Fellowship of God’s people in Evil Times
“Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels: and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”—Mal. 3:16, 17.
We often hear people complain of the times, and of the low state of religion; but good men will be good men in the worst of times, and that which others make an excuse will to them furnish a motive to speak often one to another. In the Jewish worship, all who were of Abraham’s seed mingled together; yet even then the godly found one another out: “I am a companion of all those that fear God.”
I. Notice the character of these times. The prophet Malachi lived some time after Nehemiah, when the Jews were become very degenerate. 1. Great degeneracy among the priests—sordid despisers of religion. God speaks of what a true priest should be, but charges them with the reverse, chap. 2:5–8. The consequence was, as might be expected, they were despised by the people. 2. Great degeneracy among the common people—profane towards God, and treacherous towards one another—frequent divorces for trivial causes, yet full of excuses. 3. Even the professed worshippers of God had a great deal of hypocrisy. 4. All these things put together proved a stumbling-block to people in general. Wicked men were reckoned happy and promoted, and providence seemed to favour them; hence infidelity and atheism abounded: yet even “then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another.”
II. Observe the character and conduct of the godly in these times. 1. They are characterized as fearing the Lord. The phrase may be more expressive of the Old Testament than the New; but it is characteristic of good men under any dispensation. It denotes that filial reverence of God’s name, and fear of offending or dishonouring him, which a truly good man possesses. 2. They are described as keeping up a close communion with one another. The world was alive, and they were alive. The seed of the serpent leagued, and the seed of the woman communed together. You may be sure their conversation was edifying, or it would not have been recorded. They might have occasion to reprove, to admonish, to counsel, to exhort, to encourage, to instruct. Such a state of things is necessary, especially in evil times. The more wicked the world, the more need of Christian fellowship. 3. Their doing this is called thinking upon God’s name. Thinking here is not opposed to speaking, (for they that speak are the same persons as those who think,) but to forgetting. While others cared not for God’s name, their thoughts were occupied about it. God’s interest lay near their hearts; they grieved for its dishonour, and concerted plans for its promotion. If we love his name, it will occupy our thoughts.
III. The favourable notice taken of this conduct. It seems they were retired from the notice of the multitude; perhaps like the disciples, for fear of the Jews. They might be apprehensive lest any should hearken and hear them. One, however, did so, and took down their conversation too, not literally, for God needs no book but his own mind. This will be brought out at judgment, Matt. 25. They that think of him here will be remembered by him there, and when they have forgotten it. “They shall be mine in that day.” That day shall be a day of general destruction, like that of a tempest to shipping, and then nothing is spared but the most valuable things or persons, as jewels. Cities, nations, sea, land, heaven, earth, all will be one general wreck; or, lest this should not be sufficiently strong, he will spare them as a man spareth his son—as his own son, whose life is bound up with his own.
Which of these characters is ours?
Will our conversation bear writing in a book?
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Fellowship of God’s People in Evil Times,” Sermon XLVII. Sermons and Sketches in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 442–443). Sprinkle Publications.