A DEVOTIONAL BASED ON PSALM 92:7-15
By Warren W. Wiersbe
Someone has said that there are three stages in life: childhood, adolescence, and “My, you’re looking good.” We can’t stop aging. But no matter how old we grow, we ought to continue growing in the Lord. “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the hous of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (vv. 12-14). I am greatly encouraged by those words, because as I get older, I want my life to count more and more for Jesus.
God tells us to be like palm trees. That means we should be planted–“planted in the house of the Lord.” We must abide in Christ, whose roots are spiritual. What a tragedy it is to get older and move into the world and into sin, abandoning what you were taught from the Word of God.
We should also be productive. “They shall be fresh and floursihing” — fruitful trees to the glory of God. Palm trees stand a lot of abuse, storms, and wind. The wind that breaks other trees bends the palm tree, but then it comes back up. Palm trees have roots that go down deep to draw up the water in the desert area. They can survive when other trees are dying. And palm trees just keep on prodicing fruit. The fruit doesn’t diminish; it gets better and sweeter.
Finally, we should be flourishing “in the courts of our God.” When some people get old, they get grouchy, mean, and critical. Let’s not be like that. Allow the Lord to make you fresh and flourishing. Have roots that go deep. You can stand the storms and still be fruitful, feeding others from the blessing of the Lord.
God wants you to grow strong, productive trees that bear much fruit. He wants your roots to grow deep to draw nourishment from His hidden resources. Are you planted and feeding on the Word of God daily? Are you producing fruit and bringing glory to Him? Are you flourishing and feeding others?
*SOURCE: Warren W. Wiersbe. Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR DIFFICULT DAYS
By Warren W. Wiersbe
In 1892, after a year of intensive work in Great Britain, D. L. Moody sailed for home, eager to get back to his family and his work. The ship left Southampton amid many farewells. About three days out into the ocean, the ship ground to a halt with a broken shaft; and before long, it began to take water. Needless to say, the crew and passengers were desperate, because nobody was sure whether the vessel would sink or not, and nobody knew of any rescue ships in the area. After two days of anxiety, Moody asked for permission to hold a meeting, and to his surprise, nearly every passenger attended. He opened his Bible to Psalm 91 and, holding to a pillar to steady himself, he read: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Moody wrote later, “It was the darkest hour of my life … relief came in prayer. God heard my cry, and enabled me to say, from the depth of my soul, `Thy will be done.’ I went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately….” Well, God answered prayer and saved the ship and sent another vessel to tow it to port. Psalm 91 became a vibrant new Scripture to D. L. Moody, and he discovered, as you and I must also discover, that the safest place in the world is in the shadow of the Almighty, “under His wings.” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty… He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.” So promises the Lord in Psalm 91:1, 4. What does God mean by “under His wings”? Of course, we know that this is symbolical language, because God does not have wings. Some think that this has reference to the way the mother hen shelters and protects her brood. You will remember that Jesus used a similar comparison when He said, “How oft would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not.”
My own conviction is that Psalm 91 is talking about another kind of wings. Where is that secret place of the Most High? To every Old Testament Jew, there was only one secret place-the holy of holies in the tabernacle. You will recall that the tabernacle was divided into three parts: an outer court where the sacrifices were offered; a holy place where the priests burned the incense; and then the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant was kept. And you will remember that over the ark of the covenant, on the mercy seat, were two cherubim, and their wings overshadowed the ark. This, I believe, is what the psalmist was referring to: the “secret place” is the holy of holies, and “the shadow of the Almighty” is under the wings of the cherubim at the mercy seat.
In Old Testament days, no one was permitted to enter that holy of holies, except the high priest; and he could do it only once a year. If anyone tried to force his way in, he was killed. But today, all of God’s children, saved by faith in Jesus Christ, can enter the holy of holies, because Jesus Christ has opened the way for us. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two and the way was opened into the very presence of God. You and I are privileged to dwell in the holy of holies-to live under the shadow of His wings. We don’t simply make occasional visits into God’s presence; we live there because of Jesus Christ!
Would you believe it if I told you that the safest place in the world is under a shadow? It is–provided that the shadow is the shadow of the Almighty! I would rather be overshadowed by Almighty God than protected by the mightiest army in the world.
As you read Psalm 91, you discover that God makes some marvelous promises to those who will live under His wings, in the holy of holies. For one thing, He promises divine protection. This doesn’t mean that we Christians never experience accidents or sickness, because you and I know that we do. God does not promise to protect us from trials, but to protect us in trials. The dangers of life may hurt us but they can never harm us. We can claim His promise that these things are working for us and not against us.
Listen to one of these promises: “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 9:11-12). A modern scientific world laughs at the idea of angels, but not the child of God. Jesus taught that the angels of God watch over God’s children. The angels don’t run ahead of us and pick up the stones, because sometimes we need these stones in the path to teach us to depend more on the Lord. What the angels do is help us use the stones for stepping-stones, not stumbling blocks. I firmly believe that when we get to heaven, we will discover how many times God’s angels have watched over us and saved our lives. This is not an encouragement to be careless or to tempt God, but it is an encouragement to worry less.
Believers are immortal in the will of God, until their work is done. Out of the will of God there is danger, but in the will of God there is a divine protection that gives us peace in our hearts, no matter how trying life may be. “Under His wings,” abiding in Christ-this is where we are safest during the storms of life. We do not, however, run into the holy of holies to hide from life. I’m afraid too many people misinterpret the Scriptures and the hymns that talk about hiding in God and finding Him a refuge in the storm. We go in for strength and help, and then go back to life to do His will. God’s divine protection is not simply a luxury we enjoy; it is a necessity that we want to share with others. God’s protection is preparation for God’s service. We go in that we might go out. We worship that we might work; we rest that we might serve.
Are you living in the shadow of the Lord, under His wings? Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Do you spend time daily in worship and prayer? I trust that you do, because the safest life and most satisfying life is under His wings.
The person who lives under His wings not only enjoys the safest life possible, but also the most satisfying life possible. Psalm 91 closes with this promise. “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” This doesn’t mean all Christians will live to be a hundred; the facts prove otherwise. Some of the choicest Christians died before age thirty. A long life refers to quality, not just quantity: it means a full and satisfying life. You can live for eighty years and only exist if you leave Christ out. On the other hand, if you yield to Christ, you can pour into forty years or four lifetimes of service and enjoyment. There is a heart satisfaction that comes only to those who live under His wings, in the the place of surrender and fellowship.
The place of satisfaction is the secret place of the Most High. When you yield to Jesus Christ and link your life with Him, then you find the kind of satisfaction that is worth living for and worth dying for–not the shallow masquerades of this world, but the deep abiding peace and joy that can come only from Jesus Christ.
Turn your back on sin and the cheap trinkets that this world offers, and let me invite you to enter the secret place of the Most High. Surrender to Christ; trust Him as your Savior; answer His gracious invitation. When you do this, you will enter into a new kind of life–a life under the shadow of God–a life in the secret place of safety and satisfaction.
*Source: Warren W. Wiersbe. The Bumps Are What You Climb On. “Under His Wings” – Chapter 10. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006.
Warren Wiersbe gives three reasons why he enjoys reading:
“First, there’s the joy of meeting people I’ve always wanted to meet. If it were announced that Hudson Taylor or Charles Spurgeon or Campbell Morgan was speaking at a particular church, Christians from all over the world would show up. But we forget that when we open up a book by Hudson Taylor, for example, that man is speaking to us.
“Another joy is visiting great periods of history. I would like to have lived in London from 1835 to about 1895, the Victorian era.… I could have traveled from place to place, hearing some of the greatest people who ever walked the face of God’s earth—F. B. Meyer, D. L. Moody, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, Alexander Maclaren …
“A third joy I have in reading is grappling with great issues.… Everyone is a philosopher because everyone has some view of life.”
*Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe has been a pastor for many years, a teacher on the Back to the Bible Broadcast, and is best known as the author of over 100 practical books on the Christian life – most notably the “Be” Series of books covering the entire span of the Bible expositionally.
Today, May 3rd, 2012 is the National Day of Prayer. On this day I’m posting an excellent excerpt from a book on how to pray from Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe. He bases this book on the “real Lord’s prayer.” What we have traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 is the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray. However, in John 17 we get a glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus on His way to the cross and back to glory with the Father. The best way we can learn about prayer, is to do a careful study of John 17, and see firsthand how, what, and why Jesus prayed. Without further ado – enjoy Wiersbe’s observations about our Lord’s famous prayer from John chapter 17.
These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said. ’’Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.” – John 17:1
“Lord, teach us to pray!”
This request from one of the disciples (Luke 11:1) gave evidence of real spiritual insight. We must learn how to pray. While praying is as natural to the Christian as breathing is to a mammal, even breathing must be studied and practiced if it is to be correct. Singers and public speakers work on their breathing so that they get the most out of their voice and don’t injure it. The fact that we have been praying since childhood is no guarantee that we really know how to pray effectively.
John 17:1 Gives us some Guidelines to Follow for Effective Praying:
(1) Posture is not important
Was our Lord kneeling or standing when he offered this prayer? We don’t know. All we do know is that He lifted up His eyes to heaven (see John 11:41). Most people bow their heads and close their eyes when they pray, but Jesus lifted His head and focused His eyes on heaven. Many people fold their hands when they pray, but I don’t find this practice anywhere in Scripture. In fact, the Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands, open to God, expecting to receive something! (Note 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2; and 1 Timothy 2:8.)
Many different prayer postures are recorded in the Bible, and all of them are acceptable. Some people bowed their knees when they prayed (Genesis 24:52; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Ephesians 3:14). When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He began by bowing His knees (Luke 22:41); He then fell on His face as He talked to the Father (Matthew 26:39). It was Daniel’s practice to kneel when he prayed (Daniel 6:10), but King David sat when he talked to God about the promised kingdom (2 Samuel 7:18). Abraham stood when he interceded for Sodom (Genesis 18:22). So there are many postures for prayer.
The important thing is the posture of the heart. It is much easier to bow the knees than to bow the heart in submission to God. While the outward posture can be evidence of the inward spiritual attitude, it is not always so. Again, the important thing is the posture of the heart.
(2) We Pray to the Father
The biblical pattern for prayer is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Jesus addressed His Father six times in this prayer. (Some people say “Father” or “Lord” with every sentence that they pray. This is a bad habit that should be cured.) Four times He simply said “Father”; the other two times, He called Him “Holy Father” and “righteous Father” (verses 11 and 25). From this, I gather that it is not wrong for us to use suitable adjectives when we address our Father in heaven. However, we must be careful to mean what we say and not overdo it.
We address the Father, of course, because prayer is based on sonship. In what we traditionally call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father….” Jesus never prayed “Our Father.” We noted in chapter 1 that Jesus had a different relationship to the Father because He is the eternal Son of God. He said, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).
We hear people addressing their prayers to the Son and even to the Holy Spirit. Is this wrong? When Stephen gave his life for Christ, he saw Jesus in heaven and addressed his prayer to him: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). I know of no prayer in the Bible addressed to the Holy Spirit. Since our prayers are addressed to God, and since Father and Son and Holy Spirit are all in the Godhead, technically we can address our prayers to each of them. However, the biblical pattern seems to be that we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and through the power of the Spirit.
Nowhere in this prayer does our Lord mention the Holy Spirit. He had in His Upper Room discourse taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-13). Jude 20 instructs us to pray “in the Holy Spirit,” which seems to relate to Romans 8:26, 27, verses that every serious prayer warrior should ponder. We cannot expect God to answer unless we pray in His will (1 John 5:14, 15). We discover the will of God primarily through the Word of God (Colossians 1:9, 10), and it is one of the ministries of the Spirit to teach us from the Word (John 16:13, 14).
The fact that prayer is based on sonship suggests that the Father is obligated to listen when His children call. In fact, it is more than an obligation: it is the Father’s delight when His children fellowship with Him and share their needs. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). The Father’s heart reaches out in love to His own, and He longs to share good things with them. And the better we know our Father, the easier it is to pray in His will.
(3) We must be Yielded to the Father’s Will
A storm passed over the Florida coast and left a great deal of wreckage behind. The next day, as the men were cleaning up their little town, one man said, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I prayed during that storm last night.” One of his friends replied, “Yes, I’m sure the Lord heard many new voices last night.”
Prayer is not like those little red boxes we see in buildings and occasionally on street corners, marked USE ONLY IN EMERGENCY. I enjoy sharing good things with my children, but if they only spoke to me when they were in trouble or in need of something, our relationship would quickly deteriorate. Unless we do the will of God, our living will negate our praying.
“Father, the hour has come….” What hour? The hour for which He had come into the world. The hour when He would die on the cross, be buried, rise again, and finish the great work of redemption. You may trace this “hour” in John’s Gospel.
John 2:4 – Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.
John 7:30 – They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
John 8:20 – These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
John 12:23 – And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
John 13:1 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
John 17:1- Father, the hour has come….
I think it was Phillips Brooks who said, “The purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.” If we want to pray in the will of God, then we must live in the will of God. Prayer is not something that we do; it is something that we are. It is the highest and deepest expression of the inner person.
It is this profound relationship between practice and prayer that helps us understand such promises as Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” A superficial reading of this promise would lead you to believe that God is a doting Father who plays favorites with those who pamper Him. But that is not what this promise says. If we delight in the Lord, and seek to please Him in everything, then something is going to happen to our own desires. His desires become our desires. We start to say with our Lord, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Our praying, then, is simply the reflection of God’s desires in our own heart.
There is a price to pay when we sincerely pray in the will of God. Jesus was about to receive the cup from His Father’s hand (John 18:10, 11). The Father had prepared the cup, and the hour had come. But Jesus was not afraid. Peter tried to protect the Master, but Jesus rebuked him. “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). We need never fear the will of God; and, if we are in the will of God, we need never fear the answers He gives to our prayers. If a son asks for bread, will he receive a stone? If he asks for a fish, will his father give him a snake?
Living in the will of God makes it possible for us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This command obviously doesn’t mean that we are to go around mumbling prayers. Our real praying is expressed by the desires of our heart. If our lips frame requests that are different from the desires in our heart, then we are praying hypocritically. God does not hear words; He sees hearts. So, when we live in the will of God, the desires of our heart should become more and more godly; and these desires are really prayers that constantly ascend to the Lord.
Jesus lived on a divine timetable. When He told His disciples He was going back to Judea to help Mary and Martha and Lazarus, the disciples protested. “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” What was our Lord’s reply? “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:8, 9). He knew that He was safe in the Father’s will, and that they could not kill Him until His hour had come.
God in his mercy can and does answer “emergency prayers,” but He prefers that we be in constant communion with Him. (In fact, if we seek to live in His will, we will have fewer emergencies!) If prayer is an interruption to our lives, then something is wrong.
The fact that we sustain an attitude of prayer does not mean we avoid regular times of prayer. It is the regular occasion of prayer that makes possible the constant attitude of prayer. We do not enjoy Thanksgiving dinners or holiday feasts at every meal; but we are able to enjoy those special times because we have eaten our regular meals three times a day. We begin the day with prayer; we pray at mealtime; we lift prayers to God during the day as the Spirit prompts us; we close the day in prayer. Like our breathing, our praying becomes so much a part of our lives that we are often not conscious of it.
(4) The Glory of God should be our Primary Concern
“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.”
The word glory is used in one form or another eight times in this prayer. What does it mean?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “glory” means “weight, that which is important and honorable.” (Paul’s phrase “an eternal weight of glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:17 carries this idea.) In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “glory” means “opinion, fame.” Theologians tell us that the “glory of God” is the sum total of all that He is, the manifestation of His character. The glory of God is not an attribute of God, but rather is an attribute of all His attributes! He is glorious in wisdom and power, glorious in His mighty works, and glorious in the grace He bestows upon us.
You have probably noticed that “The Lord’s Prayer” teaches us to put God’s concerns before our own. We pray “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” before we bring up our own needs-daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from sin. When our praying centers on the glory of God, we see our needs and requests in proper perspective. Matters that seemed so important have a tendency to shrink to their proper size when measured by the glory of God.
Whatever we pray about, in the will of God and for the glory of God, will be granted by our heavenly Father. When we are available to bring glory to God “on the earth” (verse 4), then God is available to provide what we need.
Was Jesus praying selfishly when He said, “Glorify Thy Son”? No, he was not. To begin with, He had shared that glory with the Father “before the world was” (verse 5). When He came to earth in His body of flesh, He veiled that glory. Peter, James, and John saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration (John 1:14; Matthew 17:1-8), but it was not revealed to anyone else. When our Lord asked the Father to glorify Him, He was only requesting the return of that which was already His.
But something more is involved. The glorification of Jesus Christ meant the completion of the great work of salvation. In this prayer, Jesus spoke as though His work on the cross were already finished. “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). If Jesus Christ had not been glorified, there could be no salvation for sinners today. The Holy Spirit would not have been given. There would be no church, no New Testament, no Christian life. While our Lord did pray for Himself, it was not a selfish prayer; for He also had us in mind.
And, after all, it cost Him His life on the cross for this prayer to be answered. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it selfish.
God answered the prayer of His Son. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…” (Acts 3:13). In Peter 1:21 we are told that the Father “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory….” There is a glorified Man in heaven today! In Jesus Christ, deity and humanity share glory. This assures us that one day we shall share God’s glory, for “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Jesus Christ has already given His church the glory (verse 22). The tense of the verb in Romans 8:30 has always astounded me: “…whom He justified, these He also glorified.” We are just as much glorified as we are justified, but the glory has not yet been revealed. All of creation, now travailing because of sin, is eagerly awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19); for only then will creation be set free to enjoy “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
“If God answers this request,” we should ask ourselves, “will it bring Him glory? And what will this answer look like when Jesus comes again?” I have discovered that testing my prayers by the glory of God is a good way to detect requests that are selfish and short-sighted.
(5) We must Pray in Faith
Suppose the Master had looked at His situation through human eyes alone. Could He have prayed as He did? No; it would have been impossible.
Suppose He looked back on His years of ministry and evaluated that ministry from a human point of view. It would have looked like failure. He had very few followers, and His own nation had rejected Him. Humanly speaking, His work had failed. Yet He prayed, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). By faith, He would be that “grain of wheat” planted in the ground, and He would produce much fruit (John 12:24).
Or, suppose He had looked around. What would He have seen? A small band of men, all of whom would fail Him in one way or another. Peter would deny Him three times. At that very hour, Judas was bargaining with the Jewish council and selling the Master like a common slave. Peter, James, and John would go to sleep in the Garden when they should be encouraging their Lord. And all of the men would forsake Him and flee.
Yet by faith, Jesus prayed, “I have been glorified in them” (verse 10). By faith, He prayed for them as they would be sent into the world to share the Gospel message. In spite of their past failures, these men would succeed! “I do not ask in behalf of these alone,” He said to the Father, “but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (verse 20). These weak men would invade a world that hated them and bring many to the feet of the Savior. Jesus saw all of this by faith.
If our Lord had looked ahead, He would have seen arrest, conviction, and death on a cross. Humanly speaking, it was defeat; but by faith, He saw it as it really was-victory! He said to Andrew and Philip, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Glorified! We would have said, crucified. But he looked beyond the cross to the glory that would come. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
When we pray by faith, we start seeing things from the divine perspective. Faith enables us to see the invisible. Faith treats as present and accomplished that which God will do in the future. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In my own prayer life, God is constantly seeking to bring me back to these fundamentals. It is easy for me to get detoured by some external thing, and my Father has to remind me that effective praying must come from the heart. I must repeatedly examine my relationship to the Father to make sure I am in His will, and that I want to be in His will. (“Doing the will of God from the heart,” Ephesians 6:6.) I must examine my motives: Am I praying so that the Father will be glorified or so that I might have my own comfortable way? Am I praying by faith, basing my requests on His Word?
Perhaps all of this seems to make praying appear very complex and difficult. Really, it is not. True prayer is the by-product of our personal “love relationship” with the Father.
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).
About the Author: Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Warren Wiersbe is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe. Prayer: Basic Training. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988, 23-32.
Series: On This Day In Christian History
Significant Events on This Day:
1551: The eleventh session of the Council of Trent opened. The council, which began in December 1545, was interrupted so many times as it dealt with deep issues that it took eighteen years to accomplish its work on the Counter-Reformation, finally closing in December 1563.
1873: Missionary-Explorer David Livingstone died in Africa near Lake Bangweolo (now within Zambia).
1939: The popular radio series that has featured Theodore Epp, Warren W. Wiersbe, and currently Woodrow Kroll (pictured on the left) – Back to the Bible began broadcasting from Nebraska.
“Raised Up to Remake English Morals”
God raised up Mr. Addison and his associates to lash the prevailing vices and ridiculous and profane customs of this country, and to show the excellence of Christ and Christian institutions. – John Wesley
To win such praise from John Wesley, Joseph Addison must have been a good influence indeed.
God “raised up” Addison on May 1st in 1672. He was born in England near Amesbury in Wiltshire, in the heart of Old Wessex, not far from the Avon River. His health at birth did not give much assurance that he would survive long, so he was baptized the same day. Despite his early poor health, he survived and grew into a young man, surrounded by strong moral influences. He was related to clergymen on both sides of his family. Hs mother was sister to the bishop of Bristol, and his father became the dean of Lichfield while Joseph was a youngster. Richard Steele visited the Addison home and considered its air of affectionate peace worthy of writing about in an issue of The Tatler.
Addison became one of the great stylists of the English language. His Latin poetry was also among the best written by an Englishman. But his real fame comes from the periodicals he and Richard Steele produced together: The Tatler, The Spectator and The Guardian.
The papers enjoyed a wide readership. Addison’s stated purpose in The Tatler was “to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.” The papers introduced the middle-class readership to recent developments in philosophy and literature. It is said that Addison and Steele’s works in the three papers were responsible for raising the general cultural level of the English middle class.
One of the most popular sections of the papers was Addison’s tales about a fictional character named Sir Roger de Coverly. Lively anecdotes about him exposed folly and suggested better behavior:
My friend Sir Roger has often told me, with a great deal of mirth, that at his first coming to his estate, he found three parts of his house altogether useless: that the best room in it had the reputation of being haunted, and by that means was locked up; that noises had been heard in his long gallery, so that he could not get a servant to enter it after 8 o’clock at night; that the door of one of his chambers was nailed up, because there went a story in the family that a butler had formerly hanged himself in it; and that his mother, who lived to a great age, had shut up half the rooms in the house, in which either her husband, a son, or daughter had died. The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass and himself a manner shut our of his own house…ordered all the apartments to be flung open and exorcised by his chaplain, who lay in every room one after another, and by that means dissipated the fears which had so long reigned in the family.
I should not have been thus particular upon these ridiculous harrows, did not I find them to very much prevail in all parts of the country.
Although he trained to become a priest, Addison never became one. It would have been a difficult path for him, for he was painfully shy. Instead of preaching to the public in a church, the press became his pulpit. In addition to his satires, Addison wrote hymns such as “When All Thy Mercies, O My God”:
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.
(Addison pictured on left)
On his deathbed, Addison was calm and courageous. He urged his nephew to “see how a Christian can die.” The excellence of his writing ensures that his memory will not perish soon, for his essays are often included in anthologies of English literature.
Author’s of the Above Article: A. Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves edited This Day In Christian History. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications Inc., 2005. The article above was adapted from the entry for May 1st.
A. Kenneth Curtis, Ph.D, is president of the Christian History Institute and the founding editor of Christian History magazine. He has written and produced several award winning historical films for Gateway Films/Vision Video’s Church history collection. He is also coauthor of 100 Most Important Dates in Christian History and From Christ to Constantine: The Trial and Testimony of the Early Church. He and his wife, Dorothy, reside in eastern Pennsylvania.
Daniel Graves is the Webmaster for the Christian History Institute and holds a master’s degree in library science from Western Michigan University. He is the author of Doctors Who Followed Christ and Scientists of Faith. Dan and wife, Pala reside in Jackson, Michigan.
John Brown Finds A Wife
The mid-1680s is remembered as the Killing Time in Scotland. Royal regiments martyred Scottish Presbyterians at will. Despite the danger, Presbyterian John Brown fell in love with Isabel Weir. He proposed to her, but warned that he would one day seal his testimony with blood. Isabel replied, “If it be so, I will be your comfort. The Lord has promised me grace.” They were married in a secret glen by the outlawed minister, Alexander Peden. “These witnesses of your vows,” said Peden, beginning the illegal ceremony, “have come at risk of their lives to hear God’s word and his ordinance of marriage.” The vows were spoken, and then Peden drew Isabel aside, saying, “You have got a good husband. Keep linen for a winding-sheet beside you; for in a day when you least expect it, thy master shall be taken.”
The Brown home soon included two children. It was happy, filled with prayer and godly conversation. Fugitive preachers were hidden and cared for there. But on May 1, 1685 John rose at dawn, singing Psalm 27, to find the house surrounded by soldiers. The family filed onto the lawn. The commander, Claverhouse, shouted to John, “Go to your prayers; you shall immediately die.” Kneeling, John prayed earnestly for his wife, pregnant again, and for his children. Then he rose, embraced Isabel, and said, “The day is come of which I told you when I first proposed to you.”
“Indeed, John. If it must be so, I can willingly part with you.”
“This is all I desire,” replied John. “I have no more to do but to die.” He kissed his children, then Claverhouse ordered his men to shoot. The soldiers hesitated. Snatching a pistol, Claverhouse placed it to John’s head and blew out his brains. “What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?” he snarled. Isabel, fixing Claverhouse in her gaze, told him she had never been so proud of him. Claverhouse mounted his horse and sped away, troops in tow. Isabel tied John’s head in a napkin and sat on the ground weeping with her children until friends arrived to comfort them.
“Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid; War may break out, but I will trust you. I ask only one thing, Lord: Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.” – Psalm 27:3,4
About the Author: Robert J. Morgan, is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best-selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, Red Sea Rules, and On This Day – this article was adapted from the May 1st entry in this excellent book. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country.
“The Death of John Brown”
The child on the moss she laid
And she stretched the cold limbs of the dead,
And drew the eyelid’s shade,
And bound the corpse’s shattered head,
And shrouded the martyr in his plaid;
And where the dead and living slept,
Sat in the wilderness and wept.
This POEM, written by Henry Inglis, tells the story of death of John Brown, Covenater martyr.
The Covenanters were Scottish Presbyterians who resisted the Episcopal system that Charles I, Charles II, and James VI imposed upon Scotland from 1637 to 1690. They opposed the divine right of kings, believing that limitless sovereignty belongs to God alone. When Presbyterianism was outlawed and replaced by episcopacy, the situation became very serious for the Covenanters, who were forced to choose between obedience to God or to the king. During the reign of Charles II they were haunted, jailed, and killed in large numbers.
John Brown was a poor farmer in Priesthill, Scotland, who aspired to be a Covenanter minister, but felt hampered by a problem with stammering. A brilliant man, Brown instead put his intellect and love of the Bible to work at home—teaching theology classes to local youth at his farm. Being a Covenanter meant being willing to give up his life for Christ at any moment, and Brown taught his students not to fear persecution but rather to consider it joy to suffer for Christ. Students came from miles around to be inspired by the gifted teacher (John Brown pictured on left).
In 1682 Covenanter pastor Alexander Peden performed the wedding ceremony for John Brown and Isabel Weir. After the ceremony Peden said to the bride, “Isabel, you have got a good man; but you will not enjoy him long. Prize his company and keep linen by you to he his winding sheet; for you will need it when you are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one.”
On May 1, 1685, the king’s troops came to Priesthill looking for Peden. They surprised Brown in his field and brought him back to his house and ransacked it. Finding some Covenanter literature, they began to interrogate him. Speaking in a clear, stammer-free voice, Brown’s confident answers made the chief officer ask whether he was a preacher. When told no, the officer replied, “Well, if he has never preached, much has he prayed in his time. Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die.”
John Brown fell on his knees, asking God to spare a remnant of believers in Scotland. The officer, cut him short, accusing him of preaching rather than praying. The officer later confessed that he could never forget John Brown’s powerful prayer.
Brown then said to his wife, “Now Isabel, the day is come that I told you would come when I spoke to you first of marrying me.”
She said, “Indeed, John, I can willingly part with you.”
He replied, “That is all I desire. I have no more to do but die. I have been ready to meet death for years past.”
As he said his good-byes and kissed his wife and baby, the officer broke in and ordered the troops to shoot him. The soldiers were so moved by the scene that they would not comply. The officer angrily pulled out his pistol, walked over, and shot John Brown in the head.
“What do you think of your fine husband now?” he asked Isabel.
Through her tears she answered, “I ever thought much good of him, and more than ever now.”
As the poem tells, Isabel laid her baby on the ground, bound up her beloved husband’s head, straightened his body, covered him with a plaid blanket, and sat down and wept.
Peden was in a nearby Covenanter home and described seeing a meteor that morning, “a bright, clear, shining light [that] fell from heaven to the earth.” He told his fellow believers, “And indeed there is a clear, shining light fallen this day, the greatest Christian that I ever conversed with.”
John and Isabel Brown’s marriage was filled with love and yet accompanied by the awful reality of the constant threat of death. Can you imagine what it would be like to live with martyrdom as a continual possibility? How would you live differently?
“You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my youthful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers.” Revelation 2:13
Author’s of the Article Above: Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). The Rustens have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the May 1st entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.