We are almost finished with Puritans at the beach. We have one more book from the ten-volume box set by Banner of Truth, and it is by William Bridge. William Bridge was born in 1600, and he died in 1670. Can you guess where William Bridge went to college? Emmanuel College, Cambridge. It seems as if all of these folks on Five Minutes in Church History lately have gone to Emmanuel College, Cambridge—because they did.
After getting his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees, Bridge was ordained in 1627. In 1636, under Charles I, he was exiled to Rotterdam in Holland. Then during the English Civil War, and as Parliament gained control of London, Bridge returned. He was a member of the Westminster Assembly in the 1640s. For twenty years, he pastored a Puritan independent church until 1662. Then, like the other Puritans we’ve been visiting, he too was ejected.
In 1648, Bridge preached a three-sermon series on Psalm 42:11. That verse reads, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (KJV).
These sermons were published as a book under the title A Lifting Up for the Downcast. In this book, Bridge explores those things that happen to cause one to be discouraged or downcast. As he says in this book, the best answer, the lifting up for one who is downcast or discouraged, is sound doctrine: knowing and believing who God is, knowing and believing who Christ is, knowing and believing what the gospel is. All of these, Bridge tells us, bring hope. All of these bring joy and encouragement to our discouragement. Near the end of the book, he writes,
“My name is El, the mighty God. Oh, you say. But though God be strong, and able to help me, yet I fear that God is not willing to help me know God is able and strong enough, but I fear the Lord is not willing, and therefore I am discouraged. Yet be of good comfort says the Lord, for my name is Merciful (that is next to the word); ‘the Lord, the Lord, the mighty God.’ As my name is the Mighty God, and therefore I am able to help thee; so my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help thee. But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature, and have nothing at all to move God to help me. Yet be of good comfort, for says the Lord again, my name is Gracious; I do not shew mercy because you are good, but because I am good; I show mercy out of free love; my name is Gracious.”
Do you see what Bridge is doing here? He is helping us think about who God is, that God is the all-powerful One. Theologians refer to this as the omnipotence of God. He is certainly strong enough to encourage us to lift us up out of our being downcast. He’s not only omnipotent, but He’s also merciful. He desires to show mercy. And ultimately, God is gracious. He’s not looking around for the A-team to give His mercy to. He is extending His grace freely to poor downcast sinners in need.