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A Lifting Up for the Downcast (Puritan Paperbacks) Paperback – October 1, 1961
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About the Author
Born in Cambridgeshire around 1600, William Bridge entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1619, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1623 and a master's degree in 1626, before serving as a fellow at the college.
He was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1627, and served in Saffron Walden and Colchester in Essex, then becoming rector of St. Peter Hungate in Norwich in 1632.
In 1636 he was forced to flee to Rotterdam in Holland, because of Bishop Matthew Wren's campaign against nonconformity, and co-pastored a church there with John Ward and then Jeremiah Burroughs.
Returning to England in 1641, the following year he was appointed a member of the Westminster Assembly, and proved himself a noted Independent. That same year he accepted a position as town preacher at Yarmouth, where he organized an Independent church, and formally became its pastor in autumn 1643. He laboured there until 1662, when he was ejected by the Act of Uniformity.
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Top Customer Reviews
Basically this is a wonderful, searching work on depression and discouragement. These sermons on a passage from Psalms are just what we need when we are feeling downcast. William Bridge does a fine job in displaying that there is no biblical reason for discouragement, the weight of this book is going through various common reasons for discouragement, and showing how we can rise above them.
There are many great quotes and one-liners in this book. But make no mistake about it, Bridge does not flippantly discount causes for discouragement. He doesn't pass along quaint platitudes. He deals with the issue seriously, gives causes and deeper issues the attention they require. He shows a lot of insight in handling potential objections. In a manner characteristic of the Puritans, he points us to Christ and shows us how even the most discouraging and dark things work toward the good of the believer. His presentation of these matters is not simplistic, but actually very nuanced. There is much solid meat here, and yet it is intensely practical.
This book will not change your life in and of itself, deep discouragement will not go away easily. But William Bridge points you in the right direction and gives you tons of gems that will help you think about your condition and situation in a godly light. When discouraged and/or depressed, it is easy to have a skewed, unrealistic perspective, and unless someone or something can come along side you and help you see things in a new light, it will be hard to escape it. I believe this book is one such resource.
There are so many excellent lines of thought that I could trace in order to show what Bridge does and how he does it. The best I can do, because my notes are so extensive and diverse, is to choose three lines of content, then remark on both the tone and the style, and then conclude.
The thesis is that God’s people have ‘no Scripture reason’ to be discouraged, no matter what (p. 67.) How does he bring us to agree with this disagreeable verdict? (1) His reasoning is irrefutable. Example: the downcast soul might complain that because of all that’s happened, he now lacks the heart and will to do any service. But, “He that complains of his own unserviceableness is not unwilling to serve the Lord” (p. 225.) Sometimes the complaint itself argues against the thing complained of. There is no cause to be cast down for some imaginary reason. (2) He focuses much on the effect for which the affliction is appointed. One of the greatest effects (a virtue that few obtain and many desire) is a settled judgment. How does this happen through unsettling tribulation? “Certissimum est, quod certum est post incertitudinem (that is most certain that is certain after uncertainty)” (p. 131.) (3) He treats the worst cases, thereby comforting not only these, but the lesser cases as well. By the terrible revelations of those who are more downcast, those who are less downcast are compelled to bear their lighter burdens. If Satan is at you, then consider, “He that is not troubled sometimes by Satan is possessed by him [under his dominion]” (p. 142.) That’s a lifting up. But the absolute worst case, or the worst facet of the worst case—worse than the presence of Satan himself—involves the absence of God, which is called ‘desertion.’ He does not mean that God actually deserts the Christian. He is talking about feelings, not an actuality. Desertion is when “a Christian does, as it were, combat with God himself” (p. 174.) He tells of a religious woman who feels so deserted by God that she’d rather endure her nine travails at once than feel such loss (p. 175.) Then, drawing from Scripture events, Bridge comforts cases like these by proving “that it is Christ’s usual manner to personate an enemy when He intends the most friendship, to seem a stranger when He intends the most communion” (p. 179.) Don’t get the idea from this that Bridge is teaching that Jesus pretends to be what he is not; pretence might be some kind of deception. (See Acts 24.28 for the sake of interest.) He means that the Lord simply withdraws, and permits the feelings that such withdrawal occasions. When deserted, it will be as if God is now the enemy. Job’s case is the classic case. The quintessential case is Jesus on the cross.
The book’s tone is like pastoral interrogation. William Bridge has the rare gift of being able to woo with authority the soul that is at the point of refusing to be comforted. Almost nobody can do this. Probably only a minister can do it well, and only that minister who can be ranked among the best of the best. Bridge is a model pastor. This tone is likely impossible to show in a line or two, for it is more in the spirit of the book than in the letter of it. But here goes: “Do not say thus, I shall never be helped…I shall never be better…Beloved, this you cannot say, for who knows what God will do? His ways are in the deep, and His foot-steps are not known” (p. 149.) He has this way of tenderly grilling the downcast into an acceptance of what he says. A low, melancholy spirit, so long as he is a humbled man, will listen to psychiatry like this. The truth is, though, even the best of comforters with the best of reasoning cannot heal the dark nite of the soul. Understanding only goes so far toward lifting the veil. Even the presence of an angel may do little or nothing. Mary Magdalene continued to weep after the angel came to her at Jesus’ tomb (p. 175.) What to do, then? Try to stand on the fact that “though for the present He hides his face from me, yet I shall see His face again” (p. 191.) It may be that this will happen only at the edge of death, or on the other side of it. In the meantime, “hoping, trusting, waiting on God” is the “means appointed against all discouragements” (p. 262.)
The style, in its own way, is second to none. Anecdotes, and Latin phrases (all subsequently translated) come in at regular intervals for the sake of maintaining interest. No story is longwinded; every one is impressive of whatever matter is at hand. Illustrations are homely and biblically awakening in that peculiar Puritan way. There is even a parable that he invents at one point (p. 159.) To give some sense of what he is capable of stylistically, see how he reminds those who are weak in grace, of the wisdom they already have. The godly possess “the wisdom of the conies [badgers], to build in the rock of Christ; the wisdom of the locusts, to join with others; and the wisdom of the spider, to take hold on those beams of the promises, which are in the chamber of Christ our King” (p. 89.) Now that is not beauty for the sake of acting smart. That is encouraging. It is encouraging because it is true. He is never far from what the Bible affirms.
Of course, besides all of this he teaches about false peace and common grace to warn the vexed person to not be satisfied with anything else but the special favor of God and the true saving peace that is wrought by faith in Jesus. Evangelical ability is to know how to fold this in with pastoral work without confusion, and thus without being guilty of sending the wrong message to either sinner or saint, reprobate or elect. And there are many things in here that wonderfully surprised me. I’m sure that anyone who reads this will experience the same.
How does A Lifting up for the Downcast measure up beside so many other efforts that have been put forward to treat the horrid disease of spiritual depression? Bridge’s remedy book is at least as interesting, and noticeably more biblical, than Where is God when it Hurts? and Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. In one of those books, Yancey seems happy over the fact that a depressed person threw all of his Christian books in the garbage can. He seems to revel in the fact that someone is angry with God. What kind of sympathy is that? Who does that help? Maybe Yancey is the spiritually depressed one. Bridge, because of his superior grace and his experience with God, never glories over the shame of a sufferer. Put Yancey’s books in the garbage can. Then you’ll feel better. Again, A Lifting up for the Downcast is just as warm, and more extensive and profound, than A Book of Comfort for those in Sickness by P. B. Power. It is just as challenging, and even more helpful, than Horatius Bonar’s When God’s Children Suffer. It is just as diagnostic and psychological, and more practical, than Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. William Bridge eclipses all the authors that I have read on this grim theme that, for some people, is a bitter reality for a long time. He has more spirit, more authority, more pastoral ability, just more overall wherewithal than all the rest. He digs deepest into the words of God to find ‘comfort in the absence of comfort’ (p. 233.) This Lifting up is for all of Christ’s little sufferers. It will especially bless those who crave to receive a good education while they are being cared for. I can’t see how this book could not be the last one of this nature that a downcast heart would need. A Lifting up for the Downcast was immediately preparatory to my deepest experience with God. Lloyd Jones’ Joy Unspeakable was a more distant foundation to the experience. Ralph Venning’s Learning in Christ’s School helped me to put that experience in perspective. Those are books that God has put his stamp of approval on.