Benhar Evangelical Church
THE BENHAR BANNER
‘Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it
may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.’
2nd May 2020
Previous Banners are available here
A CALL TO PRAYER
We would ask God’s people to pray for the revival of His church, the awakening of the lost, and a merciful deliverance from the Coronavirus Pandemic at 3 pm, in their own homes, on the Lord’s Day.
SERMON FOR SUNDAY
The following is the fifth and sixth chapter of the Rev. William S. Plumer’s book, ‘The Christian.’
V. THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER – AN EXAMPLE
The word CHARACTER is often taken in the sense of reputation; but when used more precisely, it refers to the principles and affections which control a man. It is the stamp on the mind, the impress on the heart, the sum of the effects produced on the soul by all the influences brought to bear upon it.
There is such a thing as Christian character. Otherwise there is no difference between Christians and unbelievers. Even infidels have confessed the difference between Christian servants and the profane in their employment.
The epithets bestowed on men in the Word of God clearly show that there is a radical difference between them. Some are called wise, and others foolish; some are just, and others unjust; some are righteous, and others unrighteous; some are godly, and others ungodly; some are the friends of God, and others are His enemies; some are the servants of God, and others are the servants of sin; some are the children of God, and others are the children of the Devil. Christians are ‘…strangers and pilgrims…’, and others are ‘…men of the world…’. There is a radical difference between men's characters. The Bible says so. All this is very reasonable, for
1. God's grace has done much more for some men than for others. See what a difference it made between Paul and Nero, both bloody persecutors; between Zacchaeus and the young ruler whom Jesus loved, both greedy worldlings; between the two thieves on the Cross, both deserving death for their crimes. Every Christian has received of the Lord pardon for all his sins, acceptance ‘…in the beloved’, ‘…the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.’ He has also been ‘…renewed in the spirit of (his) mind’ by the power of the Holy Spirit. He has received ‘…a new heart…’. The law of God has been written upon his heart. He has been made ‘…a new creature…’. It would be monstrous for such a one to be, to live, and to act like one who had never been thus blessed.
2. The Christian has seen more than the wicked. He has had his eyes opened to ‘…behold wondrous things out of (God's) law.’ Christ has been revealed in him, and to him. He has by faith seen ‘…him who is invisible.’ He has caught amazing glimpses of the glorious character of the incorruptible God. How can such a one be, live, or behave like the poor, blinded sinner, who ‘…cannot see afar off…’?
3. The Christian has heard more than the wicked. His ears have been circumcised. He has so heard that he has lived. Like Lazarus in the grave, he has heard the Son of God saying, ‘…come forth…’, and he has had strength to obey. He has heard the voice of Love. He has heard the tender calls of bleeding mercy. Surely such a man will be different from those who are strangers to such things.
4. The Christian has felt more than the sinner. His ‘…heart…’ has been circumcised. His soul has been filled with pleasure at things which the wicked care not for. Many a time his heart has burned within him at things which never moved the wicked. The Lord has opened his heart to attend unto the things which concern salvation. In his heart he thinks far differently from what he ever thought before.
5. The Christian has sincerely and devoutly promised to live unto God, and not unto himself. The vows of God are upon him. He has sworn that he would keep the statutes of the Lord. The man of the world has never heartily made any such engagements. Whatever promises he has made, if not grossly hypocritical, were at least without any gracious purpose to glorify God. Ease soon revokes vows made under terrors of conscience, the pangs of affliction, or the apprehension of death. It would be marvellous if the Christian, with all his good intentions, solemn vows, and settled purposes had not a character quite decided and vastly different from that of the sinner. He may be slow to engage in some good things, but his hand once put to the plough, he looks not back.
6. The Christian really and earnestly expects more and greater things than all the sinners in the world. They have transient and vain expectations, based on their own self-righteousness, and on mistaken views of the character of God. But the Christian is warranted in every hope he indulges, built upon the Word of God. All his expectations are awakened by truth and ‘…the Spirit of truth…’. None of his hopes shall perish. His supports in future conflicts and in the last struggle shall be greater than he had been able to think. The ‘…crown of life…’ shall be more glorious than he ever anticipated. It therefore cannot be otherwise than that he shall be a peculiar manner of person ‘…in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.’ He perfects ‘…holiness in the fear of God.’ He lives ‘…soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world’. His character is different from that of all the enemies of God. The wicked take knowledge of him that he has ‘…been with Jesus.’ His brethren in the Lord are drawn to him. He lives before God. His very death is ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD…’
AN EXAMPLE IN THE REV. WM. PRESTON, D.D.
About the beginning of this century there was born in Connecticut a child, which grew and waxed strong, and in due time reached a vigorous manhood. After careful preparation he was inducted into the sacred office. His ecclesiastical relations were with the Protestant Episcopal Church. He twice served the Master as pastor of the flock in Columbus, Ohio, and twice, and for a longer period, he laboured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this latter field he spent in all about thirty of the best years of his life. Like many other people of God whom I have known, he left this world on Sabbath morning. It was the 25th of April. When the churches he had served, and the thousands of Israel were assembling in houses built with hands, he was for the first time joining in the hallelujahs of the temple on high. When Christian and Hopeful entered the heavenly city, Bunyan says, "Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, ‘Enter into the joy of your Lord.'"
The day of his death was the greatest Sabbath ever enjoyed by Dr. Preston. To all such as he the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. He entered this world with a cry as of distress. He entered heaven with a shout of "Salvation unto God and the Lamb!" Here he had tears and sorrows, known only to his Saviour and himself; but in the Church above he shall sorrow no more, for there the Lord God wipes away all tears from off all faces.
Dr. Preston was a lovely man. He was naturally amiable, and grace had sweetened all his nature. Who ever heard him say a hard or harsh thing of a fellow creature? He loved God's people of every name. His soul was warmed with charity that hoped and believed and endured all that godly men are commonly called to hope and believe and endure. Neither by nature, nor in principle, nor in practice was Dr. Preston a bigot. He abhorred those narrow views and feelings which believed moral excellence was found chiefly in his own denomination. Often did he walk to the house of God in company with brethren of other churches and mingle his voice with theirs in prayer and praise. I have never heard more tender or evangelical extemporaneous prayers in large assemblies than I have heard from him, when he was the only Episcopalian perhaps in all the congregation.
Dr. Preston greatly loved the doctrines of grace. He was a firm believer in those doctrines as taught by Paul, by Augustine, by Calvin, and by the best English reformers. On these subjects his trumpet gave no uncertain sound. His faith was grounded and settled. He never attempted nor pretended to make any new discoveries in theology. He took good heed to the Word of the Lord as given by the prophet Jeremiah, ‘…Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…’
One truly says of him: "The ministers and Christian people of this city, indeed the whole community, mourn the death of a devoted servant of Christ, a pastor of stainless reputation, and a warm-hearted gentleman and Christian friend." This witness is true.
The friendship between Dr. Preston and myself was of more than twenty years' standing. I found him always as kind as a woman, as firm as a rock, as fearless as a lion, and as true as steel. We had often communed together of the things of the kingdom. I never heard from him a doubtful sentiment. I never knew him to quail under clamour. He was valiant for the truth. He hated ‘…every false way.’
The death of such men as Dr. Preston has a real power in making us willing to die. The society of which he is now a member is composed of the elite of the universe. Every choice spirit that has passed away from earth belongs to that blessed company who worship before the throne in a world where ‘…the wicked cease from troubling…’ and ‘…the weary are at rest.’ ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.’
VI. THE CHRISTIAN'S SIMPLICITY
In our English Bible and in common speech, to be SIMPLE is often the same as to be stupid, silly, credulous, easily deceived by appearances. In this case it is the opposite of wisdom. Thus, ‘A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.’ (Proverbs 22:3). ‘Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart…’ (Hosea 7:11), describes a like character. It is a bad thing to be a natural fool. It is worse to be made a fool by wicked men and wicked inclinations. Such simplicity is never commended. This is the worst kind of simplicity because it is both the fruit and the cause of wickedness.
Sometimes a SIMPLE man is one who is weak, uninstructed, perhaps deceived, but honest, a seeker of truth. Thus, to the great feast prepared by wisdom the invitation is sent forth: ‘Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither…’ (Proverbs 9:4).
One of the words rendered SIMPLICITY often denotes health, soundness, freedom from disease. Thus, a ‘…single…’ eye is a good eye, giving clear vision (Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34). The noun is rendered singleness of heart in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22, where it means soundness or integrity of heart.
Again, SIMPLICITY is the opposite of stinginess, and so implies goodness, gentleness, liberality. Thus, in Romans 12:8, ‘…he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.’ In 2nd Corinthians 8:2 the same word is rendered liberality, and in 2nd Corinthians 9:11, bountifulness.
Lastly, to be SIMPLE is to be inoffensive, free from bad intention, inexpert in wickedness, harmless, as where Paul says, ‘…I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.’ (Romans 16:19). The same word is used by our Lord when He says, ‘…be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’, and by Paul, when he says, ‘Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke…’
What is it, then, to be simple concerning evil? It is something wholly consistent with being ‘…wise unto that which is good…’. It is not natural foolishness. Yet to carnal men it often looks like folly, because it readily incurs natural evils rather than run into sinful ways. The arts of wicked men are not known to such. They are "so wise as not to be deceived, and yet so simple as not to be deceivers." In malice they are children, in understanding they are men. It is no credit to any godly man to be an adept in the arts and chicanery of the deceitful world. It was by one of the ancients pronounced a reproach to a king or philosopher to dance well. So, it is a shame for a Christian to be expert in the devices of carnal men for gaining influence and promoting selfish or base designs.
The ‘…simplicity…’ of the Gospel is near of kin to ‘…godly sincerity…’ (2nd Corinthians 1:12). It abhors duplicity. It carries its heart in its hand. It has no crooked ways. "It is fair, it is candid, it is honest, it is upright in all things."
And it is as loving as it is fair. It bears no malice. Its tongue is not defiled with slander, nor its hands with wrong. Its steps are not stained with blood. It curses not, but it blesses largely. It is manly, not cowardly. It is humble, but not servile. It is bold, but not fierce. It devises liberal things but loves to do good unseen. It is not boastful nor ostentatious, and yet it refuses not to do good for fear it might be found out.
Call on one possessed of this excellent quality to deny himself, and nothing seems easier. Present to him the temptations which master most men and they seem powerless. Their chief effect is to drive him nearer to God, closer to the mercy-seat, quite into the bosom of the Good Shepherd. This quality is gracious. It should be cultivated. It may be much strengthened by prayer, by the Word of God, by practice, by hating every false way, by associating with men of pure minds and simple hearts. In nothing is example more potent than in learning lessons of simplicity.
Because great attainments in this excellence are not often made, we ought the more earnestly to labour and pray for it. The more we are tempted to any course inconsistent with this simplicity, the more should we ‘…Resist the devil…’, that he may ‘…flee…’ from us.
For a pattern we have One that excels all others – our Lord Jesus Christ. Often, He declined to commit Himself to others, for He knew what was in man. But never did any put themselves in His power or under His control, but to be blessed thereby. When He gave, it was with all bountifulness. When He reproved, it was with all gentleness. When He invited, it was with superhuman kindness. His eye was single. His heart was single and sincere and loving. His mind was pure and upright. Oh, be like Jesus Christ!
A HYMN OF HOPE
Lord, we confess our numerous faults,
How great our guilt has been;
Foolish and vain were all our thoughts,
And all our lives were sin.
But, O my soul, for ever praise,
For ever love His name,
Who turns thy feet from dangerous ways
Of folly, sin and shame.
’Tis not by works of righteousness
Which our own hands have done;
But we are saved by sovereign grace
Abounding thro’ His Son.
’Tis from the mercy of our God
That all our hopes begin;
’Tis by the water and the blood
Our souls are washed from sin.
’Tis thro’ the purchase of His death
Who hung upon the tree,
The Spirit is sent down to breathe
On such dry bones as we.
Raised from the dead we live anew;
And, justified by grace,
We shall appear in glory too,
And see our Father’s face.
POINTS FOR PRAYER
‘I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.’ (1st Timothy 2:1-3)
Pray for our Queen, our governments, our National Health Service, our country, our community, and our church.
‘I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.’ (John 10:9)
6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory (1st John 5:7; Matthew 28:19).
ANSWERS TO AFFLICTIONS
This is the third of six letters written by the Rev. John Newton about afflictions.
My Dearest Madam,
Inclination would lead me to write to you very often, but opportunity is often lacking. Every day brings business of its own which must be attended to and something often remains to add to the business of tomorrow. This is remarkably the case with me at present; I have a drawer full (indeed, it is not a large one) of unanswered letters – yours must be despatched among the first.
You desire my thoughts concerning the difference which the Lord is pleased to appoint in the situation of His people, with respect to trials and circumstances. In externals, there is a great difference. Some few have sat upon a throne while the many have lived in poverty. For the most part, the Lord's children are a poor and afflicted people. The Lord chooses poverty as the safest state for them in this ensnaring world.
And if any of them are rich, it is not, I apprehend, for their own sakes but that they may be some way instrumental in promoting His cause and interest in the world, that they may assist their poor brethren, that they may be witnesses for the truth to those in their own rank of life, and that the power of His grace may triumph in every situation.
Perhaps you may have seen my published letter on the advantages of poverty, and therefore I shall not enlarge much upon this subject. I would only observe that those who live in affluence are exempted from one trial at least, which is exceeding hard to bear – I see much of it here, though it is not exclusively confined to Olney. Many, I may say most of our serious people, are exercised with pinching poverty. Some have little more than dry bread, some (who are slow workers, or sew coarse laces) can hardly get so much as bread, without contracting debts, which distress their minds lest they should be unable to pay, and thereby cause their profession to be spoken against.
The Lord notwithstanding carries them through, and at times gives them food which the world knows nothing of. But their trial is grievous, and is not, like many others, occasional but returns from day to day, as constant as the sun. By being placed among such a people, I hope the Lord shows me that I have great reason to be thankful for the necessities and the comforts of life.
In other respects, there is not perhaps so great a difference in point of trials, as there may seem to be, if such considerations as the following are taken into the account:
First, we know our own trials, but can form no right judgment, at least no certain judgment as to how it is with others. A person whom we look upon as happy may have some trouble corroding at heart, though concealed, which if we knew, we would be unwilling to take in exchange for our own.
Secondly, there are seasons of trials. Some who are now in comfortable circumstances have perhaps had great afflictions in time past. Or they may live to see and feel too very heavy and unexpected troubles, which may make them the objects rather of pity than of envy. We know not what a day may bring forth. And others, who are now in difficulty and perplexity may live to see better days. The Lord can command light to arise out of darkness, and make crooked things straight, and the present crosses may be preparing the way for great comforts. Everything is so uncertain here, that we cannot form a tolerable estimate of any particular person's case while living.
Thirdly, trials are to be computed rather by their effect, than by their cause. That is a great trial which makes a great impression upon the mind though perhaps to a bye-stander, the immediate occasion may seem trivial. And the heaviest trial is lighter if the Lord affords a proportionable measure of strength, grace, and comfort, to sustain it. If He puts forth His grace then His people are strengthened, hard things are made easy, and bitter things sweet. They can go through the water, or through the fire unhurt, and almost unmoved if He is with them. But if He withdraws, they are ready to sink under the weight of a feather for they have no strength of their own.
So far as we think we see a difference, we may observe that those whom the Lord most favours, who are simply devoted to Him, and dependent upon Him, usually are exercised with the sharpest afflictions. This seems strange to an eye of sense; but faith, instructed by the Word and Spirit of God, sees a wisdom and beauty in this appointment. He afflicts them because He loves them! Their trials are sanctified, and their eminence in grace is owing (as a means) to the Lord's blessing on the afflictions through which they pass, which, under the influence of His Spirit, are suited to quicken them to prayer; to wean them from the world; to manifest to them the sweetness and certainty of the promises; to make the name and grace of Jesus more precious to them, and to animate their desires towards their heavenly rest.
Thus, all things work together for their good, and those who have fewer trials, though they escape some smart, are for the most part very light, unsavoury, and unsteady in their walk and conduct. They neither have so much true comfort from Him who is the great Comforter of the children of God; nor does their light so advantageously shine before men to the praise of His glory.
We have had a comfortable season during the holidays. I preach more frequently than usual at that time of the year – I hope many have tasted that the Lord is gracious. My time now is much taken up, and I am interrupted more than once before I can finish a letter.
We beg our best respects to Mr. L. May the Lord give you both all the blessings of grace and peace you need. Pray remember us also to Miss L.
We hope to have the pleasure of hearing from you soon. Do not forget us when upon your knees before God, and believe me to be,
I am, my dear Madam,
Your obliged and affectionate Servant,
QUESTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS
- What word was a leper to cry?
- From what annual event do we get the word scapegoat?
- What makes atonement for the soul?
- What feast required temporary dwelling places?
- What year was the sabbath year?
- How many shall chase one hundred?
- What percentage of the land was the LORD’s?
ANSWERS FOR LAST WEEK’S QUIZ
- Upon the altar (Leviticus 3:2)
- The trespass offering (Leviticus 5:15)
- Oil (Leviticus 8:12)
- Blood (Leviticus 9:9)
- Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1)
- No (Leviticus 11:19)
- The eighth day (Leviticus 12:3)
AN INSPIRATIONAL ILLUSTRATION
THE HEATHEN HAVE NO GOOD GOD
A Maori chief lay pining on a sickbed. A European visitor asked him whether he ever prayed for the restoration of his health. “No,” he replied, “we have no good god to address; our god makes us sick, and kills us, but gives us nothing. Yours is a good God, who hears you when you pray, and bestows good things upon you. Pray for me, and I shall get well; yours is a good God. Teach us to know Him, for my people know nothing that is good.” So comfortless are the teachings of non-Christians and so unlike the inspired declaration, that, ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.’ (Psalm 103:13).
 Hebrews 11:13; 1st Peter 2:11
 Psalm 17:14
 Ephesians 1:6
 Psalm 24:5
 Ephesians 4:23
 Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26
 2nd Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15
 Psalm 119:18
 Hebrews 11:27
 2nd Peter 1:9
 John 11:43
 Romans 2:29
 John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13
 James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
 2nd Peter 3:11-12
 2nd Corinthians 7:1
 Titus 2:12
 Acts 4:12
 Psalm 116:15
 Jeremiah 6:16
 Psalm 119:104; 128
 Job 3:17
 2nd Corinthians 9:15
 Matthew 10:16
 Philippians 2:14-15
 James 4:7
 Plumer, W.S. The Christian 1878
 Watts, I. Lord, We Confess Our Numerous Faults 1707
 Newton, J. Six Letters on Afflictions
 Macleod, N.I. Moral and Religious Anecdotes
Rev. Ian S.D. Loughrin
The Evangelical Manse, 59 Baillie Avenue, Harthill, North Lanarkshire, ML7 5SY