Back Contents Next

Get Good from Ordinances

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Use Everything to Heavenly Advantages

Get Good from Ordinances}


Ordinances1059 are another thing out of which believers should be getting spiritual good. They are the golden pipes through which the Lord pours the oil of grace into His golden candlesticks and Gospel churches (Zechariah 4:12).1060 Ordinances are showers of manna to feed His people in the wilderness and on this side of their own country (Deuteronomy 8:16).1061 Ordinances are the Church’s breasts with which to fill and nourish her children for eternal life (Isaiah 66:11).1062 Ordinances are the mist and river of Eden by which God waters His garden (Genesis 2:6, 10).1063 The Scriptures are the mines; ordinances are the opening of them to those who dig for wisdom. A considerable part of the heavenly trade is in these commodities; trade in them well so that you may get large incomes of spiritual blessings through them. Beware of sleeping at these breasts or playing with them, or the Lord may take them away from you or take you away. Lie at the pool side (John 5:7),1064 wait at the wells of salvation, and not only come, but draw out waters of life from thence for your needy souls. For this purpose, four things are needed: preparation, attention, retention, and obedience.


Preparation Before You Attend Ordinances

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Use Everything for Heavenly Advantages

Get Good from Ordinances

Preparation Before You Attend Ordinances}


First, prepare before you hear; get the room emptied, swept, and decorated. When Christ calls you to provisions, bring your pitchers empty and clean so that God may fill them. Do not go to clean food with a foul stomach, but purge your hearts by sound repentance, wash them from an evil conscience, and renew them by the Spirit. Prepare your hearts for the new wine of the Gospel (Matthew 9:17).1065 Christians must be as newborn babes that receive the pure milk of the Word so as to grow by it (1 Peter 2:1–3).1066 If a dead Christ must be laid in a new tomb (Matthew 27:60),1067 surely a living Lord Jesus will not go into an old heart and rotten sepulcher. Spend some time before you go to hear in searching your hearts, reviewing your ways, and getting a deep sense of their vileness and the exceeding sinfulness of your sins. By this means, the fallow fields of your hearts may be plowed and you will not sow among thorns. Take heed that you do not bring a hard heart to hearing. When Thrasamund the Arian1068 read Fulgentius’s defense of the truth, he praised his wisdom, wondered at his eloquence, and commended his humility; yet his heart was so hardened that he could not submit to the truth. To help you in your preparation, set prayer to work to beg down the Holy Spirit’s assistance. Bring your hearts to Christ by prayer that He would make them clean. If He says, “I am willing. Be clean,” your leprosy will be cleansed (Matthew 8:2–3).1069 Prayer also helps you get suitable provision and a blessing on it. Hearer’s prayers help ministers to preach and themselves to hear effectively (2 Thessalonians 3:1).1070 Souls never thrive better than when ministers and hearers are much in prayer for the Word of the Spirit and the Spirit with the Word. Someone said, “To pray well is to study well. Prayer is a messenger to fetch that holy seed out of the granary above. Prayer is the former and latter rain to make it grow below Heaven; pray continually if you want to grow continually.” After Christ had fed the multitude, He went up to a mountain alone to pray (Matthew 14:23).1071 “Secret prayer,” said Mr. Trap, “nourishes the soul as food nourishes the body. Therefore it is said to be the banquet of grace where the soul may solace herself with God as Esther did with Ahasuerus at the banquet of wine, and have whatever the heart can wish or its need require” (Esther 5:6).1072


Give Attention to Ordinances

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Use Everything for Heavenly Advantages

Get Good from Ordinances

Give Attention to Ordinances}


Take heed how you hear. Hear as if for your lives, with holy attention, fear and trembling.1073 Mr. Latimer said, “Ministers should preach as if Hell were at their backs, and hearers should hear as if life or death were in every word.” Hear with holy affection; many were given up to believe a lie because they did not love the truth and they did not receive the Word in love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10).1074 Hear believingly; the Word preached did not profit [the Israelites in the wilderness] because it was not mixed with faith in those who heard it (Hebrews 4:1–2).1075 It is by faith that the Gospel becomes the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16–17).1076 The arm of God was not revealed to Israel because God’s message was not believed by them (Isaiah 53:1).1077 The Holy Spirit is given out through hearing with faith. Never expect to profit by hearing until you join faith to hearing.




Take Heed to Retain What You Gain from Ordinances

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Use Everything for Heavenly Advantages

Get Good from Ordinances

Take Heed to Retain What You Gain from Ordinances}


Keep the Word that you do hear. Take heed of letting the things you have received slip away (Hebrews 2:1).1078 Securely hold on to the truth so that nobody takes your crown (Revelation 3:11).1079 Do not be forgetful hearers, but doers of the Word (James 1:25).1080 Forgetful hearers will never be doers. Israel’s disobedience was the fruit of their forgetfulness (Psalm 78:10–11).1081 Scripture says that the reason that the disciples were troubled at the tomb of Christ was that they had forgotten what Christ had said to them in Galilee (Luke 24:6).1082 Many times, not remembering causes barren lives. After an ordinance, be much in prayer for the Comforter’s help to keep the Word for you and bring it to your remembrance. Prayer opens the heart to take in the Word and prayer shuts the heart to keep in the Word. Keep up meditation on the Word (Psalm 119:97).1083 This chews the cud and gets out the sweetness and nutritive value of it into the heart and life. This is the way the godly come to be as trees planted by the waterside that bear much fruit in their season (Psalm 1:2–3).1084


Obedience to the Lessons from Ordinances

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Use Everything for Heavenly Advantages

Get Good from Ordinances

Obedience to the Lessons from Ordinances}


Obedience to the Word helps us profit from ordinances. The worth of divine truths is never fully known until they are lived out, and their virtue is not felt until we cling to it in daily life. “Do not forsake her [wisdom], and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you” (Proverbs 4:6 ESV). “When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble” (Proverbs 4:12 ESV). Oh, the sweetness, the pleasure, the strength, and the blessedness that those lose who only look on truth, but do not live it. Strangers to a holy life never experience the joy that is contained in the Word and ways of God. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17 ESV). The Word of God yields only half its sweetness until it is integrated into the way and walk of people. “Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11 NKJV). “My witness is in Heaven,” said Mr. William Cooper on his deathbed, “that the love of Jesus and His people’s souls made preaching my pleasure. I had no such joy as in doing God’s work. They are blessed that do His commandment.” This is true not only in that they have a right to the Tree of Life, but in that they eat the pleasant fruit of it and feed on that hidden manna of which bare hearers are strangers.


1059Although Ashwood uses ordinances in this section, the alert reader will notice that Ashwood only discusses the hearing of preached sermons. However, Ashwood’s text is also applicable to ordinances in general.

1060And I answered the second time and said to him, ‘What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?’” (Zechariah 4:12 NASB).

1061In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16 NASB).

1062That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom” (Isaiah 66:11 NASB). “But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers” (Genesis 2:6, 10 NASB).

10636But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 10Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers” (Genesis 2:6, 10 NASB).

1064The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me’” (John 5:7 NASB).

1065Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17 ESV).

1066Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1–3 NKJV).

1067And laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed” (Matthew 27:60 NKJV).

1068Arian: a proponent of Arianism, a foul heresy that denies the full eternal deity of the Lord Jesus.

1069And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2–3 ESV).

1070Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1 NASB).

1071And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23 NKJV).

1072At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, ‘What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!’” (Esther 5:6 NKJV).

1073fear and trembling: a biblical phrase that is an idiom for “serious and anxious fear” (John Calvin), “with great care and circumspection” (Matthew Henry), or “solemn and reverential fear” (John MacArthur). The emphasis is not on being scared “out of your wits,” but a serious, holy fear that is combined with awe and reverence for God as the believer’s Heavenly Father. Unbelievers who refuse to repent, however, should literally and physically tremble violently with fear, horror, and dread of Hell.

1074The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 NKJV).

1075Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Hebrews 4:1–2 NASB).

1076For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16–17 NKJV).

1077Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1 ESV).

1078Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1 NKJV).

1079I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11 ESV).

1080But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25 NASB).

1081They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them” (Psalm 78:10–11 ESV).

1082He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee” (Luke 24:6 NKJV).

1083Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97 ESV).

1084But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2–3 ESV).

Back Contents Next