The Inward Experience of Believers

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

woman-in-regret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two reasons for this:—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

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

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

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

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

The Demoniac of Gadara

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“They went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.” 
— Luke 8:35

Christmas Evans, in a sermon on the cure of the demoniac, says…

“The man out of whom the unclean spirits were cast, besought Jesus that he might be with Him, but He [Jesus] told him to return to his own house, and show how great things God had done unto him. And he went his way, and published, throughout the whole city of Decapolis, how great things Jesus had done unto him.”

I imagine I see him going through the city, crying— ‘Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Please to take notice of me, the demoniac among the tombs. I am the man who was a terror to the people of this place—that wild man, who would wear no clothes, and that no man could bind. Here am I now, in my right mind—Jesus Christ, the Friend of sinners, had compassion on me. He remembered me when I was in my low estate, when there was no eye to pity, and no hand to save. He cast out the devils and redeemed my soul from destruction!’

“Most wonderful must have been the surprise of the people to hear such proclamation. The ladies running to the windows, the shoemakers throwing their lasts one way and their awls another, running out to meet him and to converse with him, that they might be positive that there was no imposition, and found it to be a fact that could not be contradicted. ‘Oh, the wonder of all wonders! Never was there such a thing,’ must, I think, have been the general conversation.

“And while they were talking, and everybody having something to say, homeward goes the man. As soon as he comes in sight of the house, I imagine I see one of the children running in, and crying, ‘Oh, mother! Father is coming—he will kill us all!’ ‘Children, come all into the house,’ says the mother. ‘Let us fasten the door. I think there is no sorrow like my sorrow!’ says the brokenhearted woman. ‘Are all the windows fastened, children?’ ‘Yes, mother.’ ‘Mary, my dear, come from the window; don’t be standing there.’ ‘Why, mother, I can hardly believe it is father! That man is well dressed!’ ‘Oh, yes, my dear children, it is your own father, I knew him by his walk the moment I saw him.’ Another child stepping to the window, says, ‘Why, mother, I never saw father coming home as he comes to-day. He walks on the footpath, and turns round the corner of the fence. He used to come towards the house as straight as a line, over fences, ditches, and hedges; and I’ve never seen him walk as slowly as he does now.’

“In a few minutes, however, he arrives at the door of the house, to the great terror and consternation of all the huddled family. He gently tries the door, and finds no admittance. He pauses a moment, steps towards the window, and says in a low, firm, and melodious voice, ‘ My dear wife, if you will let me in, there is no danger, I will not hurt you. I bring you glad tidings of great joy.’ The door is reluctantly opened, as it were between joy and fear.

Having deliberately seated himself, he says, ‘I am come to show you what great things God has done for me. He loved me with an everlasting love. He redeemed me from the curse of the law and the threatenings of vindictive justice. He saved me from the power and dominion of sin. He cast the devils out of my heart, and made that heart, which was a den of thieves, the temple of the Holy Spirit. I cannot tell you how much I love my Savior. Jesus Christ is the foundation of my hope, the object of my faith, and the center of my affections. I can venture my immortal soul upon Him. He is my best friend. He is altogether lovely—the chief among ten thousand. He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. There is enough in Him to make a poor sinner rich, and a miserable sinner happy. His flesh and blood is my food, His righteousness my wedding garment, and His blood is efficacious to cleanse me from all my sins. Through Him I can obtain eternal life; for He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person; in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He deserves my highest esteem, and my warmest gratitude. Unto Him who loved me with an eternal love, and washed me in His own blood, unto Him be the glory, dominion, and power, for ever and ever! For He has rescued my soul from hell. He plucked me as a brand from the burning. He took me out of the miry clay, and out of a horrible pit. He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings, and put in any mouth a new song of praise, and glory to Him! Glory to Him forever! Glory to God in the Highest! Glory to God for ever and ever! Let the whole earth praise Him! Yea, let all the people praise Him!’

How sweet was all this, the transporting joy of his wife! It is beyond the power of the strongest imagination to conceive the joy and gladness of this family.

It is the joy of seafaring men delivered from shipwreck; it is the joy of a man delivered from a burning house; it is the joy of not being found guilty at a criminal bar; it is the joy of receiving pardon to a condemned malefactor; it is the joy of freedom to a prisoner of war, and it is nothing in comparison to the joy of him who is delivered from going down to the pit of eternal destruction. For it is a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Are You an Enemy of the Cross ?

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But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
–Galatians 1:7

They are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
–Philippians 3:18

Often, the best way to positively set forth the gospel message is by exposing those things which stand against it.

Not only are we armed with “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), but also with “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). We are not only to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), but to be even as Paul,“set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). We must not only build the walls with carefulness, but we must be at all times prepared to defend those walls against their enemies (see Neh. 4:17). One of the old Puritans, Thomas Manton (1620-1677), said,

“It is our duty not only to fodder the sheep, but hunt out the wolf. Error is touchy, and is loath to be meddled with; yet we must warn, and warn often.”

We indeed seek to warn the children of the Living God, even with tears as the apostle “that many walk,… that… are enemies of the cross of Christ”… These “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) must needs be exposed.

When we say ‘enemies of the cross’, what do we mean? Simply this: ‘the cross’ is often used in the Scripture to denote ‘the gospel’ (1 Cor. 1:18, Gal. 5:11, 6:12).

Those who are ‘enemies of the cross’ are enemies of the gospel which is the message of God’s redeeming grace revealed in His son, Jesus Christ. An enemy of the gospel is ultimately an enemy of Christ.

I believe these ‘enemies of the cross’ fall into three categories:

1.   Those who openly oppose the gospel and teach against it. These enemies are seen quite clearly, so very few words of warning are needful. We are not sent to do battle with infidels and supposed atheists, but we will”let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”(Mt. 15:14). They are “raging waves of sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).

2.   Those who make no profession of love for Christ nor faith in His person. This group is often not so easily distinguished as ‘enemies’ of Christ as the first group clearly is. contained in this category are those who are obviously opposed to Christ for their false Gospel is an open sin and they heed not the warnings of the gospel to “flee from wrath to come” (Mat. 3:7) nor obey its commands to repent (Acts 18:30) and believe the gospel and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). But this group also contains those who do not live in open sin and unrestrained wickedness, yet do not follow Christ and profess Him before men. While those of the latter division are esteemed more highly in the eyes of men, they are equally condemned in the sight of the Lord, who said, “he that is not with me is against me” (Mat. 12:30). “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him sill I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32,33). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).

3.   Those who professedly and seemingly walk in the gospel, yet in reality are set against it. This category is the most difficult to deal with; for those who make it up are often extremely hard to distinguish from the true bearers of the cross. Therefore they are the most dangerous enemies and the ones which Paul specifically warns us of in the texts. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14,15). Another difficulty in dealing with this group is that many sincere people (and I doubt not, come true children of God) follow the teachings of these false prophets out of ignorance. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John. 4:1).

These enemies of the cross are those who set up any standard for faith, conduct, doctrine, or practice, other than the Holy Scriptures.

Of course they would not be bold so as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the Word, yet they subtly set up other standards. Such persons rely on tradition (“Well, we have always believed this or done this”), what their denomination or church teaches (“If it’s not what my church believes, I don’t even want to hear it or think about it”), special revelations and leadings of the Lord (“I feel like the Lord is leading me to…”), or their own ideas and understanding (“That doctrine cannot possibly be true because I don’t understand it”), rather than being like the Bereans who, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They are the ‘enemies of the cross’ for, “if they speak not according to this word (the law and testimony) it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Those who teach that the free will of man is the determining factor in salvation are also subtle ‘enemies of the cross.’

Their teaching has spawned a generation of hypocrites who “draw near (the Lord) with their mouth… but have removed their heart far from (Him) and their fear toward (Him) is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Many have been swallowed up by their zeal to make converts. but oh how many true converts are there in this day of those “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19) and have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2:5)? Who can give “a reason of the hope that is in them” (1 Pet. 3:15)?

These are also ‘enemies of the cross’ whose message of salvation begins, is sustained, or ends with anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some give pre-eminence to the Holy Spirit, and truly He is to be worshipped, but His presence is always marked by the fact that Christ alone is exalted. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come… He shall glorify me (Christ).” (John 16:13,14).

Finally, they are ‘enemies’ who preach any message which gives men any thing that they can glory in or boast of in their salvation. From the beginning to end, our salvation is all of God’s grace. He has designed it, He has provided it, He applies it, and He sustains it. He is going to have all the glory in salvation of men and He will not share that glory. Salvation is in Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12). We are helpless and hopeless. We need Him. He does not need us. We are shut up to His mercy. A man will not be saved unless God is pleased to grant mercy. There is no salvation but that which He wills to bestow upon men. Oh but this is good news, for He is a God who delights in mercy. He has shown to thousands who call on His name. My friend, I plead with you to fly to His throne this moment and seek that saving mercy. Perhaps He shall be pleased to save you from your certain ruin. Bow down at His feet today; call upon Him while He is near. But oh believe not the great swelling words of those who tell men that they can be saved anytime they want to by an act of their own will. I tell you even weeping, ‘they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’.

–Mike McInnis

The Perfect Efficiency of a Limited Atonement

Taken and adapted from, “The Reformed Faith”
Written by, Loraine Boettner 

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We are not told why God does not save all mankind…

….when all were equally undeserving, and when the sacrifice on Calvary was that of a Person of infinite value, amply sufficient to save all men had God so desired it. But the Scriptures do tell us that not all will be saved. However, we can say that the atonement, which was worked out at an enormous cost to God Himself, is His own property, and that He is at liberty to make whatever use of it He chooses. No man has any claim to any part of it. We are told repeatedly that salvation is by grace. And grace is favor shown to the undeserving, even to the ill-deserving. If any part of man’s salvation were due to his own good works, then indeed there would be a difference in men, and those who had responded to the gracious offer could justly point the finger of scorn at the lost and say, “You had the same chance that I had. I accepted, but you refused. Therefore you have no excuse.” But no. God has so arranged this system that those who are saved can only be eternally grateful that God has saved them.

It is not for us to ask why God does as He does, for the Scripture declares: 

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou make me thus? Or hath no the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels fitted unto destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he also called.” (Rom. 9:20-24)

Only the Calvinist seems to take the fall of man seriously. A proper evaluation of the fall and of man’s present hopeless condition is the missing element in so much of today’s thinking, teaching and preaching. Arminianism seriously errs in assuming that man has sufficient ability to turn to God if only he will. The Calvinist insists that man is not merely sick or indisposed or just needs the right incentive, but that he is spiritually dead, and that the atonement of Christ does not merely make salvation an abstract possibility such that all men can turn to God if they will. The Calvinist holds that the atonement was an objective work accomplished in history which removed all legal barriers against those to whom it was to be applied, and that it would be followed by the work of the Holy Spirit subjectively applying the merits of that atonement to the hearts of those for whom it was divinely intended.

We call attention again to one of the most important verses in Scripture concerning the matter of salvation: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him” (John 6:44). Another like it is; “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). And to the Christians in Corinth, Paul wrote: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (I Cor. 2:14).

And how does God cause the elect to exercise faith? The answer is: In regeneration the Holy Spirit subdues man’s heart to Himself, and imparts to man a new nature which loves righteousness and hates sin. He does not force man against his will, but makes him lovingly and spontaneously obedient to His will.

When the Lord Jesus appeared to the hardened persecutor Saul as he was on the way to Damascus, he immediately became obedient to the Lord’s will. “Thy people offer themselves willingly in the day of thy power,” said the Psalmist (110:3). Thus God gives His people the will to come. That act on God’s part, in the sub-conscious nature of the person, is known as regeneration, or as a new birth, or being born again. When a man is thus given a new nature, he reacts according to that nature, as do all of God’s creatures. He then exercises faith and does good works characteristic of repentance as naturally as the grape-vine produces grapes. Whereas sin was his natural element, now holiness becomes his natural element – not all at once, for he still has remnants of the old nature clinging to him, and as long as he remains in this world he still is in a sinful environment. But as his new nature is free to express itself he grows in righteousness; he enjoys reading God’s Word, praying, and having fellowship with other Christians.

We therefore have to choose between an atonement of high-efficiency which is perfectly accomplished, and an atonement of wide extension which is imperfectly accomplished. We cannot have both.

If we had both we would have universal salvation. But the Arminian extends the atonement so widely that so far as its actual effect is concerned, it has practically no value other than as an example of unselfish service. Dr. B.B. Warfield used a very simple illustration to present this truth. He said that the atonement is like pie dough – the wider you roll it the thinner it becomes. And the Arminian, in making it apply to all men, reduces its effectiveness to such an extent that it becomes practically no atonement at all.

Furthermore, for God to have laid the sins of all men on Christ would mean that as regards the lost He would be punishing their sins twice, once in Christ, and then again in them. Certainly that would be unjust. If Christ paid their debt, they are free, and the Holy Spirit would invariably bring them to faith and repentance. If the atonement was truly unlimited, it would mean that Christ died for multitudes whose fate already had been determined, who already were in hell at the time He suffered. If the atonement merely nullified the sentence that was against man so as to give him a new chance if he would exercise faith and obedience, it would mean that God was placing him on test again as was his ancestor Adam. But that kind of a test was tried and had its outcome long ago, even in a far more favorable environment. Carried to its logical conclusion, the theory of unlimited atonement leads to absurdity.

We should remember that Christ’s suffering in His human nature, as He hung on the cross those six hours, was not primarily physical, but mental and spiritual. When He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” He was literally suffering the pangs of hell. For that is essentially what hell is, separation from God, separation from everything that is good and desirable. Such suffering is beyond our comprehension. But since He suffered as a divine-human person, His suffering was a just equivalent for all that His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.

As a matter of fact, the redeemed man gains more through redemption in Christ than he lost through the fall of Adam. For in the incarnation God literally came into the human race and took human nature upon Himself, which nature Christ in His glorified body will retain forever, and evidently He will be the only visible God that we will see in heaven. Peter tells us that we now are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4); and Paul says that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Think of that! Partakers of the divine nature, and joint-heirs with Christ! What greater blessing could God possibly confer upon us? As such we are superior to the angels, for they are designated in Scripture only as God’s messengers, His servants.

Ultimately the Arminian is faced with precisely the same problem as is the Calvinist – that broader problem as to why a God of infinite holiness and power permits sin at all. In our present state of knowledge we can give only a partial answer. But the Calvinist faces up to that problem, acknowledges the Scriptural doctrine that all men had their fair and favorable chance in Adam, that God now graciously saves some of the fallen race while leaving others to go their own chosen sinful way and manifests His justice in their punishment. But having admitted foreknowledge, the Arminianism has no explanation as to why God purposefully and deliberately creates those who He knows will be lost and who will spend eternity in hell.

However, as regards the problem of evil, we can say that God created this world as a theater in which He would display His glory, His marvelous attributes for all of His creatures to see and admire – His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Here we are concerned primarily with His justice.

God’s justice demands that goodness must be rewarded and that sin must be punished. And it is just as necessary that sin be punished as it is that goodness be rewarded. God would be unjust if He failed to do either. Therefore He created men and angels not as robots who would automatically produce good works as a machine produces bolts or tin cans but who would deserve no rewards, but as free moral agents, in His own image, capable, in Adam before the fall, of choosing between good and evil. He manifests His justice toward those whom He has purposed in grace to save by rewarding them for the good works that are found in Christ their Savior and credited to them, confirming them in holiness, and admitting them into heaven. And He manifests His justice toward those whom He has purposed to by-pass for their willing continuance in sin.

Likewise, if sin had been excluded, there could have been no adequate revelation God’s most glorious attributes, grace, mercy, love and holiness, as is displayed in His redemption of sinners. Let us remember that the angels in heaven earned salvation through a covenant of works, by keeping God’s law. As in the Case of Adam, they had been promised certain rewards if they obeyed. They did obey, and were confirmed in holiness. They have not experienced salvation by grace. There is an old hymn which says, “When I sing redemption’s story, the angels will fold their wings and listen.” And so it will be in the ultimate contrast between men and angels.

Hence the explanation of sin is that God permits it, but controls and overrules it for His own glory. If sin had been excluded from the creation those glorious attributes could never have been adequately displayed before His intelligent universe of men and angels, but for the most part would have remained forever hidden in the depths of the divine nature.

The Wayward Daughter

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A mother whose daughter had behaved very badly…

…and at length had run away from home, thought of a singular plan in order to find the wanderer and draw her back to her home. After having exhausted the ordinary means, she had her own portrait fixed on a large handbill and pasted on the walls of the town where she supposed her daughter to be concealed. The portrait, without name, had these words, “I love thee always.”

Crowds stopped before the strange handbill, trying to guess its meaning. Days elapsed, when the young girl at last passed by, and in her turn lifted her eyes to the singular placard. “Can it be?” Yes, truly it is the picture of my mother. Those eyes, full of tenderness, I know from childhood. Why is it here?” She approaches nearer and reads. “I love thee always,” She understood; this was a message for her. Her mother loved her, –and had pardoned her.

Those words transformed the daughter. Never had she felt her sin or ingratitude so deeply. She was unworthy of such love. “She loves me always,” she cried.

If she had ever doubted that love, if in moments of distress she had feared to return home, those doubts were all gone now. She set out for the house of her mother; at last she crosses the threshold and collapses in her mother’s arms.

“My child!” cried the mother, as she presses her crying and repentant daughter to her heart; “I have never ceased to love thee.”

Isn’t that like God? 

Are you one of those who longs to come home, but feel you have done too much, or gone too far?  Your Father loves you. Your elder brother died for you.  All heaven is looking and hoping that you will come home. It is not too much to imagine angels traveling between earth and heaven with news about you.  Your whole heavenly family yearns for your presence, and looks for your safe arrival….

Will you not come?  Will you not turn around? Will you not come home, now? Come home!  It is my prayer that you will.

The story of the daughter was by, La bonne Nouville.

Offering Violence to Satan

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Taken and adapted from, “The Christian Soldier,”
Written by Thomas Watson, 1669.

We must offer violence to Satan. Satan opposes us both by open violence, and by secret treachery.

In open violence, he is called the Red Dragon; in secret treachery, he is called the Old Serpent. We read in Scripture of his snares and darts; he hurts more by his snares than by his darts.

1. His Violence. He labors to storm the castle of the heart he stirs up to passion, lust, revenge. These are called ‘fiery darts’ Ephes. 6: 16, because they often set the soul on fire.  While Satan in regard to his fierceness is called a Lion, “l Peter 5: 8. ‘Your adversary the Devil as a roaring Lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.’ Not (saith Chrysostom) whom he may bite, –but devour.

2. His Treachery. What he cannot do by force, he will endeavor to do by fraud. Satan hath several subtle policies in tempting.

In suiting his temptations to the complexion and temper of the body, Satan studies the physiognomy, and lays suitable baits.— He knew Achan’s covetous humor, and tempted him with a wedge of gold. He tempts the sanguine man with beauty.

2. Another subtlety is to draw men to evil, sub specie boni, under a pretense of good. —The pirate does mischief by hanging out false colors: so does Satan by hanging out the colors of religion. He puts some men upon sinful actions, and persuades them much good will come of it. He tells them in some cases they may dispense with the rule of the Word, and stretch their conscience beyond that line that they may be in a capacity of doing more service. As if God needed our sin to raise his glory.

3. Satan tempts to sin gradually. As the husbandman digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart: he is at first more modest: he did not say to Eve at first, Eat the apple; no, but he goes more subtlety to work; he puts forth a question, Hath God said? Sure Eve, thou art mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar thee one of the best trees of the garden. Hath God said? Sure, either, God did not say it; or if he did, he never really intended it. Thus by degrees he wrought her to distrust, and then she took of the fruit and eat. Oh, take heed of Satan^ first motions to sin, that seem more modest—principiis obsta. He is first a fox, and then a lion.

4. Satan tempts to evil in lawful things. It was lawful for Noah to eat the fruit of the grape; but he took too much, and so sinned. Excess turns that which is good into evil. Eating and drinking may turn to intemperance. Industry in one’s calling (when excessive) is covetousness. Satan draws men to, an immoderate love of the creature, and then makes them offend in that which they love. As Agrippina poisoned her husband Claudius in that meat he loved most.

5. Satan puts men upon doing good out of bad ends: if he cannot hurt them by scandalous actions, he will by virtuous actions. Thus he tempts some to espouse religion out of policy to get preferment, and to give alms, for applause, that others may see their good works, and canonize them. This hypocrisy does leven the duties of religion, and make them lose their reward.

6. The Devil persuades to evil by such as are good. This sets a gloss upon his temptations, and makes them less suspected. The devil hath made use sometimes of the highest and holiest men to promote his temptations. The devil tempted Christ by an apostle, Peter dissuades him from suffering. Abraham, a good man, bids his wife equivocate: Say, Thou art my sister. These are his subtleties in tempting. Now here we must offer violence to Satan,

1. By faith, 1 Peter 5:9. ‘Whom resist, steadfast in faith.’ Faith is a wise intelligent grace; it can see a hook under the bait.

2. It is a heroic grace; it is said, above all, to quench the fiery darts of Satan. Faith resists the devil:

1. As it does keep the castle of the heart that it does not yield. It is not the being tempted makes guilty,’ but giving consent. Faith enters its protest against Satan.

2. Faith not only not yields, but beats back the temptation. Faith holds the promise in one hand, and Christ in the other: the promise encourages faith, and Christ strengthens it: so faith beats the enemy out of the field.

3. We must offer violence to Satan by prayer. We overcome him upon our knees. As Samson called to Heaven for help, so a Christian by prayer brings in auxiliary forces from Heaven. In all temptations go to God by prayer.’ Lord, teach me to use every piece of the spiritual armor; how to hold the shield how to wear the helmet, haw to use the sword of the Spirit. Lord, strengthen me in the battle; let me rather die a conqueror, than be taken prisoner, and led by Satan in triumph. —Thus we must offer violence to Satan. There is ‘a lion in the way,’ but we must resolve upon fighting.

And let this encourage us to offer violence to Satan. Our enemy is beaten in part already. Christ, who is ‘the captain .of our salvation,’ hath given Satan his death-wound upon the cross, Col. 2: 15. The serpent is soonest killed in his head. Christ hath bruised the head of the old Serpent, —the devil is a chained enemy, and a conquered enemy and therefore fear not to give battle to him. Resist him, and he will fly: he knows no march but running away.

We must offer violence to the world…

…The world shews its golden apple, it is a part of our vow in baptism to fight under Christ’s banner against the world. Take heed of being drowned in the luscious delights of it. It must be a strong brain that bears heady wine. He had need have a great deal of wisdom and grace, that knows how to bear a great estate. Riches oft send up their intoxicating fumes, which makes men’s heads giddy with pride, “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked,’ Deut.31:15. It is hard to climb up the hill of God with too many golden weights. Those that want the honors of the world, want the temptations of it. The world is blandus Dcemon, a flattering enemy. It is given to some as Michal to David, for a snare. The world shews its two breasts of pleasure and profit, and many fall asleep with the breast in their mouth. The world does never kiss us, but with an intent to betray us. It is a silken halter.

The world is no friend to grace; it chokes our love to heavenly things: the earth puts out the fire. Naturally we love the world, Job 31: 24. ‘If I have made gold my hope;’ the Septuagint renders it, ‘If I have been married to my gold.’ Too many are wedded to their money; they live together as man and wife. O let us take heed of being entangled in this pleasing snare. Many who have escaped the rock of scandalous sins, yet have sunk in the world’s golden quicksand. The sin is not in the using of the world, but in the loving, 1 John 2: 15. ‘Love not the world.’ If we are Christians, we must offer violence to the world. Believers are ‘called out of the world:’ they are in the world, but not of it, John 17. As we say of a dying man, he is not a man for this world. A true saint is crucified in his affections to the world, Gal. 6: 14. He is dead to the honors and pleasures of it. What delight does a dead man take in pictures or music? Jesus Christ gave himself ‘ to redeem us from this present evil world,’ Gal. 1:4. If we will be saved, we must offer violence to the world. Living fish swim against the stream. We must swim against the world, else we shall fee carried down the stream, and fall into the Dead Sea. That we may offer violence to the world, let us remember, it is deceitful; our Savior calls it, ‘The deceitfulness of riches,’ Matt.13:22.

The world promises happiness. It promises us nothing less Rachel, but puts off on us blear-eyed Leah:’ it promises to satisfy our desires, but instead increases them: it gives us poisoned pills, but it always wraps them in sugar.

On God’s Communion with Man

Taken and adapted from “The Gospel Banner”
Number 55, Vol VI, January, 1884.
Written by Robert Trail

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BUT what is there in believers that Christ has communion with?

All good is in him, and this is the believer’s all; and therefore it is easy to understand what their communion with Christ is, and what his communications to them are. He clothes and covers them with his righteousness, sanctifies them by his Spirit, and supplies them out of his fullness. But is there anything in his people that Christ has communion with? I answer, “Yes, there is; and that is all in them, that either is consistent with their union with him, or that flows from that union.” Of the first sort is all the bad that is remaining in them. For as the grace of union with, and relation to Christ, was not suspended and delayed till they were faultless; so this grace when dispensed, does not presently remove faultlessness, as it will when this union and communion is perfect, which Christ here prays for (John 17: 24).

Christ’s body is made up of sinful members; and they are, even while sin and infirmity cleaves to them, united to a sinless, glorious head.

And it is the great glory of his grace, that he takes such members into union with himself, and maintains that union by communion with them as their need requires, till the blessed day comes that is here prayed for, when this union shall issue in that communion that shall quite remove fault and infirmity in his people. To deny that Christ has any interest, and concern, and work about what is bad in his people, is to deny our fellowship with him, in those things wherein we are most needy of it, and most sensibly benefited by it: for our own sinfulness and infirmity is better known to us, and sensed by us, than his righteousness and perfect fullness; neither is the latter so well known to us, as by its gracious application to our relief under the former.

So our sinfulness (I mean, that which remains in believers, even in the best of them) serves for magnifying his forgiving grace.

He that bids us forgive our brother that sins against us, not only seven times, but seventy times seven (Matt. 18: 21, 22), does forgive his people many more times, and many sins, even all of them (Ps. 103: 3); all our trespasses (Col. 2:1). And how blessed is that communion, when the blood of sprinkling speaks peace and pardon to a troubled conscience! Our corruptions and spiritual diseases are the subjects of Christ’s care. And his care about them, is to cure them, and to keep his people from dying under them. The greatest care is used by tender parents, about their sick and wounded children. That man never knew the guilt of sin rightly, that thinks that anything less, or else, than the blood of the Son of God can cleanse from it (1 John 1: 7)- And that man never saw the corruption and plague of his heart rightly, that is not persuaded that only the great Physician, Christ, can cure it. And no man can employ him rightly for the one, and not for both. And they do but deceive themselves in their religion, whose main heart-exercise is not with Christ for both.

Alas! there are many disquieted consciences, and many defiled hearts and lives, in many that are called Christians; and some of them are oft complaining, and sometimes sinking in their complaining; and that because they do not believe, and lay this truth to heart, that the cleansing and purging the conscience from the guilt of sin, and the purifying of the heart and life from the dominion of sin, are Christ’s proper works.

The first he does by the sprinkling of his blood, the other by the power of his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3: 4-7). And all that use any other means for these ends, not only labor in vain, but sin greatly against God, who has made Christ unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that no flesh should glory in his presence; and that he that glories might glory in the Lord'(1Cor. 1. 29-31). Not only are our own infirmities, sinfulness, and diseases under the gracious care and cure of our Lord Jesus Christ; but our persons, our souls, our bodies, and all our lots and concerns are at his disposal, to his glory and service. And every believer, in every distinct acting of faith, does yield up himself, and all he is and has, unto Christ’s dominion. ‘Grant me thy salvation according to thy promise, and guide me in the way according to thy will.’ ‘I am thine, save thou me’ (Ps. 119: 94). Christ has communion with his own good in them. All that is in us that is our own, is bad; and all that is good in us, is of his giving and working.

All our graces are his fruits (Song of Sol. 4: 16 and v. 1). They are all of Christ’s planting, watering, and ripening; and he feeds on them as his pleasant fruits.

All the spiritual services and duties that believers perform, are all of them fruit growing from their abiding in the vine, Christ (John 15: 4,5), and are pleasing to him. And surely when it is so, the believer finds sweet profit by it: ‘I will sup with him, and he with me’ (Rev. 3: 20). It is easy to conceive how we may feast with him; for he has all. But how can he feast with us, who are nothing, and have nothing? He does it two ways. He feasts with his people on his own store of grace he brings with him. As David said, ‘Of thine own have we given thee’ (1 Chron. 29: 14). So does Christ say, ‘It is of mine own I feast with thee, believer. All thy faith, love, repentance, service are my gifts, my grace, that I bring with me, and am delighted in.’ Christ may be said to feast with his people, in and by that pleasure he has, not only to give, but to see them feed on what he brings with him. Would you least on Jesus Christ, believers? Feed on him with holy hunger. Is not a kind mother delighted with her hungry babe’s sucking at her breasts? Is it not as a feast to a charitable man, to see a person eat heartily of the food he gives him? Much more is it a feast to our Lord, to see starving sinners feeding on the bread of life, and drinking of the water of life! Hear his voice,’ I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.’ It is all mine, all of my preparing; use it freely, feed plentifully; you are highly welcome But, alas! Most Christians may give the answer that follows, verse 2, ‘I sleep, but my heart wakens.’ Christ’s gracious offers and invitations are heard by us, as betwixt sleeping and waking: and so is it seen in the sorry entertainment we give them, and hence follows the poor life that many of us lead.

This communion has converse in it. It stands, not only in the mutual interest that each has in another, but also in converse one with another. This is what the apostle has in 1John 1: 3, where we have two communions or fellowships spoken of,—the fellowship of Christians one with another, and the fellowship that Christians have with the Father and Son: and that this second fellowship is mutual, as hinted in verse 7: ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ They then that know best by experience what it is to be with Christ on earth, in walking with him and in him, will know best what it is to be with him where he is. The greatest enjoyments of Christ here, are the best helps to conceive of what is to be.

This converse breeds likeness to Christ. The nearer a man is to Christ, the more converse he has with him; the more like he grows to Christ; compare 2 Cor. 3: 18 with 1 John 3:1-3. Paul speaks of Christians in this life, John of the same persons in the next life; and both speak of likeness to Christ, and as wrought the same way, by seeing and beholding of his glory.

Perfect likeness to Christ flows from a perfect beholding of his glory; and we begin our likeness to him, from a beholding of his glory by faith. The apostle, in a Cor. 3: 7, speaks of the glory of the countenance of Moses, which was such, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold his face, which glory was to be done away. In this the apostle respects that passage in Exodus 34: 29-35. It is this, that Moses returning from the mount, after his second forty days’ abode there, had, by his long converse with God, a beam of heavenly glory impressed on his face. Whether it continued all his life after or not, the word is silent about it; and therefore we should not be positive. But this may safely be drawn that the more near and continued our converse with Christ on earth be, the more heavenly likeness to Christ is impressed on the soul. Has not this been known to many, that when they had been long struggling and striving with, and been ailing of a body of death, and of strong corruptions and distempers, that rendered them unlike to Christ, and loathsome in their own eyes; if he be pleased (as often he does) to draw near to them, and to cause them to approach to him, as Ps. 55: 4, how suddenly and how sweetly is a likeness to Christ wrought in the soul? True nearness to Christ, and converse with him, has always this effect.

Communion with Christ, if real, is always the life of grace, and the bane of corruption.

Let all examine and judge their enjoyments by this sure test. Have you anything that you call communion with Christ? Does it not, in some measure, mortify your lusts, and enliven the grace of God in you? If it does not work both in you, it is not of the right sort. This converse with Christ, and this likeness to him, breeds love and delight. It is not possible it should be otherwise. So great are the mercies in themselves, so great are the blessings to us, and so much of God’s love is there to us, shining in the giving of them, must raise our love and delight. This is one of the fruits of communion with Christ: ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste’ (Song of Sol. 2:3). The tree of life, Jesus Christ, has a refreshing shade to the weary, scorched traveler; and he has fruit for the hungry soul. Sit down under his shadow, eat of his fruit, and you must find it sweet to your taste.

‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Ps. 34: 8). ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious’ (1 Pet. 2:3). See how the same apostle speaks of the communion that believers have with Christ: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Pet 1: 8).’

Cross-Bearing, The Law of Discipleship, and The Law of the Cross

 

Taken and adapted from, The Training of the Twelve
Written by, A. B. Bruce

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Referenced Texts: Matt. 16:24-28; Mark 9:34-38; Luke 9:23-27.

After one hard announcement, comes another not less hard…

…The Lord Jesus has told His disciples that He must one day be put to death; He now tells them, that as it fares with Him, so it must fare with them also. The second announcement was naturally occasioned by the way in which the first had been received. Peter had said, and all had felt, “This shall not be unto Thee.” Jesus replies in effect, “Say you so? I tell you that not only shall I, your Master, be crucified,–for such will be the manner of my death, –but ye too, faithfully following me, shall most certainly have your crosses to bear. ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ “

The second announcement was not, like the first, made to the twelve only. This we might infer from the terms of the announcement, which are general, even if we had not been informed, as we are by Mark and Luke, that before making it Jesus called the people unto Him, with His disciples, and spake in the hearing of them all. The doctrine here taught, therefore, is for all Christians in all ages: not for apostles only, but for the humblest disciples; not for priests or preachers, but for the laity as well; not for monks living in cloisters, but for men living and working in the outside world. The King and Head of the church here proclaims a universal law binding on all His subjects, requiring all to bear a cross in fellowship with Himself.

We are not told how the second announcement was received by those who heard it, and particularly by the twelve. We can believe, however, that to Peter and his brethren it sounded less harsh than the first, and seemed, at least theoretically, more acceptable. Common experience might teach them that crosses, however unpleasant to flesh and blood, were nevertheless things that might be looked for in the lot of mere men. But what had Christ the Son of God to do with crosses? Ought He not to be exempt from the sufferings and indignities of ordinary mortals? If not, of what avail was His divine Sonship? In short, the difficulty for the twelve was probably, not that the servant should be no better than the Master, but that the Master should be no better than the servant.

Our perplexity, on the other hand, is apt to be just the reverse of this. Familiar with the doctrine that Jesus died on the cross in our room, we are apt to wonder what occasion there can be for our bearing a cross. If He suffered for us vicariously, what need, we are ready to inquire, for suffering on our part likewise? We need to be reminded that Christ’s sufferings, while in some respects peculiar, are in other respects common to Him with all in whom His spirit abides; that while, as redemptive, His death stands alone, as suffering for righteousness’ sake it is but the highest instance of a universal law, according to which all who live a true godly life must suffer hardship in a false evil world. And it is very observable that Jesus took a most effectual method of keeping this truth prominently before the mind of His followers in all ages, by proclaiming it with great emphasis on the first occasion on which He plainly announced that He Himself was to die, giving it, in fact, as the first lesson on the doctrine of His death: the first of four to be found in the Gospels. Thereby He in effect declared that only such as were willing to be crucified with Him should be saved by His death; nay, that willingness to bear a cross was indispensable to the right understanding of the doctrine of salvation through Him. It is as if above the door of the school in which the mystery of redemption was to be taught, He had inscribed the legend: Let no man who is unwilling to deny himself, and take up his cross, enter here.

In this great law of discipleship…

…the cross signifies not merely the external penalty of death, but all troubles that come on those who earnestly endeavor to live as Jesus lived in this world, and in consequence of that endeavor. Many and various are the afflictions of the righteous, differing in kind and degree, according to times and circumstances, and the callings and stations of individuals. For the righteous One, who died not only by the unjust, but for them, the appointed cup was filled with all possible ingredients of shame and pain, mingled together in the highest degree of bitterness. Not a few of His most honored servants have come very near their Master in the manner and measure of their afflictions for His sake, and have indeed drunk of His cup, and been baptized with His bloody baptism. But for the rank and file of the Christian host the hardships to be endured are ordinarily less severe, the cross to be borne less heavy. For one the cross may be the calumnies of lying lips, “which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous;” for another, failure to attain the much-worshipped idol success in life, so often reached by unholy means not available for a man who has a conscience; for a third, mere isolation and solitariness of spirit amid uncongenial, unsympathetic neighbors, not minded to live soberly, righteously, and godly, and not loving those who do so live.

The cross, therefore, is not the same for all. But that there is a cross of some shape for all true disciples is clearly implied in the words: “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” The plain meaning of these words is, that there is no following Jesus on any other terms–a doctrine which, however clearly taught in the Gospel, spurious Christians are unwilling to believe and resolute to deny. They take the edge off their Lord’s statement by explaining that it applies only to certain critical times, happily very different from their own; or that if it has some reference to all times, it is only applicable to such as are called to play a prominent part in public affairs as leaders of opinion, pioneers of progress, prophets denouncing the vices of the age, and uttering unwelcome oracles,–a proverbially dangerous occupation, as the Greek poet testified who said: “Apollo alone should prophesy, for he fears nobody.” To maintain that all who would live devoutly in Christ Jesus must suffer somehow, is, they think, to take too gloomy and morose a view of the wickedness of the world, or too high and exacting a view of the Christian life.

The righteousness which in ordinary times involves a cross is in their view folly and fanaticism. It is speaking when one should be silent, meddling in matters with which one has no concern; in a word, it is being righteous overmuch. Such thoughts as these, expressed or unexpressed, are sure to prevail extensively when religious profession is common. The fact that fidelity involves a cross, as also the fact that Christ was crucified just because He was righteous, are well understood by Christians when they are a suffering minority, as in primitive ages. But these truths are much lost sight of in peaceful, prosperous times. Then you shall find many holding most sound views of the cross Christ bore for them, but sadly ignorant concerning the cross they themselves have to bear in fellowship with Christ. Of this cross they are determined to know nothing. What it can mean, or whence it can come, they cannot comprehend; though had they the true spirit of self-denial required of disciples by Christ, they might find it for themselves in their daily life, in their business, in their home, nay, in their own heart, and have no need to seek for it in the ends of the earth, or to manufacture artificial crosses out of ascetic austerities.

To the law of the cross Jesus annexed three reasons designed to make the obeying of it easier, by showing disciples that, in rendering obedience to the stern requirement, they attend to their own true interest. Each reason is introduced by a “For.”

The first reason is: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” In this startling paradox the word “life” is used in a double sense. In the first clause of each member of the sentence it signifies natural life, with all the adjuncts that make it pleasant and enjoyable; in the second, it means the spiritual life of a renewed soul. The deep, pregnant saying may therefore be thus expanded and paraphrased: Whosoever will save, such as in making it his first business to save or preserve, his natural life and worldly well-being, shall lose the higher life, the life indeed; and whosoever is willing to lose his natural life for my sake shall find the true eternal life. According to this maxim we must lose something, it is not possible to live without sacrifice of some kind; the only question being what shall be sacrificed–the lower or the higher life, animal happiness or spiritual blessedness. If we choose the higher, we must be prepared to deny ourselves and take up our cross, though the actual amount of the loss we are called on to bear may be small; for godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. If, on the other hand, we choose the lower, and resolve to have it at all hazards, we must inevitably lose the higher. The soul’s life, and all the imperishable goods of the soul,–righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, –are the price we pay for worldly enjoyment.

This price is too great: and that is what Jesus next told His hearers as the second persuasive to cross-bearing. “For what,” He went on to ask, “is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” The two questions set forth the incomparable value of the soul on both sides of a commercial transaction. The soul, or life, in the true sense of the word, is too dear a price to pay even for the whole world, not to say for that small portion of it which falls to the lot of any one individual. He who gains the world at such a cost is a loser by the bargain. On the other hand, the whole world is too small, yea, an utterly inadequate price, to pay for the ransom of the soul once lost. What shall a man give in exchange for the priceless thing he has foolishly bartered away? “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” No! O man; not any of these things, nor any thing else thou hast to give; not the fruit of thy merchandise, not ten thousands of pounds sterling. Thou canst not buy back thy soul, which thou hast bartered for the world, with all that thou hast of the world. The redemption of the soul is indeed precious; it cannot be delivered from the bondage of sin by corruptible things, such as silver and gold: the attempt to purchase pardon and peace and life that way can only make thy case more hopeless, and add to thy condemnation.

The appeal contained in these solemn questions comes home with irresistible force to all who are in their right mind. Such feel that no outward good can be compared in value to having a “saved soul,” ie. being a right-minded Christian man.

All, however, are not so minded. Multitudes account their souls of very small value indeed. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver; and not a few who probably deem themselves better that he would part with theirs for the most paltry worldly advantage. The great ambition of the million is to be happy as animals, not to be blessed as “saved,” noble-spirited, sanctified men. “Who will show us any good?” is that which the many say. “Give us health, wealth, houses, lands, honors, and we care not for righteousness, either imputed or personal, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost. These may be good also in their way, and if one could have them along with the other, without trouble or sacrifice, it were perhaps well; but we cannot consent, for their sakes, to deny ourselves any pleasure, or voluntarily endure any hardship.”

The third argument in favor of cross-bearing is drawn from the second advent. “For the son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works.” These words suggest a contrast between the present and the future state of the speaker, and imply a promise of a corresponding contrast between the present and the future of His faithful followers. Now Jesus is the Son of man, destined ere many weeks pass to be crucified at Jerusalem. At the end of the days He will appear invested with the manifest glory of Messiah, attended with a mighty host of ministering spirits; His reward for enduring the cross, despising the shame. Then will He reward every man according to the tenor of his present life.

To the cross-bearers He will grant a crown of righteousness; to the cross-spurners He will assign, as their due, shame and everlasting contempt.

Stern doctrine, distasteful to the modern mind on various grounds, specially on these two: because it sets before us alternatives in the life beyond, and because it seeks to propagate heroic virtue by hope of reward, instead of exhibiting virtue as its own reward. As to the former, the alternative of the promised reward is certainly a great mystery and burden to the spirit; but it is to be feared that an alternative is involved in any earnest doctrine of moral distinctions or of human freedom and responsibility. As to the other, Christians need not be afraid of degenerating into moral vulgarity in Christ’s company.

There is no vulgarity or impurity in the virtue which is sustained by the hope of eternal life. That hope is not selfishness, but simply self-consistency. It is simply believing in the reality of the kingdom for which you labor and suffer; involving, of course, the reality of each individual Christian’s interest therein, your own not excepted.

Such faith is even necessary to heroism. For who would fight and suffer for a dream? What patriot would risk his life for his country’s cause who did not hope for the restoration of her independence? And who but a pedant would say that the purity of his patriotism was sullied, because his hope for the whole nation did not exclude all reference to himself as an individual citizen?

Equally necessary is it that a Christian should believe in the kingdom of glory, and equally natural and proper that he should cherish the hope of a personal share in its honors and felicities. Where such faith and hope are not, little Christian heroism will be found. For as an ancient Church Father said, “There is no certain work where there is an uncertain reward.”

Men cannot be heroes in doubt or despair. They cannot struggle after perfection and a divine kingdom, skeptical the while whether these things be more than devout imaginations, unrealizable ideals. In such a mood they will take things easy, and make secular happiness their chief concern.