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!

The Evilness of a Censorious Spirit

Taken and adapted from, “Charity and its fruits”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards
Edited and condensed for thought and space.

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1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love . . . thinketh no evil.”

The nature of censorious spirit is a disposition to think evil of others, or to judge evil of them, with respect to three things: their state, their qualities, their actions.

And,

1.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the state of others. It often shows itself in a disposition to think the worst of those about us, whether they are men of the world or professing Christians. In respect to the latter class, it often leads persons to pass censure on those who are professors of religion, and to condemn them as being hypocrites.

Persons are guilty of censoriousness in condemning the state of others, when they will do it from things that are no evidence of their being in a bad estate, or when they will condemn others as hypocrites because of God’s providential dealings with them, as Job’s three friends condemned him as a hypocrite on account of his uncommon and severe afflictions. And the same is true when they condemn them for the failings they may see in them, and which are no greater than are often incident to God’s children, and it may be no greater, or not so great as their own, though, notwithstanding just such things, they think well of themselves as Christians. And so persons are censorious when they condemn others as being unconverted and carnal men because they differ from them in opinion on some points that are not fundamental….

In all these ways, men often act, not only censoriously, but as unreasonably (in not allowing any to be Christians who have not their own experiences) as if they would not allow any to be men who had not just their own stature, and the same strength, or temperament of body, and the very same features of countenance with themselves. In the next place,

2.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the qualities of others. It appears in a disposition to overlook their good qualities, or to think them destitute of such qualities when they are not, or to make very little of them; or to magnify their ill qualities, and make more of them than is just; or to charge them with those ill qualities that they have not. Some are very apt to charge others with ignorance and folly, and other contemptible qualities, when they in no sense deserve to be esteemed thus by them. Some seem very apt to entertain a very low and despicable opinion of others, and so to represent them to their associates and friends, when a charitable disposition would discern many good things in them, to balance or more than balance the evil, and would frankly own them to be persons not to be despised. And some are ready to charge others with those morally evil qualities that they are free from, or to charge them with such qualities in a much higher degree than they at all deserve. Thus some have such a prejudice against some of their neighbors, that they regard them as a great deal more proud sort of persons, more selfish, or spiteful, or malicious, than they really are. Through some deep prejudice they have imbibed against them, they are ready to conceive that they have all manner of bad qualities, and no good ones. They seem to them to be an exceeding proud, or covetous, or selfish, or in some way bad, sort of men, when it may be that to others they appear well. Others see their many good qualities, and see, perhaps, many palliations of the qualities that are not good; but the censorious see only that which is evil, and speak only that which is unjust and disparaging as to the qualities of others. And,

3.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the actions of others. By actions, here, I would be understood to mean all the external voluntary acts of men, whether consisting in words or deeds. And a censorious spirit in judging evil of others’ actions discovers itself in two things:

First, in judging them to be guilty of evil actions without any evidence that constrains them to such a judgment. A suspicious spirit, which leads persons to be jealous of others, and ready to suspect them of being guilty of evil things when they have no evidence of it whatever, is an uncharitable spirit, and contrary to Christianity. Some persons are very free in passing their censures on others with respect to those things that they suppose they do out of their sight. They are ready to believe that they commit this, and that, and the other evil deed, in secret, and away from the eyes of men, or that they have done or said thus and so among their associates, and in the circle of their friends, and that, from some design or motive, they keep these things hid from others that are not in the same interest with themselves.

These are the persons chargeable with the “evil surmisings” spoken of and condemned by the apostle (1 Tim. 6:4 ), and which are connected with “envy, strife, and railings.” Very often, again, persons show an uncharitable and censorious spirit with respect to the actions of others, by being willing to take up and circulate evil reports about them. Merely hearing a flying and evil rumor about an individual, in such a thoughtless and lying world as this is, is far from being sufficient evidence against anyone, to make us believe he has been guilty of that which is reported; for the devil, who is called “the god of this world,” is said to be “a liar, and the father of it,” and too many, alas! of his children are like him in their speaking of falsehoods.

And yet it is a very common thing for persons to pass a judgment on others, on no better ground or foundation than that they have heard that somebody has said this, or that, or the other thing, though they have no evidence that what is said is true. When they hear that another has done or said so and so, they seem at once to conclude that it is so, without making any further inquiry, though nothing is more uncertain, or more likely to prove false, than the mutterings or whispers of common fame. A censorious spirit in judging evil of the actions of others, also discovers itself

Second, in a disposition to put the worst constructions on their actions. The censorious are not only apt to judge others guilty of evil actions without sufficient evidence, but they are also prone to put a bad construction on their actions, when they will just as well, and perhaps better, admit of a good construction. Very often, the moving design and end in the action is secret, confined to the recesses of the actor’s own bosom; and yet persons are commonly very willing to pass their censure upon the act, without reference to these: and this is a kind of censoriousness and uncharitable judging, as common, or more common, than any other. Thus, it is very common with men, when they are prejudiced against others, to put bad constructions on their actions or words that are seemingly good, as though they were performed in hypocrisy; and this is especially true in reference to public offices and affairs. If anything be said or done by persons wherein there is a show of concern for the public good, or the good of a neighbor, or the honor of God, or the interest of religion, some will always be ready to say that all this is in hypocrisy, and that the design really is, only to promote their own interest, and to advance themselves; and that they are only flattering and deluding others, having all the time some evil design in their hearts.

But here it may be inquired, “Wherein are the lines to be drawn?” To this I reply,

First, there are some persons that are appointed on purpose to be judges, in civil societies, and in churches, who are impartially to judge of others that properly fall under their cognizance, whether good or bad, and to pass sentence according to what they are; to approve the good, and condemn the bad, according to the evidence, and the nature of the act done, and its agreement or disagreement with the law which is the judges’ rule.

Second, particular persons, in their private judgments of others; are not obliged to divest themselves of reason, that they may thus judge well of all. This would be plainly against reason; for Christian love is not a thing founded on the ruins of reason, but there is the most sweet harmony between reason and love. And therefore we are not forbidden to judge all persons when there is plain and clear evidence that they are justly chargeable with evil. We are not to blame, when we judge those to be wicked men, and poor Christless wretches, who give flagrant proof that they are so by a course of wicked action. “Some men’s sins,” says the apostle, “are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” That is, some men’s sins are such plain testimony against them, that they are sufficient to condemn them as wicked men in full sight of the world, even before the coming of that final Day of Judgment that shall disclose the secrets of the heart to all. And so some men’s actions give such clear evidence of the evil of their intentions, that it is no judging the secrets of the heart, to judge that their designs and ends are wicked. And therefore it is plain, that all judging as to others’ state, or qualifications, or actions, is not an uncharitable censoriousness. But the evil of that judging wherein censoriousness consists, lies in two things: —

It lies, first, in judging evil of others when evidence does not oblige to it, or in thinking ill of them when the case very well allows of thinking well of them; when those things that seem to be in their favor are overlooked, and only those that are against them are regarded, and when the latter are magnified, and too great stress laid on them. And the same is the case when persons are hasty and rash in judging and condemning others, though both prudence and love oblige them to suspend their judgment till they know more of the matter, and all the circumstances are plain before them. Persons may often show a great deal of uncharitableness and rashness, in freely censuring others before they have heard what they have to say in their defense. And hence it is said, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Pro. 18:13 ).

And the evil of that judging which is censorious, lies in the second place, in a happiness in judging ill of others. Persons may judge ill of others, from clear and plain evidence that compels them to it, and yet it may be to their grief that they are obliged to judge as they do; just as when a tender parent hears of some great crime of a child with such evidence that he cannot but think it true. But very often judgment is passed against others, in such a manner as shows that the individual is well pleased in passing it. He is so willing in judging evil, and judges on such slight evidence, and carries his judgment to such extremes, as shows that his inclination is in it, and that he loves to think the worst of others. Such a happiness in judging ill of others is also manifested in our being willing to declare our judgment, and to speak as well as think evil of others. It may be in speaking of them with ridicule, or an air of contempt, or in bitterness or maliciousness of spirit, or with manifest pleasure in their deficiencies or errors. When to judge ill of others is against the inclination of persons, they will be very cautious in doing it, and will go no further in it than evidence obliges them, and will think the best that the nature of the case will admit, and will put the best possible construction on the words and actions of others.

And when they are obliged, against their inclination, to think evil of another, it will be no pleasure to declare it, but they will be backward to speak of it to any, and will do so only when a sense of duty leads them to it.

I will only add,

That a censorious spirit manifests a proud spirit. — And this, the context declares, is contrary to the spirit of love, or Christian love. A willingness to judge and censure others shows a proud disposition, as though the censorious person thought himself free from such faults and blemishes, and therefore felt justified in being busy and bitter in charging others with them, and censuring and condemning them for them. This is implied in the language of the Savior, in the seventh chapter of Matthew, “Judge not, that ye be not judged…And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite!” And the same is implied in the declaration of the apostle, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Rom. 2:1 ).

If men were humbly sensible of their own failings, they would not be very willing or pleased in judging others, for the censure passed upon others would but rest on themselves.

There are the same kinds of corruption in one man’s heart as in another’s; and if those persons that are most busy in censuring others would but look within, and seriously examine their own hearts and lives, they might generally see the same dispositions and behavior in themselves, at one time or another, which they see and judge in others, or at least something as much deserving of censure. And a disposition to judge and condemn shows a conceited and arrogant disposition. It has the appearance of a person’s setting himself up above others, as though he were fit to be the lord and judge of his fellow-servants, and he supposed they were to stand or fall according to his sentence. This seems implied in the language of the apostle — “He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (Jam. 4:11 ). That is, you do not act as a fellow-servant to him that you judge, or as one that is under the same law with him, but as the giver of the law, and the judge whose province it is to pass sentence under it. And therefore it is added, in the next verse, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who art thou that judgest another?” And so in Rom. 14:4 , “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” God is the only rightful judge, and the thought of his sovereignty and dominion should hold us back from daring to judge or censure our fellow-beings.

In the application of this subject I remark,

1.  It sternly reproves those who commonly take to themselves the liberty of speaking evil of others. — If to think evil be so much to be condemned, surely they are still more to be condemned who not only allow themselves in thinking, but also in speaking evil of others, and backbiting them with their tongues. The evil-speaking that is against neighbors behind their backs does very much consist in censuring them, or in the expression of uncharitable thoughts and judgments of their persons and behavior. And, therefore, speaking evil of others, and judging others, are sometimes put for the same thing in the Bible, as in the passage just quoted from the apostle James. How often does the Scripture condemn backbiting and evil-speaking! The Psalmist declares of the wicked, “Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son” (Psa. 50:19 , 20 ). And, says the apostle, to Titus, “Put them in mind… to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men” (Tit. 3:1 , 2 ); and again, it is written, “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1 ). And it is mentioned, as part of the character of everyone that is a citizen of Zion, and that shall stand on God’s holy hill, that he “backbiteth not with his tongue” (Psa. 15:3 ). Inquire, therefore, whether you have not been often guilty of this; whether you have not frequently censured others, and expressed your hard thoughts of them, especially of those with whom you may have had some difficulty, or that have been of a different party from yourself. And is it not a practice in which you more or less allow yourself now, from day to day? And if so, consider how contrary it is to the spirit of Christianity, and to the solemn profession which, it may be, you have made as Christians; and be admonished entirely and at once to forsake it. The subject,

2.  Warns all against censoriousness, either by thinking or speaking evil of others, as they would be worthy of the name of Christians. — And here, in addition to the thoughts already suggested, let two or three things be considered.

And,

First, how often, when the truth comes fully out, do things appear far better concerning others than at first we were ready to judge. — There are many instances in the Scriptures to this point. When the children of Reuben, and of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had built an altar by Jordan, the rest of Israel heard of it, and presently concluded that they had turned away from the Lord, and rashly resolved to go to war against them. But when the truth came to light, it appeared, on the contrary, that they had erected their altar for a good end, even for the worship of God, as may be seen in the twenty-second chapter of Joshua. Eli thought Hannah was drunk, when she came up to the temple; but when the truth came to light, he was satisfied that she was full of grief, and was praying and pouring out her soul before God (1 Sam. 1:12-16 ).

David concluded, from what Ziba told him, that Mephibosheth had manifested a rebellious and treasonable spirit against his crown, and so acted on his censorious judgment, greatly to the injury of the latter; but when the truth came to appear, he saw it was quite otherwise. Elijah judged ill of the state of Israel, that none were true worshippers of God but himself; but when God told him the truth, it appeared that there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And how commonly are things very much the same now-a-days! How often, on thorough examination, have we found things better of others than we have heard, and than at first we were ready to judge! There are always two sides to every story, and it is generally wise, and safe, and charitable to take the best; and yet there is probably no one way in which persons are so liable to be wrong, as in presuming the worst is true, and in forming and expressing their judgment of others, and of their actions, without waiting till all the truth is known.

Second, how little occasion is there for us to pass our sentence on others with respect to their state, qualification or actions that do not concern us. Our great concern is with ourselves. It is of infinite consequence to us that we have a good estate before God; that we are possessed of good qualities and principles; and that we behave ourselves well, and act with right aims, and for right ends. But it is a minor matter to us how it is with others.

And there is little need of our censure being passed, even if it were deserved, which we cannot be sure of; for the business is in the hands of God, who is infinitely more fit to see to it than we can be. And there is a day appointed for his decision. So that, if we assume to judge others, we shall not only take upon ourselves a work that does not belong to us, but we shall be doing it before the time. “Therefore,” says the apostle, “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 4:5 ).

Third, God has threatened, that if we are found censoriously judging and condemning others, we shall be condemned ourselves. — “Judge not,” he says, “that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” And again, the apostle asks, “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3 ). These are awful threatenings from the lips of that great Being who is to be our judge at the final day, by whom it infinitely concerns us to be acquitted, and from whom a sentence of condemnation will be unspeakably dreadful to us, if at last we sink forever under it.

Therefore, as we would not ourselves receive condemnation from him, let us not mete out such measure to others.

The fearful charge brought against you

Taken and adapted from, “The Great Concern of Salvation”
Written by Thomas Halyburton,
Published posthumously in 1721,

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The charge brought against you, reader, is not a slight misdemeanor that may be atoned for by a bare acknowledgment, or a heartless cry for mercy.

It is one of awful magnitude, for it is that of sin against the great Sovereign of the world. Sin is an ordinary word, and most men conclude that but little is comprehended in it. But in reality there is more in it than men or angels can ever fully unfold. Do not consider this a groundless allegation; but consider well the reasons upon which it is founded.

I. Your serious attention is first invited to some views of sin.

First. View it in the glass of God’s law.

The Most High and Holy God has exhibited his will in two tables, containing rules that are holy, just, and every way advantageous for the government of man. Here, you may see sin dashing in pieces these two tables, in a much worse sense than Moses did. Every sin throws them to the ground; for, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Is it a small thing to trample under foot the holy and righteous law of God, that law which is the image of perfect holiness and spotless purity?

Second. Take a view of sin in the nature of God, the fountain of all glory, excellency, and majesty, and how hateful will it appear!

Nothing in all the world, but sin, is opposed to God. The meanest creature, the crawling insect, has nothing in its nature really opposed to the nature of God. Sin, and sin alone, is opposed. With this he cannot dwell. “Evil shall not dwell with him, nor sinners stand in his sight.” “O, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”

Third. View sin in the threatening of God’s law, and see how it is there estimated.

All the power of heaven, and the wrath of God, are arrayed against sin. Take one instance in the seventh chapter of the book of Joshua. There, a people accustomed to victory retreat before the enemy, and fall a prey to a people devoted to destruction; and, more than this, God calls all the people accursed, and says, “Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” But why? What means this vengeance? There was a sin committed; Achan had taken some of the spoil, contrary to the Divine permission. Here a single sin brought down the threatenings of God against a whole nation. In short, look through the Bible, and you will see one threatening full of temporal, and another full of eternal plagues; one full of external, and another of internal and spiritual woes; and all directed against sin.

Fourth. View sin in the judgments of God.

In one nation, thousands are falling before the avenging enemy; the sword is glutted with blood. In another, as many are swept off by pestilence; and all are wearing out by time. Go to the churchyards, and see the rubbish of many generations. Find you nothing of sin in all this? As Jehu exclaimed, when he saw the dead sons of Ahab, “Who slew all these?” Who brought down these sons of pride, that had just been exulting in warlike glory? Who filled your churchyards with fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, high and low, rich and poor? Surely sin has done it; “for as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

Fifth. Listen to one under conviction of sin.

Read the eighty-eighth Psalm; and there witness the trouble of a soul filled with the terrors of the wrath of God. Now, when you see one thus crying out in anguish of spirit, and tossed by the billows of divine wrath, were you to ask the occasion of all his distress, he would tell you, sin has caused it all.

Sixth. View sin in the hateful and enormous crimes that are committed.

They bring infamy and disgrace even in the eyes of men. Human nature, corrupt as it is, shrinks at their enormity. There are sins which “are not so much as named among the Gentiles.” Now, if a man be guilty of these, he becomes odious, even in the eyes of the world. But why? What is there so odious in these crimes, that men flee from the persons guilty of them? There is sin in them; and hence they are so hateful; and the only thing that distinguishes these from others, is their circumstantial aggravations; for in their nature all sins agree. The least of them, as well as the greatest, is a violation of the holy law of God, and a contempt of the great Lawgiver. And if sin appears so odious in these crying enormities, in reality it is as much so when less perceptible and more familiar to our corrupt natures.

Seventh. View sin in the case of the finally lost.

O, could you look into the pit of woe, and see the damned in chains of darkness, you might then have some sense of the evil of sin. It is sin which has kindled the flames of everlasting fire. It is sin which thrusts the damned down to hell; it is sin which holds them there, and will hold them there forever. Could you have a just impression of these things, how hateful would sin appear!

Eighth. View sin in the sufferings of Christ.

Here, 0 sinner, as in a glass, behold your own heart. You think it a little matter that you have sinned; you “roll sin as a sweet morsel under your tongue.” But come, now, and see it holding the sword; or rather thrusting it into the Savior’s side! Here is a sight which made the earth tremble, and the sun hide his face. Here you see how God looks upon sin. All the affection he bore to the Son of his eternal love, could not stay the hand of justice from inflicting death upon him, for the sin of the world. Here you may see more of the evil of sin than anywhere else. Deep indeed must the pollution be, if nothing but the blood of the Son of God could wash it away. Never did we have more dreadful evidence of the power of sin than when it blinded the eyes of men, so that they could not discern “the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;” though his Divine nature daily beamed through his human, in words which none but God could speak, and works which none but God could do. Yet such was the power of sin, that it hurried men to the awful crime of imbruing their hands in the blood of the Son of God.

But perhaps some may ask, what have we to do with this? We have never put to death the Son of God, and hence we cannot here see any crime of our own. But suppose we grant what you say as to your innocence in this matter, yet here we see much of the nature of sin; since all sin partakes of the same common nature, and is every way equal to, if not the very same, against which God in so awful a manner manifested his displeasure, when he “spared not his own Son,” but “laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

But does not that very sin lie at your door? Dare you raise your eyes to Heaven, and say, that you received Christ the first time an offer of him was made to you? If not, then you do as much as to say that putting him to death was no crime.

By your conduct you justify the Jews, and thus in their crimes you may see your own. There can be no neutral ground here. All to whom the Gospel comes, must be either for or against the Jews in their rejecting and crucifying Christ; and in no other way can we give testimony against them, than by believing the Gospel report, that he was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. So far as we lack this belief, we are guilty of the death of Christ; for unbelief subscribes to the charge of the Jews against him, and declares him an impostor. You are either a believer or an unbeliever. If a believer, then it was for your very sins that Christ was crucified. For “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” If you are an unbeliever, then you reject the witness Christ gave of himself; and therefore you practically declare him an impostor, and worthy of death; and you virtually give your consent to the cruelty of the Jews in the sentence of his condemnation.

II. Notice also some of the great evils implied in sin.

First. The least sin has atheism in it.

An Atheist, or one who denies the existence of a God, is a creature so degenerate, that some have doubted whether there ever was a human being who disbelieved the existence of God. But there are many practical Atheists, who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” The Psalmist thus describes the natural man: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” From this state of the heart flows a train of practical impieties; “Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none that doeth good.” Now the Psalmist here speaks of the whole race of Adam; and the Apostle to the Romans employs the passage above quoted to prove that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And, indeed, do we not all deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws? When we commit sin, do we not deny and dishonor his holiness? Do we not disparage his wisdom, when we set up our own will as the guide of our actions? And do we not deny his all-sufficiency when we find more in sin or in the creature than in him? In short, sin, one way or another, is a denial of all God’s attributes, and therefore every sin has Atheism in it; and they who are most ready to question this truth are probably the most guilty.

Second. Every sin has idolatry in it.

But you say you have never bowed down to an idol; you were better taught. But do you think that Pagan rites alone have idolatry in them? The prophet Ezekiel speaks of those who were as punctual as you are in attending upon the external duties of religion; they were externally in covenant with God as well as you. Nor is it at all improbable that they abjured external idolatry; for the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, when Ezekiel lived, never followed idols as before. Yet hear the message of the Prophet to them: “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and have put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face.” Everyone is an idolater who gives to anything but God that place in his heart which belongs to God alone. Who is not guilty of this when he serves sin? For by serving sin, he substitutes either himself or Satan in God’s room.

Third. Sin has blasphemy in it.

It reproaches God. They who “set their mouth against the heavens” are not the only blasphemers, but those also who reproach God in their actions. “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproaches the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” God in his laws designed to manifest his wisdom as the Supreme Governor of the world. But the sinner’s conduct charges God with folly, inasmuch as he prefers his own will to the divine commands. Sin also reproaches God’s goodness; for in refusing subjection to his laws, the sinner practically declares that these laws have not sufficient goodness in them to claim his obedience; that God by them has deprived him of that good which ought to have been conceded. And sin likewise reproaches the righteousness and holiness of God; for these attributes are stamped upon that law, which sinners reject and trample on. “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar,” and to disbelieve God is to accuse him either of unrighteousness or folly. Now this part of the charge goes even beyond Atheism; for the Atheist entirely disowns God, and so entertains no such unsuitable thoughts of him as he who owns him, and yet by his practice accuses him of ignorance, unrighteousness or folly.

Fourth. Every sin has robbery in it.

One part of God’s glory, which he has said he will not give to another, is his absolute dominion. Now every sinner, so far as he disobeys God, endeavors to take from him the command and exercise it himself, or give it to another, than which there can be no greater robbery. He who obeys the command, gives God the glory of his authority and owns him Governor of the world. And this is a part of God’s property; it is the revenue he requires of the world; but the sinner, by every sin he commits, endeavors to rob him of this glory. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” In tithes and offerings! Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” So sinners now may ask, “Wherein have we robbed God?” We may reply, “You have robbed him of that which is far more valuable than tithes and offerings. In every sin you rob him of that which is better to him than sacrifice.” “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Fifth. Every sin has rebellion in it.

The infamy of rebellion has often been put upon men for disobeying the unlawful and impious commands of their fellow-men, while disobedience to God has received a more mild and favorable name. But if we call things by their right names, sin alone is rebellion, and of this crime every sinner is guilty. “If ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandments of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you.” Thus you see that God has declared disobedience and rebellion to be the same thing, and hence every, sin is rebellion against God.

Sixth. Every sin has murder in it.

If he that “hates his brother is a murderer,” certainly he who sins against his own soul is no less so. It is sin that destroys the soul; and he who practices sin does that which murders not the body only, but body and soul. The sinner is therefore a self-murderer. But again, if he who “hates his brother is a murderer,” and if “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” is the latter offence deserving of a milder name than the former? Not that every one who hates his brother intends to murder him; but that hatred to a brother, so far as it goes, tends that way; nor that every sinner intends to dethrone and destroy his Maker; but that sin, so far as it goes, tends that way. If enmity to God were acted out without limit, it would take away the divine sovereignty, and with it, the divine will and glory; and without these, God, as God, could not exist.

We have now seen, that in sinning you are guilty of atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, robbery, rebellion, and murder. But, these offences are not all; for they are attended with many other evil sins and evil aggravations, which, if they were all put together, swell the number of sins in sinning to a fearfully prodigious amount.

WHEN GOD GAVE MAN UP TO HIS OWN WAY: Thoughts from Romans 1

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Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. –Romans 1:24

There is a dark sequence, in the logic of facts, between unworthy thoughts of God and the development of the basest forms of human wrong.

“The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God:’” they are corrupt, and have done abominable works” (Psalm 14:1). And the folly which does not indeed deny God but degrades His Idea, always gives its sure contribution to such corruption.

It is so in the nature of the case. The individual atheist, or polytheist, may conceivably be a virtuous person, on the human standard; but if he is so it is not because of his creed. Let his creed become a real formative power in human society, and it will tend inevitably to moral disease and death. Is man indeed a moral personality, made in the image of a holy and almighty Maker? Then the vital air of his moral life must be fidelity, correspondence, to his God. Let man think of Him as less than All, and he will think of himself less worthily; not less proudly perhaps, but less worthily, because not in his true and wonderful relation to the Eternal Good. Wrong in himself will tend surely to seem less awful, and right less necessary and great.

And nothing, literally nothing, from any region higher than himself –himself already lowered in his own thought from his true idea –can ever come in to supply the blank where God should be, but is not. Man may worship himself, or may despise himself, when he has ceased to “glorify God and thank Him”; but he cannot for one hour be what he was made to be, the son of God in the universe of God. To know God indeed is to be secured from self-worship and to be taught reverence.

“God gave them up”

So the Scripture says elsewhere. “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts” (Psalm 81:12); “God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven” (Acts 7:42); “God gave them up to passions of degradation”; “God gave them over to an abandoned mind”; (below, verses 26, 28). It is a dire thought; but the inmost conscience, once awake, affirms the righteousness of the thing. From one point of view it is just the working out of a natural process, in which sin is at once exposed and punished by its proper results, without the slightest injection, so to speak, of any force beyond its own terrible gravitation towards the sinner’s misery.

But from another point it is the personally allotted, and personally inflicted, retribution of Him who hates iniquity with the antagonism of infinite Personality. He has so constituted natural process that wrong gravitates to wretchedness; and He is in that process, and above it, always and forever.

So He “gave them up, in their desires of their hearts”; He left them there where they had placed themselves, “in” the fatal region of self-will, self-indulgence; “unto uncleanness” described now with terrible explicitness in its full outcome, “to dishonor their bodies” the intended temples of the Creator’s presence, “among themselves” or “in themselves”; for the possible dishonor might be done either in a foul solitude, or in a fouler society and mutuality: Seeing that they perverted the truth of God. The eternal fact of His glory and claim, in the (τῷ) lie, so that it was travestied, misrepresented, lost, “in” the falsehood of polytheism and idols; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

He casts this strong Doxology into the thick air of false worship and foul life, as if to clear it with its holy reverberation. For he is writing no mere discussion, it is not a lecture on the genesis and evolution of paganism. It is the story of a vast rebellion, told by one who, was once himself a rebel, is now altogether and forever the absolute vassal of the King whom he has “seen in His beauty,” and whom it is his joy to bless, and to claim blessing for Him from His whole world forever.

As if animated by the word of benediction, he returns to denounce “the abominable thing which God hateth” with language that is still more terrible in its explicitness.

For this reason, because of their preference of the worse to the infinite Good, God gave them up to passions of degradation; He handed them over, self-bound, to the helpless slavery of lust; to “passions” eloquent word, which indicates how the man who will have his own way is all the while a “sufferer,” though by his own fault; the victim of a mastery which he has conjured from the deep of sin.

Shall we shun to read, to render, the words which follow? We will not comment and expound. May the presence of God in our hearts, hearts otherwise as vulnerable as those of the old pagan sinners, sweep from the springs of thought and will all horrible curiosity. But if it does so it will leave us the more able, in humility, in tears, in fear, to hear the facts of this stern indictment. It will bid us listen as those who are not sitting in judgment on paganism, but standing beside the accused and sentenced, to confess that we too share the fall, and stand, if we stand, by grace alone.

Shall we consider if the Apostle, who thus tore the rags from the spots of the Black Death of ancient morals, would be more merciful, if possible, over similar symptoms parading today in modern Christianity?

Terrible, indeed, is the prosaic coolness with which vices are named and narrated in classical literature; and we ask in vain for one of even the noblest of the pagan moralists who has spoken of such sins with anything like adequate horror. Such “speech, and such silence, has been almost impossible since the Gospel was felt in civilization.” “Paganism,” says Dr. F.W. Farrar, in a powerful passage, with this paragraph of Romans in his view, “is protected from complete exposure by the enormity of its own vices. To shew the divine reformation wrought by Christianity it must suffice that once for all the Apostle of the Gentiles seized heathenism by the hair, and branded indelibly on her forehead the stigma of her shame.”

Yet the vices of the old time are not altogether an antiquarian’s wonder. Now, as truly as then, man is awfully accessible to the worst solicitations the moment he trusts himself away from God. And this needs indeed to be remembered in a stage of thought and of society whose sensuality, cynicism, and materialism, show gloomy signs of likeness to those last days of the old degenerate world in which St Paul looked round him, and spoke out about the things he saw.

For their females perverted the natural use to the unnatural. So too the males, leaving the natural use of the female, burst out aflame in their craving towards one another, males in males working out their unseemliness –and duly getting (ἀπολαμβάνοντες) in themselves that recompense of their error which was owed them. –Verse 27

And as they did not approve of keeping God in their moral knowledge, God gave them up to an ‘abandoned mind,’ — “a reprobate, God-rejected, mind” (ἀδόκιμον νοῦν); meeting their disapprobation with His just and fatal reprobation. That mind, taking the false premises of the Tempter, and reasoning from them to establish the autocracy of self, led with terrible certainty and success through evil thinking to evil doing; to do the deeds which are not becoming, to expose the being made for God, in a naked and foul unseemliness, to its friends and its foes; filled full of all unrighteousness, wickedness, viciousness, greed; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who (οἵτινες) knowing the (ἐπιγνόντες) judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Here is a terrible accusation of human life, and of the human heart; the more terrible because it is plainly meant to be, in a certain sense, both inclusive, and universal.’

We are not indeed compelled to think that the Apostle charges every human being with sins against nature, as if the whole earth were actually one vast City of the Plain. We need not take him to mean that every descendant of Adam is actually an undutiful child, or actually untrustworthy in a compact, or even actually a boaster, an ἀλαζόνας, a pretentious claimant of praise or credit which he knows he does not deserve. We may be sure that on the whole, in this lurid passage, man charged less with condemnation than with “lamentation, and mourning, and woe,” Paul is thinking mainly of the then state of heathen society in its worst developments. Yet we shall see, as the Epistle goes on, that all the while he is thinking not only of the sins of some men, but of the sin of man. He describes with this tremendous particularity the variegated symptoms of one disease –the corruption of man’s heart; a disease everywhere present, everywhere deadly; limited in its manifestations by many circumstances and conditions, outward or within the man, but in itself quite unlimited in its dreadful possibilities. What man is, as fallen, corrupted, gone from God, is shewn, in the teaching of St Paul, by what bad men are.

Do we rebel against the inference? Quite possibly we do. Almost for certain, at one time or another, we have done so. We look round us on one estimable life and another, which we cannot reasonably think of as regenerate, if we take the strict Scriptural tests of regeneration into account, yet which asks and wins our respect, our confidence, it may be even our admiration; and we say, openly or tacitly, consciously or unconsciously, that that life stands clear outside this first chapter of Romans. Well, be it so in our thoughts; and let nothing, no nothing, make us otherwise than ready to recognize and honor right doing wherever we see it, alike in the saints of God and in those who deny His very Being. But just now let us withdraw from all such looks outward, and calmly and in a silent hour look in. Do we, do you, do I, stand outside this chapter? Are we definitely prepared to say that the heart which we carry in our breast, whatever our friend’s heart may be, is such that under no change of circumstances could it, being what it is, conceivably develop the forms of evil branded in this passage?

Ah, who, that knows himself, does not know that there lies in him indefinitely more than he can know of possible evil? “Who can understand his errors?” Who has so encountered temptation in all its typical forms that he can say, with even approximate truth, that he knows his own strength, and his own weakness, exactly as they are?

Nor was it lightly, or as a piece of pious rhetoric, that the saintliest of the chiefs of our Reformation, seeing a murderer carried off to die, exclaimed that there went John Bradford but for the grace of God. It is just when a man is nearest God for himself that he sees what, but for God, he would be; what, taken apart from God, he is, potentially if not in actuality. And it is in just such a mood that, reading this paragraph of the great Epistle, he will smite upon his breast, and say, “God, be merciful to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13).

In so doing, the repentant sinner will be meeting the very purpose of the Writer of this passage. Inasmuch as St Paul is full of the message of peace, holiness, and the Spirit, he is intent and eager to bring his reader into sight and possession of the fullness of the eternal mercy, revealed and secured in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Sacrifice and Life. But for this very purpose he labors first to expose man to himself; to awaken him to the fact that he is before everything else a sinner; to reverse the Tempter’s spell, and to let him see the fact of his guilt with open eyes.

“The Gospel,” someone has said, “can never be proved except to a bad conscience.” If bad means “awakened,” the saying is profoundly true. With a conscience sound asleep we may discuss Christianity, whether to condemn it, or to applaud. We may see in it an elevating program for the race. We may affirm, a thousand times, that from the creed that God became flesh there result boundless possibilities for Humanity. But the Gospel, “the power of God unto salvation,” will hardly be seen in its own prevailing self-evidence, as it is presented in this wonderful Epistle, till the student is first and with all else a penitent. The man must know for himself something of sin as condemnable guilt, and something of self as a thing in helpless yet responsible bondage, before he can so see Christ given for us, and risen for us, and seated at the right hand of God for us, as to say, ” There is now no condemnation; Who shall separate us from the love of God? I know whom I have believed.”

To the full sight of Christ there needs a true sight of self, that is to say, of sin.

Taken from, “THE EXPOSITOR’S BIBLE”
Written by, H.C.G. MOULE

Christ the Center

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I am reminded that it was on the glorious resurrection morning that Mary went to seek for Jesus.

She was not yet aware of the resurrection, for she sought Him in the tomb. She was not looking for the Risen Lord, and yet, He stood beside her. And yes, she thought He was the gardener, but with one word, “Mary,” Jesus then revealed himself to her, as her Savior.

As we read some passage in the Old Testament, how often is our eyesight held back, and we see only the earthly form: we see Aaron the priest, or David the shepherd, or Solomon the king; but if, like Mary, we are really seeking the Lord Jesus, He manifests Himself to us through the outward type, and we turn in glad surprise, and, looking up, say, “Rabboni” (literally, “my great One”).

As we continue to seek Christ, we will find Him in some of the least expected places of the Old Testament. And as we read, with our eyes enlightened by the Holy Spirit, a pattern will present itself. Perhaps mysterious at first, a bright place revealed in an unexpected spot, and over there, we will see something shining brightly in that passage. But what is it? Why, it is a glimpse of our Lord! And as we continue to read and study, we will begin to see Jesus all through the Old Testament.  Here he is, and, over there!  –Until the whole Old Testament grows as luminous as the sun with the holy grace of the glory of God, and we behold the face of Jesus.

It was Jesus who prophetically states through David, “In the scroll of the book it is written of me” –Psalm 40:7.  

All the lines of history, and all the types of the sacrificial system, all of the wisdom of the Psalms, and all the far-reaching views of prophetic utterance, — all converge towards one center, and that center is –Jesus the Christ. 

Further, these scriptures narrow in on the work and mission of this Jesus, and to that one supreme event… which was His death on the Cross for our salvation. 

Is it any wonder that it is from this central focal point, that again all the lines of history in the book of Acts, of experience in the Epistles, and of prophecy in Revelation radiate out once more to testify to that one all-encompassing fact, that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world? For we find that it was after His resurrection of our Lord, that not only did he open the Scriptures to His disciples, but also “opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” It is the imperative of Christianity, and the basis of New Testament evangelism, that this Jesus, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is ready to do the same for us. For the same Holy Spirit who moved holy men of old to write the divinely inspired, and all-sufficient Scriptures, is close at hand to make those words, those very same translated words, into life for our souls. How does he do this?  The Holy Spirit does this by taking of the things of Christ and not only empirically revealing them unto us, but goes much further, and impresses those important truths, savingly and regeneratingly, upon the hearts of his children.

As we study the Bible to see its center, that is, to see Christ, we see how that each of the books of the New Testament do in essence show that Christ is the Key to the Old Testament Scriptures. For it holds the same truths of the Old Testament in sublime unity. And in those places where the Old Testament falls short in its presentation of the suffering Messiah, for the Gospel is but dimly seen by the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, the New Testament picks it up with great power, showing signs, wonders, miracles, prophecies fulfilled, God’s character freshly revealed, and reinterpretations and fulfillments “that even the angels desire to look into.” –1 Peter 1:12 ISV.

In short, the Bible as a whole is Christ centered from first to last. He is the essence of it. He is the author of it, and “it is written of me.”

Where are you? As his child, is Christ the center of scripture? Or, do you read it to see yourself, or perhaps, your organization? For you what is central in your mind? Do you read it to find that Christ who is the center of life? And is he the center of your life, just like he is the center of all scripture?  I ask this because today, as never before, people are reading the scripture to find themselves, the lifestyle they want; whether it be a lifestyle of prosperity, or in sensuality. Or, do you find your center of scriptures in the law, that thing which was created by a loving heavenly father to be a schoolmaster leading us unto Christ?  

May we each come to find the Jesus who is the center of all life.  May we make him the center of our hearts, for if we do, we will see that he is truly the center of all scripture and all knowledge, and then we will come to realize that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” –2 Corinthians 9:8

With some thoughts borrowed from A.M. Hodge

The Feast for Supper

533703_204035749759642_11397564_nI remember as a child that we were very poor.

My father, a good man, was out of work again; seems like that happened often when we were young. Mother, helpless to do anything about it, was really upset about this, and dad was pretty angry too, but mostly at himself. After an exchange of a few unkind words, I heard the screen door slam shut, and my father stomp off… turning to my mother I said to her, “mommy, I am hungry. What’s for supper?”

She quickly scooped me up and carried me over to the rocking chair, and began to quietly sing to me, “Under His Wings,” while rapidly rocking me the whole time. Holding me tightly, she just rocked me there for a while, quietly singing.

As she was doing so, someone knocked on our screen door; it was a neighbor, “I just brought by some fish I caught this afternoon. Could you use any?” he asked. Some fish would be lovely my mother replied. He helped her put a bunch of fish wrapped in newspaper in the sink, and my mother thanked him.

I hadn’t seen the tears, but she was wiping her eyes. She grabbed me again, holding me and sat down in the old rocker, and started singing again, “Under His wings…” After a little while, the old man who lived across the street from us, stomped his foot on the rickety wooden porch and said, “I got my arms full tomatoes, would you mind taking a bag?” “I wouldn’t mind at all,” my mother replied. “I think some fresh tomatoes would really go very well with the fish tonight. Thank you Peter!”

No sooner, had the old neighbor had walked back, and we had put the tomatoes on the counter, admiring each one for its size, color, and that pleasing aroma, that ripe smell tomatoes give when they are fresh, when a friend from church drove up, and told mother that they had just picked an extra bushel of corn down at the farm, and was just thinking of us. “Could we use any?”

My mother, was really beside herself at this point, and looking back at the whole scene now, I can greatly admire her firm bravery. With the smile on her face, and the straightness in her back, you would have thought that there wasn’t a thing wrong in the world, but as I look back now, I know that she must have been hurting pretty fierce.

When everyone was gone, I think that she got a little weak kneed, for she sat back down in the rocker again for a spell. She didn’t rock as fast this time, and she didn’t sing, just kind of kept clearing her throat.

My father came in about then, looking around in bewilderment at all the food, he just kind of stood there, mother asked if he could clean the fish, and she would get supper together.

That night, we had a feast. It seemed like it was all my favorite foods. And even though there wasn’t a lot of small talk at the table that evening, I didn’t notice, because I was busy eating.

I will never forget that song my mother sang to me. I didn’t realize the significance of what was happening at that moment, nor of the song, but as I have reflected back on my early childhood I realize that God was with us even back then. And from moments just like that, I have come to believe that he is with me even now, and will provide for my needs as his own Divine counsel wills. Has he provided for you? Have you thanked him?

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Refrain

The Apostasy of the Enlightened, and the Impossibility of Their Repentance

Taken and adapted from, “Studies in the Scriptures”
Written by, Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

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“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”—Hebrews 6:4-6

This passage is one of the most solemn in the Hebrews’ Epistle, yea, to be met with anywhere in the New Testament.

Probably few regenerate souls have read it thoughtfully without being moved to fear and trembling. Careless professors have frequently been rendered uneasy in conscience as they have heard its awe-inspiring language. It speaks of a class of persons who had been highly privileged, who had been singularly favored, but who, so far from having improved their opportunities, had wretchedly perverted them; who had brought shame and reproach on the cause of Christ; and who were in such a hopeless condition that it was “impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Well does it become each one of us to lift up his heart to God earnestly, beseeching Him to prevent us making such a shipwreck of the faith…

The chief difficulty connected with our passage is to make sure of the class of persons who are there in view. Is the Holy Spirit here describing regenerated or unregenerated souls? The next thing is to ascertain what is meant by, “If they shall fall away.” The last, what is denoted by “It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Anticipating our exposition, we are fully assured that the “falling away” that is here spoken of signifies a deliberate, complete, and final repudiation of Christ—a sin for which there is no forgiveness…

…To prepare the way for our exposition of these verses, the contents of which have so sorely puzzled many, let us recall once more the condition of soul into which these Hebrew Christians had fallen. They had “become dull of hearing” (5:11), “unskillful in the word of righteousness” (5:13), unable to feed upon “strong meat” (5:14). This state was fraught with the most dangerous consequences. “The Hebrews had become lukewarm, negligent, and sluggish. The Gospel, once clearly seen and dearly loved by them, had become to them dull and vague; the persecutions and contempt of their countrymen a grievous burden, under which they groaned and under which they did not enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Darkness, doubt, gloom, indecision, and consequently a walk in which the power of Christ’s love was not manifest, characterized them. Now, if they continued in this state, what else could be the result but apostasy? Forgetfulness, if continued, must end in rejection, apathy in antipathy, unfaithfulness in infidelity.

“Such was their danger. And if they yielded to it, their state was hopeless. No other Gospel remains to be preached, no other power to rescue and raise them. They had heard and known the voice which saith, ‘Come unto me…and I will give you rest’ (Mat 11:28). They had professed to believe in the Lord Who died for sinners and to have chosen Him as their Savior and Master. And now they were forgetting and forsaking the Rock of their Salvation. If they deliberately and willfully continued in this state, they were in danger of final impenitence and hardness of heart.” — Adolf Saphir

“A clear and growing faith in heavenly things was needed to preserve Jewish Christians from relapse. To return to Judaism was to give up Christ, Who had left their house ‘desolate’ (Mat 23:38). It was to fall from grace and place themselves not only under the general curse of the Law, but that particular curse that had brought the guilt of Jesus’ blood on the reprobate and blinded nation of His murderers.” — Arthur Pridham

It should be pointed out, however, that it is just as easy and the attraction is just as real for a Gentile Christian to return to that world out of which the Lord has called him, as it was for a Jewish Christian to go back again to Judaism. And just in proportion as the Christian fails to walk with God daily, so does the world obtain power over his heart, mind, and life; and a continuance in worldliness is fraught with the most direful and fatal consequences…

Three things claim our careful attention in coming closer to our passage: The persons here spoken of, the sin they commit, the doom pronounced upon them. In considering the persons spoken of, it is of first importance to note that the Apostle does not say, “us who were once enlightened,” nor even “you”; instead, he says “those.” In sharp contrast from them, he says to the Hebrews, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you”…It is scarcely accurate to designate as “mere professors” those described in verses 4-5. They were a class who had enjoyed great privileges, beyond any such as now accompany the preaching of the Gospel. Those here portrayed are said to have had five advantages, which is in contrast [to] the six things enumerated in verses 1-2, which things belong to man in the flesh under Judaism…Yet were they not true Christians. This is evident from what is not said. Observe: they were not spoken of as God’s elect, as those for whom Christ died, as those who were born of the Spirit. They are not said to be justified, forgiven, and accepted in the Beloved. Nor is anything said of their faith, love, or obedience. Yet these are the very things that distinguish a real child of God.

First, they had been “enlightened.” The Sun of righteousness had shone with healing in His wings, and as Matthew 4:16 says, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Unlike the heathen, whom Christ in the days of His flesh visited not, those who came under the sound of His voice were wondrously and gloriously illumined.

The Greek word for “enlightened” here signifies “to give light or knowledge by teaching.” It is so rendered by the Septuagint in Judges 13:8; 2 Kings 12:2; 17:27. The Apostle Paul uses it for “to make manifest” or “bring to light” in 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 1:10. Satan blinds the minds of those who believe not, lest “the light of the gospel should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4), that is, give the knowledge of it. Thus, “enlightened” here means to be instructed in the doctrine of the Gospel, so as to have a clear apprehension of it. In the parallel passage in 10:26, the same people are said to have “received the knowledge of the truth” (cf. also 2 Peter 2:20-21). It is, however, only a natural knowledge of spiritual things, such as is acquired by outward hearing or reading, just as one may be enlightened by taking up the special study of one of the sciences. It falls far short of that spiritual enlightenment which transforms (2 Corinthians 3:18). An illustration of an unregenerate person being “enlightened,” as here, is found in the case of Balaam (Numbers 24:4).

Second, they had “tasted of the heavenly gift.” To “taste” is to have a personal experience of, in contrast from mere report. “Tasting does not include eating, much less digesting and turning into nourishment what is so tasted; for its nature being only thereby discerned, it may be refused, yea, though we like its relish and savor on some other consideration. The persons here described then are those who have to a certain degree understood and relished the revelation of mercy. Like the stony-ground hearers, they have received the Word with a short-lasting joy.” The “tasting” is in contrast from the “eating” of John 6:50–56.

Opinion is divided as to whether the “heavenly gift” refers to the Lord Jesus or the person of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is not possible for us to be dogmatic on the point. Really, the difference is without a distinction; for the Spirit is here to glorify Christ, as He came from the Father by Christ as His ascension “Gift” to His people. If the reference be to the Lord Jesus, John 3:16, 4:10, etc., would be pertinent references; if to the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38, 8:20, 10:45, 11:17. Personally, we rather incline to the latter. This Divine Gift is here said to be “heavenly” because it is from Heaven and leading to Heaven in contrast [with] Judaism (cf. Act 2:2; 1 Peter 1:12). Of this “Gift,” these apostates had “tasted” or had an experience of. Compare Matthew 27:34 where “tasting” is opposed to actual drinking. Those here in view had an acquaintance with the Gospel, as to gain such a measure of its blessedness as to greatly aggravate their sin and doom. An illustration of this is found in Matthew 13:20-21.

Third, they were “made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” First, it should be pointed out that the Greek word for “partakers” here is a different one from that used in Colossians 1:12 and 2 Peter 1:4, where real Christians are in view. The word here simply means “companions,” referring to what is external rather than internal. It is to be observed that this item is placed in the center of the five, and this because it describes the animating principle of the other four, which are all effects. These apostates had never been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6), still less were their bodies His “temples” (1 Corinthaians 6:19). Nor do we believe this verse teaches that the Holy Spirit had at any time wrought within them, otherwise Philippians 1:6 would be contradicted. It means that they had shared in the benefit of His supernatural operations and manifestations: “The place was shaken” (Acts 4:31) illustrates. We quote below from Dr. J. Brown:

“It is highly probable that the inspired writer refers primarily to the miraculous gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit by which the primitive dispensation of Christianity was administered. These gifts were by no means confined to those who were ‘transformed by the renewing of their minds.’ The words of our Lord in Matthew 7:22-23 and of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 seem to intimate that the possession of these unrenewed men was not very uncommon in that age. At any rate, they plainly show that their possession and an unregenerate state were by no means incompatible.”

Fourth, “And have tasted the good word of God.” “I understand by this expression the promise of God respecting the Messiah, the sum and substance of all. It deserves notice that this promise is by way of distinguished superiority, termed by Jeremiah ‘that good word’ (33:14). To ‘taste,’ then, this ‘good word of God,’ is to experience that God has been faithful to His promise—to enjoy, so far as an unconverted man can enjoy, the blessings and advantages that flow from that promise being fulfilled. To ‘taste the good word of God,’ seems just to enjoy the advantages of the new dispensation.” –John Brown. Further confirmation that the Apostle is here referring to that which these apostates had witnessed of the fulfillment of God’s promise is obtained by comparing Jeremiah 29:10: “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”

Observe how studiously the Apostle still keeps to the word taste, the better to enable us to identify them. They could not say with Jeremiah, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (15:16). “It is as though he said, I speak not of those who have received nourishment; but of such as have so far tasted it, as that they ought to have desired it as ‘sincere milk’ and grown thereby.”  A solemn example of one who merely “tasted” the good Word of God is found in Mark 6:20: “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”

Fifth, “And the powers of the world to come” or “age to come.” The reference here is to the new dispensation that was to be ushered in by Israel’s Messiah according to O. T. predictions. It corresponds with “these last days” of Hebrews 1:2 and is in contrast [with] the “time past” or Mosaic economy. Their Messiah was none other than the “mighty God” (Isa 9:6), and wondrous and glorious, stupendous and unique were His miraculous works. These “powers” of the new Age are mentioned in Hebrews 2:4…Of these mighty “powers” these apostates had “tasted” or had an experience of. They had been personal witnesses of the miracles of Christ and of the wonders that followed His ascension, when such glorious manifestations of the Spirit were given. Thus, they were “without excuse.” Convincing and conclusive evidence had been set before them, but there had been no answering faith in their hearts. A solemn example of this is found in John 11:47-48.

“If they shall fall away.” The Greek word here is very strong and emphatic, even stronger than the one used in Matthew 7:27, where it is said of the house built on the sand, “and great was the fall thereof.” It is a complete falling away, a total abandonment of Christianity that is here in view. It is a willful turning of the back on God’s revealed truth, an utter repudiation of the Gospel. It is making “shipwreck of the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). This terrible sin is not committed by a mere nominal professor, for he has nothing really to fall away from, save an empty name. The class here described are such as having had their minds enlightened, their consciences stirred, their affections moved to a considerable degree, and yet who were never brought from death unto life. Nor is it backsliding Christians who are in view. It is not simply “fall into sin,” this or that sin. The greatest “sin” that a regenerated man can possibly commit is the personal denial of Christ: Peter was guilty of this, yet was he “renewed again unto repentance.” It is the total renunciation of all the distinguishing truths and principles of Christianity, and this not secretly, but openly, which constitutes apostasy.

“If they shall fall away.” “This is scarcely a fair translation. It has been said that the Apostle did not here assert that such persons did or do ‘fall away’; but that if they did—a supposition which, however, could never be realized—then the consequence would be they could not be ‘renewed again unto repentance.’ The words literally rendered are ‘and have fallen away’ or ‘yet have fallen.’ The Apostle obviously intimates that such persons might and that such persons did ‘fall away.’ By ‘falling away,’ we are plainly to understand what is commonly called apostasy. This does not consist in an occasional falling into actual sin, however gross and aggravated; nor in the renunciation of some of the principles of Christianity, even though those should be of considerable importance; but in an open, total, determined renunciation of all the constituent principles of Christianity and a return to a false religion, such as that of unbelieving Jews or heathens, or to open infidelity and open godlessness.”

“It is impossible…if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” Four questions here call for answer. What is meant by “renewed unto repentance”? What is signified by “renewed again unto repentance”? Why is such an experience “impossible”? To whom is this “impossible”? Repentance signifies a change of mind: Matthew 21:29 and Romans 11:29 establish this. It is more than a mental act, the conscience also being active, leading to contrition and self-condemnation (Job 42:6). In the unregenerate, it is simply the workings of nature; in the children of God, it is wrought by the Holy Spirit. The latter is evangelical, being one of the things that “accompany salvation.” The former is not so, being the “sorrow of the world,” which “worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This kind of “repentance” or remorse receives most solemn exemplification in the case of Judas (Matthew 27:3, 5). Such was the repentance of these apostates…

But what is meant by “renewing unto repentance”? “To be ‘renewed’ is a figurative expression for denoting a change, a great change, and a change for the better. To be ‘renewed’ so as to change a person’s mind is expressive of an important and advantageous alteration of opinion, character, and service. And such an alteration the persons referred to had undergone at a former period. They were once in a state of ignorance respecting the doctrines and evidences of Christianity, and they had been ‘enlightened.’ They had once known not of the excellency and beauty of Christian truth, and they had been made to ‘taste of the heavenly gift.’ They once misunderstood the prophecies respecting the Messiah and were unaware of their fulfillment, and of course were strangers to that energetic influence that the N. T. revelation puts forth. They had been made to see that ‘good word’ was fulfilled and had been made partakers of the external privileges and been subjected to the peculiar energies of the new order of things. Their view, feelings, and circumstances were materially changed. How great the difference between an ignorant, bigoted Jew, and the person described in the preceding passage! He had become, as it were, a different man. He had not indeed become, in the sense of the Apostle, a ‘new creature.’ His mind had not been so changed as to believe in sincerity ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’; but still, a great and, so far as it went, a thorough change had taken place.”—John Brown

Now it is impossible to “renew again unto repentance” those who have totally abandoned the Christian revelation. Some things are “impossible” with respect unto the nature of God, as that He cannot lie or pardon sin without satisfaction to His justice. Other things that are possible to God’s nature are rendered “impossible” by His decrees or purpose (see 1 Samuel 15:28-29). Still other things are “possible” or “impossible” with respect to the rule or order of all things God has appointed. For example, there cannot be faith apart from hearing the Word (Romans 10:13–17). “When in things of duty God hath neither expressed command thereon, nor appointed means for the performance of them, they are to be looked upon then as impossible [as, for instance, there is no salvation apart from repentance, Luke 13:3 (A.W.Pink)] and then, with respect unto us, they are so absolutely and so to be esteemed. And this is the ‘impossibility’ here principally intended. It is a thing that God hath neither commanded us to endeavor, nor appointed means to attain it, nor promise to assist us in it. It is therefore that which we have no reason to look after, attempt, or expect, as being not possible by any law, rule, or constitution of God…

“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh.” This is brought in to show the aggravation of their awful crime and the impossibility of their being renewed again unto repentance. By renouncing their Christian profession, they declared Christ to be an Imposter. Thus, they were irreclaimable. To attempt any further reasoning with them would only be casting pearls before swine. With this verse should be carefully compared the parallel passage in 10:26-29. These apostates had “received the knowledge of the truth,” though not a saving knowledge of it. Afterward they sinned “willfully”: there was a deliberate and open disavowal of the truth. The nature of their particular sin is termed a “treading underfoot the Son of God (something which no real Christian ever does) and counting (esteeming) the blood of the covenant an unholy thing,” that is, looking upon the One Who hung on the Cross as a common criminal. For such, there “remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Their case is hopeless as far as man is concerned; and the writer believes, such are abandoned by God also.

“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” “They thus identify themselves with His crucifiers—they entertained and avowed sentiments that, were He on earth and in their power, would induce them to crucify Him. They exposed Him to infamy, made a public example of Him. They did more to dishonor Jesus Christ than His murderers did. They never professed to acknowledge His divine mission; but these apostates had made such a profession—they had made a kind of trial of Christianity and, after trial, had rejected it.”

Such a warning was needed and well-calculated to stir up the slothful Hebrews. Under the O. T. economy, by means of types and prophecies, they had obtained glimmerings of truth as to Christ, called “the word of the beginning of Christ.” Under those shadows and glimmerings they had been reared, not knowing their full import until they had been blessed with the full light of the Gospel, here called “perfection.” The danger to which they were exposed was that of receding from the ground where Christianity placed them and relaxing to Judaism. To do so meant to re-enter that House that Christ had left “desolate” (Matthew 23:38) and would be to join forces with His murderers, and thus “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh,” and by their apostasy “put him to an open (public) shame”…

Taking the passage as a whole, it needs to be remembered that all who had professed to receive the Gospel were not born of God: the Parable of the Sower shows that. Intelligence might be informed, conscience searched, natural affections stirred, and yet there be “no root” in them. All is not gold that glitters.

How Christ is the Christian’s Jubilee

Taken and adapted from, “The Christian Treasury”
Written by, John Milne, of Perth
Published, January 1, 1867

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‘Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.’

–Psalm 89:15.

What is the joyful sound?

It is just, I think, the gospel. It has been in the world ever since the fall. When sin had reigned unto death, grace began to reign, through the coming righteousness, unto eternal life. It was the grain of mustard seed sown in Eden; and it went on, age after age, opening up and expanding. Paul tells us that it was preached to Israel, even as to us. It was wrapped up in all their types and ceremonies. It was the subject and substance of all their sacrifices and solemn feasts.

There was one of their feasts, however, which more clearly and fully expressed or pictured it than any of the others. It was the jubilee, which occurred every fiftieth year, and was indeed, in a temporal sense, a joyful sound. It came immediately after the Day of Atonement; and in the kindness and remission which it enjoined towards their fellow-men, was a most fitting exercise for those who had themselves just been receiving forgiveness and clemency from God. We are told how eagerly it was waited for, and how gladly it was welcomed. Persons were stationed on the hill-tops, all over the country, to watch for the first appearance of the new moon, which was the commencement of the year of grace. Whoever first observed it, signaled to the others; and so the good news was circulated all over the land, with a kind of telegraphic swiftness. Then the trumpets were blown, and that moment all were free. The prison doors were opened, the chains were broken, the debtor discharged, the captive released, the slave enfranchised, the mortgaged houses and lands restored to their original proprietors; and thus may a scattered family met once more in the old home and inheritance, to thank the Lord for his goodness, and his wonderful works to the children of men. It was a real Christmas season.

Don’t you think that Christ must have looked with deep interest upon this? He loved and honored all the ordinances of his Father’s house. Every Sabbath saw Him in the synagogue. He regularly attended the Passover from his youth up. We find Him walking in the temple at the Feast of the Dedication, and taking occasion, from the many lamps which it was the custom then to light, to draw attention to himself as the world’s great Light, and to urge them to walk in his light of life, till travelling days were done. At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people were pouring out, as they were accustomed to do, with the pitchers of water which they had just drawn from the pool of Siloam, He again drew attention to himself as the Well of life, the world’s great drinking-fountain. He stood and cried, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.’ May we not, therefore, conclude that the jubilee would be peculiarly dear to Him?

When acknowledged by the Father, anointed by the Spirit, a victor in the wilderness, He returned full of power to Nazareth, and read in the synagogue the words of Isaiah, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,’—don’t you think that, while thus engaged, his mind may have been full of the jubilee, and that very possibly He would say to the wondering assembly, ‘I am the true Jubilee; I am the world‘s great Jubilee. Come unto me, and be free; come unto me, and be forgiven; come unto me, and receive more than your fallen father Adam lost?’ Would not the same thought be in his mind, when He said to his disciples, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature?’ Yes, the gospel is a joyful sound. It proclaims salvation to the lost, forgiveness to the sinner, health to the sick soul, comfort to the troubled, and deliverance to the oppressed. It bids the prodigal come back to his father‘s love, his father’s house, his father’s boundless wealth; and all this free, absolutely free, without money and without price. It is simply, Come—come now—come just as you are—come, for all things are now ready. Work is not required, strength is not needed, fruit is not demanded, and questions are not asked; it is simply, “Come, and receive.”

Such is the joyful sound. But it must be known before it can bless. This is very important; it explains what would otherwise be a mystery. The jubilee trumpet has long been sounding in the world, the gospel has been largely preached, and yet the greater part of men are still aliens from God, slaves of the devil, without peace, and without hope. How is this? Here is the explanation: the joyful sound must be known before it can benefit. “By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many.” Says the Apostle Paul: ‘The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ What is this knowledge? It is believing, understanding, welcoming the gospel. Multitudes who read and hear the gospel, never really believe it. They give a lazy, indolent, uninquiring assent to it; but if they were asked, they could give no intelligible reason for their doing so. The subject has, perhaps, never fairly crossed their minds; or, if it has, they have given it the go-by.  They say it is too simple, too humbling too easy; it will lead to licentiousness,—as if they knew better than God what will preserve and conduce to his glory. Many, again, never really understand the gospel. They have not felt their need of it, and so they take little interest in it—never give their minds to it. They are busy with many things, which they think more urgent and important; and thus they have not attained a correct, intelligent knowledge of God’s way of peace. They never see its fullness, freeness, suitableness, nearness, and the obligation under which all are under to receive it. 

They hear the Gospel preached and explained from Sabbath to Sabbath for a whole lifetime and yet, at the end, they are as ignorant of God’s way of justifying sinners as they were at the beginning.

If we were more in the habit of speaking freely and directly with one another about our most important concerns, we should oftener see how very general this ignorance is. They confuse the way of grace with the way of works, and think that it is by their own righteousness, not by faith in the righteousness of another, that they are to be saved. They cling to their own works, and say they are doing what they can. This, I suppose, is the hell-filling sin of our day. But, once more, there are many who do not welcome the gospel. I suppose there were some who did not welcome the jubilee. The selfish slaveholder’s evil heart rose against it. He would say, Here have I been training and educating this servant; and now, must I set him free? The avaricious landholder, adding field to field and house to house, did not welcome it. He said, Must I now part with my accumulated possessions? The slave, enamored of his bondage, said, I do not wish to be free; I love my master, am pleased with his service, and enjoy the connections which I have here formed. And so there are many who do not welcome the joyful sound. They give it the same reception which He, who is the sum and substance of it, got when He came into the world,—they do not receive it.

But, thank God, there are many who do receive the Gospel. The poor, awakened, heavy-laden sinner, welcomes it; those who are broken in heart and wounded in spirit, welcome it; those who are weary of sin and its bondage, welcome it; those who feel their need of something better and more enduring than this world can give, welcome it; those who are afraid of judgment and the wrath to come, welcome it. The gospel just suits them; it is like bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and life to the dying. Put these three things together,—believing, understanding, welcoming,—and then you will know the joyful sound, and experience in yourself the blessedness which it brings.

Let us look at this blessedness. There are three ingredients in it which are here mentioned,

1.  The favor of God,
2.  The joy of God, and
3.  The exaltation of God.

1.  The favor of God:

‘They shall walk, 0 Lord, in the light of thy countenance.’ The light of God’s countenance is another way of describing his favor. When He is displeased, He hides his face, or covers it with a cloud; whereas, when He is pleased, He lifts up the light of his countenance, or makes his face to shine. ‘Walking’ is just the whole conduct. A man‘s walk is his whole life; and therefore, when it is said, ‘They shall walk, 0 Lord, in the light of thy countenance,’ it is as much as saying, they shall enjoy God’s favor in all they do. What a comfort is this,—the Father’s smile always resting upon his child,-—the master’s smile always resting upon his servant! This is a kind of summer life, a continual sunshine. Christ had it. The Father looked down, and said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;’ and the Son looked up, and said, ‘The Father hears me always, for I do always the things that please Him.’

God’s favor is life. How little the world’s frown can trouble a man in whose heart God is whispering, ‘I am well pleased!’

2.  The joy of God:

‘In thy name shall they rejoice all the day.’ God’s name is himself; what He is,—his attributes, his perfections, his being. They rejoice in this, and their joy is perennial—all the day. God’s gifts change, but He never changes. ‘He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’ We very commonly err here; we rest in the streams, when we should rise to the fountain. We should turn away from our comforts, works, and fruits, and say, God is mine; ‘the Lord is the portion of my soul, therefore will I hope in Him.’

3.  God’s exultation:

‘In thy righteousness shall they be exalted.’ What righteousness is this? Not God’s attribute of righteousness, for that could only condemn us; not our own righteousness, for we have none. It can only mean the righteousness which Christ has wrought out, and in virtue of which He has been exalted, and is now with God upon the throne. When we know the joyful sound, Christ’s righteousness is put upon us, and we become partakers of his exaltation; we are justified, accepted, made near and dear to God.

‘So near, so very near to God,
Nearer I cannot be;
For, in the person of his Son,
I am as near as He.

So dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Is the love He bears to me.’

Put these things together, favor, joy, exaltation,—and think what a blessedness this is. Yet it is open to us all, free to us all. Take in the joyful sound; hold it fast; rest simply, unwaveringly upon it. Give no heed to the suggestions of the devil, the questionings of your own heart, and then you will abide in perfect love, and walk in perpetual sunshine. A good man, who was much blessed and honored in his day, was once asked, ‘How is it that you are always so peaceful and unencumbered amid cares and labors which would crush other men? He answered, ‘It is not that I am not tempted. I have many thoughts, and fears, and cares crowding upon me, and seeking to get possession of my heart. But then, hundreds of times a day, I think with myself, Is not God my Father, Christ my Brother, the Holy Ghost my Comforter, Providence my helper, and heaven my home? And thus I am upheld, and carried on from day to day, as upon eagles’ wings.’

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Milne, became minister of St. Leonard’s, Perth, in 1839, and was almost immediately associated with an awakening in which an outstanding circle of preachers shared. Among them were his close friends, William Burns, Robert M’Cheyne, and Horatius Bonar.

Milne was one of those evangelicals who, in the words of Alexander Whyte, ‘had an immense influence on the religious life of Scotland’.

But all these men shared the conviction of M’Cheyne, ‘It is not great gifts God uses so much as great likeness to Christ’. This is why, at a later date, C.H. Waller, could speak of the 1840s in Scotland as ‘the nearest approach he knew to apostolic conditions of faith and living’.

Apart from a short period of missionary service in India, Milne spent his whole ministry in Perth as a pastor and evangelist. Bonar’s account of John Milne, as one who lived close to Christ remains a guide to what the churches need in every age.