The Inward Experience of Believers

Taken and adapted from, “Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne”
Written by, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Sermon XV
Put together and published by Andrew Bonar, 1894.

woman-in-regret

“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”   —Romans. 7:22–25.

A BELIEVER is to be known not only by his peace and joy, but by his warfare and distress…

His peace is peculiar: it flows from Christ; it is heavenly, it is holy peace. His warfare is as peculiar: it is deep-seated, agonizing, and ceases not till death. If the Lord will, many of us have the prospect of sitting down next Sabbath at the Lord’s Table. The great question to be answered before sitting down there is, “Have I fled to Christ or no?”

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

To help you to settle this question, I have chosen the subject of the Christian’s warfare that you may know thereby whether you are a soldier of Christ— whether you are really fighting the good fight of faith.

I.   A believer delights in the law of God.—“I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” ver. 22.

(1.) Before a man comes to Christ, he hates the law of God—his whole soul rises up against it. “The carnal mind is enmity,” etc., 8:7.

First, Unconverted men hate the law of God on account of its purity. “Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.” For the same reason worldly men hate it. The law is the breathing of God’s pure and holy mind. It is infinitely opposed to all impurity and sin. Every line of the law is against sin. But natural men love sin, and therefore they hate the law, because it opposes them in all they love. As bats hate the light, and fly against it, so unconverted men hate the pure light of God’s law, and fly against it.

Second, They hate it for its breadth. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” It extends to all their outward actions, seen and unseen; it extends to every idle word that men shall speak; it extends to the looks of their eye; it dives into the deepest caves of their heart; it condemns the most secret springs of sin and lust that nestle there. Unconverted men quarrel with the law of God because of its strictness. If it extended only to my outward actions, then I could bear with it; but it condemns my most secret thoughts and desires, which I cannot prevent. Therefore ungodly men rise against the law.

Third, They hate it for its unchangeableness. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle of the law shall in no wise pass away. If the law would change, or let down its requirements, or die, then ungodly men would be well pleased. But it is unchangeable as God: it is written on the heart of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. It cannot change unless God change; it cannot die unless God die. Even in an eternal hell its demands and its curses will be the same. It is an unchangeable law, for He is an unchangeable God. Therefore ungodly men have an unchangeable hatred to that holy law.

(2.) When a man comes to Christ, this is all changed. He can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” He can say with David, “Oh how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” He can say with Jesus, in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”

There are two reasons for this:—

First, The law is no longer an enemy.—If any of you who are trembling under a sense of your infinite sins, and the curses of the law which you have broken, flee to Christ, you will find rest. You will find that He has fully answered the demands of the law as a surety for sinners; that He has fully borne all its curses. You will be able to say, “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, as it is written, Cursed,” etc. You have no more to fear, then, from that awfully holy law: you are not under the law, but under grace. You have no more to fear from the law than you will have after the judgment-day. Imagine a saved soul after the judgment-day. When that awful scene is past; when the dead, small and great, have stood before that great white throne; when the sentence of eternal woe has fallen upon all the unconverted, and they have sunk into the lake whose fires can never be quenched; would not that redeemed soul say, I have nothing to fear from that holy law; I have seen its vials poured out, but not a drop has fallen on me? So may you say now, O believer in Jesus! When you look upon the soul of Christ, scarred with God’s thunderbolts; when you look upon his body, pierced for sin, you can say, He was made a curse for me; why should I fear that holy law?

Second, The Spirit of God writes the law on the heart.—This is the promise: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jer. 31:33. Coming to Christ takes away your fear of the law; but it is the Holy Spirit coming into your heart that makes you love the law. The Holy Spirit is no more frightened away from that heart; He comes and softens it; He takes out the stony heart and puts in a heart of flesh; and there He writes the holy, holy, holy law of God. Then the law of God is sweet to that soul; he has an inward delight in it. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he unfeignedly desires every thought, word, and action to be according to that law. “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes: great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” The 119th Psalm becomes the breathing of that new heart. Now also he would fain see all the world submitting to that pure and holy law. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law.” Oh that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one! Oh that all the world were one holy family, joyfully coming under the pure rules of the gospel! Try yourselves by this. Can you say, “I delight,” etc.? Do you remember when you hated the law of God? Do you love it now? Do you long for the time when you shall live fully under it—holy as God is holy, pure as Christ is pure?

Oh come, sinners, and give up your hearts to Christ, that He may write on it his holy law! You have long enough had the devil’s law graven on your hearts: come you to Jesus, and He will both shelter you from the curses of the law, and He will give you the Spirit to write all that law in your heart; He will make you love it with your inmost soul. Plead the promise with Him. Surely you have tried the pleasures of sin long enough. Come, now, and try the pleasures of holiness out of a new heart.

If you die with your heart as it is, it will be stamped a wicked heart to all eternity. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Rev. 22:11. Oh come and get the new heart before you die; for except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God!

II.    A true believer feels an opposing law in his members.

“I see another law,” etc., ver. 23. When a sinner comes first to Christ, he often thinks he will now bid an eternal farewell to sin: now I shall never sin any more. He feels already at the gate of heaven. A little breath of temptation soon discovers his heart, and he cries out, “I see another law.”

(1.) Observe what he calls it—“another law;” quite a different law from the law of God; a law clean contrary to it. He calls it a “law of sin,” ver. 25; a law that commands him to commit sin, that urges him on by rewards and threatenings—“a law of sin and death,” 8:2; a law which not only leads to sin, but leads to death, eternal death: “the wages of sin is death.” It is the same law which, in Galatians, is called “the flesh:” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” etc., Gal. 5:17. It is the same which, in Eph. 4:22, is called “the old man,” which is wrought according to the deceitful lusts; the same law which in Col. 3 is called “your members”—“Mortify, therefore, your members, which are,” etc.; the same which is called “a body of death,” Rom. 7:24. The truth then is, that in the heart of the believer there remains the whole members and body of an old man, or old nature: there remains the fountain of every sin that has ever polluted the world.

(2.)  Observe again what this law is doing—“warring.” This law in the members is not resting quiet, but warring—always fighting. There never can be peace in the bosom of a believer. There is peace with God, but constant war with sin. This law in the members has got an army of lusts under him, and he wages constant war against the law of God. Sometimes, indeed, an army are lying in ambush, and they lie quiet till a favourable moment comes. So in the heart the lusts often lie quiet till the hour of temptation, and then they war against the soul. The heart is like a volcano: sometimes it slumbers and sends up nothing but a little smoke; but the fire is slumbering all the while below, and will soon break out again. There are two great combatants in the believer’s soul. There is Satan on the one side, with the flesh and all its lusts at his command; then on the other side there is the Holy Spirit, with the new creature all at his command. And so “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these two are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Is Satan ever successful? In the deep wisdom of God the law in the members does sometimes bring the soul into captivity. Noah was a perfect man, and Noah walked with God, and yet he was led captive. “Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken.” Abraham was the “friend of God,” and yet he told a lie, saying of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Job was a perfect man, one that feared God and hated evil, and yet he was provoked to curse the day wherein he was born. And so with Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and Peter, and the apostles.

First. Have you experienced this warfare? It is a clear mark of God’s children. Most of you, I fear, have never felt it. Do not mistake me. All of you have felt a warfare at times between your natural conscience and the law of God. But that is not the contest in the believer’s bosom. It is a warfare between the Spirit of God in the heart, and the old man with his deeds.

Second, If any of you are groaning under this warfare, learn to be humbled by it, but not discouraged.

1st, Be humbled under it.—It is intended to make you lie in the dust, and feel that you are but a worm. Oh! what a vile wretch you must be, that even after you are forgiven, and have received the Holy Spirit, your heart should still be a fountain of every wickedness! How vile, that in your most solemn approaches to God, in the house of God, in awfully affecting situations, such as kneeling beside the death-bed, you should still have in your bosom all the members of your old nature! Let this make you lie low.

2d, Let this teach you your need of Jesus.—You need the blood of Jesus as much as at the first. You never can stand before God in yourself. You must go again and again to be washed; even on your dying bed you must hide under Jehovah our Righteousness. You must also lean upon Jesus. He alone can overcome in you. Keep nearer and nearer every day.

3d, Be not discouraged.—Jesus is willing to be a Saviour to such as you. He is able to save you to the uttermost. Do you think your case is too bad for Christ to save? Every one whom Christ saves had just such a heart as you. Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life. Take up the resolution of Edwards: “Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” “Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar,” etc.

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

(1.) He feels wretched.—“O wretched man that I am!” ver. 24. There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has come to Jesus, and found rest. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. He has near approach to God as a child. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has the hope of glory. In the most awful times he can be calm, for he feels that God is with him. Still there are times when he cries, O wretched man! When he feels the plague of his own heart; when he feels the thorn in the flesh; when his wicked heart is discovered in all its fearful malignity; ah, then he lies down, crying, O wretched man that I am! One reason of this wretchedness is, that sin, discovered in the heart, takes away the sense of forgiveness. Guilt comes upon the conscience, and a dark cloud covers the soul. How can I ever go back to Christ? he cries. Alas! I have sinned away my Saviour. Another reason is, the loathsomeness of sin. It is felt like a viper in the heart. A natural man is often miserable from his sin, but he never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature it is vile indeed. Ah! brethren, do you know anything of a believer’s wretchedness? If you do not, you will never know his joy. If you know not a believer’s tears and groans, you will never know his song of victory.

(2.) He seeks deliverance.—“Who shall deliver me?” In ancient times, some of the tyrants used to chain their prisoners to a dead body; so that, wherever the prisoner wandered, he had to drag a putrid carcase after him. It is believed that Paul here alludes to this inhuman practice. His old man he felt a noisome putrid carcase, which he was continually dragging about with him. His piercing desire is to be freed from it. Who shall deliver us? You remember once, when God allowed a thorn in the flesh to torment his servant,—a messenger of Satan to buffet him,—Paul was driven to his knees. “I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” Oh, this is the true mark of God’s children! The world has an old nature; they are all old men together. But it does not drive them to their knees. How is it with you, dear souls? Does corruption felt within drive you to the throne of grace? Does it make you call on the name of the Lord? Does it make you like the importunate widow: “Avenge me of mine adversary?” Does it make you like the man coming at midnight for three loaves? Does it make you like the Canaanitish woman, crying after Jesus? Ah, remember, if lust can work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ’s!

(3.) He gives thanks for victory.—Truly we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done. Yes, even in the thickest of the battle we can look up to Jesus, and cry, Thanks to God. The moment a soul groaning under corruption rests the eye on Jesus, that moment his groans are changed into songs of praise. In Jesus you discover a fountain to wash away the guilt of all your sin. In Jesus you discover grace sufficient for you,—grace to hold you up to the end,—and a sure promise that sin shall soon be rooted out altogether. “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by my name; thou art mine.” Ah, this turns our groans into songs of praise! How often a psalm begins with groans and ends with praises! This is the daily experience of all the Lord’s people. Is it yours? Try yourselves by this. Oh, if you know not the believer’s song of praise, you will never cast your crowns with them at the feet of Jesus!

Dear believers, be content to glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you. Glory, glory, glory to the Lamb!

The Nature and Calling of Free Grace

Written by J.C. Philpot

I admire and love the grace of God; and the longer I live, the more do I love and admire it.

My sins, my corruptions, my infirmities make me feel my deep and daily need of it; and as its freeness, fulness, suitability and inexpressible blessedness are more and more opened up to my heart and conscience, so do I more and more cleave to and delight in it. What, in fact, is there which you can substitute for it?

I assume that you have some concern about religion; that the solemn realities of eternity press with more or less weight on your conscience, and that you are awakened to see the evil of sin and your own evil case as sinners. I speak not to stocks and stones; I speak to you who desire to fear God and to have your hearts right before Him. If you have no concern about the salvation of your soul, you will love many things far beyond free grace. Money, dress, amusements, the pleasures that present themselves on every side, though hollow as the tomb and vain as a drunkard’s mirth, will so charm your mind and occupy your thoughts that Christ and His gospel will have no place in your conscience. But if you have any anxiety about your eternal condition, and are brought to cry, “What shall I do to be saved?” then I ask you, what can you put in the place of free grace? Surely, you cannot be so foolish as to put your own works in its stead. Surely, you cannot be so ignorant of your ruined condition before God, and of what is revealed in the Scriptures of the way of salvation by the atoning blood of Jesus, as to substitute the words and works of man for the words and works of the God-Man?

You may doubt your own interest in His atoning blood; but you do not doubt that salvation is all of grace, and that if saved your soul can be saved by grace alone.

And why not YOU be saved? What countless trophies has grace already at the Redeemer’s feet! What hosts of ruined wretches, of souls sunk beyond all other help or hope, has free grace sought out, rescued from their destructions, plucked from the jaws of hell, and ransomed from the hand of him that was stronger than they, so that they have come and sung in the height of Zion, and flowed together to the goodness of the Lord!

Look at Paul. Where can we find among the sons of men a parallel to the great Apostle of the Gentiles? What a large capacity! What a powerful intellect he naturally possessed, but how subdued and subjugated it became by grace, and how devoted to the glory of God and the advancement of His Dear Son! How grace arrested him at Damascus’ gate, cast him down body and soul at the Redeemer’s feet, translated him from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and changed a bloodthirsty persecutor of the church of Christ into a minister and an apostle, the greatest ever seen. As such, what a deep humility, thorough disinterestedness, noble simplicity, godly zeal, unwearied labors distinguished him from first to last-a course of more than thirty years.

How in his inspired writings he pours, as it were, from his pen the richest streams of heavenly truth! With what clearness, power, and savor he describes and enforces the way of salvation through the blood shedding and obedience of the Son of God, the blessings of free grace, the glorious privileges of the saints, and the things that make for their happiness and holiness! How in every epistle it seems as if his pen could hardly drop a line without in some way setting forth the infinite grace, the boundless mercy, and unfathomable love of God, as displayed in the gift of His dear Son, and the blessings that flow to the church through His blood and love.

But look not at Paul only. View the jewels on every side that grace has set in the Redeemer’s crown out of the most depraved and abject materials! Who, for instance, were those Ephesians to whom Paul wrote that wonderful epistle? The most foolish and besotted of idolaters, so infatuated with their image which fell down from Jupiter-most probably some huge meteoric stone, that had fallen from the sky-that they spent two hours until they wearied out their throats with crying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians; ! men debased with every lust, ripe and ready for every crime. How rich, how marvelous the grace that changed worshippers of Diana into worshippers of Jehovah, brutal howlers into singers who made melody in their heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19), and magicians, full of curious arts and Satanic witchcraft, into saints built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets!

Now cannot the same grace, that did so much for them, do the same or similar things for us?

Is the nature of man now less vile, or is the grace of Christ now less full and free? Has the lapse of 1800 years raised man out of the depths of the Fall, eradicated sin from his constitution, cleansed the foul leprosy of his nature, and purified it into holiness? Let the thin sheet of decent morality and civilization be taken off the corpse, and here it lies in all its hideous ghastliness.

Human nature is still what it ever was dead in trespasses and sins. Or has time, which changes so many things on earth, changed things in heaven? Is not God the same gracious Father, Jesus the same compassionate Savior, the Holy Spirit the same heavenly Teacher? Is not the gospel the same glad tidings of salvation, and the power of the gospel the same to everyone that believeth? Then why should not we be blessed with the same spiritual blessings as the saints at Ephesus? Why may not the same Jesus be to us what He was to them, the same Spirit to do for us and in us what He did for and in them, and the same grace save and sanctify us which saved and sanctified them? Here and here alone is our strength, our help, our hope, our all.

———-
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Joseph Charles Philpot (1802 – 1869) was known as “The Seceder”. He resigned from the Church of England in 1835 and became a Strict & Particular Baptist. While with the Church of England he was a Fellow of Worchester College, Oxford. After becoming a Strict and Particular Baptist he became the Editor of the Gospel Standard magazine and served in that capacity for twenty years.

Educated at Oxford University, he was elected a fellow of Worcester College, and appeared to have a brilliant scholastic career before him. But he was brought into solemn concern spiritually and the Lord led him into the ministry. He first preached in the Established Church at Stadhampton (Oxfordshire). In 1835, however, he was constrained, for the truth’s sake, to sever his connection with the Church of England and to resign his curacy and his fellowship. The letter to the provost stating his reasons was published and went into several editions.

The same year, he was baptized by John Warburton at Allington (Wilts). The rest of his life was spent ministering among the Strict Baptists. For 26 years, he held a joint pastorate at Stamford (Lines) and Oakham (Rutland). In addition for over twenty years, he was editor of “The Gospel Standard”, where many of his sermons first appeared.

–Theopedia

The Exchange Between the Sinful and the Sinless

Written by, by Horatius Bonar

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” —2 Corinthians 5:21

In showing favor to a criminal, an earthly sovereign must consider whether he can do so…

(1) without loss of character;
(2) without breach of law;
(3) without encouragement to crime;
(4) without infringement or compromise of government.

All these things have been amply provided for in the divine scheme of pardon; that scheme being the embodiment of such provision,—not only containing the prevention of any such wrongs to God and to His universe, but the development of principles and the revelation of facts, which far more than compensate for threatened evils, and bring immense glory to God and His government, out of that which otherwise would have been big with dishonour and confusion. That scheme is announced in these words, “He hath made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made (or be, or become) the righteousness of God in Him.” Thus God is just, and the Justifier of the unjust.

Here are two special points:

(1) The sinless one made sin for the sinful;

(2) the unrighteous becoming the righteousness of God in the righteous One.

I. The SINLESS One made SIN for the SINFUL.

He was “without sin;” He “knew no sin;” not the shadow of evil was to be found in Him; He was the “righteous one,” the “holy one,” the “Lamb without blemish, and without spot;” altogether perfect, yet partaker of our very flesh, our true humanity; very man, of the substance of the virgin, partaker of the dust of earth, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, still SINLESS in the most entire sense of that word; loving righteousness and hating iniquity, this sinless One was made sin, made sin by God: “He hath made Him sin.” The connection between Him and sin, between Him and the sinner, was one made, constituted by God. It was the Lord that laid our iniquity upon Him (Isa 53:6); that bruised Him and put Him to grief; that made His soul an offering for sin (Isa 53:10); that made Him a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Our guilt was transferred to Him by God, and He was treated as if He were really the doer of it all. God “spared Him not, but delivered Him up” (Rom 8:32). In the Psalms He confesses our sin as if it were His own (see 38, 40, 69); during His life He acted as one shut out because of guilt; at His trial He was dumb, and answered not a word; on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” It is not merely that He was made a sin offering, but he was “made sin,” as if no words could fully express the closeness of His connection with our transgressions. He was treated as a sinner from His cradle to His cross. His was a vicarious life and a vicarious death.

It was this that made Him the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. On no other ground can we account for His profound and life-long sorrow, save that all His life long He was bearing sin for us,—He was being led as a lamb to the slaughter; and this leading to the slaughter was the real meaning of His sorrowful and burdened life. He was moving to the altar with the sins of His church upon Him; He was going to the cross, laden all through with this infinite burden which was laid upon Him, when He took flesh by the power of the Holy Ghost.

As the sacrifice, burnt-offering, sin-offering, trespass-offering, substitute, surety, and sin-bearer, we find Him here on earth, till He had finished the work which was given Him to do, till He had by Himself purged our sins (Hebrews 1:2).

Men call this a “fiction,” or a “make believe;” but it is the truth of God, with which the whole Bible is full,—the transference of our human guilt to our divine Substitute, that He might bear it all for us, the transference of legal condemnation and divine displeasure from us to Him, that only acquittal, and pardon, and favour, and love might belong to us. “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me” (Psa 88:7), are the words of the Sin-bearer; and that this was felt in a measure all His life through (though consummated on the cross), is shewn by what follows: “I am afflicted and ready to die (“sorrowful unto death”) from my youth up” (Psa 88:15).

The sinless One made sin for the sinful is the pervading doctrine of both Testaments; such books as Leviticus and the Epistle to the Hebrews are unintelligible otherwise. It is this that so strongly and awfully establishes the doctrine of eternal recompense for sin. If sin deserves no eternal wrath, what an unmeaning thing is this divine sin-bearing! What a gratuitous expenditure of labour, and suffering, and death.

II. The UNRIGHTEOUS becoming the RIGHTEOUSNESS Of God in the RIGHTEOUS One.

The name of our Substitute is, “Jehovah our Righteousness”; and, the justifying righteousness is called by an apostle, “the righteousness of Him who is our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). Thus the “righteousness of God” and the “righteousness of Christ” are declared to be the same, and our common use of the expression, “the righteousness of Christ,” is amply vindicated from the cavils of Socinians and others of like mind. Luther exhorted the brethren to learn, as their constant song of praise, “Lord Jesus, thou art my righteousness, and I thy sin.” So must we, if we would enjoy Luther’s doctrine, his twofold teaching, “That a man is justified by faith; and that he is to know that he is justified.” We are “unrighteous.” There is no question as to that. Yet, says the apostle, “We become (not merely “righteous,” but) THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD,” in this righteous One. What is ours passes over to Him; what is His passes over to us. We become righteousness! As if, from the moment that we believe God’s testimony to, the righteous One and His work, we and righteousness become one and the same thing. So completely are we justified, and lifted up into the same righteous level or standing which the righteous One himself occupies in the sight of God. Thus are we “complete in Him,”—“found in Him,”— recognised as one with Him in righteousness, and entitled to possess all He possesses. What a transference! And how simply effected! Receive the Father’s testimony to the righteousness of the beloved Son, and all that righteousness becomes yours! O man, canst thou refuse an exchange like this? A salvation so complete, so perfect and divine.

Yes; “It is finished!”

On the cross it was finished. Then the blood was shed with which the sinner is sprinkled and purged in conscience; and all that followed (both resurrection and ascension) assumed the completion of the great sacrifice on Golgotha. Then the righteousness was finished also, in virtue of which we are “accepted in the Beloved.” During all the preceding ages the voice of each sacrifice laid on the altar, morning and evening, was, “It is NOT finished;” but then the one voice of the one Sacrifice proclaimed before earth and heaven, “It is finished.” Nothing was from that moment to be added to it or taken from it. All was done. It is the ministry of this “righteousness” that is now preached to the unrighteous. There are many “ministries.” There is the ministry of “the word” (Acts 6:24.); the ministry of “the grace” (Acts 20:24); the ministry of “the reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18); the ministration of “the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:8). There is also the ministry of “the righteousness” (2 Cor 3:9). Righteousness for the unrighteous is God’s message to the world; righteousness for those whose only qualification is, that they need it; righteousness to the most unrighteous of the sons of men; for it is to the wretched prodigal, the wanderer in the far country, that the Father says, “Bring forth THE BEST ROBE, and put it on him:” In Jesus, the sinner’s substitute, we have “the perfect One.” God sees perfection in Him. But this perfection, while it detects and condemns our imperfection, provides also for its forgiveness.

It is by means of this perfection that God is enabled to deal in love with our imperfection, however great and manifold it may be. The good swallows up the evil, and yet is not tainted thereby. The sinner hands over his sins to the perfect One; and the perfect One hands over His perfection to the sinner. Thus, by reason of this blessed transference or exchange, the imperfect one becomes as the perfect One in the sight of God, and is dealt with as such in regard to all favour and blessing.

Perfection covers imperfection, and the believing sinner stands “complete” in the perfect One: “accepted in the Beloved.” Crediting God’s testimony to the perfect One, and His perfect sacrifice, we stand before God on a new footing,—as men who have “become the righteousness of God in Him,”—and who now get life, and peace, and pardon, and blessing, simply because the perfect One has deserved it for them. We have all in Him.

Finding Answers for the Crookedness of Life

Excerpt taken from “The Crook in the Lot”
Written by Thomas Boston
Adapted and modernized for the young reader
 crooked-path
“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?” —Ecclesiastes 7:13.
 

A just view of our afflictions is altogether necessary for proper Christian deportment under them…

…and this view can only be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for it is the “Light of the World” alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and consequently, crooked designs becoming the Divine perfections. When they are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of our afflictions, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances.
 

It is under this view that Solomon, in the preceding part of Ecclesiastes 7, advances several paradoxes, which are surprising determinations in favor of certain things, that, to the eye of sense, looking gloomy and hideous, are therefore generally reputed out of order, and shocking. For he pronounces the day of one’s death to be better than the day of his birth; namely, the day of the death of one, who, having become the friend of God through faith, has led a life to the honor of God, and service of his generation, and in this way raised to himself the good and savvy name better than precious ointment.

 

In like manner, he pronounces the house of mourning to be preferable to the house of feasting, sorrow to laughter, and a wise man’s rebuke to a fool’s song. As for that, even though the latter is indeed the more pleasant, yet the former is the more profitable. And observing with concern, how men are in danger, not only from the world’s frowns and ill-usage, for oppression can make a wise man mad, but also from its smiles and caresses, which is a gift destroying the heart. Therefore, since whatever way it goes there is danger, he pronounces the end of every worldly thing better than the beginning of it. And from the whole he justly infers, that it is better to be humble and patient, than proud and impatient under afflicting dispensation; since, in the former case, we wisely submit to what is really best; in the latter, we fight against it. And he dissuades from being angry with our lot, because of the adversity found in it. He cautions against making odious comparisons of former and present times, by which point he is insinuating against undue reflections on the providence of God: and, against that querulous and fretful disposition. Here he first prescribes a general remedy, namely, holy wisdom, as that which enables us to make the best of everything, and even gives life in the most killing of circumstances; and then he offers a particular remedy, consisting in a due application of that wisdom, towards taking a just view of the case: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?”
 
In which words are proposed,
 
1. The remedy itself;
2. The suitableness of it.
 
1. The remedy itself, is a wise eyeing of the hand of God on all we find hard to bear on us: “Consider the work of God,” namely, His providence in the crooked, rough, and disagreeable parts of your afflictions, the crosses you find in it. For you see very well the cross itself. Yes, you turn it over and over in your mind and leisurely view it on all sides. You look to the primary cause of it, and also to the other secondary cause of it, and so you find yourself in a fret. But, would that you would be quieted and satisfied in the matter, lifting up your eyes towards heaven, seeing the doing of God in it, the operation of His hand. Look at that, and consider it well; eye the first look at the crookedness in your lot; but behold, how it is the work of God, how is it His doing?
 
2. Such a view of the crookedness of our afflictions is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them: “For who can make that straight which God has made crooked?” As to the crookedness in your life, God has made it; and he will continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even things out, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: for it will not change no matter what you do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is the proper means at once to silence and to satisfy man, and so to bring him to a dutiful submission to his Maker and Governor, no matter the crookedness and afflictions in his life.
 

Five Directions How to Get our Hearts Free from Earthly-Mindedness

Taken and adapted from chapter 8 of, “A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness”
Written by, Jeremiah Burroughs

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The First Direction

First, to that end, be watchful over your thoughts. Do not take liberty to let your hearts run too far in the things of the earth. What time you have for meditation, let it be as much as can be reserved for spiritual things. Most men and women think they may take liberty in their thoughts. Why, the thing in itself is not unlawful! Aye, but your thoughts will steal upon you and affect your heart very much; therefore, watch narrowly over your thoughts, keep them within Scripture bounds.

The Second Direction

Be humbled much for sin, for that will take off the heart from earthly-mindedness. Earthly-minded men, who have earthly and drossy hearts, have not known what the weight and burden of sin means. Just let God lay the weight and burden of sin upon the soul, for that will take off the soul from earthly things quickly! Oh, those men that have gone on in the world in a secure condition, and never knew what trouble of conscience meant for sin, have grown seared in those earthly contentment’s. But those men that have had the weight of sin lie upon them know what it is to have to deal with an infinite God. In bearing the burden of the wrath of an incensed Deity, such men know that they have other things to look after than the things of the earth. If God would just humble your hearts, the humiliation of your spirits would quicken you, take off the dullness and deadness of your spirits, and stir you up to look after things other than the things of this life.

The Third Direction

Further, set the example of the saints before you who have been the most precious servants of God in former times. Note how they counted themselves as pilgrims and strangers here on the earth. At your leisure, read Hebrews 11:13, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Mark, therefore, how it follows in the 37th verse, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” Who were these people? They were those of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, and yet were such precious saints of God that the world was not worthy of them. Now when we set before us how joyfully these servants of the Most High went through all their wilderness condition, this should make us ashamed of our earthly-mindedness, and would be a mighty help to us.

The Fourth Direction

Then, if we consider the great account that we are to give for all earthly things, you will note that you only look upon the comfort of them. But consider the account you must give for them. This would be a means to take off the heart from earthly-mindedness. And consider, what if you were now to die and go the way of all flesh. What good would it be to me to remember what contentments and pleasures I had in the earth?

The Fifth Direction

But above all, set Jesus Christ before you and be meditating on the death of Jesus Christ. That’s the great thing that will take the heart from the things of the earth. Be looking upon Christ crucified, how He who was the Lord of heaven and earth put Himself into such a low condition merely to redeem us!

Conversing much with the death of Jesus Christ deadens the heart much to the world. In Philippians 3 we have a notable text for that, in the example of Paul. He counted all things as dung and dross for Jesus Christ. In the 8th verse, I account all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but DUNG that I may win Christ. Then, in the 10th verse, That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death.

Paul desired to be so conformable to the very death of Christ, that he counted all things in the world but as dung and dross in comparison of that. Paul had the death of Christ before his eyes, and meditated much on the death of Christ, and that meditation had a great impression upon his spirit. That made him count all these things as dross, as dog’s meat by comparison, that he might have fellowship with the death of Christ.

Perhaps some of you think of the glory of Christ in heaven, and that may, for the present, make you less worldly. But let me entreat you to meditate on the death of Christ, and know that there is an excellency in conformity even to the death of Christ, such an excellency that may take your hearts from the things of the world. It’s said of the King of France that he, asking once about an eclipse, said, “I have so much business in the earth that I take little notice of the things of heaven.”

O my brethren! To close all this, I beseech you, let not this be said concerning any of you, that you have such and such worldly enjoyments that you cannot inquire about Jesus Christ. Do not plead that you have such great business, that you had so much to do in this earth, that you take little notice of the things of heaven. Surely, the saints of God have their business in heaven as we shall, God willing, see hereafter. Their city business, their trading, their aims, their bent is higher than the things of this earth.

There are things that a man may let out his thoughts and affections to as much as he wants. This shows the vanity of the things of this world, that a man needs to be very wary how much he minds them. He cannot enjoy the comforts of this earth without some fear. But now, when he comes to converse with heaven, there he may let out himself to the uttermost. That shows the excellency of these things. You that are poor and lowly in the things of this earth, do not be discomforted because there is a charge from God that men should not mind these things. Surely there is no great matter in them since God charges that we should not mind them.

O the excellency lies in things above which are heavenly and spiritual, where the saints have their conversation!

Samuel Rutherford’s Word of Comfort for the Grief of a Child

Letter 310, to Lady Kenmure, on the occasion of the death of her infant daughter.
Written by, Samuel Rutherford

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MADAM,

Saluting your Ladyship with grace and mercy from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. I was sorry, at my departure, leaving your Ladyship in grief, and would be still grieved at it if I were not assured that ye have one with you in the furnace whose visage is like unto the Son of God.

I am glad that ye have been acquainted from your youth with the wrestlings of God, knowing that if ye were not dear to God, and if your health did not require so much of Him, He would not spend so much physic upon you. All the brethren and sisters of Christ must be conform to His image and copy in suffering (Rom. 8.29). And some do more vividly resemble the copy than others. Think, Madam, that it is a part of your glory to be enrolled among those whom one of the elders pointed out to John, ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

Ye have lost a child: nay she is not lost to you who is found to Christ. She is not sent away, but only sent before, like unto a star, which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere. We see her not, yet she doth shine in another country. If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that she hath gotten of eternity; and ye have to rejoice that ye have now some plenishing up in heaven. Build your nest upon no tree here; for ye see God hath sold the forest to death; and every tree whereupon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may fly and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock.

What ye love besides Jesus, your husband, is an adulterous lover. Now it is God’s special blessing to Judah, that He will not let her find her paths in following her strange lovers. ‘Therefore, behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns and make a wall that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them’ (Hos. 2.6-7). O thrice happy Judas, when God buildeth a double stone wall betwixt her and the fire of hell! The world, and the things of the world, Madam, is the lover ye naturally affect beside your own husband Christ. The hedge of thorns and the wall which God buildeth in your way, to hinder you from this lover, is the thorny hedge of daily grief, loss of children, weakness of body, iniquity of the time, uncertainty of estate, lack of worldly comfort, fear of God’s anger for old unrepented-of sins. What lose ye, if God twist and plait the hedge daily thicker? God be blessed, the Lord will not let you find your paths.

Return to your first husband. Do not weary, neither think that death walketh towards you with a slow pace. Ye must be riper ere ye be shaken. Your days are no longer than Job’s, that were ’swifter than a post, and passed away as the ships of desire, and as the eagle that hasteth for the prey’ (Job 9. 25, 26, margin). There is less sand in your glass now than there was yesternight. This span-length of ever-posting time will soon be ended. But the greater is the mercy of God, the more years ye get to advise, upon what terms, and upon what conditions, ye cast your soul in the huge gulf of never-ending eternity.

The Lord hath told you what ye should be doing till He come; ‘wait and hasten (saith Peter,) for the coming of the Lord’; all is night that is here, in respect of ignorance and daily ensuing troubles, one always making way to another, as the ninth wave of the sea to the tenth; therefore sigh and long for the dawning of that morning, and the breaking of that day of the coming of the Son of man, when the shadows shall flee away.

Persuade yourself the King is coming; read His letter sent before Him, ‘Behold, I come quickly.’ Wait with the wearied night-watch for the breaking of the eastern sky, and think that you have not a morrow. I am loath to weary you; show yourself a Christian, by suffering without murmuring; — in patience possess your soul: they lose nothing who gain Christ. I commend you to the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus.

ANWOTH, Jan, 15, 1629

The Several Thrones of God, with Particular Attention Paid to the Throne of Grace, which is the Mercy-Seat in the Old Testament.

Excerpts and passages adapted, modernized, and condensed from, “The Works of the Late Reverend Robert Traill Minister of the Gospel in London”
Written by Robert Traill, March 25, 1696.

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The most sacred of all the objects in the Jewish Old Testament worship, was called the Mercy-Seat…

…the same of which the apostle Paul calls the “Throne of Grace”; from which he teaches us, that whatever of divine grace was revealed and tendered to, perceived, and received by the faith by the Old Testament believers, and was employed in the right use of this sacred old institution of God to his church, –the same, with greater advantages, the New Testament believers enjoy under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ; who is the body, antitype, and substance of all of them.

But we find three most solemn things in the Old Testament, which the Mercy-Seat (the type of the Throne of Grace in the New Testament) was applied to.

  1. The most solemn approach was made unto God, which was effectuated when the high priest going in once a-year to the holiest of all, where the Mercy-Seat was located, made atonement for the people. This approach was made, not by the common people in their own persons; nor by any ordinary Levite, who were even privileged with a greater nearness to God than the people –Numbers 16:9, nor by any of the inferior priests of the house of Aaron, to which family the office of priesthood was by divine appointment confined; nor by the high priest himself, except only once a-year, and that at a specific, determinate time, and carried out with many appointed ceremonies of preparation and performance. Some accounts tell us of a custom in their Worship, that music, performed by singing and instruments, were used by the people, to express their joy and praise, when the high priest returned safely out from that sacred and awful place, the holy of holies.
  2. The most solemn atonement for the sins of Israel was made at the Mercy-Seat. This was done in that yearly entrance of the high priest into the holiest of all, Leviticus 16:12-14, especially verse 14. – “And he (Aaron, the first of that order of priests) shall take of the blood of the bullock, and shall sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward: and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Verse 30. On that day, shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be cleansed from all your sins before the Lord.
  3. The most solemn answers were given by God to the high priest, Exodus 25:17-22, where we have the institution of the Mercy-Seat, and/or the form of it: And there ( says the Lord) I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee”; and again, ” Exodus 30:6. What the Old Testament Urim and Thummim was, and what their Shechinah was, neither Jew now nor Christian know, –though they guess; only that these were some special manifestations of the grace, and favor, and mind of God, which expired with some of them it is thought, before the end of that ministration. But all these three glories, and dignities, and advantages of their mercy-seat, are all to be found in Christ Jesus. For it is Jesus who represents his people before God, and presents them to the Father; since he has made the perfect atonement for all his Israel, and declares to his church all the saving will of God, which he heard and received of his Father.

The apostle here in this epistle, and in this text, would have all believers in Christ to know, that the New Testament Throne of Grace is the same in substance with, and above the Old Testament Mercy-Seat. –See Hebrews 10:4. [See also, Hebrews 9:12, “He did not enter by the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”]

  1. The truth I would speak to is this: That the God in the gospel, sits on a Throne of Grace, and from it calls and invites sinners to come to him. “Let us come to the Throne of Grace”, certainly means, “Let us now come to God sitting on the throne of grace”; let us take both the direction and encouragement to come to God, because he is on a throne of grace.

    We find a throne of glory much spoke of, for it is a throne of the essential, incomprehensible glory of God.

    This no man can approach. Of this the apostle spoke of in, 1 Tim. 6:16. He dwells in light that no man can approach to, whom no man hath seen, nor can see. Marvelous is this light. We find the more light there be in or about a person or thing, the more easily and clearly it is perceived as the sun is such a glorious body, that though it be at a vast distance from the earth we dwell on, we yet can see it with our eyes immediately. As soon as it shines, we can see it, because of its light. It is its own light, and nothing else, that exists is like it. If the sun did withdraw its own light, all the eyes of men, and all the artificial fire and light men can make, would ever help us to replace or match it. But such is the majesty of God, that he is clothed with it, Psalm 93.Men are dazzled and confounded by a little ray of his glory; but with God is terrible majesty, Job 37:22.  This is not the throne we are called to come unto. And they are but dabblers in religion, that know not in their experience how overwhelming the views and thoughts of God’s majesty and glory are, when he is not seen as on a Throne of Grace. ‘I remembered God, and was troubled, says one saint, Psalm 77:3. I am troubled at his presence when I consider, I am afraid of him, said another, Job 23:15. No wonder Manoah said unto his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.”  Judges 13:22. when a view of the heavenly glory of Jesus Christ makes John, who was often to lean on his bosom in his humbled state, to fall down at his feet as dead, Revelation 1:17.

  2. There is a throne of God’s Government of the World often spoke about, Psalms 9:4, 7. On this throne God sits, and rules all things at his pleasure, and infinite wisdom. This throne is to be believingly regarded by us; but it is nor the throne of grace that sinners are called to come unto for grace and mercy.
  3. There is a throne of God’s justice spoken of. This is that throne David deprecates his being brought before, Psalms 143:2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. If a man be wronged and oppressed by men stronger than he, he may appeal to this throne of justice, and expect redress. BUT if a man’s business be with God, he should be afraid of this throne of justice. Men are often proud and vain in their thoughts, and before others: but if the Lord call them before this high court of justice, they will surely be cast Job 9:2, 3. How should a man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one in a thousand. When God sits on a throne of justice, to judge men according to his law and their works, nothing but condemnation can justly be pronounced on sinners. Whoever he be of sinful Adam’s seed that expects the saving favor from God’s throne of justice, will find himself woefully deceived.
  4. We find the throne of the last judgment. Before this all must appear, 2 Cor. 5: 10. Rev. 20:12. This is not the throne of grace in the text. No grace nor mercy is shown to any from this throne, especially to them that have despised and spit at the throne of grace before. And when our Lord comes, and sits on the throne of his glory, Matthew 25:31; no sinner that hath despised his grace now, will find any quarter then, Luke 19:27.

What then is this throne of grace? It is God in Christ dealing with men according to the grace of the gospel.

It is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not importing to them their trespasses 2 Cor. 5:19.  It is Christ set forth by God to be a propitiation, Romans 3:25. This is the true mercy-seat, or throne of grace, or propitiation, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. This is the new court or throne erected by God, and declared in the gospel, to which sinful man is invited to come.

Why the “Throne of Grace” called a throne, and why specifically is it called a “Throne of Grace?”

Continuing on from what is said by the apostle’s alluding to the mercy-seat in the tabernacle and temple of old. It is called a throne, because of the glory and majesty of God is manifested there. God’s condescending to display and to dispense his grace and mercy to sinners. This dispensing of Grace is not debasing to God, but is an advancement of his glory. When he gives grace, he acts royally, and as a King, with majesty. Araunah’s offering to David, is said to be like a king, 2 Sam. 24:23. But Araunah was no king, he was only a subject; however, he had a free, and noble heart.

The Lord on his throne of grace, dispenses all acts of grace with great majesty, and as a King; and not as a King, Judge, and Ruler, but as a King, Benefactor, and Giver. This royalty of grace shines, in the greatness of his gifts, especially in the greatness of his gifts of grace and mercy. These gifts are vastly above all that creation can give. And in its manner of giving; it is free, sovereignly free. Grace and mercy is God’s own and he does with them as he will.

When Moses prays, Exodus 33:18. I beseech thee, shew me thy glory, we cannot conceive what was in his holy, and heavenly heart. He was now just come down from the mount for the first time; he is going up again to spend another forty days there, in such communion with God as never mere man enjoyed before or since out of heaven; he has prevailed with God for Israel, and has received a most gracious answer, ver. 17. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that you have spoken; for you have found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. What means Moses then by his prayer ver. 18. Whatever he meant, the Lord’s answer is much to be observed, ver. 19. And he said, I will make all my goodness (or beauty) pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the before thee.  (What is in this name that hath so much of glory and goodness in it, as should satisfy such a mighty hungerer for more of God, as Moses was. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. God’s glory shines highly, in his being the sovereign disposer of his own grace and mercy, and happy is the believer that adores this glorious sovereignty. Paul in Romans 10:15, makes a deep improvement of it.

Jeremiah 17: 12 A glorious high throne from the beginning, is the place of our high sanctuary. See then that you, in all your pleadings for grace and mercy, remember that you are before a high stately throne. Approaches to God on the throne of grace, should be managed with the deepest reverence and humility. So did the publican, when he came to it, Luke 18:13. God be merciful (propitious) to me a sinner, (or me the sinner, the great singular sinner. So the Greek runs, as Luke: 7:37, 39. The deepest, profoundest adoration of the glorious majesty of God, is performed by a self-condemned sinner, pleading at this throne for the obtaining of the sovereign free grace of God.

Lastly; It is called a throne, because grace reigns and is enthroned there: Romans 5:21. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessed reign! And blessed are all that are under the reign and dominion of the grace of God. Sin reigns through the unrighteousness of the first Adam unto eternal death, if men be left alone, and if grace do not break this reign of sin. And grace reigns through the righteousness of the second Adam unto eternal life. And nothing can dethrone grace; it will prevail, and reach its end, eternal life, in all it falls upon. ‘0 that captives to Satan, and slaves to sin and to the law, would long to be under the reign of this stately power, –the grace of God! And that believers themselves would give a more free and large subjection to it!