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

sermon_ezekiel

‘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.