Horatius Bonar was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in December 18, 1808 and died in that very city July 31, 1889. His death took place 122 years ago yesterday, but his words are as powerful today as the day he initially addressed them to his Scottish peers.
Bonar was a man with a passion for prayer and spiritual awakening. In 1877 he published a manifesto on personal repentance to ministers entitled, "Words to Winners of Souls." Bonar challenged the pastors of Scotland to remember their heritage. This was no nostalgic stroll down memory lane. He took them in short order to The Ministerial Confession of 1651. It had been prepared by the Church of Scotland during a national crisis of monumental proportions. This remarkably politically incorrect document was a passionate call for the pastors of Scotland to accept their responsibility for the conditon of their land. It was not a swan song, but a siren. The Confession of 1651 had all the subtley of a bugle blast. It was a medley of Reveille, Recall, and Charge. There is a timely word that bears repeating to any contemporary church, that finds herself in need of a new reformation. It describes:
" Refined hypocrisy; desiring to appear what, indeed, we are not. Studying more to learn the language of God's people than their exercise. Artificial confessing of sin, without repentance; professing to declare iniquity, and not resolving to be sorry for sin. Confession in secret much slighted, even of those things whereof we are convicted. No reformation, after solemn acknowledgements and private vows; thinking ourselves exonerated after confession. Readier to search out and censure faults in others than to see or deal with them in ourselves. Accounting of our estate and way according to the estimation that others have of us. Estimation of men, as they agree with or disagree from us."
WOW! What a statement..."Refined hypocrisy...thinking ourselves exonerated after confession." Apparently, 16th Centuray hypocrites would feel right at home in the 21st Century arena. No generation has ever officially honored hypocrisy. It is usually done with a wink and a nod through back room dealings, and behind the scene wheelings. Being called out as a hypocrite is bad enough, but to have your own peers give a shout out that you have turned it into an art form had to be an intimidating experience for the boys of Knox in 1651.
The ministers of 1651 were in need of a spiritual encounter with the Word of God. They had successfully pursued an intellectual faith, but they had not learned their lessons well. It should not have surprised them. They had to know from even a cursory study of the Bible that Jesus saved His harshest words for the hypocrites. Jesus did not suffer fool's gladly, but he had a special disdain for the self-righteous who put on a false front with a fake door and never led people into The Light. He rebuked religious people who knew how the sytem worked, were willing to work it to their advantage, and kick His Heavenly Father to the curb.
The church, The Bride of Christ, has never been in a greater need of a renewed focus on the only One who can restore their first love for The Groom, Jesus. The lesson from Horatius Bonar's book is urgently needed in 2011. In every generation, The Church, both pastors and people need to fall in love with Jesus. After all, He is the One who called for the First Love Awakening. In 1651, the Scottish Reformation had run into deep trouble, and The Confession of 1651 was issued. In 1877, just 20 years after the Great Prayer Revival of 1857, Bonar saw the same coldness creeping into the hearts of his peers and their people. There is a pattern here. Each generation needs to respond to the call of God to return to their First Love.
It has been over one hundred years since Bonar quoted the heart condition of one man who became a key prayer (not player) in America's First Great Awakening. This movement of God swept up and down the eastern seaboard of the American colonies twenty years before the American Revolution. Prior to it, one pastor in the small town of Northampton, Massachusetts cried out to God, praying:
"I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God." Jonathan Edwards
Edward's statement describes the condition of my own heart. It leads me to call out to intercessors, as we begin the final week of preparation for The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis. It is to be held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on August 6th from 10 AM- 5 PM. Thousands have registered on-line. Only God knows if they are people we can count on to show up or if they are people we can only count on to sign up. The stage has been set. The call has gone out. The waiting begins.
As I pray about the event that will soon be taking place, I find myself waiting and wanting for an audience of One to show up. When Holy God shows up in Houston, all will be right. If a huge crowd shows up, but we miss Him, all will be wrong. In truth, we only need One Person to show up for The Response to become something only God can get credit for. Pray that we will settle for nothing less than The Manifest Presence of the Risen Christ, and that His Holy Spirit will sweep through those who are present with a cleansing power and a healing touch, breaking the power of sin in their lives. Please pray that what God begins in Houston will become a sanctified tsunamai that transforms the lives of people throughout the world with a spiritual awakening that has the hand prints of our Sovereign God all over it.