Counsel from the Confession? 1689 Eschatology and Pastoral Biblical Counseling

“Why do you wear a beard? Our last pastor said godly men are clean-shaven.” “Do your wife and kids ever get tired of you reading the Bible and preaching to them all day long?” “You don’t mind baptizing my dog if I bring her by this week, do you?” I have heard enough oddball queries that, stepping into my 24th year in ministry, I am never quite sure what may come after “Pastor, I have a question…” One consistent inquiry, however, is this: “When will you preach Revelation?”

Eschatology presents as one of the most complex, controversial, fascinating aspects of theology imaginable. One of our elders jokes that the millennium is 1000 years of peace that Christians enjoy fighting about. While I have worked out my views as best I can, I increasingly sympathize with Calvin’s apocryphal conclusion in confessing he really was not certain what to make of it all.[2] Sensationalizing, self-proclaimed prophecy experts with big charts and best-sellers don’t help matters. Normal pastors look at the excess, mutter a sarcastic “Helicopters, antichrists[3], and blood moons, oh my!” – and we preach on anything else.

But “my brethren, these things ought not to be so” (Jas 3:10[4]); such doctrines are in Scripture to encourage and bless God’s people (1 Ths 4:17b-18; Rev 1:3). Engaging last things has a wonderfully clarifying effect: they grab the attention, focus the mind, and sober the imagination. Respecting that effect, this essay will survey the Confession, outline a basic approach, provide an example, and offer suggested applications in light of last things. Promises God makes in prophetic or predictive contexts comprise roughly one-third of Scripture, thus positioning eschatology as a central aspect of Christian teaching. The Creed – such a beautiful summary of the gospel, is it not? – presents a massive chunk of the Christian hope as Jesus “sit[ting] on the right hand of God Almighty; from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead,” while bringing about “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”[5] It is no stretch to conclude that if our gospel has no place for Christ’s return unto final judgment and redemption, we have no true gospel.

Errors compete for ascendency in our day, as in every age. Social justice warriors demand an immediate, realized eschatology[6]; liberal teaching decries or denies biblical eschatological supernaturalism; and many traditionalists overemphasize it. The NT draws our hearts to Christ as “God over all, blessed forever” (Rom 9:5), the Lord who is “Immanuel, God with us” (Matt 1:23) – him whom our hearts love, though we have not seen him (1 Pet 1:8). We long for and “love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8); it brings “joy inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet 1:8). Indeed, faithful eschatology lifts the saint to the exalted Christ (Rev 19:10). Jesus is our eternal God (Rev 1:4f), our everlasting Saviour (vv 5b-6), the one on whose promises we may expectantly rely (v 7) because of his essential character (v 8). His return to judge his enemies and redeem his people is our blessed “living hope” (1 Pet 1:3).[7]

Too often, however, these precious truths become mere cannon fodder in theological debate. Following Puritan wisdom, the 1689 Baptist Confession[8] maintains a beautiful focus on the main things of the last things.[9] Christians should order their lives in light of God’s word and Christ’s return (2 Pet 3:11f), and elders charged with caring for their souls must be diligent in in helping them through regular pastoral biblical counseling. I have written elsewhere[10] presenting the Bible’s process for this duty; this essay focuses on the practical application of eschatology as recapped in LCF 31-32’s framework.

Confessional Counseling is Biblical Counseling

For our purposes, then, confessional counseling[11] is biblical counseling (hereafter BC) – not somehow editing the symbol into Scripture, wedging the Confession into the canon’s proper place, or substituting God’s words for man’s – but rather summarizing the Bible concisely, while presenting it accessibly and usefully with doctrinally-robust faithfulness. The Confession is a framework, not the foundation; a guide, not the ground of faith. Just as faithful expositors may preach a sermon unpacking anything in Scripture from a single word to an entire book, we may counsel God’s word by employing faithful scaffolding and vantage points where God’s providence gives them. In the heat of the moment, counselees sometimes struggle to recall specific biblical applications, or to reproduce the structure of the Scriptural thought process they are still learning to redirect their struggles through. Thus, a confessional approach can provide a helpful reference point to which they may easily return, a path into the mind-renewing wisdom offered by its specific Scriptural citations.

I suggest this method as one tool among many possibilities[12] in a robust, faithful BC context – merely an accessible way to meet and engage people where they are, “a means of edification in righteousness,”[13] as Spurgeon termed it. It offers doctrinal instruction (BC is applied theology!) while guiding practical implementation, because unapplied counsel is incomplete (Jas 1:22). We need all of God’s word for all of life, and the biblical counselor’s task is to grasp the word, give it well, and guide souls by it to wholeness in Christ. As the Puritans often remarked, we are to teach “doctrine for life”[14] (1 Tim 1:5). Quite so here.

Approaching the Confession

The Confession and Catechism help inform BC as differentiated practical applications of Scripture’s counsels and exhortations flow from their layout.[15] Examine the respective tables of contents: they move from Scripture to God, from providence to man, then to covenant, Christ, effectual calling, the work and nature of salvation, life in Christ (living within “the true bounds of Christian freedom”[16] via the moral law), applications of the Second Table, life together in the church, and living in hope in view of last things. The Catechism branches out in treating the moral law and the Lord’s Prayer – sections especially fruitful for pastors and counselors.

Consider the Catechism’s treatment of the 7th commandment (Q’s 75-77) – an extremely common point of sin for many Christians. After reciting the commandment (Q 75), it asks what the commandment requires and forbids (Q’s 76-77). Note how the positive statement of the doctrine is followed by its practical application in terms of what God desires from and denies to his people:

“The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behaviour … [it] forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.”

Therefore, in counseling a man indulging pornography, we have one actively failing to preserve his own and his neighbor’s chastity in godly expression of faithful marital love (1 Ths 4:4; Heb 13:4). Instead, he has engaged in idolatrous (Rom 1:25; Eph 5:5) self-love: polluting his heart in lustful thoughts (Prov 23:7), speech (Matt 12:34b; Matt 15:18), and actions (1 Ths 4:3; 1 Pet 1:16). He unchastely violates God’s holiness (Heb 12:14) by hidden (Prov 28:13) and open sin, loving the world and its perversions of God’s good design (1 Jn 2:15). He breaks faith with the wife of his youth (Mal 2:15; Prov 5:18; cf. Prov 2:17) and invites God’s vengeance (1 Ths 4:3-6) in coveting another woman (Ex 20:17; Matt 5:27f). The Confession speaks of those who continue practicing any sin or cherishing any sinful lust as “perverting the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction” (LCF 21.3; cf. 1 Jn 3:6), for “the moral law doth forever bind all” (LCF 19.5); while “not as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly…” (LCF 19.6; this paragraph is worth careful reflection for our purposes). He must learn to feel his sin’s weight[17]and to “hate it and forsake it because it is displeasing to God.”[18]

The biblical counselor finds here in brief compass Scripture’s core teaching on the subject, so he may readily give “training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16f) and begin helping his counselee in the biblical and catechetical process of putting off sin, renewing his mind by God’s word, and putting on righteousness (Eph 4:22-24) in the power of the Spirit (Rom 8:5-14).[19] The counselee could look up and write out the cited verses, noting and meditating on particular ways they confront, explain, and rebuke his sin, along with the counsel they give in very specific steps, application, thoughts, etc. From there he may search out further understanding via cross-references or related passages, pondering how “the way of the treacherous is their ruin” (Prov 13:15) and specific ways his pattern of sin has strengthened[20] other sins such as lying (9th commandment), worry and anxiety (1st commandment), discontented anger toward his family (6th commandment), objectifying women (Gen 1:27), sharing in the sins of others (1 Tim 5:22b; Mk 12:31; Rom 13:10) – not only the actors and producers, but think here of how every click contributes to human trafficking, abortion, other broken homes, cultural decay, and so forth. “Unchastity” is thus seen not simply to be sexual immorality (Grk. porneia[21]) expressed in illicit viewing and self-gratification, but comprehensively giving way to sinful passions (1 Pet 2:11) – quite possibly revealing a heart which does not know Christ and thus invites the eternal wrath of God (Eph 5:5f; Rev 22:15; Matt 5:27-30). All of this is fodder for cultivating repentance (1 Tim 1:8-10; Rom 2:4), encouraging and evaluating growth and change toward godliness by the word of God, aimed at restoring heart and home – structured around biblical exposition via the Catechism and Confession.

Guidance for Confessional Biblical Counseling

  1. Subordination: Ensure the symbol is subordinate to Scripture in practice. Your counsel must originate in and depend on God’s word, not man’s wisdom. This must be carefully communicated in both your words – how you affirm and emphasize the 1689 or Catechism as beneficial; and in the work itself – how you actually counsel and apply the Bible, while demonstrating the symbol as a useful reference. The symbol functions to provide structure, not to override the substance of Scripture; it is a robust roadmap and reference point, but not divine revelation itself.
  2. Sufficiency: Ensure the Scripture is seen as sufficient, not the symbol. Without any jabs intended toward friends of differing persuasion, this approach in no sense argues for an integrationist methodology or philosophy of the care of souls. God’s people were not unhelped before Wilhelm Wundt – or William Kiffin, Nehemiah Coxe, and Benjamin Keach.[22] The symbol’s doctrines present didactic and diagnostic grids, serving strictly to jar the memory and train the mind to turn to the Word for needful wisdom and help, with understanding.
  3. Structure: Ensure your counsel is structured according to Scripture’s weighting. The Confession is wonderfully instructive in both its specificity – what it goes on record affirming – and its silence – what it simply omits. I do not posit any portion of Scripture as less inspired or useful than another (2 Tim 3:15f); but I do argue that since some parts of Scripture are “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3f), there must necessarily be some matters of secondary weight (cf. 2LC, 1.4-5,7). Biblical counselors should also carefully consider and apply the concept of theological triage here.[23]
  4. Soundness: Ensure your counsel is scripturally sound. “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:2). Textual faithfulness is the ground upon which lives may be changed (Jn 17:17) – and doctrinal faithfulness flows only from its sure foundation. Symbols are incredibly helpful, but they are not inspired and can be wrong.[24] Privilege Scripture, reason from Scripture, systematize Scripture, teach Scripture, memorize Scripture together, counsel Scripture, apply Scripture, and you will be doing confessional counseling.

2LC Eschatology and the Care of Souls

LCF 31-32 concisely summarizes last things and concludes with specific applications (32.3). After a brief walk through these chapters,[25] let us apply and develop their teaching for a man battling anxiety.

The Intermediate State (LCF 31.1)[26]

Scripture teaches that while our bodies return to dust (Gen 3:19) and see corruption (Ac 13:36f) at death, the soul returns to God (Eccl 12:7; 2 Cor 5:1,6,8; Heb 12:22-24a). Contrary to the JW and SDA “soul sleep” error, the JW’s further error arguing the soul’s re-creation upon awakening, and the RCC error of purgatory, the Bible presents an immediacy to entering this intermediate state (Lk 16:22ff) until the resurrection (Jude 6). Consider Christ’s assurance of grace to the penitent thief: “Today [immediacy] you will be with me [in his presence] in paradise [his eternal home]” (Lk 23:43). The Catechism summarizes our question by vivid contrast: “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.” But lost men have only the fearful expectation of judgment (see Heb 10:26f): “The souls of the wicked shall at their death, be cast into the torments of hell, and their bodies lie in the grave till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.”[27]

The Last Day (LCF 31.2-3)

Both Testaments speak of the coming “day of the Lord” (Isa 7:18-25; Joel 2:11), the “day” (Ezk 30:3; Heb 10:25), the “day of Christ” (Php 1:6), the “day of judgment” (Matt 12:36; Ac 17:31), the “day of vengeance of our God” (Isa 61:1f), the “day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5), the “day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2), “the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Ac 2:19f), “the consummation of the ages” (Heb 9:26), in light of “the last hour” (Jn 5:25,28). All these refer to what 2LC terms “the last day” (31.2), when living Christians will be changed (1 Cor 15:51-53) and all the dead will be raised (Ac 24:15): the lost to dishonor, and saints to honor – a resurrection of life or of judgment (Jn 5:29). Body will be reunited with soul (1 Cor 15:42f) as the whole man is readied for eternity (Job 19:26f). A pithy remark sometimes attributed to Luther reflects a practical, holy perspective: “I keep only two days on my calendar – this day and That Day.”[28]

The Last Judgment (LCF 32.1)

Judgment is indeed the order of God’s appointed Great Day (Jn 5:25-29; Matt 24:36), and it will come in God’s appointed way – in righteousness, by Jesus, who is both Saviour and Judge (Ac 17:31; Jn 5:22,27). We aren’t told how long it will last, but neither man nor angel is exempted from “giving an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:10,12; 1 Cor 6:2f; 2 Cor 5:10; Eccl 12:14). Jesus paints a striking description in Matt 25:31-46 as sheep are separated from goats (vv 32f). Those righteous, demonstrating they have known and loved Christ by their dealings with men as unto him, receive God’s promised benediction and approbation (vv 34-40) in the joyful blessings of a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (v 34; cf. Jn 14:2f).[29] The “cursed” (v 41) wicked ones, defined by sins against Jesus and their fellow men (vv 41-45), receive according to their deeds the “eternal punishment” (v 46) of “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v 41).[30] Their sin is finally seen like David’s – “against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psa 51:4). Eternal conscious blessedness or torment (contra EO heresy denying heaven and hell’s physicality) awaits all men on that Day.

God’s Stated Reasons (LCF 32.2)

God’s eschatological goal is his glory. He intends to display it in mercy to Christ’s blood-bought elect and in justice to willful reprobates. God will show himself the one who makes known his power and the riches of his glory unto vessels of mercy “prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom 9:22f). His aim is not fundamentally to prepare us for heaven, but for himself. He will show himself the promise-keeping God, receiving his servants into his joy (Matt 25:21; 2 Tim 4:8) while sending his enemies to their just reward (Matt 25:46b; Mk 9:47f; 2 Ths 1:7-10). His goal is exalting his name before heaven and earth: believers will have “the full enjoyment of God to all eternity.”[31]

How to Respond? (LCF 32.3)

The 1689 concludes by calling men to faith in God’s word, particularly that Christ will return and the Day will come. Thus the twin graces of repentance and faith should issue in forsaking sin and fearing God (2 Cor 5:10f). Saints should frame their sorrows in this light (2 Ths 1:5-7; 2 Cor 4:16-18), fighting carnal security (Mk 13:33-37; Eph 5:15) all our days, fixing our hopes on Christ’s “glory to be revealed” (1 Pet 1:13; Rev 22:20).

So 2LC’s eschatology emphasizes the main things of the last things, highlighting promises concerning Jesus and the providences which will bring about the soul’s undying happiness in him. In particular, LCF 32.3 presents multiple specific applications which shepherds may employ in BC with troubled souls. Its practical divinity warns hardened sinners, lifts sorrowing heads, encourages struggling hearts, and strengthens battle-weary hands as Christians look unto him (Heb 12:2). Jesus is powerful enough to bring about all he has purposed, and he works amidst our bleakest moments of sin and sorrow, showing he can be trusted with every day and eternity.

Reasoning Forward: Counseling Confessionally

Consider now your own care of souls in light of the age to come.[32] Reflect on these intersections with your counselee’s life as you ask, “In light of last things, how does the Bible weigh in practically on his anxiety?[33] What kind of steps might he take generally and specifically?” Here are 15 possible points of application addressing this question, though more could readily be included – practicing self-denial, cultivating heavenly-mindedness, engaging in self-examination, reflecting on eternity, meditation on Scripture, etc. Each could be developed for giving instruction or implementing via homework. Note, however, that Scripture connects each of these applications to the last things in some way.

  1. Take steps to cultivate a life of careful obedience (Eph 5:15f). Anxiety can tempt strugglers to throw up their hands, crying “What’s the use?” But Scripture teaches Christians will stand before God for an accounting of our lives, though not for judgment (Rom 14:12). Jesus has taken all punishment for our sins at the cross (Isa 53:4-6), such that our standing and acceptance is secure in him, our obedience made acceptable in his, and we are now able to live for his glory (1 Cor 10:31). Thus the Catechism instructs us to pursue obedience to God’s revealed will (Q 44), making it our aim to be pleasing to him (2 Cor 5:9). Our desire is to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23) on that Day.
  2. Take steps to cultivate a life of reverent fear (1 Pet 1:17). Anxiety exposes a wrong fear of God – fear he will not be faithful, his providences cannot be trusted, my sins are too great for his patience, or things will go so terribly wrong he cannot make them right. His perfect love casts out such fear (1 Jn 4:18). Scripture explains God forgives “that he may be feared” (Ps 130:4).[34] Holy fear of God should increasingly mark a Christian’s life. We no longer fear him as our Judge – but we are quick to recall that, had he not shown mercy, we still would. As William Secker wrote in 1660, “Divine patience is to be adored by all and abused by none.”[35] Reverent fear befits a people obtained by the blood of God (Ac 20:28).
  3. Take steps to cultivate a life of genuine contrition (Mk 1:14f). Anxiety frequently circles around the presence, patterns, pain, and power of old, entrenched besetting sins. Watson noted “The first sermon Christ preached, indeed the first word of his sermon, was Repent,” and Luther wrote that Jesus here “willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”[36] Repentance – the first word of the gospel, so to speak – is not crying and worrying, but changing and walking in newness of life. Christians live in a fascinating, frustrating tension between having been forgiven our sins and “rescued from the wrath to come” (1 Ths 1:10) in Jesus, while yet mourning our sins (Matt 5:4) and moving forward in godly grief (2 Cor 7:1,8-13)[37] until the end of days.
  4. Take steps to cultivate a life of growing faith (Mk 1:15). Anxious hearts often resist hard thinking on deep truth. Wisdom recognizes certain seasons where intense study may not be advisable, but Scripture’s command to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ abides (2 Pet 3:18). Confidence in Christ grows in direct proportion to our grasp of his character, which comes only by the Word. The Christian life is ultimately a process of growth in his Cross; we simply cannot understand the “four last things” apart from that main thing. Two of the four (judgment and hell) are God’s fixed exposition of the Cross for those who do not receive its grace. Death is God’s explanation of its necessity, and heaven is his eternal joy in its purchase. Heaven is Christ[38] – Christ for us, Christ with us, Christ in us, forever (Jn 17:24). Anxious hearts need to see these verities and feel their weight as ballast in life’s storms.
  5. Take steps to cultivate a life of persevering faith (Eph 6:10-13): “having done all…stand firm.” Anxiety often presents with doubts which debilitate daily obedience. In 1646, John Geree described an English Puritan as a steadfast believer, whose “whole life he accounted a warfare.”[39] Christians would do well to kindle such fervor – not growing lax or listless in this day of battle, but engaging our adversary (1 Pet 5:8) every hour we remain on earth. Contrary to our modern comfort culture and entertainment mindset, Jesus lived a life of warfare. Paint your cruise ships a battleship gray, brothers; we servants are not above our Master (Matt 10:24), who returns wielding a sharp double-edged sword (Rev 2:12).
  6. Take steps to cultivate a life of increasing humility (1 Cor 10:12). Anxiety is frequently rooted in pride. We should labor “not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought” (Rom 12:3): not growing “wise in our own eyes” (Prov 3:7; Isa 5:21), not “doing what is right in our own eyes” (Jdg 21:25), and “not leaning on our own understanding” (Prov 3:5). Last things concern the victory and vindication of the King of the ages. He “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16) and does not need my counsel or input (Rom 11:34). His “eyes are too pure to look upon evil” (Hbk 1:13), such that evildoers may not dwell with him (Rev 21:26f). Indeed, “nothing good dwells in me” (Rom 7:18 – no good thing issues from my life except what God has already appointed (Eph 2:10). Humility celebrates, champions, and clings to the surpassing worth of Jesus, counting all else relatively worthless in view of eternity.[40]
  7. Take steps to cultivate a life of quiet submission [41] (Eph 1:11). Anxious hearts frequently fret because they seek to control matters beyond their control. In view of God’s providences and plans (Isa 46:10), we come to realize King Jesus exercises far greater authority than we will ever grasp; it is ours to submit to his sweet sovereignty, resting in his all-wise disposal of our lives. The lyrics of Samuel Rodigast’s (1649-1708) hymn, thematically based on Deut 32:4, are fuel for prayer and patience before the mystery of providence – an excellent place to meditate on my end of days, as well as the end of days.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: his holy will abideth;
I will be still, whate’er he doth, and follow where he guideth.
He is my God; though dark my road, he holds me that I shall not fall: wherefore to him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: he never will deceive me;
he leads me by the proper path; I know he will not leave me.
I take, content, what he hath sent; his hand can turn my griefs away, and patiently I wait his day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: though now this cup, in drinking,
may bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, and pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken;
though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet am I not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall: and so to him I leave it all.

  1. Take steps to cultivate a life of deepening gratitude (1 Ths 1:10). Anxiety weighs a man down (Prov 12:25), and a heavy heart is typically not a thankful heart. Innumerable mercies are ours through the Cross. How could we not be thankful to such a One as Christ? How could we forget or minimize our indebtedness to One who suffered and loved us so much? How could we take for granted his grace, his word, his people, his worship, his daily mercies, his sustaining care? How dare we presume so wickedly to be angry with such a King when his dealings in our lives displease us? Responding like that is rebellion, not reverence, and certainly not gratitude; it bespeaks an entitled mindset. Job learned that lesson when he was rebuked (Job 38-41) and repented (Job 42:1-6). Gratitude’s holy spark kindles flames of acceptable worship. “In everything, give thanks,” Paul wrote (1 Ths 5:18); “forget not all his benefits,” David counseled (Ps 103:2). Nothing we could face in this life compares to what Jesus underwent for his people, and eternity will not exhaust the gratitude he is due.
  2. Take steps to cultivate a life of joyful confidence (Isa 28:16). Anxious hearts ground their confidence on the wrong things. The ESV renders chûsh in Isa 28:16 as “in haste.” Its sense is not being afraid or shaken[42] – for example, by painful or prolonged providences. Modern evangelicals freak out when life goes badly, turning to Facebook to rant or rally support, finding soundbite theology (usually heretical) to prop up their perspective, and then arguing when corrected. Why? Because there is no foundation built on the word of God; they are easily shaken, or “in haste.” Scripture calls us to a right esteem of Christ’s person and work, a confidence in God’s character, a firm dependence on his promises and faithfulness. Thus Christians are to have no worldly confidence, foolishly rooted in self-esteem (our age’s darling idol) or shifting winds – but that anchored to the immutable, eternal Lord of all (1 Cor 15:58; Heb 6:10), who may be trusted far beyond what my eyes can see.
  3. Take steps to cultivate a life of mutual encouragement (Heb 3:12-14; Heb 10:23-25). An anxious heart is a discouraged heart, which often discourages others. Aim, then, to encourage others toward holiness (Heb 3:12-14) – indulging sin endangers the soul, and can reveal a heart which has not yet closed with Christ. Aim also to encourage others to hold fast to Christ in sound doctrine (“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,” Heb 10:23 – contrary to modern therapeutic notions of deconstructing faith), in personal and public devotion to Christ (“let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together,” vv 24f), and in our daily walk (“but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” v 25).
  4. Take steps to cultivate a life of stewarding time (Ps 90:12). Mismanaging time breeds much anxiety, prompting anxiety over how little time remains, feeding further anxiety over how incompletely tasks will be done…and the beat goes on. Scripture counsels redeeming the time “because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16-18), asking the Lord to give us a heart of wisdom by teaching us to “number” – read: manage, fill, steward, recognize the brevity of – “our days rightly” (Ps 90:12). Take practical steps to steward your days, in light of the end of days to come.[43]
  5. Take steps to cultivate a life of urgent witness (2 Cor 5:11). Anxiety weighs down a man’s heart and weakens a man’s heralding. Considering Christ’s return, we are to plead with and persuade others to be reconciled to God. Jesus anchors his Great Commission in promising he “will be with [us] always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Little else can be more important than others hearing of Jesus. Much anxiety dissipates when our focus shifts to prayerful reasoning and convincing, announcing and answering – evangelism can have a wonderfully clarifying and calming effect for an anxious heart. A returning King should have a proclaiming people. Jesus is coming back. Go share the gospel with someone.
  6. Take steps to cultivate a life of intentional churchmanship (2 Cor 6:11-18). Anxiety often manifests in social reluctance, aloofness, distancing from others, and slowness to engage closely with others. Scripture commends a churchmanship marked by love to one another (vv 11-13) and lawful fellowship with one another (vv 14-16a) that walks through life together as the family of God (vv 16b-18). Godly churchmanship requires a local congregation which is deeply committed to Scripture, sound doctrine, and the communion of the saints. In these last days, our attention is to be corporate and climactic (v 16), because “we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25) and will be together forever with the Lord.
  7. Take steps to cultivate a life of willing suffering (Php 1:29). Christians battling anxiety often fear the worst. Closely related to our view of providence, how we approach even the possibility of suffering is indicative of how we view God. Consider that Jesus promised his disciples that they would be despised and rejected like he was (Isa 53:3; Matt 10:22). They would be mistreated like he was (Matt 5:11f; cp. Ac 7:52). Indeed, our expectation should be “not if, but when.” Jesus expects his people to pray, fast, and give alms – three times in Matt 6:1-18 he tells them “when you do this, do it this way” – echoing Matt 5:11’s expectation of “when others revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely on my account.” The normal Christian life, until the King returns, holds the certainty of opposition from a world that hates him. It bears the possibility of loss, pain, or death for his sake. And Scripture promises that our God is worth it all (2 Cor 12:10). Christian: you have nothing to fear from your Father’s hand.
  8. Take steps to cultivate a life of expectant hope (Jn 14:2f). Anxious hearts are often hopeless hearts, or hearts struggling to hold onto hope. Just as “there is much prayer that arises from real disbelief in the atonement,”[44] so too much anxiety and fear arises from a real disbelief in Christ’s promises. Ryle noted that “Christians often miss the comfort Jesus intends them to enjoy here.”[45] Thus Peter counsels us: “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13).

Those odd questions will keep coming. I did not shave, though I did abbreviate family worship slightly from 20 hours per day to about 20 minutes; and I politely declined baptizing the dog. But I have found new joy in what the NT calls “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13). So should you, pastor – and so may you point your people afresh to Christ. The struggler has every reason for hope that, because Jesus is who he says he is, he’s good for what he promised in his word, now and forever.

“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.”[46]

[1] Reagan Marsh, MATS, MDiv (eq.) is husband to Kara, daddy to RG and AG, and founding pastor-teacher to Reformation Baptist Church of Dalton, GA. He contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, writes regularly for The Founders Journal, and edited for Banner of Truth. An SBTS graduate, certified biblical counselor, and Th.D student in Puritan studies, he has served in gospel ministry since 1998. This essay will appear in The Founders Journal (#122, Winter 2021).

[2] T.H.L. Parker (1916-2016), Calvin’s NT Commentaries, 2nd edition, 117-19. Hence Robin Barnes’ remark that “Calvin himself was perhaps less inclined to apocalyptic thought than any other early Protestant leader, and early Calvinist thinkers tended to avoid the explicit interpretations of current events in prophetic terms” (“Apocalypticism,” in Hans Hillerbrand [1931-2020], The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, I.66).

[3] Later in the same article, Barnes also notes that “Not surprisingly, Catholic propaganda sometimes identified Luther (among other Protestant leaders) as the Antichrist” (“Apocalypticism,” in Hillerbrand, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, I.67; cp. The 1689 Baptist Confession, 26.4; 1 Jn 2:18; 2 Jn 1:7;). Note also Hillerbrand’s own survey in “Antichrist,” ibid., I.45f.

[4] All Scripture is quoted from the ESV.

[5] Phillip Schaff (1819-1893), The Creeds of Christendom, II.45-55. Faithful treatments of the Apostles’ Creed include William Perkins (1558-1602), An Exposition of the Symbol, or Creed of the Apostles in Works, V.3-416; Herman Witsius (1636-1708), Sacred Dissertations upon the Apostles’ Creed, 2 vols; and R.C. Sproul (1939-2017), What We Believe: Understanding and Confessing the Apostles’ Creed. John Calvin’s (1509-1564) Institutes of the Christian Religion may also be recognized as an extended exposition of the Creed. On the validity of creeds for Baptists, Andrew Fuller’s (1754-1815) brief but powerful argument in On Creeds and Subscriptionsis not to be missed (in his Works, 830f) and should be read alongside Robert Martin’s (1948-2016) “The Legitimacy and Use of Confessions” in Waldron, Modern Exposition of the Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th revised edition, 13-29; cp. the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Association’s conclusion that reprinting the 1689 Confession was “needful and likely to be very useful” in Samuel Jones, Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association 1707-1807, 46. Further worth consulting are John Murray (1898-1975), The Creedal Basis of Union in the Church, in Collected Writings, I.280-87; Samuel Miller (1769-1850), The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; John Skilton (1906-1998), Scripture and Confession: A Book about Confessions Old and New; Tom Nettles’ defense of catechisms in Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: The Study of Catechisms in Baptist Life, 13-45; Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative; and David Hall’s excellent The Practice of Confessional Subscription.

[6] Cf. Voddie Baucham’s poignant description of the woke movement in Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, 67: “This new cult has created a new lexicon that has served as scaffolding to support an entire body of divinity…complete with its own cosmology (CT/CRT/I); original sin (racism); law (antiracism); gospel (racial reconciliation); martyrs (Saints Trayvon, Mike, George, Breonna, etc.); priests (oppressed minorities); means of atonement (reparations); new birth (wokeness); liturgy (lament); canon (CSJ social science); theologians (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, MacIntosh, etc.); and catechism (‘say their names’).” We witness its applied eschatology in the recent demonstrations and riots.

[7] Helpful general treatments of eschatology are C.H. Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) Sermons on the Second Coming of Christ; Anthony Heokema (1913-1988), The Bible and the Future; Joel Beeke, The Beauty and Glory of Last Things; Edward Donnelly, Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell; and Sam Waldon, The End Times Made Simple.

[8] Hereafter the Confession, the 1689, 2LC, or the LCF. All quotations of the 1689 are from Lumpkin (1916-1997), Baptist Confessions of Faith 2nd edition; all quotations of the 1693 Baptist Catechism are from Renihan, True Confessions: Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family. For helpful introduction to the Baptist confessional tradition, see Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions, 130-41,216-22; Belcher and Mattia, A Discussion of the Seventeenth Century Particular Baptist Confessions of Faith; Renihan, A Toolkit for Confessions: Helps for the Study of English Puritan Confessions of Faith, 7-84, and the several introductions in his True Confessions. Waldron’s “The Historical Origin of the Baptist Confession of 1689” in Modern Exposition of the Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th edition, 493-501, the prefatory material by Steve Weaver and Michael Haykin in their reprint of Hercules Collins’ (1646/7-1702) An Orthodox Catechism, 7-39 and their introduction in Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins, 1-30, are also valuable. John Bower’s introductory material in The Larger Catechism: Critical Text and Introduction, ix-63, provides helpful contextualization for the influential Westminster tradition.

[9] As there are things “of first importance” in Scripture (1 Cor 15:3f), so too in early modern Reformed confessional summaries of Scripture. For example, Benjamin Keach’s (1640-1704) Articles of Faith of the Church of Christ, or Congregation meeting at Horsely-down (1697), chapters 34-35 address last things in familiar language:

XXXIV. Of the Resurrection. We believe that the Bodies of all men, both the Just and the Unjust, shall rise again at the last day, even the same numerical Bodies that die; tho the Bodies of the Saints shall be raised immortal and incorruptible, and be made like Christ’s glorious Body: and that the dead in Christ shall rise first.

IIIV. Of Eternal Judgment. We believe that Christ hat appointed a Day in which he will judg the World in Righteousness by Jesus Christ, or that there shall be a general Day of Judgment, when all shall stand before the Judgment-seat of Christ, and give an account to him for all things done in this Body: and that he will pass an eternal Sentence upon all, according as their Works shall be.

Puritan expositions, following the pattern of their respective symbols, often focus less on eschatological systems and more on the suretyand nature of the events themselves: the quattor novissima, the four last things. (This is not to say that they overlook particulars of eschatological dogmatics altogether, though as Muller notes, a significant spectrum marked their conclusions, and they held together by common confessional commitments [Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, IV.390f]; cf. Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope; Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 771-840; Jeffrey Jue, “Puritan Millenarianism in Old and New England,” in Coffey and Lim’s The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, 259-76; for a broader picture, consult Riddlebarger’s essay in Barrett’s Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, 721-55). For a sampling of the Puritan emphases, read William Ames (1576-1633), The Marrow of Theology, 205-10, 214-16; Ezekiel Hopkins’ (1633-1688) profound Death Disarmed of Its Sting in Works, III.168-340, or John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) insightful poem One Thing is Needful, or Serious Meditations upon the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell in Works, III.725-37. Robert Bolton (1572-1632) gives searching but balanced treatment in his classic The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven, as does William Bates’ (1625-1699) careful and thorough The Four Last Things, viz. Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Practically Considered and Applied in Several Discourses in his Works, III.231-507 (Beeke notes that it is “often considered [Bates’] greatest work” in Meet the Puritans, 59). Thomas Goodwin (1600-1689) blends instruction with imagination at points in his Exposition of the Revelation (Works, III.1-226); but “the testimonies of our redemption,” as the 1560 Geneva Bible’s prologue to Revelation terms it, often prompt both high thoughts of God and enthusiasm concerning them. Christ’s Sudden and Certain Appearance to Judgment and God’s Terrible Voice in the City by Thomas Vincent (1634-1678), alongside Thomas Brooks’ (1608-1680) London’s Lamentations and “The Glorious Day of the Saints’ Appearance,” (in Works, VI.3-312;313-34) and “The Dolefulness and Danger of Neglecting Christ, and the Opportunity of Grace” by Alexander Grosse (c.1596-1654) in his Happiness of Enjoying and Making a True and Speedy Use of Christ (pp. 131-62) complement the evangelistic focus of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in “Wrath Upon the Wicked to the Uttermost,” “Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only” and “The Final Judgment” (Works, II.122-24, 125-29, and 190-200). Edwards’ 1734 “The Day of a Godly Man’s Death is Better than the Day of His Birth” (in McMullen’s The Blessing of God: Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 149-62) is also similar in scope to Brooks’ 1651 “A Believer’s Last Day His Best Day” (Works, VI.387-408). The richest of Dutch Puritanism is represented well in Godefridus Udemans (c. 1581-1649), The Practice of Faith, Hope, and Love, 81-84, 106-15, 161-66 and Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711), The Christian’s Reasonable Service, IV.303-70.

[10] My overview of the pastor’s care of souls in the ministry of biblical counseling is Authority and Application: An Introduction to Biblical Counseling (in Theolog Journal, vol. 1, #1, 80-94), available at https://logcollege.net/theolog.

[11] No Christian in his right mind would dream of replacing Scripture – God’s inspired, all-sufficient, inerrant, authoritative, sacred word – with a mere document of human construction, however august and honored its position in church history. I use the concept of “confessional counseling” strictly to emphasize the deeply theological nature of BC – and to point out that, given the biblical counselor’s proper dependence on systematic theology, the 1689 may be considered (at one level) as an abbreviated-format systematic theology. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) said that “There is no type of preaching that should be non-theological” (Preaching and Preachers, 65) – precisely my point regarding BC, too. “Confessional counseling” here includes biblically-faithful creeds, confessions, and catechisms in the sense discussed and is in no sense whatsoever intended to substitute the Bible as the ground of all godly counsel.

[12] For example, many men who would never meet with me in my study almost immediately engage me and the Bible in great detail and attentiveness with a hammer in hand fixing something or a bow in hand shooting something. Julie Lowe’s Building Bridges: Biblical Counseling Activities for Children and Teens employs a similarly creative approach in to engaging young people with God’s word.

[13] C.H. Spurgeon, in his preface to the 1689, when he reprinted it for his congregation’s use.

[14] J.I. Packer (1926-2020) wrote “The Puritans made me aware that all theology is also spirituality [which he defines a few lines down as “teaching for Christian living”]…If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both” (A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, 15). William Ames (1576-1633) taught “Theology is the doctrine or teaching [doctrina] of living to God” (The Marrow of Theology, 77), as did Perkins: “Theology is the science of living blessedly forever…The body of Scripture is a doctrine sufficient to live well” (Works, VI:11). Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706) later agreed that “Christian theology is best defined as the doctrine of living for God through Christ…[it] unites theory with practice, and is ‘a knowledge of truth that is according to godliness,’ Tit 1:1…Indeed, the study of theology, to the extent that it is true theology, is not sufficient, unless…it is earnestly devoted to practical theology and to practice” (Theoretical-Practical Theology, I:66,79,95). For what this looked like, see Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, 841-977, and Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 107-24, 191-218, 233-76.

[15] Consult Renihan’s introductory work in A Toolkit for Confessions, 63-92.

[16] Cf. Samuel Bolton’s (1606-1654) classic work, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, provides marvelous exposition of how the Christian lives in light of God’s law. Thomas Boston (1676-1732) states matters concisely in his annotations on Edward Fisher’s (fl. 1627-1655) The Marrow of Modern Divinity, 189-90: “Believers work from life, not for life.” In the same stream, John Flavel (1627-91) wrote “They who are freed from [the Law’s] penalties, are still under its precepts. Though believers are no more under its curse, yet they are still under its conduct. The Law sends us to Christ to be justified; and Christ sends us to the Law to be regulated” (The Method of Grace, in his Works, II.271; cp. his excellent Exposition of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, in Works, VI.217-58). So too Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795), A Scriptural Exposition of the Baptist Catechism, 87-94; Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in the same unique catechetical-expositional method as Beddome, concurs (Works, II.215-18).

[17] As Anselm (1033-1109) answered Boso, “You have not yet considered the greatness of the weight of sin” (Cur Deus homo?, ch. 21).

[18] From A Catechism for Boys and Girls, Q 78, in Nettles, Teaching Truth, Training Hearts, 94; cp. Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism (1680), Q 123-124, where similar instruction appears, useful in meditation, repentance, and learning holy obedience:

Q 123. What is the meaning of the seventh commandment?

  1. That God hates and abominates all sexual vileness and filthiness. Therefore, we must hate and detest the same. This also means that we must live temperately, modestly, and chastely, whether we are married or single.

Q 124. Does God forbid nothing else in this commandment but actual adultery and external acts of sexual sin?

  1. No. Since our bodies and souls are the temples of the Holy Spirit, God will have us keep both in purity and holiness. Therefore, deeds, gestures, words, thoughts, filthy lusts, and whatever entices us to these, are all forbidden.

[19] The crème de la crème represented in the Reformed and Puritan experiential tradition here are Thomas Chalmers’ (1780-1847) The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Thomas Watson’s (1620-1686) The Doctrine of Repentance, and John Owen’s (1616-1683) trilogy comprised of On the Mortification of Sin, On Temptation, and On Indwelling Sin in Believers (Works, VI.1-86; 87-151; 153-322).

[20] On this head, see my “Of Marriage: The 1689 Baptist Confession, chapter 25” in The Founders Journal (Winter 2020, #119), n. 28. The principle of overeating as a gateway sin to indulging further lusts presents frequently in pornography use. My point is not managing over-indulgence vs. an appropriate indulgence in sexual sin (no such thing), but that “giving opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:27) in one area invariably also cedes ground in other areas. Sexual sin never stays in a box.

[21] So BDAG, TDNT, NIDNTT all confirm this understanding.

[22] Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) along with William James (1842-1910) are commonly considered the fathers or formalizers of modern psychology. William Kiffin (1616-1701) both drafted the First London Baptist Confession and lived to sign the 1689; Nehemiah Coxe (fl. 1675-d. 1689) co-pastored the famous Petty France Church and likely co-edited 2LC; along with pastor-theologian Benjamin Keach, they were some of the most influential Particular Baptist men of the 17th century.

[23] Albert Mohler’s excellent booklet The Pastor as Theologian (accessed at https://www.sbts.edu/press/the-pastor-as-theologian/) presents the concept of theological triage helpfully. Gavin Ortlund develops the concept in Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage.

[24] We need look no further than Article 1 of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message’s statement on Scripture: “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

[25] For helpful treatment of the major themes in LCF 31-32, see Waldron’s Modern Exposition of the 1689, 439-91; addressing the nearly-identical Westminster Confession, note A.A. Hodge’s (1823-1886) concisely powerful work in The Confession of Faith, 380-96. For more extended engagement, Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State and his Body of Divinity (in his Works, vols I and II) are simply unsurpassed.

[26] It is ecclesiastically significant that 2LC’s treatment of last things appears where it does, following consideration of our life together in the church (chapters 26-27) and sacramentology (chapters 28-30). As believers come to the waters of baptism, we’re baptized into Christ’s death with his promise of resurrection (Rom 6:3-11). At the Lord’s Table, we similarly “proclaim his death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). In other words, the Confession recognizes our ecclesial polity, practice, and life together are both framed and shaped by the death, resurrection, session, and return of Jesus.

[27] William Collins (d. 1702), The Baptist Catechism (1693/95), Q 40,42.

[28] This excellent statement is often attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546), but there is little evidence he said it.

[29] Cf. William Gurnall (1616-1679), “The Christian’s Reward,” in The Christian’s Labor and Reward, 28-45; and Chapel Library’s The Free Grace Broadcaster: Heaven (Issue 254, Winter 2020).

[30] Two Edwards volumes edited by Don Kistler on this point are stirring: Unless You Repent: Fifteen Previously Unpublished Sermons on the Fate Awaiting the Impenitent and The Wrath of Almighty God: God’s Judgment Against Sinners.

[31] Collins, Baptist Catechism, Q 41; cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647), Q 1. Richard Baxter’s (1615-1691) The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (in his Practical Works, 1-120) is a classic work about how the saints enjoy God in heaven.

[32] Thomas Doolittle’s (1630-1707) sermon “How Should We Eye Eternity?” provides a fruitful starting point for further reflection.

[33] The Puritan divines address anxiety repeatedly and with deep insight, though their verbiage is typically “worry” or “carefulness.” For example, see Henry Scudder (c. 1585-1652), The Christian’s Daily Walk, especially chapters 12-15; James Durham (1622-1658), “God’s Relation to His People, a Means to Prevent Anxiety” in Collected Sermons of James Durham, 877-87; Robert Bolton (1572-1631), General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God, 116-26; David Clarkson (1622-1686), Against Anxious Carefulness (Works,II.137-71); John Howe (1630-1705), Of Thoughtfulness for the Morrow, with an Appendix Concerning the Immoderate Desire of Foreknowing Things to Come (Works, II.390-450); and Flavel’s incredible counsel in his Practical Treatise on Fear and godly help for unsettling times in The Righteous Man’s Refuge (both in his Works, III.239-320 and III.321-413). Helpful modern treatments include Ed Welch, A Small Book for the Anxious Heart; John MacArthur, Anxious for Nothing; and Tabletalk: Anxiety, May 2021.

[34] Valuable treatments of the Christian’s right fear of God include Owen’s Exposition upon Psalm 130 (Works, VI.379-606); Jeremiah Burroughs’ (1599-1646) Gospel Fear; and Bunyan’s Treatise of the Fear of God (Works, III.437-91).

[35] William Secker (d. 1681), The Consistent Christian, VI.15 (Chapel Library reprint, p. 145).

[36] Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, 13; Luther, The Ninety-Five Theses, 1.

[37] Some years back, I adapted an old article (now lost) by Jim Newheiser into this chart contrasting true and false dealing with God.

Worldly Sorrow/False Repentance (2 Cor 7:10b) Godly Sorrow/True Repentance (2 Cor 7:9-11)
1. Self-focused, 1 Sam 15:30; Gen 4:13 1. God-focused, Ps 51:4; 2 Sam 12:13
2. Hates sin’s consequences, Gen 4:14; Ac 8:24; Ex 10:16-18 2. Hates the sin, Ps 32:5; Ps 51:1-3
3. Self-protective/defensive, Gen 4:14; 1 Sam 15:30 3. Fully accepts responsibility, Ps 51:3; 2 Sam 24:10
4. Blames others, Gen 3:12; 1 Sam 15:19-21,24 4. Concerned for others, 2 Sam 24:17; Php 2:3f
5. Impatiently demands trust and restoration, 1 Sam 15:30 5. Patiently accepts consequences, Ps 51:4; 2 Sam 24:13f
6. Criticizes the disciplinary process, Gen 4:13 6. Submits to discipline/accountability, 1 Cor 10:12; 2 Cor 7:8
7. Unchanged heart that doesn’t bear fruit, Lk 3:7-9 7. Changed heart that bears fruit, Ps 51:6-12; Lk 19:1-10


[38] A perpetual temptation with anxiety is escapist fantasies about heaven. Puritan thought offers several correctives, giving strength to continue walking faithfully under providence. Robert Traill (1642-1716) in The Lord’s Prayer (Works, II.74f) points to Christ as its substance: “According to the frame of men’s spirits, they frame thoughts of heaven, and of the way to it. The Turks’ paradise is brutish; the Popish paradise is little better. The natural philosopher’s conceptions of heaven are more manly, though carnal. Only a true Christian can have a right thought of heaven; because he knows Jesus Christ, and communion with him. Christ himself is the way to heaven, as he is a slain Redeemer; and Christ himself is heaven itself, as he is a glorified, enjoyed Redeemer. All this is unintelligible and incredible to every natural man. Can ever that man count it blessedness to be with Christ above, who counts it a piece of misery to be in his company on earth?” Flavel, preaching on Jn 3:16, concurs in The Fountain of Life Opened Up (Works, I.67f): “It is a special consideration to enhance the love of God in giving Christ, that in giving him he gave the richest jewel in his cabinet; a mercy of the greatest worth, and most inestimable value. Heaven itself is not so valuable and precious as Christ is! He is the better half of heaven; and so the saints account him, Psa 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” Ten thousand thousand worlds, saith one, as many worlds as angels can number, and then as a new world of angels can multiply, would not all be the bulk of a balance, to weigh Christ’s excellency, love, and sweetness. O what a fair One! what an only One! what an excellent, lovely, ravishing One, is Christ! Put the beauty of ten thousand paradises, like the garden of Eden, into one; put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colours, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness in one; O what a fair and excellent thing would that be? And yet it should be less to that fair and dearest well-beloved Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths. Christ is heaven’s wonder, and earth’s wonder.” See too Timothy Rogers’ (1658-1728) moving description in Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholy, 187-205.

[39] John Geree (1600-1649), The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Nonconformist (1646). While certainly not sympathetic toward credobaptists – he wrote this tract against John Tombes (c.1603-1676) – the picture he paints is one of godly Christian character, really the normal Christian life.

[40] Consult “God’s Thoughts and Ways are Above Ours in Other Respects,” in John Shower (1657-1715), God’s Thoughts and Ways are Above Ours, 102-27; and Baxter, Christian Directory, I.IV.V.192-214.

[41] Baxter has wise counsel here in “Cases of Conscience,” in Christian Directory, I.III.V.74f.

[42] So Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Commentary (1871). John Gill (1697-1771) and Keil and Delitzsch (1861) concur in their respective commentaries on Isa 28:16. Motyer renders it “will not panic” (Isaiah by the Day, 138), noting further “it means rushing hither and yon…all haste and flurry (even ‘being in a flap’; cf. 7:2) in contrast to the rest and repose” (The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, 233f). Edward Young agrees: “the word serves best to show the hurriedness that stands in opposition to the quiet of the one who trusts” (The Book of Isaiah, II.288). Brown-Driver-Briggs renders it “will not flee or hasten about distractedly”; TWOT approves Driver’s journal article suggestion of “will not be agitated” (note John Watts’ conclusion in Word Biblical Commentary, 24.367f, n. 16h). Hence Watson’s wisdom: “Trust God when promises seem to run quite contrary to providences” (Body of Divinity, 123).

[43] Refer to Edwards, “The Preciousness of Time” and “Procrastination” (Works, II.233-36 and 237-42); Baxter, Dying Thoughts (in his Practical Works, 867-956) and his directions for redeeming and improving time in “Cases of Conscience” (Christian Directory, I.V.230-46; John Fox (fl. 1624-c.1662), Time and the End of Time; Richard Steele (1629-1692), A Discourse Concerning Old Age.

[44] Oswald Chambers (1874-1927), “Have You Come to ‘When’ Yet?” in My Utmost for His Highest. While I firmly disagree with Chambers’ views on sanctification as unbiblical, he’s got this point right.

[45] J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, part 3 (vol. 7), 36-41.

[46] Hopkins, concluding Death Disarmed of its Sting (Works, III.340).

Reagan Marsh serves as Founding Pastor-Teacher to Reformation Baptist Church in Dalton,GA. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and has served in gospel ministry since 1998.
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