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.

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“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!

God’s Motive in Salvation

Taken and adapted from, “The Gospel in Ezekiel” Chapter 6
Written by, Thomas Guthrie, D.D., Published in 1855

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I do . . . for mine holy name’s sake.
–Ezekiel 36:22

There is a land lying beneath a burning sky, where the fields are seldom screened by a cloud, and almost never refreshed by a shower; and yet Egypt— for it is of it I speak— is as remarkable for the fertile character of its soil as for the hoar antiquity of its history. At least, it was so in days of old, when hungry nations were fed by its harvests, and its fields were the granaries of ancient Rome. Powers so prolific Egypt owed to the Nile— that river whose associations carry us upward to the beginning of all human history— upon whose banks, in the sepulchers of forgotten kings, stand the proudest monuments of human vanity— a river, the very name of which recalls some of the grandest scenes that have been acted on the stage of time.

The Nile is Egypt; in the course of long ages it has deposited her soil, and by an annual overflow it maintains her fertility. The limits of that flood are the limits of life and verdure; and without her Nile—that great artery of vegetable life—she would be another Sahara— a vast expanse of burning and barren sands. Humbled as she now is, let this gift of heaven be improved, as of old, by the skill and industry of her inhabitants, and, vivified by a free and Christian government, Egypt would rise from the sepulchers of her kings, and take a place once more in the van of nations.

The Truth shall prove her resurrection. The Gospel shall restore her to life and prosperity; and the day is coming when that land—rich now only in memories of the past, famous now only for her temples and gods, her pyramids and dusty tombs, for her throne of the Pharaohs, for her sacred stream, for the wonders God wrought of old in the field of Zoan, and, most dear above all to Christian hearts, for the asylum she opened to an infant Savior— shall fulfill a noble destiny. Her day approaches. These prophecies regarding her wait their accomplishment—

“The Lord shall be known in Egypt;” and, “Blessed be Egypt, my people.”

From the earliest ages the source of this famous river was regarded with intense interest. Whence it sprung, and how its annual flood was swelled, were the subjects of eager but ungratified curiosity.

One traveler after another had attempted to reach its cradle, and had failed or fallen in the attempt; and when—forcing his way upwards through many difficulties, and traveling along its banks, from where, by many mouths, it disgorged its waters into the sea, till its ample volume had shrunk into the narrowness of a mountain stream— our hardy countryman at length stood beside the long sought for fountain, he won for himself, by the achievement, an immortal reputation. I can fancy the pride with which, first of travelers, he looked on that mysterious fountain. How sweet its waters tasted! How he enjoyed his triumph, as he sat down by the cradle of a river, which had fed the millions of successive generations, and in days long gone by had saved in famine the race which gave a Redeemer to the world.

Now, what this river, which turns barren sands into the richest soil, is to Egypt, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to the world. It flows through the earth, the “river of the waters of life.” Whether they now bloom in heaven, or are still in the nurseries of earth, every plant of grace owes to the Gospel its existence and renown.

Observe, however, that— although the parent of those harvests which angels shall reap and the heavens receive—no more in the case of the Gospel than of the Nile does the bounty of heaven suspend or supersede human exertions. No; but on earth’s improvement of heaven’s bounty the blessing of both are commonly suspended.

“The hand of the diligent makes rich:” and as it is according to the industry or indolence of the inhabitants, that the Nile flows through barren sands, or waters smiling fields, so is it with the Gospel. It is a blessing only where it is sedulously and prayerfully improved, and when, like the overflowing of the Nile, which are conducted along their channels to irrigate its shores, those living waters, through the use of means, are turned on our hearts and habits. “Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”

Now, if it is interesting to trace a Nile or Amazon to its source, how much more interesting to a Christian to explore the stream of eternal life, and trace it upward till we have reached the fountain. Bruce discovered—or thought he had discovered—the springs of Egypt’s river: he found them away among cloud-capped mountains, at an elevation of many thousand feet above the plains they watered.

Great men have been born in humble circumstances; but all great rivers boast of their lofty descent. It is when the traveler has left smiling valleys far beneath him, and toiling along rugged glens, and, pressing through deep mountain gorges, he at length reaches the chill shores of an icy sea, that he stands at the source of the Alpine river, which, cold as the snows that feed it, and a full grown stream at its birth, rushes out from the caverns of the hollowed glacier.

But with that lofty birthplace it is only a humble image of salvation. How high its source! “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, preceding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The stream of mercy flows from the throne of the Eternal; and here we seem to stand by its mysterious fountain: in contemplating the words of the text, we look upon its spring—”I do this . . . for mine holy name’s sake.”

In now entering on the question, “What moved God to save man?” Let us…

  I.   Attend to the expression, “my name’s sake.”

This is a most comprehensive term. It indicates much more than what, in common language, is involved in a name. No doubt a name may sometimes convey much meaning. -“Adam,” for instance, means “clay;” made of earth, he receives a name that reminds him of his origin. -“Isaac,” again, means “laughter;” and in her son’s name God rebuked Sarah for the merriment with which, when listening with a woman’s curiosity behind the door, she heard of her coming child, and of fruit growing on such an old and withered stock as she was. -“Moses,” again, means “drawn from the water;” and his name reminded him, who was to deliver others, how he himself had been delivered from death. And in the name “Jesus,” our Lord received a name that revealed his office and anticipated his work— the angel said, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Commonly, however, a man’s name gives no idea of his properties, character, history, works, or life, and is nothing more than an appellation which he receives in infancy, and receives—since the flower is still in the bud—before his fortune can be told, or his character even guessed at. “What’s in a name?” Its chief end is just to prevent confusion, and distinguish one person from another.

The name of God, however, as employed by the sacred writers, has many and most important meanings. In the 20th Psalm, for instance, it embraces all the attributes of the Godhead. “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;” that is—if paraphrased—may his arms be around thee; may his wisdom guide thee; may his power support thee; the bounty of God supply thy wants; the mercy of God forgive thy sins; the shield of heaven be over, and all its blessings on thee.

In the days of miracles, again, the name of Jesus carried with it the idea of his authority, and of the efficacy of his power. Uttered by the lips of faith, that name was a word of resistless might. It healed disease, shed light on darkness, and breathed life into cold death; it mastered devils, controlled the powers of hell, and commanded into immediate obedience the rudest elements of nature. Like Pharaoh’s signet on Joseph’s hand, he who used that name in faith, was for the time gifted with his Master’s power; whatever he loosed on earth was loosed in heaven; and whatever he bound on earth, was bound in heaven.

Standing over a cripple— one impotent from his mother’s womb—Peter looked on his deformity, and said, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And, lo! He who had never stood erect till now, bounded from the earth, and, in the joyful play of new-born faculties, walking, leaping, dancing and singing.

He ushered the Apostles into the astonished temple. Powerful, like prayer, or any other means of grace, as was this name when used by faith, yet on the lips of the unbelieving no name more useless; like a residuum from which the spirit had been evaporated, or a body bereft of life, it possessed no virtue or power at all.

There was no charm in the mere name of Jesus, either to pour light on a blind man’s eyeball, or restore vigor to a withered limb. See how Sceva’s seven sons learn that to their cost! Profaning this holy name, and employing it in their arts of witchcraft, they use it to cast out a devil; and— themselves Satan’s servants—they find that “Beelzebub casts not out devils.” “Jesus I know, and Paul I know,” says the Evil One, “but who are ye?” Hell disowns their authority; the Demon defies them; he leaps on them with the fury of a savage beast; and—theirs the fate of the engineer who is hoisted on his own petard—they are driven off, disgraced and wounded, from the field.

Again, in Micah 4:5, where it is said, “We will walk in the name of the Lord,” the expression assumes a new meaning, and indicates the laws, statutes, and commandments of God. Again, in the beautiful and blessed promise, “In all places where I record my name, there will I come unto thee and bless thee,” the expression bears yet another meaning: it stands for God’s ordinances and worship—rearing, as it were, by the hands of faith, a holy temple out of the rudest edifice, and converting into heaven-consecrated churches those rocky fastnesses and lonely moors where our fathers worshiped in the dark days of old.

Contenting ourselves with these illustrations of the various meanings of this expression in Scripture, I now remark, that here the “name” of God comprehends everything, which directly or remotely affects the divine honor and glory; whatever touches, to use the words of our catechism, “His titles, attributes, ordinances, word, or works; or anything whereby God makes himself known.”

II.   We are to understand that the motive which moved God to save man was regard to his own glory.

“Where is boasting then?” we may ask with the Apostle, and leave him to answer, “it is excluded,” If salvation is not of merit, but of mercy—not of earth, but heaven—”not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”—”Not by might nor by power, but my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts,” it is beyond all doubt “excluded.”

– Grace glorifies man, no doubt; but for what purpose? That he may glorify God. – Grace saves man, but saves him that he may sing, not his own praises, but a Savior’s. – Grace exalts man, but exalts him, that, like an exhalation, sun-drawn from the ground, and raised to heaven, each of us may form a sparkling drop in the bow, which encircles the head that God crowns with glory, and man once crowned with thorns. Even our Lord himself, although in a sense the “fellow” of his Father, and reckoning it no robbery to make himself equal with God, kept his eye steadily on that lofty mark. His Father’s, not his own glory, was the burden of Jesus’ prayers and the end of Jesus’ sufferings: born for it in a stable, he bled for it on a cross, and was buried for it in a sepulcher.

When, on the solemn eve of his last and awful sufferings, our champion buckled on his armor for the closing struggle, ere he joined battle with men, with death, and with him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, was not this his prayer— “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee?” Dutiful Son! Pattern to all children of filial piety! Thou didst forget thine own sufferings in a mother’s; and was more concerned for thy Father’s honor than thine own.

This doctrine, that God saves men for his own glory, is a grand and very precious truth; yet there is a way of stating it which seems as offensive as it is unscriptural. Concave mirrors magnify the features nearest to them into undue and monstrous size; and in common mirrors, ill cast and of uneven surface, the most beautiful face is distorted into deformity. And, as if their minds were of such a cast and character, there are some good men who, not exhibiting Bible truth in its proper harmony and proportions, represent Jesus Christ in this matter of salvation as affected by no motive whatever but a regard to his Father’s glory, and even God himself as moved only by respect to his own. Excluding from their view the commiseration and love of God, or reducing these into very shrunk dimensions, they magnify one doctrine at the expense of another, and, indeed, go to sever some of the most sacred and tender ties which bind a believer to his God.

Now, it appears to us that this ill-proportioned theology— the doctrine that the only motive in redemption was a regard to God’s glory—receives no countenance from the Bible. Does not God “pity us, as a father pitieth his children?” Taught to address Him by the endearing appellation of Father, Oh what affection, love, and lovingkindness, are expressed in that tender term! And if, on seeing some earthly father, whom a child’s scream has reached and roused, rush up the blazing stairs, or leap into the boiling flood, it were wrong, it were cruel, it were a shame, to suspect him of being destitute of affection—of being moved to this noble act by no other motive than a regard to his own honor—and by no other voice than the calm command of duty—how much more wrong were it to harbor such suspicions of “our Father who is in heaven.”

I know that we should approach so high a theme with the greatest reverence, and that it becomes us to speak on such a subject, and, indeed, on anything that touches the secret movements of the Divine mind, with most profound humility. Yet, reasoning from the form of the shadow to the object which projects it—from man to God—I would venture to say, that it is with Him as with us, when we are moved to a single action by the united influence of various motives.

The minister, worthy of his office, appears before his assembled people to preach; and, in doing so, he is moved by a variety of motives. Love to God, love to Jesus, love to sinners, love to saints, a regard to God’s glory, and regard to man’s good; these, like the air, water, light, heat, electricity, gravitation, which act together in the process of vegetation, may all combine to form one sermon. They are present, and act not as conflicting but concurring motives in the preacher’s breast. This difference, however, there always is between us and God, that although our motives—like the Rhone, which is formed of two rivers, the one pure as the sky above it, the other turbid and discolored—are ever mixtures of good and evil, all the emotions of the Divine mind, all the influences that move God to action, are of the purest nature.

God cherishes, indeed, such respect to his own glory, that, had the salvation of the world been incompatible with that— this world had been left to perish. Dreadful thought! How should we adore and extol the wisdom which discovered a way to harmonize the glory of God, and the good of men. He was moved by regard to both. It is an imperfect vision that sees but one motive. This lofty subject resembles those binary stars which look to the naked eye as but one, but which, brought into the field of the telescope, resolve themselves into two orbs, rolling in their brightness and beauty around a common center. Blessed be his holy name!

-“He so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on. Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -“He commends his love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Never, therefore, let us exalt this doctrine of the divine glory, at the expense of the divine love. God’s love to sinners is his mightiest, his heart-softening argument; and it were doing Him, his gospel, and our own souls great injustice, if we should overlook the love that gives Divinity its name, and which, sending in his Son a Savior from the Father’s bosom, was eulogized by an Apostle as possessed of a “height, and depth, and breadth, and length, which passes knowledge.”

III.   Observe, that in saving man for his “holy name’s sake,” or for his own honor and glory, God exhibits the mercy, holiness, love, and other attributes of the Godhead.

The truth is, that God saves man for much the same reasons as at first he made him. Why did God make man? What moved God to make him? The ball rolls forward over the ground, and the ship moves onward through the sea, by virtue of an external force—the hand projects the one, and the wind, caught in her sails, impels the other. But no foreign agent imparted an impulse to creating power; nor did any one command or compel God to make man. It is his prerogative to command—the creature’s duty to obey.

Why, then, did He make man? Did He need to make him?

Was it with Him as with some lordly master, who depends for his comfort on his servants?—as with a king, whose glory lies in the numbers of his courtiers, or the brilliancy of his court?—as with the greatest general, who owes his victories to the bravery of his soldiers, and who, whatever his military skill, would win no battles and wear no laurels without an army at his back? Assuredly not. “Our goodness extends not to Thee;” our wealth, makes God no richer, our praise makes Him no happier. “Hear, my people, and I will speak, I will take no bullock out of thy house, or he goat out of thy fold; for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.”

What moved God, then, to make man? or, to enlarge the question so as to embrace creation, when there was neither world rolling, nor sun shining, nor angel singing—when there was neither life nor death, nor birth nor burial, nor sight nor sound, no wave of ocean breaking, no wing of angel moving—when, as in a past eternity, God dwelt alone in silent, solemn, awful, but happy solitude, what moved Him to make creatures at all? Or with these worlds, suns and systems, to garnish the heavens, and people an empty universe? —These are the deep things of God, and it becomes finite and fallible minds such as ours to approach them modestly. If the fabric of nature, if the machine of Providence, with its wheels rolling within wheels in many and complicated parts—if these, and the scheme of redemption, are full of inscrutable mysteries—how much more the vast mind that designed and executed them?

The meanest of his works are full of Himself, and of mysteries which, when apprehended, are not comprehended. If I adore divinity in the humble daisy; and if in the creature, that lives for a day and dances in a sunbeam, I see the wisdom that made the sun—how can I lay aside the telescope by which I have held communion with the distant heavens, or the microscope that reveals a world of wonders in cue drop of water, without concluding that, if the works of God are so wonderful, how much more wonderful his own infinite and eternal mind?

“Those are thy glorious works, Parent of good. Almighty! Thine this universal frame, Thus wondrous fair; thyself how wondrous then Unspeakable! Who sits above these heavens, to us invisible, or dimly seen in these thy lowest works; yet these declare Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.”

By turning the eye inward, however, on our own mind, we can form some conception of the divine mind, even as a captive child, born and retained in a dark dungeon, may learn some notion of the sun from the beam that, streaming through a chink of the riven wall, travels the gray lonely floor; or even as, although I had never walked its pebbly shore, nor heard the voice of its thundering breakers, nor played with its swelling waves, I could still form some feeble conception of the ocean from a lake, from a pool, from a little drop of water, even from this sparkling dew-drop, which, born from the womb of night, and cradled in the bosom of a flower, lies waiting, like a soul under the sun of righteousness, to be exhaled to heaven.

Look at man, then: be he a poet or a man of mechanical genius or artistic skill, a statesman or a philanthropist, or, better than all, a man who glows with piety: we see that his happiness does not lie in indolence, but in the gratification of his tastes and feelings, and the active exercise of his faculties.

Assume the same to be true of God— a conception which, while it exalts, endears our Heavenly Father. It presents Him in this most winning and attractive aspect, that the very happiness of Godhead lies in the forth-putting— along with other attributes— of his goodness, love, and mercy. 

I would not venture to speak dogmatically here; yet this does appear to shed a ray— a beam, if not a flood of light, on some mysterious passages in the providence of God. Shores on which man has never landed lie paved with shells; fields which his foot has never trod are carpeted with flowers; seas where he has never dived are inlaid with pearls; and caverns into which he has never mined are radiant with gems of the finest form and the fairest colors. Well, it may be, and has been asked, for what purpose this lavish expenditure of skill and beauty on scenes, when there is neither an eye of intelligence to admire, nor piety to adore the Maker?

The poet, lamenting genius unknown, unpatronized, sinking into an ignoble grave, has sung of “flowers that waste their sweetness on the desert air;” and up on the unfrequented shelf of a mountain rock, or rooted in the crevice of an old castle wall, I have found such a flower, opening its modest beauty to the sun, and putting to shame the proudest efforts of human skill.

Did you never sit down beside such a flower, and courting its gentle company, ask the question, Fair creature! For what end were you made, and made so very beautiful? It certainly does look a waste of power and skill divine. Yet may it not be, that angels, as they fly by on their missions of mercy, have stayed their wing over that lowly flower, and hovered there awhile, to admire its colors and adore its Maker? But whether or not God himself is there. Invisible, He walks these unfrequented solitudes, and with ineffable complacency looks on this little flower as his own mighty work, and as a mirror of his infinite perfections, “God,” it is said, “shall rejoice in his work,” “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

The minnow plays in a shallow pool, and leviathan cleaves the depths of ocean—winged insects sport in a sunbeam, and winged angels sing before the throne; and whether we fix our eye on the one or the other, the whole fabric of creation appears to prove that the Lord delights in the evolution of his powers, in the display of his wisdom, love, and goodness; and, just as it is to the delight which God enjoys in the exercise of them that we owe this beautiful creation, so it is to his delight in the exercise of his pity, love, and mercy, that we owe salvation, with all its blessings.

Let us be humble and thankful. Man had as little to do with saving as with making himself: the creation of Eden and the cross of Calvary are equally the work of God; and the Lord stands forth before the universe as not by one tittle less the Savior than the Creator of the world. To display his glory in radiant effulgence—to blaze it out on the eyes of delighted and adoring angels—to evoke the hidden attribute of mercy—to give expression to his love and pity—God resolved to save, and, in saving man, to turn this world into a theater for the most affecting tragedy and amazing love.

Salvation is finished. It is offered. Shall it be rejected? Take the good of it, and give Him the glory. “He is the God of salvation;” “in his name we will set up our banners.” – In that ladder whereby faith climbs her way aloft to heaven, there is not a round that we can call our own. – In this ark which, with open door, offers an asylum in the coming storm, a refuge in the rising flood—from stem to stern and keel to deck there is neither nail, nor plank, nor beam, that we can claim as ours. The plan of redemption was the design of infinite wisdom; its execution was left to dying love; and it is Mercy, generous Mercy, whose fair form stands in the open door, bidding, entreating, and beseeching you all to come in.

Listen to the voice of Jesus, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And let his mother teach you how to speak, and learn from angels how to sing. With her—the casket of a divine jewel, who held the babe yet unborn in her virgin womb—with Mary say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord; my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior; for he that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is his name.”

Or, hark to the angels’ song! Glowing with seraphic fire, borrow seraphic words; and sing with them, ere they wheel their bright ranks for upward flight, “Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will to men.”

CHRIST AND THE CHRISTIAN: Both as a bruised reed.

Taken and adapted from, “The Bruised Reed”
Written by Richard Sibbes

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The Reed and the Bruising

The prophet Isaiah, being lifted up and carried with the wing of a prophetical spirit, passes over all the time between him and the appearing of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Seeing with the eye of prophecy, and with the eye of faith, Christ as present, he presents him, in the name of God, to the spiritual eye of others, in these words: `Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth’ (Isaiah 42:1 3). These words are alleged by Matthew as fulfilled now in Christ (Matthew 12:18 20). In them are propounded, first, the calling of Christ to his office; secondly, the manner in which he carries it out.

CHRIST’S CALLING

God calls him here his servant. Christ was God’s servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was, a chosen and a choice servant who did and suffered all by commission from the Father. In this we may see the sweet love of God to us, in that he counts the work of our salvation by Christ his greatest service, and in that he will put his only beloved Son to that service. He might well prefix it with ‘Behold’ to raise up our thoughts to the highest pitch of attention and admiration. In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in that they need to be roused up to behold him in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls. In temptations it is safest to behold nothing but Christ the true brazen serpent, the true `Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’, (John 1:29). This saving object has a special influence of comfort to the soul, especially if we look not only on Christ, but upon the Father’s authority and love in him. For in all that Christ did and suffered as Mediator, we must see God in him reconciling the world unto himself (2 Corinthian 5:19).

What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ! For his love rests in a whole Christ, in Christ mystical, as well as Christ natural, because he loves him and us with one love. Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, and in him God’s love, and build our faith safely on such a Savior that is furnished with so high a commission.

See here, for our comfort, a sweet agreement of all three persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies to it, and Christ himself executes the office of a Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity.

HOW CHRIST PURSUES HIS CALLING

This is here said to be done modestly, without making a noise, or raising dust by any pompous coming, as princes are accustomed to do. `His voice shall not be heard.’ His voice indeed was heard, but what voice? `Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden’ (Matthew 11:28). He cried, but how? `Ho, every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters’ (Isaiah 55:1). And as his coming was modest, so it was mild, which is set down in these words: `A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.’

We see, therefore, that the condition of those with whom he was to deal was that they were bruised reeds and smoking flax; not trees, but reeds; and not whole, but bruised reeds. The church is compared to weak things: to a dove among the fowls; to a vine among the plants; to sheep among the beasts; to a woman, which is the weaker vessel.

God’s children are bruised reeds before their conversion and oftentimes after.

Before conversion all (except such as, being brought up in the church, God has delighted to show himself gracious to from their childhood) are bruised reeds, yet in different degrees, as God sees fit. And as there are differences with regard to temperament, gifts and manner of life, so there are in God’s intention to use men in the time to come; for usually he empties such of themselves, and makes them nothing, before he will use them in any great services.

WHAT IT IS TO BE BRUISED

The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretenses sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption makes him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man. This is such a one as our Savior Christ terms `poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice. He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and thereupon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it.

THE GOOD EFFECTS OF BRUISING

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by leveling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we `begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge.

Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them?

Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways. This is often the cause of relapses and apostasy, because men never smarted for sin at the first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law. Hence this inferior work of the Spirit in bringing down high thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) is necessary before conversion. And, for the most part, the Holy Spirit, to further the work of conviction, joins with it some affliction, which, when sanctified, has a healing and purging power.

After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks.

Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy. Such bruising may help weaker Christians not to be too much discouraged, when they see stronger ones shaken and bruised. Thus Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). This reed, till he met with this bruise, had more wind in him than pith when he said, `Though all forsake thee, I will not’ (Matthew 26:33). The people of God cannot be without these examples. The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do. Thus David was bruised until he came to a free confession, without guile of spirit (Psalms 32:3 5); nay, his sorrows did rise in his own feeling unto the exquisite pain of breaking of bones (Psalms 51:8). Thus Hezekiah complains that God had `broken his bones’ as a lion (Isaiah 38:13). Thus the chosen vessel Paul needed the messenger of Satan to buffet him lest he should be lifted up above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgment upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who `was bruised for us’ (Isaiah 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.

Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God’s ways in bringing his children to heaven, censure broken-hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.

Christ Will Not Break the Bruised Reed

In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals.

THE RELATION OF CHRIST TO THE COVENANT OF GRACE

Taken and adapted from, “Systematic Theology”
Written by, Louis Berkhof

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Christ is represented in Scripture as the Mediator of the covenant.

The Greek word mesites is not found in classical Greek, but does occur in Philo and in later Greek authors. In the Septuagint it is found but once, Job 9:33. The English word “Mediator,” as well as the Holland “Middelaar” and the German “Mittler,” might lead us to think that it (mesites) simply designates one who arbitrates between two parties, an intermediary in the general sense of the word. It should be borne in mind, however, that the Scriptural idea is far more profound. Christ is Mediator in more than one sense. He intervenes between God and man, not merely to sue for peace and to persuade to it, but as armed with plenipotentiary power, to do all that is necessary to establish peace. The use of the word mesites in the New Testament justifies our speaking of a twofold Mediatorship of Christ, namely, that of surety and that of access (Gr. prosagoge, Rom. 5:2). In most of the passages in which the word is found in the New Testament, it is equal to egguos, and therefore points to Christ as one who, by taking upon Himself the guilt of sinners, terminated their penal relation to the law and restored them to the right legal relationship to God. This is the meaning of the word in Heb. 8:6; 9:15, and 12:24. In Heb. 7:22 the term egguos itself is applied to Christ. There is one passage, however, in which the word mesites has a meaning that is more in accord with the ordinary sense of the word “mediator,” as one who is called in to arbitrate between two parties and to reconcile them, namely, I Tim. 2:5. Here Christ is represented as Mediator in the sense that, on the basis of His sacrifice, He brings God and man together.

The work of Christ, as indicated by the word mesites, is twofold. He labors in things pertaining to God and in things pertaining to man, in the objective legal sphere, and in the subjective moral sphere. In the former He propitiates the just displeasure of God by expiating the guilt of sin, makes intercession for those whom the Father has given Him, and actually makes their persons and services acceptable to God. And in the latter He reveals to men the truth concerning God and their relation to Him with the conditions of acceptable service, persuades and enables them to receive the truth, and directs and sustains them in all circumstances of life, so as to perfect their deliverance. In doing this work He employs the ministry of men, II Cor. 5:20.

THE ABANDONMENT OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS

Taken and adapted from, “Pulpit Eloquence of the Nineteenth Century”
Edited by, Henry Clay Fish and Edwards Amasa Parks

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“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land, unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast you forsaken me?”
—Matthew 27:45, 46.

Several times already had the great High Priest [Jesus] opened his mouth upon the cross.

First had he turned the eye of his mercy upon those cruel mockers and tormentors, who, in that hour of agony, encompassed him as ravening and roaring lions, and asked for them mercy and forgiveness: ” Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” O! What a glimpse do these words give us into the inconceivable love which glowed in his heart! The next word he addressed to that dying penitent on his right hand, and it was a word of sweetest promise; a word of unutterable consolation: “Today shalt you be with me in paradise.” And then he turned to his mother and to the disciple whom he loved, who lay in his bosom at the last supper, and bound them both in the bonds of filial and maternal love. And now was it the sixth hour. It was midday, but behold!” there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” For three whole hours the anointed hung upon the cross in unbroken silence; wrapped in darkness, without one single ray of light and peace. The bleeding Creator of the sun itself sees no light; the helper of all must weep without help; but his cry of anguish arrests the course of nature! Surely here is a deep, an unfathomable mystery.

Yes, these terrors of Christ loudly declare that here is holy ground.

Only in deepest adoration, only in the abasement of self-condemnation, can we venture to approach and gaze. Praying and trembling, we enter this holy of holies; in deepest reverence, supplicating for grace, we contemplate,

I.   In the first place; The forsaken One himself.
II.   In the second place; The end of his being thus forsaken.
III.   And finally; The fruit of this abandonment.

I.  Who is this forsaken One?

Behold him, as he hangs upon the ignominious tree! Blood is flowing from his wounds—from his opened veins. The crimson stream flows down from his head, his hands, his feet, his sides. His face is marred more than any man’s, and there is none to comfort, none to pity. A great multitude stand around the cross; among them are found the respected, the learned, the noble: chief priests, scribes, and elders; but their lips are like the lips of the rabble, full of bitter mockery and scorn—full of malice and blasphemy. Their cruel hands, indeed, can no longer reach the man of sorrows; but the tongue knows well how to twist the knotted scourge, to send forth the spear and the sharp arrow. One poisoned cup of mockery after another is presented. Unceasing are the torments of his body—inconceivable the agonies of his soul. Forsaken by the whole world—this he might have borne. Deserted by the little band that had “continued with him in his temptation”—this was hard to bear. Alas! What pain even to us, faithless sinners, as we are, when, in the day of need, and of adversity, the friends whom we had fondly deemed true, turn from us coldly and faithlessly! And yet even this sorrow might be endured. But what is told us here? God himself, that God who is love, who said, “You art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;” that God who has promised to those that keep his covenant, that he will never leave them nor forsake them; the God of all grace and mercy, forsakes his Son! His Son? His only Son? Him whom, he loves? Is it possible? Should not we rather say, that this bleeding one, hanging upon the accursed tree, and crying amid the darkness, “My God, my God, why hast you forsaken me,” must be the vilest wretch that ever trod this earth? Is this the last end of the righteous? Is this the reward of innocence and spotless purity? Is this dealing justly to suffer the holy One to die as a felon? The martyrs counted not their lives to be dear unto them; for the sake of Jesus they joyfully exposed themselves to the most dreadful tortures, and were led to the stake and the pile of burning, rejoicing that they were thought worthy to suffer for his name; and, meek as the lamb before its slayer, they poured out their life-blood under the knife of their enemies. But they were not forsaken of God. We hear them praising him amid the flames. The Father-heart of God is open to them; the everlasting arm of the great Deliverer is beneath them; the Son of God walks with them, even as of old with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the fiery furnace; and though “their heart and their flesh failed them, yet God was the strength of their heart and their ‘portion forever.” But here all sources of comfort are dried up; here Satan, the power of darkness, seemed to have free course, and the life of this forsaken One is as the fife of those that go down into the pit of inconceivable torment. Is this the fruit of his transgressions? The due reward of his misdeeds? Is the accusation brought against him just? Was he indeed a blasphemer? Was he guilty of death? Was the rod justly broken upon him?

But no! This be far from him. “He knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He “was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” He glorified his Father; he was always about his Father’s badness; it was his meat and drink to do the will of his Father; he was in the Father, and the Father in him. His whole life was a life of holiness; never had he, even in thought, transgressed the law of God; “he was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Zeal for the house of the Lord consumed him; he went about doing good; to save, to help, to bless, was the element of his whole earthly life. Perfect was he, and perfect he remained, even as his Father in heaven is perfect.

Such was he; and yet he exclaims in unutterable anguish: “My God, my God, why hast you forsaken me?” O, then, wonder not if I shrink in trembling awe from this abandonment by the Father! Blame me not if I own that here is an event which seems to involve in impenetrable obscurity all the attributes and all the dealings of God. Can the God of love thus forsake the Son of his love? Can almighty Justice thus deal with innocence? Does the omnipresent thus depart from him who is faithful even unto death? Is it thus that the covenant-keeping God fulfills his own promise: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. When you passes through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when you walk through the fire you shalt not be burned, neither shall the flames kindle upon thee?” Is this Lis faithfulness, that he yields up the faithful in all things, yea, the only faithful, a prey to the most fearful pains of the most painful death, and wholly withdraws from him his presence, his consolation, the consciousness of his love and his favor? Is not godliness itself a mere dream, when the holy One is thus forsaken? Is not all trust in the covenant keeping faithfulness of Jehovah a mere delusion, when God withdraws from his Son his love and his grace? Is not the question, “My God, my God, why hast you forsaken me?” a question which, from everlasting to everlasting, must remain an unsolved mystery?

II.  No, my beloved; through the mercy of God we have had this mystery revealed to us. In the painful judgment of self-condemnation, the wondrous enigma is solved. When once the blind eye of our spirit is opened, we discern, in the light of grace, the lofty end of the abandonment of the Son of God.

Wherefore, then, was the innocent Lamb of God thus utterly forsaken of God? Wherefore did his heavenly Father hide his face from him? Wherefore must the almighty Jesus be so weak, the visage of the spotless One so marred, the Helper so helpless? Because he, as all the prophets of the old covenant and all the apostles of the new testify, was delivered up for our transgression; because he, constrained by the compassion of his loving heart, suffered in our stead, and bore the punishment our sins deserved in his own body on the tree. And who are we? Are we not all universally rebellious children—” children that are corrupted” —that have forsaken the Lord, the God and Creator of their lives, the supreme good—the only good? O yes! when sin allures, when gold and gain are to be won, when fleshly lusts are to be gratified, and earthly honors to be obtained, then do we eagerly go forward; then is there no road too long, no way too toilsome, no sacrifice too painful; but we inquire not after God: he is not in all our thoughts. Thus we go on in our natural state—God-denying, God-forgetting men—following the dictates of a depraved will, following the counsel of a darkened understanding, speaking our own sinful words, and working our own works of darkness; and we think not that the holy presence of God is, as the air, around us and about us; and we glorify not the God “in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways.” Far from our Father’s house, cut off from communion with him, excluded from his grace, we are still at ease, and tremble not even for an instant before his awful majesty. Our idols, “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life,” are sufficient for us; we feel no need of reconciliation with God—of reunion with God. Alas! There is not one among us all who has not, like the prodigal son, forsaken his God. Every sin which we commit, is an abandonment of God; and as oft as we have thought, or spoken, or acted, without reference to him, and fellowship with him, so oft have we forsaken him. And even those among us who, through the grace of God, have been born again, created anew in Jesus Christ, even they must acknowledge, in deep self-abasement, that ever since their conversion, they also have, daily and hourly, shamefully forsaken the Lord their God. And this desertion is a transgression that reaches unto the heavens—a sin of deepest dye, that calls for vengeance—an ingratitude so vile, that by it alone we have a thousand times deserved inexorable and everlasting banishment from the presence of the Lord. Is not this forsaking of our God the fruitful parent of all our countless transgressions?
When, therefore, the Son of God, as our surety, exposed himself for us to bear the penalty of God’s violated law, he must, when wrestling with death, be forsaken of God. Standing in our stead, he must feel the whole weight of the wrath of God, and in the judgment of God be regarded as one who has departed from God. He that defies the omnipotent God—that will not hear the all-wise God, that cares not for the omnipotent God, that makes the God of truth a liar, ” despising the riches of his goodness and mercy,” and repaying his love with base ingratitude—surely he well deserves to be forsaken of the everlasting God —to be overwhelmed by the weight of the wrath of God, who “is not mocked.” And, as such, did our Lord Jesus Christ, as our representative, stand before God, and therefore was he forsaken of God.

We cannot comprehend this desertion by God; it is beyond our every faculty, and every conception. Suffice it to say that the Son of God feels here the enormous weight of all that our sins deserved; the mercy of God is hidden from him; he feels only his wrath, and nothing of his grace and loving kindness. Though we comprehend not how it was possible for the holy, undefiled Son of God, thus to be loaded with that abominable sin which he hated, and thus to pay its full penalty, it is yet certain that he was here “made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;” that “the deep waters” of the terrors of God went even over his soul; that the thick clouds of deepest anguish were heaped up, one above another, till at last all the terrors of eternity, all the pains of hell, all the wrath of divine justice, were concentrated in the agony that forced from him the cry, “My God, my God, why hast you forsaken me?”

Come hither, then, ye sinners, who would make of the living God a weak Eli, winking at the transgressions of his rebellious children! Come hither, ye impenitent sinners, who, with a few prayers and a little almsgiving, would purchase heaven!—come hither, and learn in the abandonment by his Father of Christ on the cross, that the wrath of God, that his holy indignation against sin, is no empty threat! If the great God spared not his own Son, but suffered him to feel the unutterable pangs of his avenging justice, how shall ye escape the threatened damnation of hell?

But come hither, also, ye despisers of God and of his word, who have turned from his ways to walk in your own way—that way whose end is death; come hither and see how ardently the loving heart of God desires the redemption of the most sinful, the most wretched. Behold in the hiding of his face from his beloved, a manifest proof that he is ready to lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and to blot out your unnumbered sins. Does he provide such a sin-offering as abundantly satisfies his justice? O doubt not then his perfect willingness to receive you into the bosom of his compassionate love! Here, in this desertion by God of the Lord Jesus Christ, beams forth upon us not only the justice of God, but the fullness of his mercy in a divine radiance, sufficient to dispel every shade of doubt as to his desire “to save to the uttermost them that come unto him.” Now is the great gulf that separated condemned sinners from a holy God, henceforth and forever so filled up that we may, with joyful hearts, fearlessly pass over it into the arms of a reconciled God—a loving Father.

But this leads us to the third point we had proposed for consideration: a still further contemplation of the fruits of this abandonment of Christ.

These fruits are precious above all price; but they are only for the penitent sinner, for believing hearts, for the poor in spirit, for “those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” We speak not now to you, proud sinners, who still turn your backs upon the Lord, and by presumptuous sins are still daily pouring contempt upon God and his laws. To you we must repeat the words of Christ, and may the Spirit of God re-echo them in thunder-tones in your ears: “If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Ye shall not see God, “for your sins,” as Isaiah saith,” have hid his face from you.” To you it is not said, nor, unless you repent, will it ever be said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father.” Alas! To you rather belongs, in all its terrors, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” No; so long as your eyes are still unopened to see how “your iniquities have separated between you and your God,” so long as you come not to Jesus, self-condemned, in contrition of heart, and in faith that he alone can save,—he alone deliver,—even so long the fruits of this abandonment of Christ belong not to you. Only when we are made to experience somewhat of being forsaken of God, as Christ was; only when we bitterly feel and humbly acknowledge that we well deserve, for our multiplied transgressions, to be forsaken of God; only when, in the conviction of that utter helplessness which self-knowledge brings with it, we turn from the broken cisterns of human consolation, and as wretched, hell-deserving sinners, prostrate ourselves at the lowest step of the throne of God—then only do we become partakers of the glorious fruits of this abandonment of Christ. But to you, who are thus self-condemned as vile sinners, to you, highly favored souls, who have been given to see in the desertion of Christ your merited curse, and whose heart’s conviction, through grace, it is, that only free, unmerited mercy could have plucked you as brands from the burning—to you belong the precious fruits of these death-pangs of our surety. O! Lay hold of them joyfully, and suffer neither Satan nor your own evil heart of unbelief to keep you back.

This abandonment of Christ on the cross is a bridge of God’s own construction; firm as the rock, never to be destroyed. It is the passage from the region of the shadow of death, into the abode of everlasting light and everlasting peace. We may tread it with firm step, confident, rejoicing in the name of the Lord; however the waves of our transgressions may roar, and rage, and swell, this bridge defies the roaring torrent and the swelling flood.

The abandonment on the cross is a deep gulf, an unfathomable abyss, to which we may cast all our anxieties, all our cares, all our sins— even those of deepest dye, even those that are grown up into the heavens—and they shall no more be found, but shall be hidden forever and ever.
In this abandonment of Christ, a pledge is given unto us by the eternal God himself, that he will never more abandon those debtors for whom the surety thus paid all the debt. He may indeed, at times, hide his face from us, and appear as though he would never again manifest himself to help and bless. But it is “for a small moment;” with great mercies will he gather us; his bowels are again “troubled for Ephraim,” and he will surely have mercy upon him.

Again. This abandonment is a charter of our citizenship in heaven— passport thither—a privilege which we may plead before the judgment throne. The effectual power of this abandonment of our surety and propitiation is so infinite, that we may fearlessly stand in the judgment. We shall be judged, but shall not be condemned, for “there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” They have already been judged, have already borne the curse, already been forsaken of God in their surety. Therefore, “rejoice greatly, O Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem; make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob, ye children of the living God;” to you the great day of the Lord will be a welcome, a blessed day, when you shall pass into the kingdom of God, there forever to see, and love, and praise him.
Still further. The abandonment of Christ on the cross is a key wherewith we may open to ourselves the secret chambers of communion with our God. No longer need we stand like slaves, trembling without; we are no more strangers, no longer afar off, but have been brought nigh to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and to receive the adoption of children. The high and holy One has become our Father, who takes us into his arms, and to his heart, as dear children, and sends “forth the Spirit 01 his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

And does anyone ask how we dare draw near with such boldness, and hope in him so confidently, and speak to him so freely of all that is in our heart? We point to our crucified Surety, and reply, “Because he was forsaken for me, and in my stead.” Here is my peace. “The mountains may depart, and the hills be removed, but the covenant of peace,” confirmed by the blood of the Lamb, “shall never be removed,” but stands fast forever and ever!”

Speaking with Grace: Parker versus Spurgeon and the Outrageous Orphanage Incident

Portrait_of_Joseph_Parker

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
–Colossians 4:6

This is a fantastic story about two giant men in the faith, –for two of the greatest preachers that ever lived, pastored in London at the same time…

…and a misunderstanding arose between them that made it to the newspapers and was headed toward even bigger things. You see, Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had large churches, and in those early days they were close friends. Spurgeon had a fiery temper and personality to match, while Joseph Parker was quiet; tending to be more meek and mild-mannered.

One day, Parker made a comment about the terribly poor condition of the children being admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. You see, Spurgeon’s church had just taken up operations for an orphanage for boys. And it was fact that Spurgeon’s great love was for “his” orphanages. It is also well recorded that Spurgeon gave away most of the money that he ever made to these orphanages.   And so on this day Parker said to some members of his church, “We ought to help Spurgeon with his orphanage, for there are times when the boys don’t have proper clothes, and I am sure they could use some food.”

However, one of the men standing there, twisting the truth, and reported to Spurgeon, that Parker had in fact, criticized the orphanage itself; telling Spurgeon that “Joseph Parker says the boys in your orphanage don’t have enough clothes to wear or sufficient food to eat.”

Spurgeon was incensed. For him, this was a knife in the back by a friend.  So Spurgeon retaliated and blasted Parker and his alleged statement from the pulpit on the following week.

Now you have got to understand, that in every church service which Spurgeon held in those days, two newspaper reporters were always there, –faithfully transcribing the sermon to be printed in the next newspaper going out.   So Spurgeon’s attack against Parker was immediately printed in the newspapers.  And further, a newspaper reporter raced over to Parker’s home and asked him whether he would reply to Spurgeon attack on the following Sunday. Parker thought for a moment and then replied. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I will respond to him next Sunday.”

As you can imagine, these great minister’s battle became the talk of all London, if not in all of England.  What would Dr. Parker do? The town buzzed. Bets were wagered among the non-church folk. People, religious and not, talked and speculated back and forth about it all that week.

Understandably, huge throngs of people as well as a herd of newspaper reporters flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear the rebuttal. Hundreds were there when the doors opened. You could feel the high tension at the church service. The singing was strained. Everyone waited with bated breath And when it came time for Dr. Parker to speak, a hush fell upon the crowd.  You could hear a pin drop.  The good pastor, slowly got up and went to the pulpit, quietly cleared his throat and said, “Brother Spurgeon is sick today and cannot preach. This is the day when he takes up an offering for his orphans. May I suggest that we take up that offering for him in our church, for he’s doing a great work, and I know all of us would like to have a part in it.”

The crowd was delighted.  Parker’s compassion stirred such a response that the deacons had to empty the offering plates three times. They bagged the money and took it over to Spurgeon after the service, commenting, “This is a gift from Joseph Parker. He really promoted your program in church today.”

Spurgeon was transfixed by Parker’s generosity. On Tuesday morning there was a knock at Parker’s study.  It was Spurgeon. Throwing his arms around his “rival,” he said, “You have more of the spirit of Jesus Christ than any man I know. You know, Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.”

I have observed several things in this story:

  1. People love a scandal.  Newspapers filled pages with scandalous stories about the supposed fighting between these two preachers.  Joseph Parker’s church filled up with people looking to watch a good fight.  Yes, too often we have “feet that be swift in running to mischief” (Prov. 6:18).
  1. Not everything you hear is true. Joseph Parker simply commented about the condition of the poor children that Spurgeon had taken in.  He, in no way, suggested that the poor condition was the fault of Spurgeon’s orphanage, yet, that was how it was reported to Mr. Spurgeon.  Be very careful not to believe everything you hear about others.  Remember, there are those who love to sow “discord among brethren” with a “false witness that speaks lies” (Prov. 6:19).
  1. Good people make serious mistakes. Charles Spurgeon was a faithful man of God that pastored thousands of people, and he served pastors all over the world. He had become known as the “Prince of Preachers.”  No preacher has ever had more sermons printed than Charles Spurgeon.  He was a godly man.  But he blew it this time!  Proverbs 14:17 clearly says, “He that is soon angry deals foolishly.”  God plainly required that a pastor was not be “self-willed, not soon angry” (Titus 1:7).  No matter how close we are to the Lord we can still fail in a big way.
  1. Grace always rules the day. When people came looking for a scandal and a fight, Joseph Parker confronted them with grace.  Instead of being disappointed, that crowd became overwhelmed with grace and gave money to support the orphanage.  Jesus Christ was exalted, the orphans were fed, the critics were silenced, and the preachers were reconciled when one person showed grace. How true it is that “a soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” Galatians 6:18

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Thoughts were taken from several sources, including;

“Word of Truth” by Pastor Dean Miller, August 14, 2013.
Norman Gulley, of the Fredericksburg Church of Christ, date unknown.
“Confronting the Disclosure’s of the Soul” By Robert Hanson

On Vain Disputing

Being an excerpt from his “Spiritual Refining”
Written by, Anthony Burgess, 1652

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“For it is good to have the heart established with grace, and not with meats…”
–Hebrews 13:9 

 By this practical knowledge and exercise you will be taken off from all needless and vain disputations in matters of religion, and will be more solicitous at home in your own heart. In former times when the people of God were busy about the touchstone and trial of grace in themselves, they did not launch out into such deep and unprofitable questions, but now of late since believers have busied themselves in disputes and controversies, and new opinions, this practical knowledge of grace is much neglected. You shall find men sooner disputing about faith than living by faith, talking of heavenly-mindedness than being so indeed. Thus the trees in God’s garden sprout up into suckers and barren boughs, and bear little fruit upon them, 1 Tim. 6:4.1

The apostle does excellently describe such a temper, he calls it ‘doting about questions’, or as it is in the Greek, ‘sick and languishing’; Even as much fretting and vexation consumes the flesh of the body, so do proud and vain affectations of new opinions pine away the soul. What is this but to think that a stone may become bread, and a serpent fish? As it is a minister’s duty to preach only those things that are profitable, the sower went out to sow good seed, not poison, or empty chaff; so it is also required of private Christians, that they do think, confer of, and study those things only that may edify and practically build up their souls.
I would not hereby discourage an endeavor in Christians to grow in knowledge. The apostle reproves some for being babes, and that he could not speak unto them as spiritual but as carnal, only they must know, that faith has efficacious purifying acts as well as knowing acts, and therefore our increase must be equal both quoad notitiam, and efficaciam, [being translated:] in respect of knowledge and efficacy also. A Christian may grow either quoad amplitudinem scientiae or efficaciam scientiae, [being explained] the enlargement of his knowledge both in respect of the matter, he may know more things than he did, as also in the manner, more clearly, evidently and firmly than he did, or else in the efficacy of his knowledge, though he do not more things then he did, yet he knows them more practically, they have a greater influence upon his heart and affections, they move and inflame him more then ever they did; now though the former way of increase be necessary and pleasing to God, yet this is much more.

Take heed then that we be not like Pharaoh’s lean kine, that devour many questions, but yet are as starved and ill-favored as before.

When one came with a curious question to our Savior, asking Him, ‘Whether many should be saved?’ How pertinently does our Savior answer him, ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate’. This therefore discovers the necessity of importunate pressing and urging practical knowledge upon people in these days, Ubi malunt homines disputare quàm vivere, [being paraphrased:] they would rather argue than live. As little boys in sport strive who shall strike most sparks out of their iron, not intending to kindle thereby for their use, so do Christians strive who shall strike out the most subtle and finest spun notions, not intending the profit of their souls therein.  

CHRIST OUR SUBSTITUTE

Written by R.L. Dabney, D.D., 1820-1898

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HUMAN laws teach us what a substitute is…

In some commonwealths, citizens between certain ages are bound by law to labor on the highways so many days per year. In others, the country people are bound to work the fields of their landlords so many days each season. In France, in Prussia and in some other countries, the conscription laws require every young man to serve in the army so many years before he can settle to his business. A person who is bound to one of these duties, but cannot himself perform it, hires another person to take his place, to do just what he was bound for, in his stead, and his is thus acquitted of the whole claim.

 Now, Christ is our Substitute with God. “Jesus was made Surety of a better testament” (meaning “covenant”). Hebrews 7:22. We owe to God a pure, perfect and perpetual obedience, which we, by reason of our sin, are unable to render, and “there is no discharge in that war” – Christ offers Himself a Substitute for us.

Your substitute must be able and sufficient to render us the service for which you are bound.

Christ qualified Himself by becoming a holy man as well as the Son of God in one person, so that He was able to render a holy man’s service to God in our stead. “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” Gal. 4:4, 5.

Your substitute must not be himself subject to the duty which you owe.

For instance, were you taken for seven years into the army of Prussia, one who was himself a Prussian conscript, subject on his own account to military duty, could not be your substitute. But where shall one be found for the sinner whose life is his own? Who is exempt from that universal law of God which demands all the service of all in heaven, earth and hell? There can be none but He who is above law, because He is the supreme Law-maker. “This” (Christ) “is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20. But in order to become our Substitute, “He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” Hebrews 2:16. And thus His services may avail in our room.

Your substitute must be accepted by the government before you are released…

…for it was authorized, if it chose, to hold you bound to serve in person, because your duty to your native land is personal. Now, Christ our Substitute has been accepted by God the Father. He declares, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” Matt. 17:5. He tells us, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Psalms 2:12.

When once the government declares itself satisfied with your substitute and enrolls him, you are free for good.

The service he renders for you is accepted as though you rendered it yourself, and if he dies during its continuance, the law no longer claims you any more than if you were dead. So the believing sinner is freed from the curse of the law and is dead to its penal claims. “Brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” Rom. 7:4.

But here, sinners, the likeness ends; for the rest, there is an amazing difference between your substitute under human laws and Christ “our Surety.”

In God’s kingdom, we are not only subject to duty for life, but already guilty of rebellion and desertion. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Isa. 53:6. “Every mouth is stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.” Rom. 3:19. And the penalty is eternal death! “The wages of sin is death.” Rom. 6:23. The court has already set, the sentence is passed, and mercy alone stays the execution for a time. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” John 3:18. Now, could a criminal under a human government hope, in this case to find a substitute? He must take the criminal’s place for his whole term of service, to bear his toils, dangers and sicknesses, and at the end he must die for his crimes. Could money buy such a sacrifice? Could love persuade to it? But this is what Christ undertook for us. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3:13. And the death He died for us had the bitterness of spiritual as well as bodily death. Oh wondrous love! Christ “commends His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners He died for us.” Sinner, will you not henceforth say, “The love of God constrains me?” 2 Cor. 5:14.

And this suggests that…

If you were a soldier and had not deserted the colors of your country, an accepted substitute would free you from all service and punishment. You are guilty of desertion toward God, and are also bound to pay a service to which sin utterly disables you through your own folly and fault. From these obligations Christ frees you, but it is only to bind you to His service more firmly by love. Now you should follow the Captain of your salvation with all your might, longing to follow Him better, not from fear of being shot for desertion (that danger is gone if Christ died for us), nor from fear of losing emoluments (they are already earned for us by our Substitute, and paid in advance to true believers), but because He asks us to follow Him. And now, if we love Him, we would die for Him were it necessary, because He died for us. If we do not love Him, it is proof that He never became our Substitute. “Now are ye My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14.

Once more: for a substitute under onerous civil or military duties you would have to pay dear. But would all the gold in our modern Ophir bribe one to substitute for you after you had been condemned to die for some breach of your duty? “What shall a man give in exchange for his life?” But Christ offers Himself “without money and without price.” Isa. 55:1. It is well for us that He does, for we have nothing to pay; we have forfeited our wages, our privileges, our heritage, by disobedience to our King. But oh, amazing grace! Christ comes to take our desperate place, asking no return but our love.

Sinner, were you a condemned French or Prussian conscript, would you not be glad to be done with rugged war, with the cold watches, the chill bivouac, the weary march, the hunger, the dreary hospital, the dangerous battle and the fearful execution, and to be restored finally to your own home, with your children on your knees and your wife’s embrace around your neck? But how much more joyful to have this Substitute release you from sin and death? Do you ask, “How, oh how, may I obtain Him?” By simply asking Him and trusting Him to undertake for you. Thank God no agent is needed to go between you, no difficult form to authenticate the contract! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Acts 16:31. “Whosoever asks receives.” Matt. 7:8.

But do you ask, “How shall I have evidence of my discharge?”

When your heart no longer serves sin willingly, when you no longer hate the Righteous Judge on high who condemned you, and when you love and follow the Divine Substitute, then you are free. Brother, soldier of Christ, “fight the good fight of faith.” “Be thou faithful unto death, and He will give you a crown of life.” Rev. 2:10.