“Are you God’s wife?”


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

–Matthew 25:40

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Lord our Righteousness” (Jehovah- Tsidkenu)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(a) It is a GRACIOUS righteousness.

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

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

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

(b) It is a PERFECT righteousness.

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

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

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

(c) It is a uniform righteousness.

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

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

(d) It is an unchanging righteousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on the Transcendence and Immanence of God and the Appropriateness of our Boldness to Approach Him as We Are.

Taken and adapted from, “A Practical Exposition on the Lord’s Prayer”
Written by, Ezekiel Hopkins

Let us consider the words for a moment, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”

Here God is described by two of his most eminent attributes, his grace and his glory, his goodness and his greatness: by the one, in that he is styled “our Father” by the other, in that he is said to be “in heaven”:  and both these are most sweetly tempered together, to beget in us a holy mixture of filial boldness and awful reverence, which are so necessary to the sanctifying of God’s name in all our addresses to him. We are commanded to come to the throne of grace with boldness, Heb. 4:16, and yet to serve God acceptably with reverence, and with godly fear, Heb. 12:28. Yes, and indeed the very calling of it a throne of grace intimates both these affections at once. It is a throne, and therefore requires awe and reverence; but itis a throne of grace too, and therefore permits holy freedom and confidence.

And so we find all along in the prayers of the saints, how they mix the consideration of God’s mercy and his majesty together in the very prefaces and preparations to their prayers. So Neh. 1:5, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him.” So Dan. 9:4, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him.” Now this excellent mixture of awful and encouraging attributes will keep us from both the extremes, of despair on the one hand, and of presumption on the other. He is our Father, and this may correct the despairing fear which might otherwise seize us upon the consideration of his majesty and glory; and he is likewise infinitely glorious, a God whose throne is in the highest heavens, and the earth his footstool. And this may correct the presumptuous irreverence, which else the consideration of God as our Father might perhaps embolden us unto.

To begin with, let us examine the relation of God to us, as a Father.

Now God is a Father three ways. 1. God is a Father by eternal generation.  2 By temporal creation and providence.  3.By spiritual regeneration and adoption.

1. God is a Father by eternal generation…

…having by an inconceivable and ineffable way begotten his Son, God co-equal, co-eternal, with himself, and therefore called, “The only-begotten Son of God,” John 3:16. Thus God is a Father only to our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his Divine nature. And whenever this title “Father” is given to God, with relation to the eternal sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, it denotes only the first Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, who is therefore chiefly and especially called the Father.

2. God is the Father by temporal creation, as he gives a being and existence to his creatures…

…creating those whom he made rational after his own image and similitude. And therefore God is said to be a “Father of spirits,” Heb. 12:9. And the angels are called the sons of God, “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord,” Job 1:6. And so Adam upon the account of his creation is called the Son of God, Luke 3:38, where the evangelist runs up the genealogy of mankind till it terminates in God, “Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”

3. God is said to be a Father by spiritual regeneration and adoption…

.and so all true believers are said to be the sons of God, and to be born of God, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:12, 13. So we are said to receive “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” For “the Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God,” Rom, 8:15, 16.

Is God thy Father?

This then may give us abundance of assurance that we shall receive at his hands what we ask, if it be good for us; and if it be not, we have no reason to complain that we are not heard, unless he should turn our prayers into curses. And this very consideration seems to be the reason why our Savior chooses this among all God’s titles and attributes to prefix to this prayer; and, indeed, it is the most proper name by which we can style God in our prayers to him; for this name of Father emboldens faith, and is as a pledge beforehand that our requests shall be heard and granted: and therefore our Savior, for the confirmation of our faith, argues very strongly from this very title of Father, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matt. 7:9-11. Indeed it is a most encouraging argument; for if the bowels of an earthly parent, who yet many times is capricious, and whose tenderest mercies are but cruelties in respect of God; if his compassion will not suffer his children to be defeated in their reasonable and necessary requests, how much less will God, who is love and goodness itself, and who hath inspired all parental affections into other fathers, suffer his children to return ashamed, when they beg of him those things which are most agreeable to his will, and to their wants? What dost thou then, O Christian, complaining of thy wants, and sighing under thy burdens?

Is God thy Father?

Go and boldly lay open thy case unto him; his bowels will certainly yearn towards thee. Do thou want Spiritual blessings? Spread thy requests before him; for as he is thy Father, so he is the God of all grace, and will give unto thee of his fullness; God loves that his children should be like him. Or dost thou want temporal mercies? Why, he is thy Father, and he is the “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;” and why should thou go so dejected and disconsolate who hast a Father so able and so willing to relieve and supply thee? Only beware that thou ask not stones for bread, nor scorpions for fish, and then ask what thou wilt for thy good, and thou shalt receive it.

Is God thy Father?

This then may encourage us against despair under the sense of our manifold sins against God, and our departures from him; for he will certainly receive us upon our repentance and returning unto him. This very apprehension was that which wrought upon the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father,” Luke 4:18. The consideration of our own guilt and vileness, without the consideration of God’s infinite mercy, tends only to widen the breach between him and us; for those that are altogether hopeless will sin the more implacably and bitterly against God; like those the prophet mentions, who said there was no hope, and therefore they would persist in their wickedness, Jer. 2:25. But, now, to consider that God is our Father, and that though we have cast off the duty and obedience of children, yet upon our submission he will welcome us, and reinstate us in his favor; this to the ingenuous spirit of a Christian is a sweet and powerful motive to reclaim him from his wandering and straying, for it will work both upon his shame and upon his hope: upon his shame, that ever he should offend so gracious a Father; and upon his hope, that those offences shall be forgiven him through that very mercy which he hath abused. Thus we read, “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, you are the Guide of my youth? Will he reserve his anger forever? Will he keep it to the end,” Jer. 3:4, 5.

Showing that when we plead with God under the winning name of Father, his anger cannot long last, but his bowels of mercy will at last overcome the sentiments of his wrath and justice. And thus much concerning the endearing title of Father, which our Savior directs us to use in our prayers unto God.

CONVERSION, and God’s Responsibility of it.

Taken and adapted from, “The True Scripture Doctrine Concerning Some Important points of  Christian Faith”
Written by, Jonathan Dickinson


But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace ye are saved. –Ephesians 2:4, 5

HAVING, understood from scripture, somewhat distinctly the considered the sad effects of our original apostasy…

…I am now led by the words before us, to take notice of the methods of our recovery from the misery, death, and ruin, which the fall has brought upon us. In the text we have,

  1. A representation of our state of nature in these words, “When we were dead in sins.” We are, by our apostasy from God, dead as to all the powers and faculties of our souls in their moral consideration: they are wholly pollution and sin, and naturally incapable of anything that is spiritually good. We are dead by a just sentence of the law of God. We are condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on us. And we are not only spiritually but eternally dead, by the execution of that terrible sentence upon our souls, if infinite mercy doth not step in to our rescue and deliverance, as I have observed in a former discourse.
  2. Here is set before us the great change, which by conversion is wrought on the soul; in that expression, Hath quickened us; or, as it is elsewhere expressed, hath made us alive from the dead. The blessed Spirit of God, when he pleaseth, renews our nature, sanctifies our affections, and fulfils in us the whole good pleasure of his goodness. By his gracious operations upon our souls, he mortifies our corruptions, brings our sinful appetites and passions into subjection, and creates us anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, that we may walk in them. This makes a great change in the soul, such as may very aptly be compared to a quickening, or resurrection from the dead.
  3. Here is intimated the powerful efficiency, by which this change is wrought, in those words, “together with Christ.” As the almighty power of God was gloriously exerted and displayed, in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, so is the same Almighty power manifested and magnified in the resurrection of sinners from their spiritual death. Thus they are quickened together with Christ; as truly quickened as he was, and by the same divine efficiency.
  4. We have the motive unto, or the impulsive cause of this change, suggested in these words, “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us. By grace are ye saved.” There could be no motive out of himself, nothing but his own infinite mercy, love, and grace, to excite his kind regard to such poor guilty, hell-deserving rebels as we are. Should he leave us all under the guilt of our sins and the damning power of our lusts, unto inevitable and remediless perdition, he would be most just, and we most justly miserable. We should have no cause of complaint, if he should bestow no mercy upon any of us, for he owes us none, we have nothing to claim but his just displeasure. What then but sovereign distinguishing grace, looks upon any of the fallen race of mankind while in their blood, and says unto them, LIVE? Why is one, more than another, partaker of these quickening influences, but from the mere good pleasure of God’s goodness?

But that I may more distinctly explain the words before us, I shall endeavor to consider, In what manner the Spirit of God quickens dead sinners, and brings them into a state of spiritual life.

To this I shall in general observe that,

1.   the principal method by which this great change is wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit of God, is his giving him a realizing view of the great truths revealed in the word of God, and enabling him to see things as they are. It may be some prejudice against the doctrine of our sanctification by the special influences of the Spirit of God upon our hearts, that men may imagine, there is thereby intended the infusion of some new faculty into the soul, which it had not before; and that the new creation implies our becoming a new sort of being, with respect to the natural powers and properties of the soul, which we were not before. But let it be considered, that the Spirit of God does no more in the conversion of a sinner, than bring him to the right exercise of those rational powers with which he was born, give him a just view of his greatest concerns, and enable him to act worthy of a reasonable being. Observe this, and all the prejudices against the doctrine before us are obviated, and vanish away. Now that this is the case, I shall endeavor to show, by taking some particular notice of the usual progressive steps by which a sinner is brought out of a state of carnal security, to the possession and exercise of the divine life [Though I have, on another occasion, formerly endeavored to represent the methods of the blessed Spirit’s operations in the conversion and sanctification of a sinner, in a discourse published on that subject, the reader will see the necessity of considering these things over again in another view, in order to clear up the case before me.]. And I think it will appear that the whole change is wrought in him by spiritual illumination, by impressing a right view of things upon his mind, or by enabling him to act reasonably.

2.  Then, if we consider the first change wrought in a sinner by the Spirit of God, it will appear to be no more than his bringing him to realize his own miserable condition, and see it as it is. It is awfully certain from the word of God, that every impenitent sinner is an enemy to God, under a sentence of condemnation, and an heir of hell and eternal misery. And it is equally certain, that the most of the world are easy and quiet, careless and secure in this dreadful state. No means that can possibly be used, will put the most of mankind upon a proper solicitude about their eternal welfare. The most awakening addresses, that can be made them in the name of the Lord, the most surprising alarms of God’s providence, the most pathetic and compassionate entreaties of their godly friends, have no effect upon them, to stop their career for hell and damnation. They will yet sleep upon the brink of the pit. They will yet run upon the thick bosses of God’s buckler. They will yet indulge their lusts, though they perish for ever. And what is the source of this indolence, thoughtlessness, and security, but their want of a just view of their state and danger? Could they but realize these things, and see them as they are, they would sooner rush upon a drawn sword, or leap into a burning furnace, than further incense the eternal Majesty against their souls, and venture upon everlasting damnation. But their misery is, that they have no feeling apprehension of these things. They consider them but as the rumbling of remote thunder, and as affairs of no special consequence to them; and thus they will consider them, unless the Spirit of God set home the important concern upon their minds, and give them a lively sense of what they are doing, and whither they are going. But if once the blessed Spirit undertakes the work, he will make the long neglected and slighted means of grace effectual to open their eyes, that they may see their state as it is. Though they could before sit under the most powerful ministry from year to year, without care, fear, or sensible apprehension of their danger; yet now an ordinary sermon, or a particular passage in a sermon, which perhaps they had heard hundreds of times before without concern, shall awaken their sleepy consciences, and make them with trembling and astonishment cry out, “What shall I do to be saved?” Why, what is the matter now? Whence is this wonderful change? Why cannot the poor sinner do now as he was wont to do? Why cannot he go on in his mirth and jollity, in his worldly pursuits and sensual gratifications? What means this darkness and distress, this melancholy countenance and solemn concern? Is this the man that lately laughed at preciseness; that bantered serious godliness, and ridiculed vital piety, as enthusiasm, or a heated imagination? Whence is he now as much an enthusiast, as any of those whom he lately derided and scoffed at? Whence is he now so afraid of hell and damnation, that could lately “mock at fear, and laugh at the shaking of God’s spear?” This wonderful alteration is wholly wrought by the Almighty Spirit’s impressing a lively view of what the secure sinner could have no feeling sense of before. Now he sees his sins, in their number, nature and aggravations. Now he sees his danger, and thence feels that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” He sees in such a view, that he can be no longer quiet and easy, in such a state of guilt and misery. But this, though open to every one’s observation, and plainly visible from the word of God and the nature of things, is what he never would have seen to purpose, unless the Comforter had been sent to “convince him of sin.” And the reason is assigned, 2 Cor. 4:4. “The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not;” and Isa. 1:3, “Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider.”

3.  If we consider the case with respect to a sinner’s humiliation, the Spirit of God works this also in the soul, by showing him his state as it is; and by giving him a realizing sight of his unworthiness of divine mercy, of his spiritual impotency, and utter inability to help himself. These are indeed truths plainly revealed in Scripture, as well as necessary deductions from the light of nature. By both of these it is clearly manifest, that we are guilty creatures, and thereby obnoxious to the wrath of God; that we are imperfect creatures, and therefore cannot fulfil the demands of the law of nature; much less can we make satisfaction for our past offences. But though these things are in themselves evident as the light, they have no impression upon the minds of the generality of mankind. Though deserving nothing but destruction and death, they are as easy and secure, as though they had a title to God’s favor, and a claim to eternal happiness. Though utterly incapable to change their own hearts, or to deserve that God should do it for them, they are yet attempting their salvation in their own strength, if they attempt it at all; and being ignorant of God’s righteousness, they go about to establish their own righteousness, not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. Even those who are convinced of their guilt and danger, are usually struggling after deliverance in their own strength, and betaking themselves to some self-righteous refuge or other. And thus in their highest attainments, will they continue to “compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling,” till the Spirit of grace by his powerful influences humble them at God’s feet; and show them that they are “poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked.” And how is this done, but by giving them a sight of their case as it is? They had a doctrinal knowledge before, that they were sinful, guilty, helpless, and hopeless in themselves. But this had no special influence upon their affections, or their conduct. But when they have a feeling sense of this, it must bring them low. They now see their sin and guilt, that there is no resting in their present condition. They see the defects of their duties, that these cannot recommend them to God’s favor. They see their own impotency, that they cannot take away the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give themselves a heart of flesh. They see the strict demands of God’s law, that it is impossible to come up to them. They see the purity and holiness of God’s nature, that he cannot look upon sin and sinners with approbation. They see that they have no capacity to help themselves, though they are utterly undone in their present condition. And what is the necessary result of a realizing sight of such a lost, helpless, perishing condition, but that, Psalms 130:3. “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who should stand?” Or that, Neh. 9:15. “Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses; for we cannot stand before thee, because of this!” What should be the result of this prospect, but that they lie at God’s footstool, as condemned malefactors, having nothing to plead, save unmerited and forfeited mercy, why sentence should not be executed upon them, to their eternal confusion!

4.  In the same manner, is a convinced sinner brought to a solicitous inquiry after an interest in Christ. This also is wrought in him, by a lively view of his case as it is. We an all indeed from our earliest age, indoctrinated in this essential article of the Christian faith, that there is not salvation in any other but Christ, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. And yet the most of the world, are whole, and need not the physician. They are more concerned about anything else, than about an interest in Christ. It is beyond human art and means, to make them at all solicitous about this great salvation, though they know that their eternal welfare depends upon it. And what can be the reason, that this madness is in the hearts of men? Can condemned perishing sinners be unconcerned, about the only method of escape from eternal damnation? Can they set more value on their lusts and pleasures, on the world and its vanities, and even on the merest trifles imaginable, than on Christ and his saving benefits? Can they rather choose to perish eternally, and to lose all the glories of the heavenly world, than to come to Christ, that they might have life? How astonishing this conduct appears, it is visibly the case of the world of mankind in general. And what reason can possibly be imagined of such unparalleled stupidity, but this, that they have not, they cannot have, while under the power of a blind and carnal mind, any realizing view of this great concern? Could they but see their case as it is, a condemned malefactor could as easily set light by a pardon, or a drowning man by deliverance, as these perishing sinners by an offered Savior. We accordingly find, that when the Spirit of God comes upon them with his illuminations, and opens their eyes to see their misery and impotency, they can be no longer careless about an interest in Christ, They can no longer make excuses; and go their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. They can no longer amuse themselves with different lusts and pleasures; and forget their necessity of Christ and his salvation. No! They have now nothing so much at heart, as the securing an interest in this blessed Savior. Now this thought lies down and rises with them, “What must I do to be saved? How shall I obtain an interest in Christ?” Now their distressed souls are groaning out these pathetic desires—O for an interest in Christ! Let me have Christ, whatever I want!—The world now with all its blandishments, all its riches and glory, dwindles to nothing in the eyes of such a humbled sinner, when compared with this excellent and needed Savior. I may appeal to everyone that has been truly converted to God, at an age of observation, whether they have not experienced these things in their own hearts. And indeed these operations of the mind are so rational, that it would be in the nature of things impossible we should neglect a most active concern about an interest in Christ, if the eyes of our understanding were enlightened. But alas! “The light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehends it not.” We see by experience, that men never do, never will show themselves thoroughly in earnest about this everlasting concern, till the Spirit of God open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light; and that when they are thus illuminated, they cannot do otherwise. This wonderful change in men’s desires and pursuits, is a necessary consequence of divine illumination, and of a just and reasonable view of things. Without this, they cannot attain it; with this they cannot fail of it. To this therefore the apostle ascribes it. 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”

5.  In the same manner also is the actual conversion of a sinner accomplished. In order to this, the Spirit of God gives him a realizing sight of the fullness and sufficiency that there is in Christ; and of his willingness and readiness to save him: the attainments before described, do not necessarily imply a saving conversion to God. Though these are the influences of the blessed Spirit, they are not his special and saving operations. The sinner is not brought into a state of favor with God, till he accepts a tendered Savior upon his own terms. It is by receiving him, that we have power to become the sons of God. The first act of saving faith is that conversion, by which the sinner effectually turns from sin to God, passes from death to life, and becomes interested in Christ and all his saving benefits. Now, which way is the sinner brought to this, but by an impressed lively discovery of things as they are?—By a lively sight of his sin and danger, powerfully applied to his mind and conscience, and appearing as it is, he is awakened to an earnest inquiry after the way of salvation. By a clear discovery of his unworthiness and impotence, he is brought to the footstool of God’s sovereignty, and to an earnest desire of an interest in Christ; as I observed before. But here the soul is often plunged into greatest darkness and distress: his guilt stares him in the face; he sees he has no claim to mercy, nothing that can entitle him to it; he has been struggling in vain, to mortify his corruptions, to enliven his affections, and to do something to recommend himself to God’s favor; and is now perhaps ready to give up the case, as helpless and hopeless; he cannot see how God can have mercy upon such a guilty, polluted, hard-hearted, hellish sinner, as he is. Propose to him the only remedy for such lost sinners; and how many objections will lie in the way! How many arguments will he bring against believing in Christ: from his own unworthiness and want of qualifications to come to him; from the decrees of God; from his having sinned away the day of grace, and the like; even till he runs into despair, unless the Spirit of God disperse the dark cloud, and give him a right view of redeeming mercy! But when once such a distressed soul sees this as it is, when once he has an impressed sense of gospel grace, and is brought to see indeed, that he is invited to come to Christ, notwithstanding all his guilt, and unworthiness; and that this precious Savior is able and willing to bestow all that salvation upon him, which he stands in need of, then his objections are silenced; and he cannot refrain from heartily complying with the offer. Then he can commit his soul to him; for he sees that there is the utmost safety in doing it. Then he can depend upon him as the author of his eternal salvation; for he sees that he has no whither else to go, and that Christ has the words of eternal life.

It is remarkable that the Scriptures everywhere annex salvation to faith, and to the belief of the truth; and we are told, 1 John 5:1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” But what are we to understand by this belief? Will a cold and inactive assent to this truth interest us in Christ and his salvation? No! “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 9:1. In which is more than a bare assent implied.

It implies such a realizing view as makes all the offers of salvation by Christ certain, and his purchased benefits present to the believer. And when a weary and heavy laden soul hath such a sight of the fullness and sufficiency, of the kindness and compassion of Christ; and of his willingness to save him upon his coming to him, as makes this comfortable truth as it were personally present to his mind; when he has such a view that this Savior is offered freely to him, “without money and without price;” it is impossible for him to do otherwise than consent to such reasonable terms of salvation. How can he refuse his consent to these terms, when his distress of soul had before prepared him for a compliance with any terms of obtaining God’s favor? It is impossible for him to do otherwise than set the highest value on such a Savior, when he has this sight, that grace here, and glory hereafter is implied in his interest in Christ. It is impossible for him to do otherwise than have his dependence upon Christ only, when he has this sight, that in him all fullness dwells, and that there is no safety anywhere else. But I hope, if God will, more particularly to describe a true saving faith. I am now only endeavoring to show, that the Spirit of God works this grace in us by illuminating our minds; and giving us a right exercise of our understandings.

6.   The Spirit of God does likewise carry on the work of grace in a believer’s sanctification, by continued views of spiritual things as they are. By faith the soul is united to the Lord Jesus Christ; and becomes one spirit with him. By faith, believers have an interest in all the benefits of Christ’s redemption. They have thereby a claim to all the promises of the covenant of grace, and may safely and confidently depend upon the faithfulness of God, that he will give them grace and glory; that they shall be kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation; that he who hath begun a good work in them, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ; that he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for them all, will with him also freely give them all things; and that upon their believing in Christ, out of their bellies shall flow rivers of living water. And what way is this glorious work of grace carried on in the soul, but by the continued assistances of the blessed Spirit to act reasonably, and to maintain a lively apprehension and impression of invisible realities? How comes the believer to hate every false way, but by a lively view of the vileness and unreasonableness of sinning against God? What excites him to live in the love of God, but a realizing impression of the excellency of his nature, the infinite value of his favor, and the endearing attractions of his goodness, kindness and compassion? What makes him in love with holiness, but a sensible discovery of its internal beauty and agreeableness to a reasonable being? How comes he weaned from the world, but by a true sight of its vanity and utter insufficiency to satisfy the desires of an immortal nature? How come his affections placed upon the things above, but from a like discovery of the value and importance of things unseen and eternal? What is communion with God, but a just impression of what pertains to God and godliness? And what the evidences of God’s favor, but a realizing sight of the actings of grace in our souls, and of the truth of the invitations and promises of the gospel? The extraordinary influences of the Spirit in his immediate communications of light and joy to the believer, are but still a brighter discovery of things as they are. In a word, in whatever aspect this case is considered, what I am pleading for will, I think, appear to be truth. The whole work of sanctification is carried on by illumination, and by the soul’s being brought, through the influences of God’s Spirit, to the exercise of knowledge and understanding; and to this the Apostle ascribes it. Eph. 1:17, 18, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling; and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

Upon the whole, I cannot see that the Spirit of God does in any other manner, work this wonderful in the change in the hearts of sinners, than by giving them a just view of things as they are, by bringing them to act reasonably, worthy the dignity of their rational nature, and the intellectual powers they are endued with. By this he [the Holy Spirit] conquers the enmity to God there is in their hearts; and brings them from the power of their lusts, of Satan, and the world, into the fear and favor of God. By opening their eyes, he turns them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may have an inheritance among those that are sanctified.



“Be not afraid: only believe.”
–Mark V. 36.

The difficulties of religion are not in the understanding.

The first problem, salvation by faith alone, is the simplest proposition that ever was placed before the mind of man. It reminds me of a pretty illustration of the childlike simplicity of a Christian’s trust, as I once heard it in the Sermon of a French preacher.

Two children, standing at evening on the summit of a hill, watching the setting sun, as it seemed slowly to roll along the bright horizon —” What a way,” said the elder, “the sun has moved since we saw it coming from behind that tree.” “And yet you remember,” said the younger boy, “we learned in this morning’s lesson with our father, that the sun never moves at all.” “I know we did,” replied the first, “but I do not believe it, because I see that it is not so. I saw the sun rise there this morning, and I see it set there to-night. How can a thing get all that distance without moving: you know very well that if we did not move, we should remain always just where we are upon the hill.” “But our father,” said the other, “our father told us it is the earth that moves.” “That is impossible too,” replied the elder: “for you see it does not move: I am standing upon it now, and so are you, and it does not stir: how can you pretend to think it moves, while all the time it stands quietly under your feet?” “I see all that, as plain as you do” — rejoined the younger — “I feel the ground quite still under my feet —I see the sun rise on that side, and set on that side of the heavens. I don’t know how it can be —it seems impossible, —but our Father says it, and therefore it is so.”

These simple ones might divide mankind between them, and carry the banner of their parties through the world, from first to last; from the gates of paradise to the judgment-seat: there never has been, and never will be any other division, but they that take, and they that will not take, their Father’s word. Every page of the Bible is a declaration of this truth: every page in human history is a manifestation of it: every page in our own life and conversation is a perpetual confirmation of it. The believing and the unbelieving, the righteous and the wicked, the happy and the miserable, the saved and the lost, the justified and the condemned, the dead and the living, we may take the scripture definition of the two parties under what terms we please —explain them, descant upon them, write volumes on volumes to elucidate or to confound them: it comes to the one simple proposition at the last: they that do, and they that do not, take their Father’s word. Can the youngest amongst us, the most ignorant, the most foolish, pretend to say we do not understand it: we do not know what is meant by faith? We are not sure if we have faith enough, if we have right faith or wrong faith, or any faith at all? As if it were some strange mysterious thing; conjured into or out of us we know not how, inherited of our parents, imparted at our baptism: conferred upon us, or exercised for us by the church? The subjects of faith may be indeed mysterious —inscrutable, incomprehensible. Nay, they must be so —they must always have been so —they must always be so — when it pleases God to reveal himself in them; because the creature cannot compass the Creator, the finite comprehend the infinite. Can a man search out God? No, nor a saint, nor an angel! There will be to all eternity an exercise of faith; and it will be then, what it is now —” Our Father says it.” It may be visually —it may be orally —it may be by communication of Spirit with Spirit, without voice or vision: there have been many ways of intercommunication between the Creator and his creatures here: and there may be other ways hereafter, in which it never has been here. It is not this which makes the difference. It is enough if we recognize our Father’s word. Our reception of it will be hereafter, like that first out-breaking of the light upon this earthly globe —”Let there be light —and there was light.” “Light be —and light was,” which is the closer sense. “God willed light —and behold light,” perhaps is closer still. There will be no hesitating —doubting —reasoning —proving: one reason and one proof, will be for all. “Our Father says it.” Be it revelation, manifestation, or command: be it something to do, to have, to be, or to believe: —” God wills, and it is so,” will be the faith of heaven.

The practical simplicity of faith, is beautifully exhibited throughout the Old Testament. “Why art thou wroth,” said the Lord to Cain: “If thou dost well, shalt thou not be accepted Cain witnessed the acceptance of Abel’s offering. If he had no previous command, or had not understood it, what was more simple than to believe what he saw; and instead of hating and slaying his brother, to go straightway and offer the acceptable thing? The world beheld the building of the Ark. They knew what it was building for: they heard all that Noah had heard, and saw all that he was doing: it is especially said, “Whereby he condemned the world,” showing that what was enough to convince him, might have convinced them. He did not know what rain was —he saw no signs of a flood —any more than they did? Why were they not moved with fear as he was? The case of Lot was something different; in that the people of Sodom had indeed no opportunity to believe: they did not know what God was doing that night. But there were some who did; who had the offer to depart, and would not, and the cause was very simple: He seemed as one that mocked to his sons-in-law. There was one who went out, who probably did not believe; she looked back to see if it was so or not. Throughout all the Bible history, we find the same results. The father of the faithful gained that high distinction which is ever since his blessed cognomen, not by mere obedience in giving up to God the child of his affections: thousands have had faith enough for simple resignation: but by such signal reliance upon the word of God, he was not afraid to slay the promised seed: he knew that he must have his Isaac back: he was prepared to make his father’s word apparently impossible, in full assurance that it must be true.

In the New Testament, we may study the doctrinal simplicity of this faith, as illustrated in every miracle the blessed Jesus wrought; to learn the nature and the power of that “Only,” by which everything was proposed, accepted, and received. This simplicity was of a threefold character. First, it was faith “only” in the heart of the recipient. Jesus never desired the supplicant to do “some great thing;” to do anything, but that which necessarily implied or followed upon believing — “Stretch forth thy hand,” “Take up thy bed, Sec.” He never asked what they had been doing hitherto: what character they bore, or what state of mind they were otherwise in: apparently, there was no impediment to his gracious operations but unbelief. “He could not do many works there, because of their unbelief.” “If thou canst believe.” “All things are possible to him that believeth.” “Believe only, and she shall be made whole.” Secondly, there was to be singleness in the object of belief: it was faith in Himself “only:” in his power, his word, his works, as the manifestation of God the Father. When the Apostles wrought miracles, they required belief in another —in the name of the holy child Jesus. He never required faith in anything but Himself, the incarnate word of God: He reproved their readiness to believe in something else: If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. Nay —God as he was, and knew himself to be, Jesus never bade any man to believe in him, except as he proved himself to be the Son of God, and spoke the words of God —”The word that I speak is not mine, but the Father’s that sent me.” “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.” What are we to think of those, who in the face of this, now claim authority for their own words and doings, or those of any other men, without examination of them by the Father’s word? Jesus gave, nay, imposed on every individual of the perverse and ignorant multitude to whom he spoke, the right, the necessity, the responsibility of private judgment: not as to the truth of the Father’s words —but whether that which he — even he spoke was of the Father or not.

The third manner of simplicity was singleness of intention, of desire —more properly perhaps than either, singleness of consent: we commonly express it by singleness of heart. To one who applies to him for help, Jesus answers, “According to your faith, be it unto you.” To another, “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” words applicable to the subject-matter, as well as to the proportion of their faith. There was no duplicity of desire then: the blind wished to see —the centurion would have his servant healed by any means: they wished precisely that which they requested; and did not care who did it or how, so it was done: they believed too the extremity of the case, that it could be done by no ordinary means. The centurion’s faith is most striking in this particular, he desired not the intervention of means: he would not have the master to come down to his unworthy house: he preferred that he should do it, as he believed he could do it, by the utterance only of his sovereign word. Jesus himself marveled at the willingness of this belief: so unlike the tardy, reluctant faith, that often impeded his workmanship in Israel: that even threatened to interfere with the raising of the beloved Lazarus. But suppose that in any case the will had not been single: that pride, or prejudice, or reason had been in the way; so that the applicant half wished the power appealed to, might not be proved sufficient of itself; and means might be used, which would entitle them to doubt the nature of the cure : they had been better pleased, at least to find another remedy, so that they might not be compelled to have recourse to him: and meant to excuse themselves from believing in his divinity after all. Whether this was the feeling of any who came to Jesus to be healed, we do not know —not impossibly it was —and to such, “According to thy faith,” would not be a very pleasant grant. Wilt thou be made whole?  —seemed a strange question to him who had been in a state of suffering, thirty and eight years. He was willing, no doubt, though he understood not who it was; but there is something of ominous warning in the close, “Behold, Thou art made whole; sin no more lest a worse thing befall thee.” Possibly he had received to the extent of his desires —a present help without the saving knowledge of the power that did it, which could alone preserve him from future ills. With those who only witnessed the Savior’s miracles, we know that it was so: they were displeased at the very benefits he conferred. “For which of my good deeds dost thou stone me?” Their denial was a false one; they were as much incensed when he proved himself the Son of God, as when he said it: they would rather his attempted miracles had failed; and when they beheld his power, tried still to attribute it to other means: even to Beelzebub himself. There are always those who do not like what their Father says. They desire to be saved, but there is a reservation of the will, as to the means: they would rather it were not by the blood of Jesus simply: if it must be so, it must, but they would have it otherwise: they would rather heal themselves: or use the instrumentality of other things — churches, or sacraments, or alms, or penance, anything by which they may be excused from ascribing all the work to the free grace of God. They prefer the teaching of those who describe it otherwise: they are willingly persuaded not to trust the Holy Book: they would rather that their Father’s sayings were not true. Are these hearts single?

Duplicity in any one of these particulars, is fatal to the simplicity of faith. “Let not that man think he shall receive anything of God:” the “Only” is not complied with. The blessed Jesus, when he was upon earth, often pointed out the impediments to the required faith: we cannot too closely investigate what they were, for they are still the same. Sometimes it was Satan who had blinded their eyes, that they should not believe. Sometimes it was sin, or the love of sin —”Lest their deeds should be reproved.” Then it was unbelief or ignorance of what they professed to receive —”If ye believe not Moses and the prophets.” In one place, Jesus says, “How can ye believe who receive honor one of another?” in another, there was unwillingness to make the sacrifice, “How hardly shall they that have riches.” Every obstacle to believing in Jesus now, will be found to have been in operation then. It was never want of understanding what he said, that made the difficulty: he never required them first to understand how he performed his works; how he healed —how he restored. It was “Only believe.” To one who raised a difficulty quite natural to reason and experience, “Lord, by this time he stinks,” Jesus only answered, “Did I not tell thee, if thou wouldst believe.”

“Go, wash in Jordan seven times.” Is that all? Was the resisting first thought of the Syrian leper: but it was all; and had very nearly been that only thing too much. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “Is that all?” is the resisting first thought of the sinner: but it is all —and alas! It is that all too much. Nay, we go farther back than this: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, “Ye shall not eat of it.” “Is that all,” might well have been the first thought then — and most probably it was: but there was one who knew that even that little “Only” would be too much: enough at least for him to give the lie to; and therefore enough to lose the whole human race. Why should life and death be suspended on so small a matter? How could it be? Nay, it was not possible it should be — and therefore Eve ate, and Adam fell, and man was lost eternally. No child of Adam is lost finally, without a repetition, for the most part, many repetitions, of exactly the same process. How can salvation be by faith alone? Why should a man be condemned for his opinions? It is not likely eternity should depend upon so small a matter. It is not possible that faith can save us —and therefore, it ends as it began —the commandment has gone forth into all lands: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be ye saved,” —the greater number say it cannot be —and perish in unbelief. Apparently then the only condition of human salvation, is not, as is alleged, too easy, but too difficult: so difficult that everything is preferred before it —everything is tried before it is consented to; everything is more readily and easily complied with: so difficult, in fact, that nothing but the interposing power of God’s Holy Spirit, ever yet induced a sinner to believe and live. Why is it so? Doubtless because all other ways are man’s ways: and fall in with the tastes and dispositions of his depraved nature, more or less: with his pride, his sensuality, his independence, his self-love, his self-indulgence: often crossing the one to gratify the other; but always congenial to the self of the entire manhood. Salvation by faith only is of God, and therefore opposed to the whole fallen nature; to all its dispositions —all its tastes —that entire self of which it demands the sacrifice. We know not where else to find an explanation of so great a wonder.

We hear of thousands immolated to the gods of India: chariot-wheels streaming with the worshippers’ blood, the waters of Ganges strewed with floating bodies —fires never surfeited with their unnatural fuel. Without charity —without love to God or man —not even to his own God, whom he has far more cause to hate —the devotee gives his body to be burned, because he believes he can so propitiate the savage deity whose supposed word he takes for things the most extravagant; unproved —improbable —very often morally impossible. From Moloch to Mahomet, and from Mahomet to Hildebrand, from Hildebrand onward to Johanna Southcote, and something further still: no invention of Satan or fantasy of man has wanted true believers —honest, devout, self-sacrificing believers: while we know by the testimony of God’s own word, that “No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”

It is not understanding that is wanting, but submission: it is not knowledge that is necessary, but simplicity.

We will not take our Father’s word. And whereas this only condition of salvation has been characterized not by the easiness, but by the difficulty of performance, —not by the many, but by the few that would comply with it: the simple believer may well be on his guard against the alleged improbability so often heard of, that so many sincere, devout, and learned men, carrying the public mind rapidly along with them, can be leading us to error: the real improbability being, that the public mind will ever do otherwise than it always has done, —follow error in preference to truth; believe anything rather than the word of God.

Taken and adapted from, “Sunday afternoons at home”
Written by, Caroline Wilson.
Published in 1844

How God Gives His Child… Salvation From the Power of Sin

Taken and adapted from, “A Fourfold Salvation”
Written by A.W. Pink


A.  Salvation from the Power of Sin Described

This is a present and protracted process, and is as yet incomplete. It is the most difficult part of our subject, and upon it the greatest confusion of thought prevails, especially among young Christians. Many there are who, having learned that the Lord Jesus is the Savior of sinners, have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that if they but exercise faith in Him, surrender to His Lordship, commit their souls into His keeping, He will remove their corrupt nature and destroy their evil propensities. But after they have really trusted in Him, they discover that evil is still present with them, that their hearts are still deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and that no matter how they strive to resist temptation, pray for overcoming grace, and use the means of God’s appointing, they seem to grow worse and worse instead of better, until they seriously doubt if they are saved at all. They are now being saved.

Even when a person has been regenerated and justified, the flesh or corrupt nature remains within him and ceaselessly harasses him. Yet this ought not to perplex him. To the saints at Rome Paul said, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12), which would be entirely meaningless had sin been eradicated from them. Writing to the Corinthian saints he said, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1): obviously such an exhortation is needless if sin has been purged from our beings. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:6): what need have Christians for such a word as this, except pride lurks and works within them. But all room for controversy on this point is excluded if we bow to that inspired declaration, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John  1:8).

The old carnal nature remains in the believer: he is still a sinner, though a saved one. What, then is the young Christian to do? Is he powerless? Must he resort to stoicism, and make up his mind there is naught but a life of defeat before him? Certainly not! The first thing for him to do is to learn the humiliating truth that in himself he is “without strength.” It was here that Israel failed: when Moses made known to them the Law they boastfully declared “all that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). Ah! How little did they realize that “in the flesh there dwells no good thing.” It was here, too, that Peter failed: he was self-confident and boasted that “though all men be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended…though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee”—how little he knew his own heart. This complacent spirit lurks within each of us. While we cherish the belief we can “do better next time” it is evident that we still have confidence in our own powers. Not until we heed the Savior’s words “without Me ye can do nothing” do we take the first step toward victory. Only when we are weak (in ourselves) are we strong.

The believer still has the carnal nature within him, and he has no strength in himself to check its evil propensities, nor to overcome its sinful solicitation. But the believer in Christ also has another nature within him which is received at the new birth: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The believer, then, has two natures within him: one which is sinful, the other which is spiritual. These two natures being totally different in character, are antagonistic to each other. To this antagonism or conflict the apostle referred when he said, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). Now which of these two natures is to regulate the believer’s life. It is manifest that both cannot, for they are contrary to each other. It is equally evident that the stronger of the two will exert the more controlling power. It is also clear that in the young Christian the carnal nature is the stronger, because he was born with it, and hence it has many years start of the spiritual nature, which he did not receive until he was born again.

Further, it is unnecessary to argue at length that the only way by which we can strengthen and develop the new nature, is by feeding it. In every realm growth is dependent upon food, suitable food, daily food. The nourishment which God has provided for our spiritual nature is found in His own Word, for “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It is to this that Peter has reference when he says, “As newborn babes desire the sincere (pure) milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (Peter 2:2). In proportion as we feed upon the heavenly Manna, such will be our spiritual growth. Of course there are other things besides food needful to growth: we must breathe, and in a pure atmosphere. This, translated into spiritual terms, signifies prayer. It is when we approach the throne of grace and meet our Lord face to face that our spiritual lungs are filled with the ozone of Heaven. Exercise is another essential to growth, and this finds its accomplishment in walking with the Lord. If, then we heed these primary laws of spiritual health, the new nature will flourish.

But not only must the new nature be fed, it is equally necessary for our spiritual well-being that the old nature should be starved. This is what the apostle had in mind when he said, “Make no provision for the flesh, unto the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). To starve the old nature, to make not provision for the flesh, means that we abstain from everything that would stimulate our carnality; that we avoid, as we would a plague, all that is calculated to prove injurious to our spiritual welfare. Not only must we deny ourselves the pleasures of sin, shun such things as the saloon, theatre, dance, card-table, etc., but we must separate ourselves from the worldly companions, cease to read worldly literature, abstain from everything upon which we cannot ask God’s blessing. Our affections are to be set upon things above, and not upon things upon the earth (Colossians 3:2). Does this seem a high standard, and sound impracticable? Holiness in all things is that at which we are to aim, and failure to do so explains the leanness of so many Christians. Let the young believer realize that whatever does not help his spiritual life hinders it.

Here, then, in brief is the answer to our question, “What is the young Christian to do in order for deliverance from indwelling sin.”

It is true that we are still in this world, but we are not of it (John 17:14). It is true that we are forced to associate with godless people, but this is ordained of God in order that we may “let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). There is a wide difference between associating with sinners as we go about our daily tasks, and making them our intimate companions and friends. Only as we feed upon the word can we “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Only as we starve the old nature can we expect deliverance from its power and pollution. Then let us earnestly heed that exhortation “put ye off concerning the former conversation (behavior) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Above, we have dealt only with the human side of the problem as to how to obtain deliverance from the dominion of sin. Necessarily there is a Divine side too. It is only by God’s grace that we are enabled to use the means which He has provided us, as it is only by the power of His Spirit who dwells within us that we can truly “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1). These two aspects (the Divine and the human) are brought together in a number of scriptures. We are bidden to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” but the apostle immediately added, “for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Thus, we are to work out that which God has wrought within us; in other words, if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). It has now been shown that salvation from the power of sin is a process which goes on throughout the believer’s life. It is to this Solomon referred when he said, “The path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). As our salvation from the pleasure of sin is the consequence of our regeneration, and as salvation from the penalty of sin respects our justification, so salvation from the power of sin has to do with the practical side of our sanctification. The word sanctification signifies “separation”—separation from sin. We need hardly say that the word holiness is strictly synonymous with “sanctification,” being an alternative rendering of the same Greek word. As the practical side of sanctification has to do with our separation from sin, we are told, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). That practical sanctification or holiness is a process, a progressive experience, is clear from this: “Follow…holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The fact that we are to “follow” holiness clearly intimates that we have not yet attained unto the Divine standard which God requires of us. This is further seen in the passage just quoted: “perfecting holiness” or completing it.

B.  The Divine Side of Our Salvation from the Power of Sin

We must now enter into a little fuller detail of the Divine side of our salvation from the power and pollution of sin. When a sinner truly receives Christ as his Lord and Savior, God does not then and there take him to Heaven; on the contrary, he is likely to be left down here many years, and this world is a place of danger for it lies in the wicked one (1 John 5:19) and all pertaining to it is opposed to the Father (1 John :16). Therefore the believer needs salvation from this hostile system. Accordingly we read that Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). Not only is the sinner not taken to Heaven when he first savingly believes; but, as we have seen, the evil nature is not taken out of him; nevertheless God does not leave him completely under its dominion, but graciously delivers him from its regal power. He uses a great variety of means in accomplishing this.

1. A clearer view of inward depravity

[God delivers us from sin’s power] by granting us a clearer view of our inward depravity, so that we are made to abhor ourselves. By nature we are thoroughly in love with ourselves, but as the Divine work of grace is carried forward in our souls we come to loathe ourselves; and that, my reader, is a very distressing experience—one that is conveniently shelved by most of our modern preachers. The concept which many young Christians form from preachers is, that the experience of a genuine believer is a smooth, peaceful, and joyful one; but he soon discovers that this is not verified in his personal history, but rather is it completely falsified. And this staggers him: supposing the preacher to know much more about such matters than himself, he is now filled with disturbing doubts about his very salvation, and the Devil promptly tells him he is only a hypocrite, and never was saved at all.

Only those who have actually passed through or are passing through this painful experience have any real conception thereof: there is as much difference between an actual acquaintance with it, and the mere reading of a description of it as there is between personally visiting a country and examining it at first hand, and simply studying a map of it. But how are we to account for one who has been saved from the pleasure and penalty of sin, now being made increasingly conscious not only of its polluting presence but of its tyrannizing power? How explain the fact that the Christian now finds himself growing worse and worse, and the more closely he endeavors to walk with God, the more he finds the flesh bringing forth its horrible works in ways it had not done previously? The answer is, because of increased light from God, by which he now discovers filth of which he was previously unawares: the sun shining into a neglected room does not create the dust and cobwebs, but simply reveals them.

Thus it is with the Christian. The more the light of the Spirit is turned upon him inwardly, the more he discovers the horrible plague of his heart (1 Kings 8:38), and the more he realizes what a wretched failure he is. The fact is, dear discovered soul, that the more you are growing out of love with yourself, the more you are being saved from the power of sin. Wherein lies its fearful potency? Why, in its power to deceive us. It lies to us. It did so to Adam and Eve. It gives us false estimates of value so that we mistake the tinsel for real gold. To be saved from the power of sin, is to have our eyes opened so that we see things in God’s light: it is to know the truth about things all around us, and the truth about ourselves. Satan has blinded the minds of them that believe not, but the Holy Spirit hath shined in our hearts “unto the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4,6).

But further: sin not only deceives, it puffs up, causing its infatuated victims to think highly of themselves. As 1 Timothy 3:6 tells us, to be “lifted up with pride” is to “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” It was insane egotism which caused him to say, “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14). Is there any wonder, then that those in whom he works are filled with pride and complacency. Sin ever produces self-love and self-righteousness: the most abandoned of characters will tell you, “I know that I am weak, yet I have a good heart.” But when God takes us in hand, it is the very opposite: the working of the Spirit subdues our pride. How? By giving increased discoveries of self and of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, so that each one cries with Job, “Behold! I am vile” (Job 40:4): such a one is being saved from the power of sin—its power to deceive and inflate.

2. Sore chastening

Sore chastening is another means which God uses in delivering His people from sin’s dominion: “We have had fathers of our flesh which have corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:9-10). Those chastenings assume varied forms; sometimes they are external, sometimes internal, but whatever be their nature they are painful to flesh and blood. Sometimes these Divine chastisements are of long duration, and then the soul is apt to ask “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why dost thou hide Thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1), for it seems as though God has deserted us. Earnest prayer is made for a mitigation of suffering, but no relief is granted; grace is earnestly sought for meekly bowing to the rod, but unbelief, impatience, rebellion, seem to wax stronger and stronger, and the soul is hard put to it to believe in God’s love; but as Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “Now no chastening for the present seems joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

This life is a schooling, and chastenings are one of the chief methods God employs in the training of His children. Sometimes they are sent for the correcting of our faults, and therefore we must pray, “Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (Job 6:24). Let us steadily bear in mind that it is the “rod” and not the sword which is smiting us, held in the hand of our loving Father, not an avenging Judge. Sometimes they are sent for the prevention of sin, as Paul was given a thorn in the flesh “lest he should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations” given him. Sometimes they are sent for our spiritual education, that by them we may be brought to a deeper experimental acquaintance with God: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes” (Psalms 119:71). Sometimes they are sent for the testing and strengthening of our graces: “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4); “count it all joy when ye fall into various trials: knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience” (James 1:2-3).

Chastening is God’s sin-purging medicine, sent to wither our fleshly aspirations, to detach our hearts from carnal objects, to deliver us from our idols, to wean us more thoroughly from the world.

God has bidden us, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:14,17); and we are slow to respond, and therefore does He take measures to drive us out. He has bidden us “love not the world,” and if we disobey we must not be surprised if He causes some of our worldly friends to hate and persecute us. God has bidden us “mortify ye therefore your members which are upon the earth” (Colossians. 3:5); if we refuse to comply with this unpleasant task, then we may expect God Himself to use the pruning-knife upon us. God has bidden us: “Cease ye from man” (Isaiah 2:22), and if we will trust our fellows we are made to suffer for it.

“Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5). This is a salutary warning. So far from despising it, we should be grateful for the same; grateful that God cares so much and takes such trouble with us, and that His bitter physic produces such healthful effects. “In their affliction they will seek me early” (Hosea 5:15); while everything is running smoothly for us, we are apt to be self-sufficient; but when trouble comes we promptly turn unto the Lord. Own, then, with the Psalmist—“In faithfulness thou hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). Not only do God’s chastisements, when sanctified to us, subdue the workings of pride and wean us more from the world, but they make the Divine promise more precious to the heart: such a one as this takes on a new meaning, “When thou pass through the waters I will be with thee…when thou walk through the fire thou shalt not be burned” (Isaiah 43:2). Moreover, they break down selfishness and make us more sympathetic to our fellow-sufferers: “Who comfortest us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

3. Bitter disappointments

By bitter disappointments, God has plainly warned us that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit, and there is no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11), and that by one who was permitted to gratify the physical senses as none other ever has been. Yet we do not take his warning to heart, for we do not really believe it. On the contrary, we persuade ourselves that satisfaction is to be found in things under the sun, that the creature can give contentment to our hearts. As well attempt to fill a circle with a square! The heart was made for God, and He alone can meet its needs. But by nature we are idolaters, putting things into His place. Those things we invest with qualities they possess not, and sooner or later our delusions are rudely exposed to us, and we discover that the images in our minds are only dreams, that our golden idol is but clay after all.

God so orders His providences that our earthly nest is destroyed. The winds of adversity compel us to leave the downy bed of carnal ease and luxury. Grievous losses are experienced in some form or other. Trusted friends prove fickle, and in the hour of need they fail us. The family circle which had so long sheltered us and where peace and happiness were found, is broken up by the grim hand of death. Health fails and weary nights are our portion. These trying experiences, these bitter disappointments, are another of the means which our gracious God employs to save us from the pleasure and pollution of sin. By them He discovers to us the vanity and vexation of the creature. By them He weans us more completely from the world. By them He teaches us the objects in which we sought refreshment are but “broken cisterns,” and that we may turn to Christ and draw from Him who is the Well of living water, the One who can alone supply true satisfaction of soul.

It is in this way we are experimentally taught to look off from the present to the future, for our rest is not here. “For we are saved by hope but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why does he yet hope for?” (Romans 8:24). Let it be duly noted that this comes immediately after “we ourselves groan within ourselves.” Thus to be “saved by hope” respects our present salvation from the power of sin. Complete salvation is now the Christian’s only in title and expectation. It is not here said that we “shall be saved by hope,” but that we are saved by hope—that hope which looks for the fulfilling of God’s promises. Hope has to do with a future good, with something which as yet “is seen not.” We hope not for something which is already enjoyed. Herein hope differs from faith. Faith, as it is an assent, is in the mind; but hope is seated in the affections, stirred by the desirability of the things promised.

And, my reader, the bitter disappointments of life are naught but the dark background upon which hope may shine forth the more brightly. Christ does not immediately take to Heaven the one who puts his trust in Him. No, He keeps him here upon earth for a while to be exercised and tried. While he is awaiting his complete blessedness there is such a difference between him and it, and he encounters many difficulties and trials. Not having yet received his inheritance, there is need and occasion of hope, for only by its exercise can things future be sought after. The stronger our hope, the more earnestly shall we be engaged in the pursuit of it. We have to be weaned from present things in order for the heart to be fixed upon a future good.

4. A gift of the Spirit

It is a gift of the Spirit; His operations are within us. God’s great gift of Christ for us is matched by the gift of the Spirit in us, for we owe as much to the One as we do to the Other. The new nature in the Christian is powerless apart from the Spirit’s daily renewing. It is by His gracious operations that we have discovered to us the nature and extent of sin, are made to strive against it, and are brought to grieve over it. It is by the Spirit that faith, hope, and prayer are kept alive within the soul. It is by the Spirit we are moved to use the means of grace which God has appointed for our spiritual preservation and growth. It is by the Spirit that sin is prevented from having complete dominion over us, for as the result of His indwelling in us, there is something else besides sin in the believer’s heart and life, namely, the fruits of holiness and righteousness.

To sum up this aspect of our subject. Salvation from the power of indwelling sin is not the taking of the evil nature out of the believer in this life, nor by effecting any improvement in it: “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) and it remains so, unchanged to the end.

Nor is it by the Spirit so subduing indwelling sin that it is rendered less active, for the flesh not merely lusts, but “lusteth [ceaselessly] against the spirit;” it never sleeps, not even when our bodies do, as our dreams evidence. No, and in some form or other, the flesh is constantly producing its evil works. It may not be in external acts, seen by the eyes of our fellows, but certainly so internally, in things seen by God—such as covetousness, discontent, pride, unbelief, self-will toward others, and a hundred other evils. No, none is saved from sinning in this life.

Present salvation from the power of sin consists in, first, delivering us from the love of it, which though begun at our regeneration is continued throughout our practical sanctification. Second, from its blinding delusiveness, so that it can no more deceive as it once did. Third, from our excusing it: “that which I do, I allow not” (Romans 7:15). This is one of the surest marks of regeneration. In the fullest sense of the word the believer “allows” it not before he sins, for every real Christian when in his right mind desires to be wholly kept from sinning. He “allows” it not fully when doing it, for in the actual committing thereof there is an inward reserve—the new nature consents not. He “allows” it not afterwards, as Psalm 51 evidences so plainly in the case of David.

The force of this word “allow” in Romans 7:15 may be seen from “truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them (the prophets) and ye build their sepulchers” (Luke 11:48). So far from those Jews being ashamed of their fathers and abhorring their wicked conduct, they erected a monument to their honor. Thus, to “allow” is the opposite of to be ashamed of and sorrow over it: it is to condone and vindicate. Therefore, when it is said that the believer “allows not” the evil of which he is guilty, it means that he seeks not to justify himself or throw the blame on someone else, as both Adam and Eve did.

That the Christian allows not sin is evident by his shame over it, his sorrow for it, his confession of it, his loathing himself because of it, his renewed resolution to forsake it.

Thoughts on Josiah, and when death is a blessing…

Taken, adapted and condensed from, “Josiah’s Reformation, Laid Open in Four Sermons”
Sermon IV, Published in 1637,
Written by Richard Sibbes.


Behold, I will gather thee to your fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to your grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
—2 Chronicles 34:28.

IT is for the most part the privilege of a Christian…

…that his last days are his best; and ‘though weeping be in the evening, yet joy comes in the morning,’ Ps. 30:5; though he do begin in darkness, yet he ends in light. Whereas, on the contrary, the wicked begin in jollity and light, but end in darkness; yea, such a darkness as is ‘utter darkness,’ Mat. 8:12—by Peter called the ‘blackness of darkness,’ 2 Pet. 2:17—the preparations whereunto are, God’s outward judgments in this life inflicted upon the impenitent and rebellious, wherein God many times puts a sensible, visible difference betwixt the godly and the wicked; as betwixt Lot and the Sodom-mites, Noah and the adulterous world, Moses and the Israelites with him, from Korah, Dathan, and his company, the Egyptians and the Israelites at the Red Sea; and in this text, betwixt this good king and his people. He must not see all the evil that God was to bring upon his wicked and rebellious subjects. Oh the happiness of holiness, which is sure to speed well in all storms whatsoever; because on all the glory there is a defense, as Isaiah speaks, Isa. 4:5. Light is sown for the righteous, Ps. 97:11; and whatsoever his troubles be, yet his last end shall be blessed. ‘Let me die,’ saith Balaam, ‘the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his,’ Num. 23:10. Such honor have all his saints, such honor had this good king Josiah; being removed from hence that he might not see the evil to come. Though he were taken from earth, yet it was for his good, that he might be gathered into heaven, and make a royal exchange.

The words contain a promise of a reward, and great favor unto good king Josiah, that he should die, and be gathered unto his fathers; and that which is more, the manner considered, that he should ‘die in peace;’ the ground whereof is showed unto him: ‘Because thine eyes shall not see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same.’ God’s promises are of three sorts. First, Such as he made upon condition of legal obedience: ‘Do this and thou shall live.’ Secondly, When we are humbled upon sight of our sins, then he propounds another way, and promises that if we believe in Jesus Christ our surety, who hath made satisfaction for us, then we shall live. This is the grand promise of all, the promise of life everlasting, and pardon of sin. Thirdly, There are promises of encouragement unto us, when we are in the state of grace. As a father, who means to make his son an heir, does give him many promises of encouragement, so God deals with his children, when they are in the covenant of grace.

There are, I say, promises of particular rewards to encourage them, as they are sure of the main and great reward, namely, everlasting life. Therefore Josiah being an heir of heaven, God did propound a promise of encouragement unto him, by way of favor, to show that his good works were not unregarded.

In general here,

First, We may observe God’s gracious dealing with his children, that he takes notice of every good thing they do, and does reward them for it, yea, in this life. There is not a sigh but God hears it, not a tear but he hath a bottle for it. Most men spare God a labor in this kind. He promises ‘to wipe away all tears from our eyes,’ Rev. 21:4, but they will shed none. Yet the least tear shed, and word spoken in a good cause, goes not without a reward from God; not so much as a cup of cold water, but he rewards. Which must needs be so: Because God looks upon the good things we do, being his own works in us, as upon lovely objects, with a love unto them; for though Josiah had said nothing, yet his deep humiliation itself, was as it were a prayer, that cried strongly in the ears of God, that he could not but reward it. So that partly because God looks upon us as lovely objects, he loving the work of his own Spirit, and partly because they cry unto God, as it were, and pluck down a blessing from heaven, they cannot go unrewarded.

This is matter of comfort, that God will not only reward us with heaven, but will also recompense good thing we do, even in this world; yea, such is his bounty, he rewards hypocrites. Because he will not be beholding to them for any good thing they do, nor have them die unrewarded, he recompenses them with some outward favors, which is all they desire. Ahab did but act counterfeit humiliation, and he was rewarded for it, 1 Kings 21:27–29. So the Scribes and Pharisees did many good things, and had that they looked for. They looked not for heaven, but for the praise of men. This they had, as Christ tells them, ‘Verily, I say unto you, you have your reward,’ Mat. 6:5. God will be beholding to none; but whosoever do anything that is good, they shall have some reward, whether they be good or bad. If the conscience of a man did judge well, he might come to God with boldness, not to brag of good works, but out of a humble heart saying, ‘Remember me, O Lord, as I have dealt with thee.’ So good Hezekiah did: ‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before thee in truth,’ Isa. 38:3. When we labor in all our actions to please God, we may with boldness approach to the throne of grace, and say with Peter, Remember, Lord, ‘you knowest that I love thee,’ John 21:15. If there were no other reward but this, that we have a privilege to go to God with boldness, our conscience not accusing us, it were enough. What a shame is it, then, that we should be so barren in good works, seeing our labor shall not be unrewarded of the Lord! Oh then let us take counsel of the apostle: ‘Finally, my brethren, be ye stedfast and unmoveable, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,’ 1 Cor. 15:58. He hath a reward for every cup of cold water, for every tear. Every good deed we do hath the force of a prayer to beg a blessing; yea, our very tears speak loud to God, although we say nothing. But to come to particulars.

‘Behold, I will gather thee to your fathers,’ 

Here we see this word behold, a word serving to stir up attention, set before the promise, which was formerly set before a threatening, ‘Behold, I will bring evil upon this place,’ &c. Behold is as necessary before promises as threatenings. For the soul is ready to behold that which is evil, and by nature is prone to dejection, and to cast down itself. Therefore there need be a ‘behold’ put before the promise, to raise up the dejected soul of Josiah or others, and all little enough. Christians should have two eyes, one to look upon the ill, the other upon the good, and the grace of God that is in them, that so we may be thankful. But they for the most part look only upon the ill that is in them, and so God wants his glory and we our comfort.

‘Behold, I will gather thee to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace.’

Therefore it is that the Holy Ghost sweetens death with a phrase of ‘gathering.’ Instead of saying, you shall die, he saith, ‘you shall be gathered.’ How many phrases have we in Scripture that have comfort wrapped in them, as there is in this phrase, ‘you shall be gathered to your grave in peace.’ I will not speak how many ways peace is taken in Scripture. ‘You shall die in peace;’ that is, you shall die quietly, honorably, and peaceably. And you shall not see the misery that I will bring upon the state and kingdom. You shall be gathered to your fathers, which is meant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the faithful patriarchs.

Only observe, it is a very sweet word, and imports unto us, that death is nothing but a gathering, and presupposes that God’s children are all scattered in this world amongst wicked men, in a forlorn place, where they are used untowardly, as pilgrims use to be in a strange land. Therefore we had need be gathered, and it is a comfort to be gathered. But from whence shall he be gathered? He shall be gathered from a wicked, confused world; and to whom shall he go? To his Father. His soul shall go to their souls, his body shall be laid in the grave with theirs. As if he had said, you shall leave some company, but go to better; you shall leave a kingly estate, but you shall go to a better kingdom.

The changes of God’s children are for the better. Death to them is but a gathering. This gathering does show the preciousness of the thing gathered; for God does not use to gather things of no value. Josiah was a pearl worth the gathering. He was one of high esteem, very precious. So every Christian is dearly bought, with the blood of Christ. Therefore God will not suffer him to perish, but will gather him before the evil days come. As men use to gather jewels before fire comes into their houses; or as husbandmen will be sure to gather their corn, before they will let the beasts come into the field; so saith God to him, I will be sure to gather thee before I bring destruction upon the land. We are all by nature lost in Adam, and scattered from God, therefore we must be gathered again in Christ. For all gathering that is good is in him; for he is the head of all union that is good. And this is to be wrought by the ordinances of God, by the means of the ministry, which is appointed unto that end, to gather us, as Mat. 23:37, Christ speaks to Jerusalem, ‘How often would I have gathered you together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not.’ Christ would have gathered them unto himself, by his word, but they refused.

All the gathering of a Christian in this life is a gathering to Christ by faith, and to the communion of saints by love, 1 Thes. 4:17; and the more he does grow in grace, the more near communion he hath with Christ. Then after this gathering by grace, there comes by death a gathering to Christ in glory. For the soul goes forever and ever to be with the Lord. After this comes a higher degree of gathering at the Day of Judgment, when there shall be a great meeting of all saints, and the soul and body shall be reunited together, to remain forever with the Lord. Let us then think of this, that whatsoever befalls us in the world, we shall be sure to be gathered, for death is but a gathering. For from whence goes Josiah? From a sinful world, a sinful estate, a wretched people, unto his fathers, who are all good, nay, to God his Father. We are all here as Daniel in the lion’s den, as sheep among wolves; but at death we shall be gathered to our fathers. It is a gathering to a better place, to heaven; and to better persons, to fathers, where we shall be forever praising the Lord, never offending him, loving and pleasing one another. Here Christians displease one another, and cannot be gathered together in love and affection, but there they shall be gathered in unity of love forever.

This serves, first of all, to comfort us in departure of friends, to render their souls up with comfort into the hands of God. We know they are not lost, but sent before us. We shall be gathered to them, they cannot come to us. Therefore why should we grieve? They are gathered in quietness and rest to their fathers. This should also make us render our souls to God, as into the hands of a faithful Creator and Redeemer. From whence go we? From a sinful world and place of tears, to a place of happiness above expression. Why should we be afraid of death? It is but a gathering to our fathers. What a comfort is it to us in this world, that we shall go to a place where all is good, where we shall be perfectly renewed, made in the image of God, and shall have nothing defaced? Let this raise up our dead and drowsy souls. Thus we shall be one day gathered. The wicked shall be gathered together, but a woeful gathering is it. They shall be gathered like a bundle of tares, to be thrown into hell, there forever to burn. They are dross and chaff, never gathered to Christ by faith, nor to the body of the church by love; and therefore they are as dross and chaff, which the wind scatters here, and shall forever be scattered hereafter, Ps. 1:4. They are, as Cain, vagabonds in regard of the life of grace here; and therefore shall be forever scattered from the life of glory hereafter. They shall be gathered to those whom they delighted in, and kept company with, whilst they were in this world. They loved to keep company with the wicked here, therefore they shall be gathered to them in hell hereafter. This is sure, you shall live in heaven or hell afterwards, with those whom you live with here. Do you live only delighted in evil company now? It is pity you should be severed from them hereafter. If you be gathered to them in love and affection here, you shall be gathered to them in hell and destruction hereafter. It is a comfortable evidence to those that delight in good company, that they shall be with them in heaven forever. ‘Hereby we know that we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren,’ 1 John 3:14. And on the contrary, those that are brethren in evil here, may read in their own wicked courses and conversation what will become of them hereafter. They are all tares, and shall be gathered together in a bundle, and cast into hell fire forever.

‘And you shall be gathered to your grave in peace.’

Here is a reward, not only to die, but to die in peace. Josiah goes the way of all flesh; he must die though he be a king. This statute binds all. All are liable to death. ‘And you shall be gathered, or put in your grave in peace.’ This declares that he should be buried; the ground whereof is out of Gen. 3:19, ‘Dust you art, and to dust you shall return.’ From earth we came, and to earth we shall return. The earth we carry and the earth we tread on shall both meet together. In that God here promises it to Josiah as a blessing.

‘And you shall be gathered to your grave in peace.’

Obj. How is this? for we read, in the succeeding chapter of Josiah, that he died a violent death; he was slain by the hands of his enemies. Is this to die in peace?

Sol. I answer, the next words do expound it. He died in peace, ‘because his eyes should not see the evil that God would bring upon the land afterwards;’ as if he had said, you shall not see the ruin of the church and commonwealth. So, though Josiah were slain by idolaters, by Pharaoh and his chariots, yet he died in peace comparatively with a worse state of life. For though he died a bloody death by the hands of his enemies, yet he died in peace, because he was prevented by death from seeing that which was worse than death. For God may reserve a man in this life to worse miseries than death itself.

From hence we learn this instruction,

That death may be less miserable than the ill which a man may live to see in this life; or, that the miseries of this life may be such as that death may be much better than life, and far rather to be chosen. We may fall into such miseries whilst we do live, that we may desire death, they being greater than it. The reason hereof is, because that a sudden death, in some respects, is better than a lingering one. One death is better than many deaths, for how many deaths did Josiah escape by this one death! It would have been a death to him if he had lived to see the ruin of the commonwealth, the church of God, and his own sons carried into captivity, to have seen them slain, their eyes plucked out, the temple of God plucked down, and idolatry set up.

‘Behold, I will gather thee to your fathers, and you shall be put in your grave in peace.’ The Lord saith, he ‘will gather.’ So we see,

Our times are in God’s hand; as David saith, ‘My time is in your hand,’ Ps. 31:15. Our times of coming into the world, continuing in it, and going out of it, are in God’s hand. Therefore he saith, ‘you shall be put in your grave in peace.’ God hath power of death. Our going and coming is from God; he is the Lord of life and death.

This is a comfort unto us while we live in this world, that whilst we live we are not in our own hands, we shall not die in our own time; neither is it in our enemies’ hands, but in God’s hand. He hath appointed a certain time of our being here in this world. This should tie us to obedience, and to die in hope and faith; because when we die we are but gathered to our fathers, to better company and place than we leave behind us.

Again we see here that men may outlive their own happiness, that at last life may be a judgment unto them, because they may see that which is worse than death. How many parents live to see the ruin of their own families! the undoing of their children by their own miscarriage! We see God takes away Josiah, because he will not have him live, as it were, beyond his happiness. We see how tenderly affected God is for the good of his children. He pities them when they are in misery, knows what they are able to bear, and will lay no more upon them than he gives them strength to endure. God knew that Josiah was tender-hearted, and melted at the very threatenings, which if he could not endure to hear against his country, could he ever have endured to have seen the miseries upon his people and country? Surely no. Therefore God will rather gather him to his fathers.

Now this is a wonderful comfort, that many times God will not let us see too great matter of grief. Let us then imitate God, and deal so one with another as God deals with us—the husband with the wife, and the wife with the husband, and the like. Let us not acquaint them with such things as may make them more grieve than is fitting, or they are able to bear. God would not have Josiah to see the misery he brought upon his country, because he knew that he was tenderly disposed, that a little grief would soon overcome him. So let us beware of causing any to grieve, or to let them know things which they are not able to bear.

Again, Seeing this is a grief to a kind and loving father, yea, worse than death, to see the ruin of his child, this should teach all those that are young, to take care that they give no occasion of offence to those that are over them, for to grieve; which will be worse than death unto them. It would have been worse than a death unto Josiah to have seen the ruin of his children. So for those children which have been cherished by their parents in their young age, it will be worse than death to them in their age to see their children lewd and come to ruin, whereby they bring so much sooner the grey head of their father to the grave in sorrow. These offend against the sixth commandment, which saith, ‘you shall not kill.’ Let us then rather revive and comfort the heart of those that have been good unto us, and not kill them, or do that which is worse than death unto them.

‘Neither shall your eyes see the misery I will bring upon this people.’

Here we learn again that it is the sight of misery which works the deepest impression. It is not the hearing of a thing, but the sight of it, which affecteth most deeply; as in the sacrament, the seeing of the bread broken, and the wine poured out, works a deep impression; and because God knew Josiah’s heart would break at the sight of the misery, therefore he tells him, ‘Thine eyes shall not see the evil that I will bring upon this place.’ The sight is a most working sense, to make the deepest impression upon the soul. What shall be our great joy and happiness in heaven, but that we shall see God forevermore? Sight is a blessing upon earth, both the eyes of the body wherewith we see, and the eyes of the soul—that is, faith—which makes us see afar off, till in heaven we shall see him face to face. So that sight makes us both happy and miserable.

How wretched, then, is the estate of them that shall see themselves, with their own wicked eyes, sent to hell, with the creature they delighted in. That which the eyes see, the heart feels. There are many atheists, whose whole care is to preserve life. They would live, although they live the life of a dog. But the time will come, that you wilt more earnestly desire death than life. Thy eyes shall see, and your body feel, and your conscience too, that which is worse than a thousand deaths. You shall then die a living death. The worm of your conscience shall gnaw thee forever, and shall see and feel the tormenting fire which shall never be quenched. That which the wicked nourish now to follow their humor, never caring to please God, the day will be when they shall desire to avoid it; and that which they labor to avoid most now, the time will come when they shall most desire it. Death is the king of fears. It is terrible. But then look beyond death: what is behind that? You shall see at the heels of it hell and eternal damnation.

This should teach us also how to understand the promise of long life. It is a promise and a favor of God to be desired. It is a prayer with condition, if God see it good; else God may give us long life, to see and feel a world of misery. Therefore such promises are to be desired conditionally: if God see it good for us.

Again, The Holy Ghost saith here, ‘Thy eyes shall not see the evil I will bring upon this place.’ Hence we learn, that those which be dead in the Lord, are freed from seeing of any evil or misery. The godly shall see no misery after death. If this be so, then they do not go into purgatory after death, as the papists hold. The Holy Ghost saith, Josiah is taken away from seeing any evil to come. Then sure they do not fall into such misery after death, which is worse than death. True, say the papists, such excellent men as Josiah do go to heaven immediately. Ay, but the Holy Ghost saith by Isaiah, 57:1, that ‘the righteous are taken away from the evil to come.’ It is spoken of the whole generation of righteous men. Therefore it is a sottish thing for them to hold that any of them shall see purgatory, when God saith the righteous are taken away from seeing any evil to come.

‘You shall be put in your grave in peace, neither shall your eyes see all, the evil that I will bring upon this place.’

Let us learn here a mystery of divine providence in his death; for there is a mystery of providence, not only in great matters, as election and predestination, but in ordering of the common things of the world. How many excellent mysteries are here wrapped together in this death of Josiah! As, first, it is said that he died in peace, whereas he died a violent death, and was slain by the hands of his enemies. His death was both a mercy and a correction: a correction for his error in being so hasty in going to war with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and yet it was a mercy, because it prevented him from seeing the evil to come, and so likewise brought him sooner to heaven. It is a strange thing to see how the wisdom of heaven can mingle crosses and favors, corrections and mercies together; that the same thing should be both a mercy to Josiah to be taken away, and yet a correction also for his error, in going to fight against Necho, king of Egypt, as we see 2 Chron. 35:23. We may have mercies and afflictions upon us at the same time, as God, by the same death, corrected Josiah’s folly, and rewarded his humility.

Mark here again another mystery, in the carriage of divine providence: how he brings his promises to pass strangely above the reach of man; as here, he having promised Josiah that he should die in peace, one would have thought that Josiah should have died in pomp and state. No. you shall die in peace, although you be slain by the hand of your enemies; you shall come to heaven, although it be by a strange way. Thus God brings his children to heaven by strange ways, yea, by contrary ways, [by] afflictions and persecutions. Paul knew he should come to Rome, although it were by a strange way; though he suffered shipwreck, and was in great danger, as we may see Acts 27:2, seq. God hath strange ways to bring his counsels to pass, which he does so strangely, as we may see his own hand in it.

Again, Here we may see another mystery in divine providence, concerning the death of Josiah, in that he was taken away being a young man, but thirty-nine years old, who was the flower of his kingdom, and one upon whom the flourishing estate of such a kingdom did depend. Now, for such a gracious prince to be taken away in such a time, and at such an age, when he might have done much good, a man would hardly believe this mystery in divine providence. But ‘our times are in God’s hand,’ Ps. 31:15. His time is better than ours. And therefore he, seeing the sins of the people to be so great, that he could not bear with them longer,—for it was the sins of the people that deprived them of Josiah. It was not the king of Egypt who was the cause of his death, but the sins of the land—those caused God to make this way, to take away their gracious king.

Here we may admire the wisdom of God, who does not give an account unto us of his doings, why he suffers some to live, and takes away others; why he suffers the wicked to live, and takes away his own. We can give little reason for it, because it is a mystery; but God best knows the time when to reap his own corn.

‘Neither shall your eyes see all the evil I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the land.’

Here the Holy Ghost does insinuate unto us that whilst Josiah was alive, God would not bring this judgment upon the land, but after his death, then it should come upon them. So here we learn this comfortable point of instruction, that the lives of God’s children do keep back judgment and evil from the place where they live, and their death is a forerunner of judgment. Their life keeps back ill, and their death plucks down ill. While you art alive, I will bring no evil upon this place, but when you are gone, then I will bring it down, saith God. The reasons of this are,

Reason 1. Because gracious men do make the times and the places good where they live. It is a world of good that is done by their example and help. While they live the times are the better for them.

Reason 2. And again, they keep back ill, because gracious men do bind God by their prayers. They force, as it were, a necessity upon God, that he must let the world alone. They bind his hands, that he will do nothing while they are in it; as to Lot in Sodom, ‘I can do nothing while you are gone, saith the angel,’ Gen. 19:22. They stand in the gap, and keep God from pouring down the vials of his wrath. But when they are gone, there is nothing to hinder or stop the current of divine justice, but that it must needs have his course. As when men have gathered their corn into their barns, then let their beasts, or whatsoever else go into the field, they care not; and as when the jewels are taken out of a rotten house, though the fire then seize upon it, men regard not. So when God’s jewels are gathered to himself, then woe to the wicked world, for then God will break forth in wrath upon them. Woe to the old world when Noah goes into the ark, for then follows the flood. Woe to Sodom when Lot goes out of it, for then it is sure to be burned. Luther prayed that God would not bring war upon the people in Germany during his time, but when he died, the whole land was overspread with war. So, before the destruction of Jerusalem, God did gather the Christians to a little city called Pella, near Jerusalem, then came Titus and Vespasian and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. So there are many gracious parents that die, after whose death comes some miserable end to their wicked children, but not before. God takes away the parents out of the world, that they might not see the ruin of their children. So then we see that it is clear, that good men keep back judgment from the places where they live.

Chastisements and Afflictions: God, by affliction, helps his people discover their unknown corruptions… a meditation.

Adapted from, “Correction, Instruction of The Rod and the Word: A Treatise on Afflictions”
Written by, Thomas Case. 


“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart…” –Deut. 8:2

…that is, to make thee know what was in thy heart.

What pride, what impatience, what unbelief, what idolatry, what distrust of God, what murmuring, what unthankfulness was in, my heart; and I never noticed it.

Sin lies very close and deep, and is not easily discerned, till the fire of affliction comes, and makes a separation of the precious from the vile. What shall I do (saith God) for the daughter of my people? They are exceeding bad, and they know it not: what shall I do with them? I will melt them and try them: into the furnace, they shall go, and there” I will shew them what is in their hearts. In the furnace we see more corruption, and more of corruption, than ever appeared before, or was even suspected. Oh, saith the poor soul, whom God has taught in the school of affliction, I never thought my heart so bad as now I see it is: ‘I could not have believed the world had had so much interest in my heart, and Christ so little; I did not think my faith had been so weak and my fears so strong; I find that faith weak in danger, which thought had been strong out of danger; little did I think the sight of death would have been so terrible, parting with nearest friends and dearest relations so piercing; Oh how unskillful and unwise am I to manage a suffering condition, to discern God’s ends, -to find out what God would have me to do, to moderate the violence of mine own passions, to apply the counsels and comforts of the word for their proper ends and uses! Oh where is my patience, my love, my zeal, my rejoicing in tribulation? Ah, did I ever think to find my heart so discomposed, my affections so out of command, my graces so to seek when I should fall into different temptations? What a deal of self-love, pride, distrust in God, creature confidence, discontent, murmuring, rising of heart against the holy and righteous dispensations of God; is there boiling and fretting within me? Woe is me, what a heart have I!

And besides all this, in the hour of temptation, God brings old sins to remembrance.

“We are verily guilty concerning our brother,” could Joseph’s brethren say twenty years after they had sold him for a slave, when they were in danger to be questioned for their lives, as they supposed; and thus when the Israelites cry to God, in their sore distress, for rescue and deliverance, God puts them in mind of their old apostasies: Ye have forsaken me,, and served other gods—Go and cry to the gods whom ye have chosen.

Suffering times are times of bringing to mind sin: If they bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives: (Heb.) If they bring back to heart: captivity is a time of turning in. upon ourselves, and bringing back to heart our doings, which have not been good in God’s sight: thus David under the rod could call himself to account; I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

Directions: How to Hear a Sermon

Taken and adapted from a sermon written by George Whitefield


“Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.”
–Luke 8:18 

The occasion of our Lord’s giving this caution, was this…

…Perceiving that much people were gathered together to hear him out of every city, and knowing (for he is God, and knoweth all things) that many, if not most of them, would be hearers only, and not doers of the word; he spake to them by a parable, wherein, under the similitude of a sower that went out to sow his seed, he plainly intimated, how few there were amongst them, who would receive any saving benefit from his doctrine, or bring forth fruit unto perfection.

The application one would imagine should have been plain and obvious; but the disciples, as yet unenlightened in any great degree by the Holy Spirit, and therefore unable to see into the hidden mysteries of the kingdom of God, dealt with our Savior, as people ought to deal with their ministers; they discoursed with him privately about the meaning of what he had taught them in public; and with a sincere desire of doing their duty, asked for an interpretation of the parable.

Our blessed Lord, as he always was willing to instruct those that were teachable, (herein setting his ministers an example to be courteous and easy of access) freely told them the signification. And withal, to make them more cautious and more attentive to his doctrine for the future, he tells them, that they were in an especial manner to be the light of the world, and were to proclaim on the house-top whatsoever he told them in secret: and as their improving the knowledge already imparted, was the only condition upon which more was to be given them, it therefore highly concerned them to “take heed how they heard.”

From the context then it appears, that the words were primarily spoken to the Apostles themselves. But as it is to be feared, out of those many thousands that flock to hear sermons, but few, comparatively speaking, are effectually influenced by them, I cannot but think it very necessary to remind you of the caution given by our Lord to his disciples, and to exhort you with the utmost earnestness, to “take heed how you hear.”  

FIRST, I am to prove, that every one ought to take all opportunities of hearing sermons.

That there have always been particular persons set apart by God to instruct and exhort his people to practice what he should require of them, is evident from many passages of scripture. St. Jude tells us, that “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied (or preached) concerning the Lord’s coming with ten thousand of his saints to judgment.” And Noah, who lived not long after, is stiled by St. Peter, “a preacher of righteousness.” And though in all the intermediate space between the flood and giving of the law, we hear but of few preachers, yet we may reasonably conclude, that God never left himself without witness, but at sundry times, and after diverse manners, spoke to our fathers by the patriarchs and prophets.

But however it was before, we are assured that after the delivery of the law, God constantly separated to himself a certain order of men to preach to, as well as pray for his people; and commanded them to inquire their duty at the priests mouths. And thought the Jews were frequently led into captivity, and for their sins scattered abroad on the face of the earth, yet he never utterly forsook his church, but still kept up a remnant of prophets and preachers, as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others, to reprove, instruct, and call them to repentance.

Thus was it under the law. Nor has the church been worse, but infinitely better provided for under the gospel. For when Jesus Christ, that great High-priest, had through the eternal Spirit offered himself, as a full, perfect, sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and after his resurrection had all power committed to him, both in heaven and earth, he gave commission to his Apostles, and in them to all succeeding ministers, to “go and preach his gospel to every creature;” promising to “to be with them, to guide, assist, strengthen, and comfort them always, even to the end of the world.”

But if it be the duty of ministers to preach, (and woe be to them if they do not preach the gospel, for a necessity is laid upon them) no doubt, the people are obliged to attend to them; for otherwise, wherefore are ministers sent?

And how can we here avoid admiring the love and tender care which our dear Redeemer has expressed for his spouse the church? Who, because he could not be always with us in person, on account it was expedient he should go away, and as our forerunner take possession of that glory he had purchased by his precious blood, yet would not leave us comfortless, but first settled a sufficient number of pastors and teachers; and afterwards, according to his promise, actually did and will continue to sent down the Holy Ghost, to furnish them and their successors with proper gifts and graces “for the work of the ministry, for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of his body in love, till we all come in the unity of the spirit, to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.”

O how insensible are those persons of this unspeakable gift, who do despite to the Spirit of grace, who crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, by willfully refusing to attend on so great a means of salvation? How dreadful will the end of such men be? How aggravating, that light should come into the world, that the glad tidings of salvation should be so very frequently proclaimed in this populous city, and that so many should loath this spiritual manna, this angels food, and call it light bread? How much more tolerable will it be for Tyre and Sidon, for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for such sinners? Better, that men had never heard of a Savior being born, than after they have heard, not to give heed to the ministry of those, who are employed as his ambassadors, to transact affairs between God and their souls.

We may, though at a distance, without a spirit of prophesy, foretell the deplorable condition of such men; behold them cast into hell, lifting up their eyes, being in torment, and crying out, How often would our ministers have gathered us, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings? But we would not. O that we had known in that our day, the things that belonged to our everlasting peace! But now they are for ever hid from our eyes.

Thus wretched, thus inconceivably miserable, will such be as slight and make a mock at the public preaching of the gospel. But taking it for granted, there are but few, if any, of this unhappy stamp, who think it worth their while to tread the courts of the Lord’s house, I pass on not to the

SECOND general thing proposed, to lay down some cautions and directions, in order to your hearing sermons with profit and advantage.

And here, if we reflect on what has been already delivered, and consider that preaching is an ordinance of God, a means appointed by Jesus Christ himself for promoting his kingdom amongst men, you cannot reasonably be offended, if, in order that you may hear sermons with profit and advantage, I

1.  Direct or entreat you to come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. Formality and hypocrisy in any religious exercise, is an abomination unto the Lord. And to enter his house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

Hence it is, that so many remain unconverted, yea, unaffected with the most evangelical preaching; so that like St. Paul’s companions, before his conversion, they only hear the preacher’s voice with their outward ears, but do not experience the power of it inwardly in their hearts. Or, like the ground near Gideon’s fleece, they remain untouched; whilst others, who came to be fed with the sincere milk of the word, like the fleece itself, are watered by the dew of God’s heavenly blessing, and grow thereby.

Flee therefore, my brethren, flee curiosity, and prepare your hearts by a humble disposition, to receive with meekness the engrafted word, and then it will be a means, under God, to quicken, build up, purify, and save your souls.

2.   A second direction I shall lay down for the same purpose, is, not only to prepare your hearts before you hear, but also to give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the word of God. If an earthly king was to issue out a royal proclamation, on performing or not performing the conditions therein contained, the life or death of his subjects entirely depended, how solicitous would they be to hear what those conditions were? And shall not we pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to his ministers, when they are declaring, in his name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

When God descended on mount Sinai in terrible majesty, to give unto his people the law, how attentive were they to his servant Moses? And if they were so earnest to hear the thunderings or threatenings of the law, shall not we be as solicitous to hear from the ministers of Christ, the glad tidings of the gospel?

Whilst Christ was himself on earth, it is said, that the people hung upon him to hear the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. And if we looked on ministers as we ought, as the sent of Jesus Christ, we should hang upon them to hear their words also.

Besides, the sacred truths that gospel ministers deliver, are not dry insipid lectures on moral philosophy, intended only to amuse us for a while; but the great mysteries of godliness, which, therefore, we are bound studiously to liken to, left through our negligence we should either not understand them, or by any other means let them slip.

But how regardless are those of this direction, who, instead of hanging on the preacher to hear him, doze or sleep whilst he is speaking to them from God? Unhappy men! Can they not watch with our blessed Lord one hour? What! Have they never read how Eutychus fell down as he was sleeping, when St. Paul continued like discourse till midnight, and was taken up dead? But to return. Though you may prepare your hearts, as you may think, by a teachable disposition, and be attentive whilst discourses are delivering, yet this will profit you little, unless you observe a

3. A third direction, Not to entertain any the least prejudice against the minister. For could a preacher speak with the tongue of men and angels, if his audience was prejudiced against him, he would be but as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal. That was the reason why Jesus Christ himself, the Eternal Word, could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of his own country; for they were offended at him: And was this same Jesus, this God incarnate, again to bow the heavens, and to come down speaking as never man spake, yet, if we were prejudiced against him, as the Jews were, we should harden our hearts as the Jews did theirs.

Take heed therefore, my brethren, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you. Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves: and though we should even hear a person teaching others to do, what he has not learned himself; yet, that is no sufficient reason for rejecting his doctrine: for ministers speak not in their own, but Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatsoever the Scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, though they said but did not. But

4   Fourthly, As you ought not to be prejudiced against, so you should be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. For though this be an extreme that people seldom run into, yet preferring one teacher in opposition to another, has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians. For whereas one said, “I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are ye not carnal,” says he? “For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?” And are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake.

The Apostle, it is true, commands us to pay double honor to those who labor in the word and doctrine: but then to prefer one minister at the expense of another, (perhaps, to such a degree, as when you have actually entered a church, to come out again because he does not preach) is earthly, sensual, devilish. Not to mention that popularity and applause cannot but be exceedingly dangerous, even to a rightly informed mind; and must necessarily fill any thinking man with a holy jealousy, lest he should take that honor to himself, which is due only to God, who alone qualifies him for his ministerial labors, and from whom alone every good and perfect gift cometh.

5. A Fifth direction I would recommend is, to make a particular application of every thing that is delivered to your own hearts.  When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with his beloved disciples, and foretold that one of them should betray him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart, and said, “Lord, is it I?” And would persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin, or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, this was designed against such and such a one, turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, Lord, is it I? How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be, than now they generally are?

But we are apt to wander too much abroad; always looking at the mote with is in our neighbor’s eye, rather than at the beam which is in our own. 

6. Sixth and last direction: If you would receive a blessing from the Lord, when you hear his word preached, pray to him, both before, in, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put in practice, what he shall show from the book of God to be your dutyThis would be an excellent means to render the word preached effectual to the enlightening and inflaming your hearts; and without this, all the other means before prescribed will be in vain.

No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: “Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel.” And if so great an Apostle as St. Paul, needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers, who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Besides, this would be a good proof that you sincerely desired to do, as well as to know the will of God. And it must highly profit both ministers and people; because God, through your prayers, will give them a double portion of his Holy Spirit, whereby they will be enabled to instruct you more fully in the things which pertain to the kingdom of God.

And O that all who hear me this day, would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How would ministers see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the word preached sharper than a two-edged sword, and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strong holds!

The Holy Ghost would then fall on all them that hear the word, as when St. Peter preached; the gospel of Christ would have free course, run very swiftly, and thousands again be converted by a sermon. For “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” He has promised to be with his ministers always, even unto the end of the world. And the reason why we do not receive larger effusions of the blessed Spirit of God, is not because our all-powerful Redeemer’s hand is shortened, but because we do not expect them, and confine them to the primitive times.

It does indeed sometimes happen, that God, to magnify his free grace in Christ Jesus, is found of them that sought him not; a notorious sinner is forcibly worked upon by a public sermon, and plucked as a firebrand out of the fire. But this is not God’s ordinary way of acting; No, for the generality, he only visits those with the power of his word, who humbly wait to know what he would have them to do; and sends unqualified hearers not only empty, but hardened away.

Take heed, therefore, ye careless, curious professors, if any such be here present, how you hear. Remember, that whether we think of it or not, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;” where ministers must give a strict account of the doctrine they have delivered, and you as strict a one, how you have improved under it. And, good God! How will you be able to stand at the bar of an angry, sin-avenging judge, and see so many discourses you have despised, so many ministers, who once longed and labored for the salvation of your precious and immortal souls, brought out as so many swift witnesses against you? Will it be sufficient then, think you, to allege, that you went to hear them only out of curiosity, to pass away an idle hour, to admire the oratory, or ridicule the simplicity of the preacher? No; God will then let you know, that you ought to have come out of better principles; that every sermon has been put down to your account, and that you must then be justly punished for not improving by them.

But fear not, you little flock, who with meekness receive the ingrafted word, and bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness; for it shall not be so with you. No, you will be your minister’s joy, and their crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus: And they will present you in a holy triumph, faultless, and unblameable, to our common Redeemer, saying, “Behold us, O Lord, and the children which thou hast given us.”

But still take heed how you hear: for upon your improving the grace you have, more shall be given, and you shall have abundance. “He is faithful that ha promised, who also will do it.” Nay, God from out of Zion, shall so bless you, that every sermon you hear shall communicate to you a fresh supply of spiritual knowledge. The word of God shall dwell in you richly; you shall go on from strength to strength, from one degree of grace unto another, till being grown up to be perfect men in Christ Jesus, and filled with all the fullness of God, you shall be translated by death to see him as he is, and to sing praises before his throne with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and the general assembly of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, for ever and ever.