Going Beyond the Curse of the Law: How God Saves His People

Excerpt taken and from a sermon, “HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE”, preached in the Great Church in Abingdon, December 25, 1829
By William Tiptaft

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The true ministers of Christ bring men to the law…

–now this condemns them, and shows them to be under the curse: He that offends in one point is guilty of all (James 2:10). “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians  3:10). If, then, a man offend against the law of God in one point either in word, thought, or deed, he is under the curse.

Now it is certain that no man can keep the law of God without offence, “for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Thus the law of God writes death in the consciences of those who are “ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48).

They see their sins standing in array before them; they endeavor, through ignorance, to amend their lives; they labor in vain; their hearts are broken by God; for the preparations of the heart are from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1). They can find no rest nor consolation, and are almost in despair. Harassed and tormented by Satan, they know not what to do, and cry out, with the jailer at Philippi, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). If they have been Pharisees, their eyes are open to see the pride and hypocrisy of their religion, and they confess that all their righteousness are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). If they have been notorious sinners, they think that the Lord never came to seek such vile wretches as they are.

Thus troubled and distressed, they hear the Gospel which is “glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15) to those who feel themselves lost sinners. They hear Christ set forth in all His fullness and in all His glory; they hear that the more vile they are in their own sight, the more precious will Christ be to them; they hear that if they go to Christ naked, He will clothe them; if they go unto Him hungry, He will feed them; and if they go unto Him thirsty, He will give them of the living waters, so that they shall not thirst again. They are unwilling to go to Christ, because they have nothing to offer Him; they hear with joy that the Lord will accept nothing from men but the sacrifices of broken and contrite hearts. Thus the Lord generally calls His people.

He takes from them everything in which they trusted for salvation, and then they are obliged to fly to the refuge set before them in the Gospel; they believe in Christ, and He is made unto them “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is very humbling doctrine to the pride of man, that Christ is to be everything and man to be nothing, yea, worse than nothing, for he will never do anything but sin. Whether we be converted or not, our flesh will never do anything good. “In my flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

They who are chosen in Christ have His Spirit to dwell in them. This Spirit of Christ dwelling in a man makes him a “new creature,” so that old things pass away, and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now, observe, we can do nothing to obtain this Spirit, for all we do, or ever shall do, in the flesh, is sin: “The condition of man, after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith, and calling upon God.” We are cautioned by Solomon not to give “the sacrifice of fools. For they consider not that they do evil” (Ecclesiastes 5:1). We cannot turn to God of ourselves; we cannot repent of ourselves, for Christ is exalted a Prince and a Savior to give repentance (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25); and thus the Scriptures, plainly show us all to be under the curse, without the slightest power of delivering ourselves.

We ministers of the Gospel must not deceive you,

–all who have not the Spirit of Christ are in this state, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. “By grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10); and Paul says: “There is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). God hath loved His people with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving kindness will He draw them (Jeremiah 31:3).

As long as a man believes that he can do anything of himself to prepare his heart to receive grace or merit salvation, I cannot give him any present scriptural hope of being saved.

If the heart be not prepared of God to receive it “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1), he will never have it. While man thinks any good dwells in his human nature, no good ever will dwell in it; for till a man is taught of God to see himself a lost and undone sinner, his body will never be the temple of the Spirit of Christ; and if he have not Christ’s Spirit, he is none of His.

All must be humbled to receive salvation as a free gift, or they will never have it: “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15). It is God that makes us to differ; and having Christ’s Spirit given to us, with the mind we serve the law of God, though with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:25). And Paul says: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” “I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).

It is my belief, and Scripture warrants me in saying so, that no man will ever go to heaven who is not taught of God to rest so entirely on Christ for salvation as to say: “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” This is humbling to the pride of man, but salvation is of grace, and grace alone.

The Just Shall Live By Faith

Taken and adapted from, “Christ, the Sun of Righteousness”
Written by, Ian Potts

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“…As it is written, the just shall live by faith”
–Romans 1:17

THE Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

The answer he gives is “God forbid.” He asks this question because there were those who upon hearing the teaching of the Gospel, that sinners are saved by grace alone and not by their obedience to God’s law, concluded that if so that must leave the child of God free to sin. But Paul denies this emphatically – “God forbid.” Salvation by grace alone through faith does not lead to lives which remain in sin.

Some conclude from this answer that Paul is reiterating the importance of the believer striving to keep the law of God. They say that if the believer must not live a life of sin, which is seen in breaking the Ten Commandments, then he must have that “Moral Law” (The Ten Commandments delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai) as a “Rule of Life”. That the law, although not a means by which he might be saved, and although no longer cursing him if he fails to keep it (because Christ has already been cursed by the law in the believer’s place), nevertheless instructs him in how to live a righteous life and is therefore useful as advice or guidance on how to live before God – it is the believer’s “rule of life”, they say.

However this is to confuse what Paul is arguing for and to overturn what he has been saying from Romans chapters 3 to 5. Paul is teaching that God saves sinners by the Gospel by means of grace and that they then continue to live by God’s grace on a principle of faith. Their rule is not the law, but faith. Only by faith can the demands of the law be fulfilled.

But how can this be? If the believer does not set himself to reading the Ten Commandments and attempting to model his life upon them, how can he live a life which fulfils them? How can he avoid breaking these commandments?

Well, the simple answer to that is “through Christ”. The Gospel is all about Christ, about who He is, what He has done, and about the believer’s relationship to Him and his union with Him. The believer lives not by looking to the law but by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” –Hebrews 12:2. He lives by faith looking unto Christ, being led by the Spirit by union with Christ who is “all in all”.

 The believer is “dead to the law”, his flesh is crucified, the rule of law over him has gone, not because the law is altered or “abrogated” but because the flesh has died to it and the believer is risen again in Christ the other side of death. He is a new creation, he has a new life within born of the Spirit. This is called the new man of grace. This new life in Christ is governed by a new law, or rule. This is the law of faith, or put another way, faith is his rule of life, for “the just shall live by faith”. Life could not come by the law, it only condemned. Because of the sin which is in the flesh the law became a “ministration of death”, a “killing letter” to men – it was certainly no rule of ‘life’! No, the law condemned the believer to death, it carried out its final sentence on him in Christ, and having died in Christ he is now dead to the law. It has no more to say to those who are dead to it.

But the just shall live by faith.

They are justified by faith; by faith they receive the gift of eternal life. This life is ruled by the principle of faith. Romans chapter five talks of the “reign of grace”. Grace reigns through righteousness and that is the righteousness of faith as revealed in the Gospel. Thus the Gospel in revealing the righteousness of God without law, and in justifying sinners by grace through faith, reveals all the believer needs to receive life from God and to walk before Him in righteousness. The Gospel and not the law therefore is the believer’s rule of life.

But how does the child of God know right from wrong if he isn’t ruled by the law one may ask?

How does he know what the right thing to do in any given situation is? The same way that Christ did. Not simply by turning to some lifeless commands written on stone (or paper) but by communion with God by faith. Christ lived by constantly seeking His father’s will in prayer. The believer also lives by communing with God in prayer, by looking unto Christ by faith, by seeking the Spirit’s leading. Yes, he reads the Bible and the whole of the Bible is useful for instruction in righteousness but it is by the Spirit’s guidance in the Bible, by His opening it up to him, His applying words from it to him on a daily basis that he learns of God’s will for him, not in a dry, fixed, unchangeable manner, but in a living way, suited to the changing providences of his life.

“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” –Romans 7:6

The new man of grace which is born in the believer is born of God, he is righteous like God is righteous. In the new man believers are “made partakers of the divine nature” 2 Peter 1:4, and this nature in itself knows instinctively what is righteous. Believers still have the flesh, the old man within them which is completely sinful, but the new man is righteous. The law was made for man in the flesh, not in the spirit. The law was given to condemn the sinner in the flesh, to show up his sin and to make him flee unto Christ for salvation. But when that man has been washed in the blood of the Lamb, the flesh has been crucified with Christ at the cross. In the eyes of God all that remains is the new man of grace because God looks at the believer in Christ who has taken away sin in the body of flesh which has been crucified. 1 Timothy 1:9 tells us “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners….” If so, then the believer is not under the law, it wasn’t made for him, and it isn’t his rule of life. No, he walks by a new ‘law’, the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:2, for he walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. As a just man he lives by faith.

“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law then, Christ is dead in vainGalatians 2:21

 But can’t a believer walk by faith and still use the law as advice one might ask? Surely what it says is good? Yes, everything it says is holy, just and good. But it isn’t just advice – it’s law! – and it can’t be used as a guide or a rule of life. Why not? Because although the believer has a new life born of the Spirit, and although the flesh is reckoned to be crucified with Christ, nevertheless until the believer actually dies physically he still has the flesh dwelling within. The law is addressed to that flesh, but although it demands righteousness from it, in practice all it does is flare up sin in the flesh. The more it demands from the flesh, the more the flesh sins. So although what the law demands is good and spiritual, reaching even unto the thoughts and intentions of the heart within, the effect upon man is to produce more sin, to stir up evil thoughts within. The law always retains its curse and if a man strives to live by the law then he only brings the curse upon himself again. He is a debtor to do the whole law, but he can’t truly fulfil any of it! No, the only way to fulfil the righteousness of the law is to die to it, to be delivered from it, and to live by faith looking unto Christ alone.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”Romans 6:14

The law demands works from man who cannot perform them. He fails to fulfil the law because of his sinful flesh. Faith however rests in the finished work of Christ who has fulfilled the law’s demands in every way. Christ has delivered the believer from the curse and the rule of the law to live in a new and living way – to live by faith. Faith submits to Christ, trusts in Him, obeys Him, walks by the Spirit who leads into all truth regarding Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the object of the believer’s faith, not the law. He is married to Christ and is now dead to the law.

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” –Romans 7:4.

The more the child of God looks to Christ, his husband, the more the new man of grace within him grows in grace and the more the old sinful flesh is subdued and mortified. By walking by faith the child of God finds a principal of life which actually results in the righteousness of the law being fulfilled and sin no longer having the dominion which it once had in his life. This is a life lived entirely by faith, not in man’s strength but in the Spirit, by grace alone. The work is all of God. Oh, what amazing grace there is in the Gospel of Christ! How it is the “power of God unto salvation”!

May all God’s people ever turn from the works of the law, from the arm of the flesh, from all boasting in self and their own works, to rest by faith in the finished work of Christ, looking unto Him alone, who has delivered them from the power of sin, death, and Hell, to give them newness of life in Him, that they might have eternal life, the divine nature, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, in the reign of grace!

 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” –Romans 8:1-5

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” –Galatians 6:14-16

THE GREAT THINGS GOD HAS DONE FOR HIS PEOPLE

Taken, edited and adapted from, Sermons, Fragments of Sermons, And Letters.
Written by William Gadsby, Of Manchester.

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“The Lord hath done great things for US, whereof we are glad.”
—Ps 126: 3.

THERE are three things in the great mysteries of salvation that many Christian professors of religion seem almost alarmed at…

One is that God really saves sinners. If a minister of Jesus Christ is led to describe a sinner in terms of half as bad as he really is, he shocks his listeners delicate minds, and they are almost paralyzed, and call it the high road of licentiousness to suppose that God saves such naughty sinners as those; while a poor soul under the quickening, enlightening, and teaching energy of God the Spirit, fears that his case is too desperate, and if God sends a minister of truth, who describes upon such a desperate case, and points it out as one that the Lord has in hand, the poor creature is astonished, and wondered where he has been; for he has never heard that.

Another branch of truth that men seem almost alarmed at, is the method that God takes in saving those sinners. Especially if we come to trace salvation to its spring-head, God’s electing love.” O! This is horrifying. We must not talk about election in these polite days. If we believe in it, we must put other words for it, and say, ‘The Lord’s people,’ and ‘The Lord’s family,’ and ‘The pious;’ but never talk about ‘election;’ and thus the doctrine of God’s discriminating, electing love is discarded.

And then another branch of divine truth, that men seem alarmed at, is the power of God the Spirit in making this salvation known to the conscience, and bringing it with divine power and majesty to the heart and maintaining it there as the poor sinner sojourns in this wilderness. 

Some people are alarmed at all the three, and some only at the last; some of them will chatter about election till their tongues almost cleave to the roof of their month; but if you insist upon vital godliness, the power of God the Holy Ghost in the conscience producing a corresponding conduct, they will call you an enthusiastic legalist. And thus divine things are set at naught on one hand or the other. But God will vindicate his own honor, and “make bare his arm,” and bring his loved ones at some period or other to adopt the language of our text: “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

No doubt the psalmist had in view, in the first instance, God delivering Israel out of a dreadful national captivity; and here we are told of them that they were “like them that dreamed,” and they began in wonder to “laugh” in the sweet enjoyment of God’s dealings with them. But Israel of old being a typical nation and God’s spiritual family being amongst that nation, the Lord has something more in view than this; he has in view a spiritual captivity, that his people are delivered from; and when delivered from it, and brought feelingly and experimentally to know it, then they sing, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

Now from this passage, as far as God shall assist me, I shall consider,

  1. Who the us are, who have any right to adopt the language of our text, and say, “The Lord hath done great things for its.”
  2. Point out some few of the great things that God has done for them.
  3. . Endeavour to notice that whenever God makes manifest these “great things,” or a measure of them, in their hearts, it is sure to make them glad. ” The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

 I   Now what persons are these? Who are the “us”? They are God’s spiritual Zion —that family he has predestinated to eternal life, “predestinated to the adoption of children,” “predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son,” and brought, by his spiritual power and grace, to know their own ruined condition and the mercy of God in Christ Jesus towards them—who have felt themselves in captivity and felt themselves brought out of it.

Some people tell us that there is no cause now-a-days for a sinner to have “the letter” brought into the conscience, no cause for a law-work, and that many go to heaven who never had a law-work in their hearts. But that is a heaven that was invented in Italy; it is not God’s heaven, it is a kind of purgatorial heaven. For God has solemnly declared that “the law was given that every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God.” And if God’s law does not stop your mouth, is not brought to your conscience, does not destroy all your false projects, and bring you in guilty and condemned at the feet of the Lord—if you never feel that, I believe you will be damned, as sure as God is in heaven.

Let your profession be what it may, let you be as tall as you may in a profession of religion, you will never enter into God’s blessed place above, if you have never been brought to know your ruined condition below. Why, you might as well talk about a man praising a physician, as one who had cured him of a disease, when he never had an illness in his life; you might as well talk about a man being a skillful surgeon, who had set his bones, when he never had a broken bone since he drew breath. “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”

I do not mean that all God’s people are led into the same depth in this. Here the Lord works as a sovereign; but the law must stop their months, the law must bring them in guilty, the law must make them feel that they are in bondage, that they are “under tutors and governors,” and under such tuition that they are bound by the ties of the law either to fulfill it or be damned by it, and that they cannot fulfill it, and therefore they can feel no ground of hope upon law principles.

Now when the Lord the Spirit brings a poor soul to this, he finds himself in dreadful captivity. I cannot exactly say how it is in London; but I know in our way we have a great many who begin in election, and go on with election, and never get one step either below or above high-seasoned election; and if you ask them what they know about “the plague of their own hearts,” or what they know about “the sentence of death,” “O! They do not meddle with such low things as that; they live upon high ground.” Ah! And the devil will never disturb you there. If God does not, you will find that such an arrogant presumptuous profession is nothing more nor less than the devil’s chariot to carry men to hell in delusion; and, if God does not upset them and bring them to know their ruined condition, they will never enter into the mysteries of God’s blessed kingdom, that kingdom that stands in God’s own power. But now; when a poor sinner feels the bondage of the law and feels “the sentence of death,” he finds himself in a captivity, from which he cannot deliver his own soul. He feels himself without might and without power, and feels the truth of what God says, that he is “not Sufficient of himself” so much as “to think” a good thought, or to pray; as says the apostle, “We know not what to pray for as we ought.” I often think, why what fools the disciples and apostles were to the great men of our time; for they have found out how to pray for themselves and to make prayers for other folks for a thousand years to come; but the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, and the apostle was brought to confess that he was “not sufficient of himself” and did not know even how to pray “as he ought.” And so God’s people will be brought to this, when the Lord brings them to know their spiritual bondage and captivity. And then, when he brings peace to the conscience and pardon to the heart, and sets the soul at liberty, then they are the people that can say, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

II     But having thus gone over this description, let us look now at some of the great things that God has done for us. And to do this we must take into the account each glorious Person in the one undivided Jehovah,—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. For in the “great things,” that the eternal Trinity has done for the church of God, each distinct Person has a solemn part, a part that redounds to the glory of all and the blessedness of them that are brought to trust in God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, as one blessed Triune Jehovah, hath entered into a solemn covenant before all worlds to bring an infinite number of mortals to immortal glory. In this solemn contract, this covenant of grace, the eternal Trinity took a survey of all their sins, and all their weaknesses, and all their misgivings, and all their backslidings, and all their temptations, and all their besetments, and all their slips, and all their falls, and all their tumblings, that this body would have from the beginning to the end of time; and in this immortal covenant God made provision to meet it all, and so to meet it as to be glorified in saving them all from all the horrors and consequences of sin. Now is that not a “great thing?”

God the Father saw all of your temptations, before ever you ever did them. And when he gave you to Christ, he had already seen all your difficulties, all your bewilderments, all your hard-heartedness, all your darkness, all your coldness, all your barrenness; and in the eternal purpose of his grace, and he made such a provision for you that it is not possible for Satan himself to drive your poor bewildered soul into any place where God’s provision will not reach you and not be sufficiently powerful to bring you out. Is not this a “great thing?”  Is this not a matchless thing?

It was this that made David so sweetly and solemnly sing, “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” David’s house “not so with God!” Not how? Why, if you read the context, he is speaking about a “morning without clouds,” without anything that seems gloomy, when the sun arises upon it, and about the “tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after the rain;” and he says, “My house is not so.” Poor creature! He felt clouds and darkness, and often sharp biting frosts that seemed to nip the tender herb. There seemed no sweet going forth of faith, of love, of prayer, of thanksgiving; there seemed a bewilderment in the conscience. But, says he, this is my salvation and all my desire—new covenant blessings stand sure, “ordered in all things (not in one thing only) and sure.” This is the strength of divine grace, when God is pleased to give it to a poor sinner to realize such immortal blessings; and this is one of the “great things” that God the Eternal Trinity in Unity has done for his people.

But we must come to retail it out a little. I am a kind of retail preacher; as a friend of ours, who lived in a country place, used to say, “I like to hear our friend, when he retails it out. Sometimes our parson wholesales it, and we poor folks cannot go to a wholesale shop; it suits me to have it retailed out, for those are the shops we poor folks can go to.” And so the people of God are continually brought into such a state that they want to have it retailed out in little parcels, as we may say, that God may be glorified and themselves made glad through his grace.

1   Then if we endeavor to look a little at this blessed covenant, we first of all notice that “herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son, and chose us in his Son;” so that in the purpose and councils of God, God fixed Christ and the church in his eternal heart together, the church in Christ and Christ in the church, and God in Christ and Christ in God. And thus the church was made the special charge and care of God the Son before the world was; and, I speak with reverence, God the Father looked to Christ to bring them all to heaven. “Yours they were and you gave them to me.” And “all that the Father gives me shall”—shall what? Have a chance of coming? No, not so. Have an offer of mercy? No, not so. Have conditions proposed to them—easy terms? No, nor so either. Well, then, how is it? “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Unbelief says they shall not, and pride says they shall not, and the devil says they shall not, and their hearts say they will not, for they love sin, and after it they will go; but God has taken his stand and Christ has taken his stand upon eternal fixtures, and God and Christ have said, “They shall come.”

Yes, poor souls! And when he comes with invincible power to the heart, he will make them glad to come as poverty-stricken sinners, and be glad to be made partakers of the riches of his Son; and “him that cometh,” says Christ, “I will in no wise cast out.” This is the reason why the apostle so sweetly sums up: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places,”—where? “In Christ.” When God created man, he created him holy, in his own image; and it appears he put man in the care of this holiness and this image; he gave the key into his own hands, and man unlocked the door of his heart and let the devil in and all that was holy out, and God will never trust to man again while the world stands. No; he has secured all spiritual blessings “in Christ,” and given him the key of the house; and he opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens. “It pleases the Father that ALL fullness” should be there; and therefore there is nothing but emptiness anywhere else. And he is said to be “full of grace and truth;” and “of his fullness we receive, and grace for grace.” So then the Father, in his great part in this solemn economy of salvation, gave his Son to be the Head and Representative of the church, the grand repository of heaven; and. God locked up his honor, his truth, his grace, and “all spiritual blessings” in the heart of Christ, and Christ pledged his honor to save all securely, and to magnify all the honors of God in making this mystery known by the power of his Spirit to the hearts and consciences of his people. And this is a “great thing,” that God has done for them.

2     But it will not do to enlarge, and therefore we will proceed to notice what Christ has done for them. There is a great deal said about Jesus Christ in our day. “What a merciful Christ he was,” they say, “to come and die for sinners!” But some people tell us that such is the nature of his death, that after all it may be the means of damning us deeper than we should have been damned if he never had died. Why, what an awful thing that is to say! I recollect a minister saying to me some years ago, “You do not love sinners as you ought to do, or else you would preach to them universal offers and universal proffers.” “Indeed,” said I. “Let me ask you one thing. Will any sinner that ever gets to heaven be saved by your universal offers and universal proffers?” “No,” he said, for he was a sort of a Calvinist, “they will not.” “Well, what will become of the rest?” “Ah!” said he; “they will have a deeper damnation, because they rejected the offers of mercy.” “So that is the method you take,” said I, “to show you love sinners; as if they could not be damned deep enough, but you will damn them the deeper by your universal offers, when you admit that they cannot be saved the more for your preaching to them? What an awful way that is! It is not according to the riches of God’s grace that he has ordained in the salvation of the church.”

Now the Lord Jesus Christ, in his rich mercy, undertook to stand accountable and responsible, as the Surety of the family of God, and to have all laid upon him all that was chargeable to them; and he bore it, and will communicate to his children all that can flow from his blood and love, and from all that can crown God’s brow and honor his name; and thus he stands, the glorious Head and Representative of the church of the Most High, to the honor of the Godhead and the blessedness of all them that are brought by rich grace to believe.

But he must be something in his own person beside essential Godhead; for essential Godhead could not accomplish this. The law demanded blood for blood; essential Godhead could not bleed. “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth;” essential Godhead could not do that. Essential Godhead could not shed blood, could not die; yet “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” And yet such is the measure of the “great things,” that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for his people, that it is emphatically called “his dying,” and his blood the blood of God.

“Yes,” say you, “but I do not believe it was the blood of God.” Well I do in my very soul believe it; not that Godhead could bleed, but that the Person who did bleed was God and man, and therefore the Godhead in union with the manhood made the one Person Immanuel, and it was his blood. If you want a simple argument upon the subject, suppose, when I go home to night, some person was to stab me, and I was to be bleeding in the street, you would say, “Why, yonder lies Gadsby bleeding.” Now my soul could not bleed, you know, and that is what makes the person, is it not? But then you take me as a man, and cry, “He is bleeding;” all that can suffer and bleed is suffering and bleeding. And it is in this respect that Immanuel, the God-man Mediator, and all that he is, could suffer and bleed and agonize and die. And all that is in him did suffer, bleed, agonize, and die; and the Godhead gave immortal validity to the atonement, so that it is emphatically called the blood of God: “God purchased the church with his own blood.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, then, the Second Person in the glorious Trinity, in order to accomplish this “great thing” that he was going to do, took up a life to be able to die, took our nature into union with his personal Godhead, and became really man, truly and verily man as well as truly and verily God, that he might be able to wade through all the miseries that sin and the devil had heaped round his elect, and to go after them, and bear their sins in his own body and soul on the tree, that they might be set for ever free. And thus his sacred Majesty stooped to bear their weakness and infirmities, and to take their sins upon him. Hence it is said he was “made sin for us.” Why, that is a strange saying, for he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” and “guile was not found in his mouth.” “Made sin?” Aye, he was made murder, and made adultery, and made fornication, and made theft, and made treason.

“Shocking!” say you. “How can that be, if he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners?” Because he was made so by solemn contract and solemn transfer. The murder, the adultery, the fornication, and the abominations of David, and Solomon, and Peter, and all God’s elect were transferred and placed to his account, and he acknowledged the debt. “Sacrifice and offering you wouldst not,” said he; these things would not do,—were not sufficient. “Then said I, Lo I come to do “—what sacrifices could not do—”to do your will, O God.” And Paul tells us roundly that “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” And this was a “great thing” that Jesus Christ came to die. Look at him as the Babe of Bethlehem; look at him as a traveler without house or home; look at him hunted by Satan forty days and forty nights in the wilderness under all the iron tyranny that devils could inflict upon him, when he had too much work to do, too much solemn engagement with all the powers of hell to have a moment’s time either to eat, drink, or sleep for those forty days and forty nights; and this was all in espousing the cause of the church, in doing a great work for his people. He fought their battle manfully, he vanquished all their foes; but at length his blessed Majesty was brought to be in a solemn agony, and he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Good John Berridge has a solemn view upon this subject:

“How his eyes astonished are!
Sure they witness huge despair!
On his face what sadness dwells!
Bare he feels a thousand hells!”

Poor child of God! All the hell your sins have merited was poured into Christ’s soul, and all the hell that all the millions of the elect of God ever merited was poured into Christ’s holy soul. And had he not been God as well as man, humanity could not have sustained the load and rolled it over. But immortal Godhead supported humanity under the weight of wrath; his holy soul endured it, and he died “the Just for the unjust to bring us to God,” and so to accomplish a salvation, rich and free, as extensive as the necessities of his people, as deep as their miseries can possibly be. Has he not done “great things” for us?

And Jesus suffered and did all this, to just give them “a chance” of being saved,—according to some people. I do not know that I hate anything more in my soul than to hear that. It makes Jesus Christ so little, –that he should do so much, and after all he has done for us, –to only give us “a chance” of being saved.

If you look a little closer, when God “made man upright” and he had no sinful nature, what did he do with his innocence? Why, he lost it all. And yet poor, sinful, and presumptuous man has the vanity to think that we can somehow manage “our chance” of being saved. What an insult it is to the Lord Jesus Christ, to fix the eternal honor of God “upon chance.” And for this chance to be managed by a poor sinful creature who is tumbling into half a dozen holes every hour of his life? No, no. Thanks be to God for immortal realities and the certainties of eternal life.

What is said concerning what Christ has done? He has “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” he has “finished transgression and made an end of sin;” he has “redeemed us from all iniquity;” he has “redeemed us from the curse of the law,”—from destruction and from the power of the devil; he has “obtained eternal redemption for us;” he has “redeemed us to God.” To the honor of the Eternal Trinity, it is said, not that the redeemed shall have a chance, but that the redeemed shall “come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall, be upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

The Lord Jesus Christ has done this “great” work, and he is gone to heaven, shouting “Victory;” for “God is gone up with a shout; the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” He rose from the grave as a demonstrative proof that sin was destroyed, and the law satisfied. God has honored his people eternally and has everlastingly saved them. And the immortal honors of God unite in their salvation; and therefore he ever lives at the right hand of the Father to make intercession.

And in order that there might be this great work and this great wonder carried on manifestly, Christ is portrayed as the Shepherd to gather his sheep in and to feed them when they are in; as the Captain, to fight their battles for them; and as the High Priest to plead their cause, bear them upon his shoulders and present them before God with the plate of “Holiness to the Lord” as they stand complete in him and he is their Surety ever to represent them before God; as it is said, “He is entered into heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us” in his Surety capacity. He is a Prophet, to teach and instruct us, as well as our Priest, to atone for and to bless us; and he is a Husband, to sympathize with us, and (as it is written so it stands firm) as a Husband he “gave himself” for his wife, “that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, and that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and he is also the Rear Guard, to bring up the rear.

I have often thought good John Bunyan made a little mistake when he said there was no armor for the back, because then the enemy would soon get behind and shoot between our shoulders; but, while our Jesus has provided weapons for us to meet the enemy with, he is the Rear Guard to look after the scouting foe; and he watches over the church night and day, and waters her every moment; and he solemnly declares that he will be “her God and her guide even unto death.” What “great things” these are!

3     But God the Holy Ghost is also engaged in this solemn work of doing “great things.” There are two things that God the Spirit keeps his eye upon—the enrolment of God, and the sinner enrolled there. And at the time specified in God’s enrolment, when that sinner shall be taken and made willing, the Spirit comes with his power and does it. If it is a Zaccheus in the tree, he must come down. If it is a Peter, busy among his nets and his fish, he must come. If it is a Philippian jailer, lulling his conscience to sleep because he has been giving the apostles a good hearty drubbing, for he thought he had plague enough without being plagued with such fanatics, and he would make them remember coming there, for he “made their feet fast in the stocks,”—but at midnight the time is come, God puts the cry into his heart, the Holy Ghost makes no mistake, he must cry, “What must I do to be saved?” If it is a Magdalene, who has been a kind of devil’s show box carrying through the streets to delude you, she must come. Of Blessed “be God. The Spirit of God laid hold of her heart, and brought her to weep at the feet of Jesus and cry for mercy. And so if it is the dying thief and he is upon the cross, he must come.

And now let us come a little nearer; where were you, and where was I, and what were we doing? Perhaps there is some poor sinner who has come here on purpose to have some little ridicule when he gets away, and is pleasing himself with the idea of having a little fun with some of his wicked companions. O! If this is the day of God’s power, may the Holy Ghost send an almighty message to your presumptuous heart! Where are you? WHERE ARE  YOU? May God the Spirit pursue you, and bring you to know your ruined condition and perishing state before a heart-searching God! If it is the Lord’s time, he will; for the hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” The Holy Spirit keeps his eye both upon God’s secret enrolment Mid the sinner enrolled there, and he never loses sight of him; no, not even if he is going to Damascus with letters to persecute the church. When the set time is come, down he must fall.

O that the Lord would quicken some of your dead souls, bring you this night to feel what cursed wretches you are in the sight of God, and make you cry to him as perishing sinners; and then eventually you will know some of the “great things” that God has done for you.

Often, when the Holy Ghost has quickened the dead soul to feel, and enlightened the dark soul to see, then the poor creature sets about amendments. He finds, in some measure, that he is in an awful state, and he begins to try to amend it. He shakes off perhaps his companions in drink, he will begin to be dutiful to his master, and he will set about pleasing God and doing something to make amends for the bad things he has done before. But, strange to tell! Everything that he does for God he discovers to be empty, and vain, and wretched; he discovers it to be evil, he discovers it to be sin; and all the man’s doings, and all his sayings, and all his attempts to keep the law, and to help his own soul only makes him so much the worse in his state and in his own feelings he sees himself vile before a heart-searching God. And then the poor creature, the new Christian, knows that he has missed it here and he has missed it there; yes, he will try again, and may do better the next time; but he misses it again. “Well,” says some poor soul, “that is the way I have been going on from month to month, and I have always missed it yet, but I hope to manage better soon.” But I tell you, you will never be right till you have lost that hope. “Lost that hope? What! Must I lose that hope? Why, man, you will drive one mad! What! Must that go—that hope of being able to manage it better?” Yes, that it must. That must go, and you must sink with it; and when that is gone—when all hope is gone, then the realization that you have not saved yourself, and that you never can, –it is then that Christ is preached by the Holy Spirit in your conscience, and the soul is brought to know something of “the hope of Israel,” instead of the hope of flesh and blood. And this is a “great thing” that the Lord does for the poor sinner, to strip him of all his false hope that he can keep the law, and all his false confidence in the flesh, and all that would lead him astray, so that the Holy Spirit may lead him, as a perishing sinner, to the Lord Jesus Christ and magnify the riches of God’s grace in his soul.

“Well,” says some poor creature, “I think I have been a lost helpless thing in my own feelings for many a month, and yet I do not enjoy God’s salvation.” I should question whether you are brought to this. Now is there not a little bit of something, a little secret lurking somewhere at the bottom, that still gives you some hope that a favorable moment will come when you shall manage it a little better? Now just ask your conscience, whether it is not so. (“Yes,” say you, “it is.”) Then that must go. I know you will cling to it as long as ever you can. I know you will. It is like a man giving up his life, it is like a man giving up everything, to give up this; but the Holy Ghost will make you give it up at last, or else you are none of his. And when he has done this, will he leave you to destruction? No!

“Why,” say you, “really I am afraid he will; for I have been tempted many times to put an end to my existence. Once, the Lord knows, I had the instrument in my hand, and I think if he had not taken care of me, I should have done it.” Well, he will take care of you; though he his hunting you out of all props, and all self, and all false comfort, he will administer true comfort. I have often thought of one occurrence that took place, connected with my own ministry, some years ago. A poor woman in very great distress thought she could go on no longer, and she would know the worst of it; and so she appointed a time in her own mind when she would drown herself; and when the time came she went to the river; but just as she was going to plunge in, it occurred to her, “Why, if I drown myself now, the folks at home will not know where I am, and they will hunt everywhere to find me, and they will waste so much time in looking after me that I shall add to my other sins that of bringing my family to poverty. I will go back and bring my little girl with me another day, and then she can tell them where I am.” And so the Lord overruled it for that time. Well, she went again accordingly, and took the child with her, and was just going to plunge in, when she thought, “Why my poor little girl will be so frightened that she will jump in, and I shall drown her too. I will go back, and take some other method of doing it.” Well, after this she came to the place where I was preaching, and God set her soul at liberty, and she was brought to know the blessings of salvation. O! How carefully the Holy Spirit looks after the flock of the Lord! How carefully he guards them, when they have neither power nor intention to guard themselves! So great is his love, so great his compassion, so great his care, that he does these “great things” for them, and eventually they “are glad.”

Well, then, this is one of the “great things” he does in the end—he reveals pardon; but it is one thing for people to talk about believing in Christ and having pardon, and it is another thing for them to believe and for them really to have pardon. The Holy Ghost comes and brings into the soul the pardoning love of Christ, removes bondage, gives a sweet quiet in the conscience, and gives the happy song, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” “In the Lord have I mercy; in the Lord I am free.” Well, by-and by the poor creature is brought to think, “Now it will be comfortable all the days of my life.” But I tell you, if you live long, the Lord will teach you more of Christ. If anyone was to ask you what is intended by Christ in all his offices, in all his relations, in his oath and promises, in all his fullness, you would be ready to say, “O! I do not understand all those divisions and subdivisions. I believe he has pardoned my soul,

I believe he has loved me, I feel that I love him, and that is enough for me.” O no. You must know more than that; and therefore you shall be brought into straits and difficulties which shall make the offices and relations, the oath and promise and fullness, of Jesus Christ, just suited to your condition. You shall see that what is said about Christ is not like titles of honor given to our noblemen— mere puffs of empty air— but that everything which is said about Christ is essential, real, suited to the honor of God. God will bring his people more or less, to the solemn feeling of necessity—of knowing that they need such a Christ; and then the blessed Spirit makes him manifest to the conscience us “a very present help in time of need.” He reveals Christ in the conscience, and goes on from the first moment of his quickening energy, and carries us through this vale of tears, and lands us in ineffable bliss, redeemed through the Lord Jesus Christ, decorated in his righteousness, robed with his salvation, dignified with his honor, and having the dignity of God’s glory stamped upon our character, in which we shall shine for ever and ever, to the praise and glory of God’s grace. The Lord does these “great things” for sinners—poor, ruined, helpless sinners. “The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

And now let me ask you, “Do you know anything of this yourself?” I will tell you one “great thing” that the Spirit of the Lord will do for a poor sinner who knows anything of these things in reality. There will be times and seasons when you really cannot pray. I do not mean when you cannot say your prayers. God the Spirit will bring you to know that saying prayers and praying are very different things. Your mouth will be so completely stopped sometimes, that, when you are praying, conscience, enlightened and quickened by the Holy Ghost, will say, “You do not feel that,” and, “You do not feel that. What a hypocrite you are! You are speaking things to God, and you do not feel them.” So that you are completely shut up and confounded, and feel as if you could say nothing but this sentence, “Lord, I am vile!” and you do not feel that, and you so confess before the Lord. Now the Lord sometimes brings a poor sinner to this very point, and the poor creature thinks he can never pray again; but he does pray again. If he lives in the country, he goes moping about the fields, and if he lives in the city, he goes about his work, and sometimes he is looking for some instrument that he wants for his employer, and perhaps he has it in his hand all the time, and he is so bewildered and confused that he feels fit for nothing. Satan tells him he is going mad, and he looks in the glass to see whether he is looking wild; and he thinks there is not another mortal so wretched as himself. Well; when this is the case, and all things seem so gloomy, but the Holy Spirit comes, and comes in the spirit of prayer, humbles him, and puts a cry into his month, till he really feels a majesty in prayer, and a power in prayer; and anon he is drawn forth into energy in prayer, and he can feel that God is owned of him, and he is owned of God, and he says, “I will not let you go, except you bless me.” O! What a delightful thing it is, when God the Spirit puts such a word into the mouth of the poor worm of the dust!

This is one of the “great things” that he does at times; and THEN “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” indeed. There is THEN a solemn might and violence in prayer to storm Satan’s strongholds, and a great blessing comes through the power and energy of the Holy Ghost. But none but the Spirit of the Lord can produce this in the heart of a sinner; and when a sinner is brought here, he knows something eventually of God “having done great things for him.”

But I must conclude;

III. When the Lord makes this manifest in us, it is sure to make us GLAD. Then we can say, joyfully, sweetly, and blessedly, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God my strength, in whom I will trust, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation and my high tower”—my ALL. What gladness in the heart when Jesus is thus revealed, and when our souls can sweetly and blessedly triumph in him! “He hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.”

May the Lord the Spirit lead you and me to know more of the Gospel of Christ, and to show especial concern for the spiritually poor and needy, for his mercy’s sake.

Amen.

The Paschal Feast and the Lord’s Supper

Taken and adapted from, “THE TEMPLE ITS MINISTRY AND SERVICES AS THEY WERE AT THE TIME OF JESUS CHRIST”
Written by, Alfred Edersheim

the-last-supper_I4C0669-1800

‘And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My Body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’
–Matthew 26:26-28

Jewish Traditions about the Passover 

Jewish tradition has this curious conceit: that the most important events in Israel’s history were connected with the Paschal season. Thus it is said to have been on the present Paschal night that, after his sacrifice, the ‘horror of great darkness’ fell upon Abraham when God revealed to him the future of his race (Genesis 15). Similarly, it is supposed to have been at Passover time that the patriarch entertained his heavenly guests, that Sodom was destroyed and Lot escaped, and that the walls of Jericho fell before the Lord. More than that—the ‘cake of barley bread’ seen in the dream, which led to the destruction of Midian’s host, had been prepared from the Omer, presented on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread; just as at a later period alike the captains of Sennacherib and the King of Assyria, who tarried at Nob, were overtaken by the hand of God at the Passover season. It was at the Paschal time also that the mysterious handwriting appeared on the wall to declare Babylon’s doom, and again at the Passover that Esther and the Jews fasted, and that wicked Haman perished. And so also in the last days it would be the Paschal night when the final judgments should come upon ‘Edom,’ and the glorious deliverance of Israel take place. Hence to this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service—just after the ‘third cup,’ or the ‘cup of blessing,’ has been drunk—the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah, while appropriate passages are at the same time read which foretell the destruction of all heathen nations (Psalms 79:6; 69:25; Lamentations 3:66). It is a remarkable coincidence that, in instituting His own Supper, the Lord Jesus connected the symbol, not of judgment, but of His dying love, with this ‘third cup.’ But, in general, it may be interesting to know that no other service contains within the same space the like ardent aspirations after a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, nor so many allusions to the Messianic hope, as the liturgy for the night of the Passover now in use among the Jews.

If we could only believe that the prayers and ceremonies which it embodies were the same as those at the time of our Lord, we should have it in our power to picture in minutest detail all that took place when He instituted his own Supper. We should see the Master as He presided among the festive company of His disciples, know what prayers He uttered, and at what special parts of the service, and be able to reproduce the arrangement of the Paschal table around which they sat.

The Modern Ceremonies 

At present and for many centuries back the Paschal Supper has been thus laid out: three large unleavened cakes, wrapped in the folds of a napkin, are placed on a salver, and on them the seven articles necessary for the ‘Passover Supper’ are ranged in this manner:

A roasted Egg (Instead of Roasted Shankbone of a Lamb the 14th day Chagigah) (Instead of the Paschal Lamb)
Charoseth (To represent the Bitter Herbs Lettuce mortar of Egypt)
Salt Water Chervil and Parsley

Present Ritual not the Same as the New Testament Times 

But, unfortunately, the analogy does not hold good. As the present Passover liturgy contains comparatively very few relics from New Testament times, so also the present arrangement of the Paschal table evidently dates from a time when sacrifices had ceased. On the other hand, however, by far the greater number of the usages observed in our own days are precisely the same as eighteen hundred years ago. A feeling, not of gratified curiosity, but of holy awe, comes over us, as thus we are able to pass back through those many centuries into the upper chamber where the Lord Jesus partook of that Passover which, with the loving desire of a Savior’s heart, He had desired to eat with His disciples. The leading incidents of the feast are all vividly before us—the handling of ‘the sop dipped in the dish,’ ‘the breaking of bread,’ ‘the giving thanks,’ ‘the distributing of the cup,’ and ‘the concluding hymn.’ Even the exact posture at the Supper is known to us. But the words associated with those sacred memories come with a strange sound when we find in Rabbinical writings the ‘Passover lamb’ designated as ‘His body,’ or when our special attention is called to the cup known as ‘the cup of blessing, which we bless’; nay, when the very term for the Passover liturgy itself, the ‘Haggadah,’ which means ‘showing forth,’ is exactly the same as that used by St. Paul in describing the service of the Lord’s Supper! (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)

The Roasting of the Lamb 

Before proceeding further we may state that, according to Jewish ordinance, the Paschal lamb was roasted on a spit made of pomegranate wood, the spit passing right through from mouth to vent. Special care was to be taken that in roasting the lamb did not touch the oven, otherwise the part touched had to be cut away. This can scarcely be regarded as an instance of Rabbinical punctiliousness. It was intended to carry out the idea that the lamb was to be undefiled by any contact with foreign matter, which might otherwise have adhered to it. For everything here was significant, and the slightest deviation would mar the harmony of the whole. If it had been said, that not a bone of the Paschal lamb was to be broken, that it was not to be ‘sodden at all with water, but roast with fire—his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof,’ and that none of it was to ‘remain until the morning,’ all that had not been eaten being burnt with fire (Exodus 12:810)—such ordinances had each a typical object. Of all other sacrifices, even the most holy (Leviticus 6:21), it alone was not to be ‘sodden,’ because the flesh must remain pure, without the admixture even of water. Then, no bone of the lamb was to be broken: it was to be served up entire—none of it was to be left over; and those who gathered around it were to form one family. All this was intended to express that it was to be a complete and unbroken sacrifice, on the ground of which there was complete and unbroken fellowship with the God who had passed by the blood-sprinkled doors, and with those who together formed but one family and one body. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread’ (1 Corinthians 10:16,17).

Distinct From All Levitical Sacrifices 

Such views and feelings, which, no doubt, all truly spiritual Israelites shared, gave its meaning to the Paschal feast at which Jesus sat down with His disciples, and which He transformed into the Lord’s Supper by linking it to His Person and Work. Every sacrifice, indeed, had prefigured His Work; but none other could so suitably commemorate His death, nor yet the great deliverance connected with it, and the great union and fellowship flowing from it. For other reasons also it was especially suited to be typical of Christ. It was a sacrifice, and yet quite out of the order of all Levitical sacrifices. For it had been instituted and observed before Levitical sacrifices existed; before the Law was given; nay, before the Covenant was ratified by blood (Exodus 24). In a sense, it may be said to have been the cause of all the later sacrifices of the Law, and of the Covenant itself. Lastly, it belonged neither to one nor to another class of sacrifices; it was neither exactly a sin-offering nor a peace-offering, but combined them both. And yet in many respects it quite differed from them. In short, just as the priesthood of Christ was a real Old Testament priesthood, yet not after the order of Aaron, but after the earlier, prophetic, and royal order of Melchizedec, so the sacrifice also of Christ was a real Old Testament sacrifice, yet not after the order of Levitical sacrifices, but after that of the earlier prophetic Passover sacrifice, by which Israel had become a royal nation.

Guests of the Paschal Table 

As the guests gathered around the Paschal table, they came no longer, as at the first celebration, with their ‘loins girded,’ with shoes on their feet, and a staff in their hand— that is, as travelers waiting to take their departure.

On the contrary, they were arrayed in their best festive garments, joyous and at rest, as became the children of a king. To express this idea the Rabbis also insisted that the Paschal Supper—or at least part of it—must be eaten in that recumbent position with which we are familiar from the New Testament. ‘For,’ say they, ‘they use this leaning posture, as free men do, in memorial of their freedom.’ And, again, ‘Because it is the manner of slaves to eat standing, therefore now they eat sitting and leaning, in order to show that they have been delivered from bondage into freedom.’ And, finally: ‘No, not the poorest in Israel may eat till he has sat down, leaning.’ But, though it was deemed desirable to ‘sit leaning’ during the whole Paschal Supper, it was only absolutely enjoined while partaking of the bread and the wine. This recumbent posture so far resembled that still common in the East, that the body rested on the feet. Hence, also, the penitent woman at the feast given by Simon is said to have ‘stood at His feet, behind,’ ‘weeping’ (Luke 7:38). At the same time, the left elbow was placed on the table, and the head rested on the hand, sufficient room being of course left between each guest for the free movements of the right hand. This explains in what sense John ‘was leaning on Jesus’ bosom,’ and afterwards ‘lying on Jesus’ breast,’ when he bent back to speak to Him (John 13:23,25).

The Use of Wine 

The use of wine in the Paschal Supper, though not mentioned in the Law, was strictly enjoined by tradition.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, it was intended to express Israel’s joy on the Paschal night, and even the poorest must have ‘at least four cups, though he were to receive the money for it from the poor’s box’ (Pes. x. 1). If he cannot otherwise obtain it, the Talmud adds, ‘he must sell or pawn his coat, or hire himself out for these four cups of wine.’ The same authority variously accounts for the number four as either corresponding to the four words used about Israel’s redemption (bringing out, delivering, redeeming, taking), or to the fourfold mention of the cup in connection with the chief butler’s dream (Genesis 40:9-15), or to the four cups of vengeance which God would in the future give the nations to drink (Jeremiah 25:15; 51:7; Psalms 75:8; 11:6), while four cups of consolation would be handed to Israel, as it is written: ‘The Lord is the portion of my cup’ (Psalms 16:5); ‘My cup runneth over’ (Psalms 23:5); ‘I will take the cup of salvation’ (Psalms 116:13), ‘which,’ it is added, ‘was two’—perhaps from a second allusion to it in verse 17. In connection with this the following parabolic story from the Talmud may possess some interest: ‘The holy and blessed God will make a feast for the righteous in the day that His mercy shall be shown to the seed of Israel. After they have eaten and drunk, they give the cup of blessing to Abraham our father. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Ishmael came from me. Then he gives it to Isaac. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Esau came from me. Then he hands it to Jacob. But he saith: I cannot take it, because I married two sisters, which is forbidden in the Law. He saith to Moses: Take it and bless it. But he replies: I cannot, because I was not counted worthy to come into the land of Israel, either alive or dead. He saith to Joshua: Take it and bless it. But he answers: I cannot, because I have no son. He saith to David: Take it and bless it. And he replies: I will bless it, and it is fit for me so to do, as it is written, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”‘

The Mishnah Account 

As detailed in the earliest Jewish record of ordinances—the Mishnah—the service of the Paschal Supper was exceedingly simple. Indeed, the impression left on the mind is, that, while all the observances were fixed, the prayers, with some exceptions preserved to us, were free. Rabbi Gamaliel, the teacher of St. Paul, said (Pes. x. 15): ‘Whoever does not explain three things in the Passover has not fulfilled the duty incumbent on him. These three things are: the Passover lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. The Passover lamb means that God passed over the blood-sprinkled place on the houses of our fathers in Egypt; the unleavened bread means that our fathers were delivered out of Egypt (in haste); and the bitter herbs mean that the Egyptians made bitter the lives of our fathers in Egypt.’ A few additional particulars are necessary to enable the reader to understand all the arrangements of the Paschal Supper. From the time of the evening-sacrifice nothing was to be eaten till the Paschal Supper, so that all might come to it with relish (Pes, x. 1). It is a moot point, whether at the time of our Lord two, or, as at present, three, large cakes of unleavened bread were used in the service. The Mishnah mentions (Pes. ii. 6) these five kinds as falling within the designation of ‘bitter herbs,’ viz. lettuce, endive, succory (garden endive?), what is called ‘Charchavina’ (urtica, beets?), and horehound (bitter coriander?). The ‘bitter herbs’ seem to have been twice partaken of during the service, once dipped in salt water or vinegar, and a second time with Charoseth, a compound of dates, raisins, etc., and vinegar, though the Mishnah expressly declares (Pes. x. 3) that Charoseth was not obligatory. Red wine alone was to be used at the Paschal Supper, and always mixed with water.

Each of the four cups must contain at least the fourth of a quarter of an hin (the hin = one gallon two pints). Lastly, it was a principle that, after the Paschal meal, they had no Aphikomen (after-dish), an expression which may perhaps best be rendered by ‘dessert.’

The ‘Giving Thanks’ 

The Paschal Supper itself commenced by the head of ‘the company’ taking the first cup of wine in his hand, and ‘giving thanks’ over it in these words:

‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who has created the fruit of the vine! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God King of the Universe, who hast chosen us from among all people, and exalted us from among all languages, and sanctified us with Thy commandments! And Thou hast give us, O Jehovah our God, in love, the solemn days for joy, and the festivals and appointed seasons for gladness; and this the day of the feast of unleavened bread, the season of our freedom, a holy convocation, the memorial of our departure from Egypt. For us hast Thou chosen; and us hast Thou sanctified from among all nations, and Thy holy festivals with joy and with gladness hast Thou caused us to inherit. Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah, who sanctifiest Israel and the appointed seasons! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, King of the Universe, who hast preserved us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season!’

The First Cup 

The first cup of wine was then drunk, and each washed his hands.

It was evidently at this time that the Savior in His self-humiliation proceeded also to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). Our Authorized Version wrongly translates verse 2 by, ‘and supper being ended,’ instead of ‘and when supper had come,’ or ‘was begun.’ Similarly, it was, in all probability, in reference to the first cup that Luke gives the following account (Luke 22:17): ‘And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’—the ‘cup of blessing,’ which was the third, and formed part of the new institution of the Lord’s Supper, being afterwards mentioned in verse 20. In washing their hands this customary prayer was repeated: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments, and hast enjoined us concerning the washing of our hands.’ Two different kinds of ‘washing’ were prescribed by tradition—’dipping’ and ‘pouring.’ At the Paschal Supper the hands were to be ‘dipped’ in water.

The Herbs 

These preliminaries ended, the Paschal table was brought forward. The president of the feast first took some of the herbs, dipped them in salt water, ate of them, and gave to the others. Immediately after it, all the dishes were removed from the table (as it was thought so strange a proceeding would tend to excite the more curiosity), and then the second cup was filled. A very interesting ceremony now took place, It had been enjoined in the law that at each Paschal Supper the father was to show his son the import of this festival. By way of carrying out this duty, the son (or else the youngest) was directed at this particular part of the service to make inquiry; and, if the child were too young or incapable, the father would do it for him.

The Son’s Question 

The son asks: ‘Why is this night distinguished from all other nights? For on all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread? On all other nights we eat any kind of herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs? On all other nights we eat meat roasted, stewed, or boiled, but on this night only roasted? On all other nights we dip (the herbs) only once, but on this night twice?’

Thus far according to the earliest and most trustworthy tradition. It is added (Mishnah, Pes. x. 4): ‘Then the father instructs his child according to the capacity of his knowledge, beginning with our disgrace and ending with our glory, and expounding to him from, “A Syrian, ready to perish, was my father,” till he has explained all through, to the end of the whole section’ (Deut. 26:5-11). In other words, the head of the house was to relate the whole national history, commencing with Terah, Abraham’s father, and telling of his idolatry, and continuing, in due order, the story of Israel up to their deliverance from Egypt and the giving of the Law; and the more fully he explained it all, the better.

The Dishes 

This done, the Paschal dishes were brought back on the table. The president now took up in succession the dish with the Passover lamb, that with the bitter herbs, and that with the unleavened bread, and briefly explained the import of each; for, according to Rabbi Gamaliel:

‘From generation to generation every man is bound to look upon himself not otherwise than if he had himself come forth out of Egypt. For so it is written (Exodus 13:8), “And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which Jehovah did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Therefore,’ continues the Mishnah, giving the very words of the prayer used, ‘we are bound to thank, praise, laud, glorify, extol, honor, bless, exalt, and reverence Him, because He hath wrought for our fathers, and for us all these miracles. He brought us forth from bondage into freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning to a festival, from darkness to a great light, and from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us sing before Him: Hallelujah!’ Then the first part of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, comprising Psalms 113 and 114, with this brief thanksgiving at the close: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the Universe, who hast redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt.’ Upon this the second cup was drunk. Hands were now washed a second time, with the same prayer as before, and one of the two unleavened cakes broken and ‘thanks given.’

The Breaking of the Bread 

Rabbinical authorities distinctly state that this thanksgiving was to follow not to precede, the breaking of the bread, because it was the bread of poverty, ‘and the poor have not whole cakes, but broken pieces.’ The distinction is important, as proving that since the Lord in instituting His Supper, according to the uniform testimony of the three Gospels and of St. Paul (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24), first gave thanks and then break the bread (‘having given thanks, He break it’), it must have been at a later period of the service.

Pieces of the broken cake with ‘bitter herbs’ between them, and ‘dipped’ in the Charoseth, were next handed to each in the company. This, in all probability, was ‘the sop’ which, in answer to John’s inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord ‘gave’ to Judas (John 13:25, etc.; compare Matt 26:21, etc.; Mark 14:18, etc.). The unleavened bread with bitter herbs constituted, in reality, the beginning of the Paschal Supper, to which the first part of the service had only served as a kind of introduction. But as Judas, after ‘having received the sop, went immediately out,’ he could not even have partaken of the Paschal lamb, far less of the Lord’s Supper. The solemn discourses of the Lord recorded by St. John (John 13:31; 16) may therefore be regarded as His last ‘table-talk,’ and the intercessory prayer that followed (John 17) as His ‘grace after meat.’

The Three Elements of the Feast 

The Paschal Supper itself consisted of the unleavened bread with bitter herbs, of the so-called Chagigah, or festive offering (when brought), and, lastly, of the Paschal lamb itself. After that nothing more was to be eaten, so that the flesh of the Paschal Sacrifice might be the last meat partaken of. But since the cessation of the Paschal Sacrifice the Jews conclude the Supper with a piece of unleavened cake, which they call the Aphikomen, or after-dish. Then, having again washed hands, the third cup is filled, and grace after meat said. Now, it is very remarkable that our Lord seems so far to have anticipated the present Jewish practice that He brake the bread ‘when He had given thanks,’ instead of adhering to the old injunction of not eating anything after the Passover lamb. And yet in so doing He only carried out the spirit of the Paschal feast. For, as we have already explained, it was commemorative and typical. It commemorated an event which pointed to and merged in another event—even the offering of the better Lamb, and the better freedom connected with that sacrifice. Hence, after the night of His betrayal, the Paschal lamb could have no further meaning, and it was right that the commemorative Aphikomen should take its place. The symbolical cord, if the figure may be allowed, had stretched to its goal—the offering up of the Lamb of God; and though again continued from that point onwards till His second coming, yet it was, in a sense, as from a new beginning.

The Third Cup 

Immediately afterwards the third cup was drunk, a special blessing having been spoken over it. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that this was the cup which our Lord connected with His own Supper. It is called in Jewish writings, just as by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:16), ‘the cup of blessing,’ partly because it and the first cup required a special ‘blessing,’ and partly because it followed on the ‘grace after meat.’ Indeed, such importance attached to it, that the Talmud (Berac. 51, 1) notes ten peculiarities, too minute indeed for our present consideration, but sufficient to show the special value set upon it.

The service concluded with the fourth cup, over which the second portion of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, consisting of Psalms 115, 116, 117, and 118, the whole ending with the so-called ‘blessing of the song,’ which comprised these two brief prayers: ‘All Thy works shall praise Thee, Jehovah our God. And Thy saints, the righteous, who do Thy good pleasure, and all Thy people, the house of Israel, with joyous song let them praise, and bless, and magnify, and glorify, and exalt, and reverence, and sanctify, and ascribe the kingdom to Thy name, O our King! For it is good to praise Thee, and pleasure to sing praises unto Thy name, for from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.’

‘The breath of all that lives shall praise Thy name, Jehovah our God. And the spirit of all flesh shall continually glorify and exalt Thy memorial, O our King! For from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God, and besides Thee we have no King, Redeemer, or Savior,’ etc.132

The Supper in Our Lord’s Time 

In this manner was the Paschal Supper celebrated by the Jews at the time when our Lord for the last time sat down to it with His disciples. So important is it to have a clear understanding of all that passed on that occasion, that, at the risk of some repetition, we shall now attempt to piece together the notices in the various Gospels, adding to them again those explanations which have just been given in detail. At the outset we may dismiss, as unworthy of serious discussion, the theory, either that our Lord had observed the Paschal Supper at another than the regular time for it, or that St. John meant to intimate that He had partaken of it on the 13th instead of the 14th of Nisan. To such violent hypotheses, which are wholly uncalled for, there is this one conclusive answer is that, except on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, no Paschal lamb could have been offered in the Temple, and therefore no Paschal Supper celebrated in Jerusalem. But abiding by the simple text of Scripture, we have the following narrative of events:— Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan, the Lord Jesus having sent Peter and John before Him ‘to prepare the Passover,’ ‘in the evening He cometh with the twelve’ (Mark 14:17) to the ‘guest-chamber,’ the ‘large upper room furnished’ (Luke 22:11,12) for the Supper, although He seems to have intended ‘after Supper’ to spend the night outside the city. Hence Judas and the band from the chief priests do not seek for Him where He had eaten the Passover, but go at once to ‘the garden into which He had entered, and His disciples’; for Judas ‘knew the place,’ (John 18:1, 2) and it was one to which ‘Jesus often times resorted with His disciples.’ ‘When the hour was come’ for the commencement of the Paschal Supper, Jesus ‘sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him,’ all, as usual at the feast, ‘leaning’ (John 13:23), John on ‘Jesus’ bosom,’ being placed next before Him, and Judas apparently next behind, while Simon Peter faced John, and was thus able to ‘beckon unto him’ when he wished inquiry to be made of the Lord. The disciples being thus ranged, the Lord Jesus ‘took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’ (Luke 22:17). This was the first cup, over which the first prayer in the service was spoken. Next, as in duty bound, all washed their hands, only that the Lord here also gave meaning to the observance, when, expanding the service into Christian fellowship over His broken body, He ‘riseth from Supper,’ ‘and began to wash the disciples’ feet’ (John 13:4,5). It is thus we explain how this ministry, though calling forth Peter’s resistance to the position which the Master took, did not evoke any question as to its singularity. As the service proceeded, the Lord mingled teaching for the present with the customary lessons of the past (John 13:12-20); for, as we have seen considerable freedom was allowed, provided the instruction proper at the feast were given. The first part of the ‘Hallel’ had been sung, and in due order He had taken the ‘bread of poverty’ and the ‘bitter herbs,’ commemorative of the sorrow and the bitterness of Egypt, when ‘He was troubled in spirit’ about ‘the root of bitterness’ about to spring up among, and to ‘trouble’ them, by which ‘many would be defiled.’ The general concern of the disciples as to which of their number should betray Him, found expression in the gesture of Peter. His friend John understood its meaning, and ‘lying back on Jesus’ breast,’ he put the whispered question, to which the Lord replied by giving ‘the sop’ of unleavened bread with bitter herbs, ‘when He had dipped’ it, to Judas Iscariot.

Judas Iscariot 

‘And after the sop Satan entered into him,’ and he ‘went out immediately.’ It was an unusual time to leave the Paschal table, for with ‘the sop dipped’ into the ‘Charoseth’ the Paschal Supper itself had only just begun. But then ‘some of them thought’—perhaps without fully considering it in their excitement—that Judas, who ‘had the bag,’ and on whom, therefore, the care of such things devolved, had only gone to see after ‘those things that they had need of against the feast,’ or to ‘give something to the poor’— applying some of the common stock of money in helping to provide ‘peace-offerings’ for the poor. This would have been quite in accordance with the spirit of the ordinance, while neither supposition necessarily involved a breach of the law, since it was permitted to prepare all needful provision for the feast, and of course also for the Sabbath, which in this instance followed it. For, as we have seen, the festive observance of the 15th of Nisan differed in this from the ordinary Sabbath-law, although there is evidence that even the latter was at that time by no means so strict as later Jewish tradition has made it. And then it was, after the regular Paschal meal, that the Lord instituted His own Supper, for the first time using the Aphikomen ‘when He had given thanks’ (after meat), to symbolise His body, and the third cup, or ‘cup of blessing which we bless’ (1 Corinthians 10:16)—being ‘the cup after supper’ (Luke 22:20)—to symbolise His blood. ‘And when they had sung a hymn’ (Psalms 115-118) ‘they went out into the mount of Olives’ (Matt 26:30).

Our Lord’s Agony 

Then it was that the Lord’s great heaviness and loneliness came upon Him; when all around seemed to give way, as if crushed under the terrible burden about to be lifted; when His disciples could not watch with Him even one hour; when in the agony of His soul ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground’; and when He ‘prayed, saying: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’ But ‘the cup which the Father’ had given Him, He drank to the bitter dregs; and ‘when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Hebrews 5:7-9).

Thus the ‘Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (1 Peter 1:20)—and, indeed, ‘slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev 13:8)—was selected, ready, willing, and waiting. It only remained, that it should be actually offered up as ‘the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).

If you do well, shall you not be accepted… by God?

Taken and adapted from, “The Cause of God and Truth”
This section written by, Dr. John Gill, 1735

Cain-Abel-Albertinelli

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“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
–Genesis 4:7
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I.   It will be proper to inquire, whether a wicked, an unregenerate man, as was Cain, can perform good works.

To which may be answered,

1     Adam had a power to do every good work the law required; which men, since the fall, have not. Men indeed, in an unregenerate state, might do many things which they do not; such as reading the Scriptures, attending on public worship, etc. No doubt but the persons in the parable, who were invited to the dinner, could have gone to it, had they had a will, as well as the one did to his farm, and the other to his merchandise. Men have an equal power, had they an heart, a will, an inclination, to go to a place of divine worship, as to a tavern, or alehouse; but it is easy to observe, that persons oftentimes have it in the power of their hands, when they have it not in the power of their hearts, to do a good work; as a rich man to give alms to the poor. Unregenerate men are capable of performing works, which are in a natural and civil, though not in a spiritual sense, good. They may do those things, which externally, in appearance, and as to the matter and substance of them, may be good; such as hearing, reading, praying, giving alms to the poor, etc., when the circumstances requisite to good works are wanting; for whatsoever is done as a good work, must be done in obedience to the will of God; from a principle of love to him; must be performed in faith; in the name of Christ, and to the glory of God by him. Therefore,

2     It must be denied, that wicked, unregenerate men, have a power to perform good works in a spiritual manner; which is evident from their natural estate and condition, according to the scriptural representation of it, which is this: that the bias of their minds is to that which is evil, and to that only; that they are wholly carnal, and mind nothing else but the things of the flesh; that they are weak and strengthless, yea, dead in trespasses and sins; nay, that they are under an impossibility to do that which is spiritually good; There is none that doeth good, no, not one of them, nor are they able; they are not subject to the law of God, nor can they be. When the Ethiopian changes his skin, and the leopard his spots, then may they also do good, who are accustomed to do evil. Men may expect as soon to gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles, as good fruit to grow upon, or good works to be performed by, unregenerate men; no, they must be created in Christ Jesus, have the Spirit of Christ put into them, and his grace implanted in them; they must be believers in him, before they are capable of doing that which is spiritually good. And even believers themselves are not able to think a good thought or perform a good work of themselves; it is God who works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Sometimes when they have a will to that which is good, yet how to perform they know not; they can do nothing without Christ, though all things through him, who strengthens them; much less then have unregenerate persons either a power or a will to that which is spiritually good. Nor,

3     Is there any foundation for such a proposition in these words, which are hypothetically expressed, and therefore nothing absolutely to be concluded from them; that is to say, we are not to argue from God’s saying to Cain, If you do well, therefore Cain had a power to do well, or to do that which is spiritually good, well; much less should we infer from hence, as one does, that “God could not have proposed the doing of good as a condition, if he had not given Cain sufficient strength whereby he was capable to do good.” Since God could not only have proposed the doing of good, but have required it according to his law, without being under obligation to give sufficient strength to obey; for though man by his sin has lost his power to obey the will of God in a right manner, yet God has not lost his authority to command; which he may use without obliging himself to find man sufficient strength to act in obedience to it. Besides,

4     These words regard doing well, not in a moral, but in a ceremonial sense. Cain and Abel were very early taught the necessity, manner, and use of sacrifices; and in process of time they brought their offerings to the Lord, each according to his different calling and employment; the one brought of the fruit of the ground, the other of the firstlings of his flock. Now to Abel and his offering the Lord had respect, that is, he accepted him and his offering; but to Cain and his offering he had not respect; which made Cain very wroth, and his countenance fell; upon which the Lord expostulates with him after this manner, Why are you wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If you do well, –If you had offered rightly, as the Septuagint renders the words which though it is not a proper literal translation of them, yet agreeable enough to their sense, should you not be accepted? Cain failed either in the matter or manner of his sacrifice; probably in the latter; since the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews observes, that by faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. (Heb. 11:4) Cain offered his sacrifice without faith, without any view to the sacrifice of Christ: he performed this his sacrifice hypocritically, in show and appearance only; he acted from no right principle, nor to any right end; and therefore his works, whatever show of righteousness they might have, are, by the apostle John, (1 John 3:12) rightly called evil; as are also all the works of wicked and unregenerate men. I proceed,

II.     To consider whether man’s acceptance with God is on the account of his good works.

1     There is a difference between the acceptance of men’s works, and of their persons for them: there are many actions done by men, which are acceptable and well-pleasing to God, when they themselves are not accepted by him, on account of them. Besides, no man’s works are accepted by him whose person is not previously accepted: God first had respect to the person of Abel, and then to his offering; which shows that his was not accepted for the sake of his offering. The best works of the saints are imperfect and attended with sin, and are only acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, in whom, and in whom only, who is the beloved, their persons are accepted and well-pleasing to God. No man can be justified or saved by his works, and therefore no man can be accepted with God on that account; which is the current doctrine of the sacred writings: this will help us to understand the true sense of such passages, as Acts 10:35, Romans 19:18, 2 Corinthians 5:9, compared with Ephesians 1:6, and 1 Peter 2:5.

2     Nor do these words suppose that man’s acceptance with God stands upon the foot of works. The Hebrew word tas, for there is but one word in the original text, which our translators render, shalt you not be accepted? signifies either excellency, as in Psalm 62:4, and may design the dignity of primogeniture, or honor of birth-right, as it does in Genesis 49:3, and so be rendered, shalt you not have the excellency? That is, shall not the right of primogeniture continue with thee? Shall not the honor and privilege of being the first-born abide with thee? you need not be afraid that this shall be taken from thee, and given to thy younger brother, who is willing to be subject to thee, and ready to serve thee; which well agrees with the latter part of the text, and unto thee shall be his desire, and you shall rule over him; or the word signifies an elevation, or lifting up; and is to be understood as Aben Ezra observes of Mygp tas, a lifting up of the countenance, which was fallen, verses 5, 6, and then the sense is, if you had done well, when you brought thine offering, you might have lift up thy face without spot, and doubtless you wouldst have done so; but inasmuch as you hast sinned and done evil, and which is to be seen in thy fallen countenance, sin lies at the door of thy conscience; which, when once opened, it will enter in, and make dreadful work; as it did a little after; which made him say, My punishment is greater than I can bear. But admitting that the word signifies acceptance, and be rendered, shall there not be an acceptance? It is to be understood, not of an acceptance of his person, but of his sacrifices and services.

III.  It remains to be considered, whether Cain had a day of grace, in which it was possible for him to be accepted with God.

1     There is no acceptance of any man’s person, but as he is considered in Christ the Mediator. Now as there is no reason to believe that ever Cain, who was of the wicked one, the devil, was ever in Christ, or ever considered in him; so there is no reason to conclude, that he either was, or that it was possible for him to be, accepted with God.

2     The text does not speak of his doing well in a moral or spiritual, but in a ceremonial way; and not at all of the acceptance of his person, on the foot of so doing; but at most, only of the acceptance of his sacrifice and ceremonious services, supposing them rightly performed.

3     These words are not expressive of a day of visitation in a way of grace and mercy to him; but are to be considered as an expostulation with him for his wrath, fury, and fallen countenance, and an upbraiding of him with his evil doing, in order to awaken his conscience, and bring him to a full sense of his sin; which was so far from proving a day of grace to him, that it quickly issued in the utmost distress of mind, torture of conscience, and black despair.

“The Blood… That Speaks Better Things”

Taken and adapted from, “Christ, the Sun of Righteousness”
Written by, Ian Potts

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“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.” –Hebrews 12:24

HERE we read of the blood of two men, of blood which is said to speak…

Both Christ’s blood and Abel’s have this in common – they speaks. We read in Genesis 4:10 regarding Abel’s blood when God confronted Cain:

 “And he said, ‘What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’”  

Cain, having murdered his brother Abel out of the envy that rose up in his heart against him, could not run from the consequence of his actions; he could not hide from God. His brother’s blood cried out to God from the ground. God heard and God knew. The blood of Abel spoke of Cain’s wickedness.  

Abel’s blood was innocent blood. Abel had done his brother no wrong, yet Cain, filled with envy, slew him who was innocent. Christ’s blood too was innocent blood. Christ did not deserve to die. He was innocent of all that was charged against Him. Men with wicked hands took Him and slew Him. Judas, having betrayed Jesus to the Chief priests, realized the horror of what he had done and repented of it:

 “Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, ‘What is that to us? see thou to that.’” Matthew 27:4

But Christ was righteous; He was sinless, He was perfect, He was innocent. His, like Abel’s, was innocent blood. But unlike Christ Abel was still a sinner like other men – his innocence was only before his fellow men. Before God Abel stood as a sinner and he knew it – he knew that his sins needed to be atoned for, to be taken away. In offering to God a lamb which he had sacrificed Abel saw beyond the type and the figure to the reality – that God would provide Himself a perfect sacrifice for sin, a sacrifice which would remove all Abel’s sin and make Him righteous before God. This Abel believed, this Abel saw by faith (Hebrews 11:4), and it was this which filled his brother Cain with envy and hatred against him. For Cain sought righteousness by another way. He sought to come before God, to find acceptance before God, by his own works and by his own righteousness. Cain despised his brother and the truths he stood for. He hated his brother because of the acceptance with God which Abel found by grace alone – surely God should look upon Cain’s works with pleasure? Surely there was merit in his labors? How dare Abel find acceptance simply by grace?! Cain, like many who follow him in seeking to please God by their own efforts, by their own works and by self-righteousness (yet failing to see that even the best of those works are as filthy rags before a holy and a righteous God), hated his brother because Abel found grace in the eyes of the Lord. And the envy, the hatred, bubbled up within Cain until he could contain it no longer – he slew innocent Abel and shed his blood. “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.” Isaiah 59:7 “They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.” Psalm 94:21

But Cain could not hide from his actions, and nor can we. The blood of Abel cried out to God from the ground. And so it does and so too does the innocent blood of countless numbers of the Lord’s people throughout history who have been slain (whether in thought or deed) by others out of enmity against God and His righteousness as seen in those who testify of Christ, the Son of God. The innocent blood speaks – it cries out. Nothing is hidden from God.

But there is another blood which speaks better things than that of Abel’s. This is the blood of Jesus. The blood of Him who was truly innocent, who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), a lamb without spot or blemish, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This is the blood of Him who freely laid down His life for others, the blood of the innocent shed for the guilty. This is the blood which was not shed in vain – it is the blood of God’s perfect sacrifice and it accomplished all that God desired it should. Through it was wrought a perfect and an everlasting salvation for sinners. There is a power in this blood – it is the blood of “Christ crucified”, proclaimed in the Gospel of Christ. The power of God is seen in this blood, the power of God unto Salvation (Romans 1:16). Why? Because of whose blood it is – the Son of God’s. And this blood, like that of Abel’s, is not silent, it speaks and it goes on speaking throughout the ages. Oh, may many be given ears to hear what is spoken by this blood!

Let us briefly look at twelve things which the blood of Christ speaks of in contrast to the speech of Abel’s blood; twelve ways in which Jesus’ blood speaks better things than that of Abel’s.

First, Abel’s blood speaks of murder – the taking of another’s life (Job 24:14, Matthew 5:21-26). Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of substitutionary sacrifice – the giving of one’s life for another (1 John 3:16, John 15:13).

Second, Abel’s blood speaks of envy and of hatred (1 John 3:12), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of the love of God, a love set upon God’s people whilst yet still in their sins (Romans 5:8).

Third, Abel’s blood speaks of sin, the power of sin, and of unrighteousness (Romans 3:10-23), whereas Christ’s blood speaks of righteousness and of cleansing for all sin (1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5).

Fourth, Abel’s blood speaks of death – the consequence of sin (Romans 5:12), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of life – eternal life – because of righteousness (John 6:53, Romans 5:21, Romans 8:10).

Fifth, Abel’s blood speaks of guilt – it cried out to God against Cain who was guilty of Abel’s murder (Genesis 4:10, Matthew 23:25), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of peace with God (Hebrews 9:14) and of redemption (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Sixth, Abel’s blood speaks of the condemnation of sinners (see Revelation 14:10), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of justification before God (Romans 3:24-26), of pardon (Micah 7:18) and of forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14).

Seventh, Abel’s blood speaks of judgement – of separation from God and of the wrath of God (“And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear” Genesis 4:13, Revelation 14:10), whereas Christ’s blood speaks of mercy, of propitiation (Romans 3:25), of atonement, of the covering of sin, and access to God (“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” Ephesians 2:13).

Eighth, Abel’s blood speaks of evil fruit – “a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of good fruit – “every good tree brings forth good fruit.”

Ninth, Abel’s blood speaks of the fallen countenance of Cain (“But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” Genesis 4:5), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (“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” 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Tenth, Abel’s blood speaks of shed blood which was spilt on the earth (Genesis 4:11) – of man’s mortality, being made out of the dust of the earth man returns to dust in his death, Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of that which was taken up and sprinkled in heaven on the mercy seat in the holiest of holies by Christ our great High Priest and “the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24, 1 Peter 1:2, Hebrews 10:19).

Eleventh, Abel’s blood speaks of how Cain was set apart in judgement – he had a mark set upon him, he was cursed in becoming “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth” (Genesis 4:14), Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of sanctification – of a people set apart – in Christ unto holiness (Hebrews 13:12). And

Twelfth, Abel’s blood speaks of Abel’s offering – of a lamb, the firstlings of the flock, which made Cain envious because the LORD had respect unto it (Genesis 4:4), an offering however, which was but a figure of the true, Whereas Christ’s blood speaks of that one great offering for sin, of Christ Himself, that perfect offering once and for all which rose as a sweet smelling savor to God, by which He perfected forever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 9:14, 10:10-14).

“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” Genesis 22:8

“The next day John sees Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Revelation 12:11

How much better are the things of which Christ’s blood speaks than those of which Abel’s blood speaks, and Christ’s blood always speaks for the sinner, not against him. We have but touched upon the wondrous truths spoken of by Christ’s blood – what of the finished work of Christ on the cross? Or of Christ being the fulfilment of the Passover as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world? Or the everlasting covenant of which Christ’s blood speaks (Hebrews 13:20), a covenant which cannot be broken, that new covenant in which Christ fulfilled all the types and figures of the old covenant ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings?

But, we must ask ourselves, which blood will God hear speaking of us? Christ’s blood or another’s? Will God hear the sentence of death against us because of our sins? Or will He hear the plea of Christ’s blood on our behalf – “Washed in the blood of the Lamb”, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”, “Loose him and let him go”?

Oh may it be the blood of Christ which speaks on our behalf! That blood which speaks of righteousness, of pardon, of forgiveness, of everlasting love, of mercy, of deliverance from sin and the power of sin. That blood which speaks of the finished work of salvation, of everlasting life in Christ Jesus, of salvation which is of God by free grace alone to all those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That blood which washes God’s people from all their sins, and through which they are made perfectly righteous in Christ Jesus. What a mercy to have such blood speak for us and to have it sprinkled within our hearts.

 What a Savior! What a sacrifice! How precious is the blood of the Lamb of God, freely shed for sinners, and yet at such a cost to the Son – that blood which speaks better things than that of Abel!

 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Amen.

The Test of a Watchman

Taken and adapted from, “THE CHURCH OF GOD”
Written by Dan Fortner

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‘So thou, 0 son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, 0 wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.’ — Ezekiel 33:7-9

The old prophets used to speak of ‘the burden of the word of the Lord’ (Mal. 1:1).

They spoke to men and women in deadly earnestness, with fear and trembling. There was no frivolity about them. They were not showmen, but spokesmen. They were not promoters, but prophets. They were sent of God with a message that must be delivered, and they knew the weight of their responsibility.

Preachers today could use some of that prophetic burden. Every preacher, as he enters the pulpit to preach the gospel for the glory of God and the good of men’s souls, should have four awesome facts upon his heart.

  1. He is a watchman over the souls of those who hear him. By divine providence he has been placed upon the walls of Zion, in the particular place of God’s appointment, to keep watch over the souls of men. By profession, he claims to be a watchman, one whom God has set to watch over people in danger, to warn them and show them the way of safety and life.
  2. As a watchman, it is the pastor’s responsibility to preach in God’s stead to men and women facing eternity (2 Cor. 5:20). God’s servants are God’s ambassadors to fallen, depraved, lost men and women. They must hear the word at God’s mouth and deliver it, exactly as God gives it, to men and women with undying, immortal souls! It is the responsibility of every preacher, every time he preaches, to make certain that the message he delivers is God’s message.
  3. If the pastor is God’s messenger, if he delivers God’s message, then what he preaches is of eternal consequence (2 Cor. 2:15-17). If a pastor faithfully delivers God’s message in the power of God’s Spirit, his message will either save or damn. It will either be a message of life or a message of death to those who hear him. God’s servants do not labor in vain. God’s Word will never return to him void (Isa. 55:11).
  4. There is a day coming when every watchman will meet every person to whom he has preached, face to face, before the judgement bar of Almighty God to give account of his work (Heb. 13:17). In that great and terrible day of the Lord, if the man who professes to be God’s messenger has failed to declare to his hearers the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus, those who have heard him will perish under the wrath of God, and he will perish with them! (1 Cor. 9:16; cf. Ezek. 33:8). In that awesome hour the unsaved church member will look into the face of his unsaved pastor, and with the smoke of hell in his lungs and the hatred of hell in his heart, he will cry, ‘Why, why didn’t you tell me the truth? My blood is upon your head!’ And both of them will be cast together into hell.

Let no man dare stand in the pulpit to speak to men and women in God’s name who is not prepared to stand before the judgement bar of God to give an account for having done so.

The apostle Paul was fully aware of these awesome realities when he stood before the Ephesian elders. Knowing that he would never see their faces again until they met before the judgement seat, Paul called for those who had heard him preach to bear witness of his faithfulness as a watchman. He said, ‘I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God’ (Acts 20:26-27). This was not an arrogant boast, but a statement of truth. Without courting the approval or fearing the disapproval of any, Paul had plainly declared to all who heard him the truth of God; and, having preached the truth of God to all who heard him, Paul was free from the blood of all. In the Day of Judgement no one will be able to look at Paul and say, ‘I am damned because of you. You did not show me the way of life. You valued my approval, my friendship and my favor more than you valued my soul. My blood is upon your hands! Why didn’t you tell me the truth?’

Using Paul as an example and the words of God to Ezekiel as our standard, I want us to see from the Word of God three tests of a true watchman. If we care for our own souls, we will test and prove every preacher we hear (1 John 4:1-3). The way to prove a preacher’s faithfulness to our souls is by the Word of God, by the message he preaches, not by our own feelings and opinions. The test of a watchman is his faithfulness in keeping watch over the souls of his hearers, warning them of danger and showing them the way of life, by preaching the gospel of Christ to them.

  1. The watchman’s work

The work of a watchman is not complicated, mysterious, or hard to discern. He has only one thing to do: he must keep watch over the camp. God says, ‘Thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.’ That is simple enough. When Paul gave account of his ministry, he simply declared, ‘I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.’ In other words, he said, ‘The word which I received from God I preached to you. I kept back nothing.’ This is the whole work of the ministry. A faithful pastor is a man who diligently seeks a word from God for his people and faithfully delivers that word.

It is a watchman’s responsibility to keep his post. His commander may move him from one place to another at his discretion, but the watchman’s duty is always the same. God may move his servants from one place to another, but their work never varies. The pastor is a watchman. He must not be moved from his post by any fear, intimidation, allurement, or personal desire. He must give himself entirely to the work of the ministry (1 Tim. 4:12-16). He must separate himself from all other things and give himself wholly to the work of the gospel ministry.

Faithful pastors are men who labor in the gospel. As John Gill says, ‘They are not loiterers, slothful servants, who hide their talents in a napkin and may be called idle shepherds, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber, who serve not the Lord Jesus, nor the souls of men. But faithful ministers are laborers, [they] labor in the word and doctrine, and so are worthy of double honor.’

Every pastor must give himself relentlessly to the work of the ministry. Satan will use every means imaginable to distract him from it, if he can. But the pastor must not be distracted from the work he is called to do. Day by day, he must resolutely give himself to the work of the gospel. Though he is a citizen, he cannot be given to politics. Though he is a husband, he cannot give himself to his wife. Though he is a father, he cannot give himself to his family. He must give himself only to Christ and the gospel of his grace. The souls of men, the glory of Christ and the truth of God are at stake!

The pastor must relentlessly give himself to the study of Holy Scripture, ever seeking to know and understand the Word of God. He must be a man of earnest prayer, depending upon the Lord, interceding for God’s elect, seeking a message from God, and praying for grace and power from God to deliver his message to the hearts of those who hear him. He must preach the gospel of Christ with untiring zeal. First and foremost, the pastor must be a preacher, a man separated to the gospel, using every gift and opportunity and means God gives him to preach the gospel. His time, his pen and his voice must be used for the furtherance of the gospel. Pastor, ‘Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them.’

It is the responsibility of every pastor, as a watchman, to proclaim to all men the Word of God, to preach to all ‘all the counsel of God’ (2 Tim. 4:1-5). What did Paul mean when he said, ‘I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God’? He did not mean, ‘I have declared to you all the secret decrees of God.’ No man knows God’s secret decrees. Nor did he mean, ‘I have expounded to you every text of the Bible.’ That could hardly have been done in three years! When Paul said, ‘I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,’ his meaning was, ‘I have faithfully preached in your hearing the whole body of divine truth. I have preached to you the whole gospel of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:25). Paul told the Corinthians the very same thing, when he said, ‘I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2).

Christ crucified, the gospel of God’s free grace to sinners upon the merits of Christ’s obedience, is the whole counsel of God.

To preach all the counsel of God is to declare to all men, at all times, the vital truths of the gospel, to keep back nothing that is profitable to the souls of men. Sitting around a table one evening with a group of preachers, I was asked, ‘How often do you preach “the five points”?’ I think the man was insinuating that, perhaps, I preach the doctrines of grace too much. Without a second’s hesitation, I responded, ‘Every time I preach.’ And I was not exaggerating! It is my full conviction that every time a man stands to preach in God’s name it is his responsibility to preach all the counsel of God, to tell perishing sinners everything they must know to exercise saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Men must be told of God’s glorious majesty as God, if they are to worship him as God. They must be told of his total sovereignty, his absolute holiness, his inflexible justice and his infinite goodness. Sinners must be informed of their desperate need as helpless, totally depraved, guilty and condemned felons before this holy Lord God, for no one will come to Christ until he knows his need of Christ. Men and women must have the wondrous mystery of redemption preached to them if they are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. No one can trust an unknown Savior, and Christ cannot be known apart from the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:14-17). His representative obedience, substitutionary atonement and effectual grace must be fully preached. No one can be saved until he or she understands that ‘Salvation is of the Lord!’ I fully agree with Rowland Hill, who said,

‘Any sermon that does not contain the three ‘R’s of the gospel (Ruin by the Fall, Redemption by the blood and Regeneration by the Holy Spirit) ought never to have been preached.’

To preach all the counsel of God is to preach Christ, only Christ, all of Christ and nothing but Christ all the time! Doctrine divorced from Christ is nothing but dead, religious philosophy. Duty divorced from Christ is nothing but self-righteous legalism. Devotion divorced from Christ is nothing but superstition. Christ is the subject of all biblical truth. Christ is the fulfilment of all biblical prophecy. Christ is the end of all biblical law. Christ is the motive of all biblical precepts. Christ is the example of all biblical standards. Christ is the foundation of all biblical hope. And Christ is the reward of all biblical faith. In a word, in all true gospel preaching, ‘Christ is all.’

It is the responsibility of the watchman to press upon all who hear him the claims of Christ in the gospel (2 Cor. 5:10-21). God’s servants know and preach all the glorious gospel truths of divine sovereignty, absolute predestination, eternal election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and immutable preservation. If any sinner is saved, it will be God’s doing, only God’s doing. With equal emphasis they declare the responsibility of all to trust Christ. God commands all to believe the gospel and promises salvation and eternal life to all who trust his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If anyone goes to hell, it will be his own fault, only his own fault (Prov. 1:23-33; Matt. 11:25-30; 23:37-38).

The watchman must declare the truth of God in plain, clear, unmistakable terms. Not only must the preacher preach the truth; he must preach it with such simplicity and clarity that no one can mistake his meaning. Paul said, ‘I take you to record,’ that is to say, ‘You who have heard me know and bear witness of what I have preached to you.’ Someone said, ‘The gospel must be declared plainly, without disguise; fully, without concealment; firmly, without doubt; authoritatively, without fear.’

This is the watchman’s work. He must not sleep at his post. He must not be enticed to leave his work or neglect it by any means. He must not be driven from his post by any trouble or fear. God holds him accountable.

  1. The watchman’s worth

Would to God that every believer knew the worth of that man who is God’s faithful watchman over his soul! In and of himself the watchman is worthless, and he knows it (Rom. 7:18; Eph. 3:8). Like those to whom he preaches, he is but a fallen, depraved son of Adam, a sinful wretch, but if he is a faithful watchman his value cannot be calculated. His work is the most important work in the world. By faithful obedience to the work God has committed to his hands, the watchman shall both save himself and those who hear him (1 Tim. 4:16). That man who faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ to you is the instrument of God by which you have eternal life. He has no power or ability to save, but without the message he preaches you could not be saved.

Such a man is to be highly honored and esteemed for his work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Such a man is to be highly valued (Isa. 52:7). You cannot honor him too highly, or value him too greatly.

  1. The watchman’s witness

As we have already seen, every faithful pastor will have to give account before God and bear witness at the bar of God’s judgement, regarding those for whom he is a watchman (Heb. 13:17). With joy, he will confess that those who believed his message obeyed the gospel. But, with grief, he will bear witness against all who heard the message of God’s free grace in Christ and refused to believe.

Let every watchman be faithful to his work, and let all who hear the Word of God from the mouth of his watchman obey the gospel.

The Consolation of the Righteous, and the Disconsolation of the Wicked in, THE RESURRECTION

Taken and adapted from “Human Nature in its Fourfold State”
Written by, Thomas Boston

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“Marvel not at this—for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear his voice—and shall come forth; those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”      –John 5:28-29
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These words are part of the defense which our Lord Jesus Christ makes for himself…

…when persecuted by the Jews, for curing the impotent man and ordering him to carry away his bed on the Sabbath; and for vindicating his conduct, when accused by them of having thereby profaned that day. On this occasion he professes himself not only the Lord of the Sabbath, but also Lord of life and death; declaring, in the words of the text, the resurrection of the dead to be brought to pass by his power. This he introduces with these words, as with a solemn preface, “Marvel not at this,”—at this strange discourse of mine—do not wonder to hear me, whose appearance is so very base in your eyes; for the day is coming, in which the dead shall be raised by my power.

Observe in this text,

  1. The doctrine of the resurrection asserted, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” The dead bodies, which are reduced to dust, shall revive, and evidence life by hearing and moving.
  2. The author of it—Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” verse 27. The dead shall hear his voice, and be raised thereby.
  3. The number that shall be raised, “All that are in the graves,” that is, all the dead bodies of men, howsoever differently disposed of, in different kinds of graves; or all the dead, good and bad. They are not all buried in graves, properly so called—some are burnt to ashes; some drowned, and buried in the bellies of fish; yes, some devoured by man-eaters, called cannibals; but, wherever the matter or substance of which the body was composed is to be found, thence they shall come forth.
  4. The great distinction that shall be made between the godly and the wicked—they shall indeed both rise again in the resurrection. None of the godly shall be missing; though, perhaps, they either had no burial, or a very obscure one; and all the wicked shall come forth; their vaulted tombs shall hold them no longer than the voice is uttered. But the former have a joyful resurrection to life, while the latter have a dreadful resurrection to damnation.
  5. The set time of this great event—there is an hour, or certain fixed period of time, appointed of God for it. We are not told when that hour will be, but that it is coming; for this, among other reasons, that we may always be ready. Doctrine.

There shall be a resurrection of the dead. In discoursing of this subject, I shall—

I. Show the certainty of the resurrection.
II. I shall inquire into the nature of it.
III. And, Lastly, make some practical improvement of the whole.

I. In showing the CERTAINTY of the resurrection, I shall evince,

  1. That God can raise the dead.
  2. That he will do it; which are the two grounds or topics laid down by Christ himself, when disputing with the Sadducees, Matt. 22:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, you do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

Seeing God is almighty, surely he can raise the dead. We have instances of this powerful work of God, both in the Old and New Testament. The son of the widow in Sarepta was raised from the dead, 1 Kings 17:22; the Shunammite’s son, 2 Kings 4:35; and the man “cast into the sepulcher of Elisha,” chapter 13:21. In which we may observe a gradation, the second of these miraculous events being more illustrious than the first, and the third than the second. The first of these persons was raised when he was but newly dead; the prophet Elijah, who raised him being present at his decease. The second, when he had lain dead a considerable time; namely, while his mother traveled from Shunem, to mount Carmel, reckoned about the distance of sixteen miles, and returned from thence to her house, with Elisha, who raised him. The last, not until they were burying him, and the corpse was cast into the prophet’s grave. In like manner, in the New Testament, Jairus’s daughter, Mark 5:41, and Dorcas, Acts 9:40, were both raised to life, when lately dead; the widow’s son in Nain, when they were carrying him out to bury him, Luke 12:11-15; and Lazarus, when putrid in the grave, John 11:39, 44.

Can men make curious glasses out of ashes, reduce flowers into ashes, and raise them again out of these ashes, restoring them to their former beauty? And cannot the great Creator, who made all things of nothing, raise man’s body, after it is reduced into the dust? If it be objected, “How can men’s bodies be raised up again, after they are reduced to dust, and the ashes of many generations are mingled together?” Scripture and reason furnish the answer, “With men it is impossible, but not with God.” It is absurd for men to deny that God can do a thing, because they see not how it may be done. How small a portion do we know of his ways! How absolutely incapable are we of conceiving distinctly of the extent of almighty power, and much more of comprehending its actings, and method of procedure! I question not, but many illiterate men are as great unbelievers as to many chemical experiments, as some learned men are to the doctrine of the resurrection—and as these last are ready to deride the former, so, “the Lord will have them in derision.”

What a mystery was it to the Indians, that the Europeans could, by a piece of paper, converse together at the distance of some hundreds of miles! How much were they astonished to see them, with their guns, produce as it were thunder and lightning in a moment, and at pleasure kill men afar off! Shall some men do such things as are wonders in the eyes of others because they cannot comprehend them, and shall men confine the infinite power of God within the narrow boundaries of their own shallow capacities, in a matter no ways contrary to reason! An inferior nature has but a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior. Brutes do not conceive of the actings of reason in men; and men have but imperfect notions of the power of angels— how low and inadequate a conception, then, must a finite nature have of the power of that which is infinite! Though we cannot conceive how God acts, yet we ought to believe he can do above what we can think or conceive.

Therefore, let the bodies of men be laid in the grave; let them rot there, and be reduced into the most minute particles—or let them be burnt, and the ashes cast into rivers, or thrown up into the air, to be scattered by the wind—let the dust of a thousand generations be mingled, and the steams of the dead bodies wander to and fro in the air—let birds or wild beasts eat the bodies, or the fish of the sea devour them, so that the parts of human bodies, thus destroyed, pass into substantial parts of birds, beasts or fish; or, what is more that let man-eaters, who themselves must die and rise again, devour human bodies, and let others devour them again, and then let our modern Sadducees propose the questions in these cases, as the ancient Sadducees did in the case of the woman who had been married to seven husbands successively, Matt. 22:28. We answer, as our blessed Lord and Savior did, ver. 29, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” We believe God to be omniscient and omnipotent; infinite in knowledge and in power—and hence, agreeably to the dictates of reason, we conclude the possibility of the resurrection, even in the cases supposed.

Material things may change their forms and shapes, may be reduced to the principles of which they are formed—but they are not annihilated, or reduced to nothing; nor can they be so, by any created power. God is omniscient, his understanding is infinite; therefore he knows all things; what they were at any time, what they are, and where they are to be found. Though the countryman, who comes into the apothecary’s shop, cannot find out the drug he wants; yet the apothecary himself knows what he has in his shop, whence it came, and where it is to be found. And, in a mixture of many different seeds, the expert gardener can distinguish between each of them. Why then may not Omniscience distinguish between dust and dust? Can he, who knows all things to perfection, be liable to any mistake about his own creatures? Whoever believes an infinite understanding, must needs own, that no mass of dust is so jumbled together, but God perfectly comprehends, and infallibly knows, how the most minute particle, and every one of them is to be matched.

II. shall inquire into the NATURE of the resurrection, showing,

1. Who shall be raised.
2. What shall be raised.
3. How the dead shall be raised.

  1. WHO shall be raised? Our text tells us who they are; namely “all that are in the graves,” that is, all mankind who are dead. As for those people who are found alive at the second coming of Christ, they shall not die, and soon after be raised again; but such a change shall suddenly pass upon them as shall be to them instead of dying and rising again; so that their bodies shall become like lo those bodies which are raised out of their graves, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Hence those who are to be judged at the great day, are distinguished into living and dead, Acts 10:42. All the dead shall arise, whether godly or wicked, just or unjust, Acts 24:15, old or young; the whole race of mankind, even those who never saw the sun, but died in their mother’s womb—Rev. 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.” The sea and earth shall give up their dead without reserve, none shall be kept back.
  2. WHAT shall be raised? The bodies of mankind. A man is said to die, when the soul is separated from the body, “and returns onto God who gave it,” Eccl. 12:7. But it is the body only which is laid in the grave, and can be properly said to be raised—therefore the resurrection, strictly speaking, applies to the body only. Moreover, it is the same body that dies, which shall rise again. At the resurrection, men shall not appear with other bodies, as to substance, than those which they now have, and which are laid down in the grave; but with the self-same bodies, endowed with other qualities. The very notion of a resurrection implies this, since nothing can be said to rise again, but that which falls.
  3. HOW shall the dead be raised? The same Jesus, who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, shall, at the last day, to the conviction of all, be declared both Lord and Christ—appearing as Judge of the world, attended with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7, “He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,” 1 Thess. 4:16, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and those who are alive, changed,” 1 Cor. 15:52. Whether this shout, voice, and trumpet, denote some audible voice, or only the workings of Divine power, for the raising of the dead, and other dreadful purposes of that day, though the former seems probable, I will not positively determine. There is no question but this coming of the Judge of the world will be in greater majesty and terror than we can conceive—yet that dreadful grandeur, majesty, and state, which was displayed at the giving of the law, namely, thunders heard, lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount seen, the Lord descending in fire, the whole mount quaking greatly, and the voice of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod. 19:16-19, may help us to form a becoming thought of it. However, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard all the world over; it shall reach to the depths of the sea, and of the earth. At this loud alarm, bones shall come together, bone to his bone—the scattered dust of all the dead shall be gathered together, dust to his dust; “neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk everyone in his path;” and, meeting together again, shall make up that very same body which crumbled into dust in the grave. At the same alarming voice shall every soul come again into its own body, never more to be separated. The dead can stay no longer in their graves, but must bid an eternal farewell to their long homes—they hear His voice, and must come forth, and receive their final sentence.

Now as there is a great difference between the godly and the wicked, in their life, and in their death; so will there be also in their resurrection.

The godly shall be raised out of their graves, by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, the blessed bond of their union with him, Rom. 8:11, “He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwells in you.” Jesus Christ arose from the dead, as the “first-fruits of those who slept,” 1 Cor. 15:20, So those who are Christ’s shall follow at his coming, ver. 23. The mystical head having got above the waters of death, he cannot but bring forth the members after him, in due time.

They shall come forth with inexpressible joy; for then shall that passage of Scripture, which, in its immediate scope, respected the Babylonish captivity, be fully accomplished in its most extensive meaning, Isa. 26:19, “Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust.” As a bride adorned for her husband, goes forth of her bedchamber unto the marriage—so shall the saints go forth of their graves, unto the marriage of the Lamb. Joseph had a joyful coming out from the prison, Daniel from the lion’s den, and Jonah from the whale’s belly—yet these are but faint representations of the saint’s coming forth from the grave, at the resurrection. Then shall they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in highest strains; death being quite swallowed up in victory. They had, while in this life, sometimes sung, by faith the triumphant song over death and the grave, “O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?” But then they sing the same, from sight and sense; the black band of doubts and fears, which frequently disturbed them, and disturbed their minds, is forever dispersed and driven away.

May we not suppose the soul and body of every saint, as in mutual embraces, to rejoice in each other, and triumph in their happy meeting again; and the BODY to address the soul thus—”O my soul, have we got together again, after so long a separation! Are you come back to your old habitation, never more to remove! O joyful meeting! How unlike is our present state to what our case was, when a separation was made between us at death! Now is our mourning turned into joy; the light and gladness sown before, are now sprung up; and there is a perpetual spring in Immanuel’s land. Blessed be the day in which I was united to you; whose chief care was to get Christ in us the hope of glory, and to make me a temple for his Holy Spirit. O blessed soul, which in the time of our pilgrimage, kept your eye to the land then afar off, but now near at hand! You took me into secret places, and there made me to bow these knees before the Lord, that I might bear a part in our humiliation before him—and now is the time that I am lifted up. You did employ this tongue in confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, which henceforth shall be employed in praising for evermore. You made these sometimes weeping eyes, sow that seed of tears, which is now sprung up in joy that shall never end. I was happily beat down by you, and kept in subjection, while others pampered their flesh, and made their bellies their gods, to their own destruction—but now I gloriously arise, to take my place in the mansions of glory, while they are dragged out of their graves to be cast into fiery flames. Now, my soul, you shall complain no more of a sick and pained body; you shall be no more clogged with weak and weary flesh; I shall now keep pace with you in the praises of our God for evermore.”

And may not the SOUL say—“O happy day in which I return to dwell in that blessed body, which was, and is, and will be forever, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit! Now I shall be eternally knit to you—the silver cord shall never be loosed more—death shall never make another separation between us. Arise then, my body, and come away! And let these eyes, which were used to weep over my sins, behold with joy the face of our glorious Redeemer; lo! This is our God, and we have waited for him. Let these ears, which were used to hear the word of life in the temple below, come and hear the hallelujahs in the temple above. Let these feet, that carried me to the congregation of saints on earth, take their place among those in heaven. And let this tongue, which confessed Christ before men, and used to be still dropping something to his commendation, join the choir of the upper house, in his praises for evermore. You shall fast no more, but keep an everlasting feast; you shall weep no more, neither shall your countenance be overclouded; but you shall shine forever, as a star in the skies. We took part together in the fight; come, let us go together to receive and wear the crown.”

But on the other hand, the WICKED shall be raised by the power of Christ, as a just Judge, who is to render vengeance to his enemies. The same divine power which shut up their souls in hell, and kept their bodies in the grave, as in a prison, shall bring them forth, that soul and body together may receive the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation, and be shut up together in the prison of hell.

They shall come forth from their graves with unspeakable horror and consternation. They shall be dragged forth, as so many malefactors out of a dungeon, to be led to execution crying to the mountains and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb. Fearful was the cry in Egypt, that night on which the destroying angel went through, and slew their first-born. Dreadful were the shouts, at the earth opening her mouth, and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram, and all that appertained to them. What hideous crying then must there be, when at the sound of the last trumpet, the earth and sea shall open their mouths, and cast forth all the wicked world, delivering them up to the dreadful Judge! How will they cry, roar, and tear themselves! How will the jovial companions weep and howl, and curse one another! How will the earth be filled with their doleful shrieks and lamentations, while they are pulled out like sheep for the slaughter!

They who, while they lived in this world, were profane, debauchees, covetous worldlings, or formal hypocrites, shall then, in anguish of mind, wring their hands, beat their breasts, and bitterly lament their case, roaring forth their complaints, and calling themselves beasts, fools, and madmen, for having acted so mad a part in this life, in not believing what they then heard. They were driven away in their wickedness at death—and now all their sins rise with them; and, like so many serpents, twist themselves about their wretched souls, and bodies too, which have a frightful meeting, after a long separation.

Then we may suppose the miserable BODY thus to accost the soul—“Have you again found me, O mine enemy, my worst enemy, savage soul, more cruel than a thousand tigers. Cursed be the day that ever we met. O that I had remained a lifeless lump, rotted in the womb of my mother, and had never received sense, life, and motion! O that I had rather been the body of a toad, or serpent, than your body; for then had I lain still, and had not seen this terrible day. If I was to be necessarily yours, O that I had been your donkey, or one of your dogs, rather than your body; for then would you have taken more true care of me than you did! O cruel kindness! Have you thus hugged me to death, thus nourished me to the slaughter? Is this the effect of your tenderness for me? Is this what I am to reap of your pains and concern about me? What do riches and pleasures avail now, when this fearful reckoning is come! Of which you had fair warning? O cruel grave! Why did you not close your mouth upon me forever? Why did you not hold fast your prisoner? Why have you shaken me out, while I lay still and was at rest? Cursed soul, wherefore did you not abide in your place, wrapped up in flames of fire? Wherefore are you come back, to take me also down to the bars of the pit? You made me an instrument of unrighteousness; and now I must be thrown into the fire. This tongue was by you employed in mocking at religion, cursing, swearing, lying, backbiting, and boasting; and withheld from glorifying God—and now it must not have so much as a drop of water to cool it in the flames! You withdrew mine ears from hearing the sermons which gave warning of this day. You found ways and means to stop them from attending to seasonable exhortations, admonitions, and reproofs. But why did you not stop them from hearing the sound of this dreadful trumpet? Why do you not rove and fly away on the wings of imagination, thereby, as it were, transporting me during these frightful transactions; as you were used to do, when I was set down at sermons, communions, prayers, and godly conferences; that I might now have as little sense of the one, as I formerly had of the other? But ah! I must burn forever, for your love to your lusts, your profanity, your sensuality, your unbelief, and hypocrisy.”

But may not the SOUL answer—“Wretched and vile carcass! I am now driven back into you. O that you had lain forever in your grave! Had I not torment enough before? Must I be knit to you again, that, being joined together as two dry sticks for the fire, the wrath of God may burn us up? It was by caring for you, that I lost myself. It was your appetites, and the gratifying of your senses, which ruined me. How often was I ensnared by your ears! How often betrayed by your eyes! It was to spare you, that I neglected opportunities of making peace with God, loitered away Sabbaths, lived in the neglect of prayer; went to the house of mirth, rather than to the house of mourning; and that I chose to deny Christ, and forsake his cause and interest in the world; and so am fallen a sacrifice to your cursed ease. When at any time my conscience began to awake, and I was setting myself to think of my sins, and the misery which I have felt since we parted, and now feel, it was you that diverted me from these thoughts, and drew me off to make provision for you. O wretched flesh! By your silken cords of fleshly lusts, I was drawn to destruction, in defiance of my light and conscience—but now they are turned into iron chains, with which I am to be held under wrath for evermore. Ah wretched profits! Ah cursed pleasures! For which I must lie forever in utter darkness!”

But no complaints will then avail. O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

As to the qualities with which the bodies of the SAINTS shall be endowed at the resurrection, the apostle tells us, they shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

  1. The bodies of the saints shall be raised INCORRUPTIBLE. They are now, as the bodies of others, a mass of corruption, full of the seeds of diseases and death; and, when dead, become so offensive, even to their dearest friends, that they must be buried out of their sight, and cast into the grave, where they are to rot, and be consumed—yes, loathsome sores and diseases make some of them very unsightly, even while alive. But, at the resurrection, they leave all the seeds of corruption behind them in the grave; and rise incorruptible, incapable of the least indisposition, sickness, or sore, and much more, of dying. External violences and inward causes of pain, shall forever cease—they shall feel it no more—yes, they shall have an everlasting youth and vigor, being no more subject to the decays which age produced in this life.
  2. They shall be GLORIOUS bodies; not only beautiful, lovely, and well proportioned, but full of splendor and brightness. The most beautiful face, and best proportioned body, that now appears in the world, is not to be named in comparison with the body of the lowest saint at the resurrection; for “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun,” Matt. 13:43. If there was a dazzling glory on Moses’ face, when he came down from the mount; and if Stephen’s face was “as it had been the face of an angel,” when he stood before the council; how much more shall the faces of the saints be beautiful and glorious, full of sweet agreeable majesty, when they have put off all corruption, and shine as the sun! But observe, this beauty of the saints is not restricted to their faces, but diffuses itself through their whole bodies—for the whole body is raised in glory, and shall be fashioned like unto their Lord and Savior’s glorious body, in whose transfiguration, not only did his face shine as the sun, but his clothing also was white as the light, Matt. 17:2. Whatever defects or deformities the bodies of the saints had when laid in the grave, occasioned by accidents in life, or arising from secret causes in their formation in the womb, they shall rise out of the grave free of all these. But suppose the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars or prints of the wounds and bruises which some of the saints received while on earth, for his sake, should remain in their bodies after the resurrection; the same as the print of the nails remained in the Lord Jesus’ body after his resurrection—these marks will rather be badges of distinction, and add to their glory, than detract from their beauty. But however that be, surely Isaac’s eyes shall not then be dim, nor will Jacob halt—Leah shall not be tender-eyed, nor Mephibosheth lame of his legs. For as the goldsmith melts down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mold, bringing it forth with a new luster; so shall the vile body, which lay dissolved in the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely proportion.
  3. They shall be POWERFUL and strong bodies. The strongest men on earth, being frail and mortal, may justly be reckoned weak and feeble; for their strength, however great, is quickly worn out and consumed. Many of the saints now have weaker bodies than others; but “the feeble among them,” to allude to Zechariah 12:8, at that day shall be “as David, and the house of David shall be as God.” A grave divine says, that one shall be stronger at the resurrection than a hundred, yes, than thousands are now. Certainly great, and vastly great, must the strength of glorified bodies be; for they shall bear up under an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The mortal body is not at all adapted to such a state. Do transports of joy occasion death, as well as excessive grief, and can it bear up under a weight of glory? Can it exist in union with a soul filled with heaven’s rapture? Surely not. The mortal body would sink under that load, and such fullness of joy would make the earthen pitcher to fly all in pieces.

The Scripture has plainly told us, “That flesh and blood,” namely, in their present frail state, though it were the flesh and blood of a giant, “cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 15:50. How strong must the bodily eyes be, which, to the soul’s eternal comfort, shall behold the dazzling glory and splendor of the New Jerusalem; and steadfastly look at the transcendent glory and brightness of the man Christ, the Lamb, who is the light of that city, the inhabitants whereof shall shine as the sun! The Lord of heaven does now in mercy “hold back the face of his throne, and spreads his clouds upon it;” that mortals may not be confounded with the rays of glory which shine forth from it, Job 26:9. But then the veil shall be removed, and they made able to behold it, to their unspeakable joy. How strong must their bodies be, who shall not rest night nor day, but be, without intermission, forever employed in the heavenly temple, to sing and proclaim the praises of God without weariness, which is a weakness incident to the frail mortal, but not to the glorified body!

  1. They shall be SPIRITUAL bodies. Not that they shall be changed into spirits, but they shall be spiritual as to their spirit-like qualities and endowments. The body shall be absolutely subservient to the soul, subject to it, and influenced by it, and therefore no more a clog to its activity, nor the animal appetites a snare to it. There will be no need to beat it down, nor to drag it to the service of God. The soul, in this life is so much influenced by the body, that, in Scripture style, it is said to be carnal; but then the body shall be spiritual, readily serving the soul in the business of heaven, and in that only, as if it had no more relation to earth than a spirit. It will have no further need of the now necessary supports of life, namely, food, and clothing, and the like. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” Rev. 7:16. “For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Then shall the saints be strong without food or drink, warm without clothes, ever in perfect health without medicine, and ever fresh and vigorous, though they shall never sleep, but serve him night and day in his temple, Rev. 7:15. They will need none of these things, any more than spirits do. They will be nimble and active as spirits, and of a most refined constitution. The body, that is now lumpish and heavy, shall then be most sprightly. No such thing as melancholy shall be found to make the heart heavy, and the spirits flag and sink. I shall not further dip into this matter— the day will declare it.

As to the qualities of the bodies of the WICKED at the resurrection, I find the Scripture speaks but little of them. Whatever they may need, they shall not get a drop of water to cool their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. Whatever may be said of their weakness, it is certain they will be continued forever in life, that they may be ever dying; they shall bear up, however unwillingly under the load of God’s wrath, and shall not faint away under it. “The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever. And they have no rest day nor night.” Surely they shall not partake of the glory and beauty of the saints. All their glory dies with them, and shall never rise again. Daniel tells us, they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, chap. 12:2. Shame follows sin, as the shadow follows the body.

But the wicked in this world walk in the dark, and often under a disguise— nevertheless, when the Judge comes in flaming fire at the last day, they will be brought to the light; their mask will be taken off, and the shame of their nakedness will clearly appear to themselves and others, and fill their faces with confusion. Their shame will be too deep for blushes—all faces shall gather blackness at that day, when they shall go forth from their graves, as malefactors out of their prisons to execution—for their resurrection is the resurrection of damnation. The greatest beauties, who now pride themselves in their loveliness of body, not regarding their deformed souls, will then appear with a ghastly countenance, a grim and death-like visage. Their looks will be frightful, and they will be horrible spectacles, coming forth from their graves, like infernal furies out of the pit.

They shall rise also to everlasting contempt. They shall then be the most contemptible creatures, filled with contempt from God, as vessels of dishonor, whatever honorable employments they had in this world; and filled also with contempt from men. They will be most despicable in the eyes of the saints; even of those saints who gave them honor here, either for their high station, the gifts of God in them, or because they were of the same human nature with themselves. But then their bodies shall be as so many loathsome carcasses, which they shall go forth and look upon with abhorrence; yes, “They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh,” Isaiah 66:24. The word here rendered “an abhorring,” is the same which in the other text is rendered “contempt,” and Isaiah and Daniel point at one and the same thing, namely, the loathsomeness of the wicked at the resurrection. They will be loathsome in the eyes of one another. The unclean wretches were never so lovely to each other, and then they will be loathsome; dear companions in sin will then abhor each other; and the great and honorable men who were wicked, shall be no more regarded by their wicked subjects, their servants, their slaves, than the mire in the streets.

Use I. Of COMFORT to the people of God. The doctrine of the resurrection is a spring of consolation and joy unto you. Think on it, O believers, when you are in the house of mourning, for the loss of your godly relations or friends, “That you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope;” for you will meet again, 1 Thess. 4:13, 14. They are but laid down to rest in their beds for a little while, Isa. 57:2; but in the morning of the resurrection they will awake again, and come forth out of their graves. The vessel of honor was but coarse, it had much alloy of base metal in it; it was too weak, too dim and inglorious, for the upper house, whatever luster it had in the lower one. It was cracked, it was polluted; and therefore it must be melted down, to be refined and fashioned more gloriously. Do but wait a while, and you shall see it come forth out of the furnace of earth, vying with the stars in brightness; no, as the sun when he goes forth in his might. Have you laid your infant children in the grave? You will see them again. Your God calls himself “the God of your seed;” which, according to our Savior’s exposition, secures the glorious resurrection of the body. Therefore, let the covenant you embraced for yourselves and your babes now in the dust, comfort your heart, in the joyful expectation, that by virtue thereof, they shall be raised up in glory—and that as being no more infants of days, but brought to a full and perfect stature, as generally supposed.

Be not discouraged by reason of a weak and sickly body—there is a day coming, when you shall be entirely whole. At the resurrection, Timothy shall be no more liable to his often infirmities; his body, that was weak and sickly, even in youth, shall be raised in power. Lazarus shall healthy and sound, his body being raised incorruptible. Although perhaps, your weakness will not allow you now to go one furlong to meet the Lord in public ordinances, yet the day comes, when your body shall be no more a clog to you, but you shall “meet the Lord in the air,” 1 Thess. 4:17. It will be with the saints coming up from the grave, as with the Israelites when they came out of Egypt—”There was not one feeble person among their tribes.”

Have you an unlovely or deformed body? There is a glory within, which will then set all right without, according to all the desire of your heart. It shall rise a glorious, beautiful, handsome, and well-proportioned body. Its unloveliness or deformities may go with it to the grave, but they shall not come back with it. O that those, who are now so desirous to be beautiful and handsome, would not be too hasty to effect it with their foolish and sinful arts, but wait and study the heavenly art of beautifying the body, by endeavoring now to become all glorious within, with the graces of God’s Spirit! This would at length make them admirable and everlasting beauties. You must indeed, O believer, grapple with death, and shall get the first fall—but you shall rise again, and come off victorious at last. You must go down to the grave; but, though it be your long home, it will not be your everlasting home. You will not hear the voice of your friends there; but you shall hear the voice of Christ there. You may be carried there with mourning, but you shall come up from it rejoicing. Your friends, indeed, will leave you there, but your God will not. What God said to Jacob, concerning his going down to Egypt, Gen. 46:3, 4, he says to you, on your going down to the grave, “Fear not to go down—I will go down with you—and I will also surely bring you up again.” O solid comfort! O glorious hopes! “Therefore comfort” yourselves, and “one another with these words,” 1 Thess. 4:18.

Use 2. Of TERROR to all unregenerate men. You who are yet in your natural state, look at this view of the eternal state; and consider what will be your part in it, if you be not in time brought into a state of grace. Think, O sinner, on that day when the trumpet shall sound, at the voice of which the bars of the pit shall be broken asunder, the doors of the grave shall fly open, the devouring depths of the sea shall throw up their dead, the earth cast forth hers; and death everywhere, in the excess of astonishment, shall let go its prisoners; and your wretched soul and body shall be re-united, to be summoned before the tribunal of God. Then, if you had a thousand worlds at your disposal, you would gladly give them all away, on condition that you might lie still in your grave, with the hundredth part of that ease, with which you have sometimes lain at home on the Lord’s day; or, if that cannot be obtained, that you might be but a spectator of the transactions of that day; as you have been at some solemn occasions, and rich gospel feasts; or, if even that is not to be purchased, that a mountain or a rock might fall on you, and cover you from the face of the Lamb.

Ah! How are men infatuated, thus to trifle away their precious time of life, in almost as little concern about death, as if they were like the beasts that perish! Some will be telling where their corpse must be laid; while yet they have not seriously considered, whether their graves shall be their beds, where they shall awake with joy, in the morning of the resurrection; or their prisons, out of which they shall be brought to receive the fearful sentence. Remember, now is your seed-time; and as yon sow, so shall you reap. God’s seed-time begins at death; and at the resurrection, the bodies of the wicked, that were sown “full of sins, that lie down with them in the dust,” Job 20:11, shall spring up again—sinful, wretched, and vile.

Your bodies, which are now instruments of sin, the Lord will lay aside for fire, at death, and bring them forth for the fire, at the resurrection. That body, which is now employed in God’s service, but is abused by uncleanness and lasciviousness, will then be brought forth in all its vileness, thenceforth to lodge with unclean spirits. The body of the drunkard shall then stagger, by reason of the wine of the wrath of God poured out to him, and poured into him, without mixture. Those who now please themselves in their reveling, will reel to and fro and another rate, when, instead of their songs and music, they shall hear the sound of the last trumpet. Many weary their bodies for worldly gain, who will be loath to distress them for the benefit of their souls; by labor, unreasonably hard, they will quite unfit themselves for the service of God; and, when they have done, will reckon it a very good reason for shifting duty, that they are already tired out with other business; but that day comes, when they will be made to abide a yet greater distress. Many will go several miles for food and clothing, who will not go half the way for the good of their immortal souls; many will be sickly and unable on the Lord’s Day, who will be tolerably well all the rest of the week.

But when that trumpet sounds, the dead shall find their feet, and none shall be missing in that congregation.

When the bodies of the saints shine as the sun; frightful will the looks of their persecutors be. Fearful will their condition be, who shut up the saints in nasty prisons, stigmatized, burnt them to ashes, hanged them, and stuck up their heads and hands in public places, to frighten others from the way of righteousness, which they suffered for. Many faces, now fair, will then gather blackness. They shall be no more admired and caressed for that beauty, which has a worm at the root, that will cause it to issue in loathsomeness and deformity. Ah! What is that beauty, under which there lurks a monstrous, deformed, and graceless heart? What, but a sorry paint, a slight varnish; which will leave the body so much the more ugly, before that flaming fire, in which the Judge shall be “revealed from heaven, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel?” 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. They shall be stripped of all their ornaments, and not have a rag to cover their nakedness—their carcasses shall be an abhorrence to all flesh, and serve as a foil to set off the beauty and glory of the righteous, and make it appear the brighter.

Now is the time to secure, for yourselves, a part in the resurrection of the just—which if you would do, unite with Jesus Christ by faith, rising spiritually from sin, and glorifying God with your bodies. He is the “resurrection and the life,” John 11:25. If your bodies be members of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, they shall certainly arise in glory. Get into this ark now, and you shall come forth with joy into the new world. Rise from your sins; cast away these grave-clothes, putting off your former lusts. How can anyone imagine, that those who continue dead while they live, shall come forth, at the last day, unto the resurrection of life? But that will be the privilege of all those who, having first consecrated their souls and bodies to the Lord by faith, do glorify him with their bodies, as well as their souls; living and acting to him, and for him, yes, and suffering for him too, when he calls them to it.

In Loving Memory of Pierre Viret: The Forgotten Reformer, Counselor, Angel, and the “Smiling Face” to the Reformation

This is a short biography of Pierre Viret (1511 – 4 May 1571), a Swiss Reformed theologian, who is as obscure now as his tiny native village. However, he was without a doubt, the most sought after Reformed minister of the Sixteenth Century.

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As, one great scholar and professor has pointed out..

No tourist in Geneva can miss the impressive Reformation Monument with its four towering figures: John Calvin, Guillaume Farel, Theodore Beza, and John Knox. Some visitors might even notice a series of reliefs on the statue’s base, which depict various scenes from the Genevan Reformation. Yet only a sharp-eyed observer is likely to spot in one of the reliefs a spare man with a long beard preaching to a crowd of intent listeners: that man is Pierre Viret. Viret is now virtually forgotten among the major reformers. But if we can say that Calvin systematized the theology of the Reformation, it would be equally just to say that Viret popularized it. He preached in a language simple and colorful. He wrote in a style which captivated people, responded to their questions, and provided them with simple apologetic arguments necessary for the defense of their faith.

As a changed and converted man, Pierre Viret (vee-RAY), was a Sixteenth Century Reformer, and one of three sons of a poor tailor of Orbe, which is an obscure village in present-day French Switzerland, near Lausanne. Viret, was born in 1511, which makes him two years younger than John Calvin, and he was one of the Calvin’s closest friends. These two men worked closely together for many years in Geneva and corresponded regularly when Viret left Geneva to accept a pastorate at Lausanne.

Viret was a precocious child who benefited from the new village school where several of the teachers were trained humanists and suspected Lutherans. He developed an interest in the classics as well as theology.  These interests in 1528, led him to study for the priesthood. He entered the Collège de Montaigu at the University of Paris at about the time Calvin was leaving. After studying intensely there, Viret left Paris two years later a changed man. The new Protestant ideas that were flourishing at the great university, led to Viret’s personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

He returned to Orbe, and there he found that his home village was divided into Protestant and Catholic factions. There he also met with William (Guillaume) Farel, the fiery traveling evangelist who was unsurprisingly, largely responsible for this turmoil.  However, Farel challenged young Viret to become a minister of the Gospel and to do so by begin preaching the Gospel in his native village. Viret resisted, then finally yielded to what the older man told him was the absolute, and certain will of God for Viret’s life. (You may recall Farel did the same thing to young Calvin as well, and with equal success.)

In very short time, it became obvious that Viret possessed outstanding gifts as both a pastor and as a theologian, and there he easily won his people’s hearts over. But Viret’s preaching and attitude not only won the hearts and minds of his own people, but he became highly regarded by many outside his parrish. We know of this by, among others, the great Theodore Beza, who spoke of “the wisdom of Calvin, the thunders of Farel, and the honey of Viret.” He also states elsewhere of Viret: “None possessed more charm when he spoke.” Viret’s preaching, which seemed to embrace his hearers in a calm and tranquil stream, as attested by Verheiden, “[Viret] had a word so sweet that he constantly kept his hearers alert and attentive. His style had such strength and a harmony so caressing to the ear and spirit that the least religious amongst his hearers, the most impatient of others, heard him out effortlessly and with pleasure. His audience was, it was said, as though suspended upon his lips, wishing the sermon were longer.”

Many souls were converted under Viret’s preaching, but of greatest importance to the young pastor was the conversion of his two Roman Catholic parents. As he noted later, “I have much occasion to give thanks to God in that it hath pleased him to make use of me to bring my father and mother to the knowledge of the Son of God … Ah! If he had made my ministry of no other use, I should have had good cause to bless him.”

After Viret had won Orbe over to the Reformation’s side of the Gospel, Viret regularly traveled between several of the surrounding villages for the next three years to further the work of the Reformation. Accompanied by Farel, he journeyed first to Grandson, a small town just north of Orbe, which was quickly won to the gospel under the Reformers’ preaching.  He was then asked to preach in Payerne, and it was there that he was badly wounded when a band of Catholics, led by a priest with a sword attempted to kill him. It was perhaps here that the young preacher met with his deadliest opposition. The city was strongly Roman Catholic and violently protested the preaching of the “new faith.” Viret, knowing that his teaching was no more than the truth of the Word of God, begged for a public disputation in which he would be permitted to prove his case from Scripture. The Council of Payerne at last acceded to this request and a date was fixed. The night before the disputation, however, Viret, returning home, was ambushed in a solitary field by a priest from the Payerne Abbey. The would-be murderer gravely wounded the young preacher with his sword and left him for dead, thus seeking to douse the Light against which he could not dispute. Discovered by his friends, Viret, half-dead, was slowly nursed back to health and soon continued his work in another city: Geneva. He later, he preached at Neuchâtel however, before linking up again with Farel in Geneva in 1534.

In 1534 Viret journeyed to Geneva to again assist Farel in his Reformation work. Viret and Farel preached salvation and reform in Geneva for the next two years. The city was in an uproar: its citizens had decided to cast off the rule of the Catholic Duke of Savoy, but they had not yet embraced Protestantism. Viret celebrated the first Genevan baptism according to evangelical forms, took part with Farel in the debate that convinced the Council of Geneva to renounce Catholicism, and, in 1536, silently witnessed Farel accost Calvin and inform him of God’s will for his life.

But in 1534 Geneva was still quite hostile to the teaching of the new preachers, and another murderous attempt awaited the young men. Catholic radicals tried again to silence Viret’s voice, this time by poisoning his spinach soup. At the instigation of the Catholic authorities, a woman, Antonia Vax, was persuaded to eliminate both Farel and Viret by serving them a poisoned spinach soup. Farel, declaring the soup to be too thick, asked for something else to eat. Viret, however, still pale and weak from his sword wounds, was assured by Antonia that the soup would aid in the restoration of his health, and trustingly ate an entire bowl of the poisoned dish. He grew dangerously ill and lay for some time at the point of death.

Upon hearing the news, the townspeople of Geneva mourned the impending loss of their beloved Reformer, exclaiming, “Must the Church be robbed of such a pearl?… Poor Viret! Poor reformers!… Sword-cuts in the back, poison in front … Such are the rewards of those who preach the Gospel!” Viret suffered from digestive problems for the rest of his life, but he would not be intimidated. This episode, though so detrimental to the Reformers, also brought much damage to their adversaries as many now looked with suspicion and contempt upon the perpetrators of such a base crime. The priests and monks were henceforth regarded with grave doubt and misgiving, and little more than a year later, through the indefatigable labors of Farel and Viret, the General Council of Geneva officially accepted the Reformation.

Leading Lausanne to Christ

With the Protestant faith now firmly planted and Calvin ensconced alongside Farel, Viret left Geneva to help consolidate the Reformation in Lausanne, the chief city of his native Pays de Vaud. Lausanne had just come under the authority of Bern, a Protestant canton of Switzerland. The Bernese, desirous of winning their newly acquired city to the gospel, organized a public disputation in which the principal elements of the faith would be discussed.

All Catholic clergy were required to be in attendance. The defense for the Reformed was offered primarily by Farel and Viret, who ably championed the cause of Christ. Calvin also attended the debate, speaking twice throughout its course. At the close of the week-long disputation, Lausanne declared for the Reformation, and Viret was appointed pastor of the city.

Though Lausanne was now officially Reformed, it was still heavily steeped in Catholicism. To rectify the ignorance rampant among the priesthood, Viret determined to begin an academy for the training and education of young men for the ministry. Under the oversight of the Bernese authorities, the Academy was founded in January of 1537 and was the first Protestant and Reformed academy of the French-speaking world. The Lausanne Academy boasted learned instructors from Italy, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Theodore de Beze, future successor to Calvin in Geneva, was principal of the Academy for nine years. Many renowned men of the faith received their training at Viret’s Academy, including Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, authors of the Heidelberg Catechism of 1562, and Guido de Bres, author of the Belgic Confession of 1561.

At the Lausanne Academy, Viret met with a singular joy when the Lord provided him a godly bride. On Sunday, October 6, 1538, Viret and Elisabeth Turtaz, a lady of Orbe, were married. Farel presided over the ceremony.

Two months following these celebrations, Viret was recalled to Geneva after Calvin had been banished from that city. Viret’s loving spirit and gentle character had made him a favorite among the Genevans, and they longed to again have him as their pastor. Known as the Smile of the Reformation, Viret worked in Geneva “to rebuild the ruins, to dress the wounds, to reconcile the divers and opposing elements.” Viret remained a year in Geneva, during which time he urged the Council upon several occasions to recall the exiled Calvin.

However, upon his return, Viret lived in constant tension with the authorities in Berne, however, who wanted to keep a tight political rein on Lausanne. Following a confrontation at Easter 1559, the Bernese exiled Viret. Soon thereafter, Viret joined his old friend Calvin in Geneva, bringing with him many of the Lausanne ministers, all but one of the faculty of the Academy of Lausanne, and nearly 1,000 of his parishioners. From this, Calvin’s city became the undisputed center of the Reformed world.

Needless to say, the Genevans loved Viret. They immediately elected him a minister of the Geneva Church and assigned him a salary of 800 florins plus 12 strikes of corn and two casks of wine a year. The Council also provided him a commodious house, which Calvin, perhaps a bit enviously, noted was bigger and better furnished than his own.

Touching for a moment again upon John Calvin; Geneva had expelled Calvin, and it was, as noted, only the continued pleadings of Viret, that Calvin even got a call back to the city, let alone a continued and anxious call to come back.  And frankly, Calvin, perhaps a bit worn from the inter-church/government warfare, was not at all anxious to go back into that “snake-pit.”  After first rejecting the proposal, he writes to Viret, remarking,

I read that passage of your letter, certainly not without a smile, where you shew so much concern about my health, and recommend Geneva on that ground. Why could you not have said at the cross? For it would have been far preferable to perish once for all than to be tormented again in that place of torture. Therefore, my dear Viret, if you wish well to me, make no mention of such a proposal.

While refusing to return to the troubled city of Geneva, Calvin simultaneously harbored hopes of the city’s reformation after learning of Viret’s arrival there. Writing to Farel in February of 1541, he expressed his assurance of the salubrious effects of Viret’s influence on the tumultuous population, “It was a singular joy for me to learn that the Church of Geneva is endowed with the arrival of Viret … I now foresee that the matter is out of danger.”

Viret, however, could not be dissuaded from calling his friend back to his duty, and exerted his utmost influence to convince the reluctant Calvin to return. Writing again, Viret described the transformation of the city and the people’s willingness to receive the gospel,

You cannot imagine the attentiveness with which they listen to my discourses, and what a crowd of men they attract … such tranquility reigns in the republic, it is completely transformed, and has taken on a wholly new appearance … The Lord has offered us a most favorable moment. If you neglect it, Calvin, the Lord will certainly punish you for neglecting the Church, and not you only, but also those who restrain you.

After many such appeals, Calvin was at last persuaded to return; Viret joyfully assisted him in his reentrance. Having finally restored his friend to his post, Viret at once desired to return to his pastorate in Lausanne, but he was persuaded to remain for several months to aid Calvin. Farel, writing to the pastors of Zurich, noted the importance of Viret’s presence in the city of Geneva at this crucial time, “If Viret is recalled [to Lausanne], then surely Calvin and the Church of Geneva shall fall again into ruins!” Calvin also shared this opinion, as is noted by historian Michael Bruening,

Three days after his return, Calvin told Farel, “I have also kept Viret with me, whom I absolutely would not allow to be taken away from me.” Now it was Calvin who sought to persuade Viret that he was needed in Geneva. He explained to Farel, “If Viret leaves me, I am completely finished; I will not be able to keep this church alive. Therefore, I hope you and others will forgive me if I move every stone to ensure that I am not deprived of him.”

Viret’s selfless assistance of Calvin was not overlooked by the elder Reformer. The friendship of these two men expanded significantly during this time and showed itself in a beautiful brotherly relationship growing and deepening throughout the course of their lives.

Viret finally returned to Lausanne in 1542. His absence had been very detrimental to the health of the church, which he found in a terrible state. Writing to Calvin upon his return, he mourned, “I came, I saw, I was dumbfounded (veni, vidi, obstupui). If only what we had heard about the state of this church were not so true.”

Despite Lausanne’s manifest need for Viret, Calvin still desired to have his fellow Reformer at his side, and in July of 1544 he urged the Council of Geneva to write to the Bernese lords, requesting permission to permanently retain Viret at Geneva. Upon hearing of the letter, however, the Lausanne counselors and pastors immediately sent their own ambassadors to Bern, begging the lords to reject Geneva’s request. Meeting with such a desperate appeal from Lausanne, Bern declined to grant the transfer and ordered Viret to remain in Lausanne. Upon hearing that Geneva’s request was refused, Viret wrote to Geneva to express his devotion to the city, assuring them of his love, “As for me, if you so desire, you will always have me as your humble servant, no less than if I were present with you, as truly I am in spirit, though I am distant in person; I will also be joined with you in body as soon as it is the good pleasure of Him who has called us in His service.”

In 1545 Viret’s life was disturbed by another great tragedy. His wife Elisabeth fell ill, and despite Viret’s desperate efforts to revive her failing health, she died in March of the following year. Writing of her death to a dear friend, Viret wrote, “The Lord has dealt me such a painful blow … in the death of my well-beloved wife. He has taken half of myself … I am so afflicted by this blow that I appear to myself a stranger in my own house.”

Viret’s sorrow was so great that Calvin was terrified lest his friend perish under the weight of the blow. Writing his comrade, Calvin begged Viret to come to Geneva for a time:

“Come to distract yourself, not only from your sorrow, but also from all your troubles. You need not fear that I will impose any work on you. I will take care that you enjoy your own pleasure in tranquility.

The wonderful harmony and brotherly love existing between these two Reformers is truly an example for all ages. Though each man was called individually and fashioned in a particular way quite distinct from the other, God saw fit to bring these tools together, separately crafted, but each endued with the same vision: to engage in the work of the Kingdom of Christ. Writing of this holy friendship in a book dedicated to Viret and Farel, Calvin wrote,

It will at least be a testimony to this present age and perhaps to posterity of the holy bond of friendship that unites us. I think there has never been in ordinary life a circle of friends so heartily bound to each other as we have been in our ministry.

One matter of constant concern to Viret was church discipline. This, he rightly believed, was a tool pertaining solely to the church authorities, not the civil government. The lords of Bern, on the other hand, reserved this right to themselves alone, requiring Viret and other pastors to submit all requests for discipline to the Bernese for either approval or rejection.

Throughout his pastorate at Lausanne, Viret made numerous journeys to Bern to request the magistrates to cede him the authority necessary to establish and build the church. Viret pled with the Bernese lords, assuring them that a true church must be permitted to govern its members. Bern, desirous of retaining its power, refused to relinquish such authority to the church, declaring that it was the state’s prerogative to govern all. For Viret knew well that a lack of discipline would result in no church at all. Pastors, he stated, must be allowed to enforce “this discipline, by which we can distinguish between swine, dogs, and sheep, according to Christ’s teaching.” “Discipline,” he noted, “can be abandoned, if the administration and use of the Word of God and the sacraments are also abandoned, for the Word and the sacraments cannot be properly administered without it.”

Despite the continued appeals, Bern refused to allow Viret to exercise church discipline or restrict the Lord’s Table. They stated that all must be permitted to participate and any pastor who refused to administer communion was to be immediately discharged. The Lausanne pastors, following Peter’s initiative (Acts 5:29), sent numerous letters to Bern in which they stated their obligation to follow God rather than men:

We have not been called to this charge [the ministry] to close our eyes, to keep silent, to conceal vice, and to cover the scandals of those who have been entrusted to us, but to be on guard, to be attentive, to unceasingly lift our voice with strength, when needed … We must do this to discharge our duty in good conscience.

The dispute finally came to a head in 1558. Writing to Calvin on August 24, Viret confided,

“I have more bitter worries than anyone. I am between the anvil and the hammer, and know not where to turn … I pray that God does not withhold His directions from me.”

As Christmas communion approached, Viret announced that he could not in good conscience administer the sacrament without first being permitted to examine and instruct those who wished to partake. Going before the Council of Lausanne, he begged a seven-day postponement of the communion service to provide the time necessary to examine the communicants. After much debate, the Council agreed to grant the pastors the stipulated time.

When news of the ruling reached Bern, however, the magistrates were outraged at this usurpation of their authority. They sent immediately to Lausanne to countermand the decision of the Council and to dismiss and expel Viret and his colleagues. Thus ousted, Viret and his associates were ordered to pack their belongings and leave the city. A refuge was soon found in the neighboring town of Geneva, where Calvin welcomed his friend with the warmest affection.

Geneva’s joy at receiving their former pastor again after a “loan” to Lausanne of twenty-two years was unimaginable. The city welcomed the exiled Viret with acclamation and open arms. Viret was immediately assigned the Church of St. Germain in which to preach, but the multitudes that pressed in to hear his sermons were so numerous that a new location had to be found to accommodate the crowds. The Council therefore determined to move Viret’s preaching to the larger church of St. Pierre, which would provide ample room for the masses desirous of attending the sermons.

Viret’s time in Geneva was cut short, however, due to a serious illness. In April of 1561 he fell dangerously ill and, fearing that this sickness would soon bring him to the grave, drew up his will on April 12. Concerning this time, he later wrote,

“I fell into an illness whereby my body was so debilitated and brought so low that in my judgment I could expect nothing else but to be lowered into the grave. I had never before had a sickness that had brought me so close to death, not even when I was poisoned by the art and cunning of the enemies of the Gospel.”

Despite Viret’s important assignment and generous treatment, he grew restless. Geneva was now almost completely Protestant and back again firmly under Calvin’s theological control. News from France, where Protestants suffered harsh persecution and lacked pastoral guidance, turned his mind to a new challenge.

France

In 1561 Viret requested leave from the Geneva Council and Company of Pastors to visit the land of the Huguenots. The official reason was that his ailing health demanded warmer climes. However, once in southern France, his heart is touched by the need that he sees there, and he quickly recovers sufficient strength to engage in continuous rounds of impassioned preaching.

Viret’s reputation by this time was so great that the moment he set foot on French soil, he was given immediate authority in the Reformed French churches wherever he chose to go. “Offers poured in requesting Viret to come to such places as Orleans, Avignon, Montauban and Montpellier.” “When Viret arrived in France, churches from all over the country sought him out. The churches in Nimes and Paris even sent delegates to Geneva to ask officially for his services.”

He traveled first to Lyon, and then on to Nîmes, Viret arrived in Nimes on October 6; the city received him with the greatest warmth. Indeed, the churches were not large enough to contain the crowds that sought to hear him; Viret was therefore compelled to preach in open fields and pastures. The multitudes responded eagerly to the Word of God, and on January 4, 1562, in a service lasting six hours, Viret administered communion to over eight thousand believers —almost the entire population. Riots followed many of his sermons, despite Viret’s pleas for peace.

Friend and foe alike were drawn to the sweetness and gentleness of Viret’s preaching. As he preached one day in a field in the Vaunage, the very prior and monks themselves came to listen to the man’s words. As Viret explained to his listeners the wonders of the gospel and the blessedness of the Redeemer, his words did not return void: “The success was complete. The priests, the officers,… became Protestant, and the abbey consecrated half its revenues to evangelization, and the other half to aid the poor.”

As Viret’s leave of absence from Geneva neared its conclusion, the Council of Nimes grew terrified of losing their pastor. In an effort to retain him, they sent a delegation to the Genevan Council, writing,

“The harvest surpasses belief, and the famine is intolerable … We need reapers … In the name of the God you honor, we beseech and beg with our greatest affection that you leave [Viret] with us.”

Despite the desperation of the letter, the Council of Geneva did not grant the request. Indeed, they were so flooded with letters begging for Viret’s presence that they at last decided to let Viret himself decide where to proceed. The leaders of Nîmes begged him to remain with them. Requests again poured in from Montpellier, Montauban, Orleans, and even Paris. Viret at length decided upon Montpellier; he entered that city in February of 1562. There he saw the conversion of nearly the entire faculty of the city’s famous medical college. Only the outbreak of the first War of Religion interrupted his ministry. Though there was fighting in the Montpellier area, Viret’s personal intercession apparently kept bloodshed to a minimum.

He then returned to Lyon, the major city of southeastern France, to begin a three-year ministry. Despite ill health, civil war, and a violent outbreak of the plague, Viret was able to establish his moral authority in the city. He preached daily to large crowds, counseled the soldiers of the Protestant army, and wrote at least 12 books while revising and reprinting several more, including his monumental Instruction chrestienne. He also ministered to victims of the plague and carried on a lively correspondence with other leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

The City Council of Lyon, in writing to the Council of Geneva, expressed their indebtedness to Viret in November of 1562,

“We derive more aid and assistance from his learned and holy teaching than from our entire army.” “Without his presence it would be impossible for us to hold our soldiers to their duty.”

Royal authority was re-established in Lyon in July, 1563, however, and with it Roman Catholic worship. In the months that followed, Viret participated in a pamphlet war with the returned Catholic leader and with various radicals and dissidents in the city. This multi-sided verbal warfare continued for nearly two years until local Catholic clergy obtained a royal order for Viret’s expulsion from the kingdom of France. The notice giving him eight days to leave the country was delivered on August 27, 1565.

Viret fled to Béarn in Navarre, a semi-autonomous kingdom in what is now southwestern France. He was befriended there by Jeanne d’Albrêt, the staunchly Protestant Queen of Navarre and mother of the future Henry IV of France. She made Viret one of her chief advisers and superintendent of the academy she had established at Ortez.

In March of 1563 Viret’s ministry was severely threatened by the issuance of a royal edict forbidding all foreign-born pastors from ministering in France. Because of Viret’s renowned Christian character, however, he was exempted from the edict by request of the Catholics themselves.

Eventually, Catholic forces captured Viret and 11 other Reformed ministers in a surprise attack during the third religious war (1568-1570). The Catholic commander ordered the execution of 7 of the 12 but spared Viret largely because of the positive reputation he enjoyed even among his ecclesiastical enemies. A few weeks later, he was rescued by counter-attacking Protestant forces and returned to his intense and successful ministry.

How could Viret, a foreigner, become the most successful and sought-after Protestant preacher in sixteenth-century France?

After a difficult—though fruitful—life spent in service to his God, Pierre Viret died in early 1571 at the age of sixty, as he was preparing for a trip to the National Synod of Reformed churches at La Rochelle. The Protestants in France greatly lamented his death. Jeanne d’Albrêt wrote to the Council of Geneva:

“Among the great losses which I have sustained during and since the last war, I place in the fore-front the loss of Monsieur Viret.”

Like the site of his death and burial, which remains unknown to this day, the life and theological greatness of Pierre Viret remains unknown to the church at large. Is this also the work of God? Has He thus withheld His Reformer, perhaps awaiting the time when, in His providence, Viret’s life and thought shall be most needed for His church?

—————————————–
Taken and adapted from: 
Pierre Viret: The Unknown Reformer, by R. A. Sheats
Robert D. Linder, “Forgotten Reformer,” Christian History Magazine, Issue 71 (2001), 37
Jean-Marc Berthoud, Pierre Viret: A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation 

Further references, authors, and materials that were used herein, referenced and provided by R.A. Sheats 
J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, D.D., History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, Vol. III 
Emile Doumergue, Lausanne au temps de la Reformation 
Henri Vuilleumier, L’Église Réformée du Pays de Vaud, Tome I 
Henri Meylan, La Haute École de Lausanne, 1537–1937
Pierrefleur, Mémoires de Pierrefleur (Lausanne: Éditions La Concorde, 1933), 137.
Jean Barnaud, Pierre Viret, Sa Vie et Son Oeuvre 
Felix Bungener, Calvin: His Life, His Labours, and His Writings 
Jules Bonnet, Letters of John Calvin, Vol. 1
“Viret: Réformateur de Lausanne,” 
Pierre Viret D’Après Lui-Même (Lausanne: Georges Bridel & Cie Éditeurs, 1911)
Henri Vuilleumier, Notre Pierre Viret (Lausanne: Librairie Paytot & Cie, 1911), 87.
Michael Bruening, “Pierre Viret and Geneva,” Archive for Reformation History, Vol. 99 
Michael W. Bruening, Calvinism’s First Battleground: Conflict and Reform in the Pays de Vaud, 1528–1559 
Schnetzler, ed., Pierre Viret, 65.
Bulletin de la Société de L’Histoire du Protestantisme Français (Paris, 1864), 93. 
Doumergue, Lausanne au temps de la Reformation, 46. 
J. Cart, Pierre Viret, le Reformateur Vaudois (Lausanne, 1864), 118.
Pierre Viret, Instruction Chrétienne (Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 2008), 348. 

The saints have communion with God

Taken and adapted from, “Communion With God” Chapter 1
Originally written as, “Of Communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, In Love, Grace, and Consolation; or, The Saints Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Unfolded”
Written by, John Owen, 1657
Modernized, formatted, and annotated by, William H. Gross

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That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with us:
and truly our fellowship is with the Father,
and with his Son Jesus Christ.

–1 John 3:4

In 1 John 1:3, the apostle assures those to whom he wrote that the fellowship of believers “is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The expression he uses speaks with such force that we have rendered it, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The outward appearance and condition of the saints in those days was paltry and contemptible. Their leaders were considered the scum of the earth, the offscouring of all things. Inviting others to fellowship with them, and to participate in the precious things that they enjoyed, evoked a number of awkward encounters and objections: “What benefit is there in communion with them? All it brings is sharing their troubles, reproaches, scorns, and all kinds of evils.” To prevent or remove these and similar objections, the apostle lets the believers know in earnest, that despite all the disadvantages of their fellowship, at least to a carnal view, in truth what they had was very honorable, glorious, and desirable. For “truly,” he says, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

This is so earnestly and directly asserted by the apostle, that we may boldly follow him with our affirmation, “That the saints of God have communion with him.” And a holy and spiritual communion it is, as I will demonstrate. Why this reference to the Father and the Son is distinct between them, must be fully examined later.

Since sin entered the world, no man has had communion with God because of his sinful nature. He is light; we are darkness; and what communion has light with darkness? (2Cor. 6:14). He is life; we are dead. He is love; we are enmity. What agreement can there be between us? Men in such a condition have neither Christ, nor hope, nor God in the world, Eph. 2:12. “Being alienated from the life of God through their ignorance,” chap. 4:18. Now, two cannot walk together unless they are agreed, Amos 3:3. So, while this distance between God and man exists, they cannot walk together in fellowship or communion. Our first interest in God was so lost by sin, that no recovery remained in ourselves. We deprived ourselves of all power to return to him. And God had not revealed that there was any way to regain access to him. Nor did he reveal that sinners could approach him in peace for any reason. Nothing that God made, and no attribute that he revealed, provided the least hint of such a possibility. 

The manifestation of God’s grace and pardoning mercy is the only door we have to such communion. It is committed only to the one who atoned. He is the one in whom it is evidenced. He is the one by whom grace and mercy was purchased. He is the one through whom it is dispensed, and from whom it is revealed from the heart of the Father. Hence, this communion and fellowship with God is not expressly mentioned in the Old Testament. It is found there, but its clear light, and the boldness of faith contained in it, is discovered only in the gospel of the New Testament. There the Spirit administers it. By the Spirit we have this liberty of communion, 2Cor. 3:17, 18. Abraham was the friend, of God, Isa. 41:8. David was a man after his own heart. Enoch walked with him, Gen. 5:22. All of them enjoyed the substance of this communion and fellowship. But the way into the holiest of holies was not evident while the first tabernacle was still standing, Heb. 9:8. Although they had communion with God, they did not have parresian [NT:3954], Eph. 3:12, which is a boldness and confidence in that communion. It came only after our High Priest entered into the most holy place, Heb. 4:16, 10:19. And so, the veil remained on those in the Old Testament. They did not have ἐλευθερία [NT:1657], or freedom and liberty in their access to God, 2 Cor. 3:15, 16, etc.

But in Christ we now have boldness and confident access to God, Eph. 3:12. The saints of old were not familiar with this. This distance from God is removed by Jesus Christ alone. He has consecrated a new and living way for us “through the veil, that is, his flesh,” Heb. 10:20. The old way is sealed. “Through him we have access by one Spirit to the Father,” Eph. 2:18. “You who sometimes were far off, are made close by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace…,” verses 13, 14. More of this foundation of our communion with God will follow afterward. On this new foundation, by this new and living way, sinners are admitted into communion with God. They have fellowship with him. It is a truly astonishing provision for sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God.

Communion relates to things and persons. It means jointly participating in something, whether good or evil, duty or enjoyment, nature or actions. Sharing a common nature means all men have fellowship or communion in that nature. It is said of the elect, in Heb. 2:14, “Those children partook of” (shared or had fellowship with) “flesh and blood” (their common nature with mankind); “and, therefore, Christ likewise shared in the same fellowship.” 

There is also communion as to our state or condition, whether good or evil, or things internal and spiritual. Such is the communion of saints among themselves, or with regard to their experience of outward things. Christ shared a condition with the two thieves. They were all sentenced to the cross, Luke 23:40. They shared the evil condition they were judged to suffer under. And one of them requested, and obtained, a share in that blessed condition our Savior would enter shortly.

There is also a communion or fellowship in actions, whether those actions are good or evil. Among good actions is the communion and fellowship that the saints enjoy in the gospel, or in performing and celebrating the worship of God that is instituted in the gospel, Phil. 1:5. David rejoices in the same general kind of actions, Ps. 42:4. Among evil actions, there was communion in that cruel act of revenge and murder shared between the brothers Simon and Levi in Gen. 49:5. 

Our communion with God is no single one of these; indeed it excludes some of them. It cannot be natural communion. It must be voluntary and by consent. It cannot be communion in a shared state or condition, but in actions. It cannot be communion in shared actions on a third party. It must be shared actions between God and us. The infinite disparity between God and man made the great philosopher, Aristotle (Ethics, viii. 2; Friendship requires equality), conclude that there could be no friendship between them. He could allow some undetermined closeness between friends; but in his understanding, there was no place for closeness between God and man. Another says that while there is a certain fellowship between God and man, it is only the general interaction of providence. Some expressed higher regard for this communion, but they understood nothing of which they spoke. This knowledge is hidden in Christ, as will be made apparent later. It is too wonderful for our sinful and corrupted nature to comprehend. Guessing only leads to terror and fear of death if we were to come into the presence of God. But as was said, we have a new foundation, and a new revelation of this privilege.

Communion is the mutual communication of the good things that those who commune delight in, based on the union that exists between them. This is how it was with Jonathan and David. Their souls clung to one another in love (1Sam. 20:17). There was a union between them based on love. And they mutually communicated all the outpourings of that love. In spiritual things this exchange is more eminent. The outpourings or issues of that union are the most precious and eminent possible.
Our communion with God consists in him communicating himself to us, and us returning to him the things he requires and accepts. These things flow from the union that we have with him in Jesus Christ.

This communion is twofold:
 
A perfect and complete communion. This is the full fruition of all his glory and our total surrender to him, resting in him as our ultimate end. We will enjoy this kind of communion when we see him as he is in eternity.
An initial and incomplete communion. This consists in the first fruits and the dawning of perfection that we have here and now, in grace. 

By the riches of his grace, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has restored us from a state of enmity to a condition of communion and fellowship with himself. I pray that anyone who reads these words of his mercy may taste his sweetness and excellence in doing this, so that he will be stirred to a greater longing for the fullness of his salvation, and his eternal fruition in glory.