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A Time for Tears

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 36, October-December 2004.

Awise man once said that there is "a time to weep" (Ecc.3:4). The truth we must learn is that each and every human activity has its appropriate season. If we are to ask ourselves as the people of God what ought to be our great business at this present hour then the answer is ready to hand: our work is to weep.

That is not how some professing Christians view the times of course. For instance the ecumenical movement is jubilant today. Although schemes for an organic union of the denominations have generally failed the efforts to bridge the doctrinal gap between popery and protestantism have largely succeeded in their minds. This is a cause of delight to Romanists and their fellowtravellers on the broad way that leads to destruction. To those who believe in the Bible however it is an occasion for lamentation. We must ask the question, Can the Spirit of truth bless a movement where there is manifestly no sincere love of the truth? The answer is, No, plainly He cannot.

Those who favour and follow the spiritual fads and fashions of the charismatic movement also believe that our times are full of promise. They are looking for a great move of God which will sweep our nation. To them the present-day signs and wonders, songs and celebrations are reasons for rejoicing. But to us they are matters for mourning. We do not see in those who are caught up in these things what we ought to see when the Holy Spirit is truly and powerfully at work: a keen sense of sin and a wholesome fear of God.

Yet others are hopeful of good things to come. There seem to be encouragements. A good work has taken place in the publication of sound literature from the past. The works of Reformers and Puritans now occupy an honoured place in many libraries. Untaught souls from Arminian backgrounds have come to appreciate the doctrines of grace. We find that people generally are weary of life, fearful of the future and are looking for something better.

So our land is ready for revival, we are told. We need to raise up an army of preachers and send them out into the highways and byways! Let them preach the gospel freely and there will be a great harvest! But there is a problem: some ministers have become too Calvinistic! They are not preaching the gospel of grace properly. They are hindering those who would enter the kingdom.

Is this the true picture? We think not. For all the idolising of 'evangelism' and the effort made to win souls to Christ few genuine conversions are seen anywhere in Britain today. The problem is not that preachers are too Calvinistic. The problem is that few sinners have any real interest in God at all. And that itself is a judgment from the Lord. We have grieved the Holy Spirit in so many ways and He has withdrawn from us.

It is a time for reckoning realistically with the sombre truth of the total depravity of our fallen humanity. It must be said that the natural man's disenchantment with this world comes not because he no longer wants it but because he is unable to get as much of it as he would like. His fear of the future is not because of his prospects in eternity but because of the uncertainty of today's society. For all his dissatisfaction with his lot there is simply no corresponding desire for God. That should make us weep before the Lord.

What is to be done? It is easy to be busy with evangelism (and easier still to talk about it); it is far less easy and less gratifying to the flesh to be occupied in the labour of humble, persistent prayer for the sending of the Spirit and in the endeavour of godly living, without which all our hopes for Zion's prosperity are bound to be disappointed. Oh, how we all fail so miserably here! May God pour upon us the spirit of grace and of supplications.