Just as it is nice occasionally to substitute a bowl of tortilla chips and some salsa for a regular and heavy meal, so there are occasions for dipping into the best of the thoughts of spiritual writers from the past.
I have been enjoying “Puritan gems; or, Wise and holy sayings of ... Thomas Watson” , a collection of some of the best and pithy statements from that prince among the puritans. The work is arranged by topics, starting with Affliction and Assurance, and ending with Truth and World, and on each topic there are a number of gathered gems from Watson’s works.
Watson was one of those ministers deprived of their office in the Great Ejection of 1662 when some 2500 evangelical pastors were ejected from the Church of England. The denomination was hell-bent on imposing unbiblical practices upon its clergymen, but Watson like others refused to compromise their conscience for the sake of comfort.
His final sermon to his people, which is a challenge to our own age, contains these moving words:
The hour is come wherein the sun is setting upon many of the godly pastors. The shadows of the evening are stretched forth upon us; our day draws to a close, and our work seems to be at an end. Our pulpits and places must know us no more. This is the Lord's doing; let all the earth keep silence before Him.
It is not a light thing for me, brethren, to be laid aside from the work, and cast out of the vineyard of the Lord; and it must be something of weight that must support under so severe a doom. I know there are many who will add to the affliction of the afflicted, by saying that it is our own fault; "They might have prevented it—if they had wanted to." Whether this is so or not, God knows, and let the Lord be judge. Blessed be God, that this is not laid to our charge as the reason of our expulsion, either deficiency or scandal!
You are not ignorant what things there are imposed on us as the condition of our continuing our ministry; which, however lawful and expedient they seem in the judgment of many—yet have the most specious arguments that plead for them. They have left me utterly dissatisfied in my conscience about them. I must profess before God, angels, and men, that my non-submission is not from any disloyalty to authority, nor from pride, or any factious disposition or design—but because I dare not contradict my conscience nor do anything concerning which my heart tells me, "The Lord says—Do it not."
After all my most impartial inquiries, after all my seeking counsel from the Lord, after all my considering and consulting with men of all persuasions about these matters—I find myself so far short of satisfaction, that I am plainly put to this choice—to part with my ministry—or my conscience. I must choose that my ministry be sealed up by my sufferings, than lengthened out by a lie.
But however, though I must now no longer act as a minister, I shall, through the grace of God, endeavour peaceably and patiently to suffer as a Christian. I should, to testify my obedience to authority, have become all things to all men to the uttermost that I could, with any clearness of heart; but, since matters stand so, I must lose my place or my peace. I cheerfully allow myself to be thrust off the stage.
And now, welcome the cross of Christ; welcome reproach; welcome poverty, scorn and contempt, or whatever else may befall me on this account! This morning I had a flock—and you had a pastor; but now, behold a pastor without a flock—and a flock without a shepherd! This morning I had a house—but now I have none! This morning I had a living—but now I have none! "The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away! Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Beloved, I am sensible of many weaknesses and disadvantages I am under which may render a suffering state the harder to be borne. Help me by your prayers, and not me only—but all my brethren also with whom my lot must fall. "Pray for us, for we trust that we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly."
1. That God would make our silence speak, and preach the same holy doctrine that we have preached with our lips.
2. That He would give supports answerable to our sufferings; that He who comforts those who are cast down, will also comfort His servants who are cast out.
3. That, according to our earnest expectation and our hope, as always, Christ may be magnified in us, whether it be by life or by death.
And thus, brethren, I bid you all farewell. In the words of the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."