William Cowper says in one of his letters
that he once was friends with a man of fine taste
who confessed to him that
although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity,
he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel (the Emmaus Walk – Luke 24)
without being deeply affected by it,
and feeling that
if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures,
it was upon that passage.
Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”
Read it slowly savoring each one and envisioning that memorable walk to Emmaus!
It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;
They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.
The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?
Are you depressed by reason of your sin?
Let not this discourage you, for his name is purposefully Jesus,
because he, and he alone, “shall save his people from their sins”
Listen to the old Puritan, Robert Hawker (1753-1827 AD):
“My soul,what do you know practically and personally
of this most blessed name of your Savior?
It is one thing to have heard of him as Jesus,
and another to know him to be Jesus…
Have you simply heard of Jesus or have you received him as Jesus
to the salvation of your soul?
Is not the very name of Jesus most precious to you?”
When you take the name of Jesus upon your lips,
you remind yourself that almighty God is eternally committed to your salvation. When you take the name of Emmanuel on your lips,
you are reminding yourself that God is perpetually with you.
Martin Luther encouraged praying the Psalms by providing the common people with singable versions of metrical psalms in their own language.
He acknowledged that,
the common and ancient custom of the Christian church [was] to sing Psalms. St. Paul himself instituted this in I Corinthians 14:15 and exhorted the Colossians [3:16] to sing spiritual songs and Psalms heartily unto the Lord so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.
(Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to the Scriptures, (Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1984), 48.)
As early as 1537 the Strasbourg Psalter included vernacular versions of all one hundred and fifty psalms.” Luther turned six Psalms into evangelical song (12, 14, 67, 124, 128, 130, and then later Psalm 46).
Hughes Oliphant Old claims that “Martin Luther did as much as anyone to revive and popularize psalm singing in the sixteenth century.”
Behold, Lord, I am an empty vessel
that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in faith; Strengthen me.
I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent
that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith;
at times I doubt and am unable to trust You altogether.
O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in Thee.
In You I have sealed the treasures of all I have.
I am poor; You are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; You are upright.
With me there is an abundance of sin;
In You is the fullness of righteousness.
Help and forgive me, O Lord,
for my only hope is in You. Amen.
Martin Luther leading family worship.
On Sunday, October 29th, we will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We remember on this day that Martin Luther began a process that resulted in the recovery of the biblical gospel. Many congregations will recall the efforts of Martin Luther and will sing his famous hymn based on Psalm 46 entitled “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
When Luther needed encouragement, comfort and strength to face the many afflictions and trials that came upon him, he would frequently go to Psalm 46 for courage.
He himself explains why he would regularly sing Psalm 46 during times of trouble:
“We sing this psalm to the praise of God,
because He is with us
and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends
His church and His Word
against all fanatical spirits,
against the gates of hell,
against the implacable hatred of the devil,
and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.”
How have believers in the past proclaimed the gospel to their own hearts?
Why not reflect on the examples below and then write out your own summary of the gospel? Then use it as a tool in spiritual battle when you are plagued with a sense of condemnation, shame, and guilt:
1. The Apostle Paul recounts the stunning grandeur of the gospel throughout his life like this:
- Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- 1 Timothy 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
2. John Newton captures the simple beauty of the gospel when writing as an 82-year-old man: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a great Savior of sinners like me.”
3. Bono: “Grace, she takes the blame; She covers the shame; removes the stain; Grace makes beauty out of ugly things!”
4. Jack Miller: “Cheer up and smile! You are more sinful and flawed that you ever dared imagine, yet at the same time you are more loved than you ever dared to dream because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial death for you.”
5. YOU: How about you?
A Greater than David is here!
We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter, and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.
The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Jesus Christ—Christ suffering—Christ in humiliation—Christ dying—rising again—Christ coming the second time—Christ reigning over all. Both the advents are here—advent in suffering to bear the cross—the advent in power to wear the crown. Both the kingdoms are here—kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered—the kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, “A greater than David is here.”