The Inward Experience of Believers

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

woman-in-regret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two reasons for this:—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

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

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

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

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

Confusing your Cause with God’s Cause

Taken and adapted from, “Faith and Life” Section titled, “The Cause of God”
From the “Faith and Life  Conferences’  held in the Oratory of Princeton Seminary
Written by B.B. Warfield, Published 1916

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1 Kings 19:9: “What doest thou here, Elijah?”

The history of Elijah supplies us with one of the most striking, and, we may add, one of the most instructive, sections of the Old Testament. With him begins the wonderful history of Prophetism. Through him we obtain a glimpse which we would not willingly lose of God’s dealings with His people: His faithfulness to them when they were unfaithful to Him; His unremitting efforts to withdraw them from sin and keep them in that intimate and obedient relation to Him in which alone was safety to be found.

At first sight the narrative may appear objective to a fault. We are told nothing of who Elijah was, how he had been trained, whence he came as he passes across the page of history. In the midst of Ahab’s wicked rule suddenly he stands before the idolatrous King and pronounces the curse of God, which for his sake should fall on the land which he had polluted with his apostasy. And as suddenly as he appears, so suddenly he withdraws again. Hidden at Cherith or at Zarephath for a period measured by years, he appears on the scene of public history once again as unexpectedly and as much a messenger from on high as at first. Everywhere he goes the powers of heaven accompany him, and his appearances and disappearances are almost as sudden as the bolts of heaven themselves.

But, however rapid the action, and however much, at first view, the narrative may seem to wear the appearance of objectivity; however much it may seem to be concerned only with the history of Israel and God’s endeavour through the words and works of His prophet to awaken His people to righteousness and rescue them from the slough of their idolatry; the story of Elijah yet manages to be primarily and above all else the story of Elijah. Somehow, as in music sometimes a secondary strain is carried on, shot through the dominant theme of the composition, in harmony with it and yet separable from it, and needing but a little emphasizing to make it the chief burden of the whole; so within the bosom of this narrative of how God sent His prophet to Israel with His thunder-message calling it back to the service of Him, of how He dealt thus faithfully with His people and sought to save them from themselves and for Him, there lies, not hidden, but embraced and preserved for us, the touching account of how God dealt with and trained the prophet himself. As Jesus, when He sat in the judgment hall of Annas offering Himself a victim for the saving of the world, yet had time to turn a significant glance upon Peter as he stood denying Him before the courtyard fire, and thus saved His poor repentant follower in the saving of the world; so God in His use of Elijah for the teaching of Israel also found time to train the heart of the prophet himself.

These chapters are crowded with teaching for us. We must select, from the wealth they bring to us, some one thing on which our minds may especially dwell to-day. Let it be this instructive element in them: God’s way of training His prophet. Let us observe in the case of Elijah how God dealt with him in His grace so as to bring him to a better knowledge of himself, of God and of the nature of the work to which he was called. When once we approach the narrative with this purpose in view, it becomes difficult to see anything else in it. We forget Israel in Elijah. Israel seems only the instrument upon which and by means of which Elijah’s heart and soul were taught. We have in a word emphasized the subordinate strain until it becomes dominant; and the very possibility of this is a clear proof that the subordinate strain was planted in the music by the Great Composer, and that it was meant that our ears should hear it.

We are told, we say, nothing of the early life, the early training, or directly, of the character of Elijah. He appears suddenly before us as the messenger of God’s wrath. Like his great antitype—who was greater, our Lord being witness, than even he—he is a voice from the wilderness crying the one word, Repent! He is the human embodiment of the wrath of God. Wherever he goes destruction accompanies him. Drought, fire from heaven, floods of rain, death for the enemies of God, follow hard on his footsteps. He is embodied law. And as such he is a swift witness against his people. Obedience, repentance, strict account, these form the essence of his message.

God chooses appropriate instruments for His work. And we have reason to believe that the sternness of Elijah’s mission was matched by the sternness of his aspect and the sternness of his character. We are therefore justified in having said that he was, not merely the messenger of God’s law and wrath, but their embodiment. He was by natural disposition, as framed under providential circumstances, and by virtue of the side of God which he had as yet apprehended, nothing loath but rather naturally inclined to act as the witness of God against his people, well-fitted to call down the vengeance of God upon them and to delight in the overthrow of His enemies. He was in danger of thinking of God only as a lawgiver and the just avenger of His wounded honour. Hence arose the necessity of the training of the prophet. Every incident of his career, as it is recorded for us, entered into this training.

As we cast our eye over it, we observe that what Elijah needed to be taught was:

(1) dependence on God;
(2) fellowship with man in his sufferings;
(3) confidence in God’s plans; and
(4) a sense of their essential and broad mercifulness.

These lessons are brought home to him by means of two stupendous miracles over nature, wrought for the purpose of teaching the people that Jehovah and He alone is God,—so closely intertwined were the two lines of Divine work, the training of the people and the training of Elijah. No sooner had the prophet declared to the apostate King the word of God sent to him, “As the Lord, the God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word,” than a special personal message came from the Lord to him saying, “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” Thus it was brought about that both Israel and Elijah were simultaneously learning the lesson of the littleness of man before God. But diversely. Israel was learning that it could not with impunity break God’s law; Elijah that even God’s servants depend on Him for their every want. The self-willed nation was learning to submit to its Lord; the perhaps too self-confident prophet was learning the weakness of flesh and man’s utter dependence on his Maker.

In the silence of the wilderness, hidden in one of those torrent-clefts which fall into the Jordan valley, Elijah was dependent on God’s hand for his daily food; on the water which flowed at first in quantities full enough for his needs over the rocks of the brook’s bed, but gradually grew less and less until it trickled in drops scarcely numerous enough to moisten his parched lips; on food brought to him by the unclean ravens. Thus gradually he learned to sympathize with his suffering fellows and to rest on God. It was meet that he who seemed to have the dominion of the heavens in his hands, who prayed that it should not rain and it rained not, should share in the want which resulted; and should learn to sympathize with poor suffering, even if sinful, humanity, like that greater one who was yet to come and learn also how to sympathize with us through His participation in our griefs. How fully he learned his lesson the subsequent narrative tells us in the beautiful story of his dealings with the widow of Zarephath with her cruse and barrel, and her sick and dying child—one of the most Christlike narratives among all the Old Testament miracles. Thus then as Israel was prepared for repentance, the prophet was prepared inwardly to be a fit messenger to his suffering brethren, bringing them relief from their sore affliction. We repeat . it, God sends His messages by fit instruments.

And so, in due time, Elijah comes to bring the famished land relief. We all remember the story of the tremendous scene wherein Elijah—the “prodigious” Tishbite, as an old author calls him—challenges the prophets of Baal to meet him in a contest of worship on Carmel, and defeats them by simply calling on his God; and then draws down rain on the parched ground by the almighty virtue of his prayer. No scene of higher dramatic power is to be found in all the world’s literature. As we read, we see the prophet ruling on the mount; we see him bent in prayer on the deserted summit; we see him when, the hand of God upon him, he girded up his victorious loins and ran before the chariot of Ahab, the sixteen miles through the driving storm, from Carmel to Jezreel. No scene we may say could have been more nicely fitted to his mind or to his nature. Here the king of men was king indeed and his victory seemed complete. But God’s children must suffer for their triumphs. Were there no thorns in the flesh, messengers of Satan, sent of God to buffet them, there would be no one of men who could serve the Lord in the scenes of His triumph without grave danger to his own soul. And Elijah needed to learn other lessons yet. He needed to learn that God’s victories are not of the external sort and are not to be won by the weapons of men.

How quickly after the triumph comes the moment of dismay. “And Ahab told Jezebel,” says the simple narrative, “all that Elijah had done, and withal, how he had slain the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time.’ And when he saw that, he arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba.” Thus, Elijah has his lesson to learn again after his miracle. We need not wonder at his sudden flight. It is the price that strong, fervent spirits pay for their very strength, that they suffer a correspondingly strong reaction. So it was with the prophet’s antitype, John the Baptist, when in the prison he lost his faith and sent to ask Him whom God had Himself pointed out to him on the banks of Jordan, whether, indeed, He was the Coming One. So it was with Peter also, who could venture on the waves, but only to cry, “Lord save me, I perish”; who could draw his sword and smite the High Priest’s servant, but only at once to deny his Lord at the challenge of a servant maid. So now it was with Elijah. God’s hand had been outstretched at his call. He had shut up the heavens at his bidding and had nourished him at Cherith and given him miraculous sustenance at Zarephath, and the widow’s son back from the grave. • He had sent down His fire from heaven and delivered the priests of Baal into his hand and opened the heavens at his prayer. But Elijah could not trust God, now, to deliver him from a woman’s hate; and that, although her very message bore in it the betrayal of her weakness.

Was there not a deeper spring for this distrust still?

With all his training, Elijah did not as yet know his God. His life had fallen on evil days, times of violence that demanded violent remedies for their diseases. And he could not believe in the efficacy of any but violent remedies. Fresh from Carmel and the slaughter of the priests he was impatient of the continuance of evil, and expected the miracles of Carmel to be but the harbinger of the greater miracle of the conversion of the people to God in a day. When Elijah awoke on the morrow and found Israel altogether as it had been yesterday, he was dismayed. Had then the triumph of yesterday been as nothing? Was Jezebel still to lord it over God’s heritage? What then availed it that the fire had fallen from heaven? That the false priests’ blood had flowed like water? That the rain had come at his bidding? Was the hand of God outstretched only to be withdrawn again? Elijah loses heart because God’s ways were not as his ways. He cannot understand God’s secular modes of working; and, conceiving of His ways as sudden and miraculous only, he feels that the Most High has deserted His cause and His servants. He almost feels bitter towards the Lord who had let him begin a work which He leaves him without power to complete. Hence Elijah must go to the wilderness to learn somewhat of the God he serves. After his first miracle of closing the heavens, he learned what man was in his sufferings and in his needs. Now he has opened the heavens and is to learn what God is and what are the modes of His working and the nature of His plans.

There is no mistaking the purpose of God in leading the prophet into the wilderness; nor the import of the teaching He gives him there. The disheartened prophet, despairing of the cause of God because all things had not turned out as he had anticipated, throws himself on the desert sands to die. But there God visits him; and leads him on to Horeb, where the Law had been given, where it had been granted to Moses to see God’s glory, the glory of the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and truth. Reaching the Mount the stricken prophet seeks a cave and lodges in it. And then the word of the Lord came to him with the searching question, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” We do not need to doubt that there was reproof in the question; but surely it is not reproof but searching inquiry that forms its main contents. The Lord had Himself led Elijah here, for his lesson. And now the Lord probes him with the deepest of questions.

After all, why was Elijah there? The question calls for reflection; and reflection which will bring light with self-condemnation; and with the self-condemnation, also self-instruction. “What doest thou here, Elijah?” The honest soul of the prophet gives back the transparent truth: “I have been very jealous” . . . and so on. Here we see distrust in God and despair of His cause; almost complaint of God, for not guarding His cause better; nay, more, almost complaint of God that He had left His servant in the lurch. The Lord deals very graciously with His servant. There is no need now of reproof; only the simple command to go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And then the Lord passed by; first a great, strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but it was not in the wind that the Lord was. And after the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a sound of gentle stillness. Elijah does not now need to be told where the Lord is. The terror of the storm, of the earthquake, and of the flame, is as nothing to the awesomeness of the gentle stillness. “And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entering in of the cave.” Did he already begin to suspect that he had mistaken the storm that goes before Jehovah for Jehovah’s self? The terror of the law for the very hand of Him whose essence is love? The terrible preparation for the Gospel for the Gospel itself? But there is still no word of direct instruction. Only the old question still sounds in his ears. “And behold there came a voice to him and said ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?'” To it he returns the same answer as before; but surely in deep humility of spirit. Be that as it may, however, the Lord proceeds to tell him that He has yet work for him to do and sends him back with instructions which imply that there is a long future for the fruition of His plans. And whether at once or more slowly we cannot doubt that the lesson had its effect and Elijah learned not to lose hope in God’s cause because God’s ways in accomplishing it are not our ways.

How full all this is of lessons to us!

Let us at least not fail to learn from it:

(1) That the cause of God does not depend on our single arm to save it. “I, I only, am left,” said Elijah, as if on him alone could God depend to secure His ends. We depend on God, not God on us.
(2) That the cause of God is not dependent for its success on our chosen methods. Elijah could not understand that the ends of God could be gained unless they were gained in the path of miracles of manifest judgment. External methods are not God’s methods.
(3) That the cause of God cannot fail. Elijah feared that God’s hand was not outstretched to save and fancied that he knew the dangers and needs better than God did. God never deserts His cause.
(4) That it is not the Law but the Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of love, which saves the world. Wrath may prepare for love; but wrath never did and never will save a soul.

We close then, with a word of warning and one of encouragement.

The word of warning:

We must not identify our cause with God’s cause; our methods with God’s methods; or our hopes with God’s purposes.

The word of encouragement:

God’s cause is never in danger; what He has begun in the soul or in the world, He will complete unto the end.

The Searing of the Christian Conscience

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Most people think of hardened criminals and the most duplicitous of men when speaking of someone with a seared conscience. Yet, I believe many in the Church today are also in very real danger of this spiritual phenomenon.

The apostle Paul had a clear understanding of the damaging effects of sin on the human heart. He spoke insightfully of those who were “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (2 Timothy 4:2), and those who “because of the hardness of their heart (have) become callous.” (Ephesians 4:18-19) Both metaphors—the seared conscience and the hardened, calloused heart—describe the same condition.

The Need for the Conscience

What is the human conscience? According to Vine’s Dictionary, the Greek word for conscience (suneidesis) literally means to possess “co-knowledge” of something resulting in one’s “sense of guiltiness before God.”  Thus, we were created with a unique and intrinsic faculty that gives us a kind of third-person perspective on the rightness and wrongness of our actions.

According to A.W. Tozer, the foundation of the human conscience is “the secret presence of Christ in the world.” To support his conclusions, he points to John 1:9, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” This inward moral awareness is simply the “secret inner voice” of the Lord “accusing or else excusing him.”(1) Tozer very well may be right.

“We were created with a unique and intrinsic faculty that gives us a kind of third-person perspective on the rightness and wrongness of our actions.”

In the physical realm, the conscience is comparable to the human nervous system. When a person is wounded, he feels pain—the body’s inherent means of alerting him that something is wrong. Likewise, when a person sins, the human soul has a warning system that sounds an alarm because the person’s actions have wounded him spiritually. This soul-alarm trumpets, “Mayday! Mayday! Something is wrong!” He senses that his actions are not only wrong but will also result in destructive consequences.

A Tender Conscience

A person with a tender conscience is keenly aware of every infraction against the Lord. He recognizes sin for the ugly thing that it is. Immoral deeds, though seemingly insignificant to others, are viewed by him as monstrous crimes against a holy God. Their importance, while not exaggerated, is internally magnified so that their true, insidious nature may be clearly seen.

The person with a soft heart also remains consistently open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. He is not looking to push the limits of sin—to see how much he can get away with—but to avoid it altogether. Sin, to him, is a poison which must be eradicated at any cost. The prayer of David expresses the unseen attitude of such a person: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:24)

Most people who have experienced a true conversion begin their new life with this kind of spiritual sensitivity. The “eyes of their hearts” have been opened to the wonders of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Concern over the prospect of doing something against their Savior can actually drive them to run to their pastor over things that seem ridiculous to more seasoned saints.

A Wandering Conscience

Unfortunately, it is often only a matter of time before the “first love” for Jesus dwindles into religious form. As new converts begin to “learn the ropes” of Christianity, a slight hardening of the heart takes place. The deep sense of helplessness that once created such a humble dependence upon the Lord is gradually replaced with spiritual pride. Bright and innocent faith is slowly supplanted by cynicism. Eventually, the world’s attractions regain their carnal luster, old idols are re-erected within the heart, and once-forsaken sins start to resurface.

The Bible describes this process as the “wandering away from” a “good conscience,” (I Timothy 1:5-6) and the corrupting of the conscience (Titus 1:15). Both describe the same process of inner moral decay that occurs when a person allows sin to re-establish itself within their heart. If the person continues along this course, he will soon lose the sense of the evil nature of sin. A perfect illustration of this truth is the way a nonsmoker can become accustomed to the smokiest room—once he has taken up the cigarette habit himself. Clean lungs detect every whiff of pollution; dirty lungs have lost that capability.

“As his heart becomes increasingly calloused, the spiritual system God constructed within him slowly loses its ability to detect the damage being done to it.”

The person who habitually gives himself over to sin loses the ability to feel the spiritual “pain” of sin. What happens to people who lose this sense? Consider lepers who experience a similar thing physically. Having lost sensation in their extremities, they are often terribly hurt and can even die because they are unaware of a bodily injury. In the spiritual realm, this is a picture of the hardening that takes place inside a person who remains in unrepentant sin. As his heart becomes increasingly calloused, the spiritual system God constructed within him slowly loses its ability to detect the damage being done to it. It’s little wonder that Christian men in habitual sexual sin can sit in church week after week, singing songs of worship to a God they continually defy. “Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” (Hebrews 3:13) their entire beings are riddled with a leprosy of evil which they can no longer even detect!

In such cases, as their conscience undergoes a constant searing, these men are gradually desensitized to the guilt of sin. If left unabated, this process will eventually lead to the death of conscience. As one writer stated it, “Such men must have won that most disastrous of victories — the victory over conscience.”(2)

A Seared Conscience

What does it mean to have one’s conscience seared? To answer that question, I consulted the godly writers of yesteryear. Adam Clarke described it thus: “One cauterized by repeated applications of sin, and resistings of the Holy Ghost…”(3) The Fausett Bible Dictionary explained it as, “…a hardened determination to resist every spiritual impression…”(4) The Pulpit Commentary said it is “the gradual deterioration of sensibility produced by (habitual sin).”(5) John Wesley likened it to, “drunkenness of soul, a fatal numbness of spirit…”(6)

“If a person remains in sin long enough, he can reach a point where he is no longer influenced by the Holy Spirit.”

In summation, if a person remains in sin long enough, he can reach a point where he is no longer influenced by the Holy Spirit. He has become so hardened that he will not listen—does not want to hear. I believe this phenomenon is that which the Bible terms apostasy.

How can a man know if he has gone too far? The very concern over such a possibility reveals the fact that there remains hope for him. Apostates, having lost all sense of morality, have no concern over such matters.

A Renewed Conscience

However, when a man in habitual sin repents—by acknowledging his guilt and taking steps to put it behind him—his hardened heart begins to soften, and he gradually begins to feel the conviction of sin once again. Finally, he is back in the place where God can reach him and help him overcome. As the writer of Hebrews exclaimed, “how much more will the blood of Christ… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)

Nobody enjoys the feeling of guilt over wrongdoing. However, the alternative is to have no feeling: no Holy Ghost conviction, no discernment of right from wrong, and no sense of shame over the evil nature of sin. The human conscience truly is a gift from God. Personally, I plan on treasuring this gift by maintaining a soft heart and a ready ear for the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit.

(1) A. W. Tozer, The Ground of Human Conscience: Christ’s Presence in the World from the book Echoes of Eden, copyright 1994.  Used by permission of Christian Publications.

(2) H. Melvill, The Biblical Illustrator, Isaiah 1, Ages Software.

(3) Adam Clarke, Hebrews 13, ibid.

(4) Fauset’s Bible Dictionary, Blasphemy, ibid.

(5) Pulpit Commentary, 2 Samuel 18, ibid.

(6) The Works of Wesley, Vol. 5, ibid.

Written by Steve Gallagher
Founder of Pure Life Ministries

Simul Justus et Peccator

[PLEASE NOTE: Much of the following material has been mined from various places including the Christian Publication Resource Foundation, without referencing the actual source. Therefore, the following excerpts are provided simply because it is helpful for understanding these issues.]

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To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is reckoned as righteousness. –Romans 4:5

How is the Christian to see himself in this world?

“Simul Justus et Peccator” “At the same time righteous and a sinner”. Justification is forensic. In Christ, we are declared, counted, or reckoned to be righteous when God imputes the righteousness of Christ (an “alien righteousness”) to our account. Christ’s righteousness ascribed to the redeemed individual without their personal merit. We are declared righteous in Christ, it is imputed to us — it is counted as ours … not infused in us. We are counted righteous in God’s eyes because of Christ. But this does not make us righteous in ourselves. That will only happen at our glorification when Christ transforms these bodies to be sealed in righteousness. Justifying righteousness is something which always resides in the Person of Christ alone. The imputation of this “alien” righteousness is the only means by which man can be acceptable to God. As long as the Christian lives, he is guilty in himself, but “in Christ” he is righteous and accounted precious.

The Council of Trent itself reveals that Rome considered Luther’s Simul Justus et Peccator to be a most serious threat to the traditional teaching of the Catholic church. The Roman Church contended that “justification” means making a man righteous in his own person. The Catholic reasons, “How can God pronounce a man to be righteous in His sight unless he is actually righteous?” He therefore thinks that a man must be born again and transformed before he can have right standing with God. In this system of thought, a man can have no real assurance of justification, for he can never be sure whether the Holy Spirit has made him righteous enough to be accepted of God.

Righteousness through Christ is called an “alien” righteousness because it did not generate from us. It is not our righteousness; it is his. It is an alien righteousness because it came from without, and now it is in a foreign land. It does not belong here; it is an alien righteousness. In Latin, we call it Simul Justus et Peccator: simul, simultaneously; justus, just; et, and; peccator, sinful. That is me – simultaneously righteous and sinful. That is my contribution to salvation — my sin! At the same time that I am a sinner, God sees me as righteous because of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the message of outreach — it is the message of salvation.

Righteousness comes in two ways: Coram Deo (righteousness before God) or Coram Hominibus (before man). Instead of a development in righteousness based in the person, or an infusion of merit from the saints, a person is judged righteous before God because of the works of Christ. But, absent the perspective of God and the righteousness of Christ, based on one’s own merit—a Christian still looks like a sinner. The declaration involves God imputing to the believer’s “balance sheet” or account the alien righteousness of Christ. The believer is not declared righteous by virtue of his own merit, but on the basis of the merit of Christ. When united to Him, it is justification which becomes the foundation upon which the believer can stand with confidence Coram Dei. The believer has no cause to fear in the presence of God because of His acquittal. The believer has only and always to look to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and hear God’s declaration, “You are accepted.” Because of justification the believer does not fear God’s rejection because of the sin still present in his/her life. God does not look at the sin in our life except through the work of Christ. This tension is resolved in the Incarnate Christ, crucified and now risen for the life of the world.

Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinner comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father’s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter.

The Judge of all the earth declares us “not guilty” when we believe because Christ was pronounced “guilty” for us on the cross. We are not first made righteous, then declared righteous; we are declared to be righteous by grace through faith in Christ, then made righteous! When we believe, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us ‘as if’ it was our own. However, it is HIS righteousness, that is why Paul says in Romans 1:17 that there is a righteousness that has been revealed from God, a righteousness not of our own, but a righteousness revealed from God and freely given to those who do not work, but to those who believe. In light of the goodness and graciousness of God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, we should daily repent of our own self-righteousness (our works), The words imply a declaration and pronouncement from the divine court of the believer’s right standing with God. “Justification” in itself does not mean a change in the man, but a declaration of how he appears in God’s sight.

Through faith we run to Christ and hold fast to Him, who satisfied the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:10-13). In this way, we are accounted righteous in the sight of God through faith alone, without doing the works of the law. We are Simul Justus et Peccator.

Luther recognized that even in a state of regeneration the believer still lives in the world and still in fact does commit acts of sin. There is no attempt to redefine sin to make it anything less than what it is. Rather there is a stark recognition of the dialectic of the Christian’s acceptance before God and the fact that he still sins. Luther’s phrase to describe this condition was that the state of the Christian between regeneration and ultimate glorification is Simul Justus et Peccator, at once just (or justified) and sinner. This is not a condition that will ever be transcended in this life. Rather, the believer must always rely on the finished work of Christ for his/her acceptance before God.

Note the helpful definition given by the Westminster Confession

“Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God” – WCF Ch 11

Our “iniquities are forgiven,” “sins are covered,” “the Lord does not reckon sin against us.” Romans 4:5-8

We fully affirm the following with John Knox, Scots Confession 15

“We confess and acknowledge that the law of God is most just, equal, holy, and perfect, commanding those things which, when perfectly done, can give life and bring man to eternal felicity; but our nature is so corrupt, weak, and imperfect, that we are never able perfectly to fulfill the works of the law. Even after we are reborn, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth of God is not in us. It is therefore essential for us to lay hold on Christ Jesus, in his righteousness and his atonement, since he is the end and consummation of the Law and since it is by him that we are set at liberty so that the curse of God may not fall upon us, even though we do not fulfill the Law in all points. For as God the Father beholds us in the body of his Son Christ Jesus, he accepts our imperfect obedience as if it were perfect, and covers our works, which are defiled with many stains, with the righteousness of his Son. We do not mean that we are so set at liberty that we owe no obedience to the Law–for we have already acknowledged its place–but we affirm that no man on earth, with the sole exception of Christ Jesus, has given, gives, or shall give in action that obedience to the Law which the Law requires. When we have done all things, we must fall down and unfeignedly confess that we are unprofitable servants. Therefore, whoever boasts of the merits of his own works or puts his trust in works of supererogation, boasts of what does not exist, and puts his trust in damnable idolatry.”

The Death of Faithful

Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair

Written by John Bunyan
Taken and adapted from the “Young People’s Pilgrim’s Progress” 
Rewritten and modernized by, S. J. Reid, D.D., 

NOW Envy stood forth and said…

“My lord, this man, in spite of his name, is one of the vilest men in our country. He has no regard for prince or people, law or custom, but does all he can to fill other men with his disloyal notions, which he calls faith and holiness. And I myself heard him say that Christian faith and the customs of our town Vanity were opposed to one another, and would always be, by which saying, my lord, he not only condemns these customs, but us also who observe them.”

Next came Superstition, who said, “My lord, I do not know much about this man, nor do I want to know him. But this I do know, that he is a very bad man, for when I had a talk with him the other day in this town he said that our religion was such that it could by no means please God, which saying, my lord, simply means that we worship in vain, are yet in our sins, and shall at last be punished. This is all I have to say.”

Pickthank then came forward and said, “My lord, I have known this fellow for a long time, and have heard him say things he ought not to have said. He mocked our noble prince, Beelzebub, and spoke with great contempt Of his friends, whose names are Lord Old Man, the Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, my old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of our noble friends. Besides, he has not been afraid to speak ill of you, my lord, who are now his judge, calling you an ungodly and bad man.”
When Pickthank had finished, the judge said to Faithful, “Thou runagate, heretic and traitor, have you heard what these honest gentlemen have said against you Faithful: “May I say a few words in my defense Judge? Sir, sir, you deserve to live no longer, but to be slain at once. But that all men may see how gentle we are towards you, let us hear what you, vile runagate, have to say. ”

Faithful: I say, then, in answer to Mr. Envy, that I never said anything but this: That what rules, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are opposed to the Christian faith. If I said what was wrong, convince me of my error and I will take it back. In reply to Mr. Superstition, let me say that in the worship of God there is required a divine faith. There can be no divine faith unless it is divinely revealed by the will of God. What is brought into the worship of God that was not divinely revealed is a human faith, and that faith will not profit to eternal life.

And as for Mr. Pickthank, I say that the prince of this town, with all his attendants, as already named, are more fit for hell than for this town and country and so may the Lord have mercy on me.” Then the judge said to the jury Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man, about whom so great an uproar has been made in this town. You have heard what these worthy gentlemen have said against him. You have heard his reply. It is now for you to hang him or save his life. But I think I must first instruct you in our laws. There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, a servant of our prince, against those of a different religion . In order that they might not increase too fast and become too strong for him, all their young children were thrown into the river. ‘There was another act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, that all who did not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace.  There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that if any called on any other god but him, they should be cast into the lions’ den. Now the prisoner at the bar has broken these laws, not only in thought, but also in word and deed.

Then the jury went into another room.

Their names were: Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light and Mr. Implacable. Among them elves they concluded to say that Faithful was guilty. Mr. Blind-man, the foreman, said, I see clearly that this man is a heretic.” Mr. No-good “Away with such a fellow from the earth.” Mr. Malice “Aye, for I hate the very looks of him.” Mr. Love-lust: “I could never endure him.” Mr. Live-loose: “Nor I, for he would ever condemn my way.” Mr. Heady “Hang him Hang him Mr. High-min d “A sorry scrub.” Mr. Enmity “My heart riseth against him.” Mr. Liar: “He is a rogue and a liar.” Mr. Cruelty “Hanging is too good for him.” Mr. Hate-light: “Let us dispatch him out-of-the-way.” Mr. Implacable “If I had all the world given to me I could not like him. Let us bring him in guilty of death.” And so they did, and he was taken from the place where he was to the place whence he came and put to a cruel death. They whipped him and beat him, and cut hi m with knives, and stoned him with stones, and, last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake.

Thus, Faithful died.

Now there stood behind the crowd a chariot and a span of horses waiting for Faithful. As soon as he passed away he was taken into it, and was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial City.

But as for Christian, he had a rest, and was put back into prison, where he stayed for a time. But he who rules all things so brought it about that at last Christian escaped them, and went on his way.

Understanding the Three Persons of the Trinity

Taken and adapted from, Theologia Christiana, Book 2 Ch. 9, 1696.
Written by Benedict Pictet
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“…now observe that the scripture expressly mentions three persons to whom the divine nature is ascribed, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Of these three the scripture speaks unitedly in various places; for not to mention the baptism of Christ, in which the Father revealed himself by the voice that was heard; the Son, who was the subject of the divine oracle, was seen; and the Holy Ghost descended in the shape of a dove; the following passages are well know: “Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 38:19.) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of all.” (2 Cor. 13:14.) See also John 14:16; 1 Cor. 12:3; Gal. 4:6. So also in Rev. 1:4, 5, John seeks grace “from him which is, and which was, and which is to come,” namely, from the Holy Ghost, (so-called on account of his manifold gifts, and with an allusion also to the seven churches of Asia,) and “from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, &c.” And not only in the New Testament is there mention made of these three unitedly, but in the Old Testament also. “I will mention the loving-kindness of the Lord, &c., for he said, Surely they are my people,” (this is said of the Father.) The Angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them,  (this concerning the Son.) But they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit, (this concerning the Spirit.) (Isaiah 43:7-10.) “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me (the Son), because the Lord hath anointed me (by his Spirit) to preach the gospel to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1.) Nor must we omit those passages in which the plurality of persons appears to be pointed out, such as “Let us make man in our image.” “Behold the man is become as one of us.” “Go to, let us go down, and confound their language.” (Gen. 11:7.)

Concerning these three persons we must remark, that they are distinct from each other, as is evident from the passages already quoted, and many others; thus Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand.” Here the Lord who speaks is distinguished from the Lord who is spoken to. So also John 15:26, “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” Here the Comforter, or Spirit, is plainly distinct from the Father and the Son. Against, they are so distinguished, that some things are said of the Father which cannot be said of the Son, and some things of the Son which are no wise said of the Spirit. The Father is said to have begotten the Son but the Son is no wise said to send the Father. The Spirit is said to proceed from the Father, and to be sent by the Son; but no where is the Father said to proceed from, nor the Son to be sent by, the Spirit. Yet are these persons distinct in such a manner, that they are not three Gods but one God; for the scripture everywhere proves, and reason confirms, the unity of the Godhead.

There are, therefore, three persons in one divine essence; and this is clearly established by the passage in 1 John 5:7, which is brought forward and quoted by Cyprian, although not read in many copies. A far greater number of reasons can be alleged why this passage should have been inserted by the orthodox. It was more to the advantage of heretics to suppress this passage, than to that of the orthodox to add it, because, if it were genuine, the heresy of the former would be entirely overthrown; if spurious the orthodox creed was in no danger, being clearly established from other passages of scripture. The connection also of the text confirms our opinion; for unless this verse be admitted, there seems no reason why John should say, “There are three that bear witness in earth,” not having before said any thing of “three witnesses in heaven.” Nor can it be objected that these words in earth, were also added afterwards, for the contrary appears from verse 9, where mention is made both of the divine and human testimony, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.”

This mystery of three in one, is called the mystery of the Trinity, a word not expressly written in the scriptures, but wisely invented, and advantageously used, for the purpose of exposing the shifts and subterfuges of crafty heretics, just as other words have been invented and used, such as … (of the same essence), … (essence), … (subsistence), &c. Concerning this mystery we must inquire soberly, and speak modestly, since the human mind cannot conceive, nor mortal tongue express, the greatness of it; and, therefore, we can have nothing to do with the unbridled audacity of the vain and speculating schoolmen, who, by their plausible and dangerous subtleties, have given room for the introduction of various heresies.

We may examine things revealed, but not rashly pry into secret things, lest as Prosper remarks, we should be convicted of unlawful curiosity in the latter, and of blamable negligence in the former. Distinguished men, both in this and former ages, have attempted to render this mystery plain by many examples. I admire their ingenuity, united as it is with an ardent desire for the promotion of Christian truth; while I read what they have written, my mind is captivated both by their ingenuity and by their eloquence are removed and the mind is brought down to a little closer consideration of the subject, all that they have advanced is, in a great measure, forgotten. But although this mystery is incomprehensible to mortals, it must be rejected by us for it is not strange that finite beings, such as we are, should not perfectly comprehend the nature of an infinite Being. It is enough to have proved from the scriptures these two points, that there is one God, and that the Godhead is ascribed to three persons, distinct from each other. The latter we have begun to prove, and shall prove still further. But to assist our understanding on this subject, we may observe that the divine essence is infinite; also, that we do not comprehend how this essence is common to three persons, for this reason, — because we judge of the divine essence as we do of a finite essence, which cannot subsist in more than one. Further, that the divine essence subsisting in a plurality of persons, arises from the Infinite nature of Deity, but that these persons are no more than three, is only known from revelation. Gregory Nazianzen excellently remarks on this subject, I cannot attempt to think of one, but I am instantly surrounded with the splendor of three; I cannot attempt to distribute the three, but I am instantly carried back to the idea of one. These three, in whom the divine essence subsists, are called persons, which is the term we shall make use of; we confess, indeed, that it is not so appropriate, but for want of other terms, we are compelled to adopt this, in common with the whole Christian church.”

 

The Unmitigated Sovereignty of God

Taken and adapted from, “The Sole Consideration, That God is God, Sufficient to Still All Objections to His Sovereignty”, included in, “The Works of Jonathan Edwards”, Volume 2, 1736.

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“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”  Proverbs 19:11 

In that he is God, he will be sovereign…
                                                                   …and will act as such.

He sits on the throne of his sovereignty, and his kingdom ruleth over all. He will be exalted in his sovereign power and dominion, as he himself declares; Ps 46:10. “I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” He will have all men to know, that he is most high over all the earth. He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand.—There is no such thing as frustrating, or baffling, or undermining his designs; for he is great in counsel, and wonderful in working. His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord; whatsoever God doth, it shall be for ever; nothing shall be put to it, nor any thing taken from it. He will work, and who shall let it? He is able to dash in pieces the enemy. If men join hand in hand against him, to hinder or oppose his designs, he breaks the bow, he cuts the spear in sunder, he burneth the chariot in the fire.—He kills and he makes alive, he brings down and raises up just as he pleases. Isa. 45:6, 7. “That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is none else: I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.”

Great men, and rich men, and wise men cannot hinder God from doing his pleasure. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, he accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor. There are many devices in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations.—When he gives quietness, who can make trouble? When he hides his face, who can behold him? He breaketh down, and it cannot be built up again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening; when he purposeth, who shall disannul it? And when his hand is stretched out, who shall turn it back?—So there is no hindering God from being sovereign, and acting as such. “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” “He hath the keys of hell and of death: he openeth, and no man shutteth: he shutteth, and no man openeth.” This may show us the folly of opposing ourselves against the sovereign dispensations of God; and how much more wisely they act who quietly and sweetly submit to his sovereign will.

–Sourced from the “Dead Puritan Society”

Go on, with your Commandments…

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.

…I will go on with the promises.

Make the law your rule of walk, and I will pray God to perform His promise in me; for God hath said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them.”

Thus you go on by the law, and I by the gospel.

Do perform your duty, and I will plead my privileges. Act thou as an industrious servant, and by God’s grace, I will act an affectionate son.
 
Be thou obedient to the law, and I will pray for grace for obedience to the faith. Live thou in the fear of thy master, and I will endeavour to honour my heavenly Father…Make the law thy only rule of action, and act accordingly; and I will depend upon God to work in me both to will and to do of His own good pleasure; yea, to fulfill all the good pleasure of His will in me, and the work of faith with power…
 

Let the ministers of the letter bind the grievous burdens upon your shoulders that you cannot possibly bear…

…and I will cast my burdens on the Lord, who has promised to sustain me. Be thou careful to observe all the grievousness which they prescribe, and I will cast all my care upon Him that careth for me. Walk thou by sight, and I by faith; walk thou in the letter, and I in the Spirit. Look thou to the commandments, and I will look to Jesus….
 
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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: William Huntington, 1745-1813. Of Huntington’s description of his sweet blessed deliverance into gospel liberty, J. C. Philpot says: “We have read some of the finest productions of human eloquence, in both ancient and modern languages. William Romaine said, “that God raises up such men as John Bunyan and William Huntington but once in a century.” Dr. Henry Cole, translator of the Works of Luther and Calvin, after referring to Huntington as “that great and blessed servant of the Most High,” says, “I believe he bore and left in Britain the greatest and most glorious testimony to the power of God’s salvation that ever was borne or left therein.” A. J. Baxter, editor of the Gospel Advocate, wrote: “There are hundreds who will both speak and write with respect of such men of God as Owen, Bunyan, Romaine, Barridge and Newton, who would recoil at the mention of the name of Huntington. And why? Because his conduct was less consistent than they? No, but because, in depth, closeness, and discrimination of vital realities he excelled them all; and was therefore the least comprehended, 1 Cor. 2:15. (Thomas Wright in Life of Huntington.) (-T. Rutt in Foreword to Kingdom of Heaven Taken by Prayer, by William Huntington)