The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Taken, edited and abbreviated from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1
Written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758),

Resolved...

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help…

I do humbly entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

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That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence.

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To do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

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Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

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to live with all my might, while I do live.

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Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

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Never to do anything out of revenge.

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Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

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To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

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Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

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To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

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Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

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After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

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Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

FORGIVENESS OF SINS: Repentance, the Path to Forgiveness (part 3)

comfort-repentance_forgivenessTaken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

“God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” —Acts 5:31

How wondrous is the revelation of this verse!

It unfolds a heavenly scene. In the center Jesus appears, made in position “higher than the heavens,” exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and thus advanced by distinct exercise of the Father’s power. It specifies two offices which He is thus glorified to discharge.

1   As a PRINCE He shall wield the scepter of universal rule;
2    as a SAVIOR He shall dispense eternal blessedness.

It displays Him as, in consequence, bestowing two main gifts—repentance and forgiveness of sins. These are precious blessings from the hand of Jesus— but He does not grant them separately; they co-exist, as flowers of one stem— as songsters from the same nest. Is forgiveness given? Repentance precedes.

The heart which has not been thus melted will not rejoice in pardon.

If it delightedly basks in this sunshine it has reached the eminence through the low valley of repentance. The rich harvest follows seed sown in tears— the cheering rays shine after previous gloom. Heavenly wisdom places repentance in this station; thus a troop of fallacies is dispersed, and many an ensnaring net of Satan is totally destroyed.

Sometimes the enemy whispers to the awakened conscience, “How groundless are all fears! God is love—He will not cast off creatures whom His will has formed—His boundless mercy forbids it.” Thus Satan strives to retain souls in undisturbed impenitency, and lulls them to sleep on pillows of false hope.

Here it cannot be too strongly stated that God is rich in mercy, and that His mercy endures forever. But mercy is not the total of His mind. Let not the impenitent be deceived—unconditional forgiveness is a groundless phantom. Let none who neither feel, nor hate, nor shun iniquity, beguile themselves with expectation of immunity. Where is it written that pardons bless irrespective of the recipient’s state? Flowers grow not on a rock. If mercy alone can arrest due punishment, none can be lost, and hell becomes a fiction.

Again, Satan is wily to use even the death of Jesus as a means of ruin. He artfully employs the cross so as effectually to check real access to it. He sometimes allays soul-trembling by reminding that there is a fountain ever near, potent to cleanse—he strives to induce ease by insinuating that the precious blood hides all iniquity. Atonement free and boundless is indeed the glory of the Gospel. Let it ever be adoringly maintained that the stream from Jesus’ side obliterates the crimson stains. But is it true, that His blood falls, without distinction, on transgressors? Look within the precincts of pardon—a vast multitude appears, all beauteous in purity; but each is marked with the stamp of penitence and faith—each has wept for sin, and fled in contrition to the cross. Such is the Savior’s testimony—studiously He frames connecting links. “He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46, 47.) Repentance precedes forgiveness; forgiveness closely follows.

Peter on the day of Pentecost sounds the same note. Full of the Holy Spirit, he had denounced appalling guilt on the consciences of the crowd; he pointed to their hands, stained with the Redeemer’s blood; he boldly added, “God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.) Then instantly he showed repentance as the direct path to obliterate their crimes— “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” There is pardon through the Crucified, pardon even for His murderers—but it must be sought in the appointed way of penitential grief.

Once more, the same Apostle chides the amazed crowd in Solomon’s porch. He cloaks not their frightful deed—he charges them with the sin of sins. “You denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life.” (Acts 3:14, 15.) But away with despair. There is hope, bright and sure; there is all hope even for such guilt—but it shines only in the pathway of repentance. They who stifle consciousness of the evil, perish; they who confess and bewail it, live. “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19.)

Such is the voice of heavenly truth—such are the inspired tidings. Hence the ambassador of Jesus is privileged to beseech—O you sons of men, loathe your polluted course; let tears of penitence attest your broken spirits. Come, smiting upon your breasts, to the atoning cross, and you shall be welcomed, and your sins all purged away, and no sight of them again appear. Be wise then—”Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10.) “He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13.)

But when repentance is thus commended, its essence should be accurately stated. Cheats may assume fair form—all sorrow is not godly sorrow. Many may acknowledge the plague of sin with no true feeling of contrition—even tears may flow without heart-weeping. Weeds have semblance of sweet flowers—tinsel may glitter like the purest gold. Hence it is well that a discriminating glance should survey the features of Gospel-repentance. Let then its properties be tested—thus error’s downward slopes may be escaped, and counterfeits be detected. It is possible to perish with a lie in the right hand.

Genuine repentance is a threefold cord. Three ingredients compose the cup— three rays combine to form the picture.

The following phases are united. 

I. Contrition—which writhes under deep pain.
II. Confession—which humbly pours forth the bursting agony.
III. Abhorrence—which flees the hated cause of this distress. When these deep feelings meet, repentance lives, a gift from heaven. From these standpoints let this grace be now surveyed.

1    CONTRITION. This is no shallow, superficial, transient emotion.

It is not a slender reed, a summer brook, a morning cloud, the early dew. It penetrates the lowest recesses of the heart, and shakes the fabric with a giant hand. It causes a very earthquake in the inward man—it beholds with horror the blackness, filth, and heinousness of sin—its rankling sting is keenest misery. It is not content with reviling sin as injurious to fair fame, as a blight on temporal prospects, and as the parent of reproach and shame—it discerns it, as rebellion against God. It beholds sin’s impious hand uplifted against a loving Father—it loathes its character, as dark in ingratitude, treachery, impiety, and heartless hardness. The thought is torment that this monster has been so embraced. Contrition is thus an awakened anguish for indwelling and outbreaking sin—its acts evince its depth.

Is not this prominent on the prophet’s picture—“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” (Zech. 12:10.) Here is a melting image! We see the writhing misery of the broken spirit.

Let it here be added, that when such godly sorrow rends the soul, relief is near; for a blessed promise closely hastens to console—”In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zech. 13:1.)

Next the graphic instance of repentant Ephraim gives light. Contrition strains his very heart-strings. God in His sovereign grace had put forth a chastening hand—the agony of the smitten spirit soon wails. Mark the record—”I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, You have chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” Then prayer goes forth, “Turn me, and I shall be turned—for You are the Lord my God.” Let the result be noted. The contrite heart thus mourns—”After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” (Jer. 31:19.)

Another view of this agony is supplied by Peter. He miserably falls, and Jesus turns and looks upon him. In that piercing eye there was reproach which broke the heart—and love which bound it up. He felt the heinousness of his iniquity. No restraint could cloak his contrition—”He went out and wept bitterly.”

It is sweet digression to observe how mercy flies to raise the downcast. The morning of the resurrection comes. At the sepulcher the angel bids the amazed women to be the messengers of glad tidings; but Peter is especially remembered—”Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter, that I am going ahead of you into Galilee.” And as that blessed day advances, the risen Savior seeks the trembling disciple in his lonely shame. For when the two hastened back from Emmaus they found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Peter.” This contrition is an essential ingredient of repentance, and this godly sorrow ever hastens to nestle in redeeming arms.

2    CONFESSION. Can this beaming cup not overflow?

Can the wounded heart thus smart, and out of the abundance no utterance burst forth? The burdened spirit cannot pine in silence—contrition in its lowest depths looks upward to the mercy-seat. It lingers not, but hastens to God’s footstool—there in tears it relates its misery. Sorrow gives wings—the very burden quickens speed. It is conscious that God is not ignorant, but it seeks relief in telling its woe. Daniel gives example. Thus he testifies—”So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I wore rough sackcloth and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: ‘O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and keep your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations.'” (Dan. 9:3, 4, 5.) He opens the sluice of confession, and casts off his load in keeping nothing back. Mercy hears and joys to comfort. “I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sins of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice.” (Dan. 9:20, 21.)

There is similar instance in the heart-smitten prodigal. He feels his crushing wickedness—his heart is full and must find vent. “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before You, and am no more worthy to be called Your son.” But pardoning love prevents him—”When he was yet a great way off his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Contrition must confess, and forgiving tokens are pressed on the confessing lips.

Such, also, is the testimony of David—“I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5.)

Let, also, the tender notes from apostolic lips be heard—”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9.) Thus contrition writhes, and confession sobs, and pardoning mercy calms the breast.

3 ABHORRENCE. To compete the outline, hatred of and resolute abandonment of sin, must be added.

Natural emotions may bewail iniquity; truth may confess its prevalence while the heart remains a stranger to utter loathing, and looks with lingering fondness towards its customary ways. Thus Pharaoh, terrified by appalling judgments, mourns, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I beg you, my sin only this once.” (Ex. 10:16, 17.) But the lament was as a flitting shadow—it swiftly passed away. The heart was unmoved—evil as evil was not hated.

Saul, in momentary relenting, assumes the penitential garb, while his deadly passion was unslain. The fearful picture of the Psalmist is still life-like— “When God killed some of them, the rest finally sought him. They repented and turned to God. Then they remembered that God was their rock, that their redeemer was the Most High. But they followed him only with their words; they lied to him with their tongues. Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.” (Psalm 78:34-37.)

Seeming repentance then may make unreal show. But when the Spirit implants this grace, loathing abhorrence of sin takes deep root. The whole heart is steeled in stout aversion—its every faculty and power arise in irreconcilable enmity—the whole inward man commences warfare without truce, and tramples it down beneath detesting feet, and hews it to pieces with unsparing severity. It wars not only against some forms of evil; it entirely, absolutely, universally loathes sin’s every shape and semblance. It hates it in its very essence, as the enemy of God, as execrable in itself, as the misery of the world, as the viper which drank the life-blood of the Savior. It has been wisely said, “In true repentance every affection of the soul turns away from sin—love says, I will embrace you no more; desire says, I will never long after you more; delight says, I will never take contentment in you anymore; hatred says, I will never be reconciled to you anymore; fear says, I will watch, lest I be surprised by you anymore; grief says, I will mourn and lament because the soul has been beguiled by you; hope says, I will look to Christ, that my poor soul may at length get victory over you.” Thus true repentance flees from all sin.

Such is the essence of this grace. They who are wise will anxiously inquire whether it is their established inhabitant.

How much hangs on the decision! It is beyond dispute that without repentance there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness wrath must abide forever. Perhaps the search leaves some disturbed with doubt. They may sigh—Would that genuine repentance gave indubitable signs! But why this shivering in a cheerless region? Doubtless no human efforts can create a heaven-kindled flame; but what are the offices which Jesus ever lives to execute? “He is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Let prayer plead with Him—He will answer, and pour down this blessing, and carry on the holy work, until in thorough brokenness of heart and humble confession, and firm departure from all evil, the peaceful realms of pardon are attained.

God’s Right of Ownership, and our Duty of Submission

Taken from, “The Great Duty of Resignation to the Divine Will in Affliction”
Written by William Bates, The Queen’s Puritan, Published 1645.

fractal___god___wallpaper_by_eensteen

‘And he went a little farther, and fell on his face,
and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible,
let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will,
but as you wilt.’ –Matthew 26:39

1    God’s original supreme right in our persons, and all things we enjoy.

The enjoyment of all our blessings is from his pure goodness, and rich bounty, which requires our humble and affectionate thankfulness; and his resumption of them should be entertained with a holy and patient submission. He gives them freely, and may recall them at his pleasure. In whatsoever instance his will is declared, we must with humility and meekness submit; for he has an equal empire in disposing all things that are equally his own, and we are bound by an equal obedience to acknowledge his dominion.

When Eli received the terrible message of the ruin of his family; the final excision of it from the dignity of the priesthood, he patiently submits: ‘It is the Lord, let him do what seems to him good.’ The mere desire of exemption from his overruling will, is a heinous sin; and a stubborn uncompliance with it in the issues of things, is direct rebellion, mixed with ingratitude, obstructive to our present peace, and future happiness.

If the afflicted would for a while suspend their tears and sighs, and with free reason consider, that whatsoever relation they had in their dearest loss, whether of a father, a son, of a husband or wife, or any other amiable and passionate terms, yet God has a nearer right and more just claim in those persons, being his by his best titles of creation and redemption, it would silence murmurings and impatience, and stop the scope of inordinate sorrow. Our property in them was derived from his favor, and our possession was depending on his will, for his right in all his creatures is unalienable. This consideration was the foundation of Job’s patience; when he was stripped of all his outward comforts, how composed was he in his mind! how considerate in his words! he reflects upon his native poverty, ‘Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return thither:’ and adores God’s dominion, ‘The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken, blessed be his name.’

Add farther, that which by immediate connection follows, the consideration of the glorious majesty of God, and our natural meanness and unworthiness. The distance and disproportion is so vast between him and us, that we are not able to conceive the full and just idea of his excellent greatness: we are fain to assist our minds in the thoughts of God by sensible representations; and to express our conceptions by borrowed terms; his immensity by the ocean; his eternity by the returning of a circle into itself; his power, by thunder; his majesty by the sun in its meridian splendors. As the flying fishes, (shoals of which are met in sailing to the Indies,) can fly no longer than their wings remain moist; when those membranes are dry, they cannot move, and are forced to dip themselves again in the sea, that by softening them, they may renew their flight: thus when we ascend in our minds to God, we form no conceptions but what take their rise from sensible things, which infinitely fall short of his perfections.

Who can fully understand the transcendent excellencies of his nature? Who can describe what is ineffable, and most worthy to be adored with silent admiration and ecstasy of mind? ~ ‘He dwells in that light which is inaccessible;’ the angels, the most comprehensive spirits, ‘veil their faces in the presence of his glory.’ He is his own original, but without beginning: alone, but not solitary; one ever blessed God, yet communicates his entire Deity to the Son and Spirit; he is not divided in number, nor confused in unity. He is not compelled by necessity, nor changed by Liberty, nor measured by time: if we ascend to the first fountains of all ages, then his infinite understanding comprehended in one clear view, the whole compass, extent and duration of all things. His powerful word made the visible and invisible world, and upholds them. That which was spoken with flattery, of a Roman emperor, by Seneca, (who as much degenerated from the dignity of a Stoical philosopher, in licking Nero, as in biting Alexander) is absolutely true of the sovereign Lord of the world: his providence is the band that unites the parts of the universal commonwealth, the vital spirit and virtue that sustains all: without his eye and hand, his dispositive wisdom and power, the whole frame would disband and fall into confusion and ruin. He is seated upon the throne of the universe. ‘Thousand thousands of glorious spirits minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him,’ in the quality and humility of his servants, ready to execute his commands. He is the Judge of the living and the dead, that disposes of heaven and hell forever.

And what is man? a little breathing dust. He is infinitely above us, and so strangely condescends, in having a tender care of us, that the psalmist was swallowed up in ecstasy and amazement at the thoughts of it: ‘Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him? or the son of man that you regard him?’ Nay, we are beneath his anger, as a worm is not worthy of the indignation of an angel. Now the more we magnify God, and exalt his authority in our judgments, the more our wills are prepared to yield to him: ‘His excellency will make us afraid to oppose his providence.’ When the Son of God appeared to Saul in his glory, and commanded in person, he presently let fall his arms of defiance, and says, ‘Lord, what will you have me to do?’ His resignation was absolute; nothing was so hard to do, nothing so formidable to suffer; but he was ready to accomplish and endure in obedience to Christ.

The more we debase and vilify ourselves, the more easy it will be to bear what God inflicts; humility disposes to submission. Our passions are not excited at the breaking of an ordinary glass; but if a vessel of crystal be broken, it moves us: the lower esteem we have of ourselves, the less we shall be transported for any breach that is made upon us. We read in the history of Job, many heavy complaints uttered by him of his sufferings, all the sad figures of passionate eloquence made use of to represent them, and the fruitless essays of his friends, that did rather exasperate than appease his spirit: and it is very observable, that when the Lord interposed himself to justify the ways of his providence, he did not charge upon him the guilt of his sins that deserved the severest judgments, but appears in his glory, and reminds him of his original nothing. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you hast understanding.’ He opens to him some of the excellencies of the Deity in the works of creation and providence, and the present effect was, Job adored with humble reverence the divine majesty, and acknowledged his own unworthiness: ‘Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth; now mine eyes see thee, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ The thickest smoke by ascending, dissipates and vanishes. If the troubled soul did ascend to heaven, and consider that even the worst evils are either from the operation or permission of the divine providence, the cloudy disturbing thoughts and passions would be presently scattered.

David had a blessed experiment of this in his distress: ‘I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because you didst it.’ Psalms 39:8. Such an awful apprehension he had of God, as transcendently superior to him, and unaccountable for his proceedings. When any impatient thoughts arise, we should presently chain them up, for there are folly and fury in them: what am I, that my sullen spirit should dispute against the orders of heaven? that my passions should resist the will of the highest Lord? That my desires should depose him from his throne? For thus by implication and consequence they do, who are vexed at his providence. A holy soul will tremble at the thoughts of it. Methinks God speaks to the afflicted and disturbed soul, in the words of the psalm, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ The actual consideration of his supremacy will be powerful to lay the growing storm of passions. Impatience arises from the ignorance of God and ourselves.

II    The righteousness of God in all his ways, if duly considered, will compose the afflicted spirit to quiet and humble submission.

He is never injurious to us when he deprives us of our sweetest and most precious comforts, because we have incurred the forfeiture of all. He is not cruel in laying the heaviest punishments upon us, for we deserve them. If we were free from actual sins, yet our depraved nature, so repugnant to the pure law of God, involves us under an obligation to punishment. If we had not been attainted with the guilt of original sin, yet the sins committed in the course of our lives, make us deeply obnoxious to divine justice: how much more the concurrent guilt of original and actual sins? The acts of, sin are transient and pass away; but the guilt and stain of sin, and the conscience of sin remain, and no less than eternal punishment is commensurate to the obliquity. From hence there is the clearest reason to justify God in all his proceedings. ‘Righteousness establishes his throne.’ The prophet saith ‘thy righteousness is like the great mountains, thy judgments are a great deep.’ Psalms 36. 6. The special ends of God in severe dispensations, are sometimes indiscernible, but never unjust; his righteousness is obvious to every eye. The actual consideration of this is powerful to silence the uproar of the passions, and to make us lie humbly at his feet under the sorest chastisements. ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord’ (without murmuring, saith the afflicted church) ‘because I have sinned against him.’ Micah 7:9.

As disobedience in our inclinations and actions, is a tacit reflection upon the equity of his law, as if the restraints of it were unreasonable; so impatience and fretful discontent is upon the equity of his providence, as if the afflicting dispensations of it were not due to us: and the sense of our sinfulness, and God’s righteousness, is an excellent preventive of it. If you are in great afflictions, and feeling any tumultuous thoughts, any rebellious risings within thee, consider you are a sinner, guilty of ten thousand provocations, and dare you to appear before his enlightened and terrible tribunal, and challenge him for any unrighteous proceedings? ‘Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?’ Lamentations 3:39. Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I will not offend any more. That which I know not, teach you me; and if I have done iniquity, I will do no more. Job 34:31,32. Besides, all the punishments of men here, are with merciful allays, not in just proportion to their guilt. The church in its calamitous state, described in the most doleful lamentations of Jeremiah, when the greatest number of the Jews perished by the sword, or famine that attended the war, their city and temple were laid in ruins, and the unhappy people that escaped the fury of the Chaldeans, were the captives and triumphs of their enemies; yet in that unparalleled affliction she acknowledges, ‘it is the Lord’s mercies that we are not’ utterly and totally ‘consumed’ Lamentations 3:22; and lays her mouth in the dust, a posture of the lowest abasement.

And holy Ezra reflecting upon that dreadful calamity, acknowledges their punishment was beneath their desert, as their deliverance was above their expectation: ‘and for all that is come upon us for our evil deeds and great trespasses, seeing you hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and given us such a deliverance as this.’ Ezra 9:13. Our deserts are less than the least of God’s mercies, and our offences greater than the greatest of his judgments. This should make us not only patiently submit, ‘but humbly accept the punishment of our iniquity, as far less than what is deserved.’ Leviticus 26:41. If the sentence of death against a malefactor be exchanged for banishment, or banishment be remitted for a short confinement, is there not incomparably more cause to be thankful for what is pardoned, than to complain for what is suffered?

What ingratitude is it to be impatient and murmuring for these ‘light afflictions that are but for a moment,’ when we deserve an eternal and insupportable weight of misery in hell? It is infinitely more becoming us and safe, to argue against our irregular passions, than to tax his righteous dispensations.

III   His power is immense and uncontrollable, and it is a vain attempt to contend with him, as if the eternal order of his decrees could be altered or broken.

The contest between God and the sinner, is, whose will shall stand. It is his glorious work to depress the proud, and subdue the stubborn refractory spirits.

The punishment of the first pride in the angels, is an eternal and terrible example of his powerful justice; and how intolerable a crime it is, that heaven could not bear, but presently opened, and the guilty fell into the bottomless pit. Now pride is a seminal evil, and lies at the root of stubbornness and impatience under judgments. Proud dust is apt to fly in God’s face upon every motion of the afflicting passions. And by the resistance of self-will he is provoked to more severity. ‘Woe be to him that strives with his Maker.’ Isaiah 45:9.

It is our duty and interest to observe the blessed apostle’s direction, ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he shall exalt you.’ 1 Peter 5:6. There is a passive humbling by his irresistible providence, and an active voluntary humbling, which implies a subjection to his law, and a submission to his providence: this is infinitely pleasing to him, it is the right disposition that prepares us for mercy, and is the certain way of exaltation; for then God obtains his end. The humble prostrating ourselves at his feet to receive his correction, causes his bowels to relent, and stops his hand: the seeming humiliation of Ahab procured a respite of those fearful judgments denounced against his house. It is said of the generosity of the lion, that he spares his prostrate adversary. In short, our salvation depends upon our humble demeanor under afflictive dispensations. ‘We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much more be in subjection to the father of spirits, and live?’ Hebrews 12:9. Unsubmission induces a deadly guilt upon the rebellious.

IV   His paternal love in sending afflictions, is a sufficient argument to win our compliance with his will.

The blessed apostle applying medicine to the afflicted, propounds two divine truths, that if seriously thought of, and steadfastly believed, are powerful to mitigate the acerbity of all sufferings, and support the spirit in the greatest agony.

The first is, ‘God scourges every son whom he receives:’ Hebrews 12:6. and the other that is joined with it is, ‘Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.’

The rule is general:

(1.) All his sons are under the discipline of the rod; and who would be so unhappy as to be exempted from that number, for all the prosperity of the world? Afflictions, sanctified, are the conspicuous seal of their adoption and title to heaven: and who would forfeit the honor of that adoption, and lose the benefit annexed to it, the eternal inheritance, rather than patiently bear his fatherly chastisements?

Others that enjoy a perpetual spring of pleasure here, are declared bastards, and not sons: they are indeed within the compass of his universal providence, but not of that peculiar care that belongs to his sacred and select progeny. His corrections are an argument of his authority as our father, and an assurance that we are his children: this should induce us not only with submissive temper of soul, but with thankfulness to receive the sharpest correction from the hands of our heavenly Father. This was the reason of our Savior’s meek yielding himself to the violence and cruelty of his enemies. ‘The cup which my father has given me, shall I not drink it?’

(2.) Chastisement is the effect of his paternal love: he is the father of our spirits, and that divine relation carries with it a special love to the spirits of men, and in that degree of eminence, as to secure and advance their happiness, though to the destruction of the flesh.

The soul is of incomparably more worth than the body, as the bright orient pearl than the mean shell that contains it: this God most highly values; for this he gave so great a price, and on it draws his image. If temporal prosperity were for our best advantage, how willingly would God bestow it on us? ‘He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ Romans 8:32. Which words, among all that the Holy Ghost has dictated to the interpreters of God’s heart to his people, are most expressive of his love and bounty, and most for their comfort.

He that gives grace and glory, the most real testimonies of his love, certainly withholds no good thing from them.

FORGIVENESS OF SINS: The Essence of Our Need, the Completeness of its Scope, and the Doom of Sin (part 2)

Taken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

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“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving,
even though we have rebelled against Him.”

–Daniel 9:9

To the forgiveness of sins attention now reverts…

The subject justly claims large share of pious thought. This is mercy which showers saving blessings from its wings; it blots out transgression and hides all iniquity in its sheltering arms. Hence no words can fully tell its worth.

Angels may gaze and marvel, but they have no experience of its joys; for none of that pure company exult in pardon. It is solely the heart-felt property of the redeemed. It will be the hymn of heaven; but its first notes must be learned on earth. To learn it well, there must be commencement in the rudimentary volume of its need. Portions of this dark book have been perused—sin’s essence and its main developments have passed in review; and at frequent pauses the dreadful need was solemnly deduced. This need is prelude to the tidings—”But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”

The subject pursued leads to (1) sin’s guilt; (2) sin’s final doom.

1    SIN’S GUILT.

Guilt is that property of sin which links it to God’s wrath. It constitutes its criminality, and forbids immunity. That sin has this property is clear—it stands confessedly a convict. It is undeniably a transgressor of the law of heaven. It cannot plead that it is guiltless; therefore, avowedly it merits punishment.

Thus in reference to GOD it has been proved to be alienation, hatred, contempt, defiance, robbery, treason, rebellion. Can such be its guilty state— can it evidently work havoc throughout all creation, and shall God sit indifferent, as though He saw no evil? The very thought strips Him of the glories of His holiness, and misrepresents Him as erecting a platform on which sin shall have free scope to act rebellion, and then be spared as innocent. Holiness ceases to be holy, except it inflicts on sin the penalties of its guilt. Righteousness is no more righteous, if it withholds the righteous condemnation. Truth lies low in ignominious shame, if the words be not fulfilled, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23.) “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Gal. 3:10.) The arm of Omnipotence is a broken reed, if it wields no sword to vindicate the honor and the majesty of God’s kingdom. Thus the guilty cannot be screened as guiltless.

Doubtless God is rich in mercy—His mercy endures forever—His mercy reaches unto the heavens. “To the Lord our God belong mercies.” If compassion were not a bright beam in heaven, there could be no remission of offence, no substitutionary offering, no transfer of guilt to a Surety, no Gospel, no Christ, no cross, no reconciling blood.

But mercy cannot annihilate the attributes which sit as compeers on the glorious throne. It lives co-equal with them. Its delight is to exalt, to magnify, to glorify them. Patience may wait long, until settled purposes are fully ripe; forbearance may forbear, until the cup of wrath at last overflows; patience may endure, until the most extreme limit be attained; but their honor must be maintained, and guilt not screened in Christ must encounter the just woe. The interceding voice, “Let it alone” at last will cease. God can by no means clear the guilty. Guilt then must receive its penal wages, unless some scheme be found to intercept the terrible result. Who now can fail to feel that the guilty sinner needs mercies and forgivenesses?

Let the page of EXPERIENCE be next read. It is written throughout with testimony that tremendous indications of divine displeasure pursue guilt. Amid sweet rays of mercy striving to break forth, big drops of wrath often descend.  The present appearance of earth is mournfully significant—the whole creation groans and travails together. What is inscribed on all the tears and travail? These dark evidences proclaim that sin has polluted earth, and that guilt is the accompaniment of sin, and that penalty adheres to guilt.

Tears and sighs and anguish in multiform misery tell what sin has brought into this earth—sufferings and agony point to their prolific parent. Mourners ever mourning, the afflicted ever wailing, the bereaved ever disconsolate, sickness ever weakening, pains ever torturing, death ever doing its relentless work, graves insatiable, loudly tell that God has a controversy with earth. Thus the wide spread of misery proves that the guilt of sin awakens just displeasure.

Mark, next, the terrors of CONSCIENCE when aroused from apathetic slumber by the Spirit. See the man awakened to the real perils of his guilty state. He is brought into a new world, where all is dismay. He perceives that his feet totter on the brink of a terrific precipice. He sees an abyss yawning in his path. He trembles, lest the next step may plunge him into bottomless perdition. He looks back, and shudders at his past career—he looks above; the sight is blackness of darkness—he looks onward, and hopelessness affrights him. All within stirs up remorse—all around is terror. The past cannot be recalled—the present must move onward— the future cannot be escaped.

In what mirror are these terrors seen? Surely in the mirror of sin’s guilt. Conscience, in the Spirit’s light, convicts of sin. Guilt is its inseparable companion—vengeance from heaven closely follows. The awakened conscience knows this and quakes. Annals of the past confirm this statement—they exhibit terrific outbreaks of divine wrath. Let the old world tell its dreadful tale. Its wickedness exceeded all that is denounced as wicked—its trespass grew up unto the heavens.

Enormity of evil cried aloud, and enormity of vengeance slumbered not. God opened the sluices above, and called the waters from their lowest caverns; billows upon billows swelled; one vast flood cleared the polluted earth, with the exception of one family. Each drop of that overwhelming deluge proves that sinful earth is guilty earth; and guilty earth cannot but call down wrath.

Let another instance lend corroborating aid. Omitting the cities of the plain— a smoking furnace, a flood of flame— let the miseries of Jerusalem in her final siege be pondered. Where can horrors be found like unto those horrors! The sword, the pestilence, the famine, the fire, the signs in the heavens, the wails of earth, surpassed all former prophetic indications. Vengeance sharpened its every fang to mangle and to torture. Jerusalem drank a brimful cup, and drank it to the very dregs. Whence comes this unparalleled anguish? Sin stands out as the guilty cause. Enormous guilt brought down enormous wrath.

Here let a shuddering glance look INWARD. Is not every child of man deeply immersed in guilt? “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6.) “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23.) How then shall the guilty escape, if no forgiveness hold back the arm of wrath! How precious now are the tidings—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.”

Thus far the guilt of sin has been viewed, as exhibited in time, and as endured on the little space of this passing scene. But sin’s results end not with earth’s brief moment. Here is only the opening of the sluice—the stream flows onward into the ocean of eternity, and there the billows find no shore, no bottom.

It requires no small effort to proceed; but to pause here would leave the subject only on the threshold of its magnitude. Progress must be made— time’s flimsy veil must be withdrawn; realities beyond must be distinctly faced.

2    SIN’S FINAL DOOM

Scripture abounds in warnings—their plainness is only equaled by their awe; their terrors are all faithfulness and truth. They speak loudly that men may ponder and escape. Blessed be the Holy Spirit for this arresting voice! He uncloaks the approaching day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God—”when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” (2 Thess. 1:7-9.) Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, are denounced on every soul of man that does evil. (Rom. 2:8, 9.)

There is no negative in this catalogue of woes. It is the aggregate of every form of positive endurance. Who can gaze with firm eye on the pictures of the Apocalypse! But they are portrayed for our admonition. Behold! He who is announced as the Word of God appears treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Rev. 19:15.) Here the omnipotence of God is exhibited not only mighty in wrath, but fierce in wrath, infuriate to execute vengeance. What must that vengeance be!

Tremendous terms exhaust the powers of imagination. The voice thunders, “Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Again the sound is heard of “blackness of darkness forever;” “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth;” “the worm that dies not, the fire that is not quenched.” No drop of water cools the parched tongue, and these torments are to endure forever and forever. No hope of deliverance sustains the lost. No respite ever relieves. Intermission never brings a momentary ease. No glimpse of dawn gives prospect of a better day. What was, still is, and forever shall be. It is all pain without release, all misery for everlasting ages. It is the woe of an eternal night.

Such is the endless end of sin. Such are the penalties to which its guilt is righteously consistent. Such is its sure condemnation. This picture is no fable; no fiction; no hyperbole. No color is inscribed too darkly. These are the true sayings of Him who is the Truth. But pictures, however vivid, fail to give exact idea. The painted flame shows not the sting and biting pungency of fire. They know little of the angry ocean’s swell—of the agonies of a wrecked crew—of the strength of the infuriate lion—of the devastation of the volcano, who only see these images portrayed on canvas. As heaven to be really known must be attained, so sin’s wages must be received before the fruit of its guilt can be conceived.

It will be happy if through this dreary passage a glorious prospect is attained. It will be so to all who now clasp to grateful hearts the good news—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.” Let then the reviving truth now have free course and be glorified. A remedy is provided. A refuge is erected. A fortress of escape is near. A rescue is at the door. “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Cor. 5:19.) Christ comes to the blessed work in obedience to the heavenly call, and the dictates of His love. He vicariously endures all these penalties. Hence “repentance and remission of sins are preached in His name among all nations.”

Let the tidings be devoutly prized, “Christ has suffered the just for the unjust.” In Him all manner of sin is forgiven to the children of men. This forgiveness of sins is the corner stone and glory of His Gospel. Gaining validity through Christ’s blood, it remits all penalties to the believer, abrogates all demands, relaxes all bonds, cancels all debts, blots out every accusing charge, silences all threats, blunts every weapon of wrath, extracts the sting of vengeance, averts all miseries, removes all apprehensions, opens the prison-doors, loosens all chains, closes hell, makes a straight path to heaven, and crowns an innumerable multitude with blessings of celestial favor.

Let men be wise to seek in an accepted time this inestimable gift. Let them, the Spirit helping, secure this prize, and turn not from the Father of all mercies, heaping on Christ the outpourings of His wrath, that He may heap infinities of bliss and glory on pardoned guilt.

Let not the only hope be slighted. It shines in Christ and in Christ alone. He is the treasure-house in which forgiveness is stored. Let not the multitude, or magnitude, or heinousness of transgressions deter. “A fountain is opened for all sin and uncleanness.” They who cast themselves therein are whiter than the whitest snow. Their blessed experience may truly testify, “But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1.)

Spurgeon and the Prayer of Jabez. Or, Separating True Blessings from the Imaginary

Taken and adapted from, Sermon No. 994,
Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

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“Oh that you would bless me indeed!”
–1 Chronicles 4:10

Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy

We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brethren, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bare him with sorrow. It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the antecedents, there will be the most pleasure in the sequel. As the furious storm gives place to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy (Psalms 30:5). Sorrow the harbinger; gladness the prince it ushers in. Cowper says:

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”

To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those projects that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings. While our grief called the offspring of desire “Benoni” (the son of my sorrow), our faith has been afterwards able to give it a name of delight, “Benjamin” (the son of my right hand) (Genesis 35:18). You may expect a blessing in serving God if you are enabled to persevere under many discouragements. The ship is often long coming home because detained on the road by excess of cargo; expect her freight to be the better when she reaches the port.

A Man of Prayer

More honorable than his brethren was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow. As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well pointed, his fame so far sounded, his name so lastingly embalmed—he was a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. Those are the best honors that come from God: the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service.

When Jacob was surnamed Israel, he received his princedom after a memorable night of prayer (Genesis 32:25). Surely it was far more honorable to him than if it had been bestowed upon him as a flattering distinction by some earthly emperor. The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High. Jabez, we are told, was more honorable than his brethren, and his prayer is forthwith recorded as if to intimate that he was also more prayerful than his brethren.

The Prayer Itself

We are told of what petitions his prayer consisted. All through it was very significant and instructive. We have only time to take one clause of it—indeed, that one clause may be said to comprehend the rest: “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” I commend it as a prayer for yourselves, dear brethren and sisters, one which will be available at all seasons—a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer that would never be unseasonable in your joys or in your sorrows.

“Indeed” – true vs. false blessings

“Oh that you would bless me indeed!” The very pith of the prayer seems to lie in that word, “indeed.” There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings only in name: they gratify our wishes for a moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They charm the eye, but pall on the taste. Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish with the using. Though for a while they regale the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

“You” – what are true blessings

“Oh that you,” the God of Israel, the covenant God, “would bless me indeed!” I know whom God blesses shall be blessed. The thing good in itself is bestowed with the good-will of the Giver, and shall be productive of so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a blessing “indeed,” for there is nothing comparable to it.

Let the grace of God prompt it; let the choice of God appoint it; let the bounty of God confer it; and then the endowment shall be something godlike indeed. It shall be something worthy of the lips that pronounce the benediction, and verily to be craved by everyone who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.

“Bless” – God’s vs. men’s blessings

We may set this in contrast with human blessings: “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” It is very delightful to be blessed by our parents, and those venerable friends whose benedictions come from their hearts and are backed up by their prayers. Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son. One might well feel it were a thing to be deplored through life, if he had lost a parent’s blessing. We like to have it. The blessing of our spiritual parents is consolatory. Though we believe in no priestcraft, we like to live in the affections of those who were the means of bringing us to Christ, and from whose lips we were instructed in the things of God.

And how very precious is the blessing of the poor! I do not wonder that Job treasured that up as a sweet thing. “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me” (Job 29:11). If you have relieved the widow and the fatherless, and their thanks are returned to you in benediction, it is no mean reward.

But, dear friends, after all, all that parents, relatives, saints, and grateful persons can do in the way of blessing, falls very far short of what we desire to have.

Oh Lord, we would have the blessings of our fellow-creatures, the blessings that come from their hearts; but, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” for You can bless with authority. Their blessings may be but words, but Thine are effectual. They may often wish what they cannot do, and desire to give what they have not at their own disposal, but Your will is omnipotent. You did create the world with but a word. Oh that such omnipotence would now bespeak me Your blessing! Other blessings may bring us some tiny cheer, but in Your favor is life. Other blessings are mere specks in comparison with Your blessing, for Your blessing is the title to “an inheritance incorruptible” (1 Peter 1:4) and unfading, to “a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28).

Well therefore might David pray in another place, “With your blessing let the house of your servant be blessed forever” (2 Samuel 7:29).

1    God’s Blessings vs. Men’s Blessings

Perhaps in this place, Jabez may have put the blessing of God in contrast with the blessings of men. Men will bless you when you do well for yourself. They will praise the man who is successful in business. Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing has so much the approval of the general public as a man’s prosperity. Alas! they do not weigh men’s actions in the balances of the sanctuary, but in quite other scales.

You will find those about you who will commend you if you are prosperous; or, like Job’s comforters, condemn you if you suffer adversity. Perhaps there may be some feature about your blessings that may please them, because they feel they deserve them. They commend you for your patriotism: you have been a patriot. They commend you for your generosity: you know you have been self-sacrificing. This is well; but, after all, what is there in the verdict of man?

At a trial, the verdict of the policeman who stands in the court, or of the spectators who sit in the court-house, amounts to just nothing. The man who is being tried feels that the only thing that is of importance at all will be the verdict of the jury and the sentence of the judge. So it will little avail us, whatever we may do, how others commend or censure. Their blessings are not of any great value.

But, “Oh that you would bless me,” that You would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). Commend You the feeble service that through Your grace my heart has rendered. That will be to bless me indeed.

Flattery

Men are sometimes blessed in a very fulsome sense by flattery. There are always those who, like the fox in the fable, hope to gain the cheese by praising the crow. They never saw such plumage, and no voice could be so sweet as yours. The whole of their mind is set, not on you, but on what they are to gain by you. The race of flatterers is never extinct, though the flattered usually flatter themselves, it is so. They may conceive that men flatter others, but all is so palpable and transparent when heaped upon themselves, that they accept it with a great deal of self-complacency, as being perhaps a little exaggerated, but after all exceedingly near the truth!

We are not very apt to take a large discount off the praises that others offer us; yet, were we wise, we should press to our bosom those who censure us; and we should always keep at arm’s length those who praise us. Why? for those who censure us to our face cannot possibly be making a market of us; but with regard to those who extol us, rising early and using loud sentences of praise, we may suspect (and we shall very seldom be unjust in the suspicion), that there is some other motive in the praise which they render to us than that which appears on the surface.

Young man, are you placed in a position where God honors you? Beware of flatterers. Or have you come into a large estate? have you abundance? There are always flies where there is honey. Beware of flattery. Young woman, are you fair to look upon? There will be those about you that will have their designs, perhaps their evil designs, in lauding your beauty. Beware of flatterers. Turn you aside from all these who have honey on their tongue, because of the poison of asps that is under it. Bethink you of Solomon’s caution, “meddle not with him that flatters with his lips” (Proverbs 20:19).

Cry to God, “Deliver You me from all this vain adulation, which nauseates my soul.” So shall you pray to Him the more fervently “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Let me have Your benediction, which never says more than it means, which never gives less than it promises.

If you take then the prayer of Jabez as being put in contrast with the benedictions that come from men, you see much force in it.

2    God’s Blessings vs. Temporal Blessings

But we may put it in another light, and compare the blessing Jabez craved with those blessings that are temporal and transient. There are many bounties given to us mercifully by God for which we are bound to be very grateful, but we must not set too much store by them. We may accept them with gratitude, but we must not make them our idols. When we have them we have great need to cry, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and make these inferior blessings real blessings”; and if we have them not, we should with greater vehemence cry, “Oh that we may be rich in faith, and if not blessed with these external favors, may we be blessed spiritually, and then we shall be blessed indeed.”

Wealth

Let us review some of these mercies, and just say a word or two about them. One of the first cravings of men’s hearts is wealth. So universal the desire to gain it that we might almost say it is a natural instinct. How many have thought if they once possessed it, they should be blessed indeed! But there are ten thousand proofs that happiness consists not in the abundance which a man possesses. So many instances are well-known to you all, that I need not quote any to show that riches are not a blessing indeed. They are rather apparently than really so.

Hence, it has been well said that when we see how much a man has we envy him; but could we see how little he enjoys we should pity him. Some that have had the most easy circumstances have had the most uneasy minds. Those who have acquired all they could wish, had their wishes been at all sane, have been led by the possession of what they had to be discontented because they had not more.

“Thus the base miser starves amidst his store,
Broods o’er his gold, and griping still at more,
Sits sadly pining, and believes he’s poor.”

Nothing is more clear, to anyone who chooses to observe it, than that riches are not the chief good at whose advent sorrow flies, and in whose presence joy perennial springs. Full often wealth deceives the owner. Dainties are spread on his table, but his appetite fails; minstrels wait his bidding, but his ears are deaf to all the strains of music; holidays he may have as many as he pleases, but for him recreation has lost all its charms. Or, he is young, fortune has come to him by inheritance, and he makes pleasure his pursuit, till sport becomes more irksome than work, and dissipation worse than drudgery.

Ye know how riches make themselves wings; like the bird that roosted on the tree, they fly away. In sickness and despondency these ample means that once seemed to whisper, “Soul, take your ease” (Luke 12:19), prove themselves to be poor comforters. In death they even tend to make the pang of separation more acute, because there is the more to leave, the more to lose.

We may well say, if we have wealth, “My God, put me not off with these husks; let me never make a god of the silver and the gold, the goods and the chattels, the estates and investments, which in Your Providence You have given me. I beseech You, ‘bless me indeed.’ As for these worldly possessions, they will be my bane unless I have Your grace with them.”

And if you have not wealth, and perhaps the most of you will never have it, you may well say, “My Father, You have denied me this outward and seeming good, now enrich me with Your love. Give me the gold of Your favor, ‘bless me indeed.’ Then, allot to others whatever You will; You shall divide my portion; my soul shall wait Your daily will. Do You bless me indeed, and I shall be content.”

Fame

Another transient blessing which our poor humanity fondly covets and eagerly pursues is fame. In this respect we would fain be more honorable than our brethren, and outstrip all our competitors. It seems natural to us all to wish to make a name and gain some note in the circle we move in, and we wish to make that circle wider if we can.

But here, as of riches, it is indisputable that the greatest fame does not bring with it any equal measure of gratification. Men, in seeking after notoriety or honor, have a degree of pleasure in the search, which they do not always possess when they have gained their object. Some of the most famous men have also been the most wretched of the human race.

If you have honor and fame, accept it; but let this prayer go up, “My God, bless You me indeed, for what profit were it, if my name were in a thousand mouths, if You should spew it out of Your mouth? What matter, though my name is written on marble, if it is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? These blessings are only apparently blessings, windy blessings, blessings that mock me. Give me Your blessing; then the honor which comes of You will make me blessed indeed.”

If you happen to have lived in obscurity, and have never entered the lists for honors among your fellow-men, be content to run well your own course and fulfill truly your own vocation. To lack fame is not the most grievous of ills; it is worse to have it like the snow, that whitens the ground in the morning, and disappears in the heat of the day. What matters it to a dead man that men are talking of him? Get you the blessing indeed.

Health

There is another temporal blessing which wise men desire, and legitimately may wish for rather than the other two: the blessing of health. Can we ever prize it sufficiently? To trifle with such a boon is the madness of folly. The highest praise that can be passed on health would not be extravagant. He that has a healthy body is infinitely more blessed than he who is sickly, whatever his estate may be.

Yet if I have health, my bones well set, and my muscles well strung; if I scarcely know an ache or pain, but can rise in the morning, and with elastic go forth to labor, and cast myself upon my couch at night, and sleep the sleep of the happy—yet, oh let me not glory in my strength! In a moment it may fail me. A few short weeks may reduce the strong man to a skeleton. Consumption may set in; the cheek may pale with the shadow of death. Let not the strong man glory in his strength. The Lord “delights not in the strength of the horse: He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man” (Psalms 147:10). And let us not make our boast concerning these things. Say, you that are in good health, “My God, bless me indeed. Give me the healthy soul. Heal me of my spiritual diseases. Jehovah Rophi [Rophi is the Hebrew name for God, meaning “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26).]  come, and purge out the leprosy that is in my heart by nature: make me healthy in the heavenly sense, that I may not be put aside among the unclean, but allowed to stand amongst the congregation of Your saints. Bless my bodily health to me that I may use it rightly, spending the strength I have in Your service and to Your glory; otherwise, though blessed with health, I may not be blessed indeed.”

Some of you, dear friends, do not possess the great treasure of health. Wearisome days and nights are appointed you. Your bones are become an almanac in which you note the changes of the weather. There is much about you that is fitted to excite pity. But I pray that you may have the blessing indeed, and I know what that is.

I can heartily sympathize with a sister that said to me the other day, “I had such nearness to God when I was sick, such full assurance, and such joy in the Lord. I regret to say I have lost it now. I could almost wish to be ill again, if thereby I might have a renewal of communion with God.” I have oftentimes looked gratefully back to my sick chamber. I am certain that I never did grow in grace one half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. It ought not to be so. Our joyous mercies ought to be great fertilizers to our spirit; but not infrequently our griefs are more salutary than our joys. The pruning knife is best for some of us.

Well, after all, whatever you have to suffer, of weakness, of debility, of pain and anguish, may it be so attended with the divine presence, that this light affliction may work out for you a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17), and so you may be blessed indeed.

Home

I will only dwell upon one more temporal mercy, which is very precious—I mean the blessing of home. I do not think anyone can ever prize it too highly, or speak too well of it. What a blessing it is to have the fireside, and the dear relationships that gather round the word “home”—wife, children, father, brother, sister! Why, there are no songs in any language that are more full of music than those dedicated to “Mother.” We hear a great deal about the German “Fatherland”—we like the sound. But the word “Father” is the whole of it. The “land” is nothing: the “Father” is key to the music.

There are many of us, I hope, blessed with a great many of these relationships. Do not let us be content to solace our souls with ties that must ere long be sundered. Let us ask that over and above them may come the blessing indeed. “I thank You, my God, for my earthly father; but oh, be You my Father, then am I blessed indeed. I thank You, my God, for a mother’s love; but comfort You my soul as one whom a mother comforts, then am I blessed indeed. I thank You, Savior, for the marriage bond; but be You the bridegroom of my soul. I thank You for the tie of brotherhood; but be You my brother born for adversity, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. The home You have given me I prize, and thank You for it; but I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and be a child that never wanders, wherever my feet may travel, from my Father’s house with its many mansions.

You can thus be blessed indeed. If not domiciled under the paternal care of the Almighty, even the blessing of home, with all its sweet familiar comforts, does not reach to the benediction which Jabez desired for himself.

But do I speak to any here that are separated from kith and kin? I know some of you have left behind you in the bivouac of life, graves where parts of your heart are buried, and that which remains is bleeding with just so many wounds. Ah, well! the Lord bless you indeed! Widow, Your Maker is Your Husband. Fatherless one, He hath said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Joh 14:18). Oh, to find all your relationships made up in Him, then you will be blessed indeed!

I have perhaps taken too long a time in mentioning these temporary blessings, so let me set the text in another light. I trust we have had human blessings and temporary blessings, to fill our hearts with gladness, but not to foul our hearts with worldliness, or to distract our attention from the things that belong to our everlasting welfare.

3    God’s Blessings vs. Imaginary Blessings

Let us proceed, thirdly, to speak of imaginary blessings. There are such in the world; from them may God deliver us. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

Imaginary Blessings to the Unsaved

Self-righteousness.

Take the Pharisee. He stood in the Lord’s house, and he thought he had the Lord’s blessing; it made him very bold, and he spoke with unctuous self-complacency, “God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are” (Luke 18:11), and so on. He had the blessing, and well indeed he supposed himself to have merited it. He had fasted twice in the week, paid tithes of all that he possessed—even to the odd farthing on the mint, and the extra half-penny on the cumin he had used. He felt he had done everything. His was the blessing of a quiet or a quiescent conscience; good, easy man. He was a pattern to the parish. It was a pity everybody did not live as he did; if they had, they would not have needed any police. Pilate might have dismissed his guards and Herod his soldiers. He was just one of the most excellent persons that ever breathed. He adored the city of which he was a burgess!

Ay, but he was not blessed indeed. This was all his own overweening conceit. He was a mere wind-bag, nothing more. And the blessing which he fancied had fallen upon him, had in fact never come. The poor publican whom he thought accursed, went to his home justified rather than he. The blessing had not fallen on the man who thought he had it.

Oh, let everyone of us here feel the sting of this rebuke, and pray, “Great God, save us from imputing to ourselves a righteousness that we do not possess. Save us from wrapping ourselves up in our own rags, and fancying we have put on the wedding garments. Bless me indeed. Let me have the true righteousness. Let me have the true worthiness that You canst accept, even that which is of faith in Jesus Christ.”

False assurance.

Another form of this imaginary blessing is found in persons who would scorn to be thought self-righteous. Their delusion, however, is near akin. I hear them singing,

“I do believe, I will believe
That Jesus died for me,
And on his cross he shed his blood,
From sin to set me free.”

You believe it, you say. Well, but how do you know?

Upon what authority do you make so sure? Who told you? “Oh, I believe it.” Yes, but we must mind what we believe. Have you any clear evidence of a special interest in the blood of Jesus? Can you give any spiritual reasons for believing that Christ has set you free from sin? I am afraid that some have got a hope that has not got any ground, like an anchor without any fluke—nothing to grasp, nothing to lay hold upon. They say they are saved, and they stick to it that they are, and think it wicked to doubt it; but yet they have no reason to warrant their confidence.

When the sons of Kohath prepared the ark, and touched it with their hands, they did rightly (Numbers 4:4-6, 15); but when Uzzah touched it he died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). There are those who are ready to be fully assured; there are others to whom it will be death to talk of it. There is a great difference between presumption and full assurance. Full assurance is reasonable; it is based on solid ground. Presumption takes for granted, and with brazen face pronounces that to be its own to which it has no right whatever.

Beware, I pray you, of presuming that you are saved.

If with your heart you do trust in Jesus, then are you saved; but if you merely say, “I trust in Jesus,” it does not save you. If your heart is renewed, if you shall hate the things that you once loved, and love the things that you did once hate; if you have really repented; if there be a thorough change of mind in you; if you be born again—then have you reason to rejoice. But, if there be no vital change, no inward godliness; if there be no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit—then your saying, “I am saved,” is but your own assertion. It may delude, but it will not deliver you.

Our prayer ought to be, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, with real faith, with real salvation, with the trust in Jesus that is the essential of faith; not with the conceit that begets credulity.”

God preserve us from imaginary blessings!

I have met with persons who said, “I believe I am saved, because I dreamed it.” Or, “Because I had a text of Scripture that applied to my own case. Such and such a good man said so and so in his sermon.” Or, “Because I took to weeping and was excited, and felt as I never felt before.” Ah! but nothing will stand the trial but this, “Do you reject all confidence in everything but the finished work of Jesus, and do you come to Christ to be reconciled in Him to God?” If you do not, your dreams, and visions, and fancies, are but dreams, and visions, and fancies, and will not serve your turn when you most need them. Pray the Lord to bless you indeed, for of that sterling verity in all your walk and talk there is a great scarcity.

Imaginary blessings to the saved

Too much, I am afraid, even those who are saved—saved for time and eternity—need this caution, and have good cause to pray this prayer, that they may learn to make a distinction between some things which they think to be spiritual blessings, and others which are true blessings indeed. Let me show you what I mean.

Answered Prayer

Is it certainly a blessing to get an answer to your prayer after your own mind? I always like to qualify my most earnest prayer with, “Not as I will, but as you wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Not only ought I to do it, but I would like to do it, because otherwise I might ask for something which it would be dangerous for me to receive. God might give it me in anger, and I might find little sweetness in the grant, but much soreness in the grief it caused me. You remember how Israel of old asked for flesh, and God gave them quails; but while the meat was yet in their mouths the wrath of God came upon them. Ask for the meat, if you like, but always put in this: “Lord, if this is not a real blessing, do not give it to me.” “Bless me indeed.”

I hardly like to repeat the old story of the good woman whose son was ill—a little child near death’s door—and she begged the minister, a Puritan, to pray for its life. He did pray very earnestly, but he put in, “If it be your will, save this child.” The woman said, “I cannot bear that: I must have you pray that the child shall live. Do not put in any ifs or buts.” “Woman,” said the minister, “it may be you will live to rue the day that ever you wished to set your will up against God’s will.” Twenty years afterwards, she was carried away in a fainting fit from under Tyburn gallows-tree, where that son was put to death as a felon. Although she had lived to see her child grow up to be a man, it would have been infinitely better for her had the child died, and infinitely wiser had she left it to God’s will. Do not be quite so sure that what you think an answer to prayer is any proof of divine love. It may leave much room for you to seek unto the Lord, saying, “Oh that you would blessed me indeed!”

Exhilaration of spirit

So sometimes great exhilaration of spirit, liveliness of heart, even though it be religious joy, may not always be a blessing. We delight in it, and oh, sometimes when we have had gatherings for prayer here, the fire has burned, and our souls have glowed! We felt at the time how we could sing,

“My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.”

So far as that was a blessing we are thankful for it; but I should not like to set such seasons up, as if my enjoyments were the main token of God’s favor; or as if they were the chief signs of His blessing.

Perhaps it would be a greater blessing to me to be broken in spirit, and laid low before the Lord at the present time. When you ask for the highest joy, and pray to be on the mountain with Christ, remember it may be as much a blessing, yea, a blessing indeed, to be brought into the Valley of Humiliation, to be laid very low, and constrained to cry out in anguish, “Lord, save, or I perish!” [Quoted from The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, when Christian descended into the valley to face Apollyon.]

“If today He deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardon’d sin,
He tomorrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within,
All to make us
Sick of self, and fond of Him.”

These variable experiences of ours may be blessings indeed to us, when, had we been always rejoicing, we might have been like Moab, settled on our lees, and not emptied from vessel to vessel. It fares ill with those who have no changes; they fear not God.

Calmness

Have we not, dear friends, sometimes envied those persons that are always calm and unruffled, and are never perturbed in mind? Well, there are Christians whose evenness of temper deserves to be emulated. And as for that calm repose, that unwavering assurance which comes from the Spirit of God, it is a very delightful attainment. But I am not sure that we ought to envy anybody’s lot because it is more tranquil, or less exposed to storm and tempest, than our own.

There is a danger of saying, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace (Jer 6:14), and there is a calmness that arises from callousness. Dupes there are who deceive their own souls. “They have no doubts,” they say, but it is because they have little heart searching. They have no anxieties, because they have not much enterprise or many pursuits to stir them up. Or it may be they have no pains, because they have no life. Better go to heaven, halt and maimed, than go marching on in confidence down to hell. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

My God, I will envy no one of his gifts or his graces, much less of his inward mood or his outward circumstances, if only You wilt “bless me indeed.” I would not be comforted unless You comfort me, nor have any peace but Christ my Peace, nor any rest but the rest that cometh from the sweet savor of the sacrifice of Christ. Christ shall be all in all, and none shall be anything to me save Himself.

Oh that we might always feel that we are not to judge as to the manner of the blessing, but must leave it with God to give us what we would have, not the imaginary blessing, the superficial and apparent blessing, but the blessing indeed!

Our work and service

Equally too with regard to our work and service, I think our prayer should always be, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” It is lamentable to see the work of some good men, though it is not ours to judge them, how very pretentious and how very unreal it is. It is really shocking to think how some men pretend to build up a church in the course of two or three evenings. They will report, in the corner of the newspapers, that there were forty-three persons convinced of sin, and forty-six justified, and sometimes thirty-eight sanctified; I do not know what besides of wonderful statistics they give as to all that is accomplished.

I have observed congregations that have been speedily gathered together, and great additions have been made to the church all of a sudden. And what has become of them? Where are those churches at the present moment? The dreariest deserts in Christendom are those places that were fertilized by the patent manures of certain “revivalists.” The whole church seemed to have spent its strength in one rush and effort after something, and it ended in nothing at all. They built their wooden house, and piled up the hay, and made a stubble spire that seemed to reach the heavens—and there fell one spark and all went away in smoke. And he that came to labor next time—the successor of the great builder—had to get the ashes swept away before he could do any good. The prayer of everyone that serves God should be, “Oh that you would bless me indeed.” Plod on, plod on. If I only build one piece of masonry in my life, and nothing more, if it be gold, silver, or precious stones, it is a good deal for a man to do. Of such precious stuff as that, to build even one little corner that will not show, is a worthy service. It will not be much talked of, but it will last. There is the point: it will last!

“Establish you the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish you it” (Psalms 90:17). If we are not builders in an established church, it is of little use to try at all. What God establishes will stand, but what men build without His establishment will certainly come to nothing. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Sunday-school teacher, be this your prayer. Tract distributor, local preacher, whatever you may be, dear brother or sister, whatever your form of service, do ask the Lord that you may not be one of those plaster builders using sham materials that only require a certain amount of frost and weather to make it crumble to pieces. Be it yours if you cannot build a cathedral, to build at least one part of the marvelous temple that God is piling for eternity, which will outlast the stars.

4    God’s True Spiritual Blessings

I have one thing more to mention before I bring this sermon to a close. The blessings of God’s grace are true blessings indeed, which in right earnest we ought to seek after. By these marks shall ye know them.

Blessings indeed, are such blessings as come from the pierced hand; blessings that come from Calvary’s bloody tree, streaming from the Savior’s wounded side: your pardon, your acceptance, your spiritual life, your oneness to Christ, and all that comes of it—these are blessings indeed.

Any blessing that comes as the result of the Spirit’s work in your soul is a blessing indeed; though it humble you, though it strip you, though it kill you, it is a blessing indeed. Though the harrow go over and over your soul, and the deep plough cut into your very heart; though you be maimed and wounded, and left for dead, yet if the Spirit of God do it, it is a blessing indeed. If He convinces you “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (Joh 16:8), even though you have not hitherto been brought to Christ, it is a blessing indeed. Anything that He does, accept it; do not be dubious of it, but pray that He may continue His blessed operations in your soul.

Whatsoever leads you to God is in like manner a blessing indeed. Riches may not do it. There may be a golden wall between you and God. Health will not do it; even the strength and marrow of your bones may keep you at a distance from your God. But anything that draws you nearer to Him is a blessing indeed. What though it be a cross that raises you, yet if it raise you to God it shall be a blessing indeed.

Anything that reaches into eternity, with a preparation for the world to come; anything that we can carry across the river, the holy joy that is to blossom in those fields beyond the swelling flood; the pure cloudless love of the brotherhood which is to be the atmosphere of truth for ever—is a blessing indeed. Anything of this kind that has the eternal broad arrow on it, the immutable mark, is a blessing indeed.

And anything which helps me to glorify God is a blessing indeed. If I be sick, and that helps me to praise Him, it is a blessing indeed. If I be poor, and I can serve Him better in poverty than in wealth, it is a blessing indeed. If I be in contempt, I will rejoice in that day and leap for joy, if it be for Christ’s sake—it is a blessing indeed. Yea, my faith shakes off the disguise, snatches the visor from the fair forehead of the blessing, and “counts it all joy” (James 1:2) to fall into divers trials for the sake of Jesus and the recompense of reward that He has promised. “Oh that we may be blessed indeed!”

Practical Application

Now, I send you away with these three words.

“Search”

…see whether the blessings are blessings indeed, and be not satisfied unless you know that they are of God, tokens of His grace, and earnests of His saving purpose.

“Weigh”

…that shall be the next word. Whatever you have, weigh it in the scale, and ascertain if it be a blessing indeed, conferring such grace upon you as causes you to abound in love, and to abound in every good word and work.

“Pray.”

So pray that this prayer may mingle with all your prayers, that whatsoever God grants, or whatever He withholds, you might be blessed indeed. Is it a joy-time with you? Oh that Christ may mellow your joy, and prevent the intoxication of earthly blessedness from leading you aside from close walking with Him! In the night of sorrow, pray that He will bless you indeed, lest the wormwood also intoxicate you and make you drunk, lest your afflictions should make you think hardly of Him. Pray for the blessing, which having, you are rich to all the intents of bliss, or which lacking, you are poor and destitute, though plenty fill your store. “If your presence goes not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 33:15).

But, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part 5. “How Afflictions Work for the Good of the Saint”

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

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First, and that more generally, afflictions shall work for the good of the saint.  ‘It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.’ –Lamentations 3: 27.

A gracious soul secretly concludes—as stars shine brightest in the night, so God will make my soul shine and glisten like gold, while I am in this furnace, and when I come out of the furnace of affliction—Job 23:10, ‘He knows the way that I take; and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold!’ ‘It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.’ Psalm 119:71.

Surely, as the tasting of honey did open Jonathan’s eyes, so this cross, this affliction, shall open my eyes. By this stroke I shall come to have a clearer sight of my sins and of myself, and a fuller sight of my God, Job 33:27, 28; 40:4, 5; 13:1-7.

Surely, this affliction shall proceed in the purging away of my dross, Isaiah 1:25.

Surely, as ploughing of the ground kills the weeds, and harrowing breaks hard clods; so these afflictions shall kill my sins, and soften my heart, Hosea 5:15, 6:1-3.

Surely, as the plaster draws out the infectious core; so the afflictions which are upon me shall draw out the core of pride, the core of self-love, the core of envy, the core of earthliness, the core of formality, the core of hypocrisy, Psalm 119:67, 71.

Surely, by these afflictions, the Lord will crucify my heart more and more to the world, and the world to my heart, Galatians 6:14; Psalm 131:1-3.

Surely, by these afflictions, the Lord will keep pride from my soul, Job 33:14-21.

Surely, these afflictions are but the Lord’s pruning-knives, by which he will bleed my sins, and prune my heart, and make it more fertile and fruitful; they are but the Lord’s portion, by which he will clear me, and rid me of those spiritual diseases and maladies, which are most deadly and dangerous to my soul!

Surely, this affliction is such a potion, as will carry away all soul-diseases, better than all other remedies, Zechariah 13:8, 9.

Surely these afflictions shall increase my spiritual experiences, Romans 5:3, 4.

Surely by these I shall be made more partaker of God’s holiness, Hebrews 12:10. As black soap makes white clothes, so does sharp afflictions make holy hearts.

Surely by these God will communicate more of himself unto me, Hosea 2:14.

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will draw out my heart more and more to seek him, Isaiah 36:16. Tatianus told the heathen Greeks, that when they were sick, then they would send for their gods to be with them, as Aganmemnon did at the siege of Troy, send for his ten counselors. Hosea 5:15, ‘In their afflictions they will seek me early,’ or as the Hebrew has it, ‘they will morning me;’ in times of affliction, Christians will industriously, speedily, early seek unto the Lord.

Surely by these trials and troubles, the Lord will fix my soul more than ever upon the great concernments of the eternal world, John 14:1-3; Romans 8:17, 18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Surely by these afflictions the Lord will work in me more tenderness and compassion towards those who are afflicted, Hebrews 10:34, 13:3. The Romans punished one that was seen looking out at his window with a crown of roses on his head, in a time of public calamity.

Surely these afflictions are but God’s love-tokens. Revelation 3:19, ‘As many as I love—I rebuke and chasten.’ Seneca persuaded his friend Polybius to bear his affliction quietly, because he was the emperor’s favorite, telling him, that it was not lawful for him to complain while Caesar was his friend. So says the holy Christian—’O my soul! be quiet, be still; all is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favor. I see honey upon the top of every twig, I see the rod is but a rosemary branch, I have sugar with my gall, and wine with my wormwood; therefore, be silent, O my soul!’ And this general conclusion, that all should be for good, had this blessed eject upon the church—Lamentations 3:28, ‘He sits alone, and keeps silence, because he has borne it upon him.’

Afflictions abase the carnal attractions of the world, which might entice us. Affliction abates the lustiness of the flesh within, which might else ensnare us! And it abates the spirit in its quarrel against the flesh and the world; by all which it proves a mighty advantage unto us.

FORGIVENESS OF SINS: The NEED of Forgiveness from Sin’s Essence (part 1)

Taken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

forgiveness

“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”  —Daniel 9:9

Such is the utterance of prophetic lips…

Daniel here speaks, wrestling with God, and valiantly refusing a repulse. The words sparkle as a bright gem in his diadem of prayer. Their testimony has this exceeding value—in brief space they reveal our God as glorious in mercies and forgivenesses, and show in terrible contrast the rebel character of man. Thus the blessing of blessings— the essence of the glorious Gospel of our God—the forgiveness of sins, appears in bold relief.

It is superfluous to state that this proclamation is not limited to supplicating Daniel—it pervades the book of Revelation as fragrance the sweetest garden. Echoing texts reverberate the note that our God is “ready to pardon.” Witness the answer when Moses prayed, “Show me Your glory.” The glories of His name resound; but the bright chain was incomplete without the link, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Ex. 34:7.)

Thus the ambassadors of Christ repeat the call, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts—and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7.) And again, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins—and by Him all who believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38, 39.)

Our sublime services, also, insert this truth in a most touching prayer—”O God, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive, receive our humble petitions.” And worshipers are taught individually to profess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

It is not irrelevant here to state that the noble Reformer of Germany was fast bound in the dungeons of doubts and fears, sinking in the mire of despondency, and stumbling in the deepest gloom of darkness, when an experienced friend reminded him of this frequent avowal. Then light and peace enlivened his soul, and he went forth rejoicing and achieving wonders. He found God in Christ and triumphed in the strength of recognized forgiveness.

To estimate forgiveness rightly, it must be distinctly seen. It will be poorly prized, unless its value be weighed in balances of truth. It will not be sought, as surpassing all worlds in worth, until there be adequate knowledge of the miseries which it averts, the wounds which it heals, the joys which it kindles, the wrath which it quenches, the rescue which it achieves, the depths from which it raises, the heights to which it exalts. When sickness comes, a remedy is valued—shelter is entered, when storms impend.

What then is forgiveness as appertaining unto sin? What is the blessing implored in the petition—”Forgive us our trespasses”? It is remission of due penalties, the obliteration of incurred guilt, the withdrawal of just displeasure, the blotting out of accusing handwriting, the burying all offences in oblivion, the hushing of the loud thunder of the law, the canceling of its tremendous curse, the consigning to a sheath the sword of justice. It is the frown of Jehovah softening into eternal smiles. It encounters sin, and strips it of its destroying power.

Hence evidently forgiveness implies that sin has preceded. It can only effect its wonders in the element of transgression—there must be sin before there can be remission. Where no offence exists, no pardon can be needed—they cannot be restored whose feet are always in right paths.

Thus we reach the fundamental position that sin gives occasion for forgiveness. Sin is the need which calls for its intervention. Let then this monster now be boldly faced; let its hideous features be narrowly scrutinized; let it be stripped of its deceiving mask; let the cheating tinsel disappear; let it be viewed in its naked deformity; let its essence and character, and work, and guilt be traced unsparingly.

I    SIN’S ESSENCE.

What constitutes its character? No unanswerable question is here asked as to the parent of its birth—here is no search into its originating cause. The simple inquiry is—Where is its sphere of work, and what is its distinctive nature? Supreme authority replies. Scripture states in terms intelligible and incontrovertible, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4.) Violation then of God’s holy rule introduces sin—it breathes in the province of transgression.

God, as supreme in all His universe, fixes His mode of government. Accordingly, He issues His commands—if these be outraged, the outrage is sin. Its essence is disobedience to God’s law.

This essence appears in frightful enormity, when the purpose of this law is viewed. The sum of its requirements is worthy of the great Lawgiver. In divine simplicity it only requires Love. Its statute book enforces Love. It demands that the heart should beat in one pulse; the affections flow in one channel; the will be bound by one fetter; the desires burn in one flame; the actions move in one path—Love. The whole inward man must be bright in one complexion—Love. Any deviation from this course constitutes sin. This sublimity brightly shows the origin of the law to be divine. As a mirror it reflects Jehovah’s excellence—it is the transcript of His glorious being; it is holiness on its highest throne; it is purity in its loveliest form; it is perfection without one alloy. How abominable then is that principle which hates and resists such code, and strives to crush it beneath insulting steps! How incontrovertible is the position that they need forgiveness who fight against God under the banners of this monster!

It follows that the need of forgiveness is universal, for sin exercises a sway coextensive with all human life. It grasps each mother’s son in its vile arms, and stops not its assaults while time endures. It moves with the mind’s first movement—in the cradle it begins to stir. It grows with man’s growth; it walks beside him in his every path; it adheres as the very skin, and lingers in each dying chamber. There is no lofty dwelling and no lowly hut which it frequents not. There is no period of day or night which can repel its step. It is a universal and life-long plague; for where is the man whose career is not continual deviation from the rule of love? Hence the need of forgiveness of sins is world-wide. Hence is the preciousness of the testimony, “To the Lord our God belong mercies;” in the plural, “and forgivenesses;” in the cumulative, “though we have rebelled against Him.”

II    SIN’S DEVELOPMENT

This need becomes more apparent, as advance is made from SIN’S essence to some of its developments. Here it appears a many-headed hydra, a fiend of various forms. Its outbreak towards God, towards the soul within, towards the world around, betray it.

(1) Let diverse instances show its conduct towards GOD. Its feelings may be thus classed.

Alienation. Whatever departs from God’s rule departs from Himself. Contrariety to His law separates from His mind. Disinclination to His will moves altogether in an adverse course. It flees His face—it establishes an opposing interest. Far as the east is from the west, so far it is estranged from all that is divine. Sin is such alienation. They who are its slaves need to be forgiven, before they can see God’s face and live. Hatred. “The carnal mind,”— and every mind is such in which the Spirit dwells not—”is enmity against God—for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7.) By nature’s instinct the secret chambers of imagination swarm with thoughts tainted with dislike of God, His name, His nature, His perfections, His cause, His people, His Word, His scepter, His kingdom, His Christ. Sin has strong inclinations, and they all are arrayed against His righteous ways. It has ungodly bias towards the abominable things which God hates. Surely the victims of this passion need to be forgiven, before they can be one with God.

Contempt. With haughty look it sneers at sacred precepts. It scorns them as weak precision. It spurns the restrictions of godly walk as derogatory to man’s liberty. In the swellings of pride it tramples on the barriers which heaven has erected. Except forgiveness comes, the consequence is appalling woe.

Defiance. It raises an insulting head. It braves God’s displeasure. It ridicules all penal consequences. It mocks at the thunder-bolts of threatened wrath. It regards the right hand of the Lord as impotent to strike. It boldly asks, “Who is the Lord that I should serve Him?” Unless forgiveness intervenes what will be the doom!

Rebellion. It shatters the yoke. It breaks restraining bands. It ignores submission. It boasts, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” If power were equal to the will, it would invade the heaven of heavens, and hurl God from His throne. If forgiveness lingers, how terrible must be the end!

Treason. It enters into conspiracy with all heaven’s foes. It joins hands with every adversary. It combines with all dark plots. It betrays the citadel of God’s government. It opens the portals to admit all traitors. Without forgiveness, vengeance will be sure and just.

Robbery. God, as Sovereign, has a right to exact obedience. Sin defrauds Him of this due. It refuses payment of just demands. It withholds the allegiance of rightful service. It wantonly misuses every talent entrusted to its care. If not forgiven, how can it escape!

Such, and many more, are the developments of sin in reference to God. Thus the position is established, that vast is the need of vast forgiveness. How enchanting, now, is the sweetness of the words, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him!”

(2)  The picture darkens when the developments of sin in reference to the SOUL are seen.

It changes this garden of the Lord into a waste howling wilderness. Fragrant flowers cease to bloom; thorns and briers usurp their place. It dims the noblest jewel of God’s creation. It tears away its robe of righteousness, and casts it forth to face the world naked, impoverished, impotent—without one sheltering rag— with no possession but ignominious shame. It weakens every spiritual faculty. It so blinds, that the eye sees as through a glass, most darkly. It so impairs the ear, that the voice of truth is not discerned. It cripples every energy. The feet are powerless to climb the upward path of life. It infuses moral leprosy. It renders earth a spiritual mausoleum holding dead men’s bones —men live the tabernacles of dead souls. Behold this fair vessel a wreck on evil’s rocky coast, and then ponder the work of sin! Will not the cry ascend—What need of forgiveness for such wrong! Will not the tidings be prized—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him!”

(3)  The case assumes more frightful hue when sin’s inroads on the WORLD around is added.

Doubtless sin is inborn. It is a hereditary disease—the seeds of every evil are innate in each heart. Unaided by contagion it would universally exist; but yet by contact, influence, example, it multiplies, and becomes more rampant. A spark from without kindles the dry stubble—bad men wax worse by bad fellowship. As Christ’s disciples never move towards heaven alone, so evil beckons and decoys a multitude. Sin is a ready teacher, and has ready pupils. Let it be repeated, that each natural heart is from the cradle a hive of sin; but through evil suggestions and evil associations, evil broods swarm abroad on quicker wing. Tempted Eve becomes a tempter. Of Achan we read, “that man perished not alone in his iniquity.” (Josh. 22:20.) Jeroboam the son of Nebat is branded, as the man “who made Israel to sin.” Hence reproaches will embitter the miseries of the lost. Children will loathe misleading parents; companion will revile companion, as the first to lure to headlong fall.

When sin is contemplated running its infectious course— sowing universally the seeds of woe—ruining individuals, nations, generations—spreading a fatal plague—it cannot be denied that its course is ruinous. Perilous is the condition of man infected by it. Forgiveness must come, or sure and dreadful consequences ensue.

Why is this dark picture thus exhibited? There is no intent to leave any trembling, dismayed, cast down, fast-bound in shackles of despair. The true desire is to show in lovelier form the Gospel’s smile—and to win readier acceptance for the tidings, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.”

Let it be repeated, that none can claim exemption from sin’s grasp! “All we like sheep have gone astray.” “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves.” Sin’s vile brand is upon all—but to all the Gospel comes, with cheering voice. It sweetly proclaims, the case is not hopeless—to perish is not inevitable—deliverance is provided—remedy is at hand—rescue opens large arms.

God extends a cup overflowing with forgivenesses. A way is opened, in which, without infringement of any holy attribute, He can pardon, restore to favor, and remit sin’s curse. Full, free, complete, everlasting forgivenesses have come forth from the courts of heaven. They stand ready to spread their saving mantle round the sons of men. Who will not bless God for His revealed and unalterable property—”But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” Let no one rest until he can say, “I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5.)