The Sophisticated Secularist’s Contempt on the Gospel of Reigning Grace

Written by Abraham Booth

The gospel of Reigning Grace, being a doctrine duly divine, has ever been the object of the world’s contempt.

house20on20religion20posterIt was of old a stumbling-block to the self-righteous Jew, and foolishness to the philosophic Greek. Paul, who was a resolute assertor of the honors of grace, and indefatigable in preaching Christ, found it so by repeated experience; and that not only among the illiterate and profane, but also among the learned and the devout Nay, he had frequent occasion to observe, that the religious devotees of his age were the first in opposing the doctrine he preached, and the most hardened enemies against the truth of God. The polite, the learned, the religious*, were all agreed, to load both his character and his doctrine with the foulest reproaches. Nor was this treatment peculiar to Paul, but common to all his contemporaries, who espoused the same glorious cause, and labored in the same beneficent work. The doctrine they preached was charged with licentiousness. Their enemies boldly affirmed that they said, “Let us do evil that good may come.” Thus were their character and their labor impeached: that, as hateful to God: these, as destructive to man.

But what was the ground of this impious charge! Were they loose in their morals,’ or scandalous in their lives?

No such thing! Had they not as much regard for practical religion and true morality as any of their objectors? More, far more than they all. Did they never mention good works as necessary to answer any valuable end in the Christian life? They often pressed the performance of them, as absolutely necessary to answer various important purposes, both in the sight of God and man.

What then could be the reason of so hateful a charge?

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Because their doctrine was not in the least adapted to gratify the pride of man.

They taught, that without the atonement made on the cross, and the grace revealed in redeeming blood, the state of the best men would have been absolutely desperate—desperate as that of the devils, and of those already damned. And as the apostles were free to declare, that the state of the most respectable part of mankind was evil:— dreadfully evil—-evil as to those things, for the sake of which they most highly esteemed themselves; so they boldly preached a perfect Savior, and a finished salvation to the most worthless and vile.

These primitive teachers and infallible guides were not in the least acquainted with those terms and conditions, those pre-requisites and qualifications, the performing and attaining of which are, by many, accounted so necessary to acceptance with God. They knew but one way in which a sinner might be accepted of Gad, and justified before him; and that was entirely of grace, through the perfect work of Christ alone. The way of justification which they taught, is absolutely pure and unmixed. In their doctrine, in this important subject, grace does not only appear; it shines, reigns, triumphs: it is the only thing. There is not discernible in it the least tincture of those poisons which foster pride, or cherish self-esteem. All those fine distinctions, invented by the proud philosopher, or the self-righteous moralist, which tend in any degree to support the opinion of human worthiness, and to obscure our views of divine grace, are by them entirely set aside and totally annihilated. The most shining deeds and valuable qualities that can be found among men; though highly useful and truly excellent, when set in their proper places, and referred to suitable ends; are, as to the grand article of justification, treated as non-entities. In this respect the most zealous professor, with all his labored performances, stands on a level with the most profane. The apostolic truth addressing all to whom it comes, as guilty condemned, perishing wretches, leaves no room for preference or boasting in any; that so the whole glory of our salvation may be secured to that grace which is infinitely rich and absolutely free.

At this, the devout Pharisee and the decent moralist are highly offended. Such doctrines being advanced, they think it incumbent upon them to stand up in defense of what they call a holy life; and to support the sinking credit of good works, as having a considerable efficacy in procuring our acceptance with God. This many persons frequently do much more by talking about their necessity, than by performing them. Now they think it their duty to rail at the preacher as an avowed enemy to holiness; nor will they spare to give him the honorable title of, “A friend of publicans and sinners.” Now innumerable slanders are cast on the doctrine of grace, as being licentious; and on the ministers of it, as opening the flood-gates of all iniquity. For they suppose that everything bad may be justly expected from those who openly disavow all dependence on their own duties; and whose hope of eternal happiness arises, not from the services which they perform, but from grace which the gospel reveals—not from the worth which they possess, but from the work which Christ has wrought. Thus they despise the gospel under the fair pretense of a more than common concern for the interests of holiness.

Nor is this the only offence which the gospel gives.

For as it is entirely inconsistent with the natural notions of men concerning acceptance with God, and contrary to every scheme of salvation which human reason suggests; as it will admit of no copartner in relieving a distressed conscience, or in bringing deliverance to a guilty soul, but leaves every one that slights it and seeks for assistance from any other quarter, to perish under an everlasting curses so the pride of the self-sufficient kindles into resentment against it, as a most uncharitable doctrine and quite unsociable.

Nor can the faithful dispensers of sacred truth fail to share in the honor of these reproaches.

For while they dare to affirm, that this gospel, so hateful to the sons of pride, exhibits the only way of a sinner’s access to his offended Sovereign; and that all who oppose it, and all who embrace its counterfeit, are left in the hands of divine justice without a Mediator; they are sure to be accounted persons of contracted minds, and very far from a liberal way of thinking.

They are considered as the dupes of bigotry, and little better than the enemies of mankind. He, indeed, who pretends to be a friend to revealed truth, but is cool and indifferent to its honor and interest; whose extensive charity is such, that he can allow those who widely differ from him in the capital articles of the Christian faith, to be safe in their own way; may enjoy his peculiar sentiments without much fear of disturbance. But though such conduct may be applauded, under a false notion of Christian candor, and of a catholic spirit; though it may be the way to maintain a friendly intercourse among multitudes whose leading sentiments are widely different; yet it will be deemed, by the God of truth, as deserving no better name, than* a joint, opposition to the spirit and design of his gospel. For such a timid and lukewarm profession of truth is little better than a denial of it—than open hostility against it. To seek for peace at the expense of truth, will be found, in the end, no other than a wicked conspiracy against both God and man. — Such, however, as love the truth, will boldly declare against all its counterfeits, and every deviation from it: and, whatever may be the consequence, they will say with him of old ; Though tee, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be ac* cursed*

Thus the genuine gospel will always appear like an insult on the taste of the public.

Wherever it comes, if, it be not received, awakens disgust and provokes abhorrence. Nor can it be otherwise. For its principal design is, to mortify the pride of man, and to display the glory of grace; to throw all human excellence down to the dust, and to elevate, even to thrones of glory, the needy and the wretched; to show that everything which exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ, is an abomination in the sight of God; and that He who is despised of men and abhorred by the nations, is Jehovah’s eternal delight, Isa. xlix. 7. The ancient gospel is an unceremonious thing. It pays no regard to the academic because of his profound learning; nor to the moralist on account of his upright conduct. – It has not the least regard to the courtier, because of his pompous honors; nor to the devotee for the sake of his zeal or his righteousness. No: The potent prince and the abject slave, the wise philosopher and the ignorant rustic, the virtuous lady and the infamous prostitute, stand on the same level in its comprehensive sight. Its business is with the worthless and miserable, whomsoever they be. If these be relieved, its end is gained. If these be made happy, its Author is glorified, whatever may become of the rest. Toward these it constantly wears the most friendly aspect, and rejoices to do them good. But the self-sufficient of every rank are treated by it with the utmost reserve, and beheld with a steady contempt. The hungry it fills with good things, but the rich it sends empty away.

These considerations may serve to show us the true state of the case, as it stood between Paul and his opponents. The situation of things was much the same between Protestants and Papists, at, and for some time after, the Reformation. Nor will the apostolic doctrine ever fail to be attended with strenuous opposition and foul reproaches, while ignorance of its real nature, and legal pride, pro-vail in the hearts of men. Many, indeed, are the methods that have been devised, to render the unpalatable truth more generally acceptable, and to obviate the offence of the cross. But what have been the consequences? The gospel has been corrupted; the consciences of awakened sinners have been left to grope in the dark, for that consolation which nothing but the unadulterated truth could give; and, instead of promoting holiness, the reverse has been awfully manifest. It therefore behooves every lover of sacred truth, to let it stand on its own basis, and not to tamper with it To leave all its credit and all its success in the world, to its own intrinsic worth—to that authority with which it is clothed, and to the management of that sovereign Being who ordained it for his own glory.

But however the doctrine of reigning grace may be despised by the self-sufficient…

..it will ever be revered by the poor in spirit, for by it they are informed of an honorable way of escape from the wrath to come, which they know they have justly deserved. To the sensible sinner, therefore, it must always be a joyful sound. And though such persons as are ignorant of its nature, tendency, and design, are always ready to imagine that it has an unfriendly aspect upon morality and good works, when preached in its glorious freeness; yet we may boldly affirm, that it is the grand instrument ordained by a holy God, for informing the ignorant, comforting the disconsolate, and rescuing the profligate from that worst of vassalage, the servitude of sin, and subjection to Satan. Such is the benign tendency of the glorious gospel! Such is its friendly and sanctifying influence on the hearts of men!

It will indeed be acknowledged, that this doctrine may be held in licentiousness by those that profess it. But then it will be as confidently maintained, that whoever holds it in unrighteousness, never received the love of that sacred truth, or experienced the power of it. For, to have a bare conviction of divine truth in the mind, and to experience its power on the heart, are very different things. The former may produce an outward profession; the latter will elevate the affections, turn the corrupt bias of the will, and influence the whole conduct.

PATIENCE AND ITS PERFECT WORK

Written by Thomas Goodwin,
Edited for thought and sense.

got-patience-680x510“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you luck wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not , and it shall be given him.” – James I. 1 – 5.

CHRISTIAN patience is my subject, and the perfect work of patience, ver. 4; but as an introduction thereunto, I must first open some things of the words in ver. 1, 2. As to the persons he writes to, they were ‘the twelve tribes scattered,’ that had been and were bereft of their inheritance in their native country, and quitting that, had betaken themselves to banishment. 

The other Apostle who wrote to the same persons, comforts them with this – that they were begotten again to a better inheritance than that of Canaan, which now they were deprived of.

I observe that though these had been made thus sufficiently destitute and desolate already, and driven from house and home to seek their livelihoods, with their families, in foreign countries, that yet still great and pressing troubles and miseries did follow them, as one wave doth after another they were continually falling into divers and sundry temptations of all sorts. God ‘tries us every moment,’ as in Job vii. 18 ; we are chastened every morning, Ps. xxxvii. 13; and ‘killed’ – that is, in danger of death – ‘all day long,’ as Rom. viii. God had not yet done with these.

To these Christians he utters the strangest paradox upon this occasion that ever was or can be uttered;

and begins with it ver. 2, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.’ Thus bluntly and abruptly, without any mollifying preface or sweetening introduction, ‘count it all joy,’ seems to carry a moral contradiction in the face of unto the latter part, ‘when ye fall into divers temptations ‘ and this latter seems to put an impossibility upon the former, which is the duty exhorted unto, that is – All joy; the highest joy, for so ‘all joy’ must needs be supposed to be; as if they were possessed of what God promises shall be the assured and ‘expected end,’ Jer. xxix. 11; and to be beforehand as sure of it as if they had it already.

And, it is not only when they are assaulted with troubles, but when temptations are actually broken in upon them, and they lie under them.  So when you fall into them, as into a pit and snare, and so they falling round about you; so as you have nothing to stand or lean upon, but all about you fails with you and under you, so as in all outward appearance ye are sunk and overwhelmed with the ruins. In this case to ‘count it all joy,’ to shout as men in harvest, or that have gotten great spoils; when their miseries are so great that they cannot be endured, that yet their joy must be so great as more cannot be expressed; this is the hardest duty that ever was required of the distressed hearts of men. And yet God would not require it if it were not attainable; and it is attainable by no other principles but of Christianity.

But they might say, You have propounded this hard and strange duty to us;

What ground is there that may rationally and effectually persuade and bring our hearts to it? What considerations that may procure us this joy, and how may we be wrought up to it? For God never gave any commandment but there was a full and sufficient ground and reason to enforce it.

He gives them two grounds:

One at the 3d and 4th verses, ‘Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’ This is a ground from what follows in this life.

The other is at the 12th verse, ‘Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.’ This is the reward that follows in the life to come, in the hope and expectation of which you may count it all joy that now you are tried; for the end and issue of them is a crown of glory, which these do work, as 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’

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Taken from, Patience and its Perfect Work, which was published anonymously in a small volume, and is one of the rarest of all Goodwin’s pieces.
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NOTE:  Patience and its Perfect Work – was written by Thomas Goodwin just after he had lost most of his library in a fire!
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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Goodwin (Rollesby, Norfolk, 5 October 1600 – 23 February 1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. Christopher Hill places Goodwin in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.

In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632.

In 1639 he fled to Holland to escape persecution. For some time was pastor of a small congregation of English merchants and refugees at Arnheim. He returned shortly after the inception of the Long Parliament.

In 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. An amusing sketch, from Joseph Addison‘s point of view, of the austere and somewhat fanatical president of Magdalen, is preserved in No. 494 of The Spectator.

He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favour with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed.

He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658.

From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

 

The justification of the “Ends” and the “Means” as Considered in Reference to Moral Rule

Written by John Owen (1616 –1683)

In a moral sense, when the action and the end are to be measured or considered in reference to a moral rule…

scales-key-bible…or law prescribed to the agent, then the means are the deserving or meritorious cause of the end; as, if Adam had continued in his innocency, and done all things according to the law given unto him, the end procured thereby had been a blessed life to eternity; or as now, the end of any sinful act is death, the curse of the law.

When the means are considered only in their natural relation, then they are the instrumentally efficient cause of the end. So Joab intending the death of Abner, “he smote him with his spear under the fifth rib, that he died,” 2 Sam. iii. 27. And when Benaiah, by the command of Solomon, fell upon Shimei the wounds he gave him were the efficient of his death, 1 Kings ii. 46. In which regard there is no difference between the murdering of an innocent man and the executing of an offender; but as they are under a moral consideration, their ends follow their deservings, in respect of conformity to the rule, and so there is χάσμα μέγα between them.

The former consideration, by reason of the defect and perverseness of some agents (for otherwise these things are coincident), holds out a twofold end of things, — first, of the work, and, secondly, of the workman; of the act and the agent: for when the means assigned for the attaining of any end are not proportioned unto it, nor, fitted for it, according to that rule which the agent is to work by, then it cannot be but that he must aim at one thing and another follow, in respect of the morality of the work.

So Adam is enticed into a desire to be like God; this now he makes his aim, which to effect he eats the forbidden fruit, and that contracts a guilt which he aimed not at. But when the agent acts aright, and as it should do, — when it aims at an end that is proper to it, belonging to its proper perfection and condition, and worketh by such means as are fit and suitable to the end proposed, — the end of the work and the workman are one and the same; as when Abel intended the worship of the Lord, he offered a sacrifice through faith, acceptable unto him; or as a man, desiring salvation through Christ, applieth himself to get an interest in him. Now, the sole reason of this diversity is, that secondary agents, such as men are, have an end set and appointed to their actions by Him which giveth them an external rule or law to work by, which shall always attend them in their working, whether they will or no. God only, whose will and good pleasure is the sole rule of all those works which outwardly are of him, can never deviate in his actions, nor have any end attend or follow his acts not precisely by him intended.

Again; the end of every free agent is either that which he effecteth, or that for whose sake he doth effect it. When a man builds a house to let to hire, that which he effecteth is the building of a house; that which moveth him to do it is love of gain. The physician cures the patient, and is moved to it by his reward. The end which Judas aimed at in his going to the priests, bargaining with them, conducting the soldiers to the garden, kissing Christ, was the betraying of his Master; but the end for whose sake the whole undertaking was set on foot was the obtaining of the thirty pieces of silver: “What will ye give me, and I will do it?” The end which God effected by the death of Christ was the satisfaction of his justice: the end for whose sake he did it was either supreme, or his own glory; or subordinate, ours with him.

Moreover, the means are of two sorts: First, Such as have a true goodness in themselves without reference to any farther kind; though not so considered as we use them for means. No means, as a means is considered as good in itself, but only as conducible to a farther end; it is repugnant to the nature of means, as such, to be considered as good in themselves. Study is in itself the most noble employment of the soul; but, aiming at wisdom or knowledge, we consider it as good only inasmuch as it conducteth to that end, otherwise as “a weariness of the flesh,” Eccl. xii. 12. Secondly, Such as have no good at all in any kind, as in themselves considered, but merely as conducing to that end which they are fit to attain.  They receive all their goodness (which is but relative) from that whereunto they are appointted, in themselves no way desirable; as the cutting off a leg or an arm for the preservation of life, taking a bitter potion for health’s sake, throwing corn and lading into the sea to prevent shipwreck. Of which nature is the death of Christ, as we shall afterward declare. 

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Taken from, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.  He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into “the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology.” Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.

In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the “fundamentals” necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith).

In 1669, Owen wrote a spirited remonstrance to the Congregationalists in New England, who, under the influence of Presbyterianism, had shown themselves persecutors. At home, too, he was busy in the same cause. In 1670 Samuel Parker’s Ecclesiastical Polity attacked the Nonconformists with clumsy intolerance. Owen answered him (Truth and Innocence Vindicated); Parker replied offensively. Then Andrew Marvell finally disposed of Parker with banter and satire in The Rehearsal Transposed. Owen himself produced a tract On the Trinity (1669), and Christian Love and Peace (1672).

On the revival of the Conventicle Acts in 1670, Owen was appointed to draw up a paper of reasons which was submitted to the House of Lords in protest. In this or the following year Harvard College invited him to become its president; he received similar invitations from some of the Dutch universities. When King Charles II issued his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, Owen drew up an address of thanks; Owen was one of the first preachers at the weekly lectures which the Independents and Presbyterians jointly held at Princes’ Hall in Broad Street. He was respected by many of the nobility, and during 1674 both King Charles II and his brother King James II assured him of their good wishes to the dissenters. Charles gave him 1000 guineas to relieve those on whom the severe laws had pressed, and he was able to procure the release of John Bunyan, whose preaching he admired.

On the means of grace known to Puritans as ‘HOLY CONFERENCE’

Written by Richard Sibbes.

thedarkone12_crying_girl-300x284“Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick.” 
          —Song. 2:5
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We see here an excellent use of “holy conference.”

The church coming to the daughters of Jerusalem, speaking of Christ her beloved, that she is ‘sick of love,’ [love-sick], and the daughters of Jerusalem are inquisitive to know Christ more and more. Here is the benefit of holy conference and good speeches. One thing draws consideration and meditation of heavenly things. That which is little in the beginning may bring forth great matters. This question to the church and talking with her, ‘I charge you, if you find my beloved, to tell him that I am sick of love,’ breeds questions in others, ‘What is thy beloved?’ Whence, upon the description of her beloved, her heart is kindled, she findeth her beloved; so that talking of holy and heavenly things is good for others and ourselves also.

It is good for others, as it was good for the daughters of Jerusalem here; for thereupon they are stirred up to be inquisitive after Christ. And it was good for the church herself, for hereupon she took occasion to make a large commendation of Christ, wherein she found much comfort.

2. Good conference, then, is good for ourselves; for we see a little seed brings forth at length a great tree, a little fire kindleth much fuel, and great things many times rise out of small beginnings. It was a little occasion which Naaman the Assyrian had to effect his conversion, 2 Kings v. 2. There was a poor banished woman, a stranger, who was a Jewish maid-servant. She told her lord’s servants that there was a prophet in Jewry that could heal him, whereupon he came thither, and was converted and healed. And Paul sheweth that the very report of his bonds did a great deal of good in Cesar’s house, Philip, 1:13. Report and fame is a little matter, but little matters make way for the greater.

This may put us in mind to spend our time fruitfully in good conference, when in discretion it is seasonable. We know not, when we begin, where we may make an end. Our souls may be carried up to heaven before we are aware, for the Spirit will enlarge itself from one thing to another. ‘To him that hath shall be given more and more still,’ Mat. xiii. 12. God graciously seconds good beginnings. We see the poor disciples, when they were in a damp for the loss of Christ, after he comes, meets them, and talks of holy things. In that very conference their hearts were warmed and kindled, Luke xxiv. 32. For, next to heaven itself, our meeting together here, it is a kind of paradise. The greatest pleasure in the world is to meet with those here whom we shall ever live with in heaven. Those who are good should not spend such opportunities fruitlessly.

And to this end, labor for the graces of the communion of saints; for there is such a state. We believe it as an article of our creed. How shall we approve ourselves to be such as have interest unto the communion of saints, unless we have spirits able to communicate good to others?  Oh, pitiful and loving spirits, that we may speak a word in due season!

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Taken from, Bowels Opened, in The Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 2, pp. 133-134.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Richard Sibbes (or Sibbs) (1577–1635) was an English theologian. He is known as a Biblical exegete, and as a representative, with William Perkinsand John Preston, of what has been called “main-line” Puritanism.

He was the author of several devotional works expressing intense religious feeling — The Saint’s Cordial (1629), The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax (1631, exegesis of Isaiah 42:3), The Soules Conflict (1635), etc.  The clerical leaders of the Feoffees, Davenport, Gouge and Sibbes, all adhered to Calvinist covenant theology, as shaped by the English theologians Perkins, Preston, William Ames, and Thomas Taylor. 

His works were much read in New England. Thomas Hooker, prominent there from 1633, was directly influenced by Sibbes, and his “espousal theology”, using marriage as a religious metaphor, draws on The Bruised Reed and Bowels Opened. Sibbes was cited by the Methodist John Wesley. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon studied his craft in Sibbes, Perkins and Thomas Manton. The evangelical Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in the highest terms of his own encounter with the work of Sibbes.

“Home! Home! Home!”

Written by Thomas De Witt Talmage.

I WAS IN A FAR DISTANT LAND

images (1)…not Persia, although more than Oriental luxuriance crowned the cities; nor the tropics” although more than tropical fruitfulness filled the gardens; nor Italy” although more than Italian softness filled the air.

And I wandered around looking for thorns and nettles, but I found none of them grew there. And I walked forth, and I saw the sun rise, and I said: “When will it set again?” And the sun sank not. And I saw all the people in holiday apparel, and I said: “When will they put on workingman’s garb again and delve in the mine and swelter at the forge?” But neither the garments nor the robes did they put off. And I wandered in the suburbs, and I said: “Where do they bury the dead of this great city?” And I looked along by the hills where it would be most beautiful for the dead to sleep, and I saw castles and towns and battlements, but not a mausoleum, nor monument, nor white slab could I see. And I went into the great chapel of the town, and I said: “Where do the poor worship; where are the benches on which they sit?” “And a voice answered: “We have no poor in this great city.” And I wandered out, seeking to find the place where were the hovels of the destitute, and I found mansions of amber and ivory and gold, but no tear did I see or sigh hear.

New JerusalemI was bewildered, and I sat under the shadow of a great tree, and I said, “Where am I, and whence comes all this?” And at that moment there came from among the leaves, skipping up the flowery paths and across the sparkling waters a very bright and sparkling group; and when I saw their step I knew it, and when I heard their voices I thought I knew them; but their apparel was so different from anything I had ever seen, I bowed, a stranger to strangers. But after awhile, when they clapped their hands and shouted, “Welcome! welcome!” the mystery was solved, and I saw that time had passed and that eternity had come, and that God had gathered us up into a higher home; and I said: “Are we all here;”‘ and the voices of innumerable generations answered: “All here;” and while tears of gladness were raining down our cheeks and the branches of the Lebanon cedars were clapping their hands, and the towers of the great city were chiming their welcome, we began to laugh and sing and leap and shout,

“Home! Home! Home!”

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Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage: Dr. Thomas De Witt Talmage (7 January 1832 – 12 April 1902) was a preacherclergyman and divine in the United States who held pastorates in the Reformed Church in America and Presbyterian Church. He was one of the most prominent religious leaders in the United States during the mid- to late-19th century, equaled as a pulpit orator perhaps only by Henry Ward Beecher. He also preached to crowds in England. During the 1860s and 70s, Talmage was a well-known reformer in New York City and was often involved in crusades against vice and crime.

During the last years of his life, Dr. Talmage ceased preaching and devoted himself to editing, writing, and lecturing. At different periods he was editor of the Christian at Work(1873–76), New York; the Advance (1877–79), Chicago; Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine (1879–89), New York; and the Christian Herald (1890–1902), New York. For years his sermons were published regularly in more than 3,000 journals, through which he was said to reach 25,000,000 readers.

“One Sunday morning when the time came for him to deliver his sermon, he walked to the extreme edge on one side of his fifty-foot platform, faced about, then suddenly started as fast as he could jump for the opposite side. Just as everybody in the congregation, breathless, expected to see him pitch headlong from the further side of the platform he leaped suddenly in the air and came down with a crash, shouting, “Young man, you are rushing towards a precipice”. And then he delivered a moving sermon upon the temptations and sins of youth in a big city.”

That which destroys all religion and godliness is: MAKING HASTE

Written by Thomas Manton.

deathofsalesmanPatience, also hath a great influence upon religion; for that which destroyeth all religion and godliness is making haste.

Therefore, it is said, Isa. 38: 16, ‘He that believes, shall not make haste.’ God’s promises are not presently effected; and if we cannot tarry, but run to our own shifts, because they are next at hand, presently you run into a snare. On the other side it is said, Lam. 3: 26, ‘It is good to hope and quietly to wait for the salvation of God.’ When we can hope and wait, it mightily secures our obedience. Sense is all for present satisfaction, but faith and hope can tarry God’s leisure, till those better things which he hath promised do come in hand.

Whatever our condition be, afflicted or prosperous, we are in the place and station where God hath set us, and there we must abide till he bring us to his kingdom. Impatience and precipitation is the cause of all mischief. What moved the Israelites to make a golden calf, but impatience, not waiting for Moses, who, according to their mind and fancy, remained too long with God in the mount? What made Saul force himself to offer sacrifice, but because he could not tarry an hour longer for Samuel, and so lost the kingdom? 1 Sam. 13:12-14. what made the bad servant, or church officer, to smite his fellow-servant, and eat and drink with the drunken, that is, to abuse church censures, countenance the profane, and smite and curb the godly, but only this? Mat.24: 48, ‘ My Lord delays his coming.’ He sees the strictest are hated in the world, and the others befriended; and honor and interest runs that way, and Christ comes not to rectify these disorders.

My Lord delays his coming.’

Hasty men are loath to be kept in suspense and long expectation, and so miscarry. Look to all sorts of sinners. The carnal and sensual, they cannot wait for the time when they shall have pleasures for evermore at God’s right hand, therefore take up with present delights. Like those who cannot tarry till the grapes be ripe, therefore eat them sour and green. Solid and everlasting pleasures they cannot wait for, therefore choose the pleasures of sin, that are but for a season. A covetous man will wax rich in a day, and cannot tarry the fair leisure of providence; therefore we are told, ‘ He that makes haste to be rich cannot be innocent’ Prov. 28: 20. An ambitious man will not stay till God gives true crowns and honors in his kingdom, and therefore he must have honor and greatness here, though his climbing and affecting to be built one story higher in the world cost him the ruin and loss of his soul. All revolt and apostasy from God proceeds from hence, because they cannot wait for God’s help, and tarry his fulfilling the promise; but finding themselves pressed and destitute, the flesh, that is tender and delicate, grows impatient.

It is tedious to suffer for a while, but they do not consider it is more tedious to suffer forevermore.

Thence comes also our murmuring and distrustful repining: Ps. 31: 22, ‘ I said in my haste, I am cut off; nevertheless thou heard the voice of my supplication.’ Just at that time when God was about to hear him. So, ‘ I said in my haste, All men are liars’.  And thence also our unlawful attempts, and stepping out of God’s way. Men fly to unwarrantable means, because they cannot depend upon God, and wait with patience. Look, as an impetuous river is always troubled and thick, so is also a precipitate, impatient spirit out of order, full of distemper, a ready prey to Satan.

1. As to the carnal and unregenerate. Till their hearts be changed, they can never attain to this patient waiting for Christ, for two reasons:

[1.] In the wicked there is no sound belief of these things, for they live by sense and not by faith. The apostle tells us, ‘ He that lacketh grace is blind, and cannot see afar off,’ 2 Peter i. 9. Things of another world are too uncertain, and too far off for them to apprehend, so as to be much moved by them. They hear of the coming of Christ, and speak by rote of it after others, but they do not believe it ; therefore, till God enlighten them, how shall they be affected with this matter?

[2.] There is an utter unsuitableness of heart to them. Things present, that suit their fancies and please their senses, carry away their hearts. Ps. 49:18, ‘Whilst he lived he blessed his soul; and men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself.’ Men bless themselves, and the carnal world applauds them in a sensual course and way of living. They measure all happiness by their outward condition in the world, and please themselves with golden dreams of contentment; and this being seconded with the flattery and applauses of the deceived world, they are fast asleep in the midst of the greatest soul-dangers, and so go down into hell before they think of it.

2. Come we now to the regenerate. Such the apostle looks upon the Thessalonians to be. They need to have their hearts directed to the patient waiting for Christ, for these reasons:

[1.] Because we have too dim and doubtful a foresight of these things. How dark a prospect have even the best of God’s children of the world to come ! We may speak of others as unbelievers, but God knows how doubtful our own thoughts are about eternity and Christ’s coming ; how little we can shut the eye of sense, and open that of faith, and say truly with the apostle, 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘ We look not at the things that are seen, that are temporal ; but to the things unseen, that are eternal.’ Alas ! we have no through sight into another world. The best Christians have need to have their eyes anointed with spiritual eye-salve, that their sight may be more sharp and piercing ; to beg ‘ the spirit of wisdom and revelation, to open the eyes of their mind, that they may see what is the hope of Christ’s calling,’ Eph. i. 17, 18. There are too many intervening clouds between us and eternity, that darken our sight and obscure our faith.

[2.] Our thoughts of these things are strange and dull, and too rare and unfrequent. How seldom have we any serious thoughts of his coming, and how unwelcome are they to our hearts ! It was a complaint against Israel, that they did put far away the evil day ; but the complaint against us may be taken up thus, that we put far away the good day, when all our desires and hopes shall be accomplished and satisfied. The atheistical world deny it, and we forget it. Solomon saith to the sensual young man, ‘ Kemember, that for all these things God shall bring thee to judgment.’ Young men forget or put off these thoughts, lest, like cold water cast into a boiling pot, they should check the fervour, of their lusts. But, alas ! grave men, good men, forget these things. When Christ had spoken of his coming to judgment, he saith, Mark 13: 37, ‘ What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch’ Watching is keeping up this attentiveness to his second coming with all Christian vigilance and endeavour. But few regard the charge : therefore ‘ the Lord direct your hearts,’ &c.

[3.] Because our affections are so cold, and we are no more affected with it, but as if we were senseless of the weight of these things.  Some dead and drowsy desires we have, but not that lively motion which will become hope and love. If nature say, ‘ Come not to torment us before the time/ grace should say, ‘ Come, Lord Jesus, oh, come quickly.’ We are not only to look for his appearing, but to love his appearing. Where are these desires, that Christ would either come down to us, or take us up to himself, that we may live with him forever ?

[4.] This prayer need to be made for the renewed too, because Christians think of it with too much perplexity and fear. Is the sight of a Saviour unwelcome to you; or should the drawing nigh of your redemption be a comfort or a terror? Why do you then believe in Christ, and choose his favour for your happiness ? We thought that this had been all your hope, and your desire, and your great comfort; and shall your hope be your torment, and beget horror rather than joy ? Oh, beg the Lord to direct your hearts, that you may ‘hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto you at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ 1 Peter i. 13. We do not only wait for glory, but for grace ; and shall not this be a comfort to you ?

[5.] We need to pray this prayer, because our preparations are too slender for so great a day. Serious preparation is necessary. It is described 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless ; ‘ that is, in a state of reconciliation with God. But we live too securely and quietly, in an unprepared state. If we have the habitual preparation, we do not keep up the actual preparation by clarifying and refining our souls from the dregs of sense, by honouring God in the world with greater earnestness, that when our Lord comes, he may find us so doing. We do not stand ‘ with our loins girt, and our lamps burning,’ that when the Lord knocks we may open to him immediately. We do not keep up the heavenly desire, the actual readiness. The return of a husband after long absence is more welcome to the wife than to a harlot ; but she would have all things ready for his reception and entertainment.

[6.] Because our motions are too inconstant. We interrupt the course of our obedience frequently, faint in our afflictions, do not keep up the fervour of our affections, and follow after salvation with that industrious diligence. We need often the Christian watchword, ‘The Lord is at hand.’ We lose much of our first love, intermit of our first works. Therefore, ‘ The Lord direct your hearts to the patient waiting for Christ.’ The exhortation is to quicken you to take care of this grace, that you may be constantly exercised in it. While we are upon earth, we should continually be expecting Christ’s coming from heaven. The motives may be these:

1. Before Christ’s coming in the flesh, the saints waited for him. ‘ I have waited for thy salvation, Lord,’ saith Jacob, Gen. xlix. 18. And Simeon for Christ, the Saviour of the world ; for so it is explained, ‘ Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’ And our Lord tells us, ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my day,’ John viii. 56 ; and it is said of Anna and others, that they ‘ waited for the consolation of Israel,’ Luke ii. 25, 38. And after Christ was come, the disciples were commanded to ‘ wait for the promise of the Spirit,’ Acts 1: 4. So, by parity of reason, we must wait for the coming of Christ ; for that is the next great promise to be accomplished, and the great thing to put life into our religion.

2. The people of God are described by this, 1 Thes. 1: 10, ‘ Who wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.’ A man would have thought, in those early days, they should have been described by their respect to what was past rather than to what was to come, which was at so great a distance : they should have been described by believing Christ was already come in the flesh, rather than waiting for his coming in glory. No ; this is proposed as an evidence of their sincerity and Christianity, ‘Waiting for the coming of Christ’  And so it is said, Heb. 9: 28, ‘ That Christ would appear unto the salvation of them that look for him.’ That is the property of true believers. But they that look not for his coming, love not, and long not for his coming, cannot expect his salvation. It is an allusion to the people, who, upon the day of expiation, when the high priest went into the holiest before the mercy-seat, were waiting for his coming out, that he might solemnly bless them. So must we look for Christ’s return, now he is gone within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary, that he may come out and bless us with everlasting blessings.

3. This should move us to it, the benefits that will come to us hereby ; for this waiting for Christ breeds in us contempt of the world, mortification of the flesh, tolerance and enduring of the cross.

[1.] It breeds in us contempt of the world ; because we look for higher and better things to be dispensed to us when Christ comes. ‘ Set not your affections on things on earth, but on things in heaven.’ Why ? ‘ For your life is hid with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory,’ Col. iii. 2-4. The more the heart is given to one, the other gets the less. Earthly things be little regarded in comparison of that glorious state, both of soul and body, which we shall have at Christ’s appearance.

[2.] This conduceth to the mortification of the flesh ; therefore we deny ourselves present satisfactions, that we may not be castaways, disallowed in the judgment. ‘ Be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought to vou at the coming of Christ’ 1 Peter 1: 13. [3.] The tolerance and enduring of the cross. This gives a quiet temper in all troubles. We may suffer now, ‘ but when Christ shall appear, we shall rejoice with exceeding joy,’ 1 Peter iv. 13. And then our reward will very much exceed the proportion of our sufferings ; they are no more to be set against them than a feather against a talent of lead. ‘ I reckon they are not worthy to be compared,’ saith the apostle, Rom. viii. 18. It would be a disgrace to a man’s reason that these things should bear any competition with our great hopes : ‘ these light afflictions, that are but for a moment,’ with ‘ that exceed ing weight of glory,’ Christ shall bestow upon us. For means, all I shall say is this : if you wait for Christ’s coming, look upon it as sure and as near : Rev. xxii. 12, Behold, I come quickly, and bring my reward with me.’ We have the promise of the eternal God for it, so attested, and made out to us with such evidence, that we have no reason to doubt of the recompenses of religion.

But things at a distance, though never so great, will not leave a due impression upon us: therefore we must look upon this promise with a certainty of persuasion that it will not be long before its accomplishment. Thus faith lessens the distance between hope and enjoyment, and enables us comfortably to wait.

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Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Manton (1620–1677) was an English Puritan clergyman.  Thomas Manton was invited to preach before Parliament on at least six occasions.  The first occasion was on June 30, 1647, which was a fast day for Parliament. His sermon was based on Zechariah 14:9 and entitled, “Meat out of the Eater; or, Hopes of Unity in and by Divided and Distracted Times.”

Exactly one year later, on June 30, 1648, he preached another fast sermon on Revelation 3:20, “England’s Spiritual Languishing; with the Causes and the Cure.” He also participated in the Westminster Assembly as one of three clerks, was later appointed to write a preface to the second edition of the Westminster Confession in 1658, and served Oliver Cromwell as a chaplain and a trier (an overseeing body that examined men for the ministry).

In 1656 he moved to London as he was appointed as a lecturer at Westminster Abbey and most importantly as rector of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, succeeding Obadiah Sedgwick. During this time Cromwell died and England entered a period of great uncertainty. This led Presbyterians such as Manton to call for the restoration of Charles II in 1660, traveling along with others to Breda, The Netherlands, to negotiate his return. After Charles returned, Manton was part of the negotiations called the Savoy Conference, in which the scruples of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists concerning the Prayer Book were formally discussed. Yet since the Cavalier Parliament was filled with Laudians, 1662 saw the enactment of the Act of Uniformity 1662. All ministers were to be ordained or re-ordained by a bishop, they were to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant, promise loyalty to the Prayer Book, and subscribe the Thirty-Nine Articles. Since Manton was on favorable terms with Charles II he was offered the Deanery of Rochester, but he refused on conscience grounds.

Manton’s last years were tumultuous. The Act of Uniformity led to the “Great Ejection.” On August 17, 1662, Manton preached his last sermon at Covent Garden on Hebrews 12:1. He also continued to write even when imprisoned for refusing to cooperate for six months in 1670 in violation of the Conventicle Act. 1672 saw the Declaration of Indulgence, in which men like Manton were granted a license to preach at home. Manton then became a lecturer at Pinner’s Hall for the so-called “morning exercises.” Parliament, though, revoked this Indulgence the year after. Manton would later die on October 18, 1677, and was survived by his wife and three children.

THE SOLITUDE OF HIS PEOPLE… Part 3.

Written by Octavius Winslow (1808 – 1878)

He said unto them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” John 4:32

going_to_churchIn instituting a resemblance between the solitariness of our Lord’s life and that of His people, we plead not for a religion of asceticism. The religion of Christ partakes nothing of this element. It is contemplative, but not monastic; sympathetic, but not sentimental; veiled, but not invisible; studious, but not inactive. And yet the solitariness of Christ’s cross, the hidden manna which sustained His brief but laborious life, finds a counterpart, in some faint degree, in the life of His disciples.

The true Church of God is not a visible but an invisible body. What is termed the “outward and visible church,” describes not the people of whom the apostle says, “The world knows us not.”

Take for example the nature of the Divine life in the believer- the life of God in the soul of man! The expression is emphatic- “Your life is hidden.” Not only is it invisible to the world- except in its outward actions, and these are often misunderstood and misinterpreted- but very much so to the saints also. It is often but dimly perceived, and we are slow to recognize it. It is of all things the most deeply veiled- its existence and aspirations, its depressions, defeats, and victories, are known only to Him in whom that life emphatically lives and moves and has its being. And, then, touching its advance- it is in the solitude of the Cross that it derives its strongest impulse, and exhibits its mightiest development.

It is a divine plant which only grows beneath this sacred shadow.

If we would advance in grace we must recede frequently from the sun’s heat of this world, and dwell amid the solemn shadows of Gethsemane and the deeper solitude of Calvary. Viewless as the wind, silent as the dew, is that influence which the most vitalizes and promotes our real sanctification. Oh, how blessed to sit there, with myriads like ourselves, silently growing in heavenliness near that marvellous Center- frail and feeble tendrils entwining around the stem of that glorious Tree of Life. Let us often heed the invitation of our Lord, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” -gently led by His outstretched hand to the solitude of His Cross.

Some of the most potent, vitalizing agencies of nature are the most gentle and unseen.

The moral analogy is perfect, the greatest growth of the believing soul is from a spiritual influence the most deeply hidden. Retirement for heart-communion, for the scrutiny of actions and words incapable of a faithful investigation amid the excitement which called them into being, for the calm study of God’s word, and for confidential transactions with God Himself, seems essential to our heavenly-growth.

“Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.
“The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree,
And scenes of Your sweet bounty made
For those who follow Thee.
“There, if Your Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her calm abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!”

Most soothing is this view of Christ’s life to those who, by the providence of God, are much isolated from others. Is it God’s will concerning you, that in the midst of friends you should feel friendless; that amid the activities of life your spiritual life should be solitary; and that, like David, you should often feel as a sparrow alone upon the house-top? This is just the discipline your Heavenly Father sees the most needful. You are now treading the path your Master trod; you have closer communion with the isolation of your blessed Lord.

And are you really alone in this solitude? Impossible!

Isolated you may be from man, you are all the nearer to Christ. The less we have of the creature, the more we have of God. We do not undervalue, in speaking thus, the sweetness and the solace- for which our intellectual and social being often craves- of human companionship and sympathy. Jesus Himself asked it, and the disciple must not be above his Lord. It were pure pretense to regard ourselves as totally independent of its influence. This were to ignore one of the sweetest, holiest privileges of our Christianity, “the communion of saints.” But, if our Father ordains for our feet a path of much solitude, we may depend upon a deeper teaching of the Spirit, and a more personal experience of the blessings which flow from a closer contact with the Cross.

Taken from “The Foot of the Cross”.


This concludes this Series

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Octavius Winslow (1 August 1808 – 5 March 1878), also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion”, stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America. A Baptist minister for most of his life and contemporary of Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, he seceded to the Anglican church in his last decade. His Christ centered works show devotion, practicality, and an experimental calvinism of the highest order. His writings are richly devotional and warm the soul and inflames the heart with sincere love, reverence, and praise to Christ.