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A Lifting Up for the Downcast. By William Bridge. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth. Reprint, 2001.
The first thing that caught my attention about Lifting Up is that it is actually a collection of sermons by William Bridge. I am certainly not versed enough in Puritan literature to know whether or not this is a normal or unusual pattern. Whatever the case may be, I found it to be a rewarding read, especially because it was sermons. Lifting Up contains 13 sermons based upon Psalm 42:11: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (ESV)
The first three sermons develop the following themes; (1) the people of God are ordinarily endued with an inward peace, (2) it is possible that this peace may be interrupted, and (3) the people of God have no reason for their discouragements whatever their condition may be. Now before you think that his third premise is too harsh, he develops it upon the promises of Scripture regarding God’s will and care of His people and all that is ours through Christ our Lord!
The following nine sermons are discussions of specific circumstances which may give rise to discouragement and why believers need not give way to discouragement under these trials! The nine instigators of discouragement Bridge identifies are great sins, weak grace, miscarriage of duties, lack of assurance, temptation, desertion, affliction, unserviceableness, and discouragement itself. The final sermon is entitled “The Cure for Discouragements by Faith in Jesus Christ.”
I appreciate Bridge’s contribution to this subject because it seems to be a widespread issue today. A lot of people are depressed and being diagnosed with chemical deficiencies. I am not suggesting that it is impossible for some cases of emotional mood swings to be attributed to a physical cause. However, it seems that the spiritual element is completely ignored in this discussion today. Believers may find that dealing with discouragement from the Word of God offers a more permanent solution! Bridge’s work is of great help for those who are struggling with depressing thoughts or those who want to be equipped with how the Bible addresses this issue. The first three chapters provide a general, biblical approach to discouragement. I would recommend these chapters for every believer. Whether you battle with discouragement or not, the content of these chapters is very encouraging and informative. The final chapters provide biblical answers to very specific circumstances and many of the excuses, questions, or reasons that accompany these situations. These chapters would be excellent resources for believers struggling under these particular issues.
Bridge is very comprehensive and illustrative. His thoughts are progressive in that he builds each answer upon the previous one until he has methodically moved through a range of thoughts that illicit depression in these instances. He was a master at taking the very ordinary things of life and using them as eye-opening illustrations for the material at hand. The way he dialogues through each sermon and illustrates as he answers each question holds the reader’s attention while providing revealing explanations. However, by far, the greatest strength of these sermons is that they are built upon Scripture, especially the promises of Scripture. This is a faith-building work that will find a faith-seeking people very receptive!
I would commend this book to those dealing with depression and to those who may have opportunities to encourage a discouraged brother!