Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Vision (8/18/11): Richard Baxter: No more preaching in heaven

My sermon last Sunday stressed the centrality and importance of preaching as a means of grace in this gospel age. This same week I ran into a passage in Richard Baxter’s The Saints’ Everlasting Rest in which Baxter reminds us that no matter how valuable these ordinary means, in heaven they will no more be needed. As he puts it, “When we have obtained the haven, we have done sailing.” In heaven, even “Preaching is done.”

Book Note: I am reading a copy of The Saints’ Everlasting Rest that was abridged by Benjamin Fawcett and was reprinted by the American Tract Society. I picked up my undated copy amid a pile of old books in a local used book store. The prefaces by Thomas Erskine and Fawcett note the usefulness of this book through the years. Baxter wrote the draft for this work at a time when he was gravely ill and away from home, with only his Bible to read. His thoughts at this dire time naturally turned to heaven. He recovered from the illness and used his notes to preach a sermon series on this topic. The book was first published in 1650. The preaching series and book were used of God in the conversion of at least two other Puritan ministers (Thomas Doolittle and John Janeway).

Anyhow, here is the Baxter quote on the cessation of ordinary means (including even preaching) in heaven:

"One thing contained in heavenly rest, is, the ceasing of the means of grace. When we have obtained the haven, we have done sailing. When the workman receives his wages, it is implied he has done his work. When we are at our journey’s end, we have done with the way. Whether prophecies, they shall fail; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it also, so far as it had the nature of means, shall vanish away. There shall be no more prayer, because no more necessity, but the full enjoyment of what we prayed for; neither shall we need to fast, and weep, and watch anymore, being out of the reach of sin and temptations. Preaching is done; the ministry of man ceaseth; ordinances become useless; the laborers are called in, because the harvest is gathered, the tares burned, and the work finished; the unregenerate past hope, and the saints past fear, for ever."

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle 


Homeschool on the Croft said...

What a thought....
About no more prayer - as in the 'petitions' side of prayer, cos the praise will certainly be there! - do you think (I mean before the resurrection and final judgement) our prayers from our time on earth are still .... not sure how to say this... things we prayed for here, are they still 'presented' to God by the Intercessor, do you think. For example, if I'm praying for an as-yet unsaved child and I die, do you think these prayers are brought before the Father, or is this fanciful? Is it more like the Father has the prayers, as it were, before His face, from when they were prayed?

I'm not sure if any of that makes sense! We often see the children of believers being saved after the praying parent has passed away... makes me think :)

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Annie, thanks for your comment!

Great question. I think Baxter’s point was to stress the glory of heaven and the satisfaction of the saints there, resulting in the cessation of the ordinary means (e. g., no more need for preaching about Christ when we can see him “face to face” [1 Cor 13:12]). As for post-mortem prayer (petitions), John does record that he saw “under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God” and he records that they cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:9-10). I am a bit leery of saying that our prayers are essentially “eternal.” Certainly God’s knowledge is exhaustive. He knows our petitions before we ask them (Matt 6:8). He orders our steps ( Psalm 37:23; Psalm 139:16). He is pleased to use the means of our prayers to bring about his will (Matt 21:22; John 14;13, etc.). So, I would be comfortable saying that our petitions are always before him. Due to our sinful tendency to error when it comes to post-mortem speculation (see RC views of purgatory); however, I think we should be careful not to go beyond what is written.

Hope this helps and thanks for your readership! Did you ever get any tomatoes on the croft?


Homeschool on the Croft said...

Hah! Plenty tomatoes, but they're still GREEN.... trying my patience!