposed that Isaac would be the child of this marriage union. His word was clear, “Sarah thy wife shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:10). As Sarah heard this she was amazed. How could this be? The answer to that question was given, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?”

This question should encourage the Lord’s people in every generation. The world, the flesh and the devil, are all set against the advance of the gospel, within the soul of the individual believer and also the advance of the gospel in the world. But, in spite of all opposition, well might the people of God reflect, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?”

John Calvin, in his comments on this chapter writes:

‘But if we thoroughly investigate the source of distrust, we shall find that the reason why we doubt of God’s promises is because we sinfully detract from his power. For as soon as any extraordinary difficulty occurs, then, whatever God has promised, seems to us fabulous; yea, the moment he speaks, the perverse thought insinuates itself, How will he fulfil his promises? Being bound down, and pre-occupied by such narrow thoughts, we exclude his power, the knowledge of which is better to us than a thousand worlds. In short, he who does not expect more from God than he is able to comprehend in the scanty measure of his own reason, does him a grievous wrong. Meanwhile, the word of the Lord ought to be inseparably joined with his power; for nothing is more preposterous, than to inquire what God can do, to the setting aside of his declared will.’ (J. Calvin, Commentary on Genesis Banner of Truth Trust 1965 p.476)

Note that immediately after this question, which begs its own most positive answer, the LORD affirmed again His promise to Abraham. “At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” There is a time appointed for every blessing that God purposes to bestow upon His own people and His own Church. But, like Sarah, we need our faith in the divine promise to be strengthened. The question, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” when applied with comfort by the Holy Spirit, can do this. May we think upon it, and the fact that God did give a son, even Isaac, so fulfilling His promise. In this way, we may be strengthened and encouraged to pray in faith and wait with patience.

G B Macdonald


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Sydney Communion August/September 2019

At our recent communion, we were privileged to have the assistance of Rev J D Smith of our Auckland congregation.

On Thursday morning we looked at the solemn subject of the danger of following the sins of others. The example was from 2 Kings 13:1-2 in relation to Jehoahaz, one of the kings of Israel. Sadly, as with so many of the kings of Israel, before and after him, he ‘followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin’. The particularly solemn matter of those who lead others into sin by founding false religion was noted. Sadly, we read that Jehoahaz, ‘departed not therefrom.’ Repentance unto life is a saving grace, which only God can grant.

At the evening service on Thursday, we considered The Song of Solomon 1:5-6. Rev Smith had three heads of sermon. 1. The Condition of the Believer. 2. The Confession of the Believer. 3. The Comeliness of the Believer. The sinner saved by grace is black but comely. Black with sin, but, as found in Christ – most comely.

On the day of self examination, Rev Smith preached again from the Song of Songs. This time in chapter 7 and verse 4, Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.’ Marks of grace were identified. Fundamentally, there is a sweet relationship between Christ and the believer, which the Song of Solomon brings out in such exalted language.

On Saturday, a great question was placed before us, as it had been before others during the ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 22:41-46 we find Him interacting with the Pharisees. They and others have been seeking to entangle him in His talk. They failed. Jesus, finishes the matter by posing a question to them, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” Here precious doctrine of the divinity of Christ is brought out from Scripture. The One who asked them was the Son of God and the true Christ. He still is, and this should be considered when He commands His people, “This do in remembrance of Me.”

The Communion Sabbath morning is a special occasion. The truth before us was solemn and profound, the words of Pilate concerning Jesus – “Behold the man!” The Appointment of Christ, The Humanity of Christ and the Beholding of Christ were the three divisions in the sermon. The suffering Saviour was preached, the One who is God and man, Emmanuel, God with us. The necessity of the true humanity of Jesus was pointed out. He could only suffer in His human nature, but suffer He must, being the substitute and sacrifice for His people’s sin.

On the evening of the Lord’s Day, we looked at the subject of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. The builders were manifesting great pride in their disobedience to the will of God, which was for them to spread abroad in the earth. They much preferred to make them a name in the earth by building a city and a tower the top of which was to rise to heaven. This spirit is still found among men. So, by way of gospel application, we need to be brought out of the way of seeking heaven by our works and closed in to Christ who declared, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

The Monday evening service marked the close of the communion and again the love of Christ to the Church was highlighted. The text was chapter 4:8 from the Song of Solomon, Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” The believer is traversing the dangerous mountains of life and has much need of obedience to the voice of the Beloved. Christ says, “Come with Me…” and the child of God is to do so. His or her comfort and security lies much in cleaving to Christ.

The communion having ended it becomes us to pray for a blessing to follow the Word and Sacrament, desiring the glory of God in the salvation of sinners and the strengthening of His people.

G B Macdonald

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Advice for Christians from an Apostle of Jesus

In his epistle, James has much practical advice for Christians. One example of such advice can be found in James 5:13 “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”

Here he highlights two conditions in which Christians may be found. Some may be afflicted, while others may be merry or, of good cheer. Indeed, the same believer can at one time be afflicted and at another much uplifted in spirit. In any condition the believer may be in, they have their Christian duty.

Here, James suggests two leading duties, one in each condition. For the afflicted – prayer. For the merry – singing of psalms. Note that in both conditions, there is an answerable  duty. This does not mean of course, that the afflicted ought not to sing psalms or the merry to pray, but surely the apostle identifies the leading duty in each case. As Matthew Henry writes, ‘Not that prayer is to be confined to a time of trouble, nor singing to a time of mirth; but these several duties may be performed with special advantage, and to the happiest purposes, at such seasons.’

Surely, when so good advice is given from a Spirit-inspired apostle of Jesus, we have reason to hope that if we follow it, then God will grant a blessing. As Matthew Henry comments, ‘Afflictions should put us upon prayer, and prosperity should make us abound in praise.’ And might we not hope that such prayer will be answered and praise heard?

Thus, the practical advice of the apostle James should be heeded. He was one who was a godly man himself and knew many of the Lord’s people in the early Christian church. The advice he suggests is still relevant today.

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”

G B Macdonald


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Two Rich Promises

We read of two rich and wonderful promises made over to the people of God in the closing verse of Psalm 29. The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” This is what David had learned by personal experience.

The first promise – “The LORD will give strength unto his people…” Is this not a comfort? His people may be assured of two things by their Christian experience. First, that they are weak and second, that their God is of infinite strength. Furthermore, He is able and willing to give strength unto His people. He may suffer them to be tried, but they may be assured that when they call upon Him in trouble, He is able to save them by His mighty hand and stretched out arm. This is such a wonderful promise that C H Spurgeon writes, “Why are we weak when we have divine strength to flee to?”

The second promise – “…the LORD will bless his people with peace.” Not only strength but also peace! And what a blessing peace is. Matthew Henry comments, ‘…peace is a blessing of inestimable value, which God designs for all his people.’ And this peace comes through Jesus Christ, who is the ‘Prince of Peace.’ (Isaiah 9:6) Peace is very much associated with Jesus. When the angels in that ‘multitude of the heavenly host’ praised God for the birth of Christ, it was in the following terms, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward me.” When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His assembled disciples, it was with the words, “Peace be unto you.” God will bless His people with peace. This is a sure promise. Peace through the Cross of Christ. Peace through justifying faith in the Son of God. As Paul writes, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Thus, the people of God may derive great comfort from Psalm 29:11. Not one, but two,  rich and precious divine promises:

The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”

G B Macdonald

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A Comforting Scripture from the Pen of Peter

In his first epistle, Peter writes many precious things to encourage those Christians to whom he wrote. They were exposed to the malice and scorn of the world. God’s people in our day may also suffer for their Christian profession.

One of the glorious truths Peter writes is found in chapter 5 and verse 7 “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

Let us look at the latter part of the verse first. “…He careth for you.” Doubtless Peter cared for them, but of course he does not refer to himself, but to God. In verse 6 he had said, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” Thus we know, that the One who cares for believers is none other than the Most High God. One who is of infinite power and majesty. What a privilege to have God to care for us. This is the blessing of the believer in Christ! The mighty hand of God strengthens and protects the child of God. No real evil can befall such. Yes, like Stephen, their life may be taken from them, but, as with Stephen, shall they not be then ushered into glory? Matthew Henry writes, “…all shall be so ordered that no hurt but good, shall come unto you.”

Is it any wonder then, that such as could be assured that God cared for them, could also be encouraged to cast all their care upon Him? What a happy duty. What a great privilege. All kinds of care, to be cast upon God. Small or great. Pressing and immediate or of long continuance. That endured by ourselves, or burdens we are mindful of in our loved ones’ providence, but which weigh on us. As Matthew Henry writes, “The best remedy against immoderate care is to cast our care upon God, and resign every event to the wise and gracious determination.”

How happy they are who, having Christ as their Mediator, can cast their care upon the Most High, ever coming unto God through Christ and finding great relief in the thought, “…he careth for you.”

G B Macdonald

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More Than Conquerors

In Romans chapter 8, among other comforting words, the inspired apostle Paul writes, “…we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” With this superlative expression, “more than conquerors,” Paul indicates the tremendous degree of comfort that he and and his readers in Rome could take, even in times of great persecution, in the hope of their overcoming adversity through Christ.

Christians in this world have suffered and still do suffer. The world hates the true Church of Christ. In verse 35 of Romans 8, Paul poses the question, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? These were the kinds of difficulties Paul and those to whom he addressed his epistle suffered. Doubtless, Christians suffering such like things in our day can take a measure of comfort in the knowledge that Paul, and those addressed in Rome, trod the same path. Suffering for Christ’s sake is no indication that one is not a true disciple. In our day too, the Lord’s people may still be accounted by some wicked persons as no more than ‘sheep for the slaughter.’ To outward appearance in may seem that the persecutors are triumphant, but in reality, it is not so. Robert Haldane, in commenting on this passage writes, ‘In the world, persecutors and oppressors are judged as the conquerors; but here, those are pronounced to be such, who are oppressed and persecuted.’ (Haldane Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans p.422 Banner of Truth Trust)

In God’s word we may safely rest. It is through Christ that the tried saint triumphs. As Robert Haldane notes, ‘It is not by our own loyalty and resolution, but through Him that loved us, that we are more than conquerors’ (Haldane Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans p.423 Banner of Truth Trust). What rich comfort this passage then affords to the distressed and persecuted Christian, who is troubled for Christ’s sake, perhaps even daily at times. He or she is more than a conqueror, through Him that loved them.

Paul notes in verse 39 that even ‘things to come’ would not be able to separate the true Christian from “…the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” At that point in time, such persecuting influences as we see manifested in our own day were not known (though others were). Thus it is a comfort, that whatever things may be, or may yet come to be, the promise is sure to the true believer that:

“…we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

G B Macdonald



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Simon Peter’s Commitment to Christ

Towards the end of John chapter 6 we read of a very sad event. Some, who had been disciples of Jesus, went back and walked no more with Him. A sad sight indeed, when we consider that the One whom they left had just said of Himself, “I am the bread of life.” There was nothing wrong with the doctrine of the Saviour. There was nothing wrong with the moral uprightness of His character. There was of course, no fault in Him at all. Yet they left Him. It is quite solemn to think that some among them may well have partaken of the loaves and fishes, when the multitude were fed by Jesus. Perhaps they had said with others at that time, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). Yet they went back and walked no more with Jesus.

In commenting upon this passage, Matthew Henry notes, “When we admit into our minds hard thoughts of the word and works of Christ, and conceive insinuations tending to their reproach, we are entering into temptation.”

Instead of going after those who left Him, the Saviour turned to those that remained and asked a serious question, “Will ye also go away?” This brought forth a wonderful statement from the lips of Simon Peter. He replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter recognised that what he found in Christ – The Bread of Life, he could find nowhere else. There was no other Christ, than Jesus of Nazareth. There was no other who could save his soul and feed his soul than the Saviour, who said in John 6:37

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Is our response that of Simon Peter?

G B Macdonald

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New Zealand Youth Conference

In January 2019, the Asia Pacific Presbytery organised a youth conference which was held at the scenic location of Hunua Falls Camp south of Auckland. Around 20 young people from Australia and New Zealand attended. I was privileged to attend as a speaker.



(Hunua Falls Camp, New Zealand – G B Macdonald)

The following is a brief summary of the papers which were presented:

The first paper was from Mr Hank Optland, on Lessons from the Life of Joseph. Mr Optland presented the information by way of a talk and some attractive slides on PowerPoint. The history of Joseph has many lessons, especially for young people. We can learn the great blessing of having been taught from our youth about the One living and true God, as Joseph was. We can also be reminded how vital it is to have the Lord with us in the trials of life, as He was with Joseph. Again and again we read of Joseph, that ‘the LORD was with Joseph’, thus he was favoured and upheld in difficult trials. One of the richest lessons from Joseph’s life is to recognise him as a wonderful type and foreshadowing of the Saviour.

The second paper was presented by the writer. This was a look at The Rev Alexander Duff – the First Church of Scotland Missionary to India. Even as a young boy, Alexander Duff was taught about the spread of the gospel. Converted at 12 years old, he knew from a young age the value of the atoning blood of Christ and the preciousness of the message of the Christian gospel. At university, Duff was influenced by Rev Thomas Chalmers and was instrumental in the St Andrews University mission society. Ultimately, in the providence of God, Duff was to labour in Calcutta, India. His work there met with a degree of success in the conversion of a number of Hindu youths. One solemn and striking providence that affected Duff was a shipwreck off South Africa, where his only possessions that were recoverable, having washed ashore were a carefully wrapped Bible and psalm book. Duff took this as a sign he should go on to India and should make especially sure in educating the young that the Bible would be the chief source of instruction.

The third paper, was a talk on the important place of Creeds and Confessions by Rev C Hembd. Whilst some may decry the need for such statements of faith, the Church has a duty to be forthright in setting forth its belief in the doctrines of the Bible. One great example of an eminently useful confession is the Westminster Confession of Faith. We are to confess the Christian Faith and confessions and creeds may serve a useful purpose in witnessing to the world and also within the visible Church. Confessional statements can serve a useful purpose in holding ministers and elders to doctrinal account.

The fourth paper was presented by Rev D Ross, a deputy of the Synod appointed Overseas Committee. His subject was Resisting Temptation. As fallen creatures, we are subject to temptation and trial in this life. Joseph when tempted fled from the place where the temptation was. Mr Ross spent some time examining the Fall of man and acknowledged the mystery of Adam sinning against God by succumbing to temptation. he also looked at different kinds of temptation that we may be faced with in this life. Self-trust is a great danger. The Saviour’s words to his disciples in the garden remain relevant to us, ‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.‘ (Matthew 26:41)

The final paper of the conference was given by Rev C Hembd. It was on The Covenanters: What they Teach us Today. Mr Hembd began by recounting the example of the renowned Scottish martyr Margaret Wilson, who was drowned with her friend Margaret McLachlan in the Solway Firth of South West Scotland in 1685. They had refused to acknowledge James VII as head of the Church and take the Abjuration Oath renouncing the Covenant. Mr Hembd went on to note that  personal covenanting is a long established practice. In two nations, Israel and Scotland, there have been national covenants. The Covenanters in Scotland were determined in their faith. One reason appears to be the very fact they had covenanted and were given grace to hold to these promises made to God. In the so-called ‘Killing Times’ many were put to death for their refusal to deny the Kingship and Headship of Christ in His Church. Given that persecuting times may arise again, in Scotland and elsewhere, the example of the Covenanters, which has been much studied, is to be treasured.

The question and answer sessions following the papers provided an opportunity for more analysis of the topics.

Thanks are especially due to Rev J D Smith who acted as Chairman and the housemothers who kindly gave of their time to attend and perform this important role. We pray that those who attended may lay to heart the lessons noted and be raised up in their own lands to be faithful witnesses on the side of the Christ.

G B Macdonald

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A Miracle and a Mystery

In John chapter 6 we read of a miracle that is recorded by all four gospel writers – the feeding of the five thousand. Here is a miracle that testified to the fact that Jesus was the Christ – the bread of life.

From five barley loaves and two small fishes, which was clearly that which was to be sufficient for the child whose they were, Jesus fed a multitude of hungry men. Interestingly, it is stressed in John 6 that he gave thanks. Indeed mention is made of this fact twice. We ought to do as Jesus did and give thanks for our daily bread. One fears that grace at mealtimes is not practiced by many in our day, but following the example of Christ, and out of a sense of gratitude to God for the food we receive, we should give thanks.

What a blessing followed – the five thousand were fed. Notice that the Lord gave to the disciples and they to the multitude. As Matthew Henry observes, ‘It was distributed from the hand of Christ by the hands of his disciples, Note, all our comforts come to us originally from the hand of Christ; whoever brings them, it is he that sends them, he distributes to those who distribute to us.’ Following the eating of the meal, we read that twelve baskets full of fragments were retained. There was more left over, than there was to begin with. What a testimony to the divine power of the Saviour!

Those who witnessed the the events were greatly affected. They said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” Yet when Jesus later spoke of His being the bread of life, many went back and walked no more with Him. Perhaps some of these had even eaten of the loaves and fishes. It can be one thing to say of Jesus, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” and another to believe His words.

Instead of submitting the the wish of the men to make him a king, Jesus walked away. Here is a mystery. A mystery which is of course understood only when we appreciate that Jesus had not come to usher in an earthy rule and kingdom. He had not come to save the Jews from the Romans, but to save sinners from the due reward of their deeds. He is the bread of life. The heavenly manna. But only through His being willing to suffer and die in the room and place of His people. In John 10:11 we read Him declaring “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

But have we believed in Him as our Saviour? In verse 47 of John 6 He says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Followed by the words that should mean so much in light of the feeding of the five thousand:

“I am that bread of life.”

G B Macdonald

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Creation and Praise

In the psalms we meet with many different subjects that encourage us to praise God. One of these is the fact that He is the Creator. In Psalm 8 we get the impression that David was one who was observant of God’s work of creation. In verse 3 we read David saying, ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…’ No doubt David often looked up at the night sky over Israel, which on a clear night would be a wonderful sight!

Notice that David in mediating upon the heavens above, called them not ‘the heavens’, but ‘Thy heavens.’ Matthew Henry makes the simple but interesting point, ‘we must always consider the heavens as God’s heavens, not only as all the world is his, even the earth and the fulness thereof, but in a more peculiar manner. The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s (Ps. 115:16)…’ Indeed the sky on a clear night, free from the light pollution of our major cities, is a sight which should teach us to be in awe at the handiwork of our Creator.

Thus, a due consideration of the wonder of God’s creation should teach us that the One who made the heavens above, is a God of infinite power, glory, wisdom and majesty.

David, was affected by what he saw. He reflected on the wonder that such a Creator God should condescend to think upon man, so he writes, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitedst him?’

In Hebrews chapter 2, the apostle quotes from this psalm when referring to Christ. And what a great wonder it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, should look up to the heavens, whilst he was upon this earth! In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

So, when next we look at the moon and the stars which God has ordained, let us think, not only of the Creator, but of the Redeemer. Let us wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ, when he looked upon the moon and the stars, did look upon these as those which He, as the Son of God, had ordained. In writing to believers in Corinth, Paul notes, For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

G B Macdonald

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A Call To Praise God

In a number of the Psalms, the Spirit-inspired Psalmist calls us to praise God. We know that we are to praise the Most High, but two questions arise – Why? and How?

In Psalm 95 we have instruction that may help us to addresses these two questions. In verse 1 and 2 we read ‘O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’ 

Here we have a call to ‘sing unto the LORD’. Thus, we have a warrant here in the Word of God for the singing of praise. Why are we to praise God? Well, are we not told to do so? In singing to His praise, we are showing forth our obedience to His revealed will. Furthermore, He is the LORD. He is a Being of infinite power and majesty. He is eminently worthy of all praise. From everlasting to everlasting He is God. We are also encouraged to praise Him as He is described as, ‘the rock of our savlation‘. He is the Saviour of His people and His redeemed are to praise Him for the glorious Saviour and salvation by which they are saved. We are also to praise Him because, as we read in verse 3, He is a ‘great God and a great King above all gods.’ He is Great above all the gods of the heathen, which are vain and of no power. He is also great above all the mighty men of this world, in whatever generation they may arise. Another reason why we are to praise God is found in verses 5 and 6 – for He is ‘our maker.‘ Ought not the responsible and rational creature to praise his or her Maker? Moreover, as we see from verse 7 of the psalm, God’s people are to praise Him for, He is their covenant God. There we read, ‘For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.’ In verses 8 -11 One more reason is that He is supremely just. We must not harden our hearts as did Israel in the wilderness. They murmured and complained against Him and His dealings with them, which was evidently, not the spirit of praise. So we see even within this psalm we have a number of reasons why we are to praise God.

The next question is – How are we to praise God? Again, we find interesting material in Psalm 95 to help us answer this question. We are to praise God by singing. Not only in our hearts but with our lips in an audible sound. Such singing should be in a language we understand. We are told to ‘make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.’ And indeed what a joy there should be in the heart when we view Him in this light! Thus heart and lip are to be engaged in praise to God. In verse 2 we read that we are to ‘come before his presence with thanksgiving…’ Does this not suggest that in praising God, there ought to be a thoughtfulness, devotion and reflection on who He is and what He has done for us? And finally, where can we find suitable material with which to praise Him? We have the answer in this psalm too – ‘make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’

G B Macdonald

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A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Nahum 1:7 we come across a very precious and comforting text of Scripture, it reads, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

Here we have three truths in one verse.

Firstly, “The LORD is good…” here is a truth of the Word of God. Here is a fundamental fact. The eternal God is good and He is eternally so. He was good in Nahum’s day, and He is so in our day too. Even in the first chapter of the Bible, we read of the goodness of God reflected in the good work of Creation. On the sixth day, God surveyed the work of His own power and it was all very good. When our first parents fell from the estate in which they were created, God was good in clothing them with skins to cover their nakedness. It is one of the perfections of God that He is good. Even the Shorter Catechism notes this fact when it observes, in answer to the question, What is God? ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’ God is good in His longsuffering towards the wicked, giving space for repentance, and He is good in respect of His electing love and redeeming mercy towards His people, who by nature are no better then others. He is good in sending His own dear Son to suffer and die, the just in the room of the unjust. He is good in preparing the glories of heaven for His redeemed people. And so we might extend this list of evidences for the goodness of God.

Secondly, the LORD is a stronghold in the day of trouble. The word stronghold could be rendered, a mighty fortress or mountain stronghold. This of course conveys the idea of His being a source of comfort and safety to His afflicted people in the day of trouble. On a recent visit to Scotland, my family and I went to view Stirling Castle, one of the best known of the many castles in Scotland. It stands high upon a craggy rock and doubtless would have been a difficult place to assault. I am sure the inhabitants of Stirling might well have fled for refuge to that castle in the past, if enemies threatened them. How thankful they would be to be safely found within its walls. So the LORD is set forth in this Biblical truth as a place of refuge for His people in time of trouble. The devil might tempt them that they are weak and defenseless, and so they are in themselves, but not so when they flee to their divine refuge in Christ.

Thirdly, the LORD knoweth them that trust in Him. Here too we have a truth, and a blessed fact. The LORD knows them that are His. He knows such as trust in Him. And furthermore, His eye is upon them for good. He will bring them through fire and water to a wealthy place. Though Elijah the prophet was at one time, when threatened by wicked Jezebel, much cast down, yet the LORD knew Him and supplied His needs, supporting and encouraging soul and body. He still knows those that trust in Him and knows how to support and encourage them in times of trial. Consider for example, the Lord Jesus and how He knew His disciples toiled in rowing in the dead of night, and came walking on the water to deliver them, saying to them, “It is I; be not afraid.” (John 6:20)

May we be refreshed by considering these three truths in one short verse, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” They are as true today as ever.

G B Macdonald


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Sydney Communion August/September 2018

As a congregation we were privileged to have the assistance of Rev J D Smith (Auckland) at the communion season. We were also blessed to have the help of Rev C J Hembd (Gisborne) who took the Thursday evening service.

On Thursday morning we were directed to James 4:10 ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.’ Five means were set before us to the end of humbling ourselves. Firstly, to recognise the majesty of God. He is set forth in the Scriptures as exceeding glorious. Secondly, by examining ourselves we may humble ourselves. When we see ourselves as sinners, not worthy of the least blessing, this should encourage humility of mind. Thirdly, by confession of sin. By agreeing with God and His verdict concerning us in the Bible, for this is what confession of sin is, acknowledging the truth about ourselves and confessing it. Fourthly, by self-emptying, resisting temptation to being puffed up, acknowledging ourselves to be as nothing in God’s sight, and our own. Finally, by seeking a view of Christ by faith. The promise is added, He shall lift you up. As God did David, who could say “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me…” (Psalm 138:7)

On Thursday evening, we were led to consider Ezekiel 9:4 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.’ The wickedness of idolatry and many associated sins was found even in Jerusalem. In spite of their privileges and of God’s judgments – wickedness was present. The people refused to humble themselves and seek the Lord. So in our day, many profane the Sabbath, when they could make use of it to seek God. If a man lives 70 years in this world, he has 10 years to seek the Lord, even if he did so on one day in seven. It is in and through Christ Jesus, the Great High Priest, that sinners will find peace with God.

On Friday evening, the subject of humility was again before us. The text was Acts 20:19 “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.’ Emphasis was placed on i. Serving the Lord and ii. Doing so with humility of mind. The disciple follows and serves. So the Christian is one who obeys Christ. And, following the example of the Master, he does so with humility of mind. Paul, as a noted disciple of Jesus, speaks of himself, not as seeking to glorify himself, but to show what was his practice by the grace of God.

On Saturday morning, the subject was ‘The Prince of Peace’. Here is a glorious title given to the Messiah, and found in Isaiah 9:6. The identity of the Person whose title this is was established. The Prince of Peace is God as well as man. A child born, but also – ‘The Mighty God’ – as seen from the same verse. The rule of the Prince of Peace is characterised by authority and peace. And thus the question comes back to us, “what is my relationship to the Prince of Peace?”

On the Sabbath morning, we had the action sermon and Lord’s Table. The subject was the Person, Service and Glory of Christ and the text was from Philippians 2:5-11. Divine worship is ascribed to Christ and Divine works are done by Him. He humbled Himself by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul and he was found in fashion as a man. In service to God and on behalf of His people He died upon of the Cross. His glory is fully seen in His rising from the dead and ascending up into heaven. He there intercedes for His Church and shall come again at the last day in power and great glory.

Once again the Lord’s death was remembered in the manner appointed in the simple but profound service of the Lord’s Supper.

One Sabbath evening, we were again found in Acts 20. This time our attention was drawn to verse 21 ‘Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Whether Paul testified to Jews of Greeks, his message was clear – repentance and faith. The sinner is to repent and believe the gospel. In emphasising such doctrines, Paul was of course simply following the example of the Saviour.

On the Monday evening thanksgiving service, the solemn and glorious truth in Revelation 5:11-12 was the text. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ The Lamb slain is Christ and He is worthy, on account of all He has done as the appointed Mediator to receive ‘…power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ It is of course most encouraging to reflect on the glory of Christ, even when the Church on earth may be under the clouds and in great darkness. John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos as one persecuted for His faith in Christ, when he received the Revelation.

We now pray for the Lord to follow the Communion Season with his blessing and express our thanks to those who assisted in the gospel ministry for their service.

G B Macdonald



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One of the most scenic and lovely parts of the land of Israel is the region of Galilee. To the Christian, Galilee is also a special place because of its connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in Galilee that Jesus performed many of His miracles and preached many of His sermons.

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In Matthew 4:12-17 we read, ‘Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

So we see, that there was a divine purpose in the fact that Jesus spent so much time in Galilee. One point to note is the fact that prophecy was fulfilled. The people which sat in darkness did indeed see a great light. They saw Him who declared by word and deed, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life(John 8:12). Notably in Isaiah chapter 9 from which the above noted prophecy comes, we also read the well known Messianic promise, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).

It was in Galilee that Jesus began to preach. It was in Galilee that Jesus began to work miracles to show His divine power as the Son of God. Concerning the turning of water into wine, the beginning of His miracles, we read that this was done in Cana of Galilee. One thinks of course of Jesus stilling the raging storm on Galilee, and on another occasion, walking on the water. So many mighty words. So many mighty deeds. Such a great Light!

Interestingly, in the providence of God, Galilee was a part inhabited by many Gentiles as well as Jews. It was also a part that was on the noted Via Maris (The Way of the Sea), a major trade route from Egypt to Syria. Thus, as noted in Matthew 4:24, ‘His fame went throughout all Syria…’

Galilee of the Gentiles should be a precious corner of the earth to us still. In Galilee, the risen Lord, gave to His disciples the Great Commission, including the famous formula for baptism, still of course used in the visible Church of Christ.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Galilee, is a special place to many Christians. But, it is not visiting Galilee that matters. What truly matters is to believe in Christ Jesus, who ministered there, as the Light of the World, and who gave Himself a ransom for many.

‘He departed into Galilee…’

G B Macdonald


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The Wise Men and Herod

In Matthew chapter 2 we read of the very different attitudes to the King of the Jews adopted by the wise men and Herod.

Note for example verses 1-3 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.’

The wise men from the east came for to worship Jesus. Herod was troubled to hear of the birth of Christ. Notice in passing, the connection between the description of the Saviour by the wise men and that by Herod – King of the Jews and Christ. These are both titles attributable to the Lord Jesus alone.

The wise men are led to seek the King of the Jews by a remarkable star they have seen in the heavens in their own land. They are willing to come a great distance not just to see the Saviour – but to worship Him. Interestingly, they first come to Jerusalem, and from there, as a result of the confirmation from scripture that Bethlehem is to be the place of the birth of Christ, they proceed to Bethlehem, where the star reappears in confirmation of the scripture prophecy!

When they come into the house they worship the young child. Note – not Mary – what a rebuke to the practice of Rome which exalts Mary worship! They offer gifts in recognistion of the dignity of the One they worship – He is the Christ. Three prominent gifts are presented – gold, frankincense and myrrh. In his commentary, Matthew Henry suggests the following ‘Some think there was a significancy in their gifts; they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute…frankincense, as God, for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, as a Man that should die, for myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies.’ What is certain, is they honoured and reverenced the Lord Jesus Christ, even as a young child.

How very different was the attitude of Herod the king. This wicked man felt strangely threatened by the news of the birth of the Christ. He ought to have rejoiced in such news for it was good news, as told by the angel to the shepherds already (see Luke 2). But, as a proud and evil man, he did not rejoice. He was bent on the destruction of the young child. In spite of the wonderful light he enjoyed he sought to slay Jesus. He had the benefit of the light of scripture as announced to him by the leaders of the Jews (from Micah 5:2) and the example of diligent an reverent inquiry from the wise men of the east. Alas, all was lost on him. His attitude to Jesus was one of rejection. He despised and rejected the Christ of God.

Which attitude is ours? Have we the attitude of faith and love to Christ, or unbelief and rejection? Let us heed the Word of God:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts of the Apostles 4:12)

G B Macdonald


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Gideon’s Triumph – Judgement and Salvation

At our mid week prayer meeting we have for some time been considering the history of Gideon. This man was chosen by God to judge Israel and strengthened to go forth against the host of the Midianities, who had for year after year been devouring the good of the land of Israel.

In chapter 7 of the Book of Judges, we read of the Midianites being put to flight. Though Gideon and his men were the means, yet it was the LORD who delivered Israel through them. In the victory of Gideon and his 300 men we see a work of judgement and of salvation.

For seven years the Midianites had themselves been an instrument of judgement against Israel. They had come up like locusts to take the harvests from Israel. Israel planted but the Midiaites reaped the benefits of their hard work. This was deeply dispiriting to God’s covenant people. The heathen had come in like a flood, but now the time had come for them to be judged by God. Wicked ones may exalt themselves against Christ and His Church for a time – but at any time – God can cut them down. So it was with Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, so too here in Gideon’s day. Then let not the Church be overwhelmed, ‘God shall cut off all flatt’ring lips,/tongues that speak proudly thus,/we’ll with our tongues prevail, our lips/are ours: who’s lord o’er us?’ (Psalm 12:3-4 metrical)

The flight of the Midianites spelled freedom for the Israelites. In a moment suddenly the oppressor was gone. Suddenly, their misery was turned to gladness. So it is with the Lord’s people spiritually. Through Christ, the greater than Gideon, God giveth them the victory over their spiritual foes. Whether by renewal or for the first time. As with the success of Gideon and his men, with their trumpets sounding, lamps blazing and battle cry, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon” so too, in New Testament terms, God is able to bless the preaching of sound gospel doctrine, the light of the holy profession of His people and the battle cry that speaks of trust in Himself and His appointed Saviour. As Paul puts it in writing in 2 Corinthians 10:4 ‘(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)’. Gideon’s victory which was Israel’s, was a clear revelation that salvation is of the LORD.

That is a timeless biblical principle.

G B Macdonald


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Private Prayer – A Example from the Life of Jesus

In Mark chapter 1 and verse 35 we read of a time when the Saviour prayed in private. ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’

What a wonder, that so great and glorious a Person should thus seek out a private place for prayer. Christ was a true man. He was a man who prayed. He taught His disciples to pray; as One who prayed Himself. There is a deep mystery in the prayer life of the Saviour, but it is revealed plainly in the scriptures of truth that Jesus prayed.

He prayed on this occasion in a solitary place. There are times when the Christian should seek to be alone for prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus taught his hearers, as One having authority. In that sermon he declared, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). So we see that Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, both by precept and example.

We are not told what Jesus prayed for. We do consider that His holy human soul took great delight in prayer. Moreover, His work demanded it. We read in the context in Mark 1 of Him casting out devils, and elsewhere in Mark chapter 9, Jesus said in response to a question from his disciples as to why they could not cast out a devil, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). The Saviour also set His disciples and example. By this we learn that prayer is a vital part of the Christian life.

What an honour is thus placed on prayer. How the disciples’ of Jesus should be men and women of prayer. My friend, do you pray in private? A minister once indicated, it is what we are in private before God that truly matters. Perhaps we must admit how far short we come of the holy example of Jesus, the Head of the Church. If so our response should be with that disciple who said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” What a fruitful request that was, for Jesus taught them that form of prayer commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.

What blessings have come, and shall yet come, as a result of private prayer in the life of the individual believer.

G B Macdonald



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Two Testimonies from John the Baptist

In Matthew chapter 3 we are often drawn to the closing verses of the chapter. In these verses we have the remarkable baptism of Jesus of Nazareth and the testimony that He received from the Father – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This portion is very precious and profound.

Before this closing portion we read of the ministry of John the Baptist. Suddenly he appears ‘preaching in the wilderness of Judea.’ What a strange place to preach. His message is not that which is naturally pleasing to man – “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”- yet, in the providence of God many resort to him and ‘were baptised of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.’ The Lord blessed his ministry. He was a prophet and the forerunner of the Christ of God. This reminds us that it is the blessing of God we need, not modern ideas on how to please man and ‘grow the church.’

One interesting feature of Matthew 3 is the contrast between what John the Baptist says to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and what he says to Jesus. To the former he speaks most strongly. He denounces them as a generation of vipers. He warns them they are exposed to the wrath to come. He calls them to repent. He really indicates they cannot in their present condition be baptised of him. Contrast this with what he says to the Lord Jesus. He simply says, “I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me?” In other words, John felt so unworthy in the presence of Jesus that he hesitated to baptise him, till he was told that it was needful, for, as Jesus says, “…thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” When taken together with the witness of God the Father at the baptism of Jesus, we have a strong witness to the Person of Christ and His purity.

What a stark contrast. John’s language to the leaders of the Jewish Church, and his language to the true Head of the Church.

How we should respect the authority with which John spoke, and remember what he said elsewhere about Jesus of Nazareth – “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

G B Macdonald





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Sydney Communion – March 2018

This month we were pleased to have the assistance of Rev George Hutton (Grafton) at our communion. A communion is always a very precious and special time in the congregation, when the scripture is preached and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered.

On Thursday morning the solemn subject of confession of sin was before us. The minister directed us to consider a sin that lies at the root of many other sins – the sin of pride. The text was from Proverbs 29:23 ‘A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.’ One point noted was that it is most strange that man should be proud. He is by nature a sinner – here is no cause for pride but rather shame. How very strange it is though that the Christian should be proud, when it is by grace such are saved. The sin of pride must be confessed and forsaken.

On Thursday evening we were encouraged to consider the solemn words of the exalted Christ to Ephesus – one of the seven Churches of Asia. In Revelation 2:4 we read: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Such words of rebuke remind us of the careful and continued interest of the Saviour in His Church upon earth. He has a profound knowledge of each and every congregation of His Church and by this rebuke teaches us to examine ourselves as individuals and congregations.

On Friday morning we looked at the words in Galatians 2:20 ‘…the life which I now live in the flesh…’ The minister directed us to consider the Christian life Paul now lived. The nature of it, the source of it and the evidence for it. The apostle Paul had been dead in trespasses and sins, but now he was spiritually alive. In self examination we must ask ourselves such questions as: “What is my relationship to Christ?” and “Is the life I now live consistent with the gospel?”

A fellowship meeting was held on the Friday evening. The portion selected for the purpose of self-examination was Psalm 27:1 ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?‘ God is the light of His people, He it is by His Word and Spirit who first enlightens them. Only the One who said at the first “Let there be light…” can enlighten the darkness of a sinner’s heart. The Lord is the salvation of His people. Such could in no wise save themselves. The Lord’s people are taught this, as well as being persuaded and enabled to trust in the One who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through Him. The Lord is the strength of His people. The Christian receives strength from Christ through His own appointed means of grace.

On Saturday further preparation for the Lord’s Supper was encouraged by a consideration of Matthew 5:14-16. The disciples of Jesus are the light of the world. As well as being saved by Him who calls Himself the Light of the World, they are to shine as witnesses for Christ. The Christian is not to hide his or her light but let that light shine by open profession of Christ.

The Sabbath morning service and the administration of the sacrament was taken by Rev Hutton. Our attention was directed by him to the words in John 10:17 “…I lay down my life…” These words and similar in the context reveal to us something of the weight and importance Jesus placed on His saving work. He was conscious of what was required of Him by the Father. The Saviour willingly and lovingly laid down His life for the sheep as the Good Shepherd. A most perfect sin-atoning sacrifice.

On Sabbath evening we were directed to consider a birth of vital importance – the new birth. In John 3:3 Jesus stressed to a religious man the absolute necessity of being born again. Such is the lost and ruined condition of man by nature that he needs to be born from above. This is the work of God.

On Monday we were encouraged to hear of the reviving work of God as that is set forth in Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 of his prophecy. The bones in the valley were very dry, all spoke of death and helplessness so far as man was concerned. So too was the case of Israel in captivity, but God could change that desolate scene and did so. So the New Testament Church can be revived.

Thanks are due to Rev Hutton for his willing assistance, and we hope and pray that the Lord would be pleased to bless the communion season and the fellowship enjoyed around the Word and Sacrament.

G B Macdonald




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The Mercy of God – A Quote from Thomas Watson

“As God’s mercy makes the saints happy, so it should make them humble. Mercy is not the fruit of our goodness, but the fruit of God’s goodness. Mercy is an alms that God bestows. They have no cause to be proud that live upon the alms of God’s mercy. ‘If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head,’ Job x 15: all my righteousness is the effect of God’s mercy, therefore I will be humble and will not lift up my head.”

(Thomas Watson – Body of Divinity p.94 Banner or Truth Trust 1978)

G B Macdonald


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Wise Advice for a New Year

The Book of Proverbs furnishes us with wise advice. This wise advice is as useful in this New Year of 2018 as in the past year.

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we have such advice. We are exhorted by the inspired writer, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

In these words we have wise advice, coupled with a precious promise.

The wise advice comes to us in three statements. Firstly, we are to trust in the LORD with all our heart. How ready we should be to do this. The God of the Bible is One who is eminently worthy of our trust. His faithfulness is very great. Secondly, we are cautioned not to lean upon our own understanding. This we are prone to do, in spite of often having but limited understanding of this or that. This can lead to us misjudging people or events. Thirdly, we are encouraged to acknowledge Him in all our ways. The believer does so through the grace of prayer. We have a wonderful example of the blessing of such acknowledging of God in the case of Nehemiah. He asked the LORD help time and again and had wonderful answers to his prayers.

Might we not reflect that in a past year, many of our difficulties and problems were the consequence of our failure to trust in the LORD with all our heart, a tendency at the same time to lean too much on our own understanding and, as a result, not to acknowledge Him in all our ways?

We see that a very precious promise is given to encourage us to heed this wise advice. “…and he shall direct your paths.” He, who is able to keep us from the paths of sin, He who is mighty to lead His people like a shepherd, even He shall direct the paths of such as by faith and in prayer do humbly seek His help.

G B Macdonald


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The Promise of Everlasting Life

There are many very precious saying of Jesus in the Bible, and there are a number found in John chapter 6. We read there for example, Jesus saying, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” We also read the wonderful assurance in verse 37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

At a recent prayer meeting we looked at verse 47. What a glorious promise we have in that verse: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. A simple, but precious promise. So very precious because it fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, being God as well as man, cannot lie. He cannot deceive and in this statement He does not.

Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ have everlasting life. How do we know? Because He said so. He is trustworthy and thus worthy of our trust, elsewhere He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

As this year draws to an end do you believe on Him?

Consider well that precious promise:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

G B Macdonald

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David’s Refuge from the Wicked

Psalm 86 is titled, ‘A Prayer of David’. Many of the psalms of David are prayers, and David was clearly a man of prayer, as well as one who was divinely lead to write psalms of praise. Thus we have, in the Psalms, as in so many other places of Scripture, a reminder of how important prayer is in the life of the Christian.

In verses 14-16 of Psalm 86, David writes, “O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.”

Here we have, in the first place, the complaint that David made to God. He does not complain of God’s dealings with him, but of men’s dealings with him. He prayerfully spreads these before God. Such wicked persons are described as proud, and in the same breath, they are termed as having risen against him. Thus, Matthew Henry, makes the point, ‘Many are made persecutors by their pride…’ David goes on to speak of violent men who have sought after his soul, and Matthew Henry writes, ‘the design is not only to depose but to destroy.’ Why are they doing these things against David? What could be one reason why they are so disposed? David himself makes it clear when he writes, “…and have not set thee before them.” They were not walking in the fear of God.

From such sad complaint and from such painful experience of the malice of the wicked, David turns by faith to God. He pens a very beautiful reflection upon the character of the God who cares for him. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” As C H Spurgeon writes, What a contrast! We get away from the hectorings and blusterings of proud but puny men to the glory and goodness of the Lord.’ Perhaps David has considered that which we read in Exodus 34:6, where God reveals Himself to Moses, ‘And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…’ If so, ought not we, in our day, to reflect on such a wonderful revelation of the character of God?

This consideration of the care of so great a God for him, led David to cry in prayer to the Almighty. “O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.” As the commentator W S Plumer observes, ‘The strength sought would effect deliverance and impart courage.’

If David, is to go on, in spite of his enemies, then He pleads for the help of God. So we see, how very suitable this prayer of David is for the Lord’s dear people in this day too.

G B Macdonald

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Sydney Communion – Aug/Sept. 2017

At our recent Communion Season, I was privileged to have the help of Rev Jett Smith, the minister of our Auckland congregation. My thanks are due to him for his help and ministry among us.

As usual, the communion season began with a service on Thursday morning. The text was from Exodus 5:2 ‘And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.’ Here we have another king of Egypt, who knew not Joseph, nor regarded the God of Joseph. His ignorance of God was great, yet he was not ashamed to own that. Sadly, many in our day are not ashamed of their ignorance of the God of the Bible. Coupled with his ignorance, was disobedience to the will of God. The Lord’s servants expressed that will to him, yet he would not yield. Lastly, we noted his stubbornness in continuing in sinful rebellion. We could see lessons here for ourselves in this spiritually dark day.

On Thursday evening, the minister preached from Genesis 6:5 on the wickedness that God saw in the days of Noah. His three points were, The Demonstration of Sin, The Depth of Sin and the Dreadfulness of Sin. The question for ourselves being – do we view sin as a dreadful evil? In due time the judgment of God came, and only those in the Ark survived the fearful overthrow, so must we be in Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and such as by faith are found in Him shall be saved.

On Friday evening the subject was that of self-examination. This is of course, a most needful duty for all who prepare to sit at the Lord’s Table. We were led to consider Romans 7 especially verse 16 ‘If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.’ The Apostle Paul found a struggle with sin. The Old Man would not give way with ease. But in all his struggles against sin, Paul was acknowledging that God’s just demands were right and proper – the law was good.

On Saturday morning we considered a ‘Loyal Profession of Love to King David.’ A gentile believer, Ittai the Gittite, made this profession. The text was found in 2 Samuel 15:21. Here we find David fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. What a dark day! At such a time as this Ittai, a Philistine by birth and nation, was challenged. He had begun to follow David, but would he continue, even when David and his cause seemed low? By the grace of God, this man made confession of David as his king even at this time! He raised a God-honouring witness on the side of the King. So too, the Christian is called to follow his Master. And Jesus would have His people to partake of His Supper.

On the Communion Sabbath morning, Rev Smith encouraged us to consider the suitability of the Great High Priest – the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 5:5-10 we see, The Appointment of Christ, The Obedience of Christ and the Perfection of Christ. The One appointed, did the work. He cried from the Cross –“It is finished.” One word in the Greek – Finished! Following the Fencing of the Lord’s Table, where more particular guidance was given as to the marks of those who should come to the Lord’s Table, as well as those who ought not, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was again held in our congregation. A witness was again raised on the side of Christ in Riverstone, NSW.

In the evening we looked at the very wonderful case of the healing of the noblemen’s son – John 4:46-54. Here was a particular and pressing request made by the nobleman to Jesus. His son was at the point of death – would Jesus come down and heal him? The Saviour responded with a general caution, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” How many are indeed looking for some remarkable religious experience of this sort or that, but neglecting the simple words of Christ? This man did believe the word of Jesus, and as he returned so believing, he was met with the wonderful news – “Thy son liveth.” His son was whole again. Best of all – ‘Himself believed, and his whole house.’ As an old missionary on Skye is reported as having said – “Faith is the emptiness of the soul coming to the fullness of Christ.” As with the nobleman – it shall not be disappointed!

On Monday a service of thanksgiving was held. We had much to be thankful for, given the Lord’s kindness in giving us His Word and Sacrament. Rev Smith preached from the encouraging words in Isaiah 60:22 ‘A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.’ This is one of the texts of Scripture that point to days of gospel blessing yet to be seen on the earth. The cause of God may go very low, as it did in Noah’s day, but He is able to revive His own work and grant great increase. May we never limit the Lord.

So, we had an encouraging and spiritually profitable communion. Such a time upon the earth is a precious foretaste of heaven to the Lord’s people. ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ (Isaiah 35:10)

G B Macdonald


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The Departing Saint’s Confession

I read recently read this piece from C H Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and found it a comforting truth from Psalm 31:5 and meditation thereon by the writer.

G B Macdonald

Evening, August 27

“Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”

—Psalm 31:5

These words have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure. We may profitably consider them this evening. The object of the faithful man’s solicitude in life and death is not his body or his estate, but his spirit; this is his choice treasure—if this be safe, all is well. What is this mortal state compared with the soul? The believer commits his soul to the hand of his God; it came from him, it is his own, he has aforetime sustained it, he is able to keep it, and it is most fit that he should receive it. All things are safe in Jehovah’s hands; what we entrust to the Lord will be secure, both now and in that day of days towards which we are hastening. It is peaceful living, and glorious dying, to repose in the care of heaven. At all times we should commit our all to Jesus’ faithful hand; then, though life may hang on a thread, and adversities may multiply as the sands of the sea, our soul shall dwell at ease, and delight itself in quiet resting places.

Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Redemption is a solid basis for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance. What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people.

“Though thou slay me I will trust,

Praise thee even from the dust,

Prove, and tell it as I prove,

Thine unutterable love.

Thou mayst chasten and correct,

But thou never canst neglect;

Since the ransom price is paid,

On thy love my hope is stay’d.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

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Joseph and the Chief Butler

In Genesis 40:23 we read the words, ‘Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.’

The context informs us that Joseph and the butler had a remarkable relationship. They had met in a prison in Egypt, where Joseph was, as one falsely accused, and where the chief butler was, as one who had displeased Pharaoh. Joseph had shown tenderness and compassion to the butler in his sad state. In the providence of God, the butler had dreamed a dream which Joseph, as guided by God, truthfully interpreted. The butler was duly restored, whilst his fellow, the baker, was executed.

How very surprising then to read that this man forgot the person who had so accurately foretold what did indeed take place! ‘Yet’ – our attention is drawn to the wonder that such a one should forget Joseph – yet he did. Perhaps he was filled with the busyness of his restored position, or had some fear of Pharaoh, who can tell? What is sure is Joseph continued to languish in prison, whilst the butler walked at liberty.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes, ‘See here an instance of base ingratitude; Joseph had deserved well at his hands, had ministered to him, sympathized with him, helped him to a favourable interpretation of his dream, had recommended himself to him as an extraordinary person upon all accounts; and yet he forgot him.’ He goes on to write,’We must not think it strange if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our respects.’

In the providence of God, Joseph was be released at the time when he would be exalted to great usefulness and to high honour. When that time came, the butler said, ‘I do remember my faults this day…’

But whatever we might think of the ingratitude of the chief butler, how is it with us who have the hope that we have been saved by Jesus Christ? Matthew Henry comments, ‘Joseph had but foretold the chief butler’s enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours…yet we forget him, though often reminded of him…’

If we have been forgetful of the Lord Jesus Christ today, let us remember Him, and give thanks for all that He has done. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

G B Macdonald


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The Gospel to the Poor and Needy

One of the many well known sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ is found in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In these words, we have an example of the gospel to the poor and needy which was proclaimed by Christ. Earlier in chapter 11 of Matthew, we are told that Jesus listed His preaching of the gospel to the poor as an evidence of His being the Messiah. John the Baptist was to be told, among other wonderful signs that Jesus was the Christ, this was true, “to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Matt. 11:5)

The words of Jesus noted above, have been a source of encouragement and blessing to many poor sin-burdened ones down through the years. Little wonder, when they are the words of the Saviour of sinners.

Are we such as are toiling under the burden of the guilt of sin? Are we labouring after spiritual rest, but as yet have found none? Then, let us heed the words of Jesus, ” Come unto me…” What are we assured we shall find if we do come by faith to Christ? “ye shall find rest unto your souls…”

In commenting on this passage of God’s word, Matthew Henry writes, ‘…this is the sum and substance of the gospel call and offer…’

We are not to go elsewhere, we are to come to Christ. In Him we shall find rest for our weary souls, a rest, that is rest indeed, for as He says elsewhere, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

G B Macdonald



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John Flavel on the Seaman’s Preservative

In a sermon entitled, ‘The Seaman’s Preservative in Foreign Countries’, John Flavel notes that Psalm 139 touches on the omnipresence and omniscience of God. God is everywhere present, and He has complete knowledge of all things. He shows in this sermon that sin can never be secret, as no sinner can hide from the eye of God. Such a consideration should have a restraining influence upon us day by day.

Flavel writes:

‘The scripture speaks full home to this truth. Prov. v. 21. “The ways of a man are before the LORD, and he pondereth all his paths.” To ponder or weigh our paths is more than simply to observe and see them. He not only sees the action, but puts it into the balances, with every circumstance belonging to it, and tries how much every ingredient in the action weighs, and what it comes to. So that God hath not only an universal inspection upon every action, but he hath a critical inspection into it also, “The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed,” 1 Sam. ii. 3.’ (Flavel, vol. 5 p. 374 Banner of Truth Trust 1968 – italics in quotation).

Doubtless, Flavel had the seamen of his own day especially in mind in this sermon. They would sail far from home at times, but were never beyond the sight of God. So we should all reflect on this and pray:

Look on me, Lord, and merciful / do thou unto me prove, / As thou art wont to do to those / thy name who truly love. (Psalm 119:132 metrical)

G B Macdonald

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A Plea for Acceptance with God in Prayer

In Psalm 84:8-9 the psalmist writes, ‘O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.’

It was not a matter of indifference with the psalmist as to whether the LORD would hear his prayer or not. He was in earnest that the LORD should hear his prayer. He addressed himself to the God of Jacob, and thus could have the hope that God would hear his prayer, as He did that of Jacob of old. For example, when Jacob sought the LORD in anticipation of a meeting with Esau, whom he feared, the Most High heard his prayer. The wrath of Esau was restrained and Jacob and his household were not harmed. We should take encouragement from the revelation we have in the Bible of the God who hears the prayers of His people.

In order to further encourage God’s people to call upon Him, they can take up the petition of the psalmist in verse 9, ‘Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.’ The Hebrew word here translated ‘thine anointed’ can also be translated ‘Messiah’. Here is a strong plea for the believer in all of his or her approaches to God. When we plead for the sake of Jesus Christ, we are coming to God through the Messiah He has appointed. Matthew Henry notes, ‘In all our addresses to God we must desire that he would look upon the face of Christ, accept us for His sake, and be well-pleased with us in Him.’ (Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible).

G B Macdonald



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A Prayer for Revival

In Habakkuk 3:2 we have a prayer for revival breathed out by the LORD’s prophet. The prophets of God under the Old Testament were praying men. We see this in the case of a man like Elijah, who prayed earnestly that in might rain in time of famine, and persisted in so doing until he had the assurance that it would. We find that the LORD answered him by a great rain falling to break the drought (1 Kings 18:41-46).

Evidently, Habakkuk was also a man of prayer. In chapter 3:2 of the book that bears his name we have these words of his prayer recorded:

“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”

There are two parts to this prayer. Firstly, his prayerful concern and secondly, his prayerful petition.

The prophet acknowledged before God his concern at the sins of the people and the judgments threatened against them as a result. In chapter 1 of Habakkuk the LORD speaks of sending against the covenant people the Chaldeans, a ‘bitter and hasty nation.’ The prophet is burdened by this. He knows the LORD is righteous. He knows the people have sinned and that they merit the wrath of God. So too, we should be burdened by the sins of our day and generation. We should remember how God has judged others for the same sins. This is told us in Scripture. We too should appreciate that if the LORD should mark iniquity in our day, who should stand?

Following on from a due consideration of the message which God had revealed to him, the prophet makes a prayerful petition. He requests that the LORD might be pleased to revive His work. Some have translated the word revive, ‘preserve alive.’ In our own day of spiritual darkness and declension we too should follow the example of the prophet Habakkuk. His earnest plea should be ours too, “in wrath remember mercy.” We should remember that the LORD’s cause is His work. The spread of sound doctrine is His work. The blessing of the gospel is His work. He has revived it in the past and he can revive it in the present.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. That event was a great reviving of the LORD’s work and resulted in a fruitful time of much gospel blessing. In this year then, when the precious gospel truths rediscovered at the Reformation are again in many places lost sight off, let us pray:

O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”

G B Macdonald






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Sydney Communion – March 2017

It was a real privilege to have the help of Rev Caleb Hembd at our recent communion season. I am grateful to him for taking the time to come all the way from Gisborne, New Zealand to be with us.

On the Thursday morning we were directed, through the preaching of the word, to consider the case of Jonah. In particular, we noted the conflict between sense and faith in his soul, as he wondered at his own sinful rebellion and God’s preserving mercies. The language of sense was, “I am cast out of thy sight,” whilst the language of faith was, “yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” It is interesting to observe that, though he believed in the God of creation and providence, yet it was to God (as revealing Himself as a just God and a Saviour) that Jonah looked, when convinced of his sinful unworthiness. He looked by faith to God’s holy temple – the place of sacrifice and offering, which of course, typified the Christ to come.

In the evening, we were directed to 2 Samuel 14:14. Here the wise woman directed her appeal to David by way of a parable. The context to this parable was noted, together with its teaching and application. The minister observed the solemn thought, that every sin that has ever been committed must be punished, for God is just. Sin must be punished – either in the sinner – or the sacrifice. We cannot hope to atone for our own sin, but ‘Christ died for the ungodly’, and it is to that Saviour we must look for pardon and acceptance with God, through Him.

On Friday morning, the duty of self-examination was before us. The portion preached upon was found in John 6:66-68. There we find many disciples going back from Jesus. This was very strange as the Saviour was speaking to such about very precious and spiritual things. Sadly of course, this may be so in our day when some may well, and do, take offense at the gospel.The three points which the minister wanted us to note were i. Those who went back ii. The character of one who held fast to Christ and iii. The confession of this one. What a remarkable confession that was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” One very clear mark of grace in God’s people is the grace of perseverance. Whilst Judas was one who for a time continued with Christ, even when others at this time went back, ultimately, he too fell away. What need we have of the prayer, “Lord keep me, for I trust in Thee.”

On Friday evening at the fellowship meeting, the brethren were directed to consider marks of grace from the same portion of divine truth preached upon in the morning. Helpful marks of grace were brought forth by the men who spoke. Like Peter, the true believer is brought back again and again to this very point, “Lord, to whom shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life…”

On Saturday, in view of preparation for the Communion Sabbath, the minister wished us to be reminded of the value of the means of grace. To this end, the case of Lydia in Acts 16 was meditated upon. Her attendance at the means of grace was considered, together with the benefit she received and the lessons for ourselves on the Saturday of the Communion. Five lessons were suggested –  That we use the means of grace – seriously, diligently, prayerfully, charitably (desiring the good of others in communion) and hopefully.

In the action sermon on Sabbath morning, we looked at Psalm 69:9 ‘For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.’ The minister preached on: i. The Father’s house ii. The Zeal of Christ for the Father’s house and iii. The reproach that He endured for it. The Saviour was reproached in His offices of a prophet, of a priest and of a king. All of this was in the course of His doing the will of the Father and saving a number that no man can number of the lost race of Adam. Following the Fencing of the Table, once again, the Lord’s Table was served in our congregation and witness given to the Saviour, who loved His people even unto death.

On Sabbath evening we were asked the question “Whose disciples are we?” This was in connection with John 9:27-28. In that passage, the man born blind whose sight was given him by Jesus asked the Pharisees, “will you also be his disciples.” the application was made to the gospel hearer. How often we have heard the good news of the gospel, but must not some of us not face up to that sinful unwillingness to become the disciples of Jesus? No matter how many times the once blind man told the Pharisees how he was blessed by the Lord Jesus, yet he feared, they would remain unwilling to become His disciples.

On Monday evening, we concluded a most pleasant communion season with a service of thanksgiving. The truth we considered was found in Luke 17:15-16. Only one leper returned to give God thanks and he was a Samaritan. The question was asked, “what is true thankfulness in the eyes of God?” It was suggested that this was when our thankfulness, like that of the Samaritan, takes us back to Christ who has blessed us. It is when we, like him, make an unashamed profession of Christ. Finally, it is when our thankfulness, like his, is accompanied by humility. His reward for a thankful spirit – “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Surely this must have given him an assurance of His interest in Christ.

So, it now becomes us, to pray that the Holy Spirit would be pleased to follow the Word preached and Sacrament administered with his own divine blessing.

Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. (Psalm 75:1)

G B Macdonald






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David – the light of Israel

In 2 Samuel 21:17 David is described by his mighty men as ‘the light of Israel.’ They were troubled at the thought that such a light should be snuffed out. David had been almost killed by one of the giants of the Philistines, but in the providence of God his life was spared.

How right these men were in so describing their king. He was after all, the Lord’s anointed. He was the chosen one of God. He was selected, by the Holy One of Israel, not only from all the sons of Jesse, but from all the men of Israel, to be king in the room of Saul. Following his anointing by Samuel, he was filled with the Spirit of the LORD. His slaying of Goliath was a clear evidence that God was with him.  Even now, in his older years, David was a bright and shining light, so far as his men were concerned. They had viewed him as such and were much devoted to him, as Amasai declared, ‘Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee.’ (1 Chronicles 12:18)

When we read of David, spoken about as ‘the light of Israel’, we cannot but think of Christ Jesus, ‘the light of the world’. The Saviour said of Himself in John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ In Christ, we have One who is alone to be looked to for salvation and peace with God. He is the ‘true Light’ mentioned in John’s gospel , chapter 1.

In David, we see that in spite of His being a bright and a shining light, yet there were some dark spots in his life. He had sinful faults and failings, which provoked the LORD to anger. But in Jesus Christ, we find no such iniquity. We have a very beautiful description of the Saviour from the Spirit taught lips of Simeon. He came by the Spirit into the Temple and, lifting the child Jesus in his arms, he blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:29-32).

If David’s men were so devoted to David as the light of Israel, ought we not to be devoted to Christ, the David of the New Testament, and the Light of the world? Ought we not to view the Saviour of sinners as that Light that shineth in the darkness of this sinful world? And ought we not to follow Him, as Matthew Henry observes in his commentary on John 8:12 ‘Follow Christ, and we shall undoubtedly be happy in both worlds. Follow Christ, and we shall follow him to heaven.’ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

G B Macdonald



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A Quote for a New Year

A simple quote to begin the year.

‘The more we are growing in the sense of our infirmities, the more shall we see our need of clinging more closely to Christ—drawing more largely upon His grace, and entering more fully into the cleansing virtue and value of His atoning blood.’ (A W Pink on Genesis 20 in Gleanings in Genesis – Abraham at Gerar)

G B Macdonald

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Dangerous Counsel Defeated

At our weekly prayer meeting, we have been examining the life of David, who is one of the most prominent figures in Old Testament history. David’s life yields interesting information on God’s care for His people. On more than one occasion, we detect the hand of God for good in David’s life.

One such occasion, is when the Most High defeated the ‘good’ counsel of Ahithophel. Naturally, we must make the point that Ahithophel’s counsel was not morally good, but it was politically astute. If they were to overthrow David, then, he argued, let them not lose momentum but defeat him while he is weak – as he then was.

However, Absalom and all the men of Israel agreed that the counsel of Hushai the Archite, of caution, delay and a general call to arms, was preferable. In 2 Samuel 17:14 we read the reason why Absalom did not take the advice of Ahithophel as his preferred course of action, ‘For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.’ Thus it was that God defeated the dangerous counsel of Ahithophel.

In commenting on this matter, the writer A W Pink observes that, ‘In working out His own eternal designs, in ministering to the spiritual and temporal needs of His people, and in delivering them from their enemies, God acts as sovereign, employing subordinate agents or dispensing with them as He pleases.’

It may be a comfort to God’s people in our day, that while their enemies are mighty, and their designs against the church and people of God exceeding subtle, yet God is able to defeat them as he did in David’s case.

Here in Australia, for example, we see that while some prominent political figures are very much in favour of so-called ‘same sex marriage’, their goal of introducing legislation to achieve their aim has been utterly frustrated in 2016. We hope and pray it will be so in 2017 also.

G B Macdonald


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The True Greatness of a Nation

In Proverbs 14:34 we have a timeless mark of the true measure of the greatness of a nation. There we read that, ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.’

We know in our own day that some nations are large and others are small. We know that some are economically and militarily mighty, while others are poor and often overlooked. Some nations meet at the great summits of world power such as the G20, while others are not invited. But we see at once from the text of scripture quoted above, that it is righteousness that is the true measure of the greatness of a nation.

We cannot think of righteousness, without reference to God and His moral law. The Lord reveals Himself in the Bible as supremely righteous. In Deuteronomy 32:4 Moses describes God as follows, ‘…his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.’ The theologian W G T Shedd observes, ‘He is righteous by nature and of necessity.’

As far as we are concerned, God’s moral law, summarily comprehended in The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), is a revelation of the righteous standard God requires. Nations, through their appointed rulers, are to seek to establish righteous laws in their lands, taking as their guide these solemn commandments of God. They ought to encourage good and punish ill.

Alas, we find in many nations it is not so, but rather, sin is their great shame. ‘Sin is a reproach to any people.’ To any people – be that nation never so great according to many other standards!

So, when we hear the newly elected president of the United States proclaim that he wants to Make America Great Again, we should remember the biblical measure.

‘Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.’

G B Macdonald



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David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth

In 2 Samuel chapter 9 we read of the deeply touching meeting between King David and Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan.

In the providence of God, David has been firmly established upon the throne of Israel. Note the gracious spirit of the king when he expresses the desire of his heart thus, “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” This desire of David reveals much. It reveals that he was a man who was determined to be faithful to the covenant made between him and Jonathan. For the sake of Jonathan, he was most willing to show kindness to one of the house of Saul. We need to remember of course, that this was in a day and age when such as were raised up to power and kingship frequently disposed of any from the former ruling family, lest they became a rival.

We must also recall that David had been fearfully persecuted by Saul – grandfather to Mephibosheth. Yet – for Jonathan’s sake – David is willing to show kindness. He tells Mephibosheth, ” Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”

Not only does the chapter reveal David’s desire expressed as it is in verse 1, but we find David pursuing this desire with determination until at length the kindness desired is actually shown. We can imagine David’s delight at being told that there is indeed one left of the house of Saul who may be the object of David’s grace, and that he is a son of Jonathan! Moreover, he is a lame son who was in great need of help.

So we are brought to the scene of Mephibosheth bowing down before the king and David showing mercy and assuring him that for the sake of Jonathan he will receive good. The writer A W Pink notes, ‘A most admirable spirit did our hero now display: instead of using his royal power tyrannically or maliciously, he put it to a most noble use: to return good For evil, to extend pity to the descendant of his foe, to befriend one who might well have feared death at his hands…’ (A W Pink – The Life of David)

But friends, what is this in comparison to the mercy that God shows to a sinner for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ? How happy are they who – for Jesus’ sake – are blessed and accepted as one of the king’s sons by adoption. They have a more sure word of promise – who by divine grace and divine drawing – have fled for refuge to the hope set before them in the gospel.

As Jesus Christ said, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37)

G B Macdonald

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David’s Sense of the Goodness of God

In 2 Samuel chapter 7:5-16 we read of the message which God sent to David via the prophet Nathan. David has been greatly blessed by God. He has been raised up from obscurity to occupy the throne of Israel. God has given him rest from all his enemies. He has been established and strengthened as king. In verse 17 we are assured that the prophet Nathan had faithfully recounted to David all that God had revealed to him. Included in this merciful message was the wonderful blessing that, while David would not build the Temple in Jerusalem, his son would do so. So we read, for example in verse 13, that the LORD assures David that, “He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”

What was the response of King David?

We find that this gracious man was so struck by a sense of the goodness of God to him that he went to the Tabernacle and sat before the LORD. He then prayerfully acknowledged God’s great goodness to him. David wondered that the LORD should take knowledge of him and so bless him. We read that he said, “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?”

Commenting on the life of David, A W Pink notes the following, ‘Filled with joyful amazement at Jehovah’s infinite condescension, David at once left the royal palace and betook himself to the humble tent which housed that sacred ark, there to pour out his heart in adoration and praise. There is nothing like a keeling sense of God’s sovereign, free and rich grace, to melt the soul, humble the heart, and stir unto true and acceptable worship.’ (AW Pink The Life of David)

When the believer considers what God has done from him or her, ought they not to have a humbling sense of the goodness of God? God reminded David in the message He sent to him, that He was God, that He was David’s God and that He who had so cared for David would bless David’s son who would build the Temple.

May God indeed be our God and Redeemer and may He bless not only us, but those who come after us that we hold dear.

G B Macdonald

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David’s Gracious Response to Saul’s Death

In the first chapter of 2 Samuel we read of the very gracious response by David to the news of the death of Saul.

In verses 11 and 12 we read of the response of David and his men. One might think that whilst David would mourn the passing of his dear friend Jonathan he might have exalted in the death of Saul who had wronged him so grievously and dealt with him most unjustly. Not so. We read instead, ‘Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.’

In this response we see something of the intensity of David’s grief. He set an example which his men followed. We would think that David might be excused from mourning over Saul, but David clearly did not feel so. Moreover, he solemnly deals with the Amalekite that out of his own mouth suggested he had killed the Lord’s anointed. Perhaps David, being himself the Lord’s anointed felt something of an affinity with Saul?

Surely, it was by God’s grace that David did not give way to a malicious delight in the death of Saul. Saul had wronged him but he had not wronged Saul. Saul had showed enmity to him, but he had not responded in kind, nor did he now.

Perhaps there is food for thought for us when we hear of the death of such as have been enemies to God and his people. In time, Solomon, the son of David would – as inspired by the Holy Spirit – pen the following words, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth; and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Prov. 24:17).

G B Macdonald


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The Urgency of the Gospel Call

The call of the gospel is an urgent call. Sinners cannot come to Christ too soon, for they cannot be safe too soon. They cannot be delivered from wrath and condemnation on account of their sin too soon. Thus, the … Continue reading

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Daniel’s Friends – Steadfast Under Trial

The steadfast faith which the three friends of godly Daniel showed in Babylon, is a wonderful example of the strength that God can give to His people in times of trial. When  others simply bowed down to worship the golden image which the king had set up, they steadfastly refused to do so.

When it came to the attention of king Nebuchadnezzar, he gave them a second chance, coupling it with the most dreadful threat that they would undoubtedly be cast into the burning fiery furnace, to suffer a most cruel and horrible death. The king blasphemously suggested that the God whom they served was not able to deliver them out of his hand.

In responding to the king, these three men of God gave a most firm answer, which we read of in Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’ In saying, ‘we are not careful to answer thee’, they were saying, “we don’t need to dwell on this, our duty is clear.” As the theologian John Calvin put it, ‘Thus those holy men say, we do not care, we do not enter into the consideration of what is expedient or useful, no such thing! for we ought to settle it with ourselves never to be induced by any reason to withdraw from the sincere worship of God.’ (John Calvin Commentary on Daniel Banner of Truth Trust p.220).

What became of such men? Did they perish in the flames? By no means. We read that the Lord delivered these men that trusted in him by His almighty power. While the miracle by which, not so much as the smell of fire was on these men, was a great one, yet the miracle of their steadfastness under severe trial was perhaps greater. Indeed, this is what the noted Bible commentator Matthew Henry suggests, when he writes, ‘And truly, all things considered, the saving of them from this sinful compliance was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace as the saving of them out of the fiery furnace was in the kingdom of nature.’ (Matthew Henry – Commentary on the Whole Bible).

If we are to stand in this day of compromise and false worship, then we too need to be strengthened by the same gracious God, who so wonderfully strengthened these three men.

G B Macdonald


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The Sovereignty of God in the Leadership of the land

God is sovereign. He is the One whose kingdom ruleth over all. In Psalm 75:6-7 the Psalmist notes that, ‘…promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.’ This is true in the leadership of nations and kingdoms as in lesser situations and positions. It is interesting to observe how some come from relative obscurity to the most prominent positions in public life.

David was such a one. He was taken from shepherding the sheep to be king over God’s people Israel. He was anointed to be king by Samuel the prophet. We read of that event in 1 Samuel 16. In the first verse of the chapter we read that the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. We see from this verse that God appointed David to be king. Whilst David may have been a special case in many respects, not least because of the seed of David Christ would come, nevertheless, when we see people raised up to positions of power and authority we should consider the providence of God in the matter.

However, not only should we consider such things, but those who come to govern and occupy high office, should acknowledge the Most High. How good it would be for them and those they govern, if they would recognise the God who is sovereign and acknowledge Him as they embrace their responsibilities as leaders in the land.

G B Macdonald


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Escape from Damascus

We are familiar with the great events which took place as Saul of Tarsus approached the city of Damascus, but perhaps don’t so often think on the remarkable escape that he had from the same city. This incident is referred to in Acts chapter 9:23-25 and also by the Apostle himself in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. There we read the following recollection by the divinely inspired writer, ‘In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.’

The deliverance itself was timely, given that the enemies of the truth watched the gates of the city day and night to apprehend him. In the mercy and kind providence of God, Saul (as he was then called) escaped by night through a window in the city wall. His escape from Damascus was an escape from death. He had proved from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God, promised in the Old Testament – for that – he must die! We see from this passage that God is able to deliver his servants who trust in Him. Sometimes they must die for the truth as martyrs, as Paul himself would in due time. But the Lord still had much work for him to do and on this occasion his life was spared. Paul had not forgotten this remarkable escape.

There was of course another deliverance that preceded this one which was a greater wonder. That mercy is not mentioned in the text in 2 Corinthians quoted above, but when we turn to Acts chapter 9 we read about it – his conversion to Christ. Had this man not been thus savingly changed he had not been in the danger to which he was exposed by his faithful witness for Jesus. So too, some of the trials which the Lord’s believing people pass through can be seen to be very much related to their Christian profession. But let them consider not only what kindness the Lord has shown them in their deliverance from these but that great deliverance from sin through the salvation of the Lord.

Then such can say with the psalmist, ‘O that men to the Lord would give praise for His goodness then, and for his works of wonder done unto the sons of men’ (Psalm 107:15 metrical).

G B Macdonald

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The Security and Stability of the Throne of God

In Psalm 93 we read the following words from the divinely inspired psalmist, “Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.” If he were writing in this our day, he could express the same truth. Indeed – we can do so ourselves. The day in which such a truth was penned was fundamentally no different to our day. We live in the same fallen world, where sin abounds. But amidst all the changes that take place year by year wherever we might live, this truth remains – God’s throne is established of old, He is from everlasting. This speaks to us of the security and stability of His throne.

The One who occupies the throne is the LORD. We read in verse 1 of the same psalm, “The Lord reigneth…” He is in control. He is upon the throne. We are not to think of a throne of gold or silver, but this throne speaks of His rule, authority and government. He is described in verse 1 as clothed with majesty and with strength. What a comfort to His people in a sin darkened world. While his enemies may and do rage, like the floods mentioned in verse 3 of the psalm, He reigns over such things, as noted in verse 4 “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.” As it is expressed in Psalm 97:1 (metrical), “God reigneth, let the earth be glad, and isles rejoice each one…”

The throne of God is stable and sure. Where is the throne of Pharaoh? He said in Exodus 5:2 “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. “His throne is utterly overthrown and he with it. Where is the throne of Nebuchadnezzar? That great king was so humbled by the LORD that he acknowledged of God, “How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3). Even so, at last, all the thrones and kings of the earth shall end, but the throne of God shall endure. 

The question for us is, have we been reconciled to God? Are we at peace with Him? Have we found peace with God, before Whose throne we must yet appear to be judged? How may we so find peace with God but through the Lord Jesus Christ, who declared: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)

G B Macdonald

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God’s Fatherly Care of His People

God’s fatherly care of His people is a precious subject, which should bring much comfort to the heart and mind of the believer in Christ. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 103:13 ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.’ He goes on to note, in the next verse, ‘For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.’

In The Righteous Man’s Refuge, John Flavel writes:

“Divine care extends itself to the souls of all that fear God, and to all the concernments of their souls; and manifestly discovers itself in all the gracious provisions it hath made for them. More particularly, it is from this tender, fatherly care that,

  1. A Saviour was provided to redeem them, when they were ruined and lost by sin, John 3:16 Romans 8:32.
  2. That spiritual cordials are provided to refresh them in all their sinking sorrows and inward distresses, Psalm 94:19.
  3. That a door of deliverance is opened to them, when they are sorely pressed upon by temptations, and ready to be overwhelmed, 1 Cor. 10:13.
  4. That a strength above their own comes seasonably to support them, when they are almost over-weighed with inward troubles; when great weights are upon them, the everlasting arms are underneath them, Psalm 138:3, Isa. 57:16.
  5. That their ruin is prevented, when they are upon the dangerous and slippery brink of temptations, and their feet almost gone, Psalm 72:2, Hos. 2:6, 2 Cor. 12:7
  6. That they are recovered again after dangerous falls by sin, and not left a prey and trophy to their enemy, Hos. 14:4
  7. That they are guided and directed in the right way, when they are at a loss, and know not what course to take, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 73:24.
  8. That they are established and confirmed in Christ, in the most shaking and overturning times of trouble and persecution; so that neither their hearts turn back, nor their steps decline from his ways, Jeremiah 32:40, John 4:14
  9. That they are upheld under spiritual desertions, and recovered again out of that dismal darkness, into the cheerful light of God’s countenance, Isaiah 57:16.
  10. That they are at last brought safe to heaven, through the innumerable hazards and dangers all along their way thither, Hebrews 11:19.

In all these things the care of their God eminently discoverers itself for their souls.”

(Flavel Vol.3 p. 387-388 Banner of Truth Trust)

Surely such as are so loved can say with the inspired Psalmist, ‘How great’s the goodness thou for them/that fear thee keep’st in store,/And wrought’st for them that trust in thee/the sons of men before!’ (Psalm 31:19 metrical)

G B Macdonald

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Sydney Communion March 2016

At our March Communion Season 3rd-7th March, we were privileged to have the Rev Caleb Hembd, the minister of our congregation in Gisborne New Zealand with us to assist. A communion season is a time of fellowship centered on the worship of God and, in particular, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

On Thursday morning we were directed to Acts 8:2-3 and in particular the words, ‘As for Saul…’ The sharp contrast between the mourning of devout men carrying Stephen the martyr to his burial and the sinful persecuting spirit of Saul of Tarsus was noted. Among other lessons from such conduct on his part, we learn something of the evil and power of sin, the need of the new birth, the absolute necessity of the Spirit’s work and the blessing and value of Christ’s sin-atoning death and its necessity for the salvation of even one sinner.

On Thursday evening the text was from Acts 9:4-5 0n the words of Jesus to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. The earnestness of Christ, His condescension and His compassion were all highlighted. In such words from the glorified Christ we see that He is the same Jesus of Nazareth whose ministry of mercy is so largely revealed in the gospel accounts.

On Friday morning, Mr Hembd preached from 1 Chronicles 12:17-18. In this place we read of Amasai and his men coming to David and pledging allegiance to him. They sought David in the wilderness where he then dwelt, so we must seek Christ in the means of grace which are sadly forsaken in our day. David greeted them with affection but also with a solemn warning that they must not betray him. The response of Amasai was observed in all its simple affection, ‘Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse…’ Is this our response to the Lord Jesus?

At the fellowship meeting in the evening, the portion to aid in the duty of self examination was from Psalm 66:19-20 and especially the words, ‘But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer…’ Among many helpful things said, it was mentioned that, The Lord’s people have some experience of answers to prayer; they are they who have cried and still cry for mercy through a consciousness of sin and that the born again soul finds a reason to pray in every condition, in prosperity as well as adversity.

On Saturday, the text of scripture was taken from Romans 15:13 ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’ In these words the Apostle expressed his fellowship with believers and his prayerful desire for their good.

On Sabbath morning we had the ‘action sermon’ from the solemn words in Matthew 26:39 ‘And he went a little further, and fell on his face…’ This humble stance of the Saviour indicated something of the agony of His holy human soul. This was all the more wonderful given His stance before His incarnation as the beloved Son of God. During His earthly ministry He prayed to the Father, and several times it is recorded that He looked up to heaven. But here in the garden, He is brought low, yet is still in all things doing the will of Him who sent Him.

In the preaching of the gospel on Sabbath evening, our minds were directed to the well known and oft quoted truth in Romans 1:16 ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.‘ This was what the gospel was to Paul – what is it to us?

The text for the service of thanksgiving on Monday was taken from the words in Isaiah 52:2 ‘Shake thyself from the dust…’ Israel was in a low condition because of her sin, much of it traceable to a lifeless formality in worship. In these words we have direction given to the church on her duty in such a sad condition. Here is a rousing call from God – still so relevant to the church in this New Testament age.

When a communion season has passed we should be stirred up spiritually. We should be stirred with love to Christ, whose death has been remembered. We should be stirred up to pray for the good of His church and the advance of His gospel in the earth. We should be stirred up to seek to make use of all the means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of His redemption and to follow that narrow way that leads to life eternal.

At the Wednesday evening prayer meeting before the communion, Rev Hembd spoke from John 11:55-56 which includes the question ‘What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?’ We trust that He did come, and for this we should give humble thanks.

G B Macdonald

Sermons from the communion can be found at


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Prayer and Praise in a Prison

In Acts 16: we read the remarkable testimony regarding Paul and Silas when imprisoned in Philippi. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.’

Why were these two godly men in prison? The prisons of the world remind us of the reality of sin and its awful consequences in a fallen world. Many are in prison and rightly so! They have done evil and require to be punished. Some are so wicked they must be locked away for the public good. But what had these men done? We find from the context that they had stood up boldly on the side of Christ. Through the power of Christ, the Apostle Paul had cast out an evil spirit and those who had wickedly got gain from the works of this, ‘spirit of divination,’ were incensed that their future hoped for profits had all gone. They stirred up trouble and had these good men condemned, beaten and imprisoned. They were in prison unjustly. ‘In queen Mary’s days,’ writes John Flavel, ‘the most excellent company to be found in England was in the prisons: prisons were turned into churches.’ (Works of John Flavel vol.3 p.142)

We might think that such men, suffering from bruised bodies and the great pain of injustice, might question the providence of God, or rail against their persecutors – not so. In fact, such was the grace of God and strength given them of Christ, that they were found praying, and singing in praises to God – at midnight. So bold were they, that the other prisoners heard their public witness. As John Flavel notes, ‘Though their feet were in the stocks, their spirits were never more at liberty.’ (Works of John Flavel vol.3 p.142)

We find that the Lord, who is the hearer or prayer, hearkened to their voice for the sake of Christ. He, who is divine, sent a great earthquake to loose their bonds. But rather than escaping like guilty men seeing an opportunity for freedom, they made no move. Instead, they preached Christ to the poor sinful jailer who had so ill-treated them. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, he was converted to Christ. The next day the magistrates who had beaten these Roman citizens against the law were forced to lead them out as innocent men.

So we see that while wicked men imprisoned Paul and Silas and meant it for evil, God meant it for good. O what good it was for the jailer and his family! O what good moreover for the infant Christian church in Philippi! O what good for their own souls (and ours) to be taught that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:9)

G B Macdonald

(Quotes from Flavel – The Works of John Flavel Banner of Trust Trust 1968)


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The Blessedness of Sin Pardoned

I came across this rather nice quote in volume 3 of the works of John Flavel. He is commenting on the invaluable mercy of the pardon of sin, which sets the saved sinner out of all danger of going to the prison of hell.

‘When the debt is satisfied, a man may walk as boldly before the prison door as he doth before his own: They that owe nothing fear no bailiffs.’

He goes on to note:

‘Here is the law, the wrath of God, and everlasting burnings, the just demerit of sin upon one side, and a poor sinful creature on the other: But the covenant of grace hath solved all. An act of oblivion is past in heaven, “I will forgive their iniquities, and their sins and transgressions, will I remember no more.” In this act of grace my soul is included; I am in Christ, and there is no condemnation. Die I must, but damned I shall not be: My debts are paid, my bonds are cancelled, my conscience is quieted: let death do its worst, it shall do me no harm; that blood which satisfied God, may well satisfy me.’

(Quotes taken from The Works of John Flavel vol. 3 p.144-145 Banner of Truth Trust 1968)

G B Macdonald

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A Gracious Desire Expressed

In Psalm 106:4-5 the godly Psalmist breathes forth a very gracious desire – ‘Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.’

It is interesting to note that he was fully convinced of the blessedness of the people of God. Indeed, such as are loved with an everlasting love by the Father – are blessed. Such as are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ – are blessed. Such as are comforted by the Spirit – are blessed. God’s people are a happy and a blessed people, because God is their Lord.

In his commentary on this passage in Psalm 106, Matthew Henry writes: ‘God’s people have reason to be a cheerful people, and to boast in their God all the day long; and those who have that gladness, that glory, need not envy any of the children of men their pleasure or pride.’

It is not surprising then, that we find the Psalmist desiring prayerfully to be counted among such a blessed people. As he considers their position, he desires to be among them. ‘Remember me with that love that thou to thine dost bear’ is the way it is translated in the metrical version. Note how strong his personal desire to be among such runs:

‘Remember me…O visit me with…That I may see the good…that I may rejoice in…that I may glory with…’

In other words that their blessed experience of Thy love might be mine! Is not this a gracious desire?

Matthew Henry comments, ‘As there are a people in the world who are in a peculiar manner God’s people, so there is a peculiar favour which God bears to that people, which all gracious souls desire an inheritance in; and we need desire no more to make us happy.’

Is the desire expressed by the Psalmist  your desire?

G B Macdonald

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The Light of the World

In John 7:46 the officers sent by the Chief Priests and Pharisees to arrest the Lord Jesus have returned without their prisoner. Asked why this is so, they offered a simple reply – “Never man spake like this man.”

In the next chapter in John’s gospel, we have a pronouncement from the lips of Christ, which only serves to confirm the astonished response of these officers. When speaking to the Pharisees in the Temple, the Lord Jesus declared:

‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’

As Matthew Henry, the Bible Commentator, states in his commentary:  ‘Note, Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.’ In other words, take careful note of this truth.

This is not simply the belief of Christians, or the decided view of the Church, but it is a truth claim of Christ Himself – “I am the light of the world…” To deny this, is to act as did the enemies of Christ, who replied, ‘Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.’ (John 8:13) They acknowledged that He bore record of Himself, but did not believe it was a faithful record. How many there are, even in our own day and generation who have a similar response, though perhaps not so unashamedly. 

This claim of Christ reminds us of the darkness of this sin-darkened world. The world is a spiritually dark place – because of sin. However, it is to sinners in this sin-darkened world Christ declares, ‘I am the light of the world…’ Where there is light there is hope. The light is stronger then the darkness. So Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, is able, as the Scriptures tell us, ‘…to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.’ (Hebrews 7:25)

Where do we stand in relation to this Person? Are we following Him in truth? If so, we may take comfort from the promise that follows Christ’s saying, “I am the light of the world” – “…he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

G B Macdonald


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A Lovely Redeemer – Quote from the Works of John Flavel

‘He is a lovely Redeemer. He came to open the prison-doors to them that are bound. Needs must this Redeemer be a lovely one, if we consider the depth of misery from which he redeemed us, even “from the wrath to come,”…Or, whether we consider the numbers redeemed, and the means of their redemption. “And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation.” He redeemed us not with silver and gold, but with his own precious blood, by way of price, with his out-stretched and glorious arm, by way of power, he redeemed us freely, fully, seasonably, and out of special and peculiar love. In a word, he hath redeemed us for ever, never more to come into bondage. O how lovely is Jesus Christ in the relation of a Redeemer to God’s elect!’

(Taken with slight editing from The Works of John Flavel vol2. p. 219, Banner of Truth Trust 1968)

G B Macdonald

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God’s Care of His People in Life and in Death

In Genesis chapter 46, we read of a very wonderful promise given by God to His servant Jacob. “I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.”

Jacob greatly desired to go down into Egypt to see his long lost son Joseph, but now as he come to the border of the leaving the Promise Land to do so, he was filled with fears. He was an old man and any such journey was a great undertaking. He was about to go down into Egypt and thus leave the land promised to him and his fathers by God. Was this the right step? Was this the Lord’s will? These questions and more may well have vexed the mind of Jacob at this time.

Thus, we find Jacob in Beersheba offering sacrifices to God. It was at this time, the very time when Jacob stood in need of guidance and confirmation that the LORD appeared to him in a dream. He gave Jacob the assurance, “I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” God promised to be with Jacob in life and death.

The eternal God would go with him in His divine presence and blessing in life and in death. In life – going down into Egypt. This God did, sparing the old man to be reunited in tender embrace by his son Joseph and supplying his temporal needs, and those of his large family in Egypt. God also assured this believer that He would be with him in death – “I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” How was it that he came up again? It was following his death, the body being tenderly conveyed by his family to the place of burial in the Promise Land. Joseph would and did, we believe, close his eyes in death, performing that noble duty of the favoured son.

So we see in this promise and what followed, that God was indeed with Jacob in life and death. Unworthy though he was, as a sinner, of such tender care, yet – for Christ’s sake – the Lord accepted Jacob and showed Himself a covenant God to Jacob.

Do we know this God, as our God? Is He the God of all comfort to us in life and death? May we, like Jacob, be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ.

‘And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.’ (Eph. 5:2)

G B Macdonald



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Isaac’s Question

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were men of note. They are sometimes called the patriarchs in reference to the significant place they occupy in Scripture and the history of the children of Israel. They were men who passed through some wonderful experiences which taught them spiritual lessons, and, through the record given in Scripture, still furnish us with food for meditation.

In Genesis 22 we read of a remarkable event that took place in the life of Abraham when God tried him. The nature of the trial was very serious and unusual. He was commanded by God to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. In the course of events God made a provision as he beheld the faith of His servant, and a ram was offered up instead of Isaac. Doubtless the events around this time made a deep impression on the soul of Isaac as well as that of his father Abraham.

As Abraham and Isaac ascended to the place of offering, Isaac took notice of one thing which was lacking. We read that Isaac asked his father, ‘Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ There was fire, there was wood, but no lamb. That which was absent, so far as Isaac could judge, was to his mind essential. How could there be a sacrifice without a lamb? As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, ‘See how expert Isaac was in the law and custom of sacrifices.’

This question posed by Isaac, should remind us of the significant place of the lamb in the subject of sacrifice. Without a lamb there could be no sacrifice, and without a sacrifice, no approach to God in peace. So too, without that Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – there is no acceptable sacrifice and no way to God in peace for sinners. As the Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me‘ (John 14:6).

Therefore, in the question that Isaac asked, we should reflect as to whether we know anything of the Sacrificial Lamb? Are we united to Christ by faith? Are we making our approach to God through the one sacrifice which God views with acceptance? The sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God, who died for a number that no man can number upon the cross at Calvary.

As the Apostle notes in Hebrews 9:28, ‘So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.’

G B Macdonald

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Ordination and Induction of Rev Caleb Hembd – Gisborne, New Zealand

On Friday the 9th of October, a congregation of some 50 to 60 souls gathered in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Gisborne, for the ordination of the Rev Caleb Hembd, and his induction to the pastoral charge of the congregation.

It was a notable event in the life of Mr Hembd, who was born and raised in the United States, and now commences his pastoral ministry in New Zealand. It was also deeply significant for the Gisborne congregation, not least, since the last time an ordination and induction was held in the congregation, was that of Rev J A T van Dorp, on the 23rd of August 1974. Mr van Dorp laboured faithfully in the congregation for 37 years, retiring from the pastoral charge on 1st October 2011, having, of course, been preceded by the Rev William MacLean. Thus, in the Lord’s goodness, a Free Presbyterian witness has been maintained in Gisborne, for many years.

The Australia and New Zealand Presbytery, met at 5.15pm and, there being no objections raised following the reading of the notice at the church door, the Moderator of Presbytery, Rev George G Hutton, preached a solemn and encouraging sermon from 2 Timothy 1-2 ‘I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.’

Thereafter, a narrative of the main events which had taken place leading up to this meeting, were read. Mr Hembd satisfactorily answered the questions from the Manual of Practice put to Probationers before their ordination and induction, and signed the Formula. Thereafter, he was ordained to the holy ministry with solemn prayer and the imposition of hands, in which, the Moderator was joined by the ministerial brethren then present. He was also, at this time, inducted to the pastoral charge of the Gisborne congregation and given the right hand of fellowship by the Moderator and the members of Presbytery.

The Moderator of Presbytery addressed the newly ordained and inducted minister, and the Rev J D Smith addressed the congregation. Several messages of goodwill were read out. The congregation were dismissed with the singing of Psalm 121 and the benediction, and were able to greet Mr Hembd upon leaving.

A supper was provided by the Gisborne congregation at a convenient location, where a pleasant time of fellowship was concluded with worship, during which we were reminded of the very reason for our meeting, in the reading of the final chapter of Matthew, which closes with the notable words of the Great Commission, ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.’

Gisborne, is a one of the first places in the world to see the sun each new day, and thus also, one of the first places to hear the gospel each new week. It is also a place that is blessed with a pleasant climate which, along with the good soil and careful cultivation by the local farmers, is a fruitful place of vineyards and citrus orchards, including the kiwi fruit, for which New Zealand is renowned. We hope and pray that the ministry of Rev Hembd will bear much spiritual fruit through the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and that the congregation will be edified and encouraged through the Spirit’s blessing on the word.

1 Timothy 4:2 ‘Preach the word…’

G B Macdonald

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He Went on His Way Rejoicing

‘He went on his way rejoicing.’ This is said of someone in the Bible. Who was he? What had he experienced? What became of him?

The person in question can be found in Acts chapter 8. He is nameless, other than a description of who he was and what he did. He was a eunuch of Ethiopia and he was in charge of the treasure of the queen of that nation.

He was a man – a son of Adam – a sinner by nature. How could such a person rejoice? How many do rejoice, when they should mourn over their sin and unregenerate state. But this man rejoiced. He was a man of intellect and ability. That much is clear from the passage which notes that he held a responsible position. He was a man who worshipped God. No atheist then. He was a man who not only read the Bible, but thought deeply about what he read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. This was the man who was filled with joy and went on his way rejoicing.

What was it that caused this joy? From the narrative in Acts 8 we find out some truths. He went on his way rejoicing in the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. This man had been perplexed as to the identity of the Person he read about in Isaiah 53. When he was taught by Philip and, we believe, by the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the word, he went on his way rejoicing. He did so moreover, because he had been strengthened to acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God. And indeed further, he went on his way rejoicing, having been baptised, as he very much desired. Notice, that he went, ‘on his way.’ He presumably went back to his own land and duties. He did not turn aside, but went on his way. So too, the sinner, saved by grace, goes on his or her way. Ultimately that way leads to glory. Surely such, should do so, as this man did: ‘He went on his way rejoicing.’

We are not told what became of him in his future life on earth, but are simply left to observe that: ‘He went on his way rejoicing.’

He had good reason to – what about you?

G B Macdonald

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The Wonder of the Forgiveness of Sin

Recently, in reading through The Works of Flavel volume 2, on his book The Method of Grace, I came across a very special piece about the wonder of remission of sin.

‘Remission cannot but appear the wonder of mercies, if we consider through what difficulties the grace of God makes way for it to our souls; what strong bars the love of God breaks asunder, to open our way to this privilege; for there can be no pardon without a Mediator; no other Mediator but the Son of God: the Son of God cannot discharge our debts, but by taking them upon himself as our surety, and making full payment, by bearing the wrath of God for us; and when all this is done, there can be no actual pardon, except the Spirit of grace open our blind eyes, break our hard hearts, and draw them to Christ in the way of believing. And as the mercy of remission comes to us through wonderful difficulties, so it is in itself a complete and perfect mercy: God would not be at such vast expence of the riches of his grace; Christ would not lay out the invaluable treasures of his precious blood to procure a cheap and common blessing for us. Rejoice then, ye pardoned souls, God hath done great things for you, for which you have cause to be glad.’

G B Macdonald

Quote from page 256 of The Works of John Flavel, published by Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1968.

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Heirs of God

In Romans 8:14-17, we read:

‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.’

J C Ryle notes regarding these people, that they ‘…are the richest people upon earth. It must needs be so. They are called “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

The inheritance of these people is the only inheritance really worth having. All others are unsatisfying and disappointing. They bring with them many cares. They cannot cure an aching heart or lighten a heavy conscience. They cannot keep off family troubles. They cannot prevent sicknesses, bereavements, separations, and deaths. But there is no disappointment among the “heirs of God.”

The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance which can be kept forever. All others must be left in the hour of death, if they have not been taken away before. The owners of millions of dollars can carry nothing with them beyond the grave. But it is not so with the “heirs of God”; their inheritance is eternal.’

Thus, they are a happy and a blessed people whose God is the LORD. ‘Heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.’ They shall reign with Him in that inheritance which is before them.

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’ (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Heirs indeed – heirs of God.

G B Macdonald

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All things work together for good…

In Romans 8:28 the Apostle Paul, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, asserts with confidence: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Robert Haldane, in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans comments:

‘Nothing is more necessary for Christians than to be well persuaded of the happiness and privileges of their condition, that they may be able to serve God with cheerfulness and freedom of spirit, and to pass through the troubles and difficulties of the world. Here, then, is further consolation: Christians are often in sorrows, sufferings, and trials. This is not in itself joyous, but grievous; but in another point of view it is a matter of joy. Though afflictions in themselves are evil, yet in their effects as overruled and directed by God, they are useful. Yea, all things, of every kind, that happen to the Christian, are overruled by God for his good!’ (Haldane, R. Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans Banner of Truth Trust 1963 – p.390)

God is the One who can overrule the trials of His people for their good and His glory. He is infinitely holy, wise and good. Haldane writes of the Christian, passing through the troubles and difficulties of this world. The destination of glory is a place where no trial or trouble shall enter to mar the joy of the Christian. As Job of old commented, ‘But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

‘And we know…’ Paul speaks from personal experience. At the end of his days, he could write to Timothy ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

May the Lord’s tried and troubled ones, be much comforted through His Word.

G B Macdonald

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Rejoicing at the Return of the Prodigal

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

These are the touching words of the father of the prodigal son. This was why he had commanded that the best robe be put on him, a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. This was why the fatted calf was to be killed and a feast held. This was why they were to rejoice!

They were to be glad because the prodigal son had come home. They were to be rejoice because the father himself rejoiced. He was exceeding glad at the return of his lost son. So lost that he thought him dead. His sorrow was turned into joy. We read in the narrative, ”And they began to be merry.”

When sinners repent and return, we should rejoice. If there is joy in heaven, there should be joy on earth.

It seems likely that the prodigal son had been brought up and taught in the way he should go, though he sadly departed. When he came to himself to realise his poverty, he also realised his sin against heaven, that is, against the God of heaven. What a mercy! Here there is encouragement for parents to teach their children in the days of their youth about God, about the reality of their sin against Him and the need to repent and return to God through Christ. Who can tell, but that the Holy Spirit may bless that teaching, perhaps, even in the ‘far country’.

May the parable of the prodigal son, encourage us to pray for the prodigal sons and daughters, who may yet be far astray. Pursuing pleasure and satisfaction in places and among people where it cannot be found. Let us pray to the God who knows who they are, where they are, and what state they are in, to work in such, so as to regenerate and call them effectually from darkness into His marvelous light. So that they might repent of their sin and come to the Saviour by faith, who declares, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

G B Macdonald

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The Blessing of Redemption Applied

Having appreciated volume 1 of The Works of John Flavel, I have now been reading volume 2. This follows on well from the first volume, as he now deals with the great and important subject of the Spirit applying the redemption purchased by Christ. What good can that redemption do any, unless it be applied? But, if it be applied by God the Holy Spirit to the soul – O how blessed and happy the soul is!

The believer has Christ and all His benefits. When Christ comes to the soul, salvation comes to the soul. As Flavel notes, ‘In this day’ (conversion), ‘Christ  cometh into the soul, and he comes not empty, but brings with him all his treasures of wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Troops of mercies, yea, the best of mercies, come with him.’ (Works of John Flavel vol.2 p.29-30)

In his first sermon from 1 Corinthians 1:30 ‘But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:‘ Flavel draws several inferences, the last of which is:

‘If Christ, with all his benefits, be made ours, by a special application; how contented, thankful, comfortable, and hopeful, should believers be, in every condition which God casts them into in this world!’

And proceeds to note:

‘After such a mercy as this, let them never open their mouths any more to repine and grudge at the outward inconveniences of their condition in this world. What are the things you want, compared with the things you enjoy? What is a little money, health, or liberty, to wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? All the crowns and sceptres in the world, sold to their full value, are no price for the least of these mercies…’ (Works of John Flavel vol.2 p.32)

One is reminded of the words of Psalm 89:15 (metrical)

“O greatly bless’d the people are the joyful sound that know; In brightness of thy face, O Lord, they ever on shall go.”

G B Macdonald

(Quotes from Flavel – The Works of John Flavel vol.2 p.32 Banner of Truth Trust 1968)

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You Must Read!

‘You Must Read’ said the title on a new book published by Banner of Truth Trust. Good advice if the book is good and the reading profitable. This helpful little book is a compilation by various contributors giving an insight into books that have shaped their lives as professing Christians.

One contributor – Faith Cook – writes of the influence that the Works of John Bunyan have had on her. She mentions various writings that proceeded from his noted pen and observes concerning a passage from one of Bunyan’s books:

‘Perhaps among the most encouraging and liberating words I have ever read come from this remarkable treatise and lie at the very heart of our gospel – the invincible power of the blood of Christ to cleanse the conscience:’

‘Again, when I have been loaden with sin, and pestered with several temptations, and in a very sad manner … I have found that when tears would not do, prayers would not do, repentings and all other things could not reach my heart, O then! one touch, one drop, one shining of the virtue of the blood … hath in very blessed manner delivered me, that it hath made me to marvel. O! it has come with such life, such power, with such irresistible and marvellous glory, that … it quenches all the fiery darts and all the flames of hell fire, that are begotten by the charges of the law, Satan and doubtful remembrances of my sinful life.’ (Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded, vol. 1, p. 563.)

It was also interesting to read in her contribution, how Bunyan had come to write Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that has been so helpful to many since its publication. From his prison cell, where he was imprisoned for conscience sake, he began to think on the Christian life as a pilgrimage, having been working on his book The Heavenly Footman which is based on 1 Cor. 9:24 ‘So run that ye may obtain’.

It is most interesting to read a little about some of the books that have shaped the Christian life and profession of others and to again be reminded of the great work of Banner of Truth Trust over the years in publishing so many very helpful books.

In a recent editorial in the Free Presbyterian Magazine, the editor considered the importance of reading on the spiritual life of the Christian. In light of the benefit those who have contributed to this interesting book profess to have received, we can but say:

You Must Read!

G B Macdonald

Quotes from: (You Must Read – Books that have shaped our lives – Banner of Truth Trust, 2015)

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Great Knowledge of Gospel Mysteries – No Sure Sign of Grace

In our most recent study of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress at the congregational manse evening for young people, we looked at the faithfulness of Faithful to Talkative. These two persons conversed on the subject of proving a work of grace in the heart. The second proof that Talkative suggested was a person having, “great knowledge of gospel mysteries.”

Faithful responded as follows:

“This sign should have been first: but, first or last, it is also false; for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man have all knowledge, he may yet be nothing, and so, consequently, be no child of God. 1 Cor. 13:2. When Christ said, “Do you know all these things?” and the disciples answered, Yes, he added, “Blessed are ye if ye do them.” He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: “He that knoweth his Master’s will, and doeth it not.” A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian: therefore your sign of it is not true. Indeed, to know is a thing that pleaseth talkers and boasters; but to do is that which pleaseth God. Not that the heart can be good without knowledge, for without that the heart is naught. There are, therefore, two sorts of knowledge, knowledge that resteth in the bare speculation of things, and knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love, which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart: the first of these will serve the talker; but without the other, the true Christian is not content. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” Psa. 119:34.”

One may have much knowledge of ‘gospel mysteries’, yet no grace in the heart and life. As Bunyan observed, the Saviour Himself, in speaking to His disciples, made a distinction between knowing and doing. ‘He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them.’

We read in Hebrews chapter 4 of those to whom the gospel was preached, but sadly, what they heard did not profit them. What was the reason? That too is given – “not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2). This should seriously motivate us to pray that the word of the truth of the gospel would be mixed with faith in us who have heard it. As Bunyan writes above, ‘knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love…puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart…’

G B Macdonald

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Christ’s Exaltation – A Comfort to Believers

The exaltation of Christ is a subject that should, perhaps, be more in the mind of the believer in Christ, than it is.

In Volume 1 of the Works of John Flavel, this noted minister of Christ writes, among other precious things, on the comfort believers should take from Christ’s exaltation. He notes that, without the His exaltation, ‘He could not have been a complete and perfect priest’, such as He is. ‘For look,’ writes John Flavel, ‘as it was not enough for the sacrifice to be slain without, and his blood left there; but after it was shed without, it must be carried within the vail, into the most holy place before the Lord, Heb. 9 v 7, so it was not sufficient that Christ shed his own blood on earth, except he carry it before the Lord into heaven, and there perform his intercession-work for us’ (Works of Flavel vol. 1 p. 483). Thus we see again, how the Old Testament sacrifices shed valuable light on the work of the Redeemer.

Flavel also takes note of the fact that the exaltation of Christ, ‘properly respects his human nature, which alone is capable of advancement; for, in respect of his divine nature, He never ceased to be the Most High.’ (Works of Flavel vol. 1 p. 484)

He also observes that, in His exaltation, He represents His people. ‘He is’, Flavel comments, ‘their Representative in this as well as in His other works.’ he goes on to note, that the exaltation of Christ should be of great comfort to believers and counsels, ‘Carry it therefore along with you in your thoughts, throughout the whole of Christ’s advancement. Think when you shall hear that Christ is risen from the dead, and is in all that glory and authority in heaven, how sure the salvation of His redeemed is. “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Works of Flavel vol. 1 p. 485).

G B Macdonald

(All quotes from The Works of John Flavel vol. 1 Banner of Truth Trust 1968 ed.)

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Once Unprofitable – Now Profitable

In writing to Philemon, the Apostle Paul fully acknowledged that Onesimus was once unprofitable. Onesimus had failed Philemon. It would appear that he had abandoned his responsibilities. His actions had proved a breach of trust and, no doubt, Philemon was disappointed. In seeing him again, Philemon might be tempted to think that this unprofitable servant was still so. He might be tempted to refuse to receive him on his return. But the Apostle could assure him that Onesimus was now profitable.

What had changed? Onesimus was now a Christian. It would appear that he had come under the power of the gospel preached by Paul while in Rome. Since his conversion, Paul had personal experience of the usefulness of this man. Now, Paul would have him to return to his master Philemon, whom he would have to receive him, not only as a servant, but as a ‘brother beloved’. Philemon and Onesimus were now brothers, in a spiritual sense.

As Paul observed in writing to the Galatians, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28)

Onesimus was now called, as all believers are, to walk in newness of life. How good it was that Paul, in writing to Philemon, could so confidently assure him that while Onesimus had been unprofitable, he was now profitable. Useful, as a new creature in Christ Jesus.

How is it with us? Must we not acknowledge, that we have been unprofitable? But are we now profitable?

How good it was that Paul could say of Onesimus, that he was, now profitable, using his gifts and abilities to a good end. But how can we begin to be truly profitable, until we be born again? This was, after all, the change that Onesimus had experienced, who was once unprofitable, but now profitable. 

G B Macdonald

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Three Quotes from John Flavel on the Preciousness of Christ’s Blood

‘Conscience can demand no more for its satisfaction, nor will it take less than God demands for his satisfaction. And in this blood is enough to give both satisfaction.’ (Flavel vol. 1 The Fountain of Life p.327, Banner of Truth Trust, 1968)

‘…As there is sufficient efficacy in this blood to expiate the greatest guilt; so it is manifest, that the virtue and efficacy of it, is intended and designed by God for the use of believing sinners. Such blood as this was shed, without doubt, for some weighty end, that some might be the better for it. Who they are for whom it is intended, is plain enough from Acts xiii. 39. “And by him all that believe, are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Flavel vol. 1 The Fountain of Life p.328, Banner of Truth Trust, 1968)

‘That the remission of the sins of believers was the great thing designed in the pouring out of this precious blood of Christ, appears from all the sacrifices that figured it to the ancient church. The shedding of that typical blood, spake a design of pardon. And the putting of their hands upon the head of the sacrifice, spake the way and method of believing, by which that blood was then applied to them in that way; and is still applied to us in a more excellent way. Had no pardon been intended, no sacrifices had been appointed.’ (Flavel vol. 1 The Fountain of Life p.328, Banner of Truth Trust, 1968)

G B Macdonald

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Sydney Communion – March 2015

This year, at our March Communion, we were privileged to have Rev G Hutton (Grafton) assisting.

On Thursday morning, we were directed to the well known and remarkable words of Christ to Nicodemus in John 3:3 where we read, ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ The necessity of the new-birth was spoken on, and the solemn fact that the need for sinners to be born again, indicates the awful depth of sin in man, was highlighted.

On Thursday evening, the minister spoke on the words of God to Joshua in the Book of Joshua 7:11 ‘Israel hath sinned…’ How very sad it was that one man’s sin caused so much trouble. So we were reminded, that sin among the covenant people of God is not hid from Him. Achan confessed his sin, but it was not until he was identified by God, and then it was a time of judgment and condemnation. So, we are to confess our sin while in the room of mercy.

On Friday morning, the subject of self-examination was spoken on. The case of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:9 was set before us in its wonder. Of all people, Christ spoke to this chief of publicans, and of all houses, Christ went to his house. So sinners may be brought from darkness to light in remarkable circumstances and their whole life turned around so suddenly and wonderfully. The question for us to consider is whether we have the obedience to Christ that this man had? Have we, like him, had our understanding enlightened and will renewed? Are we showing evidence of the grace of repentance as he did?

On Friday evening, a Fellowship meeting was held and various men spoke on the matter of self-examination, in light of the portion identified by one of the brethren in 1 Timothy 1:1 ‘Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope…’ Paul and Timothy were trusting the same Saviour and enjoyed the same hope.

On Saturday morning, the minister spoke from Isaiah 40:27-31 on a gentle rebuke, a gracious reminder, and a glorious promise. The important duty of waiting upon the LORD in the exercise of faith and the use of the means was urged. In view of a more immediate preparation for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the importance of the Lord’s people not neglecting this means of grace was highlighted.

On Sabbath morning, Rev Hutton directed us to consider the very precious words of John the Baptist in John 1:29, where we read, ‘The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ The preciousness of this most suitable title of the Saviour was spoken on. Jesus is the Lamb of God, there will be no further one, for there is no need there should be, nor can there be. He has finished the work that the Father gave Him to do.

On Sabbath evening, we were guided to consider, the solemn ‘Days before the Flood’ spoken of in Genesis 6:5-8. In these days, the wickedness of man was great. In these days, God saw that it was so. In these days, a solemn judgement took place, when the God brought a mighty flood of destruction upon the earth. So in our day, much wickedness is done, God sees it all and nations should fear the judgment of God. Yet, in these days, Noah and his immediate family were saved. So, in our day, the Lord has mercy upon some. Being alarmed at how similar the days we live in are to these days before the Flood, how we ought to cry for mercy and salvation.

The Communion concluded with a service of thanksgiving on Monday the 2nd of March. On that evening, the congregation was directed to consider Psalm 46:5 ‘God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.’ It is a standing wonder that the Christian Church still lives, considering the enmity of the world and even all the assaults from enemies within the visible church. Yet here is the reason – ‘God is in the midst of her’ and therefore, ‘she shall not be moved’. God is well able to help His church as He sees fit, and is able to maintain a worshiping people in the earth, in spite of all the opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Thus the Communion ended and so we are reminded that such times do come to an end here on earth. One blessing of the Lord’s Supper is that, not only should God’s people look back to consider the sufferings of Christ and the price paid for their redemption, but forward – to the marriage Supper of the Lamb. By the grace of God, may we have a saving interest in the Lamb of God here in time, that we may have a place in heaven in eternity.

G B Macdonald

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A Quote from John Flavel

The following quote is from Volume 1 of The Works of John Flavel (1628-1691) a noted Puritan minister in England. Here, he suggests that the providences of Christ ‘work in a special and peculiar way for the good of the saints’ (p.213) and draws this inference:

‘If so, See then, in the first place, to whom you are beholden for your lives, liberties, comforts, and all that you enjoy in this world. Is it not Christ that orders all for you? He is, indeed, in heaven, out of your sight; but though you see him not, he sees you, and takes care of all your concerns. When one told Sileniarius of a plot laid to take away his life, he answered, “If God take no care of me, how do I live?” how have I escaped hitherto? “In all thy ways acknowledge him,” Prov.iii. 6. It is he that hath espied out that state thou art in, as most proper for thee. It is Christ that doth all for you that is done. He looks down from heaven upon all that fear him; he sees when you are in danger by temptation, and when you are sad, and orders reviving providences, to refresh you. He sees when corruptions prevail, and orders humbling providences to purge them. Whatever mercies you have received, all along the way you have gone hitherto, are the orderings of Christ for you. And you should carefully observe how the promises and providences have kept equal pace with one another, and both gone by step with you until now.

(The Works of John Flavel Volume 1 The Fountain of Life Sermon XVII p.218-219 Banner of Truth Trust 1968)

G B Macdonald


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Youth Conference 2015 – Blue Mountains

The 2015 Australia and New Zealand Presbytery Youth Conference was held at Winmalee Christian Conference Centre, in the Blue Mountains of Australia. Once again, this venue proved most suitable and the weather was not unduly hot for January. Around 15-16 young people attended.


(The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, taken at the 2015 Youth Conference)

The first paper was presented by Mr C van Kralingen and was entitled, ‘Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress.’ His subject was prompted by a visit to some sights in Bedfordshire, England, associated with John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. Several leading incidents or pictures from the book were highlighted and the conference was reminded of why this book has been of help to many believers.

In the evening of the first day, Rev J Smith took as his subject, ‘Answering the Question – What must I do to be saved? He introduced and concluded his paper with the scriptural answer, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’. In the main part of his paper, he sought to answer some objections sinners may have and some doubts and fears that may lead the soul away from the simple yet precious exercise of faith in Jesus Christ.

On the morning of the second day of conference, Mr H Optland took a helpful paper on Presbyterian Church Government. In his paper he showed how this form of church government is scriptural. He quoted from the helpful book by Thomas Witherow – The Apostolic Church – Which is it? to show that Presbyterian Church Government is most like that which existed in the Apostolic Church.

The next Paper was given by Mr D Vermeulen, and in it he commented on the events in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1989. This paper followed on well from the previous one, as it gave a practical example of Biblical Church Discipline. It also linked with a later paper on Roman Catholicism. Mr Vermeulen was one of several members of the Australia and New Zealand Presbytery who traveled to Scotland for the Synod in 1989.

The evening paper was presented by Rev G Macdonald and was titled, ‘Seeking God’s Guidance in the Decisions of Life.’ It was noted that some decisions can be truly momentous. The Bible makes clear that God does guide, and, as we live in a world governed by Him as the God of Providence, it is our wisdom to prayerfully seek that guidance. He is able to guide us in various ways, not least by the explicit commands and examples of His own Word, but also, through the wise advice of parents, family and friends and through solemn happenings in providence – opening one door and closing another – so to speak. The discussion time afterwards, helped us to further consider some practical examples of decision-making and some thoughtful responses were given to the questions asked.

The Conference concluded with a Paper presented by Mr C MacKenzie on, ‘The Origins and Errors of the Roman Catholic Church’. That this body is not the Apostolic Church was made very plain. It stands condemned by its own writings. The investigations undertaken by those who have carefully traced its origins, show that many of its superstitions stem right back to Nimrod and Babylon. The Mass, purgatory, the Roman priesthood, Mary worship and many other unscriptural doctrines, were clearly exposed in the Paper. Many were left saddened, especially by the blasphemy of Mary worship and the way in which this encourages poor sinners to look to Mary and not Christ for salvation. As Mr MacKenzie made clear in his paper, the Bible teaches, ‘…there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;‘ (1 Timothy 1:5)

The Conference Chairman Mr J van Praag, concluded with a summary of the papers given and one more time of worship before lunch and departure. The singing of the Psalms was hearty and melodious throughout the conference, and we trust that all who attended will have received some benefit from our time together in the Blue Mountains.

It is hoped the 2016 conference will be held in New Zealand in April, God willing.

G B Macdonald

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Unity and Fellowship in the Early Christian Church

The Acts of the Apostles is a wonderfully encouraging book of the Bible. In the very first chapter of this book, we find the Apostles and other disciples of Christ, met together in the city of Jerusalem. They are a relatively small group and are found meeting in the confines of an upper room. Yet, from this room, and by the Holy Spirit working through and blessing these witnesses, the gospel spread. Indeed, so greatly and widely, that by the end of the Book of Acts, we find the remarkable scene of the Apostle Paul present in Rome, witnessing for Christ. One who had been a chief persecutor of Christ’s church was by then a converted man and the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In verse 14 of chapter 1 we read of the apostles named in verse 13 that, These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.’

Two prominent marks of the early Christian Church are found in this verse.

Firstly, there was unity. ‘These all continued with one accord.’ They continued in that unity that they had enjoyed when Christ was physically present among them. The core and strength of their unity was of course, the common interest they had in the Saviour. So too, in our day, the true unity of any Christian congregation or wider church body, is in Christ the Head of the Church and His glorious gospel of peace. They continued with ‘one accord’. With one mind. No dissent here. No division. But a beautiful unity in doctrine, in worship and in practice. Unity in separation from the world and togetherness as the disciples of Christ.

Secondly, there was fellowship.These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.’ Do we not get the very real sense that there was a spirit of fellowship in this gathering of Christians? The fellowship was spiritual, with divine worship and acknowledgement of God among them. For we read, they continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. No doubt they had hopes and fears, yet, in holy fellowship they continued in the spirit of prayer. It was in this frame and fellowship that the believers in those days were. It was in this spirit that they were before the great blessing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. We read nothing of worship being given to Mary the mother of Jesus, nor of her having some place of preeminence, on these things, the Scripture is silent. Rather, she had the privilege of being present with other sinners saved by grace, in this Christian congregation in the upper room.

How we in our day, whichever congregation of Christ’s church we may belong to, should seek and strive for these marks of the Church of Christ – unity and fellowship – exemplified in the early Christian church.

G B Macdonald


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Grafton Induction

On Friday the 31st of October 2014, the Australia and New Zealand Presbytery met in Grafton Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, for the induction of the Rev George Hutton to the pastoral charge of that congregation. Some friends from other congregations within the Presbytery had travelled to be present for this happy event in the Clarence River Valley, an area long associated with emigrant Scots’ settlement.

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(Jacaranda Trees Grafton, NSW)

The Rev and Mrs Hutton had traveled from Scotland the previous week and arrived in time to be somewhat refreshed following the lengthy journey they had undertaken. The day of the 31st was hot and humid and the Australian Summer seemed to be already upon us.

On this solemn occasion, the Moderator, the Rev J D Smith (Auckland), preached from 1 Corinthians 1:21 ‘For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.’ The points were, the Duty of preaching, the fact that preaching is so often a Despised message, and that nonetheless it is a Divine appointment. Mr Smith stressed that, ‘it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believed’. God is sovereign and this is His appointed means, which ought therefore not to be despised.

In due course, the Rev Hutton answered the usual questions put on such an occasion and signed the Formula. Thereafter, the Moderator engaged in solemn prayer and then formally received and admitted Rev Hutton to the pastoral charge of the Brushgrove/Grafton congregation. The Moderator, and members of Presbytery gave the newly inducted minister the right hand of fellowship. Thereafter, the Rev E A Rayner addressed the newly inducted minister and the Rev G B Macdonald the congregation. Several messages of goodwill were read from brethren overseas. Following hearty singing from Psalm 147:1-5 and the benediction, the newly inducted minister met the retiring congregation at the door.

The Lord’s goodness in this provision was noted, in that, the date of the induction (31st October), was two years to the date since Rev E A Rayner’s retirement took effect and all were glad that that Rev Rayner could be present as a member of Presbytery to see the vacancy filled. Following the induction, the ladies of the congregation had prepared a welcome supper, which was held in a local church hall.

We wish Rev and Mrs Hutton the Lord’s blessing as they settle into life in Grafton and look to the Lord who commands the blessing, to grant it in this corner of His vineyard.

‘For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18)

G B Macdonald

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