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!

A Critique of the “Federalist Vision” and a Warning to the Reformed Community

Taken and adapted from, Critique of the Teachings of Barach, Schlissel, Wilkins, and Wilson
Written by Rev. Michael J. Ericson
Materials sourced from the Presbyterian Reformed Church Website

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A major controversy has developed over the past years in the Reformed community.

While there are often differences and debates in the camp, I believe, this particular matter, is a watershed issue that could shape the direction of Reformed and Evangelical churches. It strikes at the very heart of the gospel, namely, the application of Christ’s redemption, the new birth, justification by faith alone, and conversion. To elucidate of what I speak, permit me to offer a review of the history of the controversy.

Early in 2002, the annual Pastors Conference was held at Auburn Avenue PCA, in Monroe, LA. The speakers were John Barach, Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson. The scope of God’s covenant with man in Christ, its administration, and appropriation were the substance of the conference.

On June 22, 2002, Covenant Presbytery of the RPCUS issued a statement entitled “A Call to Repentance.” In the judgment by the RPCUS court, the teaching presented in the 2002 Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Pastors Conference, involves a fundamental denial of the essence of the Christian Gospel in the denial of justification by faith alone…. these teachings are heretical. We call these men to repentance.[1]

Following a near fire storm in the Reformed community, the 2003 Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference was set up seeking to clarify the issues and unify Reformed churches. Each of the four speakers from the earlier conference delivered a single lecture summarizing or clarifying the previous messages from 2002. This was followed in turn by a respondent.[2] After each presentation and response, there were discussion sessions, with a couple of question and answer times during the conference. While the respondents did an admirable job, I believe it will be helpful to highlight some central issues, with specific reference to what each man has taught.

The teaching of the four men addresses issues that are foundational to the application of Christ’s redemption. From that great objective work of Christ, as a covenant for the people, we find three main aspects concerning its application to the believer: 1) union with Christ; 2) justification by faith; and 3) experimental religion. In the light of Scripture, we will examine, as fairly as possible, critical errors in these three foundational areas.

All four men will be critiqued as a group. There are several reasons for this. While there are individual nuances, they often use ‘we’ when referring to their ‘new paradigm’ in theology. Furthermore, during all of the discussion, as well as question and answer times, there is a noticeable lack of critique of each other, or clarification of differences in some very crucial areas.[3] We also take them together for the sake of clarity, in order not to be sidetracked by all the varied nuances. Finally, by taking the four as a group, we can arrange our treatment topically.

Union with Christ

Christ’s person and work is foundational to any understanding of God’s dealings with fallen sinners. It is the basis of salvation, namely, election, effectual calling, justification and sanctification. The nature of Christ’s efficacious work of redemption does not appear to be brought into question by any of the four men’s teaching. The differences of view lie in the application of Christ’s redemption. We will first look at how all four men see union with Christ as salvation; second, to whom they think it applies; and, third, how this union is brought about.

Union with Christ is Salvation

The overarching theme summarizing the application of Christ’s redemption to sinners is the doctrine of union with Christ. The elect, comprising the universal, catholic, invisible Church, are united to Christ and, thus, share in the benefits of His work and glory. The elect, by the work of God’s grace (Eph 1:22 ; 2:6-8), are really joined to Christ (1 Cor 6:17 ; Jn 10:28 ; Eph 5:23, 30; cf. WLC #66; WSC ##31, 32). Those so united to Christ partake of the benefits, such as justification, adoption and sanctification (Rom 8:30 ). Union with Christ is, therefore, the application of Christ’s redemption brought to bear upon the sinner.

Most of the statements by the four men, as to what union with Christ is, seem to fall within orthodox bounds. While effectual calling never is discussed (it is only mentioned briefly in reference to those outside the covenant community), they evince the understanding that union with Christ is salvific, with the attendant blessings.

Wilkins adheres to the truth that “Salvation depends on being united to Christ.”[4] As with the Westminster divines, he holds that “there is no salvation apart from union with Him [Christ].”[5]Wilkins adds, “there is no such thing as a non-organic union.”[6]

Union with Christ is considered by Barach to entail salvation, with all its attendant blessings, as we see from the following:

All of our blessings, all the blessings of salvation are blessings that we experience in union with Christ. Because we are united with Christ, because he is our covenantal representative, when He was raised from the dead and vindicated by God, we were vindicated by God, justified … sanctification … we have new life in Christ … glorified.[7]

To be united to Christ is, therefore, to have eternal life.

Wilson quotes with approval WCF 28:1, which discusses what is signified in baptism as union with Christ, being ingrafted into Christ, regeneration, remission of sins, with other blessings.[8] To be united to Christ is to be of His body. Christ “is the Head of the Church, and the Church (in this sense) is the fullness of Christ.”[9] Thus, he at least alludes to the idea that to be united to Christ is salvation.

While union with Christ is not stressed by Schlissel, we do find references to ‘in Him,’ and the implication that to be in Christ is a state of salvation. For example:

We are the people of the atonement. We are the people who have been covered by God. We are the people whom God has given His Son and the portion of the Holy Spirit without measure through His Son and that he has given us sanctification and every grace in Him.[10]

Thus, we see that all four men would agree with historic Reformed theology that to be in union with Christ is salvation, with all the benefits. Stress must be place on the fact that there are numerous statements that the benefits of salvation, all the benefits, are found in union with Christ.

Temporary Union

The major point of deviation from biblical Calvinism comes when considering who shares in this vital, living union with Christ, with the four suggesting that all the baptized, head for head, regardless of their personal faith, share in this vital union. It isn’t until you realize unto whom they think this union applies that their use of terms such as ‘real’ and ‘vital’ show their colors. All four use language specifically stating that all within the visible church have this union with Christ, whether they be hypocrite or apostate.

Wilkins stresses that those in the visible church receive the benefits because “the church is salvation because it is the body of Christ” and all its children and all members participate in “redemption.”[11] In his session’s position paper we read:

8…. Included in His decree, however, is that some persons, not destined for final salvation, will be drawn to Christ and His people only for a time. These, for a season, enjoy real blessings, purchased for them by Christ’s cross and applied to them by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament. 9. Salvation depends on being united to Christ. Clearly, those who are eternally saved are those who continue to abide in Him by the grace of God. There are those, however, who are joined to Him as branches in the vine, but who because of unbelief are barren and fruitless, and consequently are cut off from the vine and from salvation.[12]

According to Wilkins, the writers of the New Testament use “the 2nd person plural throughout, without any qualifiers;” what they say, “they say to the visible church,” “even though they couldn’t see and couldn’t know the hearts;” this applies to “all members of Christ’s body, and individually members of it” that “Christ died for their sins;” the blessings of the union with Christ are “objectively true of each of the members” “by virtue of their standing in the covenant;” “these very real things” are theirs in possession; “Being in Christ, they share in His wisdom, His righteousness, His sanctification, and His redemption. They have received the Spirit.”[13] The visible church, thus, is not a place of potential blessing, it is the place of salvation for all, and Wilkins even applies the truths of Ephesians chapter one, head for head, to every member of the visible church.

This applies, for Wilkins, equally to all who fall away or apostatize. “So, the point of covenant is this, one, you maintain, you maintain, the relationship established with the Savior, and if you did you, you enjoy the blessings of the Savior. If you break this relationship, you perish … as long as you’re faithful, you enjoy those blessings;” those that fall away “lose blessings that were actually theirs;” “they are cut off from Christ” “even though they were bought by the Lord;” “punished even though they were cleansed from their former sins;” they “forfeit all the blessings and benefits of the covenant of grace.”[14] To lose and forfeit, the apostate hell bound sinner, according to Wilkins, first has the blessings of union with Christ.

According to Wilson, the apostate can actually have real union with Christ: “Before God’s action cut Caiaphas out of the olive tree, Caiaphas was in the olive tree and a wicked man. The sap flowed through his branch, but he didn’t bear fruit.”[15] Of those that apostatize from the New Testament church, Wilson urges that “Sap flowed to them.”[16] He asserts that “the hypocrite is … genuinely in Christ” and that “he is as much a member of the vine as anyone else.”[17] This is because elect and nonelect “Both are equally in the covenant.”[18]

Schlissel speaks of the apostate being cleansed from their sins, citing 2 Pet 1:9 ; Heb 6 .[19]

John Barach teaches that “The new covenant can be and is broken by people,” citing Heb 10:29 and John 15 ,[20] without any qualifying of the persons involved. Of those cut off, he asserts that “these branches were genuinely in Christ” and that “some who are in Christ, they apostatize and they go to hell.”[21]

We may be confused as to what these men mean by ‘church,’ but ‘head for head‘ is very clear and particular language. For these men, the hypocrite and the apostate alike enjoy a real, vital union with Christ; a union which can be severed.

We will note two things at this point. First, Scripture does not teach, however, that every person, head for head, in the visible church participates in real union with Christ. Nor does the Word teach, second, that this union can be severed.

First, as to who participates in vital union with Christ, they often appeal to John 15 with the analogy of the vine and the branches, but they go too far in teaching that all are in the vine the same way, and that all share in that vital union with Christ. A careful look at John 15 , however, will show that all that are truly in Christ will bear fruit. Verse 5 makes this clear: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” The branch cannot do so “except it abide in the vine” (v. 4). Those branches that bear no fruit are cut out. They are said not to abide in Christ, “for without me ye can do nothing” (v. 5); “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch” (v. 6). So, in one sense they are in the vine, and in another they are not. Here we have the relation of the internal and the external, or the visible and invisible aspects of the church. Those fruitless branches are in the visible body, the external covenant, but are not really united to Christ, drawing that life-giving, fruit-bearing sap. As the four often reference Calvin as a source of their thinking, his own comments are telling concerning the appearance of every branch:

I reply that many are reckoned by men’s opinions to be in the vine who in fact have no root in the vine. Thus in the prophets the Lord calls the people of Israel His vine because by outward profession they had the name of the Church.[22]

We must be careful not to push the organic analogy too far, by stating that every branch is in the vine in the same way. The analogy of the vine and the branches is not the only one found in the Scripture.

We also see references in Scripture in which personal distinctions of condition are drawn between those in the visible church. For example, we have the analogy of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:32-33 ). Sheep are not goats and goats are not sheep. They may share the same pasture and barn, but they are of a different nature.

We also have the parable of the sower. In this parable there is the distinguishing characteristic of the soil, or ground. The difference between the effects of the seed, the Word of God, is attributed to the ground: “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt 13:8 ). This is the one that “heareth the word, and understandeth it” (Matt 13:23), which can itself be attributed to none other than the Holy Spirit’s regenerating and calling work. All in the visible church have a call, but not all have the effectual call.

We also read of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13:24-30 ; 36-43). It is clearly taught that not all in the visible church are wheat. From the world (v. 38), the wheat and the tares are called out externally by the preached word and constitute the visible church, along with their children. Tares may look very much like wheat, but they are not wheat. When, for example, Wilson speaks of the whole visible church as the omelette and the individuals as the eggs, he fails to take note that there are some things in the omelette that are not eggs.[23] Not all in the visible church are in real and inseparable union with Christ. They are in a federal relation, under His visible rule, offered the gospel, but they are not in a Spiritual, saving, real union. The wheat and tares are so closely bound in common association and appearance that you cannot pull the tares out without hurting the wheat. In other words, sessions do not make judgments about regeneration, but only judgments concerning credible professions of faith. The tares being treated like wheat doesn’t make them wheat, not does it hinder warning them of the dangers of being tares.

Part of the problem results because all four men deny the external/internal and visible/invisible distinction made in reference to the Church. Appeal to John Murray is of little help. While Murray didn’t like certain abuses of the terms, he affirmed the underlying doctrine. No orthodox Presbyterian has ever taught there are two churches, hence the four build a straw man.

Wilson, in referencing the church as our mother, speaks of honoring his mother, and suggests we should respond by asking whether he meant his visible mother or invisible mother.[24] His mother, however, is not a corporate entity made up of elect and nonelect individuals. You can only push an analogy so far. There are distinctions more fundamental than time between the members of the visible and invisible church., as we noted above in such texts as John 15 and Matthew 13 .[25]

Barach denies the distinction between external/internal or visible/invisible:

The Bible doesn’t know about a distinction between being internally in the covenant, really in the covenant, and being only externally in the covenant, just being in the sphere of the covenant. The Bible speaks about the reality, the efficacy of baptism.[26]

In turn, distinctions between corporate and individual election are either blurred or denied.

The invisible aspect of the church is invisible in principle. It is based upon the decrees of God and His uniting the elect with Christ in their effectual calling. Not all in the visible church are in the invisible church, nor will some ever be.

Scripture is very clear on the distinction between external association and internal reception of the blessings of the covenant. There is no other legitimate way to read Romans 2:25-29 , except with this distinction in mind. The main point of contrast is between those that are merely circumcised in the flesh and those that, by the operation of the Spirit, have a circumcised heart. Inward and outward have more to do than with just faithfulness or unfaithfulness. These point to Spirit’s work, or lack thereof.[27] The Apostle is not contrasting those who are flagrant covenant breakers, considered apostate and cut off. The contrast, rather, is between those whose confidence is in bare observance of the letter, without a work of regeneration, and those who have a heart made new and truly share in the blessings of the covenant. Any trusting in external rites, or actions, as somehow making one right with the Lord is what Paul refutes. He thus speaks of two types of Jew, inward and outward, and the outward in this sense is no true Jew (v. 28). The same is true in the New Testament administration. Those that merely have the outward sign of baptism are not true Christians. They are only Christians in an external sense.

Likewise with Romans 3:1-4 and ,especially, 9:1-6, where the Apostle forthrightly contrasts the Israel after the flesh (that is physically) and Israel after the Spirit and promise. Hence the example is given of Jacob and Esau, who, even though being raised by the same father, one was Israel after the Spirit and promise by election, and the other was of the flesh only. Abraham had sons of the flesh and those of the promise. Both were circumcised, but Esau was not individually elect and never was regenerated.

There are several key questions that are at issue here. With whom is the covenant of gracemade? With Christ and the elect (Gal 3:16 ), is the biblical and historic answer. Among whom is the covenant of grace administered? With all in the visible church (Rom 9:4 ). Unto whom is the covenant of grace offered? To every needy sinner, the world unto whom God would be pleased to send His ambassadors (Matt 28:19-20; Rom 10:11-15 ).

This leads us to a related problem as these men speak of union with Christ; that is, whether union with Christ can be severed. They clearly teach that it can, even the vital, real union. The Scriptures teach otherwise. While all Calvinists agree that the external relation can be severed, hence John 15 , Romans 11, etc., Scripture teaches that none that are in union with Christ can be cut away.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28-29 ).

There is an everlasting union that the elect have with Christ that nothing will sever. Nothing can separate the elect from the love of God in Christ. There is a sealing work of the Spirit, who is the earnest of the elect’s inheritance (Eph 1:13 , 14). While these men affirm that the elect will never be severed from this union, they teach that the nonelect may be in this union and subsequently severed from it.

The implications of the teaching presented by the four, considering that all in the visible church, head for head, even the apostates, share in the same vital union, is that those who are truly in vital union with Christ can be cut off, can lose their salvation. R.C. Sproul, Jr., asks “What is the sap?” Wilson answers: “Nobody ever said that the sap was the atoning work of Christ salvifically for the elect.”[28] Wilson doesn’t explain how this doesn’t contradict his teaching on union with Christ as being salvific.

Arminians teach that the apostate truly lose the union they had with Christ, but run into the problem of denying election and perseverance of the saints. The language used by the four suggests that all in the visible church, hence in union with Christ, share in all the blessings of the covenant except one – perseverance.

It may not be wise to call this “losing one’s salvation,” but it seems contrary to Scripture to say that nothing at all is lost. To draw such a conclusion appears to deny the reality of the covenant and the blessedness that is said to belong even to those who ultimately prove themselves reprobate (Heb. 10: 26ff).[29]

According to Wilkins, those that fall away do so because “God didn’t persevere with them.”[30]Or Wilson, “Nonelect covenant members neglect the means of their perseverance in a more fundamental sense, which is why they fall away.”[31] The biblical/historical doctrine is that the nonelect, however, cannot persevere because they were never brought into a state in which to persevere. For the four men to assert that this teaching differs from Arminianism because it was all predestined offers little help.

In wrestling with the issue of what it is that the nonelect partake of, these men run into difficulties because they overlook what has been historically referred to as the common operations of the Spirit. Both the Westminster Confession of Faith (10:4) and the Larger Catechism (#68) speak of the “common operations of the Spirit.” In these instances Matthew 7: 22ff; Matt 13:20-21; and Heb 6:4-6 are cited. The unregenerate can have operations of the Spirit by which they can know much about the faith, speak much about the faith, can feel deep conviction of sin (i.e. Judas “I have sinned because I have betrayed innocent blood,” Matt 27:4), can feel joy in hearing the Word (Matt 13:20,21 ; Herod, in Mk 6:20), and can even do mighty works (Mt 7:22f). The standard, Reformed understanding of Heb 10:29 has been with reference to the common operations of the Spirit.

The phrase “common operations of the Spirit” is a necessary inference to explain the difference between what the elect experience or the work on their heart, what the nonelect experience, and the different nature of the Spirit’s work in each. In reference to the nonelect, it acknowledges some type of work is going on, short of any effectual calling and union with Christ. At the same time it keeps the distinction clear that the elect receive something different: the vital regeneration of the Spirit in effectual calling and real, inseparable union with Christ. This avoids the confusion and suggestion that the elect and nonelect are in the same vital union or receive the same gracious work of the Spirit. It is an inference brought about by letting Scripture interpret Scripture.

Thus far I have presented, first, how all four men see union with Christ as salvation; second, that they teach that it applies to all within the visible church, though only as a temporary union for the nonelect; and now, third, let us examine how this union is brought about.

Effectual Baptism

How is our union with Christ brought about? How is it effectuated? The short answer here is that the four, in various forms, teach that vital, real union is effectuated by baptism.

Schlissel asks:

Why do we not accept God’s testimony is baptism? Look at how the Scriptures uniformly address the churches to whom the letters are written. Paul’s epistles are prodigious in describing that the people in these churches are, in fact, heirs of the kingdom, belong to Jesus Christ, and sanctified by Him; they will persevere and continue, and they have the Holy Spirit…. Calling is a key to understanding the covenant…. Such a calling is objective rests upon every baptized person.[32]

By virtue of the testimony of the covenant in baptism, “I’m not waiting for a conversion… this is a fact … our children are God’s.”[33]

Wilson states that “Baptism is our introduction to union with Him.”[34] While affirming that regeneration is a secret work of the Holy Spirit, that faith is necessary and that is conferred at the time of conversion, Wilson understands that infancy in conjunction with water baptism is the norm for this regeneration and union with Christ to occur.[35] He further believes, in a limited sense, that “Calvin held to baptismal regeneration.”[36] In addition, after quoting WCF 28:1, he writes “Raise your hand if you knew that the Westminster Confession taught baptismal regeneration.”[37]

For Wilson, this applies to everyone who is baptized: “Baptism to the one baptized, to everyone baptized, is a sign and a seal of his ingrafting into Christ.”[38] Thus, Wilson takes exception to the historic Reformed position that the nonelect do not receive what is signified in the sacraments.[39] Of the nonelect partaking objectively of what is signified, Wilson admits that “in this very narrow sliver of a sense you might say that there’s a Lutheran point here.”[40] There is some tension between this and his thought that the relation between the water baptism and the grace of salvation is not absolute, but it is the norm.[41]

Barach, as to how union with Christ is brought about, remarks:

In baptism we are united with Jesus Christ … union … died to sins … raised to new life. That is something that we can say to everybody in our congregation by virtue of their membership in Christ…. You can call that, if you want, covenantal baptismal regeneration.[42]

Again, this applies “to the whole church … to all of them head for head.”[43] By baptism, Barach asserts, one is brought into union with Christ and a possessor of all the blessings.

Wilkins also agrees that “By baptism one is joined to Christ’s body, united to Him covenantally, and given all the blessings and benefits of His work.”[44] He teaches that “when we are baptized, we are united to Him in His work, we receive His Spirit, even as He did in His baptism, and our baptism is a sign and seal of sharing in His baptism.”[45] Wilkins holds that everyone, head for head, person for person, “at baptism all the promises and blessings of the covenant are delivered over to you”[46] and that “everyone in Christ, however, has the same standing.”[47]

Wilkins also believes that what is signified is always present in the sign. What is signified “is a reality in all the sacraments that is always present”[48] Thus, he believes that “in this sense we can speak of baptismal regeneration.”[49] Fundamental to this discussion is, as noted above, that the four deny the distinction between the elect and nonelect receiving what is signified in the sacrament.

The basic confessions of the Reformed churches do not teach that all participants receive what is signified. The Belgic Confession, Article 33, teaches that the sacraments are “to nourish and strengthen our faith,” not impart it. The Heidelberg Catechism:

Q65: Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, when doth this faith proceed? A: From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) XIX:11, of the Word and the sacraments:

The wicked and unbelievers hear and understand the words, yet enjoy not the things signified, because they receive them not by a true faith; even so the sacraments… the unbelievers receive not the things which are offered.

The Canons of Dort state, “And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so He preserves, continues, and perfects it … by the use of the sacraments” (Head V, Article 14). And, finally, the Westminster Confession of Faith relates the grace signified in the sacraments to “worthy receivers” (27:3), in baptism “to such as that grace belongeth unto … in His appointed time” (28:6), and of the Lord’s Supper as “sealing all benefits unto true believers” (29:1). All the great creeds agree that only the elect, through faith, receive what is signified in the sacraments.

A sacrament is a seal in a twofold sense. The first is of placing an oath on the Word of God. The second sense is exciting and confirming grace already or to be afterward bestowed “to those to whom it belongs.”[50] The physical signs and seals of the covenant never were a means of initiating the covenant. The prime example of this in the Scripture is Abraham:

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also (Rom 4:11).

Note two things here. First, it is clear that Abraham’s justified state existed before it was sealed. At least 14 years transpire between Gen 15:6 (“Abraham believed God…) and Gen 17:10-13(reception of the sign and seal of circumcision). This is known from Ishmael’s age, Gen 17:25. Circumcision did not initiate or confer the grace of justification. The instrument was faith. Second, circumcision, now baptism, is a “seal of the righteousness of the faith.” Notice how the seal of the sacrament is directly linked to the instrument of faith. Understanding the instrumental relation between grace and the covenant, we speak of the sacrament as a seal of the covenant of grace (cf. Rom 4:5). Without faith there is no sealing in the sacraments.

Even for those nonelect, who do not receive what is signified, there is judgment for partaking of the sign, as is pointed out in Hebrews 10:26-30. The language of this passage is sacramental in that what they profess and what the sign is to signify is spoken as being trampled upon. This does not imply, however, that they actually received these graces. An example would be someone going into the training compound of the Special Forces, burning and trampling on the U.S. flag. It is only a sign; there is no sacrament. The person doing such a thing, however, would, at the very least, incur the wrath of those who value that symbol.

The four men make frequent reference to the means of grace and God’s use of them in salvation. They, however, equivocate in speaking of baptism and the Word as a means of grace. Never once do they differentiate between the Word of the gospel and baptism, with the former as a converting means and the later as a confirming means. Baptism is not a converting ordinance. What brings a person into union with Christ is not baptism. It signifies and confirms but it does not bring about that union. Effectual calling is not by baptism.

Effectual calling “by His Word and Spirit” are the means of bringing a sinner into the covenant of grace, into union with Christ, enlightening their minds, renewing their wills, so that they embrace and receive Christ (cf. 2 Thess 2:13-14; WLC #67). Union with Christ is brought about by effectual calling (cf. 1 Pet 5:10 ; WSC #66). It is also of interest to point out that one of the texts cited by the Westminster standards to support the statements made on effectual calling is Tit 3:4-5 , which is a text repeatedly referred to by Wilkins, et al, to refer to all in the congregation, head for head, that have been baptized. It, to the contrary, as what is signified, only applies to those who are effectually called by His Word and Spirit. It does not apply to all those that receive the general gospel call (cf. WSC #31).

This is the clear teaching of all the standards of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. The Westminster divines understood this to be the case. They believed they were in perfect harmony on this matter with the Reformed churches. This is not a variance between historic Dutch theology and Westminster theology. What is at variance is presumptivism and historic experimental theology.

In summary, under the topic of union with Christ, we have discussed three main aspects: 1) union with Christ is salvific with all the attendant blessings; 2) all four men hold that all persons in the visible church, person for person, participate in full, real union with Christ, even though some may lose it; and 3) that these men teach this union is wrought by baptism, either ordinarily or unqualified.

I am in full agreement that union with Christ entails salvation. To be united to Christ is to partake of every blessing (Eph 1), with Christ as Surety and Christ as our Head. Clearly in Romans 6the Apostle teaches that to be united to Christ is to be dead unto sin and alive unto God. Where I take strong exception to the teaching presented by these four men is who participates in this union, whether it can be severed, and how it is brought about.

All four of the men are deviant, or at least very unclear, in their teaching concerning union with Christ. The Reformed and evangelical understanding of union with Christ in (1) what it entails, (2) who shares in it and whether it can be lost, and (3) how it is brought about separates us from both Roman Catholics and Arminians. Gross error in any one of these three facets will place one out on the skinny branches indeed. The teaching of the four men concerning union with Christ is outside the pale of historic and biblical Calvinism.

Saving Faith

Scripture teaches that the instrument of justification is faith, and faith alone. It is a specific faith with the object as Christ crucified, “through faith in his blood” (Rom 3:25 ). The promised seed was Christ, and it is faith in Him that saves (Acts 13:23 ). Faith is “counted for righteousness” (Gen 15:6 quoted in Rom 4:3, 5). Faith is the instrument by which Christ and His righteousness is received and applied.

Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness (WLC #73).

Faith is unique, and is treated so in Scripture. Faith is sharply contrasted with any works, any fruit or faithfulness; it is a hearing (contrasted to doing) and trusting in Christ alone, offered in the covenant of grace (John 1:12 ; Rom 3:27 ; 4:2, 6; Gal 3:2 , 12, 26).

All four men fail to explain 1) the nature of true saving faith, 2) the object of saving faith, and 3) they blur the distinction between faith and faithfulness in justification, with the result that they promote a new form of legalism, namely, justification by the instrument of faithfulness.

The Nature of Saving Faith

All four men fail to explain the nature of true saving faith. It is difficult to prove a negative. All that can be done here is to assert, from listening to and reading the available materials, that there never is a presentation of the nature and characteristics of saving faith. For example, in Wilson’s book “Reformed” is Not Enough, in the chapter entitled “Reformation Bona Fides” (which is, as he explains in the prior chapter, about sola fide), there is talk of faith as life, faith as responsive to God’s Word, and faith as not being alone.[51] There is, however, no explanation of what true, saving faith is. You will listen in vain to the other three men for any explanation of what saving faith is.

The Object of Saving Faith

All four men fail to explain the object of saving faith. After speaking of the general nature of faith, the Confession states: “But the principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” (WCF 14:2). The Larger Catechism asks (#72) “What is justifying faith?” The answer:

Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

All four men do not explain, but instead, blur the object of saving faith. Wilson speaks of the object of saving faith as “faith in all of God’s promises”[52] and that a person is “justified through faith in believing God’s declarations.”[53] Thus, rather than speaking of this as the general aspect of faith and then moving on to speak of the specific object of saving faith as Christ crucified, there is no clear statement given. In another place, saving faith is equivocated with historic faith:

The first [key responsibility] is to understand this covenant…. to accept and believe the terminology of the covenant … The second is to discover the laws of this covenant and live by them.[54]

You see how faith, justifying faith, is here viewed as an understanding of terminology, which is generally referred to by the Puritans as historic faith.

This blurring of the object of saving faith appears when the four speak of evangelism. For John Barach evangelism within the church consists of, teaching them to observe all that God has commanded in view of the hope that is laid out for those who love Christ. We teach them to respond to God’s Word in faith. We teach them to do what the Lord tells them to do and we warn them with the covenant warning lest they fall away. As Norman Shepherd says, “Discipline like discipling is a matter of teaching and encouraging one’s brother to observe all that God had commanded in view of this hope that is laid up for those who love Christ and keep His commandments.”[55]

Of those in apostate churches, he states: “So we call them to faithfulness…. We need to grab them by their baptisms.”[56] Finally, at one point, in the midst of other things, he mentions, “who put their trust in Christ,” but doesn’t mention this in relation to faith.[57]

Wilkins is a bit clearer, speaking about “the one who believes in Him [Christ].”[58] He then goes on, however, to speak of Christ receiving grace in this sense, and that we are recipients by union with Him, which puts us right back into baptismal regeneration, which is what he then talks about. He doesn’t discuss the nature or object of faith in Christ. What should be a call to faith in Christ becomes,

“We have to turn to the grace of God and that’s covenant, it’s a beautiful thing. God and mercy embraces sinners and calls them to be faithful and gives them everything they need to be faithful and assures them that He will never, He will never turn away from them.”[59]

Faith and Faithfulness

All four men blur the distinction between faith and faithfulness in justification. This distinction is of vital importance in maintaining justification by faith alone, as well as making clear that faith is unique and contrasted to the works of faith in faith’s role in justification.

Wilson, in a chapter that is stated to be about sola fide, does not have one single sentence devoted to the concept of justification by faith alone. A reference to sola fide does occur in the opening paragraph as something not to be abandoned, but is immediately followed by reasons for needing to make qualifications due to current abuses and “sola-mongering.” The phrase “faith alone” is used only twice and in sentences stressing that it is not alone.[60]

At the outset of his chapter “The Greatness of Justification by Faith” Wilson mentions that the Protestant view of justification is true in a limited sense regarding the Roman Catholic view, but he then proceeds to speak about works. There is a holding forth of works as the fruit of faith and justification in one sense as a demonstration of works, but then things are muddied, such as “We also have to say, using biblical language, that we are justified by good works.”[61] Also, that good works are “definitionally related to justification.”[62] He then ties this in with the concept of corporate justification.

Steve Schlissel seems to suggest that justification by faith (he doesn’t refer to faith alone that I can find) is something only for those not living faithfully in the covenant: “justification by faith would become shorthand apart from them needing to become Jewish.”[63] It appears that justification by faith was not a concern for the Jews, only the Gentiles: “you have to get these Gentiles in somehow and they’re a problem;” “it is always in association with this ministry to Gentiles that Paul speaks of justification by faith.”[64]

Barach suggests of the of the laws in the Old Covenant:

It wasn’t impossible for Israel to keep the Old Covenant. The Psalmists frequently plead for deliverance… appealing to their covenant faithfulness, to the fact that they have kept faith with God.[65]

All four often speak of conditions as part of the covenant, such as faith and obedience. While the Reformed community has often spoken of conditions, there has been great care taken to differentiate between conditions that bring one into a relation with Christ and conditions that follow necessarily from that relation. Faith has been spoken of as the former and holiness as the later. In the teaching of these four men, however, no such care is taken. They equivocate is their use of the term condition. Steve Wilkins, for example:

The unconditional decrees are worked out in a conditional covenant … but it works out in a conditional covenant where people come in and some fall out … everyone in Christ, however, has the same standing, the same promises, the same gifts are delivered over to them, but not everyone embraces these things by faith or perseveres in faithful reception of these gifts.[66]

Schlissel comments, “We are not seeking to take away glory from Jesus Christ for giving us conditions…. We have to live in the world that he has given us and his covenant comes with the requirement that it be obeyed.”[67] Wilson, concerning those who apostatize, states: “In other words, to assert that men fall away because their salvation was contingent upon continued faithfulness in the gospel is not to deny the sovereignty of God.”[68]

Reformed writers have always recognized the necessity of holiness, law keeping, to salvation. They have been extremely careful, however, to be clear that it is a condition that follows faith, and it is not the same kind of condition. They have also been careful to distinguish between faith and faithfulness. They have, furthermore, made a clear distinction between Christ’s work and our faith.

The lack of clarity between faith and faithfulness is also evidenced in the idea of evangelism, the relation of law and gospel, and whether sinners are called first to faith and then faithfulness. Wilson, on evangelizing those who attend no church, but have been baptized, saying to them “Now let me call you to faithfulness, to baptismal faithfulness”[69] He denies the law/gospel distinction[70] and speaks of “the instrument of a lively faith”[71] in justification.

Steve Schlissel proclaims:

Is the law repugnant to how we are made right with God?… This law/gospel dichotomy is a false one. It is unbiblical…. The keeping of the commands of God is identified as putting trust in God, it is contrasted with forgetting God and disobeying God. To be in the gospel is to be in the law, the law of God.[72]

According to Schlissel we are asking the wrong question. It is not ‘what must I do to be saved?,’ but:

The question has always been what does the Lord require? We’ve changed the question since Luther’s day. Perhaps imperceptibly to some, but quite drastically if you look at it. The question is commonly, “What must I do to be saved?” But that’s the wrong question. The question is, “What does the Lord require?” If we don’t begin to retool our churches, to turn around from the, “What must I do to be saved?” to “What does the Lord require?” we’re going to die. Because in answering one, “What must I do to be saved?” you move in the idea of sola, sola, sola, and then you have the sola fide…”[73]

He speaks approvingly of “the equation of both faith and obedience.”[74]

We see the same sort of problem in Norman Shepherd’s language that “living and active faith justifies” in which there has existed confusion of whether or not Shepherd teaches justification by faith, or justification by faithfulness.[75] Shepherd says that Christ’s faith, “was a living, active, and obedient faith that took him all the way to the cross. This faith was credited to him as righteousness.”[76] We see further confusion over faith and faithfulness in such statements as, “But just as Jesus was faithful in order to guarantee the blessing, so his followers must be faithful in order to inherit the blessing.”[77] To phrase it this way is to leave the door open, if not to suggest, that our faithfulness parallels Jesus’ faithfulness. The result is the conclusion that in the same way that Jesus secured the privileges and blessings of the covenant, we can, too. To the contrary, I would say that Jesus’ work merited his blessing. It is clear, however, ours is of grace, a gift freely given because of Christ’s work, and received by faith.

Another area in which faith and faithfulness becomes blurred is in relation to children raised within the administration of the covenant. This command to faithfulness as the instrument of one’s child’s salvation, as presented by these men, operates as the law of the covenant. By grace, it is asserted, through the work of the parent, in faithful covenantal nurture, as a condition of the covenant, a child will always come to saving faith.

Approximately six years ago, Robert Rayburn authored the article “The Presbyterian Doctrines of Covenant Children, Covenant Nurture and Covenant Succession.”[78] The first part of his paper is basically a summary of a work published in 1940 by Lewis Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant. Schenck’s basic thesis is that historic Reformed theology and its creeds are clearly presumptionistic, with the vast majority holding to the presumptive regeneration of children in the visible church, usually by baptism.[79] In Doug Wilson’s newest work, “Reformed” Is Not Enough, in the chapter “Covenant Succession” Schenck is cited approvingly eight times (three times earlier in the work). Schenck’s work was recommended in the second discussion session of the 2002 conference by Schlissel, and is also offered at his web site.

A little over two years ago, in a section entitled “Quotations on Covenant Succession,” Credenda Agenda magazine, associated with Doug Wilson, published Rayburn’s ‘Covenant Succession Affirmation and Denials.’ Affirmation three states that “the promise made to believers and their seed is suspended upon conditions to be fulfilled first by parents.”[80] This condition of parental nurture develops the ‘seed of faith’ in all covenant children. It is thus denied that “Covenant children are to be evangelized like every lost sinner.”[81]

What distinguishes the current view of covenant succession from earlier forms of presumptive election or regeneration, is 1) the earlier views held that to presume is not the same as knowing that the child is in fact elect or regenerate, and 2) the development of the sufficient conditionality of parental nurture. From the importance and historic understanding of parental nurture as often used by God, the theology of covenant succession develops a ‘must be’ law applying to all cases. It goes beyond what has been understood as a presumption, to thinking of it as ‘we know’ by God’s promise they are regenerate, if we remain faithful.

In response to a question as to how his view differs from presumptive regeneration, Barach says:

The Bible doesn’t call us to presume or to live by presumptions. The Lord calls us to live by promises. When He speaks, the secret things are hidden from us, God knows them, but He speaks to us and He expects us to go by His word. What He has said is true. And so, when He speaks a certain way about our covenant children, when we believe what he says about them, we are not presuming anything, we’re trusting a promise and we’re living in terms of His promise.[82]

Or this from Steve Wilkins,

Children are growing up in the covenant. They grow up believing what you have taught them. And if you teach them the Bible and the gospel and tell them about the Lord Jesus, they’re going to believe it and they’re going to love it. That’s the way God made them and thanks be to God that he made them that way.[83]

Of baptized children he remarks: “They have to learn about Him and love him more and be more faithful. They have to learn how to do that. They are to be nurtured in the faith. Brought up in the grace and knowledge of Christ.”[84] In like manner, Schlissel comments,

What if we begin with the radical idea that He [God] has given it [grace] to us and the even more radical idea that He’s given it to our children? Then where do we begin? Teaching our children to doubt God afresh in every generation? Or to take what He has given us and to move it into action.[85]

He also believes that the ordo salutis “may be true on occasion… but it is not a norm. It is hardly applicable to normal covenant children who are raised faithfully in the covenant.”[86]

Wilson draws this conclusion “Can we fulfill our covenant responsibilities (by believing) and yet have God fail to fulfill His promise? It is not possible.”[87] A believing that works its way out in love is being referred to as insuring that no child will be left behind. This is the law of the covenant. In an earlier work he teaches, “A prominent feature of faithful covenantal thinking in the Old Testament is the salvation of offspring. The New Testament echoes this language.”[88]And then, “Faith is given as a gift, and when it is given by God, it appears to the world in the form of fruit. In the case of children, the fruit is diligent and careful parenting.”[89]

Thus, by the faith of the parents, which works out in faithfulness, covenant offspring are by necessity brought to salvation. The upshot is, therefore, justification by faithfulness – of the parents. A biological law of nurture, or another form of neonomianism, is developed.[90] By another name it is known as “covenant succession.”

I think, in the final analysis, what is pulling this train is the desire for paedo-communion. Of not letting a little child come to the table, who then later apostatizes, Wilson surmises “He died because you weren’t feeding him.”[91] The theology to attempt to explain it has come more slowly.

In conclusion, all four men 1) fail to explain the nature of true saving faith, 2) fail to explain the object of saving faith, and 3) blur the distinction between faith and faithfulness in justification, with the result that they promote a new form of legalism (neonomianism), namely, justification by the instrument of faithfulness, i.e. justification by faithfulness. It is, therefore, neonomianism hypercovenantalism.

III. Experimental Religion

All four men denigrate the historic, biblical understanding of experimental religion. They mock even the notions of individual regeneration or conversion for those already baptized. There is a continual misrepresentation of the Puritans on conversion, and the Puritans’ supposed equation of it with a single, momentous experience.[92] One remarks that “pietistic Calvinism is a meat grinder.”[93] After reading aloud a portion out of one of the finest works ever written on an examination of the Puritans’ quest for assurance, Schlissel refers to it as “claptrap” and stresses that all the assurance we need is that objective work and Word of God.[94] How it is applied to the subject and how we are to know is not part of the question – just believe. Concerning experimental religion, Wilson writes:

We do not deny the need for confession and repentance. But this is what we do at the entrance. We wipe our feet at the door. But there are other things to do inside God’s great household…. A man’s conversion is to be the point where the introspective conscience ends, not the point where it begins.[95]

The objectivity of the covenant and the work of God is so stressed, they neglect the subjectivity, the subject. This appears to be mostly a reaction against Reformed experimental theology and practice over the past 350 years.

In speaking of how the people in Galatia or Corinth are addressed as brethren or saints and stating that there is no qualification as converted or unconverted, they ignore, for example, Galatians 4:11 , “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” coupled with v. 19, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” Or in reference to the church in Corinth, no mention is made of the warning and exhortation to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor 13:5 ). Such a call for self-examination, to see if one is in the faith, is referred to as the preaching of doubt.[96]

There is, furthermore, great confusion between not prying into the secret things of God, and knowing the secret work of God by its fruits. Wilson states that “This is fundamental to the central point of this book. Election is one thing and covenant membership is another.”[97] In other words, for Wilson, election, as a secret thing belongs to God: “names are among the secret things.”[98] Wilkins, likewise states, “You can never know who’s in the body of Christ, because you don’t know who’s been effectually called;” how can we have infallible assurance, he asks, and then follows up with “how do you know that you are not deceived?”[99] “But if I don’t know if he chose me … I am left with some sort of agnosticism,”[100] Barach opines.

Rather than election being known by its fruits, “This is how assurance is possible, don’t do what they did,” namely, apostatize.[101] Oft repeated is that “Baptism is the assurance.”[102]

Scripture, to the contrary, speaks of the testimony of the Spirit (Rom 8:15, 16), with election being known by its fruit in one’s life, with the result that the invisible decree of God is made known (Rom 9:11 [election is known through effectual calling]; 11:7; 1 Pet 1:2 , “through sanctification of the Spirit;” 1 Thess 1:4, compared to v. 3). Assurance is, thus, possible beyond merely pointing to one’s baptism.

Experimental religion is the practical embodiment of doctrine, truth. To put it another way, experimental religion is the practical application of the doctrines of sacred Scripture to particular individuals by the Holy Spirit in vital union with Christ. It does not, therefore begin with nor degenerate into a mere emotionalism. A person may acknowledge by creed that God is to be worshipped; it is experimentally appropriated when that person worships the living God with heart, soul, mind and strength. Experimental religion concerns a personal heart and life appropriation of what is confessed, of what the Lord reveals, of what the Lord works into the hearts and lives of His new creations in Christ. It involves testing fruits, their lives, by the Word of God to see that they are in the faith and walking accordingly. It is making our calling and election sure, relying on the grace of God in Christ alone, by faith alone, to work His mighty work of salvation in us (2 Pet 1:5-11).

The Puritans, Reformed, and Presbyterian writers were zealous for a head and heart religion, for a faith the was objectively grounded and that was also experienced by the subject of election. A critique of the varied abuses of the system is not sufficient, nor should it be taken as such, to unseat the place of the experimental piety of the last five hundred years.

Rather than the caricature painted by these men, a more accurate portrayal of experimental religion is evidenced in the 1833 edition of Thomas Halyburton’s Memoirs. Archibald Alexander, with great praise, wrote the introduction to this volume. It also includes a hearty recommendation by both Samuel Miller and Charles Hodge. It may be remembered that Thomas Halyburton so loved the experimental piety of Samuel Rutherford that he requested to be buried next to him. A visit to Scotland will show his request was granted. Thus, we see the line running from Rutherford, in the 17th century, to Halyburton, in the 18th century, and then to Alexander, Miller and Hodge, in the 19th. Alexander writes, in his Thoughts on Religious Experience, “nothing tends more to confirm and elucidate the truths contained in the Word, than an inward experience of their efficacy on the heart.”[103]

In a similar fashion, the Dutch Reformed were of like heart and mind. Authors and pastors, such as Teellinck, Witsius and à Brakel, taught, preached, and prized the heart application of religious truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Of Witsius, Joel Beeke writes: “he grounded spiritual life in regeneration and covenantally applied the entire ordo salutis to practical, experiential living.”[104] As a friend of experimental religion, Abraham Kuyper held to the “experimental knowledge of God, which comes to us personally from spiritual experience, from communion of saints and secret fellowship with God.”[105]

These lines of association are clear evidence that the experimental religion mocked by these four men has been, in fact, part of the warp and woof of orthodox Christianity. The true line of Puritan, Reformed, Presbyterian experimental religion is a faith in Christ that is examined, tested, looking for its fruit as evidence, all the while resting in the grace of God. Let us keep to the old paths.

Conclusion

We now come to the end of the matter and there are a couple of observations I want to make. First, if, at the end of it all, this presentation is merely a result of not understanding what these men mean, then language itself is not a reliable medium of communication. If seemingly clear statements are made by these four men, and then when those such as I grow concerned, and they reply, “You don’t understand what I mean,” how are we supposed to know? When they change the meaning of every theological term from its common usage of the last several centuries, or more, how could they possibly teach?

Second, the more I listen to all this, the clearer it becomes that they are working with a Kantian mindset: the upper, unknowable story of the decrees, and the lower story of history/covenant. The two can even say things contradictory, but they reply, “let God be true and every man a liar.” Barach for example refers to the decrees as the unknowable “noumenal realm.”[106] Wilson contrasts the upper level and lower lever; the covenant and decrees.[107] Wilkins, likewise, speaks of “decretive theology” contrasted with how God “always addresses His people covenantally.”[108] In other words, something may be true in the decrees, and the seeming opposite may be true in the historic covenant, such as the salvation of the nonelect. At the end of the conference the attempt was made to say that Westminster was decreetal theology, while the Reformed creeds were covenantal. This is absurd. The secret things do belong to the Lord; what He has revealed belongs to us. To pit election and covenant against one another does not do justice to what God has revealed about both.

Even though Kantianism is an Enlightenment species, all four speakers frequently claim that their views are a paradigm shift from so-called enlightenment categories. Steve Schlissel appears to be the one most affected by this movement’s views of justification, but all four come out strongly against, in their view, the propositional and ‘Hellenistic’ nature of the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Doug Wilson remarks that,

Particularly in Reformed circles,… For 350 years in this country, we have been getting some of the fundamental issues with regard to the Word of God, and the covenant, and the gospel, and what is a Christian, we have been getting them wrong.[109]

Westminster was approximately 350 years ago, which Wilson references a few seconds following this statement. Evidently, even in the fundamentals of the gospel the Reformed world has been in error. Schlissel comments that we “have abstracted the word of God … into various propositions … we have brought our Greek ideas and Greek categories to it.”[110] Among these abstractions, according to Schlissel, have been the solas of the Reformation. It seems to me, however, that these men are really the ones influenced by Enlightenment abstraction.

I trust it is now clear to you that with this new theology another gospel is being presented. Another gospel that is deviant in its teachings about union with Christ, the nature of saving faith, and experimental religion. I give warning to watch out for it and avoid it. May the Lord be pleased to sanctify us by His truth.

——————————————

1] http://www.rpcus.com/resolutions.pdf.

[2] Thus, in January of 2003, John Barach lectured on “Covenant and Election,” with Carl Robbins responding. Doug Wilson spoke on “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction,” and Morton Smith gave response. Steve Schlissel titled his address “What Does the Lord Require” and R.C. Sproul, Jr. gave critique. The final lecture was Steve Wilkin’s “Covenant and Baptism,” and the rebuttal was by Dr. Joey Pipa.

[3] The one exception would be Steve Schlissel’s difference in not practicing paedocommunion, which he simply points out, without further qualification or explanation.

[4]” Summary Statement of AAPC’s Position on the Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation,” http://www.auburnavenue.org/Events_Announcements/Position%20Paper.htm.

[5] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[6] Steve Wilkins, “Discussion Session 4,” (Monroe: Auburn Avenue PCA, 2003); hereafter all references to the various speakers and subject with the date are in reference to the Auburn Avenue Conference tapes here cited.

[7] John Barach, “Covenant and History,” (2002). Barach goes a bit further in laying a foundation for an understanding of union with Christ in relation to covenant. He first offers a definition of the Trinity in its essence, one, as a covenantal unity, or covenantal union. To define the essence of the Trinity as a covenant bond is false doctrine. The essence of the Trinity is ontological, not axiological. The latter follows the former; it is not the basis for it. This only demonstrates the hypercovenantalism of this theology. This is then applied to our union with Christ. With this line of thought, it is confusing whether this covenantal union is part of the essence of the Trinity as he has defined it.

[8] Doug Wilson, “Reformed“ Is Not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant (Moscow: Canon Press, 2002), 103.

[9] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 73.

[10] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Reading,” (2002).

[11] Steve Wilkins, “Discussion Session 4,” (2003).

[12] http://www.auburnavenue.org/Events_Announcements/Position%20Paper.htm.

[13] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[14] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[15] Doug Wilson, “The Visible and Invisible Church Revisited,” (2002).

[16] Doug Wilson, “The Visible and Invisible Church Revisited,” (2002).

[17] Doug Wilson, “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction,” (2003).

[18] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 136.

[19] Steve Schlissel, “Discussion Session 4,” (2003).

[20] John Barach, “Covenant and Election,” (2003).

[21] John Barach, “Covenant and Election,” (2003).

[22] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries: John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 94.

[23] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 57.

[24] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 72.

[25] Cf. Doug Wilson, “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction,” (2003).

[26] John Barach, “Covenant and History,” (2002).

[27] Barach has difficulties in recognizing the distinction made in Rom 2, cf. “Question and Answer Session #1, (2002); cf. Matt 23:25-28.

[28]” Discussion by all Participants,” (2003).

[29]” Summary Statement of AAPC’s Position on the Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation,” http://www.auburnavenue.org/Events_Announcements/Position%20Paper.htm.

[30] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

 [31] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 135.

[32] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Hearing,” (2002); the quote is from the transcript posted at Messiah Congregation’s website, http://www.messiahnyc.org/webchunks/apps/MediaViewFile.asp.

[33] Steve Schlissel, “What Does the Lord Require?” (2003).

[34] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 168.

[35] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 105; “while we do not take the connection between water baptism and grace and salvation as an absolute, we do take it as the norm.”

[36] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 40; while acknowledging with Calvin at least that effectual calling could precede or follow baptism.

[37] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 103.

[38] Doug Wilson, “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction, ” (2003).

[39] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 114.

[40] Doug Wilson, “Discussion Session 4,” (2003).

[41] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 105.

[42] John Barach, “Question and Answer Session #1,” (2002).

[43] John Barach, “Covenant and Election,” (2003).

[44]” Summary Statement of AAPC’s Position on the Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation,” http://www.auburnavenue.org/Events_Announcements/Position%20Paper.htm.

[45] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[46] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[47] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003).

[48] Steve Wilkins, “Discussion Session #4, (2003).

[49] Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[50] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Phillsisburg: P&R Publishing, 1997) III:364, VII. Turretin also teaches, “It is one thing to be purged from old sins sacramentally and conditionally; another really and absolutely. They (of whom Peter speaks, 2 Pet 1:9 ) were purged from sin in the former sense, but not in the latter, on account of a defect of the required condition (viz., faith)” (II:693 XXII).

[51] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 43.

[52] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 176; emphasis his.

[53] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 178.

[54] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 180-81.

[55] John Barach, “Covenant and Evangelism,” (2002).

[56] John Barach, “Covenant and Evangelism,” (2002).

[57] John Barach, “Covenant and Evangelism,” (2002).

[58] Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[59] Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[60] Doug Wilson, “Reformation Bona Fides,” “Reformed”, 41-48; the phrase ‘faith alone’ occurs on pages 45 and 46.

[61] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 172.

[62] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 173.

[63] Steve Schlissel, “What Does the Lord Require?”, (2003).

[64] Steve Schlissel, “What Does the Lord Require?”, (2003). At the RPCUS web site, see the relation to the “New Perspectives on Paul” ideology: “A Brief History,” http://www.rpcus.com/aapc.htm#chronological guide.

[65] John Barach, “Covenant and History,” (2002).

[66] Steve Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” (2003). Similar equivocation is exercised by Barach in speaking of the conditions for Abraham as circumcision, a living and working faith, and a blameless walk, with no clarification (“Covenant and History,” [2002]).

[67] Steve Schlissel, “Question and Answer Session #1,” (2002).

[68] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 138.

[69] Doug Wilson, “The Visible and Invisible Church Revisited”, (2002).

 [70] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 166.

[71] Doug Wilson, “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction, ” (2003).

[72] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Reading,” (2002).

[73] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Reading,” (2002).

[74] Steve Schlissel, “What Does the Lord Require?”, (2003). At the present time, Schlissel’s web site offers Shepherd’s book The Call of Grace. On a related note there is a denial by the four of the covenant of works, preferring, like Shepherd, to speak of the grace enabling and giving Adam life that he would keep on condition of faithfulness. Turretin speaks of this ancient error “that of Scotus and his followers, who pretend that good works proceeding from grace are not meritorious from condignity by reason of the work, but only by reason of the divine covenant and acceptance.” (II:713). Barach remarks, “there is no hint in the passage that Adam in the passage that the Lord requires Adam to earn or to merit anything” (“Covenant and History,” [2002].) He could loose blessedness, but he couldn’t earn it. Wilson speaks of only one covenant historically, the covenant of grace (“Reformed”, 64). For a discussion of the relation of the ideology of Fuller and Shepherd as to works, merit and covenant, see Joe Morecraft, III, “Justification By Faith Alone: The Heart of the Gospel of God,” The New Southern Presbyterian Review Vol 1:1 (2002), 52-165; especially pp. 76-78.

[75] Norman Shepherd, “Thirty-four Theses on Justification in Relation to Faith, Repentance, and Good Works,” presented by the Rev. Norman Shepherd to the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, November 18, 1978, at http://www.hornes.org/theologia/content_shepherd/the_34_theses.htm.

[76] Norman Shepherd, The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2000), 19.

[77] Norman Shepherd, The Call of Grace, 19.

[78] Published in Presbyterion 22/2 (1996), 76-112; this is available at his website: http://www.faithtacoma.org/covenant2.htm.

[79] For a refutation of A. Kuyper’s doctrine of presumptive regeneration in relation to historic Calvinism, see William Young’s article, “Historic Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism,” Westminster Journal of Theology 36 (1973-74), 48-64, 156-173.

[80] Credend Agenda, Vol. 13:2, at http://www.credenda.org/issues/13-2verbatim.php.

[81] Credend Agenda, Vol. 13:2, at http://www.credenda.org/issues/13-2verbatim.php.

[82] John Barach, “Question and Answer Session #1,” (2002).

[83] Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[84] Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[85] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Reading,” (2002).

[86] Steve Schlissel, “What Does the Lord Require, (2003)

[87] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 187.

[88] Doug Wilson, Standing on the Promises, (Moscow: Canon Press, 1997), 32.

[89] Doug Wilson, Standing on the Promises, 36.

[90] This judgement is shared by Alan Strange, “Sacraments, the Spirit, and Human Inability,”Mid-America Journal of Theology 12 (2001): 223-46; his critique runs from 240-45.

[91] Doug Wilson, “The Visible/Invisible Church Distinction,” (2003).

[92] See Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 197; Steve Wilkins, “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant,” (2002).

[93] Doug Wilson, “The Curses of the New Covenant,” (2002).

[94] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Hearing,” (2002).

[95] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 177, 197, emphasis his.

[96] Cf. Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Hearing,” (2002).

[97] Doug Wilson, “Reformed”, 175.

[98] Doug Wilson, “The Curses of the New Covenant,” (2002).

[99] Steve Wilkins, “Discussion Session #4,” (2003).

[100] John Barach, “Covenant and Election,” (2003).

[101] Doug Wilson, “The Curses of the New Covenant,” (2002).

[102] John Barach,”Question and Answer Session #1,” (2002).

[103] Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust: 1998), xvii.

[104] J. R. Beeke, “The Writings of Herman Witsius,” The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth (January 2003, Vol 11:1), 5; see also his article “Willem Teellink” in which Teellink’s experimental emphasis and influence on the Dutch Second Reformation is viewed in harmony with English Puritanism (The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth [March 2003, Vol 11:3), 72-75.

[105] Abraham Kuyper, To be Near unto God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1925), 224; quoted from William Young’s article, “Historic Calvinism and Neo-Calvinsim,” Westminster Journal of Theology 36 (1973-74), 53.

[106] John Barach, “Covenant and Election,” (2003).

[107] Doug Wilson, “Question and Answer Session #2,” ( 2003).

[108] Steve Wilkins, “Question and Answer Session #2,” ( 2003).

[109] Doug Wilson, “The Visible and Invisible Church Revisited,” (2002).

[110] Steve Schlissel, “Covenant Reading,” (2002).

A Particular Atonement

Taken and adapted from a 
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 28, 1858.
By C. H. Spurgeon

032612_gavehimselffor

“He gave his life a ransom for many.”
–Matthew 20:28

The doctrine of Redemption is one of the most important doctrines of the system of faith. A mistake on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire system of our belief.

Now, you are aware that there are different theories of Redemption. All Christians hold that Christ died to redeem, but all Christians do not teach the same redemption. We differ as to the nature of atonement, and as to the design of redemption. For instance, the Arminian holds that Christ, when He died, did not die with an intent to save any particular person; and they teach that Christ’s death does not in itself secure, beyond doubt, the salvation of any one man living. They believe that Christ died to make the salvation of all men possible, or that by the doing of something else, any man who pleases may attain unto eternal life; consequently, they are obliged to hold that if man’s will would not give way and voluntarily surrender to grace, then Christ’s atonement would be unavailing. They hold that there was no particularity and speciality in the death of Christ. Christ died, according to them, as much for Judas in Hell as for Peter who mounted to Heaven. They believe that for those who are consigned to eternal fire, there was a true and real a redemption made as for those who now stand before the throne of the Most High. Now, we believe no such thing. We hold that Christ, when He died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly, and beyond a doubt, be accomplished. We measure the design of Christ’s death by the effect of it. If any one asks us, “What did Christ design to do by His death?” we answer that question by asking him another—”What has Christ done, or what will Christ do by His death?” For we declare that the measure of the effect of Christ’s love, is the measure of the design of it. We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the atonement, can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold—we are not afraid to say that we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.

I have thus just stated our theory of redemption, and hinted at the differences which exist between two great parties in the professing church. It shall be now my endeavour to show the greatness of the redemption of Christ Jesus; and by so doing, I hope to be enabled by God’s Spirit, to bring out the whole of the great system of redemption, so that it may be understood by us all, even if all of us cannot receive it. For you must bear this in mind, that some of you, perhaps, may be ready to dispute things which I assert; but you will remember that this is nothing to me; I shall at all times teach those things which I hold to be true, without let or hindrance from any man breathing. You have the like liberty to do the same in your own places, and to preach your own views in your own assemblies, as I claim the right to preach mine, fully, and without hesitation.

Christ Jesus “gave his life a ransom for many;” and by that ransom He wrought out for us a great redemption. I shall endeavour to show the greatness of this redemption, measuring it in five ways. We shall note its greatness, first of all from the heinousness of our own guilt, from which He has delivered us; secondly, we shall measure His redemption by the sternness of divine justice;thirdly, we shall measure it by the price which He paid, the pangs which He endured; then we shall endeavour to magnify it, by noting the deliverance which He actually wrought out; and we shall close by noticing the vast number for whom this redemption is made, who in our text are described as “many.”

grace74545_455217251209607_918568958_nI. First, then we shall see that the redemption of Christ was no little thing, if we do but measure it, first by OUR OWN SINS.

My brethren, for a moment look at the hole of the pit whence ye were digged, and the quarry whence you were hewn. Ye, who have been washed, and cleansed, and sanctified, pause for a moment, and look back at the former state of your ignorance; the sins in which you indulged, the crimes into which you were hurried, the continual rebellion against God in which it was your habit to live. One sin can ruin a soul for ever; it is not in the power of the human mind to grasp the infinity of evil that slumbereth in the bowels of one solitary sin. There is a very infinity of guilt couched in one transgression against the majesty of Heaven. If, then, you and I had sinned but once, nothing but an atonement infinite in value could ever have washed away the sin and made satisfaction for it. But has it been once that you and I have transgressed? Nay, my brethren, our iniquities are more in number than the hairs of our head; they have mightily prevailed against us. We might as well attempt to number the sands upon the sea-shore, or count the drops which in their aggregate do make the ocean, as attempt to count the transgressions which have marked our lives. Let us go back to our childhood. How early we began to sin! How we disobeyed our parents, and even then learned to make our mouth the house of lies! In our childhood, how full of wantonness and waywardness we were! Headstrong and giddy, we preferred our own way, and burst through all restraint which godly parents put upon us. Nor did our youth sober us. Wildly we dashed, many of us, into the very midst of the dance of sin. We became leaders in iniquity; we not only sinned ourselves, but we taught others to sin. And as for your manhood, ye that have entered upon the prime of life, ye may be more outwardly sober, ye may be somewhat free from the dissipation of your youth; but how little has the man become bettered! Unless the sovereign grace of God hath renewed us, we are now no better than we were when we began; and even if it has operated, we have still sins to repent of, for we all lay our mouths in the dust, and cast ashes on our head, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” And oh! ye that lean wearily on your staff, the support of your old age, have ye not sins still clinging to your garments? Are your lives as white as the snowy hairs that crown your head? Do you not still feel that transgression besmears the skirts of your robe, and mars its spotlessness? How often are you now plunged into the ditch, till your own clothes do abhor you! Cast your eyes over the sixty, the seventy, the eighty years, during which God hath spared your lives; and can ye for a moment think it possible, that ye can number up your innumerable transgressions, or compute the weight of the crimes which you have committed? O ye stars of Heaven! the astronomers may measure your distance and tell your height, but O ye sins of mankind! ye surpass all thought. O ye lofty mountains! the home of the tempest, the birthplace of the storm! man may climb your summits and stand wonderingly upon your snows; but ye hills of sin! ye tower higher than our thoughts; ye chasms of transgressions! ye are deeper than our imagination dares to dive. Do you accuse me of slandering human nature? It is because you know it not. If God had once manifested your heart to yourself, you would bear me witness, that so far from exaggerating, my poor words fail to describe the desperateness of our evil. Oh! if we could each of us look into our hearts today—if our eyes could be turned within, so as to see the iniquity that is graven as with the point of the diamond upon our stony hearts, we should then say to the minister, that however he may depict the desperateness of guilt, yet can he not by any means surpass it. How great then, beloved, must be the ransom of Christ, when He saved us from all these sins! The men for whom Jesus died, however great their sin, when they believe, are justified from all their transgressions. Though they may have indulged in every vice and every lust which Satan could suggest, and which human nature could perform, yet once believing, all their guilt is washed away. Year after year may have coated them with blackness, till their sin hath become of double dye; but in one moment of faith, one triumphant moment of confidence in Christ, the great redemption takes away the guilt of numerous years. Nay, more, if it were possible for all the sins that men have done, in thought, or word, or deed, since worlds were made, or time began, to meet on one poor head—the great redemption is all-sufficient to take all these sins away, and wash the sinner whiter than the driven snow.

Oh! who shall measure the heights of the Saviour’s all-sufficiency? First, tell how high is sin, and, then, remember that as Noah’s flood prevailed over the tops of earth’s mountains, so the flood of Christ’s redemption prevails over the tops of the mountains of our sins. In Heaven’s courts there are today men that once were murderers, and thieves, and drunkards, and whoremongers, and blasphemers, and persecutors; but they have been washed—they have been sanctified. Ask them whence the brightness of their robes hath come, and where their purity hath been achieved, and they, with united breath, tell you that they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. O ye troubled consciences! O ye weary and heavy-laden ones! O ye that are groaning on account of sin! the great redemption now proclaimed to you is all-sufficient for your wants; and though your numerous sins exceed the stars that deck the sky, here is an atonement made for them all—a river which can overflow the whole of them, and carry them away from you for ever.

This, then, is the first measure of the atonement—the greatness of our guilt.

fear_of_god_by_phantomtree913-d3ghvtk-1II. Now, secondly, we must measure the great redemption BY THE STERNNESS OF DIVINE JUSTICE.

“God is love,” always loving; but my next proposition does not at all interfere with this assertion. God is sternly just,inflexibly severe in His dealings with mankind. The God of the Bible is not the God of some men’s imagination, Who thinks so little of sin that He passes it by without demanding any punishment for it. He is not the God of the men who imagine that our transgressions are such little things, such mere peccadilloes that the God of Heaven winks at them, and suffers them to die forgotten. No; Jehovah, Israel’s God, hath declared concerning Himself, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” It is His own declaration, “I will by no means clear the guilty.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Learn ye, my friends, to look upon God as being as severe in His justice as if He were not loving, and yet as loving as if He were not severe. His love does not diminish His justice, nor does His justice, in the least degree, make warfare upon His love. The two things are sweetly linked together in the atonement of Christ. But, mark, we can never understand the fullness of the atonement till we have first grasped the Scriptural truth of God’s immense justice. There was never an ill word spoken, nor an ill thought conceived, nor an evil deed done, for which God will not have punishment from some one or another. He will either have satisfaction from you, or else from Christ. If you have no atonement to bring through Christ, you must for ever lie paying the debt which you never can pay, in eternal misery; for as surely as God is God, He will sooner lose His Godhead than suffer one sin to go unpunished, or one particle of rebellion unrevenged. You may say that this character of God is cold, and stern, and severe. I cannot help what you say of it; it is nevertheless true. Such is the God of the Bible; and though we repeat it is true that He is love, it is no more true that He is love than that He is full of justice, for every good thing meets in God, and is carried to perfection, whilst love reaches to consummate loveliness, justice reaches to the sternness of inflexibility in Him. He has no bend, no warp in His character; no attribute so predominates as to cast a shadow upon the other. Love hath its full sway, and justice hath no narrower limit than His love. Oh! then, beloved, think how great must have been the substitution of Christ, when it satisfied God for all the sins of His people. For man’s sin God demands eternal punishment; and God hath prepared a Hell into which He casts those who die impenitent. Oh! my brethren, can ye think what must have been the greatness of the atonement which was the substitution for all this agony which God would have cast upon us, if He had not poured it upon Christ. Look! look! look with solemn eye through the shades that part us from the world of spirits, and see that house of misery which men call Hell! Ye cannot endure the spectacle. Remember that in that place there are spirits for ever paying their debt to divine justice; but though some of them have been for these four thousand years sweltering in the flame, they are no nearer a discharge than when they began; and when ten thousand times ten thousand years shall have rolled away, they will no more have made satisfaction to God for their guilt than they have done up till now. And now can you grasp the thought of the greatness of your Saviour’s mediation when He paid your debt, and paid it all at once; so that there now remaineth not one farthing of debt owing from Christ’s people to their God, except a debt of love. To justice the believer oweth nothing; though he owed originally so much that eternity would not have been long enough to suffice for the paying of it, yet, in one moment Christ did pay it all, so that the man who believeth is entirely justified from all guilt, and set free from all punishment, through what Jesus hath done. Think ye, then, how great His atonement if He hath done all this.

I must just pause here, and utter another sentence. There are times when God the Holy Spirit shows to men the sternness of justice in their own consciences. There is a man here today who has just been cut to the heart with a sense of sin. He was once a free man, a libertine, in bondage to none; but now the arrow of the Lord sticks fast in his heart, and he has come under a bondage worse than that of Egypt. I see him today, he tells me that his guilt haunts him everywhere. The Negro slave, guided by the pole star, may escape the cruel ties of his master and reach another land where he may be free; but this man feels that if he were to wander the wide world over he could not escape from guilt. He that hath been bound by many irons, can yet find a file that can unbind him and set him at liberty; but this man tells you that he has tried prayers and tears and good works, but cannot escape the gyves from his wrist; he feels as a lost sinner still, and emancipation, do what he may, seems to him impossible. The captive in the dungeon is sometimes free in thought, though not in body; through his dungeon walls his spirit leaps, and flies to the stars, free as the eagle that is no man’s slave. But this man is a slave in his thoughts; he cannot think one bright, one happy thought. His soul is cast down within him; the iron has entered into his spirit, and he is sorely afflicted. The captive sometimes forgets his slavery in sleep, but this man cannot sleep; by night he dreams of hell, by day he seems to feel it; he bears a burning furnace of flame within his heart, and do what he may he cannot quench it. He has been confirmed, he has been baptized, he takes the sacrament, he attends a church or he frequents a chapel, he regards every rubric and obeys every canon, but the fire burns still. He gives his money to the poor, he is ready to give his body to be burned, he feeds the hungry, he visits the sick, he clothes the naked, but the fire burns still, and do what he may he cannot quench it. O, ye sons of weariness and woe, this that you feel is God’s justice in full pursuit of you, and happy are you that you feel this, for now to you I preach this glorious Gospel of the blessed God. You are the man for whom Jesus Christ has died; for you He has satisfied stern justice; and now all you have to do to obtain peace of conscience, is just to say to your adversary who pursues you, “Look you there! Christ died for me; my good works would not stop you, my tears would not appease you: look you there! There stands the cross; there hangs the bleeding God! Hark to His death-shriek! See Him die! Art thou not satisfied now?” And when thou hast done that, thou shalt have the peace of God which passeth all understanding, which shall keep thy heart and mind through Jesus Christ thy Lord; and then shalt thou know the greatness of His atonement.

rose 1III. In the third place, we may measure the greatness of Christ’s Redemption by THE PRICE HE PAID.

It is impossible for us to know how great were the pangs of our Saviour; but yet some glimpse of them will afford us a little idea of the greatness of the price He paid for us. O Jesus, who shall describe thine agony?

“Come, all ye springs,
Dwell in my head and eyes; come, clouds and rain!
My grief hath need of all the wat’ry things,
That nature hath produc’d. Let ev’ry vein
Suck up a river to supply mine eyes,
My weary weeping eyes; too dry for me,
Unless they get new conduits, new supplies,
To bear them out, and with my state agree.”

O Jesus! thou wast a sufferer from thy birth, a man of sorrows and grief’s acquaintance. Thy sufferings fell on thee in one perpetual shower, until the last dread hour of darkness. Then not in a shower, but in a cloud, a torrent, a cataract of grief, thine agonies did dash upon thee. See Him yonder! It is a night of frost and cold; but He is all abroad. It is night; He sleeps not, but He is in prayer. Hark to His groans! Did ever man wrestle as He wrestles? Go and look in His face! Was ever such suffering depicted upon mortal countenance as you can there behold? Hear His own words: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” He rises: He is seized by traitors and is dragged away. Let us step to the place when just now He was engaged in agony. O God! and what is this we see? What is this that stains the ground? It is blood! Whence came it? Had He some wound which oozed afresh through His dire struggle? Ah! no. “He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” O agonies that surpass the word by which we name you! O sufferings that cannot be compassed in language! What could ye be that thus could work upon the Saviour’s blessed frame, and force a bloody sweat to fall from His entire body? This is the beginning; this is the opening of the tragedy. Follow Him mournfully, thou sorrowing church, to witness the consummation of it. He is hurried through the streets; He is dragged first to one bar and then to another; He is cast and condemned before the Sanhedrin; He is mocked by Herod; He is tried by Pilate. His sentence is pronounced—”Let Him be crucified!” And now the tragedy cometh to its height. His back is bared; He is tied to the low Roman column; the bloody scourge ploughs furrows on His back, and with one stream of blood His back is red—a crimson robe that proclaims Him emperor of misery. He is taken into the guard room; His eyes are bound, and then they buffet Him, and say, “Prophesy who it was that smote thee?” They spit into His face; they plait a crown of thorns, and press His temples with it; they array Him in a purple robe; they bow their knees, and mock Him. All silently He sits; He answers not a word. “When He was reviled, He reviled not again,” but committed Himself unto Him whom He came to serve. And now they take Him, and with many a jeer and jibe they drive Him from the place, and hurry Him through the streets. Emaciated by continual fastings, and depressed with agony of spirit He stumbles beneath His cross. Daughters of Jerusalem! He faints in your streets. They raise Him up; they put His cross upon another’s shoulders, and they urge Him on, perhaps with many a spear-prick, till at last He reaches the mount of doom. Rough soldiers seize Him, and hurl Him on His back; the transverse wood is laid beneath Him; His arms are stretched to reach the necessary distance; the nails are grasped; four hammers at one moment drive four nails through the tenderest parts of His body; and there He lies upon His own place of execution dying on His cross. It is not done yet. The cross is lifted by the rough soldiers. There is the socket prepared for it. It is dashed into its place: they fill up the place with earth; and there it stands.

But see the Saviour’s limbs, how they quiver! Every bone has been put out of joint by the dashing of the cross in that socket! How He weeps! How He sighs! How He sobs! Nay, more hark how at last He shrieks in agony, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” O sun, no wonder thou didst shut thine eye, and look no longer upon a deed so cruel! O rocks! no wonder that ye did melt and rend your hearts with sympathy, when your Creator died! Never man suffered as this man suffered, Even death itself relented, and many of those who had been in their graves arose and came into the city. This, however, is but the outward. Believe me, brethren, the inward was far worse. What our Saviour suffered in His body was nothing compared to what He endured in His soul. You cannot guess, and I cannot help you to guess, what He endured within. Suppose for one moment—to repeat a sentence I have often used—suppose a man who has passed into Hell—suppose his eternal torment could all be brought into one hour; and then suppose it could be multiplied by the number of the saved, which is a number past all human enumeration. Can you now think what a vast aggregate of misery there would have been in the sufferings of all God’s people, if they had been punished through all eternity? And recollect that Christ had to suffer an equivalent for all the hells of all His redeemed. I can never express that thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, “At one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.” So that there was nothing left of all the pangs and miseries of Hell for His people ever to endure. I say not that He suffered the same, but He did endure an equivalent for all this, and gave God the satisfaction for all the sins of all His people, and consequently gave Him an equivalent for all their punishment. Now can ye dream, can ye guess the great redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

ressurectionIV. I shall be very brief upon the next head. The fourth way of measuring the Saviour’s agonies is this: we must compute them by THE GLORIOUS DELIVERANCE WHICH HE HAS EFFECTED. 

Rise up, believer; stand up in thy place, and this day testify to the greatness of what the Lord hath done for thee! Let me tell it for thee. I will tell thy experience and mine in one breath. Once my soul was laden with sin; I had revolted against God, and grievously transgressed. The terrors of the law gat hold upon me; the pangs of conviction seized me. I saw myself guilty. I looked to Heaven, and I saw an angry God sworn to punish me; I looked beneath me and I saw a yawning Hell ready to devour me. I sought by good works to satisfy my conscience; but all in vain, I endeavoured by attending to the ceremonies of religion to appease the pangs that I felt within; but all without effect. My soul was exceeding sorrowful, almost unto death. I could have said with the ancient mourner, “My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life.” This was the great question that always perplexed me: “I have sinned; God must punish me; how can He be just if He does not? Then, since He is just, what is to become of me?” At last mine eyes turned to that sweet word which says, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” I took that text to my chamber; I sat there and meditated. I saw one hanging on a cross. It was my Lord Jesus. There was the thorn-crown, and there the emblems of unequalled and peerless misery. I looked upon Him, and my thoughts recalled that word which says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Then said I within myself, “Did this man die for sinners? I am a sinner; then He died for me. Those He died for He will save. He died for sinners; I am a sinner; He died for me; He will save me.” My soul relied upon that truth. I looked to Him, and as I “viewed the flowing of His soul-redeeming blood,” my spirit rejoiced, for I could say,

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to this cross I cling;
Naked look to Him for dress;
Helpless come to Him for grace!
Black, I to this fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!”

And now, believer, you shall tell the rest. The moment that you believed, your burden rolled from your shoulder, and you became light as air. Instead of darkness you had light; for the garments of heaviness you had the robes of praise. Who shall tell your joy since then? You have sung on earth hymns of Heaven, and in your peaceful soul you have anticipated the eternal Sabbath of the redeemed. Because you have believed you have entered into rest. Yes, tell it the wide world over; they that believe, by Jesus’ death are justified from all things from which they could not be freed by the works of the law. Tell it in Heaven, that none can lay anything to the charge of Gods’ elect. Tell it upon earth, that God’s redeemed are free from sin in Jehovah’s sight. Tell it even in Hell, that God’s elect can never come there; for Christ hath died for them, and who is he that shall condemn them?

Connections-Index

V. Jesus Christ, we are told in our text, came into the world “to give his life a ransom for many.” The greatness of Christ’s redemption may be measured by the EXTENT OF THE DESIGN OF IT.

He gave His life “a ransom for many.” I must now return to that controverted point again. We are often told (I mean those of us who are commonly nicknamed by the title of Calvinists—and we are not very much ashamed of that; we think that Calvin, after all, knew more about the Gospel than almost any man who has ever lived, uninspired), we are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer “No.” They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we will go back to the old statement—Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say “No;” you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to infallibly secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.

Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not secure the salvation of anybody.

Now, I had rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did not go all the way across the stream. I am told it is my duty to say that all men have been redeemed, and I am told that there is a Scriptural warrant for it—”Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Now, that looks like a very, very great argument indeed on the other side of the question. For instance, look here. “The whole world is gone after Him.” Did all the world go after Christ? “Then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan.” Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem baptized in Jordan? “Ye are of God, little children,” and “the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” Does “the whole world” there mean everybody? If so, how was it, then, that there were some who were “of God?” The words “world” and “all” are used in seven or eight senses in Scripture; and it is very rarely that “all” means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts—some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile.

Leaving controversy, however, I will now answer a question. Tell me, then, sir, whom did Christ die for? Will you answer me a question or two, and I will tell you whether He died for you. Do you want a Saviour? Do you feel that you need a Saviour? Are you this morning conscious of sin? Has the Holy Spirit taught you that you are lost? Then Christ died for you and you will be saved. Are you this morning conscious that you have no hope in the world but Christ? Do you feel that you of yourself cannot offer an atonement that can satisfy God’s justice? Have you given up all confidence in yourselves? And can you say upon your bended knees, “Lord, save, or I perish”? Christ died for you. If you are saying this morning, “I am as good as I ought to be; I can get to Heaven by my own good works,” then, remember, the Scripture says of Jesus, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” So long as you are in that state I have no atonement to preach to you. But if this morning you feel guilty, wretched, conscious of your guilt, and are ready to take Christ to be your only Saviour, I can not only say to you that you may be saved, but what is better still, that you will be saved. When you are stripped of everything, but hope in Christ, when you are prepared to come empty-handed and take Christ to be your all, and to be yourself nothing at all, then you may look up to Christ, and you may say, “Thou dear, Thou bleeding Lamb of God! thy griefs were endured for me; by thy stripes I am healed, and by thy sufferings I am pardoned.” And then see what peace of mind you will have; for if Christ has died for you, you cannot be lost. God will not punish twice for one thing. If God punished Christ for your sin, He will never punish you. “Payment, God’s justice cannot demand, first, at the bleeding surety’s hand, and then again at mine.” We can today, if we believe in Christ, march to the very throne of God, stand there, and if it is said, “Art thou guilty?” we can say, “Yes, guilty.” But if the question is put, “What have you to say why you should not be punished for your guilt?” We can answer, “Great God, Thy justice and Thy love are both guarantees that Thou wilt not punish us for sin; for didst Thou not punish Christ for sin for us? How canst Thou, then, be just—how canst Thou be God at all, if Thou dost punish Christ the substitute, and then punish man himself afterwards?” Your only question is, “Did Christ die for me?” And the only answer we can give is—”This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Can you write your name down among the sinners—not among the complimentary sinners, but among those that feel it, bemoan it, lament it, seek mercy on account of it? Are you a sinner? That felt, that known, that professed, you are now invited to believe that Jesus Christ died for you, because you are a sinner; and you are bidden to cast yourself upon this great immovable rock, and find eternal security in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

THE CROSS

Written by Archibald Alexander

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Whence came the tree from which the cross was made?

What has become of the particles of which it was composed? What hands were employed in preparing this instrument of a cruel death? To such questions no answer can be given–and none is needed. The cross was a common mode of punishment among several nations, and among the Romans was reserved for the punishment of slaves and the vilest malefactors. It was never made use of by the Jews. If they had had the power of execution in their hands when Christ suffered, the punishment for the offence alleged against him would have been stoning. But by the ordering of divine Providence, our Lord was put to death in that way which was accursed, according to the Jewish law; for it was written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

The death of Christ on the cross may well be reckoned mysterious, for it was at the same time a cursed and a blessed death. Christ was “made a curse for us,” that he might deliver us from the curse of the law. And yet Christ’s death on the cross is the most blessed event which ever occurred in the world; for on the cross the price of our redemption was paid. Christ “bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” He died, “the just for the unjust,” to bring us unto God. This led Paul to say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The cross is a center in which many lines of truth meet.

The cross is an incomprehensible mystery. That God should be manifest in the flesh, is the great “mystery of godliness.” That the Prince of life should be crucified, was an event which caused the angels to stoop from their celestial thrones, that they might gaze in amazement upon it. The prophets who predicted these events were perplexed at their own prophecies, “They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating, when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.”

The truths which are exhibited in a clear and strong light by the crucifixion of Christ, are such as these:

1. The infinite evil of sin, which in order to its pardon required such a sacrifice.

2. The holiness and justice of God, which would not allow sin to pass without full evidence of the divine disapprobation, and his inflexible purpose to visit it with deserved punishment.

3. The wisdom of God, in contriving a method of salvation by which his own glory would be promoted in the eternal salvation of hell-deserving sinners. This wisdom is chiefly manifest in the incarnation of the Son of God, by which the divine and human natures are united in one person.

4. But the most wonderful exhibition of the cross is the mercy of God, the love of God to sinners—such love as never could have been conceived of, had it not been manifest by the gift of his own Son!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Foolish Chances

 2011-09-14-thesickchildbyedvardmunchfourthversion

“What must I do to be saved?”
–Acts 16:30

It was late one Saturday in winter, a clergyman was sent for in haste to see a dying woman…

Mounting the stairs he gathered from her mother that she had caught cold after her confinement, and that her hours were numbered. On entering the room there was a scene of woe. In a little cradle by the fire, rocked by a woman who wept as she rocked it, was an unconscious infant, a baby who would never know the preciousness of a mother’s love. At the foot of the bed, and on the left side of it, were the mother and sister; on the right side knelt her husband, clasping her hand in his, and weeping as only men can weep.

And then, as they made way for the minister of God, the dying woman roused herself: with her large and lustrous eyes she looked a look of anxious terror which sent a chill right through the minister; away from her husband and from her sleeping child, and from her mother and sisters, and from all sounds and scenes of this lower world, she suddenly and quickly turned, as if there was but one thing really worth thinking of, and in a voice of mournful and thrilling earnestness; calling him twice by name, she said, “Oh, what must I do to be saved?”

It was indeed late for the dying young mother to begin thinking of that. After some medicine had been given her to keep up her strength; it was hard to discern much of the excitement upon her now. How much was from a quickened conscience? How much was it from her consuming fever? Oh, there were but a few hours left, and of those hours, there was actually but a few fragments.

It is needless to add that the pastor preached to her Jesus; that he labored hard as she drifted in and out of consciousness, to show her the way of life. And the pastor had reason to believe that poor woman was taken into the arms of the Good Shepherd, and in the final moments of her life, she was brought into Christ’s sheep-fold, –where the wolf never comes and the sheep never wander. But as the hours passed by; hour by hour, her fever grew on her, her head became weaker, and so she was less able to listen: Oh, what a risk she ran; a risk that might have cost her, her very own soul!

My dear friend, May I ask you, is everything right between you and the Savior? Do you trust in his finished work for the complete forgiveness of your sins? Or, have you hesitated, –afraid to lay it all down on the altar: all the pleasures that the world has to offer you; all the addictions; all the so-called benefits. Are you afraid to give them to Christ? Are you afraid that you might be left with nothing? Oh, my dear friend, what a risk you are taking! What an awful chance you are running! Does not the thought of losing your very own soul not trouble you? Do you believe that God is a liar? Do you believe that hell does not exist? Oh,  in this even the devils believe and tremble!

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, may I strongly urge you to do so now? Do not delay! This night your soul might be required of you. Make your decision for Christ right now.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
–Acts 16:31

“Are you God’s wife?”

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“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these….”

–Matthew 25:40

There is an old story of a beautiful lady who once visited New York city,

and there she saw on the sidewalk a ragged, cold, and hungry little girl gazing wistfully at some of the cakes in a shop window. She stopped, and, taking the little one by the hand, led her into the store. Though she was aware that bread might be better for the cold child than cake, yet, desiring to gratify the shivering and forlorn one, she bought and gave her the cake she wanted. She then took her to another place, where she procured her a shawl and other articles of comfort. The grateful little creature looked the lady full in the face, and with artless simplicity said, “Are you God’s wife?”

My dear friends, may I ask you a few questions? Do your actions and words lead people to believe that they see Jesus in you? Is your life lived in such a way, that the things you say, and the way you act, speak naturally of the Savior and your relationship to Him? Is your theology so sprinkled with the love of the Savior that it unerringly points to Jesus?  Or to others, do you usually seem, hard, cold, and unapproachable? Do you have a hard time trying to convince others of the Gospel you preach, or are people naturally drawn to it?

My prayer today is that your love and your charity will naturally lead people to ask if you are God’s child; if you are a Christian, and to inquire if they can have the same Christ that you have.  I also pray, that “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen. Grace and peace.

For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Taken and adapted form, “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” (1535)
Written by, Martin Luther
Translated by Theodore Graebner

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For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
–Galatians 2:21

Did Christ die, or did He not die? Was His death worthwhile, or was it not?

If His death was worthwhile, it follows that righteousness does not come by the Law. Why was Christ born anyway? Why was He crucified? Why did He suffer? Why did He love me and give Himself for me? It was all done to no purpose if righteousness is to be had by the Law.

Or do you think that God spared not His Son, but delivered Him for us all, for the fun of it? Before I would admit anything like that, I would consign the holiness of the saints and of the angels to hell.

To reject the grace of God is a common sin, of which everybody is guilty who sees any righteousness in himself or in his deeds. And the Pope is the sole author of this iniquity. Not content to spoil the Gospel of Christ, he has filled the world with his cursed traditions, e.g., his bulls and indulgences.

We will always affirm with Paul that either Christ died in vain, or else the Law cannot justify us. But Christ did not suffer and die in vain. Hence, the Law does not justify.

If my salvation was so difficult to accomplish that it necessitated the death of Christ, then all my works, all the righteousness of the Law, are good for nothing. How can I buy for a penny what cost a million dollars? The Law is a penny’s worth when you compare it with Christ. Should I be so stupid as to reject the righteousness of Christ which cost me nothing, and slave like a fool to achieve the righteousness of the Law which God disdains?

Man’s own righteousness is in the last analysis a despising and rejecting of the grace of God. No combination of words can do justice to such an outrage. It is an insult to say that any man died in vain. But to say that Christ died in vain is a deadly insult. To say that Christ died in vain is to make His resurrection, His victory, His glory, His kingdom, heaven, earth, God Himself, of no purpose and benefit whatever.

That is enough to set any person against the righteousness of the Law and all the trimmings of men’s own righteousness, the orders of monks and friars, and their superstitions. Who would not detest his own vows, his cowls, his shaven crown, his bearded traditions, yes, the very Law of Moses, when he hears that for such things he rejected the grace of God and the death of Christ. It seems that such a horrible wickedness could not enter a man’s heart, that he should reject the grace of God, and despise the death of Christ. And yet this atrocity is all too common.

Let us be warned. Everyone who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, satisfactions, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and despises the death of Christ.

“The Lord our Righteousness” (Jehovah- Tsidkenu)

Taken and adapted from, “Covenant Names and Privileges”
Written by, Richard Newton, D.D.

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And this is the name whereby He shall be called, “The Lord our Righteousness”
(or, ‘Jehovah- Tsidkenu’) –Jeremiah 23:6.

The passage now before us leads us to look at Him as “the Lord our Righteousness” –or “Jehovah-Tsidkenu.”

In journeying through a mountain region, we find ourselves at times, on the top of a gentle hill, which will give us a delightful view of the picturesque scenery of the landscape that immediately surrounds us. But, now and then, we may reach the summit of some towering mountain. That lifts us far up above all other points of view. As we stand there and gaze, we can look down on hills, and plains, and valleys, and take in the geography of all the surrounding country.

In the mountain range of scripture truth, we reach such an elevated summit, in our present text, and in the subject which it brings up for our consideration. As we stand here and meditate, if we succeed in getting clear views of the great doctrine here spoken of, it will go very far to enable us to understand the plan of our salvation as made known to us in the Word of God. Some of the other covenant names, have taken in more of the poetry of saving truth: but none of them are more instructive in reference to matters which it is of the highest importance for us to understand.

“And this is the name whereby He shall be called –The Lord our Righteousness.”

In attempting to handle the righteousness here spoken of, we may look at it from five different points of view: Such as, 1. to its author; 2. its foundation; 3. its nature; 4. its importance; and 5. its possession.

“And this is the name whereby He shall be called –The Lord our Righteousness.” The phrase rendered in our version –“the Lord,” is in the original “Jehovah.” But in the Godhead, represented by this solemn name, Jehovah, there is a Trinity of persons. The precise point now before us is to determine which of the three persons, in that holy Trinity, is here intended?  It is important to settle this point. And it is not difficult to do so. We have only to glance cursorily, at two or three passages, and we have scripture interpreting itself here, in the most clear and satisfactory manner.

Look, for instance, at the verse immediately preceding the text. Here we find it written, –“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign, and prosper, and shall execute judgment, and righteousness in the earth.” Then follow the words of the text. “And this is the name whereby,” etc. Thus we see from the connection in which our text is found, that the person here called “Jehovah our righteousness” –is the same as “the righteous Branch, the prosperous King,” promised to be raised up unto David. This proves that the Jehovah of our text is Jehovah-Jesus. Isaiah (11:1), in speaking of Him, says –“There shall come forth a root out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Ezekiel (34:29) calls Him –“the Plant of renown.” Zechariah (6:12, 13), speaking of Him, says, “Behold the man whose name is the Branch; He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and He shall sit, and rule upon His throne, and He shall be a priest upon His throne.” We know, then, that the Jehovah who is to be our righteousness must be Jehovah-Jesus, because He is the Branch, who was to be raised up unto David. And He is the prosperous King who was to sit on David’s throne. For when the angel Gabriel foretold His birth, he applied this very prophecy to Him saying, “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

And then, to complete the testimony of Scripture on this point, and prove to a demonstration that the Jehovah of our text is Jesus, it is only necessary to turn to a single passage in the New Testament, I Cor. 1:13, where we find St. Paul distinctly affirming that it is He “who is made of God unto us righteousness.”

Thus we see, without difficulty, that it is that “name which is as ointment poured forth”; that “name which is above every name”; that name of Jesus, which sounds so sweetly in the believer’s ear, of which the prophet is here speaking, when he says that ” He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.

It is Jehovah- Jesus who is the author of this righteousness.

And now, let us look, in the second place at the foundation of this righteousness.

This word, righteousness, is used in many senses in the Scriptures. But, the most important meaning attached to it is that in which it is regarded as denoting the procuring cause of our justification before God.

It is spoken of in the New Testament as “The righteousness of Christ.” And the foundation on which it rests, of that of which it is made up –is the active, and passive obedience of our Lord and Savior. It embraces all that He did, to honor God’s law, when He obeyed its every precept to the uttermost, in thought and feeling, in purpose, word, and action; and all that He suffered when the tremendous penalties of God’s broken law were visited upon Him. The righteousness of Christ means simply the benefit of all that He did, and suffered. This benefit, or righteousness, belongs to His people. It is made over to them. It is reckoned as theirs. This is what we are taught when told concerning Jehovah- Jesus: “the Lord our righteousness,” that, “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” –2 Cor. 5: 21.

Here we have the principle of substitution working both ways. You can no more get rid of this principle of substitution from the New Testament, than you can get rid of the sun from the heavens by day, or the stars from the sky by night. If any ask, how was Christ made sin for His people, when He knew no sin? The answer is simply by substitution. God dealt with Him as though He had actually been guilty of the accumulated transgressions of a world of sinners. This is what the prophet teaches when he says that “God laid on Him the iniquities of us all.” –Is. 53:6. And this is what the apostle teaches when he says that “He was made a curse for us.” –Gal. 3:13. “He should taste death for every man.” –Heb. 2:9. “He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” –I John 2:2. And as the sins of His people were reckoned unto Him, and considered as His, so His righteousness, or the benefit of all He did and suffered, is reckoned unto His people, and considered as belonging unto them. As God regarded and dealt with Him as a sinner for His people’s sake, so He regards and deals with His people as righteous for His sake.

This is the righteousness spoken of in our text. It is that by which, as ruined sinners, we are justified before God. It rests for its foundation on the life, the obedience, the sufferings, and death of Christ. It is called “The righteousness of Christ,” and He is called The Lord our Righteousness, because He is the Author and the Finisher, or the Foundation of it.

The NATURE of this righteousness is the third thing to claim our attention.

And here we have a delightful theme for meditation. No miser ever felt half the joy in counting over his hoarded gold, and no monarch ever experienced half the rapture in gazing admiringly on the splendor and magnificence of the crown jewelry he inherits, that the intelligent Christian experiences in dwelling on the nature of that finished, and all-perfect righteousness that Jesus, his glorious Savior, has wrought out for him. Let us just glance now at some of its leading features.

(a) It is a GRACIOUS righteousness.

It has its foundation altogether in the sovereign, unmerited grace of God. It was of God’s good pleasure alone, that ever a plan for working out such a righteousness was devised. God was under no obligation to devise, or carry out such a plan. The honor of His name would not have been tarnished, nor the integrity of His righteous government compromised, if He had stood aloof when man sinned, and had allowed the race of men, as He did the race of angels, to go on and meet the everlasting consequences of their transgressions. But, glory and praise to His blessed name, grace reigned in the councils of eternity, when the future of fallen man was considered.

“Grace first contrived a way
To save rebellious man,
And all the means that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.”

Redemption, contemplated as a mighty whole, has its foundation here. Grace wrought out the exhaustless store of righteousness which is here provided. And as it was the grace of God which procured this righteousness, so it is the same grace which dispenses it. It is grace alone which makes men feel their need of this righteousness. It is grace alone which inclines them to seek it. It is grace alone which makes them willing to cast sin, and self, and everything else away, and to rest on this righteousness, on this only, on this now, and on this forever, as the ground of their acceptance with God. Yes, it is a gracious righteousness.

(b) It is a PERFECT righteousness.

But how can mortal thought rise to the grandeur of this lofty theme? Or how may mortal tongue venture to speak of its excellence? Oh, may the Spirit of the living God guide our minds, and touch our lips, and open our hearts while thinking, and speaking, and hearing of this great truth! May He enable us clearly to see its meaning, and deeply to feel its power!

It is a perfect righteousness which Jesus gives to His people.

God’s perfect law was the standard by which this righteousness was to be measured; and it came fully up to that standard. It was the scrutiny of God’s holy and penetrating eye to which this righteousness was subjected. He examined it. He weighed it in the balances of the heavenly sanctuary, and declared Himself well-pleased with it. How perfect that must be in which His penetrating eye could see no flaw! How perfect that must be which He pronounces faultless, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!” There is no mark, or shadow of imperfection about it. It is because of His connection with this righteousness that God the Father loves His Son with a love that is unspeakable. This was what the Psalmist meant when he looked up to the Messiah, as King in Zion, and exclaimed –“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, wherefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” –Ps. 45:7. And it is because Christ’s people share in this righteousness, that God cherishes towards them the same affection that He entertains towards His only-begotten Son. How wonderful this is! We never could have believed it, if Jesus Himself had not assured us that it is even so. And yet, this was what He taught us when taking the whole company of His ransomed people in His comprehensive grasp. He offered in their behalf this wondrous prayer; –“That the love wherewith Thou hast loved me, may be in them!” –John 17:26. This is marvelous indeed! But, in the very nature of things, God can never love any other beings as He loves His own Son, except on the ground of their being made “righteous even as He is righteous.” It is an admitted axiom in geometry that “any two things which are equal to a third thing, must be equal to each other.” But we never can be equally righteous with Christ in any other way than by being made partakers of His righteousness. Nothing less than this will meet our wants. This meets them fully. “A robe I must have,” says an old writer, “of a whole piece; broad as the law, spotless as the light, and richer than ever an angel wore; and such a robe I have in the righteousness of Christ. It is a perfect righteousness.”

(c) It is a uniform righteousness.

I mean by this that what the righteousness of Christ is to one of His people it is to them all. None of them are accepted on any other ground than this; and all who stand on this ground, are on an equality before God, as to the foundation on which they rest, or as to that which constitutes their title to heaven. It is the righteousness of Christ which constitutes this title. This righteousness is never given to any, in parts, or parcels; but always as a whole. The soul that has any interest in this righteousness, has an interest in it all. Where the sun shines at noonday, I have the benefit of its shining, as fully as though there were none around me to share its beams, and it shone for me alone. Yet each of my neighbors has, or may have, the same benefit of its beams that I have. And so it is with the righteousness of Christ. The infant, who dies before committing any personal transgression, has no title to enter heaven but that which is based on the righteousness of Christ; and the whole of that righteousness is needed to make a good title for every infant; and it is precisely the same with the veteran Christian of threescore years and ten. The dying thief who turned in penitence and faith, and was accepted in the last hour of his mortal life, had just the same title to enter heaven that the apostle Paul had, or Peter, or John, or Isaiah, or Elijah, or David, or Moses, or Abraham, or Enoch.

The degree of their enjoyment, or of their reward in heaven, will be immeasurably different –but the ground of their acceptance “the character of their title to enter heaven will be the same. This title is always based on the righteousness of Christ, and the whole of that righteousness is needed in every case to make the title good. And thus we see that the righteousness of Christ is a uniform righteousness.

(d) It is an unchanging righteousness.

The personal righteousness of the child of God, that which is wrought in his soul by the influence of the grace and Spirit of God, admits of degrees. It may be increased or diminished. It may be greater or less tomorrow than it is today. But the righteousness given to the believer, and by which he is justified before God, admits of no degrees. It can neither be more nor less at one time than at another.

And so when Christ gives Himself and His righteousness to His people, He gives them a world of spiritual treasures, which it will take all eternity for them fully to explore, and find out. But all this is given to them from the start. The very moment a penitent sinner exercises faith in Christ, there is secured to him a participation in Christ’s righteousness and that first act of his trembling faith does as much for his soul, in this respect, as all the subsequent actings of that faith can do. He is as much justified that instant, as he will be in the hour of death, at the Day of Judgment, or at the remotest period of eternity.

There are no degrees, or stages in the work of the soul’s justification. The soul once justified, is justified fully, and justified forever. The righteousness which secures justification will remain without changing what it was at first.

Comparing this righteousness to the robe which Christ puts upon the souls of His people, Toplady’s lines come in very well to round off this point of our subject.

“This glorious robe the same appears
When ruined nature sinks in years,
No age can change its glorious hue;
The robe of Christ is ever new.”

(e) The only other element in the nature of this righteousness that we can now touch upon is –that it is “a GLORIOUS righteousness.

We see this in the peculiar position which the ransomed people of Christ will occupy, among the creatures of God, in possessing this righteousness. They will stand on higher ground, in the scale of being, than even angels and archangels can ever reach. These must stand in their own righteousness; and that, after all, is but the righteousness of creatures. But believers n Jesus stand before God on the very ground which is occupied by His own eternal, and only begotten Son. It is in Him they are accepted. It is ”in Him” they are complete. Well might the Psalmist declare of Christ’s people that ”in His righteousness they shall be exalted.” –Ps. 89:16. Why, the humblest believer in Jesus would be a loser in this respect, if he should exchange places with Gabriel, who stands before yonder shining throne. We have no reason to suppose that there is another tribe or race of creatures in all the boundless universe, who will rise to a point of elevation like this. This is what is meant when we are told that Christ’s ransomed ones are to be ”a peculiar treasure unto Him.” They are to be to “the praise of the glory of His grace,” as none other of His creatures shall be. Their peculiar, distinguishing privilege will be that Jehovah-Jesus is their righteousness. The elements that go to make up the nature of this righteousness are that it is a gracious righteousness, a perfect, uniform, unchanging, and glorious righteousness.

Let us look now, in the fourth place, at the importance of this righteousness.

We see its importance in its bearing on our comfort for the present; and on our confidence for the future. The proper understanding of this doctrine has very much to do with our comfort, as Christians, in the present life. It is a possible thing that we may be Christians, without understanding this doctrine; but it is not possible that we can have the comfort of being Christians, unless we have a clear knowledge of this great truth. Here is a practical illustration of this point. 

Suppose that in a week from tomorrow, you have a note of a large amount to pay, and you have nothing with which to meet it. Of course, under such circumstances, you must feel very uncomfortable. And suppose that under these circumstances, a friend should deposit, in your name at the bank, a sum of money, more than sufficient to meet all your indebtedness. The fact that the money was there would put you in a position of safety. But unless you have a clear knowledge and a full assurance of this fact, you cannot be in a position of comfort in reference to it.

Now, in our natural condition as sinners, we are all overwhelmingly in debt to God. We are liable, at any moment to be called to a settlement, and we have nothing to pay. But when we are led to repent of our sins, and believe in Jesus as our Savior, His infinite and all-perfect righteousness is entered in the bank of heaven in our name, and to our account. It is reckoned as belonging unto us. If we are able to understand this truth, and grasp it, in the exercise of a firm faith, we shall have access to the most full and flowing fountain of comfort which the gospel affords. And then our confidence for the future, as well as our comfort for the present, must depend entirely on our knowledge of this doctrine, and our belief in it.

Here we have at once the title that is to secure our entrance into heaven, and the robe we are to wear on entering there. It is only by sharing in the righteousness of Christ that any child of Adam ever has entered heaven, or ever will. And the robes which the ransomed wear who enter that blessed abode are robes that have been washed, and made white in the blood of the Lamb. We can have no title to heaven, and no fitness for its joys without an interest in this righteousness. And when we think of its intimate connection with our comfort for the present, and our confidence for the future, we see how unspeakably important the clear understanding of this doctrine is!

A word in closing on our last point, which is the possession of this righteousness.

To whom does it belong? Who are entitled to share the privilege of possessing it? The text speaks of “The Lord our righteousness.” Who are included in this short, but important and comprehensive word “our”?  It does not refer to the Jews alone, though it is a Jewish promise. It does not embrace exclusively any one nation, or tribe, or rank, or condition of men. No; but it refers to all the spiritual children of God. It takes in all, of every age and nation, of every name and condition, whose hearts have been converted by the grace of God, and who have been made His children in Christ Jesus. Every man, woman, and child who is led to exercise simple, saving faith in Christ, becomes a partaker of this righteousness. The testimony of Scripture is clear, decided, and absolute on this point. It is written, ”Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes” Rom. 10:4. It is called, “The righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ.” –Phil. 3:9. Multitudes of other passages might be quoted to the same purpose. But these are sufficient. It is faith in Christ, alone, which can make this righteousness ours. Show me one, therefore, who is exercising simple faith in Christ as His Savior, and I will show you one who has a gracious, covenant, inalienable right to say, “This little word ‘our’ in the text takes me in. I belong to the company here spoken of. “Jehovah-Jesus is my righteousness.” All who are exercising faith in Christ have a part in this righteousness. It belongs to no one else.

There is one question I would press on the conscience of everyone who reads these pages. It is this. Have I a personal interest in this righteousness? If not, then say to yourself, what is the simple, solemn, awful truth, “While in this state I do not have, I cannot have, one ray of hope for eternity! No title to enter heaven. No robe to wear among its bright and blessed redeemed. Then what ought I to do?”