The Foundation of Faith for the Night of Weeping

Taken and adapted from, “Night of Weeping: or words for the suffering family of god”
Written by, Horatius Bonar, 1845


They live by faith. Thus they began and thus they are to end.

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” Their whole life is a life of faith. Their daily actions are all of faith. This forms one of the main elements of their character. It marks them out as a peculiar people. None live as they do.

Their faith is to them “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is a sort of substitute for sight and possession. It so brings them into contact with the unseen world that they feel as if they were already conversant with, and living among, the things unseen. It makes the future, the distant, the impalpable, appear as the present, the near, the real. It removes all intervening time; it annihilates all interposing space; it transplants the soul at once into the world above. That which we know is to be hereafter is felt as if already in being. Hence, the coming of the Lord is always spoken of as at hand. Nay, more than this, the saints are represented as “having their conversation in heaven,” as being already “seated with Christ in heavenly places,”(Eph. 2:16) as having “come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:22). The things amid which they are to move hereafter are so realized by faith as to appear the things amid which they are at present moving. They sit in “heavenly places” and look down upon the earth, with all its clouds and storms, as lying immeasurably far beneath their feet. And what is a “present evil world” to those who are already above all its vicissitudes and breathing a purer atmosphere?

Such is the power of faith. It throws back into the far distance the things of earth, the things that men call near and real; and it brings forward into vital contact with the soul the things which men call invisible and distant. It discloses to us the heavenly mansions, their passing splendor, their glorious purity, their blessed peace. It shows us the happy courts, the harmonious company, the adoring multitudes. It opens our ears also, so that when beholding these great sights we seem to hear the heavenly melody and to catch the very words of the new song they sing, “Thou art worthy…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9).

It, moreover, points our eye forward to what is yet to come: the coming of the Lord, the judgment of the great day, the restitution of all things, the kingdom that cannot be moved, the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. While thus it gives to things invisible a body and a form which before they possessed not in our eyes, on the other hand, it divests things visible of that semblance of excellence and reality with which they were formerly clothed. It strips the world of its false but bewildering glow, and enables us to penetrate the thin disguise that hides its poverty and meanness. It not only sweeps away the cloud which hung above us, obstructing our view of heavenly excellence, but it places that cloud beneath us to counteract the fallacious brightness and unreal beauty which the world has thrown over itself to mask its inward deformity.

Thus it is that faith enables us to realize our true position of pilgrims and strangers upon earth, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is into this that we are introduced by faith at our conversion. For what is our conversion but a turning of our back upon the world and bidding farewell to all that the heart had hitherto been entwined around? It is then that like Abraham we forsake all and go out not knowing whither. Old ties are broken, although sometimes hard to sever. New ones are formed, although not of earth. We begin to look around us and find all things new. We feel that we are strangers— strangers in that very spot where we have been so long at home. But this is our joy. We have left our father’s house, but we are hastening on to a more enduring home. We have taken leave of the world—but we have become heirs of the eternal kingdom, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We have left Egypt, but Canaan is in view. We are in the wilderness, but we are free. Ours is a pathless waste, but we move forward under the shadow of the guardian cloud. Sorrowful, we yet rejoice; poor, we make many rich; having nothing, yet we possess all things. We have a rich inheritance in reversion and a long eternity in which to enjoy it without fear of loss, or change, or end.

Walking thus by faith and not by sight, what should mar our joy? Does it not come from that which is within the veils? And what storm of the desert can find entrance there? Our rejoicing is in the Lord, and He is without variableness or shadow of turning. We know that this is not our rest; neither do we wish it were so, for it is polluted; but our joy is this, that Jehovah is our God, and His promised glory is our inheritance forever. Our morning and our evening song is this “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:5). Why should we, then, into whose hands the cup of gladness shall ere long be put, shrink from the vinegar and the gall? Why should we, who have dearer friends above better bonds that cannot be dissolved, be disconsolate at the severance of an earthly tie? Our homes may be empty, our firesides may be thinned, and our hearts may bleed: but these are not enduring things; and why should we feel desolate as if all gladness had departed? Why should we, who shall wear a crown and inherit all things, sigh or fret because of a few years’ poverty and shame? Earth’s dream will soon be done; and then comes the day of “songs and everlasting joy”—the long reality of bliss! Jesus will soon be here; and “when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.” Shall trial shake us? Nay, in all this we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Shall sorrow move us? Faith tells us of a land where sorrow is unknown. Shall the death of saints move us? Faith tells us not to sorrow as those who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Shall the pains and weariness of this frail body move us? Faith tells us of a time at hand when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. Shall privation move us? Faith tells us of a day when the poverty of our exile shall be forgotten in the abundance of our peaceful, plenteous home, where we shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.

Shall the disquieting bustle of this restless life annoy us? Faith tells us of the rest that remaineth for the people of God—the sea of glass like unto crystal on which the ransomed saints shall stand—no tempest, no tumult, no shipwreck there. Shall the lack of this world’s honors move us? Faith tells us of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in reserve. Have we no place to lay our head? Faith tells us that we have a home, though not in Caesar’s house, a dwelling, though not in any city of earth. Are we fearful as we look around upon the disorder and wretchedness of this misgoverned earth? Faith tells us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Do thoughts of death alarm us? Faith tells us that “to die is gain,” and whispers to us, “What, are you afraid of becoming immortal, afraid of passing from this state of death, which men call life, to that which alone truly deserves the name!”

Such is the family life—a life of faith. We live upon things unseen. Our life is hid with Christ in God that when He who is our life shall appear, we may appear with Him in glory. This mode of life is not that of the world at all but the very opposite. Nevertheless, it has been that of the saints from the beginning. This is the way in which they have walked, going up through the wilderness leaning on their Beloved. And such is to be the walk of the saints till the Lord comes. Oh, how much is there in these thoughts concerning it, not only to reconcile us to it, but to make us rejoice in it, and to say, I reckon that the sufferings of this present life, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us! For all things are ours, whether life or death, things present or things to come, all are ours; for we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Yea, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).

We know not a better type or specimen of the family life than Abraham or Israel in their desert wanderings. Look at Abraham. He quits all at the command of the God of glory. This begins his life of faith. Then he journeys onward not knowing whither. Then he sojourns as a stranger in the land which God had given him. Then he offers up Isaac. Then he buys for himself a tomb where he may lay his dust till the day of resurrection. All is faith. He lives and acts as a stranger. He has no home. He has his altar and his tent, but that is all— the one he builds wherever he goes, in the peaceful consciousness of sin forgiven and acceptance found; the other he pitches from day-to-day in token of his being a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth. And what more does any member of the family need below, but his altar and his tent—a Savior for a sinful soul, and a shelter for a frail body until journeying days are done? Or look at Israel. They quit Egypt. There the life of faith begins. Then they cross the Red Sea. Then they take up their abode in the desert. They have no city to dwell in now. They have no fleshpots now— nothing but the daily manna for food. They have no river of Egypt now— nothing but a rock to yield them water. All is waste around. All is to be of faith, not of sight. They are alone with God, and the whole world is afar off. They rear their altar, they pitch their tents, as did Abraham, with this only difference: above their heads there floats a wondrous cloud, which, like a heavenly canopy, stretches itself out over their dwellings when they rest, or like an angel-guide, it takes wing before them when God summons them to strike their tents that it may lead them in the way. Nay, and as if to mark more vividly the pilgrim condition of the family, God Himself, when coming down into the midst of them, chooses a tent to dwell in. It is called “the tabernacle of the Lord,” or more literally “Jehovah’s tent.” Jehovah pitches His tent side by side with Israel’s tents, as if He were a stranger too, a wanderer like themselves!

This is our life. We are to be strangers with God as all our fathers were. It is the life of the desert, not of the city. But what of that? All is well. Jehovah is our God, and we shall soon be in His “many mansions.” Meanwhile, we have the tent, the altar, and the cloud. We need no more below. The rest is secured for us in Heaven, “ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Dealing With False Teachers and False Prophets: At the Hole of the Asp, Part 1.

Taken and adapted from, “An Innocent Game For Babes In Grace; Or Diversion For Infants At The Hole Of The Asp.”
Written by William Huntington, (2 February 1745 – 1 July 1813). Huntington was an English preacher and a coalheaver.


“And the child shall play on the hole of the asp,”
–Isaiah 11:8.

The asp, or aspic, is a most dangerous reptile, very numerous in the great deserts of Arabia, and in Ethiopia, and well-known in the Holy Land.

They are a kind of serpent, or adder, very small, curiously marked on the back, are very wise and subtle, apt to bite; and so venomous, that it is almost impossible to cure their bite. The venom which it conveys with its teeth spreads its contagion so fast, that unless a remedy be speedily procured, it is almost impossible to stop the infection. The venom of this creature is dreadful in its operations; it has a benumbing, stupefying, and intoxicating nature; it exhausts the animal spirits, withers the frame, and speedily draws the sufferer into a state of insensibility; insomuch that it lulls him into the final sleep of death, by a kind of lethargy. It causes a swelling as it runs, and has as bad an effect on the intellect as it has on the blood. There is no venomous creature so fatal in its bite, unless it be the scorpion.

So much for the history; I come now to the mystery of the asp.

This asp, in the mystery, is the devil, who is often called a serpent, Isa. 27:1; and an adder, Psalm, 91:13; because of his wisdom, Matt. 10:6; his subtlety, Gen. 3:2; his crooked turns, Job. 26:13; his dreadful bite, Eccl 10:11; and the hellish contagion of sin that spreads its dreadful infection throughout both body and soul. It benumbs the conscience, hardens the heart, stupefies the mind, and lulls the sinner fast asleep in his sin; and, if grace prevent not, sends him out of the world in an awful lethargy, till in hell, when “he lifts up his eyes, being in torment”

When the old serpent the devil seduced Eve, he chose the most subtle creature in the brute creation to disguise himself in; and he pursues the same scheme now; for he pitches upon the subtlest and wisest men to support his interest in the world. Men in ecclesiastical or civil power, of great learning, great parts, quick turns, and nervous reasoning, are generally the devil’s tools to spread his nets, and ensnare the souls of men. Hence it is that God has poured so much contempt on the wisdom of this world, as to make their understanding foolishness. And the Savior thanked his Father for hiding the gospel from the wise and prudent, and for revealing it unto babes.

In times of darkness Satan works men up to practice all manner or debauchery, oppression, and cruelty, and to deal destruction round them in a thousand forms; but, when the light of the gospel appears, then he stirs men up to persecute, and to spread his errors: by the former he labors to stop the progress of the gospel, and by the latter to mingle lies with it; and generally conveys his venom by those who are falsely called gospel ministers. Such are the Arminians, who reveal the serpent’s wisdom by producing much scripture, as the devil did when he deceived Eve, and yet perverting the plainest truths; they reveal the crooked workings of the serpent by their serpentine wriggling, first out of truth into error, then out of error into truth. Sometimes, by their words, you would think they were in Christ, and soon after you will perceive them to savor of nothing but flesh and blood; hold up and confess one doctrine at one time, then turn about again, and tear it all down. This is the crooked serpent “They have made them crooked paths, whosoever goes therein shall not know peace,” Isa. lix. 8. At times they hold for the blood of Christ as shed for all the human race, and then by and by tell you that those washed in it may be damned. This is the spirit of error that intoxicates. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moves itself aright; at the last it bites as a serpent, and it stings like an adder,” Prov. 23:31, 32. They reveal the deafness of the serpent by being hardened against all reproof, rushing on in the face of every faithful witness, and spitting their venom at the brightest testimonies. “They are like the deaf adder that stops her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely,” Psalm 58:4.

They reveal the subtlety of the serpent, by concealing their inward principles until they have insinuated themselves into your affections; and they will bring them forth a little at a time, as you can swallow them down; and, lest you should suspect the devil to be in them, they contend vehemently for good works and holiness of life. Under this mask they convey the bane of Satan to your heart. This is the subtlety of the devil, beguiling souls by false teachers, as Paul says, “But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” 2 Cor. 11:3, 4. So much for the asp. I come now to discuss  that of his hole, on which the child is to play. In the verse out of which the text is taken you read of a cockatrice den, and that the weaned child shall put its hand on that. The cockatrice and the asp are both serpents: and there is but very little difference between them. The cockatrice den is a false preacher’s heart, and the hole of the asp is a false preacher’s mouth.

The Savior called the Jewish tribe of false teachers, serpents and vipers. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Matt. 23:33. He called them serpents because the old serpent, the devil, was in them. Satan keeps his court in the heart, which is his palace, Luke, 11:21. “The devil works in the hearts of the disobedient,” Eph. 2:2. And the unrenewed heart is the serpent’s den. There it is that lie works up all his destructive compounds, and sends them forth in the open blaze of gospel light; that, while some precious souls simply receive the new wine of the kingdom of God, and rejoice in it, these instruments of Satan secretly hold all their venom; as Moses speaks of some of the Israelites, who brought away the Egyptian gods with them, and secretly carried on an infernal familiarity with devils, practicing magic art. “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.”

It is called the vine of Sodom, as springing up from Satan, the root of wickedness; bitter clusters, because they embitter the heart, and fill it with enmity against God and his sovereign will; wine, because it intoxicates the soul, stupefies the conscience, blinds the understanding, confuses the judgment, and employs the tongue in nothing but inconsistencies, contradictions, and mere nonsense.

As wine sets people to staggering, boasting, prating, wrangling, and whoring, so errors set people a staggering at the truths of God, boasting of human merit, prating against those doctrines that are orthodox, wrangling with simple souls, and to committing spiritual fornication against the Lord. Errors lead the heart of the deceived to an infernal conjunction with the devil himself. Hence it is called wine of fornication.

Popery I call the mother of whoredoms, and the Arminian body her younger sister; and such I believe in my conscience they will appear in the great day; for I can see no more difference between Popish principles and the principles of Arminianism, than I can between my two eyes. The church of Rome is said to make people drunk with the wine of her fornication; that is, the spirit of error; as it is written, “I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication,” Rev. 17:1, 2.

Thus the spirit of error is said to make men drunk, as Milton represents the intoxication of Adam and Eve. After they had taken their fill of forbidden fruit, they thought “they felt new divinity springing up within them,” until their false drop conveyed the bane of guilt into their conscience, and then they saw their nakedness, and began, as he represents, “their vain contest, that found no end.” So Zophar represents the false joys and airy flights of the deceived hypocrite. “The triumph of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency (mark that!) mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish forever. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him,” Job, 20:5, 6, 12, 14. And, as he loves such nourishment, God says he shall have no breast to suck but that; and, as he fed on the viper’s bane, he shall be destroyed by the viper’s tongue. “He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper’s tongue shall slay him,” Job, 20:16.

Hence it appears that the false preacher’s mouth is the hole of the asp; and the tongue of such a deceiver conveys the very venom of the devil, with his doctrine, which lies concealed under his tongue; as it is written, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips,” Psalm 140:3. And to this agrees the apostle Paul–” With their tongues they have used deceit: the poison of asps is under their lips,” Rom. 3:13. It is called wine of fornication, because it seduces men from the covenant of grace, which is a covenant of wedlock, and alienates the affections from God, instead of attracting them to him, and in the end leads souls into an affinity with the devil himself; as it is written, “Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel,” Jer. 3:20. And pray how was this done?–by perverting their way, and forgetting their God. Jer. 3:21; until God was “broken with their whorish heart which departed from him, and with their eyes that went a whoring after their idols,” Ezek. 6:9. False prophets lead to false doctrines, false doctrines lead to false gods; and their false gods lead them to false devils, and devils led them to hell And so it is now; for, if you obscure, or cast a false light upon any essential truth, you obscure an attribute of God that shines in that truth; for all his perfections shine in his word; and hence it is that he has “magnified his word above all his name,” Psalm 138:2. And, by obscuring God’s truths, or setting them forth in a false light, they have obscured the tremendous and illustrious attributes of the MOST HIGH AND ETERNAL GOD.

I can prove, from the Arminian writings, that they have beclouded three parts out of four of the revealed perfections of the ALMIGHTY. None have gone farther in this work than they, except the Atheists, who, by denying the being of a God, have, in fact, denied themselves all sense, reason, and motion, and labored to prove themselves in a state of annihilation; for God’s existence and man’s existence stand or fall together, according to scripture,” For in him we live, move, and have our being,” Acts, 17:28.

If the truths of God are obscured, the perfections of God are obscured, and God is represented in a false light; and consequently I am led to entertain false ideas of God, and to set up a false god in my own imagination, which will float and vary just as I do. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you,” Psalm 1:21, 22.

Mistakes About Conversion

Taken and adapted from, “An Alarm to the Unconverted”
Written by Joseph Alleine

[Joseph Alleine, (1634-1668) was a cherished Puritan nonconformist whose chief literary work was An Alarm to the Unconverted (1672), otherwise known as The Sure Guide to Heaven, which had an enormous circulation. His work Remains appeared in 1674. Joseph was born in 1634 in England. In 1645, his brother Edward, a member of the clergy, died and Joseph asked his father that he be educated to replace his deceased brother. In 1649, Joseph entered Lincoln College and in 1651 entered Corpus Christi College. In 1653, he received his B.D. and in 1655 became the associate pastor at St Mary Magdalene, Taunton.

Joseph Alleine was ejected from the church in 1662 along with 2,000 other ministers. He was jailed several times for violating the Five Mile Act. Finally, in September of 1668, he passed on at the early age of 34.]



Dearly Beloved,

I gladly acknowledge myself a debtor to you, and am concerned, as I would be found a good steward of the household of God, to give to everyone his portion. But the physician is most concerned for those patients whose case is most doubtful and hazardous; and the father’s pity is especially turned towards his dying child. So unconverted souls call for earnest compassion and prompt diligence to pluck them as brands from the burning (Jude 23). Therefore it is to them I shall first apply myself in these pages.

But from where shall I fetch my argument? With what shall I win them? O that I could tell! I would write to them in tears, I would weep out every argument, I would empty my veins for ink, I would petition them on my knees. O how thankful should I be if they would be prevailed with to repent and turn. How long have I labored for you! How often would I have gathered you! This is what I have prayed for and studied for these many years, that I might bring you to God. O that I might now do it! Will you yet be entreated?

But, O Lord, how insufficient I am for this work. Alas, with what shall I pierce the scales of Leviathan, or make the heart feel that is hard as the nether millstone? Shall I go and speak to the grave, and expect the dead will obey me and come forth? Shall I make an oration to the rocks, or declaim to the mountains, and think to move them with arguments? Shall I make the blind to see? From the beginning of the world was it not heard that a man opened the eyes of the blind (John 9:32). But, O Lord, Thou canst pierce the heart of the sinner. I can only draw the bow at a venture, but do Thou direct the arrow between the joints of the harness. Slay the sin, and save the soul of the sinner that casts his eyes on these pages.

There is no entering into heaven but by the strait passage of the second birth; without holiness you shall never see God (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore give yourselves unto the Lord now. Set yourselves to seek Him now. Set up the Lord Jesus in your hearts, and set Him in your houses. Kiss the Son (Psalms 2:12), and embrace the tenders of mercy; touch His scepter and live; for why will you die? I do not beg for myself, but would have you happy: this is the prize I run for. My soul’s desire and prayer for you is, that you may be saved (Romans 10:1).

I beseech you to permit a friendly plainness and freedom with you in your deepest concern. I am not playing the orator to make a learned speech to you, nor dressing the dish with eloquence in order to please you. These lines are upon a weighty errand indeed? To convince, and convert, and save you. I am not baiting my hook with rhetoric, nor fishing for your applause, but for your souls. My work is not to please you, but to save you; nor is my business with your fancies, but with your hearts. If I have not your hearts, I have nothing. If I were to please your ears, I would sing another song. If I were to preach myself, I would steer another course. I could then tell you a smoother tale; I would make pillows for you and speak peace, for how can Ahab love this Micaiah, that always prophesies evil concerning him? (1 Kings 22:8). But how much better are the wounds of a friend, than the fair speeches of the harlot, who flatters with her lips, till the dart strike through the liver? (Proverbs 7:21-23 and vi 26). If I were to quiet a crying infant, I might sing him into a happier mood, or rock him asleep; but when the child is fallen into the fire, the parent takes another course; he will not try to still him with a song or trifle. I know, if we succeed not with you, you are lost; if we cannot get your consent to arise and come away, you will perish forever. No conversion? No salvation! I must get your good-will, or leave you miserable.

But here the difficulty of my work again occurs to me. ‘O Lord, choose my stones out of the brook (1 Samuel 17:40, 45). I come in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. I come forth, like the stripling David against Goliath, to wrestle, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). This day let the Lord smite the Philistines, spoil the strong man of his armor, and give me the captives out of his hand. Lord, choose my words, and choose my weapons for me; and when I put my hand into the bag, and take out a stone and sling it, do Thou carry it to the mark, and make it sink, not into the forehead, but into the heart of the unconverted sinner, and smite him to the ground like Saul of Tarsus.’ (Acts 9:4).’

Some of you do not know what I mean by conversion, and in vain shall I attempt to persuade you to that which you do not understand. Therefore for your sakes I will show what conversion is. Others are likely to harden themselves with a vain conceit that they are converted already. To them I must show the marks of the unconverted. Others, because they feel no harm, fear none, and so sleep as upon the top of a mast. To them I shall show the misery of the unconverted. Others sit still, because they do not see the way of escape. To them I shall show the means of conversion. And finally, for the quickening of all, I shall close with the motives to conversion.

The devil has made many counterfeits of conversion, and cheats one with this, and another with that. He has such craft and artifice in his mystery of deceits that, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect. Now, that I may cure the ruinous mistake of some who think they are converted when they are not, as well as remove the troubles and fears of others who think they are not converted when they are, I shall show you the nature of conversion, both what it is not, and what it is. We will begin with the negative.

Conversion is not the taking upon us the profession of Christianity. Christianity is more than a name.

If we will hear Paul, it does not lie in word, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20). If to cease to be Jews and pagans, and to put on the Christian profession, had been true conversion — as this is all that some would have to be understood by it — who better Christians than they of Sardis and Laodicea? These were all Christians by profession, and had a name to live only; but because they had a name, they are condemned by Christ, and threatened to be rejected (Revelation 3:14-16). Are there not many that name the name of Lord Jesus, that do not depart from iniquity (2 Tim 2:19), and profess they know God, but in works deny Him? (Titus 1:16). And will God receive these for true converts? What! Converts from sin, when they still live in sin? It is a visible contradiction. Surely, if the lamp of profession would have served the turn, the foolish virgins had never been shut out (Matthew 25:12). We find not only professing Christians, but preachers of Christ, and wonder-workers, rejected, because they are evil-workers (Matthew 7:22-23).

Conversion is not putting on the badge of Christ in baptism.

Ananias and Sapphira, and Simon Magus were baptized as well as the rest. How many make a mistake here, deceiving and being deceived; dreaming that effectual grace is necessarily tied to the external administration of baptism, so that every baptized person is regenerated, not only sacramentally, but really and properly. Hence men fancy that because they were regenerated when baptized, they need no farther work. But if this were so, then all that have been baptized must necessarily be saved, because the promise of pardon and salvation is made to conversion and regeneration (Acts 3:19; Matthew 19:28). And indeed, were conversion and baptism the same, then men would do well to carry but a certificate of their baptism when they died, and upon sight of this there were no doubt of their admission into heaven.

In short, if there is nothing more to conversion, or regeneration, than to be baptized, this will fly directly in the face of that Scripture, Matthew 7:13-14, as well as multitudes of others. If this is true, we shall no more say, ‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way’ for if all that are baptized are saved, the door is exceeding wide, and we shall henceforth say, ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth unto life.’ If this is true, thousands may go in abreast; and we will no more teach that the righteous are scarcely saved, or that there is need of such a stir in taking the kingdom of heaven by violence, and striving to enter in (1 Peter 4:18; Matthew 11:12; Luke 13:24). Surely, if the way be so easy as many suppose, that little more is necessary than to be baptized and to cry out, ‘Lord, have mercy’, we need not put ourselves to such seeking, and knocking, and wrestling, as the Word requires in order to salvation. Again, if this is true, we shall no more say, ‘Few there be that find it’; we will rather say, ‘Few there be that miss it.’ We shall no more say, that of many that are called, only ‘few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14), and that even of the professing Israel but a remnant shall be saved (Romans 9:27). If this doctrine is true, we shall no more say with the disciples, ‘Who then shall be saved?’ but rather, ‘Who then shall not be saved?’ Then, if a man be baptized, though he is a fornicator, or a railer or covetous, or a drunkard, yet he shall inherit the kingdom of God! (1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:9, 10).

But some will reply,

‘Such as these, though they received regenerating grace in baptism, are since fallen away, and must be renewed again, or else they cannot be saved.’

I answer,

1   There is an infallible connection between regeneration and salvation, as we have already shown.

2    Then man must be again born again, which carries a great deal of absurdity in its face. We might as well expect men to be twice born in nature as twice born in grace!

3.  Above all, this grants the thing I contend for, that whatever men do or pretend to receive in baptism, if they are found afterwards to be grossly ignorant, or profane, or formal, without the power of godliness, they ‘must be born again’ (John 3:7) or else be shut out of the kingdom of God. So then they must have more to plead for themselves than their baptismal regeneration.

Well, in this you see all are agreed, that, be it more or less that is received in baptism, if men are evidently unsanctified, they must be renewed by a thorough and powerful change, or else they cannot escape the damnation of hell.

‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’ Whether it be your baptism, or whatever else you pretend, I tell you from the living God, that if any of you be a prayerless person, or a scoffer, or a lover of evil company (Proverbs 13:20), in a word, if you are not a holy, strict, and self-denying Christian, you cannot be saved (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 15:14).

Conversion does not lie in moral righteousness.

This does not exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and therefore cannot bring us to the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20). Paul, while unconverted, touching the righteousness which is in the law was blameless (Philippians 3:6). The Pharisee could say, ‘I am no extortioner, adulterer, unjust’, etc. (Luke 18:111). You must have something more than all this to show, or else, however you may justify yourself, God will condemn you. I do not condemn morality, but I warn you not to rest in it. Piety includes morality, as Christianity does humanity, and as grace does reason; but we must not divide the tables.

Conversion does not consist in an external conformity to the rules of piety.

It is manifest that men may have a form of godliness, without the power (2 Timothy 3:5). Men may pray long (Matthew 23:14), and fast often (Luke 18:12), and hear gladly (Mark 6:20), and be very forward in the service of God, though costly and expensive (Isaiah 1:11), and yet be strangers to conversion. They must have more to plead for themselves than that they go to church, give alms, and make use of prayer, to prove themselves sound converts. There is no outward service but a hypocrite may do it, even to the giving of all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Conversion is not the mere chaining up of corruption by education, human laws or the force of affliction.

It is too common and easy to mistake education for grace; but if this were enough, who a better man than Jehoash? While Jehoiada, his uncle, lived, he was very forward in God’s service, and calls upon him to repair the house of the Lord (2 Kings 12:2, 7). But here was nothing more than good education all this while; for when his good tutor was taken away he appears to have been but a wolf chained up, and falls into idolatry.

In short, conversion does not consist in illumination or conviction or in a superficial change or partial reformation.

An apostate may be an enlightened man (Hebrews 6:4), and a Felix tremble under conviction (Acts 24:25), and a Herod do many things (Mark 6:20). It is one thing to have sin alarmed only by convictions, and another to have it crucified by converting grace. Many, because they have been troubled in conscience for their sins, think well of their case, miserably mistaking conviction for conversion. With these, Cain might have passed for a convert, who ran up and down the world like a man distracted, under the rage of a guilty conscience, till he stifled it with building and business. Others think that because they have given up their riotous ways, and are broken off from evil company or some particular lust, and are reduced to sobriety and civility, they are now real converts. They forget that there is a vast difference between being sanctified and civilized. They forget that many seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and are not far from it, and arrive to the almost of Christianity, and yet fall short at last. While conscience holds the whip over them, many will pray, hear, read, and forbear their delightful sins; but no sooner is the lion asleep than they are at their sins again. Who more religious than the Jews when God’s hand was upon them? Yet no sooner was the affliction over, than they forgot God. You may have forsaken a troublesome sin, and have escaped the gross pollutions of the world, and yet in all this not have changed your carnal nature. You may take a crude mass of lead and mold it into the more comely proportion of a plant, and then into the shape of an animal, and then into the form and features of a man; but all the time it is still lead. So a man may pass through various transmutations, from ignorance to knowledge, from profanity to civility, then to a form of religion, and all this time he is still carnal and unregenerate, his nature remains unchanged.

Hear then, O sinners, hear as you would live. Why should you willfully deceive yourselves, or build your hopes upon the sand?

I know that he will find hard work that goes to pluck away your hopes. It cannot but be unpleasant to you, and truly it is not pleasing to me. I set about it as a surgeon when about to cut off a mortified limb from his beloved friend, which of necessity he must do, though with an aching heart. But understand me, beloved I am only taking down the ruinous house, which otherwise will speedily fall of itself and bury you in the ruins, that I may build it fair, strong, and firm forever. The hope of the wicked shall perish (Proverbs 11:7). And had you not better, O sinner, let the Word convince you now in time, and let go your false and self-deluding hopes, than have death open your eyes too late, and find yourself in hell before you are aware? I should be a false and faithless shepherd if I should not tell you, that you who have built your hopes upon no better grounds than these before mentioned, are yet in your sins. Let conscience speak. What have you to plead for yourselves? Is it that you wear Christ’s livery; that you bear His name; that you are a member of the visible church; that you have knowledge in the points of religion, are civilized, perform religious duties, are just in your dealings, have been troubled in conscience for your sins? I tell you from the Lord, these pleas will never be accepted at God’s bar. All this, though good in itself, will not prove you converted, and so will not suffice to your salvation. O look to it, and resolve to turn speedily and entirely. Study your own hearts; do not rest till God has made thorough work with you; for you must be other men, or else you are lost men.

But if these persons come short of conversion, what shall I say of the profane person?

It may be he will scarcely cast his eyes on, or lend his ear to this discourse; but if there be any such reading, or within hearing, he must know from the Lord that made him, that he is far from the kingdom of God. May a man keep company with the wise virgins, and yet be shut out; and shall not a companion of fools much more be destroyed? May a man be true in his dealings, and yet not be justified before God? What then will become of you, O wretched man, whose conscience tells you that you are false in your trade and false to your word? If men may be enlightened and brought to the external performance of holy duties, and yet go down to perdition for resting in them and sitting down on this side of conversion; what will become of you, O miserable families that live without God in the world? What will become of you, O wretched sinners, with whom God is scarcely in all your thoughts; that are so ignorant that you cannot pray, or so careless that you will not? O repent and be converted, break off your sins by righteousness. Away to Christ for pardoning and renewing grace. Give up yourselves to Him, to walk with Him in holiness, or you shall never see God. O that you would heed the warnings of God! In His name I once more admonish you.

Turn you at my reproof. Forsake the foolish, and live. Be sober, righteous, and godly. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cease to do evil, learn to do well (Proverbs 1:23 and 9:6; Titus 2:12; James 4:8; Isaiah 1:16-17). But if you will go on, you must die.

The Pietists and the Perfectionists

Taken and adapted from, “The Work of the Holy Spirit”
Written by, Abraham Kuyper


Sanctification is a gracious work of God, whereby in a supernatural way He gradually divests from sin the inclinations and dispositions of the regenerate and clothes them with holiness.

Here we meet a serious objection which deserves our careful attention. To the superficial observer, the spiritual experience of God’s children seems diametrically opposed to this professed gift of sanctification. One says: “Can it be that for more than ten years I have been the subject of a divine operation whereby my desires and inclinations were divested of sin and clothed with holiness? If this is the Gospel, then I belong not to the Lord’s redeemed; for in myself I perceive scarcely any progress; I only know that my first love has become cold and that the inward corruption is appalling. Some dream of progress, but I discover in myself scarcely anything but backsliding. No gain but loss, is the sad footing-up of the account. My only hope is Immanuel my Surety.”

While the experience of a broken heart vents its grief in this way, others exhort us not to encourage spiritual pride. They say: “We should not foster spiritual pride in God’s children, for by nature they are already thus inclined. What is more conducive to spiritual pride than the conceit of an ever-advancing holiness? Is not holiness the highest and most glorious attainment? Is it not our comprehensive prayer to be made partakers of His holiness? And would you have these souls imagine that, since they were converted a number of years ago, they have attained already a considerable degree of this divine perfection? Would you give license to older Christians to feel themselves above their younger brethren? Holiness wants to be noticed; hence you incite them to a display of their good works. What is this but to cultivate a spirit of Pharisaism?

We may not rest until this objection of the sensitive conscience is entirely removed. Not as tho we could escape all dangers of Pharisaism. This would silence every exhortation to holy living. Light without shadows is impossible; the shadows disappear only in absolute darkness. In the days of the ancient Pharisee, Jerusalem, compared with Rome and Athens, was a God-fearing city. Pharisaism was never more bold than in the days of Jesus. And history shows that the danger of Pharisaism has always been least in the Romish and greatest in the Reformed churches; and among the latter, it is strongest where the name of God is most exalted. Godliness is impossible without the shadow of Pharisaism. The brighter the light and glory of the former, the darker the shadow of the latter. To escape Pharisaism altogether one must descend into the lowest pest-holes of society, where nothing bridles the passions of men.

And this is natural. Pharisaism is not a common corruption, but the mildew of the noblest fruit the earth ever saw — viz., godliness. The circles that are free from Pharisaism also lack the highest good; how, then, could it decay there? And the circles in which this danger is greatest are the very circles in which the highest good is known and exalted.

But, apart from this aimless skirmishing with the Pharisaic phantom, the scruple mentioned above has our heartiest sympathy. If it were true that sanctification so impressed the soul as to incite it to pride, it could not be the real article; for of all unholiness pride is the most abominable. It is David’s sweet and sincere supplication: “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright and shall be innocent from the great transgressions.” (Psalm 19:13) The fundamental conception of grace is so intimately connected with the idea of becoming a little child, and its gift is so strongly conditioned upon a humble disposition, that the gift which encourages spiritual pride can not be a gift of grace.

But we are confident that the doctrine of sanctification, as presented in these pages according to the Holy Scripture, has nothing in common with this caricature. Since in Paradise sin sprang from the first satanic incitement to pride, and all spiritual and carnal unholiness still grows from that poisonous root, it is evident that the first effect of the implanted, holy disposition must be the humbling of this pride, the pulling down of this stronghold; and at the same time the quickening of a humble, meek, and childlike spirit.

The idea that sanctification consists in inspiring the saint with horror for gross and outward sins, without a previous breaking down of self-conceit, is unscriptural and opposed by the Reformed churches. The Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit never applies sanctification to the believer without attacking all his sins at once. “A sincere resolution to live not only according to some, but to all the commandments of God” (Heidelberg Catechism).

Of all sins pride is the most accursed, for in all its manifestations it is the transgression of the first commandment. Hence real and divinely wrought sanctification is inconceivable without, first of all, destroying pride, and creating a humble, quiet, self-distrusting, and childlike disposition. And this solves the whole difficulty. He who fears that gradual sanctification will lead to pride and self-conceit confounds its human counterfeit with the real work divinely wrought. Wherefore, with this objection, he must attack the hypocrite, and not us. However, a wrong interpretation of what the Scripture calls “flesh” might suggest it. If “flesh” signifies sensual inclinations and bodily appetites, and sanctification consisted almost entirely in warring against these sins, sanctification thus understood might be accompanied by an increase of spiritual pride.

But by sinful “flesh” the Scripture denotes the entire man, body and soul, including sins which are spiritual as well as sensual; hence sanctification aims at once at the change of man’s spiritual and sensual inclinations, and first of all at his tendency to pride.

Earlier, we said that sanctification included a descent as well as an ascent. When the Lord raises us, we also descend. There is no rising of the new man without a death of the old; and every attempt to teach sanctification without doing full justice to both is unscriptural. We oppose, therefore, the attempts of the Pietist and of the Perfectionist, who say that they have nothing more to do with the old man, that nothing remains in them to be mortified, and that all that is required of them is to hurry the growth of the new man. And we equally oppose the opposite; which admits the dying of the old man, but denies the rising of the new, and that the soul receives all that it lacks.

Every true and lasting conversion, must manifest itself in these two parts, viz., a mortification of the old man, and a rising of the new, in equal proportions.

And in answer to the question, “What is the mortification of the old man?” the Heidelberg Catechism answers, “A gradual decrease,” for it says: “It is a sincere sorrow of heart that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.” While the quickening of the new man is expressed just as positively: “It is a sincere joy of heart in God through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works” — a declaration that is repeated in the answer of the 115th question, which thus describes this mortification: “That all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature”; and which speaks of the quickening of the new man as “becoming more and more conformable to the image of God.”

Hence there are two parts, or rather two aspects of the same thing:

(1) the breaking down of the old man;
(2) a growing conformity to the divine image.

To mortify and to quicken, to kill and to make alive, more and more — this is, according to the Confession of the fathers, the work of the Triune God in sanctification. Sin is not merely the “lack of righteousness.” As soon as righteousness, goodness, and wisdom disappear, unrighteousness, evil, and folly take their place. As God implanted in man the first three named, so does sin not merely rob him of them, but it puts the last three in their place. Sin did not only kill in Adam the man of God, but also quickened in him the man of sin; hence sanctification must effect in us the very opposite. It must mortify that which sin has quickened, and quicken that which sin has mortified.

If this rule is thoroughly understood, there can be no confusion. Our idea of sanctification necessarily corresponds to our idea of sin. They who consider sin as a mere poison, and deny the loss of original righteousness, are Pietists; they ignore the mortification of the old man, and always busy themselves adorning the new. And they who say that sin is the loss of original righteousness, and deny its positive, evil effects, are inclined to Antinomianism, and reduce sanctification to a fancied emancipation from the old man, rejecting the rising of the new. Of course, this touches the doctrine of the old man and the new.

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  –Hebrews 12:10

The representation that the soul of the converted is an arena where the two are engaged in a hand-to-hand fight is incorrect, and has not a single satisfactory text for its support. We reject the two following representations: that of the Antinomian, who says: “The believing ego is the new man in Christ Jesus; I am not responsible for the old man, the personal, sinful ego; he may sin as much as he please”; and the representation of the Pietist, who considers him still the old man, partly renewed, and who is always busy to remodel him. These two do not belong to Christ’s Church. The Scripture teaches, not that the old man is sanctified by being changed into the new; but that the old man must be mortified until nothing of him remains. Neither does it teach that in regeneration a small part only of the old man is renewed — the remainder to be patched up gradually — but that an entirely new man is implanted. This is of greatest importance for the right understanding of these holy things. Sin wrought in us an old man, the body of sin: not merely a part, but the whole, with all that belongs to him, body and soul. Hence that old man must die, and the Pietist with all his works of piety can never galvanize a single muscle in his body. He is altogether unprofitable, and must perish under his just condemnation.

In like manner God graciously regenerates in us a new creature, which is also a complete man. Therefore we may not take the new man as the gradual restoration of the old. The two have nothing in common but the mutual basis of the same personality. The new does not spring from the old, but supersedes him. Being only in the germ, he may be buried in the newly regenerate, but he will arise and then God’s work appears gloriously. God is his Author, Creator, and Father. Not the old man, but the new man cries out: “Abba, Father!”

However, our ego is related to the dying old man and the rising new man. The ego of a non-elect person is identified with the old man; they are the same. But in the consummation of the heavenly glory, the ego of God’s children is identified with the new man.

But during the days of our earthly life this is not so. The new man of an unregenerate, but elect person exists apart from him, but hid in Christ. He is still wedded to his old man. But in regeneration and conversion God dissolves this unholy marriage, and He unites his ego to the new man. Yet, despite all this, he is not yet rid of the old man. Before God and the law, from the viewpoint of eternity, he may be so considered, but not actually and really. And this is the cause of the conflict within and without. All evil ties are not dissolved at once, and all holy ties are not united at once. By the mystic union with Christ the child of God actually possesses the entire new man, even tho he should die to-morrow; but he has not yet the enjoyment of it. Being weaned to the new man before God, he is, by a painful process, yet to die to the old man, and by divine grace the new man is to be raised in him. And this is his sanctification: the dying of the old and the rising of the new, by which God increases and we decrease. Blessed manifestation of faith!

HOW HAVE I RECEIVED CHRIST ? A short meditation

Written by, Ambrose Serle, Esq., in 1787


THE apostle says, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.

…I must therefore receive him, before I can walk in him at all. It is a matter of the deepest consequence to my soul that I should do both.”

How, then, Lord, did I receive you? Did I seek you first by my own will? Alas! I was gone out-of-the-way like all other men; I was altogether become abominable, having no will for good, but only for evil. Did I resolve to seek you by my best endeavors? I must confess, with shame and sorrow, that my resolutions were weaker to me than Samson’s bands were in his full strength to him; and that the first or the least temptation led me away. Could my sincere obedience merit your favor? I see, that if a man could sincerely obey in his natural state, but which indeed he cannot, having no love to the work, but only a slavish fear of hell; Lord, I see that your law requires, if I would be saved by your law, a sinless and perfect obedience, instead of this insincere and defective one, upon pain of my utter destruction. You have said in your word, that he who offends in one point is guilty of all, and that by the deeds of the law shall no man living be justified. How then could I, who have offended in so many points, be saved? How then did you, in your righteousness, bring me to expect salvation?

Lord, I was poor, and vile, and miserable; I was helpless, yet laden with iniquities; I was wounded, and lying in my blood; my case and condition no man knew, or, knowing it, could relieve. In the midst of my misery was the appointed moment of your mercy. Into my deepest wounds you did pour your oil and your wine. You alone cheered my heart with your free salvation. In the view of what Christ had done and suffered for poor sinners like me, and by your gracious power applying this his two-fold merit; joy and gladness came into my soul, yea, greater than any found by men of the earth, when their corn, and wine, and oil have increased.

Your Word was the instrument, and your Spirit the worker. He new-created me in Christ Jesus; he renewed me in the Spirit of my mind; he made darkness light before me, and rough places plain: By his teaching I know your truth, by his grace l enjoy it, by his power I am kept therein, and shall be kept, I trust, to the end. Lord, all the glory of conversion worked in me, and of your complete salvation worked for me, wholly belongs unto, you from beginning to end!

It was in this way I received Christ; and your word, O Lord, assures me it is the true way; because it gives to you all the glory and secures to me all the benefit. In this way of humbly receiving, I must also walk continually. I have nothing of my own but sin. You have nothing, O my Redeemer, but grace and mercy for your people. Help me to receive out of this eternal fullness grace for grace, according to my need, that I may walk unto all well pleasing, and adorn your doctrine in all things. I would love much, because much has been forgiven me. I would serve heartily, because you have kindly done great things indeed for me. I would live holily, because it is the way to your kingdom, and the very, happiness of your kingdom itself.

Let me, my Savior, be more like unto you; for, Lord, I would be yours, and only yours, forever!

What Sinners Should Plead with God

Sermon written by Ralph Erskine


What Sinners Should Plead with God? 

1. Plead his promise, Ezekiel 36:26,27. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” It is a free, gracious promise: cry to him to make good that word to you, seeing he has said, “Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them.” ver. 37. Tell him, that now you are come to inquire, and request him to do it.

2. Plead your own feebleness and inability to help yourselves; this was the impotent man’s plea at the pool of Bethesda, John 5:6,7 “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.'” So say you, Lord, I have lain many years with this dead plagued heart, beside the open fountain of your blood; I am unable to move to it of myself; I have none to put me in: ordinances cannot do it; ministers cannot do it; you must put to your helping hand, or else the work will remain unperformed.

3. Plead his power, in a sense of your own weakness. Do you feel the power and multitude of your corruptions within you? Say with Jehoshaphat, “Lord I have no might against this great company; neither know I what to do: but mine eyes are upon you.” With you all things are possible. Though I may despair of help in myself and others; yet, you have forbid me to despair of help in you. You said, Let there be light, and there was light; therefore say, let there be faith, and it will immediately take place; for faith is your work and your gift: it is “the work of God that we believe: by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”

4. Plead your necessity, your extreme need of Christ and of faith in him. O man, there is not a starving man that needs food so much as you need Christ: there is not a wounded man that needs a physician; a shipwrecked man that needs a plank; a dying man, with the death rattle in his throat, that needs breath so much, as you need Christ. O then, cry, “Give me Christ, or else I die.” I may live without friends, without wealth, and honour, and pleasure; but I cannot live without Christ, and without faith. Plead his power; how easy it is for him to help, saying, as Psalm 80:1 “you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth!” It will cost you no more pain to work faith in me, than it does the sun to shine forth. Yea, he can more easily put forth his power and grace, than the sun can dart out its beams. It is no trouble nor loss to the sun to shine forth, so neither will it be to him, to show his power and mercy: a look, or a touch, will do it; since he can so easily do it. You may cry with hope; he will never miss an alms bestowed on a beggar, out of the ocean of his bounty. Nay, as the sun, the more it shines displays its glory the more; so will he gain glory by putting forth his power to help you.

5. Plead his mercy, and the freedom and extension of it. Plead the freedom of his mercy, that needs no motive, and expects no worth: it runs freely, so that the mountains cannot stop the current of it, no more than the rocks can stop the ebbing and flowing of the sea. Plead the extension of his mercy to others: he had compassion on men’s bodies, that came to him for healing, and will he not have compassion upon souls, that come to him for life? Is not mercy the work that he delights in? The perfection of his nature, he takes pleasure to display.

6. Plead Christ’s commission, Isaiah 61:1, that he came “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Cry, Lord, here is a poor prisoner, a locked and bound up heart; here is employment for you. O loose and knock off my fetters, and bring my soul out of prison. O here is a naked sinner for you to cover, a wounded soul for you to cure, a lost sheep for you to seek and save; and was not this your errand? You came to seek and save that which was lost. And will you not find a lost sinner, that desires to seek you through your grace? Plead his commission under the broad seal of heaven; for, “Him has God the Father sealed.” And plead the value of his blood, and merit of his righteousness: and upon that ground whereby all grace is purchased: plead for faith and grace to receive Jesus Christ the Lord.

Thus I have laid before you some directions, in order to the receiving of Christ. O cry for grace to follow them, and put them in practice, so you may indeed close the bargain with him. O shall all these directions be lost, and Christ be still slighted and rejected! O friends, you cannot please God better, than by coming to Christ and embracing the offer of him; and you cannot please the devil better than by refusing the offer of Christ; and putting him off with delays, till you perish in your unbelief.

And now, after all that has been said, what are you resolved upon? Will you receive Christ or not? Our glorious Lord and Master has sent us to pose you man, woman, and demand whether you will receive him or not? O! what answer shall we return with? Must we go and say, that all this people, upon no terms, will receive him; none of them are for precious Christ? Oh! God forbid! shall he not see the travail of his soul, who travailed through all the armies of God’s wrath for you, and gave his soul an offering for your sin? O give your soul to him, saying, Lord, in spite of the devil and of unbelief, through grace I will open my heart and arms to receive Christ! The Lord himself help you to receive him, and walk in him.

True and Counterfeit Assurances of Salvation

Taken and adapted from the writings of Thomas Brooks.


He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. –Romans 8:32-34

Showing the difference between a true and a counterfeit assurance, that is, between sound assurance and a presumption.

The first difference.

A sound and well-grounded assurance is attended with a deep admiration of God‘s transcendent love and favor to the soul in the Lord Jesus. The assured soul is often a-breathing it out thus: Ah, Lord! Who am I, what am I, that you should give into my bosom, the white stone of absolution, when the world bath given into their bosoms only the black stone of condemnation? Revelation 2:17 Lord! What mercy is this, that you should give me assurance, give me water out of the rock, and feed me with manna from heaven, when many of thy dearest ones spend their days in sighing, mourning and complaining for want of assurance. Lord! what manner of love is this, that you should set me upon thy knee, embrace me in thy arms, lodge me in thy bosom, and kiss me with the sweet kisses of thy blessed mouth, with those kisses that are ‘better than wine,‘ Song of Solomon 1:2, yea, better than life, when many ate even weary of their lives because they want what I enjoy? Psalms 63 3. Ah, Lord! By what name shall I call this mercy, this assurance that you hast given me? It being a mercy that fits me to do duties, to bear crosses and to improve mercies; that fits me to speak sweetly, to judge righteously, to give liberally, to act seriously, to suffer cheerfully, and to walk humbly. I cannot, says the assured soul, but sing it out with Moses, ‘Who is like unto thee; O Lord, amongst the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?’ Exodus 15: 2. And with the apostle, ‘Oh, the height, the depths, the length and breadth of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge,’ Ephesians 3:18, 19. If the queen of Sheba, says the assured soul, was so swallowed up in a deep admiration of Solomon‘s wisdom, greatness, goodness, excellency and glory, that she could not but admiringly breathe it thus out, ‘Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom,’ 1 Kings 10:8, Oh then, how should that blessed assurance that I have of the love of God, of my interest in God, of my union and communion with God, of my blessedness here and my happiness hereafter, work me to a deep and serious, to a real and perpetual, admiration of God.

The second difference.

A well-grounded assurance does always beget in the soul an earnest and an impatient longing after a further, a clearer, and fuller enjoyment of God and Christ. Psalms 63:1, ‘O God, you are my God’ — here is assurance; well, what follows? — ‘early will I seek thee. My soul thirsts for thee; my flesh longs for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.’ The assured soul cries out, ‘I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,’ Philippians 1:23; and, ‘Make haste, my beloved,’ Song of Solomon 8: 14; and, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,’ Revelation 22:17. O Lord Jesus, says the assured soul, you are my light, you are my life, you are my love, you are my joy, you are my crown, you are my heaven, you are my all. I cannot but long to see that beautiful face that was spit upon for my sins, and that glorious head that was crowned with thorns for my transgressions. I long to take some turns with thee in paradise, to see the glory of thy Jerusalem above, to drink of those rivers of pleasures that be at thy right hand, to taste of all the delicacies of thy kingdom, and to be acquainted with those secrets and mysteries that have been hid from all ages, and to be swallowed up in the full enjoyment of thy blessed self; Ephesians 3:5, Colossians 1:26.

The third difference.

A well-grounded assurance is usually strongly assaulted by Satan on all sides. Satan is such a grand enemy to joy and peace, to the salvation and consolation, of the saints, that he cannot but make use of all his devices and stratagems to amaze and amuse, to disturb and disquiet, the peace and rest of their souls. No sooner had Jesus Christ heard that lovely voice from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’ Matthew 3:17 and 4:1, 2, etc., but he is desperately assaulted by Satan in the wilderness. No sooner was Paul dropped out of heaven, after he had seen such visions of glory that was unutterable, but he was presently assaulted and buffeted by Satan, 2 Corinthians 2:12. Stand up, stand up, assured Christians, and tell me whether you have not found the blast of the terrible one to be as a storm against the wall, Isaiah 25. Since the Lord said unto you, Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you, have not you found Satan to play the part both of the lion and the wolf, of the serpent and the fox? And all to weaken your assurance, and to work you to question the truths of your assurance, and to cast water upon your assurance, and to take off the freshness and sweetness, the beauty and glory, of your assurance; I know you have. His malice, envy, and enmity is such against God’s honor and glory, and your comfort and felicity, that he cannot but be very studious and industrious to make use of all traps, snares, methods, and ways whereby he may shake the pillars of your faith, and weaken and overthrow your assurance. Pirates, you know, do most fiercely assault those ships and vessels that are most richly laden; so does Satan those precious souls that have attained to the riches of full assurance.

Assurance makes a paradise in believers’ souls, and this makes Satan to roar and rage. Assurance fits a man to do God the greatest service and Satan the greatest disservice, and this makes him mad against the soul. Assurance makes a saint to be too hard for Satan at all weapons, yea, to lead that ‘son of the morning’ captive, to spoil him of all his hurting power, to bind him in chains, and to triumph over him; and this makes his hell a great deal hotter, Romans 8: 32-39. And therefore never wonder at Satan’s assaulting your assurance, but expect it and look for it. The jailor is quiet when his prisoner is in bolts, but if he be escaped then he pursues him with hue and cry. So long as the soul is in bolts and bondage under Satan, Satan is quiet and is not so apt to molest and vex it; but when once a soul is made free, and assured of his freedom by Christ, John 8:36, then says Satan, as once Pharaoh did, ‘I will arise, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them,’ Exodus 15:9. The experience of all assured saints does abundantly confirm this. Israel going into Egypt had no enemies, no opposition, but travelling into Canaan they were never free.

The fourth difference.

A well-grounded-assurance makes a man as bold as a lion; it makes him valiant and gallant for Christ and his cause, in the face of all dangers and deaths. After the Holy Ghost was fallen upon the apostles, and had assured them of their internal and eternal happiness, oh! How bold, how undaunted, how resolute were they in the face of all oppositions, afflictions, and persecutions! As you may see from the second of the Acts of the Apostles to the end of the Acts. So assurance had this operation upon David’s heart: Psalms 23:4, 6 compared, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ Well, David, but how does this assurance of yours operate? Why, says he ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ So Moses having an assurance of the ‘recompense of reward,’ he fears not the wrath of the king, ‘for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible,’ Hebrews 11:26, 27. So in Hebrews 10:34, ‘And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.’ Oh, that knowledge, that assurance that they had in their own hearts of enjoying in heaven a better and a more enduring substance, made them bear cheerfully and gallantly the spoiling of their worldly goods. Though the archers — the world, the flesh, and the devil — do shoot sore at a soul under assurance, yet his bow will still abide in strength. Assurance will make a man to break a bow of steel, to trample down strength, and to triumph over all oppositions and afflictions.

Colonus, the Dutch martyr called to the judge that had sentenced him to death, and desired him to lay his hand upon his heart, and asked him whose heart did most beat, his or the judge’s. Assurance will make a man do this, and much more for Christ and his cause.

The fifth difference.

A well-grounded assurance of a man’s own eternal happiness and blessedness will make him very studious and laborious to make others happy: Psalms 66:16, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he bath done for my soul.’ I will acquaint you with the soul blessings, with the soul favors, that God hath crowned me with. I was darkness, but he bath made me light; I was unrighteousness, but he hath made me righteous; I was deformed, but he hath made me complete; I was full of sores, and spots, and blemishes, but he hath washed me, and made me all fair, without spot or wrinkle. I have found the want of assurance, I now see the worth of assurance; I have long sought assurance, and now I find the sweetness of assurance. Ah! It is such a pearl of price, it is such a beam of God, it is such a spark of glory that makes my soul a rich amid for all its waiting, weeping, and wrestling.

So, when it pleased God to call Paul by his grace, and to reveal Christ in him and to him, ah! How does he labor, as for life, to bring others to an acquaintance with Christ, and to an acceptance of Christ, and to an assurance of everlasting happiness and blessedness by Christ! After Paul had been in paradise, he makes it his all to bring others to paradise, 2 Corinthians 12. So the spouse in the Canticles, having assurance of her interest in Christ, how does she labor, by all holy and heavenly rhetoric and logic, by all the strains of love and sweetness, to draw the daughters of Jerusalem to a sight of Christ Song of Solomon 5:10-16, and 6:1, etc. When a beam of divine light and love had shined upon Andrew, he labors to draw his brother Simon to the fountain of all light and love, John 1: 40-42. And when Philip had but a cast of Christ’s countenance, his pulse beats, and his heart calls upon Nathanael to come and share with him in that loving-kindness that was better than life, John 1: 43-47.

The constant cry of souls under the power of assurance is, ‘Come, taste and see how good the Lord is,’ Psalms 34:8. Ah, sinners, sinners! ‘His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace,’ Prov. 3:17; his ‘commands are not grievous,’ 1 John 5: 3, but joyous; ‘his yoke is easy, and his burden is light,’ Matthew 11: 30; not only for keeping, but also ‘in keeping of his commands there is great reward,’ Psalms 19:11. Assurance will strongly put men upon winning of others by counsel, by example, by prayer, and by communicating their spiritual experiences to them. Assurance will furnish a man with will, skill, and experience to confute all those false reports that vain men frequently cast upon the Lord and his ways. It will make a man proclaim to the world ‘that one day in the Lord’s courts is better than a. thousand years elsewhere,’ Psalms 84:10; that there are more glorious joys, more pure comforts, more abiding peace, more royal contents, more celestial delights, in one day’s walking with God, in one hour’s communion with God, etc., than is to be found in all things below God. And by these and such like ways, souls under the power of a well-grounded assurance do endeavor to make others happy with themselves. A soul under assurance is unwilling to go to heaven without company. He is often a-crying out, Father, bless this soul too, and crown that soul too let us to heaven together, let us be made happy together.

The sixth difference.

A well-grounded assurance of God’s love, and of a man’s everlasting happiness and blessedness, will exceedingly arm and strengthen him against all wickedness and baseness, Ezekiel 16:60-63. No man loathes sin, and himself for sin, as such a man; no man wars and watches against sin more than such a man; no man sighs and mourns, bleeds and complains, under the sense of sinful motions and sinful operations more than such a man, Luke 7:44, 50. Every stirring of sin makes a man that is under the power of assurance to cry out, ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:22-25: Psalms 85:8, ‘I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: and let them not turn again to folly,’ or, as the Hebrew will bear, ‘And they shall not return to folly.’ God’s speaking peace to his people fences .and fortifies them against folly and vanity.

The assurance that Joseph had of his master’s love armed him against the lascivious assaults of his lustful mistress; and will not divine love, that is stronger than death, do this and more? Song of Solomon 8:6, 7. Assurance makes a man say to his sins, as be to his idols, ‘Get you hence, for what have I any more to do with idols?’ So says the assured soul, Away pride, away passion, away worldly-mindedness, away uncleanness, away uncharitableness, etc., for what have I any more to do with you? Assurance makes the soul speak to sin as David speaks to sinners: Psalms 119:115, ‘Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity; for I will keep the commandments of my God:’ so says the assured soul, Depart from me, O my lusts, for I have tasted of the love of God, and I have given up myself wholly and only to God, and I cannot but keep the commandments of my God. The Jewish Rabbins report, that the same night that Israel departed out of Egypt towards Canaan, all the idols and idolatrous temples in Egypt, by lightning and earthquakes, were broken down. So when Christ and assurance comes to be set up in the soul, all, the idols of Satan and a man’s own heart are cast down, and cast out as an abomination. Sound assurance puts a man upon purifying himself, even as Christ is pure, 1 John 3: 2, 3. The assured Christian knows, that it is dangerous to sin against light, that it is more dangerous to sin against love, that it is most dangerous to sin against love revealed and manifested. God may well say to such a Christian, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? To sin under assurance, is to sin against the bowels of mercy, it is to sin against the highest hopes of glory; and this will certainly provoke God to be angry. 1 Kings 11:9, ‘And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, that had appeared to him twice.’ To sin under assurance, is to sin in paradise; it is to sin under the flaming sword, it is to sin in the suburbs of heaven, it is to run the hazard of losing that favor ‘that is better than life,’ of that ‘joy that is unspeakable and full of glory,’ and of that ‘peace that passes understanding.’ To sin under assurance, is to cast reproach upon Christ, to grieve the Spirit, to wound conscience, to weaken your graces, to blur your evidences, to usher in calamities, to embitter your mercies, and to provoke the tempter to triumph over your Savior. Verily, that assurance is but presumption that works men to play with sin, to be bold with sin, to make light of sin, to walk on in ways of sin. Such assurance will never bring a man to heaven, it will never keep him from dropping, into hell, yea, it will double his damnation, and make him the most miserable among all damned, miserable, forlorn spirits. Ah, Lord! From such an assurance deliver my soul; and give me more and more of that divine assurance that makes sin to be more hateful than hell, and that makes the soul to be more careful to avoid the one, than it is fearful of falling into the other.

The seventh difference.

A well-grounded assurance is always attended with three fair handmaids, or with three sweet companions,

The first handmaid.

The first is love. Oh! The assurance of divine favor does mightily inflame a man’s love to Christ. Mary Magdalene loved much; Christ’s love to her drew out her, love very much to Christ, Luke vii. Assurance makes the soul sing it out with that sweet singer of Israel, ‘I will dearly love thee, O Lord, my strength,’ Psalms 18:2. Lovers know not how to keep silence; lovers of Christ are full of gracious expressions. Magnes amoris est amor; love is the attractive loadstone of love. It is impossible for a soul not to love Christ, that knows he is beloved of Christ. Christ’s love constrains the soul to love, not by forcible but loving necessity. Praxiteles exquisitely drew love, taking the pattern from that passion which he felt in his own heart. A believer cannot find the heart of Christ to be beating towards him, but his heart will strongly beat towards Christ. Divine love is like a rod of myrtle, which, as Pliny reports, makes the traveler that carries it in his hand, so that he shall never be faint, weary of walking, or loving. Love alone overpowers all power. Love is the diadem; none but the queen must wear it. Love is the wedding garment; none but the spouse can fit it. Love is a loadstone to draw, as well as a fire to warm. He that does not love Christ, was never assured of the love of Christ.

The second handmaid,

or companion that attends a well-grounded assurance, is humility. David, under assurance, cries out, ‘I am a worm and no man,’ Psalms 22:6; Abraham, under assurance, cries out, that he is but ‘dust and ashes;’ Jacob, under assurance, cries out, that he was ‘less than the least of all mercies;’ Job, under assurance, ‘abhors himself in dust and ashes;’ Moses had the honor and the happiness to speak with God ‘face to face;’ he was very much in God’s books, in God’s favor; and yet a more humble soul the earth did never bear. The great apostle Paul, under all the revelations and glorious manifestations of God to him, counts himself ‘less than the least of all saints,’ Ephesians 3:8. That is presumption, that is a delusion of the devil, and no sound assurance, that puffs and swells the souls of men, that makes men prize themselves above the market, above the value that God hath put upon them.

The third handmaid,

or companion that attends assurance, is holy joy. Ah! This assurance causes the strong waters of consolation to overflow the soul. Assurance raises the strongest joy in the soul: Luke 1:46, 47, and Mary said, ‘My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.’ When a man comes to be assured that God is his Savior, presently his spirit rejoices in God. This truth is held forth by three parables in that of Luke xv., so in that of 1 Peter 1:8, 9, ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.’ Oh the joy, the joy, the inexpressible joy that attends a well-grounded assurance! Assurance raises a paradise of delight in the soul. In quibus operamur, in illis et gaudemus, says Tertullian: in what things or persons we act, in those things we rejoice. A Christian, under the power of assurance, works all his works in Christ; in him, therefore, and in him alone, he rejoices.

The eighth, difference.

A well-grounded assurance sometimes springs from the testimony and witness of the Spirit of God. The Spirit sometimes witnesses to a believer‘s spirit that he is born of God, that he is beloved of God, that he bath union and communion with God, and that he shall reign forever with God: Romans 8:26, ‘The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.’ The Spirit itself witnesses not only the gifts and graces of the Spirit, but the Spirit itself witnesses together with our own spirit, that we are the children of God. Sometimes the saints have two witnesses joining their testimonies together to confirm and establish them in these blessed and glorious truths, that they are the sons of God and heirs of glory; and this is their honor as well as their comfort, that the blessed Spirit should bear witness at the bar of their consciences that they are the sons of God: 1 Corinthians 2:12, ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God;’ that is, that we may know our election, vocation, justification, sanctification, and glorification. A man may receive many things that are freely given of God, and yet not know them till the Spirit comes and makes them known to the soul.


But you may say to me, How shall we know the whispering of the Holy Spirit from the hissing of the old serpent? How shall we know the report, the witness, and testimony of the Spirit of Christ, from that report, witness, and testimony that the old serpent deludes and deceives many by, in these days wherein he mostly appears in his angelical robes?


I answer, you may know the whispering of the Spirit from the hissing of the old serpent, etc., by these following things, which I desire that you would seriously consider, as you tender the peace and settlement, the satisfaction, consolation, and salvation of your own souls.

The first difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent. 

The Spirit of Christ does not witness by any outward voice, as God did from heaven of Christ, Matthew 3:17; nor by an angel, as to the Virgin Mary, Luke 1:30-34; but by an inward, secret, glorious, and unspeakable way he bids believers be of good cheer, their sins are forgiven them, as Christ said to the palsied man in the Gospel, Matthew 9:2. And this truth is to be solemnly minded against those poor deceived and deluded souls in these days that would make the world believe that they have had such and such glorious things made known by an outward, audible voice from heaven. It is much to be feared that they never found the inward, the sweet, the secret, the powerful testimony and report of the Spirit of Christ that boast, and brag, and rest so much upon an outward testimony. In 1 Kings 19:11-13, you read of ‘a great strong wind that rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks: but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind there was an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire there was a still small voice, and the Lord spoke to Elijah in that still small voice. Ah, Christians! The Spirit of the Lord makes not a noise, but he comes in a still small voice, as I may say, and makes a soft and secret report to the soul, that it is beloved, that it is pardoned, and that it shall be forever glorified.

The second difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

The testimony and witness of the Spirit of Christ is only gained and enjoyed in holy and heavenly ways, as you may clearly see by comparing the Scriptures in the margin together. The Spirit of the Lord is a Holy Spirit, and he cannot, he will not make any report of the love of the Father to the soul out of a way of holiness. Verily, all those glorious reports that many boast they have met with in sinful ways, in wretched and ungodly ways, are from the hissing of the old serpent, and not from the whisperings of the Spirit of grace. I think it is little less than blasphemy for any to affirm, that the blessed Spirit of Christ does make reports of the love and favor of God to persons walking in ways of wickedness and baseness.

The third difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

The testimony and witness of the Spirit of Christ, is a clear, a full, a satisfying testimony and witness, John 14:17, 1 John 3:24. The soul sits down under the home-reports of the Spirit, and says, Lord, it is enough; the soul being full, sits down and sweetly sings it out: ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his. I am my well-beloved’s, and his desire is towards me,’ Song of Solomon 2:16, and 7:10. ‘The Lord is my portion and the lot of mine inheritance,’ Psalms 16:5. ‘I have none in heaven but thee, neither is there any on earth that I desire in comparison of thee,’ Psalms 73:25. ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,’ 2 Tim. 4:8. ‘Make haste, my beloved,’ etc., Song of Solomon 8:14. Such power, majesty, and glory, attends the glorious testimony of the Spirit of Christ, as scatters all clouds, as resolves all doubts, as answers all objections, as silences the wrangling soul, etc. If the testimony of the Spirit of Christ were not a full, satisfying testimony, it could never fill the soul with such joy as is ‘unspeakable and full of glory,’ and with ‘such peace as passes understanding;’ if the testimony were not satisfactory, the soul would still be under fears and doubts, the heart would still be a-wrangling and quarrelling, I may perish, and I may be undone, I may have the door of mercy shut against me, etc. If you bring news to a condemned person that the king hath pardoned him, and that he will receive him to favor, and confer such and such dignity upon him, yet this does not quiet him nor satisfy him, till he knows it is the king’s act, till he is satisfied in that, he cannot say it is enough, he cannot be cheerful, he cannot be delightful, etc. But when he is satisfied that it is the king’s act, that the king has certainly done this and that for him, then he is satisfied, and then sighing and mourning flies away, and then he rejoices with joy unspeakable. So it is with a believing soul under the testimony and witness of the spirit of Christ.

The fourth difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

Though the Spirit be a witnessing Spirit, yet he does not always witness to believers their adoption, their interest in Christ, etc. There is a mighty difference between the working of the Spirit and the witness of the Spirit. There are oftentimes many glorious and efficacious works of the Spirit, as faith, love, repentance, holiness, etc., where there is not the witness of the Spirit, Isaiah 1:10. David at that very time had the Spirit, and many sweet workings of the Spirit in him and upon him, when he had by sin lost the witness and testimony of the Spirit, Psalms 2:10-12. Though the Spirit of the Lord be a witnessing and a sealing Spirit, yet he does not always witness and seal up the love and favor of the Father to believers’ souls, as you may see by the scriptures in the margin, and as the experience of many precious Christians can abundantly evidence. All believers do not see alike need of this testimony, they do not all alike prize this testimony, they do not all alike observe it and improve it; and therefore, it is no wonder if the Spirit be a witnessing Spirit to some and not to others. You do but gratify Satan and wrong your own souls, when you argue that certainly you have not the Spirit, because he is not a witnessing and a sealing Spirit to your souls. Though it be the office of the Spirit to witness, yet it is not his office always to witness to believers their happiness and blessedness. The Spirit may act one way and in one room of the soul, when he does not act in another. Sometimes the Spirit works upon the understanding, sometimes upon the will, sometimes upon the affections, sometimes upon faith, sometimes upon fear, sometimes upon love, sometimes upon humility, etc. Our hearts are the Spirit’s harps. If a man should always touch one string in an instrument, he should never play various tunes, he should never make pleasant music; no more would the Spirit, if he should be always a-doing one thing in the soul. Therefore he acts variously. Sometimes he will show himself a quickening Spirit, sometimes an enlightening Spirit, sometimes a rejoicing Spirit, sometimes a sealing Spirit, and always a supporting Spirit, etc. 

The fifth difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

The testimony and witness of the Spirit is a sure testimony, a sure witness. The Spirit is truth itself; he is the great searcher of the deep things of God. The Spirit of the Lord is the discoverer, the confuter, and destroyer of all false spirits. The Spirit is above all possibility of being deceived, he is omnipotent, he is omniscient, he is omnipresent, he is one of the cabinet and council of heaven; he lies and lives in the bosom of the Father, and can call them all by name upon whom the Father hath set his heart, and therefore his testimony must needs be true. It is a surer testimony than if a man should hear a voice from heaven pronouncing him to be happy and blessed. You may safely and securely lay the weight of your souls upon this testimony; it never bath, it never will deceive any that hath leaned upon it. This testimony will be a rock that will bear up a soul, when other false testimonies will be but ‘a reed of Egypt,’ that will deceive the soul, that will undo the soul; as I am afraid many in this deluding age have found by sad experience.

The sixth difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

The testimony of God’s Spirit is always accompanied with the testimony of our own. These may be distinguished, but they can never be separated. When the Spirit of God gives in witness for a man, his own spirit does not give in witness against him. Look, as face answers to face, so does the witness of a believer’s spirit answer to the witness of the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:16, ‘The Spirit witnesses together with our spirits that we he the sons of God.’ Now, if our own consciences do not testify first, that we are sons and heirs, the Spirit does not testify; for the Spirit bears witness together with our spirits. St John is very express in 1 John 3:21, ‘But if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. But if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and know all things.’ 1 John 5:8-12, and ‘There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one.’ The Spirit does witness eminently and efficiently, but water and blood materially, and our spirits and reason instrumentally. By the Spirit we may understand the Holy Ghost, by whose strength we lay hold on Christ and all his benefits. By water we may understand our regeneration, our sanctification; and by blood we may understand the blood and righteousness of Christ, that is imputed and applied by faith to us. ‘And these three agree in one,’ that is, they do all three of one accord testify the same thing.

The seventh difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

The witness of the Spirit is ever according to the word. There is a sweet harmony between the inward and the outward testimony, between the Spirit of God and the word of God. The scriptures were all incited by the Spirit, 2 Peter 1:20, 21; and therefore the Spirit cannot contradict himself, which he should do, if he should give in any testimony contrary to the testimony of the word. It is blasphemy to make the testimony of the Spirit to contradict the testimony of the word. The Spirit hath revealed his whole mind in the word, and he will not give a contrary testimony to what he hath given in the word. The word says, “They that are born again, that are new creatures, they that believe and repent, shall be saved.” But you are born again, you are a new creature, you believe and repent; therefore you shalt be saved, says the Spirit The Spirit never loses where the word binds, the Spirit never justifies where the word condemns, the Spirit never approves where the word disapproves, the Spirit never blesses where the word curses. In the Old Testament all revelations were to be examined by the word, Deut. 13:1-4. Isaiah 8:20, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light (or no morning) in them.’ So in that of John 16:13, ‘The Spirit shall lead you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but what he shall hear, that shall he speak.’ Here the Holy Ghost is brought in as some messenger or ambassador who only relates things faithfully according to that he hath in charge. Such as look and lean upon the hissing of the old serpent, may have a testimony that they are happy, against the testimony of the word; but wherever the Spirit of Christ gives in his testimony, it is still according to the word. Look, as indenture answers to indenture, or as the counter-pain exactly answers to the principal conveyance; there is article for article, clause for clause, covenant for covenant, word for word; so does the testimony of the Spirit exactly answer to the testimony of the word.

The eighth difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

It is a holy witness, a holy testimony. It is formally, it is originally holy, it is effectually holy. Nothing makes the heart more in the love, study, practice, and growth of holiness, than the glorious testimony of the Holy Spirit; and the more clear and full the testimony is, the more holy and gracious it will make the soul. Nothing puts such golden engagements upon the soul to holiness, as the Spirit sealing a man up to the day of redemption, as the Spirit speaking and sealing peace, love, and pardon to the soul, Psalms 85:8; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 5:14. Nothing makes a man more careful to please Christ, more fearful to offend Christ, more studious to exalt Christ, and more circumspect to walk with Christ, than this testimony of the Spirit of Christ. Verily, that is not the blessed whispering of Christ’s Spirit, but the hissing of the old serpent, that makes men bold with sin, that makes men daily with sin, that makes man a servant to sin, that breeds a contempt of ordinances, a neglect of holy duties, a carelessness in walking with God. And from those hissings of the old serpent, O Lord, deliver my soul, and the souls of all thy servants that put their trust in thee.

The ninth difference between the whispering of the Spirit and the hissing of the Old Serpent.

Assurance is a jewel, a pearl of that price, that God only bestows it upon renewed hearts. The Spirit never sets his seal upon any, but upon those that Christ hath first printed his image upon. God gives to none the white stone, Revelation 2:17, but to those from whom he hath taken the heart of stone; Ezekiel 36:25, 26, 27 compared. Christ never tells a man that his name is written in the book of life, till he bath breathed into him spiritual life, Luke 10:20. Christ never says, Son, be of good cheer, thy sin is pardoned, till he hath first said, Be you healed, be you cleansed, Luke 5:18-20. Christ never gives a man a new name, that is better than the names of sons and daughters, till he hath made them new creatures, Isaiah 56:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17. Of slaves Christ first makes us sons, before we cry Abba, Father, Romans 8:15. Of enemies, he first makes us friends, before he will make us of his court or counsel, Ephesians 2:13-20. Christ will never hang a pearl in a swine’s snout, nor put new wine into old bottles, nor his royal robes upon a leprous back, nor his golden chain about a dead man’s neck, nor his glittering crown upon a traitor’s head. The Spirit never sets his seal upon any, but upon those that Christ hath first set as a seal upon his heart, Ephesians 1:13; Song of Solomon 8:6. The Spirit only bears witness to such as hate sin as Christ hates it, and that love righteousness as Christ loves it, that hate sin more than hell, and that love truth more than life, Psalms 45:7. A soul sealed by the Spirit will pull out right eyes, and cut off right hands, for Christ such souls will part with a Benjamin, and offer up an Isaac, for Christ. And this is to be seriously minded against those deceived and deluded souls, that remain yet in their blood, and that wallow in their sins, and yet boast and brag of the seal and of the witness and testimony of the Spirit.

And thus I have shewed you the difference between the whisperings of the Spirit and the hissing of the old serpent, between a true testimony and a false.

Lessons From: The Publican and the Pharisee

Taken and adapted from “Sermons of Martin Luther”
Written by Martin Luther


And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” — Luke 18:9-14

This Gospel brings two extraordinary persons to our notice…

…or two kinds of people from the multitude called the people of God, who would be God’s servants and come before him seeking righteousness. And the two kinds of righteousness, which are found on earth, are also represented; the one, which makes a great show before all the world and in the eyes of men, and yet before God it amounts to nothing, and is therefore condemned; the other, which is not known among men, and yet before God it is called righteousness and is pleasing in his sight. The one is that of the beautiful, proud saint, the Pharisee; the other, that of the poor, humble, sorrowing sinner, the publican.

We also hear two wonderful, strange sentences of judgment, wholly and entirely opposed to human wisdom and the whims of reason, hard and terrible to all the world, which condemns the great saints as unjust, and declares the poor sinners acceptable, righteous and holy. But, as the text itself shows, he speaks of such saints who trusted in themselves to find a righteousness in their own lives and works, which God was bound to respect; and again of such sinners, who from their hearts desired to become? free from their sins, and long for forgiveness and the grace of God. For nothing is said here of that other great multitude in the world, who are like neither this publican nor this Pharisee, who care nothing at all, either for sin or grace, but continue in security and wickedness, without inquiring after any God, heaven or hell.

Of the two kinds of persons among the Jews, the Pharisees and publicans, we have sufficiently heard in another place, namely, that the name Pharisee means the very first, most upright and pious people, who with all earnestness endeavored to serve God, and to keep the law, as Paul also boasts of himself, that before his conversion he was one of them, Philippians 3:5.

Again, the name “publican” among them meant a man living in open sin and vice, and served neither God nor man, and was only busy to rob, to oppress and harm his neighbor, as they were forced to do in their occupation which they bought from the Romans for great sums of money, if they desired fully to take advantage of it. In short, they were people who were regarded as no better than public, godless heathen, even though they were Jews by birth, as Christ also compares them to Gentiles, Matthew 18:17: “And if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.”

It is indeed wonderful that Christ brings two such persons together, who are so entirely different and the farthest removed from each other; and still more wonderful, and even offensive, that he expresses such weighty Judgments, wholly condemning the Pharisee and declaring the publican just. Although he plainly speaks thus of both, nevertheless he shows that he does not reject, nor desire to have rejected such works of which the Pharisee here boasts; for he represents and sets him forth as a beautiful saint, with works that are neither to be rebuked nor punished, but that are good and worthy of praise, On the other hand he can neither boast of nor praise the publican for his life and works, for he is himself forced to confess before God, and to condemn himself as a sinner, and can think of no good he has done. And yet Christ thus searches, proves and examines both, and finds nothing good in the holy Pharisee, although he did many costly works, not on account of the works, which in themselves are not wrong; but because the person was not good but full of iniquity. While on the other hand in the publican who hitherto had been a public, condemned sinner, he now finds a real good tree and good fruit, although he does not shine forth with the great works of the Pharisee. Wherefore let us in brief consider both persons.

First of all you must properly magnify and adorn the Pharisee, as Christ presents him with his beautiful life; for here you have a man who dares to stand before God, and praise his life in the divine presence. This can never be intended as a false praise, but is meant in all earnestness and truth. He appeals to himself as a witness, and is willing to announce himself before God and be found in the true worship, and give an account of his entire life, that it is spent in obedience to God. He begins with the highest and first commandment, and shows himself as one who worships the true and only God, and seeks first of all his kingdom and his will; he confesses that he has everything from God, what he is and lives, he brings all back to him and thanks him for all he has given him, especially for. this particular grace and kindness that he preserves him from sin and shame, that he is not like the public sinners and publicans, and prays that God may preserve him in this, and further grant unto him his grace and goodness. Here you see nothing but beautiful works of the first table of the law, of all three commandments; for hereby he also observes the Sabbath, because he goes into the temple only to seek God and to pray.

He later goes further into the second table, and purifies his conscience before God and the world, in that he is not unjust, a robber, adulterer, like the great majority of people. Here the other five commandments are taken together, so that he is a man who can boast of himself before all the world, that he has done no one wrong, violence or pain, nor oppressed or offended against the fifth, sixth and eighth commandments, and in this connection he dares to defy everyone to prove anything different against him. Besides he has strictly kept the sixth commandment, he has not committed adultery or led an unchaste life, but kept his body in subjection and discipline, and also fasted twice every week, which was not a false fasting, as that of our priests and monks chiefly is, but a real fasting as the Jews observed from morning until evening, to the going down of the sun.

Above all this, that he was not only not unjust, nor an extortioner of his neighbor’s goods and honor, but gave the tenth of all he had honestly and fairly earned, and by this also yields his obedience to God, and gives for the support of divine worship and the priestly office of all that God gave him, and does not lay up anything in a miserly spirit.

Here you view all the commandments together, and he appears to the world a paragon of godliness, a fine, pious, god-fearing and holy man, who is to be applauded as a mirror and an example for the whole world, that they might well desire, and it would indeed be well to desire, and the world would be very lovely if it had many such people.

Now contrast the publican with this picture, and you will see there is no resemblance to the holy Pharisee; for even his name at once indicates that little virtue or honor can be found in him, and no one could regard him as inquiring much after God or his commandments; and he does not only fail to give any of his goods for the service of God, but even publicly robs and steals from his neighbor; and in short he is a man who with his sinful life is a public and known example; as the Pharisee also informs him, that he is depraved and godless, his conscience is depraved, and there is no good to hope from him.

Now how does it happen so contrary, that the Pharisee is condemned of God and the publican is justified? Will God now speak and decide against his own law, which justly prefers those who live according to it, to those who live opposed to it in open sin? Or does God delight in those who do no good and are nothing but robbers, adulterers and unjust? By no means, but we have here quite another and higher law than the world or flesh and blood understand, which looks deeper into the hearts of both these persons, and finds in the Pharisee a great evil principle which destroys all that otherwise might be called good, which the Evangelist calls, to trust in self and despise others.

Such is the reproach of this fine man and rogue, who is great before the world. Would to God that this one were the only one, and he had not left so many children and heirs. For the whole world with the best there is in it, is altogether drowned in this vice; it will not and cannot forsake it. Where it knows of any good it possesses, it exalts itself, and despises others who have it not, and exalts itself above God and man; and even though they pretend to keep God’s commandments they transgress them, as Paul says of his Jews, Romans 9:31, that they truly, in striving after the law of righteousness, have not attained to righteousness.

What a wonderful thing it is, that those who diligently hold to the law, and worship God to a great extent, are not those who keep the law, as Paul in Galatians 6:13 says: “For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law,” etc. Those are strange saints indeed, who even in doing according to the law, do not keep it but violate it. Who then are those who keep it?

This Pharisee and those like him, with their fine discipline and honor, which is truly an excellent, glorious and beautiful gift, which must be praised and esteemed in the world above everything else as the greatest gift of God, more beautiful than all other beauty and ornament, gold and silver, yea, than even the light of the sun. Of him, I say, the sentence is spoken, that before God he is worse than a robber, a murderer and an adulterer.

Whither shall we now go with this doctrine among the great multitude of this world, whom we ourselves condemn on account of their public contempt of God and all wickedness against God and the people, which also cries to heaven and drowns everything that the earth can scarcely bear it? Well, I said before, that the Pharisee is neither censured nor condemned because he does the works of the law, or else we would have to condemn God’s gift and his law, and praise the contrary. Yet this I say, that here the person is placed before the judgment seat of God, and finds it different there than before the judgment of this world, that although he has indeed some beautiful, praiseworthy gifts, yet a great blot of shame cleaves to them, because he misuses these gifts, and in God’s sight is entirely destroyed by them.

For with these gifts he is here accused of transgressing against both God and man, against both tables of the law. For in the first commandment especially and in the highest terms, presumption is forbidden, that a man should not trust in himself or in his own gifts, or take pleasure in himself; as this work righteous person does, who struts forth and is tickled with the gifts he has received from God, and makes an idol of them and worships himself, as though he were the excellent holy man, whom alone God is bound to respect and honor.

This is already the great sin and vice where he runs counter against God himself, of course blind and hardened, like an unbelieving heathen or Turk, who knows nothing of God, is without repentance, and on account of his great holiness will know nothing of sin, and fears not the wrath of God. He presumes to stand firm by his own works, and does not see that he and all men, even the true saints themselves with all their own righteousness and life, cannot stand before God; but are guilty of his wrath and condemnation, as David testifies in Psalm 130:3: “If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” And Psalm 143:2: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight no man living is righteous.” Therefore he does not seek either grace or forgiveness of sins, nor does it occur to him that he stands in need of them.

Now since he sins so monstrously against the first and highest commandment, in shameful and horrible idolatry, presumption and defiance, depending on his own holiness, and as there is here no fear of God, neither trust nor love, but he seeks only his own honor and praise, we must conclude that he does not honestly and from the heart observe any of the other commandments, and all is false and lies that he pretends with his prayers and worship, and thereby in the highest degree misuses and disgraces the name of God to adorn his lies, and thereby only brings down upon himself God’s wrath and severe condemnation; as God has declared that whoever taketh his name in vain shall not go unpunished.

For what-else is it, but to blaspheme and defy the lofty majesty of God, when he prays and says: I thank thee, God, that I am so holy and good, that I never need thy grace; but I find so much in myself, that I have kept the law, and you cannot accuse me of anything, and i have deserved so much, that you are bound to repay and reward me again for it in time and in eternity, if you would keep your own honor, and be a just and truthful God.

In like manner see how he rumbles and blusters also in the second table of the law against his neighbor; for neither is there here any Christian love or faithfulness by which one could trace that he sought and favored his neighbor’s honor and salvation; but he basely goes to work and tramples him under his feet by his shameful contempt, and does not consider him worthy to be regarded as a human being; yea, when he should help and serve his neighbor, so that no wrong or harm be done him, he himself does him the greatest wrong. For when he sees and knows that his neighbor sins against God, he does not think how he can convert and save him from the wrath of God and condemnation, that he may reform; he has no mercy or sympathy in t, is heart for the distress and affliction of a poor sinner, and thinks that he is rightly and justly served, in that he is left in his condemnation and destruction, and withdraws from him all the duties of love and service God has commanded him to perform, that above all things he might bring his neighbor from his sins and condemnation into the kingdom of God by teaching, admonition, rebuke and reformation, etc. ; and what is the worst of all, he is glad and of good courage, because his neighbor is under the power of sin and the wrath of God. Thus one can indeed trace what desire and love he has for God’s law, and how much of an enemy he is to vice.

For of what use can such a man be in the kingdom of God, who can still rejoice, yea, laugh and be heartily pleased at the sins and disobedience of the whole world against God; and who would be sorry if anyone were good at heart and observed God’s commandments, and even if able he would be unwilling to help him in the least to this, or prevent the evil and condemnation of his neighbor? What good should we seek or hope for in him who is so wicked as not to desire the salvation of his neighbor?

The heathen themselves know of no greater wickedness, or how to paint a more wicked man, than he who is so hateful and envious, as only to delight and rejoice when his neighbor meets adversity. Like some who are so wicked that they willingly suffer harm themselves, if only another thereby suffer greater injury. Such devilish, hellish wickedness cannot be greater in anyone than in such false saints, who alone want all honor before God and the world and wish to be pure and holy, and all others to be obnoxious and filthy. If in bodily ills it be said of a physician who claims to be an honorable and good man, who when he visits a person sick unto death, instead of giving him good advice and helping to restore him to health, does nothing but laugh and make fun of the wretched man; who would not take him for the most desperate villain that walks the earth, in that he not only withdraws his assistance from an unfortunate person in his greatest distress, but even laughs at his sufferings and wreaks out his anger upon him? How much greater villainy is that of a false saint, who sees his neighbor’s soul in danger and in the fear of eternal condemnation, whose duty it would be to risk his body and life to save him; but he refuses not only to do this when he could save him only with one word or a sigh of sympathy, but instead casts it up against him and as much as he is able gladly plunges him still deeper into condemnation.

What should such a man do or wish to him who is his enemy, or who has done him some wrong, whom nevertheless he is in duty bound to love and assist as far as he permits him. How would he in this case burst out with anger, curses, blows, so that he would not consider murder as a sin but as holiness, especially in him who would not admit that he was good and holy, like the good brother murderer Cain did with his brother Abel, and his children at all times still do, as Christ himself says of such, John 16:2: “The hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God.”

Just as little will you find that such a person observes in his heart any other commandment; for just as little would he try to prevent the disgrace of his neighbor’s wife or child, or assist to preserve their honor; yea, when it is lost he would be glad of it and laugh in his sleeves, or had he an opportunity he would do it himself, or even lend a hand. That he avoids such public evil work, is not out of his love to virtue or to obedience to God; for if he does not try to prevent the loss and distress of his neighbor’s soul, how can you expect him to protect his honor or the honor of his family? Much less would he lament or think to prevent harm to his neighbor’s goods, that they be not robbed, stolen, or otherwise destroyed, but would rather rejoice over it and say: It served him right. I will say nothing of his duty to help him in his poverty with his own property, or gratuitously aid him with money. He will neither guard his neighbor’s good name when he hears it slandered and belied, nor try with his own honor to cover and adorn his dishonor; but will rather rejoice and help to belie him and make him out the worst, as such saints especially are accustomed to do, as this one here before God and other people belie this poor publican, whom he in truth cannot accuse of anything.

Now see, what a disgraceful, monstrous devil is in such a beautiful saint, who can cover himself with a thin appearance of a few works which he performs before the eyes of the people, and what he does in his worship, thanks and prayers, whereby he blasphemes and dishonors the high majesty with outrage and defiance in the open public, that he dares to boast before God of such scandalous vices, and be so brave as though God were bound to treat him as a model saint, and as a debt and duty give him heaven and everything he might ask.

Or if he knew that God would not do it, and accept the poor publican in preference to himself, he would be so enraged with anger and hatred against God, as to publicly take the word out of God’s mouth and say, that he is not God but the devil from hell, and would gladly if he could, thrust him down from his throne red usurp his seat. And in all this he will not suffer himself to be punished by any one and will claim he did just right; whereas he deserves more than all other blasphemers, that God should at once open the earth and devour him alive.

Here you see what a man is and does, who is moved by his own free will or by the power of nature. For this Pharisee is set up by Christ as the highest example of what a man eau do by his own strength according to the law. And it is certain that all men are by nature and from Adam no better, and just such vices manifest themselves in them, when before God they want to be holy and better than other people; and that there is nothing but a mischievous contempt for God and all mankind, and are filled with joy and pleasure when men sin against God. Such are twofold:, yea, manifold worse than the publican and open sinners like him, because they do not only not keep God’s law, but they do not want anyone else to keep it; they do not only not help anyone or do good, but rejoice over their destruction and condemnation; and above all this they adorn themselves and pretend to be exceedingly holy, and with a condemned conscience dare to blaspheme and lie before God’s majesty, that they are not like other men, and have kept God’s law, so that heaven itself might fall to pieces before them.

But now see in contrast this publican, who also comes into the temple to pray, but with quite other thoughts and with a different prayer than those of the Pharisee. For in the first place he has the advantage in that he confesses himself a poor sinner, convinced by his own conscience and condemned, in that he has nothing of which he can boast or be proud before God or the world, but must be ashamed of himself; for the law has so smitten his heart that he feels his misery and distress, and is terrified and filled with anguish at the judgment and wrath of God, and sighs from his heart to be delivered, but finds no comfort anywhere for his evil plight, and can bring nothing before God but mere sin and shame. With this he is so burdened and oppressed that he dare not even lift up his eyes; for he understands and feels that he has deserved nothing else than hell and eternal death, and must condemn himself before God, as he shows and confesses this before God by smiting his breast.

In short, there is truly nothing here but sins and condemnation, as much so before God as those of the Pharisee; except that the Pharisee does not confess his filthiness, but will make purity out of it, while the publican so feels his sins that he cannot stand before them, but must confess that he daily offends God with his disgraceful unthankfulness, contempt and disobedience for all his mercies and goodness, and that he has permitted him to live to this hour. Therefore he cannot trust in himself for comfort himself in his own works, but must wholly and entirely despair in himself, if he find not grace and mercy with God.

Nor can he despise any one or exalt himself above his fellow; for he feels that he alone is most deeply condemned, and regards all others as happier and better, especially this Pharisee, who in spite of this is full of pollution before God. To sum up all, you see here already the beginning of true repentance in such a person, who is heartily penitent and sorrowful over his sins, and heartily desires deliverance from them, and seeks grace and mercy from God, and besides resolves in his heart to lead a better life.

But mark how the publican’s word and prayer harmonize when he says: “God, be thou merciful to me a sinner!” Where did he learn to speak thus to God, or how dare he conceive, arrange and express such words? For according to reason and human judgment they do not agree, and no man can force such a prayer out of his own heart and thoughts, short as it is. The words of the Pharisee: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust,” etc., are what a pious man can truly say, and should say.

For no one dare be such a liar that his conscience does not accuse him of being a robber, adulterer, etc.; but must say the truth, and not allow the reputation of a good conscience to be taken from him, and he must be a pious man, who says this in truth. On the other hand, a villain can of course also speak these words: “God, be thou merciful to me a sinner!” as they are oftener spoken by rogues than by the truly penitent, pious people. Yet, who else would speak them but a sinful and condemned person? Nevertheless the sentence here changes and threatens to become false on both sides, you may turn and shift it as you please.

But taken in a fundamental sense it is a speech and example that belongs to the schools and to the theology of Christians, which the world calls heretical. For as I said, no reason can harmonize it, nor can any man, be he as high, wise and learned as he may, harmonize what this publican has here put together, to form and construct a prayer from words entirely opposed to each other: “God, be thou merciful to me a sinner?’ Yes, surely, this is the art of a great master, which is wholly and entirely foreign, high and far above human understanding.

For there never were such words uttered since God in the beginning permitted his voice to be heard, and he spoke unto man. The Scriptures say that in Paradise God said to man, Genesis 2:17: “For in the day thou eatest thereof (of the forbidden fruit, that is, the day in which you sin against my commandment), thou shalt surely die.” On Mount Sinai when God gave the law it read as follows, Exodus 20:5: “I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God,” that is, an angry God, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me.” In short that man should know that sin is condemned, and God’s wrath and punishment are declared against it.

With this it does not at all agree or harmonize that such a sinner and condemned person dare come before God and pray: “Be thou merciful to me a sinner?’ For these two, sin and mercy, are opposed to each other, like fire and water. Mercy does not belong where sin abounds, but wrath and punishment. How then does this man discover the art to unite the two and harmonize them, and how dare he desire and call for grace to cover his sins? To this belongs more than to know the law and Ten Commandments, which the Pharisee also knew, and it is a different art, of which the Pharisee knew nothing at all, and all men of themselves know nothing.

This is preaching the precious Gospel of God’s grace and mercy in Christ, which is published and offered to condemned sinners without any merit of their own. This publican must have heard of this also, and the Holy Spirit must have touched and moved his heart with it, as he feels his sins through the law, that he comes before God and offers this prayer, that he certainly believes and holds as he has heard from the Word of God, that God will forgive sins and be merciful, that is, turn away from them his wrath and eternal death for the sake of his Son, the promised Messiah.

Such faith united and bound together in this prayer these two contrary elements.

Now, this preaching the Gospel is indeed heard by many, and it appears an easy matter to say this; but it is not as common as men think, that everyone knows it; and no one better understands how difficult it is, than the few who study and exercise themselves in it, that they also might believe and pray like the publican. The reason of this is, because the pious rogue and hypocrite, the Pharisee, is still within us, who hinders and prevents us from thus uniting them. Yea, this must also not be according to our external, worldly nature and its piety, for here we must say and teach nothing else than that grace is not for a sinner, but wrath and punishment, etc. , otherwise no one could live on earth; and God could not defend his majesty, if he would not insist that sin must be punished and good works rewarded; for then everyone would soon say: let us only boldly commit sin, for then we will receive more grace! But here in his spiritual kingdom it is altogether different, so that he who is a rogue receives grace and is declared righteous, and he who is called good is a rogue and is condemned.

This takes place here since God’s judgment and the judgment of the world are different, and as far apart as heaven and earth. Before the world it must be thus: If you are good, you shall enjoy it; are you a thief, you are hanged on the gallows; if you commit murder, you are beheaded. Upon this government God himself must insist, otherwise there would be no peace on the earth. But in his own government where he alone is Lord and Judge without any mediating agents, he is merciful only to poor sinners; for here there is nothing except sin, and before him no one is innocent, as the Scriptures say.

Yet it is also true, that sinners are not all alike, so that we must here further distinguish and picture forth those under judgment, and those under grace. For there are some gross and bold sinners, robbers, murderers, thieves, knaves, whoremongers, who act so grossly and are drunk with sin, always rush ahead and never think or ask how they may obtain mercy with God, and go about without any care, as though they were in no danger. To these Paul preaches, 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And Christ says, Luke 13:3-5: “I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.” For such are not like this publican, because they are entirely without repentance and live wickedly, and do not yet belong to God’s gracious government, but to the government of this world.

Besides there are other rogues who try to imitate this publican, and who use the Lord’s Prayer; they have heard the words that God will be merciful to poor sinners, and have learned to repeat these words and smite their breasts, and can present themselves so humble and penitent in words and questions, that a man could swear, and they themselves would swear, that they are just like this publican, and yet it is all false and a delusion. For they are no better than the Pharisee, and God will be as merciful to them as to him, so that they do not feel his wrath, and he does not strike with his rod among them to punish them, but lets them continue in their wicked state.

These are false Christians and disturbers, false brethren, of whom there is also a great multitude in our communion, who can say the words, and can greatly praise the Gospel and God’s grace, and confess they are poor sinners; but when it comes to the test and they are attacked and rebuked, they will neither hear nor suffer it, but begin to be angry and say: their honor is offended and their conscience is troubled, or if they can do no more they will practice all kinds of bad tricks against the Gospel.

In words and show these may pretend to be like the publican, but in reality they are like the wicked rogue and hypocrite. For they speak and present themselves thus for the reason alone, that men may be obliged to regard them as pious, and that no one dare call them anything else, until God lays hold of them only a little either by the devil, the world, or by his Word; then they are so tender that they cannot stand anything at all, and cry out against violence and injustice. And in brief, as they were previously poor sinners, they are now perfect saints, and so proud, that no one can get along with their sanctity.

Of such the world everywhere is to-day full, especially of the great and powerful noblemen, and the learned sophists. Even the common citizen and the farmer who learned this from our Gospel, that they wish to accept and comfort themselves with the thought that God is merciful to sinners, and yet they refuse to be rebuked and censured as sinners; while they still insist that God’s Word cannot remain silent about sin; they apply the Word of God which rebukes sin to others, and say just like this Pharisee: I am not like the rest, and whoever says so is unkind to me. And when one begins to remind them of the wrong they do, they pretend that he speaks against the government, and gives occasion to great dissension. And in brief, one must preach only what they like to hear; if not, it shall no longer be called preaching the Gospel. And such people are like all the false, hypocritical saints, who can indeed say they are poor sinners, but do not want anyone to regard it as true; for when others say it, they are offended.

Only these two factions can, and that very easily, harmonize these two utterances; I am a sinner, and, God be merciful unto me. But there is still a third class, who should and gladly would say it in truth, for whom it is the most difficult of all to say these two sentences at the same time from the heart and unite together such a confession and such an absolution. For, they find in themselves two great hindrances. On the one hand there is still too much in us, as I have said, of the old rogue, the Pharisee, that before God we are anxious to be good and righteous, and better than others; this would sooth the heart and be the sweetest joy for him who can bring it to pass. We all would like to have God approve what we have done and be pleased with it; and in words also thank him and confess that this is his divine gift. But there is a hindrance introduced that blocks the way, like the angel with the fiery sword at the entrance of paradise, that no one may come near and boast before God.

On the other hand, where the publican must come before God with only sin and shame, stripped of all his praise and full of nothing but corruption, here is anxiety and worry, so that he grasps hold and appropriates the words to himself: “Be thou merciful to me!” But here again both his own modesty and all human wisdom prevents and hinders him still more; yea, the devil himself by the law of God on which he here insists and enforces, as he ought not, to bring mankind into distress and despair. Hence it is indeed an art above all human art, yea, the most wonderful thing on earth, that a man may have the grace truly to know himself as a sinner, and yet again turn round and cast away all thoughts of God’s wrath and hold to mere grace. For the heart that truly feels sin, cannot otherwise think or conclude, that God is unmerciful and angry at him. As Judas when he saw that he had betrayed Jesus unto death, immediately began to censure himself, and with heart and reason convicted himself worthy of God’s eternal wrath and condemnation. No human heart is able to escape this, for God’s command and law stand in the way, which condemn to death, while the devil drives and chases you to perdition. How is it possible to unite such words of the publican in the face of the law, of your own reason and feelings, which represent nothing else to your heart but wrath and shame. Nor can it enter any heart to confess sin, unless the Ten Commandments show it what sin is and why it is sin. Hence there are these two parts and they are at the same time opposed to each other; namely, to hear the Ten Commandments which condemn to death and to hell, and then again to lose them and struggle free from their grasp, and thus ascend from hell to heaven.

Therefore let him who can, learn by this high wisdom, and become a scholar of this publican, in order that he too may be able to distinguish these two parts from each other, so that wrath may not abide and cleave to sin, but lay hold of reconciliation and forgiveness; that is, that he judge not of this according to human reason or the law, but grasp by faith the comfort and doctrine of the Gospel of Christ, who alone teaches this wonderful unity, so that man can unite the two opposing words, that are farther apart than heaven and hell. For what else do the words, I am a sinner, mean than that God is my enemy and condemns me, and I have merited nothing but eternal wrath, the curse and condemnation.

When therefore you feel that, which you cannot force out of you by smiting on the breast and with your own good works, for it will come of itself if the law really does its work in you, this will indeed teach you how to smite the breast and to humiliate yourself. When you can do nothing else but say: O, I am a sinner! Then you are lost, for the Ten Commandments force and plunge you straight into perdition, that your heart must say: you belong to the devil and God does not want you, and you begin to flee from him, and if you could you would run through a hundred worlds, only to escape. Then it is time in such a flight and terror to stop in your career, turn and say: My precious Gospel teaches me and the good publican, that before God the highest wisdom is to know and believe that God is so minded, and has founded such a kingdom through Christ, that he will be gracious to help poor, condemned sinners. And thus you can unite the two in one word and confession: I am indeed a sinner, but still God is gracious to me; I am God’s enemy, but he is now my friend; I should justly be condemned, yet I know that he does not desire to condemn me, but to save me as an heir of heaven. This is his will, which he has had preached to me, and commanded me to believe for the sake of his dear Son, whom he has given for me.

See, thus you have in this publican a beautiful example of true Christian repentance and faith, and an excellent masterpiece of high spiritual wisdom or theology, of which the Pharisee and those like him have never received a taste or smell. Besides you see here the proper fruits that follow faith, that he is now a different man, with a different mind, thoughts, words and works than formerly; he gives honor and praise to God alone for his divine grace; he calls and prays to him from the heart and in true confidence in his Word and promise; otherwise he could not have either thought or prayed these words; and thus he performs unto God the true and acceptable worship, and observes the true Sabbath. And now he also has a heart which is an enemy to sin and disobedience. He does not rejoice but is sorry that he has lived in violation of God’s commandments, and now he earnestly and from his whole heart seeks to forsake his evil ways, not to offend, deceive, belie, nor treat anyone unjustly or with violence, and anxiously desires that even thus everyone should live in the same way.

This is the picture of to-day’s Gospel, of the two kinds of persons among those called God’s people. One kind is the great faction of the false church, who nevertheless bear the appearance and the name as though they alone were the most pious and sanctified servants of God; the other, the little flock of those who are true members of the church and true children of God, although they have not praise and great reputation before the world. The difference between them is, that each party is known by its characteristics and fruits, by which the appearance and name should be distinguished from their true nature, of which you have sufficiently heard.

Therefore see to it, that you properly follow this publican, and become like him. Namely, in the first place, that you be not a false but a real sinner; not only in words but in reality and from the heart acknowledge yourself worthy before God of his wrath and eternal punishment, and bring before him in truth these words, “me a poor sinner;” but in the same flight lay hold of the other words: “Be thou merciful to me,” by which words you take away the point and edge of the law and thus cast and turn from you the judgment and condemnation the law seeks to force upon you.

From this distinction in the two kinds of sinners you are able to form a correct estimate of both sides. God is indeed unmerciful and an enemy to sinners, to those who do not want to be sinners, that is, those who do not fear the wrath of God, but who yet continue in their security and do not wish to be punished. Again, God will be merciful to poor sinners, who feel their sins, and confess that they are condemned before the judgment of God. Thus here all is turned about according to the word and judgment of God, just as the persons are; so that the Ten Commandments gain this interpretation, and they pass sentence upon those who wish to be holy, or do not want to be accused as sinners, and never think that such judgment strikes them. But the Gospel and sentence of grace and comfort pass upon those lying in the terror and fear of death.

Again, you must be like the publican in this, that you henceforth forsake sin, for it is not said of him that he continued as he was before, but went forth and applied grace to his own heart, so that God declared him righteous, as the text says: “This man went down to his house justified.”

These words do not conclude that he remained in his sin, as he did not go into the temple and pray for that; for whoever desires to continue in sin cannot pray for grace and forgiveness, but he who prays thus thinks, wishes and desires to be just and entirely free from sin. This you must know so that you do not deceive yourself. For there are many who only consider that the publican as a sinner receives grace and forgiveness, and do not think that God requires that they should forsake sin, and let the grace received be henceforth powerful in their lives. But some want to understand it as though God saves sinners in a way that they may still remain in sin and unrighteousness.

Hence it is necessary that Christians contend on both sides against the devil and their own flesh. For when they begin to repent and would gladly become different people, then they first feel the devil’s influence, how he excites, hinders and controls them, so that they make no progress, but remain in their old state, etc. Again, if they cannot prevent this, and in spite of the devil turn to God and call upon him, he will attack them with weak courage and cowardice. First, he makes sin so very small, and puts them so far beyond the reach of the eyes and hearts of men, that men may despise them and not desire grace, or they put off repentance. Then on the contrary, he makes sin really too great, as he can blow a fire from a spark greater than heaven and earth, so that it will again be difficult to lay hold of forgiveness, or to bring into his heart the words: “God be thou merciful to me”’ Thus indeed it is and will continue to be a great art, and we may well take this publican as our example, our teacher and doctor, and learn of him, and call upon God that we may also obtain the end of our faith.

The Awful Day of Judgment

Taken and adapted from, “The Day of Judgment”
Written by, Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), founding professor of Princeton Theological Seminary.


That a just God will render to every man according to his character and works, is a dictate of reason…

Conscience also intimates to every man, when he sins, that he deserves to be punished; and when we see or hear of great crimes committed by others, such as murders, perjuries, robbery, or treachery, we feel something within us demanding that such should receive condign punishment. But we see that the wicked are not always punished in this world according to their evil deeds; it seems reasonable, therefore, to expect that there will be a judgment after death.

We are not left, however, to the mere dictates of reason on this subject: God, in his word, has revealed in the clearest manner that there will be a day of reckoning at the end of the world. This day is appointed, and will certainly come. It is not so certain that we shall ever see the sun rise again, as it is that we shall see the Day of Judgment. The Lord Jesus Christ is also appointed to act as Judge on that day: “because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge that world in righteousness, by that man whom he that ordained.” Acts 17:31. “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10.

When this awful day will arrive is a profound secret, not revealed to any creature in the universe. But we know that it will come suddenly and unexpectedly on those who shall then be on the earth. As it was in the days of Noah and of Lot, so will it be in the Day of Judgment. Men will be pursuing their common worldly business and amusements, without apprehension of danger, when the sound of the last trump shall be heard — for the trumpet shall sound — and the Son of man shall be seen coming in the clouds of heaven.

The race of man shall not cease from the earth until that day comes. There will then be a generation of living inhabitants, probably very numerous, in the world. These will never die as other men, but they will undergo a change equivalent to death and a resurrection; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they shall be changed. But all they that are in their graves shall hear the voice of God, and shall come forth, great and small. No sooner shall the trumpet sound, than the scattered dust of unnumbered millions shall resume its proper place in every man. No matter where it lies, or how widely it may have been scattered, one word of the Almighty God is sufficient to bring it to its place, and animate it with new life. The multitude which will then start up into life cannot be conceived, it will be so great. There will stand Adam and all his posterity; there will stand those who lived before the flood, and those who have lived since; there will be seen the ancient patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the inspired prophets and apostles; there will appear kings, emperors, nobles, and their subjects; the learned philosopher and the ignorant multitude; ministers and their congregations, parents and their children, masters and their servants — all, all coming forward to the grand tribunal. Not one of our whole race will be absent from this great assembly. There, reader, shall you and I stand, trembling or rejoicing.

It is useless to inquire where room can be found for so great a multitude to stand, for this will be a day of miracles. All the wonders ever exhibited before will be nothing to the wonders of that day. Indeed, all that is natural will end on that day, and everything will be miraculous. The sun will no longer rise and set, the moon no longer give her light, and the stars shall no longer appear in the firmament. Heaven will appear to have come down to earth, for the King of kings and Lord of heaven will be visible to all, with his own glory and that of his Father. And all the holy angels will appear in attendance, standing round his throne, ready to execute his orders, whether of justice or of mercy.

When all things are prepared — when the Judge has taken his seat on the tribunal and all men are brought before him, the judicial process will begin; “and the books will be opened.” What books these are, except one, which is “the book of life,” we are not informed; but we may be sure that one is the book of God’s law, and another the record of human actions which is in the “book of” God’s “remembrance.” It is not necessary to think of more. These contain all that is necessary for conducting the trial of every man. The one contains the law, and the other the testimony. But everything will be conducted with the most perfect equity. Every man will be judged for his own deeds, and according to that knowledge of the law which he had opportunity of acquitting. The omniscience of the Judge will enable him to estimate with perfect exactness all the circumstances of every action; everything which aggravated guilt, and everything which palliates it, will have due consideration. They who lived under the patriarchal dispensation, will be judged according to the light and advantages then enjoyed; they who lived under the Mosaical economy, will be judged by the law of Moses; and they who enjoyed the clear light of the gospel, will be dealt with in a manner accordant to their advantages; while they who enjoyed no external revelation, will be judged by that law written on the hearts of all men.

The things which shall be brought under the eye of the Judge, and exhibited to the view of the universe, are, all deeds done in the body — whatsoever a man hath done, whether good or bad. Every secret thing. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14. Every idle word. “I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36. The thoughts of the heart shall also be made manifest. Every unholy desire; every proud, envious, or malicious thought; every secret purpose of iniquity; every unhallowed temper; every rebellious and discontented and ungrateful feeling towards God and his government, will be brought into judgment.

And the inquiry will extend not only to positive acts; but also to omissions of duty. Great as is the number of the acts of wickedness, the catalogue of omissions will be greater, and not less criminal. The first sin of this sort which will claim the attention of the Judge, will be the omission to entertain and cherish right sentiments towards God. No more heavy charge will be brought against any individual on that day, than that he neglected to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. This is the total violation of the first and greatest command, and the fountain of all other iniquities. The neglect to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ when he was offered to us a complete Savior in the gospel, will, to the unfruitful hearers of the word, be an accusation of the highest kind. The heinousness and enormity of unbelief which now affects the consciences of men so little, will on that day appear in a glaring light. It will not be strange if it should call forth reproaches upon the unhappy culprit, from devils who never had a Savior provided, and from heathen who never had a Savior offered to them. In that account which our Lord has given of the process of the judgment, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, the neglect of kindness to the saints, by visiting, comforting, and aiding them, is the only thing mentioned. Whatever else, then, may be noticed, we are sure this will not be forgotten. The whole passage is so solemn and interesting, that it deserves our deepest attention: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was a hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was a hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:31-46.

And let it be well-considered, that most of the sins which are mentioned in the discourses of Christ as the ground of condemnation, are sins of omission. The slothful servant, who prepares not himself, is the wicked servant, who wrapped his talent in a napkin and buried it, is condemned out of his own mouth. For “to him that knoweth to do good,” of any kind, “and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17.

Many who prided themselves in their inoffensive lives and harmless behavior, will find, when the books are opened, a catalogue of omissions which will startle them with horror, and overwhelm them with confusion. And as actions externally good will then be examined by One who has a full view of the motives from which they proceeded, and the end which the agent had in view, is it not certain that many religious actions will then appear to have been mere hypocrisy? That many actions, apparently just and benevolent, were mere efforts of pride and selfishness? And that a life civil and blameless in the eyes of men, was a mere cloak which covered a heart full of unclean lusts? Our most intimate friends here will be astonished when they see our secret iniquities and wicked motives exposed to view. Crimes the most detestable will be found in the skirts of those who passed through life without suspicion. O how many secret murders, perjuries, thefts, blasphemies, and adulteries, will then be brought to light! How much injustice, fraud, cruelty, oppression, pride, malice, revenge! The cries of the injured, the widow, and the orphan always enter into the ears of the Lord, and he now comes to avenge them. Cruel persecutors of God’s church and people, though clothed in purple, and almost adored when living in the world, will now be brought to a severe account. The blood of the martyred saints from beneath the altar has been long crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?” Revelation 6:10. And now the day of retribution has arrived.

What will be the length of time occupied with the judgment we know not. It is called a day, but it will differ exceedingly from all other days; and in its duration, probably, as well as in other respects. Our wisdom is to attend to what is revealed, and to repress a vain curiosity in regard to other matters. We may rest assured that the whole process will be wisely conducted, and that complete justice will be done. The Judge of all the earth will do right. He will not condemn the innocent, nor clear the guilty. And his judgment will be most impartial. There will be no respecting of persons. The king and the beggar will stand upon equal ground, and will be judged by the same rule. Those who in this world were reviled and slandered, and had no opportunity of clearing up their character, will then be vindicated, and lies and reproaches will have effect no more.

But here a serious difficulty occurs. It may be said, “If the law of God is the rule of judgment, and if all sins are brought into judgment, then certainly every human being must be condemned; ‘for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ According to this view, none can be saved.” To remove this difficulty, let it be remembered, that besides the book of the law, there is another book which will be produced there, written from the foundation of the world. This is called the Book of Life. This contains the names — and they shall never be blotted out — of all those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. These he has undertaken to present to God without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. They will appear on that day clothed with the righteousness of the Redeemer. The Judge on the throne is their covenanted Surety. He answers to every accusation made against them. But notwithstanding “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;” notwithstanding none can “lay anything to the charge of God’s elect;” yet they also shall be brought into judgment. When all things are prepared, and the whole assembly is collected before the august tribunal, a separation will be made of the great congregation into two parts, the righteous, and the wicked. The former will be placed on the right hand of the Judge, and with them he will commence. But no sooner shall their numerous sins be brought to view, that it will be made to appear that they are pardoned through the blood of Christ. When the books are opened, a long account will appear against them; but on the other hand, it will be seen that the whole is freely forgiven through the riches of grace in Christ Jesus. But a most exact account will be taken of all their good works; and they will be mentioned to their honor, and rewarded as though no imperfection had cleaved to them. The least act of kindness done to any of Christ’s followers will be magnified and rewarded as if done to Christ himself. Even the giving a cup of cold water to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward. Persons in the lowest state, servants and slaves, who performed their duty faithfully, shall not be forgotten in that day, for “whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” Ephesians 6:8. But they who suffered persecution and death for righteousness’ sake, will be most highly distinguished, and most signally rewarded. “Blessed are ye when me shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:11, 12. They also who have labored much in promoting the Redeemer’s kingdom, will receive a reward proportioned to their works of faith and labors of love. But none who have done good shall fail of their reward. Every one shall receive according to what he hath done; and everyone will be satisfied; for the lowest place in glory is a situation too dazzling for our present conceptions, and the whole is a matter of pure grace. These works, considered in themselves, deserve no reward. But it is the will of God that every holy desire, every good word and work, in the members of Christ’s body, should receive a mark of his favor, to the honor and glory of him who is their Head, and who died for their salvation.

When the gracious sentence, “Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” is pronounced, the righteous shall be caught up to the Lord, and shall be seated by his side, and be united with him in the remaining transactions of that great day; for it is written, “The saints shall judge the world,” and, “Know ye not that ye shall judge angels?”

The case of the righteous being disposed of, then will come the awful transaction of pronouncing sentence on the wicked. They will, indeed, have anticipated the sentence. By this time they will be certain of their doom; but the scene itself will far exceed all apprehensions before entertained. To behold the face of inflexible justice turned toward them — to hear the irreversible sentence of condemnation, and that too from the mouth of the benevolent Son of God — to feel in the inmost soul the justice of the sentence — to be as certain of everlasting damnation as they are of existence — are things concerning which we can speak now, but of which we can form but very feeble conceptions, compared with the dreadful reality. In all his existence there will probably be no moment in which the sinner’s anguish will be so poignant as in this, when the Judge shall say, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41. Every word in this tremendous denunciation will pierce through the soul with more insufferable pain than the thousand daggers. It is reasonable to think that every person against whom it is pronounced, will endure as much misery at that moment as in the nature of things is possible. And if this were all, the prospect would be appalling; but to be doomed to endless misery in fire, with the devil and his angels! — Who can bear the thought without horror and dismay? Yet, as sure as God is true, will this sentence be executed on every impenitent sinner. Men may reason and cavil now, but then every mouth shall be stopped. That the cry of despair and horror will be heard through the great multitude, is certain — such a great and bitter cry as was never heard before. But it is all in vain; repentance comes too late. The day of grace is forever past. The gospel dispensation is ended. This is the consummation of all things. No change in condition can ever be expected. They that are saved, have their salvation secured by the oath and promise of God; and they who are lost, have their damnation sealed for ever and ever by a judicial sentence which can never be revoked. And from this sentence there is no appeal. There is no higher tribunal to which the cause may be transferred. Neither can any resistance be made to the execution of the sentence. They who are now bold and daring in their blasphemies and rebellion, will then find that they are in the hands of a sin-avenging God. It will belong to the holy angels, who are mighty in power, to execute the sentence of the Judge. “So shall it be,” said our blessed Saviour, “at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49,50. And it will be as impossible to escape as to resist. The rocks and mountains will not cover them. They cannot cease to exist. Go where they will, God is there to execute deserved wrath upon them. They will therefore be obliged “to go away into everlasting punishment.” Matthew 25:46.

The devil and his angels will also be judged on that day; but of the particular nature of the trial we are not informed. All that we know is, that “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude, ver. 6. They are now miserable, but their cup is not full; therefore they cried out when they saw Jesus, “Art thou come to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29. At the breaking up of this great assembly, the present system of the world will be destroyed. For “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7.

Reader, deeply fix in your mind the certainty and importance of the transactions of this last, great day. Meditate upon it as a reality in which you have a momentous interest. Let every other day, as it passes, put you in mind of this in which all others will end. Consider also that is draws near. Every moment bears us on towards the great tribunal. Mockers may say, Where is the promise of his coming? “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works therein, shall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10.

O reader, whoever thou art, let me entreat you to inquire without delay, whether you are prepared for the scrutiny and judgment of this coming day.

Have you made you peace with God? Have you repented of all your sins? Are you in union with Christ by faith? Have you any clear scriptural evidence that your sins are pardoned? What says conscience to these inquiries? Be assured, if your own heart condemns you, God, who is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things, will much more condemn you. But your situation is not like that of them whose day of grace is ended. You are yet in the place of reconciliation. You have yet a little time before you — God only knows how much. Now, then, hear the voice of warning — hear the voice of mercy. Now “strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Now forsake your sins, and live. Accept the offered grace — “lay hold on eternal life.”

Let no consideration induce you to delay your conversion. The importance of salvation — the uncertainty of life — the danger of provoking the Holy Spirit to abandon you — the example of thousands who have perished by procrastination — should urge you to lose no time, but to fall in with the gracious invitation of the gospel. But if you will refuse, then prepare to meet an angry God. Harden yourself against the terrors of the Almighty; summon all your fortitude to hear your dreadful doom from the Judge of quick and dead. But I forbear — there is no fortitude or patience in hell.

Reader, art thou advanced in years? Let thy gray hairs and pains and wrinkles admonish thee that thou art near to judgment; for what if death intervene, yet after death all preparation is impossible. Just as death finds us, so will judgment. “In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” Ecclesiastes 11:3. Consider also that the number of your sins is in proportion to the number of your days. Long life will prove a dreadful curse to those who die in their sins.

But if thou art in youth, or in the vigor of manhood, remember that thy life is a vapor; that most men do not live out half their days: and that of those who shall appear before the judgment-seat, comparatively few will have finished their course of threescore years and ten. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” Ecclesiastes 12:1 “Behold, the Judge standeth before the door.” James 5:9. Others have been suddenly taken away from your side. They also intend to make preparation hereafter; but while they were pleasing themselves with the prospect of many years, and were saying, “Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much goods laid up for many years” God said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. Be ye therefore ready also, for at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.” “Behold, the axe is laid at the root of the tree,” and now perhaps thou art spared, on account of the prayer of some kind intercessor, for one year. This, for aught thou knowest, may be thy last year. If so, it behooves you to make good use of your time and privileges. Let the idea of the judgment be ever before your mind. There you must appear — there you must stand and render up your account — there you must be filled with overwhelming shame and terror — there you must hear the awful final sentence, which will fix your doom irreversibly, unless by a speedy repentance, and by faith in Jesus Christ, you flee from the wrath to come.

May God, of his infinite mercy, cause the truths which you have read in this tract to sink deeply into your mind; and by the light of his Holy Spirit lead you to just views of your own condition, and to saving views of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of lost sinners.


How the Words “Flesh” and “Spirit” are to be Understood in Scripture

Taken, adapted, and transliterated into modern English from, “The Flesh and the Spirit”
Written by, John Bradford

the heart of the matter

For your better understanding of the scriptures, especially of the new Testament, and for the forearming of yourself against errors…

…which, through the ignorance or by different exceptions might happen in the taking of terms or words used and written by the holy apostles, which are for your consolation in the conflicts you are cumbered with in this present life; I am purposed, my dearly beloved, to write unto you some general things (as God shall lend me his grace, the same for which I ask, for his Christ’s sake, now and forever). Take it in good part, I pray you, at least for my good will’s sake towards you in Christ.

In reading the scriptures, and especially Paul’s epistles, we very often do see these words, “flesh” and “spirit.” Now this word “flesh” is set against or opposed to “the spirit,” and they are seen as being contrary to the other, as in Galatians chapter 5, and almost everywhere else, so then must we know that these words encompasses all and defines every natural power, gift, and quality of man. Yes, it encompasses all that is ever in man, whatever it is, (Note: the “sanctification of the Spirit,” which none have but the elect and justified, is the only exception). But this word “spirit,” when it is opposed or set against the “flesh,” signifies all that which is in man that the Holy Ghost has purged from evil and sanctified to righteousness.

This is the word “Spirit” which Paul sometimes calls “the mind,” sometimes “the inward man,” sometimes “the new man,” and sometimes “a new creature,” which he sets apart. So that the word “flesh,” as I have earlier mentioned, may be sometimes called “the old man,” sometimes “the outward man,” sometimes “the body.”

Now the words that truly apply to the soul that is regenerated, are called “the spirit,” “the mind,” “the new man,” “the inward man,” “a new creature.” And the words that apply to the soul that is unregenerate, or bear the natural affections of man, it are called “flesh,” “the old man,” “the outward man,” “the body.” I bring these words to your attentions so that you may see that in these terms encompass whole man, both soul and body, and are to be considered either according to regeneration and to the sanctifying of God’s Spirit, or else according to all that ever he is or hath by fallen nature, by any means, inwardly or outwardly.

While we live here, there is a fight and strife inside each of us who are the elect and the children of God. For “the flesh,” the “outward man,” body, and “old man,” is always striving against “the spirit,” of the inward man, “new man,” and “new creature.” That is, to the degree that we are regenerate and endued with God’s Spirit, we will be striving and fighting against all the powers of our fleshy souls and bodies. And though we shall retain the natural and corrupt affections that is in us, and that we shall have so long as we live, we will always strive to bring them as much as may be possible into obedience to the Spirit; –at the least to bridle them, that they bear not dominion or rule in us.

This battle and strife none will have but the elect “children of God:” and those that have it are the elect “children of God” (“in Christ before the beginning of the world”), whose salvation is as certain and sure as is God himself; for they are given to Christ, a faithful Shepherd, who hath so prayed for them lest they should perish, that we know his prayer is heard: — yes, he promises so to keep them that “they shall not perish.” And therefore they ought to rejoice, and comfort themselves in their conflicts, which are testimonials, and most true, that they are the elect and dear “children of God;” for else they could not, nor should not feel any such strife in them.

But you might say, that the wicked have strife also in themselves, and are often grieved with themselves because they have done such a sin; and therefore this is no such certain demonstration of election. To this I answer, that indeed the wicked and reprobate have sometimes, as you say, internal strife’s and conflicts; as in Saul we may see it against David, and in Antiochus. But the strife in them is not a strife or battle betwixt “the spirit and the flesh;” as you shall see if you mark the differences to discern these battles, which now I will give unto you.

When man is displeased with himself for anything he has done amiss, and strives against himself with respect to that fault which he sees that displeases God his Father and Lord, and displeases Christ, etc., then that is the strife of a good man, of one elected and that is the dear child of God: and the same man so displeased with himself may assure himself that he hath the “good Spirit” of God, which hath wrought in him that affection. Let him therefore call to God and cry, ‘Abba, dear Father,’ and ask grace and mercy, which assuredly he shall find.

But when one is merely displeased with himself, and strives to amend any fault, with respect to civil honesty, of men, shame, beauty, bodily health, profit, hurt, friendship, etc., and does it not in respect to God’s displeasure and favor; then that is the same as sorrowing after the world, for it is not after God.

This is the same strife or battle between the flesh and the flesh, for it is not a strife that the Godly have between “the spirit and the flesh.” Such battles have the wicked, as Saul had, in respect of worldly honesty, shame, civil justice, etc. The wicked have not God’s Spirit of sanctification and regeneration to sanctify and regenerate them, though they might have it concerning other gifts: and though they want the affections of God’s holy elect, the “children of God” and the affections of the regenerated, –and although they have other affections by the which they are not discerned from the ungodly, –they are not taken for holy in God’s sight.

As you can see, the doctrine of election as described in this battle is not a casting of the bridle over the horse’s neck, or an overly strait curbing of the horse; for it neither occasions licentiousness nor despair, but it provokes the regenerate heart to battle against sin; and not hypocritically, but as it should be in God’s sight and for God’s sake, (for they shall feel not their election that so fight not;) but it shall be both a comfort and also a cross, and you shall battle with it most comfortably, with comforts that never can be taken away: for what a comfort is it to see my sorrow and fight to be a demonstration of mine election! Wherein is true rejoicing, as Christ said, “Rejoice in this, that your names are written in the ‘Book of Life.’”

If any man would alter the natural course of any water to run in a different way, he shall never be able to do it with dams: for a time he may well stop it; but when the dam is full, it will either burst the dam or overflow it, and the water shall with more rage run stronger than ever it did before. Even so, if any man would have the streams of his nature and will altered, to run after the will and nature of God, the same shall never be able to do it by making of dams; nor all the world for him. For you cannot really change the streams of the natural man by telling and teaching how that we should do, speak, and think otherwise than we do naturally. For a time the streams of our affections may be stopped by telling and teaching, and other bodily exercise; yet these very affections will “weasel” out now and then, and at length, will break down all our dams and devices, or else so overflow them that “the latter end will be worse than the beginning.” Therefore the alteration hereof must be at the head-spring by the making of other water ways, and rivers of incorruption for our will and our nature to run in.

But who can do this? The spring itself? Nay, God himself, and him alone, who works this in whom, when, and howsoever, it pleases him for his own good will’s sake. And they in whom he works this are his elect children “before the beginning of the world;” who may and should feel their election by loving the good and striving against that which is evil, although in great imperfection: whereas the hypocrites have a thousand parts more show of holiness, but in deeds less love to God and hatred to evil, yes, in deeds none at all as it is pleasing in God’s sight.

Wherefore let us pray for the daily increase of “regeneration,” which is nothing else but the Divine alteration of our natural streams. For our natural streams which we have received from Adam, we have received running naturally contrary to his will.  May we therefore receive from Christ, the second Adam, his “good, Spirit” to draw and lead us in all things after the through-ways of his good will: which he grants to us for his mercy’s sake! Amen.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Bradford, 1510-1555.  John Bradford was born in 1510 and received a good education in a grammar school in Manchester. He was able to earn a good living serving under John Harrington, paymaster to the English forces during the wars of Henry the 8th. For a time he studied law but through the influence of a fellow student he was converted to Protestant Christian faith. Because of this he left the study of law and began his study of theology at Cambridge.

Though he would only live seven more years he was often referred to as “holy Bradford” not in derision, but from respect to his unselfish service to God and those around him. In 1550, during the reign of Edward the 6th, he was ordained by Bishop Ridley to be a “roving chaplain”. Following Edward’s early death, England was ruled by Mary Tudor who was zealous to bring back the Roman Catholic religion and to discipline “heretics.”

Before Mary’s reign was a month old John was arrested on a trivial charge and confined to the Tower of London, never to be a free man again. His time in prison was not wasted as he continued to preach to all that would listen and to write letters and treatises that would encourage fellow believers. During his two-year imprisonment he was cast for a time into a single cell with three fellow reformers, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. Their time together was spent encouraging one another and in careful study of the New Testament. All three were to become martyrs.

Finally on January 31st, 1555 Bradford was brought to the notorious Newgate Prison to be burned at the stake as a heretic. Though the burning was scheduled for 4 AM, there was a great crowd, made up of many who admired Bradford, who had come to witness the execution. He was chained to the stake with another young martyr, John Leaf. After begging forgiveness of any he might have wronged and freely forgiving those who had wronged him, he turned to fellow-martyr, John Leaf, with these words, “Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!”