Duties of Husband and Wife

Taken and slightly modernized and adapted from,A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements”  A standard English Puritan treatment of the Ten Commandments. First published in 1603 and not reprinted since 1635.
Written by,  John Dod and Robert Cleaver, Puritans.

Now those duties in a family that are more equal are husband and wife, whose duties are either common to both, or more particular to either of them.

The common duties.

First, they must love one another with a pure heart, fervently. This duty both husband and wife must perform mutually one to another, which that they may the better strive for, let us consider of some excellent commodities that will proceed from this love. First, this benefit will certainly ensue: if there be fervent, and dear, and matrimonial love betwixt themselves, it will preserve and guard them from all unchaste actions and strange lusts, as appeareth, Prov. 5:19-20. Rejoice with the wife of thy youth, delight in her love continually. For why shouldest thou delight in a strange woman, or embrace the bosom of a stranger? As if he had said: if thou do not love thy wife, thou wilt look after harlots, or at least art in danger so to do, but if thou love thy wife truly, thou art strengthened against lusts and temptations to adultery.

And so it may be said of the wife concerning her husband. For it is not the having of a husband that makes a wife chaste, and keepeth her from filthiness, but the loving of her husband is it that will keep her. And likewise it is not the having of a wife that maketh a man honest and preserveth him from adultery, but it is the loving of his wife that will do it. For many married men and women live filthily and impurely; but if they did love one another, they were safe from this fault. This then is one benefit; it is a most sure defence of one’s chastity, to love each other.

Another benefit that constant love will bring is that they shall be very patient. Abundance of love brings abundance of patience, for love hopes all things, and suffers all things, and love is not provoked. But where there is little love, there is little bearing, and little hoping, and there they be quickly provoked. Upon every light and small defect or fault, they grow to brawls and chasing. And then, whoever was troubled with such a husband, or such a wife? Nay, they might rather say, who ever had such an unloving and unkind heart as I? For if there were that love that should be, and in that measure that it ought, they would bear with patience, and with meekness such infirmities, and would not be so quickly provoked to bitterness. As the mother that dearly loves her little child, though it cry all night, and break her sleep, and disquiet her very much; yet she will not throw it out of doors, nor lay it at the further end of the house, but she useth it kindly, and will do what she can to still it when it cries. And in the morning they will be as good friends as ever before, and she feedeth it and tendeth it never a whit the less for all the night’s trouble. One that were not acquainted with the love of a mother would wonder at it. Did it not disquiet her all night, and can she be so merry with it now? Yea, she can, for she loveth it, and hath forgotten all the night’s griefs in the morning. And so indeed, could the husband and wife love one another with a pure and Christian love, they would bear much, and endure much, and not suffer their affections to be diminished. For love is alway a breastplate against distemper, discord and bitterness.

A third profit that springs from love is that it edifies, and seeks not his own things: therefore if they love one another, they will in all things seek the good of one another. And then, if the husband see a fault in his wife, he will admonish her of it meekly and gently, and labor to bring her to amendment. And if she see any fault on his part, she will with all reverence and humility tell him of it. But on the contrary, where there is not love, they will regard their own ease more than the salvation of another. Then if the husband see his wife in any fault, he thinketh, Indeed it is a sin, but if I should tell her of it, she will be in a passion and chafe. And so the wife: I confess this sin is dangerous to my husband’s soul, but if I should speak of it, he is so froward, that he would be bitter and furious against me presently. But now here is a great want of love in either party. For, what though your wife will be in a passion? He that loveth his wife had rather she should be in a passion against him for a little time, than God be angry with her forever. And the wife that loveth her husband would more willingly suffer her husband’s displeasure for a while, for well doing, than that he should suffer God’s wrath, for ill doing. But for want of this Christian and sincere love, they suffer grievous sins to grow and break out one in another, which by wise and godly admonition might have been stayed and cured.

A fourth fruit of love is that it armeth us against jealousy and unjust suspicions. For all ill jealousy and causeless suspicion ariseth of one of these two grounds: either that one is or hath been wicked himself, and having been faulty and naught, he is ready to judge others by himself, and to measure all with his own measure, or else from a doting affection, that he maketh his wife a god, and would have her to do the like to him, and this is not true love. So when the wife doteth foolishly upon her husband, and maketh an idol of him, then is she quickly ready to be jealous, whereas true and sound love would work the contrary effect in her. So for matters of goods, he that trusteth in them will trust nobody with them, neither wife, neither servants, neither children, nor any, but is always suspicious, not because they would not deal faithfully, but because he maketh that his god, and therefore is immoderately afraid to lose it. But where there is a pure and a fervent love, that will cut off all needless misdeemings, and cause us to believe and hope all good of others. This is the first duty that is common to husband and wife.

The second followeth, and that is faithfulness, that both bend their wits and all their endeavors to the help each of other, and to the common good of the family. The husband must not follow his private pleasure and delight, nor the wife her own ease and pride. But though by nature they could be content to seek themselves, yet they must strive both to build up the house by diligence in their calling, and wise and frugal disposing of the blessings of God bestowed upon them, and also to be helpful to the whole family, because they stand in the place of Christ to those that are committed unto them, both for their souls and bodies. First then, the husband and wife must be faithful in their bodies one to another, else they break the covenant of God. For marriage is not a covenant of man, but a covenant of God, wherein the parties bind themselves to him, and they be in recognizance in heaven, to keep themselves pure and chaste one to another. Then for other matters there must be one purse, and one heart and hand, for the good of the family, and each of other. But now, if the wife be wasteful and idle, then she (like a foolish woman) pulleth down her house. And if the husband be an unthrift, and consume and spend that idly and vainly (to serve his lusts, or pride, or any other sin) that might help his wife and family to live plentifully and cheerfully, this lavishing is a great unfaithfulness, and hereby he bringeth many inconveniences upon himself and upon all that depend upon him. So much for general duties belonging both to husband and wife. The particular follow.

And first, the wife must fear her husband, as is commanded in Eph. 5:33. Let the wife see that she fear her husband. And I Pet. 3:2, the apostle requires a conversation with fear. So, if ever the wife will be comfortable, and profitable to her husband, and do any good in the family, she must have a care of her heart, and look that she carry an inward fear to her husband. For the husband is the wife’s head, even as Christ is the head of the church. And even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. As in the place above named out of Peter, he saith they must be attired with a meek and quiet spirit. She must not be passionate and froward to him or any of the family, specially in his sight, but she should have such a regard of his presence, as that she should govern her tongue and countenance so, that it may not be offensive or troublesome unto him. And for her speech, neither when they be kind and loving together, must she grow into such gross terms, nor if any jar or offence come, rush into tart and sour words, to ease herself upon her husband, whom she should fear. Thus must she imitate Sarah and good women, as Peter saith, and in so doing she shall prove herself to be a daughter of Sarah, a true Christian. But contrarily, if she behave herself rudely and unmannerly in her husband’s sight, to grieve him and offend him, she faileth in the first and main duty of a good wife, and so far shall surely come short of all the rest of the duties that God requireth of her. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.

The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection. Now in what things and after what manner this obedience is to be performed, the Holy Ghost doth declare. For in general, there is no woman almost so rude, but she will yield that she must obey her husband. But in the particular, and in the manner of it, there is the failing. Therefore the apostle (to put all out of doubt) hath set down both the matter and the manner, in Eph. 5:24. As the church is in subjection to Christ, so let the wife be to her husband in all things. For the things wherein she must obey, he saith in all things, meaning in all lawful things. For the commandment of the husband is as it were the stamp of God set upon the things commanded, and if she rebel against his commandment, she rebels against God. The wife then must persuade herself that her husband’s charge is God’s charge, and when he speaks, God speaks by him, and that which was a thing indifferent before the husband required it, is now become a bounden duty unto her, after the husband hath once enjoined it. And therefore she must resolve to obey him in all things.

Then for the manner, he saith, As the church obeyeth Christ. Now we know that the church obeyeth Christ willingly and cheerfully, with a free heart. And though the things that Christ commandeth be oftentimes contrary to our nature, and no whit at all delightful to the flesh, yet the true church will more set by his Word than by her own pleasure, and have a greater regard to please him than to serve the desires of the flesh.

Therefore the wife must obey her husband in all things cheerfully and willingly, without gainsaying. These be the duties of a worthy woman, of a daughter of Abraham, and a Christian wife, which so far as she is careful to perform, so far she may look that her husband should do the duty of a good husband unto her, and if he do not, yet God will reward her liberally. For such a woman is much set by of God, and that not with an inward love that nobody can see, but with such a working love as shall show itself by good effect in plentiful blessings on her soul and body, if she can frame (for conscience sake to God) to yield a willing and free obedience to her husband in lawful things, and that with a meek and lowly carriage of herself, proceeding from an holy fear and reverence of him, being to her in God’s stead.

Now follow the special duties of an husband, for he hath not all these privileges for nothing, and those consist in two major points, in governing her wisely (by cohabitation and edification) and in performing all due benevolence.

First, for cohabitation. The first duty of the husband is to dwell with his wife, that sith there is a near and dear society between them, and of all other the nearest (for she is to him as the church is to Christ, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone), therefore he must be willing constantly and kindly to converse with her, to walk with her, to talk with her, and let her have a comfortable familiarity with him, that she may see he delights in her company, and may well know that of all others she is his most loved and welcome companion. And so in the Law it was commanded that the first year wherein anyone is married, he must dwell at home, and rejoice with his wife for that whole year. Whatever affairs of the commonwealth, or wars were abroad, yet he was by God’s Law freed, so that none might command his service from home, but he must dwell with his wife, that she might have experience of his love, and have comfort by him, that by long continuance and society their hearts might be so nearly joined, as nothing might rend them asunder afterwards.

This reproveth those foolish men (indeed not worthy to carry the name of husbands) that can take more delight in any vain, riotous and unthrifty company, and take more pleasure in any lewd exercises, than in the society of the loving and kind wife, that are never so merry as when the wife is absent, and never dumpish and churlish but with her. Such also as dwell with hawks and hounds and drunkards and gamesters, not with their wives: these shall carry the brand and name of fools, so long as they have no more care to prevent so much ill, and to do so much good as (if they had any godly wisdom, or love to their wives) they might. For what do they but throw themselves into danger, and lay their wives open to Satan’s temptations? Yea, and give just occasion to them to think that they love them not. But they will say, We must have our delights and follow our sports. And why you more than the wife? Might not the wife say, I must have my delight also, and part of the recreation as well as part of the trouble is mine? Yet this would not be counted a good excuse for a woman to be ranging abroad all day long, and part of the night, upon no just occasion. But they look that she should accept their company, and be willing to be with them. And why should not they then be as willing to dwell with their wives according to God’s commandment? So that the husband must dwell with his wife, and never depart from her but upon a lawful and good calling and cause, and then also, so as that she may perceive that his heart is still with her, and that he carrieth but a part of himself when he goeth abroad, for still he leaveth his affection at home with his wife.

Secondly, he must dwell with her as a man of knowledge, and edify her, both by his good example, and also by good instructions. For his example: first, he must carry himself so wisely, and so holily, as that she may see in him a pattern and image of grace and wisdom. He must be a glass unto her, by looking into which she may learn to attire herself in all holy discretion and conversation.

Therefore he must neither be froward, testy, nor lumpish, for then he shall be hated; nor light, vain, and foolish, for then he shall be despised. He must not be base and stingy, for then his base heart will breed a base estimation of him. Neither must he be prodigal and unthrifty. For then he shall so pinch himself with want and necessity, as that he shall not be able to relieve and refresh his family, and so he much depriveth himself of his reverence. For want of this wise and holy carriage, it cometh to pass that many can speak much of the weakness of women, and make large discourses of the impotence of that sex, when indeed it is long of themselves. As if the head should lead the body among briars and thorns, and dash it against every wall, and then complain of the hurt and frailty of it. So many foolish men, when they should frame themselves in such sort as they might draw their wives to godliness and reverence by their example, they (by rude and absurd behavior) draw themselves into contempt, and put undutifulness upon their wives, as it were perforce, and then are ready to complain and exclaim of them, when they should rather cry out of their own folly and sin.

Next, the husband must edify his wife by instruction: for so, I Cor. 14:25, the apostle saith, If women will learn, they must ask their husbands at home. The husband then must be so well furnished with sound knowledge, as that he must be able to teach his wife, and sow the seed of godliness in her conscience. And one special and chief part of wisdom in the husband, by which he must learn to frame his instruction, is to observe those good things which he seeth in his wife, and to cherish them. For nothing is more forcible to encourage a woman in any good thing, than that she perceiveth that her husband doth mark and approve those good things which are in her, as well as the faults, to reprove them. And for want of this encouragement, that men are continually chiding, and never go about to nourish any good thing, it falls out that many women, which by good usage might be brought to godliness, grow to great distemper and passion. And as he must labor to increase the good things that are in her, so also he must seek to amend and cure those things that are faulty, wherein she doth amiss. And for ordinary infirmities, he must pass by them, only praying to God for her. But if her soul be sick of a disease that needeth physic, and must have medicine, a wise governor will choose his fittest time, and consider the nature and disposition of his wife: that if she be of a gentle spirit, he may use gentle means, which will then do most good, but if she be of a more hard nature, stronger means must be used, and she must be dealt withal after a more round manner. But always provided, that it never be done in passion, and before others, but with a quiet and merciful heart, that she may see that he seeketh her salvation, and not disgrace, nor to ease himself upon her, but to convert her soul unto God. But if the husband be violent in company to reprove, of bad he will make her worse, and more alienate her from him, because she seeth that she hath a foolish head, that is not a saviour, but a destroyer.

And for want of this diligent care in choosing time and place, and observing the nature of the party, it cometh to pass that rebukes, which in themselves are good and ought to be performed, do more hurt than good, because he observeth not where he doth it, but reproves her before company, to which he should not disclose his own and her shame, and them also most unseasonably and untimely. For when she is out of temper, and passion hath already overcome her, then he falleth to administer his physic, as it were upon a full stomach, whereas he should patiently have waited for a fit time, and not be so foolish, as when she is gone, and anger hath overcome her, then to look that she should upon a word’s warning, return and come again into her right mind, and upon the sudden reform all that is amiss. But what? Shall one let his wife go away so, and take her course? No, he must at that instant speak to God for her, when she is not fit to be spoken to. And after, when she is come again to herself, and all is quiet, then with a loving heart and good countenance (and yet with plain and evident proofs and reproofs out of God’s Word), he must show her fault, that godly sorrow may bring her to repentance and amendment. And by these measures he may govern well.

Another duty of the husband consists in giving her all honor and due benevolence, which stands in two things. First, in giving and allowing her all maintenance and meet helps, both for necessity, and also for honest and Christian recreation and delight, so far as his estate and hers require, and their abilities do afford. And he must do this willingly, liberally and freely, not tarrying till it be begged or gotten from him by importunate entreaty, as if one should wring it out of Nabal’s hand, like as if it were water out of a flint stone. For this giveth cause of great suspicion of want of love, for love is alway bountiful. And besides, it lesseneth the benefit by the one half, when it must be wrested (as it were by main strength) from him. Therefore he must consider, and before he be asked, provide what he seeth necessary for her, and what may be (after a Christian sort) delightful unto her, and prevent her with the gift. Even as a father that loves his child will not tarry till the child come and beg apparel, or meat, but he doth cast beforehand how to help him, and unrequested gives him things that be needful, much more then must he do thus to his wife, which is the one part of himself, and nearer, and should be also dearer unto him than any other.

A second work wherein this due benevolence must show itself is in giving her due employment; he must mark and observe the gifts of wisdom and government, or whatever else God hath graced her with, that he may set them on work and employ them. And hereby he shall show his love unto her, and the confidence he puts in her. For it is said of a good wife in the Proverbs, chap. 32, that the heart of her husband trusts in her. And this is a means also to keep her from discouragement and idleness: and besides, it will turn to the great good and profit of the family.

Which reproves the practice of many foolish husbands, that be busy-bodies, and will have all come through their own hands, and then indeed nothing goeth well through any hand, because of this disordered confusion. As if the pilot would both hold the stern, and hoist up the sail, and be upon the hatches, and labor at the pump, and do all himself, it must needs go ill with the ship. Even so in the family, when the husband taketh all upon himself, it is the next way to overthrow all. Therefore those gifts that God hath given the wife, the husband must see them put to the best use, and then she shall be a fellow helper to him, and bring a blessing upon the family by her labor.

And so much for the duties of the husband and wife, which I do not so speak of as though it were in the power or nature of any man or woman to perform them; nay, by nature we be all inclined to the contrary. The wife is naturally disobedient and stubborn, prone to condemn and despise her husband; and he is ready either to be out of her company without cause, or, being with her, to be light and foolish, or else sour and churlish, and to do her hurt by his example, and make her worse rather than better. And both of them naturally are destitute of all true and spiritual love one to another. But God showeth these duties in his Word, to the end that we, seeing our sins and our weakness, might bewail our wants before God, and beseech him that requires these things at our hands to work these graces in our hearts, and as he hath given us these good commandments, so to give us good hearts to keep the commandments. But if any be so blind and so unacquainted with the wickedness of his own heart, as that he dreams of some strength in himself to do these duties, it is certain he never performed any of them in truth, nor shall ever, till he do lament his wants with unfeigned grief before God, and desire him to make him obedient, as well as to give him a charge of obedience.

The Strange Case of Julian “The Apostate”

Taken and adapted from, ChristianCourier.com”
Written by, Wayne Jackson


According to some historians…

the influence of that Roman ruler, known as Julian “the Apostate” (A.D. 361-363), was a critical point in the history of the Christian movement. Let us pick up some background on this matter.

The new religion of Jesus Christ was scarcely out of its swaddling clothes when persecution hit it hard. First, as the book of Acts indicates, the Jews targeted the Christian movement as an object of determined persecution. Then, in the latter days of Nero’s administration (A.D. 54-68), the Lord’s disciples fell victim to the forces of the Roman Empire.

For the next two and one-half centuries, the church of Christ was bathed in its own blood. Vicious and repeated waves of severe persecution came upon the saints. But the church grew all the more. Tertullian, a second-century writer, would say that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the kingdom.”

Finally, however, some respite came. When Constantine assumed the imperial throne, he issued his famous Edict of Toleration (A.D. 313), which officially put an end to Christian persecution. It would be well to remember, though, that the “Christianity” of this period was already deep into a state of spiritual degeneration. Many corruptions of the primitive pattern were in full bloom.

In A.D. 337, Constantine died, and his kingdom fell to his three foolish and ambitious sons, who were twenty-one, twenty, and seventeen years old respectively. Each was over a portion of the empire. Immediately they set about eliminating possible rivals to the throne—and kinship mattered not at all. Uncles and cousins alike were murdered. In the process of this family purging, two young boys were spared because they were not considered potential threats. One of them, Gallus, was sickly; the other, Julian, was but five or six years old.

Both lads were dispatched to a remote region of Cappadocia where they were under house imprisonment, being subject to austere discipline and some education in the languages and sciences of the day.

As the years sped by, Gallus eventually became a ruler in the eastern portion of the empire, at which point he freed Julian from his confinement.

From this point it is necessary that we focus only upon Julian. He went to Constantinople where he studied under those who were addicted to heathen philosophy. Having been so abused by men who professed Christianity, he became a willing student of those who were antagonistic to the teaching of Jesus. This is a crucial point to remember: ungodly treatment at the hands of hypocritical religionists, combined with humanistic dogma, is a deadly mixture!

Fairly early in his life, therefore, Julian evolved an intense hatred for Christianity, though, for political reasons, he concealed his feelings for a decade, dutifully performing the functions of a “church” person.

Finally, however, through a series of military and political maneuvers, in A.D. 361 Julian himself was elevated to the Roman throne, barely over thirty at the time. That very year he declared himself the public enemy of Christianity. As an interesting sidelight, Julian was so intense about his devotion to paganism that he adopted a radical sort of “pietism.” He wanted to prove that heathenism could inspire a dedication as acute as the teaching of Christ had done among Christians. He abandoned luxury, slept on the ground, allowed himself to go unclean and disheveled, and permitted his body to become host to a variety of vermin. In one of his letters he boasted of his long nails, shaggy head, and dirty hands! He became a bizarre spectacle.

The Nefarious Plan

As imperial ruler, Julian had two primary goals: the complete abolition of the Christian religion, and the restoration of paganism (which had fallen on hard times in recent decades).

Unlike the persecutors of earlier times, Julian would not initiate a bloodbath. That procedure had not worked in checking the spread of Christianity. Rather, the ruler would feign a benevolent demeanor. He would claim that his philosophy mandated tolerance for all faiths. At the same time, in covert fashion he would attempt to demolish the system he hated so passionately.

It makes a fascinating study to consider the techniques employed by this shrewd and vicious monarch. He would, in subtle ways, attempt to undermine “the faith.”

Let us consider some of the methods Julian employed, and see what we might learn from this historical record, for, as has been often said, those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them.

Julian, as a military man, likely was familiar with the maxim, “divide and conquer.” Accordingly, he encouraged strife among those who professed allegiance to Christ. Certain antagonistic bishops, who had been in exile, he restored to their offices, and said “sic ’em,” in the hope they would devour one another. Oh, he was devious.

The Lord himself had prayed for the unity of believers on the ground that such harmony could be a tool for evangelism (cf. John 17:20-21). It does not take considerable acumen to conclude that division will produce the opposite result. Just think of the evil that has resulted from the advocacy of false doctrines that necessitated division (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:19). Reflect upon the ugly, self-centered attitudes that have afflicted the church. The Roman ruler knew of a point of vulnerability in the church of his day. And what of our own time?

The emperor issued a prohibition against Christian schools. One historian notes: “The Christian schools were broken up, and the children of Christians denied all education save in the school of the idolaters” (Abbott n.d., 335). Julian knew that the church’s future is with its youth. He thought, therefore, if he could deprive Christian families of educating their children, he could check the spread of this loathsome system among the more educated. Christianity thus would be relegated to the ignorant masses. Moreover, in a controlled environment, he could corrupt tender faith. His effort in this regard revealed that he was aware that the cultured mind, and the religion of Jesus, are not mutually exclusive. One can be a devotee of Christ and still be an intellectually respectable person.

There are powers today who view with alarm the fact that there is an increasing number of parents (who identify themselves as “Christians”—at least nominally) who are choosing to educate their own children, rather than surrender that responsibility to secular forces. Some politicians fear this trend, and do all within their power to ridicule it, or subdue it in other subtle ways. Too, one hardly needs to demonstrate how many of our Christian youth have had their faith destroyed by the educational system of this nation.

Julian knew that the Christian religion is propagated by teaching and example. Followers of the Lord are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13ff). Accordingly, he attempted to haveChristians removed from places of public position and influence. He wanted their voice muted. If the shedding of the saints’ blood would not halt the growth of this malignancy at least he could stifle their influence.

It is all too apparent that in today’s culture there are numerous voices and political forces who do not wish to see the influence of Christianity shaping laws or influencing the enforcement of high moral standards. They are oblivious to the fact that the very foundation of law is grounded in an ultimate moral standard—which only God himself has the authority to define.

Julian sought to silence preachers by withdrawing from them certain immunities that previously had been granted as a result of Constantine’s influence. He was astute enough to know that finances are a powerful factor in muffling some pulpits.

Certain governmental agencies, even today, are not without similar persuasive powers. As an example, many moral issues (e.g., abortion rights, homosexuality, etc.) have become so politicized, that preachers who boldly address such matters are accused of bringing the church into the political arena. Tactical pressures, such as veiled threats of the loss of tax-exempt status, etc., become increasingly commonplace. History seems to repeat itself.

While Julian was pragmatic enough not to launch a personal bloodbath against those who professed Christianity, he, by the subversion of law, encouraged violence against devotees of the faith. John Hurst noted that Julian did not “punish his heathen subjects for acts of violence committed against the Christians,” and yet he took great pains “to punish a Christian for the slightest offense” (1897, 421). And so, by manipulating the law and practicing injustice, his evil designs were implemented.

This method—in principle—has been employed across the centuries. Evil rulers maneuver the legal system for their own godless purposes. Justice is flung into the wind.

As the Jews plotted their heinous course that would end at Calvary, a coming judgment from God for this evil was inevitable. In several instructive formats—both literally and in parabolic symbolism—Christ foretold the impending destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 22:7ff; 24:1ff). In one of his exhortations, the Lord warned: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38; cf. 24:15). While the term “house” may have had a broader application than just the temple, it surely included that structure. Moreover, there is a note of finality in the Savior’s prediction.

Julian felt if he could encourage the Jews to rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, such would be a monument to the falsity of Christ as a prophet, and therefore contribute to the downfall of the Christian system. He thus issued an official document praising the Jews; he eased their tax burdens, and provided funds from the public treasury for the rebuilding of the temple. The young heathen even promised that, upon completion, he would officiate in the consecration of the sacred building.

The Jews seized the moment with unbounded zest. They engaged the work of rebuilding with fervor, under the conviction that this project would usher in the reign of the “true Messiah” (rather than that of this “Jesus” imposter).

But the project was a resounding failure, as is admitted uniformly by historians, both ancient and modern. Strange fires kept breaking out, and ferocious storms hindered the enterprise. Workers became discouraged and eventually abandoned the effort, without having completed even the foundation. Some, like the infidel historian Gibbon, regarded these destructive events as purely natural disasters. Others saw them as supernatural judgments (even though the age of miracles was past). Many, however, with a more reasonable approach, viewed the events as providentially orchestrated impediments (Schaff 1981, 56-57).

Finally, since Julian fancied himself an intellectual, having steeped himself in the philosophy of the pagans, shortly before his final military engagements, he launched a literary attack against the doctrine of Christ. He produced a work (of three volumes) titled Adversus Christianos, which was an assault upon Christianity. This composition was but a rehash of the earlier skeptical polemics (e.g., those of Porphyry, Celsus, and Lucius), infused with Julian’s better knowledge of the Scriptures, and his more fanatical disposition. But there are several factors about this production that are of interest to the student of Christian history.

First, no copies of Julian’s anti-Christian tirade survive. It is known only through the writings of those Christian apologists who responded to his arguments, notably Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Julianum, written some sixty years following Julian’s death. Is it not remarkable that whereas more than five thousand copies (in part or whole) of the ancient New Testament Scriptures have survived, almost nothing of the antique skeptical works is extant?

Second, Julian’s attack, in an undesigned manner, has provided valuable early evidence for the authenticity of the Christian system. In the mid-eighteenth century A.D., a brilliant English scholar named Nathaniel Lardner produced a remarkable set of volumes titled The Credibility of the Gospel History. Lardner demonstrated that Julian, while attempting to oppose Christianity, had, in reality, provided supporting evidence for the system. For example, the ruler concedes the historicity of Christ, though he said Jesus did nothing remarkable—unless you count the fact that he “heal[ed] the cripples and blind” and “exorcis[ed] those possessed of demons.” He mentions that Jesus calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee and walked upon its waters, though he attempts to explain these extraordinary events naturally. He alludes to the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to the book of Acts, as well as some of Paul’s writings, conceding their early dates. Lardner thus concluded:

He aimed to overthrow the Christian religion, but has confirmed it: his arguments against it are perfectly harmless, and insufficient to unsettle the weakest Christian (McClintock 1969, 1090).

In A.D. 363, Julian finally died in a battle against the Persians. He was but thirty-two years of age, having reigned only twenty months. He represents but another “glitch” on the panoramic screen of history in the futile efforts to discredit Christianity.

  • Abbott, John S.C. n.d. The History of Christianity. Cleveland, OH: American Publishing Co.
  • Hurst, John F. 1897. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Eaton & Mains.
  • McClintock, John and Strong, James. 1969. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Schaff, Philip. 1981. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


THE LAW OF INDWELLING SIN. Part 3; Its Pleasantness and Madness to the Heart

Taken and adapted from, “REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN”
Written by John Owen, 1616 – 1683


“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,” etc. –Matthew 15:19

This is the madness, or the root of all that madness which appears in their lives…

There are many outward temptations and provocations that befall men, which excite and stir them up unto these evils; but they do but as it were open the vessel, and let out what is laid up and stored in it. The root, rise, and stirring of all these things is in the heart. Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before. Hence is that summary description to the whole work and effect of this law of sin, Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually;” so also chap. 8:21. The whole work of the law of sin, from its first rise, its first coining of actual sin, is here described. And its seat, its work-house, is said to be the heart; and so it is called by our Savior “The evil treasure of the heart:” Luke 6:45, “An evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil things.” This treasure is the prevailing principle of moral actions that is in men. So, in the beginning of the verse, our Savior calls grace “The good treasure of the heart” of a good man, whence that which is good doth proceed. It is a principle constantly and abundantly inciting and stirring up unto, and consequently bringing forth, actions conformable and like unto it, of the same kind and nature with itself. And it is also called a treasure for its abundance. It will never be exhausted; it is not wasted by men’s spending on it; yea, the more lavish men are of this stock, the more they draw out of this treasure, the more it grows and abounds!

As men do not spend their grace, but increase it, by its exercise, so do they their indwelling sin. The more men exercise their grace in duties of obedience, the more it is strengthened and increased; and the more men exert and put forth the fruits of their lust, the more is that enraged and increased in them; — it feeds upon itself, swallows up its own poison, and grows thereby.

The more men sin, the more are they inclined unto sin. It is from the deceitfulness of this law of sin, whereof we shall speak afterward at large, that men persuade themselves that by this or that particular sin they shall so satisfy their lusts as that they shall need to sin no more. Every sin increases the principle, and fortifies the habit of sinning. It is an evil treasure, that increases by doing evil. And where doth this treasure lie? It is in the heart; there it is laid up, there it is kept in safety. All the men in the world, all the angels in heaven, cannot dispossess a man of this treasure, it is so safely stored in the heart.

The heart in the Scripture is variously used; sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing good or evil. The mind, as it inquires, discerns, and judges what is to be done, what refused; the will, as it chooses or refuses and avoids; the affections, as they like or dislike, cleave to or have an aversion from, that which is proposed to them; the conscience, as it warns and determines, — are all together called the heart. And in this sense it is that we say the seat and subject of this law of sin is the heart of man. Only, we may add that the Scripture, speaking of the heart as the principle of men’s good or evil actions, doth usually insinuate together with it two things belonging unto the manner of their performance: —

1   A suitableness and pleasantness unto the soul in the things that are done. When men take delight and are pleased in and with what they do, they are said to do it heartily, with their whole hearts. Thus, when God himself blesses his people in love and delight, he says the doth it “with his whole heart, and with his whole soul,” Jeremiah 32:41.

2   Resolution and constancy in such actions. And this also is denoted in the metaphorical expression before used of a treasure, from whence men do constantly take out the things which either they stand in need of or do intend to use.

This is the subject, the seat, the dwelling-place of this law of sin, — the heart; as it is the entire principle of moral operations, of doing good or evil, as out of it proceed good or evil. Here dwells our enemy; this is the fort, the citadel of this tyrant, where it maintains a rebellion against God all our days. Sometimes it hath more strength, and consequently more success; sometimes less of the one and of the other; but it is always in rebellion whilst we live. That we may in our passage take a little view of the strength and power of sin from this seat and subject of it, we may consider one or two properties of the heart that exceedingly contribute thereunto. It is like an enemy in war, whose strength and power lie not only in his numbers and force of men or arms, but also in the unconquerable forts that he possesses. And such is the heart to this enemy of God and our souls; as will appear from the properties of it, whereof one or two shall be mentioned.

1   It is unsearchable: Jeremiah 17:9, 10, “Who can know the heart? I the LORD search it.” The heart of man is pervious to God only; hence he takes the honor of searching the heart to be as peculiar to himself, and as fully declaring him to be God, as any other glorious attribute of his nature. We know not the hearts of one another; we know not our own hearts as we ought. Many there are that know not their hearts as to their general bent and disposition, whether it be good or bad, sincere and sound, or corrupt and nothing; but no one knows all the secret intrigues, the windings and turnings, the acting and aversions of his own heart. Hath any one the perfect measure of his own light and darkness? Can any one know what acting of choosing or aversion his will bring forth, upon the proposal of that endless variety of objects that it is to be exercised with? Can any one traverse the various mutability of his afflictions? Do the secret springs of acting and refusing in the soul lie before the eyes of any man? Doth any one know what will be the motions of the mind or will in such and such conjunctions of things, such a suiting of objects, such a pretension of reasonings, such an appearance of things desirable? All in heaven and earth, but the infinite, all-seeing God, are utterly ignorant of these things. In this unsearchable heart dwells the law of sin; and much of its security, and consequently of its strength, lies in this, that it is past our finding out. We fight with an enemy whose secret strength we cannot discover, whom we cannot follow into its retirements. Hence, oftentimes, when we are ready to think sin quite ruined, after a while we find it was but out of sight. It hath coverts and retreats in an unsearchable heart, whither we cannot pursue it. The soul may persuade itself all is well, when sin may be safe in the hidden darkness of the mind, which it is impossible that he should look into; for whatever makes manifest is light. It may suppose the will of sinning is utterly taken away, when yet there is an unsearchable reserve for a more suitable object, a more vigorous temptation, than at present it is tried withal. Hath a man had a contest with any lust, and a blessed victory over it by the Holy Ghost as to that present trial? — when he thinks it is utterly expelled, he ere long finds that it was but retired out of sight. It can lie so close in the mind’s darkness, in the will’s indisposition, in the disorder and carnality of the affections, that no eye can discover it. The best of our wisdom is but to watch its first appearances, to catch its first under-earth heavings and workings, and to set ourselves in opposition to them; for to follow it into the secret corners of the heart, that we cannot do. It is true, there is yet a relief in this case, — namely, that he to whom the work of destroying the law of sin and body of death in us is principally committed, namely, the Holy Ghost, comes with his axe to the very root; neither is there any thing in an unsearchable heart that is not “naked and open unto him,” Hebrews 4:13; but we in a way of duty may hence see what an enemy we have to deal withal.

2   As it is unsearchable, so it is deceitful, as in the place above mentioned: “It is deceitful above all things,” — incomparably so. There is great deceit in the dealings of men in the world; great deceit in their counsels and contrivances in reference to their affairs, private and public; great deceit in their words and acting: the world is full of deceit and fraud. But all this is nothing to the deceit that is in man’s heart towards himself; for that is the meaning of the expression in this place, and not towards others. Now, incomparable deceitfulness, added to unsearchableness, gives a great addition and increase of strength to the law of sin, upon the account of its seat and subject. I speak not yet of the deceitfulness of sin itself, but the deceitfulness of the heart where it is seated. Proverbs 26:25, “There are seven abominations in the heart;” that is, not only many, but an absolute complete number, as seven denotes. And they are such abominations as consist in deceitfulness; so the caution foregoing insinuates, “Trust him not:” for it is only deceit that should make us not to trust in that degree and measure which the object is capable of.

Now, this deceitfulness of the heart, whereby it is exceedingly advantaged in its harboring of sin, lies chiefly in these two things: —

(1.) That it abounds in contradictions, so that it is not to be found and dealt withal according to any constant rule and way of procedure. There are some men that have much of this, from their natural constitution, or from other causes, in their conversation. They seem to be made up of contradictions; sometimes to be very wise in their affairs, sometimes very foolish; very open, and very reserved; very facile, and very obstinate; very easy to be entreated, and very revengeful, — all in a remarkable height. This is generally accounted a bad character, and is seldom found but when it proceeds from some notable predominant lust. But, in general, in respect of moral good or evil, duty or sin, it is so with the heart of every man, — flaming hot, and key cold; weak, and yet stubborn; obstinate, and facile. The frame of the heart is ready to contradict itself every moment. Now you would think you had it all for such a frame, such a way; anon it is quite otherwise: so that none know what to expect from it. The rise of this is the disorder that is brought upon all its faculties by sin. God created them all in a perfect harmony and union. The mind and reason were in perfect subjection and subordination to God and his will; the will answered, in its choice of good, the discovery made of it by the mind; the affections constantly and evenly followed the understanding and will. The mind’s subjection to God was the spring of the orderly and harmonious motion of the soul and all the wheels in it. That being disturbed by sin, the rest of the faculties move cross and contrary one to another. The will chooses not the good which the mind discovers; the affections delight not in that which the will chooses; but all jar and interfere, cross and rebel against each other. This we have got by our falling from God. Hence sometimes the will leads, the judgment follows. Yea, commonly the affections, that should attend upon all, get the sovereignty, and draw the whole soul captive after them. And hence it is, as I said, that the heart is made up of so many contradictions in its acting. Sometimes the mind retains its sovereignty, and the affections are in subjection, and the will ready for its duty. This puts a good face upon things. Immediately the rebellion of the affections or the obstinacy of the will takes place and prevails, and the whole scene is changed. This, I say, makes the heart deceitful above all things: it agrees not at all in itself, is not constant to itself, hath no order that it is constant unto, is under no certain conduct that is stable; but, if I may so say, hath a rotation in itself, where often the feet lead and guide the whole.

(2.) Its deceit lies in full promise upon the first appearance of things; and this also proceeds from the same principle with the former. Sometimes the affections are touched and wrought upon; the whole heart appears in a fair frame; all promises to be well. Within a while the whole frame is changed; the mind was not at all affected or turned; the affections a little acted their parts and are gone off, and all the fair promises of the heart are departed with them. Now, add this deceitfulness to the unsearchableness before mentioned, and we shall find that at least the difficulty of dealing effectually with sin in its seat and throne will be exceedingly increased. A deceiving and a deceived heart, who can deal with it? — especially considering that the heart employs all its deceits unto the service of sin, contributes them all to its furtherance. All the disorder that is in the heart, all its false promises and fair appearances, promote the interest and advantages of sin. Hence God cautions the people to look to it, lest their own hearts should entice and deceive them.

Who can mention the treacheries and deceits that lie in the heart of man? It is not for nothing that the Holy Ghost so expresses it, “It is deceitful above all things,” — uncertain in what it doth, and false in what it promises. And hence moreover it is, amongst other causes, that, in the pursuit of our war against sin, we have not only the old work to go over and over, but new work still while we live in this world, still new stratagems and wiles to deal withal; as the manner will be where unsearchableness and deceitfulness are to be contended with.

First, Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against this enemy. David was so; his great giving into sin was after a long profession, manifold experiences of God, and watchful keeping himself from his iniquity. And hence, it comes to pass that the profession of many hath decline in their old age or riper time; which must more distinctly be spoken to afterward. They have given over the work of mortifying of sin before their work was at an end. There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit. And that command of the apostle which we have, Colossians 3:5, on this account is as necessary for them to observe who are towards the end of their race, as those that are but at the beginning of it: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;” be always doing it whilst you live in this world. It is true, great ground is obtained when the work is vigorously and constantly carried on; sin is much weakened, so that the soul presses forwards towards perfection: but yet the work must be endless; I mean, whilst we are in this world. If we give over, we shall quickly see this enemy exerting itself with new strength and vigor. It may be under some great affliction, it may be in some eminent enjoyment of God, in the sense of the sweetness of blessed communion with Christ, we have been ready to say that there was an end of sin, that it was dead and gone forever; but have we not found the contrary by experience? hath it not manifested that it was only retired into some unsearchable recesses of the heart, as to its in-being and nature, though, it may be, greatly weakened in its power? Let us, then, reckon on it, that there is no way to have our work done but by always doing of it; and he who dies fighting in this warfare dies assuredly a conqueror.

Second, Does not the heart have its residence in that which is diverse, inconstant, deceitful above all things? This calls for perpetual watchfulness against it. An open enemy, that deals by violence only, always gives some respite. You know where to have him and what he is doing, so as that sometimes you may sleep quietly without fear. But against adversaries that deal by deceit and treachery (which are long swords, and reach at the greatest distance) nothing will give security but perpetual watchfulness. It is impossible we should in this case be too jealous, doubtful, suspicious, or watchful. The heart hath a thousand wiles and deceits; and if we are in the least off from our watch, we may, be sure to be surprised. Hence are those reiterated commands and cautions given for watching, for being circumspect, diligent, careful, and the like. There is no living for them who have to deal with an enemy deceitful above all things, unless they persist in such a frame. All cautions that are given in this case are necessary, especially that, “Remember not to believe.” Doth the heart promise fair? — rest not on it, but say to the Lord Christ, “Lord, do thou undertake for me.” Doth the sun shine fair in the morning? — reckon not therefore on a fair day; the clouds may arise and fall. Though the morning give a fair appearance of serenity and peace, turbulent affections may arise, and cloud the soul with sin and darkness.

Third, Commit the whole matter with all care and diligence unto Him who can search the heart to the uttermost, and knows how to prevent all its treacheries and deceits. In the thoughts before mentioned lies our duty, but here lies our safety.

There is no treacherous corner in our hearts but he can search it to the uttermost; there is no deceit in them but he can disappoint it. This course David takes, Psalm 139. After he had set forth the omnipresence of God and his omniscience, verses 1-10, he makes improvement of it: verse 23, “Search me, O God, and try me.” As if he had said, “It is but a little that I know of my deceitful heart, only I would be sincere; I would not have reserves for sin retained therein. Wherefore, do thou, who art present with my heart, who knowest my thoughts long before, undertake this work, perform it thoroughly, for thou alone art able so to do.”

THE LAW OF INDWELLING SIN. Part Two; Dominance and Capacity

Taken and adapted from, “REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN”
Written by John Owen, 1616 – 1683


There are in general two things attending every law, as such…

First, Dominion. Romans 7:1, “The law has dominion over a man whilst he lives:” κυριεύει τοῦ ἀνθρώπου — “It lords it over a man.” Where any law takes place, κυριεύει, it has dominion. It is properly the act of a superior, and it belongs to its nature to exact obedience by way of dominion. Now, there is a twofold dominion, as there is a twofold law. There is a moral authoritative dominion over a man, and there is a real effective dominion in a man. The first is an affection of the law of God, the latter of the law of sin. The law of sin has not in itself a moral dominion, — it has not a rightful dominion or authority over any man; but it has that which is equivalent unto it; whence it is said Μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω ἁμαρτία ἐν, “to reign as a king,” is brought out –Romans 6:12, and  ἁμαρτία γὰρ ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσε “to lord it,” or have dominion, is seen verse 14, as a law in general is said to have, chapter 7:1. But because it has lost its complete dominion in reference unto believers, of whom alone we speak, I shall not insist upon it in this utmost extent of its power. But even in them it is a law still; though not a law unto them, yet, as was said, it is a law in them. And though it has not a complete, and, as it were, a rightful dominion over them, yet it will have a domination as to some things in them. It is still a law, and that in them; so that all its actings are the actings of a law, — that is, it acts with power, though it has lost its complete power of ruling in them. Though it be weakened, yet its nature is not thawed. It is a law still, and therefore powerful. And as its particular workings, which we shall afterward consider, are the ground of this appellation, so the term itself teaches us in general what we are to expect from it, and what endeavors it will use for dominion, to which it has been accustomed.

Secondly, A law, as a law, has the capacity to provoke those that are adamantly against it into the things that it requires. A law has rewards and punishments accompanying of it. These secretly prevail on them to whom they are proposed, though the things commanded be not much desirable. And generally all laws have their efficacy on the minds of men, from the rewards and punishments that are annexed unto them. Nor is this law without this spring of power: it has its rewards and punishments. The pleasures of sin are the rewards of sin; a reward that most men lose their souls to obtain. By this the law of sin contended in Moses against the law of grace. Hebrews 11:25, 26, “He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; for he looked unto the recompense of reward.” The contest was in his mind between the law of sin and the law of grace. The motive on the part of the law of sin, wherewith it sought to draw him over, and wherewith it prevails on the most, was the reward that it proposed unto him, — namely, that he should have the present enjoyment of the pleasures of sin. By this it contended against the reward annexed unto the law of grace, called “the recompense of reward.”

By this sorry reward does this law keep the world in obedience to its commands; and experience shows us of what power it is to influence the minds of men. It has also punishments that it threatens men with who labor to cast off its yoke. Whatever evil, trouble, or danger in the world, attends gospel obedience, — whatever hardship or violence is to be offered to the sensual part of our natures in a strict course of mortification, — sin makes use of, as if they were punishments attending the neglect of its commands. By these it prevails on the “fearful,” who shall have no share in life eternal, Revelation 21:8. And it is hard to say by whether of these, its pretended rewards or pretended punishments, it does most prevail, in whether of them its greatest strength does lie. By its rewards it entices men to sins of commission, as they are called, in ways and actions tending to the satisfaction of its lusts. By its punishments it induces men to the omitting of duties; a course tending to no less a pernicious event than the former. By which of these the law of sin has its greatest success in and upon the souls of men is not evident; and that because they are seldom or never separated, but equally take place on the same persons. But this is certain, that by tenders and promises of the pleasures of sin on the one hand, by threats of the deprivation of all sensual contentments and the infliction of temporal evils on the other, it has an exceeding efficacy on the minds of men, oftentimes on believers themselves. Unless a man be prepared to reject the reasonings that will offer themselves from the one and the other of these, there is no standing before the power of the law. The world falls before them every day. With what deceit and violence, they are urged and imposed on the minds of men we shall afterward declare; as also what advantages they have to prevail upon them. Look on the generality of men, and you shall find them wholly by these means at sin’s disposal. Do the profits and pleasures of sin lie before them? — nothing can withhold them from reaching after them. Do difficulties and inconveniences attend the duties of the gospel? — they will have nothing to do with them; and so are wholly given up to the rule and dominion of this law. And this light in general we have into the power and efficacy of indwelling sin from the general nature of a law, whereof it is partaker.

We may consider, next, what kind of law in particular it is; which will extend our evidence regarding the capacity of its power and how it works, for it is not an outward, written, commanding, directing law, but an inbred, working, impelling, urging law. A law proposed unto us is not to be compared, for efficacy, to a law inbred in us. Adam had a law of sin proposed to him in his temptation; but because he had no law of sin inbred and working in him, he might have withstood it. An inbred law must needs be effectual. Let us take an example from that law which is contrary to this law of sin. The law of God was at first inbred and natural unto man; it was consecrated with his faculties, and was their rectitude, both in being and operation, in reference to his end of living unto God and glorifying of him. Hence it had an especial power in the whole soul to enable it unto all obedience, yea, and to make all obedience easy and pleasant. Such is the power of an inbred law. And though this law, as to the rule and dominion of it, be now by nature cast out of the soul, yet the remaining sparks of it, because they are inbred, are very powerful and effectual; as the apostle declares, Romans 2:14, 15. Afterward God renews this law, and writes it in tables of stone. But what is the efficacy of this law? Will it now, as it is external and proposed unto men, enable them to perform the things that it exacts and requires? Not at all. God knew it would not, unless it were turned to an internal law again; that is, until, of a moral outward rule, it be turned into an inward real principle. Wherefore God makes his law internal again, and implants it on the heart as it was at first, when he intends to give it power to produce obedience in his people: Jeremiah 31:31-33, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” This is that which God fixes on, as it were, upon a discovery of the insufficiency of an outward law leading men unto obedience. “The written law,” saith he, “will not do it; mercies and deliverances from distress will not affect it; trials and afflictions will not accomplish it.” “Then,” saith the Lord, “will I take another course: I will turn the written law into an internal living principle in their hearts; and that will have such an efficacy as shall assuredly make them my people, and keep them so.” Now, such is this law of sin. It is an indwelling law: Romans 7:17, “It is sin that dwells in me;” verse 20, “Sin that dwells in me;” verse 21, “It is present with me;” verse 23, “It is in my members;” — yea, it is so far in a man, as in some sense it is said to be the man himself; verse 18, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” The flesh, which is the seat and throne of this law, yea, which indeed is this law, is in some sense the man himself, as grace also is the new man. Now, from this consideration of it, that it is an indwelling law inclining and moving to sin, as an inward habit or principle, it has sundry advantages increasing its strength and furthering its power; as,

  1. The indwelling law of sin always abides in the soul; –it is never absent. The apostle twice uses that expression, “It dwells in me.” There is its constant residence and habitation. If it came upon the soul only at certain seasons, much obedience might be perfectly accomplished in its absence; yea, and as they deal with usurping tyrants, whom they intend to thrust out of a city, the gates might be sometimes shut against it, that it might not return, — the soul might fortify itself against it. But the soul is its home; there it dwells, and is no wanderer. Wherever you are, whatever you are about, this law of sin is always in you; in the best that You do, and in the worst. Men little consider what a dangerous companion is always at home with them. When they are in company, when alone, by night or by day, all is one, sin is with them. There is a living coal continually in their houses; which, if it be not looked unto, will fire them, and it may be consume them. Oh, the woeful security of poor souls! How little do the most of men think of this inbred enemy that is never from home! How little, for the most part, does the watchfulness of any professors answer the danger of their state and condition!
  2. It is always ready to apply itself to every end and purpose that will serve it. “It does not only dwell in me,” saith the apostle, “but when I would do good, it is present with me.” There is somewhat more in that expression than mere indwelling. An inmate may dwell in a house, and yet not be always meddling with what the good-man of the house has to do (that so we may keep to the allusion of indwelling, used by the apostle): but it is so with this law, it does so dwell in us, as that it will be present with us in everything we do; yea, oftentimes when with most earnestness we desire to be quit of it, with most violence it will put itself upon us: “When I would do good, it is present with me.” Would you pray, would you hear, would you give alms, would you meditate, would you be in any duty acting faith on God and love towards him, would you work righteousness, would you resist temptations, — this troublesome, perplexing indweller will still more or less put itself upon you and be present with you; so that you cannot perfectly and completely accomplish the thing that is good, as our apostle speaks, verse 18. Sometimes men, by hearkening to their temptations, do stir up, excite, and provoke their lusts; and no wonder if then they find them present and active. But it will be so when with all our endeavors we labor to be free from them. This law of sin “dwells” in us; — that is, it adheres as a depraved principle, unto our minds in darkness and vanity, unto our affections in sensuality, unto our wills in a loathing of and aversion from that which is good; and by some, more, or all of these, is continually putting itself upon us, in inclinations, motions, or suggestions to evil, when we would be most gladly quit of it.
  3. It being an indwelling law, applies itself to its work with great ability and easiness, like “the sin that does so easily beset us,” Hebrews 12:1. It has a great facility and easiness in the application of itself unto its work; it needs no doors to be opened unto it; it needs no engines to work by. The soul cannot apply itself to any duty of a man but it must be by the exercise of those faculties wherein this law has its residence. Is the understanding or the mind to be applied unto anything? — there it is, in ignorance, darkness, vanity, folly, madness. Is the will to be engaged? — there it is also, in spiritual deadness, stubbornness, and the roots of obstinacy. Is the heart and affections to be set on work? — there it is, in inclinations to the world and present things, and sensuality, with proneness to all manner of defilements. Hence it is easy for it to insinuate itself into all that we do, and to hinder all that is good, and to further all sin and wickedness. It has an intimacy, an inwardness with the soul; and therefore, in all that we do, does easily beset us. It possesses those very faculties of the soul whereby we must do what we do, whatever it be, good or evil. Now, all these advantages it has as it is a law, as an indwelling law, which manifests its power and efficacy. It is always resident in the soul, it puts itself upon all its actings, and that with easiness and facility.

This is that law which the apostle affirms that he found in himself; this is the title that he gives unto the powerful and effectual remainder of indwelling sin even in believers; and these general evidences of its power, from that appellation, have we. Many there are in the world who find not this law in them, — who, whatever they have been taught in the word, have not a spiritual sense and experience of the power of indwelling sin; and that because they are wholly under the dominion of it. They find not that there is darkness and folly in their minds; because they are darkness itself, and darkness will discover nothing. They find not deadness and an indisposition in their hearts and wills to God; because they are dead wholly in trespasses and sins. They are at peace with their lusts, by being in bondage unto them. And this is the state of most men in the world; which makes them woefully despise all their eternal concernments. Whence is it that men follow and pursue the world with so much greediness, that they neglect heaven, and life, and immortality for it, every day? Whence is it that some pursue their sensuality with delight? — they will drink and revel, and have their sports, let others say what they please. Whence is it that so many live so unprofitably under the word, that they understand so little of what is spoken unto them, that they practice less of what they understand, and will by no means be stirred up to answer the mind of God in his calls unto them? It is all from this law of sin and the power of it, that rules and bears sway in men, that all these things do proceed; but it is not such persons of whom at present we particularly treat.

From what has been spoken it will ensure, that, if there be such a law in believers, it is doubtless their duty to find it out, and to find if it is true. The more they find its power, the less they will feel its effects. It will not at all advantage a man to have a heretical distemper and not to discover it, — a fire lying secretly in his house and not to know it. So much as men find of this law in them, so much they will abhor it and themselves, and no more. Proportionally also to their discovery of it will be their earnestness for grace, nor will it rise higher. All watchfulness and diligence in obedience will be answerable also thereunto. Upon this one hinge, or finding out and experiencing the power and the efficacy of this law of sin, turns the whole course of our lives. Ignorance of it breeds senselessness, carelessness, sloth, security, and pride; all which the Lord’s soul abhors. Eruptions into great, open, conscience-wasting, scandalous sins, are from want of a due spiritual consideration of this law.

Inquire, then, how it is with your souls. What do you find of this law? what experience have you of its power and efficacy? Do you find it dwelling in you, always present with you, exciting itself, or putting forth its poison with facility and easiness at all times, in all your duties, “when you would do good?” What humiliation, what self-abasement, what intenseness in prayer, what diligence, what watchfulness, does this call for at your hands! What spiritual wisdom do you stand in need of! What supplies of grace, what assistance of the Holy Ghost, will be hence also discovered! I fear we have few of us a diligence proportional to our danger.


Taken and adapted from, “REMAINDERS OF INDWELLING SIN”
Written by John Owen, 1616 – 1683



“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
–Romans 7:21

There are four things observable in these words:  

First. The appellation he gives unto indwelling sin, whereby he expresses its power and efficacy: it is “a law;” for that which he terms “a law” in this verse, he calls in the foregoing, “sin that dwells in him.” 

Secondly. The way whereby he came to the discovery of this law; not absolutely and in its own nature, but in himself he found it: “I find a law.” 

Thirdly. The frame of his soul and inward man with this law of sin, and under its discovery: “he would do good.” 

Fourthly. The state and activity of this law when the soul is in that frame when it would do good: it “is present with him.” For what ends and purposes we shall show afterward. 

The first thing observable is the compilation here used by the apostle, he calls indwelling sin “a law.” 

First, it is a law. A law is taken either properly for a directive rule, or improperly for an operative effective principle, which seems to have the force of a law. In its first sense, it is a moral rule which directs and commands, and sundry ways moves and regulates, the mind and the will as to the things which it requires or forbids. This is evidently the general nature and work of a law. Some things it commands, some things it forbids, with rewards and penalties, which move and impel men to do the one and avoid the other. Hence, in a secondary sense, an inward principle that moves and inclines constantly unto any actions is called a law.

The principle that is in the nature of everything, moving and carrying it towards its own end and rest, is called the law of nature. In this respect, every inward principle that inclines and urges unto operations or actings suitable to itself is a law.

So, Romans 8:2, the powerful and effectual working of the Spirit and grace of Christ in the hearts of believers is called “The law of the Spirit of life.” And for this reason doth the apostle here calls indwelling sin a law. It is a powerful and effectual indwelling principle, inclining and pressing unto actions agreeable and suitable unto its own nature. This, and no other, is the intention of the apostle in this expression: for although that term, “a law,” may sometimes intend a state and condition, — and if here so used, the meaning of the words should be, “I find that this is my condition, this is the state of things with me, that when I would do good evil is present with me,’” which makes no great alteration in the principal intendment of the place, — yet properly it can denote nothing here but the chief subject treated of; for although the name of a law be variously used by the apostle in this chapter, yet when it relates unto sin it is nowhere applied by him to the condition of the person, but only to express either the nature or the power of sin itself. So, chap. 7:23, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” That which he here calls the “law of his mind,” from the principal subject and seat of it, is in itself no other but the “law of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus,” chap. 8:2; or the effectual power of the Spirit of grace, as was said. But “the law,” as applied unto sin, hath a double sense: for as, in the first place, “I see a law in my members,” it denotes the being and nature of sin; so, in the latter, “Leading into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members,” it signifies its power and efficacy. And both these are comprised in the same name, singly used, chap. 7:21. Now, that which we observe from this name or term of a “law” attributed unto sin is, that there is an exceeding efficacy and power in the remainders of indwelling sin in believers, with a constant working towards evil.

Thus it is in believers; it is a law even in them, though not to them. Though its rule be broken, its strength weakened and impaired, its root mortified, yet it is a law still of great force and efficacy. There, where it is least felt, it is most powerful.

Carnal men, in reference unto spiritual and moral duties, are nothing but this law; they do nothing but from it and by it. It is in them a ruling and prevailing principle of all moral actions, with reference unto a supernatural and eternal end. I shall not consider it in them in whom it hath most power, but in them in whom its power is chiefly discovered and discerned, — that is, in believers; in the others only in order to the farther conviction and manifestation thereof.

The apostle proposes the way whereby he discovered this law in himself: Εὑρίσκω ἄρα τὸν νόμον, “I find then,” or therefore, “a law.” He found it. It had been told him there was such a law; it had been preached unto him. This convinced him that there was a law of sin. But it is one thing for a man to know in general that there is a law of sin; another thing for a man to have an experience of the power of this law of sin in himself. It is preached to all; all men that own the Scripture acknowledge it, as being declared therein. But they are but few that know it in themselves; we should else have more complaints of it than we have, and more contendings against it, and less fruits of it in the world. But this is that which the apostle affirms, — not that the doctrine of it had been preached unto him, but that he found it by experience in himself. “I find a law;” — “I have experience of its power and efficacy.” For a man to find his sickness, and danger thereon from its effects, is another thing than to hear a discourse about a disease from its causes. And this experience is the great preservative of all divine truth in the soul. This it is to know a thing indeed, in reality, to know it for ourselves, when, as we are taught it from the word, so we find it in ourselves.

Hence we observe, secondly, Believers have experience of the power and efficacy of indwelling sin. They find it in themselves; they find it as a law. It hath a self-evidencing efficacy to them that are alive to discern it. They that find not its power are under its dominion. Whosoever contend against it shall know and find that it is present with them, that it is powerful in them. He shall find the stream to be strong who swims against it, though he who rolls along with it be insensible of it.

Thirdly, the general frame of believers, notwithstanding the inhabitation of this law of sin, is here also expressed. They “would do good.” This law is “present:” τῷ θέλοντι ἐμοὶ ποιεῖν τὸ καλὸν. The habitual inclination of their will is unto good. The law in them is not a law unto them, as it is to unbelievers. They are not wholly obnoxious to its power, nor morally unto its commands. Grace hath the sovereignty in their souls: this gives them a will unto good. They “would do good,” that is, always and constantly. 1 John 3:9, ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, “To commit sin,” is to make a trade of sin, to make it a man’s business to sin. So it is said a believer “doth not commit sin;” and so ποιεῖν τὸ καλὸν, “to do that which is good.”

To will to do so — is to have the habitual bent and inclination of the will set on that which is good, — that is, morally and spiritually good, which is the proper subject treated of: whence is our third observation, — There is, and there is through grace, kept up in believers a constant and ordinarily prevailing will of doing good, notwithstanding the power and efficacy of indwelling sin to the contrary.

This, in their worst condition, distinguishes them from unbelievers in their best. The will in unbelievers is under the power of the law of sin. The opposition they make to sin, either in the root or branches of it, is from their light and their consciences; the will of sinning in them is never taken away.

Take away all other considerations and hindrances, whereof we shall treat afterward, and they would sin willingly always. Their faint endeavors to answer their convictions are far from a will of doing that which is good. They will plead, indeed, that they would leave their sins if they could, and they would fain do better than they do. But it is the working of their light and convictions, not any spiritual inclination of their wills, which they intend by that expression: for where there is a will of doing good, there is a choice of that which is good for its own excellency’s sake, — because it is desirable and suitable to the soul, and therefore to be preferred before that which is contrary. Now, this is not in any unbelievers. They do not, they cannot, so choose that which is spiritually good, nor is it so excellent or suitable unto any principle that is in them; only they have some desires to attain that end whereunto that which is good doth lead, and to avoid that evil which the neglect of it tends unto. And these also are for the most part so weak and languid in many of them, that they put them not upon any considerable endeavors. Witness that luxury, sloth, worldliness, and security, that the generality of men are even drowned in. But in believers there is a will of doing good, an habitual disposition and inclination in their wills unto that which is spiritually good; and where this is, it is accompanied with answerable effects. The will is the principle of our moral actions; and therefore unto the prevailing disposition thereof will the general course of our actings be suited. Good things will proceed from the good treasures of the heart. Nor can this disposition be evidenced to be in any but by its fruits. A will of doing good, without doing good, is but pretended.

Fourthly, there is yet another thing remaining in these words of the apostle, arising from that respect that the presence of sin hath unto the time and season of duty: “When I would do good,” saith he, “evil is present with me.” 

There are two things to be considered in the will of doing good that is in believers: — 

  1. There is its habitual residence in them. They have always an habitual inclination of will unto that which is good. And this habitual preparation for good is always present with them; as the apostle expresses it, verse 18 of this chapter.
  2. There are special times and seasons for the exercise of that principle. There is a “When I would do good,” — a season wherein this or that good, this or that duty, is to be performed and accomplished suitably unto the habitual preparation and inclination of the will.

Unto these two there are two things in indwelling sin opposed.

To the gracious principle residing in the will, inclining unto that which is spiritually good, it is opposed as it is a law, — that is, a contrary principle, inclining unto evil, with an aversion from that which is good. Unto the second, or the actual willing of this or that good in particular, unto this “When I would do good,” is opposed the presence of this law: “Evil is present with me,” — ὅτι ἐμοὶ τὸ κακὸν παράκειται evil is at hand, and ready to oppose the actual accomplishment of the good aimed at. Whence, fourthly, indwelling sin is effectually operative in rebelling and inclining to evil, when the will of doing good is in a particular manner active and inclining unto obedience.

And this is the description of him who is a believer and a sinner, as everyone who is the former is the latter also. These are the contrary principles and the contrary operations that are in him. The principles are, a will of doing good on the one hand, from grace, and a law of sin on the other. Their adverse actings and operations are insinuated in these expressions: “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” And these both are more fully expressed by the apostle, Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that I cannot do the things that I would.”

And here lie the springs of the whole course of our obedience. An acquaintance with these several principles and their actings is the principal part of our wisdom. They are upon the matter, next to the free grace of God in our justification by the blood of Christ, the only things wherein the glory of God and our own souls are concerned. These are the springs of our holiness and our sins, of our joys and troubles, of our refreshments and sorrows. It is, then, all our concernments to be thoroughly acquainted with these things, who intend to walk with God and to glorify him in this world. 

And hence we may see what wisdom is required in the guiding and management of our hearts and ways before God. Where the subjects of a ruler are in feuds and oppositions one against another, unless great wisdom be used in the government of the whole, all things will quickly be ruinous in that state. There are these contrary principles in the hearts of believers. And if they labor not to be spiritually wise, how shall they be able to steer their course aright? Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, doth depend. This, therefore, is our wisdom; and it is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of his glory.

We shall find, also, in our inquiry hereinto, what diligence and watchfulness is required unto a Christian conversation. There is a constant enemy unto it in every one’s own heart; and what an enemy it is we shall afterward show, for this is our design, to discover him to the uttermost. In the meantime, we may well bewail the woeful sloth and negligence that is in the most, even in professors. They live and walk as though they intended to go to heaven hood-winked and asleep, as though they had no enemy to deal withal. Their mistake, therefore, and folly will be fully laid open in our progress.

Awake, therefore, all of you in whose hearts is anything of the ways of God! Your enemy is not only upon you, as on Samson of old, but is in you also. He is at work, by all ways of force and craft, as we shall see. Would you not dishonor God and his gospel; would you not scandalize the saints and ways of God; would you not wound your consciences and endanger your souls; would you not grieve the good and holy Spirit of God, the author of all your comforts; would you keep your garments undefiled, and escape the woeful temptations and pollutions of the days wherein we live; would you be preserved from the number of the apostates in these latter days; — awake to the consideration of this cursed enemy, which is the spring of all these and innumerable other evils, as also of the ruin of all the souls that perish in this world!

When Luther’s Servant Sold Herself to the Devil

There is a beautiful story handed down through the mists of time…

…about when Martin Luther had a domestic servant residing in his house by the name of Elizabeth, who, in a fit of displeasure, left it without giving the family any notice. She subsequently fell into habits of immorality, and became dangerously ill. In her sickness she requested a visit from Dr. Luther.

On taking his seat at her bedside, he said, ” Well, Elizabeth, what is the matter?” “I have given away my soul to Satan,” said she. “Why,” rejoined Luther, “that’s of no great consequence. What else?”

“I have,” continued she, “done many wicked things; but this is what most oppresses me, that I have deliberately sold my poor soul to the devil, and how can such a crime ever find mercy?”

“Elizabeth, listen to me,” rejoined the man of God. “Suppose, while you lived in my house, you had sold and transferred all my children to a stranger, would the sale or transfer have been lawful and binding?”

“Oh no,” said the deeply humbled girl, “for I had no right to do that.”

“Very well, you had still less right to give your soul to the Archenemy, Satan; for your soul no more belongs to you than do my children. It is the exclusive property of the Lord Jesus Christ; He made it, and when lost also redeemed it; it is His, with all its powers and faculties, and you can’t give away and sell what is not yours; if you have attempted it, the whole transaction was unlawful, and is entirely void.

Now, do you go to the Lord, confess your guilt with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and entreat Him to pardon you, and take back again what is wholly His own. And as for the sin of attempting to alienate His rightful property, throw that back upon the devil, for that, and that alone is his.”

The girl obeyed, prayed for forgiveness, and died full of hope.

“As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.”
— Romans 6:19.

Author Unknown

Are You a True Christian? The Privileges of the True Christian

Written by, J.C. Ryle

A Quiz on Christ 2 Header

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” –John 10:27-29


About the first part of this text, this passage contains two things—first the character of true Christians, and secondly their privileges—first what they are to their Savior, and secondly what their Savior is to them.

Let me, then, remind you what the text says of their character. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)

 1    God’s children, His real believing people, are compared to sheep, because they are gentle, quiet, harmless and inoffensive; because they are useful and do good to all around them; because they love to be together, and dislike separation; and lastly because they are very helpless and wandering and liable to stray.

2    Jesus calls them “My sheep,” as if they were His peculiar property. “Mine,” He would have us know, by election, “Mine” by purchase, and “Mine” by adoption.

3    Christ’s sheep hear His voice, they listen humbly to His teaching, they take His word for their rule and guide.

4    Christ’s sheep follow Him, they walk in the narrow path He has marked out, they do not refuse because it is sometimes steep and narrow–but wherever the line of duty lies they go forward without doubting.

It only remains for us now to consider the other part of my text, which respects the blessings and privileges which Jesus the Good Shepherd bestows upon His people. The Lord grant that none of you may take to yourselves promises which do not belong to you—that none may take liberty from God’s exceeding mercy to continue sleeping in sin. Glorious and comfortable things are written in this passage—but remember they are given to Christ’s flock only; I fence it out against all that are unbelieving and impenitent and profane. I warn you plainly, except you will hear the voice of Christ and follow Him, you have no right or portion in this blessed fountain of consolations.

Hear now what Jesus says of His believing people: “I know them. . . . I give unto them eternal life; they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Before we look into the meaning of these words more closely, I wish to answer two questions which may arise in the minds of some before me. Of whom is the Lord Jesus speaking? Are we to suppose He only has in view patriarchs and prophets and apostles—men like Abraham and David and Job and Daniel, men who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, worked signs and miracles, and shed their blood for the kingdom of God’s sake? Are these the sort of people who alone can take comfort from those blessed words, “I know them . . . . they shall never perish.” Is everyone else to go on doubting to his life’s end? God forbid that I should tell you so! it would be doing Satan’s work to preach such doctrine. This text may become the property of the worst of sinners—if he will only hear Christ’s voice and follow Him.

Scribes and Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, tax collectors and harlots, drunkards and fornicators, murderers, thieves and adulterers, liars and blasphemers. worldly-minded and covetous ones—all and each of them may lay firm hold on this text, and inherit its precious treasures—if they will only hear Christ’s voice and follow Him. It is for all who repent and believe the Gospel; it is for all who mourn over their past sins with a true godly sorrow, and flee to the Lord Jesus Christ with faith and prayer as their only hope, their all-sufficient Savior, their all in all. There is not one single man or woman of whom it shall not be written in the Lamb’s book of life, “This is one known of God, this is an heir of eternal life, this is a man or a woman that is never to perish, never to be plucked out of the Lord’s hand,” if you will only give up your sins and take Christ Jesus for your Shepherd and Redeemer.

Your repentance may seem very faint, your faith may appear weak as water—but if there be so much as a grain of mustard seed, if there be enough to lead you a penitent to the foot of the cross, you shall find yourself one day numbered with the saints in glory everlasting.

The other question I wish to answer is this: why did the Lord Jesus Christ give us this full and complete promise? Because He knew that true Christians would always be a very doubting, fearful, faint-hearted generation, always ready to believe they shall not be saved, always afraid they shall never see the New Jerusalem, because of the inbred corruption which they find continually in their hearts. He saw they would require the strong wine of assurance like this, and so He has provided this and like texts, as a reviving cordial to cheer and enliven their hearts, whenever they feel desponding and feeble-minded and ready to halt, in their pilgrimage through this weary world.

We will now look narrowly into the parts of this promise.

I . First, says the Lord Jesus Christ of His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him…

“I know them.” I know their number, their names, their particular characters, their besetting sins, their troubles, their trials, their temptations, their doubts, their prayers, their private meditations; I know everything about every one of them. Think what a comfortable saying that is! The world knows nothing about Christ’s sheep; to be sure, the world remarks there are a few people, here one and there one, who live differently to others, who seem to be more serious in their deportment, who appear to be taken up with some important consideration or other—but the world only wonders they can be so particular about little sins, and when their ways run counter to the world, the world is vastly offended.

But as for their fear of sin, and their carefulness about souls, the world neither knows nor understands what they are about; the secret springs of their conduct are all hidden.

Again, a Christian’s friends often do not know him. They may possibly respect him and allow him to hold on his way unopposed— though this, alas! is not always the case—but as for his pleasures and his pains, his constant warfare with the flesh, the world and the devil, his dread of falling into temptation, his delight in all means of grace, they can neither explain nor comprehend it; there is a something hidden in his character of which they know nothing.

Be comforted, all you who are tried and buffeted with difficulties in your way towards heaven, difficulties from without and difficulties from within, difficulties abroad and difficulties at home, grief for your own sins and grief for the sins of others: The Good Shepherd Jesus knows you well, though you may not think it. You never shed a secret tear over your own corruption, you never breathed a single prayer for forgiveness and helping grace, you never made a single struggle against wickedness, which He did not remark and note down in the book of His remembrance. You need not fear His not understanding your needs, you need not be afraid your prayers are too poor and unlearned to be attended to; He knows your particular necessities far better than you do yourselves, and your humble supplications are no sooner offered up than heard. You may sometimes sigh and mourn for lack of Christian fellowship, you may sometimes lament that you have not more around you with whom you might take sweet converse about salvation—but remember there is a Good Shepherd, who is ever about your path and about your bed, His eyes are on all your movements, and no husband, brother, father, mother, sister, friend, could take more tender interest in your soul’s welfare than He does. If you transgress He will grieve—but He will chasten and bring you back; if you bear good fruit, He will rejoice and give more grace; if you sorrow He will bind up your broken heart and pour in balm; He is ever watching and observing and listening; no believer is so humble and lowly, but He is acquainted with all their ways.

And does not Jesus know the men of this world, the faithless and ungodly? Unquestionably He does. He knows their proceedings; there is not a single sin they have committed but will appear written down in full in the great book—but He only knows them as His enemies—as careless, thoughtless ones, who will not take the trouble to hear His voice and follow Him—and in the last day, when all shall stand before Him, He will say, “I know you not: you would not seek to know me on earth, and I know nothing of you in heaven; depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” No doubt there will be many a Balaam there, many a barren fig-tree, many a foolish virgin, many a fruitless vine, many a loud-talking hypocrite, who will say, “Lord, Lord, open to us! Have we not taught in Your name, and in Your name quoted many texts, and in Your name made a great profession?” but still the answer will be, “I never knew you . . . depart from Me, you who work iniquity.”

Oh, what a blessed and comfortable thing to be known by Christ, known and marked as His friends, His relations, His dear children, His beloved family, His purchased possession! Here we are often cast down, often discouraged, often persecuted, often spoken against, often misunderstood—but let us take courage, our Lord and Master knows all. A day shall come when we shall no longer see through a glass darkly—but face to face—a day when we shall know even as we are now known; for the union between us and our Redeemer, which we so often feel disposed to doubt, shall then be clearly seen, and we shall no more go out to battle.

II    What is the next part of my text? The Lord Jesus says of His sheep, “I give unto them eternal life!”

What is the portion which Jesus gives His people? “eternal life”—a perfect, never-ending happiness for that which is the most important part of a man—his immortal soul. They shall not be hurt by the second death, which alone is to be really feared. What greater things could our Lord bestow upon His people? Health and riches and honor and pleasures, houses and lands, and wives and children—what are they? How long do they last?—it is but threescore years and ten, and we must leave them all—and six feet of vile earth is room enough for us.

Naked came we into the world, and naked must we return unto the dust, and carry nothing with us. What is the difference between the rich and the poor in death? They both go unto one and the same place; the worm feeds sweetly on them both; it is but a short time, and you would not be able to distinguish between their bones. But if the poor man sleeps in Jesus, while the rich man dies in his sins, oh, what a mighty gulf then is between them! The rich will take up his abode in that fire which is never quenched; the poor will awake to find he has an everlasting treasure in heaven, even eternal life. Eternal life! compared to which this world’s concerns, weighty and important as they seem, are like a drop of water.

Amazing indeed that men should trouble themselves about the things of earth, and sweat and toil after a little more gold and silver, and spend their strength upon these frail, sickly bodies of ours, to get enjoyment for them, and yet remain careless and dead and frozen about the life of that precious talent the soul!

But about eternal life? “I,” says the Lord Jesus Christ, “do give it to my people.” Who says this? He says it who bought and paid the full price; He who has in His hands the keys of death and hell; He who opens and no man shuts, He who shuts and no man opens; He says it who is the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, who is not a man that He should lie, who never breaks His promise; He says it who has a right to say it, for He came down to do His Father’s will and die in our stead to obtain redemption for us, and when He declares “I give eternal life,” death and hell must be silent, none can gainsay Him.

“I give,” He declares, “eternal life.”

He does not speak after the fashion of the world; this world is cold, and calculating and heartless; there is little giving—it is all bargaining and selling and paying what is the value of things. Blessed be God, the Lord Jesus does not deal with sinners as they deal with each other. He gives eternal life freely, and of grace, and for nothing, without money and without price. He does not give it because we are worthy or deserving, nor yet because we shall show ourselves worthy and deserving—but He gives it as a free gift, because He loves us and has set His affection upon us.

Consider with yourselves how glorious that doctrine is; how thoroughly it takes away all excuse from the impenitent. Pardon and forgiveness are here unconditionally bestowed; we are not told that we must pay off so much every day, and then shall be saved—that would drive us to doubt and despair—but if a man will only hear Christ’s voice and follow Him, “Behold “says Jesus, “I give unto him eternal life, there remains no condemnation for him.”

III. The third promise in my text is as follows: Jesus says of His sheep, “They shall never perish!”

They shall never be finally cast away, if they have once been sealed and numbered in my flock. They may have many a slip and many a fall, they may experience many a shortcoming and many a backsliding—but they shall never be lost eternally, they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Where are those fearful Christians, who think they may be Christ’s sheep and yet come short at last? behold the assurance of Him who cannot lie, “they shall never perish!”

Yes! true Christians shall never perish! Is not that great work begun within their hearts by the Holy Spirit? has not the power of God Himself been employed in converting them from darkness to light? and shall we dare say that God will take in hand the smallest thing, and yet leave it unfinished and not bring it to perfection? Have they not been born again of incorruptible seed, and shall this seed be choked and bear no fruit? Have they not been made by grace new creatures, and is it possible that grace can have raised them to newness of life in vain? Where in the whole world can you find a work which the Lord has attempted, and yet been obliged to give up and leave all incomplete? Then far be it from us to suppose that a true believer can ever be cast away! If man had any share in his conversion one might reasonably doubt—but it is not so, it is the work of God, and what He does shall always be brought to perfection.

The building which the Holy Spirit has founded shall never be allowed to decay, it shall never be left half-finished, and the top-stone shall certainly be one day laid on with shouting. True Christians shall never perish. Are they not Christ’s special property, the servants of His house, the members of His family, the children of His adoption? Then surely He will never let them be overthrown, He will watch them as tenderly as we watch over our own flesh and blood, He will guard them as we guard our valuable and precious possessions, He will cherish them as we cherish that which is most dear to our hearts; He never would have laid down His life for their sakes if He had intended to give them up.

“Never perish!” Kings of the earth and mighty men shall depart and be no more seen; thrones and dominions and principalities, rich men and honorable men shall be swept into the tomb—but the humblest Christian cottager shall never see death everlasting, and when the heavens shall pass away as a scroll, and earth shall be burned up, that man shall be found to have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. That man may be poor in this world and lightly esteemed—but I see in him one who shall be a glorious saint, when those who perchance had more of this life’s good things shall be in torment; I am confident that nothing shall ever separate him from the love of Christ. He may have his doubts—but I know he is provided for; he shall never be lost.

IV    There remains one thing more. Jesus adds, “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

There is assurance upon assurance, that none may have an excuse for doubting. There is always something plucking at Christ’s sheep: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the devil, and the world are ever striving hard to destroy them—but they shall not succeed! Do you think the devil will give up his kingdom without a mighty struggle? Oh no, he goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; he wars a constant warfare with all who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ—but the word of God is pledged that he shall never prevail. Not all the powers of darkness shall avail to quench one single spark of real gospel faith.

And now, beloved, in CONCLUSION, let me speak a word of exhortation to all among you who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him.

O that the Spirit may come down among you, and add to your number a hundredfold! Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Can you feel within yourselves the working of His Blessed Spirit, mortifying the works of the flesh, and drawing up your minds to heavenly things?

Have you the witness in yourselves that you have gone through a real spiritual change, that you hate the sins which once you loved, and love the things which once you despised? Have you good reason to believe that you have indeed put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man with the lamb-like nature of your blessed Master? Then, oh, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Pray that you may not stand still—but go on from grace to grace and strength to strength; pray that you may bear much spiritual fruit, for thus is your Father glorified, and then will you make your own calling and election sure to yourselves.

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of ever trusting to yourselves; nothing offends the Good Shepherd more than to see the members of His flock, forgetting that in Him alone is all their safety, and glorying in their own attainments and performances. Think not of your weak endeavors; think not to say, “I do very little, and therefore have very little hope—by-and-by I trust I shall do much, and then I shall have much hope”; your best performances and attempts towards heaven are in themselves but broken reeds, and can bear no weight; they are precious as evidences of spiritual life—but they cannot justify. Think only of your Savior Jesus Christ, trust Him entirely, love Him affectionately, look to Him continually. As long as you lean on Him you are strong and none can touch you. Without Him and in your own might, you are weak and unstable as water.

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of wandering from the pasture He has provided. The devil and the old Adam would often persuade you there is no need for this diligence in using means of grace: “Surely,” they will say, “you are not such a babe but you can leave these fields for a short season; surely you need not keep so closely in your Shepherd’s sight.” Christian, take heed and beware of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely. Diligent private prayer, diligent Scripture searching, diligent gospel hearing—these are the pastures in which Jesus feeds His flock, and if you turn aside, if you become slack in using them, be sure your soul will soon starve for lack of its accustomed nourishment, and you will return to the fold weak and lame and lean and diseased.

Once more, and I have done. Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? then be sure you will have many a trial; where indeed would be the value of a Savior, if there were not enemies to be saved from? Yes! you will have many a trial! Satan has great wrath against all who have escaped his snares, and he will bring every weapon to bear against your peace; he will start many a doubt within your mind, he will stir up many a vile and blasphemous imagination within the chambers of your heart, many a horrid thought you once would have believed impossible—but still remember those words, “never perish.” Yes! you will have many a trial! When did the ungodly world ever patronize and encourage a true Christian? Oh no, the world will mock and despise, and laugh and frighten, and misrepresent you, and spread false reports, and throw traps in your way, and if it dares it will persecute you.

And then there is the flesh, sleepy and drowsy and fond of excuses, always trying to make you believe you have more difficulties than anybody else, deceitful, treacherous, needing constant watchfulness—but still the world and the flesh can never turn you back, except you are a graceless traitor. Remember those blessed words “never perish.” Christian, you may be perplexed—but you never need despair; you may be persecuted but you are not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed; you may have tribulation—but you shall not have condemnation; you shall be saved from your enemies and from the hand of all who hate you. Fear none of these things which you shall suffer; be faithful unto death, and your Good Shepherd shall give you a crown of life.

Verily He is gone before to prepare a place for those whom He knows, and where He is in glory there they shall be also. “What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing—will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

A Concise Definition of Calvinism, its Relation to the Gospel, and its juxtaposition to Arminianism

Taken, adapted, and condensed from an ‘Introductory Essay to John Owen’s “Death of Death in the Death of Christ”’
Written by, J.I. Packer


There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement…

In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem). However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that Owen’s treatise on redemption can give us help.

“But wait a minute,” says someone, “it’s all very well to talk like this about the gospel; but surely what Owen is doing is defending limited atonement—one of the five points of Calvinism? When you speak of recovering the gospel, don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

These questions are worth considering, for they will no doubt occur to many. At the same time, however, they are questions that reflect a great deal of prejudice and ignorance. “Defending limited atonement”—as if this was all that a Reformed theologian expounding the heart of the gospel could ever really want to do! “You just want us all to become Calvinists”—as if Reformed theologians had no interest beyond recruiting for their party, and as if becoming a Calvinist was the last stage of theological depravity, and had nothing to do with the gospel at all. Before we answer these questions directly, we must try to remove the prejudices which underlie them by making clear what Calvinism really is; and therefore we would ask the reader to take note of the following facts, historical and theological, about Calvinism in general and the “five points” in particular.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century.

The Five Points of Arminianism

The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles:

First, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility;
Second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.)

From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions:

First, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him;

Second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions:

(1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor

(2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it.

(3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe.

(4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe.

(5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

 The Synod of Dort Responds With Five Points of Calvinism

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus:

(1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him.

(2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory.

(3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect.

(4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object.

(5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory.

These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP:
     Total depravity,
     Unconditional election,
     Limited atonement,
     Irresistible grace,
     Preservation of the saints.

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content.

One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.

However, it would not be correct simply to equate Calvinism with the “five points.” Five points of our own will make this clear.

In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the “five points” indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere.

Then, in the second place, the “five points” present Calvinistic soteriology in a negative and polemical form, whereas Calvinism in itself is essentially expository, pastoral and constructive. It can define its position in terms of Scripture without any reference to Arminianism, and it does not need to be forever fighting real or imaginary Arminians in order to keep itself alive. Calvinism has no interest in negatives, as such; when Calvinists fight, they fight for positive Evangelical values. The negative cast of the “five points” is misleading chiefly with regard to the third (limited atonement, or particular redemption), which is often read with stress on the adjective and taken as indicating that Calvinists have a special interest in confining the limits of divine mercy. But in fact the purpose of this phraseology, as we shall see, is to safeguard the central affirmation of the gospel—that Christ is a Redeemer who really does redeem. Similarly, the denials of an election that is conditional and of grace that is resistible, are intended to safeguard the positive truth that it is God Who saves. The real negations are those of Arminianism, which denies that election, redemption and calling are saving acts of God. Calvinism negates these negations in order to assert the positive content of the gospel, for the positive purpose of strengthening faith and building up the church.

Thirdly, the very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are really inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Savior. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory forever; amen.

This leads to our fourth remark, which is this: the five-point formula obscures the depth of the difference between Calvinistic and Arminian soteriology. There seems no doubt that it seriously misleads many here. In the formula, the stress falls on the adjectives, and this naturally gives the impression that in regard to the three great saving acts of God the debate concerns the adjectives merely—that both sides agree as to what election, redemption, and the gift of internal grace are, and differ only as to the position of man in relation to them: whether the first is conditional upon faith being foreseen or not; whether the second intends the salvation of every man or not; whether the third always proves invincible or not. But this is a complete misconception. The change of adjective in each case involves changing the meaning of the noun. An election that is conditional, a redemption that is universal, an internal grace that is resistible, is not the same kind of election, redemption, internal grace, as Calvinism asserts. The real issue concerns, not the appropriateness of adjectives, but the definition of nouns. Both sides saw this clearly when the controversy first began, and it is important that we should see it too, for otherwise we cannot discuss the Calvinist-Arminian debate to any purpose at all. It is worth setting out the different definitions side by side.

NOTE 1: God’s act of election was defined by the Arminians as a resolve to receive sonship and glory a duly qualified class of people: believers in Christ. This becomes a resolve to receive individual persons only in virtue of God’s foreseeing the contingent fact that they will of their own accord believe. There is nothing in the decree of election to ensure that the class of believers will ever have any members; God does not determine to make any man believe. But Calvinists define election as a choice of particular undeserving persons to be saved from sin and brought to glory, and to that end to be redeemed by the death of Christ and given faith by the Spirit’s effectual calling. Where the Arminian says: “I owe my election to my faith,” the Calvinist says: “I owe my faith to my election.” Clearly, these two concepts of election are very far apart.

NOTE 2: Christ’s work of redemption was defined by the Arminians as the removing of an obstacle (the unsatisfied claims of justice) which stood in the way of God’s offering pardon to sinners, as He desired to do, on condition that they believe. Redemption, according to Arminianism, secured for God a right to make this offer, but did not of itself ensure that anyone would ever accept it; for faith, being a work of man’s own, is not a gift that comes to him from Calvary. Christ’s death created an opportunity for the exercise of saving faith, but that is all it did. Calvinists, however, define redemption as Christ’s actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was forever destroyed, and a title to eternal life was secured for them. In consequence of this, they now have in God’s sight a right to the gift of faith, as the means of entry into the enjoyment of their inheritance. Calvary, in other words, not merely made possible the salvation of those for whom Christ died; it ensured that they would be brought to faith and their salvation made actual. The Cross saves. Where the Arminian will only say: “I could not have gained my salvation without Calvary,” the Calvinist will say: “Christ gained my salvation for me at Calvary.” The former makes the Cross the sine qua non of salvation, the latter sees it as the actual procuring cause of salvation, and traces the source of every spiritual blessing, faith included, back to the great transaction between God and His Son carried through on Calvary’s hill. Clearly, these two concepts of redemption are quite at variance.

NOTE 3:  The Spirit’s gift of internal grace was defined by the Arminians as “moral suasion,” the bare bestowal of an understanding of God’s truth. This, they granted—indeed, insisted—does not of itself ensure that anyone will ever make the response of faith. But Calvinists define this gift as not merely an enlightening, but also a regenerating work of God in men, “taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist. Where the Arminian, therefore, will be content to say: “I decided for Christ,” “I made up my mind to be a Christian,” the Calvinist will wish to speak of his conversion in more theological fashion, to make plain whose work it really was:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off: my heart was free:
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”

Clearly, these two notions of internal grace are sharply opposed to each other.

Now, the Calvinist contends that the Arminian idea of election, redemption and calling as acts of God which do not save cuts at the very heart of their biblical meaning; that to say in the Arminian sense that God elects believers, and Christ died for all men, and the Spirit quickens those who receive the word, is really to say that in the biblical sense God elects nobody, and Christ died for nobody, and the Spirit quickens nobody. The matter at issue in this controversy, therefore, is the meaning to be given to these biblical terms, and to some others which are also soteriologically significant, such as the love of God, the covenant of grace, and the verb “save” itself, with its synonyms. Arminians gloss them all in terms of the principle that salvation does not directly depend on any decree or act of God, but on man’s independent activity in believing. Calvinists maintain that this principle is itself unscriptural and irreligious, and that such glossing demonstrably perverts the sense of Scripture and undermines the gospel at every point where it is practiced. This, and nothing less than this, is what the Arminian controversy is about.

There is a fifth way in which the five-point formula is deficient. Its very form (a series of denials of Arminian assertions) lends color to the impression that Calvinism is a modification of Arminianism; that Arminianism has a certain primacy in order of nature, and developed Calvinism is an offshoot from it. Even when one shows this to be false as a matter of history, the suspicion remains in many minds that it is a true account of the relation of the two views themselves. For it is widely supposed that Arminianism (which, as we now see, corresponds pretty closely to the new gospel of our own day) is the result of reading the Scriptures in a “natural,” unbiased, unsophisticated way, and that Calvinism is an unnatural growth, the product less of the texts themselves than of unhallowed logic working on the texts, wresting their plain sense and upsetting their balance by forcing them into a systematic framework which they do not themselves provide. Whatever may have been true of individual Calvinists, as a generalization about Calvinism nothing could be further from the truth than this. Certainly, Arminianism is “natural” in one sense, in that it represents a characteristic perversion of biblical teaching by the fallen mind of man, who even in salvation cannot bear to renounce the delusion of being master of his fate and captain of his soul. This perversion appeared before in the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism of the Patristic period and the later Scholasticism, and has recurred since the seventeenth century both in Roman theology and, among Protestants, in various types of rationalistic liberalism and modern Evangelical teaching; and no doubt it will always be with us. As long as the fallen human mind is what it is, the Arminian way of thinking will continue to be a natural type of mistake. But it is not natural in any other sense. In fact, it is Calvinism that understands the Scriptures in their natural, one would have thought, inescapable meaning; Calvinism that keeps to what they actually say; Calvinism that insists on taking seriously the biblical assertions that God saves, and that He saves those whom He has chosen to save, and that He saves them by grace without works, so that no man may boast, and that Christ is given to them as a perfect Savior, and that their whole salvation flows to them from the Cross, and that the work of redeeming them was finished on the Cross. It is Calvinism that gives due honor to the Cross. When the Calvinist sings:

“There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all;
He died the we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to Heaven,
Saved by His precious blood.”

—he means it. He will not gloss the italicized statements by saying that God’s saving purpose in the death of His Son was a mere ineffectual wish, depending for its fulfilment on man’s willingness to believe, so that for all God could do Christ might have died and none been saved at all. He insists that the Bible sees the Cross as revealing God’s power to save, not His impotence. Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for His own chosen people. His precious blood really does “save us all”; the intended effects of His self-offering do in fact follow, just because the Cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The Cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died. “God forbid,” therefore, “that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now the real nature of Calvinistic soteriology becomes plain. It is no artificial oddity, nor a product of over-bold logic. Its central confession, that God saves sinners, that Christ redeemed us by His blood, is the witness both of the Bible and of the believing heart.

The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays. He thinks and speaks at all times of the sovereign grace of God in the way that every Christian does when he pleads for the souls of others, or when he obeys the impulse of worship which rises unbidden within him, prompting him to deny himself all praise and to give all the glory of his salvation to his Savior. Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says; that is the significance of the Patristic testimonies to the teaching of the “five points,” which can be quoted in abundance. (Owen appends a few on redemption; a much larger collection may be seen in John Gill’s The Cause of God and Truth.)

So that really it is most misleading to call this soteriology “Calvinism” at all, for it is not a peculiarity of John Calvin and the divines of Dort, but a part of the revealed truth of God and the catholic Christian faith. “Calvinism” is one of the “odious names” by which down the centuries prejudice has been raised against it. But the thing itself is just the biblical gospel.

“There is a River, the Streams Whereof Make Glad the City of God.”

Taken and adapted from, “Grace Alone”
Written by, John Kershaw of Rochdale, 1792-1870.


This blessed river is the love of the triune God…

…the everlasting electing love of Jehovah. We read of it in the sacred scriptures as “a pure river of water of life… proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” It runs all through time and will flow on in an unfathomable ocean throughout a never-ending eternity. Wherever there is an elect vessel of mercy, covenant love will be sure to find him out; it will discover him by regenerating grace in the appointed time, and arrest him in his conscience. One of our hymns expresses it –“Almighty love arrest that man!”

The Lord loved Saul of Tarsus; and as the effect of that love, He arrested him in his conscience. So, in a similar way, He will arrest every one whom He has loved from eternity, and bring him to His blessed feet; He will begin in him the good work of grace, carry it on, and land him at last safe in immortal glory. Thus God’s covenant love, His everlasting electing love, is a river springing up into eternal life. It began in Jehovah’s eternal counsel and purpose; it runs on through time, and flows into eternity, making glad all the objects of His love and choice. This is the river, God’s electing love, “the streams whereof make glad the city of God.”

I.    The Prophet Ezekiel, speaking on the subject of this river in its manifestations to the children of men, describes it in its first flowings forth as only “up to the ankles.” Now, might not this represent the patriarchal dispensation? for in that dark period, very little of the glory of God, or the covenant love of Jehovah, were discoverable.

II.    Then, in the next place, he speaks of it as being “up to the knees.” Might not this represent the Mosaic dispensation, in which there was a multitude of rites and ceremonies, and all pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ?

III.    And when he goes on to speak of the river as still rising higher, and coming to “the loins” – might not that represent the prophetic age, in which holy men spoke more explicitly of the breakings forth of God’s covenant love and mercy?

IV.    At length we find the river so increased, that it is represented as “waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” O, God’s covenant love bursting forth in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a river so broad that there is no swimming over it! “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And the manifestation of this blessed love by the Holy Spirit to the souls of His people – this also is a river that never, never can be crossed: yea, God’s covenant love is a boundless, bottomless sea to the inhabitants of this city.

Paul says, in writing to the Ephesians,

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ.”

Yet, the Apostle Paul knew that neither the breadth, length, depth, nor height of the love of God could be described, for he says, it “passeth knowledge.

The Lord Jesus Christ is particularly spoken of as a river.

We cannot well separate God’s covenant love from our Lord Jesus Christ, nor our Lord Jesus Christ from God’s covenant love; for His Glorious Person is the blessed channel through which the love of Jehovah’s heart, and the love of His own heart, flow towards guilty sinners. The prophet Isaiah is directed to speak of it in this beautifully figurative language: “And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is this “river of water in a dry place.”

Is not the church of God in herself a dry and barren land, without this blessed river? I hope and trust I am one of the citizens; but what hardness, dryness, and barrenness do I often feel in my soul! How I need this blessed river, the Lord Jesus Christ, to flow into my soul, to water it and make it fruitful in every good word and work! The same prophet, speaking of Christ, says, “But there the glorious LORD will be unto us as a place of broad rivers and streams;” so that our Lord Jesus Christ is a place of broad rivers and streams to His citizens. We have this illustration both in the type and in the antitype itself. The children of Israel travelling through the wilderness, were typical of the Lord’s family travelling through this world. They were in a desert land, and wanted water to drink; Moses smote the rock at Horeb, and there flowed from the smitten rock a river, a fountain, a stream of water; and wherever God’s Israel went in all their turnings and windings, this river flowed after them, to supply their wants and necessities.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, mentions this very circumstance. He says, “They all drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” The water flowing from that rock is typical of the stream that flows from the Redeemer, and supplies the wants and necessities of His people in this time state. And do we not need the Lord’s love, and His precious atoning blood, to follow us like a river that so we may drink of the brook by the way, and obtain joy and peace to our precious souls? What a mercy it is to be enabled to bathe in this fountain of the love and blood of a dear Redeemer! The citizens stand in need of this river. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails them for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, then, is a glorious river to the spiritual inhabitants of this city.

Communion Thoughts on the Rending of the Veil, and the Final Displacement of Aaron’s Sons

Taken and adapted from, “THE COMMUNION SABBATH”
Written by Nehemiah Adams, D.D., 1856


“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”
–Matthew 27:51

In the pale light, the divine sufferer was seen upon his cross between the thieves…

“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” Simple and brief as these few words are, they relate one of the most significant and important events in the history of the world.

temple-veilThis vail, as originally made, and, no doubt, imitated in the second temple, was the innermost of two curtains of “blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen,” in front of the Holy of holies.

None but the high-priest could enter or look within this vail, and he only once a year. At that stated season, the small bells on the high-priest’s vesture were heard along the aisle of the temple toward the Holy place, and then within the outer sanctuary, till they ceased behind that sacred veil. Not even heaven itself, perhaps, was more sacred in the eye of a Jew than that sequestered, mysterious spot, concealed by the vail.

It would be death to any mortal who should presume to look with curious eye into its dread retirement. The most exalted religious personage of the nation stood alone with the God of all the earth, and offered the appointed blood of atonement.

No less inviolable therefore, than the presence of God, did that vail seem to the whole Jewish people. To see the vail of the firmament torn asunder, disclosing the third heavens, would not have been more surprising to them than the Holy of holies opened to the public gaze.

08202006113957AMThe fullness of time had come. The incarnate Word was upon the cross, accomplishing, by his one sacrifice for sin, the object of the types and ordinances under the law. He cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up the ghost. At that moment, this sacred, impenetrable veil was, without hands, rent asunder from top to bottom. They who were watching, or doing service, in the temple, [for 3 o’clock is the time of the evening sacrifice], were no doubt attracted by the noise to the spot, and there the inviolable covering of the Holy of holies was hanging in two pieces, and the sight which only one mortal eye from time to time was permitted to behold, lay open to the common gaze.

We may imagine the feelings of Caiaphas as he looked upon that rent vail. Well might he have rent his own garments. There was no more any Holy of holies.

The earthquake did not so much astound the people as this rending of the vail. They had felt earthquakes before, but since the destruction of the first temple, and the Holy of holies with it, by fire, no such event as this, so mysteriously significant with regard to their religion, had transpired.

curtain-torn-templeWhat was that death, that outcry on the tree, that yielding up the ghost, which rent that vail? Was this the death of a martyr? Is a good man finishing his testimony and his life together? No, the Lamb of God is taking away the sin of the world…

…he is dismissing the sacrifices, he is displacing Aaron and his sons, he has become himself the offering and the priest. O Lord, what are we that we should be permitted to commemorate that event by showing forth that death, as though it had application to us. Yes, for us that vail was rent. The dim outlines of the great sacrifice, which were seen in the temple service, change to a substantial form; the shadow of him who was to come no longer holds us in painful expectation, but the author and finisher of our faith is here.

No priests are needed now for man with God. He who pretends to be a priest, now, and to offer sacrifice for sins, does an empty service, he holds an antiquated office. He is a torch bearer, a lamplighter, in the daytime; he must contrive darkness, in order to make employment for himself. The vail of the temple gave up the ghost of all the sacrifices and offerings when the Savior died.

Perhaps the unbelieving priests employed themselves to mend that rent veil; their occupation would be gone for ever did they not keep up a mystery in connection with the Holy of holies. But when Christ died, their whole service, once so sacred, became a dead body; yet to this day there are those who practice their curious theologies to make it seem alive.

We come, O joyful thought, at every communion, to behold those ceremonies fulfilled by him who is made priest not by a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. He has indeed entered within the vail, but it is a veil which instead of inclosing a dread solitude, includes the world of glorified spirits, and the innumerable company of angels, a place from which we are not debarred; for we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and may draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.