Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
O my soul, forget not all His benefits!
Let not the occasion of this anniversary pass by and fade into the irretrievable moments of history’s oblivion without remembering and counting one by one all the benefits of these forty years!
And then, O my soul, bless the Lord!
A banner, a flag, a standard Thou hast given unto Thy people, O Lord, unto them that fear Thee.
That standard is the standard of the truth and its revelation. Centrally, in all His Person and work, our Lord Jesus Christ is that ensign which Thou hast raised up, O Lord. For He is the Truth. He in His incarnation and suffering and atoning death; He in His resurrection and exaltation at Thy right hand; He in His reception and outpouring of the Spirit; He in His redemption and deliverance of the sheep which Thou gavest Him; He in His gathering of the elect church by His Spirit and Word through the wonder-work of regeneration, calling, faith, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification; He in all His saving significance,—He, as revealed infallibly in all the Holy Scriptures and as proclaimed by the church, is that flag which Thou hast unfurled for Thy people. In Him Thou hast revealed Thyself as the mighty God of our salvation. In Him Thou hast made Thyself known as our covenant God. In Him Thou hast in sovereign, elective love revealed Thyself as the God Who conceived of, Who establishes, and Who realizes Thy eternal covenant of friendship with Thy people through the deep way of sin and grace. In Him Thou hast taken us up into that covenant of friendship, hast called us with a holy calling, in order that in the midst of the world that lieth in darkness we should be to the praise of Thy glorious grace, rallying round that standard, standing antithetically for the cause of Thy Son.
O my soul, never forget, but ever call to mind that Benefit of all benefits, that Benefit in the light of which all the deeds and dealings of Thy God are benefits to thee-ward!
And this, O my soul, is also a divine benefit, a high privilege of His grace, that Thy God, Jehovah, has given thee this flag, this standard, to be displayed. He has given it in order that those who fear Him might know their covenant position and vocation in the midst of the world. He has given it in order that His people might rise up, in the cause of His Son. He has given it, in order that rallying to the cause of His covenant, those who fear Him might, as a battle host, fight a holy warfare against sin, the devil, and the world. He has given this banner in order that His people might display it and plant it in every sphere of this world’s life and thereby be distinguished as God’s peculiar people. He has given this ensign, in order that, when they see it displayed, those who with us fear His Name, beholding it held aloft, may follow in our company, the company of the militant-triumphant church.
My soul, forget not this benefit!
Nor dare thou, O my soul, forget this benefit, namely, that in our magazine, even as its very name denotes, God has provided a bearer of the standard, a means through which the flag of the truth, the colors of the host of Jehovah, might be held aloft, boldly and courageously, for all to see. The Standard Bearer our God has given us now for forty years! Only a bearer of the flag of the truth is our magazine, but an important one. The means of the pen, of the printed page, it has been. By it the ensign of the truth in all its aspects, in all its facets, in all its dazzling colors, has been displayed. To friend and foe it has been displayed. In hundreds and thousands of homes our Bearer has borne the Standard. By means of page after page of instruction and exposition, by thousands upon thousands of words of warning and encouragement, by warlike words of polemics against those who opposed and contradicted the truth, and by hopeful words of encouragement to the battle-weary, the flag has been held high. And always,—though admittedly in weakness and imperfection,—it was the same banner of the truth that was raised aloft! This also, O my soul, is a precious benefit of God to thee! Forget it not!
And this too, O my soul, is one of his benefits: that always when the battle in the cause of God’s truth was hottest, the bearer of the colors, the Standard Bearer, was in the forefront, to rally those that fear God to the battle.
It was thus in the beginning, forty years ago, when there were those who urged the church to make common cause with the world on the basis of a claimed “common grace” of God, those who tempted the armies of Jehovah to follow two banners, that of the truth and of the lie, that of antithesis and that of synthesis, that of the city of God and that of the kingdom of this world. It was then, O my soul, that theStandard Bearer began to be the bearer of God’s flag of truth. And it has been thus ever since, even as the battle is always raging. It was thus circa 1953 when the foe within the gates sought diligently to bring down the flag of the truth and to slay the Standard Bearer. It is thus even to this day!
Remember, and forget not, this benefit!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, for yet another benefit, namely, that He has raised up His servants, has endowed them with knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, has bestowed on them the gift of writing, has given them faithfulness and diligence and the love of His cause, in order that in the pages of ourStandard Bearer the standard might be borne aloft. Bless the Lord, O my soul, that He has given a Danhof, a Hoeksema, an Ophoff, a Verhil, a Vos, and how many more,—some of them for all of these forty years that we remember,—to be instrumental in the raising high of the standard of the truth.
Yet another benefit, O my soul, oughtest thou to remember at this occasion! Through all the years there has been band of faithful men, willing to support, with time and labor and funds, the work and the purpose of our magazine. Men of God, a small but faithful and courageous Gideon’s band, have been these men of the RFPA, dedicated to the purpose that the flag of the Reformed truth, the truth of Scripture, might be borne far and wide through the means of a free publication, unfettered by hierarchical bonds.
Or consider this benefit, O soul, that through all the years there have continued to be those who read and whose hearts rejoiced when through the agency of ourStandard Bearer the ensign of the truth was displayed,—fathers and mothers in Israel, with their children.
Or ponder yet another benefit, soul of mine, that even in times of pain and trouble, of discouragement and weariness, of conflict and tribulation, of internal trouble and chastisement, of prosperity and “smooth sailing,” but also of poverty and depression so great that it seemed at times that the Standard Bearer must needs faint, it was our God, Jehovah, Who had given us the banner to be displayed, Who also continued to lead, to provide, and to preserve.
And, O my soul, if only thou dost pause to contemplate, how many more benefits thou canst call to mind and recount!
Indeed, forget not all His benefits!
Remember them! Count them one by one! Bring them to mind this day, but also keep them constantly before thee. Dwell upon them; ponder them; meditate upon them.
Bless the Lord!
All those benefits, O soul, point very clearly to Him, Jehovah, the I Am, the everlasting, the unchangeable, the faithful, the true, the glorious God. He, who has no deeper source than His infinite Self, is the source of all these benefits. He, the I Am, Who is all that He is for His people, His chosen possession, whom He will preserve and bless to all eternity in the communion of His everlasting tabernacle, through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ,—He is the fountain of all these blessings. They all flow from Him to us in boundless grace.
And they all have as their purpose that the soul shall return all thanks and praise to Him, Jehovah, the God of our salvation!
Bless Jehovah, then, O my soul!
Kneel down before Him and praise Him! Such is the meaning of that term “bless” in this connection.
Be very sure that you do not rejoice in the benefits themselves, in mere things, not even in the mere abundance of good things that He has bestowed on our magazine. Be certain that you do not merely joy in the opportunities, in the abilities, in the works, and in the fruits and results upon the labors represented in our Standard Bearer. Above all, do not boast in self and in thine own efforts,—not even partially. For the remembrance of self and the boasting of our own accomplishments and the blessing of Jehovah’s holy Name are absolutely incompatible. The latter excludes completely the former; and the former is an abomination in the sight of Him Whom our souls should bless.
To bless Him implies, in the first place, humility. It means that the soul comes before Him bowed down in humiliation. For praise and thanksgiving in the true sense of the word can arise only out of the keen consciousness of our own utter insignificance. They can proceed solely from the awareness that we are nothing, and that He, Jehovah, is all. To bless Him implies that we are mindful that He is the fountain and source of all goodness, and that we must always be filled at that fountain. To praise and adore Him presupposes the clear knowledge and forthright acknowledgement that we can always and only receive from Him, that we have nothing that we have not received, and that we can never do anything for or bring anything to Him. Moreover, the praise of Him can only arise out of the painfully humiliating consciousness of our own utter unworthiness, due to the fact that we are by nature children of wrath, and due to the fact that even as imperfect children of God we still defile our way thousands of times, have forfeited and do by our sins still daily forfeit all His benefits. The praise and thanksgiving of Him can only issue forth from the blessed consciousness that we are the recipients of and the objects of pure, sovereign grace. It presupposes a soul that can confess, “All that I am I owe to Thee.”
When thus the soul kneels down in humble confession of one’s own shame and unworthiness, then, and then only, is it prepared to break forth and address the glorious Lord, extol His virtues, recount all His benefits, tell all His wonderful works, adore Him and declare that He is good.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Forget none of His benefits!
O my soul. . . . . .
Soul that art indeed inclined to forget, inclined to take things for granted, inclined to boast in self and in thine own wonderful works: Remember! And then bless the Lord!
Let thy thanksgiving be personal. . . . . .
Let it proceed from the inner recesses of thy life, too. For all empty form and vain show is abominable before Him.
Stop and consider! Contemplate and remember!
Kneel down in humiliation and contrition on account of thy frequent lukewarmness, thy slowness to count all the Lord’s benefits, thy slothfulness to be warm and zealous in the cause of the Lord.
And then awake, O my soul, to the praise,—the conscious, willing, loving, fervent, ardent praise,—of thy Benefactor!