The Life and Works of Christopher Dock/Spiritual Magazine/No. 33
Copy of a letter lovingly dedicated by the schoolmaster, Christopher Dock, to those of his pupils who are still living, for their teaching and admonition.
To all servants and elders, fathers and mothers, as well as their children and relatives, I wish in greeting that the God of Peace may rule our hearts and minds and lead us to God-fearing lives, to do as he bids through Jesus Christ, to whom be honor from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
Beloved in the Lord:
Regarding the cause of my writing this, I do it from urgent love of cheering and lovingly warning all those of my pupils who may be still living, as I cannot know how soon I shall put off this earthly tabernacle. O, dear children, how I rejoice when I think what blessings the Lord laid within you when you were simple-minded babes, and what joy it is to me to see in my grown pupils that the fear of God has found lodgment within you to grow, to withstand the evil lusts and desires of the flesh, and to accept gladly the right to become pupils in Christ's school, to prepare and be prepared, to take up Christ's cross and as lambs to follow the Shepherd of your souls in precept and example, to render yourselves obedient and continue to do so! To such will be given, if they remain true to the end, what the Lord Jesus has promised them. (John x, 27, 28.)
But as the number of these is very small, and there are probably a great many who with Demas have learned to love the world, obedient to the flesh in its desires; for these, unless they do not repent this side of the grave, God's word in Holy Scripture may be found in many places referring to the non-repentant, and it remains forever for all such carnal ones as it is written in Romans viii, 6, 7, 8; Romans vi, 20, 21; Gal. v, 19, 20; Gal. vi, 7, 8, 9; Ephes. v, 3, 4, 5, 6; Colos. iii, 5, 6, 7, 8, and in many other places. From these references it may be seen what sort of vine is this love of the world, with the lusts of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and an arrogant life. It bears no fruit of eternal life, for it is the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter, their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. Deut. xxxii, 32.
And although it has not gone so far as Holy Writ describes, yet the time spent in pursuit of worldly desires is not spent for the good of our souls, and it is high time to awake from sinful slumber, and be entered into the vine of Christ Jesus in sincere love, according to his command; to become a fruitful vine that bears the fruit of eternal life. For thou, Lord Jesus, art our bridegroom and hast promised this in Thy redeeming word and so kindly invited us and said:
O that such union in love might come to us. Then knock at the door of all of our hearts, dearest Jesus. O that those who have learned to love the world through the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and arrogance of heart, might hear Thy voice, awake, arise from sin, and open the door of their heart, abandon the world and follow Thee in precept and in example. May the gracious God add his blessing unto this.
When we look upon the kind, gracious and loving invitation of the Lord Jesus to all men which He leaves so manifold in His will and testament, thus in Matth. xi, 28, 29, 30, He calls to me and to all mankind: “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Ye dear children! we are here so lovingly invited to come by the Bridegroom of our soul, and He is willing to refresh us, and if we take up His yoke and learn humility and gentleness of heart from Him we shall find rest in our soul, which rest may be enjoyed forever. Now, children, what is sweeter than rest? And humility is the road toward it. And what is more painful than sorrow? And vanity plunges us into it.
How refreshing it was to the great sinner of whom we read in Luke vii, when the Lord Jesus took from her the great weight of sin, and her soul found rest. Truly grateful, she sat down at Jesus's feet and moistened His feet with tears and dried them with her hair, and kissed His feet and anointed them with ointment. Now, dear children, that you have reached the years of maturity, consider this yourselves. Christ calls all the weary and heavy laden to Himself, and we are all weary and laden with sin; therefore “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James iv, 17.)
Christ invites us so lovingly, but he will not force us; we need for this coming a free obedience. For in no one else is salvation, and no other name under heaven is given us in which to seek salvation, than that of Christ. He is the innocent lamb that bore the sins of the whole world. He is the propitiation for our sins and those of the whole world. He is the bridegroom of our souls who redeemed the lost human race from the power of Satan, and will betroth Himself in all eternity with His redeemed human race. Therefore our betrothal to Christ, our soul's bridegroom, is the great work and desire of our life, the chief thing for us to aim at. Yea, we should desire it more than all that is visible, for He alone of God is made unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (I Corinth, i, 30.) There is no other mediator between God and man, than the own Son of God, Christ Jesus. (I Tim. ii, 4, 5, 6.) Through Him we have access to the Father. (Ephes. ii, 17, 18.) And if we, with the prodigal son, look into ourselves and rightly rue our condition from past sins, and in true repentance resolve, with the prodigal son, to return to the Father and say: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in Thy sight, and am not worthy to be called Thy son; take me as one of Thy hired servants. I submit anew to Thee, and break with Satan, the world and my flesh-loving selfishness, that until now have turned me from Thee and Thy grace. O God, be merciful to me, a sinner, and give me the mediator between Thee and men, that is Thy dear Son, in whom Thou art well pleased. For He is the peace-offering for my sins and those of the whole world. Him hast Thou given us in love, commit me to His care as His own, that I may be cleansed of my sins through His bitter sufferings and death. His blood can wash me of my sins, and I shall henceforth willingly and obediently submit to this soul's physician, and accept willingly all commands and orders that He gives me to heal my poor wounded soul.” If we come thus like the prodigal son before the Father, humble and crushed, and to the Son, then will follow the second invitation of the Lord Jesus, and it is as lovely and gracious as the first. It is described in St. John vi, 37, and reads as follows: “All that the Father givest Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Come, then, sinners, and those who sorrow on account of their sins, to Him who turns no one away who comes in the humility of heart. Why wilt thou stand in thine own light, and thus be lost? Wilt thou longer serve sin, when He appeared to save thee? Oh, no. Leave the path of sin. My Saviour loveth sinful men.
Now what hindrances prevent our coming to Christ, our soul's bridegroom?
Satan places before us the kingdom of this world, pleasures of the eye, of the flesh and vain life, and if we abandon ourselves to our flesh-loving selfishness that since the fall is inclined toward the bad, the coming to Christ will advance but slowly. We probably reach the point of realizing that Christ died for all, which is a pure and precious truth, but why Christ died for all, and what our conduct should be, is also added. (II Corinth, v, 15.) And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. These rules of conduct are contrary to flesh-loving selfishness, and so long as this is in control, the coming to Christ is prevented. The Pharisees and Sadducees of whom we read in Matth. iii, came also to John the Baptist, but when he saw their selfish and vain lives he called them a generation of vipers and said unto them: “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” But they did not repent, they despised also God's advice and were not baptised, as may be seen in Luke vii. The Lord Jesus also advised them what to do to find eternal life; the words are given in John v, and read as follows: “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Vain selfishness kept them from Christ and eternal life.
I confess from all my heart, with the Apostle Paul, (I Tim. i, 15): “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” But because Christ came to bless sinners, the sinner must also come to Christ if he would be saved. Just as we sinners go to Christ who came to redeem sinners, so the lost sheep comes to its shepherd, the lost coin is found, the prodigal son returns to his father, at which the angels in heaven rejoice, and the more we determine to unite ourselves with Christ by willing obedience, the more we shall find that those things which pleased our fleshly selfishness become now a heavy burden, which causes us to turn toward the door of repentance with suppliant kneeling until the wounded conscience is healed and we find rest for our souls, which rest we shall find with Christ if we go to Him.
As I am writing of coming to Christ, if the question should be asked me, whether we can do this of our own strength, I answer, No. We cannot do it of our own strength, but this does not excuse us, for it depends upon our willingness. The Lord Jesus expresses his willingness for Jerusalem; the words are given in Matth. xxiii, 37: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
If we will not be chastised by the healing grace of God, turning from ungodly conduct and worldly desires, it is our own fault that the Lord Jesus cannot take us under His wings of grace, however gladly He would do it. Natural born little ones can do nothing for their own cleansing, nor clothe themselves, nor eat and drink, nor protect themselves from harm. For all this they have no power within themselves. What they require they indicate by crying. This crying touches the mother's heart, she cleanses it, offers it her breast, and it is the mother's joy when the child accepts it for its body's and life's nourishment. But if the child does not accept it the mother is sad, for she knows that then the body's and life's strength of the child will diminish. Now as helpless as new born babes are we to cleanse ourselves, but if we recognize our worthlessness and how wretched we are and are eager for the same pure milk of grace, as the new born child for its mother's milk, this healing grace of God is available for every man. If we are willing to be chastised by the wholesome grace of God, to leave our ungodly conduct and worldly desires, and would fain live piously, righteously and godfearingly in this world, we are of our own strength as unable to do this as the new born child. But in this condition there is no better means than to express our need with crying,begging and pleading before God. He can give to the weary strength, and to the weak power. For such the Lord Jesus has left in His Testament three keys. The first, ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. And what we receive for our asking, seeking and knocking, that is pure grace upon grace, and this we cannot ascribe to our own strength, but to the grace of God; and so blessedness remains a gift of grace from God, attained through our Lord Jesus Christ. Few days and hours pass that we have not need to be watchful in bodily or spiritual needs. We need at all times to turn with watching and praying to the door of grace and beg for strength of spirit and of faith. For daily we find enemies that war against our soul, against whom of our own strength we can do nothing, but by God's help we can do everything.
May the Lord deliver us from all evil, and help us to His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
Dear children, who have come to the years of understanding. Love for your souls and for your souls' salvation has led me to admonish you before my departure. Examine yourselves, if you have come in faith to Christ or are still willing to come. If you discover that, with the prodigal son, you have gone from the Father, determine, with the prodigal son, to come to him again. Let the world no longer deceive you with pleasures of the eye and of the flesh and vain living. Free your hearts from such false love, and love and betroth yourselves with Jesus, our soul's Bridegroom, who for love gave His life. He calls to us lovingly to come, as ye have read in his words. Such coming brings us light. Do not forget to come.
Yours in love,
N.B. — The publisher has considered it desirable to affix the author's name of this contribution: first, because it is chiefly addressed to his pupils (although it concerns all men without exception). So it is meet that they know who speaks to them. Secondly, the dear author has led such a good life, and does yet in his great age, that it is not unprofitable nor detrimental to him that his name be known. God grant that all who read the letter may put it to real use.