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.


“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!

What ministers and churches were made of: Glimpses into early Welsh Calvinistic Methodism

Taken, adapted and condensed from “Welsh Calvinistic Methodism”
A Historical Sketch of the Presbyterian Church of Wales
Written by William Williams


Howell Harris was in the habit of attending the parish church at Talgarth on Sabbath morning…

At the close of the service he usually went out and stood on a tombstone, or on the wall of the churchyard, to address the dispersing congregation. On one of those occasions there stood among his audience a young medical student from Carmarthen shire, who was at the time pursuing his studies at the neighboring town of Hay. The words to which he then listened were blessed to his conversion, and he eventually resolved to relinquish his medical studies and to devote himself to the ministry of the gospel.

This young man became one of the mightiest instruments of the revival. He afterwards became known as the Rev. William Williams of Pantycelyn, eminent as a minister of the gospel, but more eminent still as the sacred poet of Wales. Very often in those early days was the smoldering fire which had been kindled by the sermon fanned into a flame by a hymn of Williams’s which was sung at the close. It is not too much to say that his Welsh hymns have never been approached by the productions of any other writer in the language; and now that every denomination has its own hymn-book, the great majority in each selection, including that of the Establishment, are the hymns of William Williams. He also wrote some English hymns, several of which, such as “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,” and “O’er those gloomy hills of darkness,” are found in very many selections in that language. Mr. Williams took Deacon’s Orders in the Establishment in 1740, but his Church career was a short one. In his first church he gave so much offence that a representation was made to the Bishop, containing no less than nineteen charges against him. One of these was, that he did not use the Sign of the cross in baptism, and another, that he omitted some portions of the service; and another, that he did not confine his ministrations to the church, but went out to the highways and hedges and preached wherever he could get people to hear him. We have not been able to ascertain what were the other sixteen, but it is reasonable to infer that they looked in the same direction as the above three. When he came to the Bishop for his Orders, he was peremptorily refused, and he therefore withdrew from the Establishment and gave himself to work among the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.

A somewhat later onto the scene was that of the Rev. Peter Williams, a native of Llaugharne in the county of Carmarthen. He was from his early childhood of a serious turn of mind, and was educated for the ministry. While he was a student at Carmarthen College, the renowned George Whitfield came to preach to the town, and so full of prejudice was the tutor against the fanatical preacher,” that he gave strict orders that none of the students should go to hear him. Four young men ventured to disobey this injunction, and one of these was Peter Williams. The sermon so deeply affected him, that he lost all taste for his former amusements, and became so earnestly religious, that he was thenceforth regarded by his tutor and fellow- students as a Methodist.”  –“And their opinion,” he writes, “was sufficient to cover me with eternal disgrace.” He after wards took Orders in the Church, and served several churches for exceedingly brief periods— for his earnest ministry gave such universal dissatisfaction, that he likewise was obliged to withdraw, and fully identify himself with those despised people whose spirit he had already so largely imbibed. These two young men, W. Williams and P. Williams, though they came a few years later on the scene, are always associated the ones that preceded them as the reformers of Wales and the founders of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism.

They were all young men, and so were Whitfield and his colleagues, by whose instrumentality the Lord was, at the same time, carrying on a great work in England. The laborers in the Principality knew nothing of that which was done by their brethren on the other Side of the Severn, but by some means, reports of the former reached the ears of the latter, and in 1738 Howell Harris, to his great delight, received an encouraging letter from George Whitfield, and before the expiration of that year the two met for the first time at Cardiff in Glamorgan shire. When the Welsh brethren were making preliminary arrangements for their first “Association,” which in Wales means the same thing as a General Assembly in Scotland, it was resolved to invite the Rev. G. Whitfield to attend. He acceded to the invitation, and presided at the meetings of the Assembly. This first Association of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists was held at Watford, in the county of Glamorgan, in the year 1742. Besides the chairman, there were present Daniel Rowlands, Howell Harris, W. Williams, J. Powell, and other preachers and exhorters. They were met to devise means to bring the numerous converts which had been already made under some spiritual supervision, and to concert measures for the further extension of the great work; and it is worthy of remark, that all the leading Spirits of this important assembly were young men varying from twenty-one to twenty—nine years of age.

Of the tremendous power of their ministry it is difficult now to form an adequate conception. Howell Harris was a veritable Boanerges (Son of Thunder). We can judge from his portrait that he was a person with a most commanding presence. The owner of those flashing eyes and firmly set mouth was not a man to be trifled with. It was not seldom that thousands in his presence experienced had many of the same sensations as the assembly of Israel at the foot of Sinai. Often there were giants in iniquity, who had come for the express purpose of disturbing the services, made to quail before his fiery glance, or driven home trembling in every limb after listening for a few minutes to the thunder of his voice. A congregation of 2000 people have been known to stand for upwards of two hours in a drenching rain to hear him preach. It is said that during the first few years of his ministry there was scarcely one instance of his preaching without being the means of bringing a number under conviction. For some time he confined his ministry to his own neighborhood. He was afterwards invited to Visit other counties, and soon he extended his travels into North Wales, everywhere lifting his voice like a trumpet against the prevailing irreligion and sin, and apprising the crowds that assembled to hear him of their impending doom. Everywhere he found the people like those of old who dwelt in the land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death; but it was a most unusual thing for him to leave a town, village, or hamlet without leaving behind him the nucleus of a religious community. His indomitable spirit triumphed over the rough usage to which he was exposed by his burning zeal for his Master’s glory and the salvation of immortal souls. And his sufferings were neither light nor few.

On several occasions, Howell Harris, like another apostle, was pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that he despaired even of life when in the hands of an infuriated mob; but after barely escaping alive, with torn raiment and a bruised and bleeding body, he would again fearlessly face the storm. He went to fairs, wakes, and revels to preach the gospel, thus invading the kingdom of darkness, and attacking sin on its own territories. The gentry regarded him as a disturber of the peace, and threatened him with legal proceedings. The clergy looked upon him as a false prophet, and however badly off they might be for sermons, were never at a loss for a text when he was in the neighborhood. The mob regarded him as a defenseless individual, whom they could have the inexpressible delight of belaboring with impunity to their hearts’ content – and they often did so without mercy. But it was useless to attempt by any such means to arrest him in his mighty career. Often while he was addressing an assembly in the open air did a magistrate appear on the scene, commanding the crowd to disperse, and enforcing his orders with the reading of the Riot Act. Harris would reply to the magnate by reading the sentence pronounced by the Judge of all upon his own guilty soul.

When the rabble hooted him, his voice was heard above their loudest howls, telling them of judgment to come. When dragged about and beaten by a mob maddened by drink, and by devils, he preached between the blows, and urged his savage assailants to hasten their escape from the stormy wind and tempest. Such is a faint picture of this extraordinary man. He believed and therefore spoke, and with such power and effect that many thousands in the Principality of Wales were turned to righteousness.

However, as powerful a Christian as Harris was, Rowlands was by far the greater preacher. Harris never made a sermon. He made it a point to abstain from formal premeditation, but spoke as he was moved and enabled at the time. Rowlands, on the contrary, carefully prepared, and his published sermons are full of matter, and of matter forcibly and eloquently arranged. He possessed extraordinary powers of mind, and was a speaker of unsurpassed eloquence; but after all, the secret of his tremendous power must be sought for in the depth and intensity of his own religious convictions. On Sabbath mornings he generally rose early, and as much as possible avoided conversation, even with his most intimate friends; but on some occasions, when his studies had been unsuccessful, it was difficult to get him out of his bed in time before the service. He was then “unwell, could not preach without any message from God to the people.” Sometimes his servant had to help him in a half -fainting condition from his house to the pulpit, but once there he was at home; and it has been observed that it was on such occasions he usually preached with the greatest power.

The people could see that he intensely felt all he said. Once in his prayer before sermon, while dwelling on the sufferings of the Savior for us, he seemed to have Him before his eye, and exclaimed, “Oh, those emptied veins Oh, that pallid countenance!” and then, overwhelmed by emotion, he fainted away. After a while he recovered, and mighty indeed was the sermon that followed. Howell Harris’s ministry for many years was wholly itinerant, but Rowlands, having a regular charge, confined his labors chiefly to Llangeitho, though he made occasional evangelistic tours to other districts, and from time to time visited every part of the Principality. But his ministry at Llangeitho alone exerted a mighty influence far and wide, for it soon began to attract hearers from the most distant parts of Wales. It was by no means an uncommon thing to see as many as thirty of the people of Bala, which is above Sixty miles distant from Llangeitho, among his congregation on Sabbath morning. Those people started early on Saturday morning, each taking with him the provision necessary for the journey. There were well – known halting- places on the road, —on the banks of streams, from which they could moisten their morsel, and there they sat and refreshed themselves. They travelled far into the night, got a few hours’ rest in such places as they could find, started again with the early dawn, and were right glad if they could reach Llangeitho in time for the morning service.

On their pilgrimage homewards they had something to talk of— the sermons to which they had listened on the preceding day; and often was the resting place by the brook was a veritable Bethel, and echoed the sounds of joy and praise. On one occasion forty-five people from Carnarvon went towards Llangeitho by sea as far as Aberystwyth, where they left the Ship, intending to return in the same manner. But by Monday the wind had Shifted, and they were obliged to walk the whole distance, which could not be much short of a hundred miles. On their journey homewards their large number created quite a sensation in the towns and Villages through which they passed. At Aberdovey they were recognized as “Methodists,” and hooted well as they passed. At Towyn, the population came out to meet them, and attempted to prevent them from passing through the place. At Barmouth, which they reached against night, in a pelting storm, some of them found accommodation in the town, while others were lodged in farm -houses farther on. One house in the town, at which they had been angrily refused, took fire, and was completely destroyed before the morning. Resuming their journey next day, they had to pass through Harlech, and here the people rose enmasse to stone them. Some were struck in their heads and badly wounded; and one man was so injured by a blow on his foot that he was lame for weeks. This incident will give an idea of the burning zeal of the early Calvinistic Methodists, and of the inveterate hatred with which they were regarded by the great mass of the people.

A large number of the early converts being men of some talent, felt it to be their duty to preach unto others that gospel which they had found so precious themselves. They were for the most part men of little education, who scarcely knew anything of any book in existence but the Welsh Bible; but they preached wherever they could find an opening, and were known and recognized, not as ministers, but as exhorters.” Numbers of these, from every part of Wales, congregated at Llangeitho on the monthly Sabbath. The effect of this periodical contact with the ministry of Rowlands was most beneficial to themselves, and by their means his ministry t old on the whole of the Principality. They caught the fire themselves, and, like Samson’s foxes, spread it throughout the length and breadth of the land.

It is not strange, therefore, that their labors produced great results. In 1742, six years from the beginning of the movement, we find that there were laboring in conjunction with the episcopally ordained clergy, who by this time had become ten in number, as many as forty exhorters. We have no more statistics of that date, but we find that by 1744, two years later, there had been formed, in South Wales alone, 140 “Societies,” which in process of time came to be designated as Churches.

As churches and districts became established, overseers were required to furnish a periodical report to the Association of the districts or subdistricts, as the case might be. The following is an example:


This is to inform you what a wide door has been opened unto me by the Almighty God in the Societies named underneath, and what successful progress the gospel makes among them. I verily believe that they excel every other part which is known to me in the Principality of Wales, in love to God and His gospel, in their carefulness to walk in accordance with its precepts, as well as in their unity with each other: not being persecuted or disturbed by any, excepting a little persecution that happened lately at Lampeter, in the county of Cardigan. While the members of the Society were together Singing psalms and praying to God, a Justice of the Peace, with his servants, came upon them to disturb them, and the man who was praying at the time was taken prisoner; but through the providence of God the persecution has somewhat moderated, and the prisoner has been set at liberty, but the Justices continue their threatening’s.

Cayo Society contains 60 members, 27 of whom enjoy liberty, the others are under the law.
Talley Society contains 68 members, 24 of whom have obtained deliverance through Christ, the others are under the law. William John, exhorter; Thomas Griffith, steward.
Llangathen Society contains 14 members, 5 of whom are free in Christ, and the others under the law. Morris John, exhorter.
Llanfynydd Society contains 54 members, 23 of whom are free in Christ, and the others under the law. Morris John is exhorter here also.
Llansawel Society contains 47 members, 18 of whom are free in Christ, and the others under the law. Joseph John, exhorter, and John David, steward.
Cilycwm Society contains 26 members; 9 free, and the others under the law. John Thomas, exhorter, and Isaac David, steward.
Lampeter Society contains 28 members; 13 free, and the others under the law. “David Williams, an exhorter at Llanfynydd, has left me and gone to keep a school. Thomas John has not been settled in any place.

This from your fellow-traveler and unworthy brother in Christ,


Sometimes these reports descended to even more minute details. Take the following examples:

Builth Society— Thomas James, overseer; Thomas Bowen, exhorter.

Thomas James, a full and abiding testimony.
Thomas Bowen, enjoying much liberty.
Evan Evans, having obtained a testimony, but weak in grace.
Sarah Williams justified, and coming out of the furnace.
Sarah Jones, a full testimony, but under heavy bondage.
Ann Baisdel, a sweet experience, but yet weak.
Mary Bowen, seeking the Lord Jesus in earnest.”

Etc., etc.

So it was at the time, and so it continued for many years afterwards.

Able men were willing and anxious to devote all their time and energies to the service of the cause, but the Societies were either unable or indisposed to give them the means of living, and they were therefore obliged to turn for subsistence to other sources. These good man, after itinerating for long periods of time, often for twenty-five years or more, would eventually settle down as Independent Ministers, but at the same time they would retained as long as they would live, their connection with the Calvinistic Methodists.

The Most Remarkable Event

Taken and adapted from, “THE MOST REMARKABLE EVENT”
Written by A.W. Pink


 “Great is the mystery of godliness”
1 Timothy 3:16

Amazing beyond all finite conception is that transaction that was consummated at Golgotha!

There we behold the Prince of Life dying. There we gaze upon the Lord of Glory made a spectacle of unutterable shame. There we see the Holy One of God made sin for His people. There we witness the Author of all blessing made a curse for worms of the earth. It is the mystery of mysteries that He Who is none other than Immanuel, should stoop so low as to join the infinite majesty of Deity with the lowest degree of abasement that was possible to descend into. He could not have gone lower and be God. Well did the Puritan, Richard Sibbes say,

“God, to show His love to us, showed Himself God in this: that He could be God and go so low as to die.”

To what source then can we appeal for light, for understanding, for an explanation and interpretation of the Cross? Human reasoning is futile, speculation is profane, the opinions of men are worthless. Thus, we are absolutely shut up to what God has been pleased to make known to us in His Word…

The plan of redemption, the office of our Surety, and the satisfaction that He rendered to the claims of justice against us have no parallel in the relations of men to one another. We are carried above the sphere of the highest relations of created beings into the [majestic] counsels of the eternal and independent God.

Shall we bring our own line to measure them? We are in the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one in perfection, will, and purpose. If the righteousness of the Father demands a sacrifice, the love of the Father provides it. But the love of the Son runs parallel with that of the Father; and not only in the general undertaking, but also in every act of it we see the Son’s full and free consent. In the whole work, we see the love of the Father as clearly displayed as the love of the Son. And again, we see the Son’s love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity as clearly displayed as the Father’s, in that work of which it was impossible to tell whether the manifestation of love or righteousness is most amazing. In setting out upon the undertaking, we hear the Son say with loving delight, “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” –Hebrews 10:7, 9

As He contemplates its conclusion, we hear Him say, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” –John 10:17 They are one in the glorious manifestation of common perfections and in the joy of all the blessed results. The Son is glorified by all that is for the glory of the Father.

And while, in the consummation of this plan, the wisdom of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—shall be displayed, as it could not otherwise have been, to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. Ruined man will be exalted in Christ to heights of glory and bliss otherwise unattainable.

What Kind of Faith, James?

Written by Warren E. Berkley
Taken and adapted from Expository Files 5.6; June 1998
An Expository Sermon on James 2:14-26


We often say that man’s problem is sin and God’s solution is the gospel of Christ…

…and I believe that’s exactly what the Bible says. As we develop this and study and talk to our friends, it is necessary to focus on faith – and especially the response of faith that is essential to be saved. For instance, in Eph. 2:8 – “…by grace have you been saved through faith…” By grace, God offers to sinners the gift of salvation; that offer is based on what Jesus did for us. By faith, we accept or receive that gift. Simple.

How does the Bible describe this faith? What is faith — what is involved? Are we talking about simple mental agreement with a set of propositions? Are we talking about a feeling that Jesus is your Savior? Are we talking about trust that produces action in the form of obedience?

These are not just questions or issues for theologians to debate, and these are not mysterious, unanswered problems. These questions are relevant to the needs of every person who has ever sinned – and who now wants to be saved. And, there is an abundance of passages in the New Testament designed to instruct us about what faith is, and how faith behaves.

Please read James 2:14-26.

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Before we explore the details of this text – I think it will help to deal with three fundamental questions:


Faith is confidence or trust we place in another.

In the case of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ – faith means we are convinced that there is a God; we are persuaded that He knows best, and in regard to Jesus – we believe He is who He claims to be, He has the power to save us — and everything He said about everything is the truth!

When I consider examples of faith in the Old Testament – as reflected in Hebrews eleven; when I read what Jesus said about faith, then study the book of Acts, I’m persuaded: Faith means we are convinced that there is a God; we are persuaded that He knows best, and in regard to Jesus – we believe He is who He claims to be, He has the power to save us – and everything He said about everything is the truth! Our next question is –


And the answer can be found in Heb. 11:1 — Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1, NKJV). Faith stands under – that is, faith is THE SUB-STANCE of those things we hope for – that’s what faith does. And faith convinces us or affords the evidence of things not seen. The third question is:


Faith in God and faith in Christ produces a manner of life that is in harmony with the will of God and Christ. So faith — from beginning to end — is active; it produces a particular manner of life, develops and nurtures our character and gives us an anxious and favorable attitude toward every command and requirement of God.

And that’s really what James wants to say to us. He wants to be sure Christians understand that the faith that saves is an active, obedient faith! This faith – the faith that saves – disposes us in a friendly and favorable way toward everything God has said. Faith always discovers its’ existence in obedience.

Earlier, James warned about the man who thinks he is religious, but he does not bridle his tongue. Likewise – he warned about the person who is a hearer of the word, but not a doer. Now – he just comes out and deals with this matter in the plainest possible way.

This is about THE DAILY PRACTICE of being A Christian — if I have FAITH … faith in God, faith in Christ – I WILL LIVE A CERTAIN WAY…

  • I will be a doer.
  • I will bridle my tongue.
  • I will not show favoritism.

I will so speak and so do – as one who will be judged by the perfect law of liberty. Through the book of James there is this emphasis on the activity, the conduct, the behavior of those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s explore the passage, and see what James has to say about FAITH ONLY.

He tells us eight things about FAITH ONLY:

  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, is not profitable (illustrated, 15-16). Certainly this tells us something about compassion; about generosity or charity; just telling somebody to be OK, but not giving them the help we are able to give — that betrays a lack of compassion. That’s nothing but empty symbolism. It doesn’t help me, and it certainly does no real good for the person who is suffering – when I just walk by and say, “be ye warmed and filled.” But that also illustrates FAITH WITHOUT WORKS: if I say I have faith, but there is no expression of it, IT DOES NOT PROFIT. It is nothing but religious symbolism or lip service – to say we have faith, when there is no expression of it in our behavior. Jesus taught this, in Matt. 7:21-23; listen to what He said …

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Jesus and James agreed that faith, even when confessed and claimed – faith without works does not profit.

  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, does not save (Verse 14). “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” The obvious and implied answer to this is – faith without works does not save. Does the Bible say anything about “faith only?” It does. It says faith only DOES NOT SAVE … any questions? Now, you may pick up a religious tract or magazine and over and over it is affirmed that we are saved by FAITH ONLY. You may turn on your television and watch and hear a preacher say this. What is your impression when you compare what these men preach to James 2:14? My conclusion is – they are wrong, and James is right — faith only does not save.
  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, is dead (verses. 17,20,26). Verse 17 – “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Verse 20 – “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Verse 26 – “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” You want to ask James, how many times do you need to say this? Three times in one paragraph James tells us that faith without works … faith only is dead! Here is something that is written into denominational creeds – this is the mantra of the modern evangelical church; you hear this on religious radio programs all the time – WE ARE SAVED BY FAITH ONLY. James says – faith only is dead! Can you think of any way the Holy Spirit could have worded this – to make it plainer??
  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, cannot be proved (v.18). “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Jas. 2:18, NKJV).The meaning of this verse seems plain. Faith is SHOWN; faith is EXPRESSED OR MADE REAL by action. FAITH ALWAYS DISCOVERS ITS EXISTENCE IN OBEDIENCE. Faith is shown by works.
  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, is no more than the faith that the demons have (v.19). “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble!” I have had occasion to talk to people about religion – about God and their duty – and often in such discussions – somebody will say: “Well, I believe in God!” And the implication is, that’s really all that’s necessary. I have not obeyed the gospel; no repentance – I don’t go do anything; my life is pretty well lived as I see fit … I have my vices …. BUT, I believe in God. James says – so do the demons!
  • A Faith that does not result in obedience, did not justify Abraham (21,22). All through the life of Abraham it is apparent, he heard, believed and obeyed God. He made mistakes, without any doubt. His mistakes are openly documented on the pages of Genesis. But the general tendency and direction of his heart and life was to believe and obey God. Here in Jas. 2:21,22 James makes reference to a particular event: when Abraham “offered Isaac his son,” and this takes us back to Genesis 22. Read that chapter and notice The verbs … the words indicating ACTION.

So Abraham becomes the classic example of faith that produces works.

At this point in this discussion someone might want to ask about Romans chapter four. All right, read Rom. 4:19-21, pay attention to how Paul describes the faith of Abraham – and ask yourself this: IS PAUL DESCRIBING A DISOBEDIENT MAN? He was “not weak in faith … he did not waver … he was strengthened in faith and was fully persuaded.”

Is this a description of a man with dead faith?

  • Faith without works is imperfect (22). Verse 22 – “Do you see that faith was working together with this works, and BY WORKS FAITH WAS MADE PERFECT?” All right – if by works, faith is made perfect … when there are no works, the faith is imperfect.
  • It is not accounted as righteousness (23). Verse 23  – And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.”

Abraham was considered righteous, and was called the friend of God by what kind of faith?

In verses 24-26 James states his conclusions about faith only.  “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” (24). Verse 25 – – “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” James does not approve of being a harlot, and he doesn’t comment on her methods … he gives her as an example of believing something, and then acting on that belief. This is an illustration of faith that responds, not a model of behavior in every respect. Verse 26 – “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Finally I want to say, what James teaches in chapter two, not only agrees perfectly with Paul in Romans 4 — but also, with Simon Peter in Acts ten, who said …

“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:34,35, NKJV).

The harlot in your bosom!

Taken and adapted from, “The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil”
Written by  Thomas Watson

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” –Hebrews 12:1

There is usually one sin that is the favorite…

…It is the sin which the heart is most fond of. A godly man will not indulge his darling sin: “I kept myself from my iniquity.” (Psalm 18:23). “I will not indulge the sin to which the bias of my heart more naturally inclines.”

“Fight neither with small nor great — but only with the king.” (1 Kings 22:31). A godly man fights this king sin. If we would have peace in our souls, we must maintain a war against our favorite sin, and never leave off until it is subdued.

Question:  How shall we know what our beloved sin is?

Answer 1.  The sin which a man does not love to have reproved…

…That is the darling sin. Herod could not endure having his incest spoken against. If the prophet meddles with that sin — it shall cost him his head! “Do not touch my Herodias!” Men can be content to have other sins reproved — but if the minister puts his finger on the sore, and touches this sin — their hearts begin to burn in malice against him!

Answer 2. The sin on which the thoughts run most…

…That is the darling sin. Whichever way the thoughts go, the heart goes. He who is in love with a person cannot keep his thoughts off that person. Examine what sin runs most in your mind, what sin is first in your thoughts and greets you in the morning — that is your predominant sin.

Answer 3. The sin which has most power over us, and most easily leads us captive…

…That is the one beloved by the soul. There are some sins which a man can better resist. If they come for entertainment, he can more easily put them off. But the bosom sin comes as a suitor, and he cannot deny it — but is overcome by it. The young man in the Gospel had repulsed many sins — but there was one sin which soiled him, and that was covetousness.

Mark what sin you are most readily led captive by…

That is the harlot in your bosom! It is a sad thing that a man should be so bewitched by lust, that if it asks him to part with the Kingdom of Heaven — he must part with it, to gratify that lust!

Answer 4. The sin which men most defend…

…That is the beloved sin. He who has a jewel in his bosom, will defend it to his death. The sin we advocate and dispute for, is the besetting sin. The sin which we plead for, and perhaps wrest Scripture to justify it — that is the sin which lies nearest the heart.

Answer 5. The sin which a man finds most difficulty in giving up…

…That is the endeared sin. Of all his sons, Jacob found most difficulty in parting with Benjamin. So the sinner says, “This and that sin I have parted with — but must Benjamin go! Must I part with this delightful sin? That pierces my heart!” A man may allow some of his sins to be demolished — but when it comes to one sin — that is the taking of the castle; he will never agree to part with that! That is the master sin for sure.

The besetting sin is, of all others, most dangerous. As Samson’s strength lay in his hair — so the strength of sin lies in this beloved sin. This is like a poison striking the heart, which brings death.

A godly man will lay the axe of repentance to this sin and hew it down! He will sacrifice this Isaac; he will pluck out this right eye — so that he may see better to go to Heaven.

For those who are strangers to closet prayer

Taken and adapted from, “The Privy Key to Heaven”
Written by Thomas Brooks


Is it so that closet prayer or private prayer is such an indispensable duty, that Christ himself has laid upon all who are not willing to do so, to lie under the woeful brand of being hypocrites? Then this doctrine condemns five sorts of people.

(1.) First, It looks sourly and sadly upon all those who put off secret prayer, private prayer, until they are moved to it by the Spirit; for by this sad delusion many have been kept from secret prayer many weeks, many months; oh that I might not say, many years! Though it be a very at season to pray when the Spirit moves us to pray—yet it is not the only season to pray, Isaiah 62:1; Psalm 123:1-2; Galatians 4:6. He who makes piety his business, will pray as daily for daily grace as he does pray daily for daily bread: Luke 18:1, “And he spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Romans 12:12, “Persistent in prayer.” The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs, which never give up the chase until they have got their prey. A Christian must not only pray—but hold on in prayer, until he has got the heavenly prize.

We are always needing; and therefore we had need be praying always.

The world is always alluring; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. Satan is always a-tempting; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are always a-sinning; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are in dangers always; and therefore we had need be praying always. We are dying always, 1 Corinthians 15:31; and therefore we had need be praying always. Man’s whole life is but a lingering death; man no sooner begins to live—but he begins to die. When one was asked why he prayed six times a day, he only gave this answer, “I must die, I must die, I must die.” Dying Christians had need be praying Christians, and those who are always a-dying had need be always a-praying. Certainly prayerless families are graceless families, and prayerless people are graceless people, Jeremiah 10:25. It were better ten thousand times that we had never been born into the world, than that we should go stillborn out of the world. But,

(2.) Secondly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who pray not at all, neither in their families nor in their closets. Among all God’s children, there is not one possessed with a dumb devil. Prayerless people are forsaken of God, blinded by Satan, hardened in sin, and every breath they draw liable to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments. Prayer is that part of natural worship due to God, which none will deny but stark atheists, Psalm 14:1.

It is observable that among the worst of men, Turks, and the worst of Turks, the Moors, it is usual with them to pray six times a day.

(1.) Before the daybreak they pray for day.

(2.) When it is day, they give thanks for day.

(3.) At noon, they thank God for half the day past.

(4.) After that, they pray for a good sunset.

(5.) And after that, they thank God for the day past.

And then, sixthly and lastly, they pray for a good night after their day.

Certainly these very Moors will one day rise in judgment against them who cast off prayer, who live in a total neglect of prayer, who allow so many suns and moons to rise and set upon their heads without any solemn calling upon God. I have read of a man who, being sick, and afraid of death, fell to his prayers; and, to move God to hear him, told him “that he was no common beggar, and that he had never troubled him with his prayers before; and if he would but hear him at that time, he would never trouble him again.” This world is full of such profane, blasphemous, atheistical wretches. But,

(3.) Thirdly, This truth looks very sourly and sadly upon such who are all for public prayer—but never regard private prayer; who are all for going up to the temple—but never care for going into their closets. This is most palpable hypocrisy, for a man to be very zealous for public prayer—but very cold and careless as to private prayer. He who pretends conscience in the one, and makes no conscience of the other, is a hypocrite indeed, Matthew 23:5, and Matthew 6:1-2,5. And the devil knows well enough how to make his markets of all such hypocrites that are all for the prayers of the church—but total Gallios as to private prayer, Acts 18:17. Such as perform all their private devotion in the church—but not in the chamber, do put too great a slight upon the authority of Christ, who says, “When you pray, enter into your chamber.” He does not say, “When you pray, go to the church,” but, “When you pray, go into your chamber.” But,

(4.) Fourthly, This truth looks sadly and sourly upon such who in their closets pray with a loud clamorous voice. A Christian should shut both the door of his closet and the door of his lips so close, that none should hear without what he says within. “Enter into your closet,” says Christ, “and when you have shut your door, pray.” But what need a man shut his closet door, if he may prays with a clamorous voice, if he makes such a noise as all in the street or all in the house may hear him? The hen, when she lays her eggs, gets into a hole, a corner; but then she makes such a noise with her cackling, that she tells all in the house where she is, and about what she is. Such Christians who in their closets do imitate the hen, do rather pray to be seen, heard, and observed by men, than out of any noble design to glorify God, or to pour out their souls before him who sees in secret.

Sometimes children, when they are vexed, or afraid of the rod, will run behind the door, or get into a dark hole, and there they will lie crying, and sighing, and sobbing, that all the house may know where they are. Oh it is a childish thing so to cry, and sigh, and sob in our closets, as to tell all in the house where we are, and about what work we are. Well! Christians, for an effectual redress of this evil, frequently and seriously consider of these five things.

[1.] First, That God sees in secret.

[2.] Secondly, That God has a quick ear, and is taken more with the voice of the heart, than he is with the clamor of the mouth. God can easily hear the most secret breathings of your soul. God is more curious in observing the messages delivered by the heart, than he is those who are only delivered by the mouth. He who prays aloud in private, seems to tell others, that God does not understand the secret desires, and thoughts, and workings of his people’s hearts.

[3.] Thirdly, It is not fit, it is not convenient nor expedient, that any should be acquainted with our secret prayers—but God and our own souls. Now it is as much our duty to look to what is expedient, as it is to look to what is lawful, 2 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me—but all things are not expedient.” So 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me—but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me—but all things edify not.” Now it is so far from being expedient, that it is very high folly for men to lay open their secret infirmities unto others, that will rather deride them, than lift up a prayer for them.

[4.] Fourthly, Loud prayers may be a hindrance and disturbance to others, who may be busied near us.

[5.] Fifthly and lastly, Hannah prayed and yet spoke never a word. Her heart was full—but her voice was not heard, 1 Samuel 1:11. Moses prays and cries, and yet lets fall never a word: Exodus 14:15, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Why do you cry unto me?” Moses did not cry with any audible voice—but with inward sighs, and secret breathings, and wrestlings of soul; and these inward and secret cries, which made no noise, carried the day with God; for Moses is heard and answered, and his people are delivered. Oh the prevalence of those prayers which make no noise in the ears of others!

[6.] Sixth and lastly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who do all they can to hinder and discourage others from this duty of duties, private prayer; and that either by deriding or vilifying of the duty, or else by denying of it to be a duty, or else by their daily neglect of this duty, or else by denying those who are under them, time and opportunity for the discharge of this duty. In Matthew 23:13, you have a woe pronounced against those who will neither go to heaven themselves, nor allow others to go, who are willing to enter into an everlasting rest. And so I say—Woe to those parents, and woe to those husbands, and woe to those masters and mistresses—who will neither pray in their closets themselves, nor allow their children, nor their wives, nor their servants, to pour out their souls before the Lord in a corner.

O sirs! how will you answer this to your consciences, when you shall lie upon a dying bed! And how will you answer it to the Judge of all the world, when you shall stand before a judgment seat? Certainly all their sins, and all their neglects, and all their spiritual losses, that might have been prevented by their secret prayers, by their closet communion with God—will one day be charged upon your account! And oh that you were all so wise as to lay these things so to heart, that you may never hinder any who are under your care or charge, from private prayer anymore

The Sovereignty of God and the Spiritual Birthrights of Jacob and Esau

Taken and adapted from, “THE HEROES OF FAITH”
Written by, A.W. Pink


By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning the future. 
–Hebrews 11:20

Though Isaac lived the longest of the four great patriarchs, yet less is recorded about him than any of the others…

…some twelve chapters are devoted to the biography of Abraham, and a similar number each to Jacob and Joseph, but excepting for one or two brief mentionings before and after, the history of Isaac is condensed into two chapters, Genesis 26 and 27. Contrasting his character with those of his father and of his son, we may assume that there is noted less of Abraham’s triumphs of faith, and less of Jacob’s failures. Taking it on the whole, the life of Isaac is a disappointing one: it begins brightly, but ends amid the shadows-like that of so many, it failed to fulfill its early promise.

The one act in Isaac’s life which the Holy Spirit selected for mention in the Scroll of Faith takes us back to Genesis 27, where, as the Puritan, John Owen well said, “There is none (other story) in the Scripture filled with more intricacies and difficulties as unto a right judgment of the things related, though the matter of fact be clearly and distinctly set down. The whole represents unto us Divine sovereignty, wisdom and faithfulness, working effectually through the frailties, infirmities and sins of all the persons concerned in the matter.”

Genesis 27 opens by presenting unto us Isaac in his old age, and declares that “his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (v. 1). It ought not to need saying that we have there something more than a mere reference to the state of his physical eyes, yet in these days when so many glory in their understanding the Word “literally,” God’s servants need to dwell upon the most elementary spiritual truths. Everything in Holy Writ has a deeper significance than the “literal,” and we are greatly the losers when we limit ourselves to the “letter” of any verse. Let us contrast this statement concerning Isaac’s defective vision with what is recorded of another servant of God at the same advanced age: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim” (Deut. 34:7). 

Genesis 27 shows us the low state into which a child of God may get. Isaac presents unto us a solemn warning of the evil consequences which follow failure to judge and refuse our natural appetites. If we do not mortify our members which are upon the earth, if we do not abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul, then the fine edge of our spiritual life will be blunted, and the fine gold will become dim. If we live to eat, instead of eating to live, our spiritual vision is bound to be defective. Discernment is a by-product, the fruit and result of the denying of self, and following of Christ (John 8:12). It was this self-abnegation which was so conspicuous in Moses: he learned to refuse that which appealed to the flesh-a position of honor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; that is why his “eye was not dim.” He saw that the brickmaking Hebrews were the people of God, the objects of His sovereign favor, and following his spiritual promptings, threw in his lot with them.

How different was the case with poor Isaac! Instead of keeping his body in subjection, he indulged it. More than a hint of this is given in Genesis 25:28, “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison”: this brought him under the influence of one who could be of no help to him spiritually, and he loved him because he ministered unto his fleshly appetites. And now in Genesis 27, when he thought that the end of his days was near, and he desired to bestow the patriarchal blessing upon his son, instead of giving himself to fasting and prayer, and then acting in accord with the revealed will of God, we are told that he called for Esau, and said, “Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die” (Gen. 27:3, 4). This is what furnishes the key to the immediate sequel.

“And the LORD said unto her (viz., Rebekah), Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). This is the Scripture which supplies the second key to the whole incident recorded in Genesis 27 and opens for us Hebrews 11:20. Here we find God making known the destiny of Jacob and Esau: observe that this revelation was made unto the mother (who had “inquired of the Lord”: Gen. 25:22), and not to their father. That, later on, Isaac himself became acquainted with its terms, is clear, but as to how far he really apprehended their meaning, is not easy to say. 

The word that the Lord had spoken unto her, Rebekah believed; yet she failed to exercise full confidence in Him. When she saw Isaac’s marked partiality for Esau, and learned that her husband was about to perform the last religious act of a patriarchal priest and pronounce blessing on his sons, she became fearful. When she heard Isaac bid Esau make him some “savory meat”-evidently desiring to enkindle or intensify his affections for Esau, so that he might bless him with all his heart-she imagined that the purpose of God was about to be thwarted, and resorted unto measures which ill become a daughter of Jehovah, and which can by no means be justified. We will not dwell upon the deception which she prompted Jacob to adopt, but would point out that it supplies a solemn example of real faith being resolutely fixed on the Divine promises, but employing irregular ways and wrong means for the obtaining of them. 

In what follows we see how Isaac was deceived by Jacob posing as Esau. Though uneasy and suspicious at first, his fears were largely allayed by Jacob’s lies: though perceiving the voice was that of the younger son, yet his hands appeared to be those of the elder. Pathetic indeed is it to see the aged patriarch reduced unto the sense of touch in his efforts to identify the one who had now brought him the longed-for venison. It is this which should speak loudly to our hearts: he who yields to the lusts of the flesh injures his spiritual instincts, and opens wide the door for the Devil to impose upon him and deceive him with his lies! He who allows natural sentiments and affections to override the requirements of God’s revealed will is reduced to a humiliated state in the end. How often it proves that a man’s spiritual foes are they of his own household! Isaac loved Esau unwisely. 

But now we must face a difficult question: Did Isaac deliberately pit himself against the known counsel of God? Did he defiantly purpose to bestow upon Esau what he was assured the Lord had appointed for Jacob? “Whatever may be spoken in excuse of Isaac, it is certain he failed greatly in two things: First, in his inordinate love to Esau (whom he could not but know to be a profane person), and that on so slight an account as eating of his venison: Genesis 25:28. Second, in that he had not sufficiently enquired into the mind of God, in the oracle that his wife received concerning their sons. There is no question on the one hand, but that he knew of it; nor on the other, that he did not understand it. For if the holy man had known that it was the determinate will of God, he would not have contradicted it. But this arose from want of diligent enquiry by prayer into the mind of God” (John Owen).

We heartily agree with these remarks of the eminent Puritan. While the conduct of Isaac on this occasion was far from becoming a child of God who concluded his earthly pilgrimage was now nearly complete, yet charity forbids us to put the worst possible construction upon his action. While his affection for Esau was misplaced, yet, in the absence of any clear Scriptural proof, we are not warranted in thinking that he sinned presumptuously, by deliberately resisting the revealed will of God; rather must we conclude that he had no clear understanding of the Divine oracle given to Rebekah his spiritual discernment was dim, as well as his physical vision! As to the unworthy part played by Rebekah and Jacob, their efforts are to be regarded not so much as the feverish energies of the flesh, seeking to force the fulfillment of God’s promise, but as well-meant but misguided intentions to prevent the thwarting of God’s purpose. Their fears remind us of Uzzah’s in 2 Samuel 6:6. 

The one bright spot in the somber picture which the Holy Spirit has so faithfully painted for us in Genesis 27 is found in verse 33. Right after Isaac had pronounced the major blessing on Jacob, Esau entered the tent, bringing with him the savory meat which he had prepared for his father. Isaac now realized the deception which had been played upon him, and we are told that he “trembled very exceedingly.” Was he shaking with rage at Jacob’s treachery? No indeed. Was he, as one commentator has suggested, fearful that he might suffer injury at the hands of the hot-headed Esau? No, his next words explode such a theory. Rather, it was now that he realized he had been out of harmony with the Divine will, and that God had providentially intervened to effect His own counsels. He was awed to the very depths of his soul.

Blessed indeed is it to behold how the spirit triumphed over the flesh. Instead of bursting out with an angry curse upon the head of Jacob, Isaac said, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed.” That was the language of faith overcoming his natural partiality for Esau. It was the recognizing and acknowledging of the immutability and invincibility of the Divine decrees. He realized that God is in one mind, and none can turn Him: that though there are many devices in a man’s heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand (Prov. 19:21). Nor could the tears of Esau move the patriarch. Now that the entrance of God’s words had given him light, now that the overruling hand of God had secured His own appointment, Isaac was firm as a rock. The righteous may fall, but they cannot be utterly cast down. 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). Jacob, the younger, had the precedence and principal blessing. Strikingly did this exemplify the high sovereignty of God. To take the younger, and leave the elder to perish in their ways, is a course the Lord has often followed, from the beginning of the world. Abel, the junior, was preferred before Cain. Shem was given the precedence over Japheth the elder (Gen. 10:21). Afterwards, Abraham, the younger, was taken to be God’s favourite. Of Abraham’s two sons, the older one, Ishmael, was passed by, and in Isaac was the Seed called. Later, David, who was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, was selected to be the man after God’s own heart. And God still writes, as with a sunbeam in the course of His providence, that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

The “blessing” which Isaac pronounced upon Jacob was vastly superior to the portion allotted Esau, though if we look no deeper than the letter of the words which their father used, there appears to be very little difference between them. Unto Jacob Isaac said, “God give thee of the dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine” (Gen. 27:28); what follows in verse 29 chiefly concerned his posterity. Unto Esau Isaac said, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of Heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother” (Gen. 27:39, 40). Apart from the younger son having the pre-eminence over the elder, wherein lay the peculiar excellence of his portion? If there had been nothing spiritual in the promise, it would have been no comfort to Jacob at all, for the temporal things mentioned were not his portion: as he acknowledged to Pharaoh, “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9).

What has just been before us supplies a notable example of how the Old Testament promises and prophecies are to be interpreted; not carnally, but mystically. That Jacob’s portion far excelled Esau’s, is clear from Hebrews 12:17, where it is denominated, “the blessing.” What that is was made clearer when Isaac repeated his benediction upon Jacob, saying, “And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed” (Gen. 28:4). Here is the key which we need to unlock its meaning; as Galatians 3:9, 14, 29 clearly enough show, the “blessing of Abraham” (into which elect Gentiles enter, through Christ) is purely a spiritual thing. Further proof that the same spiritual blessing which God promised to Abraham was also made over by Isaac to Jacob, is found in his words, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed” (Gen. 27:33), for Jehovah had employed the same language when blessing the father of all believers: “in blessing I will bless thee” (Gen. 22:17). To this may be added Isaac’s “Cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27:29), being part of the very words God used to Abraham, see Genesis 12:2, 3.

Now in seeking to rightly understand the language of Isaac’s prophecy, it must be recognized that (oftentimes) in the Old Testament heavenly things were referred to in earthly terms, that spiritual blessings were set forth under the figure of material things. Due attention to this fact will render luminous many a passage. Such is the case here: under the emblems of the “dew of Heaven and the fatness of the earth,” three great spiritual blessings were intended. First, that he was to have a real relation to Christ, that he should be one of the progenitors of the Messiah-this was the chief favor and dignity bestowed upon “Abraham.” It is in the light of this that we are to understand Genesis 27:29 as ultimately referring: “let the people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee,” that is, to the top branch which should proceed from him-unto Christ, unto whom all men are commanded to render allegiance (Psa. 2:10-12).

Second, the next great blessing of “Abraham” was that he should be the priest that should continue the worship of God and teach the laws of God (Gen. 26:5). The bowing down of his brethren to Jacob (Gen. 27:29), was the owning of his priestly dignity. Herein also lay Jacob’s blessing: to be in the church, and to have the church continued in his line. This was symbolically pointed to in “that thou mayest inherit the land” (Gen. 28:4). “The church is the ark of Noah, which is only preserved in the midst of floods and deep waters. The church is the land of Goshen, which only enjoys the benefits of light, when there is nothing but darkness round about elsewhere. It is the fleece of Gideon, being wet with the dews of Heaven, moistened with the influences of grace, when all the ground round about is dry” (Thomas Manton). As to how high is the honour of having the church continued in our line, the Spirit intimates in Genesis 10:21 -Eber being the father of the Hebrews, who worshipped God.

Third, another privilege of Jacob above Esau was this, that he was taken into covenant with God: “the blessing of Abraham shall come upon thee.” And what was that? This, “And I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). This is the greatest happiness of any people, to have God for their God-to be in covenant with Him. Thus when Noah came to pronounce blessings and curses on his children, by the spirit of prophecy, he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem” (Gen. 9:26). Afterward the same promise was made unto all Israel: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exo. 20:2). So under the new covenant (the present administration of the Everlasting Covenant), he says, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people” (Heb. 8:10). To be a “God” to any, is to supply them with all good things, necessary for temporal or spiritual life.

The fulfillment of Isaac’s prophetic blessing upon his sons was mainly in their descendants, rather than in their own persons: Jacob’s spiritual children, Esau’s natural. Concerning the latter, we would note two details. First, Isaac said to him, “thou shalt serve thy brother”; second, “and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Gen. 27:40). For long centuries there seemed no likelihood of the first part of this prediction being fulfilled, but eight hundred years later, David said, “over Edom will I cast out my shoe” (Psa. 60:8), which meant he would bring the haughty descendants of Esau into a low and base state of subjection to him; which was duly accomplished -“all they of Edom became David’s servants” (2 Sam. 8:14)! Though their subjugation continued for a lengthy period of time, yet, in the days of Jehoshaphat, we read, “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves” (2 Kings 8:20)! 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). This “blessing” was more than a dying father expressing good-will unto his sons: it was extraordinary: Isaac spoke as a prophet of God, announcing the future of his posterity, and the varied portions each should receive. As the mouthpiece of Jehovah, he did, by the spirit of prophecy, announce beforehand what should be the particular estate of each of his two sons; and so his words have been fulfilled. Though parents today are not thus supernaturally endowed to foretell the future of their children, nevertheless, it is their duty and privilege to search the Scriptures and ascertain what promises God has left to the righteous and to their
seed, and plead them before Him. 

But seeing Isaac thus spake by the immediate impulse of the Spirit, how can it be said that “by faith” he blessed his sons? This brings in the human side, and shows how he discharged his responsibility. He gathered together and rested upon the promises which God had made to him, both directly, and through Abraham and Rebekah. The principle ones we have already considered. He had been present when the Lord said unto his father what is found in Genesis 22:16-18, and he had himself been made the recipient of the Divine promises recorded in Genesis 26:2-4. And now, many years later, we find his heart resting upon what he had heard from God, firmly embracing His promises, and with unshaken confidence announcing the future estates of his distant posterity. 

That Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau “concerning things to come,” gives us a striking example of what is said in the opening verse of Hebrews 11. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Abraham was now dead, and Isaac was expecting soon to be buried in the grave he had purchased in the Land given to him and his seed. There was nothing to be seen for faith to rest on; nothing that gave the smallest ground for hope; nothing to make it even probable (apart from what he had heard and believed) that his descendants, either Jacob or Esau, would ever possess the land which had been promised to them” (E.W.B.). There was no human probability at the time Isaac spake which could have been the basis of his calculations: all that he said issued from implicit faith in the bare Word of God.

This is the great practical lesson for us to learn here: the strength of Isaac’s faith should stir us up to cry unto God for an increased measure thereof. With most precious confidence Isaac disposed of Canaan as if he already had the peaceable possession of it. Yet, in fact, he owned not an acre of that Land, and had no human right to anything there save a burying place. Moreover, at the time he prophesied there was a famine in Canaan, and he was in exile in Gerah, “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee” (Gen. 27:29), would, to one that viewed only the outward case of Isaac, seem like empty words. Ah, my brethren, we too ought to be as certain of the blessings to come, which God has promised, as if they were present, even though we see no apparent likelihood of them.

It may be objected against what has been said above, that, from the account which is supplied in Genesis 27, Isaac “blessed” Jacob in ignorance rather than “by faith.” To this it may be replied, first, the object of faith is always God Himself, and the ground on which it rests is His revealed will. So in Isaac’s case, his faith was fixed upon the covenant God and was exercised upon His sure Word, and this was by no means negated by his mistaking Jacob for Esau. Second, it illustrates the fact that the faith of God’s people is usually accompanied by some infirmity: in Isaac’s case, his partiality for Esau. Third, after he discovered the deception which had been played upon him, he made no effort to recall the blessing pronounced upon the disguised Jacob-sweetly acquiescing unto the Divine Sovereignty-but confirming it; and though with tears Esau sought to change his mind, he could not. 

Here too we behold the strength of Isaac’s faith: as soon as he perceived the providential hand of God crossing his natural affection, instead of murmuring and rebelling, he yielded and submitted to the Lord. This is ever the work of true faith: it makes the soul yield to God’s will against our fleshly inclinations, as also against the bent of our own reason. Faith knows that God is so great, so powerful, so glorious, that His commands must be obeyed. As it was with Abraham, so in the case of Isaac: faith viewed the precepts as well as the promise; it moves us to tread the path of obedience. May our faith be more and more evidenced by walking in those good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

Characteristics of the Virgins in Matthew 25, and how to tell if you have Divine Oil in your Vessel.

Thoughts were taken and adapted from, Terence Ellard, and A.W. Pink

If I may call our attention to the comparisons and contrasts between the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25. They have seven things in common.

First, all the virgins were in “the kingdom of heaven”: by which we understand, the sphere of Christian profession.
Second, they were all of them “virgins”: not five virgins and five harlots: by which we understand, they all claimed to belong unto Christ.
Third, they all “went forth to meet the Bridegroom”: they were one in purpose, having a single end in view.
Fourth, they all had “lamps,” the same sort of lamps.
Fifth, they all “slumbered and slept.”
Sixth, they all heard the cry “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.”
Seventh, they all “arose and trimmed their lamps.”

There are six points of difference between them.

First, five of them were “wise” and five of them were “foolish.”
Second, the wise “took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (v. 4), but the foolish ones did not do so.
Third, at the crucial moment the foolish virgins had to acknowledge “our lamps are (slowly but surely) gone out” (v. 8 margin).
Fourth, the foolish virgins “went to buy” oil (v. 10), the wise ones had no need to do so.
Fifth, the wise were shut in with the Bridegroom, but the foolish were shut out (v. 10.)
Sixth, the foolish virgins were disowned by the Lord (vv. 11, 12).
Let us think about this for a second. “There is a certain class today who differ not from the children of God as to their testimony: its purity, its orthodoxy, its sincerity. These are not Spiritists, Russellites, or the daughters of the Mother of Harlots, but ‘virgins’ doctrinally they are pure. They are pictured as going forth ‘to meet the Bridegroom,’ not one to the ‘desert’ and another to the ‘secret chambers’ (Matt. 24:26), seeking a false Christ. The Object of their service was the same Person which the wise virgins were occupied with.
The vital point in their ‘foolishness’ was not that they ‘slumbered and slept’ but that they had no oil in their VESSELS. Theirs was oil in their ‘lamps’ the testimony or doctrine but none in their vessels or souls.”
The above deeply impresses us with the great importance of making sure individually whether there be oil in my vessel: the “vessel” is the soul, the “oil” is Divine grace in it. Whatever may be the precise signification of “behold the Bridegroom cometh” whether it refer to the hour of death, the “premillennial return of Christ,” or the Day of Judgment, one thing is clear: it points to the crucial testing time.
As it has been pointed out: Balaam had oil in his “lamp,” as also had Judas when Christ sent him forth with the other Apostles to “preach” (Matt. 10:5-7), yet their hearts were destitute of the saving grace of God! What a terrible discovery for the foolish virgins to make: “our lamps are gone out” a discovery made too late to do them any good.
This parable of the “virgins” is indeed a searching and solemn one. It has deeply exercised many a sincere soul. It has caused not a few genuine saints to wonder if, after all, the “root of the matter” were in them. It has given real point to that exhortation “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5).
On the other hand, vast numbers of professing Christians are quite unmoved by its pointed message, complacently assuming that they are numbered among the “wise” virgins, and taking no trouble to seek proof that the oil is in their vessels. Strangest of all, perhaps, some of the Lord’s own people scarcely know how to set about the task of ascertaining their state, and are so suspicious of themselves they readily conclude that their vessels are devoid of the vital oil.
The key passage for the significance of this Scriptural figure is, “Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psalms 45:7), where the reference is to the Mediator, for God “giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34); in consequence thereof, He is “fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips” (Psalms 45:2). The holy “oil” was first poured upon the antitypical Aaron, and then it runs down to all the “skirts of His garments” (Psalms 133:2), that is, to the meanest and feeblest Christians. Just as the little finger or toe is animated by the same life and vitality as actuates the head and heart of a person, so every Christian is vitalized by the same Spirit as was given to Christ, the Head. As the Spirit sanctified the human nature of Christ by fitting and enriching it with all grace, so His grace is communicated to all His members.
The “oil,” then, in the vessels of the wise virgins refers to the life of the Spirit in the soul of a Christian. It is the presence of Divine grace in the heart in contrast from knowledge in the head or correctness of outward deportment which distinguishes the actual possessor from the empty professor. How important then is it that we spare no efforts to ascertain whether or not that Divine grace resides in us! Yet at this very point Christians encounter a real difficulty: as they honestly and diligently look within they perceive such a sea of corruption, ever casting up mire and dirt, they are greatly distressed, and ready to conclude that Divine grace surely cannot be present in such hearts as theirs.
But this is a serious mistake; as genuine oil is distinguishable from counterfeits by its properties, so grace in the soul may be known by its characteristics and effects. But the exercised soul should begin his search for indwelling grace with it definitely settled in his mind, that, in every heart where grace resides there is also an ocean of sin; and just as oil and water will not mix, but continue to preserve their distinct properties even when placed together in the same vessel, so the flesh and spirit will not combine in the Christian, but remain in opposition to each other unto the end.
Admitting, then, a sea of depravity within, my object is to find out if there be any “oil” at all which the surgings of sin are unable to destroy. When I see smoke, I must infer fire (however flickering), and if I can discern in my heart any spiritual grace (however feeble) I must infer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Be not unduly discouraged, then, dear Christian friend, because you discover so much filthy water in your “vessel” (the editor does the same), but rather confine your attention unto searching for the “oil” within you, and remember that the presence of the same is to be determined by its properties and effects. Let us name a few of these. First, oil illumines, therefore are the blinded Laodiceans bidden to go to Christ for eye salve (anointing oil) that they may see (Rev. 3:18). Now where Divine grace has been bestowed that soul is enlightened. True, says a serious reader, but the point which exercises me so much is, Is my enlightenment a spiritual and supernatural one, or merely a natural and intellectual one, acquired by the mind being instructed through sitting under sound teaching? Those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4 were “once enlightened,” yet no saving work of grace had been wrought in them!
Some readers may be total strangers to all such distressing experiences, and wonder why any real Christian should call into question the exact character of his or her illumination, troubling themselves not at all whether their enlightenment be natural or supernatural. Poor souls, it is greatly to be feared that a rude awakening is awaiting them from their Satan-induced sleep. But what shall we say to those who are awake and deeply concerned about their eternal interests? How are such to determine the matter?
We answer, test the point. Was there not a time when you “saw no beauty in Christ that you should desire Him?” Is it so with you now? Or has He become in your eyes the “altogether lovely” One? You may be afraid to call Him yours, yet if your heart truly yearns for Him, then you must have been spiritually enlightened the “oil” is in your vessel.
Second, oil softens. Oil was much used by the ancients for medicinal purposes, and we moderns might well take a leaf out of their books. It will melt caked wax in the ear; make tender a calloused bunion. It is very useful for boils: repeated applications softening, then causing to burst, and then healing.
Thus it is in the operation of the Holy Spirit. He finds the elect hard and obdurate by nature, and swollen with pride and self-conceit; but Divine grace softens them, melting their flinty hearts, bursting the boils of self-righteousness, and imparting a contrite spirit. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
When Divine grace has been imparted the heart is supernaturally softened. But right here the sincere soul experiences still greater difficulty, and is ready to exclaim emphatically, Then I must still be in an unregenerate state, for my heart is “as hard as the nether millstone.” Wait a moment, dear friend, and test the matter. What are the marks of a “hard heart” as given in Scripture? Are they not a total absence of a feeling sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, an utter unconcern whether God be pleased or displeased with my conduct, no mourning in secret when Christ has been dishonored by me?
Is that true of you, who are so ready to conclude you are still in a state of nature? If it is not, if sin is your burden and your soul grieves over your lack of conformity to Christ, then your heart must have been spiritually softened the “oil” is in your vessel.
Third, oil heals. Hence we find the great Physician, under the figure of the good Samaritan, having compassion on the assaulted traveler, binding up his wounds and “pouring in oil and wine” (Luke 10:34); and He is still caring thus for His people through the gracious ministry of the Spirit. How often the blessed Comforter applies “the balm of Gilead” to the sin-afflicted people of God. What horrible bruises and putrefying sores do sin and Satan inflict upon the souls of the saints, yet how frequently and tenderly does the Spirit mollify and relieve them. First, He works repentance in the heart, which is a purging grace, carrying away the foul and poisonous love of sin; and then He strengthens hope, which is a comforting grace so that the joy of the Lord once more becomes his strength. Divine grace removes the load of guilt from the conscience, applies the cordial of the promises, and gives the weary pilgrim a lift by the way “set him on His own beast” (Luke 10:34).
Here, then, is another property and effect of Divine grace: it heals the soul. We can well imagine some fearful reader exclaiming, Alas, that cuts off my hope, for there is no soundness in me. Listen, dear friend, no Christian is completely and perfectly healed from the disease of sin in this life, but he is delivered from the most fearful and fatal effects of it; and it is at this point you are to examine yourself. What are the worst things which the Fall has produced in man? Enmity against God, the love of sin, the idolizing of self. Test yourself by these things. Do you still hate God? If so, would you repine because you love Him so feebly! Are you still in love with sin? If so, why do you grieve over its workings! Is self now your idol? If so, why do you, at times, loath yourself! Sin has not been eradicated, but its wounds are being healed the “oil” is in your vessel.
The limited space now at our disposal prevents us doing more than barely mentioning a number of other features. Oil makes the joints flexible and nimble, and therefore was much used by athletes; so grace enables the Christian to “serve in newness of spirit” (Rom. 7:6) and run the race set before him. It is an excellent thing for those who have stiff joints, for it penetrates to the bones (Psalms 109:18). It makes the countenance fresh and comely (Psalms 104:15): what is more attractive to the spiritual eye than a gracious character. It sweetens our persons, so that we are unto God a “sweet savor of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15), whereas the wicked are a “smoke in His nostrils” (Isa. 65:5). It gladdens, and thus we read of “the oil of joy” (Isa. 61:3): the heart is exhilarated when grace is active. It is an aid to digestion; so, only as grace is active within us, can we assimilate our spiritual food.
Oil and water will not intermingle: the old man is not bettered by the new, nor is the new corrupted by the old. Oil cannot be made to sink beneath the water, but always floats on top; so grace in the believer is indestructible, and at the end it will be seen to have fully triumphed over sin. Oil is a super-eminent liquid, for it will not incorporate itself with anything lighter; it will have the highest place above all other liquids. So the graces of the Spirit are of a superior character as far above the gifts of nature as spiritual blessings excel earthly things. Oil quietens troubled waters, giving relief to a ship in a storm: so grace often subdues the turbulent workings of sin. What a blessed promise is that in Psalm 92:10, “But my horn shalt Thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil”: new supplies of grace, blessed revivings are granted God’s tried people. Yes, there is “oil in the dwellings of the wise” virgins (Prov. 21:20.
This short article is not designed for the searching and exposing of empty Christian professors, but for the establishing and comforting of “the living in Jerusalem.” If the latter will prayerfully re-read its paragraphs and honestly measure themselves by their contents, they should be able to “prove” themselves (2 Cor. 13:5). It is not the absence of sin, nor the decreasing of its power within, which evidences regeneration, but the presence of a contrary and holy principle, which is known by its spiritual longings and efforts.